What the Boss Likes – Our Toronto Vacation

Two weeks ago, we ventured up to Toronto for a vacation.   Things had a bit of a rocky start since the airline ceased to be going out of our local airport, and we had to travel to Philly to get on it. It, of course, took longer to get to the airport than it took for the actual flight. I love flying, I freakin’ hate airports. The TSA lines weren’t bad though, and we got up to Toronto in the morning.

After navigating the rail line from the airport to Toronto and then the subway to our hotel, we finally got ensconced in our room. When ever we can, we stay at a Kimpton Hotel, since they are always nice, and they have nicely liberal policies, including taking pets. The St. George was, as usual, in a mid 20th C mid rise building and we were on the 7th floor. The room was about twice the size of the one we stayed in when we stayed at a Kimpton in Boston. And speaking of Boston, it felt like it was about that expensive in Toronto, but with a good exchang

l was near the University of Toronto, and this was definitely a college bar but very nice, and I liked the seating in it. The first time we went, it was great customer service. The second time, there was no customer service, so your mileage may vary.

That evening, we went out to find the reason we ended up in Toronto. I had read about a “nerd” bar, the Storm Crow Tavern that is located out in Vancouver. We were prepared to fly out there to go to it but then found out that they were going to open a location in Toronto, the Storm Crow Manor. It’s a couple of streets back from Yonge Street, which is the main entertainment/LGBT area of Toronto.  I do need to show you the baby changing station:

They have very good food and drink. The décor is very much for the happy nerd in me. I’m not much of a photographer, so just go out to the link and look around. They were working on their outdoor area when we were there, which is complete now (I think.) You can also follow them on Facebook to see what they are doing. We went there three times during the 4 days we were there.

Romulan Ale, or at least as close as you can get to it on 21st Earth

I got “Romulan Ale” as you can see.  and here’s a video of it bubbling.

 

The next day we walked down to the CN Tower, a ridiculously high observation installation, about a fifth of a mile high. That’s it standing above the skyline. We were going to go up in it but the line was ridiculous and it was hot. So we proceeded across the street to the Steam Whistle Brewery, which had just opened a German-style biergarten. They had a very good pilsner, and I had a radler (beer and grapefruit soda) made with it, and my husband had just the beer. He also had the chicken schnitzel and I had beef tartar. It was a little over mustardy for me, but good, well chopped rather than ground.

CN Tower, around a 1/5 of a mile high

We chose to walk up Yonge Street on the way back to the hotel. And there we found a Tokyo Smoke, another reason we went to Toronto. We partook some very low dose capsules. I’ve tried weed before but never had much of a reaction to it. This wasn’t much of a reaction either but it does seem to make it easer to think about things creatively and to get rid of the anxiety that you aren’t doing something “right” when doing art, writing, etc. The folks at the store were very professional and helpful. I really hope that PA gets recreational weed soon. The day was ended at Storm Crow again.

For Wednesday, I had made an appointment at a spa in the city, Hammam. It had advertised that it did Turkish baths and massages. My husband hadn’t had a professional massage before so I thought we’d both enjoy it. We had seen Turkish baths on various shows, most notably Tony Bourdain’s travel show, and wanted to try one. After wrapping up with towels, we spend some time in the steam room, a lovely tiled area with benches. It was HOT, but they had cold wet washcloths in a refrigerator right outside, so I took one and breathed through it while the sweat streamed off me. Then the bath attendents took us into a room with a large heated stone table where we laid down and were sluiced by hot and cold water, body temperature soap suds as well as being well scrubbed with what felt like 80 grit sand paper, but in a good way. After the bath, we were taken to another room for the massages. I got a full body massage and my husband got just the upper body since he’s a computer guy and, being tall, hunches over his desk all of the time. I’d definitely recommend it, even if it was a little pricy. But you only live once, eh?

After the spa, we wanted to get some dim sum, so we walked into Chinatown. We ended up at the Sky Dragon restaurant in a small multistory mall. I think we were the only Caucasian folks there, and we had absolutely no idea what we were eating, but it was tasty. There were several sets of dumplings, I could recognize the shu mai, and then we had a deep fried thing that seemed to be something like a crab cake, but rather shaggy on the outside. These were brought around in cards by elderly Chinese ladies, who were amused with us.

