The February Blues XVII

February is the sweet spot of winter for me; tucked between the cruel cold winds of January and the mush that is March. February brings with it the eternal optimism of chocolate and flowers, and February brings to Barrie the Blues Festival, now in its seventeenth year.

As the little sister event to the sunny summer Blues and Jazz Festival, held June 5-16, 2014, The February Blues XVII is not simply the warm up act, it is the teaser, the temptress.

This music moves us and rocks us through the cold winter night.


Robin Munro answered the call years back when the City of Barrie asked him to consider creating a winter musical event to coincide with our annual Winterfest. Robin already had a strong relationship with the venues and sponsors from the Blues and Jazz Festival, so February Blues began.

There is an impressive list of venues and sponsors, truly something for all; from Bradford in the south to Midland in the north west, the listings a roadmap of our fine county; “South Side, East Side, West Side, Downtown Blues, the Four Corners of the Blues and the Library Blues”.

Restaurants and night clubs, libraries and public spaces, music was everywhere.


I started my tour at “Tara” the Dunlop Street restaurant for fine Indian Cuisine. As I walked in the door, Danny B was in the midst of a song. That man is a charmer, he took my hand and began to serenade me, even worked my name into his song. This reviewer blushed, took a deep breath and swayed along to his fine music. Danny B, bluesman extraordinaire, got my hearty applause, my intro to the weekend festival was off to a grand start! I stayed for a set, found our interview engaging and wished I had more time to soak up the ambiance.


My next destination was Sticky Fingers. The Paul James Band was the band du jour and I was thoroughly captivated. Here is a showman, with his shock of pompadour hair, hands that magically make a beer bottle play the strings, energy personified, he had the room rocking.

Paul James told me he has been playing a long time, and that he enjoys coming to Barrie for the February Blues, particularly to play for the folks that used to come down to the city to support him. It works well all round, he plays an amazing gig for us, and gets to go home to sleep in his own bed. I loved this. We get the music without the drive south, and he gets the comforts of home.

I stayed long after our interview; the energy in the room reflected his, the crowd hyped to listen. Paul James will be playing Sticky Fingers on St. Patrick’s Day, Monday March 17, 2014. Be there!


Saturday afternoon, my weekly farmers’ market bounty purchased, I sought out the sounds of Robin Munro himself with his Jazz-Mandhu, playing amidst the books at the Barrie Public Library. Library Blues venues provided family friendly locales from Bradford to Midland during the February Blues, allowing even the youngest fans access to the music.

While Winterfest brought the crowds downtown for a perfectly chilled day of adventures, I tucked in for a cozy home afternoon, conserving my energy for another night of musical discovery.


First up Saturday eve was my new fave spot for sipping vino at their gorgeous marble bar; Cha Cha Cha Italian Restaurant. This was a new entry on the venues list, most apropos, as owner Michelle Devlin’s daughter, Emily Devlin made her singing debut Saturday night, showing all present, this girl has talent! Then I was back to Sticky Fingers Bar and Grill on Bryne Drive, the headliner’s venue.

While regularly providing Barrie with exceptional musical acts, this was the setting for the grand finale of weekend festivities. In their new location, manager Dana Wright was thrilled to discover how wonderful the acoustics are; a small venue, an intimate setting, everything flows well.

The staff is professional, they know their stuff. Sticky Fingers provides consistency, serving up top notch entertainment with a side order of wings and ribs to satisfy your physical hunger, while the Blues and Jazz musicians will satisfy your every musical need.
511 Bryne Drive. Barrie. ON L4N 9P7 Phone: 705-721-8793

On Saturday night, Sticky Fingers was the place to be as Blues legend Jack de Keyzer took to the stage. This man is polished, professional, and has a mighty powerful voice.


Jack de Keyzer writes the music, plays the music, sings the music and exudes extraordinary talent. Juno awards, he has two of them. Maple Blues awards, count seven.

Musical excellence personified.

I listened.
I took pictures,
I bought the CD.

In conversation Jack de Keyzer shared that this is the only job he has ever had. He started playing professionally when he was 19 years old. He has happily made a good living playing the blues, and supporting his family for nearly 39 years.
It doesn’t get any better than that!


Simcoe Dining was a proud supporter of the February Blues.

While the sultry summer sounds of the Barrie Blues and Jazz festival will be a delight to review come June, the February Blues XVII warmed me nicely!

Written by: Penelope Morrow

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow

Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography

Smokes Poutinerie in Barrie


In Barrie, the Poutinerie is located downtown on Dunlop Street right beside H & R Block. For what the location is, it is in the perfect Barrie location. The food offering is top notch and is certainly addicting.

On the down side, the restaurant is actually quite small. The Poutinerie has only about 4 tables and another handful of bar-style seats. However, because the restaurant serves mainly take-out customers, there is usually a place to sit and have a fantastic poutine. Because of the limited seating and downtown location the restaurant isn’t well suited for family dining and could be troublesome for seating during a lunch-hour rush. What would work well in this setting is a date before going to a movie or out for a drink. The prices really accommodate this as well.


