Our trip to Varadero – Days 3 & 4

Tags

, ,

Morning
And this is where the fun started – I woke up with a sore throat which I thought was simply due to the air conditioner but soon turned into a full-blown cold (one of the worse I had in a long time). Breakfast was at the buffet and then we decided to make an excursion to Downtown Varadero. Thankfully I have a good looking husband to cheer me up!

He makes me feel so much better!

He makes me feel so much better! Ce beau gars me fait oublier mon rhume!


Caro posing outside of our room - the grounds are amazing.

Caro posing outside of our room – the grounds are amazing. Caro prends une pose juste à l’extérieur de notre chambre. C’est un très beau terrain.



Downtown Varadero

Varadero is equipped with public buses that cost 5 pesos for the whole day – you can then take the double-decker bus to the city. Sit on the top if you like views but don’t mind the wind. It’s a 40 minute ride with stops made at what seems to be every resort, and then for a good part of the way you have the shore to one side. It’s actually quite an enjoyable ride.
Riding on the double-decker!

Riding on the double-decker! On se promène au 2e étage!


The coast along the way to Varadero.

The coast along the way to Varadero. La côte le long du chemin vers Varadero.


We got off around Caille 52 and proceeded to walk west along their main street. A few words of advice: bring sunscreen, bring cash, be mentally prepared to be honked at every minute or so by taxi drivers, caleche drivers and cocotaxi drivers, as well as being offered a spot at a good restaurant. Go and check out the little arts and craft shops. The artisans will try and chat you up, sell you some of their wares, etc. That’s fine, just be polite and if you find something you like, there’s nothing wrong with bargaining. Now, a word on these arts & crafts – are the people in the stalls really the artists themselves? Darn good question! To this day, I am not so sure myself. I don’t really think the items are imported but perhaps produced in more remote areas of the country and then sold in larger tourist centers. Either way, these people will do what they can to make you a happy customer but also make a living for themselves. Please, don’t bargain too hard though – help stimulate the economy a bit. What we bought: a wooden classic car for my dad, some wooden jewelry and a wooden vase.
An old house in Varadero - people live here, they had plants on the porch!

An old house in Varadero – people live here, they had plants on the porch! Une vieille cabane à Varadero. Des gens y habitent; il y avait des plantes sur la veranda.


A classic car for Dad!

A classic car for Dad! Une auto ancienne pour Dad!


All methods of transportation which love honking at or heckling you while you walk along the main street.

All methods of transportation which love honking at or heckling you while you walk along the main street. Tous les genres de véhicules qui vont vous claxonner après lors de votre promenade.


Can you feel the love between Salem and the CocoTaxi?

Can you feel the love between Salem and the CocoTaxi? Ça se voit que Salem aime bien les CocoTaxi.



A note to travelers: While we may not be used to people being so forward, please be polite. Many locals survive on tourism dollars. If someone offers you something you are not interested in, a simple “No, gracias” is enough. Also, people will often ask you where you are from “Where you form, frien’?”. It’s up to you if you want to answer or not. They will try to conversate with you and there is nothing wrong with that, but keep in mind that these people may hope to get you to buy something. We see the same thing here, but I find the way the Cubans go about it is much more interactive. Also, please try not to get into a pissing contest with the locals, it’s just a waste of time – just keep walking and ignore them.


A windy afternoon

We made it back to the hotel just in time to catch the last few minutes of the lunch buffet. By then my pain killer had worn off, my throat was hurting and the sunburn had reached the whole “feels like my skin is paper” stage. Our regular waiter wasn’t there but our waitress was kind enough to get me tea with honey. All spots by the pool were taken when we got out so off to the windy beach we went (which didn’t last long). Thankfully though, Salem was able to find a basketball and got to play for a while (yes, they have a basketball court!). We finally found a spot by the pool later on and swam a bit before freshening up for dinner.

Our first dinner reservations: Sakuro – the Japanese restaurant

Unfortunately, the dinner service started off somewhat badly and it was pretty much the worst experience we had during the trip. For years I have wanted to go to a Japanese restaurant – the type where they cook on a giant grill right in front of you. I had the experience once, while in Germany, many years ago. I had seen pictures of the shows they put on at the restaurant and it looked great but it seemed it was a set menu (which we weren’t shown) and I knew they used lots of alcohol for the flambés. We were more than willing to sit there and watch the show, but all we wanted was to eat sushi. We called over our waitress and told her of the issue and she said she would talk with the chef. We wanted to have this resolved before the chef came because it certainly had nothing to do with him, we didn’t want to insult anyone. After waiting a few minutes and not getting an answer, we asked another waitress and she said she would check. The spots started filling up and I was on the verge of a panic. Finally, Salem called over one last guy, he went over and talked to our waitress and finally they took us to this little sushi-bar area (they had 2 spots) and we ate there, just the 2 of us. I was a bit sad we got to miss the show, but the other chefs in the place took amazing care of us – they actually made our night! While we were made to feel like we were bothering our original waitresses, the chefs were super kind with us. We told one of them (Adolis) what had happened and he told us to forget about it and that he would take care of us. All the chefs that came chatted us up here and there and really made quite an impression on us. One of them, José, stayed with us for a bit. We ended up having mixed sushi, tempura veggies (one had pumpkin and Salem was crazy about it, he even got seconds) and ice cream with papaya for dessert. We tipped the chefs… I guess they weren’t expecting it as they thanked us a lot and even recognized us and chatted us up again a few days later when we saw them working at the buffet. They saved the night! Thankfully the waitress we had while we were seated at the sushi bar was quite nice as well.
Salem is a happy boy when you give him tempura!

