May 20, 2016

10 Reasons to Visit Niagara Parks

When I say 10, I really mean 9 reasons to visit Niagara Parks cause obvi The Falls is going to be one of them -- that's just a given! I know because it's right in our backyard, no one is rushing to go see it (see what I did there?), but consider this, 30 million people visit it every year. 30 MILLION! Not too shabby for a large body of water eh?  Besides the falls though, there are more than stellar places to eat and see while you're exploring Niagara Parks. (Hint : bring your golf clubs) 

Andrea from I'm Mad HungryHeather of Hamilton Small Fries and Jen of instagram fame TasteHamont explored (almost) all of what Niagara Parks has to over on a recent press trip. This is our Top 10 thing to do in Niagara Parks. These are my ride or die foodie girls so show them some love and check out their pages out too! (After you finish reading mine though - k?)  
photo c/o Jen
Whirlpool Aero Car | 
Chanry: They’re not kidding when they say Niagara Parks is a “56 km outdoor adventure museum”. The aero car is my new favourite thing to do in Niagara. Mesmerizing views of the whirlpool and beyonce selfie opportunities from the cable car. I felt like one of those extreme sport athletes. (But you’re locked inside and never in actual danger , so maybe minus the sport part, and the athlete part, but extreme still applies!)

Heather: I almost flipped my lid when I realized we were about to go on the Whirlpool Aero Car during our #FeastOnTheParkway Culinary Crawl. Dangling over a gorge full of swirling water in a metal cage from 1916 isn’t usually my idea of fun….Oh, did I mention I’m scared of heights? Seriously though, I braved this out and I am SO GLAD that I did. The views were like none I’ve ever seen. Absolutely breathtaking. And I only peed my pants a little ;)  

Chanry: TMI Heather! TMI! LOL

Andrea: This totally qualifies as an extreme sport. You’re suspended over rushing water! Like Heather, I also have a ginormous fear of heights but we both faced our fears together! Also, hold-on tight to your cameras and phones! Here’s a fun tidbit: cows were used to test the weight limit on the Aero Car! 

Jen: It’s a must-do, so just put the big girl/boy pants on and just do it! Haha.

Queenston Heights Restaurant | Queenston St, Queenston, ON
Chanry: Niagara Falls might be known for chain restaurants but there are actually a handful of locally owned gems. All five we visited on this press trip were FeastOn certified. This means they’re all champions of Ontario food & drink. They help to support local growers, producers and craftspeople. That’s pretty kick ass if you ask me. 

Heather: Quite possibly my favourite restaurant of all the Niagara Parks restos. I’ve been a couple times, and the food knocks my socks off every single time.
Andrea: The estate had a Dutch-cottage vibe with beautiful mid-century chandeliers hanging in the dining room. Our first meal of the day, and possibly one of my faves, was Braised Short Rib with Sundried Tomato and Arugula Risotto. The spiced and savoury meat was a bite of heaven. followed by creamy and rich carbs. It was so elegant, I felt like I needed to eat with my pinky sticking out. When the chefs talked about the dishes, you could see their passion in using and supporting local products. They’re doing good things over here!

Jen: Totally agree with Chanry and Andrea! Love seeing the passion in the chefs and it’s always about eating and supporting local products. Also, this place has beautiful, BEAUTIFUL views of the Niagara River.

Whirlpool + Legends Golf Course | 
Andrea: If you don’t play much golf (like me), you can pretend and just take selfies on the golf carts. And that’s exactly what we did! Now, Legends is grand as fuck. Even the driveway leading up to the clubhouse is grander than the drive up to Parliament Hill. 

Chanry: Everyone knows about Clifton Hill and the outlet malls and the usual “Niagara Falls” tourist destinations. But did you know Niagara can get fancy AF too. We’re obviously not cultured enough for this type of pastime but Like Andrea said - Legends was grand AF. Like the-hills-are-alive-sound-of-music type stuff. I don’t claim to know anything about golf but we’re told the Whirlpool golf course is Canada’s most highly rated and renowned public golf courses. That’s gotta be something to brag about
Jen: Correction (re: Chanry and Andrea’s comment) -- You mean “Chanry’s House” was grand AF LOL. If I feel like dusting off my golf set (yes, I have my own set. Korean Kid FTW) and decide to play golf, Whirlpool and Legends golf course would be the place to go!

