Tag Archives: drinks

Autumn Festivals

Oktoberfest in Munich Tent

Image vie Wikia Travel

Autumn is a great season for festivals. Around the world, autumn heralds different types of celebrations according to place, religion, and culture. While most autumn celebrations are specific to the temperate climate, they usually have something to do with the harvest season and have roots in the culture that celebrates them.

In the United States, the most well-known celebrations equated with the autumn season are Halloween and Thanksgiving, which are both very soon! Their approach reveals the imagery traditionally associated with the autumn season here, including pumpkins, pie, turkeys, and of course, the warm colors of foliage.

Around the world as well, there are a number of festivals that happen during the later months of the years, which can be specific to a culture or religion. Here are a few, some well-known and perhaps less known festivals celebrated this season.


An aerial view of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

Image vie EzineMark

This German festival is for beer lovers. It is usually held from the last few days of September until the middle of October, where it derives its name from. Throughout different cities around the world, people gather to celebrate the harvest by drinking beer throughout the days, especially seasonal brews that are introduced for the occasion. Although the festival is celebrated worldwide today, it originated in the city of Munich, where the main festival continues to be held faithfully every year.

Waitress with mugs of beers

Image via EasytoBook.com

In the Munich festival, the name “Oktoberfest” also refers to type of beer served, which is specific for the occasion. The beer served is known as Märzen or Märzen-Oktoberfestbier, and is brewed within the city limits of Munich. The beer typically has medium alcohol content (5-6%), and have a rich and toasty flavor. It has a specific, specialized brewing process that begins in the spring and continues over the summer until the festival in the fall.

Mooncake Festival

Mooncakes for sale

Via The Accidental Wino

From the other side of the world is the Chinese mid-autumn festival, or mooncake festival. Despite its name, it is also usually celebrated early in the season, around September. The mid-autumn it derives its name from is the season in the Lunar calendar.

Image via Grand Centre Point

The harvest moon is celebrated at this festival, and people eat mooncakes baked with bean paste filling.

Jewish Sukkot

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Celebrates Sukkot

Image via Zimbio

This Jewish festival follows the solemn celebration of Yom Kippur, one of the biggest holidays in Judaism. It commemorates the years the Israelites spent in the desert, and also has an agricultural significance.

Image via The Big Picture

During the holiday, Jewish families build temporary shelters called Sukkah, where they eat their meals for the duration of the seven-day long holiday. Some families sleep in these structures as well. As family event, it has connotations similar to the American Thanksgiving holiday, especially since it takes place after Yom Kippur.

Image via Treehugger

The Sukkah shelters are very iconic of the holiday, and have come to be the architectural representation of this tradition. You could say that it is similar to the modern pavilion – and in 2010, an exhibition called Sukkah City took place in New York that showcased modern conceptual designs of these little habitats.

Autumn is certainly a season of pleasantries, with good food, drink, and quality family time in abundance. No matter where you are in the world, the celebrations herald the forthcoming holiday season, making the season a certainly festive one.

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Milk Tea Mania

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Image via Cha for Tea

When I was little, my dad used to make me this concoction of hot weak tea with sugar and milk. He would make me drink this when I was feeling under the weather, so I have always associated this creamy tea concoction with being soothed and comforted.

I grew up to be more of a coffee drinker, but lately I have been reconnecting with my affinity for tea served with milk. But aside from the traditional and proper hot tea with a splash of milk or a dollop of cream, I have really gotten into this icy cool mutation of it. Over here there’s an influx of these trendy little tea shops that serve iced milk tea. In these shops customers are given a choice of tea, or the option to skip it altogether and go for a wintermelon-based or a fruit-based beverage. And when the choice of liquid is made, there are choices of chewy goodness that can be hidden in the milky tea depths — usually, tapioca pearls, cream pudding, or jelly. An oversized straw is provided, which allows the solids to be sucked up along with the tea — or non-tea, as the case may be.

