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Monday, August 20, 2012

Kansas City

Saturday was a long, long day. Since we decided on Friday night to drive until we could no longer see straight, we spent the whole day in the car.

One highlight we should mention was our lunch break in Kansas City. Anytime we go to a large city, we like to check the FoodNetwork website to find restaurants that have been featured on shows such as Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives or The Best Thing I Ever Ate. We found a place called Smokin’ Guns BBQ in North Kansas City that was supposed to have great ribs and burnt-end brisket. We got there right as they opened and ended up being the 2nd customers of the day. It’s a good thing too, because as soon as our food came to the table, the line was out the door.

This place is pretty small, but the food here was amazing! The wall was lined with awards they had won for BBQ cook-offs and competitions. As we were waiting at our table, we noticed one of the workers open a closet behind the register that was filled with even more ribbons and trophies that were not being displayed. This place is so good, they have to have an “old awards” closet to make room for the new ones!

The beef and ribs were excellent and came with sides, of which we chose the baked BBQ beans, and the potato casserole. This is like a loaded baked potato out of the skins and thrown in a cup!

The meals were incredible and we could see why they had won so many awards over the competition. If you’re ever in Kansas City, check this place out because you will not be sorry you dropped in, and don’t let the sketchy neighborhood deter you!

We finally reached the ranch where we picked up the cat and dog. When we arrived, we found a peach pie that Nadene’s mom had made special for us when we came in. This was a great surprise and a perfect way to bring our food trip to a close (almost). Palisade peaches are what pies were made for! It was delicious, and the whole thing was made from scratch (yes, even the crust!).

Sunday will be the drive home, but there is more food to encounter along the way. Make sure to check out our map above and track where we’ve been to see all the great stops we’ve made on our Canadian voyage. Until next time…


Caleb & Nadene

The Epicurators

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Niagara Falls and Buffalo Wings

So… on a whim, we decided to drive to Niagara Falls.

It wasn’t really planned, but we thought it would be a shame to be going through Buffalo, NY and not stop to see one of the most majestic sites that this country has to offer. So, we went back to the Canadian border… kind of. We never went back over the border, but we stood at the line and looked into the country from our side.

The weather ended up being perfect for a day at the Falls. It started out a little cloudy, but cleared up while we were there. It was amazing! There are no words to describe what it is like to stand above Niagara Falls and see the water rushing down below and billowing back up on your face. The scenery is breathtaking and it really leaves you in awe of the God who created this place.

After leaving Niagara Falls, we went back to Buffalo and ate at the home of the buffalo chicken wing. Anchor Bar is said to be the place where buffalo wings began, so we could not leave the state without sampling some authentic flavors of Buffalo, NY. The main reason we came here is because we are big fans of Bobby Flay from the FoodNetwork. He held a competition with the chef here to see who could make the best buffalo chicken wings, and Bobby Flay lost! We knew that Anchor Bar had to be amazing. We ordered mild sauce wings (because we’re wimps), which is always served with celery and blue cheese at Anchor Bar. The wings are not breaded, which gives them a crispy exterior, and soft, juicy inside. The sauce was excellent, though I would have been satisfied with a little more on the wings. Overall, it was a great experience to become a part of American history as we chowed down on the most authentic buffalo chicken wings you can find.

We left Buffalo and headed out to Columbus, OH. On the drive down, we randomly read about hipsters on the internet and how to recognize one. The restaurant we were headed to is in a very hipster part of town in Columbus, so we thought we should know what we were getting into. There are many things that define a modern day hipster, but the way they dress is the most obvious way to spot one in the wild. Tight clothes (tight, TIGHT clothes), comfortable old-man shoes, and glasses that may or may not have an actual prescription in them. This is what we saw on most of the people as we entered the NorthStar Café in Columbus, OH. It was actually quite hilarious to see in front of us, all the things we had just read about on a satirical blog posting.

Hipsters aside, the food was delicious! We had a chicken/avocado sandwich with sweet potato fries, and the NorthStar burger, which has black beans, brown rice, and beets mixed into the meat. They were both delicious and had all organic ingredients from local places around the Columbus area. This is the type of restaurant we can really get into. We love local organic food. Does this mean we’re becoming hipster?! I don’t think I can pull off the really tight (TIGHT) clothing that is required to live this lifestyle!

