Miracle Fruit

Tabasco sauce tasting like hot jelly donut glaze? Lemons tasting like sweet candy? That is exacly what someone wrote in the New York Times about miracle fruit, which is also the reason why I had to try it.

I finally tried miracle fruit last month, and I've been meaning to write about it ever since.

It all started one day when I decided to clean out my inbox. In doing so, I found an old email from CK telling me about a wacky fruit he had read about that transforms your taste buds such that everything sour will taste sweet. Not only that, it seemed as though people were throwing 'taste tripping' parties to try out this so called miracle fruit. You pay a cover charge to eat the stuff, and when the properties in your mouth change, you go nuts tasting all sorts of different foods.

I originally tried buying the miracle fruit plant, but I just didn't have the patience to be put on a waiting list for 9 months. My next option was to buy the individual berries, but several companies told me that they probably wouldn't be able to clear Canadian customs in time for the berry to be eaten. Once picked off the tree, a miracle fruit berry must be consumed within 4 days for it to keep its properties.

By this point, I had already told people that I was going to throw a miracle fruit party, so I was seriously crunched for time. I would have put it off but I was meeting up with people who were flying in from the States. In the end, I opted for the fruit tablets, which apparently is quite fresh, and is used in a lot of taste tripping parties I have read about. It is simply the extract mixed with corn starch.

Ok...so now for the juicy details. Did everything sour turn sweet? Yes! Howeverrrrrr, my problem is that I have a vivid imagination, so when someone tells me there is something out there called "miracle fruit" that transforms everything you taste to whole good sweetness, I had visions of olives tasting like ripe bananas, and pickles tasting like lollipops.

It's the same when someone tells you that a movie was AMAZING, and that it is a MUST SEE. Most of the time, the movie will turn out to be ok because you had such high expectations. That is exactly how it was with me and miracle fruit. I almost wish I had tried it without reading so much about it.

It seems miracle fruit will only make a food taste sweet if it already has sugars in it. It magnifies any sugar in the food, and will also exaggerate any spiciness in the food. For example, I tried a mint leaf, and no part of it tasted sweet at all. However, with tabasco sauce, because there is sugar in it, it magnified the sweet taste at first, and then it was just a hot fiery taste at the end (the type of hot that you find in jerk chicken).

Here is a little chart of some of the foods I tried and what it tasted like:

You may have a completely different experience than I did...everyone interprets it in their own way. Don't get me wrong, miracle fruit was really neat, and the foods did transform into really cool tastes. My only advice is to try it with no expectations, and the more the merrier. The people with you is what's going to make the experience.

Basil Seed Drink

While walking through an Asian grocery store, I found this basil seed drink. When I first saw it, I scrunched up my nose really tight, and asked to myself "What on earth is this?"

It looked really scary to me at first...like a drink full of little, creepy bugs. I examined it in amazement for a long while, and then walked away. I thought that was the end of it, but when I got home, I kept thinking to myself that I should have bought it to at least try it. A few days later, I was still thinking the same thing, so in the end, my curiosity got the best of me and I tried it.

The drink was surprisingly good. It had a really nice fragrant to it..much like the basil herb it comes from. It tasted almost as if it had rose water in it. I read the ingredients, and it only contains basil seed, water, sugar, salt, and honey flavor. The texture of the seeds was nothing like I imagined. It was a jelly, pulpy texture, which made it fun to drink.

Perogies, Ottawa

Perogies is a pleasant little Ukranian take out place that is hidden inside a mini mall right beside the Ottawa Citizen building. Beebs and I were on our way to Ikea to check out their kitchen sale, so we decided to grab something quick at Perogies. This is a take out only place, so don't expect to sit down and eat your food here.

We had heard good things about this place, and since we were in the neighborhood, we took the opportunity to check it out. We got a bit of everything to make sure we could try as much as we could. They have quite a large selection of foods. They've got perogies, cottage cheese pancakes, crepes, salads, cabbage rolls, borscht, meat balls, perojkis (pronounced peer-osh-kees), and more.

We got our food, and had a mini feast in the car. It was hard to take pictures while stuffed in a car, so most of the pictures are from the store itself.

First, we had the perogies. We got their two most popular: potato and cheese, and potato and mushroom. A perogi is a European boiled dumpling. The ones here had sauteed onions poured over top. Their perogies are much better than any of the ones I have ever had, but for some reason, I never caught on to them. I much prefer chinese dumplings.

Next, we had the pork meat balls. They were very tasty, and had a very soft texture to them. I highly recommend these.

We then had our cabbage perojki. This wasn't the greatest...a little too doughy for me. My mother-in-law makes the best meat perojkis, and you just can't beat the home cooked version. They also had a cherry perojki which may have been interesting tasting.

We finished off our meal with some cottage cheese pancakes and cherry crepes. We also purchased a cherry sauce that we poured all over our pancakes and crepes.

The cottage cheese pancakes were neat to try but it wasn't amazing. I much preferred the cherry crepes. The crepe itself was extremely fresh, and the filling was tangy from the sour cherries. The cherry sauce wasn't too sweet, so it went perfectly with the crepe.

