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Favourite Things: July- Chicago, Montreal, Beck and recipe for Kale and Herb Fritters with Chipolte Tahini Yogurt Dip. Whew.

4 Aug

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July flew by with the quickness!

Things I did this month:

-Visited the Art Institute of Chicago
-Finally saw Beck live
-Ate crepes in Quebec
-Slept in a tent

Pretty excellent.

Here are a few of my favourite things!

ONE: Visiting friends, new cities and live music. (That’s three things)

We headed to Chicago once again this year to catch the Pitchfork music festival and meet up with Mike and Brittany. Headliners: Beck, Neutral Milk Hotel and Kendrick Lamar. All delivered excellent sets. I also really loved St.Vincent, Jon Hopkins and Tune-yards.

Highlight: Annie Clark of St. Vincent absolutely killed it and Beck performed one of my all-time favourite tunes, Chemtrails.

 

 

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TWO: The Art Institute of Chicago

…is now one of my favourite art galleries. Ever. So many iconic and priceless works of art, including American Gothic, Seurat’s La Grand Jatte, and Nighthawks. The Magritte exhibition was excellent, and made me come away with a new, greater appreciation for the Surrealists.

blognotapipeIt is not.

I could spend allllll day there, happily.

And audio tours. Obv.

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THREE: Mile End, Montreal. 

Last weekend we headed to Quebec for two nights. We spent a wild one in Montreal and another wild one (literally) in the wilderness outside of Magog, where we got to spend some time with more fantastic faraway friends. This is where the tent sleeping happened.

This charming neighbourhood in Montreal is home to fabulous coffee and bagels . A must (re) visit.

Highlights: Eating St. Viateur bagels hot out of the oven dunked in tangy cream cheese, $10 drink specials for 4 tequila shots (including tabasco chasers!) at Andrews Pub in downtown Montreal, people watching while drinking excellent espresso from Myriad, swimming in Lac Magog, partying into the wee hours with Nick and Kate, road trip playlists and eating cheesy asparagus crepes the size of your head.

 

 

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Understandably weary.

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bagel

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FOUR: Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer SPF20 Sunscreen

I love cosmetics and I just gotta share my latest favourites.

This product is another home run for me from Tarte. Contrary to most makeup, it is possible that this stuff has actually improved my skin overall. I have not broken out once since I started using it and the texture and evenness of my skin has improved! Impressed.

Bonus: it contains mostly natural ingredients. I don’t think I could ever stray from this super-light foundation.

tarte

 

Five: Kale and Herb Fritters with Chipotle Tahini Yogurt

I stumbled upon a fabulous food blog called Alexandra’s Kitchen. Intrigued, I decided to try out these fritters, as I had a whole bundle of kale withering away in the fridge (AS PER USUAL)

I was skeptical at times throughout the (slightly messy) process, but the end result was SO good. The tahini dip was my own edition, which I also like to pair with falafels.

You could substitute any dark leafy green, such as chard or mustard greens or even a combination.

 

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Kale and Herb Fritters with Tahini Chipotle Yogurt Dip 

(makes approx 8)

  • One large bunch of leafy greens, stems removed.
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 green spring onions (about)
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (maybe a bit more 😉
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil for frying (unscented)
  1. Simmer greens in boiling salted water until soft, about 5 minutes
  2. Strain well and pat dry with paper towel
  3. Blend everything in a food processor except for the cheese. Once well blended, fold in the cheese.
  4. Over high heat, fry fritters in batches (about 1.5 tablespoons each) (about 5 minutes on each side). Be sure to leave enough room in the pan to flip them properly!
  5. Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon.

Tahini Chipotle Yogurt Dip 

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 heaping tablespoons tahini
  • Fresh juice of 1/4 lemon
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  1. Mix!

 

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Ok so…they’re not pretty, but these were a huge hit. They are a fun way to eat more greens, and potential flavour combinations are endless,. Really, you could  combine any fresh herbs with any greens and the result would be delicious.

They reminded me a little bit of palak paneer…I think next time I’ll try adding some different spices and put an Indian spin on it.

Happy mid-Summer all!

 

xo M

 

Favourite Things: April Edition

1 May

A day late, a buck short.

Oops!

It was a very busy month full of transition (finished undergrad!), a quick West coast trip and a few Sephora splurges. Here are a few of my favourite things about April.

Weddings

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We went to Vancouver for Easter weekend to witness two amazing people get married. I love weddings.

