Tag Archives: travel

Ackee and Salt Fish (Jamaica Discoveries Pt.1)

Jamaican Breakfast

Time for some Jamaican breakfast!

Back from a much needed vacation, in a warm climate with a lovely beach and lots and lots of food. Maybe too much food.

We spent nearly a week in Montego Bay, Jamaica. My goal was to have some real Jamaican food, and that’s exactly what I did. Over the next little while, I’ll be showing some of the highlights, including at least one recipe attempt.

Today’s installment begins with Jamaica’s national dish, Ackee and Salt fish. This is a breakfast dish, to the surprise of many of my fellow travellers. We North Americans aren’t really known for having fish at breakfast. It was different, to be sure.
Continue reading Ackee and Salt Fish (Jamaica Discoveries Pt.1)

Ghosts of Christmas Markets Past

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Dortmund
The massive tree and drinking Glühwein with friends in Dortmund

My obsession with the German Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) began in late Fall 2006, on my first trip to Europe.

Being in Germany was a big deal for me – having been told my whole life that, being of German heritage, I had to go to Germany when I was older. Some of my early memories are of exploring the Christmas bazaar at the German hall. There were always handmade crafts, lots of food, singing and dancing. I didn’t know that it was the quiet offspring of a greater and older cultural event that happens every year in cities, towns and villages all over Germany.

I think I first understood the spirit of the German Weihnachtsmarkt in Dortmund. We were brought there by friends, who let it be known that you could not experience the market without having some Glühwein. The hot, mulled wine is served in keepsake mugs at the various markets. It keeps you warm, gives a wee buzz and leaves you with a memento of your time there. This would not be our only taste of Glühwein – I made a point of having some at both of the other markets we visited.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Frankfurt
A winding market on cobblestone streets, and fairytale structures of Römerberg.

We spent most of our time at the market in Frankfurt am Main, once when it was first opening up and then again three weeks later, when it was in full swing. It’s a winding road of sights, sounds and smells, culminating in the square at Römerberg. This was the highlight for me – the Römer buildings look like something out of a fairytale, like they’re made of gingerbread or something.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Frankfurt - Food
Some chocolate covered fruit kebabs, and some sausages and sauerkraut!

Being a food girl, of course we had to try a bit of everything! We enjoyed some chocolate covered (real) marshmallows, giant cookies claiming “Ich Liebe Dich!” (aww, cookie, I love you too!), skewers of chocolate-covered fruit, sauerkraut and brats, and more!

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Frankfurt - Thüringer
Can’t go without a Thüringer, mit senf!

One of the best things I ate had to be the Thüringer sausage, served from the weird swingy fire contraption from the photo above. Topped off with some fantastic strong mustard, it was heaven in a bun. Mind you, eating meat was a very strange thing for me in 2006, so indulging in a sausage was a bit novel.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Kölner Dom
Kölner Dom – up the impressive Cathedral we go!

Later in the trip, we had a free day in Köln, and headed right for Kölner Dom. Of course, there was a Weihnachtsmarkt right out front! First, we explored the cathedral, climbing higher and higher. The photo above, on the right, is the view of the market from one of the windows in the cathedral. Amazing views.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Köln - Train
Take the train to the various Christmas Markets in Köln

Köln had a number of markets, and you could get to them all on the train. The biggest was definitely Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom, but there was also a neat Medieval market near the chocolate museum, and a few others. This was a great way to take a load off and see the markets and parts of Köln. Of course, I bought a pile of chocolate at the museum shop. It couldn’t be avoided.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Köln 01
The Köln Weihnachtsmarkt, with the backdrop of Kölner Dom

Once it gets dark outside, the market becomes more magical. If anything, it’s busier, and the dark is broken by the lights coming from the various stalls, and Christmas decorations. A nice mug of Glühwein keeps you warm as you worm your way through the crowds, picking up some roasted almonds, baked goods, teas and crafts.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Koln - Steph
Me, at Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom

Eating My Way Through the PEC (Day 3)

Long Point

The third, and final, day of our Prince Edward County weekend was all about taking risks. In the first few days, we made it to most of the places we had “on the list”. From there, it was all a bonus, so we went a little more off the beaten path to find gems.

