It was one of the moms from Bend It Like Beckham

It’s been a busy ten days. Last week I got to go to the Leafs home opener against the Canadiens. It was my first sporting event in a crowd since…I have no idea when. The Canadiens lost — they’ve only lost so far this season — and after the game I saw a drunk Leafs fan get hit by a car. So there was that.

Earlier this week Lindsay’s mom was in town. On Tuesday we had a tremendous birthday dinner at Ascari Enoteca:

  • cocktails
  • bread
  • olive oil poached tuna w/ apple, fennel, cashew, and chili emulsion
  • Wisconsin burrata w/ heirloom tomatoes, romesco, pine nuts, and focaccia crisps
  • arancini w/ nduja sugo, basil, and grana padano
  • glasses of La Rondinina Lambrusco
  • linguine w/ octopus, nduja, tomatoes, red pepper, and caper bread crumbs
  • spaghetti alla carbonara w/ house made guanciale, grana padano, pecorino, egg yolk, and black pepper
  • ricotta gnocchi w/ hen of the woods mushrooms, sunchoke, chives
  • bottle of 2017 Palmento Costanzo ‘Mofete’

On Wednesday we went to see Blindness, my first play, or something resembling it, since…I really have no idea when. It was a very intense sound & light experience, to the point where I was worried I might pass out or be sick. But still really interesting and good.

La Paella

Last night we met up with friends K & E at La Paella, a Spanish restaurant just down the street which none of us had ever been to. We sat on their covered patio on a warm, rainy evening, and ate & drank…uh, a lot.

We shared four tapas plates — grilled lamb chops; sweet pimientos del piquillo stuffed with beef cheeks; sauteed garlic shrimp in Spanish olive oil; and Oyster mushrooms, garlic & olive oil, pan seared in Andalucia sherry wine — before digging into a paella of rabbit, wild boar, Spanish chorizo, Jamon Serrano, green peas and piquillo peppers. It was all washed down with several bottles of Rioja and Duero. Dessert was everything on offer: almond cake, manchego cheesecake, house-made chocolate, and some kind of flan? Anyway, the star was the 1968 Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Seleccion.

It was a long, lovely dinner, the likes of which we haven’t had in over a year.

2 mom visits in one month

When I returned from Halifax last week, my mom came with me. She spent Saturday night here, and on Sunday I drove her out to Guelph. There she spent a few days visiting her sister, and on Thursday I drove out to get her, spending a good chunk of the day there and eating dinner with my aunt & uncle & cousins. It did my soul some good; I know you’re not supposed to have favourite relatives, but they were always among my favourites.

On Friday we did a bit of a walkabout, ran a few errands, checked out the new Jimmy’s Coffee in the neighbourhood, and picked up my niece from Union Station. She spent the evening with us, and we ate roast chicken and potatoes and salad and many, many desserts. The next day, before my niece left, we went to White Lily for brunch. It was my first time there since before the pandemic, and we carried on the tradition of bringing everyone we know there (though we somehow missed bringing brother #2 and his wife — this niece’s parents — when they visited) and everyone we know loving it.

After the niece departed we watched all the available episodes of Only Murders In The Building (imdb | rotten tomatoes), ate some of the chicken soup mom had made earlier in the day, and then crashed. This morning we just relaxed a bit, and I took her to the airport. It was a treat to have her here, to be able to see & hug family again, to show my mom the “new” (we’ve been here nearly one year!) house, and to bring her to see her sister.

After putting her on the plane I walked up to King Street and — because it’s a gorgeous day, the likes of which we may not see again this year — I stopped at the Wvrst patio for a couple of pints.

Nova Scotia 2021

I’ve just spent the week in Nova Scotia, my first time home since December 2019, and my first time anywhere outside of Ontario since January 2020. It was a quiet, chill time…exactly what I needed.

SUNDAY

I waited until Porter was flying from the island again before I flew, to avoid Pearson. I wasn’t sure how messy the check-in experience would be, so I went early. Too early, as it turns out — I had about 45 minutes to kill in the lounge. Oh well.

I expected flying to feel weird, but it didn’t really. The old muscle memories kicked in, and apart from the fact that I had a mask on the whole time and the plane was mostly empty, it felt like the hundred other times I’d taken that flight to Montreal. (And, sometimes, onward to Halifax.)

After landing in Halifax I had to contend with a pretty ferocious rainstorm for most of the drive home. It was tough going, but the sun broke out just before I reached the farm. I hugged my mom and dad (for the first time in 21 months) and my brother and sister-in-law, and scratched their dogs, and immediately felt relaxed. We ate dinner together, and then my mom and dad and I played crib. I finished second both times while they traded wins.

Because I’d been traveling, and because I hadn’t had coffee all day, and because it’s the farm, I fell asleep by 9:00.

