Basque-It, Full!

 

BAB beach arr

Longing to leave work days and dreaded deadlines, behind? So, too, do the French. ‘Being one’ with an idyllic postcard in real time many find themselves escaping to surf city central – beloved Biarritz, in the South of France.

Maison Adam Biarritz 9 arrFacing the Atlantic Ocean and bordering Spain, the sandy beaches of Biarritz are among one of my favourite coastlines. Designating summer days with basking under the sun, what’s one to do once the temperature drops? I don’t know about you, but soaking up the rich Basque history that is synonymous with BAB – Biarritz, Anglet and Bayonne – is what I have in mind.

Gaining a glimpse into this region’s food and culture, one post would not suffice. Providing you with a snapshot, however, good news is: eating well – à la Biarritz – persists to be a year-round event. So, while some tourists and locals are being pushed toward the shoreline, find others being pulled into the city centre. Maison Adam Biarritz 4 arrGravitating toward the sweet aromas of pastry shops myself, I walk along the cobble streets of Biarritz and make two notable stops: first, to Maison Adam and second, to Maître Chocolatier Henriet. Face to face, these corner surprises are conveniently located along opposing streets and are not to be missed. Venturing to one venue and then the other, I clearly follow suit of an over-indulgent and self-serving yet, applicably foodie-appropriate tactic: dividing time to conquer all – that’s gluttonous!

Biarritz Desserts 1 arrHappily pursuing chocolates, cakes, and pastry, these conquests are nothing short of successfully sweet. Yielding appetizing treasures to be devoured and shared, I find ‘my people’ – chocolate lovers and s’more – scanning shelves and rejoicing over display towers of sinfully delectable artisan crafted delights. Equally taking time to study unique cakes and cookies, Maison Adam is reputably the originator of the Basque macaron. Stopping to sample both, why not order some more? Requesting a little bit of this and that, I take away the famous almond cookie, Basque gâteau – cherry and chocolate varieties – along with a box of praline truffles and a bar of refined dark chocolate.

Chocolatier Henriet Biarritz 1 arrBut, that’s not all! Dessert excursion halfway complete, another lesson in tradition awaits at Chocolatier Henriet. Food-spotting between one pastry house to another, Henriet literally evokes history in the making as seen with their production of elegant French pâtisseries – éclair au chocolat et mirabelle, tarte aux pommes, truffes, pavlova, etc. – in as much as Basque-inspired confections like ‘touron’ and nougat. Candies and classic pastries abound, the assortment of goods range from simple flavour profiles like vanilla and chocolate to enhanced tastes including apricot, orange, and almond to name a few.

Chocolatier Henriet Biarritz 5 arrSpeaking volumes about the coast with the most, I leave this well-stocked boutique of treats – like the one before – with a handful of boxed up beauties. Sailing through this inland shopping experience, I’m ready to sample my ‘Basquette’ full of heavenly selects. Best part of all, this voyage need not wait on Mr. Sun or that bikini body – phew! Certain to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth, Maison Adam and Chocolatier Henriet are a couple of Biarritz’s finest locally-situated dessert houses – sugar rush, guaranteed!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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When in Rome, Giolitti!

When in Rome, venturing to the Trevi Fountain is a must! Definitely a sight to behold, the same can described of the outpouring of tourists. Rightfully wishful, there’s truly no shortage of admirers tossing coins and within elbow’s reach. So let’s face it, when the only open space left is the mini pool – ‘la fontana’ itself – reality strikes: it’s time to go! Saving you the trouble of locating your next mini-getaway, allow me to retrace my steps and acquaint you with a must-visit gem of a gelateria along the maze-like streets of Rome. Giolitti 13 arr

Nestled between an espresso bar and neighbouring boutiques – Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40, to be exact – I find myself reliving a happy incident of déju-vu at Giolitti. Oh, how sweet it was – a few years ago – and still is, today! Clearly having been there and done that, a good first impression is enough to leave me wanting more. And with an endless display of premium quality frozen desserts, Giolitti makes repeat visits easy. Giolitti 11 arr 

From start to finish, getting your hands on ice cream is quite the experience at this parlour.  Upon entry, most tourists shuffle between the pastry counter and the corner stop for cafe beverages all the while lost in amazement of the ornately decorated establishment.  Almost frozen in time, the traditional handmade pastries and sweets if not the interior ambiance is sure to take up a couple of your minutes.  

