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Miss NOLA TX: Day 4

Miss NOLA TX: Day 4

Fri. Aug. 30, 2019:
Dallas, Texas to Natchez, Mississippi:

I woke up with a headache that had started in the middle of the night. I thought surely it would have gone away by now. For breakfast we had the second half of the triple chocolate Twix and the smooth almond butter Snickers. Really, I just wanted to take an Advil, the stupid decongestant didn’t have pain reliever in it (unlike the one I usually get back home). It was a slow and sluggish start to the day. When I woke up, I saw that my phone said 9:30, I did a quick little time zone calculation and assumed it was 10:30am. Boy was I wrong, it was actually 8:30am. Oops. In my defence I had not had my coffee yet.

We drove to Daly Plaza to see the spot where JFK had been assassinated. We were too early for the museum which didn’t open until 10am. I kind of wanted to see the inside of the book depository and the window but at the same time I did not want to wait around for over an hour. I was already waiting until 9am when the gift shop/café opened, I needed coffee. While we waited, we walked through the memorial and looked at the sites and the plaques. There were two X’s in the road indicating the exacts spots where the cars had been. Whenever there was a break in traffic tourists would run out for photos ops. It was bizarre to say the least. It was also sad to see how close the motorcade had been to the safety of the highway overpass. I was also surprised to see how close the book depository was to the site. The gift shop was awkward, they had commoditized a tragedy. Even the coffee had a sleeve that said “coffee with Kennedy” except I had no idea what that meant. Brent had to explain it to me.

The route to Natchez, Mississippi took us down that road and under that overpass. We pulled off the highway to get gas (our car had a tiny tank apparently). As we were driving to Buc-Ees I noticed a gas station with a liquor store that was closer and easier to pull into. I thought it would be a better option. It was not, far and away it was not. There were no ciders and the bathroom was ugly. I regretted choosing this place over Buc-Ees. We stopped at Whataburger in Lindale, TX for an early lunch. It was not just off the highway, it was a bit away in a small town. we got there just after 11am, an acceptable time to be eating a burger and not risking a breakfast menu. Brent had the double Whataburger with cheese. I had the single with cheese and jalapenos. Turns out that when it comes to Whataburger, double is the way to go. My poor burger got dwarfed in the buns. Speaking of which: they were enormous, easily the size of dessert plates and the largest fast food buns I’ve ever had. But damn did they do a good job of holding the greasy burger together. It was a good burger but I still rank it below Five Guys and above Fat Burger.

After a heavy lunch like that it’s no wonder I started drifting off to sleep. In my half-asleep state I thought there were billboards for an all-girls school we had to get to??? Brent woke me up with cheering because we had crossed the border. We were back in Louisiana. What better place than here to keep an eye out for Popeyes and the much-talked-about new chicken sandwich they had launched in the US. We were off the Interstate and on a small highway going through towns. I spotted an easy to get to drive-thru daiquiri store. And there was only one car in line! It was perfect. Either way our drinks would have to wait in the car (we would have been going the next day on our drive back to New Orleans). They had a giant menu by the window with at least 50 drinks (maybe even more). Brent had a mardi gras mambo and I had a blueberry margarita. I didn’t see any actual daiquiris on the menu. The guy tried to get us to sign up for a frequent buyer program. I cannot believe such a thing exists. It was really cheap so maybe its not that far-fetched? We paid $13 for both, totalling close to 24oz by my guestimate? Our drinks were different sizes. At the time we figured it was because they were different types. It was only later on that I clued in: Brent had said small at the beginning of the order, intending it for both, but the guy had assumed first drink was small and second (mine) was regular.

We stopped at Popeye’s but before we went in, we saw a sign on the door saying the sandwich was sold out. I was kicking myself, there had been a Popeye’s down the street from the daiquiri drive-thru, I should’ve pointed it out! Maybe they had had it! I was starting to get some serious fomo, thinking of all the Popeye’s we had passed so far on our trip! Later Googling revealed the sandwich was sold-out nationwide. At least we had the experience.

We drove over the bridge crossing the Mississippi River… and we were in Mississippi! YAY!! State 36!!! We were staying the Monmouth Estate in Natchez. We got upgraded to the cottage but that meant we weren’t staying in the main house (aka the reason for choosing that hotel). The cottage was more like a series of rooms but now we had a porch looking out onto a pond. We grabbed our daquiris and set off exploring the grounds and the hotel. The mardi gras drink was coconutty and cinnamon-y, it reminded me of a latte. The blueberry margarita was so good and because it was a bigger size it was still mostly frozen. It was when we were walking around that we figured out why there was the size discrepancy between our drinks. There was a turtle in the pond who was completely covered in algae. On the way back to our room we saw an orange cat, he was so friendly and cute and he was purring.

