Monthly Archives: October 2015

Boston to Maine: Weekender Edition- Day 3

Sun. Oct. 18, 2015:
Kennebunkport, Maine to Boston, Massachusetts to Toronto:

The complimentary breakfast downstairs was nice because it was fancy but self-serve. The coffee was delicious, and for once I did not end up with a banana muffin. Even better, there was granola to put in the yogurt. It was all going well, we had a comfy seat in a booth and Brent was looking for the crossword in the New York Times. Then the crazy old man beside us picked up on a comment Brent made about football. And he kept talking and talking. We had to eat fast and leave. He looked like a mad scientist/crazed writer, with dishevelled white hair and an odd look in his eyes.

We packed up and set off. We considered walking to Gooches Beach, renowned for the cold. But it was 25 minutes one way and it made more sense to drive instead. Parking would not be an issue as it was October. It really was cold on the beach, I longed for my hat and gloves. There were so many dogs on the beach, it was great to watch. There were gorgeous views of the ocean and beach houses. I felt a little silly on the beach in my leather boots though.

Driving to Walker’s Point, we passed by Mabel’s Lobster Claw (our lunch plans). It had just opened, and we reversed our plans. Trying to find a parking spot was confusing as the spots to the side were reserved for the places next door. After driving by three times, we parked outside a hotel across the street. From the restaurant we could see the car. For lunch we split a lobster roll and crab cakes. I of course had to try the clam chowder, it would be my last one for a long time. It was amazing (all capital letters, underlined and with exclamation marks in my notebook). The clam chowder combined the greatness of the two I had previously into one even better one. I’ve never had clam chowder with that many clam pieces in it and so thick too. The lobster roll was also out of this world, best one I’ve ever had and I can see why they are renowned for it. It had large chunks of lobster (so much that it was falling out with every bite). There was just a tiny bit of mayo and the bun, was toasted AND buttered. I didn’t even mind the lettuce, in fact I enjoyed it. I could not resist having a local drink too. It was just vodka and Maine ginger beer and it was delicious. Dessert was equally outstanding. Brent had read about their famous peanut butter ice cream, which they also serve as an ice cream pie. The plan was to split it. However when our server told us that they also had on special a Maine blueberry pie, I had to get a slice. An amazing meal overall, easily one of the all time best.

Peanut butter ice cream pie smothered in hot fudge

At the restaurant we overheard that the Bush family had left town last week. Add that to our list of “just missed them” families. There were lots of people at Walker’s Point gawking at the Bushes vacation homes compound. There were about 8 secret service cars on the property. It was still cold out, but not nearly as bad as in the morning when it was only 3 degrees Celsius.

We stopped at the Rachel Carson Nature Wildlife Refuge. We went on a short leisure hike on a looped trail. All along the walk they had lookout points to see the marshes. Alas, we saw only a chipmunk, no bald eagles. We had nice views of the changing leaves though. The cold was now manageable, it was even a little nice out when the wind died down (it was a bright sunny day).

We drove past a coffee shop called Brewed Awakenings, it made me giggle. When we crossed back into New Hampshire I almost forgot to cheer, we had crossed a state line. We gave a good cheer when we crossed back into Massachusetts though. I was so sleepy, I could barely stay awake. We passed by a few stores, but they were difficult to get to, I had to forgo snacks and coffee.

Driving to the airport we got to drive over the bridge that is shown in the TV show Fringe. We got to the airport 3 hours before our flight because we had to return the rental car. When we got off the shuttle at our terminal I realized to my horror that it was snowing! I shouted that I wanted to go back home. It turned out the airport website was wrong, our terminal did in fact have a duty-free shop, actually it had two. What it lacked though was a Dunkin’ Donuts. I had to settle for Starbucks, and the lady charged me for a white mocha when I had ordered a white hot chocolate. I realized too late and was too tired to argue.

We found a spot to set up camp. After a while I got antsy, I went to get some snacks. Trying to read and eat candy, I ended up getting antsy again. This time I walked to the other end of the terminal to get more chips. We would not be getting in until late and this would have to be my dinner. I did not want to resort to eating Burger King, Doritos were a better alternative. Eventually Brent got annoyed with the slow internet and so I took the laptop and started typing up the notes from my book. However I was doing this in notepad, knowing what a pain it would be to format later.

