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Day of the Dead: Experience Mexico’s festival of life and death with Velas Resorts

- October 21st, 2014
(Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

(Nicole Feenstra/QMI Agency)

The leaves are falling off the trees and Halloween costumes are being prepared, but Canadians can experience an entirely different fall celebration during Mexico’s Day of the Dead – or Dia de los Muertos – Festival of Life and Death.

The three day festival from Oct. 31 to Nov.2 is a time for Mexicans to remember and honour loved ones who have passed away. Traditions include building colourful altars to the dead, designing sugar skulls, baking sweet breads and creating candles or paper decorations.

PHOTOS: Day of the Dead 2013

Velas Resorts in the Riviera Maya, Riviera Nayarit and Vallarta want to share these traditions with Canadian visitors with travel packages that include unique Day of the Dead experiences. Take a trip to a cemetery to smell the scents of incense on the altars, savour the food of the feast for the souls and witness ancient rituals that culminate in pulsating drums and hypnotic dances.

Rates range from $167 per person, per night for a studio suite at the Velas Vallarta to $613 per person, per night at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya’s grand class suite. For more details, visit

Thanksgiving: Indulge with turkey recipes from Westin Cape Coral and InterContinental Toronto Centre

- October 8th, 2014

It’s the Thanksgiving long weekend and, here at, we’re thankful for tasty, easy Thanksgiving recipes shared by two hotels – the Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village in Florida and InterContinental Toronto Centre.

Earlier this year, Florida’s Westin Cape Coral shared their take on a Canadian classic – poutine – with three interesting recipes incorporating a Florida twist. Now, the executive chef shared another take on one of our national dishes with the festive turkey cranberry poutine.

Courtesy Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village

Turkey cranberry poutine – Courtesy Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village
· 5 oz. French Fries
· 4 oz. Cheese curd
· 3 oz. Gravy
· 4 oz. Oven roasted turkey (sliced thin)
· 1 oz. Mayonnaise
· 0.5 oz. Cranberry sauce
Preparation Instructions:
1. Mix mayonnaise and cranberry sauce together in a bowl, set aside
2. Deep fry French fries in oil preheated to 350 degrees.
3. When French fries are finished, remove from oil and let drain.
4. Once drained place French fries onto plate.
5. Top French fries with sliced turkey.
6. Sprinkle French fries and turkey with cheese curd.
7. Spoon French fries, turkey and cheese curd with gravy.
8. Drizzle with cranberry mayo and serve.

The InterContinental Toronto Centre’s Azure Restaurant and Bar, meanwhile, is planning a full Thanksgiving menu for the occasion, but chef Grace Di Fede has made the recipes easy for any family to make at home. Below, we’re sharing the recipe for the maple-glazed turkey and yummy pumpkin cheesecake.

Happy Thanksgiving and eat well!

Courtesy Toronto InterContinental Centre

Maple Bourbon Glazed Ontario Turkey – Courtesy InterContinental Toronto Centre

Courtesy Toronto InterContinental Centre

Courtesy Toronto InterContinental Centre

Courtesy Toronto InterContinental Centre

Courtesy Toronto InterContinental Centre

Canadians planning to vacation – and skinny dip – more this winter: Survey

- October 1st, 2014


A new survey has revealed more Canadians plan to travel this winter and we are headed to sunny-south locales with the possibility of skinny dipping in the forecast.

The national survey by the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada shows 36% more Canadians plan to travel this winter over last. Residents of Ontario (36%) and Quebec (48%) were most eager to escape the cold winter temperatures, while residents of milder British Columbia (24%) were least likely.

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Of those planning to travel, 70% are headed to sunny south destinations, with 17% admitting they have gone nude on holiday. Twenty per cent of Ontario residents say they have skinny dipped on vacation, followed by 18% of Quebec travellers, 15% of British Columbians and 13% of Maritimers.

Amazing Thailand: Trafalgar reveals 2015 Asia tour program at incredible Thai cooking class

- September 24th, 2014
Crispy tofu and a welcome to the #TrafalgarThailand media event. (Nicole Feenstra photo)

Crispy tofu and a welcome to the #TrafalgarThailand media event. (Nicole Feenstra photo)

Last night I was inspired and amazed by all the country of Thailand has to offer tourists, via an incredible Thai cooking class hosted by Trafalgar at Toronto’s Mengrai Thai restaurant.

From the adventures to be had in the cool mountains of the north to the picturesque rice paddies of central Thailand, from the shopping and nightlife in bustling capital Bangkok to the azure coastal beaches familiar to movie buffs through the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach, this country offers countless experiences for all types of travellers on all types of trips.

Incredible ingredients become a delicious beef salad at Mengrai Thai. (Nicole Feenstra photo)

Incredible ingredients become a delicious beef salad at Mengrai Thai. (Nicole Feenstra photo)

After Mengrai Thai’s gourmet cooking class, where a spicy beef salad and crispy shrimp were on my menu, Trafalgar, the award-winning tour company, revealed a new website and the launch of their 2015 Asia tour program.

