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Exceptional Hospitality in the GTA Recognized with the 2016 Spirit Awards

On April 22, the Greater Toronto Hotel Association (GTHA) presented the fifth annual Spirit Awards, a ceremony that recognizes the tireless efforts of front line staff at hotels across Toronto and the GTA. Nominees in 18 different categories, including housekeeping room attendant, valet driver, laundry and steward of the year, are chosen by their peers. More than 500 attendees attended the luncheon celebrations, which were hosted by Kevin Frankish of City TV’s Breakfast Television. Here, GTHA president and CEO Terry Mundell shares more about the history of the Spirit Awards, its evolution and what it means to the organization’s 32,000-strong membership to be assisting visitors during their stay in Toronto.

2016 Spirit Award Winners

The 18 winners of the 2016 Spirit Awards.

Where: How did the Spirit Awards come about?

Terry Mundell: The Spirit Awards was developed from a discussion that originated with our association Board of Directors. The intent of the event was to recognize and show our appreciation to those front of the line ambassadors that provide an exceptional visitor experience, which leaves a lasting impression on the over 14 million overnight visitors to the Greater Toronto Area.

Where: How are the winners determined?

TM: The judging panel is made up of five individuals who include event sponsors, industry partners and representatives from the Spirit Awards committee. The judges review the nominations prior to the event and grade them based on a variety of criteria including, but not limited to, a can-do attitude, delivering that exceptional customer experience, and passion for their team and property that drives return visitors.

Where: What are the most common qualities of nominees?

TM: Passion. For these exceptional ambassadors in the hotel community, it’s all about the passion they have for the visitors they greet, their team members and their property.

Where: Why do you think the recognition means so much?

TM: These front of the line exceptional ambassadors are being recognized among hundreds of other nominees at the event to celebrate the best of the best our industry has to offer; just to be nominated gives them so much pride. 

Where: What is your favourite aspect of the Spirit Awards each year?

TM: After the winner is announced, they proceed to have their photo taken with myself and the award sponsor. Seeing this ambassador moments after they’ve accepted their award is incredible: the excitement, the pride and pure joy they express is an experience in itself.

Where: What do you look forward to the most at this event?

TM: Talking to the nominees, getting a chance to say hi and thanking them for everything they do for our industry.

Visit gtha.com for a complete list of winners and for more information about the GTHA.

2016 Where to Dine Awards: Vancouver

By TIM PAWSEY

Beef chow mein, at Torafuku. (Photo: KK Law)

Beef chow mein, at Torafuku. (Photo: KK Law)

Welcome to Where’s 20th annual celebration of Vancouver’s remarkable dining scene. In just a couple of decades the city has blossomed into a culinary crossroads, a melting pot of myriad flavours, unbridled talents and influences that now shape a global destination. Our chefs, servers, sommeliers, growers, fishers, farmers and vintners share in a culture driven by sustainable, regional and seasonal sourcing—in the firm belief that the best is still to come. (more…)

Things to Do in Toronto: Shows & Events in May 2016

THERE ARE ALWAYS SO MANY THINGS TO DO IN TORONTO. GET OUT AND ENJOY SOME OF THE MANY GREAT PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS TAKING PLACE THROUGHOUT THE CITY IN MAY!

Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland is Canada’s tallest and biggest roller coaster

MAY 1  The country’s largest theme park, Canada’s Wonderland kicks off opening day with even more excitement to its lineup of rides with two new soaring interactive experiences: Skyhawk and Flying Eagles. The former is the first of its kind in North America, letting thrill seekers control their own cockpit by navigating 360 degree turns and inversions from 135 feet in the air, while the latter lets pint-sized pilots—along with a co-pilot—steer their own plane. Of course, the park’s 16 roller coasters, water park, two kids play areas, and midway games are among the other draws that make it the most visited seasonal amusement park in North America.

MAY 1 TO 3  Esteemed paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim speaks about the discovery of fossils belonging to the largest predatory dinosaur ever discovered as part of the National Geographic Live series.

MAY 2 AND 3  Canadian musician Lights, known for such songs as “February Air” and “Drive My Soul,” performs an acoustic show at The Danforth Music Hall with special guests DCF.

MAY 4 AND 5  The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Brahms Symphony 4 alongside a new work by John Adams with a violin solo.

MAY 6  A roster of Canadian and world champion figure skaters take part in Stars on Ice, including Patrick Chan, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, Javier Fernández, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Joannie Rochette among others.

MAY 7  Catch Canadian singer and songwriter Royal Wood at The Danforth Music Hall.

