29.11.14

Meals From The Heart Cafe

http://www.mealsfromtheheartcafe.com

For healthy takes on New Orleans dishes - Meals From the Heart was recommended by our walking food tour guide.

APPEARANCE
We decided to sit on springy bar stools right at the food counter in the walkway of the French Market, the weather was great that day. For those claustrophobic, you can grab their food and sit across the walkway at the outdoor tables area.

NOSE
Meals from the heart cafe is not a place we would have walked in by ourselves. There was a lot of clutter from advertising and photos on the stand facade. Their logo is also a bit odd - a red heart with a fork through it. Looks a bit violent, but we got the message behind it.

SWIRL
The menu had colour coding to help those looking for gluten-free and vegan meal options.
Once we placed our order we were given local satsumas as a snack. This is a seedless citrus fruit - a mix between an orange and a tangerine.

PALATE
We got their Freshly Squeezed Juice Combo - orange and carrot juice. It was a great combo, adding ginger would have made it even better.
We also tried their Crab Cake Passion and Poached Egg. It came with lots of greens and two sauces on the side. One was a zesty sauce for crab cakes - lemon, garlic, remoulade sauce. Slightly spicy it was perfect for the crabcake.
Oatmeal we ordered was dense and just the right texture. It came with a side of walnuts, raisins, sugar and cream. We also had a side of their Vegan Apple Patty to try. It was unique and spicy.

FINISH
We enjoyed our breakfast looking at a blue sky background, behind granite countertop. This spot is definitely worth coming back to for lunch. Their Black Bean Soup and Okra Gumbo looked irresistible.

Meals From The Heart Café on Urbanspoon

28.11.14

Napoleon House

http://www.napoleonhouse.com/

A place loaded with history. Not only you should come here for the most authentic Pims' Cup
cocktail, but you can also learn that this house was actually meant for Napoleon as a permanent place to stay in the New World. Of course, he never made it off Saint Helena, but it could be quite a story if he did move to US... Folks in New Orleans hold on to their history, this place has tons of it to offer.

APPEARANCE
The house looks very rustic from the outside. It appears even a bit dirty, to be honest. Especially when compared to nearby buildings in pristine condition. Walking inside, we were faced with a lively, yet dim environment. Luckily (actually surprisingly too) it was not overly busy. We sat in a private corner by a very heavily autographed wall. A few rooms, as well as a courtyard area are all part of the dining areas available.

NOSE
Photos on the wall were dedicated to long serving waiting staff of this establishment. We sat right next to a plak for a gentleman who spent over 35 years working for the Napoleon House and retired back in 1990s. There was traditional classical music in the background - prominent and powerful at times.

SWIRL
We knew what we wanted walking in: jambalaya, gumbo, po'boys as well as Pimm's Cup #1 for a drink. The waiter offered to top this up with some Sazerac which we agreed to. It is a busy spot, staff was very much down to business. Fast and effective, although maybe a bit less talkative than we would have preferred at that time. Our drinks arrived in a few minutes

PALATE
Pimm's Cup #1 was a mix of gun liquor lemonade, lemon soda, cucumber garnish as well as the actual gin-based Pimm's #1. Sazerac is based on cognac, absent, bitters and orange peel. Both drinks are a great addition to your meal or night out. The Jambalaya Entree was composed of three rice balls with plenty of meat chunks. Spicy as expected, part of the holy trinity (bell pepper, celery and onion) - quintessential New Orleans' components. The Poor Boy Italian Sub was also loaded with onion, green peppers and house dressing plus a side of veggies (lettuce and cucumber). The sandwich is only available on white bread and worth every bite. As far as our Seafood Gumbo went, it was a well balanced spicy soup with roux, tomato sauce and okra. Shrimp, crab with a load of plain rice dropped in the middle of it (not cooked together) just as we were told is should be. The rice was less mushy as a result which made the experience quite a lot more enjoyable.

