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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

GarlicCheeseRopeBread_First

I was about 33 when JT and I first vacationed in Florida. JT and I rented a friend’s house in Daytona Beach and used it as a base to travel around, taking a couple of days to visit friends in Sarasota and to explore that side of the state. While travelling, there were several roadside eateries that would come up that were rather new to us Canadians: Cracker Barrel, Denny’s and Waffle House to name a few. As you know by now, I am not so fond of fast food, so we avoided them but one morning we got up early to explore and decided that waffles were in order and we thought, what better place than Waffle House? Boy were we wrong, what a joke (I apologise to those who love the place), the waffles were thin and dry and they didn’t even have real maple syrup or even real butter! Maybe I’m a waffle snob, but real maple syrup and butter are necessities for a good waffle experience. Our waitress was surly and unapproachable, great qualities for a waitress. We begrudgingly ate the sad excuse for waffles and left. In the car, I couldn’t stop thinking about how bad an experience it was and immediately renamed the place Awful House! Needless to say, we did not stop at Awful House ever again!

When you’re looking for a delicious bread recipe, you need not look further than this recipe for Cheddar Garlic Rope Bread, plus there is nothing like it on the menu at Awful House! It’s not that difficult to make and it bakes up beautifully. I made this loaf for my Cousin Lucy’s Easter Dinner.

GarlicCheeseRopeBread

The bread is laced with delicious cheddar and garlic butter. Make sure you serve this warm.

Cheddar Garlic Rope Bread

This recipe makes one 40 cm x 15 cm (15″ x 6″) rope.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp powdered milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water (it should feel slightly warm to the touch not hot)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 tsp white vinegar

Ingredients for the cheddar, garlic butter spread:

  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or to taste)
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water, stir gently and allow to proof.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer add the flour, salt, powdered milk, eggs and vinegar. Using the KitchenAid® Flex Edge Beater attachment, mix until the eggs have totally become incorporated into the flour. Change to the dough hook.
  3. Add the yeast water mixture and knead the dough for 10 minutes until you get a smooth slightly sticky dough.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it and allow it to rise in a warm place till it doubles in size (this only takes about 45 minutes).
  5. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F (I used the fan setting).
  6. In the bowl of a small food processor, combine the cheese, butter, garlic and salt and pulse until completely combined, set aside.
  7. Once the dough has doubled in size, roll out the dough into a 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick rectangle (mine worked out to 40 cm x 30 cm (16″ x 12″). Spread all of the cheese butter mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1 cm (1/2 inch) border on three sides (spread right to the long side that you will begin to roll). Starting at the long end, roll up the dough tightly to form a roll. Seal all of the edges well by pinching them closed (wet fingers with water if necessary). Slice the roll in half lengthwise, leaving the last 5 cm (2 inches) connected.
  8. Turn each half cut-side up and carefully wrap the halves together like a rope, maintaining the cut-sides up to expose the filling. Carefully place on a baking tray with sides, lined with parchment paper and allow to rest, covered in a warm location for 1 hour. Check out Angie’s blog for detailed photos on how-to roll, cut and form into a rope.
  9. Coat with the vinegar, egg wash.
  10. Bake for 5-7 minutes on the high heat, then reduce to 350°F and bake for another 7-10 minutes or until the bottom is golden and it sounds hollow when tapped.
  11. Serve warm.

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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.

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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!

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We drove to Ottawa for a little R&R for the long weekend. It was anything but R&R! Lot’s of walking…so much walking. But it does keep the intake in check. And ‘in-take’ we did!!!

This was our adventure (Paul and T, we’ve already spec’d out a bunch of things to do when we do this trip!!!!)

Arrive noonish, drag our luggage into the hotel, the Indigo. Hotel room not ready. Drag luggage back to car. Head out to Ahora a Mexican Restaurant in Byward Market for lunch. Canada doesn’t have a lot of Mexican restaurants, so when we read about this one, we got excited! Not so much. Ahora: Overall rating: Decor 2/5, service 1/5, food 2/5 and Value 2/5.

