Yesterday you got a chance to see what Stockholm looks like.  Today I’m sharing a tradition in Sweden that I think we should adopt here.  It is called fika (fee-ka).  The basic idea of it is to have an afternoon coffee with a sweet treat, but it is more than that.  It is a break to be shared with people you care about.  A chance to step away from hectic life and remember what is important: loved ones, sweets, and good coffee.

The illustration you see is one that I created using Adobe Illustrator.  The dessert you see in the image looks like a cinnamon roll.  It is called kanelbulle.  Rather than being smothered with frosting, it has sugar pearls sprinkled on top.  The best ones have a flaky, buttery crust.  Interested in having your own fika?  It doesn’t take much.  Grab a friend, a cup of joe, and a little dessert.


Venice of the North: Bruges

Brugge3Bruges (Brugge) is a quiet town in Northern Belgium.  It is easily accessed from Brussels, which makes it possible to visit if you are staying in Paris.  Bruges is physically possible in a day trip, but it is well worth an overnight stay or longer.

Getting to Bruges

If you are coming from Paris, you will want to take the Thalys high speed train from Paris Gare du Nord to Brussels Midi, and connect to a train that will take you to Bruges.  You should book your Thalys tickets ahead of time because you can save money.  I booked directly through their website and was able to get a deal for 44 Euros round trip.  You cannot reserve seats on the train from Brussels to Bruges, so it is easiest just to get the tickets at the station.  The journey is just under 2.5 hours and cost me under 75 Euros total.  If I would have gone through Rail Europe, I would have spent over 100 Euros.

*Tip: I received a better deal when I switched the language to Belgium/English.  Be sure to test this out if you are purchasing a ticket.

Sights in Bruges

The town itself is a sight to see.  It offers crow-stepped gables architecture lining the canals.  I highly recommend that you get lost wandering around the town.  You are surrounded by a large canal, so you can’t get too lost as long as you don’t cross over it.  I struggled to ever take a direct route to where I wanted to go, but the quiet backstreets and canals offered a view past the touristy center.  Here were my top five favorite sites:

1. Markt Square-Belfort Tower-City Hall-Although this area is touristy and a bit pricey, it is the main square in Bruges.

2. Burg-This square is the neighbor of the Markt Square.  The variety of architecture provides a unique collage of Renaissance, Baroque, and more.

3. Church of Our LadyThis church holds the only Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime.  The church is undergoing restoration, but your visit will help support their efforts.

4. Begijnhof-Stroll past the peaceful homes and courtyard for nuns and quiet visitors.

5. Canal Cruise-Seeing Bruges from the water is just as important as seeing Venice from the canals.  Float past the major sites as you glide on the water with the swans.

*This short list provides some highlights, but there is much more to see.  For more ideas about sites to visit, check out the Bruges Official Tourism Website.

Eating/Drinking in Bruges

Belgians are known for chocolate, beer, waffles, and fries (along with many other specialties).  Plan on walking around a lot to burn off all these calories.  If you order fries, don’t forget to order it the way they like them: with mayonnaise.

Staying in Bruges

I think my favorite part about Bruges was the bed and breakfast we stayed at.  It was one of the most unique, comforting places I’ve ever been to.  The husband is an architect and the wife is a retired teacher.  Their creative style creates an environment that is welcoming.  If you are looking for an affordable place to stay with lots of charm, stay at B&B Marie Rose Debruyne.  I will share more about my experience with them in a post tomorrow.

*If you like the photos you see here, check out my portfolio.




French Market in Chicago

French MarketVisiting markets is one of my favorite activities whether I’m traveling or at home.  Chicago has a wonderful little French market for the public.  The “French” title may be a little misleading.  Yes there are cheeses, wines, macarons, and more, but there is also lobster, falafel, and bahn mis.

If you are in the area, and you’re looking for something a little different, check out the market.  If you spend $20 or more, parking is free!  Check out the vendor websites ahead of time to see what tugs at your curiosity.




