The Tarnished Spoon Travels – Victoria

Best view to admire the Juan de Fuca Strait along Dallas road.

Best view to admire the Juan de Fuca Strait along Dallas road.

After two days of r & r, we bid goodbye to Sooke and headed all the way to Tofino, one of Canada’s most western points. We genuinely enjoyed combing the coast for rocks and shells, staring at the waves, we truly did, but we were more than happy to hit the road again, and drive ourselves to Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city.

With a population of about 344 000 people, depending on how you look at it, Victoria is a small big city or big small town. One thing is certain we gladly left our rental car at the hotel in order to discover most of the city by foot.

One can truly discover the city while rambling through the city in search of the perfect vintage find. During our stay, we planned out our itinerary by mapping out antique and vintage shops and where to eat. continue reading

The Tarnished Spoon Travels – Soaking up the sights and flavours of Sooke Harbour House

Panorama of the Juan de Fuca Strait and Olympic Mountains from a room at Sooke Harbour House.

The view from the Emily Carr room: Juan de Fuca Strait and Olympic Mountains.

After a lengthy flight delay, we finally landed in Victoria in the late afternoon excited to take the road. Located 45 minutes West of Victoria, Sooke Harbour House would prove to be a restful oasis.

As we were checking in, we essentially checked out all of our worries. There are two main things that lure you to Sooke Harbour House: exquisite dining and a breathtaking location. We were soon to experience both over the next two days. continue reading

Coming soon to The Tarnished Spoon… Beautiful British Columbia

BC_Montage

A couple of months ago my partner and I packed up our suitcases and headed out West for the to shake off our late winter blues. British Columbia beckoned and we answered its call by exploring Sooke, Tofino, Victoria and Vancouver.

Indulging in the exquisite hyper local food prepared at Spoke Harbour House, driving through Cathedral grove on our way to Tofino or simply thrifting and antiquing to our heart’s delight in Victoria were truly enjoyable and inspiring moments. I was excited to come back home and write all about it.

On writer’s block and barriers

Upon our return, I wanted to write and share our adventures out West. Several evenings after work I’d go to the laptop to and attempt to write up a post, but nothing came out. Massive writer’s block… A blank document… SILENCE.

I knew what I wanted to share, but nothing was coming out right. So I’d stop, I’d let myself get distracted, heck, pretty much anything was turning into a good excuse to do something else other than write. Procrastination had taken full swing, affecting all personal writing. Even my fun Tasting the Past posts had come to a halt. This slump is completely my own doing.

This must change.

The only way to battle through writer’s block is to tackle it head-on: moving forward and well… just writing – you’ve got to start somewhere. So here it goes! (and hopefully much more will follow!)

First stop: Sooke Harbour House.

Victoria_chairs

Tarnished Spoon Travels: a Montreal Food Crawl

Visitors are greeted by colourful chairs at Brooklyn.

The tradition continues. Over the past seven years, I’ve made a habit of  taking advantage of Thanksgiving weekend to head down to Montreal for a quick visit home. Since moving to Ontario back in 2005, I’ve returned home every three months or so to spend time with my folks and friends.

It’s easy to get caught up in a certain routine from trip to trip, visiting the same reliable places. For the sake of keeping up with the times so to speak, I try, as much as possible, to at least venture out to one new place per visit. With that in mind, friend and freelance reporter Vincent, suggested we explore boulevard Saint-Laurent and its surroundings through Rosemont, the Mile Ex and Mile End.

Here are some the place that we visited.

Brooklyn
Café – Atelier – Showroom
71, rue Saint-Viateur est

Smoked trout served with labneh and caper berries at Brooklyn.

Hungry and looking for mid century furnishings? If you answered yes to one of the two, the Brooklyn is sure to tickle your fancy. When entering the Brooklyn, you’re welcomed by a series of colourful retro folding chairs. Inside, smiling staff serve up delicious coffee, pastries and a Mediterranean inspired menu.

We took advantage of the tasting platter in order to savour all what the café had to offer. This included: a Spanish tortilla served with avjar (a red pepper and eggplant relish) and mixed greens salad, smoked trout served with labneh, caper berries and mint. We also enjoyed some barbecue-smoked veal served with tomato salad. The meal was capped off with a platter of baba ganoush, muhammara, walnut tzaziki and picked olives and mushrooms. The best way to describe the meal: fresh.

The space in the back of the café is dedicated the owner’s passion for vintage home furnishings. Her collection includes, among others, Scandinavian designed kitchen accessories, an Expo 67 mosaic or even teak furniture, just to name a few.

The Brooklyn proves to be a pleasant midday stop.

