09-07-18 Moving Day, Wine stuff and great friends

The 29th of August was a big day for us. We moved everything we owned out of our home in Alhambra and into storage for the next 8 to 9 months. Thus culminates a two week long packing adventure where we tried to put everything into protective boxes and made decisions on what to keep and what toss. Having lived in the house for 40 years, we had accumulated a lot of treasures. Fortunately, before we started this adventure, we had a major “estate sale” to reduce the amount of stuff but even still there was a lot to go through. Originally we had thought about getting a couple of the “Pods” and filling them up but the more I thought about it the more discouraged I got with that idea and just called Nationwide Moving for a quote to pick everything up and move it. Turns out the quote, based on the “volume” we would have had with two pods was less expensive! This also meant we were released from the heavy lifting of loading the damn things and making sure it all fit!

The round mosaic table was made by my mother 40 plus years ago. Where will end up? Who knows but it’s going with us.
Lots of shrink wrap, cardboard, packing blankets and tape being used.
I never would have packed this stuff as carefully as they did that’s for sure.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective, the quote for the “volume was for 500 Cubic feet. After all was said and done, and loaded on the truck, the volume of all our worldly positions was closer to 800 Cubic feet – and 2 pods wouldn’t have been enough.

800 cubic feet of stuff.

Sure, maybe we saved to much stuff but there are some treasures we just couldn’t part with. We have sent additional 7 or 8 boxes of things to our son’s home in Virginia (thank you very much Terri and Jason for allow us to share your place when we are on the east coast). Now all of our stuff is stored waiting for us to find a “landing pad” sometime next year.

The following day, VietnamVets came and carted away a lot of things we were not going to keep and might be helpful to others. When it comes down to it, the emotional tie you have to things can be broken if you just try. YEARS ago I took a million pictures, had a darkroom to develop and print my own pictures and some really nice camera equipment (Nikon with 3 or 4 lens). This camera equipment has been in a carry case for the last 15 years and not opened. I put it on the AmVets truck and away it went. Yes, the stuff in the case had cost a pretty penny but had little value to me now and was certainly not digital so of little interest to todays camera totting folks.

With our house on the market, and thus no home to sleep in, we continued to stay with friends in Alhambra while they were on their road trip. When they returned we moved to other friends (Phil and Jessie)

Phil and Jessie – our hosts for the last several nights. Wonderful people we have been fortunate to have met one NYE 6 or 7 years ago.

in Pasadena until leaving (today) for Santa Barbara.

Taking a night off from all our efforts, we got to see John Pizzarelli at Catalina’s Jazz Club in Hollywood one evening. I figure we have seen this guy 15 or more times over the years.

Since the movers took everything away we have had a couple of offers on the house and one that looked like it might actually result in its sale. Unfortunately they got cold feet and backed out so the realtor is out drumming up more interest in the house with the hope we can get in and out of Escrow before we have to leave for Northern California at the end of September (not likely but we can hope).

As many of you know, we have a bunch of wine (thus the loverofwine.com website) and I was able to sell of 28 cases of the juice during the last 2 weeks. That still leaves another 80 cases to worry about still in storage!

Stored wine – lots and lots of stored wine
Some very special bottles in storage for sure. Two in particular on the right side – a 1995 Bollinger RD and a 2006 Cristal. Lovely Champagnes for sure.
OK, we have a lot of wine…I know…

All of it is safely protected in a LOCKED (don’t get any ideas) locker in a temperature-controlled building. Along with the wine are several boxes of photos, photo books and other things that will be much safer in the wine locker then in a hot storage facility.

During the years we have spent in the Area, we have gotten to know a number of really interesting people – particularly in the wine and food business. I can specifically point at Tom Anderson who was the GM at the Parkway Grill in Pasadena as the person who got me started in collecting wine (damn you Tom! [just kidding]) and to Hugo Molino as the first chef who introduced me to the joys of gracious dining and interesting meals. During our last few weeks we have been able to have dinner with Tom and his wife Nikki

Tom and Nikki with a wonderful dinner and wines.

and to catch up with Hugo!

Hugo now owns a small place in Alhambra on Main Street called Genovese’s. Stop in and enjoy!

Great joy in reconnecting with these people – hopefully not loosing them as we move away but visiting with them when we are in the area.