There was an announcement, our flight had been overbooked. They were offering someone a $1000 voucher if they took the next flight at 9:30pm. I ran for our gate. She said she had one person who was considering it, but her co-worker said they could not save it if someone else was in for sure. She was on the phone with her supervisor getting the details and asked me if I would be needing a hotel. I looked at her confused, a hotel? In my head I thought they were going to add it on to the flight voucher. Just to be safe I confirmed the flight time. She said it was 9:30am. A guy standing by the counter said he thought the same thing. Alas, I could not take it as I had school the next day and an assignment to hand in. our flight had also started boarding, I had to run back and get Brent. Turns out the announcement had not been made in our section of the airport, he didn’t even know we were boarding. I had been the only person on our flight to buy stuff at the duty-free store, I felt so bad for the lady having to stand there with my purchases waiting for me. On the flight they announced that it was 4 degrees Celsius back home. Damn it I thought, it would be warmer at home. The whole flight home I thought about that voucher. Maybe I should have gone for it? Next time, it will happen next time for sure.

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Posted by on October 23, 2015 in The Roving Reporter, Travel


Boston to Maine: Weekender Edition- Day 2

Sat. Oct. 17, 2015:
Boston, Massachusetts driving to Kennebunkport, Maine:

For some ungodly reason they were doing construction on a roof adjacent to our hotel, at 6am, on a Saturday. We closed the window and now it was quieter, but it was also hotter and there was no A/C. Needless to say I did not manage to sleep past 8am. Our hotel did not have complimentary breakfast and so we munched on the chewy SweetTarts and I made some tea. The tea was not good as I had to use the coffee maker. It was around this point, while watching a show about misbehaving cats, that I pulled myself together and got ready to go. We were walking to Mike’s Pastry to get a delicious breakfast. We covered the spread and ordered: lemon cannoli, a Neapolitan square and a Boston cream puff.

It is nearly impossible to have pastries for breakfast without coffee. We were near the Dunkin’ Donuts I had gone to the day before. As we walked there however, we took a detour and went into the Boston/Hay Market. Brent had never been inside and I suddenly decided that what I needed was an actual good cup of coffee, not a good cup of crappy coffee. Back in the hotel we had a feast. The cream puff won by far, the Neapolitan square was a close second (despite being hard to eat). It was a lot of sugar to ingest in one sitting.

The elevator was full, everyone was on their way to check out of the hotel. We felt a need to rush, but everyone else was so slow it did not matter. Walking to Harvard we were unsure of the route. Our paper maps directed us from Mike’s Pastry and the phone was giving us driving directions. We had to somehow get across, over or under, a bunch of highways. We stopped by the science museum but it seemed oriented to children with lots of interactive exhibits. We did get to see a guy demonstrating glass-blowing outside which was worth the small detour.

The walk to Harvard campus seemed to take forever. My legs were still tired from the previous day and we were once again carrying our bags. The map printout had said it would take an hour and 11 minutes to walk from Mike’s Pastry, therefore even shorter from our hotel. Somehow it took longer. In the distance I could see a fancy building, I convinced myself it was Harvard, so I did not feel I had to walk much farther. Plus nearby businesses all had Harvard in their names. I had been right, it was the beginning of campus. What we did not anticipate was having to try and find Harvard Yard once we got there. It was tempting to latch onto a tour group going into one of the buildings but the group was so big and the building so small it would have been uncomfortable. As we turned in a circle trying to figure out which way to go, Brent noticed the gate to Harvard Yard across the way. There were lots of tourists and it made me wonder if students ever actually passed through or avoided it as much as possible? I did not get to see any stereotypical dorks either. There were a lot of nice buildings to look at. Most importantly there were some chairs to sit in. Sitting there I realized just how tired I really was.

Having rested a bit, the plan was to walk down to the Museum of Fine Art and finish what we could in a few hours. However about 20 minutes in the hour long walk I realized my legs were too tired for this. It was an hour walk and then we would be walking for 1-2 hours more in the museum. I had to tap out and call it quits.

After a few failed attempts we managed to hail a cab (paid for by Brent’s work). We drove to the airport where we picked up a rental car. On the way we had passed the MIT campus, it really does not seem like I had missed much. It was confusing at the airport, we ended up driving to the rental car return instead of the drop-off area. During the bathroom break a shuttle bus had arrived and so there was a mad rush of people to the car rental counters. While Brent waited in line I took off in the direction of Dunkin’ Donuts. They had a Snickerdoodle cookie flavour shot. I was psyched, until I tried to pour some coffee. One drop came out and then nothing. I panicked for a second, until they brought out a fresh carafe.

It felt good to sit down while I waited, I wasn’t even bothered by the very squeaky escalator or the lady watching a TV show in French without headphones. The car had not been checked, they did not do a walk-around. It was only as we were exiting that there was a giant line-up. Some of the rental companies were doing the check at the exit, holding up the line. It was a terrible plan. Our GPS was just a jerry-rigged Samsung cellphone. We immediately had trouble with. The holder was not intuitive at all, it took some struggle to figure out how the phone goes in it. Then the suction cup would not stick, it would fall off the windshield making a terrible noise as it fell across the dashboard. Finally in a fit of aggravation I applied some spit to it. The suction stuck the rest of the trip.

