Pickled Red Onions

There are at least 21 different types of Onions available and in our part of the world we have access to a lot of them. Yellow Onions, Spanish Onions, Rked Onions, Green Onions, Sweet Onions are in our stores all the time. 

We like Onions, particularly Sweet Onions. We always buy Vidalia Onions  from Georgia when they are in season, and Walla Walla Sweets from Washington State. We love Maui Onions too but can’t get them here. Sweet Onions are so good raw. Perfect in a salad, on a burger or in a sandwich. In fact we never buy yellow onions even though they may be better for cooking. Green Onions are always in our fridge for salads and garnish. And for sauces I often use Shallots.  

Only today did I learn that Leeks are of the onion Family. No wonder we like them. And Chives too!  We grow them on our patio and the deer don’t eat them. 

But lately I’ve had this hankering for Pickled Red Onions. I keep seeing them on TV and in magazines  being used on burgers, salads, and fish. At Easter we had Smoked Atlantic Salmon Lox as an appetizer and pickled red onion would have been perfect on top but, alas, we didn’t have any. I searched in all the food stores, went on line too but to no avail. It seems that no one manufactures this product. 

So it was time to make some. Couldn’t be that difficult.  Hello YouTube. Eureka! A whole bunch of How To Videos. I looked at several then picked the easiest. Sam the Cooking Guy. 

So easy! 

After picking up the necessities I made a jar. They were delicious. I’ve had them on Roast beef sandwich, on a hot dog and on a small salad. Then I made a few more jars that I gave away to friends and neighbours. I hope they like them as much as I do. Can’t wait to try them on a burger this weekend. 

This is how they look after a few days in the fridge.

Just saying…

QUALITY FOODS OPENS!

At long last the new QUALITY FOODS store in PARKSVILLE opened yesterday. So it was time for a look see. Went over this morning to check it out and to have breakfast.  I decided on the Scrambled BENNY special.  $8.99. Two English muffins with a very generous portion of sliced ham, scrambled eggs and Hollandaise. Served with hash browns. The ham was delicious. The eggs were on the rubbery side and the Hollandaise was unremarkable. But it was only day two and it was cheap. The Bacon & Egg Breakfast with toast and hash browns at $5.99 is my choice next time. Perks Avenue Cafe is nicely set up, cafeteria style, with both bar counter seating and tables all topped with quartz countertops. A giant flat screen in one corner for the sports fans. 

The store itself is…SPECTACULAR! Very spacious with beautifully presented produce and meats. I noticed freshly made meatballs which I will probably buy. For 2 people it’s hardly worth making your own. The Deli section is huge and appears  to have a lot more variety than the Qualicum store. All sections seem to have an enhanced variety of items. Of course there is a Sushi Bar and the popular Chinese Kitchen.  

UPSTAIRS features a BAR. In a grocery store! In Canada! A really grown up, sit up, and order drinks kind of bar. Very nicely executed too. Also, a coffee and sandwich counter and an array of casual but very comfort lounging areas in which to enjoy your croissant and coffee. Plus, outside is a patio with some nice looking furniture. So if you go over as a couple, one can  shop while the other can slurp it up at the bar. Could be a marriage saver for some. 

The one thing that surprised me is that unlike A Step Above in other QF stores, there is no kitchen ware, accent pieces etc. 

In addition, QF has installed a state of the art Cart Sanitizer! 

It’s Quality Foods Flagship store and it sure looks Ike it. Spacious and Spectacular. 

Just saying…

Trains to the Mountains

Once the railways connected to the west of Canada the expansion of Railway Hotels continued. To encourage rail travel CPR built two summer only Hotels in the Canadian Rockies. The original Banff Springs Hotel opened in 1888. It was a wooden structure built 1414 metres above sea level. The attraction of a mountain vacation along with the Banff Sulphur Hot Springs brought summer tourists from all over. And you got there by train. 

In 1914  the tower was added and in 1928 the centre block was completed to replace the original wood building which burned in a 1926 fire. The exterior design was inspired by the Chateaus in France’s  Loire Valley. Hence the copper roofs, gables and dormers. The interiors feature Oak Beams & panelling and Terrazzo floors. There are 764 rooms and 12 restaurants. Originally open only in summer ( it was built long before the popularization of skiing) the hotel was winterized in 1968 to become a year round destination. Several renovations have been done over the years. Amenities include a bowling alley and a 27 hole Golf Course. It is a National Heritage Site. 

