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Monthly Archives: July 2015

Sangria With a Margarita Chaser

Best sangria was re-voted and so we found ourselves making dinner plans for Saturday night. The new best sangria was at Playa Cabana‘s four restaurants. This worked out perfectly, as we had been looking for an excuse to go to Playa Cabana on Dupont at Davenport. I was really looking forward to dinner, as the last two times we went the food was amazing.

We decided to change it up this time. We had tried all their various iterations of tacos, it was time to tackle burritos, enough with the sharing! I had high hopes for this burrito, and Playa Cabana delivered, more than really. For one, the burrito was enormous, I’d say at least the size of my head. The size and complexity of it (half was drizzled with red salsa, half with green, sour cream in the middle) and the sheer amount of filling made it structurally unsound. To pick it up and eat it as one would a normal burrito was simply out of the question. I watched in entertained horror as Brent attempted this very feat. Just then a server came by with knives and forks for us. Very quickly I made a mess of the artfully presented burrito. At this point I had also moved on from my sangria and was having a margarita.

The sangria was OK, it was not the best however. That title still belongs to Cafe Diplomatico. The margarita was way better. It was also confusing because Brent had ordered the red wine sangria, I had ordered the white wine sangria. But because of the fruit, mine also appeared red. The taste was different though.

 

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Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts: Double Loop- Day 4

Mon. July 13, 2015:
New York to Massachusetts

Breakfast at the hotel was not completely tragic. They had Swiss Miss hot chocolate on offer, and to complement it they had a canister of marshmallows so I tossed a few in my coffee. It was also nice to eat something mildly healthy, strawberry yogurt. We were scheduled for a 9:30am tour of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s house, however there was no rush as our hotel was across the street. We had tickets for the first tour of the day and an amazing tour guide. He was a volunteer who had a genuine interest in FDR. He catered the tour to our interests, rather than repeating boring stale facts from memory. First he took us on a tour of the grounds, then onto the main tour: FDR’s house. In the foyer there was a giant glass cabinet full of taxidermied birds, I was not pleased.

Once inside the house he had us split into two groups, one went into the library where he gave a spiel about the house, while the other half looked at the other rooms on the main floor and then we swapped places. It was a good way to give a tour, we were free to wander the floor and look at stuff while he talked. I spent a considerable amount of time drooling over his personal library study (different than the presidential library). I barely noticed one of his wheelchairs in the room, I was so entranced by the beautifully bound books. The tour time flew by and before we knew it the tour was over. Afterwards we were free to roam the grounds and to check out the presidential library.

Our tour guide had mentioned that FDR was an avid stamp collector, you would think in the library and archives they would have on display even just one page of stamps? Nope, there was not a stamp to be seen. Nor did they have any original documents on display. It was really just a bunch of info panels, and a chance to see the museum storage collection. The only cool thing was FDR’s modified car.

We drove to the Culinary Institute of America for lunch, and to hide from the noon hour sun. I was instantly in love with the campus. The crosswalk signs featured a walking figure wearing a chef’s hat. I could not stop laughing at it. The campus overlooked the Hudson River, and it had a small plaza out front of the main building with an ornate fountain.

We went to the Apple Pie Bakery because it was the only place open for lunch time (apparently only two of the campus restaurants are open on Mondays). We were originally going to have breakfast here and lunch elsewhere but it did not work out, however we soon realized it would have been too much food. Even still, we went overboard with ordering food. It just all looked so damn good! To go with our lunch we ordered a bunch of baked goods for dessert: salted caramel brioche donut, heath coffee macaron, chocolate mudslide cookie and a chocolate croissant. That was our ranking of them too. Other than the croissant, which was only average, everything else was amazing. It was easily the best donut I have ever had in my life. I wish I could have ordered more macarons, but I was so full by the end of lunch. The desserts had arrived first and we devoured them in no time. To drink I had a Nutella latte, which was actually quite subtle and not overly sweet. Even still, it did not exactly go with the crab cake I had ordered for my main. I had not read the menu, I just saw crab cake and got excited. If I had read it, the dastardly salad surrounding my crab cake would not have been such an awful surprise. I tried eating it, but it was horrible. Not because it was horribly made, but because veggies are horrible. I messed it up and moved it around my plate so it would look like I had eaten more than I had. Brent’s sandwich came with a side of fries, which had the option to be upgraded to truffle fries. And sweet mother of god were those fries amazing. They had everything, they were salty, greasy, umami, crunchy and soft and all sorts of delicious in so many ways. And then it got to be too much, they very quickly dipped into overwhelming. We were so impressed with our lunch that we took the time to fill out a comments card. I ended up using a lot of exclamation marks and hearts when writing about the donut.

