Well They Sure Earned That…

For all the times we’ve visited the Burdock bottle shop, we’d never been to the accompanying restaurant. I’d bought bread from the bottle shop before- but never a full sit-down meal. Well, now we had a reason to. Burdock had been voted best brewpub and I was itching for some patio time. It was mid-August and I had yet to enjoy any patios.

Going in, I had assumed it would be an alright meal, didn’t really have high expectations. We got a spot on the patio, sharing a communal table. Somehow we got the middle seats. To start we split a spelt pretzel with honey mustard butter. I thought I knew what to expect, I’d gotten pretzels from the bottle shop before. Man was I wrong. It was served warm and the honey mustard butter was so damn good. I’ve never eaten so much butter in my life and been so happy. Something so simple was so magical. Up next we split the red onion pakora. I had no idea what to expect, this was Brent’s choice. When the dish was placed in front of us I kind of just stared at it. Dark brown deep-fried and battered balls of… red onion and some other stuff? Turns out pakora is really good. It had corn and red onion and something like corn meal? And a seasoned mayo-sauce for dipping. I was all for this.

For our mains, Brent had the piri-piri chicken skewers and I went with the pork shoulder tacos. The reasoning being that I could make piri-piri chicken at home. It wasn’t that good, it was way too reliant on the sauce and the chicken was a bit chewy. The tacos were amazing, topped with red cabbage and sprinkled with little crispy bits of chips.

I had lucked out that Burdock was also serving Revel cider. On the website they had listed Time & Place, which I had just tried at Honest Weight but when we got there it had been changed. Now they were serving the Riesling Piquette. I was tempted by two other offerings until I saw that they were 750ml bottles- the very same ones I had planned on ordering directly from Revel later in the week. Pass!

Overall Burdock far outshone our expectations and was delightful. The spelt pretzel could easily be a regular thing if I can get it to go? Please?

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Posted by on August 18, 2019 in Fooding


Heeeeere Fishie, Fishie, Fish

Heeeeere Fishie, Fishie, Fish

We skipped over #13 on the Toronto Life Top 100 and went to #14 due to scheduling conflicts. To celebrate my birthday we walked to Honest Weight in the Junction. This had been a long day of walking for me (in total I was just shy of 14km). At some point there was a creepy guy walking at the same pace as us, just a few steps behind and shuffling his feet. Eventually he walked ahead of us, crossed over to the other side of Dupont… and then crossed right back. We ducked into a gas station and bought a soda to lose the guy. Later on we saw him across the street walking back in the opposite direction. What a weird guy.

Honest Weight was unlike other restaurants we had been to in the past. It was part fish market. They had a dinner option on the menu where you pick a fresh fish they have available, and then they cook it for you. The only way it could have been fresher would be if the fish was still alive. We sat at a small bar table at the end of the display case and tried to identify all the fish on display. They had a Revel cider I had never tried before, something about a farm and/or time. Who can say. It was tart and delicious.

To start we split a fish plate because it had gravlax as one of the fish. Whyfor the interest in something that sounds like a stomach remedy? It was in Brent’s 1001 Foods book. It sounded delicious: raw salmon cured in salt and sugar with dill, it sounded dill-ightful.* The fish plate also had smoked salmon, a trout schmear, marinated mussels and a dill mayonnaise. It arrived on a fish shaped plate so already this was an A+ in my books. On the side we had thick slices of toast with lots of butter. Heaven. It was heaven. The schmear was first place, followed in a close second by the gravlax. I am normally not a fan of smoked salmon, but migawd was it good.

For my main I went with the pick-your-fish option and had the pickerel. It was from Lake Erie, and I’ve never seen pickerel offered on a menu before. It was fun trying to guess which one it was and eagerly waiting for someone to come and take my fish out of the display case and go prep it. Brent ordered the garlic butter shrimps, not realizing he would have to peel them. It was a buttery mess and when it was my turn to eat my half, I opted for hacking at it with fork and knife. The dish came with bread on the side to help sop up the mini-soup of citrus-y garlic butter beneath the shrimps. The smashed potatoes under the pickerel were amazing, the fish was so simple, just grilled but so damn good.

It was one of our top meals of the year.

*I liked it so much that I’ve since found a recipe and intend to make it at home (one day)

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Posted by on August 8, 2019 in 1001 Foods, Fooding


Eggs Eh?

