On Thursday I got to go to the eighth installment of an annual ceremony celebrating winners of a digital art prize, sponsored by my old company, which Lindsay created in a past life. It was great to see many of my old colleagues again, and just to…get out. Post-vaccination, as in-person things have returned again, I find we’ve struggled to mobilize on getting out as much. So, for one night, it was nice to put on decent clothes, to head downtown (traffic notwithstanding), to take in art, and to talk and laugh with people again.
By the way, if you’re in Toronto and you can make it, the exhibition of the five finalists’ work is at 401 Richmond until October 1st.
For the third year in the row — overlapping with the pandemic, obviously — I did not attend TIFF. I’d maintained an 18-year streak prior to that, even though I had fallen way off my take-a-week-of-vacation-and-see-thirty-films peak. What surprised me was that, well, TIFF surprised me. It’s not like I considered attending and then decided not to; it’s that I basically didn’t think about it until I saw tweets about people arriving for it.
No doubt it had a lot to do with my work schedule, but clearly it’s no longer a significant annual milestone lurking in my brain. But as I think about it, I realize I miss it. I miss the book. I miss the winnowing down of good options. I miss the buzz. I miss Q&As. I even miss the lineups.
Will I have the brainspace for #TIFF23 next year? I genuinely hope so.
While going through my books to see which one I’d like to read next, I happened across something I bought years ago, but never cracked: The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby. Here’s the blurb:
A cultural history of the last forty years, The Age of American Unreason focuses on the convergence of social forces—usually treated as separate entities—that has created a perfect storm of anti-rationalism. These include the upsurge of religious fundamentalism, with more political power today than ever before; the failure of public education to create an informed citizenry; and the triumph of video over print culture. Sparing neither the right nor the left, Jacoby asserts that Americans today have embraced a universe of “junk thought” that makes almost no effort to separate fact from opinion.
Sounds interesting, but here’s the problem: it came out in February 2009, when we were still naively optimistic about the internet and George W. Bush was the dumbest, worst president we could imagine. Reading it now, in a Trump/truther/QAnon-riddled world, I imagine it will seem more quaint than informative.
I’ve never really been a guy who grills. I was the youngest kid growing up, so I was way back in line to man the barbeque. Later, when I was married and we had a place that could support a bbq, my ex-wife liked to grill (and was really good at it) so I always deferred. After the divorce I moved to a loft with no outside space.
Then, when we bought the house a couple years ago, the previous owners left their old grill. But it was old. Like, old old. I didn’t feel great about using it, and the igniter was broken anyway, so a little while ago we finally got around to replacing it.
We fired up our new Weber E-325S last night to grill some sausages and corn on the cob. It was delicious, and I’m annoyed at myself for waiting so long to buy this thing.
[Bonus points to anyone who gets the Thrush Hermit reference.]
Barring any travel hiccups, we’re just about to fly back to Toronto after 2+ weeks in Nova Scotia. Here’s the rundown.
Just barely made our flight, but then we cooked on tarmac for a bit because of mechanical issues or some such. Guy in front of us wouldn’t keep his mask on. Read Pipette magazine on the flight. Landed in Halifax, met brother & sister-in-law #2 who generously provided us with a car for two weeks. Drove to Bedford, ate pizza, watched Bojack, and slept.
Spent the morning being lazy. The four of us (me, Lindsay, Lindsay’s mom + brother) drove to Mahone Bay to visit Lindsay’s other brother, his fiancé, their dog, and two cats. We hung out at their place and had delicious pasta, garlic knots, and lemon tarts. I got my dog-petting and cat-snuggling fixes too. It was good for the soul, and I also realized I’d somehow never been to Mahone Bay (that I can recall, anyway).
We drove home, enjoyed the backyard, barbecued hot dogs, and played Taboo.
Did as much nothing as was humanly possible. Only activity for the day was to drive the 2 minutes to the NSLC, load up on a case of wine, and drive back.
Lindsay’s grandparents came over for dinner. We played some more Taboo in the evening. THAT WAS IT.
Somehow managed to do even less today than yesterday. Read a book. Watched TV. Loafed in the backyard. Drank wine. Major excitement was that we switched it up to Scrabble in the evening.
Another day of chilling. More reading. Watched Goodfellas (finally after many years!) and The F Word (made Toronto look amazing!). Then — trumpet fanfare — the four of us actually did a dinner out, down the street at Il Mercato.
Affogato al Caffè, vanilla gelato doused with Illy Espresso, splash of Baileys, fresh whipped cream, chocolate shavings
Port & cocktails
The 10 year Port on their menu was out, so they gave me a 20 year. I did not complain.
