The land of poutine: 6 things to eat in Toronto, Canada

We spent a few days in Toronto last summer, and I must say – Canada is great ey! It was my first time in Toronto (and Canada), but I’d always had this feeling that I was going to absolutely adore the United States’ northern neighbor. And man, was I right about this inkling. As soon as we landed I got a big smile from the immigration guard, and as opposed to the rather somber mood that the US immigration lines often have, when he said “Welcome to Canada” I really did feel welcome!

We had a bit more than 36 hours in Toronto, and in less than 2 days we managed to eat from 7 corners of the world (and as we walked so much our jeans still (kinda) fit at the end of the adventure). Our food crawl included Canadian dishes (that brunch poutine tho),  Italian veal sandwiches, Mexican tostada snacks, Japanese katsu curry, Nepalese momos (dumplings), a pretty authentic pad-Thai, and South Indian dosas.

Here are the top six things I would recommend you eat if you find yourself in Toronto, Canada. 

The first stop we made on our whirlwind Toronto tour was St. Lawrence Market, which many say is one of the best food markets in the world. I would definitely class it within the top 5 of my global food market rankings, but nothing beats Barcelona’s La Boqueiria when it comes to food heaven on earth, at least not in my opinion. But St. Lawrence Market is impressive that’s for sure and with what seems like hundreds of food stalls spread out over two floors, this is the kind of place you want to visit with a group of friends who can’t decide what to eat (cause you won’t need to make a decision – you can have it all!) Make sure you go early (we went at 11 am on a weekday), as the place gets really busy around lunchtime.

Foodie tip #1: It’s time to try that famous peameal bacon sandwich at St. Lawrence Market

The first place we hit up after properly exploring all of St. Lawrence Market was the Caroussel Bakery for a peameal bacon sandwich, a Toronto classic. Canadian bacon (omg), dipped in peameal (less omg to be honest), and a bun (it was fine), served warm and freshly made. I wasn’t super impressed. I mean I love bacon. I love sandwiches. I really love Anthony Bourdain (who recommended this place). But this sandwich was missing some sauce, some extra fillings, maybe some toasted bread. I don’t want to mess with tradition guys but I jut wasn’t that overwhelmed. Sad face. But! You still can’t leave Toronto without trying one of these bad boys and I’m really glad I had one.

Foodie tip #2: Try the Italian veal parmigiana sandwich from the basement of St. Lawrence Market (get it with all the cheese)

The other place I’d read about at St. Lawrence Market was an Italian sandwich establishment located in the basement, where they serve up veal parmigiana sandwich with breaded eggplant and mozzarella cheese. The sandwich was huge, it was stuffed with fried breaded goodness, and it was super cheesy. It was so big that we ended up taking out the veal and just eating that (need to save room for later right?) but my god was this a taste explosion.

Foodie tip #3: Have a bacon Bloody Mary and brunch poutine

On our second day in Toronto we decided to skip the public transport and walk from our Airbnb into town. We strolled along Dundas West Street, checking out all the little stores and food shops along the way. By the time we’d walked for an hour we decided it was time for breakfast and a coffee, and lo and behold we stumbled upon Old School, a cafe that served brunch poutine and bacon Bloody Mary’s. Recommendation: Whatever you order, share it with a dining partner if you can – you’ll have more room for more food later.

Foodie tip #4: Head to Bobbie Sue’s for some epic mac and cheese to curb those midday munchies  

Alright y’all, this place is as good as it gets when it comes to mac and cheese insanity. You may already have noticed that I have a weakness for this glorious pasta dish, but this mac and cheese was beyond amazing. Located in a shack (basically), you have a number of mac and cheese flavors to choose from including classic (had to put that in), buffalo chicken, pulled pork and carbonara mac and cheese (amongst others). We had the pulled pork because my other half is a major barbecue fan (to be fair so am I), and we shared a small portion. I repeat – we shared a small and it was WAY more than enough for tow people. But by god, every bite was what I imagine a crack addict must feel when they get that much needed hit. Warm. Juicy. Loving. Creamy. Just pure sexiness really.

Foodie tip #5: Have a porchetta sandwich from Porchetta & Co.

This is another Toronto foodie destination that was recommended by Anthony Bourdain, and as opposed to the peameal bacon sandwich this really did live up to our expectations. Pork crackling and roast stuffed in a hot bun with onions, hot sauce and mustard. Simple. Elegant. Divine. Also really friendly on the wallet, but you probably won’t find a seat when you get here as there are only a few bar stools at the window which we were lucky enough to snag.

