A Foodie’s Guide to Lafayette, Louisiana (the Capital of Cajun Country)

It’s that time of year. Festival season has arrived in Lafayette! While having spent the majority of my time in New Orleans at the Jazz festival in the past few years, this year I am staying put in my new hometown of Lafayette to attend Festivale Internationale de Louisiana.  So I am preparing this guide for those out of town visitors and locals alike looking for some local gems to dine at and to experience cajun cooking (and the occasional non-cajun meal).  As a caveat, my followers will know that I am not cajun, nor am I even from here but having spent the past two and a half in this town and being an avid foodie, I’ve tasted my way through town and can confidently list my favorite places to dine which is quite personal to my taste. I hope you enjoy my picks.

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1. Dark Roux |3524 Kaliste Saloom Road | (337) 504-2346

Dark Roux is Lafayette’s newest farm-to-table restaurant focusing on serving local foods and telling the story of Louisiana foods. The menu features local farmer’s and suppliers such as Gotreaux Family Farms, Mary Mary Markets and Bread & Circus Provisions. Favorites include boudin balls for appetizer and boudin benny for brunch. The restaurant also has a bar and pantry stocked with local products. On weekends a live band plays outside making it the perfect place to brunch or have a romantic dinner with your loved one.  (see menu).

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2. Bread and Circus Provisions | 258 Bendel Road | (337) 408-3930

It all started with a condiment and charcuterie stand at the farmer’s market at the Horse Farm in Lafayette and evolved into a restaurant last year and brought with it a breath of fresh air to the local Lafayette dining scene. This hip restaurant features local favorites with a modern and unique twist. (see menu).

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3. The French Press |  214 E Vermilion St | (337) 233-9449

Chef Justin Girouard spins out some delicious local fare with his own personal touch. He makes his own boudin (not blood sausage as in France but Louisiana’s version of boudin: a mix of sausage of pork, rice, and cayenne).  A great place for brunch and lunch. Everything on the menu is delicious but an all time favorite  is the Cajun Benedict (see my post dedicated to the Benedict…because it is that good)!

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4. Bon Temps Grill | 1312 Verot School Road | (337) 706-8850

Bon Temps Grill is where we take our out-of-town guests for a good local meal. Bon Temp Grill serves “Swamp Edge” cuisine in an urban Cajun atmosphere.  The restaurant layout is cool and the food is fantastic. Favorites include the tuna tartar served with a side of potato chips and the buttery bbq shrimp. Don’t leave without tasting the bbq shrimp, it is absolutely to-die-for! And if you are bold enough try some of the frog legs.

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5. Pamplona Tapas Bar | 631 Jefferson St | (337) 232-0070

While it is hard to find any other types of authentic foods in Lafayette there are a few hits that should not be missed. Pamplona Tapas Bar is our favorite go-to spot for tapas and wine. The restaurant features Spanish cuisine en par to many tapas we’ve tasted in Spain. The cocktails are unique and delicious as are the large variety of spanish wines. So if you are looking for something other than your traditional cajun, hit up Pamplona located in the heart of downtown Lafayette.

6. Saigon Noodles |2865 Ambassador Caffery Parkway |

One of the few authentic vietnamese restaurants in Lafayette, Saigon serves up some of the best vietnamese dishes in town. Located in a strip mall the place can easily be missed. Favorites include the bbq short rib meal served with rice and salad and the large variety of pho to slurp through. Saigon Noodles recently opened a sister restaurant on Johnson street called Blu Basil Wine & Grill.  

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7. The Saint Street Inn |

The Saint Street Inn was founded by Nathan Stubbs and Mary Tutwiler, two journalists turned chefs determined to keep the cooking local. Seafood from the Gulf, produce from Acadiana’s farms and innovative cooking set the table for an inspired menu.  Nestled in the heart of one of Lafayette’s oldest neighborhoods, The Saint Street Inn also plays host to a variety of community events, from benefits and fundraisers to live music events and cookoffs. Both the kitchen and bar stay open late and there’s always a spot on the big front porch to sip a local brew and watch the sun go down.

8. Johnson’s Boucaniere | 1111 Saint John St| (337) 269-8878

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Johnson’s Boucaniere opened in 1937 in Eunice, La and relocated to Lafayette some years ago.  Boucaniere which means ‘smokehouse’ in english is a popular spot for lunch in Lafayette. At JB they smoke all of their speciality meats which include pork sausage, pork and turkey tasso and beef jerky. They also serve plate lunches from their in house made smoked meats which are made fresh weekly. Make sure not to miss this one.

