Friday, December 28, 2007

Las Vegas Restaurants

We ate at two places we really liked. The first was Mariscos Vallarta (4425 E. Tropicana just off the Las Vegas Expressway). This was a very authentic and excellent (and casual) Mexican seafood restaurant. Jerry had the white fish, Annette had the shrimp. Yummmy!

The second restaurant was Rao's (pronounced Ray - o's). Rao's is a larger version of legendary TINY restaurant in New York City of the same name. We figured we'll never get a table at the NYC original, so the one at Caesar's will have to do. Great Italian food and atmosphere. Lemon Chicken is a speciality. Annette's gnocchi was very good (not miniature hockey pucks). Veal dishes also good. Great service.

Cowboy Christmas - Apparel

Hats, hats, and more hats !
Dudette Dressing
Spurs anyone?

Las Vegas - Cowboy Christmas

Jerry and I went to Las Vegas in early December. It was a brief "pre-holiday" getaway to enjoy some great country music...Brooks and Dunn...Big and Rich. It was the week of the humongous National Rodeo Finals so there were bowlegs and cowboy hats everywhere you looked. At the Las Vegas Convention Center they hosted the "Cowboy Christmas" Gift Show selling everything from lariats to Swarkowski crystal studded jeans, from stetson hats to Lucchese boots, from cough medicine for horses to turquoise jewelry, from "ranch" style furniture to "practice" calves. There were buckles, saddles, spurs. You could get your cowboy boots polished. And of course you could watch the National Rodeo Finals on closed circuit TV.

This cowboy was the real deal!

These critters were for practicing calf roping! honest! Their back legs move! We thought it pretty funny but most took them pretty seriously.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fairmount Park Houses, Philadelphia

Closer to home, Annette went with her Newcomers Club to tour several of the historic villas along the Schuylkill (School kill) River in Philadelphia. She saw 3 of the seven 18th and early 19th century historic houses that were originally built as rural country estates for prominent Philadelphia families. Today they sit inside the boundaries of the country's largest urban park, Fairmount Park. We visited (by trolley) Laurel Hill, Woodford, and Cedar Grove (pictured above). Cedar Grove is unique in that it was a home that stayed in the same family for 5 generations until given to the City AND it was given with all its contents. So it provides a very accurate glimpse into the home of a properous Quaker family of the time...simple but excellent quality always! For more information check out

Monday, November 26, 2007

Stash's Polish Cafe

Got an email from our nephew Andrew who recommended a restaurant in Old Montreal. Stash's Polish Cafe is on 200 Rue St Paul West. He said "It's a high end Polish restaurant. I know that may sound like a contradiction, but Melanie and I found it VERY nice. Including live music. My mom was Polish and I thought I'd had good Polish food. This was better than anything she made (minus the "made with love" element)". Thanks Andrew...we'll try it next time!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tomorrow: Home via Applebees

Tomorrow we head home via Albany to pick up the repaired Cadillac and via Applebees for lunch. I know we fill this blog with our reviews of the wonderful restaurants in Montreal offering all sorts of savory and interesting culinary treats. But when on the Interstate (be it the 87 or the 95), give us an Applebees anytime to make us happy. Annette gets the Asian Chicken Salad and Jerry gets the grilled Tilapia and we're good to go. With over 1,900 restaurants in 49 states, 1 territory and 16 countries we're never very far away from one. (They just opened an applebees in Shanghai...the first in Asia...but I guarantee not the last). Maybe we should buy stock in it? hmmm....

Matt and Nat - Annette's Weakness

On one of Annette's first trips to Montreal she found a cute handbag at Simon's made by "Matt & Nat". On sale. She bought it. She had no idea she was started a long term passion/addiction. Matt & Nat make "vegan friendly" high quality handbags made out of synthetic material (as they say cruelty free). Reasonably priced and really attractive. Fortunately (or unfortunately however you'd like to look at it) there is a great little boutique on the 1st floor of our building called Delano's. They always have new Matt & Nat offerings every time we come to visit. This time was no different than any other. Annette has a new purse...a vegan friendly, cruetly free purse to wear when she wears her sheared beaver fur. No one has ever accused her of being consistent! She just likes what she likes.