As per my request, we stopped at Walmart so I could stock up on my usual supplies. The Oreo selection was unusually boring, with nothing new. They also did not have any of my beloved Biscoff cookies. Adding to the terribleness there was a guy making small talk with me about shopping when hungry. I grabbed some Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (a great haul: cinnamon bun, blueberry crisp and pumpkin spice) and Swiss Miss and walked away. I wanted out of there, the place was full of annoying kids and people who did not know how to use self-checkout lines.

We stopped for lunch at Woodman’s of Essex. You could see how popular the place is in the summer, they had a bunch of picnic benches set up by the river. Inside there was a plaque that said “happiness is finding an empty booth at Woodman’s.” We still had dinner plans in the evening, so we kept lunch light. We ordered the signature dish: clam strip plate and some clam chowder on the side for me. I was on a real clam chowder kick this trip. Woodman’s clam chowder had so many chunks of actual clam in it that I was in heaven, it completely made up for how water-y the chowder was. The fried clams and fries were delicious, I opted out of the onion rings. On the side we had drinks from crappy plastic cups. Even still, my margarita had a salted rim.

As we drove we got to see the nice fall colours. Celebration! We crossed a bridge over into Maine, state number 32 for us both!! Following tradition, we waved our arms in the air and cheered. I was starting to get sleepy, even the signs with the distance in miles and kilometres weren’t enough to keep me awake.

Kennebunkport was a quaint little town with lots of little shops along one main stretch of road. We were staying at the Kennebunkport Inn and when we entered the room I was a bit confused. There were two small single beds facing each other across the room. In the bathroom we found a door to another room with a bigger bed and another TV. There was no other door to get to that room, therefore it was part of our suite. There were too many beds. However soon it turned out to be an amazing configuration. Before settling in, we went on a walk “to town” and visited the liquor store. I found a Maine apricot wine, it seemed odd but because it was local id try it. Back in the room I found out why apricot wine doesn’t exist widely across the board. Award-winning or not, it was not that good. While Brent watched the baseball play-offs in the big bedroom, I got comfy in the smaller room, reading Light In August in peace and quiet, away from the baseball commotion. I ended up having to go back in there to iron my skirt. Our dinner reservations were at a super fancy place.

We walked to the White Barn Inn, it was supposedly 15 minutes away from our hotel. We did not anticipate the cold or the dark. I ended up having to wear my wind-breaker over my nice outfit, which was super awkward at coat-check later. On the walk it was really dark as we were going down small side streets. Google maps said we had arrived, but we saw nothing except houses. I half-joked about using the flashlight function on my phone to get us there. We kept walking until finally we saw a lit up place, and that had to be it.

We tried to enter via the wrong door, apparently we had to enter the hotel to enter the restaurant. The pianist pointed us in the right direction. That is how fancy this place was. Everyone was dressed to the nines, thankfully the place was dimly lit. The tables were decorated with sculptures made out of cutlery. Ours had a turkey.

The dinner was a four course prix-fixe menu. This level of fancy did not stop us from trading plates halfway through. Brent had accidentally gotten us a bottle of water instead of tap as the waiter had barely mentioned it, saying sparkling water, still or ice (which he mumbled). The dinner consisted of an appetizer, something with a weird name, a main and a dessert. By far the winners were the Thai-style lobster spring roll appetizer, quail done three ways appetizer and the Concord grape sorbet with a syringe of champagne (2nd dish). Before the main dessert we got a mini dessert: banana cream which was surprisingly delicious, thanks to the vanilla spices and coconut. The white chocolate crème brulee was pretty good. It was fun to squeeze champagne onto my macaron. I did not enjoy Brent’s blueberry soufflé and he felt similarly about the crème brulee so we traded back. Everything else (cheese bowl with tomatoes and ham and parmesan, the sirloin with scallions and the pheasant breast) was ok, but it was by no means outstanding like the lobster spring roll. We figured we were done after that, and that the tiered serving tray at other tables was the cheese option for dessert. We were wrong, when we asked for the bill they brought us that instead. The only good one was the walnut pie bite. Even though the desserts were bite-sized, it was a bit too much and they were not that good. Ok, now we were done. Nope, when they brought the bill they also brought little orange chocolate-chip muffin bites.