Salem is a happy boy when you give him tempura! Salem est instantannément content quand on le nourrit du tempura.


Simple desserts can sometimes be the best.

Simple desserts can sometimes be the best. Un dessert si simple, mais si bon.


On our way back to our room, we happened upon Perro. I asked Salem to go ahead to our room to get my pashmina and the second half of a wrap we had bought at the airport. While I waited for him with Perro, we encountered a fellow Canadian and him and I ended up chatting about how animals are being treated in the area. Somehow, we got onto the topic of tipping while staying at all-inclusives – the man was quite disappointed in people not tipping the staff. Turns out he had just dined at the Japanese restaurant as well and out of a table of 8-10, he was the only one to leave a tip. Honestly people! No worries, I’ll stay off of my soapbox since you already got to hear about it once before in this post. We chatted for a few minutes more when Salem came around. Once he left, I fed Perro the leftover lox wrap and we were on our way to watch the “Rock” show.

An amazing concert – now if only they had kept playing longer!

Unfortunately, I do not know their name, but they were great! They had a male and a female lead singer and they played a lot of the more retro Rock songs (AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Guns N Roses, etc). It was great! Even though I was really starting to feel like crap from the cold, I wanted to dance. Thankfully, the audience seemed to really enjoy dancing. I honestly wish they could’ve played for another hour. The energy was great and the singers were really talented as well as the rest of the band. It seems they had won some kind of competition they held in Cuba. I can see why. I really hope they find even more success in the future.
We stocked up on mojitos and pina coladas while in Cuba. Still virgin though - be good!

We stocked up on mojitos and pina coladas while in Cuba. Still virgin though – be good! Nous en avons consommé des mojitos et des pina coladas lors de notre visite. Mais sans alcool; il faut être sage!


Amazing band!

Amazing band! Ayoye!


Looking suave Habibi!

Looking suave Habibi! Ah que t’as l’air bon mon homme!


Caro, pooped and ready to hit the hay momentarily.

Caro, pooped and ready to hit the hay momentarily. Caro, épuisée et sur le bord de se coucher.


Awwww! I love these little touches.

Awwww! I love these little touches. J’adore ce genre de petit extra.


The night ended with a trip to the lobby bar and then off to bed I went – I could barely talk at this point and was shivering under the blankets when falling asleep.


Day 4
A day to relax

Yadrian, our waiter at the buffet, seemed quite worried about me because of my cold. But that’s life! Always nice to get good service though. We basically relaxed by the pool all day – unfortunately, it was very windy on the beach. My throat was better but this cold went into my sinuses. Hello mucus! *sigh*
A note to travelers (an a note to myself): don’t just pack meds for tummy troubles, also pack meds for colds! Duh!
Lunch was at the grill, we had fish – it was very good! Our buddy, Perro, was there too so she had fish as well (shhhhh, don’t tell anyone). But, in my defense, I did not feed her from the table. She would go from table to table, making sad eyes but staying quiet, then she would grow tired of being ignored and would curl up in a corner. I fed her fish on the grass, next to the restaurant. It’s quite interesting to see an animal rely on their instincts – she wouldn’t eat on the open grass, she would rather bring the food to a more secluded spot, usually near bushes and then ear it there.

The fish dish all 3 of us had!

The fish dish all 3 of us had! Le poisson que nous avons mangé, tous les 3!


Our second dinner reservations: Bamboo – the Asian restaurant

Again, true to itself, the service in Cuba is great, this restaurant was no exception to the rule! We started off with a soup, which I was really happy with. I also really liked the plates simply because they were not the normal round or square variety we often get.

Soup, it's good for the soul.

Soup, it’s good for the soul. La soupe, que c’est bon pour le morale.


Waiting in between courses.

Waiting in between courses. Entre 2 plats.


Salem ordered a battered fish on seafood and veggies. Yes, the little pyramids you see are fried rice. So cute! I had the chicken with veggies on crispy noodles and rice. Dessert was vanilla ice cream atop pineapple.
Habibi and his meal.

Habibi and his meal. Salem et son assiette.


Caro loves this kind of dish!

Caro loves this kind of dish! J’adore ce genre de mets!


