Rhubarb for others

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Last week was a busy one at the cookbook store where I’m lucky enough to work. Spring has an incredible lineup of new cookbook releases and Book Larder is hosting fantastic authors to promote their work. Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen stopped by to a packed house to chat about her new book, Bowl + Spoon and something she said struck me.  Ashley asked her how she deals with falling into a “food rut”. I imagine a food rut for a food blogger happens a fair amount of time and can be incredibly frustrating, since you kind of need to keep cooking to continue creating the content that is your livelihood. Sara said that when she feels stuck and uninspired, she cooks for others.

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You know that book/thing “The Five Love Languages”? It is supposed to tell you the specific way you communicate and receive love best. They are Gifts, Touch, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation and Acts of Service.  None of those ever felt quite apt for me and also don’t stick me in a category corner. I decided that Food was my love language. Edible art is can cause me to tear up while clapping with glee. That is how I feel the most loved. Creating food for others is how I express to them that they are worthy of being spoiled. Worthy of time being spent recipe hunting, shopping, cooking and cleaning up for them. My inspirational sister-in-law  just birthed a child AND became a doctor, all in one week! My initial instinct was to create a week’s worth of meals for them as a way to bolster and congratulate. Unfortunately we live thousands of miles away from each other so that is a bit impossible at the moment.

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The post winter/ pre spring season had caused me to fall into a bit of a food rut. Looking through all these incredible cookbooks at work, made me at once antsy to cook, and simultaneously too overwhelmed and (ironically) uninspired. So many dishes were middling, intimidating or their ingredients just weren’t in season yet.  Recipe after recipe just created a glaze to fall over my eyes while reading books that had previously incited ooohs! and sparked brain whirrings. Then two things happened that helped yank me out of this stupid attitude of foodish boredom. Sara encouraged me to remember how connecting and communal food is when creating it for others. Also, rhubarb showed up at the farmer’s market. Armed with magenta stalks and a semi-selfless attitude, I invited a couple friends over for dinner. Dinner, rhubarb galette, a hysterical movie and dear friends de-glazed my eyes and brought my attention back to viewing food as an offering of my affection to others.

Rhubarb Galette

Pie crust is still a Herculean task in my mind, so I all about the free wheeling nature of a galette, be it savory or sweet.

I followed Food52’s tips of galette creation, and subbed half the AP flour with whole wheat flour because health. You can do the same or keep it all AP. You be you. 

Chop up about a 1 to 1.5 lbs of washed rhubarb. Mix in a bowl with a tablespoon or 2 of sugar. I like my rhubarb more tart than sweet. Add a bit of vanilla extract and a bit of ground cardamom. Grate fresh ginger* ( to your liking) to the rhubarb and mix it all together. Add rhubarb mixture it to the chilled, rolled out dough you created with Food52’s help. Fold over the edges, paint on an egg wash and sprinkle a bit of brown sugar to the crust. Bake for 40 minutes or so, checking to be sure it is adequately crispy and bubbly. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and alongside friends. 

 

 

 

* I keep my ginger in the freezer which I find makes grating much simpler.

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Recent Photography Practice

I’ve been practicing my food photography with our new camera lately. Ridiculously fun. Below are some of my recent favorites that I’ve taken for the Book Larder blog and also for a couple restaurant recommendation articles for culinaryinspo.com.

Practice makes better.

 

 

 

Marinated goat cheese from Amy Chaplin's "At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen"

Marinated goat cheese from Amy Chaplin’s  “At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen”

 

 

Bitter greens from Book Larder class

Bitter greens from a Book Larder cooking class

 

 

 

Action shot from Book Larder class

Action shot from a Book Larder cooking class

 

 

 

 

Anchovy, goat cheese and caper pizza for Book Larder  blog post

Anchovy, goat cheese and caper pizza for Book Larder blog post

 

 

 

Cocktail from Bar Tartine/Sitka & Spruce event

Cocktail from Bar Tartine/Sitka & Spruce event with Book Larder

 

 

 

Gorgeous meringues from The Whale Wins for Culinary Inspiration article

Gorgeous meringues from The Whale Wins for Culinary Inspiration article

 

