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I’m Too Cute, Please Don’t Eat Me

by Elena on November 6, 2009

Cuy is a popular dish of the Andes, a dish that the indigenous people living in high mountains have been eating for a very long time.聽 Cuy can also be found on many restaurant menus, especially those catering to tourists.聽 Curious tourists want to sink their teeth into cuy, not because they may crave it, but rather because of the novelty.聽 Cuy is guinea pig, and as they say, when in Peru….

Guinea Pig 1

While in Peru, I unabashedly thought I’d be adventurous and follow in the footsteps of travel favorites like Anthony Bourdain and Zimmerman.聽 I wanted to fully immerse myself in the culture and food.聽 After all, food is an important part of a culture, one of the defining aspects if you ask me.聽 It is important not to judge the culinary practices of another culture.聽 There is nothing ruder than someone looking down at your plate and announcing “ew that’s gross.”聽 I’ve heard it before, being Spanish and all.

Guinea Pig 2

At one restaurant I avoided the cuy because of its expensive price tag, but I was determined to taste it.聽 However on one of our tours they decided to show us not the dish cuy, but rather the guinea pigs themselves.聽 Look at the picture below!聽 I just couldn’t do it after that.

Eek!Guinea Pig 3

Llama is another popular choice on the Peruvian menu.聽 From what I am told it is tougher than beef. Although I didn’t try llama in Peru I did taste some in Bolivia.聽 In true stereotypical American fashion, I had llama on top of my pizza.聽 Although it’s definitely a new topping I’ve never tried before, don’t think I’d ever put it on pizza again.

Here is a picture of an alpaca, cousin to the llama.聽 Alpaca’s are smaller than llamas and have ears that point backwards.


Llamas’ ears point forward and up.




Day of the Dead

by Elena on November 3, 2009

Day of Dead SkullsWhile it may appear that celebrants of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) are mocking the dead, with all the over the top colors, sugar skulls and dancing skeletons, but in reality the tradition is meant to honor those who have passed.聽 It isn’t a sad occasion, but rather playful, because displaying these caricatures of the dead, known as calaveras, lessen the fear and sadness of death.聽 Rather than feel sadness, participants celebrate and remember their loved ones by offering their favorite food and drink.聽 Check out these pictures of Day of the Dead celebrations from all over the world.

Day of the Dead SkeletonThis day coincides with the Catholic holiday All Saint’s Day on November 1st, the day after Halloween, however Dia de los Muertos lasts two days.聽 The Day of the Dead dates back to the pre-Hispanic era, when the Aztecs would honor the goddess of death.聽 The rituals have lasted and evolved with time, and the importance has remained.聽 The Catholic Church was at first vehemently against such a holiday, however realizing they couldn’t deter its following, they moved it to All Saints/Souls Day in hopes of amalgamating both traditions.聽 Throughout Mexico, and parts of the United States, the Day of the Dead is widely popular and a very important part of their culture.Day of the Dead food offeringsSugar skulls another important part of the ritual.聽 Usually you will see them with the name of the person deceased on the top of the skull.聽 These skulls are given as offerings and later eaten by friends and family.聽 It is an interesting dichotomy between the sweetness of life and sugar versus the sadness off death and skulls.聽 You can see these sugar skulls at every alter and Day of the Dead celebration.聽 Many people take the time to decorate them together, further cementing the importance of gathering as a family.

Mexican Sugar Skull is a site completely devoted to these sugar creations for Day of the Dead.聽 They have a step by step guide and recipe on how to make them yourself.聽 You can make them with egg white or meringue powder, depending on which recipe you choose.聽 A writer for the Baltimore Sun posted a slightly easier recipe to follow.聽 Not all of us have meringue powder lying around.

Sugar Skulls
Makes 50 small skulls

2 egg whites
1 tablespoons pure honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups granulated sugar

Sugar Skulls

The beauty of the celebrations are accentuated by the bright orange marigolds that are used to decorate the alters.聽 Local markets are colored orange and red with thousands of blossoms decorating the squares.聽 Known as the flower of the dead, the marigold was used by the Aztecs as offerings to the dead.聽 These flowers are said to attract the dead to the offerings.