We only went back to our room to use the bathroom and drop our drinks in the trash. We headed right back out. Except I got distracted by another cat, a tabby this time. He was a bit apprehensive at first but then almost immediately flopped onto his side for more pets. We drove to the Natchez Trace National Park. We were driving on the Natchez Trace Parkway, it was kind neat the whole historic trail had been paved and now you could drive all the way north through forest and parks. We only found out about the extent of the route once we were in the park and saw a map. There was a point of interest just up the road. The Emerald Mound at first just seemed like a bunch of grass and a trail. We hopped a short fence and went up the trail. We finally got to see the mound itself, it was cool looking but also peaceful and serene. On the way back down, we saw that there had been a gate we could have just opened. Oops.

We drove to the McDonald’s in town because our only other food options for dinner were Burger King or KFC. The thinking was that at McDonald’s we could try some new wacky items, plus earlier I had seen the stroopwafel McFlurry advertised as part of their “tastes of the world” menu. Except that promotion had now passed. The only wacky items we got were the buttermilk chicken sandwich and the quarter pounder deluxe. Both of which I’m sure we’ve had before. Plus, I took the tomato out of my half of the quarter pounder so really it was a quarter pounder half deluxe. We tried to drive to a liquor store (the gas station earlier had terrible selection) except that store had since closed down. There was a grocery store at the next intersection. Across the street from it I saw a store called “Craft City” except we had no way of knowing what kind of store it was. I did see on the drive back that they offered delivery which made it weirder. I still had 3 ciders so I just got a single of Seagrams watermelon cooler. My only other options were 6-packs and that was too much.

We left the car at the hotel and swapped out maps. Brent dumped out the rest of the berry Sprite from the McDonald’s cup (it was terrible) and filled the cup with beer. I filled a water bottle with cider and so we set out for the historic part of town by the river. The first half of the walk there were no sidewalks so we walked along the forest-like median. It was so hot and humid out, I was so sweaty. It was a nice evening. We saw many beautiful antebellum mansions, the sun was setting by the time we got to the river. There were information placards all over the place, telling us about the historical significance of the buildings and the stories behind them. There was a road leading down to the rivers edge but apparently all that was down there was a casino. It was kind of nice to be looking down at the river and see that we were actually atop a short cliff. We were too full and still had too many drinks back in the room to stop in at the old tavern for a drink. In total I saw more cats in that small town than any other place we have ever been (including the whole two weeks in England).

Walking back in the dark we saw a mother deer and her fawn run across the road. We saw fireflies, except at first, I had trouble spotting them because I dismissed it as reflections in my glasses. The bugs were SO LOUD. It was a chorus of katydids and crickets, it really was unbelievable. We walked back via the forested medium (days later I would notice that my feet and ankles were just covered in bites). We sat on the patio, drinking, writing and taking it all in. We could see the stars and hear the bugs. There were two lizards above our door and one had caught a bug and it was just sticking out of his mouth. A cicada buzzed around our heads, thwomping into our door, the wall and the fan before finally landing on the porch (while I panicked). I was sure it was dead, but it wasn’t. It just sat there, behind me, unnerving me. Brent thought he saw a katydid on the porch railing but when we got closer it was a praying mantis!! It was so cool. Honestly, this was one of my favourite towns to visit, it was so peaceful and calm.

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Posted by on September 18, 2019 in Travel

 

Miss NOLA TX: Day 3

Miss NOLA TX: Day 3

Thurs. Aug. 29, 2019:
Houston to Dallas, Texas:

Brent jumped on the bed to wake me up, apparently, I had slept until 10am. The two Benadryl’s I took knocked me out. I missed out on breakfast but they were still serving coffee in the lobby. My nose was a bit swollen and I had a painful lump beside my ear, my allergies were really bad now. I also broke my retainer. Not exactly the best start to the day.

As we drove to Dallas, we listened to SYSK Short Stuff, except this episode on “dead body codes on airplanes” was really more of a no-stuff. It was hilarious and perked me right up. The rice krispies cookie I had brought from home was quite stale by this point, the triple chocolate Twix would have to do for breakfast. It was no better than a regular Twix. We finally passed a Buc-Ees and stopped in to see what all the hype was about. It was a giant gas station/grocery store/rest stop/souvenir shop. One section of the store smelled incredible because they were sugar-roasting pecans and almonds. The selection at Buc-Ees was surprisingly good, I found a 6-pack of a blood orange cider from an Austin brewery. We also got salsa verde Doritos (which the cashier assured us are really good), cane sugar Dr Pepper and I got a Buc-Ees brand dry rub as a souvenir. The Dr Pepper was so good, it had a slightly different flavour that I couldn’t explain (the closest I got to explaining was that it was more clear?). The Doritos were spicier than we had expected but so good.

