The Bubble Tea Conundrum


When I moved across the Atlantic Ocean, do you know what I craved the most?  It wasn’t bagels and lox and it wasn’t kreplach.  It was bubble tea.  From my first sip, I developed a love affair with the Taiwanese beverage.  Toronto just so happens to be an incredible city to satisfy a bubble tea fix.

Bubble Tea Lamb411


Drive north of Sheppard Avenue, on Yonge Street and you’ll find one bubble tea house after another.  If “905” is more your style, drive east along Hwy 7 between Bayview Avenue and McCowan Road (try Go For Tea for an authentic experience) and you’ll be covered.   Downtowners, don’t have to look past the Spadina and Dundas/OCAD area. But what happens if you leave the confines of Toronto and venture off into the world?


I was having a bubble tea conundrum when I discovered bubble tea was not a universal drink, particularly in EU countries.  To double check, I spoke with a few business school classmates who were posted around the world.  It’s confirmed: Bubble tea is not universal.


So what did I do to satiate my craving?  I researched and travelled.  Wherever I was due to travel to a new European city, I purposely sought out a bubble tea cafe.  Hot or cold, green or black tea, with or without milk, and filled with all the dark brown, chewy tapioca balls I could suck through the oversized straw.  I was determined to sample them all.  However, I draw the line at those popping boba; the ones that burst upon mastication and splash sweet syrupy juice onto your tongue.  I guess you could call me a bubble tea purist.


What I discovered was fascinating:  Bubble tea was in fact, alive, kicking and even thriving in certain cities.  Leave it to the UK, Germany and Austria to lead the pack.  London’s Bubbleology, a bubble tea café themed after a science experiment, has five locations in the city, while Baburu Bubble Tea in Vienna has six shops and Berlin’s Boobuk also has six outposts in the creative city that never sleeps.


Stick with Western Europe and you will find bubble tea emerging in Barcelona, where Wow!Boba is not too far from La Rambla, and in Paris’ 5th arrondissement where you can sip le bubble tea at Bubble Fever.  Even Copenhagen has the Mad Hatter Bubble Tea Emporium in Norrebro.  I didn’t stop there.  In eastern Europe, you have Bubbletea 7 in Warsaw, tongue twister, Bubu Bubble Tea in Budapest and my personal favourite, Tea & Go in Prague, which opened in Karlin (Prague 8), by three Chinese Studies students from Charles University who share a passion for Chinese and bubble tea.


While the availability of bubble tea in European cities may not reach the same scope as in Toronto, there are plenty of good options at home and abroad and I look forward to continuing my taste test through the continent.  By the way, if you are new to bubble tea, may I recommend trying a litchi green tea bubble tea, cold with tapioca.  It is the perfect summer drink.



Shakshuka @ Neni

When asked what food I miss most in Toronto, it is usually a toss up between Chinese food and Israeli/Middle Eastern food.  For that reason, I made a beeline to  Neni, the hip Israeli cafe located in Vienna’s Naschmarkt.  I went not once for breakfast at Neni that week but twice! It also helped that the hotel I was staying at was only four blocks away from Naschmarkt, so it was a quick walk over.

Neni is a chic Israeli cafe furnished with light wood tables, modern industrial furniture and no walls, which gives it a nice outdoor cafe feel. For my first breakfast I ordered their Shakshuka.  It was spicy, flavourful, messy and everything Shakshuka should be.  It came with a bag of pitas packed into a cute cloth bag. The pita, is a necessary accompaniment to sop up all the gooey egg yolk and tomato sauce you can’t get on your fork.

The second day I sampled the muesli which was decent but not the best I’ve tasted.  I would stick to the Israeli food here!  After eating my somewhat disappointing yogurt and oats, I wish I had ordered the Israeli breakfast or the Jam breakfast but because it was so hot outside the second morning, I opted for something lighter which was probably the better decision in hindsight.

If you have never tasted shakshuka, keep your eyes open for this dish where ever you live.  You don’t have to get on a plane and fly to Tel Aviv or Vienna!  However I will warn you, for some reason, shakshuka is not one of those brunch items that pops up often enough on menus.  This is a shame because as a dish it is filling, healthy and blows your taste buds away with its winning combination of herbs, spices, tomatoes, eggs and peppers.

On the weekends, my fiance and I make one “special” breakfast and we decided, after eating shakshuka at Neni, we are going to test out replicating it at home for our Sunday morning breakfast treat.  We’ve been on a pancake run for about two months now (well he has- trying to perfect the perfect pancake recipe) and we were looking for our next experiment.  I think shakshuka is it.

For more shakshuka inspiration:

David Lebovitz just wrote a great post about Shakshuka earlier this month: Israeli Breakfast

Epicurious posted THEEEE Dr. Shakshuka recipe from the famous Tel Aviv restaurant: Shakshuka a la Doctor Shakshuka (or fly to Tel Aviv and taste the real deal yourself!)

Or if you are looking for something a bit more modern, try Yotam Ottolenghi’s version published by the Guardian: Shakshuka recipe or this one from the LA Times.


Corns n’ Pops (and more)!

Breakfast is my ultimate meal.  I am one of those people who could eat breakfast three times a day.  I am” mildly” obsessed with starting the day off right with a bowl of something.  Be it cereal, oatmeal, or muesli, or if I have extra time- eggs, pancakes or french toast.