Heather: I’ve never played golf in my life, but I think I’ll take it up after seeing Whirlpool & Legends.

Whirlpool Restaurant | 
Andrea: It has a cute cottage-look with white interiors and pale green accents. The dining room we visited was flooded by light with garage-style doors that can be rolled up during the warmer months!

Jen: I could play Real Housewives here. Enjoy my wine, sit there and not play golf :p

Andrea: Dude, I’ll join you. Let’s take lots of selfies on the golf carts.

Chanry: This is what you get when you take four foodies to a golf course restaurant. 

Legends on the Niagara Restaurant |

Andrea: If I wasn’t pacing myself, I would’ve cleared my plate and licked it clean.. I don’t have manners. The pork tenderloin came with a sauce that hit all the Asian notes and, of course, it was paired with bok choy and bean sprouts. The dish was a balance of savoury, sweet, and spicy flavours.

Chanry: I couldn’t agree more with the way Andrea described the dish. It was one of my favourites of the night. The noodles could have been more authentic, but the flavours were still there.

Elements on the Falls Restaurant |
Andrea: Elements has the sickest view out of all the restaurants because it’s right at the top of the Falls. We sampled Timbale of Spaghetti Squash and Bean Pulses, which was super artistically constructed on a tile of slate. It was a dish that was too beautiful to destroy.

Jen: This is the restaurant that is the closest to the Niagara Falls. Sometimes you just gotta pay for the view. But when the food is as good as the view...

Chanry: Table Rock Centre is the heart of Niagara Parks and is as close as you’re going to get to the excitement of the Falls. Elements on the Falls is located inside Table Rock and open all year round. It’s almost worth getting a table just for the spectacular view. They have a gorgeous wrap around window with the most perfect view of the falls - minus the cold mist and annoying bus loads of tourist cramping your space. 

Heather: Like Chan said - no tourists, view of the falls; This place is freakin’ romantic. It’d be such a good date location. 

Andrea: Seems like Heather is hinting at something. You gonna be back there soon?

Wild Play Niagara |
photo c/o Wild Play
Chanry: Opening this summer is two new high-adrenaline experiences. Ziplining AND Adventure Courses. I’m both shaking in my pants and giddy with excitement writing this. There is going to be lots of climbing, zip lining, jumping, swinging and lots of hysterical screaming and crying (from me) but I am looking forward to enjoying every minute of it! 

Andrea: This is for all the adrenaline-junkies out there and clearly, Chanry is one of them! Hopefully the Adventure Course won’t be too challenging, I don’t remember the last time I exercised LOL

photo c/o Wild Play
Jen: AHHHHHH I love Ziplining! So freaking excited!! Don’t worry Andrea, I will push you, jump with you, zip with you and swing with you LOL. I will even let you scream! Haha

Andrea: So basically, you want to hold my hand and watch me die from a heart attack! JK. I’m hopeful that I’ll enjoy it more than I know!

Queen Victoria Place Restaurant |

Heather: The open patio at Queen Victoria is perfect for warm summer evenings. Plus if there’s a Falls light show happening, this is the best place to check it out. All over a delish plate of food.
photo c/o Heather
Jen: Summer is coming and if you are a patio-lover then this is the place to go! Amazing view of the Falls without having to see it through a window. This huge open patio is perfect for a nice pitcher of sangria, beer or any ice cold beverage (for you peeps who don’t drink).

Andrea: I’ll get that pitcher of water. Or juice! :D Maybe I’ll fance it up with a cocktail.

