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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Ginseng Restaurant, Edmonton

Last month, a group of friends and I headed out for some Korean BBQ. Ginseng Restaurant specializes in an all-you-can-eat, cook-it-yourself BBQ buffet.

buffet table

buffet table

About half of the buffet has a variety of marinated raw chicken, beef and pork, as well as seafood such as shrimp, mussels, clams and squid. The other half has cooked food such as rice, noodles, tempura, kimchee,  tofu stir-fry, etc.

pre-cooked food and fruit

pre-cooked food and fruit

Each table has a built-in grill set in the middle. You’re given tongs to use to cook your food, and away you go! The metal grill plate gets covered with blackened fats quite quickly, and a waitress came by often to replace our grill plate with a clean, newly oiled version.

grill and raw food

grill and raw food

I was happy with the variety that Ginseng offers on their buffet table. The marinated meats ranged from mild to spicy, and the cuts weren’t too bad. I liked that they cut up vegetables for the grill as well.

If you go, go early as the place fills up quickly. Also, be aware that you will walk out of the place reeking of meat and smoke. There are giant vents over each table (like those that you would find over a stove), but it didn’t seem like the restaurant actually turned them on. The room had a visible haze of cooking smoke by the end of our meal. It also probably didn’t help that the table behind us kept burning their food. All of us smelled like meat for the rest of the evening.

The buffet costs $29 per person and  includes non-alcoholic drinks, but not dessert other than the fruit that is on the buffet table. The restaurant also has a regular menu, but everyone there seemed to eat from the buffet.

Ginseng Restaurant
9261 – 34 Avenue
Edmonton, AB

Ginseng Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sabzy Persian Grill, Edmonton

A meeting on the south side and the opportunity for a solo lunch drew me over to Sabzy Persian Grill. I’ve heard a lot about Sabzy but haven’t had a chance to visit until just recently.

Sabzy Persian Grill

Sabzy Persian Grill

The outdoor patio (over on the west side of the building) looked inviting but since it was just me eating I opted for an indoor table. My order was a small version of one of their daily specials – the eggplant stew. (Apologies for the blurriness of the photo; I didn’t realize that I needed to retake the picture.) The stew came with a giant piece of tender eggplant, a number of pieces of flavourful chicken, and a preserved lemon, all placed on a bed of rice. I was warned not to take huge bites of the lemon, and it was for good reason. Instead of eating the lemon I squished it into my rice and over my chicken, giving the entire dish a pleasant tangy flavour.

It was a solid dish and service was very attentive. My only criticism is that I wish the eggplant had been cut up prior to being served.

eggplant stew

eggplant stew

Sabzy Persian Grill
10416 82 Avenue, Edmonton
www.sabzy.net

Sabzy Persian Grill on Urbanspoon

S&M Café, London

It’s not everyday that you get to eat at a place called S&M. And then you have to explain to people that it’s not as kinky as it sounds, as it actually stands for sausage and mash. S&M Café is a local chain in London that specializes in “great British grub,” and we were there specifically for one of their breakfasts. More specifically, a Full English Breakfast.

S&M Café

S&M Café

I’m told that you can usually get the full English breakfast experience at most pubs, but this restaurant was recommended to us by a friend and their Spitalfields location was near where we were staying, so it made a great spot for us to grab some food before heading off for sightseeing for the day. Customer service was fast and extremely friendly – our waiter joked around with us every time he came around to our table.

We were there in the morning so we only saw the breakfast menu, but a quick glance at their regular menu posted on their website shows that they have a number of other traditional British fare available, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options.

The menu

The menu

Of course, the first thing that we ordered was the Great British All Day Breakfast for those in the group who were new to the experience. Toast, bacon, sausage, bubble and squeak, egg, baked beans, mushrooms, and tomatoes filled the plate to bursting.

Great British All Day Breakfast

Great British All Day Breakfast

Now, I have eaten full English breakfasts before (although then it was called full Scottish breakfast because it was in Edinburgh, and those ones had the option of adding haggis, vegetarian haggis, and/or black pudding), and I knew how greasy those plates can get, so I was more than happy to try something different. I opted for the Vegetarian All Day Breakfast, which included all the same items except that it replaced the bacon and sausage with Caerphilly cheese and leek sausages. (I think it was the cheese that convinced me that it was the right way to go.)

Vegetarian All Day Breakfast

Vegetarian All Day Breakfast

I have to say that although the regular sausages and the bacon were good, my Caerphilly cheese and leek sausages were spectacular. Crunchy on the outside, they had the texture of cornbread on the inside and great mix of leek and quite mild cheese flavours.

