Wahlburgers Grand Opening in Toronto

Delicious food paired with a fun, vibrant atmosphere -- that’s the charm of the cleverly named Wahlburgers, a burger joint owned by the Wahlberg brothers. That’s right -- actor Mark Wahlberg, actor and New Kids on the Block singer Donnie Wahlberg, and their chef brother Paul are behind the family operated franchise where great burgers meets sports bar diner.

On Saturday, Wahlburgers officially launched their first Canadian location at the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel in Toronto with a grand opening. Complete with a green carpet (their signature colour), the event drew in throngs of screaming fans that had lined up for hours outside the restaurant. Unfortunately, Mark had to cancel last minute due to work commitments, but Paul and Donnie were on hand to greet the fans and media, along with Donnie’s blushing new bride, Jenny McCarthy.

I had the pleasure of meeting Donnie and Jenny at the private party afterwards, where the down-to-earth couple mingled and posed for pictures with guests. Sneaking in hugs and kisses every chance they got, they were oozing sweet newlywed bliss.
I had been salivating over the anticipation of their burgers all day, and luckily for me they did not disappoint. Bursting with simple yet big flavours, Wahlburgers are synonymous with comfort and succulence -- just what a good burger should be. My favourite is Marky Mark’s creation, a Thanksgiving burger filled with ground turkey, stuffing, butternut squash, mayo, and an orange cranberry sauce. Its sweet and savoury combination makes it an instant winner. Another much loved item on their menu are their sweet potato tots that are deep-fried to perfection and highly addicting. My tastebuds are happy to know that poutine is also in the works.

With a successful location in Hingham, Massachusetts and more Canadian openings at Pearson airport, Ottawa and Waterloo next year, Wahlburgers is proving to be more than just a famous name with handsome faces attached. It’s a true burger joint that will have fans and foodies coming back for more.  


Afternoon Tea at the Tea Room Gunners Barracks


As you can tell from these past experiences here and here, I have a penchant for the luxurious ritual that is afternoon tea. Sipping loose leaf tea, indulging in dainty and delightful food, all the while dolled up in your most prim and proper attire -- everything about afternoon tea squeals, well, me. When I first arrived in Sydney, I went for afternoon tea with my cousin -- the perfect celebratory welcoming into the city.  

Housed in a beautiful historical building, the Tea Room at Gunners Barracks offers a traditional afternoon tea served in oh-so-pretty vintage china (another weakness of mine). We sat on the terrace, chatting and munching away for hours, the spectacular view of the Sydney Harbour sparkling in the background.

The menu features the usual teatime fares: finger sandwiches, mini cakes, sweet and savoury pastries -- all delectable and beautifully made. But for me, the shining star was arguably my favourite part of afternoon tea: warm, buttery scones. Wonderfully golden brown on the outside, soft and crumbly on the inside -- smeared with a nice layer of clotted cream and raspberry jam and I was in heaven. The British would approve, and it definitely won this Canadian girl over.


Sydney's Royal Botanical Gardens

Everywhere you look, beauty surrounds us. Sometimes it’s so strikingly palpable; other times it can touch us in a subtle, more subdued way. The beauty of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney boasts a balance of the two -- its stunning splendour leaves you in awe, from the vast oasis of the lush greenery to the intimate details, colours and textures of the flowers and plants. Situated at the edge of Sydney Harbour, the gardens are home to an impressive collection of plants from Australia and overseas. 

I walked around the garden for hours, taking in the natural beauty at every turn and breathing in the fresh garden air. I’ve never seen such stunning and exotic plants, nor experienced a more relaxing and serene stroll. I ventured all the way up the hill, overlooking the incredible views of the harbour -- the perfect way to cap off the day.


Sydney Views -- Ferry Edition


A visit to Sydney would not be complete without partaking in one of the city's quintessential experiences there -- a captivating ferry ride across the harbour. My cousin insisted we take a ferry to Watsons Bay, a vibrant fishing village overlooking the Sydney Harbour (a more detailed post on Watsons Bay to come). Leaving from Circular Quay, the journey across the harbour, albeit a bit bumpy, is a fun and serene one. How could it not be -- the spectacular views of the iconic Opera House and the Harbour Bridge make for a picturesque backdrop that's simply unmatched.



Fig Tartlets

Aside from pumpkin, figs are one of my favourite fall foods. There’s something wonderfully luxurious about fresh figs, bursting with a decadent and delicate sweetness. I made these fig tartlets, made with puff pastry and topped with pistachios, a drizzling of coconut nectar, and finished with a sprinkling of desiccated coconut. As an option, I added droplets of goat cheese on some for an extra layer of richness and tanginess. Sweet and sticky, these fig tartlets are delightfully delicious and almost too pretty to eat. Almost. But that won’t matter once you take that first gooey bite. Make these for your next party appetizer and your guests will be sure to thank you.