Although we have visited the Banff Springs  several time my only stay was during a National  OR Nurses meeting years ago. Fairmont Hotels manages the property but it is owned by Oxford Properties. 

The other CPR built Mountain Railway Hotel is, of course, Chateau Lake Louise,  just 59 kilometres from the Banff Springs. This 539 room hotel was built on the eastern shore of Lake Louise and opened in 1890. Since then there have been several renovations and additions the most recent being the Mt Temple Wing in 2004. In 1982 the hotel was winterized and now operates all year catering in the winter to skiers and other winter sport fans. The hotel is a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE.  

About 30 years ago, after spending Christmas with family in Edmonton, both families  drove  to Lake Louise to celebrate New Years. It was wonderful. Skating on the lake, skiing at the nearby ski hill, fireworks over the lake, and some wonderful food too. Great memories. 

Chateau Lake Louise is a most unique destination.  Operated by Fairmont, owned by Oxford Properties. 

About 235 kilometres north of Louise is Jasper Park Lodge. Originally it was  a tent city in 1915 owned by the Grand Trunk Railway.  But by 1920 it was a CNR property. 8 cottages were built in 1921. Two years later the main lodge was finished and was considered the largest log building in the world. The lodge burned down in 1952 but was quickly replaced with the present day building. CPR acquired the lodge in 1988. 

There are 446 rooms  including the cabins and five restaurants. There have been multiple renovations most recently a $16 million redo in 2016. 

I had the pleasure of staying here at another national OR Nurses meeting during which we stayed in one of the charming log cabins. Very luxurious cabins.  Jasper Park Lodge is truly a unique property. Spacious grounds, charming buildings. Managed by Fairmont and also owned by Oxford Properties. Oxford is a division of OMERS, the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. 

So there you have it. Three spectacular Railway Hotels in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.  If you are close please visit them. 

Just saying…

Indigenous Clam Gardens

Recently while enjoying a latte with my friend Peter, a very knowledgeable ex boater, he asked me if I knew about Clam Gardens. I had no idea what he was talking about. I had heard about the Octopus’s Garden in the shade from the Beatles song, but not Clam Gardens. Please explain. 

Despite the fact that we had boated for more than 30 years with multiple trips throughout the San Juan  Islands, The Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound and the Broughtons, I had never heard of a Clam Garden. It’s very likely that I have seen one or more in Wiatt Bay or Kanish Bay on Quadra Island, where we have anchored, and didn’t realize it. 

It seems that the Coastal First Nations folks created Clam Gardens all over the Coast from Puget Sound to Alaska. The idea was to extend the sand Clam flat further into the water to increase the harvest of this very valuable protein. Clams were great food fresh or dried, and were also good trading items. A valuable product.  So they would gather rocks and build a rock wall further into the water at low tide. Hence a larger Clam bed. Clearly this was a very clever early form of mariculture. 

Archaeologists estimate that these gardens are between 1000-1700 years old. Of course, they were all built long before there were environmental concerns, before there was a Department  Fisheries and Oceans, before the Sierra Club etc. Were one to build one now all manner of studies, planning and permits would be required. 

A fascinating book by Judith Williams on the subject is still available on Amazon.  

If you are out and around looking for Clams you might just find a Clam Garden. 

Just saying…

I ❤️ HOTELS❗️

Since I have not been to any new restaurants lately, I decided to blog about something else that interests me. It may or may not interest the reader. The topic is HOTELS! 

One big plus of business and personal travel is staying in hotels. I love hotels and had I not ended up by accident in the medical business I think I could have been a successful hotelier. 

In travels across Canada I’ve enjoyed good ones and not so good ones. Four Seasons, Westin, Sheraton etc., are all good but perhaps the hotels I’ve most enjoyed are the old Railway Hotels. The Grand Trunk Railway, the Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway all built grand, beautiful hotels during the heyday of rail travel. Almost all of them are now operated by Fairmont Hotels, a company the CPR bought in 1999.  Fairmont was spun off as a separate company and later became part of the French company ACCOR.The ownership of the hotels is spread among a number of investment companies. 

