Lucky me and now lucky you. With a karma exchange I can share the Island Lava Java’s most popular and uber secret cookie recipe with you. We gave our trusty steads that we had ridden for a month (that we bought from some fellow Canadians who had purchased them new) to some Island Lava Java staff in need of wheels. We got the cookie recipe!
These cookies are best served right out of the oven. Island Lava Java will heat yours up for you if you ask…
1 cup room temperature unsalted butter (I used European butter re the superior taste)
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 room temperature eggs one at a time
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
In a separate bowl combine:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups coconut flakes
2 cups oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Add to butter mixture slowly Add 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips last
Scoop the batter onto the prepared cookie sheets using an ice cream scoop. Squish the round cookies a bit flatter and garnish with coconut. Bake in a 350 F degree oven for 8 to 12 minutes. They should be lightly browned. Pour yourself a nice cup of Kona coffee and enjoy right from the oven. For the full meal deal, go to Island Lava Java’s site and click on their webcam and enjoy their view while you munch.
Oh yes, there is a dark side to all those uber-fit, uber-green Amsterdammers and their bikes. With more a million bikes in the city, more than one per person, bike theft is a big deal. Every year more than 54,000 bikes are stolen and the canals are dredged regularly to haul more than 15,000 bikes back to dry land.
Arguably a small price to pay for this environmentally-friendly and healthy mode of transportation? For sure.
The real dark side is the danger they present to the pedestrian tourist.
In Amsterdam, over 60% of trips are made by bike in the inner city and 40% of trips are made by bike overall in the greater city area. These trips are made by busy Amsterdammers on their way to work after dropping off their children at day care while talking on phones, talking to other cyclists, balancing groceries, briefcases and all manner of things and looking impossibly stylish while doing so.
As is common in Dutch cities, Amsterdam has a wide net of traffic-calmed streets and world-class facilities for cyclists. All around are bike paths and bike racks and several guarded bike parking stations crammed with more bikes than you can imagine (Fietsenstalling) which can be used for a nominal fee.
Amsterdam’s small size, the 400 km of bike paths, the flat terrain, and the arguable inconvenience of driving an automobile: driving a car is discouraged, parking fees are expensive, and many streets are closed to cars or are one-way for motor vehicle traffic (but not for cyclists, note to pedestrians). Amsterdam’s bike paths (Fietspad) are red in colour, in order to differentiate them from both the road ways and footpaths.
Fresh-off the plane visitors to Amsterdam must quickly learn to stay out of the Fietspads and to look all ways before navigating across streets. Amsterdammers just want to do their thing, get to work, buy tulips, go to the bar for an Amstel, eat waffles, look amazingly well-dressed and so Euro and not have to cope with the many, many, many visitors and their lack of bike lane etiquette.
First morning in Amsterdam, everyone is asleep but I need a coffee and it’s bike rush hour. The lovely house we were staying in is near Vondelpark, a popular cycle route into the city and I need to cross one road at the entrance to the park to get to the caffeine. Bikes are streaming by with no break and I wait for my chance to cross and wait and wait and wait. An Amsterdam pedestrian just goes for it and the bikes stop. Too chicken to do the same I wait some more until a sympathetic cyclists stops and motions me across. I won’t even talk about the return trip but the coffee made me less hurried.
Many tourists discover Amsterdam by bike, as it is the typical Dutch way to get around the city but even that takes some guts. To blend in with the bike traffic flow bring your A game.
These guys have mad skills. Picture the tallest, handsomest blond dad you have ever seen riding to work propping up his adorable napping baby’s head with one hand as he deftly navigates a bridge ramp and makes a sharp right.
All disturbing but then there was this cure to the mania (The words Mania and Manic actually originate from Mani and it’s people)…
Less than a five-minute drive from Maina we found the most incredible beach boasting two tavernas whose owners happily delivered cold Greek beers to the beach. We were the only people at this beach which was the most incredible place to swim imaginable. “Have you ever seen anything like this?”, I ask my husband. “Yes, in a magazine.”
