Monthly Archives: May 2016

Diablo is Back! {The story of cats}

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Shamrock & Sophie Saturday

Last weekend, while Rob was out of town, Shamrock started barking loudly at the front door. No one had even rung the doorbell. I went to the door and peered out. No one there. I went to the dining room to look out that window… AHA!

It was Diablo!IMG_6817

Diablo’s owners never did return our call. So we figured that they are okay with him roaming the neighborhood. I actually saw him earlier that morning when I went on my run. He darted out of our driveway toward his house {presumably}, but hid behind the curb at the intersection, with his little ears seeming to peer apprehensively over the tall grass of our neighbor’s yard. I just said, “Hello!” and went on my not-so-merry way. {It was a hard run.}

When Diablo spotted me in the window, he came towards it. Even when I put a chair up to the window so the dogs could see, he didn’t seem phased by their barks.

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I did not grow up with cats; so I’m not sure how to take care of one. I mean, that litterbox stuff and all that. I do like kitties, but learned I was allergic after countless sleepovers at the neighbor’s place as a kid. My eyes swell up so badly. I have since learned that I can usually be around them as long as I make sure not to touch my face after petting them!

Diablo made himself at home…

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Seems quite comfortable on our porch, no? Our dogs are semi-used to cats. I say this because Rob’s parents used to have a cat named Westie. Whenever we’d go to visit, Sophie would play with him. They’d use their paws to box! It was so adorable. Until one day, when Westie passed away. The next time we went to visit, Sophie went into the house and immediately went looking for Westie – under the bed, in all of his hiding spots. When she came into the room where all of us were catching up and just started whining, my heart broke. 😦

Rob’s parents now have Abby, with whom Sophie does not play. Instead, Sham terrorizes her. As he does our friend Sally and Ryan‘s cats when we visit them! I *think* he is just playing…

Still even if Diablo was trying to ring our doorbell to come in and play…

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I’m not sure if I want to find out if Sham is just being playful or not!

Happy Saturday!
Carrie

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What I’m Reading – My Canadian Edition Part I

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I’ve been on a kick to read a bunch of books that take place in Québec before our trip there this summer! Can you believe that of all the places in the world, I have never been to Canada?

We chose Québec for our annual international trip this year. Why Québec when we could just drive up to Winnepeg? I wanted the feeling of something more international. And I miss France. I really miss France. Québec is just a little more affordable right now.

Anyway…

Books.

Even if you don’t love a book, or don’t even like it… You can always learn something from it. If anything, you might learn that you don’t like books written in a certain style.

Even from Duddy Kravitz, which I pushed my way through because I felt I had to, I learned that hot dogs and smoked meat were a major part of the culture in Montreal in the 50s. And then I discovered they are both popular now, too!

From Ru, I got a glimpse of what it feels like to be a refugee, as well as a bit more knowledge of the Vietnamese culture – like soup for breakfast!

~

Still Life

Still Life by Louis Penny (Fiction)

From Still Life I learned that murder mysteries aren’t always my thing; but I did like the fact that this was set in a fictional town in Québec! I learned that pastries are as much a part of Québécois culture as they are French – why else would the author talk about them so much?! And that I really should get my hands on some cool Québécois pottery while I’m there. Now that I’m thinking about it, it was a cooler book than I thought it would be. But there were loose ends with one of the characters that made me wonder about her importance in the book. Unless she returns in future Chief Inspector Gamache novels? {BTW – I found out about this book on TripFiction!}

~

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis (Fiction)

Unlike Still Life and Ru, most of the Canadian books I’ve been recommended haven’t been available at my library. Instead, I got many at my trusty ThriftBooks. But I found Fifteen Dogs and had it sent cheaply from the UK of all places!

I’m not even sure how I found this book. It’s actually set in Toronto, not Québec; but I was excited to read more about dogs! Little did I know how much death this book would contain. Not the kind of sad death of a beloved pet, but of brutal death that just angered me. The concept is an interesting one: What would life be like for dogs if they had the intelligence that humans do?

