A Bad Day – a very bad day

We wake in the luxury of the glorious suite in Le Quartier Francaise – and eat a marvellous breakfast. So how could a day that started so well end so poorly. Bad communication would be my fast answer – but it was a slow process.

Our start is delayed by the hotel who has assigned one of the gardeners to wash our car. He’s in the middle of a slow, careful job when we arrive, ready to go. Nothing to do but wait till he is done – and of course give him a nice tip. He did do a wonderful job.

Our plan for today includes going back and checking on the Antique store we’d seen in Stellenbosch, my husband is looking for those things you hang on decanters that describe what is inside – and this looked like just the right place. No problems there. And I need to buy some socks – it’s been a lot cooler here in South Africa then I’d expected – and my light weight summer socks just aren’t up to keeping my feet warm. Again – no problem. So after breakfast and saying good-bye to the staff at the hotel, we head back to Stellenbosch.

It is a bit of a challenge finding a parking spot, but eventually we do – and go into the local department store. This is the first time I’ve seen mixed races shopping at the same store – and it was a surprise. But Stellenbosch is a much smaller town, and I’m guessing that there are no other department stores. In any case – it was great to see. We found my socks – in the men’s department – and then checked out the Antique store. No luck there.

Now is when things went a bit south. My husband, I thought, had told me no deadlines today except a 6:00 dinner reservation – and the distance from Stellenbosch to Hermanus wasn’t huge. So I figured – todays the day for finding whales. There’s is a curvy road that hugs the coastline – offering stellar views of False Bay and later the Indian Ocean – and lots of turn-off sections where you can stop to scan the water for whales. It’s labeled on all the maps as “The Whale Route”. Sounds promising, eh?

And all the marketing for Hermanus virtually guarantees whale sightings from June to November – particularly in October when the males arrive to mate with the females.

I’m so psyched to finally see whales! Free Whales, up close and personal. The photos on the web are amazing – and I’ve totally bought into the marketing. I shall see whales.

Meanwhile, unknown to me, my husband has spotted info on a winery that is just outside of Hermanus and offers some of the best wines in Africa. I suppose if I’d said – oh by the way – I’m expecting to stop at all the overlooks, we’d have been ok. If my husband had said – I want to go to this winery and I don’t want to arrive around 4:00, it’s too close to closing time – we’d have been ok.

But we’ve been married 47 years – and still manage to get it wrong.

I spend the drive thinking – this time my husband will take the overlook – he knows I want to see whales. At one point dozens of cars are pulled over – with folks obviously seeing something below them – and I totally expect him to stop. But no – he keeps on driving – eyes straight ahead, clearly hating the curving road and keen to get off it. Finally he pulls over at an overlook where there are no other cars – and naturally – not a whale in sight. “See – no whales”.

Back in the car… drive on. Looking at the map, I can see what seems to be a village called Pringle’s at the end of a bay that juts out into the Indian Ocean. That would be a nice place for lunch. We stop in – but the only shopping we see is a mini-mart – so it’s Pringles and an ice cream for lunch. Then back on the road. A bad food choice never makes my husband happy.

At this point, my husband has let me know that he really wants to go to this winery – so I sadly forget about seeing whales and we motor on. We pass a sign at a village called Betsy’s Bay that advertises whales and penguins – which I read out loud. “Do you want to stop?” At this point my husband’s body language, which he has refused over the years to admit he has, is saying “No – Don’t stop”. So I go, no – let’s get to the winery. About 30 minutes later he admits that it’s taken too long – that he doesn’t want to go to the winery too close to closing time – they won’t open the better bottles for him.

At this point, it’s too late to go back, so we continue forward. I haven’t seen whales or penguins – he won’t get to go to his winery. I try to convince him that we can go tomorrow on our way to Mossel Bay – but I’m not sure it’s working. The drive to Mossel Bay will be a long one, and a good winery tour can’t really be rushed.

The Whale Route eventually ends at Hermanus, and we arrive at our hotel a bit before 4:00 PM. It looks great on the outside – beautiful windows overlooking the bay – which in theory should be brimming with whales. Not a one in sight right now – but maybe later. We are taken to our room – which is outside of the main hotel, across a barren parking lot, past an iron grate, thru a narrow passage between high walls, and eventually up a flight of stairs.

