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: 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 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.

Summer Travels 2016

It’s been a while since I wrote about our travels. This summer, we’re taking to the road. Dingbat, our beloved(?) GPS will be joining us for a road trip to Portland, OR. But we’re starting with a flight.

First stop: Calgary, Alberta for When Words Collide. My publishers, Five Rivers, will be launching two books at this convention.

5R Poster 2016

And lookit! Way down at the bottom of the poster, it not only says I’m doing a reading from Avians, it nails down the release date in print.

Immediately before the Five Rivers Salon, I’ll be doing my presentation on Alternative Aviation in SF, and I’ve been stressing a little over how to juggle my notes (one handed on an e-reader?) and the slide show (touch screen tablet?). Good news! Lindsay Kitson, critique partner and fellow pilot, has said not only will she be in attendance, she’s willing to help with setting up and running the projector for me. That’ll be a huge help.

There’s far more to the con than just those two things. There are a slew of panels and presentations I’m eager to attend; my schedule often has two or three highlighted at the same time. I’ll blog those as I go.

After that hectic weekend, we’re hopping over to Kelowna for some family time with the western part of Caroline’s clan.

From there, we’re sticking Dingbat in rental car and heading down into Washington and Oregon. We’d like to see the Museum of Flight in Seattle, then I have novel research to do at Mount Saint Helens, because it is a rare example of a stratovolcano with lava tubes, and you can hike through them. Then Portland, OR for some seafood dinners and as a base of exploration for some local wineries before heading back to Kelowna, Winnipeg and home.

Then just a week or two later, we’ll take an extended September weekend to go to Can*Con in Ottawa. That’s one of my favourite cons, and this’ll be my third visit. It looks as if I might get to moderate a panel there, which will be a great chance to meet authors and readers of SF. More later, as details get firmed up.

It’s going to be a great summer!

Dinner Debriefing: The Buzz and Aroma Meze

Okay. Frantic rush to catch up on all the restaurants we ate at while we were in Ottawa.

I’m going to dash off a few words about the lobby lounge in the Ottawa Sheraton. I never noticed the name, but it was pretty decent. I had a perfectly good steak sandwich, Caroline remembers a very generous amount of chicken on a Cobb salad. I had lunch there another day, and the seafood club was also good. Points for Diet Coke in a glass bottle. Service varied.

Saturday. The Buzz, on Bank Street,is one of our favourite restaurants here. We ate there twice during our 2014 visit, and twice this year, too. I don’t know how to give you a clearer impression of how much we like the place than that.

We started with Calamari, which was on the pale side, but dusted with interesting spices. We ordered American wines by the glass, because I had a party to go to at my convention. We didn’t order any of the week’s specials, so you can find our starters and entrees on the menu. Caroline had the Lamb Shank, and I chose the Beef Short Ribs on Gnocchi. We were both very happy, and shared a Peach & Blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream that was the feature dessert.

On Sunday, we felt like something different, so we went to Aroma Meze on Nepean Street. Meze is the Greek version of tapas. You order lots of little plates, rather than two or three courses. They recommend six. If there are two in your party, you get two of each thing. If there are three of you, you get three, and so on. Unlike the rather random order we’ve sometimes experienced at tapas bars, they came out as follows: the pita and spicy dip; then the two garden dishes: the stuffed portobello mushrooms, the hot casserole of tomatoes and feta. Then the two seafood dishes: the calamari and the shrimp and black cod thing. Then the two meat selections: beef tenderloin with ginger and pulled lamb tacos.

Overall, this was an excellent meal. We ordered a bottle of Columbia Crest H3 Merlot (short for Horse Heaven Hills), which is an old friend from Washington state. It’s lovely and smooth, by the way. The vegetable dishes were good, the seafood dishes were a tad oily, (we shouldn’t have picked two fried things), and the red meat items were divine. It’s not often that Caroline raves about beef, and she said she’d be dreaming of the lamb tacos, which were like sopes. For dessert, we ordered two different desserts, rather than a matched pair. She had the chocolate explosion, I had the vanilla panna cotta. And the best decaf ever. Why does everyone not have a dark roast decaf? I demand that the universe be changed immediately! It was Kimbo, if you want to try it.