We are now in Santa Barbara for a couple of days to attend a friends wedding (tomorrow on my birthday) and then off to Morro Bay to visit with our friend Claudia (you will remember her as she came to Paris last December and stayed for Christmas and New Years with us….) before returning to Alhambra for a round of medical appointments and other happenings before heading to the Bay Area (Northern California for those not in the know) to celebrate our friends 50th Wedding Anniversary. Until later, as Rick Steve’s always says, Keep on Traveling.

One last note, before I go, we have learned that our darling Little Miss (our granddaughter) will become an “Big Sister” in April! One more reason to be on the east coast for sure.

I’m the Big Sister T-Shirt

8-25-18 Highland Park and Hippo Restaurant

Within the City of Los Angeles, there are any number of smaller cities and communities. For example, where we have lived for the last 40 years – Alhambra – is a City with it’s own governance but is within the County of Los Angeles so very much influenced by what happens “downtown”. This past Saturday, our friends, Phil and Jessie, took us to a new ‘hip’ restaurant called Hippo. Located in the old Highland Park Post Office Building, thus HIPPO, along with a neat little pizza place and a small wine shop it is one of a growing trend in this area of new restaurants.

Highland Park

Highland Park is a hilly neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles, located in the San Rafael Hills and along the Arroyo Seco. It is situated within what was once Rancho San Rafael of the Spanish/Mexican era.

The area was originally discovered thousands of years ago by ancestors of the Chumash people (the local Indian tribe), and would later be settled by the Tongva Indian tribe most associated with early settlements in Los Angeles and the Channel Islands off the coast.  After the founding of Los Angeles in 1784, the Corporal of the Guard at the San Gabriel mission, Jose Maria Verdugo, was granted the 36,403 acre Rancho San Rafael which included the present day Highland Park. Drought in the late 1800s resulted in economic hardship for the Verdugo family, and Rancho San Rafael was eventually auctioned off in 1869 for $3,500 over an unpaid loan. The San Rafael tract was purchased by Andrew Glassell and Albert J. Chapman, who leased it out to sheepherders. Highland Park was annexed to Los Angeles in 1895.

Historic Masonic Lodge Building

In the early 20th century, Highland Park and neighboring Pasadena became havens for artists and intellectuals who led the Arts and Crafts movement

Starting in the early 2000s, a diverse mix of people began arriving to Highland Park to seek out, buy, and revitalize Craftsman homes, some which had suffered neglect over the decades. Many of Highland Park’s oldest homes were razed during the 1950s and 1960s. One architecturally significant home made its way to Heritage Square Museum, thanks to the efforts of local activists dedicated to saving Victorian homes scheduled for demolition. Like Echo Park and Eagle Rock, Highland Park has steadily seen some gentrification. People from across the region have been attracted to the historic Craftsman homes that escaped demolition. Its relatively low rents have made it increasingly popular among young people who value the pedestrian urban lifestyle afforded by the older style of neighborhood.

Once again, Highland Park is building a reputation as a mecca for artists, with trendy shops, galleries, bars and restaurants opening throughout the neighborhood. Hippo, which opened just a little over a month ago, is just one example of this change in the City.

Saturday evening is “date night” and this place was no exception. We arrived for our 5PM reservation (the only time we could get) and joined the crowd getting settled in for the evening.

The front door!

From start to finish it was a very pleasant evening.

The restaurant was FULL up including the bar by 5:45!

The menu has a number of lovely items: Cool summer wax beans with fresh Serrano chiles, toasted almonds& frenchie vinaigrette; Griddle’d cauliflower, cauliflower “tahini,” walnut raisin caper relish; Royal Hamachi with Meyer lemon oregano relish; New Zealand tai snapper “ceviche”, cucumber, tomatoes, cilantro; Sweet corn cappellacci, funghi misti, thyme; Cedar smoked ocean trout, sweet corn succotash, green goddess just to name a few of the delights on menu.

We started off with cocktails – Janeen had a “Consider your shoes” Aperol, Prosecco, Amaro Angeleno, vermouth, olive & orange.

Consider your shoes

I had “Hippo old fashioned” bourbon, amaro sfumato, tart cherry, bitters

Hippo old fashioned

and Phil had “Paris is burning” – bourbon, italicus, lemon, blackberry, aquafaba, earl grey tea.