Here a Bagel, There a Bagel

Montreal is famous for it's bagels (sorry New York) and St. Viateur is one of the oldest bagelmakers (along with Fairmont Bagels just a couple of blocks away which is said to have been the "first" bagel shop in Montreal ). Montreal bagels are chewier and a little sweeter than a typical "manhattan" bagel. The bagels are "poached" in simmering honey water for about 4 minutes (hence the sweetness). The bagels are then placed on two long, wooden boards that are slid into the wood-burning oven, which reaches temperatures exceeding 700 ÂșC. After about 4 minutes, the bagels are flipped onto the oven's brick floor. Because of the oven's heat fluctuations, the bagels must be skillfully shifted by using a long, narrow wooden board with beveled edges, called a "sheeba". Mastering a "sheeba" requires years of training. The bagels are baked for approximately 20 minutes before the baker artfully tosses them into a large wooden bin. At both St. Viateur and Fairmont you can stand and watch the "sheeba master" at his work. On a cold day the smell of the baking bagels and the warmth of the ovens is seductive.

Dominoes Anyone?

We love playing dominoes...especially at dinner which often causes a bit of consternation on our waiter's part as he tries to figure out where to put the plates!. This domino game was at Le Croissanterie on the corner of Hutchinson and Fairmont in the Outremont area of Montreal. Great fish soup, good quiche, hot coffee...all to warm the soul on a cold, grey day. After a stroll window shopping and gallery hopping we stopped into Juliette et Chocolat for dessert. See our "Got (Chocolate) Milk" post.

Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

Thanksgiving morning brought snow to Montreal and sleet...kind of "sneet". We went bowling in the afternoon (jason - 1; Mom - 2; Jerry - watched). We ate lunch at La Sirene de le Mer located at the corner of Soave and L'Acadie near the Marche Central (they have another location on Jean Talon). This was a "pick your fish from the tank/ice" kind of place. Jason had his first real lobster, picked fresh from the tank, and loved it. We ate so much for lunch we decided to put off our Thanksgiving dinner until Friday!!!! It snowed lightly during the night, just like fairy dust. Friday was a day of "glitter" flurries. Really cool. We walked to the newly reopened and renovated Chez Delmo on Rue Notre Dame. We had just the best dining experience. Food great. Wait staff excellent. And jason loved that the bartender knows something about making a great martini (legal drinking age here is 18). We'd highly recommend Chez Delmo. The mango sorbet is divine as is the cheese plate. Poached cod was perfect. And the shrimp risotto was savory and flavorful. Saturday we "prowled" on rue St. Paul looking in our favorite galleries. This is a picture of Jason strolling down Rue St paul (carrying mom's bag, so I could take picture...what a guy!)

Jason-san in Montreal

Jason spent the Thanksgiving long weekend with us in Montreal. We had a great time. Eating, shopping, napping, playing dominoes, eating some more. Last night we ate at Tokyo a decent sushi restaurant on Rue St Paul about 2 blocks from our apartment. We once again ordered too much...but we enjoyed every bit (including the part we took home for Jerry's breakfast this morning). Here is Jason and part of the sushi lay out.

Got (Chocolate) Milk?

Discovered the best chocolate "pub". Hot chocolates of various types, THE BEST brownies (we had the raspberry/balsamic brownie), crepes (not just dessert crepes) , truffles. It's called Juliette et Chocolat and the one we went to is on Rue Laurier in the Outremont section of Montreal. (There is also one on Rue St. Denis). Check out this review from a food blog I found: Here's Jerry enjoying the last of MY "chocolat chaud".

