Dinner Debriefing: Sous Sol

Sous Sol is tucked away in a basement in Winnipeg’s Osborne Village. There’s barely a sign. I’d say you have to be hip to eat there, but then I’d have to explain how I snuck in.

The menu is small, and changes often, so I don’t know how long that link will work. The ambiance is candlelit. The art is consciously trashy, which pairs well with the dim light. The chinaware is ornate, but mismatched, as if it were bought at yard sales. The food is divine.

Caroline and I joined our friend Donna, our Winnipeg guide to out-of-the-way bistros.

I started with the French cheese selection: a sharp goat cheese, an unpasteurized Trappist and a bleu, with an apricot compote, a tomato coulis and crostini. I let the ladies eat the bleu in exchange for a sample of the Fennel Salad they shared.

Caroline had the pork tenderloin, paired with the mushroom ragout. The pork was perfect. I chose the beef noisette with king oyster mushrooms and Calvados barbecue sauce. I also teamed it with the mushroom ragout. Donna had the crab croquettes with remoulade, poached egg and caviar. Technically, that’s a side dish, but it was as generous as the entrees. She got an order of sweet potato gnocchi for sharing. Everything was excellent.

Donna ordered the wine, the Chateau de Gaudou Malbec Merlot. It was too dark to see the colour, and I draw the line at turning on my smartphone’s flashlight to check it out when other people are trying to enjoy a meal. It tasted rich and dark, and we enjoyed it.

Caroline and Donna shared the last slice of a chocolate cheesecake, but I don’t remember the details.

Would I go back? Yes, definitely. In fact, this was our second visit.

 

 

Dinner Debriefing: Inferno’s on Academy

We were in Winnipeg for the weekend: I was going to KeyCon, a convention with writerly stuff, and Caroline was planning to go plant shopping. We hooked up for dinner each day.

Inferno’s in St. Boniface is one of our favourite Winnipeg restaurants, but with our hotel near the airport, and my convention downtown, there wasn’t time to venture so far. Inferno’s on Academy offers a similar menu, with much less driving, making it possible for us to eat, drop Caroline off back at the hotel, and still get me downtown in time for the opening ceremonies at 7:00.

We went at around 5:00, so there was no need to worry about noise or a busy kitchen. The food was tasty: we had wonderful calamari, and I sipped a Bulldog beer, while Caroline had a glass of house Chardonnay. We made it a seafood theme, Caroline chose mussels and frites, I went with the arctic char with gruyere. Both were good, and Caroline got her frites extra crispy, as she asked.

Highlight of the evening was Caroline’s dessert, a chocolate fantasy that swept her away.

I don’t do ratings, I only say whether I would return. Yes I would. I still prefer the original Inferno’s Bistro location, because I like the ambiance a little more, and find the servers more knowledgeable and a smidge more attentive. But if I was in the neighbourhood, I’d happily go to Inferno’s on Academy again.

 

 

Road Trip Wrap-Up

The last days of our trip were hectic, and I didn’t get a chance to write about them.

In Kelowna for one night, we didn’t have time to do anything fancy about dining out. We walked to Cactus Club Cafe. I don’t usually write up chain restaurants, because we’re more into finding the unusual or at least the individual. However, I will say that after visiting the franchise wasteland that is Federal Way, Washington, the restaurant scene in Kelowna was a breath of fresh air, even in the mass-market vicinity of the airport. The Cactus Club was comfortable and the food was quite good. The ceviche was nice; refreshing and delicate. I made one last attempt to have salmon on this trip, but they had just run out. I had the Ahi Tuna Club instead, and enjoyed it even though I ordered it without bacon. Caroline ordered the fish tacos. They were large, and she could only eat one. For wine we ordered something called Feenie Goes Haywire. It’s an odd blend of white grapes conceived by the company chef, but quite enjoyable.

Tuesday we slept in a bit, and the hotel’s breakfast buffet was packed. We drove to Cora’s, because you can get fresh fruit there, and we were craving.

Went for a walk, packed up and drove to the airport for our afternoon departure to Winnipeg. Car return was a snap. Check-in was fine. Once again, my suitcase weighed exactly fifty pounds. Robert J. Sawyer, this is your fault: I must not buy hardcovers for you to autograph when I have to fly. If I hadn’t ditched some toiletries, I’d have been paying an overweight baggage premium because of Quantum Night.

Security was lined up, and I managed to get myself singled out for an X-ray. They spotted something at my right hip, which was a loonie I had overlooked when emptying my pockets, and something in my left armpit area. I believe that was my stents. They don’t show on a metal scan, because titanium is not a ferrous metal. An X-ray, however, could detect them. Total Recall, anyone?

Airport food. Num. Boarding began early, but went on and on. I suspect some of the last to arrive were delayed by the long lines at security.

Jonathan was waiting for us in Winnipeg, so that was easy. He and Caroline went for pizza after dropping me off at my critique group for the monthly meeting. Yay, no late-night drive or work the next morning!

Drove to Kenora Wednesday, arriving home shortly after noon.

I’m going to sneak in one more book recommendation here. I mentioned Arabella of Mars the other day, and I actually read the whole thing while we were in Portland, which is home to the author, David D. Levine. He, however, was off at WorldCon, signing autographs and receiving much love for his book. I thoroughly enjoyed this Young Adult Spec Fic tale that mashes up Age of Sail, Clockwork, and Martians. You might want to check it out.

I’ll be back to work next week, and then next month we’ll be taking a long weekend to visit Ottawa for Can*Con 2016. I’ll be moderating a panel about exciting new books in different sub-genres, and I should be on the schedule for a reading, too. With the release of Avians less than a year away, I’ll be on the hunt for book reviewers that lean towards YA and SF.