After lunch we wandered around the main building. We passed a class that was happening in the fanciest lecture hall I had ever seen: it had a gold-gilded domed ceiling. We also passed some giant windows looking into the prep area for the Apple Pie Bakery, it kind of felt like going to an aquarium but busier. On our way out we stopped in at the gift shop. I was tempted to buy the CIA (the other CIA, as in Culinary Institute of America) cookbook, however it would be a pain to lug around for the rest of the trip. We walked by the restaurant where we had dinner reservations so we would not be lost that evening. We stopped at the car for a sunscreen pit stop and then headed down to the waterfront. On the way we kept seeing gophers. Brent scared one as I was taking a picture and I wound up with my very own danger gopher.

On our way to the public library (we had time to kill before our next tour) we stopped in at a liquor store. The traffic was so bad that when leaving we turned right instead and backtracked to the site of Eleanor Roosevelt’s cottage. There was not much to see, but we did find a trail to FDR’s cottage. I thought it would be a leisurely walk and that I’d be ok in sandals. Oh how wrong I was, I ended up stubbing my toe on a log. The whole time we were followed by a cloud of little flies. When I looked down and saw a giant spider running across the path I was filled with dread: what if a spider ran across my foot? I was deeply regretting wearing sandals. We were about ready to give up after about 20 minutes, we said another 5 minutes and we would be turning around. Just then we finally got to his cottage. The park ranger there was actually surprised to see us, I guess not a lot of people actually hike up as there is a road that takes the tour attendees up there. Because the next tour was in 20 minutes, he allowed us into the cottage to look around. Unfortunately the hike had been longer than we had expected so we barely had any time to look around. There was not much to see anyways, and most of the furniture was replicas.

We had a 4pm tour of a Vanderbilt mansion to get to, so we had no time to rest after the hike up. The tour guide at the house was amazing, she was not afraid to criticize how expensive it was to maintain the estate or how this was one of the less extravagant Vanderbilt mansions. She did not focus solely on the house, but also talked about the Gilded age and the customs of the era such as women’s fashions etc. About halfway through the tour things took a turn. I expected some annoyances on the tour, there were children. However they were not the problem. There was one woman who would ask questions that had literally just been answered. And they were not even interesting questions, she wanted to know why the windows had UV filtration on them or why there was no air conditioning. The tour made me want to watch Downton Abbey. After the tour we walked to the front to look down into the valley and see the river view. The view of the front of the house was marred by restoration work and the gardens were not much to look at as everything had already bloomed and was now dried up. As we were leaving, the annoying lady was still bothering the tour guide. I was so sweaty and dehydrated.

Our dinner reservation was not until 6:30pm and it was only 5pm. We drove to CVS to grab some sodas and a snack. This time I redeemed myself and actually got the Mega M&Ms, even though I was not in the mood for them, it was too hot for candy. We drove to a nearby public library to bask in the air-conditioning and relax. While there we also changed into our fancy clothes, it must have looked hilarious to the people there. It was nice to sit back and just read my book, if even in my dress. On our way out I noticed a trolley of books marked free. I found a first edition, hard cover nicely bound book. I did not care for the subject, something biblical, I was more interested in using it in a future project. However it did not feel right to take it for free, so I donated a dollar. The woman seemed mildly confused.

We had dinner at Caterina de’ Medici on the CIA campus. Once again, we were very overdressed. Everyone else was casually dressed. I at least felt better about not wearing any makeup (there were no mirrors in the library bathroom). We decided to split the charcuterie board appetizer. Thankfully we had not eaten all the bread, and had enough for the meats. The stand-out at dinner was the chicken I had ordered. It was unbelievable how good it was: something as boring as chicken made into a delicious dish. We were having dinner at a CIA restaurant, there was no way I wouldn’t at least glance at the dessert menu. Big mistake, as soon as I saw that they had tiramisu my mind was made up. Leading up to dessert we were served a plate of mini-desserts. I have never seen a chocolate chip cookie so small. The tiramisu was ok, it got much better once you got some of the cream from the bottom. However there was a bit too much cocoa powder on top and it was making me choke.

The service was amazing, I am guessing it is because these were culinary students, they actually wanted to be here. The maitre d’ and two waiters all looked very similar, I had thought they were one person until I looked around and saw all three. In looking around I noticed some people who had been on the Vanderbilt tour with us. It completed the day, as earlier at Apple Pie Bakery café we had seen people from the FDR tour. There was a sign on the way out of the CIA parking lot that said “eat your veggies.” It was not as entertaining as the crosswalk signs.

A deer ran across the road in front of the car ahead of us, I wrote down that it was an adrenaline-junkie deer. Pretty soon it was just us on the road, no one else around for miles. Soon we passed another deer, this one was eating grass on a hill in the median of the road. Right after that we saw another one on the right side of the road, just off the shoulder. This was a record number of deer sightings. We had seen more deer in two days than in all previous days combined. As has become tradition, once we passed the Massachusetts sign we raised our arms and cheered and screamed MASSACHUSETS!!! Then we passed maybe one of the most terrifying road signs I have ever seen: Caution, low-flying planes.

The internet in our hotel sucked. I tried to read my book but I soon gave up. By 10pm I was in bed. This was not the worst plan, seeing as we would be waking up early the next day anyways.

