Awesome Thing – Rose Hot Chocolate

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Photo from Flying Bird Botanicals website.

It’s fairly common for rose flavour to appear in tea. But outside of the UK, it seldom appears in candy. To the North American palate, it can go a little soapy. The funny thing is, this hot chocolate mix from Flying Bird Botanicals in Washington state flavoured with vanilla and rose is lush and sweet without being overpowering – absolutely no soapy flavour here, just pretty floral notes. The balance of flavours is such that it makes me think of the French author Colette, having her morning chocolat at a table in a window overlooking a garden.

This hot chocolate would be a lovely option at an afternoon tea, or to enjoy right now, in early autumn, as the last of the summer’s roses fade. There’s a lavender mint version as well.

I found the line of Flying Bird Botanicals chocolates at Zebuu (1265 Bloor Street West), a charming shop just east of Lansdowne on Bloor Street. While their website is stark, Zebuu owners Craig Williamson and Geraldo Valerio have filled their shop with lovely art, books, handicrafts, food and bodycare products, mostly from small artisans. Valerio’s artwork and children’s books are featured as well.

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Awesome Thing – The Adora Belle Pin Up Art of Nic ter Horst

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This is another great score from last weekend’s Etsy Made In Canada Day. Illustrator/animator Nic ter Horst was at the event selling prints and copies of her zine, full of the most, well, adorable pin-up art I’ve come across in a long while.

Adora Belles features a number of quite adorable characters, two poses to each two-page spread. Besides fairies, unicorns and mermaids, there’s also a selection of femme fatales, sailors and flappers, as well as cute girls in typical pin-up poses.

What I love about Horst’s work is the very stylized nature. Tiny waists are paired with disproportionately large booties and thick legs. Every girl has rosy cheeks (face and bottom) and those pink spots we all have on our knees. Also I love, love, love the way the space girls fit all their hair into the bubble helmets.

See more of Horst’s other work on Instagram, or buy a copy of Adora Belles or other artwork – including original prints – at her Etsy shop.

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Awesome Thing – Blueberry, Vanilla & Coffee Jam

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I know. But it works. No, wait, just listen… it shouldn’t. It should be awful. But it’s not. It’s actually quite lovely.

I met Camilla Wynne Ingr of Preservation Society a couple of weeks back at the Well Preserved Kitchen Party event at Harbourfront Centre. She was one of the vendors set up selling various types of preserves. Her company does a variety of small batch jams and pickles, and she had an array of really interesting flavour combinations. We tried a few but this one really knocked our socks off.

The blueberry and vanilla is pretty standard, but the coffee gives this jam a kick. I’d compare it to drinking a really hearty red wine, or a stout or porter if we were comparing it to beer. It might not be for everyone – it’s not a wallflower, as far as jams go. I’m looking for a way to pair it with chocolate, which I think will balance the assertiveness.

Preservation Society products are sold mostly in the Montreal area, but in Toronto can be found at The Pink Grapefruit (106 Queen Street East) and BYOB Cocktail Emporium (972 Queen Street West). Products are also available to order via the website.

Even if the blueberry and coffee combination isn’t for you, the other products are very much worth checking out.

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Awesome Thing – Fabulous Felted Jewellery

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Cute right? Look again… these beaded necklaces are fuzzy! Which makes them even cooler, if you ask me.

I came across Sandra Negrete of Azul Nocturno at the Etsy Made In Canada event this past weekend, and I absolutely adore her jewellery made of felted beads. She makes a whole variety of bracelets and necklaces, and is happy to do custom work for weddings and events. The best part is her prices – bracelets start at $8 and necklaces at $25 so it’s easy to stock up and buy a pile for gifts.

More items on her Etsy page.

 

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Awesome Thing – Charley Harper Pint Glasses

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Have you ever come across something that you needed desperately but didn’t know you needed desperately because you didn’t know it existed? For me, that thing was this set of bird glasses by artist Charley Harper. I’ve been a Harper fan for years, and my dream sleeve tattoo (come on, everyone has a dream sleeve tattoo… that ink work you’d get if money was no object) is actually a series of Harper-esque birds.