Delightful doughnuts

Café Sardine
9, rue Fairmount Est 

Sardine doughnuts are baked fresh daily and served in a Mastercraft tool box.

A short stroll south on Saint-Laurent from where we were, took us to Café Sardine, a restaurant with what seemed like a delightful savoury menu… But we were there to indulge our sweet tooth. Just like Toronto, Montreal is also experiencing a doughnut renaissance. According to Vincent, Café Sardine makes quite the good doughnut. It was only natural taht we give them a try. Displayed in a bright red Mastercraft toolbox, they are baked fresh daily.

On that day, Café Sardine was serving up smoke and sugar, chocolate orange and mint and bourbon. We opted for the latter two. The chocolate and orange was OK. The doughnut itself was tastier than the icing. The mint and bourbon doughnut was delicious. The glaze and the minty taste made for a great afternoon snack.

Big in Japan Bar
4175, Saint-Laurent

The interior impresses with the large angular counter that extends throughout the bar

Located at the corner of Saint-Laurent and Rachel, on can easily walk right past the Big in Japan Bar. The red door, with the tiny inscription of the word “Bar”, Japanese characters and hours of operation are the lone signs of this elegant Montreal hangout.

The interior impresses with the large angular counter that extends throughout the bar. Tea lights lit by fuel stored under the counter punctuate seating. Dark velvet curtains surround the space creating a wonderful setting for meeting up with friends post work or to kick off the weekend.

Whiskey bottles in suspension at the Big in Japan Bar.

Owned by the same person of the behind the Big in Japan, a restaurant located south on Saint-Laurent, the Big in Japan Bar offers an extensive cocktail menu. Whiskey bottles are suspended on the ceiling adding to the décor. The bar also offers a snack menu.

5295
5295, avenue du Parc

Attentive staff prepare delicious cocktails at 5295.

 A recent addition to the Mile End, this new bar has yet to bear an official name. It simply goes by its address: 5295. This laid-back bar takes the visitor on a trip to a 1950s, Hemingwayesque Havana complete with tropical plants and wood and wicker furniture. At the other end of the room, the visitor goes on another journey, this time in a makeshift Moroccan souk with lanterns and bright colors.

5295 offers a great cocktail selection prepared by perfectionist bar staff that take great pride in mixing up the concoction of your choice.

Notre Dame des Quilles
32, Beaubien Est

Strike! A good time was had by all at Notre Dame des Quilles.

I started off my Saturday evening with my friends Jennifer, Vincent-Gabriel and Vincent at Notre Dame des Quilles. This is a perfect neighbourhood hangout where one can sip on suds on the cheap (pints were 4 $ before 7 P.M. and 5 $ after). If hungry, there is a short snack menu focused on comfort food. Items such as small bowl of mac and cheese, fishcakes or a trusty plate of chips served with house made pickled veggies and dip hit the spot just right.

The fun thing is you can also get a bit of bowling in; after all, this place is called Notre Dame des Quilles (quilles being the French word for bowling). The bar has two small bowling alleys where we all tried our best to hit a strike or two. Some of us obviously more luck than others, but regardless, it was all about having a good time. If I lived in the neighbourhood, this place would most likely be my home alley

Hotel Herman
5171, Saint-Laurent

The welcoming center bar at Hotel Herman.

From the casual and laid-back atmosphere of Notre Dame des Quilles we headed south on Saint-Laurent to the elegant Hotel Herman. The first thing one notices when setting foot in the restaurant is the welcoming U shaped bar in the middle of the space. In the back, Hotel Herman staff members are cooking up a storm in open kitchen.

Gaspésie Rock Crab salad with radish and watercress was a success.

The menu is composed of some 16 appetizer sized platters that vary in price from 8 to 23$. The best way to to sample some of chef Marc-Alexandre Mercier’s culinary creations is by sharing a couple of dishes. Over the course of the evening, Jennifer, Vincent-Gabriel, Vincent and myself sampled the venison tartar served with mushrooms, Gaspésie Rock Crab with radish and watercress. We also shared some seared duck breast, seared halibut with celeriac and seared foe gras served on a bed creamy corn and brioche. Everything we tasted was quite good. All four of us were pleasantly surprised by the crab and particularly enjoyed the foie gras and halibut. The flavours and the refined presentation of all the dishes made every bite the most enjoyable.

We capped up our evening of laughs and catching up with some dessert. We all sampled the spiced pound cake topped with squash purée and root beer cream. We also got our chocolate fix with a Manjra chocolate terrine with marrow caramel and hazelnuts. Delish.