This stuff is so amazingly good, I’m on the brink of getting addicted to it, with only the calories serving as deterrent.

All around Asia, there’s some version of this available. Different countries have different names for it, and different ways of preparing it, but the basic components are the same, milk and tea.

Bubble Tea, aka Pearl Milk Tea

Apparently this is what I have described above. The addition of tapioca pearls is an innovation that originated in Taiwan in the 1980’s. And it sure had those pearls rolling. Now nearly just about every smoothie, and ice-blended beverage is served with pearls.

Bubble teas. Image via Popsop.

Nai Cha

This is what it’s called in Hongkong, and it’s made of freshly made hot black tea, evaporated milk, and condensed milk, and poured through a sock-like sieve over ice. There’s nothing mild about this one. The flavors are unabashedly strong. There’s an intense tea flavor, which contrasts beautifully with the thick, rich, sweet condensed milk.

I replicated this one quite successfully at home. I just steeped a couple of tea bags in freshly boiled water, let it cool for a while, and then poured it over some ice cubes. I then drizzled a satisfying amount of condensed milk on it and stirred.

Image via Cultural China.

Thai Milk Tea

The Thai have put a more unusual spin on this. The tea used is an unusual shade of brick red, due to the addition of certain spices during steeping – orange flowers, cardamom, star anise, vanilla, cinnamon. Aside from, and sometimes instead of, regular cow’s milk or condensed milk, coconut milk is used, and this gives it its fabulous identity.

Image via Haw Berries and Kumquats

Doodh Patti Chai

This is the Pakistani variation, instead of being boiled in water and adding milk afterwards, the tea is boiled in milk and sugar to begin with.

Iced Chai Tea Latte

This is surprisingly a regular item in most international coffee chains that I have been to over here, and it’s one of my favorites too.

Teh Tarik

This is actually for hot milk tea, and the term means “pulled tea”. This is the way they do it in Singapore and Malaysia.

Making Teh Tarik. Image via JBB.

Image via No More Microwaves

The “pulling” involves pouring the hot tea and condensed milk back and forth between two containers, from a certain height. This process mixes the tea and milk thoroughly, cools it to optimum drinking temperature, and incorporates some air to lighten it up and create a fine foam. It also provides an opportunity to incorporate a little showmanship, a little drama into the enjoyment of the tea.

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Liquid Ambition

beautiful design in the frothed milk of a latte

Liquid Ambition:  The best description of coffee I’ve ever heard.  My kid doesn’t really truly sleep through the night; and we parents go to bed waaay too late; plus I’ve got a lot going on in a day.  So it’s no wonder that when I awaken I am a groggy, zombie-like shell of a person.  But put a cup of coffee in me and boom: breakfast is made and emails are answered, the morning meetings are underway, the kid and I are dressed!  It’s the closet thing to magic elixir that I know.

Here are the basics to brewing your best cup of joe (there will be no mention here of those weird pod machines I warn now):

The Roast

Coffee Roast Colour ChartImage via Gourmet Coffee Zone

Roasting is the process of turning green coffee beans into those brown beans you bring home.  The darker the bean roast, the higher the roasting temperature; darker roasts also translate to an oilier, less acidic tasting bean and an ever so slight decrease in caffeine.  The darker the colour, the more full-bodied and intense the flavour.  Dark roasts are my preferred roasts and are especially good for espresso.