 

 

From Book Larder's Serious Salads class

From Book Larder’s Serious Salads class

 

 

 

Chefs in action for Bar Tartine/Sitka and Spruce event

Chefs in action for Bar Tartine/Sitka & Spruce event

 

 

 

 

essex cocktail for Culinary Inspiration article

essex cocktail for Culinary Inspiration article

 

 

 

 

outside of Vif for Culinary Inspiration article

outside of Vif for Culinary Inspiration article

 

 

 

 

Salmon dish from Bar Tartine/Sitka & Spruce event

Salmon dish from Bar Tartine/Sitka & Spruce event

 

 

 

 

Spicing in action from Book Larder class

Spicing in action from Book Larder  cooking class

 

 

 

 

The Whale Wins mise en place for Culinary Inspiration article

The Whale Wins mise en place for Culinary Inspiration article

 

 

 

 

Serving from Bar Tartine/ Sitka & Spruce event

Serving from Bar Tartine/ Sitka & Spruce event

 

 

 

 

Slider from Ashley Rodriguez's Book Larder talk

Slider from Ashley Rodriguez’s (from Not Without Salt) Book Larder talk

Food Themed Gift Guide

If you are still in the throes of gift buying, here are a few ideas that are food related for the kid, bacon lover, art appreciator, game player and Do It Yourself-er.

 

Gift-Guide-2014

Kids book, Calendar, Coffee print, Foodie game, Coffee and espresso mug,
Camping dinners, DIY bacon, Food writing course, Tea kettle, Carry on cocktail kit,
Traveling coffee kit, Bitters kit, Uuni wood oven, Cutting board

Boot Stuffers

Ok, now that Thanksgiving has passed I give my permission for everyone to start with the Christmasey things. Caroling, twinkle lights, pine boughs and all manner of red and green. I’m sure you all waited until I gave my go ahead and I really appreciate that. One holiday at a time people.

Christmas is the one time during the year that all 7 members of my family get together. We are scattered across the country and have gained a few members in the last couple years, so this year will be particularly epic. I’m a very strict traditionalist, and so see myself as the Enforcer to make sure we continue with all the little things we do every year. For instance, instead of stockings we leave out winter boots on Christmas Eve, as an homage to our Hungarian history. On December 6th, Hungarian children leave out their boots for Szent Miklós to fill with treats.  Our boots are usually filled little knick-knacks, goodies, small makeup items and sometimes little clues to larger presents.

Below is a little Stocking/Boot Stuffer Guide, for food lovers obviously. Hope it gives you some inspiration! Merry happy!

 

Stocking-Stuffers-Gift-Guide

 Whetstone, Veggie Tattoos, Produce Sheets, Parchment and Lemon Wraps, Canned OctopusCheese Labels, Crack Pie Mix, Heirloom Seeds

Foodish Podcasts

Since moving to Seattle last fall, I’ve gotten way into podcasts. I used to only listen to Meet the Filmmaker to hear interviews with the cast, crew and creators of movies and TV shows. Except, for some reason it stopped updating regularly in my podcast app, which made me frustrated so in retaliation,  I haven’t listened to it in a while. Obviously that is their loss.

Anyway, I’ve found a few food themed podcasts to listen to on my walk to and from work which have kept me vastly entertained. I’m the weirdo chuckling to myself, making odd faces or grunting agreeing noises as I stumble down or trudge up the hill.  My tendency with podcasts is to find one, and listen to just about every available episode in some sort of binge listening spree. Then, I get unfairly annoyed when there isn’t an unlimited amount of new content at my beck and call, so I’m forced to find another show to start the cycle over again. These are my favorites:

 

 

 

This is obviously at the top of the list, since I am proud to be their Production Assistant. But I wasn’t when I started listening! I was just another rabid fan like you are about to become. I discovered the Spilled Milk Podcast through reading Molly Wizenberg’s blog, Orangette, as she hosts the show with Matthew Amster-Burton. Each episode centers on one food item, which is tasted and explored in more ways than you ever thought possible. They are a hysterical duo who never miss a chance at a good (or bad) innuendo. Lest you think that these food writers only speak on haughty, artisanal ingredients, let me point your attention to a few previous episodes: Fast Food Frozen Treats, Halloween Candy and Whipped Cream. The episodes are about 15-20 minutes long and occasionally educational along with being hilarious. Check out their amazing, clever and beautiful Facebook page and get ready to be addicted. New episodes are delivered to your podcast app every Thursday.

