Category Archives: Nom nom nom

Portland – chocolate tour, cupcakes & brunchy goodness

Last weekend I went to Portland to live the dream of the 90s.

Okay I didn’t end up with a part time job as a barista, but I did have the chance to go to a few really excellent cafes, go on a chocolate tour and eat some tasty food. Did I also mention it was freaking hot there – try +40 celsius.

Here’s a round up of my weekend in food:

Cafes:
There are many cafes to try in Portland. A couple that I tried included Public Domain and Courier Coffee Roasters. Courier also serves canneles that they make inhouse 🙂 Stumptown had a huge line up when I went there, so I gave it a miss and will try to make it there on my next trip to Portland.

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Cupcakes:
I only went to one cupcake place but I went there twice and decided it was a place I could definitely consider making my new home. Normally when I eat cupcakes I want to throw away the stumpage. However, Saint Cupcake makes tasty stumpage that I snorfed down. Plus they come in small sizes so you can sample a lot!

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Chocolate:
The chocolate tour is one of the many tours by Portland Walking Tours
On the tour, we had the opportunity to sample drinking chocolate, chocolate balsamic vinegar and chocolates from Moonstruck, Cacao, Leonidas and Teuscher. Luckily the walking allowed a little bit of calorie burning!

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Brunchy goodness:
I had the most amazing brunch while I was on my way to Stumptown. The Francophile in me was sidetracked by Brasserie Montmartre and I naturally had to go in and stuff my pie hole. The meal started off with a complimentary croissant – plain or chocolate (duh – I chose chocolate!)

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I asked my server what she recommended and she said eggs florentine. I was not disappointed. It was fantastic! Instead of using English muffins, croissants were used to hold the eggy, spinach goodness. The roasted potatoes that accompanied the dish were perfect. My only complaint is that my stomach could not hold all of it!

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Copenhagen – hello danishes!

After bunnies in Brussels Airport demanded I buy more chocolate, I was on my way to beautiful Copenhagen. I had been there a long time ago with my parents, so I was looking forward to spending a couple of days there with my chronologically grown up perspective (inner Rachel still dreams of ponies and unicorns….)

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I decided to pass on Tivoli Gardens and instead wandered the streets of downtown Copenhagen, armed with my camera and my Jabba appetite for all things food.

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The danishes……with so many names I couldn’t pronounce and so little time to try all of them….cinnamon, chocolate, pistachio…..

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Those poor little ones in the bag didn’t stand a chance – and I was at that bakery twice in one day! The danishes that didn’t make me want to move into the bakery (like the pistachio one) were only a little bit dry. Otherwise, their sweet, succulent centres were sugary goodness.

The cupcake has made inroads here. Unlike most of the ones I’ve had in Vancouver (when I need a major sugar high), the one I sampled here at a beautiful bakery called Serenity Cupcakes, had a lovely, not too sweet, cream cheese frosting and raspberry in the cupcake. I’d call it a fruit salad.

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Brussels – chocolate, pastry & the odd museum for good measure!

After Dublin, I decided to head to Belgium for two reasons: first, I’d never done more than pass through Belgium and figured it was a country I should really visit, the second goes without saying – chocolate!

One of my other passions besides sugary snacks is design. On this basis, I chose the Pantone Hotel. A really huge taxi bill later (beware, taxis from the airport are not almost free), I ended up in this boutique hotel in a residential neighbourhood. Do not be too disappointed by the location, as it is not too far a walk from Louise – a major shopping street and the metro.

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I think I just scratched the surface when it comes to chocolate in Brussels. I sampled chocolates from Neuhaus, Godiva (yes it tastes the same as it does here in Canada), Corne Port-Royal, Wittamar, Pierre Marcolini, Alex & Alex and probably more that I can’t remember from my intense sugar high 🙂

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In addition, I found a bakery I want to live in called Paul. Sadly it didn’t seem big enough for me to fulfill my Jabba the Hutt dreams….In any event, I became addicted to Le Gourmandise – think of it as an elongated pain au chocolat with lots more chocolate…and lots of buttery goodness – nom!

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Aside from slithering around, looking for more chocolate & pastry, I decided I should probably see a museum or two. I ended up at the Magritte Museum (showcasing the works of Belgian artist Rene Magritte) on a very rainy day. Wet & grumpy, I was not in a good mood when I was asked to check in my purse (especially when it seems that other people were allowed to bring in bigger bags than me). The museum is also connected to the Musees Royaux Des Beaux-Arts. I figured why not see that too 🙂

I found the museum rather confusing with its layout – but then again, I find maps are only useful to show me pretty lines & colours 🙂 If you do go, be sure to keep a hold of your ticket because museum folks will want to check to make sure you’re going to see the exhibits you actually paid to see. I passed on a Stanley Kubrick photography exhibit in favour of spending more money on snacks.

