Archive for the ‘Eating’ Category

Family birthday photo

The best family photo we could get… The candle is blown out, we should be eating cake!

Today we celebrated Baby’s first birthday! As my cousin wrote me this week: a year with a kid goes by quickly, even when some of the days go by very slowly. So here we are. Year One gone already.

Since this day last year, I’ve watched Baby grow: from 8lbs to approx. 25 lbs, from 52 cm to approx. 71 cm. Watch out — she can reach what’s on the table now! She seems so big compared to this time last year, and yet she’s still so small.

She has six teeth and is taking her first steps. She went from dark hair to light hair. I remember wondering back then what she would look like in a year. I couldn’t imagine it, and now I can’t imagine her any other way.

I’ve also watched Baby develop into an alert, bright, curious, determined, energetic, lively, playful and social little person. It’s fun to be with her. Her giggle is infectious. She brings out the crazy in both her parents, especially her papa! And every day she does a bunch of quirky little things that make us both laugh.

Her fun these days is making music; squishing blueberries at breakfast; pulling anything with a string; playing with water; swings; books, especially turning the pages; riding in the bike trailer; and climbing over any obstacle, none of which are too big.

Baby making music

Baby making music with instruments received from maman and papa.

Baby exploring tunnel

Baby getting ready to crawl through her birthday tunnel.

It’s fascinating to watch Baby play and figure things out. The wheels in her brain are turning all the time. Sometimes I just sit and watch with quiet wonder.

We invited family for lunch to share the celebration. On the menu: gazpacho, slow-roasted salmon, a wild rice, corn and Swiss chard toss, goat cheese with fresh herbs, and peach blueberry cake with whipped cream. Even though it was quite an “adult” menu, it included some of her favourite foods: salmon, goat cheese, corn, rice, peaches and blueberries!

Baby eating birthday cake

Baby eating peach blueberry birthday cake. Yum!

Now Baby is asleep, and it’s time for us “new parents” to start our own BIRTHday ritual: bubbles after bedtime. As we get ready to raise our glasses, we’re reliving some of the moments surrounding Baby’s arrival and celebrating the day that changed and enriched our lives forever, being parents, and making it through the year with a bit more wear but no tear. Cheers to that!

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Dad's dried apple slices

Dad’s dried apple slices. (The red apple in the picture is not one of my parents’ apples.)

Sometimes things get lost in my cupboard. The dried apple slices made by my dad are one of those things. The other day I saw the bag peeking out from behind other bags and boxes, and, all of a sudden, I thought, “Perfect!”

I’ve seen the teething bagels and cookies at the store, but these apple slices are the perfect shape, size and texture to act as all-natural teething rings!

Apple tree blossoms

My parents’ apple tree blossoms, early May.

The apple tree was there when they bought the house more than 25 years ago. Although they brought apple and tree specimens to numerous botanists, no-one has been able to identify the type of apple. And the tree produces lots of them, year after year.

They are relatively big and round apples, rather tart, better for cooking and baking than for eating out of hand. My dad makes them into cider, apple sauce, dried apple slices, and gives them away. My mom stocks the freezer with sliced apples, and makes apple pie and apple crisp.

I get a regular supply of dried apple slices. My dad makes them crisp rather than soft like most store-bought ones. And they have flavour, unlike most store-bought ones!

Baby chewing on a dried apple slice

Baby chewing on a dried apple slice.

Baby loves them! They keep her busy for a while. She tears at the rings with her two little teeth and then sucks on them until they are soft. It makes me happy to think that Baby is getting all that love and goodness from my parents’ backyard.

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Baby eating solids using baby-led weaning approach

Two hands are better than one!

