Bonjour, 2015! A New Year in Montréal.

by Kaye Tengco in ,

With a low energy reserve, I've unfortunately been ill-equipped for late night partying and reveling. On more than one occassion, I've been dubbed prematurely 77. In view of this, my New Year's celebrations usually entailed steady tea sipping while cozily munching on my mom's homemade (and store-bought) treats. The midnight countdown was comprised of running around the house and turning on every light imaginable (my mom believes that having a completely lit house brings a properous new year).

This year, I decided to do something completely different. I made my way up north to Montréal by way of the Adirondack train and rang in the New Year at the epicenter of an angry winter chill. It was teeth-chattering, but also a wonderful deviation from the norm. Hopefully, this might set the tone for a crackin' 2015!

Montréal is a beautiful city. A slice of old Europe in the new world. Yet, it was also as sleek, efficient, and modern as any of the major cities like New York. But for all of its beautiful paradox, what I found to be its most delightful aspect was the slew of mom-and-pop type of shops thriving all over. These quaint and family-run establishments (sadly disappearing from New York City) appeared to be institutions. Places like Lester's Deli (an alternative we chose over the more popular and crowded Schwartz's), St Viateur Bagel Shop, and Cafe Olimpico catered to locals and tourists alike with a personal touch only a familiar and friendly neighbor can provide.

Although a strong winter storm and intrepid cold temperature overtook the city and limited our mobility, we pushed on. We were determined to see and eat as much of this romantic city as possible.

Here are some of the trip highlights:

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal

This magnificent gothic revival church is simply a treat for any architecture and art enthusiast. Every inch of the interior - from the columns and pillars supporting the arches, to the azure and gold ceiling - was filled with intricate details. Stained-glass windows portrayed the historical milestones of Montréal rather than the usual religious passages (like the Stations of the Cross) often found in most churches. At the center is an elaborate and arresting altar that hypnotizes visitors almost immediately.

St Viateur Bagel Shop

I hate to admit it, but these mildly sweet, soft and chewy bagels might edge out NYC bagels for this NYC gal. The sesame bagels were trés deliciéux! Freshly baked all day, these bagels cannot be missed.

Lester's Deli

This was, quite likely, one of the top highlights of the trip. Initially intending to visit Schwartz's, we decided to give this little gem a try...and were we glad we did. Void of the famed lines that form at its more popular counterpart, Lester's was a quiet and intimate local food experience. A favorite spot of Montrealers, their smoked meat sandwiches were moist and simply to die for. We demolished our plate of poutine within minutes as we chatted with the very delightful Billy, it's fun-loving owner.

Style Labo

A beautiful place that holds rare antique and vintage finds. Unique items like old laboratory flasks, surgical light fixtures, and gym equipments are curated in the most sophisticated fashion.

Lost and Found

An amazing spot along Mile End, this charming store holds some very "timely" vintage items. Run by the friendliest guy, I simply couldn't walk out without buying something!

Until next time, Montréal!

2014 - A Delicious and Delightful "Mess"

by Kaye Tengco in

It feels like 2014 came and went in the blink of an eye. Yet it was a year that packed a major wallop. On a very personal level, it felt like a slightly disappointing sequel to a very challenging 2013; however the advent of summer brought with it a force that seemed to have parted the clouds and lifted the fog. And in spite of the sturm und drang at the beginning, it has been quite an educational, enriching, and magical year. There were bright new beginnings, wonderful new opportunities, and a renewed zest for living.

So before 2015 takes the baton, here's a hearty cheers to a very special year.

As we bid adieu, here's a throwback recipe for one of my favorite desserts, the Eton Mess. Inspired by the gorgeous Nigella Lawson's recipe, this refreshing delight is, in my opinion, quite an apropo treat as we ring in the New Year. And it's very easy!

Eton mess
(Adapted from Nigella Lawson's recipe

2 cups fresh strawberries (cut into tiny squares)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar
1/2 pint whipping cream
5 pieces of meringue (vanilla)

In a small bowl, combine the strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and sugar and toss until the sugar and vinegar coat the berries thoroughly. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the whipping cream with an electric mixer until the texture is between heavy and fluffy. Avoid adding too much air by overwhipping.

Take the strawberry mix and fold it into the whipped cream. Then crumble the meringues and add them to the mix (in thirds). Remember to fold them in carefully. Do not mix or toss vigorously as this will knock the air out of the cream.

Serve in wine glass, champagne flutes, or any other clear container for a nice visual effect.

A little messy, but overall beautiful, delicious, and satisfying, much like this passing year.

Cin cin, 2014! And Happy New Year, everyone! Well wishes for a fruitful 2015!

(Pictured above: a very curious cat named, Banana.)

Tea, Sympathy, and Zucchini

by Kaye Tengco in ,

Christmas has come and swiftly gone, but the sweets and festivities have thankfully lingered as the New Year celebration approaches. New York has been unusually warm this season - a far cry from last year's brutal polar vortex - and a (frighteningly) big part of me is missing that chill. A hot cup of tea on one hand, a book on the other, a warm throw on your lap, and a purring little furball right by your side. See! Near-apocalytic sub-zero winters aren't so bad!

My other favorite thing about the cold weather is firing up the oven for some freshly-baked goodies. So, in addition to the pumpkin extravaganza of Christmas Eve, a special request by my best friend, Rose, added a bit of zucchini into the mix (not together, of course, but that might be a curious pairing...).

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen's zucchini bread recipe, my momentum that started with over 60 pumpkin chocolate chip + walnut cookies and three and a half loaves of pumpkin loaves carried me on to make two pans of zucchini bread. I followed Deb Perelman's recipe right down to the last detail, opting for chopped pecans as the additional ingredient.

It's two days after Christmas and we're continuing to enjoy our tea and treats!

As you will soon find out, Smitten Kitchen is a favorite go-to source of mine as I love Deb's recipes and words.

I hope you also give this wonderful recipe a try!