 

Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts: Double Loop- Day 3

Sun. July 12, 2015:
New York

I awoke to the sound of Brent typing at his computer. I asked him what time it was, 8:25am he said. I replied 20 more minutes and went back to sleep. My alarm clock was set for 9:00am, but at 8:57am Brent woke me up, as jokingly promised the day before. The hotel breakfast was lacking to say the least: a really crappy cup of coffee and a sticky honey bun. I had to dump my first cup of coffee, I had used coffee whitener and only after I found some actual half and half cream. It barely made the coffee any better. I posted a joke picture of my food on Instagram.

In the car we started on a list of things to Google, various questions that had come up so far. We had a very scenic drive through Catskills Park, lots of windy twisty roads and beautiful foliage. At one point we were driving alongside a river. We drove by a chicken shaped mailbox which made my day. We stopped at the Emerson Resort & Spa for a better breakfast, however we could not find the café. After wandering around the main floor, gawking and drooling over the gorgeous antique furniture, we found the gift shop where you could buy tickets to see a show inside the world’s biggest kaleidoscope. How could we turn that down? It was $5 for a 10 minute show, and because it was just the two of us we were able to lie down on the floor to get a better view without destroying our necks. They did have boards set up on an angle with headrests, but the view from the floor was much better. Going in, I had no idea what to expect beyond colours and patterns. The kaleidoscope was not traditional in the sense of coloured glass or plastic illuminated, it was instead a projection bounced off angled mirrors. It was done in such a way as to produce a 3D effect, which I only got part of the time. Being a projection they were freer to create more intricate and unique patterns. I did not expect it to be so imbued with Americana. We had eagles and president heads flying at us. At one point there were marijuana leaves dancing all over the place. Then we were on a very condensed timeline of American history, Churchill and Hitler also made cameos. Weirdest of all were the Confederate flags.

At the back of the gift shop we found the café nestled away. We split two cookies and I had my second coffee fix of the day, really first because that other cup was so bad I wished to forget it. I had a bite of Brent’s sandwich, it was delicious, but I was in a cookie mood. We drove to Woodstock, NY aka where the Woodstock festival did not take place. The town had a lot of hippy and Woodstock-inspired décor. The parking meters were shaped like guitars and there was a sign that said “calm this way” and pointed towards a Sufi centre. We saw a guy with giant dreadlocks, and we passed the Woodstock love knot sculpture. We browsed the flea market we had parked near and it was exactly what we had expected: lots of stuff from Tibet, tie-dye fabrics and records. There was one stall where they were selling old stuff, including some old books. I was quite tempted by them, especially one from 1905, but I realized if I bought one then I would have to buy more. And I would rather buy books I intend on reading over and over. I spent a few minutes geeking out and drooling over a beautifully bound volume of poetry by Percy Shelley. We tried to find the library that was having a book sale. We had passed it on our way into town but it was much further than we had thought. We saw yet another motorcycle gang meet-up. This one was a more diverse group, not everyone was on Harley’s, it was much less intimidating too.

Up next in our tour of towns on the Hudson River was Kingston, NY. At first it was really sketch and crappy. However closer to the river there was a small stretch of road that was nice, the historic district. We parked in the first spot we saw because we were unsure of the parking situation closer to the river and walked down. The view of the river was marred on one side by the highway overpass but to make up for it there was a nice old bridge at the other end. It was getting hot outside, and the humidity was not helping matters. Walking back to the car seemed to take forever.

On our way to the next town we stopped at a liquor store. They did not have any good ciders (there was a specific New York one I was looking for), I just grabbed some “limited edition” iced tea coolers. The beer selection was also not that great. There was a car show happening in Saugerties, therefore we had to try and take a detour which was really confusing as there were no signs and we were just guessing based on the map showing on the GPS. Adding to the fun was the traffic caused by the blocked off streets.

Eventually we made it to the Saugerties lighthouse. I was expecting to jump out of the car and walk up to it, maybe across a crappy beach. I was not expecting a 15-20 minute nature walk through a marsh. There were some cranes hanging out among the reeds, making a noisy ruckus and flapping about. The lighthouse had a house attached to it that now functioned as bed & breakfast. It was nice and quaint, alas we barely had any time to enjoy it as we had to head back. It had taken a lot longer than we had planned for.

On a small road there was a traffic light in the middle of the road, not even at an intersection or anything. It confused me, until we passed over a one lane bridge, then it all made sense. As we drove through the town of Catskill there were tacky cat statues everywhere. It was killing me, I wanted so desperately to photograph them. Alas, we did not have time to stop, we had a 3pm tour of Olana Historic House to get to. We also passed a sign for a catfish derby that had our baseball team’s logo. We made a note of it for later, we would try and backtrack to it (alas, this was a while after we had passed through Catskill and was much closer to Olana House). We drove over Rip Van Winkle bridge, for a second I was excited, then I realized it had nothing to do with the story. It was just named that because the story was set in the Catskill Mountains. They were capitalizing on the fame, and charging a toll to boot.

