It’s All Day Breakfast So It’s OK

After a long Thanksgiving weekend followed by a week of both being sick we were finally ready to get back into fooding- just maybe not at 100%. Emma’s Country Kitchen had been voted best all day breakfast. We decided to go on a Saturday and not get there for open. The thinking was that it’s all day breakfast, so why get there for open? Surely it would not be as busy around lunch time. It was. Thankfully they had a system wherein you left your cellphone number and they called when your table was ready.

We walked maybe one block from there and decided to go to a pub for a drink. It was afternoon so it was ok. What I had not anticipated was that having a drink on an empty stomach after taking DayQuil, ~might~ not be the best idea. I did avoid being embarrassed at the bar by ordering the pinot noir cider, rather than the Shinny pinot noir cider. I had thought it said Skinny and I was not about to call it that. Little did I know it was a double typo. Turns out it was Shiny. I would have looked like a fool.

Earlier while we were waiting to get put our names down on the list we had glanced over the menu. As soon as we sat down at the counter at Emma’s Country Kitchen we knew what we wanted to order. I had been thinking about it the whole time that we were at the pub. I was super excited about the pumpkin spice pancakes. Even moreso when I ordered them and the guy said they have walnuts in them! The pancakes lived up to my dreams, they were so delicious, easily some of the best pancakes I have ever had.



Cappuccino Eh?

Best cappuccino had recently been updated. In all honesty I could not remember the previous best, nor for that fact could I remember the last time I even had a cappuccino. It’s not my favourite espresso based drink. I always feel like I am getting ripped off with the milk foam, I prefer a latte with steamed milk. From my day’s working as a barista the one thing that has stuck with me is that you can judge a cappuccino before you even have a sip: the cup should be light, after all it’s mostly milk foam with espresso and just a bit of steamed milk. So I was taught. *runs away and Googles cappuccino* Ok, yes I have not been misled.

Brent says we had been to de Mello Palheta Coffee Roasters before. I just shrugged, I had no idea if we had or hadn’t. My memory is terrible. Only once we got there did I get a faint familiarity. For some reason on a Wednesday at 11am the place was packed. There was nowhere to sit so we got our drinks to go. The cups were heavy. That was a strike against it being the best cappuccino. But they redeemed themselves with really (I mean really!) good espresso. Brent, the non-coffee-drinker, had his as is, aka with no sugar. That is how good the espresso was. So if you are not a stickler for the cappuccino being exactly perfectly proportioned milk foam to milk, then really, it was the best. The chocolate chip cookie was also excellent.


Poke Bowl

I was excited to try a poke bowl, from the best place in the city: Poke Guys. It sounded like a more manageable sushi burrito. Plus the honey ginger and crab slaw one sounded amazing. What we did not realize was that you don’t just order the bowl, it’s like Subway in that you choose toppings and sauce. I was holding a table so Brent ordered for me- we had not coordinated, he just guessed what I would like. He ordered a mayo sauce for mine. At first it was great, I was loving every bite of my bowl. I liked the fish, the edamame beans were great and the seaweed was awesome. But soon it became stomach churning. You see, the crab coleslaw also had mayo in it. And soon I felt like all I was eating was mayo. I ate around it, focusing on the fish, beans and seaweed but soon all I had was crab slaw and mayo on top of rice. It was still really good and I would happily go back there again. Just with less mayo sauces.


Modified Florida: Day 6

Sun. Sept. 24, 2017:
Palm Beach to Miami, FL to Toronto, ON:

An 8:15am wake-up is not so bad if for some unknown reason you think it’s daylight savings time (it was not). What made the wake-up easier was that I dreamt I had already woken up. Breakfast was included and thankfully it was a buffet and the wedding party had their own separate event going on. The buffet was super fancy and easily the best breakfast buffet we have ever been to. They had apple cider bacon, Virginia ham, in-house baked pastries and donuts. I grabbed so much food because early on I had spotted the bigger plates. Brent said he would split the glazed donut with me, so of course I need a mini chocolate croissant on the side. I balanced it with a yogurt parfait and some extra granola and fruits on the side. The apple chicken sausage was also pretty good. I had also grabbed a mini braided pastry, I was expecting pecans and maple but when I bit into it was cranberry.

