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Stale bagels, sour OJ, weak instant coffee, cornflakes and greasy muffins. When a hotel offers a free continental breakfast, that’s usually what it entails. Not the ideal way to start your vacation mornings. But what if you were offered fluffy animal-faced pancakes with maple syrup, whipped cream and exotic fruit? Free breakfast just got a whole lot better!

While vacationing in Costa Rica, Plato Putas were blown away by the made-to-order breakies served at La Mansion Inn in Manuel Antonio. Breakfast here is the main reason to rise and shine early each morning. During our three-day stay we feasted on massive omelettes; traditional rice and bean plates with fresh tropical fruit; stuffed tortillas smothered in creamy cheese sauce. Don’t forget the bottomless glass of freshly squeezed OJ and the best cup of coffee featuring local Costa Rican beans. I’m weak in the knees just thinking about it.

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La Mansion Inn is a small, luxurious 4-star hotel situated on a mountainside, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Besides the free breakfasts, we experienced an incredible stay thanks to the attentive staff, breathtaking ocean view rooms (at $125 per night) and constant colourful sunsets.

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Clearly, Best Western and Holiday Inn can suck it.

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I’ve been making hard-boiled eggs for most of my life. But only now have I perfected it. Thanks to chef Roger Mooking, putting salt and pepper on an oeuf is now a thing of the past. It’s all about a few carefully placed drops of soy sauce. I understand your skepticism — it does seem odd. But try it once, and I promise you’ll make it again and again.

I love eggs so much I can eat them at any time of day. For example, a late-night omelette really hits the spot. However, making eggs after 3 a.m. can be hazardous to your health. I’ve experienced the unpleasant sensation of a scorching hot, melted Kraft cheese slice oozing between my toes when I dropped an omelette on my foot after an unsuccessful transfer from hot pan to plate.

According to his website, Roger loves eggs as much as I do. So when he invited Plato Putas to his kitchen at Nyood, we pressed him for his three favourite ways to enjoy an egg.

Roger Mooking’s Perfect Hard-Boiled Egg
1. Put egg in an uncovered pot of cold water and bring it to the boil.
2. Once it boils, turn the stove off, pull the pot off the heat, cover it and let it sit for exactly 15 minutes.
3. Drain the hot water and continuously flush the egg in cold water until the egg is stone cold.
4. The eggs will be perfect and really delicious with a little bit of soy sauce, which is how Roger ate them growing up. You could also dip it in a bit of kosher salt.

When Roger’s not eating hard-boiled eggs, frying an egg in butter, or making hollandaise sauce, he’s busy as the co-owner and executive chef of Nyood and Kultura, and hosts Food Network Canada’s Everyday Exotic. He also taught us Knife Skills 101, and invited Plato Putas to visit his newest dining venture which we’ll be previewing very soon. Stay tuned!

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What’s dark brown, gooey as tar and smells like a rancid can of Raid? Marmite, of course! And only the Brits could have invented such a concoction. A spreadable yeast extract sold at grocery stores across the UK, a country whose food reputation is right up there with brussel sprouts, mushy peas and blood pudding. Love it or hate it, Marmite is definitely an acquired taste.

I grew up eating the stuff for breakfast. Thick blobs slathered on buttered toast and dipped into soft boiled eggs… mmmmmmarvelous! And you’ll never guess who has recently become a new Marmite fan. How about Paddington! Hey, you know when a stuffed bear ditches his 50-year-old habit of consuming his beloved sweet marmalade for a taste of the dark side, times are a changin’. If he can do it, so can you! Go on, buy yourself a jar. Pip pip, cheerio!

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Since it opened earlier this year, I’ve read many rave reviews about The Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder (699 St. Clair West at Christie) so I knew it was time to do my own investigative reporting. Problem was I arrived at 6:30 pm on Sunday, a mere 90 minutes after Rib Night began, and the racks were already sold out.

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Thankfully all was not lost cause they still had Rib Tips ($9). From the first bite I knew this place was going to live up to all the hype. The pork boasts a smokey taste, a tender texture and a crispy outside with a nice kick to it. Owner Tom Davis uses a dry rub on the ribs (which I prefer over the saucy alternative) and cooks them on a custom-made, wood-fired smoker.

The Rib Tips were lip-smacking good and despite all the finger-licking, I required more than the allotted two napkins per person. The side of BBQ sauce was a nice touch and more sweet than tangy. My eating companion Rana (aka Arcee of the Real Freqs) had a look of complete satisfaction on his face. “This is quite possibly the only food I would like to remain stuck in my teeth after eating,” he proclaimed.

