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October- We’re Back!

October- We’re Back!

Fooding took a break during September, half the month we were away on vacation and it just worked out that way the rest of the month. Cases are spiking, new records are being broken, restaurants are open but we still order to our home.

Uncle Ray’s: I saw this one on BlogTO and was immediately enamored with the idea of Nashville hot fried chicken. My brain seemed to have dropped the hot part and focused solely on the fried chicken part. No mind that Uncle Ray’s version was listed as “triple hot” with three different elements adding heat to the chicken. All I heard was fried chicken and pork fat. It was too hot for me. I tried, I really did. I kept going back and nibbling but it was too much. Maybe if the chicken itself had been better? There were bites that were just grease and nothing else. Other times all I got was breading. The chicken had been beaten flat, the ratio of breading to meat to grease was off. The shrimp po’boy had sounded so good, how could we go wrong? The shrimp wasn’t breaded, instead it drowned in mayonnaise. The bun. Oh god, the bun. It was a disaster, it was a cheap hotdog bun. Gimme a crunchy Kaiser-style roll. The standout winner was surprisingly the biscuit with the hot butter honey. It was the right amount of spicy and so soft but with a crunchy exterior. If all biscuits were like this then maybe I would like biscuits. The super-close second place winner was the pecan tart, it was short and didn’t have as much filling as a traditional tart- but in this case it really worked well, it wasn’t overly sweet.

Not a great start to October.

Patria: I can’t remember why this was on our list anymore, but it was finally actually available on order! As opposed to previously when they said they’d be available but weren’t. At least we still had our order choices written down from last time. Now this was a good meal! October had been turned around. The cornish hen was delicious and a bit Thanksgiving-y so that was nice. It even had crouton and peanut stuffing, albeit on top. The shishito peppers were perfect (as one would expect). My only complaint was not enough mushrooms in the mushroom paella which was really more of a rice dish (it was still good, don’t get me wrong). They threw in a bonus seafood appetizer and those were some of the best clams I have ever had, the mussels and shrimps were also really good. I went back for seconds and thirds.

COAST (BlogTO): All of the rules, I threw them out the window. Rather than ordering from a place that had been on the list for a while, I got super excited about a new “ghost kitchen” from the people behind Rock Lobster as well as other renowned seafood people. Heck yes! Smash burgers are currently trending, why not throw some lobster on top? I was a bit skeptical, going into it with low hopes. But it was surprisingly good. Not the best burger I have ever had, but certainly the best surf n turf burger and I would happily eat one again. The chowder was a bit thin, but chowder is always good. The garlic toast on the side, it was really more of a basic toast. I legit had no idea it was supposed to be garlic toast. I had a bite of Brent’s Nashville hot shrimp sandwich, it was good, the spiciness was slow. But in the end, even with the slight Doritos taste to it, it was too spicy for me. The fries were a let down, but that’s what you get when you order fries for delivery. It is going to be a looooooong time before we eat a perfect fry dish again.

Grandma Loves You: (Toronto Life): a relatively new addition, both to the Toronto food scene and to our list, it just so happened that we were walking by on our way home during the lunching hour. Except they didn’t have any time slots until later in the day for pickup. Delivery to the rescue! The sandwiches arrived just after we got home. We had one hot sandwich on a sub bun and one cold sandwich on German rye bread. The hot sandwich with grilled sausage and veggies and house sauce was the clear winner. The ham & cheese was also really good (once the offending tomatoes had been removed). The chocolate croissant, oh boy, I would love to eat these every day. A soft buttery croissant, cut open and filled with Nutella and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Yes please!

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2020 in Fooding, Fooding From Home, Uncategorized

 

Cross Canada- Day 11

Tues. Sept. 8, 2020
Regina, SK to Winnipeg, MB

It was our last chance to say: “that’s it, back to Winnipeg!” I was going to walk to the Tim Hortons down the street but it was zero degrees outside- NOPE. I love coffee but it could wait. We were going to drive to downtown Regina, there would have to be a little coffeeshop right? The first one I googled had shut down. But there would at least be a Starbucks? The “downtown” was barely discernible from the surrounding area. We navigated to a Starbucks in a Hilton but it too was closed.  There was another one on the way to Spirit Sands Provincial Park in Manitoba. But it was in a grocery store and not open. At least there was a Tim Hortons in the same plaza so I was saved. They only had vanilla yogurt so I settled for a raisin bran muffin. We passed yet another Starbucks but it was a plaza still being developed… except the Starbucks was open! Ah well. We stopped at a gas station and got some road snacks: hot wings Doritos, peanut butter OMG clusters and Starburst duos.

MANITOBA!!!

We stayed in the same hotel in Winnipeg as we had earlier. I had forgotten the tea I bought in Banff in the car so I settled for the in-room English breakfast. We placed an order on Skip The Dishes for a burger, brisket sandwich and smoked rib chowder from Brazea Hall (which was on a best of Winnipeg list). The food was a bit heavy but the chowder really hit a spot, it tasted so Polish.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2020 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Cross Canada- Day 9

Sun. Sept. 6, 2020:
Jasper to Calgary, AB

I woke up at 6:30am which was before sunrise, yay! I would be able to get some beautiful mountain sunrise photos. By 7am it was still dark outside, that did not bode well for my plans. The sun was supposed to rise at 7:12am, it should not be this dark. The plan was to walk over to Bear Paw Bakery for breakfast and coffee. As soon as I opened our door, I saw why it was dark: it was raining. I ran back inside to change my outfit and leave my DSLR. I grabbed my rain shell from the car and changed into my waterproof hiking shoes. It was actually a pretty nice walk, the ground was wet but it wasn’t raining. They had fair-trade organic coffee which was so good! I couldn’t remember the last time id had a really good cup of coffee, probably the last day at home before vacation. I ordered a raspberry lemon danish and a chocolate croissant. The namesake bear paw looked too big and thick for a pastry roll and it was just unappetizing. It was only later while writing in my notebook that I realized why I had been so unimpressed, I had mixed it up with bear claw and I had been expecting something closer to a crueller than a mutant giant danish.

Last night we had researched Goats & Glaciers lookout to confirm if it was just called that or if there was substance to the name. Apparently, goats really do go there because there are naturally occurring minerals there and they go to lick the rocks. Now I was really hoping we would have luck: how great would that be to see goats licking rocks?! The chocolate croissant was meh, it was not buttery and did not melt in my mouth. The chocolate was rich but only concentrated in some parts so my bites were uneven. We stopped again at the lookout and you could smell the typical barnyard smell. As we approached, we were sure we could see goats. Maybe goats don’t like rain? It was a letdown.

We stopped for another view of the Columbia Ice Field because it was a slightly different angle and the scene was now different, instead of bright blue skies there were low hanging clouds. At the Howse Pass scenic overlook we saw the North Saskatchewan River and had beautiful mountain views with nice clouds- but still no goats.

The driving lulled me to sleep, which wasn’t hard given I had not slept too well (thanks cider, I had gone a little too hard with four tall cans and a regular- oops). I was twitching and my mouth was gaping open. The salted caramel Milky Way was what I needed to wake me up. I was in desperate need of a stop at a “human gas station” (that is how tired I was, that I wrote that in my notebook) aka Starbucks and refuel.

We stopped in the town of Banff. We had to park in a large parking lot that was a 10-minute walk away from the town centre. That was fine by me, there was a Starbucks in town that mobile ordering so it would work out perfectly. We stopped in at a gas station for bathrooms and snacks. I placed my order and we could immediately see why we had to park in that lot instead of in town. All the roads were torn up and being rebuilt, there were times we were walking on dirt.

The Starbucks was crammed full of people, it was like everyone had the same idea. Even with the ordering ahead, I still had to wait. We walked along the two main roads, all the storefronts were done in the style of ski chalets. I couldn’t resist shopping at the Rocky Mountain Soap Co, and at Banff Tea. On our way out of town we stopped at a liquor store (as you do on vacation) and they had a habanero cider but it was $13 for a bottle?! Way too much for something that might be atrocious. Back in the parking lot, the car next to ours also had Ontario plates and they cheered and we had a short conversation about travelling across Canada being just about the only thing one can do for vacation during these crazy times. They somehow had three and a half weeks of vacation!

In Calgary we stopped at a European deli because all of the other Polish stores were closed on Sundays. I didn’t find any sól ziołowa or Polish newspapers (for my dad) but I did find cukier waniliowy which I had run out of a while ago. They also didn’t have a bakery section so my dreams of pączki for lunch were dashed. We drove to Pearce Estate for views of the Calgary skyline and the Bow River but all we could see was the river, which was running alongside the highway at this part. Not very scenic. So far, I was not impressed with Calgary.

We drove closer to downtown and walked around a parkade which was nice because it was closed off to cars. But there was no one around, it was a ghost town (and I think it was pride weekend based on the banners and signs). While walking we placed an order for pickup from Native Tongues for some tacos and a burrito and guac & chips. They appeared on a bunch of best of lists so we had high hopes. It had been way busier in the neighbourhood just out of downtown, we had seen a huge line of at least ten people waiting to get into of all things, a spice store. It was bizarrely hipster. We passed by a David’s Tea and for a brief moment I thought it might still be open (they had recently shut down almost all their stores). It was not. By the end of our walk I felt like I had gotten my fill of Calgary and there was no real need to come back. I was not impressed and I didn’t really like it.

Continuing in the spirit of let-downs. The chicken taco was meh, the pork tasted like beef and the beef was too salty. Whoever assembled the pork burrito should not be allowed to assemble any more. It was the worst burrito assembly I had ever seen. All of the meat and the sauce were in the first half, causing a messy disintegrating soggy mess. The rice, guac and tomatoes were crammed into the little bottom corner of it. It was really awful. Even the tomatillo salsa was too salty. The only good part of the whole meal was the chips & guac, but it wasn’t outstanding by any stretch of the imagination.

We had reached the halfway point in the trip. Meaning it was laundry time. I was really mad. There were only two machines for the whole (airport) hotel. You would think there would be more? One person had abandoned their clothes, the other machine still had some time. I came back. They had not. I came back again, no change. So, I took the clothes out of the more recently abandoned machine and put mine in. When I came back, neither load had been claimed so I put the clothes back in the machine as if nothing ever happened. By the time I had come back for my clothes from the dryer, the first machine had still been forgotten. This person had left their clothes in the washing machine for more than two hours! That is just bad etiquette and so rude. On one of my many trips, I had passed some kids who were crying because their 30-minutes in the pool were up. You had to book a time slot to use the pool. Their desperate parents bribed the kids with the promise of a bubble bath back in the hotel room.

Laundry done, I could finally relax. We were watching a new show called Martha Stewart’s Bakeaway Camp. At first, I was not impressed but by the end I was taking notes of all the baking tips. Between that and Chopped and Wall of Chefs, it really made us appreciate what a good show Top Chef really is. I didn’t realize when I grabbed it that the Old Rosie unfiltered cider was actually from the UK, so much for drinking local. Soon our good run of TV ended, and we didn’t even get TLC or W Network and for some reason Much Music was actually a movie channel?? We ended up being too full for an evening pizza as had originally been the plan.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2020 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Cross Canada- Day 8

Sat. Sept. 5, 2020:
Lake Louise, AB to Jasper, AB

I was sleeping so well, I slept in a bit later than usual. We packed up the car and headed down to Lake Louise for one last look. The in-room coffee was horrible, nothing can replace milk in my coffee. I even tried adding sugar to counteract the powdered CoffeeMate. I had a few sips to tide me over and dumped the rest in the ditch. There was no social distancing whatsoever and it was busier than the previous day. We had a quick look and got out of there. The lower parking lot was full and it wasn’t even 8am. Driving out of the area it was insane. There was a traffic jam going both ways, of people trying to go to Lake Moraine and then instead to Lake Louise (which is further down the road) but then having to turn back because it is full. We were stuck in the jam of people who had been turned away from Lake Louise and we slowly snaked along. Our lane was slow because people kept stopping at the entrance to Lake Moraine to ask about getting in. It was a good thing we had gotten everything done the previous day.

We had a three-hour drive to Jasper but it was along the Ice Field Parkway so no complaints here. We stopped at a scenic overlook to gawk at the Crowfoot Glacier, it was so awesome- I had not expected to see glaciers this trip. We ate two mini bags of chips and somehow, I was hungrier than when we had started. We stopped at Bow Glacier but it was no good for photos because there were cars at the lodge on the horizon. It was crazy to see on the info panel just how much the glacier had receded since the reference picture from 1918. Our third stop was at Mistaya Canyon. We had to go down a hill and I was already regretting the climb back up. This was supposed to be a roadside pitstop not a mini hike! It was worth it and my complaining was negated by the beautiful canyon views. You could see the rushing river down below between the open spaces in the rocks. Walking back to the car we heard a weird whooshing sound, looking up there was a crow flying close by overhead. He was so close we could hear his wings flapping.

We were keeping our eyes opened, this road was known for having mountain goats in view. Every once in a while, one of us would see a solitary white speck on a mountain side but it was impossible to tell if it was anything. We stopped at an overlook where it looked like the mountain was cradling the glacier like a baby, it was very pretty (the scribble in my notebook did not do it justice). The Athabasca Glacier was awesome, we could hike up to it for a closer view. Down below we could see a parking lot that would allow us to get even closer to the Columbia Ice Field (the next glacier over). Back to the car! We were racing another couple who had also spotted it. On the way I saw a weather station but neither of us had our phones with us to make a The Simpsons joke. The GPS kept yelling “proceed to the route, proceed to the route” and Brent pushed the volume button to quiet it down for a moment except that somehow translated to it staying quiet, no matter how many settings I changed or how high I cranked the volume. Even the trusted, unplug it and plug it back in, didn’t work.

The Columbia Ice Field was incredible. I really had not been expecting to see it, having only heard about it in science news. I was a little giddy about it. They had set up markers to show how much the glacier had receded, especially in the last couple of decades. Seeing it visualized like that really hit it home and bummed me out. Because of the receding we could see what fresh land looked like that had been covered over so at least that part was kind of cool. It was impossible to imagine the glacier at peak coverage, the signs said it stretched all the way back and across the highway. I did not enjoy the hilly climb to get up close. I was huffing and puffing, people were passing me while I crept along at a snail’s pace. It did not help that my hip felt a bit tweaked. Still, I was eager to get closer and have a good look at it. There was a crisp cold wind whipping down the glacier valley. It was refreshing but also, I worried about more windburn. On the way back we passed some serious hikers/climbers who were heading up. They had spiky shoes, pickaxes and a dog with little booties, a helmet and his own backpack (complete with a handle in case he needed to be lifted). It was too cute.

We stopped at Goats & Glaciers lookout. Surely there would be goats here, it was in the name! Womp womp, no goats. No glaciers either. I briefly wondered if maybe we were at the wrong lookout? Nope. I was so tired and achy but we hadn’t even done any of the hiking we had planned for the day yet! My hunger was not helping. I was verging on hangry.

The plan was to have lunch in Jasper. We drove by the Timmies that the GPS led us to but it was on the main street and there were no empty parking spots. It seemed it would be that way for all of our lunch options in town, so we parked a few blocks away and walked. The pumpkin spiced iced capp was the perfect transition drink between summer and autumn. And I finally got my pumpkin spice Timbits! The turkey cheese melt really hit the spot and revived me. Brent went into the liquor store across the street, apparently, they had a great selection so I noted it for a possible return trip later. Jasper was the first place we had been that seemed serious about masks. They were not just mandatory indoors, but outside as well. It was spray painted on every corner sidewalk.

Some dummies tried to go the wrong way on a very clearly marked one-way street and we just stared in disbelief. We drove to Patricia Lake but it was a lake on a private campground and there weren’t any clear signs for public access or a trail we could even take. Off to the next destination! Maligne Lake had been featured on the front page of Reddit the previous day, that combined with the fact that it was the Saturday of a long weekend made me a bit anxious. On the drive I fidgeted some more with the settings and finally got the (lovely, we missed her!!) GPS voice back. Inexplicably the car settings had set it to silent volume- neither of us had touched a single car button. Brent had just turned down the volume on his phone.

We passed warning signs about bears, elk and caribou- and we saw none of them. As soon as we entered the park, we saw a sign that said if you see a moose stay 100m away. I guffawed, yeah right, like we would see a moose. I was about to make a joke about when did we switch from caribou signs to moose signs. Brent tapped me on the shoulder and said look! I couldn’t see, there were people blocking my view. I shifted over and proceeded to curse quietly to myself. Right smack in front of us in the water (at a safe distance) was a young (read: antler-less) moose. I was gobsmacked. He was so chill, dipping his head in the water and munching grass. He was clearly not going anywhere, we got our fill and headed on the trail around the left side of the lake. We walked only park of the trail until we reached a nice lookout point. Along the way we saw a cute little songbird with a white neck and a grey belly. Then we saw a bunch more and suddenly it wasn’t as special. It was too far to try and circle, plus the trail had veered away from the lake so we headed back.

The moose had moved and now I had an even better vantage points for photos: mountains in the background, a rustic boathouse with the name of the lake, it was perfect! You would never know that there were 30-40 people milling around near me getting almost the same (but not as good??) photos. We started walking to the trail that went around the lake in the other direction and then we stopped dead in our tracks. There was ANOTHER moose up ahead of us! He was standing on the shore, eyeballing the first moose. We were in shock. For so long we had seen barely any wildlife (let alone “Canadian” wildlife) and here we were seeing two! We stood and watched, judging the idiots on the beach who were way too close to the moose. He may not have had antlers but he was still damn big. He also did not give a damn about the people and was not afraid. He saw the other moose eating a bounty and he wanted in. humans blocking his way be damned, he started heading right in their direction i.e.: our direction. It was a mad scramble as we all backed away and started heading up a hill- cameras out snapping away the whole time. I don’t regret it, I got an amazing photo that looks like a moose out in the wilderness. My heart was pounding the whole time. Moose #2 approached #1 and it looked like they were spoiling for a fight. Instead he just intimidated #1, who took off, proverbial tail between his legs), into the forest and towards the hill where we were all hiding. The park staff were yelling at us to back up and to go the parking lot. Except then the moose seemed to be heading for the parking lot. Lots of dumb people, lots of excitement and I almost reached the heart rate I would have if we’d been hiking a steep hill.

Now that our path was clear we could continue on our way. Except the trail didn’t really lead anywhere, it took us to a bridge overlooking the river that ran into the lake (making it a prime habitat for wildlife- no kidding). A bug landed on my glasses and refused to let go, which was not as exciting as the moose encounter. That was tops.

We were staying at the Tonquin Inn and there was a giant line-up of people waiting to check in. We googled the best pizza in Jasper and ordered from the Jasper Pizza Place online. Brent would wait to check-in, I would go get pizza. On the walk I met a super cute and friendly cat. At first, he sat down in the middle of the street but when he saw me crouch down and hold out my hand he walked over. He was rubbing against me and purring and I would have stayed there all day if I wasn’t so hungry. My purse wasn’t big enough to stash him so I had to continue on. I walked by a different liquor store on my way to yet another one (that few blocks radius in Jasper had a surprising amount of liquor stores), I had time to kill before the pizza was ready. I had forgotten to consult with Brent and see which ciders he had gotten me. In a panic I sent him a photo of the fridge, there were quite a few I had never seen before but most of them were in multipacks so that narrowed my choices. I also found a gin that was made with northern Ontario ingredients. I still had a few more minutes before my pizza was ready so I walked up the street beside the pizza place. I saw a bakery called Bear Paw and I had to go in, how could I ignore such a great name. For dessert I got a peanut butter cookie and a nanaimo bar. I also got a lemonade, because surprise! – I was super dehydrated (who would have seen that one coming?). That did not use up enough time. I was going to check the other liquor store but I had not grabbed a receipt at the first one. As luck would have it there was a candy store next door, who could say no to that? I hit a veritable candy bonanza: birthday cake, mint + dark chocolate and apple pie Kit Kats, chewy Gobstoppers (large) and a Reese’s Fastbreak.

Brent met me on the way back and grabbed some of my bags, I was laden at this point. I had barely settled in and already was devouring the garlic bread. The pizza had two different cured meats and basil, it was perfect and it had really good slightly spicy garlic dip on the side. The Rock Creek strawberry rhubarb cider that Brent got for me that morning had a really weird pop-top, leaving the whole top of the can open. It was nice to sit in the room and just relax with ciders (BC Tree Fruits Cider Co was so good, as was the Rekorderlig passionfruit- both of which Brent had gotten earlier). There was a new episode of Say Yes to The Dress on which made it all the more perfect. During commercials we watched yet another terrible episode of The Simpsons. Brent googled one of the birds we had seen earlier and it turned out we had seen a Canada Jay, but how was that possible?! It had such a beautiful song, so not squawky like all of the others jays we had ever heard!


 
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Posted by on October 4, 2020 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Cross Canada- Day 7

Fri. Sept. 4, 2020
Johnston Canyon, AB to Lake Louise, AB (Banff)

There was a skittering noise in the night that woke me up three separate times. In my delirious half-asleep state, I was convinced there was an animal in the room, but when I went to look with my phone flash light, I saw nothing. My back and my legs had ached all night and I woke up very congested. I was falling apart. We drove slowly down the road because apparently there was more wildlife around thanks to the road being closed to the public. All we saw was one deer, alas no bears. The morning light was beautiful and the moon was still out, I wanted to take pictures of the mountains but we were on a mission: to visit Moraine Lake, which apparently fills up fast, some people get there at sunrise. We saw signs saying that there was limited parking available, that did not bode well for our plans. As we pulled up, there was a huge line of cars waiting to get in. Pass. Instead we parked at our hotel and walked over to Lake Louise. It was also very busy and uncomfortably crowded. Apparently, safety precautions go out the window when it comes to beautiful views. Everyone was crowded around the one vantage point, even though further along you basically got the same view just way less crowded. The lake was a beautiful emerald blue-green and we still had the remnants of the early morning light. As we walked around the lake the crowds thinned out. Apparently, they only cared about that one view. We could hear the thunderous roar of avalanches off in the distance but we couldn’t see anything. There was a trail that started at the far end of the lake but we didn’t have the backpack and we already had other hikes planned for the day so we turned around. There was a cute dog standing in the lake drinking water.

The yogurt parfait had seemed like a good idea in theory, but in practice it was a mess. The granola had gotten all soggy because it wasn’t packaged separately. I mostly just ate the fruits. The bathroom at Lake Louise was closed, so we stopped in at our hotel before heading out on the road. We were headed to Yoho National Park to see Takakkaw Waterfall.

BRITISH COLUMBIA!! YAY! We stopped at the Spiral Tunnels overlook, the track took a spiral figure-eight through the Rockies and it was a total mind-f*ck. Even though we saw a train going through, and even with a 3D model of the tracks, I still had trouble understanding it. We would just have to take the scenic train one day so I could see it for myself. We were driving through a valley with a river running alongside us, it was all very pretty. There were some tight switchbacks but thankfully there were only three, it always makes me so nervous. As we approached the parking lot, we could already see the waterfall, turns out it was more of a nice walk than a hike. The surprise of seeing the falls after a walk was kind of ruined but it also made you realize how big the waterfall was. The waterfall was fed by a melting glacier on top of the cliff but we couldn’t see it from down below. We got to walk almost up to the base of the falls- at a safe distance. Unlike the dummies who ventured forward, climbing on the wet rocks. The view looking down the river was also beautiful with mountains in the distance. We could not confirm it we saw glaciers on the other mountains or it was just snow.

Driving to Emerald Lake, the parking lot was so busy. We parked in the ditch off the side of the road, there were enough other cars there to make it OK. It added about 10 minutes walking. (Or at least it felt that way). A lady went into the bathroom and came right back out saying she wasn’t sure it was a bathroom. I had just been in there, it was nothing fancy but it got the job done.

The lake was beautiful and lived up to its name. We learned that the colour was from glacier deposits. It was funny how many people there were at the start of the trail, near the parking lot, picnic benches, bathrooms and canoe rentals. As we went on, there were fewer and fewer people. In the side of the mountain we could see a path that had been carved by the glacier’s yearly avalanches. It was bare of trees unlike the rest of the mountain. At the other end of the lake (aka the halfway point) we could see that the lake is shrinking and there were new trees growing. The second half of the hike was completely different. This side of the lake was in the shadow of the mountain and it was more like a wet forest, it was wildly different. We could barely see the Burgess shale, I had no idea it was way up on a mountain. It was just a grey square. We tried to look at it via the mounted binoculars but it was hard to see because of glasses. Our hike around the lake was 6km, thankfully most of the time it was just a leisurely walk. On our way back we saw a scrub jay who would not cooperate in posing for photos.

On the way to Emerald Lake we passed a road sign for Natural Bridge. We still had time and nothing else planned for the day so we stopped in. It was cool to see Kicking Horse River and its strong rapids and then just a pile of rocks making a pseudo-bridge. People LOVED taking selfies here. It was infuriating trying to get nice pristine nature photos without bozos in them. We stopped at a lookout on the BC/Alberta border and stood between the two welcome signs, we were between provinces! No mans land!

We could see glaciers on the mountain tops and this time we were certain they were glaciers because you could the path, they had carved down the mountain as they slid in the past. We stopped at a Lake Louise liquor store, the selection wasn’t great but I got a Big Rock peach apple cider. I wondered if this was the no-named peach cider listed at the cafe the previous day? It had just said peach cider on the menu, no indication of anything else.
Driving by Moraine Lake the parking lot was still full. No worries, we were staying nearby and we could try later that evening and then again, the following morning. We tried looking up the hotel by the lake but it was closed because of COVID, so much for geniusing our way in again. There was no TV in our room, maybe I would get more reading done? Or would I just end up playing Mario Odyssey until I had to rage quit? It was a good mix of both.

We tried to get lunch to go from the lodge restaurant but because we were ordering off the happy hour menu the guy said we had to eat in. We weren’t even getting drinks which was the happy hour deal, we just wanted the food. He did offer that we could have the bison pepperoni flatbread for the price of the tomato flatbread from the lunch menu which was just weird. We stood there with a paper lunch menu, happy hour menu and dinner menu (we would be dining here again tonight) and debated. The lunch menu overlapped with the dinner one quite a bit. The happy hour menu had elk ribs, something wacky and new. Eventually we grudgingly settled on dining on the patio. Elk ribs and a flatbread with bison pepperoni were just too good to pass up. It was just the right amount of food for lunch. I got to try the Banff maple rye I had been eyeballing every time we went to the store. The maple old-fashioned made me feel a little better but it was still a tense lunch.

We settled back in the room, the plan was to head out around 6pm. Because of COVID we had to call the front desk and “order” coffee and ice for our room, it was a bit odd. I played a little ACNH and then we watched Top Chef on Brent’s laptop. Driving to the lake we were bot still anxious, could it still be super busy this late in the day? It was impossible to guess. Thankfully they waved us in and there were plenty of spaces. As soon as we entered I could see why fore all the fuss. It was stunning, a green-blue pristine lake surrounded by mountains and so serene. By the edge of the lake there was a giant pile of rocks that people just loved climbing all over and taking selfies. It was unbelievable how busy the park still was based on the earlier traffic. So many people! I guess it made sense given the park had only recently reopened and we were heading into the long weekend- but still!

We started out with the aptly named Rockpile Trail. Looking at it I was wary. I was supposed to get to the top? Of that rock pile?? I just assumed people had scaled it, I was relieved to see that there was a path and even stairs at some point. (What a rare moment: me being relieved to see stairs). I was still huffing and puffing but I much preferred it to scaling the pile of rocks. I was also getting irrationally mad at the dummies going off the marked trail. We saw a pika sitting on a rock and it was so freaking cute, I wish I could have scooped it up and taken it home. We also saw a golden-mantled ground squirrel, it was definitely not a chipmunk. We walked the lake trail. I tried to take a picture at the first scenic stop but there was a couple with their daughter at the next point over, ruining my view. They were taking forever, taking every possible iteration of a photo with varying combinations of family members, all using their own phones. It was a circus. I wanted to shout for them to move for one second so I could take one photo then they could go back for as long as they wanted. Brent made a comment about it and the people standing behind us (also waiting for a photo op) laughed. At the end of the trail there was a river feeding into the lake from the mountains. It looked really pretty because it was meandering among the trees. We also had gorgeous views looking back towards where we had started. There was a lady sitting and reading on a rock and I kept wanting to shush every person who talked (it was just us and a German couple, but still, the reading lady looked so peaceful).

We got back to the hotel about two hours later, tired and so hungry. We placed a to-go order with no problem (it was a different guy so maybe that’s why). Brent finally got his bison burger fix and I had the salmon with lemon potatoes. It was so good not to be eating fast food, I devoured and savoured every bite, it was a nice change of scenery food-wise. We watched Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations but I was so sleepy. Somehow my face was slightly sunburnt again. HOW?!


 
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Posted by on September 30, 2020 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Cross Canada- Day 5

Wed. Sept. 2, 2020:
Moose Jaw, SK to Brooks, AB

Sleeping with a pillow under my knees greatly helped with my low back + butt + thighs pain (it had gotten so unbearable in the car that I legit was holding back tears and the previous night couldn’t sleep because no matter how I lay it hurt like hell). I woke up at 6:35am which just messed me up even more, it seemed so early but really to my body it was regular time. I shrugged and got up, more vacation time is always welcome. The room just reeked of the KFC bites. I was having flashbacks to the European cheese but not as bad.

The landscape was starting to get hillier as we drove towards Alberta, it had previously been unimaginably flat with literally nothing on the horizon. I was starting to see why it would be referred to as “big sky country” because that is literally all there was. a flat strip of land and then a straight line and sky forever. We passed a cow that had escaped its pasture and was grazing on highway ditch grass (is it really better?). Another was licking a telephone pole. I really wish we hadn’t been speeding along a highway, that instead we had been on a small country road where we could pull off and I could photograph the cows and the big sky.

Driving through Chaplin we passed by alkali flats and Lake Chaplin (the 2nd most saline rich inland body of water- thanks Google! Travelling with data is so great). We passed what I thought was a peregrine falcon sitting on a post. Once we passed a bunch more, I googled it. They were not peregrine falcons, they were kestrels. In my notebook it’s been written and crossed out like four times before I finally just looked up what it was instead of guessing.
We stopped at a Tim Horton’s but the bathrooms were being inexplicably painted during business hours?! They are just off the Trans-Canada Highway. The coffee is secondary, everyone is there for the toilet. At the gas station next door, the bathrooms were out of order. I had gotten Brent a sugar loop donut, they are so rare but apparently with good reason: he was meh on it, calling it a lame donut. How was I to know? Driving through the wind and dust storm my eyes were getting really watery and burning. It didn’t make much sense, the windows were closed but here I was crying. Out of nowhere visibility dropped as we were engulfed in white swirling clouds of alkali dust. There were no road signs warning of this. No one talks about this when they talk about the cross-Canada road trip. What gives. It was a scary but thankfully brief moment.

As we drove the kestrels on poles and posts became more common- but still cool to look at, just sitting there on their perch observing. Brent saw a giant bird of prey (golden eagle? Harris hawk?) sitting on the grass in the highway median.
ALBERTA!! Another new province for me! Not for Brent! We stopped in Medicine Hat for lunch. We were torn between McDonald’s and Wendy’s but the latter won out, it was much rarer than the former. Only after I had ordered did I see that they have small size poutines on the menu, dammit all.

Driving up to Dinosaur Provincial Park was so cool because suddenly you could see a hint of the gorges. Before the main entrance there was a parking lot to a scenic overlook of the Badlands from above. It was unbelievable what we were looking at, I had no idea this was in Canada. I was expecting to learn about fossils maybe see some rocky landscape but this felt like a mini version of the Grand Canyon. They really undersell it. It was a bit vertigo inducing as there were no guardrails, nothing stopping you from climbing (read: falling) down.

Our first stop was the visitors centre for a map and a souvenir magnet for Camilla. Brent had looked up one of the trails we could hike but there was one right next to the visitors centre and we had plenty of time so why not. The trial took us to the top of the rocks, there were brief unsettling moments that I did not enjoy. It was on this hike that I learned that there are scorpions and cacti in Canada. It hurt my brain just a little, I kept shouting what is going on where am I??? The views from the top were beautiful and my only regret was not wearing my hiking shoes, especially as we made our way back and followed some lost people who had missed the trail and were walking along the edge of the rocks. It was a well-trodden path so we weren’t breaking rules, it was just not that great in my fake Keds.

It was so windy in the park, my hair was just whipping around everywhere, my camera strap kept flying into my shots. The next trail we did was the Badlands trail, it was much easier but it still afforded awesome views. From there we drove the scenic loop road and stopped at all of the pull-offs. We took a mini trail to a historic quarry and saw an example of an archaeological dig, it showed what it looked like when an Albertosaurus was discovered and how the process of digging it up worked. This was what I had been expecting when I chose to visit here! Finally! At the second point-of-interest they had another display like this. Good thing we hadn’t paid admission to the museum, which seemed more geared towards children anyways. The weather had held up nicely, no rain, but I could feel my sun- and windburnt face. Back in the car I devoured the carrot muffin I had smartly grabbed from the hotel breakfast that morning. The final trail of the park was an easy walk near a river/in the former river bed. We saw some young deer eating tall grass, warily watching us but not ready to give up their spot just yet. We wondered if the whole time there may have been a kestrel or a bobcat hiding out just watching us.

I was falling apart. My nose was so dry and achy and yet I was also really congested, it was the worst. Once again, our hotel was just off the highway. Before checking in we headed out to Shoppers Drug Mart, I was in need of remedies. My Advil was running low (I did not expect near daily headaches) and I desperately needed relief for my poor face. I was so happy to find Burt’s Bees after sun care. I also grabbed Icy Hot patches for my poor body, which had finally stopped hurting but I couldn’t be sure it wouldn’t start up again. In the same plaza I had seen a sign for Ace Liquors but it had shut down. Across the street there was a Safeway liquor store. They had a great selection of BC ciders and I found a Calgary cider too. I also got a strawberry & lemon gin drink because it was from BC.

Our dinner options had been very limited, it was either McDonald’s or pizza or Wendy’s. We drove to McDonald’s for dinner. Except it was in a Walmart, thankfully there was another one on the next street over. On the way we passed by a baseball diamond completely overtaken by seagulls, it was their park now. I risked getting a hot fudge sundae but it was necessary. It really hit the spot and I ended up finishing it in the car before our dinner. Brent got the scotch bonnet McChicken because the ghost pepper one wasn’t available yet. It was surprisingly spicy. I had the habanero dipping sauce for my nuggets. We watched Frasier as we ate, turns out it’s actually a good show. The Uncommon Haskip cider was perfect, even though it had some BC apples mixed in it still counted as an Alberta drink. The lemon strawberry gin cocktail was the perfect summer drink. King of the Hill was yet another rerun we had just watched (a pattern was emerging). Frasier was a rerun of an episode we had watched an hour ago. All we had left were bad, new-ish episodes of The Simpsons.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2020 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Cross Canada- Day 4

Tues. Sept. 1, 2020:
Winnipeg, MB to Moose Jaw, SK

I woke up just after 7am and couldn’t sleep any longer (back home I had been starting to wake up at 8am so it made sense, I just didn’t like looking at the clock, it made me feel tired).


