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: 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: 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.