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.

Dam Stock Goth

After a very long (and very emotional) week at work, we’re off to Europe tomorrow. It’ll be Linds’ first time in Amsterdam (!) and we’re also going to Stockholm (following up from my too-brief visit for work last year) and Göthenburg.

See you in ten days.

[UPDATE]

I spoke too soon. Lindsay’s passport was 85 days from expiring so they turned us away before we could check in to the flight. We spent the rest of Saturday night re-booking everything, and Monday getting her passport renewed. We’re flying out Monday night instead. In much worse airplane cabins, mind you, but we’re going. Wish us luck!

Forty hours of Montreal

I was back in Montreal ever-so-briefly this week, from Wednesday night to Friday afternoon, and — in between meetings — had just enough time to hit a few old favourites. I was staying at the Hôtel Place d’Armes so I was walking distance to both Tommy and Philemon.

I also got to try a new restaurant: Sinclair, in the St Sulpice hotel. I get that big group dinners aren’t the best way to judge a place, but this one still wasn’t great.

My Friday meetings ended early so I caught an early flight and got back to Toronto for a quick drink or two at Chez Nous before Lindsay joined me post-work.

 

Hard edges. Delicious middle.

It’s amazing how much difference a half-hour can make. We left for Niagara half an hour later than we wanted on Saturday, and it ended up adding 90 minutes to our trip. A trip which should barely take 90 minutes anyway. Stupid GTA traffic.

We hadn’t been down to Niagara this year, and needed a bit of a weekend away, so down we went. I wasn’t planning to do the epic winery visits of years past, but I did have a plan. (Obviously.) First up: lunch at Two Sisters‘ restaurant, Kitchen 76.

I want to hate Two Sisters, with its obnoxious faux Italian villa and perpetually-selfie-ing clientele, but the wine is just too good. So, it turns out, is the food. Our caprese salad was excellent, as were our pizzas, and the patio space is stunning.

We planned to do a tasting as well, but my god…the crowds. Too many people, too drunk, too loud, too woo-hoo-y. I dashed in, bought the three bottles I knew I wanted (cab sauv, cab  franc, Lush sparkling) and fled.

Our hotel for the night was a new one for us both: Queen’s Landing. It might be one of the least precious of the Niagara-on-the-Lake hotels, and our room had a nice view of the river, so we made the most of it. We checked in as soon as we could, and checked out the next morning without a minute to spare.

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That afternoon, while Lindsay had a nap, I walked into town to check out the Exchange Brewery. I’d tried one or two of their beers before, but hadn’t been to the brewery itself. When I got there it was pretty hectic, and their bottles aren’t labeled super-well, and when I asked the taste the bartender sent me upstairs. I ended up lucking into a prime balcony spot, since some rain had just ended. I tried their Saison, Berliner, Porter, Bill NyePA, Oud Bruin, and breakfast stout. The Saison and Bill NyePA were pleasant surprises, but the Berliner, Porter, and Oud Bruin were a touch disappointing. The breakfast stout was as good as I thought it might be. Points for trying a few interesting styles though. I bought a few bottles (the Saison and stout, and another stout called The Exchange stout) and walked back to the hotel while it drizzled.

By the time I got back it was pretty much time for dinner. We’d booked a table at what I consider the best restaurant in Niagara, Treadwell. Sadly, the menu they have posted online bears no resemblance to the meal we actually ate, so I won’t remember the finer details of each course. But here’s the gist:

  • We had trouble deciding on which two appetizers to choose, but landed on the peach salad, which was chock full of local fruit and veg, and the tuna, served with (among other things) some amazing smoked cashews. We had this with a bottle of Kew Tradition sparkling.
  • Ultimately the other appetizer we’d considered — the cured duck — was too much to resist, and we ordered that too, while finishing off the sparkling.
  • For our mains Lindsay got BC halibut with mussels and smoked tomato risotto. I got the pork tenderloin with pork belly and crispy polenta, and I fully expect that dish to end up on best-things-I-ate-this-year list. We paired it with a bottle of The Farm Pinot Noir 2014, which I learned is made by Thomas Bachelder from the same grapes that produced Le Clos Jordanne’s “La Petite Colline” wines. And it was amazing.
  • Not quite ready for dessert, we ordered a little tasting of aged cheddar to go with the rest of our Pinot.
  • Still, amazingly, having room for dessert, we shared the cheesecake coated with graham cracker, alongside maple bourbon ice cream and some cherries. We each had a local ice wine with it.

