Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Vacation Photos’ Category

We ate lunch at 4 Nudos at the Port in San José, Spain. You may see a trend here of luncheon restaurants in Spain, it is because we eat too early and nothing is ever open at 7:30 (17:30) in the evening for dinner (they open at 9-9:30 which is far too late for us to eat). We have eaten at 4 Nudos many times and it’s always busy because it is a local favourite and it’s a destination restaurant.

4 Nudos is known for its seafood; they don’t serve meat, period. The port side restaurant is tastefully decorated with a seaside theme but the main focus is the view of the port through the open wall, the inside just flows outside seamlessly. We have dined on their delightful Paella (takes about 20 minutes to make) and other seafood delicacies but for our most recent lunch, we ate Tuna Tartare and the Tuna Tataki.

They began our meal with a lovely amuse bouche of phyllo-wrapped torpedo shrimp with a creamy fresh cheese sauce (sorry, forgot to snap a pic) and some wonderful warm bread.

I ordered the Tuna Tartare (~20 €) which was beautifully presented and delicious. It was lightly dressed in a creamy mayo and tossed with avocado, celery and red onions, wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber. This one is a keeper!

A delicious combination of fresh tuna, perfectly ripe avocado, crunchy celery and crisp red onions; thinly sliced white onions cascade from the tower like a waterfall.

JT ordered the Tuna Tataki. To say this was a generous portion would be an understatement. It was at least 250 g or more! There were perfectly roasted vegetables served alongside with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. The lemon wedge brightened everything up. The tuna had the best sear I have ever seen, still leaving a good part of the insides rare. It was a perfectly executed dish.

The portion size of this dish was huge. I think we may share this next time. The photo is a bit misleading as the lemon wedge is huge too!

We also ordered a little dessert of Almond Flan (~6 €). It was my least favourite of the meal and didn’t have much almond flavour but perhaps it was my misunderstanding, it might have been only almond topped! But the presentation was lovely and I love how the plate reminds me of the Azur colour of the Mediterranean Sea that this lovely restaurant sits near.

I would definitely recommend 4 Nudos in San José, the servers speak just enough English that they understand what we are ordering (although, I do try to pronounce the Spanish menu items). But beware, they have an English menu but it is not up to date and they warn you that things on it may be different or unavailable. It’s best to pull out your phone and Google translate with the picture feature.

Overall rating of 4 Nudos, San José (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4.5/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

Read Full Post »

Mesón El Pescador, San José

I am uncertain if it’s just us, but travel seems to get easier as we get older. I seem to recall that the transatlantic flights used to bag us completely, but now it hardly bothers us at all. And I used to be able to sleep on the plane, now I just binge-watch a series that I’ve downloaded. We generally land in the UK in the morning and stay one night; JT and I drop our luggage off at a hotel and take the train into town. Last year, we even saw Come from Away in the evening and we were still OK around midnight!

First things first, we ordered our adult beverages.

For our 2020 trip, we flew into Gatwick, spent the night and then the early the following morning we flew into Almeria and picked up our car. We like to feel at home as soon as possible so we unpacked our luggage and drove into town for lunch. February and March are definitely low season in San José and many of the retailers and restaurants are closed. We don’t mind because we don’t like crowds or the heat of the summer when everything is open. Unfortunately, Mesón Il Pescador was one of the few restaurants open when we went hunting for lunch. We just dived in without reading reviews which is totally out of character for me, but it turned out well and I’m glad we went. Sadly, it doesn’t get good reviews but it was relatively busy with the locals when we stumbled in, so we took a chance that it was good and it didn’t disappoint.

We sat outside along the beach and were lucky to get a table. There were mostly locals dining that day; I could tell because they were all sporting winter jackets while the tourists are wearing T-Shirts and Shorts!

Steamed Mussels € 10. ($14.50 Canadian)

JT ordered a ham and cheese sandwich that wasn’t available and then the chicken cutlet of which they also ran out. The steamed mussels (10 €) were his third choice. The dish would have been nice with some crusty bread alongside, we asked but it never showed up. The mussels were relatively large, fresh and tasty. I ordered the grilled octopus (20 €) (incidentally, it was my only choice) which was grilled to perfection, tender and nicely flavoured by the grill. The octopus was drizzled with a good, spicey olive oil which made for a nice sauce to dip the fries into. Although it was delicious, I found the 20 € pricey.

We enjoyed the meal and if I crave grilled octopus again, we will definitely go back. But read the reviews and be your own judge. We may have been lucky that day.

Pulpo a la Plancha 20 € ($29 Canadian)

Overall rating of Mesón Il Pescador (in my opinion): Decor n/a, service 2.5/5, food 4/5, Value 2/5, Noise: n/a (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

Read Full Post »

During the month we spent in Arizona, we had the pleasure of celebrating American Thanksgiving with our dear friends down there. Our dear friends who live there offered to make the turkey (thank goodness, as I did not have any of my special kitchen tools!) so I offered to make a few different sides. We had dear friends visiting from Toronto and they are vegetarian and I wanted to make something special for them for Thanksgiving, so I made this Mushroom, Chestnut and Bean Wellington. I purchased the puff pastry to make it easier but I made everything else. I was surprised to find roasted Italian chestnuts (in the Kosher section, no less!) but sadly the mushrooms were just plain cremini and white mushrooms, not much variety. It’s always a bit of a challenge to cook in a strange kitchen and shop in a different part of the world, but I think this one turned out wonderful and with a variety of mushrooms, it would be amazing! Please excuse the photos, this is the one and only blog post I managed to eak out during our stay in Arizona, I was THAT busy!

Scroll down to the end of this post to see the house we rented. It took us some time to find one that was decorated in light airy colours, most of the rentals are dark and dowdy, filled with ‘granny’s furniture’ and I just couldn’t bear to live in that for a month! Although I might have chosen a slightly lighter tone for the walls, this house made me happy.

Fresh out of the oven.

Mushroom, Chestnut and Bean Wellington

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 Wellington about 30 cm x 15 cm (12 inches x 6 inches)

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 cups variety of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely cubed
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely cubed
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, finely cubed
  • 1/2 cup roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2-1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup navy beans, soaked
  • 4 cups vegetable stock, divided
  • 1/2 cup port
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 puff pastry sheet
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly whisked with a little water.

Directions:

  1. Cook the navy beans in 3 cups veggie stock or water, cool.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan, caramelize the onions in the melted butter and olive oil on medium heat (about 20 minutes). Add mushrooms and cook until the mushroom liquid has evaporated. Turn the heat up and caramelize the mushrooms add the port to deglaze the pan.
  3. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, zucchini and roasted chestnuts and sauté until carrots are slightly softened.
  4. Add the rosemary, panko, cooked navy beans, and veggie stock. Season to taste. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  5. On a cold surface, roll out the puff pastry sheet to about 30 cm x 40 cm (12 inches x 16 inches). Brush the Dijon mustard on the pastry and mound the cooled mushroom filling in the centre of the pastry. Turn up each side until they meet in the middle and pinch closed. Pinch the ends closed and trim off excess pastry.
  6. Turn the log onto a parchment lined baking sheet seamed sized down, and brush with the egg yolk. Decorate with leaves from the leftover end pastry and brush with egg wash. Bake in a hot 400° F oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden.
  7. Serve sliced hot out of the oven, or reheat to serve.

A tasty treat wrapped in delicious buttery pastry.

Click on any photo for the slideshow.

Read Full Post »

I will reveal our latest adventure now! Drumroll please: We spent the month of November in Arizona. We have dear friends who live there during the winter and when we were visiting during February, we tossed around the idea to buy a second house there. But before we make the plunge, we wanted to be certain we liked it so we rented an awesome house in the same community that our friends live.

Now who were we kidding? It was -5° C (23° F) (but it felt like -10° C (14° F)) in Toronto while we were enjoying 28° C (82° F) with sunshine. Every. Single. Day. What’s not to like? The community is tagged as resort-style living with a gorgeous golf course and 4 swimming pools, a spa, workout facilities and a couple of restaurants. Yep, I could get used to it!

The community is located in Queen’s Creek. Queen’s Creek is situated in the San Tan Valley, south-east of Phoenix, Arizona. As another friend said, “it’s not quite the end of the world, but you can see the end of the world from there!”

It is also a mere 4.5-hour drive to the Grand Canyon and that is where we did our EPIC hike! We hiked 7.5 hours to Indian Grove and back. Going down was relatively easy, we bought good hiking boots and sticks, but going up was significantly more challenging because of the altitude and lack of oxygen. We stopped and rested a lot. Listening to your body is essential as is allowing your muscles to recover as you’re ascending. It took us 3 hours to hike down and 3.5 hours to hike back up (which isn’t bad for a couple of old folks!), the rest of the time we spent at Indian Grove eating a delicious lunch I packed. The worst part was the day and day two later, my calves ached like a demon. But it was worth it! I’ve put together s little slide show of our hike at the end of this post, if you are interested. And by the way, my stupid FitBit died sometime during our hike so I don’t even know how many steps we did, but if the last time we hiked only 1.5 hours down and back was any indication, we did 22,000 steps! This is my third FitBit Zip and when I called them that it was eating the batteries like crazy (one every 2-3 weeks) they said it was a known issue and they are working on fixing it but would do NOTHING ELSE. So I am done with FitBit, they let me down in one of the most epic hikes of my life and had nothing but “oh, sorry” to say about it. I am going to get a Garmin which I hear are much more reliable.

This cookie has nothing to do with the hike or our trip, it’s a cookie I made for Canadian Thanksgiving at my sweet cousin Lucy’s place. My dear blogging friend Liz (of That Skinny Chick Can Bake, blog) was the inspiration, I saw the recipe on her site a while back. These cookies were all the rave in the 90’s on restaurant menus but I haven’t seen one in ages. Liz’s recipe will change that for sure.

Skillet Chocolate Chunk Cookie

Makes 1 12″ Cookie

Please click here for the original recipe.

