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.

Dinner Debriefings: PZA & Chianti in Calgary

It was too busy to write these up as I squeezed dinner into my WWC convention schedule, but here goes.

On Friday, we walked to PZA on the Macleod Trail and ate on the patio. The food was quite good, but I ordered the wrong thing. I’m pretty sensitive to salt, and the pepperoni and mushroom was too salty for me. The staff were very good about switching us over to a ham and pineapple, but our replacement order hit the kitchen at a peak period, and it took a long time. The manager was very apologetic, and both pizzas were free. I might go back; the replacement pizza was good, the service was fine, and the patio was very comfortable.

On Saturday, we did pasta at Chianti on the Macleod Trail. It was another lovely evening, so we ate on the patio there, too. The bread and salad were very nice, but the service rather spoiled the meal. Wine didn’t arrive with our salads, and when we were only halfway through our salads, the pasta came. At that moment, the waiter told us the wine we had ordered was out of stock, so we finished our salads while our spaghetti alla carbonara and fettuccine supremo sat. Then we sat while our waiter took another tables order. Then the wine came and we ate warm pasta that was starting to stick together. The food was tasty, and we both approved, but presentation was plain. It took a long time to get the bill; we thought our waiter had forgotten us. We probably wouldn’t go back. On a quieter night, with a more experienced waiter, you might have a much nicer experience.

On Sunday, we returned to Broken Plate and had another terrific dinner there.

Dinner Debriefing: Broken Plate

A twelve minute walk from the Delta Calgary South is a Greek restaurant called Broken Plate which gets good write-ups on Trip Advisor. (I used to be a contributor to TA until I changed my email address and lost my account.) Anyway, it sounded about right to us, so off we went. Thunderstorms threatened, so we let Marsha, the concierge, loan us two umbrellas. This made me feel so very British. I used them to push the pedestrian crosswalk buttons. Call me Steed. We never had to deploy them; we arrived at the restaurant just as the first drops fell. We were sitting comfortably at our table when the skies opened.

Shared a calamari to start, divine. I felt like Avgolemono, which was different from the one at home (meaning Dino’s in Kenora) This was a lighter-bodied soup with chunks of chicken as well as the expected rice. I liked it. Both of us wavered on what to eat, torn between two or more dishes. For me, it was the Zeus Chicken, the Lamb Sword or the Greek Ribs. Caroline dithered between the Lamb Shanks and the Pickerel. In the end, she chose the Pickerel, which came with a Orange Saffron sauce and a side of Risotto. I decided on the ribs, and showed off my manners (well, one manner) by eating them with a knife and fork. Both meals were delicious, and Caroline especially enjoyed the risotto. We quickly decided to return on Sunday, which is the next evening when we know we’ll have time to walk to and from a restaurant together.

Broken Plate takes pride in an extensive list of wines by the glass. Caroline had some Seven Peaks Chardonnay and I went with an Octavia Merlot. Both are Californian- we gravitate towards West Coast wines.

Caroline treated herself to a lemon tart with raspberries for dessert while I finished with a coffee and espresso. Which I combined, a bad habit I picked up from a barista at my local Starbucks. The tart was amazing, and large enough that we brought nearly half back to our hotel. The weather had cleared by then, and although another cell loomed over downtown, causing arriving aircraft to swing wide to avoid turbulence, we stayed dry.

Good dinner.