TACOS, TACOS, TACOS

What is going on with Tacos on Vancouver Island? They are popping up on menus everywhere. Since I love Tacos, especially Fish Tacos, I thought it was time to report on their whereabouts. Here are some that I have enjoyed. 

The Lantzville Pub has been serving up Fish Tacos for some time. A generous portion of deep fried Cod with the appropriate garnishes. Really good. Have ordered them many times. Cod is the choice at the FRENCH CREEK Social Hall too. The Cole slaw is particularly good on these. Originally they were serving very large pieces of Cod but by this week the fish had been downsized to a more normal size. Still worthy of your consideration. 

Up in Coombs the Taqueria, next to Cuckoos has an assortment of Tacos.  They make their own tortillas. I guess they are good but a little grainy for me. But it’s a cool place in the summer with outdoor tables. And other Mexican fare too. 

Of course, it’s hard to beat those served up at the Tidal Tacos, the waterfront shack in Qualicum Bay. Made to order means you wait a bit but it’s worth it. Try the Chili Coconut Prawn Tacos. Simply delicious. 

At the Kingfisher Resort we saw their raw tuna tacos. They looked fabulous and I’ll order on our next visit. On their Bistro menu in the bar.  

On my first visit to REALM in PARKSVILLE I tried the Fish Tacos. Realm is kind of a granola joint with all locally sourced organic product. The tacos can be ordered individually or in threes.  And they are good. Choices include Tempura Lingcod, grilled Lingcod, and Albacore Tuna and a Vegan option. The menu is in the wall and you order at the counter.
I’ll go back! 

Finally, on Resort Drive in PARKSVILLE you must try the TASTE TACO BISTRO. Taste has been in business a long time but last year changed its format to Mexican. I ordered two beef Tacos. Very large and delicious. The Fish Tacos here are pan fried and are probably good. Taste is a delightful joint, nice owners and good service. Good Margaritas too. 

If you love Tacos, you have lots of choice in the Oceanside Area. 

And, by the way, we made Tacos at home recently. Used Halibut fried in butter with shredded red cabbage and chopped tomatoes.  Turned out really well for a first time trial run. 

Just saying…

SOCK HELP!

Getting old is definitely not for sissies! Living in the Parksville/Qualicum Beach area we are surrounded by seniors.  A trip to the grocery store is like a visit to a seniors home. Since I chose+to retire here I guess I must get used to the fact. 

As one ages, certain daily routines can become more challenging. For example, having developed a painful hip ( Total Hip Replacement may be on the horizon) the simple act of putting on one’s sock can be a monumental task. For me it’s becoming more difficult. Embarrassing actually.  

So a simple search for a “sock puller onner” revealed several such devices on Amazon. Where else? There are probably 2 dozen or more of these devices available so I chose the least expensive one and Amazon delivered it promptly. 

Eureka, I exclaimed the first time I tried it. No pain! Sock fully on requiring no further pull up. If only I had invented this $15 item myself. 

Here is what it looks like. 

Here is what it looks like while in service. 

The SOCK PULLER ONNER is a winner. Especially for us old people. And it works really well with Pressure Stockings too. 

Just saying…

FRENCH CREEK Social Hall

Once known as the BOAR’S HEAD PUB, then the FRENCH CREEK Marine Pub, this joint recently reopened following some renovations as the FRENCH CREEK SOCIAL HALL What the hell is ab Social Hall. Perhaps a place for Bingo or a Craft Fair? If you were driving by and saw the sign, would you think it might be a great spot for lunch? I think not.

Despite the aforementioned, today we met Uncle Murray for lunch at said place. And it was a really good one. The old pub has had a facelift and seems cleaner and more orderly but still has the same tables and chairs. So not much is different except THE FOOD!

The new menu has some wonderfully interesting offerings. Sheila & I opted for the FISH TACOS, and, oh my it was a great choice. 3 Tacos with large pieces of perfectly deep fried cod for only $16. They were delicious. Murray chose the soup of the day, a hearty Beef Barley.