Eggs Eh?

I am not a huge fan of breakfast sandwiches. I find they are usually too big and unruly and eggs, I am still kind of meh on eggs overall (except in cakes). But the sandwiches at Egg Bae looked pretty good. I definitely approved of the cheese. I was a bit confused as to what “soft scrambled” meant. Did that mean there would be egg yolk running with every bite?? We ordered one Egg Bae (could be argued it’s the original?) and one Bae Sic. I was not a fan of the second one, the pork belly sausage just wasn’t to my liking. My sandwich was alright. It was a sloppy mess and hard to eat. The bun was good, the cheese was good, the sauce (what little I had of it) was good. As far as an egg breakfast sandwich goes, it was decent. BUT I was not a huge fan of breakfast egg sandwiches to begin with. And Egg Bae did not sway me (unlike Porchetta & Co., which is an epic egg sandwich and still the best in the city in my opinion). The hash brown was also good, given I don’t like hash browns, I almost liked this one. It reminded me of a potato pancake but breaded. Honestly, I would rather have had a potato pancake.

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Posted by on August 8, 2019 in Fooding, Uncategorized


Baseball and Trees: Day 6

Baseball and Trees: Day 6

Sun. July 21, 2019:
San Francisco, California to Toronto:

Brent woke me up at 6:45am but I wanted 5 more minutes, it seems I was starting to adjust to the time difference. In the night it had looked like the TV was on, so I tried to turn it off, except then I actually turned it on and it was a scramble to turn it back off. Oops. I had packed up everything the night before to make life easier.

We went to Sears Fine Food diner for breakfast. Apparently, they are renowned for their mini Swedish pancakes and lingonberry jam (at least according to the menu and the 1001 Foods book). And of course, you can’t go wrong with sourdough French toast with house made strawberry preserves. The pancakes were tiny and not to thick, they were perfect. The French toast was too much, in the end I ate just shy of three of the four giant slices. They were thick. The mark of a good diner is that your coffee always gets refilled.

We walked to the BART stop that was the next one over from our usual station, it was equidistant and saved us a bit of time. Even still, we got to the station plenty early. When the train runs every 20 minutes, it really sucks to miss it. When we got to the airport, the line for security was so long. They opened up another line and I went for it. Brent and I had split at customs because I didn’t realize we could go up together. My line was way faster and I ended up having to wait.

Our gate was at the tail end of the terminal, down some stairs. Because there was another flight leaving at about the same time, the area was crammed and there were so many announcements. I volunteered to be the one to go get us food. The options were very limited: Napa Valley farm (sandwiches and pizza) or Vietnamese food. The Napa stored turned out to be a gem. The sandwiches were on bread from the same bakery that Chez Panisse uses. I had the Cuban pork, Brent had the chicken BLT. It was a long time before I got back though. While in line I spotted a drinks cooler and was intrigued. Sandwiches need soda. Once I got there, I hit the jackpot: artisanal sodas with new bottle caps and cans of beer! Pretty sure that won me wife of the year. The orange cream soda tasted more like a creamsicle (the raspberry ginger ale I am saving for mixing). I also stopped in at Duty Free and got some 50% vodka for home-liqueur-making and two small bottles of gin from Isle of Islay. I couldn’t find anything for a souvenir for work people, as I could get Ghirardelli chocolates at home.

Genius that I am, I had gotten mesquite-flavoured kettle chips for snacking on the plane. I also misplaced my gum so i desperately ate Oreos with the hopes that my ears wouldn’t pop. We were all the way at the back of the plane this time. I watched Crazy Rich Asians and then we watched the first five episodes of season 5 of Broad City.

All in all, a great trip.

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Posted by on July 27, 2019 in 1001 Foods, Fooding, Travel


Baseball and Trees: Day 5

Baseball and Trees: Day 5

Sat. July 20, 2019:

San Francisco to Oakland to Yountville, California:

I was rudely awoken due to poor design. The bathroom door was all frosted glass. So, when Brent went in there and turned on the light, it lit up the room. Who designs something like that?! I thought surely it was the middle of the night, nope, it was almost time to wake up. I was so comfy in my cocoon in bed though. Thankfully I still had an iced coffee left so I didn’t have to wrestle with the capsule coffee machine. In my tiredness i had forgotten to shave my legs the night before and there was no way I was going out like that. Not in my fancy clothes. We looked like we were going to a wedding. When we exited the BART station near Cait & John’s house a lady remarked that we were going to church. As we were walking, John pulled up and gave us a ride halfway through the short walk (he had gone out for supplies).  We had mimosas before heading out to Napa Valley. Lunch was at The French Laundry in Yountville. Our Uber driver was clearly a first-timer, she was very unsure of herself. It didn’t help that her minivan was kind of on the crappy side. It was stressful when we hit traffic.