Our first gem we sought out close to ‘home’. We hit Black Prince winery, which is right in Picton. I had to ask about the smell of the Cabernet Franc, which I had with dinner the night before. For some reason, I couldn’t stop smelling the wine as I was drinking it. I told J it smelled like a lavender crème brûlée, with a hit of chocolate. I think I would wear it as a perfume. (Hear that Vera Wang? Maybe call it Black Princess? Cabernet Princess?). When I mentioned this to the guy at the winery, he sort of just humoured me. He probably thought I was nuts – or one of those pretentious people that make up all of the things they smell and taste in wines.

There were wineries left in all directions. Just to give us somewhere to start, we decided to head out to Black River, in search of more cheese.

Black River Cheese

Black River cheese is ever-present in the county – we had it at every restaurant we went to, and it was being sampled at many of the wineries we went to. I wanted to pick up some old white chedder, and ended up with some pepper jack and cheese curds as well. I think that brought our cheese purchase count to around 8. Eep!

Here’s where the adventure part comes in… J had seen some wineries listed out towards Long Point, so we drove allllll the way out there, only to find out that the one winery wasn’t even open yet (but on the wineries map, tsk tsk!). We drove that far, so we decided to try to make it all the way to the end of the point… which I think we did.

Long Point - Lighthouse

While there wasn’t much to do out this way, it was a lovely drive. We enjoyed the quiet drive, and hopped out when we got near the end. From there, we went to Milford to visit a couple more wineries — just a recommendation, don’t try to pop in to these on the off-season. We’ll have to visit again in the summer, when they’re sure to be open.

We did manage to hit Barley Days brewery one last time… I had been dreaming of the Cherry Porter, and decided that if it was open when we drove by I would get some. And I did (and I’m drinking one right now as I type this… mmmm Black Forest Cake beer).

Karlo Estates

We had but two spots left in our box, and only a few left on the map that we hadn’t hit yet. I won’t lie – Karlo Estates was absolutely FREEZING!! Their tasting room is in a really large barn that is being converted into galleries, and is currently only being heated by some propane heaters (see pic above). We enjoyed a nip of cheese as we tried different wines, and finally settled on a Frontenac Gris Rosé. This is strange for me, because I generally do not like rosé wine, but I was curious to try wine made from a ‘grey’ grape. I was surprised that I liked it, and decided to get a bottle to give it a real chance (when we’re not freezing). This spot is going to be incredible in the summer, so it’s on our list of places to return to.

East & Main Restaurant - Wellington

Time for lunch. East & Main Bistro was another name that came up in almost every article I read about PEC, so I thought we should hit it up before we left town.

East & Main Restaurant - Mac & Cheese

We were happy to see a variety of comfort food on the menu. I got an incredibly rich macaroni and cheese, made with – you guessed it – Black River cheddar. J got an insane wellington mushroom poutine, with cheese curds, and rabbit confit. Both dishes were amazing, and just what we needed. Sadly, I didn’t have room for dessert.

East & Main Restaurant - Poutine

Just one winery left to hit – By Chadsey’s Cairns. This was a really neat spot, with a pioneer cemetery and a whole collection of barns that looked like a little village. If you’re wondering what a ‘chadsey’s cairn’ is, you can read about it in the history section of the winery’s website. While you’re at it, take a look at the ‘wine politics‘ page – it offers a really interesting (and reasonable) viewpoint on grape growing, wine making, and more.

Chadsey Pioneer Cemetery

That’s about it for our weekend getaway. We finally made it up to the PEC, and it was everything we were looking for. The food and drink were great, the people were friendly, the accommodations were comfortable and I don’t think I heard a siren once!

I think we’ll be going back…

Eating My Way Through the PEC (Day 2)

Merill Inn - breakfast - barn

There’s nothing better than waking up at leisure, and strolling down to breakfast without having to leave the building.

Our second day exploring Prince Edward County started in the perfect way – with lemon blueberry waffles shaped like farm stuff!! My waffle was shaped like a barn, while J had a rooster and a cow. They were so adorable I almost didn’t want to eat them. It’s probably a good thing I ended up with the barn.