Prepared Meals

 Bread & Pasta


 Baked Goods and Sweets

 Ice Cream/Gelato

 Specialty Coffee/Smoothies/Health Drinks

 Special Essentials

Beer, Wine, and Spirits

On a side note, word on the street is that the current ESPN Center in Chi Town will be turned into a giant indoor market.  This is all rumor, so don’t take my word for it, but if it is true, then my dreams are coming becoming a reality!

Paris by Métro: République

republique-1427République at a Glance

Lines=3, 5, 8, 9, 11


Tip=There is more than one exit for this metro.  Knowing the street you want to exit on can save you some time and walking.

Sights Within 1 Kilometer:


Canal Saint-Martin-450m

Chez Prune-600m

Hôtel du Nord-800m

Pink Flamingo-850m

Jardin Villemin-1km


Hôpital Saint-Louis-1km


Place de la République-63m

Marché des Enfants Rouge-650m


Porte Saint-Martin-650m

10th Arrondissement Passages (Reilhac, Brady, Marche, Prado)-1km

Sight Details


Canal Saint-Martin: If you look in most guidebooks, you probably won’t see much mentioned about this area, but it has become one of our favorites.  This is not the area you go to for world-class museums or breath-taking architecture.  The Canal Saint-Martin area is where you go to find trendy restaurants, discount shopping, and people.  Each night in the summer, dozens if not over a hundred people line the canal to enjoy the night.  They bring their snacks and drinks to just take in life.  The ambiance is different than most areas in Paris.

If you visited this area several years ago, you will probably see a difference.  The area has become safer and more friendly.  One area contains diverse cultures while just across the rue you will find the bobos of Paris.  Perhaps it was the scenes in Amélie where she is skipping the stones in the canal that brought attention to the area.  Whatever the reason, be sure to add it to your list of sights to see.

Chez Prune: This is the kind of restaurant you could visit each day and never have to order the same meal.  The menu is created daily to reflect what is fresh.  The prices are reasonable (12-15 Euros) for a generous portion and endless flavor.  Look below to see what kind of meals you could be savoring.

Hôtel du Nord: The name is a little misleading considering that this is no longer a hotel, but is now a restaurant.  There are about four tables out front, but once you pass the doors, you walk into instant charm.  The dimly-lit restaurant is a great place for a nice meal or a relaxing drink.  This was one of our favorite places for a nightcap.

Pink Flamingo: The hipster pizza place was on my list, but unfortunately I never made it over there.  Imagine the summer light in the late evening reflecting off the canal as you sit with your balloon, waiting for your order to arrive.  You’ve probably already opened your bottle of wine as you sit and drink with many others around you.  The delivery man kneels down to give you your pizza and you take it all in as you enjoy your evening by the canal, as so many others do.

Jardin Villemin: Parisians crave green space and this is the living room for families, couples, students, and so many others around the area.  The park is lively with a man playing guitar over by the trees and little ones being chased by their dads.  This is a place to just hang out.


Hôpital Saint-Louis: Hopefully you don’t have to visit the hospital on your trip, but it is worthy to know where it is located and the story behind it.  During the 17th century, this hospital was built to deal with many suffering from the plague.  Be thankful for our improved medicine.


Place de la République: The place has been recently renovated to provide a space used for many purposes and reduce traffic accidents.  The area now includes not only the statue symbolizing the republic but also a gathering place for people.

Marché des Enfants Rouge: The covered market is supposed to be one of the best in Paris.  Be warned that hours are somewhat flexible.  I went a couple hours after they were supposed to open to find that some were setting up while others were not even present yet.  I recommend coming around lunch time to enjoy the full potential of the market.


Porte Saint-Martin: Parisians seem to love their arches.  This arch was built in the 17th century to replace a medieval gate.

10th Arrondissement Passages (Reilhac, Brady, Marche, Prado): I know I’ve mentioned passages before, but these passages are a cultural experience.  While walking with a guide I was told to hold my purse tight.  I felt no danger, but the area is a collection of many ethnicities.  While walking down one passage you may think you’ve been transported to India, while another will take you to Africa.  The scene has a different feel at night, so be sure to go when you are comfortable.