Lobster spring roll

Walking back from Kennebunk to Kennebunkport it was so cold outside and I was so full. All I could think of was plotzing in bed and sleeping for a million hours. It was amazing how many stars we could see in the night sky. It really is unfortunate that it was too cold to really stargaze though.


Boston to Maine: Weekender Edition- Day 1

We were flying Porter, therefore we did not have to trek all the way out to Pearson Airport, the island airport is a lot closer. Because it was a business trip, the cab ride to the airport was covered. The idea of taking a cab from our house to the island airport might seem like a bad idea. Taking a cab, through downtown Toronto?! It’d be faster to walk, you say! Well our flight was at 7am, we were on the road at 5:30am: too late for the club-goers and too early for the business people. The Porter airport was the polar opposite of Pearson. No long line ups, people understood how to go through security. We did not have to clear customs, that would be once we landed. The waiting area was also a lot nicer, with plush leather chairs and apparently there were free snacks- it was too early for me. I tried to read my book but could barely stay awake. I did end up falling asleep on the plane, almost as soon as we had taken off I was out cold. I got scared out of my sleep by the flight attendant. I had been in such a deep sleep I had forgotten I was on a plane. I jerked up and lifted one knee and gasped, he laughed and then I laughed. I could then hear him telling his co-worker at the back of the plane. At least I gave him a good story.

The customs guy in Boston was very chatty. I could not tell if he was flirting with me or very amused by the picture taken of me by the self-serve customs border crossing kiosk. I further made a fool of myself when I told him I wanted to see Fenway Park and he informed me, as if I didn’t know, that the baseball season was over and there were no games. When trying to leave the airport, I got pulled aside for a “random search” when handing over my customs form. Crap, I thought, a delay! She asked me the reason for my flight, this time I just said visiting. And that was that.

We had enough time before Brent’s meeting to take a cab to the hotel and drop off our bags. Except our room was not yet ready, it was only 9am after all. The hotel had no secure place for us to leave our bags, just an easily-accessible-by-all, common room behind the desk. We rearranged a few things and set off with our bags in tow. The plan was to return after lunch and try again. Two blocks later we split ways. Brent was headed downtown to his meeting, I was off to Bunker Hill. The usual hotel where Brent stays while in town was booked up and everything else nearby had been overpriced due to the Ivy League schools regatta. We were staying just outside downtown. The only thing this did was reverse my Freedom Trail walking route. I would be doing it backwards.

The rain was tapering off and the clouds were starting to part. I had been worried that it would rain all day. I even saw a rainbow on my way. Bunker Hill was just that: a hill, with a giant monolith monument on top. I walked up to get a good view of it and found out that there is a stair-climb to the top. No one had told me about this. There were 294 steps to the top. I started out at a fast clip. It was by about stair 50 that I started to regret my eagerness. I was wearing wedge boots and carrying my backpack and purse. What had I been thinking setting off so quickly?! Around step 100 I was starting to seriously lose my motivation. At step 150 (they were marked, no way was I counting them) I started cursing my sweater. Step 200, I could see the light, I only had 94 left. I had to push the “wait, that’s only 2/3 of the way” thoughts out of my mind or I wouldn’t make it. I was panting and dizzy, so thankful for the small bottle of water we had gotten on the flight. I was thrilled to finally reach the top. The first thing I did was set my bag down and I took my sweater off. Only then could I start to enjoy the views, which were amazing. Only one window had rain drops on it. I met a nice lady there, who had also lugged a backpack and DSLR up to the top. I joked that it was a great way to start the day. On the way back down I had to periodically stop and smush myself against the wall to let a group of school kids pass.

The Freedom Trail had been an easy walk, my map proved to be useless- a good thing, as I had lost it early on. The entire trail had been marked on the ground as a brick path. I held onto my Google maps printouts just in case though. I did not enjoy the bridge I had to cross, it was grated and you could see the water below. Before the bridge there was a panel on the ground that said “acrophobia friendly zone.” The same panel was at the other end of the bridge. As I was photographing it I had to wait for a man in a business suit to pass. He joked about being a free model for me.

I stopped in at Cobb Hill cemetery because it was on the trail. I do not understand why though, it was just one of the oldest cemeteries and some pirates had been hung there once. I paid the $3 admission to see the Old North Church. Apparently they had hung a lantern there after Paul Revere rode by. However the steeple climb mentioned was nowhere to be found- I guess it was no longer available as an activity for visitors. The Paul Revere statue was in a small square with a fountain behind it, making for a nice photograph. Because I was doing the Freedom Trail backwards and it was so early in the morning, the square was not busy at all. I stopped in at a 7-Eleven on the way but the candy selection was no different.

