Monthly Archives: April 2013

#48 – Order the communal menu at Cafe Belong

Cafe Belong is my favourite restaurant in Toronto.  The food is amazing, focusing on local, seasonal and organic ingredients; service is always, always great and it’s in the Brick Works, which is one of my favourite places to explore.

Cafe Belong has two menu options for dinner; the standard menu (which is always amazing), or the Communal menu, a five course full evening meal served family style.  The specific menu is a mystery, as the chefs create it individually per night, per table.  The only thing they tell you is that you will get a dessert course and a cheese course, though sometimes they can be combined.  There is a vegetarian, meat or fish option.

Every course was a delicious surprise and we had an amazing evening enjoying every course and trying to guess what might be coming next.  First course was a trio of salads; second course was puffed rice and vegetables with a curried tomato broth; third course was stuffed peppers; fourth was a trio of cheeses with marinated raisins and apples, pickled artichoke leaves and carrot jelly; and we ended with an apple crumble with ice cream, ginger cookies and candied almonds.

Another highlight of the night was when Chef and owner Brad Long briefly stopped by our table, which caused a mild fangirl meltdown on my part.

ImageThe food is incredible, and the drink menu is equally as great.  Many creative in-house cocktail creations, a great beer list and an extensive wine list.

I had a Gingerbread Daiquiri; a Stonewall (rum, ginger simple syrup, apple cider & gingerbeer) and finished with a Rhubarb Punch (my favourite), which they made me off the Fall menu.  Again, just amazing service.

Adam had a Beau’s Bog Water, Muskoka Mad Tom IPA and an Amsterdam Boneshaker.Image

Details: Cafe Belong is found in the Evergreen Brick Works.  Menus, hours and reviews can be found here.  The Brick Works can be tricky to get to without a car, but there is a free shuttle that runs frequently from Broadview station, details here.

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Bonus #3 – Go to Zambia

Zambia almost didn’t make the list.  It was the starting point for our tour but we landed in Livingstone around noon on Saturday and by 9:00 Sunday we were crossing the border into Zimbabwe, so we didn’t feel we saw enough or were there long enough for it to count.

In the end we decided it made the list as we did spend the afternoon and evening drinking beers on a patio overlooking the Zambezi River (the fourth largest river system in Africa), which seems like a pretty cool thing to be able to say.

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Details: Our tour started at the Zambezi Waterfront Lodge, details here.

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Bonus #4 – See Victoria Falls

Though the Seven Wonders of the World list has been challenged and altered and has many incarnations, in 2007 Victoria Falls was placed on the Seven NATURAL Wonders of the World list, and as far as I can find, still holds that spot.  Rightfully so.  We had a mere hour to explore on the Zimbabwe side of the falls, and we only saw a small stretch in that hour.  We had been warned by our guides to wear our rain gear, as due to the spray, it is always raining at the grounds around the falls.

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One of the other women in our group had gone on a helicopter tour over Victoria Falls.  Here is one of her photos from above to give an idea of the scale of the falls.  Thanks Nancy B. for sharing!

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Details: Victoria Falls can be viewed on either the Zambia or Zimbabwe side.  I can’t seem to find an official website for either side, but both have charged entry, and there are tour operators who run helicopter tours over the falls.

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Bonus #2 – Go to Zimbabwe

We were in Zimbabwe for two nights and one day.  That one day was probably the most full and varied day of our trip, and most of our group have said this was their favourite or most memorable day.

Our group was split between two open safari Jeeps  and we set off for Matobo National Park, which is full of awe inspiring naturally formed rock towers.  The park has the last significant population of rhino in Zimbabwe.  Poachers are a massive problem for the rangers at this park, and the rhino population is dropping by alarming numbers every month.

Our first stop is an ancient cave used by Bushmen, full of beautiful cave paintings, some of the paintings 40,000 years old.

We then visited the local village of Ndebele, which was educational and so fun; the chief being a 82 year-old spitfire, full of charm and despite not speaking any English, a wonderful story teller.  Two of his sons, and two of his tiny grandsons, demonstrated a traditional dance, and pulled a lot of our family, including Adam, in to participate.

The afternoon was full of tracking rhino, sometimes on foot through the bush.  While we learned a lot about their habits and how to recognize tracks, we were unlucky and didn’t see any.  Despite being a little disappointed, it was a great day rocking and rolling over rough paths, enjoying the scenery and learning all the small details that the rangers look for while tracking animals.

We did climb down a riverbank to get a closer look at some hippos.  While we didn’t get very close, they certainly made sure to let us know they noticed us, rumbling and flashing their teeth at us.

All in all, a wonderful day, firmly lodging Zimbabwe in a special place in our hearts.

