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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Dublin – Guinness and awesome crepes

Mom and I went for a tour of the Guinness Factory in Dublin. I’m not a beer fan whatsoever, but it was interesting to see what exactly goes into this dark elixir. An added bonus for beer drinkers – a free pint of Guinness and an incredible view of the city. So what did I figure out about beer (other than I still don’t like it) – well, the hops that go into beer are actually quite pretty 🙂

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After the tour, we went for lunch at one of the eateries in the factory. The soup was a sodium fiesta but the bread was carbolicious goodness.

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That evening, my brother & I were craving crepes from Half Moon Crepe Company again. One can get alcohol late at night, but sadly sugar cravings are harder to fill in Dublin at late hours. We ended up at the Bad Ass Cafe and consumed what can only be described as a fiesta of inadequacy. Here is an important lesson: reheating stale cake does not make it good. Putting chocolate sauce and ice cream also adds precious little to the taste experience.

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Since my brother has labelled me “the food snob”, I was obligated to make up for the horror of this dessert experience. He is seriously not going to let me live this one down….but I hope a second trip to Half Moon did the trick. We ordered a crepe with Nutella & banana, served with ice cream. Banana and the hazelnut in the Nutella renders this virtually a health food – in the parallel universe where my brain usually resides 🙂 I lived off of this spiffy concoction the last time I was in Dublin and it’s nice to see that it’s still as amazing as I remembered it. Only this time I was nice and shared it.

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I’d recommend crepes in Dublin. I’m sure the Guinness is good if you’re into that kind of thing 🙂 I would recommend the Leprechaun Museum but I was too cheap to go in. At 10 euros a pop, it made me wish I had a box of lucky charms to give to those punky green critters instead 🙂

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Trip to Dublin!

I’ve arrived safe & sound in Dublin for the first leg of my vacation. On my British Airways flight over the pond, I mistakenly ordered a vegan meal, rather than a vegetarian one (omnivore here figured that would likely be the tastiest of airplane meals). Surprisingly it wasn’t truly awful – chana masala, salad with sad looking tomatoes and fruit. Sorry – no photos of said meal.

Arriving in Heathrow, I was treated to a fiesta of transportation, passport checks, security checks and photographed (where I smized enough to make Tyra proud). In my highly sleep deprived state, I did what any rational human would do – shopped for chocolate. I bought Belgian chocolate from Harrods, bought a few other chocolate bars (one celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee) and some Irish chocolates that I started to shove down my sleepy pie hole.

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What else could one possibly want to do at an airport besides eating chocolate…well, eating caviar of course 🙂 I resisted the salty fishy roe as I’m afraid I’m not posh enough – and I dislike fishy things. However, if you have lots of time to kill and you’re feeling extra fancy, Terminal 1 at Heathrow will meet your caviar needs 🙂

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The adventure begins….

Two weeks, 3 cities, 4 airlines and hopefully too many snacks to count….My summer adventure begins in just a couple of days.  Stay tuned for stories of my misadventures and of course, countless photos of snacks…. 🙂

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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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