Thursday, 31 October 2013

Food Pen Pal Reveal-October

the dying art of card & letter writing

This month’s Foodie parcel came from Lori in Orillia, ON  (my third Ontario exchange).  I travelled through Orillia last month and found some good Foodie spots-Mariposa Market and Era 67 to name a couple.  It seems I missed Patilero chocolates.  But no fear, because Lori sent along a selection of chocolate including fondue, caramels, a dark chocolate bar and hot chocolate.


Lori sent a bottle of maple syrup harvested from the family farm.  After a recent browse through the latest LCBO, I’ll be experimenting with The Fat Elvis.  Only I think mine will be Fat Elvis On A Diet.  Layers of lean English bacon, peanut butter and bananas sandwiched between two glorious slices of French toast.  We’ll top the sandwich off with Lori’s maple syrup. Stay tuned for the results.
The hot chocolate came from Soma, located in Toronto.  I’ve talked about Soma before.  If you want truffles, this is the real thing; likewise with the hot chocolate.  It’s the kind of drink that’s like ribs.  Once you’ve drunk it, you’ve got just about the same amount left over in the cup.  You boil the chocolate granules with water to form a rich and spicy liquor. You have the option of drinking it like an espresso or adding a portion of hot milk.  Very tasty.

Soma hot chocolate-the real thing

I am planning on making some after dinner mints with the chocolate bar.  (Is it really necessary to say ‘after’ dinner? We are unlikely to indulge between the soup and the entrée are we?)
Each caramel offered up a very generous square of soft, chewy goodness.  I generally go with dark chocolate but I really enjoyed the milk here.

milk caramels




I love noodles of all kinds; especially long noodles-Bucatini is a weakness as is spaghettini.   On top of all the chocolate, Lori included a package of Chinese noodles.  Soup it was.  Lots of chicken, shrimp and herbs; a nice treat for my persistent cold. (Note:  the label does state noodles are "cooking resistant".  HA!




I sent Lori apricot jam with brandy, chocolate and lemon & lime from Bisket a Basket, mung bean fettucine, a selection of loose leaf teas, caramel and chocolate covered pretzel sticks (delicious!), baking cups, napkins and a magazine from Hamilton that profiles some nice Foodie spots in the area.  Hope you enjoyed them. Let us know if you're still out there.

(Had a little technical difficulty with the formatting on this one as you're no doubt aware.)

If you are interested in participating in a Foodie Pen Pal exchange sometime, please click on the Pen Pal icon on the side bar for all the details.*
*If  you are a UK/Europe resident, please use the following link:
FOODIE PEN PALS UK  (courtesy of

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Thursday, 24 October 2013

People Watching-Soulpepper and an oyster lesson at Pure Spirits

“Is this lettuce leaf all for me?”  Norman in Table Manners

The long weekend continued with a day in Toronto that included all three plays from The Norman Conquests, the St. Lawrence Market and some nice nibbles at Pure Spirits where I’m pleased to report there was substantially more on offer than just lettuce leaves.

A little panic stricken about the drive in-long weekend and all the joy it brings; QEW jammed with families bound for the US.  Never understood why people wait ‘til mid-morning Saturday to make a move or indeed travel South on long weekends at all.  You know what you’re getting yourself in for; pick another weekend. What’s the fascination with pastry shells, anyway? Often wonder if it’s worth the three hour wait at the border. Okay, so you cannot get rolled pastry in this country; take them out of the case and lay them flat. I digress.  Piece on the morning show regarding exchange rate.  CA dollar on par so why are we paying so much more in the North?  Move to get shoppers to stay away from Black Friday.  Fortunately the traffic presently at a standstill was going the other way so the rest of us enjoyed a smooth run.

Parked up and sprinted to the Distillery District while shovelling down a chocolate and caramel pretzel.  By nature, I’m not an inhaler of food but there wasn’t time for a proper lunch.  In fact I thought I was in for a day of grazing due to intervals of sixty and ninety minutes.  Would this be an espresso laced day?

Never got ‘round to The Norman Conquests with Richard Briers and Penelope Keith so long overdue to see the play.  If you have the choice, try to see all three on the same day.  To be perfectly honest, I think I would have difficulties remembering all the little things going on from one week to the next.  (We were spoiled with Angels In America-another marathon.)  Mass confusion with the seats and guests were a little ruffled.  I couldn’t get the damn phone to shut off and we all know how I feel about cell phones going off mid play. Conferred with seatmate and think we got there but slight paranoia over telemarketers making their calls during a critical point in play.  Meant to ask where seatmate was visiting from.