Giolitti 1 arrOvercome by a spectacle of confections – cassata siciliana, sfogliatella napoletana, crema e pinoli, marmellata, paste assortite, cannoli, cookies, and brain-freeze selects – the commotion of eager patrons will certainly bring you back down to earth, and in no time you’ll soon remember why you’re here in the first place: “Gelato, por favor!” Sure enough, crowd control is in check and, so too, is the step-by-step ordering process:  first, place your order – one, two or three scoops – then, pay the cashier and receive a receipt to present to one of many ice cream servers.  At this point, don’t be shy to make your request and be heard, especially since there’s no formal queue and the servers are beckoning ice cream lovers to efficiently make their way to the counter.  Essentially, your wish is your command. Literally, the sooner you voice your ice cream desires the sooner you’ll grab it and go – just be prepared, and know what you want.

Hanging around the masses of gelato fans, delighting in a chocolate-covered cone-filled treat is monumental sight in its own right.  Just imagine:  cones upon cones covered with scoops of freshly churned congealed dairy dessert and topped with a generous slathering of sweetened whipped cream. No risk, no reward – get in queue already!

Sticking to the caffeinated side of things, I spot so many variations of cocoa indulgences through the glass window but narrow down my choices to three.  Going for a trio of dark chocolate, tiramisu and coffee, this combo is velvety rich and packed with nuanced flavour. Simply put, Giolitti’s gelato is the ideal afternoon pick-me-up. Better yet, it’s an everlasting souvenir that’s meant to be devoured and detailed for later recounts. Clearly repeating history, this foodie chronicle is worth reliving – in person!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

“L’envie en rose”

If you ever find yourself hungry in Paris’ 5th ‘arrondisement’, there are a few places you may want to visit. Between fresh fruit stalls and seafood markets, in addition to local pâtisseries, this district boasts full of restaurants that cater to various palettes.

Au Jardin de Lutece 1 arrKeeping you well informed, here’s a little taste of what I spotted along the streets of Rue Monge, Paris. Not to be confused with ‘mange’ that means ‘eat,’ Rue Monge is not your typical tourist attraction and, however quiet, it remains worthy of some notable buzz.

Starting with a duo – literally neighbouring markets – Poissonerie Monge and Au Jardin de Lutèce are considerably destined stops for local Parisians who seek fresh seafood and a bountiful of tropical fruits and garden vegetables. While I haven’t had the fortune to cook the ‘catch of the day’ – chez Poissonerie Monge – my testing of freshly squeezed orange juice, decadent honey-sweet dates among other seasonal berries are to be discussed.  Beginning the day with vitamin-rich essentials, locating this fruit stall all began with a quick passage down the street. Like many happy accidents, some hidden gems are best identified when merely walking. Once there, this roofed ‘garden’ does not disappoint. Eyeing a rainbow display of every fruit and vegetable you can name from A to Z, there’s clearly no shortage of items.

As for my impromptu excursion, the prices are a bit steep but, the quality reigns supreme and leaves a lasting impression from first to last bite. Personally, I recommend the ‘jus d’orange’ as it’s prepared on the spot, and is consistent of sweet and tart flavours – seriously, a delicious way to start the day. Like the citrus, this vendor knows how to pick dates. Au Jardin de Lutece 6 arrToo mesmerized to ask their origin, whether Medjools or not, there’s no mistaking these dates were certainly fresh with a soft outer layer, meaty in size – not dried up or shrivelled like some other varieties – and, jam-packed with sweetness.  Surely, a date or two is the perfect lightweight snack to keep anyone energized.  Consisting of more happy surprises, each corner of this small shop carries pockets of nature’s beauty. For instance, while indulging in ruby red currants and organic strawberries did amaze, the one that got away – hopefully, to be sampled on a future trip – was the box-load of once again ‘fresh’ hazelnuts. Can you believe it? Now, I know from former experience what fresh almonds look and taste like but, much to my excitement, seeing fresh hazelnuts was a first! Luckily, for those in the area, they can be found here Au Jardin de Lutèce. Now you know – ‘je vous en prie,’ you’re welcome!

