“Expect Great Things”. So says the sign in the city square opposite Canvas and Cabernet, the stunningly beautiful and wickedly comfortable wine bar, jazz music venue and painting studio, owned and operated by Cyndi Taylor on Dunlop Street in Barrie.
I first ventured into Canvas and Cabernet during the February Blues Festival as it was one of the featured venues. I was captivated by the delightful décor; design credit belongs to Cyndi’s daughter, Madison Taylor, of Madison Taylor Design.
There is an eye-catching clock wall, retro turntable and vinyl collection, sea urchin light fixtures, a delicate chainmail curtain separates the wine bar from the painting class area; all design elements are extraordinary.
The menu beckoned with offerings of charcuterie trays, gourmet cheeses from J’adore, and a wide selection of wines and spirits. I was eager to return, to let my senses explore.
On Sunday afternoons Canvas and Cabernet hosts live jazz music, when Tony Quarrington and Don Francks played recently, I was there.
I met Don Francks when I was a teenager, back in the day when my good judgment was not yet formed. I owed him a thank you.
We chatted before the music started and he said I had to include this story in my review. Being the character that he is, he framed our meeting, decades before, thusly.
“Write that I picked you up, took you home and chastised you for what you did” he said jokingly. To keep this story all ages’ reader friendly I will share that Don Francks taught me a valuable life lesson. I had tried my hand at hitchhiking, he was the one that picked me up, drove me home, lectured me the entire way and threatened to tell my parents. He drove miles out of his way to get me there safely. Lesson learnt. Thank you sir!
That Sunday afternoon spent listening to Tony Quarrington play guitar while our Canadian icon, Don Francks did improvisational jazz singing storytelling was utterly engaging.
The signature charcuterie tray, complete with balsamic bellavitano cheese photographed beautifully and tasted great!
I returned to talk with Cyndi Taylor and learn how this combination of “wine, paint and fun” came to be. Raised on the east coast, Cyndi developed her strong work ethic from her mother, “if you can’t find a job, make one” she taught her. Skilled as a seamstress, with a natural eye for design, this was Cyndi’s first career. Time spent in Calgary introduced her to the restaurant world via an Irish Pub and to her husband, a professional musician. Together they travelled Europe, surrounded with music, food and wine, a delight to the senses. Year spent working in the healing arts of acupuncture and massage therapy helped hone her innate people skills. While a recent trip to California planted the proverbial seed for what would become Canvas and Cabernet.
Reinvention was in Cyndi’s vocabulary long before it became au courant.
Self-described as “ridiculously independent” and a “work horse”, both are great qualities in my opinion. While scouting for a location, she discovered the aforementioned “Expect Great Things” sign, complete with an exceptional view of Kempenfelt Bay, this sealed the deal.
Canvas and Cabernet was lovingly nurtured from design conception to open door reality.
Cyndi shared that the name came from all the inspirational C’s; Cyndi, Chianti, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, Charley (her dog) Cee-Cee (her nick name) = Canvas and Cabernet!
How does it all work you may ask; restaurant customers are welcome to enjoy a panini and salad at lunch, the menu is locally sourced and will change with the seasons.
In the evening may I suggest a glass of wine and a charcuterie tray in the cozy chairs or slide up to the bar and ask them to mix you a specialty drink.
Canvas and Cabernet is the exclusive provider in Barrie of VQA wines from Rancourt Winery at Niagara on the Lake.
Painting is a main course on the menu! Classes are held daily in the afternoons and twice in the evenings for two hour sessions. No experience is necessary for you to create your own masterpiece as a featured artist patiently walks you step by step through the process. Groups are welcome and encouraged. Imagine the fun and comradery for a bridal or baby shower, or gathering together a group of friends for an evening of creative, relaxing fun.
This is a great place for a date night or slide in solo to enjoy the ambiance. The creativity isn’t just happening on the canvas, there are other great events too.
Call ahead to ask about Mad Man Tuesdays, Turn Table Thursdays, or Friday Night Flights when the sommeliers will be in from the Niagara winery to sample varietals with cheese and chocolate pairings. I asked Cyndi to share her vision with my readers: “For me it’s investing in what I love, I am sitting here looking at it, it’s right there, that’s my focus, investing in what I love, that’s my space in Barrie. It’s this view that I have, the warm welcome, it’s the storytelling circle, it’s the homemade presentation of food, that’s the wow factor, it’s like the Maritime kitchen for me in a beautiful way, and I can’t be different than that. I want people to sit and tell stories, I want to sit and listen to old music, to celebrate the past, to look at the future that is very quickly approaching.”
My eye for detail noticed small touches that are greatly appreciated when dining out; individual cloth hand towels in the ladies room, purse hooks at the tables, perfect lighting. It all works.
Expect great things, you will be delighted!
(705) 238 1687 or 705 252 9463(WINE)
72 Dunlop St E
Barrie, ON, L4M 1A4
Photos © Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography
This review was originally posted on Simcoe Dining in March, 2015.
Updated and edited on August 20, 2015.
Copyright 2015 YYZtech Group Media Ltd. Used with permission.