yzf again

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Feb 6, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Bad weather in Boston, hardly a surprise, so I decided
    to show up at the airport and throw myself on the mercy of
    the ticket people (not being on any of my regular carriers,
    calling did no good, and I was told to pound sand plead
    my case in person. The agent vouchsafed that Air Canada had
    just issued a waiver and the telephone route had been open
    to me after all. Not a big deal, after checking my bag with
    its precisely 1.14 L of booze (the duty-free allowance being
    1.15 L), I got a spot on an early afternoon flight and spent
    the rest of the morning in the US Air Club (no problem
    getting through the other security; apparently people do
    this all the time ).

    AC 361 BOS YYZ 1340 1533 E75 1A
    was
    AC 369 BOS YYZ 1950 2143 E75 2A

    I reflected to myself that it was telling that the Canadian
    carrier was using the Brazilian instead of the domestic
    product on these flights; I wholeheartedly endorse this, as
    the Bombardier company makes dreadfully uncomfortable planes.
    The seat and the overhead space were both surprisingly
    adequate, and I slept through the flight as usual, missing
    out on some small starchy snack, so after the quick and
    easy immigration I sought out Casey's, where a somewhat nice
    Alexander Keith's pale ale and a very fine 8-oz top sirloin,
    done rare rare as requested, put the balance back into life.
    Vegetables were boiled cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots.

    I checked the arrivals board - good thing I rescheduled - my
    original came in an hour plus late, and I would not have
    come even close to making my connection.

    The Maple Leaf Lounge is modern in a '70s way. Vegetarian
    snacks - I'm partial to the hummus, which is more sesame-y
    than lemony and pretty good. I tried the Sumac Ridge Merlot,
    cheap-tasting sweetish swill, and switched to a somewhat
    better Shiraz from Koonunga Hills. Set my alarm for 40
    minutes before the flight, a good thing, as I fell hard
    asleep and in fact had to be wakened up by kind passersby.

    AC 135 YYZ YEG 2255 0109 320 2A

    This flight was staffed by poker-faced but perfectly fine
    attendants; it got in a hair late to an empty airport.
    lili was waiting for me at bag claim, whence we went off
    and called the hotel shuttle. Nobody told us that all the
    Leduc hotels use the same service, which would make lots of
    sense if only they tell you. Not a big deal, my sharp eyes
    (joke) got us on the right bus. It was mighty cold out, so
    the modus operandi was for one person to run out of doors
    for a few secs, scan the neighborhood, and report back to
    the huddled masses yearning to be warm.

    The bus got us to the hotel in jig time; my sharp eyes,
    however, almost got us dropped off at the Homewood Suites
    instead of where we'd booked.

    The Hampton YEG is nice enough and friendly enough. They
    also overcharged me 10% on checkout, but that was easily
    rectified. We had what is usually called a "junior suite,"
    with a bed and a couch, giant bathroom, lots of empty space
    in the middle. The couch was comfy, and I think I had the
    better deal, though the hike to the bath was considerable.

    The standard breakfast offerings in a larger than usual
    breakfast room. I had my usual high-cholesterol high-salt
    meaty mess with a banana; she had a waffle, being fascinated
    by the do-it-yourself machine. The "maple" syrup was crap.

    An easy bill correction; an easy trip back to the airport.
    Uninteresting security.

    Lunch at the Maple Leaf. They had standard breakfasty things
    when we arrived and changed them out gradually - first came
    some crudites (the hummus was really sour and weird, so I
    had a cup of pepitas); later turkey sandwiches and chicken
    noodle soup or vegetable chowder - thank you, no. lili
    asked me what made a soup a chowder, and I gave her the
    whole lecture from that chaudiere idiocy all the way to what
    I consider the present (i.e., 20-30 years ago, as nobody who
    has made a decision since Carter has made a good one).

    No alcohol until 11 or so, and rather than bolt down a
    drink in honor of its freeness, we decided to pass, a poor
    decision as they didn't offer on the plane.

