Browsing Tag


LIVING with kids

Where to eat well in Gatineau and Ottawa with kids

Last fall, we had a great time with our 4 years old boy visiting the Gatineau/Ottawa region for a weekend. Our only plans for the weekend were meeting some friends on Sunday and visiting the Children’s museum. Whenever I’m in vacation, I rely on Yelp to find restaurants. Once again, I was reminded of how practical Yelp is.

The filtering options make it easy to cut down on the number of reviewed restaurants. As a rule of thumb, I focus on restaurants with 40 reviews or more. I also take the time to read the most recent reviews to get a feel of the place, to see if it fits our criteria, what we’re craving for at that moment. Then, I check the food pictures and visit their web site. Frankly, I rarely made bad choices with this technique. Continue Reading


On The Road iPhone/iPad App from Food Network

food network on the road app

food network on the road app

US Fans of in Food Network will be glad to know about this new free iPhone and iPad app. There are roughly 3,000 U.S. restaurants, food trucks and hot spots that you can search by chef, TV show, city, type of food from Food Network On The Road app.

food network on the road app search by chef

The app can help you decide where to eat next in your home town or to plan a road trip. As you would expect from that type of app, there is a badge system, a la Foursquare.

At first glimpse, Food Network have decided to tap into their huge content database to bring added value to its audience. You can download the app at the Apple store.

Have you tried Food Network On The Road, yet? Will you download the app? Does it appeal to you?


I Embrace Stylish Living and Friendly Luxury. Do You?

the loft project in london

the loft project in london

At Home with Kim Vallee reached its fifth anniversary when I went to the Toronto Interior Design Show. When I pressed the Publish button on January 27th, 2007, I didn’t know that I started a new chapter of my life. So much has happened in my personal life and my professional life. The fifth anniversary also coincides with the end of maternity leave.

For a while, I felt the need to update what At Home with Kim Vallee stands for. I blogged less over the last months because I needed time to absorb and enjoy motherhood. I also took the time to explore how I want to spend my time and to update my business plan. Attending Conversations in Design, the launch of Kimberly Seldom’s Business of design online courses, BlogPodium and the Canadian Design Bloggers meetup enabled me to be immersed in the design world again.

Authenticity, be true to yourself, great storytelling, innovation, and creativity have been a recurring themes at these events. When I came back from Toronto, I formulated my unique selling proposition. I put in words what distinguishes my blog from other design/lifestyle blogs.

Embracing stylish living and friendly luxury summarizes what readers can expect from At Home with Kim Vallee.  “Stylish living” has been my trademark for years and it will continue to the heart of what I do. I added “Embracing” to bring the sense that we are in it together.  I tell you in a minute why “friendly luxury” is so important to me. I owed that piece of the puzzle to Claus Sendlinger of Design Hotels that spoke at Conversations in Design.

Claus Sendlinger introduced me to the Luxury Matrix. Although I always talked of a certain type of luxury, I never include the actual word when I presented At Home with Kim Vallee. I was afraid that people would misinterpret it as flashy opulence. Hearing Sendlinger explained the 5 stages of luxury gave me a new perspective of the word.

What are the 5 stages of luxury?

Stage One: Acquisition and value (that is the flashy opulence)

  • At this stage luxury is used to demonstrate wealth, define social position and to visibly separate the buyer from the mass market. They show off what they are spending and wearing.

Stage Two: Discernment and worth

  • At Stage Two, the customer uses his or her wealth to buy brands, products and services that allow them to articulate higher levels of taste, discernment and discrimination. Tradition, values, heritage, craftsmanship, and true quality are key factors.

Stage Three: Emotion and experience

  • At this stage customers are less concerned with brand and value, and more with the uniqueness of the experience on offer and the emotional impact that this can deliver. Stage 3 luxurians desire a hushed and pared-down sense of luxury, and want to feel that this is shared by like-minded people.

