Amazing eats at Butcher and the Vegan

I am a meat lover. I try to limit my intake but when I eat out, I rarely order a vegetarian option. So when James Kayser, the owner of Butcher and the Vegan in Hamilton, Ontario, invited me and my friend Cara, of Talk That Talk, to join their Kitchen Party, I was a bit skeptical. After eating everything on my plate, I am now eating my words.

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Every month or so, the restaurant hosts an evening of music, great eats and delicious beer pairings. This month, Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party were featured and Kayser created a “kitchen party” inspired menu to suit the music. Think impromptu gathering with great tunes and whatever happens to be in the refrigerator spun into a an artfully creative meal. To top it off, Collective Arts Brewing, also based in Hamilton, paired each course with one of their unique beers.

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Butcher and the Vegan serves both meat based and vegan meals. At the Kitchen Party, we dined strictly vegan. After a tasty little nibble of roasted chickpeas, out came the appetizer board. It included a play on a caprese salad, with avocado in place of buffalo mozzarella, a mediterranean layer dip on freshly fried nachos, an amazingly flavourful mostarda crostini and some delicious artichoke nibbles with a “butter” dipping sauce. Everything was fresh and had incredible depth of flavour. The nachos and artichokes were definite highlights!

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This course was paired with Saint of Circumstance Blonde, a citrusy, light beer that goes well with anything you might squeeze a lemon on. It cut through the buttery flavour of the nachos and artichokes wonderfully. While we digested our appetizers, Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party did their thing. The music set the perfect tone for the evening. Carefree and intimate with a bit of quirkiness. You can check out their tunes here.

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The main course was where the “kitchen party” theme really shone. It included “last night’s chinese” glass noodles and veggies, “cold pizza” (that was really quite warm), spicy vegan chili with killer sourdough bread and fried brussels sprouts dusted with citrus thyme salt that I am still salivating over. Not one animal product on the plate and I didn’t even miss it. Who knew brussels sprouts could be such a star?

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This course paired with Rhyme & Reason, a Collective Arts standby. It’s an extra pale ale that goes with just about anything. In 2014, it won best North American Style Pale Ale at the Canadian Brewing Awards. Go beer!

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We barely had room for dessert, but you can always find a little extra space, right? We finished the meal off with vegan sugar cookies topped with whipped “cream” and chocolate sauce. So good!

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To wash down dessert, we had the Stranger Than Fiction porter. It’s a dark looking, light tasting beer that’s full of coffee and chocolate flavour. A great match!

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While Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party finished their set, we polished off the last beer on our paddle, the Collective Project Black IPA. It’s a limited edition beer created by the head brewmaster at Collective Arts and it’s exclusive to select bars and restaurants. A great way to finish the night!

Luckily, the Butcher and the Vegan team were sympathetic to our full stomachs and wrapped up everything we couldn’t finish (plus a little extra :)). Next month’s musical guest is Hachey the MouthPEACE – he’ll be playing after Art Crawl on March 11th. Be sure to follow Butcher and the Vegan on Twitter to stay in the loop!

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Photos by Cara Cameron and Elise Copps

DIY clay bead necklace

This is a great craft for those of you who aren’t crafty. Polymer clay is very forgiving. If you’re unhappy with a bead you’ve made, you can squish it all up an start again!

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I made this necklace because I was having a hard time finding something that wasn’t too plain but wasn’t too flashy. Isn’t it great that when you can’t buy what you want, you can just make it yourself?! Budget about two hours and you’ll have a fantastic piece of jewellery that’s read to wear!

You’ll need:

  • a few colours of polymer clay (I like the FIMO brand, you can find it at Michael’s)
  • a skewer or straw
  • a baking sheet lined with foil
  • an oven
  • a piece of leather lace, about 2 ft long

First, decide what kind of look you’re going for. Do you want your beads to look the same or different? Will you be marbling colours? Do you want a rounded or flat edge?

To make a plain bead, pinch a piece of clay about the size of the tip of your finger. Roll it between your palms to warm it up. Once it’s pliable, roll it between the middle of your palms until it’s nice and round. When you’re happy with the shape, carefully insert the skewer through the middle. Make sure your skewer or straw will create a thick enough hole to thread your lace through.

