Foodie Swellness: Grey Goose Sunset Soiree’s perfect picnic

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Last week, I attended the Grey Goose Sunset Soiree in Toronto. I had so much fun at lunch and the party at night last year on the island, that I knew I didn’t want to miss this party!

This year, the dinner was an intimate picnic held at a private home on the Bridle Path, complete with fountain and vintage car at the entrance.

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Chef Justin Kent was flown in from Paris to prepare the elegant picnic. At his restaurant by the Eiffel Tower, he provides custom picnic baskets packed with everything you need, which sounds just wonderful, I must get back to Paris and do this!

After cocktail hour, we all settled on the picnic blankets and nibbled on cheese and charcuterie, and sipped the refreshing wine cocktail (which was made with Grey Goose Original, Martini Rosso, Gabriel Boudier Créme de Cassis, POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice, Beetroot Juice and mineral water).

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It was the main course of poulet au moutard that stole the show, though. I normally find chicken quite boring, and it’s not something I’d typically order at a restaurant, as I often find chicken bland (I mean I’ll have it in a gyro or fried, but I’ll pretty much never order the chicken breast entree). En moutard, though, and juicy chicken thighs? So flavourful. I had to get the recipe! I don’t have any photos of the dish because we pretty much all dug right into the meal, heh heh. Here is how to make this lovely chicken dish, I plan to make it for my next picnic in the park. Chef Justin’s noted that the sauce works as an insulator to help keep the meat warm for longer, meaning you can enjoy a warm picnic lunch!

Poulet en Moutard

• 10 chicken thighs (skin on, deboned)
• 1 cup white wine
• 1 cup cream
• 150g grain mustard
• 150g lardons
• ½ banana shallot (diced)
• ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
• 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme
• Fresh parsley (chopped for garnish)
• Salt & pepper (to season)

1. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
2. In a pan on medium-high heat, sear the chicken thighs, skin side down in oil until crisp and golden brown. Flip and
sear on the other side until lightly caramelized.
3. Remove the chicken thighs from the pan and set aside on a plate.
4. Add lardons to the pan and cook until crisp.
5. Add shallots to the pan and cook until translucent.
6. Add the grain mustard and stir for 30 seconds being careful not to let it burn.
7. Deglaze the pan with white wine, bring to a simmer and reduce by half.
8. Add cream and bring to a simmer.
9. Add the smoked paprika.
10. Place the chicken thighs back in the sauce and cook on medium to medium-low heat, covered, until fork tender.
11. Remove from the sauce and place onto the plate to serve.
12. Spoon sauce over the top of the chicken and garnish with chopped parsley.

Makes 5 servings.

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 They set off white geese balloons at dusk, and we sipped Grey Goose cocktails in this gorgeous green backyard on the warm summer night (we lucked out with the rain holding off!).
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Now having attended two stellar summer parties with Grey Goose, I can’t wait to see what next year’s soiree is!

Leave a Comment June 20, 2017

Fitness Swellness: A day of motorsports with Ford Canada

by Pinpoint National Photography

To help celebrate the upcoming Father’s Day (did you get your dad a gift yet??), Ford Canada invited me to drive a Mustang GT and Ford RS on a race track, and I brought along my good friend Damian (and he’s a dad, so there’s my gift to you, D!). I’ve filed this under Fitness Swellness…’cause it’s a sport, right, kinda sorta?

So we drove out to Toronto Motorsports Park, and it was both of our first times driving on a race track. I was kind of nervous…here I am thinking, “Uh…can I do this?!?”

by Pinpoint National Photography

I let Damian go first since I was a bit unsure about getting on the track, but soon enough it was my turn.  Got into the Ford RS and our Ford instructor Malcolm took me out on a recon lap. I only realized once we started out that the car was standard, and I wasn’t confident I could get the car into third gear (I’ve tried to learn to drive standard a few times and it has not gone well, it really stresses me out!), so I didn’t do laps around the track in this car, but instead tried to commit to memory the turns and paid attention to how to handle them based on Malcolm’s talking me through the process as he drove. Turns out, for me anyhow, it’s hard to memorize the curvy track! I did get a feel for the car, though, and felt very safe (those Michelin Cup 2 Track summer tires never felt like we were sliding all of the track). I’m not a car geek, but if you’re wondering the Ford RS has Ford Performance all-wheel drive system with Dynamic Torque Vectoring, turbocharged eco-boost engine and you can select from Normal, Sport, Track and Drift modes.

by Pinpoint National Photography

Next was my turn to drive the Mustang GT. I did three (or was it two–the laps are all blurring together now) and it was fun! It’s hard hugging those corners the way you’re supposed to and always looking a step ahead for the next pylon so as to plan where you’re maneuvering the car! The GT, like the Ford RS, has modes you can select (Normal, Snow/Wet, Sport or Track), and 435 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque.  It also has blind-spot info system (which I didn’t have to use on the track!), and I wish I could tell you how fast I drove it on the straightaways but I kept my eyes on the track and peeled for the next pylon so I could make my turns.

Here’s a pretty funny video of our track adventure that Ford put together:

To end our track adventure, we each got to sit in the car as the instructor did a hot lap, and I got to see how I should’ve been getting the GT around the track! It was way, way, way faster than what I drove but I probably didn’t have to tell you that.

Thanks for the fun afternoon, Ford Canada! Now I can check “race a car on a track” off my bucket list!

by Pinpoint National Photography

 

Leave a Comment June 16, 2017

Travel Swellness: Catching the winter wave in Lake Tahoe

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Fresh from surfing, biking (both cruiser bike on the beach boardwalk and fat biking in Big Bear) and touring around, the next stop on my catch the winter wave adventure was in Lake Tahoe! And this season, many mountains are open until July 4th; I read there was a snow storm in Tahoe North three days ago!