While some people are happy to eat breakfast at the hotel and get their day of exploration underway, when I travel, breakfast is part of my exploration process.  You don’t have to ask me twice to forfeit the hotel menu, unless of course the hotel is known for its breakfast menu.  I tend to integrate breakfast AND city exploration into my travel itinerary.

On my recent trip to Vienna, I decided to check out Corns n’ Pops (Gumpendorfer strasse 37,Vienna’s 6th district by Saint Charles Alimentary), a cute breakfast cafe focused on serving interesting combinations of cereals and muesli!  This place had to be good, right?

Corns n’ Pops has a great menu where you can choose from a pre-mixed muesli or a mix your own concoction from their show-stopping, rather extensive cereal-muesli-goodies counter.  They also offer snacks, sweets, smoothies, coffee, tea and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (a nice breakfast accompaniment!).

On the day I visited, I was unfortunately in a bit of a rush and did not have time to mix my own muesli at the bar so I went with their daily muesli special.  The muesli was dense, not overly sweet (they brought honey to the table to self-sweeten) and full of good things like poppy seeds, dried fruit, nuts oats and topped with lots of fresh fruit.   I would have liked to try mixing my own creative bowl but that will have to wait for my next trip to Corns n’ Pops (which I hope will be soon).


I was so inspired by the poppy seeds in my muesli, when I came home I added poppy seeds into my batch of granola.


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Here are some other bloggers who are talking about Corns n’ Pops:

1. Spotted By Locals: Corns n’ Pops DIY Cereals

2. Sushi and Strudel:  Corns n’ Pops

3. Irene’s Vienna: Corns n’ Pops

4. Jules Lazy Days: Corns n’ Pops


Daniel Hotel

With daily temperatures well above 30, one would not think it is the ideal week to go touring around the country.  The heat can be tiring.  As my fiance says, “We’re Canadians. We can travel in all weather.” I agree.  However I think he was referring to colder weather.

I was having a conversation with a friend last week saying there weren’t enough well-appointed, reasonably priced boutique hotels in North America.  It seems once you mention boutique, the prices jump to at least $200+.  In Europe, it’s not the case.  Every country we travel to it is quite easy to find a design forward, reasonably priced hotel that is not going to cost you an arm and a leg to stay in.

Here is a new one I just found:  Daniel, in Vienna.  I am not staying here as I just learned about it yesterday but I would totally consider it when I return the next trip. (There is a second location in Graz (Daniel Graz), my other favourite design city that I have blogged about here and here).

Photo Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

It’s adorable right?  You have nice wooden floors, funky lighting, plants, an in-house bakery, nice looking rooms, iconic design furniture pieces.  It looks like you are walking into someone’s really nice vintage chic living room.  I wonder why this model has never quite taken off back across the Atlantic?

See you Friday….



Neni Modern Israeli Food in Vienna

I am off to Vienna tomorrow for a couple days to take my visiting guests to explore a new city.

When I travel, I am always on the look-out for interesting and new food concepts as well as flavours that I am missing/can’t get. Israeli food/middle eastern food certainly tops that list.

Neni is an Israeli restaurant with two locations, a cookbook and a catering operation (take away dips).  I love the interiors of their restaurant and their menu looks stacked with items such as shakshuka, hummus, ful, tomato salad, kibbeh, red lentil soup and pita bread. I look forward to reporting back on their breakfast next week as I plan to pay their Naschmarkt location a visit! Hummus and falafel, here I come.

Photo Sources: Neni


A portion of….

I have just returned from five days in Vienna where I cafe-ed (my new verb for sitting in cafes for prolonged periods of time a la Viennese style) like the best of them.  If there was an award for cafe-ying, Vienna would take the top spot.  Before my trip, I researched the city by reading various blogs and websites and plotted out my culinary trip- a shout out to Vienna that served as an excellent resource.

Before I get to the cafe part, I will say, I didn’t have one bad meal in the city.  I was so impressed by the restaurants I visited (Appiano das Gasthaus, Motto am Fluss, Sichuan, Palmenhaus, and Die Burgermacher) that I would return to Vienna just to dine.  The food, quality and dining experience was so great that there was even a time where I had no idea what I was ordering (due to lack of an English menu) and walked away saying the meal was still top notch.

I visited cafes of all sorts where it was completely acceptible to order a coffee (food or no food) and spend a languid afternoon relishing the sights, sounds and smells before you, peruse a magazine or two or four, order another coffee and repeat.  One blog I read, The New Diplomat’s Wife, talked about how it is possible to spend almost an entire day at a cafe and how to pace yourself based on what activities to do when!

I think my favourites were Orlando di Castello and the Prince Coffee Club.  Both of these spots have uber-modern interiors (one is done in all white, the other in blacks and greys)- a stark contrast to the traditional, ornate, high ceiling, tiled, glitzy Viennese cafes that have a stuffier feel to them (although excellent).  Orlando and Prince have excellent food and drink, play great music in the background and are very comfortable to “cafe” for hours.  I wouldn’t recommend cafe-ing on a daily basis, but if you are missing a reason to sit, unwind, socialize, relax and indulge, Vienna cafes should be top on your list.  Oh, and my reference to the title of this email “a portion of…”  I found it fascinating and somewhat comical that on all cafe menus that I saw in Vienna, you have the optoin to order a portion of something.  On offer I saw portions of cream, rum, milk, chocolate and you can order this so-called portion and add it to whatever you’re having- typically a coffee, tea or alcoholic bev.  Quite indulgent but who wouldn’t want to sit and sip tea in places like the one’s below??



via buildungs lounge


via Stadt Bekkant


via dezeen




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