When foodie travel dreams take people to Italy – a little of Italy comes to Toronto
When foodie travel dreams take people to Italy, Tuscany is often their first stop. There’s something almost seductive & intimately charming about the region and its rustic good living. There is a lot to see and do in Tuscany; the true difficulty really, is where to start. Certainly most travelers should start with Florence, and then continue on to other top spots such as Siena and Pisa. The amazing list of “città di arte”(cities of art), is daunting: Arezzo, Cortona, San Gimignano and Lucca are all striking places to explore and the more you come to know the region, the more extraordinary Tuscany appears.
One mere kilometer from Siena immersed in a pristine countryside you’ll find a XIV century Carthusian monastery built in 1314, La Certosa di Maggiano. Among the first hotels in Italy to join the Relais et Chateaux Association, it turned into a Relais et Chateaux Hotel in 1978. This enchanting place which is dressed by light and natural luxury, carefully designed & interpreted by the famous architect/interior designer, Renzo Mongiardino.http://www.certosamaggiano.com
Immersed within 6 acres of parks and gardens, the Hotel Certosa di Maggiano offers to its visitors all the typical amenities of a luxury hotel with the addition of a gourmet restaurant, Il Canto, which it has been inducted since 2010 among the World’s Best 50 Restaurants.
The “art of the table” at Il Canto of Le Certosa di Maggiano brings people together throughout the pleasure of eating well while enjoying the beauty of the surrounding nature and the quality of the food ingredients that the chef Paolo Lopriore carefully selects and transforms enhancing their true essence and flavors. “Il Canto” restaurant or “the chant” in Italian is home to one of Italy’s most noted courageous and innovative culinary artists, Chef Paolo Lopriore.
A mere kilometer away from the spectacular medieval city of Sienna, sits the Hotel Certosa di Maggiano- a 5-star, Relais et Chateaux property that was once a Carthusian monastery built in 1314. “Il Canto” is the hotel’s much lauded restaurant (considered one of the best restaurants in Italy, according to the Gambero Rosso Guide which awarded Il Canto its “Three Forks” title) where Chef Paulo Lopriore helms the kitchen.
A one-time student of Italian culinary master Gualtiero Marchesi (Milan), who has given title to Lopriore as his best pupil, the chef has also honed his craft in Florence at Enoteca Pinchiorri, France’s fabled Maison Troigros and at the Bagatelle in Oslo, Norway with Eyvind Hellstrom. These days, Chef Paulo Lopriore is known for creating a symphony of flavours by taking simple ingredients and elevating them to an art form, a modern twist on traditional Italian. By experimenting with textures and consistencies, using some of the raw, seasonal ingredients of Tuscany’s fertile countryside, it’s said a meal at Il Canto is a “multi-sensorial dining experience”. In 2002, he took over as Head Chef of Il Canto, moving up in ranking 39 in the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2011.
So imagine – the Stratford Chef School’s “International Celebrity Chef in Residence Series” brought Italian Culinary Maestro- Paolo Lopriore from Tuscany’s “Il Canto” to Ontario, Canada. Your tastebuds just might be tingling about now – if only you were a student chef – oh the enjoyable work you would be set upon in that kitchen! http://stratfordchef.com/
“According to the Stratford Chef School’s co-founder Eleanor Kane, bringing global culinary stars to Stratford is a key program that sets this culinary school apart. “Providing first contact with international restaurant chefs is important in our recruitment strategy. During his 2010 visit to the Stratford Chefs School, Paolo’s creative use of ingredients, his exacting approach and attention to detail made a huge impact on students and our culinary instructors. We anticipate another exciting immersion into Italian cooking and culture” says Kane.”
Some of the dishes Chef Paulo Lopriore created and taught while in Stratford included:
- Beef Carpaccio with Black Truffles
- Riso al Nero di Seppia (Risotto in black squid ink)
- Squab with Vin Santo
- Lobster with Sweet Peppers
And the Desserts:
- Meringata… Che Passion! (Meringue… What Passion!)
- Semifreddo with Smoked Sugar
After a list of menu items like this -how can you not want to try and get in on the amazing talents that the Stratford Chef School brings in, but also hop on a plane and heading to Tuscany to visit Chef Paulo at Il Canto and enjoy a stay at Le Certosa di Maggiano – you definitely won’t be disappointed.http://www.relaischateaux.com/certosa
© Deborah Peniuk 2012
Photo Credits of Chef Paulo Lopriore to Terry Manzo of Zenfolio www.zenfolio.com
A short but fun article I did for my friends over at http://www.GirlsGetaway.com
Click on the photo to go to the article.
