Tuesday 31 July 2012

Limon: A Hidden Gem in a Gem of a Country

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Oh hi, guess what ... I'm in Turkey right now. On the Bodrum Peninsula to be exact.  I've been here for a week, and I'll be here for another. So far it's been a lot of sun soaking, kebab eating, water swimming fun. Also, I have a secret, and I'm going to tell you about it.

Not just any little secret, a big secret.  This secret has to do with food (of course), and is all about one of my favourite restaurants in the entire world.  Slowly, over the years this restaurant has grown, and become more popular – something they totally deserve - but I also feel somewhat possessive about it.  It’s so special I want to keep it all to myself and bask in its splendour.

I visit this place as often as I can, which is sadly only every couple of years, because it’s not anywhere close to Toronto, or Canada, or North America for that matter. Nope, this delightful favourite of mine can only be found in Turkey, outside the cities and villages on a gentle, but steady slope that leads straight into the Mediterranean sea.

Limon Restaurant and Café is only open during the summer season, and other than the washroom and kitchen, you wont find a roof over your head anywhere inside. Feeling more like ramshackle garden-party than a restaurant, there isn’t a bad seat in the entire restaurant. Tables are scattered around the tiered landscape and each is different from the next, each chair (or sofa) looks as though it once belonged to your very hip grandmother, and each setting has a perfect view of the perfect sunset.  To call this place magical, is an understatement.

The best night for all is to arrive about an hour before sunset so that you don’t miss a second of it. Start with a cocktail from their very extensive menu and then move on to their variety of hot and cold mezes (like tapas) which you can easily fill up on.  It’s rare that we order anything beyond that. Experience has shown that they put their full love and attention into the mezes versus the mains, but I have tried some of the seafood, and it’s pretty hard to beat.

The spread you see before you included falafel, hummus, fava bean puree, yoghurt with dill, stuffed vine leaves and zucchini flower, smoked eggplant, watermelon and feta, zucchini with dill, fava bean with tomato, and potato wedges (out of place, but delicious none the less) – a veritable feast to say the least. 

If you find yourself in Turkey, more specifically if you find yourself anywhere near the Bodrum Peninsula, treat yourself to an evening of great drinks, delicious food, a view of all views and an atmosphere to make you want to stay forever. It keeps me coming back again, and again.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia – Part 2

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English Bay sunset

With three solid days of outdoor pursuits under our belt, Other Half and I made a brief sojourn over to the mainland to visit one of my all time favourite cities, Vancouver.  For it’s food, scenery, and lifestyle, Vancouver will always impress me as the city that did it right, and it’s residents seemingly take full advantage, a fact that I’m both impressed by, and jealous of. Mountains! Ocean! Full city living! Ah, bliss … 2 nights was not enough here.

Our ambitious plans of completing the Grouse Grind the afternoon we arrived quickly fell apart as we spotted the extraordinarily fluffy king sized bed.  It was like a cloud, and what was supposed to be a quick rest before heading out soon turned into a two hour nap and our window for the Grind had closed.  No matter, we were in Vancouver and knew a good meal would quickly erase any lingering thoughts of climbing a mountain of stairs (literally) for fun.

Have you heard of Guu? Have you Guu’d? Because if you haven’t … I can’t recommend it enough.  A small family of Japanese Izakaya restaurants, Guu is a legend in Toronto, of which there are two locations, but originally hails from Vancouver (which has five locations). Each Guu location is slightly different from the next, a different theme, different house specialties, different experiences, but all of them without a doubt (or at least the three I’ve now been to) are awesome.

And so it was that on our first night in Vancouver we made a pilgrimage to Guu Original.  For the most part, Guu is like Japanese tapas, perfect for sharing, order lots, and enjoy the experience. I won’t go into detail about what we ate, just know that there was a lot and it was all delicious.  The chefs wore hats that claimed “Guuing may be addictive” … They don’t know how right they are.

The remainder of the first night was relaxed, involved cupcakes, and a good movie. Sometimes it’s nice to make a strange city feel like home.

No trip to the West Coast is complete without some sort of water activity, and so the next day we woke up early and headed out to Deep Cove for some laid-back sea kayaking (read: no rapids, no currents, just nature and fun … and sore arms).

Deep Cove, BC

Deep Cove is the perfect spot if you’re new to kayaking, or want a more relaxed journey on the water.  It has a ton of land-meets-sea to explore and wildlife to see. Rentals are available from the Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre, and include brief instructions on how to paddle, what to do if your capsize, and some great spots to explore. Overall it was a great experience.

