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Apple Picking!

17 Sep DSC_0434

It’s that time of year again, where the nights are getting cooler, leaves are changing, kids are back to school and the NHL is locked out again. The fall is one of my favourite times of the year. There isn’t any snow on the ground so you can still go outside to do things without having to worry about slipping on some ice. It’s also cool enough that I don’t feel like I am sweating away my body weight every time I go for a run, dark t-shirts are a good thing. Fall is also the time of year where I feel more inclined to turn the oven on and do some baking. So this weekend when I needed something to bring to a potluck, I decided to bake a pie.

Ate the big before I could take a picture.

Normally I would bake the crust from scratch (thanks Mr. Pillsbury) or make a yummy sauce (thanks Sarah). Instead Sarah and I went out and picked the apples ourselves.  We got two different kinds of apples, Lobos and Courtlands. Lobos are the Canadian version of McIntosh. They are crunchy and have a sweet and tart flavour. Courtland apples are another McIntosh variety of apple that was originally developed at Cornell University.

There is a great apple farm in Orleans, 1399 St. Joseph blvd. Orleans (http://goo.gl/maps/kKNMq) that lets you pick your own apples. A pound of apples is about $1.25, they also have fresh apple cider and candied apples for sale. I’ve always loved apple picking. It’s pretty amazing to see exactly where our food comes from.  Most of the food I get comes from the grocery store or farmer’s market. Living in the city means I don’t have the opportunity most of the time to see my food in any other form then when it’s wrapped in butcher’s paper or in a bag. Plus it’s just fun to climb trees! If you’re looking for something to do next weekend, think about picking some apples!

 

 

Europe Adventures…

5 Sep DSC_0924

With the fall fast approaching and the summer disappearing, I wanted to take a post to talk about my summer that was mostly one big adventure. I haven’t been blogging as often as I normally do for the simple fact that I haven’t been in the city for most of the summer. Unlike most other summers that are spent traveling between sporting events, camping and spending time at a cottage or two, this summer I went for the whole enchilada and took a month off to travel around Europe. The only other time I’d been to Europe was for a two day stop in Paris on my way to Tunisia. While it was amazing to see Paris, two days was only enough to get me infected with the traveling bug. So this year, when my brother asked if I wanted to travel with him for a while after he finished his exchange in England, I jumped at the chance. He could only travel for about two weeks but I wanted more! So I asked Sarah if she would join me for another two weeks. So for the month of July I explored Amsterdam, Berlin, Florence, Rome, Paris and London.

 

The first city my brother and I visited was Amsterdam. While many may think we were only there to take part in the local coffee shops and visit the Red Light district, there is so much more to Amsterdam. One of my highlights was renting bikes and exploring one of the most bike friendly cities in the world. We also got a taste of Amsterdam at the Heineken brewery, which has a great tour and you get a few free beers. Another highlight was the Van Gogh museum where you get the chance to appreciate the work of a true master! Don’t forget to get your picture taken with the IAMSTERDAM monument nearby.

Berlin is a fantastic city and is one of, if not the most important city in modern history. Having been the centre of the Second World War and then playing a central role in the cold war, Berlin is filled with history and amazing sights. They have amazing museums, nightlife, art, restaurants and people. Before the Second World War the city held close to 7million people, now it only houses about 3.5 million people. This gives the city a kind of empty feel but also helps keep costs down, making it one of the most affordable cities in Europe to visit. There is so much to see in Berlin that I recommend taking a tour. In almost every city I visited I took advantage of Sandemans New Europe tours. These tours are put on by freelance tour guides who only get paid by tips. If the tour is good they get paid better than if it was ok. All of the tours I got were great but the one in Berlin was particularly good! The three hour tour took us from the Brandenburg Gate to Check Point Charlie to museum island. There is so much to see and do, you’ll leave Berlin already planning your next visit there.

 

 

 

 

After Amsterdam and Berlin, my brother and I were ready for some nice weather, so we made our way down to Italy. Our first stop was Florence. I hadn’t done any real research on Florence and wasn’t expecting much but was I ever surprised! Florence is an amazing city. It feels like you’ve gone back in time as you walk down the narrow cobblestone streets, always in the constant gaze of the Duomo. The Duomo is the massive 13th century cathedral located in the centre of town. If you visit Florence you have to take the time and walk up all of the stairs to the top, you’ll be rewarded with some amazing views! After Florence we made our way down to Rome. Walking around Rome feels like you’re on a movie set, with the Coliseum, Vatican and Trevi Fountain all to be seen.  While I enjoyed visiting Rome a lot, it was so hot that I was happy to head north to Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a quick stop in London to meet up with Sarah, it was off to Paris. If I was forced to choose a favourite city, I would choose Paris. Not only is Paris a beautiful and photogenic city, it also has some amazing food. While in Paris we did everything from visiting the Louvre, Versailles, l’Arc de Triomphe and climbed the Eiffel Tower. While these were all amazing things to do and see, my favourite thing that we did was to visit a couple of shops to buy everything for a picnic. Then head down to Place des Invalides, open a bottle of wine and enjoy a picnic while watching the world go by. If you’re ever in Paris I would highly recommend taking the time to go for a picnic! After Paris we were off to London

 

 

 

 

London was amazing! We were there for the first week of the Olympics, which was great. Leading up to the Olympics everyone was telling us how insane London would be, giant lines and an overloaded Underground. Well we hardly had to wait in any lines at the tourist attractions and other then busy times, the Underground was a breeze. The best part of being there for the first part of the Olympics was seeing my friend Michael Tayler compete in the white water kayaking salmon event. It was amazing seeing someone I know, in person, compete at the highest level. Remember his name because he is sure to be a force to reckon with at the next Olympic games!