Year of the Dragon
As we headed into 2012, I stopped to take the time to ask a few from the AYA Life Health and Wellness Collective their Top 3 Tips for 2012.
Top 3’s for 2012 from Amie Hoff, Hoff Fitness and FitKit.com
We caught up with Amie Hoff in New York this past December and here are Amie’s Top 3 suggestions heading into 2012:
Try out the many versions of the new FitKit’s! I don’t travel without mine anymore!
Top 3’s for 2012 from Erica Mather, Forrest Yoga Instructor New York City
Here are my Top 3’s suggestions heading into 2012:
- Eat more dark, leafy greens – Drink more water – Sleep longer
- Be swift to love – Live every day as if it were your last – Work to heal your wounds
- Find work you love that is also profitable – Learn how to be an entrepreneur – Prioritize paying off your debt
Erica, E-RYT 200, has been teaching yoga in New York City since 2006. She teaches at the Wanderlust Festival in Kripalu, and will appear during 2012 at the Bali Spirit Festival. Erica studies yoga with Ana Forrest, is a Certified Forrest Yoga Instructor and Forrest Yoga Mentor Teacher. You can find her at http://www.ericamather.com
Top 3’s for 2012 from Michelle Currie, Meditative Arts
Here are my Top 3 suggestions heading into 2012:
- Carve out 10 minutes of your schedule each day to be with your breath. This gives your body and mind a chance to refuel and take everything in.
- Fill your days with people and things that give you energy. There’s nothing worse than starting the new year off on a sluggish foot.
- Remember that you are powerful and creative enough to get through the blahs, especially from January to March when there’s little daylight.
It’s time to put your sanity on a pedestal! It’s being centred and relaxed that will actually help you get more done and help more people. A burnt out and frazzled you only limits your potential. Refuel AND stay sane without spending tons of $ or time ! Try out Michelle’s Bliss Kit http://meditativearts.ca/shop/blisskit/
As the mantra says above…”all good things will be yours” With a creative twist on the traditional you are welcomed into a long, simply decorated, calm and peaceful place by the Uma-ish Yoga Goddess Alex, its here that your journey into bliss begins.
Alexandra Leikermoser is the founder and owner of Yogagurl™, a Toronto based life style company with its latest transformation as the Yoga Studio based in the heart of the newly opened Ritz Carlton Toronto. http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Toronto/Spa/
The Yoga Studio is part of a 5th floor “Urban Sanctuary,” a 23,000 square foot space that has a pool, professionally-equipped fitness facility, kinesis centre, relaxation area and a walk-out, wrap-around terrace, plus a 13,000 square foot spa complete with 16 treatment rooms, including 2 Couples Suites, private Ladies’ and Gentleman’s wet lounges, steam/sauna areas and dry relaxation dens.
The company had its initial roots in one of the first Eco-Design Studio’s and Stores in North America. As quoted on the Yogagurl™
website “I intend to empower women to discover their unique gifts & share them with the world – Alexandra Leikermoser”.
This new home is centered around providing opportunities for others to attain clarity and balance in their lives such as the recent event hosted on Earth Day, specifically a candlelit, cedar scented yoga class which I had the pleasure of attending. Everyone attending was very peaceful and of all different levels of fitness and relaxation. I myself am currently recovering from the second shoulder to fall prey to “Frozen Shoulder” and have limited movement in my left currently and during the event I trusted that Alex had a watchful eye on me, “Breathe love into that shoulder” she said to me once more during our class.
Alex, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing informally and appropriately so, on a yoga mat in studio, has been a teacher (classically trained in Hatha yoga) and student of yoga for more than a decade and also teaches workshops,seminars and retreats about with a basis in creating a balanced conscious lifestyle. Well-known for her enthusiastic teaching style, open and creative twists, she has been able to create unique class environments that foster both personal transformations and inspiration. Alex has been featured in a variety of international newspapers and print and online magazines, and has been interviewed multiple times on television and radio.
Of the many products you can find from this fantastic woman and her inspirations, you might have seen one of the hand-printed t-shirts with their renowned cheeky sayings such as: “Whine less, Breathe more”, “Kiss my asana” & “I’d rather be in savasana” around and you can definitely order them from the website, http://www.yogagurl.com .She has also released a Spoken Word: With Music CD, Whine Less, Breathe More, that can be downloaded from http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/Yogagurl
Yogagurl™ recently teamed up with Grail Springs founder and WISE leader Madeleine Marentette to breathe, and connect with nature and ourselves in the beautiful indoor and outdoor setting of the Grail Springs this past February 18th to 20th. The retreat was an amazing and empowering experience for all. Alex is known for her summer monthly inner goddess retreats where she takes a small group of women up north and playfully illustrates through yoga, hands on food demos how to make daily rituals and habits that make lifelong habits of health and wellness! You leave with your own mini recipe book! She has led retreats internationally in Hawaii and abroad as well as at various private locations. Perhaps you’ll see a retreat with AYA Life in the future! In the meantime check her website for updates.