Before leaving Deep Cove, we stopped in at a little place for lunch that I had found online, and boy oh boy am I glad we did! Honey Doughnuts and Goodies was exactly what the doctor ordered. Famous, obviously, for their honey doughnuts, we almost went back to get a couple more for the road … we resisted, but barely. Dense, but light, dripping with a honey glaze and still warm from the oven, we happily ate one before our main lunch arrived, and the other quickly after.  If I lived in Vancouver, I’m pretty sure I would be making regular trips to Deep Cove just for the doughnuts!

After the kayaking and doughnuts, the rest of the trip was a fairly gluttonous one.  While on our way to a recommended Thai restaurant, we convinced ourselves into going to another Guu (Guu Garden) instead – turns out Guuing really is addictive.

I wont wax poetic about the other great meal we had here, just know that I’m not one for repetition when it comes to food on vacation in a city like Vancouver, and I could have happily gone to all five Guu’s if we had the time.

The following day, our last in Vancouver before heading back to Victoria to hang out with the family again, we opted to spend the morning wandering around the wonder that is Stanley Park.  Spending time getting lost on the trails was a great way to say goodbye to this great city and really take in all it has to offer.

Obviously it was time for one last meal before catching the ferry and so we headed straight to the food trucks. I love food trucks for their (usual) creativity, and each city seems to offer it’s own flavour.
Stop #1 was to Japadog, an infamous institution of a food cart in Vancouver. It started in 2005 when Vancouver still faced many street food restrictions, namely, if it wasn't a hot dog, you probablu couldn't sell it. With flavours like Terimayo that includes teriyaki, mayo, seaweed and more, the flavour combinations are unique but not to be missed.  Not even close to your average hotdog cart.

Okonomi from Japadog

Because one lunch wasn’t enough, we also stopped off at Tacofino, one of the many roaming food trucks within the city. You guys … best … fish … taco … ever! Ever. The fish was light, the slaw was crunchy, the salsa was fresh, the combo was to die for. 

After 3 food filled days in the city, it was time to head back to the island. The rest of the vacation consisted of hanging out, eating sushi, some fresh caught fish courtesy of Other Half and his brother waking up at 4am to go fishing for the day, and a return trip to Blue Fox Café (it was that good).

Eventually it was time to come home again, which is always a sad but happy affair. If you haven’t been to the west coast, go. If you’re from the west coast, please appreciate it. And if you’re planning on going, enjoy each day because there is so much on offer… it’s an extremely hard place to dislike, you’d have to try awfully hard.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia: Part 1

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Okay, I may have visited the west coast over a month ago now, but I'm only just getting the chance to sit down and sort through alllll the photos and gather my thoughts and stories.

My first visit to the west coast was only three summers ago, but I've been drawn there for as long as I can remember. In my mind, I already knew that the west coast was the best coast, just like I know chocolate chip cookies will cheer any emotional ailment.  Needless to say, going back is never an unwelcome journey. With Other Half's brother and sister-in-law living out in Victoria, we have had a great excuse for going, but with their imminent return this summer, my connection to the best coast is gone - it's a sad day in my world.

This trip out was one of outdoor indulgence and food.  Other Half had been more than hinting for awhile now that he'd like our next vacation to be one of nature, and less of culture. And since I go nowhere without researching the food scene, and I knew the west coast had a lot to offer, I was looking forward to a lot of goodies. Generally our days were laid out like this: hike, eat, bike, hike, eat, kayak, eat, eat, home - so I think we succeeded in both of our trip goals.

If you're not an outdoor enthusiast, and you want to consider becoming one, British Columbia should be your first stop. It has so much to offer for beginner to advanced enthusiasts alike that there is literally something for everyone (and if you just want to eat great food and see the mountains while you shop, then that's included too!).

For this trip, we flew in and out of Victoria so that we could maximize our time with family on the weekends and still make a lot of day trips, and a trip to Vancouver, during the week.

After a day of pirate ships and seal feeding in Victoria, we were guided by the family over to East Sooke Park.  The hiking here follows the coast for about 10 kilometers and after the tasting we got of it this time around, I would love to be able to hike it from one end to the other.  Which is supposed to take about 6 hours on moderate to challenging trail ... something I would need to work up to I think!  We stuck to the west end of the park, and thoroughly enjoyed our few hours on the trail.  We were able to take in the biggest slugs I've ever seen, some awesome scenery of the forest and ocean variety, and watch from afar as some seals frolicked on the coast. A blissful beginning.

