In Winnipeg for KeyCon

We’re in Winnipeg for the Victoria Day long weekend, because KeyCon. That’s a science fiction convention with lots of stuff for SF writers like me. For more on that, visit my writing blog: Timothy Gwyn Writes.

And now back to the business of this blog- food and restaurants.

We had dinner at the Bonfire Bistro. You cannot make a reservation here, so we hoped that the long weekend would lure Winnipeggers away. To be on the safe side, we went early, arriving around six. At that time there were several tables open. By the time we left, there were people waiting.

The name of this restaurant refers to their wood-fired oven. Naturally, pizza is a strength. The specials posted on their blackboard included a weird and wonderful pizza with ham and blueberries and brie. I was tempted, but it had a base layer of roasted garlic and olive oil, and well, I was heading out to meet people later, and that much garlic seemed chancy. Another special that caught my eye was a scallop ceviche, and that I did order. It was just right. Tender and complemented with just a little finely chopped fruit and veg. We shared the mixed greens salad with currants from the menu, then diverged on our mains. Caroline had the Manitoba chicken breast with fig and goat cheese, I had the Spicy Bonfire Hawaiian pizza. Both were very good. She had white wine, I had a glass of Tempranillo. No room for dessert.

Dinner Debriefing: the BUZZ

For the last full night of our vacation, and our last chance to dine in Ottawa, we didn’t want to sit in a crowded pub on Elgin Street, so we returned to Bank Street to eat at the BUZZ again.

They had a table, which was no sure thing on a Friday night. Although we were close to the entrance, and right next to the bar, it was amazingly quiet – very peaceful. We decided to share a calamari appetizer. Chipotle dusted, they say. This is the best non-traditional calamari we’ve ever had. From there, Caroline stuck to the menu, ordering the duck. Ginger-laced mandarin cranberry sauce. Mmm. I took advantage of one of the nightly specials: Scallops with a roasted red pepper sauce, on a triple bed of risotto, acorn squash and mashed potatoes. Beautifully done. Lots of nice wines by the glass here, so I had a glass of the Clos du Bois Chardonnay. Caroline started with the Hogue Pinot Grigio and switched to the Blackstone Merlot, another Californian, for her duck.

Caroline had room for a little dessert, so she ordered tonight’s cheesecake, a maple/bacon one. She liked it, but I wasn’t feeling the love for bacon tonight, and only had a tiny taste.

A very nice dinner. We’d be certain to visit the Buzz again if we come back to Ottawa.

Dinner Debriefing: Tango Nuevo

Tango Nuevo Tapas & Wine is on King Street in Kingston. It was busy and noisy tonight, so we’re glad we made a reservation. We ordered five small plates: the white fish ceviche, because I have a thing for this dish, and I wanted to see what it was like with pickerel. Light and fresh. The shrimp tacos, because Caroline does not share my fondness for ceviche. Spicy with radish and sriracha sauce. The calamari fritos. Tender and lightly fried. The chicken empanadas. Fried, but beautifully light and delicate. The duck confit on flatbread. With pear and brie. Duck and cheese – what’s not to love?

I thought all five dishes were very good. Caroline thought the empanadas wouldn’t be so deep-friedish.

Wine: we were warned that the Harmony white blend is quite sweet, so I fell back on the J. Lohr Chardonnay, an old favourite for it’s toasty richness. Caroline tried the Redstone Chardonnay to see how an Ontario wine compared. Interestingly prominent apple and a little flint. Then she switched to a red for the duck course, a Lotus Cabernet Sauvignon, She liked it, but didn’t offer me any tasting notes.

Contemplated dessert or a cheese tray (they had some fascinating cheeses) but decided not. A cab was waiting before we could clear the doors. A good dinner.

Dinner Debriefing: Atomica Pizza & Wine Bar

The Bistro in our hotel is really more of a steakhouse, so we headed downtown for dinner. I didn’t feel like tackling a strange city in the dark, so we took a cab, which was quick and easy, and under twelve bucks. Sure enough, there were no parking spaces near Atomica Pizza & Wine Bar. We had scoped out their menu online, so we quickly settled on a small Caesar salad for Tim, then a pizza each: Diavolo Hawaiiano for her, Funghi for him. Wood-fired style crust, hand tossed in the open kitchen. I liked their variation on the Caesar salad. It had pancetta and hard-crispy focaccia. My mushroom pizza had a pesto based cream sauce, not tomato, and the basil was matched in subtlety to the crimini and shiitake mushrooms, not at all overpowering. I’d happily have it again. Caroline’s hot Hawaiian had enough hot peppers to earn the Diavolo moniker without going overboard. She thought we should have an Ontario red since we’re so close to wine country, so we went with a 13th Street Merlot. It was smooth, deep and leathery.

