Category Archives: Restaurant

Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Scotland

I am on a mission to eat an authentic dish from every country in the world, right here in Toronto. You can find all past recaps here.

OH Ye’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afooooooore ye!
But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonny, bonny banks o’ Loch Looooooomond

For some reason I’ve had that song in my head for like a month. I’ve been singing it to Evan and Tilly in my best Scottish accent (which is awful). They like it.

Anyway, last week the bloggers and lagers ate Scotland! Aye, we ate it good. I looked up the best place to eat Scottish food in Toronto and the overwhelming Google search result was the Caledonian, a pub on College Street, so that’s where we headed.

(source)

It’s all cute and Scottish in there.

Not only are they known for their authentic Scottish food, but also their whisky — they have over 200 different kinds! Their whisky menu was like a novel, it was crazy.

Now, obviously we could not drink all the whisky or we’d be right blootered, but we wanted to do a flight and the Whisky tour of Scotland seemed like a good place to start. It came with six different kinds, each a half ounce: Auchentoshan (12 year Lowland), Glenmorangie (1o year Highland), Glenfiddich (15 year Speyside), Highland Park (12 year Island), Longrow (10 year Campbeltown) and Ardbeg (10 year Islay). Perhaps those mean something to those of you who are whisky savvy, but they didn’t mean much to us.

I like a good whisky with coke or in a cocktail, but I’ve never ordered just whisky on its own. I’m not sure if its something I would make a habit of doing but I enjoyed our tasting. I could taste differences between the whiskies but I dinnae if I could elaborate on the flavour notes or anything. Some of them were definitely more strong than others, and one of them, I think the glenfiddich, was really smoky. This is a very helpful review, I know. I should have taken notes.

I also ordered a Tennents lager, I was excited it was on tap!

Onto the food. If you read my English food post you know I was a little iffy on haggis, Scotland’s national dish.

Traditionally it’s a savoury pudding with lamb heart, liver and lungs, minced with animal fat (suet), onion, oatmeal, stock, spices, etc. and boiled in the lamb’s stomach (though now apparently they use artificial casing), usually served with mashed turnips and potatoes (or neeps and tatties) and whisky. I cannae say it sounds the most appetizing (minus the neeps and tatties).

But, when in Scotland. We’d be a bunch of dunderheads if we didn’t try it.

We started with the Taste of Scotland appetizer with a Scotch egg, sausage rolls and haggis fritters.

It was pure dead barry (fantastic). I loved it all, especially that Scotch egg! If you want to try haggis but are a little weird about it, I feel like a haggis fritter is a good way to get your feet wet. I don’t think I’ve ever met a fritter I didn’t like. The haggis fritter was no exception.

Since I had warmed up to the haggis, for my main dish I just went for it. I ordered the Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, Scotland’s national dish of lamb, oats and spices served on a bed of turnip (neeps) and potato (tatties) mash.

Michelle ordered the same and Casey got the vegetarian haggis. I have to say that I really enjoyed that the haggis did not appear to have a casing. I was not creeped out by it at all and actually thoroughly enjoyed my dish. I ate every bite. It just tasted like a mellow lamb dish, but there’s also a warm and earthy dimension in there. Almost like a meatloaf I guess. My only wish was that there was a wee bit more gravy, but that’s a common wish for me.

I noticed that deep fried Mars bars was on the menu for dessert and I was sad because I wanted to order it, but I also wanted to eat an authentic Scottish dessert. GUESS WHAT. A quick Google search confirmed that deep fried Mars bars are in fact a Scottish dessert! (of course they are!) They originated as a novelty item at Scottish chip shops. So, I had an excuse to order it.

Anything in the name of research! Shovelled that right into the ol’ gob. I love a deep fried Mars bar and it’s been so long since my last one! Almost had to unbutton my breeks after that but it was so worth it.

And that’s Scotland!

