Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Perfect Toronto Saturday

Very late on Friday evening I landed safely in Toronto. I was greeted at the airport by my parents who quickly whisked me away to the comforts of home and a lilac coloured bedroom full of all the things that I loved during my childhood years.

I made sure to get enough sleep because I knew the very next day we would be heading out on what, for me, constitutes a perfect Toronto Saturday.

But first I went downstairs and grabbed a bowl of yogurt, mixed berries, and plain corflakes.

Like the bowl? My dad made it -he's all kinds of awesome. :o)

After breakie we headed down to St. Lawrence Market on Toronto's Front Street.

There are two buildings that encompass the Market. The South building pictured above is the older of the two and is opened during the week. The North building houses the Farmer's Market and is only open on Saturdays.

The North building is where we always start our trips. Mostly because it's home to El Gaucho; a business run by an Argentinian family. They sell a variety of meats and prepared foods but it's the sausages that are the star of the show here!

I can't recommend their sausages highly enough! Up until recently you could only get their goodies on Saturdays but three weeks they finally opened a permanent store. If you're in the neighbourhood I hope you'll check them out!

Besides chorizos the Market was full of beautiful fresh picked flowers.

Perfectly golden baked goods.

And of course amazingly fresh produce.

Now as much as I love this particular market it is for better or worse kind of yuppy. And well that's not all there is to me! Hahaha :oP

By far my favourite aspect of Toronto is the incredible multiculturalism around every corner!!!! One of the best places to experience this multiculturalism is Kensington Market off of Spadina Street.

Kensington is anything but yuppy. If anything it has a decidedly counter culture flavour. The kind of neighborhood that has fought successfully against the opening of a Starbucks in the area.

The area has seen many changes. Originally it was the Jewish area, eventually it was taken over by the Chinese community. Now it is largely occupied by Caribbean and Latin American vendors. This is where I go to have my ethnic experience.

Our first stop is always a Portuguese fish market to buy some red snapper and grouper (the latter for ceviche).

Their fish is always very fresh and their prices fair. You can add it to the list of places I heartily recommend!

Our next stop was a Latin American store to pick up spices. Since we were hungry we decided to check out what the store had to offer by way of eats.

The choice was clear. We opted for a couple of pupusas - El Salvador's national dish.

A pupusa is a thick stuffed tortilla filled with cheese, beans, or a refried pork paste. I opted for all cheese.

While the pupusas were pretty decent they weren't amongst the best I've ever had. Hence no business card recommendation.

After several hours spent wandering the city's markets it was time to head home. But not before stopping at Allan's Gardens to enjoy the greenhouses.

I had a completely lovely time during my Saturday outing. It really is too bad I live so very far away because I'd love to be able to enjoy days like these with my parents more often. Which is why I'm determined to enjoy every moment of my time back home.

Hast luego! :o)

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, August 27, 2009

One Night Only

Buenas Bloggies :o)

Last night I came back from court and was absolutely beat. In fact I have absolutely no recollection of when I fell asleep. I just know I woke up in a puddle of drool. Hahaha - you always know it was a good sleep when your face ends up kind of wet.

This morning I woke up early to prep my files. As a bonus I got to enjoy a beautiful sunrise!

I hung out on the balcony for a bit and eventually got ready and headed down for breakfast. This morning's eats featured granola, almonds, and yogurt.

All in all I had a pretty lovely stay at the Lodge. These travelling court days are quite stressful and draining. That's why I really appreciate a comfy bed, lovely views and a warm bath at the end of the day.

I would totally stay there again. In a heartbeat.

I managed to wrap my matters up by lunch. Which was a good thing since I had many hours drive to get home.

A couple of hours into the trip I stopped for a quick lunch of a veggie sandwich and Japanese grnmaicha tea.

I love that tea! I could drink it every day. It's essentially a lose leaf green tea with roasted rice added to the mix. Highly recommended!

Now I'm back home for one night. Yup just one night early. I'm going to wake up super early to pack a suitcase, drive many hours to Calgary, and board a plane bound for Toronto - mi casa!!!!!! :o)

I will be home for about yen days. My time there will be full of family time, grilling, baking, ethnic eats, wedding stuff, and a friend's Sikh wedding celebrations. Luckily I intend to take you along for the ride.