Walking past the parking lot of The French Laundry I noticed some people standing around. One was in chef’s whites and I immediately was like OMG that is Thomas Keller. Brent and John took to searching Google Images to confirm. But by that point the man had turned and we couldn’t see his face. The restaurant was in a beautiful house on the corner of the main street. It was surrounded by beautiful greenery.

We were seated in a small alcove, with a window behind us into the wine cellar and an exposed stone wall. There were only two other smaller tables there so it was a nice intimate setting. Before getting started we asked about the bathrooms. Instead of napkin rings, they used clothes pins with The French Laundry branding (we all kept them at the end). The server led John and I, they were actually outside through the courtyard in a smaller building. On the way, Thomas Keller passed us by, smiled and asked how we were doing. My heart was racing and I mouthed OMG to John and the server, she smiled and confirmed that yes, that was Keller. I couldn’t believe it.

The wine list was on an iPad and it was extensive (over 100 pages). We looked at the list by glasses and when I tried to go back to the main menu, I saw that they had a beer list. What luck! They had Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus! Brent and I were both keenly aware that a sour raspberry beer would not pair well at all, we did not care. It was Cantillon! John also ordered a half bottle of Frog’s Leap chardonnay for the table and Cait had a glass of riesling. We all shared sips. The table looked hilarious, we had so many glasses spread out before us.  When Brent tried to order the beer, the server took a second, like what? Beer? And then they brought us Cantillon Gueze- the wrong one-  and for the first time ever, we actually had to send it back. It was a Cantillnon but still, the rose one is just so damn good.

Cait had the vegetarian menu, which worked out well for Brent and I as we got to steal bites and sample more options.  Looking at the chef’s tasting menu I was worried, I didn’t see the salmon cone. It was the thing I was most excited for! No sooner had I started worrying, the server came by with a tray with the salmon cornetts. It was easily one of the best things I have ever eaten. Salmon and cream cheese and everything bagel spice. Every bite was heaven. We were off to a very good start. None of us ordered any of the supplementary menu items. The Wagyu beef was from somewhere in America- not worth it. The starter had caviar in it, so it was not worth it to upgrade to a different caviar (especially given I doubt I would notice the difference). The oysters and caviar dish was so good, plus it was fun to eat with the mother-of-pearl spoon. The server later told us it is a material that doesn’t react with the caviar (otherwise the taste would get tainted). The pot roast was unbelievable, it had the consistency of steak but tasted like cured ham. It was amazing and we relished every bite. I was not a fan of the beets on the side. Beets always taste like dirt to me. I did eat a carrot earlier in the meal and enjoy it, so the problem with the beets owed to them just being a terrible excuse for a food. The cheese dish was a bit too heavy and no matter how you slice it, I am not a fan of goat cheese.

Our server said that the dessert was like a second mini-tasting menu. We laughed. She said, no seriously. John ordered tea and when the server started telling him about his options and how everything is grown in the garden, I jumped on board and also got tea. He had the lemon verbena, I had the ginger geranium. She was such a fan of the chocolate mint that she brought that one as well. It looked really pretty, the full leaves floating in the clear glass teapots. The mint was better than the ginger but the best one was by far the lemon verbena. She wasn’t kidding about dessert. It was a massive spread: jelly roll cake, mini doughnuts with accompanying cappuccino mousse for dunking, salted caramel macarons, matcha chews, whoopie pies (which were really more like chocolate covered s’mores), sorbet with a cookie and honey from the garden apiary, and a chocolate covered macadamia nut. Just when we thought we were done: they brought out a wooden box and we each got to select a truffle. When they brought the bill (printed on a large laundry tag) they also brought us each a tin of shortbread cookies. The bill had been brought back while I was in the bathroom and apparently in that time they had offered us a kitchen tour. I knew this was a possibility but i thought you had to request it, I didn’t expect it to be offered. Maybe it was because of my excitement earlier at having seen Keller? Who can say? It was a definite highlight of the day, getting to see the working kitchen. The chef was busy with paperwork. Just as busy was the kitchen at Per Se in New York City, there was a live feed via cameras between the two restaurants. We snapped a quick group photo in the kitchen and then headed out. Back in the front of the restaurant we were given copies of the menu and a booklet about the restaurant. She said we could tour the garden across the street- and pick and eat anything we wanted!! I was over the moon at this point. We took a few pictures outside with the sign and headed over. It was really cool to see where the ingredients for our meal had been sourced from. The strawberries were delicious. The apiaries were very busy. It was easily the best dining experience of my life and it was perfectly timed. It lasted four hours but not once did it feel like it dragged on. They timed the courses so well, with a long break before the main and another short break before dessert. There was never a moment of it dragging on, i had lost all concept of time. I remember the first time I looked at my phone, actually being shocked at the time.

