Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cartel Street Food Bar

Hey guys! A while ago this Summer a bunch of us decided to go to Cartel Street Food Bar for some tacos (on special at 2$ on Tuesdays) and then karaoke downtown. Daniel was leaving for about two weeks on an Euro trip so it we used it as an excuse to go out.

We got there quite early because the place fills up fast. We arrived at 5:30pm and by 6pm people had to wait in line to get a spot. We decided to sit outside because the weather was nice and because I felt like spotting the cute hipsters walking by from times to times.

Our waiter explained us that, on Taco Tuesdays, we have to order a drink in order to get the regular tacos at 2$. The braised lamb tostadas are not included in the special. So we ordered drinks. They're quite affordable, between 7$ and 12$. And they were also good.

Most of us ordered tacos but two of us decided to also go for octopus tacos, which aren't on the menu. They're not part of the special either but apparently they were really good.

Below is a Baja fried fish taco. The only item in the taco menu that's not gluten free.

The pink stuff on the side is pickled onions, that you may add or not to the tacos. It was very simple, with some mayonnaise, shredded lettuce, and fresh avocado, but it was very good.

Here you have some avocado and plantain tacos. The plantain is fried and crushed (but not pureed). I have to admit it was hard to eat because the whole content was a bit mushy but with the sweetness of the plantain it was just heavenly.

Cartel is also known for featuring Peruvian cuisine on its menu. I don't know if you've heard of Chifa, but it's basically Chinese influenced Peruvian cuisine. There is a great amount of Asians living in Peru due to past wars and massive immigration, and over the years the fusions of cultures have created very interesting results in terms of creativity and style when it comes to food. Peru is, by the way, one of the most trending destinations for gastronomy (and is part of my bucket list obviously).

Daniel ordered some pulpo barbacoa (barbecued octopus). It's basically a grilled octopus tapa with kecap manis and aji panca bbq sauce.

Did Daniel like his octopus? He loved it.

Here are the beef brisket tacos. They're slightly different than the other ones as in they're closed and topped with black beans, tomato, and the regular toppings. I found they were "harder" to eat, as in when you bite in your taco it doesn't come off as a clean bite. The beef tends to slide off in filaments out of the taco as you pull your bite out. But that's quite normal honestly, this wouldn't happen if it were ground beef. But don't worry these were good too.

For my part I also decided to order some rollitos de pato (duck rolls). They're crispy spring rolls with duck and shiitake mushrooms filling. As you may know already, if there's duck on the menu I have to give it a try.

The presentation was pretty cute, with the swirl of sweet sauce. I found the spring rolls were pretty fat (well it's deep fried, what do I expect) but moist inside. The little problem is I was sort of disappointed in the duck. The only other time I had fully cooked duck was in that duck Shepherd's Pie at Le Saloon but it was different. I found it sort of dry, losing the mythical moist delicious savor of duck. Now that doesn't mean it wasn't good. But it could have been something else than duck if it was intended to have this texture.

Overall we had a great time and we found the food was good. The prices were also quite good, I don't recall anyone complaining about their bill when it was time to pay (my friends are pretty cheap). Our waiter was really cool, laid back, and yet professional. I think it's a very good spot to chill between friends or coworkers after a long day. Unless your date is very chill it might not be the right spot for something romantic. But it's perfect for being relaxed and getting to know each other.

So do I recommend Cartel Street Food Bar? I do! When the weather gets nice ask to be seated on the terrace and look at all the beautiful Mile-End hipsters walking on the street. Also, don't forget to ask the waiter if they have anything special, because sometimes the guys in the kitchen just come up with stuffs on the same day.

And so that's it for today. Until next time!

For more information on Cartel Street Food Bar : http://cartelstreetfood.com/

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dublin; Glendalough

Hi guys! On my third day in Dublin I went hiking with my aunt and my cousin in Glendalough, Wicklow. We booked a tour with one of those companies in downtown which basically offers you a ride in the countryside. Some of these tours can be a whole day long. The one we took was half a day. We were lucky because it was the only day of my stay during which it wasn't raining.

As we were getting there the driver would tell us stories of Ireland. As we went past some landmarks we would learn a lot about Dublin and its surroundings. Our first stop was the Monastic Site with Round Tower.


From the Monastic Site you will find trails that will lead you to the Upper lake. Wicklow is known for being the valley of two lakes. It's a very popular destination for both tourists and locals. Whether you feel like tiring off your legs with a good hike (there are many trails and that one is actually the shortest) or just chilling with your family by one of the lakes Wicklow is the perfect place for that.