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A group shot during the festivities, after a beautiful ceremony, lovely dinner and several Negronis.

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Some urban wildlife.

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And stumbling upon a quintessentially Vancouver scenario- a weed rally on 4/20

Although it was mostly rainy and I only got a quick clear view of the mountains, I still knew they were there by the fresh West coast air. Toronto’s got many things, but its got nothing on that.

Hibiscus

Is one of my favourite eateries in Kensington Market. The salad is worth the trip alone. It is at once both epic and refined: sweet potato, kelp noodles, lentils, broccoli, kale, carrots, beets, quinoa, tofu, currants, sesame, mint, green onion with a side of some sort of raw cracker. Oh my. The buckwheat crepe is pear, pecans and vegan cheddar. So homey and delicious. Hibiscus is the perfect spot to bring a book or a friend to enjoy on a rainy day.

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Two Faced Melted Liquified Lip Stick

I’m somewhat of a beauty product junkie and love to read about the latest and greatest. I’m excited to share this lipstick I picked up on a whim thanks to some strategic product placement at Sephora. The pigment is super bright, long wearing, and the application is so easy- no need to pair with lip liner (hurray!). There is another stunning shade called Orchid I’m dying to get my hands on, but it was sold out at the time. I want one of every shade.

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Tarte Cheek Stain

This one is called Blissful. I read some silly celebrity beauty profile about Anna Kendrick, and she claimed that she “doesn’t leave the house” without this. She always looks great and I respect her on Twitter so naturally, I had to try it. I really like the Tarte line because it is free of synthetic ingredients. You just swipe it on and blend it in. I use it on my lips too and it actually tastes good (so weird). It feels a little sticky at first but that goes away quickly. And it sounds crazy, but I enjoy not having to use a brush.

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New MacBook Air

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Best. Grad Present. Ever.

I’m so lucky.

Hoo-Ray for May!

M

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Food and Frivolity, 2013 in Photos and Recipes

30 Dec

It was rare for me to conceptualize my life in arbitrary segments of time (i.e. Jan-December, 2013) before I started blogging, but there’s something nice about documenting time in this way. It feels organized. It feels official.

Although I already sorta knew it to be true, writing this post has made me realize what a fun year it has been. Which is a lucky thing, is it not?

I’ve chosen to share some of my favourite recipes of each month (note: there was a rather large summertime gap in posting (May-September) but as you will see I was clearly busy travelling and carousing).

Besides, it’s been quite some time since I’ve injected some “mostly” into Food, Mostly.

So this is my 2013 roundup. These are my highlights. A virtual time capsule on my tiny corner of the internet. Let’s begin.

January

In the middle of a frigid Canadian January, I turned 27. I got an amazing gift that day, a gorgeous Cannon G15 camera from Scott, which I believe has helped the blog photography tremendously (see below photo- post new camera. Terrible! Although I’m still no expert).

January birthdays are a bit bittersweet. There are no fun birthday BBQs or camping trips, inevitably, there is always a snow storm. However, having a birthday at this time does make the month a little brighter and breaks up the winter tedium a bit! At least for me. Suckers.

This recipe for potato leek soup surprised me at how tasty it turned out to be. I remember that this was my first time cooking with leeks. I bought them mistakenly thinking they were anise. Ha. Anyway, the  result was awesome.

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February

February stands out only a little. There was a huge snow storm that cancelled classes.  I did a sugar-free, gluten and dairy free cleanse. And instead of studying I made these black bean, walnut and mushroom burgers. This recipe is  hands down my most popular in terms of hits and searches.

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20131230-191011.jpgI enjoyed watching this neighbourly act transpire spontaneously. I wasn’t much help, I guess.

March

Hmmm….looks like I didn’t post anything in March! Must have been consumed with essays. We were also getting ready to move. Next.

April 

This dish was apparently made in March(that’s the old kitchen!), but posted in April. It was a recipe created by a friend of mine, who makes excellent Indian food. In 2013, I have followed suit in experimenting with Indian cooking. I think curries are my favourite thing to make now. Here is the recipe that started it all: Erin’s Chana Masala.

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 May was a doozy! Here’s when I took a long summer’s nap from blogging (tsk tsk). It was a busy month. My cousin Mark got married in Arlington, TX. We went down for the wedding and took a side trip to Austin and San Antonio. There was a lot of eating, drinking, exploring and shenanigans.

Absolutely loved Austin. I’d like to go back again sometime for a music festival or two. The food, notably the Mexican, Tex-Mex and BBQ was outstanding and seemingly endless.