We walked the main stretch of Yountville. Passing by Keller’s bakery, the line was out the door and so long. His bistro restaurant was also packed. We had a 4pm reservation at the Stewart tasting room. The way the street was set up was that all the nearby wineries had storefronts where you could enjoy wine tastings without having to trek the distances between the farms. Alas, it meant I only got to see one set of vines that were probably just for show. Brent had the more varied flight and I stole sips. I ordered a glass of Russian River Pinot Noir because it reminded me of Pliny the Elder (the brewery is called Russian River). I was getting tired and my feet were starting to ache. A whole day in heels is tough and I had blisters. We were all tired, John fell asleep on the car ride back.

We decided to hang out a bit more and open the bottle of wine we had gotten from the hotel. We took the drinks outside to the front lawn outside of their building, overlooking the water. We had a blanket and camp chairs and it was nice and relaxing. We didn’t plan it, but we happened to be out there during the dog walking hour. It was a lot of fun calling the dogs over and playing with them.

On the transit ride back, I realized I was actually getting hungry again. I did not think it was possible but there we were. We had just emerged from the BART station in San Francisco and I saw the McDonald’s sign. We split a quarter pounder with bacon and a buttermilk crispy chicken sandwich. It really hit the spot. That had to have been one of the crappiest McDonald’s we’d ever been to. No ordering kiosks, no promo banners. The menu was TV screens that kept changing over, so we couldn’t see what the promotional burgers were. I would have totally ordered the Taste of the World Spanish burger with bacon and some kind of cheese if I had known about it. I cracked open the ice cider and was disappointed to find out it was more of an apple juice wine. Not good. I also still had to pack and it was already 10:30pm.

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Posted by on July 27, 2019 in Fooding, Life's Goals, Travel


Baseball and Trees: Day 4

Baseball and Trees: Day 4

Fri. July 19, 2019:
Yosemite Valley to San Francisco, California:

It was a rough wakeup, not just because it wasn’t even 6am yet- I was also in the middle of a dream. I chugged the half bottle of iced coffee I had left over from yesterday. Caffeine was my friend. I had packed up everything the night before to make the morning easier. Breakfast was given to us in a cooler bag that we got to keep. But it was too early in the morning for me, all I wanted was more coffee. I made do with the black coffee they gave me to go. Towards the end it was too much for my stomach to take. The sun was already starting to come up so we didn’t have to worry about navigating the park in the dark. We stopped at a gas station to top up and i watched, half asleep, as some deer foraged in the dumpster.

There was no traffic on the way into the park, which was a good sign as we were headed for a very busy attraction: the road that runs through the valley. It was frustrating because the car ahead of us was slow, and rather than go off onto the shoulder to let us pass, they just kept on. It’s not like they didn’t know they could do that, even slower people ahead of them were doing it. We yelled and gestured to no avail.

We didn’t get to enjoy the (apparently) spectacular Tunnel View because the sun was right at the dip in the valley between the two mountains and it was blinding. We stopped in a parking lot to get some good views, I got mad at the terrible map. It was hard to figure out a route, it was so poorly designed. We got back in the car and continued on to the Yosemite Falls trailhead parking. We got the perfect spot off the side of the road. It was near the trailhead but far back enough that we could easily walk to lunch later. Plus it led us directly to the exit road we needed to take.

