Tag Archives: foodie

We’ll Always Have Paris

img_7479First Impressions

Keith and I were coming into Paris from very different standpoints. He doesn’t speak French and has never been before. He’s slightly intimidated by the city’s size and reputation. I, on the other hand, fluent French-speaker and second-time visitor, could not wait to be back in the city of lights. I adored my high school trip to Paris and I guess I did romanticize it a bit since I didn’t remember it smelling like pee so much the last time.

Accommodation

Our second Airbnb experience went just as well as the first. Check-in and check-out was a breeze. Luckily the heat wave did not follow us from Brussels to Paris so the lack of air conditioning wasn’t a problem. The six flights of stairs however were not fun. At least we had a view of the Eiffel Tower which made it worth it, in my opinion. The place was tiny though, unlike the apartment in Brussels. Everything, from the bed, the kitchen, the shower and the toilet was crammed together, not an inch of space was wasted. Located in the 10th arrondissement, we really enjoyed how close it was to Gare du Nord train station and several metro stops. Plus the neighbourhood which was near the Canal Saint-Martin was super charming.

Getting Around

img_7370The Paris metro system is a modern marvel. There are so many lines that it doesn’t matter where in the city you end up, there is always a station nearby that connects to somewhere you’re going. I’m convinced that even if you don’t speak French, you will be able to figure it out. If you don’t want to take advantage of the metro for some unknown reason, then walking is the next best thing. The streets of Paris were super easy to navigate, I found. Keith said I looked like I had lived there all my life with the way I zipped around all over the city. The highlight of our transit experience was riding the driver-less metro train.

Attractions

We had reconciled with the idea that it would be impossible to see all or even most of Paris in three days. We also had two of our friends who were there at the same time and had to adjust our itineraries accordingly. Our first day there, we just walked around our neighbourhood, passed Porte Saint-Denis and had dinner near Les Halles.

img_7389On the second day, a Monday, we explored the Canal Saint-Martin in the morning, where there was more locals around than tourists. Then in the afternoon, we walked from our apartment to Notre Dame, passing City Hall on the way. Avoiding the line to go in, we opted to just walk around and stay in the surrounding park. We crossed the Seine to get to the Latin Quarter, stopping by several bookshops like Shakespeare & Co. and Album Comics. I really enjoyed this neighbourhood and I loved just walking along the river. We caught a glimpse of the Sorbonne and then crossed a bridge again to find ourselves on Ile Saint-Louis. I wish we could’ve stayed a little longer on the island since I felt like I could pass a day just getting lost in the streets but we were trying to get to Place de la Bastille. Funny anecdote, once there, our friend asked if that was all there is. I had to remind him that the Bastille was torn down. He was unimpressed that only an obelisk stood in the middle of the square where the prison once stood.

Our last full day in Paris, a Tuesday, was spent hitting the big tourist spots: Trocadéro, Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées. A memory that’s so vivid in my mind from my first trip to Paris was exiting the Trocadéro subway station and rounding the corner to be hit by the view of the Eiffel Tower. Recreating that moment with Keith was very special. Then on our way to the Arc de Triomphe, we passed by the Place des États-Unis, which Keith appreciated, being American.

After getting some shopping done at the Champs-Élysées, we said goodbye to our friends for a little bit, since I had planned a surprise excursion for Keith. We discovered the musical Hamilton earlier this year and we have been obsessed. A key figure in the musical and in history in general is the Marquis de Lafayette. Thanks to a little research, I found out that he was buried in Picpus Cemetery, the larger and one of only two private cemeteries in Paris. Lafayette is known as the Hero of Two Worlds after being involved in both the American and French revolutions, which is why an American flag is permitted to fly above his grave at all times and he is buried in American soil that he brought back from his visit to the US. Aside from Lafayette’s tomb, it also has two mass graves of the victims executed by guillotine during the Reign of Terror. The cemetery itself is very peaceful and secluded. While we were there, we didn’t encounter anyone else. It was the only time during our entire trip that Keith and I found ourselves completely alone in public. If you’re looking to visit a site that’s off the beaten path, this would be my recommendation.IMG_7547.jpg