Foodie tip #6: Hit up the Steam Whistle Brewery for some real Canadian ale 

Truth? We tried to go to the Toronto aquarium and the line was insane so when we saw a brewery across the street we thought, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere and we headed straight for the Stream Whistle Brewery. Upon entering this magical establishment (beer is good, mmkay?) we were given a sample of the brewery’s flagship beer, which obvs made us decide to spend the next few hours sipping on Canadian ale and eating giant pickles.

Stay tuned for more upcoming posts from our trip to North America. What are your favorite foodie spots in Toronto? Or anywhere in the world? Leave a comment below or catch me on Instagram @thetastytraveller. ‘Til next time!

Hotel Review: Prestonfield House in Edinburgh, Scotland

So I’m upping my blog game and have decided that since we stay in so many quirky and awesome hotels (and AirBnB’s) while traveling around the world, it’s time to start dedicating some reviews to them. So here’s my first hotel review of the Prestonfield House in Edinburgh, Scotland where my fiancé and I stayed for a one-night treat last Christmas. This is one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever stayed in, and has also been voted the most glamorous hotel in Scotland, so I’m a bit embarrassed to say we didn’t get many pictures of our visit as we were too busy enjoying everything that we forgot to document the details 😉

Upon arrival at the Prestonfield House you will know right away you’re not staying at any ordinary hotel. As soon as you enter the grand hotel lobby (which looks like the entrance to a small castle) you are greeted by a team of friendly concierge,and it’s no wonder this has been named as one of the world’s best hotels.

After a personal check in where you are invited to sit down and relax in a private lounge, you are brought to the hotel room of your dreams, decked out in maroon and burgundy shades and gold trimmings throughout the suite. Complete with a Nespresso machine, homemade cookies and treats next to the bed, Sky television (and DVDs too) and a turn down service to prepare you for undoubtedly sweet dreams. Oh and there’s a tea menu too!

Breakfast is complimentary and can be served to the room, which we took advantage of. The kedgeree is stunning, and the Scottish breakfast is a feast for any hungry soul. The Rhubarb restaurant on site is worth a visit, and is just as impressive as the hotel itself (restaurant review coming up). Definitely one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in.

*The Tasty Traveller hotel ranking: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

Eating it up in Portland with Maine Foodie Tours

This summer we spent several days in Portland, Maine to indulge in some of the beautifully fresh fish, lobster* and other delicacies that this region of the Northeastern United States has to offer. Now first of all, let me start by saying that if you haven’t been to New England, you really need to visit. From the bustling nightlife of Boston (or Bawstan as the locals would say), to the rolling hills and snowy mountains of Vermont (if you’re visiting in the winter obvs), all the way up to the gorgeous coast of Maine, this region won’t disappoint even the pickiest of travelers.We decided to go on the Maine Foodie Tour based on all the brilliant reviews we had read online, and the fact that we were guaranteed to try lobster mac and cheese. Also it was a great way to see a lot of Portland in a short time and as we had a baby with us the late night brewery outings weren’t high on the agenda.

First stop – Lobster mac and cheese: The way to a foodie’s soulWe kicked off the three hour walking tour at Vervacious, a shop dedicated to selling incredible salts, spices and balsamic vinaigrettes from all over the world. The story behind the owners of the shop is that the couple gave up their corporate jobs, bought a boat and travelled around the world with it. When they came back to Maine they wanted to share all the amazing spices and flavors they had experience abroad, and this is how Vervacious came to be.

We had the lobster mac and cheese at the very first stop, and tested five different flavoured salts to add to the insanely creamy dish. The combination of pasta, cheese and lobster was like porn in my mouth. We also tried a number of incredible balsamic vinaigrettes, including a chocolate vinaigrette and a really nutty espresso balsamic.

Second stop – Chocolate with mashed potatoes because why not?One of Portland’s claim to fames is the Needham chocolate, which is a traditional fudge like sweet with one added bonus: mashed potatoes. The spuds help give the sweets an extra creamy texture, and to be honest if we hadn’t been told there were mashed potatoes in it we wouldn’t have known. We tried our first Needham ever at Dean’s Sweets

Third stop – An incubator for small foodie businesses with soup as good as lust
Next stop on our tour was to the Portland Public Market House which has become an incubator of sorts for small restaurants, giving young people and those without tons of cash the chance to run a business in one of the stalls in the two story building. First stop was Karmasouptra, which I’m sure you can guess is a food stand dedicated to all things soup.

