Category Archives: Food & drinks

URBANSOURCE CELEBRATES 30YRS OF CATERING TO TORONTO’S DISCERNING FOODIES

Bravo and a big standing O to Toronto’s URBANSOURCE CATERING who, this month, celebrate 30 successful years in one of the most volatile and difficult to crack service industries – event catering.  Starting off with a modest yet stylish storefront on Yonge St at Davisville, founders CALVIN HAMBROOK (below right) and WAYNE ABELL (below left), have built up a loyal following of corporate, private and fundraising clients who sing their praises and re-book year after year, and a professional staff who delivers 5-star service at every event.

1091 The 2 Crazy Owners Opening DayAfter moving to the larger 396 Queen St East with its big commercial kitchen in January of 1990, the business expanded with more staff being brought on board then, when the space next door at #400 became available in late 2012, Calvin and Wayne took that over, opening a stunning art gallery (www.UrbanGallery.ca) with exhibitions curated by Toronto artist, Allen Shugar. The gallery hosts monthly artist events plus can be used as a private party/dining venue.

Calvin Wayne & AllenCalvin, Wayne & Allen (above L to R)

I had a chance to chat briefly with Calvin the other week, who gave me a brief overview of the evolution of UrbanSource Catering – here’s our conversation which is, perhaps, a great lesson on how to build a thriving business while maintaining high standards of service and always delivering a quality product.

Calvin, any personal thoughts on the significance of reaching this milestone with your business? Over the past 30 years, what we’ve learned is the importance of not only giving our clients the best food, and service, but creating a thriving environment for all our staff. We see and appreciate the talents and work ethic our staff bring to our company, both on and off-site. Permitting our staff to grow professionally and bring their own energy and talents to the table helped us become a responsive company that can cater to a broad spectrum of events. It lets us bring enthusiasm and passion to every dish we serve, every party we staff and every event we plan. That’s something our customers can attest to – and this is how you stay successful for 30 years.

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WWP-7200Weddings are such big business now – how have you seen catering for weddings evolve over the past 30 years…and are you seeing any changes ahead for this season’s wedding banquets?  Weddings have evolved in many ways over the past 30 years, yet in many other ways they are the same. Many couples are much more interested in being ‘hands-on’ these days, and look for a more personalized event. But it is still a big undertaking for them, whether it’s a small reception or a big event. Often it’s the first time they’ve had to plan anything as elaborate as a Wedding Reception – and our team of consultants keep everyone sane and happy – and actually enjoy their Wedding!  Our Wedding consultant, Kaspara Albertsen, has guided many couples through the whole planning stage, and helped them overcome hurdles to get the wedding they’ve dreamed of!

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Knowing that Urban can supply full on-site service staff, how important is having professional cater waiters/service staff at an event? Having professional staff at an event saves you headaches and stress –our Staff Manager Jean-Marc Fontaine hears from our clients often, how they ‘couldn’t have done it without our staff’ or ‘Thank you for sending me xxx, they understood my party and my guests’. That’s the difference between throwing a party and being a GUEST at your own party!

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IMG_0320 You have an exciting and innovative Exec. Chef, Lyndon Wiebe – what does he bring to UrbanSource? Lyndon (below) has cooked and traveled the world, and he has a great ‘taste memory’ of things he’s tried. He can make the classic dishes – as well as our 30 Years of Urban Classics  – but he is always introducing new and delicious dishes for us to offer to our clients.

Lyndo- HEAD SHOT6Each year, Urban supports a number of worthy charitable events – which ones and why?  We recognize the need to give back to our community, and Toronto is one of the most charitable cities anywhere. We support so many worthwhile charities: Assaulted Women’s Helpline, Fife House, Surrey Place, Casey House, Inside Out,  Nellie’s Shelter, Toronto United Church’s Heart & Vision and many area Hospitals and charity fundraisers.

