Instagram has become more than a fun place to share photos. It has become a community. I know that social media has its downsides, but a fun part for me is connecting with people via the app and then having the opportunity to meet them in person. The Blog Pod girls are an example of this and so is the lovely Gill Murray, a Scottish food photographer and blogger that I met a few years ago when she liked one of my Scotland photos. We’ve kept in touch and I was so happy to meet her in person last year when I was back in Edinburgh. She is a gorgeous human being inside and out.
I love tea. I particularly love having tea with friends. I’ve mentioned the Blog Pod that I belong to a few times; these ladies have become a lovely group to get together with, and some of us recently had the opportunity to spend a hygge afternoon enjoying Secret Garden Tea Company‘s High Tea together. One day, all ten of us will be in the same room, but for this day we had me, Karlie, Emily, Po On, Melissa, and Orla.
It’s already past the midway point of February! What the what?
I had (what I had originally thought were) fairly realistic plans to get some Date Night blog posts done to coincide with Valentine’s day; but in the way of things, work and life got busy, and I need to sleep. But I realized that posting after what I know some call a ‘Hallmark holiday’ works better.
Winter in Vancouver is down to your bones cold. I’m in the middle of some Sunshine Coast drafts but the windy, rainy weather and the cooking shows I’ve been watching on Netflix have my thoughts straying to the dry heat of Barcelona. As close to a tropical vacation as I’ve had a while, June in this Spanish city was perfect for the girls and me after the unexpected and pelting rain in Paris.
Hot chocolate or hot cocoa. However you call it, it’s the perfect winter treat when you’re out and about, or when you’re having an evening in. It is a very hygge beverage in my humble opinion.
I used to be indifferent to this marvelous hot beverage. Likely because I’d only ever had it as the powdered version that gets mixed boiled water. But then I had a an espresso cup sized serving in Naples back in 2011. It was essentially just melted dark chocolate, and it was heaven. I asked the barrista if there was milk in it, and he said “No latte. signorina. No latte.”
Since then, hot chocolate has been my jam, and every now and then, I like to make it from scratch on the stove. I add almond ‘latte’ to mine otherwise I would be incredibly hyper, but every time I make it, I smile thinking of that little cup of melted chocolate.
The first time I made my own cocoa, I was staying in a beautiful house by the beach on Salt Spring Island. I’ll get around to writing about SSI at some point, but I digress. Hot chocolate is actually quite simple to make on the stove. After a couple of years, I think I’ve finally found an ingredients combination that is exactly to my liking and similar to my favourite Blenz almond milk dark hot chocolate!) Click here to jump to the recipe.
Making myself a hot chocolate obviously isn’t always possible, so when I am out and about, these are my Vancouver go-to’s for a tasty cocoa to-go (or enjoy in the cafe):
Blenz Coffee (Various Locations)
When I came back from my aforementioned trip to Naples I was obsessed with finding a good hot chocolate in Vancouver. It didn’t need to be solely melted dark chocolate, but it needed to have actual chocolate in it. I honestly wouldn’t have expected a chain to have my favourite hot chocolate, but Blenz does, indeed. And they are consistent. My extra almond milk dark hot chocolate is a mood balancer, treat, something to keep me warm, or all of the above. I also love that the baristas do a little bit of latte art to finish it of and that Blenz is a local chain.
- Find a location: http://blenz.com/locations/
Mink Hot Chocolate & Coffee
Mink’s hot chocolates are very gourmet, and very tasty. I love going there because they have a variety of options, as well as their own brand of chocolates (also available online for purchase). They aren’t in my immediate vicinity of home or work, so it’s always a nice treat to go here.
- Address: 863 W. Hastings Street, Vancouver (in the little courtyard on Howe Street)
Hot Chocolate Fest (Jan 20 Feb 14, 2018)
And if you really want to get your hot chocolate on in Vancouver, Hot Chocolate Fest is coming back in January! More details on participating merchants can be found here. I like to go to at least one new merchant shop every year to try their delicious creations!
Stove-Top Almond Milk Hot Chocolate
If you’re feeling homey, or want to inject a little hygge into your day, here is my Almond Milk Hot Chocolate recipe!
