Eating our way through Athens

Eating our way through Athens

Cover: Dining in Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


I really don’t know how Athenians don’t weigh 1000 pounds. After spending three months in the gym following our month-long visit to Greece in April, we were determined that during our return in December, we’d avoid gaining weight. Our determination lasted about as long as our Uber ride from the airport. You see, the apartment where we stay in Athens is above a gelato shop.

Gelato at Davinci Gelato, Plaka, Athens, Greece
Gelato at Davinci Gelato, Plaka, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I thought maybe they would be closed for the winter. Nope. Oh, my – well, best-laid plans and all…

Eating our way through Athens

Having already seen the sights, visited the monuments, and toured the museums during our April visit, we planned on a month of simply living in Athens enjoying the culture, the people, and the food.

The food in Greece is simply delicious. I could exist on Greek salads alone and, as my Greek-American friend Paula says, “Everything’s betta with feta!” But there is so much more. From tzatziki to souvlaki to the seafood, the Greeks have mastered the craft of cooking. And, we in turn, did quite a bit of sampling and eating in Athen’s restaurants – and here are some of our favorite finds…

Stamatopoulos Tavern

Greek salad, or Horiatiki, at Stamatopoulos Tavern, Athens, Greece
Greek salad, or Horiatiki, at Stamatopoulos Tavern, Athens, Greece. Tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, red onion, capers, feta cheese, olives, bell peppers, oregano, and olive oil. Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our first stop upon arrival was dinner to celebrate our anniversary and we chose one of our favorite restaurants in Plaka, Stamatopoulos Tavern. Located at the foot of Lisiou Street (the stairs in Plaka with the restaurants and bars), in the summer the restaurant has a large, lovely outdoor dining patio and in the winter, the indoor restaurant is full of charm and warmth. With music and good food, we visit Stamatopoulos Tavern once a week when we are in Athens. Yes, it’s a bit touristy, but yes, it is enjoyable. Our go-to menu selection: octopus and a Greek salad. νόστιμο! (Delicious!)

Stamatopoulos Tavern is located in Plaka at Lisiou 26, Athina.

Octopus at Stamatopoulos Tavern at the foot of Lisiou Street in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Octopus at Stamatopoulos Tavern at the foot of Lisiou Street in Plaka, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mama Roux

Meza Sampler with Moutabal at Mama Roux, Athens, Greece
Meza Sampler with Moutabal at Mama Roux, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Eclectic and relaxed with a wide range of cuisine options, we visited Mama Roux multiple times during the month. We highly recommend the Meza Sampler – the Moutabal (smoked aubergine purée, we had it vegetarian) is amazing. We also always get the quesadillas, which are tasty and the pico actually has a kick.

Quesadillas at Mama Roux, Athens, Greece
Quesadillas at Mama Roux, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mama Roux is located near Monastiraki at Aiolou 48, Athina. From the Starbucks, walk up the street with the home goods and cloth stores.

Eat at Milton’s

Prosecco at Eat at Milton's in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Prosecco at Eat at Milton’s in Plaka, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’d dined at Eat at Milton’s when we were in Athens in April and it was definitely on our must return list for our December visit. A lovely, upscale restaurant in Plaka, Eat at Milton’s is the place to go for a little bit of luxury. On this visit, we began with a bottle of Prosecco, which we leisurely enjoyed as we watched the frantic holiday crowds bustling about outside.

Greek salad at Eat at Milton's in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Greek salad at Eat at Milton’s in Plaka, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Next up, the Bio Greek salad which is an art form at Eat at Milton’s – so pretty, you almost don’t want to eat it – almost. The salad was fresh and tasty with an innovative spin on a Greek classic. For our main courses, we had the shrimp ravioli and the fettuccine vognole. Both were fabulous and the shrimp sauce on the shrimp ravioli is amazing.

Shrimp ravioli in shrimp sauce at Eat at Miltons in Plaka Athens, Greece
Shrimp ravioli in shrimp sauce at Eat at Milton’s in Plaka Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While one of the pricer restaurants in Plaka, a lunch or dinner at Eat at Milton’s is definitely a luxurious treat. Eat at Milton’s is located at the corner of Adrianou and Nikodimou Streets in Plaka at Adrianou 91, Athina.

The Greco’s Project

Vegetable Souvlaki in a pita at The Greco's Project. Athens, Greece
Vegetable Souvlaki in a pita at The Greco’s Project, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A very busy spot near Syntagma Square, The Greco’s Project delivers true value, serving super tasty fare for very reasonable prices. As we don’t eat meat, souvlaki is normally out of the question for us, but The Greco’s Project does a vegetable souvlaki in a pita with the yogurt sauce that is fabulous. As far as the other items we sampled… skip the pasta – not enough sauce. The Greek salad is interesting, using caper leaves instead of capers. The Greco’s Project salad is quite good and the bean soup is really tasty. The pitas are divine.

The Greco’s Project is located at Mitropoleos 5, Athina.

Cherchez La Femme

Small plates at Cherche La Femme
Small plates at Cherchez La Femme, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We must have walked by this restaurant 100 times before a friend recommended we give it a try and he was so correct. Located on Mitropoleos across from the cathedral, Cherchez La Femme is the perfect spot for a lazy afternoon of wine and small plates. We had the smoked mackerel, portabellos, octopus and a few other delicious dishes. Well worth a visit!

Cherchez La Femme is located at Mitropoleos 46, Athina across from Mētrópolis, the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation.

Mani Mani

Mani Mani dining room, Athens, Greece
Dining room at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mani Mani, or Manh Manh, came highly recommended by an Athenian friend (yep, the same one that recommended Cherchez La Femme – the guy knows food) and Mani Mani did not disappoint. Serving creative food in a charming atmosphere with stellar service, we loved Mani Mani. We began with the Mani Mani salad, greens in a sun-dried tomato dressing and topped with grilled goat cheese. Spectacular.

Mani Mani salad, Athens, Greece
Mani Mani salad with lettuce, rocket sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese at Manh Manh in Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Next up, balsamic glazed octopus on a bed of fava bean purée (yeah, we rarely pass up the octopus in Greece). The octopus was tender and flavorful and the fava bean purée serves as an amazing dipping sauce for the delicious bread.

Octopus on fava bean purée at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece
Balsamic octopus on fava bean purée at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For the main course, we opted for the special, a seafood orzo in a sauce accented with fennel. It was superb. The presentation was excellent, the atmosphere is lovely with great music and, for the price, Mani Mani is a must visit. It’s just a couple of streets over from the Acropolis Museum at Falirou 10, Athina.

Seafood Orzo at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece
Seafood Orzo at Mani Mani, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Psaras in Plaka

Happy hour in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Our perfect perch for happy hour in beautiful Plaka.
Plaka, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When we were in Athens for the month of April, we spent many afternoons on our perch on Lisiou on “the stairs” sipping vodka at Psaras. This December, we moved inside for dinners, still amazed by the view, but enjoying the good food in the warmth of the glass-enclosed patio. We typically partake of the octopus or the sea bass. Both are excellent choices and enjoyed with a stunning view overlooking Athens.

Psaras Traditional Restaurants in Plaka are located at the top of the Lisiou Street stairs at Erotokritou ke Erechtheos 16, Athina.

