Chaise Cafe and the Cornerstone

I’ve been so busy with KeyCon and Timothy Gwyn Writes that I had to let my visits to  Winnipeg restaurants slide for a day or two. Now it’s time to catch up, and I’m looking forward to telling you about a pair of restaurants that were very different, but both fun in their own way.

On Saturday, after a hectic day of trying to be both a sci-fi geek and a social butterfly -I’m better at the former- I was ready to unwind with my wife and an old friend for dinner. I dropped by Donna’s downtown condo and then the three of us set off for Chaise Cafe and lounge on Provencher. There was a moment’s confusion when we arrived for our seven o’clock reservation, but the staff didn’t panic and got it sorted out quickly and quietly. They admitted that they had misplaced our table, (which sounds so much better than misplacing our reservation!) but in only a minute or two we were seated at a wonderful little table tucked away by the bar. Sheltered from the main room by a low wall, I loved having more conversation and less background noise.

I’m sure the easiest way to get to know this restaurant would be to go for the prix fixe option. Everyone at the table shares a couple of salads, two different pizzas and samples of the entrees. A pasta course is included if you have room, or you can ask for seconds of something. Dessert is part of the deal, too. As it happens, we did not go that route, and please don’t blame the restaurant if I explained any part of that incorrectly. There is one other interesting thing about the menu here. The entrees are not described in detail because the details vary from night to night. There is always pork tenderloin, for instance, but the chef doesn’t prepare the same pork dish today as yesterday. Tired sigh department: if I got a free salad every time a restaurant misspelled Caesar, I’d eat so much romaine, I’d look like one.

What we did was order a different salad each, and we mostly minded our own, then a different pizza each which we herded into the middle of the table and shared. For its versatility, we got a bottle of the Mirasou Pinot Noir. The specifics: Donna chose the Roasted Butternut Squash salad and the Pepperoni pizza with the mushroom option; Caroline went for the Roasted Beet salad and the Fig and Prosciutto pizza; and I picked the House Garden salad and the alfredo based Wild Mushroom pizza. We all enjoyed our salads, and I could see myself ordering the beet salad on a return visit. That means it wasn’t overwhelmingly dedicated to beets- they were more of a garnish or an accent to the greens and chevre. All the pizzas were thin-crust style, and came sliced into sixths, which meant (lengthy pause for Tim to do the math) we could each have two slices of each kind. In actual fact, the ladies ate one slice of each, and I had a second slice of two, so we could comfortably have ordered two pizzas for the three of us.  I doubled down on the Mushroom and on the Prosciutto and Fig. The pepperoni was nice, but perhaps the saltiest. I wanted another slice, but I was being good. Caroline thought the pepperoni pizza was best, praising the tomato sauce. Oddly, the Prosciutto she chose was her least favourite. No one had room for dessert, but we made sure to take the leftovers home.

I liked the food, the decor, the price and the service, and I’d happily go back.

On Sunday, my convention schedule was shorter. Before I move on to my next feature restaurant, let me just mention that the Winnipeg Radisson hotel’s 12 Resto Bar is not somewhere I would go out of my way to visit. At lunch one day I had a small salad and a large hamburger, but neither was exciting enough to justify the cost. The next day I wanted a light appetizer and ordered the crab-stuffed mushroom caps. The waitress was careful to make sure I understood that the vinaigrette would be imparting a vinegar taste to the dish. She was correct, and it was a little startling how it overpowered the other flavours. I’ve had other versions of this dish that I enjoyed more. Also, I thought $13 was a lot for three mushroom caps.

The month of May does not guarantee spring-like weather in Winnipeg. It does not guarantee howling winds and sleet, either, but they are apparently an option. I joined Caroline at Donna’s village condo again, and we made plans. If I had to live in a city, I have to concede that a downtown neighbourhood with restaurants, coffee shops, a supermarket and a wine store would be fun. Tonight, we took advantage of Donna’s central location to eat close by. It was no night for a stroll, so we decided on the Cornerstone, just steps away from Donna’s place. I didn’t like the bare decor, but it was warm and dry, and comfort food won the day. Well, Caroline had the flatbread and kale salad, which isn’t comfort food in my dictionary… I had the soup of the day, a tasty smoked potato clam chowder. Donna and I both ordered a steak sandwich. This last comes open-faced on a ciabatta bun, and is topped with mushrooms and a fried egg. It was delicious.

“Is there anything that isn’t improved by the addition of an egg?” Donna asked, contentedly.

“Beer.” I replied.

“I meant food.”

“Ice cream.”

It’s this kind of thing that forces me to eat with old friends, instead of refined company. A friend, they say, is someone who knows all about you, and likes you anyway. One day, I’m going to write a science fiction scene about a cantina where the aliens order chocolate ice cream and poached eggs. I’ll dedicate that story to Donna.