Bamboo had a nice atmosphere and decor. It was actually quite nice. The walls were all a bamboo tapestry.

Bamboo had a nice atmosphere and decor. It was actually quite nice. The walls were all a bamboo tapestry. Le resto Bamboo avait une bonne atmosphère, un bon décor. Les murs était recouverts de bamboo.

Advertisements

Our trip to Varadero – Day 2

Tags

, ,

Breakfast
On the morning of day 2, we met the man who would become our main waiter for most of our meals at the buffet (he works the breakfast and lunch services). His name? Yadrian. So, if you ever go to the Paradisus Princesa del Mar in Varadero, sit in his section, give him a smile, chat him up a bit and you will get some of the best service you have ever gotten! He was always smiling, very attentive, found a good table for us, brought us our coffee and asked how we were. The rest of the ladies on his team were really nice too.

Our morning and lunch Buffet buddies. Unfortunately, one lady is missing! This was actually taken on our last day.

Our morning and lunch Buffet buddies. Unfortunately, one lady is missing! This was actually taken on our last day. Nos amis du buffet pour le déjeuner et le dîner. Malheureusement, il y a une dame qui n’y est pas! Cette photo a été prise la dernière journée de notre voyage.


On a side note: These people work so hard to please you so please reciprocate – show your appreciation with tips and just simply by being polite. I cannot believe how many times I saw people being very grumpy with various wait staff and not leaving any form of tip. Also, how often do we tip 10-15-20% in Montréal (or Canada) for crap service? I know it’s an all-inclusive, but considering that these people go above and beyond in order to serve you… to me what is a peso or two? And they share it amongst their team as well. So please, don’t be stingy, you can afford a trip to some sunny destination, while some of these people have to hold down 2-3 jobs to make ends meet.

What can you expect at the buffet? One station had omelets and eggs; another had pancakes and sauces; another had pastries; another had fresh juice along with yogurts, cereals and fresh fruit; there was a bread table (note: go for the bread you slice yourself, not the already sliced bread – it was a bit stale) and one last station with cheeses, meats and fish (hello smoked salmon!). Expect it to be crowded! Order a caffe con leche, bring your soup spoon to serve yourself form the back of trays if you’re like Salem and I.

After breakfast, we went to beach, applied sunscreen and went into the water for a bit. And here’s where I guess I lost my brain. Thinking I would let myself fry off for 5 minutes, I didn’t reapply my sunscreen. I then fell asleep. What felt like 15 minutes (on the front and another on the back), I later found out was closer to 2-2.5 hours! Yes, you guessed it – hello lobster! To this day (we’re now April 1st), I still have a hint of a tan line! Thankfully, Salem got a bit burnt too, just not as much as I did (he was smart, he was under a bit of shade).

A quieter afternoon and evening
Lunch was at the beach grill! Yummy! I had the chicken and Salem had the shrimp along with some virgin mojitos. This is also where we encountered our new friend – Perro. She’s actually a cute female dog, who’s had at least one litter of pups. I consider her like the resident dog of the resort. You’ll spot her here and there.

We all like virgin mojitos!

We all like virgin mojitos! Nous aimons tous les mojitos; sans alcool bien sûr!


Lunch is always nice after a few hours in the sun.

Lunch is always nice after a few hours in the sun. Un bon dîner est toujours apprécié après quelques heures passées au soleil.


Our buddy Perro.

Our buddy Perro. Notre amie, Perro.

We made our dinner reservations for the week (please do this early as restos book up quickly) and spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool.

Dinner was at the buffet and we ate a lot less this time around.

My dinner consisted mainly of fish and veggies. Lots of selection though!

My dinner consisted mainly of fish and veggies. Lots of selection though! Mon souper était plutôt basé sur le poisson et les légumes. Très bonne sélection!


Salem opted for more shrimp, fish and veggies.

Salem opted for more shrimp, fish and veggies. Salem a mangé encore d’autres crevettes, du poisson et des légumes.


No need to worry if you have a sweet tooth, Cuba has you covered!

No need to worry if you have a sweet tooth, Cuba has you covered! Vous avez la dent sucré? Ne vous en faites pas, les cubains ont aussi la dent sucrée!


A sunburnt Caro... :(

A sunburnt Caro… 😦 Caro et coup de soleil…

After dinner was a water show in the pool. The things these people can do in such shallow water is amazing!

Aquatic show. Just... WOW!

Aquatic show. Just… WOW! Le superbe spectacle aquatique.


So many costumes! Lots of thongs though...

So many costumes! Lots of thongs though… Des costumes émerveillants mais aussi beaucoup de tangas… euh….

Afterwards, we went off to the lobby lounge for some a late-night espresso and another caffe con leche. These guys are so nice! 1 peso tip and it’s all smiles and amazing service. Fine by me!

Salem in the lobby lounge, a little sunburnt too.

Salem in the lobby lounge, a little sunburnt too. Salem dans le lobby, aussi avec son petit coup de soleil.