Once you get out of Dublin, sheep are everywhere. Just. Everywhere. I swear I felt like taking one home. I'm pretty sure no one would have realized one was missing.

The Upper lake is a beautiful quiet piece of landscape. The water is so clear you see the rocks covering the bottom from far.

So we sat there for a while, talking, enjoying the quietness. My cousin was trying to play with the toddler in the picture above. It was a Polish family and they didn't get anything of what he was saying with his Irish accent.

After a while it was time to go back to the mini bus. The driver had told us to be back by a certain time. This time the next stop was Lough Tay. On our way there we saw the landscapes where many movies, such as Brave Heart, have been filmed.

Lough Tay is known for being the "black lake". It's part of lands that belong to the Guinness Family. Because of its dark waters and its white sand, the lake resembles a pint of Guinness. So for fun people say that's where the water used to brew the Guinness comes from. Actually it doesn't but it's still funny. And the driver assured us the water didn't taste like Guinness.

Down there we could see the set for the series Vikings. Obviously some of my friends were totally jealous when I told them about it. Too bad I didn't bring my zoom lens, I could have gotten a closer view on the set.

After that we went back downtown, all sleeping in the car. If you guys go to Dublin for a few days I suggest you actually spend at least an afternoon or a whole day in the countryside. The landscapes are just so beautiful. The tour itself is sort of expensive, but the cool thing in Dublin is they have student discounts on almost everything.

And so that's it for today! I hope you guys enjoyed these pictures of Wicklow and will have the chance to visit it.

Until next time!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Bits of Dublin

Hi guys! Back in June I spent a few days in Dublin because one of my aunts lives there. Dublin is a very small city. I mean in about ten minutes you've done the whole downtown. But it reminded me a bit of Berlin, with its parks, its bridges, and its people that just don't give a damn. Unfortunately it was also tourist season so it sort of ruined it for me.

To be honest I didn't snap too many pictures for two reasons. First off, it was raining often. Second, we spent most of our time on those double deck buses for tourists. When you take pictures while on a moving bus things don't look too interesting. So I'm going to share a few pictures I have taken then and there.

One of the things you absolutely have to visit is the Trinity College campus.

You can't miss it : I think everything leads to the College. It's open to the public and there are tours to visit the campus. I was actually approached by a bunch of leprechauns to go watch a play on Irish mythology. Cute right?

The campus is filled with green : trees, parks, sports fields. Most of the buildings are turned to the inside and feature a mix of classical architecture and art deco. I wanted to go the old library to see the Book of Kells but the line up was so long ... and my aunt and cousin are not into books the way I am.

The campus is pretty big. I didn't get to see the whole thing but I think it's worth a shot. Honestly I wish my campus was this cool. Even McGill looks like it's got nothing compared to Trinity College haha.

One of the things I have liked a lot about downtown Dublin was this pedestrian street, named Grafton Street. My aunt told me her ex-husband would see U2 performing there before they were famous. Yes, freaking U2.

Just like any important pedestrian street in Europe, Grafton Street is the home of high end boutiques in Dublin. It connects two important places : Trinity College and St Stephen's Green, a park very similar to the Lafontaine park in Montreal.

Just look at this very cute (okay, actually hot) guy showing children how to make bubbles. My heart was melting.

We stopped in a shopping center for a small pipi break and I was mesmerized by the naked metal structures inside. I don't know what the name of the shopping center is but it's the one located at the intersection of King Street, Grafton Street and St Stephen's Green.

On our way to what I call the Camden area to have some chicken for lunch I spotted this sign in front of a small cafe in a random small street. I thought it was funny because Irish people actually speak with that accent.

If you like parks you should drop by St Stephen's Green.

It's very similar to our big parks : Lafontaine, Jarry, Mont Royal. It has two small lakes, paths smooth enough to bike and do rollers, and some hidden spots if you plan on being naughty. Just kidding.

This huge beautiful church is the Christ Church Cathedral. Even to this day religion still has a very important place in Ireland. Perhaps not in people's everyday lives but it does have its say on the government's decision.

Despite the fact that the church was beautiful outside I did not visit it. I got a bit mad when I saw I had to pay to take a look inside (especially visit the crypt). I understand it's considered as a touristic attraction and that they can make money out of it, but part of me would rather make a 10€ donation than be forced to pay a 6€ entrance fees. But that's just me.