    AC8138 YEG YZF 1145 1328 CRJ 2F

    We walked out of the nice warm modern ('90s I would guess,
    perhaps even '00s) terminal to the freezing tarmac to get
    onto one of those nasty domestic products. Whatever made a
    snowmobile manufacturer think it knew how to make airplanes
    I don't know. The flight was mostly above the clouds until
    we broke through somewhere south of Hay River to skim the
    lake so everyone could see the pressure ridges. Periodically
    you would hear, from various parts of the cabin, younger
    voices asking, what are those, followed by the wise deeper
    voices saying, pressure ridges.
     
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  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Our friend Jim, one of the senior realtors in the city,
    and thus a good guide but focused on things that I am not,
    was on hand to greet us and help us wait for our checked
    baggage, which as usual was delayed by the Star Alliance
    Priority tags. We went out into the parking lot - bright
    sunshine made the bitter cold seem less so.

    Before heading to his house we took an introductory spin
    around, taking in the native village of N'Dilo, the ice
    castle on the lake, and downtown. The native village
    (cleverly not indexed on Google Maps, so you have to guess
    where it is - not a particularly hard thing) I'd seen
    before. I guess it was at one time a bit grotty, but
    although some of the original huts remain, occupied and
    unoccupied, the properties have been generally speaking
    fixed up nicely. The ice castle is apparently an annual
    project by the Snow King and his buddies and is a
    centerpiece of the Snow King Winter Festival. It's a bit
    less formal and elaborate, perhaps, than ice buildings in
    more civilized locations, but on the other hand, the
    festival is cheap, and you get about the same experience
    as you'd pay $800 a night for at the fancy ice hotels.

    Downtown has not much going for it - the highlight and
    lowlight both being bars, and Jim's realty office somewhere
    in between. There's a KFC that used to be the only KFC in
    the world that served hamburgers (not exceptional, as I
    recall, more like meatloafburgers), but that's no more.

    For our welcome dinner we deserved nothing but the best.
    Thornton's, set in the corner of a bowling alley, has been
    blessed with a good chef and a wise wine buyer and is now
    Yellowknife's premier dining establishment, now that Pierre
    LePage has left with his tail between his legs.

    Its having been part of a bowling alley has been well
    disguised by clever decorating and toe-stubbingly dim
    lighting. Service cheerful and pretty good.

    I had the bison steak blue, tasty though lean, almost
    indistinguishable from Angus, especially as the grain had
    not developped; a touch of gaminess, but truth be told a
    good grass-fed beefsteak has much the same. It came with
    orange saffron rice, okay but not a great idea, and a
    ratatouille that was almost peppery enough to interfere
    with my enjoyment of the meat but not quite: the main
    problem is that it didn't go with the rice.

    Across the way, pulled pork lollipops, listed as an
    appetizer but generous enough for a main dish. These from
    what I saw were corn dog shapes but with real meat inside
    instead of franks.

    Also a rack of lamb that I understand was quite fine.

    Carrot cake and several utensils was a pleasant after, a
    wise choice as the piece was enormous and rich.

    Our wine was the estimable Clancy's 09, good to see up here.

    Nightcaps at the house:

    White Owl white whisky, which is actually unobjectionable,
    with a muted but distinct rye taste and some spice and oaky
    notes. I'd not buy it but would welcome it if offered.

    Fighting chicken Bourbon was pretty much the opposite. Hot
    and estery, it was sort of like good Bourbon on steroids,
    true to its name. It wouldn't be my first choice for
    sipping, but I imagine it would go nicely in a more manly
    sort of mixed drink, of which I can't come up with any names
    as I don't generally drink them.
     
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  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    By the way, that was Fighting C0ck Bourbon, not "Fighting
    chicken Bourbon," thank you very much, Mr. Censor Program.
    ==

    Breakfast around noon: bacon, eggs, hash browns, and
    excellent homemade bread, after which we went to the Prince
    of Wales Museum (a revisit for me). The stuff about native
    peoples had been revamped since I was there last; also the
    room dealing with the mail and the importance of airplanes
    to the development of the area. I didn't see the extended
    treatment of fish preserving that was the highlight of my
    previous visit; there was, however, a large exhibition
    about the Mackenzie River, which was quite worthwhile.