Dining at Psaras Traditional Restaurant in Plaka, Athens, Greece
Dining at Psaras Traditional Restaurant in Plaka, Athens, Greece in December
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Bel Paese Pasta al Momento

Rigatoni al Tonno at Bel Paese Pasta al Momento, Athens, Greece
Rigatoni al Tonno at Bel Paese Pasta al Momento, Athens, Greece Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We first saw this restaurant when headed to the market/grocery located next door. Beautifully decorated, Bel Paese Pasta al Momento is one of those restaurants that hits on all points without appearing to try too hard. The decor is upscale comfortable, the music selection relaxing, the service friendly and thoughtful, and the food spot on. The Bel Paese salad is splendid – fresh, crisp lettuce, dried cranberries, onion, avocado, orange, almonds with orange-honey-mustard dressing. Both Rigatoni al Tonno and the Tagliatelle Alla Puttanesca were tasty and, on another visit, we had Capricciosa pizza, which was delicious.

Bel Paese Pasta al Momento is located near the Acropolis Museum subway station at Athanasiou Diakou 6, Athina.

Harvest

Eggs Benedict with salmon at Harvest Coffee & Wine
Eggs Benedict with salmon at Harvest Coffee & Wine, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’d passed this spot several times on the weekend and it was always crowded, so we decided to pay a visit on a weekday afternoon and managed to grab a table. We opted for the eggs benedict with salmon and the avocado toast with poached eggs and jalapeño sauce. The eggs were cooked perfectly and the coffee was aromatic.

Harvest Coffee & Wine is located on Evripidou, Athina. From the Starbucks, walk up the street with the home goods and cloth stores. It’s on the corner of Evripidou and Aiolou.

The Pasta Shop

Pasta at The Pasta Shop in Athens
Pasta at The Pasta Shop, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If you are looking for some homemade pasta and sauce at very reasonable prices, this is the place. Everything is made on site from fresh ingredients. We loved the rosa and the Arrabiata sauces. Inexpensive (6-7€ each) and cooked to order.

The Pasta Shop is located just a couple blocks around the corner from the Starbucks in Monastiraki at Kalamiotou 9A, Athina.

Αιόλου 68

Caesar salad with smoked haddock at Αιόλου 68, Athens, Greece
Caesar salad with smoked haddock at Αιόλου 68, Athens, Greece
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At Αιόλου 68 in central Athens is a great spot with a large seafood selection, very tasty food, great service, and a wonderful atmosphere that makes for an excellent dining experience. We sampled multiple dishes including the Santorini fava bean purée, the octopus, and the fish soup – all which were quite good. Our favorite though was the Caesar salad with smoked haddock – absolutely delicious!

Αιόλου 68 is appropriately located at Aiolou 68, Athina.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Boutiques, galleries, bars, and restaurants along Rue Crescent, Montreal, Quebec

Eating (and drinking) in Montreal

Cover: Boutiques, bars, and restaurants along Rue Crescent, Montreal, Quebec
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


During our month long visit to Montreal in August, we sampled our way through quite a few dining and drinking establishments around the city. From quick and simple to celebratory fare, we found Montreal’s dining scene to be tasty and satisfying, with some excellent patio options. Here are a few are our favorites…

L’Avenue

L’Avenue Montreal Eggs Benedict, Montreal, Quebec
L’Avenue Montreal Eggs Benedict, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The first time we walked by L’Avenue we thought the long line out front was waiting for a bus (it was mid-week and there’s a bus stop there, so it was plausible.) Nope. It was the for the awesome food in this quirky eatery with a great staff. They bring skewers of fruit to munch on while you wait for your food to arrive and the Eggs Benedict is worth the wait.

L’Avenue
Time of day visited: Brunch
Location: The Plateau, 922 Mont-Royal Ave E

L’Avenue Montreal fruit skewers
L’Avenue Montreal fruit skewer, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vegetarian/Vegan

General Copper Bowl at Copper Branch, Montreal, Quebec
General Copper Bowl at Copper Branch, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It seems like hipsters and vegans/vegetarians seem to have a relationship that falls somewhere between dislike and hate, so the amount of vegan/vegetarian restaurants we found in the Plateau and Mile End was a pleasant surprise. We eat 70%-80% plant-based, so we gave quite a few in the neighborhood a try. Two of our faves – Copper Branch for quick, tasty options and Aux Vivres for a great selection of creative dishes.

Time of day visited: Lunch
Locations:
Copper Branch, multiple locations around Montreal
Aux Vivres: Mile End, 4631 St Laurent Blvd

Ikanos

Greg Hull, Ikanos, Montreal, QuebecWhen looking for a place to celebrate Greg Hull’s birthday, we chose Ikanos and were extremely pleased. Great service, comfortable atmosphere, and superb Greek seafood cuisine. We went early and had a couple of martinis at the bar, then moved to the dining room for dinner. Excellent flavors and the best grilled Octopus we’ve ever had.

Ikanos
Time of day visited: Evening
Location: Old Montreal, 112 Rue McGill #1

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar, Montreal
Pikolo Espresso Bar, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Montreal has no shortage of coffee shops and we sampled our fair share of espressos and cappuccinos throughout the month. Our favorite was recommended by a friend that had been in Montreal just before us – Pikolo Espresso Bar. Small, pleasant and unique.

Pikolo Espresso Bar
Time of day visited: Afternoon
Location: Just off Sherbrooke West at Park Avenue, 3418b Park Ave

Les 3 Brasseurs

Beers at Les 3 Brasseurs, Montreal, Quebec
Beers at Les 3 Brasseurs, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We came across one of the four Les 3 Brasseurs at St Catherine and Crescent on a Sunday afternoon and stopped for a beer (we eventually found all four Montreal locations). The last time we’d been to a Les 3 Brasseurs was almost 20 years ago in Tahiti, so it was a bit nostalgic. We didn’t eat, but it has a nice patio to enjoy a beer or two.

Les 3 Brasseurs
Time of day visited: Afternoon
Location: 1356 St Catherine West

Sea Salt and Ceviche Bar

SeaSalt & Ceviche Bar, Montreal, Quebec
SeaSalt & Ceviche Bar, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We had a very late lunch at Sea Salt and Ceviche Bar, which is located just across from Alexandra Pier in Old Montreal. Great patio with comfortable teak furniture and a nice view. After cocktails – they only serve Grey Goose vodka, so that simplified things in the vodka selection process – we started with ceviche. We were a bit surprised at the limited ceviche offerings given the restaurant name, but it was quite good. Next, we both had the Citrus Salad which consists of kale, spinach, Mujol dates, Kalamata & Cerignola olives, grapefruit, oranges & toasted black rice. Spectacular! We whiled away the rest of the afternoon with a bottle of rosé wine, which made for a pretty nice finish to a relaxing, enjoyable lunch.

SeaSalt & Ceviche Bar
Time of day visited: Late afternoon
Location: Old Montreal, 351 Place Royale

Dirty Pizza

Dirty Pizza on Mont-Royal, The Plateau, Montreal, Quebec
Dirty Pizza on Mont-Royal, The Plateau, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our apartment was located directly across from Dirty Pizza on Mont-Royal and after watching the sheer volume of people that frequent the place, we decided we needed to indulge in a pie. We were pleased to find creative combinations and opted for the Angry Goat which is topped with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, pesto sauce, a balsamic reduction. Great crust and super tasty pizza.