We could see Olana House high atop the cliff where it was perched amongst the foliage. Oddly the gift shop had Diana cameras for sale, alas only 120mm and no 35mm. We wound up having the world’s most boring tour guide. She was one of those rare types who literally just do the job. She seemed to have no passion for the subject, could not care less, simply repeating what she had learned through rote memorization. It was really too bad, as it affected our perceptions of Olana House. I kid you not, I was more interested at one point in a sign warning of ticks in the forested area surrounding the house, than what she was saying about the architecture. It was nearly impossible to listen to her. Again, a shame, because I really did want to learn about the house- I wanted to learn more than I could read in a brochure though. She was like a talking info pamphlet. Things only got worse as the hunger and dehydration started to kick in. We made a beeline for the gift shop, hoping it would still be open. To hold us over we got a brownie and some ice cold water- which we pretty much devoured.

We drove to another small town to see a lighthouse in the middle of the Hudson River. It was interesting, but there was nothing else in this town and the waterfront was rather crappy and industrial. On our way out of town we noticed another catfish derby sign. Brent pulled over to the side of the road and I ran out with my camera to snap a quick picture, confusing the nearby motorists. We stopped at a CVS near our hotel to grab some snacks to hold us over until dinner. There was not much in terms of new or wacky candy, we got Butterfinger Bites and Mega M&Ms and Starburst gummies. The soda selection was even worse, I ended up grabbing the last cherry Pepsi. Back at the hotel we made a terrible discovery: I had grabbed regular M&Ms by mistake!

We Google-image searched The Beekman Arms to see what the dress code for dinner was like. Turns out we did not have to get dressed up super fancy, as it was a tavern. We also found out that The Beekman Arms is America’s oldest continually operating inn. When we got there I almost made the mistake of getting us a table on the patio i.e.: outside the building. Once inside we had a choice between sitting in the bar area or in a booth. Again, I made a terrible choice and said booth. There was only one couple in the booth area, everyone else was in the bar area. I thought nothing of it. That is, until we sat down. The guy was talking and would not shut up. It was intolerable and absolutely horrible. He was ranting about guns, except we could not for the life of us tell if he was pro- or anti-guns. He barely stopped for a breath, just going on and on, guns this, guns that, this country and that country. We were there less than 5 minutes before we flagged down a server and asked to be moved.

It was such a relief to get away from that guy. The bar area, even with the din of all the other conversations going on around us, the bar seemed quieter and more peaceful. On our way in Brent had noticed that the tavern had won an award for best appetizer. It turns out the award was for their mini-sliders which are served individually, making them quite difficult to share. I opted out of ordering another app and instead resorted to stealing some of the kettle-chips on the side of the slider. There was not much debate about the mains, they had grilled swordfish on the menu and seeing as I never see it on menus it was an obvious choice. Opting for something presumably more local, Brent had the brook trout. The trout was amazing, way better than the swordfish which was a bit bland. However the baby potatoes on the side were much better than the couscous salad on the side of the brook trout, so who can really say which dish won? It was a draw.

For dessert we stopped at Jane’s Homemade Ice Cream. We had passed it on the way to the tavern. Once inside the choice was easy, they had an ice cream flavour called the kitchen sink: finally I could say I conquered the kitchen sink! The ice cream had Rolos, chocolate covered peanuts and Mounds bar pieces. Alas the ice cream was minty and the fillings were sparse. Back in the hotel it turned out the iced tea cooler I had gotten was a malt beverage, I felt like such white trash drinking it.

 

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Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts: Double Loop- Day 2

Sat. July 11, 2015:
Connecticut to New York

Our second day of vacation was off to a much better start, partly because we stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts in the airport on our way to catch a shuttle to the rental car place. I was tempted, but I did not end up getting a donut, as we still had snacks left over from the previous day. Across from the Dunkin’ Donuts I spotted a LEGO model of Mark Twain’s house. It was not 100% accurate, as it was missing us in the parking lot tailgating (last time we were in Hartford).

In the shuttle on the way to Payless Rental Cars, we passed by the old airport which had been abandoned and was being slowly torn down. It looked pretty cool. The guy at the car rental place was awesome. He was very nice and chatty. He said Connecticut was the most boring place ever and he wondered why we were visiting. He was incredibly good at his job, trying to up-sell us to a bigger car and everything (which did not work, but still a good effort).

As soon as we got on the road, the license plate game began. It also helped me to stay awake instead of drifting off to sleep as I usually do. The license plate game picked up almost immediately. Soon I had a possible Maryland and an unidentifiable one because everyone else was flying past us, even though we were also going over the speed limit. Trucks were great for my game, however I limited it to only the front or the back license plate, not both for that would be cheating.

A great cheer went up in the car, hands raised as we shouted NEW YORK! Now we were in New York state. There was a sign for a rest area that was advertised as a “text stop” so people could check their phones. As we drove we had a 99% Invisible podcast marathon. We passed by a prison and all the inmates were outside on the baseball diamond.

