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A couple weeks ago I got the amazing opportunity to once again visit some farms around Ottawa and learn where my food comes from – not to mention sample some! It was a fantastic day filled with dairy cows, robots, my first visit to Kemptville and The Branch Restaurant, apples, tractor rides and Corbin – the world’s cutest farm dog. Seriously… don’t even bother reading this just skip to the pictures of Corbin. Thanks so much to Food and Farm Care Ontario for arranging all of this!

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Little bottle fed calves just looking for a snack – sorry buddy… that’s my hand

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Having all my questions about milk, dairies and cows answered on the Fraser family farm.

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Corbin – world’s cutest farm dog

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Notice all the collars on each cow – this lets the robotic milker identify each cow as she enters the pen, and depending on if it is time for her to be milked again, either starts the process or has her leave.

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Corbin giving one of the ladies some love.

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Only 2 days old and cute as a button – check out those knobby knees!!

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Making sure I get her good side

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Has the ‘milk’ logo ever changed??

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Milk leads to cheese which leads to lunch – a logical progression!

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Next farm stop was Mountain Apple Orchard – a pick your own spot. Very different business model than the ones my uncles used growing up.

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I hadn’t realized that they prune the trees to train them to grow like this – makes getting to all the fruit easier.

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I asked to drive, but apparently their insurance doesn’t cover it. Boo.

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I think I still might be on Icelandic time… either that or I am now a championship napper. It might be that last part. Someone get ready with a trophy of some kind please. Either way – I mentioned in my last post that one of the must try foods in Iceland was their traditional meat (lamb) soup, they call it Kjötsúpa. It’s every where and no two people make it the same. That said, here is a basic recipe for something I will forever associate with a truly spectacular place in the world.

This recipe comes from a blog called “Icelandic cooking, recipes and food.”

Ingredients

1 1/2 litre  Water (less if you want a stew)
500 g Lamb or Mutton pieces on the bone
1/2 medium  Onion sliced or coarsely chopped
100 g  white cabbage, head halved and sliced across into thin strips
2 medium  Carrots, sliced across or coarsely julienned
50 ml rice (brown or white) or rolled oats
1/2 small Rutabaga (a turnip or kohlrabi may be used instead, but taste will be slightly different), bite-sized or smaller cubes (if you dislike the taste, use anyway and discard after use. Rutabagas add a special flavour note to the soup stock)
1/2 cauliflower, divided into florets
2 leeks, sliced
2 potatoes, in bite-size cubes; or if small and new, whole with skin

Bring the water to boil. Rinse the meat with cold water and drop in the boiling water. Lower temperature to medium. Allow meat to cook for about 2-3 minutes. Skim and add salt. Cook for about 30 minutes.

Add rice/oats. Cook over low temperature for about 10 minutes.

Add carrots, onion, cabbage, cauliflower, rutabaga, potatoes and leeks. Cook for 20 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Skim off fat before serving.

Serve the meat on a platter with potatoes. Some people will eat the meat and potatoes first, others will cut them up and return to the soup. Some people also add milk just before serving.

Author’s note: Save some soup for the next meal. Kjötsúpa tastes even better the next day.

I’m back! Where was I you ask?? I took off on a week long adventure to Iceland. A place where the sheep out number the people by more than 2 to 1. What an absolutely incredible place. It was chilly, and windy but the waterfalls were plentiful, the geysers were erupting and it was all around a very beautiful place to visit.

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Food wise, it certainly isn’t as exotic as my last trip which was to Thailand. These are meat and potatoes people who eat heartily because their surroundings demand it. Vegetarians and Vegans beware, this may not be the place for you. All produce is brought in from around the world at great expense, or grown in greenhouses on the island. It’s hard to come by and the quality is lacking to put in nicely.

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What’s not lacking? Lamb… and lots of it. From traditional Iceland ‘meat soup’ pretty much a stew of potatoes, root veg and loads of lamb to sheep’s head (a so common you can even order it in the bus terminal), there is lamb on every menu. Even the roadside grills we stopped at on our day trips outside the city served lamb along with your typical burgers and what not.

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Hot chocolate and Asparagus Cream soup are exactly what you need when the wind is whipping around at 60km an hour – it is like being hit by a car.

So besides the meat soup which was served everywhere, the veggie soup options always being cream of asparagus for some reason, what are the other must try’s in Iceland??

1. Hotdogs. That’s right. They make them just a bit different there. Hard to describe, but the casing is more sausage like and has more of a ‘snap’ to it.

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Sweet Dijon mustard is all the rage in Iceland… not bad, but Dijon and I have never been best buds.