Harper’s nature artwork, done originally for school textbooks, is pretty much the epitome of mid-century modern art, and although the artist passed away in 2007, there is a great deal of renewed interest due to the fact that designer Todd Oldham has been working with the estate to create some great books and lines of houseware products.

Besides the typical prints and artwork, Harper’s work now graces mugs, Christmas ornaments, phone cases, tea towels and dishes. Many of the items were created in conjunction with New York housewares shop Fishes Eddy, but the full collection can be found on the Charley Harper web site.

I actually found this set at Cookery, the newly-opened cookware shop at 303 Roncesvalles Avenue. Reasonably-priced at $36 (glasses are also sold individually for slightly more), the glasses are a full 20-oz pint, making them perfect for stylish beer drinkers.

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Awesome Thing – Chocolate from Sugah!

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My wee niece has discerning tastes, so for my birthday recently, she sent Aunty Sheryl something wonderfully awesome – some chocolate bars from Sugah! in Halifax.

Sugah! is a confectionery shop on the boardwalk in downtown Halifax, and they make a point of using local ingredients in their unique products whenever possible. Which is how I ended up with chocolate bars made with seaweed and maple sugar.

The Canadian Maple Sugar bar is a white chocolate bar sprinkled with granulated maple sugar. It’s a nice flavour combination and an interesting texture. The Kraaken bar (available in milk or dark chocolate) is loaded with Nova Scotia seaweed. This is an odd bar and not to everyone’s taste (my husband dislikes it vehemently) – as the chocolate melts away the dried seaweed softens up and slightly expands, much like tea leaves. It can be disconcerting on the tongue but the flavour pairing is lovely and for this old Bluenoser, it’s a touch of home.

Why are these awesome? Because the flavour pairings, as well as many of the other products at Sugah! are unique, and because their dedication to using local products in their goods (Lunenburg cranberries, Nova Scotia sea salt, locally-roasted coffee, malt from a local craft brewery) means they’re supporting other local businesses and food artisans.

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Awesome Thing – Artsy Sunday – Malkovich, A Clockwork Orange, Chalk Art

Some awesome art I’ve come across online this week…

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Sandro Miller, Albert Watson / Alfred Hitchcock with Goose (1973), 2014

Yes, that is actor John Malkovich, recreating the photo of Alfred Hitchcock by Albert Watson. Photographer Sandro Miller teamed up with Malkovich for an exhibit entitled Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich, Homage to Photographic Masters in which the actor poses for recreations of 35 iconic images from American Gothic to Marilyn Monroe with roses. The show runs from November 7th to January 31st, 2015 at the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago. Most of the photographs are on the gallery website.

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Cat Prisoner by David Zinn.

Artist David Zinn has been been covering Ann Arbor, Michigan with street art for years. Using existing elements and adding cute and quirky characters, his ephemeral pieces done in chalk and charcoal last only until the next rain. He’s got a website and a Facebook page if you want to see his latest pieces. There’s also a book of his work from 2013 if you’d like to have these cute critters all to yourself. Or if you’d like to help support an independent artist.

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Artwork by Ben Jones from The Folio Society edition of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

Finally, if you’ve only ever seen A Clockwork Orange and haven’t read the book, The Folio Society has just released a new edition with work by artist Ben Jones. Dangerous Minds has more of the artwork and a video of the illustrator.

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Awesome Thing – Mid-Century Modern Lamp

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I’m all up in the mid-century modern decor lately, and I’ve been on the look-out for amazing lamps, ideally in great condition.

This baby jumped out at me during a visit to Mrs. Huizenga (28 Roncesvalles Avenue) recently and I decided on the spot that it had to come home with me. At a reasonable $45, I overlooked the few small scratches in the swirly black wood part and touched them up easily with a marker when I got it home.

For some reason I’d never been into Mrs. Huizenga on Roncy before, but after this visit, it will be a regular destination on my “looking for awesome things” list. Everything is very nicely curated and arranged, prices are very reasonable, and staff were very accommodating (we had seen the lamp early in the day on our way to te Roncesvalles Polish Festival and returned at near-closing to grab it). It’s a full gamut vintage store with not just furniture and housewares but clothes and accessories as well.

Why is it awesome? Oh my god, look at it. 2nd best lamp ever! (I’ve got another awesome lamp in the queue that is slightly more awesome. Maybe. It could be a toss-up.)