Click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 195 g butter
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 150 g brown sugar
  • 15 mL vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 350 g AP Flour
  • 3 g baking powder
  • 5 g salt
  • 100 g chocolate chips (I used Belgian milk and semi-sweet chocolate)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F (I used the convection setting). Prepare a 30 cm cast iron skillet with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Melt the butter and sugars in a heatproof bowl in the microwave, stir until sugars have melted. Cool slightly and then stir in the vanilla. Combine the egg and whites and whisk. Whisk into the butter-sugar mixture.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt, add it to the butter-sugar mixture and mix until well combined.
  4. Fold in 3/4 the chocolate, reserving about 1/4 to dot the top of the cookie for garnish.
  5. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Cool to room temperature. Serve slicing fractions of the circle.

Notes:

  • I like to buy Belgian chocolate disks (not molding chocolate) and melt them, spread them on a cookie sheet and chill until set. Then I break up the sheets by hand, making different sized pieces with a variety of thicknesses.

It’s a cross between cookie and blondie that is quite difficult to resist.

Click on the first photo to see the slideshow.

Read Full Post »

In early September, our dear friends came for a visit and JT and I planned a full schedule of fun activities! We went hiking at a conservation area, saw King Lear in High Park (which turned out to be reimagined from a female perspective, Queen Lear), we traveled to Montreal for a few days with a stop in Kingston to visit the newly refurbished Kingston Penitentiary. The time went quickly and a much-needed fix with special friends. Our days were packed, so I made these Banana Bran Muffins for a breakfast on the morning we went hiking, as we were also having lunch at an adorable little cafe near the conservation area. Scroll down to see a few pics of Kingston Pen.

Banana Bran Muffins with Belgian Milk Chocolate Chunks

Original recipe from Company’s Coming, Muffins and More by Jean Paré.

Makes about 10-12 medium-sized muffins

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 128 g (1 cup) flour
  • 60 g (1 cup) all bran cereal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips or chunks (I used Belgian milk chocolate chunks)
  • 60 g (1/4 cup) coconut oil
  • 75 g (1/2 cup) coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 65 mL (1/4 cup) sour milk (milk with 1/4 tsp lemon juice)
  • 250 mL (3 medium or 1 cup) bananas, mashed

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200° C). Prepare muffin pans by spraying with non-stick spray.
  2. Combine flour, bran, baking powder and soda and salt in a bowl and mix.
  3. Cream coconut oil and sugar with 1 egg until well blended and add the other egg and beat well. Combine the soured milk and mashed bananas and mix well.
  4. Pour into the dry mixture and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups to about 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool slightly and serve.

These muffins have excellent texture from the moistness of the bananas and the bran cereal.

Notes:

  • These muffins are not nearly as sweet using coconut sugar as using regular white sugar.

Read Full Post »

tejas-dulces_first

Happy Halloween Everyone! Hope you all have a ghoulish night!!!

While in Europe this past September, we spent four extremely hot days in Sevilla. It’s no wonder they call Spain the “Frying pan of Europe”! It wasn’t as hot as it had been (near 50° C or 122° F) but it was hot enough for us! The sun was relentless and most locals only walk in the shade (you can tell who lives there because they hug the shadows directly beside the old buildings!). The city has covered some of its sunnier streets with canopy sails to shade the citizens and tourists, it’s that bad!

Many of the historic town streets have these sails in both Sevilla and Madrid.

Many of the historic town streets have installed these canopy sails to protect citizens and tourist from the unyielding sun, in both Sevilla and Madrid, though I did not see them in Granada.

During one of our last walks though the beautiful historic part of town, we stumbled into the area where the locals actually live. There were no tourist shops, a few restaurants, just butchers, bakers, children’s clothing stores, kitchen stores (yes, I did buy something), grocery stores and specialty shops. One such shop was a beautifully designed little cookie shop where they sold only one type of cookie in three flavours: La Tejas Dulces de Sevilla, in almond, pistachio and coconut. A young lady was handing out samples in front of the beautiful store and we couldn’t resist. In one taste, we were immediately hooked on the simple almond flavour and lovely crunchy texture and we had to buy some. Upon returning to Toronto, I hid the small package so that I could work on a recipe and perfect it for the blog. I told JT it was for the greater good, he wasn’t impressed.

The cookies are light, airy, crunchy and full of flavour; imagine a genoise batter spread paper-thin, topped with almonds and baked until golden. They are so GOOD! The recipe is relatively simple but follow the instructions to get the signature airy, crunchy texture. I think this could easily convert to a gluten free variety, stay tuned!

I must warn you, though, because these are not like the French Tuiles, these have a bit more body than a traditional French tuiles. They are really more cracker-like than a tuile or a cookie.

Scroll down to the end of this post to see pictures from this part of our trip.

tejas-dulces_2

Delicately sweet, these crispy, flavourful cookies hit the spot for an afternoon craving!


original

These are the originals we brought back from Sevilla, sadly only three left and a mess of crumbs but I’ve finessed the recipe so I can make more!

Almond Tuiles of Sevilla (Tejas Dulces de Sevilla)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 25 cm x 30 cm (10″ x 12″) sheet, cut to make cookies or various sizes

Ingredients:

  • 30 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 75 g (3/4 cup) almonds, thinly sliced and toasted
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 80 g (~1/3 cup) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond flavour
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 50 g cake and pastry flour
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Toast the almonds until golden. Set aside to cool.
  2. Melt* the butter and set aside to cool.
  3. Beat the egg with the sugar until it reaches the ribbon stage, about 5 minutes. Beat in the flavourings and cooled butter.
  4. Sift the flour with the salt and fold into the egg mixture, cover and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 265° F (130° C).
  6. Pour the entire batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and spread out until it is quite thin (about 3-4 mm (about 1/8-3/16 inch) works out to about 30 cm x 30 cm (12″ x 12″). Evenly sprinkle the toasted almonds onto the batter and gently push into the batter**.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until evenly golden, turn the pan once about halfway.
  8. While still warm, move parchment onto a cutting board and cut into uneven shapes with a pizza cutter. Transfer parchment to a cooling rack and allow to cool. Cookies will firm up as they cool.
  9. Once cooled, store in an airtight container for about a week, but they won’t last that long!

Spread batter out thinly (about 30 x 30 cm or 12 x 12 inches)

Spread batter out thinly (about 30 x 30 cm or 12 x 12 inches)


tejas-dulces_3

I made another batch but spread the batter out much thinner. They probably could have baked a little longer to get a little richer colour, but the flavour and texture is spot on.

Notes:

  • *for additional flavour, brown the butter in a frying pan until hazelnut in colour.
    ** to insure that all of the almonds are ‘stuck’ to the batter, I did a little toss of the pan quickly and that way I was able to move ‘unstuck’ almonds to a better place.
  • Add a teaspoon of lemon zest because lemon and almond go so wonderfully together!
  • Drizzle melted chocolate over the cookies once they are cool, refrigerate until set then store in an airtight container for about a week, but be warned, these won’t even last as long as the originals!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Read Full Post »

pomegranatesyrup_firstRecently, JT and I spent three wonderful weeks touring through London, Almeria, San José, Granada, Sevilla, Madrid and finally Paris. It was awesome. I will recount some wonderful meals and memories in future posts but I wanted to share a quick and easy recipe to make pomegranate syrup because my dear friend Sissi (With A Glass) recently posted a beautiful salad which included pomegranate seeds and the dressing was created with pomegranate molasses, a slightly sweet and sour syrup.

Sissi’s post went live around the time we had just spent the day in Granada, a large, historical city in the south of Spain. We did a wonderful walking tour of the city with Panchotours with Registered Tour Guide, Veronica and at one point she mentioned that the word Granada in Spanish means pomegranate! What a coincidence! The name is appropriate because the streets are lined with gorgeous pomegranate trees. Yes, you could just reach up and grab a fresh pomegranate, how cool is that? Sadly, they were not quite ripe enough, otherwise, you know I would have!

granada-pomegranate

ourtourguide

Our lovely tour guide, Veronica.

Several weeks prior to our departure, we purchased something and for some unknown reason were given a 473 mL bottle of Pom Pomegranate Cherry Juice for free. We don’t normally drink juice as it is far better to eat your fruit than drink it so it sat in the refrigerator until now! Making the syrup is so easy, I won’t even list it as a recipe. Simply pour the entire content of the bottle into a non-reactive pan and boil it on medium-high for about 30 -40 minutes or until it reduces to about 100 mL. I didn’t want an overly thick syrup (the viscosity is about the same as maple syrup) so you could boil it down even more — but be very careful, after a very short time, it can burn very easily! Allow to cool and pour into a sterilized bottle. Store in a cool, dark location.

pomegranate-syrup

It’s a thick, sweet and slightly sour syrup. that is delicious on chunks of Parmesan.

alhambra

The view of the Alhambra.

granadaview_new

Panoramic View of Granada.

Read Full Post »

ChristmasTree_4226

Merry Christmas everyone.

Christmas Eve is the more celebrated day in European families, even those residing in North America. Back when I was a child, my family would make the trip out to Northern Toronto on December 23 or 24 to buy our Christmas tree. It was tradition not to set up the tree until the day of Christmas Eve (although JT and I have been known to get our tree in late November!). Even though it was late by North American standards and the trees were pretty well picked over, we always managed to find a good one (not an easy task in a family of tree connoisseurs). One year the best tree (read fattest) was so short, we had to put it on a table. Mom said it was so more presents could fit under the tree. The only thing Dad did with the tree is put the lights on it. The lights would only be turned on to make sure they were evenly distributed and then they wouldn’t be turned on until later that night. Mom, my younger brother and I would always dress the tree. My favourite part was adding the tinsel after all the gorgeous hand blown glass balls (and various kid craft ornaments) were hung; my brother would throw the tinsel on by handful and I would carefully add them one tinsel strand at a time. The tree wouldn’t be complete without adding szalonczukor, a traditional Hungarian fondant candy that my Aunt and Uncle would send every year from Budapest. We also had candy canes but that was later as we became more Canadianized.