Stage Four: Responsible and aware

  • Customers are concerned with a brand’s values as well as its financial or experiential value. Sustainability is a concern, while a dominant consideration is how resources need to be nurtured and controlled.
  • Luxurians at this stage seek brands that they can trust, with which they can have a dialogue, and develop and enjoy a relationship that is meaningful, intimate and increasingly altruistic.

Stage Five: Intellectual and poetic

  • This is a stage of passions, journeys, adventures and deep-rooted and meaningful experiences. It is not about brands, seldom about products, and less about service. It is about challenge, isolation, learning and the need to be changed spiritually and emotionally.

What Does it Means for my Blog?

I connect to the last 3 stages of luxury. Stages 3 to 5 lead to my Friendly luxury philosophy. Time is the ultimate limited resource. What you do with your free time can be seen as a luxury. From urban beehives, to city chicken, terrace vegetable gardening and the local food movement, these activities are all part of the new definitions of luxury. They are examples of unique experiences and values, just as staying at an eco-resort in the middle of the Rainforest.

As you can notice, friendly luxury was already a part of this blog. I simply put it into a statement. I will continue to inspire you with beautiful things and good design for your home and for entertaining at home. But you will read more often about what makes our life feels richer/fuller as individuals, parents and entrepreneurs. In short, I want At Home with Kim Vallee to be about what meaningfully makes us happy and stylish.

I’m still figuring out how to package the series. It will be in line with what I told you last October. I hope that you will follow me and embrace this updated direction.

+ The Future Laboratory report on Luxury Leisure for Design Hotels
+ photo: The Loft Project


Mason-Style Drinking Jars

latte served in drinking jar at griffintown cafe

latte served in drinking jar at griffintown cafe

I wanted to get my own drinking jars ever since I drank a latte served in a drinking jar at Griffintown Cafe. I have been so busy since the start of the year that I did not had the time to shop for them. It just happened that I found them while I passed the kitchen aisles of the Canadian Tire.

mason style drinking jars

I bought a pair to see if they work nicely with our Nespresso machine. As I arrived home, I noticed it is written on the jar that it is not for hot beverages. But they look exactly the same. I guess that means that I am due for a delicious brunch at Griffintown Cafe soon to see if they are exactly the same. This time, I will try one of their eggs Benedict.

eggs benedict at griffintown cafe


Two New City Guides for Montreal

montreal city guides

montreal city guides

I want to inform me that I published two new city guides that should please foodies. I asked the help of two talented women who live in Montreal. They gladly shared with us their best spots.

+ Event Producer and Event Social Media Strategic Marie-Annick Boisvert at Event Marianik compiled a list of her favorite caterers in Montreal that you can use if you host a special event at home, a big bash or a corporate event.

+ Food blogger Mayssam Samaha at Will Travel for Food tells us where to go if you plan to spend a morning in Montreal’s Little Italy.


My First Stay at a Ryokan: Food and Sleep

attendant at a ryokan

attendant at a ryokan in kyoto

Yesterday, we experienced what is the closest thing that a traveler can get for imaging life in the classic Japanese tatami house. We stayed at a ryokan named Gion Fukuzumi. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn dating from the Edo period.

sleeping on a futon spread on the tatami floor at a ryokan

All the rooms have tatami-matted floor and Shoji sliding doors. Like the Japanese houses of the Edo period, furniture is almost inexistent. The fact that the room has only the bare essential furniture makes the room feels bigger. By moving a few items away, the main room is transformed from a dining room to a bedroom. You sleep on futon spread on the tatami floor. It is surprisedly comfortable.