Baby participated in family meals even before she turned six months old. She would sit in her chair at the table and we would entertain her with toys, words and funny faces. Once she hit the six-month mark, it was clear that she was more interested in what was on our plates than in her toys. I think she liked eating from her first taste, but that’s no surprise…

Imagine how exciting the world of food is to a little person: experiencing so many new things through touch – with both hands and mouth – and then taste, getting flavour feedback with every bite. Baby has already had many culinary adventures:

Apple | Arctic Char | Asparagus | Avocado | Banana | Banana Pancake | Beef | Beef Chili | Beet | Blueberry | Broccoli | Cantaloupe | Caraway | Carrot | Cauliflower | Celery Root | Cheddar | Chewy | Chicken | Chives | Cinnamon | Creamy | Crisp | Crumbly | Cumin | Curry Chicken | Dried Apricot | Dried Prune | Dry | Duck | Egg | Fennel | Feta | Firm | Ginger | Grainy | Green Bean | Green Pepper | Goulash | Hemp Hearts | Honeydew Melon | Juicy | Kidney Beans | Kiwi | Leek Quiche | Lentil Chili | Lumpy | Mango | Millet | Minted Peas | Mushy | Oatmeal | Orange | Papaya | Parmesan | Parsnip | Pea Risotto | Pear | Pickled Beet | Pickled Ramp | Pineapple | Pork | Potato | Quinoa | Raspberry | Red Pepper | Rice | Rice Cake | Salmon | Salsify | Slippery | Smoked Gouda Omelet | Smooth | Soft | Sour | Spinach | Strawberry | Sweet | Sweet Potato | Swiss Chard | Tender | Tomato Sauce | Tongue (yes, she makes her Papa proud) | Turkey | Wet |Yoghurt

Our meals always include Baby and are fun and stress-free! We introduced solids using the baby-led weaning approach. We offer Baby a variety of foods she can handle herself, carrot stick-style. She decides what she wants to “eat” and how much. I write “eat,” because at this point it’s all about exploring tastes and textures. Her main source of nutrition is still breastmilk and will continue to be for a while yet.

We try to give Baby some of what we are eating, usually supplementing with steamed vegetables or fruit. When we’re eating something that she can’t handle with her hands, then we’ll mush it up a bit or mix it with something else, e.g. chili with avocado, and offer it to her on a spoon. She takes the spoon if she wants it and guides it to her mouth. She rarely misses her mouth, but she doesn’t always open wide enough to get the whole spoonful in. She’s also still learning how to use her tongue and lips to clean off the spoon. Inevitably food ends up on her face! It’s impressive to see how her self-feeding skills, dexterity and hand-eye coordination have developed in just two months.

Baby self-feeding with a spoon

The shopping cart serves as an impromptu high chair for Baby as she feeds herself a yoghurt and hemp heart sample with a spoon. Note evidence of her parents' "good" eating habits in the cart: chips... although I wholeheartedly agree with what it says on the bag: "food should taste good."

One of my challenges is how to maximize flavour before seasoning with salt or adding sugar. My criteria for her food is that I have to want to eat it too, so it has to taste good! Meanwhile my espresso and Chinese tea cups are getting a second life… They are the perfect size for baby portions!

Mini banana pancakes for baby

Mini banana pancakes for Baby.

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Violetta food-cart-turned-restaurant, Portland, OregonLuckily my food memories are slow to fade. I’ve been wanting to capture David’s and my 2010 travels and all the great places at which we ate last year before hitting the road again this year.

Food is not the only criterion we consider when choosing a vacation destination, but it is among the top 3. I admit we fall into the “will-travel-for-food” crowd and seek out tasty morsels wherever we happen to be.

I’m usually the one who does the research. I start with the tourism bureaus; some places are big into food tourism and have great websites to promote local foods, producers, and tasty eats. I do city searches on Serious Eats, one of my favourite food websites, and Saveur, which does a great job at showcasing city trends and off-the-beaten-track places. I may check the local buzz on Urbanspoon. Finally, I discovered Tasting Table, which sends out interesting tidbits of daily food news in a national (American) edition, as well as city-specific newsletters for Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Once at the destination, we will often plan where to eat first and then arrange our other activities around our chosen food stops. It may sound a little food-obsessed, but I happen to like to know that I’m going to eat something good and not be stuck having to find a “good place.” For me there are few things worse than bad food value and having to settle for a mediocre meal. Nevertheless, we still travel with a budget. We usually splurge on one more expensive dinner and find ways to keep our costs down by eating lunch (instead of dinner) at other restaurants we want to try, eating ethnic foods, and even cooking ourselves if possible.

So where did we go and where did we eat?! Chicago, Vancouver, Oregon, and Salt Spring Island.


