Food Adventures, Safari Style

Sundowners at Baine's Camp

High Tea at Chobe Chilwero

September, 2016. I finally get my chance to go back to Africa! Four years earlier, I had travelled to Uganda for 3 weeks on a medical mission. We spent most of our time, under very primitive circumstances. There was often no running water, no proper toilets and questionable sanitary conditions. This time, the experience would be much different. The plan was to spend our vacation on safari, observing the wild animals and hopefully, experiencing new food adventures! Our time would be spent in Botswana and Zambia, celebrating our 20 year wedding anniversary. I can’t wait! The reason we chose to spend a majority of our time in Botswana is that Botswana is renowned for responsible tourism, focusing on a high-end, low impact model which benefits the local people. This focus on sustainability makes it one of the most rewarding and game-rich safari destinations in Africa.

We begin our journey in Cape Town, South Africa, at the southern most tip of Africa. We decide that this will be the spot where we can adjust to the time change, relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. I chose a small boutique hotel in Camps Bay.

POD Camp's Bay

POD Hotel proved to be the perfect option. It has the perfect blend of sleek, modern and natural elements and is set on a hillside, overlooking the ocean. The management is kind enough to upgrade us to their best room. It’s a corner unit, with floor to ceiling windows, an open concept shower, large tub, unlimited mini bar and snacks and the MOST amazing bed.

Breakfast Included!

They also offer an amazing breakfast, that is included in your room rate! Yum! Highly recommend!

Our first day in South Africa, is spent on an all day tour of the wine country through African Eagle (arranged by the hotel). An amazing day, exploring the sights, sipping wine, shopping and enjoying good food. We started our wine tasting at Zevenwacht.

Zevenwacht, South Africa

It’s a beautiful estate, located on a small lake, with gorgeous views. I loved how they paired their wines (Sauvignon Blanc) with a variety of cheeses.

Zevenwacht Wines

Next we stopped in the town of Stellenbosch, located on the heart of the Cape Winelands. It is adorable, with its oak lined streets and Cale Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture!

Stellenbosch, South Africa

It is picturesque and quaint, with lots of sidewalk cafes and shops.

Stellenbosch, South Africa

We stopped for a quick round of shopping (a bit pricey) and then head to lunch in the town of Franschhoek. Our tour guide makes a recommendation for lunch. Not satisfied, we find another restaurant, off the beaten path. The menu looks perfect, the tables are set under large trees….and there is no one there?!  We decide to take a risk and it is amazing! The duck confit, I am told, was very good. I ordered the salmon salad, over smashed potatoes. It is heavenly.

Cafe des Arts, Franschhoek, South Africa
Cafe des Arts, Franschhoek, South Africa

The Sauvignon Blanc is the icing on the cake! The name of the restaurant is Cafe des Arts. A great find! I hope it’s still there!

Our next stop is at Taste at Laborie.

We are welcomed by a cozy tasting room connected to a beautiful patio. Here, we get to sample a variety of wines and as an added surprise, brandy.

Our last stop is at Marianne, which offered the best views of the day, which was perfect since the sun was beginning to set in the sky, casting a beautiful glow on the landscape. Heavenly!

The next day, we opted for a half day tour of the Cape of Good Hope, Boulder Beach and surrounds. This included a hike around the Cape of Good Hope. I was in heaven! Imagine breathtaking vistas, crashing waves, Penguins, ostrich, and baboons!

Between both of these tours, we sadly, did not have a chance to experience much of the food scene in Cape Town (which is supposed to be amazing), so I guess that means I need to go back!

Our journey to our safari begins four hours north in Maun, Botswana, via a 12 seat Caravan😬.

The Okavango Delta is fertile and green, despite it being the dry season. The view from the airplane is utterly unreal. From 10,000 feet you can see numerous of herds of elephants, pods of hippos and a few wandering giraffe. For the next 10 days, we will visit 4 Sanctuary Retreats lodges in Botswana, along the Okavango Delta and in Zambia, on the Zambezi River. My goal is to eat a pescetarian, gluten free diet. Will this be possible in Africa?!? Yes! It is!

The food at all if the lodges was very good, with tons of dietary options and each lodge was able to accommodate my gluten free diet. All of the Sanctuary Retreat lodges that we stayed at offered the same enormous meal plan, which is included in the cost of your stay. For breakfast, they offer a large continental breakfast, along with a small menu offering eggs and various side dishes.

Coffee, tea and baked goods are offered during the morning game drive.

To my surprise, each lodge prepared gluten free goodies, specially for me! Lunch is served in three courses, with wine and multiple options available.