I Heart Nick Carter

When your favourite Backstreet Boy and a New Kid on the Block come to town, there’s only one logical thing to do: start fangirling. Not only did I see Nick Carter and Jordan Knight perform in concert in Toronto last week, but I also got to meet the blond heartthrob that has captured my heart since I was 12. The dynamic duo, otherwise known as Nick & Knight, recorded an album together and are currently touring North America.

I met Nick before the show and although I’ve met him countless times before, each experience is always wondrous. I purchased a VIP package (fittingly named I Heart Nick Carter), which included a little Q & A session with him, an item of our choice signed, a professional photo taken with him, and a selfie (or two –- I went back for greedy seconds).

There’s something about Nick that is strikingly infectious, a charm that pulls you in like a warm embrace. From the moment I met him, he couldn’t seem to stop smiling at me, in that magnetic way that makes you feel exceptionally special. He also kept telling me I was beautiful and that I looked really nice, which made me melt instantly. I was on cloud Nick and I was relishing in every moment.

The concert also did not disappoint. Nick and Knight are such talented performers, evident in a show that was exhilarating and entertaining. With slick dance moves, catchy songs (including a few BSB and New Kids throwbacks), and many satisfying pelvic thrusts, the concert was a perfect harmony of fun and seductive.

I only wish I could relive the whole experience One MoreTime (Nick & Knight reference) –- of a day enveloped with such wonderful moments that made me, if possible, Heart Nick Carter that much more.


Chicago Bound

I'm heading to Chicago tomorrow for my friend's wedding this weekend and thought I'd do a little throwback to my first time there when I visited my cousin 5 years ago. This photo was taken at The Bean and I can't wait to be back in the Windy City.


Taste of Toronto

Food, food and more food. Toronto held its first ever Taste of Toronto this past weekend and celebrated our love of food. With over 70 participating restaurants and exhibitors, the festival featured some of the city's best and most popular restaurants, food and drinks. In other words, it was true foodie heaven.

I had the pleasure of meeting celebrity chef, Mark McEwan, and it was nice to see him working the Bymark tent, making sure the orders were coming through and handing out dishes to customers. Incredibly nice and charming, he chatted us up for a few minutes before we hungrily devoured our food. I tried Bymark’s famous lobster poutine, with a generous portion of juicy lobster pieces, crispy fries, and smothered in a creamy bĂ©arnaise sauce. It was scrumptious to say the least, and one of my favourite dishes there. A bite out of my friend's fried chicken from One instantly revealed its deliciousness as well, with a nice crispy skin and a tangy chipotle BBQ sauce.

Although I wanted to try everything in sight, I had to be picky, which proved difficult for my indecisive (and hungry) self. In the end, I settled for seafood paella from Patria, Kinton’s pork ramen, Australia black truffle ricotta ravioli from Splendido as well as fresh oysters from there, and delicious deep fried octopus balls from GuuAs if that wasn’t enough, I also sampled various juices from Greenhouse Juice, Juice Matters, and Bloo, tasted several flavoured olive oils from OliveOil Emporium, and inhaled yummy chocolate spreads from Laura Secord

My absolute favourite from the festival though had to be something that was so simple and quite frankly, a genius concept: cheese wrapped in hardened maple syrup. From Ninutik Maple Sugar, maple syrup was poured over a tray of snow (yes, snow!) which hardened the syrup. Cubes of cheese (cheddar, gouda, and blue cheese) was then rolled in the mixture, coating it with a sweet and sticky layer. The combined flavours of sweet and salty was an explosion in your mouth -- it takes cheese to a whole other level. I'm not a fan of blue cheese on its own, but paired with the maple syrup was simply delectable. The sweetness from the syrup balanced out the sharpness of the blue cheese nicely. I'm thinking come winter, I may just have to pour maple syrup over my snow covered lawn and make these little bites of heaven for myself.

I was also lucky enough to run into the lovely Meghan Markle who plays Rachel Zane in the hit TV show Suits. As one of my girl crushes from one of my favourite shows, I was excited to meet her and she was so sweet and even more gorgeous in person.

By the end of the night, I was so insanely stuffed that I literally could not move, let only breathe. I had eaten my way around the festival, sampling everything to my heart’s (but unfortunately not my stomach’s) content. It was a great and fun experience and I hope to be back again next year.