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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St. Albert Farmers’ Market

I know I talk a lot about the downtown Edmonton City Market, but one of my other favourite local farmers’ markets is out in St. Albert. Open every Saturday until October 9, the city closes down a couple of streets to traffic so that the St. Albert Farmers’ Market can take over the space.

St. Albert Farmers' Market

St. Albert Farmers' Market

It’s so popular that they even have shuttle buses running to ferry people to the market.

crowds on a sunny day

crowds on a sunny day

more crowds

more crowds

There is a section for food like donuts, popcorn, hot dogs, lemonade, etc. set up right next to city hall.

concession stands

concession stands

While some of the stands are also present at the City Market or the Old Strathcona Market, the St. Albert one has quite a few booths that are unique. The Cinnamon Girl’s booth is always crowded and stock sells out quickly.

Cinnamon Girl

Cinnamon Girl

Fancy Shmancy sells delcious mini brownies of various flavours, as well as a great cookie. I can’t resist stopping here whenever I come to this market.

Fancy Shmancy

Fancy Shmancy

Fancy Shmancy's baked goods

Fancy Shmancy's baked goods

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Sofra, Edmonton

A group of friends and I planned a night out at Sofra, a Turkish restaurant that none of us had tried before. The interior is small but interesting – lots of wood and a giant horse statue at the entrance. Each table has a charm embedded into the table surface – a glass eye as a charm against the evil eye. I did think about taking a photo of one, but I decided that it would probably give me bad luck or something and erred on the safe side.

To drink, I tried some Turk Cayi – Turkish tea. It arrived in a tiny cup with a spoon and a sugar cube. And it tasted like orange pekoe. Yeah, I felt a little ripped off.

Turk Cayi (Turkish tea)

Turk Cayi (Turkish tea)

Two people tried the pideler – traditional forno-baked pizzas.

The first was the Tavuklu Pide, a chicken, tomato, green pepper and cheese pizza.

Tavuklu Pide (chicken pizza)

Tavuklu Pide (chicken pizza)

The second was a Kiymali Pide, a ground beef pizza with with vegetables and cheese.

Kiymali Pide (ground beef pizza)

Kiymali Pide (ground beef pizza)

Both pizzas had plenty of cheese and the toppings tasted okay, but the pizzas didn’t wow anyone at the table except for the light, flaky crust. Continue reading

Tropika, Edmonton

I recently stopped at Tropika for a meal, and picked a few things off their menu to share.

Unlike in Malaysia, these portions are quite large. An order of Singapore laksa (made with what looks like a red curry as opposed to a yellow curry) can feed 2-4 people. The flavour of it was good but it was disappointing to find that the majority of the bowl was made up of noodles. It would have been nice to have more sliced of fish cake, tofu puffs, shrimp and bean sprouts.

Singapore laksa

Singapore laksa

Their roti canai is light and fluffy; I would say lighter and fluffier than the ones I ate in Malaysia. The accompanying curry sauce is, like their laksa, more of a red curry than yellow. Their satays (chicken and lamb pictured here) are seasoned well and come with a dish of spicy peanut sauce, pineapple and cucumber. The peanut sauce is probably the best part of this dish.

roti canai and satay

roti canai and satay

Tropika is pretty much the only Malaysian restaurant in Edmonton. I wish there were more choices, but you make due with what you’ve got! I tend to stick to a few specific dishes such as the ones I ordered, or perhaps picking up some mee goreng instead of a laksa. Their pineapple fried rice, served in half of a pineapple, is a great dish for kids or for adults who are looking for something without heat. If you want to try Malaysian food, I would suggest going to Tropika (and staying away from the Thai dishes as there are better places to have Thai food in Edmonton), or try the handful of Malaysian dishes over at Matahari on 124 st.

Tropika
6004-104 Street
Edmonton, AB
or
14921 Stony Plain Road
Edmonton, AB
www.tropikagroup.com

Tropika (South) Malaysian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Mexico Lindo, Edmonton

One of my Easter meals was a dinner with friends at Mexico Lindo. I had heard a lot about this place, so I was excited to give it a try.

The restaurant is quite small, and was full when we arrived. After waiting for a short time, we were seated. Surprisingly, the later it got, the more empty the restaurant became. So if you want a table on a Saturday night, come at 7:30 p.m. Service was extremely friendly and even a little entertaining. The food also arrived relatively quickly.