We are in the ‘beggar’s quarters’! It’s been a hot day – maybe 30 (90 to those in the West), and our room is amazingly stuffy. There’s no A/C, a very basic bathroom, and the windows overlook the green metal roofs of the next houses. It’s not the worst place I’ve ever been – but it is certainly the worst place I’ve even been that cost what this one does! There’s a single fan under a table, no chair, a bed, and two end tables. No room for anything else. The decor are cheap whale posters that are faded with age, the curtains are dusty, and the window in the bathroom leads out into the hallway – perfect for strangers to get a listen to you doing your business.

To add insult to injury – there are folks fighting – loudly – in the room 2 doors down. I expect the doorman to say something, but he doesn’t. Just accepts his tip and leaves.

We take out our essentials – not much choice, and walk back down the stairs, thru the alley, past the gate, across the parking lot and into the hotel proper. It’s at least 20 degrees cooler in the hotel – heavy stone and proper fans makes a difference. I ask at the desk if there’s an option to change rooms – but I’m told no – the hotel is full.

We carry on the best we can – we take a walk along the ‘whale watching’ path (still no whales), get to the whale museum too late to go in, check out the shops (kinda yucky), and eventually find a big grocery store – Pick and Pay. This is the highlight of our walk – a grocery store.

Slowly we wander back to our room, freshen up a bit, and head out to dinner. Because we rushed so much driving the ‘Whale Route”, we are actually too early.

The restaurant – called “Harbour Rock” overlooks the Old Harbour of Hermanus – and it is famous for it’s sushi, it’s seafood and it’s whale watching. But no whales show up – and I foolishly as my husband reminds me – order Pork Belly.

It’s horrid.

But I’m not ashamed to complain – and let’s give the restaurant full credit, they immediately suggest that I take the fish and chips. Perfect choice – totally yummy.

Dinner done – we head back to our stuffy bedroom to settle down for the night. We leave the windows open to capture any fresh air that might wander in, although that means enjoying the sounds of the local teenagers showing off their cars up and down the Main Street. You can’t see them – but you can surely hear them. And that couple is still fighting two doors down. Wow – they have stamina.

We finally get to sleep – only to be awoken by gale force winds blowing madly thru Hermanus. The room is actually shaking! Victor gets up and closes the windows – leaving us with only the fresh air from the corridor to enjoy.

Finally – it’s time for breakfast and we discover why the hotel is full. There’s a huge school group of Primary Age (10-13) staying here. They are incredibly polite – but have been assigned all the better rooms. And of course gobbled down most of the food set out for breakfast. Teen age boys can really eat!

I’ve had it up to here! And let the resort know about it. The manager, who makes no attempt to make me feel better, explains that they have three kinds of rooms – Ocean front, Not ocean front and budget. Months and months ago, when my husband made the reservation, he picked Budget. And this is what we got. And when you asked for a room change, the front desk clerk didn’t realize that you’d be willing to pay more – and those rooms in the back with no AC and no ventilation are our budget rooms.

My comment – if you want to go that route – make it clear on Booking.com that you are getting no AC, no cross ventilation. Don’t expect guests to figure that out for themselves. She does admit that she’s been trying to convince the owners of the hotel that they need to be more careful. Nice – now it’s the owner’s fault!

I’m not happy – but I’m not sure if my major angst is related to the distinct lack of whales, the lack of communication between my husband and myself, or the ‘budget’ rooms in the hotel.

To make me feel better, my husband kindly agrees to drive me back to where we saw the sign for penguins and whales yesterday. So we make the attempt. But the wind has picked up to gale force overnight – our little car is getting blown all over the road – and some of the gusts threaten to take us into the gutters. Once we get to the penguin park, I attempt to walk out to the viewing platforms, but the wind is so strong, I can’t make forward progress. Victor gives up before I do – the blowing dust is hard on the skin and eyes. He takes shelter in a cafe near the car park, and when I give up on the penguins, I join him.