All of the Goodreads reviews intrigued me that I just had to read this book. This is the one I agree with the most: “This book is both a dog lover’s dream come true- and their worst nightmare.”

I want to tell you that I hated it. I really hated how things played out… but I’m still glad I read it. The back cover listing the dogs was very handy, because I had a hard time keeping track of them all!

~

sacre blues

Sacré Blues by Taras Grescoe (Non-Fiction)

This book came highly recommended if I wanted to learn a bit more about the Québécois. I almost dreaded reading it, thinking it would read more like a textbook. But it didn’t! {Well, not until toward the end.} I got a true glimpse of the people and way of life. However, this book was written in 2000, a time when cell phones weren’t quite popular yet. So I’m sure a few things were outdated.

A few things I learned…

We will be there for Canada Day, but it is also Moving Day in Québec! It’s when most leases end because it was once mandated that way. Now it’s tradition. This will be interesting to see… I also now understand the importance of the that classic work by Mordecai Richler.

~

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:
The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
by Marie Kondō
(Non-Fiction)

tidy

~

Of course, this book has nothing to do with Canada, but it became available on my library wait list. Plus it was perfect to read right before the weekend Rob was going to be out of town so that I could do some purging of my closet.

I probably did not have to read this book because I read so many reviews that I really got the gist. Reading the book actually made me realize how neurotic and obsessive the author was as a child! I read many {hysterical} reviews of this book on GoodReads that made me laugh. She did seem kind of kooky talking to her socks and such. And I got really sick of the words “tidy” and “spark joy” almost all too quickly.

But all silliness aside, I tried to take that talk with a grain of salt because:

  1. At least someone who has been obsessive with organizing and “tidying” since the age of 5 can put such a preoccupation to good use – helping others.
  2. This book is translated from Japanese, so that culture and language needs to be taken into consideration.
  3. While determining if your belongings “Spark Joy” seem to the main theme of the book, I don’t really find joy in things like dental floss, etc. Instead, I asked myself if the object was something I loved, made me happy or the outcome of using that object made me feel more comfortable. I did not keep clothes that I may have liked at one time, but that don’t fit or feel good anymore.
  4. While talking to your socks to thank them for all of their hard work during the day sounds crazy, I’ve interpreted it to be more of having an attitude of gratitude for your belongings. Most people aren’t grateful for socks, but feel entitled to them. It’s time we have gratitude for the little things in life. Also, when getting rid of something, it’s also a good idea to feel gratitude for the purpose it had while you had it or maybe what it is teaching you by getting rid of it.

In any case, this book is more about what you can get out of it, rather than how it can be critiqued. I really and truly believed that I didn’t have many clothes compared to most people. But once I took all of my clothes out of drawers, closets and any nook or cranny they might be, I had piles on both our king-sized bed and the queen-sized one in the guest room. I was astonished. {And I meant to take a photo. Oops.}

It took me one day to sort, but in the end I had:

5 trash bags of clothing to donate and 1 bag to throw away.

That’s the most I’ve ever done. Pretty amazing for someone who “doesn’t have many clothes”, no? I would say that this book served it’s purpose. And now I only {well, mostly!} have things I love in my closet. I can’t tell you how good that feels.

~

I have five more books in queue on Québec. I’m not sure if I’ll have them all read before we go, so I may have one or two left to take with me! I am currently reading this book, which was just published in 2014.

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So far, I absolutely loving it! It’s set in the Montreal in the 1990s. I’ll tell me you more in my next edition of Canadian books!

Do you read about a place before you travel?

Do you like travelogues?

If so, what’s been your favorite?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Cooking for One: Salmon 3 Ways

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You may or may not know that when my husband goes out of town, this is when I love to cook up storm! It’s also when I try as much as I can to only use what I have in the fridge, freezer and pantry. I’m trying to get rid of anything that’s still hanging out there.

I had {I thought} a single-serving of wild-caught salmon that I purchased from Trader Joe’s months ago that I was dying to cook up. When I took it out, I found that there were three portions in there! I guess I’d be making salmon all weekend!

I cooked salmon three ways, but all of my dishes look very similar.

