Dine like a Maharaja at the East India Company

The East India Company (EIC) is my favourite Indian restaurant in Ottawa. I have been frequenting their Somerset location (they also have a location in Bells Corners) for over 10 years. I have dined at this restaurant multiple times but it wasn’t until I was invited to try out their new Thali menu that I truly gained an appreciation for everything it has to offer.

The History

The East India Company restaurants were founded by Kamal and Sudha Mehra. The Mehras migrated to Canada in the 1970’s and opened their first restaurant Mehra’s Delicatessen in Wippineg, Manitoba. They then went on to open India Gardens, Winnipeg’s first North Indian restaurant. The East India Company restaurants came about when the Mehras decided to expand their business in 1994 and opened another restaurant in Winnipeg. Today the East India Company has two locations in Ottawa and one location in Winnipeg. The restaurants are now run by Kamal and Sudha’s children; Sachit, Anish, Divya and Nitin.

The Ambiance

The Mehras pride themselves on filling their restaurants with carefully curated pieces of art and antiques from India.  As you walk in to Somerset location you can’t help but notice the large mandap at the front of the restaurant. A mandap is a covered four pillared structure typically used for Hindu and Jain weddings. This particular mandap is 350 years old and was originally placed at a temple in India. Following the mandap you come across a Palki or palanquin, which is the oldest piece in the restaurant. The palanquin was used to transport brides on their wedding day and is around 400 years old. As you move towards the back of the restaurant you will find marble pieces including a marble window frame which is around 200 years old. Carved marble blocks with designs composed of semi-precious stones such as sapphires, emeralds and rubies also adorn the bar at the back of the restaurant. You really feel like you are in a museum as you dine at this location.

What restaurant isn’t complete without music right? Well you can listen to some of your favourite Bollywood tunes while you enjoy a meal at the East India Company.

The Food

Now the part that everyone’s been waiting for, the food! The food at EIC has always been fantastic, whether you’re at the buffet or dining a la carte you are guaranteed to leave this place feeling like a king. EIC is famous for their lunch and dinner buffets and a reservation is highly recommended. In order to keep up with the changing rules and restrictions on indoor dining during the COVID19 pandemic EIC now offers you the best of both worlds with their Thali menu.

The Thali

A thali is a meal that consists of multiple dishes in small portions, it is typically served on a round platter called a Thali. EIC offers two choices of Thali. The New Delhi Thali which offers you the choice four entrees and the Mumbai Thali which offers you a choice of 3 entrees. Both thalis come with basmati rice, papadum, salad, a samosa, and gulab jamun for dessert.

I chose the Mumbai Thali with Shrimp Curry, Chili Chicken and Navratan for my entrees. You can view the full Thali menu below which features some of the buffet favourites as entree choices:

In addition to their food the East India Company also offers a selection of wine, beer and their signature cocktails. I tried Mehra’s Special which is a tropical, fruity rum based cocktail. It was really refreshing and not overly strong. Sashien had the Kala Ice which is a stronger drink incorporating Irish whiskey, Black label and Kahlua. The cocktail menu also features liquor from local suppliers such as Dillon’s Gin and Top Shelf Vodka.

The Verdict

Both Sashien and I really enjoyed our dinner at the East India Company. I highly recommend checking out the new Thali menu. Don’t be fooled by the small portions of curries the thalis are very filling, in fact we ended up taking some food home with us. I’ve always enjoyed the food at the East India Company and this menu is no exception. If indoor dining isn’t your thing just yet you can always sit out on their patio where tables are placed a generous distance apart. It should also be noted that all COVID-19 safety measures are strictly followed at the restaurants. All staff wear masks and hand sanitizer is placed on each table. Physical distancing is also in place. You can also order a la carte at the restaurants or place a takeout order.  If you live in Ottawa and haven’t dined at the East India Company I suggest adding it to your list of must do’s in the city.

 

 

 

Oh My Honey Buns

Who doesn’t love something sweet? Well Ottawa friends, if you’re ready to try a sweet treat this Summer check out Oh My Honey Sweet Honeycomb Buns. This Ottawa based business launched just a month ago and has already become a favourite among locals.

Oh My Honey Co bakes and delivers sweet honeycomb buns to residents in the Ottawa/Aylmer area. The buns are so fresh and come in a variety of fillings. You can choose from Nutella, Cream Cheese, half/half or no filling based on your personal preference. I wanted to try the best of both worlds so I opted for half/half. My box came with 6 buns, 3 Nutella and 3 cream cheese.I loved both the cream cheese and Nutella fillings but if I had to choose a favourite it would definitely be the Nutella. Each box of buns also comes with  home made honey syrup which is perfect for dipping.

