Top 5 Meals of 2014

Reminiscing the best restaurant meals of the year has become a tradition for me. In fact, readers request me to share my culinary highlights if they don’t hear from me by January, so here you are, with my top 5 meals of 2015….

1. Restaurant Ulo at Hotel Arctic in Ilulissat, Greenland – Located 280 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, this may not be the obvious choice for one of the best meals in the world, but it actually was! Fresh seafood caught from Disko Bay each morning, combined with the finess of award winning Chef Jeppe Ejvind Nielsen, at one of the finest kitchens in the country, results in the perfect 11-course wine paired dinner. The view was unforgettable from the restaurant, and the scallops carpaccio, smoked halibut, fresh crab salad and reindeer mousse – flavors I cannot find anywhere else. Read 5 reasons to visit Ilulissat

hotel arctic greenland

2. Gu’s Bistro, Atlanta – I reviewed this family-owned Szechaun restaurant for my column Ethnic.City in Creative Loafing newspaper. Buford Highway is a famous street in Atlanta, known for Asian and Latino restaurants, and I have managed to make my rounds through them. Unlike other Szechaun restaurants I have tried, I found the food at Gu’s to not hold back on authentic flavors, at the same time not scaring off the novice spice eater. While my tastebuds crave for Gu’s dumplings, Chengdu cold noodles, and crispy fried fish, there is hardly a dish here I won’t eat again.

Gu's Bistro Atlanta

3. Coco Bistro, Turks and Caicos – While most of the food on this heavenly island was very good, the cuisine focused on fresh seafood and international styles of cooking. The 24 year old Coco Bistro is a popular spot among locals and tourists, serving some of the best seafood in the world. My favorites were melt in your mouth Tuna Tataki served on a fried wanton with shredded cabbage salad and spicy mayo; as well as Lobster and Avocado Rolls with spicy duck sauce. Make sure to get reservations in advance and ask to be seated outdoors, as the gardens are elegant and romantic. Read more about my reviews in TCI.

coco bistro TCI

4. Palazzo Donati, Italy – This was a special meal prepared by a group of nine men, who call themselves Accademia del Padlot, meaning the academy of “a giant ladle that is used to pour wine.” The volunteer group came over to the renovated 18th century palace where I was staying and cooked an elaborate meal from scratch. On the menu was Charcuterie, Bruschetta, Torta pascuela, Coradella (lamb’s liver), Goletta con salvia e aceto o vino bianco (pig’s jowl), Spezzatino di Cinghiale (wild boar stew), Tagliatelle pasta, Radicchio rosso in graticola, Patate Sotto il Fuoco, Crostata, and endless bottles of wines. It was not just the delicious homemade Italian food, but the fact that we were eating it by a fireplace in an Italian home located in a tiny village, along with these local people, that made it even more memorable. Read more about eating and drinking with the Padlots in Italy

academia de padlots, italy

5. Rivea at Hotel Byblos, St Tropez – Critically acclaimed Chef Alain Ducasse, French Riviera charm, seasonal ingredients and Mediterranean style tapas – whats not to love about this place? I started with a French Rose at this elegantly decorated restaurant and made my way through marinated white fish, sardine toast, eggplant dip, arugula pizzetta, ratatouille, blue lobster, and the most amazing Tropézienne on the planet. No visit to St Tropez is justified without eating at Rivea! Read more about Hotel ByblosBook Hotel Byblos.

hotel byblos st tropez

Read my Top 5 meals in 2012

Read my Top 5 meals in 2011

Agathe ́s apple and rhubarb cake

Agathe Devisme is an adventurers French lady married, who opened Ipiutaq Guest Farm at a remote location in South Greenland. She combines her French culinary heritage with farm grown ingredients, to create delicious homemade meals for her guests. Her passion for cooking and presentation is apparent on every plate she presents. The guest house sits on a sheep farm, with a backdrop of mountains and icebergs, and has only 2 rooms, so Agathe personally prepares all guest meals during their stay. While the scenery is breathtaking, the location remote, and the surroundings peaceful, Agathe’s food is enough reason to spend a few days in Ipiutaq!

agathe on her farm

Agathe has generously shared one of her recipes with us. This cake can be baked with apples and angelica sticks instead of rhubarb, depending on preference and availability. The recipe is below and you can see photos on her website.