    I'd had hopes to try the canteen at the museum, as Jim had
    had kind words to say about it, including that it offered
    wild game on its menu, but breakfast had been too generous
    and too recent, so we opted to visit the bar in the famed
    Explorer Hotel, where we had a Rusty Nail, a Norton Malbec,
    and a whatever cheap draft beer was on offer. If you know
    us you probably can figure out who got what.

    Having hit our drinking stride, we went to the also famed
    (but in a bad sense) Gold Range, where if you haven't seen
    or been in a fight, you haven't been there long. I had a
    Labatt Blue, which probably pegs me as an outsider but is
    identical to Jim's Kokanee; lili drank a cheap sweet but
    acrid red wine that cost disproportionately much, and the
    beers were not cheap.

    In need of some sustenance, I suggested the Pub & Grub, of
    which I'd had semi-pleasant memories from years back. so we
    went there, to find it just about full to capacity - we had
    stumbled into a benefit party for the Yellowknife Arts
    Association, with jollity and free snacks (almost all gone
    by the time we got there) and various kinds of raffles,
    including split-the-pot and the very classy meat drawing,
    which made me think that artists in this town must be more
    robust and down-to-earth than artists elsewhere. Well, it
    turns out, I'd misheard or misinterpreted or something, and
    the benefit was in fact for the probably equally eminent
    and probably more thriving Yellowknife Darts Association.

    The burgers and sandwiches, when they came from the slammed
    kitchen, were perfectly adequate; chicken fingers and
    assorted similar fried goods likewise, washed down with
    ample draws of Kokanee and Labatt Blue (actually identical)
    or, for our hoity-toity one, more cheap acrid red wine.

    Back home we chatted until maybe 0100, when I took one last
    look out and saw wisps of aurora out north of town. Alert
    sounded, and we piled into the car and went out of town to
    Jim's favored viewing spot, where we had our fill of -30F
    temperatures and the beautiful dancing lights. At some
    point frozen lungs and feet dictated that we return to the
    car and head homeward.

    On our way back, all of a sudden there came a squeal of
    delight from the front seat, and we pulled into the nearest
    spot, a halogen-lit parking lot, from which the aurora was
    brighter and more wonderful than any I'd ever seen even on
    the Internet. Multicolored curtains coursed hyperactively
    across the western sky, the sight of a lifetime even over
    the bright lamps. Breathtaking.
    -
    Highlights of the next day.

    We had some seal meat that one of Jim's relatives had
    bagged (legally, as covered by some kind of native rule) on
    a hunt some time ago; it was put into a brine to soak for a
    while and then after several changes of water boiled to
    imperfection. We tasted it and found it quite unattractive
    and put it to soak again with baking soda, the great flavor
    leveller.

    Leopard Frog Tribe (Pinotage, Pinot Noir, Cinsault) 05. A
    relative rarity, this wine boasts blueberry (me like) and
    cherry (me no like so much) scents and a fair amount of
    oak; a surprisingly fine wine that isn't much known outside
    of its South African home, but apparently winemaster Bate
    has roots in Alberta or Saskatchewan or someplace so makes
    small quantities available to the frozen north.

    I thought Freybe coarse liverwurst would go well with, but
    it didn't. I switched to beer, a much better match because
    of the fattiness of the meat. Everything went swimmingly
    with the bread - I don't usually eat much bread, but it
    was a good thing Jim and Roslind had baked several loaves.

    For dinner we had steaks from an ill-fated lot that Jim
    regaled us with stories about from an itinerant food flacker
    truck from Alberta or someplace. They were actually pretty
    decent. I think we finished off the Leopard stuff with
    this, and it went much better.
     
  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    ==

    As my sleeping accommodation was the living room couch, I
    was first to hear the knock at the door.

