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Monthly Archives: December 2019

Leaving It Up To (20-Sided) Fate

Leaving It Up To (20-Sided) Fate

What better way to spend a Thursday night when it’s snowy and cold than eating warm, comforting ramen and then heading out to a nerd bar?

Kinton Ramen had been voted best ramen and I figured you can’t really go wrong with something so simple: broth, noodles, some other stuff. I was wrong. The chicken was rubbery and taht really detracted from an otherwise alright bowl. I did get kind of tired and frustrated towards the end, fishing around for noodles. The best part of the dish was by far the woodear mushrooms I had as an add-in, second place went to the broth itself. Except when it came time to sipping an awkward wooden-ladle-ful. On it’s own it was a touch too salty and really it worked better as an accompaniment to the rest.

Bellies only half full (but at least very warm) we set off for Storm Crow Manor. The place had been on my radar for a while. First, because it was supposed to be the new Bar Volo. Then when that didn’t happen, I was curious to see what was taking so long with all that construction. It was a geeky bar. That won’t last, we thought. Turns out we wrong, so wrong that we were now going there. And the place was packed, we got one of the last few tables left. Over the summer I had seen a BlogTO post that they had two options: 1) roll the dice to determine what shot you will drink and 2) build a burger based on dice rolls. Thankfully (?) it was a 20-sided dice.

As we were shown to our table, the lady told us feel free to walk around check out all the rooms. We were in the Mary Shelley room, aka not the Twin Peaks room aka one of the few things I was interested in. I rolled the dice and got a 16, our server knew what it was without reading the menu: Absolut mandarin and orange juice. Yes please! I was very happy I didn’t get something with Jagermeister or hot sauce. Up next Brent had a dungeon burger (I just got the name reference now as I was writing this, it’s a D&D dice!). His burger started out great with a potato bun. Except then it was a veggie patty. And vegan cheese. And mayo, BBQ sauce and aioli?! That’s double mayonnaise! His side turned out to be a Caesar salad. We joked about the kitchen staff being like does this guy know that salad isn’t vegan? The burger was surprisingly good, way better than expected. We also split what was supposed to be a mini order of nachos for one, except it wasn’t. It was enormous. They have a brilliant system though. You can opt for having some guacamole on the side! Topping-less chips saved! So worth the extra cost.

It was over the course of this second dinner that we conceived of our most brilliant idea: a pop-up restaurant themed around the sketch show I Think You Should Leave.
After dinner we walked through the house and looked at all the rooms. Unfortunately the Twin Peaks room was closed for a private event, all I saw were the red velvet ropes and the tiled floor.

I could see us going back there again for drinks.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2019 in Fooding, Uncategorized

 

Well That Was Fun!

Well That Was Fun!

At this point in the year I really cannot remember why Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto was on the list. I can’t even tell if it was my list or Brent’s. Brent decided on this place for his birthday lunch. It was a few weeks before we got confirmation of a reserved table- of which they only had 3. I had no clue what we were in for, so few tables?! Would we be forced to interact with people? Would we hear everything??

The restaurant was located in the Japanese cultural centre: that should have been a clue. We were led through a beautiful archway complete with a small waterfall and garden-like area and down a hallway… to our own private dining room! At first I was worried it would be awkward, just us and the server? He was more of a server actually, he taught us a little bit about Japanese culture as well.

All told we had a blast. It was a memorable dining experience. It never seemed to drag on as some tasting menus can seem to at times. We got to try a lot of new foods that we may not have otherwise tried if we had seen them on the menu. When I think of lotus I picture it borderline setting off my fear of holes (I can never remember what it is called and I sometimes Google it EXCEPT the first results are images, as if to confirm if you  have it- WHO DOES THAT?!). Meaning odds are, I would probably never order it. Having tried it now, meh I don’t think I really missed out on much. Overall the dishes were well-made and we got to try a wide variety but nothing was blow-away. The miso soup was borderline as was the first course.

It was a really fun experience and it’s a hidden gem in Toronto.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2019 in Fooding

 

Aloette is French for Disappointing*

Aloette is French for Disappointing*

*I am well aware I gave away the ending.

I went into our odd-hour lunch (3pm is neither lunch nor dinner) at Aloette with medium-low expectations based on our experience at Alobar. If only I knew how wrong I was. I am actually a little bit impressed with just how below-expectation Aloette was! Seriously! Across the board everything was subpar. The cocktails barely saved it. The bread was alright.

