Paula Roy’s Favourite Foods Season 2, Episode 1

Speedy and delicious breakfast ideas!

Great news – some fresh recipes are hitting the airwaves! I’m so excited to be welcoming you into my kitchen again as Season 2 of my show, Paula Roy’s Favourite Foods, begins airing on Rogers Television (Channel 22 in Ottawa). This new season showcases some of my favourite easy, healthy dishes spanning a wide range of preparation styles and flavour profiles. The one thing they all have in common is that they are 100% delicious! There are 12 episodes in this season; for details on when each will be airing (the show is on several times each week), you can check the Rogers TV website. The first episode of this new season focuses on tasty breakfast or brunch dishes that can be partially prepared in advance to make it faster and easier to start the day off right. Click on the titles below to access the recipes and happy cooking!

Three great breakfast recipes are featured in this episode of Paula Roy's Favourite Foods on Rogers TV.

Melon-Bacon Salad

Sweet melon and crisp bacon make for a delicious, refreshing breakfast salad.

Apple cheddar biscuits

Baking powder biscuits are an even bigger treat when you add diced apples and grated cheddar

Breakfast Enchiladas

Eggs are even more fun and filling when served up as breakfast enchiladas

I am grateful for Farm Boy‘s continued support of Paula Roy’s Favourite Foods. Stay tuned for more delicious inspiration as additional episodes roll out over the next few months.

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Baked cinnamon-cardamom mini donut bites

A fast and flavourful small-batch treat!

I first started making baked donuts a few years ago (check out this fantastic maple-glazed version) and found they were just as delicious as their less-healthy deep fried cousins. These little ones – made in mini muffin pans – are particularly light and tasty; putting the spices both in them and on top of them really adds a lot of flavour. I have found it’s better to bake them in greased pans rather than paper-lined ones as they come out just a little crispier, which is the way I like them. These are best enjoyed the day they are baked, however they are still extremely tasty the next day. If you’re not a fan of cardamom, you can use just cinnamon, or a combination of cinnamon and ginger.

Ingredients

Donuts

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) white vinegar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon (.65 ml) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) each ground cinnamon and ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) white sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons (90 mL) butter, melted

Topping

  • 3 tablespoons (90 mL) butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons (90 mL) white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) each ground cinnamon and ground cardamom

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 18 mini muffin cups with cooking spray, canola oil or butter.
  • In a glass measure or small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar and let sit (this turns the milk into buttermilk).
  • In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, salt and sugar. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk mixture and vanilla. Pour in the melted butter and whisk until well blended.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ones and use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to fold the mixture until no dry spots remain, taking care not to overmix it.
  • Use a small cookie dough scoop or two teaspoons to transfer the batter to the prepared mini muffin pans. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 9 – 11 until a tester comes out with just a few crumbs. Cool in pan for 3 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool ten minutes more.
  • While donuts are baking, prepare the topping. Melt the butter in a small bowl (a custard cup or ramekin is great). In another small bowl, blend together the sugar, cinnamon and cardamom.
  • When donuts are cool, pick each one up by the flat bottom and dip the round top in the butter, then in the sugar and spice mixture. Place on a plate and try not to start eating until you’ve dipped them all.

Makes 18 scrumptious mini donut bites.

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Carleton Place a hotbed for good food and drink

Small town offers big flavours!

Being away from home on a road trip is about the only time I’m happy to take a break from cooking for a couple of days. I love preparing healthy, delicious food so much that it is a big part of my daily routine and I genuinely miss cooking if I’m away for any length of time. As a result, most of our longer vacations are focused around finding accommodations that allow me to ‘live like a local’ just a little – having access to a kitchen, shopping at small markets, selecting what’s fresh and appealing, then creating a meal that will anchor the location in my memories for a long time. Having said that, it was a true delight to hang up my apron for a few days on our recent visit to Carleton Place. For a small town, it’s punching way above its weight class in terms of its culinary and beverage offerings, in addition to offering loads of great activities to enjoy during a visit.