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It’s a short flight (an hour?) from LAX to Reno/Lake Tahoe and our trip started in South Lake Tahoe. Our group stayed in a few different hotels here; I was at Basecamp Hotel, which I loved. The rooms have a cute hipster-chic aesthetic, and I just knew (and was correct) that the complimentary breakfast would include a DIY waffle station.

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Plus there’s a large hot tub and beside it is a campfire. And campfire means s’mores! I pretty much felt like I was living my best life as a friend made me a s’more and passed it to me to eat as I lounged in the hot tub after a long day of skiing. Next time, I’d love to stay in their Great Indoors room, that has a tent, fun!

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(Photo credit: Max Whittaker/Visit California)

It’s basically a 5-10 minute walk across the street to get to Heavenly. I’m a big fan of the Epix Mix app, so was thrilled we were skiing at Heavenly since I’d get to log more vertical feet on my app (yes, I’m a nerd like that). My legs felt a little shaky (and I’d just had two somewhat frustrating ski trips in January to Park City and Panorama — I actually felt like I got worse at skiing those two trips) but after a run or two to loosen up, I really enjoyed the skiing at Heavenly. It never got old to look out into the distance and seeing the silvery glint of Lake Tahoe in the distance; the view taking my breath away every time.

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Another favourite thing at Heavenly? I got to meet one of the avalanche dogs, Pete! Our guide for the morning tried to have us meet the dogs in the a.m. but the team was in a meeting at the time, but I made a note of which run and building the dogs are at, and made a point to pop in on my own in the afternoon (i.e. I made everyone I was skiing with wait for 10 minutes as I met this sweetheart).

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(Photo credit: Max Whittaker/Visit California)

Our second day of skiing was at Sierra at Tahoe. I’d say the runs here felt similar to Heavenly, but because I was feeling more confident with my skiing, I’d say I truly enjoyed the skiing here. Where it’s just challenging enough that it’s still exciting but also with sections on the runs where you just feel like you can take it easy and enjoying that lightness of coasting down the slopes. Plus, I tacked a black diamond run here — I’d done black diamond before a handful of times, but I was pretty proud this time as the super advanced skiers in our group told me that it was not good conditions and that it was quite a difficult run, and I managed to do it without wiping out nor feeling like I couldn’t handle it. I just took my time and stayed calm and collected, while the more advanced skiers I was with patiently and kindly would wait for me to catch up.

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(Photo credit: Max Whittaker/Visit California)

Another thing that worked in my favour for both days at Heavenly and Sierra? I think the skis I had worked really well for me. I’m not knowledgeable enough about skiing, but a few of the much more advance skiers commented that they seemed just right for me. I know that I felt at ease in them, and what can I say, I liked the red colour of them.

As for my favourite meal in South Lake Tahoe was at the BBQ restaurant at Hotel Becket. The meats are smoked on site, and there’s a wide range of appetizers and sides, and both a solid craft brewery and cocktail menu. We had a really large table, so I feel like we ordered practically every dish on the menu, so I got a well-rounded taste test of what the kitchen puts out.

After those two days, we moved onto North Lake Tahoe. It was an early start to the day for the drive but despite very much wanting to snooze on the ride, I’m glad I managed to stay awake as the view of the lake as you drive north is stunning. And this actually is my main regret of this trip: that I didn’t have a chance to actually spend time at the lake itself, so I had to  make do with gawking over the view on the drive north. Given our busy itinerary there was no time to go to explore the lake (I debated getting up super early for a run, but the timing would’ve been tight based on sunrise, so it wasn’t really an option).

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In North Lake Tahoe, we spent two days at Squaw Valley but the first day was focused on watching the FIS World Cup Ladies Slalom. I don’t know much about the sport, but it was exciting to watch these women race in real life. No photos or video were permitted of the race itself, but I got a few of some of the athletes watching the competition after they’d completed their turn.

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I was raring to go hit those slopes at Squaw, having had time to take in this enormous mountain. I found this to be the most beautiful of the mountains we went to, even though I had thought nothing would top the view of Lake Tahoe from Heavenly. The sheer size of the mountain, the mix of rock faces that would peek through the snow, the huge gnarled tree stump on one run, so many picturesque spots.

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We were also blessed with such beautiful weather, blue skies and about 20 degrees Celsius. And even though the most knowledgeable skier I know told me that legit skiers don’t strip down to a T-shirt (or girls who just wear a bikini top) when it gets warm enough to ski, I won’t lie that I was mighty tempted to (and still might one day). It might not gain me props with legit skiers, but I kind of love the idea of the exhilarating feeling of skiing on snow but in contrast with it being so sunny and warm you can do it in a sports bra or bikini top. Skiing minus cold temperatures is pretty dreamy, and it almost makes me reluctant to go back to skiing in actual cold weather (although I love it too much to not!).

In the afternoon, we were paired up with a guide who brought us to some incredible runs. There was one black diamond run that wasn’t busy and hit just the right note of being almost too difficult enough in areas but mixed in with enough sections that felt breezy and carefree. Which was just about the perfect way to end an unforgettable trip that has made California a solid favourite in my books.

It’s going to be hard to return to skiing in frigid weather after skiing in these incredible conditions–I feel so very fortunate to have had the opportunity to ski in Tahoe. Have you skied here? I’d love to hear about your Tahoe favourites!

And by the way, if you’re keen on reading the pieces I wrote about this trip, I wrote about Tahoe for VITA Daily, and about both SoCal and Tahoe for Travel & Style.

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Leave a Comment June 15, 2017

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