Riad Elizabeth, Marrakech

Goodbye London! After a cramped flight on a discount airline, we landed in Marrakech, Morocco. Our guide, Mark from Mad About Morocco, arranged for a driver to pick us up and deliver us to our first stop where we would spend the next two nights, the Riad Elizabeth.

Before I go on I should explain a couple of terms that you will see me use quite often in my Moroccan posts.

A medina is a section in North African cities that is sometimes referred to as “old town.” It is the oldest or older part of the city, and was built by the Arabs as a walled town with many narrow streets. The streets are so narrow that some, if not all, streets must be accessed on foot and by donkey. Cars usually cannot access these streets, and in some cases they also can be too narrow for carts, bicycles and motorcycles (not that this stops anyone from roaring their motorcycle down a narrow medina street). Medinas often are like mazes, with many twists and turns, and contain many places of historical interest like palaces, mosques and fountains. They usually have multiple gates, and sectioned off quarters. This is where all the tourists want to go, and where many Moroccans want to move out of, as the newer sections of the city are more modern and middle-class.

Marrakech medina, just outside of Riad Elizabeth

Marrakech medina, just outside of Riad Elizabeth

A riad is a traditional Moroccan home that has a central open-air courtyard and/or garden in the middle. The rooms of the house surround the courtyard, which is traditionally open to the outdoors, although many modern renovations now have retractable roofing to cover the opening. Many renovated riads now serve as hotels and restaurants.

Located in Marrakech’s medina, the Riad Elizabeth is unique in that it is relatively easily accessible by car (although you still have to walk for a minute or so).

Riad Elizabeth

Riad Elizabeth

One of the owners, an ex-pat Brit named John, greeted us and immediately sat us down for some lovely homemade cookies and mint tea. Hospitality is a very important part of Moroccan life; as soon as you enter someone’s home you are offered mint tea and some sort of snack.

cookies

cookies

Mint tea is a traditional drink in Morocco, and it is served in small glasses. It is made by brewing green tea (sometimes jasmine or gunpowder) and adding large amounts of fresh mint. And lots and lots of sugar. Moroccans love adding copious amounts of sugar into their tea.

tea set

tea set

In my small cup I added one sugar cube and it was plenty for me. John told us that Moroccans would probably have added 4 or more cubes of sugar.

my first taste of mint tea

my first taste of mint tea

The entire riad has been renovated, which made for a nice, easy transition into the culture and atmosphere of Morocco.

our room

our room

flower close up

flower close up

Wait, who's that in the mirror?

Wait, who's that in the mirror?

view of the courtyard from above

view of the courtyard from above

This riad can arrange for dinner, or can help you with taxis to restaurants. Every room comes complete with a full breakfast, served on the riad’s rooftop patio. Clockwise, starting at 12 o’clock, are toasted baguettes, Moroccan bread (named khobz and pronounced hobs in Arabic), fluffy Moroccan pancakes (named beghrir in Arabic), and thin Moroccan crepes (named msemen in Arabic). The crepes reminded me of Malaysian roti. The jam was delicious, and the orange juice was freshly squeezed and sweet. Oh and the oranges! I fell in love with Morocco’s oranges. Almost every orange I ate during the trip was sweeter and tastier than any orange I’ve had in North America. And these oranges were winter oranges; in the summer they are even sweeter!

breakfast, day 1

breakfast, day 1

The breakfast we had before we left Marrakech consisted of French toast made from baguettes (top), more khobz bread, and semolina bread (named harsha in Arabic). And more fruit. I gobbled the oranges.

breakfast, day 2

breakfast, day 2

John, his wife Elizabeth, the riad’s manager Kamal, and all their staff went out of their way to make our stay a pleasant one. It was an auspicious (and delicious) start to the Morocco leg of our trip.

Riad Elizabeth
Derb El Baroud, Hart Essoura
Marrakech Medina 40000
Morocco
www.riadelizabeth.com

Urban Diner, Edmonton

A friend and I popped over to the Urban Diner for brunch on the weekend. The brunch menu isn’t large, but I’ve always found the food to be delicious.

I normally do not eat eggs benedict. Generally, I find hollandaise sauces to be too creamy and too rich. The first time I had brunch here, I had a craving for eggs benedict for some odd reason and fell in love with the Urban Diner’s version.

eggs benedict on French bread and diner potatoes

eggs benedict on French bread and diner potatoes

They give you just enough hollandaise to cover the eggs, but not so much that it drowns everything. The sauce itself is slightly tangy, which allows the taste to cut through some of the creaminess. The ham is sliced thinly enough that you can cut it with a butter knife, but thick enough so that there is plenty to chew. The eggs can be ordered soft, medium or hard; I prefer a soft or medium so that the yolk can soak into the bread. And instead of an English muffin, the eggs are served on a slice of French bread. This dish also comes with a very tasty side of diner potatoes fried with leeks.

My dining companion ordered two eggs with sourdough toast, jam (that I suspect is home-made but did not get a confirmation of this), sausages and diner potatoes.

eggs, sausauge and toasted sourdough bread

eggs, sausauge and toasted sourdough bread

Continue reading

Two more low sugar and sugar-free cookies

Sugar-free Chocolate and Jam Cookies

Sugar-free Chocolate and Jam Cookies

This will be the 2nd last post about Christmas cookies. I’m so close to the end of them that I can almost taste it!

After the epic failure of the sugar-free shortbread, I tried a couple of other low sugar and sugar-free recipes.

The first one was sugar-free chocolate cookie recipe, made with jam. Unfortunately I had a hard time finding sugar-free jam for some strange reason, and ended up using a “no sugar added” jam instead. Not ideal, but not bad for a diabetic. Continue reading