Ten Days in Hamilton, Ontario

Susan, Freddy and I recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Hamilton, Ontario where we house-sat for a friend, Helena, at her lovely brick home around the corner from Locke Street. Helena and her husband needed house-sitters as they were vacationing in Iceland.

We drove for seven and one-half hours from our home in West Springfield, Massachusetts to Helena’s home in Hamilton. MapQuest said it would take seven hours but we stopped twice to grab a bite to eat and to let Freddy stretch his legs. The time passed fairly quickly and Freddy was a perfect back seat driver–quiet the whole time! Look how happy he is!

This was Friday, the 7th of September, and by the time we arrived in Hamilton and unpacked, we were ready for dinner. We walked around the corner to Bread Bar–Earth To Table.

Well-known for it pizza and bread and “good ingredients,” we both ate hamburgers; me a “Umami Burger” and Susan a “Cheeseburger.” Both excellent. Later in the week we would have pizza two or three times there, and I think I must have bought five loaves of bread. So delicious but boy do I need to start an exercise program!!!! Or you’ll start calling me Dough Boy!

Susan, Freddy and I spent much of Saturday at the Locke Street Festival.

We visited the My Dog’s Café & Bar.

We saw some great signage and assorted advertisements on Locke Street. Later in the week we had lunch at the West Town Bar & Grill.

At the Locke Street Festival we bought our first loaf of Sourdough Bread from Bread Bar and Fresh Raspberry Jam from a local famer. And bracelets for our Granddaughter.

We brought Freddy home and went out for brunch. I had the best Eggs Benedict ever at Mattson & Co. on Locke Street–wild mushrooms, crispy baby kale, bacon. Thank You Georgia for the suggestion. Susan had an omelet with prosciutto and carnalized onions.

Here we are waiting for our food to arrive.

On Sunday we relaxed. I forgot to share with you this—-we had no TV and what a BLESSING!!!! We read and listened to music.

We then gathered ourselves up and went to the Royal Botanical Gardens and  hiked through the Hendrie Valley Nature Sanctuary. Not a difficult hike but very beautiful.

On Monday it rained. I bought groceries and wine. I went for a walk to photograph some street art written and placed by poet Simon Frank. Here is one of 20+ images:

I LOVED this!!!

Tuesday brought us to the Bruce Trail and Borer’s Fall.

The Bruce Trail is a hiking trail in southern Ontario from the Niagara River to the tip of Tobermory, Ontario. The main trail is more than 550 miles long and there are over 250 miles of associated trails. The Bruce Trail follows the edge of the Niagara Escarpment and is the oldest and longest marked hiking trail in Canada. Its name is linked to the Bruce Peninsula and Bruce County which the trail runs through. The trail is named after James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin who was the Governor General of the Province of Canada from 1847 to 1854.

By the time Freddy, Susan and I hiked to Borer’s Falls and further along the Bruce Trail and the Niagara Escarpment, up and down steep and slippery, moss covered steps and rocky paths, huffing and puffing, I imagined we had just hiked all 550 miles of the Bruce Trail and that the trail was really named after me and then I noticed the only one not day-dreaming and breathing heavily was Freddy.

Pictured below is Susan walking down one of the rocky paths of the Bruce Trail. I am looking at her and Google Maps/GPS on my phone, thinking when she meets up with me I am going to have to say “I think we are going in the wrong direction and we are going to have to hike back up those steep and slippery, moss covered steps and rocky paths.”

After all that huffing and puffing, we decided to return to Mattson & Co. for a dinner of wine and appetizers; we were so happy with the brunch we had a few days earlier. The food is excellent.  We shared three appetizers. Fried Calamari with citrus gremolata, sweet basil aioli, candied jalapeno. Honey Truffle Toast with an olive tapenade, goat cheese mousse, wild mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, crisp house-made focaccia, wildflower truffle honey, fresh basil. Crab Cakes–Dungeness, snow and lump crab, ravigote hollandaise, sweet corn succotash, arugula. And wine. The happy house-sitters!

