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East Coast Done: Day 4

Mon. May 22, 2017:
Beaufort, SC

I woke up around 8am because I could not sleep any more. My back was hurting from the too-soft mattress (yes there is such a thing!). We head breakfast at the hotel, out on the front porch. The French toast was good but the ham on the side was way better. Nothing at breakfast was outstanding and the service was quite slow, we decided we would skip on it the next day, it was not worth it.

We went for a walk to Beaufort National Cemetery to see where Union Soldiers from the Civil War were buried. Seeing all the little headstones aligned and in rows it really hit home just how many soldiers died during the war.

We walked back to the hotel along the waterfront. All the birds were out in full force and singing and we saw another blue jay. The route we took was a much more scenic way to enter the town centre, with the waterfront and huge trees draped with Spanish moss on one side and big beautiful houses on the other side.

We drove to Shrimp Shack for lunch. The name did not lie, it was quite the shack. Brent was keen on getting the shrimp burger. We had no idea what to expect: shrimps on a bun, shrimps ground into a patty, a burger with shrimps on top? Turns out it was option B. I opted for the shrimp salad sandwich which was just shrimp mashed up with mayo and topped with lettuce. The bread was just Dempsters-style soft bread. Even still, as I sat there eating it all I could think was: migawd I have eaten so much bread today– and it’s barely non. At this point, I had eaten about 4 slices total.

The previous day we had passed a roadside shop that advertised grilled donuts and alcohol. Outside the shop I met the friendliest and scruffiest little muffin of a cat. It was black and skinny and clearly lived outdoors- his little ear had a nick in it. But for all his rough-looknigness, he was the most affectionate little munchkin, rubbing against me and meowing. It took all my self-will not to take that little scraggle-muffin home with me. The people working in the store were equally friendly. While Brent was picking out beers I got us some boiled peanuts, self-serve from a slow-cooker so you knew they were fresh. I did not know what to expect: they were boiled with their shells on and apparently you eat them whole? I waited until we were in the car before trying one. It was awful, I immediately spit it out. No part of it was good. It was rubbery, it tasted bad and the fibres from the shell were just awful and pokey. I even went back for another. This time I peeled it- but the peanut was rubbery and bland.

We tried to stop in at the Penn Centre historical museum but it was closed, as we expected given they listed their hours but it never hurts to check. We stopped at Wal-Mart to grab snacks and drinks. There were no good ciders so I opted for a bottle of wine instead. I also took the chance to stock up on Dunkin Donuts coffee and I could not believe I had forgotten (until I saw it on the shelf): Biscoff cookies!!! I ended grabbing the last two. By the register I found an Oreo Milka bar and some coffee peanut M&Ms. Snacks in hand, a diluted glass of sweet tea (mixed with half unsweetened) we headed back to the porch. I was getting used to this new lifestyle. I even finished my book and started another one, The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. I had thought ahead and downloaded it to the iPad before we left for vacation. Eventually I switched over to cider (I still had one left). The coffee peanut M&Ms were ok but the caramel ones were way better.

After writing out my postcards I found a post office around the block from our hotel. The plan had originally been to walk down to the waterfront and get ice cream after but it started raining and thundering as soon as we set out and we did not want to get caught in it if it got worse. On the way back to our room I grabbed another sweet tea and a chocolate chip cookie (it had pecans in it!)- this hotel was awesome. We sat around watching TV, the season finale of Bob’s Burgers, and just waiting for pie time. It did not disappoint. As I was going downstairs for pie I realized we had missed cheese hour. I skipped on the key lime pie because we still had dinner reservations that night and I did not want to ruin my appetite. Brent had not even come down for any pie- until I came back to the room with a slice of pecan pie and a piece of lemon loaf.

At the Saltus River Grill we started out with fresh oysters, even though it was not oyster season. How could we resist a local oyster called Single Ladies?! We felt silly ordering just two oysters therefore we also got one each of the oyster from Nova Scotia. Four seemed less silly. For my main I had the crab cake. Soon after I had ordered the server came by a little bit concerned. She told me it’s not like a regular crab cake with the breading. It was just a patty of crab meat seared- I was more than ok with that given that they served us fresh bread at the table. I could do without bread crumbs. And it turned out to be the best crab cake I had ever eaten. I stole a bite of Brent’s steak with truffle butter but it paled in comparison to my crab cake. The drinks selection was great, I had a Bold Rock Cider. Alas we were way too full for dessert.

Walking back along the boardwalk it started raining again. I noticed a chalkboard sign inside a BBQ restaurant/bar. I could see that it said CRAFT BREWS, how could we pass that up? It was well worth the venture, the selection was great. I started out with a Windy Hill Gala Peach Cider. I had to have a second. I asked the guy if they do half-pints, he said he could do 11oz instead of 16oz. It was settled, we would stay for a second round- we had confirmed that the bar was not closing, they were just shutting down the kitchen. For my second I had a Snafu Tang, a sour beer made with oranges. It was so good! Brent teased me that mine was barely smaller than his, but I pointed out the circumference of our glasses. A guy walking by our table was talking smack about the Blue Jays and him and Brent got into a sidebar that I understood nothing of. It was nice to sit and relax, listening to 90s music while discussing potential songs for a first dance at our wedding. We were also waiting for the rain to stop but it was not letting up. When we closed our bill the guy asked us if we wanted any water to go. I am not sure if this was a joke about it raining or a comment on our inebriation.

By the time we got back outside it was raining even harder. Brent kept running ahead and hiding under awnings while I slowly made my way towards him. I had given up, it was raining hard and I knew I was going to get soaked. I joked that it was ok because I needed to wash my hair anyways. I had to shower quickly once we got back, Better Call Saul was on soon. For the first time in a long time we watched one of our shows on TV as it aired as opposed to online afterwards. The storm had gotten even worse, there was thunder and lightning. Outside there was a loud bird/frog/bug calling out regularly. I thought it was the fan being squeaky. Good thing I had not opened my wine, it had a cork in it meaning I’d have to drink it all in one day because I had no empty bottles to pour it into.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Bier Here!

Otto’s in Kensington had been awesome and we found out that they had opened a beer hall AND it had been voted best new restaurant 2016 we were psyched! We were less psyched when we could not get reservations. We figured we would go and try to get a table and if not we could find a back-up elsewhere. On a Saturday evening we managed to get a table, although we had to share it but that was not even noticeable. The beer selection was not as extensive as I had hoped for, I wound up drinking Ontario craft ciders instead. We ordered a giant ham hock, a schnitzel and pretzels with cheese. The pretzels were better when dipped in the grainy mustard that came with the ham, the cheese was a bit weird. I was unsure about the ham hock, it was way more expensive than everything else and I was expecting that it was going to the equivalent of a full dinner rather than a sharing appetizer. Turns out it was so expensive because it is a giant leg of ham bone and and all. The bone took up a lot of space and it ended up being the perfect amount of food. Once we figured out how to get the meat off the bone. It was an odd endeavour, we just kept hacking at it with knives trying to pierce the tough skin. But oh man, once we broke the skin and carved off pieces it was so delicious.

On the walk home we stopped at the Snakes & Lattes on College, voted best late night cafe. When we got there we saw a few empty tables but the guy told us it would be a wait and that there was nothing available. He took my name and number for the waitlist… and that was it. We kind of looked at each other, do we bum around and wait, do we bail? Do we go somewhere nearby and wait? Oh wait… there are stools by the bar. We could just have a few drinks while waiting for our table.

Since it was voted best late night cafe, I ordered a hot chocolate with Bailey’s for my second drink (for the first I had to try the winter themed cocktail) and a cake pop. We tried out Patchwork which was a neat little game. We followed it up with a game of Seven Wonders Duel. Brent won both times. Two games was about the max we could do. We had started out drinking at Otto’s Bierhalle around 5pm, by now it was 10pm and we were both very sleepy.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Below EXpectations

Once again, that time of year snuck up on me. The CNE was in town and for the first time in years I was not there for opening day. Maybe that is what cursed this year’s two visits? The press releases of sneak previews of fair food failed to impress this year. Of the 20+ items I read about only one caught my attention/was something I had never had before: the deep-fried butter tart. Yes I was excited about the deep-fried cookie dough (who wouldn’t be?) but I had tried it a long time ago while in the States, so it was not new. I was intrigued by the crispy mustard-fried crickets on a hot-dog but I could not get past the fact that they still retained their cricket shape. All I could imagine was their legs getting stuck between my teeth like the straw from corn. *shudders*

