Browsing: Food & Travel

La Fiesta Cafecito

March29

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La Fiesta Cafecito is owned by Jose and Sonia Valdez who are from El Salvador.  Since Daughter #2 travelled to El Salvador to do humanitarian work a couple of years ago, we were happy to learn more about their regional cooking.  Pupusas are at the top of the list of their signature platters so we knew that would be one of our selections.  But because we love to try little tastes of lots of things we decided to order a combination platter that included two Pupusas, one chicken burrito and one beef enchilada.  The meal started with a chicken tortilla soup which satisfied my craving for a comfort food because I was nursing a cold. 

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We are accustomed to this recipe with lime, chiles and cilantro but this was a savoury alternative.  We detected a sprinkling of Tajin Classico in the bottom of our bowl which is one of our regular purchases on trips to Mexico. 

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We were quite sure that Jose indicated that we were getting one Queso Pupusa and One Chicarrones y Queso (pork and cheese) Pupusa but when we forked into the non-Queso one, it was definitely filled with Frijoles (beans).  I preferred the Queso one and my bean-loving (and deprived) husband preferred the Frijoles.  The chicken burrito was stuffed with a savoury mixture of onion, rice and chicken.  The beef enchilada though was unusual with a ladle of a “beef bolognaise style” sauce on top of a flaky pastry shell style base.  On top of this sat a wedge of hard boiled egg!  When in Rome….  Daughter #2 returns from South Africa in the next couple of weeks and we plan to return to La Fiesta to recreate her El Salvadorian adventure.

Kath’s Quote: “This recipe is certainly silly. It says to separate the eggs, but it doesn’t say how far to separate them.”-Gracie Allen


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Sister #3 Isla Mujeres (Part 2-Olivia’s)

March23

Sister # 3: “While the traditional regional cuisine on Isla Mujeres is amazing, there is also a huge variety of fare available because people from around the world have discovered this little Island and now call it home.

Olivia's

March 2010

Olivia’s Israeli owner/operators offer a nice variety of good Mediterranean food including moussaka and kebab.” 

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Added by Kathryne: We were so excited to try Olivia’s in March 2008, that we accepted a table right in front of the restaurant’s open kitchen.  The result was that we were engulfed by the smoke from the open fire.  This did not dampen our appreciation of their well made mojitos or carefully prepared food.  We tried their spanakopita, moussaka and Moroccan fish on couscous.Olivia's

Moraccan Fish

Moroccan Fish

In February 2009 we were fortunate to make a reservation for the best table in the house.  There is a beautiful, large square table at the rear of the restaurant which is under a thatched canopy where enjoyed another  lovely dinner .

Sisters 1-3 Under the Palapa

Sisters 1-3 Under the Palapa

On my next visit, I intend to try their Shawarma.  This was one of my favourite meals when I travelled to Israel a decade ago.  I still recall the glistening juices as the meat portion was shaved off of the rotating spit.  We had stopped at a roadside diner outside of Jerusalem.  Their version was served with crunchy veggies and a variety of sauces-the memory of the taste is still very vivid.

Kath’s Quote: “Don’t take a butcher’s advice on how to cook meat.   If he knew, he’d be a chef.” -Andy RooneyHeart-soap-large

Sister #3 Isla Mujeres (Part One)

March17
Each year we gather on Isla Mujeres for a couple of weeks in the sun and sand as an escape from the snow and cold of Winnipeg. What started as a week away for the three sisters has turned into a significantly larger gathering. Other family members and friends have joined us each year and we continue to make great friends with people we meet on the island.Pom Margs
Whenever we meet someone new or are preparing friends for a first time trip, we spend a significant amount of time discussing the food. By now readers of Kathryne’s blog can see that our family’s life revolves around food. However it is not our preoccupation with food that causes our obsession with the food of Isla, it’s the food itself.   Ask anyone who has spent any time on this jewel of an Island and they will tell you that the food is as magnificent as the beaches and as lovely as the people. Hortencia's grandchildren
 This 5 mile long island is made up of sand and coral and salt water lagoons dominate a big part of its land mass, leaving little room for agriculture. Yesterday our new friends Jeff and Kathy from Minneapolis told us they saw a cow, but I myself have yet to see any animals except beach dogs, street cats, iguana, geckos and the occasional roaster. So you would think that this little island whose main industry is fishing would only be able to boast about delicious fish and seafood, but you would be amazed at the food offered up here.