2. Brennivin – also known as black death. This is Icelandic schnapps made from potatoes and tastes like caraway seeds.

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3. Whale. There are a variety of restaurants that serve mink whale. I was surprised to find it tasted more like steak than fish… but I suppose that makes sense, whale being a mammal and all.

4. Puffin. This cute little sea bird also makes an amazing meal. Served raw and roasted and everything in between.

5. Horse. Those cute little Icelandic horses are good for more than rides around the island… they also make for a killer tartar and steak!

6. Shark. Fermented shark (basically rotting shark) is a traditional dish in Iceland. It’s caught, cut and dried for more than 6 months. It then becomes rubbery and lasts for a very long time over the cold winter. There isn’t a whole lot of taste to it I found, the pumpernickel bread I was eating it with covered most of the fishy taste.

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7. Fish of all kinds in all different preparations. Dried fish is everywhere and there are at least 2-3 fish dishes on each menu. Fish stew is another popular Icelandic traditional dish, normally served in a light curried flavoured sauce.

I can’t wait to go back. Next time I’m exploring a volcano or two.

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Much to the embarrassment of my friends I kept referring to icebergs and glaciers as “free range, organic, artisanal ice cubes.”

Next week I’m off having an adventure in Iceland… but because I’m me, I have picked a week to travel that has all kinds of really awesome wicked stuff happening during it! Well… I figure if I can’t go, one of you should!! So here are just a couple of the awesome events taking place next week. Let me know if I’ve missed any so that I can have something new to mope about at the airport.

garden dinnerGreat wine, awesome chefs – you know this is going to be a dinner to remember!

 

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Learn to make preserves from JAMazing jam maker Michael Sunderland?? Awww man! If I could reschedule this trip I would… maybe… I’m torn!

 

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Technically I’m home for this one, but let’s face it… with the combination of jet lag and my need to be anti-social for at least twice as long as I was social, realistically there is no way I will be leaving my couch that day.

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I could eat fresh local tomatoes at all meals all day long…

A week or so ago a dear dear friend came to visit me from Australia. Much to my delight and her chagrin I liked noticing all the Aussie-isms she has picked up like her new way of pronouncing tomato and little sayings like “Happy as Larry”, which her Australian boyfriend noted is actually just her saying as no one in Australia says that and no one can figure out who this Larry she keeps referring to is. But we agree it is probably a good thing he is so happy.

I then got lots of practice saying Tomato however I chose at a Tomato themed cooking class in Prince Edward County at the Waring House.

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These smoked tomatoes only took a couple of hours, but holy crap… they were like bites of amazing! Such a deep smoked flavour.

It’s a funny thing. Ever since I declared Prince Edward County as my personal Happiest Place On Earth, I have always been slightly worried that my next trip into the fantastically lovely wine region wouldn’t live up to the hype I have built up in my head. That one day I will have a trip to the county that has me saying “Yeah it was good… it was the county, what do you expect??” I know it could never be bad, but I fear the day that it’s excellence doesn’t excite me.

I shouldn’t have been so silly.

My latest visit blew my socks off!! I really have to stop brining socks to the county.

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Class just about to kick off!

This time I was at The Waring House. A beautiful country inn located just a skip from Barley Days Brewery. In fact, they are the same owner. Which means that the pub is fully stocked! In addition to having a great restaurant, a spa, a pub, a resident artist and rooms that may need some updating (but beds that make a marshmallow feel like rock) they also have a cookery school.

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Which of my beer loving friends have seen this painting before?? Perhaps on a Loyalist Lager label?!? You betcha’!

Our class was all about tomatoes. From smoked tomatoes (which I am desperate to make at home) to tomato salad to a tomato tart tatin – it was a celebration of my favourite fruit/vegetable bastard produce.

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A little trip to the herb garden before class.

Chef Jordan McGuinness introduced our group of students (who all happened to be from Ottawa by sheer luck) to lamb tenders – the tenderloin of the lamb, the Waring House herb garden and the versatility of the tomato. I like to think that I have an above average knowledge of the world of food. But there is always new tricks and ingredients to learn and let’s face it, cooking in a group is really fun and many of us don’t do it often enough.

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The base of the tart tatin… when it was finished you would swear they were plums! Sweet and amazing tomato dessert – who knew?!?

Just another fantastic way to spend time in the County! You can book a room/class package through the Waring House, or just an evening at the cooking school if you already have a favourite B&B. I’m excited to come back and learn more from Chef Jordan – an approachable guy and excellent teacher. I can’t wait to see what the county has to show me next!

