“It does not stay the way it is”: Copenhagen, The Hague, and Amsterdam

Earlier this week we got back from 10ish days in Europe, with a couple of fun city visits wrapped around a work thing.

THURSDAY / Toronto

We were off to Copenhagen, and had a pretty good flight except when Lindsay’s chair rocketed backward and knocked wine all over the lady sitting behind her. Eep.

FRIDAY / Copenhagen

We landed in Copenhagen early Friday morning, had maybe the easiest customs entry ever, took a short (but expensive! no Uber here) cab ride downtown, and lurked around the bar at the Hotel Danmark until we could get into our AirBnB.

We grabbed a quick lunch at the Brewpub Copenhagen, where we became familiar with the ubiquity of smørrebrød (food piled on a single piece of bread). We had smoked salmon, potato & fried Norwegian lobster, and seasoned lamb. Oh, and their beers which were mostly named after musicians like Van Morrison, Cole Porter (get it?), and Jaco Pastorius.

After a quick nap back at the flat, Tess arrived from Gothenburg. We hung out for a bit, looked up decent places to eat, and settled on Aamanns 1921. We chose well, too, as that might have been the best meal of the whole trip: a tasting menu consisting of a beautiful raw salmon amuse bouche, hake (paired with a local Danish Solaris-based wine), an exquisite steak tartare, pork, lamb, and a lemon dessert. It was all of it fantastic.

SATURDAY / Copenhagen

We decided to go a bit further afield Saturday, catching a train out of town to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It’s in a beautiful green seaside spot, and building is as beautiful as the ground. Their collection was very good, but their special exhibitions were great, especially Liu Xiaodong’s Uummannaq. Only the Pipilotti Rist exhibit disappointed.

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Giacometti, Danish splendor

After returning to Copenhagen we grabbed snacks and waited for our next meal. This time they indulged me and let me lead us to Øl & Brød, Mikkeller’s food outpost. We each got the tasting menu once again:

  • a plate of cured meats, celeriac, and some cured duck (paired with a double dry hopped IPA)
  • danish potatoes with parsley & cavolo nero (paired with a witbier)
  • bread
  • braised pork shank, hispi cabbage, wild mushrooms & lingonberries (paired with a brown ale)
  • chocolate mousse, raspberry sorbet & burned chocolate (paired with stouts for Lindsay and I, and a wild ale named William for Tess)
  • a special bottle of sour

The pork shanks were Flintstone-esque in size, so we slowly walked home, groaning.

SUNDAY / Copenhagen

We scrounged up some breakfast at a nearby place, then went for a (cold, windy) walk around the city. We sat in the quiet park near the royal library (which was closed, sadly) and walked up the river to the colourful Nyhavn.

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We crossed the river, grabbed coffee at The Corner, and sat by the Strandgade watching people and dogs. Especially dogs.

We had lunch booked at Barr, which ended up being a real find. They take their beer very seriously there, and the decor (and view) were gorgeous. We ran through most of their food menu:

  • lumpfish roe w/ grilled belgian waffle and soured cream
  • hot smoked herring w/pickled plums, salted rhubarb and wild roses
  • beef tartare w/ ramson and pickles
  • danish pork meatball w/ lard, nutmeg and lingonberry compote
  • free-range pork schnitzel w/ horseradish and anchovies

The stars of the show, though, were the beers. Bokkeryeder is a cult figure in the beer world, and Barr is one of the few places that seems to carry his creations. We split a bottle of 2017 “Vlierbloesem” Lambic w/ elderflower, and it was sublime. We finished our meal with a Brekeriet “fruit salad” Berliner weisse.

One hurried walk back to the AirBnB later and Tess left us, bound for home. We spent a lazy afternoon there, recovering from one meal and thinking about the next. We were booked at Bæst, an Italian place in Nørrebro. We started with Negroni and sparkling, then went with the Bæst Experience Menu which came with pickles, the freshest mozzarella I’ve ever eaten, stracciatella with mushrooms, salads, five kinds of charcuterie, and two slices of pizza each. We paired it all with a killer bottle of Sangiovese. After, we ordered some gelato; my hazelnut was tasty, but Lindsay’s fior de latte gelato seemed to achieve the level of religious experience.

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MONDAY / Copenhagen -> The Hague

We had to get up early and roll out of the AirBnB, just as the weather was turning nice. A quick ride back to the airport and a bad lunch (we could not find the Mikkeller bar in CPH) later we walked straight onto our flight to Amsterdam.

The flight was short and easy, and we had a cushy ride from the airport to The Hague, where we checked into the Marriott. We hung out there for a bit, grabbing a drink and quick bite in the bar, before eventually heading into the town for dinner at Oogst. The vibe there was a little weird (it was a quiet Monday, I guess?) but the food made up for it.

  • Champagne
  • duck dumplings
  • Zeeland flat oysters w/ ginger & black pepper
  • Lamb’s lettuce w/ ‘Rotselaar’ goat cheese, anchovy & guindilla (Dan) / finely chopped beef w/ quail egg yolk (Lindsay)
  • Ketan rice w/ sesame & Provencal herbs (Dan) / ‘Aigo Bolido’ garlic soup from Aubrac w/ black pudding (Lindsay)
  • candied and fried ‘Miéral’ duck w/ kimchi, rillette & beurre blanc
  • a great bottle of Rioja that I forgot to write down
  • five (!) cheeses each for dessert, and glasses of port
  • some kind of weird peppermint-y sugar thing

All in all, a pretty good start to our brief stay in The Hague.

TUESDAY / The Hague

After some breakfast in the room and an early meeting for me, we departed the hotel to see a bit more of The Hague. We walked this time, stopped at a random Italian place for lunch (good food; crap service), down to the Binnehof, and eventually to the Maritshuis where we took in the stunning building and a lovely collection of paintings, including a couple of rooms of Rembrandts. We also had to fend off crowds of people only there to take a selfie with Vermeer‘s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Which is lovely, don’t get me wrong, but for the love of god people, at least look at it before you Instagram it.

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After that we traveled to another museum, this one just behind our hotel: the Gemeentemuseum. They have a huge collection of De Stijl works, some remarkable modern pieces (including a few by Louise Bourgeois like this beautiful spider couple), and had on a photography exhibition by Erwin Olaf which started strong but tailed off a bit. Still, a more-than-worthwhile visit.

That evening I had a work thing in a fancy alien greenhouse. Lindsay ordered room service. She won.