Mmmmmm caffeine!

Mmmmmm caffeine!

Our trip to Varadero – long overdue post – Day 1

Tags

, ,

I’ve been working on this post for a very long time and have decided I rather post something now than never post anything!
Salem and I went to Varadero, Cuba back at the end of October. We stayed in at the Paradisus Princesa del Mar all-inclusive, which happens to be near the eastern end of the Varadero strip. Click here for the Trip Advisor review page of the hotel. We booked through the travel agency at my work and chose to opt for Sunwing Airlines.

The flight
Our departure was on a Sunday morning, returning Sunday afternoon a week later (Oct 21-27). The flight was pretty good, no major frills plane (one TV screen for every few rows) but the service was AMAZING! We actually had breakfast included on the plane: French toast with juice, coffee or tea and a little snack cake. I wasn’t expecting that. They also came back around later handing out snacks and drinks. They also serve a small glass of champagne but I think everyone now knows just how pointless it is to offer us champagne! While on the flight, you have to fill out a form for immigration, please make sure you fill out both sections – they keep one and you keep one. Don’t lose it! Otherwise, you cannot leave the country at the end of your vacation! The flight was just a few hours (3-4 hours?) and there wasn’t too much turbulence. Landing was a bit rough-ish but nothing I haven’t experience in a roller coaster before.

The Arrival
The Varadero airport is fairly small, the tarmac reminds me a bit of Québec roads (hahahahaha!) but the process of picking up luggage and going through immigration is fairly quick. They take your picture and send you on your merry way. We didn’t see a cadeca (exchange office) on the way out and headed straight for the doors. The Sunwing staff was organized, pointing us to the right bus – there must have been 5-7 buses, get on the right one to get to your hotel! No worries though, the employees speak both English and French and are very helpful. WE HAVE ARRIVED!!!! The drive from the airport to our hotel took about 40 minutes. Here are some images of the view from the drive.

On the bus, waiting to get whisked away to our hotel!
Sur l'autobus en attendant le départ vers notre hôtel!


The coast on the way to the hotel.
La côte le long du trajet vers notre hôtel.

Our vacation begins!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know – our vacation technically begins once we take off, but I really feel like it begins once you see your hotel. I had made a request for a certain block of rooms when booking and I got my wish! I had heard that some people were not too thrilled about their rooms facing the current construction area (they are expanding the resort) so I asked for a room in blocks 1-2-3, which are on the western side of the hotel, with a room on the 3rd floor. Bonus: our room was ready when we arrived! Yeeeeeaaaaahhhhh!!!

While the paperwork was being settled, I couldn’t help but peek over into the garden and pool area. I think I was already out there, tanning! But, paperwork and the cadeca call! A golf-kart shuttle brings you to your room, and the bellboy (or man) brings your luggage up for you. Honestly, a very good first impression.

Salem putzing around with our luggage while we wait for the golf cart ride to out room.
Salem en train de niaiser avec nos bagages pendant qu’on attend le caddie de golf qui nous apportera à notre chambre.


Our lovely home for the next few days. Notre chez-nous pour les prochains quelques jours.

Since it was mid-late afternoon when we arrived, by the time we got settled, it was about 4:00pm when we finally headed out to grab a bite to eat and then headed out to the beach. Beautiful but, I must warn you, quite windy and the water was pretty turbulent but that didn’t stop us. I think we must’ve spent a good 2 hours in the water. We were finally ON VACATION!

Dinner was at the buffet which, I must admit, is very well stocked! We decided to stay away from the meat grill though (chicken, beef and pork being cooked on the same surface) and stuck to the many other stations that served food. At lunch and dinner, the food stations offered: Fish and seafood (easily 5 kinds of fish and lots of seafood!), pizzas, pastas, baked vegetables, salad bar (oh wow!), cheese (4-5 different kinds – helloooooo!), fruit bar, dessert bar… Yeah, we totally took advantage of this!

At the buffet, ready to eat! Au buffet et prête à manger!


Sexy vacationer! Beau touriste!


Lots of veggies, fish and a slice of seafood pizza!
Beaucoup de légumes, du poisson et une pointe de pizza au fruits de mer.


That night, we took it easy and watched a bit of a Cuban dance show they put on. We actually fell asleep a bit in the corner of the courtyard. We then went off to the lobby bar to have coffee, stayed up for a bit but then called it a day. A great first day!

One of the many shows put on – they move too quickly for my camera!
Un des plusieurs spectacles qu’on nous propose. Mais ils bougent trop vite pour ma caméra!

Gibby’s in Old Montréal (le Vieux port) – our first experience

Alright, this post has actually taken me a week to write – things are busy and I am currently under the weather with my ever so lovely flare-up I get from time to time. Just great! Oh well, I am dealing with it.

For Salem’s birthday dinner (en tête-à-tête), we decided to try out a restaurant we had never been to. A restaurant I hear about every single day thanks to CJAD talk radio. We went to the ever so posh Gibby’s in Vieux Montréal (Old Montreal).

