10th day of March this year of 2018 marked my 85th birthday. And did a year make a difference? No, and but for a few minor health issues dealt with or about to be dealt with, I still feel as fit as last year – or the year before.
So, what made the 10th special were three great happenings? A great hotel, a great theatre, and a great dinner.
First, I had found a good weekend rate and we checked into the Prince George Hotel last Saturday afternoon. Right on check-in time of 3pm.
We didn’t have more time than to dump our belongings, few though they were for a one-night stay, open the bottle of wine in the room and have a glass each, before we had to leave and go to the Neptune theatre for what turned out to be a totally brilliant performance of The Mountaintop. This short, only one hour-twenty-minute drama was a tour de force for the two actors comprising the cast: Tristan D. Lalla as Martin Luther King, Jr. on the evening before assassination day, and Letitia Brookes, as Camae, the flirtatious and temptress room-service waitress. They held us spellbound for the entire eighty minutes with lots of humour and leaving us with a vital message that we, as human beings, still have a long way to go to get racial integration.
Lalla was the mainstay of the entire evening although both of them received three call-backs for their intense and often humourous rendition of their parts. The playwright is a Memphis, Tennessee woman, Katori Hall, the director was Jamaican-born Torontonian, Ahdri Mandiela, and the cast were Canadians.
From Neptune, we returned to the Prince George only to discover, in the shortened version of this tale, that Atlanta daughter, Jenny, had found out where we were and had had us upgraded to the most luxurious suite in the hotel, the Prince Suite. Mind, you, I later discovered that she, as only she can, wangled and wrought wonders with the staff to reduce the cost astonishingly. Not that that mattered to us, as she had taken care of the stay and thrown in dinner for us, which My Beloved and I had previously reserved in the very good hotel restaurant, Gio. I had been particularly careful not to tell any of our family and only one friend, and she not until around our check-in time, where we were going to stay and eat. But the wiles of Jennifer Anne are hyperacute. The following day, we walked out with zero on our credit card. Oh, she does something like this every year on our birthdays, for she can do a two-for-one, My Beloved’s birthday being eight days later, tomorrow, in fact. My Beloved and I believe it is wonderful that she is able to do this for us and we are annually very, very grateful.
We dressed differently for dinner, discarding our casual theatre garb for more formal dress. Except that I had intended to wear a navy blazer, grey trousers, blue shirt and red tie. Only I forget to put the blazer in the car. What did I say at the beginning of this post – I was that day 85, so we will ascribe the forgetfulness to a sense of joyful achievement. So, I was left with a red cashmere sweater and a red tie. It worked, sort of.
Chantel, with whom Jenny had worked regarding the restaurant, was not our server, but came over to the table and welcomed us and told us she had enjoyed working with Jenny. Our server was Hannah and she was just wonderful, hiding our wine, Trapiche Iscay, and suddenly appearing with it just as the glasses were getting low.
While we were sipping our wine, Hannah brought some lovely soft bread with oil and balsamic vinegar – always a winner for both of us.
My Beloved started with a squash soup, roasted and pickled squash, chili oil (only a dash, please asked My Beloved), cinnamon, and crème fraîche all of
which was truly tasty and filling, so that when it came to her main course, she opted for another appetiser of Pork and Beans. Yes, you may well smile, but when they arrived, the plate had three strips of caramelized pork shoulder, navy beans, molasses and pickled Brussels sprouts (which neither of us had seen before). Very, very good, she declared!
Between the appetisers and the mains, Hannah arrived with what I can only describe as a very tasty amuse-guelle in a porcelain Chinese soup spoon. Although Hannah explained what it was, I have no recollection of her description.
My appetiser was something I had not seen on a menu for years, although it had always been a favourite of mine: sweetbreads. No, that is not a form of sourdough bread; it is – usually – either the thymus or the pancreas of a calf or lamb. Mine were described on the menu as breaded sweet breads, focaccia, mushrooms, pickled egg and tempura enoki mushrooms. Oh, how these sweetbreads brought back so many far-off memories of delicious ones, especially creamed, eaten with my parents during or after the war (WWII, not WWI), as during the war meat was scarce or unobtainable, but you ate every part of an animal. When creamed, they are soft and tender and these at Gio, although soft in the middle, were spoiled a little by the fried breading. Nevertheless, I enjoyed them immensely. I have had them since the war, certainly dining somewhere in North America with My Beloved, but it was a long time ago and neither of us can remember where or when.
Back to my main, which was three delicious large Digby scallops with rye spätzle, corned beef, chestnuts, kale, brown butter cream, capers, squash purée and crispy sauerkraut. Wow! What an aggregation! But it can be described as par excellence.
As my family all know, I am very partial to the large local Nova Scotian scallops from around the town of Digby.
Following this wonderful dinner, we ordered our digestifs, Cointreau on the rocks for My Beloved and a Chocolate Coffee, consisting of kahlúa, bailey’s, crème de cacao, grand marnier and chocolate with whipped cream on top for me, the Birthday Kid.
Suddenly out of the somewhere, Hannah appeared with a chocolate dessert.
As could be expected after such a sumptuous course, we retired to our Prince Suite and just sat, relaxed, sipping the last of the previous room’s bottle of wine, when, lo and behold, a doorbell rang and who should appear but a room service server with a plateful of our favourite Stilton and glasses of Port. Oh, and a few grapes, but who cared about them.
So, what a difference a meal makes? Yes, yesterday, I undertook to create a cauliflower crusted pizza It was a lot of work cooking and shredding the cauliflower, grating Parmesan and Mozzarella, lots and lots of it, chopping salami, pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, cooking bacon and chopping it, cooking the base, then assembling it all with store-bought pizza sauce and a layer of cheese, then layer upon layer of meat, mushrooms and bacon, separated with even more cheese.
Well, we had a very good appetiser of shrimp in avocados, but the pizza left a lot to be desired. Could it really be called pizza?
Could it be compared to Gio’s dinner? Yes – it was edible, but will not be repeated.
Of course, neither may the Prince George adventure and experience!