Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A little wine with your cheese?

Guest Post by Natalie McLean

6 Quick Tips: Pairing Canadian Wines and Cheeses:

1. The easiest to pair are mild-flavored fresh and semi-fresh Canadian cheeses, such as mozzarella. They go especially well with light whites, of 12 percent or less alcohol, that have bright notes of fruit and crisp acidity, such as Prince Edward County Riesling.

2. The classic match of French goat cheese, or chèvre, is Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire Valley, as both carry the essence of fresh air and wild meadows. Try Canadian goat cheese with Niagara Sauvignon Blanc. The racy acidity of those wines cuts through to the chalky heart of this cheese, and enhances the grassy notes in the cheese.

3. Double- and triple-cream cheeses are tough to match with wine because their creamy texture can smother wine and make it taste thin. A good match is a robust white wine, such as a barrel-fermented or barrel-aged Okanagan Chardonnay. Both the cheese and the wine have creamy, buttery aromas and texture.

4. Another good match is Nova Scotia Sparkling Wine—a great fall-back for many tough-to-match foods and many Canadian soft cheeses. Bubbly helps to diffuse salt and cut through fat with its palate-cleansing acidity and effervescence.

5. For hard cheeses, such as cheddar, try a Niagara Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. Their flavors even mimic some of those in mature, full-bodied reds, such as notes of earth, nuts, and coffee.

6. The most difficult cheeses to pair with wine are the blues, as their strong taste and powerful saltiness tends to make red wine taste bitter and hot. The best foil for salt is sweet, so avoid dry and off-dry wines and go straight for the sweeter ones like a Quebec Icewine or Hard Cider.

Best Canadian Wine & Cheese Pairings?
Wine drinkers battle over the best Canadian bottles for Canadian cheeses
Ottawa, Ontario, May 12, 2015 – The search for the best Canadian wine and cheese pairings launches today with The Great Canadian Wine & Cheese Match at

Wine lovers from coast to coast are voting via social media for their favourite Canadian wines to match with Canadian cheeses to get ready for July 1 celebrations and summer entertaining.
“The Great Canadian Wine & Cheese Match puts the glass in the hands of the people for the grater good,” says Natalie MacLean, editor of Canada’s largest wine review site at “We’re breaking the mould from Coquitlam to Chance Cove to show Canadians the whey forward.”

Unlike traditional competitions judged by experts, The Great Canadian Wine & Cheese Match allows wine and cheese lovers themselves to choose their favourite pairings via real-time, online voting. The Twitter hashtag is #CdnWineCheese.  
Participants can nominate and vote for their favourite Canadian wines to pair with Canadian cheeses in six categories: cheddar, feta, mozzarella, goat cheese, creamy cheese and blue cheese. Voting ends May 31 with the top wines in each category named the best match with each Canadian cheese.
“This is a coast to coast toast to celebrate our own wines and cheeses,” says MacLean. “I think we can all drink to that.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Inspiration: 7 Kitchens with Bold Backsplashes

A guest post by Jane Blanchard -

Inspiration: 7 Kitchens with Bold Backsplashes

There's definitely one room that is of the utmost importance bringing the family together. It's the kitchen, and it's far more capable of producing more than just goods and aromas that are pleasing to the senses. If you're thinking of sprucing up your outdated kitchen, amazing backsplashes can do the job. Let's take a creative cue from those who brought in some color, sass, and spice to the mix!

Can you say “nautical” in a country accent? We love the nautical decor that really matches the backsplash tiles. The sea-breeze blue is light enough to compliment the white cabinets as well as being able to pass off on a country theme. You have the wood paneling above the range, the dark-stained wood counter-top, and all that's needed is a nice, deep farmhouse sink.

 This kitchen is the epitome of elegance. The tile colors have been chosen for a safe and neutral tone, while still adding character to fit the contemporary style. Two thumbs up for taste and cultivated beauty.

We are totally digging how this backsplash adds depth and space to this tiny kitchen area. Even a small backsplash can speak volumes. Tip for the fearless: go bold with rich colors to add more “pop” to the small area.

A delectable, modern twist on a 60's color palette. Everything goes together just beautifully; from the sleek, chocolate back-splash and glass chandelier, to the straight metallic hardware and retro bar stools. It looks as tasty as a chocolate covered banana!

 Big high fives on pulling off a futuristic look with the embedded lighting in the white cabinets that makes the blue really glimmer and shine. It's boldness enhances the white walls and white flooring. Just don't let the kids and pets inside the house ever again, unless... 

 via Modernize have a more distinctive pattern like this to mask sticky fingers and cooking backsplash. We are on board with the small glass tiles that map out a sort of mosaic pattern that goes from the countertop to the ceiling. This creates depth in the pattern and elongates the cabinets, making the room seem taller than it really is.

 This kitchen has an Asian influence that's integrated with a modern plum color palette. We love the trendy style with a little floral that doesn't overwhelm the room. It's like a scrapbook page come to life!

The bottom line is: backsplashes can add a vivacious va-va-voom to a room. A little tile, a little shine, and a little color may be all you need.

For more design ideas and inspiration, head to

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Beauty of Soapstone.....

I recently was treated to a meal cooked by Wayne Wanamaker of Great Mountain Soapstone, on a piece of soapstone which was incredible. The food was cooked so that the meat and fish were seared on the outside and the inside was very moist.  If one can cook on it, then one can surely have it as a countertop.

