From Saskatchewan

Happy Birthday Jordon!

It’s Jordon’s 41st birthday today.  To celebrate I got Mark and Oliver up early and we gave him his gift which was a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Lens for his Pentax camera.

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Lens

He will use it to shoot Mark’s football this fall with and maybe some wildlife.  I hope he likes it.  Of course Mark is super excited as it means that he gets Jordon’s older Sigma 70-210 lens.  He sees it as a win-win.

Mark gave him a new Starbucks Travel Mug

Starbucks Travel Mug

Oliver gave him Saskatoon’s Electric Transit: the Story of Saskatoon’s Streetcars and Trolley Buses by Easten Wayman

Saskatoon's Electric Transit by Easten Wayman

It’s a used book from Westgate Books.

They also ordered Jordon a 65 litre backpack for our trip to Grey Owl’s cabin.  It’s big enough that we can pack Oliver in it and have room to spare.

North 49 - 55 litre backpack

It is Jordon’s day off today.  I took it off to hang out with him.  After the boys were off to school, we went for coffee at City Perk and then grabbed lunch at the Spring Roll on 33rd.  This afternoon we are  off for a long walk as Jordon tried out his new lens and then to Broadcast House where Jordon does his 5:15 roundtable with David Kirton and Cynthia Block.

Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Jordon is working today but I am not.  He did get up early and gave me a new “Canada” spring jacket, a chocolate rose that I wanted and a chocolate rose (my favourite kind of rose).  He also took me down to the CP Rail Bridge in Saskatoon and put a love lock on the stairwell.  The wind was howling and it was unbelievably cold by the time that we climbed the three flights of stairs.  By the time we got back to the car our ears and faces were frozen.  I’m glad he did it.  It was a great romantic gesture.   He does this romance stuff well.

I got him a new hat by Under Armour.  His old hat was stolen out of our Mazda.  It’s not the same but it is close enough and I think he looks good in it.

Under Armour Hat

Think of it as lingerie for bald guys.  Before you comment that I am horrible at this Valentine’s Day stuff, I actually am and this is what Jordon wanted.

For tonight, we are ordering in.  We have tried to go out many times over the years and the food sucks on Valentine’s Day in so many places.  They seat us late, rush some food out, and rush us out.  Not exactly romantic.  There are better nights for us to go out and enjoy being a couple.

We aren’t sure where we are ordering in from yet but I could go for some pizza or Vietnamese food.  After the kids go to bed, we’ll chill out over some gourmet coffee and music to chill out to.  There is a reason why we have a 60 gig iTunes library.

I hope you are having a good day as well.

Restaurant Review: The Woods Alehouse

The Woods Alehouse in Saskatoon

I used to hate going here.  The only time we went here was when The Rook & Raven, The Congress Beer House and State & Main were all packed.  Each time I regretted it.

Then things started to turn around.  They changed the seating arrangements.  The food improved to the point where it was edible.  There seemed to be a better attitude by the serving staff.  Instead of just having a wide selection of beer, they understood that a pub needs more than that, it needs to be a place where people enjoying going to.

They now have several good things on the menu from some excellent fries to some kind of nacho thing they do with fries instead of chips.   It’s pretty incredible.

There are good sandwiches and wraps as well.  The atmosphere has changed and the serving staff is now pleasant and fun to talk with.

There is a little less seating now then there was.  It makes the place more open, relaxing and more flexible as it is a great place for game nights, poetry slams, or as a place for a big gathering.

Normally places that suck don’t turn themselves around but The Wood’s Alehouse has and in the process has made a lot of us big fans.

The Wood’s Alehouse
148 2nd Ave North 
Saskatoon, SK S7K2B2

Woods Alehouse on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Alexander’s Restaurant

Alexander's Restaurant

I have been eating at Alexander’s Restaurant for 20 years and it has remained one of my favourite restaurants from the first time I entered the restaurant.  Alexander’s manages to keep what is good while updating and reinventing itself in areas that need improvement like almost no other restaurant I have ever seen.

