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We spent the morning in Vacherie, touring the Oak Alley and Whitney plantations for two vastly different experiences. Oak Alley is stunning – the picturesque row of huge oaks lining the front entrance to the main house is a sight to behold. The tour focuses on the lives of the plantation owners – the guides are dressed in historical costumes and go to great length to make visitors feel like they are being transported back in time to the period. Mint juleps are served on the porch to the throngs of tourists wandering by.
Chiang Mai is heralded by food critics and top chefs as the holy mecca of Thai food. After watching Anthony Bourdain and Andy Ricker destroy the plates of roast chicken while praising this place non-stop, we knew we had to make a trip while we were in the city.
We recently headed to SF for a short getaway from the city. Not only was the weather perfect in SF, but as you can imagine, so was the food. After days of gorging ourselves silly on as many crab legs, oysters and sashimi we could get our hands on, we stopped by La Torta Gorda one early afternoon in the hopes of curing an exceptionally nasty hangover from a particularly intense evening of mini putt (s/o Urban Putt!).
Dead and gone to seafood heaven. That’s what happened to us when we visited Swan Oyster Depot in SF a couple weeks ago. The 100 year old SF institution is known for its insanely fresh raw bar offerings, the casual and informal dining style and the long lines of locals and tourists eagerly waiting to get a taste. Named by the James Beard Foundation as an American Classic in 2000 and featured by Anthony Bourdain on The Layover, the restaurant receives hundreds of visitors a day that come from far and wide.
Cafe Parvis is the newest addition to the Furco – Buvette Chez Simone family. In the same way its’ siblings have brought a nonchalant cool and trended towards a casually fashionable following, Parvis exudes the same vibe, promising equal parts good food and good company.
As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Toronto is home to a large population of new immigrants, most notably from East and South East Asia. Communities have settled across the GTA, setting up restaurants and businesses that fuse old culture with new culture, bringing elements of “back home” to Toronto life in surprising and delicious ways – cue the multitude of Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican restaurants (the list goes on) that define the city. It’s no surprise then that a wealth of top notch Japanese restaurants can be found in Toronto.
Another successful restaurant import from Vancouver, Kingyo has made it to the Toronto food scene, following in the footsteps of Guu Isakaya and Sakabar, Kinton Ramen, Ramen Raijin and others. Located in the East end of Toronto, Kingyo Isakaya has got a distinct vibe that differentiates itself from its competitors. Instead of the typically cramped quarters and loud, boisterous atmosphere found in many isakayas, Kingyo gives its customers breathing room and a little more leeway for a normal noise level of conversation.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure everyone loves a good bowl of pho. It’s got this warm, comforting flavour that makes you feel right again, or at least helps you along the way to getting there (esp key in winter). The broth is usually made from simmered beef bones, oxtails and onions but unsurprisingly, every pho establishment ends up with a different final product, some preferring to use more onion for flavour, while others rely more heavily on spices like ginger and cinnamon. In terms of toppings and add-ins, the offerings are typically bean sprouts, Thai basil leaves, red chili and a selection of various sauces. I like mine with extra lime, extra bean sprouts and a touch of sriracha.
Since Alex and I now live in different cities, we decided to meet up in New York for a little weekend getaway. Where better than New York City to sightsee, eat good food and drink even better cocktails?
Don’t get it wrong – Chez Chegrouni is not just another restaurant coasting on the laurels of the popular UNESCO ordained cultural heritage site, Jemaa El Fna. In fact, it is one of the most visited restaurants in the square, and for good reason too. Serving simple Moroccan fare for very reasonable prices, the restaurant boasts sprawling panoramic views from a terrasse upstairs as well as ground level views on a smaller patio at the front of the restaurant. There is a no reservation policy in effect so as a result, you will most likely see a line outside the restaurant and believe me, people wait. According to Conde Nast Traveller, even Michelin star chefs wait their turn, which says something.
From the outside, the doors to this 17th century palace look worn and nondescript, easy to miss to the unsuspecting eye. Located amongst specialty herb stores, leather makers and fresh orange juice vendors, Dar Essalam is marked only by a small placard that means almost nothing to outsiders. During the day, shadows cast by the makeshift straw roofing across the path through to Jemaa El Fna or “the big square” as the locals tell us, keep its presence relatively low key. Tipped off by the internet and a few friends, we paid a visit to the historic restaurant and were very literally led into another world.
Quimet e Quimet is a small but lively traditional Barcelonian tapas bar serving a catered selection of both cold and hot dishes. Frequented mostly by locals, it’s a spot where shouting, laughing and an abundance of wine and champagne can be found – always a good thing. The walls are basically stacked up to the ceiling with different bottles of fine wines, malt whiskies, legendary vermouths and cold cavas, an impressive thing to look at to say the least.
Kyo is the newest and perhaps boldest offering to come out of the Antonopoulos Group’s restaurant making machine. With hot spots like Auberge du Vieux-Port, Verses, Mechant Boeuf, Taverne Gaspar, Bevo and a handful of others under their belt, creating a restaurant concept, setting it up and running it successfully is something that the Antonopoulos Group can do seemingly blindfolded. It is worthy to note that Kyo is their first venture in serving up ethnic food.
Tucked away and hidden behind a nonchalant doorway and a flight of exceptionally steep steps is one of Montreal’s best terraces. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, let alone give the impression that it has one of the city’s largest open terraces. Le Club Social Espagnol’s main function is to serve as a meeting spot for Spanish ex-patriots to gather, hang out, eat, drink and talk. Most of the clientele are middle-aged and elderly Spanish men watching soccer games and cheering for their favorite players and teams or at other times, casually playing Bingo. Then you have people like us, who aren’t frequenting the place for either of those things but come instead to enjoy the sunshine on the deck and a pitcher of fantastic red sangria.
If you’re Asian and grew up in the 90s, GaNaDaRa’s decor might bring back some memories. Remember those hilarious journals we used to get? The ones where there would be cute cartoon animals on every page and assorted “life lesson” quotes about love, relationships and happiness to help inspire whatever thoughts you were writing down? Morning Glory anyone? GaNaDaRa Montreal has a similar theme running – the walls are painted with at least two quotes that run in the same vein and feature some art that might trigger some childhood memories. I know they made me smile.
Omnivore is a cute Mediterranean restaurant serving a mix of themed platters and delicious, fusion-type sandwiches. The place has a bit of a hippie sort of vibe that’s all at once calming and forwardly friendly, accentuated by the long wooden communal table and the close quarters that encourage diners to sit and eat together. Leafy plants decorate the windowsills and eclectic animal and abstract art decorate the colourfully tiled walls. You walk in, give the chalkboard menu a good look and step up to the counter to order. If you’re staying to eat, take a seat and wait for the servers to bring you your meal.
After hearing a couple murmurings of a new ramen place downtown, we stopped by Ramen Misoya montreal for a quick bite to eat. Doing some research online led us to find that Ramen Misoya is actually an international chain that has been recommended by the Michelin Guide in 2013. Cool.
On our last night in Japan, we went to Matsuskagyu in Osaka. As recommended by the New York Times “36 Hours in Osaka” travel guide, this spot is ‘where the beef is’. After two weeks of meals made up of predominantly fish, we were excited to try a meat-centric meal for a change. We headed to the Fukushima location where up a flight of stairs, and through a narrow walkway we were seated in a semi-private booth with an inlaid tabletop grill. All seatings up there have half curtains that lend a sort of privacy to the diners sitting inside so that they can grill and drink more intimately.
After a fun-filled three days in Tokyo, we had to regretfully say goodbye. Our last dinner was spent in the Ginza district, the Japanese version of New York’s 5th Avenue only cleaner, neater and newer. Making our way to Tamasushi or Tsukiji Sushi, we took the elevator up to the relatively small restaurant. I immediately fell in love with the bar seats – large scale prints of Hokusai’s legendary “Great Wave” print ( a favorite of mine) adorn the backs of the chairs. We sat around the bar and almost immediately, our food began to come forth.
Burger de Ville arguably serves some of the best burgers in the city. For an all-Canadian product and AAA graded steak cuts, a simple cheeseburger will cost you a mere $5.50. Don’t want the cheese? $4.75. Say what?! That price point is pretty unbeatable – taking into account the quality of the patty and the multitude of *free* toppings you’re privy to (caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, jalapeno peppers, harissa mayo, old fashioned mustard etc.) – there is hardly any other establishment that can compare on the same level. Burger de Ville serves honest, straightforward food with lots of room for customization – you’re the boss here.