When discussing the idea of Yoga as a trend “I think it’s great that more people are doing yoga which means they are finding and achieving their balance and becoming more in tune with themselves.”says Alex. This is definitely a woman who is geared to sharing her insight and knowledge to empower others and personally I look forward to the days that I can spend on regular basis in her energy. Take the time to try out a yoga class with Yogagurl™, Alexandra Leikermoser and your world will seem so much more peaceful and you will be on the path to be better in tune with your life. Alex is making it easy for us to try our first class at her studio until May 15th,2011 and bring a friend to yoga and your friend is complimentary! RSVP today and come and experience Yogagurl™ at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto: http://www.yogagurl.com/schedule.pdf
Coming soon take your mom to Yoga on Saturday, May 7th, 2011 for this upcoming Mother’s Day!
There is nothing like meeting someone who is as passionate about what they do as you are and this was the case when I was invited to interview Michelin star Chef Alexandre Gauthier this January. A favoured choice by Alain Ducasse and Gordon Ramsay, Chef Alexandre Gauthier of La Grenouillère participated in Stratford Chefs School’s Chef in Residence for the second time bringing Pascal (his maitre d’ hotel) and Nicholas (his sous chef).
As a week long event at the school(from January 24 through January 28, 2011), this allowed Chef Alexandre to work closely with the students, shopping daily for the evening’s menu and being a passionate mentor to the students for the evening services. The Celebrity Chef in Residence program offers students and staff of Canada’s premier culinary institute the opportunity to expand their culinary repertoire while learning from, and cooking with, the finest international chefs.
The family restaurant La Grenouillère, in Montreuil-sur-Mer, France is currently closed and experiencing a massive transformation into Chef Alexandre’s new vision and I for one am extrememly excited to see the final outcome. Not only will this be a reborn restaurant keen to a highlighted patron experience but also a 12 room Auberge with herb and flower gardens. (For those not in the know, an auberge is by definition: an inn or tavern providing overnight lodging for travelers) What an amazing experience this will become for those enjoying the new décor and the rustic, etheral setting with a small castle atop the hill in the backdrop and his fantastic cuisine.
Chef Gauthier has been the chef at La Grenouillère since 2003. The family restaurant is located in Montreuil-sur-Mer, France (a village mentioned in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables). He has worked with chefs Régis Marcon (Au Clos des Cimes), Michel Roth (Lasserre), and Grégory Coutanceau (Les Flots). In 2007, Chef Gauthier received his first Michelin star and brought back the star that had been missing from La Grenouillère since 2001.
The iconic chef Alain Ducasse encouraged Chef Gauthier’s talent early on in his career, inviting him to the famed Plaza Athénée to make two dishes (including an notable appetizer of soft & hard-shell clams- C’est tres bonne!). Chef Gauthier defines his cuisine as Cuisine Délurée (“smart”, “subtle”,”forward”,”impertinent and pertinent”), using French & Japanese techniques(offset plating) to create his distinctive dishes.
Amongst the many words that come across the many articles about this noteworthy chef – “radical”, “authentic”, “pertinent”, “provocative”, “wild”, “and “robust”.Chef Alexandre is the Ultimate recycler when it comes to ingredients and pays homage to all the food sources on his menu. He promises that there will be no “frontier” between the chef and the customer including lots of glass and open spaces with iron, leather and large fire pits to complete the new experience.
I would challenge anyone to not agree that this young chef, who has already accomplished so much, is an example of a Spiritual Entrepreneur who is following and actioning his dreams – making them a reality – great energy to be aligned with as a fellow entrepreneur myself.
When I asked this amazingly talented man to choose one word to describe him, he paused, challenged to find just one word and then said “PASSIONATE” et “UNCONVENTIONAL”. Certainly two words that make the tastebuds tingle in anticipation of the next outpouring from this extremely talented chef.
I will be taking a group to France later this year and will encorporate the short 2 hour drive from Paris to visit to the newly renovated resto & auberge to experience Chef Alexandre Gauthier on his own homefront stage.
