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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Delicious Delicia

Browsing through the categories in the Best Of on BlogTO, I cannot help but notice a few vacancies. There is no best: brownie, tiramisiu OR cake. So therefore I have taken it upon myself to strap on the feedbag and find the best. Or bests. Sometimes it is a tie, as it is for best sweet potato fries (Fresh, according to BlogTO, but I found Fran’s to be just as good, sadly too much time in between to really say for sure).

Contenders thus far:

Best cake: Dimplflmeir Bakery. I have been eating their cake since I started eating solid food. Why is this so? Because the cake is that good. For over 10 years the recipe has remained the same. They also tout using natural spring water in the recipes. And the bread there is also amazing. Alas, I cannot say for certain that it is the best cake because the only other Toronto cake I have eaten is from LaRocca (their cakes are way too sweet for my tastes). This is a category that still remains wide open.

Best tiramisiu: This category also remains open. I have had a few tiramisius so far. What I have found is that I prefer it as a parfait, with a lot of coffee liquer rather than in the layer cake format (which can sometimes be rather dry). Pizzeria Libretto and a fancy italian restaurant somewhere downtown are tied for first right now.

Best brownie: my favourite category. Sadly the Amish brownie I ate in Shipshewana, Indiana does nto count in this case because it was not in Toronto. When I worked at Second Cup I regularly gorged myself on Amore brownies which were pretty good, but slightly dense and had to be eaten in small amounts. But I don’t think it should count as a contender because it was from a giant company, not a little shop. Right now Delicia, a portugeuse bakery on Lakeshore Blvd. is in the lead for best brownie. As well as for best cannoli (I have not had BlogTO’s pick yet, even though it is a stones-throw from my house) which had chocolate cream in it and just the slightest hint of a citrusy zing. The brownie was moist and rich and the icing on top was as thick as my thumb. They also get bonus points for having walnuts on top. Would’ve been nice if there were some inside as well. Who knows, maybe the next place I go to will have walnuts.

NOTE: Delicia’s tiramisiu also pictured here, not so good. Really rather dry and lacking in the coffee flavour.

 

Fran’s Restaurant

Fran’s is listed as third best 24-hr restaurant in Toronto. But that is not why we went. Camilla was craving a good milkshake and Fran’s happened to be the first that popped up in a Google search for best milkshake in Toronto. It was decided, we would go on a (massive) shopping spree and treat ourselves to milkshakes.

What we did not anticipate however was just how hungry five hours of shopping can make a person. We arrived at Fran’s famished and tired. The service was fast and friendly. The atmosphere was fun and not at all cheesey, how I had originally pictured it. The music could have been better, it was mildly irritating to listen to easy rock from the 90s but everything else more than made up for it. We ordered sirloin beef sliders and sweet potato fries. The sliders were OK, just sirloin beef between two buns with onions. The sweet potato fries were amazing however. I really think we have a contender for best sweet potato fries in the city. They were not too crispy or oily, they had not been overly fried. The sauce that went with them was also very delicious, it was like garlic-y mayonnaise.  After we paid the bill we sat around while they finished their milkshakes. I did not order one because I have a sordid history with milkshakes (one made me sick a long time ago).  I did have a sip and it was pretty good, but it did not hold a candle to Ed’s Real Scoop.

It was nice that it was not insanely busy given it was 10pm and also that no one came by to stare us down while we lounged around for a while after. No one walked by and cleared their throat, or cleaned tables nearby. It would be interesting to go back again at 2 or 3am.

 

Food Baby

There seems to be a backlog of places I have been to. So here they all are:

Pizzeria Libretto:
The pizza was delicious. We happened to go there during Summerlicious so we split a prix fixe dinner. For $25 we got an appetizer, a salad (which I did not care for, it was gross), a pizza and dessert! The pizza we ordered had hot peppers on it, which I was wary of eating given I only recently came around on eating spicy food. But it was not an overkill. There were only a few and it was delicious and just the right amount of spicy. The appetizer, we had no idea what it was and the name did not indicate anything as to what it consisted of. Dessert was a delicious tiramisiu presented moreso as a parfait, which left us scraping every last bit from the bottom of the glass. My favourite part has got to be the fact that with the bill came a postcard featuring a European street. It was so cute and it made me smile.
NOTE: They are so popular they are opening a second location on the Danforth.

And if the tiramisiu was not enough, we still went to the Best Portugeuse Custard Tarts on the way home:

Nova Era Bakery:
It was the perfect finish to a nice day of fooding. The tarts were reasonably priced, so much so that it was my treat! I had a strawberry tart and Brent had the custard tart. They were both delicious and it was nice that they were small. Alas, mine proved much harder to eat given it had two giants strawberries in it. The custard tart did lend itself to easier eating, a definite plus. The tart itself does not look too appetizing, it looks like the baker got lazy or ran out of ideas and decided to just make a plain tart, but when you bite into it, mmm… custard. The other good point is that they are not overly sweet like other tarts (butter, chocolate etc…).

Dolce Gelato:
A small dessert shop located on College in the heart of Little Italy with great service. And even better gelato!! It was creamy and very flavourful and did not give me a stomachache from being too sweet or heavy. It did melt a little faster than regular ice cream. I went back again to their second location on the Danforth and tried the lemon one this time. It was perfect, not too sour but not loaded with sugar, like lemonade… but with a spoon.