Some of the other dishes which appealed to me include a Shrimp Po’Boy, Fire Dusted Calamari, Lobster Roll and Ragin’Cajun Jambalaya. Here is the full menu:


https://www.frenchcreeksocialhall.com/pdfs/FCSH-FullMenu-Dec2022.pdf

Monday to Friday there is Happy Hour from 3-6 with some very reasonably priced appetizers and beverages.

If you live in the area you must try the food here. It’s good! Service is friendly and efficient, too. We will be back to sample them soon. The Menu is a real winner. If only they called the joint a PUB.

FRENCH CREEK Social Hall is at the FRENCH CREEK Marina. Turn off 19A at Lee Road. Lots of free parking right in front. Reservations if you wish call 250-947-6963 or info@frenchcreeksocialhall.com

Well worth your consideration.


Just saying…



TUSCAN CERAMICS

TUSCANY is famous for wine, food, fabulous countryside, Torture Museums and CERAMICS. In the hillside town of San Gimignano several shops sell locally made ceramics. Everything from wine stoppers to dining tables. 

Not surprisingly we bought a suitcase full to bring back to Canada. Most of it we bought at LEONCINI on the Main Street in San Gimmy. https://www.leoncini-italy.com

This is the store. 

LEONCINI is the largest ceramic store in the area and it is a delight to visit. Oil & Balsamic bottles were high on our list and we both brought a set home. I picked up coffee mugs to replace those I bought on a previous visit. 



The ‘piece de resistance’ however, are the stunningly beautiful ceramic dining tables. I fell in love with them on my first visit in 2007 but have resisted a purchase. They are expensive. A 36 inch round table is about 950€ or about $1400 Canadian plus shipping.  So tempted though. Finally I decided they Italian design really didn’t fit with all the Oriental pieces in my home. Nevertheless it was tempting. Maybe in a future visit. 


These tables would be perfect on a patio or in some kitchens. Perhaps yours.

If you have the opportunity to visit San Gimingnano be sure and spend some time in LEONCINI. Take lots of cash! And remember they ship all over the world. 

Just saying…

A Find in Amalfi

On our recent trip to Italy we spent 3 nights in the town of Amalfi, a delightful Oceanside town of about 5000 folks. There seems to be only one street in Amalfi,  a narrow one that runs up the middle of town with all manner of people and vehicles on it. Traversing it by  car as we did is an interesting experience. 

We found a charming hotel located just off that street and just up this alley. At the end of the alley was a small food market and the entrance to our hotel, The L’ANTICO CONVITTO. 

This charming place has only 15 rooms but it is wonderful. Our room was large with a queen bed, a large couch, a table with 2 chairs. It had a stunning domed ceiling and beautiful ceramic light fixtures. And a polished pale yellow tile floor. Perfectly done. 

In the morning we found the breakfast room which featured  a wide array of choices including outstanding croissants. Espresso, Cappuccino or Americano was made to order by a friendly young lady.

The hotel has a roof top patio with a view so up the elevator we went with our breakfast tray. A spectacular view of the town, the hills, and the ocean. 

Within walking distance from the hotel are lots of shops, restaurants, gelato shops, etc. More than you need. It’s all right there. 

We enjoyed this boutique hotel so much we would go back anytime. A real find right in the centre of things. 

If you ever go to Amalfi,  LAntico Convitto would be a great place to stay. Check it out here https://www.lanticoconvitto.com

Just saying…

Tuscan Dinners

Recently we spent 9 days at IL BORGHETTO a villa near San Gimignano in TUSCANY. It’s a delightful place to stay made better by the wonderful Tuscan dinners served 3 times a week. 

https://www.ilborghettotuscanholidays.com

The kitchen is managed by ‘MAMA’ the owner’s mother who, with a small staff turn out amazing food served in the dining room or outside depending on the weather. 

A menu is posted in advance near the office along with a sign up sheet. Each dinner is a four course set menu but you may choose only some courses if you wish. But why would you? 

The dining room is a delight, especially the little cave room. 4 tables only in this dome ceiling room. It feels like a wine cellar. 

Here is one of the Antipasto dishes. 

This was the best Lasagne I have ever tasted. Just wonderful. 

Roast Pork was the entree one night, Stuffed and Rolled Turkey on another. The Turkey was filled with Spinach frittata, Ham, Cheese, & Herbs served on a bed of  puréed peas along with Roasted Tomatoes. 



