"an elegant tapestry of quotations, musings, aphorisms, and autobiographical reflections" (James Atlas)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Some of my favourite things

 Food and travel - travel and food. I've grown up travelling, and willing to try foods in all corners of the world, enjoying new experiences, tastes, and the inspiration to re-create some of the dishes I've tried. Our most recent trip took us to the north-eastern part of Canada and the USA, with its interesting mix of Canadian, French, and American cuisine. And no, that's not an oxymoron, just in case you're wondering! One fact that's immediately obvious is the excellent quality of the produce available. It's fresh, beautiful, and presented in a most appetising way, both in the markets and shops, as well as the restaurants. From the exquisite little trays of berries and cherries at Byward Market in Ottawa, to a simple, freshly baked mushroom pizza in Times Square, I could not fault the food anywhere. Ludlow's in Toronto for example, was a temple to the gods of food, as was Central Station Market in NYC. Some of the food was striking in its simplicity, such as the bowl of fresh Prince Edward Island mussels in a broth of white wine and  shallots . These mussels are small, much smaller than the ones we find here, and very tasty. Another memorable but simple lunch was in the Quartier Latin of Montreal, where I had a light, fluffy crepe, topped with lemon juice and a dusting of icing sugar. With a cup of good coffee and the sun shining on passers-by, French chatter in the background, it was a delightful break from touring. The Canadian Maritimes, which include Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, are a veritable nirvana for lovers of seafood. Lobsters abound, even the Golden Arches offer a "McLobster", not that I've had the pleasure. One of the best dishes I had on this trip was at a place called "The Grand Banker" at Lunenburg, a world heritage village on the south coast of Nova Scotia. I'd ordered their Acadian style Cajun seafood stew. It came, hot and steaming, loaded with shrimp, haddock, scallops, and mussels, all in a thick, velvety, tomato-based stew, and crisp garlic toasts. It's one of those meals one wants to last forever! Even the meals on board our cruise ship, the "Maasdam", were memorable, in particular a meal of crab cakes on a bed of grits and beans, topped with mango salsa. Little culinary surprises along the way happened every day, such as a maple creme brulee at Fairmont Montebello, a "beaver tail" at Byward Market, saltwater taffy in Bar Harbour, or a Pinkberry frozen yoghurt with melon and strawberries in New York.  The French influence on cooking is very obvious in Canada's eastern provinces, less so in the Maritimes, and the burger is king on the American side of the border. There, everything comes with sides, such as fries, or a pickle, or a salad. The sides are usually a meal in themselves, which is why it is wise to stick to appetisers rather than main courses, unless you wish to share a meal. America could feed two African nations on its leftovers alone! Aside from the stupefying size of meals and somewhat unimaginative menus, the quality of the food is excellent in terms of ingredients and preparation. And occasionally one finds a meal that's just right, such as the turkey & spinach salad at "Cafe Martinique" on Broadway, or their Belgian waffle with fresh banana and strawberries at breakfast, or a slow-cooked beef stew at the "TicToc Diner", and a great seafood paella on 46th street. Just like Melbourne, New York has a huge variety of immigrants, whose pride in their heritage shows in their love of food and the way it is prepared.You'll never go hungry here, and you'll find some wonderful food on your travels. Have I made you feel hungry? Well, get out there, and hunt for some awesome food!