Birthday Surprises in Chatham

Retro Suites Hotel, Chatham, OntarioAnyone who knows me knows how much I love birthdays (especially my own)! Every year, I take a fiendish delight in planning a birthday scavenger hunt for the boy, a trip into the unknown filled with food and fun. All he has to do is follow Brigitta’s (our appropriately christened dictatorial gps) directions to the surprise destinations. The boy’s birthday is usually accompanied by a beautiful autumn sun and vibrantly hued foliage as we wind our way through Ontario’s back roads.

Unfortunately, my birthday doesn’t have the same fate. Falling smack dab in the middle of January, I’m lucky if the world is covered by a white blanket of snow and the crisp air pinches my face with frost. More often, grey slush coats the streets under heavy ashen clouds. Apparently, this year, in the first 26 days of January, we were lucky to see 12 hours of sunlight. Yikes!

Although the boy makes every attempt to make my birthday special, the weather foils most of his elaborate surprises. Curse you snow belt! That is why this year, I was shocked when he instructed me to pack an overnight bag for a birthday escape! Beside myself with all the suspense, I peppered him with questions and begged for clues. I did get 3. None of which came close to discovering our final destination, Chatham, Ontario.

Retro Suites Hotel, Chatham OntarioFacade of Retro Suites Chatham, ON         Fire Escape at Retro Suites in Chatham, ON              Front Door of Retro Suites in Chatham, ONIn the heart of downtown Chatham sits a remarkable getaway destination. The Retro Suites Hotel. It is exactly what a surprise escape should be. A turn of the century building conversion that preserves historic architecture and combines it with a wonderland of modern art, vintage artefacts, and 45 individually styled rooms. Within an hour drive of London, it is the perfect place to work, play or stay.

Decor at Retro Suites in Chatham, ONFull View of the Retro Suites Front Lobby - Chatham, ON        Eccentric Decor of Retro Suites in Chatham Ontario           Fornasetti lamp at Retro Suites in Chatham OntarioFun Decor Details in Retro Suites - Chatham, ON      Feather Pink Lampshade in the Lobby of Retro Suites in Chatham, ON         Front Lobby - Retro Suites in Chatham, ONLooking Down at Retro Suites Front Lobby - Chatham, ON3D Art Inside Retro Suites - Chatham, ONRetro Suites in Chatham Ontario     Cobblestones and Cappuccinos at Retro Suites in Chatham, ON          Vintage Elvis Microphone in Retro Suites - Chatham, ON With a great deal of squeeling and a million ohs and ahs on my part (boy, did he get this right!), we checked into room 217 “The Study”.

The Study - Retro Suites in Chatham, ON  Design Details of the Study - Retro Suites in Chatham, ON    Close up of Books Inside The Study - Retro Suites - Chatham, ONBookcases Inside The Study - Retro Suites in Chatham, ON       Door Leading into The Study of Retro Suites in Chatham, ON          Cobblestones and Cappuccinos inside The Study - Retro Suites in Chatham, ONArtwork in a Hidden Hallway - Retro Suites in Chatham, ONArtwork in the Halls of Retro Suites in Chatham, ONTennis Racquet Art Inside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ON    3D Toy Car Art inside Retro Suites - Chatham, ON      Rolling Stones Inspired Artwork - Retro Suites in Chatham, ONUnique Artwork - Retro Suites - Chatham, ON    Red Sculpture - Artwork Inside the Retro Suites in Chatham, ON      Art in the Retro Suites - Chatham, ONColourful Sculpture Inside Retro Suites - Chatham, ON   Colourful Artwork at Retro Suites in Chatham, ON                Vintage Milk Dispenser - Retro Suites Decor in Chatham, ONI woke up on Sunday morning (my official birthday) to golden streamers of sunshine creeping in through the blinds. It was the perfect start to the day.

And since I’m a breakfast girl, we took in a lazy brunch at the Chilled Cork Restaurant & Lounge, the hotel’s equally eclectic restaurant. The place slowly filled with hotel guests and locals, a morning symphony of chatter, clanking utensils, and sighs of culinary delight followed. The menu, like the space, did not disappoint in either innovation or taste. The boy and I tucked into a cheese and ham omelet, hash potatoes, and strawberry and chocolate french toast. It was worth the linger.

Tables Inside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ON     Vintage Poster in the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ON         Closeup of Tennis Racquet Art Inside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ONInside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ONInside the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ONBack Room of the Chilled Cork restaurant in Chatham, ON      Sunday brunch, Chilled Cork Restaurant, Chatham, Ontario           Chilled Cork Restaurant, Retro Suites Hotel, Chatham OntarioRetro Suites Hotel, Chatham OntarioWe took off for London shortly after brunch. The streets of downtown Chatham were quiet and still as we wove our way toward the highway. It was a beautiful and sun-filled drive back home. Birthday 2017 totally rocked!