Paris is burning

The cocktails included a lovely bufala mozzarella with cured 14 month prosciutto di san daniclle.

Prosciutto and mozzarella

Jessie had a pour from the bottle of wine Barbera D’Alba.

Barbera d’ Alba lovely wine from the Piedmonte region of Italy

Between the four of us at the table, we ended up with several different starters and three different mains! For starters we had summer tomatoes, cucumbers, olives & feta,

Summer tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, red onion, basil, oregano vinaigrette and french feta.

and the yellowfin tuna carpaccio. Our mains consisted of the Oxtail tagliatelle ragu,

Oxtail ragu with fresh tagliatelle pasta

the fresh ricotta tortellini

Fresh ricotta tortellini, bufalo mozzarella, tomato and petit basil.

and the cedar smoked ocean trout.

Cedar smoked ocean trout

Portion size was wonderful – not so much you had left overs but not so small you felt cheated. We looked at the dessert menu but passed. One of the interesting things I noticed on the menu, and on the final bill, is they add a 3% charge to the bill to assist in offering health care coverage for the staff. Never seen anything like that before – I wonder if this is a trend for the future.

08-21-18 More Route 66 and Packing Up and Moving away!

Man does time fly! It seems like just yesterday we were having BBQ in Amarillo and now we are already in Southern California. A lot has happened in the last 10 or so days and it’s time for a minor update.

This was our road track from Macomb to Alahmbra

Driving along Route 66 (well really Interstate 40) is a treat. There are certainly a lot of interesting sites to see – although the old Route 66 structures are really not in the best of shape.

Not sure what you would call this – but it’s one of the sites along Route 66.
The Classic TP Motel along the route
We didn’t stop here but lots of people did.

After staying the night in Gallup New Mexico, we turned south away from Route 66 and headed towards Phoenix – well actually Chandler, Arizona where we were connecting with friends. However, before getting to their place, we stopped in Pleasant Valley.

In the late 1980’s I was active in a SCUBA club called the California Wreck Divers and every year we had a major speaker for our banquet. One year, one of our members was able to arrange for a shipwreck hunter and national author to be our speaker – Clive Custer

Clive Cussler

and I was the person who took care of him during his visit. Over the years Clive had found a number of historically significant shipwrecks around the US, last count more than 60 shipwreck sites – some of them have been recovered and put on display. He was able to do all of this because he writes adventure novels and people bought them – making him a bunch of money. Clive has been on the New York Times fiction best-seller list more than 20 times and written more than 70 books. Well, it turns out that Clive Cussler grew up in Alhambra – where we were living and he stayed at our home for a night and we showed him around the area. All of this ‘getting to know’ Clive was in the late ‘80’s but for some reason I have had his home address in Pleasant Valley Arizona ever since. It seemed like a good idea to drop in so I did.

After a brief visit with Clive we continued on to our friends Robin and Eric and their children Aria and Dorian (our adopted grand children). It was a wonderful visit including a lot of time to catch up on events. Of course it did include an evening out with adult beverages, always a good thing.

Janeen, Robin and Dorian
David, Aria and Eric.

 

The following morning, Sunday, we learned that Janeen’s dad had passed during the night. While it is always sad to loose a loved one, Harold was 101 and in failing health. We had spent a week with him prior to heading to SoCal and we knew his time was short. The passing of the meteor shower overhead about the time he released his spirit comforted Janeen.

Janeen having a brew at the Back Abbey – we stopped for lunch prior to getting to Alhambra.
David having a brew at the Back Abbey

We arrived in Alhambra later that day to stay with our friends Sally and Jim, well actually to house sit while they do a 3-week motor tour along Route 66. We were able to settle in and reflect on all that had happened and the full live lived by Harold.

Now it’s time to move forward – and that includes the sale of our home of 40 years. The house was listed on August 2nd and on Sunday the 12th, the day we arrived; there was an open house. As of today, August 21st, we have accepted an offer with a 30-day escrow. Between now and the 29th, when movers show up, we have to finish packing everything we intend to keep.

Stuff ready for the movers!
Work in progress – but very close to completion
Odds and ends yet to resolve

This “stuff” will be put into storage until we figure out where our next “Landing Pad” will be. That means lots of packing to be done and decisions to be made about what to keep and what needs to find a new home.