Conquests is comprised of three plays that revolve around six characters with each play taking place in a different part of a house but in the same time frame as the preceding plays. Hope that’s clear. Table Manners was a romp and everyone had a good laugh.  Very often, you’ll get veteran theatre goers who look downright miserable.  They’ve seen everything so many times I think they go out of habit and don’t really get into the plays. 

Sterling cast for this one-Shultz, Reid, Boyes, Mennel, Condlin & Dennis (if memory serves). It seems as if you could enjoy your character night after night; all very playful and flirty.  I enjoyed the table mats; we’ve got some old Sheffield scenes in the top drawer.  I like that they were given pride of place, like fine crystal. Norman is a bit of a disaster but his zeal for life comes through and you willingly cheer him on.  Loved the breakfast scene; oh to have so much energy (and self-control) in the AM.  Confess to examining actors’ bare feet for state of arch support.

Off to get rid of the phone and have a browse. October is good time of year to go to the Distillery District.  Crowds are manageable, temperature is good and it’s usually easier to get into a restaurant. (Or so I thought.)

On the To-Do List is a sake tasting.  They also do a sake-based Cosmopolitan and salad dressings.  The Cosmo sample was rather nice.  The air was thick with when I arrived as someone had just dropped a bottle. Quick whip ‘round the St. Lawrence for the Foodie Pen Pal. Decided on Bisket-a-Basket apricot jam with brandy, chocolate and lemon. How can you go wrong with brandy and chocolate?  Another dash back to the theatre; another pretzel in hand.

Getting good results on the plea for phones to be turned off.  Second disembodied voice to encourage eyebrow raising.  What can be done about mint popping?  It too deserves an equally sound thumping.

Living Together finds us amongst the Lounge chairs with the family trying to maintain some sense of normalcy. The play mellows out and we get a little deeper into the characters.  I call it a romp but there is great poignancy. Different seatmates for this one and I asked about my neighbour’s bracelets.  Plastic zippers which turn out to have been promotional prizes from Italian potato chip packets. Who needs Cartier?

The generation gap was the only thing that got in the way for some of the under 30’s.  Not sure they knew what to do with Reg and his nudge-nudges and wink-winks.  I thought he was great fun.  Master of cereal.  The dinner gong went and we filed out with visions of what might have gone on under the rug.

I made a second stab at getting a table at El Catrin; 6:30 and they were jammed.  Over to Pure Spirits, equally jammed but managed a bar stool.  Note to selves:  if you want a meal in TO after 6:00, make a booking.  Not a fan of sitting at the bar, however, things worked out well.  This was my third visit to the restaurant and I was ideally situated for a lesson in the fine art of oyster consumption.

I have always been told to stun the oyster with a little lemon juice and let them slide down unencumbered.  Not according to tonight’s shucker; oyster eating is more like wine tasting.  First, get a sense of the oyster; second, sip the oyster water and third, let the oyster slip in and give it a good chew.  Lots of texture and you want to get the most out of it.  Our host explained the difference between the various oysters and he and his partner made light work of getting them plated.  So obviously a return visit is in order to sample a dozen or so.  First the sake tasting then the oysters.

Like to see a cocktail menu in flux.  The Autumn cocktail of gin, rhubarb liqueur and lime cordial was very refreshing.  The bar staff work hard at Spirits and are constantly on the move.  Started with the tuna tartare which I raved about before. People love those root chips.  Followed this with macaroni and cheese with seafood; the smaller elbows are used here and it was light on the sauce which is a good thing in my books.  Don’t like getting a plate of food that’s gone through death by sauce.  And since a trip to Soma was not in the cards on this day, took a Gin & Tonic dessert~gin semifreddo, tonic bubbles and lime gel.  This would make a very nice equivalent to sorbet in between courses.  It’s not sweet so those who shun dessert would be very at home with it.  Lots of different textures to play about with.  Lovely.

And we’re for off Round and Round the Garden. Consensus (before intermission) amongst audience on preferred play order-Manners, Garden then Living. By Act II- Manners, Living, Garden.

