Visit to Vancouver/Victoria

Hello hello! Having just returned from our trip to Vancouver + Victoria in British Columbia, let’s just start by saying it’s beautiful. With the mountains and the forests and the ocean just outside the city… a perfect combo of urban and nature.

I’d been told by several people that Vancouver has a great food scene, so I was looking forward to trying out a few places. Luckily, we have friends from Vancouver who gave us some excellent recommendations, which I’ll of course share with you all as well 😉

Vancouver

First day, we walked around the perimeter of the downtown area, through Gastown to Coal Harbour and up to Stanley Park. In Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, we passed by the famous steam clock, which is pretty neat. Further along, the outcropping at Canada Place gave us a great view of Vancouver Harbor, busy with sea planes taking off. (Have you ever been on a sea plane?? I think they’re so cool!). Walking along through Coal Harbour and into Stanely Park, the views along the sea wall from both the city side and from the park are really a beautiful contrast of the modern glass buildings next to the serene water and mountains. It was probably one of my favorite views in the city.

In Stanley Park, we walked around a bit, though definitely didn’t cover the whole park. In the south side of the park, there’s a collection of native totem poles that were cool to see with their bright colors and intricate carving designs.

Totem poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver

We continued on by circling around from the park to English Bay Beach and down to Yaletown. By this point, we were starving for restaurant rec #1: The Parlour. Our friends told us to try the Yaletown pizza, which has albacore tuna, avocado, cilantro, red and green onions, and a spicy aioli. Now you may think tuna sounds a bit different for a pizza, but this pizza was SO GOOD. Would 100% recommend.

Yaletown pizza from The Parlour

Day 2 of Vancouver, we explored further west outside the downtown area to Granville Island, Kitsilano, and the University of British Columbia area. Food highlights of the day included Montreal style bagels from Siegel’s Bagels from the Granville Island Market (pictured below!), as well as Lee’s Donuts, also in the market.

To end the second day, we tried restaurant rec #2 from our friends, La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop. This place started out as a food truck and now has several locations in Vancouver and Victoria. Now, given that my boyfriend is from Mexico, we’re always game to try and find authentic tacos in the states, and our friends claimed these were the best tacos they’d ever had (of course, they’ve never been to Mexico 😛 ). They were not wrong.

My boyfriend ordered the tacos de cachete (cheek), de lengua (tongue), and con mole, while I went for carnitas and hongos con kale. We also split an order of sopes. All in all, the tacos were super authentic, to the point where my bf declared them the best tacos he’s had outside of Mexico. If that isn’t endorsement enough for you to go try, I don’t know what is!

In addition to the places pictured/mentioned above, I would also recommend these Vancouver food spots!

  • The Diamond – restaurant/bar in Gastown with great cocktail list. We went here the first night for a few drinks.
  • Miku – recommended by our local friends, they say it’s the best sushi in Vancouver. We didn’t have a chance to try it out. It’s also situated on the water with lovely views of the harbor and mountains.
  • La Mezcaleria – the more formal sister restaurant of La Taqueria. Also didn’t try here, but if it’s anything like La Taqueria, it will surely be amazing.
  • Chambar – also recommended by our local friends, a Belgian restaurant with great brunch (they say: try the waffles!). We also didn’t get to try here.

Victoria

After a couple days in Vancouver, we headed off to Victoria on Vancouver Island. My bf’s younger cousin has been living there on an exchange school year, so we thought to visit her and see the city before she returns to Mexico for the summer.

Victoria is definitely a much smaller but charming city. We spent most of our time walking around downtown and the harbor, eating ice cream/gelato. Our main food goal (who are we kidding, my food goal) was a recommendation for brunch at Blue Fox Cafe. Warning: be prepared to wait in line, especially if you go on Sunday. Despite the wait, this place was completely worth the line. The menu has literally a dozen kinds of eggs benedict, several kinds/flavors of waffles and pancakes, an extensive list of creative coffee/tea drinks (see the Mayan Mocha, iced chai latte, and a hot chai latte pictured below), and omelettes as well. After close to an hour in line, all three of us still agreed: well worth the wait.

Final food highlight of the trip was another round of Montreal style bagels en route to the airport from Mount Royal Bagel Factory in the Fernwood neighborhood of Victoria, near our AirBnb. With us being semi-New Yorkers now I have to say, while we really liked the Canadian bagels, my bf and I agree we prefer our own NY style bagels 🙂

All in all, we had a wonderful time on our trip and would totally visit again!

~Mardi Gras King Cake~

Happy Mardi Gras!!

Today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, marking the end of one of the most festive holiday events in New Orleans.

Fun fact about me: although I live in New York and mostly grew up in Texas, I was born in New Orleans. In fact, my mom’s whole family lives in New Orleans, so growing up, Mardi Gras was an annual event for our family. And despite a somewhat popular misconception, it’s not entirely a drunken street party. Of course, if that’s your type of scene, you can easily find it around Bourbon Street. But in other neighborhoods, especially for the daytime parades, you’ll find kids and families out watching the parades and hoping to catch beads, or if they’re lucky, a stuffed animal or other such toy.

Part of the tradition of Mardi Gras is the king cake, an oval-shaped delicacy which is sort of a cross between a coffee cake and a French pastry. King cakes are only sold during Mardi Gras season, essentially from the start of the year through Mardi Gras; so, having a February birthday, I’ve always been able to enjoy king cake as a very special kind of birthday cake! Even after we moved to Texas, we would usually either drive back to New Orleans for Mardi Gras weekend and load up on king cakes from the bakery, or my mom would special order one for us to be sent to Texas from the very best bakery, Manny Randazzo’s. The best kind of birthday treat!

Inside each cake is a plastic baby; tradition is, whoever finds the baby brings the king cake to the next party.

Balconies of the French Quarter decked out in Mardi Gras colors

Mini Cakes & Austrian Apricots

A few summers ago, I lived in a small town – Feldbach – in southeast Austria with the most wonderful host family anyone could ask for. During that summer, I first experienced baking with the metric system: no measuring cups nor tablespoons nor other American conventions, only host mom’s digital kitchen scale. Converting recipes from cups to grams was a bit of a pain (though if you’re ever in this sort of situation, here’s a helpful guide!), but once that was done, measuring everything in grams is actually quite convenient. No hassle of needing 1/4 cup vs 1/3 cup; having to use the 1/2 tsp for vanilla, then rinse/drying it for 1/2 tsp of baking powder. Just measure everything out into the same bowl on the scale!

I returned to visit host fam the following summer for a couple weeks, and while there I decided to make these mini fruit cakes for my family, taking advantage of the famous fresh Austrian apricots (Marillen) available in late summer. During my first summer in Austria, I discovered (and became obsessed with) the apricots of Lower Austria and the numerous dishes in which they use this fruit: MarillenknödelMarillenkuchen, Marillenmarmelade, Marillentorte

The cakes were nice and light with a vanilla cream cheese frosting on top, and the mini size was perfect for popping in your mouth in one bite! They turned out so beautifully, even better than I had hoped. And I know host fam (particularly host dad) thoroughly enjoyed them.