To start we had the hamachi sashimi. We were presented with a bowl and a spoon. Just one, so we could serve ourselves. It was a confused dish. The fish, the avocado and what was supposed to be salsa verde (but was really just flavourless green goop) did not go together at all. The fish was underneath it all but had taken in none of the flavour. The avocado, though warm and salted, seemed like it was tossed in just because, more of an after-thought.

The potato gnocchi looked good but all I could taste was Parmesan cheese. With a cheese that expensive and that rich in flavour, a little goes a long way. Even the pieces with little cheese had soaked it up from their mates. Brent said the bacon, which I avoided as if I needed any more umami flavour, was chewy. The fried chicken looked and sounded promising. Yuzu and honey! Except the lettuce was served on the side: were we supposed to make a salad of it? Wrap the chicken in it? I ate just the chicken. Which was not that good. I doused it in hot sauce and that helped a little. The best (though so few) bites were the ones with the yuzu-honey combination! Why was it just a little tiny sprinkling?! Why didn’t it get the Parmesan treatment?! Pile it on!

Brent ordered the octopus, maybe that would save our lunch. The octopus at Alobar had been good. Nope. It was bland and tasteless. It was on a par with the romanesco in the dish (read: broccoli!). At least I can cross that one off the 1000 foods list?

The award for most lackluster, most disappointing meal goes to…. Aloette! I don’t even feel the need to wait until the end of the year.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2019 in 1001 Foods, Fooding

 

I Guess I’ll Just Title This BURGERS

I Guess I’ll Just Title This BURGERS

Early on I was not good about making notes. I would just message Brent with my “I want to eat here” demands. Sometimes I may say why. Sometimes I would just send a drool emoticon. And so we found ourselves one Wednesday evening, puzzling over why I had said we should go to Ozzy’s Burgers in Kensington. My guess was either it was on a burger list or I had seen it on Instagram. Maybe known for their chicken sandwich?

We ordered one burger (that inexplicably had a fried egg on top) and one chicken burger. Brent had tried to order cajun fries but when the lady asked if he wanted to make a combo, she inadvertently turned our cajun fries into regular. The chicken burger won hands down. The regular burger was good in some bites, bad in others. It tasted like real good, high-qualty meat, but was not seasoned that well. I absolutely hated that there was egg yolk running out of it and onto the fries. The fries, while not cajun spiced, where still pretty damn good fries.

On the way home we stopped in at Eataly. I had gone earlier in the day and now we went back. I wanted to get cannoli for dessert and Brent wanted to see the birroteca. The upstairs was crammed. While Brent waited for his slices of pizza, I wandered over to see about getting an aperol spritz from the bar. Everyone around me in the marketplace had one and it made me want one. Alas, I found out that the line parallel to the pizza one was the bar line. And it was moving even more slowly. This would have to wait, as would all of the restaurants. The lines to get in were huge. The birroteca also stocked regular Indie Ale House brews, not just the four made specially for Eataly. We could have had a table at the birroteca but I wanted to go home to my ciders and eat my cannoli. The cannolis were ok, a little over-baked. The pistachio one was meh. The sweet goat cream one was good but what made it stand out was the sour cherries we had it dipped in. It’s too bad a jar of those costs $40 at Eataly. On my first trip I had seen mini pannetone cakes, and now I could not find them for the life of me. I’m not sure if they all sold out (mini=cute) or if because they had been at eye-level they were now being blocked from my view by the busy crowds?

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2019 in Fooding

 

Canadian Bookender: Day 4

Canadian Bookender: Day 4

Sun. Nov. 24, 2019:
Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia to Toronto:

I woke up feeling groggy and sad. The bed was a small comfort, making it harder to get up. I had a few sips of iced coffee left but I would still need coffee. We stopped at a gas station so I too could refuel. We drove to Blue Mountains, NS to see the farm owned by Brent’s great aunt and to see the Presbyterian church. We were also on the lookout for a swimming hole, Brent’s grandpa’s favourite one. It was fun trying to guess which spot it was. We walked into the church but the service was about to begin so it was really awkward, we had walked in looked around and left. We double-backed to where the swimming hole may have been to get a better look. On one side was a pool turning into a river and on the other side of the road it had become a full-on waterfall. It was all very pretty and I was happy to have my camera out. We drove to New Glasgow to visit Brent’s great aunt who couldn’t make it to our wedding. It was so nice to meet her and hear stories about the family and growing up in Nova Scotia.