Butterfly Conservatory | 
Andrea: A playground for botanists, insect lovers, nature enthusiasts, and families. The gem-like glass roof creates a lush and humid environment and diffuses sunlight for gorgeous photography! Watch butterflies nibble on oranges and bananas or sit on the benches scattered around the path and take it all in. Andrea: A playground for botanists, insect lovers, nature enthusiasts, and families. The gem-like glass roof creates a lush and humid environment and diffuses sunlight for gorgeous photography! Watch butterflies nibble on oranges and bananas or sit on the benches scattered around the path and take it all in.
photo c/o Andrea
Heather: Guys, butterflies actually feel surprisingly strong when they land on you. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Visit the Butterfly Conservatory. You’ll also get the best pics of butterflies and your friends will be jealous.
photo c/o Andrea

Niagara Falls |
Andrea: Have you seen Niagara Falls from the American side? No? Me neither. Don’t even bother because it can’t get any better from the Niagara Parkway! There are so many great spots on our side and it’s so easy to get a decent shot. The most thrilling view is by the Visitor Centre. Listening to the rush of the Falls is so intense, you physically feel the power and force of the rushing water! Here’s a fun tidbit: Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America, as measured by vertical height and flow rate. Go Niagara!
photo c/o Andrea
Chanry: Wow Andrea, that was deep.

Heather: Andrea said it best.

Jen: *Points up* What she said!

Dessert by Niagara Parks Chefs |

Chanry: HOLY @%#^.. That’s all I can say. No wait -- I want to say more. Every time I’ve seen one of these on the interwebs I think yuck cause it always looked way too rich and everything is just swimming in chocolate. Well, nope. I was wrong. It was a beautiful dessert. The sorbet was the perfect temp and the sponge cake was incredibly light and moist. It was a bomb dessert and we all had fun with it. Kudos to the Niagara Parks Culinary team for pulling off a fantastic dish. < watch the video here >

Andrea: This got me feeling all kinds of excitement and happiness! I’m with Chanry on this one. I’ve only seen this online and the amount of chocolate on the plate usually turns me off. I was unable to give a shit about sweetness and richness when I got to witness the melting action. The whole experience was S T U N N I N G.

Jen: I was screaming out loud when I saw the dessert come out. I see this on instagram all the time and I watch it on loop, dreaming one day I’d be able to have one. My dream came true, peeps, it came true! One word describes it best - UNBELIEVABLE!

Heather: :O! (insert shocked, jaw dropping emoji)  That is all

Check out more info on Niagara Parks here & here | This was a press trip c/o Niagara Parks. Opinions, sass, witty one liners c/o Chanry Thach. 

December 4, 2015

3 Days with I Heart Hamilton

Chanry: Three days with I Heart Hamilton, how did I get so ...lucky? Just kidding! It’s been an amazing few months for the Hamilton food scene and I can’t even believe it’s been two years since Kristin and I joined forces on a blog post. Fortunately, the universe brought us back together for three days of food, fun, and (very) filling media events. 

Kristin: It has been a long time since I Heart Hamilton & The Hungry Gnome joined forces on a blog post! (Remember when we went to Che, over TWO years ago now? I just read mine and Chanry’s blog posts again - it’s amazing how far things have come since then, in both our friendship and Hamilton!). Lately we’ve been pretty inseparable and on a roll with our local adventures. The past few months have been a blogger’s dream in Hamilton - so many events.
Day One: Lake Road Restaurant 229 James St N, Hamilton, ON

Kristin: We all saw a sneak preview of brand new restaurant Lake Road during Supercrawl. Learning that it was a new venture by the team behind the acclaimed Twisted Lemon in Cayuga, and hearing about a stone oven cooking up pizza and some of the best bartenders in town serving up fabulous cocktails, it was on my list to visit.

For their grand opening last month, Lake Road pulled out all the stops. It wasn’t your average grand opening, it was a gala. Oh, you fancy. Chanry and I attended with a bunch of bloggers and we all dressed to the nines!

Chanry: I was pretty much foaming at the mouth when I heard Chef Dan Megna and Laurie Lilliman were coming to downtown Hamilton. I knew they were going to elevate the restaurant scene with exceptional cocktails and over the top food pairings. They have a bit of reputation for killin’ it, if you know what I mean.
Kristin: When I first got there, I entered a room full of balloons and dessert. That’s all I needed. I could have gone home after that. Seriously, it was spectacular. Several different kinds of cake, a massive plate of gorgeous fruit, colourful macarons… heaven.