Agathe’s Apple and Rhubarb Cake Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 or 3 apples
  • 250 grams rhubarb sticks (or angelica sticks)

First dough

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3  tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 75 grams butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk or cream
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Second dough

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 40 grams melted butter

Wash the rhubarb sticks and cut them into small pieces. Peel the apples and cut them into thin slices.

If you use angelica sticks, you have to slice them finely and boil them for approximatly 30 minutes, and then, cook them with sugar (half of angelica ́s weight) for approximatly 30 minutes.

Mix the egg, the butter and the milk or cream. Then add progressively the flour and baking powder until you get a smooth dough. Add the pieces of fruit to the mix.

Pour the dough in a round greased and floured cake tin and cook for 20 minutes in 225oC oven.

Take the cake out of the oven and pour the second dough on top. Bake for 10 minutes until golden.

Serve warm with vanilla custard or vanilla ice cream.

agate's cake recipe

~ Recipe courtesy of  Agathe Devisme, chef and proprietor of Ipiutaq Guest Farm in Greenland.

Hotel Byblos: Jewel of Saint-Tropez

Hotel Byblos, a 5 star sprawling paradise of unimaginable delights, is everything its reputation suggests. Located in Saint-Tropez, in the South of France, the resort has a Mediterranean sleepy sea-side village appeal and its terracotta and stucco like exterior painted in brilliant colors of salmon, mint green, and gold are perfectly striking. Make no mistake; there is nothing “sleepy” about Hotel Byblos as there are more than enough amenities to keep guests totally engaged.

It must be said though, that upon arriving at the hotel’s address, anticipation turns into a few seconds of bewilderment, as the entryway does not signal “world-renowned” hotel. Surprisingly, after descending a very impressive staircase, large glass doors lead into a modern estate, which honors its architectural past. Expansive windows, wide corridors, and well appointed sitting areas welcome guests to their Saint-Tropez home.

hotel byblos exterior

The hotel opens from mid April to the end of October. Peak months are between May and September when the entire beach town area is in full fashion. There are endless parties, nights that last until morning, and people waiting to get into their preferred venues. Like Saint-Tropez, at this time the entire vibe of Hotel Byblos is electric with energy.

hotel byblos balcony

As with this trip, some travelers may prefer to visit during shoulder months April or October when there are fewer crowds and shorter ques. The atmosphere of Hotel Byblos also becomes serene but still enjoyable. There are many amenities to compliment the most discriminating of patrons: an exquisite pool with a poolside bar and lounge, spa, fitness center, two restaurants, onsite coiffeur, boutique shops and more. The signature customer service of the hotel has no rival. It includes complimentary shuttle service to and from nearby beaches. Why, the gym was immediately made available to a guest who arrived ahead of the scheduled opening time.

room at hotel byblos

The magnificent pool around which the Hotel Byblos is centered adds to the coastal feeling of being on the French Riviera. It is maintained at a comfortable 28 degrees Celsius so patrons may enjoy it at their convenience. Surrounded by beautifully appointed gardens, the pool becomes a private oasis, and can be a nice alternative to going to the ocean waves.

Dining options are made easy as the Byblos has two restaurants of high acclaim. Guests will surely want to begin the day with a scrumptious breakfast at the B, a Mediterranean inspired bistro with indoor and patio seating. The endless choices include: mini waffles, madeleine, chocolate croissants, artisan breads, and more; delectable jams, spreads, and cheese compliment the exhaustive list of fresh baked goods. A pâte à tartiner or “spread” made of chocolate and hazelnut is a hotel specialty. The B’s accommodation of casual and formal diners and the presence of alfresco seating contribute to “a top of the morning” flair.

