From Skinny to Rock Solid

PlantVital Complete Protein Greens supplement
PlantVital tops my list as a daily protein supplement.

Don’t hate me. I’m about to say something extremely controversial.

I am naturally skinny. Yep, a skinny bitch.

I always have been. I hear you groaning. Trust, I eat and eat often, but what can I say? Chalk it up to a mix of genetics and the fact I truly prefer eating clean. I assumed I was hitting the necessary nutritional marks with my balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and by steering clear of processed food as much as possible. But in my recent quest to get healthier and build more muscle, I started keeping a food journal to see what was really going on behind the scenes. Was I getting enough?

Turns out, not even close. In order to sustain on my fitness goals and activity, I require 2,200 calories. Once I started analyzing the nutritional make-up of my meals and snacks, I discovered wasn’t getting anywhere near the amount of protein that I should – not to mention fibre, iron and every other vitamin and mineral our bodies require. I’m not the only one – a quick poll on my socials revealed that only a ⅓ of you take a daily protein supplement. I’m guessing some of you could use a boost too.

Enter protein powders. 

As a meat eater I could easily hit my protein goal with a daily steak or chicken breast, but what if I want to offset my meat consumption in favour of more sustainable, plant-based proteins? PlantVital is a family-owned Canadian company started by my pal Mike*. I have tried dozens of green powders over the years, but one scoop of their Complete Protein supplement powder hits me faster than a double Americano – full on Superwoman. Plus I get 24 grams of organic protein from its ingredients of brown rice, peas, pumpkin and chia seeds, with the added benefit of fruits, vegetables and probiotics. You can add it to a smoothie, but in a pinch I’ll mix it in a glass of apple juice (vitamin C boost!). 

One scoop of their Complete Protein supplement powder hit me faster than a double Americano – full on Superwoman.

Why stop there? With my morning protein in check, I wanted an option for the mid-afternoons when my sweet tooth comes knocking. Vega has been around since 2001, so you’re likely familiar with the brand. Their products are also plant-based, non-GMO, gluten-free…yadda yadda, yadda. If you want a sweet treat that packs a protein punch (20 grams!) I recommend their chocolate Essentials Shake. It offers an impressive nutritional profile, and is flexible enough to use as a meal replacement. 

None of this added protein makes squats and lunges more fun to do (seriously, fuck you lunges), but at least I have energy to do them. Do you have your own secret sauce to get more protein into your diet? I’d love to hear it in the comments below.

*Full disclosure: Mike treated me to my first bag of Complete Proteins, but I’ve since bought it on Amazon. No one paid me for this post.

Yellow Part One

Fall colours
Autumn reminds us that change can be beautiful.

My mother-in-law Roz adored sunflowers. If the pop of yellow can instantly cheer up a room, her kitchen could be described as happy in overdrive. From the dish towels to the soap dispenser to the spoon rest, cheerful sunflowers adorned every corner. She passed away last October, and I’ve been buying sunflower bouquets all month in celebration of her life. With fall’s colours at peak levels, you can’t help but notice this brilliant yellow everywhere. I’ve been so inspired that I’m on a yellow kick in my own kitchen. Lately you’ll find me well-stocked with lemons, pineapple and turmeric. Turmeric’s numerous health benefits are linked to preventing depression, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, and more due to its inflammation-fighting properties. No wonder it’s such a cheerful colour. These days I like to cozy up with one of my favourite homemade soups. Lentil & Carrot. It’s packed with feel-good vitamins and minerals, so it can help keep your immunity in check this season.

(Wondering why I’m now writing about soup recipes? Let me catch you up.)

Cheerful as a sunflower.

If you’re trying to incorporate more plant-based proteins into your diet, lentils are a great option. Get this: when you combine them with a whole grain, they provide the same quality protein as meat. I fix a side of whole grain toast, but why not get fancy with homemade, whole grain croutons?

In most of my own recipes, quantities are open to modifications. Sometimes I add a sweet potato to this soup. Adjust amounts as needed. You can make the Golden Paste ahead of time and keep extra in the fridge for soups and smoothies.

Lentil and Carrot soup recipe
My hearty, healthy, homemade Lentil and Carrot soup.

1 sweet onion, chopped 

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped

4 – 5 large carrots, coarsely sliced

2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup split red lentils

1 cup Grace brand powdered coconut milk

2 tablespoons coconut oil

½ cup Golden Paste (see recipe here)

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ -1 teaspoon cumin

½ – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

  • Sauté the onions and ginger in a large pot over medium high heat using half of the coconut oil until onions are soft and translucent.  
  • Add the carrots and the rest of the oil, then turn the heat down to medium. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are sweaty and have begun to soften a bit on the outside.
  • Pour in enough broth to cover the carrots. Use broth or a mixture of broth and water. Turn the heat up to high.
  • Once boiling, stir in the lentils. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and cover for 5 -10 minutes. 
  • Soup is done when the carrots are soft enough to easily slice through.
  • Cool the contents until you can safely blend. Now power up the Magic Bullet© and blend until smooth!
  • Return pot with blended soup to the stove. Reheat over medium low heat. Stir in coconut milk, Golden Paste and seasonings to taste.
  • Serve immediately or cool to store in containers.