Mar Y Sol at sunset

Chocolate Chunk Brownies

March15

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I recently had a conversation with my son and his wife about shopping at only the outer rim of the grocery store.  That is the dairy case, fresh fruit and veggie section, bakery, etc. in order to buy only whole and fresh ingredients and to avoid the processed food that is contained in the centre of the supermarket.  Newly inspired, I made brownies last night and here is the from scratch recipe: DSCF1806

Place 4 squares of baker’s chocolate and 3/4 c butter in a glass bowl and microwave at full power for 2 minutes.  Remove and stir until chocolate is well blended.  Stir in 2 c of sugar (1 c at a time) .  Then blend in 3 eggs and 1 t of vanilla.  Next blend in 1 c flour and 1 c chocolate chunks (I used a mixture of chocolate chips, chopped milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate).  Pour into a greased 9 x 12 pan and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  My husband likes his brownies goey  in the middle so I removed them at this time but for a more cakey brownie bake another 5 minutes.DSCF1807

I learned this: “The name for the cocoa tree is theobrama, which means ‘food of the Gods’.  I know that chocolate is meant for us, however, because the melting point of chocolate just happens to be the temperature within your very human mouth.”  –The School of Essential Ingredients

On my last trip to Mexico I purchased Nestle’s Abuelita hot chocolate.  Coincidentally Abuelita plays a key role in The School of Essential ingredients.  If you love an authentic hot chocolate (not made from powder) you will love this.  Imagine the hot chocolate that was made in the chocolate shop of the movie Chocolat-mmm.  

The brownies were delicious especially because I accompanied them with a fine glass of Chilean Merlot.  If you have not tried red wine and chocolate together-you must.

Today I was at a meeting and a friend brought brownies for dessert.  I had to have a taste to compare them to my mine.  I especially enjoyed theirs  and when I requested the recipe I was told that the mix was from Costco!  Perhaps I should rethink the outer rim of the grocery store strategy.

What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”
Katherine Hepburn
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Cilantro

February19

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I very clearly remember the first time I tasted cilantro.  My husband and I were on our first winter vacation.  We were sitting on the second floor of one of those crazy Mexican places like Carlo and Charlie’s.  Now this was more than 15 years ago and these places were quite the novelty back then.  This is how I make my guess of the authentic Mexican version:  Combine 3 chopped tomatoes, ½ c chopped white onion, 1 jalapeño seeded and chopped, ½ c chopped cilantro, 1 clove of garlic chopped with 2 t freshly squeezed lime juice and salt to taste.  For a different twist I sometimes add a chopped up “pickling” cucumber.  Let the flavours blend before serving.  Consume with La Cocina taco chips (locally made and the best chip I have ever tasted).salsa3inch

I am currently reading a enthralling book that I will blog about when I have completed it but this is what I read last night about an authentic Mexican salsa:  “When it was mixed together, the salsa was a celebration of red and white and green, cool and fresh and alive.  On a tortilla, with a bit of white queso fresco, it was both satisfying and invigorating, full of textures and adventures, like childhood help in your hand.”

One of my favourite treats when I’m trying to “drop a few” is a half of a toasted whole wheat bagel with a bit of light cream cheese, covered with cucumber slices, salt & pepper and tons of cilantro.  It tastes like spring time in my mouth.

A cilantro dish that my  family loves is adapted from Bonnie Stern’s Heart Smart Cooking.  Cilantro-Grilled Chicken Breasts:  Marinade: in a food processor chop 4 cloves of garlic, 1 small onion, and 1 cup of cilantro including the stems.  Add 2 T of Thai fish sauce, 3 T of freshly squeezed lime juice, 2 T rice vinegar, 2 T hoisin sauce and ½ t hot chillipaste.  Process to form a paste.  Spread over 8 boneless, skinless chicken breast and refrigerate up to 2 hours.  Remove chicken, shake off excess and grill.  

My daughter's new location is Kayamandi Township, South Africa

My daughter's new location is Kayamandi Township, South Africa

A recipe that I have not yet tried are spicy African Potatoes from the Focus on Africa- Fundraising Cookbook that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry.  Brown a sliced hot red chili pepper, sliced thinly lengthwise in 3 T olive oil.  Add 1 t cumin, 1 t sesame seeds.  Heat until the seeds “hop”. Set aside. Boil 6 large potatoes cut into cubes.  Mix with spices and peppers.  Stir in an entire bunch of finely chopped cilantro.

A drink that we Canadians love is called a Bloody Caesarand many bartenders mix it with their own enhancements-some use a splash of dill pickle juice, others rim their’s with a mixture of rock and celery salt.  The very best version was one that I had with cilantro!Kath's Caesar

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