Friday:

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Microwave Sriracha Salmon with Sauteed Spinach and Quinoa with Kale

I tried out this Microwave Sriracha Salmon recipe which worked pretty decently. {I’ve never cooked salmon in the microwave before!} Plus the flavor was good. If you like it hot, add a little more sriracha! I sauteed the spinach in some garlic olive oil, loosely based on this recipe, and added some toasted slivered almonds for crunch. And finally, I pulled out a bag of Organic Quinoa & Kale from the freezer and popped that in the microwave, too. It’s something that I’d be more inclined to think I’d purchased from Trader Joe’s or Target, but that I’m thinking I really got at Wal-mart of all places.

Saturday Lunch:

Grilled Spicy Salmon, Oven Roasted Frozen Broccoli and Quinoa with Kale

Grilled Spicy Salmon, Oven Roasted Frozen Broccoli and Quinoa with Kale

I ended up making this Spicy Grilled Salmon in my grill pan, only I didn’t find it spicy at all. I only had it marinating for the minimum 20 minutes, though. I had a bag of frozen broccoli in the freezer that I could have just steamed in the bag. But I really do prefer roasted broccoli. Did you know that you can make Oven Roasted Frozen Broccoli? It totally works! I love the addition of the Montreal Steak Seasoning, too. I have that in my pantry and hardly ever use it! I threw in some leftover Quinoa with Kale for good measure. This meal came in at 471 calories, but it felt like sooooo much food. I was quite full before I even finished it.

Saturday Dinner:

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I had a reprieve from salmon. Instead, those^^ are all of the ingredients I used from my freezer and pantry for dinner: chicken breasts, diced tomatoes with green chiles, black beans, and fire-roasted garlic tomatoes.

I didn’t get a photo of my dinner because after I made the No-Cook Black Bean Soup, I realized that my chicken was not ready. {It wasn’t 100% thawed when I stuck it in the oven.} Therefore, I ate the soup first and the chicken when it finished cooking.

I made the chicken based on this Baked Chicken with Tomato Sauce recipe, substituting the can of diced tomatoes with green chiles for the homemade tomato sauce. I wanted it to taste a bit more Mexican to go with my Black Bean Soup. I also added a bit of Mexican-blend shredded cheese during the last five minutes of cooking. It didn’t turn out too bad!

Because each recipe made four servings, I shredded the leftover chicken and put in each of my containers of leftover soup to make a nice black bean and chicken soup for lunches this week.

Sunday:

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Salmon, Quinoa & Broccoli Bowl

Because I was mostly dealing with leftovers here {Quinoa with Kale & Roasted Frozen Broccoli}, I decided to make a bowl to make it a little more appealing to me. {I just love bowls!} I used one of the easiest salmon methods ever – Simple Baked Salmon. Then I cut it up and through it in the bowl of warmed up veggies and quinoa. I think some roasted grape tomatoes or a nice sauce would have brightened it up a bit more.

By the time I was three-quarters of the way done with this bowl, I was sick of it.

All of these dinners were super easy. I needed them to be because I was purging my closet over the weekend! BUT, remind me next time I buy salmon, to get single serving packages so that I don’t have to thaw out three portions all at once!

What is your favorite way to eat salmon or another fish?

Cheers~
Carrie

Country Fair!

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Sophie & Shamrock Saturday

You’ll find this funny, but I didn’t notice that there was a BarkBox on our doorstep until I was taking out the garbage out and spotted a black cat next to it… sniffing it. When he saw me, he darted in my direction! Friendly kitty!

I soon learned via his collar that his name was Diablo, but it took a little bit of coaxing to try to read the phone number off the tag. We do have a neighbor a few houses down {who we don’t know} that I’ve noticed a cat or two running around outside and they don’t seem to be phased by it. Perhaps Diablo was one of these kitties who is allowed to roam?

I called the 666 number {creepy for a cat named Diablo!} and left a message indicating where he was; that I was able to pet him, but not hold him for an extended period of time. I know that if it were my pet, I’d want someone to call. However, the owners never called back. I guess they are okay with him roaming the neighborhood.