MONDAY

Early to bed, early to rise, it seems, so I was up and about by 7am. I felt pretty accomplished until I realized by dad already had an hour of work under his belt by that point. Thus began my day of perfect nothing.

I mean, not nothing, but…pretty close to nothing. Dad and I went for a short drive in the woods, to see a dead tree occupied by bees, and to grumble at a beaver dam. I walked around the farm a bit. I did crosswords and ask my mom a bunch of questions that I got from PostSecret. This was incredibly interesting, and I asked my dad some of them too, learning the amazing story of Rathburn Lovely and his twin daughters Shirley and Lurley. Yeah, it sounded made-up to me too, but I’ve verified it.

The five of us went to dinner in Parrsboro at the Pier restaurant (or whatever it’s called now) at high tide, then retreated home for more crib (I won both games this time) and a Leafs-Habs exhibition game.

TUESDAY

Another day of serious chill: crosswords, more questions for my parents, a couple more walks around the yard, more dog scratches, dinner at home, and a Jays game.

WEDNESDAY

I packed up, said my goodbyes, and started a long drive. I wanted to stop off at some wineries on my way to Halifax…which, if there was a bridge across the Minas Basin, would be exactly what would have happened. Alas, there is not, so I drove 220km around it. But I drove the scenic Glooscap Trail both ways, so it wasn’t all bad.

I had a 2pm tasting appointment at Benjamin Bridge, and pulled in just in time. Kyla led me through a tasting, letting me try some of the newer things that have been released since I left the wine club, showing me the vines and the barrel room (badass barrels too!) and just indulging my wine nerd questions. It was a lovely time…not the warmest, sunniest day, but when there’s no rain or fog, you just shut up and enjoy it.

After that it was on to Halifax, driving downtown and depositing the car at the new Sutton Place Hotel. I unpacked, cleaned up, and went over to brother #1’s place for family dinner. After that we went for an evening constitutional, in which he showed me some of the new developments downtown since I was here last. We ended up having a drink at Lot Six, where a server misheard my request for “Chenin” as “Chambly”, so I drank a Blanche de Chambly for the first time in yonks.

THURSDAY

My suite, and bed, were pretty comfy, so I slept in to the decadent hour of 8ish. I decided to enjoy said suite fully, hanging out, watching TV, doing some work, reading, etc. I picked up a lobster roll from Gahan House and ate it with a bottle of Cab Franc rose I’d snagged from BB the day before. I tried to work more in the afternoon, but ended up watching more TV. Then brother #1 called and said they were heading to an event at the Grand Parade to commemorate the first annual Truth and Reconciliation Day. I joined them, and enjoyed the drum circle, as I always do.

After cancelled (though no one told me) reservations at Obladee, I had a quiet dinner by myself, thinking and making notes, at Barrington Steakhouse. My steak, the veg, and the ratatouille were all quite good, my wine was just okay, and the piano player singing mostly-Canadian classic rock was exceptional.

FRIDAY

I met brother #1 at Cheeky Neighbour Diner for breakfast, an enormous collection of food that I didn’t nearly finish. After almost running over our nephew (!) he dropped me at my hotel where I did my one meeting of the (vacation, mind you) week. After that, I really got to enjoy Halifax: walking down to the waterfront, enjoying the sunshine, checking out all the new developments, sitting down at the Stubborn Goat / Garrison Brewing beer garden for a Hefeweizen and milk stout and currywurst, and grabbing a cappuccino from Weird Harbour on my way back to the hotel.

I met back up with the brother in the late afternoon, strolling around a bit again until visiting Obladee, where I was overjoyed with their wine list. So much stuff to try, so little time. But I did my best, running my way down their list:

  • L’Oiselinière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie
  • Meinklang Burgenlandweiss 2020
  • La Baronne Le Grenache Gris de Jean 2018
  • Caruso & Minini Frappato Nerello Mascalese
  • Lustau Oloroso Don Nuño Sherry

I could have spent all night there, sampling stuff I don’t know well. By a country mile, this is the best wine list in the city.

We walked back to his house, where we ate sushi and just hung out. Halifax, which I’ve always loved fiercely, is made that much better by the family presence here, vs. just university memories. I walked back to my hotel after, enjoying the cool air and dodging the usual Friday night Halifax silliness.

SATURDAY

Bad news to start the day: our flight was cancelled and we (my mom flew back to Toronto with me) were moved to a flight 3 hours later. We had some time to kill so we drove back to Wolfville just for kicks; Lightfoot & Wolfville was packed for a private event, and the downtown was manic for…homecoming, we guessed? Anyway, we had brunch at some non-descript pub, drove back to the airport, checked in, and flew home. I forgot how long Porter flights can feel, and our leg from Halifax to Ottawa was sardine-crammed. We got in late, and crashed. A day, but a wonderfully chill week overall.