Category Archives: Travel

Rideau Lake: Relaxation, Foodamania and a “Touch” of Tequila


Rideau Lake

If I had to pick a favourite past time of my fellow countrymen and women, I think it would be the weekends at the cottage. Until recently, I was a cottage virgin, even a cottage country virgin! It was only recently I’ve visited Tobermory, which is considered by many as one of the nicest cottage destinations. And then I asked myself, why haven’t I done this earlier?
A few days ago, our little group got together and spent the long weekend at the lovely cottage/cabin on Rideau Lake, about 50 km away from Kingston. It’s set right on the water, which was usually luke warm, and although some of us got bit by the naughty sunfish, we spent most of our time lounging in or by the water. The above is the view from the cabin.

Pancetta Fritatta

We split up making our meals, and the second morning, it was mine and D’s turn to make the lovely fritatta above.  Fritattas are always such a crowd pleaser, and the best thing about them is that they are super quick and easy.  I sauteed some red peppers, mushrooms and pancetta, while D scrambled the eggs and added shredded mozzarella.  While I was cutting the peppers I noticed they made these cute flower shapes, so I decided to keep them as decoration for the top.  The eggs are then poured into the pan, stirred around a bit and into the oven it goes for about 20 minutes or until it sets.  Top with more mozzarella, let it melt and serve!

Pancetta Fritatta

We used 24 eggs for 8 people, which looked like it was a lot – the pieces were super tall, but there was none left! Although, that is mostly because we have DM on our team 🙂

Fritatta loves strawberry

And as if we didn’t have enough food, there was also delicious fruit salad!

Fruit Salad

Our first dinner of the cottage weekend was prepared skillfully by DM. He calls it heart attack, or as some would call it – a really really fancy Mac and Cheese. There was several kinds of cheeses, heavy cream, yummy creminis and Panko topping.  I think we all agreed he had won the weekend with this yumminess! (recipe pending)

Heart Attack on a Plate

And, because this group likes to eat, we also had grilled corn, courtesy of DVG.  Back home, corn is grilled without the husk, right on the fire and it comes out slightly charred but smoky and delicious.  I haven’t seen it done this way in Canada.

Sweet Corn

The nights were spent lounging on the terrace until the wee hours of the morning, watching the candles blow in the wind, being wildly inappropriate (thank God the neighbours’ house is out of ear’s reach!), drinking way too much tequila and laughing uncontrollably.

Candles in the Night

For me, the most delicious thing of the entire weekend was C’s peach pie.  I’m probably biased because I love sweets, and even more ripe and sweet peaches!  C made this srumptious creation, so skillfully (she thinks her dough skills are not so good, but I can put this insanity to rest once and for all!), and it came out looking like something out a fairy tale! And, it was calling my name!  I wished there were two!  The recipe is generously shared by our dear C below.  Thank you!

Peach Pie

Super awesome peach pie was gone in minutes!

Peach Pie

Another peach dessert was being prepared by my dearest DVG, and it took all day for the peaches to be soaked in rum and balsamic vinegar, before they were put on the grill that evening.  They came out soft, juicy and with slight touches of rum.  Yum!

Rum Peaches

And while the others were enjoying some necessary terrace time, my dearest DVG was nice enough to pose for me.  Here, you can see his cannonballing skills!

Wheeeee

That evening, B and M made some of the juiciest chicken that I’ve ever had.  Beer can chicken is one of the easiest ways to make your chicken juicy.  The contraption can be bought at any kitchen store, and it basically looks like a stand, fitted for a small beer can (beer can doesn’t come with it).  The chicken is then stood over top of the stand and the beer can, so that the beer can sits safely inside the chicken (let the dirty jokes begin! :)).  The can can be filled with anything.  The two that were made were curry chicken and wine bbq – so the can doesn’t have to necessarily hold only beer.  Make sure you rub the outside with spices that you like and the chicken will come out looking nice and brown like the one below.

Beer Chicken

The chicken went well with the grilled red bell peppers and zuchinni below.  The preparation: toss the veggies with salt, pepper and olive oil, put in tinfoil and grill!

Roasted Veggies

The cutest member of the bunch – Bubba.  He even got to swim in the lake!

Bubba

J and M make us delicious cannelloni one evening that was accompanied by these colourful organic beets from J’s garden.  The colours are so vibrant that I couldn’t resist taking so many photos! The red and white one looks like a candycane!

Yellow Beet

Beets from the garden

Sunday was so rainy that we mostly stayed inside, played games and read.  When the rain stopped, I captured this little droplet about to fall to the ground.

Rain Drops

And soon enough, the sun was out again…

Rainy tips

We came away from the weekend, feeling relaxed and serene, such as the photo below.  Good friends, good food and good tequilla – what can be better!?

Decking Out

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recipeS

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Peach Pie

Pie crust

Grate 1 cup of butter and freeze

Add to 2 1/2 cups of flour and 1 teaspoonsugar and 1 teaspoon salt.    Combine until it looks like a coursemeal.  At 6 to 10 table spoons of ICE water just until it will holdtogether.   Divide in two, make into balls wrap and refridgerate forat least an hour.

Filling

6 cups peelingand sliced peaches, 1 cup white sugar, 1/2 flour all tossed together.

Roll your crust, fill it with the peachmixture and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes and then drop the heat to350 for an additional 30-35 minutes

Take it out and eat the whole thing!

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 Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1/2 pound macaroni
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 3 cups milk (add 1 cup cream if sause is desired)
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion finely minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 10 ounces (300g) sharp cheddar (Balderson 2+ works well), shredded
  • 10 ounces (300g) full bodied cheddar, shredded
  • 2 Hot italian sausages (remove casing, chop)
  • 2 cups Cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups assorted wild mushrooms (Oyster, Shiitake, Chanterelle), trimmed, sliced
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt Fresh black pepper

Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons butter 1 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot, begin boiling salted water.

While the water is heating, melt 1 tbsp of butter at medium in a cast iron pan. Add mushrooms, season with 1tsp of salt, and saute until softened, browned, and slightly scortched. About 10 minutes. Set aside.

Add marcaroni to water and cook to al dente. Drain and set aside when done.

While pasta is cooking, melt another 1 tbsp of butter at medium-high in the same cast iron pan. Add chopped sausage grounds and season with salt and pepper. Sauté and separate chopped sausage into grounds until nicely browned. Set aside.

In a large pot, melt the remaining 3 tbsp of butter. Quickly whisk in the mustard until smooth. Whisk in the flour and keep whisking for about five minutes making sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg (this is important). Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in the set aside mushrooms and sausage. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a large casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest.