Nighty night bloggies!!!

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's all About the Small Things

Hola amigos!

I'm on another one of my adventures again. This time the purpose of my trip is business not pleasure but that doesn't mean I can't have a little fun and live it up a bit.

With that in mind I've checked into my temporary home for these three days. It's a beautiful place called The Highland Lodge located at Kicking Horse Resort just outside of Golden (British Columbia). Last time I was up this way I checked out the rooms here and loved them!

The Lodge itself is a rustic log cabin. The owners of the place used to own a fair trade furniture company. As a result the place is full of wonderful carved pieces. You can really tell the place is a labour of love.

Did I mention my room has a jacuzzi tub?

But by far my fabourite thing about this place is the glorious view!!!!!

I took the above picture from my private balcony; all the room's have them. Another sweet touch!

Lest you think this food blogger forgot all about the eats :oP

I did partake on some of the yummy eats from the adjoining pub. While the menu is full of traditional pub fare there are also some mote inventive dishes.

I have to admit I worked on files while I waited for dinner. Still I would ocassionally take a break to soak in the patio atmosphere.

My dinner consisted of a grilled piece of salmon on a bed of mint tomato quinoa. So in other words something I would likely to be at home.

While the salmon was kind of overcooked my meal was still on the whole pretty yummers! :o)

After dinner I continued to work on the patio until the mosquitos just about ate me alive - eek!! When I finally came inside I drew a bath and relaxed.

Which brings me to now! :o)

But don't get the wrong idea - it's going to be a very long night and a ridiculously early morning. Which to be frank is why I try to sneak in the good stuff whenever I can. :o)

I'll check in with you tomorrow night bloggies. Wish me luck!

Hope all of you have a happy hump day!

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Kind of <3 my New Toy

I have to admit bloggies that this past weekend I spent inordinate amounts of time playing with an electronic toy. You see my long awaited iPhone finally arrived!!! :oP

I had been anxiously waiting since the 3Gs came out for my little friend to arrive. I am now the proud owner of only the 3rd iPhone to arrive in my small rocky mountain town. Honestly I don't know how I ever lived without one!

So I hope you'll indulge me while I experiment with some iPhone blogging. I apologize in advance if the picture quality is not fantastic but I figure it's worth a shot since it may make it easier to update on the run. :o)

Let's recap Sunday!

Unfortunately the Fiance has been completely flu ridden for days now. While I spent most of Sunday morning tending to sicky (:oP) I was able to convince him to head out for a bit in the afternoon.

Our destination? A local farmer's market:

As the summer nears the end the produce is getting much better. I remember when I first attended this market in the early summer - the selection was rather meagre. This time around however I managed to score some nectarines, tomatoes, peppers, and prune plums (a fan favourite). Check out my lovely locally grown loot:

After some shopping we stopped for a bite. I thought the occasion called for a late breakie but I let sicky choose the restaurant. We ended up in a German restaurant we had visited before. Last time we were there they were serving a morrel mushroom appetizer with spaetzle on the side. This time the dish looked a little different:

Giant fail! :o( You could barely see the itty bitty pieces of mushroom swimming in the sauce. I rescued what mushrooms I could and ate them with a bit of spaetzle. On the whole I ate very little but at least I got sicky out for a bit.

A little while later in the afternoon I snacked on a pretzel I had picked up at a German bakery. It was delish as usual:

My brunch may have been a giant fail but I couldn't help but be pleased as punch at the state of my fruit drawer:

I spent pretty well the rest of the day doing chores at home. For dinner I scared up some left overs - Giada's shrimp fa diavolo, quinoa tabbouleh and some fruit FTW:

I have to give it to Giada! The sauce for the shrimp site was tasty :o)!

Later on in the evening I partook in a little Miss Universe action. Hahaha! What can I say? I am still Hispanic - this pageant is serious business.

While I watched the competition I did some weight training. As a bonus I busted out my cute new weight lifting gloves courtesy of Nike Town in Portland:

And that was my Sunday bloggies.

