Vietnamese Cafés Episode 1: Station Coffee

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This is the closest coffee shop to the apartment I am staying at in Hanoi. It is quite a cool spot to come and hang out in. Everywhere has wifi in Hanoi so that isn’t what makes Station Coffee so cool, although since it’s facilitating this blog post it is worth a mention.

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It is a cosy little space with some small benches and tables, it features a patio across the street. Hanoi is packed with cafés but I thought I would start close to home and work my way outwards. My first stop was far from disappointing. The barista even has one of those trendy aprons that I have seen in Montreal and Toronto coffee spots.

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I started out with the classic Vietnamese coffee.  Thick black, super strong coffee is shaken with ice to create a nice froth, then the ice and coffee are poured over sweet condensed milk. You are in charge of stirring and scraping the sweet goodness from the bottom of the cup. I downed mine in just a few sips. So rich and delicious.

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While I was drinking my coffee another gentleman walked in and ordered something that I thought looked quite refreshing. After I was finished, I asked the man behind the counter what he had ordered. “Passionfruit” was all he said, “I’ll have one please” was my response. Not a mistake. A passionfruit syrup is mixed with ice and water in this cool little bottle to make a delightful yet simple treat. I’m glad I took a cue from that man, locals do know best more often than not.

If you find yourself in Hanoi, stop by Station Coffee in Hà Đông, Hà Nội, Vietnam!

 

Sweet + Sour at Bellwoods Brewery: Jelly King Sour

 

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From @bellwoodsbeer

 

TORONTO- I stopped by Bellwoods Brewery yesterday. This is just one of many trendy spots lining the streets of the Trinity-Bellwoods neighbourhood in Toronto. Started by two former brewers for fellow TO craft beer company, Amsterdam, owners Luke Pestl and Michael Clark seem to have struck a successful balance between refined flavour and an unassuming ambience. Bellwoods Brewery, which is only four years old, is so popular that upon opening they became known for the sheer number of people clamouring to get their hands on a limited supply of their beer. Fear not, they have been expanding, they opened a second location in 2012, allowing for ramped up production.

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I got to try their Jelly King Dry Hopped Sour. It really tastes like sour patch kids (or any number of your favourite sour candies). I’ll cite straight from the source on the technical deets: “This mixed fermentation ale is soured with a 5-strain house blend of lactobacillus, and heavily dry-hopped with citra.” Lactobacillus is used to make yogurt, cheese sauerkraut, and other fermented goodies. In this beer, the result is juicy and fruity, with minimal bitterness making it refreshing and highly drinkable. Jelly King still even manages to pull off ‘dry’, meaning minimal sugar hangover and no heaviness– talk about balanced!

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Swiped from @bellwoodsbeer on Instagram

At their Ossington location, you can pair your local beer with some locally sourced, seasonally appropriate bites that are sure to round out your experience. They dish up unique takes on everything from falafel to ceviche to banh mi. This is likely a reference to Toronto’s thriving and renowned smorgasbord of delicious dining options from around the world. If you’re picky, don’t worry, they always have the grilled cheese!

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…@bellwoodsbeer

What makes this small business even better for me is feedback I have heard from their employees. Friends from both back-of-house and front have expressed that it is a great environment to work in. Bellwoods, by their accounts, manages to shake the kind of frantic stress that often leads to angry chefs and authoritarian management in the F+B industry. I saw this for myself when I stopped by. Although they were quite busy, the pace was friendly, relaxed even. The staff got along and seemed to be enjoying themselves to the extent that I made a mental –and now a written– note of it.

If you’re Torontonian, I wouldn’t be surprised if you already know Bellwoods Brewery. Whether you’re visiting Toronto like me, or just missed the memo on Bellwoods Brewery, check it out.

Find them on Instagram or the worldwide web.

What’s a Caesar eh!?

Oh Canada, our home and native land! Home of the Hockey Hall of Fame, maple syrup, BeaverTails, free health care and the Justins (Trudeau and Bieber). If you live in Canada, I have no doubt that you have ordered a Caesar before and whether you are a fan of it or not, you know that it is a standard Canadian cocktail.

