Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh Canada! Monday: Of Rugs and Roti

On Monday we hooked up with my dad's side of the family and went to the Museum of Textiles.

There was a demo/participation display and since it was unattended, my mom walked over and started weaving to show my uncle and cousin how the machine worked. It completely blew their minds. Of course it also completely blew their minds that I photograph my food. Welcome to our world! Sorry, there is no guidebook.

One of the current exhibits, Rugs of War was extremely heavy. It was comprised of rugs woven in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. It was really strange to see little tanks and guns in place of birds and blossoms.

I realized I hadn't eaten anything all day and it was after 4 o'clock. So I ran around the corner to a Roti shop I had noticed. A roti is an East Indian flatbread similar to a tortilla. In the West Indes, they are stuffed and made into a sort of burrito, also referred to as a "roti". East meets West.

As I often do in unfamiliar territory, I asked the lady to just make it as if she were making it for herself. I ended up with curried chicken and something like daal. It was genius. I wish we had roti shops here; I would eat them for lunch every day.

Wanting to show us a nice time, our relatives drove us to the picturesque nearby town of Mississauga, pronounced Mrs. Saga. We walked along the water, then had dinner at their favorite place - Snug harbour. It was just like a movie location, "Find me a seaside restaurant! I need more life preservers on the walls!"

The local fish was catfish from Lake Erie. Although it was cooked with Cajun seasonings, it was very different than the catfish from the saltwater in the Gulf of Mexico. It was much cleaner-tasting (ironic, coming from Lake Erie). It was missing that appealing muddy flavor that probably explains why children like to eat dirt.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Word Cloud

Strange things happen when you Google yourself. I write for a group blog - mostly restaurant and music reviews, photo essays and a few hard news items. I didn't realize there are journalism watch sites tracking every word you write.


angeles art band beans butter cheese chicken chocolate cook cream cupcakes dia didnt dish dont drinking eat festival food friends good halloween haunt hot kind laist make meat megan menu music myspace night northridge park people photo pic pie place potatoes punk recipe red restaurant rock room sauce served show song sugar taco tamale taste thai things turkey water watts

I am a little puzzled by the topics list. I only mentioned Florence Henderson and Eric Idle twice. I had lunch with Pat Boone ONCE and now it's going to follow me around for the rest of my life? Thank God for Christmas!

Most Frequently Mentioned Topics:
Megan Meier
Los Angeles
Lori Drew
Long Beach
Eric Idle
Florence Henderson
Pat Boone
Mike Watt

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Oh Canada! Sunday: I Go over Niagara Falls

Sunday the weather was on our side and my mom, Auntie Jeanette and I were able to take a helicopter tour over Niagara Falls. So technically speaking, I went over Niagara falls – sans barrel.

The view from outside

The view from within

This is my favorite place by the falls. I don't want to see the gorgeous view from across the water. I like to stand right at the edge, a breath away from going over.

I love the "world's biggest" anything!

This building looked like a bucket of KFC (Whatever it is I think I see, becomes a KFC to me!)

We looked around a bit, and everyone was patient while I snapped some pics of the local Buddhist monastery.

We hitched a ride back to Newmarket with my cousin and his wife. When the subject of lunch came up, there were vague murmurs of Tim Horton’s emanating from the back seat. What is up with Tim Horton’s? Are they putting crack in it? But no one wanted to be the one to make a fuss. I sensed a sudden power vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum. I pulled out my list of restaurants and seized the reins. California sandwiches, a new place I had heard good things about, was conveniently on the way.

As we sat at a stoplight I noticed a Tim Horton’s. Curses! I tried to decide whether or not to fake a seizure. The resulting uprising was easily quelled without the need for diversionary tactics.

It turned out California sandwiches was closed Sundays, but it is so popular we weren’t the only ones standing in the parking lot. Another thwarted customer recommended Franesco's Foods just down the street on Clayhill, which turned out to be a real find.

Francesco's veal and chicken cutlets were crispy and delicious, topped with melted cheese and marinara sauce.

The steak sandwich was mind-blowing. The meat was so tender. I was so focused on the veal cutlet when I ordered I didn't even notice they had panzarotti. My loss.

I asked Rae, at the counter, what cut of beef they used for the steak sandwich. He came back with, "What? You want me to give you the recipe for the red sauce too?" I love a challenge. We bantered back and forth for a little while and finally he showed me where the cut was on his own body (Sorry, I'm sworn to secrecy). I looked up and realized everyone else was sitting in the car, purses in laps, staring straight ahead. Wait! We can't leave yet! I'm over here falling in love! And what is the secret to the red sauce?