9. Pop’s Poboys | 740 Jefferson Street, Lafayette, LA 70501 | ((337) 534-0621)

I’ve never been a fan of Po-Boys (shocking!) until I tried Pop’s. Pop’s Poboys opened in April 2015 and is located in beautiful downtown Lafayette. Chef Collin Cormier and team bring eclectic flair to Louisiana’s favorite sandwich and beyond. Their twist on the traditional poboys are out of this world delicious. Favorites so far include the Banh Banh shrimp and the Hot Hot for all those fried chicken lovers out there.

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Photo courtesy of Pop’s Poboy website

For desserts and coffee these three are my go-to in town for quality coffee and sweets:

10. Carpe Diem! Gelato-Espresson Bar | 812 Jefferson St, Lafayette, LA | (337) 534-4155

If you crave real gelato and dreams of being back in Italy make your way to Carpe Diem located on Jefferson street to get your cravings fulfilled.

11. Reve Coffee Roasters | 200A Jefferson St, Lafayette, LA 70501 | (337) 534-8336

Reve is a micro-coffee roaster servicing the greater Acadiana area (and beyond) in the retail and wholesale of freshly roasted, specialty grade coffee beans. Be careful as their coffee is addictive!

12. The Lab | 1042 Camellia Blvd. #6, Lafayette, LA | 337.889.5782

The Lab handcrafted coffees creates delicious coffee flavors that are hard to find around here. Not to mention their delicious baked good and house-made gelato. Located in the beautiful River Ranch neighborhood the Lab is definitely a treat.

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Have I missed any of your favorites? Please feel free to share as I continue to eat my way through Lafayette!

(Please note some of the photos are taken from the restaurant’s online gallery: French Press, Johnson’s Boucaniere, Saigon Noodles, Jolie’s, Olde Tyme Grocery + Bread and Circus).

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My New Favorite Girl, Willa Jean (New Orleans)

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A whole lot has changed since we moved away from New Orleans in 2012. New neighborhoods are popping up all over the city along with so many new businesses. It makes my heart smile to see the city doing so well and my stomach even happier to experience so many new restaurant openings. One of the ‘newer’ places that have recently opened that I am just in love with is John Besh’s Willa Jean in the CBD. It is the mastermind of BRG Executive Pastry Chef Kelly Fields and Pastry Chef Lisa White (of Domenica and PIZZA Domenica)  which is named after Fields’ grandmother.

I love the space which is designed by Curtis Herring. It adds a modern and elegant touch to iconic southern food. Brick walls, Edison bulbs and the restaurant’s “Uneeda Biscuit” mural add a stylish touch to traditional southern classics.

The bakery serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, allowing the two chefs to show off their savory sides. The lunch and dinner menus are organized by “snacks,” “tartines/sandwiches,” “salads and soups,” “hot plates,” and “extra stuff,”. The Intelligentsia Coffee program is delicious but  Willa Jean also serves boozy slushies as well as tea- and coffee-inspired craft cocktails.

If you need to find me on any given morning in New Orleans, chances are I’ll be here sipping on my coffee and enjoying the space.

Open Sunday through Thursday- 7am-9pm; Friday and Saturday- 7am to 10pm

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Addicted to Fried Chicken since 2010- Rusted Rooster (Lafayette, LA)

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There is something about fried chicken and biscuits that has me completely hooked. Growing up in Canada I never had fried chicken (unless you count KFC) but moving to the south opened up a whole new culinary door for me. From fried chicken,gravy and biscuits to the more traditional cajun dishes such as gumbo and red beans and rice, let’s just say I’m hooked. I recently discovered the Rusted Rooster, a small non-pretentious diner style joint on Saint Landry street in downtown Lafayette. Seems like the secret is already out and I’m the last to know as there is quite a wait for lunch and breakfast. Their fried chicken is out-of-this-world delicious as is their selection of burgers, sandwiches and breakfast staples. Their morning hash brown has me craving on a weekly basis. For those seeking a healthier alternative to fried goodness, fear not, as you can order everything grilled.

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Rusted Rooster
105 St. Landry St.
Lafayette, LA 70506
(337) 534-4135
Facebook.com/RustedRoosterLafayette

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Motherhood and the Blog

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It has been so long since my last post and I would like to apologize for those that actually take the time to read and follow my blog for the sudden disappearance. But the long hiatus was due to none other than my little sidekick, the Baby Nomad, who recently turned one. Can you believe it? He is already one. Days turned into sleepless nights, nights turned into sleepless days and here I am one year later realizing that besides spending every wake moment with my son I haven’t done much else. Recently I started to feel a void in my days, I missed taking and editing photos and although we travel as often as one can with a one year old, I rarely have found the time to write about it. I felt as though I was beginning to lose myself. The first year as a mother completely consumed me emotionally, physically and mentally. Motherhood is fulfilling in every sense possible but it is as everyone says a 24 hours a day job which you can’t call in sick for…ever. All that being said, I wouldn’t give up one single moment of it. I truly wouldnt. One smile from my son and all the sleepless nights   are washed away from my memory.  I find myself missing him when he sleeps and wishing I could freeze time to cherish the moments more than time allows for. In one sentence motherhood has changed me. I am sure it changes every girl into a women, a mother, a caretaker.