Over dinner we talked about the plans for the rest of the trip and where we would stay as we traveled back home. We decided to get in the car upon leaving the restaurant and just drive until we made it back to Colorado. We would take turns driving and sleeping in the back seat. This is where we are, and we’ll get back to you and let you know how it all turns out. We will make sure to make a special stop in Kansas City, at least, to devour some more BBQ and see what K.C. cookin’ is all abeef… uh, I mean about! Until next time…


Caleb & Nadene

The Epicurators

Au revoir, Canada

Thursday morning, we wrapped up our time on the Flavor Trail and said au revoir to Canada. But first, we needed to eat a little more before we left the country.

We packed up our things and left Le Ferme Hôtel in the morning. The hotel has a paved bike lane that goes directly from the hotel to the downtown area. There is a bakery downtown called Á Chacun son Pain that has amazing coffee and a wonderful spread of baked goods to choose from. We decided on the chocolate/almond croissant, and the Croix de Charlevoix. This last pastry is made from a batter of eggs and cream, which give it a wonderful sweetness and fluffy texture. Two great starts to a wonderful last day in Charlevoix.

After breakfast, we rode our bikes back to the car and went to Le Bistro du Monde. We realized that we had just eaten about an hour ago at the bakery, but hey, we were on the Flavor Trail. If you’re not going to take advantage of the food there, what are you doing with you life? Le Bistro du Monde was an excellent restaurant where we ordered the mushroom soup and a chicken dish with grilled veggies, rice, and tzatziki sauce. It was like a deconstructed grilled chicken kabob with tzatziki; an excellent end to a perfect visit in the province of Québec.

Our time here has come to an end, but there are plenty of other experiences ahead.

We them made the trip out of Charlevoix, through Montreal, and finally to Syracuse, NY. We had heard of a place called Dinosaur BBQ that was supposed to be a pretty big deal in Syracuse, so we thought we would stop by. We knew we would not be hitting Syracuse until late, but lucky for us, Dinosaur is open until 1 am.

We pulled up to the BBQ place and at first glace, did not know what to think. The live rock music was loud, the place looked pretty dirty, and there were motorcycles lining the streets on all sides of the place. Already we were apprehensive, but the fact that it was in a run-down part of town made things worse. But, their chicken is supposed to be a knockout. The things we do for great food.

We walked in the back door and had to order take out because the place was packed at 11 o’clock at night, so we yelled our order out to the waitress who was standing about 6 inches from us so that she could hear over the music. Quite a change from the delicate French bistros we have been used to on this trip. We both got the BBQ chicken and a ¼ rack of ribs just for tasting. For sides we had the mac & cheese, chili, and a tomato/cucumber salad. Before us was a smorgasbord of yummy BBQ food! The chicken was super tender and juicy, with just the right amount of sauce. The rub on the chicken was especially good, and oddly enough, they sprinkle this rub on the top of the mac & cheese to give it a little more authentic BBQ flavor. I’m so trying this the next time we make mac & cheese. The ribs were also very delicious, and fell off the bone because they are smoked for 24 hrs. Excellent stop, even though it seemed a little sketchy going in to it.

Not much else on the day, just more driving and sleeping. More stuff to come as we make our way back to our home state of Colorado.


Caleb & Nadene

The Epicurators

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ice Cream of the future, almost part of the past

Some of you know Dipping' Dots, the ice cream of the future, declared bankruptcy in 2011, but in May of this year investors from Oklahoma City bought the company and reopened it's doors.

In celebration of it's return and the anniversary of my first taste of Dipping' Dots (August 2008) we clinked our plastic bowls and enjoyed a sweet treat upon our return to the states.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Le Route du Fleuve"

Yesterday, we set our course on the Flavor Trail and discovered many wonderful things along the way. Food abounds in the region of Charlevoix, and we learned why this place is known for its culinary expertise.

We started out our day with perfect lattés and pastries at a little shop down town in Baie Saint Paul. Here in Québec they serve lattés in bowls not in mugs like we’re used to. It is fun because it makes you slow down and savor your coffee – it’s a two-handed ritual!