(more…)

16 Things to Do for March Break 2016

A WEEK OFF FROM SCHOOL IS EVERY CHILD’S DREAM, BUT PERHAPS LESS THRILLING FOR PARENTS WHO NEED TO KEEP LITTLE ONES ENTERTAINED AND FROM CRYING OUT “THERE’S NOTHING TO DO” FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME. HERE ARE 16 KID-APPROVED IDEAS FOR HAVING FUN THIS MARCH BREAK IN TORONTO.

The TIFF Bell Lightbox hosts digiPlaySpace for the fifth year, which engages children through interactive play involving animation, robotics and more. (photo: courtesy of TIFF)

(more…)

You Gotta Eat Here! Season 5 Restaurants in Canada

When a friend asks you for a restaurant recommendation, where do you send them? Which restaurant are you consistently “wowed” by, so much so that you keep going back?

That’s the premise of You Gotta Eat Here!, a Canadian TV show on Food Network Canada, that has comedian and host John Catucci travelling across the country to recommend restaurants to viewers with the help of local restaurant “regulars.”

“Pretend you’ve been telling someone “you gotta eat here!” about your favourite local restaurant and all the dishes they have to try when they’re there,” says Catucci. “But on the show, I’m the one bringing you to all these places that locals love.”

On Friday, February 26, 2016, You Gotta Eat Here! returns for its fifth season with more recommendations on where to eat in Canada. The format has stayed the same — shots of behind-the-scenes, in-the-kitchen prep, and local reviews from frequent visitors. New this season, you’ll see the crew visit over 21 new restaurants in Canada, Catucci tries out some new-to-the-show food categories (including ramen and Latin baking), there are a whopping 28 episodes, and the crew even heads overseas to England (London), Italy (Rome and Florence), and Ireland (Dublin).

We interviewed Catucci about his experiences eating his way across Canada, and give you a sneak peek about the upcoming season.

The show shoots almost year-round, ten months of the year, and filming each restaurant is a two day process. One day involves filming Catucci in the kitchen with the chefs, learning how some of their signature dishes are put together. The second day involves interviews with frequent local customers.

“That’s the part I love the most,” says Catucci, “just sitting back and having fun and talking with customers.”

The restaurants that appear on each show are mostly selected based on local recommendations, so if you have a favourite send it in!

Anyone who watches You Gotta Eat Here! knows that Catucci loves burgers, but his favourite non-meat dish is pasta — pasta e fagioli, specifically, meaning “pasta with beans.”

“I love noodle-based dishes. Chinese noodles, maybe with some nice mushrooms, ramen, pasta… Also, I like pizza. I’m a carb guy I think.”

So what does this burger aficionado think makes the perfect burger, having tried dozens of varieties on the shows?

“The burger has to be tasty. It’s got to be juicy. I like to cut my burgers in half to see all the layers. Burgers have to be the right texture: there needs to be crunchy lettuce, a fresh tomato, and the bun’s gotta hold up for the whole burger and not fall apart — the bun to burger ratio has to be perfect. I don’t like a burger that’s way too seasoned. I like a burger where you can taste the meat. When I go to a fancy burger place, I’m intimated. I just like a plain cheeseburger. And a mark of a good burger place is doing a good cheeseburger well. It’s like going to a pizzeria and just getting a cheese slice as a test to see if they can do a simple thing well.”

Catucci’s traded burgers for some new cuisine this season, including ramen. Kinton Ramen in Toronto is the first ramen bar to be featured on the show.

“I had never done a ramen restaurant on the show, but then I watched Mind of a Chef and he’s all about the ramen. So I wanted to know what the big deal was; why was this guy obsessed with ramen? And then I tried it and, wow! The broth, the meats, the seasoned, soft boiled egg that’s still kinda gooey when you crack through it… so good. The chef we worked with at Kinton, he was so passionate about what he was doing and it came out in his food. I’ve gone back to Kinton on my own a couple of times since filming the show and he’s always so genuinely happy to see his customers. I’ve been to a number of other ramen places too because now I’m obsessed with ramen. Although, it’s difficult to balance a delicious, savoury broth without it being too salty. Ramen is difficult to do well.”

Is there any food Catucci won’t try? Spicy foods are off the menu after a bad experience with a particularly hot sauce. “We were making a barbecue sauce at a restaurant in Windsor, ON and put a ghost pepper in it, and I tried it and… it was insane. We had to stop filming so I could compose myself.”