If it’s Wednesday  it must be The Art Gallery of Hamilton. We saw the work of Vivian Maier.

All I can say is WOW!

We also saw: “James Street North: Vintage Photographs by Cees and Annerie van Gemerden;”   “Speaking for Herself;”  and the wild “Kim Adams: Bruegel-Bosch Bus.”   All great exhibitions in a great museum. A must visit!

And that night I made a spicy chicken and mushroom stir fry.

And we listened to Neil Young, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell.

On Thursday we went for a walk at Bayfront Park and visited Tiffany Falls.

We had lunch at The Burnt Tongue (great soups and hamburgers), window-shopped on Locke Street, and bought a few book at Epic Books, one by Gary Barwin, who lives in Hamilton and is the author of twenty one books of poetry, fiction and books for children. Dinner was pizza from Bread Bar.

On Friday we visited the Fifty Point Conservation Area—and Freddy got to go in the water for the very first time! In Lake Ontario!!!

Afterward the three of us went to the Stoney Ridge Estate Winery, an absolutely beautiful place, where we each (Not Freddy) enjoyed a glass of Riesling, bought a few bottles of wine and four kinds of cheese.

It is interesting to note that there are 100+ wineries dotting the region, a fertile swath of land that separates Lake Ontario from Lake Erie and runs roughly from the Canadian border at the Niagara River and Niagara Falls to Hamilton, Ontario, just south of Toronto.

I am not one to complain, but being semi-retired and on vacation is hard work as you never really get a day off. For example, on Friday I walked Freddy three times before 10. Then I took Susan out to lunch; great beer and fries at Brux House, which is on Locke Street in beautiful Hamilton.

And then we boarded the Hamilton Harbour Queen for a tour of Hamilton Harbour, which was delightful and interesting.

Hamilton Harbour, formerly known as Burlington Bay, lies on the western tip of Lake Ontario, bounded on the northwest by the City of Burlington, on the south by the City of Hamilton, and on the east by Hamilton Beach (south of the Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway) and Burlington Beach (north of the channel). It is joined to Cootes Paradise by a narrow channel formerly excavated for the Desjardins Canal. Within Hamilton itself, it is referred to as “Hamilton Harbour”, “The Harbour” and “The Bay”. The bay is naturally separated from Lake Ontario by a sand bar. The opening in the north end was filled in and channel cut in the middle for ships to pass. The Port of Hamilton is on the Hamilton side of the harbor.

Here is a jetty in Hamilton Harbour protecting the marina and the boats from wakes, creating a no-wake zone. I once read “wakes make people angry.”

We saw hundreds of sailboats and in this photo below we see a steel mill in the distance and those breast-like shapes on the right contain grain and soy beans.

On Sunday, our last full day, we went to Albion Falls.

Albion Falls is a 62 foot classical/cascade waterfall flowing down the Niagara Escarpment in Red Hill Valley in Hamilton. With cascade falls the downpour is staggered into a series of steps causing water to “cascade”.

Albion Falls was once seriously considered as a possible source of water for Hamilton. Rocks from the Albion Falls area were used in the construction of the Royal Botanical Gardens‘ Rock Garden.

The ravine at the Albion Falls has a legend of the Lover’s Leap!  The story is that early in the 19th century young Jane Riley, disappointed in love with Joseph Rousseau, stood at the top of a steep cliff not far from thundering Albion Falls and flung herself to the bottom 100 feet below. The steep drop has since been dubbed “Lovers’ Leap” and many tales have grown up about the suicide.

On a happier note, we celebrated the end of our brief but spectacular vacation at Mattson & Co. enjoying some calamari and wine. Our third visit there, but who is counting! Great food and service!

Cheers!

One last thing, no trip to Hamilton is complete without purchasing donuts from the Donut Monster on Locke Street. And I did on Monday morning before we headed home. Pictured here Mexican Chocolate and Orange Hibiscus. YUM!!!