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It’s important to note that Rib Nights are only on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and clearly it sells out fast. A full pork rack is $25, half rack for $13, and there’s also beef short ribs ($13) and BBQ Pit-Smoked Chicken ($13 for a whole one). The rest of the menu is available on all days, except Monday, when they’re closed.

The closest we got to eating vegetables were the specks of herbs used in the Non-Dairy Potato Salad ($5). This was very different from the traditional creamy type that’s ladden with mayonnaise. This version was light and very fresh tasting. Red potatoes were tossed with seven different herbs, garlic, red onion, grainy mustard, vinegar and olive oil.

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We each ordered a Limeade which was incredibly thirst-quenching, not overly sweet or sour and came with a fresh sprig of mint. Just like their bio-degradable take-out containers, the plastic cup and straw are environmentally friendly. The straw did start to get soggy and felt like it was degrading in my mouth. Next time I’m going for the pitcher.

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The Stockyards is housed in a narrow space with seating for about 10 people. They do swift take-out business and recommend you call ahead for pick-up orders. The prices are reasonable and the food is exceptional. I can’t wait to try the pulled-pork sandwich on my next visit. In the words of my friend Rana: “I wish I lived here.”

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There’s always time for Tim Hortons. Ain’t that the truth! As a Canadian expat living in New York City, I was thrilled to read about Tims stealth-like takeover of numerous Dunkin’ Donuts spots. Twelve locations in Manhattan were magically transformed over a span of three days into the familiar red, brown and beige.

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This meant one thing, road trip! Well, in our case, subway trip! Myself and four lovely fellow expats met up in midtown at Broadway & 34th street to taste some Canuck nostalgia and reminisce about our favourite Tim Horton moments. After eating our way through a Timbit Snack Pack, Honey Cruller and coffees, here’s what they had to say:

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Name: Linda
Years as an expat: 10
If I was a Timbit I would be an apple fritter because I’m a cinnamon girl!
Worth a return visit? I sure will visit an American Timmies, to introduce my Yankee hubbie to the wonders of the Canadian donut world.
Verdict: Timbits were just like home—could there be a more perfect proportion to a ball of fried dough? But I do miss the old style Timmies ceramic cups which NY would never do since it’s always on the go. What ever happened to “stop and have a cup of joe?”

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Name: Balint
Years as an expat: 2.5
If I was a Timbit I would be a chocolate Timbit because then I’d be the king of Timbits.
Worth a return visit? If its nearby I’ll indulge, but I’m certainly not going out of my way to buy donuts at a shared counter with a KFC restaurant. I also like the idea of Tims staying in Canada. It’s confusing to have a smell and flavour associated with Ontario elbowing its way into New York.
Verdict: Coffee is the same good stuff, donuts are weak.

lise

Name: Lise
Years as an expat: 4
If I was a Timbit I would be a rainbow sprinkles Timbit because they don’t make rainbow sprinkles Timbits and I wish they did!
Worth a return visit? No way eh, cause I don’t like my donuts mixed with KFC and 34th street chaos.
Verdict: I miss the days when a Tim Hortons was simply a Tim Hortons. A place where moustached police would make pit stops and grannies would go for a cup o’ coffee. I also don’t like that on the coffee cup it states Tim Horton played for the New York Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres but not that he was in fact a Canadian who also played for the Toronto Maple Leafs! There’s no mention anywhere Tim Hortons is a Canadian institution and that makes me give it a big two thumbs down. Sorry Timmy, but you’ve sold your soul.

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Name: Natalie
Years as an expat: 2.5
If I was a Timbit I would be a honey cruller because they are the most delicious.
Worth a return visit? I indulge once or twice a year at most. My snacking needs lean more towards french pastries and full fat cheeses.
Verdict: Here’s a sweet “Tim Bit” from Wikipedia: “In 2003, the Dunkin’ Donuts chain of doughnut shops stopped carrying traditional crullers claiming that the hand-shaped treats were too labor intensive and couldn’t be simulated with new machines for mixing doughnut batter.” LAZZZZZY! Clearly Tim’s goes the extra mile.

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Name: Naomi
Years as an expat: 1
If I was a Timbit I would be a sour-cream glazed because it’s just right: not too sweet, not too soft.
Worth a return visit? Won’t be going out of my way.
Verdict: Right now all the differences stand out (see above), but I’m sure I’ll get back in the Timmy’s habit soon enough!