That 307 seems pretty doable

Just before we moved into this house (two years ago now!) we thought we’d use the basement the same way the previous owners had staged it: we’d put the TV and a couch down there, and keep our living room TV-free. However, once we moved in we realized that simply wasn’t realistic — the basement’s too small, it’s too cool in the winter and humid in the summer, and…y’know, Kramer shits in a box down there. So: on to plan B.

One of the top candidates for plan B quickly became to build a wine cellar down there. I had grand visions of a full-scale cellar, but that just wasn’t feasible, or even necessary — my collection currently stands at 453 bottles, only 415 of which are reasonably cellar-worthy. Still a proper wine cabinet could be good. And so, we had Rosehill build us one. It holds 722 bottles, and they finished it Monday of this week. (Thanks Chris!)

Look at this beaut:

After the first day of construction
The finished product

Since I took today as a holiday, I might just spend the afternoon filling it up. I’m surprised I’ve waited four days, frankly.

One Way Out

When I heard Disney was making a whole series based on Diego Luna’s character from Rogue One (admittedly, one of my favourite Star Wars films), I thought it was an odd choice. How do you make a whole series — a multi-season series, no less — out of that one character? Turns out I needn’t have worried: Andor (imdb | rotten tomatoes) is one of the best series from that cinematic universe.

There are no lightsabers. There’s no Force. Unlike most Star Wars battles, “good guys” die during what few battles there are, vs. Stormtroopers just missing constantly. There are only tie-ins to minor characters from other shows or movies (taht said, the Mon Mothma backstory is really interesting.) for the deep fans. It just fills a gap that’s only touched on in other series (like Rebels) about how rebellions spark and grow, in the poor and the rich, from muddy camps to opulent parties, and everything in between.

Also fun to see a bunch of actors from Game of Thrones (Qyburn! Lord Royce!) and Chernobyl (Toptunov! Angry chief miner!) show up.

Weekend Plans of Abraham

We just spent 2 days in Quebec City, a make-up date for the weekend trip we were meant to do for Lindsay’s birthday but had to cancel due to getting COVID.

Friday

A quick flight off the island into Quebec City landed us in a place with even more snow than Toronto. We stayed at the Hotel71, in the Basse-Ville, Our room was big and beautiful with high ceilings and a view of both the river and the Chateau Frontenac. It also had an Enomatic wine dispenser in the lobby. So.

We needed lunch, and after a brief wander around the neighbourhood, settled on Lapin Sauté. We got warmed up, ordered a bottle of 2013 Thaddeus Morgon Gamay, and ate some belly-warming fare: cassoulet w/ duck sausage and braised rabbit leg, and rabbit pot pie served with a fruit chutney. It was a tasty, cozy little find.

We slid back along the icy sidewalks and hung out back in the room for a while, took a bath to keep warm, had a nap (side note: I never nap), and got ready for dinner.

Said dinner was around the corner at Chez Muffy, the Saint-Antoine hotel. It was the kind of standout meal we’ve had too infrequently since COVID started, and ostensibly 3-course (but in reality many more) feast with so many memorable bits we were still talking about them the next day. Not to mention the service: in general, which was spot-on, and from our server, who was fantastic.

  • Glasses of Réserve Grand Cru Jean Lallement et Fils Champagne
  • Amuse-bouche number one
  • Amuse-bouche number two, paired with a white blend from Languedoc
  • Appetizers
    • Char from La Rivière aux Renards w/ sea urchins and sweet potato, paired with a light Italian red I hadn’t heard of, but which reminded me of a less fruit-forward Gamay
    • Oysters w/ potatoes, leek butter hollandaise, and caviar, paired with a skin-contact white from Languedoc
  • Main
    • Deer loin Rossini w/ pâté en croûte, mushrooms, squash gnocchis, paired with a red blend, again from Langedoc
  • Dessert
    • Grapes from La Marianne farm w/ oat, rice, and honey, paired with a white Rioja
    • Poached pear, paired with a dry Alsatian Riesling that had some lees contact
  • Petits-Fours, paired with some kind of fermented maple sap

With that, we stumbled around the corner to our hotel, and went right to sleep.

Saturday

We were still full the next morning, so we didn’t eat again until well after noon. Lindsay found a place that appeared to be popular for breakfast, even among locals — Le Buffet de l’Antiquaire. I ate a bunch of pain doré and sausage; Lindsay had poached eggs. We also drank our weight in coffee, squeezed in amongst the other hungry patrons. It was precisely what we needed.