Back in Newmarket, I found a coffeshop with wireless so I could start uploading photos. On the way home, I asked the taxi cab to take me somewhere good to pick up something to eat. He took me here. It was in a strip mall with an adult bookstore.

Proximity to New York definitely paid off.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Oh Canada! Saturday: In Which Musical Theater Nearly Does Me In

Saturday my mom and I went to Niagara Helicopters Limited, but the copters were grounded due to inclement weather.

On the way back, we passed by the Evel Knievel Daredevil Museum. My cousin said, “I suppose you want to stop there.” Are you kidding me? It was also a thrift store – score! 15 dollars poorer, one funny sign and crazy hat later, we were back on the road.

I don't know what any of this has to do with Evel Knievel. But it was behind a velvet rope.

The camel toe wouldn't fit in my luggage

We passed a cool motel that looked EXACTLY like the motel from Psycho. If I hadn't seen the real Psycho set, I'd swear that's where they filmed it. So when we counted heads and came up one bed short, I volunteered to stay at the Bates Motel. I wanted to take pictures inside the room. No one would let me stay there, something about drugs and hookers. So they found me a room at the Old Stone Inn.

That night we had tickets to “Oh Canada, Eh!” It was an unfortunate pick - probably my worst case of bad judgement this trip. I had heard the food was actually good, and it looked like it was going to be kitschy in a cool, drag-queen kind of way.

Instead it was a theme restaurant, like Medieval Times. Imagine Bear Country Jamboree meets Waiting for Guffman. Along with cheesy acting and the anticipated stereotypes (they even had a "newfie"), the hypercheerful music was unrelenting. The French Canadian accents were just painful. How in the hell did they manage that? You can't throw a rock in Ontario without hitting someone with a real French Canadian accent.

For dinner there was a watery pea soup and mediocre salad that they comically cleared while I was still eating it. I just poked at everything else - a platter of mixed Canadian food – fried fish that wasn’t so bad, chicken, some of the worst beef ever, and I forget what else. Maybe I will recover the memory in therapy. You may wonder where the food photos are - well, I had a broken lens that wouldn't focus on anything within 3 feet of me - be grateful.

At the end of the meal, they offered “Squirrel cake” Squirrel cake? Really? Although I'm sure my ancestors probably did eat squirrel, I must have heard them wrong. It was swirl cake. Chocolate and maple. Yeah, maple. The most intense, awful, maple badness ever. We all tried to be subtle as we spit it out. I wish it was squirrel cake.

It was kind of a relief when they cleared the dessert dishes, since it meant that the show was almost over. Not so fast, Missy. It went on and on and on. I went outside and started making phone calls during the Gordon Lightfoot tribute.

Keeping with the Psycho theme, there was some appetizing taxidermy on the walls.

The room at the Old Stone Inn was beautiful. Definitely a nice place to stay in Niagara Falls. It was right near a party row. Hunger and lots of people yelling wooohoooh drew me out of my room. Especially since my plan to get drugs and hookers at the Bates Motel had been thwarted.

Hello? Halal Indian Food and Evil Psycho Clown. May I help you?

I happened upon this place. It was too good to be true. An Indian buffet open til midnight? Score. As I stood there considering my choices, one of the waiters approached me, “You are so beautiful. I will make you anything you want – special.” Amongst my many superpowers, I seem to have the strange ability to mesmerize East Indian men. Friends who have witnessed this power in action attribute it to my red hair. Others think it has something to do with my breasts.

"How about a garlic naan?"
“Anything for you!”
“OK, then, TWO garlic naan!”

When you are a lone traveler, the desk clerk is your best friend. The clerk at the Inn was so sweet, when he saw my take-out bag he took my food in the back and put it on covered plates with real silver as if I had ordered it from room service. So I curled up for the night with a 10.99 movie and my riches of naan. Swank.

Ontario does love its phallic symbols

Monday, June 2, 2008

Oh Canada! Friday Night: April Wine and May Poutine

At the Springilicious Festival in Niagara Falls, Ontario, we met up with my cousin's work friends and started drinking. One friend introduced himself to me by saying, “Hi. I’m John. I play bass.” (Did I mention that I play guitar?”)

I had to come back with, “Did you hear about the drummer who locked himself in the van?”


“It took the bass player an hour to get him out.”


One drawback to my dawdling in Buffalo was that by the time it occurred to me to check out the food most of the booths were closing up. The Haitian booth was still open. The lady at the booth was shy about my camera, but I flattered her and then showed her the picture and offered to erase it of she didn’t like it. She blushed charmingly and waved me away.

I thought I ordered a curried chicken, but ended up with some kind of fritter and fried plantains.

