2017 June #1

Arrived at our hotel in Niagara Falls at about 8:00 pm. After we checked in and dropped off our bags, we set out to look for dinner.

We initially intended to go to Koutouki, the Greek restaurant, but by the time we reached it at 9:00 pm, they closed the kitchen already. They normally open until 10:00 pm, but being a Wednesday night, they had no customers and closed early.

Walking along the same street, we decided on Bravo grill instead. It was better than we expected. The calamari fries were very nice, especially with the lemon. Crispy and savoury batter.

The grilled salmon was nice for me. Crispy skin and had a sweet maple and butter sauce.

Serena’s meatball dish was okay. The sauce was good, but the meatball was a bit dry.

We also learned that Niagara can be sketchy at night. Some dude who was smoking at the Shell gas station stalked us for a bit…

The Wyndham Gardens hotel was in a decent location. Most things were within walking distance, and had a Groupon deal, ending up to be about $70 a night, plus $14 per night of overnight parking and $1.50 facility fee per night.

Would we stay here again? The bed and bath were comfortable enough, but there were no open windows, relying solely on vents, so the air was triggering sneezes and runny nose. Also, at 7:00 am, there was hammering, sawing, and construction sounds coming from upstairs on both nights. That woke us up early.

We had breakfast at Flour Mill Scratch Kitchen, the restaurant attached to a nearby inn, the Old Stone Inn. Very nice decor with mirrors and large windows that allowed plenty of sunlight in.

The coffee was pretty good. The server pressed the French press a bit too deeply, and the powder at the bottom got stirred up. That being said, quite good coffee.

Good service and nice ambiance.

After we ate, we crossed the border on foot across the Rainbow Bridge.

The views were great on that side! We felt very close to the falls, and because it was midday, we could look down and see double rainbows!

The border crossing guards that day were very different on the American and Canadian sides. The American guards whistled us in, questioned where we were going and didn’t like “close by” as an answer, and just sounded generally unfriendly. The Canadian guard was so nice and even complimented Serena on her dress!

We got some antique photos done at Allways Antique Photos. We just walked by and it caught our eyes with photos in the display, they had mostly Western and Outlaw settings, and we picked the Victorian costumes to get some shots taken. At first I was very skeptical, since they were using a crop–sensor Canon DSLR and an outdated Lightroom 2 to edit, but the photo set turned out well, and we took 6 prints and a frame home for $99 plus tax.

Had a crepe before dinner. Brownies and Bananas, with Nutella. It was pretty good.

Dinner was at the Weinkellar, and our expectations were too high. We had 5 courses each, but only the desserts were enjoyable. Presentation was great, but taste just fell short.

As soon as we sat down, Serena heard 2 different tables send the steak back to the kitchen. One for being over-cooked, then the next one for being too rare.

We picked the daily soup. A little too sweet and too rich for my liking.

The Mediterranean salad with shrimps was quite nice.

Beef carpaccio was overcooked and had a weird after taste.

Tuna tartar was okay for Serena, but I thought it tasted weird.

Mini Chicken things were supposed to be little pot pies, but they just turned out to be mushy spring rolls with a tad of chicken inside.

Mussels dish was pretty nice, in a nice sauce. Came with too much potato fries on top, though. Couldn’t finish that.

As for the mains, there was the clam pasta. The pasta was very, very al dente, so I couldn’t really chew through them… Just ate the clams and the pasta went to waste.

Serena picked the Chicken Supreme, which turned out quite nicely.

The desserts were actually good. New York Cheesecake and a Chocolate Fudge.

The chocolate fudge had cayenne peppers, so it was spicy… It was funky, but not bad.

We went to the casino for their buffet. Having received a “free breakfast buffet” voucher in the mail, we tried to use it, but the mailed coupons are actually not valid on their own. All the offers were generated electronically, linked to each player card. So ended up each paying $12 for the breakfast buffet at Fallsview Grand Buffet. The saving grace was that we got to enjoy both the breakfast and lunch selections, because we went at 10:20 am, and lunch dishes were served at 11:00 am. So technically we paid the breakfast price to have both. It kind of made up for the inability to use the coupon earlier.

We felt like teenagers after that. Included in the Groupon were entrance to the Niagara Fun Zone, which featured a mirror maze, mini putt, and an arcade section.

The other benefit was small discounts to the Canada One Outlet. We went, and really only used the voucher for 10% off at Rocky Mountain.

We got a cheesecake and a chocolate-covered strawberry. The lady actually gave us two strawberries for the price of one, saying that it was “because the strawberries were small.” It was really nice of her!

On our way back, we took a side trip to IKEA to avoid some of the traffic and to look for closet organizers, TV stand, and office chair.

On Sunday, we went to see the musical Strictly Ballroom. It’s based off of one of Baz Luhrmann’s movies (the screenwriter for movies such as Moulin Rouge and Romeo+Juliet). It was quite fun. I liked the music, the story, and the dancing.

So the best part was… after intermission, the dancers randomly selected two people to go on stage for a quick dance amid the fanfare, and guess who were picked?!?

We think it was because Serena was waving to the dancers as they were dancing down the aisles, so they spotted us, and pulled us up. We thought maybe they’d just dance with us a bit in the aisles, but no! They pulled us up on stage. Dressed me in some tux and put a green dress on Serena. It was funny when the guys were putting the dress on her, that they looked at her blue jumper dress and said, “Oh, but she’s already wearing a nice dress… Ah, but it’s part of the plot, have to make her wear this.” Hehe, it was so natural for Serena, that after the show, several people saw us and asked if we were planned from the start, haha.