Sign inviting passers-by to eat a Chicago-style hot dog, Chicago, Illinois

Sign inviting passers-by to eat a Chicago-style hot dog, i.e. topped with mustard, sweet relish, chopped onion, a pickle spear, tomato wedge, and a sprinkle of celery salt.

It was 5 pm when we got to Chicago after two days of driving. We were hungry and getting cranky. We’d decided to stop at Calumet Fisheries (tip from Saveur Magazine) on the way into town. Thanks to the GPS, we managed to navigate our way to this little shack somewhere in South Chicago without any problems. Inside, a diverse 15-person line snaked its way around the tiny place. The dinner of smoked shrimp and fried fish hit the spot and was a perfect introduction to Chicago’s food scene.

We punctuated our week-long stay with what I would consider reasonably healthy and interesting fast food places for lunch. Near Cloud Gate we ate Cuban sandwiches and salads with Caribbean flavours followed with rich, sweet coffee and alfajores at Cafecito. We found fresh and tasty sandwiches at Hannah’s Bretzel tucked into a downtown office building. Also downtown, we stopped at one of the several Wow Bao locations to have a fun meal of fusion-style steamed buns. One day we connected food stops on foot in a 12 km triangle, walking first to what seemed like the middle-of-nowhere to eat the obligatory Chicago hot dog at  Hot Doug’s, then stopping for a beer at the then recently opened Revolution Brewery — which happened to be hosting delegates from the Craft Brew Conference and World Beer Cup while we were there — and ending the afternoon with a taco snack at Tierra Caliente, a Latino supermarket with a lunch counter hidden at the back. Not the kind of place we’d usually wander into, but a rewarding stop for our tastebuds! We did coffee breaks at Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, where coffee and tea are treated like a fine wine and their preparations release aromas in ways you don’t experience in other coffee shops.

Brewing coffee at Intelligentsia, Chicago, Illinois

Brewing coffee at Intelligentsia.

It would have been amazing if our budget had allowed a meal at Alinea, but that was not the case (and I don’t know if I could justify to myself spending that much on a meal). Our dinner splurge was at The Publican, a place in the Warehouse District I discovered via Tasting Table. When I read about The Publican, I knew right away that it would appeal to David and, despite the offal-centric menu, I was tempted by many of the dishes and the originality of the space. We ordered more than we should have, but were delighted with our selection. The charcuterie plate was the highlight, showcasing a selection of homemade cured and prepared meats including lambcetta and the.most.sublime. homemade coriander and vanilla mustard. It was like eating savoury jam.

We loved Chicago, not only for the food, but also its architecture, attractions, and an unpretentious big-city sophistication blended with a relaxed ambiance. We’ll go back, there’s no doubt!


Sushi platter from Village Sushi, Richmond, B.C.

Super fresh sushi lunch for four from Village Sushi.

Always a pleasure to be back in my hometown, and there are a couple of places that are musts on every trip. Village Sushi in Steveston is one of them. A small establishment run by a husband and wife team, they serve lovingly prepared, exceptionally fresh, and high quality sushi. What’s more, David and I eat our fill for $20-$25 including tip. Another regular stop is Oyama Sausage Company at Granville Island where we inevitably buy guanciale – I have yet to find it in Ottawa – and one of their saucisson sec; Oyama has much more to offer though. Vij’s Rangoli is another place we visit regularly to enjoy a feast of inspired Indian cuisine.

Oyama Sausage Co. at Granville Island, Vancouver, B.C.

Oyama Sausage Co. at Granville Island offers a huge selection of carefully crafted sausages and other meat products made with high-quality ingredients.

On this trip we discovered Chen’s Shanghai Kitchen tucked into a strip mall in central Richmond (home of the Olympic oval). A bright and clean establishment with a partly open kitchen at the back of the dining room. On one side there was a window through which we could observe a woman diligently and deftly making by hand one dumpling after another. The menu was different than the typical Chinese restaurant and it was hard to choose. In the end we had a combination of dishes that were new to us and familiar ones that we felt would be interesting to try in this restaurant. All of it was good, but I particularly appreciated the Buddha’s Delight made with Chinese cabbage, lily buds, at least two types each of tofu and mushrooms, and something I couldn’t identify, maybe wheat gluten. Next time I’d like to go back with a larger group to be able to try more!