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Route 9W North to Quebec

Last Sunday morning refreshed from the great bed at Hampton Inn (they really do have great mattresses and bed linens) we drove up to Montreal. Having enjoyed parts of Route 9W at 35 mph the day before, we decided to see how we liked Route 9 at the posted speed limit! Just as lovely. The day was clear, blue, mild, and autumn colors abounded. We drove along the shores of Lake George and Lake Champlain. Everything was being put to bed for winter. Resorts were shuttered, miniature golf course were closed with all the statues and decorations wrapped in tarps and duct tape, umbrellas were down, signs were covered up, the smell of wood fires filled the air. It was really peaceful. Lot's of signs said "See you next May" or "Thanks for a Great Season". Our favorite? "Closed for the Season. Reason?....Freezin'!!"
Big red barns all had their hay conveyor belts leaning out of the second story windows as farmers got in the last hay of the season. We drove by fields of dried corn stalks, rotting pumpkins, potato fields freshly turned for the season, Brussels sprouts still on the stalk, and apple and pomegranate orchards. The "snowmobile crossings" signs were up and a few late season squadrons of snow geese flew south overhead. They knew what we did not...that 3 days later the fields would be covered by snow.

We stopped for a quick walk in the VERY chill air to look at a part of Ausable Chasm. Apparently, it is the "oldest outdoor natural scenic attraction" in the US. 133 years old. Of course they aren't referring to it's geological age...but apparently from when people first came to "experience" it. What little we saw of it was spectacular and we hope to return to take the 3 mile trail (river, waterfalls, etc) and the rafting trip. Check out for more information.

Monday, November 19, 2007

From Kingston to Albany at 35 MPH

Our normal 9 hour trip from home to Montreal took us two days due to car trouble and fabulous autumn weather (that caused us to turn down every other byway to see something new). The car trouble turned out to be "just" a loose panel under the car but it sounded like the whole front end of the car would jetison into space every time we exceeded 35 mph. And we discovered that life is slower paced in the Hudson River Valley as the nearest open car rental agency on a Saturday afternoon was in Albany (about 47 miles away from where we limped to in Kingston). and there were no cadillac dealerships with open service centers in the state. So we drove at 35 mph on state route 9 from Kingston to Albany, where we "night-dropped" the Cadillac for service on Monday and rented a car at the Albany airport. And then collapsed in a local Hampton Inn for the night.

Our drive prior to car troubles was much less eventful and more bucolic. We picked a route that took us through the Poconos and along the Delaware Water Gap (the northern portion of the Delaware River north of Stroudsburg up to Port Jervis, NY). The drive took us through rolling hills and river valleys full of red barns, fields of crows, signs saying "buy goats" and "antiques ahead". Passing by towns called Kunkeltown, Effort, Kregesville: evidence of the early German settlers that farmed the area. We drove through the Delaware Water Gap national Recreation Area where the Delaware River cuts through a portion of the Appalachian mountains. A quiet time of year: just a few hardy fishermen.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Weehawken - Who Knew?

Weehawken (neighbor of Hoboken and Secaucus) New Jersey is what we normally drive through on the way to the Lincoln Tunnel. The only things I knew about it was that the "last exit before toll" would land you in Weehawken and that, according to a banner displayed across the highway, Weekawken is the Embroidery Capital of the US ofA. To me it was just part of that incredibly densely populated and slightly down on its luck area of Jersey across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Well, the view across that river is SPECTACULAR. And it's luck is definitely changing. I drove to Weekawken to meet my friend Peg at Arthur's Landing, a restaurant we had heard about with great views of Manhattan. Peg took the 7 minute ferry ride from the 39th Street pier in Manhattan and I drove in to meet her at the Ferry Terminal. Down on the waterfront there are new luxury townhomes, plans for condos, a new beautiful ferry terminal with plenty of parking and Arthur's Landing which indeed DOES have wonderful, wonderful views of the city...we watched dusk settle and the lights of night illuminate the skyline. We had a very good dinner and toasted our good fortune to be friends on another adventure! If you ever want to make a day trip to the city and don't want to drive in and hassle with having to park...try getting off at the "last exit before toll" and make your way to Pershing Road and the Waterfront. Take the ferry and enjoy the view! - Annette

Traveling Close to Home - Baldwin's Book Barn

Although today's skies were a bit dreary after overnight rains, the colors of fall beckoned. So Jerry and I declared today a Play Day. We drove through much of Chester County (west of Philadelphia) discovering "new" old byways and highways in the Brandywine Valley. As we headed towards West Chester on Highway 52 we came upon Baldwin's Book Barn. What a find! Baldwin's Book Barn was established in 1934. Over 300,000 used books, manuscripts and maps are housed in a converted 1822 five-story rustic dairy barn. It is warm and cozy (complete with wood-burning stove and 3 cats). How we have lived here over 7 years and never discovered this gem before today is a mystery to us. Check our their website at for directions and their online stores. And next time to head out to the Brandywine don't forget to stop for a browse.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rain Stopped, We Rose in Search of Food