    It turned out to be Cheryl, a former student of Roslind's,
    and her daughter Justine, who was due to be married that
    day. Roslind of course has been a jack of all trades and
    master of all, and one of her specialties was hairdressing;
    the ladies were here to be spruced up for the wedding.

    Well, Roslind was an hour off, so everyone hustled and
    bustled, and we all had a hearty and similar breakfast with
    more of that good bread. Then, as the other ladies went to
    the salon for the hair appointment, Jim and I dropped lili
    off at the airport, as she was headed someplace else without
    me.

    Another try at the seal meat, still a failure. Once upon a
    time Jim had some auk meat from a similar source, and it
    had undergone the same manhandling, only in that case we
    found the birds ended up tasting okay.

    Jim somehow got the idea that it would be a good idea to
    go to the wedding, which was at the ice castle just. We
    thought that we were crashing, but it turns out we'd
    actually been invited, thanks to Roslind.

    The happy couple, Eric and Justine, were cute as buttons
    and jolly enough despite Justine and her entourage being
    way underdressed (sleeveless gowns) for an event in an ice
    castle. Turns out Jim is a friend of Eric's family, and
    even if we crashed, the crash wouldn't have been serious.

    The Snow King was there, totally blasted, and amid the mists
    of alcohol I must have resembled one of his buddies, as he
    greeted me like one before lurching down the way to find
    another snort, from which he did not return.

    The best man, Ray, Eric's grandfather, misset the clock and
    so was planning his day 2 hours late. Putting the pedal to
    the metal he eventually showed up within an hour of when he
    had been supposed to arrive, not visibly flustered, though
    Eric was a bit put off his feed, and his mother-in-law-to-be
    was just plain frantic.

    Tony Whitford, retired chief executive of the territories,
    officiated at the ceremony, which was mercifully brief, the
    female members of the wedding party being unprepared for a
    long stay in the castle.

    We went from interlopers to wedding party as we were
    invited to the Explorer, we thought for toasts, but next
    thing we knew were in the private dining room, and lo and
    behold, there were seats for us at the 40-ish guest square
    arrangement. I attribute this to Roslind's intercession.

    Appetizers included seafood chowder, which was pretty decent
    although salty and with surimi the only identifiable
    shellfish among the protein (largely fishfish) and quite
    average scallops wrapped in bacon. I passed, not wanting
    to waste my lactase pills nor to overextend my welcome, but
    got to taste others'. I believe a salad was also on offer.

    Both Jim and I got the 12-oz sirloin, his rare, mine blue -
    good meat done as ordered but with a substantial coating of
    salty gukka that had to be scraped off. I suspect Alberta
    beef, and it was quite tasty.

    I tasted Roslind's beef ravioli, which came without the
    advertised heirloom tomato concassee and with quite a bit of
    unadvertised cheese in the filling; still pretty decent.

    As I had not known bride nor groom before this day and still
    felt slightly interloperish, I bought a couple bottles of
    Norton La Colonia Malbec 11 for the head table and one for
    us. It was a bit bright and cherrylike but quite respectable
    for that.

    Wedding cake topped off a pretty decent meal, all the better
    as the whole thing was paid for (aside from the extra wine)
    by Ray.

    Just to fill in the last remaining interstices, at home I
    tasted a couple grams of the seal - varnishy, rancid, every
    Bizarre Foods adjective. One wonders how those guys manage
    to survive - oh, I've got it, their taste buds must be
    frozen as well as the meat.
     
  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Next morning we gave the seal one last taste, measurable in
    perhaps tenths of a gram, both the meat, foul, and the
    blubber, extra foul; on one black day long ago I'd ordered
    salo at a place in Estonia, expecting that wonderful salty
    rich lard that usually goes under that name, but found a
    neatly sliced portion of what looked like aged cheese but
    turned out to be rancid pigfat with a salt crust. This
    blubber tasted like that only unbelievably fishy.

    AC8175 YZF YEG 1400 1541 CRJ 2A

    There are more gates than last time I was here, but we
    boarded from the same one, the security (taking way much
    longer than it ought) dumping us out into this big room,
    which has two boarding doors, some TVs showing the likes of
    Thomas the Tank Engine, and a few vending machines.