Food Recommendations

IMG_7349.jpgA friend of ours from university gave us an extensive list of restaurant recommendations and I cannot thank her enough for them. For the best brunch, go to Holybelly which was super close to our apartment. It gets very busy though and we had to wait awhile but it was all worth it, especially since we were celebrating a friend’s birthday. Everything from Du Pain et des Idées was phenomenal. But my favourite meal of the entire trip has to be the pizza at Pink Flamingo. I didn’t believe it when people told me to eat pizza while in Paris but there’s something about it that makes it so good. Plus Pink Flamingo has amazing flavour combinations: I got the paella one. All of these restaurants are around the Canal Saint-Martin, which has got to be my favourite discovery during my second time in Paris.

IMG_7577.jpgWe also had crepes near the Champs-Élysées and of course got some macarons from Ladurée. Plus one night we hit up one of the grocery stores near us for some charcuterie and cheese to go with our baguette from Du Pain et des Idées. The cheese we got had cumin in it which was amazing.

Souvenirs

If you’re brave enough to try and fly macarons back, then by all means. I was not and instead opted to buy French soaps to give out as gifts instead. For myself, I also brought back a Longchamp bag since they were way cheaper to buy there than back in Canada.

Final Thoughts

img_7583While we didn’t go to the Louvre or visit Montmartre, I think we took full advantage of our short trip to Paris. It is one of my favourite cities in the world and I could see myself living there. I love the Parisian way of living, taking the time to enjoy everything from an espresso to an expensive meal. I didn’t mind the holier-than-thou attitude we sometimes got in but Keith wasn’t having it. He attempted to order a coffee in French and was met with a blank stare. So Keith liked it the least out of all the cities we visited but on our last night, when we had an impromptu meet-up with two more of our friends who just happened to be there too and sat outside a café drinking and laughing the night away, I knew Paris was finally growing on him.

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Tasty Tuesday: Winterlicious Auberge du Pommier

It’s now time to talk about my last but certainly not least Winterlicious experience. We made this reservation first since I was very aware of how fast Oliver & Bonacini restaurants fill up doing Winterlicious. It’s a chance to go to one of their restaurants that you might not be able to afford normally. We lucked out because our 5-year anniversary fell during the last week of Winterlicious. We narrowed it down between Canoe or Auberge du Pommier, but the latter ultimately won because of proximity to our apartment.
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On February 11th, we got all dolled up for our French fine dining experience at the rustic yet elegant venue that is Auberge du Pommier. We were so glad that it wasn’t stuffy fancy but more on the cozier side. Service was impeccable, from coat check to our very friendly, knowledgeable and attentive waitress.

I would like to apologize in advance for not taking photos of what the boyfriend ate, but his shots always turn out blurry. I’ll just describe the dishes he chose and what he thought. For the appetizer, he opted for the White Bean Velouté with smoked sturgeon, sweet sour onion jam, warm bean salad and scallion crème fraîche. He found the soup good, although the sturgeon was overpowering at times. I ordered the Seafood Rémoulade: crab & poached shrimp salad, grated celery root, Bibb lettuce and Meyer lemon aïoli.
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While I would have preferred the crab to be in larger chunks, the shrimp was very tasty and the lemon aïoli lifted the dish. It came with sliced grapes which worked well, but croutons which were unnecessary in my opinion.

We both got the exact same main dish that we’ve been eyeing since the Winterlicious menu was announced: Filet of Ontario Beef served with sweet & sour beets, sautéed spinach, horseradish & cauliflower purée and sauce Bordelaise.
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The beef was to-die for. Perfectly medium-rare, sprinkled with coarse salt and super tender that a steak knife was not required at all. I wish it came with even more of the yummy Bordelaise sauce. I typically don’t like beets, but I didn’t mind them. The purée was deliciously creamy and tasted like mashed potatoes.