What a great evening after a dreary day. Due to rain and wind, we decided to forgo participating in the Grand Masquerade Parade (more on this later) instead opting for dinner somewhere cozy. We headed out to the Notre Dame West area we explored the other afternoon. In a single block area (the 2500 block) there are 4 restaurants: Joe Beef, Liverpool (with as yet no sign...but no table either...they were booked for the who needs a sign?), Limon (a Mexican restaurant) and La Toulousaine "maison du Cassoulet" (house of the cassoulet). Joe Beef and Liverpool were booked so we opted for la Toulousain and lucked out. A cozy place that reminded us of little neighborhood bistros in Paris. Annette had the house speciality cassoulet (du Languedoc). A cassoulet is a long-cooked stew (about 10 hours) made with white beans and in this case duck, pork, garlic sausage and a sausage from the Laguedoc region. It was EXCELLENT. Annette can't wait to come back on a cold, snowy day and enjoy that dish again. Jerry had bavette du boeuf (steak that we think was pan fried/braised with a shallot/burgundy wine reduction). As Jerry said he likes a restaurant where they actually cook not just heat the meat up! After dinner we headed back to Old Montreal for some gelati from our favorite (outside of Italy) gelati store...Les Delices de L'erable (maple delicacies, it's other offering are desserts made from maple syrup and maple syrup, naturally). We were expecting more people in Costumes as the Grand Masquerade was supposed to be on...well it turned out it had been rain delayed (so a good thing we went to eat!). We walked a few blocks and found the parade
just starting.

AND we are talking a wonderfully BIZARRO parade...creepy costumes...choreographed zombies of all sorts. i think my dalmatian coat costume would have looked as dorky as this fellow in the scooby doo outfit at the end of the parade.

Most were a bit more ghoulish:

Rain, Rain, Rain

Rainy and low clouds. Sounds of cars swishing through the streets of Old Montreal. Bells of Notre Dame toll as Saturday weddings culminate with a mad dash for the limo in between rain drops. We had breakfast at one of our favorite spots, Le Cartet, at 160 Rue McGill in Old Montreal. High ceilings and old wood floors. Long narrow space with high windows at both ends. Shared tables. Great foods ranging from a "traditional" Quebec breakfast: eggs, toast, potatoes, baked beans, and saugsage AND bacon (jerry was hungry) to fruit plates, Montreal bagels (chewier than New York style) with salmon, poached eggs etc. We read the Gazette while listening to the animated conversation of 3 mid-30 Montreal women next to us (our other table mate was a shy Asian university student reading an English spy novel). Annette was fascinated by the 3 women as they conversed in a constantly fluid exchange of French and English. All seemed to be native French speakers (because their English was slightly accented). But they slipped in and out of the two languages sometimes in mid sentence. It was really interesting (at least to Annette who is linguistically fascinated with language). An example of the "new montreal" where at least 20 percent (I think that is the number) of younger citizens are considered "allophones", which means if asked which is their native language: French or English...they will say they were raised with both. We're both hoping to take French classes once we're up here for longer periods of time than just a week Bonne Journee!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Masquerade Weekend in Old Montreal

Give the Montrealers a reason to celebrate and they will! Halloween is coming up and the weekend before Halloween is Masquerade in Old Montreal. 3 days and 2 nights of festivities crossing all age barriers. Tonight was centered on Place Jacques Cartier and along the water. Fireworks (twice at 7 and 9), eerie music and drums, costumes of all sorts (lots of pirates this year). Befitting the birthplace and home of Cirque de Soleil many costumes were fantabulous. There were cauldrons bubbling, a haunted "warehouse", people selling lighted, flashing devils horns (we couldn't pass those up!!!), even a woman dressed as a Harry Potter wizard with a live snow owl (she was in a show and tell area). Wait until the report for tomorrow night when they have the grand masquerade parade (and jerry and I are going to join in)!!!

