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Denmark: Nelle’s & Bager

Lucky me, right after my trip to California I took off to Denmark for 10 days.  By now, most of you know how I like to travel and over the next few weeks I’ll be highlighting all the great places I ate around Denmark.  Starting with Nelle’s in the town of Odense.  Loved this cute coffee bar in the old part of Odense.  With Denmark’s stylish sensibility, the bar is simplistic with clean lines with white and wood everywhere.  Only the Danes can make plywood look good but best of all, this was where I first tried hindbaersnitter.  Nelle’s had a variation of the hindbaersnitter, normally made with some sort of shortbread (at least that’s what I saw in most bakeries), this one had more a ginger snap texture with a raspberry jam filling and topped with royal icing and colourful sprinkles – completely sweet tooth worthy.  At Bager, a bakery in the city of Aarhus, there was an abundance of pastries to be had.  My favourite one here was the ringed twisted pastry decorated with a strip of white royal icing.  You couldn’t tell by looking at it but the texture was a cross between pie pastry and butter cookie – it was so good, I went back the next morning for another :)  What a great introduction to Denmark.

Nelle's Coffee & Wine Bar.

Nelle’s Coffee & Wine Bar.

Nelle's beautiful interior.

Nelle’s beautiful interior.

Stylish interior and counter space in Nelle's.

Stylish interior and counter space in Nelle’s.

My breakfast snack.

My breakfast snack.

Some of the delicious pastries available at Nelle's.

Some of the delicious pastries available at Nelle’s.

A danish pastry called hindbaersnitter.

A danish pastry called hindbaersnitter.

Bager - Baker/Bakery in Danish language.

Bager – Baker/Bakery in Danish language.

So many pastries to choose from - my favourite, the ringed pastry with white icing.

So many pastries to choose from – my favourite, the ringed pastry with white icing.

Some more deliciousness!

Some more deliciousness!

Chokorug - a Danish chocolate bread.

Chokorug – a Danish chocolate bread.

California: Parks BBQ

Its been a few weeks now and I’m writing my final California post from my 2014 trip.  Its hard to believe that I was only in Southern California for 6 days and was able to experience so much.  My last meal in California before catching a red eye back to Toronto was for some Korean bbq in Korea town.  After I saw Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode on Korea town, it went onto my bucket list.   Our host J took us to ParksBBQ.  Parks is the epitomy of “you can’t judge a book by its cover”.  Located in a very ordinary strip mall on a very busy street full of strip malls, I was pleasantly surprised by the interior, simplistic and clean.  The sides that were served was delicious but the meats is what made this meal and that’s how it should be.  We ordered Park’s gal-bi, a prime beef short rib that is marinated in a special house sauce.  Cut in a way that I haven’t seen before with the bone attached to one end.  Once grilled, the server comes with scissors to cut the short rib into bite size pieces – it was so tender and sweet.  The bulgogi was just as good, just a different cut and with the house marinade, it too was grilled to perfection.  Eaten with a bowl of white steamed rice, it was a great culinary ending to my first trip to California!

Parks BBQ.

Parks BBQ.

Inside Parks BBQ.

Inside Parks BBQ.

Korean Cass beer.

Korean Cass beer.

Some of the many yummy sides that come with the meal.

Some of the many yummy sides that come with the meal.

More additional sides.

More additional sides.

Gal-bi before its thrown on the grill.

Gal-bi before its thrown on the grill.

Gal-bi unwound and on the grill.

Gal-bi unwound and on the grill.

Grilled gal-bi being cut right on the grill.

Grilled gal-bi being cut right on the grill.

Traditional Korean raw bulgogi.

Traditional Korean raw bulgogi.

Bulgogi grilling and ready to eat.

Bulgogi grilling and ready to eat.

California: Tatsu

You would think that from my recent posts I’ve missed Japanese food and well, I have!  As much as I like to think that Toronto is a cosmopolitan city with great asian cuisine, it just doesn’t compare to the west coast.  My first taste of great Japanese food outside of Japan was in Vancouver and Los Angeles is no different.  Tatsu is no Momofuku but boy it reminds me more of the street food ramen I had in Tokyo than the gourmet noodle bowls at the “chi chi” restos.  Similar to ordering at the vending machines that would spit out a ticket with your order, you input your order via the ipad station, payment and all, then hand it to the server.  I ordered the very spicy Bold Ramen made with tonkotsu broth (pork) with additional sliced pork chashu and a boiled egg.  I then added crushed garlic.  The dish was tasty and it so hit the spot, a perfect thing to have late at night when you’re craving comfort food!

