Lisbon Eats

One of the most important parts of a trip for me is the food. When Steven and I reminisce about trips it often sounds something like “Remember that amazing seafood place in Venice? When we ate the entire platter of grilled fish for four?” or “Remember that amazing feta we ate in Oia?”. I spent a lot of time planning our Lisbon stay because I wanted to be sure we had good access to some great restaurants. We stayed in this Airbnb. I would recommend it for 1-2 people as it’s a bit cramped, but gorgeous. Although you are in Chiado, the street is very quiet and we were well rested. My favourite part was the private terrace.

Photo credit: Airbnb

Now for some of my favourite meals in the city:

Breakfast:

Tartine: Located fairly close to our apartment, this place was very cute. It provided a bit larger breakfast on the travel days where an espresso and pastry were not going to cut it. A bit pricey, but lots of space to sit and the freshest bread.

Photo credit: http://www.tartine.pt

Copenhagen Coffee Lab: By far my favourite breakfast. I know it’s not a traditional Portuguese breakfast, but Lisbon was our last stop on this trip and I wanted a light, but non-pastry breakfast. Everything we had here was amazing. Overnight oats with homemade granola, yogurt with homemade jam and aforementioned granola and soft boiled eggs with freshly baked rye bread. My husband the Australian coffee snob gave their cappuccinos the stamp of approval. I stuck to green tea and their loose leaf was wonderful.

 

Lunch/Dinner:

Time Out Market/Mercado Ribeira: If you are even vaguely contemplating a trip to Lisbon, you MUST go here. I had read about the market and knew we would give it a try, but we ended up eating here a couple of times because of the variety, freshness and absolute deliciousness of the food.

The first time was for lunch and I grabbed a poke bowl. I know, I know not traditional Portuguese, but again I had been eating local foods for almost the entire trip and I wanted something different. This was so fresh and delicious after many days of doing 4 course meals!

The second time we got an 8 item tasting menu. This was my favourite meal of the entire trip. This was from the Marlene Viera stall, you should definitely check it out if you head to the market.

StashaThis was our first dinner in Lisbon. I had the salmon with sun-dried tomato and mushroom risotto and Steven had the pork chops with goat cheese and a balsamic berry reduction. This place was reasonably priced (except the starters which were a bit ridiculous) and had a cool busy atmosphere. Very tight in the restaurant though so you need to be comfortable getting friendly with your neighbour 🙂

Sacramento: First off, the vibe in here is amazing. Very cool, nicely spaced and great service. We started with a meat and cheese plate figuring it would be the same small plates we had been used to elsewhere in the city. Wrong, we were given a huge plate of the most delicious meats and cheeses. Even when I am fairly full, it is hard to turn down a great meat and cheese plate. After a day of wandering on foot, we were ravenous. We were also very very full halfway through the plate and realized we would not be able to eat our mains. Which was a bit of a shame because the place is a bit pricey and neither of us was able to finish what we had ordered. Mine was the tuna steak and Steven had the salted codfish on wilted greens. Sorry for the terrible photos, the lighting was not great.

Photo credit: http://www.sacramentodochiado.com/pt/

Organi: This was another ‘I-am-sick-of-vacation-food-and-need-vegetables’ meal. This restaurant focuses on organic local ingredients and has a varying daily menu. I was starving by the time we got here, so again no pictures, but the photos on yelp and trip advisor give you a pretty accurate idea of what the food is like. We met a lovely Australian woman while we were here and had a great time.

Photo credit: http://www.organi.pt

Dessert:

Santini Gelato: This was our go to gelato spot. I will preface this by saying, this is no Italian gelato. Last year around this time we were at the gelato festival in Rome and this doesn’t really compete. That did not prevent us from returning several times to try every flavour. Favourites were pistachio and vanilla. Meh and not worth ordering were caramel and chocolate.

Manteigaria: Best custard tarts in Lisbon. Yes, better than Pateis de Belem which I feel is unnecessary overrated. There, I said it.

And that’s it! I would love to hear if you hit up any of these places and want to share your experience.

 

Weekend

After a series of delayed flights, we finally made it back home from Portugal on Friday morning. I was so exhausted and irritable from being stuck in airports and planes for 24 hours that I didn’t pine over the end of our trip too much. Even when travel is not painfully delayed, my favourite thing about going away is always coming back home. You appreciate things so much more after some time away.

Friday was a write-off with bleary eyed laundry, grocery shopping, meal prep and picking up Charlie from his sitter. He was so happy to see us!

