All posts by Rob

Copenhagen Street Food

I had some downtime on the weekend, so I accepted an invitation from friends to hop the train to meet them in Copenhagen (about an hour away). After some “tracks are closed, take a bus part of the way” drama, we were soon meeting up in gorgeous downtown Copenhagen.

CopenhagenStreetFood 011 It’s a very old city, but one that is not shy about mixing in new buildings and the place seems to be booming with building cranes obstructing much of the skyline.

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We walked along pedestrian malls, a Christmas village and Copenhagen’s most famous and picturesque main canal before we hopped a cab to a unique place called “Copenhagen Street Food“. It’s in the warehouse district along the working part of the canal.

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It’s a large warehouse with food stalls, food trucks, shipping containers with food businesses and tables. It had a food market, street food, shanty town, alternative vibe going on.

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Here vendors were selling all kinds of well-made food, including fish and chips, Mexican, Persian, Japanese, Korean, Local, Vegan, burgers and other cuisines with flair. There were also wine, craft beer and beverage stalls as well.

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I knew what I wanted for lunch as soon as I saw the Korean truck and ordered japchae, sweet potato starch noodles with onions and carrots and a sweet and savoury beef mixture, in this case drizzled with Korean hot sauce.

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The same stall also served bulgogi  (grilled beef short rib in a sweet sauce of soy, sugar, garlic, and sesame oil) and some spicy fried chicken with dumplings.

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The japchae was what I hoped for: sweet and savoury with slippery, glassy noodles and beef with sauce rich in umami flavour.

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Street Food was a tremendous place to hang out — we spent probably 2 hours here just talking and catching up. The servings are not so large that you could easily sample a couple of these great vendors in a visit.

Italian in Sweden

Gobbagoo. Proshoot. It’s not really Italian. The language, like a cuisine starts a new evolutionary branch when it’s far from home and time passes. If you’ve been to the North End of Boston or Little Italy in Ottawa, you can get amazing, but North American versions of Italian food. They do stand on their own as a culinary style, but it takes a trip to Italy to see the difference.

I am traveling on business and am in Sweden and hit the spot where locals rave about the food as being authentically Italian. I want to check it out because I’ve already been here for 3 weeks and am keen to try something else besides the local food, which is absolutely wonderful. Sweden is not Italy, but it’s one ocean closer than the North End or Ottawa. Any bets the food is too?


I go to VESPA. It’s a bright, sunny place in a dark and grey Lund November visit.

Time for a beer. They have lots of Italian choices to I go with a relatively crisp, light Italian lager, called Gradisca. It’s good, but not great. Has a bit of a chemical finish.


Then comes my appetizer, an antipasto misto — a salad with prosciutto, salami, olives, pesto, parmigiano reggiano, and artichoke hearts with thin crispy breadsticks. Absolutely delicious. It’s fair to say that I might get something like this closer to home, but I’ve never seen it.

But the real test is pizza. When Maureen and I went to Italy we found the pizza to be a revelation. Perfect thin, crispy yet pillowy crust, simple tomato sauce, only one or two ingredients and some fresh mozzarella dotting the pie. In Ottawa, Back Lane is the only place that comes close.

The pizza at Vespa is very, very good. I opt for one with red peppers, porchetta and olives. The sauce was perfect, the crust was thin, but a little too chewy and the toppings and cheese were very nice.


As is proper, when you have prosciutto or, in this case, porchetta to add to the pizza, you add it just as it comes out of the oven and it kind of melts into the pie.


I’d like to say that I’m caught up in lively conversation, but I’m by myself, so dinner goes by quickly. All in all a wonderful meal and closer to proximity to Italy really does make a difference.

The Perfectionist at Heathrow

He goes to ridiculous lengths. If you’ve seen his old show on the Food Channel, you couldn’t help but be amused at the obsession he has with perfection over even the most banal food item. I’m talking, of course, about Heston Blumenthal, celebrated English Chef and one of the most famous behind that blond, shouty guy.

A little while ago, Heathrow decided to up its food game and Heston Blumenthal opened The Perfectionist’s Cafe in Terminal 2. On my layover in Heathrow, I decided to have breakfast here.

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One look at the menu and you get a sense for hand-wringing over every detail to almost eye-rolling proportions.

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Because I was there for breakfast, I thought I’d try his spin on what they call the “Full English Breakfast”: 2 eggs, bacon, grilled mushroom, baked beans, sausage, black pudding and toast. I was evaluating both the iconic breakfast as well as Blumenthal’s take.

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Eggs: bright orange yolks, and very softly fried. They were finished with sherry vinegar and had a very mild bite to them, but the yolks — not only were they BRIGHT orange, but they tasted…different and not that pleasantly so. They had a fatty note to them that wasn’t appreciated. I don’t know if that’s the standard English egg flavour or the specifications to which these eggs were laid.

Bacon: Oh my goodness, it was good bacon. The restaurant offers the choice of smoked “streaky” bacon or unsmoked back bacon. I went streaky. Letting these pigs watch Saturday morning cartoons sure makes a difference.

Mushroom: This was a small portobello cap that was perfectly cooked. Still firm but richly flavoured.

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Baked Beans: Even the Michelin star holding Blumenthal ain’t gonna mess with Heinz Baked Beans.

Sausage: It was a small English Breakfast sausage that was well seasoned and not fatty.

Black Pudding: Fantastic. Lovely. Great flavour and texture, seasoned perfectly. This would make a believer out of even Maureen.