For two poutines and two soft drinks I only paid $21.00 after tax. The poutine by itself was quite large, very filling and was a little better than your average poutine. With options like pulled pork poutine, bacon double cheeseburger poutine and Montreal Smoked Meat Poutine you get a full-fledged meal rather than just a side order. If the regular size isn’t quite enough for you, the Wow size should do it for only $3.00 more.

The restaurant makes use of an 80s hard rock theme, with one wall that has a giant picture adorned with hard rock style guitars, as well as the famous “Dave Letterman” lookalike who seems to be the face of Smokes Poutinerie. Everytime I went there, I was impressed by the sounds of old Van Halen and Scorpions and other 80s hard rock favourites. Although 80s was the theme, the restaurant was super clean and well kept. I would not feel uncomfortable going there even late at night. The restaurants biggest selling point though is its hours of operation. The restaurant is open to 3am on Thursday nights and to 4am on Fridays and Saturdays. With hours like that, when you factor in the deceased pizza place downtown, it seems as though Smoke’s is an after-bar restaurant to the core. It now has the potential to be a favourite amongst only the street meat vendors and the shawarma place beside the Queens.


Not only is it for those of you downtown after the bar on the weekend, Smoke’s offers delivery. Give them a call for more details. At you can find their locations and hours, as well as the full menu and pricing.

With McDonald’s now offering poutine, Canadians obviously still love a good cheese and gravy with their fries. Smoke’s certainly makes poutine right. I loved the way they combined a more substantial meal into this Canadian favourite. I’m definitely headed back there for another as soon as possible. And I’ll probably hit it up for take out by the waterfront a few times next summer.

Written By: Michael Whone

Follow Michael Whone on Twitter @whoneranger and visit his website:

Smoke’s Poutinerie ( Visit Profile
24A Dunlop St., Barrie

SimcoeDining’s Valentine’s Day Guide

Take into account that a lot of restaurants will be busy on Friday, so be sure to make reservations in advance!


Crazy Fox:
There is a $69.95 special at the Crazy Fox on Valentine’s Day. This price is a three tiered menu which includes a starter (Baked Goat Cheese, Crab Cake, Yam Soup), a main course (Vegetarian Ravioli, Filet Mignon, Lamb), as well as the Crazy Fox Dessert Sampler. These are only a few of the options available so be sure to visit Crazy Fox’s website for more information:

Casa Mia:
This year, Casa Mia has a pre-set menu that includes a large variety of appetizers, main dishes, and pastas. They have Pita Bread, Hummus, Bruschetta, Escargot, Mussels, Lamb, Steak, Salmon, as well as Linguini and Penne pasta’s. Looking at the prices on the website, a couple can dine for around $50 each – take into account that this is a classy restaurant with a Chef who is ensuring that the meals are well-prepared and the prices reflect that. For a more detailed explanation of the meal options and the prices, please take a look at Casa Mia’s website:

Blue Mountain Ski Resort:
Why not head up to Blue Mountain for the day? There are a bunch of family activities being held throughout the day that are sure to be a lot of fun for the kids, like swimming and a scavenger hunt! There will be live music held at a variety of the restaurants in The Village, as well as an entertaining nightlife at one of the many pubs. Visit Blue Mountain’s website for more information regarding activity times:

Kim Mitchell playing at Sound Empire:
For those of you who may or may not have a significant other, or for those of you who simply want to be taken back to the 80’s Rock era, come on out to the Sound Empire on Friday, February 14th to see Kim Mitchell. The doors open at 8pm to the first act, the Swaying Tuesdays, and Kim Mitchell will take the stage later on in the evening. This event is 19+ and tickets are $28.32 plus tax. Any other information you may need can be found at:

Market Buffet & Grill:
At The Market Buffet on Valentine’s Day there is a neat little Candy Heart hunt occurring. The head of the Bakery has hidden little Candy Message Hearts within random cupcakes. If you are one of the lucky customers to find the Candy Message then you win a prize! If you have your kids for the evening then this would be an excellent place to bring them. If you have any inquiries about reservations or prices, call 705-792-1888.

Snow Valley Barrie:
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, there’s nothing more exciting than skiing or snowboarding with your loved ones. Spend this Valentine’s Day on the slopes at Snow Valley. If it is a date, there is a restaurant where you can warm up from the cold for a while.

Here is a list of some restaurants that have Valentine’s Day menus out, as well as some activities that are occurring around Barrie for the evening.: The North’s menu for Valentine’s Day stays fairly similar to its every day menu. There are, however, a few special items that will be added to the menu, but they are keeping it a secret, so be sure to go discover what’s in store at The North! For more information, have a look at The North’s website:

Valerie Colangelo is a writer from Barrie.