Our first stop of the day was the Dia:Beacon modern art museum. We got there right at open. The plan had originally been to see this museum the day before, and now we had to cram it into our Saturday plans. Luckily the museum was not that big and the art pieces themselves were quite big, thus we were done in less than two hours. While I am not a huge fan of contemporary art, for some reason it just felt good to look at it, especially the installation that was just a series of tube light bulbs in various arrangements. There were also these giant metal sculptures in one room, and it was unclear if you could actually go inside or touch them. As I later found out, yes you were allowed to. All I missed out on was some mild claustrophobia. The highlight of the museum was their collection of photographs by Berndt and Hilda Becher, the only artists in the collection whose work I was previously familiar with.

Afterwards we drove to a nearby park associated with the museum in the hopes of seeing one more art installation. Turns out the park was just named after the artist and there was no artwork there, just the Hudson River and some canoes for rent. The view of the river was beautiful and I joked that it was because we were upstream from the New York/New Jersey bridge where they dump all the bodies.

We stopped in Newburgh, NY to gawk at Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War. Because our plans from the previous day had to merge, we did not have enough time for the originally planned tour of the place. It did not look like we had missed much, the place was small and the town was crappy. There was even a guy sleeping on the lawn of the historic building. We stopped in New Paltz, NY to view the downtown, which consisted of one street, Main Street and it was really busy. There was a biker gang meet-up at a restaurant and the place was swarming with motorcycles.

In the original plans, our day was supposed to start at the Mohonk Mountain Inn with an early morning hike. There are only a limited amount of parking spaces for day visitors and we were worried that because it was a Saturday the place would be full. Lucky for us there were still a few spots left. We took a shuttle from the guest parking lot to the main lodge, there was no point in walking half an hour to the trailhead. When we bought the hiking passes the lady gave us a trail map. The lodge had miles and miles of trails, it looked like a pile of string had been thrown on the map.

There were two different trails we could take to Skytop Tower, one was relatively easy and the other entailed scaling rocks and squeezing between boulders. The choice was obvious: we had to take the easy way, with my bad knees and DSLR there was no way I was going to take the difficult route. Before we left the car we had put on sunscreen just in case, even though I figured if we are hiking how much sun exposure can there be? Lots apparently. It was less of a hike and more of a pleasant, uphill, sometimes stair-climbing half hour walk. There was not much tree cover, and so we had gorgeous views of the lake and the lodge down below. It was a giant resort set in front of the Catskill Mountains. It reminded me of the resorts in Dirty Dancing and The Shining. Periodically there were breaks in the trees below and we could see the difficult trail. From the overlook we looked down and watched people squeeze between boulders and climb up rickety wooden ladders. We had made the right choice.

From the top the view was breathtaking, you could see for miles. You could see even further from the tower, you could also look down into the reservoir. We had read that you could see six states from the tower, looking out we tried to name them. We had five. Turns out you could see Ohio, how were we supposed to know? Trying to get back to the lodge we got lost, we took a wrong turn and had to back-track. At this point it was starting to get really hot. I really wish I had worn shorts, but I had been expecting a woods-y hike so I wore longer pants. The shuttle was there when we got back to the parking lot, perfect timing.

Back in the car it felt so good to take off my socks and running shoes. The car was an oven. I made the mistake of sipping from the bottle of Coke we had left in there- it was as warm as a cup of tea. Driving to Bethel, NY (where Woodstock took place) we took the scenic route through the backroads. We passed a sign for “foot golf” and I got confused: do you use your foot as a club? As we got closer to Bethel we saw a lot of hippy signs, such as the one for a restaurant called Peace, Love & Ice Cream. There were also some not-so-hippy-inspired signs like the Fat Lady Café billboard, or the one advertising a bar called Sports TVs & Topless. We also passed a peace sign standing in a field.

The entrance to the Bethel Woods Art Centre had speed limit signs that said “drive peacefully.” There was going to be a Def Leppard concert that evening at the centre, therefore the place was already packed with concert goers. We had to park on the lawn and make our way around the tail-gating concert-goers to get to the museum itself. The tail-gaters sure did love corn-hole, barbeque and beer. The museum was small and mostly consisted of information panels and re-printed photographs. There weren’t a lot of artifacts, but then again what could they really display? There were a few original tickets, scribbled notes about the concert line-up and a Volkswagen beetle covered in peace signs and bright colours. In the basement they had a special exhibit about fashions from that time period and you could play dress-up, but we did not feel like waiting behind a large group who clearly had no intention of finishing up anytime soon.

Before getting in the car and trying to leave, we walked around and tried to figure out the easiest way to leave. The field was crawling with people tail-gating. It was a slow and stressful drive out, thankfully the people were not yet drunk and thus moved out of the way. We also got some quizzical looks, like “why are these people leaving?” As we left we stopped at the Woodstock monument to get a view of the field where it all happened. There was a peace sign cut into the grass. The field was a lot smaller than I had expected, I also did not realize that it was actually on a hill.

