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:
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.
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.
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.
Brother #2 and his wife were in town this past week-ish. We’ve had quite a good time, even if it went by really quickly!
Flight delays held up their arrival, but we had some lunch and enjoyed the backyard before walking down the street to Reid’s Distillery for a drink. (I had the afternoon off.) Later we had dinner outside on the patio at The Roy.
Since I had the morning off, we just took it easy before heading to White Lily for lunch — both brothers have now had the pastrami sandwich. We went back to the house where Lindsay and I worked for the afternoon, and they went to pick up their daughter for a visit. Once they were all back in town we ordered BBQ from Beach Hill Smokehouse, which has quickly become our favourite.
I was in the office all day (and had a brutal commute home) but our three guests entertained themselves in the city. By the time I got home we needed a bit of leftover BBQ to tide us over, but later that night we ordered Maker Pizza so they could sample the garlic fingers. (Verdict: not bad.) We shut down the night with a bit of Mario Kart.
I went to the office in the morning, but came back for the afternoon. After work we went to see Thor: Love And Thunder (imdb | rotten tomatoes) which was not great, but was entertaining enough for a Friday night. After that they drove the kid back home while we ate some roti and caught up on Drag Race.
The four of us were out the door by ten, aiming to get down to Niagara in good time. Unfortunately, traffic and an ill-fated coffee stop put us behind schedule, and we didn’t get to Leaning Post until noon. Still, we had a great time tasting outdoors on their patio, and left with quite a few bottles.
We had lunch down the road at Redstone, and once we got situated in a table where we wouldn’t cook, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Collectively here’s what we had:
Cured Pacific Salmon w/ Cucumber, Green Goddess, Dill
Sweet Pea Cavatelli w/ Smoked Ham Hock, Egg Yolk, Breadcrumb
We realized we were running out of time, so we only visited one more winery: Organized Crime. I hadn’t been there in ten years, and it’s really changed a lot. The chairs and tables on the front lawn — with a gorgeous view — were all either full or directly in the sun (and it was too hot for that shit) so we tasted under cover near the house. We left with several more bottles, and began the trek back to Toronto. Traffic was bad, but just usual-bad, so…not that bad.
We relaxed/napped for a bit, then went to dinner at Ascari Enoteca. We were sat indoors, which normally I wouldn’t want, but yesterday? Give me that air conditioning. Anyway, our meals were great:
broccolini fritti w/ tuscan battered broccolini, lemon zest, pecorino romano
2020 Agricola Molino Sibillia Arneis
pea and mascarpone filled hand made agnolotti di piselli w/ mushrooms, crispy chicken skin, pea tendrils, butter sauce
three of us had the linguine special with octopus and ‘nduja and caper breadcrumbs, and it was on the whiteboard not the website so I don’t remember much more than that
2015 Tenuta Di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva
desserts of rhubarb tart, lemon sorbetto w/ melon, port, and late harvest semillon
By the time we finished that we didn’t have much left in us but to walk home and enjoy the evening with a bottle of Piquette from Leaning Post.
We dragged ourselves up and out of the bed for coffee and a trip to the Leslieville Farmer’s Market. We hadn’t been in quite a while (and obviously they’d never been) so it was nice to walk around, check out the vendors, drink some fresh juice, pick up some flowers and fruit and bread and a bottle of wine from our Leaning Post friends, and head home. Having a car certainly made it an easier situation to wrangle than last time when we were crashing into an Uber with too many bags.
We ate a lunch comprised of market finds, and they took off to spend more parent-daughter time before leaving tomorrow.
Like I said, it felt too short, It’ll be good to get back to NS next month and pick up where we left off.
I’m just about to leave Halifax after a little milestone celebration. About 18 months ago my friend Brian started organizing a 25th reunion of our Dal undergrad class, and it was held this past weekend. I was a little nervous headed into it — I wasn’t super-close with more than a handful of people in the program, and I knew a lot of them wouldn’t know me — but it turned out to be a good time nonetheless.
I flew Porter from the island airport to Halifax, which I’d normally do anyway, but especially now that Pearson is a gong show. CBJ was on the same flight, by coincidence, so we could share an Uber to downtown Halifax.
Unlike most of the reunion attendees (who stayed at the Westin) I stayed at the new Muir Hotel on the waterfront. It’s part of the stunning new Queen’s Marque development, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be my new home when in the city.