Here’s my little bro at his first baseball game. Red Sox versus Rangers. Rangers won!

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Scott, giving JFK the business

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Contemplating getting tattooed over margaritas (always wise). Did we or didn’t we?? Hmm…

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Favourite thing we ate in Austin, the enchiladas verdes gratinadas from El Naranjo, 85 Rainey Street. This resto started as a food truck that became super popular. God, I love me some tomatillo salsa! Cute backyard patio in a cool neighbourhood, where all the old historic bungalows have been turned into bars and restaurants. Kinda reminds me of Markham Street in Toronto. But way better.

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Here we are off Rainey Street at G’RajMahal (great name), an outdoor Indian restaurant in a converted garage slash tent compound (91 Red River) . I believe the kitchen is actually a food truck. We were joined by our local tour guide, April. I have no recollection of what we ate, just that it was awesome and we were stuffed and we brought our own booze. Then we went to a bar that had $5 beer/ tequila shot combos. Hence the nervous faces in the middle lower photo.

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If May wasn’t exciting enough, Scott turned 30, and our friends Mike and Brittany visited from California/Utah. We spent a week hanging out in Toronto, and had a big backyard birthday party. Because it was Brittany’s first time North of the border, we brought them to Montreal too. I didn’t take a lot of pics in Montreal for some reason(too drunk?) . We rented an awesome Air B n’ B apartment in Le Plateau, and spent every night chilling on the back patio enjoying  beverages purchased from the local dépanneur. A novelty which never ceases to amaze visiting Ontarians.

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Here they are humouring an aggressive street performer. This was eventually abandoned because after about twenty minutes,  nothing much was happening, except for this manic man running around making racist jokes in a French Canadian accent. Au revoir.

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It was so nice to spend time with these two. We were sad to say “farewell”.

June. 

The highlight of June was Field-trip, an outdoor festival at Fort York put on by Arts and Crafts. The highlights were hometown bands, Timber Timbre, Feist and Broken Social Scene, who played one of my all time favourite albums You Forgot It In People front to back. It was an awesome day.

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July

We drove to The Windy City for Pitchfork Music Festival. I fell in love with Chicago. Musical highlights included Joanna Newsom, Bjork, MIA, Killer Mike, Blood Orange and Phosphorescent. Also getting caught after the show one night in one of the most epic rainstorms was memorable (in a good way). Drenched. I must admit, Pitchfork puts on an awesome festival. Good sound, good crowd flow, decent food, and it is the perfect size (way more chilled out than Bonnaroo). Only downside is no in-and-out privileges, which would have been ideal. I’m dying to go back to Chicago.

20131230-192717.jpg Frickin’ love that bean thing!

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Must also include this kale taco salad that had spicy peanuts and cranberries in it from Antique Taco, (1360 N Milwaukee Ave). We returned two days in a row just for this ridiculousness!

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Also in July, my beautiful friend Grace had her baby shower. Here she is about to burst. Soon her baby, River, would join us in this world.

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August

August was rather uneventful. Although I did host a clothing swap, which has become one of my absolute favourite things. The thrilling thing is you never know what you’re going to get. Some winners! Some duds! Some wildcards! All for free! I’ve found some of my favourite items this way.

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I should have taken more photos of the food. These gals didn’t skimp. We had quite the feast.

September
September was my triumphant return to blogging! These Bourbon-Miso pork chops shoved themselves into the limelight. Delightful. I made them twice, the second time for my mum on the eve of our quick four-day trip to the beautiful Isla Mujeres, Mexico. We stayed in the Privilige Aluxes Isla Mujeres, a stunning resort. The island itself is tiny, only 7 kilometers long. We, along with other silly tourists,  drove around on golf carts. It was fun.

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Another September highlight was the labour day weekend we spent at Scott’s grandparents chalet at Beaver Valley with Mike and Kiara. Fun and games, is what it was. And wine.

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October

October was a productive month in the kitchen. I think my favourite post was this Persian Eggplant Stew. It renewed my faith in eggplant.

November
Was my best ever month on Food, Mostly. My average daily views doubled that of my previous best month (January, 2012). Exciting!

My favourite part of November was cooking this Indian feast for friends that helped us move way back in April. It was labour intensive, but I think really elevated my skill in cooking Indian food. I’ve included my recipe for chicken Vindaloo.

We had Scott’s family over a few weeks later, and I replicated and tweaked some of the recipes I used. With practice the cooking was more effortless and the result was, dare I say, even tastier?