WEDNESDAY / The Hague

My conference took up most of the day, and my introversion demanded a quite dinner with Lindsay versus a fancy work event, so we made our way to Bouzy. We’d spotted it on our way to Oogst earlier in the week, and liked the look of it. It wasn’t our best meal, but it was what I needed.

  • bruschetta tomato, burrata
  • risotto, pumpkin, pea
  • gamba, aioli, crémolata
  • gravad lax, blinis, crème fraiche
  • insanely good homemade fries (seriously, that’s what they’re called on the menu)

THURSDAY / The Hague -> Amsterdam

I finished my conference shortly after noon, then Linds and I grabbed lunch at Brasserie Berlage behind the hotel before piling into a car for Amsterdam. We had elected to spend our first night in Amsterdam at the Conservatorium Hotel, where we stayed last fall. It remains in an entirely separate class of hotels in our mind, less a hotel than another world where everything is beautiful and just the right level of service — impeccable without being overbearing. We ordered a bottle of Rioja and unwound in the room.

After a while we roused our lazy selves and walked down the street for dinner at Rijks, the Michelin-starred restaurant attached to the Rijksmuseum. The vibe was a little weird, right from the outset. We couldn’t explain it; everything just felt off. It didn’t help that our server would disappear for great tracts of time. Anyway, we tried to rally.

The amuse (apart from the four small pieces of summer sausage sitting on the table) was a slice of pear dusted with pistachio. We had that, and the first course (scallop w/ radish, codium, and seaweed vinaigrette; cabbage points salad) with glasses of Champagne. The food so far was good, not great.

But then, the next two dishes — a millefeuille of beetroot w/ Tomasu 24-month beurre blanc & parsley oil, and a tartelette Rendang made w/ goat, sprouts, and granny smith apple — were both among the best things I’ve eaten all year. We finished with 400g of dry-aged Simmentaler ribeye, aged 4 weeks, and a bottle of Tuscan red.

I think there might have been dessert, but I don’t quite remember so it must not have been remarkable. So: not quite the experience we were hoping for, but I still dream about those two middle dishes.

FRIDAY / Amsterdam

We had another lie-in, determined to make the most out of our time in the room. Eventually we rolled downstairs to the brasserie in the lobby for their brunch. It’s stupidly expensive, but wow what quality. Superb food, but several awful other customers. Entitled finger-snappers, whiny Russians in luxe tracksuits, demanding table-snatchers…maybe the high price is to pay the staff to put up with it. Anyhoo.

We checked out, left our bags, and made our way to the Rijksmuseum. But then, on the way, we saw the lineup for tickets. Then we started doing some research, and realized that the access to the Rembrandt collection (all on display for the first time, apparently) was sold out for weeks. We decided it wasn’t worth it, and instead visited the Stedelik just down the museumplein, which was very worth it. It was filled with modern art, much of which Lindsay knew, and we spent a grand total of five or six hours (!) there across multiple floors, which a yummy lunch just ’round the corner at Blushing in between.

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We grabbed our bags from the hotel and (very painfully) acquired an Uber to drive us a little ways across town to our next hotel: The Hoxton. This one had a beautiful view of the Herengracht.

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We didn’t have much time to enjoy it though, as we were off to dinner at Envy. I’ve had my eye on this place since my first visit to Amsterdam 7 years ago, and finally booked it. I’m glad we did too: it beat the pants off the Michelin-starred restaurant the night before in both food and atmosphere, even with the awkward couples on either side of us. We got the six-course tasting menu:

  • an amuse of liquid beetroot inside white chocolate, which was phenomenal
  • sausage & bread (not part of the menu; just something we wanted)
  • spicy beef tartare
  • mussels w/ bacon, dill
  • cod w/ chanterelles, pumpkin
  • lamb shoulder w/ parsnip, parsley
  • yogurt w/ caramel, blueberry
  • bread pudding

The walk home, in the warm weather we’ve been missing for months, was almost as good as that meal.

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SATURDAY / Amsterdam

Again, we were slow getting out of bed, but you know…vacation. We had some breakfast downstairs at Lotti’s, then set out to see more of the city. After a stop at a coffee shop we started with Dan’s agenda: hitting beer places I’d never been to before. We hit Café Brecht, which started out incredibly well because of the delightfully ramshackle decor, but quickly got insanely busy, so we escaped after a piadina and a brezel and some beers.

Next up was Café de Spuyt where drank some excellent beers, chatted with the bartender, and listened to some excellent music. After some time there we walked on to Beer Loves Food, which is owned by the same people as past-visit-favs Beertemple and Craft & Draft. Again, we hit it just before it got really busy, and managed to have some interesting and challenging beers, plus some crazy petatje rendang (fries covered in spicy beef) to fill our soggy bellies.

We walked home the long way, seeing just enough of the Centraal / De Wallen area for Lindsay to know she wanted to get away from the crowds, and home we went. We’d had quite a day so we just went to the room, did some packing, ordered room service burgers and champagne, and called it a night. We were done in.

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SUNDAY / Amsterdam -> Toronto

Blah same blah: pack, airport, flight (I watched Widows and then worked for five hours), and then: home. We were gone less than 10 days, but it felt like three weeks.

DC

Last weekend we flew to Washington, DC. Lindsay was speaking at a conference. I tagged along.

THURSDAY

We got an early Porter flight out, arrived at Dulles airport, and Uber’d through a severe rainstorm to the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, MD. That town is just down the Potomac River from DC and seemed like some kind of weird manufactured resort town. Literally within sight of downtown. Anyway.

 We desperately needed lunch, and walked around the corner to Succotash for some…well, maybe not southern, but southern-inspired food. We had cocktails (Lindsay: mint julep; me: Succotash / Maker’s Mark private select bourbon), oysters, crispy fried okra, hush puppies, a dirty chicken Cobb salad (her), and fried chicken sandwich (me). I also found a tasty Troegs Brewing “Javahead” stout on the bottle list.

Thus sated, we walked back to the hotel, watched some March Madness, and did a bunch of work. With some napping added in.

Eventually we needed dinner, and walked downstairs to Old Hickory, the steakhouse in the resort. We weren’t expecting much, but we were pretty pleasantly surprised. We had some champagne, followed by Lindsay’s lobster bisque w/ sherry reduction, citrus crème, crostini and my butternut squash soup w/ cinnamon & black pepper meringue, paired with a couple of California chards. Our mains came out much more quickly than we expected, so we didn’t quite have room for the 7oz waygu center cut sirloin and 22oz (!) cowboy ribeye we ordered (along with french fries and asparagus), and the bottle of 2015 Trefethen Family cab sauv we ordered barely had time to breathe. Aside: I met the Trefethen family nearly six years ago, while on safari in Botswana. Was never able to try their wine until now.

