Archive

Tag Archives: travel

2011 was definitely one for the history books, wasn’t it?

I find it hard to believe 2012 can top it, but, then again, who would’ve thought, at the beginning of 2011, three iron-clad regimes would collapse, Japan would be dealt an incomprehensible trifecta from Hell, Europe would teeter on the edge of dissolution, they’d find Bin Laden (let alone kill him), ordinary Americans would actually rise up against the elites (and their civilian police forces would stand not with them, but against them).

Yeah, it’s as if the only thing that could top 2011 would be, well, Armageddon — not that we’re doing much to prevent it.

Inasmuch as 2011 was one for the ages, it was also quite an interesting one for your faithful scribe.

I started 2011 still wet behind the ears culinarily and spent the better part of it cooking and cutting, chopping and slicing, braising, baking, roasting, toasting, sautéing and sweating, and, most of all, learning — be it at school or on the job.

With a year’s worth of work behind me, I can say, with confidence, I’ve come quite a long way — and have a much greater appreciation for how much farther I have to go.

A year ago, when looking back on 2010, I summarized my year with a single word: travel. (It was a decidedly different year!) How best, then, to summarize my 2011?

Kitchens.

So much of my year has been spent in kitchens — cooking in them, learning in them, laughing in them, sweating in them.

Yes, if 2010 was spent outside, traversing continents, 2011 was spent inside, in kitchens. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Kitchens are beginning to feel like my home, the place I’m meant to be, where I’m happiest and most comfortable; familiar with the tools, the implements, the methods, the madness.

2011: the year of the kitchen.

What word will come to define the year ahead? Onward — and let’s find out.

Advertisements

What a weekend!

As I already mentioned, I made a quick trip to Chicago to attend a friend’s wedding this weekend. And even the fact I went straight to work from the airport upon returning to Winnipeg, hangover still lingering in my head, didn’t diminish the sheer delightfulness of it all.

What wasn’t to like about the past 36 hours?

Great food.

As always, Chi-town didn’t disappoint: a fantastic rehearsal dinner at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Snow Crab; a quick breakfast at Rick Bayless’ fantastic short-order Mexican joint, XOCO; a surprisingly wicked Moroccan lamb burger at Sable; and, best of all, an absolutely stunning dinner at the wedding itself.

Great weather.

Sure it was hot and humid and the risk of showers ever present, but, for a better part of the day on Saturday, we were able to take in the sights and sounds of the Magnificent Mile and the even more magnificent Millennium Park without a drop.

Heck, I even managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the Art Institute and, along the way, glimpsed Seward Johnson’s latest sculpture along Michigan Avenue.

Great times with old friends.

The best part of all.

On the heels of nine straight days working, I find myself sitting in the international departures lounge of Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

No, I’m not fleeing the country for a non-extraditing South American refuge. I’m off to Chicago for a friend’s wedding. And by my count, I’ll be in the city — and what a city! — for no more than 36 hours.

Jaunt, indeed!

I’ve been to Chicago before. It’s a first-rate city and one of my favourites. Sadly, my tight schedule means I’ll have less time to sample the city’s remarkable culinary delights than I would have liked. (Alinea continues to elude me. Grumble.) Still, I’m hopeful I’ll have enough time to squeeze in a quick visit to the city’s eponymous Art Institute.

More to the point, and more importantly, I’m incredibly excited to witness my dear friend’s nuptials.

Chicago, here I come.

What a difference a year makes.

Last summer I was gallivanting about Europe and North Africa; this summer, I am working the line in Winnipeg.

Red River College’s culinary arts program has a co-operative education component, which means I spend two-thirds of the program in the “classroom,” and a final third in the “real world.” During this, my first work placement (the second, next summer), I will be at a golf and country club in the southern end of the city.

It’s an ideal spot to get my sea legs, grow my skills, expand my knowledge, and gain some genuine work experience. Better still, I’ll be required to assist with all kinds of cooking; from short-order breakfasts and lunches, to fine dining dinners and banquets.

