Honeymooning in Portland, Maine

HONEYMOONING IN PORTLAND, MAINE

By Karen Cleveland on December 09, 2014

Portland, Maine, is a humming little city that is seemingly built for food-loving honeymooners. With its heady mix of artistic and outdoor adventures, Portland manages to be stylish and sophisticated, yet genuine and unpretentious. You’ll find award-winning restaurants dotted through the pretty seaside port, but without an air of fussiness.

Steeped in history, the Portland peninsula was established by the British in 1632 as a trading and fishing settlement. A great fire in 1866 levelled the city (for the fourth time: those east coast folk have heart) and the Portland that visitors see today was almost completely rebuilt during the Victorian era. As such, the city is defined by charming 19th century architecture that makes every street picture-book pretty. It’s the perfect blend of art, food, and romantic seaside scenery, in an area that is easy to explore on foot.

Fly into Boston and rent a car for a beautiful (and quick two hour drive) north to Portland, Maine. Stop in Marblehead for a taste of a classic American yachting town, or take in some spooky history in Salem. Alternatively, hop on the The Amtrack Downeaster train that operates five daily round trips between Portland and Boston’s North Station. And if you prefer to venture by sea, the Nova Star Cruise transports visitors from Nova Scotia.

Given its seaside exposure, Portland’s air is crisp, so pack accordingly. And bring your appetite. Rumoured to have one of the highest restaurants per capita in North America, but without an ounce of pretence, the dining scene is impressive. Brunch is serious business here, so fuel up at one of the city’s beloved destinations such as Hot Suppa,Bintliff’s or Bido’s Madd Apple Cafe.

Once brunched plan to spend some time strolling around town. Grab a coffee from Tandem Coffee Roaster and head to Portland’s charming shops. Stock up on heritage, all natural his-and-her skincare from the Portland General StorePortland Dry Goods stocks a fantastic selection of brands for both men and women, in a gorgeous building across from the docks.

Up on the eastern part of the city’s peninsula stands the Portland Observatory, the only existing maritime signal station in the U.S.. This beacon of maritime architecture offers gorgeous, unobstructed views of the harbour.  Rent a bike from Gorham Bike & Ski  and peddle a few miles down to Fort Williams Park for panoramic views of Casco Bay and a tour of Portland Head Light — one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world. Try your hand at hauling in a crustacean on Lucky Catch Cruises for a first-hand account of how your dinner gets from the sea to your table.

All that exploring is bound to work up an appetite, so find some snacks that appeal to your Canadian roots. Portland just might serve up better poutine (like the one at Duck Fat) and donuts (like those at Holy Donut) than can be found on home soil.

The Pomegranate Inn, a plush converted historical mansion that’s the perfect distance away from downtown Portland, is a great place to stay in a picturesque stretch of residential Victorians. This charming abode offers a handful of rooms, all decorated by local artists. As romantic as it is luxurious (be sure to book a room with a fireplace) it also happens to serve up a complimentary delicious breakfast that leaves absolutely no reason to venture out. In fact, if the temptation to sleep in wins, they can arrange to bring a breakfast basket to your room with hot coffee, fresh juice, fresh delicious pastries with artisan jam – perfect for honeymooners.

 

Originally published in Today’s Bride, December, 2014

Seven Ontario Wines to Fall For

Toronto-wines_3_large

A good bottle of wine makes staying in pleasurable as the weather turns chilly. We’ve rounded up the seven best bottles from our favorite local vineyards

The shift in seasonal wines isn’t unlike the change in our wardrobes. Just as we start to crave cozy knits and sumptuous leather when the weather cools, so our palettes turn to full-bodied wines to suit the chilly temperatures.

Save the grassy, fresh white wines for a summer patio and embrace the season for rich, bold bottles with intense flavours and higher alcohol content (hello, warming effect). And where better to find them than our own backyard? Here are seven fall picks, all sourced from Niagara’s wine region, a hop, skip and jump from Toronto.

