cait +tiff


2 Comments

C + T / The Lemon Tree

The-Lemon-Tree-HeaderPhillpe and Emeline met in Vanuatu a few years back. They were both working with NGOs and development agencies, dabbled in the private sector, and it was really only a matter of time before they made their way to Phnom Penh. They arrived just under three years ago, and we are so glad they did.

The initial goal was to create a place with homemade pasta, using local ingredients. Both have French backgrounds, and miss the food from home. They wanted to make a warm, friendly place for people to grab a healthy, and delicious, lunch, packaged in eco-friendly biodegradable containers. The Lemon Tree has a small, get menu, tacked high with French favorites, and as far as we can tell, they have blown past their initial goal.

Lemon-Tree-Menu,-Philippe-and-Emeline

The restaurant has only opened it’s doors recently, but we were lucky to use the space for our photo shoot a few months ago and check out the operation, and now we come back regularly. They are doing well, but not without a bit of a struggle from the neighborhood. Apparently, to some people, “quiet cafe that closes at 10pm” is the same as “all night sexy rave parties drugs and music and fornication and sin.” They are back on track now after managing some particularly feisty neighbors.

These two really care about their food, bringing in locally cured meats, organic fruit and veg, and importing all of their (delicious) dairy products from small vendors. They care immensely about the quality of the food and the atmosphere where it is eaten. They wax poetic about the complexities involved in making a quiche or the labor of love that goes into a duck confit or cassoulet.

The neighborhood community is supportive and encouraging of new businesses and new kids on the block. (The people, not the band; no one is encouraging of that.) The 308 Alley community is hip and delicious, making great company for this sweet little spot. The friendly crew down the road at Chez Flo often sends happy hour patrons to the Lemon Tree for dinner, and the love is sent right back.

Lemon-Tree---Food-Grid

Bar-and-Bloody-Kiki

The front garden of the traditional wooden house (that serves as both their home and the restaurant) is scattered with tables and chairs and plants and jungle bits right in the middle of town. A majority of the furniture in the place is from a local artist who works with reclaimed wood. The Lemon Tree is located on 308, just down the road from Mama Wongs and Chez Flo, and they put in a lot of hours to make the place look and feel as cozy as it is. After striking out with a few contractors, they enlisted the help of their visiting guests and went to work to create a beautiful and unique space. Five months later, things are running smoothly.

Though both have a vested interest in development and have worked in the field, the restaurant is not a training cafe, like many are in town. This is a place that works hard to employ good people and help develop their skills, and it is not charity. The restaurant brings in a variety of customers including the expat community that huddles around 308, but also the burgeoning community of young local professionals. During our interview, they mentioned more than once how impressed they were with their local staff and how have been lucky to have a great team full of young Cambodians, eager to learn and share knowledge.

And now, very important facts.

Restaurant family favorites: Duck confit and the quiche

Most popular menu items: La Plancha, Flammkuche, and a goat cheese and bacon salad.

Things to come: The team will be taking on brunch, bringing in new pasta recipes and trying their hand at falafel. Emeline will also be bringing some favourites from her mother’s home of the Reunion Islands.  Can’t wait.05---In-the-Kitchen

The Lemon Tree is located at #8b, Street 308 in Phnom Penh Cambodia. Look for the twinkle lights as you pass street 21. 


Photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.


8 Comments

C + T/ jen green, coffee yoda

Last week, we were lucky enough to sit down with Jen Green, Phnom Penh’s resident coffee consultant. Over a few cappuccinos and a double espresso, we picked her brain on her very cool life and all things coffee. Hope you enjoy! 



KO8wDTCOYoa15az2M_W3Jv_xJlVSYjCQ966IP68cJhs

Like a lot of people in this part of the world, Jen Green has had an interesting journey to Phnom Penh. Unlike most people here, Jen’s journey involves a little black drink. She’s a coffee consultant and knows more about coffee, coffee trade, coffee flavors, coffee production, and coffee value chains than Cait knows about Tommy BoyInitially driven by law and an interest in energy trading, Jen started work with a big law firm right out of college, living in New York and then London. A few years down the line, she decided to take a brief sabbatical and travel for a few months.