At the Paul Revere house the courtyard was under construction and there were no photos allowed inside. There was no way I would pay admission for that, deal-breaker. I took a short detour from the trail to get my Dunkin Donuts/caffeine fix. On the way I walked by the Hay Market/Boston Market and could not resist popping in to see. I ended up spending $3 on a salted-caramel bourbon donut. At Dunkin I saw that they had a Reese’s peanut butter square donut but that would be too much food. The ground coffee selection sucked (as per usual, but I thought maybe they would have pumpkin spice at least?). They did not have the pumpkin spice flavour shot, only the pumpkin spice swirl- which is a sweetened flavour shot. I had not thought this through, as now I was juggling my coffee and my camera. In my detour I was afraid I had lost the trail, and this was when I realized I had lost my official trail map. I remembered the general direction it seemed to be going in, so I headed that way. The telling sign was giant crowds of tourists, I knew where it picked up.

Paul Revere’s house

I passed by an odd-looking building that reminded me of the FBI offices in Washington, DC. I wondered if the FBI had offices in Boston. The concrete behemoth, along with the steel and glass skyscrapers, stood in stark contrast to the historical buildings. I was in downtown Boston now. I walked by Old City Hall, but apparently it is still an active building and therefore tourists are not allowed in. I ended up going into two more cemeteries. In one of them however the trail seemed to end there. I panicked as I knew it was supposed to end somewhere near where I was supposed to meet Brent. I tried to find myself on my printed out maps but to no avail. I walked back to the intersection and saw that there the trail had forked and I had taken the dead-end route to the cemetery. We were back on track.

I did not feel like going to the mini-museum, instead I chose to look at the outside of the building. It looked like an old courthouse or school, except now half of it was museum and half was an entrance into the metro. Walking through Boston Commons park was unpleasant. No one had warned me (again) of what to expect. There were a lot of people on a lot of drugs, and it was only 10 in the morning! One guy called me beautiful, wished me a nice day and then said he would like to marry me.

The capitol building was gorgeous, the gold domed roof gleamed in the morning sun. The trail also seemed to dead end here. I asked a nearby military guy if this was the start of the Freedom Trail, he directed me to a park ranger who told me where to go next. He did not understand that I was doing the trail backwards. I had just under an hour before I was supposed to meet with Brent. I was not going to spend any more time in the park, which was also under construction. This was the small section of the park, I did not even bother going to see the bigger half. I had made up my mind about the Boston Commons and that was that I did not like it. Instead I went to Macy’s.

All day long I had been seeing people with paper bags marked in blue, Primark. Next door to Macy’s I found out it was a store. On a whim I went in and I had found heaven. It was like Forever 21 with lower prices. It instantly became my new favourite store. It was good that I went there first, because Macy’s was a dud. They no longer sell Soffe’s and there was no good workout gear on sale. Brent was a bit delayed meeting me, as I stood there I realized something about the people of Boston: they are fearless and non-chalant jaywalkers. Not even, they just walk out into the street without looking, and when they get honked at they act as if the driver is being unreasonable. I saw a few people almost get hit by cars at that one intersection alone.

We got to Omni Parker Hotel restaurant 15 minutes early but thankfully they were able to sit us promptly. The service was downright weird. The first server instead of bringing us a drink menu, asked Brent to name a beer he wanted. It took some convincing to get the menu. After that we had a different server. The grilled short rib and Vermont cheese sandwich sounded so good on paper. In reality however it had some flaws. The ratio of cheese to meat was paltry. The meat was too big chunks and I found myself really having to chew off pieces and eventually it just fell apart. The buttered brioche it was served on however was out of this world. I had the Boston baked beans on the side and they proved confusing. They were in a soup-like liquid, was I supposed to eat them with a spoon? I ended up spooning them onto pieces of bread when my sandwich disintegrated. We traded halfway, and their “famous” fish and chips fell flat. The fish was bland and the fries were soggy from being underneath the fish. I was worried about dessert. They were supposed to have invented the Boston cream pie, what if it was a disaster? I had built it up in my mind. So far the best part of the meal had been my glass of sweet Ruffino wine. The Boston cream pie was super fancy, but the chocolate drizzle had hardened on the plate and was hard to get in a spoonful with the rest. Other than that it was an amazing dessert. Who knew Boston cream pie’s included almonds?

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a large Walgreen’s but the grocery section sucked, there was no Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and no wacky Oreo cookies. It was a long slow walk back to the hotel. On the way we confirmed that the FBI building was in fact City Hall. We had a short rest in the hotel while Brent’s phone charged. I was very tired and it was really hard to get back up on my feet. Even though I had changed my shoes and no longer had to lug my backpack, it was still slow going afterwards.