The Importance of Grind

coarse and fine ground coffeeImage via Coffee Tea Warehouse

  • Make sure your grind is appropriate to the type of machine you’re using.  Espresso machines require a fine grind while a French Press uses a coarse grind.
  • Grind as close to the time of brewing as you can.   And while it is an extra step in the morning, you do get that wonderful aroma of fresh ground beans permeating your home,lightening the morning,  for all your trouble.
  • Use a burr grinder rather than a blade (AKA coffee mill) if possible.  The burr grinder yields a perfect grind every time.  Each grind is uniform in size to the next which believe it or not goes a long way to getting you the perfect cup of coffee.  Burr grinders are a bigger investment.  I understand if you’re not there yet.  To grind beans well with a coffee mill, will take more time.  In a mill it’s recommended you grind beans one cup of coffee at a time (that’s about 2 tablespoons of beans to 6 ounces of water).  Grind in pulses (rather than just turning the thing on) and shake up the grinds in between pulses.  This should help give you better uniformity through your grind.  Your other option is to just use your coffee shop’s burr grinder, buying only enough for the week.

a premium burr grinderPremium Burr Grinder. Image via The Appliancist


Whether you’re using a French Press, espresso machine or percolator, make sure your equipment is well cleaned.  Residue from coffees past can really alter the taste, usually making your new cup more bitter.  Be sure too to use fresh, very cold water and don’t use distilled or softened water.  Bleck.

Most importantly though, don’t let a coffee snob tell you how it should be.  Experiment with the amount of grinds, the type of roast, and water contact time in the case of French Press, till you find your ideal cup.

Oh and here’s some barista porn art to tide you over till break time:

Studio 6

The word in a cup of coffee by the artists over at Studio 6 Coffee

Or perhaps you'd like a closer look at the map

Cappuccino made with espresso, steamed and foamed milk

Espresso Con Panna is a shot with a dollop (generous) of whipped cream on top

Posted in Food, Kitchen & Bath | Tagged , ,

Toronto’s Craft Beer Brewery: Bellwoods Brewery

Bellwoods bottle

Stop messing around with Anheuser-Busch or Molson, and start imbibing something that does right by your taste buds. The beer is beautiful at Bellwoods Brewery, the new craft brewery located at 124 Ossington at Argyle. Since recently opening in early April, Bellwoods has been serving up well crafted suds to local patrons who are starved for a brew that, well, tastes interesting.

Bellwoods Brewery interior

Meeting at Amsterdam Brewery, owners Mike Clarke and Luke Pestl had a shared vision of what would make a great brewery, including combining academics with creativity and passion. This formula seems to be working since they just won gold for Strong Porter (Baltic) at this year’s Canadian Brewing Awards for goodness sake.

Inside the breweryImage via Bellwoods Brewery

Currently there are 8 beers on tap, sometimes including a guest tap rotation. If you want to start off with something refreshing try their newest tap, the wine-barrel aged Biere de Garde ($7.50), likely to soothe your thirstiness . Move on to the award winning Lost River Baltic Porter ($8.50); this beer at 7.7% has a deep roasted caramel flavour that pairs well with a red meat or sweet dessert. Try a glass of the Lost River with an order of duck hearts or something off the BBQ. Finish the evening off with the Witchshark ($8.50), a double IPA that tastes like fresh pine and citrus fruits. This beer is pretty hoppy with a solid bitter finish and at 9%, it’s a big beer with lots of flavour. If you’re like me, completely unable to make any decision, 4oz glasses are available at $3 each – try’em all!

bellwoods patio

Torontonians will be happy to know that Bellwoods’ white picket fence patio is now open for the hot city nights. The patio is offset from the sidewalk which lends itself to a sense of intimacy while still allowing for prime people watching. Having once been home to an old autoshop, the front of Bellwoods is a garage door that opens to reveal the bar, a cozy seating area, and a mezzanine level that overlooks the actual brewery.

Brewing takes place during the day, but the entire infrastructure is in full view from the main floor behind glass walls or from above in the mezzanine.

tap at bellwoods brewery

While a prime spot for adult-type thirst quenching, don’t expect to eat big dinner-sized portions of food. The menu is not representative of the average pub food, but Bellwoods isn’t striving to be average. Mostly snack-sized and delicious, the food has been the creative work of Chef Guy Rawlings. However, as of June 18, Rob Julen (formerly Brockton General and Marron Bistro) has taken over creative control. Guests chefs will be appearing every now and then for special events including one in late July.