Day of the Dead - Marigolds and Markets

Day of the Dead Marigolds and Makets 2



Au Pied de Cochon

by Elena on August 28, 2009

In case you didn’t have enough of my rich, messy, and gluttonous post about poutine, (who really ever has enough rich food) I bring you more devilish food from Montreal. I’m not going to lie and say that I wasn’t extremely excited to go to Au Pied de Cochon, in fact I was giddy all day before we made our way, practically skipping, to a foie gras filled evening. Au Pied de Cochon means leg of pig, and in case you were wondering, pig leg is on the menu. I know that may not seem appealing some, but people all over the world have been cooking with pig feet for years and years. Those rich sauces and stews you love from that fancy French restaurant in your neighborhood most likely has used a pig foot or two for flavor, but don’t think about it too much. The flavors are just too good.
Au Pied de Cochon Restaurant
When you come here think French cooking, the richness, the butter, the flavor; but we are not in France, so although Quebecers speak the same language as their counterparts overseas, they do things a little differently. For one, they use their famed maple syrup, which chef Martin Picard drizzles upon some of his popular dishes. My amateur palate would describe the food as French comfort, a meal that Montrealers are proud to admit will keep them warm in the winter.

The menu is a little intimidating including tongue, kidneys, ears, and other goodies that would leave most American children with their mouths shut. For an appetizer (entree in French) we chose Plogue 脿 Champlain, a type of foie gras. The foie gras was seared perfectly and melted like a piece of butter in your mouth. As if the guilt hadn’t set in from eating rich duck liver, the foie gras sits atop a slice of cheese, bacon, a pancake, and potatoes. The dish is then topped off with chopped apples, parsley and maple syrup. It reminds me a little of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and maybe dessert all wrapped up in one. It’s delicious, addictive, and extremely filling.
Au Pied de Cochon - Plogue 脿 Champlain
Duck in a can was our main course. Stereotypically foodies tend to shy away from any food that comes out of a can. My experience with Spanish conservas, food preserved in a can, has taught me differently. They can be quite costly and delicious, therefore the duck in a can seemed like an interesting option.

Au Pied de Cochon - Duck in a Can2Au Pied de Cochon - Duck in a Can label

The duck is cooked within the can after it is dropped in boiling water. This method can be compared to sous-vide where food is slow cooked in an airtight plastic bag, however our server explained that the duck in a can is cooked no longer than 7 minutes, to ensure the juiciness of the duck. He opened the can in front of us and the truly amazing part about the dish was its presentation after our server placed its contents over the toasted bread and potatoes. You will notice the well placed sprig, dangling from the top of the dish. The breast of duck is accompanied with a thin layer of duck fat, foie gras of course, butter-braised cabbage and a sauce that seems made for this dish and this dish only. It’s a good thing all of this sits atop mashed potatoes and toasted bread because you will need something to sop up all the sauce when you are finished.
Au Pied de Cochon - Duck in a Can
My interest in Au Pied de Cochon was no doubt influenced by Anthony Bourdain’s trip to the restaurant when he visited Montreal. Chef Martin Picard told his server to keep giving food to Anthony and only ‘when he dies stop.’ I knew that Au Pied de Cochon would be an enjoyment of excess and I wasn’t disappointed.


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Hotel De La Montagne: Best View of Montreal

by Elena on August 25, 2009

Hotel De La Montagne
Most rooftop bars are impressive because they have the city as their backdrop. If they offer cocktails, a relaxed and chic atmosphere, people will be drawn to the establishment. While walking around downtown Montreal near the famous Crescent Street, my friend and I were looking for a new place to grab a beer or glass of wine. We passed by Hotel De La Montagne and the doorman suggested that we try their rooftop bar. We never heard of the place but otherwise obliged, since we didn’t have any other plans for the evening.
La Terrasse Magnetique, quickly became one of my favorite places to go for cinq a sept. Cinq a sept, 5-7, is happy hour in Montreal. La Terrasse is the rooftop bar of Hotel De La Montagne, where drinks are fairly priced, the ambiance is relaxed, and there is a pool, although I’ve never seen anyone actually go inside it. The crowd is around mid twenties and up, which is a welcome change from the many bars and clubs near Crescent street that are sometimes packed with people taking advantage of 18 year old legal drinking age of Montreal.

Hotel De La Montagne 2
You can see Crescent Street from the terrace.
Hotel De La Montagne 3
Inside the lobby of the hotel there is another bar that will make you feel like you entered a 1950’s cabaret in Paris, where women wear plumed hats and the men have slick mustaches plastered to their faces. La Cabaret caters to an older crowd, or the occasional business person and client, and it often has a pianist and the occasional live performance.
Another popular restaurant and club that provides beautiful views of Montreal is Altitude 737. It is a restaurant and bar that later opens as a nightclub. Word on the street is that the food is overpriced and underwhelming, a combination I’d rather avoid, so I opted not to pay the hefty price tag. Again the major appeal is the view, and like other sky high restaurants, you will pay for the ambiance. I did however go to the nightclub and again I wasn’t too impressed with the club itself, but the view is beautiful at night. If you decide to go, be prepared to pay an entrance fee.



