Tag Archives: tapas

The Bee’s Knees (Augusta, GA)

19 May

Last month I got the opportunity to fulfill a bucket list item: going to Augusta National Golf Club to watch the Masters live. It was a beautiful day and one I will cherish forever (thanks partially to the over 1000 pictures we took while there). This was my first time in Georgia so obviously I had great plans food wise for the time I would be there…. however due to certain circumstances, we were only there for 3 days including travel days so that pretty much left me with one dinner to work with. Looking for sometime in and around Augusta itself, I discovered a quirky place right off Augusta’s main strip that had some good buzz – The Bee’s Knees.

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Labelling itself as a Tapas restaurant and lounge, The Bee’s Knees definitely has an eclectic feel to it. The building itself reminds you of a old store from the 50s with the recessed door entrance, tile walkway and windowed facade which has gone unchanged despite this now being a restaurant. Inside, the space is brick walls, funky artwork, concert posters, christmas lights and great alternative music. While the crowd at that moment was older due to the golf tournament, the vibe really catered more to my generation and I loved it.

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Sitting outside on their terrace, we were presented the menu by our waitress and offered some drinks. I selected the Ginger Old Fashioned – Johnny Drum bourbon, sugar cube, cherry bitters, fresh ginger, cherries and an orange. A nice play on a typical Old Fashioned – the addition of ginger worked surprisingly well.

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Food-wise, The Bee’s Knees goes for a global cuisine approach to tapas. For starters, we went for tequila-lime guacamole with fresh-fried tortilla chips, the house salad and the hand cut red potato fries with 2 of their sauces (dill feta and spicy aioli). The guacamole was of the thicker persuasion – the avocado not being pureed completely. The tortilla chips thankfully were thick enough to not break when scooping up the dip and the tequila addition came through just enough to add some punch. The house salad was okay – a good combination of fresh vegetables and a little light dressing – like most house salads. The fries were delicious – thick cut as I like them but with a good crunch to them. The 2 sauces were a good contrast – the spicy aioli provided some kick (likely from siracha) and the dill feta dulled that down.

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Coming to the mains now, the first one was from their usual tapas menu – sesame salmon tartare with a sesame-soy sauce, sticky rice & a fried wonton. Very flavourful fish although the sauce completely overpowered the salmon itself. The sticky rice was perfect and the wonton provided a nice vessel to combine the rice and the fish.

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The next dish was their market fish of the day – wild stripped bass with white wine rosemary cream sauce, garlic mash, roasted beets and lemon arugula. Just a knockout of a dish – well executed and great depth of flavours. The fresh bass was cooked beautifully and paired nicely with the creaminess of both the sauce and the mash. The rosemary cream sauce had great notes of rosemary and white wine without overpowering the natural flavours of the bass. The rest of the dish mixed nicely and brought some other elements to the plate – citrus and pepper from the lemon arugula and some earthiness from the beets. Wonderful all around.

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The final main was their daily bird – chicken and waffles with yeast gravy and maple syrup. I wasn’t planning on eating this here but when I saw it was the special, I had no choice. I wasn’t going to come down to the South without trying some fried chicken and waffles somewhere! The fried chicken was on point – cripsy yet moist. The waffle was the right mix of crunch and fluffy and thankfully they had actual maple syrup….

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Finally for dessert, i had their creme brûlée. Nice and sweet, it was very well executed but somewhat unremarkable.

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A solid 2 hours on a terrace in April… I really couldn’t asked for more from my one real dinner in Georgia. Loved the food and the overall vibe. I could definitely see myself spending time there during their bar hours if I were a resident of Augusta. It also helped that the service was solid and quite friendly. It always impresses me how friendly and chatty American waiters and waitresses are. They genuinely want to converse with you – especially if they hear you speak French apparently! (Note to the friendly waitress whose name I have sadly forgotten since I waited too long to write this: Trust us, if you want to practice your French more, come to Montreal first before you visit France – it will be cheaper, lots of fun and an easier transition towards your desired trip to France. You won’t regret it!) Service like what we got is what makes people come back to a restaurant on top of great food. Should I get tickets to the Masters again, I will definitely spot by again!

Cheers!

The Bee’s Knees
211 10th St
Augusta, GA
706 828 3600

The Bee's Knees on Urbanspoon

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Barcelona 2013 – General Travel Log

24 Jul

Finally, after many distractions and false starts, I’ve have gotten around to this post!