A Stroll on Rue Notre-Dame Ouest

Jerry and I started off the day browsing through the costume sale at the local Centaur Theatre (an English language theatre) that apparently raises a few funds at halloween by selling off their old theatre costumes. Jerry bought something reminiscent of a cloak for a temple priest and Annette bought a "dalmatian" coat left over from some children's theatre production of 101 Dalmations. their old theatre costumes. We plan to join the "Masquerade Parade" tomorrow night in Old Montreal.
Afterwards, Jerry and I strolled down the 2500 - 2700 blocks of Rue Notre-Dame Ouest (a short drive west of Old Montreal). The trees were shedding pumpkin colored leaves in the breeze. Store and restaurant windows were decorated for fall. This picture above is from the windows of "Joe Beef". We haven't eaten there yet but plan to soon, it's one of the new hot places (well new to us). We stopped at Itsi Bitsi, a cupcake haven, that rivals (no exceeds) the famous Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan. We started with "just one" to share...a coconut creme frosted vanilla cupcake. Then we moved onto the vanilla creme and vanilla cake cupcake. We DID stop there...but we plan to return to sample the chocolate and the cranberry ones. We FINALLY founds a yarn shop in Montreal...Mouline... run by Svetlana. Jerry was thrilled ( was Annette who was thrilled, but Jerry DID spot it for her). Annette did concede that she should finish her 3 current knitting projects before buying more yarn...but it was a hard call. She'll be back. There are also a myriad of antique stores (good quality and a little pricey) in this section of Rue Notre Dame. We ate lunch (paninis and asparagus soup) at a small cafe called Les Iles de Catherine. It was owned by a beautiful black woman from the island of Guadeloupe. As you can see: Joe Beef, Svetlana, Catherine from Guadeloupe, Montreal really is a melting pot.

Watching the World Series in French

We watched the first night of the World Series in French because we couldn't find the channel in English. The local station gets the feed from Fox Channel and then has their own french speaking announcers. The only thing Annette could discern was the score (she knows her numbers) and the players names (said with a Quebequois accent...where they appear to swallow the "r" at the end of words). But baseball is pretty self-explanatory so it didn't matter, especially with a score of 13-1 (Go Bosox!). last night we finally found the english channel...kind of missed the Quebecer flair but not enough to change the channel and miss all of that really fascinating tidbits of info that they rattle off between pitches.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Auberge Bonaparte and Restaurant

This is one of our favorite hotels and restaurants in Montreal. It is located on St. Francois Xavier between Rue St Paul West and Rue Notre Dame West in Old Montreal. Its a small inn (auberge) with lovely wood floors (ask for one overlooking the garden of the cathedral next door). Annette's mom used to stay there when she'd come to Montreal with us and loved it. great breakfasts too. The Bonaparte Restaurant offers traditional French cuisine in a lovely setting. We've never had anything even just mediocre. Last night Annette had the dover sole and Jerry had the monk fish...both were absolutely perfect. In the past we've also enjoyed the wild boar, venison, and rack of lamb. although we didn't have one last night, they also make fabulous dessert souffles. Reservations are a good idea. They also serve an excellent lunch. Ask for a table in the "fire place" room or by a window.

La Maison Kam Fung

We ate dimsum at La Maison Kam Fung yesterday. We've eaten there a number of times, but yesterday was the best. Great food and a fun atmosphere. The restaurant is a huge room filled with primarily chinese enjoying dim sum. Yesterday we sat next to a family of older siblings with a mother and husband thrown into the mix. The woman who must have been the elder daughter had an opinion on what everyone should be eating and how much. She piled her mother's plate high with food even though the woman apparently didn't have all her teeth and ate in glacial speed. Everyone got their lecture! I'm just glad she didn't get started on us. La Maison Kam Fung is located in Chinatown at 1111 St. urbain (near the corner of Gaucheterie). It is on the 2nd floor. Go after 10 but before noon (it gets REALLY crowded by noon).