Christmas Eve was our big celebration and we would always have a huge dinner (Mom would make fish and turkey with all the fixings) and then after dinner (which seemed to take F O R E V E R) we’d be sent off to our rooms to see if we could see Santa in the skies because we’d follow him through NORAD! During that time Santa would arrive quite quietly and fill the floor beneath the tree with gifts. So many gifts. Then, Mom and Dad would turn off all the lights and illuminate the tree, Dad would put on on some Christmas music (a special mix he made on the Sony reel to reel) and they would signal my brother and I (and usually some stray my Mom invited for dinner) to come out of our room into the living room. That was our Christmas. I can still feel that nervous energy and the excitement of the anticipation as we walked down the hall into the living room, our eyes bugged open to take in the view of our beautifully lit Christmas tree and piles and piles of presents! We would always start out opening presents systematically but by the end it was always chaos. At some point Mom would serve dessert, a traditional Yule log (piskota), both walnut and poppy seed Baigli! She also made a Lindzer Szelet which was my Dad’s favourite (a tender pastry square with a layer of apricot jam and sometimes chocolate ganache). Cognacs would be poured (for the adults) and my brother and I would lose ourselves in the bounty of all our new toys and have an impromptu fashion show off all our new clothes (well, maybe that was just me). Family friends always popped in after dinner after the mess was cleaned up, more desserts were served and more cognac was poured. It truly was magical.

On Christmas Day, my brother and I would open our stockings and we would continue to play with our new things while Mom made a beautiful breakfast with kuglof and home made jam. Christmas Day was usually quiet at our house, we hung around in our jammies, played, watched a Christmas movie or two and just chilled. We were always invited to my parents’ best friends for Christmas Day dinner.

JT’s and my Christmas took on a similar landscape with the exception that on Christmas Eve we always go to my brother’s for dinner because they have kids. Lately, they been having a ham for dinner so we’re not eating turkey two days in a row (honestly, I don’t mind two turkey dinners). I usually bake a Yule log and a plate of Christmas cookies to share. This year I’ve baked a white chocolate and strawberry tart that I’m recipe testing. My brother’s family celebrate a more traditional North American Christmas (with her family) with the major festivities on the morning of the 25th and dinner with her family in the afternoon, which works out perfectly since JTs family does the same so we’ve never had a conflict. Today we’ll have JTs family over for our turkey dinner, complete with stuffing, roast potatoes, gravy and green beans with garlic and almonds. Dessert will be pie that my SIL brings as well as a cheesecake thing that I’m recipe testing. So tell me, how does your family celebrate Christmas and is it the 24th or the 25th?

It’s been a whirlwind  year and I must admit that December snuck up on me and I feel like I’m behind. But the next few days will be all about family, relaxing and just enjoying the festivities. JT and I wish you all the best, a very merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!

Read Full Post »

When we travel we never like to book lunches because we never really know where we are going to be when hunger strikes; so we leave it to the last minute and find a Starbucks sit with an espresso and peruse Yelp for some recommendations in relation to our location! I love that Starbucks has free WIFI! Yelp is an excellent review site where I find most of the reviewers are more foodie than not and their restaurant reviews are excellent! Sometimes we use open table, but it’s only good for establishments who subscribe so it often doesn’t work out.

We landed on Café du Parc in Washington’s elite Intercontinental Willard Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. The restaurant describes itself as a traditional French bistro where the food ‘fuses witha modern atmosphere to provide a truly authentic bistro experience” (from Café du Parc’s website) — well, I’m not sure about food fusing with atmosphere, but the experience was pleasant enough. Have I ever mentioned this thing that I find SO INCREDIBLY annoying? It’s when the wait-staff remove plates before everyone is finished at the table. JT eats faster than I do and I am often left eating on my own with the table cleared. Not this time but I had to tell them to leave the plates alone until I am done! What school of etiquette did these people go to? They’ll loose points on service for that one.

The décor is blues, creams and yellows and the dining room was light and airy; it made me happy to be there! They also had a very lovely patio but the heat was overwhelming so we chose to eat inside; bad choice since all the windows and doors were wide open and the A/C didn’t seem to be on, but we soon acclimated and all was well.

With the exception of the faux pas of the attempt to remove JTs dishes before I was finished, the service was efficient, friendly and quick — we were in and out in less than an hour, but we had places to go and people to see, so we were fine with that.

Cafe du parc Nicoisse_0157

Cafe du Parc’s Salade Niçoise

I ordered the Salad Nisçoise which was rare tuna served on a bed of mesclun salad, with pitted black olives (I prefer the pits in, the pitted always makes me think they are canned), green beans, tomatoes, a hard boiled egg, cucumber speers, julienned celery, delightful pickled white anchovies (a very nice change) with a very light balsamic vinaigrette which was not over dressed. The salad was fresh, flavourful and quite filling, but for the $21 for lunch, I would have expected a bit more tuna on the plate.
JT ordered the Croque Monsieur which was a very generous sandwich of French ham & Gruyère cheese sandwich, served with a mixed green salad and hand cut fries ($18) considering how expensive the ingredients in this dish are, I felt the $18 price tag was a reasonable amount.
And that concludes our visit to DC, thanks again to Jed and Liz for their generous hospitality and advise.
Cafe du parc Croque M_0159

Croque Monsieur

Overall rating of Café du Parc, DC (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 2.5/5, food 4/5, Value 3/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Cafe du Parc

1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20004

(202) 942 7000

Monday – Friday

Breakfast : 6:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. (a la carte ends at 9:45; 9:45-10:30 buffet only)

Lunch : 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Cocktails and Light Fare : 2:30pm – 5:00 p.m.

Dinner : 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Saturday – Sunday

Breakfast : 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. (a la carte ends at 10:30; 10:30-11:00 buffet only)

Lunch : 12:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Cocktails and Light Fare : 3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Dinner : 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Terrace (weather permitting)

Breakfast is served at our courtyard only.

Service starts at 11:30 Mon – Fri and 12:00 noon Sat-Sun until 10:00 p.m.; weather permitting.

 

Read Full Post »

Tomorrow is JT’s birthday, please join me in wishing him a Happy Birthday!

Our second night in DC we chose Bistro Bis, a contemporary French bistro, located in one of DC’s other Kimpton hotels called the Hotel George. The tour bus mentioned that this hotel is famous amongst celebrities visiting DC (the likes of Justin Bieber: gag). It’s high ceilings and lack of soft surfaces makes this establishment a little noisier than I like, but we were able to get a lovely table that was tucked away in a corner allowing me to talk without yelling at the top of my lungs. Our Russian waitress was lovely and attentive and even though her section was rather full, we never felt ignored.

The first dish we ordered was the Escargot Forestière, burgundy snails on toasted brioche with garlic confit, beech mushrooms, artichokes and bordelaise ($13) did not get off to a good start; the escargot were incredibly sandy and it turned us off immediately. There is nothing grosser than improperly cleansed escargot — they slither around in the garden eating anything and everything in their path, they MUST be thoroughly cleansed. We sent it back to the kitchen and they immediately rectified the situation by offering to replace the order with any thing we wanted, so we order the Oysters Gratin Florentine. The dish was an oyster ragout with smoked ham, spinach, fennel, tarragon glaçage and grilled baguette ($12.50) and it was lovely. The portion size was enough to share, I couldn’t imagine eating this rich dish on my own.

Bistro Bis oysters_0100

A deliciously rich sauce

My main course was the Steak Tartare, of course! Steak Tartare Atilla is a traditionally flavoured tartare with finely chopped raw sirloin with capers, onions, cornichons, spicy aïoli and garlic potato chips ($13) — for the price it was a very generous portion and they sold it as an appetizer size. The little salad was delicious with the tartare and I could have used a bit more of it.

Bistro Bis Steak Tartar_0102

Night lighting is not great for restaurant photos.

JT ordered the Côte de Porc Roti which was pan roasted berkshire pork chop with barley risotto, spring vegetables and morello cherry gastrique ($27) and even though it was expensive, it was an extremely generous size of meat. It was perfectly cooked and very tender, and the cherry gastrique was an innovated and delicious pairing. I believe JT would order this dish again.

Bistro Bis Pork Chop_0103

A very generous portion of meat.

We generally don’t order dessert, but we felt like lingering as the meal finished a little faster than we had hoped so we ordered cappuccino’s and I must say, they were the hottest cap’s I’ve ever had. As part of the apology for the sandy escargot, the chef sent out a lovely tasting plate of dessert, very tiny portions, but enough to finish the meal.

Bistro Bis Dessert_0106

After we had finished our meal the manager came over to apologize and we chatted with him for a while. They really redeemed themselves by the service so I would recommend this place, but sadly not the escargot.

Overall rating of Bistro Bis, DC (in my opinion): Decor 3/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Bistro Bis, Washington, DC

15 E Street NW
Washington DC 20001

Read Full Post »

Our first dinner in DC was at Proof, one of the recommendations Jed and Liz (of the infamous Sports-glutton blog) made and it truly DID NOT DISAPPOINT! Proof is a moderately price American restaurant with an eclectic menu (their words). It’s contemporary design with rustic elements (brick walls, wooden tables and antique dressers) make for a very warm and inviting eating establishment — the bathrooms are wild! We chose to eat inside because of the high temperatures outside, but their patios looked amazing! I also wanted to mention that the dinner had a lovely pace to it, not too fast and not too slow, all in all it was almost two hours for the three courses which was perfect.

Both our server and somelier were friendly and attentive enough without being over-bearing — we never once had to fill our own wine glass. We decided to share the starters and chose the Bresaola, which was from Uruguay, cured, juniper scented beef tenderloin ($8US), I thought it was quite tasty although the juniper was very subtle and for $8US I felt we got a good serving size for the price. We also shared the Duck Liver Mousse (aka Fois Gras) with Pickled Red Onions & Baby Greens ($11US) and it was over the top, the duck liver mousse was so creamy, yet felt rather light in the mouth. Our server even brought us a nice selection of house made crackers and breads because as you can see, there are only three crostini’s with the dish. We were off to a great start.