The cafe is housed on the site of a whaling factory in the early 1800’s – brought on two ships from Norway. Photographs of the workings of the factory, and of the folks man-handling the whales up onto the ‘plate’ in front of the factory are very cool.

I feel a bit better about the entire thing – and slightly modified, we head off on the long drive on N2 to Mossel Bay.

Despite N2 being a major highway – it’s one lane in either direction for almost all of it’s length in this section.

Driving the N2 turns out to be quite the adventure. Don’t forget that we are still getting those wind gusts – although they are easier to deal with further inland. As we drive, we learn a lot about the driving rules in South Africa, most of which aren’t in any book I’ve ever seen.

First off – there are shoulders on the sides of the road. In Canada – those shoulders are only for stopping, not for driving. But in SA – that’s not the case. IF you are overtaken by a faster car – and you manage to spot them trying to pass, the polite driver pulls over onto the shoulder. He doesn’t slow down, or heaven’s forbid – stop. Nope – he continues driving at his normal speed, but on the shoulder. We don’t quite get that rule – and the first few cars that pass us – pulling into the on-coming line and then pulling back into our lane – seem to try to clip us by pulling in as tightly as possible to our right front bumper. This is pretty scary – and we don’t know what it is we’re doing wrong. It is only when I notice how other cars that we attempt to pass are pulling over that we get the hint.

Following that rule – the overtaking cars just pass us – sometimes blinking their lights to say ‘thanks’. Whew – one lesson learned.

Another lesson – cross walks are few and far between, so if folks want to cross the road – they just run. So slow down when you see folks on the side of the road. They could well be in the middle of your lane by the time you get near.

And a third lesson – N2 is boring. You pass herd after herd of sheep, the occasional herd of cows, and ever more occasionally – horses. We did spot an Ostrich farm – but Victor was in the drive till we arrive mode – so no stopping. Once I even saw a single Oryx watching the traffic fly by and a herd of Springbok in amongst a herd of sheep. Interesting, eh?

We eventually pull into Mossel Bay – and find our hotel. When the doorman carrying our bags exits the main hotel and heads for the back section, both Victor and I involuntarily go – Oh NO! But we shouldn’t have worried. He’s taking us to a lovely room – with AC and windows on two sides – that overlooks the harbour of Mossel Bay. Lovely. And again – the huge bathroom. Boy folks in SA love huge bathrooms.

A bit of a wander before dinner lets us discover a place that employs folks from the Townships to make and paint traditional African Animals like Elephants and Giraffes made of layer upon layer of paper and glue. They are lovely – and they have a warthog – aka Pig! Of course I buy it. They also have hand made construction paintings on match boxes with magnets. The logic, explained to me by the very adorable artist is that folks always know where the refrigerator is when the power goes out. So putting the matches on the fridge just make sense. Making the boxes look nice – and they look very nice – was an after thought.

Well – I like it – and buy several to give as gifts to my family.

For dinner we go to Kaai4 – a braai (BBQ place to you) that is extremely casual, extremely fun, and right on the water. We relax, have a beer, and thank goodness that tomorrow isn’t a long driving day!

We do a slow wander back home, a quick look at the stars (I’d really like to see the Southern Cross), and it’s bed time.

Tomorrow we are off to Knysna- another of the towns on the Whale Route. And I’m foolishly hoping to see whales…Signing off – The Soup Lady

Atelier – the Ultimate Dinner – Ignoring the price of course!

There’s a 2 Michelin Star Restaurant in Munich – the Dallmayr. It’s extremely small – extremely famous – and naturally – it’s very hard to get reservations. For some reason we’d thought we could sneak in at the last minute. Nope. But the very sweet Matre d’ asked if he could find another option for us – and suggested the Atelier. He even called and got us reservations.

So that’s how we ended up there – personal reference!

You’d never find it on Tripadvisor – 2 year ago someone reviewed it – in German, and gave it a 98 out of 100 – but blew it on the overall rating. Instead of a 5 – he gave it 2 – thinking Michelin stars. So the restaurant is ranked about 50th in Munich – instead of the first or second place it deserves. How do I know – after I ate there I emailed him to ask why the 2 stars!