Maison Gregoire 1 arrFrom land and sea to farm fresh and freshly baked or cooked, there’s an endless list of gastronomic stops to recount. Briefly, for those with a sweet tooth, Rue Monge is also host to an array of ‘viennoiserie’ and classic French pastries – pain au chocolat, brioche, croissant, flan, tarte aux pommes, macarons, etc. – as well as simple cheese sandwiches, all courtesy of Maison Grégoire. Maison Gregoire 2 arrHaving said that, those after a more hearty lunch or late night dinner must-visit and must-walk further along Rue Monge and take a detour – all within walking distance, I promise – to Rue Mouffetard. Once there, behold: foodie central! Taking a late night promenade to Rue Mouffetard, myself, I find this street to be lively and boasting with a mélange of young and young-at-heart patrons. Likewise, the diverse spread of dessert parlours, tea houses, international fare – Greek, Italian, Turkish – and authentically French cuisine-oriented bistros run plenty.

Crepe 1 arrVenturing to satisfy sweet and savoury senses, I opt for a cheese and egg-filled paper thin crêpe. How so very typical – I know, but don’t mind! Almost an equivalent to what we – North Americans – commonly identify as a pancake house, this ‘crêperie’ offers both Nutella/fruit options and meat/veg components, and speedily prepares them ‘à emporter,’ for takeout.

Gelati d'Alberto 8 arr

In continuation of the next sought after treat, I set out for a real beauty – an edible rose – at Gelati d’Alberto.  Truly, a sight for tasteful eyes, this gelateria impresses not by its compact dimensions but, instead, by its glass-encased selection of uniquely flavoured congealed confections. At initial glance, I’m left intrigued by flavours such as açaí berry, “Alibaba” – a mixture of sesame and orange blossom water – litchi, and even aloe vera. Gelati d'Alberto 6 arrUltimately, request is made for a delicate yet vibrant trio of: rose, pistachio and strawberry gelato. Taking time to savour this ‘fleur,’ each petal layer at a time, the distinct combination of the three gelati did make for a pleasantly memorable experience. Undeniably fragrant, this perfumed hand-crafted rose smelled sweet as much as it tasted intoxicatingly true to the essence of rose water – simply, magnifique!

Needless to say, it’s all in the way it tastes!  And, in keeping with homemade tradition, Alberto’s use of pure fruit and quality ingredients speak volumes in the final product of gelati and sorbets that is clean and refreshing on the palette.  It’s no wonder, then, that gelati and sorbets made by this ‘maître glacier’ – master ice-cream maker – are self-proclaimed to be the envy of town, “L’envie en rose,” and rightfully so. All in a day’s work, this food-hunting escapade just touches the surface of all there is to explore. While I’m sure I could go on with more mention of French food or the artisans who craft them, there’s no denying this fact: “La vie est belle, et vous êtes comme elle!” Life’s beautiful – and even more so with ‘la cuisine française’!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

I Saw the Sign: L’As du Fallafel

L'As du Fallafel 1 arrLooking for an ideal grab ‘n’ go snack, in Paris? Look no further than L’As du Fallafel. Situated along 34 Rue des Rosiers, this falafel hut serves up orders as quickly as they take them. Getting my ‘fill’ of a widely popular mid-east treat, I order piping hot deep fried pillows of falafel rounds that are sandwiched into a soft pita. Specifically asking for the ‘fallafel spécial,’ it’s consistent of the famous falafels plus hummus, veggies – lettuce, tomato, cucumber, grilled eggplant – and for added spice, I also get mine topped off with piquante sauce. Loving the hand I’m dealt, the verdict’s in: this ‘ace’ of a sandwich delivers in bold taste!