The TV in the bathroom mirror said the weather for the day was cloudy skies. The GPS had an option called “return car” that directed us to the car drop off spot, which is always impossible to find. There was no one on the road at 9am on a Sunday. I was so full from breakfast that I couldn’t even finish my Dunkin’ Donuts iced mocha. Also it was not that good.

On the drive we passed three separate car accidents. Turns out Floridians don’t know how to drive in the rain. Or at all really. No one every signals or leaves enough room between cars. The roads also hold the rainwater, so soon we were driving through spraying mist. We could see the bright blue sky up ahead. By the time we were passing through Ft. Lauderdale you wouldn’t have even known it was raining.

The airport was uneventful. Our flight was delayed only a short time. We grabbed some snacks but realized we weren’t sitting together, so we chowed down and ate it all. I was tempted by the duty-free, even moreso when I saw that near our gate there was a sign on the wall saying you could scan the QR code and buy via an app. In the end I was too lazy. I also realized that my travel purse was on its last legs. I spent the last bit of time before boarding desperately searching for a new purse online.

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Posted by on October 3, 2017 in The Roving Reporter, Travel


Modified Florida: Day 5

Sat. Sept. 23, 2017:
Clearwater to Palm Beach, FL:

We drove back across Florida, back to the east coast, to Palm Beach. We stopped again at my beloved Dunkin’ Donuts so I could try the pumpkin spice flavour shot. I had forgotten to put on deodorant, so when we pulled into the parking lot I grabbed it from the trunk. I saw that some other cars were pulling in, so I left it in my purse for later and ran in for my coffee fearing a morning rush. Only once I sat down in the car with my coffee did I realize that I had already tried the pumpkin spice when we were in Boston a few years ago. I was not a fan of it, I found it too sweet. Ah well, it was not that bad the second time around. Plus it gave me an excuse to demand a second, afternoon stop for another coffee.

We passed by a guy in a parking lot selling “commemorative” Hurricane Irma t-shirts, it was super tacky and way too soon. About an hour into our 3 hour drive we stopped at another Dunkin’ Donuts. It wasn’t exactly afternoon yet, but I really needed a second coffee. Two nights on a crappy motel bed with a loud a/c amount to really crappy sleep. There was no sign of pumpkin spice coffee in bags and they only had XL t-shirts for sale. The line was so slow because of the two indecisive ladies at the front, one of whom tried to order a donut that they did not even have available, that the lady behind me gave up and went back to her car to go through the drive-thru. I was annoyed that I had to specify that I wanted a hot coffee, like duh, of course I want a hot coffee, I did not say iced coffee so by default it’s hot. It was weird. I also picked up some iced coffee at Dunkin’ for the following morning.

The daily rain came early, arriving around noon. We were staying at a resort, The Breakers, in Palm Beach. The plan for the rest of the day was to just hang out on the resort, so it’s good that the rain came early instead of messing up our relaxing afternoon. The hotel only had valet parking which pretty much settled our lunch and dinner plans. We had not passed anything on the way in that we could walk to either. The hotel was so fancy that Brent’s name was printed on the keycards. Our bathroom mirror had a small TV in it and speakers in the ceiling. From our room we had a partial ocean view. We could also see the lawn down below where the staff were setting up for a wedding.

I was starting to get hangry. I had not gotten any food at either of our Dunkin’ Donuts stops because we were going to get lunch on the way. We just didn’t anticipate not passing anything. All I’d had to eat thus far was Oreos. We wandered the resort to look at all of our food options. On the way we saw two cute green lizards. We also saw an Indian wedding, it was so weird to see hotel guests gawking and photographing and filming the celebration as if they had never seen anything like it before. We had to take a detour to get around the celebrations. We walked by the stairs down to the beach and I noticed that the ocean conditions were rated as high level of danger- no thank you. The last thing I wanted was to get swept away by a rip current.