All that being said I am finally coming back up for air and have made a decision to try to get life back on track. This is my life now and I must make room for everything in it. Life has taken on a completely different perspective. Hotels now need to be child-friendly, restaurants need to be accommodating, foods need to be stamp approved by Baby Nomad travel no longer means a carry-on suitcase.  As such the blog will also start to take a different shape. I hope you continue to follow along on my journey through this beautiful gift called life.

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With love and gratitude,

 

The Hungry Nomad

 


 

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The art of eating a soup dumpling | Vancouver, B.C.

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Before arriving my friend and partner-in-eating asked me where I wanted to eat while in Vancouver. My response was “everything Asian: Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, whatever, as long as it’s Asian”. That in short sums up what I will be eating for the next few weeks. In a city with such a large community of Chinese, Koreans and Japanese, one thing is sure: the food will be amazing and options, endless to say the least.  On our first day together we decided on dumplings. Because nothing can beat a little ball filled with a mixture of heavenly goodness. Being downtown and having no access to the Chinese mecca that is Richmond, we decided on the Dynasty House located on lower Robson street. Most of our Asian food adventures downtown revolve around the two block radius of lower Robson and Denman where many variety of Korean, Japanese and Chinese restaurants reside.

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Dynasty Dumpling had a small line up out the door which can never be a bad thing. But within 15 minutes we were quickly seated (despite a little hiccup over having a child and stroller with us). Guests were quick to offer their table so as to accommodate us, on the other hand, the hostess was not very happy about us having a stroller. But in the end, a nice man offered up his table after witnessing the commotion.

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I’ll skip a few lines detailing the bad service and get to the good part: the soup dumplings. The menu features Shanghaise dishes including a page filled with a variety of soup dumplings. We ordered the original pork dumplings and the pork and kimchi dumplings along with a variety of other dishes including other dumplings beef and rice cake, and honey glazed lotus roots. The first time I had a soup dumpling happened to be on a Chinatown tour in Philadelphia. It was there that I was taught the secret of how to eat a soup dumpling. Once served If you bite into one right away you will surely burn your tongue. It is best to wait at least a minute to let it cool. Then gently dipping your chopstick in the vinegar you can pick up the dumpling right underneath the chopstick and place in spoon. You will then have two options: 1- poke a hole and let the broth ooze onto the spoon before eating, or 2- biting off the top and sipping the broth before devouring the whole thing. Either way you are sure to feel the same effect: pure and simple ecstasy. 

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Hungry Nomad’s Guide to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

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Finally this past week my husband, baby and I travelled to Costa Rica to spend a week on the pacific coast in a magical place called Manuel Antonio. I researched a lot before I went and somehow did not manage to find enough information to help me fully prepare for the trip. Below is my tried and tested guide to Manuel Antonio for those in need of a little bit more than what the travel guides provide you with.

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DSC_0539Flight: It was a short 4 hour flight from Atlanta to San Jose on Delta. Once we arrived in San Jose we were transported to the car rental area where we picked up our vehicle. I highly recommend booking your car in advance or you will spend at least an hour or more before all the paperwork is done and you are in your car and ready to go. GPS is a must unless you have an innate ability to travel on foreign roads and not get lost. The drive itself was picturesque and worth the 2.5 hours it took to arrive to Manuel Antonio. We passed through the countryside and jungle, saw small villages and actually got to experience Costa Rica. The other option is to take a 30 minute local flight from San Jose to Quepos. From Quepos there are buses which run along the road to Manuel Antonio National Park.

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Hotels: Manuel Antonio is actually a long stretch of road leading from Quepos to Manuel National National Park. The road is windy and positioned on the side of a mountain with hotels located on both sides. One side closer to the ocean with dramatic views, the other in the middle of the jungle and more distant views of the ocean. We had the opportunity to spend time in two different hotels on both ends: Gaia Hotel and Reserve and Parador Resort and Spa.

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Restaurants: While both hotels we stayed at had fine dining options we like to get out and see what the locals eat. For lunch on most days we ended up at hole in the walls ordering the typical tico dish, ‘Casado’ which consisted of choice of meat, black beans, rice, salad and fried plantains. The food at our hotel, Gaia, La Luna was not good especially given the price point, the only advantage was the beautiful sunset views from the restaurant and the friendly service. On our trip to our second hotel, Parador, we found Emilio’s Cafe which quickly became a favorite of mine and was frequented on more than one occasion for the food and mind-blowing views of the pacific. Other discovered favorites included the authentically Israeli Falafel Bar and off the beaten path, El Arado (see linked posts for review).  Prices in Manuel Antonio are comparable to Miami or any other international destination.