We hiked to Lower Yosemite Falls. Ok, no, we walked. It was not a hike. It was stunning to see from afar, the waterfall peeking out between the trees. It had been a short walk. We looked at the map, Upper Yosemite Falls trail was long. It said that the full loop was 6-8 hours. Apparently along the trail there was a nice lookout Columbia Point which was a more reasonable distance. Gatorade, soda, chocolate bars and Pop Tarts in tow, we set off. As we climbed, I kept stopping for all the beautiful views, but also to catch my breath.  I kept myself motivated: at Columbia Point I get a Pop Tart. That was the plan. As we kept climbing, the views of the valley would change ever so slightly. We thought we had gotten to the point, it sort of seemed like a point. We stopped, I sat down on a rock and ate my Pop Tart. Then some people passed us and we overheard their conversation. Not only were we not at Columbia Point, our pace was also much slower than Brent had initially thought (thanks to yours truly). On we hiked. I did not enjoy the sandy slopes, my calves were burning. By the time we reached the point my butt had joined the fray and was hurting. It was well worth the effort, the views were stunning. We could see the meadow down in the valley, we could see Half Dome and so many trees. On the way up we had seen a lizard and a woodpecker. I sat down on the rocks and tore into the Milky Way. The way back down was more stressful. I was unsure of my footing as I had to climb down the sand-covered stone steps (which were tiny in some places!). I inched my way down. Eventually we caught up to some people who were descending as we had approached Columbia Point. The lady pointed out Brent’s “We Want Beer” shirt and she was like YEAH! THIS GUY! I don’t know how she had so much energy. My legs and butt were really starting to ache now.

Back at the car I changed into my skirt and sandals and swapped out for a lighter purse. We were done hiking around 10:30am and still had time before our 12:30 lunch. While I repacked, I also ate some of the yogurt and granola- it was so damn good! We walked over to the Yosemite museum. It was cool to learn about the management side of the park and how they had to actually maintain the scenic views and make sure it’s not super overgrown. We also watched some of the wildlife camera highlights- given all we’d seen were squirrels, birds and lizards. They had photographs of Yosemite on display and from afar you could tell which one was by Ansel Adams, it was almost unfair to all the other photographers. I was expecting more of his work, maybe his camera, in the Ansel Adams Gallery. I was not expecting a glorified gift shop. I wanted to see his negatives and original prints! Maybe one of his outfits? We walked into the wilderness centre expecting to learn about local flora and fauna. I guess we still could have learned if we bought the little info identification cards. But no, it was an actual wilderness centre: they sold gear and permits and there were rangers.

Walking to Majestic Yosemite Lodge I, once again, regretted not putting on sunscreen. There was not nearly enough shade to protect me. The meadow was even more beautiful from ground level, with the mountains and the dip to the valley off in the distance. It was still kind of hard to fully enjoy it, with the sun still blazing and making it hard to photograph. At least it wasn’t nearly as blinding as it had been that morning. We were early for lunch but it wasn’t that busy so we got in. Lunch was a letdown at first. We split an order of deviled eggs, Brent had never had them before. The appetizers menu differed drastically from the mains, which were just burgers and sandwiches. I had the French onion soup. I was not impressed, and when it came time for dessert, I was honestly thinking id rather eat Oreos in the car. People around us had ordered cake and gotten massive slices, so we at least had to glance at the dessert menu to see what that was all about. Each person was shocked at the towering slice of layer cake. But when you looked at the menu, it was 2-3 times as many calories as the other offerings. No one should have been shocked. Brent suggested we get the lemon meringue pie. It was incredible, far and away the best dish we had. It stood in stark contrast to the rest of the lunch food. As if we had eaten at two completely different places. The thinking is that the dessert menu is part of the dinner fare, which is fancier (jackets required) and less cafeteria-quality.

It was a slow drive out of the park. We stopped to look at El Capitan and marvel that the guy climbed up it, seeing it in person is just nuts. It also hurt my neck to look up at it. I had left the Butterfinger in the car and it was a sad melted mess. I put it in the cooler bag in the hopes of reviving it, but the food in there was not faring much better. The cheese had melted and the meat was warm. The grapes were alright but a bit warm for my liking. The only winner of the hot car was the marshmallow Oreos. You could say they were out of this world.

