Monthly Archives: June 2010

My day of “bouffe” in Lyon, France

*A little note – since I am writing about France, I thought I could get away with some French in my title. “Bouffe” is slang French for food*

So would you go to a city solely for eating purposes? I did! On my way from Barcelona to Paris, I stopped in Lyon, known as the gastronomical capital of France AND home to Chef Paul Bocuse, who many call the founding father of “Nouvelle Cuisine”.

I had two goals in Lyon and I was able to accomplish both of them, visit a Bouchon and check out the market that is named after Chef Bocuse.

Since I was in France, I readily found myself a great little breakfast on the go…a cheese and bacon loaf and yes, it was warm and it was delicious.

Pain lardons fromage - translated to bread bacon cheese

Equipped with a little bit of sustenance as not to be overtaken with the temptations of what awaited me, off I went in search of French treasures. My goal was not to eat anythere there, but rather to assemble an assortment of treats for a picnic.

The first thing I saw was this, I knew I was in for a “treat”.  This bakery belonged to the “Champion du Monde de patisserie 2009”. No translation needed sometimes, right? I honestly have no idea what they were, but I just stood there and admired them.

Beautiful French pastries

Beautiful French pastries

How about some Fritons Canards? Roughly translated to “fried duck”

Fritons Canards

Sablé aux pralines – I don’t know what “Sablé” translates to, but as you can tell, it’s a cookie (for lack of a better word) with pralines that has a crazy candy gloss look to it.

Sablé aux pralines

After a while of wandering, I began focusing on the makings for my Lyon picnic.

Cheese and lots of it. This is goat’s milk cheese called Rocamadour.  It’s a very young cheese (approximately 2 weeks old) and it’s incredibly soft and creamy.

Rocamadour Chevre

Rocamadour = soft goat cheese  Bouton de culotte = firmer goat cheese

Bouton de Culotte translated to Trouser Button

I thought two types of cheese would be sufficient for my picnic, but I saw this…Arome de Lyon. A soft-ish cow’s milk cheese that’s covered in dried out grapes made in the production of wine. Is it aromatic and crazy fragrant, yes!

Arome de Lyon translated to Aroma of Lyon

So, I had cheese, the next step was bread. This particular loaf is call a Ficelle, which I learned has all the characteristics of a regular French baguette, expect it’s just a bit smaller.

Some bread needed for the cheese

So, my goal in Lyon was to shop at this market and than find a great place to eat my treasures. Lyon has a huge park called Parc de la Tete d’Or (Park of the Golden Head), so off I went with my map and I found it!

Picnic in the Parc with a "c"

Moments later…now, the cheese. The Rocamadour lived up to expectations, it was soft, creamy and delicious with or without the bread. Even the rind was soft and tasted great. The Bouton de Culotte was firmer as I had been told and was another treat.

As for the Arome de Lyon, wow…the potentcy of the grape residue that I smelled on the cheese definitely translated to the taste as well. I was happy to have the Ficelle to neutralize some of its power. The texture too was really interesting, biting into a soft cheese, but getting the crunch from the dried residue. I definitely felt French eating it, whatever that means.

My Lyonaise picnic

Did you really think I was going to go sweet-less? The two little guys on the left were simply displayed as “canelé” (I thought cinammon since that’s canelle in French) and they looked great, almost with the same type of sugar glaze you’d find on a donut.  Apparently, they are supposed to be filled with a custard centre. These were not and they were disappointing and dry, but the amazing looking lemon meringue offered up an OMG moment. The meringue was crunchy as I bit into it, but than melted immediately in my mouth. And as for the lemon filling, it was tart and sugary and I saved some just so I could enjoy it later as well.

Dessert! Cinammon cakes and lemon meringue

Oh and by the way, that picnic came to a grand total of about 8 euros and it was one of the best meals my entire time in Europe!

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Filed under Bouchon, cinammon, Lemon Meringue, Lyon, Paul Bocuse, Rocamadour

Mission Crêpes – A Success

Well, as I mentioned in my last entry, my goal was to make crêpes for Father’s Day.