There is a saying that many hands make light work. This is true. But many hands also make a great party! Last weekend some Ottawa area bloggers, my dog and myself headed to Prince Edward County. You would think that visiting the county numerous times it would lose some of its splendor for me… but every time I go over that impossibly steep bridge, I get giddy inside.

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It was Lemon’s first trip to the county… but you can already tell he would battle a mountain lion to get back there again.

This was no ordinary trip to the county though. Yes there was to be fantastic food, wines, beers and spirits. Obviously… I try not to travel any other way. But this time we had a bigger goal in mind. Celebrating my birthday. Wait. No. This day was not about me. Though there was a birthday cake there and some singing which was really just the sweetest thing ever.

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We were such awesome workers we were treated to a wine break. Stop laughing… that is true.

No. This day was about the start of something amazing. A new winery. 3Dog is the newest winery in Prince Edward County. Officially one week old as of the time I’m sitting down to write this post. That’s right. We were there to plant vines. Well… correction. There were many friends and family of the winery owners John and Sacha there to plant. I may have gotten my hands dirty but if you look at my activities that day you would think that I was actually brought in to sample wine, make stupid jokes, lose Claire’s shovel and continuously remind people that it was my birthday.

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Missing: One shovel. Hardly used, last seen near the wine.

In less than 2 hours, collectively, we planted more than 2400 vines in mud. I’m still not sure how that happened. But hey, many hands right?

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No. You’re wrong. I know you would think, with a dog this dirty, he must have helped… I can assure you he did not.

If you would like your chance to be a part of this wonderful winery from the beginning, the start of something I am certain is sure to be amazing – you can contribute to the indiegogo campaign. Every little bit helps. You can also get some really great give aways with your donation to the project. Click here for more information.

I also want to put in a good word for the fantastic spread put on in part thanks to Seed to Sausage and Bread and Butter Bakery. The only thing that makes BBQ Chicken and butter tarts better is when they are made by kick ass individuals who love their community and a good glass of wine. And to Katy from Sheltered Girl Meets World for driving Lemon and I there in her ghetto hot rod and for all my friends who were there that day to make my birthday the best in years. 29 is going to be a wonderful year… and it all started at 3Dog.

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Fresh milk dispenser.

The first weekend in June saw me pile into a car and drive to Prince Edward County for the day. Why?? To go to the Great Canadian Cheese Festival!! There were more than 4000 people who participated in the event over the weekend and 31 artisan cheese makers all with samples. Not to mention there was wine, beer and some amazing preserves, meats and foods to be had.

Another thing that made this trip fantastic – my Dad met up with me there! To be fair I’d go just about anywhere for good cheese.

When I was little, my Dad was a milk man. Not the kind that delivers milk to your house; the kind that makes the runs out to the dairies. I still remember my toy bin being plastered with ‘MILK’ stickers.

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My Dad!

At the Maple Dale Cheese (while trying some absolutely stunning 10 year old cheddar and these sexy flavoured cheese curds I’m still dreaming about) table my Dad told me about how he delivered milk there almost 20 years ago. A quick chat with the ladies confirmed that some of his old co-workers and friends were still out there on a weekly basis.

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Yes, I would like a sample… that very large one in the back. Yes, the one in air tight packaging with a label on it. Just put it in my purse.

Fantastic cheese, wines, preserves, beers and more – check
Located in my Happy Place (aka Prince Edward County?) – check
Next year’s event happening on my birthday (June 7-8, 2014) – double check

Cheese, I’ll see you next year!

** I realize this post has nothing to do with food… but really I look at this site as my journal, it just so happens my world revolves around food! If you are looking for a more up beat foodie post I suggest this one. Or check back tomorrow. I’ll be done being sappy by then.**

This weekend I was in Montreal for, what turned out to be, one the of the best weddings I have ever attended. For those who are twitter savvy you might have followed along with the shenanigans of #NJGWedding, or perhaps you were busy having adventures of your own!

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I was ready for the fun, for the rowdiness and for the top shelf liquor. I was less ready for the pangs of hurt that popped up in my heart periodically through the ceremony. It made the evening a touch bitter sweet. Well… at least until the cocktails started flowing then it was just sweet.

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I’m coming up on the one year anniversary of my split with my husband and I’m (somehow) always surprised how fresh that pain can feel.

During the ceremony the Rabbi told us of the custom of breaking a glass at the end of the wedding as a tribute to Jewish heritage, to symbolize the destruction and re-building of Jerusalem. He also explained that it was more than that. The glass was a metaphor for the fragility of love. How once shattered it can never be put back together just as it was. With a lot of glue it may be put back in a suitable way, or there might always be a piece missing.