FINISH
Despite being located in a very touristy area of French Quarters, Napoleon House is a great place to visit for an authentic experience. The food is good, drinks amazing, prices reasonable and staff friendly. They got it all.

p.s. We tried to find Pimm's #1 in our local LCBO to a very limited success initially. Up to the point that we were told that LCBO does not carry it anymore due to low demand. At the same time, we walked into a stash of Pimm's at our local Liberty Village location just a day later. Go figure... Now we are making our own refreshing Pimm's Cups #1.
Napoleon House Bar & Café on Urbanspoon

23.11.14

Woodsby's Countryside Café

http://www.woodsbyscafe.com

After our Bogey Creek Airboat tour we asked their staff to recommend us a local restaurant in Kissimmee. Woodsby's Cafe Diner was the agreed choice.

APPEARANCE
We actually almost drove past the restaurant. It is on a very bland plaza off the main street. Cream color siding, a few cluttered windows alone along flat wall, nothing standing out besides the road sign under a larger Tattoo advert for their plaza neighbor.

SWIRL
Inside, it really felt like a mom and pop cottage house. Wooden furniture, outdoor murals, some fishing gear, a collection of roosters, cups etc. We were warmly welcomed by a lady appearing to be an owner and invited to a booth.

NOSE
Their menu cover is perhaps the inspiration of this restaurant - a wooden house in the outdoors. Inside the menu, the local feel was obvious - plenty of small ad inserts.
No liquor in this diner, I think even asking might have offended our waitress. Cheri decided to check the type of teas they have as it was a chilly day. The answer came with an subtle “duh” to it - sweet or not sweet. That kind of threw us off - hot tea was clearly not a common order here. We played along and asked for their tea half sweet (iced tea of course).

PALATE
We got a small house salad to share, which was a simple cobb - lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, carrot, eggs, cheddar, crumbled bacon, croutons.
As a true American diner, all dishes came with a generous amount of fries on the side (a given, not even a choice). We had their Grilled Tuna Melt on rye bread with a side of extra pickle. The creamy tuna mix came with grilled onion as something a tad sweet. It was a healthy amount of filling - it even started falling off.
We also had their Grilled Chicken Brest. The chicken came with some cajun seasoning, but it was a plain sandwich just chicken between two prices of bread with a side of lettuce, tomato, a bag of mayo and plenty of fries.

FINISH
We decided to try their pies, which our waitress said were made daily (pumpkin and apple). Both were served cold and were surprisingly plain. We really expected fresher and warmer to end out meal.

Woodsby's Countryside Café on Urbanspoon

Bogey Creek Airboat

http://bcairboats.com

Being in Florida, Cheri and I wanted to experience the everglades first hand.
Our hotel recommended a couple of places, including Bogey Creek. They also went over all the options, hinting that the 45 min ride goes off the beaten path and is more of a private experience with wildlife encounters.

APPEARANCE
Upon arriving at the farm we stopped a couple of times to take photos of the unique Spanish moss hanging off trees, in the area. It set quite the mood as if we were on a movie set.
We arrived and walked straight into their gift shop. Once our tickets were taken care of, we were welcomed to grab something from their snack bar and look around.

SWIRL & NOSE
We stumbled upon a pond with plenty of adult and baby turtles tanning and swimming.
There was also an area of small gator nursery with 4 younglings. A man was in there cleaning their area. I inquired about the sound some of them were making. It seems that they have another similarity with cats, apart from their narrow pupiled eyes, they hiss at you when unhappy. Supposedly they do not actually follow through on their threats. We also learned that they grow 1' per year for the first 8 years.