Apologies to all for my outburst mid-way through.  It’s one of those laughs I would normally reserve for the privacy of my living room.  A couple of Gen X’ers mystified at what all the fuss was about, but, they soon go into it.  My mind was racing to remember what happened at one o’clock; trying to piece the scenes together. Must try not to think so much.  Norman was in his element seducing Sarah, again.  How could she refuse?  Annie seemed to have gotten off the fence by play’s end and we’re told the rendez-vous will happen, some day.  Compliments all ‘round.  Very nicely done.

Hadn’t factored the Leafs game into the drive home.  Lots of long faces so one can only assume it was business as usual for the team.  But somehow, they still manage to sell tickets.  Next home game pop down to the east end, instead.  Think you’ll get more out of Soulpepper and the Distillery District than you will a hockey game.

Until next time.
Mind the shrubbery.


Friday, 18 October 2013

Friday Thoughts-Was that a spring in the city's step?

Two four day weeks in a row.  Surely the Industrial revolution happened long enough ago that we can safely move to a four day week, every week. It’s the long weekends we cling to; cubicles are soul destroying spaces and the less time spent in them the better. 

Owing to a design flaw, I pay to have someone change out the headlight bulb.  Calling all automotive engineers-simplify your design.  And why do all dealerships have their television tuned to old Nascar or funny car drag racing?  Have you noticed that no one is watching? Try the local news station; think you’ll get more of a response. Another trip along Barton which is usually a driver’s nightmare; it too is poorly designed-lots of traffic lights and no traffic flow.

The sun does wonders for a city’s complexion and it was shining brightly that day.  Usually cannot face the Barton traffic, empty storefronts and the remains of the Centre Mall (don’t get me started on box stores and parking lots).  But, changes are afoot and the drive afforded a closer look at the shops and houses.  Underneath the years of soot and other debris stand some fine looking buildings.  Like the core, a little bit of housekeeping is all that’s required.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that Barton may be ahead of the game.  Paint and stucco had been liberally applied to a number of exteriors and things were looking much improved.  There are long standing places that will always do well regardless of surrounds-the Polish delicatessen, for example. The Double Decker restaurant seemed to be thriving. Apart from a near fatality where a driver did not look into his turn and one man rummaging through the garbage bin at Victoria, the drive was quite pleasant.  Not a word you might normally see associated with Barton. 

Took an early supper at The Bean Bar.  It’s getting to the point where you have to order course by course otherwise the first one comes before the drink gets to the table and the second before you’ve finished your soup. Having clarified that I was not in a rush, I was asked part way through the soup how long I wanted them to keep the sandwich in the oven.  Why is the sandwich made at this point?  It’s grilled cheese, it doesn’t require a marinade and a few hours of slow roasting.  This is not specific to the Bean Bar but typical of most restaurants. It comes back to an earlier point about slowing down to enjoy a good meal.  Recommending the chai milkshake and the ham & gruyere, but not fresh out of the oven.  Second time ‘round with the sandwich but this time the cheese was minimalistic and the oven had not done the ham and bread any favours.  Enjoy the potato bread.  Bottom line, be very specific about when you want your food.  Had a whip through Picones and the Beanermunky for a Food Pen Pal browse.  Settled on the caramel & chocolate pretzels.  Delicious.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned the pretzels before.  The cocoa nib & blueberry chocolate is rather nice.  Close to Hallowe’en and business was brisk.

Since I managed to miss Supercrawl and July’s Art Crawl, it was now or never.  James St. is different again during the Crawl and this was a much better experience than last month’s stroll as the sidewalks and galleries were full of life.  Enjoyed the Kostanski and Richardson pieces at the Design Annex~ ANNEX and the Visser paintings at Focus Gallery~ VISSER.  Like most paintings and photographs, a screen shot doesn’t do them justice.  Despite a cool evening, the pumpkin paleta from RUDY's was most welcome.  Found Rudy’s at the Dundas Market one stifling summer’s day and took a lemon refresher.  Christ Church Cathedral was open and we got a close up look at the intricate wood and limestone carvings at the altar.  Very nicely done.