We still had one more stop before the airport: The Bay of Fundy. I was getting hungry in the car, we hadn’t eaten since lunch the previous day, subsisting solely on cowboy cookies. But we had places to be and things to see. We were scheduled to get to Bay of Fundy at peak low tide. I was worrying because it was already starting to get dark. New Brunswick! We had to drive through Moncton to get around the bay and the river and there weren’t many bridges across. We could see that the tide was low, the muddy banks of the river were exposed.

The visitors centre was closed for the season but there were other cars in the parking lot. We walked over to the lookout points and stared at the ocean floor down below. There was a sign by the Flowerpots lookout that said using the stairs was at your own risk. But the stairs were blocked. How could I use them? I commented on this and the other group there laughed and said: same. One of the guys hopped over the barrier and started down the stairs. We were all ready to follow suit when he shouted that the rest of the stairs had been folded back and you couldn’t make it all the way down. Except there was a lady down there! I wish I had shouted: how did you get down there?! Even still, if we had gone down there, we wouldn’t have had much time. We left 10 minutes before the max cut-off. Plus, I’d been spared a stair climb. And we had to come back again to see it at high tide to get a real sense of it.

We filled up the car and dropped it off. We were returning it after-hours so Brent had to put the keys in a slot on the garage door. It was funny to hear the thunk as they fell to the garage floor, there wasn’t even a box for them to fall into. We tried to order a Lyft or an Uber, the thinking being that it would be faster than a cab. Except both of those are unavailable in Moncton. The cab arrived soon after. The drive was short but so awkward. The cabbie kept saying inappropriate things about people in his town mooching off of welfare and we were both just like uuhhhh. The airport was tiny but at least the Tim Horton’s was full-service and it was in an area with a small bar. I devoured the turkey grilled cheese, leaving barely any crumbs. Brent ordered two beers and pretended one was for me. Little did he realize I might like the one that was made with juice and I ended up having some. But what I really wanted was tea: my beloved apple cinnamon tea. Brent went back for another Pumphouse Brewery beer and this time it came in a bottle. When he asked for the cap the lady gave him two. Just in case I had two fridges. The blueberry beer wasn’t as good as the one that was half juice. It was making me kind of regret having chosen Tide & Boar over Pumphouse on our first night. On the flight I finished Trick Mirror. I made it maybe 10 pages, maybe not even, into Heartburn and I had to quit. It was so dated. So instead I listened to podcasts the whole way home. The guy in the row in front of me had tried to order two beers but his card didn’t go through. The flight attendant offered him the whole can of soda. I sat there eagerly awaiting a whole can of Sprite, no such luck.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Canadian Bookender: Day 3

Canadian Bookender: Day 3

Sat. Nov. 23, 2019:
Cape Breton trail to Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia:

The previous night I had planned out that for breakfast we would go to Robin’s Donuts next door. In the light of morning I lost interest in the plan: it was in a gas station and it just seemed like an even crappier Coffee Time- no thank you. Plus, I still had my iced coffee. The heated seats in the car were a godsend for my low back.

The Cabot Trail was absolutely beautiful, the trees were covered in a light dusting of snow with the sun shining through. We stopped in at a convenience store to grab snacks to tide us over until lunch: mini Charleston chews, Tostitos and honey dijon Miss Vickies chips. It made for a good breakfast. We were driving to Ingonish Beach. They lie when they call it a beach, it’s really more of a pile of round smooth stones by the water. From the beach we could see the Keltic Lodge (where Brent’s grandma had honeymooned), our next stop. Once up near the lodge we confirmed: it was closed for the season and that was why we couldn’t get a reservation. We listened to Quirks & Quarks as we drove.

The plan was to go for a short hike to Mary Ann Falls. The road signs led us to a trailhead and a closed-for-the-season road. There was a sign saying it was 8km to the waterfall. We got back in the car and instead followed the GPS directions. On the way we got out at Lakies Head overlook, which had been the next destination. It was really neat: piles of red boulders and the ocean down below. Problem was the nice views were such that the sun was directly in my eyes and in my camera. Not helping matters was all the blowing snow. My hands froze and my lens was all spotted. The GPS took us to a close spot to it albeit on the road and there was no trailhead. On to the next stop! The weather was so erratic. One minute it was snowing, the next it was clear and sunny. At one point we had gone up in elevation enough that it was full on winter, the road was icy and covered in snow. So much for going on the Skyline Trail. The scenic lookouts were also a bust. Eventually we got down in elevation and were able to see some scenic views. It was so windy and cold that at first, we were going to skip the overlook but Brent did a u-turn because that was theone, he had written down in his notes. We could see the ocean off in the distance between the valley of two hills. I froze but it was worth it. At the next overlook it was just as cold but at least there was less snow. The ocean was so frothy and angry, crashing against the giant red rocks.