Over the past year I’ve felt a lot like that glass. Gluing myself back together one piece at a time.

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Being alright with no longer needing to run to that person for advice or just to share the details of your day – one piece.

Realizing that my effort to stay friends were misguided and fueled by the hope that one day things would go back to how they once were – another piece.

Feeling excited by the possibilities of starting again – yet another piece.

The most important part of breaking the glass, is the cheering of Mazel Tov after. A Yiddish phrase of celebration that means ‘good luck’. The Rabbi said it is important that we realize that though life can bring hard times, there is always something positive just around the bend. So we end with cheerful words to inspire and fill our hearts with joy.

Thank you Claire and Jared for allowing me to share in your special day and for reminding me of how amazing love can be.

Mazel Tov!

Everyone should have a happy place. A real place. Not just that meadow in your mind that you try to go to before you blow a gasket and yell at the person who may have been pissing you off, or may just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For me, that place is Prince Edward County. I grew up near the area but it wasn’t until I had moved away that I realized just how much I loved it. Which is probably for the best. If I had known then how much I loved it I probably never would have left… then I would need a new happy place. I don’t think you can live in your happy place – the real world will eventually find you there.

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I once again attempted to enjoy blue cheese at the Agrarain. Still not loving it – but the waffles with caramel sauce, yes please!

Just a few hours away, on Lake Ontario – Prince Edward County is filled to the brim (though there is always room for more) with fantastic wineries, restaurants, artists and artisan food makers. And that is just the beginning.

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Maggie Murdoch of Wellington Pottery – she also does erotic pottery! True story that bowl was a boob at first while she was working the clay.

My latest trip was just a couple weekends ago with some of my favourite bloggers and some new ones I was meeting for the first time. It reminded me of 5 simple truths of the County:

1. Everyone who lives there is the nicest person you have ever met in your life. Seriously, they made me look grizzled and prickly by comparison.

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Even the babies are sweeter in the County. Well … this one was brought in special with the Seed to Sausage goodies!

2. There is damn good wine in the county. I don’t know anything about wine beyond what I like and what I don’t. And for the most part, you could drink these wines out of a boot and it would still be delicious. But really… get yourself a glass.

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This time around we were treated to wines from Sandbanks, Norman Hardie, Karlo Estates, Rosehall Run and Waupoos

3. It is a real community. People know each other. They support each other. And they promote each other. There are no competitors – just different varieties of amazing county offerings.

4. The air is cleaner, the food is tastier and the beer, wine and spirits have you feeling no pain faster than anywhere else.*
*According to my not at all scientific and 100% bias research.

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Craft distilled Vodka, Gin and Rye at Gilead – magic in a bottle.

5. The beds you find at these amazing B&B’s and Inns are made out of clouds, marshmallows and unicorn hair. I tried to ask the amazing staff at Angeline’s Inn where they got their unicorn hair, but they stared at me like I was insane. But, you know, in a nice way.

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Look how close Mark Armstrong lets me get to his fantastic hand blown glass. That was dangerous for everyone.

I adore PEC. And cannot speak highly enough about it. You should go. And you should take me with you. Or at the very least bring me back some wine! And maybe a few treats from the Marshmallow Room.

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Why do I love the County?? Look at this movie selection at our Inn!! After a tasty meal at Pomodoro I NEED Young Guns 2. Need.

A special thanks to everyone who organized the #indulgePEC weekend, allowed us to visit them, took the time to show us around and let us sample their amazing food, spirits and wine. And to John for inviting me… even though I was there last year and he knew full well what he was getting himself into. Sucker.

To be honest, Monday’s Knives Out Ottawa event seems like it was months ago; so I figured I better wrap up the tale of my Thailand adventure before I forgot any of the important pieces. Luckily this was the most amazing and fantastical part of my trip so it won’t be so hard to remember.

Chiang Mai. What a city. What a place. A real treasure in this world.

If I were to go back to Thailand – I would spend weeks here. It may be the second largest city in Thailand, but it feels so much smaller (and cleaner) than Bangkok. The city is divided into two sections – old and new; that are separated with the ruins of a large brick wall.

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Another important and amazing difference in Chiang Mai is the altitude. Because of which, at certain times of year, they actually reach comfortable temperatures. I’m told that in the “winter” they can see temperatures as low as +15 degrees celsius. After weeks of above 40 with humidity, 15 was sounding like heaven. Too bad it wasn’t “winter”.