New Orleans Cuisine


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New Orleans. There isn’t anyplace else quite like it. Its history, architecture, natural reserves and cultural vibrance are just a few of many reasons to visit this incredible city. But none of these reasons compare to the one thing that New Orleans is most known for – its food. The cuisine of New Orleans has been influenced by French, Spanish, Cajun, Creole, South African, South American and Native American dishes. The amalgamation of all these different cuisines has produced unique dishes such as a muffaletta, poboys, beignets, boudin and jambalaya, among many others.

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Our visit to NOLA started with a hearty breakfast at Slim Goodies Diner in the Garden District. This cash-only local favourite quickly became busy after we were seated. Slim’s motto: “Cooking with Love”. Our choices for that morning were definitely cooked with love – and plenty of it – the portions were bigger than my head :). Above is The Little Goat: Two fresh scrambled eggs with roasted red and yellow peppers marinated in pesto and dash of goat cheese, served over black bean and avocado slices. And of course a biscuit!

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Second choice – Roma: Fresh spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, garlic, feta cheese. The food was hearty – perfect to start off a long day of walking around and sightseeing.

After Slim’s we decided to check out the local gelateria, just up the street. Sucré is a very cute little place with gelato flavours like coconut basil (to die for!), banana foster and cinammon roll (pictured above). Their cappuccino is also delicious. “Thanks baby, y’all come again, al’right” the girl yelled after me as we were heading out 🙂

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New Orleans is famous for original dishes and food items, one of them being the Muffaletta Sandwich (above). The name Muffaletta stems from the Sicilian word for panini. The Italian immigrants to New Orleans had originated the muffalleta sandwich in 1906 and the Central Grocery store in the French Quarter was the first to sell it. The Muffaletta is usually pretty enormous (1/4 of the sandwich is more than enough – as you can see above) – it’s made on one big round of bread with salami, capicolla, pepperoni, ham, provolone and swiss cheese and olive salad. Olive salad is a signature dish consisting of olives diced with the celery, cauliflower and carrot found in a jar of giardiniera, seasoned wih oregano and garlic, covered in olive oil, and allowed to combine for at least 24 hours. The Muffaletta was a popular work food and the salad was (and still is) a popular condiment as it’s the only one that won’t go bad or rancid in the hot Louisiana weather.

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Another New Orleans favourite (and original) is the flaky fried dough called beignet. Beignets are hand made fritters, deep fried and served with powered sugar. The famous Cafe Du Monde has been serving beignets by the 1000s since the early 1800s. However, we opted for a more authentic experience at Cafe Beignet. The beignets at Cafe Beignet are hand made to perfection and served hot along with another New Orleans favourite – coffee with chicory. There are several Cafe Beignet locations around New Orleans, my favourite being inside the Musical Legends Park – where you can enjoy some afternoon jazz while eating your beignets.

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One of the oldest restaurants in New Orleans – The Old Coffee Pot serves authentic, made from scratch seafood gumbo and jambalaya.

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Anoter New Orleans original are cheap and hearty sandwiches named “Po’boys” (below). These sandwiches are usually made on french loaf type bread, with meat or seafood. The story behind po’boys is that they originated in 1929 during a four month strike of the conductors of the New Orleans street car company. Two former conductors had established a restaurant and decided to give free sandwiches to their former coworkers during the strike. The restaurants’ workers often referred to the workers as ‘poor boys’ and eventually the sandwiches took the same name. In Louisiana dialect, this got shortened to po’boys.

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Pralines: another one of many New Orleans favourites is made with caramelized sugar, butter, cream or buttermilk and pecans. Pralines had originated in 17th century France but more readily available almonds and hazelnuts were used in the French versions. Once the praline was brought over to the Americas by the settlers, the recipe was adapted to use cane sugar and pecans that were plentiful in Louisiana.

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New Orleans enjoys a steady supply of quality seafood which allows its restaurants to change their menus daily in accordance with what’s fresh on the market that day.  One such restaurant is the highly recommended GW Fins. The dish below is one of the delicious appetizers on offer: Wood Grilled Gulf Shrimp with smoked pepper salsa and chipotle butter. The shrimp had a very distinct smoky flavour and a slight kick from the chipotle butter.

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The special for that evening was the Parmesan Crusted Black Drum with Lump crab, Meyer lemon, asparagus, crispy capers and brown butter.  The drum was perfectly flaky and the parmesan crust was a nice complement in the texture.  Presentation was slightly lacking though – I would have preferred plain white plates.

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The second special of the evening was the Sautéed American Red Snapper with shrimp etouffée, jasmine rice and lobster butter.

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Pièce the résistance (and one of the main reasons for coming to GW Fins) was the deep dish apple pie with vanilla ice cream.  The crust was perfectly flaky and buttery – the apples with a hint of cinnamon – ultimate indulgence 🙂

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Of course, no dinner is complete without someone kissing at the table – this time it was the salt and pepper shakers 🙂

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My favourite restaurant that we visited is a local favourite for authentic cajun cuisine – Cochon.  Cochon Butcher is right next door to this popular spot in New Orleans’ business district and the restaurant gets all its meat from here.  The meat is sourced locally as is all the seafood and produce.  The restaurant is super busy and reservations are a must.  It is located in a converted warehouse, and the atmosphere is lively and unpretentious.  The kitchen is open so you are able to see all the chef’s creations being made.  It’s also possible to sit right at the ‘kitchen bar’ to get a better view of the food preparation.

Our first choice of the meal was the Paneed Pork Cheeks with roasted corn grits & tomato salad.  I wasn’t going to leave New Orleans and not try their famous grits – so I thought this was the perfect opportunity.  The pork cheek (a first for me btw!) was deliciously tender – it simply fell off the fork.  The grits were creamy and delicious as expected.  Presentation was immpecable.  I just love the contrast of the red pepper against the pork cheek and the white plate – it’s so vibrant!

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Next up, another local original – Boudin – this time with pickled peppers.  While Boudin is a catch-all name for many kinds of sausages, the Cajun-style Boudin is made from a pork rice dressing (much like dirty rice) which is stuffed into pork casings.  Rice is always used in Cajun-style Boudin as opposed to milk in the French/Belgian version.  Boudin is usually grilled, simmered or braised.

The outside of boudin is crispy and the inside is soft and full of flavour.  

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Veg of the day:  Cucumbers and herbs in vinegar – nice and refreshing complement to all the meat.

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Last but not least, we could not skip the famous collard greens.  Collard greens are a staple side dish in Southern cuisine, typically prepared with other leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and turnip leaves.