Proof DuckFoieGras Mousse_Spec_0063

Our starters that we shared.

My main course (appetizer portion) was the Ahi Tuna Tartare with Crispy Nori Tempura with hass avocado, wasabi soy emulsion ($15) and I must tell you it is by far the BEST tuna Tartare I’ve ever had and I’ve had quite a few. The flavours just hit me perfectly with just the right amount of wasabi (no tears). The crispy Nori was a beautiful contrast in texture to the creamy avocado and the soft tuna. If you can believe it, my mouth is watering as I type this. I could have had two portions it was THAT good.

Proof Tuna Tartar_0062

The BEST tuna tartar I’ve EVER had

JT chose the gnocchi which came in two sizes, a small appetizer portion and a large main portion — this is the smaller size and as you can see, it was plenty (the bowl was about 24cm or 9.4 inches in diametre. The dish was Sautéed Potato Gnocchi with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms spring peas, baby chard in a sweet farm butter with basil and Parmesan sauce ($15/$27). JT was kind enough to allow me to taste this beautiful dish (sorry, it was already dark when I took the photo) and it was fantastic, but don’t let the sauce fool you, even though it’s not a cream-based sauce there is A LOT of butter in this dish! Both of our courses were lip smackingly good and I immediately wished we had this restaurant in Toronto as it became a fast favourite!

Proof Gnocchi_0060

JT chose the gnocchi

Thank you kindly for the reco’s Jed and Liz, you really hit this one bang on. It’ll be on my list whenever we return to DC.

If you find yourself in DC, do yourself a favour and try this place, it won’t disappoint.

Overall rating of Proof DC (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Proof DC

775 G Street, NW Washington, DC 20001

proof@proofdc.com

202.737.7663

 

Lunch

Tuesday – Friday 11:30 – 2:00

 

Dinner

Monday – Thursday 5:30 – 10:00

Friday – Saturday 5:30 – 11:00

Sunday 5:00 – 9:30

Read Full Post »

We usually travel to New York City around our anniversary to celebrate (read shop) and to have incredible food, but this year we decided to cross off another bucket list destination and go to Washington DC instead. I’ve always wanted to see the wonderful monuments, the Smithsonian Museums, Capital Hill and The White House and we did all that and more! We were lucky with the weather because it wasn’t raining but it was unbelievably hot and humid — we were told it was more like summer weather. But we donned our sunscreen, hats, comfy shoes (yes, you read that right) and left our hotel at 9am to return hot, tired (and did I say hot?) around 5pm just in time for wine and cheese in the lobby.

We stayed at the Kimpton Madera in Dupont Circle, a very good location which is close to Georgetown and the subway. We’ve stayed in several Kimpton hotels over the years and have always had exceptional experiences and this property was no different. My friend Karen from Back Road Journal made a great suggestion to join the Kimpton’s Loyalty Program and we did, and it has worked out very well for us, thank you Karen. Because we are InTouch members we received a voucher to raid the mini-bar (or one free cocktail in the bar — guess which one we did?), free WIFI in our room and a lovely room upgrade to one of their superior King rooms! Aron at the front desk and Fernando at the front door were incredibly helpful and friendly. Aron found out that we were celebrating our anniversary so he comped us breakfast every day, how nice is that? I consider breakfast an easy meal to really control calories while traveling, so the free continental breakfast with whole grain toast and fruit was perfect for us.

We ate at wonderful restaurants (reviews to come) and had some fantastic times with new friends — JT and I were very fortunate to meet up with fellow blogger Jed Gray and his beautiful wife Liz of the infamous Sports-Glutton blog. I started following Jed a couple of years ago and haven’t looked back. When I emailed Jed that we were thinking of coming down to DC, he and Liz very generously spent an incredible amount of time writing up recommendations for areas to stay in and provided some excellent restaurant recommendations and they were spot on. We met for dinner on our last night and as you can imagine we got on as if we were long-time friends. The lively non-stop conversation was richly dotted with good bouts of laughter. Thank you so much Jed and Liz it was such a pleasure to meet you both and JT and I sincerely hope that we will be able to repay your hospitality in Toronto very soon.

DC, what can I say? Go big or go home would sum it up. The city itself is only about 176 square kilometres or 68 square miles, so it’s not enormous, but because DC has so much to see and do, you really should plan on 4-5 days, sadly we were only there just under three days so it was a bit rushed but that just means we will need to go back sometime soon. We arrived on Thursday around 11:30 and took a stroll through Georgetown which was a 20 minute walk from our hotel. It was very hot and humid. We decided to have lunch at a Peruvian restaurant which worked out very well and then we walked around some more. Our hotel serves up wine and cheese from 5-6pm every day and we like to go because it gives us an opportunity to chat with the other guests. There weren’t other guests having the wine and cheese but we were able to chat with Aron at the front desk and he made some lovely recommendations about DC.

There is a lot to see and do in DC, so it’s best to have a game plan; figure out what is most important to you and then plan your stay according to that. We wanted to see a few of the Smithsonians (which by the way are totally FREE!): The Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian Castle, the National Gallery. And we wanted to spend some time walking around the monuments near the Tidal Basin. We did the Hop on Hop off bus tour, but we made the mistake of hopping on and off, so we ended up wasting A LOT of time waiting to hop back on. The bus we got on later in the afternoon was so incredibly slow it was painful. We should have cut our losses but we persevered, and therefore missed seeing a few of the things we wanted to see — so there will be a next time. Due to an earthquake in 2011, the Washington Monument was damaged and therefore closed for repairs and will not open until 2015…so that’s a great excuse to return.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We met Jed and Liz at 5:30 on Saturday night in Georgetown, a short cab ride from our hotel and their apartment. Jed suggested we meet at the Four Seasons bar called Bourbon Steak (well you just know the night is off to a great start!). In true gluttonous form Jed selected this classy establishment because of the variety of unusual cocktails served; we all know JT and I do cocktails, and Jed’s Thirsty Thursdays lead me to believe that they do too! The next course was dinner, we had a short walk (yes, I was wearing inappropriate shoes which made walking on the cobblestone in combination with the extreme heat very difficult!) to a very nice Mexican Restaurant called Bandolero. We started with more drinks and some very tasty treats. I loved this place because it was tapas style so we each got to enjoy every flavour and not have to commit to one dish. Conversation with either Jed or Liz was easy and JT and I flipped back and forth with the two. Our first course was La Muestra, which was guacamole, masa crisps, chicarrones, and three salsas, very flavourful salsas and the guacamole was delicious! Then, each of us selected one item to share; it was very tasty and four items seemed to hit the spot with all of us. In chatting with Liz I wondered if there were any cool jazz bars in DC and she lit up knowing just the one so our next stop was Blues Alley but we were only able to get tickets for the 10pm show, so without hesitation we went to a J-Paul’s saloon for, you guessed it, more drinks and conversation until it was time for the show. We heard the exceptional John Pizzarelli (who concidentally sometimes plays with Diana Krall – a fellow Canadian!)
Sadly we cut the night short as we were flying home the next day — we usually stay up much later, really we do! We really enjoyed our time with Jed and Liz (you guys really made our little DC vacation!)

I encourage you to visit Washington DC, it’s really much more than I expected and I was expecting a lot!

Read Full Post »

Luggage for 3 days_4351

This is luggage for three days and two nights.
I take my favourite pillow when ever we drive.

Easter weekend JT and I treated ourselves to a little R&R getaway up in cottage country. We received raving reviews for the JW Mariott in Rosseau from my friend/neighbour/boss, my best friend and my SIL so when we decided we wanted to go away, we thought “why not?”! So we booked a Thursday to a Saturday on the Easter weekend. This is the only time I will say this, but if you want a romantic get away, then don’t go on a long weekend, the place is packed with families and lots and lots of kids. Thursday and Friday were more couples but as soon as Saturday hit, mayhem!

OntheRoad_4366

The drive up through the Canadian Shield.

The Rosseau Marriott is an easy 2 hour drive from our home, but we stopped for lunch in Barrie and a little shopping at an outlet mall so it took a bit longer than expected. We decided to take an extra day and go up on Thursday to beat the rush hour traffic. Winter has been dragging its ugly feet in these parts and as we drove north we could still see remnants of snow in places.

Rosseau Marriott Sign_4387

It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive, but we stopped for lunch in Barrie.

Hotel Photos_4358

It’s a four star, all season resort.

Kitchenette_4357

Our room had a little kitchenette, which was great for breakfast and cocktails.

Our Room2_4353

We were told not to bother upgrading the room because the basic room was just as lovely.

Our Room_4353

The gas fireplace was a lovely touch, particularly since it was still winter at Easter!

Bathroom1_4356

The bathroom was spacious with a separate shower.

Bathroom2_4356

The bathtub could have been nicer.

ViewFromOurRoom_4374

The view from our room. We didn’t pay extra for the lake view, which was still covered in snow.

A real annoying thing is when a hotel (particularly one out in the middle of no where) charges $18 per day for in room WIFI — it drives me crazy. Fortunately, they offered free WIFI in the common areas, so we were able to keep in touch when we were in the gorgeous lobby. But then upon returning to our room we noticed that we hadn’t dropped the free WIFI, so if you don’t want to pay for WIFI in your room, ask for a room directly above the lobby, we were on the third floor and we had full WIFI power, FOR FREE!

RusticDecor2_4360

The hotel was tastefully decorated in the “Muskoka” style.

RusticDecor_4362

Evan the chandelier looked like a giant pine cone.

LobbyLounge_4361

There were a lot of common areas where you could just chill without having to order anything.

JT snowshoeing_4380

The hotel offers some winter sports for free, such as snow shoeing.

EvaSnowshoeing2_4382

I almost regretting bringing my winter jacket, it was so warm in the sun.

JT Snowshoeing_4408

JT enjoying the view.

EvaSnowshoeing_4384

Me.

WinteryScene_4407

Even though they had a lot of snow, it was very pretty.