How long have you been here?

Three and a half years.

fqK4r3pvrnOexHUtjBTZjhheraKGR33RIlfBl3EWJfY

Left, Jen Green

 

After working with a local human rights group in Phnom Penh, Jen took a trip through Mondulkiri, in the northern edges of Cambodia. On the way, she stopped to talk with a coffee farmer and asked where his coffee was sold. He didn’t know.

 “It occurred to me that this was a common problem: people don’t have a sense of the whole supply chain or what’s marketable, of course that means that the value adds happen further down the supply chain and away from the farms.” 

This began her adventure into the coffee world. Her work has taken her all over, and to all the highest corners of South East Asia. She works as a coffee consultant, which (we now know) means she does everything from working with farmers on how they can improve the quality of the coffee at the farm, to working to develop coffee co-ops, to working with cafes and roasters on sourcing beans, to setting up a barista station work flow and training baristas. Her blog, Little Black Drink, is beautiful, full of coffee flavor profiles and a clear, deep appreciation for a delicious little bean.

RKkfdDoDqwm3gI_Rb9NaoKsim3751Zr-uiZrX53JSYg

If you live in Phnom Penh, you are going to want to read this part. Jen is the mastermind behind the Disappearing Brew Bar . The Brew Bar is a pop up that, um, pops up, every few months. She collaborates with local business owners to use shop or restaurant space to host a brunch with a 3-5 different types of specialty coffees, and options from the SE Asia region. There are always delicious pastries and snacks, but if you hit the Brew Bar on the right day, there are sometimes coffee cocktails. The treats are made by Jen, fresh that day, and though she didn’t mention it in the interview, we know she wakes up at 2am on the day of the Brew Bar so she can make sure the bagel dough rises in the right way, and the chocolate-cayenne dipped bacon is perfectly crispy. (We forgot to mention that her mom is a chef, and we are thrilled those genes are strong.) The food is paired with the coffees and meant to bring out certain flavors in the drink. It’s a wonderful way to wake up on a lazy weekend, and you can find out more about them here!

IHisIwNbb0PLRr1Z8-m1UwV5MdR01dAMiadvUQE4RqY

The next event is this Saturday, at Common Tiger, and you should go and ask her 345429 questions about coffee, because she will know all the answers. In all honesty, she really does know more about coffee than you could believe, but without an ounce of snob in her body. She is able to look at coffee that some might call “garbage meth drink” and simply see it as a different product. She has a deep appreciation for the flavors in different types of coffee, and for the people that grow it. She has more stories than we can fit into a post, but she did tell us one, about an adventure to Chaing Mai. On a trip to a coffee farm, she was able to roast the beans from 20 feet away and make a cup of coffee for the farmer that grew it, which he had never tasted. Go ask her for the details.

UbsFpZajEYMoHgZ4x5mnpOhJzq0PC1OTFGzNrxBkkVM

uO5_ig69-cZ6SiV7xxQ33gjZVOkjWJxtj7aoivlN7kM

idJSdu1JRS4Q2LxWhADwYgGZNziCxUJElJhlMLM75M0

Seriously. Go to the Brew Bar this weekend, if we were in country we would be there and would totally be hogging the donuts, so get in there while you can. Thank you Jen, for letting us pile on the questions, and for making something awesome and delicious in Phnom Penh.

All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.

All noises caused by the photos by Tiffany Tsang are made by Caitlin Decker.


Leave a comment

C + T / oh the places we go

We are four days into our Spring Break/Khmer New Year/Lazy week, and today we’re doing round up (brag post) of all our travel posts. It’s so much fun to go back through these posts and look at our memories and the fun things we did, and ate. Living in this part of the world gives us access to some of the prettiest beaches, biggest temples and best street food in the world. We try to take advantage of that as much as we can, and appreciate how spoiled we are by our surroundings.