Gastronomic delights at the Grand Hotel

Chef Jordan Forester has been at the historic Grand Hotel since it reopened in the fall of 2017 and his impressive skill in the kitchen is a big part of the reason the hotel has quickly become extremely popular for weddings, meetings and other events. We had the chance to meet this talented chef and sample a tasting menu he prepared for us in the hotel’s cozy Smith & Barrel pub. Attractively decorated in the style of an old English pub, the Smith & Barrel space was once called the Sample Room as travelling salesmen who arrived at the nearby train station would stay at the hotel and use the space to display their samples for customers to peruse.

Chef Jordan Forester put together a wonderful four course tasting menu for our lunch.

Our delicious four-course lunch started with a velvety smooth, rich tasting cream of cauliflower soup enhanced with the inclusion of local Back Forty Madawaska cheese (similar to gruyere) and a scallion oil drizzle. Next up was an organic green salad with salt-roasted beets, candied pecans, crumbled Back Forty blue cheese, house-smoked bacon and a smoked shallot and maple syrup dressing. Our entrée featured supremely tender, flavourful locally-raised bison flank steak with a reduction made from forest berries, veal stock, local honey and sherry plus a potato galette and roasted vegetables. The sweet finishes included crème brulée made with Lanark county maple syrup and chocolate espresso terrine made with Hummingbird chocolate from Almonte, both served with cardamom-scented lace cookies. Jordan set the bar high for our subsequent food experiences in Carleton Place and I look forward to enjoying more of his delicious fare once the Smith & Barrel’s spacious outdoor patio opens for the season.

Stalwart Brewing forging a loyal customer base

For a town of just over 11,000, it’s pretty impressive that Carleton place has two microbreweries. The first to open, Stalwart Brewing has a great backstory, having started out as Stockpot Ales in the kitchen of Ottawa’s Wellington Gastropub. Co-founder Adam Newlands and a couple of his co-workers began small-batch brewing as a sideline. Their brews became so popular that he, Nathan Corey and Ed McKinley decided to transform their little passion project into a full-time operation. Stalwart Brewing opened in December 2015; their brewpub regularly draws visitors from all over the region. What makes Stalwart special is the kind of beer they choose to create. They are craft brews in the truest sense of the word, with unique profiles and bold flavours unlike anything else I’ve tasted that’s currently being produced in Eastern Ontario.

Their daring approach has clearly been worthwhile, as Stalwart is now stocked at select LCBO and Beer Store locations, plus it is available on tap at over 50 bars and restaurants in Carleton Place the Ottawa Valley, Eastern Ontario and throughout the nation’s capital. We sampled a number of different beers; my favourite was the Snake Oil IPA (aka Dr. Feelgood IPA – the naming controversy sparked by the LCBO garnered a lot of good, free publicity for the brewery). It’s a robust IPA with a citrusy-coriander zing that makes it complex and interesting, with a great smooth finish. Spending time in Stalwart’s comfortable taproom, I could easily see why it’s become a favourite hangout for locals while also drawing dedicated fans who regularly drive or cycle from Ottawa to sip and shop here. Next time, I plan to stay long enough to play a game or two of pool.

Black Tartan Kitchen

Chef Ian Carswell left the Ottawa restaurant scene two years ago to open Black Tartan Kitchen and it’s easy to see the move has been a good one, particularly for the townspeople who have eagerly embraced his inventive, delicious cuisine. His small restaurant – offering about two dozen seats – is frequently filled to capacity. The minimalist décor is pleasingly enhanced with a series of colourized vintage photographs of Carleton Place as it appeared over 100 years ago.

Chef Ian Carswell’s Black Tartan Kitchen garners consistently high praise for its excellent food.

Black Tartan’s typical menu is packed with dishes that would be right at home in a French bistro, including escargots, steak frites, onion soup and more, but we were fortunate to luck into a special event – the restaurant’s first ever Supper Club. Ian invited Brian Hamilton, winemaker at nearby KIN Vineyards in Carp and sommelier Rene Wallis to supply thoughtful wine pairings and interesting commentary throughout the four-course, prix-fixe meal.

The inaugural edition of the Black Tartan Supper Club was a delicious four-course meal with wine pairings from KIN Vineyards.

Our dinner began with seafood charcuterie, paired with a 2017 Carp Ridge Chardonnay. The plate featured scallops, which were cured, smoked and cooked sous vide plus salmon confit, shrimp chorizo, a slaw made of green apple, kohlrabi and fennel, topped with lemon air. Every mouthful was sublime.