And then it was back to reality at King & James as a young woman made a dash for the bottom of the rooftop steps while her friend stood by looking ever so slightly uncomfortable.  I thought she might have offered to hold her friend’s hair at the very least.  Further East, a young woman clad in black and red paced a corner.  I wanted to offer soup and coffee and tell her that she might be better off getting an early night.  Did you read Pat Barker’s Blow Your House Down in the end?  Great read.  It takes all kinds to make a city and Hamilton is far from giving up its ghost.  Get out when you can and support what you can be it a paleta or an original oil.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Alberta II~Up A Mountain Without A Defribrillator

Destination:  Canmore & Lake Louise
Book: The Sisters Brothers
Film: Deliverence
Daily km: 553.8km
Coffee & sugar units: 4
Foodie #2:  Good Earth Coffee House & Bakery
Foodie #3:  Buchanan’s Chop House & Whisky Bar
Soundtrack:  n/a

Let me explain about the alcohol.  The good people at the LCBO recently profiled several Toronto mixologists.  It was a Dark Horse based cocktail that I was after.  Dark Horse is produced in Alberta and when in Rome…  Buchanan’s are purists; they don’t do cocktails.  Not wanting to start a meal with a single malt, I opted for the Negroni.  Is there a consensus on how to make this?  I don’t think so.  Buchanan’s barkeep feverishly flipped through his copy of the New York Bartender’s Guide and produced a very satisfying drink. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today we were bound for Lake Louise.  From the log cabin of 1890 (built by the Canadian Pacific Railway) the hotel has morphed into the present day multi-winged Chateau.

Humble beginnings.

The original log cabin.

Rooms with a view.

My morning view was a little more humble; hardly Forster-worthy.  But if you squint real hard, you can see Calgary in the distance. To the right is an industrial estate.  Three days at the Chateau and I’d bloom.  Remember Alan Benet’s Joyce from A Private Function?  “Put me in a long frock and surround me with sophisticated people; I’d bloom.” Or something along those lines.

But first- getting to the hills. Awoke to the strains of a Neko Case-esque singer on Mid Morning Mojo.  Excellent music.  CNN and BBC going head to head, first with the Ariel Castro death and then the G20. Remember I don’t have cable so I soaked up a little along the route. Downed the coffee and made my way Northwest to Canmore.  Oh, the roads.

What do you think of when you read Crowchild Trail or Deerfoot Trail? Meandering through the well-worn lowlands on horseback?  Ranches?  Grazing cattle?  Idyllic countryside?  Not quite.  The “trail” network is a series of eight lane concrete speedways.  Congestion, tailgating, unexplained weaving; exits that come up out of the blue;  drivers oblivious to everyone but themselves.  Since no one stops on red or slows down in construction zones, the City has instituted a camera system.  Beware the flash!  Apparently it can take months before you get your fine and by that point, you’ve quietly forgotten about it.

After a couple of premature turns and a few drives through suburban shopping malls, the 1A looms large.  This is a two lane road that does meander through rolling country side.  And, yes, there are cattle ranches.  Oh, the quiet.  Ahhh.  Quarries and Lafarge blast sites dot the road but are, for the most part, nicely concealed behind the forest. These mountains are only the baby hills.  The real thing takes another hour’s drive.  The coffee and breakfast shake were in deep conversation with my bladder and a pit stop was necessary.  Found Good Earth Coffee House & Bakery which turns out to be a chain.  Beamed ceilings, painting and photography on the walls and live music set it apart from the usual coffee spot.  The almond crusted, chocolate stuffed, buttery Danish was fabulous and it was followed by a banana Frappucino of sorts.  Does Starbucks have a claim on Frappuccino?  I resisted the urge to get a second Danish, but regretting it now.

If you’re like me, your knowledge of Canmore extended no further than Royal Air Farce’s “I’m Mike, from Canmore.”   This is your typical town that has grown to accommodate the tourists.  But the architecture and colour scheme is consistent and the mountains are allowed their place. There is a ski lodge feel.  Pleased to find two hours of free parking.  You won’t find that in Niagara Falls.  Found Café Books Ltd.  Purveyors of local prints, jewelry, books and so on.  Good browsing spot.

The 1A to Canmore

The distant Rockies.

Drove on through Banff National Park; the scenery reminding me of Deliverance.  A fishing trip that turns ever so slightly sour.  I imagined the canoe drifting along the river below; inside it, the lone survivor.  I was going to go with The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie because they never get to their dinner, either. The fencing you see runs the length of the road and it’s designed to keep the wildlife in.  Roadkill has been reduced by eighty-five percent.  And those overpasses, they are for the animals, not you.