By this time we’d pretty much shut the joint down, so we wandered slowly back to our hotel and konked out.

The next morning was a master class in chilling out. Room service breakfast (an absurd amount, really), leisurely showers, and dumb TV. We rolled out of there at the very last minute and into our trusty steed. After a brief stop on the parkway down to admire the quiet and the river, we arrived at Ravine. I hadn’t been in four years or thereabouts. We hurried through a quick tasting and bought a Cab Sauv and a reserve Chard before heading to lunch next door at their restaurant.

We had PEI oysters, followed by spiced cauliflower ‘steaks’ w/ navy bean salad, smoked eggplant, roasted garlic emulsion, labneh, and dukkah (Lindsay) and duck leg confit w/ K2 milling artisanal grains ‘salad’, Niagara corn and peach succotash, tarragon aioli, sour cherry, and duck jus (Dan). We each had a glass of cab franc, but given my driving duties mine was shockingly small.

On the way back to Toronto we had three stops lined up, two for tastings as it was my first visit, and one for a quick pickup. The first visit was Westcott. It was a little chaotic but we managed to try two chard and two pinots, and loved them all. We left with four bottles.

Next: Domaine Queylus. I’m more than familiar with their wines (and winemaker) but this was my first visit. Again, I couldn’t really taste thoroughly as I was driving, but I fell hard for the chard, the reserve pinot, and their cab franc. Oof.

Finally, after a winding drive through the back roads, we made our last stop, a quick in-and-out at Thirty Bench to acquire some of their recently-lauded 2015 Cab Franc. I’ve always been a fan of that wine — it might have been the first Ontario wine, or any wine — that I fell in love with, and have bought every vintage. But ever since Decanter freaked out about the 2015, I was worried that I’d miss out, so I grabbed what I could and ran.

Speaking of running, we quickly realized that the drive back to Toronto was going to be tight to make our 5pm drop-off. As it turned out, we pulled in to the rental place with about five minutes to spare, and Ubered home with our loot.

So, fine: maybe the drive down and drive back weren’t all that relaxing, but overall it was a damn fine 30-hour break.

Snozberries

Last week I was back in San Francisco for the first time in about five years, this time for a conference which would take up the better part of a work week.

Monday

My flight was around noon, so I worked from home and then had a nice easy commute to the airport. Almost too easy, really — my Uber driver and I were both freaked out by how smooth a trip it was.

My flight was similarly simple, and with a little extra leg room in the exit row. I watched The Post and Red Sparrow and landed at SFO in no time. The night before the conference began I spent a night at the Inn at Union Square, which was fine, if a little noisy. It was well-placed, though, to try a good place for lunch: Hogwash, where I had a dirty sausage sandwich and a Little Creatures Juicy Pale Ale.

It was also convenient for that night’s dinner with other conference attendees, at Scala’s Bistro, just a few seconds around the corner. Dinner was fine. Too loud. Too cramped. But gift horses and all that. Afterward I walked up the hill to check out another beer joint, Hopwater Distribution. I unwound from the forced interaction and closed the place down.

 

Tuesday

The next day I switched to my home base for the remainder of the conference, and spent the day attending session. That night some of us got to attend an event at the SFMOMA, which was showing an interesting Magritte exhibit (and has lots of Cy Twomly pieces that I really liked). There were rare whisky tasting and dessert art stations set up outside, so I…had a good time.

 

Wednesday

On Wednesday, after the conference day ended, I skipped the planned social event for the 20,000+ (!) attendees and had dinner in the hotel restaurant, Luce. My meal was outstanding, and I got to try Keenan Cab Sauv for my first time since visiting the winery eight years ago.

  • Pacific blue prawn, roasted with espelette chili + lemon, pistachio & brown butter (+ Château de Brézé Chenin, “Clos du Midi,” Saumur 2016)
  • New York strip steak w/ , rosemary + garlic Yukon potato “Anna”, Trumpet Royale mushrooms & date marmalade (+ Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2014)
  • Chateau Laribotte 2011 Sauternes

 

Thursday

Before the conference started I made my way to the nearest Blue Bottle Coffee for a cappuccino. It was a long wait. It was not worth it.