Generally, a gorgeous puréed soup or beautiful salad to start. Meat, fish and vegetarian options were available for the main course. The desserts were rarely gluten free, so I opted for a fruit plate. High Tea is served before the evening game drive with a huge selection of sweets and savories along with coffee and tea.

High Tea at Chief's Camp

At the end of the evening game drive, they serve a sundowners, which generally consists of wine, beer or cocktails with nuts, dried fruit and beef jerky.

Sundowners at Baine's Camp
Sundowners at Baine’s Camp

Finally, dinner is served at 8pm and it’s another three course extravaganza. Phew!

All of the Sanctuary Retreat lodges that we stayed at were fantastic. Each place had magical element about it! Our favorite had to be Baine’s Camp. Located on a private concession in the Okavango Delta, this rustic styled lodge, with only 8 rooms, is intimate, has amazing service and has gorgeous surrounds.

Baine's Camp

Special thanks to Henry for making us feel so at home! Picture candlelit bubble baths under the stars as well as sleeping under the stars in the comfort of your four poster king sized bed, with the sounds of hippos, and crickets singing you to sleep. The Elephant Experience that they offer made for one of the most memorable days of my life.  

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And the game drives here were some of the best of our entire trip! These were experiences right out of my dreams…..

The newly remodeled Chief’s Camp was the most luxurious of all of the accommodations. We were welcomed by a huge guest house, filled with floor to ceiling windows, to take advantage of the panoramic views of the Moremi Game Reserve.

Chief's Camp

Gorgeously decorated, each guest house came complete with an indoor and outdoor shower, huge soaking tub and our own plunge pool. The food was also amazing. 

Dusk

We were treated to a BBQ feast of their traditional foods under a moonlit sky. The game drives here, were also very abundant! We saw the big five!

Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero was a larger camp, located on a hill top with stunning views of the Chobe River.

Chobe Chilwero

The chef here took special care in arranging my gluten free options. He checked in with me at every meal. I really appreciated this special attention.

Salmon Salad

 

The evening boat rides were wonderful and gave us a different viewing perspective for the elephants, African buffalo, hippos, crocodiles and birds.

Safari by boat

We did enjoy one afternoon at the spa here, as well.

The Spa

We were very pleased with the tranquil facilities and our massages!

Sussi & Chuma, located in Zambia, on a beautiful stretch of the Zambezi River, marked the last stop of our trip. We spent 3 days exploring Victoria Falls, taking boat rides, fishing and enjoying the spa.

The chef here made the best gluten free toast and muffins, using cassava flour. Have you ever used it? It was the base for much of the gluten free goodies that were made for me in Africa. It’s made from a root, so it’s gluten free and grain free.

Chickpeas and butterbeans with chapati
Chickpeas and butterbeans with chapati

Best of all it’s easy to use. The chef was kind enough to share his recipes for pancakes and chapati with me. As an added bonus, Malala (the esthetician) went entirely out of her way and purchased a 2 kg bag of cassava flour for me to take home.

Thank you Malala!

(Can you imagine explaining that to the customs officer in Amsterdam?!)

Something I love about traveling the globe, is being exposed to a multitude of new flavors, spices, textures, ingredients and food combinations. My travels stay with me, not only in my memories and pictures, but in the recipes and food inspiration that follows me back to my kitchen. On this trip, the two things I have developed a huge appreciation for are cassava flour and the safari tradition of the sundowner.

The sundowner is an essential part of traditional safari life, the concept of having drinks while watching the sun go down.

It originates from the time of the great safaris of the 1920’s. Picture the serving of elegant ‘bush’ cocktails against the unforgettable backdrop of the African sunset. Our sundowner began with a gentle drive to a scenic spot where wine, cocktails and snacks are set up. Magical, memorable and romantic, the sundowner is an experience not to be missed and I look forward to replicating back home in Oregon, but there is NOTHING like an African sunset.

African Sunset

Visit Sanctuary Retreats for more information!

http://www.sanctuaryretreats.com/travel-experiences

Cuba and the Art of Simplicity

Market in Cuba

 

Cuba. Forbidden. Mysterious. A place that time has forgotten. All of these images come to mind when one thinks of Cuba. With the recent progression in Cuban and American relations, we decided to make the journey to visit the amazing city of Havana before the mega resorts and American business men move in and destroy it. The landscapes, culture, the food…they were all a preconceived notion to me. We actually booked the trip a year ago, as a fitness retreat with Escape to Shape. Access to Cuba is cumbersome and the only way we could enter the country legally was to come as a cultural exchange. We left the leg work with the experts at Escape to Shape. The owner, Erica Gragg, has led us on multiple adventures into the unknown. We trusted her implicitly to get us in to Cuba smoothly, to organize a fantastic itinerary, to eat amazing food and surprise us with off the beaten track adventures. She did not disappoint.