 

 

 

The Dinner Party Download  is set up around the conceit of a dinner party with various segments. They always have a guest give etiquette tips, tell a little known story from history with an accompanying cocktail, eavesdrop on someone telling a story and have musicians compile their perfect dinner party soundtrack. The episodes are about 50 minutes long and they have top notch guests, like James McAvoy, Kevin Spacey and Wes Anderson. They usually explore some new, experimental or interesting thing going on in the food world as well. I love this podcast as I learn a lot of fun trivia and informational tidbits about an array of topics that wouldn’t normally occur to me to explore. They have a trove of episodes so get crackin. New episodes come out on Fridays.

 

Splendid Table

 

 

 The Splendid Table is hosted by Lynn Rossetto Kasper whose melodious voice will make you salivate and swoon. Especially when she says “garlic”. Episodes are on a variety of different subjects and have interviews with the famous along with the obscure. Most episodes have a segment on Roadfood with Jane and Michael Stern   (where does one get their job!?) and there are a few segments that occur every so often like Key Three, where cooks or chefs teach Lynn her/his 3 most vital dishes. There is a plethora of recipes on the blog and in every episode, Lynn takes calls from listeners with questions. It is a fun, educational and always interesting podcast. Well, as long as anything within the realm of food and drink interests you. Some of my recent favorites are True Chef, Tasting in the Dark and Artisan Bread. By the end you’ll wish you were BFF with Lynn. New episodes come out on Thursdays.

 

Radio Cherry Bombe is brand new with only 6 episodes out so far. It is part of Heritage Radio Network and comes from the creators of the Cherry Bombe magazine.  Julia Turshen interviews women within the food world, from Jeni from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams to the chef and the food stylist behind Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food. I adore learning about the creative processes behind these women and their hard work to bring their creations to reality. The episode airs live on Wednesdays at 2pm EST and I think is updated as a podcast shortly after. Julia has the same 8 question, rapid fire Q&A for each guest and its so fun to see how each woman answers.

 

 

I’ve only listened to one of these, but since chefs are my rock starts and I love learning their backstories, I know Chef’s Story will become a favorite. Hosted by Dorothy Cann Hamilton, the founder of the International Culinary Center, each episode consists of her chatting with a chef. I just listened to the Barbara Lynch episode which was fascinating and such a compelling story. I’m now desperate for her memoir to come out. I’m stocking up on these episodes so I may be hard to reach for a bit. This is also from the Heritage Radio Network and airs live on Wednesdays at 12:00 pm EST, and is up as a podcast after.

 

Looks like this Heritage Radio Network will supply me with food centric content for a long time to come…

Edible Art

India

These food themed maps are stunning. They also make me hungry.

I’m a sucker for the typography. It’s incredible right?

Chine

Says the artist :

“These maps show how food has traveled the globe – transforming and becoming a part of the cultural identity of that place. Who doesn’t know the saying ‘throw some shrimp on the barbie’ and not think of Australia? Who goes to France without eating bread and cheese? And who makes a Brazilian caipirinha without a fistful of limes?

“These maps are a playful representation of our interpretation of food from around the world, painstakingly created with real unadulterated food. This project speaks to the universality of how food unites people, brings us together and starts conversation – just as we hope these beautiful maps will do too.”

Italy

 

Which is your favorite?