The Food

Service is personalized at a ryokan. Upon arrival, you will be assigned an attendant who will bring you to your room, welcome you with a tea, serve your dinner and breakfast the next morning. Dinner and breakfast are included in the price of the room; this is why the price is always per person.

japanese multi-course dinner eaten inside the guest room at a ryokan

We stayed at the Gion Fukuzumi. They served us a Kyoto-style kaiseki (multi-course Japanese meal) in our guest room. That was awesome! After dinner, it was great to sit on the porch and to simply look at what was happening in the city.

food at the ryokan

We opted for a Japanese breakfast, which was also elaborate. The breakfast was served in the communal dining area.

japanese breakfast at the ryokan in communal dining room

+ Gion Fukuzumi in Kyoto


Foodies at Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon

cabane a sucre au pied de cochon :: maple banana split

cabane a sucre au pied de cochon :: maple banana split

For the second year in a row,  I am one of the lucky ones that got a chance to eat at the Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon (Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack). I went with a group of almost 25 foodies this year. It was something to see that many cameras on a table at the same time.

La Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon is a gastronomic restaurant version of the typical sugar shack. Martin Picard integrated the traditional ingredients that we associate with sugar shack in Quebec in his signature cooking style. And I like the fact that you can drink good espresso, a latte or get a Kusmi tea.

I also made a video of our meal. You will see the ambiance.

The Food

The menu slightly changed from last year. I welcome a few additions. At last, they served maple taffy (tire d’érable).  Your meal starts and ends with Wows. As you can imagine from a restaurant by Martin Picard, you will get plenty of food, pork and foie gras. We went at the first service, which is at 11 a.m. They do four services at day.

The Tourtiere is an extra but you will be very sad if you do not take it. It is the best pork pie I ever eat. Plus, you can buy one to bring home. The pork, lobster and foie gras stuffed cabbage head was a hit. But overall, the weakest link of the meal were the main dishes.

Since the first course was filled with wonderful recipes, it gave my stomach a rest. We needed room for the tasty and rich desserts! The Maple Ice Cream Banana Split made a return to the satisfaction of everyone. You will not want to miss the rich maple cream mille-feuilles  and the pancakes served with hot maple syrup.

What is my verdict?

I want to go back next year. I wish to thank Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz for organizing it. She put us on the waiting list for a reservation last August. La Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon is so popular that they are booked for the entire season. You have to wait next year for your tasting.

+ Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack adult $49 CAD, kids from 3 to 12 yrs old $15
+ You can revisit the video of last year


Lemon and Rosemary Chicken | Pollo Arrosto recipe

Lemon and Rosemary Chicken recipe | pollo arrosto by Evan Kleiman of Angeli Caffe in Los Angeles

Lemon and Rosemary Chicken recipe | pollo arrosto by Evan Kleiman of Angeli Caffe in Los Angeles

I can rarely resist a tasty simple to make lemon chicken recipe.  This is why I share the aromatic roasted chicken recipe by Evan Kleiman of Angeli Caffe in Los Angeles. I spotted his recipe on Saveur.

The recipe is something that you can make after a day at the office, if you do not mind eating later. While it marinates for an hour, you could relax, train with the Wii Fit or pick up fresh vegetables at your local fruit and vegetable store.

The recipe called for a whole chicken cut in 8 pieces. You can easily adjust the recipe to cook the number of pieces you need to feed your family. Or bring the leftovers for lunch at the office the next day. Or use the remaining meat to prepare a homemade chicken soup.

Side Dishes

I would serve the Pollo Arrosto with steamed broccoli, boiled green beans or an arugula salad with a lemon olive oil vinaigrette. I use 2 parts of lemon juice for 5 parts of peppery olive oil and season to taste with freshly ground pepper and fleur de sel. Nothing complicated but it tastes incredible!

+ Pollo Arrosto – Lemon and Rosemary Chicken recipe on Saveur – photos by Andre Baranowski


MarieBelle Chocolates’ Blue Box for Valentine’s Day

mariebelle chocolates signature blue and brown boxes for valentine's day

mariebelle chocolates signature blue and brown boxes for valentine\'s day

If you are not ready or if you already gave her the Tiffany blue box, here is another signature blue box that will please her this Valentine. I like the drawings on the artisanal chocolates. It is common these days to see design like the chocolates made by Christopher Elbow. The MarieBelle chocolates gain points for being more cheerful and adorable.