Wait! There’s more. I would be remiss if I didn’t say how beautiful the city of Hamilton is: the stores and restaurants along Locke Street; the nearby hiking trails and waterfalls; the kind and friendly people; the dogs—so many dogs in this very dog-friendly city; the beautiful brick homes. Oh! I think I saw a house for sale on Helena’s street!

Note: Helena is a friend from fourteen years ago when I had an art gallery. She is a gifted writer and fine art photographer. She is also the first person whose art I exhibited in my gallery. She loves photography, dogs, cats and ponies. Here is a photo from her recent trip to Iceland:

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” ~Seneca

One last thing happened when we were in Hamilton. Diane Ensey of Beyond Paper redesigned my website. I couldn’t be happier. I have worked with Diane before and I must say she’s the best: creative and attentive to detail–and fun to work with!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasta alla Louise

Yesterday, January 8, was Susan’s birthday.

I gave her a choice of four different meals for dinner: pasta and spinach, meatballs and rice, meatloaf, or hamburgers. She chose pasta.

The recipe is based on one I found online called “5 Ingredient Spinach Parmesan Pasta.”

I call this recipe “Pasta alla Louise.” Why Louise? Because that is Susan’s middle name. And Pasta alla Louise sounds more pasta-poetic than Pasta alla Susan!

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz uncooked pasta (I used Rienzi Glutten-free Penne Rigate)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil (My addition)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I didn’t used garlic. See Note below.)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced (My addition)
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (My addition)
  • 5-6 cups packed baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock (My addition)
  • Note: 3-4 roasted tomatoes (My addition. I roasted tomatoes this past summer in olive oil, lots of garlic, rosemary, thyme and oregano. I then bagged them and froze, 3-4 per bag. I have about 30 bags in the freezer!)

Directions:

  1. Add the pasta to a large pot of boiling salted water and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Set pasta aside.
  2. Using a large pan or wok, melt the butter over medium heat with the olive oil. Add the red pepper flakes and onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in the roasted tomatoes, pasta and spinach. Gently toss and cook until spinach leaves are wilted. Add in some of the reserved pasta water and chicken stock. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and toss until combined. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  3. Pour pasta into a large bowl. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Here is a photo of it cooking in my All-Clad pan:

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Shrimp in Yellow Curry

Before my son and his girlfriend return to Denver after spending the Christmas Holidays with family here in Western Massachusetts, they always make time to have dinner with Susan and me a few days after Christmas. They also come to our traditional Christmas Eve family get-together but this dinner is just for the four of us. I usually make their favorite, Chicken Piccata, but this year Susan suggested we make something different.

“They love shrimp, Bruce,” Susan said. “And spicy food. Why not make this Shrimp with Yellow Curry recipe from Mark Bittman.”

And I did and we all loved it!

Mark Bittman writes:

“Many Thai dishes are not unlike what we call curries, but although they may contain curry powder, they are more often based on a combination of herbs and aromatic vegetables, rather than dried spices. A typical curry might feature a mixture of garlic, shallots, chiles, lime leaf, sugar and galangal (or ginger). This simplified version leaves out the lime leaf and sugar, but benefits from the addition of a couple spoonfuls of fish sauce at the end of cooking. It is exotic and brightly-flavored, but blessedly easy to toss together on a weeknight.”

Featured in: The Minimalist; The Essence Of Thai Cooking

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced galangal or ginger (I used grated ginger.)
  • 1 teaspoon minced hot chili, or crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste (I used 1 jalapeno, seeded and cut into thin rounds and red pepper flakes.)
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder, or to taste
  • 1 cup fresh or canned coconut milk
  • 1 ½ to 2 pounds medium-to-large shrimp, peeled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons nam pla (fish sauce), or to taste (I used fish sauce.)
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro or mint leaves (I used cilantro.)
  • 1 package, about 2 cups, pea pods (my addition)

Preparation

  1. Place the oil in a large, deep skillet and turn the heat to medium. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and chilies, pea pods and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and the mixture pasty. Add the curry and cook, stirring, another minute.
  2. Add the coconut milk and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is nearly dry. Add the shrimp, a few pinches of salt and a little black pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp release their liquid (the mixture will become quite moist again) and turn pink.
  3. Add half the nam pla, stir, then taste and add the rest if necessary. Garnish with cilantro and serve with white or sticky rice. (I used brown rice.)