1. Stratus Petit Verdot 2011
$38.00
The Winery: Stratus is a real stunner, settled on 62 acres near the southeastern border of the Niagara Lakeshore sub-appellation. Its glass and stone slickness feels a bit more Napa Valley than Niagara and the view from its back patio is simply perfect.
The Wine: Just released, this 2011 vintage is a great bottle to drink now, or save for a few years. Petit Verdot is typically used in small percentages for classic Bordeaux blends and is rarely bottled as a single varietal. This darkly-hued wine is full of juicy dark berry fruits and a touch of warm spice with a silky finish.
stratuswines.com

2. Château des Charmes Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
$14.95
The Winery: Founded in the late 1970’s, Château des Charmes has been family owned and operated for more than 30 years, culminating in five generations of winemaking expertise from the Bosc family.
The Wine: This delicious bargain drinks like a much dearer classic old world cab sauv. It is heavy on black cherry, dark chocolate and a bit of warm toasted vanilla. This classic cozy wine also has just the right amount of tannins.
fromtheboscfamily.com/

3. Pondview Bella Terra Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
$34.95
The Winery: One of Niagara on the Lake’s most charming wineries, Pondview brings a bit of la dolce vita to the area. The Puglisi family grew grapes and produced wines in Sicily, bringing their passion and expertise to Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1965.
The Wine: This is an outstanding red that is full-bodied but beautifully smooth. Aged for 16 months in French and American oak barrels, it boasts mocha, dark chocolate and vanilla flavors, with rich cedar and coffee nuances. Truly delicious.
pondviewwinery.com/

4. Cattail Creek Estate Winery Creek Series Cabernet Merlot 2012
$14.95
The Winery: On a farming plot that was used to grow peaches, Cattail Creek Estate Winery has some of the oldest Riesling vines in the province.
The Wine: An excellent value, this medium-bodied dry wine is strong on cassis, berries and plum. A blend of Merlot (42%), Cabernet (30%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (28%), the finish is fantastic: it’s almost dessert-like. Refined tannins and lingering taste of toasted vanilla and cherry.
cattailcreek.ca

5. Jackson-Triggs Delaine Syrah 2010
$32.95
The Winery: Canada’s most awarded winery, Jackson Triggs is a pillar of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The Wine: This Syrah is rich and spicy, with black pepper, cardamom and clove paired with dark fruit. It’s juicy and balanced, mellowed by notes of coffee. Enjoy it now, or put it away for a winter in years to come.
jacksontriggswinery.com

6. Mike Weir Pinot Noir 2013
$16.95
The Winery: Canada’s most famous golfer entered the wine business in 2005 and has since gone on to produce some of the top selling VQA wines in the LCBO. Winemaker Jeff Hundertmark is one of the area’s most affable talents.
The Wine: Famously fickle grapes to grow, pinot noir is a labor of love. And this is a bottle to love. As well-priced as it is easy drinking, the beautifully balanced pinot noir tastes of jam (heavy on the cherry) with just a hint of smoke.
mikeweirwine.com

7. Stoney Ridge Cabernet Franc 2013
$13.95
The Winery: For more than 25 years, Niagara’s “garden winery” has charmed customers with its exceptional wines and friendly atmosphere. The onsite artisan cheese shop doesn’t hurt, either.
The Wine: A steal at this price, stock up on a case of this Cab Franc. A gorgeous deep ruby color, this wine is peppery and heady. Full bodied, with a pinch of green pepper, and enough tannins to pack a punch.
stoneyridgewinery.com

—Written by Karen Cleveland

 

(Originally published for Soho House, November 2014)

Last Minute-ish ideas for Valentines Day

If you haven’t been hit over the head with onslaught of bad chocolate and tacky lingerie, count yourself lucky. Then come out from under the rock you’ve been living under, and concede that Valentine’s Day is here.

