Over the mountains we go – eating our way through the High Atlas in Morocco

Ha, I bet you thought I forgot about these posts. Never fear, I’m not stopping. I’m just slow!

We left Marrakech for a long trip through Morocco’s High Atlas mountains. After several hours driving on narrow, windy roads we stopped at a little town that I think was called Toufrine (I could be mistaken) for lunch.

Leaving Marrakech, Mark piled us into a car and we headed into the High Atlas Mountains. After windy roads and a long morning drive, we reached the small mountain town of Toufrine where we met our local guide, Mohamed.

Our gracious host and local guide was Mohamed, who started us off with a refreshing (and super sweet) cup of mint tea.

Mohamed pours mint tea

Mohamed pours mint tea

These almonds and pecans were from nearby trees. Don’t you wish we had this kind of local food in our backyards?

tea and snacks

tea and snacks

The main meal was a lamb tagine, with tender olives, tomatoes and potatoes piled high.

lamb tagine

lamb tagine

my plate

my plate

loaves of fresh khobz (bread)

loaves of fresh khobz (bread)

After stuffing ourselves, Mohamed took us to a nearby mountain town for some sightseeing. We were supposed to go to a town renowned for their waterfall, but the abnormal amount of rain in the area washed out the road and so instead we went to a totally different town called Tighfiste.

On our way there, after talking to someone on an old cell phone, he suddenly asked Mark, our regular guide, to stop the car and he climbed out. And then up. Straight up, in the pouring rain. Wearing only sandals. Trying to find him in the photo is like playing Where’s Waldo. Mohamed is the striped blur somewhere in the middle of the photo. I took this picture while sitting in the car and looking straight up.

Part mountain goat?

Part mountain goat?

He came back with reused water bottles and giant jugs of honey from someone who lives at the top of this cliff. And yes, he carried all of it down that same cliff.
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BLT Burger, Las Vegas

Later in the week we made a last minute decision to pick up some lunch at another “fancy” chef-owned burger place, BLT Burger located in the Mirage. This decision wasn’t fueled by a burger craving, but more as a way to erase (or at least make me feel better) about my not-so-hot experience over at the Burger Bar.

The “BLT” in the name stands for “Bistro Laurent Tourondel.” The atmosphere is modern and yet retro at the same time; each table had an old fashioned diner-style, and the servers were dressed in a casual uniform of BLT branded t-shirts with sayings on the back like “Tip waiters not cows.” Instead of hiding the cook-top, they treated the overhead vent as a display piece and have the cook-top surrounded by bar-style seating. (I didn’t take a photo but you can see the decor over here.)

We were seated right away because the restaurant, while busy, was quite large. They play their music very loud (probably to drown out the casino noises!), and our server was cheery and helpful.

BLT Burger placemat

BLT Burger placemat

This time, I was absolutely determined to have meat.

BLT’s burgers are a mix of Black Angus sirloin, short rib, chuck and brisket.They have a number of add-on toppings like portobello mushrooms, fried eggs, and homemade chili, as well as a number of alcoholic and non-alcoholic milkshakes.

I decided on the “Shaft’s Blue,” which was a grilled 7 oz patty served with Shaft’s Blue Vein Cheese, balsamic caramelized onion and mushrooms, with a big pickle on the side. And I ordered it cooked medium – which is something you can’t get at restaurants here.

Sweet potato fries and Shafts Blue burger

Sweet potato fried and Shaft's Blue burger

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A birthday and Coraline button cookies

Coraline poster - see the button eyes?

Coraline poster - see the button eyes?

One year ago today, I posted my first food blog entry here at The Brûlée Blog. I picked this date on purpose as it’s also my birthday. (And this way I remember when I started the blog. Anything that overcomes my horrible memory is always a bonus.)

I’ve made 144 posts (or 145 if you include this post) and had people find me by the most interesting search terms. I’ve never actively advertised this blog, but I’ve gotten more visitor stats than I originally expected.

To celebrate my birthday, I’m dragging my friends to go see the movie Coraline. The movie is based on a book by one of my favourite writers, Neil Gaiman, and today is the opening day. I figure it’s fate.

And to celebrate this blog’s birthday, I baked cookies. Chocolate almond button cookies in honour of Coraline, to be exact. I based the recipe on the Almond Apricot Cookies and changed it up. They’re wonderfully chocolatey, not too sweet, and nutty.

Coraline button cookies

Coraline button cookies

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A tale of two (apricot) cookies

Another post about the cookies I baked this past Christmas. This picture is of my first attempt at making a cookie with dried apricots. I saw this recipe and it looked easy and simple, so I figured why not? The cookies ended up spreading into thin discs and sticking very badly to the tin foil. The taste was not bad but much sweeter than I expected. They stuck so well to the tin foil that, after trying to peel some off without the cookie breaking, I gave up and tossed the whole thing out. I’m not even going to bother posting the recipe, because it failed so well.

Apricot cookie fail

Apricot cookie fail

My next attempt at an apricot cookie was a gluten-free apricot almond cookie recipe that I found through some Google searching. This is an unusual tasting cookie. Crunchy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside, they’re just slightly sweet. I had more than one person ask me if there was coconut in the cookie, but it was actually the texture of the ground almond flour. The original recipe calls them butter cookies, but they aren’t very buttery tasting. Rather, they taste more like large macaroons. I think the cookie was made more unique by the shapes I baked them in as well. Dropping the cookies gave them a rough and rustic look, while pressing down the mounds just gave them a vaguely round shape that didn’t seem to crisp as well as the dropped version. I made a few changes to the recipe based on comments on the original recipe web page, mainly adding more almond flour, adding more apricots and reducing the amount of sugar.

Flourless apricot almond cookies - success!

Flourless apricot almond cookies - success!

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Chocolate and almond financiers

Before I met her, one of my friends was diagnosed with Celiac disease, which means she cannot eat anything with gluten (wheat, soy sauce, bread, etc.). Luckily, with the ability to share experiences and recipes over the Internet, there are many gluten-free recipes to be found.

My challenge with gluten-free baking though, is that most of it requires a mix of different kinds of flour (potato flour, arrowroot flour, rice flour, xanthan gum, etc.). Except for when I bake something for my friend, I will not usually use these multitudes of different flours and am reluctant to buy them only to have them sit in my pantry for long periods of time. So when I saw this simple David Lebovitz recipe for chocolate financiers on the Gluten-Free Girl’s blog, I couldn’t resist giving it a try.

Chocolate and almond financier

Chocolate and almond financier

This has become one of my go-to “let’s impress people” dishes because they’re so tiny and yet pack in so much chocolate and almond flavour. People love these things; it’s just a bonus that they’re gluten-free too. Continue reading