Possibly my favourite of these grand hotels is the CHATEAU FRONTENAC in Quebec City. Opened by the CPR in 1893 in the old city of Quebec, this 611 room  Chateauesque style structure overlooks the St Lawrence River. Having stayed there 3 times, always in winter, I  found it utterly charming, partly due to the French influence of the city. It’s now 127 years old but has been maintained superbly over the years. Rooms with views, wonderful food and charming staff. And right in the centre of the old town. 

Not the oldest but the largest of the CPR hotels is Toronto’s ROYAL York. Built on Front Street across from Union Station this 1363 room giant opened in 1929. I have fond memories of several stays there at a variety of business meetings. On one occasion in 1970 I organized a Mexican Fiesta Party for the Ontario Operating Room Nurses convention. We used a large meeting room on one of the higher floors and the party featured a Mexican Band, a Mexican Buffett and Sombreros for the guests. This event gave me access to the behind the scenes activity of a large hotel. The catering staff, the kitchens, the serving area etc was all fascinating to me. 

The Royal York has multiple restaurants including a Benihana. An old  friend treated me to dinner years ago in The Imperial Room which at the time was a restaurant/night club. 

The Royal York is operated by Fairmont but owned by 3 investment groups. If you are in Toronto, it’s worth a visit even if you don’t stay there. At least take a stroll through the public areas. It’s magnificent.

Up in Ottawa, close to Parliament Hill is the Chateau Laurier another Fairmont property. The head honcho of the Grand Trunk Railway, Charles Hayes, commissioned the hotel in 1909.  It was scheduled to be opened in April, 1912 but Mr. Hayes had perished on the Titanic sinking so the opening was delayed until June, 1912. When the 429 room hotel opened Sir Wilfred Laurier, after whom it was named,  was there. The building is distinctive for its limestone exterior, the marble lobby floors and some original Tiffany Stained Glass windows. When Grand Trunk merged with CNR, the Laurier became the most important hotel in the chain. From 1924 until 2004 CBC maintained radio  studios on the 7th and 8th floors and the famous photographer Yusuf Karsh had both his home and studio in the hotel for many years. By the way, Rooms rates in 1912 were $2 per night. 

I got to know the interior of the hotel quite well during a 3 day sales meeting in January, 2000. It was -50 outside the entire time so we were loath to venture out.

There you have it. Three great hotels. More to follow.

Just saying…

Finally, it’s over!

Finally! The  Vendée Globe Solo Round the World Sailing Race is over. 33 boats, 33 skippers. 24,000 nautical miles (45,000 kilometres) The lone last boat,  STARK,  skippered by a Fin, Ari Huusela,  arrived in Les Sables d’0lonne on the west coast of France today, March 5, after 116 days 18 hours at sea, 36 days after the first boat finished.  That was Charlie Dalin who crossed the finish line in 80 Days 6 hours. 

However, Dalin was not the winner because  Yannick Besthaven’

s ( above) corrected time was 80 days 3 hours. He received extra time since he took time out to help rescue Kevin Escoffier whose boat sank back in December.  33 boats started the race, 25 officially finished. 

6 women began the race and Clarisse Cremer (87 Days 2 hours-finished in 12th place, a really fabulous performance. Pip Hare (95 Days 11 hours)  finished 19th. Miranda Meron (101 Days 8 hours) was 22nd and Alexia Barrier (111days 17 hours)  was 24th. Samantha Davies and Isabelle Joschke both finished the course but were disqualified because they both had  to stop for assisted repairs. Nevertheless, they completed the course and both finished ahead of some of the trailing boats. 6 other boats did not finish including one which sank near Capetown. 

Ari Huusela, the last finisher said that at one point the seas were so rough he was worried his boat might break apart. He called his wife to tell her he almost hoped it would break apart so he could be rescued. 

An epic adventure to be sure. 80 – 116 days alone on a 60 foot sailboat in all manner of sea conditions, sailing 24 hours a day, is quite a feat. Not for the faint of heart. 

Next race is November 2024. It will be interesting to see who decides to do it again.

Just saying…

First Woman to Finish

Six courageous women started the Solo Vendée Globe Around the World Sailing Race in November. Four of the Six are still in the race and crossing the finish line today 9oin a very credible 12th place is French Woman Clarisse Cremer on BANQUE POPULAIRE X. Quite an accomplishment for the 31 year old who only started competitive sailing about 6 years ago. Her time was 87 days, 2hours, 24 minutes. 