Diablo didn’t get any part of this BarkBox, but Sophie and Sham were happy to!

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I thought that this month’s theme would be picnic-related…

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As a side note, when Rob threw something away the next day, he almost jumped at the sight of the ants! He then realized it was the Barbox paper in the trash.

But I was a bit wrong about the theme:

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I found the comic entertaining with a “Sniffing Booth” and one animal saying to the other “Now you pet me!” in the Petting Zoo. There was also this for additional human entertainment:

IMG_6789But it was this part of the card that excited me most! 

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Another multi-part toy for Sham. Oh how he adores these!

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However, Shamrock did not see the novelty at first. I had to take the squeaky balls out for him… Three in total.

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We’ve been playing Fetch with them every since. And one morning, he nibbled on the “crust” and I had to remind him that it was empty and his red balls were scattered around the house.

Shamrock did stop to smell…

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… (and bite)… the flowers!

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He likes his little bouquet. Nibbling on the petals brings him joy. But Sophie’s concern was what treats she could possibly get out of this box. It smelled like something for a reason!

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I love that all treats are sourced and made in the USA. Sophie and Sham promptly received a beef jerky straight from the box that night; but we are saving the other BarkBox treats to bring on vacation…

Happy Saturday!
Carrie

Currently…

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Hey, let’s catch up! 

{Got this idea from Courtney at Semi-Sweet Eats.}

I started this post on April 29th and then never posted it…. So here are answers from 4/29 and today. Some have changed… some have not!

Currently reading…

April: Still Life – a novel set in Quebec!

May: Sacré Blues – nonfiction about Quebec!

Can you guess where our next international trip destination is?!

Currently listening to… 

April: Prince – ‘cuz who isn’t?

May: The same running mix over and over and over…

Current guilty pleasure…

April & May: Reading, reading and more reading. Most nights, you’ll catch me with a glass of wine or cup of tea:

Currently drinking…

April: Tom Gore Cabernet – one of my new faves I discovered on ibotta.

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May: LSD! They’ve got it on tap at Indeed right now. It tastes like summer to me!

Currently eating…

April: All The Clementines

May: Tacos, Tacos and More Tacos

Currently watching…

April: Master of None – with Aziz Ansari. So funny!

May: Orphan Black – I was hooked on Episode 1!

Currently needing…

April: More time… off, that is. One of my travel tips is to vacation wherever you know someone and have been invited. We got so many invitations this year and I just am maxxed out on vacation time! I know… First World Problems.

May: New running shoes. These have been my fave… And I always get the new current Asics Gel Cumulus, but I just loved the fit and color of these best. #RIP

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Currently celebrating…

April: Our 6-year wedding anniversary

May: A work bonus. Off to Sul Lago we goooooo…

Current bane of my existence…

April: The Vikings Stadium project*

May: The Vikings Stadium project* – Isn’t it over yet?!!

This has nothing to do with me being a Packer fan. It has to do with my day job. I think we are all ready to be done. It’s not even worth my energy to explain.

Currently crushing on…

Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May —- THE LIBRARY!

This one is not going away, people. I will heart the library forever and ever.

 Currently thankful for…

April: Babbel – This is a foreign language app where you can practice and learn anywhere! It’s $19.99 for three months. I just do a lesson or two every day. I’ve been brushing up on my French for our trip to Quebec!

May: My Garmin VivoActive – I originally bought this for the heart rate monitor, but also to track my steps and workouts. But what? I can download golf courses, get my yardage and record my shots! What the … WHAT?! Really, I am loving it for the heart rate monitor. I always feel like I’m going sooooo slow, especially compared to Rob (who doesn’t run often) and when I see my time. But then, I realize I’m in Zone 4 half the time (80 – 90%) and Zone 5 the other half (90 – 100%). This is telling me I shouldn’t push it so hard. Rob is telling me that because I’m so slow, it’s probably not very accurate. Your thoughts?

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Current slang…

APRIL & MAY: “All The Things” – It may be overused at this point, but I love this.