 

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North African Meatballs

My wife, Susan, asked me to make these. So happy I did. Just delicious!

Writing in The New York Times Cooking, David Tanis:

“In France, meatballs are called boulettes, and by far the favorite versions are the spice-scented North African type. Most of the neighborhood Tunisian and Moroccan restaurants in Paris offer them, served as an appetizer or a side, or in a fragrant main-course tagine with couscous.

“This recipe is an amalgam of several that I found on my bookshelf, among them one called boulettes tangéroises in an old French cookbook. Since I like things a bit spicier, my boulettes are more like Tunisian ones, in which hot pepper is more assertive.”

Ingredients

For the saffron tomato sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups finely diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • Large pinch saffron, crumbled
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water

For the meatballs

  • 1 and 1/2 cups cubed day-old firm white bread
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb (I used Bison.)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil

Preparation

  1. Make the sauce: Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add onion and cook without browning until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon and saffron, and stir well to incorporate. Season generously with salt and pepper, and allow to sizzle for 1 minute more. Add broth and simmer gently for 5 minutes. May be made several hours in advance, up to a day.
  2. Make the meatballs: Put bread cubes and milk in a small bowl. Leave bread to soak until softened, about 5 minutes, then squeeze dry.
  3. In a mixing bowl, put squeezed-out bread, ground meat and egg. Add salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, cloves, coriander and cumin. Mix well with hands to distribute seasoning. Add 2 tablespoons each of parsley, cilantro and scallion, and knead for a minute. May be prepared several hours in advance, up to a day.
  4. With hands, roll mixture into small round balls about the size of a quarter. Dust balls lightly with flour. Heat a few tablespoons of oil, or a quarter-inch depth, over medium-high heat and fry meatballs until barely browned, about 2 minutes per side. Drain and blot on paper towel. Simmer meatballs in saffron-tomato sauce, covered, over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until tender.
  5. Meanwhile, make the couscous, if desired: Cook according to package directions, fluff gently and stir in butter and raisins. Season with salt and cinnamon, and toss well.
  6. Garnish meatballs with remaining parsley, cilantro and scallion. Serve with couscous and roasted tomatoes if desired.

NOTE: I made the meatballs first. Cleaned pan. And then made sauce in same pan.

 

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Sunday In My Garden

 

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Sunday In The Park

Sunday in the park down the street from where I live.

Mittineague Park, West Springfield, Massachusetts. Sunday, October 1, 2017.

 

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What A Wonderful World

My wife, Susan, and I find great joy in being Bridges Volunteers at Coburn Elementary School here in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

The Bridges Vision: “Every child and older adult will experience the richness of intergenerational relationships and interdependence.”

Below is a poem I wrote about our experience as volunteers, along with a few photos.

 

This is an account of children, third grade students, of Coburn Elementary School

Located in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Children who are 8-10 years old

Interacting with senior citizens—building bridges together by talking, reading,

Listening, creating art, laughing, sharing pieces of ourselves.

Many children of refugees and immigrants. Children of dreamers

Of a better way of life. Children of parents and grandparents

From Nepal, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Russia, Puerto Rico,

Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Latvia, Belarus, Germany,

Poland, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Moldova.

Children who speak two, three, four languages.

Children named Maimuna, Luis, Jayden, Ivy, Haydia, Nabaa,

Evan, Luca, Layla, Bogdan, Isabella, Victoria, Mohamed,

Prashna, Prashik, Prateemna, Prabesh, Jaylin, Tisha, Milana,

Emily, Jordan, Miyana, Joseph, Yuliya, Matilda, Lilly, Emil,

Michael, Kimberly, Yariana, Elijah, Hailey, David, Caleb,

Matthew, Emil, Yariana, Mykle, Jade, Mihaela.