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Alcatraz, Burritos, Sea Lions and Garlic

Alriiiight, last day in San Francisco! I keep wanting to call it San Fran but I’ve heard locals don’t like it and never call it that. One of the guys at Hotel Diva said people who live there just call it “The City” but I don’t think I’m allowed. I don’t get it though, San Fran just rolls off the tongue so easily!

Anyway, we had a lot packed into our final day. Get ready for a ton of pictures. First up we were headed to Alcatraz. Dawn and I checked out of our hotel (they held our suitcases for us all day which was great) and headed down to the harbour to catch our 11am ferry to the island.

Goooooood morning San Francisco!

It was FOR ONCE a gorgeous day. We originally had our tour scheduled for Monday but there were downpours all day so I’m glad we were able to change it. This day was a bit chilly (seriously it was warmer in Toronto that day) but it was sunny and most importantly, no rain! The best day to go.

Hello, Alcatraz.

Before we started our indoor audio tour we had an outdoor tour learning the history of the island with Dr. Ranger Steve.

He kind of reminded me of Rick Moranis, so naturally I loved him immediately.

As we learned from Ranger Steve, Native American activists took over Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971 and held it as Indian Land, led by the Indians of All Tribe (little tidbit I did not know!). Hence the “Indians Welcome” above and the writing below:

Ranger Steve also said that whenever that water tower is repainted they invite the Indians back to paint those words again.

I also did not know that Alcatraz Island is essentially a bird sanctuary, which makes sense since there are no natural predators on the island. There are thousands of nesting seabirds hanging around singing their bird songs.

The island is now a National Park and it is honestly beautiful, with lush gardens…

Stunning views…

And interesting architecture.


And that’s just the outside, onto the actual prison!

It was creepy.

I mean…

Creepy.

Dawn and I did the self-guided audio tour and it was fantastic! It was easy to follow and well-paced so you didn’t feel like you were rushing through, but you could pause it if you wanted to stop and linger at a certain area. There were so many interesting facts and a lot of interviews with past inmates and wardens with realistic sound effects, which really brought the tour to life. I think I might have preferred it to a guided tour.

Thinking of all the men kept there gives me a heavy feeling.

The isolation rooms were the creepiest, in my opinion.

We were able to walk around in there, known as “the hole”, and it immediately made my skin crawl.

Some of the cells were set up to look like not such a horrible prison time.

They were able to have musical instruments and hobby activity items in their cells. On the audio tape one of the wardens was saying that one of the prisoners (I can’t remember who or if the person’s name was mentioned) enjoyed playing the trombone in his cell. I would murder the person in the cell next to me if they played their trombone all day. Oh I probably shouldn’t joke about that…

You knew that picture was coming.


One row of cells faced large windows that overlooked the water and the city of San Francisco and the audio mentioned those cells had a spectacular view of the sunset. I don’t know but it to me it seemed…not that bad. For a prison. Obviously it would not be a wonderful time, but I’ve visited other prisons and think there are worse ones to be in, especially considering this place was supposed to be for the worst of the worst (though Ranger Steve mentioned that a lot of prisoners were there because of crimes they committed in other prisons). One inmate in an audio interview said the worst thing was sometimes you could hear sounds from the city — especially on New Years’ Eve, laughter and celebrating would drift over the water — so you knew exactly what you were missing. Lives were happening outside, and you could hear it, but you were stuck.

That would suck for sure, but I’ll tell you the food didn’t look so bad.

According to the above display the dining hall was considered the most dangerous part of the prison, but at least they had good food.

I would eat all of those things. If I was in prison I’d want to be running the cafeteria like Red in the first season of Orange Is The New Black. That would be my jam.

It was a great tour — definitely do it if you have a chance! Once you’re on the island you can stay as long as you like and catch whatever ferry back. We were able to do everything in a few hours.

Byeeeeeeee.

Maybe you noticed this but Dawn was donning her sailor’s hat for the occasion, so she used that as an intro to get into the captain’s area of the ferry boat (“Hello sir, as you can see I am also a captain”).