Went to Loblaws for some groceries. Earned one of those 10,000 PC points for $50 spent, and now we can redeem $20 on our next purchase!

We cooked at night. Time flies.

Lunch from Jack Tan’s chicken curry, and Mercatto Pasta.

Dinner, cooked at home. Overcooked garlic shoot. Green beans, shiitake, and pork. Microsteamed corn. I’ll need to find a better way to take photos of homecooked meals… Maybe a visit to Michael’s…

 

2017 May #2

We went for lunch at Konnichiwa before I took a nap.

Sashimi platter for Serena. I took the saba mackerel pieces, which were very fishy.

Sukiyaki for me. Quite good. Normally, a lot of sukiyaki broth are too salty as well as too sweet, but this one was fine. Pretty good.

Had lunch at Manchu Wok for lunch the next day. Serena’s were kind of bad haha. Lots of batter…

I chose my trusty combo of Pepper Beef and Honey Garlic Chicken. Always a winning combination.

Had some Charidise the next day. Their food always looks nice and presentable, but I’ve found their cooking to be very average. The egg was overboiled, whereas the sauce on top of the eggs was very salty. The fish was similarly overcooked, while the sauce was very salty. The rice was also in the cooker for too long, and is very hard. Yeah, in general, the atmosphere there is very good, but the taste just doesn’t catch up.

Went next door to Arctic Bites after lunch, and had their frozen dessert. The rolls you see are actually ice cream spread across a very cold plate to freeze into a sheet, then curled up to form the rolls. Quite nice.

Went to kendo practice at Ryerson Kendo Club. Aaah, very intense, so sore after… and got a missed tsuki right near the throat, which was red and sore for several days. Good practice though. Quite an eye-opener, as I’m not used to that level of intensity and skill. Definitely should go back.

 

 

Thursday, I gave blood at the College Street location. It was my first time at that location, as I normally go to the one at Bloor Manulife, which is quite a walk unless I’m going to the Japan Foundation Library next door too. The College Street location looks like their main headquarters, because the whole building looked like theirs. It was dark and had red flags and banners within the columns inside. You know, almost like a cult dungeon… or a crypt… of Dracula…

Went to Donatello on Elm Street for dinner. We started with some Beef Carpaccio. It was quite good! Nice seasoning for the thinly cut beef, dressed with olive oil and some cheese.

Gamberoni & Scallops al vino bianco ($24.50), shrimps & scallops sauted in wine & garlic sauce. Very very nice. I enjoyed every bit.

Serena had the Gnocchi, which I skipped taking the photo, as it looked pretty nasty, but tasted pretty good. Our umbrella fell out of my bag, and we almost lost it, but I went back the next day and they kept it! So nice of them.

Lunch at Nandos on Bay Street. They specialize in Portuguese Peri Peri Chicken.

Long wait of about 20 minutes. Good to know it’s prepared fresh, but eesh, if it was lunch break alone, kind of hard to order and eat within the lunch period unless you order ahead of time.

From left to right, double chicken legs, fries, coleslaw, grilled pineapple, chicken liver, and sweet potato “fries”.

The chicken was actually pretty good. Good seasoning. The legs were good pieces.

The chicken liver was really good, better than we expected! Spicy and such, but the greasy and spicy combo gave Serena some GI trouble.

Ah the disappointing sweet potato fries. It was more like it was baked, rather than fried. It was still raw in certain parts, had no flavour, and was dry on the outside. Very nasty! Do not get it.

 

We went to Eaton after work, and visited Express for the last time before it closed. We picked out some dresses for Serena there. On our way home, we also picked up the rug for the living room. Ordered it on Amazon for about $90. Very springy and soft! And still, very very light! We carried it back from Yonge-Dundas Square on foot.

For dinner, we ordered some Pizza Hut and watched Star Trek Beyond while eating. And yes, spilled some tomato sauce on the rug on the first day!

On Sunday, we went to Ryerson Kendo again, which was even more intense… Ahhh, I can’t keep up at all, but the practice was so educational! Taught and practiced so many moves. Aahh, exhausting but fun.

We then went to the Crying Pig Festival.

Okay fine, it was actually the Rib Fest at Yonge-Dundas Square. The space was limited, so only about 4 vendors were there.

We chose a British Columbia grill, and a New York vendor. The BC one was quite nice, but the NY one was so dry and terrible… we had to waste half of it.

On Victoria Day, we bought a TTC Day Pass (which we rode twice, and not getting our money’s worth), and went to Ontario Place.

This is the 1st Ontario Culinary Festival. It was a few shipping containers and 5 food trucks. But it was free admission, and about the only place that was open on Victoria Day.

The food trucks must have made a lot of money, because there really wasn’t many options. But hey, it was the first year, maybe there will be more in the following years.

Smoked meat grilled sandwich. Pretty good actually.

The Pulled-Pork Mac and Cheese. Serena liked it, but I felt it was very watered down, and Kraft probably makes a better version…

Also got some jerk chicken from Sully’s. This was quite good!

Lastly, we saw Hot Chocolate being made by this bicycle! It was really cool, but it tasted awful! Very gritty and also very watery! Fun to watch the man riding the bicycle to make it though.

 

Maybe next year it’ll be better.