During our down time from packing the house, we will be visiting friends, going to the Huntington Library and Gardens (Janeen will go several times while we are here) and generally trying to enjoy our time in CA. Once the movers take everything away there will still be stuff that needs to find a new home – Am Vets will make a visit, as will others to haul the debris away.

We are in Southern Cal for the next several weeks packing, visiting friends and generally trying to deal with all that is happening in our lives. After escrow closes, which should be mid to late September, we head to the Bay Area to celebrate with friends their 50th wedding anniversary and on or about October 1st we drive back to Macomb to hold a memorial service for Harold check on Trust business there.

So, while our Blog hasn’t got the usual tid-bits of historical interest, I wanted to keep you up to date with what’s going on.

 

 

 

8-9-18 Hamilton, Macomb and Route 66

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted – so here’s a little update on what’s been happening.

After we got to Springfield, we had two things scheduled – tickets to see Hamilton at the Kennedy Center and an appointment for a long-term visa at the French consulate. Hamilton first opened on Broadway in February 2015. Since that time, it has continued on Broadway and also gone on the road. Broadway tickets are still VERY EXPENSIVE and the Bus and Truck crew also costs a pretty penny. Well, I figured I wasn’t going to see it if I didn’t just dip into the wallet and get tickets. Prior to doing our Northern Loop (Canada, etc.…) I had gotten a couple of tickets for the Sunday performance on July 22nd.   During our Northern Loop we had listened to the sound track a couple of times to be at least familiar with the music; that was a really good thing.

Hamilton – the Musical

The songs and dialogue really go quickly and having some idea of what is being said was a real benefit. The play is well over 2 ½ hours and has lots of action and historical references (we have also been reading the biography of Hamilton written by Ron Chernow which is what inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write the play and a good deal of the dialogue comes from the book. We were NOT disappointed and would love to see the play another time.

The second major thing to get done was a visit to the French Consulate to see about getting a long-term visa. Due to an existing treaty, US Citizens can stay in Europe for 90 days in a 180-day period without a visa. Most times this isn’t a problem. However with Ryan and Chris living in Paris, two different April river cruises booked and a desire to tour more parts of the European part of the world,getting a long term resident visa would make it a lot easier to just wander around without having to worry about the time limit. The appointment required a whole lot of documentation to be put together and all of that was ready to go. When we finally got to the “desk” it seemed as if everything was going to be OK until we realized you cannot formally apply for the extended visa more than 3 months prior to going. So, as we were just a little over 4 months prior to our initial departure date ,we gathered everything and left with the understanding we would need to make another appointment sometime late October. The good thing about going when we did it confirmed we had all the information together and also gave us some pointers on what additional materials we might need to make sure we were successful next time.

OK, with all of that out of the way, we packed up to start our trip across country. First stop was Macomb,Illinois to visit with Harold (Janeen’s dad) and make sure he was getting all the care necessary to be comfortable. He is now under hospice care in the long-term care facility, Wesley Village, and doing as well as can be expected for someone who is 101 years old. We stayed a little over a week visiting daily and talking with his caregivers and others. One of the goals was to make sure all of those visiting him understand his condition and that, while it will be a sad day when it happens, he is slipping away to the other side. We were able to make sure he understands we were leaving for California as we have a time -frame to resolve some issues for the sale of our home and a wedding we have committed to attending in September plus a 50th wedding anniversary for friends in the Bay Area.

Now we are on the road. The first day was long – about 500 plus miles to get to Tulsa OK.

Roadside rest stop with a tornado shelter.
A lovely day to drive through the state f Oklahoma.

Next day (today) we drove to Amarillo,Texas. Most of today has been spent driving along Route 66! After getting checked into our Hotel, it seemed like it was time for BBQ.

So, first thing I did was check at the front desk to see if they had any recommendations – nothing really jumped out. Next was to check on Trip Advisor and see what was around. Not surprising there area bunch of places, but the one that caught our eye was a small place called Tyler’s Barbecue.

Tylers Barbeque – opened in 2010 and doing a fantastic job.

All of the reviews were 5-star (at least the dozen or so posted) and it was a small place serving ribs, brisket, pulled pork, sausage and all the other stuff you think about when thinking BBQ.

Here’s our brisket being cut!
We beat the crowd that’s for sure.

