25th

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.

WED

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.

THU

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.

FRI

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.

SAT

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,

SUN

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.

All we did was eat and drink and relax and it was glorious

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.

SUN

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:

  • Apps
    • Ocean trout tartare w/ smoked sour cream, mimosa garnish, trout caviar
    • Grilled Octopus w/ fattoush, labneh, dukkha, chermoula
    • A glass of Domaine Laroche, Les Butteaux, Chablis 1er Cru 2020 for me, and a Queen Bee cocktail (gin botanist, lillet, lacto-fermented mango & chili honey, lemon, orange blossom) for Lindsay
  • Main (shared)
    • House-made Thai sausage w/crunchy vegetables salad, peanut, nuoc cham
    • A bottle of François Mikulski 2019 Meursault
  • Dessert
    • Milk chocolate panna cotta w/ hojicha tea, caramel
    • A glass of Madeira for me, and Port for Lindsay

MON

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.)

  • Cocktails
    • Italo Fizz: Bombay Gin, Martini Bitters, lemon juice, simple syrup, soda, Pastis
    • Smoky Old Fashioned: Bulleit Bourbon, Jack’s Bourbon Cherries, Angostura Citrus
      Bitters, Jack’s Bourbon Cherry Syrup
  • Dinner
    • Homemade Italian sausage, rapini sautéed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil
    • Fennel salad with endives, mandarin, and citrus vinaigrette
    • Chitarra Carbonara

TUE

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:

  • Appetizers
    • Homemade focaccia, pepperoncini, La Villana olive oil
    • QC lobster, asparagus, pickled ramp, brown butter crumble
    • Bottle of P. Frick 2018 “Auxerrois” Crémant d’Alsace
  • Pastas
    • Fettucine, calamari, pancetta, spicy tomato sauce, chive
    • Capunti, fresh peas, lamb sausage, mint, piave
  • Main
    • Grilled pork chop, zucchini, sunflower seed, fennel pollen
    • A glass of Rosso dell’Emilia 2017 “Le Marcone”

Would definitely go back if/when all parties were up for it.

WED

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.

  • Food
    • 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
  • Drink
    • glasses of a Mâcon Chardonnay
    • a bottle of Chardonnay from Jura, very funky and different but delicious with our meal
  • Dessert
    • pot de crème
    • strawberry tart
    • glasses of red wine (Lindsay) and Jurançon (Dan)

THU

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.

  • Food
    • Veal tongue
    • 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

FRI

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.

SAT

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.

Returns

A few scant weeks after brother #2’s visit, brother #1 and his family were in town yesterday. They came over for a bit of a hangout before said brother and I went to see Sigur Rós play at Meridian Hall. It was my first time since seeing them in September 2001 and October 2002.

It was worth the 20-year wait. They played for a combined 2.5+ hours, and had all the magic I remember. They swung from delicate to punishing with little warning. They seem as tight as ever, with the maturity that comes from two additional decades of touring. Jonsi still emits alien whale song from a slender body in such a way that it beggars belief. I got choked up during “Svefn-g-englar”, but the final movement of “Popplagið” was so overwhelming that I teared up.

The setlist, according to setlist.fm:

  1. Vaka
  2. Fyrsta (>)
  3. Samskeyti
  4. Svefn-g-englar
  5. Rafmagnið búið (>)
  6. Ný batterí
  7. Gold 2
  8. Fljótavík
  9. Heysátan
  10. Dauðalagið
  11. Smáskifa [followed by intermission]
  12. Glósóli
  13. E-Bow
  14. Ekki múkk
  15. Sæglópur
  16. Gong (>)
  17. Andvari
  18. Gold 4
  19. Festival
  20. Kveikur
  21. Popplagið

Today the brother + fam are wrapping up their visit to Toronto, and we’re off to Montreal for a week. It’s my first work break since December and and our first time back in Montreal together since Lindsay finished her Masters there. À bientôt!

Cover photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Xmas 2021

Well, we made it to Nova Scotia. We thought hard about not going, given Omicron, but decided NS was a better place to ride things out than Ontario. After a fun few days & two negative tests in Bedford I’ve come to the farm (Lindsay stayed there; we’re trying to limit the household interactions) where it has been perfectly quiet and still. Lots of reading, eating, watching TV, crib…and not much else.

Funny story: the day before I arrived at the farm my parents had to get the septic tank fixed. The last time it was fixed was the day I was born.

.:.

Cover photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Four years gone

It’s been four years since our last visit to Prince Edward County. That time was in the summer, and the whole area was far more overrun with tourists. This time, later in the season — this was a birthday present for Lindsay, actually — we hoped it would be more chill.

First up: find a place to stay. To be honest, seeing pictures of Mirazule in a friend’s Instagram feed is what triggered the idea for this gift. It absolutely did not disappoint: architecturally stunning, filled with beautiful and personal art pieces, serenely overlooking South Bay, and home to two wonderful humans (Ian and Miguel) and an adorable dog. We absolutely loved our time there — drinks each evening, cozy hours reading by the fireplace, unbelievable breakfasts prepared by Miguel, superb sleep-ins, and on and on.