You can buy it online from MarieBelle Chocolates or find at a retailer near you that carry the collection. I spotted this gift idea on Parcel Post, the blog of Urbanic Paper, a boutique in Venice, California. I wish to leave a message to my dear husband. I saw on the store listing that it may be available at Indigo.

A must-go in SoHo

mariebelle chocolates retail space :: cacao bar and tea salon in soho, new york

I noted on my agenda a visit to the Cacao Bar and Tea Salon that is inside their retail space in SoHo. Their line of hot chocolate seems awesome and many rave about it. Another idea is to sit down for a nice cacao at their Parisian style salon. It is on the pricey side but indulgences are in order on Valentine’s Day.

+ MarieBelle Chocolates


Top 5 Toronto Weekend Meals by Alexa Clark

kultura restaurant in toronto

kultura restaurant in toronto

I am so glad that Alexa Clark accepted to participate in my top 5 Toronto places for a weekend Toronto. Alexa writes for CheapEats Toronto and has a blog called Unsweetened. I ask her to tell us the best places to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Three of her suggestions qualify as cheap eats. To have eaten at Kultura, I can attest that this is a worthy indulgence.

Where to Eat in Toronto this weekend?

Le petit dejeuner in Toronto

Le Petit Dejeuner

Still one of my favorite brunch spots in town and based on the weekend crowds around 11:30, I’m not alone. However if you sneak into Le Petit Dejeuner before 11pm or after 1pm chances are good you’ll be delighted by the funky space and wonderfully prepared meals. The menu is exclusively breakfast and brunch items including grilled sandwiches, but it’s nothing like a greasy spoon. The Toast Champignon is a great savory way to start your weekend, but I often go with the sweeter Eggy Fried Bread – which is a caramalized French Toast served with fresh fruit. The Apple Pancakes are also lovely and I usually add a side of peameal bacon just to round them out. They also make excellent coffee, one of the ways I measure the quality of a brunch spot.
Le Petit Dejeuner 191 King St. E

The Fish Store & Sandwich

The Fish Store and Sandwich in Toronto

This tiny little store front makes the best fish sandwiches in town. By far!  I’ve even had a long conversation with someone from the James Beard Foundation about how it’s one of his go-to places to eat when he comes to town.  It is not, however, fine dining.  In fact, there are only 4 seats and the tiny spot is decorated a bit like a shoreside blue tiki hut.  But it is so very worth it to get such fresh fish, prepared with a very gentle hand and wonderful seasoning on fresh panini from an Italian bakery across the street. There is a different fish sandwich special everyday and that’s usually what I order since these guys aren’t going to steer you wrong.  However many of my friends go for the tuna every time. That’s tuna steak not tuna salad.
The Fish Store & Sandwich,  657 College Street.

Granowska’s Bakery and Cafe

With great perogie, sandwiches and lunch specials you can get a bit of a feel of the traditional Roncesvalles neighborhood when it was almost exclusively Eastern European families. Walking into Granowska’s feels more like walking into bakery than a restaurant, but that is part of the charm. And the steady stream of customers popping in to buy pączki provide a great people-watching opportunity. No matter what you get for lunch, finish up with a pączek – a traditional Polish filled-doughnut (pączki is the plural, pączek singular). The rosehip are my favorite and they have mini-pączki too if you are worried you won’t have room after lunch.
Granowska’s 175 Roncesvalles Avenue