I could write all day about the kindness of the Cuban people, the fascinating and growing art scene, the intoxicating music, the tropical landscapes, the deep history and the decaying elegance of Havana….but this is a food blog.

So I will stick to the topic of gastronomy and hopefully, succeed in weaving in a bit of interesting commentary for you!

I had been warned, that the food in Cuba is boring. Beans, rice, chicken, fish and mojitos. It would make sense, considering that single biggest challenge to the chefs of Cuba is their access to a wide variety of food. There simply is not a lot of food products available.

And contrary to many other Latin American countries, Cuban food is not spicy. Not at all. All of this being said, my experience with the food in Cuba was surprisingly good.

For our very first meal, we had straightforward, traditional Cuban cuisine in the fishing village of Cojimar. This village was the inspiration for Hemingway’s ‘Old Man and the Sea’.

Cojimar, Cuba
Cojimar, Cuba
Classic Car
Classic Car
Cuban Rhythms
Cuban Rhythms

As we walked down the dusty sidewalk and entered the Ajiaco Cafe. As with most of our Cuban meals, everything was served family style, down the center of a long table.

Ajiaco Cafe
Ajiaco Cafe

As soon as we walked in, we were handed a mojito, their national cocktail. Everyone generally makes a mojito the same way, but not this place! My compliments to the chef who thought of adding honey instead of sugar and a single sweet pepper to these mojitos! It was un unexpected and tasty twist;)

Mojito at Ajiaco Cafe
Mojito at Ajiaco Cafe

Our feast started with a large basket of freshly baked bread, served with whipped pineapple butter. I did not taste the bread, but with the ever growing sounds of approving “yum”s, I tasted a bit of the butter. It was amazing! This is the perfect example of how common food in Cuba was integrated into something different. It had just the slightest hint of sweetness and was whipped into creamy perfection. I will definitely attempt to make it at home:)

Next came some cheese croquettes and the soup. We were told that the soup was a common countryside soup made with root vegetables (taro, yucca, potatoes), guaco and “many other ingredients”. Guaco is a vine-like plant whose leaves are said to have medicinal properties. I’m not sure what all the other flavors were, but it was simple and tasty.

Traditional Croquettes and Empanadas.
Traditional Croquettes and Empanadas.
Cuban Peasant Soup
Cuban Peasant Soup

The main entree was the Ropa Vieja (old rope), a shredded beef dish that is a staple in Cuba. The meat was tender and flavored lightly with onions. This was served with beans, rice and taro root with pickled onions.

Taro Root with Pickled Onions.
Taro Root with Pickled Onions.

For dessert they served rice pudding (another use for rice) with a sugared rim and spoon of lime sorbet, which was a perfect palate cleanser.

Rice Pudding
Rice Pudding

They also served my favorite Cuban Coffee from the entire trip. Not only was the technique fascinating to watch, it had a nice presentation, served in a small, rustic metal cup. The taste was sweet, but potent!

No matter whether it was lunch or dinner, casual or formal, most of our meals were closely matched to this meal, with different combinations of meats including ropa vieja, chicken, pork, swordfish and lobster. Nearly every meal was served with beans and rice and root vegetables or another vegetables. Rarely was there a salad included with our meal, just some shredded cabbage with tomato and some oil and vinegar…. if you were lucky.

Cuban Version of a salad!
Cuban Version of a salad!

The main difference between each meal was in the preparation of the meats (sautéed, versus grilled), the addition of sauces and multiple adaptions of root vegetable preparations (fried, sautéed, pureed and mashed).

Fish over a root vegetable puree at La Moneda, Havana.
Fish over a root vegetable puree.
Shrimp with mashed taro root and a balsamic reduction at El Sarao.
Shrimp with .mashed taro root and a balsamic reduction

It really was inspiring to see the many combinations that were made out of the same ingredients. Some of my favorite meals, in this traditional style were dinner at Le Chansonnier and Atelier and lunch at Ajiaco Cafe, our outdoor lunch La Moneda and Casa del Campesino near the Sierra del Rosario area (all complete with live music).

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An elegant dinner, surrounded by art at Le Chansonnier.

Of course there were a few restaurants that were more creative with their cuisine. El Cocinero offers an inventive menu, in a lively setting, with a large outdoor terrace.