In fact, we only left for about 6 hours the whole weekend. Our first outing was dinner at Bocado, a new restaurant in Picton. It’s a Spanish place from some of the same folks behind Patria and Byblos, two of our favourites in Toronto. Even a few weeks out the only table we could get was at 9pm, so we snapped it up. I’m glad we did too — it was an excellent meal.

  • cocktails
    • Bocado Martini: gin, Spanish dry vermouth, olive oil, citrus oils, sweet drop pepper, olive
    • Pineapple Tonic: pineapple, fever tree tonic, citus (I was driving)
  • appetizers
    • Dates w/ Iberico pancetta, Lighthall manchego, guindilla peppers and honey gastrique
    • Croquette jamon w/ house pickle and aioli
    • Ontario lamb ribs w/ ajo verde, honey, and mint
  • main
    • 16oz Enright ribeye w/ onion agrodolce and chimichurri
    • Patatas Bravas
    • bottle of Mencia

For our second excursion, on Saturday afternoon, we drove up to Wellington, had beers outdoor at Gillingham Brewing (and left with some of their ESB and Porter), and drove up to Domaine Darius (who happened to be releasing some wine that hasn’t been picked up through the year, so we really lucked out) before driving back South.

After an aborted attempt to visit Lighthall — which was just too packed — we drove down the road to Exultet. It’s been nine years since my last visit, and it’s only slightly less rustic. The prices are gold-plated, but good lord…the quality. We left with a lot. Next up was Long Dog, where we met the owners Victoria and James, tasted through their lineup, and just had a nice long chat.

After that it was back to Mirazule for some relaxing, some drinks, and an absolutely outstanding meal prepared by Miguel — quail & cheese croquette salad; roast pork loin, potatoes, clove & Armagnac ice cream, apple tart. It was all tremendous.

We drove back Sunday, wishing we’d had more time in the county, but grateful for the weekend we had.

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.

Cover photo by Lukas Souza on Unsplash

Re-liftoff

Tomorrow I’ll get on a plane for the first time in 20 months. The last time was when I flew home from Spain; I ended my blog post about that trip with, “…I’m excited about returning to Madrid in the spring”. Little did I know.

Anyway, tomorrow’s flight is significantly shorter: just to Nova Scotia, to see much of my family in person for the first time in even longer. I’m not looking forward to it the way I used to look forward to travelling — I’m sure that’s just the uncertainty wrapped up in this COVID-y travel experience. But I’m definitely looking forward to a week off.

.:.

Cover photo by Lukas Souza on Unsplash

Re-Treadwell

We’ve just arrived home from ~48 hours in Niagara on the Lake. It was mostly for work, so we barely got to do anything else except…well, eat and drink. The only meal we’d booked in advance was Treadwell (our go to every time in NotL) for dinner Friday night; we liked it so much we managed to weasel our way into coming back for lunch the next day.

First, though, we had dinner Thursday night at Tiara, the restaurant in the Queen’s Landing hotel, where we were staying. Like every other restaurant in Ontario right now, they were short-staffed and had limited seating, but we got one of the last tables. Our servers were lovely, and we could more or less see the river from our table, which was nice.

We had glasses of Saintly rosé to start, then shared the roasted heritage beet salad w/ micro greens, smoked goats’ cheese & burnt honey dressing and the butter Fried Scallops w/ pork belly “Wellington”, forced rhubarb & celeriac remoulade, all of which we paired with an excellent DIM Riesling.

For our mains I had a grilled medallion and braised short rib of VG Farms Beef w/ parmesan whipped potato, mushrooms, beans & red wine hollandaise. Lindsay had the roasted Ontario lamb rack & saddle w/ rainbow carrots, lamb fat fondant potato & smoked garlic rosemary jus. We paired it all with a bottle of 2014 Chateau des Charmes Equleuus.

I spent most of the next day out doing work stuff while Lindsay chilled in the room (it was too hot to do much else), then I had a nap while she got ready for dinner at Treadwell. It is a go-to every time in NotL, and didn’t disappoint this go round. After a walk along the river we sat down, tucked in, ordered some 13th Street blanc de blancs to sip on while we strategized, and then got into our four courses:

First

  • D: Monforte sheep’s milk fresco cheese, heirloom tomato & peach salad, sherry vinaigrette (Sixteen Mile rosé)
  • L: Chilled peach gazpacho with Quiet Acres peaches and pickled chilies (Sixteen Mile rosé)

Second

  • D: Pan seared east coast scallops, roasted corn, crisphy chicken skin (Arneis)
  • L: Mussels a la Nage, white wine, fresh herbs, grilled bread (Five Rows Sauvignon Blanc)

Main

  • D: Maple glazed Muscovy duck breast, Ohme Farms turnips, Ontario blueberry jus (Nebbiolo)
  • L: Shallot crusted fillet of Ontario beef, Lyonnaise potato, summer mushrooms, shaved truffle, red wine jus (super tuscan)

Dessert

  • D: Lemon & basil tart with honey and fennel pollen ice cream (Big Head botrytis-affected Chenin Blanc)
  • L: Selection of cheeses (Big Head botrytis-affected Chenin Blanc)

Utterly delicious, top to bottom. I think Lindsay was a little jealous of my orders though. Also: since we were in Niagara I didn’t bother taking note of the non-Niagara wines!

