An NYC Photo Album

This past weekend I attended Rotary Day at the United Nations headquarters in New York. I’ve always wanted to visit the UN headquarters — and I’m so glad I went. The overall goal of the organization – to have a peaceful world – is one that I admire and believe in wholeheartedly.

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Rotary UN Day 2016

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Nonviolence sculpture in front of the United Nations, New York.

I also had a few days to explore the city and went to the Museum of Modern Art, Central Park and 5th Avenue the next day.

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The Museum of Modern Art

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A special exhibit on refugees and displaced peoples around the world by artist Reena Saini Kallat.

After the MOMA I headed down 6th Avenue and stopped at Magnolia Bakery. I had no idea, but this bakery is apparently quite famous and was even featured in Sex in the City and the Devil Wears Prada. To be honest, the cupcake brought back memories of my cake mix days in high school — so I was sort of let down by the caramel cupcake  I chose.

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Inside a Magnolia Bakery.

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A cupcake from the busy Magnolia Bakery

After that I headed to 5th Avenue — I walked past the Rockerfeller Building and Saks 5th Avenue — two famous landmarks in the Big Apple.

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Police on horses near the Rockefeller Building (and those famous yellow cabs).

And then I continued  on to 5th Avenue and stumbled upon some protesters in front of Trump Tower. Not everyone is happy about the outcome of this year’s election.

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Demonstrations on 5th Avenue in response to the outcome of the 2016 election.

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Demonstrations on 5th Avenue in response to the 2016 election.

On the next day I did a tour of the UN. Anyone can go – you just need to sign up online, bring your passport and go through security about an hour beforehand. A vibrant mural inside bore the words “Do Unto Others As Your Would  Have Them Done To You”.  I thought about how if we all lived be this saying, our world would very likely be a more peaceful and just place.

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Mural, United Nations HQ

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United Nations headquarters in NYC.

Notes from a Food and Peace Travel Diary, Part I

      I’ve been back in Europe for a week or so and so far it’s just as tasty and chic as I remembered. I’ve visited two culturally-rich (to say the least) cities so far: Munich and Paris. It’s been a great time filled with work (of course, this isn’t all about traveling), visiting old friends, some great dining and eye-candyish site seeing. Europe, I love you and it’s great to be back.

     My adventure began in Paris, where I stayed in a cute Parissienne apartment on the outskirts of the city that I found through Airbnb. The truly memorable food thing about Paris in my opinion is hands down the pastries and sweets. Think macaroons everywhere, patisseries and cakes of every shape and colour imaginable and layers and layers of cream upon cream. One day I met up with a friend and we promenaded around the Notre Dame area before stopping at one of the oh-so-many cafes for a coffee. I decided to try a chocolate brioche – and to my surprise it was a lot lighter than any brioche I’ve ever had or made at home.

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     After about three days in dessert heaven, I boarded a bus and headed to Munich to visit two other friends. Munich surprised me. The last time I was here was 12 years ago when a friend and I met to go to Oktoberfest. This trip was totally different. The Bavarian capital is bursting with history, knodel (Bavarian dumplings) and more fine desserts. I know I maybe shouldn’t say this, but I do think that southern German cuisine stands out above the rest. From the bier steins to the prezels, many food traditions are to be found here. By the way – have you ever noticed how prezels kind of resemble a peace sign?

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     On a Saturday afternoon, I took a break from my writing and decided to visit the “Munich Residenz”, the former living quarters of the Bavarian Monarchs. I was astonished by the paintings and utter elaborateness of the once-upon-a-time palace. Holding a digital tour guide to my right ear, I learned about the Wittelsbach family and caught a glimpse of how they lived hundreds of years ago. I also saw lots of statues of men with armor and swords. I instantly thought about how times have changed and it became clear to me how opulence and riches  were achieved through separateness and violence.

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      In one of the rooms, there were beautiful paintings of ‘commoners’ harvesting food, like this painting of a woman chopping wheat with a sickle. I stood stunned by the sheer simplicity of the paintings.

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     After I left the Residenz, I took a short walk to Munich’s Angel of Peace, a gorgeous statue and fountain built in memory of the 25 years of peace after the 1870/1871 Franco German war. Looking up at the golden female heralding in the grey sky, I thought about how it would simply be wonderful if there was more peace in the world, and if people didn’t resort to violence and military means to solve problems. The statue for peace is simply living proof that throughout history many others have wanted the same.