Walking to the Boston Museum of Fine Art we made a few stops along the way. I got to see the other, really the nicer, half of the Boston Commons park. Maybe I had been wrong. This half was not nearly as bad, it was actually quite nice. We walked by Copley square, a bunch of old churches and the Boston Public Library. Alas, the library was closing and we could not go in. It was at Copley Square that I thought we were close, I really thought the museum would be right around the corner. Another half hour?! I thought, oh my poor poor legs! They were really starting to hurt. I had been on my feet since 9am and I was closing in on the 8 hour mark. It really felt incredibly far, much more than half an hour. On the way we almost got hit by two cars, each turning from an opposite-facing lane into the one we had right of way crossing. We also saw a lady running and not even stopping to look for cars. There were some girls posting for the most awkward pictures, being all arms-in-the-air-oh-did-someone-just-take-my-picture-teehee.

We got to the museum just after 5pm. The plan was to try and see it all in 2 hours, which seemed reasonable enough, until we got inside and I started having flashbacks to the Met. The museum was bigger than Brent had remembered it. Even with rushing we only got through about a third of the collection. We were not too worried, as our tickets were valid for 10 days (I now understand why) and worst case we could come back the next morning. We did get to see the cool stuff: the Pollocks, the Monets, the mummies and the new exhibit about the Dutch masters. We also saw the requisite Degas’s works. A girl walked up to the portrait of Samuel Adams and shouted to her boyfriend that it was her “main man, Sammy.” Another guy was critiquing the compositions of paintings.

We took a small detour on our way back, stopping to pass by Fenway Park. There was really not much to see from the outside. Using driving directions for walking was not the best plan, as we had to backtrack and find another way around to get to Newbury St, which I had wanted to see. By the time we got to it I was dead-tired. Whereas normally I’d be jumping out of my skin to go shopping, I was barely able to get one foot in front of the other. We witnessed so much terrible jaywalking and just as many bad drivers. As we walked down Newbury we encountered some hilarious drama. Two girls were trying to get somewhere. One was convinced they were going the wrong way and that the numbers were going up not down. Her friend insisted (and was right). The other girl kept complaining, and then exclaimed that she did not even want to be on Newbury St. and subsequently that this was the worst day of her life. For a moment I was distracted from my aching legs. Newbury St. was very nice, a lot of gorgeous architecture and little shops I would have gone to had we more time.

We were having dinner at Ned Devine’s Irish Pub. I had read online that they serve an excellent award-winning chowdah. They just so happened to also have the Blue Jays game on so it worked out nicely. I ordered the clam chowdah, however I was served clam chowder. I was mildly disappointed, until I had a spoonful and then I was in heaven. It was actually a bit spicy which was nice for a change. The raspberry lemonade cocktail hit the spot. We split an order of hot pretzels but they were only OK. I really only suggested them because we had passed a pretzel place on our way in. On the way in I also realized I had walked right by the building earlier in the day.

On the walk back we stopped in at a 7-Eleven but the candy selection was just as terrible as earlier in the day. We went to CVS instead and the only wacky candy they had was white chocolate candy corn M&Ms. No thank you. We got chewy SweetTarts and a Whatchamacallit instead.

By the time we got back to the hotel (the pub had been on the way back), my legs were beyond dead. I joked that my dogs aren’t barking because they are dead. Even the thought of showering tired me. I had also forgotten to pack toothpaste, but I could not care. All I wanted was sleep. Apparently the universe was against me getting any sleep, as a car alarm went off twice during the night.

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Posted by on October 21, 2015 in Adventures of Pinka!, Fooding, Travel


Cuban Brunch

I was already heading out in the direction of Roncesvalles, so we planned on getting a DayPass and having brunch before I headed to my family’s house. We finally got around to going to the best brunch spot of 2013: La Cubana. It fit my strict parameters: open early and not too busy.

If there are donuts on the menu, I cannot resist. I’m a sucker for donuts. We started off our brunch with a warm plate of mini donut balls and they were delicious! The real winner however was the cafe au leche. I have never had coffee that good in the city, or anywhere for that matter. This was by far the best cup of coffee I have had in my life so far. This is no exaggeration. I made a note to myself to figure out what they did to make it so good. The only clues I have so far are “leche” and that it tasted a little sweet and it was Cuban style.