Point G Macarons

by Elena on August 20, 2009

MacaronsWhile walking on Ave. Mont Royal, we stumbled across a small bakery called Point G. After a few minutes and some nudging from a friend of mine, I realized that Point G is in fact the term for G spot in French. Oh those clever Quebecers. Quite an interesting spin on marketing if you ask me. A couple blocks away, there is a restaurant called Au Chaud Lapin, which is a French expression for being well, hot and bothered. I sense a theme brewing on this street.
Point G
chaud lapin
– someone consumed in sexual pleasures.

Sexual innuendo aside, Point G deserves a taste. It is located in the heart of the trendy Plateau section of Montreal, amongst many other bakeries; however what sets this one apart is their colorful macarons. It has been a year since this little macaron boutique opened in Montreal, which explains why I didn’t know about it last year.
Point G MacaronsThe French macaron trend has been gaining a lot of popularity, with tiny shops popping up in many big cities. This colorful macaron is different than the coconut macaroon you may have had before, although both are made with egg whites and almond paste.

We tried the caramel et fleur de sel (caramel with a bit of salt), pina colada, and coquelicot (a red flower similar to a poppy). They were all very interesting, especially the fleur de sel which had a combination of sweet and savory. I would say you must try the coquelicot because it is most unlike any typical dessert flavor. Their blog has a full list of flavors. All were yummy and inspire me to try baking these treats, however I have a feeling it won’t be easy.

Point G Macarons MontrealFor more Montreal treats.



La Banquise: Poutine in Montreal

by Elena on August 17, 2009

Cultural legend says that poutine was invented after a customer suggested putting cheese curd on his fries. The owner obliged to the request and responded with some snark saying, 莽a va faire une maudite poutine, “it will make a damn mess.” If you’ve seen poutine you know what he’s talking about. Poutine is a damn mess, an indulgent mess that makes you feel somewhat guilty enjoying the chaos, however if you are a fan of comfort food trust me you will enjoy.

Poutine is a fairly easy concept.

  • First you fry some potatoes.
  • Top the fries with cheese curd.
  • Cover with gravy.

Before you turn away in fear and dismay you must keep an open mind for this national food. Poutine is the perfect dish after a night of heavy drinking, especially in a city like Montreal known for its blistering winters. No doubt the heavy goodness will keep you warm and most likely completely full for days after eating. Poutine is the perfect complement for a Jersey girl who is accustomed to frequenting NJ diners, although I have never had the courage to order the “disco fries” that don many diner menus. So in Montreal I embarked on the greasy, artery clogging journey into the world of cheese covered fries.
Montreal La Banquise
La Banquise is a Montreal staple and any true Quebecer will tell you to eat here at least once. When I first arrived in Montreal a year ago I was told to try one of the many poutine dishes at the local resto and to my shame I never did, therefore this trip I was determined to do so. First off, anyone hoping for a light meal at La Banquise will be utterly disappointed, so don’t even bother entering its doors if you plan on ordering something like a salad. Psh and why would you? What with the delicious, damn mess that awaits you.
Montreal La Banquise 2
La Banquise will have at least 25 different poutines at a given time, a promise ensured on the menu. The various poutine dishes stray from the classic poutine recipe. After offering an Italian poutine years ago to much appraisal, La Banquise decided to play around with the menu and make more adjustments. Since then customers are able to enjoy such dishes as the Poutine Kamikaze, Poutine Mexicaine, Poutine Pizza, Poutine Vege, and Poutine Obelix, concoctions that include pepperoni, sausage, veggies, and chicken along with the traditional ingredients.
Montreal La Banquise Menu
Below is the Poutine Pizza which I ordered. The Poutine Pizza has pepperoni, green peppers, and mushrooms along with the traditional ingredients. It is strange that these ingredients do resemble the taste of pizza, although I’ve never had my pizza covered in gravy before.
Montreal La Banquise Poutine
A friend ordered the Poutine Ole Ole which I must say was one of my favorites. On top of your fries you will have the cheese curd, meat sauce, hot peppers, and Tabasco. Mmm bring on that heartburn.
Montreal La Banquise Poutine 2



Pollo Chilindr贸n

by Elena on June 29, 2009

Pollo al Chilindr贸n

Whenever I don’t know what to make for dinner, rest assured I usually end up cooking with some sort of peppers. Like a good Spanish girl, I’m a huge pepper fan. I make variations of Pollo al Chilindr贸n pretty frequently, since its not all that difficult. Expect it to take around 2 hours (it is a stew after all) because it requires one hour of simmering. But trust me it is very yummy once it’s time to eat it.

Pollo al Chilindr贸n is from the Arag贸n region in Spain, which is comprised of the provinces Zaragoza, Huesca, and Teruel in the northeast section of Spain, but it is eaten throughout the country.