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Secret Pickle Supper Club Documentary


Yes, you heard it right – The Secret Pickle Supper Club has made a documentary featuring the latest Secret Pickle at the St. Lawrence Market. I recently wrote about my first Secret Pickle experience here, which is now featured in the documentary.

Yours truly is in several shots (5 seconds in, 3:02 min in and 6:17 m in), albeit some of them behind my trusted camera 🙂

This is super exciting!

See the DOCUMENTARY here! Enjoy!

Secret Pickle Supper Club – A Delicious Surprise


Secret Pickle Supper Club

“Make sure you’re free on the 31st” D said to me several weeks ago. So, I promptly went in my calendar and blocked off the 31st.

Why? “It’s a surprise” he said. Hmm. A surprise. I thought about what it could be but then decided not to try and figure it out. I wanted it to really be a surprise. And in a million years, I would have never guessed. We arrived at the St. Lawrence Market at 7:30 PM sharp (did you know that the St. Lawrence market was recently elected by National Geographic to be the best market in the world!).

We were given waiver forms to fill out – apparently there would be cameras and if we didn’t want to be filmed, we had to be seated in certain areas. Now I really had no idea what we were there for. We get upstairs into the Market Kitchen –  a huge, open area with beautiful views of the Front Street Iron Building and the CN Tower. There is an open cooking area, and three large tables set with utensils and wine glasses. “Maybe we are here to watch a cooking show” I wondered. It certainly looked like a studio kitchen. We are greeted by a cheery lovely lady telling us to make sure we get a cocktail.

Secret Pickle Supper Club

Cocktail? Gin-Tonic Con Los Jarabes de Inspiración. The flavours? Paprika, Pink Peppercorn, Lavender Orange and Cardamom Orange. D was adventurous with Paprika (it made for a more interesting photo – above :))

Secret Pickle Supper Club

I went with Lavender Orange because I have been craving lavender lately – above.  One of these days I have to make some lavender sugar.

Secret Pickle Supper Club

At this point, I’m still wondering what is this event that we came to. I look at the tasting menu/information brochure – Secret Pickle Supper Club. Tonight’s theme: Tasting Tour of Spain.

Secret Pickle was founded by Alexa Clark when she held a tasting dinner for her birthday. From there, it evolved over time to what it is now – a tasting dinner party for up to 50 people, each with its own theme. The Secret Pickle usually happens in the city of Toronto at various locations and the tickets for the event sell out quickly. In honour of their 2 year anniversary, there was also a documentary being filmed, to be released later this year.

Secret Pickle Supper Club

The Chef, Matt Kantor prepared the delicious menu we were about to have and it was inspired by the Spanish meals him and Alexa had in Spain while at an olive oil conference.

First up – Croquetas de Bacalao Con Salsa Verde: Cod croquettes with banana pepper mayo and parsley puree. The Croquetas were browned until crispy on the outside. The parsley puree broke up the creaminess of the cod and it gave the plate a beautiful colour.

Secret Pickle Supper Club
The croquetas were brought around by the lovely servers and this was the only part of the meal that was served while the crowd was still mingling. The rest was a sit down dinner type meal, complete with an endless supply of Spanish wine.

The white wine: Leira Albarino from the Pazo Pondal Winery in Rias Baixas region of Spain (2008) was light, citrusy and with a hint of pear – perfect for the spring, with seafood or tapas.

The red: Pena Roble Crianza, from the Bodegas Resalte De Penafiel winery (100% Tempranillo grapes, 2004), from the Ribera Del Duero region. The red was my preferred choice for the evening, it was complex, well balanced with hints of fruits and chocolate. For Spain, 1994, 1995, 2001 and 2004 are the best vintages in history as they produced the very best Spain has to offer. Wines from those vintages can last for 20+ years when stored correctly.  We were supper lucky to have a 2004 served to us this evening!

Secret Pickle Supper Club

Next up, it was Lomo “Iberico” con Ajo y Perilla, which is a dish typical in the Andalusia region of Spain. Cutlet of pork, thinly sliced and pan fried with garlic and herbs. It was very simple, yet it was its simplicity that made it stand out.

Secret Pickle Supper Club

During the tasting we were also lucky to try two different olive oils. The first one was from Girona, from producers Bodegas Roda. Dauro was first launched in 1999 and it was the first Spanish olive oil produced as a ‘single estate oil’. It’s a blend of 3 varietals: Arbequina, Hojiblanca and Koroneiki. It’s considered delicate compared to other premium oils in Spain. According to my tasting notes, Dauro was minty, grassy and spicy. It smelled of avocado, nuts and tomato. The taste was quite delicate, smooth and well balanced. It lingered on the tongue long after swallowed. The oil was served in wine glasses and we were encouraged to taste the oil by itself first, then with bread, and then to save some to drizzle on our next course.

Secret Pickle Supper Club

The next course was Pulpo Loco from the Galicia region of Spain. “Crazy” octopus and fried potatoes. I’m usually not a big fan of octopus because it’s quite chewy and tasteless. However, the chef did a really good job grilling the octopus so it was a perfect consistency.

And….it was quickly gone!

Secret Pickle Supper Club

Next up we had Huevos con Patate, Maitake y Ramp – Sous Vide eggs with mashed potatoes with maitake mushrooms and ramps. Have you ever had sous vide eggs? If you’re like me, maybe you had sous vide meat, but never eggs. In fact, I didn’t even know that eggs could be ‘sous vide-ed’. According to the chef, the way to do it is to cook the eggs at exactly 63 degrees. The shells are then cracked on one end to let the egg fall out.

Secret Pickle Supper Club

This was something completely new for me, and even for someone that doesn’t like runny eggs, this was quite delicious. The mashed potatoes were creamy and the maitake mushrooms gave them a slight change in texture.

Secret Pickle Supper Club

The second choice for the olive oil was much richer. Tuccioliva Gran Selection from the San Amador Cooperative is made from Picual olives picked and pressed in October 2011. Tuccioliva was greener in colour (which apparently isn’t a characteristic on which olive oil should be judged), it was more bitter, longer aftertaste with hints of ripe fruit, banana and fennel.

Secret Pickle Supper Club

After this, we were served my favourite dish of the evening. Arroz Blanco y Negro Con Calamares, a dish most often found in Valencia.

Secret Pickle Supper Club

The calamari were first marinated in beet juice which gave them an incredible pink colour. The contrast of the pink against the black and white rice was incredible, as you can see from the pictures.

Secret Pickle Supper Club

A little sprinkle of Tuccioliva on top gave the rice a smooth finish. The calamari were perfectly cooked and my favourite were the little bubbles of moisture that formed on top 🙂

Secret Pickle Supper Club

Secret Pickle Supper Club

Before each meal, Alexa would give us a little background on her and Matt’s trip through Spain and how each meal was thought up and where the inspiration came from.

