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Moraine Lake Lodge in Banff National Park

Moraine Lake Lodge, situated in a valley of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park is a perfect getaway for that special occasion. It is the only lodge located within the immediate vicinity of Moraine Lake, offering great amenities for everyone. In the photo below, you can see Moraine Lake Lodge to the right, nestled within the trees.

Nikon D800, 2.0 sec., f/16, ISO 100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 2.0 sec., f/16, ISO 100, 14mm

My two-night stay at Moraine Lake Lodge almost never happened, but thanks to the exceptionally warm weather Alberta was having this Spring season, the snow had melted quicker, allowing the lodge to open its doors to its guests earlier than usual. We stayed here in early June where the weather was almost summer-like and similarly, when some hiking trails opened early as well.

The lodge wants to offer its guests “an oasis of calm,” allowing them to relax and destress from the busy everyday lives they lead. In doing so, the lodge has no television or telephones within their rooms. That was fine with me; when you come to Moraine Lake, you’re not here to watch TV—you’d best be out hiking and enjoying nature at her finest. Their one “concession” was to install wifi access. However this connection was hard to connect to, even from our room, which was closer to the main lobby area.

Our room in the Wenkchemna Wing (Room 22), had everything we needed, and even included a welcome champagne with a personal note written beside it. The queen-sized bed was comfortable and there was plenty of room in the sitting area by the fireplace.

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

The bathroom was clean, spacious, included plenty of plush towels, and included great bath products from Aveda.

Nikon D800, 1/4 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/4 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

Wait, did someone say fireplace? Yes. As a matter of fact, each room in the lodge comes with its own fireplace to warm you up. It makes things that much more romantic and inviting, especially after you come back from that delicious dinner in the dining room.

Nikon D800, 1/5 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 20mm

Nikon D800, 1/5 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 20mm

And on the other side is a neat little shelving unit complete with coffee maker, wine glasses, an umbrella, and more.

Nikon D800, 1/3 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/3 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Just beyond the fireplace, the balcony offers another great place to sit and relax in. The view can’t be beat as you are literally just metres away from Moraine Lake.

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

The view from our balcony was fantastic. You can see the canoes for rent to the right, and the jade-coloured Moraine Lake just meters away. The walkway you see here is part of the path that leads you all the way to the far end of Moraine Lake. It’s a great little trail that will take you about 25-30min. one way.

Nikon D800, 1/60sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/60sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Amenities

Guests at Moraine Lake Lodge get complimentary access to the rental canoes. Moreover, you are allowed to take them out before and after the general public is allowed to rent them, giving you a chance to canoe out in the open water by yourself. Unfortunately for us, it was still a little too cold to canoe out in the open waters so we had to pass on this opportunity.

Everyday they offer their guests an afternoon tea with complimentary tea and pastries in their games and reading area. Some days it’s just nice to sit and relax on the sofa with that big fireplace roaring next to you.

If hiking is more to your liking, there are a couple trails nearby that give you spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and Moraine Lake. The staff here at the lodge enjoy hiking just as much as we do. So depending on the schedule, they will offer complimentary hiking guides at one of the trails here at Moraine Lake, like the one below (Consolation Lake hike).

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 70mm

It was nice to see our waitress for one evening be our hiking guide the next day. She led our group through the Consolation Lakes hike, which brings you to some beautiful streams and mountain scenery. At the time, this trail was restricted to group hikes of four or more people due to bear activity within the vicinity. Fortunately our group was much larger, so we were able to enjoy this hike. Had we come here by ourselves, we wouldn’t have been able to hike through this trail. Our guide was very knowledgable, telling us stories of the wilderness and explaining to us facts about the area.

Fine Dining at Moraine Lake Lodge

Just like the hiking and scenery here, the dinner at Moraine Lake Lodge did not disappoint. We dined here for two nights, and each night the menu was different and executed just right.

The rack of lamb I had here was one of the best—if not the best—rack of lamb I have tasted. The meat was so tender, not gamey at all, and had the perfect taste to it. The portions were quite generous as well.

The only complaint I would have of the dining room experience would be the actual dining room itself. It was quite cold whenever we came in here. Even though the fire place was lit, the heat did not do much for people sitting on the other side of the room. Further, being by the windows also did not help getting warm either. Whatever the case may be, we found the temperature to be slightly on the cool side, which at times made the overall experience a little less fine dining.