Allen’s:
This quaint bar on the Danforth was voted best wings in the city, so on our way to Taste of the Danforth (we were early, setup was still happening) we stopped in for a bite and a pint. The wings were the best I have had thus far, except for the originals in Buffalo. They were really saucy and just the right amount of spicy. But I cannot say that I care for the blue cheese sauce. I have tried it multiple times and I still do not like it. It makes the wings taste funny.

Now that I am caught up, here are a few more. These were all covered yesterday in a 4hour walk there and back. My legs hurt today. A lot.

Dark Horse Espresso:
Voted best coffee in the city/best coffee house (due to the great wireless). While we did not actually test out the wireless, the cafe itself had an OK atmosphere, a few too many hipsters though. But they had chairs outside, which if we were not on our way to a much-anticipated lunch, I would’ve gladly partaken in some sitting and people watching. The iced latte was made with really high-quality espresso. I say so because it needed very little sugar. Some coffees are not good unless you add a lot of sugar, other espressos taste burnt (I am not going to name names, Second Cup). This espresso had a strong flavour with just the slighest undercurrent of nuttiness. OK, no more coffee snobbery from me. It was yummy.

Leslieville Cheese Market:
After 2 hours of walking, including walking past their second location (we were not hungry enough and I had my coffee keeping me occupied) we got there. After two mild heart breaks (they were out of cheddar |& bacon sandwiches and also gruyere & ham) I finally decided on provolone & summer beef sausage, while Brent had the white mozzarella with mustard and something else, I forget. His was better. No wonder it was called The Classic. Can’t win them all. Overall, still a very good grilled cheese and they got bonus points for making their own (also delicious) bread. At first I was worried I might get served Dempster’s square bread. It does not make for good grilled cheese, at all.

Bobbette & Belle:
They came in 7th in the best cupcake category. Now I have eaten a lot of cupcakes in the city and quite frankly, there are a few other bakeries that should be higher than this one on the list. Dessert Lady (which, unjustly, is not even on the list) should be above it, as should Swirls and Prairie Girl. Regardless, pros: the cupcake itself was made with real vanilla as opposed to artificial flavouring, the service was good, the bakery itself is a nice place to sit down and cons: the buttercream icing was too much. Too heavy and not enough caramel flavour. I had wanted the lemon cupcake with lemon icing but they were sold out 😦

Ed’s Real Scoop:
Voted best ice cream in the city (recently in Toronto Life, and in previous years in various publications) and best milkshake! Two in one! How could we resist?! Brent opted for the milkshake, going with the burnt marshmallow flavour (recommended as best ice cream) and it was pretty good, it was thick and tasty. But it was small sized and kind of expensive. I went with the mercury espresso ice cream after reading on their website that they buy espresso from Mercury Espresso Bar just down the street and use it to make the ice cream. You can taste the difference when it is made with real and very good coffee. Even Brent pointed out that he liked it more than he would’ve expected to (not being a coffee fan, he made a face when he sipped my iced latte from Dark Horse).

       

Brick Street Bakery:
Best bread in Toronto, we went with the recommendation: sun dried tomato bread. It was a good choice. I was eating it on it’s own with nothing on it. Save for spitting out large tomato bits, they could’ve been a bit smaller so I would not have to taste them. But that’s just my dislike of tomatos.

UP NEXT: yet another attempt at Zoot’s (one of best cafes), backup would be the newly voted best pizza slice (no longer Bitondo’s, now it’s King Pizza on Bloor near Dufferin).

 

Yummy Stuff

Finally stopped in at Yummy Stuff on Queen near Ronces for a delicious cupcake. I had been meaning to go there since at the very least, early spring. I always had some excuse. Not this time. I caved and went in. And man-alive am I glad I did. This may very well be my favourite cupcake shop in the city. I can see why it was voted as one of the best in the city. What caught my eye initially was the Ferrero Rocher cupcake (with a hazelnut ganache… I wish I knew what ganache was) but then my heart skipped a beat when I laid eyes on the wonder that was/is… the Smores Cupcake. The topping (marshmallow whip) was as big as the cupcake itself! My eyes nearly bugged out of my head. Thankfully they also sell mini cupcakes, so I bought one just to avoid the disaster of showing up at Brent’s house with an empty box and crumbs on my face. When I (finally) got to his house we tore into it. As I peeled back the paper, I saw that there was graham cracker at the base of the chocolate cupcake! It made me smile. As we got towards the middle we found another fun little surprise, there was a piece of milk chocolate atop the graham cracker! It was the most fun cupcake to eat because I had to almost bite it sideways and we both ended up with marshmallow on our noses and chocolate crumbs on our chins. It was hilarious. The cupcake was good on many accounts. The marshmallow topping was a nice change from the usual icing (that is sometimes too sweet) and the cake was very light. The graham cracker and chocolate in the middle were also nice touches. And of course, it was delicious and did not give me a stomachache. Two thumbs up.

The mini cupcake was also delicious. It was vanilla cake with raspberries in it and raspberry icing on top. And fun to eat in two bites while walking down Queen St. 😉
Not to mention reasonably priced. Delicious cupcakes + low prices= my idea of heaven.