We told the captain that we have driven boats before (I mean I don’t like to brag but I was pretty pro at driving that cumbersome houseboat at Melon’s bachelorette) so he could let us dock the boat. It’d be fine. Probably no one would get killed. Unfortunately he didn’t let us touch anything until the boat was safely docked, but I think we look like we knew what we were doing.

I sadly did not think to bring my captain’s hat (of course I have one), but the captain generously let me wear his.

Just tell people you’re from Canada and they’ll let you do anything.

I actually bought our souvenir photo because I liked it so much.

Ahoy!

After Alcatraz we headed to the Mission District because nearly every single person who recommended eating somewhere said a burrito in the Mission was a must. We asked Kiley if there was anywhere in particular we should go and she said she really enjoyed La Taqueria.

Definitely a no frills dive type place, which are usually my favourite.

When I look it up now I see that there are in fact many restaurants in the Mission with “tacqueria” in their name so, whoops. I don’t even know if we went to the right one. But it doesn’t even matter because I had the best burrito of my life there.

That photo doesn’t do anything justice but that was the freshest most delicious bundle of beef burrito goodness. I could have eaten several.

After checking that off the ol’ to-eat list we Ubered to Chinatown to wait for the Big Bus there (there’s no stop in the Mission). We chose that stop because I hadn’t really seen Chinatown yet, aside from driving past it. It’s quite spectacular and we had time to do some perusing before our bus came.

And then we got back on the bus and rode it to Pier 39. It looked like a really fun area and I wish we had a full day to explore it. Another thing for next time.

I would have loved to go into all the shops but we did see the Pier 39 sea lions!

They’re so cute and funny.

Lots of anger happening on those docks when a sea lion would suddenly move and disrupt the rest of them. We saw a few entertaining fights.

You can read about the history of those sea lions here, but basically after the big San Francisco earthquake of 1989 the sea lions arrived and took over those docks. There was plenty of food in bay and no predators so it seemed like a good place to hang out. So now they just live there.

While we were hanging with the sea lions we met up with one of Dawn’s friends from Ontario, Melissa, who recently moved to the Bay area for work and was meeting us for dinner.

It was her first time in San Francisco as well, so we walked around with her for a while, making our way to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Another cute area. I never got to eat clam chowder though!

And then, the last supper. Thanks to your recommendations we went to The Stinking Rose, a garlic restaurant!

They season their garlic with food! I love garlic so I was excited for a garlicky time. It definitely looked garlicky in there.

We started with warm garlic rolls with garlic butter.

And then ordered a bunch of dishes to share. Garlic focaccia with garlic spinach fondue.

Garlic meatballs with cheese.

And a garlic shrimp skillet with a garlic sauce.

Everything was so good, and even though it was very garlicky the garlic was not overpowering. They even had garlic wine! But our sever (who was fantastic and hilarious) told me not to get it because it was awful, so I felt I shouldn’t go against his recommendation.

I did get the garlic ice cream though.

Which was a lot more delicious than it sounds.

It was a great dinner. Not cheap, but so good, and it was the last meal so you gotta do it right.

After eating all the garlic, I headed to the airport to get on my red eye flight to go back to Toronto. I’m sure my seat mates enjoyed my garlickiness. Sorry!

Oh San Francisco, you beautiful, crazy, fun city, you will forever be in my heart!

I had such a good time adventuring around with the Dawnald!

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California Rainin’

After my Lake Tahoe and Sacramento adventure with Cely, I made my way to San Francisco to spend the next few days with my good pal Dawn. I mentioned in my last post that I took the Amtrak train (very similar to the GO Train in Ontario) and I’m so glad Cely told me about that being an option. I was going to rent a car but it would have cost me at least $100 just for that one day and then I would have had to deal with traffic and the stress of driving on rainy unfamiliar roads. The train was leisurely and only $33 (American, but still big savings). It dropped me off outside of the city and then I just hopped on a shuttle bus that took me right downtown. I had planned on taking an Uber over to Dawn’s hotel but it was only about 2km away and it wasn’t raining (for once, it rained most of our time in SF) so I decided to hoof it through the financial district.