The peanut M&Ms we had left in the car had melted the perfect amount, contrasting with the crunchy shell. However the shell colour had also started melting off, making them annoying to eat. Our hotel was less than ideal, the vending machine would not dispense any soda, it would not even take my coins. We settled in and got ready for our fancy dinner plans.

We drove to the Beaverkill Inn for dinner. On the way we saw some deer by the road. The male and female were across the road from each other and it made for a tense situation as we shouted at them to not go in the road. I joked that because they were young (the male had tiny antlers) they were out on a date, it was Saturday night after all. Apparently there was another deer up on the hill, but I never saw it. When we got to dinner it turned out we were very overdressed. Everyone else who was eating there was dressed in regular clothes, whereas we were in dressy clothes. And our plans for a fancy dinner, at least justifying our outfits, were quashed. For some reason dinner that night was being served buffet style. The worst part was that we were not staying there, we could not just go back to our room and change outfits. We had at least been expecting fresh caught trout from the nearby brook, but at least the salmon was still really good. Once we were done dessert had not yet been brought out, we sat there eagerly awaiting it. There was no way we were skipping dessert, it was buffet after all. It was worth the wait, a dark chocolate pot de crème with fresh fruits. I really did wish we had seconds.

Back at the hotel we settled in and queued up Netflix. Brent checked his email and we found out we could have flown through Montreal and got into Hartford, CT at 9pm. It was a little too late for that.

 

Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts: Double Loop- Day 1

Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts- Double Loop
July 10-19, 2015:

Fri. July 10, 2015:
Toronto flying to Hartford, Connecticut

The day started off kind of weird. The Pan Am games were beginning and the subway was full of unbearable teenage tourists. There were two separate tour groups, by the time they had all cleared out it was amazing how quiet the subway was. Even with that minor annoyance, we were making great time.

The airport was not busy at all, which was a bit surprising as the Pan Am games torch had passed through that morning. We got through security quickly with no delays. It turns out our gate was in some far off corner of the airport, I kept calling it Siberia. It felt like we had been exiled. We actually passed a sign saying that from the sign to our gate was another 7 minute walk. Then we passed another sign warning us that the convenience store was the last one we would pass. There was no way I was going to back-track to Tim Hortons, the round trip (not counting waiting) would be at least 15 minutes! Forget that, I ordered a bagel from the Great Canadian Bagel instead. Not only did this save me some time, it gave me more time to watch Under the Dome on the iPad. TV is not the same without snacks, and so I ended up cracking open the cherry blasters I had been saving for the flight. In no time we had polished off the whole bag. Oops.

I was starting to get antsy. We had arrived two hours before our flight was to leave and it was past boarding time. I had looked up at the board before and noticed it said Hartford 13:30. I thought nothing of it, assuming that was the flight after ours. If we were delayed surely they would have announced it? In short order they did announce it. Mechanical delays they said. Suddenly we were delayed two more hours. The walk to Timmies did not seem so bad anymore. My legs were cramped and my neck hurt from watching The Grand Hotel on the iPad (the Netflix app is a god-send). Walking there I was a little nervous. I texted Brent asking if they can un-delay a flight? Of course he did not respond, as he had left his cell phone at home. Even still, checking the boards the whole time, I hurried back from Timmies and Starbucks for fear they might start boarding soon.

What I came back to was a full airport lounge. Due to the delays, the departing flights were starting to stack up. There were no free seats and people were getting mad. Brent had gone for a walk to stretch his legs. I spent the whole time telling people the seat was taken, instead of watching more TV. There was a bottleneck of people at the gates. Our gate was changed to the next one over, which did not help as they were all in one corner anyways.

And then another update: we were delayed by yet another hour. For those of you keeping score: we were now 3 hours delayed. What else could I do but keep watching TV? At 4pm, when our flight was finally due to take off we were informed that it had in fact been cancelled. A wave of groans and anger rolled through the lounge. On my earlier adventure I had made note of where the Air Canada customer service desk was. Just before they made the announcement I had noticed on the board that it was cancelled. I grabbed my stuff and made a beeline to the desk. Yet another upside to travelling light, we were able to grab our stuff quick.

Now we were at that point where we realized if we had driven we’d already be at our destination. We were one of the first groups to the desk. We got tickets on an 8:00pm flight and were put on stand-by for a 4:00pm flight. Things were not looking good, it seemed our first day of vacation was quickly being eaten up by the airport. Air Canada gave us $10 food vouchers- as if that helped matters at all? Great, I thought, a voucher towards crappy airport food.

I was getting really antsy and sick of sitting in the airport. I longed to go outside, I was starting to forget what sunshine felt like, what fresh air smelled like. As you can see, I was getting the airport crazies. We had been in the airport for about 6 hours by that point.