Next up was gorgeous and delectable plate of Trillium Meadows venison carpaccio, accompanied by a sunchoke puree, toasted buckwheat, fried parsnips, heritage greens and a mixed berry puree. The wine was KIN’s 2017 Pinot Noir and it was a perfect pairing.

Four our third course, Ian served up rabbit confit, brined and cooked in duck fat, accompanied by scalloped potato gratin, perfectly-cooked mixed vegetables (of the sort a rabbit would eat, he explained) and a cranberry and juniper sauce. This course was supremely satisfying in flavour, texture and presentation. The 2017 Civil Grit Gamay with which it was paired was an ideal match.

By the time our fourth course arrived I wasn’t sure I could eat another bite, yet the sight of what Ian called ‘chocolate and bubbles’ was just too tempting. It featured a citrus-scented madeleine cake topped with blueberry mousse in a chocolate shell, accompanied by blood orange sorbet and foam. The 2017 KINdling Sparkling Vidal, which is not too sweet, offered the perfect, refreshing contrast to the rich dessert.

Ian took obvious delight in speaking with everyone in the restaurant at the conclusion of the dinner; many were regulars whom he greeted by name. He told us that going forward, the Supper Club will be held on a monthly basis, with lamb and cheese from Smiths Falls’ Milkhouse Dairy as featured ingredients at the next event on March 26. It’s a great opportunity – in addition to Black Tartan’s tasting menus, available on Fridays and Saturdays only – to experience the tasty creativity of this talented chef whose restaurant consistently garners rave reviews, and for plenty of good reasons.  

The Good Food Company Café

We were determined to sample as many different menus as possible during our time in Carleton Place, so the next morning saw us walking down Bridge Street in search of breakfast. We found the Good Food Company Café just steps from the Grand Hotel, where we received both a warm welcome and hearty, delicious meals.

The Good Food Co.  Cafe is a perfect breakfast, brunch or lunch spot in Carleton Place.
The Good Food Co. Cafe is a perfect breakfast, brunch or lunch spot in Carleton Place.

It’s a charming little spot and clearly a local favourite, given how busy it was that weekday morning. Service was efficient and friendly; perfectly-brewed tea arrived in moments and our food orders were not far behind. While we waited ever so briefly, we enjoyed looking at the food-related wares for sale in the cafe’s boutique. We also admired the original tin ceiling in the lofty space, once home to a pharmacy.

The Belgian waffles at the Good Food Co. Cafe were scrumptious!

My husband thoroughly enjoyed their take on a classic diner eggs and sausage breakfast, while I devoured my Belgian waffles with whipped cream, warm fruit sauce and Lanark County maple syrup. It was the perfect fuel for the busy day ahead.

Braumeister Brewing Co.

Opened just six months ago, Braumeister Brewing Co. is a Bavarian-inspired craft brewery that brings an authentic taste of Europe to Carleton Place. The founder, Rohit Gupta, lived in Salzburg, Austria and became enamoured with the styles of beer he discovered there. A keen homebrewer, upon his return to Ottawa, he decided to start producing the beers he loved and found Sheldon Scrivner, a German-trained brewmaster, to help him launch Braumeister.

Rohit Gupta, founder of Braumeister Brewing Co.

While we were happily tasting the four beers currently on offer, all of which were exceptionally good, Rohit explained to us that he felt Carleton Place was the perfect location to introduce people to the welcoming beer culture he had fallen in love with while abroad.

The tap room at Braumeister serves up delicious Bavarian-styled beer and pretzels too.

Our favourite beer at Braumeister was the Route 21 Märzen, named for the bus route Rohit travelled in Salzburg. It is a coppery-coloured brew that is reminiscent of a Vienna lager but with more depth and flavour. Although I’m not typically a fan of darker beers, I also really enjoyed the Krampusnacht, a schwarzbier (black beer); it is smooth with a pleasing, gentle touch of bitterness. Rohit delighted in telling us that the dark beer is named in honour of the demonic Krampus who appears on December 5 to chase those who have misbehaved (prior to the arrival of Saint Nicholas on December 6 to reward those who have been good), and proceeded to pull up an image of Krampus on his phone to illustrate his tale. Excellent beer, great stories and some delicious locally-made pretzels made it quite easy to pass an hour in his company. We were glad to have a tour of the brewery then purchase some cans to take home and are eager to visit again, to taste some of the new seasonal beers Rohit and Sheldon have planned, including a spring Irish red and a Czech pilsner.

