Category Archives: Food

Visiting Ottawa Canada (aka Myth Busting)

 Debunking Five Myths about Candians by Visiting Ottawa, CanadaAh, stereotypes. Every country and culture seems to have at least a few. Visiting Ottawa, Canada helped me bust a few myths. Travel gives us the ability to be myth busters of a short… only without the walrus mustaches and exploding crash-test dummies. 

Myth 1: It’s Winter 11 Months of the Year

Visiting Ottawa in summer is blissfully balmy. In fact an average summer day comes in at around 78°,  almost San Diego-esque, eh? A warm, breezy summer day in the Canadian capital city is perfect for wandering. So much of the sites are within easy walking distance of each other. 

Rideau Canal Ottawa Canada UNESCO World Heritage SiteA stroll along the Rideau Canal is a must. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a marvel of 19th century engineering.  One of the first canals to be designed specifically for steam-powered vessels, the system of locks now conveys mostly leisure craft along the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers. In fact it’s the only canal of the “Great North American Canal Building Era,” to still operate along it’s original route. If you enjoy history, a tour of the canal system is a must, since many of the original structures remain intact today.

MYTH BUSTED

Myth 2: Canadians Only Drink Beer

Sparks Street is a bit like the a low-key version of Time Square. Closed to all but pedestrian traffic these few blocks near Parliament Hill feature kitschy souvenir shops, eateries, bars, and a few upscale shopping areas. Here we did stop by a place called Bier Markt that featured 150 beers from 30 countries. Could there be something to this beer thing?

I like a nice hoppy beer and will try an IPA any day.  I fully expected Ottawa to be a beer city, and I’d have been okay with that. Turns out Canadians dig their craft cocktails too. LIFT Bar, the cocktail lounge inside the Delta Ottawa City Centre (now a part of the Marriott hotel family, yeah!) where we were hosted guests during our stay, makes a mean Mule and even some truly creative cocktails featuring locally produced spirits – and yes, some great craft brews too.

Ottawa Mule Craft CocktailClearing away any doubt that this myth is exactly that, I present you with the following evidence…. Wayne Gretzky Estates.  We picked up a 2011 Merlot made with grapes hand harvested in Okanagan Valley, British Colombia and it was actually quite good!

MYTH BUSTED

Myth 3: Canada is ALL about the Hockey, eh!

We witnessed a man dressed in full hockey gear, including skates, balance on top of a goal while juggling flaming hockey sticks. While you’d think that would have proved the myth, this guy {Paz} happened to hail from LA… eh.  <— which I think I said more than any Canadian we met.

Juggling Flaming Hockey Sticks. Visiting Ottawa, Canada

MYTH BUSTED

Myth 4: Canadians Live on Maple Syrup and (Back) Bacon

Admittedly there is plenty of maple and Back Bacon {known to we Americans as Canadian bacon} to be found. Even in the Eggs Benedict at LIFT restaurant – not sure I was so much into that. Ottawa is a very metropolitan city boasting a vibrant food scene with plenty of influence coming from the French. Hello poutine and pastries. The farm-to-table options come in a dizzying array from a rainbow of produce and artisanal cheeses at the famed ByWard Market to scratch-made Italian staples at several area eateries.

ByWard Market Ottawa Canada

You can NOT leave Ottawa without eating BeaverTails. I know what you’re thinking, I thought it too. Eew gross, Canada! Wrong. SO wrong. BeaverTails are oddly-named, flaky, rich, light and airy pillows of crispy pastry topped with awesome. Start with the maple butter {obviously} and work your way through the menu. You’ll thank me, even if your waistline won’t.

MYTH BUSTED

wa

Myth 5: Canadians Are SO Polite

I was pretty sure the minute we drove into the parking garage at the Delta – which is shared with the public – and were greeted by a smiling hotel employee {obviously on his break} who was all to happy to show us the best spot to park in, give tips for cutting down on the cost of parking, and welcome us to his city, that this is a myth that could not be busted. Once at the front desk, the busting prospects looked even more bleak.