After the conference ended Thursday I made my way to the Mikkeller Bar SF to have some lunch and do some work. I’d heard good things. I’d read better things. I was immediately overwhelmed. There were at least a dozen beers I wanted to try, most of them stupidly strong.

In the end, in addition to another tasty sausage, I had:

  • Mikkeller “Blue Hour” gose-style ale brewed w/ pineapple, tart cherry & yerba buena
  • Mikkeller “Orange Yuzu Glad I Said Porter?” American porter brewed w/ yuzu
  • Barrel Brothers “The Snozberries Taste Like Snozberries” blonde sour ale with w/ wild berries
  • Jackie O’s “Oil of Aphrodite” imperial stout brewed w/ black walnuts
  • Prairie Artisan Ales “Bomb!” imperial stout aged on coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla & chilies

I walked (slowly, carefully; those last few beers were 10% and 14% ABV respectively) back to my hotel and chilled for a bit. I was in the mood for more steak, and made dinner reservations (solo) for Alexander’s. It was a killer meal, and one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten. And because I was sitting at the chef’s bar they kept sending over little tastes and treats , and the Sommelier led me down a very lovely path indeed.

  • Hon hamachi w/ avocado, serrano, cilantro, yuzu-soy, garlic & radish
  • Scallop crudo w/ avocado, fresno chile, honey vinegar, apple & mint (+ their customer Riesling from the Mosel, which had been aged just long enough to be outstandingly petrol-y)
  • 20oz Nebraska-raised prime black Angus ribeye chop w/ yuzu kosho chimichurri, baby corn, Blue Lake green beans, charred lemon miso & crispy shallot  (+ Corison 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Dream Weaver goat cheese from Paso Robles (+ 1968 D’Oliveiras Bual Madeira)
  • Lime cotton candy (!)

 

Friday

Nothing to do Friday but more work in the morning, and then fly back to Toronto. In the crap bar at the airport I happened upon one last killer beer: the Ballast Point grapefruit “Sculpin” IPA.

The flight home went super-quickly: I was somehow upgraded to premium economy, and watched two movies (Avengers: Infinity War and Detroit) and suddenly I was back in Toronto. Body tired, brain full.

Bedford Basin

50th & 12

We arrived back in Toronto last night, ending an awfully busy 5-6 weeks of travel. The last ten days have been pretty intense family time, spread across a few locales.

Last weekend my mom was in town, in the middle of a trip to visit her sister in Guelph, so a bunch of family and a few friends drove into town for dinner before they went to see Come From Away. We all met at Locale Mercatto for an early dinner and had a good old chat, not to mention some good food and nice volcanic wine. Apparently we were also meant to go to the play but we got our wires crossed; in any case I had a work issue in progress, and we had packing to do.

The next day we flew to Halifax, had a quick stop in Bedford, then drove to the Annapolis Valley and met Lindsay’s mom and brothers at the same cottage as last year — but for two nights this time. We played games outside and had a big grilled steak dinner the first night, but spent the second day huddled inside around a fire for warmth on what turned out to be a cold, rainy day. It was still completely relaxing though, and the rain broke long enough for some grilled sausages after our games were complete.

Tuesday morning was much nicer so we squeezed in a last game of washer toss before departing. We stopped at Lightfoot & Wolfville on the way back, having just missed their grand opening last year. We bought a few bottles to bring back, and ate (extremely delicious) pizza and garlic fingers outside. Then it was back to Bedford.

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We spent the Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Lindsay’s dad’s place, zipping downtown for a quick dinner Wednesday at Your Father’s Moustache, and on Thursday attending her youngest brother’s graduation. After a big feed of Chinese takeout that night back at their mom’s, we played washer toss ’til it got dark and Yahtzee (seriously) into the wee hours and then crashed.