Rivea at hotel byblos

The Rivea restaurant is among the enterprises of the critically acclaimed Chef Alain Ducasse. This place is busy all the time and for good reason. With a tapas style menu drawing on Provençal, Spanish and Italian influences, there is something for everyone. Starters such as the traditional charcuterie platter, pizzetta with rocket and Parmesan, and herb cannelloni are flavorful and light. Selections for main courses include meat, seafood and vegetarian options. The lamb chop and fillet with summer savory chickpeas and panisse is perfectly prepared. Delectable chickpea panisse fries, a play on French fries, are crisp and fluffy. A palate tantalizing dessert of candied and frosted lemon with limoncello sorbet is tart, refreshing and shocking with the flavor of citrus. The commitment to local, quality natural French and Italian resources is a staple in the success of Rivea. Take, for example, the Minuty Rosé 2013 that is lovingly served by the restaurant, its pale pink color and floral notes originate from the little-known Tibouren grape, grown at the Minuty Chateau located on the Saint-Tropez Peninsular.

fresh pastries at B

At what venue does everyone wait in the same entrance line regardless of status, economics, or fame? Of course, it is the internationally acclaimed nightclub, Les Caves du Roy, of the Hotel Byblos, in Saint-Tropez. Les Caves de Roy is one of the world’s most exclusive nightclubs and is a place to be seen for everyone from Hollywood stars, billionaire business tycoons and families on vacation who are lodging at the Byblos. During April to June and September to October, the venue is only open on the weekends.

Hotel Byblos is a destination for wealthy discriminating lodgers as well as those among us who occasionally splurge in life. Rent the Byblos’ private villa and live like French aristocracy. Hire the hotel’s luxury yacht for a day and cruise the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. Step into the award winning Marrakesh themed spa and be lulled away by the services. No matter the fantasy, this world-renowned luxury resort is perfect for the traveler who craves chic hospitality and unparalleled lavishness.

~ By Kaylah Burks, an athlete, who enjoys traveling the world while staying health conscious. Follow her on Instagram @jadenlie

Book your stay at Hotel Byblos on TripAdvisor

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Inside St Tropez – A Photo Blog

St Tropez is a small town located in the South of France, also known as the French Riviera. It was an unassuming fishing village until the beginning of the 20th century. After the world war II, it became an internationally known seaside resort, renowned principally because of the influx of French artists. Later, it became a resort for the European and American jet setters and a goal for tourists in search of a little Provençal authenticity and an occasional celebrity sighting.

St Tropez skyline

Although weather is temperate year round, peak season to visit St Tropez is summer when its warm and sunny, perfect for water activities. Here is a painting depicting the forecast for St Tropez.

best time to visit st tropez

The port in St Tropez can hold upto 800 yachts at a time. Advance reservations are required to pull into the harbor and spots closes to the boardwalk are generally more expensive. The yacht owners want to show off their beauties to everyone. It is simply the place to see and be seen!

port of st tropez

Once the yachts come to St Tropez, they spend couple of days docked. This is when the owners can enjoy the flavors of town – eating, drinking and shopping. There are lots of bars, cafes and restaurants that offer authentic French cuisine. Senequier is the oldest bar dating back to 1887, overlooking the harbor.

oldest restaurant in St Tropez

Sailors from all over the world brought pieces that can be seen in architectural elements throughout the city. From 890–972, Saint-Tropez and its surroundings became an Arabic-Muslim colony dominated by the nearby Saracen settlement of Fraxinet.

Arabic door in St Tropez

St Tropez has a high saturation of designer boutiques, mostly from France and Italy. Concept stores by Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana and others boast a mansion showroom with swimming pool and gardens for their shoppers to stroll around.

chanel concept store St Tropez

St Tropez is also famous for its Provençal style homes with pink-orange colors, narrow cobblestone streets and surrounded by beautiful dark blue waters. Locals spend the day enjoying fresh seafood and rose wine with ice cubes at neighboring Pampelonne Beach.

st tropes streets and beaches

Notable Alternative to Hotels in Nice

When considering lodging along the French Riviera one might think of high priced fancy hotels that only the rich and famous can afford. What if there were lodging facilities with more space than the average European hotel room: offering a nice bed, complimentary WiFi, free parking, and free breakfast in a more intimate yet traditional setting?  Does having an authentic French experience by staying in a Niçoise home and catching a glimpse of the life of the locals peak your interests?