I knew it would be expensive but I figured “what better way to celebrate my Habibi’s birthday than with a nice, expensive dinner”. With reservations made a few days earlier, all dressed up and perfumed, off we went to the resto.

There’s one really nice feature about this place, which you can enjoy from the moment you arrive: valet parking. Of course, Salem being as paranoid “cautious” as he is, decided he didn’t want anyone else driving his car and parked a block away and supported the greedy city of Montréal by feeding a few bucks into the parking meter. Thankfully, it was very mild outside and the sidewalk wasn’t covered with its usual winter black ice just yet.

Gibby’s is located in a nice, old stone building, which seems to have been stables at a point and time. Don’t worry, it doesn’t smell like horses anymore – far from it. There’s a coat check in the basement and a smiling hostess to receive you when you come in.

We were seated in a corner which is great considering how much I dislike being bombarded by the noise from tables all around me. This is when the hostess hands you your menu and the “catch of the day” card. Brought to our table: a fresh loaf of bread (it was still warm and covered with a cloth), butter, bowl of pickles and bacon bits (the waiter promptly took them away when informed we were allergic – the poor guy seemed embarrassed; it’s ok, no worries). The bread was great, but we were quite perplexed by the pickles – are you supposed to eat them alone? Or does it have something to do with the whole “bread and butter pickles”? I told Salem to take a look and see what the people seated at the other tables were doing, he found no indication. We had only ever been served pickles with coleslaw or smoked meat. We decided to slice the pickles and sneakily tried a slice with some buttered bread – “Act like we belong here!”. Not bad, but I’ll just eat my pickle as-is next time.

Salem at his birthday dinner. Boy do I have a handsome husband!

Salem at his birthday dinner. Boy do I have a handsome husband!

Our waiter came around and, of course, we refused drinks and just stuck to water. He didn’t even bat an eyelash when we said no alcohol, which was nice. I sometimes feel awkward or wonder “how much will the service suffer” when we don’t order alcoholic beverages. The waiter made a joke about “Château de la pompe 1968” being a very good year. I liked that he had a sense of humour and didn’t just rush off right away.

For the main course, Salem ordered the grilled arctic char (fish) with the marinated tomato and onion salad. I ordered the chicken Kiev along with the Gibby’s salad. Also available is the gazpacho. Here I thought the salads were side dishes, but no, they are more like starter salads. That was a nice surprise! Oh, and I have to mention the stance the waiter takes when he offers you freshly ground pepper; it’s like they are presenting you with a bottle of wine! It made me smile, maybe even smirk a bit. As we were finishing off our salads, the waiter brought us 2 little bowls with a ball inside and a small spoon. Salem “What’s that?”, Me “I’m not sure… margarine? *looks closer* It’s crystallized! Oh! I think it’s sorbet, you know, to cleanse your palate”. Indeed, it was a lemony-limey sorbet. “Don’t look at it too much, just eat it and act like you belong here!”

Salem opted for the tomato and onion marinade.

Salem opted for the tomato and onion marinade.

Caro and the rustic decor. I love it!

Caro and the rustic decor. I love it!

The Gibby's salad: mixed greens with tomatoes, croutons and a light garlic dressing.

The Gibby’s salad: mixed greens with tomatoes, croutons and a light garlic dressing.

Cleansing our palettes with a little lemon sorbet. A pleasant surprise.

Cleansing our palettes with a little lemon sorbet. A pleasant surprise.

Our main course came soon after. Along with the arctic char and chicken Kiev, the plates came with asparagus and a baked potato (you can opt for sides other than the baked potato such as the Monte Carlo potato, etc). Salem’s fish was actually quite a large piece given what we’re used to getting in restaurants; and my chicken Kiev came with 2 pieces, not just one. It turns out that arctic char is somewhat similar to salmon, but the flavour being a hint more “meaty” while still being light and fluffy in texture. The chicken Kiev (chicken breasts stuffed with herbs and butter, breaded and topped with chives) was excellent! I wasn’t able to finish my plate so the 2nd piece and half of my potato were taken home in a doggy bag. I’d like to take a moment here to mention the other waiter that was also serving our table. He took my plate to prep the doggy bag and I was just surprised at the absolute care he took when bringing the doggy bag back to our table. I don’t know why it struck me, but he put the container in a Gibby’s bag and folded the bag over and then placed it on the table (almost as if presenting it). Man! I’m just glad if most places don’t just throw the half-closed container down on the table!

Gibby's chicken Kiev: pan-fried chicken breasts stuffed with herbs, butter and chives. With baked potato and asparagus.

Gibby’s chicken Kiev: pan-fried chicken breasts stuffed with herbs, butter and chives. With baked potato and asparagus.

Salem telling me to take the picture quickly. On his plate: the grilled arctic char, baked potato and asparagus.