After a short break to eat the mystery fritter, I stood up and picked up my bag, and the camera just flew out, end over end, smashing into the concrete. It didn't happen in slow motion, as dramatic as that would have been. Luckily, I was hanging out with techie-minded engineers who physically forced the lens back in. I now was forced to shoot in Manual mode for the first time ever.

As a result, the rest of the pictures in this series are going to be compromised as I am forced to learn Manual mode. The photos are all wacky as I am often unaware that the setting is off and cannot make the broken lens focus on anything less than 3 feet away. Later, back in LA when I had to cough up for a new lens, they sold me a lens filter to try and counteract my cavalier attitude towards my gear. The woman added, "The cover has UV protection too, so that's good."

I asked, "So I don't get cancer in that one eye?"

She just stared at me, like, "How do you even walk around without hurting yourself?"

Sad as I was about the camera, ice cream makes everything better. The gelato booth even had nougat, an uncommon flavor and definitely better than chocolate.

When I had heard that April Wine was playing, the name sounded so familiar, but I didn’t know any of their songs offhand. I had thought it would be like Jethro Tull or Lord Sutch. It turned out to be more of a hair band, like bands that pronounce "higher" as "Hiyaaahhh" . I asked one of the guys when I should expect the power ballad.

“Probably any time now."

"How many times do they say the word 'lady'?"

“This isn’t Styx.'

"I know. But it’s the third law of the power ballad that it must include the word 'lady'"

So I was really gratified to hear this song. So gratified I had to go find that guy and point at the stage and raise my eyebrows at him. Because I am such a lady. Or could have been.

Could have been alright, could have been here tonight
Could have been sweet as wine, you could have been a lady
I could have been alright, I could have been here tonight
Could have been sweet as wine, you could have been a lady

It's disturbingly catchy.

"I could have been allllriiiight...could have been here toniiiiight...could have been sweet as could have been a ladyyyyy."

In fact it kind of reminded me of my favorite song from The Office.

" wrong so right all night, alright, oh yeah. Oh yeah"

We stopped off for drunk food at Somebuddy’s Casual Family Dining. It was a little Hooters-esque, but I have no problem with cute girls in short shorts sexily wiping down tables. And hey, they had poutine – official drunk food of the great white north.

In a segment on the television series "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" during the 2000 American election, Rick Mercer convinced then-Governor of Texas George W. Bush that Canada's Prime Minister, Jean Chr├ętien, was named Jean Poutine. - Wikipedia

This was definitely one of my stranger moments in food porn. Imagine me insistently slurring, "Wait! Wait! Don't touch the poutine! I have to get my signature shot!"

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Oh Canada! Friday: Bye Bye Buffalo

Friday I headed over to Charlie the Butcher’s. You place your order at the counter where the day’s side dishes are displayed. The set-up allows you to ogle the carving station from anywhere in the restaurant. An old man sitting near me heckled the carver, “Slice it thicker!” It wasn’t even his sandwich. You tell 'em, old boy!

My roast beef arrived in big slices so tender it was nearly falling apart. The beef is served on a weck (kummelweck), a kaiser roll dotted with kosher salt and caraway seeds. It is without a doubt one of the top 5 sandwiches I have ever eaten. If I had never been to New Orleans, it would probably be number one. Various mustards and horseradish are available to gild the lily.

Charlie's a butcher - not a baker

Did anyone else see The Shining?

Right across from Charlie’s was another graveyard. Seriously, they just find me. I remember as a kid begging my dad to stop at a cemetary on a boring car trip. He said, "Someday you're going to spend an awfully long time in one of those places. I don't see any reason to start now."

I stopped off at my hotel and decided after missing my last ride, I should call the next cousin early to organize Saturday's transportation. It turned out there was a huge festival in Niagara Falls that weekend and he could pick me up in a few hours at the rental car place while shopping. Rock concert? Tasting booths from local restaurants? You don’t have to ask me twice. Of course I didn't realize that by leaving I would be missing the world's biggest fish fry. Dang.

I packed faster than I have ever packed in my life so I wouldn't get charged an extra night. In my haste I left the Purple Haze in the minifridge, as well as forgetting my favorite wooly sweater. Sometimes it seems like I spent last month steaming across the continent leaving articles of clothing and artisanal cheeses in my wake.

On the way to Niagara Falls, I would be passing a Ted’s. The first Ted's was opened in a tool shed in 1927. I'm like a kid hearing the siren song of the ice cream truck. I am just not responsible for my own actions. “Ermm, sorry I’m late. There was this foot-long calling my name…” I could only finish half of my charcoal-grilled dog. I was still full from lunch at Charlie's. An embarassment of riches.

I bought a jar of their amazing spicy-hot pepper relish, but was disappointed to discover that they don't can them, so the relish has to be kept refrigerated.

How creepy is this motel?

I love bridges!