For our mains we decided to get one sandwich and one breakfast platter, that way we would only have one order of sides to split. Partly also because we ordered cassava fritters as an extra side. Of the Cuban breakfast plate the rice and beans were the best. The tostones were a bit dry (but I was later told they are supposed to be so, they are supposed to be crispy- I don’t know what I had been expecting), the pork was surprisingly bland. The egg, well it was OK once I ate around the yolk (I maintain my dislike of egg yolks, it’s the texture). We swapped halfway. The cubano sandwich was very tasty, can’t go wrong with ham and cheese melted together between good bread. That is, until I hit a pickle. Why would you put pickles in there?! I had a few cassava fritters and they were amazing, particularly the tiny ones that were super crispy.

But that coffee, mygod, that coffee. ❤


Homemade BBQ Sauce

In my home-made DIY phase I decided to spend a Saturday evening in the kitchen making, of all things, barbecue sauce. Bourbon Barbecue Sauce to be exact. This was about as far removed from anything I had ever done in the kitchen. From the start we had troubles. I had only about 2 shot glasses worth of bourbon left, Canadian Club whisky would have to do (I need a full cup). Then I ran out of ketchup, 1 1/2 cup quickly became 1/2 cup and the rest was what was leftover after 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.

I figured out the most brilliant way to chop onions, no tears, no grunt work. Freeze them. Then do not thaw them, just hack them into manageable chunks and toss them in an electric chopper. Voila, chopped onions. I do not recommend leaning over the pot as the whisky and onions boil. I also learned the hard way to put a lid on it when it simmers. I heard popping noises and when I came over I saw it was exploding and leaving little spots of sauce all over the stove.

How did the modified sauce come out? A little but on the tomato-ey side flavour wise, but still good. Will I be making it regularly? No. It is too much work.


Lemon Chia Muffins

At first I was wary of cooking with ricotta cheese. I even had trouble finding it in the grocery store. At my No Frills it shared fridge space with sushi. I was also hesitant about chia seeds. From childhood I associated them with grass growing out the top of a head as a novelty. Now I was supposed to eat these seeds? Food or toy?

Regardless, I put my faith in the recipe (and comments section) and made the muffins. Other than having to grate two lemons, the recipe is easy and straightforward. And the muffins? Delicious! It is worth it to grate the lemons and use real lemon juice, the flavour really does come through. These lemon chia seed muffins are now a staple and go-to when I want to make muffins!


It’s Not As Gory As It Seems!

Best pasta had recently been updated. Now it was Buca. We had gone there for an anniversary dinner a really (really, as in before we started this fooding adventure) time ago. The food had been amazing, so I was looking forward to a fancy Wednesday evening dinner. Even if it meant having to wear fancy shoes. Last time we went we had ordered an appetizer that was amazing. When I checked the menu and saw taht they still had it, I knew we had to order the warm bread knots with olive oil, rosemary and garlic. I had also wanted to get lamb brains as an appetizer. By now we have ordered sweetbreads a lot of times, never sure if brains were involved. I wanted to satiate my curiosity. Brains are not as gross as they sound. It helped that they were wrapped in crispy fried prosciutto. The brain itself was grey and very soft, slightly gooey-chewy and tasted mildly of liver. But a very tasty dish.

For the mains, Brent went with the fail-safe spaghetti. I went the complete opposite route and had the pork-blood pasta. I had enjoyed pork blood pasta at the previous best pasta, Enoteca Sociale, so why not? When it arrived it looked so pretty. It was neatly coiled with a pile of smoked cheese on top. The server then proceeded to mix it up for me. It was a spicy dish, but other than the spicy and the noodle there was not much else flavour-wise. It kind of tasted like spicy noodles but there was a substantial portion of taste missing. Brent’s dish won by miles. It had more flavours and was fuller.

While I was tempted by a chocolate mousse that had pigs blood, we were too full for dessert. And we had split a bottle of red wine.


So Much for Dinner

We had run out of places nearby to eat, in terms of BlogTO’s best of. We now had to transit both ways to get dinner. I was OK with this, it was bound to happen at some point. We took the subway to Lawrence West one Tuesday evening. We were going to Dr. Laffa’s for dinner (best falafel, best hummus, best shawarma, and best kosher restaurant). I was really looking forward to this dinner, not just because of the multiple best of’s, but also because I was voraciously hungry. We got there only to find that it was closed. Sign in the door said they were closed for Yom Kippur (which was actually the next day). Aargh! There was nothing else nearby for dinner plans.

Fingers crossed, we walked back towards Dufferin. Maybe the best latin American cafe would have sandwiches? Alas, Columbus Bakery did not have sandwiches. We got an alfajore cookie, a custard and dulce de leche cake and a bun. Brent thought maybe the bun would be savoury, it appeared to have salt on top of it. The salt was sugar and inside there was more dulce de leche filling. It was delicious but after having just eaten the alfajore it was a bit too much sugar. The alfajore had a strong vanilla flavour but it lacked filling, and towards the end it was so dry and sticking to my throat. We had to save the piece of cake for later, I was on sugar overload. The cake was the best dessert. I have a soft spot for custard. And the pastry flake was well done and not stale.