Anyway – The restaurant is located in a tiny space (10 tables max – although all were large – at least double sized normal tables, with generous aisles and plenty of room for the serving staff). The tiny space is located in one of Munich’s don’t ask the price – you can’t afford it – upscale hotels. There were 2 other restaurants (at least) in the same hotel – the Garden which shared chefs and maitre d’ with the Atelier, although not the menu or wait staff, and rather surprisingly – a Trader Vic’s on a lower level. I haven’t seen a Trader Vic’s in at least 30 years. I didn’t get to see inside this one either!

But the layout was such that once in the Atelier – you didn’t hear or see or know anything about the other restaurants – it was a private space, set up to impress, comfort, and clearly feed you.

Huge round stone platters marked each place, and the salt and butter service was pink sea salt, unsalted local butter, and a house made spread.


I felt very under-dressed in my blue jeans and bright blue ski sweater, but the extremely well-trained staff didn’t bat an eyelid. If I came recommended by the maitre d’ at Dallmayr – I was ok!

There are only 2 main options – a tasting menu of 5 courses, or a tasting menu of 7 courses. But our talented, knowledgeable, and very pretty head waitress assured us that the kitchen was extremely flexible – we could pick and choose as we wished.

So my husband ordered the 7 course menu with wine pairings, I opted for the 5 course meal. In my opinion – I was the clear winner on this deal. My menu included unlimited selections from the cheese cart featuring raw milk cheeses from Maitre Affineur Waltmann.

Restaurants of this caliber offer additional surprise courses – delivered to the table and described as ‘gifts’ from the kitchen. At the Atelier – there were at least 4 or 5 such gifts – and the first one had 2 separate bites – both served on the same plate, I loved the mixture of crunch and soft in both the fish puree and mini ravioli. That distinctive combination of soft and crunch was a theme that niftily was repeated in most of the other offerings.

My 5 courses went from a lovely Duck breast dish with a side dim-sum of duck confit to a delightful fish slice delicately placed in a chinese lettuce and false flax oil puree. (Don’t ask me what that means – I’m just quoting from the copy of the menu they gave us when we left). What made the fish special was that they had quick fried the skin (crunchy) and properly cooked the fish (still soft and flaky – and delightfully seasoned. Yum.


I didn’t much care for one of my courses – but Victor was glad to help me out. My lemon and we think lime and/or mint sorbet cleanser was delightful too.

The cheese course was as perfect as it could be.


The offerings ranged from cow to sheep to goat, from mild to strong to stronger. I opted for 6 different cheeses, and they were properly sliced and placed in order of complexity of flavor on a plate.


In addition there were 6 homemade jams – I asked to try all 6. And they had very lightly toasted and still soft nut bread.


One of the cheese I’d picked was called Trappe Echourgnac – according to the staff – it made with a walnut liquor that we thought was exceptional. When we asked for the name – they not only provided that – they gave us a second, larger, piece to enjoy. Such an elegant way of dealing with a guest.

Desert – ah desert. Not just one, or two, but 3 deserts were presented. The first was a pre-desert, my main desert was a carmel butterscotch wonder with again that signature contrast of crunch and soft. In this case – the soft was home-made ice cream. After that they served a mini-desert of home-made truffle and marshmallow – followed by a box of truffles and nougat – pick however many as you want – when they presented the bill.



Meanwhile – Vic was enjoying his 7 courses – again each better than the last. His cheese course was particularly special – a goat cheese that had been bruleed on top. I didn’t taste it – but he loved it. They called it Clacbitou – and described it simply as cheese with eggplant and sesame. It was anything but simple.

His favorite main course was the Fillet of veal and calf’s tongue with brown mushroom and Savoy cabbage. Again much more flavor and style than the description or picture could possibly could convey.


Bottom line – at the Atelier you definitely get what you pay for – and if you can afford it – then it’s definitely worth the money and time! It took almost 4 hours to eat dinner – and yet we never waited for a course. There are just so many courses to enjoy, discuss, and share.