We stopped for lunch at Vitek’s Market in Waco. They were known for their “gut packs” which was Fritos, homemade sausage, brisket, cheese and beans. Brent had that, I went for the standard meal at a BBQ place: two kinds of meats, beans and coleslaw. I opted for the smoked turkey and pulled pork. We also got a slice of pecan cobbler on the side. My dish was a complete let-down. No wonder this place was known for their “gut packs”, it was like night & day between the two meals. The Fritos had managed to stay crispy amidst all that grease and juice. It was really quite impressive. The pecan cobbler came in second place in our rankings. I had a small can of rose from Essentially Geared Wine Co. Verdict? Wine should not be served in a can. It was awful. I wish I had known there was an In N Out burger in Waco, I would’ve said we go there instead but I didn’t know they had locations this far east.

I was finally going to cross “see Dr Pepper museum” off my bucket list. I was really excited but going in I had no idea what to expect. There wasn’t much to the collection, mostly old bottles, ads, delivery trucks and vending machines. The Free Enterprise portion of the museum was even smaller. I failed epically at the sniff-n-guess exhibit, getting only the really obvious ones like cinnamon right. Our admission ticket included a free drink from the soda fountain in the gift shop. It was just Dr Pepper syrup and seltzer but it really hit the spot. The lady was kind of surprised that we didn’t go all out and get a float or something fancier. The rest of the gift shop was a let-down. I at the very least expected some postcards and had hoped for some wacky or rare Dr Pepper flavours.

We stopped at CVS so I could get some decongestant, my allergies were really starting to get to me and I needed to take more drastic measures. I also secretly thought that maybe the CVS would have postcards, being just down the street from the Dr Pepper museum? Nope. They didn’t sell US stamps either. The lady had asked me what we were up to and it completely threw me off, I told her we had just been to the museum.

It was an hour and a half drive to Dallas. We were staying at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. I had been expecting a fancy house somewhere in the suburbs near a creek. It was neither. It was more a boutique hotel that was hard to explore because of the renovations. We wandered around, gawking at the new pool but it was way too hot to be outside. It was easily above 35C and all I could think of was my blood orange ciders back in the room. We had a tiny balcony overlooking the pool and the demolition of a parking garage next door. I had two days left on my ebook so I hunkered down while Brent flipped channels wondering if Arthur was on. I said no way, Arthur is always on at 4:30, it wouldn’t be on at 5:30. I was wrong. Except the new episodes just aren’t as good.

At first, having two ciders in the hotel room before the game seemed like a genius idea. I did not anticipate just how far out of the city the stadium was. nor how much traffic there would be due to the football game in the neighbouring stadium. Our Uber ride lasted a solid 40-minutes, most of which time we spent ranking all of the ballparks we had been to thus far. The commute did not shine favourable light on the Dallas ballpark.

The stadium ranked pretty low. It had poor sightlines, early on during our concourse walk Dallas hit a homerun and we had to run to see the celebration. Which was also kind of lame, a bunch of women ran across a mini field above the outfield while carrying flags with fireworks overhead. We missed the first half. At least half the vendors weren’t even open. Half the things on my food list weren’t even available. We grabbed drinks and headed to our seats. The “crackberry” cider from Bishop cider hit the spot in the heat, the sign said it was 99F which when converted made me yelp slightly, it was 37C! In the evening! We went for food during the 4th inning. At this point I was sad to report that the outfield ladies periodically ran across, without the fireworks which I gather were reserved for home runs.

We both had street tacos on our food lists. The taco stand was across the aisle from Backstop Fries so we split. The beef brisket tacos were so unbelievably bad. The meat was bland, you had to assemble the toppings yourself, there was no sauce, just regular white onions, a few bits of cilantro and inexplicably feta cheese. The fries were the clear winner: waffle fries drenched in garlic butter with parmesan cheese. Except for the sad fries at the bottom that were missing the seasonings and cheese and had just butter. Earlier we had seen ads for a drink called BuzzBalls and I made it my mission to get one, except as we walked the concourse, I saw that people had jello shots in pouches (stupidly called o-shots). I ended up getting two drinks. Both were reasonably priced given the alcohol content and the ballpark setting. Between the two double-digit drinks I was in need of food. Early on in the game a lady walked by and gave everyone coupons in one of three different colours. If your coupon matched the colour of the mascot who won the race you would get a “buy one get one free” combo on a chicken meal. It was kids in the mascot costumes so that was great to watch. It wasn’t even a great deal! They did not play Deep In The Heart of Texas at half-time as we had suspected they might. At the end of the night the Rangers lost.