L'As du Fallafel 4 arrWhat’s more, word of mouth still works! And, in little to no time you’ll find crowds gather by this hotspot. So in case you’re running low on energy or simply can’t wait to get your falafel fix, be in-the-know of the how-to’s when it comes to speedy service at this restaurant. Taking out the guesswork, here’s what to expect for takeout: first, spot the staff/rep – most likely standing outside, infront of the venue, already taking orders – then, find your place amid the open air queue of patrons and submit your request. In following, provide payment directly to the ‘outdoor’ staff who will, in exchange, provide a paper receipt to be presented to the cooks. Simply put, the invoice is key: no paper – proof of purchase – no falafel.

L'As du Fallafel 3 arrLuckily for tourists, both English and French are spoken/understood here. Appreciating the spontaneous French lesson, ‘on peut bien y practiquer le français!’ But if learning languages is not your thing, fear not as all foodies are well aware of this certainty: no matter the destination, expression of ‘hunger pangs’ – not words – remain the universal language.

Equally vocalizing my desire for food, I pursue the vegetarian route and stick to the “must-indulge” menu item of choice – pure falafels. L'As du Fallafel 2 arrMore than ‘a’ chickpea, it’s the culmination of chickpeas plural in addition to the compounded mixture of fresh herbs and spices that make for tasty bites of falafel. Generously wrapped, this veggie sandwich bodes well in freshness as in portion. Catering to meatlovers as well, other selects include: chicken or turkey shawarma, meatballs, schnitzel, sausage and fries that are available for takeout. Food-excursion of the day complete – with a falafel pita – I attest that L’As du Fallafel does indeed transform an otherwise mildly flavoured légume into something palatably wonderful. Whilst feeling peckish in the Marais district, then, look for the righteously named sign of this Parisian food-stop and sample the ‘ace’ – the base of falafels!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved. 

Good Things End with ‘É’

Herme Macarons 1 arr

When you can’t meet the King of Macaron himself – Pierre Hermé – a visit to his ’round’ table is the best substitute. Saying, “Oui, oui!” to my absolute favourite city – Paris, of course – a trip to this magical place would not be complete without a must-see and must-visit stop for food shopping at noneother than Monsieur Hermé‘s boutique of sweets.

Yes, indeed, I can now attest to having tried select artisan-made delectable almond French macarons. Conviently dispersed throughout Parisian streets, I make my way to one of many of this master’s stores. Strolling along 18 Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, in particular, I’m introduced to a quaint sized shop beholding a gateway to chocolates, dessert spreads, and the highly anticipated glass-encased table of lovely ’rounds.’

Herme Macarons 10 arrA picture worthy of thousands of words, who wouldn’t capture this Kodak moment of sorts? Politely asking permission first to do exactly that, I’m clearly too enticed to leave such a moment to memory alone. And, afterall, how better to timelessly share Hermé’s offerings – even if it’s only in pixel format. Access happily granted, capturing the multitude of unique treats didn’t take too long and equally deserved more than a photographic close-up.

Pleasantly tried and taste tested, my order of palatable macarons did not disappoint. Worth the pretty Euro – and souvenir tin – any patron can be sure to fill their dessert coffers with the best of the best in quality macarons. Likewise, Hermé offers 18 distinct flavour profiles ranging from the traditionally expected to surprising flavour pairings. Herme Macarons 11 arrWanting a bit of this and that, here’s what I enjoyed: Madagascar Vanilla, coffee, chocolate, Mogador (duo of milk chocolate and passion fruit), Ispahan (evoking hints of rose, litchi fruit and raspberry), Infinitely Jasmine, and Montebello (a signature combo of pistachio and raspberry). Unequivocally divine, macarons by Hermé do satisfy! What’s more, recounts of previous macaron-making endeavours ‘chez-moi’ leave me to attest that the amount of work, skill and purity of high grade ingredients involved with Hermé’s handheld gems are evidently synonymous in his final product. Artisan, to say the least, these cookies deliver in premium taste and texture from first to last bite. Simply stated, they’re ‘magnifique!’ Clearly, well made – and, well received!