The Olde Towne Bakery

Sometimes the best food spots are those that rely solely on word-of-mouth advertising. Such is the case with the Olde Town Bakery, which I learned of thanks to a Regional Contact segment on CTV Ottawa. Renowned for its pies, cookies, soups and heavenly loaves of bread, I’d also heard they make wonderful, enormous sandwiches and I can confirm that this is true! In summertime, a stop at the bakery would be perfect before a picnic at nearby Riverside Park; we enjoyed our freshly made sandwiches in our comfortable suite at the Grand Hotel instead. We were especially glad to beat the lunch rush which brought dozens of customers from the high school just down the street as we were leaving. You know a spot is really good when it’s a favourite with teenagers and grownups alike.

Boulton House

One of Carleton Place’s newest establishments is Boulton House, a casual fine dining restaurant which opened in December 2018. Named for 19th century entrepreneur Hugh Boulton, it occupies the same heritage building as Boulton’s grist mill, built in the 1820s on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Boulton House occupies an 1820s limestone building that was once a grist mill.

Co-owned by Janice Mathers and Rod Scribner, Boulton House boasts an elegant interior, with a bar area on one level and a separate cozy dining room. Large windows offer beautiful views of the rushing river and rapids. Rod explained that they have applied to expand the waterside patio developed by previous restaurateurs. Their plans include couches, fire pits and more; it will surely be one of the most coveted spots for summertime relaxation in Carleton Place.

Acclaimed executive chef Nick Dompierre (who competed on Chopped Canada when he was just 22 years old) oversees the kitchen and for our visit, General Manager Chris Vachon delivered knowledgeable, polished service. The eclectic menu offers a range of choices, with an emphasis on Italian fare, but not exclusively so.

Boulton House serves up delicious food made even more enjoyable thanks to the lovely setting.

We opted to start by sharing a salad of baby greens with Kalamata olives, crispy potatoes, sweet pickled celery, blistered tomatoes and sautéed artichokes. Beautifully plated, it came lightly dressed with a tasty house-made vinaigrette that had a nice sweet-sour balance and we felt all the components of the salad worked really well together. For our mains, I selected one of the evening’s specials, which included perfectly-cooked Wyse Bay Seared scallops with apple-braised pork belly and sweet pea-pancetta risotto, accompanied by a lemon tarragon beurre blanc and roasted winter vegetables. Each bite offered a fantastic blend of flavours and textures. My husband thoroughly enjoyed his grain-fed veal chop on house made barley-mushroom risotto with a red wine reduction and roasted winter vegetables. We both found our portions to be extremely generous, particularly in light of the reasonable prices. Having spied desserts being delivered to another table, we decided to indulge, enjoying the house-made tiramisu with caramel drizzle and the strawberry panna cotta with a shortbread cookie. We walked back towards the hotel in a gentle snowfall feeling very well-fed and relaxed thanks to the team effort that is clearly working well at Boulton House.

The Thirsty Moose

We couldn’t resist popping into the local watering hole, The Thirsty Moose Pub and Eatery, for a nightcap after dinner. It was a lively spot with a relaxed, fun atmosphere. Judging by the impressive quantity of food we observed being ordered and delivered, it’s clearly a popular spot for more than just drinks.


Under Pressure Coffee House

We were delighted to discover this lovely coffee shop, named in equal parts for the David Bowie/Queen song and the pressurized aspects of making coffee and steamed milk. I enjoyed an interesting discussion with the friendly owner, Cara Lewis, about all the nuances of the name, such as the function of coffee as a pressure reliever and the role of a friendly encounter as a de-stressor for someone under pressure.

Under Pressure Coffee House is a gem, just like its friendly owner, Cara Lewis.

Cara noted that shops like hers are called coffee houses for good reason, which is that you are supposed to feel at home there, and we certainly did at her establishment. Opened two and half years ago, Under Pressure is a very popular spot among locals, due in large part to the delicious food and drink, but also to the warm service. The shop has a clean, bright, modern decor with the walls serving as a gallery of local art for sale.

