The second leg of my trip was a week in Taiwan. We took a small excursion with my girlfriend's family to a spot called Lavendar Cottage. There are a few of these dotted around Taiwan it's like a chain of flower gardens. You can rent a room in one of their cottages there on site although spending half a day walking around you pretty much see everything. As the name implies there are huge fields of lavender as well as a lot of other neat flowers and animal life. The park was stared by two sisters that wanted to grow spices and herbs and create a beautiful place for people to visit. (that's about as much as I was able to determine about the background of the place) The shops are full of soaps and fragrances made with herbs and flowers grown from the park/garden.
I'll reserve the flowers for my non food blog but I had to post this picture of this giant snail that we ran across, I dropped my lens cap next to it so you have a sense of scale, it was roughly the size of my fist. Despite it being a snail I still had an irrational fear of it leaping at my hand as I put the lens cap down. The park was full of such wonders. They had butterflies larger than I've ever seen and I even found a chrysalis waiting to pop open and reveal a new butterfly. It's a pretty amazing place. If you ever make you're way to Taiwan it's worth a day trip to check it out. The one in Taichung is the original Lavendar Cottage.
So the park also had a restaurant in it. It seemed pretty popular. The menu selection was pretty small but that just meant they could focus on producing really good food. We ordered an assortment of entrees and split them up so everyone got a taste of everything. Every meal came with fresh baked bread and a tomato cabbage soup. The bread came with a pesto mayo dipping sauce. (sorry I didn't get a picture). The soup reminded me of a minestrone soup without the pasta or beans.
Along with soup there was a nice salad with a light vinaigrette. The salad was more like a crudites bowl, with large chunks of fresh vegetables very light on the lettuce. The whole meal was like the salad, fresh and light.
Bbq pork ribs. The dipping sauce was a traditional American style bbq sauce and a citrus/yuzu sweet and sour sauce, which actually tasted better with the ribs. The citrus flavor was a nice complement to the spice rub they used on the ribs. Each of the entrees basically came with the same sides so I'll just describe them spread over each of the dishes. First, along with the steamed broccoli you have a baked potato skin covered with roasted snap peas and shredded lettuce (red and iceberg)
Next is a stuff chicken breast with pine nuts and mushrooms. The chicken was very tender and delicious, the stuffing was perfect, giving a nice bit of texture from the pine nuts and great flavor from the golden straw mushrooms. The village leading up to the lavender cottage is known for it's mushroom production (all sorts of mushrooms), all of the shops lining the road had huge bags of dried mushrooms and we'd drive by huge structures covered by black cloth where the grow the mushrooms. Apparently it's cool enough in the mountain region that a covered building is sufficient for mushroom farming. I'm still doing a big more research to understand mushrooms, apparently there's a lot to them.
Finally a lavender herbed chicken served with roasted garlic and a breaded boiled egg. Obviously with a name like Lavender Cottage everything had a bit of lavender in it (even the water they served which turned out pretty tasty). The chicken was very moist and the meat was pull off the bone tender. Each of the dishes included the blue mashed potato, which I guess is suppose to be lavendar in color. Either way it tasted more like a sweet potato so i'm not sure if they had some sort of purple varietal or if they simply colored it for presentation sake. It definitely did not taste like purple colored mashed potatoes. The egg was interesting, I don't think i've ever had a fried hard boiled egg.
Overall, I really like the presentation of each of the dishes, it had a rustic simple feel. The restaurant itself was open air, we sait in large gazebos surrounded by beautiful flowers and birds.