    They boarded back to front, which most of the Japanese tour
    of 20-strong didn't understand, so by the time I got there
    there was a young lady in 2B who was obviously hoping for
    either an empty seat next to her or someone more attractive
    than I. The FA was rather pouty, apparently fed up with
    passengers who completely lost their scanty English when the
    phrase "completely under the seat in front of you" was
    uttered. She actually ended up being pretty nice to the
    tourists, stowing and unstowing their bags efficiently and
    without complaining.

    Cashews and Pringles and one other thing were available for
    $3.50, 50c more than the brochure said.

    A notably smooth flight, a good thing as I suspect the seat
    belt sign was largely ignored.

    We came in right on time, so I was at the lounge by 4 to
    savor the lovely food and wine offerings.

    There were the same between-hours offerings as before,
    hummus and pita chips, chips and salsa, olives, crudites.
    The hummus was again pretty good.

    Wines:

    Sterling Vintner's Collection Merlot 11 - rather overoaked
    with extract but palatable if a tad sweet;

    Koonunga Hills 11 Shiraz Cabernet - too sour, too sweet, too
    fruit-forward (fancy word for cheap-tasting). Drinkable,
    perhaps better than onboard offerings from, say, United.

    Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 10 was the usual thing,
    rather pleasant, actually, recognizably Chard, not too sweet
    and not too stinky;

    Sumac Ridge Gewurztraminer Private Reserve (Okanogan) 11 - a
    whole lot better than the Merlot, with the expected citrus,
    pineapple, and pear flavors, very slightly off dry.

    I seldom encounter the situation where the whites are better
    than the reds, but here it was. I ended up amusing myself
    with trying to palatablize Clamato juice in both regular and
    spicy versions (the conclusion: impossible).

    Other offerings: Glenlivet 12, Courvoisier VS, Crown Royal,
    two kinds of Captain Morgan, Bailey's, Kahlua, Tanqueray,
    J&B, Johnnie Black, Grand Marnier, Smirnoff. I would say
    "that's all," but that level of quality and variety would
    be unheard of at a U.S. domestic club.

    I was surprised that the DataValet recognized me as worthy
    of the silver level of service; but that service was deadly
    slow anyhow.

    Around 5 an attendant came by and announced that supper was
    served. This consisted of a main dish of sorts and two
    soups. What was labeled as pasta carbonara was a foodservice
    tray of twisted ridgy macaroni in a bland white cheese sauce
    studded with bits of bacon and mushroom - not exactly a main
    course but palatable enough.

    The soups were vegetable beef barley that made Campbell look
    good, though it wasn't actually too salty, and a quite stinky
    cauliflower cheese that I tasted for completeness' sake.

    Cookies of many varieties.

    There being lots of time and not being more interesting
    provisioning, I eventually made my way back to the concourse
    to see what was on offer in the way of more substantial
    provisions than the lounge had to offer: nothing; even the
    bars were shutting down. So off to the US preclearance area,
    which was closed, an early casualty of sequester, no doubt.
    We took off from a domestic gate, which meant the dreaded
    march through the bowels of IAH after.

    UA 571 YEG IAH 2355 0518 320 2A

    No Courvoisier. Being a manly man, well, more or less, I
    had a glass of Jack Daniel's, and being a tired manly man,
    I curled up by the window for a couple hours.

    Luckily, another quite uneventful though rather bouncy
    flight and an on-time arrival, which meant plenty of time to
    negotiate said bowels, pass the grumpy but efficient customs
    guy, and have a shower at the club.

    UA1279 IAH BOS 0715 1209 739 2A

    I almost missed this flight, as it left from a different
    spot than I expected. It wouldn't have been a great loss.
    The breakfast offering - bland mushy horrid sausage, bland
    mushy horrid omeletical product, bland mushy but not quite
    horrid potato cake wedge, bland mushy rotten fruit, and
    yogurt - was not worth staying awake for.

    Boston was sort of semi-welcome.
     

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