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IMG_0975 US-25 Any suggestions/recommendations for people planning weddings, corporate events or personal dining parties to create the best experience for their guests?  We suggest they make a list of all the items they can think of that they will need to provide for the event, assign an estimate of $$$ and a timeline. This will help them plan their budget, and how many guests they want to invite. If they see that this will be more than they can manage, either time-wise or budget-wise, they will save themselves a lot of headache, heartache and energy. This also makes them a much better-educated client, and will help them choose a caterer that meets their particular needs.

IMG_0063And what food trends do you see coming our way over the next year or so?  Street food, homestyle menus and ethnic dishes, especially South Asian and South & Central American. And more vegan, gluten-free and green-sourced foods, pickled vegetables, and house-butchered meats, artisanal foods….people are really embracing locally-sourced foods.

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If you’d like to experience what 30 years of successful catering and event planning can do for your next special event, dinner, gala or fundraiser, contact UrbanSource Catering for a quote: http://www.urbancatering.com/

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CONGRATULATIONS TO CALVIN, WAYNE and THE FABULOUS STAFF @ URBANSOURCE CATERING…wishing you another 30 years of delicious success!

2015 Decal Tourism Toronto

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DISTILLERY DISTRICT ALL DRESSED UP TO SHOWCASE EVENT FACILITIES

Yesterday, Sunday March 1st, I spent a glorious hour or two experiencing the fabulous decor, event services, entertainment and …..gulp…FOOD offered in the DISTILLERY EVENTS showcase at the Fermenting Cellar in Toronto’s historic Distillery District. And, boy, did they deliver the goods!

20150301_135121I’ve attended numerous Leslieville Flea events at the Fermenting Cellar but have never seen it dressed up so beautifully, all courtesy of the on-site Events division of the venue management. The event was promoted as a Wedding Open House, showcasing a number of “preferred suppliers” of wedding gowns, custom tuxes, music, floral arrangements, wines, etc. but as an event producer/planner for corporate and private functions, it was a great way for me to check out how stunning this huge open turn-of-the-century warehouse space could look with some fancy lights, furniture, flowers and filled with happy well-fed people.

20150301_140812 20150301_142925 20150301_143131 20150301_143156The food was phenomenal…never have I attended a free industry event where they doled out the King Crab legs so freely, along with juicy tender (and big) lamb chops, Thai shrimp, oysters, gourmet Mexican tacos…even my fave Portuguese custard tarts!!

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20150301_142344 20150301_134706 20150301_135246 20150301_141223 20150301_141206The entire space was glittering and shimmering with twinkling lights and stunning floral sculptures…I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it all.

20150301_140734 20150301_140625 20150301_142131 20150301_143119My favourite vignette was this huge stunning vase placed in a wall nook (below)…love love love this.

20150301_140723Met Mallory (below), the charming wedding consultant from GOTSTYLE, the chic menswear store that offers custom tux jackets and, as Mallory says, the best accessory for a bride is a well styled groom. GOTSTYLE showed everyone how to do just that!  http://www.shop.gotstyle.ca 

20150301_141916Frank Correnti Cigars had a couple of cigar rollers there, too (below) who were busy crafting the leaves into large fragrant cigars.  http://www.correnticigars.com

20150301_140841Big thank you to my dear friends over at Urban Gallery/UrbanSource Catering who gave me the ticket. And bravo to all at Distillery Events for a well-produced event – the staff was lovely, welcoming and took very care of us all. I highly recommend the Fermenting Cellar for your wedding or other celebration so contact Distillery Events to get the 411. http://www.distilleryevents.com 

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THE LITTLE TORONTO NEWS SITE THAT COULD – MEET PUBLISHER KJ MULLINS OF NEWZ4U.NET

About 18 months ago, I was introduced to one of Toronto’s unsung heroes, a woman who launched a news site that champions the underdog stories and gives a voice to those causes and issues that don’t get much exposure in mainstream media due to their lack of media “sexiness” or mass appeal. These are the stories that confront day-to-day life and issues in the naked city.  KJ Mullins is passionate about Toronto and her neighbours, and publishes her daily NEWZ4U.NET e-newspaper with the help of talented reporters and photographers dedicated to bringing the real news to you without corporate or advertiser “filters” and without fluff or filler content.