{BTW: I couldn’t stand “epic” when it was overused and I still hate “failure is not an option.” That one doesn’t even make sense. Of course it’s not. Failure happens even if we don’t choose it. The most successful people in the world fail! That’s how they become successful. Fail down seven times, get up eight.}

Currently wearing…

April: One of my new favorite outfits! Blue is normally my favorite color, but this green just makes me smile!

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May: New Jeans! I went about six months sans jeans {really!} when my last pair died. I just hate shopping. On a whim, I walked into Sears one day {I never shop there} and decided to try on some jeans. I found these!

 

I was happy to pay the $34.99 for jeans that fit me and that were comfortable. {I usually have to try 20 pairs until I find one that I like. I hate shopping!} But when I got to the register both the Canyon River Blues Skinny Straight Jeans and Straight Leg Jeans were on sale for $20! Needless to say, I immediately went on line and tried to get all of the colors possible.

Currently excited for…

April: Our next vacation. Is that bad having just come back from one? I like always having one lingering in the distance. Planning is fun!

May: Seeing Rob’s parents soon, with a pit stop to see mine on the way!

Currently feeling…

April: Balanced. Never thought that would happen! I’m working out five days a week: running three {C25k again}, lifting weights two … and aiming for 7,500 steps a day when I am not running and 10,000 when I am. #realistic

But really, I’ve been trying to do all of these things every day; and when I do, I feel balanced and happy:

  • Something active
  • Play with pooches
  • Read – me time!
  • Write or take photos for the blog
  • Babbel – an app to catch up on my French

MAY: Energized. Doesn’t everyone in Minnesota kind of wake up when the weather gets this nice?!

What is CURRENTLY happening with you?

Cheers~
Carrie

Salsa a la {Closed}… Bob

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This month’s Girls’ Dinner Night Out took us out for some Salsa a la Salsa. Rob laughed and said he was so glad he wasn’t included in this. He’s not a huge fan of salsa, nor would he want salsa on top of his salsa. HA!

I had been to Salsa a la Salsa once, probably over 10 years ago near the Convention Center. I didn’t remember much about it. However, we were venturing to their new location – in Uptown.

This was one restaurant where I did not look at the menu before dining. Can you believe it? My friend Jen was certainly surprised. But really, how can you go wrong with Mexican food?

~

We ordered some cocktails {obvi, not pictured}:

  • El Camino Margarita made with reposado tequila, pomegranate purée, lime juice and grand marnier. <– Kim loved this!
  • House Margarita made with tequila, lemon, lime, orange and agave nectar. Jen realized how spoiled we’ve become about good tequila. Plus, there’s just too much sour mix in most margaritas these days, imho.
  • Paloma made with blanco tequila, grapefruit soda, fresh lime. It just so happens that I had my first Paloma in this very building a couple of years ago when the establishment was Boneyard Kitchen and Bar. {I never did write about that one.} And I fell in love with Palomas!. This one was horrible – completely sour and unbalanced. Oh well.

As I know how much I tend to fill up on chips and guac at Mexican restaurants and then tend to overdue it on the entree, I decided to order some soup instead. Both the Cilantro Chicken Soup and the Pozole de Pollo sounded great. I was really in the mood for chicken, specifically shredded chicken. Is that weird? I made my choice based on the recommendation of our server:

Pozole de Pollo traditional pre-columbian soup; shredded chicken, hominy, guajillo, oregano, served with tostada 5.75 / 7.95

Pozole de Pollo – traditional pre-columbian soup; shredded chicken, hominy, guajillo, oregano, served with tostada $7.95

The juicy shredded chicken was just what I wanted! The tostada on the side was a nice, refreshing accompaniment, too. However, the flavor of the soup was a bit boring. That was, until I realized under those limes was some onion and cilantro to dump in it… DOH!

Kim’s tamales looked out of this world. That sauce and all that cheesy goodness!

