Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Tavern on the Green, Central Park, NYC

January6

Sometimes when I am organizing my expenses (which I do quarterly) I realize that I have dined at an amazing place that I have forgotten to write about and share the adventure with you my loyal readers. Such is the case with this iconic place.

On our arrival day in NYC en route to Milan and then Tuscany, we had a picnic in Central Park in the late afternoon just as the sun was “setting” behind the urban landscape of skyscrapers. We stayed in New Port that evening and we were reluctant to leave all of our favourite sites in Manhattan.

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So we wandered through the park and decided that it might be nice to stop for a thirst-quenching beer. We thought of crossing the street to the Upper West Side when we accidently came upon Tavern on the Green.

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There was a private reception taking place in the courtyard and because we had already had our picnic, we didn’t want to go to the dining room for a full meal (besides we were dressed for a picnic, not Manhattan dining). So we opted for the quaint Beer Garden appointed with picnic benches overlooking the “green” and the beautiful and historic apartments of the Upper East Side (think The Dakota) as the backdrop.

October evenings are still fair in NYC and it was the perfect choice.

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I let D do the beer selecting and whatever it was he chose for me was refreshing and delicious. Nothing quenches my thirst like a cold beer. You?

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The food menu showcased simple fare and we selected a Polish Kielbasa

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and Potato Latkes. The latter were a bit overdone and greasy for our liking but hey, it was our first evening in NYC, we were not inclined to make a fuss and send them back.

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Simple food, served in a garden in Central Park in one of our favourite cities in the world. What could be wrong with that?

Tavern on the Green Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kath’s quote: “There is nothing yet which has been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern.” –Samuel Johnson

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Love, that is all.

 

 

La Cocina de Basto-Isla Mujeres

January4

We have enjoyed visiting Basto’s many times that we have been on the island ( see link here, here and here).

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At one time the gentleman in the white chef’s jacket operated the restaurant from a tiny kitchen up front with his sons waiting on tables.

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But we understand that he is now in partnership with his brother, who was our server on this evening.

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The place has been reno’d and the food was still exceptional.

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The brightly coloured condiment dishes that I have always loved have changed but not the yummy provided dips which accompany the tortilla chips.

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Our next door neighbour Gloria had a flank steak fajita,

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and our husbands, the Especial Hamburgers.  We think that these are the best burgers on the island because of the seasoned patty and wedge of grilled onion. The French fries are to die for and it was all very hard for me to resist.

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But somehow I did and chose the healthier garlic and wine prepared fish and pasta. I loved this dish so much that I didn’t regret my choice for a minute. Besides, the substantial glass of vino tinto helped….

Bastos always was a great spot and I can enthusiastically recommend it with these most recent changes.

Kath’s quote: “Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”  ~Doug Larson

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Love, that is all.

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Isla Mujeres Trip Report-Day Eight

December29

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We headed into Centro early hoping to catch a 9 am church service but no luck. So we shopped and strolled Hidalgo. We stopped and met Nash of Nash’s Tapas Bar (a fellow Canadian) and he confirmed that we would be able to watch the Winnipeg Jets game there that afternoon.

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By this time it was time for church and we felt perfectly comfortable in the Catholic church in the square.

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We walked home along the sea wall and had left over pizza and pasta for our lunch.

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We walked back to Nash’s only to find that the game had been blacked out on the station that he received so we went to plan two and headed to Bobo’s (ANOTHER Canadian).  We didn’t want to have too much to drink but wanted to spend something at Bobo’s since we were taking up seats watching the game. As a result, we ordered their Happy Hour Crispy Cajun Wings and beer. We enjoyed a Jets victory as well as meeting folks from home and three gals and a fellow from Boston. We had such a fun time with perfect strangers.

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We hung out in Centro until it was time to meet my brother and his wife at the French Bistro.

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My family chose chicken cordon bleu and I the garlic snapper filets.

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D chose a tuna steak. We were really impressed with the value of our dinners which included veggies, rice, baked potato, bruschetta AND a glass of vino tinto!

We strolled Hidalgo again with Kel and Lorraine, meeting up with our friend Jose who sells baking at the end of the street. We love the pina (pineapple) pie thst he features.  The four of us sat in the square to watch the kids play and noshed our pie. Then it was another walk down the airport road to Luna D’ Miel.

With all the walking back & forth from Luna d’ Miel to Centro, we are certainly looking forward to staying in Centro at Villas San Miquel in 2016. I can’t quite believe that we will have the convenience of Centro, in a private setting and still get chance to enjoy our favourite vista of the Caribbean sea.

Kath’s quote: “The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” ― G.K. Chesterton

turquoiseheartLove, that is all.