I only had a carry-on suitcase and it didn’t love being dragged over the cobblestones on Market Street but I made it!

Dawn and her colleague Lynne had been in SF for a conference all weekend and were staying at the Hotel Diva on Geary Street right by Union Square (the outskirts of the Tenderloin, which looks pretty fun but has some sketchy areas — we asked our Uber drivers what area of the city we should go to if we were looking to get robbed and they all said the Tenderloin). I was only in this area for one night but our immediate area seemed super fun. I also have to recommend Hotel Diva. Our room was cute and we LOVED the guys working the front desk, they became our temporary friends, and they had free shots in the lobby every evening!

Again I was only here for one night, but Dawn and Lynne raved about it also.

They also had a TV that took selfies, so we took one with a new friend.

After I dropped my stuff off and settled in, we walked around the neighbourhood until dinner (we asked the lobby guys which streets to avoid and I felt very safe there).

For dinner we went to Colibri Mexican Bistro, since it’s attached to Hotel Diva and is rated on of the top Mexican restaurants in the city (second best I think!). We ordered a bunch of stuff to share.

All delicious. Not the best Mexican I’ve ever had but still very good. I also ordered the corn on the cob, I’ve been big on getting that lately at Mexican restaurants, but sadly it was either over or under cooked so not the best.

Our server was awful though. I think she just forgot we were there. That was our biggest complaint about the place.

After dinner we were chatting with a gay couple in our lobby and they were recommending places for us to go for a quick drink (it was Sunday so we weren’t looking for anything crazy) and one of the places they told us about was a bar called Kozy Kar. They mentioned it had waterbeds as booths so that obviously sold us. We headed there immediately when we heard that.

It was the craziest bar Dawn and I have ever been to. They did indeed have a waterbed in a booth.

Made a new friend in there. And yes I know a waterbed in a bar may not be the most sanitary but I was on vacation and decided not to worry about that.

They also had a hot tub booth.

On the TV screens they showed 70s/80s cereal commercials mixed with 70s…uh…adult movie clips. There were also naked lady cards blown up and used as floor tiles, Playgirl magazine photos in all their glory covering all the bathroom stalls, a stripper pole, mannequins, and who knows what else. We loved it. WELCOME TO SAN FRANCISCO!!!

Dawn asked Lynne if it was the most outrageous bar she had ever been to and Lynne responded that actually, it was the only bar she had ever been to. Whoa whoa wait WHAT?! Great, we’ve corrupted her. We explained that this was not a regular bar setting and not to get too excited because it basically goes downhill from here. She should probably just not ever visit another bar so as to not be disappointed.

We stayed for a couple drinks and then headed back to our hotel to tell the lobby lads about our Kozy Kar adventures and show them our pictures.

They liked.

Monday was the rainiest day we were there so we had mostly indoor activities planned. We woke up and hit the gym, which I was so glad to do after eating and drinking all the things all weekend. After we showered we moved all our stuff to our next hotel. Lynne was leaving that evening so Dawn and I were moving somewhere a bit less expensive for the next couple of nights, San Remo Hotel. It was the cutest. ever.

We had the tennis themed room

It opened in 1906 and is one of the oldest hotels in the city. It’s right on the border of Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach, so great location, and cheaper because there are shared washrooms, though you do have a sink in your room. It wasn’t like a hostel, however. Each toilet and shower was in its own room with a door. Our actual room was small but there were a lot of common areas if you wanted to hang out somewhere. Sort of like a big bed and breakfast. I loved this place and would definitely stay here again.

They had complimentary coffee, tea, hot chocolate and snacks so that made it better also.

After we checked in and dropped off our stuff we Ubered over to the Ferry Building (thank you for recommending it!)