The Dining Room at Moraine Lake Lodge

The Dining Room at Moraine Lake Lodge

Conclusion

Whatever the case may be, Moraine Lake Lodge is an exceptional place to stay, and one that I would recommend if you have the budget for it, as all of this does not come cheap. If you think about it though, don’t you deserve to pamper yourself a little now and then? We made sure to stay at more economical places during the first part of our trip so that we could end our trip with a bang by relaxing and enjoying the comforts of this luxurious lodge. The view and surrounding nature can’t be beat. And with dishes like the above being served on a changing daily menu, it really is a great place for a cozy getaway for two.

And for photographers, you can’t beat just walking down a few steps for a sunrise and/or sunset photoshoot at one of the most iconic places in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

For more information on Moraine Lake Lodge, head over to their website: http://morainelake.com.

Combining food and photography always makes for a good time!

I’m very fortunate to live in a city where food plays an important part in our society. Every year there are no shortages of food-related festivals, especially during the warmer months of the year. This year, I’ve been tasked to take photos for The Stop’s Night Market fundraising event, which promises to be even more delicious than previous years!

The Stop's Night Market

The Stop’s Night Market

The event raises funds for The Stop’s community food programs, and brings together local chefs, designers, and foodies in one location over two nights. The designers are housed with the responsibility for creating one-of-a-kind food carts that the chefs will use to create and serve their own inventions on. It’s a great concept and one that I’m very excited to be a part of this year.

Corndog from Delica's Kitchen

Corndog from Delica’s Kitchen

Last night saw a huge crowd at a new venue for the event, a huge expanse in front of an abandoned building over in the west end of the city. With 35 custom-made carts and chefs’ creations, it was a feast for both the eyes and our bellies.

The crowd as the sun set.

The crowd as the sun set.

As a festival photographer, I always try and make sure that the event is properly represented with my photography. Since this is a new venue for the Night Market, it was important for me to get overall shots to reflect the location and popularity of the event this year. Details of the carts, and of course the chefs’ creations, and the all important volunteers and sponsors round up my photography tasks.

It was a great first night and I look forward to returning to the second night tonight. See you there!

Why don’t you use a daypack?

Try travelling light. When you go on holidays you’ll be tempted to pack all of your gear to be able to capture any scenario that comes your way. It’s fine if you have shoulders of steel but let’s face it, not everyone is blessed with Clark Kent’s physique.

Nikon D200, 1/80 sec., f/5.0, ISO 100, 20mm

Nikon D200, 1/80 sec., f/5.0, ISO 100, 20mm

While I still do pack most of my gear for the holidays, I try and not take everything with me on my day trips. I’ve soon come to realize that I would like to travel light throughout the day, and keep my neck and shoulders free from all that weight. If you bring a daypack with you, try and bring only the gear that you think you may use for that outing only. This will save you from having to carry all the gear that you have packed.

The added benefit to this method is that it will also teach you to think ahead and allow you to practice taking photos with that particular gear. It’s a great way to mix things up and further enhance your creativity with the gear that you bring. I often find that it makes you think differently as you find more creative ways to work with what you have.

The next day, you’ll be able to change your gear combination for a whole new experience.

Try it out the next time you travel and you’ll save a bundle on your massage fees for your neck and shoulders!

What does this photo have to do with daypacks? Pack light, like I did with this meal!

Diner en Blanc Toronto 2012

The inaugural Diner en Blanc Toronto saw nearly 1400 guests dressed in white, make their presence on the grounds of The Historic Fort York. Guests brought their own food (or, alternatively catered by Gourmet Cuisine), plates and utensils, white table and chairs, all the while cleaning up after themselves at the end of the evening. It was truly a unique experience to see for yourself, and one that had not been yet seen before here in the city.

It was unfortunate that the evening started wet, but by the time the sparklers came out, the rain had subsided and people were enjoying the evening to its fullest.

As a photographer, it was a great photo taking opportunity. In fact, the overcast clouds and rain were welcome as it made for some dramatic scenery.