Stove-Top Almond Milk Hot Chocolate
This is a slightly decadent treat for those winter nights where you want to just snuggle up with your partner to watch a movie or to settle in with a good book.
- 3 cups almond milk
- 3 tbsp cocoa powder
- 4 tbsp semisweet chocolate chips
- Sweetener of choice (I use 2 tbsp of maple syrup or honey)
- 1 tsp vanilla, peppermint or almond extract (optional)
- Heat the almond milk in a small sauce pan on Medium-High heat for approximately 5 minutes
- When milk is hot and starting to steam, remove pan from heat
- Whisk in your cocoa powder, chocolate chips, sweetener, and optional extract
- Continue to whisk until the chocolate chips are fully melted, and everything looks frothy and smooth
- Pour into mugs and enjoy!
Serves 2 in large mugs or 4 in regular mugs. Cut recipe in half for 2 regular size mug servings.
Like my tea, I take my hot chocolate ‘black’, but cocoa does look a bit prettier and taste fabulous with a whipped cream (like these great almond milk options, or this coconut milk option by one of my favourite recipe mavens, Angela Liddon from Oh She Glows!)
I haven’t tried this recipe with dairy milk or coconut milk yet, but that will be a Christmas holidays adventure so I can find an option that the Brit enjoys. The almond milk was met with some indifference. 😉
“Love is like swallowing hot chocolate before it has cooled off. It takes you by surprise at first, but keeps you warm for a long time.”
~ Henri Frederic Amiel
One of things that makes me feel most hygge is a small dinner party, eating family style with favourite people.
I have been eating at Karen Dar Woon’s 1920’s oak table since I was 16 or 17 years old. She was one of my dance moms (referred to as Ballet Mom in this post) and is a really lovely friend to me and my own mum. Karen used to be a paper sales rep, and decided to start making biscotti. (Which was very tasty!) Her Biscotti Queen business took off and going through the BCIT Venture Development program, she eventually turned it into Your Secret Chef, a successful private chef and catering company. She is certified up the wazoo, teaches food safety and cooking courses, is super passionate about volunteering in her community, and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier BC. She is also just what my friend Steve would call ‘good people’. Needless to say, I love going to Karen and her husband Hans’ downtown apartment for dinner – it is a very hygge home.
The food is always fantastic and the company is always good. Karen and Hans travel a lot, so there are always ingredients brought back from wherever they’ve just been. The pantry and fridge are also stocked with food stuffs that Karen has made herself – jams, stocks, kombucha, pickled whatever. One day, I will remember to get her ketchup recipe. It’s to die for.
Monday Night Supper is an event in this house, but this happened to be Tuesday Night Supper due to scheduling. But I have been to a Monday Night Supper where I was one of ten people. (It was the best dinner party I’d been to. Very lively.) This time it was just the girls with me, Karen, and Karen’s daughter, Erin, who I used to dance with. (She’s a #westcoastcitygirl who I will have to get a guest post from very soon as she has been pretty much everywhere in Asia…)
Because having people over is common occurrence in this home, cooking is always a communal process, with everyone pitching in and chatting around the gigantic kitchen island or at the table with a glass of wine or a cocktail hand. When I asked Karen if she’d contribute a recipe to the #12DaysofHygge, she said “Sure, and why don’t you come make it with me!”
And so we made a White Bean and Kale Soup with Sausage and some biscuits. It was hearty and delicious and went very well with the Salt Spring Vineyards Pinot Noir that I’d brought (my wine club shipment came in last month – hooray!) I’m looking forward to making it for the Brit. It’s definitely a meal suited to these cold winter nights that have come to stay for a while.
Click HERE to download the recipe! Happy Tuesday!
“A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.” ~ Elsa Schiaparelli
There’s a frosty bite in the air, which means it’s officially hearty soup and stew season. With that, the next few #12DaysofHygge posts will be all about hearty food and beverage!
We had a roasted fennel and butternut squash for dinner last night. Much needed after a day of being out and about in the cold. (I was running errands and getting new photos shot for the blog. Really excited about the results!) I’m a little obsessed with fennel. I don’t like licorice, so I’m baffled about this fixation – perhaps it’s just more subtle than say… ouzo (*shudder*) – but I digress.