We enjoyed walking through there and looking at all the food places. It reminded me of Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market (though maybe not quite as good? but to be fair we didn’t go on farmer’s market day). It was raining so we couldn’t really check out the outdoor area but inside was fun. Made another friend!

That’s too much to ask, lady.

I snagged some oysters, since those were a big recommendation.

Yesssss. For lunch we went to that Japanese fusion restaurant in there and it was pretty good. And you know I got ice cream from Humphrey Slowcombe.

After wandering around in there for a couple hours we got in another Uber to take us to the Castro (gay district), but our Uber driver was so awesome he wanted to take us on a tour of the city once he found out we were from Canada. He drove us around for about an hour and didn’t even charge us, so that was super nice of him.

He took us down Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world!

You can’t tell from the photo so here’s one from Wikipedia.

The hill was too steep to have a straight road on it so they made eight crazy turns instead. The hilly streets are CRAZY. I would not want to be driving a vehicle with a manual transmission in that city.

We were telling our driver all about Canada (the conversation ended up going there with most of our Uber drivers) and we were saying we didn’t understand the need to own a gun, as we’re not big on guns here (we can’t legally own them, except hunting rifles specifically for hunting and you need to apply for a permit). We can’t even legally carry pepper spray (I do sometimes when I run outside though because I enjoy not getting attacked). Dawn told him that instead of guns, and pepper spray, women are allowed to have grenades. For protection. We just carry grenades around. He was all “WHAT?! I can’t believe you can’t own a gun but you can have grenades!” This went on for a few minutes of him just being bewildered and eventually I felt embarrassed for the poor sucker and told him she was joking. There are no grenades here. I just couldn’t let him leave us thinking Canadian women are carrying grenades around!

After our impromptu rainy San Francisco street tour our driver dropped us off at our destination in the Castro, the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender) San Francisco history museum.

It was a lot smaller than I expected, basically just one room, but it was powerful. You may already know this but San Francisco is one of the largest and most prominent LGBT communities in the world. The museum showed the fights and activism for the LGBT community over decades to obtain basic rights. The videos were really well done and one that stood out to me had a transgender woman talking about how in the 70s (I think it was the 70s) there weren’t a lot of options for feminine men or drag queens — they couldn’t get jobs as women, and they would be fired from their jobs as men once their companies learned about their lifestyle. So, many were forced to take up prostitution to make a living. It was that or be homeless. I just don’t understand how the way someone else is living their life can offend you personally SO MUCH when it has absolutely NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. The struggle for rights continues, as we know, and it’s so unnecessary. Just let people live! The museum was really interesting and enlightening and it’s only $5 to get in so I’d recommend checking it out if you’re in the area.

After that we headed back to our hotel to leisure for a bit. Lynne was off to the airport so it was just Dawn and I for dinner. It was still raining so we popped into the Italian restaurant attached to our hotel — Fior d’Italia, which opened in 1886 and is the oldest Italian restaurant in all of America.

I needed some pasta in my life so I went with the tagliatelle alla bolognese and the house red wine.

No disappointments there!

After dinner we went for a walk in our neighbourhood over to Trader Joes — I’ve never been and it was everything I’ve been anticipating and more! Canada really needs to get on that. We’re seriously missing out.

And then it was back to our hotel to bed. More San Francisco adventures to come.

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High School Eating Parties

It feels weird to be writing normal things right now. I’m devastated and terrified about what’s going on in the world and it doesn’t feel right to just be writing as usual. I don’t really know how to handle it and my blog seems so trivial right now, but I don’t currently have anything genuine to add to the conversation that will help bring about change. Or at least nothing that I feel comfortable writing an entire post about. But normal is comforting. So, I’m going to do some weekend recapping.