FRIDAY

Mostly work, day two was, within Linds prepping for or at her conference talk, and I working or calling into meetings. As soon as we were done we left that weird little village and took an Uber into DC proper, driving through a crazy rain/sleet storm along the way. Eventually we arrived at our home for the next two nights: The Line DC.

Hotels don’t often blow me away, but this one did. It’s built in a century-old church (which resembled a temple, to my eyes), has style coming out its eaves, and attracted huge crowds of diners and hangers-out. They broadcast/podcast content from their lobby. Their rooms are gorgeous. Their dining options are all superhotspots. Even their coffee shop was killer.

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After checking in we had snacks (french fries w/ yuzu aioli, nori; burrata w/ shishito peppers, persimmons) and some cocktails at Brothers & Sisters in the lobby while we waited for Lindsay’s friend Shannon to arrive. Once she got there we had drinks in our room and caught up until it was time for dinner (downstairs, again) at their main restaurant, A Rake’s Progress.

We ate potato gnocchi w/ braised rabbit, glazed roots, shiitake, and winter herbs; lobster tagliatelle w/ shiitake and lobster butter; kilt greens w/ crisped ham, spelt crumb, egg, and hot bacon mustard dressing; an enormous pork blade steak (chopped up) w/ steamed buns and pickled ingredients…basically a bunch of bao ingredients; and a bottle of 2016 Lioco “Estero” Chardonnay from the Russian River valley.

Our server, by the way, was a phenomenon. She guided our choices, she was an utter delight in terms of fun and demeanor, and it actually felt like she took such care of/with us. The three of us told her that our dinner felt like therapy. Anyway, I’m gutted that I can’t remember her name, because she was a goddamn treasure. 

From there, Shannon stumbled into an Uber, and we stumbled upstairs to bed.

SATURDAY

We had pre-ordered room service, and it was the best hotel breakfast we’ve had since Champagne. That fit nicely with our leisurely morning, just enjoying the room, until we eventually scooted downtown. We decided to see what was on at the Hirshhorn. Lots of good stuff, as it turned out, including the latest in Rafael Lozano-Hemmer‘s Pulse series. Much of that was lovely, but the experience was ruined for us when two huge families had a get-together followed by a fucking proposal. This they did while whooping and hollering and illuminating the scene with their phones, all in a room where the very exhibit calls for quiet and darkness. What utter trash. Pull it together, morons.

Anyway.

After that (and the rest of the museum, which was all pretty impressive) we grabbed a late lunch at The Partisan, the only nearby place which my beer research had flagged. It’s attached to a butcher shop, so all the meat we had was spot-on. I had a chicken that had been brined, rotisseried, and then deep fried in beef fat; Lindsay had an Italian sandwich the size of her head. We each sampled deeply from their excellent beer list.

Luckily, the National Portrait Gallery is right around the corner, so we had enough energy left to do that. We saw some good work there, like a statue of Gertrude Stein or a brain-breakingly photo-realistic painting of Maya Angelou. We also saw so many more morons…the kind of people who wait in line to take a picture of themselves in front of the presidential portrait of Barack Obama, without ever actually looking at it. Or, more egregiously, the Instagram couple who kept striking poses in front of Nam June Paik‘s Electronic Superhighway (link) to the point where you couldn’t even get close to Florida or Georgia. Picture this type of pose, but much much cheesier and worse:

Sigh.

Back to the hotel, then. Shannon joined us for dinner again, this time meeting us at a used bookstore around the corner, and we decided to try our restaurant — Tail Up Goat — early in case they could seat us. 

On the walk there we passed Malcolm Gladwell and a friend. I pointed that out to Shannon and Lindsay, and we proceeded to shit-talk his writing methods. I mean, he’s entertaining, and I love his podcasts, but the way he extrapolates trends out of anecdotes drives me nuts. Lindsay and Shannon had other criticisms. Anyway, we walk around the corner and into the restaurant. I held the door for the people who’d been walking behind us and realize…it’s Malcolm Gladwell. They’d been looking for the same restaurant, and walked behind us for the last hundred feet or so. And, presumably, heard all our comments. Cool. Cool. Ugh.

Sadly, or luckily, they did not have our table ready. Michelin-starred restaurants don’t have much vacancy; who knew? We walked back to our room, drank a little wine, and eventually returned to find our table waiting. And about ten feet from our fellow Canadian. We shook it off, and focused on dinner.

Which. Was. AWESOME, by the way. We started with cocktails (I don’t know what my companions got, but mine was called the Alright Alright Alright and I must have said it twelve times. Anyhoo. Here’s what we ate & drank:

  • berbere sausage w/ apple mostarda, puffed flax seed
  • focaccia w/ meatballs, stracciatella, almond pesto trapanese, aronia berry vinegar, basil
  • yellowfin tuna crudo w/ pomelo, pine nut syrup, basil, fennel pollen chicharrones
  • casarecce pasta w/ ramp sausage, pea shoots, pecorino, carrot + chili honey, aleppo breadcrumbs
  • seared halibut w/ acqua pazza, fermented + pickled fennel, salsa verde, calabrian chilies
  • a bottle of Chablis; I don’t remember exactly which, but we bugged the sommelier for some time before arriving on it, and I tried to change her mind about Gewurztraminer by telling her about the Klipfel Clos Zisser Grand Cru.
  • for dessert Shannon had tea, Lindsay had Madeira, and I had something I’d never tried before: a glass of Keo St. John Commandaria from Cyprus

We closed the joint down. Mercifully, Gladwell was already gone. We stumbled home and tried to watch a bedtime Jeopardy but I was asleep before Johnny had finished welcoming Alex.

SUNDAY

After another stellar breakfast we packed up. Lindsay headed to Shannon’s place to hang out; I decided to see some of Washington. I saw the Lincoln MemorialVietnam Veteran’s MemorialKorean War Veterans MemorialMartin Luther King Jr MemorialWWII MemorialNational Monument, and a bit of the National Gallery. It was sunny and 20° so I stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for a while looking at the reflecting pool, and walked the whole way along the mall. What a day.

Afterward I was thirsty, so I went back to The Partisan.

I killed more of their beer list until it was time to Uber back to The Line, grab our luggage, get one last coffee at The Cup We All Race 4 in the lobby, call another Uber, pick up Lindsay, and head to the airport. We had a bite and some wine at the Vino Volo there (the first I’d ever seen), found our gate, endured the short-but-felt-long flight home, and crashed into bed.