Once we were off the trail, we stopped at NSLC and I got another Bulwark cider. The guy at the register told me they had a Christmas one and I laughed saying I’d already tried it. We also stopped in at the Farmer’s daughter because we had seen road signs for it the day before. We grabbed some cowboy cookies and Brent got a donair bun. We had looped around and realized that we must have driven right by Charlene’s Bayside restaurant the previous day without even realizing it. It was one of the few places I had researched that was actually open. They were seen on You Gotta Eat Here! and known for their seafood chowder and a dessert called “bucket of mud.” I got a bowl of chowder and tried to order a lobster roll but apparently, it’s not the season so I got clam strips and fries instead. Can’t go wrong with either. The chowder was so damn good, some of the best I have ever had. It had so many chunks and was so buttery. It was topped with the meat from a lobster claw. The clam strips were so cheap I had assumed it would be a smallish plate. Man was I wrong. It was a mountain of food. And so damn good, I ate a bit too much. But somehow, I still had room for a bucket of mud. All we knew was that it would be served in a bucket. Digging in, we got spoonfuls of chocolate fudge cake, chocolate pudding, whipped cream and pecans. For all of its heaviness it was still inexplicably light.

As per usual, I fell asleep in the car. How could I not after such a hearty meal? We were staying in a roadside motel and I couldn’t find the thermostat. I ended up wrapping my scarf around my neck and crawling under the covers fully clothed. I turned a dial on a wall that had clearly once been connected to a heater but it was unclear if it still was. Being under the covers just made me sleepier. I played a little bit of Mario Odyssey and alternated it with reading Trick Mirror while Brent watched football. The cowboy cookie was delicious but there was no way I was eating dinner after such a large (and late) lunch. Eventually football ended, so I watched Friends and read during commercials.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2019 in Travel

 

Canadian Bookender: Day 2

Canadian Bookender: Day 2

Fri. Nov. 22, 2019:
Moncton, New Brunswick to Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia:

The 5am wakeup was quite brutal and consisted of me muttering 5 more minutes. Apparently, the tidal bore can vary by 20 minutes before and after the stated time, hence the even earlier wakeup. It was so dark outside. I was just standing there in my pyjamas, shivering and fidgeting. I was too tired to talk, still half asleep. Just staring at the wide flat still river. Brent thought he could hear the water but it was just traffic. Then I thought I could hear it but maybe it was a train? We looked up which direction it would come from and no sooner had we started to look to the right, the sound of the train got louder and water started rushing in… from the left. It was cool to see the once-still-and-calm water now being a torrent of rushing water and it all happened so suddenly. It was impossible to get any pictures of video because it was still dark outside.

With all the excitement over, it was time to go back to sleep. I adjusted my alarm clock, giving myself an extra half hour of sleep. Even still, I ended up snoozing it. But then I had to get up, I had an hour until checkout. My initial plan had been to go to Co_Pain Bakery and get breakfast, get coffee from Starbucks and come back to the room and read but I had slept too late. On the way to Co_Pain Brent texted that his meeting was finished early, there went my backup reading plans: sitting in Starbucks. Co_Pain was super busy. The space was small so the lineup of 5 people went right to the door. A guy was on his way out and his hands were “full”, he was holding a cup of coffee and a small brown bag, he looked at the door, looked at me and paused. I opened the door for him and he said thank you. He could have easily opened the door himself. When I ordered an almond croissant, the guy asked me if it was ok that it had chocolate in it, heck yes I thought! I was tempted to buy a loaf of bread, everything in there was so fresh but I knew it would go stale by the time I got it home three days later.

I met up with Brent and Vino and we started walking towards the car rental place. Except Vino went too far, we had walked right by the place where he was having lunch and had to backtrack. Soon we were on the road, driving to our first stop: Springhill, Nova Scotia. Another province for me! And it was so pretty too, I particularly liked the welcome sign complete with the lighthouse sculpture. It made me like Nova Scotia more than New Brunswick, it just seemed prettier. There was a billboard for Joggins Fossil Cliffs, I made a note of it just in case we had time on the way back. But it would be second place to going to Bay of Fundy.