I loved their adaptation of rice pudding, shaped into sushi rolls, with raisins in the the center, a condensed milk dipping sauce and chop sticks for eating.

IMG_5372

La Guarida (www.laguarida.com) was my absolute favorite meal in Havana, not only because of the wonderful food, but because of the gorgeous 20th Century building it resides in and the manner in which the restoration was accomplished. It is considered a paladar, a privately owned, in home and family operated restaurant (as opposed to a government run restaurant).

Interestingly, part of it remains a multifamily dwelling. Much of the lower half of the building is left in elegant decay, with colorful tiled floors and an beautiful marble staircase, surrounded by thick, intricate wrought iron. Up, up, up the stairs you go, four flights up.

Every angle of your journey showcases a unique view, through a window, a door, a hallway, until you finally reach the restaurant, which has been lovingly restored, and is thick with modern art, crystal chandeliers, large wood paned windows, and multiple outdoor terraces that offer panoramic views of Havana.

Surrounded by art at La Guardia.
Surrounded by art at La Guarida.

The place is hopping, even as we finally finish our meal, well past midnight.

The dinner was our most decadent. It started with an appetizer of eggplant caviar, a shot of pumpkin puree and a small salad of candied pecans, pineapple, dried apricots and cheese.

Appetizers
Appetizers

Every bit was delicious and a complete departure from all of our meals in Havana. Next came a spinach crepe, filled with chicken and drizzled with a red pepper sauce. The main course was Lobster Beurre Blanc, served with beans and rice, fried plantains and (my favorite) yucca root, doused in copious amounts of butter. For dessert, we had a deconstructed lemon meringue pie with a chocolate tart. Unfortunately, the food was too dark to photograph. It was amazing. A night dreams are made of….

Cheers!
Cheers!

One more thing. The street food. It is best not to tempt fate and end up sick while visiting Cuba. Just don’t do it, unless it’s coconut ice cream served in it’s own shell. The heat is really intense and this little piece of heaven can literally, save you:)

 

Coconut Ice cream!
Coconut Ice cream!

So there you have it! I can’t wait to see how the food culture in Havana explodes once there is better access to more ingredients. The chefs of Havana have already created an impressive array of culinary choices, under the harshest of circumstances. It will only get better from here! For more information on the food culture in Havana, check out this article printed in Saveur in October, 2015 http://www.saveur.com/best-paladares-restaurants-in-havana-cuba 

 

A Weekend in Palm Springs

Palm Springs is Calling!
Palm Springs is Calling!
Palms Springs is Calling!

The weather in the Pacific Northwest tends to drag you down towards Mid-Winter. The holidays are far behind you, the snow is melting on the mountain range and the weather forecast is rain, rain, rain. I am thankful for the abundant precipitation, but it is time to get away to the sun for a bit! Thankfully, Jason has a car auction he’s working in Palm Springs, so I decide to tag along:) The flight is as easy, as can be from Portland, so a quick weekend trip is a breeze!

We always include breakfast at the Portland Airport in our travel plans. In case you didn’t know, the Portland Airport is one of the best airports the country. And because Portland is a foodie mecca,  there are tons of great food options to choose from for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My favorite stop for my preflight breakfast is The Country Cat. They have a brick and mortar establishment in the SE part of Portland as well, if you want to check it out! The menu at the airport is limited, but still amazing. I ended up with the Eggs Benedict with salmon, minus the biscuit.

Eggs Benedict
Eggs Benedict

At lunch I go for the kale salad with smoked chicken (which is not offered on their regular menu). It’s perfect for a light lunch or dinner….and tastes a heck of a lot better than a Big Mac! They also have a grab and go counter that has some great snacks and drinks to carry onto your flight, if you are pressed for time! My favorite, is the chia pudding.

Country Cat Chia Pudding and Kombucha
Country Cat Chia Pudding and Kombucha

It looks weird, but tastes divine! Yogurt and chia seeds, topped with nuts, dried fruit and apple sauce. (Thanks to my friend Elizabeth for this find!) It’s a tasty treat that’s great anytime of day and it’s good for you!

I found this amazing little hotel for our last minute getaway, called Sparrows Lodge. Originally built as Castle’s Red Barn in 1952 by MGM actor Don Castle and his wife Zetta, it was one of the original resort getaways for Hollywood elite. It was completely and lovingly restored in 2013. It has a completely different vibe than the other hotels in the area. We loved the laid-back vibe, kilim rugs, tasty food, relaxing pool scene. There was great care to make sure we were content and comfy throughout our stay! So many special touches!

