As crafting and packing operations were underway, we were informed of chocolate tempering specifics as well as the science behind various cocoa-based creations.
As per the explicit foreshadowing in my last entry, we headed straight for Barrie the next morning.
Chelsea Chocolates has earned itself a spot on our itinerary for the past several visits. As our regular runs take place in the late afternoon, the we've always missed out on the factory tours held between 9 AM and 3 PM. We made it a mission to attend this time.
Behind the boutique area is an integrated preparation area equipped with more tools and machinery than thinkable for an independent chocolate shop of its size.
As crafting and packing operations were underway, we were informed of chocolate tempering specifics as well as the science behind various cocoa-based creations.
It was learned that storebought chocolate bars contain about 8% cocoa, with the remaining percentage assumed by some sort of "filler" ingredient. Chelsea Chocolate's in-house creations contain 52-53% cocoa (or some amount along those lines that I cannot recall precisely).
The weekend welcomed us with scattered showers and minimal sunshine. To combat the lack of summer-appropriate weather and inability to go for a second round of swimming, we dove into the car and drove (even further) up north.
Gravenhurst was about forty minutes away in the municipality of Muskoka. The trip was tedious, if anything, as landmarks of interest were scarce along the curves of Hwy 11. A curated playlist of upbeat tunes aided in relieving tension. I was nowhere thrilled to be potentially engaging in another meal at Dock of the Bay and thus was promised alternatives when we neared the port.
Passing through a sidewalk sale on the streets of Muskoka Road, it took a total of two U-turn before I found my way to the asphalt lot surrounded by tourist traps.
The skies were dreary, unlike our last visit. This didn't stop half of our party from parading the port with noise pollution, however. Rather, a lengthy period of snapping touristy photos ensued before we could gather the entirety of the group for lunch.
Adamant about not returning to Dock of the Bay and all of its unpleasantness, I suggested The Blue Willow. First and foremost, it was close in proximity and offered a decent view of the lake. Secondly, it offered a type of cuisine uncommon to the area: English-style afternoon tea.
As with many tea shops, The Blue Willow possesses its own selection of loose leaf teas, scones, and fruit preserves (ie. jam). Tables are few within the establishment, and all seating by the window had been reserved well in advance.
View the full album HERE !
The early bird gets the worm, which, in this case, is the benefit of additional time to invest in one's regular duties.
Commencing with a morning swim, then a leisurely lunch of leftovers from the previous evening, the day was off to a solid, unwasteful manner.
Following this was a drive to Orillia - very much a request on my part. The previous years of rowing had been of utmost enjoyment to me, so it was only fitting to relive the scene come warm weather season.
As opposed to embarking from J.B. Tudhope Park, on the north side of Hwy 12, we sourced Narrows Canoe as an alternative to Kayak-ity-Yak. Located southeast of the family-friendly park, it allowed for direct entry into the waters without unneeded exposure to sandy silts. The business owners were exceptionally friendly, and even directed our attention to a map, noting the calm and turbulent areas. Considering that this was private property, there were, regrettably, no public bathrooms nor changerooms available.
Opting for this route contributed a dose of uncertainty, further enhancing curiosity levels as well as an overall sense of adventurism. The two-hour trip was exhilarating: The Narrows were calm, but the channel (underneath Hwy 12) was expansive and busy. Small bays were filled with pristine waters, delicate blue dragonflies, and lush shrubbery - an awe-inducing sight indeed. The return trip was less tranquil, however, with opposing currents posing a tiring challenge to already fatigued muscles.
Regardless, the entire ordeal yielded an experience that was more than just satisfactory; the path less travelled was indeed enthralling. I honestly can't wait to so it again!
The ideal post-rowing treat is a delicious double scoop from Sweet Dreams. Visiting on a weekday negated this possibility, as both the dessert parlour and adjacent savoury sustenance booth were shuttered.
With hunger catching up to me at a hanger-inducing rate, I aggressive proposed a trip to Webers for immediate fulfillment.
With a twenty-minute drive ahead of us (and then a coiling lineup for the popular charcoal barbecued burgers), achieving sustenance wasn't instantaneous. That said, it remained a swifter process than travelling elsewhere for sluggish restaurant service.
Actually, the process was rather swift given the lineup. Several members of staff would manually take orders from customers in the lineup, mark requested items on an inventory list, then deliver it to the kitchen for processing. The bill would then be printed and cash flow would occur while in wait. Notably efficient was how staff members carried exact amounts of change in anticipation for patrons paying bills of $15.55 with a twenty-dollar bill.
The semi-annual trip to Simcoe County resumes for another summer!