 

Australia

 

 

USA

 

UK

France

South America
Africa
typography by Sarit Melmed

Cozy Cabin

Cozy-Cabin-to-post

If you haven’t already heard of Airbnb, let me enlighten you. All around the world people list their extra rooms, apartments, castles, airstreams etc. on Airbnb.com where you can rent them for just a night or up to a few weeks. There are some spectacular options on there. We rented a huge luxurious apartment in Budapest to fit 8 people during Christmas a few years ago, and my husband and I rented a few apartments on our Grecian honeymoon last June. They all had so much more character than a hotel room and were usually better priced for their location. When visiting a new place, I strive to be the least touristy I can. It gives you so much more of an actual feel for a place you know? Plus, you usually get some recommendations from your host that you’d never find on your own.

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We’ve been antsy to explore more of Washington since its so beautiful and full of nature wherever you look. We have a list going of all the locales to check out.  As a mini birthday trip a few weeks ago, we found a Cozy Cabin through Airbnb about 90 minutes from the city.  This cabin was adorable and, once we got the wood stove going, quite warm and comfy. There was no electricity, but a few propane lanterns and candles everywhere gave us enough light. A light dusting of snow started as we drove down the rustic logging road to the cabin.

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For me, of course, the most exciting prospect of this trip was planning a delicious spread for our dinner. I bought a few cheeses, crackers and some quince and fig jams from The Calf and The Kid as a small dessert spread. For dinner I had prepared toppings for 3 types of sandwiches. I had slow roasted cherry tomatoes for a few hours in olive oil, salt, pepper and fennel seeds till they basically tasted like candy. There was not enough of that to go around and there was only two of us which should tell you something about its addictive properties. Adding some fresh basil and mozzarella to the tomatoes gave us our caprese sandwich. Avocado,goat cheese and arugula with black pepper made another. The last was super simple, but tasted lavish. We spread a healthy slab of unsalted butter on a baguette slice, added a few thin radish slices and sprinkled a tiny pinch of Maldon sea salt on top. I tell you, I could have eaten those all night long. Unfortunately my stomach was satiated way before my tongue was. A mixed green salad with some homemade tarragon shallot vinaigrette gave us the illusion that we were eating healthy.

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After dinner we munched on cheese and crackers and sipped wine, cozily snug inside blankets since we had inadvertently let the wood stove go out. Apparently, you have to pay attention to those things and keep feeding them wood or they stop burning. Science.

As Brandon worked to get the fire burning again we brought out our entertainment for the evening, a few Choose Your Own Adventure books. Their titles promised rich gems of hilarity: ” The Lost Jewels of Nabuti”, “Prisoner of The Ant People” and “My Zombie Pen Pal”. However, we kept dying almost immediately no matter our choices which was super lame. We consoled ourselves with more cheese and wine, adding a few chocolate squares to the mix.

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Paul, our amazing host, had stocked the kitchen with potatoes, onions, garlic and eggs so we created a feast for breakfast the next morning. Brandon has great egg technique so I relinquished cooking duties to him. He made some crunchy hash browns, topped with cheese which creamily melted and topped it all with two over easy eggs. There was a funky contraption that turned out to be a coffee grinder, so we made a french press with the beans from the cupboard. The coffee was atrocious, but it set the scene for our lazy rustic morning. We’ll just have to bring our own beans next time.

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After a lazy morning spent eating and chatting, we decided it was time to get back to some sort of civilization. However, that charming snow dusting that had greeted our arrival the night before, had steadily grown and created a winter wonderland that was growing more wintery by the minute. The driveway to leave the cabin complex had a tiny incline which was insurmountable by our poor little Honda Fit, Huck. Poor Huck got stuck almost immediately. Thank God that our host, lived in the complex and saw our car get stuck. He and his neighbors worked selflessly for 2 hours to get us unstuck, pushing us and using their 4 wheel drive truck to basically plow the two mile logging road so we could get out. They were incredibly kind. stuck-in-the-snow-to-post

When it first became apparent that we would not get out for a little while, Paul sent us back into the cabin to get warm. We had obviously gotten hungry again in the meantime, all that sitting in the car and watching them push really took it out of us. We used this opportunity to  finish off our leftover salad and butter radish sandwiches along with the rest of our Prosecco. This helped our attitudes immensely. Isn’t it incredible how medicinal food and drink can be for the mood and the soul?