We took it easy Friday, eventually exiting Bedford and driving to my parents farm. We arrived late that night, just late enough to crash hard in the nice cool basement. The next day we slept in a bit before getting up and getting to work — it was the day of my parents’ 50th anniversary party, and there was an open house from 1-4. A friend of mom’s (the same one who accompanied her to the play the week before) catered, and we were all put to work slicing and setting and placing and cleaning. Nearly a hundred people wandered through the house on a stiflingly hot day, all to congratulate my parents on a pretty remarkable accomplishment.

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We did manage to squeeze in a tiny bit of relaxation time at the farm as well, from playing many games of crib, to perpetually scratching the dogs, to lying in a hammock.

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Everyone left Sunday morning after things had died down. We got to the airport and had a glass of wine at Vino Volo, which might have been ill-advised since Porter boarded their flight almost instantly, resulting in us actually getting paged as we walked down the terminal. We worked on the flight back, arriving to a moist blanket of heat draped over Toronto, and have scarcely left the loft since.

It was a fun trip, if not terribly relaxing. Frankly, we’re pretty excited to not have plans to fly or drive anywhere the next few weekends.

 

 

 

Pugwash

Another weekend, another quick trip. This time we were in Nova Scotia for a wedding, a rather short-notice one for a friend of Lindsay’s. We left Friday, getting a bunch of work done on the plane, and arrived quite late. We were staying in the Alt Hotel attached to the Halifax airport, which doesn’t really have a restaurant, so rather than resort to airport food court food, we stopped at the Vino Volo wine bar as soon as we stepped off the plane. (But, uh, we still got some food court food.)

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The next day we woke up early, drove into Halifax to pick up a friend of the bride who turned out to be charming, funny, and an all-around delightful car guest. We gathered her at Java Blend, so I had some (very) decent coffee, and we hit the road. We drove to Pugwash, after a stop in Truro, and met other friends at our cute li’l bed & breakfast, Inn The Elms. We walked next door for a pizza anda football-sized wrap and enjoyed the beautiful weather. That was short-lived.

The wedding ceremony, held at a family cottage, was lovely. We met some great people and toasted the new couple and got sunburned and heard speeches and pitched tents and walked on the beach and enjoyed the sunset and scratched dogs and huddled around bonfires and stuffed chicken nuggets in our mouths in the wee hours. There was even a random Japanese exchange student party crasher. We walked home to our B&B and I ditched my solo cup full of red wine just before the po-po drove by.

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The next day we dragged our burnt bodies from our beds and had a killer breakfast at the B&B before popping back round to visit the new couple and their families and wish them well. Just after that brother #2 and his wife drove up to say hi and have a coffee with us at Chesnutt Cafe, right before he takes off to Egypt. We chose to take the long way back to the airport, enjoying the pretty drive through Tatamagouche (after a stop at Tatamagouche Brewing) and on down to Truro. We had lunch and a beer at the Nook and Cranny before driving back to the airport. We hit Vino Volo again to bookend the trip, and flew home, tired but glad we got to be part of such a beautiful weekend.

 

Lower Canada –> Upper Canada

After a lot of highway driving and a bunch of toiling around one-way Montreal streets and a very great deal of stair-climbing, we have extracted Lindsay from Montreal. Lindsay and her stuff, that is.

We managed to squeeze in a trip to the best (beer) dep in Montreal and a burger with her friend Naakita and some quality time with Roscoe. We also managed to squeeze our minivan rental into an AirBnB back alley parking spot before quitting the city deadly-early the next morning. Expert squeezing all around, really.

So: welcome to Toronto, Lindsay’s-clothes-and-desk-but-really-mostly-books. I’m sorry in advance for our new premier.

“Almost reckless, really.”

Zoinks, kids. WHAT a week in Dublin. We went because I had a work reason to be there, but — like Lisbon last year — we ended up having a whale of a time.

MONDAY

My bid for a business class upgrade worked perfectly, so we had a pretty posh flight to Dublin. I finished watching Darkest Hour and a few episodes of Game of Thrones and got a few hours of sleep.

TUESDAY

We arrived in Dublin and got a cab to the Spencer Hotel, after a brief ATM hiccup. We slept a few hours, and then decided to walk around Dublin. We checked out the #1-rated beer place in Dublin — Brew Dock — for some lunch and very tasty brews.