Dirty Pizza
Time of day visited: Late evening
Location: Plateau-Mile End, 25 Mont-Royal Ave E

Taverne Gaspar

Taverne Gaspar, Auberge du Vieux-Port, Montreal
Taverne Gaspar, Auberge du Vieux-Port, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located at Auberge du Vieux-Port, Taverne Gaspar is casual, comfortable and has a great patio in Old Montreal. We had cocktails and dinner on the patio and then moved inside to the bar for after dinner drinks. Service was good both inside and out, the food was ok, but it’s a really great spot to meet for drinks.

Taverne Gaspar
Time of day visited: Evening
Location: Old Montreal at Auberge du Vieux-Port, 97 de la Commune St E

Mange Moi

Cocktails in the Plateau, Montreal, Quebec
Cocktails in the Plateau, Montreal, Quebec Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Mange Moi was the first place we visited after arriving in Montreal. Great patio for martinis. Inside is very nice and rustic, with lots of wood. The nachos are good and abundant. The place is continually busy.

Mange Moi
Time of day visited: Late afternoon
Location: Plateau-Mile End, 35 Mont-Royal Ave E


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Singaporean ice cream sandwich, Singapore

What to eat in Singapore

Cover: Singaporean ice cream sandwich, Singapore
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


View our Singapore photo gallery


Incredible food is everywhere in Singapore. A true food lover’s paradise, Singapore is a melting pot of cuisines, creating a unique blend of flavors and food traditions. From hawker fare to high-end dining, you could spend a month roaming the Lion City and never taste even a fraction of the available options. While you may have an appetite for everything, here’s a short list of 10 ideas to get you started on your Singapore eating adventure.

Hannah Russin and Greg Hull
What to eat in Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media


We’d like to thank the Singapore Tourism Board for hosting us as their guests and providing an expert guide to ensure we experienced all that Singapore has to offer.


Chilli Crab at Red House Seafood

Singapore
Chilli Crab at Red House Seafood, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our first dinner in Singapore was at Red House Seafood at The Quayside. Specializing in Asian seafood dishes since 1976, they presented a variety of delicious local dishes for us to enjoy. Well-known for their Chilli Crab, it is definitely the place to try the delicacy. Combining the freshest crab with a slightly sweet sauce, the iconic Singaporean dish was amazing. In addition to the Chilli Crab, we sampled Steamed Scottish Bamboo Clams with Minced Garlic, which were tender and not too garlicky – really tasty. We also tried a variety of vegetable dishes, a prawn dish, and our favorite dish of the evening, Mee Goreng. The service was great and the atmosphere was comfortable and fun.

Singapore
Steamed Scottish Bamboo Clams with Minced Garlic, Red House Seafood, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Ya Kun Kaya Toast

Ya Kun, Singapore
Ya Kun, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Eating traditional dishes in an authentic environment provides a glimpse of the culture’s identity and, when in Singapore, having kaya toast for breakfast is a must. Granted, before experiencing it, the kaya toast thing is a bit difficult to understand. So, you take some toast and dip it in a runny egg and it’s fabulous? Yep.

Kaya toast is toast with butter and kaya jam, which is made from eggs, sugar, coconut milk and pandan leaves. The toast is dipped in a soft boiled egg. Alongside the toast, a fragrant coffee that resembles chicory coffee (think Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans) is served. It really is good. But, what makes it great is experiencing it at the original Ya Kun at Far East Square in Chinatown. The auntie (a Singaporean term of endearment for an older woman) that served us was an absolute delight.

Egg tarts, moon cakes and pastries at Tong Heng

Green Bean Paste Pastries in Chinatown, Singapore
Green Bean Paste Pastries at Tong Heng in Chinatown, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

So many of the stories behind the restaurants and food shops in Singapore are of people that migrated to the city-state around the turn of the 20th century with hopes and dreams for a better future. Through their hard work and determination, many succeeded in building businesses where their food has become a part of the Singaporean culture.

Such is the story of Tong Heng’s Egg Tarts in Chinatown, who create pastries and diamond-shaped tarts with flaky, mouthwatering crusts that are filled with a delicious egg custard. Why the diamond shape? So the delicate pastries fit together in a box tightly and prevent them from being destroyed on their way home.

We sampled a variety of the pastries, including a green bean paste pastry, moon cakes and, of course, egg tarts.

Egg Tarts and Green Bean Paste Pastries in Chinatown, Singapore
Moon Cakes and Green Bean Paste Pastries in Chinatown, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The king of fruits, Durian

Durian, Singapore
Durian, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Regarded as the “king of fruits,” durian is a large, thorn-covered fruit that emits a repulsive smell and is frequently likened to road kill, rotten eggs or garbage. The odor is actually so strong that durian is banned from airplanes, hotels and mass transit in Singapore. When we tried it, they gave us plastic gloves so our hands didn’t smell afterward.

Native to Malaysia and Indonesia, durian grows from trees. In Indonesia, they cut the large fruit from the trees, but in Malaysia they let it fall to the ground before eating. We were told the ones on the ground were much riper – and smellier. Yay. Once opened, multiple seeds that look like mango pits are revealed. The pits are covered with a slimy pale yellow flesh. We attempted to eat one bite – it was awful. Looking around at the other tables at the durian stand, locals chatted and devoured their durian. Obviously, durian is an acquired taste.

Hawker fare at Food Republic

Food Republic, Singapore
Food Republic, Singapore
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Singapore is known for their hawker food and hawker centers, which essentially are food courts. When you hear the term “food court” don’t think of the American mall variety collection of fast food chains serving barely edible offerings. Hawker centers in Singapore are a collection of food vendor stalls selling a wide variety of offerings. The hawker centers, which are regulated by the Singaporean government, provide a more sanitary, permanent location for food vendors than food carts offer. Most vendors provide inexpensive, local cuisine. Diners make their selections and then enjoy their meals on tables within the center.

Bringing the local hawker fare to a more upscale open dining environment, Food Republic has elevated the concept and operates numerous locations throughout Singapore, mostly in shopping malls. We visited several Food Republic locations along Orchard Road and had lunch at the Vivo City location. With a wide variety of stalls, it takes a bit of time to make your selection. At Vivo City, we ended up going with prawn noodles. The prawns were huge, the dish was tasty and the price was very affordable.

Food and art at Janice Wong

A sous chef prepares an ice cream dessert dish at Janice Wong Restaurant, Singapore
Janice Wong Restaurant, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Food and art are one at Janice Wong’s at the National Museum of Singapore. Twice recognized as Asia’s best pastry chef, Chef Wong opened her latest in a string of highly-acclaimed projects, her flagship sweets retail shop and restaurant, in August of 2016. While we were admiring the vibrant colors and discussing the restaurant’s decor, Chef Wong dropped by our table and explained to us that the tables and the art on the walls are all edible, crafted from chocolate. She then moved on to speak with each table of diners in the restaurant, taking time to answer questions and pose for photos with guests.

Janice Wong Restaurant, Singapore
Scallops Somen, Janice Wong Restaurant, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We dined on Scallops Somen for lunch, a delightful combination of fish roe, ebi, scallops, salted egg yolk sauce and noodles. The dish was as beautiful as it was delicious. Dessert was Tiramisu, a creation I’d previously read that Ms. Wong learned to make from her mother and calls it her comfort dessert. A dreamy finish to the meal, the tiramisu was light with multiple layers of flavor and simply decadent.

