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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.

Field Trip: Strawberry Picking

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For the past 18 days now I’ve been on a “no dairy, no sugar (natural or artificial), no grain” challenge with my dragon boat team. So I thought to take advantage of the summer season, I wanted to go strawberry picking. I remember fondly, strawberry picking as a child with my mom – bringing home baskets of fresh berries for her homemade jams! Last weekend, along with my colleague S and her family we went to Forsythe Family Farms located north-east of Toronto. It was my first time at this farm and the strawberry field looked small but boy, was it full of ripe, juicy strawberries right for the picking. We then stopped by a local farmer’s market shop, Hy-Hope Farms, on the way back home that specialized in homemade pickles, salsas, jellies and preserves. I picked up a jar of Green Tomato Chow (like a relish) and a jar of Red Pepper Jelly (perfect on top of cheese and crackers)! With my fresh produce in hand (including fresh cut rhubarb from S’s garden), I decided to bake from scratch, a strawberry rhubarb crumble pie to take to a Canada Day BBQ! Everything just tastes so much better straight from the farm!

Forsythe Family Farms

Forsythe Family Farms

My pickings for the morning - 2 whole buckets of ripe strawberries.

My pickings for the morning – 2 whole buckets of ripe strawberries.

Hy-Hope Farms.

Hy-Hope Farms.

Pick your own lettuce and kale at Hy-Hope Farms!  Fill a bag as much as you can for only $3!

Pick your own lettuce and kale at Hy-Hope Farms! Fill a bag as much as you can for only $3!

Homemade jars of relishes and jellies by Hy-Hope Farms!

Homemade jars of relishes and jellies by Hy-Hope Farms!

My crimped homemade pie shell ready to be filled.

My crimped homemade pie shell ready to be filled.

Fresh cut rhubarb from my colleague S's backyard garden.

Fresh cut rhubarb from my colleague S’s backyard garden.

Strawberry rhubarb pie filled and then topped with a sweet crumble topping before going into the oven.

Strawberry rhubarb pie filled and then topped with a sweet crumble topping before going into the oven.

Fresh out of the oven, my strawberry rhubarb crumble pie!

Fresh out of the oven, my strawberry rhubarb crumble pie!

A close up look at my strawberry rhubarb crumble pie!

A close up look at my strawberry rhubarb crumble pie!

 

London: Borough Market

Back in August 10, 2012, I wrote my first post on Borough Market and I love this market so much that I make it a point to go every time I’m in London.  What makes this visit different from the others is that I made a point to eat more food!  And nothing was a disappointment!  So, I’m going to keep the post short because I think the pictures speak a thousand words.  Enjoy!

Borough - entrance

Entrance to Borough Market – located under overground trains.

Borough - pastries

Beautiful and yummy pastries!

Borough - cakes

Cake anyone? So many different kinds to choose from.

Borough - nougat

One of my favourite sweets to eat is nougat and never have I had fresh made nougat so when I found this vendor, I had to get a slice…..it wasn’t cheap but it was well worth it! Delicious!

Borough - meringue

Another favourite (I have so many) – reminds me so much of my trips to France!

Borough - brownies

You can’t go wrong with brownies, a signature item at Borough Market!

Borough - paella

Curries and paella.

Borough - sangria and pimms

I love the British, they like to drink while shopping!

Borough - Pimms

A Pimm’s cup while I walk the market, perfect for brunch!

Borough - chorizo sandwich

The infamous chorizo sandwich. I first had it in 2006 and it tastes just like I remembered it back then!

Borough - close up of chorizo

Beautiful chorizo sandwich – so fresh and tasty!

Borough - duck confit

Making fresh duck confit sandwich.

Borough - duck sandwich

Duck confit sandwich – look at all that duck meat! What a deal for 5 pounds!

Borough - pies

Traditional British foods – scotch eggs and meat pies!

Borough - alfajores

Gorgeous and yummy alfajores from Portena in Borough Market! Delicious Argentinian foods!

Borough - mushrooms

An array of mushrooms!

Borough - truffles

You guessed it…..black truffles! And you know I took a whiff of the jar!

Borough - saucisson

Delicious saucisson! I need to figure out where I can get these in Toronto :)

Borough - Belper Knolle

Delicious belper knolle cheese…..really sharp taste!

Borough - bread

Yummy bread sticks!

Borough - turkish delight

So many different kinds of turkish delight!

Borough - portuguese tarts

An abundance of portuguese tarts.

Borough - pedibus

How cool is this? I saw these guys on a “PediBus” pedalling around the market. I’ve added this to my bucket list for my next London visit!

 

London: M&S

Canadian grocery stores are getting better (thank you President’s Choice) but the department stores definitely need to catch up when it comes to food halls.  Oh, how I miss the good old days before Marks & Spencer decided to close its doors in Canada.  So every time I go back to London, I hit M&S as many times as I can.  Most of the time its a quick stop to grab lunch at a great deal with sandwiches starting at 1.45 pounds, so many different gourmet flavoured crisps (we call them chips) and my favourite, the sausage roll!  And I love their packaging – the British are so great at their marketing!  If you’re looking for some ideas for souvenirs, their biscuits, candies, etc. are fantastic as gifts…..and yes, I even bring home a couple of bags of crisps (its my weakness)!  Check out some of the awesome things I found on this trip!

M&S Limited Edition Fish & Chips flavoured chips.

M&S Limited Edition Fish & Chips flavoured chips.

Lobster Cocktail flavoured chips.

Lobster Cocktail flavoured chips.

Bags of mini biscuits.

Bags of mini biscuits.