A look back while hiking the East Sooke Coastal Trail
Naturally after a day of hiking, it was time for some food and so off we went to Blue Fox Cafe.  This is the sister-in-laws favourite brunch in town and with great reason.  This is one of those places where you feel right at home.  It's not huge, it looks cozy, hip and relaxed all at the same time, it's always busy, the service is friendly and cheerful, and the food is A+. Obviously a winning combination because we rolled out of here with full bellies, big smiles, and a desire to return every single day.  Sadly, I didn't capture any photos of this local legend, but picture images of heaping portions, runny eggs, pulled pork, avocados, and specialty coffees and you're pretty much there.

Other Half checks the view as we set out for the day!

With one hike and one feast finished, it's time for a bike trip, no? yes! Before I begin I'll let you know that biking and I have a very one-sided relationship. I love it, it does not love me.  Hauling my butt up a hill on a bike is more likely to end in cursing than anything else. So when we decided to bike the perimeter of Victoria, and it was hillier than I could have expected, well ... let's just say I probably made Other Half blush with my language. And the neurotic side of me still had a great time. Don't judge.

We were able to rent bikes for the day from Cycle BC and took them on a trip around the perimeter of Victoria.  We followed the coast from Beacon Hill Park, up to Mount Douglas and then cut across the city to get back again.  We took our time, stopped a lot for photos and snacks and all in all it was probably about 4 hours.  This was definitely a recommended ride (even with the cursing).

Have I ever mentioned my love for ports and marinas? It borders on obsession.
Apparently, there is no rest for the wicked, because the very next day we got up and hiked Mount Finlayson, located inside Goldstream Provincial Park. We attempted this hike the first time we were in Victoria, 3 summers ago, and about 50 meters after we reached the tree line, Other Half and I both experienced vertigo and had to head back. That was a brand new experience for me, generally i'm the one that goes a little too closely to edge, making everyone nervous, except myself. Never the less it was still one of the highlight of that trip and knew we wanted to attempt it again at some point.  Happily, this time, we made it!

Don't know if you can tell, but this is STEEP!

An idea of the terrain ...  

worth it!

The "mount" part of Mount Finlayson is a fairly loose term here. At just 419 meters high, it's a mole hill compared to other formations in the area. But the 1 - 1.5 hour hike is a steep challenging climb, and when you get above the tree line, the nicely marked trail vanishes and you have to scale a few rocks, which is not necessarily for the faint of heart. That's not meant to scare you off, it's meant to be real. And if you think you can't do it, know this: there were people jogging the trail. That continuously shocks me any time I think about it, but each to their own.  I love this hike and I'll hopefully do it again the next time I'm in town!

waiting for us at the base of the hike!
This was the first half of the trip, in the next post I'll discuss our trip over the mainland for a stay in Vancouver, how much food we indulged in (including a return trip to the Blue Fox), and just how much I love the west coast.

Until then, stay happy, have adventures!

Saturday 14 July 2012

Wide Angle - A look at my day to day

Pin It Hello! Good morning, good afternoon, good evening and good night! (thank you, Jim Carrey)

It's moving day tomorrow. For the last few weeks before heading off to China, Other Half and I will be bouncing around, visiting family and friends, and living out of our suitcases.  That means tomorrow we have to say goodbye to our apartment, which we love, and is roomy, and was a wicked steal thanks to my mad negotiating skills (I'm willing to provide tips, for cash).  But it also means I'm saying goodbye to my kitchen.  Pots, pans, dishes, stand mixers and butter knives are all in boxes, waiting until I can use them again (quite a long time from now).

This signifies the beginning of the new chapter, in real life and here, on this blog.  I'll hopefully be able to whip up a couple things in borrowed kitchens over the next few weeks, but you'll definitely start noticing that the food posts will be less common - my apologies if you got used to coming here just for the food. This blog has always been, for me, a place where I'll share my adventures once we land in China, and the last few months have been about getting into the habit of writing things down - I just happen to spend a lot of my time thinking about, making, and eating food, so other than a few travel posts, that is what I have shared so far.

But when one thing ends, another begins, right? Right! So now, let me introduce to you a series that I like to call Wide Angle. These posts will take a look at what's happening on my camera (and in my life)   beyond the kitchen and beyond the traditional travel posts. This is real life.

The cat. This is how she looks after just having signed the declaration of independence. And this is how she looks when she sleeps.

I make friends with donkeys in the French countryside, no big deal. I also enjoy the company of friends on rooftops at night time.

I ate that ice cream sandwich for breakfast, it was everything I'd hoped it would be. That beautiful purple purse you see there is my new camera bag. Love is not a strong enough word.

In June, Other Half and I travelled to Victoria to visit some family. We hopped over to Vancouver to spend a few days in one of my favourite cities and enjoyed both the sunsets, and the food. Guu is one of our faves and is a must visit when in the city.  A family of restaurants that each have their own look, feel, and menu, we could not get enough. In fact, we may have gone back (to a different location) the second night. There are five locations in Vancouver, and two in Toronto - a new goal is to try them all.