It’s been a nice eight months. Enjoy!


September 11th- Kep Two Ways

img_5289

September 30th-Goa, India

img_5425

October 2nd- Sushi Yasuda in New York

sushi-grid3

October 30th- Malaysia Eat and Drink

mews2

November 4th- 36 Spare Hours in Dar-es-Salam

batik-and-kitenge

November 6th-Fewer than 24 hours in Venice

dorsoduro

November 11th-Chaing Mai

img_6168

November 14th- Sailing in the Andaman

img_6318

January 29th- A Weekend Jaunt to Kampot

villa-vedici

February 3rd-Nagar Glass Factory in Yangon

glass-21

February 12th- Cambodian Mountain Getaway

sunset

March 25th-Kep Weekend

kep-seafood-trio

April 10th- Inle Lake

balance1

…aaaaand we are lucky to have TWO amazing post from friends this week.

April 14th- The Minimal Things Jen Brings

Jen's-gear-and-what-she-does-with-it

and of course, Yesterday’s Minneapolis Love

Photo Credit: Alissa Pries

Photo Credit: Alissa Pries

After putting this together, I want to plan another trip. Is it bad to plan a vacation, while on vacation?
xo, us

 


Leave a comment

C + T / Bearhanded Salon

Header2Looking for a great way to spend a Sunday morning? Take five friends to your favorite salon, drink sparkling wine, get your hair did, your nails and waxing done, then eat chocolate and pastries for three hours. How do we have this insider knowledge, you ask? Because that is exactly what we did on Sunday.01---Croissants-and-HotCrossbuns11---Product-Grid 02---Hair-Colour-Grid

Around 10am, Alissa, Kiira, Caroline, and the two of us took a field trip to Bearhanded Salon, located in The Willow Hotel. Vaughan, the owner and resident hair yoda, has just opened a new, expanded salon. The space has areas for hair, waxing, and nails, along with a sweet little lounge outside and comfy couch in the waiting area. Most of the furniture was done by our friends at Alchemy Design, who you may remember from our post a few months ago. All of the work was custom, and it looks fantastic.

Vaughan has reigned in some of the best talent in Phnom Penh to work alongside him, including Kim Leang, every woman’s favorite waxer. 13---Kim-Leang05---Tiff-Hair-Grid07---Nail-Polish-and-Sparkling-Wine08---Cait-on-Couch

10---Alissa-GridVaughan is from South Africa, and has been doing hair for 13 years. The experience shows. He has a solid grasp on all types of hair, and it’s really nice to go into a place, sit down in the chair and say “make me Taylor Swift” or “do what you do” and like what happens. Also, don’t get us started on the head massage. It’s worth going for that part alone.14---Final-Hair

Ladies-and-Vaughan2-editThank you, Vaughan, for letting us take over your salon and for inspiring us to name our haircuts. From left to right Alissa: The Sexy Swiftie, Kiira: La Sophia Rubia, Vaughan: This is My Hat, Cait: Bang Bang, Tiff: Uptown Tiff.

Bearhanded Salon
#1, Street 21 (Inside The Willow Hotel)
Phnom Penh
093 700 431 (Vaughan)
012 886 587 (Kim)


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.


2 Comments

C + T / Kep Weekend

Kep-HeaderOne of the most important things about living in Phnom Penh is leaving it. Seeing the Cambodian countryside is so different than experiencing life in the city. Everything is quiet, save for a rogue rooster or two, and by the time you get down to the coast, the smog and trash and millions of motos feel very far away. The road to Kep is vibrant and things just smell better outside the city.

Endless games and entertainment from these guys.

Endless games and entertainment from these guys.

We basically didn't leave the pool.  How could you with that view?

We basically didn’t leave the pool. How could you with that view?