Hoping you’ll make your way to Pierre Hermé’s shop for your own box of truffles, macarons or jar of hazelnut spread, other reputable Parisian macaron houses exists. Among them include Ladurée, which remains a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. But if long queues are not your thing, fear not as many local pastry shops – a.k.a. ‘pâtisseries’ – often offer macarons in their own right. Ultimately, wherever you go, venturing to Paris persists to be a deliciously good idea!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved. 

Welcome to Poutineville!

Poutineville MTL 1 arrDie hard fans of french fries – the hearty type – mustn’t miss out on a hidden gem in Montréal. Sure, there are plenty of self-proclaimed “best-selling” venues of the beloved ‘poutine.’ But when you steer off the beaten path, and follow the locals to 1365 Ontario Est, you know you’re in the right place for all things cheese curds, gravy and piping hot fries. Without further ado, then, ‘Bienvenue’ to Poutineville!

Talk about first impressions: go big on the exterior sign, and feel right at home in this quaint yet cozy family friendly eatery. Clearly a promising indication of greater things to come, this restaurant exudes a pleasantly familiar aroma that leaves the senses anticipating one’s very own plate of comfort food – à la all things potato, of course! Promptly seated, and welcomed by a gracious and bilingual – French/English – host, getting my poutine fix is a mere order form away.

Poutineville MTL 2 arrKid you not, the variety of flavourful poutine options are extensive. As such, patrons can either verbalize a menu item or fill out a sheet to specify desired toppings for their very own customized take on this French-Canadian dish. Choices abound, I feel for the indecisive folks but there’s no need to panic. Instead, take a breath and remember: simplicity is key! Wasting no more time contemplating, get your order in for an iconic staple – before the kitchen closes – and await a generously stacked plate of simply delicious: crispy house cut fries topped with fresh cheese curds and a rich braised beef broth-based gravy. Time ‘properly’ managed and decision made, one thing’s certain: you can never go wrong in keeping with tradition – especially, when talking about food affairs.

Poutineville MTL 3 arrFried and fabulous, I couldn’t help but request a double-take of tubers and ask for the “2 Poutine Sampler.” Having lunch chez-Poutineville, afterall, why not try both hand-crushed and crispy sweet potatoes? Going for twice the poutine, this appetizing select also means one can taste two times the gravy – red wine and pepper sauces – in addition to a mound of oozing melted cheese curds. Combining winning pairings of mild and bold flavours, I’m an instant fan of the peppery sweet potato poutine. Equally exclusive to Poutineville, other inventive dishes include a mélange of vegetables, cheeses – Mozzarella, Swiss, and cheddar – as well as a range of sausage meats, minced beef, and pulled pork additions that contribute to the endless array of unforgettable hot potato dishes, including: “The Montrealer,” “The Hat Trick,” and the head honcho of all ‘Messieurs Patates’, “The Godfather.”Poutineville MTL 4 arr

Comparatively humble in proportion to the aforementioned starchy indulgences, I leave my plate unfinished albeit full-ly satisfied. Pleased with the service and food, every visit to Montréal should include a poutine outing. So if you’re seeking a hot meal ‘rooted’ in comfort, have no fear of carb overload and happen to be in Poutineville’s neck of the woods, now you know where to go – P.S., they’re open until 5 A.M.

© DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Bombe au C’ChoColat

Weekend getaway to Paris North – pourquoi pas? Why not, indeed, to a fab Canadian stay-cation worthy of good eats in beautiful Montréal, Québec. Arriving ‘tout à l’heure,’ I waste no time and make my way downtown where ‘le centre-ville’ is home to several locally authentic French cuisine finds. Forgoing ‘foie gras’ – this time – I have reason for travelling through the hustle and bustle of the city’s artery, and it’s prime – believe me!

