Category Archives: travel

The Last One

It’s a sad night. We reached the bottom tonight. There is no more. 


We ate the last of the wonderful Beaver Dam confections from Le Chocolatier. I did dloublecheck in the box, just to sure there were no more. I felt a bit like Winnie the Pooh with a pot of honey, and my hubbie looked at me with the same expression. We were sorry to be empty handed. 

I’m sorry if I misled you. Perhaps you thought I was talking of a more serious matter. Well, in our humble abode the end of a delectable delight is a tragic event. We really do revel in a nice treat and these little morsels are the perfect blend of comfort food and decandence. Chocolate, caramel, pecans, pretzels… it’s so easy to lose yourself in The rich creaminess and exciting crunchy goodness. Thankfully there are enough in a box to share, because my hubbie loves them too. One of the lovely bonuses to having such a good buddy with whom I’m in tune is that I don’t have to worry who eats the last one – we can share.  

It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long difficult words but rather short easy words like what about lunch? – Winnie the Pooh

The really sad part is that we have to go all the way to Canmore to get more. Since we don’t plan on heading that way in the near future, I may have to contact Chief Confectioner & Chocolate Dude John Spear to see if we can order more via post. 

Ah well, I’m off to bed now. Tomorrow will be another day. I’ll take Pooh’s attitude and look for the good in things. 

I Feel Like a Million Bucks!

This time of year is when I really feel like I deserve a treat. With the cold wind blowing during my walks with Ella this week I must have burned extra calories.

Sweets offer us a boost in energy. Numerous ingredients gives a combination of flavours and benefits. A decadent dessert is comfort food on steroids.  Therefore, making Millionaire Shortbread  is completely justified. What is Millionaire Shortbread, you ask? Let me tell you…

Martin and I discovered this wonderful dessert in Scotland a few years back. We were there in March img_4806and it was bone-chilling damp cold (I don’t know how kilts can keep anyone warm in that kind of weather!)

We ducked into a cozy cafe in Edinburgh after having visited the Surgeon’s Hall Museums at the Royal College of Surgeons.
(It might sound creepy, but this place is well worth the visit if you are in Edinburgh, full of interesting exhibits and amazing facts. ) img_4807Amidst the aromas of black tea and coffee in the cafe we spied a row of squares among the usual pastries, layered and elegant. Once I saw the name I knew we had to sample one.

 

I can’t find any information on where the name Millionaire Shortbread comes from – it must be just because the layering of shortbread, caramel and chocolate all in one bite makes you feel like you’ve struck it rich.img_4811-copy

I didn’t get the recipe from the cafe, and the ones I found needed tweaking so I added my own Scottish-Canadian twist. They aren’t hard to make, all they take is a bit of patience as the layers set. While you wait  I recommend thinking of with whom you will share them, as they are addictive and one really is sufficient.

Once you have settled in with your hot beverage and squares of decadence, you might want to continue the Scottish theme. There are many topics of discussion – one of my favourites is the Outlander series of books, written by Diana Gabaldon – which have now also become a TV series. (If you’ve been in a hole and haven’t heard of Outlander, these stories tell the tale of the love between a post-war nurse and the Highlander she meets when she tumbles through time to the 18th century. Their love stands not only the test of time but also numerous historical events.) What better way to while away an afternoon with a friend than to muse on possible alternate lives and love that transcends all obstacles?

By now you are probably thinking I’ve gone overboard, but that’s because you haven’t tasted Millionaire Shortbread. Just go make some. Then you’ll know what I mean.

 

So Cheap It’s Almost Free

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‘so cheap it’s almost free’

Sometime from Friday night to yesterday evening our little freezer went down. There is still some home grown from last year and other assorted that freezers collect but we were struck by how little we have on hand. Although a lot of what you buy up north is grown here, that’s just what happens to most of it…it goes north. On occasion as with all growers, growth exceeds demand and produce of whatever being grown for the export market floods the grocery stores and it is ‘so cheap it’s almost free’.  Well, here anyway. And like anywhere, no tomatoes or they are so tasteless and expensive you do without. The freezer is a wonderful hedge.

Today in the grocery store tomatoes were approximately .25$ Cdn. per kilo.These are not the ones at the fresh street markets grown in backyards, delicious and just off the vine. These were all Roma, uniform ripe and unusually this time, very, very tasty. We thanked our lucky stars at our 9kilos and roasted half and stewed the other half. Our version of canned tomatoes. No salt or preservatives and very little effort. Yes, electricity (which can be iffy here and costly) plus the freezer. Supermarket cost usually of tomatoes is about 1.5/2$ per kilo. Markets are less and how the farmers stay alive I don’t know. Minimum wage has just risen yet so has the cost of gasoline and other consumables. Globalization is here but as always, only a few really get to partake.photo-1

We eat according to the market. The Mexican diet is not heavy on vegetables except as an additive or salsa. When your diet is the opposite, a little meat and mostly vegetables sometimes it’s a strain. Unexpected tomatoes are a delight but we do grow our own. Plus chard, arugula, dill, oregano, mint, basil, squash, beets and I notice this year, a volunteer sunflower. Always a welcome addition.  Fruit here takes space and concentrated watering; there are orange plantations, lemons like mandarins, grapefruit (all with a gazillion seeds), mangoes, strawberries and from the south papaya, bananas, pineapple and much more. Markets are seasonal so we are back to eating seasonal rotations. Everything tastes better and it travels little. It is also economical.