We had just enough time- after dropping off the car and taking the (very slow) train to San Francisco- to check in to the hotel, do a quick change and head right back out the door. Oracle Park was just down the street from our hotel and we quickly got caught up in the crowd. Except they were so bad as pedestrians. No one was jaywalking! Once we got to the stadium, we were unsure where to go, there were people everywhere. We saw a lineup that went through metal detectors so we queued up. A lady came up behind us and asked if it was the line to get in. We said maybe, unsure. She laughed and asked someone else who said yes- she was like 80% sure. Then a guy came by and said it was the line to get into the merchandise store. We joined the huge crowd slowly making its way inside by the main entrance. We still had not heard from John’s friend Dave who might get us into the suites. We walked half the main course, noted where the Gilroy’s garlic fries stand was, and made our way to our seats. There was no point in getting food or drinks if we might be going to the suites. The most insufferable people were sitting behind us, talking anime and ignoring the game. One girl moved closer to her friend (i.e.: closer to us), good we thought, maybe she won’t be as loud. Nope, she was just as loud (actually louder, because she was now closer to us) and so high-pitched and just all around horrible. Thankfully Dave saved us during the 2nd inning, he came down and whisked us away to the Cloud Club.

We got wristbands and were told there was a buffet and it was open bar. Apparently, there was also a former Giants pitcher milling about, taking advantage of the offerings. We got to sit in comfy leather seats with a view of the whole field, and most importantly, the wall over which i needed the Giants to hit a home run so i could cross “see a Splash Down Home Run” off my things-to-see list. At the very least, they had to hit a regular home run and get my hopes up. What do people in fancy suites at baseball games eat? Hotdogs! For dessert: a brownie, a terrible cakepop (who makes a cheesecake cakepop?) and of course, a bag of Cracker Jacks. The plan was to go around the world, and have all three feature cocktails. All well and good, I went one more and had a spicy Paloma. Turns out it actually is a good drink, that lady at the A’s game was right. While getting my second drink at the bar, the baseball man (Jeremy Affeldt) had put his drink down and was signing a kid’s jersey. Afterwards he turned to me and jokingly asked if I’d put anything in it. I laughed, blushed mildly and said nah. And just as quickly, he was whisked away to meet & greet with more people. It was amusing how drunk he was. While getting drink #4 I met two guys who asked what I was getting. We high-fived on our shared goal of going around the world. They laughed and said of course, everyone would like to see a home run but his tone implied it was not going to happen.  Of the three cocktails, the clear winner was the strawberry and prosecco one. I should have guessed that because everyone had one. The violet one came in a close second. It was the prettiest of the three. The watermelon one was dead last, it was tasteless and the only saving grace was the alcohol. Eventually they turned on the heat lamps by the seats and it was perfect.

The game was going really fast. Not great when you are in the suites and have an open bar and a buffet. We went back down to the concourse during the 8th inning but by then everything was closing. Thankfully I had eaten some popcorn on my third round of the buffet tables so I wasn’t too hungry. Walking the concourse, I posted another video to Instagram demanding a Splash Down Home Run. Blame the open bar. The game was still going so we went down to our seats. It continued into the 10th inning when the Giants finally won, on a walk-off non-home run. It was the lamest end to a game of all time. It also ruined my streak of seeing every home team hit a home run. It just meant we would have to come back again someday. Back in the hotel room I was too tired to even write it all up in my book.

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Posted by on July 27, 2019 in Travel


Baseball and Trees: Day 3

Baseball and Trees: Day 3

Thurs. July 18, 2019:
Oakland to Yosemite Valley, California:

There was no noisy construction to wake me up this time, i got to sleep in until 7am. Brent had heard my previous requests and gone out to get me a mango-dragonfruit refresher from the Starbucks down the block. It’s a much easier order than a custom coffee and it isn’t time sensitive because it’s already cold. Genius plan. Even though we were in no rush to leave, the car rental place was around the corner and the In N Out burger where we’d be getting lunch in Merced, CA didn’t open until 10am. By the time we were picking up the car I already had to pee. I went to the Mariott next door and thankfully I looked enough like a tourist that staff gave me the code number for the bathroom.