Due to the show’s popularity in Italy and the United Kingdom, the crew decided to travel there and showcase the food culture of England, Italy, and Ireland.

“In Italy, the show airs under the name Fast Food Man,” Catucci says, “and it’s dubbed into Italian. And when I say the catchphrase ‘you gotta eat here!’ they dub it over as ‘Ciao! I’m a fast food man!'”

Here’s a sneak peek, with some commentary from Catucci, about the restaurants he visits in season five:

Calgary, AB

The Palomino Smokehouse

The Palomino Smokehouse

The Palomino
“It’s where I had some of the best brisket I’ve had,” says Catucci. They really know their barbecue. The vibe there is so much fun. The staff that work there are great, you can tell it’s a fun place to work. The turn over isn’t high and [the owner] treats his people right and it shows in the service, it shows in the food. Service is important to the overall experience of a meal. A mediocre meal can be saved by great service, and a great meal can be ruined by poor service. There needs to be a fine balance between being attentive and letting you have your space.”

Oak Tree Tavern

Oak Tree Tavern

Oak Tree Tavern
“Everything is homemade from the sauce on the sloppy joes to the dill pickles,” says Catucci, who ordered the meatloaf when filming wrapped. “And the dill pickle soup is unbelievable.”

Pig & Duke Pub

Pig & Duke Pub

The Pig & Duke
John loves bacon, and the Pig and Duke is his go-to for their bacon-wrapped meatloaf with bacon bits inside. It comes with mashed potatoes which are topped with, you guessed it, more bacon bits. The Pig & Duke is having a Super Bowl Sausage Party featuring and all-you-can-eat hot dog buffet!

Edmonton, AB

Rostizado

Rostizado

Rostizado
“It’s the same owners as Tres Carnales, so going there was like a homecoming. Rostizado has such a different vibe [from Tres Carnales]. The roast chicken at Rostizado is so great, they just really know what they’re doing.”

Battista's Calzone Company

Battista’s Calzone Company

Battista’s Calzone Company
“Battista does one thing and he does it well: he makes delicious, scratch-made calzones with fresh dough, high quality ingredients, and his family’s recipes. They’re only open for lunch, but you can order a frozen calzone to take home and have for dinner. Which, trust me, you should do.”

MEAT

MEAT

MEAT
“They keep it simple here at this Old Strathcona smokehouse. You order your meat, then you order your sides. You can have meat for dinner, or meat for brunch. I had a smoked brisket sandwich with horseradish mayo and garlic fries, and was a very happy man.”

Ottawa, ON

Burgers 'n' Fries Forever

Burgers ‘n’ Fries Forever

Burger’s ‘n’ Fries Forever
“This idea at this place is that burgers and fries both deserve your love. The meat here is all local grass-fed, and halal; the gravy is vegetarian, the sauces are all homemade, and they even have a secret menu (which isn’t much of a secret if you have a thing called the Internet). I ate a thing called a Burgeritto, which is exactly as outrageous as it sounds. A burger wrapped in a burrito.”

Fratelli

Fratelli

Fratelli
“This lovely family-owned Italian restaurant in Ottawa has two locations, and they just opened a pizza place. Chef Ivano has his PhD in pizza and taught me to make his Genoa Pizza with grilled chicken and basil pesto, gnocchi pomodoro, and his fetuccini sila with this beautiful mushroom cream sauce.”

Wilf & Ada's

Wilf & Ada’s

Wilf & Ada’s
“This is a great little all day brunch spot. Neither Wilf nor Ada work here anymore. The restaurant’s name is an homage to the former Ada’s Diner that was here before Jessie and Dom took over. They call it a ‘scratch diner’ because Dom makes everything – even the peanut butter! – in house.”

Winnipeg, MB

Marion Street Eatery

Marion Street Eatery

Marion Street Eatery“This is a lovely little restaurant in a surprising location, inside the Marion Hotel. Chef Melissa Hryb grew up in the kitchen cooking with her grandmother, mother, and aunts. At the Marion Street Eatery, she’s making comfort food with love. I ate a mac and cheese that had bacon and broccoli baked in and had this crunchy pretzel crust on top.”

Summit Cafe

Summit Cafe

Summit Cafe

Stony Mountain, MB
“Just a short drive north of Winnipeg is this little gem of a restaurant. The first thing you notice is the floor – it’s made entirely of pennies. The next thing you notice is the food: it’s really inventive. The BLT is made with bacon marmalade, the grilled cheese is stuffed with Cajun shrimp, and a special pulled pork and mac and cheese grilled cheese sandwich.”

