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Ottawa Winterlude: Day 2

Sun. Feb. 14, 2016:

As soon as I had climbed out from underneath the covers I was freezing cold. It was going to be another freezing cold day with the temperature hovering around the -30C mark (without the windchill). This time I put on regular leggings and fleece-lined leggings overtop. I also doubled up on socks. I thought I was a brilliant genius, how could I possibly end up cold with so many layers?! The outdoors was barely tolerable, I was glad that my breakfast choice was just the down the street. After about 10 minutes outside I was ready to warm up. Bluebird Café was wonderful, the coffee was amazing and the chocolate chip muffin hit the spot. We sat in the window, but there was not much going on for people watching save some people moving in across the street. The lady ran outside in a t-shirt and we both cringed and yelled at her (through the window, quietly) to run back inside.

We walked to Rideau Falls, passing a few embassies along the way and trying to guess the countries based on the flags. I did poorly. As we walked by the Canada Research Council Brent joked that the place was now empty thanks to Stephen Harper. The first half of the falls was unimpressive as the view was obstructed by the power generation station. It was cool to see that the mist from the falls had landed on nearby trees as a layer of fine snow. It was that cold outside. The second half was much more impressive and it looked so cool because it was frozen and misshapen. My hand froze as I desperately tried to take pictures with my cellphone. I had deemed it too cold to even bring my DSLR as I would never get a chance to use it. Seeing as we had already walked all this way, we continued on Sussex drive to the Prime Minister’s house. 24 Sussex Ave was well guarded and very uninviting, from what I could see, which was barely anything. It even had a wooden barricade, which somehow made it quaintly Canadian.

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Walking by the Royal Canadian Mint there was not much going on. Once we got to Majors Hill Park we were greeted with a strong and super cold gust of wind- and no Winterlude festivities. We had a good look at the canal and we could see Quebec across the river. We walked up to Parliament Hill but again, other than the increased police presence, there was nothing really going on. Except for renovations, there were a lot of renovations going on. The East Block was really pretty to look at. Even though I still have no idea what it is or what goes on there. On our way back to our hotel we passed by the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and made note of how to get back, for we were switching to that hotel in the afternoon.

I could not resist stopping at the Nestle Tollhouse Café for a small snack. We hung out in the hotel as I attempted to warm up while eating cookies. It was an easy walk to our next hotel as we had just come from that direction. We got there just after noon and thankfully they already had a room ready for us.

It was a 5 minute walk down to the canal from our new (and better and warmer) hotel. It was really scary walking on the ice on the Rideau Canal as we slowly made our way over to the skate rental place. We made a pit stop for beaver tails and hot chocolate. I downed the hot chocolate in one big warm gulp. The warmth did not last.

I did not last very long on skates, it had been years since I’d skated and I was really nervous. Add to that my foot cramping and the freezing cold. Yeah it was a poor show on my part. I skated a little way down the canal, at least I got past the people filming an A&W commercial. There’s my future cameo appearance in the background awkwardly and slowly skating to look forward to. Brent skated on ahead, I skated back to the rental place having been defeated. I walked up and down the canal looking down on the skaters below. It was getting really, really cold. I had resorted to taking photos with my nose (the joys of a touch screen).

Near the canal was Confederation Park. They had lots of ice sculptures and a demonstration and even an ice sculpture fire pit. Some of the ice sculptures had seen better days, we were there for the last few days of Winterlude, and they were falling apart. I was starting to get really cold. My double-socked feet were starting to go numb. As we circled the park I got free samples of cookies and tea. This was not enough to entice me to stay and watch any more demonstrations. I was freezing cold and I needed to go back to the hotel to warm up.

During our warm-up break I turned the heater to maximum and turned off the auto function. I brewed a cup of tea, grabbed my cookies and a bathrobe and headed to the heater. I pulled up a chair and wrapped the bathrobe around my legs and feet and over the heater. The tea was good, the sample had worked and now I am a fan of Four O’Clock’s almond biscotti tea. I was finally warm enough and before heading out I added one more layer, an extra long sleeve shirt. I was ready to go to the final location on our Winterlude tour.

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We crossed the bridge over the Ottawa River. The river was mostly frozen but had broken in some parts. Yet people were still walking out across it. It made me uneasy to watch.  Looking back we had a gorgeous view of Parliament Hill overlooking the river. Gatineau Park was where the fun was. They had made ice slides, however I was not going to risk getting my jeans wet and thus being uncomfortably cold again. Instead I watched Brent slide down. We did go down another slide in a two-person tube. It was dizzyingly fun, as we had requested being sent off with a spin. The last activity they had was the chance to go around a track with a dog sled. You could hear the dogs in the pen down below all howling, it was sad. And I was too cold to stand in line.

It was Valentine’s Day and we did not have reservations anywhere. The plan was to walk past the Murray Street Kitchen and peer in, if it did not seem busy we would have dinner there. The backup was to keep walking to Dunn’s for sandwiches instead. Murray’s didn’t seem too busy so we went in and asked about a table. They had one, however we would have to clear out by 7:30pm. It was just past 5pm, we looked at each other and at once understood we would be out of there way before then.