Honeycomb buns are a traditional East African and Middle Eastern sweet dish typically seen at events or special occasions. They are also eaten as a sweet treat at Breakfast. I had mine for breakfast and the buns pair beautifully with tea or coffee. I would even recommend including them as part of a high tea service.

If you’d like to try these sweet buns for yourself order via DM on their instagram page @ohmyhoneyco The buns cost $20 for a dozen and payment can be done via paypal or e-transfer. The owner Zein is as sweet as the buns she bakes so corresponding with them is a delight 🙂 You can also check the instagram page for order and delivery dates.

 

Skuish Cookies

Cookies make everyone’s day better! I love baking, so I was thrilled to come across Skuish cookies. This Ottawa based business delivers ready to bake cookies that are easy to make and even more fun to eat!

How to Order

Each box of Skuish cookies contains 12 cookies raw frozen cookies in 3 different flabours. You can’t choose which flavours you get but Skuish does announce “cookie drops” on their website where you can order your box of cookies. The tricky part of the website is that it is only open while cookie supplies last. Once they are sold out of a particular drop the website is closed until the next cookie drop announcement. I think this adds an element of fun to the whole ordering process, it’s like a race to grab your cookies although this may not be everyone’s idea of fun or smart marketing.

The box I received contained the following flavours: double chocolate chip with Cadbury mini eggs, red velvet chocolate chip and Oreo chocolate chip.

How to Bake

The cookies are huge and come already formed in to balls of dough. You need to keep the cookies frozen until you’d like to bake them so there’s no need to defrost your cookies. I recommended baking 1-2 cookies at a time because these cookies are huge and very filling. Each box also comes with baking instructions on the back. It’s best to preheat your oven to 350F.

Although the recommended baking time is 16-18 minutes I suggest baking your cookies for about 20-25 minutes. After 16 mins my cookies were still very soft and doughy. I’d also suggest letting the cookies cool for about 15 minutes before you move them. Try not to break the cookies in half  or “skuish” them before this as they will be very soft and runny.

The Verdict

Skuish cookies are a fun and easy baking activity. They’re great if you’re in the mood for baking but don’t feel like making the dough. They are also handy as a quick treat as you can choose to make one cookie at a time if you wish.  A box of a dozen Skuish cookies however is not cheap and will cost you $43 which is pretty steep for cookies. They are however more of a gourmet treat hence the higher price point. The cookies are jam packed with chocolate chips and treats like Cadbury mini eggs so I found them a little too sweet for my liking. They’re great in moderation though. I also think they’d be great paired with ice cream to balance out the sweetness.

I would still recommend supporting this Ottawa based business and perhaps sharing a box with friends.

 

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

It’s been a while since my last post! I’ve been very busy with work and of course Instagram. I post a lot more frequently there but I’ve decided to get back to blogging starting this month.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been doing a lot of quarantine baking. I recently made some white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, they’re one of Sash’s favourites. I had a lot of questions about them on Instagram so I thought I’d share my recipe 🙂

Here’s what you need:

2 and ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (make sure it’s soft)
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup  granulated sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 and 1/2 cups chopped macadamia nuts

Let’s bake!

1. Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
2. Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer and a large bowl cream together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar for 1-2 minutes until well combined. Add the eggs and vanilla extract one at a time and mix until fully combined.
3.Slowly mix in the dry ingredients and continue mixing until just combined.
4. Mix in the white chocolate chips and chopped macadamia nuts do this slowly and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
5.Cover the cookie dough (I used Saran wrap) and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for 2 hours. I left mine in the fridge overnight.
6. When you’re ready to bake, take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about 15 mins. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
7. Spray cookie sheets with Pam or line with parchment paper.
8. Using a tablespoon scoop out the cookie dough and drop onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave a little room between each ball of cookie dough as they will spread a little while they bake.
9.Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are lightly golden brown and the tops are set. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes you can then transfer them on to a dish.
Enjoy!

Le Sirenuse Miami

I’m excited to write about one of my favourite places we visited on our trip to Florida. For those of you who may not be aware Sash and I visited Florida at the beginning of February. We spent 3 days in Miami and 3 days in Fort Lauderdale. Prior to leaving we did a lot of research on the places we wanted to visit and created an itinerary for our trip, yes we like to plan everything! One of the places I came across during our research was Le Sirenuse Miami, a restaurant at the Four Seasons Surfside.

The Venue

Le Sirenuse Miami is a restaurant and champagne bar inspired by the Italian hotel Le Sirenuse in Positano on the Amalfi Coast. The Miami location is famous for its tropical decor with palm trees adorning every inch of the restaurant. The venue features a Champagne Bar and restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.