We arrived home just in time for a crazy heat wave. We are talking a feels like temperature of almost 40 degrees Celsius. Our current apartment has terrible AC circulation and it has not been very pleasant. I had been missing my hot yoga practice a lot in Portugal. I do a solo practice, but I love the energy of a class practice so I decided to hit up an earlier class before I was too dehydrated to go!

Post sweaty flow I came home and made this recipe from Wholefully over basmati rice. After dinner we decided to walk over to Light up the Knight being held at Dundurn Castle. There were a few stalls and a light and sound show planned for 9:30 and 10:15 p.m. If you know me, you know that I am a cantankerous 90 year old man at heart and 9:30 p.m. is far too late for anything to be starting. We decided to hit it up early anyways to peruse dessert options.

We got some ice cream from Foundry’s (their london fog- so lovely!) and some smores with from scratch graham crackers AND marshmallows!

I was a bit disappointed at the food truck selection. Their were only two for a fairly large event so I was glad we had eaten at home before we left. After watching a very cute 1920s inspired dance routine (interrupted by many twirling toddlers lol), we wandered through the garden and then sat down in the grass for a while. The weather had finally cooled down and there was a lovely breeze. It was a great welcome back home to Hamilton.

Sunday morning I was up bright and early to walk Charlie before the heat became too oppressive. I hit up yoga for another 9:30 flow class. This time the heat really got to me and I left feeling not so great. I find in the summer, hot yoga for me is best practiced early in the morning.

Sunday night we headed over to Toronto to take my parents to Fat Pasha! It was a combined Mom’s birthday & Father’s Day celebration. We ordered everything…and then I forgot to take any pictures because I was so excited. Their food is amazing, take my word for it. Their lamb hummus and tahini with everything bagel spice are my absolute favourites. They don’t have the lamb hummus on the menu right now, but their lamb kofta made up for it in deliciousness. All in all it was a pretty awesome weekend and I am glad to be back home!

Ancaster Mill- Sunday Brunch Review

Ancaster Mill

ancastermill.ca
584 Old Dundas Road

Parking- Yes
Reservations- Yes

Last weekend I got the opportunity to finally have one of my favourite annual traditions- the Sunday brunch at Ancaster Mill. Technically, I usually go to Spencer’s, but ever since we had my Dad’s 60th during the Mill’s brunch it has become my new go to. Spencer’s and Ancaster Mill are owned by the same group so their brunches are both stellar.

Here’s the gist of it: $49/person and you MUST make reservations. This is not the time to be spontaneous. Plan the event a few weeks ahead, book your table and dress nice. Both Spencer’s and Ancaster Mill are fine dining restaurants and a good excuse to change out of your yoga pants. The service is great at both, although I have to say Ancaster Mill is more consistent and attentive. Probably because it is smaller as well and easier for the servers to keep track of you.

There is a layout through the main dining rooms of a cold charcuterie section, fresh fruit and salads and cold seafood bar with FRESHLY SHUCKED OYSTERS! You can bet I stood in front of the oyster dude for an uncomfortable amount of time. There is also a section of fresh juices and hot chocolate although there are unlimited champagne cocktails, tea and coffee including in the price. I am very partial to their Kir Royales mostly because I feel very fancy drinking them. In the same large dining room as the cold foods there are various breads, baked goods and preserves.

 

In the smaller dining room there is the hot bar with a carving station and various different warm options including made to order omelettes, crepes and waffles. My personal favourite from this area are the pierogies. They have all the makings of the perfect food: fresh soft dough, butter, potatoes, cheese and sour cream.

Finally you arrive at the real reason you came in the first place, the dessert table. So there are a lot of delicious options including various cakes, pies, cookies and tarts. They always seem to have warm bread pudding and apple crumble. You MUST TRY THEIR HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS! I know it seems weird and you will wonder, “why did I pay $50 to eat marshmallows?”. Well because homemade marshmallows do not taste like anything you have ever eaten before. Those dipped in their chocolate fountain are like a heavenly opera in your mouth. You’re welcome.

Everyone has different taste, but below I have compiled a list of consistent hits and missed in the buffet based on a consensus from family and friends.

Greatest Hits:
Cold seafood table: I already mentioned the oysters, but they also have crab legs, shrimp, sushi, smoked salmon and pickled herring as well as a seafood salad. Normally I would feel a bit grossed out by the idea of a seafood salad and would be thinking it is a quick ticket to food poisoning. If you are ever going to have this dish done well in a landlocked place like Ontario, it is here. Favourite from this station: smoked salmon and pickled herring.

Hot bar: Broccoli with pine nuts. Even if you don’t like broccoli, try this, it is deliciously done. I have already sang my praises of the pirogies, but let me take this time to emphasize the need to take the sour cream to it with it. SOMEONE (cough cough husband) did not take sour cream and stole the last of MY sour cream to eat his pierogies with. The sour cream is right there people, use it. Things that I personally don’t enjoy but have been told by others are amazing: shepherd’s pie, honey glazed ham and bacon.