Desserts were not to be missed. A Creme Brulee custard topped with chocolate and raspberries. Puff pastry slices with a lemony sauce between. 

Il Borghetto dinners! Wonderful, memorable. The owners are the Hosts and Servers. Nicola is a most entertaining host and a pan accomplished Sommelier. If you are considering a trip to TUSCANY you must consider staying at Borghetto so you too can enjoy the fabulous Tuscan food. 

Just saying…

Harry’s Bar

                  One of the highlights of our time to Italy was a visit to Harry’s Bar in Florence. It is famous! Harry’s opened in 1953 and was inspired by the Harry’s in Venice. Giuseppe Cipriani, patron of the already famous Harry’s Bar in Venice, gave them some suggestions: the Cuisine – the gratin noodles, the carpaccio, the shrimp curry, the tartare, the flambéed crepes Grand Marnier, the American Bar – the Bellini, the Martini, the Negroni.

This was my second visit to the institution and we stopped in for lunch on a Sunday without a reservation. Sorry, the dining room is all reserved but you are most welcome at the bar. Perfect! That’s where I wanted to sit anyway. It’s a small bar with only about 8 stools. Once perched we met the new bartender( the many decades old bartender has retired).  The new young guy was friendly, charming and superbly efficient.  Amazing to watch. Not only could he mix fabulous cocktails, we watched him prepare an order of  Steak Tatare table side with  precise skill and showmanship. 

We ordered drinks to start and Sheila chose a Vodka Martini (2 olives please). A Negroni was the right choice for me. Delicious to be sure. 

Our bartender recommended the Chicken Club Sandwich which we shared along with a small Chicken salad. One order of fries but No ketchup here. Lemony Mayonnaise is the routine here. So good. 

The sandwich, no crusts on this very thin toast was, perhaps, the best we’ve ever had. Simply wonderful. 


Not only was our bartender entertaining but a family group of 8 stood near us at the bar enjoying a pre lunch libation. Italians are amazing. They all talk all the time and at the same time. Not sure If they listen but the dialogue amongst this group was worthy of a blog on its own. 


Sitting on the bar near us was a photo of Elizabeth Taylor, one of many famous patrons of Harry’s. 

This bar has it all. History, great drinks, superb service, fabulous food and excellent people watching. 

Going to Florence? Check out Harry’s. It’s just two blocks from Ponte Vecchio on the river. 

Just saying…

A Treasure in Tuscany

This is the fourth visit to Il Borghetto, a Villa in TUSCANY just 4 kilometres from the famous hill town of San Gimingnano. Why so many stays and why do so many others make repeat visits? 

First of all Il Borghetto is a delightful place to stay. It is a Tuscan home at least 600 years old. The Bimbi family bought it over 20 years ago. It was abandoned and they saw potential. It was gutted and rebuilt to include 11 apartments all done in the Tuscan style. Beamed ceilings, tile floors, Tuscan rustic furniture. 


It’s not the Four Seasons but is a truly Tuscan experience. All the apartments are different, some one bedroom, some two. The building is situated in the midst of vineyards and olive groves with stunning views of the countryside. 


Each apartment is equipped with a full sized fridge ( you do need to chill the wine), a gas stovetop and a microwave. Lots of glasses, dishes, etc. are included. If you plan to cook you will need your own condiments. By the way,  Cooking Classes  are available. We missed one by one day. 

There is a lovely piazza on which to enjoy the afternoon sun and a glass of local wine. There is a pool amongst the olive trees and there is a dining room serving Tuscan dinners 3 nights a week. Some of the apartments have their  own patios too. 



The owners are wonderful. Sandra & Nicola, Simona & Ricardo.  The girls are sisters and they manage the property. The boys do all the maintenance. Their mother overseas the kitchen and staff. They are most helpful in arranging wine tours, Museum Visits, dinner reservations etc.

Interestingly, most of the guests are Canadian and American. 

This week we met folks from Nova Scotia, Denver, Kansas, Austria, and the Chech Republic. 

Since my last visit in 2014 they have added a light breakfast service offering coffee and croissants every morning. Perfect way to start the day in my opinion. 