Before we left, we asked if they had any space left the next day for lunch. We didn’t have time to do much before leaving the city except eat a good lunch, so rather than hunt for something else we just took a swing. And we connected! They had a table for us. We left, knowing we’d get an encore in ~14 hours. On our walk home we had to scurry away from a family of skunks (!) chowing down on Queen Street tourust leavings.

Unearthing ourselves from the hotel bed Saturday morning wasn’t easy, but we managed it. We arose, cleaned up, packed, checked out, and drove downtown. We found a parking space, helped an elderly gentleman pay for his parking with a QR code (we just paid for it, actually…it was easier than explaining it) before getting a coffee and wandering around a bit. When we arrived at 11:30 we were sat outside, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but ended up being torturously hot. Anyway, that’s hardly their fault.

Still a killer meal though: Lindsay had Chardonnay-steamed PEI mussels w/ fennel pollen cream & grilled bread (paired with a glass of 13th Street blanc de blancs) and a lobster club on duck fat fried sourdough, double-smoked bacon & whipped goat’s cheese w/ local salad greens & summer truffle (paired with a Pearl Morissette Chardonnay). I had roasted summer beets w/ whipped goat’s cheese, toasted hazelnuts & dill vinaigrette, and duck confit w/ summer succotash, frid egg & red wine jus (paired with a Fourth Wall Cabernet Franc).

This time I think Lindsay enjoyed her meal a little more than I did, but it was still a smashing idea to double up. We chatted about wine, and wineries, and winemaking with the staff, and they thanked us for coming back the very next night. I suppose that must be the best compliment for a restaurant.

Thus stuffed, we set out for home, stopping to pick up a wayward case of wine from The Farm, and arriving home to find our cute little bug, lightly traumatized from his first two days alone in the new house. As I write this, though, he’s purring and rubbing against my chair, so I think he’s forgiven us.

Work promises to summon me down to the peninsula more often. Frankly, I couldn’t be happier about that.

.:.

Cover photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Wonder?lust

Brother #2 reminded me yesterday that two years ago we happened to be in London at the same time, and met up for a delicious meal at Hawksmoor Knightsbridge. It made us both realize how much we miss travel. Lindsay and I then spent a good chunk of last evening talking about recent trips (Lisbon! Dublin! Paris/Champagne/Liège! Copenhagen/Amsterdam! Stockholm/Gothenberg! And so on.) and dreaming up a list of where we’d love to go when such things are once again possible. It was fun to think about, but bittersweet. I’m trying not to let myself speculate on when, as it’s so out of our control.

But man. Is it ever a list.

Speaking of reminiscing, Lindsay asked to start watching The Wire, as she’s never seen it. I agreed very, very quickly. Can’t wait to revisit all these characters. (Related news: there’s more David Simon coming, and it’s going to be about Baltimore cops again.)

.:.

Cover photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Elora

More than fourteen years ago brother #1 visited from England, where he was living at the time. An impromptu decision to get out of the city for a bit led us to Elora, and a night at the Elora Mill Inn. This last weekend Lindsay and I, desperate to get out of the city for the first time in 6+ months, ended up back there.

It was always pretty, but it’s definitely gone through a reno some time in the last fourteen years, so that was nice. Also nice: our room had a huge terrace overlooking the river gorge — and, as it turns out, the pool — which is where we spent most of our time.

Our first night there had dinner downstairs in the restaurant, and it was a good one.

  • Oysters
  • Burrata and farm herbs on grilled sourdough
  • Lobster and melon salad with sea buckthorn, mint, hazelnut
    • NV Robert Moncuit Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs
  • Beef tenderloin with swiss chard dumplings, coal roasted mushrooms, sage
  • Duck two ways
    • Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino 2003
  • Red fruit sorbet & ‘spark’ with cherries, raspberries, strawberries, Tawse sparkling

We spent the rest of the evening, into the wee hours in fact, relaxing on the terrace, enjoying the weather, watching shooting stars. Just, enjoying the peace.

The day we had a big sleep in, drank coffee on the terrace, ordered a late breakfast (the staff was very nice in overlooking that we’d missed the cut-off time), drank Pet-Nat mimosas, and read outside until the sun crept too close.

Our one excursion into the town itself led us to a scenic lookout over the gorge, a little walk down the main street, beers & sausage on the patio at Elora Brewing Company, and a quiet sit by the Grand River.

The terrace was so nice we decided to have dinner — charred tomato soup with basil creme fraiche; pan-roasted Chassagne Farms hen with potato butter, arugula, mushroom jus; grilled mozzarella sandwich with focaccia, rosemary pesto, baby-kale cashew salad, and a bottle of The Farm Chardonnay — up there.

The next morning we hit repeat: more coffee & breakfast & reading on the terrace, before heading back to Toronto. It was so nice to get away from the loft, and the city, and into some combination of luxury and nature.