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Now if you can read maps (unlike yours truly), you’ll discover a whole bunch of chocolate shops nearby. I just wandered into a sculpture garden and a church until I saw a Godiva sign and decided to walk in that direction. After being wet & grumpy, it was like pure heaven. I was just sad I couldn’t eat more!

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American Cheesesteak Co.

After our food cart crawl a few weeks back with fellow foodies Simon and Caroline, we decided to try the new American Cheesesteak Co. on Davie Street. Because who doesn’t want to balance off vegan street food with a healthy dose of tasty, fatty, salty goodness….

We tried the good earth, a vegetarian cheesesteak with mushrooms, roasted red peppers, onions and feta and the cowboy, with shaved prime rib, fried onions, spicy bbq sauce, mayo and white cheddar.  In addition, we tried the twice cooked fries with truffle aioli.

The good earth...with enough feta to feed a Greek island or two...

First off, the good earth….On paper you sounded tasty and almost healthy.  In reality, not so much.  The plethora of mushrooms turned the bun into a soggy, carby sponge.  I’m a big fan of feta cheese but not buckets of the stuff on a sandwich.  The result, was a very salty, soggy sandwich that unfortunately didn’t live up to its potential.  Mushrooms, I suggest you start running out of the kitchen and be free…free free!

The Cowboy was next…..and if you too would like to use Lipitor in the future, I suggest eating many of these on a regular basis and avoid exercise at all costs 🙂  The meat was nicely cooked, but there was a bbq sauce fiesta in my mouth when I took a bite.  It had potential, but could’ve used half the amount of sauce.

Bye bye mon cowboy....avec beaucoup bbq sauce!

Last but not least, the fries.  I mistakenly decided our tape worms could handle a basket of them.  I was wrong….Anyway, these fries were apparently cooked twice.  I didn’t really pay attention to how they were cooked and somehow my lone neuron was stuck on something regarding water.  Were they cooked in water??  Apparently not because boiled fries just sounds wrong on so many levels.  The fries were not the crispy goodness I was seeking.  I guess I really have to go to Belgium for that…They were more potatoey than crispy but they did serve one useful purpose:  truffle aioli delivery mechanism!  The truffle aioli was awesome and my favourite thing to eat 🙂

Truffle aioli...and their delivery mechanism 🙂

I would definitely recommend American Cheesesteak Co. if you want huge portions and you’re craving a lot of tasty fat and sodium.  There is definitely no place else like this in Vancouver!  I think this gal here will stick with sugar and caffeine as my vices, but I’m always on the look out for crispy fries to dip into mayo.  Belgium…..be prepared…and afraid….

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Bel Cafe

Recently I went for lunch at Bel Cafe – the new cafe in the Hotel Georgia in downtown Vancouver.  I had eaten sugary snacks there before and gone for hot chocolate and coffee.  However, this time I was determined to eat a proper meal and I was not disappointed.

I ordered the winter squash soup, while my fabulous friend ordered the roasted butternut squash sandwich.  I actually clapped when the adorable bespectacled server delivered this bowl of fabulous goodness.  The soup was rich, smooth and creamy, with a healthy dollop of what I believe was creme fraiche and a smattering of pumpkin seeds.  Happy food sounds came out of my mouth in between stuffing my pie hole with this stunning masterpiece.

Soupy goodness 🙂

My friend’s sandwich was a tasty melange of butternut squash, arugula, asian pear, brie and apple marmalade.  She was equally happy with her choice, as was I when I had a nibble 🙂

Butternut squash sandwich fabulosity!

After this experience at Bel Cafe, we couldn’t resist going back again with another friend.  This time we tried the soup and half sandwich combo and dessert!  I had the spiced pulled chicken chicken sandwich, a delicious blend of chicken, bibb lettuce, carmelized onion, harissa aioli and provolone that had just the right amount of heat to it.  The small bowl of winter squash soup was perhaps a bit too much food for my stomach to handle….tape worm must be on strike.

Thankfully my pal tapey made a comeback as I found room for dessert.  As part of the hot chocolate festival (which requires further investigation and reporting), Bel currently has a special hot chocolate with orange and cardamom,  together with a dark chocolate cookie.  The hot chocolate was like a high end liquid Terry’s chocolate orange, whereas the chocolate cookie was moist and rich.

Dark hot chocolate with orange and cardamom - nom!

However, my newest obsession is their lemon tart.  With just the right amount of sweetness and a perfect amount of tartness, this tart is absolute perfection 🙂  Ceci and I are already dreaming of more tarts in our future!