It was so confusing afterwards trying to find the parking lot dedicated to Uber. It was not clearly marked and we walked right past it. There were so many parking lots and so many people because the football game had also let out. There was one guy was very drunk and so psyched to be getting into his Uber ride and cheering at everyone who walked by.

I was so tired by the time we got back. The staff had put water bottles by our beds and it was just what I needed.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2019 in Life's Goals, Travel

 

Miss NOLA TX: Day 2

Miss NOLA TX: Day 2

Wed. Aug. 28, 2019:
New Orleans, Louisiana to Houston, Texas:

I woke up around 7am to go to the bathroom but it was actually 8am our time and by the time I came back to bed Brent was awake. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t manage it. Brent ordered a southern continental breakfast for us to split. Apparently, our hotel was renowned for their buttermilk biscuits. The menu said to allow 35 minutes to prepare. We both made jokes about it being Claire the cat making biscuits. The biscuits lived up to the hype. They were warm and soft, the butter melted right in, perfect for topping with strawberry jam. I don’t even like buttermilk biscuits and I was all for these. The coffee had some chicory in it, another thing to check off my list of must-eats (or in this case must-drinks). The smell was making me nostalgic, I used to drink straight chicory “coffee” in high school (no regular coffee mixed in so no caffeine). I did briefly worry for a moment that my morning coffee was not a true coffee. But no headache came about so I guess it was a mix.

It was a 30-minute walk to the car rental place. The first part of the walk was great. We walked down Bourbon St., except it was like 8:30am. Instead of revellers we saw street cleaners. The sidewalks were being hosed down, all the cups shot into the street with jets of water and then scooped up by the cleaning truck. The streets were sprayed from the truck with soap and water. It was oddly satisfying to watch. It was incredible how many bars we walked by. Some had really funny names like “Big Ass Beers.” We wondered how they all stayed in business (little did we know). The second half of the walk up Canal St. was pretty crappy and not much to see.

In the car we listened to the latest episode of Stuff You Should Know, How Punk Works. We stopped at Tony’s Seafood Market & Deli in Baton Rouge for an early lunch. because it was a deli counter in a supermarket, we were unsure of the hours and whether it would be open this early. Thankfully it was and it was not busy at all. I ordered a catfish po’boy because the market specializes in live fresh catfish. Brent ordered a half muffuletta. The name, in addition to being impossible to spell (I think every time I wrote it I had a slight variation), is also very unappetizing. It also slowed down our order. As I was standing around, wondering if they had forgotten about us, the lady said she was waiting on it. There were no appealing drinks in the cooler. We pondered the Cajun gator chips and wondered if that was just a name or did the chips contain gator in some form? They did not. Tony’s also did not have a bathroom. Back in the car we decided to go next door to Raising Cane’s Fried Chicken because apparently, they are famous for their chicken fingers, they’ve been included on Top 50 fast food item lists. And they had a bathroom. We walked in and there was no one there.  Brent went to the bathroom, I stood there waiting to order. He came back, I still had not seen anyone. Eventually someone came out, she was surprised when we ordered just 3 chicken fingers no meal. Brent joked that it was too early in the morning. She was also amazed that we were from Canada. Brent was going to eat his sandwich in the car while I waited for our order. Except as soon as he had grabbed his sandwich, I showed up with our order. I actually spooked him.

One of the (many) bonuses to not driving is two free hands. I tore into the catfish po’boy after removing the tomatoes, leaving me with breaded & fried catfish pieces, lettuce and mayo on a white crusty roll. Each bite was heaven. It was the perfect sandwich. I ate half, thinking maybe we might trade if the muffuletta is good. The chicken fingers were alright, the real winner was the dipping sauce. The chicken fingers were made with higher quality meat than expected for fast food, but also the sheer size threw off the meat-to-breading ratio. I stole a bite of Brent’s muffuletta sandwich and it was good yes, but not quite good enough for a trade. There was one meat in there I did not like, pastrami maybe? It was a flat bread with three types of deli meats, an olive tapenade and melted cheese. It had potential but that one meat, threw it off. We didn’t go halfsies but Brent still got some of my sandwich as I was too full to finish. I regretted not getting a soda but we were going to stop for gas at some point.

We tried listening to an Australian podcast about food and travel. The episode was about Canada and it was so funny how little they knew. The lady asked the guy if he knew any other places on Canada’s east coast besides Niagara Falls. Once they had someone who worked for Tourism Canada on, we lost interest and switched to Giant Bomb. We drove through the pretty bayou swamp. It was crazy to see hydro towers out in the water. I needed the view to distract me, my allergies were in hyper-over-drive and the mini Mr. Big chocolate bars were a sorry melted mess (regardless, I ate what was left- I needed it to keep me awake). As we passed over Lake Charles, all the industrial towns and refineries smelled so strongly of broccoli, it was awful. There were so many ugly refineries in the (too-obviously named) town of Westlake. We passed by so many terrible billboards, most notably a Louisiana ad for sweet potatoes that said “yam it up,” nope. A guy had tried to go around an oversized load truck but the accompanying guide car, blocked the guy like it’s not safe to go around. The guy tried again and the guide nearly rammed him off the road and the guy sped around. It was all scary to watch, such stupidity.