The Cocktails

 

We decided to stop in at Le Sirenuse for a cocktail in the late afternoon. Aside from its Champagne Bar, Le Sirenuse Miami is famous for its hand crafted cocktails. The restaurant has its own signature cocktails which can be found on their Amore Eterno menu.

We were fortunate to get seated on the terrace overlooking the hotel pool and the ocean. It was so nice to sit outside and enjoy a cocktail while we looked out at the sea.  I was really excited to try the cocktails at Le Sirenuse.

Seeing as how there was a Champagne Bar I opted for one of their Champagne based cocktails. The Champagne cocktails are named after famous guests who have stayed at Le Sirenuse such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Winston Church Hill. I chose the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and was told that it was one of their most popular cocktails, especially for ladies. This was a light and sweet cocktail topped off with elderflower foam and garnished with a flower.

Sash generally prefers something on the stronger side so he decided to go with Mandolini Di Sorrento a bourbon based cocktail. This drink is named in honour of Andrea and Franco, a mandolin and guitar duo who have been fixtures at Le Sirenuse Positano’s  La Sponda restaurant since 1993.

We really enjoyed our experience at Le Sirenuse Miami. If you are ever in the vicinity I highly recommend stopping by and checking it out. Although items on the menus are quite pricey, the ambiance and decor are well worth the splurge.

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Fontana at the Biltmore Hotel

Hello again! I’m back from my mini vacation in Florida and I’m excited to share a few posts about my experience there. The first post I’ll be sharing is all about the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida; a city located about 20 mins away from Miami. We visited Miami and Fort Lauderdale on this trip.

I came across the Biltmore Hotel by accident when I was looking for some nice restaurants for us to visit for lunch and dinner. I noticed Fontana, the hotel’s Italian restaurant while I was searching for restaurants on OpenTable. What first got my attention was the location and ambiance.

Fontana

Fontana specializes in Italian cuisine and offers a service for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also offer a Sunday Brunch. The restaurant has an indoor and outdoor dining area, with a large fountain in the middle of the outdoor courtyard surrounded by palm trees. I put in a special request for a table outside and they accommodated us with a table right next to the fountain. It was so nice to enjoy a meal outside with the fountain in the background. The courtyard has a covered high ceiling and open arches that allow a cool breeze to waft in and out of the outdoor dining area.

The restaurant offers a large choice of items on their lunch menu but of course we opted for pasta, because who goes to an Italian restaurant and doesn’t try the pasta. The staff were really helpful and accommodating, allowing us to customize the dishes to our liking. For example if there is a certain type of pasta or sauce you enjoy you can mix and match off the menu.

As it was quite warm that day we decided to avoid alcoholic beverages and opted for some freshly squeezed orange juice, a Florida special. It sure lived up to the hype.

The Hotel

The Biltmore Hotel was constructed in 1926 and the building has a vintage tropical flare to it. I thought it was a spectacular property with sprawling gardens, numerous fountains and a golf course on site. The hotel premises span over 150 acres and is home to a 271 room resort. One striking feature of the Biltmore is the architecture which has Italian, Moorish and Spanish touches.

We took a walk around the hotel and got to see the pool and some of the gardens. The hotels boasts the largest hotel pool on the East Coast of the United States. This place truly is a tropical paradise. The interior of the hotel has a vintage luxury feel to it and is decorated in a classic style. I would definitely visit this place again and possibly stay there.

Although the hotel has numerous restaurants and dining options, one thing I’d love to try is the Afternoon Tea service in the hotel’s lobby.

If you’re ever in Miami then the Biltmore is definitely worth the short drive to Coral Gables.

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Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier

 

 

I hope everyone is having a great 2020 so far. I’m so excited to tell you all about what I’ve been up to lately. My better half and I recently had the pleasure of checking out the new Winter Afternoon Tea menu at Zoe’s Lounge located inside the historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier hotel. The Fairmont Laurier is a notable landmark in Canada’s capital city. If you go downtown you cannot miss this castle in the city, named after Sir Wilfrid Laurier Canada’s 7th Prime Minister.  Subsequently the tea lounge and bar at the hotel is named after his wife Lady Zoe who was fond of afternoon tea.

Those of you that know me personally are aware that I too am a huge fan of afternoon tea and have visited the Chateau Laurier on countless occasions to try their new tea menus.  Zoe’s never ceases to impress and their Winter Afternoon Tea menu is no exception.