Look for more about this amazing chef and upcoming trips designed by AYA Life.
Best dishes til then travellers and foodies alike.
La Grenouillere www.lagrenouillere.fr
Alexandre Gauthier and William Elliott
Froggy’s Tavern www.froggystavern.com
Let me begin by asking the two following questions: Does wanderlust run in your family? Have you always loved to travel? My family was very much divided growing up and one side was happy to stay at home in their own backyard and the other had visions of far off nations to be explored throughout a lifetime. I wish wanderlust had run in my family because I’ve embraced it fully. My ideal travel situation is almost anything and I truly believe that travel should be about the experience.
One has the luxury to be able to read about faraway places you haven’t been to, to see new cultures through others eyes in the written word – all the people, the places, and the experiences of travel just enthralling you but this article is not just about riding on the experiences of others … I truly believe that everyone needs a road trip or two in their life! The one they have dreamed about that they’ve put on their “Bucket List”, the one that takes months, has only the vaguest travel plans – the kind of a trip you remember for all your living days and those remembered by others re-telling about your life time.
It’s not just about location or destinations, but it’s about the people you meet and talk to on the way, the annoying chatterbox that everyone just wants to button it, even as you’re traveling, the problems and people you meet along your journey – both good and bad, and all that happens down the road. It’s that first night at a rest stop where you look at a clear starry sky and feel the landscape around you remembering the day’s adventure, or enjoying the flavors of the culinary delights in front of you knowing your belly is full and your mind is ready to explode with all the new taste combinations. Your eyes are glowing with wanton satisfaction of knowing you have crossed another destination off the list and then only to realize the next morning that you have done so much in the day before but you feel energized and ready to set off on the next daily adventure.
In a world obsessed with how: (how can I make money, how can I get a girl/guy, how can I get a better job) how is it that we are not obsessing about the “Why.” Why was it so necessary to take this trip? Why does the universe exist? Why do we worry about the how questions? Why do any of them matter? Why? Look around you in the destination of the day and absorb all that there is to see, smell, hear, feel and rejoice in the simple little pleasures and leave stress behind if but for a moment(or 10-14 days if possible!)
This leads to creating your incredible story about the open road, about the beauty of traveling with only a vague destination and itinerary, of realizing how much of what you have learned is learning the “structure” everyone “has to” live by, and what breaking away from that really means. What makes your travel dreams assemble? In this post I tackle the senses with the idea of smells and tastes creating the ultimate overwhelming tools that go with the visual imagery you may already have in your head of destinations afar.
Spices may be the secret ingredient to many dishes but they are also the trigger to what brings memories and dreams of faraway cultures to our taste buds and imaginations. Some creative ideas of incorporating this into creating the travel experience of a life time might just be something like exploring at one of the world’s oldest known spice markets in the world in Istanbul or head off to find adventure and appease the senses with carts overflowing with dried fruits and spices amongst the vendors of the Marrakech Bazaar, in Marrakech, Morocco. Or a trip to Mexico just might bring you to Oaxaca’s market where you will find “memorable” treats like dried grasshoppers to the flavorful and delicious Mexican chocolate!
Take the journey to Canada and experience markets in both the East and the West. Vancouver’s Granville Island Market will open to tourists the doors of wonder with a strong Asian influence or head East to Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market – a mainstay the locals are keen to share to visitors since the days when seaway imports came through Lake Ontario. Travel experiences to markets like these show that we are, the cultures we share amongst us and the heritage from whence we came. Open a cook book or read a novel that inspires you to seek out the next destination for your journeys.
Such recent inspirations for me include:
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
- The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
- Vij’s Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine Cookbook by Vikram Vij and wife Meeru Dhalwala
- Mexico One Plate At A Time by Rick Bayless
- Under the Tuscan Sun by Francis Mayes
- Chocolat by Joanne Harris
A few short tips to remember at this point :
• Remember that physical borders (mountains, valleys, etc.) are more important in many parts of the world than political boundaries.
• Be sure to do research and then find a good guide or travel counsellor who can choose the best company for you.
• The more tips for traveling abroad you can find and take to heart, the more likely you are to have a great and safe time abroad.
So the next time you are out having a meal at your favorite restaurant imagine what it would be like to experience it in the lands from which it originated. Ask yourself if you are the explorer who wants to actively challenge your boundaries with hands-on learning and experiences, inspired by rich culture, interactive exchanges and a heightening of the senses with feeling, food, friendships and of course – fantastic fun!
But if you need a kick in the pants to do something different – learn to embrace passion and adventure!