Secret Pickle Supper Club

At some point, she came around with a big plate of chorizo, and passed it around. Pure deliciousness. It reminded me of my own trip to Spain and how I much I miss chorizo and manchega cheese! 🙂

Secret Pickle Supper Club

Our last savoury dish of the evening was Cordero Con Mermelada de Pimientos del Piquillo – Slow roasted baby lamb with roasted red peppers. This dish was quite delicate, very clean and simple and a nice way to finish the savoury part of the meal.

Now you’re wondering what was for dessert, right? Our hosts chose Natilla, a typical custard-like Spanish dessert with cinnamon. The natilla was more liquidy than a typical custard, velvety smooth with a perfect cinnamon finish.

The evening ended with Alexa thanking us for coming and inviting us to the next events. I can’t wait for the documentary to come out (I hope they got my good angles :)).

Secret Pickle Supper Club

By far this was the best surprise I’ve ever gotten! What better way to get to a girl’s heart than with Spanish tapas? D even encouraged me to bring my camera, which is how all you fine people get to share in our experience 🙂 So, you have him to thank for that. And the best part? Time spent together. Until next time, happy eating!

 

UPDATE:  The Secret Pickle Supper Club Documentary is up and ready!  Check out yours truly in a few shots!  This is way too exciting! 🙂

Fancy A Taste of Ireland?


 

I have neglected this blog for a few weeks, but now that the CMA craziness is over (at least for now), I can focus on things that make me happy again 🙂 I’m a bit behind on posting the photos from my latest trip to Scotland and Ireland, but at least here are some of the food photos to capture our adventure! 🙂

We were lucky enough to visit Ireland this August, and my only regret is not having enough time to see more of it. Because of our limited time, we only had time to see the northern coast (Giant’s Causeway), Belfast and Dublin.

The photo above was taken at the Bushmills Distillery – producer of Ireland’s oldest whiskey and self-proclaimed oldest distillery in the world. King James I granted Sir Thomas Phillipps the right to distill whiskey here in 1608, and Bushmills has been part of Irish history ever since.
 

The distillery is located in the town of the same name on the northern Irish coast, about a 15 minute drive to the Giant’s Causeway, and it gets over 100,000 visitors a year. Bushmills, like most Irish whiskey is distilled three times, while Scotch whiskey, apart from Auchentoshan, is distilled twice. Peat is rarely used in the malting process, so that Irish whiskey has a smoother finish as opposed to the smoky, earthy overtones common to some Scotches.

In the distillery cafeteria they serve traditional Irish fare, so we jumped at the chance to try some 🙂
Above is the typical Irish stew – mostly potatoes and carrots, with a few “sprinkles” of meat. Filling, but a little uneventful. The best part of it was the bread. Irish brown soda bread (or wheaten bread) is made with buttermilk and oats, so it’s very moist and slightly sweet.

Christina decided to go with the traditional steak and ale pie – although this version was quite different from the Scotland one – and as you can see, there is very little pie – and mostly just steak and ale 🙂 I don’t think she minded much 🙂

Included in the tour of the distillery, is a complimentary whiskey, or the above – toddy.  I thought it was quite interesting that a toddy was made with whiskey, so I decided to try the Bushmills version – with cinnamon and cloves.   Since I’m not a big whiskey drinker, this was perfect, not as strong as whiskey, slightly sweet and it smelled great – however, it was still quite potent 🙂

In Belfast, the hosts at our hotel recommended a newly opened coffee shop close to the City Hall on Wellington Place,  that proved to be quite a gem.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name anymore, but you’ll be able to recognize it by the relaxed white decor and self-serve pastries 🙂

They served one of the best cranberry croissants I have tasted in a while 🙂  Christina agreed 🙂

 The cappucino had the perfect balance of coffee to steamed milk – not to mention immaculate presentation!  The cafe also serves light lunch and is located very centrally.  The pastries are self serve and include raspberry croissants pictured below (and above).  Super delicious 🙂

In Dublin, we had some very cheeky food servers – like the cute boy from the local ice cream shop below 🙂  His little displays worked! We were so amused by them that we decided to check out the shop and were blown away by some of the most amazing ice cream flavours we’ve encoutered so far  – including balsamic vinegar, sea salt and brown bread!  I must say that some of those sounded like very weird things to combine with ice cream, but the flavours begged to differ.  The balsamic one had only slight aftertaste of the vinegar in the vanilla ice cream, and brown bread was also vanilla ice cream with sugary chunks of brown bread.  Very tasty!

By far, the best breafkast we had in Dublin was in this tiny little place called Honest to Goodness – a well kept secret in the Market Arcade in the heart of Dublin.

My choice that morning was the “Honest Start” (below): crispy bacon, sausage, pudding (i.e. haggis), egg, with relish and couscous salad.  The best thing about this sandwich was the roasted red pepper bread, toasted to perfection. The haggis gave the sandwich a bit of a kick.  The couscous salad was infused with basil, which gave it so much more depth than any other I’ve tasted.

Christina’s choice was the “Croque Madame”: roasted ham and gryere baked sandwich, topped with egg and a side salad.  The salad dressing was a raspberry balsamic vinagrette – it wasn’t too sweet and had just the right amount of tanginess from the balsamic.  Honest to Goodness stands up to its name – it is honestly good.  It is tiny, yet accommodating to an endless stream of locals, enjoying a wholesome breakfast or lunch.  The service was also commendable and quite friendly.

Dublin doesn’t have a shortage of pubs and pub fare, anywhere you turn.  O’Donoghue’s – a pub and inn  is located close to the famous St. Stephen’s Green.

We were lucky enough to get seated on the second floor, which is much cozier than the main floor, and already at 17:00 hours, it was full of happy hour drinkers, who weren’t shy about making fun of a couple of tourists taking pictures of their food 🙂

Christina’s choice was the char-grilled minute steak sandwich, on a toasted chiabata with caramelized onions and rocket and pepper sauce (below).

Myself, I decided to go for the homemade beef and Guiness stew, being that we were in Guiness land 🙂  The taste of Guiness was quite prominent, but not overpowering, and it made the beef extra tender.  The brown soda bread seems to be the standard bread served with stews in Ireland, and this stew was no different.  I really enjoyed the thick consistency of the bread and how its sweetness countered the saltiness of the butter spread on it.  Yumm-oo!

Now that I have my life back, at least for now, I will be making more goodies and sharing them with you all.  Stay tuned for this month’s creation!  Toodles!