So tell me, what do you think of the quality of this iPhone blogging?

Happy Monday peeps! :o)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Spectacular Sighting on the Oregon Coast

On our second full day in Oregon we woke up nice and early and headed out of our lovely Portland hotel. We were headed to the Coast and hoped to spend the better part of the day chelaxing (chill + relaxing) in one Ocean playground or another.

Before leaving the city we stopped by Starbucks for a quick bite to eat:

My meal consisted of a small tray full of a hard boiled egg, a teensy bit of cheese, about 1/3 of an apple, a tiny amount of grapes and a mini WW bagel. I washed all of this down with an iced Americano. All in all I was impressed with this meal offering - it offered the perfect combination of protein, grains, fruits, and fats. Too bad they don't sell this in Canada or else I'd probably find my way to Starbucks more often!

Pretty soon we were on our way headed towards the Coast. It quickly became clear that we weren't the only ones that had that idea. But no worries - we enjoyed our drive through the forests. Coastal forests are VERY different than anything you find in the Rockies. Here everything is so arid so you don't see lush forests. Driving through them in Oregon was a treat! :o)

The particular route we took to the Coast took us straight to Tillamook. Home of Tillamook cheese, ice cream, and all sort of other delicious dairy goodies! I'm not sure if they sell Tillamook products elsewhere but in my experience they tend to be available mainly in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Tillamook dairy products are made by a farmer co-operative that has existed for over 100 years! And I have to tell you - they know what they're doing. Should you ever come across Tillamook products I highly recommend you give them a try. :o)

Given that I think so highly of Tillamook products I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that we stopped at the Tillamook factory for lunch. The place was crazy bloggies! Kind of like a dairy Disneyland. The parking was massive and the place was absolutely packed!!!! I should have known the wait for lunch would be extensive - silly me.

First the fiance and I sat down to look through the menu:

Hahaha - do you notice a trend? Everything was pretty well based around one type of grilled cheese or another. We figured when in Rome - the fiance and I both ordered the Centennial Grilled Cheese. This entree featured a cheese created to celebrate Tillamook's Centenary and it came paired with a pickle and a tomato soup.

I had assumed my grilled cheese would be super quick to prepare. You can imagine my shock when I was told that it would take 45 minutes for our order to be ready! Clearly there were throngs of dairy-lovers ahead of us. Not to be deterred, the fiance and I decided to have dessert before the meal. :oP

We shared this delicious Oregon Strawberry cone. It was awesome! You can't tell from the picture but there were really generous chunks of strawberries embedded in the creamy goodness. I'm not usually one for ice cream (I prefer Froyo) but if I were to have any ice cream this would be it.

After a bit more waiting our order arrived and I have to admit it looked great:

The grilled cheese was delicious probably because it was made from aged white cheddar. The soup was creamy and paired perfectly with the sandwich. Now I have to admit that being Hispanic I didn't grow up eating grilled cheese sandwiches (I think this may be my 3rd one ever) but this is definitely comfort food for a lot of people. Such was the case with the fiance - he happily declared it reminded him of many home school lunches.

Now while the sandwich was delicious I only managed to eat half. I quickly reached my cheese saturation level. We felt bad throwing the other half away but cold coagulated cheese didn't sound like an appetizing mid-afternoon snack. :oP lol

I'm glad we went to the factory! The cheese was delicious and it was certainly an experience. But I think I'll leave the grilled cheese sandwiches for an indulgent home day - that way I can control serving slices.

After the factory we drove North ward up the Coast. I don't know if you bloggies have ever been to the Oregon Coast but it's simply SPECTACULAR!!!! Such wide, clean, beautiful beaches!

I last visited the Oregon Coast in the summer of 2007 and ever since I'd been dreaming of going back. Last summer I couldn't make it because I was too busy studying for the bar and moving but this summer I was determined to pay some of my favourite views a return visit. :o)

One of my favourite places on the Oregon Coast is Cannon Beach. It's a small and incredibly yuppy resort community full of wonderfully tended gardens and cedar shingled homes. Frankly it looks like something out of Martha Stewart Living!