We enjoyed the shockingly warm weather and walked back through the CHQ (Customs House Quay) building before crossing the Liffey and strolled along that side. So many big corporations, startups, and cafes have moved into old dock buildings. I loved it. We got back to the hotel before a visit to Bear Market coffee and then Lindsay and I met a few colleagues for drinks at Ely wine bar.

I had a bit of work stuff to deal with, including a trip to the Guinness Storehouse and the Gravity Bar, which was at least a little bit cool.

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After that took a cab back across the Liffey where Lindsay had walked to meet me, and we had dinner at Bar Italia. It was in kind of a touristy part of town (Temple Bar, with which we’d become very familiar) but it felt pretty legit. We shared Burren cold-smoked organic Irish salmon marinated with orange and pink peppercorn, and a killer burrata. For mains I had chargrilled lamb rack in a crust of pistachio-nut on a bed of roasted rosemary potatoes; Lindsay had fresh Gran tortellini filled with wild mushrooms in a porcini and parmigiano DOP fonduta cream, finished with white truffle oil. We walked home, overly full and pretty sleepy, but enjoying the lovely views. So we had the traditional Dublin Italian meal under our belts, I guess? 😐

Maker:S,Date:2017-8-28,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Maker:S,Date:2017-8-28,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

WEDNESDAY

I spent the day at a work thing; Lindsay made her way around the city finding writing venues. That evening we took our first true foray into the Temple Bar neighbourhood for a drink at Fallon & Byrne, which is this really cool grocer with a cozy wine bar in the basement. We didn’t stay long — we had reservations elsewhere — but we loved our quick visit. We decided we’d come back.

We walked down the street a few metres for our reservation at Taste At Rustic. I don’t quite know how it ended up on my map — a Japanese fusion place wouldn’t normally be at the top of my list — but I’m glad it did. We had a SERIOUS meal:

  • Open maki dish of tuna & salmon (kyoto-style) with sushi rice, radish, turnip, fried egg, roasted nori & avocado
  • Broccoli tempura with kimchi mayonnaise, aged parmesan & roasted turnip stock
  • Tuna akami marinated in soya sauce with a touch of wasabi
  • Chicken karage with burnt lemon and miso mayonnaise
  • Grade 9 wagyu beef brushed with sweet miso and sesame powder served with rice chips
  • Glazed sticky pork brushed with japanese tare, fresh lime, japanese yuzu and kimchi
  • Mango and passion fruit mochi (japanese-style served with the aromas of their flesh and juice)
  • Green tea brûlée with pistachio, yogurt mousse, white chocolate and yuzu ice cream
  • A mixture of delicious wines and cocktails, including something called a Three Beauties, which I ordered twice

THURSDAY

Day two of the conference had me running around and introvert-exhausted, so I took off immediately after. We had plans that night and wanted to get a bite beforehand, but Dublin rush hour traffic worked against us — what should have taken 15 minutes took closer to 45, and we had to eat in a rush. We tucked in at Piglet wine bar, and they turned us around faaaast. We ate jumbo prawns and beef tartare and orecchiette w/ pork ragú, smoked paprika and parmesan, and took off for our play.

The play, at the Project Arts Centre, was called My Son My Son. I won’t try to write a proper summary, but seeing a play written by a woman featuring an all-female cast and dealing with so many feminist issues, on the eve of the Irish referendum to decide whether to repeal the ban on abortion, was pretty powerful. The result is now known, but the night before we saw many ‘YES’ or ‘REPEAL’ shirts in the audience, just as we’d seen around the city all week, and as of that night the outcome was far from certain.

After dinner we made our way back to Fallon & Byrne for a bit more wine, and some charcuterie, including some cheese called Durrus (made near Cork) which Lindsay declared to be her all-time favourite. We ended with a few glasses off the Coravin list, which had a little more cork in it than we would have liked. Afterward we had a final nip in the hotel bar. I chose a lovely 21 year old Redbreast Irish whiskey.

FRIDAY

With the conference now done, we had the days to ourselves. We used the day to do what we do best: eat, and visit museums.

First up was the EPIC, the Irish Emigration Museum, just down the street from us in the CHQ building. Pretty new, it seems, and with a great use of technology (HD projectors, motion/gesture detection, etc.), sound, sculpture, and other visuals, it helped weave a compelling story of Ireland as told by the people who’ve left it.