Hotel calls, room is ready. So we drive back, drag the luggage back in and I check in while JT parks the car. 2nd floor room, facing the street (nice view), king bed, bathtub AND shower (check in lady mentions that this is a big deal!). Room next door to a family with three children. One screams at the top of their lungs. Not much sound insulation. Without even looking at me JT marches downstairs to change rooms. Bit of a hassle, but they finally find a room. Child screams 3 more times as I wait in the room. Teeth grinding. We chose this hotel because they tout is as a boutique hotel. Not so much. I would call it boutiqu-ISH, ISH being the operative. Cheap finishings, poorly insulated for sound AND it’s connected to the Mariotte which has a POOL. This place has FAMILY written all over it. Now I have no problems with families taking their kids on a hotel adventure, I just wasn’t expecting to be included – not really even having met them!

Hotel Ingigo Room 212

New room doesn’t have a view or a bathtub (only shower) but we seem to be the only guests on this side of the hotel, and it has a bed (it’s Valentine’s day after all!). It’s ultra QUIET. I am happy. Hotel Indigo Overall rating: Decor 2/5, service 3/5, Value 2/5.

We unpack and took a 25 minute cab ride (should have been 10 – Ottawa has traffic jams on Saturday????) to the Royal Canadian Mint. WOW! Wish it was running (they don’t work on weekends). They made all of the Olympic Medals, how cool is that? Each medal is completely and utterly unique, no two are alike! View this little video about Making the medals

Royal Canadian Mint, the Olympic Medals

Then we walked back to the hotel for cocktails! The walk wasn’t too bad, about 15 minutes and we were very fortunate that it wasn’t too cold (Ottawa can be as cold as -20° C in the winter!). There was a bit of wind, but we were shielded by the buildings! Along the way, we spec’d out our breakfast for the next day at Moulin de Provence. And we discovered that next time we’re in Ottawa, we will be staying on the Market side of the Canal!

Moulin de Provence

We had dinner at Restaurant Eighteen, also on the other side of the Canal!. They tried to seat us in a ‘private’ area which would have been amazing had their not been a family with 4-6 ill mannered rug rats (what is it with kids on this weekend?). So we sat more in the front, which was nice to be where the action is! I had 6 BC Kusshi Oysters (not as tasty as the PEI oysters, in my humble opinion) and the steak tartar (with a quale’s egg) and JT had the Caesar Salad and their braised veal special. Don’t get me wrong, everything was fine, just not exceptional! Restaurant Eighteen Overall rating: Decor 4/5, service 3/5, food 3.5/5 and Value 3/5.

On our way back JT had previously spec’d out a bar that had live jazz and no cover at Zoe’s Lounge at the Fairmont Hotel, so we stopped in for a nightcap! It was lovely! We walked back to the hotel enjoying some of the Winterlude festivities.

Winterlude

Valentine’s morning we exchanged gifts. JT gave me some lovely perfume and I gave him a couple of CDs (Matt Dusk’s new CD and Michael Bublé’s new CD). JT also gave me a very touching card (I didn’t buy him a card – that was thoughtless!)

We walked to Byward Market for breakfast at Moulin de Province. We shared a ham and cheese crepe with bechamel sauce, bacon and potatoes and a chocolate baguette, we each had a unbelievably hot (Kim, you would have LOVED it) café latté – YUM YUM YUM!

After breakfast we drove to the Diefenbunker Museum, Canada’s Cold War Museum. I had no idea! Our PM Diefenbaker had a 20 million dollar, 10,000 square foot, four story underground bunker built in 1961-62 to hold 500 government personelle in case of a Nuclear War. Fortunately, it was never used, but we came pretty darn close a few times (kinda creepy HOW close we did come!)