I have to go back to try the Ferrero Rocher one. It has been days and I cannot stop thinking about it.

Graham cracker base

Up next: best grilled cheese, best ice cream/milkshake (Ed’s Real Scoop) and one more cupcake shop, all in Leslieville.

 

Roadtrip 2011- day 10

Sun. July 31, 2011:

There were even more religious convention people crowding the hotel in the morning. It was impossible to even get around; thankfully we were on our way out. The GPS did not recognize/know about a Dunkin’ Donuts that I had found on Google Maps the night before (that I did not remember how to get to) so we headed to the interstate. So much for getting breakfast I had thought, but then a few hours (yes, hours) passed and we needed gas. But not before we passed from Ohio, straight through Pennsylvania and into New York. Yep, we went through 3 states before I could have my coffee and breakfast. As we left the interstate the gas light came on, so it started to become a mad dash to the gas station that the GPS was leading us to (not a road sign mind you). As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, that gas station was shut down. So we just kept driving along that road, in hopes that the gas would not run out. Another 20 minutes passed before we got to a station. The coffee was ok, but as for breakfast, there were no options. No way was I going to eat gas station pizza, yes they were part pizza place, for breakfast.

As we drove back to the highway we used the GPS to get to a McDonalds. It just so happened to be a block away from the road we were on… and next door to a gas station. Oh the irony. The sweet chili dipping sauce was better than the buffalo, but still not as good as sweet and sour or BBQ. Can’t change a good thing I suppose. I did almost lose my appetite due to a really gnarly specimen of human in front of me. It was a dumb (I mean really dumb, she was proud of having failed the third grade) girl standing in front of me, with the ugliest NECK tattoo. Yep, it was along her neck.

Buffalo featured a sign announcing that it is an All America City, apparently lacking basic spelling skills. The border was easy, no line up at all. Whereas going to the States, the line was really backed up. I would guess at least 2 hours waiting time? It just looked awful.

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Roadtrip 2011- day 9

Sat. July 30, 2011:

The morning started off great. Best hotel coffee I have yet to encounter, they had flavoured creamers! Of all the hotels I have stayed at thus far, that is the only hotel that offered it. We passed a roadside shop that was selling giant ugly lawn ornaments, including a giant ugly rooster; it was at least 2 feet tall. If it is not obvious, we were out in the country, I saw a baby cow following its mother through a field. There were gorgeous views as we drove through the Appalachians because Google Maps decided that the most direct route to Cleveland was to go up, over and around the mountains. There was no interstate to take us directly from Gettysburg PA, to Cleveland, OH. We drove along winding curvy roads, up and up and up… until my ears popped. No wonder they did, we passed a sign that said we were at an elevation of 2132 feet! I saw a turkey vulture land in a tree and sit with his wings pulled in tight and up around his head, it looked like a really deep shrug (and also made him look scarier). I managed to amuse myself by imitating him and then of course I had to re-enact it for Brent who missed it the first time because he was too busy driving.

Eventually we got to an interstate and from there it was straight to the hotel. Literally, our hotel was a block away from the off ramp (which is a block away from the stadium). The hotel was really nice; the staff let us check in early. We walked (again, only a few blocks) to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On the way there we passed a hotdog vendor and I decided that would be my dinner on the way back to the hotel, mostly because of that episode of 30 Rock (when they make fun of Cleveland) but also because NOTHING was open. I wish this was an exaggeration. I really do. Not even the mall, the mall located downtown (!!) was open! And there were other people walking about also partly in shock, partly just complaining. Downtown Cleveland on a summery Saturday afternoon is a ghost town. It is like the cleanest zombie apocalypse swept through there. Not a soul to be found, save for the few hundred people in baseball gear (not just Indians, any baseball team really) milling about near the stadium, which actually caused us a fright. As we passed by the stadium we saw a family all decked out in Indians gear and some vendors selling peanuts and all sorts of crap. We looked at each other like “oh crap” because we thought maybe it was an afternoon game (not even as we had thought, he, I should say he, as in Brent, he was in charge of getting to the baseball games). It was a Saturday after all. Thankfully that family kept walking to a sports bar instead. So we breathed a sigh of relief and continued on to the museum.

In the ticket lineup I made the woman behind us laugh. I had my camera with me and I was not sure if they were allowed in, so I said security would have to throw me out, that it would be very rock and roll to get tossed out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There was a lot of cool stuff in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, including the lyrics as they were initially written, with all the notes and chicken scratch. Unfortunately the place is built like a pyramid, so we started out at the bottom getting to see a lot of stuff. Then on the second floor slightly less stuff, and at the top, very little. As we headed back, my heart sank. The hotdog guy was gone! And along with him my 30 Rock-inspired dinner plans. Actually, my entire dinner plans. Brent insisted that there were more hotdog vendors just outside the stadium (this one had been closer to the museum), he swore he had seen one. But none were to be found so I figured I could just get a hotdog at the stadium during the game. Until then, we had time to kill, which of course called for television and candy! That is, if we could get back upstairs to our room. While we were gone, an entire (what we assume where Jehovah’s witnesses) religious convention congregated on our hotel. We could barely get in the lobby, let alone catch an elevator. Some wandering ensued in search of a stairwell. After a few failed attempts and dead ends we finally made it to the 3rd floor from where we took the elevator. No way was I going to climb to the 8th floor on an empty stomach when my legs hurt from the previous days stair-climbing (I could barely walk). We were crammed in there with about 10 people who were all dressed in their Sunday best and wearing name tags. Oh it was so incredibly weird.