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Angel of Peace, Munich, Germany

 

Hello Vancouver, Hello Deliciousness

I’ve been in Vancouver for about a week and I have to say I’m really impressed by the culinary options this city has to offer – there are restaurants everywhere. I’ve tried some memorable Canadiana bistro cooking at The Oakwood on 4th Avenue and I’ve sat down to dine on sushi at least every other day. It does seem like every third restaurant here may be a sushi restaurant. Ok, the stats may not be that high, but Vancouver is surely seeping with plenty of joints serving high-quality sushi.

That said, I think my favourite place so far is a tiny, bona fide, lantern-lit Chinese restaurant called Legendary Noodle on Denman Street, right near Sunset Beach Park. This little resto caught my curious foodie eye one day when I was walking by looking for a famed tapas place (I love tapas as well). I decided I’d go back the next day, and stay true to the tapas quest that night.

Legendary Noodle in Vancouver, B.C.

Legendary Noodle in Vancouver, B.C.

The lured return journey was certainly worth it. Think low key, exotic Asian ambiance, dimmed lighting and simple, yet delicious food that you just can’t find anywhere else. A polite waitress with red lips took my order for noodles in a chili-lemon-garlic sauce topped with with steamed greens ($8). My friend and I also ordered dumplings with a mildly-spicy peanut sauce to start ($6).

Legendary Noodle, Vancouver, B.C.

Legendary Noodle, Vancouver, B.C.

The dumplings arrived swimming in the creamy peanut sauce, which was so good (and plentiful) I ended up pouring it over the noodles.They – the noodles – arrived shortly after topped with healthy-looking broccoli, lightly boiled spinach and green beans. With just the right amount of garlic and spicy lemon, and the added peanut sauce, I was certainly enamored by the dish’s healthful simplicity yet tingly and delightful affect on my taste buds.

Legendary Noodle, Vanouver, B.C.

Legendary Noodle, Vanouver, B.C.

Legendary Noodle, Vancouver, B.C.

Legendary Noodle, Vancouver, B.C.

If you are looking for fun, authentic, laid back and … wait for it … legendary dining in Vancouver, I really do vouch for this sweet little place!! ❤ ❤

Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

 

 

Delicious Memories from Mexico

Today I’m thinking about the time I spent in Mexico this past April. The food was nothing short of delicious, but really what did I expect? I love Mexican cuisine — the spicy spices blended with the zest and freshness of lemons and limes. I attempted to seek out the most authentic food possible, yet even in places catered to tourists I felt I was being served the real thing. My experience surely expanded beyond tacos and nachos, even though I did eat tacos a few times. I’m brought back to a spicy fish taco dish I tried that was served with two kinds of salsa – one spicy and the other not. They were also served with a light beer, the perfect way to balance the spice and refresh in the Mexican sun.

lovely fish tacos

That was on the gorgeous Isla Mujeres, which is very close to Cancun – so close that you can catch a glimpse of the legendary city across the Caribbean Sea.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

At a hotel I stayed at (really it was a bed in an open-air cabin) I had some really great food. I remember meeting this baker who was beaming with joy while busily kneading the dough for the breakfast bread. They served lovely yeast rolls with jam and dulce de leche – a caramel-like paste that is quite popular all around Central and South America.

The hotel was near Tulum, a lovely tiny town in the Mayan Riviera. I met a friend there and we talked about the horrendous human rights abuses that have been happening in Mexico over the past decade. I felt sad for the lovely Mexicans I was meeting, sad that they have to live amidst such crime and violence. Can’t we all just get along?

At the restaurant, I finally tried mole – a sauce that’s been made in Mexico way far back – even by the Aztecs and Mayans likely. It’s typically made with cocoa, almonds, chillies, sesames and more and used to flavour meat, especially chicken. If you’ve never tried meat prepared with cocoa (the main ingredient in chocolate),  I highly recommend it.

I do hope to travel to Mexico again someday – the dining alone there is just such a pleasure! Like the culture, the cuisine is full of zesty flavours and spice that wake up your mouth and spread through your body. Be careful though, if you see salsa on the table it’s most likely very hot and spicy and should be used oh-so sparingly!