food, travel

LA & Florida: Chipotle, Sticky Buns and Food Trucks

Hi there,

I love going to the States. For a number of reasons, but a main one is that it is the land of junk food: anything you could possibly fathom that is fried, sugary and fatty can be found, and in gigantic portions nonetheless. This post I’ll be talking about the amazing bakery I visited in Ventura, California, my first Chipotle experience and my favourite food trucks from Hollywood, Florida.

To backtrack a little, after I spent over a month in Central America this summer, I stayed in Hallendale, Florida for just over two weeks. Even though my travel buddy had to go home to start school in the fall, I decided I wasn’t quite ready to go home so I continued on to Los Angeles, California on my own. I chose LA because my step-brother and step-sister live out there. I don’t get to see them very often, so I decided that once I was already traveling, why not stop by for a visit.

Another side note: when I travel, some people love to sight see, some people love the fashion, me, I love the food. I eat my way through my travels. So, it only makes sense that I was greeted at the airport with a burger from In N’ Out. As it was my first In N’ Out experience, I have to say I was quite impressed. The only down side was that there was no cheese or bacon, apparently they call it a ‘Double Double’- so I’ll just have to go back there and try it one day! But I digress.

This trip was a lot of firsts, and another first was trying Chipotle. I had heard about Chipotle, and how delicious it was, so I decided I needed to try it while I was in LA (Chipotle has yet to make its way to Montreal, where I’m from). I had a chicken burrito, and dressed it up with all the fixings: pico de gallo, cheese, rice, beans, guac and lettuce. It was pretty delicious! I do have to say though, that Burrito Boyz in London, Ontario (also other locations in Southern Ontario) have probably the best burrito I’ve ever had. Aside from the fact that they are huge (the “small” size is one pound) the ingredients are fresh, the burrito (tortilla?) itself is really good and I was able to order a chicken and sweet potato burrito, which was unreal.

Me being a creeper in my Chipotle selfie.
Me being a creeper in my Chipotle selfie.

Another first, was my visit to Sticky Fingers bakery in Ventura, California. My brother and his wife happen to know the owners, and every once in a while they drive the hour or so to get some delicious baked goods. It was my last day in California, so we decided to go the bakery and then to the nearby beach. On Sundays, the bakery makes sticky buns, and so since it was Sunday, we called ahead and got them to put a couple aside for us. By the time we got there around 11 am, they were almost completely sold out of sticky buns; they started with a batch of 50. When I tell you these were delicious sticky buns, THESE WERE DELICIOUS STICKY BUNS! I ate an entire one to myself. Oh, we also got a lemon cupcake and a coffee cake muffin to share, I definitely had some of those too. What I loved about this bakery, other than it being absolutely delicious, was that they make vegan and gluten free goods, along with being a ‘small batch’ bakery. I had never heard of a small batch bakery, but they have a sign that lets you know why the display case may look a little sparse. They only bake small batches, they bake everything fresh in the morning, and they close when they’ve sold out. They do this so everything they sell is fresh and to avoid waste. I really thought this was an amazing concept, and more food establishments should do this. We waste too much food, so doing a small part to avoid wasting, is something more businesses should consider.

Me, my nephew, my brother and sister-in-law at Sticky Fingers. (Isn't my family ridiculously good looking?!)
Me, my nephew, my brother and sister-in-law at Sticky Fingers. (Isn’t my family ridiculously good looking?!)

Before heading down to LA, and after our adventures in Central America, my travel buddy and I decided to retire to Hallendale, Florida. Luckily, my travel buddy’s family owns a condo there, so we had a great place to stay. I have to say, you really take advantage of the little things when you are so used to them everyday. After being in a developing country for over a month, you really start to appreciate small luxuries, namely air conditioning and hot showers! While we were in Florida, we learned about a food truck event that happens every Monday night in Hollywood (about a 15 minute drive from us), and so decided to go for all three Mondays we were in Florida. There were two big winners for me at these foods trucks. The first, was a dessert truck that served gelato popsicles (Hip Pops).

POPtruck options.
POPtruck options.

It was really a simple concept, great gelato in the form of a popsicle, you pick a dip (milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate dip) and then a topping. The first combination I had was a salted caramel pop, dipped in dark chocolate with toasted hazelnuts. The second was a strawberry pop, dipped in white chocolate and then in chocolate sprinkles. The third, was a coconut pop dipped in white chocolate. They were all delicious, but I think the simple mix of coconut gelato and white chocolate dip was the best one.

My favourite food item that I had from the food trucks was fried chicken and waffles (it was actually a fried chicken and waffle sandwich). I unfortunately can’t remember the name of the truck, but it was so good! I love fried chicken and I love breakfast food, so fried chicken and waffles is basically a match made in food heaven for me. A nice piece of crispy fried chicken between two fluffy and kind of sweet waffles, drizzled with maple syrup and green onions. What made it extra special to me, was that the top waffle was sprinkled with a bit of salt. The contrast of the sweet maple syrup and the salt just made the flavours pop. So good!

Chicken and Waffle sandwich. If you look closely, you can see the little salt crystals!
Chicken and Waffle sandwich. If you look closely, you can see the little salt crystals!

So if you’re ever in Ventura, California or Hollywood, Florida, look these places up! You won’t be disappointed.

The Particular Eater

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food, travel

London & Toronto: Cakes, Croissants and French Toast!