Children who dream of being firefighters, lawyers, baseball players,

Basketball and soccer players, doctors, nurses, scientists, teachers.

Children who say, “You are the best Bridges friends ever.”

“Thank You for listening and talking with me.”

“Thank you for doing the Macarena with me.”

“Thank You for playing cards with me.”

“Thank You for making me laugh.”

“Thank You for helping me. You were funny, helpful and supportive.”

“Thank You for your company and helping us with our art projects.”

“I am grateful you spent time with us.”

“Thank You for your time. Remember when we made the banks?

That was so much fun! Hope we can do it again.”

“Thank you for being here when I am down. You get me

Up and going. You make me happy.”

“Thank you for helping us with the fun stuff we made.”

“I love you. You will always be in my heart.”

Our Bridges friends: Children who believe the world is wonderful

“Because Nature is a painting by life;”

“Because there are lots of beautiful things and happy families;”

“Because there are computers, cats, people, food, pets,

Family, friends, water, emogees, sunflowers, rainbows,

Waterfalls, forests, and cookies;”

“Because we have families, food, and trees;”

“Because we see different people every day and they are beautiful;”

“Because of family, friends, cousins, aunts, uncles,

Grandparents and food and drinks;”

“Because of many beautiful faces;”

“Because everyone loves each other. We all are family;”

“Because of flowers, grass, trees, animals, people, religions;”

“Because of friends and family and my teachers;”

“Because of every person in the world smiling and laughing;”

“Because the roses are red, the clouds white, the sky blue.

They are there for me and you.

What a wonderful world.”

“Mr. Bruce and Miss Susan………

When will we see you again?

I love you.”

 

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The Very Best Burger

I have never bought a store-made hamburger patty. Never!

I like to make my own. Here is one with parsley, Parmesan cheese and Worcestershire Sauce topped with hamburger relish  and red onion sitting on an English Muffin. Doesn’t it look delicious?

And here is another topped with corn salsa! Do I hear an Ole!!!???

Oh, I have eaten store-made hamburger patties at graduation parties and summer barbeques. Once I even put a knife through my palm trying to separate a few frozen patties that were given to me as a gift. Some gift! They meant well and I was just dumb.

But a few weeks ago, I was in Big Y World Class Food Market and a “New Item” caught my eye. A simple but beautiful package of 4 hamburgers from Schweid & Sons, “The Very Best Burger,” “Fresh Custom Blend Ground Beef Burgers.”  Me, being an adventurer always ready and willing to try something new, picked up a package.

The first time I cooked 2 burgers for Susan and me, it rained and I was forced to bake them. I simply couldn’t wait another day to see if I liked these burgers.  I did. Delicious!

Here I served them on English Muffins, with Swiss Cheese, Banana Peppers, Ketchup and Relish. Sides of homes fries and carrot fries—-both seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning.

The second time I grilled the burgers. Always better on the grill!

Keeping it simple here. English Muffin, Hamburger Relish, Sliced Campari tomatoes. Delicious!

I definitely recommend the burgers from Schweid & Sons. Are they the very best burger? Who knows? Who cares? Give them a try. Fire up that grill. Open a bottle of wine. Bon Appetit!

And if you are looking for a Buffalo Burger, give D’Artagnan a try. I grill these all the time and love them! I also buy there bacon—no nitrates!

When Susan and I eat out and want a burger we enjoy the food at Shortstop Bar & Grill in Westfield, Massachusetts.

 

If you are looking for beautiful portrait, wedding, nature, or documentary photography, or someone you know is looking for photography that helps to create a more artful and beautiful life, please contact me.  Photography and Prints meant to last a lifetime! For more details about having an amazing and fun photo experience, please contact me.