Chanry: Riiiiight? Errrmahgerd the dessert spread was absolutely divine.
Kristin: Watching the bartenders at Lake Road whip up the drinks was something else. These guys were having a blast, and it was so entertaining to watch. They had a special “speakeasy” style menu downstairs (yes - two floors!). I really enjoyed the Lavender Tom Collins.

Chanry: My favourite part was when Megna pulled out the 8ft Noah’s Ark smorgasbord. There was practically two of every animal on the board - from crab, shrimp, to a whole pig’s head! Which the foodies had no shame digging into. You can actually order this thing of beauty at the restaurant. You just need to give the team a heads up! I was lucky enough to experience the dessert version during the #HamontFT. I do agree with Kristin, the drinks were pretty spectacular.

Kristin: I look forward to eating there sometime during a regular day and perusing the menu. The pizza was awesome, too!
Day Two: Serve Ping Pong Bar 115 King St E #105, Hamilton, ON

Kristin: I warned everyone not to get too cray at Lake Road, because the next morning, it was round two: the launch of Serve Ping Pong’s new brunch menu.

Serve finalllyyyy opened its doors in October. Hamilton’s first ping pong bar had a ton of hype behind it, and it has really lived up to it. Not only is it such a fun place to hang out, the food is really great, thanks to Chef Steward Byfield heading things up in the kitchen.

Chanry: A HUGE yas from me when it comes to brunch. I am so thrilled to see the brunch movement finally make its way to Hamilton. We were there when Serve PP first opened (for a media tasting) and I was very excited to hear they were rolling out mimosa’s and benny’s.

Kristin: Bring on the Eggs Benny! We tried two kinds - one with pulled pork and white cheddar, and one with their house made candied bacon, garlic braised cherry tomatoes, and onion rings. We agree that we could eat that candied bacon with everything!

Chanry: Everything!! 

Kristin: It’s the best. There was also a vegetarian option for the Eggs Benny. And those handmade buttermilk biscuits! The Breakfast Poutine was also a standout for me.

Chanry: My Caesar came with a mini pizza. Fo realz. Oh, and on the 13th they are doing a pay one price and get brunch + bottomless Mimosa & Caesars. Yeah, I said it. BOTTOMLESS BABY! 

Kristin: The pizza caesar! That was a hit. I think they just need to go wild with the garnishes. Serve has a great opportunity here to really step up Hamilton’s brunch game and bring a unique experience along with it (ping pong!). I love that you can stuff your face and then get a little exercise in. I’ll be there on the 13th for that big brunch!
pic c/o Mezcal Tacos & Tequila
Day Three: Mezcal 150 James St S, Hamilton, ON

Kristin: It took me wayyyy too long to visit Mezcal for the first time. Forgive me, Hamilton. It only took one meal there to understand why it is a major local favourite. For this special visit, we were there to take part in their first Tequila Revolution event.

Chanry: I’m not even a huge taco fan but dat cauliflower taco, nom nom nom - it’s absolutely delightful. When they invited us for their first taco tasting with Canada’s only Master Tequilier, I was absolutely thrillllled. I love tequila and I was hoping this opportunity would force tequila to love me back.
Kristin: I’m not even a huge tequila fan - I'm more a bourbon/whiskey gal, but then again, I had never drank tequila like this. Tequila is meant to be sipped and savoured, and we were walked through the origins of it while picking out the different flavour notes, with the help of our Master Tequilier, Manny (not Chef Manny, another Manny!).