I resolved to at least walk by the bug stand and look. I assumed the line would be out the door, thus giving me an excuse to find something else to eat. Not so, there was only one customer. They had a display hot-dog and I couldn’t do it, I chickened out. My sister had wanted a sushi burrito from SU&BU and one of the items on the list had been their take on the fish & chips done sushi style. But somehow it just did not seem all that appetizing, crispy wonton chips with salmon and roe- on a hot afternoon at the CNE? Plus I would be stealing a bite of the sushi burrito (call it a delivery service fee) so why get two things from one vendor? I was down to item three on my list of maybe-trys: The lobster and steak bao sandwich. It was ok when you got a mouthful of both, but at times it was just bun. And the lobster was served cold, while the meat was hot, therefore both ended up lukewarm. It was not a bad sandwich, but it was not amazing nor was it that wacky. We did not have time to grab dessert as it was time to go to the aerial acrobatics and figure skating show. As usual it was incredible and they amped it up again.

I vowed to do a better job for dinner. The plan was to get a poutine corn dog (sliced up hotdog, cubes of cheese and hash browns, all skewered battered and deep-fried) for dinner, followed by a double dessert: deep-fried cookie dough AND a deep-fried butter tart. Alas, it was not happening. I left my other sister in line waiting for the cookie dough (there were at least 10 people in front of her) and went off in search of the poutine dog. I could not find ti listed on the map in the Food Building for the life of me. I resorted to going to the information booth and sheepishly asking about where to find the poutine dog and the deep-fried butter tart. As it turned out the butter tart was all the way back at the midway. It got relegated to next time. The poutine dog was sold out, it too would have to be next time. I walked by Bug Bistro one more time, but still could not muster the courage (?) to order it. Tired, I gave up and just got a corn dog from the midway. The food building was crammed and I was getting hangry. I shouldn’t have been ignoring my phone, it turns out there were three different flavours of cookie dough. I don’t know why no one had mentioned this in the articles? Thankfully my genius sister got one of each. Oddly enough the best one was the red velvet, followed by chocolate chip with brownie coming in a dead last as it was far too rich.

Even though I had walked the 8km to the CNE from my house the previous day, the following day I set back out again. This time we were going to the CNE with our dad. During the planning of our CNE outings it had not occurred to us that going to the CNE two days in a row might be overkill. I had a spending hangover and a combination fomo/disappointment regarding the previous day’s food fails. I was desperately hoping to make it up on round two. This time I would have the poutine dog for lunch and then something wacky for dinner, grabbing the deep-fried butter tart in the afternoon when we pass by the stand.

The poutine dog was a salty, disgusting, nauseating fail. It was epic, but migawd it nearly killed me. And yet I kept eating it. I would take a bite, make a face, pause, sigh… and pick up the stick and start the process over again. Much to the amusement of my sister. It came with a side of gravy that I could not enjoy but that got me thinking: why don’t corn dogs normally come with the side of gravy? And my poutine dog was not exactly complete: it lacked the hash browns! They had been forgotten!! And the cheese was flavourless and all it did was sink into ever crook and cranny of my mouth and stick there. It was unpleasant. We never did find the deep-fried butter tart stand. By the evening I was so tired and my legs ached. I could not stand the thought of waiting in a long line, even though the Japanese-style fried chicken looked amazing. I instead got a hot dog, there was no line.

The actual highlight, despite all the food fails and misses was buying a venus fly trap plant which I am now trying to keep alive.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Saturday Afternoon Tea

In anticipation of our upcoming trip to England I was thrilled with the idea of going out for afternoon tea. The King Edward Hotel had been voted best afternoon tea, what better excuse to get our practice in? I set my expectations accordingly and joked about buying a tea gown and a fancy hat. The only complaint I had was that the only way to get a reservation was by calling. Boo to that!! Who makes phone calls anymore?!

It worked out that the walk to the King Edward took us near the best new bakery of 2015, Roselle Desserts, of course we had to go there first. The turtles tart did not disappoint, it was delicious- so long as you took tiny bites- otherwise the caramel would overwhelm. The chocolate eclair was a bit tough to eat with a fork, I wish we had gotten it to go so I could eat it like a hot dog or pizza i.e.: without a fork. The coconut crisp cookies were also delicious. The only flop was the double-chocolate sea salt cookie. It was too rich and too salty. Then again, who am I to say? I don’t really like chocolate cookies all that much (I know, *gasp*).