Crepe station: The crepes are awesome, but I do think you have to get a little creative. They only serve nutella or mixed berry and don’t have a lot of toppings other than whipped cream. However, if you take your crepe a few steps down to the ice cream bar area, you can go nuts (literally) with the topping bar for the ice cream. Pro tip- ask the crepe maker for extra nutella- you can never have enough nutella.

Whomp Whomp- Misses:

Waffle station: They make these in advance and they are a bit soggy. Don’t hold a candle to the crepes.

Salad bar: I am actually a salad fan, but this salad bar didn’t do it for me. Largely frequented by a small group of terrified “I’m gluten-dairy-soy-fat-and-calorie-sensitive” females who seem to have accidentally found themselves at this buffet, this area is best minimally sampled.

Bread bar: OK I am torn on this. Their breads and baked goods are actually pretty amazing. But ask yourself, do you really want to fill up on bread in this situation. Again if you are a certain SOMEONE who accompanied me last time, you will fill up on bread and then judge others who saved room for bread. Don’t be that someone.

This review is specifically for their Sunday brunch, stay tuned for a dinner review!

Overall rating: 5/5

Service: 5/5

Food: 5/5

Ambience: 5/5

Working in Medicine ruins Stuff: Edition 1- Television

When you decide to go to medical school there are a lot of sacrifices you know you will be making. You know that you will have to work extreme hours, go without sleep for 24-30 hours at a time on a weekly basis and that you will leave with crippling debt. You may not know then that all your relationships will have to take a back seat to your work a lot of the time and that you are sacrificing a decade of your life, but that understanding comes quickly.

These are the things I knew, but then there were the unexpected sacrifices. Edition 1 of those unexpected things- TV shows. It may sound silly and trivial to complain that your TV watching experience has been forever altered by your work and it probably is, but it’s my blog and I complain about what I want! Before I decided to go into medicine, one of my favourite shows was House. I loved the show and watched it all, even the horrendous and best ignored Season 8. When you love someone or something, you are willing to ignore their embarrassing attempts to stay relevant. Like when your Dad starts saying “what is going up?” to your friends when they come over. Oh immigrant dads…

Anyway, over the last week and half I have been sick and that meant I actually was forced to lie down for extended periods of time. I ended up aimlessly scrolling through Netflix looking for something to distract me when I came across House and decided to start rewatching it. I was expecting some gentle nostalgia and was interested to see how the show came across now that I was actually a doctor myself. I did not get gentle nostalgia. What followed were waves of panic and anxiety followed by outrage at House’s actions. I have a new sympathy for Lisa Cuddy trying to corral this monster.

Can you really say you are “always right” if you were wrong about thirty times before you got to the right answer? On the show everyone is always defending House’s shittiness because “he always gets the diagnosis in the end”. Also, apparently he can diagnose rare and crazy things that no one else can. Except that we do diagnose these things all the time. They might be rare, but that doesn’t mean we never learn about them or see them. House is usually wrong about his diagnosis at least 4 times in the first 40 minutes before he eventually gets the right diagnosis. Every time he insists he is right and is totally confident. I know you have a big ego, but doesn’t being wrong 4/5 times make you question the possibility that perhaps you got it wrong this time? The worst part is that in a lot of the shows, he probably would have gotten the diagnosis originally if they didn’t insist on ignoring the history and physical exam and bloodwork. Instead they sit around brainstorming and inevitably House will say “no time to test! Just treat for the illness”. What in actual heck? Seeing as the probability is your diagnosis is wrong and you are probably going to make the person more sick for the next 3-4 days, why don’t we spend the 30 seconds to draw blood and order a rush in the lab to test?

Case in point: In season 1 episode 16, a young overweight girl comes in with a heart attack. Let’s back track to the basic presenting history. Apparently, this girl has been having headaches, difficulty concentrating and has had intractable weight gain despite changes in diet and exercise. She is way off her growth chart. And oh yeah, she looks totally Cushingoid. How did this get ignored for all this time? Who does not think pituitary tumour? Yet this girl almost has a mastectomy because everyone is too busy rambling on about fat phobia and diet pills. This is the worst team ever.