In short: we like DC. Not National Harbor so much, but definitely DC. Adams-Morgan (where our hotel was) was a strange beast of a neighbourhood, but the city has a lot of green space and great restaurants and sights to see. And a good friend.

Little rest in store for us weary travelers though — we’ll be over the Atlantic by midnight Thursday.

.:.

Cover photo taken inside Rafael Lozano-Hemmer‘s Pulse exhibit at the Hirshhorn. And no, I did not use flash.

“It’s pronounced colonel. It’s the highest rank in the military.”

This past weekend we drove down to Ithaca, NY. In part to check out Cornell, in part to check out the town itself, and a little bit to check out the drive there and back. Just in case it becomes a regular thing.

We took the scenic (read: non-toll) route there, which led us through some scary country. More than one Trump sign. Ugh. Not a good start.

Finally we pulled into Ithaca, checked in to the Marriott on the Commons, and set out to find some lunch. And, more importantly: beer. We hit the Ithaca Alehouse, ate some great burgers, drank some good beers, and had a long conversation with a local guy named Mike. Turns out he’s a musician / actor / comedian / etc. named Mike Brindisi. He calmed our fears about the town, confirming what we thought, that it’s not unlike the Austin of New York State. So we felt a bit better.

Mike told us about a good restaurant — Gola — to try that night, and we made a reservation. A few hours later, though, Lindsay felt sick. Then sicker. Then pukey. Then…post-pukey. Maybe the burgers weren’t so great after all? So we didn’t go out to dinner at all, just had them send up some plain food (and a few local microbrews for me) and got some rest.

The next day, after a big breakfast at Monk’s and some shopping at Home Green Home and a quick stroll around the rest of the commons, we had lunch at Coltivare. Or, brunch, rather. It was a cute place with a jazz band playing, but the service was off and all the menu items were creative to the point of being misleading. Like, the chicken and biscuits I almost ordered were actually just biscuits covered in gravy. And Lindsay’s gravlox & carrot wasn’t salmon, it was carrot shaved and smoked and sliced to look like salmon. So…yeah. Anyway, it wasn’t bad, but it felt like a bit of a (pricey) miss.

On the way home we bought some used books at Autumn Leaves and bought coffee at Ten Forward (definitely the only Star Trek-themed vegan cafe I’ve visited), dropped everything at the hotel, and drove up to the Cornell campus to visit the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. After that we crossed the street to see the waterfalls, which are We stuck our head into the Uris library too, which is gorgeous.

That night Lindsay had a dinner at Simeon’s so I posted up at the bar at Monk’s, ate dinner, plowed through their (very good) beer list, met a Cape Bretoner (!) at the bar next to me, listened to music (it was St. Paddy’s), and waited for Lindsay to get back. The night ended with more drinks and long heartfelt talks with the Caper’s wife. Anyway. Happy St. Paddy’s?

Monday we (somehow) got up early, had more breakfast, and drove back up to Cornell for more appointments. While Lindsay had her meetings I walked back to said gorgeous library, set myself down on a couch at the window, and worked for a couple of hours. Not a bad venue!

With that done we said goodbye to Ithaca in hardcore-American style — burgers and shakes at Five Guys — and drove home. We took toll roads this time, which took us up and along the shore of Cayuga Lake, which was far more picturesque than the drive down. Apart from a whiteout along the way, it was a pretty solid return trip.

Fun trip, if kinda tiring. Whatever happens next, at least we’ve seen Ithaca. And the colonel.

More Hawksmoor

I spent the better part of my last week in London. Mostly for work, but I squeezed in a little fun as well.

I flew out Saturday morning. The cost to upgrade to premium economy had been more than reasonable, which made the flight pretty easy — I watched a movie and got tons of work done. After landing I had my easiest ever escape from Heathrow; the customs line had four people in it. I’ve spent hours in that line before.

After a long Uber ride downtown I checked into the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge. I got some room service, including a fair bit of judgment when I ordered a bottle of wine with only one glass. Anyway.

I had the next day free (it was about $1000 cheaper to fly out Saturday vs. Sunday, so it saved the company money, but also gave me a day to hang out in London…wins everywhere.) and forced my tired self up at 8am, ate a big breakfast in the room, and went for a bit of a walk. I walked down the Thames toward Southbank, then crossed and doubled back toward Westminster, passed Big Ben (currently shrouded in scaffolding) and Westminster Abbey, along Victoria, ducking off to walk past Westminster Cathedral, and crossing Vauxhall. I grabbed an espresso at The Roasting and reveled in the opportunity to enjoy it outdoors, knowing full well that it was going to be -20 or so back in Toronto that week.

I was getting hungry again, so I went round the corner to one of the top-rated beer places in London: Cask Pub & Kitchen. I sampled four excellent craft beers and ate a roast chicken lunch that nearly killed me.

I walked back to the hotel via the Lambeth bridge, and — for the first time in months, probably — did almost nothing. Read some articles. Watched a movie. Willed my body to digest beer-soaked chicken and Yorkshire pudding. It was nice.

I’d booked a late dinner at a new location of a steak place I’ve been to twice now: Hawksmoor. This time I walked the thirty minutes, past Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square, to the Seven Dials location. I took my table and jumped right to it, foregoing starters or cocktails for the main event: a 400g (14oz) ribeye, cooked rare with bearnaise sauce on the side, with a side of maple-roasted parsnips & bacon, all paired with 500ml of a Duero red. I finished it all off with a glass of Sauternes. The whole meal was great, but the steak might have been one of the best I’ve ever eaten.

My conference started Monday. I’d had plans to meet up with my friend Tom after, but work intruded. I made do by seeking out a nearby beer place: Beerhawk, in Southbank. I had a pile of fantastic craft, and a delicious little toastie made with pastrami.

On Tuesday I didn’t want another conference lunch, so I skipped outside looking for another option. I happened upon a little wine bar, Unwined in Waterloo, and had a brilliant lunch. It was the first day for the new chef, so the Instagram shot below was the exact special that ended up in front of me seconds later — a flatbread with chicken, spinach, peppers, halloumi, sriracha, and yogurt. I had an amazing glass of Georgian wine, then followed it up with a fried chicken slider and glass of Australian chard.