I’m happy to report I made something that looked like crêpes and more importantly tasted like crêpes – translation, they were goooood!

The recipe (below) called for a blender, but as always the Magic Bullet did the job.

Another use for the Magic Bullet

I have to admit, my crêpes started off a little on the thick side until I got comfortable flipping them without having them break, but I eventually got to pouring out the 1/4 cup of batter that the recipe called for.

Crêpes making in action

I’m a big fan of condiments and toppings, so…going clockwise, ricotta cheese, nutella, warm banana with peanut butter, ground-up cheetos (compliments of the Magic Bullet) and homemade blueberry vanilla jam.

Crêpes with all the fixins'

I left the recipe for the crêpes as is, but I did find they were a little too “eggy” (is that a word?). I’d likely try three (3) eggs next time I make them and you can be sure I will be making them again.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 cubes

Directions

For the crêpes: Preheat the oven to 150 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  • In a blender, add the eggs, milk, flour, sugar, and salt.
  • Blend until the mixture forms a smooth batter.
  • Preheat a 10-inch nonstick crepe pan or skillet over medium-low heat. Add 1 cube of butter to the pan.
  • When the butter has melted, add 1/4 cup of batter and quickly tilt the pan to form an even coating of batter on the bottom of the pan.
  • Cook for 1 minute until set and slightly browned. Using a heat-resistant spatula, carefully loosen the sides and gently flip the crêpe over. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Repeat with the remaining butter and batter.
Giada made a rasberry filling and rolled them all with the filling before keeping them warm in the oven. I left them as is so they could be filled with whichever of the toppings were desired.

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Filed under bananas, Cheetos, Crêpes, Father's Day, Giada de Laurentiis, Nutella, Ricotta

Crêpes made easy?

Crêpes. What do we know about them?

  • They are French
  • They seem complicated. Precise measurements into the correct temperature pan versus the more easy-going nature of everyone’s good friend the “Pancake”
  • The word itself seems complicated because of the little hat over the “ê”. (It’s called an “accent circonflexe”, we’ll do a French lesson another time)
  • They are thin and need to be flipped…trouble?!

Well, as always there are two sides to look at this. The good news is that I saw an episode of Giada at Home where Giada made them look pretty simple. The bad news is that I haven’t tried it yet AND maybe she makes them look easy because she’s just that good!

I figured why not give them a shot tomorrow for Father’s Day brunch. It’s the thought that counts right?

Success or failure, i’ll own up to how they do!

Giada filled her crêpes with rasberry, i’m thinking a variety of fillings to disuguise the possible incompetencies of my crêpes.

Happy early Father’s Day to all!

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Filed under Crêpes, Father's Day, Giada de Laurentiis, Pancake

Eating Adventures in Barcelona

Do you like time off and vacations and going places? Well, if so, I’d like to do my best to share with you my adventures over the last few months. As you know, it began in Vancouver to work for the Olympics. From there, it was Europe, Hawaii, Vancouver (for about 6 days), than roughly 4000 kilometres (2500 miles) across the Canada and the United States. I wrote a couple of entries along the way, but I’ve been looking through my 3000-ish photos and feel the need to share, so first stop…Welcome to Barcelona, Spain.

So me and my sense of direction are not good friends. I want to be friends with the whole gang, you know maps, streets, North, East, South and West, but it never works out. So, imagine my surprise when I found the restaurant I was looking for in Barcelona! Pla de la Garsa is a restaurant in a 17th century building that features Catalan cuisine. Catalonia being a community/region of Spain that has its own language, culture and its capital is Barcelona.

Pretty exciting to find something you're looking for!

17th Century building

I had read about Pla de la Garsa in Frommers and it had all the criteria I was looking for.

1) Close-ish to a metro

2) Reasonable prices

3) Authentic to the region

Pla de la Garsa

For starter’s, I opted for the “Cod Carpaccio and Olives in Vinaigrette”. I’d only had beef carpaccio before and needless to say, the taste and texture is much different. My first question was can carpaccio be sliced too thin? Because it was sliced thinner than thin. After my first bite, I made sure to scoop a few other slices onto my fork to get a better feel for the texture and taste. It was definitely light and very fresh tasting. I had hoped the olives would produce a little more saltiness to bring out the fish taste, but other than that, it was a great dish to begin with.