Haggis, Black Puddings and Steak and Ale Pies: The Not So “Unimaginative” Scotland Cuisine


British cuisine. One may ask herself if there is such a thing :). British cuisine has long been ridiculed as being ‘unimaginative and heavy’, but, when you live in a country where even in the high summer you don’t expect temperatures of above 19 degrees C on average, and 95% of days are rainy and foggy, maybe ‘heavy’ is what you need to keep you toasty and happy? 🙂    Besides, when you’re hiking most of the day through Scotland’s countryside, a hearty warm meal always makes for tummy happiness in my book 🙂 On my recent trip to Scotland, I discovered that even though British cuisine may lack in imagination,  at least it’s consistent in quality, and it will keep you warm on those 19 degree summer days 🙂 What gave the food its special charm was that (at least in my experience) it was always served to us with care for presentation and a genuine smile. In fact, it was the warmth and hospitality of the Scottish people that made the entire trip that much more special. In this post, I’ll share with you some of my impressions and of course photos of the local food we enjoyed across Scotland.

The first stop was Edinburgh, and the place recommended in our guidebook as one of the locals’ favourites for Sunday brunch was “The Outsider“.  The Fringe Festival was in full swing in the city, and The Outsider is located just off of the Royal Mile, close enough to all the festivities, but far enough away if one desires a quiet lunch or dinner.

The place had a quiet elegance to it, and it was completely packed, although it took them less than 5 minutes to seat us, during which time we were given menus to look over.

The item that caught my eye was the beef and chilli burger with gruyere, picalilli and fries.  I was so happy with my choice, not just because the burger was perfectly done with just a touch of chilli, and the brioche was slightly smoked, but the presentation was immaculate.  Also, picalilli made for an awesome garnish 🙂

Christina was curious about the fish pie with smoked haddock, spinach and salmon, so she decided that this would be her choice.  Indeed, it’s rare to see fish made into a pie, and again in such a pretty presentation.  The smokiness of the haddock complemented the more ‘fishy’ salmon in a creamy concoction, finished in a flaky pastry.

And of course, no fry is perfect without some real (never MiracleWhip!) mayo!  Yum!

Only few doors down from The Outsider, we found another gem called “The Elephant House“.  We decided that this would be a perfect place for a Monday morning breakfast.  The setup is that you order food at the counter, pick up your drinks/coffee and carry it to your table along with a table number (below), which is a glass bottle with a numbered wooden spatula.  So funky! 🙂  While I was waiting on my cappuccino to be finished, I couldn’t resist capturing this lovely espresso machine 🙂

No Scottish experience would be complete without an authentic “Scottish breakfast” so, I decided this would be my meal for the morning.  I was also quite curious about the Scottish national dish – haggis, and it conveniently was served along with my breakfast :).

Haggis and black pudding (pictured below) are the staples of Scotish cuisine.  Haggis is a dish that constists of the sheep’s liver, lungs and heart, simmered with onions, oatmeal, spices and stock, simmered in the sheep’s intestine for several hours.  Even though it doesn’t sound appetizing, it’s quite delicious – the taste is nutty and meaty, with just the right amount of spice.  It’s usually served with ‘neeps and tatties’ (yellow turnips and potatoes), and a ‘dram’ (shot of Scotch whiskey), but it can be served with other accompaniments (i.e. my breakfast! :))

Black pudding (darker) is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood along with a filler (usually meat, bread, sweet potatoes, nuts, onion or barley), long enough to congeal when cooled.  If this is not imaginative I don’t know what is 🙂  I must say black pudding wasn’t my favourite, I much preferred the haggis, but it was a must to try at least 🙂

While sipping on my cappucino and waiting for the food (#8!), I started looking around and noticing interesting things around the cafe.  We discovered that the Elephant House is apparently the “birthplace of Harry Potter”, as evident on the t-shirts available for sale.  After more research, we found out that J.K. Rowling used to sip coffee here and write her books while overlooking the Edinburgh Castle.

J.K. Rowling’s influence on this cafe is most evident on the walls and doors of the washrooms – filled with people’s messages for her, mostly thanking her for bringing such joy to their childhood.  And then there are some more interesting ones like “make sure your magic wand is free of hogwarts before sticking it into her chamber of secrets”… 🙂

The Elephant House gets my vote for the great and friendly baristas, good food (the best haggis I’ve had on the trip) and a very unique atmosphere.  I can see why Ms. Rowling and Mr. Rankin found inspiration here.

Continuing on our culinary adventure, the next local thing to try was the Jacket Potato.  There were many varieties to choose from in this cafe (name forgotten) on the Royal Mile.  The concept is simple, as is evident in the photo below – baked potato finished with different toppings.  Chicken on my jacket potato of choosing, was slightly dry, but the mayo helped with that. The potato was well cooked – not too soft, and had a lot of flavour on its own, even without the topping.  The salad on the side is a bit pathetic, but ok if for nothing else than for some colour on the plate.  All in all, maybe next time I’ll order curried chicken or something a bit more interesting.

Our journey continued into small-town Scotland, along scenic routes.  First stop, a lovely little port village of Culross (pop 395).

Culross is a formal royal burgh in the Fife region of Scotland.  It is the best preserved example of a village from the 17th century, with most of the historic buildings still intact.

Culross has one cafe called The Biscuit Cafe, which is also a pottery gallery.  It has a lovely back terrace and garden, and the cafe itself is located in a glasshouse next to the terrace.  The goodies below were displayed on a table, and guest are free to help themselves.

It was fairly cold outside and Christina decided she would take a hibiscus tea.

I just loved the vibrat red colour that resulted after the infusion and the contrast it made against the white cup.  It was also the perfect break from the rainy cold day outside.

The next stop on the journey was a town of Stirling, most famous for its landmark – the Stirling Castle.  Stirling used to be strategically important as the ‘gateway to the Highlands’ and it also houses the Church of the Holy Rude – the only other church in Britain aside from Westminster Abbey where a coronation took place (King James VI in 16th century).

Our first night in Stirling turned out to be a hunt for a dinner place that served food past 20 h.  Finally, we were recommended No. 2 Baker’s Street pub that seemed to be the only place with people in it on the block.  We later found out that it was trivia Tuesday 🙂  The pub had a friendly atmosphere, and it was completely packed, so we shared our table with a few French tourists.

We discovered that in most pubs in Scotland, and this one was no different, the food had to be ordered at the bar, and in some cases also paid for in advance.  I was curious about the beef lasagna, and it was also one of the only choices on the menu that wasn’t fish and chips.  As you can see – very filling 🙂

The most interesting part of my meal was the Belgian Kriek that came wrapped in paper. I liked the presentation so much that I brought the bottle back home with me, and will probably use it as a vase.  The taste was also quite good – very different from the other krieks I tried in Belgium, but fruity nontheless.