Cocktails anyone?
Afternoon tea doesn’t just have to be about tea. Zoe’s Tea Menu has a selection of sparkling wines, Champagnes, dessert wines and afternoon cocktails to choose from. We decided to kick off the afternoon with a glass of sparkling wine after all isn’t everything better with bubbles?

Choosing your tea
One of the great features of the tea at Zoe’s is of course their tea menu offering you the choice of 21 teas. Besides the teas on the menu you can also order traditional English Breakfast tea at Zoe’s. All the teas on the menu are blended specifically for Fairmont Hotels so you really get a special treat in choosing one of their teas. I decided to go with Something Sweet, a black tea that featured rich caramel and chocolate highlights. I really enjoyed this tea as it also had a coffee aroma to it. You could also smell the notes of chocolate in it. Sash opted for Mojo Mate, a green tea with fresh lemon highlights and a spearmint finish.

The Pastries
The Winter menu at Zoe’s features a carefully curated selection of savoury and sweet pastries prepared by Pastry Chef Anne Marie Milk and her team.  We started off with the savoury sandwiches and then progressed to the desserts. Some of our favourites were the Smoked Salmon Crepe and Chicken Liver Mousse sandwiches along with the Milk Chocolate and Caramel Chocolate Choux and the Rum and Brown Sugar Cake for dessert. Last but certainly not least we enjoyed some scones with mascarpone cream and strawberry jam because what afternoon tea is complete without scones?!   I’m very traditional when it comes to scones so I enjoyed the butter cream scone with jam and cream. Full details of the Winter menu can be found here.

The Experience
Afternoon tea is lovely at any time of the year however it’s a great way to stay warm and cozy in the Winter. We really enjoyed sitting in the warmth of this historic castle while watching the world go by outside. The Fairmont Chateau Laurier’s afternoon tea menu changes on a quarterly basis so the Winter menu will be around for a couple of months.  If you live in Ottawa or are going to be visiting soon I cannot recommend this experience enough!  In addition to the traditional tea menu Zoe’s also offers the Little  Prince and Princess Tea menus for children under 12.

What makes afternoon tea at Zoe’s a truly memorable experience is the staff and the ambiance, aside from the food of course 😉 We had a pleasant and relaxing time during our tea thanks to Deneen and her team and our server Garrick, who made this a wonderful experience for us. All staff at the hotel really live up to the Fairmont standard of service and this is quite evident in how popular the Fairmont Laurier is among Ottawa natives and tourists alike.

The afternoon tea service at Zoe’s is available Wednesday to Sunday. There is a 1pm and 3pm seating Wednesday-Friday and an additional 11am seating on Saturdays and Sundays. Reservations are highly recommended as the Zoe’s afternoon tea is quite popular.

Christmas in a Cup: Mulled Wine

Hello! I’m back after a long hiatus. This Fall was a particularly tough one for me and my family as I lost both my grandparents within a span of two weeks. But I’m back at it and what better way to get back to blogging that sharing one of my favourite Christmas cocktail recipes.

Mulled wine is a drink that’s synonymous with Christmas. I like to think of it as Christmas in a cup. It’s a great warmer on a cold winter day. The thing I like the most about this drink is the way it makes your house smell when you’re making it. The blend of spices along with the wine gives off the best aroma and makes your home smell inviting and festive 🙂

Here’s my recipe for Christmas in a Cup -Mulled Wine

  1. 1 (750 ml) bottle of dry red wine – I usually use a Cabernet Sauvignon
  2. 1 orange, sliced into rounds.
  3. 1/4 cup brandy – this is optional but it does add a bit more flavour to the drink
  4. 1/4 cup honey or brown sugar – I used brown sugar
  5. 8 whole cloves.
  6. 2 cinnamon sticks.
  7. 2 star anise

To make Mulled Wine combine the wine, orange slices, brandy, sugar and spices in a large sauce pan and simmer on a low heat for at least 15 minutes. Makes sure the heat is set on low as you don’t want the mixture to boil and the alcohol to evaporate. I like to let it simmer for about half an hour but you can allow it to set for up to 3 hours, if you’re that patient.

Once you get the aroma of the wine and the spices use a ladel and strainer to pour the wine in to glasses (you can also use mason jars for a more rustic look) and enjoy with a piece piece of Christmas Cake. I picked up these mini mason jars mugs at the Dollar store but I’ve linked some similar ones below.

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Sunday Brunch at Cinnamon Grand Colombo

I haven’t done a brunch post in a while so I’m happy to be able to share an amazing brunch experience I had recently. As you probably know I was visiting Sri Lanka earlier this month.