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Originated in Calgary, Alberta in 1969, Walter Chell was assigned the task to create a new drink for the opening of an Italian Restaurant. Inspired by Spaghetti Vangole and speculated to be influenced by a 1900’s Modern American Drink Book, Chell invented the Caesar cocktail – a salty, sour & spicy Canadian sensation.

During the same time, Mott’s introduced Clamato, a Clam and Tomato juice. Sales did not pick up until distributors discovered Chell’s drink. Mott’s Clamato Cocktail made making Caesars a heck of a lot easier in homes and bars.

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Walter Chell

The main ingredients consist of:

  • Vodka
  • Clamato (Clam + Tomato Juice)
  • Celery Salt
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Hot Sauce
  • Lime
  • Salt + Pepper

There are thousands of variations for this drink – some involving bacon, lobster, pickles, steak, perogies, onion rings and mango (not all together, although I wouldn’t be surprised to find such a recipe & it sure would be interesting to try). This drink can easily turn into a meal. You can find recipes for some of the craziest Caesar versions on National Caesar Day. Wait, what!? Canada has a day dedicated to celebrating the Caesar? Yup. This cocktail is so good that it was granted its own day – May 19th.

Despite it being Canada’s national cocktail, the Caesar is almost exclusively known only in Canada (and some parts of Mexico). Outside of Canada, most people have never tasted a Caesar before or even heard of this strange but surprisingly tasty drink. If you are one of those people, you must give it a try at least once. I remember being reluctant to try it my first time as I am not a fan of tomato juice, but with all the spices and added flavours, it tasted like nothing I had ever had.

If I haven’t convinced you to love this drink yet,  I’ll just let Canada’s PM do all the convincing.

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Try Making a Caesar Cocktail at Home

If you ever want to enjoy a Caesar at home but don’t have all the ingredients, you can purchase Walter’s premium caesar mix. It is all natural, Ocean Wise™ recommended, and made in small batches to ensure great quality – so basically a tasty and hassle free way to create this fun cocktail at home. You could also definitely have a lot of fun stacking this drink with creative & homemade garnishes.

Check out Walter to see what they are all about.

Ritual on the Road

IMG_1013.JPGMy last stop in London before catching my Greyhound to Toronto was at Ritual Cafe. I unambiguously love this place. I have been stopping by a few times a week since it opened a couple months ago. Miljan, the owner and manager, has always been so kind to me and he knows how to hire too. The baristas have the skills and knowledge to back up the chic atmosphere that places guests in a comfy urban oasis to work, study, or socialize.

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Swiped from @jmsplatt

Before Ritual was Ritual, Miljan had a restaurant called Black George at the same location. The service there was equally impeccable. It was expensive enough to stop me from coming in several times a week –fine dining is but an occasional treat for me at this stage in my life– but the staff always remembered my name and my dietary preferences as if I were a cherished regular.

These businesses exemplify the reasons why I love small, locally owned enterprises. The faces are always familiar, the relationships are real. All the products they offer come with careful thought and are made with love. This is the kind of consistent authenticity that Starbucks could never refine into a corporate system.

As I walked in today with my gaudy travel backpack that is a dead give-away to touts the world over that I’m new in town, my fave café crew saw that it was good-bye for now. Hugs all around made me realize how much I’ll miss these people (and their amazing coffee and pastries). Genuine relationships are what keep communities together and Ritual does just that.

It provides a space for people to get together. In the past couple of months, I have seen first dates, heated debates, and study breaks. It’s always my first suggestion for where to meet. I don’t worry that it won’t be around when I get back because it is always buzzing with activity. It is clear that Londoners feel the sense of comfort and community that I feel there as well.

Ta ta for now Ritual!

JD

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Check out Ritual on Instagram and Facebook

Try Anderson’s Craft Pumpkin Ale

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Today I am drinking Anderson’s seasonal Pumpkin Ale at UWO’s Grad Club. It is delicious! Anderson has put together a much more subtle offering than most pumpkin beers I have had this season. I am getting hints of pumpkin and spice but it definitely isn’t sweet or overpowering. I can taste the freshness that is an indicator of a local brew made with high-quality ingredients.