Usually when you check-in at any hotel, the front desk staff is cordial. Even at the most luxurious of properties the script is pretty much the same. “Can we help you with anything while you’re staying with us?”, “How was your trip?”, “Would you like help with your bags.” All perfectly polite – and expected– inquires.  Then there is Alex.

Spires of the East Block Building of Canadian Parliment Ottawa
Weathered spires and French architectural influences abound on Canada’s Parliament Hill.

Alex took the time not only to ask those questions, but to find out what we liked, what we might want to discover about his city, and even give us tips about things we’d never have known about without him. He took out a map and walked us through the best things to see, when to go where, and gave as an impromptu history lesson. It was like having our own personal guide to Ottawa. Then there was Eric.

Eric turned out to be the name of the friendly staffer from the car park, as well as a stellar Bellman.  Gift bags to keep the kids entertained. Cold drinks to refresh weary parents who got stuck a Canadian Customs {that’s a story for another post, oi!} and even setting up late evening reservations for the whole crew on the pub side of LIFT. Then there was Annie.

Things were looking pretty damn polite at this point!

In the interest of full-disclosure, we are Elite level Marriott rewards members and make it a point to snag club level rooms anytime they are available. Tip: DO THIS! If you’ve got more than one kid it pays for itself. Marriott Clubs often offer free breakfast, snacks, and enough refreshments and libations to cover the additional cost several times over.  Also, as I mentioned before this was a hosted visit. Annie had no way of knowing that though. Each morning she greeted us as though we were long-lost pals returning to visit her! Any question we had, any little thing the kids asked for, she made sure it was taken care of. You just can’t put a price on service like that. Though this Delta property hasn’t quite gotten to the level of offerings that you typically see in Marriott Clubs, Annie’s shining smile made it feel as top-notch as any other. Then their was Parliament.

Living in the Washington D.C. area, we’re used to dower-faced officials. Hey, things are rough these days and their job is to watch out for bad guys, not make kids giggle. The Canadians seem to have been able to balance the need to keep a wary eye out, with their penchant for polite. 

Are All Canadians Freindly or What
Polite, and hilariously cool.. the Guards of Parliament Hill. I can’t be the only one thinking “Benny Hill” here, can I?

That feeling of warm welcome extends from the folk watching over the buildings of Parliament, to the locals who gather to share a spot on the lawn any given summer evening to watch the story of Canada – from the First Peoples to modern Canadians– unfold in multi-media magnificence; Northern Lights.  Hundreds of people gathered for a free show and not one tussle, no salty stares, not even an frenzied rush to get the best spot. Then there was the cab driver.

Rude. Angry. Took the long way around to get a higher fare. Though he did mention that was from Indonesia.

MYTH CONFIRMED (so far)

Visiting Ottawa, Canada was such a blast we’ll be back to bust a few more myths during Winterlude. Plus.. um.. MORE Poutine!

Stay tuned for more on Canada’s Delta Hotels joining the Marriott brand and a full review of our stay at Delta Ottawa City Center.

Poutine Canada's Gift to the WORLD
Poutine from a Food Truck. Or as the teen calls it… “Deep fried bliss smothered in happiness gravy dotted with cheesy nuggets of awesome.” Yeah, pretty close.
 Field Notes On Visiting Ottawa, Canada:

The trip to Ottawa, Canada was amazing everyone was so nice we stayed at a beautiful hotel called Delta. Alex, at the front desk was so amazing he suggested a lot of fun activities to do.One of the doormen even gave me and my brother gift bags. My mom gave me a tip to give him. He was very happy, and said thanks.

Next we went for a walk. There were little shops outside, and I got some new jewelry, a ring from a very nice lady and a name bracelet form a funny guy who showed us where to get poutine. Then we went to dinner. I had ribs on a plate so huge that it took up the whole table!  