Have a favourite recipe? Share away!

Ready to Netflix and chill with your soup? Check out Yellow Part Two.

An Entrepreneur with Serious Flavour

Janet Zuccarini

Janet Zuccarini

Globetrotter, wonder woman, entrepreneur, foodie – any one of these could describe Janet Zuccarini. The brains behind some of Toronto’s most successful restaurants, she is all of these and then some. I consider Zuccarini a trailblazer. Call it a slow burn. Her Trattoria Nervosa celebrates its 20th anniversary next month, but over the past four years Zuccarini has made an indelible mark on Toronto’s restaurant scene by opening Gusto 101 off King West and Pai in the entertainment district. She’s also launched a restaurant group, Gusto 54, and has plans for two more Toronto dish spots – Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen and an east side Gusto 101 location. Now she has set her sights on L.A. with Felix, a “coming-soon” collaboration with executive chef Evan Funke.

Nervosa has been a constant of mine since landing in Toronto 14 years ago, where I’ve enjoyed countless meals and one memorable Drake sighting. I first met Janet at a fashion week luncheon held at the old Four Seasons, and not long after, I got to know her over glasses of Veuve at a Teatro Verde event. (I know, I know, such is the life sometimes.) As an entrepreneur I was captivated by her quiet drive and enthusiasm. It’s unusual to see a successful restaurateur who’s neither a chef nor a celebrity – although she’s orbiting close to becoming the latter. Moreover, it’s frankly unheard of for a woman to be such a dominant force in such a male-dominated industry. Zuccarini has no partners, no backers and owns her restaurant real estate. This lady could drop the mic any moment now.

An inspiration? A role model? Feminine force of nature? Yes, yes. All of these and still more. I have a feeling Janet Zuccarini is just getting warm.

There aren’t many other women growing a restaurant empire — how does that feel?

I’m proud of the fact that I am a woman doing this in a very male-dominated industry. I never worked in any other restaurant other than my own, so I have always written my own rules. I think that has allowed me to think outside of the box.

You’re very driven — how do you find balance between work and personal life?

I like to say that I paid my dues in the early days when I worked 16 hour days, six days a week, working every position in the restaurant. Once I had some money in the bank, it was time to work smart which meant building a team around me. That allowed me to truly run it, as opposed to being inside of it working as a technician. For years now, I have been able to focus on being the visionary for the company, removing myself from the day-to-day operations, which has been the key to leading a balanced life.

What led you to diversify into other cuisines like Thai and Jamaican?

I’m now running the company in a very intuitive way, leaving myself open to new opportunities I probably wouldn’t have been open to or ready for years ago. We have built systems and procedures that can be applied to any hospitality business. Pai was about backing Jeff and Nuit Regular who are mega talents in the business, but needed support on the back-end. Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen comes from my love of Jamaica and Jamaican food. I see the opportunity for this cuisine to be updated and made more relevant.

Who are your role models that inspire you in business?

Danny Meyers comes from a business background, as do I and is also driven by his passion for this business. Although I’ve never met him, I feel we are kindred culinary spirits. He’s my number one role model.

What’s your advice for young entrepreneurs?

You cannot be risk averse. If you need a steady pay cheque, don’t be an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur you have to do whatever it takes, which may mean going without a pay cheque and moving back in with your parents – both of which I did.

What’s the best thing about Toronto in your opinion?

I am very proud that I come from a city that is so multicultural and integrated. I know it has influenced me in feeling comfortable to open up such diverse restaurants.

 

 

Downtime at the Drake Devonshire

DrakeDevonshire-72.jpg.640x1000_q100

Photo courtesy the Drake Devonshire

(This post was updated May 2017.)

The Drake Hotel often gets credited with helping draw people to an emerging West Queen West, that downtown Toronto strip of Queen just east of Dufferin. And deservingly so. Upon opening in 2004 it not only ushered in a new kind of boutique hotel experience, it set the stage for hipster lifestyle before hipsters even existed.

Less than a decade later the brand expanded to the financial district with a restaurant called Drake One Fifty. Last fall they did it again, this time in Prince Edward County – specifically Wellington, Ontario – with the Drake Devonshire. The brand’s extension into a lakefront inn has been done beautifully.