In the final episode of season 1, House treats his ex-girlfriends husband. He has intermittent abdominal pain, anxiety and personality changes and some neuropathy. This dude gets subjected to so many unnecessary invasive tests. His presenting complaints are LITERALLY the classic triad for porphyria which he ultimately gets diagnosed with. Isn’t he supposed to have two board certifications? Plus he has 3 other specialists on the team. This department needs to get it’s funding cut. The worst part is the crazy claim that they can only confirm the attack by inducing one and then driving a needle into his bladder to test. Umm no. That is unnecessary. Oh, you say he doesn’t have time and may not survive the next attack? Perhaps that is because you were so busy misdiagnosing him and giving him treatments that made him worse. Dude walked into the show smiling, making jokes and having dinner with his wife and by the end was paralyzed and getting stabbed in the bladder by a psychopath with a wrinkly shirt.

 

I still like the show, Hugh Laurie is amazing and I like the back stories as well. I just did not expect to have most of the fun and mystery sucked out of it. 10 minutes into the schizophrenia episode in Season 1 and I was like, has anyone tested this woman for Wilson’s disease? Seriously, I am the worst now. I know most medical TV shows are not made to be very realistic (Grey’s Anatomy anyone?), but it’s still disappointing to have them forever ruined. Interestingly, the most realistic medical show I have ever seen is Scrubs. Luckily that is also on Netflix so I am ready for my next binge!

 

Weekend Recap

Technically, the weekend isn’t over since we have today off in Ontario. I am so thankful they introduced Family Day here a few years ago. It always falls the week of my birthday so it feels like a special holiday just for me 🙂

We have had some amazing and totally wild weather this weekend. On Saturday, the temperature hit 16 degrees celsius ( 61 F for my American friends)! That is insane for February here in our part of the world. It was equally beautiful yesterday and even though the temperature has come back down today, it’s sunny and very pleasant. Charlie has been loving it!

On Saturday I started the day with a Yoga with Weights class at my studio. I am still undecided on how I feel about them. I like the variety and the fast tempo, but some of the exercises really aggravate my neck and shoulder pain. After class I changed quickly to head over to a belated birthday brunch with some of my friends. Half of us are writing our Royal College speciality examinations this spring so it was a nice break! I just love the atmosphere at The French, it makes you feel so classy and grown up! Can’t wait to go back for dinner.

On Sunday, I took my sad study bag over to Durand Coffee and set up shop for a few hours. It does suck to be spending so much time studying, but their matcha tea latte and the sunny weather made up for it!

I forgot (!) to drink coffee that morning and my only caffeine came from this matcha tea latte. It is such a cool drink, but lacking in the caffeine department for me. I ended up super sleepy and hungry all day long. I had dinner around 4 and fell asleep by 8:00 p.m!

For dinner, I made gnocchi. This was my second time trying to make gnocchi. The first time was with sweet potatoes so in my mind it doesn’t really count. This time I sautéed some spinach, tomatoes and chicken sausage to add to it. I think it was a success!

Today I am back to studying! Hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend!

No, you are not addicted to sugar

Yesterday I flew back home after a brief work trip that left me much more exhausted than I could have predicted given that I was only gone for a few days. Sitting glumly at my gate reading the same paragraph of one my APA guideline summaries over and over again, my pretence of studying was rudely interrupted by a loud gasp. I looked up assuming that someone had missed their flight or lost their baggage or far worse, had some sort of medical emergency. Far worse not only because of how terrible it would be for the person, but also because then the much feared “is anyone here a doctor?” question would be asked. We hate this, it sucks. We want to help, but no one wants to deliver a baby or manage a heart attack while wearing their oldest sweatpants and Hello Kitty travel sweatshirt. It does not inspire trust in your medical abilities. Anyway, the volume and intensity of the gasp left me in no doubt that someone had experienced some seriously untoward event. You can imagine my surprise when I realized the gasp had come from one of two well coiffed and perfectly groomed women setting behind me, neither of whom seemed to be in any real distress. As an aside, who are these magical unicorns who do not look greasy and dishevelled at the airport?

“Oh my god, would you look at that?” the flaxen haired unicorn with beachy waves (in MINNESOTA! I ask you) exclaimed to her friend. Let us refer to her as Pinky because she was wearing a pink sweater, her friend can be The Brain because that’s how my brain works.

“What’s wrong?” asked The Brain. “How shameful! I can’t believe it”, Pinky pointed and I followed her gaze expecting to see some poor motion sick sap vomiting in a garbage can across the walkway. Instead she seemed to be pointing over to a young girl who couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old sitting very calmly at a table with her mother at the bakery across from us. The girl was eating a rainbow sprinkled cupcake with the pure joy and abandon that only a small child with a rainbow coloured baked good can experience.  The Brain seemed equally confused and turned to her friend with a puzzled expression.