Choose your itinerary and be guided to some of Thailand – and Asia’s – most incredible places on a comfortable coach bus equipped with WiFi. Local experts give each tour a personal touch, which, along with the unique moments Trafalgar has become known for and access to famous local sites, make each tour an unforgettable journey.

The Secrets of Thailand tour is an in-depth way to really get to know the country, from the temples of Bangkok to the ancient traditions of Chiang Mai. Along the way, eat your heart out on the unique flavours of the country, some of which – lemongrass, galangal, Thai basil, kaffir lime leaf – I learned about at the cooking class.

Getting to know the ingredients: lemongrass; Mengrai Thai chef Sasi. (Nicole Feenstra photo)

Getting to know the ingredients: lemongrass; Mengrai Thai chef Sasi. (Nicole Feenstra photo)

“For 2015, we’re thrilled to showcase the many flavours of Asia and dining with the locals are an integral part to every Trafalgar holiday in Asia,” Doug Patterson, president of Trafalgar Canada, said in a statement. “With our Be My Guest experiences, our clients are invited into the homes of people such as the village chief’s family in Ban Mae Kampong or sampling local delicacies with a farming family in Hoi An.”

Guests can also pair their visit to Thailand with a visit to Cambodia’s ancient Angkor Wat and Siem Reap on Trafalgar’s Secrets of Thailand with Cambodia tour. Or, fit in a visit to the tropical paradise of Koh Samui on the Secrets of Thailand with Koh Sumui tour.

Mengra Thai's Golden Pumpking Soup with Crispy Morning Glory tempure. (Nicole Feenstra photo)

Mengra Thai’s Golden Pumpking Soup with Crispy Morning Glory tempure. (Nicole Feenstra photo)

There are also tours of China, Singapore and Vietnam available, as well as family experiences filled with activities kids will love, like the Samurai Discovery tour in Japan. Bang on a traditional Taijo drum, take part in a sushi making lesson or ride an indoor roller coaster at Sega Joypolis. Parents will also love the sightseeing and day trip to Mount Fuji aboard Trafalgar’s coach bus.

Book and pay for your Trafalgar tour before Nov. 20, 2014 and receive savings of up to $1,490 per couple with the 10% early payment discount. For more details on this and the tours, see

Itinerary for 2014 MasterChef Caribbean cruise revealed, season five winner Courtney Lapresi to be aboard

- September 16th, 2014
MasterChef U.S.A. (Courtesy Fox)

MasterChef U.S.A. (Courtesy Fox)

The itinerary for the week-long MasterChef cruise of the Caribbean has been revealed, and it includes plenty of opportunities to interact with fan favourite contestants like Christina Ha and Alexander Weiss, as well as MasterChef judge Graham Elliot.

The seven-day voyage will sail from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Nov. 8, 2014. Elliot, past winners Ha and Luca Manfe, MasterChef Junior victor Weiss, and the newest MasterChef, season five winner Courtney Lapresi, will all be aboard.

Alexander Weiss of MasterChef Junior and Lucas Manfe and Christine Ha of MasterChef. (Courtesy FOX)

Alexander Weiss of MasterChef Junior and Luca Manfe and Christine Ha of MasterChef. (Courtesy FOX)

The luxurious Holland America MS Westerdam will be the vessel for the cruise, which will stop at several ports of call, including Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas. The ship will return to Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 15.

It has now been revealed that guests can look forward to on-board programming that will include Mystery Box challenges, cocktail parties, meet and greets, and demonstrations. Some of the many events include:

  • Christine Ha’s Mac-n-Cheese at Sea Competition – Ha will judge the first-ever Mac-n-Cheese at Sea competition where guests will compete to create their best version of the classic dish.
  • Blind Taste Test with Graham Elliot – A few willing audience members will have the opportunity to test their taste buds with a challenge led by Elliot.
  • Tag Team Sushi – Get a front-row seat to the famous Sushi Tag Team Challenge featuring the MasterChef Stars.
  • Master the Macaroon with Alexander – Learn to master Weiss’ signature dessert.
  • Designer Pasta – Learn how to make authentic, homemade pasta with a demonstration from Luca Manfe.
  • The Finishing Touch – Courtney Lapresi will teach you how to add that extra touch to your dish, using herb oils, aiolis, and purees as smooth as silk.
  • Tricks of the Trade: Lapresi and season four favourite Bri Kozior will demonstrate some of the best tricks used in professional kitchens everywhere.
MasterChef season five winner Courtney Lapresi with judges Joe Bastianich, Gordon Ramsay and Graham Elliot. (Courtesy FOX)

MasterChef season five winner Courtney Lapresi with judges Joe Bastianich, Gordon Ramsay and Graham Elliot. (Courtesy FOX)

“MasterChef fans and food lovers alike are in for an incredible journey with hours of original live programming that both entertains and instructs,” said Vivi Zigler, president of MasterChef’s production company, Shine America, in a statement. “Guests will get to live the MasterChef experience with some of the most skilled and beloved talent from the series, while also honing their own culinary skills.”

Fares for the cruise start at $1,442 per person. For more information or to book your ticket on the MasterChef cruise, visit