There is a definite relaxed vibe in Chiang Mai. From their night market (an amazing assortment of vendors that sets up nightly for your shopping pleasure) to a gorgeous temple that is 30 minutes outside the city in the mountains. This was the place that I fell in love with Thailand.

But, like every place in Thailand, the people were amazing. One day – with the intent of going to the mountain temple – my travel companion Frank and I grabbed a taxi. On the way up, the driver decided he liked us so much that he was going to spend the entire day with us showing us around for the same price we had agreed on just for the temple.

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I got to be part of the show – this little guy was undoing the knots on my wrists.

This told me that either we had WAY over paid for the ride to the temple and he was starting to feel bad, or we are just really awesome people. I believe it was a little bit of both.

Either way he took us on a day long adventure to the temple, followed by a “monkey school” (a place where they train and keep these funny little creatures) and to visit the tigers.

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The most shocking part of this experience – no waiver forms were signed.

We also spent a day at an elephant sanctuary. In Thailand elephants are considered farm animals, so there aren’t very strict regulations in place for their safety or care. All of the elephants on this reserve have been injured in some way. Each has their story to tell, from broken hips that were not allowed to heal properly, to drug addictions to medications given to the animals to make them work longer and harder than they can naturally.

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The secret to getting them to open up is to say “Bon Bon Bon”!

There was one who was brought to the sanctuary after being blinded by her previous owners. Like many others, she was used in the logging industry in the neighbouring Burma. She was pregnant, but the calf didn’t survive. Distraught, she refused to work. She was beaten. But because elephants have such tough hide, they needed to inflict more pain and damage to try to ‘coax’ her back to work – thus the eyes.

In the end they sold the now useless to them elephant to the sanctuary. A place where tourists and volunteers feed and bathe and learn about the elephants daily. Something I’m sure to take with me for my entire life.

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But what about the food you may ask. Phenomenal. It was simply amazing at the fantastic meal you could get for $3. Like everywhere in Thailand it was easy to find Western food – but don’t bother. That’s not why you traveled this far and let’s face it… most Thai cooks can make a way better curry than a hamburger.

I also managed to take a cooking class while in Chiang Mai. The instructor warned us when we signed up to arrive hungry. I didn’t listen. I regretted it. We prepared 5 courses and had full servings from each course. I learned more in that 4 hour class about Thai food than I had learned from the rest of my trip combined. It made me wish I had time for more lessons.

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The look on my face is determination – I may be full… but I’m going to eat you. Yes I am.

In a nut shell – that was Chiang Mai. Beautiful, tranquil, surreal. The highlight of my trip to be sure. But next time I’m heading somewhere that wine, bread and cheese flow like water. And hopefully isn’t so hot!

** Side bar: once again amazing photos courtesy of Mr. Frank Pomerleau**

I Say Random Things On Twitter…

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Instagram Photo Oddness...

#TBT to one of the best trips I have ever taken. We spent a week exploring Iceland. It was chilly, I got sick and there are some truly acquired tastes (think fermented shark and lambs head) but also some of the best soup you have ever had in your life. 
Every where you went, almost every #tourist attraction restaurant had the same two #soups. One with meat, the other was a cream of asparagus style. That was my go to. I loved that asparagus soup so much. It was everything you needed on a chilly day of waterfall visiting. 
They also have the most gorgeous sea #salts. I can't wait to go back. And in the more foreseeable future visit with @mizmulligan 
#iceland #wfd #comfortfood #spiceshop #spicesubscription #spiceofthemonth #vegancomfortfood #hygge #cozy #linkinbio #travel #wanderlust I have a love/hate relationship with Caraway. Great when it is added to blends as a background flavour, but too much of it has me turning up my nose. Sour and sweet, they are best paired with:

Breads (esp. Pumpernickel and Rye)
Sauerkraut
Pork
Potatoes
Goulash
German and Eastern European cuisine .
.
.
#spiceshop #fresh #handblended #ottawaeats #german #wfd #bread #wfb #613 #supportlocal The beginnings of #inspiration. 
This month the theme for the subscription pack is #Vegan. When I landed on it I honestly had no idea where I was going to go with it. Normally the themes help provide direction but this time it was such a big idea when I sat down to get started. 
Then, the way it usually does, #life provided a bit of inspiration in the form of snowy weather, #cozy baby cuddles, fluffy blankets and #hygge. 
Today I'm finishing up three Vegan Comfort Food recipes. Warm, scrumptious and filling. Sign up today to have recipes and spices sent to your door.

#linkinbio #ottawaeats #spiceshop #fresh #handblended #glutenfree #spicebaby

Past Foodie Adventures…