Among all the things I have seen (I can't name them all and I don't have pictures) I also visited the Guinness Storehouse. With my student ID it was 18€ and the whole exhibition was really interesting and fun. And in the end you get to sip on a pint of Guinness while getting to look over Dublin.

And look at this. LOOK AT THIS. Piece of beautiful art. I was in awe. Yes, it's a pint of Guinness.

After trying Guinness in Dublin I told myself I would never have Guinness again elsewhere. It's so much fresher and they don't pour it the same way. I wasn't a fan of Guinness before because for some reason it didn't suit my taste buds. But that time I actually truly enjoyed my Guinness. Like I wouldn't mind drinking that everyday if I lived in Dublin.

If you are interested in history and especially prisons, I suggest you drop by the Kilmainham Gaol Museum. I got lucky that day because it was national museum day so I didn't pay for my entrance. In groups of about 15 people you get to do the tour of that prison that played a pretty big part in the history of Ireland.

The landmark of Dublin, known as the Spire, is located right on O'Connell Street. Apparently many old trees had to be taken down in order to redesign this street. People protested but now everyone seems to like it the way it is.

I remember being a bit disturbed and disoriented when I would cross streets. For starters there is the fact that steering wheels are on the right and people drive on the left. I was ten times more careful than usual before crossing a street. And there was the fact that I didn't walk as much as I wish I could have because I was with my aunt so I didn't get used to crossing the streets in Dublin. Yeah she thinks I'm still 16 years old.

Oh and the Spire has a little nickname : the Needle. Because junkies hang out around that area.

There are other things to see in Dublin and honestly if I had had more time I would have gone to more museums. Don't forget to pass by Temple Bar, ask people about the story of the Ha'penny Bridge, and spend an afternoon at Phoenix Park. Bring food and sports gear, and drop by the zoo.

And so that's it for today! I wish I could show you more but I can't. One thing they say in Ireland : have an umbrella ready even if you're wearing sunglasses. I don't know if that's an actual saying but it turned out to be true.

Until next time!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lyon; Thê' Vân

Hi guys! This is probably the last restaurant of Lyon I'll be reviewing ... not because I haven't been to more places, but because I don't have a camera attached to my body yet (I will include it to the design of a better me, along with a mechanical arm). While looking through my pictures I realized it was the only material left I haven't shared with you guys yet. So let's do this!

As you guys might now know I had become a fan of the Chinatown because it reminded me of home. The boyfriend was craving for pho so we went to Thê' Vân because it didn't look too commercial and because I didn't feel like going to La Jonque d'Or again. Besides he's not as picky as I am when it comes to pho.

When we got in we thought it was a bit dark inside : the windows aren't too big and so there isn't much natural light coming in. The materials and colors chosen for the decor make the restaurant look more chic than your regular Asian place, and also more intimate.

When we sat down the waiter greeted us with glasses of water and shrimp chips. Shrimp chips! Haven't had those in such a long time. It's 1:39AM right now and I am wishing there was such a thing as 24/7 Asian markets.

I saw there were spring rolls on the menu so I obviously ordered some. I don't know why but out of three Vietnamese restaurants I had tried in France only one had spring rolls ... Nems (cha gio) are pretty common though.

I was happy those had a lot of shrimp (compared to some places here), not too much noodle or lettuce. The sauce had peanut chunks but it was a bit runny.

We also ordered pho dac biet (meatballs, cooked steak, rare steak).

The boyfriend got luckier than me. While most of my steak had cooked in the broth, he had quite a few pieces that were bloody rare. The broth was good, not as clear as what I'm used to, perhaps even a little salty. The portion was also good (though it did knock us out, but that's just what pho does). The boyfriend was really happy and it satisfied his craving. Me, I was not convinced. But just like La Jonque d'Or, it's not bad pho, it's just different to what I'm used to.

So if the only place you know for pho is La Jonque d'Or, give Thê' Vân a try. The ambiance is not the same but the quality is very similar. I would say that even the presentation looks a bit better. Unfortunately for me I didn't have the rare steak I wanted, perhaps because the broth was too hot when they poured it over.

And so that's it for today. Until next time!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ibiza; Cappuccino Grand Cafe

Hi guys! On our last evening in Ibiza we decided to have dinner at the marina. Honestly we were not motivated enough to go eat in the old town and we thought the restaurants by the marina looked good.

So we gave the Cappuccino Grand Cafe a try. We walked by it everyday and it looked rather nice. The prices not so much, but more affordable than the other places in the marina.