For lunch we went to the Beachclub Bar because it closes the earliest. The Seafood Bar did not have a menu listed and was open until 11pm, making for a great dinner option. The Beachclub Bar had a similar menu to the other restaurant but with a few more choices and a nicer patio. I had the Cubano grilled panini. I had to redeem the sandwich after the atrocity I had eaten at the Miami baseball game. I was tempted by the crabcakes but there’s no way a seafood bar doesn’t serve crabcakes. The chimichurri fries on the side were ok. The sandwich was the real standout. I also ordered a sangria slushie, finally fulfilling my desire for a frozen alcoholic drink.

We figured we would be done lunch by about 3pm and we would head back to the hotel room to wait out the rest of the UV. I wanted to catch up writing in my book and Brent still had a few pages left to read. The Stella Artois cider was the perfect drink for this. Safe from the threat of the UV, we headed out to check out all 4 pools. The first one was too cold for my liking. At the second pool I opted for the hot tub instead. It felt so nice to sit in the warm water and float among the bubbles. The best part was that there was no one there. I could have stayed in there for hours. I missed the third pool because I was in the bathroom. The fourth pool I dipped my toes in and decided it was way too cold, it was in the shade too. I would have gone into the hot tub but there were weirdos in there. I sat on a deck chair while Brent waded out into the ocean. I was not having it. I sat and watched as the ocean currents and waves almost knocked him off his feet. I also watched as dumb surfers tried to surf the small waves. They kept falling. It was great.

Eating Oreos while reading in bed is possibly the best way to spend an afternoon. We were both quite tired, we queued up Arrival but Brent ended up falling asleep halfway through. Afterwards we watched Atlanta. At around 9pm we headed down to the Seafood Bar for dinner, even though Brent wasn’t all that hungry. We hadn’t eaten in a while, unless you count the half bag of Oreos I devoured.

The crabcakes at Seafood Bar were everything I wanted. The difference between ti being an appetizer and a main was one extra crabcake and a side of asparagus. Not worth it. Especially given that Brent had ordered a large seafood and linguine dish, so when we traded halfway we each got just the right amount of food: half a main and half an appetizer. The seafood was good but the noodles were way too salty. I couldn’t finish my portion of the noodles. I couldn’t resist ordering the blackberry lemonade: it had house-infused vodka and freshly made lemonade. On the way out we passed by the bar and saw that indeed, the bar was an aquarium top. Alas, there were no seats. On the way out we saw some horrible looking middle-aged, overly tanned, ladies in way-too-tight way-too-short outfits. A real live, cougar sighting, one may say.

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Posted by on October 3, 2017 in The Roving Reporter, Travel


Modified Florida: Day 4

Fri. Sept. 22, 2017:
Clearwater, FL:

I slept very poorly, in fits and starts. It was especially frustrating because it took me forever to fall asleep and then I would immediately wake up. Things really turned around when Google said there was a Dunkin’ Donuts a 5 minute drive away! Finally, a chance for real coffee! There was a sign on the door saying they had a new flavour: maple pecan. I was way too excited about it. They had bags of coffee for sale but just the regular cadre of boring not-so-great flavours. They also had t-shirts and mugs for sale but the shirts were only giant sizes and the mugs did not have the DD logo.

To go with my coffee I got my beloved coffee cake muffin. The maple pecan was a sweetened flavour shot- way too sweet for me. I decided that the next day when we went back I would get the other new seasonal flavour: pumpkin spice. We were in no rush to head out. I had time to make a cup of tea using the coffee maker to boil my water and then to enjoy it in bed while reading.

On the way to Sanibel and Captiva Islands we stopped at McDonald’s for lunch. We ordered at the kiosk and no sooner had we sat down, an employee came up to inform me that- shocker- the ice cream machine was broken and would I like a fancy iced coffee instead of my desired Turtles brownie ice cream sundae. I shrugged and asked for an iced vanilla latte.

Back on the road, on the next block we saw a Culver’s. We had just eaten lunch, so we decided that Culver’s would be saved for dinner. Who can say no to a butter burger? Plus at least with my dinner I could have an ice cream.

