My name is Mackenzie and I’m the face behind Food Vino Soul!
I have a deep love for the world’s foods and wines and will travel as far as I need to in order to experience them.
I am currently living in Ottawa, but have lived in Montreal and Kingston in the past. I enjoy pairing food & wine, finding and creating recipes, and cooking with heart & soul.
You can find me wandering the vintage/cellier section at the LCBO/SAQ or drooling over dream wine cellars on Pinterest- and at least once a year- travelling the world.
I have completed WSET I and WSET II programs in Wines and Spirits and may continue down the road to complete all of the WSET courses.
This blog is simply to share my passion and to hopefully feed your souls.
Well, it’s no big secret that this blog isn’t my full-time job, although I wouldn’t mind! I am a dental hygienist by trade. I actually dabble in both dental hygiene and dental assisting. What are these jobs you ask? In dental hygiene, you basically clean people’s teeth, take x-rays, and coach your patients towards better oral health (along with some other fun stuff like whitening, taking impressions, making mouth guards, etc). In dental assisting, you assist the dentist in chair-side procedures (fillings, crowns, bridges, root canals, extractions, etc), take x-rays, and answer questions/concerns the patient has about the procedure(s). I took the dental hygiene program at Algonquin College in Ottawa starting in 2010 and graduated in 2012. Since then, I have been working in the dental field and have been loving it!
When I finished dental hygiene school, I needed a job to pay into my shopping addiction and my need to start travelling- stat! I was pretty ballsy when I applied for this place- THIS was the restaurant that everyone wanted to work at. Looking back, even though it was stressful in a different way than I was used to, I wouldn’t change a thing. This is how I started out in the serving industry, and luckily where I started to learn properly about food and wine. Mind you, I had worked as a bartender at a terrible club prior to this job and as a hostess a few times throughout high school, but had always wanted to make my way up to serving. This wood fired pizza joint had the best wine list to taste from and to serve from. This is where I learned a lot about wine before taking a keen interest in the WSET courses. This is also where I learned to love scotch. “Scotchy, scotch, scotch, I love scotch”. I have the best bartender, Geoff, to thank for that. He said “okay, kid, it’s time to get you into scotch. Let’s start you off with something easy drinking and we’ll go up from there.” And so he started me with a 12 year Aberlour, neat, and the rest is a rich history. Also, my coworker had started going to school to become a sommelier and I thought that it might be something I was interested in doing. Working there for two years made me into a somewhat worldly foodie and wino, and this is when I decided I would venture into the WSET courses.
After dental hygiene school, I moved back in with my mom. At this stage, I was just getting into tasting different styles of wine, but I was also getting into cooking. I had watched my mom cook my entire life and always admired how easy she made it look and how good everything always turned out. She also had a jam packed index of tried and tested recipes, in which I hoped I would inherit. For example, every ski trip or some chilly winter nights, we would get to have her famous chili. Or, a fall favourite: a chicken divan casserole that she would make from scratch and simply throw in the oven when we were just about ready for dinner. And of course, her famous Mexican Dip that she would make for special occasions and family gatherings (always on Christmas Eve). I wanted to manage my kitchen exactly like this! I learned her recipes and learned how to experiment with different spices and flavours, and eventually learned (somewhat) how to pair wine with my food. Learning how to cook and spending quality time with mom in the kitchen makes me feel like “home is where the heart is” rings the most true. Thanks, Ma!