I recently sat down with KJ and asked her to tell us all about NEWZ4U.net and what prompted her to create the site.

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Tell us a little about KJ Mullins – what is your personal journalism/business background?
KJ: I started out in college on the journalism track but went to drama/psy instead. Ten years ago after other jobs and being a stay at home mom, I got the writing bug again and this time went full steam.  One of the first articles I wrote back in college helped to bring forth positive changes for disabled students rather quickly, and seeing that I could make a difference was really powerful.

KJ MullinsWhen was your website first launched?
KJ: I launched NEWZ4U.NET on May 12, 2010.

What first inspired you to create Newz4U & what news niche wasn’t being fulfilled by the national newspapers?
KJ: I wanted to get my voice out there and the voices of others who may not fit into the mainstream model. Social issues like homelessness, poverty, LGBT issues and the arts are often overlooked in the mainstream because if it’s not a ‘front and centre’ story it isn’t sexy. The same is true with stories on the city’s front line responders – in mainstream media the motto of if it bleeds it leads also means that stories about good works aren’t covered. It’s rare to find articles about the various Kops and Kids programs that do curb youth violence.

homeless porter_002 DSCF8097How did you source your first news items?
KJ: We have always sourced our news items in the same way; with on the scene and through interviewing with fact checking. We also use reliable newswires for additional coverage. 

What sort of feedback did you receive from readers once the first few editions were e-published?
KJ: Knock on wood, from the beginning we’ve had positive feedback. For the readers who had personal issues in the city like a pot hole appearing and reappearing at their Toronto Community Housing building which we helped to bring positive results, the feedback was extremely positive.

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DSCF0879Who are your readers and how do you reach them?
KJ: Our readers are mostly from Toronto and are generally 25+, evenly mixed between genders. Most have university educations and many are movers and shakers. They are interested in social change and the arts.

DSCF3761As a web-based news source, what sort of reach does Newz4U enjoy?
KJ: In 2014 we had over 449K readers who read over 2.4 million articles. We average 31K monthly readers going through 146K articles.

What stories do you look for?
KJ: We are always looking for new stories about social issues. Fresh produce in the city, and childhood hunger is a current issue we are tackling hard. In Canada’s largest business city it is mind-blowing how many go to bed hungry every night or haven’t got a bed to sleep in. We’ve covered Pride and the Caribbean Festival for several years, looking into the areas that aren’t touched by mainstream.

DSCF2517The arts are also a strong interest for us. We cover as many events, big and small, as possible. Right now we are working on the RBC Taylor Prize and the Lionel Gelber Prize, both covering Canadian non-fiction literature. Each shortlisted book is read and reviewed prior to the prize announcements. It’s a lot of work but promoting our Canadian authors is very important. These men and women are putting forth some amazing work. Photography, fine arts and music are also a prime focus. We hope to be at the Junos this year with one of our newest writers whose focus is music.

DSCF8833 DSCF6408We will also be covering sports at the Pan Am Games. Our sports photographer, Hugh McClean, has been covering soccer and rugby in the past year, two sports that get very little coverage in the city.

?????????????????????Do you offer sponsored pages or ad space and if so, what is the range of $s?
KJ: This is a hard one for us but yes we do have ad space. Ads run from $25 to $150 a month depending on placement. We have plans to change up our layout in mid-March/early-April that will allow for pages to be sponsored as well. Prices for this are still in the works.

We also have a sponsorship program which gives ‘free’ ad space for Toronto small businesses. Our Angel sponsors keep us going and growing.

NEWZ4U.NET gives back to the community by offering local grassroots and small charities space for promoting themselves and their events for FREE.

How do people reach you for editorial coverage and/or advertising?
KJ: We are always available via email at editor@newz4u.net. We respond within 24 hours Monday-Friday. You can always get in touch with me personally on Twitter @kjjournalist.

20141018_143931Above photo: G.J. Fordham

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ICEFEST TAKES OVER YORKVILLE (Toronto) FEB 21 & 22.