Best of Canal Saint-Martin Walk

Learning Italian While Making Tiramisu

TiramisuDabble has got to be one of the coolest ideas I’ve ever heard of.  Basically, you pay a reasonable amount of money for a couple of hours filled with something you enjoy.  Learn something new, try new activities, meet new people; it is just a fantastic idea.

I attended my first class today: Make Tiramisu and learn (a little) Italian.  It was a balance between learning about the Italian culture, basic Italian vocabulary, and the steps to making tiramisu.  I’ve learned enough to make a couple separate posts in the near future, but today, let’s talk about tiramisu.

Did you know it is so easy to make?  No baking, easy ingredients, and perfect for dinner parties because it should be made ahead of time.  I would make some slight changes to the recipe because of my own preferences, but otherwise, this is a great foundation for making tiramisu.


3 Large Eggs (yolks and whites separated)

1/2 Cup Sugar

8 oz Mascarpone

Package of Ladyfingers

1 Cup Espresso

1/8 Cup Cocoa

Combine egg yolks and sugar into a mixing bowl.  Be sure to beat until sugar is absorbed.  Add mascarpone.  Fold into mixture.  In a separate bowl, combine egg whites with a pinch of sugar. Whisk until peaks form.  Gently fold this into mascarpone mixture.

Pour espresso in flat dish so ladyfingers can be dipped in it easily.  Douse the ladyfingers with espresso and place in serving dish.  Spread 1/3 of mascarpone mixture onto layer of ladyfingers, then sprinkle with cocoa.  Continue until you are out of ladyfingers and mascarpone mixture.  Do not sprinkle cocoa on last layer of mascarpone mixture.  Refridgerate for an hour, then add cocoa on top.  Be creative by cutting designs into paper and sprinkling cocoa powder over the design.

My Revised Ricetta (Recipe):

Add liquor to espresso mixture (marsala wine, dark rum, amaretto, coffee flavored liqueur)

Do you have your own killer recipe for tiramisu?  Please share :)!

Cooper’s Hawk Winery

Scallops2-2383The restaurant and winery might be a chain, but it is too good not to share with everyone.  Going to Cooper’s Hawk Winery will hit the wallet a little harder than places such as Olive Garden or Chile’s, but the food and wine leave unforgettable flavors in your mouth.

One option to help save a little money and savor a variety of wines is the Wine Flight.  They have some pre-made selections, or you can create your own.  It is a great way to try 3 ozs of different wines and try something different with each course (they even have an ice wine!).

My favorite dish that I have tried so far is the Gnocchi Carbonara.  Every meal I have tried has wowed me, but if I had to a choose a favorite, this is it.  The panchetta creates a rich sauce that the gnocchi absorbs.  The roasted chicken continues that pow of flavor to create a divine experience.

If you are interested in checking out a restaurant, you can look at their website.  The restaurants can be found in:







The Miracle of Meandering

Ladder to HeavenMy plan today was to walk around. I had no exact endpoint, but I had some options in mind.  I started early enough to visit the Latin Quarter without everyone else visiting it at the same time.  I considered taking a bus up to Montmartre, but by the time I found a bus that actually went up there, I found something more enticing to do.

With my map sitting on my couch at home, I connected familiar streets with new ones.  While on new territory, I gazed in windows to observe copper pots, cooking utensils, and bakeware.  I found a cookware shop.  And not just any cookware, but the best one in Paris that has been open since 1820 (E. Dehillirin)!  You know, the one that Julia Child used to go to purchase supplies while training at Le Cordon Bleu.  The one my chef recommended at the cooking school.  Of course I stumble in the entryway with excitement.

The first step in reveals what looks like and smells like my granddad’s garage, only filled with cooking items instead of tools and nails.  It is packed with pots, pans, people, and all kinds of nifty little gadgets.  The thrill of a cooking store is always high for me, but this one was like the best roller coaster at the park.  I bumped into people and looked around in awe and confusion.

What is that used for?  Where are the prices?  What do these numbers mean?  I spent at least an hour looking at this table, then going downstairs, then going back to the table, and still trying to figure out what it all costs.  I heard the word catalog and the light bulb turned on.  The numbers refer to items in a catalog which will indicate the price.  I wrote down the numbers of possible purchases and sought out a catalog.  Aha!  I’ve mastered this system.