Moving day. Left Bedford, drove downtown, checked into the Muir. Just as magical as last time — the view wasn’t as nice, but the room/suite was bigger. We relaxed for a bit before walking downstairs to dinner at Drift. Here’s what we ate, sitting outside on the patio near the water on a perfect evening:
maritime oyster w/ mignonette, lemon, horseradish
Maryann’s brown bread w/ organic honey butter
crispy mushy peas w/ malt mayo, pea greens, maritime sea salt
sustainable blue salmon tartare w/ salmon eggs, onion chip dip
Lightfoot & Wolfville bubbly
L’Acadie Vineyards cuvée rosé
roast chicken & rappie pie w/ parsnips, mushrooms, klondike potatoes
bottle of Leeuwin Estate, Art Series, Chardonnay, 2018, Margaret River
Seafoam Royal Gin Fizz (Compass Royal gin, egg white, lemon juice, lavender syrup & bitters)
It was all excellent, but the highlights were the brown bread, the crispy mushy peas (which basically tasted like falafel), the salmon tartare, the rappie pie, and the bottle of Chard.
We left the restaurant and walked over to the water, specifically to the steps leading down into the harbour, where we saw a school of little fish swimming around by the light.
We slept in a bit (being back in a king bed felt like heaven) before ordering a big room service breakfast. Eventually we collected ourselves and went out to do a bit of shopping.
First up was Bookmark, where we bought three new books — two for Lindsay, one for me. Next up was The Port for a couple of gift bottles, then cortados at Coffeeology. In retrospect, ordering hot coffees on one of the warmest days of the year was a misstep. Anyway, we made it home, got showered, and prepared to head out to dinner. We were meeting Lindsay’s dad and brother…but first: wine.
We’d originally planned to have dinner at Obladee, my favourite Halifax wine bar, but decided to just have a little cinq à sept there instead. They have an intriguing-yet-delicious wine list, and it was a treat for a wine nerd like me. The list below shows what I drank before and after dinner (more on that later).
Glasses/flights I drank myself
Cederberg Bukettraube 2021 (Western Cape, South Africa)
One cool little story: that copy of Pipette Magazine I read on the flight down contained an article about Judith Beck…and now here we were drinking her wine.
For dinner we met said father and brother at the Black Sheep on Lower Water. I’d been to the previous incarnation off Dresden Row for brunch with brother #1 years before, but hadn’t tried this one. It was decent. We four shared calamari and brisket nachos; I had the pork chop for my main, and Lindsay had the lamb fettucine. We rejuvenated ourselves with coffees, and walked back into the perfect evening. Lindsay’s dad had had a long day, but her brother was up for another drink, so back we went to Obladee for a…uh, dix à une. We closed the place down, and rolled down the hill to our bed.
Lindsay slept in while I got up for breakfast. I ate french toast and sipped coffee on the quiet Drift patio, looking out over the harbour. Eventually Lindsay arose, and we just relaxed in the room until noon-ish, after which we met her mom and brother at Café Lunette for brunch. It was a cute little place, and everyone seemed to like their food. Having already eaten breakfast I opted for the steak frites; the steak was especially delicious.
[Writing this several days later, I honestly cannot remember what we did for the rest of the day. Let’s assume we napped and/or watched something in the room.]
We did manage to negotiate schedules and sneak in a dinner with brother #1 at a place he’d not yet tried: Trattoria da Claudio, which funnily enough has moved into where Black Sheep used to be. The meal was quite good: picture authentic Italian cuisine using as many local ingredients as he could. All-Italian wine list, of course, and Italian opera on the speakers all night, so a little on the nose, but we didn’t mind. I had the Capesante E Prosciutto Di Parma (Seared Digby Scallops with Prosciutto di Parma fat, green pea velouté, crispy Prosciutto di Parma julienne, roasted cherry tomatoes rosemary emulsion) and Fusilli Al Pesto Di Noci (Speck, pecans pesto, sundried tomatoes julienne). Lindsay had the Caprese Pesche E Prosciutto (Grilled oregano white wine marinated peaches, arugula, tomatoes on the vine, Ciro’s local mozzarella, Prosciutto di Parma roses, balsamic vinegar of Modena gel) and Risotto Zafferano Ed Aragosta (NS lobster, white wine, thyme with saffron Arborio risotto). We had cold white wine (it was VERY warm in there) and cannoli and lemon-berry gelato for dessert. All in all, a very good find from brother #1.
Moving day again. Phase 3 of the trip was to be spent on my family farm, so we got some breakfast sent up to the room, showered, packed, and checked out. We had one last lunch at Drift — where we saw Nathan MacKinnon, fresh off his Stanley Cup parade through Halifax — before leaving.
Our drive to the farm was uneventful, apart from a few dumb drivers, and we arrived in the early evening. It was weirdly quiet, as (a) it’s the middle of blueberry season, and (b) half the family was working at a nearby rock & mineral show. Eventually we collected everyone at home, hurriedly ate some sandwiches, and crashed.