Diefenbunker Museum Door

It was way past lunch time by the time we finished our tour (partly guided and party self guided) so we headed back to the Market. We selected another dud for lunch, The Fish Market. We shared the Luncheon Maritime Platter of over cooked rubbery lobster, ice cold drawn butter, skinny little crab legs, mini jumbo shrimp (also cooked to a rubbery texture) mushrooms stuffed with bread and crab crumbs etc, Not worth it at all. We ordered a 1/2L of wine and the waiter gave us a full litre and didn’t even charge! At least we were in a good mood from the vino!!! Cheesy décor just added to the short comings.  The Fish Market Overall rating: Decor 1/5, service 2/5, food .5/5 and Value -1/5. We should have stuck to our first thought, fish and chips (how can you go wrong with deep fried fish???)

We walked around the market. JT spotted an amazing little shop called Belle de Provence where I may have done a little shopping ;-). We also found a great little Asian store where I picked up some Goji Berries and dried Cremini Mushrooms (I have a weird idea of souvenirs!). We walked through Winterlude to enjoy the ice sculptures and enjoyed a little Snow Taffy! See the full gallery here.

Dinner on Valentine’s Day was at Play (recommended by a Facebook friend, Edward Pond, a Toronto photographer specializing in food). We had an EXCEPTIONAL experience. We shared two items, the waiter, Patrick was amazing (he’s in TO this weekend to see the Raptors at the ACC so we gave him some restaurants to try). We started with the mixed  charcuterie plate which was a lot of food, then we shared the mushroom blue cheese fritters / onion / grilled swiss chard – both were delicious and filling. Patrick brought us a dessert (on him) banana fritters / cardamon anglaise / chocolate sauce. A fantastic meal, only enhanced by the service! Good job guys. I filled out the comment card and the owner responded with an email: “I just wanted to thank you for dining with us at Play recently and for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.  I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the service and your meal so much and I have passed along your compliments to the team.” How nice. Play Overall rating: Decor 4/5, service 5/5, food 5/5 and Value 5/5.

Monday morning we finally skated on the Rideau Canal. It was surprisingly smooth (they apparently flood it every night) and fortunately, not crowded or too cold – although there was a bitter wind which cut out skate down to 2 km!

Skating on the Rideau Monday Morning

Breakfast was at a really cool diner in the Market called Zak‘s. We didn’t share, but should have! LOVE their motto – Zak’s Don’t Starve! 

Breakfast at Zak's

I had a cheese omlette and JT had Zak’s Famous Big Breakfast and I had Zak’s Special Omlette. We both had the marble rye toast, I only got through half my breakfast and only one toast (HUGE).  Zak’s Overall rating: Decor 4/5, service 3/5, food 4/5 and Value 4/5.

Cheese Omlette at Zak's

Zak's Special Omelette

On the drive back we stopped in to see my 3rd cousin Laura in Belleville. She and I used to be pen pals when we were kids (she is my mom’s second cousin on her father’s side). It was great to meet her four kids (3 adults in University)! All in all a lovely long weekend. I would definitely recommend Ottawa.

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It’s been a while

We’ve been busy…a trip to Europe from May 2-19 took us from Vienna, Budapest, Venice, Verenna (Lake Como), Province and Paris! Check out our photos – 345 of them! Enjoy.

Highlights of the trip: Venice was wonderful, we were there 1.5 days and could have used about 2 more to really explore. Verenna in Lake Como was lovely, very picturesque – we were there 3.5 days and likely could have cut it down to 2. Paris was fantastic, as usual we stayed in the latin quarter where it was very lively. Next time we’ll find an apartment for a week! Lots of eating, walking and shopping! I didn’t put on any weight, mainly due to the walking!

My favorite dishes: Caprese Salad (tomato and fresh mozzarella cheese!), Salade Nicoise (tuna and salad stuff, YUM), Steak Tartar (yep, that’s raw meat!) and Snails. We also had a crepe in Paris that was fantastic (ham and cheese!) JT and I took it across the street and had it in a lovely park.

