DSC08861-3Kōst | 80 Blue Jays Way | ★★★★ | $$$

The warm weather has finally arrived to Toronto, meaning all of the winter hermits (read: me) are crawling out of their hibernation dens, stretching their stiff limbs, and are ready to reconnect with old friends and explore the city’s gems once again.

Kōst is the BISHA Hotel’s 44th floor rooftop restaurant. The food is Baja-Mexican, and the space is absolutely beautiful. The hotel itself is still relatively new, having opened last September. In the warmer months, the doors to the patio open up to the pool and bar, offering unreal views of the city and the CN Tower. I can’t stress how valuable it is to begin your meal here while the sun is still shining so you get the full experience of the restaurant’s design and great location. Kōst is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

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Kōst has “sunset hour” every day from 4-7pm – buck a shuck and half-priced wine. Our reservation was at 6:30pm, so when our server came around and told us to act fast, we acted fast. Who can say no to dollar oysters and cheap wine!?

The interior design of this restaurant is every Cali-lover’s dream. Bright and airy, filled with light warm wood and punches of white, green, and blue. It’s the perfect aesthetic. The restaurant also opens up to a beautiful full-perimeter patio in the summer months, featuring the BISHA Hotel’s Instagram-famous pool and a bar. The Thompson Hotel has some stiff competition here.

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After the oysters, we started with the ahi tuna ceviche (very refreshing) and the littleneck clams (made with a mezcal broth). For our shared mains, we split the dry-aged ribeye (the truffle crema is to. die. for.), the ricotta agnolotti, and a side of broccolini. My only wish was for the agnolotti to come in a bigger portion. I could have eaten four plates of that alone.

For dessert, we shared the tres leche cake and the chocolate molten lava cake. As expected, the lava cake was extremely rich and decadent, but the tres leche cake was a masterpiece. I could have eaten a whole 16″x24″ pan of just that cake.

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Overall, we really enjoyed the food and the service was very friendly. We had so much catching up to do after not seeing each other for so long that our meal spanned 4 hours. It was a perfect night.

I absolutely can’t wait to come back soon in the warmer months – both for the food and the incredible views of the city.

Every month, my friends and I try a different restaurant in Toronto that we’ve never been to before in search of great food and delicious drinks. Have a recommendation for us to try? Let me know in the comments below!

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Last week, I stopped by the Everyday Allergen-Free kitchen (i.e. Amanda’s condo) to help review another cookbook. Like the last time I had been invited over to do this, I was looking forward to trying a few new dishes and collecting a little inspiration for my own cooking. I’m not a big recipe person (except when it comes to baking), so I often eat the same short list of things cooked and assembled in the easiest way possible. I’m lucky I have friends like Amanda to remind myself that cooking can be fun.

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We prepared three dishes together from Meike Peters’ Eat In My Kitchen – read on about our Tuesday night cooking adventure over on Everyday Allergen-Free. As for the little nuggets of inspiration I drew from the evening? I discovered that I really enjoy cooked fennel, and rediscovered that oranges are delicious. Yum.

Shot by //
Amanda at Everyday Allergen-Free

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Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them {film & screenplay}
★★★★☆
Release Date: November 18, 2016

It’s been nearly two decades since I first became a Harry Potter fan – almost twenty years of sleepless nights spent reading and rereading, theories, fanfiction, midnight book releases, midnight movie releases, Ron/Hermione vs. Harry/Hermione, themed parties, memorabilia, message boards, Pottermore, more fanfiction, the view of Hogwarts at Universal Studios, Mugglenet, UK movie premiere livestreams, film sets at Leavesden Studios, and friends with whom bonds were forged because of a mutual love of the fandom.

When Deathly Hallows – Part 2 was released, it felt like a part of my soul had died, like someone had killed one of my horcruxes. It was the end of an era. Although the stories and magic would live on in each of us, we’d reached the end of days. We had to learn to move on.

But then J.K. Rowling pulled a “jk jk (rowling)” on us and gave us Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

There’s a sacred moment at the start of every Harry Potter movie, the moment when “Hedwig’s Theme” plays as the audience floats into the large Warner Brothers logo. Up until that point, I hadn’t been physically or mentally prepared for what was to come. But that opening sequence simultaneously gave me an out-of-body experience and grounded me into the present. We were finally getting another Potterverse film.