The Mani, this relatively unexplored part of Greece consists of 250 sun lit villages and sites with plenty of olive trees and cactuses. It is also about the beaches.
All over the Mani you will find amazing beaches, all of them quiet and unspoiled. An ocean swimmer’s paradise of pebble, rock or sand beaches with crystalline, shallow waters of the bluest of blues.
And, despite the Maniots fearsome and proud heritage and our language barrier, we were greeted with nothing but kindness and warm hospitality.
When you talk of coffeeshops in Amsterdam it’s not about the coffee but the weed. Amsterdam coffeeshops are local legal dispensaries for marijuana, especially in the Red Light District where most of the 250 such shops are located.
I, on the other hand, went in search of the caffeinated fix. This little photo essay about Amsterdam’s Koffiehuis or cafes will give you a little snippet of the experience. Although not particularly known for their great coffee, the Dutch know a thing or two about presentation. The little cups usually accompanied by a treat and a glass of water are served in lovely cafes where you can linger and people watch.
I love English country gardens and my own. Our English relatives John and Ann, indulging me in my passion, always plan a visit to extraordinary gardens when we come and spending time in their own lovely garden with its roses and pond is an enormous pleasure. I bring home inspiration, seeds, garden ornaments, pieces of flint and photos. Here are some of my favourites and how we’ve worked at Canadianizing them.
Naramata is a paradise but the refusal of winter to pack up and make way for spring and more anticipated….summer…is bringing on Hawaii dreams. This photo essay of time spent in my second paradise is Vitamin D for our soul.
Belinda’s Tea Room has been serving up the best of English tea goodies for more than 100 years in a building that originally served as a stable in the 16th Century in the incredibly beautiful historic town of Arundel, England. Introduced to us by The Handyman’s Aunt Ann and Uncle John, Belinda’s is a much-anticipated stop on all our visits to England. Our trip this summer to swim the English Channel on a relay team with friends called for a “double crossing.” We celebrated our swim from England to France with morning tea at Belinda’s, some antique shopping, a tour of Arundel Castle and a second crossing of Tarrant Street for a Belinda’s lunch. My new favourite, Bakewell tart, is served warm with custard and the proprietress graciously shared her secret recipe with me of this magical English invention.
A bit of Bakewell Tart history…
Despite my idea that a Bakewell is a dessert that is simply baked well, Bakewell is a market town in the Derbyshire Dales district of Derbyshire, England. The town is named after a guy called Badeca and the name means Badeca’s spring or stream (Old English wella). The Bakewell tart started life as a happy accident in pudding form in 1820 when the landlady of the White Horse Inn left instructions for her cook to make a jam tart with an egg and almond paste base. The cook, instead of stirring the eggs and almond paste mixture into the pastry, spread it on top of the jam. The tart version of this accident is made with a shortcrust pastry, an almond glaze topping and an almond sponge and jam filling.Too much information? Get down to the darn recipe already?
Grease and flour one 23cm tart pan or four 10cm tart pans
All-purpose flour 215 grams
Icing sugar 30 grams
Unsalted butter 120 grams
Egg yolks (free run) 2
Cold water 2 tbsp
Place all the dry ingredients in the bowl of your food processor and give them a quick pulse. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the egg and water and pulse a few times until the mixture starts to come together. Gather into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and place into the fridge until required (at least an hour to chill).
Pre-heat oven to 350F and roll out the pastry. Roll the pastry onto your rolling pin and carefully drape over the tin or tins, easing the pastry into position and trimming off any excess from around the edges. Prick the surface of the pastry with a fork and cover with a sheet of parchment. Fill the centre or centres with baking beans, pie weights or rice and blind bake for 15 minutes.
Once the pastry has been removed from the oven spread 2 tbsp of high-quality raspberry jam evenly over the base.