The menu at Chen's Shanghai Kitchen, Richmond, B.C.

The menu at Chens Shanghai Kitchen.

One of the best things about going to Vancouver though, is being treated to good things from my parents’ kitchen and garden. Notable from the last visit are home-smoked salmon and fresh quince from the tree.


Market fresh in Portland, Oregon

Market fresh in Portland.

Oregon is one of those places that actively promotes food tourism and has an elaborate website dedicated to the subject. Very useful for trip planning. After spending a couple of days in Portland, with its thriving food and micro-brew scene, we drove through the lush Willamette Valley to get to Newport on the Oregon Coast, an active fishing town with a working waterfront, and ended with a too-short one-night stop in Astoria, which was for me the surprise gem of the trip.

Most of our “serious” eating happened in Portland. At Clyde Common, we witnessed the delivery of a whole lamb from a nearby farm as we sat at a communal table eating delicious lunch sandwiches. From our seats at the end of the bar at Olympic Provisions, we had a view of the kitchen and saw them breaking down meats and preparing their housemade sausages. Famous for its food carts, we were lucky to score a comforting meal of chicken and rice at Nong’s Khao Man Gai before the chef ran out. We also had some hearty and tasty breakfasts at Buddha Bites. Meanwhile the burger at Violetta, a food-cart-turned-restaurant, hit the spot after a long day of walking around town.

Making charcuterie at Olympic Provisions, Portland, Oregon

Making charcuterie at Olympic Provisions, Portland. We were lucky to get the seats with a view from the lunch counter.

Our dinner splurge, which happened to be our anniversary dinner, was at Beaker & Flask. We came across the restaurant in a magazine article in which the chef at Beast, one of Portland’s top restaurants, mentioned that Beaker & Flask was one of her favourites. We figured if she liked it, then we would too! Although known for its cocktails, the food was outstanding, and the service genuinely friendly and professional. For me, the most delicious discovery during this meal was the Padrón pepper. Lightly fried and salted, it was part of an vegetarian antipasti plate I’d ordered. Addictive. I’m hoping I can find some seeds and grow some myself! Meanwhile David had an enlightened conversation with one of the waiters about forcemeat, his latest food interest.

Colourful fish & chip lunch place in Newport, Oregon

Colourful fish & chip lunch place in Newport.

On our way to the Pacific Coast, we did some wine tasting and picked up a couple of bottles on our drive through the Willamette Valley. We were enthusiastically welcomed at the Willamette Valley Cheese Company, where we tasted a surprisingly flavourful mozzarella cheese – the traditional method of hand-pulling the cheese makes all the difference. Our lunch stop was in the charming town of McMinnville, well worth a visit.

Ponzi Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Vineyards at Ponzi Estate, Willamette Valley.

With the sound of the waves accompanying our meal, we ate fish and chips in Newport, but missed out on Dungeness crab, the official state crustacean. And well, our stay in Astoria located on the banks of the Columbia River just across from Washington State (where The Goonies and Kindergarden Cop were shot) was just too short. Nevertheless, we managed to stop in at Josephson’s for some smoked fish (next day’s lunch) and had dinner at the Fort George Brewery + Public House, which happened to be serving its seasonal Hopstoria Fresh Hop Ale made with hops collected from local gardens and backyards. How cool is that?! Astoria definitely deserves a second visit.

Oregon brewers sticker collection at Fort George Brewery + Public House, Astoria, Oregon

Oregon brewers sticker collection at Fort George Brewery + Public House.

Our accommodations in Oregon are worth mentioning: the contemporary Hotel Modera in Portland (got lucky; we booked a Travelocity secret hotel), the charming if a little musty Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport with stunning views of the coast (when it wasn’t foggy or raining), and the historic Commodore Hotel in Astoria.

We only spent a week driving around Oregon, but that short visit convinced me that I need to go back for a longer (at least three-week) road trip!

Salt Spring Island

We drove from Oregon to Port Angeles where we took a ferry to Victoria, then another ferry to Salt Spring Island. I think Salt Spring Island is a great place for a holiday. For me, it has the right combination of nature (countryside, forest, ocean, elevation, coastal wildlife), art, and food.