I definitely enjoyed this place. As mentioned, they have a huge selection so there will be something there that will turn your tastebuds on. Their food is also available frozen, so if you don't feel like eating it on the spot, you can buy the cold stuff and heat it up at home.

This place is worth checking out. It was nice to see the steady flow of local neighbors coming in to enjoy their food.

Japanese Cafe Restaurant EMON, Sydney

CK and I were craving sushi while in Sydney recently, and we decided on Japanese Cafe Restaurant EMON for dinner. We have walked by this place numerous times, and wondered each time, whether or not their food was good. Well, we finally found out.

The staff here was very polite and their sushi roll portions were quite large. Overall, the food here, I would say, was average.

For an appetizer, we ordered the renkon chips...chips that are made of thinly sliced lotus root. This was neat but a little salty.

The salmon and avocado roll was my favourite. The fish and avocado tasted extremely fresh. I don't usually care for avocado, and I loved it that night.
Their unagi roll was also good.

Althought it looked very nice, their soft shell crab roll wasn't very good. Soft shell crab doesn't have a lot of taste to it, so when stuffed with a bunch of lettuce, it completely masked the crab.

For dessert, I had to try their black sesame icecream affogato. Now, this is an affogato with a Japanese twist. Instead of the traditional vanilla gelato with a shot of espresso, it is black sesame ice cream with a ristretto shot. The verdict? Not so hot. When mixed with a little bit of the black sesame ice cream, the coffee turned sour and when mixed with a lot of the ice cream, the coffee tasted very bitter. Either way, it wasn't very good. It is a neat idea, but the Italians definitely do it better. The icecream alone, however, was great.

CK had the tiramisu and that wasn't very good either.

All in all, this place wasn't bad for sushi. One thing I do have to note was that their wasabi was super fresh. They chopped up their wasabi really fine and served it that way. It was not like the paste I normally see.
I would recommend their salmon and avocado roll, and would advise against the soft shell crab roll. For dessert, stick to the ice cream.

Japanese Cafe Restaurant Emon on Urbanspoon

Auberge du Petit Prince, London

Our bad meal last night was offset by a great one tonight. I was so disappointed in our meal the night before that I had to squeeze in a quick dinner before my flight home. It was a little tight, but I managed to make reservations at Auberge du Petit Prince, one of the restaurants I originally wanted to go to. This place was great. The food was spectacular, and the service was excellent.

The atmosphere was very warm and inviting. The restaurant is an old house with different themed rooms. We ate in the Provence room, a very quaint and charming area. I even found their restroom to be beautiful. The sinks had rocks in it, so when you washed your hands, it looked like a stream of water rushing through natural looking rocks.

We had exactly one hour to place our dinner order, eat it, and drive to the airport in time for me to check in for my flight. We warned the waiter in advance, and he made sure that all of our food was placed on rush order.

To start our meal off, they brought us some freshly baked olive bread and french rolls. Each person was also served a lobster and corn fritter, which tasted delicious.

I ordered the Bourgogne escargot as an appetizer, and the others had the lobster bisque, and pernod shrimp.

The escargot was wonderful. The sauce wasn’t overpowering so you could still taste the escargots. It was actually my first time using tongs while eating escargots. At home, we generally use toothpicks, and they have always been de-shelled at the restaurants I’ve been to in the past.

I was debating between the slow braised beef cheeks and duck confit for mains. In the end, I went for the beef cheeks because the waiter guaranteed that it would be unique eating experience, and that it definitely was! To me, the beef cheeks tasted like a plate of soft tendon pieces. Luckily, I like tendon so I really enjoyed this dish. I’m not sure if beef cheeks always have that texture or not, but it definitely tasted quite different. This was served with a mushroom thyme sauce.

Luckily, TT ordered the duck confit, so I got to try that as well. It was delicious, and the duck meat basically fell off the bone. It was served with a side of parsnips, carrots, and mashed potatoes.

Jo opted for a caesar salad, and it still looked great.

For desserts, we all shared the lime sorbet and truffle pyramid. The lime sorbet was extremely fresh. It tasted as though they put lime rind into it because it had somewhat of a tart and bitter taste to it. I really enjoyed it. The truffle pyramid was super rich.

I highly recommend this place, and I would definitely eat here again if I visit London another time. There were many other things on the menu that I would have loved to try.

Auberge du Petit Prince on Urbanspoon

Black Trumpet, London

I popped into London for an overnight trip last night (London Ontario that is), and I managed to meet up with some friends for a late dinner. My friend TT was flying in from L.A. and he finds French food in Canada to be exotic, so I did some research to find a nice place that he would enjoy. Unfortunately, it seemed that most restaurants closed early on Wednesday nights (by 9 pm) and every restaurant I had picked was closed by the time I arrived.

Our plan B was to pick a restaurant from the visitor guide that was displayed in our hotel lobby. We decided on Black Trumpet because I remembered reading some good things about the place. Despite the positive reviews, I was not overly impressed with the food.