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December

It was cold and icy, but Christmas was toasty and warm.

My favourite December recipe was hands down this vegan “Butter-Chicken” with fried tofu. So easy and so delicious. I’ll definitely be making more of this in the new year.

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Upon reflection, I’ve been very “in the moment” this year. Maybe too much so. I don’t think I really realized how good 2013 was until right now. Good friends, good family, good food, good fortune.

What more could a girl ask for?

Thank you for reading. I hope you continue to follow along and share my posts! It makes my day!

Happy New Year Y’all!

xo

M

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Italia, Salone Del Gusto, and a Pomegranate Pear Birthday Cake

28 Nov

So, Italy was a whirlwind, last minute adventure with the lovely Michelle.

We ate lots, drank lots, and traveled North to Torino to attend Salone Del Gusto, 2012. It is a massive trade show. We attended wine and espresso tasting seminars, and consumed more salami samples than I care to admit.

Rome to Turin to Florence to Tuscany and back, we had a dreamy time.

In honour of Miss Michelle’s birthday this weekend, and our trip, I baked this cake with an Italian twist. It turned out to be molto deliziosa!

Pear Cake with Pomegranate and Ginger Buttercream Icing 

(Based on this recipe for Pear and Pistachio cake, my original plan, but alas, I could not locate any in time!)

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 4 sticks of butter, browned
  • 6-8 unripe pears, shredded
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups coconut sugar (also can use brown sugar)
  • 3 tsp baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 cups chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease, flour and add parchment paper to two 9″ pans.
  2. In a small  saucepan, melt butter over low heat. When it has completely liquefied, turn heat to medium to brown the butter. It will bubble, and brown bits will form on the bottom of the pan, and smell nutty. Be careful not to burn, or butter will taste bitter.  Set aside to cool. You should have 1½ cups.
  3. Core the pears, leaving the peel on, and shred using the large side of a box grater or the medium-size grating attachment on a food processor. Gather shredded fruit into a triple thickness of cheesecloth or paper towels, and squeeze the liquid from the pears.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then drizzle in brown butter and add vanilla. Add flour, and stir until just incorporated. Stir in shredded pear and walnuts gently. Divide the batter evenly between pans.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cakes have puffed and are lightly browned. Remove to a rack and let cool entirely before peeling away the parchment paper.
  6. Stack cooled cakes and generously spread icing between layers. Add fresh pomegranate in between the layers for a fresh pop. Garnish with more pomegranate and pear chips.

*Note- the recipe above is originally  for a three layer cake, not two.  I decided to only use two of the three layers because they were a) pretty thick and b) I didn’t think I’d have enough icing. Three layers would have been HUGE.  I would suggest putting 1.5 cups of the batter aside and make some cupcakes with it instead of the third layer!

Icing 

(I did not use the icing recipe from the site mentioned above, although I tried unsuccessfully twice to mix egg whites with butter- disaster!)

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  1. Beat room temperature butter on medium speed until soft, add icing sugar gradually until smooth.
  2. Increase speed and add vanilla, milk,  and gingers for about 3 minutes.
  3. Adjust flavour if you’d like more sweetness. This is not an overly sweet icing.

Pear Chips

  • Thinly sliced pears
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees, line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Combine sugar and water until dissolved over medium heat, and add lemon juice.
  3. Slice pears vertically and let stand in water for ten minutes as soon as its cut
  4. Remove from syrup, and let excess drip back in the pan
  5. Bake for 1.5 hours, or until very dry, flipping half way through.
  6. Snack on these, or garnish the cake with them!

Here is my (rather unfortunate) photo of this lovely cake!

It tasted great!

Happy Birthday Michelle, and thank you for the memories!

I miss Italy already, and can’t wait to return.

Last Stop, Berlin

21 Jun

Oh Berlin.

Everyone says that you’re so cool. Upon arrival, however, I was greeted by a polite city dressed in sensible shoes. I was expecting to meet, I dunno, a cool dude with sunglasses on, and maybe a leather jacket.

You’re not so pretty, like Paris or Amsterdam.  But you’re interesting, political, and hold your cards close to your chest.  And in the end, after some searching, we did catch a glimpse, but probably just a small one, into your true, underground side.

We arrived via overnight bus from Rotterdam (12 hours long), in which Scott intuitively drank scotch and quickly fell asleep (so smart). I stayed up most of the night watching movies and TEDTalks on the ipad until my eyes crossed and glazed over, and then fell asleep for an hour or so until we arrived.