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See: The main reason anyone heads to Manuel Antonio is the National Park. Although it is one of the smallest national parks in the country it is the most visited. I can see why given its beautiful pristine beaches, abundance of wildlife and easy accessibility. Before arriving I pictured us trekking through the jungle just me, husband and baby. I prepared for the worst buying all the necessary hiking equipment and preparing mentally for hiking through the jungle with a 6 month old. When we arrived at the gates I quickly realized just how far off I was. There were many tourists lined up at the gates waiting to get in. The park only allows 800 people in so its best to arrive early. Although if you arrive early you will be arriving at the same time as the tour buses and will walk in with a large crowd of loud ‘humans’ thus scaring the wildlife. We arrived around 11 am and found it to be quieter. I highly recommend hiring a guide as you will not see anything without one unless you just happen to be an expert yourself. With our guide we saw a large family of capuchin monkeys, two-toed and three-toed sloths, tree frogs, bats, snakes, butterflies, lizards and much more. A 45 minute walk through a wide paved path led us down to the main beach where the crowds were gathered. Again, I imagined skipping through the water just me and my husband and was let down to see so many people. I guess the secret is out. Still there are many isolated spots on the beach where you can feel as though you are one with nature.

Overall, Manuel Antonio was not as developed as I thought it would be…which is a good thing. It is still authentic and lacks that ‘cater exclusively to tourism’ feel that you may get in other destinations (such as Mexico). Of course, the area is sprinkled with many hotels and restaurants but yet its still rough around the edges and wild. It was an absolute  amazing destination for those wanting a little adventure.

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Salon by Sucre- French Quarter (New Orleans)

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Sucre’s Joel Dondis and chef Tariq Hanna have finally opened their French Quarter masterpiece Salon by Sucre. Sucre is one of my favorite spots for dessert in New Orleans and it seemed like the only logical next step to expand to the French Quarter. In fact, I am not sure what took them so long to make the move. It definitely fills a void in the quarter for great dessert shops. The new Salon is nestled in on Conti street across from the state Supreme Court building. While sipping wine on the second floor balcony looking at the historical building across the street, we could hear the horse carriages go by giving one a feeling of stepping back in time. That is why I love the French Quarter so much.  Salon by Sucre features a dessert store on the first floor along with a new coffee bar along with seating upstairs for lunch, dinner and afternoon tea service. While sweets are the primary reason for my trips to Sucre, on this occasion we opted to try out their menu. A bottle of wine along with a cheese and charcuterie plate were ordered and thoroughly enjoyed. Their selection of wines is endless and the options for cheese and charcuterie were perfect.

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Salon By Sucré on Urbanspoon

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Dark Roux (Lafayette, LA)

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We were so excited to try out the newly renovated Dark Roux (formerly Brick and Spoon) in Lafayette. Everything from the fresh decor, to the food, drinks and service was perfect. The food is farm to table, focusing on local produce and ingredients and the menu is a perfect blend of traditional cajun with a modern twist.

image_6imageimage_1We started our meal off with a bag of beignets which were like no other beignets I’ve had in Louisiana- round and fluffy with a hollow inside. image_2

For our main dishes, we ordered the chicken biscuits and traditional benny.  The chicken biscuits was a serving of perfectly tender and surprisingly flavorful fried chicken topped with a sunny side up egg and white gravy on two biscuits. It was so delicious I was almost tempted to order a second order. image_3The traditional benny consisted of fluffy buttermilk biscuits, a delicious house cured ham, collard greens, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. The Count ate it up in seconds but was left hungry for more as it does not come with any sides. Advice to the hungry ones, order some sides! image_5Both the Count and I were very impressed with the food at Dark Roux. The prices are a tad bit higher than your average breakfast/brunch spot in Lafayette but I can only assume that is because of the use of local and fresh ingredients. Either way, we will definitely be going back. 
image_4Dark Roux on Urbanspoon

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A Foodie’s Guide to Vancouver (Canada)

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Vancouver, British Columbia…the most beautiful place on earth. At least that is what the license plate claims. But really, it is! I may be biased since I am from Vancouver and spent the majority of my life there before moving south of the border. And while the natural beauty, scenery and wildlife may take your breathe away, Vancouver has even more to offer. The diverse mix of immigrants that now inhabit Vancouver has brought with it some of the best restaurants and food in North America.  Here is my list of go-to spots in Vancouver that I never fail to visit when I am in town. I would love to hear what your favorites are in the comments below so that I can consider them on my next trip home and add it to my list!

