Best New Restaurant 2018 – Air Canada

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the unveiling of Canada’s Best New Restaurant presented by Air Canada. Every year, I love reading the list in EnRoute magazine and adding them to my travel wishlists. At this year’s event, the top 10 of 30 contenders were present serving up their signature dishes, which ranged from snails to wedge salad. Two Toronto restaurants represented. One of my favourite spots in the city Aloette, and Giulietta, the new restaurant from Chef Rob Rossi of Bestellen. Tasting bites from the other 8 restaurants seriously made me want to visit cities I’d never thought of before, like Edmonton and Picton.

Disclaimer: Thank you Air Canada for inviting me to attend this event. All opinions expressed below are wholly mine.

My favourite bites of the evening were from Avenue (Regina, SK), Aloette, Sand and Pearl (Picton, ON) and Buฬˆndok (Edmonton, AB). Avenue’s dish was a delicious combination of tuna and pork belly while Aloette’s classic wedge salad was a perfect balance of textures, creamy dressing and crunchy pumpkin seeds. Sand and Pearl’s booth was constantly swarmed for their braised back ribs topped with crab and freshly shucked oysters. I admit, I took a few return trips for both the oysters and crab. Buฬˆndok’s offer was two slices of lightly cured sea bream topped with a citrus chili oil that packed a lot of heat and acidity. I loved the balance of the fish and oil, this was another booth where I went back for seconds.

The restaurant that took top honours was The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette (Jordan Station, ON), who served up BBQ sea snails, skewered with a branch on real shells. Their presentation was creative and the dish itself unique. I enjoyed the chewy texture of the snails, which were excellently seasoned. Located in the Niagara region in a modern farmhouse, The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette is quickly becoming a destination in of themselves. There is only a set menu offered (5+ courses) that changes daily centered around locally sourced ingredients. I expect their reservations to quickly fill up despite the non central location.

This year’s event also highlighted Canada’s Best New Bars. Unfortunately I had to duck out early (to get home for Alivia’s bedtime) and missed out on that part of the evening. Even more places to add to my ever growing list of places to visit.

To learn more about all the restaurants and how they were ranked, visit

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Cinque Terre – The Villages
Stephen and I set out from Monterosso with our Cinque Terre Passes mid morning to begin our hike to Vernazza. Our Airbnb host told us the hike, which was considered an average difficulty trail, would take about an hour. That didn’t sound bad. I figured if we were tired after one hike we could hop on the train for the rest of the day. The trek took us over 2 hours with stops for photos and rest. We did not hike on.

The Hike: Monterosso to Vernazza

A few parts of the trail were narrow and others overlooked a steep mountain side (those with a fear of heights might have trouble) but overall the terrain was easy to manage, even in my Converse sneakers. The path weaved up, down and around the mountain through lemon orchards, dense greenery and open air with stunning views of the ocean.

Tip: Wear layers! Since we prepared to be out for the full day, we had to dress for it. While the morning and evening were cool, after a few hours of hiking in the sun, I was sweating. A few of the villages also had beautiful beaches and water access so a bathing suit layer may come in handy.

For me the hardest part of the trail was the start, leaving Monterosso to climb up and up the mountain was a lot of stairs. Our first stop was at a lemonade stand run by a family who owned one of the lemon orchards. The fresh lemons were wonderfully fragrant and the drink so refreshing in the heat. Another great restspot was a nook for stray cats set up with little houses and food.

The trail was busy in both directions with a wide variety of hikers. Some were decked out in full gear while others were dressed for a park stroll. I would recommend at the minimum wearing closed toe sneakers and bringing some water. There were two great photo spots once Vernazza came into sight. Catching a glimpse of the colourful city, I felt a sense of accomplishment (and a bit of relief).

The Train

After grabbing lunch in Vernazza we decided to take the train to the next 3 cities. Hiker, I am not. Train passes were available that allow unlimited travel with options of 1 day, multi day and family pricing. We had to be a bit more mindful of our time in each city but it was still a leisurely afternoon.

Tip: The train station at Corniglia was at sea level while the village itself was on the cliffs, 382 stairs up. There is a frequent shuttle bus between the village and train station if stairs are not your thing. The ride takes about 5 minutes and costs โ‚ฌ1.50.

After climbing the stairs to Corniglia, I rewarded myself with a gelato before we moved on. Both Manarola and Riomaggiore had direct water access. At Manarola, tourists clambered on the rocks for the perfect shot. We were no exception but I wasn’t as daring to climb too high on the wet, slippery cliffs. Since many tourists were also running on a train schedule, the best time for photos was just as a train arrived to carry a group away before the next wave arrived.

In Riomaggiore, we ended our day with a fried seafood cone. The main street was lined with shops all hawking the local specialty with similar prices. We followed the crowd to the longest line and wasn’t disappointed.

Overall, the day was busy and I loved getting to explore each of the charming cities. If we had one more day, I would’ve loved to hike a few more of the trails.
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Hillcrest Glow Up

Since moving to Richmond Hill, Alivia and I have spent lots of time at Hillcrest shopping, walking and napping. The mall is currently going under a $90M renovation that includes a cosmetic face lift to the interior, updated modern entrances and a slew of new stores. Hillcrest’s transformation began in 2015 with the expansion of The Bay and the opening of Sporting Life and H&M. Today, the mall is already home to some of my favourite stores like Aritzia and Miniso. Tomorrow, there will be even more to love and I am seriously worried about my shopping budget.