The chairs were fancy and when we sat down we were presented with two chests with tea samples for us to sniff. Brent ordered the second flush darjeeling (such a weird name) and I ordered a cream rooibos on our server’s suggestion. I was not disappointed, migawd the tea was good. Both were good. Alas, it was hard to swap teas halfway as our table was full what with two teapots, two tea cups and each a plate of sandwiches. Top it off with a tiered tray of scones and jams? The sandwiches were underwhelming and I am still not a fan of scones. The strawberry preserves were good though. Really, only the tea was a stand-out. That and maybe they won because they also serve alcoholic tea drinks? I was too full to try one. Full of mediocre sandwiches.

Verdict? Not as good as the Windsor Arms. Which is now somehow #10 on the list?! Maybe the list is in reverse order.

 

Dear Birds: Ssshh!!

Auntie’s & Uncle’s had recently been voted best french toast in the city, just in time too as we were running out of places within a walkable range. Unluckily because Auntie’s & Uncle’s opens at 9am and you have to be there at least 15 minutes early else you will have a long wait for a table. I had no trouble waking up early, as the birds outside my window decided to chirp incessantly and loudly around 7:30 in the morning. Granted it was just before I was supposed to wake up anyways, still I was annoyed. I got ready and proceeded to have a mini nap on the couch until it was time to leave.

We got to Auntie’s & Uncle’s and already there was one group ahead of us. We promptly took our place in line behind them, at least we had benches to sit on. No sooner were we seated, more people started showing up. By the time we were seated they were full and telling people they would have to wait. It made me secretly feel really good. I was unsure about what to order, having had the waffles last time and really being in the mood for greasy or meaty (otherwise the obvious choice is a croque monsieur). I lucked out, they had blueberry pancakes on special and in the last few years I have managed to quash my blueberry aversion*.

The french toast and pancakes both had little pats of butter on top slowly melting, making for some extra delicious top bites. The french toast, while delicious, was not as good as at School (thus that one is still the contender for best french toast in my books). The pancakes were crammed full of blueberries, each bite was so bursting with them. We looked up my post from last time to determine what I had ordered. The post mentions peeling airplane wallpaper and Bob Dylan playing over the speakers, both are still true.

Up next we walked over to Neo Coffee, down the street from my original alma-mater (and interestingly, fun fact, the birth place of the original of this blog) George Brown College**. Neo Coffee had been voted best new cafe of 2015. I was immediately smitten, they had a punny chalkboard sign outside. I cannot for the life of me remember the joke. The coffee was delicious and I was impressed with the selection. They had bagged coffee from many city roasters. Going along the shelf I rexognized most of them. I pointed out to Brent that this was my equivalent of his favourite beers and breweries. He did not seem to understand, (jokingly? I hope) saying that all coffee is the same. The roll cake was as good as a strawberry roll cake can possibly get, so moist and fluffy and not overly sweet. If this place had been open while I was at George Brown I could definitely see myself spending at least one day a week here.

 

*As a child I ate a whole plate of blueberry-filled perogies, a Polish delicacy I am told, afterwards I took a look in the mirror and to my horror discovered my mouth, tongue and lips were all tinged a horrible blue. Only a few years ago did I start sneaking blueberries in here and there to the point that now I can eat a blueberry yogurt- happily.

**Please don’t do the math of how long it has been.

 

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Burrito for the Win!!!

An afternoon outing to the pub warrants some late night burritos of course. Keep in mind that “late night” for me is like 7:30pm. Trouble is that we ate so much at the pub we were nowhere near hungry. The following day however we were both having regrets, thus our dinner plans were set: late night burritos. We would not mess it up this time by eating too much beforehand.

I could have sworn that Burrito Boyz was closer to my house. At least they had the option to order online, I could finally be as picky as I wanted. Alas, it was only for large orders. But I had already made up my mind, this was going to be the perfect burrito therefore I would be that one annoying person who does not just order everything. I slowly named off the toppings I wanted which happened to be about half, so I couldn’t even save myself with “everything except for.”