Cava is open and beautiful, with accents of the Spanish taverna to keep us in the mood.  It’s just north of St. Clair, tucked into a little courtyard on, but almost hidden from, Yonge Street. It’s a fantastic spot for a casually romantic meal, or an evening with a good group of friends. The primarily Tapas-style menu allows for sharing and great conversation especially if you are just starting your exploration of Spanish food. Chef Chris McDonald obviously has a lot of fun in the kitchen and it shows both on the menu and the plate, for example, his Chipotle-caramel popcorn is a playful and flavorful way to start your meal. The Charcuteria plate is one of their most popular dishes, and pairing that with a selection of tapas makes for a great group meal. My favorite option is to leave my meal up to the kitchen. While Chef’s-choice is often an exclusive offering for VIPs or special guests, at Cava this is a standard offering to everyone and you can get it with or without wine pairings.  Make sure to check out Xococava next door, it’s Chef Chris’ sweet playground – an adult candy store – where he adds unusual flavors to chocolate truffles and ice creams.
Cava, 1560 Yonge Street


Just east of King and Jarvis, Kultura has made one of the many historic buildings in this neighborhood warm and exotic without losing the old stone charm. There is a lounge-style bar on the ground floor, and upstairs there are 2 floors of dining.  The menu is an exploration of cuisines with some items reinvented and all reinterpreted like the Indian Samosas with truffled paneer and Mushroom Orecchiettie with a pear chutney. I always order something new when I am there, mainly because there is always something new on the menu or the specials which tempts me away from what I planned to order.  Everything is prepared and plated beautifully and the service has always been a delight. The food, space and decor all meld together to create an intimate dining experience, even when you are with a group.
Kultura, 169 King St East

Thanks Alexa for participating. Your recommendations inspire me. I went to Kultura in 2008 and I still remember the great meal I had there. Remember that you can read Alexa on Unsweetened and follow her on Twitter.


5 Things to Do in Toronto this Weekend by Ali de Bold

ali de bold's suggestions for what to do in toronto this weekend

chick advisor ali de bold\'s suggestions for a weekend getaway in Toronto

Since I will be in Toronto this weekend to visit the IDS, I asked two popular Torontonians, which happen to my friends, for advices on what to do this weekend.

I started with Ali de Bold, co-founder of Chick Advisor. Ali answered with a fun tour of the city.

1. Start Saturday morning with Brunch at School
School Bakery & Cafe is a new hot spot in up and coming neighborhood, Liberty Village.  French Toast fans might want to try their Nirvana French Toast with strawberries, pistachos and chocolate drizzle.  After breakfast, walk it off by heading over to West Elm for design inspiration from this chic yet affordable furniture and design store or get a latte to go from Balzacs.

2. Consider a 1 hour road trip to Niagara on the Lake to indulge in the Niagara Ice Wine Festival.  Ontario Ice Wine is a Canadian specialty, and $30 gets you a pass to 6 local wineries that will treat you to complimentary ice wine samples with food pairings.

3. Head over to the historic Distillery District to indulge in a collection of great restaurants, cafes and boutiques in a cobblestone setting.  This weekend, there is a Chip & Pepper pop up shop happening at Lileo.

4. A romantic dinner at Nota Bene or molecular cocktails at Barchef are a great way to spend Saturday evening.  At Barchef, I highly recommend the Sour Sake: igori sake, cardamom cumin syrup, fresh lime, egg white, apricot bitters and coconut rum, served with a Thai basil sugar rim.  The top is a sugary crust like creme brulée and it tastes like roasted marshmallows. If you are feeling more adventurous, try the Vanilla Hickory Smoked Manhattan that is served in a cloud of smoke under a glass dome.

5. Sunday afternoon, check out the King Tut exhibition at the AGO.  Adult tickets are $32.50, or if you got a sparkling engagement ring for Christmas you might want to visit the National Bridal Show for inspiration!

By the way, I had brunch at School last year. It was awesome! I was impressed by the food and the decor. And a drink topped with creme brulée is certainly an experience that I would like to try.

Thanks a lot, Ali. Your photo collage looks great and your plan sounds great.

Chick Advisor is a women community on which the members determine the hottest trends, the best local services, and the coolest products in beauty, fashion, restaurants, shopping and wellness.