Aside from idyllic beach locales, Cannon Beach also has incredibly fresh seafood restaurants. For an early dinner we headed to a place we had tried on our previous trip:

This particular place is family owned. In fact it's staffed largely by relatives and they catch most of their own seafood!

Not to mention the whole restaurant/fish store is full of lovely little touches that make it feel extra homey:

To start dinner the fiance and I both had an oyster shooter. Now I know the very thought of a raw oyster is gross to some people. But trust me! This one was deliciously fresh and hence beautiful:

I followed up my Oyster with a little "boat" full of shrimp and fresh crab. I was in pescatarian heaven! :o)

With a happily full belly we left the restaurant and headed to what is easily my favourite part of Cannon Beach - the views from nearby Ecola State Park. They are spectacular! To die for really! In fact I think they're right up there as one of the most beautiful things I have seen in my life!

Le Sigh. :o)

We spent a good long time up at the park. Truth is I can scarcely get enough of those views! After the fiance promised we would return some other time, I agreed to leave. Our next stop was the town of Seaside, where we spent the night.

Seaside is one of those beach resort towns that were built around the turn of the Century. It apparently was the kind of place were nearly fully dressed ladies would come with their families to enjoy an outing at the beach. Today you can see remnants of that past in it's long and glorious promenade, vacation homes that line the Coast, and it's fair like central street.

I happen to think Seaside is just about the perfect place to enjoy the sunset. Which is exactly what we did! :o)

On our last morning in Oregon we woke up nice and early and headed out for a long run on the Promenade! The salty sea air and the wonderful views made this an awesome place to run!

We ran all the way to the end of the Promenade and on our return trip we were alternating running with boot camp style workouts (walking lunges, push ups against a bench, and triceps dips on the bench). In fact we were working up quite a sweat until we were interrupted by a tourist coming out of his vacation home who said "There are whales down on the beach!!!"

Of course that's all it took for me to go happily bounding through the sea grass to the shore. Now since I was out for a run I didn't have a camera with me - which means there are no pictures. :o( But believe me when I say that memory will forever be imprinted in my mind!

What we saw was a group of about five killer whales feeding. They were very close to shore and kept on circling the same area. You could see them churning about the water while they ate their breakfast. The most spectacular thing however was how much of the whales we got to see!!! Usually you only see the fins but on this occasion the whales rose out of the water (perpendicular to the waves) and you could very clearly see their mouths opening and closing (really wide actually) while they fed.

I was in awe.

It was such an unbelievable treat to see these wonderful creatures. And just imagine - had we not been out for an early morning run we would have missed out! I felt incredibly blessed to e able to partake in that moment.

The fiance and I stood there watching until the whales left (they were probably out there 30 minutes). Afterwards we ran on the beach all the way back to our Ocean Front hotel. For breakfast we tucked into some grocery store finds we had picked up the night before:

After breakfast we headed out the door and began our long (!) journey back home.

Once lunch time came around the fiance wanted fast food so we settled on Burger King since I knew they served veggie burgers:

Dinner came many hours later when we stopped at my favourite Pho restaurant in Spokane. I had my usual - tom yum shrimp pho. Yummers!!!!

We hadn't been planning on our Oregon trip but it turned out to be an awesome impromptu adventure! I couldn't be happier we took a leap and headed out on the open road. A weekend getaway was just what the Doctor ordered. :o)

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Impromptu Portland Trip

Oh my goodness bloggies!!! It's getting hot in herrrrreee!!!!

I live in the middle of the Canadian Rockies in an AC-less home. And I am melting!!! So I'm going to try to keep this blog short but oh so sweet!

Time to recap my Portland adventures.

Last weekend the fiance and I took a bit of holidays and headed down to Portland. Objective? Use up our free Starwood Hotels night before it expired AND get closer to the Coast.

You see the fiance is a Vancouver Island (British Columbia) boy and it pains him to the core to be so far from the Ocean. So when the opportunity came up to take a random spur of the moment voyage we chose Portland!!!

We left on Thursday night and drove pretty well through the night. It's a long drive from here to Oregon but we didn't stop until we hit the Oregon side of the Columbia River. That's where we checked into a hotel to catch some sleep before continuing our journey. We figured it was wise or else we'd be too tired to enjoy our destination.