We started out at Sanibel Island at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. It was cool to see really large intact shells, you rarely get to see such specimens on the beach. After browsing the collection and learning about shells and about what makes Sanibel such a hotspot for seashell collecting we headed to the activities room. They had it set up so that you could make crafts using shells. That is how abundant the supply of shells is. That they provide bins of them, all sorted by size and type, to create little sculptures. We each made one but Brent placed his among the museum examples to inspire future creations.

Up next we drove to the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. I could never get the name of it right. It had just reopened a few days ago and we were unsure of what to expect. The nature drive was closed on Fridays, but it seemed like even if we had been there any other day it would still be closed after the hurricane. We went on the short nature hike to the lookout. It was unbelievable how hot it was, even in the limited shade. I was barely able to function, my thinking felt impaired. We applied sunscreen, knowing that up next we were going to the beach. On our nature walk we saw: a red-bellied woodpecker, a little blue heron, some white egrets and red-headed ducks. On the walk back we heard a bird crying off in the distance. After looking around we finally saw it: an osprey sitting atop a streetlamp in the high school parking lot next door. There was another osprey circling overhead.

We drove to Bowman’s Beach to see if in fact Sanibel was a seashell collector’s paradise. Turns out they undersold the sheer volume of shells. It was incredible how many shells were washing up on the beach. There piles and piles. Shells everywhere. Our worries of finding some interesting shells like conches were quashed. We found so many. Brent even found a giant one that had smaller ones attached to it. We found shells in a variety of colours: yellow, red, purple, even pearly ones. One was so thin it was translucent. As we turned to walk back we were worried that we had been so caught up in walking and searching. It felt like we had been walking forever and now were going to have to trod back in the heat. Turns out we did not actually walk that far. It just felt that way because of how long it took us to walk, as we kept stopping to look at shells. I was very dehydrated by the end of our walk. At the start I had tried to drink from the water fountain but the water was warm. On the way back I noticed another drinking fountain and was about to drink when I realized, to my horror, that there was a spider on it. And the vending machine would not accept a $5 bill, it kept spitting it out.

We drove to neighbouring Captiva Island to have a look at their seashell beaches as well. They also lived up to the hype. I was starting to fade by the time we got to the second beach. I was dehydrated, covered in sweat mixed with sunscreen and just so uncomfortably overheated. Walking back to the car over a bridge we saw a needlefish in the water and I saw a fish jumping out of the water.

On our way off the island we stopped at a liquor store. They did not have any singles, but Brent got a six pack. We stopped at Publix on the way to grab some evening snacks. The first time we went I had forgotten to grab some of my beloved Biscoff cookies. Alas, they were nowhere to be found.  I did find Dunkin’ Donuts mocha flavoured Oreos. I also grabbed a Stella Artois cider for the bottle cap. On the way the afternoon rains were much lighter than the past days.

The dinner at Culver’s was just what I needed after a long day in the sun. I downed my fake Sprite in no time. And yes, it was my second cheeseburger of the day, but heck, I was on vacation. I ordered the fries instead of the cheese curds. They are delicious but I was not about to spend the rest of the evening feeling sick. Instead I swapped a few fries for a few cheese curds from Brent. I immediately started questioning my decision. They were so good, why did I not just get them?! I had ordered a small burger, leaving room for ice cream. I had ordered chocolate custard with salted caramel ribbon and Heath bar. They gave me vanilla. It was still delicious and the place was full of weirdos- I wanted out of there.

Our motel faced a canal, I guess that is why they had “on the water” in the name. We sat on the patio deck overlooking the water and enjoyed our drinks. I had a chance to catch up writing in my notebook. The Best Damn Cream Soda cooler I had was ok, it fit the bill for patio drinking- but it was not the best damn cream soda. It was average. There were some cute little lizards running around nearby.

