Browsing: Food & Travel

NYC Trip Report-Day 3

June16

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The view from our room at Wingate by Wyndham Midtown. Perfectly located within walking distance of so many attractions, the room was comfortable, the staff helpful and accommodating.

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Since 1884 Bryant Park is situated behind the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan, between 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Although I love Central Park and others in the east village, Bryant has been my favourite since D discovered it whilst roaming around and killing time while I attended a media seminar in Times Square.

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The park itself invites is set up in a relaxing fashion with chairs available to pull together and face the sun.

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The perimeter of the park is as picturesque as the park itself with many historic buildings that can be viewed through the trees.

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The Bryant Park Grill features new American-style dining set against the stunning backdrop of Bryant Park. Seasonal patio and rooftop dining provide great views of the park. It is located behind the library, on Bryant Park’s Upper Terrace between 40th and 42nd Streets.

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A bronze bust can be seen just to the west of the Bryant Memorial. Sculptor Jo Davidson created a bust of the American writer Gertrude Stein in 1923, now in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The Bryant Park bust is a cast made from the original.

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The lawn is lush and green and the flowers change seasonally but Bryant Park is more than a garden. When you first discover it, nestled in its canyon of skyscrapers, it’s like an oasis–a refuge of peace and calm. But Bryant Park is a city park, full of historical monuments and urban amenities. The park is a social place where friends meet, eat lunch, chat, stroll, listen to music, work on the wireless network, or simply sit and think. Winter, summer, spring, and fall, New Yorkers love this park.

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Six flower beds border Bryant Park’s Lawn to the north and south–two on the shady South side and three on the sunny North. They are planted seasonally with 100 species of woody shrubs and herbaceous perennials and 20,000 bulbs.

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Today’s version of Bryant Park–with its gravel paths, green chairs, and jaunty le carrousel–is a recent invention. Though the space has been called Bryant Park since 1842, the park has had a checkered career. By 1979, it was the site of frequent muggings and drug deals and was avoided by knowledgeable New Yorkers. An almost ten-year effort, begun in 1980, transformed the park and its reputation.

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Along the Northern and Southern sides of the park are twin promenades bordered by London plane trees (Platanus acerifolia). This is the same species found at the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, and contributes a great deal to Bryant Park’s European feel. These trees can grow up to 120 feet in height.

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At the western gateway to the park is the pink granite Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain, dedicated in 1912. This was the city’s first public memorial dedicated to a woman. Lowell (1843-1905) was a social worker and founder of the Charity Organization Society. Charles Adams Platt designed the fountain.

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Pétanque is a French game of “boules” (French for balls), where each player strives to throw metal balls as close as possible to a smaller wooden ball, named the “cochonnet”. Most games are played in teams, and are staged on the gravel area near the Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street corner. Tournaments are played on the gravel paths around the Bryant Park lawn. Game strategies include “pointing” when a player throws his ball to have it roll as close to the cochonnet as possible, and “shooting” when a player aims for the ball of an opponent, hoping to move him out of a favorable spot.

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I get out my novel and perch my feet on an extra chair while D loves to linger over a New York newspaper. We pretend that we are New Yorkers.

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Since Bryant Park s right next door to the New York Public Library, we often stop in there as well. When we first visited we found the reading room that looked like it was right out of “Ghostbusters”!

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Sculptor Edward Clark Potter created the lions, which were carved in pink Tennessee marble by the Piccirilli brothers. They were later nicknamed “Patience” and “Fortitude” by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.

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The New York Public Library building was designed by John Merven Carrère and Thomas Hastings. The magnificent Beaux-Arts building sits on a terrace that was designed to elevate the building above surrounding streets, to provide gathering places for people, and to provide a setting for public sculpture.

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The fountains on either side of the library’s entrance are Truth” on the (South) side and “Beauty” on the (North). They are the works of the major American sculptor Frederick William MacMonnies.

Feeling a little peckish by this time, we find a New York deli called Ben’s. Read all about it here.

Kath’s quote: “The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.”  ― John Updike

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

NYC Trip Report -Day 2

May29

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To start day two, we purchased coffees and wandered to the many riverside walkways for views of Manhattan. We had never stayed anywhere other than Manhattan on our trips to NYC, preferring to stay right in the heart of the action. But staying in Jersey City (and later Queens), we enjoyed the Manhattan skyline and were minutes away from via subway.

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The first time we visited NYC the twin towers stood tall. The second time was after 911. So glad to see a new tower in this place.

But we were on the move again, dropping our bags at the Wyndham Midtown and deciding what to do with on an overcast day. I have long been fascinated by NYC and have taken many guided tours, wanting to see and learn about it all. It turned out that D had never experienced a double decker bus tour with the corny, wise-cracking  NY tour guides speaking over the tinny sound systems. So we were off on a quintessential tour of Manhattan.