At the game I ate my entire box of Cracker Jacks before the opening pitch. My hotdog had to wait until between innings, but it was well worth the wait. Alas, I was still hungry so we still split a plate of deep fried cookie dough, deep fried Twinkie and funnel fries. It was delicious, quite frankly, too delicious. I think it is safe to say that it is an once-in-a-lifetime sort of meal. At the 7th inning stretch they played the weirdest song, and everyone seemed to know the words! It went something like “hang in there sloopy, O-H-I-O” and during the spelling of Ohio, people did a dance akin to the YMCA dance (on the big screen). The song changed but one stern woman was determined, she continued doing the dance (again, big screen). It was the angriest O-H-I-O dance I’ve seen thus far. During the game itself, a player was running for home plate, he slid for it and slammed into the catcher sending him flying through the air looking like a starfish or as if he was doing a cartwheel.  He was then out with an injury. Then in the last inning, the Indians were losing 1-0 against Kansas City and all of a sudden the whole place just went crazy. I wish I could better explain what happened but here is my best interpretation. Someone hit the ball, which sent a whole bunch of other players running to and fro, plate to plate. Someone dropped the ball, more running ensued. Everyone in the stadium was on their feet, yelling and screaming and shouting. There was so much confusion that in the end all I knew was that the Indians managed to make a comeback and win.

There was to be a fireworks show after the game but we just headed back to the hotel room instead… to watch from there. We were literally across the street diagonally from the stadium. It was great. So many fireworks went off. I think it may very well have been the longest fireworks show I have ever seen. And this was just post-game fireworks for no apparent reason. I would leave to see a Fourth of July show. Every time I thought it was over, more started up! I could not get up and go get a glass of water because they just kept getting bigger and more extravagant. It lasted for at least half an hour.  On our way to the hotel we noticed a tour bus parked downstairs outside of the hotel. No one ever went into or out of it. It just sat there. We thought maybe the Kansas City baseball team was staying in our hotel. Alas the mystery was never solved. And now I will never ever know.

Empty streets.

Much closer to a ghost than Gettysburg

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Roadtrip 2011- day 8

Fri. July 29, 2011:

Breakfast consisted of Cracker Jacks, not to be confused with the cereal Apple Jacks (why did they ever take that away?) and the prize inside was a piece of paper you fold to reveal none other than Abe Lincoln, well his head anyways. I say none other than because the morning’s destination was Gettysburg, PA where Lincoln gave an address. Before we could get there though, I needed my caffeine fix. We passed by a Dunkin’ Donuts but it was 3 lanes over and I yelled out about it as we passed an intersection, too little too late. So I had to settle for gas station coffee, which was surprisingly good. Next we stopped at McDonald’s for a late breakfast/early lunch, namely I pigged out an ice cream sundae. Then a worker came by and offered us a free smoothie but the flavours on offer were gross, so I declined, and just sipped some of Brent’s mango pineapple. It was as gross as it sounds. I still do not know what it is with American’s and year-round Christmas shops. We passed a German Christmas Haus. Why? Why are there so many in the U.S? We drove by a Dairy Queen that had a sign that said “scream until your dad pulls in”, always a novel way to attract more business.

Gettysburg National Park is enormous and features many hilarious signs warning you that here is no relic hunting allowed. No wonder it took the soldiers three days to get from one end to the other. The way the park works is that you drive in numerical order from one site to the next and follow the history of the battle. Of course we did not know or care. Brent had his sights set on a few key places he wanted to see. We walked to the cemetery, to where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address and to one part of the battlefield. We were going to walk another trail, but somehow we just ended up driving instead. And driving and driving. We passed by the Pennsylvanian Monument maybe five times? Because we were doing it out of order and just going to what we wanted to see, every time we wanted to go to the next site, we had to drive through the main part of the park and loop back around due to one way streets. Eventually we gave up and started at the beginning catching what we had missed. In total we spent about four and a half hours driving and walking. There are lookout towers scattered throughout so that you can get a view of the entire battlefield and try to guess who was hiding where behind rocks and trees and such. The battlefields themselves looked like actual battlefields, which was rather unexpected. There were wooden fences and rocks as well as some dirt that was pushed up to hide behind. We passed a woodpecker sitting on a dirt path. At the Virginia Monument I took a photo of a family because they asked me to, in return they offered to take a photo of me and Brent, in front of the monument. Which we both agree is rather weird, given we are not Southerners, but it makes for a cute souvenir photo, so who am I to complain? Although I did feel like complaining by about the third observation tower. So much stair climbing! I was starting to see stars towards the top, and I went through about two bottles of water as well. From one observation tower we could see toy planes that got stuck in the trees below. From Little Big Top Hill there were gorgeous views of the valley below… and not a ghost to be seen. This is supposedly one of the most haunted sites in Gettysburg. I saw nothing. While there I was trying to take a photo of the valley and there was a person standing on a rock and I waited a minute or so for them to move. Only to realize it was actually a statue, but it was not a ghost.