From tomato and grilled cheese soup (incredible guys!) to the classic New England favorite clam chowder, you can taste as many soups as you want while on the tour. Once you’ve decided on your favorite you choose a bowl and then enjoy the creamy richness of whatever you chose (I was boring and went with the chowder) while sitting with the rest of the group. We also had blueberry sticky rice for dessert, based on the classic Thai dessert sticky mango rice and since the soup wasn’t so pretty I’m posting a pic of the dessert instead 😂

Fourth and fifth stops – Award winning blueberry jam and shepherds pie spring rolls 
Our second to last stop took us to Stonewall Kitchen, a store known for its award winning blueberry jam. Seriously guys, the jam has won like four foodie oscars. To be super honest I didn’t love the jam, but I’m much more of a savory gal in general. The other people on our tour loved the jam though, and we brought a jar home for my parents who also sang high praises for the jam.

The last stop on our tour took us to an English pub (can’t seem to get away from those no matter where I go), where we tried blueberry ale (goddayummmm it’s good), and shepherds pie spring rolls (ok, but as my British fiancée said, perhaps a bit overkill). Either way I always enjoy a good roll (spring roll ;)) and loved the concept. We ended the tour by staying in the pub because what more appropriate way is there to show you’ve really enjoyed your tour than to keep drinking at the last place they took you to?

Thank you for an absolutely awesome day of food adventures @Maine Foodie Tours!

*Fact: Did you know that until the 1880s, lobster was so abundant in New England that it was the main source of protein served to prisoners? After many years, the prisoners rebelled (and lobster started to become a popular food among the elite), and the incarceration centers had to start serving the inmates something other than lobster. And now? We pay a grand price for the sweet and light saltwater delicacy!

Learning to cook traditional Tuscan food with a real Italian mamma

For my 30th birthday I was whisked away to Tuscany by my fiancee for a four day Italian adventure which included a full-on, traditional Italian cooking class on the Sunday.

We spent our first full day in the area exploring the Tuscan countryside around Chianti, and in the evening I was delighted to find out we were booked in to eat dinner in the middle of a magnificent wine vineyard. The four course gala dinner is an event held three times each year at the organic winery hotel we were staying at (look out for an upcoming post on the meal, and a hotel review about the fabulous Querceto di Castellina).

After a brilliant evening eating Tuscan food under the stars, we spent our Sunday morning and most of the afternoon learning how to cook traditional Tuscan recipes with the owner of the vineyard, Laura.

Laura is 71 years old, and teaches her Tuscan cooking class with enthusiasm on a daily basis with a profoundly deep knowledge for the ingredients and dishes she cooks up.  By the end of the day you will have whipped up more dishes than your stomach will know what to do with. Laura owns the winery, hotel and cooking school and runs the estate along with her two sons and daughter in-law Mary.

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During our class we made three antipasti dishes, two primi platti pasta dishes, and a main course with a vegetable side and dessert.

Antipasti – Appetizers 

Bruschetta with tomatoes and basil

Crostoni with stracchino cheese and sausage pork with truffle

Crostini with gorgonzola cheese and walnuts

Primi platti – Pasta dishes

Farfalle with zucchini and saffron

Penne with black olives and mushrooms

Secondi platti – Main course 

Filet of pork in shirt (pancetta)

Verdure – Vegetables

Spinach with raisins and pine nuts

Dolce – Dessert

Sheep cheese “alla Caterina del Medici”

The class started at 10 am, and we sat down to eat our feast at around 3 pm which gave us several hours in the kitchen for some hands on experience. We kicked off the day by preparing the sauces for the two primi platti pasta dishes and putting together the most delicious tomato and basil bruschetta topping I’ve ever had. The tomatoes in Tuscany are truly sweet with a bit of a bite to them, and the basil is fresh and smells divine.

The filet of pork in bacon took several hours on the stove (after wrapping it tightly in pancetta), and we drank red L’aura wine (yes it’s named after the chef), and chatted with the other students as we cooked up our lazy Italian feast.

