HI and HI Again

SeaBKsteakAnother long overdue post! So overdue in fact, that we have visited twice now, and I will in fact be heavily referencing the original visit, since I wasn’t able to get to all of the things that I wanted to revisit on round 2. And where is this place that I speak of? Aruba of course, and the Holiday Inn Resort more specifically.

Originally, we did some recon last March/April to check out the “updated” Holiday Inn, and to give an all inclusive a try, with the hopes of maybe bringing all the kiddos with us in the fall. It went so well, that we booked a trip for the seven of us for the fall, right from the hotel room via Skype.

Since this is a food blog, I’ll leave the long hotel description to our TripAdvisor post, and focus on the food/beverage situation.

Where to start! Well, drinks were plentiful, as creative as could be if requested, and more than strong enough.  Banana daquiris and sangria were always great treats, and they always had plenty of Pino Grigio on hand for me, vodka and sodas for L. I was particularly fond of their sangria recipe, as it had lots of bits of fruit, a nice taste of cinnamon, and not too sweet.

The food was more than satisfactory, delicious on the whole in fact, but lets be honest, not gourmet, nor did we need or expect it to be.

Here’s the 411:

Corals Buffet Breakfast: Plentiful, lots of variety, with the highlight being little arepas, as well as shredded beef, which made appearances at most of our AM adventures.

Corals Buffet Dinner: Standard fare, good for families and kids, and they had Bitterballen! Dutch treat of scalding lava meat/gravy balls. *for goodness sakes wait till the damn things cool down before biting!*

Oceanside Bar: Spent quite a few afternoons there, delicious Greek salad with sooooft pita and tasty dressing (this was not on the menu on our fall trip), overly heavy, greasy fish and chips, wings, which I liked, but L wasn’t as keen on, they remind me of the Fried Chicken TV Dinner! Giant chocolate chip cookies, that were okay, but not quite worth the calories/sugar coma, hot dogs and quesadillas also very delicious. Gyro which we tried in the fall: Superb!

Seabreeze Restaurant: Great for lunch or dinner, wonderful open wall restaurant, fantastic service, enjoyed the salmon, steaks, fried chicken, the Aruban Cuban sandwich and many other dishes, all presented beautifully and no real gongs on anything… oops except the tuna tartare, which just had a little too much sesame oil on it. And the desserts! Wow, we don’t usually indulge, but… coconut creme brulee, cheesecake, pineapple carpaccio with ice cream, and who could forget the key lime pie.  Just amazing, and don’t forget to add a delicious espresso to round out the flavours. Special mention to Eddy, he goes above and beyond and we were grateful for his extra assistance when we needed it.

And now the unexpected best for last: Pizza Now! A service at the Seabreeze and Oceanside Bar where you can get a million pizzas (okay, not that many, but L did try to hit that number) brought to you whenever you wanted! Oh the joy of the thin, crispy, hot crust, topped with either a standard assembly from the menu, or design your own. I cannot do the taste of these things justice here. The brilliant bonus for us was the fact that they have big bowls of chili flakes on request, and the spicy deliciousness of this was almost too much to bear. They haunted us from spring until our recent revisit weeks ago, where L recreated the million pizza munch.

So, although the food scene outside the resorts in Aruba is delicious and exciting as we have detailed in a previous post, the Holiday Inn with the all inclusive option proved to be quite rewarding too, and doesn’t stop you from venturing out to your favourite offsite treats for a couple of nights.

Those pizzas aren’t going to eat themselves (though they would if they could!), get to the HI Aruba as soon as you can!

K&L 😀

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It’s allll Greek to us

Chef Tommy'sHad to go with the tried and true phrase to name this post.  This outing was a combination of birthday celebration of one kiddo, and also somewhere interesting and new to celebrate hitting 15000 clicks for this very blog.  We were marking every thousand clicks, but as interest ramps up, we have now settled on every 5000 for now.  So here we are, trying a local Greek restaurant that has been open some time now, but we hadn’t made it to quite yet. It comes with the unlikely name of “Chef Tommy’s“, and resides in a defunct Taco Bell believe it or not.

Atmosphere/decor was in the spirit of what I would expect in a Greek restaurant. Staff very welcoming, helpful with the menu, even with a bit of a language barrier, but no real issue communicating ultimately. This ain’t no cookie cutter chain establishment.

We had to have Saganaki (flame included at this place, which was cool!) and one of my faves, Dolmades, both delicious as they should be. Then we all ordered from the Specialties menu, 2 Shrimp Saganakis, a Papoutsaki and I rounded out the choices with a Lamb Kleftiko.  We were mostly full from the appetizers, which included endless and tasty servings of pita triangles, and salads, etc. and everyone made a solid effort on the entrees, which looked and tasted fantastic, but I have to say, my Lamb Kleftiko, with its gorgeous, rich flavour, and thin, crunchy envelope of filo was the highlight of all of the dishes, and I would highly recommend you try it.

Dessert was still attempted, despite my previous paragraph outlining our already straining appetites and waistbands. Have to always try the baklava, which was okay, but again, not my favourite as far as my tastes in baklava go, a little too gooey, fruit cakey, but others did enjoy it. We also asked about their Greek coffee. Is it the cup of dark, richness with the puddle of mud at the bottom? Yes! So of course we had one, it really has a different flavour than any other coffee I’ve had. Our waiter said that people read the mud (grounds) when the drink is finished, so he came by and flipped the cup upside down and then returned a short while later.  You know, I don’t remember what the reading was, but if it involved money or fame or great, spontaneous muscle growth with no effort at all, welllllll, none of those things happened, but it was a fun end to the dinner none the less.

So there it is, another food fest for hitting another click milestone, and of course the birthday thing in there too 🙂 Ahhh now I remember what the reading was… it predicted that we will visit Chef Tommy’s again!

K&L 😀

Chef Tommy's Greek Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Grill of My Dreams

Korean Grill House… or of our dreams.  We love our meat and we love our BBQ. Add in a Korean touch and you have a perfect superfoodies scene. So a few weeks ago superfoodies ventured to Toronto with Little K in tow, to pick up her surprise guitar gift, and we decided that if we were going to eat there, we might as well go somewhere that we would enjoy (of course!), that would take us some time, and provide some “pageantry”.  Oh, and not be somewhere we could eat closer to home. We settled on the Korean Grill House, which has several locations throughout Toronto, and one right near the music store that we needed to wind up at.

It was another freezing, windy day of 2014, but luckily, clear and sunny, so the drive was easy… but the walking was another story.  We parked and headed the few blocks to the restaurant and were happy to arrive and get seated somewhere warm, with a table in front of us, that would soon be hot and flamey!

This location is not a fancy one, but not looking for fancy either, so no worries.  The other locations may have a more upscale look, but I’ve never been to another one. Ordered beverages, all reasonably priced and a very decent selection of non alcohol choices as well. And then the table was lit!

The process for the all you can eat selection is: you get papers with all available selections, then you write the number of servings you want, of what you want, in the boxes, and then once picked up, your orders appear very quickly.  Lots of raw meats (we typically have korean beef ribs, beef, chicken, pork, salmon, white fish, sausage) and we tried a new cube ground meat this time as well.  On the extras, we like rice, lots of kimchi, spicy spouts and radishes, potatoes etc. As long as you fill out the papers, the dishes keep arriving.

We grilled up quite a few bowls of meat and fish and downed a lot of extras, but it’s nice to have a leisurely lunch and an activity to go along with it.  The restaurant did start to fill up as we were there, it was fairly empty at 11:30 ish when we arrived.  I know from experience it fills up at dinner time as well, quite a busy place. In the warmer weather, not as big a deal as in the colder times when you may find yourself waiting in a windy entrance area.

We finally backed away from the chopsticks (I vow to keep practicing my skills!), paid our very reasonable bill, and headed off into the tundra to pick up what may have been one of the very few Blue Burst Ovation Acoustic-Electric guitars to be found for purchase in Ontario, or perhaps Canada! So pretty! And very appreciated by a surprised Little K.

We can’t help but try to figure out how to get a hot, flamey grill installed in the table in our house (soooo not kidding, we really have thought about it), but until then, we’ll depend on the Korean Grill House… Get grilling at a location near you!

K&L 😀
Korean Grill House on Urbanspoon

Get us to the Greek!

Zante BowmanvilleThe Christmas season has officially ended….. now! My sister and I get together for a Christmas dinner every year, and we used to get it accomplished before the actual day.  As time has gone on, and our “spousal intricacies” have grown, and life remains busy etc. we have started deferring until a bit into January, when things have calmed down and we can enjoy a quiet, non-crammed in, meet up.  We still call it “Christmas get together”, but it may be a bit of a misnomer at this juncture.

The suggestion of Zante in Bowmanville was put forward. L and I had never been, but checked it online and it looked quite delicious. L asked when was the last time we had Greek? And then we chuckled… “never!” So Zante it was.

We met up on a snowy night, end of January… which characterizes almost any night of the 13/14 winter season.  The place is not fancy, but nicely lit (not too bright!) and cozy, no door flapping in the cold air every time it was opened. We were quickly seated and a wine ordered for me. Appeared to have a decent selection.  Sister and J arrived and we set about to ordering.  They choose a wine recommended by the owner, whom my sister calls “Mr. Zante”. I continued with my white, but did sample theirs, and it was a good choice (picture below). Dolmades for us, Saganaki for them, to start. Funny, they flame the cheese in the kitchen, as their ceilings are too low to do it safely at tableside! Both decent portions and great tasting. So far so good!

Onto the mains.  Sister and J ordered the Zante Platter, consisting of Roast Lamb, Mousaka, Pork and Chicken Souvlaki, Dolmades and Tzatziki, along with Greek salad, potatoes, vegetables and rice.  We were keen to observe as a possible choice for us next time. L had Pork Souvlaki and I had Beef Shishkabob, which also came with salads, rice, vegetables and potatoes. Sounds like an overwhelming amount of sides, but they do keep it reasonable, along with the prices.

Food arrived in a timely manner, all was tasty.  No “showstopping, crazy, gotta come back tomorrow” vows were made, but it was certainly more than good enough to make a trip back soon.

Onto dessert, which we normally don’t indulge in often, but hey, it’s “Christmas” 😉 L and I shared a Baklava, and sister and J had a sundae/parfait type dish that I can’t recall the name of, and desserts aren’t listed on the website for me to reference! Oh well, I’m sure if you want to try it and describe it, they’d be more than happy to point you in the sweet direction. Baklava was okay, but a bit over congealed and the nuts may have turned a bit… we still finished it of course.  Sister and J seemed to hit the jackpot with theirs.  L and J had Greek coffees, espresso like, and while the taste was different and good, there was 1/2 inch of sludge on the bottoms of the small cups. Maybe we needed instructions? Or maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

All in all a very enjoyable evening of taste and company (who were a bit camera shy, but willing to hand model!), that I would happily do again with the same people… but better weather!!!

K&L 😀
Zante Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bao Down to Banh Mi Boys

Banh Mi BoysWe took a trip to The Big Smoke (aka Toronto) recently to catch the Pat Benatar concert (excellent we might add!), which also resulted in us having the good fortune to be right in the vicinity of another Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here” establishments: Banh Mi Boys Sandwich Shop!

We’ve never had a banh mi, or bao for that matter, so as a morning after feed, why not opt for something new and interesting? Okay, well, sometimes the answer to trying new stuff is definitely a big fat “NO”… as hollered from the night before’s excessive drinks, that you have no choice but to obey in the harsh light of day. This day though, yes, new and interesting squeaked in, barely.

Off L went to procure, and as is tradition, I waited for the tasty (hopefully), new surprises to arrive.  As usual, since we often make deliberate, informed choices about where we eat, the food did not disappoint.  So, we tried 2 steamed bao buns, one with pulled pork and one with beef cheeks.  As a great added bonus, L decided that we had to have the kimchi fries!  Definitely appreciated from a morning point of view.

So, the official opinions on the food are: the two bao, good, but I would have liked the buns to be warm, they were quite cool, like they had come out of a fridge, and they were fairly small, so maybe a third would have been enough. The fillings though, were rich and tasty, and the consistency of the bite of the bao was soft and yet substantial.  The kimchi fries however, were (almost) perfection! Well cooked, just the right amount of crunch and skin left on them, the toppings were fantastic: kimchi, pulled pork, and mayo. The only note, if there is one, is L was asked about spice level, I’m not sure what part of the order they were referring to, the fries or the buns, but after indicating we wanted SPICY, none of it was particularly hot. If we were home, we would have remedied that on our own, but it was still much enjoyed and we would go back. Would definitely go for a banh mi sandwich next time, and would always include a re acquaintance with the kimchi fries. You can’t miss ’em if you don’t try ’em.

K&L 😀
Banh Mi Boys on Urbanspoon

Time to Tacobout Ahora

Ahora Mexican Cuisine

E and H at Ahora

Back to Ottawa for quick post about a little place called Ahora Mexican Cuisine. Kiddo recommended, and had been anxiously awaiting our visit so she could take us there.

It is a very small, colourful venue, where you go up to a counter and order your food… very bright, and very busy… a testament to it’s quality of food and popularity. It is NOT romantic or cozy.  It looks like a place without the “beverage licencing” that superfoodies so love (if you know what I mean), but I was wrong! Delicious sangria was procured immediately. Then off to the salsa bar, totally fresh and tasty.  You can see in the pic below (yes, these pics are few, as in other Ottawa posts this visit, because of the camera card malfunction) you get little paper cups to fill with your selections.  There are lots of varieties of salsa as well as fresh herbs like cilantro (which makes L VERY happy, he loves the stuff) and of course nacho chips. Crispy and tasty… I’m fairly non judgmental about nacho chips… I find unless they’re stale, they’re hard to mess up.

Then time for main dishes. Now if I had pics, I could remember exactly what we ordered, but time has faded my thoughts slightly, quite sure it was burritos and enchiladas. Don’t get the idea though that the food isn’t memorable, it was very well made, good portions (L and I shared, as is our tradition when we are scaling back) and good value.  We would definitely go back, especially for the salsa bar. Hey, turns out there’s another kind of bar that we like! Who knew!

K&L 😀
Ahora on Urbanspoon

superproducts! Club House One Step Seasonings

Club House Seasonings<This… is the new spice cupboard in our newly renovated kitchen.  As you can see, we really like a variety of spices, herbs, flavourings etc. in our cooking. It is well stocked and well used. Which brings us to the second “superproducts!” post.  We LOVE the One Step line that Club House has come out with and have now used them extensively for at least 6 months now.  Super flavour, super low cal.  Piri on filet mignon? Totally! Paremsan & Herbs on chicken or brussel sprouts? Go for it! Roasted Garlic and Peppers with some added cayenne on chicken wings? Woo hoo! There are more than I have in the picture below and I think a couple we haven’t tried yet, but we will. So get thee to a spice aisle and explore the delicious foreign flavour lands that await! (To check out all of our superproducts! just click on the “superproducts!” category below)

Club House One Step

Another 1000 clicks = lababdar!

The Indian KitchenSo another 1000 clicks on the blog… K&L get a special scooby snack! Thanks to all of our visitors! This time it was in the form of delicious Indian food from our all time, can’t be beat, Indian restaurant: The Indian Kitchen, located in Thornhill, and I believe they have opened another Toronto area location, but I am not sure where.  Their old website link doesn’t seem to work, but the yelp link I have provided shows some delicious pics of their dishes.

We picked up the usual favourites: lababdar (creamy, tomatoey goodness with a slight heat), murgh multani, which I just call green chili chicken (a dry, tandoor, very spicy chicken dish), and finally decided to try their tandoori chicken, which I had only had there once, a long time ago.  Foolishly, we did not indulge in any breads (the paratha is the best I’ve had anywhere) or rice… which always leads to a puzzled response from the staff… I’m sure that very few order the food without those accompaniments, and I do recommend them highly, we were just keeping a bit restrained for that visit.

The Indian Kitchen

Since we decided to just get the food to go, it was a long ride home with the tasty cargo in the back seat, but well worth the wait when we served it up along with a nice red wine. So after sufficiently stuffing ourselves, we enjoyed immediately retiring to our living room, instead of having the long, full drive ahead of us. All in all an excellent celebration of racking up another 1000 clicks. I will mention that the prices do seem to have gone up a bit since we were last there, but with it being a place we only visit a couple of times a year, it’s still worth it for the quality of the food.  As for some of the bad reviews I have come across, I have been going there for over 10 years, and the familiar group of staff that were there for a long time seem to be gone, but I have no real complaints about the service relative to anywhere else.  I would always recommend it as a top spot for delicious Indian food.  If you do go, be sure to ask for extra mint chutney that they usually bring with the poppadums, it is outrageously tasty! Looking forward to wherever we end up after the next round of clicks…

K&L 😀
The Indian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Connecticut… you’re out of order!

blackduck2012Totally out of order! Because we have to go waaaaay back to October 2012 for the goods on this post, despite already writing up the new years festivities. So…we had designs on revisiting friends and food down Connecticut way again, as we had the summer before (see posts Connecticut Connections and Hangover Town: Table for 2 ), but the summer got away from us and October ended up being the last month in the calendar that we were willing to make the drive before the risk of snow was in the mix.

Plans fell into place and we set out on the road early on a Friday morning, late October. The travel was long, but without issue and we got to try subs from a place called Jreck Subs, recommended by some contractors in Home Depot just after we crossed the boarder and thought there may be a Subway in there like there are in Canada. Now let me just say that in the states on the highway, there is a Subway about every mile it seems, so no problem finding our old familiar friend, but why not try something different. We thought they were saying “Direct Subs” so it’s lucky we actually found the right place! Italian subs on jalapeno sub bun… very delicious and different.

After many hours of driving, including locating a wine store near our destination to procure important supplies, we arrived at the hotel.  A quick beverage and freshening up and off we went to visit friends and critters. We got an awesome welcome from all! Then off to haunt the Black Duck again… this time I remember the food, but forgot to memorialize it with pictures.  All I can say is make sure you have their blue cheese dip, never had one as good as theirs anywhere! Great food and company and some late night visiting.  Turns out I’m allergic to something at the new place our friends moved to, but it was so warm that we could actually sit on the porch, which was the only way I would have been able to stay.

*Unfortunately, about a week later the Duck was almost under water due to Hurricane Sandy, and our friends were without power for quite a few days. They of course got through it with their usual sense of humour and if you can’t change it, just get on with it attitude!

Back to hotel… LATE! But up at okay time. Found a squash court/fitness centre to enjoy so we spent some time there “detoxifying”… I mean working out. We then decided we were too hungry, and it was too late to go back and get ready to go for lunch, so we went straight to the Valencia Luncheria, the delicious home of arepas and guasacaca sauce noted in our hangover post. And it wasn’t there!!! Is this another Snacky’s??? Nope, the arrow said it was just down the street and bigger and better than ever. And now licenced! Woo hoo! Batidos and sangria please! Along with all the other favourites from last year.

Later on, we had another visit where we were introduced to one of our now favourite cheeses: bellavitano balsamic vinegar , try it! Then we tried to go to  Wilson’s BBQ featured on Diners Drive Ins and Dives, but they were closing. So we found a pizza place, oddly named World’s John’s Best Pizza, and ordered a large so we could have some for breakfast, but ate the whole thing… it was that good.

The next morning found us at Super Duper Weenie for our second visit before hitting the road for home.  We had a Chicago dog again, tried a Californian dog, and had some of their fresh cut fries.  Very tasty, but not the level of deliciousness of our experience the year before, when we wolfed our first Chicago dog in the jeep. A good base however for the long trip ahead.

Made it back to the great white north safe and sound. Very much enjoyed Connecticut 2012! Should we get an unexpected urge to drive about 20 hours in the span of a couple of days, we would go back there for sure! Hopefully the Duck is dry!

K&L 😀
Black Duck Cafe on Urbanspoon

Is this the only Snacky’s in Aruba???? (Update!)

Snacky's is goneYes! Well, it WAS the only Snacky’s in Aruba 😦  Sadly, on superfoodies second trip to Aruba in October, we wandered down Palm Beach on Tuesday looking forward to a return visit to the little shack on the sidewalk. It was there, but locked up!  We dragged ourselves back to our hotel area and went back to Bugaloe Pier, which never disappoints.

Now the year before, the proprietor sometimes didn’t quite open at the times he said he would, so we had hope that this was the case, and were anxious to head back the next morning.  Which we did… only to find the same thing, Snacky’s very closed for business. Instead of continuing the daily torture, L popped into a shop near the shack and inquired.  They confirmed the worst.  Snacky’s don’t live here anymore.

You might think that being so close to South America it would be easy to locate another vendor of delicious arepas, empanadas and batidos, but you would be wrong and as disappointed as we were.

Fortunately since our first visit, we have mastered the art of the batidos and the arepa, so all was not lost, and L says he likes the way I make them better than anyone’s including Valencia Luncheria in Connecticut (which we did get to visit a few weeks after returning from Aruba, so we got our fix at last).  I choose to believe he is telling the truth 🙂

I imagine if we find ourselves back in Aruba, which I’m sure we will, we will have to check back, just in case it was a temporary spat between owner and shack… hopefully they have made up by then, and are making beautiful music… I mean delicious snacks…. together again.

K&L 😀