Tired and hungry we placed our trust in the GPS to guide us to food, but not just any food. On my insistence we went to Hardee’s which just so happened to be about 20 minutes out of the way. As we drove through rural Pennsylvania my stomach rumbled. I was famished and there was no food in sight, just rolling hills and bales of hay. As we got close to the destination I started to worry, the GPS said that the Hardee’s was just up ahead but I saw no such thing. Thankfully it was hidden by another building. Hardee’s was delicious and well worth the time spent driving there (ok, fine, sitting in the passenger seat) because they serve curly fries! And they had raspberry iced tea in the fountain drink selection!

The evening was spent watching The Jersey Shore marathon. When I go on vacation, I not only eat bad, I also watch bad television. My standards sink. Even after Hardee’s I was still hungry. I was craving saucy chicken bites so we drove to Wendy’s (we also needed spoons for our Ben & Jerry’s ice cream) but my heart was shattered therein. No more boneless chicken wings. So I settled for McDonald’s again, but this time I remembered to try the different nugget sauces. I got the buffalo sauce, but it was not as good as sweet and sour. As an end to the day, I spilled my hot water (for steeping tea) on my side and burnt myself (not as bad as the year before when my toe got a 2nd degree burn) and to top it off, I got ice cream on pajamas. It was still a good ghost-free day.

I am still very sick of seeing this monument. There were people there powerwashing it, they must’ve thought what is with these Canadians?!

See? Looks like a battlefield.

Cute eh? Notice the ONE WAY sign in the background? We would’ve been done the park much sooner.

How did these get up here? Do kids play on the Gettysburg battle with pink toy planes?!

Damn statue, I thought it was a person. Doesn’t it look like a tourist just taking in the view?

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Roadtrip 2011- day 7

Thurs. July 28, 2011:

To make up for not having listened to Hollerado the previous day, we instead decided to blast it as we left Philadelphia, which almost seems more apt, given the song talks about Phillie no longer being a city, so why would we stay there? First stop for the day was the Barnes Foundation, a large collection of art. Not before I got a good eyeful of weird Philadelphians on the highway, just some of the things I saw: a bumper made of duct tape, and someone else driving with the hatch-back open. Alas, the Barnes Foundation was closed when we got there. We had no idea what was going on, it looked as if the place had been shut down and the security guard (who was stuck with the job of sitting there all day, turning people away) did not tell us anything more. We later found out that it was moving downtown (so next roadtrip, if we go to Pittsburgh). With the morning having been blown wide open like that, we stopped at iHop for breakfast. That seems to be a common theme. When our plans get cancelled, we go eat at iHop (recall the rainy day when we tried to go to Martha’s Vineyard). Having so much time, we stopped at Target on my insistence so that I could stock up on American goods to bring back home (namely candy bars and Cherry Coke Zero). As I was standing in the snack aisle bemoaning how they could possibly sell Corn Nuts and other such crap and no Cracker Jacks, I gasped before I could finish my sentence and was taken aback. Right next to where I was staring at/pointing at, they had Cracker Jacks! I would afterall get to eat Cracker Jacks at a baseball game! All was not lost! Apparently my reaction of half gasp, half yelp was rather funny. And illustrated how much I need coffee in order to function (another common theme in our roadtrips).

In Paradise, PA (the first destination in our Pennsylvania Dutch Country tour) there was a sign for Christ’s Home Office. But that was not enough for us to actually stop in Paradise. There was nothing there. We were under the impression that it would be like Shipshewana, Indiana where there were little shops and restaurants. Next we drove to Intercourse, PA. I am not sure if it is because of the name, or the size of the town, but they actually had a little tourist area with little shops and of course the staple of any Amish town that attracts tourists: Amish women making jam. It just seems so weird, sitting there all day, screwing on lids while people gawk at you. We walked around a bit, but there was not much to see. It was mostly really tacky over-priced souvenirs that said I heart Intercourse. Lame. The next town on our tour was Bird-In-Hand. There we stopped at a “mall” that was actually a barn with stalls set up to sell goods. Here things were more reasonably priced; I bought a postcard for a whole 35 cents! We drove to the Ephrata Cloister to see the grounds of an 18th century cult. There were a few old buildings and an old cemetery. The whole thing was mildly creepy. The buildings were not lit from the inside, so it was dark and small and really cramped. These people had to have been really short, and according to the info brochure they were deathly skinny. That would probably be because they only had one meal a day, a loaf of bread.

For lack of any other activities to fill the day, we drove to an outlet mall, for which we had found a brochure at the Bird-In-Hand mall. It was that or a really lame-sounding theme park. It was lightly raining so the outlet mall won. As we drove I snacked on Starbursts for lunch. I would unwrap them and toss them in Brent’s mouth given he was too busy driving. Absentmindedly I tossed him one, which I had forgotten to unwrap. I was laughing so hard I could not apologize or unwrap it for him. I was reminded how I used to unwrap them in my mouth so I tried it again and succeeded. I asked him if wanted to try and he said no, which I misunderstood as yes, and tossed him yet another wrapped Starburst.   Almost an hour of meandering through stores and I bought nothing. The only thing that redeemed that mall was Subway. We split a BBQ pulled pork footlong sandwich because it was something new, something we (sadly) do not have in Canada. It was delicious. The sauce made it so goopy and soggy and just a whole saucy messy affair.