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My top 3 favourite dishes were the crostoni with stracchino cheese and sausage pork with truffle appetizer, the bruschetta with tomatoes and basil, and the farfalle with zucchini and saffron. The pork was also outstanding, but if I had to choose, the three first dishes were my top choice as they were so simple and gorgeous without being overly filling or rich. There was something so beautifully simple about taking the truffle sausage out of its casing and placing it straight on bread which we then literally just popped into the oven for ten to fifteen minutes, and the bruschetta with tomatoes was fresh and light, and not too garlicky. We learned that the trick to a perfect tomato bruschetta is to put in several cloves of garlic (un-chopped but peeled) a few hours before serving, and then remove them when ready to eat. Presto!

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Laura’s Cooking Class was a great way to meet other travelers and spend a day really delving into the history and heritage of traditional Tuscan dishes. The first, but definitely not the last time we will be cooking up these Italian delights, but also not the last time we’ll be visiting Laura and her beautiful family in Chianti.

Grazie mille Laura! 

 

My favourite sweet & savoury baked Parisian delights

Bakeries: Patisseries

It is a global truth that Paris is home to some of the best baked goods this side of heaven. With Parisians marching the streets with their starchy soldiers (baguettes) in hand, a trip to France would not be complete without several trips to the local bakery.

As a curious and almost always hungry globetrotter, I make no attempts at hiding the fact that even though I live in Paris, I still adore visiting several of these carb-laden establishments when I spend my weekend in the city.

Here are two of my favourite baked goods that you can get at most Parisian bakeries, and this specific bakery can be found not far from Paris’ most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondissement. The shop windows greet sweet fanatics with displays made of pure chocolate, cleverly reproducing one of the world’s most well recognized sights, La Dame de Fer, the city’s very own Iron Lady.

Hiding behind the chocolatey masterpieces lies every type of pastry you could imagine, from beautifully coloured macaroons, to freshly baked pain au chocolates and creamy eclairs.

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We like to share a sweet and a savoury option when we are out on our Saturday strolls, with two of the go-to choices being chocolate eclairs and a classic quiche lorraine.  Try starting with the latter so that you can tingle and tease your salivating taste buds with the savoury blend of smoked ham lardons and creamy cheese. The quiche is delicate, extremely crumbly (but not in a falling to bits manner), buttery and rich, and is the perfect base for the creamy, fluffy, and slightly salty (those lardons are essential) and altogether exquisite filling. Every time I take a bite of a good quiche lorraine, I revel in the simplicity of this classic pie, a reminder that complex does not always equate to better.

And then it’s onto dessert.

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The chocolate eclair has a crunchy exterior which gives way to a molten lava like cream centre inviting you to almost gasp at what oozes out in front of you.  You should devour the sweet pastry as if it were your last, and promise yourself that this is only the beginning of many romantic rendezvouses with this particular patisserie.

 Stay tuned for more of my Parisian escapades in upcoming posts. 

Merci beaucoup!

Cooking up a Balinese food storm in Sanur

Last summer we decided it would be fun to try a cooking class while holidaying in Bali and we found Caraway Cooking Class on TripAdvisor and quickly decided it was exactly what we were looking for. My boyfriend, mom and I were picked up at 4 pm by the owner of the school, the lovely Ibu Dewi, who drove us back to the cooking school, which is also her private home a little bit outside of Sanur.

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Cooking up a storm in Ibu Dewi’s kitchen.

When we arrived at the school Dewi’s best friend and young niece were both there to greet us, and we quickly got started on our lesson. We spent around three hours preparing traditional Balinese food, and we also ended up making Indonesian beef rendang (which is not something that is usually on the menu, but we requested it and Dewi was kind enough to go out of her way to show us how to make my favorite dish). Ma kasih ya Dewi! 🙂

We spent the late afternoon and early evening learning how to make homemade vegetable spring rolls, grilled chicken satay with peanut sauce, mi goreng (fried noodles), acar kuning (yellow pickled vegetables) and a coconut dessert. It was a truly spectacular day, and I would recommend anyone in the Sanur area to take the same class.

Our entire experience was very hands on, which we all really loved as we got to learn the intricacies of each and every dish we made, and obvs asked a ton of questions along the way. As I spent my childhood in Indonesia I’ve always been accustomed to (and loved) spicy food, but I really didn’t realize how many chili peppers typical Indonesian and Balinese dishes contain, especially in notoriously hot dishes like rendang.