 

 

 

 

My Favourite Restaurant Experiences of 2015

December28

Here is a round up of my favourite restaurants for 2015 (sorry Winnipeggers only one is from here).

For Christmas last year D gifted me with a trip to White Rock and then Seattle early this past year to visit old and dear friends.

1. The Seahorse Grill, Crescent Beach, White Rock BC

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D could not resist the Pan Seared Scallops in lemon grass sauce accompanied by fregola pasta and market vegetables. The taste of the enormous scallop that he shared with me as absolutely delectable-sweet and silky, just like a fresh scallop should taste.

Friend Nance ordered what she claims she cannot resist with each of her many visits to the Seahorse Grill-the Linguine Vongole. She offered me a swirl and I know that if the opportunity is afforded me in the future (and I am currently making those plans), I would certainly order her selection. The freshest of clams were poached in white wine broth, olive and plenty of garlic and then perfectly heaved together with el dente linguini.

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My Smoked chicken and pasta choice was perfect with generous slices of chicken breast and a bone in cuts as well, the dish was laced with garlic and beautifully paired with a hearty pasta.

2. The Fat Hen, Seattle Washington

The morning we visited, Owner/Chef Maximo was in the tiny café kitchen where he whipped up the most decadent and rich breakfasts for D and I. His wife had baked all the pastries that were featured in the restaurant including the perfectly bubble filled baguette that I used to sop up every single bite of my delectable sauce.

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Since we were in seafood territory, D chose the Benedict with wild Alaskan smoked salmon. The petite roasted new potatoes were a delectable accompaniment.

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I needed help with my baked eggs alla boscaiola where two eggs had been plunged into a bubbling solea tomato sauce with sausage, mushrooms and mozzarella, to finish the cooking process. At least, this is how we guessed the dish had been prepared. The more quickly you broke into the egg, the softer the yolk was that had been poaching in the hearty sauce. By my last bite the egg was fully cooked.

We spotted Maximo as he efficiently let down a counter to cover the doorway to the kitchen to lovingly plate and complete his delicious fare. He was shy (and busy) but came out for a moment to shake our hands in greeting.

Fredy’s, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

One of our regular stops on Isla Mujeres is to our friend Fredy’s. We met Fredy many years ago when we first started visiting the island. His dry wit, love of family and fabulous food, keep us coming back, year after year. We even ate Christmas dinner there one year.

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On this year’s visit at the end of February I couldn’t resist Fredy’s double boned pork chop. Perfect seasoned and grilled, sometimes I dream about them.

Da Emma, Old Montreal, Quebec

In July I visited Da Emma housed in Montreal’s first prison for women. The Restaurant’s walls were impossibly thick but contrary to what you might first expect, the ambiance was warm and inviting.

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We started with bruschetta where I confirmed anew how much I love fresh garlic and tomatoes and crunchy baguette.

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Next up was eggplant which featured thin layers of my favourite vegetable and a delicate tomato sauce.

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For my main, I chose “Piglet” even though I felt awkward about ordering something with such a cute name. The skin was crunchy, the silky fat melted away and the meat was perfectly seasoned and prepared.

Toscano Doc, Montecatini Italy

When I read through Trip Advisor reviews of a restaurant I am interested in what fellow travellers have to say but even more so when a local goes to the trouble of commenting and recommending their favourite spots. On the very first night that we were in Tuscany in October, we went with one of these suggestions. Little did we know that first evening that we would return almost every other night of our week’s stay. One reason was our server Francesco who spoke great English as a result of spending six months in Australia. He hopes to come to Canada for an extended stay as well. One evening D went in to order a couple of pizzas to go and waited with a beer. When the pizza was ready, Franccesco wouldn’t hear of D paying for it, saying that he appreciated our business (and our company).

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Everything we ate there was delectable but I want to give special accolades to a pretty non-descript menu item: fried seafood. OMG-perfectly seasoned, the lightest of coatings and a delicate plunge into the fryer produced a dish so fine that once D gave me a taste when he ordered it, I schemed to return so that I could indulge in my own plate.

Enoteca, Winnipeg

In the same manner that someone might say “I admire the work of a certain photographer or craftsperson”, I admire the work of Chef Scott Bagshaw. I have never laid my eyes on a plate that he has composed without given due respect to his artistry. Our recent visit to Enoteca Wine Bar was no exception.

When you identify yourself as a new guest at Enoteca, a server explains how to order and how the dishes will be served. One and a half to two dishes per person were recommended and each dish was served separately to the table. The intention is that every dish will be shared by dinner companions.

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The first dish that arrived was Blue Swimmer Crab which had been pulled from its shell and enhanced with cucumber and apple. The delicate texture of the shellfish was offset by the caviar and especially the crunchy grains of rye. The silky crème fraiche finished our appetizer in both texture and taste.