As a resident of the suburbs (with constant metropolitan influence), it is admittedly rare to find myself away from a screen and shops, even if the surrounding community poses more than enough opportunities to embrace it.
Major retail stores are spotted less frequently up north, and the same goes for the presence of public transit routes. Several of the roads do not intersect, which means travel time can be extended from a mere ten- to fifteen-minute drive to thirty minutes and beyond to cover the same distance.
By the time we had exited the 400, it was already late afternoon. Issues with a bathroom leakage further delayed our scheduled activities.
The original plan of biking around the area was postponed due to time restrictions. Instead, we slathered on formulas of SPF 50 PA+++ and headed to the pool for some weekend getaway-appropriate Vitamin E exposure.
Vicious UV rays shone down upon us, leaving their mark in the form of noticeably darker pigmentation of the epidermis.
For our first meal of the weekend, I suggested Pie Wood. Our experience at the downtown location had been wonderful: flashbacks of Big Quack and Tsunami resounded in my mind, distinctly vivid in spite of the fatigue I had accumulated from the early early morning 7 for 7 VLive Showcase.
My companions were less excited at this suggestion, with the primary reason being that one member in particular was less fond of cheese than the rest of us. Gritting their teeth, they agreed to try Pie Wood's Mapleview location.
We were seated on an empty patio on a slow weekday evening.
Gushingly friendly were the staff members, especially our waitress. She was more than happy to share her recommendations with us, even providing additional details on the Featured Soup - which apparently is swapped out for a new flavour every week on the account of the chef. Her descriptions relative to the size of the dishes were frankly not as on par with our petite appetites, though this was not a large issue.
I guess my only complaint was that utensil and napkin sets were forgotten even after delivery of our starters.
Drink orders were taken to start, followed by the delivery of salad and soup.
The Pie Salad was a more substantial portion than we pictured for slick fragments of chopped lettuce, arugula, and baby spinach. Coated profusely in a red wine vinaigrette that was more oil than vinegar, we picked at a few pieces before shoving the bowl aside. I have recently grown absentminded, carelessly neglecting the importance of specifying dressing on the side.
< Pictured above and below: Ginger Ale, Pie Salad, French Onion Soup, More Cowbell Pie, St. Lucia Pie (Light Cheese), and Nutty Pie >
It's about time the annual Thanksgiving trip to Barrie rolled around. But alas, instead of spending long weekend leisurely going about photographing fall foliage and sipping on cinnamon-laced apple cider, such activities have been replaced by stressful streams of schoolwork, errand-running, and the like.
Reading Week is rough. Sigh.
Seeing as GOT7's < 7 For 7 > Showcase involved me awaking to roaring, rainy gusts in the wee hours of the morning, motivation to embark on CBR- and steel member calculations was in absolute absence. We set out for a brisk trip up north instead.
Chelsea Chocolates, whom we had the wonderful opportunity to discover earlier in the year, was not only open but offered an astounding range of Thanksgiving- and Halloween-themed treats.
Needless to say, we stocked up on ice wine chocolates, assorted truffles, chocolate-covered pretzel sticks, and more to curb cocoa-infused cravings.
Given the comfortable above-seasonal temperatures, the Downtown Barrie BIA was deemed a suitable destination for lunch. Thus, the hunt began for a brunch/eatery whose doors were open for the statutory holiday.
Two failed attempts later, Pie Wood appeared on our radar. A quick call to the establishment confirmed their operating status, and off we went.
Situated in a spacious private lot, the restaurant provided ample parking spots in addition to both indoor seating and outdoor patio tables. We initially chose a lengthy communal/group table along the perimeter of the seating area; while I appreciated the accessibility of individually-wrapped utensil sets and the standing double-sided menu arranged in advance, its surface was sticky and its crevices lined with crumbs and unidentifiable fragments, presumably remnants from the meals of previous diners. The menus, as I should mention, were also on the sticky side. However, I hadn't expected the most pristine environment for a family-friendly eatery with a finger food-heavy selection.
A similar case lay with the restrooms. With the exception of an air jet hand dryer, the facilities were generally weathered: trickling streams from the faucet rendered hand-washing inefficient, while sliding locks had been relocated to the lower quarter of the plastic door for reasons beyond me. Flushing capabilities were also compromised by aged toilets.
Eventually, we requested transferring to the outdoor patio, despite the presence of several substantially-sized bees. Weather conditions were fabulous, as were the beaming rays of blinding sushine. The bees were quite a nuisance to many diners, though many took to returning indoors in fear of stings; I had no issues with stomping on whichever pest remained stationary for sufficiently long periods though.