We really enjoyed the breakfast sandwiches and London Fogs at Under Pressure.

We took Cara’s recommendation and enjoyed her breakfast sandwiches, along with probably the best London Fogs we have ever tasted. I was wishing I had room to try other things, including her enormous cheese scones, muffins, cookies and smoothies. And, as you might expect from someone who names her business after a song title, the playlist at Under Pressure was terrific as well.

As we discovered, there is a lot of deliciousness happening in Carleton Place. The town is likely to become increasingly more diverse and interesting, given that 1500 new homes are scheduled to be built there over the next 10 years. It’s well worth the very short drive past the big box stores on the highway to get to the heart of Carleton Place and discover all there is to enjoy in this welcoming community, including an impressive range of eateries and unique boutiques. I look forward to going back and participating in a tasty walking tour with The Good Food Tour, operating out of Carleton Place and Almonte. In 2019, Carleton Place is celebrating 200 years of settlement and there are loads of special events planned including the first ever Sam Bat adult mixed slow pitch tourney tournament, an old homestead week and much more. I also plan to make time for kayaking on the Mississippi River, shopping at the Carleton Place Farmers’ Market and exploring the many walking and cycling trails in and around town. It’s going to be fun to get to know this town even better.

Note: We were invited to visit Carleton Place as guests of Lanark County Tourism and the Carleton Place & District Chamber of Commerce. Opinions, as always, are my own.

 

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Baked bacon and egg bites

Who needs bread for breakfast when you’ve got these?

Let the record show that I do love bread. I bake a few loaves each week for my family and it’s one of the most pleasurable activities I undertake in my kitchen. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand people who choose not to eat bread, for whatever reason. The popularity of gluten-free meals is precisely why I came up with this little breakfast beauty. These breadless baked eggs are so easy to make and ever so cute to serve. I find two per person is an appropriate portion, though I think my husband would have happily wolfed down four or five.

Bake up these tasty bites made of crispy bacon and a perfectly cooked egg in the middle.

Ingredients

  • 6 strips bacon
  • 2 sweet red or green peppers
  • 6 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped chives or green onions, to garnish

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Form bacon slices into circles, overlapping slightly, and place each one into a compartment of a muffin pan.
  • Cut peppers into circles the same size as the bottom of each muffin pan compartment. Place one piece of pepper in the bottom, fitting it inside the circular bacon strip.
  • Bake for 12 – 14 minutes, until bacon looks to be about 75% cooked. Check pan several times and use two forks to press bacon back to the edges of the muffin pan compartments, if needed.
  • NOTE that you can prepare bacon cups to this point then refrigerate overnight in the muffin pan. Before adding eggs, re-warm pan with bacon in preheated oven for 2 – 3 minutes.
  • Crack eggs, one at a time, into a small bowl then tip each egg into one compartment of the muffin pan, making sure the yolk is inside the bacon circle. Some of the white may sneak out; this is okay.
  • Return pan to oven and bake 10 minutes more for slightly runny yolks; 12 minutes for firm yolks.
  • Remove from oven and run a knife (an offset spatula is great if you have one) around each compartment to loosen the bacon and eggs. Carefully lift out of pan, being sure to include peppers.
  • Garnish with chopped chives or green onions and a bit of salt and pepper and serve hot

Makes 6 bacon and egg bites.

Bake up these tasty bites made of crispy bacon and a perfectly cooked egg in the middle.
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Carleton Place an ideal getaway destination

So much fun to be had so close to home!

The surest way to test the charms of a small town is to visit it during winter. If it seems appealing – or even impressive – at that time of year, then you know it will be even more alluring when the snow is gone. This measure applies perfectly to Carleton Place, one of the jewels of Lanark County. Located just over 30 minutes from downtown Ottawa, Carleton Place is celebrating 200 years of settlement 2019, so it seemed the perfect time to take a closer look.

Carleton Place Town Hall
Carleton Place Town Hall

I had a hunch that Carleton Place would be the perfect spot for a little close-to-home romantic getaway for my husband and me, in honour of a milestone birthday he was about to celebrate. We like to visit places that offer a range of indoor and outdoor activities, good food, are walkable and have loads of friendly people to talk to. We found all this and more in Carleton Place, which made us wonder frequently during our time there why we’d not stayed for more than just a quick visit all the times we’d been previously.

