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.


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.


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.


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.

Pie & Twenty

We just got back from a couple of nights away in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I worked from there on Friday, which gave us a nice excuse to stay an extra night. We stayed at 124 On Queen for the first time (big win; nice rooms and super central), had a couple beers at the Irish Harp Pub, and dinner — as always — at Treadwell:

  • Bread w/ 13th Street Blanc de Blancs
  • First
    • D: Whiskey Cured Atlantic Salmon, Creamed Sweet Potato, Maple & Birch Syrup w/ a Nebbiolo rose from Piedmont but I can’t remember which
    • L: Chilled Pea & Mint Soup, Chive Crème Fraiche, Preserved Lemon, Brown Butter Crumb w/ a Loire Chenin…just can’t remember which one
  • Second
    • D: Pan Seared Scallops, Maple & Chili Glazed Pork Belly, Apple & Yuzu Puree w/ Flat Rock Nadja’s Riesling
    • L: Herb & Upper Canada Ricotta Gnocchi, Green Garlic Pesto, “Pingue” Guanciale, Shaved Pecorino w/ Azienda Agricola Molino Arneis
  • Mains
    • D: Honey & Black Pepper Roasted Duck Breast, Charred Endive, Orange Marmalade, Hoisin Sauce w/ Stephane Aviron “Chénas Vielles Vignes”
    • L: a dinner special of trout crusted with chorizo w/ 13th Street “June’s Vineyard” Unoaked Chardonnay
  • Dessert
    • D: Pistachio Tart with Vanilla Whipped Cream w/ Meldville Sparkling Muscat
    • L: a dessert special of panna cotta, rhubarb, and some other stuff w/ Meldville Sparkling Muscat

This morning we slept in, picked up two pies from the new Pie Plate store, stopped at Leaning Post for what was supposed to be a few bottles but turned into twenty, and drove home. I must say, just being able to pull into the garage and unload things sure beats dropping off a rental car and shlepping our tired asses home.

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.

The Torch Bearer

At the base of the pylons is the Torch Bearer standing near a statue of a young dying soldier. The Torch Bearer has taken the torch from the figure of the Spirit of Sacrifice. He then takes up the fight, and strains up to the highest points on the twin white pylons toward the eight figures representing The Chorus [ed: Justice, Peace, Faith, Honour, Hope, Charity, Knowledge, and Truth]. This is a reference to one of the most famous poems of the First World War, ‘In Flanders Fields,’ by the Canadian Army Medical Corps officer, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae.

From the Vimy Memorial site


Cover photo from Veterans Affairs

Happy Canada Day

We just got back from a couple of nights at Mike & Heather’s cottage. The weather was beautiful. The drinks were plentiful. Ken was there (with his wife Michelle) and I hadn’t seen him for years, so that made me happy. The food was fantastic. We felt like freeloaders as we decided at the last minute we could still make it, and then decided on the spot to stay an extra night. We sat on the dock. We took a boat ride around the lake. I got lots of play time with Brody the big black dog. We played asshole and drank vintage Veuve I’d sabered open.

We had to leave early on Canada Day to get home to catch ourselves up (we’d planned to come back Sunday afternoon but couldn’t bear to leave) but still — what a beautiful weekend.

Cover photo by Alex, used under Creative Commons license

For-profit weather

One of the most shocking things about Michael Lewis‘ last book, The Fifth Risk, was about the weather. While the whole book is a collection of jaw-dropping reasons to be terrified of the Trump regime that aren’t all that visible, the weather portion made me do something other than shake my head: it made me uninstall an app.

From an article by Jeremy Olshan in MarketWatch:

NOAA and the National Weather Service, which fall under the U.S. Department of Commerce, may employ 11,000 people and a fleet of satellites, but the agency operates in obscurity — in fact, it’s forbidden by law from promoting itself or the accuracy of its forecasts.

Instead, and this is the crux of Lewis’s argument, private companies like AccuWeather take the government’s data and repackage it and sell it to corporations and hedge funds.

Donald Trump’s nominee to take over NOAA? AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers. This may seem to be a logical choice, until you hear that Myers has little background in meteorology, and his company has a long history of lobbying to make the government data less available to the general public, and even helped block a plan by the National Weather Service to release an app.

So, yeah. Trust me: if you read the book, you’ll uninstall AccuWeather too. You can buy the book here, by the way.

Also, that article had the best summary of Michael Lewis’ books I’ve ever read:

Lewis, as always, assembles a cast of iconoclastic characters determined to paddle upstream on a river of stupidity, blindness and conventional wisdom.


Cover photo by Alex, used under Creative Commons license

Pre-holiday training

In all the hubbub before our vacation I forgot to mention what a busy weekend it was, imbibing-wise:

Dec 12: I had dinner and worked at Batch while Lindsay met up with a friend.

Dec 13: we shared a special bottle of Lightfoot & Wolfville Pinot Noir with Laura (owner of Chez Nous)

Dec 15: work holiday party, so we drank the good stuff before we even left.

Dec 16: hangover breakfast at White Lily Diner, and late lunch at La Carnita with Lindsay’s friend Tess from home

Dec 17: I had an espresso at the John Street Dark Horse (nee Smokeless Joe) before seeing the new Star Wars, which I really liked. Later that night we went to The Wren for dinner. I don’t quite remember why; it was a school night.

Dec 18: I had a beer at Hi-Lo while Lindsay shopped, and she joined me for a couple more. The Saulter Street Brewery gang was there and bought us one of their Pilsners!

Dec 20: one last brunch hit at Bonjour Brioche before our flight.


Century since

My whole life I’ve been fascinated by disasters. Canadian disasters, specifically, probably because the Halifax Explosion was such a significant part of Nova Scotia lore. I’ve always been especially interested in the Frank Slide (which I hope to hear the Rural Alberta Advantage sing about tomorrow night), but most of my obsession over the years has been with the explosion. I still think of it every time I’m in the city, especially when I drive across either bridge or walk past City Hall.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the blast, the largest man-made explosion until Hiroshima and the biggest disaster in Canadian history. A century later Halifax still bears the scars. It ought to be remembered.


Cover photo from the Globe and Mail