Soon after we were in Texas, and it smelled of farts. There was no welcome sign until we were off the bridge and past the river. It was just past the welcome centre, but it was too late. I had cheered once we were across the river and saw the tiny border sign on the bridge, aka when we actually entered Texas. The first ad we saw once in Texas was for Dr Pepper- not helping, I was so thirsty. Texas is huge, we saw a sign saying that Beaumont was in 23 miles and El Pas was 857 miles away. We stopped at Flying J gas station. I got Brent a cherry Dr Pepper and I finally got my Sunkist fix. I also found a smooth almond butter Snickers and a triple chocolate Twix. Back on the road we saw an 18-wheeler blow a tire. Except at first, we had no idea what was going on. Debris was flying from under the truck and we thought maybe it had hit something? Thankfully it was one of the middle tires and he didn’t lose control.

We kept seeing all these stupid (and sometimes plain confusing) billboards for some place called “Buc-Ees” and we couldn’t even figure out what it was. They sold “beaver tots,” didn’t like litter and the most confusing one: “Oh fudge! Buc-Ees is Coming Up!” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! As we drove by, we saw that it was an enormous gas station/truck stop. We had never seen one that big. We had to go to see it, I regretted not having stopped in. I made it my mission the rest of the drive to keep an eye out for another one. Surely it couldn’t be the only one out there?!

We made a pitstop before going to our hotel in Houston to check out the Menil collection. (My plans of checking out Buc-Ees would have to wait until tomorrow’s drive). I didn’t expect such a varied collection. The collection ranged from ancient stuff to a great selection of works by Magritte (further cementing my love of him). There were a few other buildings in the museum aside from the main one. As we walked to the Cy Wombly collection it started raining lightly. I was not impressed with his work. Things kind of only went downhill from there. The Drawing building consisted of some very repetitive work by one person that felt like an art school project (maybe it was?). Back outside it was raining much harder, the sky was black and it was thundering. It was so loud and close that it kept scaring me. There was one lightning strike that was pretty much next to us, even though we didn’t actually see it, it happened at the same time as the thunder. We ran through the rain to what was once a grocery store but was now supposed to house a cool exhibit made of lights only to find out it was closed. Why didn’t they inform us when we arrived at the main building?! The last stop on the tour was the fresco chapel. That one we at least knew it was closed for renovation but at least we could look at the outside. Given how close the lightning still was and how hard it was raining, it was not really worth it. We had a scary speed-walk back to the car, through a neighbourhood full of trees.

We got to the car just as the rain intensified. By the time we got to the hotel it was pouring. At first, I could see Minute Maid park just up the block. A few minutes later I could see nothing out the window. It was a torrential downpour and the thunder kept setting off the same car alarm- every few minutes it would wail for a few seconds. We sat in the room trying to plan out what to do. We didn’t want to stand in line in the rain, we would wait until just before the game started before heading out. Just as I opened up my ebook, Brent noticed that it had started to clear up a bit. We ran for it to the stadium, the sky looked like it wasn’t finished.

We did a full lap of the concourse and assessed all of our food options. Brent got a beer from Crawford brewery which had been on my list of top food items, as they made a beer especially for the ballpark. It came in a souvenir cup and wasn’t that bad of a deal actually. One of the first vendors I had seen was selling cider and they were the only one. The St. Arnold’s cider also came in a souvenir cup. The guy filled it to the brim and I had to stand there sipping it until it was no longer threatening to spill over. On our walk Brent had noticed a sign for Torchy’s Tacos, a well known Austin place. We had to take a minor detour to the second level. We had gotten to the park early and really hadn’t eaten much since the sandwiches in the car. These would be a nice snack to tide us over until later. We split two tacos: “trailer trash” (fried chicken) and a pork one. We had opposing views, I was dead-set on the fried chicken one being the better of the two. On the way to our seats Brent got a second beer (that’s how long we wandered the concourse). I really liked the name of it, Hopsadillo. Except now we had three souvenir cups, because apparently draft beer is better than in a can? I was still slowly working on my cider.

In the 3rd inning Tampa Bay hit a home run and it landed in the bullpen just below us. A few minutes later Brent checked Reddit to see if we had gotten on TV and at the same moment Ryan sent a very grainy screen cap of us sitting in the stands.