Tamales de Pollo two chicken tamales with green sauce, melted cheese, served with Spanish rice and refried beans. Ala carte 12.95

Tamales de Pollo  two chicken tamales with green sauce, melted cheese, served with Spanish rice and refried beans $12.95

But I think Jen, probably ordered the healthiest and most desirable dish {to me anyway!}

Plato de Barbacoa slowly braised beef with avocado leaf, onion, tomato, pickled jalapeños 16.95

Plato de Barbacoa – slowly braised beef with avocado leaf, onion, tomato, pickled jalapeños $16.95

The juicy, flavorful barbacoa couldn’t have been better. Those green beans were well-seasoned such that I wanted to eat them like fries. Jen barely made a dent in that plate. I think she took home what could have been two or three more servings. I’d definitely get this dish next time!

Oh, and BTW, the Traditional Guacamole rocked.

~

And in GDNO tradition, we headed to a new-to-us coffee shop:

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We generally choose our coffee shops based on proximity to the restaurant. Kim is usually in charge of searching for one once we get into the car. 🙂

What I really liked about Bob’s was that dogs are allowed! There was one beautiful dog there while we were and treats on the counter for those who bring them in.  Also, this…

I don’t quite understand the significance of the number 33 everywhere; but Bob’s Java Hut was great for handcrafted cuppa and conversation regardless.

 

What are your favorite Mexican style foods?

Name a place you are happy {or unhappy} that dogs are allowed!

Cheers~
Carrie

Sweet or Savory Breakfast?

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Before my friend Stacy came to visit, she checked out my Restaurant Wishlist on my Restaurant Impressions page. She picked a few that looked interesting to her after she checked them out online. She chose French Hen Cafe in St. Paul as an option for Sunday brunch, if we were so feeling adventurous, instead of me cooking my usual breakfast staples!

This was perfect because:

  • I’m almost always feeling adventurous.
  • I’m always wanting to try new places.
  • This was on my wishlist.
  • Rob was not likely to want to try it anytime soon. It’s in walking distance of The Gnome . He wouldn’t understand why we aren’t going there, instead!

We were seated at the window. Hey, Solo Vino is across the street! It’s been a while since I’ve been there. If you haven’t to this cute little wine shop, please check it out!

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As you can see^^, French Hen will have a nice outdoor patio this summer!

There is a nice selection of beer and wine…

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But I went with a good old cup of black coffee. But think French café – you can get your espresso drinks here, too! Stacy had a cold press – with cream and sugar, please! 🙂

I remember checking this menu out online and the first thing that caught my eye was the Coconut Lime French Toast. Mmmmm… I’m more a savory than sweet breakfast person; but it really got my attention.IMG_6676

What would you order off this ^^ menu?

Of course, I had a hard time deciding… Plus, there were omelettes:

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What to do… What to do… There were so many things on the menu I wanted to try, including what Stacy ordered:

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Banh Mi Benedict – glazed pork, poached eggs, fresh vegetable relish, sriracha hollandaise, french bread, hash browns $14

Oh yes! Yes! Yes! I sometimes thing of Eggs Benedict as being so heavy; but the Bahn Mi flavors in this dish made it taste so refreshing. Despite all the other items on this list, I’d be hard pressed not to get this dish next time. The pulled pork was juicy and tender, the sriracha just spicy enough. And look at those crispy seasoned hashbrowns! Yup. This dish was perfection.

I finally decided I needed to go with my original gut choice:

Coconut Lime French Toast Real maple syrup $10.00

Coconut Lime French Toastwith real maple syrup – $10

My eyes widened with my first bite. I hadn’t had French Toast in so long! And this was so flavorful and yummy. Even the maple syrup wasn’t too sweet, which is sometimes why I shy away. And fresh berries – yes, please!

But what I did learn was that I truly am a savory breakfast eater. I asked Stacy for more than a few bites of her eggs benny, as I gladly shared mine. I would have preferred a savory main dish with a slice or two of that French Toast on the side. That would have been perfect. Or, if you are with a group, order this as a side to share as dessert!

I bet everything on the menu is wonderful at the French Hen Cafe. At least I certainly got that impression. If you are coming to visit and want to do breakfast {or even lunch}, let me know so we can pop over here!

Do you prefer a sweet or a savory breakfast?

Cheers~
Carrie