Monday for lunch, Caroline felt like returning to The Manx Pub on Elgin. She had eaten there a day or two earlier, while I was at Can-Con. But not on Cat Day, which might have been Karmic. It’s in a cellar, and it looks a little old, but the food was good and they are, “TV free since ’93.” Bravo. Today’s lentil soup was nice, and my pulled pork wrap was a delight. Caroline had the bean and cheese quesadilla, also very good, which came with a tomatillo dipping sauce. Interesting pub fare.

Monday evening, we went back to the Buzz. On Mondays (and Tuesdays, I think) you can bring your own wine and pay $5 corkage. We bought too much wine in Prince Edward County, in the sense that we have airline baggage limits. Our suitcases are feeling pretty heavy. So we took a Black Prince Cabernet Franc Reserve (2013). This is one of the weirdest wines I have ever tasted. We were enthralled at the winery by its date aroma. That’s right, it reminds me of sticky toffee pudding made with dates, or flake style pipe tobacco. It might appeal to Barolo or Zinfandel fans. It went beautifully with our meals.

We ordered off the regular menu again. We split a goat cheese salad, and asked them to hold the bacon. I’m allergic to one (artificial) smoke flavouring, and while I don’t actually encounter it often, it tenses me up to eat smoky foods. Mine was great. Caroline, who likes her dressing applied with a light hand, actually got the plate with more, so we could have traded if we had figured it out. She wanted the duck confit and it was just right.(not at all salty, Agrarian). I went with the six ounce filet mignon in a bourbon sauce. Num. We both chose the polenta sticks for the side, and they were splendid- crispy with parmesan. Caroline revisited the peach & blueberry cobbler, and I had coffee. Regular, not decaf, and very nice.

Dinner Debriefing: Merrill Inn

The Merrill Inn is in Picton, just a one-minute walk from our B&B. As the name suggests, the place is an inn, and the restaurant is in the lower level. The outdoor terrace is a little below grade, (and not open at this time of year) so there are only windows on the one wall. It’s a cozy room, with room for about two dozen diners.

The menu has some things in common with other local restaurants, at least as far as offering duck, rabbit and pickerel dishes. I think this is because good chefs everywhere look for locally sourced food. Tonight’s special was a bison striploin with a sauce of carmelized onion and sage.

Once again I am unable to find the wine list on the website. Maybe that’s an Ontario thing. The Inn works hard to promote County wines, with a good selection available by the six ounce glass, and an option to have two glasses for $22, which is in line with the bottle price but allows you more freedom to mix and match with your courses. We slipped slightly, and ordered a wine that is bottled in the county from grapes sourced in the Niagara Peninsula VQA; the Keint-He Voyageur Pinot Noir. This was a fairly light Pinot, but went well with our entree choices without overpowering the salad. There were imported wines on the list, too, and judging from the Californians offered, someone there knows their grapes. Edward, actually, one of the owners.

The bread basket featured a sourdough bread that is baked in-house, and a multi-grain sourced locally. Oh, and there were some little cheese biscuit thingies  with a fresh pear chutney. We both started with the house salad, and the inn got points for applying the dressing with a light hand. Caroline wanted the duck and fig dish, I chose the rabbit with pasta. Both were very nice, and we had enough room to share a dessert.

The pie of the day was an apple, served with ice cream made on the premises. We’re not really pie people, so we shared a nice little Opera Cake with raspberries and creme Anglais. Tea for her, coffee for him.

Another nice dinner. Considering that the population of Picton is under 4000 (the population of the entire Prince Edward County is around 25,000) this place is rocking the restaurant biz.