“How can she let her eat that garbage?  I don’t have any refined sugar at all. This is why we are having such an obesity epidemic in this country. Don’t people know how toxic this stuff is?” Her friend nodded excitedly and with the fervour of a newly recruited cult member who wanted to prove her merit, she added ” I know! It’s so addictive! I mean you don’t sell heroin in stores!”

What. In. Actual. Hell. Did I just hear someone compare a BAKERY to a highly addictive and dangerous drug? They went on back and forth for a while and I had to get up and move because I was at risk of suffering a rage induced stroke.

People, enough is enough. If you stand on the anti-sugar pulpit and preach, you need to take a minute to check yourself. I will admit that I do have a serious love of sugar which biases me here, but this goes beyond that. This here is a public service announcement. Sugar my friends is not a drug. Please do not chime in here with your ridiculous comments about those studies that showed that sugar lit up “addictive” centres in the brain. First of all those are not just “addiction” pathways, they are just general pleasure and reward pathways that happen to be intensely stimulated by drugs. Let me tell you what else lights up those pleasure centres; spending time with people you love, doing a favourite activity, cuddling your puppy. Are those things also addictive? Well, maybe puppy cuddles. Who can resist those chunky fur balls of love? Also, almost none of those studies have been done on humans. Hopefully your brain is slightly different from that of a rat.

Please do not disrespect and minimize those who struggle with addiction issues by comparing this to the latest diet fad. Substance use disorders have four main key criteria: impaired control, social impairment, risky use and pharmacological indicators (tolerance, etc.) which indicate that someone has an addiction issue. How many times have you failed to show up to work because you were at home snorting icing sugar and lost track of time? Was there ever a time where your need for that delicious glazed Tim Hortons honey cruller yeasty deliciousness resulted in you driving erratically as you savoured your bounty? Did you ever sell your daughter’s scooter just to get a hit of one of those Cake and Loaf Giant Oreos? No, because your brain has not been hijacked by a mind altering addictive substance.

See aforementioned Giant Oreos. They taste even better than they look. Go now, you will not regret it. Photo credit: Cake & Loaf Hamilton

Sugar is just the latest in our culture’s long history of fear mongering and vilifying foods in the name of “health”. Remember when butter was terrible and we were all eating margarine? Now a parent might get reported to Child Protective Services if they are caught serving margarine to a child. I am not saying you need to be freebasing granules of raw coconut sugar or injecting Grade A Canadian maple syrup into your veins (or am I?). There is a place for all foods in our diet so go out and have your cupcake and really take the time to enjoy it. Enjoy it like you are a 5 year old kid and get to have a rainbow sprinkle cupcake.

I am off to enjoy this deliciousness that is a reminder of my trip away. Best souvenir ever.

Living in Hamilton

For the last few years, I have been a mentor for medical students trying to decide which speciality to apply to when they graduate. This means talking about pros/cons different programs, schools and cities including a memorable incident calming a panic attack about applying to Ob/Gyn at Starbucks. I get asked to meet with visiting medical students from other schools as well and the most common question I get asked is “What do you think about living in Hamilton?”. 5 years is a long time to commit to one place and it makes sense to think things through. I think Hamilton is pretty freaking great. I feel like I sound like a bit of a cult recruiter when I start talking about my love of living in Hamilton, but it really is such a cool place.

When I first moved to Hamilton 10 (oh god…) years ago, I HATED it. I had moved from the GTA and went home every single weekend. That was sort of the problem, I never got to know the city. When I finally got my own place and started to explore, I fell completely head over heels. The most important things to me in the city I live in are:

1) Do I have the option to walk/bike safely to work, but also drive in non-insane traffic if I need to?
With the installation of the new bike lanes and the Sobi stations installed around the city, I am loving the accessibility we now have. I live fairly centrally in between the three major hospitals I work at and can walk or bike to any of them which is awesome. I do appreciate having the option to drive without getting stuck in horrendous traffic though.

Photo credit: Sobi Hamilton

2) Is there a decent food scene?
Food scene: It’s enough of a scene to convince me to write a food blog, ’nuff said. Check out my reviews to get to know some of my favourite restaurants.

Photo Credit: Supercrawl Website 2014

3) Do I have access to trails and hiking paths?
THIS IS THE BEST PART! I cannot control my exclamation marks around the Hamilton Conservation Authority and the bajillion amazing trails we have. Buy a pass (https://conservationhamilton.ca), change your life. Your summers will be exponentially better. Even with the pass, the Rail Trail running through the city makes it so that you are only ever a few minutes away from getting into nature. We also have over 100 waterfalls (full disclosure: some of them are tiny, but there are also beautiful full on TLC waterfalls!).

Webster’s Falls Photo credit: Hamilton Conservation Authority

4) Does parking make me suicidal or homicidal?
Nope. Even at peak hour downtown on a Friday, I can get parking. Admittedly, I used to be able to get free parking, but I am willing to pay the price of $1/hour if it means more growth in the city.