On the road we had 552km to our destination, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Meaning we had another chance to snap a pic of 420km left. We missed it last time. We passed by a Tim Hortons inconveniently located on the other side of the road. I only fell asleep once on the road through Manitoba.

SASKATCHEWAN!!! We stopped for lunch in Moosomin, SK and I could not believe how windy it was. I tried to take a video but I was juggling my French capp and a box of Timbits (possibly the most Canadian thing I’ve ever said?). I also had an Oreo blondie in my purse for later. We stopped at KFC and ordered the new plant-based popcorn bites, I also had a twister menu wrap. Turns out that tomatoes in a small quantity, chopped small and hidden are not that bad. That’s not saying I like or will tolerate them going forward. I was just really hungry. The price should have been a clue, we ended up getting a giant bucket of the bites. They were good, if no one had told me I would have assumed they were just chicken. I just wish we had gotten a better dipping sauce than honey mustard. We also stopped in at SaskLiquor (the name makes me thing Sasquatch). At first, I felt like the selection was paltry- until I remembered that we were driving and I wouldn’t have to chug everything on our last day. I could stockpile!! I went back and grabbed three 6-packs of Okanagan cider: cherry, peach and Saskatoon berry (what better place to enjoy it). Only later in the car did I reazlie that the guy at Timmie’s didn’t give me any pumpkin spice timbits, having lumped them in with plain which I passed on.

Our car shook as we drove, the wind was incredibly strong. Off in the distance there were giant storm clouds but only over a small part of the sky, the rest was white clouds and bright sky. There was a torrential downpour except we could see blue sky ahead. The Regina by-pass was exactly what it said it was, we went around the town. Our hotel in Moose Jaw was literally just off the highway. There was a Tim Hortons and a McDonald’s across the parking lot, I would be all set for my morning coffee.

The Smirnoff berries drink was actually, dare I say, good! It also reminded me of popsicles. My face was so sunburnt and on top of that I think I had minor windburn as well. It was so red and tight and all I could think was HOW?! Through the car window?! I did have a brief momentary panic that it was a fever but it was so clearly a sunburn. Jeopardy! was on and ~somehow~ it was a rerun we had just watched. Not a good start. The KFC bites had gotten a bit soggy but I was too tired and lazy to find other food and I just kept going back and eating them. Of the three Okanagan ciders the Saskatoon berry was the clear winner (and not just because we were in Saskatchewan), the peach was second and the cherry a distant fake-flavoured last. For some reason fake peach is acceptable but fake cherry isn’t? I blame nostalgia for Spice Girls lollipops. By now in vacation mode I had adopted a good system: read during muted commercials. The 2008 episode of The Simpsons was borderline ok. Thankfully Chopped was on after that. We were waiting for 8pm when King of the Hill was on. At this point I was kind of losing track of time because going into Saskatchewan we had jumped forward another time zone. My brain was fried. At least I had new bugs to catch in ACNH.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2020 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Cross Canada- Day 2

Sun. Aug. 30, 2020:
Sault Ste Marie, ON to Thunder Bay, ON

It was a two-hour drive (get used to the driving times interspersed with the story) to our first hike of the trip: Nokomis Trail, overlooking Old Woman Bay. Little did I know the hike would leave me feeling like an old woman. Brent said the lake the bay was on was named after me. We kept passing weird billboards for Minnow Trap 2, a very indie-looking movie that was somehow on Amazon, was it made by a Northern Ontarian and all the towns rallied behind it? We never did look it up.

A few tips of trees were starting to turn red but it was still summer to me, I was not ready to let go. We stopped at a scenic overlook except it was had to see anything. Further along the road there was a much better view, I was mad at whoever had designed this, they were clearly sleeping on the job. Driving through Lake Superior Provincial Park we had beautiful views all around us of the lake and also, we had been passing through the Canadian shield. There was a hawk just sitting on a wire. A loon sitting on the lake. Meanwhile I gawked at all the views while munching on Froot Loops I had grabbed from the hotel before leaving. There was a dead moose on the side of the road, my first time seeing a moose and it was dead. The precedent for the trip had been set: I needed to see a live moose.

Before setting off the on the trail we walked down to the beach to look at the bay. I didn’t see it, I couldn’t see the old lady anywhere, it didn’t seem to be in the hills overlooking the bay. There was nothing old-ladyish about it. On the trail we saw a tiny little fluffy rodent (a vole?) munching on lichen, he was hidden enough by the brush and branches that he wasn’t even afraid of us. It was a relief to see him, our first wildlife spotting of the hike was a dead bunny right smack in the middle of the path, needless to say I yelped. We also saw a woodpecker and a squirrel that was just screaming at us. I was so glad I had bought proper hiking shoes just days before our trip. They had good tread and were waterproof, you would think that would make me more confident as a hiker-nope. I was really struggling on this hike. I did not enjoy climbing over the stones that were once a creek bed. I had my FitBit on so I could 1): track how far we had left and 2): see how truly out of shape I was, my heartrate was through the roof, comically so. We were also nearing the halfway point (according to my watch which showed half the km total roundtrip- either my watch was off or the trail map was) and had to yet to get any scenic views of Old Lady Bay. Yes, we did get a view of a valley of dense trees with just a tiny line cut through (it was the highway) but I was getting antsy: was this trail longer than 5 (quite difficult) kilometres?! With no promised views to boot?! My legs were screaming. Eventually the trail started to turn around and we were heading back. Surely, we would get our promised views now? I did feel better after eating my double-chocolate Pop Tart (at this point it is tradition, if I make it to the halfway point of a hike, I get a Pop Tart).