In the middle of the 4th inning I suggested we go for food at the end of it. I knew I was risking missing a home run and not getting to see the train full of oranges ride across the outfield board but I was hungry. No sooner had I said it, Yuli Gurriel hit a home run! The streak was broken! San Francisco was an anomaly! The train was so cute, puttering along and blowing its whistle. (We later saw that they had an actual guy in there dressed as a conductor). We split an oyster po’boy and an order of pork burnt ends tater tots from Street Eats. This just added to our souvenir collection, the tots were served in a plastic baseball helmet. The po’boy was delicious but unruly to eat, and why why why would they include tomatoes?! The pork burnt ends were tasty but overall the dish was just too heavy and too much, I could only eat it in little increments. We had gone back to St. Arnold’s for my final round. When getting my cider, I had noticed that they also had a margarita machine back there. What I only found out as I now stood in line was that the margarita was served in, of all things, a giant souvenir flute with a baseball base. Great, add it to the pile. It was called a “yard margarita” and it did not disappoint. I had a swirl of regular and strawberry. Of all the souvenir items we only kept one of the St. Arnold’s pint cups and one of the Crawford ones.

During the 7th inning stretch almost no one sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” but when “Deep in the Heart of Texas” came on right after everyone started singing it. The 8th inning was the most eventful. There were a few instances of “bases loaded” walks and a few singles. At the time there was a lot of excitement about it all. At the top of the 9th we booed Osuna. In the elevator back at the hotel we met some Tampa fans who complimented the Skydome and downtown Toronto. By the time we were back in the hotel room I was so tired, it was 10:45pm and I still had to shower and write everything down in my notebook.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2019 in Travel

 

Miss NOLA TX: Day 1

Miss NOLA TX: Day 1

Tues. Aug. 27, 2019:
Toronto flight to New Orleans, Louisiana:

Even with taking a Lyft from work to the airport and cutting it close, I still beat Brent to the check-in gate. Thankfully security and customs were quick and I had time to grab lunch. I decided to try out Wahlburgers. Brent had gotten lunch before getting to the airport so I was on my own. I got the BBQ bacon burger with guacamole. I was not impressed, the burger was mediocre and the bun terrible. The sweet potato tots on the side were alright.

There’s always a certain level of stress involved when you have a layover. We had a 50-minute connection in Washington-Dulles airport and the whole time in Toronto there was a sense of unease. Thankfully our flight was on time and we made the connection. I even had time to pop by Dunkin’ Donuts for a fix. I caved and had the cinnamon sugar pumpkin spice latte- EVEN THOUGH it was still only August, way too soon. It was a whole mess of confusion when I tried to order. They guy said they were sold out of small. So, I said, fine make a small in a medium cup, I don’t care. He conferred with his co-worker and repeated that small was sold out. I ended up getting a medium and only drinking half. It was alright, not very pumpkin-y or very cinnamon-y, just sweet.

Both of our flights didn’t have TV’s in the seatbacks. The only option was to download United Airlines app and watch on my tablet, pass. Instead I read “Devil in the White City” and got from 30% to a solid 75% of the way through it. We got snacks on both flights. Not just any snacks: stroopwafel and Biscoff cookies! The first time Brent went for the pretzels and I was shocked, those didn’t even register for me as viable snack options. I wavered between the two but in the end opted for the stroopwafel. Partly due to my love of Stuff You Should Know but also the fact that Biscoff cookies are now in Canada. On our flight out of Toronto we had a great flight attendant, she was very efficient ensuring everything ran smoothly and directing everyone. I wish she could be on all my flights. We watched as a man struggled to understand that 1) his luggage didn’t fit into the overhead bin and 2) it would have to be checked. The saga continued during the flight when he reached into the overhead bin, expecting to find his luggage.

I was mad at the Dulles airport. We had to switch terminals but to get there we had to take what at first seemed like a tram. Except it was an 8-minute (!!!) wait, I was just imaging what would have happened had our first flight been delayed. When we boarded, we realized it was more a giant room on wheels. It was really weird.

LOUISIANA!!!! State #35!! It was so hot and muggy when we landed. We took a taxi to our hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans. I loved that Soniat House had a hotel cat named Claire. The guy told us that if we ever saw her meowing outside his door to let her in, he also said he talks to her. This was my kind of place. We walked to dinner at Bon Ton Café, passing by Jackson Square. The buildings in the French Quarter were all so pretty with balconies overlooking the street and gaslit lamps by the doors. We lucked out, Bon Ton Café had a special price fixe menu for August and it was both cheaper than a la carte and it had all the things we wanted to try. Plus, we didn’t both have to get the same things. It was perfect. I ordered a glass of Robert Mondavi cabernet because there was no cocktail menu and we had just been to California. It was only as we looked at the dinner menu, that I noticed in the bottom corner a small text box with info about their house cocktail. Guess I would be having a second. We started with fried freshwater catfish bites and gumbo. Both were really good, but Brent won round one with the gumbo. I had the shrimp creole and Brent had some kind of local fish (it may have been called Wayne something? The lady was unclear). Both were excellent. The cocktail was so good! I wish I had known about it, I would’ve happily had two given how much I had disliked the wine. For dessert we actually both ordered the same thing (a rarity). Bon Ton was known for their bread pudding with whisky sauce. It was written about in Brent’s 1001 Foods book and the Toronto Star travel section featured it. The dessert arrived on Bon Ton branded plates. It was delicious but oh man was the whisky sauce strong. It was not baked along with the bread pudding, just poured on top after. I never imagined it was possible to get drunk off a dessert.