One note – Victor ordered the wine pairing – and for each course they OPENED a bottle for him, and left it available for him to enjoy as much or as little as he wanted. The same happened at the other tables – no sharing of wine. What do they do with the half-finished bottles we wondered, but didn’t ask. My guess – they become wine by the glass for the Garden restaurant next door. But if other restaurants of this type have done that in the past – I didn’t notice it. Sure made me feel special! Wine was good too.

All the Beer you can drink – and delicious food – I love Munich!

I’ve been short on talking about restaurants – partly because we spent the first 4 days with friends – mostly eating at their house. Our meals with them were at the Octoberfest (delicious – with tons of beer), or quick snacks here and there.

Now that we’re on our own in Munich, we’ve been able to pick and choose our own places to eat – and tonight was our first out on the town.

We started with dessert. There’s an amazing food shop located right behind the DOM in Munich – called Dallmayr, and we wandered in yesterday. The options are completely stunning – magnificent looking hor d’ourves, chocolate truffles, a massive cheese counter with literally hundreds of options, a cold-cut section that was even larger, plus 3 ‘eating’ establishments. The first is a 2-Star Restaurant – open only for dinner – and unavailable for reservations on the 2 nights we were in Munich, a Bistro/Cafe where we enjoyed wonderful coffee and an Apple Strudel to write home about, and a seafood bar featuring fresh oysters. Dessert was wonderful – probably the best Strudel I’ve ever had. And I had to share it. Oh well.

We were in the Cafe because we were hoping to score a meal at the restaurant – but no such luck. Booked solid, so sorry. However the kind Matre d’ offered to find us somewhere else to eat – and got us reservations at one of his favorite restaurants for tomorrow night. We’ll see how that goes.

Left to our own devices, we went back to a place we’d past early in the day – Paulaner Im Tal. That means Paulander (it’s a brand of beer here in Munich) on Tal (one of the major streets leading to the Dom. Your basic Bavarian meal was on offer – schnitzels – both pork and veal, a pretzel soup (beef soup broth, sliced pretzel pieces), and a variety of other ‘low calorie’ options.


I opted for the Weiner Wurst (German hot dogs) served on a fabulous hot potato salad made with super thin cucumber slices. It was yum. Victor had a Jager Schnitzel – not a deep-fried thing at all – it was a thin slice of pork topped with cheese and mushrooms and then baked under a broiler. Surprisingly good actually. We both had beer (when in Munich – do like the locals) – and it was naturally good.

Definitely a place I’d recommend to my friends – very typical, not very touristy, but able to deal with English-speaking strangers. And a lot bigger than it looks from the door. On my way to the bathroom – I must have gone thru 4 large rooms, and filled with Germans enjoying a meal before heading home.

6 Movies in 10 Hours! Why would one do that?

Clearly – I was stuck on an airplane with individual TV’s! So I indulged: Stardust, Star Trek Into Darkness, Parental Guidance, the Big Wedding, Legend of Sarila, and finally The Internship.

The only seriously good movie on the list was Stardust – and that’s based on the awesome performance by Michelle Pfeiffer as the wicked witch. I can’t help but feel sympathy when she tries to ‘magic’ away an age spot – and ends up with sagging breasts! I also must admit to a fondness for Robert de Niro’s “poffy” captain of the airship. Charmont to say the least.

“The internship”, my second favorite on the list, is a fairly predictable but still amusing outing by Owen Wilson – typecast as the hopeless endearing shaggy mop-man, but still a glimpse into what it must be like to do an internship at Google with a job as the high-stake prize. Having super smart kids who are struggling with the shrinking job market – their predicament is all too real. If only it was as easy as winning a soccer match, or selling a pizza place on advertising with Google.

The worst of the bunch – and that’s saying a lot because it’s hard to find something good to say about Parental Guidance, is the Star Trek mishap. Fancy visual effects aside – and managing to take down a good portion of San Francisco without ‘killing’ anyone is a pretty weird bit of story telling – the fake romance between Uhura and Spock is so decidedly off-putting and off-story that it makes the rest of the movie ignor-able. How can I believe Kirk is real when there’s this strange back-story? I’m amazed to see that Rotten Tomatoes managed to get past that bit of insanity, but I just couldn’t.

