Birthday in Winnipeg

It was my birthday this week, so Caroline wanted to take me out for dinner somewhere nice. We had to run into Winnipeg anyway, to pick up her mukluks at the shoe repair place- The Leather Patch added crepe outsoles to them over the holidays.

We had a few things to take care of at Polo Park, so lunch at Joey made sense. I broke out of my usual sushi and steak pattern and had the mushroom cheddar burger with the house salad. Caroline usually has the Ahi tuna burger, but went with a cheeseburger and fries. I enjoyed the house salad, which was a kind of slaw with nuts and seeds and two beautiful discs of watermelon radish. The waitress told me the dressing was a vinaigrette, but it seemed more like a creamy dressing to me. My burger was large, meaty and tasty. Caroline is usually a big fan of Joey’s shoestring fries, but this time around they were on the pale side. Just the way I like them, but she’s more of a crispy golden-brown person. Santa got Joey new chairs, by the way, and I found the stretched leather slings very comfortable.

Polo Park was pretty much a zoo. Boxing week stuff seemed to be dragging on, and it took us several minutes just to find a parking spot. Pedestrian traffic in the mall was heavy – when I wanted to find a railing to lean on while Caroline popped into one of the boutiques, I had to move one store over just to find a free space. Still, we did accomplish her goal of finding a gift set of her perfume, and it was on sale at The Bay.

Cruised on over to the Hilton and got checked in, then headed out to pick up Donna on the way to InFerno’s on Academy. This is InFerno’s second location, and the menu is slightly different, with not quite as French a motif as the Saint Boniface bistro. We found the floor-plan very crowded, requiring you (and the waiters) to squeeze between tight tables to get to your seat. Some tables were separated from the next by only a curtain of strings, giving the barest suggestion of privacy.

We had mostly seafood. Donna and I started with the tuna ceviche, which we both thought was very good. Big pieces of tuna, light lime flavour, avocado and crunchy vegetables. Caroline went with the halibut chowder, but she was disappointed in it. She found it bland, saying it was like warm milk with fish in it. She was surprised that it contained no potato or other thickener. She ate only a few spoonfuls, and the waiter took it off the bill.

For entrees, Donna broke the mold and ordered the half duck, while I picked the salmon with curry and Caroline chose mussels. This finally got her the frites she had been wanting, and the serving was very generous, both of the fries and the mussels. Donna’s duck was a big dinner, too, and looked very good. My salmon needed work. I like my salmon on the rare side, and while chefs often respect this, there is a tendency for restaurants to serve it medium so as not to get complaints. Our waiter and I discussed this, and he said he’d ask for mine to be more rare. It came pretty much medium, with fully cooked ends and pink and flaky with a little moistness in the center. Oh well. When our waiter asked how it was, I said it was okay, better in the middle. He offered to replace it, but the ladies were already eating, so I declined. He came back a minute later to say that he was not convinced I was really happy, and had ordered a second salmon filet, more rare. He brought it out on a side plate, and it was cooked perfectly to my taste, warm red and wet. I ate both. The curry sauce was mild and interesting, so I enjoyed my dinner. I give points to our server, who was not about to let me walk out thinking this was another restaurant with so-so salmon.

For a wine to match all of these diverse dishes, we chose the Mark West Pinot Noir, and it was a good pick. It was versatile enough to pair up with everything.

Caroline saved room for dessert, and ordered an almond lemon pie. I liked it for being more about the almonds than the lemon, Donna thought the cream topping was excellent, but Caroline had hoped for something with a softer curd – this was stiffer, almost like cheesecake. Despite each of us picking up a fork, we did not eat it all.

Overall, the menu was interesting, the wine-list was wide-ranging, and the service was excellent. The tightly packed tables and noise were real turn-offs, though, so the food would have had to have been outstanding to make us interested in going back, and it fell short of that.

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Wrapping Up

We’re home. Our flight from Ottawa to Winnipeg was quick and comfortable (Yay, WestJet) and our splurge on the valet parking at Winnipeg International was a real convenience. I’d do it again, only next time I’d check in with them while I was waiting for the luggage carousel to lurch into life.

Wanted to get something to eat before the two and a half hour drive home to Kenora, and this seemed like a perfect time to check out one of the Five Guys locations in Winnipeg for something reasonably speedy. Dingbat got lost on Route 90. There are new bits he doesn’t know about, so when we drove on them, he showed us hurtling through uncharted blackness. Spooky. We did eventually get close enough to some known roads that he was able to resume guiding us to the Pembina Highway 5G. I had essentially the same burger that I had in Waterton, and it was just as good, but the restaurant was appallingly littered with peanut shells. It looked as if the floor hadn’t been swept in hours, and they had been tracked and kicked everywhere, even into the bathroom. If I had not seen a clean Five Guys before, this would have been my only visit to one.

Drove home. Made good time in light traffic, and somehow managed to catch up to tractor-trailers only when passing was easy.

Spent Sunday unpacking, doing laundry and stocking up on groceries.

Monday, both of us went back to work, and I also found time to mow the lawn for the last time, mulching all the leaves in the process. It looks almost as good as if I had raked them up.