Unsalted butter 75 grams
Caster sugar (super-fine or fruit sugar) 75 grams
(note…you can make this from regular granulated sugar by using your coffee grinder and grinding for 20 seconds or so…don’t grind too long or you will end up with icing sugar)
Ground almonds 75 grams
All-purpose flour 1 tbsp
Almond extract 1 tsp
Lemon zest finely grated from 1 lemon
Egg, free-range 1
Pre-heat oven to 350F. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, this takes about 5 minutes in a kitchen mixer fitted with a paddle, or a little longer with a hand mixer. Fold in the remaining ingredients and place the mixture in a disposable piping bag. Cut the end off the bag and make a hole about 12mm wide and pipe the mixture evenly into the pastry case over the jam layer. Smooth out gently using a palette knife or spatula. Place the tart tin or tins on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the filling is golden. Test with a skewer in the centre, it should come out clean and the frangipane should be firm to the touch.
Icing sugar 200g
Almond extract 1tsp
Glace cherry or cherries
Good dark chocolate 100g
Mix the icing sugar and almond extract together and add a little water until you have a thick, smooth fondant. Pour the fondant into the tart tin or tins and level with the top. Pipe parallel lines of melted chocolate on the tart and then drag a toothpick across the lines to create a feathered effect. Place the cherry in the centre.
Belinda’s recipe translated beautifully but the atmosphere of the tea room in Arundel is only a nice memory in my Naramata kitchen. Here a few photos of Arundel to give you an idea of what my favourite town in England is like.
What’s the big deal? Isle-sur-la-Sourge has morphed into the antique shopping capital of France and one of the top three in Europe. There are more than 350 permanent antique dealers spread over the town and two major international antique fairs at Easter and on August 15. Don’t wear socks, it will blow them off. If you are in the know, the locals call antiques “brocante”. I get why, I went broke buying brocante.
Found it! My first treasure all wrapped up and ready to take home. I’m liking that fountain and the outdoor set too.
My primary mission was to find a hand-carved rustic bread proving bowl and I found one in the very first shop we walked into. It’s a sign right? I took it to mean I was on a roll.
My next purchase was a basket which happened to nestle nicely into my new bowl in my suitcase, with a slight bending of the handle.
If you ever look up from all the shopping for treasures, the town is pretty. It’s shaded with plane trees, the river actually babbles and the riverside cafes and restaurants are festooned with flowers. There is a farmer’s market as well where we sorted our dinner.
We stopped for lunch too which was necessary to keep the rest of the less enthusiastic antique shoppers’ spirits buoyed.
Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a 30-minute drive from Avignon and is also accessible by train. If you go, it’s best to arrive early for the Sunday market, which starts at 9 a.m. both to enable you to find parking and to avoid the crowds. It was raining by the time we got there and not crowded. You can try to negotiate a bit on the prices too. I paid about 20 Euros less on the asking price of my wooden bowl and saved another 10 Euros on the picking basket. I had also done some pre-pricing on the Internet so had a rough idea what I wanted to pay. Bargaining is worth a try. I think that being polite and speaking to the vendors in French helped. It’s not a place to find amazing bargains though. Dealers are savvy and know their prices. The thrill for me was finding things not found in Canada or found here, imported from Europe and sold for appropriately more money. It was also about having so many wonderful things all in one place.
The antiques trade took off here about 30 years ago when a few dealers got together on weekends to sell off the contents of a few local chateaux. (Wish I had been there for that.) There are now 10 main areas or “villages” spread throughout the town with the largest being Le Village des Anitiquaires de la Gare where over 100 dealers are gathered in a giant warehouse. Here is a tiny list of what you will find: garden furniture, entire fireplaces, enamel signs, books, paintings, cutlery sets, linen, zinc-top tables, mirrors, crystal, stone statues, silver trays, glassware, porcelain, jewellery, weird curiosities, lamps, children’s toys, and on it goes with enough treasure to fill Ali Baba’s cavern and a few select items left over for my modest Canadian home.