As for dessert, Keith got the Beignet: fried donuts, apple cider parfait, apple butter. There were three and came all neatly lined up. Of course, I went for the Chocolate: cocoa brioche, chocolate marquise, cashew, blood orange coulis.
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While visually my dessert was more stunning than his donuts, I actually think he won. My chocolate dessert was so rich, I couldn’t even finish it. And I don’t particularly remember tasting the blood orange. His donuts, on the other hand, were light, fluffy and delicious.

All in all, we had an amazing anniversary dinner. I highly recommend Auberge du Pommier for any special occasion. The ambiance is very romantic but in a non-annoying way. The venue is gorgeous, the food is amazing and the service is wonderful. What more can you ask for?

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Tasty Tuesday: Winterlicious Casa Manila

For my 2nd Winterlicious 2015 experience, my sister and I chose to go for some Filipino food. I have a special spot in my heart for Casa Manila. It was the first Filipino restaurant I’ve been to in Toronto and I’ve taken my family there whenever they come to visit. We even got our Christmas dinner from them one year. They just make great traditional Filipino fare and I was glad they were participating in this year’s Winterlicious.

I’d like to take a second to point out just how many options they have on their Winterlicious menu. While some restaurants have three or four appetizers, entrees and desserts to choose from, Casa Manila has 5 appetizers, 8 entrees and 4 desserts to choose from, which would normally be a wonderful thing, but for someone who loves everything, like me, it was torture.

For the appetizers, I hesitated between BBQ Skewers, Spring Rolls or Arroz Caldo but opted for the latter, since it’s a rice soup that’s perfect for winter. We all ended up ordering the same appetizer. While it did warm us up, we thought it could use a little less ginger.
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Once again, I had a dilemma when it came to the main dishes. While adobo is a classic choice and the most well-known Filipino dish, it’s easy to make at home so we didn’t order that. I love Filipino stews like Kare Kare, our peanut stew, which it might seem weird to use peanut butter in a stew but it works well. Plus there’s Kaldereta, a tomato beef stew, which is what my sister and Keith chose. I had a bite and it tasted good, but this time it needed more of the sauce and more veggies. Keith would’ve wanted it served in a bowl so he could dip some bread in it, but we don’t really do that in the Philippines. We eat almost everything with rice.
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Fun fact: Filipinos love their pork, so it was no surprise that there were two pork belly main dishes on the menu, one grilled and one fried. I opted for the grilled pork belly, Inihaw Liempo, marinated in their secret sweet and salty sauce. Served with rice and dipped in vinegar, it was just as good as I remember it from back home.
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For dessert, I got mango ice cream but should’ve definitely chosen what my sister and Keith ordered: Leche Flan, our version of crème caramel.
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All in all, while we had some minor suggestions, we enjoyed the food and left very full. If you’ve never tried Filipino cuisine before, Winterlicious at Casa Manila is a great introductory experience.

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Tasty Tuesday: 3 Montreal Spots To Try

Last time I went to Montreal, I talked about the best cupcake store there. This time around, my mom and my sister introduced me to some new places that were super delicious. Here are three Montreal spots to try (ok, one is in a suburb but still):

1. Schwartz’s
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Alright, I’m pretty sure you’ve either already tried it or have heard countless recommendations but I cannot stress enough how absolutely vital it is for your happiness to come to Montreal and get Schwartz’s smoked meat. We skipped the dine-in experience because the line is always too long, even in winter. They conveniently have a take-out section where you can enjoy their delicious sandwiches and my personal favorite way to eat smoked meat, on a poutine.

2. Mai Xiang Yuan
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While not as big as the one here in Toronto, there are a few gems worth checking out at Montreal’s Chinatown and this dumpling establishment is one of them. Look out for the baby blue sign and prepare yourself for cheap, yummy goodness. Bring cash since they don’t accept debit or credit. The place is pretty small and gets full real fast for lunch and weekends but it’s so worth it. Their dumpling combinations work amazingly well and everything is cooked perfectly, whether you get steamed or fried.