And if you hate on it, you can rest assured that you’re in good company, lots of people think Valentine’s Day is overblown and lame. But your honey might not give a hoot about how commercial or stupid you think February 14 is — they might still be hoping you do something, anything, to mark the occasion. You need not feel like a sell-out or go broke in the process.

Best bets for late (ish) Valentine’s Day gifts

Really, really good quality chocolate

  • Pro tip: if you can buy it alongside dish detergent and cat litter, you’re not buying good enough chocolate.


Something fun to do together

  • How do you want to spend an evening together? Getting rubbed down for a couples’ massage? Seeing a great band or comedian together? Taking a wine tasting class? No need to take one for the team, find something that you’re into, too.


A gift that gives all year long

  • Get pregnant! Kidding. Magazine subscriptions or loading up your lover’s e-reader with really great content will have them swooning all year long.

Get outta here

  • Go out of town and make out in a new, undiscovered territory. You need not go far to feel miles and miles away.

 

 

 

Niagara Icewine Festival Survival

Bundled up to brave the frigid Lake Effect temperatures, standing a stone’s throw from the frozen river bed — all for the sole purpose of drinking icewine. I’ve never felt more patriotic.

I wrote about the must do’s to hit during the Niagara Icewine Festival, so here’s a few things to pack.

Icewine Fest Survival

Check out Canada Goose, Burt’s Bees, Malin + Goetz, Balzac’s and The Hudson’s Bay.

 

 

 

 

Five Sweet Things to Do at the Niagara Icewine Festival

Niagara Icewine Festival 2014

If you thought that maple syrup was Canada’s most valued liquid gold, think again. Icewine, the dessert wine crafted from grapes that have been allowed to freeze on the vine, inspires fervent devotion that’s distilled each winter at theNiagara Icewine Festival. The 19th annual celebration of the sweet, amber-hued alcohol started earlier this month, but there’s still time to take in all the oenophilic fun on its final weekend, January 24 to 26. Bundle up and get ready to enjoy some of the region’s award-winning vintages while partaking in its warming hospitality.

 

Visit Winterfest in The Square
A few minutes drive from Niagara-on-the-Lake proper, the city of St. Catharines hosts a free gathering Friday evening (January 24) in its historic Market Square. Check out the farmer’s market, live entertainment, local food trucks and, of course, a stellar selection of VQA wines.

Drop by Peller Estates’ Backyard
Chef Jason Parsons has had a ball crafting an icewine-focused menu at Peller Estates Winery. Sample icewine hot chocolate and icewine suckling pig, then finish up by roasting icewine marshmallows over an outdoor fire. Reservations are not required, but an appetite is.

Learn About Soil Over Pumpkin Pie
The vineyard at Coyote’s Run Estate straddles two very distinct soil types, allowing the winery to create its Red Paws wines (from vines grown in iron-rich red clay loam) and Black Paw wines (from, you guessed it, darker soil laden with organic matter). Let veteran winemaker David Sheppard teach you some geology basics over spiced pumpkin pie paired with its 2009 Riesling/Vidal icewine, a rare gem with only 110 cases produced.

Enjoy a Consummate Locavore Meal
Settled into its new NOTL location after years in Port Dalhousie, Treadwell is the perfect spot to seek shelter from the Icewine Festival’s bustle. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, the restaurant’s farm-to-table menu is fresh, simple and jaw-droppingly delicious. The thoughtful wine list boasts some fantastic small-batch producers that aren’t represented at the LCBO.

Have the Run of the Region
While you can pop in and out of festival-affiliated wineries and restaurants, investing in a Discovery Pass offers exceptional value. The $40 pass is valid Friday through Sunday and entitles its wielder to eight food-and-wine experiences offered by a selection of more than 40 participating venues—from an onion soup and Riesling icewine pairing at Cattail Creek Estate Winery to spit-roasted porchetta with apple icewine sauce at Reif Estate.

 

(Originally appeared on Where.ca, January 2014)