Andrew John Virtue Dobson started his blog DobbernationLoves (on Twitter: @dobbernation) after his first solo backpacking trip through Europe. The Toronto-based blogger’s day job is at Planeterra Foundation, the charitable arm of Gap Adventures, the Canadian-based travel company that hosts tours around the globe. The blog’s title is a clever play on Dobber (a nickname) and Nation (which he sees as “an authoritative stance on what I was doing and where I was going”). Dobson describes DobbernationLoves as a “lifestyle blog with an encyclopedia’s worth of information on travel, Toronto-based restaurants, cheese, wine and beer. I post consistently throughout the week all of the things I love, whether it be covering a fashion or arts based event, or some recipe I came up with over the weekend. I share whatever makes me smile.”
How do you balance posting so often to DobbernationLoves and a full-time job?
“It is exhausting but I always have my camera on me and rarely ever return to a restaurant more than once. I’m always looking to find the next best thing to share with my audience. I think the ‘blogging spirit’ is one of adventure. I travelled around the world for three years after I finished university and it was hard to move to Toronto knowing I was opting to make a switch from the wanderlust lifestyle to settling down. I was so used to documenting my travels it made sense that I continue my adventure on the home front. Toronto is unbelievable. I am always stunned at people who comment that ‘there is nothing to do in the city I am so bored.’ Cities aren’t boring, people are. This city only reveals herself to those who press her closely.”
What’s your favourite post you’ve done?
“My favorite post would probably be ‘One Hundred Grand.’ I wanted to write something sentimental when I hit 100,000 views on my blog. I celebrated with cupcakes and wrote a reflection on DobbernationLoves.”
You seem to be an avid chef, what do you like to cook?
“I have been in the kitchen since I was five-years old. I love to spend my weekends (mostly Sundays) in the kitchen preparing my homemade lunches for the work week. My favorite recipe post was a surprise for my aunt and mother. It was the spring and I had purchased a turkey with the intention of creating an Autumnal Thanksgiving feast. It was so unusual to eat a meal that is always associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas during a warm spring day. I also love to create cocktails using the preserves I make each spring and summer.”
Where do you like to go in Toronto to pick up ingredients for cooking?
“My favorite food shop is Sanko Japanese Market on Queen West. Their roasted sesame dressing is amazing. I’ve been trying to get another bottle (and just recently popped in this weekend) and they have been sold out for months! They can’t keep them on the shelves.”
Favourite restaurants and dishes in Toronto?
“For someone who has now been to over 300 restaurants in Toronto this question is impossible to answer. It depends on the time, place and who I am enjoying the meal with. I recently went to the opening week at Bannock, the new Oliver and Bonacini restaurant in the Hudson Bay Company at Bay and Queen. I thoroughly enjoyed their take on Canadian cuisine. It’s by far the best restaurant in the city that showcases the culinary traditions of our nation. It’s the perfect restaurant to suggest to a friend who is visiting Canada for the first time. Where else would they be able to eat a Duck Confit Poutine Bannock Pizza?”
Favourite place to visit in Canada for the food?
“Love Montreal. I immediately think of craft beer, poutine, smoked meat sandwiches and great bagels. Heavy on the carbs.”
Where was the last place you travelled to in Canada and what was the highlight of the trip?
“My last trip in Canada was a road trip to Prince Edward County which was sponsored by Ford Motor Company and coordinated with the help of the Prince Edward County Tourism Board. This was by far the most popular post to date. Thousands of people checked out this adventure. I took three of my best friends and we visited a ton restaurants, wineries and specialty food stores. Highlight was our tour of Fifth Town Cheese.”
Where do you want to visit next in Canada?
“I have never been east of Quebec City so would love to do a culinary tour of the Maritimes.”
When you’re planning a trip, how much thought do you put in to your itinerary and researching before you go?
“I am incredibly organized. On my first trip to Europe I had booked all of my hostels for the first two months and travelled around with a folder which itemized each of my accommodations by check-in date. I research the best accommodation in each destination in advance so I can stay at the top ranked spots rather than wait last minute and have to stay somewhere mediocre. I always use wikitravel.org and Lonely Planet to help me develop my itinerary. Working at Gap Adventures now I am a bit spoiled as I can easily ask a Destination Manager from any region of the world my questions over our lunch break. More recently I have been coordinating my travels directly with tourism boards. I am currently working with the Niagara Tourism Board to showcase the great culinary offerings for their November festival, Taste the Season.”