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Toast: Nice multi-grain toast, perfectly cooled on the ubiquitous British toast cooling rack. Thank goodness too, or otherwise it would have been warm, or god forbid, even hot. What the hell is it with the English aversion to warm toast?

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All in all a good breakfast, weird egg yolk flavour notwithstanding. The attention to detail shows and would probably show even more with lunch or dinner items.

Road Trip 2014 Wrap-up

So another road trip is in the books.  This year’s was marked with genteel Southern towns and the heat. My goodness, the heat. All the places we visited declared their summer to be temperate with the heat really only coming on in the last couple weeks — OUR weeks. As usual, we didn’t stay in any one place to form an accurate impression of the place. We just formed impressions based on our short experience there. Here they are:

Atlanta happily traded in their part in Southern history for urban sprawl and crazy traffic. We got a sense of the tremendously storied history from our visit to Oakland Cemetery — a cemetery different than any other we had been to or heard of. It’s a gathering place, a place to celebrate and a place to soak in the beautiful gardens. Our most memorable meal was at Daddy D’z BBQ, festooned with spray paint art and great messy ‘cue. Another amazing thing was picking up a peach at a roadside stand in Geogia. Such peachiness. Much juicy.

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Savannah, GA was the most picturesque stop on our road trip. Each of its 24 downtown squares were showcases for Southern charm. It’s historic houses were pristine and it was a joy to walk through it’s downtown, despite the heat. One of our favourite meals there was at Vic’s on the River. A mix of elegant and old school, we’re still talking about it.

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Hilton Head, SC was the odd one out for this trip. It was a pure beach-sun-and-fun stop and we embraced it. We originally wanted to soak up some of the Gullah history but it’s really only alive in the stories of those who grew up there before the island opened up as a resort area. This happened in the 80s and beyond, so everything had that kind of corporate-ish feel, but once you got beyond the bad architecture, the places were great. We loved the Low Country Backyard restaurant so much we went there twice!

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Charleston, SC was another beautiful, genteel Southern city like Savannah. It was a holiday weekend and was quite crowded when we were there and its was crazy hot, but the town’s charm still shone through. We loved dinner at the Craftsmen Tap Room and Kitchen, and the Tomato Pie at the Dixie Supply Bakery and revisited our affection for Cheerwine, the Carolinas’ own softdrink.

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Wilmington, NC really didn’t see us for long. We had a nice breakfast the morning we left but the real highlight of the day was whole hog BBQ at the Skylight Inn in Ayden, NC. They had chopped whole hog on a bun, or on a paper plate, cole slaw and cornbread and that was it. When you’ve reached perfection, do you really need anything else on the menu?

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Norfolk, VA was another quick in-and-out stop on the road trip. We had a fun breakfast at Doumar’s, one of the oldest drive-in restaurants in the US, then it was on to Washington via the Virgina Byway.

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Washington, DC saw us in traditional decompression mode as the last stop in our road trip. There was, of course, lots to see and do in DC, but not the energy to blog it every day. Highlights included seeing the DC landmarks and taking a side trip to Jefferson’s Monticello.

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Here are our “Trippys” for this journey:

Best meals:
Dinner: Vic’s on the River in Savannah, GA
Best Lunch: Skylight Inn in Ayden, NC for whole hog BBQ
Best Breakfast: Ria’s Bluebird in Atlanta

Nicest Drive:
Virginia Byway from Charlottesville to DC

Charleston & Savannah when it’s not so hot.

Food Discovery: Last road trip we discovered Bourbon. This one had a serendipitous drop-in to the Savannah Honey Company that had a lasting impression. We had already been deeply impressed by this article in Afar magazine, about how single-source honey is a perfect reflection of the land of which it comes. And tasting the various single-source honeys fills your head with pictures of where the honey comes from. We’ll definitely follow this revelation up with a honey tasting of some sort.

Parting thought: America wears its history on its sleeve. Every location and story is celebrated. We need to do more to connect Canadians, especially Ottawans to their local and very rich history.

Road Trip 2014!

We just arrived in Atlanta for the start of our 2014’s annual monster road trip, so I thought I’d talk about the plan.

Great iPod playlists were made, we programmed the GPS and prepped our browser bookmarks with all the places of interest along the way, including plantations, graveyards, the best eats, and battlefields in what we’re nicknaming the “Civil War/Chicken & Waffles Tour 2014”. Out tunes are what you would expect for a romp through the south: rootsy music with a bit of folk, rock, country and bluegrass thrown in. We also have some of our favourite podcasts cued up in case we tire of tunes. We’d be totally lost without modern technology. I can’t imagine planning this with maps, guide books and independent calls to every hotel, restaurant, etc… Yikes! This year, we’ve added to our arsenal of planning tools. It’s a superb resource for planning routes and exploring all places of interest along the way, AND it runs on the web, our iPhones and iPads.

This year’s route:

1. Atlanta, GA – 2 nights
2. Savanna, GA – 3 nights
3. Hilton Head, SC – 2 nights
4. Charleston, SC – 2 nights
5. Wilmington, NC – 1 night
6. Norfolk, VA – 1 night
7. Charlottesville, VA – a drive-by so we can stop at Monticello
8. Washington, DC – 3 nights


As usual, it’s all flexible if we want to change our route because we love a place, or change our mind, or a hurricane sends us inland.

Also, our road trip rules apply:
1. No Interstates – they’re boring and all look the same. The side roads tell the real story.
2. No chain restaurants – Do I really need to explain this?
3. Stop for any picture
4. Stop for any story – We talk to the locals all the time and we love to hear about everything. We’ve met some amazing characters along the way in previous trips

Stay tuned for daily updates!