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Knowing that vegetable centred dishes are the new culinary trend, we were not surprised to see that Chef Scott was ahead of the movement. Veg-centric dishes focus on flavour. Being meatless is secondary. Proteins are still included, but they’re more of a flavour enhancer. We spotted many such dishes on Enoteca’s menu and finally decided upon the Roasted Cauliflower utilizing “cave aged” gruyere to intensify the taste. Panade added moisture, rough cut almonds provided crunch and capers the saltiness.

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Our final plate was Chef Scott’s take on a meat and potato dish. Hanger steak was once referred to as “butcher’s steak” because meat cutters would set the especially flavourful cuts aside for their own use. Pan-seared oyster and morel mushrooms both added meaty tastes to the dish as well. For crunch (can you see a trend here?), crispy baby potatoes provided the crib for the dish.

2015, oh what a year for food and travel!

Kath’s quote:  “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

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Love, that is all.

 

 

The Best Gifts

December23

D sings a made up song every year on this day “It’s the night before, the night before Christmas” and we are all prepared. When I say “prepared” I mean that the groceries are bought, some dishes have been premade and are in the freezer and gifts are bought and wrapped (mostly). But what I really mean is that our hearts are ready for Emanuel (God with us). I am contemplating this gift this morning and I cannot help but reflect on all the other ones that I have received recently.

The Gift of Age

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I was so blessed when so many friends joined me to celebrate a momentous birthday. Thank you D and my family for all of your hard work. It was a memorable day in absolutely every way. A special thanks to my Toronto Bestie who has been in my heart for decades.

The Gift of Work

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Everyday is new and exciting and full of learning. The work that I do is creative, satisfying and rewarding, not only in a monetary way but because of the rich relationships that I have with suppliers, clients and comrades.

The Gift of Friendship

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I have often shared in this space that Sisters #2 and #3 are my best friends and I cherish that. This year though I have drawn closer to three girlfriends. We lunch together and drink wine together and share our joys and sorrows. Their perseverance and support has been an amazing gift this year.

The Gift of Family

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In the next few days I get to spend time with most of my whacky 35 member family. We will assemble Christmas morning at my Mom’s personal care home for brunch and gift opening. There will lots of hugs and laughter (and eating).

The Gift of Travel

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Yesterday I posted on Facebook that I would rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff and that is so true. In 2015 I have traveled to Vancouver, Seattle, Isla Mujeres, Montreal (twice), New York and Tuscany. I got to stay and visit with people I love, learn new things, see new things and just “be” in so many lovely places.

The Gift of Community

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We are blessed with wonderful neighbours who fetch our mail and snow blow our parking spots. Our little house of 20+ years is the now the perfect size. We sit in our lawn chairs out front for an evening glass of wine (in summer) and visit with many on the street. We do our small part in creating a better Winnipeg and I am inspired by our mayor and chief of police.

The Gift of Freedom

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Even with the effects of terror being felt around the world, I am vigilant but never afraid when we travel. I love Canada more than ever with a loving family man as our leader and his open and tender heart. D and I have been registered and hope to provide temporary housing for Syrian refugees in the months ahead.

The Gift of Health

I have had a bumpy ride in this department this autumn but I am empowered to get out and walk, get to the gym and focus on healthy whole foods that I have the time to prepare and the wealth to purchase.

The Gift of Peace

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Through the bumpy ride mentioned above, I was filled with a peace that passed all understanding. I was grateful that my “bad” news didn’t feel bad at all when placed alongside all the things that it “could” have been. I am blessed with extra doses of peace when I watch falling snow, spend time at the lake or gaze at the turquoise sea of Isla Mujeres.

The Gift of Joy

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Oh my goodness! My family and The Wee One are my constant sources. Yesterday I belly laughed with my almost 89 year old Mom over one of her “witticisms” and then watched The Wee One shake it up in the aisle when I took her to a live play. We cannot restrain our joy as we watch her sister growing inside J2’s belly and can’t wait for the birth of our second granddaughter in the new year.

The Gift of Love

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Love is all around. This autumn I have known a special outpouring from friends new and old and constantly from my family. And then there is D. Even though I have aches and pains, white hair roots and new creases on my face, he loves me the same way as he did when none of these things existed. No, he loves me more and in such a respectful and accepting way. He kisses me the moment he awakes, patiently endures my ranting while watching Jets games and constantly plans new adventures for us to share. He truly is the most amazing Daddy, Poppa and Husband. I chose well.

And so this Christmas, I hope one thing: that you get the time to reflect on all the gifts that you have received this year.

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Love-that is all.

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