Hi there,

I’m going to work my way backwards. I spent this past summer traveling. My last destination was Toronto and a quick weekend stay in London (where I went to grad school throughout the past two years). In this post I’ll talk a bit about the baking courses I took while I was in Toronto. If you’ve ever thought about taking baking courses, or are looking for a good place to go (for Toronto residents, or something to do if you’re visiting) but were too nervous to take the first step, let my experience be your motivation! Oh, and later there will be french toast involved (who doesn’t like french toast?!), as I talk about a great restaurant I ate at in London.

I have always loved to bake, and some days I think of going back to school to become a pastry chef. But, I figured before making a big investment, that I should find out if: a) I really like it, and b) if I’m actually any good at it. It’s one thing to bake for personal pleasure, but it’s another to actually have any kind of skill or talent. So I signed up for two classes at Le Dolci.

The first class was a cake decorating course. Due to time constraints, the cake is pre-made and so you start with a small round cake. The course teaches you how to level the cake, dirty ice it and then cover it in fondant. The part that was the most fun, was being able to decorate it any way you want and having time to play with the fondant. One of the things we were taught, was how to make roses with the fondant. Turns out, I am pretty crap at making roses out of fondant. I tried. Multiple times. At some point, with my bare cake in front of me, I decided that I was just going to decorate it how I wanted- sans roses. I find that often when I’m allowed to use my creativity, and not follow instructions, that I do my best work. I’m not saying I was amazing at it, far from it, but I think my first attempt at cake decorating wasn’t too bad:

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Granted, you can see little flaws here and there, but I suppose you can’t immediately be good at everything. I tend to think that less is more, and really went for a simple design; the beauty is in the details, however. The pattern of the ‘ribbon’ and the gold luster dust used on the bow make this potentially simplistic cake, a bit more complex and visually appealing.

The second course I took was on making croissants. Again, to save time, the dough was pre-made, but that’s not to say there wasn’t a lot more work left to do. You know how a good croissant is light, flaky and delicious? Do you know how it gets that way? Well, now I do, and it’s because of a lot of rolling and folding and setting, and rolling and folding and setting (I think you get the point). Let me put it to you this way, I now appreciate every delicious croissant I’ve ever eaten and the hard work that went into making it. The result of this course, was not as good as the cake decorating one, but equally as delicious:

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As you can see, rolling out croissants is not easy. There are a couple that somewhat resemble a croissant, and others, not so much. Regardless, it was a great learning experience. I learned that baking (pastries, not something like cookies, which I make all the time) takes a lot of patience. Even so much as using a rolling pin takes a proper technique. And dough is very finicky. Overall, I discovered that I probably won’t go back to school to be a pastry chef, but it’s not off the table entirely. With practice and hard work, it might be something I could get really great at. But for now, I think I’ll stick to baking for pleasure, and of course eating.

Finally, I’m the type of person, that when I discover a great restaurant or something delicious, I need to share it with everyone I know. I lived in London, Ontario for two years, and not once did I eat at The Early Bird. I actually had seen it on You Gotta Eat Here! (one of the shows I analyzed in my thesis) and thought it looked delicious. I still never had the chance to go. So when I was visiting London for the weekend and needed a place to eat brunch, we went to The Early Bird. Aside from the eclectic decor and being attached to a taco shop, the menu really sets it apart. They serve breakfast all day (my fav) and use local fresh ingredients. Not to mention they serve a braised duck slider, made with slow cooked and pulled duck confit, pinot braised onion with sweet soy reduction and baby arugula (pretty snazzy for a diner-style-hole-in-the-wall restaurant). This time, I stuck to a personal favourite and went for a classic french toast. The bread was sliced thick and had that delicious buttery taste with a hint of cinnamon, it was delicious! However, no one warns you just how big the portions are. Here I am slightly worried about finishing my giant plate of french toast, but then I laugh it off, because I just can’t take myself too seriously.

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So if you ever are in London, Ontario and looking for a place to eat, try The Early Bird! (note: I did not finish all that french toast).

The Particular Eater

Intro

This is my life now.

Hi there,

I feel as though I need to write a little bit about myself and where I am in my life right now. In June 2014, I finished my master’s degree in Media Studies. I spent the past two years in a graduate program that kicked my ass. I suppose the up side of doing something that isn’t right for you, is that it starts to help you figure out what is the right thing. There seemed to be an overwhelming theme that took over my life during this time: food. While it is easy to write this off as me just stress eating (and yea, that is definitely part of it- don’t judge me) my interest in food started a lot earlier. Sometimes it’s just hard to see what’s staring you right in the face.

From a really young age my mom taught me to cook and bake. My sister and I would procrastinate during final exams in high school by baking cookies. I have also been told by a long-time friend that I was the only eight year old she knew that read food labels. During my undergraduate degree I worked in a bakery and then later a health food store. I took two food-related elective courses and really realized I had an interest in all aspects of food. However, I decided to continue on in school in media studies (my BA is in Communications and Cultural Studies) and not pursue anything to do with food per se.

So here I was in grad school, baking cookies and experimenting making soup in my spare time, and having to figure out what to write my thesis about. Logically, what do I choose? Something about food, of course! I spent the past year writing about food television (think, Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives) so I could spend my time talking about food.

124 pages later, a couple of meltdowns and many sleepless nights later, and I finally finish my graduate degree.

By sheer chance (and this is definitely a lesson in how sometimes things just work out) a friend of mine’s summer plans fell through and we decided to book a trip together. That was in July. I have spent close to three months traveling, and now find myself back in the real world looking for my place (oh ya, and a job).

Just as food was my comfort during the past two years, I hope that I can find comfort again in something I love during this time of transition in my life. And I especially hope that I can share that comfort with others. Enjoy!

The Particular Eater