On Friday evening my high school friends and I had a dinner party with two of our former teachers turned friends, Marni and Mr. B (I still can’t call him anything but that!). We planned this back in November and it’s been a while since I’ve seen either of them so I’ve been looking forward to it. I was also really looking forward to talking to Mr. B about everything that’s been happening since Trump’s inauguration. He was our history teacher all through high school and many times lately I’ve wished I was back in his class discussing how NOT NORMAL (but unfortunately not unprecedented) this is. Mr. B was always a voice of reason and I had so many thought-provoking discussions in his class so I wanted to hear what he thought of this insanity.

We got those discussions out of the way early on and then had a really great night telling stories and reminiscing about our high school times.

My side of the table missed the memo about having a meatball prop.

Pretty similar picture to a dinner party we had at Mr. B’s a few years ago.

It was summer then, though, so we’re definitely all looking a bit brighter.

We went through all our old yearbooks, which is always a good time. Dawn and I in Grade 9!

I’ve really only ever had two hair styles, middle part and side part.

That picture isn’t in black and white because it was just soo long ago, but because our school was so small we didn’t have a big yearbook budget. Everything was black and white.

Also Grade 9, semi-formal.

You may recognize myself, Joel (back when he had luscious locks), my friend Beth, my bestie Lisa, Emily and Dawn. Just babies!

We had such a good night. I had a big love burst for this group.

Saturday morning I got up early and headed to an OrangeTheory class. I’m still loving it. I upped my membership to unlimited, so I’ve been going four times a week the last few weeks. I’m definitely seeing some results, too, which is nice. Mostly in my limbs and chest right now, which is the story of my life. Nungas are always the first to lose and first to gain (this is more annoying than it sounds). It takes a while for my midsection to catch up.

Saturday night Evan and I  had a dinner date with my pal CathRON (she’s appeared in my blog a few times, Kitten the Cat‘s owner for context) and her boyfriend Trevor.

That picture is from 2013, we need a new one. The flash on my phone at the time sure liked to make me look fluorescent. Anyway, Catherine and I met when we worked together at Diary Queen when we were in high school. It was a high school themed weekend. I also worked with Trevor at Dairy Queen, they recently reunited which makes me so happy!!!

We went to Loka on Queen West, which opened in 2016 and is known for having inventive, locally-sourced dishes. Our original plan was to do the Winterlicious prix fixe menu (Winterlicious is an event that runs for two weeks every year and gives Torontonians the chance to try a value menu at many of the city’s restaurants) but then we noticed we could taste the entire restaurant for only $12 more per person. That seemed to be the better value to me. Super small portions though. For example our first dish was a whitefish chowder, and while delicious it was literally one spoonful.

Afterwards Evan was all “I bet they had an entire giant vat of that chowder back in the kitchen, they couldn’t put a full ladle in our dishes?!” Yeah. I feel that. I should mention that Evan did not like this restaurant at all, it was just not his thing. On Sunday he said he had a nightmare Saturday night that we were back at the restaurant eating more food. We had a really good time because Catherine and Trevor are a good time and we LOVED our server (well I did) but I agree the food wasn’t anything to write home about. A few things were pretty good though. I liked these little sourdough toasts topped with preserved plums and goat milk jam.

And we all loved the pan roasted mushrooms with truffled potatoes and deer lichen. I think it was the stand out dish of the night.

Deer lichen is a moss that grows on trees, so we asked our server where the moss came from and he said they have a guy who is a local forager that they source it from. I thought that was interesting. I asked our server if I could become a forager and just bring them things that I find out in the wild but he didn’t make it seem like Loka would go for that…

We also tried the bone marrow. Both mine and Evan’s first time trying, but Catherine and Trevor had been telling us earlier how much they both loved it (not from here). As soon as it arrived at our table I saw Catherine side eye that bread. She said bone marrow was best served with soft bread as opposed to crusty bread, so she was not impressed.

It definitely wasn’t Evan’s thing but I enjoyed it. I liked that it was all smooth and buttery. I do agree that it would be best served with a soft bread to sop up all that marrow goodness. The crusty bread was pretty useless. And we needed more of it!