We decided to order the charcuterie as nothing else on the menu really caught our fancy. Again we got to choose which meats and cheeses (gouda, raw cow’s milk cheese, smoked duck, kiełbasa and headcheese). Once again the charcuterie was outstanding, I am beginning to think that Ottawa is a great place for charcuterie but I have no idea why. The nachos with beef heart were also delicious, especially because they were made with kettle chips. And the feta cheese was minimal. We had overheard from a nearby table that the poutine had been featured on a TV show (it was on You Gotta Eat Here) and we wondered if we had made a mistake? When the server came back with our second round of drinks we ordered it- without really knowing what we were getting. Poutine would obviously have fries, right? Not here it doesn’t, it was some weird doughy noodle-shaped things. It was a small serving but even still it was difficult to get through. Who does that? Who messes with poutine like that?

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On our way back we passed some kids that were booing every dinner option their parents presented and every business they passed. One of which was a cupcake shop, The Cupcake Lounge. We had not ordered dessert and it was Valentine’s Day, why not? I got the last maple cinnamon cupcake and Brent had the Oreo one which was way better.

I snuggled up under the covers and brushed all the cupcake crumbs off the bed. It was time for my all-time favourite vacation activity: mindless stupid TV! We watched Bob’s Burgers followed by an SNL Valentine’s Day special that was truly terrible. I flipped back and forth through channels, having lost my patience for commercials a long time ago. I kept switching between Family Guy and a comedy festival. I thought for sure John Cleese would be funny- he was not. And then there was nothing on which was fine by me, being freezing cold all day is exhausting.

 

 

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Margarita Cupcakes

We were having people over, and I was feeling fancy. One night I found myself making Margarita Cupcakes. It was a lot of work, having to grate the lime rinds. The cupcakes just tasted like lime cupcakes, and the icing, well there you could taste the alcohol. Overall the cupcake were underwhelming and definitely too much trouble for not enough tastiness. Plus now I am left with a bottle of tequila, the recipe called for a few tablespoons and the LCBO does not sell those little sample bottles of alcohol.

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I had run out of cupcake liners and all I could find were Christmas ones at the dollar store.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2014 in I Will One Day Attempt To Make This

 

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Cupcake Avalanche

I was feeling fancy recently, fancy enough to tackle cherry coke float cupcakes. I did my homework this time, reading the comments. The only thing that stood out was that it was a gargantuan recipe. Not feeling confident enough to halve the recipe (because that usually ends in disaster somehow). Really not wanting to screw these up I went all out, even bought buttermilk (of which there is now 3/4 of a carton taking up room in my fridge). I was wary of using cherry pie filling and making filled cupcakes. I instead went the creative route. I drained a jar of maraschino cherries and added the juice to the batter. The taste was very subtle. The cupcakes turned out amazing, better than I could have hoped for. I am not a huge fan of fruit fillings let alone chunks of fruit in my baked goods. This was much better. I also cheated, instead of using whipped cream I instead topped them with whipped white frosting.

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In the end I wound up with a bunch more cupcakes than I could have ever eaten. They also tasted more like black forest cupcakes than cherry coke. No complaints here!

 

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Philanthropy Anyone?

I had an idea today for a charity. As always my idea is free for the taking because I have no idea where or how to start it, so have at it!

It would be called Cupcakes For Causes and every 2-3 weeks I would set up shop somewhere (say an office building or school lobby) and sell cupcakes and mini-cupcakes and all the money would go to a charity. The charity would be different each time, and I would ask local bakeries to donate a dozen or so cupcakes (being given full credit as benefactors of course). I would not reimburse myself for the cost of making the cupcakes either. That would be my donation. Eventually when it gets real big, I would have people running other outposts at other locations, same time same cause. And there would be information brochures and maybe even a representative from the charity being supported that day. Any leftover cupcakes would be taken to a nearby homeless shelter too.

I have noooo idea where to start.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Ideas

 

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Beetcakes!

On Mondays I have a three hour break between classes, so what else was I to do other than wander around downtown? And of course where else will wandering lead me than to… CUPCAKES! In my defense, I was just doing my work. I ended up at Prairie Girl Bakery. There treat of the week was a pumpkin spice cupcake with either vanilla or chocolate icing on top. Having already had a pumpkin spice cupcake over the weekend, and for lack of repetition in my book (save for the fact that every page will feature a photo of a cupcake) I went for the good ol’ Red Velvet. I must admit, it has taken me a while to come around on red velvet (especially after I found out that the red colouring comes from beets, why not cherries? Raspberries? Strawberries? Why beets?!), especially the cream cheese icing.  But especially in comparison with butter cream icing as well as some other diabetic-coma-inducing icings I have encountered, cream cheese icing is really starting to grow on me. In terms of on cupcakes, because I have been eating that as crepe filling since childhood.

(Snug in it’s box)

So how does Prairie Girl’s red velvet cupcake taste? Delicious of course, really what else could you expect? The cupcake was very light & fluffy and just fell apart, in a good, freshly-baked kind of way. The cupcake batter had been generously poured, for the cupcake spilled out with a giant muffin top. Largest one I have encountered to date. It did make taking it out of it’s safe-haven box a little difficult but so worth it.