It was a long slow walk back, partly because I was hungry and partly because I was craving soda. Mostly it was because the weather forecast called fr rain so I wore rain boots with too-thick socks and now my feet were blistering and my legs were hurting.

I was wary of this burrito. Firstly there were way less options, only chicken, no other types such as baja chicken as I am used to at Fat Bastard Burrito. Secondly the toppings seemed to have been applied sparsely, I almost wanted to request more guacamole, she only gave me a small smear!! Then I took a bite. One bite and I was smitten. This was not just the best late night burrito, this was the best burrito period, in the city. The burrito sauce really made it. A new go to for us now.

 

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Ottawa Winterlude: Day 3

Mon. Feb. 15, 2016:
Train back to Toronto

We lucked out, it was family Day and that meant that the National Gallery of Canada would actually be open unlike on a regular Monday. On our walk back to the hotel yesterday we had passed a place near Byward Market called Planet Coffee, what better place to get my morning coffee fix from? Checking their Facebook page I discovered that they were going to participate in a hot chocolate competition at the market! I was way too excited about these prospects.

It was still cold out, a cool -21C but the weather report promised it would warm up as the day wore on. I caved into temptation at Planet Coffee and got a mocha with whipped cream, they were after all entering a hot chocolate contest therefore it must be good. Right? It was delicious and if it was any indication of the quality of their hot chocolate, they had the contest in the bag.

Byward Market was very small and not at all what I had expected. There were only a few vendors and it was just two rows of them. We peered down at them from the walkway above and decided that the wood-fired oven Montreal-style bagel place down below seemed like a good place to grab breakfast. It was fun to watch the bagels cooling near the oven, and it raised my hopes for breakfast. It was a really popular place and there were no free seats. The hot chocolate contest was only being set up, we decided if we had time we could pop by later.

Feb.15 (2)

The herb and cheese bagel was amazing and it was crammed full of smoked meat, egg and cheddar cheese. My only regret was not having a drink on the side. By the time we were done breakfast and packed up the temperature had risen to -19C, a cause for celebration- even though we were walking one block. Still that one block was a cold walk, I only had on one pair of tights and one pair of socks and I did not double up my long sleeve shirts. We would be walking around a gallery for a few hours and it would be way too hot.

We had double lucked out at the Gallery, it was the last day of the Monet show. After having been to many art galleries I still do not understand contemporary art or colour block painting or any of the other weird stuff. We did get to see some gorgeous Inuit art pieces, the most miniscule carvings imaginable and it boggles the mind. This was the first time in a gallery or museum where I did not end up freezing cold. We managed to finish the Gallery in three hours, earlier than we had expected.

Feb.15 (3)

We went to Dunn’s for smoked meat sandwiches. But we had so much time that Brent suggested we get the sandwiches for later and go elsewhere for lunch. Hooch Restaurant did not open until 5pm. There had been an Irish pub on my list and as Brent was about to look up the address to the Aulde PoorHouse I saw it across the street. The hot chocolate contest across the street was well under way and we figured it would make a good dessert option afterwards. We were in an Irish pub so of course I had to get the BBQ Guinness chicken wings. It was too early in the day for drinks, instead I opted for a green tea with lemon which was perfect after all the cold weather. The spicy curry chicken with fries was also delicious.

Feb.15 (5)

They had managed to take down the event tent and everyone had cleared out. As we left the pub it was as if the hot chocolate contest had never even happened. They had vanished without a trace. Instead we stopped in at Sugar Mountain where I went a little overboard. It was a long slow walk back to the train station, my legs were dead. The stupid highway made our route quite inefficient as we had to make a giant detour to get around it. It made me mad because I could see the hotel near the train station yet we had to go all the way around, adding on an extra 15 minutes that felt like eternity.

In the train station Brent opened his smoked meat sandwich from Dunn’s and the pickle smelled so good I had to open mine and eat it, after all the pickle might make the sandwich soggy. I could not resist a bite of the sandwich. It was underwhelming to say the least, which is too bad as thus far all of our fooding had been quite good. The WiFi in the train station was lackluster and I was getting antsy. It did feel good to sit though. It turns out that being really cold really does a number on one’s body and is exhausting.

 

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