Archive for the 'Places' Category


Sunfest 2008

I spent Saturday with the family at Sunfest 2008.

Sunfest is Canada’s Largest World Music Festival and it takes place in London, Ontario. 

I love world music, and any festival that has world music is a great spot for sampling “world food.”

I had a Columbian areppa (I hope I’m spelling it right), a gyro, and a Mexican churro. I was awefully tempted by the jerk chicken and pad thai, but I was too full and too hot to eat any more. My wife stuck to mainly Vietnamese food, but had an elephant ear for dessert.

We got to do a lot of walking. There are more than 225 vendors and more than 35 professional musicians from all over the world. 

My daughter surprised us by dancing up a storm (she’s 3 months old). She Loves Reggae. I liked the Japanese Taiko Drumming. You could hear it clear across the park.


My French Canadian Food Experience

Being Canadian, my first real experience with French food had nothing to do with France. I’ve never been to Paris, and unlike many other food writers, have no tales of eating Oysters straight from the sea, or standing in lines at posh bakeries.

My first sampling of what I consider really great French food came rather unexpectedly on my first night in Quebec City.

I was 18 years old, and had just taken my very first trip by train. It had been a 12hr ordeal involving a transfer in Toronto and Montreal. It was February, and I realized just how different French and English speaking Canada were when I switched trains in Montreal. The station was crammed full of fur coats and cigarettes. Both have been all but abolished in Ontario’s public spaces.

When I finally got to Quebec City, it was well after dark, and I was able to see very little of the city as I rolled into the station. I had a long wait at the “Gare du Palais” because my ride was expecting me to come by bus for some reason.

After a snow-silent trek into the city’s suburbs (Ancienne Lorette), I was ushered into an upstairs apartment and introduced to my host with a kiss-kiss to the cheeks. I’m convinced Quebecers do this to shock and embarrass Ontarians, whom they tend to consider stuck-up and puritanical.

Inside I was treated to what I still consider my benchmark of French comfort food. Hot bowls of onion soup sat at each place around the table. Warm French bread was sliced and spread on a platter, and different pates and spreads had been placed haphazardly around the table. The lights were dimmed, candles were lit, and conversations were carried out in a broken French/ English hybrid. This is the moment I fell in love with French food.

I’ve travelled many times since to Quebec City, Montreal, and once even managed to make it as far east as Rivierre-du-Loups. During each trip I’ve managed to improve my French, make friends, and have new experiences with food.

While still a starving student with very little money, I had my first escargots in the beautiful dining room at the Chateau Frontenac. We filled up on bread and left a pretty lousy tip, but felt like we were among the nouveau riche as we left.

That same trip I was introduced to “Fruits de mer”, a mixed seafood dish presented in a dinner plate sized sea shell.

The thing I love most about Quebec is that the best food turns up in the most unlikely places. I had the very best poutine I’ve ever tasted in a bus station, while sitting on my luggage waiting for a bus. For anyone who doesn’t know what poutine is, or has only had a cheap imitation, real poutine is made using fresh cut french-fries, cheese curds, and beef gravy. I think the key is that the cheese can’t be of the processed variety, and the fries and gravy have to be piping hot. Quebec has some of the best cheese producers in North America.

Montreal has it’s own food culture.

Based heavily on both French and Jewish traditions, Montreal is the best place in Canada to get smoked meat sandwiches and bagels. It is also a good place to explore the more cutting edge modern French Canadian cuisine.

Je me souviens


The Kingdom of Morocco

In my last year or two of high school, I seriously considered moving to Morocco as a post-secondary option. I wanted to see the world, and I could think of no place more foreign to a farm kid from Canada, than the north-west coast of Africa. I got books out of the library, studied maps, day-dreamed away entire math classes (I didn’t do so well in math). Something about the country had me hooked.

The summer after high school, while working in tobacco, I befriended an Irishman named John. He had been to most of the countries in Europe, as well as Morocco. It was John who first warned me about the dangers of traveling in North Africa for a naive, blond haired North American. I would stand out like a sore thumb, and be an easy target for thieves. He painted a picture of a much more real and menacing but equally exotic location as the one I had been reading about. I decided to hold off on my Moroccan trek.

Life has a funny way of happening to you when you aren’t paying attention. In my last year of college I was approached by a company who wanted to send me to Morocco for two years. I had a diploma in outdoor adventure and could speak french and English, and they were looking for someone to lead convoys over the Atlas Mountains, to the Berbers in the Sahara. I was thrilled at the prospect, but the deal eventually fell through. To make a long story short, their expectations and my own weren’t exactly compatible.

To this day the Kingdom of Morocco haunts me. The Phoenicians, Romans, Christians and Muslims have each had a turn at ruling, and in spite of a very close proximity to Europe, and ties to the Middle East, the country is still very much African. French, Spanish, and Arabic can be heard on the streets, and this blending of histories and cultures is strongly reflected in the cuisine.

Moroccan cooking relies heavily on saffron, mint, olives, oranges and lemons. Green tea with mint and sugar is a common drink. Chicken, beef and lamb are the most popular meats, and couscous and tajine are the dishes most commonly associated with Morocco.