Hotwings & Crepes- What a Combo!

I had been wanting to go to Duff’s wings for a really long time (years in fact) and finally we were going. Partly because it was recently voted best wings, and partly because I insisted. Saturday night we found ourselves in a not-too-busy-just-right Duff’s on College. We ordered 30 wings in total, getting to try three flavours. Brent had been recently and tried the medium, which they warn is not your regular medium and quite spicy. He found them so-so. Instead we ordered: medium-hot, spicy BBQ and hot honey garlic. Just for kicks we ordered a single Armageddon wing, the hottest wing they have on offer. We decided to leave that one for last, lest it destroy us. The medium-hot were an acceptable amount of hot, but based on what was written everywhere I had expected this level of hot from just the medium. The spicy bbq were actually quite mild. It is hard to say if I preferred those or my go-to honey garlic (made all the better with some heat). Needless to say what we could not finish was the medium-hot, 30 wings is a lot.

Then it was time. Brent took a bite first, he seemed OK. Going off the medium-hot actual hotness level, I was not afraid- I gamely took a bite. We sat there staring at each other. One beat. Two beat. Cue the tears, cue the table slamming, cue the “Oh god why did I do this?!” It hurt. It physically hurt the whole back of my mouth and down my throat. Every time I swallowed it just spread. I knew I could not drink water. In desperation I used a celery stick to scoop blue cheese dip into my mouth. But it was too gross, and only made the situation worse. We looked at each other, both grimacing and questioning our choices in life. I comforted myself by saying it will only last a few minutes. It will pass I kept thinking. It has to pass. It cannot last forever. All I could think of was downing my long island iced tea in one big gulp. Eventually it passed. We sat there and looked down at the rest of the wing, we had really just taken a tiny little nibble each, barely anything really. How did someone eat one, let alone 50 of these?! Did the wall of fame lie?

Afterwards we walked over to Kensington Market to get crepes for a pseudo-dessert. I was wary of a new crepe place, I’ve had some pretty damn good crepes in the city thus far. Millie Creperie offered Japanese style crepes. Mine had mango sorbet and strawberries and whipped cream. The trouble was taht it was served like a cone, and so all the toppings were at the top. It was hard to eat and uneven. Adding to the troubles it was simply not that good. The crepe was not fresh, had been reheated. It was chewy and lacked those little toasted crispy spots. It was a sad fail. That is until I had a bite of Brent’s- it was even worse. The green tea tasted like rotten pumpkins. I was not having it. Crepes should not be messed with.


Sushi for Two

Best sushi takeout was revoted and updated to Japango which happens to be right smack downtown. The school year had barely begun, and it still felt like summer. One night I was on Instagram and I saw a remarkable photograph of ice cream geo-tagged Sweet Jesus. My eyes bugged out of my head, there was a place with such an amazing name and such amazing ice cream?! AND IT WAS IN TORONTO?! Sign me up!! I insisted that the week’s fooding trip be to Sweet Jesus so I could have one last ice cream cone before succumbing to autumn and school.

Rather than get takeout sushi and then go get ice cream we reversed the order: dessert first. I was unsure about how busy Sweet Jesus would be. It was a hot Wednesday and it was TIFF season. We got there and the line was not too bad, maybe 10-15 people in front of us? Apparently for the business-suits behind us it was too long a line. We laughed as we waited less than 20 minutes. They had a great set-up. Someone would come out to the line and hand out menus, come back and take orders. By the time we had paid we were being handed our ice cream cones. There was much debate over the menu. Initially I wanted to get the rocky road, however there were a few other contenders on the list, particularly the cookies and cream. Brent ended up getting that one and I had the rocky road. It was supposed to have marshmallow flavoured soft serve but the taste was too subtle and was lost on both of us. The stand-out winner was the cookie dough in Brent’s cone. We had planned on walking and eating our ice cream cones but as soon as we dug into the monstrosities it became evident. We would have to sit down and tame them before we were safe to walk and eat.

On the walk Brent called ahead to place an order for sushi takeout- brilliant. We ordered a medium sized tray because small seemed too small. Needless to say we got some looks as we walked down the street with a giant tray of sushi. It was just a little bit too much sushi. And yes it was delicious, but there was no unagi so I have trouble saying it was the best takeout sushi in the city. My heart still belongs to Sushi on Bloor.

We now have a million packets of soy sauce and chop sticks in the house.

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