"Deliverance" Country

Banff National Park
Lake Louise is where Swiss Alps meets Rockies.  Foodie goal today was the Tea House at the top of a three and half kilometer climb.  A steep climb.  I started my ascent at two o’clock on a hot afternoon, two hours after the coffee and pastry; this on top of three days of driving on what seemed like a steady diet of coffee.  Now, was this wise?  Was I in any kind of shape to attempt this?  I started off poorly as I gave it my usual walking pace.  Wrong.  You need to take this steady.  Septuagenarians and women of considerably larger girth than me glided up the hill.  I rested at the first available rock and then carried on.  I rested again and a couple offered me water.  Did I look that bad?  I didn’t see a defibrillator anywhere and my chest was pounding.  Was I on the verge of a coronary?   After much thought, it was decided that the Tea House would have to wait.  I offer the picture below as my only proof of my attempt.  If you look carefully through the trees, you can see the “progress”.  I’m no longer lakeside. Thirst like a camel but Afternoon Tea at the Chateau will have to wait; I was sweating like a pig.  Know thy limits.

The Ascent to the Tea House-Lake Louise.

Proof of the Ascent
You’ll notice the Thirst within a day or two of driving West.  Started at 246ft above sea level and was presently at 3,857ft.  So I blame the elevation as well as the grade.  You just cannot slake the thirst no matter how much water you drink. 

Took respite by the lake and helped out a number of families by taking their picture.  Most couples must get home with duplicates of everything; he’s on one, she’s on one. Lots of visitors, but it’s manageable.  If you sit quietly, the right moment for a photo will present itself. 

Lake Louise

Relaxed and did a little people watching.

The Lake

Lake II
After a relaxing drive back, I had to strategize on getting into downtown.  How difficult can it be?  As we’ve seen, racetracks and one way systems work to keep people like me out.  The thing is I live in a city that’s full of race tracks and one-ways and things go very smoothly.  CAA book in hand, I planned the route.  Little did I know that there are in fact TWO maps and TWO lists of restaurants, using the same numbering system.  After much ado and a trek through northern Calgary, my journey came to an end.  I had a vision of a cool, refreshing beverage and meal that required the use of both knife and fork.  I was presented with spicy lobster dumplings followed by ginger & wasabi salmon.  My taste buds were beside themselves.  Never mind the mountains, I had a plate of hot food in front of me. 

The drive out of town equalled the drive back.  I returned a shell of my former self and had to break out the Bombay.  I thought of the Sisters Brothers.  They would have been quite at home in Deliverance country.  They would have got up that hill, arm or no arm.  I hit the pillow like the boys did upon returning to the homestead.  But, wait what is that noise?  It sounds like a large I-Beam being dragged across the parking lot.  Or is that the sound of sheet metal being torn in two?  I picture a car being driven under cover of darkness, lights extinguished.  Someone receives the car; no words are exchanged.  What is in the car?  Something that needs to be disposed of quickly and efficiently. 

Until next time.  The French are coming!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

People Watching-'Peg to Regina

Destination:  Regina, SK
Book: Elizabeth David-anything
Film:  Big Night
Daily km:  602
Coffee Units:  3
Soundtrack:  Yo-Yo Ma, Robert Plant & Alison Kraus, Louis Prima



I was wrenched from sleep and tried to fathom where I was.  Was that a bomb? No, merely garbage collection on Labour Day. What would the Local have to say about this? Upset that I couldn’t even get a lie in on a national holiday, I stumbled down to breakfast.  The Econo-Lodge breakfast room is in stark contrast to the Quality Inn’s dining room. Shocker of shockers, no boiled eggs in plastic serving dishes! Avoid the muffins. It’s a one-man show here and the day manager, Jeff, was doing double duty on front desk and kitchen detail.  For enthusiasm, welcoming manner and helpfulness, I give him ten out of ten.  Spoke to a woman from Oregon and a family of Francophones.  There is a large French speaking population in Manitoba and there are two separate signs for everything; your tax dollars at work.  What are we spending on bilingualism, anyhow?

Loaded up the coffee mug and then the car. Overcast and humid; reminder that I need to get rid of the bones.  Yes, the rib bones had travelled the 1400km, too.  One more day and they would walk off by themselves.  Bit of a chat with Jeff, who upon hearing where my next stop was, said, “Ooohhh, there’s not much in Regina.  A casino, maybe, but not much else.”   But, Winnipeg always seems to be defending itself, too.  We’ll see what Jeff’s city has to offer next Tuesday.

