The Journal – Beringer Brunch Inc

The Journal

Living in a French Chateau with G&T

Sometimes, dreams do come true. Easter 2016 was that time for us. We visited Château St. Julien in west-central France, a massive castle-like structure that accommodates fifty people in the midst of acres of gardens, fields and oak forests.

G&T Weekends is a new organization for young professionals around the world that hosts holidays away from your normal life, in jaw-dropping countryside castles, châteaus, and villas around the world, with all-inclusive pricing. Their inaugural trips are in Europe, with sights set on international locations next.

The trip to France with Beringer Brunch members this past Easter met all of our very high expectations. Arriving at the château after a quick hour and a half train ride from Paris, we were greeted promptly with champagne and hors d'oeuvres in a cozy room with a wood fireplace that will take you back centuries.

After we got acquainted with each of our bedrooms and freshened up, we caught our first glimpse at what the rest of our weekend would be like. We sat in the dining room together at a long harvest wood table. And then we were introduced to a four course french meal, family-style, by the in-house catering team. And the bottles of local vino were pouring like water. Dessert followed.

There was no better way to meet fellow young professionals from Canada, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand than to sit with them through a long french meal accompanied by endless wine. It was quite interesting to hear about their lives, and how they can be so different yet so similar in so many ways.

Afterwards, the dining room was cleared and the DJ took over the main floor of the château. As darkness hit the grounds, we drank even more wine and danced the night away.

Waking up with a hangover can be a terrible experience - that is, unless, you wake up in a castle and go downstairs in your pyjamas for a Parisian breakfast and an early start to drinking rosé.

The rest of the four day trip was much of the same goodness - long walks along the gardens, drinking champagne, eating ridiculously delicious meals cooked in house, and - i forgot to mention - cooking classes and champagne tastings.

G&T has multiple trips coming up this year, including a week of sailing in Italy, partying in a Swedish lake house, and spending New Years in Iceland. Stay tuned as Beringer Brunch members are invited to be a part of all of these amazing adventures!

Boats are booking up for the Sardinia, Italy sailing trip. Click here to book now.

Lose the Perfection

For your New Year's resolution for 2016, vow to not be so perfect.

Doesn't that sound counterproductive?

Young professionals are endlessly seeking perfection - whether in their career, education, fitness regimen, or personal relationships. Trying to be as good as we can be is what’s taken us this far.

However, there is a dark side to seeking perfection in everything. Our overactive minds can often become paralyzed by the overwhelming number of hoops we think we need to jump through in order to attain perfection. What often ends up happening is we take very little action on many fronts and become indecisive and confused.

Whether it’s picking which task to finish first at work or simply what to eat for dinner, we can often ponder over the choices for hours on end. And after all that time, we make a decision that usually isn’t perfect anyway.

This new year, try to lower the bar, and focus on being a little bit better each day. Take one step further, learn from today's mistakes, iterate tomorrow, and don't be so hard on yourself.

As bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert says, “Done is better than good.”

Champagne Pairings

Champagne is a highly versatile drink. Although we can often be intimidated to pair bubbly with our favourite foods, it can be an incredible and fun choice to drink with many popular appetizers, meals, and desserts.

We all like the taste of salt and fat in our foods, although we may avoid adding too much of them to our daily diets. However, when it comes to a special occasion – be it a birthday, an anniversary, a celebration of the impending weekend, the holiday season, or new years eve, pairing your favourite fatty, salty foods with champagne can add a kick to your evening. Sparkling wines are known to be palate cleansers, which means they go well with even the toughest to pair foods – including typical hors d’oeuvres or cheese served during the holiday season.

And who doesn’t love chocolate and sweets? To double the wonderful effects of sugary treats, match them with off dry wines – or demi-sec champagnes – as the higher sugar levels in the drink interact with sweeter food to create a surprisingly tasty result.

Although authentic champagne (which comes from the Champagne region of France) can be quite expensive, sparkling wines from around the world can be terrific, cheaper replacements. Bubbly from other regions in France, Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy, or even local sparkling wines made in Canada can be fine alternatives.

With tough work schedules and a balancing act of all of the different aspects of our lives, we should cherish moments to celebrate with friends and family. And when the time comes this holiday season, don’t be afraid to pop champagne!

Toronto’s Holiday Season

And just like that, it’s December.

The season of short, cold days, wine by the fireplace, knit sweaters, and an excitement for what’s to come in the new year.

Between the countless holiday parties, stressful Christmas shopping, and overall busy schedules we tend to make for ourselves this time of year, the holiday season can often feel more like a chore than a time of joy and celebration. Consumed with these busy schedules, it’s easy to forget that the holidays are fast approaching until it’s too late. The saying “the days are long, but the years are short” is something that has been on my mind as of late, especially now that we find ourselves in December. It’s easy to spend the holidays on auto-pilot, but by doing so, we are missing out on what makes life in December so exciting. The holidays are the perfect time to reflect on this notion; to slow down, enjoy each moment, and spend time with our friends and family – the reason why we celebrate this time of year in the first place.

I have been lucky to have spent the holiday season in a variety of different countries and cultures, but nothing beats spending it at home in Toronto. There is something about window shopping through Yorkville during the first snowfall of the season, or waiting all year to see The Bay's Christmas windows - it's a nostalgia so synonymous with growing up in this beautiful city, and a feeling worth chasing every year. Between the endless Christmas markets and holiday festivals, events, and festive pop-up shops throughout the city, there is no shortage of holiday spirit in Toronto.