After breakfast we were off to “Le Route du Fleuve” or the Flavor Trail. This is a road that connects many local restaurants and the farms that produce the ingredients they prepare. This is part of a growing trend called the Farm to Table Movement. This is a movement to eat more local foods in season. The added benefits of this movement are not only healthier foods (because they are picked or harvested once fully ripened, preserving many of the nutrients that are lost when produce is harvested too early so that it can be transported long distances before it is ripe) but it also supports local farmers, ranchers and producers to help sustain your local agrarian community and the way of life it brings to your region. In Durango, we’re big fans of this. Just mention urban gardening and you’ll have a hard time getting me to stop talking and showing photos of our “back yard” or stop by the Farmer’s Market and you’ll hear Caleb entertaining Durango residents while they shop. So clearly, we were very excited about the emphasis this region puts on local, sustainable food sources.

On the Flavor Trail we followed the bay through little communities and farmland. There were beautiful views of rocks and trees meeting the water on one side and dense forest of the other side of the road that open into small fields of strawberries, corn, wheat, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries or potatoes with dairies, flocks of chickens, pig sties and goat or sheep herds scattered in meadows here and there. We stopped to try some local honey and were surprised by how different honey tastes when the bees gathered pollen from clover, blueberries or wildflowers – but our favorite was the honey from strawberry blossoms. We visited a chocolatier and tried delicious maple and Irish cream chocolates. And we visited a fishery that supplies the fish for one of the sushi restaurants in Baie St. Paul. Here are photos of the chocolates and some of the views we enjoyed.

For lunch we stopped at Le Passe-Temps for some crêpes. Asparagus and creamy Béchamel sauce and then a caramelized maple dessert crêpe – delicious!

The whole Flavor Trail is about a 40 km drive through 4 villages, but between these villages it felt like you could just disappear into the wilderness if you turned off on any of the side roads. It felt like it wouldn’t be surprising at all to come around a corner and see a herd of moose or a bear or a caribou and there were signs every 5 km warning of moose in the subsequent 10 km – I think that roughly translates to “moose everywhere”.

Back in Baie Saint Paul we were ready for dinner. We knew we should choose wisely and we decided to go to one place for appetizers, and another place for dinner so we could hit 2 birds with one stone. Our first stop was Mouton Noir. Our appetizer was a tomato based Gazpacho with a tomato sorbet and tarragon. The soup came with a grilled crouton smeared with an olive tapenade and ribbons of tarragon on top. Not a bad way to start our dinner out, so we moved on to L’Orange Bistro just down the street a few blocks away.

At L’Orange, we both had an entrée along with a dessert (the orange chef's hat sign means it is a featured restaurant on the Flavor Trail). Caleb had the fettuccine with chorizo, red peppers, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, and arugula. It had a very Mediterranean feel to it because of the light sauce and fresh ingredients. Nadene ordered the Charlevoix organic pork loin with a maple syrup sauce and star anise. The pork was so tender and juicy and the maple syrup added an excellent sweetness to the dish. Overall, we were very satisfied with our choices and had a wonderful time talking and laughing over dinner about things that have happened on the trip. We really enjoy our time with each other!

Next came dessert. Since we are in New France, we needed to have crème brûlée at least once. It came out with the caramelized sugar on top and blueberries on the side. It was incredible. Just a few short weeks ago, I would never have guessed that we would be sitting in a bistro in New France eating crème brûlée and drinking cappuccino. What a beautiful way to do vacation on a budget!

Speaking of the coffee, we have been in the country for 4 days already and have had coffee at least once per day since we arrived (most days we’ve had even more than that). We have yet to have any coffee that needed anything to “dress” it up. No sugar, no milk, just coffee. Everything from black coffee to lattés to cappuccinos has been perfect right from the start. Here in the New France, they make their coffee with a European care that you won’t find in the States.