It wasn’t too hard to leave as dinner on the terrace of our Rasteau villa was pretty inviting. Much of the conversation centred around items sadly left behind due to budgetary and suitecasary considerations. I have to go back with bigger luggage and wallet…
It was one of my best antique shopping days ever (on par with the day spent at Ardingly AntiquesFair in England). The Handyman, his brother (and our wonderful English relatives) indulged me and helped make the day special. The Handyman and his brother had other plans for the following day that I in turn did not indulge by accompanying them.
When the sun shines on Vancouver there is no way to downplay the city’s natural beauty. No hard-bitten cynic hepped up about its high-cost of real estate can withstand the onslaught of the views of the north shore mountains, English Bay, a rain forest and the view of snow-capped Mount Baker in the sun. The cynics can go to town during a January rainy spell.
I love living in the country surrounded by nature where you can see the stars and the only ambient sounds are made by wildlife. However, a long weekend in a city packed with shopping, restaurants and entertainment is a needed adrenaline boost from time-to-time. Why not spend that long weekend in arguably the best city in the world which happens to be only a five-hour drive away?
Our weekend centred around the West End where my daughter has recently moved from Calgary and where my brother, his wife and family live.
The West End is a champ. The neighbourhood has been named the best in the country in the annual Great Places in Canada contest. It’s known for its beaches, proximity to Stanley Park and a high-density, walkable lifestyle with treed promenades. Originally a forested wilderness, the area was purchased in 1862 by John Morton, Samuel Brighouse and William Hailstone, three men known as the Three Greenhorns because people thought they paid too much for the land. Last laugh is on them eh?
The hood became home to richest railroad families and a lot of nice architecture survives from that era including Roedde Housewhich is now a museum. The house is haunted by two daughters named Anna that met untimely deaths…one by eating poison berries and another killed by a patient while working as a nurse at St. Paul’s Hospital.
Breakfast at the Greenhorn Espresso Cafeis the essence of the West End distilled in big, frothy cup. Named after the area’s original owners, it’s in a heritage home and offers a variety of cozy modern seating with views of the passing sidewalk scene. This hidden treasure is a two-minute walk from my daughter’s apartment and is already her new local.
After my post about Paris chocolate shops and bakeries, a trip to Ladurée’s first Canadian location was on the list.
A modest selection of Citron, Caramel Fleur de Sel and Café macarons, at $3 each, were packaged beautifully in a keepsake box for us. The melt-in-your-mouth flavour explosions are actually made in Paris and flown to Vancouver.
It was a day made for window shopping and strolling. Spring rains and recent warm weather brought out every scented bloom in the West End.
Billed as the home of the bison burger, Timberhas been “givin’er since 2015” and it’s fun uber Canadian atmosphere had us at Deaner the taxidermy beaver that sits proudly in the window.
When in Rome, or Canada as the case may be, it’s best to order the house specialty which most of our party did. In a very ungourmet way, I went comfort food with mac and cheese with house-made sriracha ketchup with smoked pork crackling served by a plaid-shirted waiter. It blew my socks off. I’m going back.
By happenstance, we ended up chef Chris Whittaker’s adjacent restaurant, Forage, for dinner.
The farm-to-table restaurant has a clean, modern look. We chose to sit outside at a relaxed picnic table set-up and were encouraged to order a variety of menu items to try and share, tapas-style. If you go, there is one must-order. Chef Whittaker’s seafood chowder, chicharron, quails egg is the bomb and its a double winner of the Chowder Chowdown at the Vancouver Aquarium. Because the chowder won, it’s “secret” recipe has been published although it looks like it would be tricky to make at home.
Chef Whittaker is a bee-keeper at home and works with small lot farmers taking his role seriously as promoting the sustainability of our food system. All well and good but we would go back because everything tasted so good, the atmosphere was the right mix of casual and the staff fun and welcoming.
Although it looks like we ate our way through our West End weekend, we had a mission. We were carbo loading for our Sunday race. A great representation of the family ran either the marathon, half-marathon or 8 km BMO Vancouver Marathon. We joined about 16,500 in the race’s 45th edition and burned off a few of those calories.