So we went to a pastry shop and a tasted sweets. The wifi at the hotel was was very good. Housekeeping left chocolates on the pillow and my favorite robe. The pool was amazing and the outdoor lounge was relaxing.

The next day we went to a war museum it was very interesting and sad too. After that we went down to the gift shop, it was a little overpriced but I got a owl necklace. I had my very first  beavertail, they are so yum! Goodbye Ottawa, until we meet again.  

Emily – Field Reporter {age 9}

Delta Hotel Ottawa City Centre.png
Chic updated suite at the Delta Ottawa City Centre. Can’t wait to introduce you to the Smart Desk!

Disclosure: As you know, from time to time I’m asked to visit places, attractions, and hotels as a hosted guest. That said, my thoughts and opinions are always my own. Honesty, you deserve nothing less.

24 hours in philadelphia

24 hours in PhiladelphiaSometimes you just don’t have the tip time for that epic trip to Tahiti. Don’t let lack of time keep you from exploring. This year we’ve added quick trips of 12, 24 and 48-hours to our itinerary of larger expeditions. It’s a great way to feed that wanderlust and get to know a few places you might never have considered. We kicked things off in Williamsburg (Brooklyn), followed that up with a fun 24 hours in Philadelphia.

The City of Brotherly Love with all its history, art and yes… cheesesteaks, is just a short two-hour drive away from our homebase. Honestly, proximity was the first factor in choosing this destination — that and a weekend binge watching session of the Rocky film.

24 Hours in Philadelphia a city rich in history and unique architecture Figuring out to do with just twenty-four hours was a bit harder. Philly is a city with over twenty neighborhoods and districts, each with their own distinct personality. We decided to start with a small bite and focus our first 24 hours in Philadelphia on the Center City district and some of the historical charm of the City of Brotherly Love.

Historically Speaking

philadelphia secrets of the liberty bell
Independence National Historical Park
Go see the Liberty Bell. It may sound cliche but it really is a pilgrimage every American should take. We were surprised at how close you can get to it, like “NO! don’t touch the Liberty Bell” close. The Park Rangers onsite are like your own personal tour guides, ready with all sorts of information on how your third grade teacher got the whole story wrong.

Is it a crack or was it a repair? Is there more than one break in it? Get all your burning bell questions answered. Warning: your kids might know more than you do.

Lest you think it’s all about the bell, it isn’t. The bell is housed behind velvet ropes in a small museum that features artifacts and interactive exhibits chronicling the American journey toward liberty, and the pursuit of happiness from the revolution to today.

6th St & Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106 | Monday – Sunday 9:00 am through 7:00 pm | Free | website

24 hours in philadelphia city hall

Independence Hall
Across the cobblestone road from the Liberty Bell is Independence Hall, also a must see. Do note though that entry into the complex requires a ticket. These tickets are limited daily and grant entry on a timed-entry basis March through December. While you wait for your entry time take a look at the building right next door that housed our first Supreme Court.

520 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106 | Monday – Sunday 9:00 am through 5:00 pm | admission – free | website

The Franklin Institute

Befitting its namesake this place is packed with ways to discover through science, history and art. It is an interactive, hands-on wonder of enormous proportions. So big in fact, that we choose to save exploring here for another visit and opted instead to visit the Benjamin Franklin Memorial which is housed here.

The Memorial is open to the public when The Franklin Institute is open and visiting it is free. There is a multimedia show – Benjamin Franklin Forever – that is a great start for getting to know this founding father and his impact on the world.

222 N 20th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103 | Monday – Sunday 9:30 am through 5:30 pm | $19.95 adults, $15.95 ages 11-3, under 3 – free | website

24 hours in philadelphia pubsWhich Hotel?