Best buys: Milan skirt (brown dotted skirt), brown capris from Paris, and a couple of really sexy bras from Venice (those Italians know how to make lingerie).

Best Adventures: Venice – the Valporettos (water buses) went on strike on the morning we were leaving…we ended up having to walk about 1 hour with luggage in tow. The bridges in Venice are stepped, never ramped! The roads are cobblestone or brick…thump thump thump. We could have taken a water taxi for $80 and as a good friend put it “you cheap bastards” but then we wouldn’t have had the adventure.

The car: the car that we would be spending about 15 hours in (7 at once, then various day trips) would have cost us an additional $500 to drop in a different country than where we picked it up…ended up not costing the drop off fee because we got a France origin car. A teeny tiny little Mercedes. The boys filled it with luggage (see photos) packed so tight. T and I couldn’t see each other in the back!

Manifestation, Paris: Upon arrival from Avignon TGV we could not get a cab because of some Manifestation (Protest) whereby the protestors blocked all bridges to car traffic. When I went back into the train station to buy a map (because we didn’t have any maps because we had Garmin) I noticed army guys in fatigues with machine guns – which kind of freaked me out. John and T had noted that there were some bad guys convicted in France the day before so we figured it was related to that…so we didn’t want to be stuck in the subway, so we walked to our hotel…about 1 hour!!!! That glass of wine was well deserved!

A few shots:


This little movie is taken from the top of the Arc de Triomphe one weekday afternoon. It seems that a bunch of students got together to protest something or such, and blocked traffic for about an hour. The dark blue area on the left are the cops, very systematically walking after the students. They didn’t really seem interested in catching anyone!

This little video is the speed of the TGV from Avignon to Paris (about 800 km in 2.5 hours!!!!)

And last but not least, this little video is a street entertainer on Montmartre directly on the steps to the Sacred Heart Church.

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Huff Estate Weekend!

We went down to Prince Edward County and stayed at Huff Estate for one night over the long weekend. The restaurant I had booked a month ago canceled our reservation 6 days ahead (Valentine’s weekend, no less), due to the snow (oh, poor babies, too much snow in Canada in the winter?????) Not much of a good start for the PEC! Take a look at the photos.

h_inn11.jpg

Huff was lovely. The room was very nicely appointed and the bathroom was great (huge tub and glass shower with 6 heads!) We checked in around noon on Saturday and then set out for Lunch! We tried Portabella in Picton. The food was lovely, although a bit expensive for Picton, but I guess it’s up and coming! We checked out all of the antique stores and the Inn that JT booked for our dinner Claramont Inn and Spa. We were quite disappointed that the menu was a fixed menu and the two mains were Duck Confit and Venison (two very meaty dinners and neither of my taste!) So we canceled our reservations and went to No Frills and bought a variety of cheeses, cold cuts, fruits and crackers for a lovely and tasty meal in the room. Maybe a couple of bottles of vino too! Actually, it couldn’t have been nicer. In summer, each room has a lovely patio where they put a table and chairs…would have been great for cocktails (but not at -8°C and a metre of snow!!!).

The next morning I work with the worst case of Pink Eye…off to a drug store to get some Polysporin and I’m good to go! Huff provided a nice little breakfast (although the room was small and flow was difficult). We set out to see some more sites, unfortunately, I was feeling really badly from the Pinkeye and we decided to head home, with a minor stop at the Big Apple for some tasty pie! This is a great spot for kids in the summer, as they have wild bunnies running freely on their land (they are quite friendly!).

Our weekend continued in Toronto JT went to visit his dad at the retirement home and I went shopping. I dropped by Linens and Things and picked up a couple of cordless pleated shades for the kitchen…I had to customize the size (which was a bit of a challenge, with my tin snips) but they turned out fantastic, and I couldn’t be happier for the slim spend of $25 each! What a deal!

kitchenwindowcovering.jpg

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