It was a two-hour drive to Merced. Our first stop was Walmart to top up my supplies. I hit the jackpot: berry Sour Patch Kids, moon marshmallow Oreos, chocolate peanut butter pie Oreos and my beloved DD coffee. I was all set. Once were in the parking lot, I was able to connect my iPod via Bluetooth. It wouldn’t allow me while the car was in motion because it was “unsafe” but come on, what about the passengers?! Really? And it was all for nothing because it was too hard to navigate without the nice map voice lady. We listened to 13 Minutes to the Moon podcast while the nice lady told us where to go. Lunch at In N Out was perfect. It was just as good as I remember it being but I came to a sad conclusion: animal style, while great in theory (special sauce and cheese and onions) actually makes for a soggy mess. No more animal-style for me, it was good to try it though.

Finally, we were on the road to Yosemite Valley National park. Except, I could not for the life of me stay awake. I kept drifting off. But I couldn’t sleep. Brent’s phone had stopped connecting via USB to the speakers so i had to help navigate. We switched back to listening to my iPod via Bluetooth.

Even after having lunch, eating Sour Patch Kids and cracking into tomorrow’s iced coffee (I could get more when we stopped for gas was the reasoning)- I STILL couldn’t stay awake. I’d be looking at the landscape, dry desert on one side of the highway, lush greenery on the other… and my head would start to dip forward, my eyes heavy. The GPS said it was three hours until we got to Mariposa Grove even though it was only 120km away. There was just no way that was correct, no traffic was shown on the map, no detours. It was just plain wrong. In the end it took us half that estimate.

Driving into Yosemite Valley National Park we were greeted with beautiful scenery and lots of trees. We were barely in the park and already I was enamoured. We arrived at a parking lot near Mariposa Grove but had to leave the car there. The lot at the trailhead was closed and we had to take a shuttle. We briefly considered trekking out there, but it didn’t make any sense seeing as the shuttle ran often and we could spend more time on the trails in the grove itself. We did the “Big Tree Loop” trail but it was much easier and shorter than the info board back at the lot had led on. We started on the “Great Grizzly Tree” trail and figured we would go see the named tree and then turn around and head back. The sign said that one would take 2-3hrs and we still had more stuff to see. Our tip off should have been that the trail is in fact only 2 miles and the board was being overly conservative in its estimate. The whole thing took us maybe an hour. We had also gone in with the assumption that forest = trees = shady coverage away from the sun. Turns out Mariposa Grove wasn’t as dense in some parts. We should have packed the sunscreen, especially given it was early afternoon. Early on I got frustrated with my new polarizing filter and I quickly gave up and bailed on it.

The tree lived up to half of its name, it really was great. We could spot it from afar by the giant crowd around the base, who looked tiny by comparison. By that point we had so little of the trail left (we were at the halfway point, where it started to loop back) that we figured we may as well complete it, rather than backtracking. The California Tree Tunnel was everything I had hoped it would be: a tunnel through a tree that I could pass through. I had always wanted to see the Wawona tunnel tree but that one got knocked down in 2017. Stupid nature. This tree tunnel was a nice surprise, I had not been expecting it. It was awesome, despite the insufferable guy making Moses jokes to his kids (telling them to let people pass by them). It was also really cool to see the parts of the forest that had burned and the trees that had fallen over. They were massive and the really tall ones only had branches high up. Now that we were further along the trail it was much quieter and more peaceful. The only wildlife we saw was a squirrel. Bringing the Gatorade with us was a brilliant idea, as it was actually quite hot in the forest.

It was an hour-long drive to Glacier Point. Along the way we pulled over at a shoulder for slower cars and looked at the views down the burnt mountainside forest and into the valley. The views were beautiful and I finally felt like I was getting back into my photo groove after the earlier debacle with the polarizing filter. If only I knew what awaited me.

Glacier Point was incredible, epic, unbelievable really. We had views of the whole valley and the mountains across the way. We could see the Yosemite Falls, where we hoped to hike the next day (assuming we could get a parking spot). We could see Half Dome across the way. Down below we could see the road snaking through the valley, a parade of cars really. It was beautiful and I ended up alternating using the polarizing filter and not, to ensure I got at least a few good photos. On the way back to the car we stopped in at the gift shop. I had not gotten enough postcards and needed two more for my parents. (Fun fact: I have since been unable to find those two postcards).  From the moment we arrived, every few minutes I would hear someone talking about getting ice cream there. I get it, the weather was really hot and sunny. But it was crazy how many people were talking about it. It was well worth checking out, the Butterfinger ice cream bar was one of the best I’ve ever had. I stole a bite of Brent’s Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich but it just didn’t stack up.