The whole reason this blog started was because I was looking for a creative outlet outside of the dental field. The perfect way for me to do this was to cook for my mom (and practice certain recipes or experiments), and try to start pairing wine with our dinners occasionally. Fun fact, my blog used to be called ‘noms, vino and good beats’. It was the strangest name for a blog, but I guess I wanted to cover a few topics: food, wine and good tunes. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some music, especially when I’m cooking, but, I no longer feel the need to blog about it. Here’s my secret to good beats: listen to 70’s or Jazz radio on Spotify while cooking, Latin radio while eating, and 90’s radio while cleaning up. There really is a playlist and song for every mood. Anyways, this whole rant was to get at the fact that I started becoming interested in wine. With working at the pizza restaurant and living at home, I got a chance to taste and serve wine. I decided to take my first WSET course in Toronto. WSET I was only a 1 day course with a generalized tasting menu, but it gave me a base for how to taste and how to pick out what I want from the lcbo. WSET I popped my palate’s cork-get it? From this, I became interested in the next level: WSET II. When we lived in Montreal in 2015, the opportunity presented itself for me to devote every Monday and Tuesday for 1 month to more wine studies. I learned about several varietals, specific appellations, characteristics of certain wines, how to tell what part of the world the wine comes from, and more in-depth tasting notes. We also got to learn a bit about whiskey, vodka, gin, grappa and other spirits. Since moving to Ottawa, I haven’t had the chance to immerse myself into WSET III, but I know that day will come very soon and when it does, I’ll be very ready for it!
A great deal of this blog has to do with travel. I have been so fortunate to see many parts of the world by the age of 25. Throughout my childhood, my family took a few fun trips (winter getaways to Florida, California, New Orleans, Mexico, Jamaica, and Cayman Islands), then through high school, I travelled more through the states with my national cheerleading team. We competed in Las Vegas, New York City, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, and a couple other smaller states. I also got to experience The Algarve in Albufeira, Portugal in my last year of high school with my boyfriend and his family. When I graduated school in 2012, my boyfriend happened to be in his third year of university on exchange in Holland. I met him there and we travelled for a month of the summer when he was at the end of his semester. We squeezed 8 countries into 1 month and I don’t regret a single minute! We visited Holland, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Italy, and England. Each country was a combination of unique cooking styles, new varietals of wine to taste, and different adventures for us to have. Our trip even ended with going to see volleyball at the Olympics in London! In 2013, my sister and I visited our family in L.A. for two weeks. In 2014, my boyfriend and I travelled back to L.A., but switched it up and did a trip up the coast on the PCA (pacific coast highway) from L.A. to San Francisco (and everything in between: Malibu, Big Sur, Cambria, Monterey, and San Jose). In 2015, I was given an opportunity to go outside of my comfort zone and travel to Peru with my sister. This was the first true backpacking trip I had ever done. I remember the feeling of excitement to finally check Machu Picchu off of my bucket list, and then the feeling I had the second we arrived in Lima and to our hostel. I want to go home. I still can’t believe that was my first thought in this beautiful country. But hey, everyone has a comfort zone, and sometimes you don’t realize you’re on the outside of it until it’s too late. Within a day, my mentality changed from “take me back to the airport, I don’t understand this place” to “let’s explore every possible inch of this country that we can fit into two weeks”. This trip was the beginning of my wanderlust for backpacking, foreign countries, and pushing my comfort zone. I am forever indebted to my sister for this! The following year, we travelled back to South America to see Ecuador and Galapagos Islands. This was still a backpacking trip, but less intensive then our 4 day hike in the mountains, against the elements to reach Machu Picchu in Peru. Nonetheless, we snorkelled the wild waters of the Galapagos and saw some rare species and experienced Darwin’s Theory of Evolution with our own eyes. Both Peru and Ecuador gave me the opportunity to try some different foods and wine (ex: cuy (guinea pig) and alpaca steak, which are Peruvian delicacies). The wine was a little easier to wrap my mind around. But, I tried it all and was glad I did. My future plans for travel include Japan, where I can eat the best sushi from a conveyor belt and eat the non-poisonous part of a blow fish as culinary experiences, then Nepal to hike to Everest base camp, where I will eat whatever I have to to survive. Someday soon, I will also venture to Indonesia (mainly Bali), Australia (Hunter Valley, Barossa Valley, Margaret River, Yarra Valley, McLaren Vale, etc), and to Argentina and Chile (and Easter Islands) for another South American experience. Here I will make a point of doing some intensive wine tasting through the Uco Valley in Mendoza (Argentina) and the Colchagua Valley in the south of Chile. So many countries to taste, so little time!
There you have it: a segment of my life story! I hope we can be friends.