Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Five

The Week

It’s always interesting how my trips seem to go in spurts. For the longest time it was always a trip to Houston. I now can’t remember the last time I was in Houston. Recently, my “Houston” has become Ottawa, which is where I found myself this week. Although this week was rather nice as Karin came to join for the weekend.

Christopher and KarinIn particular, Karin came up so we could get pictures done as a couple, something we haven’t done since we were engaged back in..., ummmm..., wait... I think I can count back that far... Carry the one... Natural log of pi... Ah yes – 1993[1]. Since having my headshots done by Robin at unposed I knew I wanted to bring Karin back so we could do it together. Not only is Robin an amazing photographer, she also does a great job of making you feel at ease, leading to both amazing photos and a wonderful experience. At some point later today we should get the proofs, and we can’t wait to start going through and picking out which ones to keep – which will be a tough process to be certain.

The week turned out to be a lot of time spent with friends, as we did dinner Saturday night with Susan and Trevor, I did a working dinner with Susan on Tuesday, and a dinner with Tracey and Rob on Wednesday. It’s always nice to have human interaction while on the road.

The other thing I really enjoy about Ottawa is the running paths. The canal runs right through the center of town, and there’s a great path on both sides. Susan and I did 14 miles on Sunday, and I did 7 on my own on Thursday (as I continue to prepare for the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon in June).

The Restaurant

Having been to Ottawa a few times now and Karin finally managed to join for one of my trips. We wanted something nice and romantic, so Susan suggested we check out Beckta. I'm thrilled we did.

The first thing that's worth highlighting is the service. It was absolutely impeccable from start to finish. It seemed that every time we needed something, our waiter or someone else was right there ready to assist. Even at the end of the night, when I find that service tends to fall off (I hate having to wait for my check), they were still right there.

It started out perfectly after we were seated and ordered our cocktails - a take on a margarita for my wife, and an old fashioned made with scotch for me. Non-traditional, but still very good[2]. We decided to go with the tasting menu (the main reason we came here). After we told the waiter this, he said, "OK - I'll give you guys 5-10 minutes to enjoy your cocktails, and I'll send over some bread so you won't go hungry in the mean time."

Let me opine for just a second here. I've done a handful of tasting menus at different restaurants, and one thing that I've found nearly universally is the first wine and food pairing is on the table nearly instantaneously. If you ordered a cocktail beforehand, you're suddenly double-fisting and not able to enjoy your cocktail before easing into dinner. When the waiter said he'd give us time to enjoy our cocktails, it was a "You had me at hello" moment.

Back to the dinner.

The first course was a smoked trout with fingerling potatoes, paired with a very nice little white wine. Awesome presentation, and very tasty. The second course was absolutely the winner - eggs benedict. 

Yes - breakfast for dinner. But this was no typical eggs benedict. This was a homemade english muffin, with a light schmear of liver pate, lamb bacon (yes - lamb bacon FTW!), and a tempura egg yolk. All covered with an amazing hollandaise and paired with a nice bubbly rose (which I did in fact drink with my pinky in the air). It was by far the winner of the night.

The third course was a quail leg on a bed of sweet potato(?) puree paired with a pinot - very tasty. The final savory dish was a bison steak, done up rare, sliced on the bias, that was just melt in your mouth good, and paired with a hearty cab that was just perfect.

Dessert was a "tropical cubist movement", featuring 5 different desserts that were all shaped as squares. All were very tasty, but I don't know that there was anything that really was "change your life" good.

Yes, it's pricey. But for the food, the service, the atmosphere and the experience it was worth every penny. Next time I get my wife back to Ottawa, I can assure you we'll be back.

The Travel Note

This one is from Karin’s experience at the border. The customs agent in Ottawa gave her a bit of a hard time because he couldn’t figure out why she was coming all the way from San Diego just for the weekend – and in winter no less. He did let her through, but not after giving her a bit of a runaround.

The Five

I spend just a little time on the road, and as a result I wind up eating out a lot. As I’m staying healthy these days, that can be a bit of an issue. While I’m certainly not perfect when it comes to my eating habits, here are 5 things I always try to focus on when ordering.

  1. Start with a salad at dinner. I try to get some form of veggies into my system at both lunch and dinner, and the easiest way to do that is to order a salad.
  2. Be careful about salads as an entrée. It’s amazing how quickly a healthy item turns into something completely unhealthy when it’s doused in dressing and covered with cheese, bacon and other sources of fat. And while we’re at it, I ask for the dressing on the side.
  3. “No mayo”. Those two words are nearly automatic for me now. It’s amazing how many calories and fat can be dropped just by dropping that one little ingredient.
  4. “No cheese”. I’m not a huge cheese person, so this isn’t a big loss for me. I do enjoy my goat cheese to be sure, but I rarely have cheese on my sandwiches.
  5. I hardly ever do dessert. If I’m out to dinner with friends then I might. But if I’m out on my own, I never do dessert. Well, maybe a liquid dessert – a nice glass of port or scotch.

[1] We got married in 1995, meaning in two years our marriage will be old enough to vote.
[2] Yeah, I’m a snob. But there are times when you just roll with it and order the best drink you can find on the menu.


Brian said...

Wait - the post highlights your weekend with Karin in Ottawa and you felt the need confirm that she did in fact make it through customs? :)

jersey said...

Yes, yes, you're very smart. :-)

~B said...

Ah, Chris, I do enjoy reading your blog...I just got off it for a while but it's good to be back. :)

~B said...

...oh, and that photo is smokin' hot of both of you!

jersey said...


Thanks and thanks. ;-) It's good to have you back... But shouldn't you be off enjoying Oz?

~B said...

I have been off enjoying Oz, except when I'm stuck for hours and hours chatting with geeks... :)