Few things can turn a trip into a nightmare quite as quickly as like a lousy hotel where your family doesn’t feel comfy and taken care of. While I’ve no problems with ‘sleep and go’ hotels, when it comes to bringing the kids I’m willing to pay a bit more in hopes of ensuring we all sleep happy – hello, room service. Having stayed at well over a thousand hotels around the globe – with and without kids– I’ve found that mid-to-upper level hotels are best with the kiddos in tow. Why? To put it simply, you get what you pay for.

Hotel Palomar

This chic, upscale hotel made Condé Nast Traveler’s list of the top 20 Mid-Atlantic hotels. Impressive, but little guests are far more impressed with the fact that they can request a companion gold fish to keep them company in the room during your stay. Oh, and they also have a nightly wine reception – for free.

117 S 17th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103 | website

 

Loews Philadelphia

Located inside the nation’s first skyscraper, the Loews Philadelphia Hotel has got some great views of the city. Walking through the lobby and common spaces is like getting a mini history lesson. That said, the rooms themselves are updated and modern. The pool and excellent room service from the on-site restaurant make for an all around great stay. Kids love the fact that they get their own welcome goodies at check-in and can have even snag board games and toys from the kids’ cabinet to use while they visit. You can even bring along the family pet – they’ll get a goodie too!

1200 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19107 | website

Beyond the Cheesesteak

Philly is paradise for the adventurous Foodie and their family. In fact, there is such a cornucopia of delight to be dug into that we may just have to do an entire feature on food alone. For now though here are some mouthwatering places to fuel your historical rediscoveries.

Reading Terminal Market

A crowded, loud, garishly lit slice of Foodie paradise. So much more than an indoor Farmer’s Market this historical building houses an endless array of fresh, local, artisianal, ethnic and just plain yum.

24 hours in philadelphia reading terminal market

Despite its porcine name, Tommy Dinic’s Roast Pork makes a mean cheesesteak. Not in the mood for Philly’s signature sandwich? No worries. Roam the rows of stalls featuring the heady aromas of everything from Jamaican Jerk to Indian spice. Dig into some Dutch, Polish, Mexican, Italian, Irish…. you get the picture, this place is packed with flavorful adventure.

51 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA | website

Marathon Grille

This locally owned group of eateries started out as a 10-seat burger joint and has grown into the ultimate spot for casual comfort food with a modern twist. The owners have a passion for supporting local by both buying from urban farms around the city and operating there own.

Have a Thanksgiving Dinner plate, some house-made Moroccan meatballs or treat yourself to decadent french toast stuffed with marscapone and berries. They serve breakfast all day and make a mean organic cocktail that pairs perfectly with a laid back brunch.

1818 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA | website

Where, When and What to Avoid

Tour Buses – Though it may seem tempting to grab one of those hop-on-hop-off bus passes you’ll find being promoted on nearly every corner, don’t. You’ve only got 48 hours in Philadelphia’s Center City District and this is a city that features more public works of art than any other. You’ll miss so much of it – including dozens of murals — if you whiz by on a bus rather than stroll the streets and discover.

Chain Restaurants – Philly is so much more than a cheesesteak. There is a blossoming farm-to-table movement that lives alongside small Mom and Pop eateries that have been serving up flavor for decades. Seek them out, they aren’t hard to find. Taste the adventure!

48 hr in Philly - Em at National Guard buildingPhilly is a city of celebrations. From Independence Day to their famed Flower Show, there is almost always something going on. Check the Visit Philly website before you go to be sure you won’t be headed there along with a few million others. Ugh, traffic.

Been to Philly? Live there? What are the ‘can’t miss’ sites we should see on our next visit?

5 global hot cocoa recipes

global hot cocoa recipes

Winter has finally arrived in all it’s teeth-chattering glory here in Maryland. I’ll admit to never being much of a cold-weather gal. One thing I do love about a nip in the air is that it is the perfect excuse for whipping up some hot cocoa. After you try some of these global hot cocoa recipes you’ll never go instant again!