This place did not disappoint. We ordered the three-meat dinner with three ribs, some sliced brisket and a mound of pulled pork.

Ribs, brisket, pork and other goodies.

Along with this were potato salad and a peach cobbler for dessert. The place doesn’t serve “adult beverages” which helped to reduce the cost impact for sure and wasn’t missed actually.

Ribs – more ribs please.
Janeen getting her BBQ on.
Need a boot?

Tomorrow we head further west stopping in Gallop NM and then to Chandler, Arizona to visit with some friends and then to Alhambra where we will work on getting all the remaining stuff out of the house and selling it. More updates as something interesting happens.

07-06-18 Saint John, New Brunswick

After checking into our B&B, The Mahogany Manor,

Mahogany Manor Bed & Breakfast

we decided to take our selves for a walk into the city center. Well, not really what we normally think of as a City Center, but certainly the historical center of Saint John. From the beginnings of the American Revolution in 1774, through 1783 some 40,000 British subjects fled north to escape persecution. Many of these “Loyalists” as they were called arrived in Saint John and created a new home.

Trinity Church
The old Post Office
Typical row houses we walked along during our “tour”
Saint John is known for its pub and restaurant scene throughout uptown. Statistics Canada found the city has the third most pubs per capita in Canada.

The town has a number of historic places including the County Courthouse in King’s Square (1825), City Market (1876)

City Market – The building has been in continuous use since 1876. The interior roof supports are reminiscent of a ships hull.

and a number of other structures that have been around for a while. It was an interesting walk with much to see.

We saw this ‘tug’ and couldn’t resist taking a picture
I couldn’t really believe that this was a cruise ship port of call!

Along the way we passed a number of restaurants – Taco Pica, Taste of Egypt, Rocky’s Sport’s Bar, Churchill’s Bar & Bub, Thandi – but the one that caught our eye was Italian By Night. Who knew we would find a great Italian Restaurant in Saint John New Brunswick Canada..

We arrived early for our 5PM reservation, but we were greeted by Dorothy at the Bar with a wide smile and a hug like we were old friends!

Dorothy – The “greeter” and bar tender. She made an excellent Aperol Spritz

It is always nice to be warmly greeted and certainly starts the evening off on a good setting. We were really the first to arrive for the evening – tables still being set by the staff, kitchen staff preparing for the evening –

The inside of the restaurant – very open.

so we took a seat at the bar and had a glass of wine. While we were there we were able to meet one of the business owners, Gord Hewitt.

Gord – one of the co-owners of the restaurant

He was sampling a new Italian wine they might add to the menu and when I said we had previously had the bottle (which we had not too long ago) he shared a glass with us. Very nice.

 

Once we got to our table, Abby, our waitress, took charge and guided us through the menu and offered her recommendations.

Abby, our waitress, did a great job keeping me in wine!

Along the way, Elizabeth Rowe stopped by the table

Elizabeth – another of the co-owners of the restaurant

– she is one of the owners along with Gord and Michele Hooton (we didn’t get to meet her, she is traveling in Italy at the moment). From Elizabeth we learned about the history of the restaurant (formally a family owned furniture store for over 100 years) and how they developed the menu. They had started with a deli about a block or so away and started doing Italian during the evening – thus the name Italian by NIght. Once the realized there was an actual customer base that would support a restaurant they took the big step and moved from a very small space (1700 SF) to a much larger space of over 4,000 SF (the former furniture store). After personally doing the remodel and getting the menu set they opened about 5 or 6 years ago and never looked back.

The menu has a number of traditional presentations and a few with an interesting twist. To start we had the Panzanella – a Tuscan salad of tomatoes, string beans, red peppers, cucumbers, red onion, capers, arugula, and house-made croutons with a house vinaigrette dressing.

Panzanella

Wonderful. Janeen said, after finishing the dish, “I need to get this into my menu plans.” Janeen followed this with Tagliatelle Alla Vongole – House-made pasta, baby clams, grape tomatoes, pancetta, garlic, white wine, parsley, and fresh focaccia

Tagliatelle Alla Vogole

. I had the Lasagna Grande – Fresh pasta, Bolognese sauce, mozzarella with Parmesan cheese. Janeen’s dish was piled high with clams! While I have had lasagna

Lasagne Grande – Fresh pasta, meat sauce, balsamella, parmesan, mozzarella

any number of places this presentation was one of the best. When sou chef Steven stopped by at our request,

Chef Steven – Originally from England

we made sure he knew how pleased we were with our choices. He was soon away to the UK to visit family, but loves St. John and hopes to stay on in New Brunswick.