We decided we had to do something other than eat, so we visited the Musée National des Beaux-Arts de Quebec. We covered a lot of ground, but my two favourites were featured exhibitions of work by Evergon and Manasie Akpaliapik. Afterward we walked around the Plains of Abraham a bit, and tried not to freeze. It was cold in Quebec City this weekend…even the locals said it was much colder than they’d expect in mid-November.

We didn’t really have a plan for dinner; we kind of defaulted into Louise Taverne & Bar à Vin. It…didn’t go great.

  • The salmon tartare w/ tomato vinegar, Gaspesie seaweed emulsion, crostini, and salad. (This was okay. Just okay.)
  • Mozzarella di Bufarella in butternut squash puree w/ parmesan, ravigote vinaigrette, and charcuterie. (Yuck. Just yuck. We couldn’t figure out why it was so bad, but…it takes a lot to make us leave mozzarella on the plate.)
  • Fish & chips. (Sure, fine.)
  • Vegetarian bowl: spaghetti noodles, zucchini, hazelnuts, (This was an error. Lindsay thought she was ordering pasta. It was not pasta.)
  • 2019 Domaine Fabrice Gasnier La Queue de Poelon Chinon. (OK, not great. Heavier than I expected given the varietal; I tried to order something midweight when I thought pasta was coming to the table.)
  • Crème brûlée dulce de leche. (Good.)
  • Glasses of Jurançon. (Excellent.)

We really did try to recover at the end, but…meh. Not a memorable meal, except for the wrong reasons.

Sunday

After checking out of the hotel, we had some time to kill. First we had coffee at Smith. Then we stopped in at Galerie Beauchamp to ask after an istaymute piece that had caught our eye, and ended up buying it. Then we were off to a brunch reservation at Chez Rioux et Pettigrew. This meal…wow. It was outstanding. Made better by all the mimosas and kir royales, sure, but top to bottom with incredible flavours:

  • Maple wood smoked fish, fresh cream, blinis
  • Foie gras crunchy french toast
  • Pork rillette & mustard caviar
  • Homemade bread & pastries (note: this was accompanies by several spreads, one of which was the best raspberry confiture either of us had ever tried)
  • Artisanal herbs sausage (possibly the best sausage I’ve ever had)
  • Tartufatta scrambled eggs
  • Beauceronne style baked beans
  • Pulled ham cooked in crust (surely the best ham I’ve ever eaten)
  • Bacon & onion potato rosti
  • Old fashioned fried crepe

The vibe was also really great…cozy tables, chill service, classic rock (mixed with Quebec folk), and they were perfectly happy to let us sit there getting silly for two hours. Strong recommend.

After that we headed back to the gallery to finalize the paperwork, then picked up our bag from the hotel. As we went outside to wait for the taxi in the middle of a snowstorm, a metal plate on the door ripped open my left index finger. As Lindsay begged the front desk for bandages, I dripped blood onto the steps. It looked creepy in the snow too, like when Jon Snow gets stabbed. Anyway, it didn’t stop bleeding until we were at the airport and the Porter ground staff gave me a proper band-aid.

Our flight was a bit late taking off, and about 30 minutes from Toronto I had a very intense and bizarre (and fleeting, thank goodness) wave of nausea, complete with flopsweat, but other than that it was fine. We got home, reassured Kramer that we had not abandoned him, ordered some food, and went to sleep.

It was barely 48 hours, but it was pretty fun. And now that we’ve experienced that weather, I don’t reckon much we’ll be phased by much of what Toronto throws at us for the next few weeks.

Les fins de semaine Québécoises

As of last night we have dear friends staying with us for a few nights, visiting from Montreal. We drank wine and ordered late dinner and talked and laughed until late. They’ll be here only too briefly, but any visit is a treat.

[Update: on Sunday we walked up to Maha’s for brunch but the line was too long, so we walked back down and tried OK OK Diner for the first time. Outstanding classic diner brekkie. Instant weekend staple going forward.]

Next weekend we’ll be headed to Quebec ourselves, visiting Quebec City for a weekend. It’s something of a replacement trip for Lindsay’s birthday, a getaway postponed because of COVID.

Now I just have to survive this week.

House Of The Dragon

Given how much I loved Game of Thrones (well…most of it, anyway) it’s not a surprise how excited I was for season one of House Of The Dragon. And though it started with a weird mix of moving slowly while also jumping years at a time, it came rolling to a crescendo in the final episode…so much so that I’m gutted we have to wait until 2024 to see what happens next.