Disclaimer: Behind the scenes tour of Hillcrest was organized by Matte PR. All opinions expressed below are wholly mine.

At the beginning of September, I had the opportunity to tour the new north wing, which will house HomeSense, Marshalls, Old Navy and Indigo. HomeSense and Marshalls opened on Sept 18 with Old Navy to follow in October and Indigo in November. Being a true pillar of the community, Hillcrest will be hosting a donation drive collecting housewares, toiletries, clothing and toys for Sandgate Women’s Shelter in support of domestic abuse survivors. Donations will be accepted from September 22nd to October 5th at the centre court display setup in partnership with HomeSense.

Another newly opened store I love is Westcoast Kids, which carries the cutest and some of my favourite baby brands like Uppababy, Louloulollipop and Babybjorn. They also host great events for parents like sleep clinics, product launches and CPR classes.

Also, Uncle Tetsu just opened!

Our tour ended with a visit to the Hillcrest honey bees, who live on the mall’s rooftop. The two hives produce honey flavoured by the neighbourhood and changes every year. We had the chance to get up close with the bees and taste the fresh honey.

Hillcrest’s transformation ensures that they remain the shopping destination in Richmond Hill and even beyond. I’m excited to see how the space continues to grow and what else is in store.

(Photos by @kaileemandel)

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Happy 6 Months
Seemingly overnight, Alivia is 6 months old and I’m halfway through my maternity leave. Ok, not quite overnight but the weeks have flown by. I have a new understanding and belief in the phrase, “the days may be long but the weeks are short”. That’s how I feel every month as Alivia becomes more mobile and more interactive. Today, it was easy to write about Alivia, the words kept flowing and I could have continued for pages about her developing personality. I had a harder time writing about myself, because I feel stagnant. While she’s growing and changing, I’m not. And I wish I was.


Mind: Some days I feel like I could be a stay at home parent and love it. Other days I just want to hide in my room, alone. I don’t miss work and being quite the introvert I don’t miss the daily adult interaction either. I do miss feeling of being productive and accomplished. Oddly enough, the days I feel most balanced are the ones when it’s just Alivia and I. On those days I’m more focused, more task oriented and more mindful of my time. On days when I have help I feel listless and unmotivated, like I should be doing more than I am.

Body: The scale is moving so very slowly. I was worried that lowering my calorie intake too much would affect my milk supply. I think I’ve found a happy spot, now if only I could stay under it after months of bad habits. I’ve also upped my exercise more, which to be honest I should have done a few months ago. It is disheartening to see other moms in such great shape while I’m still 15 lbs over my pre-Alivia weight and 25 lbs away from where I’d like to be.

Balance: Going into my maternity leave, I had planned to devote the first 6 months 100% to Alivia and incorporate more self-care the second half. Now that I’m here, prioritizing myself more feels overdue. I don’t feel like I’ve lost my own identity, but I don’t feel like myself yet either.


Milestones: Alivia’s mastered sitting up all by herself and hasn’t toppled over in days. She’s doing her best to crawl and have figured out her leg movements but not her arms. There were a few weeks where she did the most adorable butt wiggling. Then scooting backwards, which resulted in lots of frustration as she got further away from her targets. Lately, she’s been perfecting her downward dog pose. I’m not ready yet for a fully mobile Alivia.

We’ve started solids at 5 months! So far, Alivia’s showing a odd preference for green foods (avocado, zucchini, peas) and not so much the orange ones (carrot, sweet potato). She’s tried apple and peach as well and seems to be loving fruit. Also, a total carnivore. I just introduced proteins this week and it was the first time I saw her smile with a new food. She’s also showing much more interest in feeding herself the past week and working on her finger dexterity to pick up foods. Now at 6 months, I’m hoping to transition away from purees and into table foods.

There’s so much learning and new vocabulary to being a new parent.

Sleeping: Both Alivia’s naps and overnight sleep has gotten much better. I feel like we’re making progress to better sleep for all of us, but it’s slow going. I haven’t felt the need to sleep train yet and I’m still bed sharing while Stephen has his space in the guest bedroom.

Win, we’ve managed to establish a consistent bedtime routine that does not include nursing to sleep! We’re attempting pick up/put down and Alivia’s getting better at self soothing. This week, she’s getting better and better at falling asleep by herself. Only one night of sleeping through though. But now I know she can.

Not Win, 99% of the time, she’s still waking up 3-4 times a night. I’m trying to limit overnight feedings to maximum 2 times. The plan is to move her to her crib after our trip in September.

Naps have become more consistent and longer, but I still nurse her to sleep. I am now usually able to sneak away.

Play: I have a hard time with playtime when it comes toys and I’m always wondering if she’s bored with her toys and what kind of toys to get her. Alivia loves her shakers now and to interact with her toys, mainly to chew on them and bang them around. She loves being read to, being swung, checking out her reflection in the mirror and watching bubbles.

Alivia’s all signed up for swimming lessons and we have our first trip booked for September! Stephen has a work trip to Seattle and I’ll be tagging along to visit friends. It’ll be an adventure for sure. I’ll also have a few solo days with Alivia in the city, any and all tips welcome!

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