BIA-IceFest2015-eBlast-600x270For the past 10 years, the folks at the Bloor-Yorkville BIA have hosted a fun family festival of all things winter in the heart of Yorkville Village, featuring ice sculpting, entertainment, hot food and drinks, all sorts of interactive fun for all the family, tons of great shopping and lots of pretty lights at night.  This year’s theme will be “ancient Egypt” so they’re inviting everyone to come “walk like an Egyptian” around Toronto’s premier tourist & cultural hub, Yorkville, on Saturday February 21st & Sunday February 22nd. “Frozen in Time” is an ancient Egyptian-inspired showcase of ice carvings including a 3D  pyramid, plus depictions of  Egyptian gods and pharaohs including Anubis, Iris and King Tut.  There will also be a giant interactive ice carving of sitting camel where visitors will be able to get their photos taken as a keepsake.

424U2559Open to the public each day between noon – 5 pm, the Village of Yorkville Park and Cumberland Street will be the centre of Icefest attractions, with additional ice carving demonstrations taking place throughout the neighbourhood.

424U2193 (2) 424U2203 424U2288On Saturday, February 21st starting at 12 noon, the 15th Annual Sassafraz Ice Carving Competition will take place at the east side of the Village of Yorkville Park.  Twelve ice carvers from across Ontario will compete for the People’s Choice Sculpture Award! As great masterpieces begin to emerge beneath the picks, chisels and chainsaws of the talented carvers, visitors will cast their vote for their favourite ice carving sculpture throughout the afternoon. Winners will be announced at 5:15 pm that day.

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424U2225 424U2389Last year, I found the dolphin from HydraSense who was posing for photos so I just had to get in there myself, too!

424U2169 (2) Gwith sharkAs February is Heart Month, Bloor-Yorkville will be fundraising with participating partners and sponsors in support of the Heart & Stroke Foundation. For a $2 charitable donation, “Kiddie Ice Cubes” will be distributed each day at 2 pm, in the Village of Yorkville Park with a collectible toy inside. Patrons will also be able to sample tasty Maple Syrup Taffy from 1 pm ­ 4 pm each day on Cumberland Street for a $2 donation. Through IceFest, Bloor-Yorkville has raised over $54,000 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

20140222_121217424U2247This is an all ages family friendly, FREE event, all you have to do is bring is warm clothes, a hearty winter spirit, and maybe a camera to capture the moments in ice forever!  Photos from last year’s fabulous IceFest courtesy of Henry Lin and a few by me, too.  For further event Info:  http://www.bloor-yorkville.com/icefest/

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WAS ITCHING TO VISIT THE LESLIEVILLE FLEA AGAIN…SO I DID!

20150118_134145Another great adventure enjoyed…all for the cost of a subway token! It was a grey old day here in Toronto today so I decided to go visit all the wonderful vendors at the monthly Leslieville Flea that was back at the Fermenting Cellar in the historic Distillery District for the winter months. Lots of lovely new vendors including Sonja from Woo-Hoo! Home Decor, Accessories & Collectibles (photos above and below).  Sonja has stunning mid-century glassware, vintage cocktail sets, CarltonWare and some really cool Betty Boop/Coca Cola collectibles. I know a friend who loves Betty Boop so I’m fwd’ing her these pics.  http://www.facebook.com/woohoodecor

20150118_133758 20150118_133906 20150118_133911 20150118_133816 20150118_134154Next to Sonja, I found the lovely and stylish Erica (pictured below left) from WildThingVintage who had a stash of great vintage bling – huge sparkly brooches that are all the rage now.  http://www.wildthingvintage.etsy.com 

20150118_133621 20150118_133626Opposite Erica’s booth was Toronto’s own king of mustard, Dan Gordon from Whisky & Spice, who was very popular with the samples on offer of his handcrafted Whisky/Honey, Porter Beer or Riesling/Apple flavoured premium mustards. Dan and his lovely wife Laura (below) enjoyed meeting all the visitors and watching as their eyes rolled back in their heads after they taste the superb W&S products.  http://www.whiskyandspice.ca