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Brunch:

From the same owners as Chambar, Medina serves Belgian-Moroccon cuisine. Lines up go around the block and can take hours but once inside the food will make you forget that you waited for so long. Don’t miss out on the classic belgian waffles and the lavender lattes. Twisted Fork serves some of the yummiest brunch in town. I always go for the banana stuffed french toast which is an unforgettable experience in decadence.

Or choose to spend the morning in Stanley Park, the sprawling urban oasis of greenery and water that is the West Coast’s rival to Central Park. Begin at the Teahouse in Stanley Park, a well-known brunch spot, both for its location and Canadian Northwest twists on some classic breakfast items. Ask for a table by the window to look out over English Bay and West Vancouver. Don’t miss the smoked salmon Benedict, which comes with local sockeye salmon. (7501 Stanley Park Drive; vancouverdine.com/teahouse).

Chinese:

It is not a surprise that really good chinese food can be found in Chinatown and while there are really authentic spots where you must visit with a mandarin/cantonese speaking friend (for which I’m lucky to have one) there are other more modern restaurants that have started popping up in this up and coming hip neighborhood. Bao Bei is a really hip/hipster restaurant that has really good chinese food with a twist. Phnom Penh is another favorite located in Chinatown. And while the name might suggest the food is a mix between Cambodian, Vietnamese and Chinese.  It offers some favorite classics like the chicken wings.

Dim Sum:

For one of the most genuine Asian cultural and culinary experiences in North America, go to the Aberdeen Center for dim sum at Fisherman’s Terrace (3580-4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond). This sprawling Asian shopping center has an entire store dedicated to Hello Kitty merchandise, a Korean barbecue and a pan-Asian supermarket, among other treasures. Many options are also available downtown in Chinatown. The Jade Dynasty Restaurant (137 Pender Street) offers good-value dim sum, or just wander along the road and choose one of the many restaurants that takes your fancy. 

French/Belgian:

My favorites include Chambar (562 Beatty Street) is a sophisticated, funky restaurant serving innovative Belgium, French and Moroccan food using regional ingredientsLes Faux Bourgeois  is a french bistro located in Mount Pleasant. If you want to feel a little bit of France and have authentic French food then make the trip out of downtown to Mount Pleasant. Wait times are long but it is definitely worth it. Another French favorite located downtown is La Brasserie located in Davie Village.

Indian:

There is a large Indian population in Vancouver which means one thing: really good and authentic Indian food. For the real deal you must head to Main street and Fraser street to ‘Little India’. Here you will find a vast number of Indian restaurants where cheap eats are a plenty. However, for a more upscale evening, head to one of my favorite restaurants in Vancouver: Vij’s (1480 W 11th Ave). Owners Vikram and wife Meeru pride themselves on quality Indian food in a beautiful setting. The restaurant is quite small and the wait time often is over 1-2 hours long. So be prepared to wait a while and get drunk in the process. My favorite item on the menu? The Lamb Popsicles!

Italian:

An area in Vancouver that should be explored if you have time is Commercial street- Vancouver’s own version of Little Italy. Here you can find a range of great Italian food. Outside of the Commercial street area are a wide range of great choices including my favorites: Campagnolo and Campagnolo Roma. 

Italian Pizza options are also great in Vancouver including Nicli Antica Pizzeria in Gastown and Pizzeria Farina.

Japanese: 

Starting off at the intersection of Denman street and Robson street is where the feast begins. For the best ramen downtown, I usually head to either Motomoki Shokudo (740 Denman Street) or it’s sister location, Kintaro Ramen.  Try the black bamboo charcoal ramen. It is quite possibly the best broth you’ll ever taste.

Further up on Robson street is another all-time favorite, Guu with Garlic, a Japanese Izakaya restaurant which opened its doors in the early 2000’s and quickly gained so much popularity that it now has multiple locations around Vancouver and Toronto. (Below is the grilled squid served with a side of Lemon and Japanese Mayonnaise).

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For the best hand-made gyozas in town I always head to Gyoza King (1508 Robson Street), a small and cozy Japanese bistro where you can choose from a variety of gyozas and other Japanese favorites. My number one pick: the shrimp and chive gyozas with a bottle of unfiltered sake to wash it down.

Sushi:

Where to begin on this one? Sushi restaurants cover the streets of Vancouver just as frequently as Starbucks. Some authentic, fresh and delicious and others are just in the business to make money. Making the hunt for good sushi a fun challenge (although to be honest even the mediocre sushi bars in Vancouver are far better than most sushi I’ve tasted around the US)! For a healthy organic sushi meal I head over to the tiny little gem, Shizen ya, located on Hornby street directly across from the courthouse.  For a more upscale experience with unique takes on sushi, Miku (#70 – 200 Granville St) is the place to be. The sushi is amazing and takes on a form of art. If in Yaletown, Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar (1095 Hamilton St) offers a vast range of fresh seafood, sushi and BC coastal fare. It is a classy affair and on the pricey end but if in Vancouver for a short time it should not be missed.