We arrived right before lunch and made our way through a small, lodge like room. It was comfortably decorated with a small couch, leather butterfly chairs and a stone fireplace. The back end opened up to a beautiful pool area, surrounded with cushioned pool loungers and hotel rooms along each side. The air was scented with jasmine and seemed to cool off immediately with the misters. We walked past a few sunbathers to the beautiful red barn, which functioned as the lobby, bar and communal sitting area. Our room wasn’t quite ready. No worries. We were offered lunch and a complimentary sangria while we waited.

The menu was short and simple. Everything sounded good. Jason ordered the Chicken Salad Sando (sandwich) and I opted for a light snack of veggies and green goddess dressing for dipping. We were not disappointed, everything was tasty and fresh. By the time we finished our meal, we could check in;) The best news was that we got upgraded to a garden room, which was larger and more quiet than the pool room.

Our room was a mixture of rustic and modern, with its own private patio, open air shower and deep horse trough bath tub. Simple and comfortable. I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the shade, reading by the pool. Mid-afternoon, we were all offered popsicles.

Mid Afternoon Popsicle
Mid Afternoon Popsicle

It was the perfect treat to beat the heat;)

By the time I came back to the room, Jason was ready for a mid-afternoon snack. So, in continuing my food research, I ordered the hummus plate and the fruit salad with burrata. it did not disappoint!

Fruit Salad with Burrata
Fruit Salad with Burrata

Nap time….

There are a ton of restaurants to choose from for dinner. Luckily, I was able to do a bit of research ahead of time! We decided Workshop Kitchen + Bar* for dinner. It can best be described a chic farm-to-table restaurant. Book early, or you will end up at the long (but gorgeous) communal table inside. We lucked out and had an amazing alfresco meal, surrounded by gaslit heaters (even though it was 77 degrees) in their courtyard dining room. The menu was filled with seasonal, fresh and inventive food and cocktail preparations. Best of all, it offered tons of gluten free and vegetarian options, as well as a lot of meat and fish. It was difficult to make a decision! We both selected a salad to start, followed by a main entree and then, shared a dessert.

Champagne Cocktail
Champagne Cocktail

I wish that I had better pictures to post, but the lighting was very dim! You are just going to have to trust me. By the time we were leaving, the place was hopping! I look forward to coming back again, soon.

In the morning we were greeted to a simple (and complimentary) continental breakfast in the barn. Coffee, fruit, granola, toast and hardboiled eggs.

Simple Breakfast
Simple Breakfast

It’s all we needed. That desert heat has a way of depleting one’s appetite and I knew we should leave some room for brunch.

And I DID enjoy brunch, in the oasis of the outdoor courtyard at The Tropicale. A great Bloody Mary. A fresh Chinese Salad with ‘big ass’ shrimp (seriously, it said that on the menu). Nothing complicated. Simple and good.

Palm Springs Brunch
Palm Springs Brunch

Need I say more?
Time to head back to the hotel and relax by the pool.

Dinner that night was kind of a hit or miss. Great food, beautiful dining areas and design, but a really noisy and chaotic atmosphere.

Gorgeous Food
Gorgeous Food

You’d never guess it from this picture. I recommend going there for a party, not for a romantic dinner. Eight4Nine It might be for you…

Eating My Way Through Chile

Patagonian feast
Gorgeous view of Santiago
Gorgeous view of Santiago

After our 15 hour journey into Santiago, I leave Jason at the hotel to nap and head out into the streets of Santiago! We are staying in the fantastic, historical area known as Barrio Lastarria. I love our hotel.

It’s got tons of charm, character, great service and a yummy breakfast is included. It’s called The Lastarria Hotel. It’s also in a great location. Just a 5 minute walk, the streets are loaded with cafes and restaurants, the area is filled with the buzz of people.

It is lunchtime! I walk up and down the tiny streets and stumble on a sweet courtyard with 8 options for lunch. I choose the quaint looking restaurant Casa Lastarria.

It’s modern looking, with a rustic edge and the menu is filled with Chilean specialties. I quickly decide to start with a glass of Spumante (sparkling wine) and some ceviche.

A glass of Spumante and ceviche.
A glass of Spumante and ceviche.