A group of my friends participated as guests for the event, and they were kind enough to donate some food for me as I was busy with my camera and tripod throughout the entire evening. Thank you kindly for the tasty dinner!

Some of these photos are seen on Toronto Life’s website.

View photos from Renée’s experienceJennifer’s experience, and Zeekid’s experience.

More information on the event is located here.

Chili

So I made some chlii tonight. I guess you can call it fitting, as it is quite cold outside with the windchill. In any case, tonight’s chili was a combination of my mother’s world-famous chili and the Joy of Cooking chili recipe, thrown in with a little bit of improvisation. Did I mention I used my crockpot for this recipe too?

It was my first time using the Rival Crock Pot, and I have to say, it was very convenient. My stoneware is one of those Versaware types where I can use it on the stovetop, and then directly transfer it to the crock pot. It was great as I lightly browned the onions and meat in it first, then mixed in the rest of the ingredients, and then transferred it to the crock pot. With no mess, no fuss, and no cleaning of extra pots, I found it to be quite the handy item.

Now for the chili. My mother’s recipe called for using a quick and dirty method of spicing up the dish. I opted to spice it up myself without using any canned chili mixes. I managed to get part of the chili factor in the dish, but I’m still missing that umph factor. You know, that moment when you taste the chili and realize that that is what chili is all about.

It’s not too late to add more ingredients to the dish, but I’m not quite sure what else to put in there that would increase my chili umph factor. With already plenty of cumin, oregano, and cayenne peppers in there, I’m at a standstill right now.

Do you know the ingredients that make a chili world-class? Have you ever experienced an out-of-this-world chili sensation? Do tell me what you put in to make it that much better tasting.

With high hopes that my chili will taste better in the morning, I rest my tired eyes for this evening… mmm… chili…

Meeting The Chef

It’s not everyday when you get a chance to photograph someone who’s been deemed, the best chef in America. So when a dear foodie friend of mine asked me if I wanted to—only if I wanted to—take his picture, I naturally jumped at the chance to do so.

When we first introduced ourselves to him, he shook our hands and greeted us with a warm welcome. He was inviting, easy to talk to, and very at ease in front of the camera, which made it really easy and fun to shoot him. With minimal intervention on my part, he knew how to pose, and was even able to laugh on the spot.

After the shoot, I sat down with him and the interviewer, and marveled at the thoughts of a culinary master.

Thomas Keller, the multi-award winning chef, and the only American chef to hold multiple Michelin star restaurants, was soft-spoken, modest, and down-to-earth. Genuine to his words, you can really tell that he is passionate about what he does. Merely sitting at the table as an observer was good enough for me, as I was able to soak in his words and hear his thoughts and opinions on various topics.

He noted that his reasoning for not liking culinary trends, is merely for the fact that trends are finite. As he so eloquently put it, who would want to base their cuisines on something that will eventually be passé? There should be no reason why asparagus (as an example) be the food trend of the season; if asparagus is a great ingredient, you should use it whenever you like and not be shunned on when it’s no longer trendy. A simple statement that seems so true, yet we all fall into these trends, even outside of the culinary world.

I think he was a little surprised that I, as the photographer, decided to stay for the interview. But I stayed, I listened, and I soaked in his soft-spoken words. It was nice to know that he remembered my name after the interview. He treated me with respect, and didn’t at all seem hurried, as other notables so often seem. We shook hands and parted, as he continued on his busy book-tour schedule.

Perhaps one day I will get the fortune to experience fine dining at his famed French Laundry in California.

Taste of the Danforth

Taste of the Danforth—for one reason or another—is one of Toronto’s most popular festivals. Bringing in a crowd of over 1 million, the festival draws people from all around, to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Greek culture that thrives in eastern Toronto.

Despite the wicked weather forecast for this weekend, I was quite surprised to see the amount of people that came out—with umbrella in toe—to this event.

With little room to maneuver around people, the streets were packed with people. I managed to get my fair share of goodies including the all famous gyro from Messini’s, which no doubt had the longest line on the street. Despite grabbing a handful of things for the home, I had the feeling that this year’s festival was slightly less exciting than in previous years. I walked down from one end to two-thirds of the way down and noticed that the end was nothing more than just carnival rides and the like, with no real Greek specialties.