A few months ago, as a vacation, I was in Spain for 10 days visiting both Barcelona and Madrid. There will be a few other posts on some specific culinary experiences that I had while I was there but I figured I would start with a overview post about my time there food-wise – specifically in Barcelona. When one talks about Spain from a culinary point of view, we think about Tapas, Manchego cheese, Iberico and Serrano Ham, amazing seafood and wine. Well… I got to enjoy all of that and then some while on this trip.

We made a concerted effort to try and follow Spanish timeline food-wise and get the true experience. We seeked out tapas bars, markets, cafes and terraces in order to try Spanish food. We weren’t in Spain to eat French and Italian. We didn’t do much research beforehand to plan anything. Starting in Barcelona, our hotel was located just off the Ramblas – the main tourist throughway – but more importantly, just a couple of minutes away from the Gothic Quarter, the old district of town where there are numerous small but amazing joints without any of the tourist-gouging prices or bad food.

In our first night in town, we tried a tapas bar just off the Royal Plaza (Playa Real). It’s called Bodega Biarritz and is insanely small. My apartment living room is almost bigger than the seating space here. Their menu is one of pretty “classic” tapas dishes so a perfect way to start the trip.

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We started with an order of Patatas Bravas, a stuffed puff pastry and Cod Fritters. Patatas Bravas are fried potatoes covered with a spicy tomato “Bravas” sauce. The sauce is really the thing here…. tangy at first but quite spicy in the finish. The puff pastry is good as well but nothing special. The cod fritters were wonderful – nice, fresh cod meat with a nice crispy exterior.

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Next up, we ordered meatballs on top of a potato tortilla, grilled sausage and smaller meatballs covered in bravas sauce. Both meatballs were moist and tender. The sausage had a nice kick to it and the potato tortilla was great. Soft interior with a crisp exterior, the texture was much flakier than your usual corn or flour tortilla. Add to all of this some beer and a great Mojito and you have a wonderful introduction to true Spanish tapas.

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The following day, we went to the famous La Boqueria Market to check out Pinotxo Bar. This tiny bar counter located inside the market doesn’t look like much but it has been showcased in a number of publications worldwide including Food & Wine and the New York Times. Once we actually were able to grab some seats (there are only about a dozen stools present so expect to wait a bit), I was ready to dig in. Upfront, it amazes me the quality of food that comes out of a space that small. The pictures probably don’t do it justice enough. Every tiny inch of space is used to its maximal capacity. Somehow 5 cooks and the owner, the very jovial fellow in the pink and blue vest, fit and crank out great stuff.

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First up, a chick pea salad with some garlic, parsley and a few other spices that I didn’t catch as the owner who ended up serving really doesn’t speak English. Amazingly fresh and flavourful, I am really not a chick pea fan but this dish turned me around. The chick peas were cooked to the right consistency and the mix of spices and herbs really enhanced their natural flavour. Great starter.

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Next up, a plate of snails cooked with a mixture of tomatoes and garlic amongst others. Once again, great combination of freshness, texture with simple but strong flavour. I have never eating so much snails at one time in my life and it was great to try them in a preparation other than one involving tons of garlic butter.

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Following that, we got a plate of fresh grilled squid with some chick peas, olive oil and a balsamic vinegar reduction. The squid was perfect, the chick peas provided a nice earthy balance to the squid and the balsamic added a nice touch to the whole time. Great plate of food.

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Lastly, we went with fresh langoustines boiled, slightly grilled and with garlic butter. Simple but perfect overall. As was true throughout my time in Spain, the seafood was amazingly fresh and of high quality, so the natural flavour of the langoustine shone here beautifully. All in all, a great experience that I highly recommend anyone who goes to the market check out. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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The next day, we got to check out some more tapas places. First up, big props to the corner cafe that serves the following plate of Manchego cheese.

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Honey, pecans, fig sauce and huge pieces of Manchego…. there is a reason why we went back again a few days later. The quality of each component was wonderful and really made me wish I could get a similar plate at my corner cafe! For now, I will do so at home.

That evening, we did a mini tapas crawl. The first location was Euskal Etxea which specialize in pintos which are snacks like items usually skewed on a piece of bread. All the items were laid out on the bar where you make your selections. Once eaten, you keep the toothpicks from each and that is how they add up your bill. Totally a different set-up then I am used to. The items here were mostly meats, pates or cheese. All good but nothing really exciting.

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After that quick stop, we went literally across the street to a more typical tapas bar, El Xampanyet. This tiny bar was cramped, loud and had tons of paper napkins on the floor a.k.a a good tapas bar from all appearances. Once we wiggled our way up to the bar, we dove in. Ham on breadsticks, mini spicy sausages, roasted potatoes topped with cheese and tomatoes, marinated fresh anchovies and goat cheese stuffed mini peppers. All fresh and delicious. Add to that a couple of pints of beers and we’ve had ourselves a great night.