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Awesome Thing – SOMA’s Calamansi Lime Chocolate Bark

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How does that song go? You put the lime in the coconut… If lime and coconut are your thing, then this chocolate bark might also be for you. The awesome folks at SOMA Chocolatemaker have come up with this great combination, pairing the sour/sweet duo of the calamansi lime (sour juice and pulp but a sweet peel) with the sweetness of milk chocolate and roasted coconut. The touch of salt rounds it all out for a treat that exquisitely balanced.

Why it’s awesome: because it’s an interesting flavour combination that uses unique ingredients.

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Awesome Thing – Plates Covered in Ants (Sort Of)

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Yesterday, my awesome thing involved picnics, so I thought today would be a great day to promote ants. Actually, this plate is the work of German artist Evelyn Bracklow of La Philie. Each piece is handpainted and fired and is available via the artist’s Etsy page.

Why it’s awesome: because it’s disconcerting – bugs in your food! – while still being fun and quirky. Because it’s beautiful, and beautifully painted, but makes you do a double-take.

Discovered via the awesome folks at This Is Colossal. Make with the clicky for even more work by Evelyn Bracklow.

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Awesome Thing – Well Preserved Picnic Blankets

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Last weekend, the husband and I headed down to Well Preserved‘s Home Ec Big Outdoor Kitchen Party event at Harbourfront. It was a wonderful gathering of producers of preserved food, as well as a series of lectures and presentations on the various aspects of preserving. Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison at Well Preserved have done a fantastic job of promoting local businesses as well as the overall art of preserving in our city and it was a delightful and well-planned event.

One of the things that caught our eye while we were there was this basket of blankets, clearly marked as being available to borrow at the event so people could sit on the grass by the lake while enjoying some of the tasty offerings from the participating vendors.

Why it’s awesome: because Joel and Dana obviously put enough thought into their event that they not only had blankets available but also had signage made to let people know. It’s awesome because they’re trusting enough to let people wander off with what looked like some nice quality blankets. And it’s awesome because they thought about the kind of atmosphere they wanted to create and did a simple little thing that was so kind and gracious.

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Awesome Thing – Funky Festive Gourds

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Festive gourd season! I know. It brings up images of dusty gourds, arranged in a basket, maybe with some Thanksgiving or Halloween tat to dress it up. But these are not the festive gourds of Grandma’s autumn table setting. These little guys are way cooler.

I came across this collection of festive gourds in a produce shop on Roncesvalles Avenue. $4.99 for the lot, they’re from a company called Sunrise Greenhouses and are marketed as “living decor”. They come packaged in a bubble tea cup and when arranged in a dish look like a cross between a bowl of fruit and a terrarium. They’re actually a selection of gourds, cucumbers and melons, and each container includes a red one, a white one, a green one, and five spiky/fuzzy ones. No, I couldn’t discover what each of them are called and the Sunrise website, sadly, has no info.

Why they’re awesome: because at any point, one of them might hatch an alien, or at least a small dragon. Also, because it’s a fun twist on a terribly twee tradition.

Bonus awesome: the fantastic green pressed glass dish that I scored for $2 at the big yard sale at Trinity Bellwoods park back in the spring.

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Awesome Thing – The Bristol’s Chicken and Waffles

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Sure, you can get chicken and waffles lots of place. The southern delicacy is pretty much ubiquitous in Toronto these days and the quality varies greatly. So what makes a dish that has otherwise been done to death stand out? Well, you’ve gotta put your own twist on it.

At The Bristol (1087 Queen Street West), Chef Davey Love has come up with a uniquely British way of presenting this dish. Let’s call it “Empire-inspired”. Rajcoe’s chicken and waffles is 3 pieces of tandoori chicken in an onion bhaji batter atop a waffle made with chickpea flour and spiced with cumin, coriander and green chilies. The maple syrup is mixed with mango, coconut and tamarind.

Why is it awesome? The chicken is super-moist and flavourful, with a double-dose of Indian spices in the tandoori masala and bhaji batter. The chickpea waffle is crisp – not soggy –  and the flavours (while there are a lot of them) are wonderfully balanced. Probably the only breakfast dish that you could justify drinking an IPA with.

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