It was great to rediscover some interesting addresses in my hometown. What are your favourite spots to grab a bite or a drink in Montreal? Feel free to share them!

 

 

Veg Out: a walk on London Ontario’s vegan side

Veg Out

646 Richmond St.
London, ON

Veg Out’s menu

I’m a self-confessed carnivore. I’ll thoroughly enjoy a steak on the barbeque or an oven-roasted chicken. I’ll also devour pretty much any charcuterie plate placed in front of me. Despite
my appreciation of all things meat, I enjoy stepping away from my carnivore habits and tasting some vegetarian or vegan fare.

During a recent trip to London (Ontario, not GB), my partner and I were looking for a place to grab a bite. Wanting to step away from the chains of this world, we put our fate in the hands of the Urbanspoon app. As our luck would have it, the app pointed us to Veg Out, a vegan restaurant located in the heart of downtown London. Without any hesitation we headed in the direction of the restaurant to “veg out” Here’s what we sampled.

Beet Red

Veg Out has a good choice of fresh smoothies and juices. The Beet Red consists in an apple, orange, beet (surprise!) agave and lemon juices. It proved to be a refreshing choice.

Soup’s on!

Then came the soup. I enjoyed a bowl of sweet potato and coconut soup. It’s creamy texture made for a great first course. My partner tasted the raw melon and cucumber soup. It was quite nice, but it essentially tasted like puréed melon, nothing else. The sweetness of the melon was somewhat overpowering. It would have perhaps been better to serve in a shot glass simply as a palate cleanser.

Raw Zucchini Spring Rolls

We then tried some raw zucchini spring rolls, which consisted of thinly sliced zucchini filled with cashew ricotta cheese and topped with avocado and a basil oil drizzle. The rolls were visually appealing. Their taste: a little bland for our liking, but enjoyed them nonetheless because of the overall flavour and texture.

Smokey Seitan Sandwich

Quite possibly one the best seitan dishes that I’ve eaten. Homemade seitan marinated in a smokey barbeque sauce. Seared and topped with tomatoes, caramelized onions, spinach, and dijon horseradish aioli served in a ciabatta bun. I Thoroughly enjoyed the smokiness of the sauce. I would definitely recommend this to anyone headed there.

Final thought

Owner Florine Morrison and her team strive “to create a comfortable atmosphere and “veganize” familiar foods that would appeal to everyone – vegetarian or not.” Needless to say, Veg Out achieves just that. The dishes were both tasty and pretty and the service was the most attentive. Will definitely stop there again next time I’m in London to taste other items on the menu.

Tarnished Spoon Travels: New York City – Day 2

(Mis) adventures in street food

After struggling to find the coveted food truck, we grabbed a hot dog from a place like this.

 A leisurely stroll through Central Park and a visit to the American Museum of Natural were our menu for the day. This itinerary would have been the perfect way to take a peek New York’s food trucks… Unfortunately for us, it was otherwise.

The whole food truck lunch was a spur of the moment idea on my part. Let’s just say that I could have planned our move a little bit better, finding where to go before venturing out and about. Wanting to avoid crazy roaming fees, I was desperately attempting to find free Wi-Fi to connect to the internes to search for food trucks around Central Park.

Luckily, Central Park offers free wireless Internet hubs in certain areas. Alas, it was in vain. I was struggling with the map of vendors on the New York Street food website, constantly zooming out of the Central Park area on the map. I eventually stumbled upon the Pear Turkish Taco food truck and was intrigued. And so our quest began. The food truck was supposed to be at the Tavern on the Green, at Central Park and West 67th Street.

We looked for it but was nowhere to be found. After another attempt at a connecting to the web, an article published in May stated that some vendors were being pushed out Central Park because of renovations. Unable to verify updated information (the article dated from May), we ventured back and forth in the vicinity where the Pera truck should have been. Doubt and hunger were quick to settle in.

Frustrated, we both reluctantly gave up, and ended up engulfing a traditional hot dog and a salty pretzel.

Mildly disappointing. However lesson learned: track food trucks prior to leaving.

Dinner
Five Points
31, Great Jones Street 

The exterior of Five Points.

After our minor lunch setback, a visit through the American Museum of Natural History and a lengthy walk, we were ready for dinner. The day before, I reached out to my Instagram friend Diala Canelo for some restaurant advice. The Mexico City-based pastry chef enthusiastically recommended Five Points.

Located three streets north of Houston, at the corner of    Lafayette, Five Points has become a Greenwich Village fixture since opening in 1999. Co-owners Chef Marc Meyer and Victoria Freeman offer an accessible, locally produced, seasonal menu at Five Points as well as at Cookshop and Hundred Acres.

