After having our hybrid late lunch - early dinner at Ramen Zero, we decided to check out the Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade which is almost a kilometer long. Along the way we passed by this interesting looking market.
This shop had two parts; one side a small collection of eating establishments called "HUG Eat" and the other half a market selling Hokkaido produce, dairy, and other Hokkaido food products.
Yes, I said dairy. Hokkaido has a sizeable dairy industry and you might be surprised to find items like Hokkaido milk, yogurt, and yes, cheese are quite popular.
Some of the produce had photos of folks I'm assuming are the farmers who grew the product. It was kind of charming, even though some of the photos looked like mugshots.
I really enjoyed this shop and will definitely drop by if I'm ever back in Sapporo.
Dosan-shokusai HUG Tanukikoji 5-chome Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Japan
We made our way to the other end of the shopping arcade, then decided to head back to the hotel.....
Of course we got joyfully lost along the way. Finally ending up at this chocolate shop.
Where the Missus bought a couple of treats for Her mom and a few for Herself.
Le Petit Boule Chocolatier 8-2-7 Kita 1-jo Nishi Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Japan
In spite of not having a sweet tooth; I really enjoyed the snacks in Hokkaido. New Chitose Airport was "sample heaven" and I loved this particular melon flavored corn and chocolate snack that I normally wouldn't have given a second glance to.
Darkness had fallen quickly, and even though we got turned around a couple of times, we ended up at the Daimaru located next to Sapporo Station.
Which was close to our hotel.
We finished up the evening with some snacks and another thing we picked up in Hokkaido; really flavorful black bean tea!
One of the reasons Akiko had recommended staying at the Hotel Monterey was for the buffet breakfast, which the Missus loved.
I'm usually not a big buffet fan, but this was a bird of another feather. There was a section with typical Western style breakfast items; then some typical Japanese items like chicken karaage and such. Of course there was Hokkaido dairy products and I had a chance to sample the milk and yogurt. It was the selection of more traditional items that we really took to. The Missus discovered that She loved mentaiko, shiokara, and other items She deemed "too fishy" here in the states. As an egg lover, She blissfully consumed the onsen tamago. I loved seeing the Missus enjoy eating this way.
I'd never had black bean natto before and we both found it delicious. I felt totally at home having these items for breakfast. I did notice that most of the younger folks; all Japanese went for the Western pastries and such and the older folks (I guess I'm an old fart) took to the more traditional items.
Good call Akiko! We loved the breakfast buffet!
And we needed a healthy start to the day. There were small snow flurries the night before, but it had all melted in the morning sun. Still, the temps were in the mid-30's.
And we were headed to the city where the lowest recorded temperature (think of where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet) in the history of Japan was recorded.
We had really enjoyed our time visiting Petaluma and hitting the Cheese Trail, which was a great time. But, all things must come to an end, and it was time head back to SFO. But not before the really friendly cat came by to bid us farewell.
I'd planned a single stop on the way to the airport and we decided to getting Dim Sum at Zen Peninsula which had been recommended to us. A big plus was it was basically on the way to the airport. The small parking lot is quite odd here, since the dining room is one of those cavernous dim sum places.
We were hungry and ended up ordering way too much food....well, it didn't seem to be a lot when we ordered, but the portion sizes seemed quite large.
We were also quite surprised at how slowly this place filled up....a slow trickle of people. The place wasn't even full when we left at 1145. Anyway, on to the food.
The Missus enjoyed the Chicken Feet.
This was decently flavored, good soy, fermented black bean, but nothing special. Still, it was toe-sucking goodness to the Missus.
The Gailan was under-cooked; very crunchy, lacking in flavor.
The flavor of the Pork Neck was nice; sweet and savory.
But the Missus didn't care for the almost crunchy texture of it.
The portion size of the Soy Sauce Noodles was quite large.
This was ok if a bit too salty.
The Missus saw Turnip Cake with XO Sauce and automatically thought it would be like Sea Harbour.
No such luck Chuck. The flavor was on the milder side and the radish cake a bit too mushy for our taste. Still, not bad. One funny thing; we didn't want to waste food so ended up taking this on our flight.......nothing like the smell of XO sauce on Virgin America!
I saw the Mustard Steamed Pork Intestine and decided I needed to try it. It was very fragrant, and the "sauce" tasted good, though I wasn't a big fan of all the scum.
And while there were some bits that looked like part of the Piggy's last meal floating around; the pungency of the dish masked all of that. This also added to the pungency of our carry-on....I really felt bad. In fact, I made sure not to buy any washed rind cheeses so as to not bother other passengers.....and here I was bringing pork intestine along for the flight. Luckily, no one sat around us and the flight was relatively empty. I didn't see anyone sniffing around wondering "what the heck is that smell"......
One last item I wanted to try was the Duck Liver Sausage Bun. Think ducky lapcheong.
While I felt the steamed bun could have been a bit lighter....it seemed to be getting gummy pretty quickly; I liked the flavor. The Missus's Shandong roots betrayed Her as She declared this way too sweet.
In spite of what you might think upon reading to this point; this was a decent dim sum meal; nothing spectacular, but still better, and cheaper than San Diego. Of course the Missus wanted to head to the SGV as soon as we got home.
Zen Peninsula 1180 El Camino Real Millbrae, CA 94030
We finished lunch a bit earlier than expected, so I decided to head over to Burlingame. I'd heard that one of the Tea Shops also made tea infused chocolates. After finding a parking spot, which was a lot more difficult than I anticipated, then wandering around a bit....the shop isn't the easiest place to find....we got to Rue Du Thé , which I believe is also named Leland Tea Company.
Really friendly folks. And while not on the same level....according to the Missus as Wine Country Chocolates, She did enjoy what She selected. Especially the chili infused chocolates.
Rue Du Thé 1223 Donnelly Ave Burlingame, CA 94010
We really enjoyed our short trip to the Bay Area. In fact, the Missus is already planning a return....for more cheese!
Having completed breakfast, the Missus was ready to start with today's mission....first chocolates, then beer.
A few blocks away was a location of Moonstruck Chocolate Café.
We entered the tiny shop so the Missus could add to Her collection of confections. The woman manning the counter was very nice and we found the Oregon Craft Brewers collection to be quite interesting. I did have a taste of the Rogue Hazelnut Brown, which was really, really, good.
And so the Missus was able to add to Her collection and we were able to grab a few gifts as well.
Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe 608 SW Alder St Portland, OR 97205
On our way back from The Cheese Shop the previous day, I pointed out a chocolate shop named Alma. The Missus did a Google Search and came up with an address. It said NE 28th Street......which was strange since I recall seeing the shop fairly close to the Hawthorne Bridge. But we trudged onward for 2 miles and change.....
I did get to take this really nice photo of the Steel Bridge though.
Upon arriving, I knew we hadn't passed this shop the day before. Temps were going to hit the mid 90's on this day and I was already hot and bothered by the time we arrived.
But at least the Missus got to add to Her chocolate collection.
We did learn that Alma had just opened their second shop on SE 7th a few days ago....which is why it didn't appear in the Google search. The girl here thought it was pretty funny that we'd walk all the way from Downtown to visit....
Alma Chocolate 140 NE 28th Ave Portland, OR 97232
Man was it getting hot......and the Missus could tell it was getting to me. We stopped and had a Pellegrino at the nearby Whole Foods, which I recalled from the time we ate at Davenport on our last trip. Revived we decided to do the mile and a half walk to The Commons Brewery, which we had also seen on the #15 bus the day before. It was a long mile and a half and by the time we saw the building, the Missus was doing a good bit of whining.
Loved the industrial look, the high ceilings and wide open spaces. I do wish there was some A/C though as was getting a bit warm in the building.
Loved the beer selection and the place seemed to complete the set with their own resident Hipster.
The Commons brews Belgians, a lot of Saisons, which seemed perfect for a hot day like this.
So we started with a flight of tasters.
My favorite on this day was the very clean, slightly grassy, refreshing, "Petit Classique".
This was a nice stop.
The Commons Brewery 630 SE Belmont St Portland, OR 97214
We decided on catching the bus back...on our now favorite route, #15. As we left, the bus had just stopped across the street. We were stuck on the red light. But this is Portland and they have some of the nicest bus drivers we've ever run into. I waved at the driver, she smiled and waved back and made a hand sign telling me not to rush across the street....you gotta love these folks!
I thought it quite a coincidence, Ed from Yuma told me he and Tina had just returned from Sonoma and had a post ready. I mentioned that we headed in that direction in just a couple weeks. Ed and Tina both enjoy nice wines, so a trip to Sonoma made perfect sense. So what were we after? Well, cheese of course! We'd been enjoying various Northern California Cheeses for a while and while doing a bit of research, I came across the Sonoma Cheese Trail and soon enough I was looking for flights and accommodations. In the end, we flew Virgin America, and really enjoyed the service....and ended up staying at an AirBnB in Petaluma. The drive up from SFO was nice, the Missus always gets a kick driving on the Golden Gate Bridge. Since we couldn't check in until later in the day, we headed straight away to Sonoma......man, it was pretty darn hot when we arrived.
Things went off the rails a bit when we found that the place we had planned on having lunch at; the Epicurean Connection had closed and we had to find a Plan B. Which turned out to be right on Sonoma Square named OSO. The name hit home since "Oso" in Spanish means "bear" and for some reason this brought me back to our recent trip to Madrid and El Oso y el Madroño, The Bear and the Strawberry Tree, Madrid's Coat of Arms.
The place had a very relaxed vibe, our Server, who asked us to forgive any small errors because she was in training was perfect. The menu featured some small plates, salads, a burger, salmon, and the like.
The Missus enjoyed Her Cucumber Gimlet, which was very clean tasting and refreshing. I had a Orange Mule, the ginger beer did the same for me.
We started with the Little Gem Salad ($8).
Simply dressed, very petite, the Missus loved the beets. I thought the pistachios were a nice touch.
Without a doubt, the best item we had were the Deviled Eggs ($10).
The filling was perfect, light, with just the right amount of curry to enhance and lift the flavor of the yolks. The paprika added a touch of smokiness....and the crown jewel was the sweet crab that topped the eggs. The Missus loves Her eggs....and She really enjoyed this.
The Mole Braised Pork Shoulder Tacos ($14), left something to be desired.
The mole negro was very bland and mild, something that a mole should not be. The pork was dry and the centers cold. The tortillas rapidly fell apart.
Overall, a decent start to our couple of days in the area. We enjoyed the vibe, casual, relaxed, and the friendly service.
OSO Sonoma 9 E Napa St Sonoma, CA 95476
Our next stop was right up the street. Tucked into a small shopping arcade. Blink and you might miss the sign.
Belgium really made the Missus into a chocolate lover, so this was a nice stop for us.
The place was doing some great business.
The Missus had a few tastes and made Her selections. I saw Her having one the other day and She told me they are quite enjoyable. I believe the chocolates are actually made in Glen Ellen.
Wine Country Chocolates 414 1st St E Sonoma, CA 95476
We headed away from Sonoma Plaza, a few blocks North and found the actual reason we decided to stop in Sonoma; Vella Cheese Company.
Located in the old Sonoma Brewing Company Building which was built in 1904. When prohibition hit, Gaetano Vella took over the building to make cheese in 1931.
Vella Cheese is known for their "dry jack" a Monterey Jack styled cheese that is aged for 7-10 months. We ended up having a nice round of tastings and decided that it was the Mezzo Secco that we enjoyed the best.
"Mezzo Secco" means "half dry" and this version of Jack cheese is aged from 4-7 months. It's nicely neutral with nicely balanced nutty-grassy-milky flavors. It tastes great solo. It's also fairly hardy and would make the trip back to San Diego with no problem.
Vella Cheese Company 315 2nd St E Sonoma, CA 95476
On the way back to the car we ran into this rather friendly guy....
In spite of the little "hiccup" at the beginning; things were turning out well. We were happy to get back to the car though.....the temp in the car read 97 and we were happy for some AC. Next up...we were off to Petaluma.
It was on our only full day in Bruges where we really got to enjoy the city a bit. Earlier in the morning, on a weekday, we took a walk around Market Square. Even in the drizzly mist we were able to appreciate the Belfort (Bell Tower) which has risen over the square and Bruges since the 14th Century. We wandered around the courtyard and down some side alleyways.
The buildings lining the square, housing various restaurants and tourist focused businesses are built in Neo-Gothic style. This square is considered the heart of Bruges and was once the economical center as there was a canal that came right up to the square.
It was Wednesday...usually market day, but there were bleachers set-up so we saw no market stalls. We did hear a bit of noise from the nearby Burg Square.
I guess the market had been moved here on this day to accommodate whatever event was happening in the Market Square.
It was still early; before 8 and the market didn't get going until 10am, so we just walked along the booths....
And vehicles.....we called this one the Cheese-mobile.....
I love the way this pooch manages to keep dry....under the table and in a box....
While checking out some of the cheese and charcuterie we had an idea.....
We'd ask the wonderful Caroline, who ran our little two room B&B if we could use the dining area and self cater lunch!
As we crossed over one of the canals, I saw a statue that looked familiar. It was Saint John of Nepomok! Remember him from my posts on Prague?
They call Bruges the "Venice of the North", so of course I had to include a couple of canal shots.
We headed back to the B&B and breakfast was served downstairs. It was quite a nice spread.
I'm not quite sure what it was...perhaps the sickly sweet smells that all the shops had; but I'd been avoiding waffles. I know heresy....you're in Belgium and no waffles? Until this morning. Caroline made us fresh waffles, her own secret family recipe and they were delicious.
Light, crisp and creamy, not too sweet.....just perfect. I loved them...and she made me another!
We had discussed having our own self catered lunch in the dining area with Caroline and got the green light. So we headed back out. On the way out, we passed this doorway. I stopped....this was the back entrance to the Old St John's Hospital. Which is now the Memling Museum. We hadn't visited any museums in Belgium and this one had artifacts and displays of medieval medicine as well as art. This is our kind of stuff. And we really enjoyed the Memling.
The painting is full of different vignettes of what patient care at St John's Hospital was like, from the Nuns that served as Nurses, to the fact that dogs were welcomed in the wards.
The ambulance? Well, it was a man powered sedan chair.....
Which I believe was this sedan chair.....
While checking out some of the displays, I heard the Missus go, "oh my....check this out. Those are some awesome stones" (it's not what you might think by what she said). Holy smokes! Check out those stones....kidney stones. My goodness, can you imagine the pain?
I'll not go into any great detail of how the stones were removed, but in case you're morbidly interested, here's an interesting link.
The main attraction of the museum is probably Hans Memling'sSt John Altarpiece. Dedicated to the Patron Saints of the hospital, this work was displayed on an altar situated at a height and distance so all beds in the ward could view this painting.
We then quickly returned to the market which was just starting to get into full swing.
We made our purchases, returned to the B&B, placed them in the fridge and headed off. It was still a bit too early for lunch, so we decided to grab....well...should I call it a "brunch beer"? At De Halve Maan Brewery.
You might recognize the names of the beer brewed by Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan....Staffe Hendrick and Zot. I went with the Staffe Hendrick Quad, the Missus a Brugse Zot.
I found the quad to have kind of a burnt sugar fragrance, though slightly boozy and mildly sweet. The 11% ABV sneaks up on you. Strangely, I recently had a SH Quad at Iron Pig and unlike my experiences with other Belgians it held up pretty good and tasted quite similar to what I had here.
They also have tours at this brewery but we decided not to take it.
De Halve Maan Brewery Walplein 26 Bruges, Belgium
After our liquid refreshment, we headed to a quite busy shop on the same street.
Dumon Chocolatier is quite popular.
So we decided to add to the collection of chocolates for my MIL.
Dumon Chocolatier Walstraat 6 Bruges, Belgium
We meandered a bit, then headed back to the B&B. Caroline had kindly set aside some plates and silverware for us and we had a nice light lunch.
After cleaning up, we headed upstairs for a nice afternoon nap.....
If you'd ask the Missus and I what our favorite city in Belgium was, the answer would be unanimous. It would be Ghent. Unpretentious and quite easy to like and navigate, not quite as touristy as Bruges, we loved the vibe that this city of 250,000 gave off. Ghent is but a 40 minute train ride away from Brussels. And like Bruges, Ghent has those wonderful canals as well.
It's just not crawling with all those tourists......
And a strange thing happened to us here....in a way, we even forgot we were tourists. That part of the brain which dictates the places to be and the places you need to see got shut off. Instead, we just enjoyed the city. From the time we caught Tram #1, getting off near Het Gravensteen (The Castle of the Counts), walking to our apartment near Vrijdagmarkt, we felt so at ease.
The city is full of "market squares". Indeed, we were staying one block away from Vrijdagmarkt - Friday Market Square. Having stowed our stuffs, we headed out, down the street to Groentenmarkt - Vegetable Market, which ironically has the ever bustling Meat Market right next to it.
The interior of the structure is quite impressive; the place was built without nails, and hams still hang form the ceiling......this was once the only place in the city where meat was allowed to be sold. These days it's a bustling restaurant.
Right across the way is this famous shop.
Tierenteyn-Verlent is known for their mustard and has been selling it since 1790. I read that it is still made in the basement of the shop.
It's some heady stuff. Guaranteed to clear those sinuses and quite good as well. We bought a small jar, but it cracked before we got past Bruges.
Luckily, I've got some great friends and Candice bought us a bottle when she returned from her trip to Ghent.
Tierenteyn-Verlent Groentenmarkt 3 Gent, Belgium
We were having so much fun that I totally forgot to take photos until we were close to City Hall. Along the way there's a little portal and a street; Werregaren Straat, walking down the alley, the faint smell of urine in the air, you'll be on "Graffitistraat" - Graffiti Street.
This is Ghent's solution to Belgium's strict laws on graffiti; it is basically illegal and the penalties stiff. Ghent has designated this street as an expression free zone for Ghent's graffiti artists.
Most of the grand historic structures in Ghent are in the area of Saint Bavo Square.
In retrospect, we should have been better at playing the tourist, but we were just enjoying the city.
South of this area, down what seem some rather small streets is Ghent's shopping area, full of interesting shops. We saw this one; named Kaas Mekka.
This was cheese heaven. We couldn't help but purchase some for our next two dinners.
Kaas Mekka Koestraat 9 Ghent, Belgium
Exploring further down the street we started coming across crowds of people....apparently there was some kind of major sidewalk shopping festival going on.
A very festive kind of vibe going on.......even a band or two along the way.
It looked like some folks even brought their own chairs and sat outside restaurants and bars....enjoying the sun and a nice beverage (and a nap?) or two.
It was in the area right across the river that we found the first spot I wanted to "hit". We were on the hunt for chocolates for my MIL and I'd heard some great things about a shop named Yuzu.
This shop is the result of former archaeologist Nicolas Vanaise's passion for Japanese and Middle Eastern Culture and chocolate. The flavors presented are a product of his travels. This was by far the best; and most interesting chocolate we bought on this trip.....flavors like Whiskey and Cuban Tobacco.....
Yuzu Walpoortstraat 11 Ghent, Belgium
This made a nice addition to the "collection" we put together for my MIL.
Right around the corner from Yuzu was another one of my target destinations. Even among the beer-focused Belgians; Gruut Brewery is unique. Before hops were used for beer making, a mixture of spices were used instead. This medieval mix was called gruut; the namesake of Gruut. Annick De Splenter is the owner and brew master here.
The place looks quite low keyed from the outside, but was quite busy. There was one large table of folks who were obviously on a "beer tour" and each beer was introduced and explained to them in detail. Meanwhile other folks were reading, chilling, just hanging out, and having a nice time.
We basically tasted everything before deciding on what we really wanted. My favorite was the Amber; which had some caramel tones, and a touch of sweetness. The beer has a really nice tongue coating texture and there is even a mild bitter finish so you're not really missing the hops.
It was a nice beer and we ended up buying a four pack to take with us back to the apartment.
Two ambers and two of the Missus's favorite.
The Blonde, which was very drinkable, light, fizzy, with an interesting herbaceous finish. Nice beer for a hot summer day....I'm kind of wishing for a pint of this today since it's been really humid here in San Diego.
They gave us a couple of Gruut Coasters when we bought our beer.
One quick thing. If you visit Gruut and are male, make sure to drink enough beer so that you'll be able to visit the restroom. The urinals are quite "unique".....
"Feed me, Seymour - Feed me all night long........"
Gruut Stadsbrouwerij Grote Huidevettershoek 10 Ghent, Belgium
Antwerp was proving to be quite interesting.....relaxed, laid back, even more so than Brussels. There were less tourists, it had more of a urban-local feel, even though we were staying close to the Grote Markt, there were businesses like a meat market, bakery, produce stands, that served the locals.
The Missus wanted to take a nice walk on our full day in Antwerp....to the train station, which I wanted to see anyway, then back. So we set off from Grote Markt, taking some of the back streets.
We stopped at places the interested us along the way, like the very Baroque looking St Charles Borromeo Church. The most popular local citizen, the famous Baroque Painter, Peter Paul Rubens, was raised in Antwerp and spent a good part of his career in Antwerpen. Even this Jesuit Church displays the influence of Rubens who supposedly designed the decorative façade. In fact, there were 39 ceiling paintings by Rubens that were destroyed in 1718 when the church was struck by lightning.
There are wisps of Rubens everywhere, even on this plate. From what I can find, Dr Lazarus Marcquis was on of the physicians who treated Rubens, who died of heart failure due in part to chronic gout.
We eventually found ourselves in front of the beautiful train station....but first, I was distracted by this.
I have a thing about Chinatown's, whether in Lima, SF, Portland, Toronto, Kobe, or even pseudo-Chinatown's like Brussels, I just can't help myself. So I just had to check it out.
And of course, I could not resist the temptation to check out the at least one Asian Market....just to see what was being sold. Markets like this one stocked everything from Sriracha to Datu Puti and Silver Swan. And some of the prices were no joke....sheesh.
We also checked out the various menus; here are a few in case you're interested.
Chinatown is barely a street or two in Antwerp, but it's all interesting to me.
We took a turn and walked back toward the train station. At one of the streets parallel to those of Chinatown I saw one of my favorite signs. Folks, don't even think about "wildplassen" here, ok?
The Antwerpen-Centraal railway station itself is probably the grandest, most impressive train station I've ever seen. Hard to believe that this structure, finished in 1905 was once considered for demolition.
A look inside and it's quite easy to see why they call this structure the "Railway Cathedral". The restoration job on the place was completed in 2007 at a cost of 2.7 billions dollars. The glass ceilings, intricate work, marble, and stone makes a truly impressive sight.
There's actually a level which links the place to the "Diamond District" and 30 diamond shops.
It's easily my favorite site in Antwerp. I've never seen anything quite like it. When looking at my photos I still stop at the one's we took at the train station.....
We walked down the Boulevard named De Keyserlei, arriving at a large street named Frankrijklei. This was where the city walls of Antwerp once stood. Across the way you could see the beginning of the "Meir", the major shopping street of Antwerp. Here you'll run into a statue of another of Antwerp's favorite son's, the Artist Anthony van Dyck, who was a favorite of England's Charles I.
You'll pass many....well, let's just say shops we know quite well on the Meir...... H&M, Forever 21.....H&M and Zara are everywhere in case you need something in a pinch.
But it's this ornate, but rather discreet portal that caught our attention. Through this passageway is Stadsfeestzaal, which is one heck of shopping mall.....let's just say it makes South Coast Plaza look like a trailer park.... Tons of gold inlay....there's actually a champagne bar! Yikes. I understand that this was originally built as an exhibition hall completed in 1906. It was destroyed by fire in 2000. Being a historic monument, it was rebuilt using the original plans and reopened in 2007. It is something to behold.....not sure about the shops in the place, the Missus wasn't moved; but with a grand staircase and such you can't help but admire the beauty of the place.
We our way through the place until the Missus became bored (I was already there) and walked back out into the sunshine of the Meir.
Back out on the street we quickly noticed a place whose name I recalled. Dominique Persoone is a Belgian Chocolatier, whose rather audacious approach to chocolate, along with his self coined handle as the "Shock-o-latier" has earned him quite a following and reputation. He owns The Chocolate Line with shops in Bruge and Antwerp.
You really couldn't help but be impressed with the upscale boutique look of the place....my goodness.
And when the Missus saw the play on upscale shoes....well we just had to take our time in the place.
And while it's easy enough for me to dismiss the rather seemingly kitschy chocolate lipstick and edible chocolate facepaint, along with his nomme de guerre. The chocolate "snort" made me stop and reassess.
And while some of the creations like the various chocolate sculptures and such, were obviously done to impress in the name of commerce.
A snort of chocolate, hmmmm.....what would that do to my already ravaged grey matter? Perhaps I'd change my name to Cadbury? Or perhaps start a campaign to save the "chocolate bunnies"? Who knows, as my train of thought was interrupted with the Missus telling me; "ok, I've got some chocolate, let's get going. Aaaand, I didn't buy any of those chocolate shoes.......can you imagine, shoes of chocolate, like feet and eat them, ick...." And so my Chocolate Gandhi moment was permanently interrupted.
We had bought some to add to the collection for my MIL and had a few that seemed interesting ourselves.
Interesting, but we enjoyed what we got from Pierre Marcolini and Yuzu in Ghent more...... But not being a "sweets person" who's to say, right?
Before heading off to Sitka & Spruce for dinner, the Missus needed a couple of gifts. Chocolate is always appreciated. I looked up a couple of places and found a listing for Intrigue Chocolate who specializes in truffles.
The kitchen, cum shop is located....well, I'll quote the website:
"The shop, which is also our industrial-style kitchen, can be a little tricky to find because we are not on the street level. Easiest way to find us is to find the entrance to Sake Nomi (Sake bar) and continue up the stairs. Then it's just down the hall which turns to the left, and we are the clearly marked brown door, third on the left."
The two guys running the place were so enthusiastic, they'd let us try everything if we'd been able to stay longer! They also make a nice cold brew concentrate as well!
Our favorites were the Juniper Berry and the Nutmeg & Chipotle.
We loved the place, they just seem to enjoy what they do.....and even though they currently use, high quality Belcolade chocolate, we were given a taste of a work in progress, the chocolate they are developing on their own. It was nice talking coffee and Belgian chocolate. We'll be back.
Intrigue Chocolate 76 S Washington St. Suite 104 Seattle, WA 98104
We headed back to our room, dropped off the truffles, and headed off to....
Sitka & Spruce:
The walk was a tad over a mile, though the hills.....sheesh...anyway we did pretty good time, about 20 minutes to Melrose Market in the popular and trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood. We loved the setting; Sitka & Spruce is located in back of the brick building, understated, in that warm, yet somewhat industrial style, high ceilings, a large communal table, and open kitchen.....
The restaurant itself is not large; just a few tables, counter, and communal table seating. As is our MO, we try to eat early, before the rush and crowds. We usually get a better experience and the restaurant is able to do "it's thing".
My main reason for selecting S&S was the menu, which is nice and tight, focusing on seasonal Northwest products. We both thought the tapas-type dishes were much more interesting and we prefer having a tasting style meal. Our diet has changed quite a bit over the last couple of years and the small dishes at S&S seemed right up our alley. A variety of great local produce with interesting combinations of texture and flavors. So we were quite excited to try this establishment of the Matt Dillon empire.
There was one interesting thing about the beverage selection.....based on our dinner the previous night at The Walrus and the Carpenter and now Sitka & Spruce, it seems that Wine and Cocktails are still king for meals in Seattle. Which I thought strange since I usually see Seattle ranked in the top 10 beer cities in the US. Here it's nothing on tap, five choices Hilliard from a can or Rainier?
Whatever....I guess we'd just go and find the Stumbling Monk, or another place after dinner.
We started with the Charcuterie ($25)
While the air dried ham (aka prosciutto, though they can't call it that) was "meh", really bland and lacking in the deep cured flavor we love, there were some real winner here. The chicken liver, basically a a light, spreadable pate really caught me off guard, sweet molasses at first, giving away to savory, with that chicken liver finish. I'm not a big fan of metallic chicken liver flavors, though I love my pate's. This gave me a wonderful ride. The duck rillette had a tremendous almost condensed duck flavor. The head cheese was nice and balanced and the pork terrine was also very tasty. Loved the variety of flavors present here.
Next up Delicata Squash, Haloumi, and Pumpkin Seeds ($15).
We started seeing Delicata Squash on menus last fall. The Missus loves them; moderately sweet, with a nice texture, and an edible peel....heck, even I enjoy them. So it goes without saying the Missus loved this. I really enjoyed the combination of flavors, the nuttiness of the pumpkin seeds, the light subtle milkiness of the haloumi cheese. I thought the amount of nuttiness and milky flavors went beyond just the haloumi and pumpkin seeds. When I mentioned this to our Server, she also noted that the sauce was made of whey and argan oil. The mint also added another dimension of flavor.......
My least favorite dish of the night was the Charred Celeriac, Braised Quince, Ambrosia Apple and Bread Crisps ($15).
I really didn't care for the amount of almost tart-tannic flavors. The celeriac was lost in the dish. Tongue numbing and not in a good way.
The Smoked Potato, Pickled Seaweed, Anchovy, and Egg Yolk ($16), took me to that edge.....I loved the smoky flavor, the seaweed added a nice oceany brine, the anchovies were teetering on the edge of too salty, but that egg yolk somehow seemed to temper the salt.
I loved the smoked potatoes....why hadn't I tried that before? Smashed potatoes also seemed to be "the thing" in Seattle. The Missus said She'd have preferred bacon, but I told Her, "that would be so TGI Friday's". Loved the crisp skin on the potatoes as well. you can tell by the meal I made the day after we returned, that this dish made an imprint.
By far, the best single dish we had on this trip was the Hen of the Woods Mushroom, Guanciale, Oyster Cream, and Cider ($18).
My goodness, the earthy-savory aroma, meaty texture of the Hen of the Woods mushroom, more familiar to me as Maitake, was just superb. The sage along with the cider added an citrus tone, along with a hint of sweetness. The oysters in the sauce just took the flavors to another level. I'm not sure of the purpose of the guanciale as I couldn't make out any pork flavors. But who cares. In terms of an outstanding dish; this has our votes.
I realize that the dishes we chose and enjoyed at S&S might not be for everyone; especially the hardcore carnivore. There are 3-4 entrees on the menu any given night....this time it was chicken, black cod, and rabbit. I just chose dishes that best reflected the foraging background of Matt Dillon. I believed that this would be the strongpoint of the restaurant and it seemed that way to us. Our check came in at a bit over a hundred and it was worth every penny.
Sitka & Spruce 1531 Melrose Ave Seattle, WA 98101
We were a bit too full and decided against finding a pub. But, as we headed back toward Pike Street we noticed a crowd of people being let into a building. We walked up Pike a bit, then headed back down. When we passed the building again, the Missus couldn't help it.....we had to go and check it out.
The place seemed buzzing....hip.....totally perfect for the Missus....totally wrong for me.
Arriving at the door, we asked the gentleman inside what was going on. "This is the grand opening of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room, please come in......" Wow, it seemed like a big deal.
Just looking at the equipment, it looks like Starbucks is experimenting with going more high end.
I'm not the biggest fan of Starbucks....but kudos to them for seeming to ride the Third Wave.
This place looks fantastic and smells wonderful. Roasters were on hand to explain the different processes and equipment.
These guys really know how to market.......
Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room 1124 Pike St Seattle, WA 98101
Heading down Pike, we ran into the inevitable shopping crowds.....heck, Christmas is around the corner.
But the crowd seemed extra dense and we heard music in the air......and my goodness...Sugarplum Elves?
It's all these things that makes Seattle special for us....there's always an interesting surprise.
We talked about this as walked back to Whole Foods......the Missus wanted me to get in as much exercise as I could. This was the reason I was thinking of moving here before I met the Missus.
And while I don't think we could live here; it's a bit too cold, there's not enough Asian food within a 2 hour drive, and there's not enough sunshine. The city holds a special place in our hearts. So I guess we'll have to keep coming back.
mmm-yoso!!!, a blog about food. Kirk and Ed (from Yuma) are trying to stay cool. Cathy and The Mister went on a quick road trip North, stayed cool in the air conditioned vehicle and is sharing her one hour drive each way, just for lunch.
In an effort to run away from the stifling heat in our non-air conditioned home, The Mister and I jumped in the car one weekday morning and drove to see a place we had read about in the LA Times. The description reminded us of 'Food Halls' we eachgrew up with. We arrived around 10:30 a.m.See it? In the back, between the "P" and the "A". The Anaheim Citrus Packing House was rescued from demolition in 2000 and fully restored, opening to the public on May 31 this year. The two acre area just North of it, "Farmers Park", is used for a Farmers Market on Sundays, has an amphiteater and seating, a bocce ball court, public ping pong table and hosted outdoor film festivals this summer and will host other community events (a Fall Festival and Parade, Oktoberfest and a German Christmas Market) later this year. The rest of the 'Packing District' spreads over another five or so blocks, with various shops, stand alone restaurants, a small Food Court area and even a former library turned museum. There is public art, marked on the sidewalks within the District as part of Anaheim Artwalk, all 'Downtown' Anaheim, with City Hall in the midst. The entrance on the East side of the building. If you go in through the doors you see under the signage seen in the background of the second photo, The dual rooster greeters are on the inside on the second floor. Speaking of the inside... This open central/atrium area, giving views of the first and second floors is just so beautiful. You'll notice so many different seating areas, some for each restaurant and many, like a Food Court, out in the open. The individual tabletops (along the railing) each with an accompanying stool, have a hook on the back/center area to hang your purse or other bags. Notice that seating area at the bottom? Under the Pendelton Wool pads, the whole seat area moves; it is part of the original scale used in the plant. There's a seating area surrounded by history- orange crate labels, photos of the original Packing Plant, the scissors used to cut the opening ribbon... Places to eat and drink here? There are quite a few. Overwhelming choices, as noted by each porcelain tile... Adult beverages, behind that Gourmet Grilled Cheese, Fancy Frozens on a Stick, Coffee... Crepes, a 'comfort food' establishment that makes a variety of poutines as well as cheese curds, Southern Soul foods, even bulk foods, spices and seasonings (at good prices). There is a juice place, Indian, Japanese and Vietnamese, hot pot, another beer-centric place and a couple of not yet opened storefronts. Pick a craving; you can find a solution here or within a few blocks.
Then there was what we (finally) decided to order. Chippy's opened when the menu appeared on the screens. The items were properly fried, crispy and not overly greasy and the fish was a very large, moist piece. The squid rings were just OK; not bad, but not great. The onion rings were heavenly. The Chippy Fish and ChipsThe menu at Wheat & Sons was being written and would soon be open. We knew what we wanted. The Porchetta sandwich, still warm, served on a grilled ciabatta roll with a sort of pesto-esque/herby sauce, rocket greens, pickled radishes. Plenty of fresh garlic -no rosemary- infused pork, as you can see from the cross section. We also indulged in less than a half pound of fresh rillettes. If you can only choose one place for a meal, this is where I'd choose. Wheat and Sons butcher shop When we walked in, the first proprietor to speak to us was this nice young man who was chipping chocolate before his store opened. That's the whole menu. We ordered a small affogato with vanilla ice cream, regular chocolate sauce and the additional chantilly cream with chocolate shavings. This was THE best, ever. I don't care for chocolate and this was magical to me. Turns out the chocolate sauce is made from...chocolate, not cocoa, as other places use. Dark 180, another 'if you only can order only from one' place.
We will return. It was a fun adventure.
The Packing House in the Anaheim Packing District 440 S. Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, CA Website
Lunch had been a wonderful, but pretty rich meal. Since we had an apartment, we decided to self cater dinner and dropped by a couple of the nearby shops.
Some nice cheese from the cheese shop, tomatoes, head cheese and prosciutto from the nice gourmet shop on Rue St Catherine. There's a good sized Delhaize Supermarket on Anspach where we picked up greens for a salad......we just needed some greens after all of this. And beer of course......
And so we headed back to the apartment with dinner all set. It would be nice to relax since we'd bee flying to Prague in the morning.
Funny thing, I hadn't even heard of a "Chinatown" in Brussels, but then we passed a short strip of Chinese restaurants and markets right across the Stock Exchange Building (the Bourse), so of course we had to check at least on of the markets out.....man, it was sticker shock.
Try almost 17 Euros for a small bag of frozen Jiaozi.....
The Asian vegetables seemed pretty scarce and did not look in very good shape as well.....
The Missus couldn't help but laugh when She saw this......
Man, it would be tough if we lived here......
We also checked out the menus and offerings of some of the Chinese Restaurants on the street.....
And decided to stop after seeing the 6,80 Euro ($9.25) price for 4 pieces of Shiu Mai.....then of course those places that serve Chinese-Vietnamese-Thai-Sushi......
We headed back to the apartment and took our usual afternoon nap, awakening a short while later. It was time for us to shake off our grogginess. The sun was out and wasn't scheduled to set until almost 10pm, so we headed back to Place Poelaert and the Upper Town.
We passed by several sections of Brussels' midievel city wall and Eglise Notre Dame a la Chappelle, which is Brussels' oldest existing church.
We got to the Marolles neighborhood and took the elevator up to Place Poelaert. All the rain and dreary weather had been chased away, it was now a bright and sunny afternoon. Too bad we were leaving the next morning.
The view from here when the sky is clear is quite nice. You get to appreciate Brussels....
We strolled around the Upper Town area, antique and designer shops, and some interesting cafes and restaurants as well. Love Joel Robuchon, not sure about his sushi though.....
My MIL loves chocolate....we were in Belgium, so we decided to get her a collection of chocolate from our travels....but not just ordinary stuff...i.e. Godiva, Neuhaus, Leonidas....no we'd try and get her a variety with a little meaning, not just the usual tourist stuff. It just so happens that Pierre Marcolini's flagship store was right along our path back to the apartment.
Winner of the 1995 World Cup of Pastry and known as a master chocolatier, this would be a good start for my MIL's collection. The variety of flavors and chocolates of various regions made this quite an interesting experience for us, which would suite us well later on.
The shop actually looks more like a fine jewelry shop, boutique, or gallery than a chocolate shop. So we made our first purchases for my MIL here.
I think it was a nice start.....
The day was so bright and beautiful, folks were out and about, the cafes (the beer cafes) seem to be doing great business with folks enjoying the weather. It was a perfect chance to check out the Fontainas location of the legendary Brussels' beer bar Moeder Lambic.
The Missus and I immediately loved the place....there are no airs...what few tourists who came in and stared in awe at the beer list of unfamiliar and familiar brews were treated graciously and there was harmony with the locals....who seemed to appreciate the fact that folks were making the effort to find the place...which isn't hard, but like Le Fin de Siècle, you pretty much either just run into the place or have to seek it out.
It's easy to just stare off into space at the listing of beers familiar and unfamiliar. The Servers were really nice with the 2 parties of tourists we saw....
The Missus and I, knowing how analysis-paralysis would be, just went for it. She ordered a Gueuze Tilquin and I a De Ranke Guldenberg.
We've had Tilquin here in the states, but this was a bit different; you could make a out a bit more fruitiness, though it was still pretty funky and puckery-dry. The Guldenberg was a nice tripel, a bit more hoppy than what I expected, with almost the feel of a boozy saison. A very nice beer. This place should be on any list if you're in the area and enjoy beer. We'd go to the original location of the Moeder Lambic on our way back, which we laso loved.
Moeder Lambic Place Fontainas 8 Brussels, Belgium
It was a beautiful afternoon. On the way back to the apartment we passed a bar that had a street musician playing an electric violin, I wish I recorded it.......he started playing as we passed...I recognized the music right away. I Love Rock and Roll.....a Joan Jett classic! It seems like all the places we visited (in both the Czech Republic and Belgium) loved American and English music...whether rap, death metal (Moeder Lambic in St Gilles), Jazz, or good 'old Rock n' Roll. Honestly, I think it might be our greatest export. As the violinist hit the chorus, the entire street broke out and sang with unbridled joy and spirit:
"I love rock and roll So put another dime in the jukebox, baby I love rock and roll So come and take your time and dance with me....."
It was just the cherry on top of the sundae for us.....ending a very nice afternoon.
We returned to the apartment we were staying at smiling. Like most of these type of units we've stayed at; there's no lift, the stairs can be narrow and somewhat steep. We were rewarded in that this was a single unit above a a gallery that was closed the two days we were staying there. There was also a wonderful, older cat named "Sushi", mellow and sweet, he was a good ambassador for the place. The bedroom and bathroom was on one floor with a kitchen nook above.
It was a nice place to make a quick breakfast, or do a quick post, like I did, or have a nice little dinner, like we did on this evening.
With of course, some beer.......most stores sell singles here; and those Belgian's go for less than 2 Euros a piece, so how could we resist?
The Missus prepped a quick breakfast for us, we'd be heading out early for our next stop.....Prague and the Czech Republic.....