I love soup. It’s quick and easy to make, nutritious, and makes for excellent leftovers for lunch or when you don’t feel like cooking. This is a soup that I started making by cobbling bits of other recipes to my liking, and then the Brit took over and made a few more tweaks. Between the two of us making it a fair amount of times this year, I think we’ve finally gotten it to a spot on place. (The Brit also made bread last night, but he is still tweaking the recipe. Another day, another post.)
ADD VARIETY – If I’m having leftover soup, I like to stir a big handful of chopped kale or spinach into the bowl after I warm the soup up. It adds some variety and gives me an extra shot of greens for the day!
Normally I would haven take some fancy photos of the ingredients (like the fennel that I would smell all day, every day) or the soup, but honestly? I was exhausted and thoroughly enjoyed having my feet up while my guy cooked this fabulous soup. I got one in though, so I will take that as a win.
Roasted Fennel & Butternut Squash Soup
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, cubed into 1 inch pieces
- 1 fennel bulb, (with green part removed), cut into 2 inch pieces
- 2-3 celery sticks, washed and roughly chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1-2 garlic cloves, minced or mashed through a garlic press
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (Whatever your preference!)
- ½ tsp thyme
- Pinch or two of nutmeg – depends on how much kick you would likeCrushed black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup half & half (easily substituted with almond or coconut milk)
#GetThrifty Timesaver – You can find pre-cubed butternut squash in the frozen section at your local supermarket. It’s cheaper than a squash by weight.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Chop anything that needs chopping and prep your other ingredients
- Toss squash and fennel with 1 tbsp of olive oil, a bit of salt, and whatever dried herbs strike your fancy,
- Evenly spread on a large baking sheet grind 3-4 clicks of fresh pepper across the tray. Roast for 15-20 min
- Heat the rest of the olive oil in a heavy soup pot, add onion, celery, garlic and thyme. Saute until the onion is softened.
- To the soup pot add roasted vegetables and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low-medium. Simmer for 10-15 more minutes.
- Season with nutmeg and 3-4 clicks of finely ground black pepper
- Use an immersion/stick blender to blend until smooth (or transfer vegetables with some stock to the blender and then pour back into the pot)
- Stir in your cream of choice
- Enjoy solo, with bread, or with some savoury biscuits!
Whatever I’m doing, I’m in that moment and I’m doing it. The rest of the world’s lost. If I’m cooking some food or making soup, I want it to be lovely. If not, what’s the point of doing it?~ Sade Adu
Having travelled solo a fair amount, I am comfortable being in my own company; but there are many times when I’ve been away and wanted to share a moment, or just have someone (that I know) to talk to. Be that partner or friend. That’s why I loved being on the recent trip with my girlfriends, particularly when we were in London. It was really wonderful to share a city that I’ve become quite fond of with some of my favourite people.
I’m currently exploring the Danish concept of hygge (hue-guh or hoo-guh) and a big aspect of this is togetherness. London is a city that inspires going out for a pint or a bite to eat with friends and is a great place to be with your tribe. We had three proper girls’ nights in London and I definitely recommend them as yours as well! These are also great outings – in any city – to celebrate the holiday season with friends or with work colleagues. 🙂
Dinner and a Show
Seeing a show isn’t the most social of activities, but you go for a pre-show dinner or drinks and talk about the show over more drinks and food afterward. It’s a really nice girls’ night out (like my recent Jersey Boys outing in Vancouver with my mum!) or date night option. Broadway is amazing, but the architecture of London’s West End theatres tips its end of the scale more so in my favour.
A prime example of this architecture is the recently restored Dominion Theatre, currently home to the fabulous musical An American in Paris*. The girls and I had the opportunity to go and see the show while we were in London and it was STUNNING. Gene Kelly would have been so proud.