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Anderson is a recent addition to London, ON’s craft brewery line-up and it is quickly becoming my favourite thanks to their consistently top-notch products. Started by home-brewing father and son duo, Jim and Gavin Anderson, this family brewery is far from amateur. Located in London’s rapidly developing Old East Village, the independent brewery crafts a full line-up of tasty brews which can be found at a number of locations across London and in stores.

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If you get the chance to try any of Anderson Craft Ales’ products, don’t pass it up. Buying Anderson would mean supporting the local economy (presuming you’re from Ontario),  and it would also mean a tasty and refreshing brew to enjoy.

Check out Anderson Craft Ales

Leifmans Fruitesse: Beer On The Rocks

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We started a lovely meal at the Church Key Bistro-Pub in London, ON with Leifmans Fruitesse on the rocks. I had never been offered beer “on the rocks” before so, naturally, I had to try it. As it happens, everyone at my table decided to follow suit and we all loved it!

Leifmans has a long history. Founded in the 17th century by Jacobus Liefmans in Oudenaarde Belgium, you can definitely taste the history. It wasn’t until around 1900 that they started brewing with black cherry. The idea originated when local farmers began trading their leftover black cherry harvests in exchange for beer. Sounds like a good deal to me!

Sweet just like the more common Früli, Leifmans is far more nuanced. The flavours found include strawberry, raspberry, cherry, blueberry, and elderberry. It definitely doesn’t taste like beer! The ice takes away from the syrupy quality that sweet beers can often have as you approach the bottom of your glass and it also gives you the impression that you are drinking a fancy cocktail.

Speaking of cocktails, Leifmans lists a variety of cocktail ideas if you feel creative. They suggest pairing the beer with flavours like mint, chili, lavender, orange, and basil. If 4.2% ABV isn’t enough for you, I would recommend using bourbon or vodka to give your cocktails an extra punch.

Check out the Church Key

Check out Leifmans Fruitesse

 

Chili Hot Cocoa

 

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Are you feeling the fall breeze? Finally brought out the turtle necks and your snuggy (is that still a thing?). Now that Fall has arrived andWinter is Coming”, we need to fill our souls with warmth (and patience for Season 7 of GoT!). I wanted to create a homemade drink that would keep me cozy as I sip my winter worries away.

Inspired by the tasty Mexican Mocha found in London Ontario’s  Ritual Café, I set out to create an easy version in my cozy kitchen. Ritual uses cayenne for a kick, chipotle for a slow burn, and a homemade chocolate sauce, which can’t be beat. Like the Mexican Mocha, this Chili Hot Cocoa has a kick to it and will satisfy your taste buds. Better yet, this version requires a bit less expertise– and it’s still delicious! We guarantee that this sweet and spicy combo will keep you warm through the sweater weather.   

 


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What You Need to DIY

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup of boiling water
  • 1 cup of milk (I prefer 2% or whole milk)
  • 2 tbs of cocoa powder
  • a pinch of crushed chili flakes to taste
  • 2 tbs of Agave Syrup
  • Optional: small piece of Chocolate (I used Lindt Chili Dark Chocolate for extra flavour)
  • Optional: whipped cream

Utensils

  • Strainer
  • Whisk
  • Cheese grater

Bring On the Action

  1. Heat water to boil
  2. On the stove top, heat the milk and chili together on low until bubbles start to form – that’s about 3-5 mins (Don’t let it boil! Milk will scald if it gets too hot, so keep an eye on it, stir constantly, and remove from heat right when it’s done.)
  3. Whisk the cocoa powder, boiled water, and agave syrup together.
  4. Pour the chili-infused milk over a strainer into your cup (For those cappuccino lovers, you can whisk the milk in the pot to get some froth)
  5. Serve with whipped cream and grated chocolate on top

*A little goes a long way with chili, so be careful!

*If you’re a home Barista and own a steam wand , opt for that over the stove top for your chili milk (steamed milk is always the best!)

Enjoy!

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