C'ChoColat 2 arrGood company and good times! And, as for the weather? Certainly, ‘je me souviens’ – a city to be remembered. But, don’t let the clear skies fool you! Brisk air to some, I would comparatively rate the weather as well below freezing temperature. Nonetheless, this trip was never about the windchill. Food shopping on the mind, this chocoholic-epicurean – that is ‘moi’ – landed in front of the doors of 1255 Rue Bishop for one precise item: C’ChoColat’s signature house dessert, the C’Wow.

Wowed – 100% – by this memorable chocolate bomb, this sweet plate is truly unlike anything I’ve yet had the pleasure to witness. Scanning the menu, the composition of listed ingredients for the C’Wow already sounds pleasantly familiar. Just imagine, a plated dish that includes: a scoop of artisan gelato surrounded by broken pieces of waffles, brownies, pecans, fresh berries, and crumble that is then encapsulated in a chocolate dome. But wait, this dessert gets better when served table side – ‘à table,’ chocolate lover!

Like a page stolen from history, suspenseful anticipation for this Trojan horse is no where near reached until post delivery of this gorgeous cocoa structure. Don’t worry, however, this sweet invasion equally makes for one delectably welcome fateful ending. In a nutshell: the C’Wow came, was seen and conquered – by caramel! Ultimately covered by heated caramel sauce, behold: a demolished collapse of layered confection toppling over a rocky bed of waffle and brownie bits. Jaw dropped, bearing witness to a fantastic chocolate demise, a moment of fascination is soon replaced with reality and the realization that it’s taste-testing time – finalement!

C'ChoColat 10 arrAs hoped, every bite of the C’Wow encompasses a mélange of delightful flavours. Inclusion of fresh berries justly brighten the flavours of the dense and rich cakey components. Generous in size and highly caloric, this select is a feat to finish. As such, here’s word to wise: the C’Wow can easily be shared by two or ordered for one large appetite. Either way, this chocolate themed venue offers more than meets the eye and is sure to appease many a sweet tooth.

C'ChoColat 6 arrSatisfying the chocophile-in-anyone, enjoying the finer things in life – if only via chocolate – is a dream come to fruition at C’ChoColat. Never ceasing to disappoint, there’s something for everyone from chocolate-infused beverages dubbed ‘choctails’ to Hong Kong style honeycomb waffles and savoury dishes. Too tempting not to try, the pistachio gelato is truly divine. Still in vacay mode, adding accompaniments like a latté and the Matcha Matcha Man frappé make for an accepted and extended guilt-free indulge-a-thon. Between green tea and herbal varieties, the assortment of milkshakes, ‘chocolat chaud’, hot/cold coffee beverages and Parisian crêpes run plenty. Heart happy in #MTL, C’ChoColat’s C’Wow is a clear winner to be experienced for yourself, ideally in person or just a click away.  It’s seriously, ‘the bomb’ of chocolate desserts!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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Instant Happiness

Counting one of the many ways I heart cacao, here’s a simplified response: single origin. That’s why, whilst visiting Jamaica, it was a welcome mission – for this chocoholic – to find the very best bountiful pod offerings that mother nature bears in this part of the West Indies. Needless to say, I wanted the chance to taste 100% real Jamaican – homegrown and manufactured – chocolate.Jamrock Food 6 arr

Now, I’m no expert when it comes to producing chocolate. And to this day, it’s my dream – hopefully realized, one day soon – to visit a cocoa farm, stand next to a cocoa tree, and even witness the full extent of this plant’s cultivation from harvesting of pod to extraction of cocoa beans. Still dreaming – for now – there is one thing I can do, which is to get my hands on ‘instant happy’ – a.k.a. fine quality Jamaican chocolate – or so I thought.