One of the best feelings in the world is when your heart fills up with so much joy that all you can do is smile a stupid smile. That is how I feel when I’m at a wedding, when I think of my guy, and when I watch live theatre or a ballet. I never really enjoyed performing but I have so much appreciation for those who do it well and for all the behind-the-scenes work. This was genuinely the best stage musical I have seen in a long time – I couldn’t stop smiling. The set and technology, choreography, acting, and all that lovely Gershwin Music… All framed by the Dominion’s flame red and gold interior in all its art deco glory.
I was really looking forward to seeing the exterior of Dominion, the but with old buildings comes the need for restoration, so the exterior looked like this:
It now looks like this:
‘Tis the Season Tip – Theatre tickets are the perfect stocking stuffer for the musical lover or the kids in your life!
(*This girls’ night out to see An American in Paris was made possible by The Corner Shop PR. As always, opinions are my own.)
We didn’t have time for a pre-show dinner, but stumbled upon a cute little Italian place in Soho called Il Cucciolo (8 Old Compton St, London) after the show. Cheap, cheerful, and sizeable pasta portions – my kind of place. I’m so happy we found this little gem!
#GetThrifty and Fancy! – If we’d had time before the show, I would have suggested having a treat dinner at L’Atelier Joel Robuchon (13-15 West St., London) in Soho. They have a great pre-show prix fixe menu for £35, which is an amazing #GetThrifty price considering it’s a Michelin star restaurant. (I ate there a couple years ago at the suggestion of a family friend, and it was good value for money, delicious, and their wait staff is wonderful.) Reservations are highly recommenced!
Food & Cocktails Tour
Our Twilight Soho Food and Cocktail Tour with Eating Europe was one of my favourite excursions from this trip. I don’t think we really knew what we were getting into, but it surpassed expectations! We ended up staying at one of my the establishments they brought us to (Basement Sate), because it made us feel like we were Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda – and the G&T’s were superb. Check out my review of the tour and the list of restaurants and bars they took us to.
‘Tis the Season Tip – They will be having a Cyber Monday Sale, so make sure to sign up for their newsletter so you can get a sweet deal for the next time you’re in the city or are a local wanting to have a fun date night!
Gordon’s Wine Bar
Address: 47 Villiers Street, London / Web: https://gordonswinebar.com/
Gordon’s is one of my favourite London spots. It’s considered the oldest wine bar in London and is in a cave by the Thames and is one of the best bars in the city. The wine list is varied and lovely, the charcuterie and cheese are excellent, but they don’t take table reservations. They are also open for lunch. All of these factors make it quite popular.
Thursday seems to be the new Friday in big cities, so I was worried we wouldn’t get in. But there was an ‘important’ football (soccer) match on TV that night. And Gordon’s doesn’t have a single screen. So grazie mille to Juventus for making it so we could get a prime cave table on a summer Thursday at 8pm!
#GetThrifty – If you’re in a group of four like we were, it’s much more cost effective to order by the bottle. It also makes for fun photos because the lighting is very moody with candles in old bottles.
In the summer they also have what they call their ‘Terrace’ (which is really an alley-way, but the safest alley-way you will ever be in) open just outside, with a special grill menu. (Brave the Terrace in the rain, if you must – some people do!) They serve their charcuterie and cheese boards all year round, and apparently have a Sunday Roast for £10.95, which is a pretty great deal.
They do take group bookings for 8-10 people for what they call ‘The Cage‘. The name of the room intrigues me enough to makes me wish I was there now so I could book my work team in for a Christmas lunch!
Something important to keep in mind is that Gordon’s Closes at 11pm, but it’s a great spot for a girls’ night, and if you’re going on a date, you’ll likely get bonus points if you get a good table! 😉 (When we were there, there was a first date a table over from us, and it was going very well…)
Because it was fab in Glasgow…
I talked a bit about Wetherspoon’s in my Glasgow bus tour post and the fact that it’s an excellent #GetThrifty option. While we didn’t go to one in London, I’m positive that we would have had just as amazing of a time as we did at their Counting House in Glasgow. (They also have a great G&T.)
The service is good, the food and beverage are good and very decently priced, and the buildings they choose for their establishments are always interesting as they are restored old buildings (cinemas, banks, etc). They also have an order/pay app, which is great if you’re not wanting to leave a good conversation to wait at the bar to order drinks.
A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.
– William Shakespeare