3. Prohibition Bar (Ste-Therese)
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Ok, so it’s technically not in Montreal and it’s definitely not ideal to take public transport to this bar but if you love craft beer, I suggest trying your best to check this place out. We had a surprise welcome back party for one of my best friends here and I just loved the decor, the theme, and of course, the beer. Also side note: One of the greatest things about Quebec is that we make the best beer and we sell them at the corner store.

Happy Tuesday one and all!

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Recipes To Try This Year

New Year’s Resolutions are overrated in my opinion. I prefer to just compile lists of new things to discover this year and if I get to them, awesome, if I don’t, no problem. Very little pressure. While I will never jump on a diet or do a cleanse, I am intrigued by a few food trends I’m seeing. Here are some I would like to try:

1. Cauliflower “rice”
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Is cauliflower the new kale? There have been so many lists that showcase its versatility and why it deserves your love. I want to get in on this trend by trying this recipe.

2. More kale
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Speaking of kale, I wouldn’t mind trying new ways to incorporate it into our meals. There’s a reason why it’s still all over the place and this breakfast dish looks amazing.

3. As many panini-press recipes as possible
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One of my sisters gave me a panini press for Christmas this year and I can’t wait to discover all the things I can make with it, like these babies.

4. Smoothies
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Speaking of appliances I want to be using more of this year: our mini-blender/food processor which was also a gift from one of my sisters (I have three). I’m ashamed to say that we barely used it last year but we will make an effort this year, starting with the above recipe from this list which will also cross off chia seeds on my “must-try” list.

5. Quinoa
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I’ve always been more of a rice girl being Filipino and all, but I do wanna expand my options. I’m thinking Jambalaya is the way to go.

Happy Tuesday!

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Christmas Gift Guide 2014: Food

Happy Tuesday all! Part Two of my gift guide series continues today with ideas for all your foodie friends:
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1. Inspired by the Beer & Chocolate pairing class taught by Crystal Luxmore, I’m bringing this Raspberry Lambic and Dark Chocolate for the office X’mas party gift exchange.

2. You can’t go wrong with the Top 12 most popular teas from DAVID’s TEA.

3. Who doesn’t love cheese or bread or monograms?

4. I’m in love with these glasses. I may just get them for myself.

5. For the beer-lover in your life, this mixed pack of abbey ales should do just the trick. This might also end up in the “keeping it for myself” pile.

Click here for Part One.

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American Thanksgiving 2014 Recipe Round-Up

This year’s Thanksgiving will play out a little differently than the last few times I’ve hosted. While cooking dinner for a dozen or so of my close friends is pretty intimidating, I had a secret weapon in the form of my friend Jonathan’s amazing mom, Gayle, who would make an amazing cranberry sauce and an assortment of baked goodies. Gayle’s food will not make an appearance this Thursday, since Jon is currently in Madrid. Selfish, I know. I must now rise to the occasion and attempt to follow in Gayle’s footsteps. I’m interested in trying these recipes in addition to my tried and true ones from last year, depending on how ambitious I’ll be feeling:

Cranberry Sauce
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I’ve already made peace with the fact that my cranberry sauce will not be as good as Gayle’s, but this recipe seems easy enough.

Gravy

Gravy is the bane of my existence. It’s too intimidating to me to make the day of so I end up getting a mix. But I really want to make a proper gravy and I think Chef John from Food Wishes explains everything so well.

Mashed Potatoes
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Every year I’m always worried on how to keep mashed potatoes warm, but this recipe can be made ahead and then reheated once the turkey’s resting.

Pumpkin Pie
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If I had all the time in the world, I’d probably make this pumpkin pie instead of buying one.

Hope everyone has a great Tuesday and happy cooking if you’re celebrating on Thursday!

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