Tiramisu, Janice Wong Restaurant, Singapore
Tiramisu, Janice Wong Restaurant, Singapore
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Ice cream sandwiches from a street cart

Singaporean ice cream sandwich, Singapore
Singaporean ice cream sandwich, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In Singapore, an ice cream sandwich is really more of a sandwich than you may think. Served on a soft, rainbow colored Pandan bread, a slice of ice cream is placed in the middle of the bread and, voilà, an ice cream sandwich. We purchased ours from an uncle at the end of Pagoda street in Chinatown and opted for coffee-flavored ice cream, but cart vendors can also easily be found along Orchard Road.

FlyingNoodles at Hana

Hana, Singapore
Flying noodles at Hana, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Flying noodles? Hana Restaurant is the spot where noodles fly in Singapore. Served on two dim sum baskets with a side of salted egg sauce, cold Udon noodles are draped over what appear to be levitating chopsticks creating the illusion of… flying noodles.

While the flying noodles are trendy and fun, the star of our lunch at Hana was the Salmon Cheese Chirashi. Salmon scattered amidst a dish of fresh, high-quality ingredients and a pretty presentation.

Hana, Singapore
Salmon Cheese Chirashi, Hana, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fish head curry at Muthu’s Curry

A signature dish of the Lion City, fish head curry is said to epitomize the cultural melting pot of Singapore. Comprised of the head of a red snapper combined with vegetables in a stewed curry sauce, fish head curry is said to have been created in an Indian restaurant in the 1960s. As fish head is considered a delicacy in China, the Indian chef added it to the curry to please his Chinese patrons. Muthu’s Curry is considered to be the top spot for Southern Indian fish head curry in Singapore, where the dish is served with okra, pineapple, and an aromatic sauce. Not for the timid, the sauce is spicy – not a little spicy, a lot of spicy.

Let them eat cake at Lady M

Lady M, Singapore
Lady M, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When shopping along Orchard Road a stop in Lady M is an absolute must. While technically a New York based enterprise, Lady M has 3 Singapore locations, multiple New York boutiques, and locations also in Los Angeles, Boston and Hong Kong. Lady M Mille Crêpes cakes are created with 20 layers of thin crêpes filled with the most amazing pastry creams you can imagine. The cake is delicate, gorgeous and decadent. We tried three flavors: the signature mille crêpes, a chocolate, and Earl Grey. All were amazing.

Kuay Pie Tee at National Kitchen by Violet Oon

Singapore
Kuay Pie Tee at National Kitchen by Violet Oon, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the most beautiful restaurants we visited is Violet Oon’s National Kitchen at the National Gallery. A luxurious dining journey through Paranakan flavors, lunch at the opulent National Kitchen is a special treat. As we were dining with a large group, the food was served communal-style, enabling liberal sampling of the many dishes served. While so many of the dishes were delicious, one stood out for me – an appetizer called Kuay Pie Tee which is served in little deep-fried cups that resemble an upside down top hats. Inside the cup is a delightful mix of julienned bamboo shoots and turnips poached in prawn bisque and topped with a prawn. Served with a chili sauce and a sweet fruit sauce, the Kuay Pie Tee is divine.

Closing out Singapore at Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen

Always a fan of Gordon Ramsay restaurants, we had our final Singapore dinner at Bread Street Kitchen at the beautiful Marina Bay Sands. A casual dining experience, Bread Street Kitchen is a vibrant spot with spectacular waterfront views. The menu is British European with a few Asian twists.

We began the evening with some bubbly and several appetizers: seared scallops, a tomato tart, and flatbread.

Seared scallops at Bread Street Kitchen, Singapore
Seared scallops, céleriac purée, apple, celery cress
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

As one would expect from a Ramsay establishment, the scallops were seared to perfection and the flatbread, with its caramelized onions and cheese, was fabulous. The tomato tart was sublime, bursting with flavor.

Tomato tart at Bread Street Kitchen, Singapore
Tomato tart, caramelized onions, burrata cheese, balsamic glaze
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

For the main course, we opted for parrot fish and sea trout, which we each sampled, accompanied by a nice Bordeaux Blanc. The spiced couscous that accompanied the parrot fish was fresh and flavorful, a nice contrast to the slightly sweet parrot fish. The sea trout, which comes from New Zealand, actually resembles salmon and was served with a white wine velouté and asparagus. While we both preferred the sea trout, the parrot fish was also enjoyable.

Dessert platter at Bread Street Kitchen, Singapore
BSK dessert platter to share
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Time for dessert. Unable to make a selection, we opted for the sampler platter for the table to share – a delightful assortment of sweet treats to end our meal. We lingered over dessert and the wine, enjoying the conversation and the stunning view. A wonderful evening and a perfect ending to our time in Singapore.

Singapore Skyline View From Marina Bay Sands walkway, Singapore
Singapore skyline view from Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media


Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to Singapore Tourism Board for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Behind the Scenes at the Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz Farm to Table Dinners

Cover photo: Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner, Santa Cruz, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Having visited Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz previously, we knew attending one of their highly-acclaimed farm to table dinners would be an amazing experience. A luxury resort and spa that also manages to be comfortable and fun, the hotel is surrounded by 300 acres of tall trees and beautiful vistas. Add to that a friendly staff and phenomenal restaurants, and a visit to the resort is a perfect spot for relaxation, some great hiking, and enjoyment of delicious food and beverages.

Invited to attend the fourth dinner of Chaminade’s 2016 farm to table series, I was instantly curious as to how it was all pulled together and asked if we could go behind the scenes for the event. Chaminade agreed and granted us full access to the event… and it was a spectacular evening of food, wine, and new friends.

Chaminade Resort & Spa’s Farm to Table Wine Dinners

A Toast, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
A Toast, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Now in their ninth season, the Farm to Table Wine Dinners at Chaminade have developed a devoted following of Northern and Central Californians with a passion for the finest in locally sourced cuisine.

Chaminade’s farm to table series includes dinners spaced throughout the growing season, each highlighting the finest ingredients straight from the fields of local farms and expertly paired with wines from a nearby winery. Diners are treated to a delightful evening in an idyllic setting overlooking the Monterey Bay, beginning with a wine reception and followed by a multi-course dinner, with wine poured freely throughout.

Farm to Table Dinner at Chaminde Resort in Santa Cruz
Farm to Table Dinner at Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

What is Farm to Table?

Fresh produce at the Everett Family Farm Stand
Fresh produce at the Everett Family Farm Stand, Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While it seems like nearly every restaurant you enter these days uses farm to table or farm to fork to describe their menu offerings, the concept is more than just a trendy phrase. Twenty years ago, if you asked most five-year olds where carrots or potatoes came from, most would probably have answered “the grocery store.” Fortunately, in recent years, an appreciation for food of higher quality has resulted in a resurgence of farmers markets, farm stands and home gardening.

Peppers at the Everett Family Farm Stand
Peppers at the Everett Family Farm Stand, Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Obviously, produce picked, transported only a short distance, and eaten quickly is fresher and more flavorful than those harvested too early to avoid spoilage while they are transported long distances. Simply compare the taste of a homegrown tomato from a backyard vegetable patch to one that was picked greenish, then shipped for days before arriving at a store, and it is easy to understand why chefs embrace the farm to table movement.

Locally sourced ingredients are also at their peak nutritional value, healthier and support and celebrate the small farms that strive to deliver premium products.