Toronto, ON

The Hogtown Cure

The Hogtown Cure

The Cure
“Formerly known as the Hogtown Cure, this little gem on buzzing Dundas West does all their own curing and smoking in house. Inspired by Toronto’s agricultural history and owner Chris Schroer’s love for all things pork — from the celebrated Pulled Pork Sandwich to their Southern Pork Chop dinner — The Hogtown Cure is sure to have something you’ll go hog-wild for!”

Casa Manila

Casa Manila

Casa Manila
“This was my first time trying Filipino cuisine – and I’m hooked! It’s been influenced by Spanish, Asian, and Latin flavours, Filipinos were doing ‘fusion’ before it was cool and you can experience it without leaving the GTA! Whether you’re craving authentic sweet and tangy Chicken Adobo or even if you’ve never tasted savoury peanut Kare Kare Beef Stew, you can feel at home at Casa Manila.”

The Combine

The Combine

The Combine Eatery
“You don’t have to go south of the border to get incredible Southwestern cuisine – just head to The Combine, where Albert Chow’s serving up California-style fish tacos, sticky smoked ribs, and crispy buttermilk fried chicken! It’s a road trip in a restaurant, right on the Danforth!”

Kinton Ramen

Kinton Ramen

Kinton Ramen
“My first ramen! And now I’m obsessed. At Kinton Ramen, comfort food comes in the form of a big bowl of steamy, slurp-worthy noodles ,and rich and flavourful meats that are swimming in hearty slow-cooked broth. Take comfort in this energetic and friendly Japanese noodle house in downtown Toronto.”

850 Degrees Pizza

850 Degrees Pizza

850 Degrees Pizza
“Chef Chris Beard takes everything you love about Neapolitan pizza – the crispy blistered crust, the simple crushed tomato sauce, and the quality toppings – and makes it unquestionably Canadian! With pies that pay homage to the Group of 7, hometown hero David Bolland, and the Lord Stanley himself, Neapolitan pizza has never been so proudly Canadian!”

Pizzeria Defina

Pizzeria Defina

Pizzeria Defina
“This family run spot on Roncesvalles does really inventive wood-fired pizzas. They’re always experimenting with new toppings and flavour combinations, always keeping it fresh. I had a pizza with beet pesto and kale, which is as close to a salad as I usually get.”

Vancouver

Cannibal Cafe

Cannibal Cafe

Cannibal Café
“Don’t let the name fool ya, burgers are the specialty at the Cannibal Cafe! Where the patties are freshly ground with three cuts of beef and can be stuffed with bacon and cheese, and the lemongrass chicken is glazed with sweet and savoury hoisin sauce. Chef Zai Kitagawa knows what he’s doing at this place.”

Cartem's Donuterie

Cartem’s Donuterie

Cartems Donuterie
“They invented a new word and they invent new doughnut flavours at Cartmes. What’s a donuterie? It’s where they make flavours like The Earl Grey, Apple Pie, and Canadian Whiskey Bacon. Chef Raj is a genius with dough.”

Buckstop

Buckstop

The Buckstop
“This little hole in the wall on Denman Street is a great spot for an over-the-top burger, a Southern barbecue-style brunch, or special melt topped with tempura bacon?! If you’re looking for great barbecue and then some, there’s no doubt about it, the Buckstop’s here! And once you arrive, follow their motto: Eat meat, repeat.”

Panaderia Latina Bakery

Panaderia Latina Bakery

 Panaderia Latina Bakery
“Another first for me this season: a Latin bakery. Fill up on a big meaty Chilean sandwich called a Chacarero, dig into a fresh baked Empanada, or go straight to dessert with a sweet slice of Milhojas, a puff pastry delight! A visit to Panaderia Latina Bakery takes you to Chile for lunch without ever leaving East Van.”

Watch new Season 5 episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! Fridays at 7 pm MST on Food Network Canada.

 

HOTEL INSIDER: Hôtel de Glace

BY LINDA LUONG

ABOUT THE HOTEL
The only ice hotel in North America, and inspired by the Ice Hotel of Sweden, construction on the Hôtel de Glace begins each December, when the structure is built from scratch in preparation for the season (approximately January to March). The process involves 30 workers and 15 sculptors who use 30,000 tons of man-made snow, which is more humid and dense. Snow is then blown into metal molds of different sizes and shapes, including arches and domes. A wooden wall helps to strengthen each shape; it can take several days for each piece to solidify.