Steeped in history

It takes mere moments to begin to appreciate Carleton Place’s storied history. Moore House, home to the Visitor Information Centre, Roy Brown Museum and Chamber of Commerce is a great first stop, offering up a friendly welcome, maps and advice about what to see and do. The log home is one of the oldest original buildings in town, built around 1850 by the son of one of the area’s first settlers. The First World War era artifacts on display have been curated by the Roy Brown Society, a volunteer organization dedicated to researching, preserving, and telling the story of Captain A. Roy Brown, a military pilot from Carleton Place who is credited with having shot down the Red Baron. Moore House was donated to the town in 2006 and moved to its current location on Bridge Street in 2007. If you’re interested in ghosts, be sure to ask about Ida.

Moore House in Carleton Place is home to the Visitors' Information Centre and Roy Brown Museum.
The almost 170 year old Moore House is home to the Visitors’ Information Centre and Roy Brown Museum; it also has a nice selection of local gift items.

A short walk from Moore House leads to the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, housed in a beautiful limestone building constructed in 1872 which saw previous duties over time as the town hall, local jail and an elementary school. Home to over 10,000 artifacts, the museum provides a great snapshot of settlement in the area and aspects of local life and industry through the decades.

The local museum offers an interesting, informative glimpse into the region’s past.

The museum’s friendly and knowledgeable manager, Jennifer Irwin, is a great source of interesting information virtually every aspect of local history including early settlers, the logging industry and much more. She explained that the museum is a vibrant place, hosting many events and activities including workshops and fundraisers including the annual “Junk and Disorderly” sale (china, quilts, books and more) sale in March and antique clothing sale in April. I’m looking forward to returning for one of the museum’s guided walking tours in the summer, as well as an opportunity to visit the Victoria School Gardens and labyrinth located behind the museum building.

Another fascinating aspect of Carleton Place’s rich past and present can be found at the Canadian Co-Operative Wool Growers (CCWG) facility, beside Junction Park (soon to be home to the town’s communal, outdoor Friendship Oven, a 200th anniversary project). Established in 1918 by the sheep farming industry to collect and market members’ wool, the facility continues to receive three million pounds of raw, Canadian-grown wool from across the country each year, with the majority coming from Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.  The fleece gets weighed then graded by hand before being sold to wherever the best prices are available (typically international buyers).

A tour of the Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers’ facility in Carleton Place highlights its importance to Canadian sheep farmers.

General Manager Eric Bjergso told us that while the volume of wool produced in Canada is not as great as some other countries, Canadian wool is particularly prized for the springiness of its fibres. As a life-long knitter, I was entranced watching grader Pat as he efficiently assessed the fleece passing under his hands on a conveyor belt; he noted that he typically grades about 12,000 pounds of wool each day. The wool processing takes place in what was a former Canadian Pacific Railway roundhouse and machine shop, built in 1890.

The shops adjacent to the CCWG processing facility offer a veritable treasure trove of items.

There’s more than just the fleece operation there – there’s a ton of railway memorabilia as well as the extremely well-stocked Real Wool Shop with its impressive selection of fashionable women’s and men’s clothing, accessories, blankets, yarn, outdoor gear, western wear and more. On top of all this, you’ll also find the eclectic CCWG Livestock Supplies and Equestrian Centre. I’m eager to check out the Lambs Down Festival in June; it’s an annual family-friendly celebration of the wool industry featuring sheep shearing plus demonstrations on the spinning, weaving and knitting of wool and lots of other activities.

Beautiful vistas

Although the weather was quite frosty during our stay, it was still fun to walk through town and along the picturesque Mississippi River; it was easy to imagine the waterway bustling with boat traffic and people fishing during the warmer weather. Outside of town, we visited the historic Mill of Kintail Conservation Area which boasts many kilometres of beautiful nature trails, through woods and along the banks of the Indian River.

Our visit to the Mill of Kintail Conservation Area was fascinating thanks to the knowledge and storytelling skills of local expert Chad Clifford.
Our visit to the Mill of Kintail Conservation Area was fascinating thanks to the knowledge and storytelling skills of local expert Chad Clifford.