Since my mom was free we decided to go on a daytrip: while mom did errands in Parrsboro, we chatted with the artists who were sculpting a log from my dad’s woods, then had lunch (including a big piece of butterscotch pie) at the Pier restaurant (or Harbour View or whatever it’s called) at low tide. After that we drove downshore toward Advocate, admired the view along the way, stopped at Cape d’Or and walked down to the lighthouse, and hung out at Driftwood Beach. It was a hot, sunny, beautiful day, perfect to revisit this area where two of my grandparents grew up, and which Lindsay had never before seen.
We picked up roast chickens and salads on the way home; brother #2 and 4/5 of the family (two kids are at home for the summer) came across the yard for dinner, along with the two pups. After dinner we took brother #2’s side by side out for a rip. Lindsay even took a turn on the back roads.
A mostly-lazy day marred by one incident: out for a walk around the home hill, Lindsay got something in her eye, to a very painful and traumatic degree. She was in severe pain for most of the evening, even as we tried to flush out whatever it was. She went to sleep with a warm facecloth across her eyes, hoping the next day would be better.
It was better. Somewhat. Less pain than the night before, and more mobility in the eye, but far from fully healed. We decided to get on with our day the best we could anyway. We drove to Parrsboro, grabbed lunch from Tim Horton’s, drove down to West Bay (where, somehow, I’d never driven before) to get a great view of Blomidon and Cape Split, then backtracked to the beach at Partridge Island where we walked around, skipped stones, and enjoyed the sea air.
We got home and, within a few hours, were headed back to Parrsboro for dinner with my parents at the Glooscap. It was my first time there since it burned down a few years ago. We stuffed ourselves, drove home, and played a few games of crib. Lindsay’s eye was better, but still not good.
We’d made an appointment with an eye doctor in Amherst for first thing in the morning where, it was discovered, something was still stuck in Lindsay’s eye. It was too hard to tell what it has originally been (my guess was an insect) but as soon as it was out, her eye started responding favourably. While we waited for a prescription to be filled we had a HUGE feed downtown at Breakfast at Brittney’s, then drove back to collect our goods and head home.
Later that afternoon, after everyone had taken off to different appointments and engagements, we packed up and began the drive back to Bedford. We drove the long way, along the old shore road, intending to stop at Diane’s for clams but somehow missing it, opting instead for dinner at Catch Of The Bay in Masstown (which involved a mediocre musician singing terrible songs, a nearby airshow, and the strong smell of cow manure) before driving to Bedford.
After a slow morning we got on the road toward a cottage in the Annapolis Valley, but first we stopped at a couple of wineries. First up was Avondale Sky, which we’d never visited. It’s a lovely little spot away from the other wineries, and we really enjoyed our tasting. We left with two bottles of the Blanc de Noirs which just won gold at the national level, as well as a dry rosé and a weird 2012 white blend left behind by the previous owners.
The second winery was Blomidon, which I hadn’t been to in 12ish years. We did a hook around a freak rainstorm and found them at the end of a rainbow. It was too wet to sit outside, but we did a reserve flight and the reds flight; we were very pleasantly surprised with their Chardonnay and Pinot; we took two Chards (we got our mitts on a newer vintage too), a Pinot, and some bottles of Cremant to fuel our French 75 dreams.
We drove along side roads, admiring the trees and farmland, and met the rest of the family at the cottage. They’d ordered donairs in advance from Mama Sofia, and when they arrived…oh man. Consensus in the cottage was that they were among the best donairs we’d ever eaten. Messy as hell, but frickin’ delicious. We threw those down, got in a quick game of washer toss, had a campfire, played Balderdash, and drank A LOT of wine on the deck into the wee hours. Luckily, there was ample donair to soak everything up.
No one was in any rush to activate on the day, so we slowly mobilized, had some coffee, ate some eggs benny casserole (it’s a thing), and decided to drive to a nearby beach, just over the mountains at Margaretsville. Not a sandy beach, mind you; this was a rocky beach just across the Minas Basin from the beaches we’d visited earlier in the week near Advocate. We spied the lighthouse and some beautiful early afternoon fog. We walked along the shoreline and found the waterfall of a stream cascading onto the beach. We spotted a seal who kept bobbing up and keeping an eye on us. It was a lovely little excursion.
Back at the cottage we had some hot dogs for lunch (summer!), played a few rounds of washer toss, did a little lying around and reading, drank the fancy Avondale Sky sparkling, and then got to work on dinner: steaks, potatoes, and salad. By then we’d switched to red, and — after some cleanup — carried on right into a long game of Taboo. We didn’t go as long as the night before; everyone knew we’d be on the move the next day.
Lots of coffee and a breakfast sandwich later we set to the task of cleaning the place up, and got on the road.