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You may not recognize the Empire State Building from this angle and without the characteristic spire in the photo. D and I had visited the building on one of our previous trips including views from the outdoor observation deck.

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The spire of the Marble Collegiate Church caught my eyes with the Empire State Building spire in the background. Here is the history of the church cut and pasted from the churches website.

In 1628, four years after the founding of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, Reverend Jonas Michaelius arrived from Holland to organize what is now known as the Collegiate Church of New York, whose oldest remaining building is Marble Church. As the first ordained minister in New Amsterdam, Reverend Michaelius conducted the first worship service in a gristmill on what is now South William Street, when the entire population of the city was less than 300. The first church elder was Governor Peter Minuit, who had recently purchased Manhattan Island from the Native Americans. Peter Stuyvesant, Director General of New Amsterdam, led worshippers to Sunday service and would impose a fine on anyone who did not attend church!

When the British took over the city in 1664 and renamed it New York, they allowed the Dutch Reformed Church to continue its worship traditions. King William III granted the church a Royal Charter in 1696, making the Collegiate Church the oldest corporation in America.

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The iconic Flat Iron Building. This is what I learned about it from Wikipedia.

The Flatiron Building, originally the Fuller Building, is a triangular 22-story  steel-framed landmarked building located at 175 Fifth Avenue in the borough of Manhattan, New York City, and is considered to be a groundbreaking skyscraper. Upon completion in 1902, it was one of the tallest buildings in the city at 20 floors high, and one of only two skyscrapers north of 14th Street – the other being the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, one block east. The building sits on a triangular block formed by Fifth Avenue, Broadway and East 22nd Street, with 23rd Street grazing the triangle’s northern (uptown) peak. As with numerous other wedge-shaped buildings, the name “Flatiron” derives from its resemblance to a cast-iron clothes iron

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The Woolworth Building

 Designed in 1926 by Cass Gilbert, who also designed the landmark Woolworth Building, the massive building, which was inspired by Salisbury Cathedral, rises forty stories to its pyramidal gilded roof and occupies the full block between 26th and 27th Streets, Madison Avenue and Park Avenue South, a rarity in Manhattan. The building stands 615 feet (187 m) tall and contains 40 floors. It was the last significant Gilbert skyscraper in Manhattan.

The building was completed in 1928 after two years of construction at the cost of $21 million. It combines streamlined Gothic details and distinctly Moderne massing. The gold pyramid at the top consists of 25,000 gold-leaf tiles

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I have long been fascinated by the numerous water tanks on the roofs of Manhattan. This is how they came to be:

According to Kate Ascher, author of The Works: Anatomy of a City, as the city underwent vertical expansion in the late nineteenth-century, the need for technological innovation in the realm of water supply soon became evident. Prior to the escalation of skyscrapers and multi-storied buildings, the water would naturally rise to the height of six floors due to the natural pressure of the street mains system. However, with increasing urbanization, a solution quickly arrived — the rooftop water tank.

In short, the municipal water supply system delivers water to a basement pump which then sends the water to the roof. There, rings made of galvanized steel encircle the barrel and apply pressure in order to prevent leakage. Without any type of adhesive, these tanks can last 30-35 years.

Now you know too.

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Of the numerous places we have stayed in NYC, our favourite is a brownstone in the East Village. We past through the hood on our tour.

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We love the tree-lined streets and the low rise buildings.

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We also love the fire escapes on Village apartments. I thought that this one looked like the exterior shot in Friends. See the similarity?

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With the new World Trade Centre spire in the background, I love the contrasts to these in the foreground. Can you help me identify them?

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The St. Paul Chapel Church that played such a key roll post 911.

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I have never seen the New York Stock Exchange Bull look like the above image, only the way it looks in this image, crowded with tourists getting their pictures taken with it.

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I am fairly sure that the image below is the Brooklyn Bridge but the Manhattan Bridge above also connects to Brooklyn. Is it called the Manhattan bridge?

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We concluded the tour, headed back to hotel for a little break and then were off again to New Jersey to see our Winnipeg Jets play the Devils in their 2015/2016 home game opener. Jets won!

Kath’s quote: “It comes down to reality,  And it’s fine with me cause I’ve let it slide,  I don’t care if it’s Chinatown or on Riverside,  I don’t have any reasons, I left them all behind,  I’m in a New York state of mind.” –Billy Joel

Love never fails.

 

 

 

 

 

NYC Trip Report -Day 1

May16

Circumstances with booking our “free” flights to New York meant that D (Air Miles) had to depart the evening before me (Avion) and spend the night on an airport bench in Ottawa, whereas I slept in our own bed, flew through Toronto and met him at La Guardia. After I had boarded my flight from TO to NYC, I was just about to turn my phone to airplane mode, when I got a call. The Doc from a walk in clinic who had seen me regarding an unexplainable pain in my left side, sent me for an xray and was calling to say that they were concerned about two spots that were detected-one on my kidney and another on my pancreas. I reeled with that information and could not get to NYC fast enough to process the news with D. I told him within minutes of my touching down.