Lettuce goriwing at Everett Family Farm
Lettuce growing at Everett Family Farm, Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Farm to table, when crafted by talented chefs, transforms those higher quality ingredients into artisanal cuisine. Typically presented at long tables in stunning surroundings, the farm to table dinner creates a dining experience that is as memorable as it is delicious.

The journey from farm to table

Martin Ranch Winery, grapes on the vine, Gilroy, Califorornia
Martin Ranch Winery, grapes on the vine, Gilroy, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We decided to begin our behind the scenes look at a farm to table dinner by finding out just how local the food and wine that would be served during the dinner really was by visiting the featured farm and winery. We didn’t have to venture far.

The Farm: Everett Family Farm

Sign at Everett Family Farm
Sign at Everett Family Farm, Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located about four miles from Chaminade, just outside the quaint town of Soquel, California, visitors are greeted to Everett Family Farm on Old San Jose Road with signs proclaiming, “Don’t panic, eat it’s organic” and “Buy Fresh, Buy Local Here.”

The farm stand at Everett Family Farm
The Farm Stand at Everett Family Farm
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A California Certified Organic Farm (CCOF), Everett Family Farm grows fruit and vegetables on 45 beautiful, sunny acres. Rich and Laura Everett, along with their three daughters, have operated the farm since 2001. In addition to offering organic produce, the Everett’s raise chickens which provide fresh eggs, grow flowers, make an apple cider each fall, and produce an estate grown hard cider, Soquel Cider.

Fresh produce at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel
Fresh produce at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Pulling into the farm, lettuce grows in a sheltered building and, off to the left, a charming farm stand awaits filled to the brim with the freshest vegetables, fruits, eggs, and ciders.

The Everetts’ farm stand runs on the honor system. Visitors simply make their selections, then head over to the table to weigh their items, add up what they owe, and leave their payment in the black box.

The honor system at Everett Family Farm, Soquel, California
The honor system at Everett Family Farm, Soquel, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the farm stand, the Everetts’ produce and products can be found at local farmers markets and grocers. The Everett Family Farm is located at 2111 Old San Jose Road, Soquel and is open from 10 am to 6 pm, seven days of the week except for holidays.

Tomatoes at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel
Tomatoes at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Wine: Martin Ranch Winery

Martin Ranch Winery entrance
Martin Ranch Winery entrance
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Martin Ranch Winery sits a short 33 miles away from Chaminade at the southern tip of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Martin Ranch Winery, Gilroy, Califorornia
Martin Ranch Winery, Gilroy, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A beautiful winery with spectacular views and a peacefulness not found in many spots, Martin Ranch was created by Thérèse & Dan Martin, who were both born and raised in the Santa Cruz area.

Serene lake at Martin Ranch Winery
Serene lake at Martin Ranch Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The couple has owned and worked the ranch for over 30 years, producing award-winning red and white wines, gaining praise and a loyal following of wine club fans along the way. Dan produces under the J.D. Hurley label and Thérèse under the Thérèse Martin brand.

Beautiful views at Martin Ranch Winery
Beautiful views at Martin Ranch Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The sign on the winery building says, “Tradition – Passion – Excellence,” and the wines, the winery and the Martins demonstrate those qualities aren’t just words on a placard nailed to the wall. The Martins have a passion and dedication to producing excellent wines while maintaining a commitment to sustainability and preservation of the environment.

Chickens at Martin Ranch Winery
Chickens at Martin Ranch Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the vineyards, the winery has large, raised bed gardens and even chickens on the grounds. Very cool and definitely worth a visit! Martin Ranch Winery is located at 6675 Redwood Retreat Road, Gilroy California and is open to the public every first & third weekend of the month from 12-5 PM for tasting and barrel samplings.

Vineyards at Martin Ranch Winery
Vineyards at Martin Ranch Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Chef: Nick Church

Executive Chef Nicholas Church With Sous Chefs, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Executive Chef Nicholas Church With Sous Chef Jesus and Pastry Chef Erica, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Executive Chef, Nick Church, and his crew created a six-course menu for the evening, celebrating the locally grown delicacies and wines.

With the exception of taking time away from Chaminade in 2014 to open a restaurant, Chef Church has been with the resort’s culinary team since starting as a line cook in 1994. Now Chaminade’s Executive Chef, he has experienced most of the farm to table dinners at the hotel since their inception.

Chaminade Resort Executive Chef, Nick Church, keeping watch on the dinner
Chaminade Resort Executive Chef, Nick Church, keeping watch on the dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We grabbed a few minutes of his time and asked him to reflect on how he has seen the farm to table movement change through the years and how local sourcing affects his menu development on a daily basis.

After nine seasons of farm to table dinners at Chaminade, how have you seen the farm to table movement evolve?

“The excitement is still there from everyone including the Farmers, Wineries and the staff. I think the guests receive a fantastic and unique experience while learning about the local food, wine, and ingredients. When we run the dishes in Linwood’s that are created for the farm to table events, they tend to be very successful.”

How does your planning and preparation differ for a farm to table dinner versus a typical banquet or wedding?

“Planning a farm to table dinner takes time. Everyone always asks what’s on the menu but I don’t like writing the menu until I know what the farmer can provide. The ingredients are based on what’s in season and then the menu is created. I take the ingredients and use them in all the dishes and help pair the wines as well. The main goal is to make the guests happy. With weddings and banquets, the dishes are pre-selected usually a month or two in advance and of course pre-sold to the clients. We do try to use as many local ingredients as possible when preparing for dishes for weddings and banquet events.”

For the other 360 days of the year when you aren’t doing a farm to table dinner, how do local food choices factor into your menus at Chaminade?

“This is a tough question. Farm to table events are special to me and gets me and my staff out of our routine so to speak. I am naturally a shy person so getting out in front of the farm to table attendees is exciting for me. We are always trying to use local vendors for produce for Linwood’s as well as the fresh fish when in season to create our specials.”

Chef Nicholas Church & Staff preparing the Lamb Entree, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Chef Nicholas Church & Staff preparing the Lamb Entree, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Preparation

We arrived early to catch the staff in motion setting up for the dinner and preparing the two beautifully decorated tables where 96 people would soon gather to enjoy the evening.

Flowers for table at Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Flowers for table at Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Casual flowers arrangements of sunflowers, daisies, eucalyptus and purple status provided bursts of color along the long white tables. Small jars of wildflower honey from Carmel Honey Company welcomed each guest to their place setting. There’s something about a beautifully set table that evokes excitement and anticipation.

Tables set with flowers at Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Tables set with flowers at Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vats of white wine chilled, bottles opened, glasses arranged, and a frenzy of activity occurred in the kitchen and prep areas. With precision, the Chaminade staff expertly pulled all the pieces together and, as the guests arrived, the makings for a perfect evening under clear Santa Cruz skies were all in place.

Martin Ranch Wines await the guests, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Martin Ranch Wines await the guests, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Dinner

First Course: Reception
Flat Bread, Padron Peppers, Ahi Poke, Scotch Egg, Seascape Strawberry with Blue Cheese, Sliders

As the guests arrived, they selected their choice of wine and chatted casually as an array of appetizers were passed.

Guests arrive at the Farm to Table Wine Dinner reception
Guests arrive at the Farm to Table Wine Dinner reception
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From delicious strawberries with blue cheese to a mouth-watering ahi poke, the crowd loved the morsels of goodness as the reception kicked into gear. I chose to begin the evening, as I typically do, with a Sauvignon Blanc, which was delightfully crisp and bright.

