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Over the recent winter holidays, we headed to Thailand for a bit of sunshine and a lot of good food (note emphasis on a lot). After our excellent experience with Culinary Backstreets in Istanbul, we had to see if we could replicate a similar Bangkok Food Tour. Lucky for us, we found Chili Paste Tours managed, owned and operated by the one and only Chin. Hi Chin!
By day, Jemma El Fna is populated primarily by orange juice vendors, snake charmers and monkey owners who offer their pets up for photos in exchange for a few dirham. Our time in Marrakech happened to coincide with Ramadan and the hottest time of the year. Walking through the square during the day was like wading through a thick, hazy hot mess. The air literally felt like it was on fire – any moment bare skin was exposed to direct sunlight, it felt like getting a first degree burn. To give you an idea of what we were dealing with at the time, temperatures hit highs of around fifty degrees.
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.
Foregoing dinner for the legendary Grumann tacos, our stomachs were rumbling with hunger. As soon as we spotted the bright yellow Nouveau Palais sign on Bernard street, we promptly made our way inside and eagerly made our orders. While most places with shabby exteriors repel potential customers, the Nouveau Palais does the opposite, attracting people from all across the city (we made a special trip!). The layout and the furniture of the place resembles a diner, with worn leather banquettes and booths, dim lighting and a long bar, except it also has a DJ booth, out-of-this-world food and an unmistakable cool.
Sparrow is a lovely little bar on upper St. Laurent teeming with well dressed youth and intelligent looking people – the antithesis of Chez Serge, the mechanical bull boasting bar across the street. More along the lines of Snack and Blues, the place serves all kinds of finger foods, a list of cocktails both basic and specialty and a variety of beers. Service is friendly, people are friendly and some of the food is (vegetarian) friendly. If you want a table, I suggest going early – around 10 or 11. After that, it becomes difficult to even find a space to stand as the bar fills up quite quickly after midnight. Having become a favorite in my roster of bars to go to, Sparrow has obviously done well for itself as the owners has recently opened up a full on restaurant a block away called Lawrence. I will be going there tonight, so come back and check out the blog tomorrow!
Saving our appetites for Grumann’s midnight tacos at the Nouveau Palais (post to come), we snacked on oysters earlier in the evening to tide us over. Bought fresh from the St. Jacques marché, we got a dozen Eel Lake oysters on special for $17.99. After shucking the oysters, we added a squeeze of lemon juice and slurped them down.
Native to Vermont, a friend of mine returns to her hometown relatively often and never fails to bring back a little something for me from her CarMamma’s shop. When she first mentioned her name, I didn’t understand what she meant. After doing a little research, I found out CarMamma is the affectionate nickname for Carmela Ram, the owner and principal baker of The Magic Spoon Bakery. This being my second time tasting her pastries – I have to say they have been consistently delicious! Yesterday I snacked on the Linzer Sweetheart cookie whose texture was in perfectly in between firm and crumbly and this morning, I had the hearty Ali Baba granola bar for breakfast. The warm small town aesthetic comes through in the obvious care that has gone into the individually hand wrapped products, the charming cartoon fairy character and the rustic taste of the products.
Dominion Square Tavern is a popular meeting place young professionals, older professionals, university students and those who work in the downtown area. Getting a table during the week during 5 a 7 is nearly impossible – reservations are highly recommended, especially for larger parties.