Middle of the road – and really the saving grace is the believable scenery – is the ‘cartoon’ feature – Legend of Sarila. I’ve actually traveled into Northern Quebec, Nunavik, and Greenland. And I can tell you first hand – it actually looks like that. Even the oil lamp/bowl looks exactly like items we saw the Inuit using. Yes it’s a legend – but the story it tells – and the people it portrays are real. Problems? Well – it’s too clean, it’s too simple, and Sedna – a major goddess to the Inuit – is too easy to please. But as a kid friendly introduction to a life that most of us can’t imagine trying to live – this movie does work.

As for Parental Guidance and the Big Wedding. Skip’m!

Surprisingly good Pub Food and Great Beer – Summer Fun

The Vermont Pub and Brewery has been around for over 25 years – so the question is – how come I never ate there before? Answer – I thought it was more bar than restaurant – and I thought wrong.

It was one of those priceless Vermont summer evenings – daylight seems to last forever, and when the sun finally does decide to go down, the air still has that soft summer feel to it. I asked advice of Roger – the guy trying to sell me a Prius (more on that later) – and he recommended the Pub. I figured – why not!

I scored an outside table, and settled in for an easy evening. The newspaper cum menu was a nice start – and listed on the board was a yummy sounding Cajun Catfish for just $11.95. Ok – I could seriously handle that.

According to the informative menu (Prohibition ended on April 7, 1933 among other brew based tidbits) – the VPB has won lots of awards for their home brewed beer – and for just $1.25 they will give you a sample of any one of their flavors. You can even order a flight of samples. I opted for just one- their award winning, and car salesman suggested, Burly Irish Ale. Described as rich and malty – it was a small yet delightfully filling way to end my day. For dinner I tried their fried oysters (skip those next time), and for my main course – choose the catfish. That was exactly the right decision. The catfish was perfectly cooked – white and flaky, rich and delicious, perfectly seasoned. The potion of sweet potato fries was way too large – but they were delicous too.

Service was perfect – fast when needed, and they ignored me completely when I wanted to be ignored.

A B+ (fried oysters were just too thickly breaded to rate an A, beer was way too delicious to just give them a B. So B+ it is!)

8 Easy Steps to Eating Smart when Eating out!

This is one of my all time favorite topics. I leave and breathe eating out – and I watch my weight like a hawk. I went with Weight Watchers in Feb 2002 – lost 30 pounds by June 2002 – and have kept it off for over 11 years now. Clearly – I’m pretty pound of that accomplishment. I weigh what I weighed in High School. Rocking Grannie!

BUT – there’s a price to pay in staying slim and eating out more nights than I eat in – and I call it the menu game. And like all games, there are rules.

Step 1: Before sitting down – Choose your price point and be sure that the restaurant offers options that will work. For example – if you are thinking of spending about $20 per person – the average price for the entries on the menu should be $10 to $15. The wine, the dessert, the tip and taxes will bounce a $10 entry up to $20 in a blink of the eye.

Step 2: Choose your cuisine – A study by the folks at Tufts School of Nutrition has determined that there are ‘better’ cuisines and ‘worse’ cuisines from an average calorie point of view. Not surprisingly, Vietnamese and Japanese have the lowest average calories when their most popular dishes were analyzed, while Italian, American and Chinese have the highest average calorie counts. (Check out the exact numbers in the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine by Susan Roberts, Director of the HNRCA Energy Metabolism Laboratory. Susan Roberts also is the author of “The “i” Diet” (www.myidiet.com))

Step 3: Try not to arrive famished. This is so hard to avoid, and so critical to keeping control over how much you eat. The other day I ended up devouring almost 1/2 of a delicious milk shake because I was just too hungry when I walked in to remember to ask for water.

Step 4: Always ask for water first – and always drink it before ordering. Then you can focus on what you are ordering, and not ‘shop hungry’.