David pouring Martin Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, Chaminade Resort & Spa
David pouring Martin Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, Chaminade Resort & Spa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As I chatted with the winemakers, Thérèse & Dan, Dan told me they use acacia wood barrels, which I found fascinating as acacia trees are what giraffes eat in the Serengeti. How cool! The conversations that occur at dinners like this are priceless.

Dan & Thérèse Martin of Martin Ranch Winery with Kim Hull, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Dan & Thérèse Martin of Martin Ranch Winery with Kim Hull, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With wines pouring, guests mingled, old friends reacquainted and new ones were made, as the fun crowd enjoyed the gorgeous late evening views at the resort which reach to Monterey Bay.

View towards Monterey Bay from Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz
View towards Monterey Bay from Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Second Course: Starter
Heirloom Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad

Course two: Heirloom Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad, Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Second Course: Heirloom Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad, Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Taking seats at the communal tables, the first course of an heirloom tomato and fresh mozzarella salad arrived. A showcase of the freshness of the late summer produce, the perfectly ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella were brimming with both color and taste.

Third Course: Soup
Sun Gold Cherry Tomato Soup

Rod Serving the Soup Course, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Rod serving the Soup Course, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A huge fan of tomato soup, I was ready and waiting for this course and it was absolutely wonderful! The soup was fresh, lively and filled with flavor.

As we progressed through the evening, our hosts addressed the group, relating their take on the farm to table experience and what it means from each of their perspectives. Dan Everett talked organic farming. Thérèse Martin brought the winemaker’s take.

ThérèseMartin of Martin Ranch Winery addresses the dinner guests
Thérèse Martin of Martin Ranch Winery addresses the dinner guests
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, the very talented, super nice, and uber-cool Kirsten Ponza, Food & Beverage director for Chaminade and former tour chef for the Rolling Stones, relayed Chaminade’s commitment to sustainability and toasted the crowd.

Director of Food & Beverage, Kirsten Ponza speaking to the diners at the Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner
Director of Food & Beverage, Kirsten Ponza speaking to the diners at the Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fourth Course: Salad
Bambi Little Gem Lettuce, Smoked Goat Cheddar, Honey Crisp Apples, Pistachio, Cider Vinaigrette

Chef Nicholas Church & Staff prepare the salad course
Chef Nicholas Church & Staff prepare the salad course
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Everetts are well-known and highly praised for their Honey Crisp Apples, so it is no surprise the fruit stole the show with this salad. The crisp, juicy apple that has a devoted, and well-deserved following, so perfectly paired with the smokey cheese and the pistachios gave the salad just the right pop of added flavor.

And, another interesting tidbit picked up from the farm to table dinner. Each of the purveyors has a “his and her” collection in addition to their joint efforts. The above-mentioned Honeycrisp is Rich Everett’s focus, while Laura targets heirloom apples for her ciders. With the Martins, each has their own wine labels, while also a combined winemaking focus.

Fifth Course: Entree
California Lamb, Oven Roasted Yukon Potato with Purple Garlic, Roasted Baby Carrots, Baby Vegetables, Syrah Reduction

Course Five: California Lamb at Chaminade Farm to Table Dinner
Course Five: California Lamb, Oven Roasted Yukon Potato with Purple Garlic, Roasted Baby Carrots, Baby Vegetables, Syrah Reduction at Chaminade Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Not one, but two thick, juicy pieces of lamb were the stars of the fifth course. It may have been the first time I’ve seen diners high-five over an entrée.

High fives at the table when the lamb arrived at teh Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner
High fives at the table when the lamb arrived at the Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Served alongside Yukon potatoes, baby carrots and with a Syrah reduction, the guests were ecstatic as the dish was presented, and then a hush fell across the tables as they devoured the entrée. For the vegetarians in the group, an exquisite stuffed pepper rounded out the savory portion of the evening’s menu. Served alongside the entrée course, the Martin Ranch Thérèse Vineyards Syrah was sublime. Luscious and spicy, it was elegant and is truly a special wine.

Sixth Course: Dessert
Crème Caramel

Crème Caramel Dessert Plates, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Crème Caramel Dessert Plates, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Who could think after all that food that we could even entertain dessert, but managed to devour the creme caramel. Rich, smooth and with great caramel flavor, it was a perfect finish to an amazing dinner!

The guests

Guests enjoying the Chaminade Resort & Spa’s Farm to Table Wine Dinners
Guests enjoying the Chaminade Resort & Spa’s Farm to Table Wine Dinners
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There’s another element to any fabulous party or event – the guests!

Guest enjoying the Farm to Table Dinner at Chaminde Resort in Santa Cruz
Guest enjoying the Farm to Table Dinner at Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving early and staying late, the Farm to Table guests were there to enjoy the food and wine and simply have some fun – and have fun they did!

Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner guests
Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner guests
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With a strong contingent from the Martin Ranch Wine Club, groups getting away for the weekend from the bay area, and Santa Cruz locals, the mix of guests made for a lively evening filled with interesting conversations and a relaxed, vibrant atmosphere.

Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner guests
Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner guests
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Many of the guests have attended numerous Chaminade farm to table dinners over the years, creating an experience that feels like a comfortable dinner party given by a talented host. Guests wandered from table to table and even into the prep area, chatting frequently with the Chaminade staff and even giving some of them friendly hugs throughout the evening.

And, speaking of the staff, true hospitality is both an art and skill – and there’s one final element that must not go unmentioned.

Dulcie & Wine Dinner Guest, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa
Dulcie & Wine Dinner Guest, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Chaminade staff

Rob delivering the entree course at the Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Rob delivering the entree course at the Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From our previous visit and this one, we’ve observed a culture at the resort that focuses on delivering quality in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. This culture of hospitality is more than serving good food and providing efficient service – it’s what makes the food creative & exceptional and the service not perfunctory, but flawless and generous.

Marshall serving the soup course at the Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Marshall serving the soup course at the Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Chaminade staff delivered a perfectly orchestrated dinner, executed flawlessly. The food was amazing and the service was friendly, with needs and wants anticipated and handled with care.

David pouring the Martin Ranch Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc at the Chaminade Farm to Table Dinner
David pouring the Martin Ranch Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc at the Chaminade Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

High praise and thanks to all that worked so hard to make a remarkable dining experience for 96 people on a picture-perfect evening in Santa Cruz!

Kirsten & Marshall, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Kirsten & Marshall, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Chaminade Resort & Spa for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner September 2016
Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner September 2016
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

 

The Purple Carrot: Plant-based / vegan food delivery subscription service

The Purple Carrot: Plant-based / vegan food delivery subscription service

Cover: The Purple Carrot: Plant-based / vegan food delivery subscription service
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


A little over 2 1/2 years ago, we adopted a plant-based diet at home. While we eat either pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan out, we are fully vegan at home.

Fruits and vegetables
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After reading The China Study and watching the Forks over Knives documentary, we committed to a mostly plant-based diet. The research behind the China Study shows a close correlation between eating animal products, including dairy, with heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer and bowel cancer. Forks over Knives has similar findings.We mostly use the term plant-based instead of vegan because, let’s face it, potato chips and Coke are vegan. In addition to eliminating meat, we also restrict oil, salt, and sugar as much as possible.

Background covered – let’s get to The Purple Carrot.

The Purple Carrot

The Purple CarrotWhile writing an article last week, I decided I should check social media (otherwise known as work escapism) and saw an ad on Facebook for The Purple Carrot. I never click on Facebook ads, but I was intrigued and clicked through.