Ice blocks that each weigh about 300 pounds are then brought in to create the furniture, ranging from tables and chairs to the ice bar.

BY THE NUMBERS
Size Spread across 32,000 square-feet, and built from 30,000 tons of snow and ice blocks
Rooms 44 rooms and themed suites
Price $199 and up per person for an overnight stay. Guided tours are $18.25 adults, $16.25 seniors and students, $9.25 children (ages 6-12), children (up to 5 years) free, $45.75 families
Facilities The hotel can be booked for corporate events and weddings

AMENITIES
There’s a Nordic relaxation area with a hot tub and saunas for a soak beneath the stars that is open from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. Though romantic and idyllic, this area serves a practical purpose as well: overnight guests are encouraged to warm their bodies before going to bed.

The Celsius Pavilion contains lockers for storing personal items. There is also a dining area here where breakfast is served from 7 to 9:30 a.m.

An ice bar, ice chapel and a grand ice slide are also part of the premises.

The Hôtel de Glace is affiliated with the Four Points by Sheraton Québec; depending on your hotel package, some guests may have access to the Four Points’s outdoor spa and breakfast.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR STAY
A special training session is provided for overnight guests with knowledgeable guides. A three-layer technique is recommended, which includes undergarments that allow for humidity to escape your body. A middle layer of wool, flannel or polar fleece to isolate air and control humidity forms the second level of clothing, while the exterior layer includes wind-proof apparel that will still allow you to move around. Plus, hats, scarves, gloves or mittens to cover exposed parts of your body, as well as boots.

Guests are advised to bring a second set of clothing that includes a hat, scarf, gloves or mittens, socks and long underwear.

9500 rue de la Faune, Québec City, Québec, 1-877-505-0423; hoteldeglace-canada.com

 

 

Things to Do in Toronto: Shows & Events in February 2016

THERE ARE ALWAYS SO MANY THINGS TO DO IN TORONTO. GET OUT AND ENJOY SOME OF THE MANY GREAT PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS TAKING PLACE THROUGHOUT THE CITY IN FEBRUARY!

The Salzburg Festival cast of The Marriage of Figaro starring Genia Kühmeier, Katija Dragojevic and Marlis Petersen. Photo by Monika Rittershaus, courtesy of the Canadian Opera Company.

FEBRUARY 2  “The Boss”—a.k.a. Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band may have been born in the USA but they’re performing in Toronto.

FEBRUARY 2 TO MARCH 13  In Mustard, a world premiere written by Kat Sandler, a recently-divorced mom starts seeing her daughter’s imaginary friend who lives under her bed.

FEBRUARY 3 TO 21  On the heels of a sold-out national tour, Chelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen makes its Toronto debut. This celebration of the legendary Canadian performer sees six performers playing 17 instruments that highlight Cohen’s career discography.

FEBRUARY 4 TO 27  The Canadian Opera Company presents Mozart’s witty romantic farce, The Marriage of Figaro, in which Figaro and Susanna’s impending matrimony is in jeopardy thanks to the roving eye of the Count.

(more…)

Where Canada’s 11 Best New Restaurants 2015

Canada’s best new restaurants of 2015, chosen by the editors of Where

Banff-top

Banff, Canadian Rockies—Park Distillery

Where Canada’s Best New Restaurants is an annual award program that recognizes the top new dining destinations across the country. Where magazine’s editors deliberate at the end of each year to nominate an outstanding restaurant from their region.

This year’s selections celebrate our country’s bounty, with choices that favour seasonal offerings. Where Ottawa gives props to The Pomeroy House for its changing menu of comfort cuisine, while Where Halifax pays homage to Primal Kitchen where everything is made in-house. Workshop Eatery gets Where Edmonton’s seal of approval for the honey that comes directly from the rooftop beehive (it doesn’t get more local than upstairs from the restaurant!), and Where Toronto bestows accolades to Backhouse in the Niagara region for employing a farmer full-time to provide sustainable ingredients. Together, these restaurants and seven more, represent the top 11 new restaurants in Canada in 2015.

HOTEL INSIDER: Drake Devonshire

BY LINDA LUONG

ABOUT THE HOTEL
Dubbed “Drake by the Lake,” this Prince Edward County outpost of the ultra hip Toronto establishment is set alongside Lake Ontario in a former foundry building, circa the late 1800s. A two-year renovation led by design firm +tongtong under the creative direction of John Tong and the Drake Hotel’s CEO Jeff Stober transformed the space into a rustic yet artsy homage to Canadiana chic.