I knew I’d be hungry, so I’d made a reservation at Drift, the hotel’s restaurant. My sister-in-law was able to join me, and we got a table outside next to the crowds and harbour. We shared the Maryann’s brown bread w/ organic honey butter, and I had the iced digby scallop crudo w/ charred dill pickles and sherry and slow-cooked sustainable blue salmon w/ Nova Scotia oyster & bacon dashi, fried butterball potatoes and roasted radishes.
I woke up early-ish, considering I was on vacation. It was for a work reason though — I drove around with my company’s regional head to see some of the local store formats and understand the market a bit better (from our company’s perspective of selling wine; I’m something of an expert on actually buying it here). I bookended that activity with breakfast (blueberry pancakes w/ fresh blueberries, espresso crumble, chantilly cream and maple syrup) and lunch (fish & chips w/ frites, tartar sauce, malt vinegar and mushy peas) at Drift.
That afternoon I went up to the Dal business school to meet up with the other attendees and have a small ceremony for a new scholarship our class created. It was fun to see the new building (though I’d seen it before; I finished my last MBA class there in 2008) and awkwardly re-connect with people I hadn’t seen in 25 years and who barely knew me then.
After that, we made our way down to the patio at Garden for drinks, and a few more folks showed up. We were there for quite a bit, enjoying the perfect weather, before heading downtown to…Pacifico? Seriously?? We all remembered it as a…um, less than classy place in our youth. But it has (a) moved to where Merrill’s used to be — a bundle of memories unto itself — and (b) become a fairly classy live music venue. We took over a little corner and caught up, and more people arrived. We wrapped up sometime after midnight and wandered up the hill to Pizza Corner, for much-needed Sicilian slices.
I slept in a bit and missed breakfast, but that pizza slice was still holding court. The Canada Day crowds on the waterfront were already plentiful, so I had a throwback lunch at the Split Crow, walked around for a bit, went to Weird Harbour for a coffee, and retired to the room where I watched the new Stranger Things episodes.
That night I went to more reunion stuff, starting with dinner at the Agricola Street Brasserie. I had seared scallops w/ fennel, lemon slaw, radish & maple, and dry aged duck w/ duck fat confit, fingerling potatoes & duck jus. I’d wanted to try that place for a long time, so I’m glad we finally had the excuse.
After dinner we went down the street to Chainyard Cider, where we drank mostly beer. After last call there a few of us somehow ended up at an awful joint called the Roxbury. I bolted almost immediately.
I crawled out of bed and caught a ride over to brother #1’s house for waffles and coffee and some nephew hangout time. I got a ride partway home and walked the rest, in light rain, grabbing another capp from Weird Harbour before getting back to the room. I watched The Boys, read my book, ordered room service lunch (the Drift burger: a 200g chuck patty, Avonlea cheddar, thousand island sauce, iceberg lettuce, Branston pickle, brioche bun & onion ring w/ frites, and a glass of cab sauv) and generally relaxed.
Later on I went to dinner at Rinaldo’s with brother #1 where we shared crispy brussel sprouts tossed in a lemon aioli w/ chili crisp & pecorino, and a Detroit-style pepperoni pizza. We drove around a bit, then headed downtown and walked along the waterfront before deciding to check out BKS, the Speakeasy in the hotel. It’s a cozy spot inside, and a spectacular waterfront patio outside. I was rather smoothly upsold a pricey glass of Little Book bourbon, but the beautiful view & great weather more than justified it,
Up early again to meet brother #1 for breakfast, this time at Robie Street Station. Stuffed completely full, I got dropped back at the hotel for one last bit of chilling in the room before strolling around the Queen’s Marque area a bit more and then heading to the airport.
We’ll be back in Halifax next month. Hopefully it won’t be another 25 years before I see this class again.
It’s been a busy 48 hours of long-missed visitors coming to town.
On Friday CBJ and I met up with our old friend Wade, who was visiting Toronto and whom we hadn’t seen in ~20 years. We had an excellent dinner at Richmond Station (duck duck lamb) before hitting a couple spots (Planta Burger, Beerbistro) for drinks. There was a lot of reminiscing and struggles to remember names, as well as some struggles to read the menus without our glasses. It’s been 20 years, okay?