Step 5: Plan ahead – and either order a small portion – or try to put 1/2 away before you start eating. Restaurants, particularly smaller ones at lower price points, serve way too much food. In fact, those crazy folks at the Tufts Nutrition School cited above studied calorie counts and determined that average meals in 33 randomly selected smaller restaurants in the Boston area ended up weighing in at an astounding 1,327 calories per meal – that’s about twice a normal meal, and more calories than I normal consume in a day. More distressing – fully 73% of the meals they analyzed in their study contained more than 1/2 the daily recommended calories per day for an adult. No wonder we get fat eating out. So plan on take out – every time you eat out. In fact 12 of the 157 meals analyzed actually contained more than 2000 calories – the calories recommended for an entire day

Step 5: Be a fussy eater! Ask for all sauces and all salad dressings to be served ‘on the side’. That way you can control how much of the most fattening things get in your stomach!

Step 6: Don’t order what you really shouldn’t eat. If you don’t order the french fries – you won’t be tempted. Don’t ruin fish (something you should try to eat at least twice a week) by getting it fried, and if you order steak – order the small portion.

Step 7: Put your fork down between bites. This works for any meal – home cooked, or eaten out. Study after study has shown that it takes time for your tummy to register ‘full’, and it’s easy to eat so fast that you go past that point. In fact – this is why I love tasting menus. The time delay between the courses gives my body time to decide how hungry I still am.

Step 8: Carry food with you – and eat it when you get hungry! I always have a small resealable container of almonds with me. They are the perfect snack – not terribly high in calories, take effort to eat (if it goes down fast – it didn’t count is false!)

Well there you have it – 8 easy steps to eating Smart when eating Out.

Rene’s Bistro – Stratford. Gimme the Mussels – Rush!

We got trapped – hungry for dinner before the theatre, on a Saturday night – with no reservations in Stratford, Ontario. And I won’t do Chains, or Pizza. So finding a place that I’d enjoy was not going to be easy. We were turned away from 2 other restaurants – sorry – we’re full. Good for them, bad for us. But Rene’s was welcoming – and while our tiny table for 2 wasn’t the best located – right by the server’s stand and against the wall separating the restaurant from the bar – the welcome was genuine. We explained that we were going to the theatre, they basically said – What’s new, and got on with their jobs.

We were handed menus, our order taken, and the kitchen alerted within minutes of our arrival. And the place, like most restaurants in Stratford on a Saturday before the theatre, was packed. But not noisy – a very pleasant surprise.

We ordered mussels in 2 different preparations – one in a cream sauce, one in a white wine sauce, both of which were served very promptly. The bread – a requirement if you are going to mop up the sauces – was wonderful, warm and fresh. Unlike Montreal Mussel restaurants – fries didn’t come standard. So we did without. But the nice sized portion – and the rapid bread basket refill – did the job nicely.

So – table cloths, good food, and no reservations required – Rene’s Bistro was a winner. Next time I’m going to explore the menu more efficiently – they had some other dishes that sounded great. But noticing the number of mussel servings that walked past – I’m thinking that mussels are their go for dish.

A B. Nice service, good food, worth the price asked. And fast – we made the Theatre with time to spare.

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Rene's Bistro on Foodio54

It’s the Chowder – It’s all about the Chowder….

Perkins Cove in Ogunquit – finding a reasonable and enjoyable bite to eat without standing in line or fighting crowds is almost a super-human task. The main restaurants, conveniently located right on the parking lot (delightful), are lobster dinner emporiums – huge, busy, expensive, and way too much food.

All of which makes ‘Chowders’ a complete delight. Located at the far end of the cove – past the way too adorable drawbridge, fishing boats, and ‘Mainely Maine’ shops Chowders is right on the cove side. The view from the deck – hidden from view by other buildings, and no even really visible from inside the deli – is stunning. Part is underneath a deck, so it’s protected from the sun and the occasional rain. And part is open to the air, the sea, and the view.

The ordering system couldn’t be simpler. There’s a menu – you order and pay at the cash, and when your food is ready, the server finds you. The fare is what one would expect in such a location, fried fish, sandwiches, and of course Chowder. My husband rated the Clam Chowder the equal of the one at the Wells Lobster Pound – a high compliment. His sandwich by American Standards was acceptable – by Quebec or European Standards, the bread was a bit – well – white.