While lounging around the hotel, I decided (out of sheer boredom) to enter the code from my Starbursts wrapper online (it was a contest, I had already lost earlier in the week once). And to my amazement, I won! I had won a free pack of Starbursts, I was simply overjoyed and I yelped and jumped up! When I sat back down and attempted to redeem it, you would think it would be a print off coupon, I was saddened to learn that they mail it (or a coupon) to you. And you have to be in the US. Brent just said he would buy me another package. He still has not. I am still waiting. For dinner we decided to go all out and be fancy. We would go to McDonald’s, get takeout and come back to the hotel room and continue watching 48 Hours Mystery until Wipeout was on. 48 Hours was a suspenseful show about solving crimes. As I was getting ready to leave, I heard Brent yell from outside that the car door was open. My heart started pounding, I was so scared. Damn TV show. Turned out, he had not fully closed his door and the strong window blew it wide open. No murderers were found in the backseat. McDonald’s had on offer a frozen strawberry lemonade which had been tempting me the last few days, being advertised everywhere. So I thought why the heck not? I am on vacation, going to watch a hilarious show, might as well try it. Bad idea. It is so damn good! And like the pulled pork BBQ from Subway, we do not have it here in Canada! We stopped at CVS as well to stock up on soda, and more Cracker Jacks because I was craving them and I kept eating the ones I had bought at Target (it was a pack of 3 boxes). It was mildly irritating to now be finding Cracker Jacks so easily when before it was as if they did not even exist!

I never did find out what was up with Pennsylvania Dutch Country and whoopee pies, most every baked goods shop sold their own homemade versions. Yet, no one sold Amish brownies? To add to my disappointment, we were unable to print-screen “borrow” the photos that were taken of us at the Phillies game and the channel that Wipeout was playing on was semi-broken, the picture was clear but the sound was just loud noise. So I opted for watching Community (reruns I had missed) South Park and Futurama, so it was not all bad.

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Roadtrip 2011- day 6

Wed. July 27, 2011:

Breakfast was had on the boardwalk. Alas the only place that was open was Dunkin’ Donuts, despite how badly I wanted frozen custard and funnel cakes for breakfast. I had to settle for standing in line behind a really smelly man and his family (who somehow put up with the smell?) and an interesting discussion later ensued about the family not having a sense of smell due to a genetic defect. He smelled really bad. It was just awful. And it was not even 9 am! At 9 am though, the boardwalk was much more tolerable. The haunted house was no longer making that same two-note high-pitched noise and there was way less people. I could actually walk along it. My ice cream (er, frozen custard) craving had not subsided; somehow (!) hot coffee just does not fill that craving, somehow. So back at the hotel we went looking for the ice cream bar that was being advertised everywhere, from the lobbies to the elevators. Only to find that is was (still) closed. The ice cream bar, the burger place and the safari restaurant were never open, the whole time we were there (evening and morning) making me wonder if these are simply midday places with the worst hours ever?! And why would it be advertised everywhere?! It seemed like the coolest place ever, you get to sit up at a bar and order a custom ice cream dessert. Breakfast was nowhere to be found

We forgot to play Hollerado’s song “Americanarama” which consists of lyrics about Philadelphia as we entered. The first thing I saw in Phillie was a baseball diamond with a sign on the fence that said “NO BALL TOSSING”: what kind of baseball diamond has a sign like that?! We left the car in the hotel parking lot and headed (what I assume was north) towards the historical section of Phillie, to see among other things, the Liberty Bell. The weird signs only continued. There was a stoop and scoop sign that featured a dog, a poop and a giant shovel! Was this a sign for dog owners or horse owners? We stopped in at 7-Eleven for sodas and to check for Cracker Jacks. Given that this was going to be a 2 hour walk, we stopped at Pat’s for phillie cheese steak subs because this place claims to be the place that invented it and I had also not eaten breakfast. We got one sub with provolone cheese and one with Cheez Whiz. It is not that hard to guess which one tasted better of the two (hint: it was real cheese).  The sandwiches were not that great. They had not been warmed up, thus the cheese did not melt (which is apparently why they started putting Cheez Whiz on them, for that gooey cheese effect) but apparently not only are Philadelphians crazy about their baseball team, they are also proud of their sandwiches. When we got to Independence National Historical Park (as the brochure calls it) we could not figure out how to get in to look at the old buildings. There was a fence and stern looking security guards. We circled the place and finally found the entrance. Independence Hall was only accessible via tour and for some reason the tickets were available at the other end of the park. We found out about this while in Congress Hall looking at some old documents (I think one was the Declaration of Independence, or a draft of it?) and some other old papers. It was really hard to see because they had to keep the lights very dim in the case so as to protect the old papers.

On the way to the ticket place we stopped to look at the Liberty Bell, despite the fact that there was a lineup to get in. Yep, in.  The Liberty Bell is not out in the open. You have to wait in line (if there is one) have your bag checked (and laugh at a sign that says no firearms allowed inside) and then go down a long hallway of exhibits about the Liberty Bell. And then finally, at the end, in all its magical glory is: the Liberty Bell. Only there is not much glory to it, it is surprisingly small and it is not suspended and hanging. Nor is it encased in protective glass or anything of the sort. From there we went up to the info building only to find out that tour tickets for Independence Hall were sold out for the day (it was only about 2 in the afternoon, not even!) and we could come back the next day. So instead we went to the Constitution Museum, which, despite how boring it sounds, was actually quite interesting. There was a bunch of stuff about George Washington, including a few creepy mannequins depicting him at different stages of his life. In the basement there was a special exhibit about terrorism and national security that was downright disturbing, including bits of wreckage from 9/11. Not exactly the best way to end a museum tour.