The ceviche is simply made with white fish, citrus, red onion and cilantro. Tasty and uncomplicated. It is the perfect start to lunch on the warm Spring day! They do not serve ceviche with bread, crackers or chips, but the quantity is huge and I quickly grow full. I decide to take a break for a bit and people watch for awhile. I still have a main entree coming😳

Pastel de Choclo
Pastel de Choclo

Next is the Pastel de Chocolo (Corn Pie). It is a pastel food based on sweetcorn or choclo, meaning “tender corn”. First documented as a dish in Peru, it is now a typical Chilean dish. It is also similar to pastel de elote, found in Mexican cuisine, and to the English corn pudding. Pastel de choclo is traditionally served in an earthenware bowl in an individual portion. The filling usually contains ground beef, chicken, raisins, black olives, onions or slices of hard boiled egg. It is soft the whole way through, with no crust and a lightly sugared and crisped top, the perfect mix of savory and sweet. Mine is served with a side of rustic salsa. Not spicy or overly seasoned, it’s simple and good. I’ll try to recreate this perfect comfort food when I get home!

After lunch, I swing by the hotel to get Jason. It’s actually a warm Spring day in Santiago, so it’s perfect for checking out the sights! We decide to go up to San Cristobal Hill, overlooking Santiago. The view is amazing. By the time we get back to the hotel, we are ready for helado (ice cream). It seems to be very popular here. At least 4 heladarias in our neighborhood. One place, in particular, stands out.

They sell ice cream on a stick, in many different flavors. They are actually, much lighter than ice cream, icy, more like a popcycle. So good! Jason gets the dolce de leche and I get the salted caramel. I completely recommend this place. It’s located in an upscale hotdog joint (strange, I know) called Hogs.

When we arrive back to our hotel, we find out that the hotel staff has accidentally booked us at the best restaurant in Chile called Borago.

Borago
Borago

I had tried earlier in the week to get us in, but it was full. On some miracle, they were able to get us in! We arrive for our 9pm reservation, having no clue to the meal that we have in store for us…18 courses of regionally inspired and foraged food, artistically presented and painstakingly prepared. It was amazing. I’ll post some of the prettiest pictures here, but I honestly cannot begin to accurately describe what we were consuming.

All I know, is that it was amazing! Each dish is brought out by the chef who prepared it, was intricately described. It was the best meal I’ve ever had! Thank you Borago!

The next day, we decided to go to the Mercado Central. Built in 1872, it is considered to be one of the best fish markets in the country. It’s a very popular destination for lunch.

I cruised around the entire market, taking pictures and chatting with the fish mongers. It is huge, with lots of restaurants surrounding it. Unfortunately, Jason got grossed out with the smell of fish (even though the restaurant area was fine), so we decided to eat elsewhere.

We walked back to the Lastarria neighborhood where I had made a backup plan for lunch at Tambo. This is a Peruvian restaurant that’s very popular with the locals, so reservations are a must! The decor is pretty simple and modern, not as inviting as some of the other cafes on that street, but don’t let it fool you. This place has the best ceviche I’ve ever tasted.

I savored EVERY. LAST. DROP. And then finished my lunch with a Pisco Sour. I’d go back here in a heartbeat!

After two relaxing days in Santiago, we begin our journey to Patagonia. It’s a 4 hour plane ride further south and 4.5 hour drive to our hotel, Explora. The food at Explora was good, but simple. We were on a fitness retreat and they are appealing to the adventurers and healthy crowd.

At dinner, we ate tons of seafood such as grouper, salmon, conger and crab. We also had a fair amount of lamb and beef. For lunch we had simple soups and a variety of quinoa salads, which I extremely enjoyed while we were on the trail!

image

One of the best highlights was the Patagonian feast that awaited us after a particularly grueling, freezing cold, wet hike! The meal was served in a cabin that was solely heated by the large BBQ/ fireplace in the middle. It was warm, dry and smelled of the bbq’d meat that had been cooking.

Unfortunately, being gluten free meant that I couldn’t eat the empanadas. They served two types, corn with black olives and spicy ground beef. Everyone raved. They also served a sausage similar to chorizo, but not as spicy, bbq’d chicken, beef and a whole lamb. To balance out the meal, they offered us a wide variety of salads too. It was my favorite meal in Patagonia!

Lastly, our trip would not be complete if I didn’t mention drinking caffeine rich Mate with the Gauchos, after an afternoon of horseback riding. 

And nibbling on indigenous berries (juicy and tart) and fungus (very similar to a mushroom….earthy and sweet) while hiking the trails.

Yes, we are brave!

Eating My Way Through Paris

One of the best boulangeries in Paris!
Even a rainy day in Paris is a good day!
Even a rainy day in Paris is a good day!

A week in Paris with a friend was just what the doctor ordered! Who doesn’t need beautiful scenery, amazing culinary inspiration and a bit of shopping, once in awhile!? Literally, our main goals on this trip were to eat lots of great food, explore the city and shop! Being that this was my second trip to Paris, I didn’t find the need to head to the main Parisian attractions. I was able to let the days unfold with a loose plan based on multiple recommendations. Every night, we planned our route of culinary treasures and shopping excursions for the next day. Although we made great utilization of the Paris metro, we managed on walking 5-10 miles a day! (Comfortable shoes, moleskin and bandaids are a must!)