Throughout the meal, Abby made sure we had wine to drink and all was well with the world. While I don’t have a clue if I will get back to Saint John I can safely say that if I do it will include a stop at Italian By Night.

There aren’t words…

07-05-18 Prince Edward Island

We had started out on this northern loop with Prince Edward Island (PEI) as our goal. This came about as our friends, who live in Bethlehem PA, Rita and Jim, often talked about his (Jim’s) roots that come from the PEI area. As a result we had it in our heads to at least take a gander at this place in the far east of Canada. PEI is a one of the three Maritime Provinces of Canada and is the smallest province in both land area and population. It is truly an island connected to the mainland by both a ferry and the 8-mile Confederation Bridge. We arrived on July 4th – a Wednesday in Canada (thus no fireworks or other events…) and stayed at a lovely B&B in Miscouche called Prince Country Inn.

Our home for a couple of days on PEI

Our hosts

Our host, Herb at the B&B

Herb and Roger have been operating the B&B for a number of years – however, they are snowbirds heading to Florida for 6-months of the year. It was a nice place to base our couple of days on the Island.

The backbone of the economy is farming; it produces 25% of Canada’s potatoes and you see the fields everywhere you go.

New potatoes starting out

Additionally there are of course the obligatory potato products, pictures and places to visit in most of the little towns.  Fishing also plays a part of the economy as evidence by the various stands, boats and lobster pots we saw stacked around.

Fisheries form one of the major industries of Prince Edward Island.

Without a real agenda, we spent the first day just wandering around the area and having a nice late lunch at Open Eats in Summerside. The following day we headed out to the

The Cavendish Boardwalk – a collection of shops on the eastern side of the island

Cavendish Boardwalk – a collection of various local shops towards the Atlantic side of the Island – and had a wonderful Moo ice cream cone. Since spring came late, peonies are in bloom.

Peonies – getting ready to burst forth with flowers.

From there we just sort of drove around on the eastern side of the island enjoying the warm day,

Here’s a colorful fishing villages, this in French River on the Island
There were light houses all around the Island

the beautiful roadside flowers and the views of the ocean. Along the roadside there were lots of lupine in various colors – red, pink, white and purple.

Lupines were all over the place in a variety of colors.

They grow wild along the roadside and added lovely color to our day. For lunch we headed back to Summerside and grabbed a table at the Deckhouse Pub with a view of the water.

We had a delighful lunch on the upper porch where the green and black umbrella’s are located.
Us – after lunch

We finished our visit to the Island and got ready for our trek the following day (which turned into a blowing rainstorm) to Saint Johns, New Brunswick.

07-02-2018 Dinner at Laurie Raphael – Quebec city

From time to time we like to jump into the deep end for a dining experience. Exploring Quebec City was no exception. When we first came into town I checked several of the websites I’ve used in the past to figure out where we might go. After looking at the options, I discovered Laurie Raphael.   This is a family operation having been started by Chef Daniel some 27 years ago and now managed by his son, Raphael. There are two locations; the original in Quebec City and a second restaurant is now in Montreal. The venue has limited seating and a set menu, either a 3 courses or 5-course selection option. We arrived early, as is our custom and were introduced to chef Pierre and staff before being seated in the bar prior to moving to the dining room. Seems they like to start the experience in the bar with a glass of wine or a cocktail along with a amuse bouche or two. I had a nice Sancerre and Janeen a French Rose to go with our two different presentations.

At this point, Hugo, our food guide for the evening, explained the menu options – of which there are two. A 3-course meal with a “sea” and “land” on each course or a five-course meal again with 2 options on each course. Hugo indicated that the overall portion size would be the same whether we had the 3 or 5 so naturally I chose the 5-course option.

Having decided to do the full tasting menu, we were seated in the dining room, which is relatively small and relaxed. The décor featured laser cut metal panels along the window side and muted colors for the seating, walls and floor. In the middle of the room was a brass “tree” about 8 feet tall with a serving table around it for the wait staff to stage items prior to placement on the table. It is clear they are striving for feeling of being in nature. Bunches of fresh vegetables were displayed near the kitchen.