On the way back we stopped at a 24-hour liquor store on Canal St. because you can open-carry alcoholic drinks in New Orleans. We had seen people on our way to dinner and now we felt like we had to partake. The selection in the mart was subpar. Brent ended up getting a Dixie beer but he didn’t realize it was light. I sipped a Jack Daniel’s cocktail. Yes, the selection was that bad. My other option had been a small bottle of sangria but it had an ugly bottle cap that listed the 13% alc/vol, which after that whisky sauce I was not sure I could handle. It was a slow bloated walk back. We passed by so many haunted tours but none of them had the right ambiance. Where were the black cloaks? The lanterns? On the way back we saw Claire by the office, as a I bent down to pet her, Carlos opened the door to let her in. I was going to do that! I just wanted to pet her first. Our hotel had an honour bar where you could mix your own drinks but I was too tired and had already had quite enough. We checked out the hotel patio and the upstairs veranda. Down below was another ghost tour. I joked about going to our room and getting some sheets and pretending to be ghosts. I was really looking forward to showering, I was drenched in sweat and so tired and my allergies were kicking into high gear. I needed sleep.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2019 in 1001 Foods, Travel

 

More Than I EXpected

More Than I EXpected

Having looked at the schedule online ahead of time I didn’t really have high hopes for the CNE this year. The vendor list also seemed really short. I pinned all my hopes on food. No mardi gras parade. No aerial acrobatics/ice show. What was going on? Was it just not updated. I held out hope until the day we arrived and got day-of schedules. No luck. On the plus side, we wouldn’t have to rush lunch and we could go to the 4:30pm Super Dogs show instead (as opposed to the 6pm one which was always really busy with the after 5 crowd).

I had a heck of a list of food items to look out for. I had more than I could eat. More than I could eat even with the help of whoever I could rope into it. But every year there are things I can’t find so it makes sense to have a long list.

The day started off relaxed. I stopped in at the Food Building for a red licorice donut from Tim Hortons (every year I leave Timmie’s for alter and every year it is too damn busy). This was actually my first time getting a wacky Timmie’s CNE donut. I tried to order a box of the pink lemonade Timbits but the lady said they only sold them in packs of 20- we had a long day of eating ahead of us and that was way too many Timbits). I passed through the Arts & Crafts building in search of my beloved coffee. It’s ironic, the name of the place is the Wandering Bean yet they are the most stable thing for me at the CNE, they have always been in the same spot.

I cannot believe how hot it was in the little rooms in the Kids Zone. All they had going was a small fan mounted on the wall, no air-conditioning. It was stifling in there. I lasted maybe 10 minutes before I had to get out of there, Camilla Adrian & Alexis would catch up to us later. Plus it was time to go meet my mom and sister by the fountain (the usual). The CNE sign had been moved to the Prince’s Gates and in it’s place, the fountain was surrounded by 12 raccoon sculptures, further cementing Toronto as a raccoon-obsessed city. I was actually glad to not see the ostriches in the Farm Building- they always seem kind of sad in their high-fence pen. The llamas delivered hilarity as per usual. As we finished up, Alexis went to get a pizza from the Food Building, everyone chowed down outside- except me. I was holding out for the Food Building’s more wacky offerings. I was a bit worried that I’d be eating alone.

We worked up an appetite in the Arts & Crafts building, being able to dedicate more time to to it as we were not rushing for the aerial & acrobatics show this year. We hemmed and hawed over at the seafood spread stand, eventually settling on coming back for it at the end of the night so it wouldn’t go bad during the day (plus it would be less to carry). We also visited my favourite CNE vendor, Carmicheal for my yearly purchase of summer sausage. The guy claimed to remember me and that just made me like them even more. They also got shunted to end-of-the-night-purchases, it would be too much to carry.