D is excellent with logistics and had figured out the most economical way to get from La Guardia to Newport where we were staying at an Air BnB. The bus had been packed and we could barely hear the stops that the driver was calling out. As a result, we missed our connections and ended up somewhere in Harlem. A lovely older man could see that we didn’t belong there and offered to help us figure out how to get back on track.

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After finally reaching our destination, we dropped our bags and headed out again, this time from Newport to Manhattan with very clear directions. We loved the congested streets of NYC with all of its hecticness.

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Our first stop was a place to buy a bottle of wine. Between the news en route and the difficult journey to our room, we both needed a glass of wine.

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We picked one up along with some bread and cheese and headed to Central Park

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where the sun was just going down on the other side of a row of skyscrapers.

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The October sun was warm and beautiful.

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Just as we were about to place our picnic blanket down, I spotted a beautiful white rose on the ground. I took it as a message that all would be well. Now, months later, I can report that there was no spot on my pancreas, even though there was indeed something on my kidney. I am scheduled to have the “something” surgically removed this week.

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I mistakenly put the cart before the horse.

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After our lovely picnic, we decided to wander through the park and see if there was something more substantial to share for our dinner. We had another light meal at Tavern on the Green and was well pleased.

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Still later, we walked the streets of the lower west side back towards our subway stop and came upon Benash’s Deli for our dessert stop.

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We ended our first evening in New York with this tall, cool, cheesecake that was the icing on the proverbial cake!

Kath’s quote: “I suspect music is auditory cheesecake, an exquisite confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of… our mental faculties”. -Steven Pinker

Love never fails.

 

 

Isla Mujeres 2016-Breakfast at Lola Valentina’s

March22

On our most recent visit to Isla Mujeres, we noticed that many restaurant owners are extending their spaces and hours of operation in order to capitalizie on more business per square foot. We watched from across the street at Fredy’s with eager excitement as Lola Valentina’s was constructed on Hidalgo a number of years ago. Since then we have had the pleasure of dining at Lola Valentina’s on many occaissions in the evening but never for breakfast. So we were thrilled when restaurant creator Lori Drumm invited us in to sample their morning fare. We love her excellent Fusion/Mexican offerings and were quite sure that we would be well fed.

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What we did not know is how delightful our breakfast selections would be to the eye.

The stars of Lola Valentina’s morning menu are the French Toast and the Stuffed Poblano Chile. Both dishes were recommended by our server. If they sound familiar to you, you may be thinking about Mango Café, where Lori was once the Executive Chef. I wouldn’t be tempted to compare recipes as the whole Hidalgo experience is vastly different from the one in the Colonias.

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D was delighted by the Tres Leche Coconut French Toast. He declared that the bananas tasted like the classic dessert Bananas Foster which is one of his favourites. The toast was made with conchas (Mexican sweet bread) pastry and caramelized almonds. Then mango syrup, with just a touch of rosemary, puts the dish over the top.

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I was content to simply stare at the work of food art a.k.a. known as the stuffed chile. When I did eventually get my fork working I was very impressed with the guacamole, sour cream, green salsa, corn and black beans that the pablano came nestled in. The crunchy tortilla ribbons adorning the top were a lovely surprize and the extra crunch was more than satisfying. At this point I realized that I had not even tucked into the chile!

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The creamy scrambled eggs were delicious in themselves, extraordinary with Monterey Jack cheese and bacon. Oh the bacon! The chile was packed with the most amazing smoky bacon.  When the plate arrived, I concluded that I could never eat it all. But it was so savoury with the combination of tastes and textures that I could not stop eating; much to D’s chagrin. His breakfast was not as substantial as mine and he may have wanted to help me out.

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We were protected from the sun and there was a lovely breeze to cool us as we lingered over the endless coffee and tea supply.

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Before and after eating, we were absolutely content to people watch from our perch on Hidalgo. At the same time we took in the changes that Lori has made to the abundant space in the restaurant. There is now a little bistro within the larger restaurant space that is called Lolita’s Cafe & Sweet Shop boasting a 100% plant based gluten free kitchen. They offer tea, coffee and smoothies for a mini Lola experience.

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We also spied what we thought might be an all female wedding party who wanted a separate space to be together. The restaurant accommodated them easily with their outdoor patio found to the south of the main restaurant.

As we have gone back and forth with FB messages, I have gotten to know Lori a bit better and I admire her brain for business and her culinary creativity. Both are working in perfect harmony in the space dubbed Lola Valentina’s.

Kath’s quote: “Life is too short, so live, love, break, be happy, cry, laugh, eat, work and learn”.-Anonymous

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Love never fails.

 

 

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.

 

 

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