After that we hopped in a cab and traveled north to see the Dublin City Gallery / Hugh Lane. But first: lunch at Chapter One. It’s a Michelin-starred restaurant in the basement of a writer’s museum. We took a chance that they’d have a table for lunch Friday, and we lucked out. We took our seats and proceeded to have one of the best meals of our lives. I’ll describe the food below, but the service was just…impeccable. Perfectly attentive, utterly charming, and at times hilarious. In the throes of feeling oh-so-decadent, like “who are we kidding, eating like this?!” about this meal, one of the staff joked along with us, saying “It’s almost reckless, really!” and it was perfect. Maybe you had to be there? Anyway, the food:

  • Champagne:
    • Laurent Perrier Brut Champagne NV x2
  • Starters:
    • Lindsay: beef cheek, wild garlic, mushroom ravioli, parmesan (Givry 1er Cru ‘Champ Nalot’ Domaine Parize 2016)
    • Dan: jumbo green asparagus, guanciale, sheep’s cheese, pickled red dulse (Heinz W ‘Joseph’ Gruner Veltliner, Kamptal 2016)
  • Mains:
    • Lindsay: braised neck fillet of Spring lamb, herb potato and lamb kromeski, violet artichoke, caper flower (Bodegas Rodero, Carmelo Reserva, Ribera del Duero 2012)
    • Dan: salt marsh duck, tart of braeburn apple, smoked bacon, fennel pollen, pickled walnuts (Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru ‘Champs Perdrix’ Domaine Alain Michelot 2009)
  • Dessert:
    • Lindsay: flavours and textures of Irish milk and honey (Chateau Laville Sauternes, 2013)
    • Dan: warm 68% chocolate mousse with flavours of Guinness (Fonseca, Guimareans 1996)

I mean…

After that we stumbled outside and enjoyed the sunshine — did I mention it was brilliantly warm & sunny our whole week in Dublin, and didn’t really rain until the moment we left? — for a few minutes before heading into The Hugh Lane. We saw the main collection and the Amanda Dunsmore exhibition “Keeper” and the recreated Francis Bacon studio. After that we took a quick stroll the Garden of Remembrance, then cabbed back to our hotel. We grabbed our bags and switched to our home for the back third of our trip: Stauntons On The Green. Our room was a little disappointing — cute and all, but being on the ground floor the view was entirely blocked by the hoarding outside the hotel, so we couldn’t see St. Stephen’s Green at all. They promised to move us to another room the next night, and we passed out on our temporary bed.

Somehow, that night, we had another grand meal planned. Dax was billed as maybe the best non-Michelin-starred restaurant in Dublin. We were worried the near-miraculous lunch we’d been fed would ruin all meals to come, and certainly all to come THAT DAY, but Dax held up just fine, thank you very much. To wit, the tasting menu (as best I can remember it):

  • Salmon amuse bouche
  • Roast Dinish Island scallops, sweet pea sauce
  • Roast Atlantic cod fillet, Cévenne onion, heirloom carrots, fresh peas, lobster sauce
  • Salt cured foie gras, preserved and fresh spring vegetables, chardonnay vinegar
  • Homemade brioche
  • Fillet of Kildare beef, braised short-rib, celeriac, diane sauce
  • Whipped natural buttermilk, popcorn, pineapple, madagascar vanilla
  • Sheridan’s cheese selection with condiments (with Durrus!)

Luckily our walk home was a short one, because we could barely move. We got back to the hotel, saw the news that exit polls were predicting a landslide for the ‘Yes’ vote, and passed out.

SATURDAY

We decided to have breakfast at the hotel, both of us opting for the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. That was the fuel for our walk around the Irish Museum of Modern Art, or IMMA. It was an outstanding visit in an old military hospital, introducing me to Brian O’Doherty, feeding Lindsay new relevant-to-school material, and treating us to a wonderful Lucian Freud exhibit. There was a gorgeous garden and, somewhat randomly, an informal singing to sick children. It was all a bit much, really.