Good food, reasonable bill. I’d go there again, but I wish for decor that didn’t remind me of an office.

The weather didn’t worsen during dinner, but the forecast for morning was dreadful. We decided to make the drive in the evening after all. We loaded the car, grabbed a dark roast, and headed out into the rain and wind. It was both hands on the wheel and no cruise control until the highway grew some trees to break the gusty northeast wind. The rest of the drive was okay, if slow. Never turned the wipers off, but the temperatures stayed above freezing until we got home.

Advertisements

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.

Ticking Away

We started our day by sleeping in and then finding a wood tick on Caroline’s shoulder. We pulled it off and checked the internet for advice. I like to deal with all my health issues by consulting random strangers. They said pull it off, apply an antibiotic cream. Went for breakfast and a walk on the lakeshore, but this time headed past the old Kingston Penitentiary. This put us on the sidewalk of King Street for several blocks, so not as scenic and woodsy as yesterdays walk with squirrels. And ticks.

Locals were wearing windbreakers and even gloves. And ski-poles, but that’s an exercise thing, not a winter thing. I’m sure they thought I was scandalously underdressed in my jeans and Puerto Vallarta t-shirt, but I find 13°C quite comfortable as long as I’m moving.

Towards the end of our walk, we stopped in at a small pharmacy to get some antibiotic cream. The pharmacy staff were adamant that we should see a doctor. They referred us to a walk-in clinic and even phoned ahead for wait times for us. There have been a lot of ticks this year, and Lyme Disease is a small but significant risk.

Proceeded to walk-in clinic at the Cataraqui Mall. The forty-five minute wait was going to mess up our check-out time, so we called the hotel to get a one hour extension. Gassed up Mitsu while we waited, and then after Caroline settled in at the waiting room I visited the mall to find a replacement for my smartphone holster that I almost tore off my belt yesterday.

Caroline was issued one prescription that’s supposed to nullify Lyme Disease. Then we rushed back to the hotel to check out and grab lunch at Tom’s Place adjoining the lobby. We were not in a very good mood, so I’ll just say it was convenient, and leave it at that.

Left some of our excess cargo for the hotel staff. My makeshift walking staff, our little picnic cooler, some leftover disposable plates and cutlery. Thought of holding onto the cooler for today so that we could keep the last of the snack food cool, but then we would have had to deal with all of it at the car-rental return.

All this made us a little later than we had intended, and we considered making up time by taking the 401 to Ottawa instead of our country-road route through Smiths Falls. Turns out it would have saved us one whole minute, so we stayed true to our wandering hearts and went on the byways.

It rained, so I was happy not to be passing semis in the spray. Returned Mitsu to National unscratched, but with at least 3000km more than when we met her. More than doubled her odometer, actually.

I would drive a Mitsubishi Outlander again. Did not seem very eager to accelerate, but I think gas mileage was better than my Honda CRV. The fuel tank is the same size, and my impression was that we didn’t have to fill it as often. It felt solid and stable, and had many thoughtful features.

Glad I brought Dingbat. It was so easy to work with our familiar GPS. Missed my Sirius satellite radio. Technically, I could have brought it, but it’s kind of installed in the CRV.

Took a cab back to our hotel downtown, the same one we were in ten days ago.

Tomorrow I’ll do Picks and Pans for the trip: favourite places, walks, restaurants and hotels, and their counterparts from the dark side.

Tonight we get one last chance to eat out in Ottawa, and then tomorrow afternoon we fly back to Winnipeg.

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.

20141016_132906

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.

 

Saranac Lake, NY to Kingston, ON

Kept our morning walk simple today, strolling along the sidewalks around Saranac Lake for half an hour and return. We could have completed a loop in something like fifteen minutes more, but Caroline’s knee was sore, so we retraced our steps.

Drove out of the Adirondack National Park today, stopping twice to allow wild turkeys to cross the road.

Dingbat got us lost in Watertown, because after we told him we wanted to stop at Five Guys for cheeseburgers, we forgot to untell him that we wanted to go to the center of the city. So he tried to do both. Five Guys Burgers and Fries, by the way, is the soul-partner of California’s In-N-Out Burger. Real beef, and they know where their potatoes came from today. They even had malt vinegar for the fries. Why do we always discover these places on our last day? Actually, there is one in Ottawa.

It was cloudy all morning and it started raining at lunch-time. This reminds me to mention that Mitsu has a nice feature: if you have the front wipers on, when you put the car in reverse, the rear wiper makes a couple of passes without being asked. Good thinking, Mitsubishi.

Before I forget: Coca-Cola – it’s not just for breakfast any more! Saw someone enjoying an ice cold one with her dinner and white wine. I don’t know what would taste worse, the wine or the coke. Maybe the dinner.