PALATE
We were soon called by our "captain" to the dock. We grabbed some of their 3M noise canceling headphones which were much needed. The six of us got on an airboat with a huge fan in the back. We flew through patches of weeds, (looking like fields of grass) lilies and various other plants. The ride was fun, especially turning, we were probably going 30 miles/hr. We took four stops to chat and look around. Our captain warned us that this is not the best time to see gators. It was a windy and cloudy day.
At one of our stops he suggested that anyone is free to come of and walk all the way back. We though it is a cruel joke, but it turns out that he grew up in the area and would often wonder around walking in the water - 4' - 2' dept sounded quite manageable.
We ended up seeing two gators. At both encounters we found them lying on top of greenery patches as if they own the place, just sunbathing. They are reptiles and use their top spiky patches as sun batteries - collecting sun during the day to keep them warm at night - the time they are most active at. One of the gators was about four years old and the other about six. It turns out they can live up to sixty years.
Another interesting fact is that gators are solitary species and live independently. They don't hunt in packs like crocodiles. They are also quite lazy. They would rather wait for fish to swim into their open mouth than attach a bigger animal. Especially humans, we are too big for them.
On our trip we also saw plenty of lilies, quite a few birds and some lotus flowers. We learned quite a bit about the airboat. Ours was small and had no restrictions whether the bigger vessels could only go a certain way with the overwhelming fauna giving people no choice. We learned that the islands in the everglades are man-made for the most part, to help protect against flooring.

FINISH
After our lovely trip, we were welcomed by a man who had another treat for us. He had a baby gator with mouth taped for us to touch and take a photo with. We saw first hand how their third eye lid comes from the side protecting their eye which can easily fit into their heads if they pass by a leaf or object too close. We also examined their small teeth, which we were told are hollow and ready with bottom ones to replace the ones the top ones break - an anticipated scenario. It turns out that his small bite could bite at a strength of a German Sheppard. The reason why these small gators were kept at the nursery is that they had been found with injuries and taken care of. He took photos for us and promised that a part of our payment goes towards the conservation if the Philippino Gator, an endangered species.

15.11.14

Cantina Playa Cabana

http://www.playacabana.ca/

Junction is the place to be! We went to the Indie Ale House a few times already and brought our friends too. This time we were invited to come visit Cantina across the street.

APPEARANCE
A somewhat smallish storefront is not very noticeable to a passerby if not for the crowd gathered outside. We actually passed it initially ourselves. Once inside, large vintage signs adjoined with neon tubes are everywhere. As we walked in, we realized how large the restaurant is inside. Its prolonged shape is not ideal for large crowds (folks bumping shoulders), but it creates a very lively atmosphere.

NOSE
We sat right next to the bar. Not the best spot - with someone always rushing behind your back, but we were glad Cantina even took our reservation for eight people on Saturday evening. Long shared tables and vintage aluminum barstools added to the atmosphere and we started looking at the lengthy menu. There were a lot of words there we did not know.. Either way we made our choices with some heavy amounts of reggaeton music in the background.

SWIRL
We had great advise from my friend who is a big fan of this place. The tacos are small and great for testing the flavours before committing to a burrito or tres tacos. We ordered their Piscado Taco, Cantina Chicken burrito, and some guacamole for the table. To accompany all of this goodness, we asked for a couple dark beers and a glass of sangria. Later on we also ordered their Elotes.


PALETTE
We should not have ordered sangria. The expectations was already somewhat low as we were told that it is simply wine infused with syrup and some cut fruits added. That was exactly all unfortunately. Even through it came in a neat jar-glass with a handle, the drink was very flat. Our Negra Modelo beer was more interesting, but not really dark as far as our classification goes. As for the food, we liked the chicken burrito quite a lot. It was juicy, not too large (a minor disappointment since it was $12 or so), loaded with stuff to the point of bursting. The piscado taco came as a small peek of food on top of a soft taco shell. Eating was a disaster. Beers went down quickly to cool down our mouths after the spicy meals. Getting the Elotes at the end was a substantial finish, however they were glossy in a buttery sauce topped with "quest anejo", lime, arbor, etc.
We enjoyed our company in the lively atmosphere, with large bright signs which seemed almost historic. Cantina definitely has its own unique groove.

FINISH
We would recommend this place for a casual outing with friends. While we did not necessarily find the food too special, but the atmosphere was right, location prime and the staff very friendly. Cantina is an interesting place with a lot of effort put into making it stand out. By the line of people outside, we can tell the crowd is buying in.

Playa Cabana Cantina on Urbanspoon