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Bonus #1 – Cage Diving with Great Whites

This was amazing.  We both loved it and would do it again. Video here!

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Details: White Shark Adventures took good care of us, all details can be found here.  We would definitely recommend them, especially after passing some of the other tours in the area; very crowded boats and very flimsy cages.  White Shark Adventures have very sturdy cages and the tours are small, which allows lots of time in the cage!

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#11 – Go bird watching

Africa is known for it’s diverse and interesting animals, but there is also an amazing diversity of birds as well, so we knocked this one off while in Kruger Park in South Africa.

We had a great field guide (details below) that had great illustrations and lots of information on each bird (our guide was also great at pointing out birds, especially after figuring out we were just as interested in the birds as the animals!).

We have never done this before, but will absolutely do it again!

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Details: Field guide: Roberts Bird Guide: Kruger National Park and Adjacent Lowveld by Hugh Chittenden & Ian Whyte

Birds pictured: Lilac-breasted Roller; Red-billed Oxpecker; Burchell’s Coucal; White-backed Vulture; Dark-capped Bulbul; Saddle-billed Stork; Grey Heron; Blacksmith Lapwing; Kori Bustard; Cape Glossy Starling; Burchell’s Starling; Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill; Crested Barbet; Black-headed Heron; Swainson’s Spurfowl; Marabou Stork; European Bee-eater; African Fish-Eagle; Southern Carmine Bee-eater; European Roller; Egyptian Goose; Fork-tailed Drongo & Red-backed Shrike; European Bee-eater & Southern Ground Hornbill

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#33 – Go to South Africa

We spent two amazing weeks in Africa and have been using the term life changing pretty frequently to describe it.  Our trip included 3 days in Cape Town, one night in Livingston, Zambia, two nights in Zimbabwe and then back to South Africa and two days in Kruger National Park.

Since our list item was specifically South Africa, we’ve added Zimbabwe and Zambia as Bonus Items and we will post about them soon!

Going to South Africa has always been a dream of mine, mainly to see elephants in the wild.  Elephants have always had a special place in my heart and seeing them in their natural environment was an ultimate bucket list item for me.

Within five minutes of driving into Kruger Park, we saw our first elephant, a bull.  In a show to prove his superiority (over our truck), he pushed over a tree and stood flapping his ears at us, deciding whether to charge or not.  I had a minor Kristen Bell moment, though managed to keep it under wraps (though most of the people in the truck were my family, I’m not prepared to be a YouTube phenom).

Throughout the day, we saw many elephants, all bulls, either on their own or in small bachelor groups.  They were amazing and I could have watched them all day, but I wanted to see a matriarch herd; the mothers, aunts, sisters, young males and babies.

And then we saw the herd.  It was so large we couldn’t begin to see how many elephants were in the group, but the range of ages was clear.  Our guide pointed out the youngest elephant we could see, around 6-8 months old.  There were 3-4 year olds, adolescents, and older females.  There were a few young males, who were on the brink of leaving the herd.  It was breath taking and I could have watched them for days.

Much gratitude for the generosity and love my parents-in-law showed by including all us kids on their dream trip that’s been 35 years in the making.  It was life changing and we appreciate the experiences you shared with us more than we can express.

The photos below are from the bookends of our trip in South Africa.  We’ll be posting photos from our time in Zimbabwe, our visit to Victoria Falls and other wildlife experiences (birds and sharks!) soon!

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Details: Information about Kruger National Park can be found here.  The guided part of our trip was through G Adventures.  We had a great experience with them and the tour we were on was this one.

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#70 – Stargaze somewhere without light pollution

While we were in Africa, we camped for 6 nights at 5 different camp grounds, including one inside Kruger National Park in South Africa, and one on the border of Matobo National Park in Zimbabwe. It would be dark between 6:00 & 7:00 at night, and then the stars would be out.  There aren’t words to adequately describe how vibrant and breath taking the night skies were, and unfortunately our camera wasn’t up to the task.  Below is a photo taken at our camp ground outside of Musina, South Africa.

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Bonus Things

We are back from Africa, and I am working on getting together all our blog posts of the things we crossed off while we were away.  It was an amazing trip and I’m excited to share everything we experienced!

We also have a few Bonus Things to add to our list.  First, cage diving with Great White Sharks in Cape Town.  Second, our list item #33 is to Go to South Africa.  We also spent two nights and an amazing day in Zimbabwe, so we added that in. We spent a night in Livingston, Zambia, so while it feels a little like cheating, we’ve added it to the list.  Finally, we visited Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe side), and as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, it had to make the list.  All these and more will be posted later this week!

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