Our first day, after breakfast and a nap, we set out walking. The weather was incredibly hot and sunny the whole time we were in Berlin. We walked by the Tiergarten, Berlin’s vast and shady park, (similar to Central Park) and towards the Brandenburg Gates. There was quite a bit of old and nude sunbathing action going on that day!

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Political activist outside the Brandenburg Gates. Free Tibet.

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It was chilling to imagine the history of Berlin in a place like this, where the Nazis marched through these very gates.

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Now, it seems to be a very touristy central square, with mimes and people dressed up in costumes from American movies, like Freddy Kruger (oddly).

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These monks were real, not costumed. They seemed pretty excited to see Mickey. The hotel that faces this square is also where Michael Jackson dangled his baby, Blanket. Talk about contrasts.

We bought tickets for a hop on, hop off bus tour around the city that was valid for two days. These buses are absolutely everywhere in Berlin. Ours offered mainly a loop of elevator music punctuated with recorded commentary that unfortunately wasn’t the most informative or in depth. But it was a convenient way to get around above ground, and see more of the city, and they were frequent- every 10 minutes.

We stopped off at the Holocaust museum and memorial, and here below, a timeline of the rise and fall of the Nazis set along a remaining piece of the Berlin Wall.

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This memorial takes up a whole city block.

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In the middle of it.

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On the other side is the Holocaust museum. It is a very sad and sobering place to visit. However, It does an excellent job at commemorating some of the lives of individuals and families that were killed. It is free too, so there is really no excuse not to visit.

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Checkpoint Charlie, where the U.S section of Berlin ended, a.k.a “Charlie Point” as the enthusiastic Indian man behind us on the bus to Berlin kept calling it.

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These wurst stalls were everywhere. Usually advertising Currywurst.

Naturally, we had to try some. This was from a stall near our hotel, and was apparently organic!

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Basically just cut up sausage drenched in ketchup and curry powder. Hmmm…not the best…not the wurst (yuk yuk yuk)

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This was much better. Bratwurst with sauerkraut, beer and a pretzel. The sauerkraut had juniper berries in it. So tasty.

At night, we hoped to find some area with a good vibe for drinks. You know. Where young people like ourselves might hang out. We ended up in Mitte, and after dinner found this amazing, old, dark and incredibly creepy art space called Tacheles. It is a 9000 sq foot old building that is absolutely covered, every inch, in graffiti. We wandered around and encountered a few interesting people. There was a bar and a dj, but it was quite empty. We took our drinks and explored the space. There was a little marketplace where I bought some feather earrings. There was also an outdoor area, where there seemed to be more music and people, but we couldn’t figure out how to get out there (lame!)

Apparently, after the Berlin Wall came down, artists took over the space.

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These photos are not the best, and I only took a couple. This is looking outside.

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Goes both ways.

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I wanted to go out there, but not that badly.

The fate of the Tacheles remains unknown. The city has called for eviction but there are still some advocates keeping it open (for now). It was interesting, but definitely had a dark energy about it. It was only later that we discovered that the building used to serve as an old SS prison.

Gah!! *goosebumps*

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I really liked the street art in Europe. This section of the Berlin Wall now serves as the world’s largest open air gallery.

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And remains political.

On our last night in Europe together, and in honour of Scott’s upcoming birthday that he would spend on an airplane bound for Singapore, I wanted to find a special restaurant to have a special dinner. I came across an upscale vegetarian place called Cookie’s Cream, also in Mitte, that got great reviews. It also would have been impossible to find from the street. You have to go behind a Westin hotel along an ally and past the dumpsters. There you will see this small sign. (Image borrowed from this blog)

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Cookie’s Cream, Behrenstr. 55 10117 Berlin.

The space inside was very cozy yet open and sparse, and definitely had that promised  Berlin coolness. The kitchen was incredibly open, which I liked, and the menu was inventive. We had thyme cocktails and a bottle of wine. I had some sort of carrot mousse to start with Parmesan and artichoke dumplings, Scott had an incredible white and green asparagus potato tartlette with quail egg, and some chocolate amazing-ness for dessert. Quite far off from traditional German fare, but definitely the memorable meal I had been hoping for. We then found a cute neighbourhood bar and drank absinthe…just ’cause.

So this marks the end of my European adventure on Food, Mostly (for this time). From here, Scott and I tearfully parted ways.