Guest blog by Wayne Wanamaker -

Soapstone is becoming the “newest” oldest trend in countertops. It is gaining in popularity with architects, interior and kitchen designers alike, as they are drawn to soapstone’s soft feel and matte finish.   It is becoming a highly coveted material and is both a much needed and excellent alternative to quartz and granite.

When you mention soapstone, the first thing that comes to mind is the carvings of the Canadian Inuits.  There are essentially two categories of soapstone; Artistic and Architectural. Artistic soapstone (including most soapstone from Canada) has a very high talc (a soft mineral) content, approximately 80%, making it quite soft and ideal for carving and sculptures.  

Architectural soapstone on the other hand has a lower talc content, approximately 30%, making for a superb countertop and sink material. It still has the appearance and properties of Artistic Soapstone, but with the strength and durability needed for use in the home. This grade of soapstone typically comes from the United States, Brazil or India.

Soapstone’s talc content makes it smooth and waxy to the touch, also making it very water resistant and chemically inert as well as being absolutely stain resistant.   Red wine, lemon juice, acids, oils, vinegars, etc. will not impact the surface.  Unlike granite, there is no chemical sealing required, and so no unwanted toxins on your counter surface.  The only regular maintenance of soapstone that is required is the periodic application of either food grade mineral oil or a wax made from linseed oil and beeswax. While not required to seal the soapstone, these two products can be used to enhance the color and pattern of the soapstone. 

Another huge benefit to using soapstone is that it is heat resistant, which allows you to safely put a hot pot directly on the surface with no fear of damage.

 Soapstone can also be used to make sinks.  They can be made to any size or configuration leaving its design limitations to only ones imagination.  The sinks are put together using a blind mortise and tenon joint, fastened with epoxy and guaranteed not to leak for life.  The bottoms are sloped on all four sides to the center drain basket. The sinks are also made from the same slab as the countertop to ensure colour matching.

Soapstone is also an excellent material for use on countertops and tables in outdoor kitchens because of its non-porosity and stain resistance. Also its earthy, organic appearance lends itself to the outdoor setting.

The design possibilities with soapstone are endless for both interior and exterior projects. When designing your next project, it might be worth it to consider soapstone.

Great Mountain Soapstone currently stocks 9 colors, ranging from grey/black, green/black, grey, charcoal, black to dark green.  The slab sizes are similar to those of granite, but can vary in size, depending on the colour, and are worth the time to check out in person. We now have a full slab gallery showroom located in the International Centre as part of the SOFA family of showroom.  We are open Monday to Friday, 10 to 5. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Beautiful Outdoor Spaces

Now that we are starting to enjoy some nice weather it is time to get our outdoor spaces ready for some relaxing and entertaining in the coming months.  Whether you have a small balcony, a deck, patio, pool or complete oasis you can take some inspiration from the photos below to bring some excitement into your own space


Monday, April 27, 2015

Let's take it Outside....

Spring has finally arrived and with it hopefully some warm weather soon to be followed by summer!  Everyone is moving outside to enjoy the months of warm weather.  How nice to be able to enjoy your outdoor space as much as your indoor space.  Over the years we have greatly changed our way of looking at our outdoor spaces.  We now invest in furniture, which is comfortable and aesthetically pleasing, and create wonderful outdoor rooms.

There are so many options available on the market today from very moderate pricing to very high end.  We can select everything from dining furniture, living room style banquets and settees, chairs with ottomans, coffee and end tables, outdoor lamps as well as outdoor kitchens.  Gone are the days when a couple of discolored plastic chairs and the small charcoal barbeque sufficed.  We have evolved!  We want to relax in style!

How can a decorator help you?  Well, sometimes it is difficult to sort out just what would work best in a particular outdoor space.  You have to decide how you want to use the space – will you be relaxing, entertaining, gardening? What exposure do you have?  What type of green space is currently in place?  What about your hard scape?
Furnishing your outdoor room can be a lot of fun and there are certainly a lot of whimsical as well as elegant items on the market these days.  You do not have to spend a fortune to have a good looking and comfortable outdoor space.

Some of the main functions of a decorator when working on an interior space carry over to the exterior space.  Decorators are skilled at placing furniture; making colour choices; fabric selection as well as carrying out the indoor theme and style to the exterior.  For example, the interior of a home could be very ultra modern and streamlined, the transition to the outdoor space would flow better if the outdoor furnishings were also on the modern side, rather than rugged cottage style twig furniture.

Decorators can also help you with planning how your garden flows and the plant material, which will work well with your choice of furnishings and colour scheme.
When working on an outdoor space, it is definitely important to recognize that the plantings are best specified by a professional landscape gardener and not the decorator, however, decorators have been trained to know what works well together and can unify the overall look.
So let’s get outdoors and enjoy the summer in style!
•             remove heavy draperies and let the sunshine in, try some matchstick or bamboo blinds
•             roll up your dark, heavy area carpets and let your floors shine or add a light summer weight area carpet

•             add lots of fresh flowers to your rooms - all the spring blooms look and smell fantastic
•             change the covers on your toss cushions for something e lighter in color and texture
•             do a little de-cluttering by removing some of your accessories to lend a more relaxed & light feeling for spring
•             add a ceiling fan for that southern feeling as well as comfort
•             pack away any thick wool or faux fur throws and save for fall and winter
•             change bedding to something light in colour and weight, pack away that heavy duvet

•             purchase a few glass dishes to mix with your everyday dishes for a summer feel
•             open up your windows and let the fresh air in

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

50 shades of Gray.....

Interior designer Vicente Wolf dives into the gray spectrum, bringing modernity, harmony, and comfort to a traditional Westchester home.