After careful consideration of my budget, I opt for a few standby utensils.  My dreams are bigger, but my wallet is not.  Enchanted to be buying something from a professional cooking store, I make my way to the counter to pay.  Once again my basic logic of how a store operates proves to be wrong.

First you have to visit the guy with the order notepad.  He records what you have selected.  Then you leave your items on the table and go to the counter.  A new man looks up the prices and returns with a receipt.  Once all items have been paid for, you go back to the table where they wrap and bag your desires.  The man in front of me bought over 450 Euros worth of copper pots.  If only I could afford these pieces of artwork and magic, or be able to ship them home.

What a thrill to learn and achieve success with this wonderful store.  Ready for more, I went down the street to find another cooking store.  The charm and dust were not there, so I left quietly.  If I want to shop at a store like that, I will go to Sur la Table at home.  Let’s just say Sur la Table has nothing on E. Dehillirin.

With a culinary mindset, I decided it was finally time to have some escargot.  Perhaps a restaurant named l’Escargot would be a good idea.  It just so happened they had a special with the tasty little snails and veal.  My meal was good, but I still set escargot I devoured in Madison, Wisconsin as the best in the world.  I think my favorite part of the meal is becoming the cafe.  To think I never used to like coffee, and now it doesn’t feel right to end a meal without one.

Place Monge Market and a Meal

Place-Monge-Marche-1The mist that hung in the air did not deter me from opening the door, and setting out to the market.  I shuffled down to Ile St. Louis, past Hemingway’s home, and through Rue Mouffetard to Place Monge where the market can be found.  Markets look so inviting in the rain with their covered roofs and warm lights.  The smell of roasted chicken permeates the little enclosures until you walk past a cheese stand. Then, a new odor takes over.

A young woman assisted me with the necessary produce for the day.  I asked her what was fresh, and she replied that the apricots were sweet as she offered a hand-sliced piece.  I showed my approval with a purchase to bring home.  We then had a language lesson on garlic.  I taught her the English pronunciation, and she taught me the French word: ail.  I knew that this was the French word for garlic, but I’m so afraid to butcher the language when I speak.  She was kind enough to let me photograph some of her produce.  Be careful with photography at markets.  Some will have signs prohibiting it.  Support the local farmers by purchasing something, even if it is small, and kindly ask to take photos.  Otherwise, be discreet, and try not to get in the way of their business.

I brought my goodies home to place in the refrigerator.  Just as my apartment door was closing, I opened it again to go to my next destination.  I was very fortunate to have good company for lunch.  My tour guide from last year is finishing a tour, so we met up for a bite to eat.  It was such a refreshment to talk with someone I know, in a language I understand.  She is a kind, supportive person, and I enjoyed catching up.

There was a question she asked me about what future I see with travel, writing, and photography.  As I write this post I can’t help but be excited about the prospect of having a future in one of these areas.  I believe in the very cliche statement that everything happens for a reason.  It is interesting to think of the steps that have led me to where I am, and how future steps will lead me further.  How electrifying to think of the possible path ahead.

Does anyone else get excited thinking about the possible future?

Cook’n With Class in Paris Part 2

The-ChefI think I was suffering from the tryptophan of the amazing meal we prepared last night because all I wanted to do when I got home was go to sleep.  Now that I have recovered from the food trance, I’m ready to talk about what an amazing experience I had.  There were several classes offered, but I knew the Evening Market Class was right for me.

First, let’s start with who should sign up for a class.  I know it may be a little scary to look at the price, but this class will be worthwhile for you if at least one of the following is true. You:

-Like food

-Like wine

-Like dessert

-Like cheese

-Like markets

-Like going on field trips

-Like spending time with small groups

-Like learning from an expert

-Like practicing what you learn

-Like kind teachers that are patient

-Like experimenting with food

-Like the French culture

-Or you just want to improve your skill

So, basically if you are a human, this class is for you.  Now that we know who this is for, let’s get to the good parts.  What do we do?

Part 1: Shopping

The trip begins with shopping for dinner’s ingredients.  The menu evolves as we browse the selection and get to know each other.  Patrick did not skimp on quality or quantity.