The object of my affection - lemon tart 🙂

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Loving Hut – a vegan food cart

On a dreary, wet Saturday I went with fellow food bloggers Simon and Caroline to check out the Loving Hut vegan food cart.  As part of my healthy eating resolution for 2012, I decided if it’s vegan, it must be healthy 🙂

Loving hut menu

We ordered two burgers:  the crispy chick’n burger and the BBQ onion ring cheese burger.  The crispy chick’n burger had a spicy apricot jalapeno relish that gave it quite the kick and was loaded with iceberg lettuce.  It’s not a dainty burger to eat, so be sure to get plenty of napkins!  I enjoyed the spice and the crispiness of the deep fried fake chicken patty, but I wasn’t so keen on the taste of the patty itself.

Crispy chick'n burger

My favourite was the BBQ onion ring cheese burger.  The texture and flavour of this burger was incredible and if I hadn’t known it was vegan, I never would’ve guessed.  The BBQ sauce was tangy, the vegan cheese rich and gooey and the onion rings delectable.

BBQ onion ring cheese burger goodness....

Burgers cost $8 each including tax and Loving Hut is open on Saturdays, unlike a lot of food carts in the city.  As an added bonus, the staff is incredibly sweet and put up with our need to take multiple photos of the burgers.  I only wish they weren’t located in front of the Yaletown Roundhouse so I could munch vegan goodness more often.

As an aside, I used my brand new Lumix X5 to take these photos.  I’m hoping with time and a few lessons, my food photos will be a lot better.   I’ve got a European vacation planned for this summer, so I must take good photos of Belgian frites to decorate my condo 🙂

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Best of 2011

Daisy & I are happy to say good bye to 2011 and hello to 2012!  Although it was the Year of the Rabbit (which technically isn’t over), Daisy was quite disappointed that rabbits did not take over the earth.  Though she has big hopes for the Year of the (rabbit) Dragon and is hoping the fire breathing dragon rabbits will disapprove their way into total world domination 🙂

Here is my best list of 2011.  No, it is not my favourite movies of the year (the Artist, the Muppets and Hugo), but my foodie best list:

1. Best hot chocolate in Vancouver

I have to pick two of them here because one just isn’t enough!  Giovane’s house hot chocolate has a healthy dollop of Nutella in it, making it a great morning snack for your kids (if you believe those Nutella ads and yes I do!).  Mink’s dark hot chocolate is rich, creamy and in my books is healthy enough to qualify as a salad 🙂

Hot chocolate from Giovane

2. Best sugary snack addiction

So many sugary snacks and so little time….but the wannabe French girl in me turned 2011 into the year of the macaron thanks to Thierry in downtown Vancouver.  Not only are they tasty, but they look pretty and are thankfully not messy to eat.  I stopped short of letting the staff at Thierry garnish my wages but it was tough!

Thierry macarons - almost too beautiful to eat!

3. Best cheesecake

With a mom who makes some of the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted, I must say I don’t try cheesecake when I’m out very often.  However, I recently had a great cheesecake in Saskatoon at Calories Restaurant on Broadway.  I have fond memories of eating their cheesecake while growing up (sorry mom) and I can happily say that the pastry chefs at Calories still make one fantastic cheesecake.  Flavours range from Oreo to toffee and lemon yogurt with berries (healthy – sort of!) For those of you who will hopefully not show up at my mom’s door demanding cheesecake (psst…she’s really nice so if you know me, give it a shot), check out Calories on Broadway!

Mom's cheesecake - nom!

Lunch at Calories on Broadway

4. Best new discovery

Vancouver has a plethora of Meetup groups and one that I have started attending is the Food bloggers meet up, organized by the fabulous Jenny Shen  Not only is it wonderful to be around people who truly adore food, but it’s strangely comforting to be one of many at the table whipping out a camera to photograph it!   I look forward to many more of these meetups in 2012!

Yule log at Ganache, one of the food blogger meetup destinations

5. Cooking class

I didn’t do much in the way of cooking classes in 2011, but I did take an Italian cooking class at the Dirty Apron in Vancouver this summer.  Be sure to wear comfortable footwear and comfy clothing (Gap boyfriend jeans that keep falling down are not recommended!)  What I learned is that making pasta is rather time consuming and panna cotta is very tasty 🙂 I should really take a knife course this year to make up for my dodgy chopping skills but then again I say that every year!

Pasta I made at the Dirty Apron cooking class

Daisy & I wish all of you a happy, food filled 2012!  My resolution – more cooking at home & less eating out.  Wish me luck!

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