WinteryWalk_4409

The sun was so warm as it penetrated the trees.

WinteryScene_4391

Some of the snow melted.

Firepit_4399

Directly in front of the main doors, there is a fire pit that has a fire going all the time, all seasons. There is also a wishing pond that they collect the money once a week and donate it to a local childrens charity.

Eva Firepit_4395

We kept the fire going for a while.

JT Firepit_4398

Sitting and not moving made it a little chilly, so it was lovely to have a warm fire at our feet.

NiceWalk_4393

A very nice walk after our snow shoeing.

The Mariott has a few restaurants and we ate at two of them; Teca was the high end dining, open for dinner only and Cottages the more casual eatery open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had a breakfast and a lunch at Cottages and the food was not overly impressive, although we met the loveliest server, Chris. The Mariott has a trading program that the allows employees to migrate to a location of choice for a short time, so Chris traveled from Barbados to Muskoka for the winter months (why, you might ask) and then in the summer he’ll head back to his regular job in Barbados! Chris truly made our experience so lovely.

Charcuterie Plate_4377

For one dinner we shared the small portion charcuterie ($24). It was enough for dinner, breakfast the following day and an hors d’œuvres. Really good value and very tasty.

As for amenities, this Mariott has several pools but only one was open for the winter; they also have a great gym which we made good use of.

Other than a slight hick-up (someone forgot their swimsuit — me) we had an amazing time. I would surely recommend this Mariott no matter what time of year, but particularly in winter for it’s gorgeous scenery and cosy fireplace rooms. I will caution you that the small store has a few swimsuits but they are not great nor are they cheap. We ended up heading into Bracebridge the closest large town and I picked up a bathing suit bottom (for $5) and used my workout top as my swimsuit top. Not perfect, but not bad either. I just didn’t want to spend money on something I already had several off.

Overall rating of The JW Marriott, Lake Rosseau (in my opinion): Decor 4.5/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 3/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet) the noise was rated on Saturday night.

Disclaimer: We purchased our stay and meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Read Full Post »

Thank you Barb, your anniversary post inspired JT and I to make our way to Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) this past Christmas for a quick holiday. We stayed at Harbour House a relatively new boutique hotel just off the beaten path in NOTL.  We stayed at this place shortly after it first opened 8-10 years ago and it was lovely, this time was no different. JT booked us into a gorgeous room with a fireplace and we were upgraded to a suite — now that’s sweet!

IMG_3781_BLOG

The living room with fireplace

IMG_3783_BLOG

Very spacious

A festive touch in our room

A festive touch in our room

IMG_3779_BLOG

The bedroom

A large jacuzzi tub, separate shower, double sink, what more could you want? Heated floors.

A large jacuzzi tub, separate shower, double sink, what more could you want? Heated floors.

We arrived on Boxing day (December 26) with no weather issues at all, which was a little surprising since they had predicted a bad storm to come through and dump 30cm (12 inches) of snow in the area. We waited and waited and eventually it did snow, but not nearly as much as predicted. NOTL is a picturesque village with nice restaurants, quaint shops and lovely homes, some of which have been converted to B&Bs. It is also very close to Ontario’s Wine Country.

We ate lunch at the Oban Inn, which is always a treat with lovely views of their manicured gardens. We shared the Dungeness Crab Cakes with Micro Greens, Horseradish Espresso Remoulade, Grilled Pineapple Salsa ($16). For my main I enjoyed Icewine Salmon Gravlax, Carrot Slaw, Citrus Creme Fraiche ($12) it was delicious. JT had the quiche with field greens. I would recommend this restaurant highly. Service was also excellent.

Dinner our first night was at Zee’s a restaurant in The Shaw Club a sister hotel. We shared the Cheese and Charcuterie platter with 5 items for $25. On it was TIGER BLUE rich, aromatic with an intense blue flavour, in the style of stilton, ROARING 40’S BLUE cow’s milk, full flavoured blue with a honeyed, slightly nutty quality, rindless, smooth and creamy and a cheddar which they had to substitute. The Charuterie portion was made up of HOT SOPRESATTA from the Calabria Region, red wine, chili spices and salt, texture of prosciutto, robust and spicy and CHORIZO blend of pork, pork fat, smoked dried paprika, distinct smoke flavour, cured and smoked and neither of these impressed us either, not spicy or smokey tasting. JT had the Nova Scotia Lobster Poutine which included house cut fries, a generous serving of butter poached lobster, white cheddar cheese curds, red wine veal jus and a home made hollandaise sauce. JT’s meal was excellent, although it would not have been something I would order. I had the Warm Mushroom & Smoked Bacon Salad with Whipped Goat Cheese, Sautéed Mushrooms & Smoked Bacon, Parsnip Chips & Apple Cider Vinaigrette ($10) and sadly it was neither warm nor did it have many mushrooms, so even at the low price of $10 it was disappointing.

Our hotel included a wonderful breakfast both days, made of a hot egg dish, pastries, cheeses, meats, scones, preserves, yogurt and fruit. There was also cereal, but who eats cereal on their vacation? Let’s just say we didn’t leave hungry! Our first full day we decided to brave the weather and head down to Niagara Falls, NY to do a little shopping at Walden Galleria which turned out to be nothing special. Lunch was at Bravo Italian Cucina which I suspect is a chain. We both had the soup and salad combo; I had the Italian Wedding soup but was lacking in flavour and JT had the Lobster Bisque which had good lobster flavour but was too creamy for my taste. Our waiter was very talkative and we enjoyed the interaction. Would I go back? Doubt it, nothing special. We returned to NOTL by way of the Rainbow bridge and although we both now have Nexus, I prefer to go the human route when we buy things outside of the allowances. With both cases you must declare what you bring in, but at least the human factor gives us the possibility of not having to pay the taxes and duty on the items (free trade my foot). And this time the lady clearing us in chastised me for not buying enough! Go figure.

That night we ate at the Cannery another sister hotel/restaurant. This is a slightly larger hotel catering to more family style stays. Most of the restaurants in NOTL are casual, so for the most part people don’t really dress up but JT and I always do! I started with Sea Scallops which were Seared Sea Scallops, Petite Village Salad, Seedlings, Smoked Paprika Oil  ($18) it was delicious (I didn’t take photos because it was too dark), JT had the caesar salad. My main course was an appetizer portion of Spicy Udon Noodles which were Tapioca Noodles, Spicy Yuzu Sesame Sauce, Pork Dumplings, Shiitake Mushrooms Prawns, Matchstick Vegetables ($15) again, delicious and a perfect portion for me! JT had the appetizer portion of the Tagliatelle Pasta which was Semolina Broad Noodles, Pulled Braised Lamb, Wild Mushrooms, Truffle Paste, Asiago Shards ($15); we both enjoyed our meals. Having said that, the overall impression is kind of Cracker Barrel style decor, bright lighting and not much cozy ambiance.

Our final lunch was at an old favourite at On the Twenty in Jordan, Ontario a short drive from NOTL and an exceptional restaurant which is connected to Cave Spring Cellars an award winning winery. We ate a lovely table overlooking their perennial gardens which were romantically blanketed with snow. I started with Heirloom Beet Salad of smoked goat cheese, Dave Irish’s breakfast radish, pickled red onion, pistachio brittle, honey mandarin vinaigrette ($12) and JT had the butternut squash soup ($10) and both were exceptional. I then had the Vintner’s Platter in-house smoked salmon, pâté en croute, house-made mustard, pickles, charcuterie, artisanal cheese ($19) which could have easily been shared and JT had the Grilled Venison Burger with Juniper berry-infused tomato relish, feta cheese aioli, baby arugula, fresh-cut fries, house-made ketchup ($17) which was OUTSTANDING. We each had an espresso for dessert. Service is always exceptional and the ambiance is lovely. If you ever come up to this area, you must dine at On the Twenty.

View from our room.

View from our room.

IMG_3776_BLOG

It’s these friendly touches that make this hotel

IMG_3775_BLOG

A delicious cookie for each of us.

IMG_3774_BLOG

It’s all in the details

IMG_3787_BLOG

Each evening between 4-5:30 wine and cheese were served in the lobby. We gathered to meet the other lovely guests, most of whom were Americans, as far away as Philly.

IMG_3772_BLOG

Our first lunch was at Oban Inn, these are most delicious crab cakes.

IMG_3773_BLOG

This was my second course at the Oban, a wonderful Gravlox Salmon, home cured. Most delicious combination of flavours and textures.

IMG_3797_BLOG

Our last lunch at Inn on the 20, a beet and goats cheese salad with pistachio brittle. Very tasty.

We made our way back home to find our driveway and walkways had been cleared of the massive dump of snow we got while we were away. We really do have the loveliest neighbours.

IMG_3800_BLOG

The snow in our backyard

IMG_3802_BLOG

The front yard, still snowing

Read Full Post »

Good day friends, I hope this post finds you all in a good place and bearing the chilly fall temperatures (or the warmer spring temperatures for my friends down under). As promised this is the final installment for my vacation photos and it’s Paris! We traveled to Paris from Lyon via the TGV which is their high speed train. Four years ago we went from Avignon to Paris on the TGV and enjoyed it so much, we thought we’d do it again! Normally this trip would have taken an entire day, but on the TGV it’s only three hours — that’s how fast it goes! Here is a little movie to show the speed.

The trip itself was quiet and uneventful and we arrived at the main train station in Paris on time. Because JT was still hobbling so we took a cab to our apartment which seemed to be on the complete opposite side of town, and was expensive. They have a direct train to the airport but it was a 30 minute walk to the apartment and considering our situation, we decided against it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The apartment was on the fourth floor, fifth if you count the ground floor as one (Europeans count it as zero). 88 steps up. 22kg (50lbs) of luggage EACH! Fortunately, our lovely host Jean-François bolted both of our bags up the 88 steps to our beautiful flat. I’ll be the first person to admit it, seven pairs of shoes seemed like a good idea at the time I selected my outfits for the trip, but from here on in, I will change my packing MO, for sure! I will limit myself to three pairs of shoes (knowing full well that I will likely buy a pair or two while away!) Now I just need a long trip to test myself!