If this sounds like the experience of your dreams, then strongly consider staying at a bed and breakfast in Nice.  Unlike the hotels that line Promenade des Anglais, the major street along the coast of Nice, these properties are found in residential areas.  Most of the bed and breakfasts in this region are not located in the city but in the countryside, and many are older homes.

Just 2.5 kilometers outside Nice’s city center exists a secluded and charming estate surrounded by an abundance of aromatic flowers. Le Castel Enchanté, run by Alberto and his family, is an authentic French B&B. It sits high atop a hill at the end of a lengthy, narrow winding private road. The road is just narrow enough to fit one car, a true French experience.

Castel Enchante driveway

 

Entering the doorway of Le Castel Enchanté, has the feeling of being welcomed into a private home where your visit is excitedly anticipated. Alberto exclaims, “Bonjour madam,” with a big smile.  There is no formal check-in, just a quaint verification of identity and on to tour the estate. The building of Le Castel Enchanté has an old-time feel with modern day amenities as it was built in the 1850’s but restored over time.  The establishment was originally built as a hotel and named “Castel Enchanté” meaning enchanted castle.  In the 1960’s the hotel, which had its own restaurant, was downsized and later transformed into a smaller bed and breakfast by 1980.  The historical facility has been under the current owner Alberto’s care for just over a year and is thriving.  Its rustic feel and homely appeal delight visitors from all over the world.

Alberto at castel enchante Nice

Alberto carries the bags and escorts guests to their assigned accommodation, then gives a quick walk through of the chamber.  Each of the five rooms at Le Castel Enchanté has its own personality and name.  The room, Nemuphar is a soft salmon color with large windows facilitating great views and natural light. The wood furniture is of a rich hue and appears to be antique. Floor to ceiling french doors open into a second smaller room that has a single bed, full length mirror and ample space.  The suite is charming and easily accommodates a family of three.

Castel Enchante Room Nice

The suite has all the basic amenities a person would require. The floor of the bathroom is tiled in an ultramarine blue color.  The oversized bath towels are plush with high thread count and work well with the overall scheme. Shelving in the bathroom creates ample space to place toiletries, and the temperature of the shower water does not disappoint. Sufficient seating, wardrobe, coffee maker, iron, a mini fridge, and free WiFi bring together the essential necessities ensuring relaxation and comfort.  Before leaving, Alberto explains all about breakfast.

The remainder of the establishment is comprised of Alberto’s personal living space and common guest areas.  Breakfast is served in a semi-formal dining room in front of a fireplace reminiscent of home and a coziness that ignites emotions of being a member of the family.  During the colder months breakfast is served indoors but guests can enjoy cool Mediterranean breezes and views of Nice from the gardens while dining alfresco in the summertime.

Castel Enchante Terrace

Additional outdoor spaces on the property include patios and a swimming pool.  Loungers, benches, and chairs are abundant and allow the stunning nature and city views to be relished while relaxing. Many of the herbs and fruits that grow on the grounds make their way to the morning marmalades and juices. Fragrant flowers, towering trees, and creeping vines fashion an illusion that the bed and breakfast is no longer in a residential community but completely cut off and secluded, creating a sanctuary for your retreat.

Residential Area Nice, France

Le Castel Enchanté is a bed and breakfast for seekers of an authentic French experience in Nice, France.  Alberto’s attention to customer service and comfort during a stay at the Castel will be a delightful diversion from the sea of hotels in the touristy city center of Nice.

When visiting Le Castel Enchanté a car is strongly recommended.  February to March is a very quiet period.  In April there is a Lemon festival.  May rings in the Grand Prix race and international tennis matches in Monaco with many people staying in Nice.