Incorporating some of the building’s original elements, such as the main entrance, a carved maple staircase and a fireplace in the parlour, whimsical accents and cheeky touches infuse the boutique hotel with a contemporary feel that also nod to the Drake’s signature aesthetic. Rooms are bold and striking, with walls painted in a palette of turquoise, sky blue and mauve, and vibrant wallpaper from Flavor Paper. Interspersed throughout the hotel is a mix of vintage items, which were sourced by the Drake’s in-house stylist (and one of the Drake’s co-founders) Carlo Colacci at flea markets and antique shows across North America, as well as custom designed and handcrafted pieces.

Art is prominently displayed at the hotel, with the Drake’s in-house curator Mia Nielsen having secured works by Canadian artist Rick Leong, who painted a custom mural in each room. A rotating roster of artists are also featured throughout the hotel, alongside permanent works by local artist Don Maynard, as well as Toronto artists Jennifer Murphy and Team Macho, and Brooklyn artist Faile.

Among the in-room amenities and luxuries are custom-crafted armoires, walk-in marble and glass showers, Malin + Goetz toiletries, MacAusland blankets, Bose bluetooth wireless speakers, and DVD and iPod listening libraries.

BY THE NUMBERS
Rooms
  11 rooms and 2 suites
Price  $229 and up
Conference Facilities  Though none of the spaces are specifically for conferences, the Drake Devonshire can accommodate groups of eight to 80 in its various rooms, including the Glass Box, Pavilion and Dining Room for meetings and team building sessions.

AMENITIES
The Drake Devonshire features multiple gathering spots throughout its space, each with a distinctive personality of its own.

The ultra comfortable Living Room was inspired by the concept of a farmhouse parlour. Mismatched furniture with an eclectic mix of prints and styles and a cozy fireplace makes this an ideal spot to read a book, write or for some quiet relaxation.

The aptly-named Glass Box has floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook a garden and Lane Creek. A riff of a family rec room, guests can play ping pong or board games, or watch a movie here. The space is alternatively used for weddings and corporate gatherings.

The Pavilion is a striking all-season space, though it particularly shines during good weather. Douglas fir beams and a dramatic floor-to-ceiling mural by Brooklyn artist Faile make for an eye-catching backdrop for live shows, special events, seasonal markets and holiday activities.

Enjoy the waterfront views from The Deck and bleachers, or grab a seat around the fire pit. The hotel’s food and drinks menu is also available here for alfresco dining.

FOOD
The cantilevered dining room with pristine views of Lake Ontario is a picturesque spot to tuck into chef Matt DeMille’s seasonally-changing menu of farm- and lake-to-table offerings that include Drake favourites as well as new items that pay homage to the region. Try the likes of chicken and waffles, smoked brisket hash or blueberry scones for breakfast or brunch, smoked chicken pot pie, crispy eggplant parmesan, slow roasted short ribs or the Devonshire burger for lunch or dinner.

A select wine list includes vintages from Prince Edward County wineries like Huff Estates, Hubbs Creek and Norman Hardie, as well as from further afoot, including Kendall-Jackson of California, Domaine la Montagnette of France and Cirelli of Italy. Try the house wine, Vintner’s Daughter, which was made in partnership with Wellington’s Rosehall Run Winery. Inventive cocktails include a bourbon con leche—cinnamon-infused bourbon mixed with condensed milk, coffee syrup and tiki bitters.

24 Wharf St., Wellington, Ontario, 613-399-3338 or 1-844-898-3338; drakedevonshire.ca

HOTEL INSIDER: Great Wolf Lodge

BY LINDA LUONG

ABOUT THE HOTEL
This American chain of resorts first opened its doors in 1997 in Wisconsin, followed by additional outposts across the United States, including Michigan, North Carolina, Texas and Ohio. The first—and thus far only—location outside of the U.S. is in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Beloved by families, Great Wolf Lodge is best described as a resort-meets-waterpark with a glamping ambience. Rustic in decor, a log cabin theme pervades the property with such touches as totem poles at the front entrance, antler chandeliers, and a fishing cabin-themed guest service counter.

Rooms are similarly decked out in a woodsy manner. Choose from 10 suite configurations between standard, themed and premium options. Standard rooms can include one or two queen sized beds, a sofa sleeper, in-room microwave and mini fridge. Themed suites have queen sized beds with a separate sleeping area for kids, which are outfitted with bunk beds and a TV. Premium spaces include loft-style suites, rooms with private master bedrooms and semi-private living or breakfast areas. Most rooms have access to a private balcony or patio.