Our time in the woods was made quite unforgettable thanks to our fascinating guide, Chad Clifford, who gave us a taste of what one might experience during his outdoor adventure workshops. A well-trained expert in nature lore and bushcraft, he led us on a meandering journey to identify animal tracks, learn firestarting and other useful survival techniques, understand wild edibles, discover how to make a spile for tapping maple trees out of a sumac branch and so much more. I’m now very eager to participate in one of his many workshops offered throughout the region during the year.

Room to relax

Now called the Grand Hotel, the building that was originally called the Mississippi Hotel was erected by Napoleon Lavalee in 1872, using locally-quarried Beckwith limestone. In its heyday, it was called one of the finest hotels between Ottawa and Toronto.

Stompin’ Tom Connors performed and stayed at the hotel in 1967, where he also wrote his hit song about French Canadian folk hero Big Joe Mufferaw. The hotel passed through a series of owners but fell into disrepair over time and was at risk of being demolished in 1990. Contacted by local residents trying to save the building, Stompin’ Tom wrote a note describing the Mississippi Hotel as “the Grand Ole Lady,” adding his voice to the chorus of those demanding she be saved, which she was.

The mural of Stompin' Tom Connors beside the Grand Hotel is one of many delightful pieces of public art to be found in Carleton Place.
The mural of Stompin’ Tom Connors beside the Grand Hotel is one of many delightful pieces of public art to be found in Carleton Place.

Stompin’ Tom’s connection to Carleton Place and the hotel is depicted in a mural on a nearby building; it’s one of many well-executed, interesting murals in the town – finding them all would make for a great self-guided walking tour. (If you’re into murals, Pembroke is another great place to visit – you can read more about my mural-hunting experience in this Ottawa Valley town here.) In addition to searching for outdoor murals in Carleton Place, be sure to take time to look up as you enter many of the old buildings throughout town; there are some gorgeous old tin ceilings to be found in many of them.

The ballroom and olde English style pub at the Grand Hotel are both beautiful, welcoming spaces.
The ballroom and olde English style pub at the Grand Hotel are both beautiful, welcoming spaces.

The hotel’s current ownership group includes Rod Scribner, Steve Moodie and Janice Mathers who executed significant renovations and refurbishments before reopening her as The Grand (a tribute to Stompin’ Tom’s description) in September 2017. The hotel forms a key part of the team’s shared mission to make Carleton Place an appealing destination, with the Evermore event space and Boulton House restaurant among their individual and group holdings. With an onsite pub, formal dining room and elegant ballroom/event space, plus sixteen guest rooms, The Grand is once again a true hub for Carleton Place. The décor harkens back to an earlier era, with gracious comfort at the heart of the operation.

The spacious, elegant Imperial Suite at the Grand Hotel is a luxurious setting for a memorable getaway.

We were fortunate to stay in the 1200 square foot Imperial Suite, which includes a living room with gas fireplace, separate sitting room, spacious bedroom with its own fireplace and enormous bathroom with rainfall shower and two-person tub. The suite was a decadent treat we’d be delighted to enjoy again.

While we were reluctant to leave the Grand Hotel after such a comfortable and relaxing stay, a trip to the nearby Mahogany Salon and Spa for some pampering made our departure a little easier. The sister location to Mahogany’s Stittsville facility, the Carleton Place location opened in 2012 in a beautiful large building that resembles a mansion, with its sweeping staircase, wide hallways and myriad smaller rooms. On hand are capable, attentive staff who were a big part of the reason we felt an aura of calmness the moment we walked into the spa. While Mahogany offers a full menu of services and treatments, we opted for facials in a double room with two treatment beds; it was really fun for me to listen in as my husband enjoyed his first-ever spa experience. Our elite facialists Jordyn and Aida provided exemplary service as they assessed our needs then delivered the appropriate treatment (Hydrolifting for me; Alpha Vital for him) to leave us happy and super relaxed, with glowing skin and tips for improved routines at home.

Beautiful, tasty cheese and charcuterie boards prepared by Carleton Place's Black Tartan Kitchen are a delightful apres-treat at Mahogany Salon and Spa.
Beautiful, tasty cheese and charcuterie boards prepared by Carleton Place’s Black Tartan Kitchen are a delightful apres-treat at Mahogany Salon and Spa.