Hugo, our waiter, explained the menu and presented our wines throughout the evening. Janeen had mostly local Niagara peninsula, wines while David had some French, California and Italian selections. We shared sips on all courses to see how they matched the dish presented. Dinner lasted about 3 ½ hours – just about right for a tasting menu.

Always a good time for bubbles – sparking cider for Janeen and a Champagne for David
Halibut ceviche, rhubarb water, celery and salicornia
Magdelen Island’s scallops, blood orange and pomelo, cilantro oil, fresh shiso and candied lemon zest
More wine please!
Coal grilled green asparagus and foie gras, buckwheat sprouts and green shallot puree
Orleans Island smoked mini lettuce, grilled pork confit and egg salad, papilotte puree and bacon dressing
Wines to go with lobster
Lobster claws, cauliflower and broad bean stew, St-Laurence River seaweed
Lobster tail, kale, spinach and lovage from “ferme des Ruisseaux”, hollandaise sauce
Wines for the second land course
Seared veal, thyme and lemon meat juice, market vegetables
Roasted quail, fir meat juice, forest vegetables
At the end, with desserts, we had both a Canadian and a French dessert wine.
The first dessert – Pied-de-Vent cheese Paris-Brest, Quebec strawberries
The second dessert – Rhubarb and basil sorbet, dried meringue, rhubarb and gin jelly
The final dessert – Sweets

The experience was wonderful, the small bites and presentations done very well and the unique flavors of each seemed to come out in unique ways. Janeen was most impressed with the first course “sashimi” halibut and scallops enlivened with citrus and rhubarb flavors. David enjoyed the quail, prepared two ways, with lovely morel mushrooms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

07-2-18 Quebec City

We decided to take the Hop-on-hop-off bus around the city and learned a good deal about Quebec and it’s history.  Saw a lot of interesting spots and enjoyed the 2 hours or so of the adventure.

Just another fountain.
Lots of the older buildings have copper roofs – this is the train station.
The mural is about 75 feet tall and covers the entire side of the building. Some of the windows are real but most aren’t.
Lots of people wandering around and enjoying the day

We had a nice lunch along the way and walked back to our hotel to get ready for our dinner.

We had lunch in the place with the awning on the right
Just part of the local color of the city
Here we are in the upper city
Neat fountain (see the water in the middle?) where you could fill up your water bottle
This classic luxury hotel was built at the high point of the city by Railroad Baron’s to bring people to the City.
The Funiculaire went from the old upper city to the lower portion of town.
One more fountain along the way
Lots of the older buildings have copper roofs – this is the train station.

We had a lovely time in this City and decided to have a pre-anniversary dinner at Laurie Rapheal – but more about that on the next post

 

06-29-18 Niagara Falls and Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens

We left the USofA and went across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada.  Checked into our hotel and drove down to the park and walked along taking some pictures of both the American and Horseshoe Falls.

The American Falls as seen from Canada
Another selfie! American Falls behind us.
Really there are not enough words – I asked if Janeen wanted to do the boat thing but she passed.
Beautiful day to be here.
Horseshoe Falls behind me

There really aren’t enough words, good thing the photos are available.

The next day we came back, via the WEGO bus and went directly to Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens so Janeen could get a garden fix.

One of the largest Herb Gardens in North America!

It was a beautiful day to wander around, smell the roses, see the various gardens and enjoy.

Color contrast within the Herb Garden
We could have taken a carriage ride around the Gardens.
Janeen getting a rose hug at the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens
The color of the leaves on this tree were amazing!
Light puffy blooms on this bush at the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens.

After that we went back to the area where the Falls are located and walked around the Queen’s Rose Garden.  Seems the roses at Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens have become deer food so there aren’t a lot of them left.  Lost of them at the Queen’s Rose Garden.

Janeen getting a second fix of roses at the Queen Victoria Park.
OK, this is a selfie picture of us at the Queen Victoria Park rose Garden

Had a delightful lunch along with a full pitcher of Molson’s beer.  Not a bad view of the Falls from our table.

We had a delightful lunch and a picture of Molson beer overlooking the Horseshoe Falls – at Queen Victoria Restaurant.