5) Is the housing affordable?
Definitely. Residents are on a limited income, don’t even get me started on that topic. We all get paid the exact same, no matter where in the province we work. Even with the increasing costs of housing in Hamilton, they don’t come near Toronto.

And finally, is there somewhere to get my eyebrows done because let’s get real, I cannot wait more than 2 weeks between my threading sessions.

If you are thinking about living in Hamilton and unsure if it’s for you, come visit! I promise you will find something for you.

Review: Aberdeen Tavern

Aberdeen Tavern
432 Aberdeen Avenue
theaberdeen.ca
Parking: Street
Reservations: Yes

Ah, Aberdeen Tavern. I remember when they first opened and I couldn’t get reservations for a table for 2 on a Wednesday evening having called several days in advance. Even now, with more upscale dining options available in Hamilton, you will still see a decent crowd there any night of the week. There is a reason for that since this place is AMAZING. I do not use all caps lightly (bold faced lie), this place deserves it.

I have been to Aberdeen Tavern many times. They have a weekend brunch, lunch and dinner menu. One of my favourite things is that they have a separate vegetarian menu. I have a ton of veg family members and friends and I like knowing they have more than one measly option to choose from. Also, the vegetarian menu is actually good. It is not just one token entree, they have clearly put a lot of thought and effort into it. This review is for dinner mainly because that is my preferred meal here. Their brunch and lunch menu is very good, but I have found the service, timing (more on this later) and drinks to be inconsistent at those times. They seem to be the best with regards to service, quality and timing on Fri-Sun evenings.

We started off the meal with the breads and dips appetizer. They grill the bread and drizzle it with olive oil. Who would have thought simple grilled bread could be so delicious? All of us carb lovers out there that’s who. I pity you low carbers out there. You are starving your brain, but also your body of so much amazingness! It’s served with a trio of dips including smoked hummus, olive tapenade and an herb ricotta. The olive tapenade was a favourite, but that could also be because there were three Punjabis at the table and we enjoy some flavour. The (oh so not Punjabi) husband liked the whipped ricotta the best. It was fine, but it didn’t hold a candle to the tapenade. Needless to say, the bread was demolished fairly quickly.

The husband got two cocktails; the Purple Rain and West End Spritz. They were…fine. We (as I was sneaking sips when he wasn’t looking) were pretty disappointed with the cocktails mainly because of the very high expectations we had from previous visits. This visit was on a Thursday night and they did not have a staffed bartender making cocktails. It was just our very sweet, very young and very inexperienced in cocktail making, server who was making the cocktails. Later on in the night we caught a glimpse of him fighting with the espresso machine. Bless his heart. It almost drove the husband to tears, he cannot stand to see espresso machines misused and abused. He did an OK job, but they just did not have the complex test profile you get from Aberdeen cocktails on a weekend dinner service.

After this, things got a bit messy timing wise. We were having a pretty good time talking and didn’t realize it initially, but eventually saw it had been about an hour since we ordered our mains. The manager came over to each table and apologized personally, which I very much appreciated. Apparently the kitchen had stopped receiving orders due to a technical glitch so they had not made anything for the last 45 minutes. That seems highly unusual to me, but I haven’t worked at a restaurant and will refrain from making a judgement. I do think though, that they should have done something to make up for the fact that it was such a significant wait. Previously when I had been to Aberdeen for brunch, the exact same situation happened where our meals did not arrive for about 1.5 hours. That time they sent out some free scones, pastries and coffee. This time, nothing. By the time the food came, I was starving- my pre dinner snack and the appetizer were a distant memory.

As I am a shortsighted fool, I ate a snack right before we went to Aberdeen Tavern. This turned out to be a great thing though at the time the husband made all sorts of faces and comments about my inability to be hungry for 10 minutes. Since I wasn’t feeling too hungry when I ordered (how I would regret this later), I got the tuna tartare app as my main. The rest of the table got: the veal meatball marinara, braised beef and roasted chicken supreme. I had a taste (OK several tastes) from everyone’s mains and I think my favourite was the braised beef. It was unbelievably tender and melt-in-your-mouth perfect. The potato rosti it is served on is absolutely divine, crispy, but not overly greasy. My least favourite meal was my own. I usually love their tuna tartare, but this time I felt they were a bit skimpy on the tuna and my avocado was pretty bruised underneath it. It wasn’t the prettiest, but it was still delicious. I would have appreciated a bit more tuna though! Honestly though, it is possible it is always served with that much tuna, but I was just starving by the time they finally brought out our mains. They serve the tartare with these wonton chips which I love. They are a very unique and cool twist on the dish and really enhance the flavour and texture profile of the dish.

