December 12, 2010

Noël canadien

Unfortunately, I think Americans forget about our northern neighbor, Canada ... especially this time of year when everyone is concentrating on going somewhere warm. Juliane Wilbee, owner of Norbridge Antiques, lives in Toronto, Ontario. We e-mail and talk on the phone all the time and I wanted to share a bit of her with all of you.

Q: You grew up in Montreal, what were your favorite winter activities growing up?

As all children in Montreal, I had ice skates from an early age and went skating regularly all winter. Because it stays consistently very cold in the winter, the city had ice rinks in most public parks. Skiing took over as my favourite activity when I received my first skis at the age of eight. The Laurentian mountain range is easily accessible just north of Montreal making ski day-trips very convenient. Some of my best memories are of my older brother who was nine years older than I taking me skiing when he was a teenager and young adult.

Q: Where is the best place in Toronto to go for a special holiday dinner or to get the food to prepare one at home?

For a special holiday dinner out, my favourite place is the Auberge du Pommier on Yonge Street just north of North Toronto. The restaurant from the outside looks like an old French cottage. I like a restaurant for its food, of course, but there are other factors that add to the pleasure of being there. The Auberge serves superb French food, the service is consistently excellent, it is always full of other patrons, and it is inviting. The decor is modern, but at the same time it gives you a feeling of timelessness.

I always prepare the meals at home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. My first choice is Pusateri's, the local market, for the freshest meat, fish and other food.

Q: How do you like to decorate during the holiday season?

I like decorating with natural evergreens as much as possible. I always have a real tree, and find the Fraser fir to be the best for staying fresh. The ornaments are clear glass, a few are silver coloured, and a few are white. The tree lights are white. For practical reasons, I use a mixture of fake and real fir boughs for the mantel, and I add lots of fat white candles. Outdoors, I have fresh fir wreaths on the doors; I put little fresh fir trees in two urns on the patio, and fill the planters at the side door with fresh fir. I also use only white lights on the evergreens in the front and on the fir trees at the back. I use very little colour during the holiday season other than the green from the evergreens.

Q: As a purveyor of antiques, what is an antique you have at home that you love to have out during the holiday season?
May I tell you about two? The Dutch marquetry games table circa 1840 which I love is always there beside the fireplace. When I came upon it at an auction preview two years ago, I found it so beautiful I could not get it out of my mind. Whoever owned it before must have loved it as much as I do now, because it is in excellent condition.

detail, top of table when closed

I also want to tell you about the Birks Louis XV sterling silver flatware I found at an auction preview of a top auction house in Toronto when I was in my mid-twenties. I researched prices and decided on the price I would pay. Going to the auction was exciting. It was even more exciting to win this beautiful set of flatware, made circa 1917. The pattern itself goes back to the late 19th century and was also produced by other silver manufacturers. It is popular still and can be purchased new at Birks which is also called Birks & Mayors in the United States.