Il Borghetto is only 40 k from Florence, 25 from Siena and there are many charming towns to visit in the area. A great location. One caveat! You must have a car. It’s in the country and Taxis are expensive here. Driving is easy here, in fact, quite wonderful. So many twisty two lane roads through the countryside. If you enjoy driving, as I do, you will love driving in TUSCANY. 

The dinners here are epic. Served outside or inside depending on the weather. The dining room is charming and the service offered is top drawer. More on the food in a later blog. 

If you are planning a trip to TUSCANY you must consider Il Borghetto. I have stayed here 4 times for a total of 8 weeks. 

Here is the website. Browse it and learn this history of this villa. 

https://www.ilborghettotuscanholidays.com

Just saying…

European Train Travel

Recently we experienced Train travel in Europe and it was most enjoyable and cost effective too. We took the Italian Fressciarossa high speed train from Paris to Milan and the next day Milan to Florence. 

We boarded at Gare de Lyon in Paris. Train travel is simple. No security. No baggage problem..you just take it on board. Lots of places to put it. No two three hours advance arrival. 20 minutes will do. Find your train’s platform and board. Simple. 

We chose Business Class and the fare for two for a 6.5 Hour trip was $232 CDN. That is a bargain. Economy is even less. Business included very comfortable leather seats with a table between us. USB charging plugs are in the seat and wifi is available. Coffee, juice, soft drinks and a snack was included. In the next car was a snack bar and we purchased a Panini and a small bottle of Prosecco for lunch. Reasonable and good. 

This train has a top speed of 300kph and it ran that fast from Paris to Lyon. After Lyon we headed for the mountains at a slower pace passing not far from Grenoble and then into Turin and on to Milan. 

We stayed at a very nice hotel only a 5 minute walk from Milano Centrale Station and the next day boarded another train to Florence. Two hours. Very fast. The train hit 301kph at one point. Using my Garmin GPS I recorded 300kph. Fast. The route took us through the city of Bologna. Saw nothing. Long tunnel into the station and out. 

This train was newer than the previous. More comfortable seats. We loved the Frecciarossa! 

Arrived on time in Florence Santa Maria Novella Station. 

Train travel in Europe is fast, convenient, comfortable and cost effective. We recommend it! 

If you want to know more I recommend this fantastic web site. https://www.seat61.com

It has all the information you will ever need.  

Just saying..

Paris Revisited

This was my fourth visit to Paris, the last one was in 2006.  There are some notable changes is the city. Paris is much much busier that I recall. People are everywhere. Bistros are mostly full to overflowing and the sidewalks are crowded. 

One thing stands out. Not as many smokers as previously seen. Especially fewer women are smoking. Still lots of smokers compared to Canada but dramatically less than in previous visits. 

Paris has excellent Taxis! Full sized cars including Toyota Camry’s, MERCEDES, Hyundai and Scoda. All Black. Mostly hybrids. Clean comfy and efficient. No Prius cabs here. There are also a few electric TUK TUK’S, which are silent unlike those in Asia. And one can even take a tour in a classic Citreon de Chevue.  

Paris has not gone to the dogs. There seemed to be fewer than I recall and there was little evidence of poop on the sidewalks. However, grafitti is rampant particularly coming into town from Charles DeGualle Airport. 

The French do eat some strange food. In one bistro I ordered scallops. The were presented IN Mashed Potato. No vegetables just potato. In another it was delicious Duck served with excellent scalloped potatoes. No other vegetables. Bread is always served but no sign of butter, ever. And French Fries are served with almost everything.

Disappointing that we did not see a menu which included Liver or Sole Meunière, two items we were expecting to enjoy. We did enjoy the professionalism of many waiters. Very gracious and very efficient. They know their stuff. 

Strong coffee and a Buttery Fresh Croissant is the standard French breakfast and we thoroughly enjoyed that in a bistro near our hotel. Delicious. 

We did not see much sign of homelessness but apparently there is,  just not in the touristy areas. 

Paris is still a wonderful city in which to walk and we did. But it’s harder work at our age. Did we do any museums? No. Been there done that. But we did park ourselves in many sidewalk cafes to enjoy a glass of wine and the ambiance of this grand city. 


If you have not been to Paris, you must go. For me , 4 times is probably enough. 

Just saying…