Afterwards we watched TV in bed while munching on snacks: spicy BBQ Lays and the Oreos. The lemon-lime Seagrams cooler was just awful. Why would they make it malt liquor and not vodka based?! Who does that?! I nursed it but gave up on it. It was terrible

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Posted by on September 30, 2017 in The Roving Reporter, Travel


Modified Florida: Day 3

Thurs. Sept. 21, 2017:
St. Petersburg to Clearwater, FL:

We had to take a towel from the hotel because we needed it for that morning’s activity: swimming with manatees. We had originally planned on doing this the first time we were in Florida but it didn’t work out. Despite the excitement awaiting us, I was not thrilled about the early wake-up, I had not slept well. Adding to it was the fact that we had not thought ahead and bought snacks. I made the in-room coffee, finished it off with the little packet of coffee whitener and looked at in horror. It was not even the right shade. One sip and I decided I would rather risk a headache than down that swill. I took a pre-emptive Advil but already I was feel not-so-great.

There was a lot of traffic on the road. The GPS took us via a different route, avoiding the freeway and taking a smaller highway that had stop lights whenever it went through a town. It was frustrating because we could not drive fast to make up time. Even though we had left 30 minutes early we were going to be 30 minutes late. We drove past a shop advertising wigs and taxes but other than that the drive sucked. I had to call and let them know we would be running late but we actually ended up arriving 15 minutes earlier than we had expected. We snuck in and started watching the safety introduction video while filling out the waivers. I was expecting a lot more people but it was just going to be us and a Norwegian couple. I was expecting we would be going out in our bathing suits. Instead we were given wetsuits.

It was a short drive down to the dock where the boat was waiting for us. I was not expecting that we would be swimming in a residential bay, basically in peoples’ backyards. We were worried that there was a chance we would not see any manatees. Literally 5 minutes in and already some manatees had been spotted. I found it awkward and difficult to put on the snorkel and mask. I had never been snorkeling before. I could not get used to breathing through my mouth. I made an awkward entrance into the water, trying so hard not to splash or to touch the bottom of the water otherwise I would stir up silt and reduce visibility of the manatees. We were given pool noodles and told to doggy paddle. At our first stop swimming was all but futile. I swam furiously, doing the breast stroke, a side stroke, finally doggy padding. And nothing. I stayed in one spot while the rest of the group managed to swim along with the manatee. Who was impossible to see because of all the silt being kicked up by the manatee eating. Eventually the guide grabbed my pool noodle and helped by pulling me along so I could catch back up to the group. I was not a fan of the strong current. Initially I was not a fan of this excursion. Every time I put my head in the water to look at the silt, I mean manatee, I panicked because I was not used to breathing through a snorkel- it was scary. In the time I had my head down everyone would be further away. Plus I could not wear my glasses under my mask so I was also a little blind. Plus swimming against the current and not getting anywhere is not just physically tiring- it is also mentally tiring. Additionally not having had any coffee or breakfast was not helping. When I took my snorkel out a bunch of saliva dripped out. Oops.

The second stop was a lot calmer and so was I. I had gotten used to the snorkel and now I did not have to fight the current. The only scary thing now was those moments when I would be looking underwater and seeing nothing and then all of a sudden out of nowhere I am inches away from the manatee’s side. I would panic for a moment, terrified of drifting into it. My fingers did brush one. The trouble was there was nothing to push off against or grab hold of as the manatee passed. Steering- when all you had was a pool noodle and instructions not to kick or walk along the ground- was difficult. Also making things difficult was that the manatee would change directions suddenly. I’d be watching it from the side and all of a sudden it would pass underneath me.

Our third stop was Jurassic Spring. This is where the manatees gather in winter in search of warmer water. We saw a giant crevice but I was too afraid to dive down and look at it. While they all swam around and dove down, I floated with my pool noodle. We had a fun photo shoot with our guide. I was glad I had not bought a disposable underwater camera. The water had been too murky plus I would have had a hard time taking pictures. This way we did not have to worry and would just buy them at the end.

On our way back we spotted two pairs of mother and calf manatees. We had an unscheduled stop to look at them. The water was so clear here. We were able to follow them for a while. It was cute to see them eating, brushing their adorable fins along the ground. In the video they had mentioned that if you see a calf swimming alongside the mother with it’s head by her arm, it may be nursing. The water was a bit murky but it seemed like we saw that. The videos our guide took later confirmed it. On the way back in we also saw a turkey vulture and a black vulture hanging out together. Throughout the trip we had been referred to as Canada and Norway. It was so hard to peel off the wet wetsuit afterwards. I did not realize how dry your mouth gets after snorkeling. The whole time we were out there, I only took off the snorkel and mask when we were safely on the boat.