As if that was not enough walking, there was more. Up next on our self-guided tour was Ben Franklin’s grave, only it cost $2 to go in and see it. A view that was only slightly better than what could be seen through the fence. And how do I know this was his grave I saw through the fence? Because it was covered in pennies. So weird. We wandered through some more old buildings, including a house Ben Franklin built to rent out to people as a source of extra income and America’s second national bank (the first was not open that day). Along the way we passed a front yard that made me scream. In it someone had decided to install an “art” piece that consisted of two legs sticking out of the ground. It caught me off guard. Most of the historic sites had signs out front that gave background information and drawings. One of the signs featured a drawing of a group of people all standing around and a cat walking around (which had nothing to do with anything) which is weird. I understand taking a photograph and a cat wandering into the shot. But an illustration?! How long was that cat there for? We passed an old historic church but you also had to pay to see inside, so we just walked around it, and given how hot it was, all the doors were open, affording us a nice view inside. We beat the system, twice. What is with church sites charging tourists money?

After about 5 hours in total of walking we still had another 2 to get back to the hotel. On the way up we had passed a place called Rita’s that served frozen custard, so the whole way back all I could think (and probably talk about) was frozen custard. It was worth the walk. The custard was so good, it was like soft serve but a lot more dense and they had chocolate flavor. Alas, the whole way back not a single place sold Cracker Jacks! I needed them for the baseball game, really only because of the song. Exhausted, we plotzed in the hotel room for a short break before the baseball game and watched a show on the History Channel that was surprisingly not about aliens! It was about ice cream and they mentioned a place (Graeter’s) in Cincinnati that makes ice cream using an old fashioned method so hopefully we will go there on the next trip.

The Phillies game was packed, the whole stadium was full and really loud. Baseball-wise some entertainment was had when the pitcher and catcher both ran *smack* into each other and neither got the ball. The Phillies Phanatic (mascot) rode out on an ATV and got the crowd riled up before the game. The Phanatic came out again with a hot dog gun and shot hot dogs at the crowd, though not in my direction sadly. Seriously, best mascot ever, he looked like Geshie from Clone High and he had a hot dog cannon. He also danced on the dugout. The food was not as great. Schmitters sandwich was a greasy disgusting mess of cheesesteak and salami topped with 1000 Islands dressing. Gross. Chicke’s & Pete’s crab fries were pretty good, but a tad too much seasoning/salt on them but well worth the rather long wait. Because the stadium was so packed, Phillies fans are crazy and the game was against a hated rival, there was a lot of good heckling and yelling to entertain me. In the last inning when the San Francisco Giants brought out there crazy pitcher the crowd just lost it, they went nuts yelling and booing him. Why do I call him crazy you ask? Well for one, he has a giant long beard that he dyes black. For two, I saw him on TV later that night talking about the Irish girl living in his beard having now been cloned and that they were not on speaking terms. I do not use the word crazy loosely here.

P.S.: That is another one crossed off my list of life’s goals if anyone is keeping track, eat a Phillie cheesesteak IN Phillie. Up next, maybe an apple in the Big Apple? We shall see!

This? This is supposed to be art? I think the Budweiser can (bottom left) explains it all. And yet, it made me scream.

        

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Roadtrip 2011- day 5

Tues. July 26, 2011:

On my fifth day in the States I finally got my Dunkin’ Donuts fix and it was so good. Breakfast was in general a very delicious ordeal because of the aforementioned key lime cheesecake. There is no better way to start the day than to wolf down key lime cheesecake and then scoop the excesss whipped cream off of it and into your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (even though I had to repeat my order about 3 times, yeesh). It was a good thing that I had eaten so much. We drove to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania (we had stayed the night in Delaware, remember). The grounds were enormous! When I heard “gardens” I thought some flowers and some bushes, a bench and some trees. Not a transplanted forest, houses, a greenhouse a giant meadow and even banana plants! As well as a few treehouses spotted throughout,  a tower and a man-made waterfall! There was a new feature being advertised, a green wall, covered in plants, so we went to check it out. It was a long narrow hallway that curved… and featured individual bathrooms. I wonder if the architect knew about this? We got there at about 9am and thought we would be safe sans-sunscreen, afterall, we were just visitng some gardens, how long could it take? Apparently really long. We were there until noon! Towards the end we were slowly snaking our way around the grounds, trying to hide under the little shade we could find. We should’ve down the forest walk last. There was a butterfly gorging itself on flowers, it did not care about how close I managed to get to it, it even readjusted itself and kept (what seemed like ) posing for me. In the morning I had grabbed a chocolate muffin from the hotel lobby, thinking I could munch on it later. Best idea ever. I had left it in the car, during a heat wave. So when we got back to the car, it was so warm and soft and smushy, it was like it had been freshly baked. Seriously, best idea ever. Sorry, of ever. Alas, it was not enough. I was still voraciously hungry. But it was a quick short drive along one road back down to Delaware.