(Huge muffin… erm, cupcaketop?)

That is the other plus for Prairie Girl. They have a special box for the cupcake with a hole cut out so the cupcake stays in place while it is transported. And it stands the test of time. That cupcake, in it’s box, lasted through 6 hours of transport and some horrible rain. It took all my will power not to eat that cupcake. A whole day! A whole day of carrying a tantalizing cupcake! Every once in a while the box corner would pop open and I would get a whiff of it, ooh it was to die for.

 

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Gluttony Ahoy!

For lunch today we headed out early to The Burger’s Priest in Leslieville. Why early you may be asking? What good can come of eating a giant greasy burger so early in the day? We got a ride from Braeden. It saved is from having to walk 2.5 hours each way. And as it turns out we also just missed the rush. I went in, and turned right back around and got out. It was insanely crowded in the tiny storefront. I sat outside (near a wasp nest, that forced me to move further down to the KFC parking lot). No sooner had Brent gone in to place our order, a giant line formed. I know this because the line went out on the sidewalk. For good reason too. The cheeseburger I had was amazing! Albeit it was kind of weird. I ate a piece of just the meat and found it surprisingly bland. I say surprisingly because overall the burger was really good, tomatoes and all (well not all, the second one fell out onto the sidewalk, I shed no tears for it). The burger was a greasy, dripping, falling apart mess of deliciousness. Needless to say I could barely finish mine. And it was the default smallest burger, with cheese. It was a double patty. People, this is a lot of meat! They feature a secret menu and Ryan actually ordered off of it. He ordered The Vatican with breaded jalapenos. It was so amusing watching him eat it, as well as watching passersby and their reactions.

(Cheeseburger, and in the back Cheeseburger with a Portobello)

(Ryan’s mass of a burger)

Full of burger-y deliciousness Brent and I headed off along Queen Street, leaving Braeden and Ryan behind. We still had soem business to attend to in Leslieville. Namely, best whoopie pie and best coffee roasters. But also some cupcake shops along the way. Up first we chanced upon Sweet Bliss. It was a nice surprise, for I had thought it was further east. I stopped in and promptly purchased a cupcake. It turns out now I had it mixed up with Life Is Sweet, which actually is further east. Damn. Anyways, picked up a pumpkin spice cupcake that the guy wrapped up nicely, right down to tying a bow around it. Up next we went to It’s The Icing on the Cake were I bought an orange coloured strawberry cupcake. I was convinced she had lied to me. But that was disproved during my impromptu mini-photo-shoot in a bus shelter. I got so many weird looks. But the cupcakes had to be photographed lest they get destroyed/eaten on the way home. While taking out the orange cupcake I got some icing on my finger, it was strawberry flavoured.

(Strawberry cupcake- It’s the Icing on the Cake)

We crossed the street to Bobette & Belle where they did have the lemon cupcake in stock, but I was so afraid of it being mired by butter-cream AND being dense that I opted not to get it (already was carrying two cupcakes, had one more stop to make). The whoopie pies were small so we got two, chocolate and red velvet. The red velvet we tore into as soon as we left. It was OK, it was rather dense and rich, which is the signature marking of a whoopie pie. Thank God it was so small. Needless to say, we did not eat the second one right away. The second one was way better. The cream in the middle was very lightly flavoured with peanut butter and the cake part had the slightest hint of coffee flavour, but neither was overpowering.

(Red velvet and chocolate whoopie pies- Bobbette & Belle)

All this made me rather thirsty, thankfully Te Aro was the next stop along the way. The cafe itself is very nice, big and spacious with a large patio. They offer cuppings as well, where you taste different coffees and learn about them. The coffee itself that I had, Elevens it was called, was not as good as I had hoped for. It was a bit winy at the end. Personally, I prefer Full Of Beans. They had a much larger selection and the coffee tasted better. Last stop on my short cupcake tour was Desmond & Beatrice. There I purchased a spicy carrot cupcake (it was between that and the chocolate mint, but I hate mint).

(Spicy Carrot- Desmond & Beatrice)

So how did the three cupcakes fair?

The winner was Sweet Bliss’s pumpkin spice. It had just the right amount of spices and subtle flavour of pumpkin and the cream cheese icing on top was light and creamy, not heavy. Second place was Desmond & Beatrice with the spicy carrot cupcake. A light and fluffy, well spiced cupcake, with actual shreds of carrot in it. Also with a cream cheese icing on top and (for some weird reason) a pecan. The icing was a bit thicker and sweeter, not as good as Sweet Bliss’s. Last place goes to It’s The Icing on the Cake. The cupcake was very fake in it’s flavour. It was more like eating strawberry candy than anything else. There was no evidence of real fruit anywhere in the cupcake. And it had coconut flakes on top. Weird. It ranks fairly low in terms of all the cupcakes I have had thus far.
(Pumpkin Spice- Sweet Bliss, best cupcake of the day)

 

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