For lunch we went to the plaza across the street, to Wendy’s. The plan was to have a light lunch given we were going to Frenchy’s for grouper sandwiches next. But it was an hour and a half’s drive away and we had yet to eat anything. I was so thankful to finally have a coffee. The manatee place had coffee, but once again only coffee whitener. What was going on, I thought? Similarly when I tried to order coffee with milk at Wendy’s she tried to charge me for a small carton of milk saying they only had creamer for the coffee. I settled for the creamer but was pleasantly surprised to get half and half cream (aka not creamer).

On the road we were fooled at the toll booth. We tried to drive right through but the lady informed us that the tolls had been reinstated as of midnight. I had left my iPod in the car while we were at Wendy’s and now it was giving me and overheated warning with a picture of a thermometer. I waited a bit but it didn’t cool down so I turned it off and on again. The coffee from Wendy’s was enormous and lasted me most of the drive. We stopped at a gas station and I got a glass bottle of Sprite for the bottle cap, cookie filled Reese cups and summer Starbursts.

We took a detour to Clearwater Beach for a second lunch. On the way in we passed a bunch of birds of prey all perched on lampposts. I had read about Frenchy’s and their amazing grouper sandwich in the book Real Food/Fake Food and I really wanted to try it. I ordered the original and Brent ordered the hot buffalo. It was too spicy for me. The sandwiches took a while to make which was fine with me, I was enjoying a really strong blue margarita. Plus it meant the sandwiches would be fresh and I got a chance to order a mojito, this time to actually go with my sandwich. The mojito was delicious, it was made with pineapple rum, club soda and an orange slice. The sandwich was outstanding. All parts of it were amazing. I tried a piece of just the fish on its own, delicious! Easily the best fish sandwich, maybe even the best sandwich, of all time. And it was all so cheap too. The sweet coleslaw on the side was also delicious, but I ate around the pineapple chunks. We were lucky it was not super busy, they had just reopened a few days ago after the hurricane. When the server brought my second drink she mentioned the Frenchy’s passport, if you go to all 5 of their locations and order a signature cocktail you get a free tank-top or t-shirt. I wish I had known about this before. I would not have ordered two drinks at the Original Café, because 3 of the other locations were within a few blocks. We could have started there and then ended with the sandwiches. We were very full after all of that, but we still ordered a slice of key lime pie to go. Clearwater Beach was a nice little town on the waterfront.

As we drove to our hotel I photographed the sunset, a requisite of any Florida vacation. I had not though the glass bottle Sprite purchase through. I could not open it in the car because it required a bottle opener, I was very sad. There was a Publix 3 minutes away from our motel. They conveniently had a separate liquor store, even though we ended up going to both, and the grocery store also had an alcohol section. The liquor store proved to be a bottle cap bohnanza. I got 5 different caps from a variety of ciders and mixed drinks. Especially because the drinks are normally only available in a multi-packs and I never get them because realistically I only want one Mike’s Hard Lemonade, not 6. We went to Publix after to get some Pop Tarts and so I could restock on Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. The pumpkin spice coffee was all sold out but I did get vanilla cupcake and cinnamon roll. We also got some aloe lotion for our poor sun-exposed selves. I bought a package of peach green tea in the hopes that for the rest of our trip I would have access to a kettle.

We got to our motel room and it was like stepping into a time warp. We had an old tube TV that was tiny. But more importantly it had a fridge and at least there was cable. And most importantly: the kitchenette had forks. The key lime pie did not survive the trip. Turns out that key lime pie and Florida heat do not mix. It had melted into a sad little pile, albeit a delicious pile. And it also made for a funny photo. We ended the night watching a special episode of Nathan For You. Even on a small TV it was unbearably awkward at times to watch.

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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in The Roving Reporter, Travel

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