My love is now traveling around Asia for the summer and I am back home in Toronto, cooking for one, which is not at all the same (I now subsist on smoothies, tuna and crackers, and sometimes handfuls of almonds). But I promise to test out some new recipes soon.

In fact, I have one in the bag already, stay tuned for my next post, (all about food this time), inspired by the current steamy 40+ degree weather and our travels last year to Nicaragua, Gallo Pinto Burgers!

(Thanks, babe, for all of our amazing adventures)

Amsterdam Part Two, oh, and the World’s Best Birthday Cake

17 Jun

This is my favourite  image of what can only be described as “the best night of my life”. Yesterday, back in Toronto, Christina and I were reminiscing and agreed that if we suddenly died that night, we would have died  feeling happy and complete (I’m glad we survived, though).

After dawdling away the afternoon, we left Rotterdam in quite a rush to catch the 5 pm train to Amsterdam. We were meeting Christina’s friends Clare and Wayne at the station, and together we were going to see a show. Woodkid was playing at the gorgeous Paradiso, a converted old church that is now a spectacular music venue with amazing acoustics and mezzanines abound. Riding the train while blatantly drinking beer was a fun novelty, but probably only because we are from Ontario, the land of puritans.  Case in point: would you ever see a public work of art like this in Canada? 

Gnome with a Butt-plug (srsly).

As soon as we got to the central station, we rented these bikes for the night. It was a swift process, and the bikes were smooth and sturdy. Very easy to ride, but  a dead-giveaway that we were tourists, and thus are  probably the un-coolest bicycles ever.   But whatevs. I felt very comfortable riding side saddle with Christina. We had been practicing all week on her (less sturdy)bike in Rotterdam, which at times was not quite so graceful.

Immediately, we were tearing down the canals. It was a bit difficult to stay together, because of all of the bike traffic. Despite some scares and close calls (“oh god, where did they go?”) we somehow managed to stay as a pack. Scott snapped the top photo at a stoplight. So fun!

We had some drinks in another ancient looking pub that had the steepest, windiest staircase down to the washrooms that I had ever seen. Holland is the land of steep, narrow and twisty staircases apparently.

He looks serious here, but I promise we were actually having tonnes of fun. I really like this photo, though.

We made it to the venue just in time, Woodkid was just starting. We found a great spot near the back that was a bit raised for a better view. A bottle of wine and some plastic cups seamlessly accompanied us into the show somehow . The sound, lights, vibe and energy were incredible. Woodkid is originally a French music video director  that has just recently begun a solo career as a musician.  He has an EP out now, and an album expected to be released in the fall.  His music is extremely epic, dramatic and a bit dark, and included an amazing band with a horn section and huge, thundering drums.  You should check it out! We danced a lot.

The show was over pretty early, but we were pumped up and had a whole night in Amsterdam stretched out ahead of us. Euphoric.

Woodkid at the Paradiso.

All I can say about the rest of the night is that we biked around, barhopped, chilled out by the canals, and indulged in what Amsterdam had to offer. It was an amazing time.

Scott was flying to Singapore on his birthday, and I was sad that we could not spend it together. I made him a special birthday dinner a little early. His favourite dish of mine, salmon en croute, with new potatoes and garlic asparagus.  It turned out fabulously, and thanks to the help of Christina, baking wonder, the pastry was just right.

For the birthday cake, I made this incredible, rich and decadent peanut butter cheesecake. This is way outside my usual realm of healthy cooking, but holy *^&#! It was so worth it. And it didn’t even require baking!  (Recipe at the bottom of this post).

Bottom crust = cookie crumbs with butter, melted dark chocolate, and salty crushed peanuts.  They must be salty. If not, you are cheating yourself out of something really special.

Filling = cream cheese, peanut butter, whipped cream, vanilla, condensed milk, lemon juice, sugar.

Makeshift birthday candle.

So creamy, sooo delicious! We could not stop eating it over the next two days, sneaking cheeky bites here and there when no one was looking.  Later, eating a casual dinner and then this leftover dessert together on the kitchen floor will always remain such a fond memory of Holland.  Happy times.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake  Inspired by this recipe from In Jennie’s Kitchen.