To make a marbled bead, pinch two smaller pieces of clay in different colours. Roll them each into a long snake and wind the snakes around each other. Now swirl the two snakes into a ball and follow the process for making a plain bead until you’re happy with the shape and the amount of marbling. Make your hole and voila!

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To create a bead with a squared off edge like the one in the photo above, roll the bead back and forth on a flat surface once you’ve skewered it. Be gentle, or the hole will get to big. Once you’re happy with the edge, remove it from the skewer.

When you’ve made all your beads, you’re ready to bake! Bake the beads according to the directions on the clay you’re working with (usually in the low 200s for about 30 minutes). It’s pretty hard to mess this stage up.

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Let the beads cool and string them onto your leather lace. If you want to get fancy, you can add fasteners to the ends of your lace for a more sophisticated look. I opted for an adjustable knot that lets you change the length of your necklace depending on the shirt you’re wearing. This tutorial will help you learn how to tie one.

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Now for the best part – wear your handmade necklace and enjoy the oohs and ahhs when you tell people you made it yourself! Have fun crafting!

 

Winter Glamping at Toronto West KOA

My fiancé, Ryan, and I celebrate our anniversary on Valentine’s Day. Cheesy, I know. His birthday is February 10th, so I decided to make this past weekend a triple whammy and take him for a surprise romantic winter getaway.

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The Toronto West KOA was generous enough to put us up in one of their deluxe cabins, and Mother Nature did her job, supplying a solid dumping of snow and sub zero temperatures. It was a perfect cozy couple’s weekend!

The Cabin

Before picking Ryan up from work on Friday, I snuck into our cabin to drop off supplies and set the mood for Valentine’s Day. Our cabin was very well stocked so I didn’t have to worry about packing linens, dishes or any of that stuff, which made planning so simple! It allowed me to focus on the important things, like decorating every available surface with hearts ♥

KOA owner, Bridget, had even left a welcome gift basket to help us make the most of our weekend. It was stocked with hot chocolate, supplies for s’mores and a voucher for nearby conservation areas. We couldn’t have asked for more!

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Our cabin was nice and toasty warm and had a fridge, microwave, coffee maker, TV, DVD player and so much more! It also had a beautiful fire pit outside, which we couldn’t pass up despite the freezing weather. We could only manage a few marshmallows before our fingers froze but it was a very cool experience to build a fire in the snow!

Activities

The Toronto West KOA is in Campbellville, smack dab in the middle of some of the most beautiful conservation land in Halton. Bridget supplied us with some snowshoes and we braved the -20 weather for a trip to Mountsberg Conservation Area to try them out. We snowshoed out to their bison compound and were lucky enough to be greeted by Steve, the head of the herd. He was so incredibly huge! It was a very cool experience.

Then we love birds headed over to Mountsberg’s Raptor Centre to get up close and personal with some real birds (not quite as loving). We’re told Echo the screech owl is a very solitary creature – even though she looks cute enough to eat 🙂

Lunch at Mohawk Chop House

By lunchtime, we were ready to warm up with a hearty meal at the Mohawk Chop House. It’s a fantastic little spot located in the Mohawk Inn and Conference Centre, which is connected to the KOA by a scenic trail. We shared some croquettes to start off, then Ryan had the fish sandwich, and I had the braised beef stroganoff. All three were delicious and the Chop House had a wonderfully homey feel to it.

After all that food we were ready to head back into winter for some more exercise. The Conservation Halton day pass that Bridget included in our welcome basket lets you visit as many parks as you want in one day so we capped off the afternoon with a 3 km hike at Crawford Lake. Unfortunately, our camera and phones hated the cold weather so much, they refused to work, but trust me, the view was spectacular!

Cooking in the Cabin 

Preparing our meals in the cabin was one of the highlights of the weekend. There was something very romantic about being nestled inside, making dinner while the snow fell around us. Ryan and I are big food lovers so I found some creative ways to cook without a traditional stove. We made fondue Saturday night and it was fantastic!

Eating breakfast while the sun streamed in through the windows was also wonderful. The sunlight bouncing off the beautiful pine interior of the cabin was just beautiful!

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All in all, we couldn’t have asked for a better weekend getaway. And it was only a 30 minute drive from our home in Hamilton. We will definitely be back!

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