Our efforts were finally rewarded with beautiful views (even if the skies were a bit too clear, I needed some clouds for interest!). We saw a yellow-bellied bird with brown wings and made note of it to look it up later. As you can see, we have yet to do that. Some energetic kids ran past us, they were doing the trail counter-clockwise. I was shocked, they were so close to the peak, how were they running?! They were really excited to tell us that there were nice views down that way and we told them that they were near the peak. The parents lagged behind and I could feel for them but even they seemed less tired than me. The way back down was steep and slick and I did not enjoy the parts where I had to step down from a (giant to me) rock ledge. I slowly inched my way down, my legs burning and a headache slowly forming.

The initial 7-hour drive to Thunder Bay was now a mere 5 hours thanks to our hiking pit stop. We stopped at A&W for lunch. Only after ordering my momma burger did I see that there was an option to add cheese, the cashier had missed out on an easy upsell. I would have loved some cheese! We ate in the car, the idea of sitting down in the restaurant and eating was just too weird. We finally had a proper scenic lookout with beautiful views of the Canadian Shield and Lake Superior. We listened to the most recent episode of Stuff You Should Know about how blacksmiths work, it seemed fitting given the surrounding landscape.

We passed a sign for the smallest Canadian Tire in Nippigon but it wasn’t off the main road, so we added it to the ever-growing “on the way back” list. We also missed a cool looking scenic overlook on the other side of the road. It had a staircase you could climb to get a better view. It was cool to drive between sheer cliff faces, it was clear that the rock had been blown up to make way for the road. It was not until this leg of the trip that I found the seat warming button. It was a game-changer, especially for my increasingly achy legs and backside.

We were staying in Thunder Bay and it was weird to see road signs stating the distance to Duluth, MN- both because even if we wanted to, we couldn’t cross the border but also my sense of geography was so thrown off. Somehow the two just didn’t line up over top of each other. The Mike’s Hard Lemonade blue freeze which I grabbed on a whim in Sault Ste Marie (partly because the selection was lacking) was actually really good, it tasted like a popsicle. It was time for another round of ACNH, I caught one new bug: a rainbow stag beetle, but it wasn’t without its frustrations and repeat bugs.

The one TV channel I had wanted to watch was unavailable, I was waiting until 8pm when Spongebob was on. In a rare turn of events, SYTTD wasn’t on! I still held out hope that it might be on later. I called the restaurant across the street to place an order for pickup. The options on UberEats were abysmal to say the least. Under Italian restaurants they listed Starbucks. From Neeblings Roadhouse we got: shrimps au gratin, cheese curds and a deluxe pizza. The pizza was genius, if we couldn’t finish it we’d have breakfast. It was awkward having to jaywalk the highway, especially given there were ditches on both sides I had to go around. I stood in the parking lot for a while, waiting, had they forgotten? I had just spoken to them not 5-minutes ago. I watched as one guy tried to go in without a mask on and he almost immediately came right back out. Holding your shirt over your nose is not a mask. After 10 minutes I gave up and went inside. The girl I had spoken to was nowhere to be seen, the guy working there handed me my order. Back at the hotel there was still nothing on TV. We resorted to watching new-ish episodes of The Simpsons. It was awful, we flipped between that and the MTV music awards which were just as bad. In the end we settled on reading with sports on mute.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2020 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

March Digest: More Pizza?

March Digest: More Pizza?

Day 12 (Mar 25): Our first choice for fooding-from-home fell through. Choice #2 was too far to deliver… and on we went down the list, too far, doesn’t deliver etc. Until we got to ramen. Pass, just had ramen plus how would it hold up for delivery? Up next was Fourth Man in the Fire, the new(ish) pizza place from the folks behind Burgers Priest. I could eat pizza. Even though we had it a few days ago. Pizza is always good.

I had high hopes for this pizza. The pizza itself was pretty good… until you got to the crust. The crust was bland and heavily dependent on the (really good!) garlic dipping sauce. The garlic sticks, oh deargod, what a travesty. They should just be called boring-breadsticks. There wasn’t a trace of garlic on them. Vampire sticks morelike. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough garlic dipping sauce, we needed it all for the crust.

The pizza was alright but with a bad crust and atrocious breadsticks, not great.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2020 in Fooding, Fooding From Home, Uncategorized

 

That Time

We were both really excited for dinner at La Banane. It was #7 on Toronto Life’s Top 100 and it was also on Canada’s Best 100 at #16. Dinner was off to a great start. Duck fat pretzels with mustard? Yes please! (I am so looking for a recipe now so I can eat these all day every day). I was all ready to get the pate as my appetizer but when I heard that the special of the day came with a rhubarb compote (my current obsession, I had $10 worth of rhubarb in my purse) I was all for it. Who could resist that with slice of brioche and foie gras?! The slices were very thick but very light. The foie gras was good. But the real standout was the compote. It paired so unbelievably well, it brought the dish up a notch. Which it kind of needed? It was a tad underwhelming. Brent had gotten a salt fish cake with celeriac and something else because it was in the 1001 foods book. It all paired really well, like a fish cake with coleslaw and tartar all in one bite. But it was not outstanding. We had come here looking for wow. So far only the rhubarb compote, pretzels and cocktails were at that level.

Brent had ordered the fish which was baked in a super salty bread. They presented it to him, a whole fish braided in bread. Then promptly took it away to carve it up and make it easy to eat. Twice they warned not to eat the bread. Of course he had a bite. It was indeed salty, I took his word for it. Meanwhile I devoured crab with cheese and crumbs, conveniently crammed back into the crab shell. The main course was definitely very pretty looking. The crab was so good, but in between I needed bites of something less heavy. The potatoes aligot were as amazing as expected, the cheese was so thoroughly blended into the mashed potatoes that it just stretched. I never imagined getting to twirl my fork through mashed potatoes a-la spaghetti noodles but there you go. It is possible. I actually resorted to eating the salad on the side. The fish dish was also heavy thanks to a white sauce with butter and yuzu. The yuzu really made the sauce outstanding. Both dishes were great. But we were way too stuffed for a gimmicky $50 dessert (a chocolate egg full of truffles) and nothing else really stood out.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2020 in Uncategorized

 
 
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