Yesterday two of Lindsay’s oldest friends T+K arrived from Halifax. So far we haven’t done much other than hang out, enjoy the weather, and eat…so, the perfect visit, basically. Last night we had a bottle of wine on the Chez Nous patio before ordering Descendent for dinner and sharing a magnum of Bachelder Pinot Noir.
This morning we went for fancy, boozy brunch at Cluny, and ordered plenty of food and cocktails. As we paid up and prepared to leave, something very nice happened: our server said we’d been such sweet guests that they wanted to send us over a round of mimosas. We happily accepted and drank our drinks, wondering what exactly we’d done to deserve such a treat. After observing more of the guests’ behaviour, we think it might have been more about what we didn’t do — i.e., be demanding jerks. I guess maybe at a touristy, insta-worthy restaurant, being polite, hungry, and low maintenance is enough to stand out.
We spent last week in Montreal, visiting friends and old haunts, and taking the first downtime we’ve had since December. It was the relaxing & refreshing trip we needed, I think.
After the long drive to Montreal, with a brief stop at the Kingston Brewing Company along the way, we arrived at a familiar home base: the Hotel Nelligan. We dropped our stuff, got cleaned up, and then took a swing at dinner. Lindsay had done a bit of digging on the way into town and found Monarque; while they didn’t have reservations left, we took a chance and showed up. Luckily for us, there were two seats at the bar. Our meal was super tasty, and we liked the vibe. Here’s what we ate & drank:
Milk chocolate panna cotta w/ hojicha tea, caramel
A glass of Madeira for me, and Port for Lindsay
After a pretty healthy lie-in (it was a VERY comfy bed!) I went downstairs for some breakfast while Lindsay relaxed. We had a lazy morning until heading out for brunch at Le Cartet around the corner and eating our fill. Lindsay had eggs benny served on an English muffin, orange hollandaise sauce, duck confit and onion compote with red wine, spinach, roasted potatoes with salted herbs, and greens. I had brioche French toast with apple butter, caramelized walnuts, chocolate crumble, chocolate mug cake, caramelized apples, salted caramel custard, and fruit salad. We walked it off along the waterfront, sat on the promenade du Vieux Port, and enjoyed the warm weather.
After relaxing for a few hours back in the room (I watched the new episode of The Boys) we went downstairs to the wine bar for a drink (okay, fine, we had a bottle of Viognier) before heading to dinner at Marcella, a new Italian place just down the street from the hotel. It was bustling and loud and had great music on the speakers. Our cocktails were good and the sausage and fennel salad were tasty. Everything was really great…until the pasta. We split the carbonara, and it was just so disappointing. My theory is that, because it was just before the kitchen closed, a line chef slapped it together or re-warmed it. Or something. It was bad. Overall the night was a good one, but that wasn’t a good note to go out on. (Also, we ordered a bottle of Barolo, with which I sometimes struggle.)
Homemade Italian sausage, rapini sautéed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil
Fennel salad with endives, mandarin, and citrus vinaigrette
It was hard to believe we’d only been in Montreal 36 hours. I’d definitely achieved a relaxation level I’d not felt in some time.
After some breakfast downstairs, we walked out of Old Montreal for the first time on this trip, meeting our friend N outside the not-yet-open (despite what the hours on their website and their door say) L’Ideal before plan B-ing our way around the corner to the cafe Saint Henri for some coffee and co-work time. We did eventually make our way back to L’Ideal — again, after some confusion about the hours — but settled in and enjoyed some funky wine. We chatted for a few hours, enjoying the fresh air, even if it was infested with so much pollen it looked like a mild snowstorm. Once good and chill, we walked home and crashed at the hotel.
For dinner we’d booked in at Nora Gray. We didn’t rally get the full experience as Lindsay suddenly felt very sick and we had to cut the evening in half, but I really enjoyed what we did have:
Homemade focaccia, pepperoncini, La Villana olive oil
QC lobster, asparagus, pickled ramp, brown butter crumble
Bottle of P. Frick 2018 “Auxerrois” Crémant d’Alsace
Would definitely go back if/when all parties were up for it.
After yet another good sleep, I popped downstairs for breakfast while Lindsay tried to exorcise whatever demon possessed her body the night before. We kept the morning pretty relaxed, overall, watching an episode of Gaslit in bed while Lindsay nibbled gingerly on a croissant. Eventually we went out for a walk along the water, stopping in a park to admire a fountain and squeal at some cute ducks.