After waking up we continued our drive Westbound. I have to confess I was somewhat surprised to see a very arid canyon. You see my previous trips to Oregon consisted of beautiful coastal views or lush forests like these (photo taken from the top of the Astoria column):

So of course you can imagine my shock when the Columbia Gorge looked incredibly arid pretty well the entire way to Portland. It wasn't the Oregon we thought we'd signed up for! That's for sure! But nonetheless we kept on chugging on knowing there were lush forests and beautiful coasts waiting for us on the other side. :o)

Eventually we took a break for a late breakfast in a sleepy dusty cowboy kind of town. It was literally the only restaurant we had seen in hours so I wasn't about to be picky.

The fiance and I sat down in a place clearly full of locals and took a look at our menu:

That's right - the menu featured two heads of cattle at the very top. And their specialties included dishes like pork chops for breakfast. A pescatarian heaven it was not!!! :oP lol

I was starving however so I ordered a biscuit thinking it would be small, hopefully WW (what was I thinking), and hopefully the least evil food choice on the menu. When my "healthy" biscuit arrived it was the size of half of my head and totally buttery:

Now I'm not going to front. That big old honking load of refined carbs was kind of delicious!!! lol I'm so white bread deprived I was kind of happy by my choice. And yet I had a gnawing feeling that it wasn't that great for me and I would be hungry kind of soon.

And I was right - as soon as we hit civilization I hit up McDonalds for some Walnut/Fruit/Yogurt snack. By this point I was ready to munch on my left arm, I was that hungry!!!

I ate about half the serving and gave the rest to the fiance who was all to happy to oblige. :o)

Soon enough we were in Portland - I live in a very small Rocky Mountain town at the moment. But I'm completely a big city girl! And I miss living in a bit city - a lot. I know that sounds crazy given the beauty of my current home but there's something in me that comes alive when I'm in a Cosmopolitan Centre.

And so it was that I was completely delighted when I saw the absolutely swank trendiness of our hotel - The Nines in downtown Portland:

Not bad for free, huh!? :oP Score!!

After enjoying our surroundings for a bit we headed out to walk around Portland. You see the best part of our hotel was not the inside but rather it's awesome location, directly across from Pioneer Square (Portland's living room).

Needless to say it was a central starting point for our explorations. :o) I stopped at NikeTown where I purchased new weight lifting gloves, we sipped coffee in trendy cafes, strolled the tree lined streets of the University district, and walked along the water's edge. Halfway through our explorations the mungriness (mad hungriness) hit us and stopped at a local Ramen/Udon shop for a snack. We ordered seafood udon to share:

This was my share:

I know it looks like I kept it really light but that's because we'd already scoped out our dinner locale. The top level of our hotel featured a trendy little lounge/restaurant called Departure. The decor was suitably modern (kind of futuristic - like a spaceship) and the views were fantastic:

What drew us to Departure was their inventive cuisine and some awesome happy hour specials!

Although the picture above isn't of the happy hour menu it still gives you some idea of the type of dishes they serve (perfect for sharing - which is what we did). And yes it would be kind of pricey if you ate there at regular prices but during happy hours you can find some great deals.

Such as inexpensive ($5) glasses of fabulous French Champagne:

Really rich miso soup:

Inventive chicken wings fried in a panko crust (the fiance said they were amazing - so he ordered two servings):

Beautiful tuna sashimi:

THE butteriest hamachi I have ever tasted:

Yummy scallops:

And the piece de resistance - a passion fruit dessert that made me want to lick my plate. And I came this close too!!! lol

After our feast the fiance and I happily discovered that Portland's Living Room was featuring a free outdoor movie screening. It was awesome to see young, old, families, singles, and even doggies taking in the "Flicks on the Bricks" feature (Anchorman - hilarious!):

Props to Portland for putting on such a fantastic event! They even provided free popcorn - score again! :o)

Given that we only had one day in Portland we managed to squeeze a lot in and have a wonderful time!

That night we headed off to bed fairly early - excited for the next day and our time on the Oregon Coast!!! :o)

To be Continued . . .