But what I liked best about Chowders was the attitude. Unlike to servers at the larger places, Chowders felt comfortable. I felt extremely welcomed – like they were glad to see me. Which given the location is a nice surprise. Ogunquit in general, and Perkins Cove in particular are traditionally mobbed. And with so many guests – staying polite and friendly is hard. The staff at Chowders – on the day we were there – completely delivered.

A B+ for food, an A for location and view.

Chowders Cafe & Deli on Urbanspoon

Chowders Cafe & Deli on Foodio54

Prime29 – Glorious Restaurant, so-so Food

We’re in Detroit – that should be steak country right? I’m thinking if you want a great US steak – you should be able to get it here. Well – forget about that if you go to Prime 29. So beautiful, so disappointing.

Lets talk about the good stuff first. The restaurant is beautiful. They did a brand-new renovation in a space the size of a small Target (Ok – probably not that big – but you get the idea.). The space is divided up into a series of smaller spaces with huge round tables/banquets nestled into the walls, a huge bar, a huge terrace area with a glassed in gas fire pit and heat lamps, plus standard dining rooms as well. It went on forever.

I just loved the look – dark woods, rich carpet, nicely dressed wait-staff (well – except for hostess in too tight skirt and top – and huge high purple heels – but the guys ate that up), and comfy seats. We opted for the terrace – open air, not a great view – but the weather was so nice it was worth it.

The menu was a bit of a shocker – $41 for a 12 oz rib steak is in the pricy area in my book. But the Filet – 8 oz – was just $34, much more reasonable. And as a teaser – there’s Prime Rib for $29 – but only on Sunday. Since I was eating there on Saturday night – that’s a non-starter.

But I’m flexible, so I order 2 appetizers – a cheese and fruit plate and a tuna tataki, neither of which was cheap – but I had hopes they’d be good. The tuna was a winner. Nice slices of cold tuna, served on a seasoned salad of avocado slices. Yummy. The cheese platter really should have been awesome. There are so many delicious cheeses from micro-producers these days that you can really pick and choose. So Cheddar, Pepper Jack, Cheap Brie and amazingly – Boursin were hardly an impressive selection. Not that they aren’t good cheeses – but for $18 I’d expect at least something like a Jasper Hill, or a local Michigan cheese. Not cheese bought from Price Club. Really. This the best you can do?

But ignore my complaints – my husband’s medium rare filet was medium well, the truffle fries were battered frozen fries (come on people – frozen french fries – at an upscale restaurant?) that weren’t very truffled, and the lobster bisque was declared thin and watery by my friends.

So – it’s a beautiful place to go to be seen, but hardly foodie worthy. Oh well. Next time in Detroit, maybe we will make a better choice.

The Library Bar, Royal York Hotel, Toronto – Awful food in a great looking Bar

Library Bar at the Royal York in Toronto – forget it. Very expensive, and not very good.

Perhaps the problem was my timing. I ate lunch there on a Friday, and from the other reviews – I can see that they are normally open only Saturday and Sunday. But still – it was a simply terrible excuse for a meal.

I ordered an Ahi Tuna Wrap – and it came with either a salad or french fries. Since it was billed as a ‘low calorie’ option on the menu – why would you offer french fries with it. But moving past that, the wrap was actually terrible. A too thick tortilla, folded around 3 small slices of Ahi Tuna, a bit of salad, and 3 slices of what might have once been avocado. It was served chilled, and honestly looked and tasted like it had been made much earlier in the day, put in a fridge, and just plopped on the plate. The salad was mealy and ordinary – which given the price of an outrageous $22 – I’m sorry. That’s disgusting.

Too bad too because the Library Bar looks so lovely – all dark brown and woody with comfortable seats and sofas and a very pleasant feel of restrained elegance. Plus the service was very nice. Normally they charge for internet – but the matre-d’ took pity on me and let me sign on using his code for an hour. Question to consider, why do expensive hotels still insist on charging for something that less expensive hotels and most restaurants and even some airports give away for free? I’m talking of course about internet access.

In any case – stick to the ‘Bar’ part of the Library and avoid the food.

Library Bar - Fairmont Royal York on Urbanspoon