My favourite food stops are the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company, maker of goat’s and sheep’s milk cheese, Salt Spring Island Bread Co., maker of organic artisan breads baked in a wood-fired oven, and Bruce’s Kitchen. The Farmer’s Market in Ganges is also lovely to buy fresh island produce and chat with the locals.

The Salt Spring Island Cheese Company is located in a beautiful wooded area. A short self-guided tour takes visitors around the outside of the building where the cheese is made offering windows on each step of the cheese-making process. But the best part is tasting the cheese in the shop! My favourites are the soft fresh chèvres and the surface ripened Juliette.

The drive up to the Salt Spring Island Bread Co. is worth it as much for the bread as for the view of the ocean from the hilltop location. It’s also worth buying several loaves of the delicious bread, since the bakery is not open every day.

Bruce's Kitchen, Salt Spring Island, B.C.

Bruces Kitchen on Salt Spring Island. Even without the words, the sign visually says it all!

Bruce of Bruce’s Kitchen used to live and work (at Mariposa Farm and the Urban Element among others) in Ottawa. He moved West several years ago and opened Bruce’s Kitchen where he serves up daily specials made with the best local ingredients. His passion for food definitely flavours the fresh and wholesome dishes he cooks up in his tiny kitchen.

Wow, all these memories of great food eaten in great places are making my mouth water and my feet itch! Luckily we’ll be packing our bags soon.

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J’adore Edgar

Edgar caféfrontI feel an inexplicable connection to Edgar, a new neighbourhood café near Parc Moussette in Hull.

Maybe it’s because I have my own dream of opening a little hospitality-related place, something like a bed & breakfast. Since I discovered in late September that Marysol of she eats bears was opening a café, I watched with admiration and anticipation as she made one of her dreams come true. It takes courage to do that. And smarts. And perseverance. I wish her success. Based on the buzz around the café’s opening, the growing chorus of glowing reviews, the packed tables, and sold-out menu items, I have no doubt she will be successful!

Maybe it’s also because I’d like to create a connection to Marysol herself. I barely know her, but she seems like the kind of person I’d like to get to know better – Someone down-to-earth who shares a passion for good food. Luckily now I can go to Edgar, and if it’s not super busy, chat a little. She already gave me a baking tip the other day!

In any case, the strongest connection is the tangible one. It’s going into a chic little café,  feeling the positive energy, and being greeted with a warm smile. Of course, there’s the delicious food – homemade with love.

Edgar kitchen and menu

Some tools of the trade. Where good food is made.

Edgar inside

Small stylish interior with a selection of homebaked sweets including the infamous brioche in the background. My order disappeared too quickly to be photographed!

I’ve tried several of Marysol’s creations, all fresh, flavourful and prepared with flair: cheddar and apple panini with caramelized onions (sweet and savoury harmony), Vietnamese sandwich (crisp and delicately spicy), breakfast wrap with egg, goat cheese, bacon, mushrooms and greens (fresh yet hearty), date and bacon brioche with orange glaze (sweet originality made better with bacon), Edgar bar (curiously nutty and delicious), and the apple-pecan muffin (wholesome caramel-y goodness). The coffee is good too! Edgar serves my ideal cappuccino: a “small” cup with perfect proportions of coffee, milk, and foam.

Fresh flowers at Edgar

Fresh flowers, just one of the pleasant little details at Edgar.

Why I ♥ Edgar

  • Soups, sandwiches and sweets are made from scratch, with love and local ingredients (sometimes from her own backyard).
  • Creative flavour combinations. There’s some serious tastiness coming out of the tiny kitchen.
  • Menu changes every day based on what’s fresh, the season and the inspiration du jour. I love handwritten menu on chalkboards!
  • Everything is served with a smile.
  • The cash receipt reads “miam miam miam.” Oh, how true!
  • Fresh frozen soups and meals to go.
  • Simple, stylish and cozy interior.
  • Marysol’s blog makes my mouth water – tasty recipes and beautiful pictures – and you can see how Edgar took shape.
  • Edgar is just off the Voyageurs bike path in Gatineau, a short ride from Wellington West and Westboro!

Things to be aware of:

  • Go early (especially if you’re looking to try the infamous brioche)! On busy days, Edgar will sell out.
  • Be prepared to take your order to go. It’s not unusual to find all 11 seats taken.

Edgar on Urbanspoon

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