Merill Inn - breakfast - animals

Considering my lack of adorable photos of Merrill Inn, these waffles will have to illustrate this part of my story. It’s pretty fitting, actually, because Merill Inn was perfectly adorable but with the comfort of the bigger hotels. It was really the perfect place to stay for us, and it was right in the heart of Picton, which itself was the centre point of everything we wanted to see in Prince Edward County. Our package even included a bagged picnic lunch, which we brought on the road with us.

Copper Kettle Chocolate Company

Once we got rolling, we started headed right to Copper Kettle Chocolate Company. We had our first taste of things to come the night before, when we practically inhaled the goat cheese truffles that I bought at Fifth Town. To back it up a little, this is just one example of the county working together – the goat cheese was made by Fifth Town and the chocolate was done by Copper Kettle. Both companies carry and advertise the product, and both companies get business. Symbiosis!

Copper Kettle Chocolate Company - goat cheese truffles

Of course, we got more of them, along with a number of other fun truffles. They also had some chocolate ‘shots’ full of different wines and things, so we got a couple ice wine shots and a couple of Pinot Noir.

Copper Kettle Chocolate Company - wine shots

Down the Loyalist Parkway we went, to another bunch of wineries and fun.

At Huff Estates, we bought a really interesting unoaked Merlot, which was pretty novel for me. Next, we ended up at Sugarbush Vineyards, which is a self-proclaimed ‘garagiste‘ winery. There, aside from buying some wine, we enjoyed a chat with the owner about the area’s history.

Sugarbush Winery - Not Red

Sugarbush Vineyards ‘Not Red’ wine — oddly, we didn’t buy this particular wine. I just thought the name was funny.

Another part of our package at Merrill Inn was a complimentary wine tasting at Closson Chase, a winery that focuses on producing Chardonnay. We aren’t big white wine drinkers, and to be totally honest, the price points were a little higher than we were looking for here. Nonetheless, we took the opportunity to try some wines we wouldn’t have thought to try.

Closson Chase

The Closson Chase tasting room was inside a large and lovely barn, with stained glass, local art and lots of ambiance.

Similarly, The Grange of Prince Edward is also situated in an incredible barn, overlooking a fantastic lot where it seems people book picnics in the summer. Yeah, I think we’ll be going back to do that sometime. We politely asked if we could enjoy our packed lunches in their tasting room, overlooking the farm, since it was too windy and cold to eat outside.

The Grange of Prince Edward

We hit a few more wineries before we called it a day, including Lacey, Casa Dea and Sandbanks. By this time, I was slowing down and started playing this game where I was only allowed to pick one wine to try, and only try another if I wasn’t convinced by the first one. This was a change from the start of the day, where we tried 3-4 different wines at each location.

At Sandbanks, for example, I saw that they had a Foch Reserve and chose to try that because we hadn’t seen Marechal Foch at the other wineries we had been to, and I like to have a variety. We got to try pairing it with both cheese and chocolate and in the end, ended up buying a bottle. The prices there were very reasonable, too, so I think we’ll go back again.

I just couldn’t do any more that day – so we stopped at Tall Poppy Café in Wellington for some “Not Wine”.

Tall Poppy Café - some tea

There was but one last stop before ‘home’  – Barley Days Brewery. After a day of wine sipping, it was nice to switch to beer. We had already tried two of their beers at dinner the night before – Harvest Gold Pale Ale and Loyalist Lager – and I was excited to try their holiday Yuletide Cherry Porter. The Cherry Porter tasted like Black Forest Cake – all chocolate and cherries. I just wasn’t sure I could drink 6 of them, so we got a pack with the Harvest Gold, Loyalist and Wind & Sail Dark Ale. But I couldn’t stop thinking about that Cherry Porter…

From there, we headed back to the hotel for a nap before dinner. I was really looking forward to this dinner, conveniently at the restaurant at the Merrill Inn, having read many glowing reviews of the food there. They didn’t disappoint – but I did, with my photo taking.

Merill Inn - Lemon Gnocchi

My sad photo of the gnocchi appetizer looks oddly pink. Boo! It tasted like clouds of lemony heaven.
The meal was as incredible as I had hoped. I started with a soft lemony gnocchi appetizer that melted in my mouth. The main course was a rack of lamb – a new adventure for me – with tabbouleh. For dessert, I had “Baked Alaska” for the first time. Unlike my usual choice of “something dark chocolatey”, I enjoyed the mix of meringue and gelato and cake. Yummy!