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A Morning Date with Edgar & Joe

Edgar and Joe's Cafe Interior | London, ONI am a diehard advocate of, in my humble opinion, the most important meal of the day – BREAKFAST! Whether hot or cold, at home or out, I always start my day on a full stomach.

The boy is, by now, familiar with the sound of my alarm clock gently tinkling in the darkness. It urges me up at 6am (two and a half hours before I leave for work) so that I can indulge in my ritual of a steaming cup and a warm breakfast. Always warm! My tastes run from a smooth egg scramble with bacon to warm apple and cheese filled crepes. Sunday is always a Dutch Baby extravaganza! All a bit time consuming in my bleary eyed state. But well worth it.

However, I cherish the days when I can hand over breakfast making duties to the experts. Enter my other favourite boys, Edgar & Joe‘s. Edgar and Joe's Cafe Sign | London, ONIt’s a little spot that has found a firm hold in London’s blossoming downtown.

Part of the Goodwill Industries, it touts itself as a cafe with a purpose, serving fresh, local, and affordable food that keep the patrons coming back.

Chalkboard Menu at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONInterior of Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONDecor Lighting at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONCoffee Preparation at Edgar's and Joe's Cafe | London, ONItems for Sale at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONItems for Sale at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ON   Table and Decor at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONDecor at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONBarista Preparing Coffee at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONCappuccinos at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ON      Cappuccinos at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONBreakfast at Edgar and Joe's Cafe | London, ONSo if your tummy starts to rumble at the sight of the last pic, grab a spot at Edgar & Joe’s and start your day off right!

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Dipping into Delicious at Revive Kitchen

20160806_173043 It has been a little more than a week since the end of another successful Londonlicious event. Although the boy and I popped into a few favourites, Revive Kitchen, a new kid on the restaurant block, was the best of the lot.

We had passed by the location on Wellington a number of times, staring at the paper plastered windows and wondering what would take the place of the former Organic Works Bakery.  To my delight, the new restaurant anchoring the up and coming SoHo neighbourhood and headed by the gracious and affable Executive Chef Alfred Estephan and Chef de Cuisine Ashton Gillespie, not only incorporated the delicious treats of Organic Works but upped the ante on innovative, elegant cuisine in London, Ontario.

Lighting, Revive Kitchen, London Ontario       Patio, Revive Kitchen, London Ontario, View from the kitchen, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioRevive sign, Revive Kitchen, London Ontario        Restaurant interior, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioWine selection, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioChef Alfred Estephan, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioView of kitchen, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioGenerous portions of seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients blend into offerings that are at once comforting and familiar, yet have a contemporary twist in preparation techniques, combinations of flavours, and presentation. And the light filled restaurant has a quiet elegance that doesn’t take away from the food. I personally enjoyed the huge window that allows for a theatrical view into the kitchen where the magic happens (although my highlight was taking a sneak peak behind the scene with Chef Alfred…it was an honour!).

Beef sirloin dinner, Revive Kitchen, London Ontario      Lamb shank dinner, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioTomato appetizer, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioCappuccino semi fredo, Revive Kitchen, London Ontario     Strawberry short cake, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioRestaurant interior, Revive Kitchen, London OntarioAlthough I encourage all of you to reserve a spot for lunch or dinner and indulge in Revive Kitchen‘s offerings, if you only have a moment for a coffee and a quick treat, stop in at the coffee bar for a warm cup  and a fresh, organic, gluten and allergen free sweet delight.

Coffee bar, Revive Kitchen, London Ontario

I hope you take the time to visit this new addition to London. It is well worth it!

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Mythic Grill, A Taste of Greece in London

Entrance to Mythic GrillDuring the most recent wave of warmth and sunshine to grace London, I was inspired to venture outdoors in search of some Mediterranean cuisine. For a long time now, I had heard rumours of a restaurant hidden in the downtown core renowned for not only their food but also the service. With an eye out for this Greek oasis calling to me like a siren song, I answered the lure of the Mythic Grill.

Exterior view of the Mythic GrillCorner booth at Mythic GrillDining room at Mythic GrillAlthough the restaurant boasts a small patio which is extremely popular in the summer months, we make ourselves comfortable in the small, jewel coloured interior of the restaurant. The design aesthetic is definitely not minimal or pared down but envelops with a rich, dark vibe that automatically makes it an intimate, romantic experience. And making great use of my knowledge of ancient Greek archaeology, I catch the nod to Crete’s history and it’s ancient Minoan culture in the form of inverted columns and the wall paintings.