Salem telling me to take the picture quickly. On his plate: the grilled arctic char, baked potato and asparagus.

Caro ready to dig into her chicken Kiev.

Caro ready to dig into her chicken Kiev.


We were having a hard time deciding on dessert and had to ask our waiter for his opinion. His description had me going for the hot apple croûte. I was thinking apple crumb à la mode but boy was I wrong. 2 forks are a must for this dessert! It’s basically a puff pastry topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, apple chunks and drizzled with a savory (not overly sweet) caramel with a bit of whipped cream on the side – AMAZING! Salem had a coffee and I opted for a cappuccino. The waiter chatted us up as we were finishing our meal – very nice fellow. He talked to us about the restaurant and the owner and the culture of the restaurant (ie customer service and care). It was really nice – I can’t remember the last time a waiter even chatted us up.
A nice, foamy cappuccino for me and our dessert... Mmmmmm.

A nice, foamy cappuccino for me and our dessert… Mmmmmm.

Hot apple croûte - a puff pastry topped with bits of apple, vanilla ice cream and rich, hot caramel. 2 forks please!

Hot apple croûte – a puff pastry topped with bits of apple, vanilla ice cream and rich, hot caramel. 2 forks please!


All in all, yes, it was expensive but I think the food and experience were well worth the price tag. I guess I can say that I have fallen for Gibby’s. I wouldn’t fail to recommend it for special occasions and hope to return sometime. Total for 2: just under $100, plus tip.

Happy Birthday Habibi!

Tags

, , , , , ,

Today is Salem’s birthday. – Happy birthday Love of my life! – He’s turning XX years old and he’s been so-so about his past couple of birthdays. I think he’s just crazy. So it’s my job to do my best to make him happy on his birthday.

For some reason, I got it in my head to try making him some crazy, amazing cake I saw here. Wow!

I’ve never worked with fondant, made my own buttercream (or at least I don’t recall) and I think I never went over 2 layers… So of course I had to go ahead and make him a life-sized basketball cake!

It was hard work, a long day and I hit quite a few bumps in the road (watermelon-flavoured marshmalows for the giant Rice Krispie that makes up the bottom half, colouring the fondant, covering the ball with the fondant without tearing it and getting too many folds – F****CK!!!, and the cat trying to lick the cake). In the end, it was worth seeing the happy and surprised look on his face when I came out with the cake.

Happy Birthday Habibi – I hope to see you this happy for every one of your birthdays.
See pictures after the French post.


C’est la fête à Salem aujourd’hui. Bonne fête à l’amour de ma vie! Il a maintenant XX ans et, depuis quelques années maintenant, il n’est pas trop positif quand à ces fêtes. Je croîs qu’il est fou, quoi, alors c’est à moi de faire de mon mieux pour m’assurer qu’il soit content le jour de sa fête.

Je ne sais pas pourquoi, mais je me suis fait l’idée que je devrais lui faire ce gâteau que j’ai trouvé sur ce site. Ayoye!

Je n’ai aucune expérience avec le fondant, n’ai jamais fait mon propre glaçage à la crème au beurre (Du moins, je ne m’en souviens pas) et je ne crois pas avoir fait un gâteau de plus de 2 étages… J’ai alors eu la magnifique idée de lui faire un gâteau en forme de ballon de basket! Maudite folle!

C’était beaucoup de travail, ça a fait une longue journée et il y a eu quelques pépins (guimauves au melon d’eau pour le Rice Krispie géant qui forme la partie du bas, colorer le fondant, placer le fondant sans trop de plis et sans le déchirer – merde!!!!, et la chatte qui a tenté de léché le gâteau). Mais, en fin de compte, ça valait le coup quand j’ai vu à quel point il était content et surpris quand je lui ai présenté son gâteau.

Bonne fête Habibi; j’espère te voir aussi content à chaque année pour ta fête.

My workstation. Have I ever mentioned just how much I can't wait to get a decent kitchen?

My workstation. Have I ever mentioned just how much I can’t wait to get a decent kitchen?


The cake, 5 minutes after completion. It's not perfect, but I'll just have to shut up and take it.

The cake, 5 minutes after completion. It’s not perfect, but I’ll just have to shut up and take it.


The cake from a different angle.

The cake from a different angle.


Salem's 2012 Birthday Cake - yes, it's the size of a real basketball. No, you cannot go shoot some hoops with it.

Salem’s 2012 Birthday Cake – yes, it’s the size of a real basketball. No, you cannot go shoot some hoops with it.


Salem and Caro with the cake - Caro is exhausted at this point.

Salem and Caro with the cake – Caro is exhausted at this point.


Yes, there's cake inside!

Yes, there’s cake inside!

There’s stuff coming – please be patient

To make a long story short, Salem and I have been very busy for the last few weeks. We had a few things to wrap up with family, tried to fit in a few gym visits, a trip to Cuba and getting over a horrible cold once back home.