One of the tricks to making awesome Indonesian food is to prep your herbs and spices before you start cooking, so that you can easily throw them in when their cooking time comes. We spent about an hour preparing all our garlic, chili, ginger and spices, so that once it came down to cooking everything, it all came together in a flash.

The final Caraway Cooking Class feast consisted of beef rendang slow cooked with coconut milk, red rice, grilled chicken satay with peanut sauce, yellow  pickled vegetables, mi goreng (fried noodles) and a beautiful coconut pudding for dessert.

This was the first time any of us had tried a professional cooking class (but certainly not our last), and we not only walked away with extremely happy stomachs and giant smiles on our faces, but also with a rich understanding for the basics of Balinese cooking.

Terima kasih banyak Caraway Cooking Class. Sampai jumpa lagi!

 

The 6 best menu picks at Cafe Central in Paris

Cafe Central is a French bistro located on Rue Cler in the 7th arrondissement in the center of Paris. Right next to the Eiffel Tower, this is a pedestrian street lined with beautiful shops, cafes and grocers, with focus on the best products a foodie could wish for. From one of the best cheese mongers in the city, to an establishment dedicated to selling only the finest wild caught salmon, this is the perfect place to spend a few hours wandering and grazing on a lazy weekend afternoon.

Cafe Central is located about halfway down Rue Cler, and the service is classically Parisian, but more friendly. The waiters will go out of their way to make sure you have an exquisite dining experience, but remember that this is Paris and your meal will take time, as it’s not untypical to sit down for two to three hours to enjoy your Saturday lunch.

Since moving to Paris we have been coming here on a regular basis (monthly really), so I do think it’s fair to say that I’m quite the expert when it comes to the Cafe Central menu. They have specials on a daily basis which vary, and are always a treat, but here are the menu staples that you can enjoy any day at this classic bistro on Rue Cler.

1. Escargot XXL

Escargot XXL are traditional French snails served in garlic butter, but these are about double as big as the ones you’re probably used to. I didn’t used to be a fan of escargot myself, but after living in France for a few years they’ve now grown on me, and the ones served at Cafe Central are the best I’ve had yet.

escargot

2. Smoked salmon blinis with sour cream

Salmon and blinis are a starter many of you may recognize, but what makes Cafe Central’s version stand out is the incredibly fresh salmon which is presented in such a delicate and thoughtful manner. Served with sour cream, fresh lemon and dill, the only reason a person wouldn’t like this is if they don’t like fish or salmon.

In which case, they probably should stay away from this appetizer anyway and order the next thing on my list instead.

3. French onion soup

Everyone knows what French onion soup is, but it’s not always easy to find something worth writing about when it comes to a version of the classic French dish in Paris. Cafe Central, however, not only ensures that the onions in the soup are caramelized beyond recognition, and in turn, sweet to the point of tasting close to a dessert, but the cheese and bread crust is something that even Jamie Oliver would have a hard time competing with.

french onion soup

The cheese crust is so well ingrained in the soup bowl that you can’t see any of the savory liquid below it, and it takes a few heavy swats with the spoon before you break through the wall. And once you do, you’ll find yourself greedily wrestling with the strings of cheesy emulsion that are making their way to your deliriously happy mouth. Don’t say I didn’t warn you – this soup is addictive.

4. Confit de Canard

Duck? Good? Duck fat? Good? Duck roasted in it’s own fat, and then served on top of roasted potatoes? Damn good.

And that’s what this classically French dish is really, a simple marriage of a duck and it’s own worst (or best) body part, which funnily enough, becomes a concoction that could be likened to food heaven. Eat it with gusto, or don’t eat it at all.

5. Parmesan risotto with brown butter scallops and rucola 

This is exactly what it sounds like – a beautifully creamy, cheesy risotto topped with flash fried scallops topped with rucola and balsamic reduction. Served with an extra bowl of Parmesan on the side, this meal is the epitome of all that is beautiful about all carb, protein & cheese combinations.

scallop parmesan risotto

6. The bread – the bread – the bread

The baguette served with your meal at Cafe Central is locally sourced (I believe it comes from the bakery down the street), and it is absolutely out of this world. With the perfect crunch on the outside, and fluffy, light dough on the inside, make sure to save some for the end of your meal, to use to scoop up the soupy remnants of your main dish.

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Stay tuned for more food adventures from #thetastytraveller!