We drove a half hour or so up the valley and gathered for lunch at Lightfoot & Wolfville. We had a pupper with us, so we sat at a picnic table and ate oysters and pizzas and drank glasses of wine. There was some management of dogs and fending off of hornets, but the food and the view made it all worth it.
We had arranged to give our borrowed car back to brother #2, so after dumping our stuff back in Bedford, we drove to Truro to meet he and my mom, who had driven him there. It was good to sneak in one more hug. 🙂 We drove back a new way, avoiding an accident, and saw some really nice homes along a nice lake. So much NS exploration in this trip!
Back in Bedford, on our last night before flying home, Lindsay, her mom, her brother, and I opted to maximize our east coast food exposure before leaving, getting both donair pizza and garlic fingers for dinner, and drinking the 2020 Blomidon Chard. We moved our Monday flight back a few hours, both to avoid a stopover, and to give ourselves a little time and space in the morning.
Naught left to do but pack up and go. Thanks Nova Scotia, you were a delight.
Just taking a little break from vacation to pay homage to an album which came out twenty years ago today, and continues to be among my all-time favourites. Kill The Moonlight by Spoon has never left my regular rotation, and this song is in my hall of fame.
We just got back from a weekend in Niagara on the Lake, full of winery visits and delicious meals and relaxation.
We took the day off and drove down around noon, stopping at Redstone for a long lunch on the patio. We enjoyed the perfect weather and a little too much food before driving down the street to Kew Vineyards. We picked up a few bottles of sparkling and carried on to NotL.
We set up at our home for the weekend, 124 on Queen, and relaxed for a few hours before dinner at our always-when-in-town restaurant: Treadwell. We got a great table outdoors, and had a killer meal:
Pistachio Tart with Quiet Acres’ Raspberries (Lindsay)
Dark Chocolate Mousse, Sweet Pea Meringue, Olive Oil, Ginger Cookie (Dan)
Lindsay did some googling and found a cool-looking brunch place on our way to Beamsville: Yellow Pear. It’s tiny and in a strip mall in St. Catharines, but wow was the food good. Lindsay had shakshuka; I had the barbacoa pork skillet w/ house potatoes, cheddar, poached eggs, pickled onion, red sauce, and green sauce. It was one of the best brunches we’ve had in ages. What a find!
Our first winery stop was Flat Rock. I hadn’t been there in years, but the night before at Treadwell we’d had two of their wines as pairings, so we figured it was worth a visit. As it turns out, my memory of why I’d stopped going held up, and the only two we bought were the ones we’d tried the night before, but we had a nice time outside on their lawn listening to live music.
Just down the road was our next stop: 13th Street. Again, I hadn’t been there in years, but holy smokes had it ever changed. The place has become huge, with an art gallery and a whole separate tasting building and dozens of outside sheets and live music and to be honest it was pretty awful. Way too busy. Mean staff. We grabbed a special six-pack of some of the wines that won them the status of the #2 winery in Canada last week, plus a couple more sparkling, and a few butter tarts, and booked it out of there. Gross. 😦
We drove back down the QEW to St. David’s, where we picked up our annual Five Rows order and chatted with Wes (the winemaker) for a bit, and then drove to Southbrook. Yet another winery I hadn’t been to in a long time, but WHAT a different experience from the others. We sat outside amidst the vines, tasted the whole Laundry Vineyard flight (and then some), had an excellent chat with who we think was the general manager, got pooped on by a bird, and ended up leaving with a case of wine.
We drove back into town, picked up a charcuterie board at Cheese Secrets (more on that later), snagged the last sausage roll at Budapest Bakeshop (there would have been two, but some douchenozzles in front of us took a bunch) and took a load off in the room.
For dinner that night Lindsay had arranged a picnic basket, which we carried down to Queen’s Royal Park. It was delicious, and the weather was perfect. We drank a bottle of sparkling and ate butter tarts and laid under a tree. We even witnessed a proposal in the park at sunset! It was a pretty great birthday dinner.
Not much to do on our last day except return the picnic basket and have yet another meal at Treadwell:
On our way back to Toronto we stopped in to pick up our Kelly Mason collab order (plus a couple more bottles of the Frontier Block Chardonnay, which the Southbrook staff had urged us to order) and got to meet Kelly herself. I felt pretty lucky to meet some of the Niagara winemakers I’d admired for so long.
We went to visit friends D+K at their house last night, after trying to make it happen for nearly a year. They very generously made us a delicious dinner — charcuterie, mushroom risotto with prawns and scallops, wagyu steak, and grilled corn. We drank a lot of great wine too: 2019 Westcott Reserve Chardonnay, 1991 Beringer Cabernet, and 2016 Silver Oak Cabernet from their cellar; 2015 Hidden Bench Tête de Cuvée Chardonnay and 2011 Catena Zapata Nicolás from ours. We even got some doggy scratches in. Good night all around.