As the name suggests, Pie Wood's specialty lay with wood-fired pizzas. Prior to stepping foot inside the establishment, I anticipated carb-laden mounds presented in a similar fashion to Goodfellas. The products we received, however, were far more enjoyable that I would have imagined. All dishes were absolutely wonderful and completely deserving of their top rank on Yelp amongst Downtown Barrie restaurants.
A starter of Wood Fired Chicken Wings commenced the meal. Eight pieces in a small order for $13.75 or a Family size for ten dollars extra, the dish consisted of three individual elements: coleslaw on a bed of arugula, a mini mountain of sticky, flavourful wings, and a creamy Blue Cheese dipping sauce. The wings were scrumptious, which is a difficult statement for me - a being unfond of chicken skin - to make. Each bite-sized pieces sported a viscous veil of honey, fine shreds of rosemary, and a mild hint of spice. Folded within the accompanying container were bits of savoury curds, which acted as a nice contrast to the distinct sweet-and-spicy wing marinade
View the full album HERE !
Lax exploration played a major part in our weekend expedition, which is another way of saying that planning was kept a minimum. (Surprise, surpise!)
That being said, a few activities had remained unattained from the previous day, so we set out to accomplish them all with the help of a very compact, strict schedule
Our third and final day commenced with a short bike ride around the neighbouring turf. A complete 180° from the previous day's climate, a cloudless azure with revitalizing gusts welcomed us, easing our sleepy minds into the tranquil morning cycle.
Lunch was then had before whisking ourselves to J.B Tudhope (formerly Moose Beach) in Orillia for some brisk rowing. Windy and a bit overcast at the moment, the waves were much stronger than I had been accustomed to on the previous two visits.
The sun gradually revealed itself after an hour or so of hide-and-seek. It was unfortunate that this coincided with our scheduled time of departure. I had hoped to gain a healthy bronze glow while on the water, yet UV rays were probably only present for the last thirty minutes of our stay. (I mean, my scalp and shoulder suffered burns nonetheless though...)
Ice cream, especially those served atop vanilla-scented waffle cones, is a quintessential aspect of water activities, so, needless to say, it was impossible to vacate the asphalt lot without stopping by Sweet Dreams for our sugar fix. Peach Yogurt tasted a tad too artificial for my liking, though Coconut was as delicious as ever with its fragrant creaminess and chewy coconut shreds.
Unaccomplished from the previous day was a tour inside The Flying Monkeys Brewery facilities. It only seemed right to drop by again as tours were frequently held on weekends and we wanted to try our luck at Hooligans' patio once more.
The guide allowed attendees to gather before taking us through the back doors and leading the way between gigantic beer tanks and over colourless puddles of stickiness. He wore steel-toed boots himself, and while most of the participants were casually dressed in polos and sandals, it should have been recommended to wear closed-toe footwear to prevent unforeseen injuries
Approximately twenty to twenty-five minutes in duration, the tour comprised of equipment introductions, brief notes on brewing procedures, canning and bottling processes, and final delivery to worldwide retailers and specialty alcohol stores.
Substantial bright beer tanks, as well as smaller tanks, were stored in the first room on the ground floor. Apparently, each tank been lowered via the skyroof at the top of the building as expansion of the brewery took place. Each of the lofty apparatus donned vibrant labels (I presume, for touring purposes) and were used to brew The Flying Monkeys' regular selection of beers; the smaller tanks, as told by our guide, mainly served for experimental brews that were on constant rotation on the menu.
Overheard was that the brewery worked with local farmers so used barley could be fed to livestock, meaning that no matter would be wasted.
Read Part 1 HERE !
Continuing east then west on Dunlop led us to the MacLaren Art Centre, City Hall, vintage clothing shops, several Indian takeout joints, and stretches upon stretches of pubs with patios incorporated onto the sidewalk. Honestly, it was quite fascinating to find such a tremendous number of British pubs, Whiskey and Scotch bars, and Irish pub houses centred along the same span.
At a certain point in time, we ducked into a hybrid boutique by the name of J'Adore Cheese and Chocolate. Originally it was the all caps SPEAKCHEESY that had spoken to me (no pun intended) and consequently prompted our entrance. The quiet but elaborately stocked interior carried an insance inventory of spices, preserves, pre-packaged biscuits, charcuterie items, and chocolate-covered confectioneries.
Not to be omitted was the impressive variety of cheeses, which ranged from vegan cashew cheese to Chocolate Cheese Fudge. Most were even categorized according to their source of dairy, be it cow, lamb, or goat.
Have you ever head of a "hotdoggery"? I haven't, at least not until this visit.