Our flat was in the Montmartre district, not very touristy, but that’s a good thing. I like having a simple breakfast because it’s an easy way to control the calories particularly on vacation so we bought some provisions for breakfasts and cocktails and we were good to go!

We didn’t have great weather, these things happen, so we stayed close to home for dinners but we explored like crazy during the daytime — rain or no rain, it’s Paris! In fact, the weather made us choose activities we might not have normally chosen. For example, the Pompidou Centre which is apparently the largest collection of modern art. Not sure about you, but I just don’t get the large rock on a 1970’s fridge as art. Really? But they also have some more interesting pieces that I can relate to. The Pompidou centre has a lovely lookout at the top and if you don’t wish to subject yourself to art: pile of bricks on the floor, you can pay only for the lookout. They also have a restaurant up there too which is supposed to be pretty good bit it was expensive and it was overcast; had it been a sunny day, we would have splurged! Musée de l’Orangerie is another gallery that we visited, it’s not expensive and it’s quite manageable in a couple of hours. It has Monet’s Water Lilies, the really huge paintings — they have two or three large rooms dedicated to 4 works each…they are HUGE!

We also did some old favorites, like the top of the Arc de Triomphe, which gives you a gorgeous view of the Champs Elleyse, the top of Montmartre with the beautiful Sacré-Cœur Bascilica and the lively artists selling their art in the square. We were also up close to the Obelisque in the Place de la Concorde. We tried to get into the crypts at Notre Dame Cathedral but the line up was bad, so we passed; it wasn’t our first trip to Paris and I’m sure it won’t be our last, so it’s on the list for next time.

Food was as good as ever; we had some lovely meals at little ma and pa restaurants in our direct hood! I had a lot of steak tartare…and Caprese salads. One meal in particular was at a place called Le Bistrot Pappillon where I had a tuna tartare, but I loved the crispy rosette of Phylo pastry they garnished the dish with. I snapped a pic to make sure I don’t forget…you’ll be seeing that technique sometime soon!

And last but not least, on our final day in Paris, we had the opportunity to meet up for lunch with fellow blogger Charles, of Five Euro Foods. Charles is gracious, kind, generous and charming…exactly what you would expect from reading his blog. Charles generously treated us to a Korean BBQ luncheon at one of his favourite spots. Neither JT nor I had experienced this wonderful and tasty food before so it seemed apropos to experience it first with Charles. We had a delicious beef BBQ with a variety of toppings and sauces, Shiso leaves or lettuce leaves and steamed rice; he also ordered an interesting soup with tofu. We were very well fed! Thank you Charles for a memorable lunch, it was so lovely to meet you.

Eva and Charles enjoying a Macaron in Paris

Charles recently became a Dad to a lovely young man named William. If you pop over to his blog you can see a photo of William sporting a very chic jumper (if I do say so myself)! You will also see my friend Barb’s (Profiteroles and Ponytails) very first guest post successfully making non-other than the famed Macarons. Barb had asked me to pick up some Macarons for Charles and I to munch on while JT took our photos; what can I say, it’s a tough job, but someone had to do it! We found a perfect little specialty shop in Montmartre called Christophe Roussel (recommended by a blog called Madaboutmacarons that claimed it was the best in Paris and boy, they were TASTY — wish I had bought more of them! Particularly the salted caramel … YUM). Fortunately, our last day in Paris was perfect with warm temperatures and sunny – just right for the photo opp!

So that concludes our European Adventure for 2012. Thank you so much for joining us on our little journey and now we’ll get back into regular programming. Blog on!

Read Full Post »

We’re celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and JT and I traditionally head up to my brother’s cottage in the Muskoka’s. We’ve had all sorts of weather during this weekend over the years, from swimming in Lake Rosseau to a little snow. But what ever the weather, there is always lots of food, reconnecting with family and lots of wine. We wish you all a very happy Canadian Thanksgiving and safe travels. Remember, it’s never smart to drink and drive (Hungary has a Zero tolerance rate and France is 0.5!) Just choose a DD and give them lots of dessert instead! Happy holidays friends.

For this post, I’ve had to change my plan and divide Lyon and Paris into two posts so that I don’t bore you too much. I also figured out how to add a slide show (boy, that was painful!) but it’s done. So if you have a moment, please visit with us in Lyon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A little history of why we chose Lyon; it is said to the Gastronomic Capital of France. I’ve read that there are over 30 Michelin star restaurants in the city. The people clearly love food and since we do too we thought it would be a perfect match. And it was…for the most part. We had read that we must experience the traditional Bouchon in Lyon and I’ve read many blogs advising that, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately Bouchon’s are generally small places and serve only a fixed menu of three to four courses, and unless you reserve well in advance you simply cannot get in (they only cook for the number of seats in the restaurant, and there is only one seating!). I simply cannot eat three to four courses and feel good, so we decided to just go to a bistro specializing in the cuisine of Lyon and order one course. We did this on night one, the day before our trip to Geneva to meet our friend Ted and his partner Ji. I ordered the andouillette of Lyon (warning…this may be offensive to the ultra sensitive) it is a ‘sausage’ of various ofal particularly some kind of tripe. Now I can eat practically anything, but this dish had an odor (Charles described his experience that he thought someone left the W/C door open, but now I’m getting ahead of myself) I thought it smelled of barn yard, very earthy and very strong. I didn’t take a photo as the lighting was really bad (and I’d rather not be reminded of the experience). It was served in a cream sauce (very rich) and a gratin of potatoes (quite yummy). I could barely eat it, but I persevered and had about a quarter (JT finished the rest). I did not have a good night that night and didn’t recover until lunch the following day! JT had smaller, more traditional sausages that reminded me of bratwurst, without a heavy sauce. Neither were high on my favourite list. But we were entertained for the most part by a street entertainer who was quite funny mimicking people and making rude balloon objects! We figured he could take 100E per set, and given an evening, he probably does 3-4 sets in different neighbourhoods.

Also, you can bet a tomato will taste like a tomato in France. They still care.

Note: if you click on the first photo in the gallery below, it will enlarge and you can click through them like a gallery!
Sorry, but it doesn’t work on your iPhone.

Geneva trip 1:

We made arrangements to meet up with our good friend Ted whom we haven’t seen for at least 10 years. He and his partner Ji traveled by train from outside Zurich to make this possible. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch in Geneva’s oldest restaurant/hotel in the historic district. I may have even sat in the same chair as George Clooney; check out their guest book. Geneva is a beautiful city whose population is manly made up of people from somewhere else; there are many company head offices in Geneva as well. We had hoped to meet up with other blogger in Geneva too, but sadly she had to travel for work on the date we could make it. We shall have to return one day.

Geneva trips 2:

We had booked a tour at C.E.R.N laboratories so that we could see what all the fuss was about. This was a very bad weather day; traveling on the highways, it rained so heavily that at times we were unable to see the hood of the car! The tour itself was lead by a physicist and was interesting but we both felt that since we were in Lyon for such a short time, this little side trip could have been avoided without much loss. Plus it was a gorgeous day in Lyon which we missed entirely! And we had to rush back for our cooking class! Not-withstanding the tolls which over the two days were in excess of 100E! Oh well. Live and learn.

Upon our return to Lyon we tried to return the car with the tank empty but they would have charged us 175E to fill it themselves so we opted to find a station and fill it ourselves for 52E. It took over an hour (mainly waiting for people to fill their cars) and return…only minutes to spare for our cooking class. Chef Villard was ready for us waiting in the lobby of our hotel! I barely had time to change and freshen up!

Cooking Class with Chef Jean-Marc Villard

Winemakers notes: “The color is a brilliant light straw. Aromas of intense acacia, yellow peaches and exotic fruits. On the palate the wine is very elegant and harmonious. Its freshness allows the fruit to fully develop. A seductive wine to be enjoyed with appetizers and hors d’oeuvres”.

Our cooking class was amazing and I would definitely recommend it. Chef Villard is fluent in English and is a kind instructor. His kitchen in tidy and calm, but then again there were only two of us. I shall list the menu, but as you can well imagine, I shall be blogging about it in future blog posts! Chef Villard kindly created a little hors d’œuvres of sausages wrapped in home-made brioche (he served the meal with a lovely local wine made with a Viognier grape), we then had a wonderful creamed pumpkin soup fragranced with vanilla bean, drizzled with hazelnut oil (OMG, you MUST smell this!) and served with three seared scallops. Chef Villard mentioned that it depends where you are in France with the fat is that they use…not everyone cooks with butter! Our main course was a Monkfish wrapped in bacon with a delightful veal sauce with green olives (the sweetness of the veal stock and the saltiness of the olives really went well with the fish, and the bacon wrapping was not too salty at all), with olive oil sautéed fingerling potatoes and some lovely snap peas with an arugula (rocket) pesto. For dessert we made a pear and chocolate clafoutis with a glorious caramel sauce. Yes, this will be a dinner for several friends over the next month or so. Of course, I will try to make it marginally healthier (although for a French Chef, he didn’t use as much cream as I thought he might!). This was a very enjoyable dinner. If you are in Lyon, you must try to get into one of his classes, you will not be disappointed. We ate with Chef and Mme Villard and chatted as if we were long-time friends. It was a very enjoyable evening.

We’re off to Paris next on the TGV! See you soon.