Kep-Pool-Calm-Jump

Kep-Seafood-Trio

Unlimited bounties of the sea: crab soup, pan fried fish with awesome salsa, prawns atop a mango salad, and the resulting graveyard.

We went down last Friday with about 20 friends. The group was split between Villa Romonea, Kimly Lodge and Knai Bang Chatt. It was a weekend to celebrate a 30th birthday, a successful 3 months of logistical aid work in Liberia (and staying ebola-free), and just getting the hell out of Dodge. It’s officially hot season here and though our late morning hike was ill-timed, most everything else was wonderful. The food was amazing and crab was abundant, as were pool floaties, massages and Beer Lao. There were babies and old friends and new friends and board games.

Seriously. What are you still doing in the snow?Berto-Jump


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.

For details on our Kep trip, check out this post!

 


3 Comments

T / Cambodian Mountain Getaway

headerPine cones exist in Cambodia.  Yes, there are indeed conifers only 11 degrees north of the equator.  As well as temperatures that go so low that you might want to wear a toque.  Basically, the little things that would make happy any Canuck that finds themselves in tropical climes.

And it’s only 91km away from Phnom Penh.

main-buildingSo seeking a little solace and calm outside this busy bee of a city, my man and I hopped on his black 1100cc cruiser and headed out and up to get a breath of fresh air.  With the new developments happening on the mountain (read more about that here), we decided to plant our tired butts down at scenic Kirirom Mountain Lodge; Alexis de Sureiman’s newest among his family of boutique hotels that he’s developed from colonial buildings in Cambodia, saving them from destruction.

After paying the 5 USD entrance fee to Kirirom National Park and riding about 20km up the mountain, we found ourselves facing a massive sign that would lead us up a bumpy road to the lodge.  We parked our bike at what seemed like the top of a cliff and were greeted by freshly white washed villas built in the style of New Khmer Architecture.  The loud grumbles of our bike also alerted the lodge’s general manager, Rhelimi Bouchaib, down to bound down the property’s staircase with big smile and hippie sensibilities.

roomwoodOur room (superior double, 65 USD), a simple, but well designed space, was both bright and warm with a modern (albeit tiny) bathroom and adjoining outdoor deck.  The very accommodating Bouchaib informed us the electricity would only be available from 6pm-9pm, but if we would like a hot shower after our long bike ride, he’d happily turn the generator on for us.  That said, we knew we wouldn’t be spending very much time in the room.  It’s not exactly that kind of lodge.

upstairs-rooftopAfter a light Mediterreanean meal cooked by Bouchaib himself and eaten outdoors facing a wide valley of pines, we parked ourselves on the main building’s rooftop veranda and whiled away the afternoon reading, enjoying the perfectly crisp 20°C.

And the silence.  Only the birds chirping and other sounds that nature is said to make.  The sound of air moving through trees.  I don’t think I’ve heard anything with the background of construction or traffic in the past few months.  This may have been the most shocking revelation and luxury.  The sunset over the Cardamom Mountains weren’t bad either.

sunsetSo if you are looking for a quiet getaway that’s not too far from the city, Kirirom Mountain Lodge is your deal.  I would pretty much give anything to be back up there with the moderate temps, fresh air and abundant silence.  You could choose the slightly lazier path we took of reading while sprawled on the comfy cushions of the lodge’s rooftop.  Or if outdoor activity is your thing, hiking paths surround the property, which also has a collection of quality mountain bikes for rent (10 USD/hour).

To get to Kirirom National Park, located in Kampong Speu province, drive down National Road 4, towards Sihanoukville and look for the appropriate signs about 87km outside of Phnom Penh.


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.

 

 

 


4 Comments

T / a weekend jaunt to kampot

As I may have mentioned before, we are spoiled by weekend getaways living in Cambodia.  With the sea and the mountains only two or three hours away, who could resist?  So a gaggle of us girls (including one of my favourite photogs) gathered our bikinis together, as well as 10 bottles of wine for a weekend free of responsibility, full of amazing live music (it can be sparse over here), great food and paddleboarding to while away all of our work related stresses.  It was fabulous.  I highly encourage repeat doses.