Berber Spice Paste

This is great to have on hand to make almost anything, from chicken and beef, to fish and vegetables, more flavourful and aromatic. A little goes a long way.

2tsp cracked black pepper,

1tsp coriander seeds,

1tsp cardamom seeds,

1 (1 inch) cinnamon stick,

4 allspice berries,

3 whole cloves,

1 small onion, cut into pieces,

2 cloves chopped garlic,

1 (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, sliced,

1/3 cup paprika,

1tbsp sea salt,

1-2 tsp red pepper flakes,

1/2 cup olive oil,

3tbsp fresh lemon juice.

Add all the spices to a dry skillet over medium heat, and stir occasionally until toasted (approx. 3 min). Allow spices to cool, then grind into a powder.

place onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor. Finely chop. Add spices and remaining ingredients and blend to a fine paste. Use immediately, or keep covered and refrigerated for up to several weeks.


The Food Revolution in Eastern Europe

Prague, Czech Republic

 Tourism and consumerism are revolutionising eastern europe’s culinary outlook. Gone are the days of centralized, government controlled industrial bakeries. Many of the old traditional ways to prepare food are being brought back, re-examined, and transformed into gourmet culinary delights.

As with most great cuisines, eastern europe has a long history of rustic, rural food that is based on using whatever seasonal ingredients are available locally. Recent years have seen an explosion of high end restaurants, cooking schools, culinary competitions, and food festivals.

 In Prague, a solid and independent Czech restaurant guide and an annual Czech food festival have brought about an increasing awareness of the quality of food available in the city. In the past, good food was only to be found in the home. Now there is an increasing intrest in good food by the locals.

There is now a magazine devoted to food and drink in Croatia, where people are becoming increasingly inclined to spend money on good food. Slovenian vintners are winning medals at international wine competitions, and Hungarian and Bulgarian winemakers are also begining to be taken seriously.

Across the former Soviet Union,  Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan have long served up outstanding Turkish-style food. Moscow has been importing Chefs from France and Switzerland to work in the city’s numerous restaurants.

Hungarian National Anthem

In Budapest there is a cable TV station, TV Paprika, celebrating the food culture of central Europe, and a website,, about Hungarian cuisine.

It’s only a matter of time before the culinary traditions and modern trends of the east spread to other parts of the world, where much of the culture has been kept alive and passed down through the families of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.


International Food and Wine Festival, Disney Style

China, originally uploaded by adelphos24.

That picture was taken at the International food and wine festival at the epcot center a few years ago. Only a true food geek would admit that he was on his honeymoon.
We didn’t go to Disney World for our honeymoon specifically for the festival, it was more of an added bonus. It turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.

The entire festival took place at the epcot center, around the world showcase exhibits. Several stalls were set up offering a small sampling of food from different countries for a reasonable price (The Disney theme parks can be very expensive when it comes to meals).

There were also demonstrations throughout the week, but we were too busy acting like kids to catch many of these.
One of the more memorable moments happened our first night. We had just left the Japan exhibit, tyco drums still pounding, and as we came around a corner, ran into a group of people doing the twist. After my initial confusion, I realized that we had inadvertantly walked into the middle of a Chubby Checker concert.
For those of you old enough to know who Chubby Checker is, yes he’s getting up there, but he can still dance. For those of you who don’t know who he is, thanks for making me feel like I’m getting up there, but I can still dance.

As far as the food went, from what I can remember, the stuff at the chinese exhibit was very good (although I can’t remember what it was). I remember having a very salty cured meat from spain, and having to drag my wife away from the perogies after the third trip. At some point I discovered a stall hosted by a brewery, and don’t really remember much beyond that 🙂

For anyone planning a trip to Disney World, I highly recommend going during the food and wine festival, if for no other reason than to keep food costs down during your trip. -the twist is definitly something white people like. – for anyone looking for a fun vacation. – the man, the legend.


China Town, Montreal

montreal china town, originally uploaded by adelphos24.

The first time I went to China town in Montreal, it was after dark, and the middle of January. People moved quickly from store to store, staying out of the cold. The lights seemed to amplify the frantic energy in the street. There were so many sights and smells, I was almost overwhelmed.
As we went past a restaurant with a narrow red deck across the front, I noticed through the window a tray of buns I had seen being made at a chinese bakery earlier in the evening. We went in and got a table.
The restaurant turned out to be one of the best Chinese buffet places I’ve ever been to. There was so much food!!
They had a table set up with several rice cookers on them, each containing a different type of rice.
The selection of food was unreal. One table had typical Chinese/North American food (chicken balls, egg rolls, etc.) Another had traditional Chinese food, while another had things you would normally see in a North American buffet. They even had pizza and sushi! You can’t go wrong with that combination (wink). I remember thinking it would be a good place to take picky eaters, because there was something for everyone.
The service was very memorable, as well. The girl that waited on us asked to take our order in french, caught the english accent, so switched to english. I then overheard her speaking Chinese to one of the other wait staff. I was impressed.
I don’t remember much about the rest of that night, other than feeling noticeably warmer as we strolled the back alleys with very full bellies.