You must (fon)due this hike!

This is a hike I have had the privilege of doing twice, and it is not far from Neuchâtel, Switzerland, where I live.  In this hike, you essentially hike up and down what is called the “Creux du Van”.  The Creux du Van is a huge rock formation (apparently called a rock “cirque”:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creux_du_Van) that you spend a tough 30-45 minutes hiking straight up, followed by a leisurely hike down (1-2 hours).  Here is a link describing the hike:  http://activityworkshop.net/hiking/switzerland/creuxduvan.html . It is describing a slightly longer hike (don’t be thrown off – it doesn’t take 7 hours as it is listed!!!)

Despite the difficult hike up (known for its 13 switchbacks – believe me, you count them as you go) the view you are rewarded with (if there’s no fog) is stunning!  Not only that, but you are also greeted by the sound of swiss cow bells, because there are a few farms up top.  After the hike you can stop at Ferme Robert for a classic Swiss dish – cheese fondue!  Not a bad way to finish it all off, I can assure you.  Eat your fondue one of the typical ways, with a nice cup of hot tea.  Ferme Robert even has a little natural history museum upstairs, if you’re not already sold by their cheesy specialty!  (http://www.ferme-robert.ch/)
Here are a few photos I took on my first hike (the weather was so foggy the second time, I didn’t bother taking any):
Happy Monday!

northkate

Savory Saturday – Ohh the celebrations!

Aside from being my sister birthday yesterday, it was also celebration time with my boyfriend as we have been together for 2 whole years!

Happy anniversary dude! (so romantic).

No cooking for me today, just reenacting our first date today!

Here is the place we met and shared a plate o frites:

Ahhh the memories!

Thanks S. for introducing me to Yellowstone, for inspiring me and motivating me, and for all the fabulous food (DEEP DISH PIZZA)!

 

By the way, try OnTheWay

I saw this website OnTheWayApp, where you can plug in a road trip start and destination and it will plot “must sees” along the way.

What a great concept, and then I put it into practice.

Last summer, I drove out from Toronto to Yellowstone (Wyoming/Montana) and had probably the greatest tour guide (my boy) directing me to our destination. He has been to Yellowstone every year since he was 10 years old (29 now).

Although he either flew in, or drove in from Vancouver, he still had one of those great childhoods where he and his parents explored as many park as they could when he was growing up.

What I am saying about this new site is – it is great if you have absolutely no clue where to stop and what to eat along your road trip journey.

But when I looked up the route we took last year to Yellowstone, it recommended stopping at a movie theatre in Guelph (been there….it’s a movie theatre), then Limeridge Mall in Hamilton (ummm a mall, with banks, a few clothing stores and a food court), after the mall, it recommended John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario where you could view the OHL hockey team for an evening, if they are playing there that evening…in the fall – spring…then IKEA in Dearborn, Michigan.

It’s a great way to look up malls and arenas as I discovered after looking up alternate road trip destinations.

Really, I despise criticizing anything, but this site is just a google map with a few tagged waypoints.

Great concept, but more people need to ‘write in’ the local must-sees to make this site work.

Savory Saturday – Where the Buffalo Roam (in Canada)

I will not be cooking at all today, I am sorry.

My travels take me to the heart of Southwestern Ontario to see my good friends new baby girl. When I return home in the evening, I am looking forward to going for a bite to eat at one of my boys’ favorite Canadian pubs – Rebel House.

It’s one of those places you would love to be stuck in on a snowy day in the middle of winter. So cosy with a few fireplaces, friendly people, cheap, and amazing LOCAL food.

My mind is already focused on the mussels and the Buffalo Burger that I will quickly spill out to my waiter/waitress:

DOWNEAST MUSSELS – Fresh P.E.I. mussels with the chef’s daily sauce and spiced bread

BUFFALO BURGER

Fresh minced buffalo and beef grilled to order and served with homemade spicy ancho pepper ketchup, red onion, tomato and pickle on a country Kaiser with house salad and/or kettle fries

So, I am a bit curious as to how Buffalo burgers are created….and I need to have a recipe available for my ‘Savory Saturday’ post today….

Here we go! (with a recipe from Canadian Living)

Butchers at farmer’s markets and specialty stores are great sources for homegrown bison. Try these burgers with grainy mustard and whole wheat buns.

Ingredients

Preparation

In skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion, stirring often, until softened and golden, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, mix together egg, bread crumbs, beer, mustard, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir in onions, then bison; mix until just combined. Shape into four 3/4-inch (2 cm) thick patties. (Make-ahead: Store, separated by waxed paper, in airtight container and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Or freeze for up to 1 month; defrost in refrigerator.)

Place patties on greased grill over medium heat; close lid and grill, turning once, until no longer pink inside and digital thermometer inserted sideways into centre reads 160°F (71°C), about 10 minutes. Sandwich in buns.

Pizza pizza pizza!

Shout out to my boyfriend today for this post. The ultimate pizza maniac I have ever, and will ever know.