20150118_133449 20150118_133658 20150118_143712 20150118_143727 20150118_143744Bill & Sacha (pictured below) from Douglas + Son had some awesome manly vintage collectibles like this ancient buffalo skull and the old green & white enamel factory lampshade which is very on-trend right now. Check out their Instagram account for more of their treasures: @douglasandson

20150118_135421 20150118_135601 20150118_135625I then ran into a rather brilliant young entrepreneur, Cassandra, who has taken discarded rubber inner tubes (sourced mainly from Indonesia) and fashioned them into purses, jewellery & accessories, even shoes: AllWaste Reincarnation Art . Her bracelets are gorgeous and I can see them being worn by models walking this year’s Fashion Week runways. Hey all you fashion labels, check out Cassandra (pictured below left) for your show accessories this year- http://www.allwaste-reincarnationart.com

20150118_135703 20150118_135706 20150118_142639 20150118_142632I found these saucy tuxedo’d gents (below) waddling around the Love in the Afternoon booth checking out the miniature vintage fainting couch. Made me smile  http://www.loveintheafternoon.ca

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Had fun chatting with Boris and Julia (below) of Vivid Toronto Streetwear. Julia makes these colourful, sexy bow-ties and pocket squares, as well as fully lined jaunty hats, chic belly-bags and innovative “neck tubes” – fuss-free scarves ideal for snowboarders. Check out their full line at http://www.vivid-streetwear.com

20150118_140934 20150118_140946 20150118_141035 20150118_141100 20150118_141112 20150118_141237I was so dazzled by all the bright shiny things, I almost walked past my friend, jewellery designer Stephanie MacKay whose work includes sparkling druzzy rings (I have a gorgeous blue one) , red gold and copper necklaces and pendants. You gotta check out her designs: (http://www.mform.weebly.com )

20150118_140248 20150118_140300Next to Stephanie, I saw some pretty amazing mini-planters that were hung upside down for display…cool.

20150118_140825 20150118_140834 As I walked around the architecturally exquisite Fermenting Cellar, I noticed this lovely lady (her name was Jen) sitting quietly, completely lost in her texting/tweeting. Thought she made a great photo.

20150118_134356Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi! Yep, I found a new mate from Downunder at the Flea. Matt Obst, a young Aussie woodworker/craftsman, showcased his great re-purposed furniture, eg: an old mail trolley made into a coffee table, a vintage factory sewing machine stand converted into table base, and all sorts of found boards and wood repurposed into stunning furniture. Visit his gallery at http://www.obstwood.com Matt does commissioned works as well.

20150118_141615 20150118_141620 20150118_141658Fallen Wood Designs was up next – check out these fabulous home accessories crafted by the talented Mike Larmer. I love the dark walnut bowl in the first photo, and don’t get me started on the stunning pepper mills. Wow! http://www.fallenwooddesigns.ca

20150118_141959 20150118_142017 20150118_142028Across the aisle, I met Paula Whitlock, the talented artist behind Picture This design studios. Especially loved her images of butterflies and local Toronto architecture. http://www.picturethistoronto.com

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My lamby girls! Was thrilled to see Samantha and Calie of Two Lamb Boutique (below) had set up shop at the Flea. I met them about a month ago at their Yorkville pop-up and told them about the Leslieville Flea. Their glam bling sparkled under the lights, attracting lots of new Lamb-fans! http://www.twolamb.com  Thank you for my lovely treat, ladies.