Read Full Post »

We travelled from Vienna to Barcelona with one of the intercontinental airlines, Berlin Air; it was efficient and relatively inexpensive (less than $100 pp Canadian). The terminal in Vienna is being overhauled and I don’t know about you, but JT and I have the uncanny ability to chose a flight that departs from the absolute farthest terminal in and out of the building. This was no exception; fortunately we were able to dump our weighty luggage early and manage the walk (and hobble) to the extreme farthest part of the temporary portable building (yes, this terminal was even farther from the actual terminal — it was outside the terminal!). Our drive from Budapest took two hours longer than it should have and we were both anxious not to miss the flight, we made it but we’re being boarded within 15 minutes of arrival! Thank goodness my dear Aunt made sandwiches which we gobbled down while speed-waiting! For some reason security did not care about food, just our documents which were pulled out and scrutinized. Oh, and my shoes! (nudge, nudge wink, wink my shoe buds Kristy and Charlie)

We rented an apartment with AirBnB that was in the Barri Gotic area (thanks for the tip for AirBnB, Charles – I’ll have a little surprise about Charles later!). The apartment was great, much as described on line and the bed was comfy, the kitchen had a coffee maker and a good fridge and the bathroom was modern and we had free wifi! The location was great too, within a short walk to La Rambla with the pedestrian boulevards with restaurants and shops.

The living room overlooked a quiet pedestrian street-no noisy mopeds!

This is the pass through to the small ‘office’. We were streaming music from Martini in the Morning a lovely Jazz station in Southern California.

The bed was a king which is unheard of in Europe! Nice and roomy.

The dining area in the kitchen. That’s an interior window that opened to a fairly large shaft. People hung their laundry out there!

Modern appliances and a N’espresso Machine. Mind you we did have a bit of a challenge finding the cartridges for the machine. To save calories we ate a simple breakfast in our apartment most mornings (plain yogurt, a little bread and coffee)

Our first full day was kind of a bust, full fledged rain so we opted for a bus tour of the city — a great way to get to know what you want to see. We ended up getting the two day pass so that we could go back and see things more in detail, but we ended up just seeing new things. So much to see, so little time.

The architecture is very interesting — this is the Olah hotel with strange eyeballs/Security cameras on the exterior.

Designed by Gaudi a famous Spanish architect and a leader of Catalan Modernism.

Personally, I find Gaudi architecture somewhat disturbing and upsetting

The organic shapes almost seem to make the building come alive…like it’s an alien.

JT had read about this place and indeed it was an excellent lunch

Views from the bus tour

This undulating roof was a market just around the corner from our apartment. Sadly it was open only until 4pm every day and we kept missing it.

Just around the corner from our apartment

They were setting up a stage for later that evening when the Catalan’s would protest for separation. Québequois are not the only one’s who wish to separate!

The Cathedral of Barcelona interior a wonderful example of high gothic architecture

A restaurant that once was the cellars to another cathedral.

It was a really cute place, but the food was just so-so.

Statue of Christopher Columbus. Yes, he was indeed Italian, but his boat was Spanish!

We had a lovely lunch on the shores of the Mediterranean!

A selection of tapas…I did happen to ‘borrow’ the menu for future ideas!

Part of our hood

Along La Ramba, the pedestrian avenue

The weather became brighter and warmer as the evening progressed

The protestors who want to separate. All peaceful.

Walking back…so many motorbikes and scooters!


And that concludes our trip to Barcelona. I had additional photos showing a vista from a fort high above the city, but sadly the light didn’t really provide enough contrast and the photos were dull and boring. We’ll just have to return to Barcelona to get better photos!

Read Full Post »

Hello friends, hope you’ve all been very well over the last few weeks I’ve been away. We had sporadic internet service over our holidays and I did try to stop by and leave a comment or two, but alas on going back I did notice some did not ‘stick’ and I do apologize. I’ll try to make it up over the following weeks.

Our holidays did get off to a rocky start, with our seats unable to recline on the ancient aircraft Austrian Air employ but that just meant everything else can be so much better, or not, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
In order not to bore you with a million-word post, I’ll condense our trip into three sections: Part I will be Vienna and Budapest; Part II Barcelona; Part III will be Lyon and Paris.

I’ll let you know from the get-go that our weather pretty much sucked! If it wasn’t dark gloomy skies and chilly temperatures then it was dark gloomy skies with chilly temperatures teaming with rain. But that didn’t slow us down as much as … oops! There I go getting ahead of myself again. We did have a few nice days, and you’ll see which one’s in the photos. Those of you on my Facebook have had glimpses of our holiday already…so now I hope you enjoy the narrative!

As you know, we landed in Vienna pretty much unscathed, even though beauty sleep avoided us; we had anticipation and adrenaline pretty much on our side, so we were ready for the experience. JT booked us into the Radisson Blu which is in the inner circle in Vienna; the cab from the airport was rather pricey, so if you don’t over-packed (like I did) you may want to take the commuter train which is much less expensive. Quite surprisingly our room was ready at the bright and early arrival time of 10:30am and we were quite pleased because we like to unpack and freshen up after such a long flight (8 hours from Toronto). We set out on a mission to find a lunch place and look around the city. We’ve been many times before (it’s a perfect spot to pick up a rental car and drive the 2-3 hours to Budapest, and it has many intercontinental connector flights to facilitate our adventures) so we were just walking around to air our heads and check out the new/renovated shops.

One of my favourite stops is the Julius Meinl specialty grocer right in the Graben. It’s a feast for the eyes and stomach. The chocolate section is unparalleled!

This is just one of the aisles for the chocolate section. It spans about 1/4 of the entire store.

I just couldn’t resist a chocolate bunny box, image by Andy Warhol. This one is for my friend Genie all the way down under in New Zealand, a fellow bunny lover.

As you can see, Austria is not cheap. In fact, breakfast in our hotel was a lofty 28 Euros (about 35 Canadian dollars) per person. We decided to order one and share, and it’s a good thing we did, even one was more food than we both could eat.

We chose Danieli for lunch and Huth for dinner (which I’ve talked about in my first post about Vienna).

Here is a lovely picture of Danieli and my delicious salad.

A very nice Italian Restaurant in the Graben

I just can’t get enough of this delicious salad. They just call this cheese Bufala Mozzarella

Budapest was a trip to visit family. My dear uncle passed away over a year ago and I haven’t been back since so it was a rather emotionally stressful time for me. I am pleased to say that all went well, and although there were a few moments of water works, it went rather smoothly. My family lives on Rosa Domb (Rose Hill) in Buda, which is the quieter side of Budapest. They used to live in the heart of it all in Pest, but about 30 years ago decided to move in preparation for their retirement. They have a lovely four-story town-house. We packed 22kg (about 50lbs) into each of our cases, and the guest room is…you guessed it, on the fourth floor! Now these were likely the most luxurious steps of all the steps we encountered on our trip, there were worse. And I was very lucky that my cousin and JT carried my over-packed case all the way up (I’m re-thinking this packing business in the future!).
We ate like kings for the four days in Budapest!

This was our welcome lunch. The Hungarians eat their main meal at noon on weekends. It’s stuffed pork tenderloin with prunes, cooked beets, carrots, mashed potatoes and white asparagus.

A typical “dinner” served anywhere between 6-9pm. Cold cuts, cheeses, tomatoes, Hungarian peppers, radishes and fresh bread

My cousin treated the entire family to a evening cruise on the Danube. It was a lovely evening and the lights sparkled like diamonds. It was such a beautiful sight, I would recommend this cruise to everyone, although the dinner cruise is not recommended (we just cruised with a cocktail!).

The Szabadsági Bridge (Freedom Bridge) with an interesting light my camera caught

The very beautiful shoreline with the Independence Monument in the background

The beautiful Parliament Buildings

Our last full day in Budapest, we visited the Castle District (Vár) and Margit Island (Margit Sziget).

Matthias Coronation Church newly restored and sparkling clean

The Fisherman’s Bastion. The story goes that during one of the many Turkish invasions (over several hundred years), the city was divided into different sections to be protected by each trade. This section was protected by the fisherman.

Dancing Fountain on Margit Island

Yes, we did get a lovely day or two in Budapest.

It was nice enough to eat outside. JT took this picture from the back which is a reverse ravine. That’s my cousin Rudi on the far left, my Aunt Ági, my cousin’s wife, Éva and me!

We left early the next morning to drive back to Vienna to catch a flight to Barcelona but not without issues. JT tried to carry too much luggage down and slipped and twisted his ankle (OK it may have been the precarious little rug at the foot of the stairs). We realized in Barcelona that it was indeed a sprain, but after some quick first aid and the purchase of a cane we were back on our way!
The other issue was that we had left 4.5 hours for a 2-3 hour drive and we ended up just barely catching our flight due to some really bad back up just outside of Vienna on the A4 (M1 in Hungary). It was a very anxious trip but we made it.

Read Full Post »

20120701-111812.jpg

Happy Birthday Canada, we turn a whopping 145 today. I guess I shouldn’t complain about my age, then ;-)!

It’s a long weekend and you may wonder what some Canadians do on the birth of their wonderful country, we head state-side! We dropped into John, Bill and Kristy’s lovely state for about an hour and then we headed over to Delavan, Wisconsin to Paul and T’s new Lake House. We haven’t been so we are really excited!
This morning we took a nice long walk along their road; well it wasn’t intended on being long, we just happened to walk past their place and we noticed 15 minutes later! Believe it or not, we hadn’t even had a cocktail yet!

20120701-112056.jpg

20120701-112216.jpg

20120701-112246.jpg

20120701-112541.jpg
This is Maggie, Paul’s daughter Niki’s dog. I thought she looked like a similar breed to John’s dog, Max!

Read Full Post »

Our final day in the Big Apple. After our delightful walk along the Hudson River, we ended up deep in the Financial District of New York City. JT wanted to take me to lunch in the oldest part of the city. We decided on Mad Dog and Beans, a Mexican Cantina. It got mediocre reviews on Yelp, but we really wanted to eat outside and we figured we’d order something simple so they wouldn’t screw it up.

The restaurant logo

We both ordered the Black Eyed Tuna Salad which was pan seared black eye tuna with sesame seeds, romaine lettuce, diced avocado, radish, orange wedges and a jalapeno ginger dressing ($10). We were both quite pleasantly surprised. See, my theory is to lower your expectations and you will never be disappointed! It doesn’t always work. But the tuna was perfectly cooked, fresh the avocado was creamy and the orange was a wonderful foil for the flavour combinations. The only downfall would have been the dressing, which was tasteless (can’t even guess what it was!).