So on Friday night, we piled into a van waiting to whisk us off 150km away to Kampot, the little river town that continues to ooze more charm every year.  Having nursed some nice wine on the way down, we dropped off our luggage and the bestest canine travel companion at the equally charming Dutch-owned Village Vedici.  We immediately got down to business and headed over the river to see visiting Toronto band, The Digs play with favourite Phnom Penh soul singer, Rhiannon Johnson.  And oh my gosh, they were amazing.  Playing on a rickety deck at Bodhi Villa, this band was oh so tight.  There was a heck ton of dancing with some of the best people we know in Phnom Penh.  A smidge of paranoia about jumping on said rickety wooden deck floor while the Digs’ cover of Satisfaction was flooding the soundwaves. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the week.

villa-vediciOur Saturday was as blissful as Friday night was boisterous in fun.  Lounging around the Villa Vedici pool set perfectly in front of the Bokor Mountains, nursing sore muscles from a night of dancing.  Mango shakes. A tuk tuk ride into town set us in front of the next place that would complete our weekend: Café Espresso.  I can’t divulge too much because we’re intending to feature them in a future post, but holy cow, dare I say best brunch in Cambodia?  Phnom Penh restos have a lot to learn from Angus, his wife and their beautiful baby Matilda.  All I can say is that we are still dreaming about that meal we had there.  And I’m insanely happy to have brought home some super aromatic, buttery, heart fluttering single source Thai Arabica beans that they serve there.cafe-espresso

lunchThat meal, the espressos, the Kampot Salted Caramel milkshake prepared us for the next part of our weekend of bliss.  We headed a couple of kilmeters down the Kampot river to SUPAsia.  That’s stand-up paddleboarding for all of you waiting to be converted.  Colorado-native Anne has been running SUPAsia in Cambodia for the past two years, offering paddleboarding tours not only in Kampot, but down big chunks of the Mekong to boot.  We did a happy 2.5 hour little tour through the little canals of the Kampot river, through the Green Cathedral and into the sun setting over the mountains with Anne as our guide.  And as the resident paddle boarder in our group, I was the only one to have fallen in.  In any case, I loved this so much, I’m already planning to go back next month.

paddleboards paddleboarding-gridOur blissfully packed Saturday ended with yet another tight as Rocky’s buns performance by the Digs and Rhiannon right at our doorsteps at Villa Vedici.  The day couldn’t have ended better.  More ecstatic dancing ensued.  I may have gotten tired of drinking wine as we concluded our eighth bottle of the weekend.  Bodies were very sore the next morning.

the-digs-and-rhiannonWe eschewed plans of jogging and cycling back to Café Espresso (what were we thinking?), and hopped into a tuk tuk for the last time we would have the best brunch in Cambodia (pancakes to die for).  Well at least not until next month when we return.

brunchAnd with one more dip into Hans’ pool at Villa Vedici, farewells to people we’d see the next day at the gym, we headed back to Phnom Penh, committed to making a monthly return to the dosage of calm that Kampot has to offer.  If you’re in Cambodia, I highly recommend.  If you’re not in Cambodia, you should move here now.

wall-mural

Details:

Kampot is approximately 2.5-3 hours, 150km from Phnom Penh.  Buses are available through Giant Ibis from Phnom Penh.  For more flexibility, taxis and minibuses  can also be hired for 85 USD and 170 USD round trip.

Rooms at Villa Vedici range from 30-45 USD and face the river.  Bungalows to accommodate larger groups can also be rented.

If you’re in Toronto, I highly recommend stopping by the Drake on Thursday nights to catch the Digs live!

Rhiannon Johnson and her band can be caught singing the best soul and jazz in Phnom Penh at the Doors among other locations.  Keep updated on her schedule!


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.