Tatsu ramen noodle house.

Tatsu ramen noodle house.

Tatsu's self ordering system.

Tatsu’s self ordering system.

Inside Tatsu - love the noodle like decor hanging from the ceiling.

Inside Tatsu – love the noodle like decor hanging from the ceiling.

My order of Bold Ramen with pork chashu and a soft boiled egg.

My order of Bold Ramen with pork chashu and a soft boiled egg.

A close up of my order.

A close up of my order.

The bottom of the bowl.

The bottom of the bowl.

California: Sugarfish

Sugarfish, another recommendation from our host J, is a Japanese sushi restaurant that is really focused on offering the traditional sushi experience, concentrating on the quality of the ingredients.  There was no asian fusion or maki rolls to be seen in this place.  In addition to the a la carte menu they offered three levels of omakase style set course menu called “Trust Me” menus at $20, $30 and $40.  I ordered the $40 Nozawa Trust Me menu which encompasses 10 courses including approximately 14 pieces of sushi.  J described Sugarfish as one of the best sushi restaurants for the price and boy did it deliver.  The best sushi I’ve ever had was 7 years ago in Tsukiji (Tokyo’s tuna auction market) and the sushi I had at Sugarfish reminded me of that type of freshness.  Of the 10 courses, my favourite was the “Daily Special” – raw shrimp which was butterflied, atop of sweetened rice nigiri style, with a drop of yuzu/ponzu.  The shrimp was so sweet and melted in your mouth, and the small drop of yuzu/ponzu lifted it up by adding a touch of citrus – it was delicious.  Definitely one of the best sushi I’ve had in North America in awhile.

Santa Monica's Sugarfish.

Santa Monica’s Sugarfish.

My new favourite beer - Sapporo Light.

My new favourite beer – Sapporo Light.

The minimalist interior of Sugarfish restaurant.

Inside Sugarfish restaurant.

Dish 2 - tuna sashimi.

Dish 2 – tuna sashimi.

Dish 3, 4, 5 - 2 pieces of albacore, 2 pieces of salmon and 2 pieces of snapper.

Dish 3, 4, 5 – 2 pieces of albacore, 2 pieces of salmon and 2 pieces of snapper.

A close up of the salmon sushi.

A close up of the salmon sushi.

Dish 6, 7 - 2 pieces of yellowtail and 2 pieces of halibut.

Dish 6, 7 – 2 pieces of yellowtail and 2 pieces of halibut.

Dish 8 - toro hand roll.

Dish 8 – toro hand roll.

Dish 9 - crab hand roll.

Dish 9 – crab hand roll.

Dish 10 - the special of the day, 2 pieces of shrimp.

Dish 10 – the special of the day, 2 pieces of shrimp.

California: Brophy Bros.

There are so many places to travel in California and Santa Barbara was high on my list.  With its history rooted in Spanish influence which is so evident in the architecture, I just had to take a drive up the coast to visit.  We took a stroll on the main strip, walked around the Santa Barbara Mission and then a drive over the mountains into Santa Ynez valley.  Before heading home, we stopped by the harbour to grab dinner at Brophy Bros, a clam bar and restaurant.  Being by the ocean and having such easy access to fishing vessels its no wonder this place specializes in fresh seafood.  The oysters, clams and peel and eat shrimp were sweet but the highlight was the Californian staple, cioppino.  Prior to my trip I only heard and saw cioppino on episodes of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network so it was great to finally try it.  To me, stews are a hearty winter dish but the cioppino is a great summer version with a strong tomato base full of the day’s catch – this one had clams, mussels, scallops and shrimp.  So tasty and full of flavour!

Local craft beer - Firestone and Sierra Nevada.

Local craft beer – Firestone and Sierra Nevada.

A cup of homemade clam chowder.

A cup of homemade clam chowder.

The cold combo platter - crab meat, ceviche, oysters, clams and peel and eat shrimp.

The cold combo platter – crab meat, ceviche, oysters, clams and peel and eat shrimp.

Half a dozen fresh raw oysters.

Half a dozen fresh raw oysters.

The special of the day, blackened grilled sole with rice pilaf and coleslaw.

The special of the day, blackened grilled sole with rice pilaf and coleslaw.

The California staple - cioppino.

The California staple – cioppino.

Brophy Bros in Santa Barbara.

Brophy Bros in Santa Barbara.

Inside Brophy Bros.