Photos from Cote-Des-Nieges and Mont Royal Cemeteries

Montreal wins Prize for Coolest Cemeteries

Yeserday was a beautiful fall day here...crisp air, blue sky with puffy clouds. Annette has long wanted to wander around the twin cemeteries of Cote-des-Neiges (Catholic) and Mont Royal (everybody else) that lies atop Mont Royal in the heart of Montreal. Opened in the mid 1850s, Cote-des Neiges is the largest cemetery in Canada with 343-acres and over 900,000 buried souls and Mont Royal covers 165 acres. It is a popular place for strolls (especially in spring and autumn). It is a hilly area full of mature oaks, maples, pines, even fruit trees. Annette was in 7th heaven pondering the history engraved on tombstones and mausoleums and loving the fall foliage. She attempted a friendship with a graveyard cat who was much more interested in the sparrow on the hedgerow. The Catholic Cote-des-Neiges was a little more "rough" around the edges this visit as it is still recovering from the "neglect" of a 4 month cemetery caretaker/gravedigger strike this past summer. They are still trying to play catchup up with the overgrown grasses and overgrown shrubs.(I guess they had to first pay attention to burying the nearly 700 corpses that had been kept in cold storage for the months of the strikes!!!).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fall In Montreal

We're now in Old Montreal enjoying a rainy fall day. The leaves are turning, the pumpkins are out. We are enjoying a glass of pouilly fuisse and some goatcheese and cranberries on crackers...we may never get out for dinner. Went to the Italian Market yesterday and enjoyed lamb kebab sandwiches and then pasteries from Premiere Maison. Stocked up on bread and cheese. In the evening we went to hear the Orchestra Metropolatain of Montreal perform Beethoven, Bach, Mendselsohn (my favorite of the evening) and Wagner (not my favorite for the evening.) Afterwards, we walked the mile and a half home...a lovely surroundings...moon overhead. just lovely.

Geese in Vermont

After leaving Manhattan, Jerry and I drove up through New York and western Vermont to see the colors, which were spectacular. We headed for a place we'd heard of (Dead Creek State Park) that is known to be a stopover for migrating snow geese. We lucked out...we saw several thousand in a field about the size of a football field which started only about 30 feet from where we stood. A sea of white and grey (the grey ones are the younguhs). And what a racket...not as noisy or harsh sounding as canada geese but a racket nonetheless. Here are a couple of pictures.

Good Morning America

While in New York, Annette got up at O'dark thirty and joined Peg and Moe at the taping of Good Morning America at their Times Square Studio. Here we are with our new friends!

New York, New York

Jerry and I spent 3 days in Manhattan with Peg and Moe Cotter. We saw a preview performance of Mel Brook's new musical "Young Frankenstein" which is a MUST SEE! Especially if you liked the's very true to the movie...but even more so! We also saw a preview performance of The Farnsworth Invention with Hank Azaria. It is a serious drama about the invention of the TV by Philo Fransworth, a farm boy/whiz kid from Idaho and the birth of the radio and TV age. It is written by Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, Sports Night, etc) and is fascinating, informative and entertaining. We saw Billy Crystal and his wife (3 rows behind Jerry) and several of the MSNBC crowd there.We had dinner one night at our old favorite Ruby Foo's...good food...try the fried calamari! another night we went to Joe Allen's and had a delightful meal (still laughing about the previous nights performance of Young Frankenstein). here's a picture of Jerry and I enjoying our dinner at Joe Allen's.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Favorite Eats in St. Pete, FL

Jerry and I love both El Cap for hamburgers (simply the best) and the Crab Shack for crab (the obvious), oysters, fish, and great margaritas. Love those sauteed blue crab claws in garlic butter. yummm.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Rain Squall on St. Pete Bay

Over Labor Day Weekend, we were in St. Petersburg, FL working on plans for the remodel/addition to our new place there. We stayed at the Renaissance Vinoy overlooking the marina in St. Pete. It was hot and humid with many late afternoon thunderstorms. This one marched across Tampa Bay into St. Pete around 6pm and all but blocked our view of the end of the St. Pete Pier. It was nice to be inside watching the US Tennis on TV.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Birds in South Carolina Refuge - August trip to Florida

Jerry and I drove to Florida in late August. These birds were in a estuary along the I-95 somewhere in South Carolina. Wood storks, great herons, and Great Blue Herons. The day was hot and still.