The next day we knew it was going to be rainy all day. We were just up the street from the Royal Ontario Museum, so we saved that for the rainy day. When we were there they had two special exhibitions, one for Indian treasures and the other paintings from the age of Rembrandt. The Indian show had caparisons for elephants and horses, clothing, canopies and jewels. The painting exhibit was beautiful, and I found I could appreciate it more since I’ve been dabbling with painting myself. One painter, I think it’s was Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, struck me as having what I would consider modern sensibilities. (an example of his work).

Finally, for dinner that evening, we again overcame our shyness and anxiety and went to a Japanese barbeque place right across from our hotel. It was called Gyubee, and seems to be a small chain up in Canada. Like the dim sum place, we really had no idea what we were doing, but it was fun grilling thinly sliced meats and vegetables on the gas grill in the center of the table. We had pork belly, brisket, marinated short rib, asparagus and mushrooms. For desert they had these great popsicles, Melona, and we had the mango ones.

We had idly known that the Toronto Raptors were playing in the NBA finals. Being not interested in sports in the least, we really didn’t pay attention. But that night, I woke up to hear all sorts of hooting and screaming. The celebration was on, and we could hear them seven stories up. And we were a couple of miles from the real craziness down at the arena by the CN Tower.

All in all, a good vacation, though every time I come home, I vow to never leave again. My anxiety chews me up on vacations. Hope you enjoyed reading!

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation– a festive blend of opinions on food, politics, religion….

Here’s a post about random things. Opinions about food, religion, politics etc are freely mixed.

I’ve a new follower “God’s Geological and Math Signs”. Oh my, this person’s website is utterly hilarious. For a religion that is supposedly followed by faith and no evidence needed (as told to me repeatedly by various Christians), this individual certainly is desperate for evidence that s/he is right. As an actual geologist, I find this utterly ridiculous. Perhaps only the classic nonsense by self-claimed prophets and liars like Falwell, Robertson, Graham are more pathetic. This poor individual claims that Alpha Centauri is the “same size” as our sun, which is it not, and seems to have no idea it is a multi star system. He also seems to think that it’s amazing that he can draw crosses all over the place. Note the Holy Cross Chile pepper So many Christians are walking talking examples of the Dunning Kruger effect. This person is also one of those who seems to think that all other religious believer “really” agree with him, by insisting that all religions are about his god (ignoring his bible as convenient, including Exodus 12:12)

Otto’s Pub & Brewery has a great new Cherry Wheat beer. It’s so much better than the Sam Adam’s version, with a good cherry nose and a color tending toward red. We stop when we can on our way back from visiting relatives. I got the gyro (about the size of two) and my spouse got the braised beef sandwich. The food is always fabulous there.

The nonsense in American politics is pretty much all right now about the Mueller report. We have a AG who is intentionally lying to Congress which is pathetic since we now have most of the report and can read it, and it seems we’ll shortly have Mueller testifying. We also have a orange moron who is desperate to hide his financials. Hmmm, now he has said that only the guilty hide things. I’m guessing he’s hiding money laundering and/or showing he doesn’t have the money he claims, and banks will never deal with him again after his presidency. Mueller found that Trump didn’t collude; but indicted how many of his minions for other crimes found, and we still have the Trumpies never reporting to the FBI that they were approached by the Russians and Trump who exhorted the Russians to attack the US’s IT systems. I’m personally supporting Elizabeth Warren, who is one of the democratic candidates.

I’ve made another batch of beer. It’s “Don’t Be Mean to People – a Golden Rule Saison” from Northern Brewer. It was created in support of LBGT folks in North Carolina when their state gov’t decided to get involved in people’s bathroom choice. I had the kit sitting around and hadn’t realized how long. The malt powder became large blocks of hard malt. I melted them and things seem to be proceeding apace. Should be bottling in a week or so. They don’t have it in stock anymore.

That’s it. Have a nice weekend!

From the kitchen – tasty things to do with refrigerated pizza dough

It’s been a while since I posted about food. We usually cook for fun on weekends and things have come up on weekends since about mid-March, when we both got the flu and have continued until this weekend, when my folks visited.