Inside Brophy Bros.

The view from the bar and patio of Brophy Bros.

The view from the bar and patio of Brophy Bros.

California: Hurry Curry of Tokyo

The second major advantage California has going for it besides the incredible weather (and at this time of year, I question myself daily why I don’t live in Cali), is the selection and quality of Asian restaurants available.  My friends M and T live down the street from Little Osaka, and yes there is such a thing, so you know we had to hit it.  Although Little Osaka really is little (a few blocks), the different types of Japanese restaurants available are the most I’ve seen outside of Japan – and Hurry Curry of Tokyo is one of them.  Other than my mom’s homemade Japanese curry and those that I’ve had in Japan this is the first restaurant Japanese curry I’ve eaten in North America and it was delicious.  Nothing like Indian or Thai curry, Japanese curry is really dark, spicy, a bit sweet and traditionally made with very thin shaved slices of beef.  But my favourite is Katsu curry.  Katsu, which is a panko crusted pork tenderloin that has been pounded flat (a Japanese version of schnitzel).  The Katsu is served with Japanese rice and covered with curry – so good!  For dessert, we popped across the street to Beard Papa’s for chou pastry stuffed with vanilla custard cream.  It all brings me back to my days living in Japan :)

Curry - beer

Who knew Sapporo beer came in “Light”? When is this going to be available in Canada?

Curry - salad

Japanese salad – its the dressing that makes it, made with lots of sesame.

Curry - karaage

Karaage – my favourite Japanese bar snack dish of all time!

Curry - gyoza

Gyoza – Japanese dumplings stuffed with pork and cabbage.

curry - beef curry

Japanese beef curry.

Curry - Katsu

The Katsu before the curry.

Curry - katsu curry

Katsu curry!

Curry - Hurry Curry

Hurry Curry of Tokyo.

Beard papa - chou cream

Chou pastry stuffed with vanilla cream custard.

Beard papa - chou

Chou pastry in the making.

Beard Papa

Beard Papa.

 

California: Brentwood Country Mart

One of the gems of Santa Monica is the Brentwood Country Mart.  Its a collection of shops, most are specialty and local in nature, with an upscale farmer’s market vibe.  We first visited the Farm Shop, a restaurant slash artisan market with a fabulous bakery making a plethora of delicious pastries and baked goods.  I tried a number of yummy items but the bacon cheddar scone was especially memorable, moist with chunks of bacon and chives.  On another day we went to Caffe Luxxe for a pick me up.  Something new for me, I ordered the Shakerato – like a shakened sweetened latte lined with a chocolate sauce, so good.  Finally on my last day in California, we made a final stop before saying our byes to friends at Sweet Rose Creamery.  An organic ice cream shop making unique flavours from scratch and in small batches.  I had two scoops, one scoop each of earl grey and Rasputin stout.  Both were subtle flavours but completely identifiable.  My friend MA got fresh mint with homemade chocolate chips and to be honest, it was the most refreshing mint ice cream I have ever eaten!  It really was bursting with fresh mint – I’d definitely go back again.

The Farm Shop in Santa Monica.

The Farm Shop in Santa Monica.

The Farm Shop.

The Brentwood Country Mart collection of shops including the Farm Shop.

My breakfast before the drive to Joshua Tree National Park - Iced drip coffee and Bacon Cheddar scone.

My breakfast before the drive to Joshua Tree National Park – Iced drip coffee and Bacon Cheddar scone.

Homemade granola bar.

Homemade granola bar.

Strawberry streusel croissant.

Strawberry streusel croissant.

The bakery in the Farm Shop.

The bakery in the Farm Shop.

Delicious cinnamon bun from the Farm Shop bakery.

Delicious cinnamon bun from the Farm Shop bakery.

A slice of coffee cake.

A slice of coffee cake.

Caffe Luxxe at the Brentwood Country Mart.

Caffe Luxxe at the Farm Shop.

The Shakerato from Caffe Luxe.

The Shakerato from Caffe Luxxe.

Inside Caffe Luxe.

Inside Caffe Luxxe.

Sweet Rose Creamery at the Farm Shop.

Sweet Rose Creamery at the Brentwood Country Mart.

Inside Sweet Rose Creamery.

Inside Sweet Rose Creamery.

My double scoop of organic ice cream - one scoop of Old Rasputin Stout and one scoop of Earl Grey tea ice cream.

My double scoop of organic ice cream – one scoop of Old Rasputin Stout and one scoop of Earl Grey tea ice cream.

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