When it came time for the boarding of the 4:00pm flight we crowded by the gate. Again, there was a bottle-neck due to many flights being delayed. It was just a bad day at the airport all around. We had no idea how stand-by works, and so I had to Google it. Another couple who had been ahead of us in line got on the flight. We remained slightly hopeful. Then, what seemed like against all odds, the lady read Brent’s name and tried to read my last name but just pointed to us and asked if we were travelling together. Yes, yes we were. She asked if we were willing to be split up, there was one last seat on the list. At the time, it did not make sense for us to split up as one of us would be stuck at Bradley International Airport just sitting there in a rental car. We had gotten so close! Did I mention that this flight had also been delayed? Only by about 30 minutes, but still.

We had another 3 hours before our flight and despite the stress we were getting kind of hungry. We had dinner at one of the airport pubs, at least we could use those stupid vouchers. To go with my mac and cheese comfort food dinner I ordered sparkling wine, served in a champagne glass. It was an odd combination but at least for a while I forgot I was trapped in an airport.

Back in the airport lounge we were down to the wire. Only an hour and a half to go and we would be on our way. I was mostly just tired by this point. I could hardly get mad, as our flight had been cancelled due to mechanical troubles. I’d rather that than a crash.

There we were, anxiously awaiting our 8pm flight… and the unthinkable happened. Our f*cking flight was f*cking delayed. I just about lost my damn mind. I actually exclaimed quite loudly, for f*ck’s sake! It’s ok, by that point the only people left in the lounge were the fellow failed travelers from 2-3 delayed flights.

No reason was given why the flight was delayed. A 9pm flight would get us in to Hartford, Connecticut at about 11pm. It was time to start worrying about the car rental. Apparently the place we rented our car from closed earlier than the others. And so Brent began his epic (horrible) journey through a maze of phone calls trying to rectify the unforeseeable situation. First he was told that if we came to pick up the car the next day they would charge us as if it was a new rental, i.e.: charge us all over again. He tried to get them to transfer the purchase to another rental owned by the same head company. Budget and Avis were open later. Nope, that did not work. He tried to get a refund in full. No-go either. After 16 phone calls, countless “can I speak with your supervisor?”s, over an hour later: we finally had a solution. A nice lady who works at Payless Car Rentals, would leave a note on the counter explaining our situation and that we would be picking up our car the next day. The lady sitting across from us said it was like watching an episode of Seinfeld. I had no idea what she was talking about. They had rented from Enterprise and within minutes they had resolved their being-late-to-pick-up-rental-car problem.

While Brent was lost in a vortex of inept customer service reps, I got called to the Air Canada customer service desk. I had just been there inquiring about whether or not they would reimburse us for the fees incurred due to the delay (he had been dealing with a very angry lady, and so he shot me down and just gave me a card with a number to call). Turns out they called me back to give us another $10 food voucher each. Brent was sad he had missed it, he had wanted to rip his up in front of the counter.

During all that drama our flight got delayed yet again. This time we were told 11:45pm. When I was picking up the food vouchers I asked the guy whether or not this was another lie. Was the plane actually going to be here? Turns out the delay was because there were not enough propeller planes to go around. Apparently our plane had flown some people (from another delayed/cancelled flight) down to Harrisburg, was coming back to pick us up and finally fly us down to Connecticut. He said that unless something happened to the plane, we were set. I had trouble believing him. Thanks to Air Canada I developed some deep trust issues.

The lady from the Great Canadian Bagel walked through the lounge doing a last call. I figured I might as well get $10 worth of snacks, why not. And so we were stuck there, like sitting ducks, trapped in the lounge. For a while we were there with the Indianapolis people, until their gate got moved. Then it was just us. The Hartford Stragglers and a few Air Canada employees. I no longer cared, I put my feet up and stretched out for a nap. Brent had tried to nap, but he gave up quickly. I did manage to snap a picture of him napping and I posted it to Instagram with the whole story and many hilarious hashtags. It made me feel better, if only for a few minutes. Walking to the bathroom I passed by some of the other Hartford Stragglers. I overheard that the 8am flight had also been cancelled due to mechanical delays. Some people had been here since 6am! It made our 13 hours in the airport seem like a cakewalk.

When we got word that the airplane had landed, we tried to book a hotel room at the Hartford Airport. There was no way we would make it to our hotel in New York state. We were unsure if the booking had gone through, but I was far too tired to care. We’d find out when we got there. I was just happy to finally be boarding the damn plane. A 1hr 40min flight took us 13hr15mins and that is just to the point of boarding the plane.

As we got on the plane I snapped a quick picture of Brent. The first officer asked if I wanted my picture taken, but after 13 hours in an airport, I was in no condition to appear in photographs. Because we were flying on such a short route, we were on a small propeller plane. It made me really nervous, add in the fact that this crew had just flown people to Harrisburg and then more people from there to Toronto and were to fly again? Add in the fact that we had recently started watching Lost, and I was much more nervous than usual. Thankfully the first officer was so nice and charming, it reassured me for some reason.

I managed to get in a good nap on the flight. I was so tired that the white noise of the plane was reinterpreted by my brain as a podcast. In my dazed half-sleep I was very confused as to why I was listening to podcasts when I was trying to sleep. We landed at 1:30am, exhausted and desperate for sleep. I just wanted the day to be over. Thankfully the Sheraton was connected to the airport so we did not have to fuss with a shuttle. We were in bed and asleep by 2am. Our flight was originally supposed to land at 2pm.