Long time favourite meals have been the nachos, quesadillas, excellent burgers, sandwiches, and of course their desserts.  Another staple of the Alexander’s dining experience has been excellent service which remains the same no matter how many waitresses and waiters come and go.

Over two decades, the restaurant has changed.  Five or six years ago this would have been a different review as the quality of even the appetizers varied from visit to visit.  Over the last couple of years the consistency of the food has returned which is what you want from a restaurant which serves up some excellent comfort food.

The prices is right, the food is good, and it is fun to go back to a place that brings me back to my college days while still remaining pristine and current.  I love it.

Alexander’s Restaurant & Bar
414 Cumberland Avenue North
Saskatoon, SK
S7N0W7

Alexander's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Bottega Trattoria

I joined Jordon and a small group of people at Bottega Trattoria last night for dinner and a party.  It was my first time in the restaurant and we were seated in the lounge which features a fantastic garage door to let in the sights, sounds, and ambience of 2nd Avenue.  Sadly for all of Saskatoon, it was -30 last night and that door was securely closed.

Service was great.  Our server was busy (it was a Friday night) but she took care of our group well and was extremely pleasant, even as the night wore on.  She brought us out their amazing fresh bread and garlic butter, got our drinks and was around when we needed her but not so much where it was weird.  I liked her.

After having some of the bread, they brought out our appetizers where two wrongs made a right.  Jordon and I declined to order an appetizer and regretted it when they came out.  Luckily there was an ordering mistake and they had an extra order of deep fried mozzarella risotto balls so we split it.  It was great.

I ordered their lobster ravioli and had no regrets.  The portion size was good and it was extremely tasty.  Jordon had a 12 tenderloin steak cooked medium rare.  Another member of his party had the same steak cooked medium rare and it was cooked far better than Jordon’s which was over cooked.  Same steak.  Ordered at the same time.  One was overcooked.  Not sure how that happens.  Jordon ate it and as he said, “it was a good steak cooked medium”.  The steak was served on a cutting board (I love that idea) and had a healthy side of assorted vegetables.

I liked the restaurant and our dinner.  Jordon and I will return but I really wanted to like it more which seems to be a common sentiment of UrbanSpoon reviewers and friends who have gone there.  It seems so close to being amazing…

Bottega Trattoria
120 2 Ave N
Saskatoon, SK S7K2B2

Bottega Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: The Rook & Raven

 

The Rook & Raven

One of my favourite pubs in Saskatoon has been The Rook & Raven.  It offers excellent pub fare at a decent price with a great atmosphere.  It was one of the best places to go in Saskatoon.

Over the years a couple of great meals have stood out.  One is their legendary Mac & Cheese which has drawn me back for years.  The other is their excellent appetizers which include great wings and cauliflower fritters.

The lunch menu also includes their famous pizza lunch special, an excellent grilled cheese sandwich and decent burger.  The food and atmosphere was so good that we had anniversary dinners there, celebrated birthdays and special events, and was a great place to get together with friends.

The one thing that has changed over the years has been what once was great service has become really inconsistent.  We were recently there with friends and the wings were undercooked to the point of being unsafe. The waitress took them away, never replaced them and we were still charged.  Another time Jordon planned on leaving a cash tip but was rudely called out by the waitress for not tipping her with the debit machine.

One other thing that has changed is that while it is a pub where people go to talk, later at night the music starts to get really loud which kind of defeats the purpose of going to a pub.

The other big thing that changed with the Rook was the opening of The Congress Beer House across the street.  Not only is the food better at The Congress but the service is noticeably better.

The Rook & Raven used to be amazing.  It’s still good but no longer the best pub to go for a drink downtown.  It’s too bad as it used to be my favourite spot in Saskatoon.

The Rook and Raven on Urbanspoon

The Rook and Raven
(306) 665-2220
154 2nd Ave South
Saskatoon

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve everyone.

We often spend Christmas with the Reimers (we celebrated Christmas dinner with them back in November) and with Lee and Brittany (we got together with them last night)  It was just us this morning and we had a nice morning around here.