We began at the boulangerie where we picked up the necessary baguettes.  We even saw the man baking as we walked by the window.

From there, we headed to the butcher.  Fish would be the main course, but we agreed on veal for the entree (which is an appetizer in France).

Next, it was time for cheese.  I think I probably learned the most in this store.  I’m even acquiring an appreciation for the stinkiness of a fromagerie.  Patrick selected five cheeses with us.

Then, we walked to the fishmonger.  Patrick took the opportunity to teach us about farm raised vs. ocean fish.  He also shared techniques for how to determine fish freshness.  He was originally going to pick out one fish, but the fishmonger told us that a different one would be the best because it was caught today.  I think he was right because it was phenomenal (and I don’t care for fish much).

Finally, we needed the produce to tie all of the ingredients together.  A local market housed some of the freshest fruits and veggies that we would later chow down on.

Main Lessons Learned:

-Some boulangeries don’t make the dough there, try to find one where they make the dough and bake the bread.

-Cheeses are grouped together by kind.

-They put the stinkiest cheeses by the door to help with ventilation.

-Cheeses have signs with a wealth of information (pasteurized, not pasteurized,animal it came from, and seals).

-Typically not pasteurized cheese is the best, except with Roquefort.

-Common brie in America is not brie.

-Comte cheese is the most famous in France right now (and my favorite of what we tasted).

-Some rinds of the cheese is eaten by mites, but that is okay.

-Some mold is good (especially for digestion).

-When you go to a fish stand, typically the outermost part is either the fish they are trying to get rid of or it is farm raised.  The best fish is usually inside.

-If you see a small portion of tuna left, don’t buy any.  Tuna is a huge fish and if there is only a little left, it is probably not as fresh.

-Milkiness on the scales of the fish indicates freshness.

-Looking under the gills for a deep red also indicates freshness.

-Fish is expensive and you only get a percentage of the fish close to half of what you pay for.

-Celery root can be substituted with potatoes.

-Look for light green and yellow in the center when buying celery.

Part 2: Cooking

Now that we have the ingredients, it is time to start putting the masterpiece together.  I’m not going to list every detail of how we made our dishes because that is the joy of taking the class.  Here is the menu though:

Entree (Appetizer)

Veal on top of a celery salad with Dijon and Roquefort blue cheese vinaigrette.  Garnish: Candied orange peel


Fish with celery root gratin, haricot verts, red onions in wine, and tomato/butter sauce.  Garnish: basil and julienne tomato peel


Goat, Brie, Roquefort, a stinky one, and one that was my favorite (and the favorite of France, similar to Swiss), but the name is escaping me


Cherry cake with improvised sauce

Main Lessons Learned:

-Candied fruits are easy and great as a garnish or addition to dishes.

-Celery makes a great salad with orange and vinaigrette.

-Add cold butter to make sauces to avoid oily sauce.

-To remove the smell of garlic on your hands, rub them on something made of stainless steel.

-I really need to stop touching my meat so much when it is the pan.  Cook, flip, cook.  That is it.

-Celery root is awesome and will now be added to my grocery lists.

-I think I am a fish person after all.

-Blanching vegetables stops the cooking and preserves vitamins.

Part 3: Eating

After slaving away in the kitchen (yeah right), we put together our plates.  We spend some time on garnishing and presentation.  When I looked at my plates, I thought about the couple of extra minutes it took to take a meal from just delicious to beautiful and delicious.  Each dish was a fusion of sweet, savory, crunch, smoothness, and every wonderful combination imaginable.  I will make these dishes again.  In fact, I am eating candied cherries on bread with goat cheese right now.  Not only can I reproduce what we did, but also incorporate twists based on the foundation of skills taught.

Part 4: Rolling Home

After the abundance of wine and food, it was time to roll down to the metro.  This night will probably be the highlight of my trip because of the people I met, food I ate, and experiences I had.  If you are considering a cooking class in Paris, I highly recommend Cook’n with Class.

I’ve shared these pictures in a previous post, but I’d like to throw them up here again now that there is more context behind them.