Caerphilly cheese and leek sausages

Caerphilly cheese and leek sausages

The bubble and squeak was a mixture of mashed potatoes and vegetables, including squash blossoms.

bubble and squeak

bubble and squeak

We stuffed ourselves silly, and rolled out of the restaurant while complaining that we were too full to walk.

condiments - mustards, ketchup and HP sauce

condiments - mustards, ketchup and HP sauce

S&M Café
various locations in London, England
www.sandmcafe.co.uk

S & M Café on Urbanspoon

Double Greeting Won Ton House, Edmonton

If you are looking for cheap and greasy Chinese food, this is the place in Edmonton to get it.

Double Greeting has been around for longer than I can remember. I ate here as a kid, and I still eat here as an adult. It’s one of those places that look a little dingy but has a steady set of loyal customers – both Asian and non-Asian.

The key to ordering here is to stick to noodle and rice dishes. Won ton too, of course. The congee is okay too.

Beef chow fun is one of my standby dishes at noodle cafe such as Double Greeting. There are variations of it that you can order – seafood instead of beef, more vegetables, etc. This is one of the dishes that I use as a bellwether to test the quality of food at a restaurant.

Double Greeting’s beef chow fun has lots of tender beef, lots of bean sprouts (but not too many), the noodles are firm but soft and not at all gluey, and the dish has enough grease on it to make the noodles shine but not so much as to make it taste really oily in your mouth. Oh, and see the slight char on the noodles? Yum.

beef chow fun

beef chow fun

Another dish that I order a lot – mostly because I like it and not because I use it to judge the food at a restaurant – is salted fish and chicken fried rice. A good version of this dish will have a little bit of egg, small to medium sized chunks of tender chicken and plenty of shredded salted fish scattered throughout the rice. Too much fish means the rice is oversalted, and too little fish will mean the rice is bland.

salted fish and chicken fried rice

salted fish and chicken fried rice

I was let down by Double Greeting’s version of this dish. It wasn’t greasy, which was good, but they skimped on the salted fish and as a result the rice was bland and I was craving flavour. I would rather have Spicy Garden’s version.

If you are in the mood for rice at Double Greeting, I suggest trying the pineapple and chicken fried rice instead of the salted fish and chicken.

Double Greeting Won Ton House
10212-96 Street, Edmonton

Double Greeting Wonton House on Urbanspoon

Balut and a blogiversary

Today this blog is two years old. And to celebrate I tried something new to me. Something very, very new.

Balut. The sound of that word will either bring you great pleasure, true horror, or utter confusion.

First, a little education for you. What is balut, you may ask? Well, it is a fertilized duck or chicken egg with a nearly-developed embryo. You boil it, peel the shell, and gobble it down. This Filipino delicacy can also be found in Vietnam where it is called Hột vịt lộn. It is also considered to be an aphrodisiac and a high source of protein.

When I asked a friend of mine if she knew where I could track down some balut, she got very excited and said she’d find some for me. Ironically — or logically depending on your opinion of balut — each egg was stamped with the word “treat.”

Treat? Or trick!

Treat? Or trick!

They are already cooked, but need to be warmed prior to eating so the eggs were popped into some boiling water.

reheating the eggs

reheating the eggs

Once hot, the next step is to crack the bottom of the egg (the wide part), and carefully peel away part of the shell. Inside the egg is a lot of “soup” that you drink prior to peeling the remainder of the shell. The liquid, also known as embryonic fluid, made peeling the eggs a bit of a messy business as it was quite easy to spill some out of the shell. It tasted, surprisingly, like chicken broth. Slurp up that sucker (I downed it like a shot) and peel away the rest of the shell.

soup, a.k.a. the embryonic fluid

soup, a.k.a. the embryonic fluid

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Dill pickle chicken salad

I made a chicken salad with leftover roasted chicken, but it felt too ordinary so I jazzed it up with dill pickles. Lots of dill pickles.

dill pickle chicken salad

dill pickle chicken salad

Dill pickle chicken salad
All measurements are approximate; adjust to your personal preference.

1 ½ cups shredded roasted chicken
1 rib of celery, diced
1 shallot, diced
4-5 tbsp mayonnaise or low-fat whipped dressing
4-5 tbsp diced dill pickles
salt and pepper to taste

Mix and eat by itself or on a sandwich with toasted bread and some sort of green leaf/butter/whatever lettuce leaves.