20150118_143052 20150118_143101 20150118_143115Another fun booth was the pair of CryWolf Clothing and The Button Machine (below). Loved the “Turonno” patches and wearable souvenirs, the buttons were very cool….another great vendor who makes you smile! http://www.crywolfclothing.com  and  http://www.thebuttonmachine.com

20150118_143013 20150118_143023Ran to another of my fave Leslieville Flea vendors, Sarah Podemski of Totem Jewelry & Accessories. Last year, I purchased one of her silver antler pendants (below) that always gets me great compliments whenever I wear it. Thank you, Sarah.  www.facebook.com/TotemJewelryAndAccessories

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One of the newbies to the Flea was this lovely young lady, Emma (pictured below), who had some groovy clothing and accessories made from re-purposed treasures she’d found during her travels around the world. She was more concerned, tho, about showcasing the happy colourful artwork by Betty Mirembe who is battling Parkinson’s Disease which makes coming to the Flea nearly impossible for Betty. This adorable young lady was so proud to talk about Betty’s beautiful African scenes that she forgot to bring her own business cards. If I receive an email from her, I’ll link her access here – she deserves our support for her own kindness to another artist.

20150118_135029 20150118_134741 20150118_134937So another fabulous Leslieville Flea visit is done-and-dusted. Was nice to see Dan and his mustards, all my glitter girls who keep me lookin’ good, and all the gifted artisans I met today.  Next date for the Flea is February 22nd, 10am to 4pm…and it’s FREE! Details here: http://leslievilleflea.com/

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SATURDAY AFTERNOON STROLL AROUND YORKVILLE (Toronto)

Decided to be a “tourist” in my own back yard today. Weather was a bit warmer (balmy compared with Tuesday’s -12!) so I wandered into Williams-Sonoma on Bloor St to meet some of the food artisans who were showcasing their wares.  First off, DAVID MARCUS from DAVID’S CONDIMENTS  www.davidscondiments.com who was sampling his hot’n’spicy rubs, marinades and seasonings.

20150117_131646 20150117_131649 20150117_131653Then I met the cute couple behind BURNER HOT PEPPER SAUCE who were busy heating up the cold shoppers. Check out their online store for all the flavours and levels of heat.  http://burnerpeppersauce.com/shop/

20150117_131614 20150117_131619Next door to Williams-Sonoma is the new Holt Renfrew Men’s store and I was stopped in my tracks when I saw this thru the window….

20150117_131759 20150117_131804 20150117_131908A giant head sculpture by Douglas Coupland called Gumhead – you take a piece of bubblegum from the old-school dispensers, chew it and then stick it on the head. Hmm, I don’t think so, but I did plant a kiss (no tongues!) on the statue for good luck.

I then popped across the street to the Bloor St Market in the Manulife Centre to pick up a few groceries and I found SUMMER’S ICE CREAM being sampled. OMG…..Summer’s is THE best locally made ice cream and I frequently drop into their ice cream parlour on Yorkville Ave for a scoop or two during the summer months. They’re now selling their super deelish treats in tubs in selected grocery stores  http://www.summmersicecream.com

20150117_132742 20150117_132752As I headed back home along Bloor, I walked past the famed STOLLERY’s clothing store at Yonge & Bloor that had recently closed after 114 years and my heart broke to see what was being done to the beautiful building….

20150117_135450 20150117_135441 20150117_135426 20150117_135532… ripping out the beautiful window frames, friezes and stone carvings, as well as peeling off all the copper flashing. Their website  http://www.stollerys.com/ says the store was to close at the end of January but I guess the greedy developers couldn’t wait to get their wrecking balls on this iconic piece of Edwardian architecture.  This makes me sad, angry and very disappointed with the City of Toronto for allowing this to happen yet again to one of our beautiful old buildings.

Hope you liked joining me as I played tourist in my own neighbourhood ….follow my blog for further adventures and scroll down for other cool news and previous events.

 

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WHISKY & SPICE MUSTARDS HEAT UP MILTON WINTER FARMERS’ MARKET

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The folks at TERRA Greenhouses, 12800 Britannia Rd in Milton, are running a series of farmers’ markets throughout the winter (every Saturday until end of March), and Dan from Whisky & Spice is out there tickling the tastebuds of foodies in the western GTA and golden horseshoe region. Lots of sampling going on……

IMG_0507 IMG_0510 IMG_0512….so make sure you pop in this afternoon (up to 3pm) or every Saturday up to March 21st and pick up some W&S Porter beer, whisky & honey or Riesling & apple flavoured mustards.

http://www.whiskyandspice.ca

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