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I have a few more places to showcase but as mentioned initially, that will be done on a few separate posts that will appear shortly (I hope…). Having now had the true tapas experience in Spain, I found a nice appreciation for that style of dining. Every Tapas place we went to, I left feeling satisfied but never completely stuffed to the point of inactivity. Hopefully this mini tour has given you a sense of the kind of food one can experience in Spain. Now… I just want to go back!

Cheers!

Bodega Biarritz. Ciutat Vella, 1881, Barcelona, Spain. 08002
Bar Pinotxo. Mercat de la Boqueria, 466-470, Barcelona, Spain. +34 933 171 731
Euskal Etxea. Placeta Montcada, 1, 08003 Barcelona, Spain. +34 933 10 21 85
El Xampanyet. Carrer de Montcada, 22, 08003 Barcelona, Spain. +34 933 197 003

Douro

8 Oct

There are restaurants that, for some reason, become family favorites. Be it for a specific food item, the wine list, the decor or even the service, these are places that you will go back to time and time again because you enjoy it and are in the mood to go back. They become staple of the rotation when the family seeks a nice place to enjoy a nice weekend meal. For my family, Douro is one such place. Given we recently went back for a nice Saturday evening meal, I figure now would be a good opportunity to talk about it.

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For the uninitiated, Douro is a Portuguese restaurant located of the fringes of Little Italy here in Montreal. They serve tapas style dishes or you can stick to the classic appetizer/ main course format if you’d like. Each time I’ve gone, I have stuck to the tapas menu. Amongst the tapas options on this evening, we went for chorizo sausage, grilled squid, grilled calamari, garlic shrimp and cod cakes. Every item is cooked very nicely without overdoing the ingredients – simply allowing the natural favors of each items shine through with some slight enhancements. The grilled squid is of particular note here.

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The next serving brought forth some delicious mussels as well as 2nd helpings of squid and cod cakes. The mussels were rather small but they were still delicious as was the garlic and white wine broth.

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To top off the evening, a deliciously fresh pastry. Nice flaky crust and a buttery smooth filling.

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Add to this delicious food a nice bottle of Portuguese white wine and you have yourself a very nice meal to enjoy. The service is outstanding and personable. I have some minor quips about the decor of the restaurant (although I seem to be the only one who feels that way) but they do not distract for the great food you will enjoy. If you are looking for a nice enjoyable Portuguese meal, I highly recommend giving Douro a shot. Maybe your family will enjoy it as much as mine.

Cheers!

Douro
6518 Boul. St-Laurent
514 273 6969

Douro on Urbanspoon

Restaurante Helena

12 Aug

Restaurante Helena is a Portuguese style place located in old Montreal that opened at the end of June. I was looking for a nice restaurant to go enjoy a nice meal with a friend prior to the fireworks in the old port, so we gave it a shot.

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The menu is a combination of tapas style plates or classic entrees and mains. We chose to stick to the tapas options. First up, we had the cod croquettes with a piri piri aioli. Simple but perfectly done. The croquettes had a good crisp to them without the fish in the middle being overdone. The aioli was a great compliment with just the right level of spice without overpowering the fish.

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Next up, clams with chorizo, corn and Sao Jorge cheese. A nice light dish where the extra elements didn’t take anyway from the key ingredient here, the clams.

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Following the clams, we got the tempura shrimp with bisque sauce following with the plat of grilled octopus, squid and chorizo. Both were very executed and delicious. The standouts of note here were the bisque sauce and the grilled squid.

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All in all, the food was wonderful and perfectly in keeping with what you would want looking for a good Portuguese meal. As with most tapas plates, you always wish you could have more on the plat, but that comes with the territory. The wine options were relatively plentiful – with the caveat that II don’t know much about Portuguese wines. We asked our waiter for his opinion and the choices he made for us were wonderful. I will note here however that it actually took our waiter about 45 minutes to actually come take our orders after bringing us our wine. Because of our discussion at the table, we didn’t actually notice until about 30 minutes. Given we weren’t really in a hurry, this didn’t bother us in the least but I feel like I need to mention this anyway.

Helena was a pleasant discovery and given its proximity to old Montreal, another great option for people heading to the old port. Anyone looking for a good portuguese place would be wise to check it out.

Cheers!

Helena
438 McGill
514 878 1555

Restaurant Helena on Urbanspoon

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