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We had an absolutely smashing Uber driver from the IMMA to our lunch spot. He pulled up to the curb and yelled “Dan, how the hell are ya?” as we got in. Brilliant. We talked beer, tourist sites, Dublin and Irish history, viking timelines, and a host of other topics in our short time together, but he made us want to revisit Dublin. Like, RIGHT NOW. I would’ve gladly spent more time with him, but he dropped us at Against The Grain and we were thirsty.

Owned by the same people as Brew Dock, Against The Grain enticed us right away. Chill vibe, top beer, good food. I had a Wild Beer Trepache sour, a Boyne raspberry sour, a Thornbridge Cocoa Wonderland chocolate coffee porter, and a tshirt. All supoib.

After lunch we slid over to the afore-mentioned St. Stephen’s Green, and strolled through a bit of bucolic loveliness in the middle of Dublin. We lay in the grass and kissed and laughed at kids and dogs and it was pretty alright. After a spell we walked out of the park to our hotel, where we found our lovely new room with a view of the very park we’d just enjoyed.

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We napped an showered and changed and set out for Temple Bar. Mind you, this was our first foray into Temple Bar on a weekend, and…oof. What a busy mess. We had to dodge through there to visit Jam Art Factory, where we bought some prints, and to have a glass of wine at La Caverna before dinner. Unfortunately they were packed, so we went around the corner to Port House instead. We got a glass of wine and an espresso in us before an unbearable crowd formed and we beat a hasty retreat across the Liffey.

Our final dinner in Dublin was at a classic: The Winding Stair. It’s a cozy room atop a bookstore, with an open kitchen and a view (if you’re lucky) of the river and the Ha’penny Bridge. We ate and drank very well, to the point where we had to tell the server to take’er easy after our starters, lest our mains cause a wafer-thin-mint moment. We ate:

  • Starters:
    • Toons Bridge Dairy stracciatella with ruby and golden beets, capers, sorrel, and beetroot crisps
    • Burren smokery, Terry Butterly and Stephen Kavanagh’s smoked fish plate with our Dillisk bread, crème fraîche, pickled cucumbers and caper-berries
  • Mains:
    • Lindsay: Niall Sabongi grey mullet with Connemara clams, Gubbeen chorizo, asparagus and wild garlic champ
    • Dan: Skeaghanore cider-braised duck leg with grilled baby gem, crispy bacon, pickled walnut, apple, smoked duck fat roasties and cider gravy
  • Dessert:
    • Chateau Partarrieu Sauternes

We enjoyed the whole meal with an outstanding bottle of Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er ‘Aux Vergelesses’ Simon Bize 2011 Chardonnay. Later I realized that I recognized the name — we had a bottle of their Pinot last fall in Paris, at Fish La Boissonerie. For dessert we just ordered glasses of Sauternes, but our server (pressed into bartending duty at the end of the night) didn’t understand a typcial Sauternes pour and ended up pouring us a normal 5oz glass. So we got right lit up, we did.

SUNDAY

Not much left to do on our final morning but eat some breakfast, so we made it a good one, walking a few minutes to Meet Me In The Morning. We weren’t sure what to expect, but it turned out to be one of the most delicious breakfasts EVER.

I had the hash (McNally potato and beet, a poached egg, beet sour cream, greens and Toonsbridge halloumi with Gubbeen chorizo) while Lindsay had the eggs & greens (McNally kales, garlic yoghurt, paprika oil, curly parsley, two poached eggs, rustic loaf, and halloumi). After finishing we were patient (not really) and waited for the homemade doughnuts to come out, one rhubarb cheesecake and the other vanilla creme. Oh, and some dude came in carrying the cutest puppy either of us had ever seen and we all (us, the server, the other patrons) melted. Puppies and doughnuts. Jaysus. What a send off, Dublin.

After a hasty re-pack back in the room we checked out. The rain started just as we left, which left me convinced that the Irish don’t really have bad weather, they just tell us they do to keep us away. Our Uber driver, Sean, was an utter treat. He dropped us at DUB, we checked in, we hung out in the lounge, we debated buying the last piece of Durrus cheese in the Dublin airport, and we boarded to come home. The flight was easy-peasy; arriving at Terminal 3 was a goddamn gong-show. But we made it.

AFTERWORD

We need to go back to Dublin, and to see the rest of Ireland. That is all.