Most of the resort’s communal space is geared towards families, with such activities as board games in the Grand Lobby, two daily performances by animated forest creatures, and nightly story time with resort mascots Wiley, Violet, Brinley and Oliver.

The resort uses a waterproof wristband system, which means you can go anywhere during your stay without your wallet or purse, or worry about forgetting your room key. Each wrist band can unlock your room, and can also be pre-loaded with money to be used throughout the resort, including the arcade, restaurants, bars, gift shops and other services, or wrist bands can be tapped for purchases and billed to your room.

BY THE NUMBERS
Size 
A 25-acre site that overlooks the Niagara Gorge, complete with a 103,000 square-foot waterpark.
Rooms  406 suites.
Price  $219.99 to $799.99
Conference Facilities  5,000 square-feet of flexible conference space is available complete with support from sales and banquet teams. There are five meeting rooms in total that range in size; options include Fallen Timbers A and B, which can seat up to 174 people together theatre style to the more intimate Eagles Landing, which can seat 16 people. Two other rooms, Northwest Territory A and B, can seat up to 200 guests combined in a theatre style.

 

AMENITIES
The big draw here is without a doubt the expansive on-site indoor waterpark, Bear Track Landing, as well as an outdoor waterpark, Loon Lagoon that is open seasonally. Together, 2.5 million litres of water fill the space, which boasts 13 waterslides, six pools, and a four-storey treehouse water fort. There are myriad of water play options for everyone, whether its lounging in an inner tube in the lazy Crystal River, playing in the Rainbow Lake wave pool, riding the Niagara Rapids Run water roller coaster with its 52-foot vertical drop, or sliding down a waterslide. The tiniest of guests can get their toes wet in Chipmunk Cove, a zero-depth entry pool with interactive toys.

If the aquatic exercise isn’t enough of a workout, the Iron Horse Fitness Centre is accessible 24 hours a day, and has equipment such as treadmills and elliptical machines.

Or, if a little pampering is in order, there are two options: Elements Spa is an ideal spot for adults who are in need of some “me” time. The spacious facility offers a range of treatments including manicures, pedicures, facials and massages, as well as couples’ treatment rooms. For pint-sized guests, book an appointment at Scooops Kid Spa, which is exclusively for children ages 3 to 12. The colourful space is inspired by an ice cream shop, and offers manicures and pedicures, as well as a gift shop carrying the likes of foot masks, bath fizz and scrubs.

FOOD
There are eight family-friendly options at Great Wolf Lodge, which means that even picky eaters can find something to satiate their appetites or quench their thirst. Tuck into the buffet at either the Antler Shanty or Camp Critter Bear & Grille, or a fresh pie from Northwoods Pizza Company, or perhaps some ice cream at the Bear Claw Café. Buckets Incredible Craveables is located right in the waterpark, and has a menu of easy-to-eat kid-favourites like hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken strips. (Seasonally, Crazy Loon is open at the resort’s outdoor facility, Loon Lagoon.) For a jolt of java or a tea, there’s Canoe Coffee, or for cocktails and beer, there’s Grizzly Rob’s Bar.

3950 Victoria Ave., Niagara Falls, 1-800-605-9653; greatwolf.com/niagara

HOTEL INSIDER: Trump International Hotel & Tower

BY LINDA LUONG

ABOUT THE HOTEL
The name Trump is synonymous with luxury, and guests of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto are pampered with impeccable service and the utmost attention to detail during their stay at the 65-storey tower. From the first step into the lavish lobby, which is adorned with a Swarovski crystal art installment and the Trump signature scent of champagne and caviar, guests are welcomed into opulent environs.

Guest rooms start at 550-square feet, and can go up to 2,300 square-feet—larger than some homes in Toronto! With a modern aesthetic by II by IV Design Associates, the hotel is awash in a neutral but warm palette. Rooms and suites are outfitted with a range of features including bedside touch panel control for lights and curtains, fireplaces, heated bathroom floors, a rainfall shower head, deep soaker tubs, complimentary digital newspaper and magazine services, and perhaps the most unique offering: an aromatherapy pillow menu from which guests can choose from pillows designed to help restore balance, revitalize energy, renew the spirit or provide tranquility.

BY THE NUMBERS
Rooms 
A 65-storey tower with 263 hotel rooms and suites, which range in size from 550- to 2,300-square-feet.
Price  Starting from $395 per night.
Conference Facilities  Fittingly for the former Apprentice host, a reality television show that was known for its heated boardroom antics, Trump Tower boasts three floors of meeting spaces located on the ninth, 10th and 30th floors. The Grand Ballroom can host more than 300 people, while more intimate rooms are available for groups up to 30 people for conferences, seminars, workshops and more.