We were pretty full at this point, but could not resist the siren call of the dessert menu.

Sticky toffee pudding and triple chocolate cake, both with ice cream made in house!

Overall, despite some timing mishaps, still a good dinner at Aberdeen Tavern. Also, I should note that I have been here for dinner many times and this is the first time I have ever had an issue. Even with the timing issue, the food was still phenomenal.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Service 4/5

Food 5/5

Ambience/Decor: 5/5

Book Review or things I do when I am not eating

Lately, I have been having trouble finding time to read. By the time I get home, I am too brain dead from work and studying to try and get my head into a book. Instead it’s mindless Instagram skimming and half reading blog posts. Although I do not have time and energy to read as much, I seem to find ample time and energy to continue purchasing books as though I am still reading at my old pace. When the holidays rolled around this year, I had a stack of thrillers I wanted to get through.

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

Synopsis: If you refuse to believe me, I will no longer consider you my son.
Daniel believed that his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden. But with a single phone call, everything changes.
Your mother…she’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things. She’s had a psychotic breakdown, and been committed to a mental hospital.
Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad… I need the police… Meet me at Heathrow.
Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.

It was a bit hard for me to get into this one, but once I got past the first two chapters, I could not put it down. The book is set in rural Sweden and I enjoyed learning a bit about some of the popular folklore and a glimpse into how rural communities live. It motivated me to read a bit more about Nordic folklore around trolls. Random fact: apparently trolls are said to have their own king- Dovregubben. That’s a mouthful.

The idea was really unique and I did not see that ending coming AT ALL. I have many feels about it so if you have read it, I would love to know your thoughts. From a psychiatric and especially psychodynamic perspective, I found the end to be fascinating. It does drag on a little in the middle, but the story captures you enough to push on. I didn’t like how he spent all this time analyzing tiny and irrelevant things in the present conversation between the son and mother. I get that he wanted the reader to understand the state of mind each were in and their previous relationship, but it felt forced. I wanted him to just hurry up and get back to the actual story. If you like mystery and are sick of reading “Gone Girl” copycats, this is a good one.

Missing, Presumed: A Novel by Susie Steiner

Synopsis: Mid-December, and Cambridgeshire is blanketed with snow. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw tries to sleep after yet another soul-destroying Internet date – the low murmuring of her police radio her only solace.

Over the airwaves come reports of a missing woman – door ajar, keys and phone left behind, a spatter of blood on the kitchen floor. Manon knows the first 72 hours are critical: you find her, or you look for a body. And as soon as she sees a picture of Edith Hind, a Cambridge post-graduate from a well-connected family, she knows this case will be big.

Is Edith alive or dead? Was her ‘complex love life’ at the heart of her disappearance, as a senior officer tells the increasingly hungry press? And when a body is found, is it the end or only the beginning?

This was definitely the most disappointing of the bunch. I just could not get into it. I think the biggest issue was that too many different sub stories got opened up and I found the connection at the end poorly executed. I think this is part of a series? Definitely will not be reading any others. It shifted between different characters’ POV and the pace was painfully slow. I was bored and could not bring myself to care about or like any of the characters.

The Hand That Feeds You: A Novel by A.J. Rich

Synopsis:Morgan, thirty, is completing her thesis on victim psychology and newly engaged to Bennett, a man more possessive than those she has dated in the past, but also more chivalrous—and the sex is hot. She returns from class one day to find Bennett brutally mauled to death, and her beloved dogs covered in blood.

When Morgan tries to locate Bennett’s parents to tell them about their son’s hideous death, she discovers that everything he has told her—where he was born, where he lives in Montreal, where he works—was a lie. He is not the man he said he was, and he had several fiancées, all believing the same promises he gave Morgan. And then, one by one, these other women are murdered. Morgan’s research into Bennett has taken on new urgency: in order to stay alive, she must find out how an intelligent woman like herself, who studies predators, becomes a victim.

Devastated and traumatised, Morgan tries to locate Bennett’s parents to tell them about their son’s death. Only then does she begin to discover layer after layer of deceit. Bennett is not the man she thought he was. And she is not the only woman now in immense danger .

This was very promising. It was written by two authors and apparently is based on a relationship their mutual friend had. She passed away and the friends wrote this in her memory.  Although I devoured the book, I found the main character to be so deeply annoying. I get that everyone is flawed, but girl just made one bad decision after the other. Not only are you not a detective, but you have been conned time after time and do not seem to learn from any of your mistakes. I also felt like none of the characters, including Morgan, were well developed and came across as flat. The idea was so interesting and had so much potential, but the execution of it was shoddy and the writing was disappointing.