Fantastic Beasts is the gift we thought we deserved when we waited in line to pick up a copy of The Cursed Child. It is so clearly a pure J.K. Rowling classic; its story and characters have been brought to life by an author who has the extraordinary talent of building a rich, complex world that we mere mortals would die to live in.

[Minor spoilers below]

The movie introduces the canon of a magical USA and the often-romanced decade of New York City during the Prohibition. J.K. vividly paints us a living mural of this undiscovered part of the wizarding world: wizard life in the city, the government, wizard and muggle relations, the fashion. Goblins run the banks here, too. Gigglewater is a thing.

But, of course, the fantastic beasts are the central stem of the movie. J.K. and the post-production team brought to life so many of the unique creatures we’ve only read and fantasized about. In doing so, the movie was also about the preservation and care of animals and nature. From the hilariously sassy Niffler to the mythical Thunderbird to the Erumpent in heat, these beasts served as a fun, aww-inducing lens into the expansive wizarding world.

Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander brilliantly, making him your new favourite Hufflepuff (RIP Cedric). Shy, unassuming, a little awkward, but always with a heart of gold, you can’t help but fall in love with the magizoologist. Eddie’s talent is obvious in his seemingly effortless ability to live and breathe as Newt in an environment that is 90% CGI.

Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein is the shining star in this film. Although Queenie embodies the flirty female archetype, she is not two-dimensional. As a practiced Legilimens, she proves herself to be incredibly intelligent with a mastery of the skill. She isn’t shallow, and at no point does she become a damsel in distress, though her personality type usually falls victim to the trope. In fact, she is the most level-headed and brave of our group of four. We don’t know which Ilvermorny house Queenie was sorted into, but I’d guess she was a Thunderbird. The soul, the adventurer. Queenie is a testament to J.K.’s ability to create whole, three-dimensional characters, regardless of their gender.

The film has the difficult challenge of balancing a number of plotlines, and for some, it proved to be too complex for what could have been a standalone movie. The Grindelwald tie-in did feel a bit strange in the context of Newt’s story. That the two would collide, despite Grindelwald’s rise in America during the time, felt a bit contrived. But there are some theories in play that might explain things. Was Grindelwald obsessed with the obscurus because Ariana was one? What is Dumbledore’s true relationship with Newt? Will Leta Lestrange play a pivotal role to connect the characters? Only time will tell.

I’m looking forward to peeling back the layers on Newt Scamander, to explore his surprising relationship with a Lestrange, to see more beasts. I want to know how powerful families like the Shaws come into play and the unravelling of wizard/muggle relations. I can’t wait for more Queenie. And I hope the five-film franchise gifts us with the Grindelwald and Dumbledore duel to end all duels.

As a fan, I had always hoped that any new material J.K. gave us would be about the Marauders. But Fantastic Beasts manages to fill the hole I’d had in my soul for the last five years (and it helps to blur the memory of The Cursed Child). Perhaps the greatest element of Fantastic Beasts goes beyond the film and the new characters and creatures we’ve been introduced to. What fills my heart with a surge of overwhelming joy is knowing the fandom that shaped my childhood and young adulthood lives on. That there is still more mystery to be discovered, more friendships to be formed, more magic to be experienced.

Did you see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

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Turtle Bay Resort | 57-091 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahuku, HI | ★★★★ | $$$$

Turtle Bay Resort is the major resort on Oahu’s North Shore. The resort sits on one of the world’s most scenic peninsulas and boasts beautiful guest rooms, suites, villas, and beach cottages, and a host of outdoor activities – all on its 850 acres of land. It’s also where one of my favourite comedies, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, was filmed. I had visited once with my family (no overnight stay) when I was much younger, so I knew I had to take the chance to come back and fully experience the luxury resort.

The Room

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Our room was spectacular. We were on the 5th floor, outfitted with a king bed, a very spacious room, and a balcony looking out onto the resort’s marvellous pools and a breathtaking view of the ocean. I’ve also always loved the design and colour scheme of Turtle Bay, especially with its signature turquoise blue. It just exudes a “you’re in Hawaii, it’s time to relax!” quality. (more…)

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I was recently invited by my best friend, Amanda, to help her review a new cookbook, Love and Lemons by Jeanine Donofrio. I’m not much of a cook (like, at all – I prefer being served food over making it), but the food photography was so stunning, I happily took on the challenge.

I have to admit there was some whining about being forced to chop green onions when I don’t even know how to hold a knife properly, but the end result was yummy all the same.

Check out our review over at Everyday Allergen-Free!