 


5 Comments

T / Kep…2 ways

the the sea - headerThere’s this place in Cambodia.  It’s just oh so special (enough for the New York Times).  And for many of us long-time Phnom Penh-ers, it’s become that second or third home to run away to when the smog and the traffic of this emerging economy gets too much.  So on any given weekend, you can count on seeing familiar faces there.  The best thing about Kep, a tiny coastal town on the southern tip of Cambodia, is that you can make it into whatever you want it to be.  And in the past month, I was beyond the luckiest chick to be able to have it in two spectacular ways.

Kep 1.0 – Party Kep

About a month ago, our friend and Captain of Logistics, Lucinda, organized a big group of us to descend upon Kep in celebration of her husband’s birthday and as a last bang before the goodbyes for our pal Leah and her amazeballs fam. That big group of us wound up being comprised of 18 adults, one toddler, four bodacious babes and two adorable dog friends, and it was probably one of the best weekends ever.

IMG_5823Our big convoy set up camp at the Villa Romonea, a hidden gem of a Kep villa that you can rent out in its entirety to 12 adults and their collection of bubs and animals (you may also reserve individual rooms at the villa if it is free). Our other friends stayed at the nearby Kimly Lodge, just a stone’s throw away from us.  Stephane, the manager of the Villa Romonea property that was built in 1968 in the style of nouveau Khmer architecture, treated us like we were staying at a friend’s home and everything was taken care of for us; from getting Kep’s famous crabs onto the table for al frescco lunches and dinners, to making sure our poolside soundtrack had the appropriate speakers. Those monsoon clouds even parted for us.

IMG_5708And what did we get up to?  Each morning, we woke up to a big spread of breakfast in the kitchen.  And after that? Well, I spent the entire weekend barefoot and in the pool, with its infinite flow into the rice paddies below.

IMG_5723Some peeps went for jogs by the sea, hikes in the national park. Others went to the sea in Hobie cats you can rent from the Sailing Club next door.

kep lunchWe had open air seaside massages that Stephane arranged for us.  There were big family style meals with the best seafood the region has to offer (the coconut curry crab is to die for).  And of course – jugfuls of Cait’s homemade Bloody Mary. Simply the best.  And come on.  Look at that view.

We stayed up to the wee hours after the bubs had gone to bed, under the stars, talking about nonsense and how we would fare when the zombie apocalypse came. Jamieson on the rocks for night caps. No afternoon naps were to be had because we were just having so much gosh darn fun, so we tumbled into bed for the deepest slumber.

Kep 2.0 – Sensual and Stormy…

And on the other hand, Kep can be for renewal, and boy did I need it.  So after finishing up two weeks full of very intense, sigh-inducing, massage-needing work, my man and I ran off to get taken care of for a little bit.

IMG_5290And geez, were we taken care of. Regardless of the monsoon conditions that made its expected return.  We were lucky enough that Knai Bang Chatt (from here on known affectionately as KBC), one of Cait’s faves in Kep, was having a super awesome 2 nights for the price of 1 deal (deal ends on Oct 31!).  And so, as KBC virgins, we jumped on that deal in a big way and wound up in the stunning Seaview Room (#4) with the perfect view of the ocean, a veranda to watch the sun set from and the finishing touch: complementary bed time snacks!

IMG_5289To boot, we were housed in original buildings that were also built during the 1960s in the style of nouveau Khmer architecture that was all the rage.bed and foodTheir in-house restaurant, The Strand, comes with a French chef who does the most sumptuous meals. The perfect little date night. Stinky cheeses included.

Hyperlapse is the best thing ever.

And the best place to watch the storm sea from. While the rains eventually did come in with their monsoon season fury, we found shelter in their lush little library, and watched the surge blow through while digging into long awaited books.

KBC breakfastI also had a thing for their breakfast time (seriously – look at how they plated that muesli)…which you could also have in front of the sea.

So that was Kep.  Only 3 hours away from Phnom Penh, and it comes in any way you want.

Either way, everyone gets crabs (the right kind).

tiffsig