I’m doing my best to go through all our 500 pictures from the trip so I can start posting them up on here (lots of requests coming in from family and friends). Please be patient – I have to go through all the pictures, hand-pick which ones we want to put on here, do the colour adjustments (and some were taken at night without a flash so that requires even more work), add in our watermark for each one and then save it. I’ve also been trying to re-trace our steps for the trip to Habana (I wish they had given us a map!).

I also have a few recipes I want to add on here since we tried out a few new things since our return and we also had my parents over for dinner on Sunday. Dinner was a success this time – thankfully! I was about to lose faith and consider my cooking skills nil.

I’ll try my best to post up a few things over the weekend. Sorry for being so flaky!

Striving for change

Tags

,

For those that know me personally, it should be no surprise that I am looking to make changes to my diet yet once more. I find there is always room for improvement, especially when I fall off the bandwagon – which is quite often.

I’ve been watching a lot of videos on YouTube concerning raw veganism and have tried to increase not only the amount of veggies I eat but also making the majority of the veggies I consume raw. Why? Because, as a general rule, vegetables tend to lose nutrients when cooked. Steaming and sauté-ing are the best ways to preserve nutrients if cooking vegetables. I would say close to 80% of my vegetables consumed are now raw. How do I feel? Great!

Considering I planted a bunch of kale in my father’s garden this year (and I had to go and get some before it went bad), and that neither of my parents really seemed to know too much about kale and how to use it, I decided I would share this kale-based salad recipe I put together on a recent visit to my mother’s. If Dad and Mary Ann are interested, I can certainly make it for them during our next visit.

Please note, this recipe was inspired by Dara Dubinet. Here is a link to her videos – which I love, she just has such great energy – a real ray of sunshine.

Les gens qui me connaissent ne devraient pas être trop surpris que je compte faire encore d’autres changements à mes habitudes alimentaires. Je trouve qu’il y a toujours un peu de place pour améliorer mon alimentation, spécialement quand je retourne à mes anciens démons; chose qui se produit plutôt souvent!

De ces jours-ci, je regarde plusieurs vidéos sur le végétalisme crudivore et je tente donc de consommer non seulement plus de légumes, mais de faire en sorte que la majorité de ces légumes sont crus. Pourquoi? Parce que la règle générale veut que les légumes perdent une certaine valeur nutritive quand ils sont cuits. Par contre, si on compte cuire ses légumes en préservant le plus de ces éléments nutritifs, il est suggéré de les sauter ou les cuire à la vapeur. Je dirais qu’environ 80% de mes légumes sont maintenant consommés crus. Comment je me sens? Super!

Étant donné que j’ai planté du chou kalé (ou chou frisé) dans le jardin de mon père, et que je devrais en récolter avant qu’il ne pourrisse, et aussi que mes parents ne semblaient pas trop quoi faire avec cet aliment et comment le préparer; j’ai décidé de partager cette recette que j’ai préparé quand je suis allée rendre visite à ma mère récemment. Si mon père et Mary Ann sont intéressés, il me fera plaisir de leur en préparer lors de notre prochaine visite.

SVP notez que cette recette est inspirée par unes des recettes de Dara Dubinet. Voici un lien à ces vidéos sur YouTube. J’adore ces vidéos et l’énergie positive qu’elle dégage. Bref, un vrai rayon de soleil!

Dara Dubinet inspired kale salad with figs.
Une salade aux figues et choux kalé inspiré par Dara Dubinet.


Caro’s twist on the Kale Queen salad

Ingredients
-2 cups of kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
-2 cups of lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
-Red onion, diced
-Figs, peeled (optional) and cut into quaters
-half an orange, chopped into pieces
-juice of half an orange
-half an avocado, mashed
-2 tsp honey
-a few pinches of cinnamon
-olive oil
-salt to taste
-poppy seeds (optional)

Putting it together:
1- Mix the kale, lettuce, red onion, figs and orange pieces in a large bowl.
2- For the dressing, mix the mashed avocado, orange juice, cinnamon, honey, olive oil and a bit of salt.
3- Pour the dressing onto the greens, add poppy seeds to your liking and toss. Adjust salt as needed.

La salade Kale Queen modifié à la Caro

Ingrédients
-2 tasses de chou kale (ou chou frisé), déchiqueté en petits morceaux
-2 tasses de laitue, déchiquetée en petits morceaux
-Onion rouge, en petits cubes
-Figues, pelées (optionel) et coupées en quarts
-la moitié d’une orange, coupée en morceaux
-jus de la moitié d’une orange
-moitié d’un avocat, écrasé
-2 c.à.t. de miel
-quelques pincées de cannelle
-huile d’olive
-sel, au goût
-graines de pavot (optionel)

Préparation:
1- Dans un saladier, mélanger le chou, la laitue, l’onion rouge, les figues et les morceaux d’orange.
2- Pour la vinaigrette, mélanger dans un petit bol l’avocat, le jus d’orange, la cannelle, le miel, l’huile d’olive et le sel.
3- Aroser la vinaigrette sur le mélange de laitue et choux, ajouter les graines de pavot (optionel) et remuer. Ajuster le sel à votre goût.