  • 12 ounces cookies (crushed) ( I used something similar to Graham Crackers)
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 6 ounces melted dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 8 ounces of plain cream cheese
  • 1 up salted peanut butter (creamy)
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Blend cookies until they turn to fine crumbs. Add melted butter and mix well with fork. Press mixture into the bottom of a spring form pan, about 1 inch thick. 
  2. Melt chocolate and pour over cookie crumb base. Spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle crushed peanuts over top and refrigerate while preparing the filling. 
  3. Pour whipping cream into a bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Return to fridge until ready to use. 
  4. Beat cream cheese and peanut butter together until smooth. Reduce speed and slowly incorporate icing sugar. Add the lemon, vanilla and condensed milk and blend well. 
  5. Slowly fold in the whipped cream, and then pour the filling into the pan. Sprinkle with cocoa or desired garnish. 
  6. Refrigerate overnight, or at least three hours before serving. 
Nothing is better than peanut butter and chocolate, salty and sweet. Try this out, you will not be disappointed! Also good for those who are gluten-free. 
Word of warning: this is NOT a good cake to make if you have to transfer it for a length of time without a fridge. It gets quite “melt-y” when it is warm! Not so pretty, but delicious nonetheless!

Baby Went to Amsterdam

12 Jun

(And Rotterdam).

And boy did we eat well.

After a few glorious and decadent days in Paris, a nine hour bus journey to Rotterdam followed, where Scott and I connected with my bestie, Christina. She has been living in Holland since 2008, and it was high time to visit. In fact, this whole trip was based around finally making the trip over, and seeing her European life with my own two eyes! The Paris and Berlin trips just happened to book-end our Holland visit very nicely. Rotterdam is about 45 minutes away from Amsterdam, and made for an excellent home base for the next 8 days or so. It was heavily bombed and destroyed during World War Two, and has a more modern feel to it than most European cities. The bike culture in Holland is very impressive, with bicycles and pedestrians having been granted the right of way before cars. Rotterdam is a small and very livable city, that is easy to get around. It was so nice to stay in a comfortable home-y apartment where we could cook! Thank you again CG!

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Quite adorable, isn’t she?

Like sister wives, the first night Christina and I cooked dinner for Scott, as he relaxed and enjoyed a scotch .Breaded Dijon drumsticks and sauteed veggies with garlic and thyme that Christina yanked from a city garden.(please excuse the poor-ish photo quality). He loved it.

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I used a technique very similar to this past recipe with pork. It was lovely to share a home cooked meal together!

The following night, Scott and I decided to prepare a Middle Eastern feast for Christina. We had falafels with tabouli, hummus, pita and mint iced tea with Rose.

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Scott, chopping parsley. I’m so lucky to have such a diligent sous chef, who seems to love to do things I despise, like finely chopping anything. Image

In the tabouli- tomato, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, cous cous, sauteed onion, mint, red pepper, salt, pepper, cumin.

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We had a feast, then somehow got quite drunk and went to sleep. Success.

Amsterdam awaited in the morning. It was my first time visiting, and I was completely blown away by the beauty, relaxed pace, style and charm of the place. We had a lovely day lost among the canals (it is seriously easy to get very, very turned around)

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The ubiquitous Dutch waffle cookies, with salted caramel. These were seriously lekker (delicious) and for someone who doesn’t have a huge sweet tooth, I definitely indulged. We ate about a pack a day, We’re pack-a-day stroopwafelers. Don’t judge.

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Speaking of having no sweet-tooth, I stumbled upon this adorable chocolate shop called Puccini. The flavours were interesting…black pepper, rhubarb, thyme, pomegranate, chai. I picked up three- the rhubarb was my favourite.

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Bikes galore outside this ancient corner pub overlooking a square. Naturally it required a pop in for a beverage. Like stepping back in time, there were both dogs and cigarettes inside.

Dinner was Indian. I researched a place on Yelp, and was pleased with the result.The food was out of this world delicious. The place was quirky, and seemed to inhabit a (false?) sense of grandeur, with the first two pages of the menu explaining the meticulously thought out decor, the chandelier being somehow very special, the fact that each chair had been hand carved for 60 hours or something like that. No matter, the food delivered. We had a great dinner of paneer tika masala and malai kofta in some sort of divine onion-y korma sauce with naan. Image

Maurya, Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 49A, Central Amsterdam. If you find yourself with a hankering for Indian, go here!Image

We rolled out of there, onto a train and home to a nice warm apartment in Rotterdam, where Christina was busy baking scones at 11:30 pm for the morning. Despite being stuffed, we couldn’t help ourselves to the fresh scones. About half the batch didn’t see the light of day. Yummo!

Day one in Amsterdam was a huge success. I instantly fell head over heels. It is pretty without being too pretty, it has a cool edgy-ness about it that does not feel contrived.Oh, and the bikes. How fabulous.