UPDATES: turns out Air Canada had emailed Brent a new itinerary, we were supposed to fly to Montreal and from there fly to Hartford, CT. Somehow this information was not in the system? Not shared with the Air Canada customer service reps or input into the system?

 

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Wafflepalooza

Because we are leaving on vacation, we crammed two fooding expeditions into one week. We were headed towards Etobicoke to catch a ride with a friend of ours to another friend’s wedding. It only made sense to walk partway, stop for breakfast and then transit the rest of the way. Starving Artist had opened another location since Brent had made his fooding map (yes, he made an actual map), conveniently at Ossington and College. I was very excited about our breakfast of the best waffles. I loved waffles before, but since we went to Belgium I fell even more in love with them (yes, it is possible).

The night before we looked up the menu and there were so many good options. I kept changing my mind, which led to far too many “waffling” jokes. I was torn between getting the grilled cheese (how intriguing!) and the french toast (a waffle with the goodness of french toast! win win!). I found a compromise: the croque monsieur waffle was two french toasted waffles sandwiching ham and cheese! While it seemed like a great idea on paper.. in reality it was too much. The sweetness of the powedered sugar on the waffles did not go so well with the cheese. There was far too much ham in the sandwich. The french toast part barely came through, I had been expecting an eggy, greasy sopping waffle, not one that needed dipping in maple syrup. I ended up deconstructing the waffle-wich and eating it in parts which was fine for the most part. Except after a while I got sick of the ham. Deli meat warmed up is not always so great. We ordered waffle bacon on the side as well. This was the clear winner. Simple yet elegant, brilliant really: strips of bacon baked into waffle batter.

Unfortunately I was too full for a dessert waffle. I thought the sandwich would be much smaller. I had been anticipating ordering a mini dessert waffle to finish off the breakfast. Needless to say I was too full, even though the caramel pecan sounded so temptingly delicious. I have only confirmed my suspicions from last summer: waffles are best served sweet, no more mucking about. Having not tried the sweet versions of their waffles, it is a tough call to say whether or not these really are the bset waffles in the city. Smith had good waffles, as did Auntie’s and Uncle’s. Starving Artist has the novelty aspect though.

 

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Fancy Sushi

The list of best restaurant patios was recently updated and thus we have yet to resort to transiting on our fooding adventures. And so we found ourselves on fine afternoon, on a rooftop patio in Yorkville ordering really fancy sushi at Kasa Moto.

The rooftop patio was secluded and spacious, we sat in the fanciest booth ever (wicker and extra cushions). The patio was split into two sections, and all the while we wondered what the other side looked like. Was it nicer? Did it have a better view? It seemed like everyone was sitting over there, which no complaints here: it was nice and quiet, no pretentious people asking about where the fish is from (“Oh, I’ve already eaten fish from California this week”- no joke, heard someone say something to that effect once).

We ordered an array of food, covering a good range: two types of sushi, pork belly and waygu beef. I could not resist ordering a glass of sangria, it was made with sake! It was amazing, although it did feel a bit weird to be drinking out of a wine glass through a straw around a pile of ice cubes. It felt at odds with the fanciness of the restaurant.The pork belly and waygu beef arrived first. The pork belly was amazing, it was surprisingly not overly fatty (which was a first). I still preferred the waygu beef however. No sooner were we finished, the sushi arrived. We had ordered one traditional sushi with softshell crab and one wacky one that salmon, lobster and one other seafood. I was surprised that the softshell crab was battered and fried. It added some nice texture, but it lacked the refreshing quality of non-fried fish. What saved it was the roe. For the other sushi I found the salmon a bit too fatty, and would have happily swapped it for the roe from the softshell crab sushi.

We had ordered just the right amount of food. We were comfortably satiated but we still had room for dessert. I was so incredibly excited for dessert, like I had been talking about it in the days leading up. We were (finally|) going to Bang Bang Ice Cream and I was going to have my fill! The entire walk there I just talked and talked about how much I was looking forward to this. My first choice was to have macarons as the sandwich, then my backup was pound cake and finally if all else failed: cookies. Brent had decided early on that he would get the Hong Kong waffle to house his ice cream. The plan was, no matter the line-up, we would wait. Lo and behold, tyhere was barely a line! The ice cream gods were smiling down upon us. For a short while anyways. Once we got closer in, I saw to my disappointment that there were no macarons, no pound cake, no donuts… at the last minute I spotted Nutella pastry puffs for the win! I chose the wackiest flavour they had: birthday cake cookie dough. However after reading teh descriptions of the cookies I found out that their version of birthday cake is lemony, which is fine given I had the heads up. We would be remiss if we did not also buy some cookies, these are the guys behind BakerBots after all. It was a long time before we were able to actually eat the cookies, as towards the end we were both nearing ice cream comas.

 
 
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