Driving out of the park, I couldn’t even pick up the GPS signal. Thankfully it would be at least an hour before we needed the map. We listened to NPR’s How It’s Made with Alice Waters talking about Chez Panisse. A little after the fact but still a good listen. We sandwiched it between two episodes of Stuff You Should Know (“How Yellow Rain Works” and “How Sand Dunes Work”). We stopped at 7-Eleven for gas. I took the opportunity for more iced coffee and more Gatorade. I also found strawberry peanut M&Ms and a Hershey’s mint cookie bar for my sisters as souvenirs. For us I got a Butterfinger Crisp and a Milky Way fudge bar. They could make for good hiking snacks, in addition to the s’mores Pop Tarts. You could tell I was a pro hiker and this was not my first rodeo. We went to the liquor store across the street. At first the selection seemed paltry. Until I found a Lindeman’s apple lambic. I also got an Angry Orchard ice cider, aptly named Ice Man. We stopped at CVS near the hotel, I was looking for stamps but the lady told me I’d have to go to the post office next door. Tomorrow. They were already closed. At least I finally found Sprite lemonade! We also got chili cheese Fritos- I was much less excited about that.

We were staying at the Chateau Sureau because there were no spots available in the park hotels. This place was uncomfortably fancy. When we got buzzed in we just assumed we could park the car and go in. Nope, the drive led us to the front of the house where we were greeted by three staff members. They offered to take our bags, it was embarrassing, like please, just me carry my plastic bag of alcohol by myself. In the lobby they had mini macarons and chocolate chip cookies. In the room we had a free bottle of wine from the hotel winery, free cookie and a free pastry. The pastry was by the fireplace and I almost knocked the cloche off it as I swung my backpack down to the ground. Brent had initially made a 7pm dinner reservation, and there was no way we’d be ready to go in 15 minutes. We tried to bump it to 7:30 but they said next available was at 8pm. We also placed an order for breakfast to go the next morning. She said it was part of the experience and she didn’t want us missing out because we had to leave early.

I had left my notebook in the glove compartment of the car so instead I improvised and wrote out all my notes on our old maps printouts while drinking the Lindemans. For once Lindemans didn’t cause me any problems. Every time I get it I always forget, it has a cap AND a cork underneath. There was a wine bottle opener on the dresser. We debated opening the wine, but to drink an entire bottle of red wine seemed a bit much. We would save it and drink our beers instead.

When we got to the hotel restaurant, Elderberry House, it was really weird. There was only one other couple seated and they were finishing up. Was it going to be just us? We couldn’t get 7:30pm because those people had it, or did they get our 7pm time slot? It was a seven-course dinner, the menu was custom printed greeting us as the Wilson family. I ordered a glass of zinfandel from a Napa Valley winery. The server came back with a comically large wine glass, it made me feel silly. It was borderline a novelty glass. It was a really good wine and we even got free top-ups on our wines.

The amuse bouche was a berry granita with lemon clouds (read: foam) and it was surprisingly refreshing and palate cleansing. We munched on lemon rosemary baguette and five-grain poppyseed bread, debating which of the two was better. So simple, topped with just butter and a sprinkling of salt, yet so good. The shrimp with reduced watermelon sauce was wacky, the sauce was a dead ringer for BBQ sauce and I would have never guessed it was watermelon. The portobello mushroom soup was outstanding (in my notebook it says AMAZING and WOW). It was so rich and filling and easily one of the best things I had ever eaten. I wondered (jokingly) about getting it to go for breakfast in the morning. From here things started to dip a bit. The beef short ribs were alright but nowhere near as good as the server had implied. The mission fig salad was just confused. There were parts that went really well together, the arugula and the blue cheese dressing, the oranges and the citrus foam but getting one bite with all the elements was a cacophonous disaster. Things picked back up with dessert. The apricot Bavarois was delicious. Before it arrived, we debated what exactly it would be, a cream of some sort (we were equating it with Bavarian cream). It was more like a mousse. And you can’t go wrong with chocolate cake. Before leaving we were given a small bag of loose-leaf tea, finally some elderberries!

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Posted by on July 27, 2019 in Travel

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