 

 

 

 

 

London is an all round cool city, it has it all. If you like museums you need to visit the British Museum, which houses the Rosetta Stone and other amazing artifacts from around the world. If you like theater, there are tons of shows to see in London and you can even stop in and see some Shakespeare at the Globe Theater. London sure has some amazing food for a city which is the capital of a nation not known to have the best food. If you’re visiting London my top recommendation is to visit Borough Market. This local market has all kinds of amazing food, from raw ingredients to readymade meals, you’ll find everything here. It goes without saying that London is steeped in history; everywhere you look there is a piece of history. You have to visit London Tower, where you can see the crown jewels and meet a Beef Eater.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could go on and on about my adventures in Europe. I’ve got stories about losing my bags, booking the wrong flight, watching a dog jump into a fountain at the Louvre and so much more. But the best way to experience it isn’t through my stories but by going on an adventure yourself! So go buy a ticket!

If you haven’t had enough pictures yet, check these out…

Amsterdam

Berlin

Florence

Rome

Paris

London

Magical Mystery Meal…

25 Jun Mojito

Last night I had the best and strangest meal ever…

It all started a year ago when I submitted my email to a mysterious website. I was put on the list and now had a chance to attend a secret dinner put on by a group of Ottawa’s top chefs.  Not only do the chefs get to showcase delicious and inventive food but the dinners raise money for a selected charity.

I may go missing after posting this. The dinners are invite only and only six people get invited, each person invited gets to bring one guest, a total of 12 people attend each dinner making it an intimate affair. To get on the invite list you need to enter your email on the website (eatcobra.ca). You then get a couple of mysterious emails and if you follow the instructions, your name is put on the list.  Every time a Cobra dinner is organized all the names are put into a draw. It took more than a year for me to get an invite and I am one of the lucky ones. Once you’ve confirmed that you’re able to attend, you’ll get an email with directions to a meeting place to gather before heading to your final location. My email told me to meet a person with hangers at an intersection, all very mysterious! Then it’s off to your final location, usually someone’s home. Here you get to meet all of the chefs that have been busy preparing your meal.  When you sit down to your meal, you’re not only sitting down for some amazing food but you’re sitting down with new friends. Everyone at the table shares a common interest, food! During our dinner, I wasn’t the only one taking pictures, everyone was! You might think it could be a little awkward eating with complete strangers at one table but it isn’t, it’s a lot of fun!

If you’re a picky eater, don’t even think about signing up for Cobra. Cobra is all about trying new things that you wouldn’t normally find on a menu, at least in North America. In the past they have served everything from kangaroo to seal. You don’t know what you’re going to get but you do know that you’ll enjoy it.

After getting to our dinning location and being introduced to the chefs we sat down to our first course.  We were served some amazing food, all of it delicious! I’ve been asked a couple of times already what my favourite course was, but it’s impossible to choose just one! The three highlights of the night for me were the Kung Pow Guinea Pig, Yak Head Chili and the Flank Steak, Beef Heart and Short Rib Curry. Yup there were some interesting ingredients in the dishes last night. Some people may think that things like Guinea Pig should only be pets or that Yak is just weird but they are delicious and in a lot of countries are normal things to eat. In some South American countries guinea pig has been eaten for centuries and are raised both in urban and rural environments to be sold as extra income.

One of my favourite dishes to order when getting Chinese is Kung Pow Chicken. I love the spicy sauce that coats the deep fried chicken. So when the Kung Pow Guinea Pig was served I was more excited that worried. Served under a dome filled with apple wood smoke, the dish had a flair for the dramatic. With the scent of apple wood lingering in the air, we all chowed down on the spicy goodness. The guinea pig itself didn’t have a strong flavour; it is very similar to the dark meat from a chicken. What really made the dish was the Kung Pow sauce, which had the perfect amount of heat to wake up our taste buds.

 

 

 

The Yak head chili was another of the highlights for me. Yak has a very specific flavour, it is slightly gamey but very mild. The chili included a bunch of different cuts of Yak meeting, including the sweetbreads. The chili has a whole was delicious just enough heat and some freshness from cilantro and fresh tomatoes. I love Yak! If you’re looking to get some Yak meat, visit the Ottawa Farmers’ Market and see the Tiraislin Fold tent.

The last dish I am going to highlight is the thai curry created by Chef Matt Carmichael. Not only was the actual curry sauce perfect but the meat in the curry was delicious. Each meat represented a different texture; there was beef heart, short ribs and flank steak.

The experience of meeting at a stranger’s house and sitting down to a meal, where you have no idea what might be coming out next, is exciting. I would have to say that my experience with Cobra was one of the best adventures I’ve ever had with food. I’d recommend signing up for Cobra, you’ll definitely taste something new!

The meal…

Fire & Ice Mojito, Ginger Cloud & Cricket Sphere

Rabbit Live and Guanciale

Wild hare loin, truffle, pancake

Beef Heart Curry

Kung Pow Guinea Pig

Yak Head Chili

Pork Belly, Cod Tongue, Kimchi Mayo

Ice cream Sundae with Caramelized Bacon

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