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At last we were free from the snowy driveway and drove with great trepidation down the logging road to civilization. The trees lining the road groaned under their snowy weights and occasionally dropped them on our roof as we inched along. Finally we reached a real, live paved road and made our way to Bellingham.  There we found a gorgeously maze-like bookstore and  I spent almost all of my birthday money adding to my Agatha Christie collection.

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Thankfully that was basically our first and, most probably, our last snow experience of the winter here in the Pacific Northwest. Sorry to all my Chicago pals for the constant winter hell you’ve been going through. I hope spring comes soon! We’ll definitely stop by this cozy cabin again in the summer time when we can explore the surrounding woods and perhaps have a little bonfire and summer cocktails.

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Olive Oil 101

Olive-Oil

My mother had a fanatical reverence for fancy, foreign olive oils and would only rarely venture into the Forbidden Pantry of Italian Ingredients  to bring it to the dinner table. It was usually reserved for my parent’s meals as our young, immature palates were not yet refined enough to appreciate the complex nuances of that golden, green liquid of the gods. 

Following right in her footsteps, I purchased my first “grown up” bottle of extra virgin olive oil in Athens last June. It is strictly reserved for scarce drizzling on light dishes where the flavor can shine. Lets be real though. Does this expensive, organic, hand-picked, foot pressed olive oil taste that much different then  your average supermarket version? Is it worth the adoration and restraint that my mother and I  bestow upon our bottles?

In my quest to discover the answer, I came across the blog Truth in Olive Oil.  This website is like a college course on olive oil.

How to Buy Great Olive Oil highlights

-Bitterness and pungency are usually indicators of an oil’s healthfulness.  Sweetness and butteriness are often not.

-Unlike many wines, which improve with age, extra virgin olive oil is perishable:  like all natural fruit juices, its flavor and aroma begin to deteriorate within a few months of milling, a decline that accelerate when the oil is bottled, and really speeds up when the bottle is opened.

-…be sure your oil is labeled “extra virgin,” since other categories – “pure” or “light” oil, “olive oil,” not to mention “pomace olive oil” – have undergone chemical refinement which strips away olive flavors and many of the oil’s health benefits.

– When choosing bottled oil, prefer dark glass or other containers that protect against light, buy a quantity that you’ll use up quickly, and keep it well sealed in a cool, dark place.

– Good oils come in all shades, from vivid green to gold to pale straw…

– Phrases like “packed in Italy” or “bottled in Italy,” do not mean that the oil was made in Italy, much less that it was made from Italian olives.  Italy is one of the world’s major importers of olive oil, much of which originates in Spain, Greece, Tunisia and elsewhere, so don’t be taken in by Italian flags and scenes from the Tuscan countryside on the packaging.

-Once you’ve bought your oil, store it in a place where it is protected from light, heat and oxygen, the three enemies of good oil, which speed spoilage.

Homework

To see how your favorite Trader Joe’s oil stands up to the expert see here and other supermarket versions here.

For a list of the author’s favorite oils from around the world ( complete with tasting notes) look here.

For up to the minute olive oil news check out his blog here.

And for extra credit, read Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil and write a 1-2 page book report for me by next week.

Now you are ready to start classes at The International Olive Oil School!

Indie food in MOUTH

Now that the holidays are almost upon us, it is time to pin things like mad to our secret “Presents” boards.

That could just be me…

With present buying, I usually find things that I want myself so I’ve found just loads of ideas at the online indie food shop, MOUTH.

Their manifesto sounds right up my alley:

WE LOVE FOOD.

WE LOVE HANDMADE AND SMALL-BATCH.
WE LOVE FOOD MADE BY PEOPLE NOT COMPANIES.
WE LOVE INDIE FOOD.
WE LOVE DISCOVERING THE NEW AND THE DELICIOUS.
WE LOVE TASTING THINGS ON LITTLE WOODEN SPOONS.
WE CAN’T HELP BUT LOVE BEAUTIFUL PACKAGING.
WE LOVE OUR PASSIONATE, RISK-TAKING FOOD MAKERS.
WE LOVE OUR CUSTOMERS.
WE ADMIT THAT WE LOVE SHOPPING ONLINE FOR OURSELVES AND FOR PEOPLE WE LOVE OR LIKE A LOT.
WE LOVE THAT OUR TABLE IS PILED HIGH WITH GOODIES WE’RE TASTING, DEBATING AND HOPING YOU’LL LOVE TOO.