Comfortable shoes are a must!
Comfortable shoes are a must!

Our trip began with booking a great apartment in Le Marais through Airbnb. This is a very inexpensive and fantastic option! It allowed us to have our own bedroom and bathroom, have coffee and breakfast in the apartment every morning, freshen up our clothing (it had a washer and dryer) and bring back culinary goodies to snack on throughout the week (it had a well equipped kitchen).

Our apartment in Le Marais
Our apartment in Le Marais
Our apartment in Le Marais
Our apartment in Le Marais
The view from our apartment window!
The view from our apartment window!

I highly recommend our apartment in Le Marais if you like to stay away from the touristy areas and want easy access to a wide variety of restaurants and shopping;)

My food recommendations in Le Marais:

Robert et Louise
64 Rue Vieille du temple

Wood fired steak!
Wood fired steak!

A fantastic, rustic, tiny restaurant that specializes in wood roasted meats. Simple and delicious, the meal is accented by the glow and amazing scents emanating from the wood oven.

Robert et Louise in Le Marais:)
Robert et Louise in Le Marais:)

Reservations are a must! Since our apartment was a few steps away, we opted to show up, right as they opened at 7:00pm. We lucked out and managed to secure two seats at the tiny bar which provided us plenty of entertainment throughout the meal!

Duck Confit!
Duck Confit!

The duck confit and salad were amazing! Tasty, simple, good. We also shared a half bottle of red wine and a cheese course.

Cheese course!
Cheese course!

This was an amazing value at €56! Rumor has it, they have a €12 price fixe lunch menu! Upon further investigation, I’ve just read that it was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s show a few years back!

-La Petite Marche
9 Rue Bearn

Le Menu
Le Menu
Le Petit Marche
Le Petit Marche
Incredible lunch!
Incredible lunch!

We stumbled into this charming, corner cafe our first day in Paris. I’d found it on Pinterest as one of the best restaurants in Le Marais. We were not disappointed. It was packed with locals and the tiny kitchen was hopping! I ordered the daily lunch special which included an amazing goat cheese salad and a choice of two plates of the day. I choose the lentils with sausage. I don’t know how something so simple could be so amazing! We washed it down with some local white wine, content and happy:) Infact, we loved this place so much, we went back for dinner for the burrata salad and the Black Angus steak dinner.

All dinner items come with the creamiest mashed potatoes you’ve ever had and sugar snap peas! Yum! I finished the night with the flourless chocolate molten cake…..amazing!

-Au Merveilleux de Fred
28 Rue de Francois Miron

I love being greeted by this gorgeous chandelier!
I love being greeted by this gorgeous chandelier!

You can’t miss this corner gem of a bakery. An enormous crystal chandelier greets you as you walk in the door. As you look around, it’s clear that they only sell one thing….merengue. But not just any meringue…..the lightest, fluffiest, bites of heaven, you can imagine. I’ve never had anything like it!

Meringue!!!!
Meringue!!!!

The sizes range from small, bite sized morsels, to a large, cake sized masterpiece. They come with a variety of toppings (hazelnut, dark chocolate, white chocolate, caramel and berry). I tried them all. We stopped by there 3 times. Yum! 

-L’ As Du Falafel
32-34 Rue des Rosiers
A must if you are in the area! Even if you have eaten already! Share it with friends! Do what you must! The line looks long, but moves quickly. The To-Go line is on the left, the dine-in line is on the right. If you don’t want to deal, with a mess, order the plate of falafel (costs more).

The best falafel in Paris!
The best falafel in Paris!

Besides getting the most amazing falafel you’ve ever had, you get two types of cabbage salad, cucumber and tomato salad and the most delicate, melt in your mouth roasted eggplant, ever! This place is famous for a reason:))

-Au Petite Versailles du Marais
1 Rue de Tiron

One of the best boulangeries in Paris!
One of the best boulangeries in Paris!

Even though I’m gluten free, I have to post this amazing find! Apparently, this boulangerie, which has been open since 1860, has received the highest honor for their patisseries (and few have achieved this status)! It is considered one of the best boulangeries in Paris. It is small, but beautiful. If you order a baguette, be sure and order a baguette traditional, which only contains 4 ingredients (salt, flour, yeast and water)!

