California Restaurant Month coming, Farewell to a Canadian tourism legend and New Year’s at the Ritz


Quite the week here in Toronto for tourism/travel types. And I haven’t even attended a Christmas party yet!

Things kicked off nicely – very nicely – on Thursday when the folks at California Tourism put on a ridiculously tasty lunch at a cooking showcase spot downtown. Southern California chef Suzanne Goin, who owns four restaurants and also has a chef husband who runs a few of his own, made some of the tastiest treats I’ve tried anywhere. Just amazing.

Mind you, California has incredible, year-round produce to work with. And Goin used it; luscious red grapes she pounded with a mortar and pestle and put into a salad with arugula, shallots, sherry vinegar, pecans, goat cheese and saba, which is made from the must of grapes and tastes like a grapey version of balsamic vinegar. Apparently you can find it in some Toronto shops. Anyway, it was an amazing, amazing salad.IMG_7436

She made a great dessert with dulce de leche and chocolate and marcona almonds and other goodies and a very tasty duck with preserved California citrus peel and sweet potato puree. But I thought her fish stole the show: a killer Orata fish with cauliflower that had been beautifully roasted with curry, red vinegar and other spices, fregola (Italian couscous), cilantro and a crazy-tasty and stunningly attractive salsa of fresh persimmons and pomegranate seeds. Easily the best fish dish I’ve had anywhere in the world. By a long shot.

California Restaurant Month runs all through January, with prix fixe menus in restaurants in 36 areas across the state. Complete listings for cities, dates and restaurants can be found at DineinCA..com.


Michele McKenzie’s 10-year run as head of the Canadian Tourism Commission was celebrated in Toronto on Thursday night.mm_top_100

McKenzie was feted by CTC workers and by her family in a series of touching speeches that focussed on her parenting skills, vision and leadership. Not to mention style, perserverance, smarts and management style.

One speaker called her “a champion of everything Canadian,” and how good is that?

“I’ve been very privileged” to lead the CTC, McKenzie said. “What an awesome country we call home.”


The Ritz Carlton on Wellington St. in Toronto, which recently was named the city’s best hotel for business by readers of Travel + Leisure, is hosting what looks like an amazing New Year’s bash.Nicole-by-Dmitry-Loshagin-1

They’re using the ballroom for the big night to give it a glam factor, which should be cool. There’s a Champagne & Caviar Cocktail Reception from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., followed by a five-course dinner and live performance by Soul Train Award-Winning Jazz Artist, Nicole Henry from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

They brought Henry into town this week and she put on an incredible show. She’s a dynamic and fabulous singer who can put great twists on classics such as “Embraceable You” and “My Favourite Things.” She also does a great version of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain,” done in a very smooth and jazzy kind of way that’s way different from Marley’s wonderful reggae tune.

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