Perhaps there were not as many stores offering their goods? Perhaps stores were scared away with the weather forecast? Perhaps it’s just me? Who knows. All I know is that I’m glad that I can now go to this festival by feet, as I live just a few blocks away.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to those that read this!

It was a pleasant day to start off 2009. We all woke up to a traditional Japanese breakfast, osechi ryouri, that I had bought the previous day at J-Town. At $38 per plate, it was an expensive breakfast – but much cheaper than from others.

With a bountiful of fish, vegetables, and others, I always look forward to osechi ryouri on January 1st. Of course I can’t forget about ozouni – mochi in soup! One of my favourites, this one didn’t disappoint, as usual.

A fairly chilly day today, I actually spent the good part of the evening trying to take out my truffles from its mold. I had started making truffles (last year) and had left it until now to finish since I was in and about during this holiday season.

I have to say my first experience with chocolate molds proved to be a challenging one as some of the more persistent chocolates refused to come out. I suppose I have myself to blame for this. Perhaps my tempering was off for those chocolates.

I can’t say much for the base of the truffles, but at the very least they look great when you see them for the first time! I had made 5 different types, and was hoping that each would have their own distinct flavour to them.

To my dismay, some of the specialty flavoured ones didn’t turn out as flavoured as I wanted them to have been. It still tasted great, but just not what I had intended (afterall, who doesn’t love the taste of pure chocolate?!).

I will package them up tomorrow and send them off on their merry way. Until then, I hope you have yourself a great 2009.

Did you make your resolutions yet?

Farmer’s Market

I was excited to find out recently that there was a farmer’s market relatively close to where I live. I wondered why I had never heard of it before until now. So this morning, I made it a point to go check it out. Fortunately it was only a stone’s throw away from my apartment so even though it opened at 8am, I didn’t really have to rush over there to get some choice products.

I made my way over to the Brickworks where I was confronted with parking chaos. It was quite the scene as cars drove around in circles waiting for someone to leave their spot. Should I turn right once I enter the lot, or continue on towards my left? As I started to turn my steering wheel to the right, I noticed a sign on the the side saying, a suggested donation of $5 is appreciated. There was an attendant sitting in a chair taking people’s donations. I thought to myself, should I donate? Donate to what? I just wanted to come down for the farmer’s market. So with that, I started to turn my car towards the left. As I approached the left lot, a couple of people walked beside my car and started packing away the goods they bought at the market, into their trunk. Perfect! I immediately signaled and I was gifted with an immediate parking space.

I really didn’t know what to expect at the market. But all I could say is that I was a little disappointed with the results. Previously exposed to the Square One farmer’s market in Mississauga, I was expecting a whole lot more from this one at the Brickworks in the Don Valley. What I got was a mish mash of vendors, not all of them food related, selling their goods, touting “home grown,” “organic,” “fair trade,” and so forth. The variety of fruits and vegetables were next to none. Oddly enough, there was one booth that sold tomatoes, and only tomatoes. Lucky for me, I was actually in the market for tomatoes that day. So I bought one. One vine-ripe tomato bunch for $3. A little pricey? Yes. But I didn’t know.

I walked around and saw vendors selling frozen fish, raw sausages, teas, coffees, a breakfast crepe for $9, some tasty looking loaves of bread for about $9, pickles, and the sort. It was indeed a mish mash of a market that included a violin player strutting her stuff on a mini-stage, some crafts, jewellery, and kids play area.

I walked around a bit, enjoyed the atmosphere, then decided to walk around the back of the brickworks to see how the leaves were doing. They were doing fine, although they were doing much better the week prior.

One thing I did thoroughly enjoy at the Brickworks though, was the unintentional dog show that was present. Everybody and anybody brought their dogs to shop with and to walk with. It was actually quite fun watching the different types of dogs: from small terriers to large, large ones, this was actually the highlight of the trip for me.

The Don Valley Brickworks is the home to the Evergreen Project and houses the farmer’s market every Saturdays from 8am – 1pm until November 6. Check it out if you’re in the area, but it would be best to get there sans car. There is a free shuttlebus that runs from the Broadview subway station to the Brickworks leaving every 30min. from 8am.

Enjoy while you still can.