I have never had more cheesier lasagna in my life!  The lasagna itself wasn’t anything to write home about, but at least it didn’t lack in cheese!  I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing when it comes to lasagna.  Maybe this is one of the tricks of the British cuisine – cheese makes everything better?

In the morning, the quest was on to find a good breakfast place, and lucky for us, this didn’t take nearly as much time.  We found another pub, that was serving breakfast, and with some really interesting choices, like this pancake stack below.  I was most intrigued by the presentation, as I’ve never seen pancakes and eggs presented in this manner…and I must say I may just steal this idea in the future 🙂

The pankaces were fluffy and just slightly sweet which complemented the saltiness of the bacon quite nicely.  For some reason I couldn’t get down with having syrup poured over the whole thing as it was supposed to be served, so I asked for it on the side.

Christina went with a safer choice with just regular toast.  Butter in Scotland I swear is made in heaven. It is so much creamier and flavourful that the butter at home, which only reinforces the fact that I have to make my own butter soon!

After Stirling, we continued our journey north to a small town called Forfar.  The most interesting culinary fun fact about Forfar is that it’s the birthplace of the famous Forfar Bridie (below).  It’s a light savoury pastry filled with a mixture of minced steak, butter and beef suet, seasoned with salt and pepper and sometimes onion is added.  The closest thing that I can think of that comes close to it are the empenadas I had in Sao Paulo.

James McLaren and Son have been making bridies since the late 19th century, and the Forfar bridie is different from bridies in the rest of Scotland in that the Forfar bridies are made with shortcrust pastry, whereas flaky pastry is used in most other places.

Sadly, we came to Forfar just in time for McLaren’s to close and they had ran out of their bridies, so we went across the street to Sadlers of Forfar.  We had to try both to compare, and I must say I liked the flaky pastry better.

The drive through Scotland’s countryside looks something like the photo below.  The green rolling hills, wheat fields and plains with cattle and sheep.  On our castle trail, we visited the Fraser Castle and Craigievar Castle, from which the view below was taken.

The bed and breakfast where we stayed the night was in a small town of Inverurie, called Bridge of Muchalls.  The hostess at the B&B prepared us the loveliest breakfast, and we ate in the sunroom that overlooked the garden, and in the background, mountains and wheat fields went as far as eye could see.

I liked the presentation of this toast – even though it was plain toast, the serving dish made it feel so much more special.  Of course, the curly  and creamy butter didn’t hurt either 🙂

Chickens (from which our breakfast eggs came) played around in the garden while the sun warmed the little sunroom and our faces.

The waffle-like item is actually made of potatoes and called a potato scone.  Usually, in other places it looked a lot more like a hash brown rather than an actual scone, but this was the only place it looked like a waffle.

And if we didn’t feel full from the plethora of food already in front of us, there were homemade jams to sweeten the deal 🙂

In Inverurie, there was again plenty of pubs to choose from for some late night grub.  Edward’s was the pub (that also calls itself a diner and a nightclub) of choice that evening, as it had a very convincing sign in the front that “good food served here” 🙂 :).   I found a dish on the menu that said “Chicken Goujons” and was curious about it so I ordered it.  It turned out it was just chicken fingers 🙂  Nothing too exciting 🙂

Christina’s choice was much more interesting – Steak and Ale Pie.  The beef was cooked for a long while and in plenty of ale, which made it super tender but also didn’t make the ale test overhelming.  The flaky pie gave a good texture contrast to the meat.

Next stop was Inverness, the gateway to Loch Ness 🙂  (no, we didn’t see Nessie :))

While walking around looking for a dinner place, we stumbled upon the Castle Tavern, or in Gaielic – Taigh os’da à Chaisteil.  The Castle Tavern calls itself the Real Ale Pub (it won the Real Ale Pub of the Year in 2008 and 2010) and it features a pub on the main floor, a restaurant on the upper floor and a big terrace in the front.  It’s located right across the Inverness Castle.

It was the first time we saw salad on the menu of a pub, so Christina jumped at the chance of having some greens :).  I on the other hand opted for the haddock fillet, since it was localy sourced in the nearby Loch.  The haddock tasted fresh and it wasn’t over-battered as can sometimes happen to mask the staleness of the fish.  The batter was light and crispy, and well seasoned.

From Inverness, we headed to one of the most photographed castles in Scotland – the Eilean Donan castle.  It lies on the small island in Lock Duich and it was most spectacular.  The weather was changing every hour and we had really hoped that the sun would come out in time for the sunset.  While we waited, we decided to look for a place to eat dinner.  The area around Eilean Donan has only about 3-4 restaurants, all serving food starting at 18 h.

We decided that Kintail Lodge Hotel, Shiel Bridge was the best choice, not just in food, but also the location – it sits right on the loch and the view from the dining area is magnificent.  The Hotel has a restaurant and pub which is open to non-residents as they call it 🙂  Christina opted for the fish special of the day, which was this light and flaky halibut – probably caught that day 🙂

Myself, I opted for something more hearty – Cassoulet of Pork, Chorizo, Beans and Root Vegetables.   The pork was tender and it just melted in my mouth, the chorizo was slightly spicy, and the potatoes and beans gave the whole meal a perfect finish.

I was also impressed with the service, and the staff was able to accomodate us without a reservation and even give us a window booth table.  Sunset views and a great meal?  Who can ask for more?

After dinner, we enjoyed the sun setting over Loch Duich.

The last stop on our Scotland adventure was Glasgow.  We didn’t have nearly enough time to explore all the culinary wonders that Glasgow had to offer.  They say that Glasgow has the best food in Britain!  On one of the nights, we opted for Greek.  Elia Restaurant is right on George’s Square, and they offer nightly dinner specials for under 10 pounds.  It was also a good viewing spot for the filming of the new Brad Pitt movie – World War Z.

Our meal came with two appetizers of our choice, so we opted for pita with hummus and greek salad.  The olives were not overly salty, and I really liked the dish they were served in.  The salad was also beautifuly presented, and I really liked how the red of the tomato, the green of the cucumber and the yellow of the pepper contrasted the white serving dish.  Feta was creamy and crumbly, and the tomatoes actually tasted like tomatoes!  I missed yummy tasting tomatoes!

Our main meals were pork souvlaki and seafood risotto.  The pork was slightly dry but it was well seasoned.  I think the best part of that dish was the rice – it was perfectly done, very flaky and well seasoned.

