The Rules of Vacationing: 1) Drink Beer

Beer and cheese. You can't see the condiments.

Just beer and cheese here. You can’t see the condiments.

Lots of Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ and Great Lakes Chillwave, two rye IPAs — Rhinegeist’s Streaker and Cane and Ebel from Two Brothers — Fat Head’s Head Hunter Imperial IPA, Sixpoint’s Bengali, Troegs’ Hop Knife, and a double stout from Green Flash. This line-up — essentially an all-star team of my favorite beers this summer — was what filled my fridge on my week-long vacation last month.

The vacation was in Canada, but I brought the beer from The States, which brings us to the second rule of vacationing: 2) Be prepared. In my personal experience, the beer in the part of Canada we visit is crap, so I always bring my own.  Canadian customs allows exactly one case of 12 ounce beers for each person in a vehicle crossing the border. With Kate coming with me that came out to be 48 beers in our car and about three and a half beers per person each day on this week-long trip. That’s cutting it pretty close, frankly, for a vacation, so we made a number of excursions to The Sandbar around the corner to drink generous glasses of Dan Aykroyd Cabernets. (That man’s so damn talented.)


Kate and Coffee

My friend Kate and I breezed through customs, as two young white women of extraordinary beauty are wont to do, and made it to our cabin in time for beer and a sunset on the beach. The next morning we took our coffee with our towels and sun hats to the lake. By noon it was beer time. Rule 3) Keep it classy. We found two plastic champagne flutes in the cabinet, forgotten by long-ago celebratory campers, and shared an imperial stout. Continue reading

Ontario, CA Beers: Pretty Bland, Eh?

An Eight-pack?! Well, they got something right...

An eight-pack?! Oh…the metric system!

Canada: snow, hockey, lumberjacks, beer. That about sums it up, right? But yesterday, I said to my husband, “Hon, would you like some wine? I’m not really in the mood for beer tonight.” This is something rarely said in my home. However, the only beers we had in the fridge were in an eight-pack mixer from our vacation in Canada. I simply could not muster enough enthusiasm for my Canadian beers to pop open another 473ml can of meh.

My family and I have visited the balmy northern shores of Lake Erie every summer since before I can remember. The visit has always consisted mainly of reading on the beach, eating fresh fish and fruits, and (once I reached the Ontario, CA drinking age of 19) drinking copious amounts of beer.

I always took an inordinate amount of pride in knowing to order a Blue in Canadian bars, rather than a Labatt. Problem is, of course, that Blue isn’t all that good. It’s one of my favorite cheap beers, but I’m just not a cheap beer kinda gal. Drink it for a whole week?! You might as well make me go camping. Full disclosure: we brought up craft beer from the states. Continue reading

The Best Kind of Mess

fresh curd

Fresh cheese curds--this is where the magic is.

Canadians are full of good ideas: bloodless emancipation from Mother England; electric buses; and, perhaps greatest of all, poutine.

For those of you not familiar with this wonder, it’s a fantastic artery-clogging mash-up of French fries, cheese curds and gravy. It’s true that in New York, that great cauldron of dining options, there is poutine to be had. I was introduced to the dish by my friend Ethan at a burger joint in Brooklyn, a mere mile or two from my apartment. (Ethan, I am now realizing, has long served as my food guru, introducing me to all sorts of essentials like Cones gelato in the West Village, the Punjabi cab stand on Houston street and New Haven-style apizza. Combine that with poutine, and I feel that it’s more than anyone can reasonably expect from a single human being.) But in Canada, poutine is more than just a quirky random menu item. It’s omnipresent. It’s a way of life.

poutineLet’s dwell for a moment on the genius of these ingredients. You’ve got French fries, the most addictive item that the fast food industry has yet been able to create. You’ve got gravy, which, more than a term that for any particular collection of ingredients, is basically just a word for a substance that you put on top of something else to make it taste better. And you have cheese curds, glorious cheese curds, those delectable bits of newborn cheese, so squeaky when bought fresh from Wisconsin supermarkets, so crunchy and salty when deep-fried at the Minnesota state fair. In poutine, they become melting, glisteny globs of fatty heaven. (Jason and I made a special trip to a dairy farm on Vancouver Island so that we could get fresh curd at the exact moment it was released to the public—more on this magical place in coming days.)

The origin of the dish is usually traced to Quebec, and the name is almost certainly French, though apparently there is some debate about what it means. Some say that is derived from the English word for pudding, while others maintain that it comes from a French term that means (I’m paraphrasing here) “a big, fat mess.” Continue reading