Getting out of the city was a damn sight easier than getting in.  The flatness does throw you off; there’s so much sky.  Enjoying the fact that this is the Trans-Canada Highway but there’s hardly anything on it.  Need to pull over?  Pull over.  Need to turn left?  Get into the left lane and turn on to the median.  There are no off-ramps and overpasses because someone’s farming the land right up to the roadside and even the stretch of median yields a good harvest.

Pleased to report that the sun finally showed itself.  Harvest time and there was industry in the fields.


Found a cemetery whose name I’ve conveniently lost.

Of course you don’t have to pull into a cemetery to get peace and quiet.  The silence is everywhere and it’s important to pull over and get out of the car.


Reminding myself of the weekend fire that destroyed the St. Jacob’s Farmers’ Market.  Bad business.  Caught the hourly news before the station drifted out; the death of the young Native boy still dominating. Popped in a CD; a little Bach is a fine thing on a sunny afternoon.

You can see things from the highway but how to get at them?  Once you figure out how to get onto the service roads, you’re all set.


I was warned by more than one person that the Prairie would be tough going.  “There’s nothing on the Prairie.”  “Make sure you have lots of CD’s in the car!” And, the old joke about the dog running away from home; its owner (three weeks later) sits on the back porch still able to see the dog running away. I would say if you’re not enjoying the Prairie, you haven’t opened your eyes and ears.  Spied this church from a distance.

A long train was close by and I had to get over the tracks quickly or else set up camp for the night while the train passed. On the other side of the tracks, there was a community of six houses and a farm and I couldn’t find the church anywhere.  Another Twilight Zone moment?  You can only drive around so many times by after which you convince yourself you never saw a church.   Like most structures of this kind, they are situated in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere.

A common vignette-abandoned cars, rotting grains and a trailer or two.


Grain elevators, in various states of repair, dot the landscape.


Whitewood, SASK is a good pit stop point; a one man gas, grocery & lotto.  Hopefully he had help running the adjacent diner.  The Greyhound stops here and the store would be a great place to spend time People Watching.  I cracked open the cooler; things still looked edible.

One thing to note is the civilized driving.  No aggressive drivers, no weaving, no bizarre lane changes.  Everyone just doing the speed limit and getting along just fine.

 Tonight’s accommodations brought to you by Comfort Inn which comes with a view of the Wal-Mart shopping plaza.  Wised up and picked a spot right off the highway. But, how to get in to the place?  For once, I got in before midnight and had time for R&R.  The place was undergoing renovations but instead of completing one project and moving on, there were all kinds of work orders outstanding.  Mirrors in the bathroom, landscaping, new breakfast room furniture still in the boxes that were piled high in the lobby. And despite being 7:30 PM, there were three housekeeping carts lined up just outside the lobby.

Tonight I ate like a King-microwaved tinned soup. I had no energy to drag myself out into the town never mind the Chinese across the parking lot.  Hence, the nod to Elizabeth David.  In part, she would have approved of the simplicity of the meal.  Big Night is a wonderful film about two brothers trying to make a go of it in the restaurant business.  The eldest brother is a purist and wants to give the public an authentic Italian experience. They create a feast of ten (?) courses but it is the final scene of a simple omelette being prepared and eaten that I really enjoyed.

Trawled through a little TV-The Food Network, Seinfeld, Simpsons (wondered for a nano-second about the kids preparing for the first day back) and Charlie Rose that I haven’t seen for years.  For some reason it was always on at two in the afternoon in Ontario.  No TVO, but then we’re not in Ontario anymore-had to remind myself.

Until next time when Regina defends itself.

People Watching-Regina to Calgary

Destination:  Calgary, AB
Book:  The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnick
Film:  Wedding In White
Daily km:  800
Coffee Units:  2
Alcohol Units: 2
Soundtrack:  Ella Fitzgerald, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd
Foodie #1:  Budz Burgers-City Centre

With the exception of a couple of derogatory remarks about long distance drivers and Winnipeg, Regina seems to carry the least positive word of mouth.   A reminder that it is the capital of Saskatchewan; how bad can it be?

Back to the one way system, but at least Regina is on the grid.  Because, when things are not on the grid, it can really mess with your mind.  And as we’ve seen earlier, five minutes can soon turn into thirty-five. And you find yourself driving around the same block. Again.
If you are visiting and expect to be met by the glamour of casino, Legislature and city centre, you may be in for a disappointment.  From the Eastern approach, tiny war-time houses line Victoria.  I would hazard that most of them haven’t seen maintenance in the last thirty years. I was put in mind of Wedding In White starring Carol Kane. To save the family honour, a father marries his pregnant daughter of to his old war buddy. I pictured them a little house trying to make a go of it.  Perhaps instead of a casino, they were down at the bingo hall.