Yep, yesterday was a day full of beautiful vistas and delicious food and it ended with a perfect night at a beautiful hotel called La Ferme or “The Farm”. We found this place completely by accident when we were talking with an artist in Québec City who told us to at least stop and visit it. Some of the pavilions of the hotel are still under construction so we were able to get a great “pre-opening” deal. This hotel has 5 pavilions of rooms and meeting areas and each is designed to represent a type of local farm. Once completed, the grounds will be edible gardens of fruits and vegetables supplying some of the ingredients for the 3 chefs who prepare the dishes for the hotel restaurants. We were so blessed to be able to stay in such a fun and beautiful place on our budget! Here’s a photo to show you what we enjoyed!

Well, today we are headed back home to Colorado, and our trip has been wonderful so far. On the way back, we will go through place such as Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City (where you know ribs will be in our future), and St. Louis. There are plenty more adventures to come over the next few days, and we invite you follow us here and keep an eye on the map above to track our progression through America. Until next time…


Caleb & Nadene

The Epicurators

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

1st Glance of Charlevoix

Yesterday was a complete experience of all that the Québec region has to offer.

We decided to leave Québec City in the morning and travel to I’lle d’Orleans, a little island off the coast of Québec that is known for its produce and fresh farms. It also happens to be a cyclist’s paradise. We took a drive around the entire island, which is only about 45 miles and we passed more cyclists on the road than cars.

We stopped for breakfast at a little bakery called La Boulange where we had 2 types of brioche: maple nut, and chocolate almond. The brioche was perfectly flaky and had just the right amount of filling to make it sweet. It is great being in a place with a more European culture because they know how to make a great cup of coffee. The latté and cappuccino were excellent as well, with a touch of chocolate dust sprinkled on the top for some extra sweetness. We sat in the bakery and sipped our coffee and ate while talking and listening to the locals have conversation that we could not understand, but was beautiful anyway.

After breakfast, we drove around I’lle d’Orleans and bought some fresh strawberries at a local stand where the woman spoke beautiful English! Well, French is her native language, but when she found that we only knew a few phrases of French, she happily helped us buy our strawberries. We took them to a table behind her stand that looked out onto the strawberry fields and the chicken coop to enjoy our treat. After a few moments after sitting, she came out from the back with a book about I’lle d’Orleans and proceeded to tell us about all the great places and growers she recommended we visit. We made a fun new friend!

The lady at the fruit stand also told us about a cider producer just down the road and encouraged us to visit and sample their hard cider. This place is called Bilodeau. The cider here was excellent and we couldn’t help but bring some home with us to remember our excursion.

After I’lle d’Orleans, we took a drive east to see the region of Charlevoix. This was the highlight of the trip we had been looking forward to ever since we left Colorado, and pulling into the region let us know why. As we drove into the crater created by a meteor thousands of year ago, it actually reminded us of home. Beautiful mountains and rocky terrain made us feel perfectly content while the region is right on the St. Lawrence River that feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. It is a safe haven for many species of whales. They come into this bay to calve. It’s beautiful landscape is breathtaking as it has the best of both worlds: mountains and ocean.

We found a brewery in Baie-Saint-Paul called Restaurant Le Saint-Pub MicroBrasserie that was magnificent. When you think of a brewery in the States, you think burgers and fries, maybe a steak that is about as good as you could do at home on the grill, and fried foods. This brewery was completely different from all those. For an appetizer, we ordered the guinea fowl, with apricot and pistachio terrine, and cranberry chutney:

We also ordered the Thai Mussels, which were mussels cooked in red curry and coconut milk:

Everything we tasted at this place was amazing! I think our American breweries can learn a thing or two about great food.

Charlevoix had been incredible up to this point, but we decided to stay another night in Québec City to witness the magic of Cirque du Soleil. Every week in the summer, the city puts on a free Cirque du Soleil show on the street under an overpass 5 nights per week. We couldn’t pass this up, so we drove back to the city to spend another night and watch the show.

On the walk down to the overpass, we stopped at a pizza place called Piazzetta. They specialize in very thin crust pizzas with many unusual toppings. Nadene had the Westphalia Ham pizza: cepe mushroom sauce, Westphalia ham, mozzarella and swiss cheese, mushrooms, green onion, five pepper mix, and as a special extra, camembert cheese. This pizza was so creamy and delicious. The waiter offered to put the camembert cheese on it as well and it was the best part of the pizza! Very subtle in flavor, but creamy and rich at the same time.