That night, through a bit of luck and good timing, I was able to have dinner with brother #2! He was in London for a conference of his own, which was scheduled well after my trip was set up, so it all worked out. He lives in Egypt now, and was craving certain kinds of meat, and I figured…screw it, let’s do another Hawksmoor. We met at the location in Knightsbridge, and ate yet another killer meal. I had scallops with an Alsatian Pinot Gris, then the filet. We split a bottle of 2005 Rioja, which lasted us through a cheese dessert course.

Wednesday was my last day — I finished up at the conference, got to the airport, sped through in (again) record time, hung out in the lounge, and flew home. The flight wasn’t quite as enjoyable this time, given the occupants of the neighbouring seats, but I zipped through Pearson and into an Uber home. I was tired and cold and a little jet lagged, but really happy to be home.

.:.

Cover photo taken inside Beerhawk.

The sad ballad of Air Canada

Back in October, when I wrote up the story of our trip to Amsterdam and Sweden getting off to a rocky start when we didn’t notice that Lindsay’s passport expired in 86 days (the cut-off is 90 days) I hinted at the frustration we encountered trying to fix the issue with Air Canada:

We went home, dejected, and resolved to re-plan things. We then spent the next four hours on the phone with Air Canada, switching to (much worse) flights, and getting truly and completely fucked. I won’t dwell on that here. They’re still, two weeks later, being utterly unresponsive assholes.

Anyway.

Clearly I was upset back then. But now, more than fifteen weeks later, they’re still being unresponsive, so I’ve decided to post full story here. What follows below is a chronological history of my interactions with them.

TL;DR version: our screw-up meant we had to change our outbound flight (and we paid that fare difference) but AC’s busted system forced us to change our return flight too for some reason, and then charged us for worse seats on that flight. Almost four months later they’ve done nothing to fix this, despite promises from their agents that they would.

==========================================================

Oct 14, 2018, 9:25 AM: My original complaint, filed the morning after

–MESSAGE–
Subject: Unfair fees and changes due to system problems
Message: Hello/bonjour,

Yesterday my partner and I were turned away at the airport due to one of our passports expiring in less than 90 days. The Air Canada agent we were dealing with assured us there was a note on our file that would allow us to re-book when we had confirmation of passport renewal. Thankfully, we called Air Canada in the evening anyway – to find out that there was no indication of this on our file, and that, had we not called, the value of the flight would have been lost.

After speaking with a phone agent for 20 minutes, we felt optimistic that the situation could be resolved. Given the unfortunate nature of our circumstance (I had surprised my partner on her birthday, not realizing her passport was less than 90 days out, exp. Jan 7) she offered to wave the change fee on the flight and charge only the difference in cost. We were prepared to re-book for Monday night. After putting us on hold for an hour, she hung up on us.

We called Air Canada back, at this point having been on the phone with either the system or an agent for over two hours, and reached someone new. She revealed that the previous agent had made a series of false promises – that not only would we have to pay a change fee, your system would force us to change our return flight if we were to change our outbound flight. Furthermore, we would not be able to keep our premium economy seats on the return flight (a flight we never wished to change in the first place), and would incur a $326.54 cost per ticket to downgrade to economy. This felt entirely unfair, and the agent agreed.

After four hours on the phone with your agents (three of which were spent on hold), I was made to spend $1,200 only to lose two premium economy seats that were already booked. From what we were told, this was not within the agent’s discretion, and was instead forced by the Air Canada system.

Given this incredibly poor and frustrating customer experience, I would expect that:

  1. the $600 in change fees would be refunded directly – the second agent we spoke with gave us a guarantee that this would be refunded by contacting you
  2. the $653.08 fare difference on return flight (which we never wanted to change) would be refunded directly, as this was your system issue – also guaranteed by the second agent we spoke with
  3. upgraded seats on our return flight of October 21, or compensation/credit for the cost difference, as this was also due to your system issues
  4. compensation/credit for the egregious time spent on hold, in addition to the false promises of the desk agent and first contact centre agent, the latter of which also hung up on us after an hour of waiting on hold

The second agent we spoke with last night was very understanding, and was doing everything she could to resolve the system issues resulting in additional fees. She suggested only you would have the authority to right these wrongs, but that there would be ample notes made in the file to indicate what occurred.

Thank you in advance for your assistance. I look forward to your reply.

.:.

Oct 14, 2018, 9:27 AM: Auto-response from Air Canada

We appreciate your feedback. You can rest assured that an Air Canada representative will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience as you wait to hear from us.

Please note that this automated message confirms we have received your message and there is no need to re-submit your information. We’re on it!

Your case number is: XXX-XXXXXXXX-XXXXXX

.:.

Oct 22, 2018, 6:34 PM: Follow-up #1

It’s been eight days since I sent my message about this series of issues, and I haven’t heard anything. When can I expect a response?

.:.

Nov 14, 2018, 1:00 PM: Follow-up #2

It’s now been a full month since I sent this message. Can I expect an answer ANYTIME soon? Absent one, I feel as if I have no further recourse other than to go to the media.

.:.

Dec 10, 2018, 8:19 AM: Follow-up #3

It has been TWO MONTHS since I sent this message, with no response. If I do not hear back by Thursday of this week I’m emailing the CBC.

.:.

Dec 10, 2018, 11:56 AM: after two months of silence, Air Canada replies within four hours of my mentioning the media

Dear Mr. Dickinson,

Thank you for your email. I apologize for the delay in response as we are experiencing higher than normal claims volumes at this time. We appreciate your understanding and patience. I am pleased to forward your request to our Refunds Department on your behalf. An Air Canada Refunds Representative will review this refund application. Please allow a minimum of 3 weeks for your request to be processed.

Your Claim Id is: XXXXXX

Your Confirmation Number is: XXXXXX

If you wish to check the status of your request, please visit: https://refundservices.business.conduent.com/AirCanada/Refunds/Search

We regret your disappointment in the experience but we hope you understand that we have made an honest effort to address the situation. We look forward to the opportunity to welcome you onboard again in the future in hopes of impressing you more favorably.
Sincerely,

XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX
Customer Relations

.:.

Mon, Jan 14, 10:30 PM: Follow-up #4

It’s now been 5 weeks since you said I should expect an answer in 3 weeks, and more than 8 weeks* since I experienced this issue. In my last email I stated I would reach out to the media if this wasn’t resolved quickly. I gave you the benefit of the doubt, only to be disappointed again. If I don’t receive a response and refund this week as per my original message, I will contact the CBC.

[* note that my math was wrong here. It was more like 13 weeks.]

.:.

Jan 27, 2019, 10:57 AM: Follow-up #5

Unfortunately you’ve left me no choice. As it’s been 15 weeks since my initial email with no remedy, I emailed the CBC’s Go Public team this morning.