~ By Kaylah Burks, an athlete, who enjoys traveling the world while staying health conscious.  Follow her on Instagram @jadenlie

Book your stay at Le Castel Enchante now with TripAdvisor

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Bistrot le Clocher Penché

Eric Villain and Steve McCandless, chief owners of Bistrot le Clocher Penché in Quebec City say “We are constantly working to provide a table that reflects the human qualities inspired by our craftsmen suppliers: rigor, simplicity, generosity and love of the profession. This desire to pass through exquisite food and unpretentious values ​​we hold dear defines the unique experience of the Leaning Steeple.” After a visit to the restaurant this past weekend, I felt these sentences accurately reflect everything it stands for.

Bistrot le Clocher Penché sources their ingredients locally, from farmers and producers located in Quebec (sometimes even down the street). They strongly believe in supporting local communities and providing fresh food. There is also attention to detail in the preparation of every dish, which is reflected in it’s flavor and presentation. To maintain quality, the kitchen serves a dozen plates every half hour or so.

Meaning bent bell tower, as in one located across from the restaurant, the menu keeps up with the theme of the church. Dishes are smartly named “First Communion, Adam’s Apple, The blood of the saints, Our daily bread, etc.” Consider this an upscale French Bistro with top of the line ingredients in a casual environment.

The brunch at Bistrot le Clocher Penché was simply outstanding! I had the La pomme de Adam, duck confit with apples inside a buckwheat crepe served with grilled potatoes and a mustard creme sauce. It came with a vanilla yogurt parfait with chopped pineapples, maple jello and streusal topping and a huge bowl of cafe au lait.

My brunch companion ordered La soeur Gribiche, which was fried fish and crab croquettes served with egg and tarragon sauce on a bed of green bean salad.

 

Le Clocher Penche Bistro

203, rue Saint-Joseph Est
Québec (Qc) G1K 3B1

10 ways to eat your boiled eggs

Have a lot of leftover Easter eggs and don’t know what to do with them? Well, there is good news for you! You can use your hard boiled eggs in lots of international recipes that your family won’t get bored with. Some of these are even good for entertaining. So take a stroll around the world and see how you can expand your egg-horizon within the boundaries of your own kitchen.

 

1.      Deviled eggs – A tradition at every backyard party, but you need not stick to the basic flavors. Mix taco seasoning and a sliver of avocado. Dot some salsa on the top and serve it on a nacho. There you have a Mexican bite deviled egg.
2.     Egg Biryani – Biryani is a rice dish cooked with a meat (chicken, goat), fried onions and saffron. Boiled eggs can be sliced and used for decoration or eliminate the meat entirely and make it an egg biryani.
3.     Egg salad sandwiches – Chop the eggs in a large bowl. Add mayonnaise, mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Toast bread slices, layer with a spoon of butter, lettuce, tomato and the egg salad and enjoy on a summer afternoon.
4.     Egg curry – A simple Indian style curry can be prepared with green peas and potatoes. Fry whole boiled eggs till the skin crackles and add to the curry. Serve with naan.
5.     Egg pâté – A Russian egg pate is so easy to make that you would want to take it to every summer gathering. Grind the eggs with dill, scallions, butter, mayonnaise and salt to make a paste. Pour into a mound and chill in refrigerator overnight. When ready to serve, decorate with sliced cucumbers, olives and crackers.
6.     Egg pakora – Pakora is an Indian style fritter. The batter is made with gram flour, water and spices (cumin seeds, red chili powder, garam masala and salt). Cut the eggs in half and dip each piece in the batter. Deep fry in a wok with vegetable or canola oil until golden brown. Serve as a snack with mint chutney.
7.      Eggplant parmesan – Make traditional eggplant parmesan with slices of fried eggplant, layered with slices on mozzarella, marinara sauce and sprinkled diced boiled eggs. Top the final layer with sauce and bake in a 35oF oven for 30 minutes.
8.     Use in salads – Adding protein to any salad makes it a more wholesome meal. Add sliced or halves boiled eggs to potato salad, spinach salad or a smoked salmon salad.
9.     Meat balls and patties – Sounds strange but mashed up boiled eggs do magic to your meat. It makes it soft, retains the moisture and adds more flavor. For meatballs, combine ground beef, onions, parsley, eggs, bread crumbs, fresh garlic cloves, paprika and salt. Grind all the ingredients in a food processor till chunky but not mushy. Shape into balls and pan fry with olive oil till completely cooked.
10. Nicoise salad – The French version of the American Cobb salad, the Nicoise salad makes a complete and healthy meal. Use light vinaigrette and honey mustard dressings for the veggies before plating them. Place canned tuna meat, cooked whole green beans, and boiled potatoes on a plate lined with lettuce leaves. Decorate with olives, cut tomatoes, slices red onions and quartered boiled eggs.