M&S - clotted cream ice cream

Clotted cream ice cream!

M&S - sausage roll

My favourite item at M&S, the traditional British sausage roll made with puff pastry and pork! YUM!

M&S - meringues

M&S has such unique products like these cute goodies, meringues!

M&S - inside

Inside M&S food hall.

M&S - sandwiches

So many different kinds of sandwiches! The ploughman, chicken and sweetcorn and coronation chicken are some of my favourites!

M&S - ready to eat cakes

Love the packaging!

Ready made cakes, how cute are these!

Ready made cakes, how cute are these!

The original M&S chocolate Whips!

The original M&S chocolate Whips!

Yummy chicken sweetcorn sandwich!

Yummy chicken sweetcorn sandwich!

London: Ruby Dock Cafe

We visited Camden Lock Market on an early Wednesday morning and of course, we planned on finding a place there to have breakfast and our most important morning coffee! Roaming through the alleys we came upon Ruby Dock Cafe.  With a breakfast/brunch menu and some delicious looking baked goods displayed on the counter we couldn’t resist.  I’m obsessed with anything iced (and yes, I still order iced coffees in this frigid Canadian weather!) so it was an iced latte and toasted banana bread topped with cinnamon butter – it was delicious!  A perfect way to start the day!  If you’re in for something lighter, the friand (a small french cake that is apparently popular in Australia) is a good choice.  I didn’t know this prior to popping into Ruby Dock but it looks like the owners also own two other popular restaurants in London: Lantana Cafe and Salvation Jane.  I think I need to add these onto my next visit :)

Ruby Dock Cafe

Ruby Dock Cafe

The beautiful counter of Ruby Dock Cafe.

The beautiful counter of Ruby Dock Cafe.

Inside Ruby Dock Cafe.

Inside Ruby Dock Cafe.

Cold and hot lattes.

Cold and hot lattes.

Latte and friand - love the latte art!

Latte and friand – love the latte art!

Toasted banana bread with cinnamon butter!

Toasted banana bread with cinnamon butter!

Toasted corn and chili bread with chutney!

Toasted corn and chili bread with chutney!

London: Camden Lock Market

Its been 13 years since the last time I was at Camden Lock Market and a lot has changed!  From what I remember about the market, the majority of the vendors sold goods like clothing, art, housewares, etc.  Food now has a dominating presence here reflecting the increase in sophistication of the British palate.  Everything from Peruvian food to Dutch pancakes to Polish pierogies!  Coffee bars, cafes and chocolatiers are scattered around the market – you will even find a nitro-ice cream lab!  We went first thing in the morning around 10am so most vendors were just setting up – highly recommend going for lunch during the week as long as you don’t mind crowds.  If you’re on the hunt for the typical “London” souvenirs (i.e. mugs, postcards, magnets, etc.), the street from the Camden tube station leading up to the market is lined with souvenir shops – the most choice and variety I’ve seen around London!  Here’s some of my favourite photos – there was so much to capture!

Cupcakes and Shhht booth - sugary tablets.

Cupcakes and Shhht booth – sugary tablets.

Giant cookies from Cupcakes and Shhht!

Giant cookies from Cupcakes and Shhht!

Cupcakes and Shhht!

Cupcakes and Shhht!

Dutch Pancakes booth.

Dutch Pancakes booth.

Polish Pierogies booth!

Polish Pierogies booth!

Peru booth.

Peru booth.

Chocolate bots at Chocoate & Fudge Kitchen.

Chocolate bots at Chocoate & Fudge Kitchen.

Hot choc stirrers at Chocolate & Fudge Kitchen.

Hot choc stirrers at Chocolate & Fudge Kitchen.

Famous Chin Chin Labs at Camden Market.

Famous Chin Chin Labs at Camden Market.

Looking inside Chin Chin Labs.

Looking inside Chin Chin Labs.

Camden Lock Market.

Camden Lock Market.

Outdoor food booths - Lemonade stand!

Outdoor food booths – Lemonade stand!

The view of the Camden locks.

The view of the Camden locks.

London: Harrods Food Hall

The Harrods Food Hall reminds me of the department stores in Japan!  What I loved about them was that each one had a food hall in the basement level of the department store, so full with ready made foods, a bakery, restaurants and food gifts!  I could spend hours just roaming the aisles – well, I definitely did that here in Harrods.  My favourite room was the bakery and patisserie room – you can’t pass these counters without having at least a look, the rainbow cake was calling me :) However, if there’s one thing the English do well, its their sausage rolls and pies.  I have to admit, whenever I travel to London I grab one of these to go at least two or three times during my visit.  There’s something about meat inside buttery pastry/pies that completely satisfies my hunger!

Cupcake shop in Harrods.

Cupcake shop in Harrods.

I had to take a picture of this cake - love the rainbow layers!

I had to take a picture of this cake – love the rainbow layers!

An entire row of beautiful pastries so perfectly laid out.

An entire row of beautiful pastries so perfectly laid out.

Pizzas, croissants and hot dog rolls!

Pizzas, croissants and hot dog rolls!

I don't think I've ever seen so many different kinds of brownies, cookies and muffins in one place - delicious!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different kinds of brownies, cookies and muffins in one place – delicious!

Assorted baked goods to go.

Assorted baked goods to go.

Sandwiches.

Sandwiches.

So many different sausage rolls.

So many different sausage rolls.

Savoury pies galore!

Savoury pies galore!

Scotch eggs.

Scotch eggs.

Inside one of the food hall rooms.

Inside one of the food hall rooms.

Inside the tea and confectionary hall.

Inside the tea and confectionary hall.

Harrods.

Harrods.

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