Plenty of parking lots in town but are there any spaces?  Drive slowly and watch the ramp.

What will you find in Regina?

The city centre is reminiscent of post war European towns where the rebuild did not happen in the Age of Architectural Enlightenment.  Everything is very clean.  The sidewalks are clear; the garbage is in its place.

The Balfour was built in the 1920’s and looks very grand sitting at the corner of Victoria & Lorne.  It’s well preserved and looks like a transplant from California.  It’s nicely situated amongst churches and comes with a view of the park.



So yes, there were lots of churches, but no churchyards. Even beyond the city limits and continuing the drive West through the Prairie, nothing.  I asked, “Do they bury the dead in the West?”  Remembering the old joke about Morecombe, UK.  They don’t bury the dead in Morecombe, they stand them up in bus shelters with a bingo ticket in their hand. HA!

Victoria Park is home to one of the city’s two war memorials.  It’s treed and grassy; there are lots of places to sit and take your lunch.

I had been on the road three days and was beginning to wonder when I might actually be sitting down to a meal that requires a knife and fork. Soon, I hope. Mr. Gopnick writes about the joy of preparing and savouring good food; a sit down meal.  His emails to Elizabeth Pennell are a treat to read.   I cast my eye down the food list.  There wasn’t time for Killarney fish & chips and I was too late for pancakes in Thunder Bay; will have to try on the way back.  Truffles were on the list for Regina.

I found Budz Burgers food truck on the South edge of the park. Budz offers up the trinity of hotdogs, fries & burgers.  At $3.50, Budz offers a cheaper alternative to the vendor at the north entrance to Hill Mall-he’s priced at $4.50 and doesn’t have anywhere near as much overhead. Budz made a great hot dog. This is not haute cuisine but it was good. No soggy bun and he threw on a few fried onions.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to ask whether Regina gets behind its food trucks like we do here or whether they are left to their own devices.

Found a shop that sells postcards. He must have had the stock many years because they were starting to yellow around the edges. The problem is in finding a post office.  There are dying off and those little red boxes are hard to find.  Does anyone send postcards anymore?

Just North of the park is a pedestrianized shopping area.  Old and new buildings blend nicely together and it was good to see that the older buildings have not been left to rot.

And yes, there is the casino and shopping mall.

Lots of street art everywhere.


Drove around a gentrified area four blocks out of town; no luck with the truffles, but, did find a rather nice coffee spot, though.

The Western approach to the city is where you’ll find the Legislature and I’m sure the housing is fetching more on the open market than those in the East.

Nod to the Queen...

Gardens were being looked after by one man.  To get the full effect, they are best viewed from the tower.

It’s not long before you’re back in wheat country. Next stop, Herbert.

Like a lot of small towns, Herbert used to be a train stop.  And when the trains stopped running for good, the towns all but disappeared.  Fortunately, some of them have preserved their fine stations and turned them into museums or restaurants. Herbert has a couple of exhibits and adjacent to the station is an old school house.

Talked to someone who had just moved into town but will have to find out what people are doing for employment because things looked a little grim.


Enjoyed the drive through Small Town Saskatchewan.  A little Ella for the evening and latter-day Rod Stewart which most people are balking at.  Just goes to show that anyone can sing The American Songbook. Even me. The Pink Floyd cd wouldn't eject so it was Welcome To The Machine and Wish You Were Here for longer than I cared for.

Pressed on and finally arrived in Calgary.  Tonight it was the Glenmore Inn.  I had anticipated a stand-alone hotel in some rustic, rather idyllic setting.  Not quite.  The hotel is situated right off the highway (my off-ramp was conveniently closed so went around the houses for a bit) very close to an industrial estate and shares the property with a strip mall.  I was just glad to get out of the car and have a few days of relatively short drives ahead of me. Of more importance, I was very close to picking up a knife and fork.  After a marathon shower (points for the toiletries) I perused the menu.  Late night menu is burgers and wings.  Oh. Dear.  Poured myself a Bombay, instead.

Until next time where I watch my hair turn grey owing to Calgary’s roads.