Thoughts for next time.

Yes, we’d like to visit Bar Harbor, Maine, again, and we loved Vermont, too. One notion that appeals to us is to fly to Halifax, Nova Scotia; I’ve always wanted to see the maritime museum there. We could drive or ferry down to Maine. We’d get to see some new territory: Vermont, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island would all be within reach.

We probably wouldn’t go in October. ‘Leaf-peeping’ was fun, but I don’t feel a need to make a lifestyle out of it. September might be good – tourist traffic dies down once the kids are back in school, making both highways and hotels noticeably quieter.

We’d put more effort into making dinner reservations in Bar Harbor, so that we didn’t end up eating wherever they were likely to have a table. I’d like to try some of the Atlantic seafood as prepared by a chef, rather than the simple traditional fare we ate this time around.

I need to pack lighter next time. I was right at the limit for WestJet, and hotels without elevators were not a lot of fun. Less clothes, more laundry.

The picnicking thing was worthwhile – the thirty dollars we spent on a cooler that we left behind (excess baggage fees on the airline would have been more than the cooler was worth) more than paid for itself in lunch expenses saved. Also, it allowed us to eat healthy salad and sandwich type lunches, instead of fast food.

I would absolutely take my own GPS again. Being familiar with all the features is a great benefit, saving time and frustration. Plus Dingbat has a big screen. And he’s part of the family, at least as much as Robbie the Robot was to those Lost in Space characters. Now if I could just teach him to say, “Danger, danger,” instead of “recalculating.”

That’s about it. Tim’s Road Noise picked up quite a few new followers during this trip, so I should explain that this blog will go dormant now. There will be no new posts until Tim and Caroline go vacationing again. There might be a short visit to Mexico this winter, there might not. Thanks to everyone that came with us in spirit, and especially those who commented.

I have two other blogs; you should see links on the right side of this page. Timothy Gwyn Writes is about my efforts as a writer of Science Fiction, and I post there at random intervals all year. Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol features aerial photographs and commentary on the spring conditions on the lake where I live. It is insanely busy for six weeks or so in the spring, when cottagers and boaters want to know when the lake will have open water. Ice Patrol generated some 60,000 hits in five weeks last year, but it won’t be active again until April or so.

Bye for now. Safe travels.

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.

Genealogy in Bath, Napanee, and Cloyne, ON

Started our day with a very nice buffet breakfast, then made our way to the lakeshore to walk part of the Lake Ontario Trail. Saw an albino squirrel, and so many black and grey ones that we began to suspect that they were herding us into a trap. Escaped their evil design when it began to rain and we returned to the car early. We’ll give them another chance tomorrow.

Then on to the day’IMG_0848s work. Caroline wanted to find Hawley House in Bath. This is where her loyalist ancestors ended up after they fled Arlington, Virginia. The house is still there, although it’s an unassuming duplex nowadays. The museum in Bath might have been worth a look, but it doesn’t open much after Labour Day.

Onwards to Napanee to visit the Lennox and Addington Museum and Archives. A nice little county museum with exhibits about the Great War and some of the industries of the area, but the highlight for me was a display explaining how women’s fashion changed during and after WWI. Fashion, of course, was only the tip of a cultural iceberg; everything changed for women during and after the war. Clothing went from ornamental and impractical to work-oriented and comfortable as women entered the workforce to replace men gone to war and lost to combat or influenza. Women took to breeches and coveralls as they took to the workforce and the war effort. Afterwards – short version – Coco Chanel invented the little black dress and women got the vote.

While we were there, Caroline popped into the Archive Library to take a look at the Hawley file to see if there were any essential documents she had not seen before. No, but a copy of her great-grandfather’s death certificate was on file. Very helpful staff at both the museum and archive desks.

Went downtown for lunch at Ellena’s Cafe. You order at the counter and they bring your food to the table. Then you pay at the counter on the way out. Both the soup of the day, pea, and the quiche of the day, ham, tomato and cheese, were wonderful. Caroline took a chance on the roasted red pepper sandwich, but the grilled bread went soggy fast, so she wouldn’t order it again.

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Back on the road to run an hour north to Cloyne, where Caroline’s dad’s mother was born. The tiny museum there was done for the season, but people at the post office directed us to the Pioneer Cemetery. Most of the markers are lost – they were probably wooden – but a plaque records the names of those settlers most certain to have been buried there. The graveyard is no longer used, but it is still maintained.

Back to Kingston. Fall colours spectacular, but weather very gloomy, so no opportunities for pretty pictures. Tonight, dinner downtown, probably at Tango Nuevo Tapas and Wine.

 

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: Downhill Grill

The Downhill Grill was very busy tonight. We waited at the bar for a few minutes to get a table. Caroline had a glass of Mondavi Chardonnay, and I had a Lake Placid Ubu, a pleasantly malty dark beer.

In the restaurant, the wait staff were run off their feet, and most of our table service actually came from the young hostess. We could see that it was going to take a long time to get fed, so we simplified and ordered just one thing each. A burger for Caroline, and a burrito for me. The food was quite good, but from start to finish it took an hour and a half. The restaurant was still filling every table when we left.