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I am very fortunate. The sun shines, there is lots to eat and the people of Mexico are charming.  I travel when the sun gets too hot (I hear you groaning!) and I live the same in Europe as I do here, whatever is available at the market is what’s for dinner. And it’s always a delight of experience.

 

 

Master of cheap eats

I’m making a quick entry tonight – nothing fancy, but certainly worth noting. 

We got stuck in the dinner rush last night and ended up wandering through town looking for a place to grab a bite. Finally we hit upon a redneck Mecca – Guy Fieri’s Kitchen and Bar. It’s not what you’d call a local place, featuring more hamburgers and Mac n’ cheese than tacos and ceviche. But it does have some Mexican dishes and it is a solid concept. (If you don’t know of Guy Fieri, he’s a celebrity chef known for his road trips featuring hole-in-the-wall restaurants that offer down-home dishes with their own flair. His TV show, “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” – or Triple D as his fans call it – is a favourite with Canadian and American foodies that love low-brow food.)

We tried to stay in theme, so I had tortilla soup and Martin has ancho lime wings with the seasoned fries. All of it was tasty, hot and fresh – they hit the spot. After all, what more can you ask of comfort food?


Then just to really top the night off, we shared the churros which come warm with Mayan chocolate and dulce de leche dipping sauces. Sheer heaven! 


It wasn’t cheap by usual Mexican standards but it was cheaper than the prices at his Vegas or New York location, I would bet. The server mentioned their new spot will be in Dubai – another place expats will likely enjoy a taste of home, not to mention those curious about American comfort food. 

I want to talk more about simple food done right in future posts – a meal doesn’t always have to be impressive or innovative to be spectacular. Sometimes you just want to be satisfied in a heartening sort of way. I know I went to bed with a happy tummy last night! 

Dinner a block at a time 

One of the things I love about Mexican cuisine is the way it lends itself to casual eating. Simple foods with fresh ingredients shine. So, last night we had a dinner of street food. 

Our first stop was a pizza place recommended by Trip Advisor. Okay, not traditional Mexican food but a testament to the booming tourist industry here. Still, the “hole-in-the-wall”‘style of the place is typical to every street vendor. 

Next we needed a dose of local fare so we set out in search of something suitable. A shining “Tacqueria” sign down a side street from the circus of 5th Avenue shone like a beacon so we ventured towards it. 


Next the smell attracted us even closer…

The sight of the cooking meat was enticing and the ubiquitous plastic chairs and yellow decor screamed authenticity. The sincerity of the waiter on the street clinched the deal: “Quieres un taco?” We had pork tacos (from the cooking tower of slices in the go) with tender gently spiced meat and soft tortilla that melted in our mouths. The tacos were rendered sublime by the homemade condiments and the Corona with a squeeze of fresh lime.

Condiments included pick de gallo, hot sauce, pickled onions and an avocado sauce that resembled thin guacamole. All of them were delicious and unique.

We wandered some more and thought about another savoury nibble but our tastebuds were satiated. We watched the people, and chuckled at the hucksters and their spiels for the tourists. We were amazed that a young vendor thought we were a likely sale for drugs (“señor! Do you want cocaine? Ecstasy?) We were also dismayed by the fact that embracing each other seemed to brand us as “honeymooners”; so many North Americans are uncomfortable with displays of public affection. 

By the time we saw The Chocolate Cafe our minds were made up – dessert was in the offing. I had a Mayan Hot Chocolate and Martin had a piece of chocolate cake. In Mexico chocolate means cocoa, so the flavour is different than his French-styled sponge with ganache filling. The texture is less silky but there remains a richness to the flavour; it’s just not as buttery.  We watched as Friday night energy built up, with some locals leaving work and more tourists hitting party mode. 

Rejuvenated by our latest morsel we headed back to our “pension”. The promenade after eating and our leisurely conversation punctuated by the street’s entertainment was the perfect digestif. 

And so are foodie memories made on vacation. A healthy dose of spontaneity, a pinch of a sense of adventure and a few cups of energy to keep you propelled until you are satiated. Dusted with the magic of a foreign place, it makes the perfect recipe for a memorable experience. 

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