Sunday, October 30, 2011

A photo and 1,200 words

I can’t believe it’s already been ten years since my (then) enRoute editor Arjun had a short meeting with me on a sunny Montreal patio with the idea that I should: “Eat across Canada and do my thing.” Seriously, those were his full instructions.

From there, together we did resto research and amassed our first panel of food writers who recommended the best new places I should eat in their hometowns. Then we booked me into Holiday Inns across the country (the one true mistake of that trip), and off I went.

Were we overly ambitious that first year? Seeing as I ate at over 50 restaurants during a month of travelling, some days hitting two cities and eating two three-course meals per day -- I'd say yes. And did I have to buy a new pair of jeans by the time I had rounded the west and was headed back east to Montreal? Indubitably.

But it was good, tasty fun that I wouldn't have changed for the world, then I did it again the following year and then I was full.

I still write regularly for enRoute and in fact have a feature in the splashy new Food Issue, which hits seatbacks November 1st. This is the story that matches this photo (though do try to snag a hard copy of the magazine for all the sumptuous photos, spirited stories and lovely layouts).

I've been wanting to tell people about the great Black Forest region called Baiersbronn, which I visited in March, and now that the November issue is out I can finally yammer on about it.

Know that this is a place you should definitely visit, and an area I plan to return to. Not just because it’s easy to get to and gorgeous and your Michelin-starred dollars go far and the spas are incredible and the hotels and service are peerless. But also because the people are nice and the Black Forest cake is to die for. I travel a lot, maybe too much because it's becoming rarer for a place to surprise and enchant as much as Baiersbronn did.

I'm telling you, it really knocked my lederhosen off.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Snack of the day

Childhood friends can be divided into two factions: Those who grew up eating sweet cereal, and those who snacked at the homes of those whose nice moms bought them sweet cold cereals. For a brief moment I was the former, but became the latter when my mom went back to school to become a Dietitian. Suddenly, out went the Cap'n Crunch and Pop-Tarts, in came the demerara sugar and Tofutti. Trying times, indeed.
Even so, after that, the nutritional lessons somehow stuck and as an adult I never reverted back to sweet cereals. That is, until last week when I bought home a box of something I simply could not resist.
A quick survey of the box showed nutritional promise, with its whole grains, low fat, seven vitamins and free Yoplait coupon.
Upon comparing it to my box of Great Grains cereal (also new to me, and I must admit I'm not enjoying it at all), this new Chocolate Cheerios label's news got even more cheery. Less fat than the "healthy" cereal, less sodium, and less sugar too, (though there is still way too much sugar in it to serve to kids in the morning; consider it a kinder sweet snack.) What's more, the fibre and vitamins post lackluster standings, but that's what fruits and veggies are for.
When I opt for a cold breakfast cereal I'm asking for a great tasting instant meal with my morning tea that'll give me a quick start to the day so that I have enough energy to bike to work before indulging in a secondary breakfast of coffee with cream and sundry pastries. (Oopsies.)
Of course, all of this Chocolate Cheerios news means nothing if the taste isn't there. Well let me tell you, it's there alright, a perfect mix of toasted Os with a deep hit of sweet, cocoa-y childhood nostalgia. This will be my new go-to breakfast cereal, as it also works wonders as a chocolate-satiating snack.
And if I happen to feel like Seinfeld while eating cold cereal in the middle of the day, so much the better.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Eat Here: Bengal Lounge

Admittedly, I was late to the poutine party, but when I finally arrived I put on my dancing shoes and never left. What’s not to love? Fresh cut fries, soulful gravy, squeaky cheese curds and a fork for shoveling -- the only thing that does poutine one better is an icy Coke or a local draft to wash it all down. Oh, and some great surroundings.

Which brings us to Victoria’s Fairmont Empress hotel, and me, tucked into a cozy high-back chair in the famed Bengal Lounge, a tiger hide sprawled over the fireplace, a heaping dish of curry poutine in the middle of our table.

The idea for the Bengal Lounge was inspired by Queen Victoria’s role as the Empress of India, and as such the lounge has been serving curry cuisine (there's a daily buffet) and signature cocktails, such as the Ivory Hunter and Hemingway Special since the mid-50s. (The Bengal Tiger is my personal favourite.)

Now getting back to that curry poutine; while it’s not a classic poutine (more of a generous portion of chicken curry on fries with some cheese), it is delicious. And even if you’re not in the mood for curry poutine I still suggest you pop into the Bengal Lounge for a step back in time in an elegant room with professional waiters in a storied hotel in a lovely, lovely city.