Source

Lonely Planet came out with an article on the best pizza in the USA. It mostly discusses the debate between New York or Chicago style pizza. As a person who has only had Chicago deep-dish, and has tested it a total of 4 times at different places, I have to say that it would be very tough to beat this ooey-gooey-cheesy goodness.

Here are their top picks:

Manhattan

1. Joe’s in the West Village

2. John’s in the West Village or Midtown

3. Patsy’s uptown.

Brooklyn

Source

1. Grimaldi’s, under Brooklyn Bridge

2. Di Fara (1424 Ave J)

3. Franny’s in Prospect Heights

4. Totonno’s by Coney Island

5. Lucali’s in Carroll Gardens

Chicago

1. Giordano’s in the Near North

California, New Haven, and St. Louis are also mentioned. Which I found came right out of left field!

I was a bit disappointed that they only listed one pizza restaurant in Chicago. Me thinks Lou Malnati’s and Gino’s East should be included as well. (read my review of Lou’s on my Restaurant page!). Can’t complaint too much since Giordano’s is where it’s at!

In Canada, I have a few to add to the list:

Toronto, Ontario

Source

1. Queen Margherita Pizza

2. Terroni’s

3. La Vecchia

4. Mercatto

5. Camerra’s

Kingston, Ontario

1. Wooden Heads

Halifax, Nova Scotia

1. King of Donair (KOD)

Quebec City, Quebec

Source

1. Portofino

2. Savini

Vancouver, British Columbia

1. Hell’s Kitchen

2. Incendio

Victoria, British Columbia

1. The Joint

Waterloo, Ontario

1. McMullens

I think the most entertaining aspect of this article are the comments at the end. Some people, like I just did here, recommended their own favorite pie places.

But a few actually were offended by this piece of writing. Come on, it’s pizza! Everyone has their own tastes, don’t be a pizza party pooper.

Mmmmmm pizza…

Minervas, Sioux Falls

If you ever find yourself hungry in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, please try Minervas on Phillips Ave.. It was an unexpected and pleasant surprise to fulfil my hunger this summer when traveling back to Toronto from the Rockies.

I tried the Balsamic Steak Tips which consisted of sautéed steak tips, caramelized onions & mushrooms, balsamic glaze drizzle, and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Deeeeelicious!!

What a great meal! Not sure if I will ever return to Sioux Falls, but if I do, I know where I am eating!

K-Bar

I need to talk about this bar/restaurant I went to in Gardiner, Montana that is the sort of place that you just know the food is going to either be the most disgusting thing you have ever eaten, or the most amazingly delicious food you would have never thought to try.

Let me start with what K-Bar looks like. On the outside, there is a huge red sign with those light bulbs framing the word K-BAR in that clown-ish font. The sign on the outside of the bar read, “must leave alcohol inside” and on the inside, “No Hunting or Trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Survivors will be prosecuted again” and “patrons are requested to refrain from disposing of cigarette butts in the urinals as they become soggy and difficult to light”. Just the look of it says, late night, smoke filled, shady pool hall in small town USA.

Next, I’ll tell you about the people. The cook in the bar is the owner’s son, who must be 14 years old. The bartender/waiter resembles a stereotypical mountain man, complete with the requisite mountain man beard – and on the day I went, he had just finished for the day at his other job as a white water rafting guide.

So the food should be on par with an awful, cliche dive bar, right?

Nope.

The K-Bar pizza is one of the greatest pies I have ever tasted – and I have tasted plenty! The sauce is what got me; I absolutely loved it. When I asked the owner what the secret was, he said it was his wife’s secret, but might have to do with a lot of fennel and garlic. My boyfriend feels it’s the cheese that makes this pizza. Apparently, the wife of the owner grew up on a dairy farm, where this unique cheese was discovered and made en mass by the family. Deeeelicious!

Can I tell you, also, that the from the owners to the staff to the patrons, you will not find a nicer group of people than at the K-Bar? Bar none, they were the nicest people I met on my trip. They all came out to make sure we had the best food experience of our lives. Which brought us back two nights in a row…during our 2 night stay near Gardiner, Montana.

Gino’s East

The trifecta of the supposed top three pizza destinations in Chicago has been completed. Earlier on this year, I visited this beautiful city to test out the famous deep dish pizza.

1. Lou Milnati’s – it was decided that this pie had the best sauce. Crust was not a favorite, when compared with:

2. Giordanno’s – best crust, best cheese, best overall experience. But the sauce needs to compete with Lou’s exceptional chunky, real tomato, garlic infused sauce. Drool…

3. Gino’s East – finally tested and quite good. A great overall pie but doesn’t quite have an amazing sauce or crust or cheese to help edge it out of the crowd of deep dish delights in the city.

So, having said all of that. I would still visit Giordanno’s if I were only able to choose from one pizza pie.

This time, a few locals we went for a drink with suggested the following EVEN BETTER (they say) places.

1. Peqoud’s Pizza
2. Uno Duo
3. Great Lakes Pizza

Oh boy….. Chicago Part III, I’m coming for you!