I’ve been going back to Colombo quite consistently since about 2008. I’ve stayed at different places during my trips back home but the Cinnamon Grand Hotel is probably my favourite hotel in Colombo. I’ve frequented this hotel on many occasions as an in-house guest and restaurant goer but I’d never tried out their Sunday Brunch.

Clearly I had no idea what I was missing! I decided to try out the Sunday Brunch on June 17th which just happened to be Father’s Day. I was truly impressed by the whole event. I can honestly say I’ve never seen such a large spread for brunch in my life! This Sunday Brunch definitely beat every other brunch I’d been to.

The Food

From the appetizers – which included lobster tails, shrimp, oysters and a selection of sushi, to the carving stations, main dishes and deserts this brunch was a hands down winner for me. I was a little overwhelmed by the selection of dishes and options. This is definitely one event you need to prepare for ahead of time, i.e. don’t eat breakfast and bring your eating pants!

If you know me personally, you’d know that I eat a lot! This brunch was no exception. I happily helped myself to 2 rounds of appetizers, the main course and 2 rounds of dessert.

There was so much to choose from I wish I had prepared better to try every single dish. I did a quick  count of the main dishes and I counted over 35 which is quite impressive for any buffet let alone a brunch.

The dessert selection was to die for and included a chocolate fountain which was the highlight for me. There was also an ice cream and flambé station.

The Place

Cinnamon Grand’s Sunday Brunch is held at the Taprobane restaurant. This space is one of the main restaurants at the hotel and is also home to their daily breakfast and lunch buffets. The restaurant is spacious and offers table top and sofa style seating.

The brunch takes place between 11am and 3pm every Sunday. I was informed that there are 2 sittings for brunch; one from 11:30 am-1 pm and another from 1:30-3 pm. I recommend going early so you can spend the afternoon walking off the meal 😉 Reservations are a must as this brunch is quite popular among locals and tourists alike.

The Price

There are 3 different pricing options for brunch depending on what type of an experience you’re looking for. The basic brunch buffet sans alcohol is Rs 3517 nett which is around $35 Canadian (I’m using a conservative conversion rate of Rs 100 to $1 CAD however the daily rates may be higher).

If you’d like to add some alcohol to your experience Taprobane offers 2 other pricing options:

The Beer Brunch for Rs 4172 ~ $42CAD

The Bubbly Brunch for Rs 5400 ~ $54 CAD

I chose the bubbly brunch and it did not disappoint! I was able to enjoy unlimited glasses of champagne with my meal 😉 Where else can you get that for $54?! All these packages are great depending on what you’d like and I think the pricing is quite reasonable for the amount of food and beverages you get.

The Verdict

I highly recommend this brunch experience to anyone who visits Colombo. This was definitely the best brunch I’ve been to and I really enjoyed it. It’s a must-do in Colombo.

I’m hoping to be home again for Christmas and I’m already making plans to check out the Holiday edition of Cinnamon Grand’s Sunday Brunch 🙂

Inniskillin Winery Tour

Wow it’s been a while since my last post! This past weekend was a long weekend and boy was it a busy one. I decided to get away for the weekend so I spent the Victoria Day Long Weekend in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake. I’ve been to Niagara Falls many times but I wanted to get away from the crowds and the hustle of this touristy location. NOTL is the perfect escape from the city and the crowds but it’s best known for its wineries and is one of Canada’s most famous wine regions.

I wanted to tour some wineries while I was there and I’d heard good things about Inniskillin, a Canadian winery which is famous for its Ice Wine. I got there just in time to miss the general winery tour so I opted for the Ice Wine tour. This particular tour focused on the winery’s famous ice wines and gave tasters a chance to sample 4 ice wine varieties. My favoruite was probably the sparkling vidal ice wine.

My tour guide Lynn had been in the business for 24 years and working as a guide for 17 years. She was very knowledgeable and ready to answer any questions about the wines, the wine making process and Inniskillin as a brand. She led our group through a tasting of Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Vidal Ice Wines. My favourite part of the tasting component is when she gave us some chocolate to try with the Cabernet Franc – together they taste like a chocolate covered strawberry!

The weather was just warming up last weekend so we enjoyed a beautiful day outside. For my day at the wineries I chose this striped midi length belted dress from Suzy Shier. This dress is part of their Sweet Americana collection and is so comfortable to wear. It’s cotton and breathes well on a warm day outside. I like the vintage inspired (pardon the pun) look of this dress with a sinched in waist and flared skirt. To accent the tan colour of the belt I added a pair of Lucky Brand wedge heels and a classic rattan bag, that’s all the rage for Spring and Summer.

Have you visited the wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake? If so which one is your favourite?

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