4 chicken breasts (legs, thigh depending on preference)
Sea salt freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion (chopped)
1 large red bell pepper (sliced into thin strips or chopped)
1 large green bell pepper (sliced into thin strips or chopped)
4 medium sized tomatoes (peeled, seeded, and chopped) or 1 1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup jam贸n Serrano (Spanish cured ham)
1 cup of white wine
Minced garlic
1 teaspoon sweet piment贸n (Spanish smoked paprika (pimentn)
1 bay leaf
1 cup of water

Cut chicken breasts into smaller pieces and season with salt, black pepper, and rosemary. Heat a spoonful of olive oil in a large frying pan and cook chicken, working in batches, until the chicken is brown on both sides. Remove the chicken and set aside. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil to the pan and after heating, add the onions and peppers. Cook on a low heat for about 25 minutes until the vegetables start to brown.

If the vegetables are getting dry make sure to add a tablespoon of water so they do not burn. Once they are finished cooking add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. Now add the white wine and cook until it evaporates which should be another 5 minutes.

Add the jam贸n Serrano and chicken pieces and stir. Make sure to keep any juices that have collected from the chicken and add to the mix as well. Cook for 5 minutes before adding the tomatoes (or tomato sauce), piment贸n, 1 cup of water, and the bay leaf. Cook for 1 hour until the chicken is nice and tender or coming off the bone (for the legs and thighs). Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Buen provecho!


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Montreal’s Cocoa Locale

by Elena on June 25, 2009

I love sweets. Cupcakes, ice cream, gelato, cr猫me br没l茅e, you name it, I love it. Ever since I went to college in NYC, my friends and I have searched for the best of the best that dessert has to offer. When the cupcake craze hit NYC and the little cakes became trendy, more and more shops opened in cities everywhere. So needless to say my friends and I were always on the search for the perfect cupcake.

Cocoa Locale Montreal ShopCocoa Locale Montreal cupcakesMontreal has a lot to offer to sweet-tooth foodies like myself. There are plenty of patisseries, bakeries, dessert cafes, and cupcake shops to choose from. One of my favorites however is a small local bakery, owned by one woman. She calls her work a one woman show. She works on her own, baking and handling the register. The kitchen is out front so you see exactly how the cakes are made.
It may sound corny but the cakes taste like they’ve been made with lots of love.

Reema Singh is the owner/founder of Cocoa Locale, and she is located on Avenue Du Parc, just north of Avenue du Mont-Royale. Some of the cupcake (and cake) flavors I tasted were, strawberry, vanilla, lemon with coconut, chocolate chai, and chocolate mint (all really yummy although I think lemon with coconut was my favorite). The cake is moist and tastes homemade because well they are. The shop is her home afterall, she is the only one baking. There are regulars who come in and greet Reema asking her questions only a friend would know. I left my camera in the shop and called. She answered and remembered who we were and kindly put aside my camera for me to pick up. The baked creations she decorates with a small flower, a nice touch if you ask me.
The shop is cute, decorated with vintage photographs. Oh and the best part. There is a swing!
Cocoa Locale eating cupcakes
Cocoa Locale Shop Swing


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Peruvian food is famous throughout the world, and if you go to Lima you will see why. It is one of the most diverse cuisines and has currently become a popular cuisine to study by top chefs. Since Peru has such a diverse culture and multicultural background that includes, pre-Inca, Spanish, French, and Japanese to name a few, the food combines a variety of flavors. Not to mention the homegrown local ingredients that make the cuisine very unique. One of the highlights of my trip has been the soups we have eaten, where even a typically boring chicken soup (which they call diet soup) is just so good.

It seems like no matter where you go in Lima the ceviche is incredible. We ate some ceviche at a small restaurant in downtown Lima. The fish is fresh, as it should be considering how close you are to the ocean. If you look closely at the picture above you can see some Peruvian corn, or as I like to affectionately call it 麓giant麓corn. It is much larger than I麓ve ever seen and has a softer texture.

The Pisco Sour is Peru麓s national drink. It is pretty yummy, and made from Pisco, brandy made from grapes. Our bartender made a few Pisco Sour for us and showed us the process on how to make one.


3 parts Peruvian Pisco
1 part lime juice
1 part sugar syrup (jarabe de goma)
1 egg white
a drop of Angostura bitter

Astrid y Gast贸n is a popular restaurant in Lima and always written about in the guidebooks, however I can assure you that the food is incredible. Seriously I want the chef Gast贸n Acurio to be a part of my family so I can have his dishes whenever my little heart desires. He was born in Lima and has helped make Peruvian food a popular cuisine around the world, not to mention make little tourists such as myself smile with glee.

Of course we had to try the ceviche at Astrid y Gaston麓s and so far it has been the best I have ever tasted. We tried the 麓travieso麓ceviche which was a mix of the catch of the day. I cannot reiterate how goooood the ceviche tasted.