Drive: Picton to Ottawa

We could fill several more days in Prince Edward County, but our time is up. There were many more wineries we didn’t get a chance to visit, there were another forty-seven kilometers of the Millennium Trail to hike, there were bicycle rentals, and we never even set foot in a shop, unless you count the grocery store.

The county must be Canada’s headquarters for old barns. You could spend a week just photographing them. Or buying them- there were real estate signs all over the place.

One thing we got right was Brown’s Manor. We had looked at several inns and B&Bs online before we booked, but when we saw the others as we drove around, we never once said, “Oh, we should have stayed there!” Brown’s was splendidly located, very comfortable, and Dianne’s breakfasts were delicious.

There was a wind warning today, and that cemented my desire to avoid the 401. It’s by far the quickest way to Ottawa, but it has a lot of truck traffic, and the idea of sharing the road with all those transports in winds of up to 80km/hour seemed like a recipe for disaster. My first thought was to take the free ferry across the Bay of Quinte and pick up the Loyalist Parkway. It’s only a ten or fifteen minute ferry ride, and it lops off quite a few miles. Ferry service was cancelled today, I think, because of the winds.

We decided to drive the long way, on old highway 2 and 33. When I say we, I mean Caroline and I. Dingbat didn’t like the idea. We had to enter Napanee as a via point and exclude motorways, and then he wanted to zig-zag all over a bunch of county roads to save a few minutes. We didn’t bring a paper map, so we resorted to launching MapQuest on Caroline’s smartphone. Two GPS are not better than one. The two computerized voices argued over which of the routes we didn’t like was the best one. The atmosphere got positively fractious.

We pulled off at a viewpoint place to watch the waves while we calmed them down and got it sorted out.

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In the end, we got our way, but we had to follow highway signs. Who does that?

In Kingston, we decided we should get lunch. The first thing we saw that wasn’t a chain restaurant was The Greek Islands. I’ve never found a Greek Restaurant that did awful Greek food. Awful decor, maybe. When Caroline saw me pull out my phone after we were seated, she asked if I was checking it on Trip Advisor. I laughed out loud at the mental image of us finding awful reviews and making our escape by crashing through the window like action heroes. Seriously, I was just checking my Twitter feed. Dining in the Information Age. The food was fine, although not quite like Dino’s back home. She had chicken souvlaki, I had a beef & lamb gyro.

The drive went better after we humans got something to eat. Our route into downtown Ottawa was pretty simple, and although rush-hour traffic was starting to build, it was in the other direction.

Unloaded Sonnet at the Best Western Victoria Park Suites, then returned her to National at the airport. All the driving we did consumed just fifty liters of gas. I liked the Hyundai Sonata. It was comfortable. I’m tall, and there were oodles of leg and headroom, even with the sunroof. Easy to drive, with many modern touches that we don’t have in our ten-year-old CRV: a backup camera (except Dingbat was suctioned to the screen most of the time). Keyless operation, proximity warnings for lane-changes and reversing. Caroline was not so happy. Her seat lacked the multiple power adjustments, and she found the low seat position made her hips sore.

We were back at the hotel in plenty of time to go for a walk, so now Caroline knows her way to the Sheraton, where Can-Con is. She may meet me for meals to save time.

Our dinner plans for tonight are vague. Pizza somewhere on Elgin Street.

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.

Dinner Debriefing: Blumen Bistro

The full name of this restaurant is the Blumen Garden Bistro. Located just a mile up the road from our B&B, this smallish place offers large helpings of imaginative fare.

Our table wasn’t quite ready when we got there, but we barely had time to sit at the bar and look over the menu before we were seated. The walls were decorated with pictures by local artists, and that community commitment carried over to the wine list, too, with many wines from Prince Edward County on offer. Sorry, the winelist isn’t on the Bistro’s website.

There were a number of things that sounded good on the menu. I narrowed it down to the pork tenderloin or the scallops. The waiter didn’t offer much in the way of guidance, so I went with the scallops. In case it was a lighter meal, I looked for a hearty starter, and chose the duck crepe. Caroline did the reverse, starting with the house salad and picking the rabbit and gnocchi dish for her entree.

We both chose to drink local wines which were available by the glass. I had a Chardonnay from Closson Chase, Caroline a Pinot Noir from Rosehall Run. I can’t find tasting notes at either winery’s website. The Chardonnay struck me as brassy, rather than fruity on the nose. Caroline said she liked the finish on it. The Pinot was robust, with some earthier notes. I hope to get to both of those wineries for a tasting soon.

And now, back to the food. We were hungry, so the bread with herbed oil was very welcome. The seed bread was especially good.

Caroline’s salad was big. I got to help her eat it. Kind of Waldorfy in concept, it had pecans, apples and local Black River Cheddar on mixed greens. Very nice. My duck crepe was huge. A broad cylinder nearly the size of my fist, it would have easily made a meal for Caroline. It was like a shepherd’s pie of duck: filled with corn, peas and dark duck meat, wrapped in the crepe and finished with a rich brown gravy. Delicious.

My scallop dish was interesting, with lots of distinct flavours, including lime, snap peas and mushrooms. It was okay, but it would have been nicer on a hot summer day on the terrace. I would order something else next time. Caroline’s duck dish was amazing. The kitchen make their own gnocchi, and the rabbit was rich and tender in a kind of a hunter sauce. It was a wonderful dish for a chill autumn night. Even with my help, she couldn’t finish it. It didn’t seem practical, but we would have loved to take the leftovers home.

There is a dessert cart, but it was out of the question, we were both too full. Caroline had noticed a pineapple upside-down cake on the October feature menu, but knew she couldn’t eat more than a forkful.

Great dinner. I recommend this restaurant.

Prince Edward County, ON

The trip to Ottawa begins.

We did contemplate driving, but flying is so much faster. WestJet had us in Ottawa about two hours after departing Winnipeg, and we were at our Bed & Breakfast in Picton three hours after that. Driving from Kenora to Picton would take several days.

We brought Dingbat, our familiar but quirky old Garmin. If you are a GPS, the only thing worse than being transported a thousand miles while you are sleeping is waking up in an underground parking garage with no satellite reception. It must be something like The Morning After, a movie in which Jane Fonda wakes up with a hangover and a dead guy. Where am I? What the hell just happened? After we pulled out into Ottawa’s autumn sunlight, it still took nearly ten minutes for Dingbat to recharge and get his bearings.

Our rental car this year is a 2016 Hyundai Sonata. I christen her Sonnet, after an obscure elf warrior from Mon-Colle-Knights. Sonnet has many modern conveniences, including some well-thought-out digital bits. I speak fluent Windows, passable Android, and a few words of Apple, but I was able to find trip meters, fuel economy numbers and cruise control settings in just a few minutes without reading the manual or asking a stranger. I also discovered that she has some kind of proximity warning that you can set off with a lane change in tight traffic.

We needed lunch, and we spotted a Moxie’s on the way out of town. They served food, but I won’t be writing it up.

Same goes for two hours on the 401. There were trucks, and Mondayish amounts of traffic near Kingston. There are still some nice fall colours, although they peaked a week or two ago.

In Picton, we are staying at Brown’s Manor, a beautiful old B&B. Dianne greeted us and got us settled in, and Ross will give us the low-down on things to see and do tomorrow. The forecast is nice, so we plan to do outdoorsy stuff like hiking and scenic sight-seeing first. Later in the week, remnants of Tropical Depression Patricia may bring wet weather, so Wednesday might be a good day to visit some wineries and do indoor things.

Tonight’s dinner plan is Blumen Bistro. Dinner Debriefing to follow.