Up next was the Winterthur Museum (same family as Longwood Gardens owner, different generation).  And of course, the family still being insanely rich and all, this was also a giant property. It also took us almost 3 hours to get through. We only saw one floor of his 8-floor home (total collection consisted of more than 175,000 pieces of furniture, textiles, ceramics, etc…). They kept calling him a collector. I thought, more like a hoarder. If you have to add on three separate additions to your house to contain your collection, you have a hoarding problem. I can only imagine if we had gone through the whole collection. I would need to be wheeled out of there. The grounds were very scenic, some postcard scenes as well. Including (square?!) hay bales on a rolling hillside.  At the end of it, we went to the café but alas, it appeared to be closed, so we remained hungry. We decided that we would stop somewhere along the way. We passed over a suspension bridge that was being painted and it smelled really bad, having to drive very slowly compounded the problem. We almost got busted by a cop for speeding, but he did not seem to notice or care. Of course there was a lot of “crap, crap crap crap!” preceding our unnoticed speeding. The “Murder Tour of the US” continued on this trip (previously we had passed over the Hudson River where it is said that the mafia dumped bodies, but I still have got to go over the actual bridge).We took the New Jersey turnpike! But I do not understand what all the fuss is about. One, there are no turns, two it is not seedy or scary (albeit we did not take it to NYC, so maybe that is why?). I saw a swamp and a lot of trees but no Jersey cows. How can it be? Driving through New Jersey and not a single Jersey cow to be seen?! There was a deer by the side of the highway, it was grazing. It made for a nice surprise, to see a deer that was not dead. It is amazing how long we drove for and not a single food establishment was passed. We ended up using the GPS to guide us to a Wendy’s… a Wendy’s that did not exist mind you. Thankfully (never thought I’d be saying this) there was a McDonald’s nearby. They have different nugget sauces in the States, more than just the sweet & sour and the BBQ. Even the BBQ sauce itself is different tasting, and they had it in a dispenser alongside the ketchup! Unheard of! While were enjoying our dinner I was staring out the window and I suddenly jumped back and screamed. Outside there was a bird just staring at me, it looked like a pigeon crossed with a seagull. Again my watching of The Birds one too many times came into play.

We drove to Cape May, NJ for a nice evening on the Jersey Shore! Well not really, this beach was much nicer than that. But the boardwalk?! More like a lane of asphalt. It was not even made of boards. We sat on the beach and looked at the really weird looking seagulls (they are meaner and have sharper beaks). There were also some regular seagulls, weird cross seagull-pigeons and regular pigeons all hanging out on the beach. We waded in to the water, but the waves were so big that they hit the bottom of my pants and almost totally soaked. I found some seashells that had been smoothed around the edges, which was nice because it did not cut up my fingers real bad. As we walked along the boardwalk we were accosted by a girl with a tray yelling something that sounded like “sampafuge” so we just walked away really quickly. Everything on the boardwalk was very overpriced and tacky, as one would expect. On our way back to the car we heard, “samapafuge! Sampafuge?” and we finally figured out what she was saying: “sample fudge?”. In her thick New Jersey accent, this girl was trying to offer us fudge samples. Albeit we realized this about two blocks later after repeatedly yelling “sampafuge” at each other. We got back to the car and realized it was already 7pm! And it was still insanely hot outside! The outside temperature (according to the car) was still in the low 30s (Celsius, not Fahrenheit, I will never convert)! We drove along the New Jersey Garden State Parkway which was really nice because of all the open-space views of the swamplands it afforded. Also the median between the two directions was a small forest so I did not have to watch other cars driving past, which is boring. Instead I got to play Where’s Waldo with cranes and herons instead.

Again in my series, you know you’re in the States when… you pass a sign for “Buffet of Buffets, 24 hour pass to 4 Buffets” (seen on way to Atlantic City). The sign for Atlantic City itself was no better; it (proudly) stated that Atlantic City is “always turned on.” The Trump Taj Mahal (where we were staying) was awesome. The boardwalk in Atlantic City was actually made of boards, a giant plus in my books. There were tacky booths & shops everywhere! The true marker of tackiness was also there, a Ripley’s museum. It reminded me of Fisherman’s Wharf, but with more bright lights and less food options. The prices were dirt cheap for food, but the food did not look appetizing whatsoever. We opted to get pizza from Sbarro (inside the hotel!) and garlic dipping sauce. The sauce was closer to a butter really, and it was gross. I watched America’s Got Talent but it just was not the same, no internet and no cell (did not want to pay roaming charges) meant no Tweeting. At one point I almost tried to write a Tweet in my travel diary. Afterwards we went downstairs to check out the casino and each decided to play $5.  We were both up by $5 on a 25cent slot machine, but I continued and was down to about  $4. I decided we should up the ante and play on the $1 machine where I won $10! Brent lost $5 and gave up. Then I played a 1 cent machine and it was confusing. I walked away thinking I had won $10, but had forgotten about the initial $5 I had spent to (confusingly) eventually get there. Regardless, I won.

Try having that stare at you while you try to eat McNuggets.

This photo had to be taken really quickly as there were annoying people singing terribly within earshot.

The Atlantic City boardwalk in all it’s glory, with a Ripley’s Museum.

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