“The Drake Devonshire flirts with the luxury summer camp in English country house style.” ~ Paris Vogue

Prince Edward County offers a bounty of things to do in the summer – beaches, cycling, wine tasting, antiquing. But even if you don’t leave the hotel, your time at “Drake by the Lake” won’t be dull. The Drake brand is rooted in design, art, music and culinary excellence. There is always something happening.

pec0415-3

photo by John Cullen | Travel + Leisure

ROOMS

As with the original Drake, the Devonshire’s guest rooms and suites come in all shapes and sizes. The rooms have been meticulously designed and outfitted with custom furniture and millwork, mixed with antiques and vintage pieces, and feature original artwork. Some even boast balconies that overlook the Lake and the property.

Fish Fry Friday

photo courtesy of Drake Devonshire

FOOD & DRINK

I met Matthew DeMille, Devonshire head chef, a man who brings plenty of big city experience and a wealth of knowledge on the local area. Everything is a nod to PEC. His ‘farm and lake to table’ philosophy extends all the way to featured wines from the region’s many wineries. There’s nothing precious about Drake’s food, not with special events like the Good Friday Fish Fry or a Terroir Run Pasta Party, but it aims to please. Don’t overlook their well-stocked beer list and cocktail program which is always ahead of the trend.

ART

Here’s another thing Drake fans will recognize. The Devonshire features a rotating exhibit of work regularly with a new show installed every couple of months, as well as an ongoing Artist-in-Residence program. Even the guest rooms are an exhibition unto themselves.

ENTERTAINMENT

Devonshire’s weekly calendar listings include open mic nights, live music performances and events like flow yoga. And since hipsters have babies too, they offer kid-friendly, mid-afternoon Highchair Hangouts for parents and little ones.

Room reservations and other Drake Devonshire information available here.

Grey Goose and a very grown up Cherry

I have a rule about vodka: always say yes when offered and whenever possible, say Grey Goose. Last Thursday I said yes to the launch party for Grey Goose Cherry Noir. Truth is, I’m allergic to cherries. Thankfully, as you might imagine, I am not allergic to cherry vodka.

A wintry storm threatened to derail the night’s festivities, so I made a few wardrobe accommodations — fur hat, Sorels, layered cuteness in-between — and hit the Thompson Hotel with my friend Lee of Off the Cuff Resale Designer Menswear.

Thompson’s packed lobby space was transformed into an enchanted garden of moss and dark vines to reveal After Dark: The Tale of Cherry Noir. Gorgeous, mysteriously cloaked models welcomed guests with glimmering etched diamonds to exchange for custom Cherry Noir cocktails. 

Photo by George Pimentel
Shine bright like a diamond
Photo by George Pimentel
Photo by George Pimentel

We’re just now beginning to see social media cross over into real life experiences. Instaprint is a location-based photo booth for Instagram. The service is HOT right now. 
Swarovski brought it to France last month during Couture Week, and Grey Goose brought it to Canada for Cherry Noir. The magic is in its simplicity. Tag an Instagram photo with the event’s hashtag and a printer spits out your image moments later. Et voila!

Thanks to all of my friends and followers who came out to celebrate. Be sure to join my mailing list for news of more fashionable events in Canada (sign up to the right).  Special thanks to Grey Goose and Community for pulling together a wicked fun time!

Super Bowl XLVII Dreams for a Super Town

Let me begin by stating clearly: I do not watch football. If I attended a Super Bowl and Grey Cup party, I just went for the food and conversation. But having grown up in Maryland and lived in Baltimore, I’m compelled to root – dare I say even watch – the Baltimore Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday.  (Don’t laugh, I had to look it up who else was playing.) 

Baltimore holds a special place in my heart. They don’t call it Charm City for nothing. Much like Toronto, where I now reside, it’s a city of neighborhoods – Fells Point, Little Italy, Federal Hill, Mount Vernon and so on. Perhaps that’s why Toronto felt so familiar to me – it’s also a city of neighborhoods. (Ironically, both cities have a major sugar factory dominating their waterfront.) Baltimore was a great place to live in my mid-20’s, but I left in search of bigger cities like New York.

Yet every time I go home, I hit the town. Here are my top picks for Baltimore visitors:

Photo from it-bodes.blogspot.ca

Inner Harbor – History buffs will recall it was here, from a ship during the War of 1812, where Francis Scott Key penned the poem that ultimately became the country’s national anthem. I expect a few extra tears in Baltimore when Alicia Keys belts out the “Star Spangled Banner” on Sunday. 