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More about Holland part 2 to follow, including a recipe for The Best Dessert I’ve Ever Made (i.e Scott’s birthday cake) and a fantastic musical experience with new friends and Woodkid at the Paradiso.

Have you had any adventures in Amsterdam? Know of any hidden gems? Please share if you do! I can’t wait to return!

Oh, Bonjour Frog Legs! And other French-y things.

29 May

Welcome to France, the land of cheese, wine, charcuterie and chocolate. My oh my, with our daily croissants, coffee and baguettes, did we ever eat well. Good thing we walked so much, until my feet felt as if they would fall off. Perhaps this is part of the not-so-secret myth as to why French women never get fat. Four blisters and in, I would not change a thing.

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Morning coffee ritual to stave off the jet lag.

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To save on funds, before heading out for the day we picked up groceries for lunch to pack our own baguettes. Scott would get up early to score some fresh goods from the local pâtisserie. This was a great technique. We ended up making sandwiches in our tiny room with a cutting bored and knife bought from the dollar store. Although, the very first afternoon, before getting so organized, we stumbled upon a happening little courtyard that housed several cafes. Sitting on a smoky patio, we shared this charcuterie board with some wine to celebrate the beginning of our adventure. I like the unpretentious presentation, served on wood.

We explored a lot. I especially enjoyed the hilly, colourful charms of Montmartre.

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Wish that was me. And that was my balcony. What a lucky b!

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Scott, popping open some wine for our nightly boozefest at Sacré Coeur, with a glittering view of the city, giddy tourists and a stream of men trying to (unsuccessfully) sell us bottles of beer.

We stumbled upon a fabulous restaurant close by beforehand. La Taverne de Montmartre. It was a real find, especially for a touristy neighbourhood, with a rustic atmosphere, fresh food and warm service.

The next day we did some more sightseeing. Museums, walking, walking and museums. For dinner we decided to treat ourselves to an authentic French meal. On Yelp I did a little research and discovered Au Pied du Sacré Coeur. It possessed an unusually high rating of 4.5 stars and the prices seemed reasonable. Sold! It is located at 85 Rue Lamarck, in Montemartre, a spectacular Rue indeed, narrow with ornate and soaring buildings lining each side, and a view of the city from the top of the hill. The sunlight was incredible.

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We traipsed up and down this beautiful rue a few times, sweaty and famished, unable to locate the restaurant. We decided to give up, me grumpily as I was pretty disappointed about the failed attempt.  Then. Like fate, as we turned onto a steep stairwell defeatedly, Scott spied the red awning of the restaurant. Humble, quaint, and totally empty.

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We sat on the patio. Because the restaurant is by the stairs, it is tucked away from the main street. It was quiet and perfect and thankfully didn’t smell like pee.  To start, French onion soup (naturally…), a bottle of wine (naturally!) and a salad piled high with frog’s legs. Both were very tasty, and large enough to be a stand alone meal.  The frog  was cooked in garlic butter and funnily tasted like a perfect marriage of chicken and fish. Oh amphibians.

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I ordered the chicken stuffed with foie gras and figs(foreground) and Scott had the magret de canard au miel et fleur d’oranger, or duck with honey and orange blossom. His duck was out of this world. So tender flavourful, and unique. I definitely had order-envy. For dessert we had a creme brulee, which was adequate.  A bit too eggy for me. Mid bite, Scott checked the time.We had hasty plans to meet friends up at Sacre Coeur within the next five minutes, and had completely lost track of our sweet ass, lovely time. Have you ever  rapidly shoveled back crème brûlée, chugged white wine and then ran up many flights of stairs before? It felt like a French version of some obscene competition eating show. The plans were botched, as no friends showed. C’est la vie. More wine and city gazing for us!

So, what other French-y experiences did we have you ask?

ImageWell, we didn’t have escargot, but we did eat another French delicacy.

Crepes with Nutella and banana. With red wine. In the gardens of Versailles. On paper plates. Very classy-like.

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And hung out by the Eiffel Tower, like all the locals do.

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And waited for it to sparkle.

Look at them all, still so excited about those lights!

Le sigh! Oh, Paris, what a town. Thank you for reading the new “mostly” part of Food, Mostly! I’ve been excited to share.

What are your favourite spots in Paris? Things to do? What to eat?

Stay tuned for my next post about cooking in Holland and visiting my old love (Christina) and new love, Amsterdam!

Immy May

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