As dusk came, the menu posted outside Hooligans suddenly appeared appealing. In complete contrast to the tranquil drizzle taking place outside of the three-floor corner restaurant, noise pollution was extreme in the dining hall. With news that the patio was closed due to weather, there was no other option than to retrace our footsteps into the car and search for an alternative dinner location.
Ominous grey clouds and overcast weather typically means resorting to indoor activities (or at least for everyone but the West Coast-ers that face sun-less skies all year-round).
For me, it means sleeping in, accomplishing a list of errands, and the occasional CoCo run. However, being away from home means making the most of the day, rain or shine.
Following a late lunch, we leisurely traversed down the 400 in search of entertainment near Allandale Waterfront GO. The idea was entirely mine, as few occasions to explore the vicinity had surfaced on our several visits to The Farmhouse.
An incredulous amount of construction was found to have commenced along the waterfront, restricting access to the perimeter of the lake at several points along the shore. With majority of the shops appearing dilapidated and ancient, it was suggested that we continue to skim Bradford Street and venture about the Downtown Barrie BIA.
Exempt from a proper asphalt lot, parking adopted the form of diagonally-aligned parallel parking spots. Meter payments were requested at specified periods on weekdays, while weekday evenings and weekdays were free of charge. Spots weren't scarce by any means, although securing a space within the acceptable walking distance was a bearable challenge.
It was my second day without a proper shot of espresso; once parking had finally been found on Owen St., I knew the first item on the agenda was to tend to my caffeine fix.
If you've ever had the chance to make a 1.2 hour drive with no stops, I would highly suggest stretching beforehand. The lengthiest journey I've made would probably be the 2-hour trip from Richmond Hill back home during rush hour, amidst a collision and the peak of construction season. (And no, it was far from pleasant to shift centimetre by centimetre across Hwy 7 until traffic finally cleared.)
However, that pointless expedition did not involve the continual suppression of the acceleration pedal. This one did, and caused muscle spasms while at it.
Complaints aside, we embarked on a journey to Barrie after I finally obtained my long-needed dose of McD's and 3 Guys. Having arrived just before rush hour but a tad too early for supper, there were few activities that could be engaged in after snacks were devoured and belongings were put in place.
Exploring the nearby area led us to Chelsea Chocolates in Craighurst Belgian chocolate hand-crafted in every shape and form imaginable could be found in the cozy shop: from assorted fish-shaped truffles to milk chocolate wrenches, there were items of varying sizes for each and every occasion. A special Canada 150 series was also available as maple leaves sporting red-tinted cocoa butter on the surface.
For the very few that have withstood the test of time and been an avid reader of this space, I salute you, for not even I have succeeded in retaining consistent amounts of dedication due to academic and personal affairs.
Last autumn's Thanksgiving trip to Barrie had left such a positive impression that we attempted the same course this year round, with a few exceptions of course. Some three hundred and sixty-something days ago, the leaves had fully blossomed into a gorgeous gradient of red, orange, and yellow in Bala and Coldwater.
It was with much sadness that the same slew of colours were not visible during this trip, though I enjoyed the crisp fall weather nonetheless. The fact that I would likely be spending the remainder of Reading Week holed up in the depths of my room making dire attempts to accomplish all the tasks on my to-do list made the adventure even more worthwhile.
The first stop was Coldwater. Or I suppose it would be more accurate to say that it was our first detour from the highway, since no actual stopping was involved. We merely drove through the small strip of shops and continued onwards to Bala, in the direction of Muskoka Lakes.
Upon being welcomed with a grand view of the clear waters and specks of gold in the distance, I requested a brief stopover. We pulled into the empty, dusty parking lot of The Precambrian Shield; I hopped out and began shooting immediately.
Perhaps the results of my enthusiastic efforts weren't nearly as magnificent as one would have presumed. To be honest, it had been a challenge in itself to uncover leaves of prime photo status: that were either vividly greeen or had commenced their gradual process of disintegration.
That being said though, I was more than happy to get out of the house (in the most literal sense possible).
The Precambrian Shield made for quite a popular tourist attraction, as we caught several with cameras curiously peaking down at the thrashing waters. Not a single one opted to shift their attention to the dimmer side of the flow, but given that all filters had been left at home, the non-uniformity of sunlight distribution actually contributed to ideal circumstances for handheld - I blame the tripod - semi-long exposure.
Who Am I?
I'm the one that talks fashion and K-Pop randoms behind Quirky Aesthetics, the one who contributes honest opinions about commercial beauty items on Review Junkie, the one that obsessively shares photos of food on Pinterest, the one that loves her DSLR more than her own being and the one that wants to work in the transportation sector for a living.