Cod Carpaccio and Olives in Vinaigrette

Now, I had decided on the “Sweet Peppered Sausage”, but they were all sold out, so in keeping with the regional theme, I opted for “Timbal Black Catalan Sausage with Mushrooms”. Well, I got sausage, but not quite how I had envisioned it. Bluntly, I was served ground-up sausage with ground-up mushrooms. Not surprisingly, it was mushy and I used the pine nuts strategically to give each bite some crunch and texture. The sausage worked better with the bread that accompanied it. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed with it, but that’s exploring and travelling, right?

"Timbal" Black Catalan Sausage With Mushrooms

If you make it to Barcelona, Pla de la Garsa is definitely worth checking out. And don’t worry, they have menus in many languages, but you’ll likely get the Spanish one first!

If you need a little more Barcelona, check out the entry I wrote back in April when I was there.

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Filed under Barcelona, Carpaccio, Catalan, cod, Olives, Pla de la Garsa, Sausage

Pesto with a twist

I thought about starting this entry as a 14 year old writing an essay, as in giving you the definition of whatever I’d be writing about. And you know what, it’s not that bad of an idea considering today’s topic.

I’m not going to do the whole Wesbters defines as…but today’s theme is “pesto”, which means to pound or to crush. The most traditional pesto that we all know is usually a mixture of basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil. However, I did not have those ingredients when I felt the urge, so what do you do? You improvise!

Makings for experimental pesto

Replacing basil – spinach

Replacing pine nuts – almonds

Replacing parmesan cheese – blue cheese and mizrathi cheese

Replacing olive oil – well, you’re not going to replace olive oil!

Replacing the food processor – The Magic Bullet

Magic Bullet - Not just for smoothies!

There was no recipe, just throwing stuff into the Bullet until I thought the consistency and taste was where it should be and I was pretty surprised and happy! The pesto was used as a topping for baked chicken and a sauce for pasta, both turned out really nice, but I did miss the basil scent, next time!

Whatever you have in your kitchen, throw it together, you never know what you’ll end up with.

2 Comments

Filed under almonds, basil, Magic Bullet, parmesan, Pesto, pine nuts, Spinach

Toronto Island Afternoon Getaway

Vancouver seems like a long time ago. I needed to see a friendly face AND to be surrounded by water, so I took off to Toronto to see a friend of mine from the Olympics who was back in Ontario as well. So, that accomplishes the friendly face dilemma, but what about the surrounded by water thing you ask? Welcome to Wards Island!

Wards Island

With the Pier not far from Union Station, anyone can jump on the ferry for $6.50 round-trip to any of the three islands that make up Toronto Island. We chose Ward’s Island since we scouted out a nice cafe for lunch (by the water of course). As soon as we saw Rectory Cafe, we knew we made the right decision.

Land side – check out the little buggy on the right side. Probably not many modes of transportation around the island.

Rectory Cafe

Not too bad for a Wednesday afternoon

Water front view

I seem to be on a blue cheese with my burger kick these days, because my eyes went directly to the lamb burger with blue cheese and a garlic aioli. The burger was tender and had the grill marks you look for and the blue cheese was warm and creamy. I didn’t pick up much of the aioli and to be honest, I had forgotten it came with it and until I checked the menu again to write this entry. Obviously the burger was pretty good on its own if I didn’t miss the aioli.

Lamb burger with blue cheese and mixed greens

What truly made it a great atmosphere was a comment by the server. When he came around the first time to take our order, we had not decided yet, so we asked for a few more minutes, his reply, “you’re on island time, you have all day to decide.”

After lunch, we took a walk around the island. I did not realize how many people live here. I’m still not sure if they get around on the ferry or their own boat, but people were out in front of their homes/cottages cutting the lawn, BBQ-ing and working on renovation projects.

An afternoon stroll on Wards Island

The view from Wards Island. Nice that you can get away from the city and have the calm island vibe without having to go too far.

View from Wards Island

On the ferry back to Toronto, the customary picture from the water.