Why just the other night, we prepared a 6-course, seafood dinner for 80, including halibut with sweet potato mash and a vanilla bean-infused beurre blanc (top), seafood terrine with dill sauce and micro greens (middle), and wasabi-crusted salmon with a butter-poached rock lobster and a crispy parsnip garnish (bottom).

Granted, it’s early days yet, but so far, I’m loving it — and look forward to a busy summer spent on the line.

2010 has been a fantastic year.

And if I could summarize it with just one word, it would be this: travel.

Las Vegas not once, but twice. Twice to DohaQatar, too. Colorado, Kansas and Chicago. Summer through Spain and Morocco, in Paris, LondonEdinburgh, and Toronto, and across Ireland. Phew!

Along the way, I ate, I drank, I laughed and I loved.

And then, come the fall, I returned to school, to the kitchen, to chase down a dream.

Yes, 2010 was a pretty good year. And while I doubt 2011 will look anything like it, I’m hopeful it will be as exciting — replete with new sights, new sounds, new tastes, new adventures.

Onward.

There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when I would have seized the opportunity an unexpected long weekend presents to travel. I’d fly out on the Friday night, fly back on the Monday afternoon. Easy.

When I was living in Ottawa, I was able to indulge my jet-setting urges fairly frequently. After all, Ottawa’s proximity (and direct flights) to so many fantastic destinations — Montreal, New York, DC, Chicago — made it relatively painless. Better still, I’d become expert at playing off my two travel rewards programs (Air Canada’s Aeroplan and RBC’s Avion) against each other to my maximum benefit.

But that was then.

Despite having just such a long weekend this weekend, I’ll be staying put. My jet-setting days are over.

Granted, for a brief moment earlier this fall, I was gearing up to make fairly regular trips to Toronto. Air Canada was even offering a student pass that allowed individuals to make six trips to a specific destination. It couldn’t have been more perfect. But things change. Sometimes in an instant. And so, I’m grounded. Indefinitely.

I suppose it’s for the best. As I revealed earlier this month, I’m a student again. I might as well start living like one.

Still, I’m comforted by my fond memories of those many weekend excursions. Each one was an adventure, a marvel, a treat; always to see friends, eat well, laugh lots and soak up the many delights of whatever city I happened to be visiting.

But of all the weekend excursions I made during my extravagant years in Ottawa, I’m proudest of the weekend I spent in London. (England, not Ontario.)

It was the May Long Weekend of 2009. A dear friend of mine was celebrating his birthday around that time and I thought it might be fun to wish him a happy one in person. So, on that fateful Friday morning, I went to work with my weekend duffel and then headed straight to the airport that afternoon. By the next morning, I was eating breakfast in my friend’s kitchen, steps from London’s Pimlico tube station. Amazing.

Anyway, as I said, that was then.

Will I have more amazing weekends in the years ahead? Will I ever again be able to pick up and fly away at a moment’s notice?

Fingers crossed…

About this time last year, I launched this blog.

I did so because I was, as I described at the time, starting a new chapter in my life. A year later, I find myself starting something that seems so much larger and more dramatic than yet another chapter; nay, I feel like I’ve started a whole new book.

What, you ask, am I doing now?

I’ve returned to school; this time as a student of the culinary arts. I’m enrolled at Winnipeg’s Red River College in their two-year program.

Quite the departure from a life of communications and politics and suits and ties, eh?

Indeed, when I consider what I’ve done with my life in the past decade (about which you can read more by visiting my professional website), this latest endeavour is definitely a departure from the norm. Not that I mind changing things up; on the contrary, part of the appeal of culinary school was how much it would alter my life’s trajectory.

Rest assured, I didn’t take the decision to return to school lightly, nor did I make it overnight. In fact, I’d kicked around the idea for a few years. However, fear — of the unknown, of failure, of starting over — had held me back.

Until now.

After a remarkable year, best summed up simply by flipping through the pages of my passport, I’ve conquered those fears. I managed to wrestle a few personal demons to the ground, too. And so, I’ve embarked on this new journey, this next step, this new book with an open mind and a restful soul.

I honestly don’t know how the next two years will unfold — does anyone? — but I’m excited to find out.