Seared Tuna with Avocado and Orange

The street patio

Looking at the opposite direction

My handsome honey

I really liked the area and will plan to come back on our next trip. But there was another restaurant Smorgas Chef that I would likely try next.

Overall rating of The Mad Dog and Beans (in my opinion): Decor ?/5 (we sat outside and didn’t even go in), service 4:5, food 3/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet). We paid for our meal in full.

And that concludes our 26th Anniversary trip to New York City. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I’ll leave you with this last photo (an ad for a storage company, but I photoshop’d the ad out). This last photo is for Kristy (Eat, Play, Love), Sissi (With a Glass), Liz (That Skinny Chick can Bake) and Charlie (Hotly Spiced), my ‘shoe sisters’.

This is a real billboard we saw while on the High Line

Read Full Post »

Our final evening in NYC we booked The Jazz Standard at Battery Park City, it’s been an old favourite of ours for the last few years. We saw Fred Hersch and Rene Marie. Ordinarily we like to see lively shows, with or without vocals, but unfortunately on this night the songs were melancholy and not to our taste. The vocalist Rene Marie sang beautifully, but the songs were just too sad. And to add to it, the club had the A/C turned on at such a frigid temperaturs so I was F R E E Z I N G. We talked to three different people about it without success. We almost left.
We ordered some Crispy Chili Crusted Calamari with Charred Red Pepper Mayo ($12.95) because I don’t like to drink on an empty stomach and they had no healthy snacks. Sadly, they were rubbery and over cooked; the charred red pepper mayo made them palatable (sorry Katherine, Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide). The connected restaurant Blue Smoke is supposed to have delicious BBQ, but we’ve never tried it.
Our dinner reservations were at 9:30; normally I’m not a huge fan of eating this late but what the heck, we’re on VAYCAY!
We chose Morandi, a very popular Italian trattoria to have our final dinner in this amazing city and it’s packed! On their website they say that there is a celebrity guest every night. They actually checked our reservation…at 9:30! We are seated at a great table by the patio. It’s not quite warm enough to sit outside (although there are people sitting out there). The place has a warm homey décor; good lighting and just lively enough that I could talk at a normal level.

We didn’t notice any celebrities

We ordered three appi’s because neither of us were starving. We shared the Polipetti e sedano which was grilled octopus with celery & black olives ($16); it was tender, perfectly done and delicious (JTs first octopus).

JTs first octapus. Delicate, perfectly done and a nice combo with the celery

This is the bread

And then JT ordered the Calamari alla griglia which was grilled squid with peppers, capers & olives ($14) it was a healthy portion, nicely done and quite tasty. Not overly seasoned, very tasty indeed.

Just take the damn picture so I can eat.

I ordered the Burrata e pachini which was burrata cheese with roasted cherry tomatoes “on the vine” ($17). Now before this year, I had not heard of burrata cheese, but then I saw it on Barbara Bamber Just a Smidgin site and was intrigued. When I saw it on this menu I had to try it.
Reader alert, OMG!!! This is really, undoubtedly even better than bufalo Mozzarella! Yes, I said it: E V E N ; ; B E T T E R. There, I said it. Perfectly creamy and delicately flavoured. I’d go back to NYC just to have THIS again. I’m hooked (I’m singing Jason Mraz’s I’m yours in my head, and by ‘yours’ I mean burrata’s).

I had the Burrata Cheese Dish. If you think Bufalo Mozarrella is TDF, you MUST have THIS.


Overall rating of Morandi (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4:5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 3/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet). We paid for our meal in full.

Read Full Post »

It’s obvious I’m getting a lot of mileage out of our New York trip on the blog, but it was such a fun time, I just have to share a couple more fun things to do, and they are food related.

The Chelsea Market: Located in Chelsea at 75 9th Avenue (Between 15th and 16th Streets) it’s s bustling food hub. In fact, the Food Network US is located in this building. Although I can’t say that I’ve seen any one of my food network fav’s hanging around this market but I think I did spy Snooki on 6th Avenue earlier this day! (allow me to redeem myself, ordinarily I wouldn’t know what Snooki looks like or who she was, but literally the day before we left, I was standing at a checkout of a grocery store and there she was starring up at me on the cover of one of those entertainment rags. So really, it was by accident that I even knew what the woman looks like!).

OK, on to the market: there’s Buon Italia, an incredible shop that sells foods of Italy; I used to get my dried chestnuts there as I knew of nowhere else to get them.

Buon Italia an amazing shop selling Italian foods

And the pastas, all imported from Italy. I just love the simplicity of the packaging. I can close my eyes and imagine I am in Italy in this store.

This one is for John (Bartolini Kitchens)

Then there is Amy’s Breads, an enormous bakery that you can see them working all day!

Amy’s Bread is an enormous bakery

And I’ve already talked about the wonderful kitchen story, Bowery Kitchen Supply; you can literally spend an hour in this store. The Filling Station when I have bought some wonderful olive oils (but sadly, this time I was concerned about my luggage weight). Then we had a little wine tasting at The Chelsea Wine Vault. And of course you must check out all of the wonderful eateries that may be found in this market. It’s a great trip, but be warned, go to the bathroom before you get there, the line-up was about 100 people long (thank goodness I didn’t need to go!).

Eataly (yes, that is correct!); Eataly is a restaurant (or several) grocery store, bakery, coffee shop, wine shop, butcher and fish monger all in one convenient location at 200 5th Avenue, a short walk from our hotel.

Beautifully merchandised Italian products.

Sorry, a little blurry iPhone Photo

JT thought he saw Leonard Nimoy here

I would certainly recommend a trip to this destination.

I thought you might enjoy a little architecture too.

The Famous Flatiron or Fuller Building

Read Full Post »

Last Sunday was a day of exploring and we headed up to the High Line so that we could see how much more they’ve expanded the gorgeous elevated gardens. We started at West 30th and walked south with a mission in mind…we wanted to have lunch at The Standard Grill at 13th Street, right under the High Line.

The Standard was recommended to me by one of our fav food stylists who was just in NYC in January, so I knew it would be great.

We were seated at a cozy table at the back, directly in front of the kitchen. We had arrived around 1pm and it wasn’t packed, but lively enough. There were a few couples seated along the same side we were, but with an empty table between us. JT noticed the gentleman directly beside me; hmmm he thought, seems familiar, but it wasn’t until the gentleman spoke that he realized I was sitting right beside Jessy Ferguson (Mitchel from Modern Family)! How COOL IS THAT? We didn’t let on that we recognized him to respect his privacy, but boy would I have love a picture with him! Sigh, the cost of being polite 😦 Jessy and his date were having lunch about the same pace as we were, so I could really say that I had lunch with Jessy Ferguson!

Aren’t they adorable, salt and pepper shakers. They are connected by a magnet.

So I forgot to take pictures yet again. OK, now this is getting silly, but I did order the Steak Tartar à Go-Go…again…I think I have outdone my beef quota for a while. It was traditionally seasoned and a small portion (appetizer) ($16). I enjoyed it with a lovely glass of Prosecco served in an old fashioned champagne goblet. I normally prefer the newer tall flutes so the bubbles don’t dissipate as quickly, but it was somehow appropriate in this traditionally decorated French restaurant. JT ordered Standard Cobb Salad made with local lettuce with grilled chicken, avocado, tomato and blue cheese. There was tonnes of blue cheese and it was so tasty! He generously gave me a huge blob which I spread with glee on a crisp toast that came with my tartar. There I said it, I ate bread! It was delicious and such a treat.

I also wanted to mention the unique floors at The Standard Grill…they are entirely tiled in pennies. I asked the hostess how many and I think she said over 5 hundred thousand, but I could be wrong. You can see a very good photo here.

Overall rating of The Standard (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4:5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet). We paid for our meal in full.

Read Full Post »

Ahhh, the city that never sleeps…we ate our way through the Big Apple and thoroughly enjoyed it. JT  booked us into all new restaurant experiences (not that we don’t like tried and true, but we’ve been there and done that, so we wanted something new!).

Saturday night we went to Raoul’s just a short cab ride from our hotel (could have been a short walk had I not worn my 2 block shoes)!

This is the postcard they gave us

It’s a very quaint restaurant with seating in the front and in the back behind the kitchen, in fact, we had to walk through the kitchen to get to our table. We sat facing the back in a lovely little circular booth, so romantic. The front of the restaurant was much more lively than the back, which I suspect was reserved for the more romantic guests! The back was also not nearly as crowded as only every second or third table was filled. I know a lot of people prefer a lively place, but I actually like to have a conversation with my date and not have to yell at the top of my lungs!

It was very dark so I was unable to take any photos of the food, but let me tell you about it, it was very good. I know I’m on a raw kick, but I can’t help it, I do enjoy it very much. I started with Bigeye Tuna Tartare with Grilled Squid Salad, Mango and Avocado ($16) it was delicious. The tuna was delicately seasoned and the grilled squid was perfectly cooked, not chewy or rubbery at all. And you all know how I love the sweet and salty contrasts so the Mango and avocado went so perfectly with this dish. I’d go back for it! JT had Farm Beet Salad with Watercress, Shaved Fennel, Chevrettine and Aleppo Dressing ($13) he said it was tasty but the beets were too few to make any kind of impression.

For my main course, well I just couldn’t help myself and had to have the Steak Tartare with Quail Egg and Cornichon Salad ($16 appetizer portion). It was very tasty, not the best I’ve ever had but very good. The tartare was roughly chopped in larger pieces, which I normally don’t love, but I must say it was a fantastic cut of beef so it lent itself to the chop well. The Cornichon (pickle) salad was a nice contrast of textures to the steak, and it worked well softening the richness of the meat with the acidity. JT had Grilled Colorado Rack of Lamb with Roasted Asparagus and Ramps ($49), the lamb was done well but could have used a few more asparagus.

Our waiter was attentive but not in your face, which is always very nice. He has worked in this particular restaurant for several years, and that is a good sign that it’s a good place to work.

Overall rating of Raoul’s (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4:5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet). We paid for our meal in full.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: