Eurotrip 2012

Hi guys!! You probably noticed I’ve been gone for a few weeks – Adam and I went on a 2.5 week vacation to Europe. I didn’t mention it before because I had all the intentions in the world to blog while being away, but what can I say – it was even more fun than I thought it would be and I just wanted to spend every single second exploring away instead of being cooped up in a hotel room. We are back and I am really excited to be able to share this awesome trip with you! There will be food, drinks and some random scenery so you can get a feel for each city. I’ll do most of the pictures do the talking. Ready for the ride?

Let’s start with the first city – Amsterdam.

This was my breakfast pretty much every day – a gorgeous coffee with a pan au chocolat from Coffee Connection. Heaven.

And if you’re ever in Amsterdam you have to (promise me!) try Wok to Walk. It’s basically a take-out stir-fry place but it’s incredible. Do it!

Amsterdam is a huge biking city. Did you know I can’t ride a bike? True story.

Adam was really tempted to get a burger from this vending machine

  

Lunch:

I wanted to take this little dog back to Boston with me. He was soooo cute!

Designer coke anyone?

Restaurants right outside of our hotel

Of course nightly drinks were enjoyed out there

 

As you can see from the above pictures, our food during our few days in Amsterdam was sort of a mishmash of things. We did go out to one nice dinner at Seasons during out second night (heh, the first review that comes up on TripAdvisor is Adam’s. Awesome).

Asparagus bruschetta with a creamy dill, lemon and caper sauce

Oven roasted salmon, sauteed mushrooms, red wine sauce and figs

Sticky toffee pudding

Everything was really fresh and seasonal. The asparagus brushetta (from their asparagus menu!) was my favorite followed by dessert. Both were winners! My date was pretty awesome too ;)

Side note: I’m linking to Trip Advisor for most of the spots because that’s how we found these places. Their City Guide app was a serious life saver – it worked offline on our iphones, had built-in maps with GPS and guides us to the best spots all over the city. We really missed it in the cities it wasn’t available for!

After 2 nights in Amsterdam, we hopped on the train to Brussels.

What is Belgium known for? Beer, Belgian fires, chocolate, Belgium waffles and mussels. You better believe we tried them all! :D

 

Not bad! Duckfat’s Belgian waffles are better.

The famous Delirium bar – Adam was in serious heaven!

Our first dinner:

  

The menu was 100% in French so I ordered bruschett, thinking it was bruschetta. Nope friends – apparently it means a meat skewer (and I’m sorry, I am certain I’m mispelling it but it’s very close). Oh well, the fun was eating with the locals and people watching :) We also found some mussels later but apparently they escaped my camera.

We also visited the Cantillon brewery which is right in Brussels and I tried the first lambics I’ve ever liked.

 

The lambic love continued for the rest of our trip. First with a Pecherese (peach) lambic (unpictured). And then with a kriek (cherry!!!) lambic. Slightly sweet and incredibly refershing. Kind of like a beer sangria. :)

Man I want another one right now!

The most memorable meal in our short stay in Belgium was from Selecto. After being spoiled by the Tripadvisor app in Amsterdam, we felt a little aimless without one in Brussels but this restaurant was across the street from the bar we had drinks at and the second I saw people’s dishes, I knew it would be perfect. I didn’t take very good pictures but it was a 5 star dinner. And apprently a lot of people agree with me because it’s #26 out of nearly 1,300 restaurants in the city.

Also, it was our first time successfully navigating a complicated menu in French (thank god for the dictionary app!) so that was fun too!

Did I forget something else? Oh yeah…

Unfortunately despite my big smile, this waffle was stale. Oh well – we had no lack of food on this trip!

Some scenery pics of Brussels…

We also took a day trip to Bruges which was super easy and incredibly beautiful! Jen happened to be there at the same time but we were unable to meet up because I had no cell reception and we had no wifi in our Brussels hotel :( Adam and I still had a blast exploring this medieval town for a few hours.

Stunning, right?

After 2 nights in Belgium, it was once again time to hop on the train. To Paris this time!

Adam and I have actually been to Paris before so we did nothing touristy, just explored a few neighborhoods and of course ate our little hearts (stomachs?) out. :)

Our hotel was in the heart of St Germain neighborhood, which was full of cafes, bars, restaurants and boutiques. We had an amazing time eating our way through the city!

Luxemberg gardens nearby

On our first trip to Paris together (nearly 7 years ago!) we stayed in the Latin Quarter area, so we decided to go back and see how it’s doing :) See the Comfort Inn in the background? That was it. Smallest hotel room ever. But still in Paris ;)

Side street we had dinner on 7 years ago. Good memories. The Latin Quarter was even more fun this time than I remembered. A lot younger and more laid back than St Germain which is kind of fancy.

Eventually we made it to the Pantheon area because we wanted to recreate an old picture. This one was a pretty priceless one of me. Apparently I give this look to Adam a lot. :lol:

And here is another gem of a picture. Can you spot me?

We were a little tipsy looking at the pictures that night and we thought those 2 were the funniest thing we’ve ever seen. Haha

No trip to Paris is complete without crepes. This one was filled with chocolate and topped with poached pears. I die.

Gelato was always shaped like a flower. This was was from a local chain – Amorino, which we’ve seen all over France for the rest of the trip (and of course sampled).

Best macarons of my life. The salted caramel butter was to die for. Ugh, I want another one asap!!

Oh and I did have some vegetables on the trip. Paul (sort of like Panera in the US) was a very reliable source for my morning coffee and pain au chocolat in the morning and an occasional baguette or salad for lunch.

Time for another train to Avignon. This is where our week long trip to South of France began. I think this post is long enough so I’m going to tell you that we rented a car and covered Avignon, Aix en Provence, Pont du Gard, Cannes, Nice, St Tropez, Les Baux, Monaco and probably a few more places I’m forgetting right now. Best meal of the trip was hands down at Le Cosi in Cannes. This was the most flawless meal – the place deserves Michelin stars! Another fun thing we did was take a day-long wine tour from Avignon Wine Tours. It was a really fun way to explore the area even if I did get food poisoning mid-day (unrelated to the tour) and wanted to die for the last few hours (I was still a trouper and sampled the wines, etc). Francois was the man and we continue to quote him in the most French accent possible. You should do it if you ever go to Provence!

Ok enjoy the pics!

Wine on tap (locals bring milk jugs to fill up every week!)

 

We had a mini-aparent in Aix-en Provence so I cooked dinner one night.

 

 

And since our layover in Dublin was crazy long, we decided to get a hotel and spend the night.

As annapealing as it sounds, the corned beef and cabbage with potato dumplings from Gallagher’s Boxty House was incredible. And our waiter Bobby was awesome too. Oh and although we definitely picked up some French in the last 2 weeks, speaking English again was pretty nice. :)

 

A few last pics of Dublin for the road…

Phew, that was long. And fun. I hope you enjoyed this little (right) recap. And let me know if you have any questions… or if anything in particular is catching your eye. One of the best trips Adam and I have ever gone on for sure!!

Next up – a recipe. It’s been a little while, huh? ;)

Taste of the Nation, Boston 2012

Before I dive in to this post, I just wanted to get a few logistics out of the way. The winners of the ThinkThin bar giveaway are Katie, Carol B, Leah, Krlock, Lara, Marcie, Ashleigh, Rene and Maryz. Ladies, please email me your addresses to elina@healthyandsane.com!

Also, if you live in the Boston area and are still looking for a special Mother’s Day gift, I’m now offering gift certificates for private cooking lessons. Maybe you can even join your mom for the class? I think that would be crazy fun!

Ook, now that we got that stuff out of the way, can I tell you about my favorite foodie event of the year? Yup, it’s that time again – Taste of the Nation recap time that is!

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[Yup, this was an ice sculpture.  I definitely thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread.]

I rave about how much I love this charitable event (see 2010 and 2011 recaps here in case you’re bored) but this year given my involvement with Cooking Matters which is part of Share Our Strength, I was even more excited to attend! Btw, before I forget – I did receive press tickets but I am always honest (just ask all of the friends that we convinced to purchase tickets this year and join us!) – it is a fantastic time, every time, and is such a great way to raise money for a fantastic cause!

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Sliders galore

Compared to previous years there were definitely fewer tables (although still plenty; it’s still pretty much impossible to try every single thing) and the theme of the evening appeared to be sliders – meat + pickled veggie type combos and straight up slowly braised meat between soft little buns. Pretty much all were delicious although it got a bit tiresome at the end, especially when nearly identical dishes were presented. I felt a little bad for the restaurants because on a stand-alone basis, they were all stars.

Lucky’s Lounge pork belly sliders with pickled vegetables, diakon sprouts, and kung-pao sauce

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Del Frisco’s steak sliders

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Myers + Chang korean bbq sloppy jo

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Whole Foods smoked pork hum bao

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Cambridge School of Culinary Arts – least favorite of the bunch

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Favorite restaurants I’m now even more in love with

Trina’s Starlite Lounge tomato soup with grilled cheese – so simple yet so perfect!

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Trina’s was on my 30 by 30 list so I already had the pleasure of checking out the restaurant (love the decor, the service and the fabulous cocktails). This made me really want to go back!

The Franklin Café crispy pig ear chicharrones – were a fun change from all the sliders

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Flour Bakery milky way tartes. I’m obsessed with these guys- they are sweet, light and creamy!! The recipe is in the Flour bakery cookbook (Bridget was actually the one to get me hooked on this stuff when she made it for Megan’s party one day).

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Places I really need to make sure I visit now!

Meatball on crouton from Jodie Adam’s of Rialto & Trade

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The crouton was super crunchy which shocked me but this was playful and delicious!

Slow cooked beef over corn bread from Gargoyles

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Scooped to order whoopie pie ice cream sandwiches

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To die. For.

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For some reason I can’t find them online now Sad smile

Thirsty Thursday

Some booze was consumed. It’s open bar so we had to do “a little” tasting Winking smile We won’t name any names but someone (not me) was a bit slow the next morning. We didn’t get to NY until 7:30pm the next day, despite all the original plans to leave early in the AM and spend the day in the city (my sister was getting married the following day).

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Local hard cider. A little dry with a hint of honey. Yum! Smile

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Like I said, there was a bit of drinking ;)

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Randomness

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Made by Mr. Hamersley himself

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Everyone loved this mac & cheese. I’ll stick to their usual leek free kind though (Church is pretty awesome!)

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Bianca and Meghan

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There were so many other blog friends at the event. I loved seeing familiar faces and of course comparing notes on the dishes not to be missed! :)

Katie – the pastry chef at Tremont 647 (we volunteered together with Cooking Matters!)

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I think they served a deconstructed caesar salad sandwich with house cured bacon. Does this look right to you? I was in a food coma by about this time…

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Shady Oaks Organics sells locally cultivated specialty mushrooms (sold at local farmers markets and online). The founders also happen to be from Newburyport where Adam is from Smile

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Meh

Tavolo lobster cream lasagna – pretty bland for such a promising dish

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Jason made a passive aggressive remark about everyone being a food blogger these days. Way to make me feel special, Jason! ;)

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Craigie on Main made hob knobs again! They are crazy delicious but they’ve served them at every food fest I’ve been to. Can we see something else, please?

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Surprise

Brasserie Jo pork belly pate with pickled carrots was actually surprisingly delicious, despite the fact that I don’t love the place (I’ve been there several times since it’s one of the closets places to my condo, and found their brunch to be great but dinner a waste!). I liked the mustard bite of these little babies!

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And there you have it. Despite a bit less variety this year, we still had a really fantastic time. I hope you check out the SOS website to find a Taste of the Nation event near you!

Which dish would you want to try first?

 

Wasabi sushi in Natick

Hi friends! How’s life? Mine is good. In an attempt to get out of the house daily (yeah, I started going a little stir crazy early last week), I’m currently at the library catching up on computer stuff. I noticed some pictures of the lunch Adam and I had at Wasabi in Natick a few weeks back and thought it’d be fun to do a quick post to introduce you to this spot… if you haven’t already been Smile

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Wasabi is newish kaiten dining sushi restaurant located inside the Natick mall. There is a conveyor belt that runs through the entire space with plates of sushi (and other Japanese dishes) on it. You watch them pass by and grab what you like. At the end of the meal, the waitress adds up your bill based on the empty plates. Fun and fast! Open-mouthed smile

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Oh and the plates are color-coded, with each color representing a price category. The most expensive plate as you see below is $5, so you really can try a whole bunch of dishes. Love it!

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[There are a few other dishes you can order straight off the menu, including soups, salads and some hot appetizers.]

I’ve seen this conveyor belt concept in airports in London. I’m glad they finally brought it to the U.S. (or should I say… Boston area since Wasabi appears to be a chain).

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Which one is it gonnna be?

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Adam and I tried a few plates as a light lunch. This guy was my favorite:

Tyson’s Roll

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It was sort of like a deconstructed California roll (with the crab on the outside) topped with seaweed salad and wasabi cream. It tasted super fresh and delicious.

The seared salmon with red pepper coulis was pretty boring.

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Adam got the crunchy salmon. It was pretty fun dipping the maki in the panko mixture for some extra crunch Smile

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These two rolls were sort of forgettable. Solid but nothing special.

Eel cucumber maki

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Lucky roll – mango, salmon, green and red tobiko (and wasabi cream)

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Our bill was about $20 for all of this. Definitely the perfect spot to refuel at during your next shopping spree in the Natick mall. Open-mouthed smile

Have you ever been to a kaitan sushi place?

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