Sandwiches:  

Finchs Tea and Coffee House (353 W. Pender Street) is a classic Gastown gem serving some of the best sandwiches in town. Favorites include the proscuitto, pear and baked blue brie cheese and walnut sandwich. Absolutely to die for! Hubbub is another favorite due to their oh so delicious bread. My all time favorite is the turkey sausage sandwich which I describe in great lengths in my post.

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Seafood:

When in Vancouver, eat lots of seafood, the unrivaled local specialty.There are so many that I am going to list them here for you and let you pick your favorite:  Blue Water Cafe and Raw BarMiku, Rodney’s Oyster House and Go Fish Ocean Emporium (a food stand close to Granville Island).

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 What are your favorite restaurants in Vancouver? Please add below in comment so that I can try it out next time I am in town! 

xox,

The Hungry Nomad

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Brunch at Jack’s Wife Freda-Soho (NYC)

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The name is catchy, the place is always packed and everyone raves about it. Of course I had to check it out.  Jack’s Wife Freda is a new-ish addition to the Soho neighborhood where husband and wife bring together their experience and backgrounds to create a new and unique menu and flavors. Dean is from South Africa and Maya is from Israel which makes complete sense with one glance at the menu.

DSC_0216Arriving early on a Saturday there were only a few tables left and we were seated outside. The menu/placemat was simple with limited options. Two dishes were ordered: the Mediterranean breakfast and the Rosewater waffles.

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The poached eggs came with a side of sliced avocados, labne, pita and salad which resembled and tasted identical to the traditional persian salad (salad shirazi) consisting of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. It was healthy, fresh and satisfying. DSC_0222

I had really high expectations for the rosewater waffles being from a country where rosewater originated and is used liberally on many sweet dishes. This waffle barely tasted like rosewater and was really not that special. There was nothing that made it stand out from any other restaurant waffle except the use of yogurt as opposed to whipping cream. DSC_0220

Based on the two dishes we tried, we both agreed that there was too much hype around this place. Yes the name is catchy, the location is cool and the clientele is young and stylish, but there was nothing about the food itself that stood out. So if its ambiance you are after then sure this is the place for it, but if you just want really good food there are plenty of options in the neighborhood with less of a line up.
DSC_0219 DSC_0218  Jack's Wife Freda on Urbanspoon

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Authentic Tiramisu Recipe

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Serves: Approximately 12 Servings

Ingredients:

– 6 egg yolks

– 1 cup white sugar

– 1 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese

-1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream

– 2 cups of espresso (cooled off)

– 2  packages lady fingers (approx 24 lady fingers total)

– 1/3 cup alcohol of your choice (grand marnier or rum)

Topping extras

– 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (dust)

– 1 (1 ounce) square semi sweet chocolate (shaved)

Instructions: 

  1. Chill large bowl in the fridge.
  2. Combine the 6 egg yolks and 1 cup of sugar in the top of a double boiler.
  3. Reduce heat to low.
  4. Stir the egg yolks and sugar for about 10 minutes. (This step is to coddle the egg and prevent eating raw eggs). Remove the mixture from heat and allow it to cool.
  5. Once cooled, beat the mixture until light in color and thick.
  6. Add the mascarpone to the whipped yolk-sugar mixture. Blend well.
  7. Add 1 tablespoon of espresso and mix until thoroughly combined.
  8. Whip the whipping cream in the chilled bowl until stiff peaks are formed.
  9. Gently fold the whipping cream into the yolk-sugar mixture and set aside.
  10. Split the lady fingers in half.
  11. Mix the expresso and alcohol and pour into flat dish.
  12. Dip lady fingers and soak in espresso mixture for less than 5 seconds until soaked. (Not too long or it will become too soggy).
  13. Line the bottom and sides of your serving bowl with the lady fingers.
  14. Spoon half of the filling over the lady fingers.
  15. Repeat with another layer of ladyfingers and top with the filling.
  16. Sprinkle the top with cocoa powder and chocolate curls.
  17. Refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight.