-Breizh Cafe
109 Rue Vielle du Temple
I couldn’t eat here either, but I have been assured, these are some of the best crepes in Paris. If you can’t get into the restaurant, you can order to go in the shop next door, which is well stocked with salted caramel, crepe mix and other tasty gift items! Breizh Cafe Paris

Other food recommendations, while out and about:

-Laduree

Laduree
Laduree

Multiple locations throughout the city! We visited the tea room off of Bonaparte and Jacob. The menu was amazing! Lots of sweets, including their famous macaroons! They also serve breakfast and lunch!

We ended up sharing an omelette (the best I had in Paris) and a salad, sipping on some champagne and finishing our meal with coffee and macaroons! Immensely decadent, indeed! Funny, I don’t have a single picture of a macaroon from Laduree! I ate them immediately;)

-Le Relais de L’ Entrecôte de Paris
20 Rue Saint Benoit

Le Relais de l'Entrecôte
Le Relais de l’Entrecôte

I love, love, love this place! A fun find and interesting Parisian experience! Show up at 7:00pm, or wait in line. The vibe is casual and vibrant:) There is only one thing on the menu and it is their steak frites dinner. Your meal starts with a tasty green salad. The steak is cooked to order (medium or rare) and comes with a pile of fries and a generous portion of the tastiest green sauce you can imagine (I’m hoping to recreate it)! The game changer is that the meal is all you can eat for €26. Order some wine and come with an empty tummy! Le Relais de l’entrecote

-Angelina’s
226 Rue de Rivoli

Champagne!
Champagne!

This needs to be on every girl’s bucket list! A beautiful, but bustling spot to enjoy their famous drinking chocolate (or coffee or tea), champagne, breakfast, brunch or lunch. A perfect place to rest your feet after hitting the Louvre:)

We enjoyed lunch, champagne, dessert (Their famous Monte Blanc) and coffee! It is worth the wait! If you are in a hurry, all of their beautiful desserts are available for purchase in the adjacent shop, as well! Angelina’s on Rivoli

-Au Petit Riche
25 Rue Le Peletier

Au Petit Riche
Au Petit Riche

A more serious French meal, with an extensive wine list, oysters, escargot, organ meats, etc. Off the beaten track, and open since 1854, it has a rich and interesting history.

Great service, old school setting and a wonderful meal. This was our most expensive meal in Paris. Au Petit Riche

Culinary Goods and Specialty Shops & Services

-La Cuisine Cooking School

Basting the sole
Basting the sole

American owned and operated, but offers authentic lessons in
the basics of French cooking. I opted for the 4 hour evening French Market Class. Our instructor had worked at Michelin Star restaurants in Paris for the past 10 years and was very informative.

We visited the local market to determine what the freshest and best options were for our dinner. We vote on our menu (dietary restrictions were easily accommodated) and we worked together to cook a fabulous meal! Highlights of the meal for me were simple knife skills, basting techniques for cooking fish, making buerre blanc and cream brûlée, making a variety of whipped cheese for stuffing, simple and tasty salad dressings.

Our meal included a cheese course, salad, veggies, fish, dessert and wine. €150 La Cuisine Paris

-E. Dehillerin
18 et 20 rue Coquillière

E. Dehillerin
E. Dehillerin

This famous cooking supply shop was frequented by Julia Childs, back in the day! It is filled to the rim with the most extensive variety of baking supplies, pots, pans, knives, and implements, you’ve ever seen.

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The copper items are splurge worthy, but impossible to get home:/ I opted for a gorgeous set of skewers, cheese spreaders, a cheese knife and an apron. The prices are really good.  E. Dehillerin

 If you are more of a baker, see below….

-Mora
13 Rue Montemarte
Right around the corner from E. Dehillerin, but specifically geared towards the baker. Tons of madeleine and tart pans, unique cookie cutters, specialty sprinkles and such!

-Nicole Barthelemy Fromager
51 Rue de Grenelle

World famous and rightfully so! This small, refrigerated shop is filled to the brim with so many cheeses, pates, pestos, crackers and wine, you’ll be inspired to have a picnic.

-Bon Marche Groceries
Set in the heart of St. Germain, this large department store has all of the exclusive brands of clothing, shoes and housewares, you can imagine! But forget about that stuff! The grocery store on the 2 lower levels, is my food heaven! Even if you have zero intention on buying anything, you should check it out! We ended up buying the makings for a beautiful cheese course back at our apartment.

Cheese, pate, figs and Rosé
Cheese, pate, figs and Rosé

Cheese, pate, GF crackers, figs and Rosé. It was perfect! And I hear that this Rosé is available in the states;)