The Purple Carrot is a plant-based / vegan meal delivery service launched by Andy Levitt who, according to his bio, is from Boston and has a dog named Yawkey (so he must be a good guy – go BoSox). Mark Bittman, the former New York Times columnist who wrote Eat Vegan Before 6, joined The Purple Carrot in November 2015.

The Purple Carrot concept is simple – they offer two meal plans, one plan that includes 3 meal kits for 2 people for $68 each week or a family plan of 2 meal kits for 4 people twice a week for $74 a week and the shipping is included. They currently only ship to the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and West Coast.

The Purple Carrot - how it worksThe meal kits are pre-selected – i.e., they choose what you get – and include all the ingredients needed to assemble the meals except for water, salt, pepper and olive oil.

I decided to give it a try. I read through The Purple Carrot FAQs and it was all pretty straightforward and you can cancel online at any time. The offer when I ordered on the website was $20 off your first shipment using promo code “NEWCARROT,” which I used, although afterwards I saw a different one on their Facebook page for $25 off using “FRESH25.”

The Purple Carrot subscriptionEach week you receive an email advising what the meals will be for the next week.

If you don’t like the selections or if you are going to be out of town, you can logon and either skip the week or pause the subscription until you want it to resume. You have to skip or pause before Thursdays at 11 PM EST the week prior to the delivery. Otherwise, your credit card is charged on Sunday and you get your shipment on Tuesday (at least that’s when ours came).

In the upper right-hand corner where my name is shown, clicking on subscription takes you to a screen to Skip, Pause or Cancel. I personally believe that having the ability to cancel online shows belief in your product or service and treats customers with respect.

The Purple Carrot first orderThe meals we would receive were Chilaquiles with Edamame Guacamole and Pickled Carrots, Aloo Paratha with Mustard Seed–Scented Eggplant, and Whole Wheat Fusilli with Mushrooms, Fennel, and Pecans.

Clicking the links on each of the meals leads to a “cookbook-style” page with the ingredients and preparation instructions with photos.

The Purple Carrot recipes

The Purple Carrot Meals

The Purple Carrot: Plant-based / vegan food delivery subscription service - the delivery
The Purple Carrot: Plant-based / vegan food delivery subscription service – the delivery
© Chasing Light Media

I received an email on Monday that our order had shipped and the shipment arrived on Tuesday evening about 7:30.

The box was packed extremely well, with the food wrapped in insulated bubble wrap with frozen packs underneath.

The Purple Carrot: Plant-based / vegan food delivery subscription service - food received
The Purple Carrot: Our first shipment

Each meal was packaged in a bag containing most of the ingredients for that dish, and the box also contained recipes/preparation instructions for each meal.

The Purple Carrot: Plant-based / vegan food delivery subscription service - Ingredients for our first week of meals
The Purple Carrot: Ingredients for our first week of meals
© Chasing Light Media

The Purple Carrot Meal 1: Chilaquiles with Edamame Guacamole and Pickled Carrots

The Purple Carrot Meal 1: Ingredients for Chilaquiles with Edamame Guacamole and Pickled Carrots
The Purple Carrot Meal 1: Ingredients for Chilaquiles with Edamame Guacamole and Pickled Carrots
© Chasing Light Media

The next evening I decided to begin with the Chilaquiles with Edamame Guacamole and Pickled Carrots.

I removed everything from the bag and began working through the step by step instructions. This was the most complex of the three meals to prepare and, honestly, I don’t usually make meals during the week that require chopping, grating, and a food processor.

The Purple Carrot Meal 1: Prep for Chilaquiles with Edamame Guacamole and Pickled Carrots
The Purple Carrot Meal 1: Prep for Chilaquiles with Edamame Guacamole and Pickled Carrots
© Chasing Light Media

The recipe said the prep time would be 40 minutes and it took me a little over an hour – granted there was wine, tweeting and Jeopardy involved during the process.

The Purple Carrot Meal 1: Prep for Chilaquiles with Edamame Guacamole and Pickled Carrots
The Purple Carrot Meal 1: Prep for Chilaquiles with Edamame Guacamole and Pickled Carrots
© Chasing Light Media

But, the result was worth it. We both loved the finished dish and it was fun to try something new.

The sauce was spectacular with complex flavors and the pickled carrots really gave it an interesting pop of flavor.

The Purple Carrot Meal 1: Chilaquiles with Edamame Guacamole and Pickled Carrots
The Purple Carrot Meal 1: Chilaquiles with Edamame Guacamole and Pickled Carrots
© Chasing Light Media

The Purple Carrot Meal 2: Whole Wheat Fusilli with Mushrooms, Fennel, and Pecans

The Purple Carrot Meal 2: Whole Wheat Fusilli with Mushrooms, Fennel, and Pecans
The Purple Carrot Meal 2: Whole Wheat Fusilli with Mushrooms, Fennel, and Pecans
© Chasing Light Media

The next night I selected the Whole Wheat Fusilli with Mushrooms, Fennel, and Pecans, which was by far the easiest of the three meals.

This one required very little prep – simply chop the fennel and mushrooms and cook, boil the pasta, and top with the herbs and pecans. I was right on the estimated 30 minute prep time.

We both liked this one too – not quite as much as the chilaquiles – but the pasta was quite good. It was a hearty meal, so we ended up with about a third of it left over as well which, combined with a salad, made a nice lunch the next day.

The Purple Carrot Meal 2: Whole Wheat Fusilli with Mushrooms, Fennel, and Pecans
The Purple Carrot Meal 2: Whole Wheat Fusilli with Mushrooms, Fennel, and Pecans
© Chasing Light Media

The Purple Carrot Meal 3: Aloo Paratha with Mustard Seed–Scented Eggplant

The Purple Carrot Meal 3: Aloo Paratha with Mustard Seed–Scented Eggplant
The Purple Carrot Meal 3: Aloo Paratha with Mustard Seed–Scented Eggplant
© Chasing Light Media

Greg joined me in preparing meal three which was Aloo Paratha with Mustard Seed–Scented Eggplant.

Not typically a fan of curry, I tend to avoid Indian food, so this one was far from anything I’d ever prepared. The estimated prep time on the recipe was 40 minutes – we were talking and drinking and tasting, so I honestly have no idea how long this took. It was a Friday evening, what can I say?

We loved this one. It was flavorful and fun and went great with a crisp white wine. I’d make this one again in a heartbeat. The only thing I’d change – we both thought there was a tiny bit too much lemon in the aloo filling.

The Purple Carrot Meal 3: Aloo Paratha with Mustard Seed–Scented Eggplant
The Purple Carrot Meal 3: Aloo Paratha with Mustard Seed–Scented Eggplant
© Chasing Light Media

The Purple Carrot: We like it

What we liked the most about The Purple Carrot

  • It introduced innovative meals that I never would have made on my own. If I’d have seen a recipe titled “Aloo Paratha with Mustard Seed–Scented Eggplant” I would have skipped it, but now I will make it again.
  • The vegetables were very fresh and of high quality.
  • The instructions are easy to understand with photos.
  • Full recipes are provided, so meals can be repeated on your own.
  • The pasta and tortillas were whole wheat.
  • Pausing the service is simple, so when we travel, we can stop then start it again when we return.