The one thing that was cooked, and by my spouse, are a couple of things using refrigerated pizza dough in the can that you pop open (biscuits often come in them here in the US, the fluffy scone-ish ones, not hard crunchy ones that us Yanks call cookies).  He made the Stromboli version for me after I had a long day helping staff a conference with fellow staffers talking about their families which might as well be on a bad reality show.

The technique is the same and you can use any filling you’d like. The dough comes in a rectangular sheet. Cut in a third from each side in one inch (2.5 cm) strips (a rolling pizza cutter works best). Put the filling in the center, cross the strips and pinch together the short ends to keep the filling in place. Bake at 400 degrees F (roughly 200 degrees C) for twenty minutes.  We put them on baking parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

The first was our version of Stromboli (it’s the picture at the upper right of this post). After the dough is cut, spread around 2 tbsp of mustard (we like the whole seed stuff) on the raw dough. Then, put approximately 1/3 pound (0.15 kg) each (!) of thinly sliced provolone, ham, hard salami, and pepperoni down in that order on the non-cut dough. On top, put a good handful of shredded mozzarella and cross the dough strips over, sealing the ends. He had two extra strips left over so they became antennae on our rather trilobite-ish looking bundle. Just enough grease escapes to make a crisp bottom crust. Before baking, he brushed the top with flavored olive oil and dusted it with garlic powder and dried oregano.

uniced verson so you can see the prettiness

The second was a cherry cream cheese Danish-oid thing. The filling was half a can of cherry pie filling, and half a block of cream cheese. The cheese was on the outer long edges to corral the pie filling. He brushed the bottom of the crust with butter to get it nice and brown and brushed the top of the crust with butter, sanding it with sugar.   We also added a basic glaze of confectioner’s sugar (fine sugar with cornstarch) and milk.

with its icing carapace

Well, that’s it for now. Eat and drink well!

From the Kitchen – Cake, bread and bad tv

This weekend was another cooking weekend. Here in the US, we have a three day weekend this weekend for President’s Day, a holiday that was to cover both Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays.

In addition to beef stew (our recipe can be found here), I made a lemon chiffon cake and also tried a new bread recipe.

Chiffon cakes should get more attention. They are essentially a cake with a lot of eggs, similar to angel food cakes, but they have oil and egg yolks in them. They are richer than angelfood, and moister. For a comparison that seems like damning with faint praise, they have the texture of a fresh Twinkie (a snack cake here in the States), with a moist spongy texture. The recipe I used was from The Cake and Pie Bible Rose by Rose Beranbaum. I am generally loath to publish recipes in books, but if a friend asks me for it, I can share.

You’ll see that it was made in an angelfood cake pan, one with the center post and bottom that is separate. I hadn’t even known that those existed until my husband told me his mother had one. I found one at a flea market. The batter is a little looser than angelfood batter so you can see the cake stalagmites that formed on the bottom from the batter seeping out a bit.  This type of cake, like angelfood, has to be cooled inverted.  Of course a chunk stuck to the pan.  Oh well.

The bread was this, Tuscan Bread with Herbs. It is a fairly wet dough, and it took about ten minutes of mixing/kneading in my kitchenaid. The dough got a silky sheen to it once done. For some reason, it took forever to get any color to it on the crust. The crust was a little hard on the bottom, since I baked it on a pizza stone. But it went very well with the stew to soften the crust in the broth.

We watched Priest last night on the SYFY channel. Not a bad movie and I really like Paul Bettany (I first saw him in A Knight’s Tale, which I love) and Karl Urban ( I saw him first in the Xena series). Plot holes that one could drive a star destroyer through, but so many fantasy movies do that. Also watched a part of an episode of Riverdale, this bizarre Buffy like version of the old Archie comics. They had a role-playing game called “Griffins and Gargoyles” that was taking over people’s minds. It was like watching a Chick tract (a very dumb conservative Christian who wrote lies as religious tracts). Of course, this world has real demons so it makes a little more sense.

Two possums are now visiting our yard.  That’s what I get for making a box for feral kitties to sleep in.  🙂

Well, that’s it. Eat and drink well!

From the Kitchen: Mole, and a picture of a feline pieta

Hello my followers,

Thanks for following.  This is a quick post of our tasty meal from last weekend and me with one of our new boys.