On cold Spanish nights {yes, we had those even though I lived in the south} my favorite treat was wrapping my frozen fingers around a tiny mug of toasty warm coco and dipping crunchy churros into it’s molten yumminess. You’ve never indulged yourself in chocolate decadence until you’ve had Spanish hot cocoa.

Dense, rich and luxuriant, Spanish hot cocoa is more an event than a drink. Yes, there is work involved. This isn’t rip-open-the-packet coca. That said, making it is easier than you may think and certainly well worth the effort.

Spanish Hot Cocoa Recipe

2 cups WHOLE milk {I know, I’m a skim girl too but you really have to have the “real” stuff for this}
1 tsp cornflour
3/4 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup dark chocolate, grated {I suggest at least 75% cacao}
1 tbsp sugar

In a small sauce pot over medium heat make a roux of the flour and cornstarch with about 2 tablespoons of the milk. Allow to cook for about a minute. You don’t want to toast it but you also don’t want that icky flour flavor. Slowly whisk in the remaining milk.  Add grated chocolate and sugar. Continue to whisk until chocolate melts and the milk reduces to a nice, loose, almost pudding-like consistency. 

Three types of milk and cinnamon? I’m in! When I found this recipe for Peruvian hot chocolate over at Provecho Peru, I started praying for winter to arrive. Okay, if we’re being honest I could drink this stuff any time of year. The addition of the cinnamon gives it a warming aroma that is perfectly suited to a cold winter’s day though.

Peruvian Hot Cocoa
Global Hot Cocoa Recipes
photo credit: Provecho Peru – provechoperu.com

 

You’ll find the hot cocoa recipe here but once you’re done with that browse around. This website is packed with all sorts of Peruvian culinary adventures!

Norwegian Hot Cocoa

When you think of a Winter Wonderland there is no doubt Norway has to top that list. So it makes perfect sense that the Norwegians would have some seriously awesome cocoa, right? Right!

This recipe from My Little Norway is super simple. Good quality cocoa powder and vanilla essence set it apart.

Zartbitter Heisse Schokolade – German Dark Chocolate

Just saying, “zartbitter heisse schokolade,” makes me smile. Somewhere Heir Isaacson from 11th grade German class is cringing at my inability to properly pronounce those words, but still it’s fun. Even more fun when you add this delectable drink recipe from The Kitchen Maus. 

global hot cocoa recipes
photo credit: The Kitchen Maus

 

Ghanaian Hot Chocolate

Sometimes the story is even better than the drink. And that’s saying something when the hot cocoa includes spiced rum, people! Chrissy of The Hungry Buddha weaves a tale of West African history while pounding out cacao beans {yes, actually taking a pestle to those puppies}  the result is a recipe fit for even the most discerning travel journal.

Do you have a favorite hot cocoa recipe? I’d love to try it!

 

Double Chocolate Espresso Brownies

Double Chocolate Espresso BrowniesCould there be anything more celebratory than a deep, rich, chewy chocolate brownie? Um, yeah. If it’s a brownie with double the chocolate and kicked up with some espresso. Nothing brings out the full flavor of really good chocolate like coffee.

This recipe is actually a cheat on my Italian mother-in-laws famous from-scratch brownies. Honestly, who has the time to sift flour, measure dry ingredients, and all that jazz. Okay, maybe I do but if I can get out of the kitchen faster and still look like a baking rock star, all the better.

Want to up your WOW factor? Serve these with some gelato on the side. The hubby loves pistachio but I’m a bit of a purist, make mine espresso or vanilla, thank you. 