What we liked the least or changed

  • The recipes contain quite a bit of salt, so we omitted about half of it.
  • We also reduced the oil and just used a light spray of the pan instead.
  • Some of the prep time could be reduced if they sent pre-chopped onions, etc.

Is it worth $22.67 per meal? For a busy couple, I’d say yes. No shopping, no waste, it arrives at your door, and it’s a restaurant quality meal – that’s worth it to us. I could see how a family of four might feel differently but, for us, it works.

Next week, we are looking forward to:

  • Mu Shu Seitan with Homemade Hot Mustard
  • Catalan Vegetable Stew with Crisp Fideos
  • Shakshuka with Tofu Dumplings over Kasha

Sounds like fun! And then, we will pause a week while we are gone.

Learn more on The Purple Carrot website

Bon Appétit!


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Vegan Sugar Cookies

Vegan Sugar Cookies

Mmmm. Sugar cookies. Whether with a cup of tea in the afternoon or as an evening snack, they always hit the spot. I’m not much of a baker, so when I do turn on the oven, the recipe needs to be simple and tasty. Here’s one that hits on both requirements – a vegan sugar cookie recipe dressed up a bit with some fruit flavored sugars from The Sugar Tree®.

Vegan sugar cookies: Ingredients

Vegan Sugar Cookies ingredients
Vegan Sugar Cookies ingredients
© Chasing Light Media

1 3/4 cups flour  –  I used white whole wheat
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup Vegan butter at room temperature – I use Earth Balance
3/4 cup sugar
Egg replacer for equivalent of 1 egg
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sugars or sprinkles for topping

Vegan sugar cookies: Mixing the ingredients

Start by combining the flour and the baking powder in a bowl.

Vegan Sugar Cookies dry ingredients
Vegan Sugar Cookies: dry ingredients
© Chasing Light Media

In a second bowl, combine the butter and sugar with a hand mixer until fluffy, about 3 or 4 minutes.

Vegan sugar cookies wet ingredients
© Chasing Light Media

One of the most common questions heard from non-vegans is, “How do you bake without eggs?” Simple. Egg Replacer.

Egg replacer is a powder that is combined with water. Two commonly found brands are Bob’s Red Mill and Ener-G. What I have found with using egg replacer is that the best success is achieved when it is used in recipes for 1-2 eggs, maybe 3, but replacing more than 3 eggs can yield sub-par results. With a recipe requiring one egg like this one – it’s a piece of cake, or in this circumstance, it’s a cookie.

Add the mixed egg replacer, the water, and the vanilla to the butter & sugar mixture and beat another minute or so.

Vegan sugar cookies add egg replacer
© Chasing Light Media

Split the dough into two batches, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill for an hour.

Vegan sugar cookies chill dough
© Chasing Light Media

Vegan sugar cookies: Baking the cookies

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Once the batter is chilled, remove one batch of the dough and roll out on a floured surface – I always use my trusty sake bottle as a rolling pin. Flip the dough multiple times until it is rolled to a to 1/4 inch thickness.

Vegan sugar cookies roll out the dough
© Chasing Light Media

Use cookie cutters or, as I did, simply use a glass to cut out the cookies. Time for toppings – which brings us to The Sugar Tree sugars.

The Sugar Tree sugars
The Sugar Tree sugars
© Chasing Light Media

I saw these on Twitter and sent them a message @thesugartree telling them how cool the sugars looked and how pretty their packaging was. They were kind enough to send me some samples that we are using here today. The three jar pack contains lemon, orange and lime and they also sent a jar of raspberry and mint. The sugars are naturally flavored and also come in other flavors like cinnamon and ginger. They all are fabulous but the lemon and orange, which contain tiny bits of rind, are spectacular. You can find recipes, learn more, and also purchase the sugars on The Sugar Tree website.

Once the toppings are on the cookies, place them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and pop them in the oven until they are just golden on the edges (about 10-12 minutes). Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Vegan sugar cookies ready to bake
© Chasing Light Media

Remove them from the oven, cool on a rack and enjoy!

Vegan Sugar Cookies
© Chasing Light Media

This recipe is from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. It is filled with delicious vegan baking recipes from muffins to cookies to pies and cakes.


Disclosure & disclaimer: We received product samples for this review and were not compensated in any other way. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Vegan Breakfast Scramble

Meatless Monday: Vegan Breakfast Scramble

This vegan breakfast scramble will get your day off to a great start.

Vegan Breakfast Scramble: Ingredients

1 package of firm or extra firm organic tofu

1 Tbsp turmeric

1/4 cup soy milk

1/2 can  (7.5 ounces) black beans

Vegetables of choice (tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, etc.)

2 slices Chao cheese

Toppings (vegan sour cream, salsa, avocado, etc.)

Vegan Breakfast Scramble: Getting started

Prepare the vegetables that you wish to include in the scramble. For one package of tofu, one-half can of black beans works nicely. We like some pepper, mushroom slices and tomatoes in our scramble, but you can add whatever you have on hand or to your taste.

Vegan Breakfast Scramble: Prep vegetables
Vegan Breakfast Scramble: Prep vegetables
© Chasing Light Media

For cheese – we like Field Roast’s Chao Tomato Cayenne. If you like a little milder flavor, try the Chao Creamy Original. Slice the cheese in thin, short strips ahead of time so it will melt quickly.

Chao cheeseVegan Breakfast Scramble: Preparing the tofu

The tofu needs to have the water pressed out and there are basically two ways to do this. The first one uses paper towels and a can for weight. Cut the tofu into slices about 1/2 in thick, place paper towels between each slice and on top, and set a can on top of the paper towels. Leave it for 5 or 10 minutes. Remove paper towels and, if needed, add new ones and press again.

Vegan Breakfast Scramble: Press tofu with can
Vegan Breakfast Scramble: Press tofu with can
© Chasing Light Media

The second method is to use a tofu press. To use a tofu press, you place the tofu in between the press and simply tighten the tighten knobs gradually over 10 minutes or so. I use the EZ Tofu Press – it is about $20 and can be cleaned on the top rack of the dishwasher.

EZ Tofu Press

Vegan Breakfast Scramble using Tofu Press
Vegan Breakfast Scramble using Tofu Press
© Chasing Light Media

Vegan Breakfast Scramble: Cooking the scramble

Start by lightly sautéing any vegetables that you desire to have cooked versus warmed. Today, I did so with the red peppers and the mushrooms.

Vegan breakfast scramble: Saute vegetables
Vegan breakfast scramble: Saute vegetables
© Chasing Light Media

Next, add the soy milk and the turmeric to a skillet over medium heat and stir. I find this makes the turmeric distribute more consistently with the tofu.

Vegan Breakfast Scramble: Soy milk and turmeric
Vegan Breakfast Scramble: Soy milk and turmeric
© Chasing Light Media

Add the crumbled tofu and stir. The turmeric will give the tofu a golden color and a delicate flavor.

Vegan Breakfast Scramble tofu
Vegan Breakfast Scramble tofu
© Chasing Light Media

Add the sautéd vegetables, the beans, and the tomatoes to the tofu and warm. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Last, add the cheese and let it melt.

Vegan Breakfast Scramble: Scramble it
Vegan Breakfast Scramble: Scramble it
© Chasing Light Media

Add your favorite toppings – we like Tofutti sour cream, salsa, pico de gallo, and avocados. Enjoy.

Vegan Breakfast Scramble
Vegan Breakfast Scramble
© Chasing Light Media

 


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.