The Inner Harbor is the city’s tourist destination with the typical commercial traps — The Cheesecake Factory, Hooters, ESPN Zone, Hard Rock Cafe, etc . Before that, as a child and a teenager it was THE place to go, but over the years the restaurant and shopping options have ebbed and flowed with the economy. It’s still a beautiful area with so much to see and do. A Four Seasons hotel recently opened in the east end of the harbor. Little Italy is nearby too.

Don’t miss: the stunning Baltimore Aquarium, American Visionary Art Museum

Posing on a tall ship in Baltimore Inner Harbor

Camden Yards – I may not like football, but I love watching a live baseball game. When I was 12 years old – ahem, long before Oriole Park at Camden Yards was built – I delivered my town’s weekly newspaper and won two tickets to an Orioles game. Side note: my dad dropped my best friend and I off at the entrance of Memorial Stadium and picked us up afterwards. Oh, how times have changed! 

Chowing down on popcorn and hot dogs under the sun, my love of the game was born. (Again, food and sports!) These days Camden Yards offers an exceptional baseball experience. And I don’t have to sit in the nosebleeds. Go O’s!

Don’t miss: An evening game in late spring/early summer

The Brewer’s Art – Restaurants and bars dot Charles Street from north to south, but the Brewer’s Art is A+ for those who like happy hour at any hour. True to its name, they brew beers on premises and offer a fantastic selection of beers and fine wines from around the world, as well as one of Baltimore’s best selections of scotches and spirits. Stay for dinner, their menu is top notch.

Photo from eattoblog.com

The Charles – Movie buffs will adore The Charles. Tucked up at the north end of Charles Street, it shows first-run specialty films in addition to Hollywood movies, foreign films and cinema classics. Afterwards head across the street to Club Charles with your movie pals for a killer cocktail and a spin through their incredible jukebox. So retro!

Don’t miss: your cab — this is not an area to get to or from by foot after dark

Fells Point – My old ‘hood will look familiar to fans of The Wire, as much of the show was shot in and around here. These cobblestone streets used to be home to the most bars per square mile in the country – or so Baltimore legend had it. I could concur. (Remember, I was here in my 20’s.) While the area has gone through a downturn, it still has its charms. You’ll find cute shops, galleries and great seafood at just about any price.

Don’t miss: the endless seafood! Mussels, oysters, crab cakes, shrimp – you name it!

This post is an unusual twist for me – it’s first time I haven’t written about fashion! It was so much fun to write. What do you think? Shall I continue to expand my blogging repertoire? 

Feedback welcome!

Join me at CUBE’s Style & Fashion Holiday Soiree

It’s the first week of December, are you holiday partied out yet?! I hope not, dear readers, as your festive energy is needed Friday, December 21st. That’s when the F-list co-hosts a Style & Fashion Holiday Soiree at CUBE with Evan Biddell, Push Models, Kealan Sullivan of 69 Vintage and many more fashionable types. 

Join me before 11:30pm for complimentary cover, holiday cupcakes and cocktails. Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, get your photo taken with Santa and his fashionistas. Work off those Christmas cookies by hitting the dance floor to sounds from DJ MISSTARA and resident DJ Mike Toast.

Consider it your warm up for New Year’s! See you there.

DRESSED is a Success

A sincere and belated thank you to everyone who came out on Fashion’s Night Out to see our screening of the documentary DRESSED presented by Maybelline. (For those who don’t know, I also run Tastemakers during TIFF, so pardon my delayed gratitude.) The evening could not have been more perfect – from the weather to the sponsors to the amazing crowd. Special thanks to DJ Dan and of course, Nary Manivong, whose presence made the night complete. 

This was the official Canadian premiere of DRESSED, but we hope to help bring the documentary, and Nary, back to Toronto again. Nary’s next chapter will be an exciting one to watch.

Official shout outs go to: RAC Boutique and the Burroughes Building, for being great venue partners;
Maybelline, Martini brand and the Community Agency, Sonic Events and TASTE Culinary for making it happen; and the volunteers, for your tireless energy, thank you!

Check out the full photo album on the F-list’s Facebook page.

Don’t Miss DRESSED at Fashion’s Night Out

I’m so thrilled to host DRESSED presented by Maybelline during Fashion’s Night Out. 

Dressed shares the true and truly inspiring story of designer Nary Manivong’s adolescent life, which found him homeless at 14 in Columbus, Ohio to the present as he prepares for his debut show at New York Fashion Week. Nary is an example of the incredible focus and dedication required to succeed in the fashion business. 

Save the date! Open to the public! Space is limited! You’ll find us upstairs from rac boutique‘s Bazaar on the 6th floor of the Burroughes Building.

Thursday, September 6
Doors open 6PM
Screening at 9PM
#dressedatdark

Follow @TheFList, @DRESSEDtheMOVIE, @MaybellineCAN, @racboutique and @fno_Toronto for more!