With its quaint patio and French doors, Five Acres was welcoming from the get-go. The dining room was just as visually pleasing. As you enter the restaurant, the bar counter is to your left. The large dining room is divided in two by a large piece of wood that plays the role of a long flowerpot that leads almost all the way to the kitchen.

After enjoying a couple of sips of some white wine sangria, we enjoyed the black kale served with a lemon-anchovy dressing topped with pecorino cheese and croutons.

For the mains, we opted for something simple yet satisfying: pizza. We split the Potato and Summer squash. The first consisted in sliced Yukon gold potatoes with fontina and truffle oil. The second served up some squash, fresh ricotta, and olive oil and served up with a fried egg on top. Both pizzas proved to be quite good. The crust was just the right texture and the toppings were delicious. The flavors of the Yukon gold potatoes and fontina cheese blended particularly well.

For dessert, we opted for the something seasonal: blueberry shortcake. It was delicious. Juicy blueberries were served between pieces of almond and coriander scented shortcake that look slightly like a scone. A mascarpone whipped cream topped this refreshing dessert.

Our wonderful meal quickly made us forget our midday misadventures.

Have a quick peek at the dishes sampled at Five Points!

Tarnished Spoon Travels: New York City – Day 1

Upon our arrival in Newark Liberty Airport, we headed straight to Grace, a boutique hotel located steps from Times Square, at West 45th and 6th Avenue. This boutique hotel part of the Spanish owned Room Mate Hotels would be our home base for this three-day trip.

After setting in our chambers, we consulted our Rather New York City guide more attentively, jotting down a couple of potential places where we could set foot during our stay.

Lunchtime was soon approaching, our stomachs, growling. We set foot our quest for food.

2nd Avenue Deli

162 East 33rd St/1442 First Avenues

Pastrami sandwich from 2nd Avenue Deli. – Photo: Eric Rados

In 1954, Abe Lebewohl, opened a small restaurant at East 10th Street at 2nd Avenue that would eventually grow as a neighborhood staple in the East Village. Tragedy struck in 1996 when Lebewohl was murdered during a bank robbery. Despite the tragic loss, the founder’s family kept the restaurant running. The deli closed its doors in 2006 after a landlord dispute. Luckily, Jeremy and Josh, Lebewohl’s nephews stepped in and reopened the deli in 2007 at is current location and opened another one on First Avenue.

Nothing says New York City better than grabbing a bite in a Kosher Deli. Fresh, delicious comfort food in the form of pastrami sandwiches, matzo ball soup, pickles and many more items typically found on a deli menu. The first thing one sees entering the 2nd Avenue Deli is a large counter filled with various salads and vegetables, enough to open your appetite if you weren’t hungry.

We ordered a pastrami sandwich on rye and a smoked salmon sandwich complete with cream cheese, red onions, cucumber and capers. Both were delicious! Various pickles savory and spicy were also served with our dishes. Our lunch ended on a sweet and bubbly note with a shot of Bosco chocolate soda, something you’ll likely won’t find outside of New York. (If you know otherwise, let me know!)

The Redhead
349 East 13th Street

Dinner at The Redhead.

The Redhead intrigued me. In Rather New York City, Jan Faust Dane states: “ You’d think the promise of bacon and peanut brittle would be what lured me to The Redhead. Good guess, but wrong.”

Indeed, there is much more to this place than their sweet and savory brittle. Their southern influenced menu and cozy décor make this place a winner. Interesting fact: The Redhead was originally a bar, which eventually converted to a restaurant. The crowd and staff were laid-back. The place felt very much like a local spot with its share of regulars.

Onto the menu… Several items were tempting. My partner enjoyed the Summer squash salad. I opted for the One-eyed Caesar salad. The fried egg on toast proved to be a visually pleasant take on a classic.

For the mains, my partner ordered the lean and tasty Newport steak served with fried green tomatoes, which proved to be excellent. I went for the buttermilk-fried chicken that was served most elegantly with a spinach and strawberry salad topped with candied almonds. The chicken was delicious: perfectly crisp on the outside, moist and flavorful on the inside. Yum.

We both shared a slice of the Brooklyn Blackout cake with espresso ice cream for dessert. The dish was okay, but nothing to write home about. The ice cream was very much the better part of the dessert. Although, I must say that my sweet tooth left The Redhead fully indulged thanks to chewy s’more cookie, a chocolate based cookie topped with graham cracker and a roasted marshmallow  that was graciously served with the check. A perfect way to cap off a wonderful dinner.

Here’s a quick peek of some of the dishes tasted on the first day. I apologize in advance or the poor quality of the images.

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