For appys, we all shared the seafood sausage. This was aiiiiight…nothing special. It was a bit salty, and in the end, I think I ate more of the onions that came with appetizer than the appetizer itself. It was still early on in the meal, so I decided to wait for the entrées before judging the restaurant.

I ordered the bison as per the waiter’s recommendation, and TT and Jo had the ahi tuna and beef pasta.

The bison was a decent choice. The other entrée’s, unfortunately, were an entirely different story. I tasted both, and didn’t care for either of them. The sauce served with the pasta was insanely salty (no exaggeration here), and the presentation of the tuna was corny. The tuna was served with a side of rice stir fry (whoopee), and was garnished with a cheap looking sushi roll. The tuna itself tasted ok but it was a little bit too thick.

I wasn't going to order any dessert, but when they announced that they had homemade banana chocolate icecream, I decided to try it. It is my favourite icecream flavour, and I was hoping that my meal would end well. The icecream was ok...although fresh tasting, it did not have enough banana taste. TT had a sorbet, and Jo had a chocolate dessert.

The service wasn't very good either. Our waitress told us she was going to bring us bread, but never did. When we asked her what places served breakfast, she said she would check for us, but never came back with an answer. What topped it off was when we told our waitress that the pasta was too salty, she didn’t seem to know what to do, and ended up doing nothing in the end.

Although my bison wasn’t bad, I would not come here again. If a restaurant is going to advertise themselves as a fine dining restaurant, I expect a certain level of quality.

Black Trumpet Restaurant on Urbanspoon

La Bottega, Ottawa

Ottawa is beautiful in the fall time. The leaves turn colour, and the air is fresh and crisp.

This past weekend, my sister, Beebs, and I decided to head to Gatineau park to enjoy the beautiful scenery and nature. Ten minutes north of downtown Ottawa and sitting on the edge of the Canadian shield is Gatineau park, a park full of hiking trails and beautiful lakes. It is especially gorgeous during the fall season. If you come at the right time of the year, all of the leaves are bright red and orange, and the entire park looks reddish pink.

We decided to pick up some lunch at my favourite sandwich place, La Bottega, before heading to the park. There is a city wide debate on who actually serves the best sandwiches: La Bottega or DiRienzo...that is another post altogether.

La Bottega is a fine Italian food store that sells olive oils, balsamic vinegars, pastas, coffee, espresso machines, cheeses, deli meats, etc. At the back of the store, they have a small kitchen, and a sandwich stand where they make fresh sandwiches on the spot.

For $4.39, you get to pick your bread, cheese, meat, and condiments.

I ALWAYS get the turkey on soft panini with tomatoes, lettuce, onions, hot peppers, olives, spicy eggplant, and both dijon and regular mustard.

When we got our sandwiches, we were so hungry that we debated on whether or not we should eat half of our sandwiches before heading to the park. We took one bite instead, and sped to Champlain lookout. I bought a guava nectar to go with my sandwich, and it was a perfect combination.

This was our spectacular view while eating lunch. It was a cool day, but the hot sun shining on our backs warmed us up quickly.

Afterwards, we did a small hike around Pink Lake before heading home. Pink Lake is not actually pink as the name seems to imply. It is a green coloured lake that was named after the Pink family who settled here in the 1800's. I know, disappointing. I have always wished for a better story than that.

For those of you that are wondering, Beebs is not my sister's real name. It is our way of calling her the 'baby of the family'.

La Bottega on Urbanspoon

Zereshk Polow (Barberry Rice)

The best thing about coming home from a trip is eating home cooked food, especially when you don't have to cook it. When I arrived in Ottawa, I called my in-laws and they invited me over for dinner and to look at my pictures from New Zealand.

I happily agreed because my mom in-law makes the best Persian food. Nine out of 10 times, she is cooking Persian food. I would have to say that Persian is in my top 3 for favourite cuisines. It is delicious, full of taste, natural, and very healthy. I can't rave enough about Persian food and I'm sure you will see many more posts about it.

When I arrived for dinner, I was even more excited because she had made my favourite, zereshk polow or barberry rice. Along with the barberries and saffron rice, she usually adds slivered almonds, pistachios, and carrots.

Barberries are not sweet at all. They are tart and sour, and when added to rice, it gives it a real kick.

The zereshk polow was served with saffron chicken with tomatoes and onions, and tah-deeg.
Now tah-deeg is something worth fighting over! Tah-deeg in persian means bottom of the pot, and that is exactly what it is: crispy rice at the bottom of the pot. Usually, potatoes, bread, or lettuce is added, and it ends up being encrusted with crunchy rice.

What you see below on the right is potato tah-deeg. It basically tastes like fresh potato chips with a hint of saffron.

It didn't end there. For dessert, we had an awesome apple and almond yogourt cake. It was super moist and not too sweet, just the way I like it.

The cake was served with a strawberry and mango fruit salad...yum!!

Mmm...home sweet home! Although I was quite jet-lagged, I stayed late to show them my pictures over hot tea.