We made chicken mole last weeked.  Very tasty and yep, it’s from a Martha Stewart recipe, but we like it. I have learned to make corn tortillas (with a press) and made some Yucatecan pickled onions to go with it from Rick Bayless recipe.  I like a bit of acid to spark up my meals.

This is our smaller new kitty, Agamemnon aka Aggie.  He is the smaller of the two.  Kitty pieta. I make a very ugly and work weary Madonna.  But I have the carpet ripped up and the floor finished!

I spent the new years holiday tearing apart a room in our house since I had some emotions to work out since we had to euthanize the last of our older kitties, Muffin, during the holiday break.  Nothing like grief and anger to give one some excess energy.  I’ll have pics of the new room at some time.

I also have been gifted a Insta-Pot (pressure cooker/other things) by relatives.  Any good recipes?  It seems that the Insta-Pot gift is some weird apology from relatives who voted for that idiot Trump.

 

 

From the kitchen and the bar: duck and wine

Sorry for the long hiatus. I am dealing with a job I don’t like, and working on my art, which I do like.

I’m now an officially paid artist! It’s very weird feeling for someone who hated art teachers in elementary, high school and college because the ones I had didn’t teach art, they just had class pets who could do art and ignored the rest of us. There is, I think, the idea of some innate talent but you have to be taught the rest. In a week, I’m doing another show.  This is the cheese plate that sold (the white is from the reflection from the resin on it)

Lately, we’ve been trying a few new things to cook and drink. I finally cooked the last bit of game meat that I bought from D’Artangnan, a duck. It was very good, but they are indeed greasy. I think ours could have used more pricking of the skin to release more of the sub-q fat and a little longer in the oven. We had it with sweet potatoes and carrots that roasted in the fat. I just recently made a quick hash of that in a skillet to crisp it up some. Here is the duck. They are quite a bit different in physiology than a chicken.

We also had some shimmery wine. We got this at the local ren faire, the PA Renaissance Faire at Mt. Hope Winery. They mixed whatever makes liquids like Viniq shimmer (finely ground mica?) with pink Catawba wine and made fairy wine. You can’t quite see how nice it looks in a still photo. Here’s a video of Viniq.

This weekend we’re making yet one more roast chicken when my folks visit. It’s kind of an early xmas, late thanksgiving thing. I’m going to be a sneaky daughter and given them a bible as a present, one not the hard-to-read KJV, and with large print and the apocrypha. I wonder if my dad, who bet me all those years ago I couldn’t read it the bible, will do it himself since he has found he likes reading. He used to always give me such a hassle when I was a young bookworm. Go play outside! Go play with your brother!

Now he knows what its’ like because I can’t resist teasing him.

We also adopted two friendly feral cats.  A huge black one had been hanging about and I got him to like me.  There was also a smaller gray and white one who seemed to get along with him well.  So we brought both in.  The black cat is called Tez, short for Tezcatlipoca, and the other is Aggie, short for Agamemnon, also called Roomba because he loves to roll around on the floor and collect any crumbs.  We have decided to always call our cats aggressive names because those ones all turn out sweet, and the one we named Muffin is the hellion.  She is about 15 now and has screeched at and cowed the the new boys (well, they are neutered).

From the Kitchen – cake and some random musings

Back to some fun stuff.   I found a recipe for German buttercream frosting on Serious Eats, one of my favorite food sites.  This stuff is very good, not too sweet, and full of tasty tasty fat!  I recently made a spice buy at Penzey’s, my favorite socially concious spice merchant, and used my new vanilla beans.   I did end up using salted butter which was noticeable but fine on a chocolate cake, rather like the salted caramel craze.  I just used a boxed chocolate cake mix.

I honestly can’t frost a cake worth crap. but it tastes good.

This weekend we are going to return to an old recipe, the blue cheese tart.  This time we are going to grab a rotisserie chicken and add the shredded meat to the tart. Should be tasty!

I’ve been watching “The Terror” on AMC.  It’s a horror tale about the failed expedition to find the Northwest Passage back in the 1840s based on this book.  Generally I’m not big horror fan, still having nightmares from watching “Alien”.  But this show grabbed me somehow.  There’s lots of blood, cannibalized bodies, etc, but the characters are interesting.  I very much enjoyed it.  It’d make a great Cthulhu tale if one just added a few tentacles.

Short one today.  Eat and drink well!