We had eight courses in total, which sounds like a lot but they were so tiny that I left there barely full at all. We had a lot of beer though, so that helped. It was a good night and I’m excited to hang out with those two again!

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Varadero Restaurants

Just one more vacation post after this one and I’m all done! And the next postis Havana, so hopefully it will actually be interesting. First, some food stuff in Varadero, Cuba.

The reason we were most excited about staying at a resort in town was we could actually do more off-resort eating! We had such a good time at Lenny’s Playa Prohibida last year with Coco Indio that we wanted more Cuban restaurant times. Again, Varadero is a tourist town, and the restaurants were obviously touristy, but still different as you won’t find any chains there (unlike in the Bahamas when there was a Dominos Pizza across the street from our resort). And it wasn’t only tourists eating. I love that Cuba is full of unique locally-owned restaurants and shops, and I hope that doesn’t change.

First we have Paladar Nonna Tina, an Italian restaurant that was recommended to us by our friend Corey (and recommended to him by a guy he works with). I had checked reviews also and had a list of Varadero restaurants to try, and this was one of them. Varadero has a double-decker bus that you can take downtown and then along the entire peninsula, so we did that one day and then went to Nonna Tina’s for lunch afterwards. It’s on a little side street right by Hotel Los Delfines.

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It was so cute, and I can’t believe we found real wood-fired oven Italian pizza in Cuba! We both ordered beer and started with an appetizer, rosemary with olive oil on focaccia. We did not realize at the time that it was going to be as large as a big pizza but we weren’t complaining.

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It was goooood. J’adore.

Evan and I each ordered a personal pizza, thinking they would be on the smaller side and we could share both. Once again, they were huuuuuge.

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I got the Hawaiian, and Evan ordered a random assortment of goodness.

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Both of them were seriously delicious and I was really surprised. The food was just excellent, and very reasonably priced as for all three of those pizzas and our beer we paid $20 CUC (tip was included on our bill but we still left a bit extra). We couldn’t finish everything but we packed it up in a box and brought it back to our room. We had enough leftover to make another entire pizza! It was the perfect late night snack over the next couple of days.

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I can’t recommend that place enough. I saw people ordering pasta that looked amazing as well. We will definitely be going back next time we’re in Varadero.

Another day we went to the outdoor restaurant El Rancho for lunch, which was just up the street from our resort.

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It has a great atmosphere in there, with live music as we ate, which is always a plus!

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(video here)

This is one thing that I really love about Cuba that I haven’t seen in other Caribbean countries I’ve traveled to, live music everywhere!

They seem to specialize in seafood but I wasn’t feeling it that day. I ordered the pork steak, which came with potatoes and rice. Nothing too exciting but it was pretty good, and great value at $7 CUC.

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That onion sauce in the little dish on the side though…I don’t know what was in that (aside from onions) but it was incredible and I could not get enough of it. I wanted to pour it over my entire plate. My mouth is watering thinking about it now.

Definitely a great place for lunch.

Our last restaurant experience was on the rooftop patio La Vaca Rosada, on the opposite side of the strip from us, closer to the hotel Roc Barlovento. We took a cab back and it was $5 CUC.

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I had a list of Varadero restaurants on my phone that I made before I left, which I compiled after reading a bunch of reviews. Beside this one I had written “rooftop patio!!! MUST GO” so, that was a must go. It has amazing reviews and people say it’s the best restaurant in Varadero. We eventually made it there on our last night, and I can’t say if it’s the best in Varadero, but it was the best of the restaurants we went to.

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I love the all the servers were wearing pink shirts.

We started with a side order of fries.

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And drinks. I got the Hemingway Daiquiri, with rum and grapefruit juice.

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It is called Hemingway’s Daiquiri because he drank so many of them at El Floridita in Havana (which we visited and I’ll get to in my Havana post) where he spent many days drinking in the ’30s and ’40s. It was delicious.