In Springhill we stopped at Paizano’s Pizza, it was the site of the restaurant where Brent’s great-uncle had worked as a cashier. It had since been torn down and replaced with the pizza place but we also needed lunch. We got two slices of pizza and it smelled so good. My stomach was still a little bit iffy though so I only had a few bites of each. Except now my back had started hurting and I was getting cramps. There was a (to me) unbelievable moment in the pizza place. A school-aged kid ordered pizza, paid for it and then said thank you AND have a nice day to the lady. I was floored. It legit jarred me for a moment. It was so genuine and nice.

On the way to the Presbyterian church in town we passed by a war memorial and stopped to see if Brent’s great-uncle’s name was on it. It was. nd it was sadly misspelled, just like in the documents. We had backtracked to the memorial when we couldn’t find the church. There was an HVAC business in a church-looking building. Up next we drove to the coal mine museum which unfortunately was closed for the season. I had really been looking forward to going down into a coal mine, it only seemed cooler once we saw the entrance down into the mine, it looked like small hill with a door in it. That made me want to go down there all the more. We at least got to see a pile of coal and some coal cars.

It was barely noon and we only had one last stop: the church where Brent’ grandpa had started out. That was it for the day. And so, we were back on the road: 4 hours to Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia. The drive was beautiful, lots of rolling hills and for one moment all the trees were covered in snow and then just as quickly we were back to looking at bare trees. It made me feel like I had gone north in Red Dead Redemption 2. Inevitably I fell asleep during the drive. It’s tradition.

We stopped at Timmie’s in Antagonish. I was in desperate need of tea. At first, we couldn’t get to a parking spot because we were blocked by the garbage truck. But a car had pulled in behind us so we couldn’t leave either. I got the donut sticks with Nutella dip and promptly started singing “watch me dip, watch me yay yay.”

Cape Breton had very pretty views of the water, complete with a giant boat and cliffs. We stopped at a Co-op grocery store because they had a NSLC sign (which I quickly gathered was their version of our LCBO). I was pleasantly surprised with the selection: I got three different Nova Scotia ciders, including a No Boats on Sunday mixed berry one. I had just assumed that was an Ontario cidery- my bad. One of the bottles of cider was bigger so we would split it. We stopped at St. Ann’s lookout for some pretty views of the water and the hills. At the second lookout we could see Bras D’Or lake and the sun was setting. It was already getting so dark and it was barely 4:30pm, it was making me sleepy. We stopped at a gas station and I grabbed some iced coffee for the next morning.

The church was right on the corner and had a giant manse next door. It was so dark that we had to take pictures with the flash on. It must have looked so odd. We grabbed dinner from Lick-a-Chick as it was one of the few things, I could find on Google Maps that was open and nothing else had really caught my eye. There were lots of people inside and the place was celebrating its 50th anniversary- both good signs. I ordered a 3-piece meal and Brent ordered a chicken sandwich meal. As we were waiting, I realized we had messed up, we should have gotten one of our orders with wedges instead of both with the default fries. Even more so after I saw that they serve crinkle cut fries, arguably a lesser fry form. While standing around waiting, a man got really excited about some empty mayonnaise buckets, going back to his table twice to discuss with his wife if they should purchase a bucket and if so which one.

The chicken was really good. Brent didn’t want his coleslaw and before he could have a bite, I had pretty much eaten all of it. Good coleslaw with good fried chicken is a winning combination.  Even if the fries were only alright and got cold too fast. Our TV came with a device that was already logged into someone’s Netflix so we watched Jeopardy! while we ate. The Bulwark Christmas cider was good, it earned three hearts in my notebook and I immediately went online to see if I could order it back home. The Malagash heritage cider didn’t stand a chance against the holiday one with cinnamon and nutmeg. I am a sucker for spices. We watched Hot Rod and it was hysterical. We tried to watch Baby Driver but quickly gave up on it. Back to Jeopardy! Then to change it up we watched My Next Guest With David Letterman with Tina Fey. And then back to Jeopardy! I dominated in one episode, the only thing I remember getting right was snake oil based on RDR2. Somewhere in there we had cracked open the third cider, the giant one with a Christmas duck on the label.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2019 in Travel

 
 
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