==========================================================

So, to recap, I asked for four things:

  1. Refund of the change fees. Granted, this was our fault, and technically Air Canada didn’t have to pay it. I fully expected to, but the first Air Canada agent I spoke to said she’d waive the fee. And the second agent guaranteed Air Canada customer care would refund it. They have not.
  2. Refund of the change fees. Maybe the most frustrating part of all this was being forced to pay a fare difference to downgrade to a return flight we did not want, for reasons that were — by the agent’s own admission — 100% the fault of the Air Canada system. Again, the second agent promised the customer care team would refund this. They have not.
  3. Upgraded return flight. I was hopelessly naive when I hoped they would remedy something within a week, as nearly four months later they still have not. And not to be too whiny about it, but the return flight in Economy (versus Premium Economy, which we’d booked) was rough. I described it thus: “Our flight home was pretty brutal. We were sitting in Economy because Air Canada fucking sucks, and everyone around us — elbowers, pocket stuffers, leaners-back, knee-bashers all — annoyed the bejeezus out of us.”
  4. Compensation/credit. I figured they’d give us future flight credit, or Aeroplan points…just, something to make up for the egregious time spent on hold, being hung up on by the first agent, the extra flight leg to Amsterdam, the overall poor experience, carrying the credit charge for this long, etc. But no…they have not.

Do better, Air Canada.

.:.

Feb 4, 2019, 1:35 PM: Finally, a response. BUT!

So, Air Canada replied today. It has done little to change my mood.

Dear Mr. Dickinson,

Thank you for your correspondence, regarding the travel … on board Air Canada.

We know our customers expect to arrive on time and enjoy a comfortable flight, while also being provided exceptional customer service during all interactions with us. I am sorry to learn of the inconvenience you faced on this travel.

I am [redacted], and I have reviewed your travel in detail, for further response. I will be advising on the collection of the change fees, and the adcol, as well as, the reason behind it. Also, while I am unable to offer a refund for the charges, I will be offering goodwill compensation.

A review of your travel shows, that your companion and yourself were booked for October 13th, 2018, to travel from Toronto to Amsterdam. These tickets were purchased on August 19th, 2018. At the time of purchase, the fare rules are provided and only once the passengers agree to them, a transaction is completed.

While we can issue the ticket as requested, Air Canada does not verify the validity of travel documents, as these are the responsibility of the passenger.

I regret that you did not confirm the validity of the travel documents of your companion, and the requirements of the arrival country.

Our conditions of carriage and applicable tariffs state “The passenger shall comply with all laws, regulations, orders, demands, or travel requirements of countries to be flown from, into or over, and with all rules, regulations, and instructions of carrier.” “No liability shall attach to carrier if carrier in good faith determines that what it understands to be applicable law, government regulation, demand, order or requirement, requires that it refuse and it does refuse to carry a passenger.”

We sympathize with your situation, however, if a passenger is refused travel due to invalid travel documents, the usual fare rules apply.

Upon review of your ticket, I can see that the collection of change fees and adcol were in accordance with your purchased ticket’s fare rules. In accordance with the fare rules, and to remain fair and consistent with all our customers, we are unable to offer any refund.

While I am unable to undo the experience you both had, as a gesture of exceptional goodwill, I am happy to offer a CAD 600.00 eCoupon for each of you. For ease of use, I have combined it into one CAD 1200.00 eCoupon. Redemption details are below.

Once again, Mr.Dickinson, please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience experienced. Although we did not leave you with a favorable impression on this occasion, we truly hope for another opportunity to provide you with a much more positive travel experience in the future.

So, first of all, I had to google “adcol” to find out that it means “additional collection”. Such is the extent to which AC will go to avoid saying “fees”.

Also, it’s infuriating that their answer was to lecture me about not verifying the passport info before I left. I know that was the root issue. I acknowledged that. I never would have asked for reversal of that change fee (sorry…adcol) if the agent hadn’t offered to waive it. But she did.

Second, their response does nothing to address the fact that THEIR system issue forced a change to our return flight, for which I was charged $653 to sit in worse seats on a longer flight.

Honestly, I would have been happier with a $653 refund and an acknowledgment of their screw-up than I am with this $1200 credit.

I haven’t decided yet whether to push back on them, but honestly, I doubt I’ll have the energy. It took four months just to get ANY answer from them, and I can’t imagine starting that process again. So, well done Air Canada: your relentlessly abysmal customer service has beaten down yet another victim.

Maybe.

Ex xmas 2018

We got back last night from Nova Scotia, having spent two weeks there over the holidays. We shuttled back and forth between Bedford and West Brook, and into Halifax a few times to see family.

We saw some deer. We had a very efficient afternoon of Christmas shopping. We watched most of Killing Eve in one day. We tried a new (to us) coffee place called The Nook. We drank nog. We caught up with Tess & Kealin (Lindsay had dinner with them at Lot Six). We opened many amazing gifts, and had a lovely turkey dinner at Lindsay’s grandmother’s place on what turned out to be, briefly, a white Christmas. We had a Dickinson family reunion in Halifax, followed by a party near St. Margaret’s Bay. We did great amounts of relaxing, eating, and playing crib at the farm. We scratched dogs. We bought my parents a new coffee maker and relived our youth at Pizza Delight. We observed the assembly of a Lego First Order walker. We had a quiet New Year’s Eve in as Lindsay had been fighting a cold the whole time. (Still is.) We had a very hairy ride to the airport and got hit with some baggage weight overage fees, but then a nice lady pulled us out of the huge security line and sped us through and we’re still not sure why. We drank lovely wine at Vino Volo. We had some flight delays, but still made it home in time to relax, order some food, and coo at Kramer before crashing very hard into our own bed.

We’re taking today off work to slowly ease back into reality, but it seems to be coming at us faster than we might like.

Sweden (with a touch of Dutch)

Saturday 13th

Yeah, so we had this whole lovely trip planned, with a healthy dose of three different cities over nine days. But it didn’t work out that way.

We got to the airport, all packed and fresh and ready to go to Amsterdam, but were turned away at the counter. Why? ‘Cause Lindsay’s passport expired in 85 days, and the cutoff to get into Europe is 90. Argh. Arrrrgggghhhh. We went home, dejected, and resolved to re-plan things. We then spent the next four hours on the phone with Air Canada, switching to (much worse) flights, and getting truly and completely fucked. I won’t dwell on that here. They’re still, two weeks later, being utterly unresponsive assholes.