FINALLY. It was lunch time, my time to shine. I settled on the pho fries for lunch because it seemed like the easiest to share and least wacky of all the items on my list. I was saving the wackier stuff for later when Brent would be joining us. The premise of pho fries was that it was pho, but instead of noodles it was fries with beef and green onions and bean sprouts. It was good. Except towards the end I was getting tired of eating fries so I just ate the rest of the toppings, leaving behind some sad fries. For dessert: deep-fried Ferrero Rocher. It had not been on my list, I just happened across it when I was looking for deep-fried avocado (which got bumped for this).

Satiated and overheated, we piled onto the tram and went over to the At Home and International Pavilions. We had about 2-2.5 hours before it was time for the dog show. Of course we all went for the plant vendor, like moths to a flame. Air plants are so pretty, and every year I swear that THIS is the year. This is the year when I won’t end up killing all my airplants. I also wanted to get some bamboo shoots, but they weren’t even selling them. So instead I got a little cactus to replace the one I had over-watered.

The At Home Pavilion was very underwhelming, way less vendors. It was even worse in the International Pavilion. Pretty much none of our usual go-to’s were there, no Sri Lankan tea, no Polish amber jewelry. The warehouse section was cut in half and there was no Bluenotes or kitchen supply stores. I had my heart set on those two. We finished up in no time. We went to the Colombian coffee place and sat outside on the reduced-size midway and moped. So far this was one of our most disappointing CNE years. After the dog show at 4:30 we would have very little left to do. Camilla left and we lined up for the dogs, except even that was not so busy. We got amazing seats without having to wait for very long so I guess that was a plus? The dog show turned things around, how could it not?

We spent some more time going through the makeup warehouse and the International Pavilion as we waited for Brent. Once he found us we headed over to the Silk Lantern display. On the way we found another plant shop, kind of hidden within the At Home Pavilion. They had bamboo!! I also ended up getting a money tree with the hopes of not killing it. We took a mini detour to look at prize-winning house plants in the horticultural section and it put me to shame. The size and voluminousness of the plant put me to shame.

The lanterns were awesome, as was to be expected, given they were awesome last year as well. We had a pit stop at the Food Building. Lucy was after her traditional corn dog. Brent and I had other plans. After a few failed attempts at finding food (read: every time I asked at the info desk where the vendor was I was told somewhere in the midway) we eventually settled on veal tacos from SanFrancesco. What is a veal taco you may ask? A taco that has for it’s shell a breaded veal cutlet. A+ for creativity BUT it was hard to eat, despite how delicious it was. We also jumped on the bandwagon and had a “beyond meat burger” from Bubs Burgers. For a non-meat burger it was actually pretty good and it was the closest to a real burger we had ever tasted (as opposed to: portobello mushroom, black beans, tofu). From there we slowly made our very tired way over to the Arts & Crafts building for our end of day purchases. Except it wasn’t end of day for Brent and I. We backtracked to the Farm Building so he could see all the animals.

And then it was time to eat again! This time we divvied up the midway stands. Brent stood in line waiting for our deep-fried Kit Kats, I went off in search of R&Js pizza for a slice of dill pickle pizza (it has ranch instead of tomato sauce). Somehow we missed each other on the midway and I had to backtrack to our meeting spot: the bar with the Muskoka chairs (something beach.*). They had a secret menu item: frozen sangria slush. I was all about that! Alas, it was all sold out. I had to settle for a berry vodka slush which was still god. And necessary, between the Kit Kats and the pizza I needed a drink. The pizza was surprisingly good and possibly the best item of the 2019 CNE. The Kit Kat was also pretty damn good. It had thankfully been broken up into the four parts as opposed to being served as a whole.

We ventured further into the midway in search of a Tokyo street dog, and if I couldn’t find that, then a hot Cheetos encrusted corn dog. A guy from a wacky hotdog vendor offered us a sample but as I realized it was not the right place, I asked him if he knew where Street Dogs was. He stared at me blankly, Brent was like he’s a competing hotdog seller!! Turns out Street Dogs was just opposite. Oops. Our last menu item of the night was a tempura battered hotdog with kewpie mayonnaise, teriyaki sauce and strips of seaweed. It was delicious, save for the too-chewy seaweed. Bordering on nauseatingly full, we wandered back towards the streetcars through the midway. I kept shaking my head saying no no nope, at all the roller coasters. I just don’t get it. We stopped at a game where you had to hang from a bar for 1min50s to win a prize. It was hilarious seeing the overly confident guys walk up and be like I got this, only to see their face contort seconds later in agony. It felt like an old-timey fun fair, gawking at people.

*Beach Bar. I was close.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2019 in Adventures of Pinka!, CNE, Fooding

 

Well They Sure Earned That…

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2019 in Fooding

 

Heeeeere Fishie, Fishie, Fish

Heeeeere Fishie, Fishie, Fish

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

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

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

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

It was one of our top meals of the year.

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

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

 
 
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