The risotto was mediocre.  It didn’t have much shrimp in it, but the thing that I didn’t like more was that it was too tomatoey.  I was either too full from the hummus and pita (which by the way, was very garlicky – just the way I like it :), or the tomato sauce was overpowering the rest of dish, but I couldn’t finish it.  It’s too bad because the risotto was well cooked and very nicely presented also.

Overall, the culinary adventures of this trip proved to be a lot more interesting than I had expected.  The second part of the trip was in Ireland.  Stay tuned for the next post and the  likes of Irish Stew and Toddies 🙂 Toodles! 🙂

In Belgium: Stories from the Land of Chocolates, Waffles, Beer and Fries


Belgium! The land of beer, chocolates, waffles and fries! What’s not to like? Pair that with the beautiful architecture, rich history and nice people and who wouldn’t like living there? I would move in a second! 🙂 This visit to Belgium was inspired many years ago by a movie that sparked an interest to see Brugge. The movie is called In Bruges, and though the movie wasn’t anything to write home about, the setting for the movie left a lasting impression on me. So this summer, I was lucky enough to make this old wish come true! I realize
it may be hard to cover all the culinary wonders of Belgium with one post (I could probably have one post just on waffles :)), but I’ll give it my best try 🙂

First morning in Bruxelles, breakfast was none other than waffles 🙂 And of course, the token cappuccino for me 🙂 And can I say that I really like the ones served in glass cups cause of all the layers that are visible. I’m still trying to perfect this art 🙂

So, a little education on different types of waffles you can find at every corner at any city in Belgium 🙂 The waffle featured in the first photo is what’s called a Bruxelles waffle, and the waffle in the photo above is what’s called a Liege waffle (recipes for both kinds are at the end of this post). The main difference between the two is the thickness of the batter before they are pressed in the waffle machine. The Bruxelles waffles are usually bigger and fluffier, with deep ridges – their batter resembles that of North American pancake, slightly runny, but thicker than batter for crepes. Liege waffles (originating in the little town in south of Belgium called Liege) batter is more denser, more bread like and thicker. They are often smaller when prepared (see above), not as fluffy and their ridges are not as deep.

Here, at a waffle spot in Ghent, the girl is showings us how a Liege waffle looks like before it’s grilled. If you could look closely, you would see pockets where sugar is stuffed in, so that when they’re ready, they can be eaten with no toppings (often some powdered sugar is enough). However, there have tons of choices for toppings for both Liege and Bruxelles “Gaufre”, such as melted chocolate (my favorite), fruit and whipped cream, even real Canadian maple syrup! 🙂  Liege waffles also have their own Liege waffle maker that allows the grills to get to the right temperature as not to burn the sugar.  The lady in the above picture also pointed out that flipping the waffle maker half way through the cooking process helps to evenly distribute the chunks of sugar in the batter, so it wouldn’t all run to one side.

Needless to say, my chocolate covered Liege gaufre was gone before you could say chocolate! 🙂

Even the little bee couldn’t get enough! 🙂

According to our guide book, the place best recommended for waffles is Aux Gaufres de Bruxelles, and it didn’t dissapoint (as you can see from my above clean plate :))

So after breakfast, and some searching for Astérix and Obelix murals, we worked up an appetite for lunch.  One of the recommended places was an old stagecoach inn from 1762  In’t Spinnekopke (In the Spider’s Web).

Mussels are one of the Belgium’s prized specialties, and wanting to try an authentic Belgian dish, I opted for “Waterzooi Moules”, pictured below.

Waterzooi is a typical stew of Flanders, with zooi meaning to stew – it’s made with various vegetables and then a choice of chicken, beef or seafood.

So, what is one to do, when you get snacky after walking around all day, admiring the Belgian architecture?  Well, get a cone of fries of course!  Another pride of Belgian cuisine, and one that is taken quite seriously, is the fry.  And don’t make a mistake of asking for “french fries” at a restaurant, as one fellow tourist did at a table next to ours in Brugge – he was met with a stern look from the waitress – “We don’t have French fries” she said 🙂  It is a common misconception that these little guys originated in France, when in fact, they were invented in Belgium sometime at the end of the 17th century.  Fries are so important to Belgians that there is even a Fry Museum in Brugges (below).

 

You can find a fry stand (or ‘friekot’) almost anywhere in any Belgian town, and it’s made fresh right in front of you, served in a cone shaped carboard container with salt and  many different mayo based sauces.  Instant heaven!

Another big passion of the Belgique is beer. Belgians have been brewing beer since the Middle Ages, and there are literally 1000s of brands and kinds to choose from (even for a non-drinker it’s overwhelming).

One of the most distinctive beers in Belgium is the Lambic beer, which is fermented differently from most other beers (which are fermented using carefully cultivated strands of brewer’s yeasts) – Lambic is produced by spontateous fermentation – it’s exposed to wild yeasts and bacteria, naturally occuring in the Senne valley in which Bruxelles lies. This gives the beer a dry and cidery taste. There are more sweet kinds, mixed with fruit – the most common being the Kriek and the less sweet Geuze.

Kriek is perfect for non-beer drinkers, in my opinion, at least if they are anything like me, and don’t like the bitter taste of beer. Kriek is more like carbonated very fruity cherry juice with undertones of beer – very refreshing! 🙂

In Brugge, the only family brewery still left – De Halve Maan, offers daily tours, which includes a glass of their unpasteurized goldenblond Brugse Zot, as well as the great view from top of the brewery.  Their premium brew – Straffe Hendrik comes in 750 ml bottles, in 9% and 11% alcohol variety.  The 9% is very smooth with no bitter aftertaste, and especially good when paired with the local Brugge Blomme cheese.

Old empty beer bottles in the Halve Maan brewery.

So, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Belgium? For me, it’s always been chocolate. Chocolate shops are everywhere and there are SO many options and chocolat artisanal to choose from. One can either chose his/her own selection or buy the pre-selected assortment. And then there are many other chocolate confections to choose from, as evident from the photo below 🙂 Something for everyone 🙂 One thing to remember, that I’ve learned from a serious chocolatier, is to never put chocolate in the fridge as it ruins the taste – keep it in a cool dark place. 🙂

Our trip continued from Bruxelles to Ghent, a lovely small town on the canals, with charming architecture, and plenty of interesting cafes, such as this one – The Pi Cafe! 🙂

The 3.14 Cafe in the GroentenMarkt Quartier in Ghent specialized in coffee drinks, so this seemed a perfect spot to try out some novelties. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten the name of the lovely creation below, but I do remember it has some kind of alcohol in it (perfect for a morning drink , I’d say :)). 

Latte Macchiato at Cafe 3.14 in Ghent.  Apologies for the brand placement.