The next day we left and headed to Ottawa for the evening.  300 plus miles along the Trans Canada Highway.  Lots of lakes and trees but not much else.

06-27-18 Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes is a region of New York State named for its series of long, thin lakes, and known for its vineyards. There are eleven long, narrow, roughly north–south lakes in an area called the Finger Lakes region. There are over 100 wineries and vineyards located around Seneca, Cayuga, Canandaigua, Keuka, Conesus and Hemlock Lakes. The main grape varieties grown are Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Vitis labrusca (an American native). We tried most of these but in limited number during our visit.

There are a number of notable historical events that happened around the general area of the Finger Lakes – most notable might be the birthplace of the Woman’s Suffrage movement in Seneca Falls, Waterloo, the birthplace of Memorial Day and Palmyra, the birthplace of the LDS Church (Mormons). However, our goal on visit was to taste some of the wines.

Wine Enthusiast has a travel guide for the area with recent updates on some of the better places to visit. First on the list is Hermann J. Wiemer, so that seemed like a good place to start.

The entrance sign at Hermann J. Wiemer

Several of their Rieslings have scored some good reviews – 93 points for the 2016 Magdalena Vineyard bottling and 92 for another Riesling.

Vines outside of the tasting room at Hermann J. Wiemer

We arrived after having a light lunch in Watkins Glen – the base of Seneca Lake – in mid afternoon. The Hermann J. Wiemer estate was established in 2001 and has been in continuous operation ever since. It has changed ownership at least once over the years but at present seems to have a stable operation.

Upon our arrival to the tasting room, we were directed to a table to sample a few different wines. The tasting menu has several different options from Chardonnay to their late harvest Riesling.

A pump over was in process at Wiemer.

We sampled at will for the better part of an hour and had informative conversations with the staff. The primary wine is Riesling – although they do make a Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztruminer, Chardonnay and a sparkling wine.

The dry Riesling from Wiemer – nice juice

On the red side of things they make a Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc but neither of these were on the tasting menu. The wines were pleasant, we found the Riesling Reserve Dry 2016 most to our taste.

I found it interesting that in the book, 1,000 Places to See Before you Die there is a section on the Finger Lakes and Hermann J. Wiemer is listed; they have a blow up of the page on the wall.

Our next stop, the following morning, was to Ventosa Vineyards.

Janeen at the entrance

Not only do they have a wine tasting they also have a small café that made stopping easy and resulted in a delightful lunch. Ventosa, like everyone else in the area, has a number of white wines – Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay – but we were coming for the red selections – Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Lemberger, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ventosa Vineyards Pinot Noir

We tasted a number of the reds and were quite pleased with the Pinot Noir and the Lemberger both of which could find places in our cellar (assuming we were going to buy more wine).

Janeen tasting at Ventosa

For lunch, however, we opted for the Dry Riesling, as it would pair better with our lunch. The tasting room was large, well appointed with a large covered porch overlooking the vineyard.

The covered patio at Ventosa Vineyards
Having some Riesling on the patio.

All in all a lovely spot to taste some wines and have a snack – they also have music evenings on Wednesday but not until after 6pm so we didn’t stick around.

From there were off to Damiani Vineyards.

Here’s the sign for Damiani of course

Again, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio, make up the bulk of the white side of the house and Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc are on the red side of the house.

Damiani – The upper level of this is the tasting room – the bottom is an event space.

The tasting room is a converted home that has a tasting room on the upper level and a large event room below. Much more rustic then the other places we had visited.

Damiani Pinot Noir

The tastings we did required us to drive completely around Seneca Lake. Seneca Lake is the larges of the Finger Lakes, which is 38 miles long, and a combined shoreline of 75 miles.

The Seneca Legion tours around the lake – we didn’t take the tour.

I was surprised to learn it has a maximum depth of 618 feet and has only frozen three times in the last 200 years. The shoreline is dotted with homes, wineries, small communities and lovely spots to just sit and watch the lake. Unfortunately our second day going in the area was rainy and restricted our view somewhat.

While we could spend many more days here tasting wines we have gotten a feel for the area and will move on. The Rieslings are good, not to be compared with those of Moselle Germany, but in a pinch I would certainly drink those from the Finger Lakes area. The Pinot Noirs we tasted were OK but seemed to be lacking some of the structure we are used to, that’s not to say they were not good they were – just different from those we have had from other new world sources.