It also spurred me to re-watch GoT in its entirety, and it’s fun to see the through-lines. The dagger. Stories about Vhagar. Houses that still exist, houses that disappear. I expect I’ll watch it a few more times before the next HotD season.

“The Avengers…what is that? Is that a band? Are you in a band?”

While I forgot about TIFF entirely this year, I did manage to squeak in a few films this month. Nothing earth-shattering, but entertaining.

  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was the expected rollick from this installment of the Spider-Man franchise. I’d waited long enough to see it that I already knew the big twist of this one, but it was exciting to see nonetheless.
  • Sleeping With Other People (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was a romantic comedy that came out of nowhere. A weird one too — clever, and also at times a bit more serious than you might expect.
  • Tammy (imdb | rotten tomatoes) wasn’t the best Melissa McCarthy movie, but even a lesser such film is still pretty funny. Susan Sarandon was an expected addition to the cast too.
  • Top Gun: Maverick (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was what I expected, but frankly quite a bit more. It could have been flashy garbage. It was certainly flashy, and a cheeky nod to the original (Iceman! Penny Benjamin!) but the ludicrous action was at least enticing.
  • The Good Nurse (imdb | rotten tomatoes) wasn’t one I’d heard about despite the star power involved (Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne) but ended up being a well-done telling of a horrifying true story.

The unwanted comeback

Welp, I have COVID-19 again. I had a bunch of social events this week — a meeting downtown, a two-day offsite with my whole team, a dinner out — and then, a few days later, I tested positive.

So far (I’m on day three of the symptoms) it hasn’t been as bad as when I had Delta, pre-vaccinations. It just feels like a bad cold. No lung stuff. No body aches. Yesterday was pretty brutal. and I slept for nearly all of it, but so far today doesn’t seem as bad, touch wood.

To be honest, I’m mostly pissed at myself for not booking the second (biovalent) booster sooner. We dilly-dallied on it; if we hadn’t, I might have been vaxxed all the way up before this week. So let that be a lesson to you, kids.

Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor

Earlier today I watched a movie I’ve seen constantly in the PVR guide of late, but not watched: Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor (imdb | rotten tomatoes). Some thoughts:

  • I could tell from the opening scene (the Halifax waterfront) that it was shot in Nova Scotia. Right away it moved to the countryside, what looked to me like the Annapolis Valley.
  • The acting was a little stilted. Felt like a low-budget Canadian movie…which it was, I suppose.
  • I’m sure she’s acted in multiple things, but the only thing I recognized the actor who played Tammy (classic NS name, BTW) from is RBC commercials.
  • I was trying to figure out who played the dad and suddenly realized it was the guy who played Ricky from Trailer Park Boys. Wasn’t easy to make that transition, but I got there.
  • My dad still has a tractor kind of like that one…a Farmall though, not a Ford 4000.
  • MANY mentions of 4-H, which took me straight back to my childhood.

It was a cute & moving little story, but to me — and I admit I’m biased here — the real star was the gorgeous Valley scenery. It was countryside I just drove through in August for pretty much the first time, and the pastoral green tucked between the hills, with the Minas Basin a stone’s throw away, and it felt like a whole other country. I miss it.

61

This past Wednesday I attended my first Blue Jays game of the season. I’ve been following them closely all summer, watching as many games as I could (even if it’s during weekend work) and hoping they’d make the playoffs. They’ve since clinched a wildcard spot, but on Wednesday they lost to the Yankees.

That game was memorable because Aaron Judge hit his 61st home run, tying both the Yankees’ club record and the American League record — and, in many fans’ mind, the true HR record given the spectre of PEDs over Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds’ NL records — held by Roger Maris. Maris’ son was in attendance to see it happen, just like he was for McGwire hitting #62. I remembered that because I watched 61* (imdb | rotten tomatoes) again recently — very underrated movie, by the way.

One other note: the Rogers Centre Skydome’s drink selection is abysmal. At least where I was — in one of the corporate suites — they had no wine, a single cider, and five generic beers, the “best” of which was Mill Street Organic. Maybe it’s better elsewhere around the park, but I doubt it. Even this ranking — taken last year when the Jays were still playing in Buffalo — ranks them 28th out of 30 in terms of beer selection, and that was influenced by being able to get a $5 beer in Sahlen Field. No such luck in Toronto, I reckon.