Anyway.

Sunday 14th

We quickly learned the emergency passport renewal method and made arrangements, wrote a scathing but polite email to Air Canada, went for a walk, made amazing breakfast sandwiches, started season 3 of Fargo (imdb) and generally had…a pretty amazing day, to be honest.

Monday 15th

We were among the first people at the passport office, ready to go. Not long after the process was underway, and we were out getting some breakfast at Over Easy, bonding with our waiter from BC who liked to make fun of Bedford NS, so he was okay in our books. We went home, did a few more errand-y things, watched more Fargo, and then traveled back to the passport office to pick up the shiny new version. While over there we decided to get some lunch. We went a little on the fancy side, hitting Richmond Station (!) for a luxurious meal, rolled home, and made for the airport.

We had no issues and sped through security, so we took advantage of the lounge right next to our gate, and wandered down just in time to walk on to our flight. We boarded, settled in, picked some movies to watch…and then the captain came on and told us we’d have to get off the plane due to mechanical issues.

God a’mighty, were we ever going to get to Amsterdam?!?!

Actually, as it turns out, this mechanical snafu was a blessing. We’d been scheduled for a 5-hour stop in Frankfurt; better we hang out in a Pearson lounge for a few hours and shorten that layover. We had a little more food and drink, watched another episode of Fargo, and got back on the replacement plane. We left just after midnight, and had a relatively easy flight. I watched Sicario: Day of the Soldado and then tried to zonk out.

Tuesday 16th

We landed in Frankfurt around midday, with just enough time to have a currywurst, pretzel, and beer.

We hopped our short flight to Amsterdam (finally!) and arrived to find a gorgeous fall day. Our hotel, the Conservatorium, was beyond stunning.

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We went for a short walk around the neighbourhood, crossed a canal or two, and strolled back to the hotel via the Rijksmuseum and Museumplein. We had a dinner to go to, in the hotel, and we needed to freshen up after some long flights.

Said dinner was at Taiko and was, in a word, amazing. The courses:

  • sprouting soy, uni, yuzu / tom kha yen, dutch prawns, black garlic / lobster, sake granite, pistachio (Schoffit tradition Muscat)
  • blue fin, taiko soy, wasabi, kombucha, akami tuna, chuu toro, oo toro (Domaine des Baumard Clos de St Yves Chenin)
  • cèpes, cappuccino, egg foam, mushroom xo (Taiko no Izanai sake)
  • scallops, Nikka whisky, chestnut on the barrel (Uva Mira Stellenbosch Chardonnay)
  • tofu mabre, apple, miso, umeshu
  • Cantonese style beef, oyster sauce / Chirashi beef tartare, cèpes / veal bulgogi, korean pickles (Pavillon de Taillefer St Emilion Merlot)
  • black sesame, passion fruit, pavlova (Enate Gewurztraminer)
  • soy leaf, miso, dark chocolate, hazelnut (Avreo vino de licor)

That cappuccino of cèpes (which I learned is the French word for Porcini mushrooms) was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

Wednesday 17th

Sadly our time in Amsterdam was already at an end, so we were up and out way too early. I grabbed pastries from a bakery down the street, then we packed and left, looking longingly at that gorgeous hotel.

Our flight to Stockholm was unremarkable, as was the drive into the city from Arlanda. Our hotel, Miss Clara, was no Conservatorium, but it was lovely nonetheless. We grabbed lunch in the restaurant downstairs, and then had a big old nap, on account of being freaking exhausted. We didn’t get up until shortly before dinner.

Our meal was at Ekstedt, a small Michelin-starred restaurant that uses a lot of open fires and stone ovens in its preparation, most of which you can see from your table. It was among the very best meals I’ve ever eaten in my life. Like, top three probably. I enjoyed it so much I forgot to note the wine pairings; a shame as they were presented with such care and precision.

  • diced reindeer heart cooked in herbed butter boiling in a heated stone mortar
  • birch flamed lobster, forest mushrooms and celeriac
  • oysters, cooked Basque style
  • dried deer, leek, Vendace roe and charcoal cream
  • housemade bread + butter
  • hay-flamed beef, leafy greens and salsify
  • juniper-smoked pike-perch, cabbage and knotted wrack
  • charcoal grilled pork, chanterelle and kohlrabi
  • wood oven baked almond cake, apple and caramel

That hay-flamed beef will also go down as one of the best things I’ve eaten all year. Two amazing flavours on consecutive nights…what a trip.

Thursday 18th

Following such an epic meal, we had a bit of a lie-in, to the point of being problematic — we missed breakfast. We reckoned we’d find something at our first stop — the Moderna Museet and ArkDes — and we did: Café Blom. It was almost lunchtime when we got there though, so we both ended up having these very amazing, but very hearty bowls filled with vegetables and quinoa and salmon. Strange breakfast, but it gave us some energy. Also: decent cortado.

We bypassed the Andy Warhol exhibit and instead checked out some of the architecture and design exhibits in ArkDes, like Public Luxury, and the museum’s permanent collection, which was more impressive than either of us expected. As we started our walk back toward the city (the museum’s on one of the islands that makes up Stockholm) we noticed a permanent exhibit of works by Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely. It turns out there are installations all around the building, but we just happened upon this one, and Lindsay recognized the artists’ work from a distance.

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We walked back across the Skeppsholmsbron and then across the Strömbron to Gamla Stan. I thought it would be historic; it was more touristy. We did buy some cool prints at e.torndahl to bring home and hang, but other than that we sped through on our way to Sodermalm. We had beer to drink.

Akkurat has a 100 rating on ratebeer, which is saying something. Their bottle list is deep and wide and, honestly, pretty daunting. First we ordered a bottle of 2014 Oude Quetsche Tilquin à L’Ancienne from the cellar. Then I had an Edge “Joli” milk stout; Lindsay had a Rauchbier. Finally we each got a glass of the sour stout Rullquin. So damn good.

We Ubered back to the hotel, relaxed for a bit, then had pizza at Giro. It was the first of a surprising number of pizzas we ate in Sweden, but it was also damn good. It was also a simple, nearby option on a night when we didn’t have much energy left in us.

Friday 19th

Lindsay’s birthday! We had some (pretty extravagant) breakfast in bed as a mini-celebration before packing and showering and heading to the train station. We timed it perfectly too: walked in, found the platform, and waited there maybe a minute before our train pulled in. We were off to Gothenburg to see the city and Lindsay’s old friend Tess. We worked and read and enjoyed the scenery outside our window, which looked for all the world like Nova Scotia.