The option to linger a little longer and enjoy charcuterie and cheese boards (prepared by Black Tartan Kitchen) along with a glass of local craft beer or wine made our time at Mahogany Spa even more relaxing and convinced us we had yet another good reason to return to Carleton Place.

Stay tuned for a second post coming soon, in which I’ll share delicious details about about some of the amazing food and drink to be found in Carleton Place.

Note: We were invited to visit Carleton Place as guests of Lanark County Tourism and the Carleton Place & District Chamber of Commerce. Opinions, as always, are my own.

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Crispy sweet potato nests with eggs

An easy yet impressive meal for any time of day!

I wish I was the kind of person who enjoyed going out for brunch. I love the idea of having someone else prepare something tasty and interesting for my first meal of the day, but alas, I am an extremely early riser and tend to eat my eggs (or these awesome oatmeal squares) before the sun is up. This dish is my homage to the many places that serve clever mid-morning to mid-afternoon meals and gain legendary followings (I wrote about a few such places in my hometown for Ottawa At Home magazine where I serve as food editor). The combination of crispy-on-the-bottom sweet potatoes and eggs is sublime; if you’re not a cilantro fan you could substitute parsley, basil, spinach or kale instead.

a crispy sweet potato 'nest' topped with a perfectly-cooked egg

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter
  • Handful fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 eggs

Method

  • Peel, wash and spiralize the sweet potato. If you don’t have a spiralizer you can grate the potato instead.
  • Heat oil in two small, heavy-duty skillets (or one large) placed over medium heat. Add butter and when it has melted, add the spiralized sweet potato. Cook, tossing often with tongs or a fork, until potato is softened and has lost its raw taste, about 5 – 7 minutes.
  • Shape the partially-cooked sweet potato into two nest shapes, building up the sides a little and making an indentation in the centre. Be sure there is still a good layer of potatoes in the centre so the egg won’t make full contact with the pan when you add it.
  • Cook nests for a few minutes longer, until potatoes are starting to get crisp on the bottom.
  • Place cilantro in the middle of each nest, then crack eggs into the centre of the nests.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and cover each pan with a lid. Let eggs cook for 4 – 6 minutes until they have firmed up (best way to check for doneness is with an instant-read thermometer; I like my eggs at 145F (white will be set and yolk will be firm but not hard-cooked).
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 2 (or one really hungry person).

crispy sweet potato nests with eggs

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Quick pickled kumquats

Spice up your salads, sandwiches and charcuterie boards!

I’ve frequently joked that I’d happily pickle anything in my kitchen that’s not nailed down. Search “pickles” on my website and you’ll see I’m not really kidding. Quick pickles are just so easy; some of my favourites include  apples, blueberries, turnips and tomatillos. I love the tanginess of pickled fruits and vegetables which can transform a mild-tasting meal into something that’s just popping with flavour. Since it’s been a long and very cold winter where I live, I’ve also been all about citrus lately and I am particularly entranced by kumquats. I have to confess that I didn’t even know what kumquats looked like, let alone how they tasted, until a few years ago when someone offered me one to try. The English word ‘kumquat’ is a derivation of the Cantonese gām-gwāt which means golden orange. The ones we can most often find in Canada at specialty produce stores are oval in shape and are eaten whole (which is a good thing, because they’d be super tricky to peel). Their sweet-tasting skin and sour flesh make them ideal for pickling.

Quick pickled kumquats are a perfect sweet and sour way to enjoy these tiny citrus fruits. Great on salads or charcuterie boards.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) kumquats
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) white vinegar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) kosher salt
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL ) ground cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 star anise
  • 1 slice fresh gingerroot
  • 1 Thai chili, halved lengthwise (remove some seeds if you don’t want too much heat)

Method

  • Wash and quarter the kumquats and place in a clean 2 cup (500 mL) canning jar.
  • Combine all other ingredients in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. As soon as salt has dissolved, remove from heat.
  • Carefully pour hot brine (including seasonings) over kumquats in the jar.
  • Place lid on jar and let cool to room temperature.
  • Transfer to the refrigerator. Pickles will be ready to eat in 24 hours and will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Makes one 2 cup (500 mL) jar.

Quick pickled kumquats are easy to make and offer a tangy punch of flavour to salads, charcuterie boards and more.
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