I had the Cugina pizza: tomato sauce, chicken marinated in lime juice, cumin and coriander, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, red onion, marinated red pepper, green pepper, hot pepper, green onion, sour cream, and fresh coriander (or cilantro). This pizza had a bit of heat to it from the hot peppers, but tasted like a Mexican dish on a pizza, which was exactly what I was going for.

After an excellent dinner, we headed to the overpass for the show. What an incredible production! An amazing hour and a half of incredible feats of flexibility, strength, daring and skill. Having never seen the Cirque du Soleil, we were quite awe struck! It was fun to see it here and be a part of the local pride in these athletes – Cirque du Soleil was founded by two residents from Baie-Saint-Paul in Charlevoix. Check out a sample of the performance below.

Another full and fascinating day here in Quebec. Today we are starting our journey on “La Route du Fleuve” – The Flavor Trail. Good eats ahead!


Caleb & Nadene

The Epicurators

Monday, August 13, 2012

Nice to meet you, Québec. I'm starvin'!

Things keep getting better and better here in Québec City!

When you're in French-Canada and you're looking for breakfast, there is no better place to start than crêpes. We have been making crêpes on our own for a while now, and once we start making them it is hard to know when to slow down. Once we make a batch, it is almost impossible to not make consecutive batches for the next month or two. We love them! Crêpes can be sweet or savory depending on the ingredients you choose. Versatile and delicious!

We went to a little place called Casse-Crêpe Breton. We had an asparagus, ham, and swiss crêpe, and an egg, bacon, mozzarella crêpe and café au laits.

The food was incredible and we sat for a long time just eating and talking. Good food makes it seem as though life is put on hold for a few moments of pure bliss.

After breakfast we went to La Cittedale to check out the old fortifications and walls of Québec City. We got a chance to walk around the top of the walls that overlook the rest of the city and the St. Lawrence River. Below us was the boardwalk that will take you to the Château Fronternac, which is the most photographed place in all of Québec. So, what did we do? Well...

...we took a picture of it...

...and then we had a picture of US taken in front of it. And then we took some more photos of it. Probably more than you care to see, but it was simply beautiful. We have loved experiencing all the architecture and history.

After visiting Château Fronternac, we made our way around the city on foot and passed through some very historic places where legislation has been passed and battles were fought. Québec has a very interesting history and we have found it to be quite entertaining here even aside from the food. Our feet are incredibly sore from walking so much today, but it has been worth it to invest in the culture here and meet new people along the way.

Somehow in all our travels today, we ended up in a chocolate shop. Now, I don't know how we got there. I think we may have blacked out and woke up in the store with chocolate in our mouths. All I know is that it was delicious. Cappuccino truffle in the shape of a coffee mug and a 3 cream dark chocolate from Cupidon Chocolatier:

All of these things were worth writing about, but the main event of the day was dinner this evening. We went to a traditional French restaurant called Aux Anciens Canadiens. We each had a 3 course meal and it was the best thing I have eaten on this trip. This, ladies and gentlemen is what I have been looking forward to the whole vacation. A meal that was so delicious, I could not even walk when I was done from eating every last drop. For appetizers, it was pea soup and caribou/wild boar rillette with carrot chutney (basically a meat pâte with chutney). For the main course, I had the meatball ragout Grand-mére (meatballs and potato in gravy), and Nadene had the Québec meat pie with a homemade fruit ketchup and pickled cabbage. Both of there are traditional meals in the area. All you need to know is that this meal was so good, I even ate all the beets there were served as my side dish. That says a lot!

After all this, desert may have been the best thing we have eaten in Canada so far. Since Canada is known for it's maple syrup production, maple syrup pie is a big deal here. We had yet to try it until tonight and I must say, we're a huge fans! The pie was kind of like a pecan pie without the pecans. It was very sweet and melted in you mouth like butter. I could not stop eating it. I'm salivating just thinking about it again now.

That's it for this day. Until we write again, we will be sipping coffee and looking pensively out the window thinking about all the food that is to come.

Don't forget to track our progress on the map above as we make our way across more country and eat more glorious food!


Caleb & Nadene

The Epicurators