The boys were up early and after the Christmas stockings were handed out and opened, Jordon handed out some gifts to each of us.  Now that Jordon has written about Christmas Eve, early Christmas morning, and Christmas Day, I thought I would write a bit about my day here.

Jordon gave me a Sigma 19mm Art f2.8 DN lens.  With my Olympus Pen camera, it means that the focal length is 38mm which is still a bit wider than Jordon and Mark’s 35mm’s (their lens is wider but Pentax cameras have a magnification factor of 1.54 which means their focal length is 48.5mm).  It’s a prime lens which means that it doesn’t zoom but the images will be sharper and the bokeh will be pronounced.  Sharpness and bokeh are both good things.  An aperture of f2.8 should let me do some more early morning and evening photography.  While not as bright at the 45mm f1.8 I used at the Atlas Coal Mine and Nuit Blanche, it should let me get some good low light shots.

Sigma 19mm Art f2.4 DN Lens

Oliver gave me a set of Oster Baldwyn knives to replace my old crappy knives that I have accumulated over the years.  He also got me a J.A. Henckel chef knife that should last me for decades.  I am really excited about both of them.  Not only are they an upgrade to my existing knives, I get to get rid of my old ones which means more space in the kitchen.  More space is a good thing.

Oster Baldwyn knives

Mark gave me a pair of Sennheisser headphones.  I was pretty shocked to get them and happy with them.

Sennheisser 201HD headphones

To go along with my lens (and living in Saskatchewan) pair of Thinsulate photography gloves that will make winter photography a lot easier.  He also gave some cheese knives that I am excited about.

Walmart Cheese Knife Set

Along with the cheese knives, he gave me two bamboo cutting boards.  One will go into the kitchen for daily use and the other  will go great with my charcuterie board I am making today for lunch.

Santa Claus gave me the same pair of binoculars that he brought Oliver and a super bright 130 lumens Police Security LED flashlight to go inside my go bag.

Bushmaster Binoculars

Pink Maiden flashlight by Police Security

I know the flashlight is pink.  I think Santa Claus was trying to troll me this Christmas.  The flashlight is great and Jordon, Mark, and Oliver also got them.  That is okay but I would have preferred a 1000 lumen spotlight and them having a 4 lumen penlight.  I’ll take this up with Santa in the New Year.

Maggi and Hutch bought me a pair of moccasins to replace my old and worn out pair of slippers.  Maggi also promises to chew them up later.  At least she is being honest.

Moccassins

The plan is to head downtown this morning with some new camera gear.  Jordon, Mark, Oliver and myself got some new gear that we all want to check out.  Exploring downtown Saskatoon on Christmas Day is a lot of fun as the only ones that are out are the occasional beat cop and those outside taking advantage of the quiet that only comes on Christmas Day.

Hope your Christmas is a good one.

An early Christmas

We generally get together on Christmas Day with Jerry & Gloria Reimer and Kristy.  This year Christmas Day isn’t going to work so we got together tonight for a fabulous Christmas dinner.  There was turkey, green bean casserole, potatoes, stuffing, wine, and amazing farmer’s sausage from Valley Meat Processors.

After dinner we exchanged gifts and had a lot of fun.  They gave Jordon the book Legacy of Worship: Sacred Places in Rural Saskatchewan.

Legacy of Worship

I can’t wait to read this book.

We got a couple of great couple gifts.  A night at the movies (from Kristy) some tickets to the Saskatoon Blades (as a family) and some tickets to Persephone Theatre.  I also was given a wonderful day at Just For You Day Spa.

They spoiled Oliver with a big interactive puzzle showing the planets, Lego, more Lego and an old school children’s book.  Mark was tormented with some brain teasers, a book, and a Amazon.ca gift card (which he just spent on a Monocular and some cases for his lens).  He was really excited.  

We gave Gloria some Sennheisser headphones and Charlie LeDuff’s book Detroit: An American Autopsy.  We gave Jerry a bluetooth speaker and Stuck in the Middle and we gave Kristy a purse, Nikon 24-70 f2.8 lens mug, and a collection of recipes for when you are cooking with Coca-Cola.

It was a really nice evening and a great way to kick off our Christmas season.