People watching is my favorite part of sitting at a cafe, and we were lucky enough to catch this sweet gesture in front of the bakery, right beside Cafe 3.14.  Do you think she’s a tourist?

The visitor information office in Ghent, underneath the Belfry Tower was quite useful, and offered walking tours of the town.  Needless to say, all that walking around in the sun makes one quite hungry 🙂  The reward?  A lovely meal of steak with hollandaise sauce and fresh fries (what can be better?)

Our walking tour recommended eating in the Patershol Quartier, famously named the ‘gastronomical centre of Ghent’.  However, it seems that most of the restaurants here are not open for lunch, so we walked to the nearby Vrijdagmarkt (Friday Market) plaza (and once home to the tanners guild), which, when it’s not housing the Friday market is full of restaurants and cafes.  Vridagmarkt is also home to “socialist ‘house of the people’ (Ons Huis, Bond Moyson), which was once the hospital of the first people’s of Ghent.

In the Vrijdagmarkt, there were plenty of choices to choose from, and mostly on the expensive side, so we were lucky to find this little gem – De Gulden Valk – that offered a lunch menu for 12 euros, that included soup, steak and fries 🙂  Oh and of course – Kriek 🙂

Walking around in the the Patershol Quartier in Ghent, we passed by this lovely fascade and I couldn’t pass up photographing it – the red brick and the red door contrasted with white flowers made for a perfect photo opportunity 🙂  And it’s just one of the many examples of the Flemish architecture – I was in photo heaven 🙂

In Brugge, while hiding out from the rain, I got to enjoy this yummy creation below.

And when it was time for an after-dinner treat, this whipped-cream cappuccino (a first for me), didn’t dissapoint 🙂

On our last morning in Brugge, we were lucky to stumble upon this hidden oasis, right beside the Minnewaterpark and the Lake of Love.  ‘t Oost!  promotes the ‘pursuit of happiness’ and encourages  ‘slow food’ – savouring every bite, while enjoying one’s surroundings.  They have menus in 4 different languages, and even a huge map on the wall in which you can indicate with a pin where you come from 🙂

My simple breakfast consisted of a latte macchiato, a croissant and a typical Flemish almond cookie 🙂

A couple of locals have just left the cafe, and the evidence of their morning coffee is a testament to the enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures…

Today’s specials are featured at the front entrance of ‘t Oost 🙂

Plants in the backyard terrace of ‘t Oost.

After savouring every sip of my latte macciato, it was time for more gastronomical exploration!  Chocolate! Yumm!

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RECIPES

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Gaufre de Bruxelles

  • 3 1/4 cups (1 lb. — 500g) all purpose flour
  • one sachet (7g) instant dried yeast
  • 4 medium eggs
  • whole milk (you can also add some sparkling mineral water and make them even fluffier)
  • two sticks (1/2 lb. — 250g) butter
  • vanilla sugar
  • some salt

1. Take a cup of milk and heat it until it is lukewarm then mix in your yeast. You can now leave the yeast standing for a while.

2. In the mean time – melt the butter, but stop as soon as it melts, don’t over heat it or even burn it – you will lose the taste. You also need to…

3. …separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and beat the egg whites until you get snow.

4. Now take a big giant huge bowl and throw in all the flour, vanilla sugar (one sachet) and some salt. Make a hole in the middle of the flour and fill it with melted butter, dissolved yeast and egg yolk.

5. Mix while you are adding milk (and some mineral water if you want). You should mix it really well so there are no lumps. The question you might ask here is how dense should the dough be, how much milk? It should be thick, think pancakes and then make it a bit thicker.

6. OK, now gently mix the beaten egg whites into the dough…don’t overmix.

7. Leave the dough to rest and rise at room temperature for a while. How long? Until the volume of the dough doubles or even triples! We told you to take a really big bowl. If you are in a hurry then wait for 30 minutes to one hour, but if you can, make the waffle dough in the evening and leave it overnight.

8. Use the oil to grease the waffle iron (which should be hot hot hot) so your waffles don’t stick to it and pour the dough in it. Bake the until they turn golden brown.

9. Sprinkle some powdered sugar all over the Brussels waffles.

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Gaufre de Liege

  • 6 tablespoons warm milk (no hotter than 110°F)
  • 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar 

  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups (230 grams) bread flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, at slightly cooler than room temperature
  • 140 grams turbinado sugar, or pearl sugar if you choose

1.  Dissolve the sugar in the warm milk; then add the yeast. Make sure that the milk is not too hot, lest it kill the yeast instead of promoting its growth. Place a plate or some kind of cover on top of the bowl with the milk, sugar and yeast. Set aside for about five minutes. When you check on it, the yeast should have bubbled up, looking light brown and spongy.

2.  Meanwhile, mix the sifted bread flour with the cinnamon, vanilla extract, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Pour in the yeast mixture; then add the whole egg and egg yolk. Mix on medium speed until it is fully combined. The dough will be yellow and stiff, yielding only slightly to a poke.

3.  Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest in a warm place for about thirty minutes.

4.  Beat in the butter piece by piece; you do not have to wait for the prior piece to be fully incorporated before adding the next. When the dough has incorporated about half of the butter, the mixture will be like a very thick, somewhat broken-up paste. If you keep engaging the mixer on medium-high speed, the dough will eventually become a cohesive whole, looking smoother and more feeling more elastic. Scrape the sides of the bowl if needed.

5.  Kneading very gently, incorporate the sugar crystals just enough to get them evenly distributed. Work quickly so as not to soften the buttery dough too much.

6.  Divide the dough into a dozen equal pieces, gently forming them into balls.

7.  Place the balls of dough on a cutting board in a warmish place for fifteen minutes or so. During the last two minutes of this resting time, preheat your waffle iron until it is very warm, but not hot.

8.  Spray the griddles with cooking oil. Place each ball of dough in a whole square or section of the waffle iron. Like regular waffle batter, the dough will start to puff up. Cook the waffles until the surface is golden to dark brown. Be sure that the waffle iron you are using is appropriately deep, or else the interior of the waffle will not be cooked through. If you are using a vintage stovetop waffle iron, flip the iron every thirty to forty seconds, lifting the iron to check the rate of browning. The browning should be gradual to allow the interior to fully develop.

9.  Set the waffles on a cooling rack as they come out of the iron to promote a crispy exterior. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

10.  Any leftover waffles, if they are not dark brown, can be carefully re-cooked in a toaster for approximately thirty to sixty seconds. Leftover waffles may also be kept in an airtight container between sheets of parchment paper, for up to three days.

Makes 12 waffles