Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Country Boy in the Big City

Just a quick post while I'm packing for our big move...

We had a ton of fun in Ottawa, although we never did make it to any of the big tourist destinations. We did catch a glimpse of the Rideau Canal, but no art galleries, museums, or Gothic churches for us. This was largely due to running out of time, so our next trip will be sure to include more of those sights. We did spend a good deal of time driving around the city, and I'm happy to report that Ottawa is a very pleasant place to navigate. Sure, we had no idea where we were going most of the time, but we found our way eventually, and the driving process was much less stressful than I would have expected for any large city. One issue we had a tough time with was the lack of convenient parking; the spots we settled on were always a little further away from our destination than we had planned.

We ate at Anna Thai Restaurant on Holland Ave. Friday night, and the food was fantastic. This is coming from a professional cook, albeit one with very little Thai experience. In fact, I'd never had the opportunity to go out for Thai food until now, living as I do in rural America where they think Thai is something you do with your shoelaces. I've never considered myself someone who would like to live in the big city, but certainly if you can stand the cramped quarters and the rushed lifestyle, the food is well worth it! I can't wait to visit the city again simply to experience another good restaurant, an entity that if not completely extinct where I live, is certainly endangered. I don't recall names of dishes we had, but the Mrs. and I each started with a similar hot and sour soup with coconut milk, hers with chicken and mine with shrimp. I savored every sip of this delicious dish. One unexpected feature of the soup was that it contained sliced button mushrooms that were almost raw. At first I was skeptical, but it actually did work rather well in the end. I'm not sure if this was how the soup was intended or simply a rushed presentation, but it worked nonetheless. The Mrs. had a main course of chicken with vegetables and chilies: quite spicy but delicious. I had somewhat of a combination plate, one scrumptious shrimp spring roll with sweet garlic chile sauce, a good chicken and vegetable dish, and an orgasmic concoction of beef, peas, and eggplant fused together by a rich and spicy red curry sauce. I was very tempted by dessert (one of the selections was a ginger creme brulee which sounded heavenly), but I had practically licked my plate clean and was too full to consume another bite. If it wasn't for the variety and quality of restaurants in Ottawa I would be sure to come back to Anna on my next visit, and even so it might be hard to resist an encore at this fabulous restaurant.

So dinner was great, and the comedy club we attended afterward did not disappoint either. There were four comics performing at the club that night, but the best one by far was the MC of the evening, a Toronto performer named Andrew Evens. Check him out at He looked just like the actor who plays House on television, and got lots of laughs for his joke about finally looking like a celebrity and still not getting any. Two minor complaints about an otherwise great experience: 1. Our waitress was rude and bitchy, albeit attentive and efficient. If she smiled a time or two she would have been great! 2. The bartender downstairs made the Mrs. a terrible Long Island Iced Tea (even calling this drink by that name is giving it too much credit). In fact this was the second similarly bad LIIT she had been served that night since she ordered one at a bar we stopped by on the way. Our interaction with the bartender went a little like this (of course edited due to poor memory):

Me: "So, do you make a good Long Island Iced Tea here?"
Bartender: "Yeah, sure."
Me: "You don't sound too convincing there, dude. We got one over at the Heart and Crown that was a disgrace to the name and your profession."
Mrs. "Yeah, it pretty much tasted like sprite."
Bartender: "It doesn't even have sprite in it."
Us: "We know."
Me: "Okay, I'm not sold on this, he doesn't seem to be too confident in his ability to make one."
Mrs. "So what is the best drink you serve?"
Bartender: "Long Island Iced Tea."
Us: Questioning glance at each other.
Me: "You weren't exactly selling us on it a minute ago."
Mrs. "Okay, I'll take one, but it better not taste like sprite."

He pours the drink and she tastes it as we turn to walk away. "Yup, just like the last one." I shake my head. Apparently they don't know how to make a Long Island Iced Tea in Ottawa. A shame, really, but next time we'll know better. Apparently we need to get better at interviewing bartenders before we let them make a complicated drink like that. It's evident that it was just too much for him. We need to ask specifically what the bartender thinks the ingredients are before ordering, and if only one alcohol is involved and the drink is 40% coke and 40% sour mix...just steer clear!

Anyway, an unexpected final highlight of our trip was shopping at Ikea. Granted the term 'shopping' here is used in only the loosest of ways since we didn't actually purchase anything there. We did compose a wish list totaling somewhere in the six digit range, but didn't actually pull the trigger on anything, largely because most of the items we wanted wouldn't fit in our car. Of course the fact that we just bought a $120,000 home and have almost no money to spare may have entered into the mix as well. We were very impressed with the store since in our area furniture is either much more expensive or much poorer quality than the items there, and usually it is both. Maybe next time we're there we'll actually buy something.

The final word on Ottawa for now: a beautiful city that I'll be sure to visit many times in the future. It certainly doesn't hurt that it's only an hour and a half away...

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