Jamrock Food 5 arrProving to be a more difficult task than first anticipated, locating original Jamaican chocolate – in Jamaica – is not that easy, at least for me. Yes, I did visit a local shop and but only found rows of ‘popular’ sugary milk chocolate bars. Setting my sights on 70% or plus cocoa confections, venturing into a Montego Bay supermarket – Progressive Foods – was worth the trip. First making my way to personal points of interest – coffee and baking aisles – I happily found Blue Mountain coffee and unique baking extracts and essences. Proceeding next to the candy aisle, I came out empty handed as I only saw more ‘familiar’ wrapped sweets from home. As the journey continued, waiting in queue to finalize ‘other’ purchases, I asked neighbouring patrons where to find Jamaican chocolates. Kindly informed of “Charles” chocolate treats, I was elated – if only for a few short-lived seconds – and later enlightened that they’re no longer available. Blessings, persistence always prevails! Remember, I was on a choco-inspired mission. Finally, the moment of discovery came to pass and, with it, an awaited introduction to tasting pure and wonderfully made Jamaican cho-co-la-te – courtesy of, CDJM.

Jamrock Food 7 arrSetting my chocolate standards high, I scanned the package to determine if this ‘treasure’ measured up. The label read: “Dark chocolate, 70% cocoa” and “Original Jamaican Recipe.” So far so good, I was delighted at the sight of this particular bar and – without hesitation – picked it up for closer examination. Upon second glance, I noticed the brand was ‘en français’ – Cacao de Jamaïque – that’s consistent with Cocoa of Jamaica or Jamaican Cocoa. With respect to satisfying a “must,” we have a WINNER! CDJM pleasingly uses – as the package clearly reveals – “Authentic Jamaican Cocoa.”

Equally fortunate nearing departure, I spotted and purchased Black River Single Origin Chocolates. Specifically using 100% Jamaican Trinitario cocoa beans, Black River is similar to CDJM in that both companies keep true to the promise of integrating native Jamaican cocoa beans and on delivery of premium grade edible luxury. Though I have yet to identify a completely Jamaican bean-to-bar item – cocoa entirely grown, processed and transformed into moulded chocolate – on the island, I’m still “feeling alright” with my decided expenditure of CDJM and Black River Jamaican cocoa-rich products. Simply divine, CDJM’s dark chocolate bar is offered in generously proportioned squares and, as such, a little goes a long way. Smooth to the palate, a single piece of CDJM evokes intensely aromatic and robust cocoa flavour – no guilt, it’s my kind of black velvet. Unequivocally keen to “food of the gods,” I’m falling for Black River’s chocolate as well. Catering to a purist’s soul, Black River’s chocolate is: no fuss, no frills, and requires no ‘extra’ spices or add-ins to mask its exquisitely tempered and refined outcome – it’s pure cocoa at its best. Originating from a single island, Jamaican cocoa bean products are a rarity in their own right. Well-deserving of respect, it is with gratitude I profess: “Big up, to CDJM and Black River for encouraging this cocoa-driven endeavour to being – tastefully – accomplished.”

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

So Nice, It’s IRIE

Jamrock Food 3 arr

Yeah, mon! I just came back from Jamrock – Jamaica – and I had the time of my life. Paradise island for more reasons than one – inviting people, lovely weather, sandy beaches, dancehall music, etc. – let’s not forget the desires of our foodie friends. Jamrock Food 2 arrSure to be left speechless by “real-deal” cuisine, be sure to savour authentic jerk hut specialities and accompaniments. Like no other open-air b.b.q., selection of succulent and smokey jerk seasoned chicken, shrimp or pork with a side of rice and beans is plentiful. And if you like things hotter, laden some scotch bonnet sauce to your plateful and be on your merry way – just don’t forget the Red Stripe.

Jamrock Drink arrSo far, there’s no question Jamaican food is pretty ‘irie.’ Also trying and delighting in other popular favourites, I equally attest to the goodness of ackee and salt fish. The embodiment of tradition, this national dish uses regional ingredients like ackee fruit and is a must-indulge item on my list.