Women still in the race are Pip Hare in 20th, Miranda Merron in 23rd, and Alexia Barrier in 24th. Samantha Davies dropped out for repairs near Capetown and has continued to sail the route but is no longer in the race. Isabelle Joschke had severe damage to her rudder and sought safe harbour in Brazil. 

Next boat across the finish line will be Jérémie Beyou on CHARAL in 13th. He has 800 miles to go. 

Just saying…

Vendée Globe Winners

Yesterday, January 27, 2021, Charlie Dalin on APTIVIA was the first across the finish line in Les Sables-d’Olonne on the west coast of France. 80 Days, 6 hours, 15 minutes overall time. BUT, Dalin did not come first. Yannick Bestaven on MAÎTRE COQ IV crossed second but was granted a 10 hour 15 minute time allowance for his efforts to assist in the rescue of Kevin Escoffier. So Bestaven’s official time was 80 days 3 hours 44 minutes for First Place. In third place with 80 days 10 hours 25 minutes was Louis Burton on BUREAU VALLÉE 2. All three skippers are French.

So 80 days at sea, alone, covering 29,000 nautical miles (33,372 land miles or more than 53,000 kilometres). Dalin averaged an extraordinary 15.13 Knots! In a 60 foot sailboat, alone. 

7 boats have now crossed the finish line with 18 more still in the race. The last placed boat still has 6800 miles to go. 

An amazing race. I’m not sure if the skippers are courageous or crazy. What an adventure!

Here are the top three.

Sprint to the Finish.

About 4 days and 1400 nautical miles to go in the epic Vendée Globe Solo Sailing Race. At least for the top 6 boats. APIVIA, skippered by Charlie Dalin is leading, followed by Louis Burton on BUREAU VALLEE ll,  who is just 34 miles  behind.  On board SEA EXPLORER, German skipper Boris Hermann is 3rd, just 60 miles from Dalin and Thomas Ruyant on LINKED OUT is still a strong contender in 4th, 91 miles back as these boats approach the Azores. 

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Theoretically any of the top 6 could win this race.  Jean Le Cam on Yes we Cam is is in 8th 380 miles from 1st but he has a 10 hour credit as a result of taking time out of the race to rescue Kevin Escoffier, whose boat sank in early December south of Capetown. That 10 hours is likely the equivalent of about 150 miles. So Le Cam is still a contender. 

The last boat in the fleet, skippered by Ari Huusela of Finland has yet to Round Cape Horn. He has 7800 miles to go to the finish. 

The next few days will be exciting to watch. Stay tuned. 

Just saying…

All About Hashbrowns

I love Hashbrown Potatoes. It’s true. I especially like them with Bacon or Sausage and eggs for breakfast or brunch. My favourite hash browns are  the finely shredded style most often served in restaurants. The little cubed ones or the smashed ones (at the White Spot) or the thicker shoestring style are not for me. The best restaurant hashbrowns I’ve had recently were at Ricki’s All Day Grill in Parksville. Finely shredded, spread out and fried on both sides. Excellent. 

My Friend Mike, an excellent chef,  recommends making your own from scratch. That’s probably the best way to go. Shred a potato on a cheese grater, soak in water, squeeze out the moisture in cheesecloth. Seems like a lot of work. I may try it one Sunday morning when I’m ambitious and want to impress my favourite girl. But in the meantime it’s going to be frozen. 

In recent months the food stores I visit regularly have not had the finely shredded hash browns which is very disappointing. What’s the matter with McCains and Cavendish? There is a market for them. At least a market of me.

I saw these in Costco and decided to try them. Apparently they are dehydrated so you add hot water to the carton, let it sit for 12 minutes, drain and cook. I tried them. Pretty good but even though they claim to be real potatoes the fact that they are dehydrated seems kind of Fake to me. Maybe I should get over it since I think the 33 sailors in the Vendée Globe Solo Sailing Race have probably been eating dehydrated food for the last two months. So I may give them another go. 

But yesterday I saw several brands of hash brown patties in the freezer section and decide to give them a try. I hesitated at first since this product reminded me of the ‘Sunshine Breakfast’ on BC Ferries. 

Last night was the test. I cooked some beautiful asparagus, topped it with perfectly poached eggs drowning in Hollandaise, accompanied with two of the hash brown patties. About 15 minutes in the oven at 450. Easy as can be. To my delight I loved them. 

So if you want easy to cook hash browns, I suggest you try these.

Just saying…