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Ta-da!!!

It has been such a long time since I have been able to write on this blog. I have missed it! But I am doing my due diligence by actually getting out there and traveling away.

I left on a Tuesday evening three weeks ago for Yellowstone National Park and a couple other pit stops on this journey. So far, I have been gone almost 4 weeks and was able to see and experience some amazing things (mostly to do with wildlife).

Day 1 – From my home base of Toronto, the first stop my boyfriend and I made was in Waterloo, Ontario…about 1 hour away. Big drive, huh? We needed to stop for dinner and both of us were craving a pizza joint that we fell in love with last fall. McMullan’s. YUM! Ok, here I go again talking about pizza, sorry!

After that, our next stop was somewhere in Michigan. Honestly I cannot remember what town we stayed in…I am thinking Battle Creek. The hotels all along the highway were booked up! We couldn’t believe it! I am thinking it was because of the string of violent storms that we drove through and actually dodged a few tornadoes. If we had arrived in a town a few hours earlier on our drive in, we would have actually been in a tornado!! As you know, one of the items on my bucket list is to go tornado chasing…. (more tornado adventures to come this story, don’t worry), but driving through the heavy rain, in pitch black, only to see very strange clouds every time there is a flash of lightining…not the most of fun in my little car.

Day 2 – What a long day of driving. Starting out from Battle Creek, I drove 14.5 hours to our hotel for the evening in Kilarney, Nebraska.

A semi-eventful day, I would say. As eventful as you could get when you are stuck in the car for most of the day. We drove through a few more storms which, we heard later, had also produced a few tornadoes. My tornado chasing dream is coming closer and closer…but wait there will be more yet on tornadoes still.

On the trip, we planned out where our first destination would be…talk about late planners! Grand Teton National Park was the place. There had been several grizzly bear sightings there and my boyfriend felt confident that he could get us some amazing viewing of them there. I am so glad I took my good camera with me.

Another long drive ahead tomorrow – destination Dubois, Wyoming….

Day 3 – A 9 hour drive, so short compared to yesterday! Rawlings, Wyoming was an awesome pit-stop about half way through. I really wanted to stop at Anne’s Thai Cuisine, but settled on stocking up for our camping trip that was to begin the next day and we grabbed a quick bite from the grocery store.

So HERE is my great tornado story. Guess what? We are pulling into the great town of Dubois, Wyoming in the evening and I felt my little car struggling to stay on the road from the wind. It was getting extremely dark out and they rain was starting to fall. The gusts got so strong, my car swerved a few times off the road. I told my boyfriend earlier that there would be no way that a tornado would form in this area, with all the mountains in the way. Ohhh I was wrong! We get through the final stretch of the highway into the city blowing around the whole time. Once in the town, I hear this noise….roll down the window, tornado siren!!!! I pulled over immediately and for some strange reason, shouted out “YES!!!!” and my boyfriend is getting out his camera. Yes, I did check to see that there was shelter around, but I really wanted to see where the threat was.

It was right above us, a funnel cloud! We hopped back into the car and drove toward the storm again…the smart thing to do right? DO NOT do this!! We were very very careful, watching the clouds, not getting too close. We paused when we thought we were close enough and took a few pictures and a short video. All of which didn’t turn out very well due to the heavy rain and wind. Fortunately for the town, the tornado did not form, the funnel cloud was fine enough for me to watch.

Afterward, we talked to the town-folk and they also discovered that day that their town actually had a tornado warning system.

Day 4 – only a few hours drive to Grand Teton National Park and when we arrived, we set up camp in Coulter Bay with out brand new tent, which so far, has been a great treat for us. No leaks, and quick set up!

That’s where I am going to stop. Right now, I am in Yellowstone National Park, after we spent a week in Grand Teton. More talk about bears, food, and gorgeous landscapes to come!

Savour Savini and Portofino

Two great restaurants in Quebec City to try out. Both Italian! I also ordered pizza at both. Sorry for the lack of variety!

Savini

The cab driver on the way in from the airport recommended this one. We walked by a few times and it always seemed so busy! Reservations were made for that evening and we were not disappointed.

I ordered the Prosciutto melone to begin, trying to take myself back to the first time I tried it in Italy. Good…but not quite the great magnificence I remember. For my pizza, I devoured the Salsiccia. Great, I would try it again! I also tasted the pasta with duck conofite. Very different, and lovely flavours…not a duck person though. The caesar salad is outstanding though, as I also snuck in a forkful of that from my neighbour.

Portofino

Off a side street, a bit lower-key than Savinin, it was recommended by a companion we met that lived near the city. I felt like I was truly in Italy when I visited this place for lunch. PS – They have some of their signature recipes on their website, just in case you try something you love and want to test your cooking expertise among the experts at this restaurant.

For lunch, I ordered Pizza diavolo. Drooooool. Better than Savini, and I watched them make it and place it so lovingly in their fire to cook it. One of my eating partners ordered the calazone and she absolutely loved it!