So we sat down. Our waiter spoke at least three languages (Spanish, English, French). Not too well for the French part but just enough to get our attention and make us laugh. We screened down the menu and saw it was featuring flavors from around the world (even maki rolls). So no Spanish food this time, which was fine honestly.

For my part, I ordered a bottle of water (yes, because wine was expensive and there is no such thing as a glass of tap water over there) and a red Thai curry. It came with a side of noodles (like ramen but not in soup). Pictures were taken with my cellphone.

The ingredients were not typically Thai, as you can see. It was a mix of whole cherry tomatoes, asparagus, red bell pepper, and chicken, in a red curry soup (runnier than what I'm used to). The ramen was good enough, really tasted like the stuffs I would make at home when I don't feel like cooking, and I would dip it in the curry from times to times. Overall it was not spicy enough to my liking, but the textures and flavors were very present and interesting. Everything was fresh. The presentation though was kinda weird. A side of noodles? What's this? We don't eat noodles as a side dish! I guess I would have been less disturbed if I had a side of white rice instead, but this is not my house and they do whatever pleases them. What I didn't quite like was that, for that kind of place and the kind of price we pay, they could at least invest in real chopsticks.

Amal ordered a coke and tika masala chicken. It came with white rice and a spoon of sour cream.

She doesn't like spicy stuffs (and usually Indian food is) but apparently that was good for her. It was the first time she tried tika masala and she really liked it.

Nicole decided to have a chèvre salad. It was basically a grilled piece of chèvre (the cheese, not the actual animal) on an arugula salad, with a balsamic vinaigrette and grilled red bell pepper. It also came with two toasted pieces of baguette.

She said it was delicious. And I believe her. You can tell by the look of it that everything seemed balanced out, from textures to flavors. The cool thing with chèvre is that it's got such a strong taste that you don't have to go overboard with the remaining of the plate. I have to admit the reason why I don't eat salad at restaurants is because they're not filling enough ... but that's because I'm a pig. Nicole was very happy with her choice and it filled her without being heavy.

Overall our experience was pretty good. The waiter was lovely. The people around were well behaved. The service was fast enough. We would look at the sun setting down by the window while talking about our relationships and the plane we had to take the morning after.

So do I recommend the Cappuccino Grand Cafe? I do, actually. Obviously the culinary experience is not over the top and it's not Spanish specialties, but everything, from the food to the people themselves was good. And yes, for a restaurant by the marina of Ibiza, it's actually affordable.

So that's it for today! Until next time!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ibiza; S'Escalinata

Hi guys! I'm taking a break from my research paper and so I've decided to make it sort of productive by sharing my experience at S'Escalinata, an adorable snack and juice bar in the fortifications of Ibiza.

We discovered the spot while walking around, obviously, after visiting the church. We got lost on our way down but that was quite a pleasant discovery.

So we sat down on a huge pillow and ordered some drinks. We started taking selfies and were admiring the view on the town down there and the tourists exploring the fortifications. The girls had a glass of local vino tinto (red wine) while I asked for a zumo de piña (pineapple juice). The juice was so thick and creamy that the straw was standing on its own. I don't know if you see it on the picture, but it's not touching the side of the glass.

We also asked for tortilla de patata con pan tomate (potato omelet and bruschetta). The tortilla was not warm but it had a melting texture and had the right ratio of potato to egg. The pan tomate was light and crispy, though I would have personally liked a little extra drizzle of olive oil.

We also ordered tortilla and guacamole. The guacamole had a bit of chunk to it and we didn't run out of it (we actually ran out of tortilla before). The tortilla was simply a soft flour tortilla cut into triangles.

The place seems to be quite popular, and we could tell because every time a group of friends would get up to leave, another one would take their spot only seconds later (sort of like someone on a crowded bus waiting impatiently for a seat to be freed). The fact that a lot of tourists walk around doesn't help neither. I found it was kind of the Spanish version of something hipsters would totally fall in love with and then complain about it being ruined by tourists.

Overall the whole thing was very cute and pleasant. The prices were good (we split the bill in three and it was like 8€ each). They also have more choices, such as sandwiches and other kinds of tapas. I think it's one of those spots that, even though it is not an actual secret, is worth stopping by.

So if you go visit the fortifications in Ibiza, go rest your tired feet and have a glass of fresh juice there.

For more information : http://www.sescalinata.es/ibiza/

Until next time!
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