All in all, a very nice pizza dinner in one unrushed hour, and the taxi back to the hotel arrived within two minutes of our asking.

Dinner Debriefing: Publyk House

We chose this place mainly because it’s less than a mile from our hotel. The Publyk House was once a barn, but it’s been a restaurant for a long time. The parking lot was very full, so we were happy to hear that the wait for a table would only be in the range of ten minutes. We had the whole foyer to ourselves, so we sat and read the menu.

Caroline decided to honour Canadian Thanksgiving by eating turkey, and they had a very traditional turkey dinner with mashed potatoes on the regular menu. I ordered one of the daily specials, grilled salmon with pesto and wild rice. Both dinners came with salad bar and a small loaf of brown bread with maple butter.

We give them good marks for the salad bar. Although it was compactly laid out, the staff were hard at work keeping the small serving dishes freshly filled. We appreciated that the ladles for the salad dressings were labeled, so you need not mistake the blue cheese for the ranch. Caroline’s favourite was the broccoli salad.

The turkey dinner was just that – nothing extraordinary. I hinted that I wanted my salmon moist, and they delivered.

There were two Oregon Pinot Noirs that we thought would go nicely. We did not know either of them and the waitress recommended the Underwood. It is a very pale and light Pinot of the strawberry persuasion, like the Amity. A fairly good match for the turkey, but it barely stood up to the salmon.

Highlight of the meal was the pumpkin cheesecake. Soft, creamy and spicy, it was a delight.

Dinner Debriefing: Café Provence

Wow. This is not your average hotel dining room. Café Provence has a real chef, and he had to be talked into opening a dining room in a hotel. He seems to have understood the challenge, the menu has everything from comfort to creative.

Despite Caroline being fed up with lobster, she chose to start with seafood – the mussels. Our favourite place for mussels at home went underwater this spring, so she’s in withdrawal. They were good. I chose the spinach salad with balsamic and so on. The twist? That asiago cheese is cooked into a melted sheet and formed into a basket, like a taco salad, but way, way yummier. Once I’d had that, I knew I was in good hands. Caroline debated the pork tenderloin, but chose the pulled pork sliders, and loved them. I had the filet mignon with peppercorn brandy sauce. I’ve never had a better one, and I’ve had many. Best thing about it? Some real pepper heat, which is often overlooked.

Wine: wanted the Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon, because Sonoma. They don’t have it any more. Their replacement is a Seven Falls Merlot from the Columbia Valley. Deep and lush. Most fun thing on the wine list is the Brandenborg Pinot Noir from the Umpqua Valley in Oregon. Not suitable for this dinner, but a lovely wine from a great little winery.

Treated ourselves to dessert tonight, the pumpkin cheesecake with pecan brittle. Ooh.

Freeport, ME to Waterbury, VT

We had a longer drive today, but what a lovely day for it. The sun shone, skies were blue and autumn colours were outstanding. Rather than take a direct route, we wandered through the White Mountains again, swinging by Mount Washington. It is a good thing we did not want to do the scenic drive to the top; a traffic cop was controlling traffic at the intersection where it begins, but the line-up was nearly a mile long. Trailheads for the better known hiking trails were also overflowing with cars, so our peaceful walk at the Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary now seems to have been a wonderful idea.

That was a short walk, just forty-five minutes. We did not see a flying squirrel. I will add them to my list of critters that continue to elude me, along with grizzly bears and sasquatch. At every river crossing, I take a good hard look from the bridge.

The entire town of North Conway was one enormous traffic jam until we made it past the Farmer’s Market. Like Kenora on a summer Wednesday, but six times as long.

We did find the covered bridge in Jackson.

They're everywhere!

They’re everywhere!

View from the bridge

View from the bridge

20141012_111241Took this from our picnic table.

Caroline is thinking of revising our dinner plans. We had a reservation in town, because long weekend, but the restaurant in the hotel looks very nice and would not require any driving.

Matt from the front desk somehow forced my tablet to recognize the WiFi here, and we’re up and running again. I just jammed all three pictures in together, because we’re off for dinner at Café Provence on Blush Hill.