Your Table is Ready

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We have such good luck at finding great places to dine and yesterday’s lunch was right up there. As we walked to the dining room from our car in the Maligne Valley in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies, two tables were vacated – ours was at the far side with a great view of the river. Music was provided by the Maligne River.

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We had a fresh, healthy meal of Gouda cheese and apple slices on multi-grain club crackers, humas and fig preserves on crackers, carrot sticks and Jim had yogurt and granola.

Before we drove back to the camper, we went into Jasper – a small town with what seemed like millions of summer visitors and a steady stream of traffic moving in every direction. As we entered town I saw The Bear Claw bakery on a side street so we circled back and as fate would have it there was a parking place right in front, reserved just for us.

I walked in and (after waiting in line a short time) said I would like one of those plump, big ginger cookies and an oatmeal raisin one for Jim, Jim said he wanted a dark chocolate scone, I said put a raspberry white chocolate scone in the bag, too. The line to pay didn’t move quite fast enough so I also asked for an apple square. We have tried a bit of everything but the oatmeal cookie and they are sooooo good.

I’m getting pretty good at my primary assigned job of bakery patrol.

Breakfast at the Counter

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There is one empty stool at the counter and we need two. I contemplate if one of us should take claim while waiting for a second but I am too late – a 60-something man walks past the final food prep station and sits down on my stool. The waiter places a cup of coffee in front of him without words or receiving an order. He sits looking intently at or through the soda dispenser as he drinks his black coffee. The people to his left finish their breakfast but are in no hurry to leave as their plates are removed, coffee cups refilled, he turns to a different page of his Sunday paper and she checks her e-mails.

The 5′ 5″ man on my stool stands up and disappeared to the back, behind the 5′ 6″ wall, above which the cooks’ heads bob and totes of dirty dishes disappear. Within a few minutes he reappears with a plate of food, just as we are taking the two seats to his left. In the center of his plate is a sausage patty and egg sandwich, next to a couple of sausage links and toast. Two pickle spears lie parallel on either side of the plate. Around the edge of the plate are eight little mounds of butter, arranged as if numbers on a miss-manufactured clock face. I acknowledge him and he informs me that he delivers the produce and the owner lets him cook his own breakfast.

As I open a packet of artificial sweetener, he leans towards me, points his sandwich in the direction of my mug, and says,

You shouldn’t eat that stuff – it’ll kill ya.

Bakery Patrol

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We were driving from where we had been to where we were going in New England, driving over and around mountains and through small towns, the small towns that have a mechanic and someone who does roofing and a few houses. People who live there go to the next town for gas and groceries.

We suspected we were coming to that next town based on the font size of the name on the map – I was on bakery patrol. And there it was, on the right, big letters on the side of the building “BAKERY”. There was the Polish Princess Bakery, with 7 empty angled parking places in a row – just big enough for our truck and travel trailer with a space on each end left for other shoppers. It felt like a miracle.

On that day I became the Polish Princess. I had always been the Polish part, at least half of me, and I felt the Princess part was bestowed on me as I walked into the bakery. We decided to follow our routine to buy something to split at the empty table for two by the front window and something to split with our cup of tea after the veil of evening darkness had descended upon our cozy little traveling home.

Our choice to split in the bakery was a chocolate-filled croissant because neither of us can eat chocolate at night. It blocks the easy drift into slumber, even with the chamomile tea antidote. The dark chocolate filling was a perfect mate for the sweet, buttery pastry. We licked our lips, we moaned in joy, and we picked up crumbs with our moistened finger tips.

The real joy came that night when we split the apple-filled pastry. The crust was between a very good pie crust and a filo pastry, oh so flaky and tender and buttery. It was folded over real, not-out-of-a-can, apples that were still a little crunchy and sprinkled with just enough cinnamon and sugar to enhance the flavor of the apples while still allowing the apples to have the leading role. The Polish Princess was sorry she had to share half with her Prince.

 

The prompt from The Daily Post, flavorful, motivated me to write this post.