I have a couple more books to review, but I will save them for another post. If you have any good thrillers to suggest, I would love to hear about them!

Review: FSH & CHP Hamilton

FSH & CHP
47 King William Street
fshandchp.ca
Parking: Street
Takes Reservations: No

Having always lived in urban parts of Ontario, I never spent much time thinking about fish and chips. I have always loved trying new restaurants and different cuisines, but being so far from water means the seafood is just not as good as it is on our East and West coasts. I always envisioned fish and chips as being more appropriate in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland than Toronto. That is until FSH & CHP came to town. I have been to their restaurant about a half dozen times now so this review is long overdue.

The restaurant is on a fairly busy road with other gems like The French, The Mule and FSH & CHP’s sister restaurant, HAMBRGR. You can usually find street parking in front of the restaurant or not far down the road. The restaurant is small with window and wall bar seating and tables which they will reorganize depending on the size of the groups. There is usually a wait in the evenings, but the line tends to move quickly. One downside of the small space is there isn’t anywhere to wait which can be hard in the winter months.

The atmosphere is quaint, pretty and feels spacious even though it is a fairly small dining room. They have really embraced the nautical theme, but it doesn’t come across as cheesy or overdone. It is a great design and has a cozy and familiar, but still modern feel to it. The clientele is so diverse as well. It seems to be a hit with everyone from the university crowd to young professionals, middle aged couples and even parents with young kids. Personally, I would be wary of going with very young children because the space issue makes it hard to navigate a carseat, stroller and the other million things that you have to carry when you travel with kids. They also don’t have much space to wriggle around and explore if they get bored or frustrated.

Photo credit: FSH & CHP Google Images

They revamped their menu shortly after my first visit there which had been during their soft opening. We had already tried their salmon burger, beer battered cod, lobster mac & cheese and chowders. The beer battered cod is our favourite, but I have never had a bad or even just average meal here. This time we decided to try the Fry box for two. We did not think this decision through very well. It was simultaneously great, but also a very bad, no good, terrible idea. It was great because the food is fresh, well made and delicious. It was terrible because once our order arrived, we realized we had just ordered an entire wooden crate of fried food.

Disclaimer: I have nothing against fried food, how could I when so many of the best things in life are fried. However, I never grew up eating fast food or having fried food served to me at home so my tolerance is low for the quantity I can eat of it. Thank you immigrant parents for offering us mushy black bananas and dented oranges from your bag when we said we were hungry near a McDonald’s. The Fry Box is not for the faint of heart. We did not come close to finishing (although we tried!) and I left fairly certain that my body was now at least 40% oil.

Before we faced the fry box, we ordered the kale chop salad to share. This was also revamped and they have done a great job with it. When I first tried it months ago, it was a bit bland and uninteresting. This salad was bomb though. Perfectly massaged kale with dates, pecorino, nuts, fried chickpeas and apples. Soooo good. I liked that they didn’t overwhelm it with dressing either, all the individual flavours from the ingredients came through and complemented each other.

The husband tried the Bavarian Wheat beer and loved it. We have tried their cocktails before, but honestly we can be a bit picky about how our cocktails are made and they weren’t that great last time. Anyway, fish and chips are begging to be served with beer.

After the salad we got our fry box. The picture does not do justice. They usually serve it with corn, but were out that night so we got more delicious fried goodness. There was the fried beer battered haddock, fried shrimp in batter, hush puppies and chips (fries for us simple non British folk) served with coleslaw, tartar sauce and curry mayo.

We usually get the beer battered cod and this was our first time trying the haddock. Although the batter was just as perfectly spiced, airy but still crispy as it always is, I was not a fan of the haddock. It was chewy and fell a bit flat for me. That did not stop me from peeling all the batter off and eating it….then eating my husband’s batter off his piece as well. The shrimp was delicious as were the fries. Their fries are a perfect example of how fries should be done. Thick cut, crispy, hot and salty outside, but a rich and soft potato inside. My only criticism would be that I find the fries a tad bit on the salty side, but the husband disagrees and finds them perfect. The only disappointing item for both of us were the hushpuppies. I just find them bland, even with the sauce options. Neither of us particularly liked them and we found them boring. Still, there was so much food that it didn’t matter if you weren’t a fan of one part because there were so many other things. I would have liked to have tried their corn, but it will have to be next time.

Overall, FSH&CHP is a great and unique addition to the restaurant scene. It provides an upscale version of a classic dish. Service was friendly, helpful and attentive. If you haven’t been there, definitely go give it a try.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Service 5/5

Ambience/Decor: 4/5