Speaking of produce, being conveniently situated in the tropics has its perks. Wanting a taste of homegrown Caribbean citrus and fruits alike, sampling native ‘otaheite’ – a.k.a. Jamaican apple – is a definite treat. After all, why not enjoy exotic gems that would otherwise be difficult to find in colder climates? To me, eating local just makes sense! Jamrock Food 1 arrPassionate about fruit and passion fruit – both – other splendours include: star apple, ‘chiny guinep’ – think lychee – ‘kamranga’ or starfruit, and ugli fruit that is quite contrary to its name.  A beauty both inside and out, this tangelo’s exterior bears a lime green peel and a contrasting vibrant orange interior flesh. While there are more Jamaican fruits to name, I’d like to share my favourite: naseberry. Until recent, I’ve never spotted or tasted naseberry. Fortunately, befriending and talking to locals is always helpful and equally made it easy to locate this particular edible treasure.

Jamrock Food 4 arrTruth be told: it’s the nase to my knees. But, why do l love it so? Good question! The answer is quite simple: this fruit is s-w-e-e-t. Truly toothsome, one bite of naseberry shares the intensity level of a date – for sugar! Oh so sweet in flavour, I would liken it’s delicate texture to that of an extremely ripened pear. All in all, my mini fruit tasting escapade is revealing of many pleasant palatable surprises.

More important than great food finds, encountering the kindness of Jamaican people leaves me with a lasting impression that I’ll never forget. Beyond words, Jamaicans are incredibly fun-loving and embody a sincerely warm and friendly spirit that added to one lively experience worth repeating. Needless to say: I must go back! Until then friends, bless up!

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Food of the gods”

SOMA chocolate 1 arr

Toronto is home to many foodie hotspots, and rightfully so. But, where do chocoholics go?  Having heard many great things of one particular chocolaterie, I thought I’d pay a little visit to a quaint gem in the heart of the Distillery District.  Say it is so ─ SOMA Chocolatemaker.  Catering to fans of all things cacao, enter this one-stop chocolate shop and you will not be disappointed.  A local paradise of sorts, SOMA looks, smells, and embodies the multifaceted tastes of chocolate.

SOMA chocolate 2 arrPleasantly surrounded by one of my favourite things ─ chocolate, of course ─ I take some time to admire the shop’s ambiance and machinery such as the cocoa grinder. Also capturing my attention, I locate an encased chocolate and nut salami that is uniquely made and available by SOMA.  Clarification provided, this show stopping treat contains no meat and can be sliced and served in rounds, making it ideal for individual delighting at any holiday party. SOMA chocolate 3 arr

SOMA chocolate 4 arrNeglecting not the other senses, it’s time to taste test. Patiently waiting in queue, I studiously scan the endless array of handcrafted chocolates, and begin to decide.  Certainly wanting chocolate, which one?  With no shortage of options, I decisively place an order of hot and cold, in addition to both liquid and solid cacao treats:  six truffles and a mug of Spicy Mayan Hot Chocolate.

Saving the confections for later, I first sample the ginger and cayenne infused hot chocolate. Clearly combining sweet with heat, this invigorating hot chocolate will leave your taste buds ─ on fire ─ with a chocolaty picante bite.  Needless to say, this spicy hot chocolate lives true to its name.

Another day, another chocolate? Yes, please!  SOMA chocolate 5 arrOpening my wrapped box of handpicked bonbons, I behold these heavenly beauties:  Brown Butter Truffle, 8 year aged Balsamic Vinegar, Roasted Cacao Bean, Magnolia Peach, Australian Ginger and Meyer Lemon, and a “unique origins” truffle.  Though a select few, the aforementioned truffles are all synonymous with pure quality chocolate that is aromatic, refined, and smooth while equally indicative of a myriad of flavours and textures.  Favouring the Peach Magnolia, I recommend it for its delicately perfumed taste and silky ganache interior.  The clean and bright citrus profile of the Australian Ginger and Lemon is pretty good in its own right, as are all the rest.  In all fairness, I haven’t had a bad ─ “Food of the gods” ─ experience at SOMA, and thank goodness.  Happily, my overall first impression is this:  SOMA truffles are more than chocolate ─ they’re chocolate made right!

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