To start, we ordered a jug of agua de Jamaica (Jamaica water). This is cold iced tea made from hibiscus flowers. And it tastes like liquid haw flakes (a.k.a. Chinese candy that is addictive like crack).

agua de Jamaica

agua de Jamaica

To start, I decided to go with the sopa de tortilla (tortilla soup). Soup is served at this restaurant in two parts. First, I was given a bowl of tortilla chips, cheese and avocado.

Sopa de tortilla without broth

Sopa de tortilla without broth

Then, they poured on the soup! Yum. Everyone at the table tasted it and thought it was good. Continue reading

The Blue Pear, Edmonton

Ever so slowly, I am trying all the “good” restaurants around the city. It’s kind of an expensive hobby though, so most of the time these visits are regulated to special occasion events.

With this in mind, I made a special request to my mother. Instead of buying expensive Christmas presents that sit around and gather dust, I asked to be taken out for dinner at The Blue Pear. This is a somewhat unique restaurant in Edmonton. The menu is seasonal and changes every month or two. They have a small dining room and reservations fill up quickly. The menu is a five-course set dinner at $85 per person (not including tax, tip, or drinks), where you can choose your meal from a limited number of appetizers, entrees and desserts. You also order a side dish of Atlantic lobster tail or seared grade A foie gras for an extra charge.

Exterior of The Blue Pear, with snow covering the name and a fuzzy shot of the neon pear above the door.

Exterior of The Blue Pear, with snow covering the name and a fuzzy shot of the neon pear above the door.

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Ernest’s (NAIT School of Hospitality), Edmonton

If you want a high class meal at discount prices, one sure way is to try out the local chef school. In my case, that would be Ernest’s, NAIT’s School of Hospitality restaurant where second year culinary arts students get to test out their skills.

The evening I was there, you could choose from their regular menu or from a special set menu designed by a group of students. The special menu was tempting, but the entree was a Peking-style duck with noodles. I’d rather go eat that in Chinatown. So instead my table chose their items from the menu.

First off, apologies for the dark photos. We were in a dark section of the restaurant and I really didn’t want to use my flash. I did a tiny bit of adjustment in Photoshop, but I didn’t want to change the photos too much.

To start, we shared a plate of crab cakes (creole mustard, arugula & lemon, red pepper oil). The flavours were great; the crab cake was creamy inside and the dipping sauces complimented the crab very well, although I think I prefered the mustard to the red pepper oil. My one complaint was that, although it looked perfectly cooked, as soon as you picked up a crab cake it fell apart into soft pieces. Maybe thicker, but not necessarily crispier, crust would have made this dish more complete.

Crab cakes

Crab cakes

For entrées, we ordered a chili-maple glazed filet of salmon (cilantro lime yogurt),

Chili-maple glazed filet of salmon

Chili-maple glazed filet of salmon

and a Lamb shank osso buco (wheatberry mash and aged balsamic gastrique).

Lamb shank osso buco

Lamb shank osso buco

The salmon was one of the most flavourful salmons that I’ve had in a long time. The glaze seemed to have penetrated through the flesh completely, and the fish was perfectly cooked. Usually you only get some flavouring on top of the fish, not throughout it, so we were fairly impressed.

The lamb had a hearty flavour, perfect for a cold day. The cooking of the meat was a bit uneven as some pieces were cooked perfectly and practically melted in your mouth, while others seemed a bit tough to chew. The wheatberry mash (underneath the lamb and not visible in the photo) was a nice change from the regular mashed potatoes that you usually end up with. My big peeve was that this dish was served in a rather deep bowl, and without a spoon it was quite hard to eat all the last bits of the mash.

We were horribly full but I really wanted to test out one of their desserts, so we finally settled on a gingerbread ice cream. It arrived in a molasses-flavoured edible bowl that was interesting to look at but hard to eat as ripping off bits of the bowl was like pulling taffy instead of it breaking off like a cracker. The ice cream had a very deep ginger and spice taste, but the dish only really tasted like gingerbread once you ate a bit of the bowl together with a bite of the ice cream.

Gingerbread ice cream

Gingerbread ice cream

The service at the restaurant was relatively quick and efficient, a rarity that has been missing from many places thanks to the Alberta economy. All in all, I have to say that I’m quite impressed by the student chefs and servers.  I’ll definitely be back at some point in the future.

Ernest’s (NAIT School of Hospitality)
11762-106 Street
Edmonton, Alberta
N.B. The restaurant is only open during the school year. Additional photos and menus with pricing can be viewed at www.nait.ca/schoolofhospitality/ernests.htm.

Ernest's on Urbanspoon