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Three hours later we pulled in and found Tess waiting for us. One très expensive taxi ride later we arrived at our AirBnb, which was…amazing. Like, beautiful. We all wanted to move in immediately. Such a great home base, in a cool neighbourhood (Olivedal/Haga).

We went in search of lunch, settling quickly on Brewers Beer Bar, which was both on my list of beer joints and recommended by our AirBnB host. It was the perfect choice — cool atmosphere, fun servers, killer pizzas (again!), and a short but unreal beer list. I had an Electric Nurse “White Skull” imperial milk stout and an AleSmith Hawaiian Speedway stout. Both were utterly fantastic.

We went back to our killer AirBnB to hang out, introduce Tess to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and relax before dinner, which was another big one. SK Mat also has a Michelin star, and we went full 8-course + premium wine selection. When in Gothenburg, right?

Unfortunately I forgot to steal a tasting menu, and the restaurant promised me they’d email it to me but didn’t. That’s a particular problem, because after eight glasses of wine (plus champagne to start) our memories of the night are a little fuzzy. I do remember a pretty spectacular glass of Grenache blanc, and that the meal as a whole was fab. But, uh, not much else. Happy birthday Linds!

UPDATE: the restaurant emailed me with our tasting menu. Except…we don’t think it’s quite our tasting menu. It’s close, but…whatever. Close enough. Gives you an 85-90% accurate view of what we ate.

  • Smoked trout roe with elderflower, fennel and potato crisp (Frank Millet, Sancerre, Sauvignon blanc, Vielle vignes, France, Loire, 2016)
  • Salad with artichokes, quinoa, miso and grated yolk (La Spinetta, Vermentino, Italy, Toscana, 2017)
  • Halibut with vinegar, horseradish and raw shrimps (Juliusspital, silvaner, iphöpfer kronsberg, Germany Franken, 2016)
  • Scallop with broccoli, green tomatoes and oysterfoam. (Famille Perrin, Chateau de Beaucastel Blanc, Roussanne, Grenache blanc, France, Rhône valley, Chateau-neuf-du-pape, 2014)
  • Arctic char with beets, browned butter and hazelnuts (Bernard-Bonin, Meaursault, Chardonnay, France, Burgundy, 2016)
  • Sirloin with baked potato cream, onions and duck liver (Bodegas Roda, Roda 1, Tempranillo, Spain, Rioja, 2011)
  • Local cheese with sea buckthorn, fennel and short bread (Fernand Engel, Pinot Gris, France, Alsace, 2015)
  • Pears with caramel ice cream, sunchokes and walnuts (Chateau Tirequl de Gradier, Semillon, Muscadet, France, Monbazilliac, 2015)

Saturday 20th

It was a very slow start on Saturday. VERY slow. Tess was the only functional one among us so she got up and retrieved coffee & bagels and fruit. I actually went back to bed for a while, I’ll admit. When I finally got up and moving we were all starving, and after hunting around for a bit ended up right back where we’d started the day before: Brewers. More pizza. More beer, too: the AleSmith Speedway Stout (the non-Hawaiian version) and Electric Nurse “Dark Skull” imperial stout. After that all was right with the world again.

We made our way over to the Konstmuseum, grabbing a coffee from Viktors first, and ending our visit at the Konsthall next door. It’s a pretty spot with a great view, and the weather was so lovely we decided to walk back to home base.

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There we chilled, watched more Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, opened some red wine, and listened to funk while we got ready for dinner. We’d booked a sister restaurant to SK Mat called Spisa, just around the corner from our place. We had to make a late reso as we booked last-minute, but that was fine with us. It was a great option as we could order small amounts a few plates at a time (it’s a tapas/sharing place) and we wanted to take it a bit easier than we had the night before. I don’t remember the order in which we ate everything, but I’m pretty sure this is what we had:

  • olives in za’atar
  • spicy chips of rice and sesame with labneh, baharat
  • deep fried corn with pecorino, chili and aioli
  • artichoke with lemon/thyme butter
  • merguez sausage with harissa mayonnaise
  • n’duja croquet with pickled zucchini
  • octopus skewer with chermoula and crunchy chickpeas
  • deep fried cod cheeks with spicy yoghurt
  • gruyere

These plates were all 1 or 2 bites each, so it was a lead-up to two shared mains: pan-fried ricotta gnocchi and grilled lamb shoulder. However, when we ordered that our server informed us that the kitchen was closed. No warning, no last call. No apology either. Just…nope. Kitchen’s closed. So you’re done. Even though your reservation email said you had your table from 9:30-12:30 and didn’t mention anything about kitchen hours, you’re done. We were livid. The meal up to that point had been so good, but that ruined it for us. Your food is good, Spisa, but your service sucks.

We were still really hungry, so we dashed to a nearby grocery store before they closed. We bought some chips, but Lindsay made an amazing discovery: Bubbies. They’re little balls of ice cream wrapped in mochi (sweet rice dough) and we killed six of them and found out we can buy them at Whole Foods in Toronto and suddenly we were less mad. Ice cream, amirite?

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Sunday 21st

Alas, all trips must end, so we dragged our asses up, finished packing, speed-ate some more bagels, and Ubered to the airport. (Nice airport, too!) We said goodbye to Tess, eased through security, hung out in a lounge, and hopped our quick flight to Frankfurt. The weather had finally turned, having spared us our entire trip, so we said a little thank you to the weather gods.

There was no avoiding our 4-hour layover this time, so we ducked out of the airport for a while to visit the Paulaner restaurant across the street. I had a delicious weisswurst and hefeweissbier; Lindsay had a schnitzel and a dunkel. Germany!

We went back through security (during which a security dude joked about our flight being canceled, which was NOT FUNNY GIVEN OUR EARLIER TRAVAILS, SECURITY DUDE!) and got to our gate.

Our flight home was pretty brutal. We were sitting in Economy because Air Canada fucking sucks, and everyone around us — elbowers, pocket stuffers, leaners-back, knee-bashers all — annoyed the bejeezus out of us. I managed to watch a few movies (Deadpool 2, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and All The Money In The World) amidst the assholes, and then on (late) arrival at Toronto, wound our way through the labyrinthine customs lineups to finally flee, home, safe, sound, sleepy, and in no way ready for work.

Traveling means improvising, I guess, and while this was a little more improv than either of us would have liked, it was still a pretty lovely trip. Some of the best meals of our lives. A wonderful 36 hours with Tess. Gorgeous places to stay. My baby’s birthday celebrations.

Lovely.