 

Double Chocolate Espresso Brownies
Rich, chewy, indulgent brownies with half the effort.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. Boxed Fudge Brownie Mix (your favorite brand)
  2. 2 Large Eggs
  3. 1/4 Cup Espresso Coffee (room temp)
  4. 1/4 Vegetable Oil
  5. 1/4 Olive Oil
  6. 1/2 Cup Dark Chocolate (shaved off bar)
  7. 1/2 Cup Milk Chocolate Chips
Instructions
  1. Brew espresso and allow to cool to room temperature. You can use instant espresso, but brewed has a deeper flavor. Whisk eggs and oil together. Beat into dry brownie mix along with cooled espresso. Fold in chocolate. Place in a glass baking dish 13"x9" that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 27-30 minutes until toothpick inserted an inch or so from the edge comes out clean. Remove and cool on a wire cooling rack.
Notes
  1. Do not over-work your brownie batter that will result in a cake-like brownie rather than a chewy one.
Adapted from Her Mother-In-Law's Super Complicated Recipe
Adapted from Her Mother-In-Law's Super Complicated Recipe
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

 

Chicken Soup Recipes from Around the Globe

Chicken Soup Recipes from Around the GlobeThis year in preparation for cold and flu season, I decided to get ahead of the germs and cook my own penicillin. Okay, maybe it was more a Pinterest endeavor than a petri dish thing, but I think that soup might have it’s own curative cultures. I’m not alone in that theory. Turns out soup is “prescribed” rather universally. Here is a sampling of chicken soup recipes from around the globe. 

Cilantro is one of those flavors that you either love or hate. I’m no hater. So this Peruvian recipe – from Nutrients, You Fools {best. food. blog. name. ever}  which is packed with the stuff really appealed to me.  The pungent aroma is great for the sinuses too. I substituted olive oil for the butter though and tossed in a bit more garlic. 

Chicken Soup Recipes from around the globe
photo credit: nutrientsyoufools.com


Over the last couple of years I’ve been exploring Persian cooking. I love the heady aroma this spice-laden cooking and the vibrant colors that come from the use of turmeric, paprika, and saffron. Fittingly this next recipe comes from a blog called, Turmeric & Saffron. 

Barley is the surprise ingredient in Soup-e Jo, a Persian chicken soup that is rich, hearty, colorful and has just a bit of tang to it.

Chicken Soup Recipes from Around the Globe
photo credit: turmericsaffron.blogspot.com

No proper post on chicken soup would be worth it’s salt without some “Jewish Penicillin” better known as Mazto Ball Soup. This soup is an art form, as such there are many shades and variations.  

Some prefer their Mazto in a dainty bite size, others {me included} like to dig into a giant ball of yum floating in a sea of flavor. There are those that shun the dill and some who simply won’t stand for anything other than a crystal clear broth. One thing we can all agree on though, is if you’re sick a good Mazto Ball soup is as necessary as rest and a warm blanket.  

I’ll admit that I’ve never mastered the art of making the stuff, sad to say. I do have masterful ordering skills though and luckily the famed Chick & Ruth’s Annapolis delivers! I may have to give this recipe from Girl and The Kitchen ago. It as everything I consider high-art in a Mazto Ball soup. 

Chicken Soup Reicpes from Around the Globe
photo credit: girlandthekitchen.com

One of the things I loved most about Greece is the abundance of lemon. If tooth enamel were not a necessary thing, I think I could just live off lemons alone. While Greek seafood will always been my favorite, this recipe for Greek Lemon Chicken Soup from A Family Feast is sunshine in a bowl – the perfect pick-me-up for when you’re feeling under the weather. 

A bonus here, the stock recipe included in this post is phenomenal. I made two batches of it last month, canned and froze some. Having homemade stock for cold and flu season is like adding to your medicine cabinet. Do it. It is well worth the time and effort.

Chicken Soup Recipes from Around the World
photo credit: afamilyfeast.com

While I was putting together this post…

I. Got. Sick.

Isn’t that just how it works, eh? One stroke of luck though, I found some of my dad’s famous Albondigas Soup made with chicken meatballs in our deep freezer.  I credit the spicy soup filled with squash, carrots, potatoes, and rice with my quick recovery. Maybe we can all guilt him into revealing his secret recipe.

Have a favorite chicken soup recipe with a global twist? I’d love to add it to this list.