Crossed back into Canada at the Thousand Island bridge. Shortest border stop ever. No line up in lane two and our only purchases were the picnic cooler and a single bottle of wine. Usually we bring back more wine than our duty-free allowance, but we’re flying back to Winnipeg soon, so we’d have to pay extra baggage or shipping. Decided against.

I thought for sure we’d spot all of the Eastern US licence plates on this trip, but we never saw a Delaware. They must not get out much. We got all the others, and we even spotted some stray westerners like Oregon. And California – they will not stay home.

When we chose to cut short our planned two-day stop in Lake Placid/Saranac Lake, we booked another night in Kingston. This will give us more time to track down some genealogy stuff for Caroline; we’ll be able to do it as a side trip tomorrow instead of fitting it in on the way back to Ottawa.

Bennington, VT to Saranac Lake, NY

Found our way to the One World Conservation Center in Bennington for a one-hour walk at the Greenberg Reserve. What began as a meadow walk had me wishing for my hiking boots and staff after we ventured onto the Woodland Trail.

The second stop of the day was Arlington, Vermont. Once upon a time, this community was home to one of Caroline’s ancestors, Jehiel Hawley, who founded the St. James Episcopalian Church there. However, he was a Loyalist, and most of his neighbours, notably Ethan Allen, were Patriots. Must have made for some lively block parties before he fled for Canada. Appropriated by the Patriots, his old house became the governor’s mansion for a time. Supposedly, one of the views from the house is featured on the Vermont state seal. Here’s the house.

Chittenden Home. Probably.

Chittenden Home. Probably.

Finding it was a challenge. After visiting the church and asking at town hall, we ended up consulting a historian at the library. (We just happened to be there on the right day of the week.)

A mixed bag of driving today. From Arlington, we headed into New York and onto County Route 61. Remember what I said  about having to turn a corner every ten miles yesterday, just to stay on the same road? Same deal today, but every mile and a half! We even saw a covered bridge in New York, as well as (ho-hum) a last example in Vermont.

Stopped for lunch, and the sun came out. Bonus. It was supposed to be cloudy all day. 20141014_111323Somewhere around here I got mayonnaise on the lens, because all the pictures I took after this are artfully soft-focus.

North through the Adirondacks on I-89, then small highways to Lake Placid.  We were hoping it would be like Bozeman, Montana but it’s more like Banff, Alberta, being more touristy than we expected. Our hotel was rustic and rather lacking in desks and electrical outlets. Moved on to Saranac Lake instead, where we have a larger, quieter, more modern room.

There are not a lot of restaurants here, so we may not stay two nights.

Waterbury, VT to Bennington, VT

The obvious place to go for a walk this morning would have been the cycle paths at Stowe. There are more than five miles of paved trail running along the river, and even a ‘quiet path’ for walkers and joggers only. However, we slept in and the eighteen minute drive to Stowe (each way) would have killed more than half an hour without a single step being taken. We chose to get back on schedule by sticking to the guest breakfast and walking up Blush Hill from our hotel. It was frosty this morning, but the early sun was shining. In twenty minutes, we were in farmland.20141013_065743[1]

Then into Mitsu to go over the hills and through the woods. The hills being the Green Mountains – we ran south all the way along Vermont highway 100. I feel a need to say that this is not a highway. It is string of country roads that  happen to share a number. Every ten miles or so, there is a right-angle turn at an intersection, just to stay on VT100. We programmed Dingbat with a couple of strategic waypoints so that he wouldn’t revert to the shorter route along the major highway, and I think we had to ‘detour’ him once or twice before he gave up and stuck to our winding road. Taking the country roads added about half an hour to the day’s run.

The sky turned cloudy early on, so although the fall colours were at their peak, they were not very photogenic. Parts of the drive through the Vermont countryside were lovely, and we saw two covered bridges, but did not stop. There were roadside stalls selling maple syrup. We thought it too cold for a picnic lunch and decided to have our first hot lunch since leaving Ottawa a week ago. The place we found at noon was a popular stop for tour buses, so we drove on a little longer to eat at the New American Grill in Londonderry. Eager to break out of our sandwich and salad rut, Caroline chose today’s special, a cheeseburger quesadilla, while I had the burrito with flank steak. Far from the cheesy grease bomb found in some Tex-Mex restaurants, this burrito was long on salad and black beans, easy on the rice and cheese. The restaurant had quite a good wine list, but we stuck to water. $10 off the price of bottle wine on Wednesdays, though!

Arrived in Bennington before 1500, but our room was already available, so we checked in. If it had not been, plan B was to do a side-trip to save time tomorrow, but the run from here to Lake Placid is not a long one, so we’ll visit Arlington on the way there. We have two nights in Lake Placid, so it’s not as if we’ll be pushing hard.

We have no reservations for dinner, or even a prepared short-list of restaurants. We shall see.