Meatloaf Panini

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Our short day trip (sans trailer) was to go down Digby Neck on highway 217, that narrow strip of land between the Bay of Fundy and St. Mary’s Bay west of Digby. I expected the strip of land to be filled with vacation homes on the water with seasonal villages full of gift shops and coffee shops. We didn’t pack a lunch, expecting to stop at a little cafe for some seafood and internet. What a surprise to find a just a few homes, maybe seasonal or maybe full time residents, an occasional small cove with anchored fishing boats, and a lot of woodlands and hills overlooking the water on one side or the other.

We didn’t see any services like gasoline, groceries, or little cafes with internet. Just a two-lane road that went up and down and around the countryside. Then we saw the little, hand-made sign on the side of the road and caught the word “cafe.” A little ways down the road we pulled in – almost missing it because it wasn’t what we expected.

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We parked at the end of the school, close to the big yellow school bus. I had a mix of curiosity and maybe a little apprehension – but we like to find the unusual and it wouldn’t be the first time that we’ve eaten a sandwich that was mediocre sustenance, at best. We climbed the stairs to the ranch-house type school built in the 50’s and we followed the voices that came from the room to the right – where the cafe sign was pointed to.

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It was a room I wanted to enter. There was a small counter for ordering, with pastries on covered cake plates and cookies in a glass cookie jar. People were talking and laughing. There was a family that stopped to eat, and say high to Grandma who was working in the back kitchen. A couple was chatting with the cashier about the joy of sleeping under a down comforter now that the nights have been cold. People knew each other, they belonged here but were also warm and friendly to those who were passing through, like us and a few bikers (from the motorcycle rally in Digby). We wanted to stay a bit.

The food menu for the day was limited to a fish chowder, a salad, a breakfast burrito and two sandwiches. One was a wrap and the other was a meatloaf panini. Right, a meatloaf panini. We both chuckled silently – and then both of us ordered it. I’m going to show it to you again so you don’t have to scroll up – it was one of top three sandwiches I have ever eaten – in my whole life – the whole 73 years of it. We are still talking and laughing about it three days later.

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The panini had a slice of homemade meatloaf, some barbecue sauce and a spoon of the cabbage slaw on it so there was a bit of zippy-ness without overpowering the meat loaf, that was excellent in it’s own right. JB and I both cleaned our plates – so we could split an oatmeal cookie dipped in dark chocolate, and get a cinnamon roll to take home to have with our evening sleepy time tea. My tea is a Fundy Fog made to perfection; one third steamed milk, two thirds tea, and a little vanilla – yum! The man who made it said mine was the first he had made and I replied that he shouldn’t change a thing for his next ones.

The Schoolhouse Cafe is a non-profit and all the people working (I think I saw about six including those who worked in the back kitchen doing prep and washing dishes) were volunteers. They opened in July and their goal is to be someplace local people can go to have coffee and a bite to eat together and to share whats happening around the area. They are also offering some educational sessions on topics of local interest. Having a delicious sandwich followed by a pastry and tea in a warm and friendly place – now that is priceless.

My Dot on the Map: A Perfect Morning

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry
Come buy, come buy
Apples and quinces
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpecked cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheeked peaches,
Swart-head mulberries
Wild free born cranberries,
Crab-apples, blackberries,
Pine-apples, dewberries,
Apricots, strawberries –
All ripe together
In summer weather, –
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly
Come buy, come buy.


Christina Rossetti

Friend Julie picked me up at 6:00 this morning for our weekly photography drive-about. After shooting a balloon launch and a carnival, but before eating breakfast at the Busy Bee and stopping at a cemetery for a few photographs, ¬†we went to the farmer’s market.

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This evening we had the perfect summer meal – evident by the many oooh’s and yummm’s that were proclaimed by the two of us. We had sweet, melt-in-your-mouth-tender corn on the cob, snappy-steamed green and waxed beans, and a charcoal-grilled ground beef patty with our daughter’s canned salsa. For desert I had a dish of blueberries that were large, plump, and bursting with flavor. Pure joy!