It (was) harvest time! – C’était le temps de la récolte!

So, while I did post about my fire escape garden once, I never really did an update. I took a picture of one of my harvests but totally neglected to put it up here. Sorry!
The first harvest below dates from late July and has a bit of everything, minus the peppers. The other 2 pictures come from a bit later on, in August – the cherry tomatoes were coming out in full-force and I had one pepper (it never got bigger).

Je me suis rendue compte que, bien que j’ai écrit un article de blogue concernant mon jardin sur notre sortie secours, je ne vous ai jamais montré ce que j’ai eu la chance de récolter. J’ai pris des photos mais j’ai négligé de les rajouter au blogue. Désolé!
La première récolte date de la fin juillet et contient un peu de tout sauf les piments. Les 2 autres photos sont du mois d’août; on peut y voir que le plant de tomates cerise est en pleine forme et que j’avais aussi un piment (il n’est pas devenu plus gros que sur la photo).

Lettuce, mint, cherry tomatoes, tarragon and basil.
Laitue, menthe, tomates cerise, estragon et basilic.


Bang – cherry tomato explosion! Des tomates cerise pleine la face!


A tiny green pepper. Un petit piment vert.

La Panthère Verte: I guess this is like a restaurant review…

About a week or so ago, the man and I went out for dinner at La Panthère Verte – it was our second time there. Our first visit was a few months back and I had coupons (woot! woot!). I loved my sandwich so much that time that I ordered the same thing again this time. Yes, I know, that’s not very adventurous but I had been craving it since then!

The place is small-ish but cute, serves up organic food and has really friendly staff. The menu consists mainly of sandwiches, soups, salad and desserts which can be taken individually or as combos and trios. The prices do reflect the fact that this is ORGANIC food! Our 2 trios ended up costing us about $30 for 2 sandwiches, 2 side-salad plates and 2 drinks. While it may seem a bit expensive, I do think it’s worth a detour once in a while.

Il y a environ une semaine de cela, mon mari et moi sommes sortis pour souper à La Panthère Verte; ceci était notre deuxième visite à ce resto. La première visite datait d’il y a quelques mois quand nous avions obtenu des coupons rabais. J’ai tellement aimé mon sandwich la dernière fois que je l’ai commandé à nouveau cette fois ci. Oui, je sais, je n’avais pas le goût de l’aventure mais, plutôt, je rêvais de ce sandwich depuis notre première visite!

Le resto est un peu petit mais très mignon, la bouffe est bio et les employés sont très gentils. Le menu contient des sandwiches, soupes, salades et désserts qui peuvent êtres commandés individuellement, en combo ou en trio. SVP vous rappeler que ceci est de la bouffe bio alors le prix va en conséquence. Nos 2 trios nous ont coûtés $30 pour 2 sandwiches, 2 assiettes salades en accompagnement et 2 breuvages. Le prix peut sembler un peu salé mais ça vaut certainement le détour de temps en temps.

Here’s what we had – voici ce qu’on a mangé (nom, nom, nom!)

My plate: tempeh sandwich with 4 salads: a green salad, marinated tofu, sweet potato fries and quinoa with a tahineh sauce.


Salem’s plate: falafel fusion sandwich with 4 salads: a green salad, marinated tofu, sweet potato fries and quinoa with a tahineh sauce.

La Panthère Verte has 2 locations, but here is the address for the one we went to (since I cannot vouch for their other location). Ce resto a 2 magasins mais voici l’adresse de celui que nous avons visité (je ne peux pas donner mon opinion sur leur autre resto).
2153 Mackay
Montreal
Between – Entre De Maisonneuve and Sherbrooke, Métro Guy-Concordia

Damn you cantaloupe!!! Damn you!!!!

Alright, so I am sorry I have no picture to go along with this, but such is the monster of early-morning smoothies consumed in the train!

The story: I went out and bought a cantaloupe to serve up for when we had my parents over for dinner last Saturday. I took out the melon-baller (melonballer? melon baller? gah!!!) and all and got to work. Come dessert time – I forgot to put the bloody cantaloupe out! TYPICAL!

Fast-forward a few days, we still have round-ish (now somewhat soggy) cantaloupe in the fridge. I needed to do something with this…

Solution:

Cantaloupe-mint smoothie
Serves 2
Ingredients
-1.5 cups cantaloupe, chopped into 1-2″ pieces
-1 banana, broken up into pieces
-2 sprigs of mint, leaves only
-1 scoop protein powder (vanilla or unflavoured)
-1/2 cup almond milk
-1+ cups cold water (adjust to your liking)
-1 Tbspn honey
-pinch of salt
-vanilla (optional)

Putting it together:
1- Throw it all in the blender and GO – GO – GO!!!