Expect to wait in a short line. Bellwoods doesn’t take reservations and don’t expect to be able to order shots of Jager:the brewery sticks to beers (yes, that means no wine either) and in my opinion that’s a good thing. For hours and location:



twitter.com: bellwoodsbeer

Photo credit John Gallagher/Deirdre D unless noted otherwise

Posted in Culture, Food | Tagged ,

Brewing Summer

(Disclaimer: This is meant to be an informative post and does not support underage drinking in any way kids.)

Images original unless noted

Beer is the third most consumed beverage in the world; it comes only after water and tea. Some consider it to be the oldest fermented beverage, also making it the world’s oldest prepared beverage. It is rumoured that the earliest record of beer goes back to days of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the United States and definitely the most readily available alcoholic beverage.

The process of making beer is called brewing. In brewing, the starch source of the beer (usually a cereal such as wheat or barley) is converted into a sugary liquid called wort, which is then converted into beer through fermentation by adding yeast and flavoring it with hops, spices, and sometimes fruit.

How To Make Beer
Image from howtogeek.com

Today there are almost endless varieties and flavors of beer. Many breweries have a variety of flavors they brew throughout the year, along with a number of seasonal brews. In countries with temperate climate, heavier, darker beers are usually brewed during colder months.

Summer is in full swing in my part of North America, and nothing says summer to me like relaxing, warm sunny days at the beach or by the pool, and barbeque parties with friends. Summer also means lighter, seasonal beer brews which are easier to drink than their wintery counterparts, but still flavorful and definitely refreshing.

Coming from a tropical climate where seasons are simply determined by the amounts of rain, I never really knew the variety of beer brews available or that beer tastes could resemble wine when appropriately paired with food — and season. Here are a few of the summer brews I’ve been able to try so far this summer that could definitely spice up (no pun intended) any summer outing.

Brooklyn Beer Summer Ale

A New York standard, Brooklyn Beer is the craft beer of choice in the city, and the summer ale doesn’t disappoint. It’s light and smooth and will go with all kinds of food. Drinking it outdoors on a hot day will also certainly be refreshing. Not too much bitterness or dryness in this beer, extremely drinkable and ends with a crisp finish. I love the label on the summer ale too – still very vintage-looking but using a very contemporary color combination, even on the bottle cap!

Dogfish Head Festina Peche

Dogfish Head Festina Peche

Before the Festina Peche I’d only tasted fruit beers that were almost like juice and very sugary. This beer definitely had a peach aroma but didn’t finish sweet. It’s a good summer ale for those who are more adventurous with their beer but not particularly into heavy fruit flavors. Peachy keen, in my opinion. Dogfish Head uses a variation of its matte labels on the Festina, with a lightly peach tinted bottle cap.

Bell’s Oberon

Bell’s Oberon is similar to the Brooklyn Summer ale, but slightly more full-bodied and has a rounder flavor. It’s a beer you can enjoy on its own or with food. Like most summer ales, it’s lighter, but definitely doesn’t scrimp on flavor. Oberon has probably one of my favorite label designs too – high contrasting colors that are very festive, with a bright dancing sun and orange cap to celebrate the warm weather!

Goose Island Sofie

Goose Island is an award-winning craft brewery from Chicago that produces several varieties of beer, described as Urban Ales, Classics, or Vintage. While Sofie isn’t technically a summer brew, flavor-wise it has some essence of orange peel, and pairs well with seafood, which seems apt for the warmer months. One of the other things that strikes me about the Goose Island vintages is how they treat their brews almost like wines – down to the delicate labeling! The label and package design of their vintages definitely give them a more sophisticated, classy feel.

While beer is a widely available beverage, it is still alcoholic, so when enjoying your summer brew, be sure to enjoy in moderation, and in good company. Happy summer everyone!

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