When you're twenty-something you attend a lot of weddings. Luckily, I love them, and I love to see how unique each one can be. In the first it's a tea-party celebration of the upcoming nuptials of one friend, and in the second I felt honoured to attend a Mendhi ceremony the night before the wedding of another.

That's all for now, but you can expect more from me and the Wide Angle series soon. Great days to you all!

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Calm Down Food: Baked Falafel

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baked falafel

Do you ever have those weeks where you worked more than you wanted to, you socialized more than normal, you went away for the weekend, you didn't have time to think, let alone cook?

What happens in your food brain (that's a thing, I'm starting it now, so it's a thing) when those weeks roll around? For me, it's take-out, cocktails, restaurants, more take-out. I would be feeling sloth-like and indulgent.  In fact, I am feeling sloth-like and indulgent, and it has been all take-out and cocktails (I know, poor me), but now I'm ready for a salad. A big salad. An Elaine Benes style Big Salad. I want to slow it down, get in the kitchen, make some mess and come out with something fresh, wholesome and tasty.

baked falafel

Enter the baked falafel. Herby, yet substantial, these morsels of chickpea goodness are exactly what you need after a crazy week.  They are easy to make, they taste great, and they feel good in the ol' bod. They aren't deep fried, they aren't greasy, and they don't take a long time from start to finish. In a word, these are perfect.

Friday 6 July 2012

Browned Butter Brown Sugar Brownies

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Today, I got myself a manicure, and today, I bought Other Half a game he'd been eyeing for a long time. Today I feel like giving. To myself, to others, to the world.

Your gift is a close-your-eyes-chew-slowly-and-sigh-audibly moment. The kind that make you stop and realize that with food like this in the world, it's all going to be okay. Whatever it is.

Your gift comes with a little leg work (or, arm work - you need to stir), but really when all you have to do is melt some butter until it's golden brown and nutty, stir it into sugar, chocolate and love, it makes it seem totally doable, and totally worth it.

This is a total winner of a recipe. To me, these are the epitome of brownie. Dense, fudgy, chewy, not cakey, goodness. Other Half claimed that these were the best brownies he ever had. Ever (and I've made brownies before). On a separate occasion he said "I really hope you're saving this recipe" so I decided to save it to the internet. These are true brownie love.

Now, take this gift, get in the kitchen and have yourself a close-your-eyes-chew-slowly-and-sigh-audibly moment (or two).

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Mixing it up with Coconut Crab Cakes

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Coconut Crab Cakes
okay, it looks a bit funny, but that doesn't matter when you taste it!

For the last month or so, the stack of empty boxes and I have been having a complete and total stare-off, they were winning. Everyday I would wake up, and there they were, calling out and eating at every nerve like some dirty little secret that wouldn't go away until you drank a bottle of champagne and told all to the world. Not that that's ever happened to me.  People ask how the packing and prep is going and I'm painfully honest and have to tell them, in a long winded fashion, that it's not. But now, finally, finally, we've turned a corner. I'm opening drawers I haven't thought about in at least a year.  I'm packing box after box, and pile after pile, and boy does it feel good.

In truth, I like moving.  I like the forced purge of "stuff," the opportunity to set everything up just right and decorate. But this move is a whole other ball game.  So when I get overwhelmed, or tired, or just need to turn my back on it again, I cook. It's always been a release for me, and in these hours, days, weeks, of upheaval, it's very grounding.

Not your average crab cakes, these coconut crab cakes can get you lost in a moment pretty easily. The combination of flavours creates something that is sweet, herby, and delicate, with just a hint of heat.  Recommended when you need a bit of an escape but have no where to go!

I know these are a bit weird looking, but trust, they are awesome. We turned these into burgers, and they held together well, if they weren't so filling, I would have had seconds. Instead I just had a second escape the very next day around lunch time.

Coconut Crab Cakes (or Burgers)
adapted from, Love and Lemons

1 pound lump crabmeat
2 green onions, chopped (mostly greens, and a little white)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp honey
1 egg, beaten
3 Tbsp coconut milk
1/2 lime, juice and zest
1/4 cup panko crumbs, plus more to shape cakes
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
pinches of salt and pepper
1/2 tsp siracha (a pinch of red chili flakes would also work)

  1. Mix together all ingredients
  2. Form into patties, adding extra panko on the outside (for added crunch!)
  3. Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes - I do not recommend trying to flip these part way, I did, and it fell apart, it needs the full 10 minutes to bind.
  4. Enjoy!


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