But I’m not here for a history lesson. I’m here to satisfy my craving for great homemade Greek cuisine. With a little prompting from our very attentive waiter, we make our final selections.

Mythic Grill menu coverWe start with the salty Saganaki appetizer that comes with a shot of flaming ouzo and an obligatory “Opa” that I could do without. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this gorgeous hunk of melted cheese once it hits the mouth. We don’t even bother with the accompanying pita so as not to spoil the taste.

Saganaki - flaming cheeseAs for the entrees, I chose the traditional moussaka tower of beef, eggplant and bechamel sauce, while the boy satisfied his seafood craving with a plate of fried calamari and roast potatoes smothered with creamy tzatziki. The food was so plentiful that I didn’t have enough room for dessert, especially after looting some of the delicious morsels from the plate across from mine.

Moussaka dinner with riceCalamari dinner with roast potatoesMythic Grill did not disappoint. In fact, based on our brief experience, I wasn’t surprised how quickly the dining room filled up in a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations. However, from the numerous greetings exchanged between the guests and waitstaff, it was clear that this restaurant has a loyal following. And now they can add another two to their growing list of fans.

Diners at the restaurant

Destination Dining in London

Dining Room at Dolcetto Risto in London OntarioIf you’re looking for a casual, modern restaurant that serves housemade Italian food in London, Ontario, look no further than Dolcetto Risto. Located in the southwest corner of the ever expanding city limits, this Italian restaurant is quite the distance from the dining-focused downtown core. The location is actually part of an outdoor mall, surrounded by a gym, a grocery store, a bank, and a coffee shop. That is not necessarily a bad thing since parking is more than ample. And in my opinion, every part of this city deserves a unique dining spot and this one, because of its location, is definitely a destination.

In a style I like to call Scando-italian, the large open dining room features polished concrete floors, streamlined wood furniture and accents, and large windows that allow in generous light and open to a patio in the warmer months. The neutral vibe reads calm, but the atmosphere is lively and energetic, especially when you peek into the kitchen which stands in full display to the rest of the dining space.

View of Bar at Dolcetto Risto in London OntarioDining area at Dolcetto Italian Restaurant in London Ontario Regardless of where you are seated, the food remains the draw. The boy and I have made the visit a number of times. Each time we make an effort to try something different but a few items stand out as favourites. The large veal and ricotta meatballs, the calamari salad, and the creatively garnished, thin crust pizzas top the list.

With the weather on the milder side this weekend, we found ourselves in the Byron area and I suggested Dolcetto as a lunch spot (the boy didn’t need much persuading!). Seated by the large windows and basking in the sun streaming in, we placed our order. We started off with complementary fresh focaccia and an olive oil and balsamic dip. The soft, salty bread soaked up the oil beautifully and helped to bide time before our meals arrived.

The attentive server kept our water drinks filled until our food was served. The boy chose a trio of crispy arancini (risotto balls) on a bed of tomato sauce.They arrived hot and crunchy on the outside and hot and cheesy on the inside. I wanted a heartier meal and chose broad pappardelle noodles topped with a short rib ragu in a wine sauce. I was surprised at the amount and, to be honest, I couldn’t finish the entire plate. Of course, it was a great excuse to have it for lunch the next day.

Foccaccia with olive oil and balsamic dip at Dolcetto Risto in London OntarioArancini at Dolcetto Italian Restaurant in London OntarioPapardelle with short rib ragu at Dolcetto Italian Restaurant in London OntarioA forkful of papardelle at Dolcetto Risto in LondonAnd if you haven’t guessed by now I have a bit of a sweet tooth so no dining experience would be complete without dessert. We chose to share a double plate of cannoli. The sweet ricotta cheese filling was speckled with chocolate from a local producer, Habitual Chocolate (I absolutely love it when local businesses support each other – a huge kudos to Dolcetto!). However, unlike the traditional version of a cannoli shell, Dolcetto makes they’re own using a pizzelle press for a lighter and fresher taste. The result is a large crispy exterior which is the perfect foil to the creamy core. A perfect pairing with a cup of strong coffee!

Double cannoli at Dolcetto Risto Italian Restaurant in London OntarioNow I can’t wait until the weather gets warm and once again I indulge in some freshly baked pizza and a glass of wine on the patio. I hope you guys can find your way here and give this Italian restaurant a try!