Chanry: Two things I learned. 
  1. Tequila does love me back, I was just drinking the cheap stuff so it was always in a hurry to exit my body. The good stuff usually stays and keeps you warm. 
  2. Don't listen to Kristin, she really likes Tequila. lol 
Kristin: Ok, ok, tequila won me over! I even got in trouble with the Tequiler for drinking too quickly. Oops.
pic c/o Hamilton Gastronomy
Mezcal wants to start a Tequila Revolution. They’re on a mission to change the bad rep Tequila has. None of that salt & lime #$% with these guys. We learned how to drink tequila at their first Tequila Revolution and now we’d like to give you the chance to mix cocktails and sip on tequila flights at their next Revolution. 

December 14th, join Tequila Tromba & Mezcal TNT for an interactive tasting. Oh, and did we mention they feed you too? Click here to purchase tickets or enter our contest below!

Happy Eating!

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November 25, 2015

First Impression: Golden Brown

 A few weeks ago I discovered the most adorable Korean takeout joint. I literally barfed in my mouth a bit from how absolutely adorbs this place was. I practically squealed my pants off when I walked into the place.  Every inch of this tiny shop was covered in reclaimed wood and decorated in sweet little doodles done by hand.  
Ran by an incredibly humble and sweet son & mom duo, this is definitely a hidden gem on Barton street. And I mean it when I say hidden. The windows are all covered up and there is no sign at the door. How do you find it? It's right beside the HAVN art gallery. Got it?  
First off, they make their own kimchi. I'm not just talking cabbage but the works - mustard greens, two types of radishes, pear, parsnip, cucumber - so many to choose from! The one that stood out the most was the pear kimchi. It was so good it blew my socks off! The rest of the kimchi had lots of flavour and packed really good heat too. 

My buddies Jeannie & Salar (from Meat Ventures) recently discovered them and are now using Golden Brown's homemade kimchi at their poke bar (which if you haven't tried yet - you should! These guys hit it out of the park with their poke. Check out Pokeh Bar at the Hamilton market #notsponsored) 
The menu is very small and humble. Everything under ten dollars and most items served with white rice and pickled vegetables. The left column is for a small size and the right is large. The food is very much home cooked. Even though I'm not Korean, I feel like I just picked up some grub from mom's house. There is nothing fussy or pretentious about it. Just simple food done well, they clearly take pride in it.
This is the view from the door. Yes it's very small. And yeah, it's cute AF.

First thing we ordered was the Korean Fried Chicken, usually served on a skewer but we asked for it on its own. You also have the option of having it with rice. Jake also said you can order a dinner style KFC combo for two people for $20 

The sauce on the chicken was tangy, spicy, and included all the delicious flavours I love about Korean food. It was incredibly crispy on the outside and the meat (I think it was thigh) was juicy. This is the kind of dish you could keep eating & not realize you're full till about 6 pounds in. I loved the KFC and I'm hoping they'll consider doing bone in fried chicken. I would probably foam at the mouth with excitement if this happened. Or at least have bigger chunks of chicken.
 The Ju Meok Bob were $4 for 3 (top right corner),  we ordered one seaweed and two anchovy. These were nothing to write home about. It wasn't mind blowing - but I wouldn't kick it out of bed or anything. It does make a great snack if you're itching for white rice. They're essentially balls of rice with stuff inside.

The bottom middle was a small Jeyuk ($5) - spicy marinated slices of pork.  I hate to say it, but I can never differentiate the types of spices in Korean food. All I know is that it is either sweet, spicy, or both, but delicious every time. The meat was caramelized nicely and not over done at all. 
Pictured below is the large Jeyuk for $7. There is a bed of rice with pickled cabbage, pork & kimchi radish on the side. For $7 you get two types of veg, a starch and protein?! Are you fricken kidding me? FANTASTIC bang for your buck.
Loved the fact that they gave us different side dishes when I ordered the large Jeyuk and the large KFC meal. This place has some crazy potential and I'm looking forward to seeing them grow. From what I can tell from their instagram, they do a few daily specials and are vegetarian friendly. 
Tell all your foodie friends about this place. It'll be a bitch to find but totes worth it. I hope they put a sign out front very soon. For what I can remember, they are open till 9pm everyday but closed on Mondays. 

Happy Eating! 

Golden Brown 
28 Barton Street East 
Hamilton, On 
Golden Brown Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato