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Whilst scouring the Old Port for lunch places to eat at during work breaks, I came across Safran et Cannelle. Peering in from the outside, it looked more like a sit down place, so I’d been hesitant to try it for fear of not being able to make it back to work on time. One day though, the tagines sitting on the table outside just seemed too alluring so we decided to check it out. And you know what? Food service made it just so I had a couple minutes to power walk back and make it in time.
Once we saw Sarah Musgrave’s review in the Gazette about Honi Rose, we decided to give it a shot. It was a weekend afternoon and we didn’t have much to do. Obviously my reflex to counter boredom is to ask myself: “what can I eat today?”. Opting to try out something new, this restaurant seemed like it would be an interesting pick for the downtown area.
GT Fish and Oyster, named after chef Giuseppe Tentori, is a seafood specialty spot in the river north area of Chicago. The decor and design of the restaurant’s interior is both upscale and laid back at then same time. This is indicative of what I hear from Chicago based chefs and staff time and time again particularly when faced with the New York – Chicago question. They maintain (and I would tend to agree) that Chicago has all the culinary muscle of NYC with a generally more laid back attitude.
XOCO is run by Rick Bayless – you may have heard of him before. Guest judge of Top Chef on Season Four, winner of Top Chef Masters, James Beard Award winner for best American chef in 1991, national chef of year in 1995, humanitarian of the year in 1998, cookbook of the year in 2001, best chef in the midwest in 2002… The list goes on. In Chicago for the weekend, we eagerly made this our first lunch destination. Not too far from the downtown core, the place is on North Clark street, next to the Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.
Not too far away from the SoGo department store in the Zhongxiao Dunhua district is the unique VVG Bon Bon (13, Lane 161, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1, Taipei 台北市敦化南路一段161巷13號). One of the most interesting places I have been to in Taiwan so far, this spot is great for a leisurely afternoon lunch or for high tea. The decoration inside, the general vibe and the clientele (from what I saw today) here is almost too cute for words. Housing an eclectic collection of items (silver glitter antler horns, a smiling child sized giraffe, several foot tall wooden nutcrackers, plastic cakes etc.) that would otherwise seem tacky or overdone on their own, VVG Bon Bon finds a way to make the pieces work together to create a fun atmosphere.
World renowned French chef and restauranteur Joel Robuchon – the only one in the world who has received as many as 24 Michelin stars – has opened a Salon de Thé in Taipei’s Bellavita high fashion complex. Beautifully decorated with not a single item out of place, the furniture, the floors and the couches alternate between a jet black and a bright red, providing a stark contrast. We went around 11 am, a little early for afternoon tea granted, but we were anticipating waiting for a while, having heard that lines to get a seat inside are common. To our surprise, it was completely empty! We were the only customers until a few minutes before we left as some more groups started to trickle in. The place is gorgeous – as are the pastries served here.
For lunch, we went to the Yamato restaurant for some Japanese cuisine. Whetting our appetites with a plate of crunchy marinated burdock roots, we eagerly waited for the the deluxe sashimi assortment. It was a nice mix of different elements that are harder to find as fresh in places like Montreal. The squid was very tender and chewy, the tuna and salmon melted in your mouth. As for the tempura shrimp, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and asparagus, each item was deep fried to perfection. The tea kettle soup was one of my favorites of the entire meal – it was tasty and full of nutrients, being composed of the juices of clams and mushrooms and a hint of lemon. Served piping hot, the tea kettle is served with a miniature cup that rests on top – you flip it down and use it to drink the broth out of. I thought it was a compact way to serve the dish and an aesthetically pleasing one too.
This is quite possibly the only way to recover from the unforgivable sin of buying pre-mixed sangria. We were skeptical at first, but our hosts fervently insisted. Then the Pabst Blue Ribbon came out. Against all odds, this batch of Beer Sangria turned out surprisingly tasty. We used slices of orange for flavor and garnish. Recommendations for next time include:
– Using a different beer – Something extremely blonde or unfiltered (Cheval Blanc, Griffon Blonde)
– Using a flavored beer – Locally brewed St Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale or seasonal Raspberry Ale
– Different fruit – Probably staying with citrus. Lemons floating in summer beers are already a common sight
Things to avoid:
– White wine – Send in pictures if you can prove me wrong, but I don’t think this can work
– Skipping the wine – Beer and juice without wine will taste like beer mixed with juice
– Pre-mixed Sangria
I first encountered a version of this recipe at Trident which is an independent cafe & bookstore in Boston. Trident was named Best Neighborhood Restaurant, Back Bay by Boston Magazine and for good reason. Their version used thick sliced Challah bread which was stuffed with lemon ricotta filling while our creation on the left had the same filling sandwiched between two slices of cinnamon raisin bread. This is closer to a recipe posted on Always With Butter but we added wild berries. We used more then the recommended teaspoon of lemon zest in an effort to get a bold taste and came close to overdoing it. Overall it was great with or without maple syrup and was pretty easy to make.