Total prep time: 30 minutes

 

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Iranian Saffron Barberry Rice with Chicken (Zereshk Polow ba Morgh)

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Zereshk or barberry is typically used in Persian dishes ranging from Iran to Western Afghanistan. Each bright glowing berry resembles a jewel which is packed with vitamin C. What does it taste like? It is very tart. Your mouth will quench as if you have just had a spoonful of lime juice. It is very powerful. The barberry is usually mixed with a tad bit of sugar to sweet the tart flavor. It is typically served along side saffron chicken and basmati rice.  There are many variations to Zereshk polo depending on the region of the country.
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Ingredients (Serving 4)
 
  • 4 cups long-grain basmati rice
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 peeled onions, 1 whole and 1 thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 4 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 cups dried barberries (zereshk), cleaned, washed, and drained
  • 2/3 cup clarified butter (ghee) or oil
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons slivered pistachios (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons slivered dried orange peels (optional)
Instructions
 
Chicken
  1. Saute onions in 2 tablespoons of butter until translucent, add garlic until golden then add the pieces of chicken and cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat.  Once chicken changes color from pink to white on the outside, add 1 tablespoon of turmeric and 2 cups of water. Cook on medium-high heat with lid covered for 1 hour (or more depending on the size of your chicken).
  2. Once ready, add 1 tablespoon of saffron and put aside.
Barberry
  1. Clean the barberries by removing their stems and placing the berries in a colander. Place colander in a large container full of cold water and allow barberries to soak for 20 minutes. The sand will settle to the bottom. Take the colander out of the container and run cold water over the barberries; drain and set aside.
  2. Sauté 1 sliced onion in 2 tablespoons butter, add barberries and cumin, and sauté for just 1 minute over low heat because barberries burn very easily. Add 4 tablespoons sugar, mix well, and set aside
Note: If you prefer a tangy flavor reduce the amount of sugar. If you prefer a sweeter dish, add more sugar. Adjust to taste. 
Saffron Flavored Steamed Rice
 
  1. Bring 8 cups of water with 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large non-stick pot. Pour the washed and drained rice into the pot. Boil briskly for 6 to 10 minutes, gently stirring twice with a wooden spoon to loosen any grains that may have stuck to the bottom. Bite a few grains. If the rice feels soft, it is ready. Drain rice in a large, fine-mesh colander and rinse in 2 or 3 cups of cold water.
  2. In a bowl, mix 3 spatulas of rice, 2 tablespoons yogurt, 3/4 cup butter or oil, 1/2 cup water, a few drops of dissolved saffron water, and the cumin seeds.
  3. In the pot, spread the yogurt-rice mixture over the bottom of the pot and pack down. This will help to create a tender golden crust (tah dig) when rice is cooked.
  4. Take one spatula full of drained rice at a time and gently place it on top of the yogurt and rice mixture, gradually shaping the rice into a pyramid. This shape leaves room for the rice to expand and enlarge. Poke one or two holes in the rice pyramid with the handle of a wooden spatula.
  5. Cover and cook rice for 10 to 15 minutes over medium-high heat in order to form a golden crust.
  6. Dissolve the remaining butter in 1 cup hot water and pour over the rice pyramid. Place a clean dish towel or 2 layers of paper towels over the pot and cover firmly with the lid to prevent steam from escaping. Cook for 50 minutes longer over medium-low heat.
  7. Remove the pot from heat. Allow to cool on a damp surface for 5 minutes without uncovering it. This helps to free the crust from the bottom of the pot. There are two ways to serve the rice. The first is to hold the serving platter tightly over the uncovered pot and invert the two together unmolding the entire mount onto the platter. The rice will emerge as a golden crusted cake. Serve in wedges. The second way is to put 2 tablespoons of rice in a dish, mix with remaining saffron water, and set aside for garnish.
  8. Then, gently taking 1 spatula full of rice at a time, place rice on a serving platter in alternating layers with the barberry mixture. Mound the rice in the shape of a cone. Arrange the chicken around the platter. Finally, decorate the top of the mound with the saffron-flavored rice, some of the barberry mixture, and almonds and pistachios. Places pieces of chicken around your serving dish making the rice the center of the display.
  9. Detach the layer of crust from the bottom using a wooden spatula. Place into a small platter and serve on the side or arrange it around the rice. Enjoy! 
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Authentic Greek Salad Recipe (Horiatiki)

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Many lives ago, in my twenties, I spent many summer days and nights on the beautiful white washed Greek isles of the mediterranean (see posts). It is here that I fell in love with the simple yet extremely satisfying greek salad. It’s light, fresh and extremely healthy. The salad is best made during the summer months when tomatoes are ripe and aromatic and cucumbers crunchy and fresh. In America any salad that contains feta cheese or olives is often referred to as a Greek Salad. However, the true greek salad recipe is far from that. The authentic Horiatiki Greek Salad is a very specific salad, with specific ingredients. The feta cheese is never crumbled but delicately laid over top the salad allowing you to crumble into smaller pieces at first bite.  You must choose real feta, meaning feta made from sheep or sheep and goat milk. “Feta” made with cow’s milk is not real feta. And to have the true Horiatiki experience you need to taste real feta. Since this is a very simple salad, the quality of the ingredients has a huge impact in the flavor of the final result. If using high quality olive oil, you will not need to add any other sauce to make it flavorful. FullSizeRender