AMENITIES
The well-equipped fitness centre boasts treadmills, free weights and other cardiovascular equipment to help guests maintain their exercise regime while travelling. There is also a studio for yoga, pilates and aerobics, as well as personal trainers to assist guests. And if they’ve left their gear at home, guests can partake in the hotel’s Travel Fit program, which can lend Under Armour fitness apparel and footwear, as well as pre-loaded iPod shuffles for use.

Or go swimming with a view of the city skyline from the infinity salt water lap pool located on the 32nd floor, which measures 65 feet long by 16 feet wide. Adjacent to the pool is a raised clean-stream whirlpool with a cascading waterfall and dry saunas.

Get pampered at Purebeauty, a full-service salon and spa offering an extensive menu of treatments including massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, blow outs and more.

FOOD
Hotel guests looking to dine in can tuck into breakfast, lunch and dinner daily or Sunday brunch at America restaurant. Two teams from the city’s most respected dining conglomerates, Ink Entertainment (of La Société and Patria fame) and Oliver & Bonacini (of Canoe and Luma), are responsible for the hospitality dished out here. (Ink Entertainment also co-operates Late Night America, which is open every Saturday night from 10 p.m.) Inventive and beautifully-plated mains include Sichuan pepper duck breast and scallops, shrimp and squid linguine, finished with a cheese board, white Russian sundae or bourbon chocolate tart.

The Calvin Bar is a sleek and contemporary space for creative cocktails like a spiced sazerac or barrel-aged negroni.

Don’t want to leave the confines of your hotel room? A Quick Bites program provides express in-room dining options in 15 minutes or less for busy guests on the go.

325 Bay St., 416-306-8800 or 1-855-888-7867; trumphotelcollection.com/toronto

HOTEL INSIDER: The Ivy at Verity

BY LINDA LUONG

ABOUT THE HOTEL
This boutique hotel located in a restored 1850s chocolate factory boasts four pristine rooms, each outfitted with Hästens beds, Italian linens, and a private terrace overlooking a secluded courtyard. Part of the Verity Group, which also owns George restaurant, Sweetgrass Spa and Verity women’s club, founder Mary Aitken wanted to ensure that guests feel right at home. As such, heated bathroom floors, generous counter space in bathrooms, ample closet space and full-length mirrors are among the simple luxuries that can be found in each of the rooms. Another Aitken touch is the colourful decor—the wallpaper, upholstered headboards and chairs are awash in cheery hues and prints, reminiscent of a charming Parisian hotel.

BY THE NUMBERS
Rooms
Four custom-designed rooms
Price $399 per night. Room packages are available for $449 and $559, which can include dinner and a spa treatment.

AMENITIES
Guests of The Ivy are privy to many of the services and facilities of Verity, including the club’s concierge and members’ lounge. Female guests also have access to the fitness centre and swimming pool.

Sweetgrass Spa is a women-only oasis (though male guests can have Swedish massages in their hotel rooms) with a carefully edited menu of signature treatments, such as the Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage, a 24 karat gold facial using products from the Dr. Hauschka line, a Tata Harper red carpet facial, and a Medico oxygen facial. Pre- and post-treatment, (female) guests can enjoy the infrared sauna, whirlpool, ozonated swimming pool—where there is even an underwater spin bike—or relax in the lounge with freshly-pressed juice, coffee and cocktails. By appointment, a hairstylist can also do blow outs; the spa can also bring in additional hair stylists and estheticians for larger groups wishing to have their hair and makeup done.

FOOD
The elegantly-appointed dining room at George restaurant is well-served as a destination for business lunches and dinners, as well as a romantic meal or fun feast with friends. Headed by chef Lorenzo Loseto, who has won Canada’s National Culinary Championship among other accolades, an oft-changing menu of seasonal dishes utilizing fresh local ingredients could include the likes of pork belly with agnolotti and cardamom mustard or ahi tuna with potato samosa and cauliflower. Or simply entrust chef Loseto with your meal and tuck into a tasting menu, with or without wine pairings. (A three- or four-course lunch ranges from $55 to $70; five-, seven-, 10- and vegetarian-course dinner is about $85 to $150.)

Queen-Richmond Centre, 111 Queen St. E., Toronto, Ontario, 416-368-6006; theivyatverity.ca.