 

Dinner Debriefing: Subterra

We decided to make a side-trip to an old favourite for dinner. Subterra is in Newberg, almost an hour away from our hotel near the Portland airport. We ate there some years ago and liked it.

It’s still good: you get fancy food at very reasonable prices. The restaurant is in a lower level; you could call it a cellar or a basement. You aren’t paying for the view, and it felt naturally cool.

Soup and salad are included, and there were two soups on offer. We hedged our bets by choosing different ones. Caroline thought the chilled tomato basil gazpacho might be acidic, so she ordered the black bean soup, and I took the tomato. It was very refreshing, and not acid at all. We traded soups half-way through; you can dress us up, but you can’t take us anywhere. We both liked the salad.

We were in the mood for seafood, so we ordered the potato-scaled halibut (Caroline) and the scallops (Tim). We’re red wine with turkey people, but for fish we like a big white. We chose the L’Ecole 41 Chardonnay. It’s not the kind of wine I’d usually put in an icer, but there’s a heat wave, so we did. Both dishes were tasty and interesting. My scallops came with a crab-stuffed tomato and risotto. Caroline immediately began reverse engineering the halibut’s thin shell of crispy potato slices. Her pinot infused mashed potatoes were a surprising dark colour, but a delicious change from the usual.

Caroline ordered a trifle: fresh local blueberries and strawberries, cream and a little layer of delicate cake. I helped her finish it.

The only negative was the coffee. Dreaming of the dark roast I got in Hope, BC, I ordered a large French Press to finish the meal. I found it weak, watery and uninteresting, and I only drank one mouthful.

Bill was very reasonable, in the same range as a nice lunch. The restaurant prides itself on the wait staff and the service lived up to that expectation. The food was sublime. Last time we were here, we said we’d go back. We did, and we’d go back again. That’s my highest praise.

Dinner Debriefing: Bistro 23

Our plans to wine and dine in the vibrant restaurant scene of Portland hit a road block. Our hotel is near the airport, and getting downtown takes more time or money than we expected. By train, it’s around forty minutes, and the trains are running slowly now because of the heat. (warping rails?) A taxi will set you back $40 each way. Driving is fraught with one-way streets and scant parking.

We decided to look for a nice place to eat near our hotel. It’s not easy to find good restaurants in the outlying areas, but we’ve managed it before. Hay J’s is hidden in an unassuming strip mall in Liberty Lake. Broken Plate is in a prettier strip mall in Calgary.

We succeeded. Bistro 23 is a fifteen minute walk from our hotel and yes, it’s in a strip mall. I had some qualms about that distance because of the heat, but we were able to walk on the shady side of the street. We navigate using Google Maps on one of  our smart phones, and I’m sure we look like we’re Pokémon hunting. We strolled right past Leatherman’s headquarters; I felt like I should make an offering or something.

Bistro 23 combines bistro cuisine with cafeteria service. You order at the till and prepay. We sat on the patio, and they brought the food to us. Bonus points for heavy three-legged tables that do not wobble. Patio restaurants everywhere, take notice!

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In the foreground, my caprese salad with burrata and two kinds of tomatoes. Nice. Pig in the Woods pizza at the right, thin crust with ham, mushrooms and fresh arugula. Very good. Caroline’s peach salad across the table. Amazing.

The restaurant offers a handful of local craft beers and a modest selection of wines by the glass or bottle. I had a lager, Caroline a Pinot Gris with salad and a Cabernet/Merlot with pizza.

If you want more drinks, you run back inside, which is why Caroline is not in this photo. That sounds inconvenient, but it also means you don’t have to try and catch a server’s eye. They ask you to clear your own table. Since you’ve prepaid, you can just do that and leave when you’re done: I quite liked that. We’ll do a fancy dinner tomorrow somehow, and then we’ll be back at Bistro 23 on Saturday. Affordable.

Dinner Debriefing: Pimiento

The Pimiento Bistro & Bar is a simple fifteen minute drive from our hotel in Federal Way and it gets good write-ups on Trip Advisor. Once a month, they do a tapas night with a fixed series of apps and a matched wine flight. Tonight was that night, but we ordered from the menu.

We shared an excellent calamari. Tender, and accompanied by some breaded jalapeno rings. Caroline thought it was one of the best ever, I rate it neck and neck with Broken Plate from Calgary.

I loved my house salad, but Caroline thought her salad with burrata cheese would have the really runny kind, and it was more like a fresh mozzarella.

Both my lamb and Caroline’s duck were tender, but we didn’t think they were exciting. We figure they were cooked medium, and we’d prefer a little less than that. Perhaps the kitchen was unusually busy with the tapas thing.

It was a nice touch that the waiter spoke about each wine he brought as part of the tapas sequence, but we did get tired of hearing the same spiel delivered to three neighboring tables with each course. We stuck with the Sonoma Merlot.

One thing was fun: Blanca Rodriguez, the executive chef, spends time out front with the diners. I liked that, because some chefs never see past the end of their noses. Blanca’s interacting, thinking about your tastes and helping you find the best choice from her menu.

I might go again, but the seating is not in Pimienta’s favour: you must choose between a hard wooden chair or a flat wooden bench.

Dinner Debriefing: Los Bigotes de Villa

Meaning Pancho Villa’s moustache, I think. We knew we’d get some good Mexican food in Washington. Couldn’t find a website for this place, but it’s all over Trip Advisor and Yelp. Modest little strip-mall location in Federal Way, almost a hole-in-the-wall. Authentic Mexican food. I had a burrito the size of my foot. (13E) No wine, but a good selection of Mexican beer. Excellent, and cheap.