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Ingredients:

– 3 medium-sized tomatoes (not cherry tomatoes but whole tomatoes, cut in wedges)

– 1 English or 4 Persian Cucumbers (peeled and sliced)

– 1 small Red Onions (thinly sliced)

–  6-8 Kalamata olives (whole, not pitted)

– Traditional Greek Feta (in a big slice or chunk, never crumbled)

– Extra virgin olive oil (for dressing)

– 1/2 tablespoon of dry oregano

– 1 slice of feta

– 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

– Caper seeds- Optional (added mostly in Horiatiki salads served in the Greek islands)

– Red wine vinegar- Optional (some people also like to add an extra acidity in their salad)

Instructions:

1- Mix all the vegetables in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, lay feta cheese on top and sprinkle with oregano. Serve with fresh baked bread and enjoy!

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Am I crazy for loving Seagulls? | Vancouver, B.C.

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The anticipation of traveling to Vancouver with my son has been building up for the past few months. It is the first trip just the two of us which meant feelings of anxiety and excitement played a tug of war. But, finally excitement overshadowed anxiety and we made it. For the next month I will share with my son and viewers my perspective on Vancouver. This includes many nature walks, farmer’s markets and a variety of Asian food adventures.

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Growing up I was itching to move away from home to go explore the world. I wanted to be anywhere but here and found any excuse to pack my suitcase and hop around Europe for months and years on end. But that was in my twenties. Now, in my thirties, with more travel options and more opportunities, all I do is dream and yearn to come home for the summers and winters and all the months in between just to take in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  It is funny how distance can put so many things into perspective and create so much gratitude where none existed.

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And so here we are- just me and my baby boy.

The first morning we woke up to the sound of our neighborhood seagulls. They start early and keep going until just after sunrise. Some people have roosters. We have seagulls. I know It may seem absurd to some but its those very seagulls that I miss when I am away. Those seagulls represent so much more than what most think of them as: loud, large birds that grab your food at the beach. To me they represent the vicinity of the sea, the vast blue sea surrounding Vancouver which I took for granted growing up. So many places I’ve lived don’t have access to ocean, to sea-life and everything else the ocean represents. I miss and yearn for the sea. I miss the seagulls. Now I live in a place with no direct access to the sea. No seagulls. And who wants to live in a place that doesn’t have seagulls?

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Later on in the morning, we went for a walk along the seawall towards Stanley Park. The sea breeze, fresh crisp air and sound of waves quickly caressed baby boy to sleep. We passed English bay and walked into the park towards lost lagoon where the nostalgic scent of blackberries started hovering in the air. It’s funny how a scent can bring back so many memories. That sweet smell of blackberries takes me back to my childhood picking berries in these very woods with my mother.  It was our own paradise back then.  Towards lost lagoon we walked through a family of Canadian Geese. How I have missed the site of these wild geese. They represent home. Along the lagoon, I parked under a tree, baby boy still asleep.  I looked at his innocent face deep in sleep and wondered what a peaceful way to take a nap.  So different than where we live where 40+ degrees in the summer prevent us from stepping  foot outside.  I sat at that bench for a while trying to take it all in, to cherish every moment because now unlike before I am a visitor in my own hometown. I have a round-trip ticket that makes every day spent here worth cherishing. And I will do just that-cherish every moment spent with my son in my beautiful city.


 

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Tico meal at El Arado in Manuel Antonio (Costa, Rica)

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El Arado is one of those places that should not be missed if you are seeking a quality meal in Manuel Antonio.  While the directions seemed easy enough we passed the street and went all the way down to Quepos only to drive back and finally find the road. The gravel road is dark and truly off the beaten path of all the fancy hotels and tourist spots. The restaurant is just a few minutes drive down the road.

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We arrived to an empty restaurant. One old and friendly tikka came to greet us and showed us to our table. The owner and the cook were watching a Spanish soap opera. The owner came over to greet us but his limited english and our limited Spanish led to a stale conversation. We knew we were getting the baked whole seabass and so we quickly ordered and preparations were under way. About half an hour in a French couple came in to join our lonely meal. The restaurant doesn’t offer much of an ambiance, however, the meal was truly spectacular. The fish were wrapped in foil and baked to perfection on a barbecue pit, served with a side of rice, plantains and black beans. Let’s just say our meal was so good that we wanted to return night after night. If you are visiting Manuel Antonio and want real, quality, tico cuisine do make the trek off the beaten path to this gem.

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