Some of my favs

RAS EL HANOUT MOROCCAN SPICE BLEND

Holiday Gift Collections

Fall for you collection

The Happy Couple

Chocolate Taster

Crafty Cocktails

Chef Taster

Goat Milk Caramel… and faint!

Food gifts are the best gifts.

NOLA

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We traveled to New Orleans this past weekend for my husband’s work conference. Such a hilarious combination, the ultra conservative corporate atmosphere and the raucous party atmosphere that is NOLA at Halloween. I must admit,  I had some fun exploiting that combo on social media, see #cpcu13.

On to the food!

First,  we discovered that NOLA had no good coffee. Coming from Chicago and Seattle this wreaked havoc on us. We just couldn’t get our minds around it and couldn’t help but take it personally.

Spitfire Coffee was decent, which is far and away better than the siphon fiasco that was Sucre. I had read good things about the coffee truck Brigade Coffee , but we were  unfortunately never able to get to them.

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Spitfire coffee in The French Quarter

My palette is not one for crawfish, alligator, oysters and po boys, so classic NOLA cuisine was lost on me. We did find a few places that were more our style.

Sylvain was through a tiny alley and had a quaint outdoor area with quite a few tables. We tried a few solidly tasty dishes there and some stellar cocktails. My favorite one of the trip was The Green Bastard which was made with Green Chartreuse, Lime, Egg White, Homericon Mastic, and Bittermens Hellfire.

Green Chartreuse is delicious guys. Get your fix with a Last Word sometime.

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The Last Word: gin, lime juice, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur

Domenica was in the Hotel Roosevelt and we definitely overestimated our appetites here.

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Ordered a bit too much food as so many things sounded irresistible.  You try to fight off the likes of ” Roasted Cauliflower with sea salt and whipped goat feta”,”Burrata with honey roasted pears and arugula”, “Fried Tuscan Kale” or “Roasted carrot pizza with goat cheese, red onion, brussel sprouts and beets”.

Exactly.

Because they are in a hotel, there will be some private events there so just be aware of that if you choose to visit. They have a Happy Hour every day from 3-6 where all their pizzas and many drinks are half price.

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Also at the Hotel Roosevelt was SazeracHistory says that the sazerac was the first cocktail and invented in New Orleans, so just about everywhere had one.  The one here was heavy on the Peychaud bitters which made it unique and scrumptious.

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Arnaud’s French 75 bar was another spot with a very old fashioned feel, a nice respite from the sleazy madness that was Bourbon Street.  Of course I had to have a French 75 here. We asked the bartender to make us some whiskey cocktails and he whipped up some brilliantly boozy concoctions.

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French 75: Courvoisier VS, Sugar, Lemon Juice, Moet and Chandon Champagne

I know it looks like we just drank cocktails the entire trip , and though we had a fair amount we did , in fact eat. It just was nothing incredible or out of the ordinary.

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We took the free Canal Street Ferry one day, across to Algiers, a quaint neighborhood with a few little shops. Tout de Suite provided me with a much needed salad and had some yummy breakfast options.

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When I was desperate for some salty fries, St Lawrence came to our rescue with upscale bar food and some craft cocktails.

One place I definitely do not recommend is the Pirates Alley Cafe. Horrific drinks trying to pass as cocktails, I think they bank on their patrons being completely drunk before stopping by. However it did provide me with my favorite picture of the trip:

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Toxic Baby Shot

I think my favorite spot was Bar Tonique. They had an extensive menu of classic cocktails and a Happy Hour from 12-5 on weekdays with a few solid $5 drinks.  I had a few Aviations and a Corpse Reviver #2.

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Corpse Reviver #2

Lastly Mister Gregory’s had some french inspired pastries, soups and sandwiches. Nice little lunch or breakfast spot.