Eventually we got hungry, and went round the corner to Pub BreWskey. We opted to sit inside, but later regretted it. I had a salad and a fruit smoothie sour; Lindsay had mac & cheese and a grisette. I needed to eat some vegetables, and she needed to eat something, so we both did well, I think. After another walk & sit by the river, and a nice flat white from Aloha, we went back to the hotel to relax a little more before dinner.
Dinner #4 was at old favourite Maison Publique. It’s not far from where Lindsay used to live, so we went every time I was in town. Four years away didn’t diminish our affection for the place, nor had the food suffered — the meal was absolutely delicious.
Mozzarella with radish and pesto
Duck hearts in a spicy diavola sauce
Smelts grilled in lemon, butter, capers, tarragon
Ravioli with ricotta, garlic
Halibut in a cream sauce
glasses of a Mâcon Chardonnay
a bottle of Chardonnay from Jura, very funky and different but delicious with our meal
pot de crème
glasses of red wine (Lindsay) and Jurançon (Dan)
Time to leave our hotel, and Old Montreal. As the week got closer to the big F1 weekend, it was becoming nearly intolerable anyway. After a quick lunch at Mandy’s we jumped in the car and drove to a new neighbourhood. N lent us their apartment for a few days, and we got ourselves settled in just ahead of the huge rainstorm which battered Montreal on Thursday, In between downpours we managed to skip over to one of our old favourite beer bars, Brouhaha. We had some tasty pints (me: a brown and a session IPA; Lindsay: a sour and a rauchbier; Finchy: lager) and a flatbread pizza, and timed our escape for another lull in the rain.
Later that night we met up with N= J at Brouillon Café-Buvette for a pre-dinner drink. We’d originally planned to visit somewhere outside of the city, but the biblical rain would have made that pretty miserable, so N smartly booked us in for a late dinner at Pichai. Luckily it had been on my list of places to try, not just because it was on the Canada’s Best 100 list, but because they’re known to have a great wine selection — which, it turns out, was curated by Nora Grey’s sommelier. It turned out to be an exceptional choice — what a wonderful meal.
Fried rice w/ scallops
Green papaya salad w/ peanuts & dried shrimp
Fish balls in sweet chili sauce
Grilled hangar steak w/ rice powder, herbs, lemon
Sauteed Argentinian shrimp, green beans, chili, basil
Wine bottles (note: their list isn’t online and I didn’t take good notes/pictures, so this is all I remember)
Pierre Frick Muscat Sec
Giardino Gaia orange wine
I went out in the morning to get coffee and pastries from a local place called Miche & Carré. The croissants and my capp were good; sadly Lindsay’s Americano was not.
Eventually N + J met us here, and we jumped in the car for a day trip out to see La Fondation Grantham. We were there in part to see an exhibition called Exhibition Troubled Garden: Study for Migratory Roots:
The Iranian-Canadian multidisciplinary artist Anahita Norouzi is interested in displacement issues related to notions such as statelessness and hybridity. For two years, in collaboration with the Biodiversity Research Centre of the Université de Montréal, she is developing a research/creation project on the ecological, cultural and social dimensions of migration issues from the perspective of non-native plants that have appeared in Quebec as an extension of the migratory flows of populations. Curator: Bénédicte Ramade. [source]
We were also there to see the building itself, tucked into the landscape and old forest, with a river running lazily by. We found trails afterward, and got some fresh air and walking in before the mosquitoes found us.
On the way back to Montreal we were hungry, so we pulled off the highway and visited Cantine Chez Dave & Dan in Saint-Liboire, a box on the side of the road which served up delicious hamburgers and chicken burgers and enough fries to kill a horse. We piled back in the car and did our best to stay awake as we drove back in to Montreal traffic, narrowly missing rush hour and another thunderstorm. We decided not to tempt fate, as we’d done the day before, and just stayed in.
Not much to Saturday: packing, one last coffee with N as we handed their apartment back to them, and a drive home. We fought one last brutal rainstorm on the way out of town, but the rest of the drive was pretty easy. We even stopped in Cornwall and fulfilled Lindsay’s nostalgic wish for an East Side Mario’s lunch.
We came home to a Kramer who yelled at us for a couple of minutes but pretty quickly became an affection monster. Not a bad welcoming party, really.
A week where we did little but sleep in, dine out, drink well, and see friends did us a world of good. As much as I love vacations where we experience something new and fill our brains with different, this was what we needed right now.