La Vaca Rosada’s specialties are pizza and seafood, and since we had already done the pizza thing we decided to seafood it up. I ordered the grilled fish.

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I asked our server what kind of fish I was eating, and I’m pretty sure he said “bargo” which I had never heard of and I still can’t really find anything about…but it was so, so good. It was cooked perfectly and super flavourful. I loved it and just demolished it. Also really good was the mash on the side, and I am not entirely sure what root vegetable that was made of either (squash or pumpkin I think), but it was garlicky and also very good.

Evan ordered the shrimp.

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Which were also garlicky and delicious. I definitely helped him out with those. We both really enjoyed our meals here. I wish we had tried more things!

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So that was a great final dinner in the Varadero.

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Next up, Havana. Have a great weekend!!

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Happy or Hungry Eats the World: La Creole (Haiti)

I am on a mission to eat an authentic dish from every country in the world, right here in Toronto. You can find all past recaps here.

Next up in my culinary adventuring is Haiti, which shares a border with the Dominican Republic.

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Here’s a better visual.

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A couple weeks ago I had another dinner date with my coworkers Frances and Rachel, also for Winterlicious before it ended. This time we went to La Creole, a Haitian and French Caribbean restaurant on St. Clair West.

Haitian cuisine is similar to much of the caribbean, but does have its own unique flavours also. It has a lot of French, African, Spanish and Taíno Amerindian influence. According to this website, “the Tainos left their staples, the Spanish carried their cooked green peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, the French brought their stews and soups, the Africans introduced okra, pigeon peas.” So I guess they just have the best of everything!

The Haitian food culture is pretty underrepresented in Toronto — I think La Creole is the only Haitian restaurant we have, and I’m glad it exists! It’s really nice in there.

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Especially with the French pop music playing in the background. J’adore.

We started with Caribbean cocktails, as you do. I asked our server which was the most traditional Haitian cocktail and she recommended Le zouk, with rhum, passionfruit and mint, so Frances and I went with that.

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Ours were very good, though a bit pricy for their size (I think they were $9). I can’t remember what Rachel ordered (it looks like a mojito but I don’t think it was) but she said she enjoyed hers well.

To start I ordered the Akkra Ak Bannan.

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Codfish fritters with sweet plantain puree and criollo sauce. I was a big fan of this, especially with the sauce.

We ordered from the prix fixe Winterlicious menu but also supplemented our dinner with an appetizer from their main menu. We got le plat fritay, an assorted platter of amuse-bouche with dips and a side of spicy pickled slaw (pikliz) and watercress dip.

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Really I ordered it because I have always wanted to say “amuse-bouche.” There were crispy creole seasoned black eye pea fritters (my favourite), tostones (crispy plantain slices, also popular in Cuba!), potato fritters, and malanga root fritters. All very good but I do sort of wish I had ordered something different for my initial appetizer because I was pretty frittered-out by the end of that platter. We all shared it, but it was a lot. That watercress dip though, oh man. I loved that.

Frances and I both ordered the Poul Boukannen Ak Gwayave Ak Makawoni-O-Gratin for our mains.

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Or grilled creole chicken with guava BBQ sauce served with creamy creole macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese! It was all so good. I was really impressed. Rachel ordered the plantain lasagne and that was also delicious and something I would definitely go for next time. Plantain lasagne, like plantains instead of the noodles. Who knew that would be so good.

Our prix fixe menu included dessert and the exotic fruit was catching my eye but when we asked about the fruit our server listed a bunch of fruits that are available in Canada, like pineapple and papaya. I was hoping for something a bit more actually exotic. Oh well. I ordered La Tropicana and have no regrets.

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Golden butter cake soaked in whiskey, raisin and coconut served with sauce anglaise. Amazing. Dense and buttery and wonderful.

La Creole was a delicious experience and I would definitely go back! And that is Haiti crossed off my map. Onto the next!

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