Toronto from the ferry

Wherever you are, plan to spend an afternoon away from the city and treat yourself to a relazxed lunch with local seasonal ingredients. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but eating on an island Tastes Better With Friends.

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Filed under Blue Cheese, Lamb Burger, Rectory Cafe, Toronto, Toronto Island, Wards Island

Heading East…Road Trip Anyone? The Finale

Welcome back! If you missed the last blog, here is a little recap from Montana as I made my way east through the U.S.

With Mount Rushmore on our minds, we almost drove right by Old McDonald’s Farm. But, how often can you actually sing at the actual farm? “Old MacDonald had a farm, ee-i-ee-i-o”

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Old McDonald's Farm

Although, I don’t remember anything in the song about the goat bridge.

The patriotic goat bridge

My only comment is that they did not look comfortable up there.

The goat bridge

In our third verse of Old McDonald had a farm, we made finally made it to Mount Rushmore. I was not quite sure what to expect, I mean, they carved the faces of four American President’s into the side of a mountain! I was struck with how detailed it was and how smooth it looked. And not to be too demanding, I thought it would be bigger, but than again, you can only view it from 300 feet away. I’m sure if I was looking at it face to face, it would be seem pretty big!

I’m going for that pensive look.

Contemplating Mount Rushmore

Even got Washington’s collar and look at the detail of Roosevelt’s mustache!

Classic Mount Rushmore shot

Getting creative with an SLR camera, I love this shot, but I didn’t take it, remember I have a roadie photographer.

Rushmore with a twist

I won’t bore you with the details, but we left Mount Rushmore in the early evening and we still had some serious driving to do in order to hit up Miller Park in Milwaukee the next day for a baseball game. Simply put, Mount Rushmore to Milwaukee is about 14 hours of straight driving. So the goal was to drive as long as humanly possible into the night and stopping for a quick dinner along the way. Well, the only problem with that is we presumed something would be open in the middle of the night in South Dakota along the I-90. Wrong!

Well, 1am along the highway in South Dakota, this is sometimes the best you can do.

1/2 pound of late night Chicken Quesadilla action

Honestly, sauerkraut in a package, brilliant!

Quesedillas with random condiments

The good news is that we drove enough that night to make the drive the next day manageable and we got to Milwaukee in time for the baseball game. The bad news is that I did not catch a ball, but I managed to have a ballpark bratwurst with sauerkraut and what they called their Special Stadium Sauce, which was sweet and a little kick to it.

I had a bit of nostalgia taking the picture sitting out there in the bleachers. The last time I was in the outfield of a baseball game, I came up with Tastes Better With Friends.

Milwaukee Brat

Good news…Milwaukee to Chicago = 2 hours of driving = spending the morning in Milwaukee and checking out the city.

So where do two people that love food go?

Milwaukee Public Market

In case you didn’t know, Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland

Cheese in all shapes and forms

Another bratwurst, this time in a pretzel bun. It smelled like a pretzel, but was softer than I thought it would be. It was pretty good and I really want one right now.

Bratwurst in a preztel bun

Welcome to Chicago! If you haven’t been to Chicago yet, you need to make it here soon.

Welcome to Millenium Park, a great park with tons of art, including a funky jelly-bean shaped thing that is perfect for picture taking.

Me and the bean

One more hotdog, this time at Wrigley Field. Check out that dynamic relish! And no, I did not catch a ball here either.

Wrigley Dog

Wrapping up Chicago with an evening of deep dish pizza (separate blog to follow soon) and a walk to the Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower)

Willis/Sears Tower at night

That next morning, I took Susy (my adventuresome friend who was a great fellow road-tripper and can’t want to hit the Deep South) to the airport to head back to Vancouver and I headed east and north and made my way back to Canada. It’s a strange feeling not being out west, but looking forward to what the provinces of Ontario and Quebec have in store for me this summer. Looking forward to sharing it with you!

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Filed under Bratwurst, Chicago, Millenium Park, Miller Park, Milwaukee, Mount Rushmore, Pretzel, Sauerkraut, Sears Tower, South Dakota, Wrigley Field