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Eat Round the Clock in Montreal

The city of Montreal is just across the border, yet an entire world away. Crowned as City of Festivals and Paris of North America, the French influences are found everywhere from architecture, language, culture to cuisine. While there are a number of great eateries to choose from, here are my personal top choices that you could cover in a day.

Nocochi Pâtisserie Café, Montreal

Start your day off at Olive et Gourmando, a lively bakery located in Old Montreal. There is a good chance there will be a wait to get in, but its well worth it! You can chose from dozens of freshly baked croissants, pastries, muffins or my personal favorite, the banana chocolate brioche. It goes well with a hot cappuccino after which you have enough energy to stroll through the neighboring attractions including Basilique Notre-Dame, district’s riverside edge and Pointe-à-Callière (Museum of Archaeology and History).

fresh pastries at Olive et Gourmando, Montreal

For lunch take a stroll through the neighborhood of petite Italie ( Little Italy) which will transport you to a street in Naples. While there are dozens of restaurants to choose from here, restaurant Casa Napoli offers the best value for money. A family business of over 28 years, the owner offers northern and southern Italian cuisine in an ambience of The Godfather. There is also a dainty sidewalk patio too where you can watch Italian families shopping for traditional items or catching up with friends. There is plenty to choose from the menu. The mozzarella is so fresh that it melts in your mouth. The pizzas live up to the restaurant’s name as well. It is the closest you can come to going to Naples being in Canada.

Take the metro to Sherbrook and a bus ride over to Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts). You could visit this extensive and one of the most famous museum’s firs , and then walk two streets over to Nocochi Pâtisserie Café (2156 Rue Mackay, Montreal, QC H3G 2J2, Canada, (514) 989-7514). This small delectable café is perfect for afternoon tea. Here you will find a variety of petite size melt in your mouth cookies, cakes, chocolates, nut filled dates, nut filled apricots, marzipans and Turkish delights. They are not cheap and you can get by eating a lot. They also have some nicely packed boxes to take back home as gifts.

Vieux-Montréal is home to a considerable number of restaurants catering to most tastes and wallets. However, a must try right off the bustling Place Jacques-Cartier is a French bistro called Le Jardin Nelson for dinner. It gets quite busy on weekend nights and they don’t take reservations. If the weather is nice, ask to be seated in the back patio where you would feel like you have entered a tropical garden paradise. There is live jazz music almost always. It even has raincatchers to protect you in case the weather is uncooperative. While the menu can cater to picky eaters as well, try the traditional crepes that are offered with a variety of fillings from mushrooms, rabbit, and duck to lobsters and shrimps.

Le Jardin Nelson, Montreal

Visit one of the three locations of Juliette e Chocolate for an after dinner treat. They serve traditional or old-fashioned, dark, milk or white chocolate as shots, milk shakes or smoothies, combined with fruit or if you are more adventurous with spices, and even married Liquor for cocktails, hot or shakes. And that’s not all! If you still like a dessert to go with your chocolate, you can order crepes, pastries or fondue. And please don’t forget to take one of the many varieties of brownies they make to have later. “The only thing I can’t resist is temptation!” – Oscar Wilde.

After partying at the numerous bars and clubs that Montreal is famous for, night owls usually end up having La Poutine. It is a fast food invention of Quebec consisting of French fries, cheese curds and brown gravy. You can find it in surprising combinations (even with foie gras) at pretty much any corner of Montreal. It is not the healthiest snack but a must try in this region.

~ As appeared in Do It While You’re Young in September 2010.

More on where to eat in Montreal