The Cavalcade of Lights is a Toronto tradition held annually in Nathan Phillips Square on the first weekend of December. This event marks the official kick-off to the holiday season with live music, ice skating, and a firework display above City Hall. There is something special about this shared experience that offers a great introduction to the holiday season – and some great photo opportunities for those so inclined. Be sure to arrive early as the fireworks draw in a huge crowd.

There is no doubt that December sees an emergence of pop-up shops and markets throughout Toronto. The One of a Kind Show, the Union Station Holiday Market, the Toronto Christmas Festival in Yonge-Dundas Square, and the Etsy Christmas Marketplace are great venues for finding unique and handmade gifts. These markets also provide a great alternative to typical mall shopping - which can feel a bit too chaotic this time of year.

The Toronto Christmas Market, a tried and true favourite, is one of the best holiday experiences in the city. Like many Torontonians, I have fond memories of meandering through the Distillery District, enjoying hot mulled wine, and exploring the many stalls offering local goods and treats – memories I look forward to reliving year after year. Head there during the evening to catch the historic district bathed in the glow of Christmas lights, or make a full day of this excursion on the weekend. My favourite thing to do is grab coffee from Balzac's, a croissant from Brick Bakery, and shop at the Dutch Products booth – a personal favourite where you can find delicious Dutch Christmas treats like stroopwafels and speculaas cookies. The Toronto Christmas Market is truly one of the most magical and romantic Christmas activities in the city.

Now that the holidays are upon us, it’s time make the most of what our city has to offer and slow down, relax, and enjoy. No matter where, how, or why we choose to celebrate this year, as long as it's spent well spent with our family and friends, it's bound to be a beautiful holiday.

Alana de Haan is a photographer and designer based in Toronto. She is a contributor to the Beringer Brunch Journal.

Scandinavian Influence

Quintissential Scandinavia.

There is no doubt that a Scandinavian fever has taken over Toronto. Lately we’ve been seeing a massive influx of Scandinavian restaurants and retail ventures pop up throughout the city. Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian-inspired cafes are growing in numbers, with names like Fika, Odin, Thor, and kafebar highlighting their true Scandinavian origins. Scandinavian fashion brands like Tiger of Sweden, Ganni, and Soulland are now available – if you know where to look – in the city, and the number of Nordic design stores has grown exponentially in recent years. In almost every neighbourhood in Toronto, there is a product of this new Scandi-influence, which is definitely something to be excited about.

Having lived in Copenhagen for a period of six months (and having made numerous trips back since), I can empathize with our newfound love for this culture. These nations are home to some of the best, most thriving cities in the world, and for good reason. Defined by their minimalism, their successful infrastructure, and relaxed attitude to life, Scandinavian cities are a model for how we wish our major cities could work – with ease. That’s not to say that Toronto hasn’t been using the Nordic model as precedent – in recent years, we’ve seen major changes to our urban fabric.

Cycling is inherently Scandinavian, with over half of the population in Copenhagen using it as a main form of transportation daily. People still drive, but the city has found a way to allow these two modes of transport to work together harmoniously; through curb segregated cycle tracks and cycle-specific traffic lights. This summer, Toronto introduced special lanes for cyclists on Queen's Quay and Richmond Street as part of a 10-year plan to build a greater bicycle infrastructure. Although these are baby steps, it’s progress, and promises an exciting future for cyclists in the city.

Nørrebro - Copenhagen’s version of Parkdale - at dusk.
Rain, shine, or snow, Scandinavians cycle every day.

The white walls, light wooden floors, and ethereal airiness synonymous with Scandinavian design and interiors has permeated Toronto’s design world. Mjolk, a design studio located in the Junction, is one of the most prolific design stores in Toronto to offer Scandinavian goods, and has garnered international praise for its concept and design. EQ3 and Design Within Reach in Toronto's King East Design District carry celebrated Scandinavian designers like Arne Jacobsen, Poul Henningsen, and Marimekko. The Distillery District's Bergo carries unique Scandinavian products (Bodum and George Jensen), and the Bay on Queen Street even hosted a month long event last year celebrating Danish Design and Fashion.

Colourful row houses on Elmegade - Elm Street - in Nørrebro,
Rooftops on Strøget, Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street - no cars allowed.

Scandinavian cuisine has also found a niche in Toronto's famous food scene. Karelia Kitchen in the Annex serves authentic smørrebrød, a traditional Danish open-faced sandwich of rye bread (rugbrød), butter (smør), and a variety of different toppings. The Viking Bakery on the Danforth and the Vegan Danish Bakery in Thornhill serve traditional Scandinavian pastries. The Taste of Iceland, an annual event held throughout the city, hosts an Icelandic dinner at Luma that features classic Icelandic food like skyr and langoustine. At the annual Swedish Christmas Festival at the Harbourfront, you can listen to Swedish Christmas Carols over glögg (mulled wine) and Semla buns.

 Scandinavia Christmas Markets.
Just one of the many cozy bakeries throughout Copenhagen.

Like Scandinavia, Canada is a winter country. We spend eight months out of the year fighting chilly temperatures, waiting for those four glorious months of summer where we can finally enjoy the outdoors. Scandinavians, who have notoriously long winters (and often live in the dark for months) have found a way to combat these winter blues - and Torontonians should take note. Hygge, an untranslatable Danish word that can be loosely defined as "coziness", is the act of spending quality time with loved ones and friends over good food and drink, usually during the dark winter months. It is speculated that hygge is why the Danes, and the rest of the Scandinavian population, are among the happiest people on earth - it's because hygge, in its purest form, is about our relationships with others.

The perfect weather for hygge.
The holidays in Scandinavia are magical - it’s like living in a fairy tale.

Alana de Haan is a photographer and designer based in Toronto. She is a contributor to the Beringer Brunch Journal.