Saturday, October 3, 2020

Muskoka Soul 2020--Day 4

This is our first day on food duty. We’re supposed to be keeping it more low key than last time, and breakfast is supposed to be self serve buffet. We had Lucy cut up the pineapple last night, since she does that all the time in the salad bar. Rob cut up a cantaloupe, and we put out English muffins, raisin bread, and crumpets—a special treat for the English folk. Lucy is our helper today, but we haven’t seen her yet (9am).

As I was putting the breakfast breads/pastries back in the corner, I noticed the bag of “breakfast buns” had a tear in the bag and the top bun looked like someone took a chunk out. I instantly clued in that the crumbs I had seen in the corner when I picked up everything was courtesy of a mouse. Indeed, there were mouse droppings in the corner. All the breads are now in a cooler.


Our lunch was “Wings and Things”—several types of wings, Thai spring rolls, mini mozza cheese sticks, and assorted raw veggies, dips, and pickles. Nothing at all like the dinner the night before!! Everything except a few veggies were eaten though, so it went over well. 


I'm sure one or two were expecting more gourmet cooking, but we’re supposed to be keeping it simple. It was a challenge enough finding cooking and serving dishes! Rob and Lucy did a lot, I just got things in the oven and worked the timer—though I think I messed up the temperature when I set the timer. But everything was cooked and we were just a couple minutes late. Rob even handwashed a bunch of the dishes that didn’t fit in the dishwasher. I made a rum and Diet Coke and called my Mom, who is babysitting Skippy, our dog. He seems to be having a nice vacation too.

There’s lots of boat traffic; luckily the kids are old enough that it doesn’t bother them while swimming. It might be a challenge if you had small kids—though the stairs to get down to the gorgeous dock might stop many kids from bothering to go down. 

           The afternoon was spent relaxing until it was time to start dinner. Rob and Lucy went looking for public boat launches. They found one up the road, but the parking lot was full. Interestingly, none of the cars had boat trailers, or trailer hitches. Maybe they had roof top canoes/kayaks?


Several of the adults here don’t eat beef, so kabobs are a nice way for those that do eat beef, to still have some. The salad was based on a Hello Fresh meal "Lemon Chicken and Goat Cheese with Crisp Pear, Arugula and Citrus Vinaigrette  but I wasn’t putting the potatoes in. The goat cheese had been sitting out so it was very soft and blended into the dressing, making it creamier. The meal had been for only 2, so I only had one pear and one little thing of goat cheese and grainy mustard, but it was good. I added slices of the tiny cucumbers we had left over from lunch, and combined lettuces from a couple meal kits (okay—I was sure I had declined last week’s delivery, but the box showed up on Wednesday so I had to figure out what to do with it all!). I think some dried cranberries would have added a really nice touch to the salad, but didn’t bring them. Megan was really skeptical of the salad because she “doesn’t like goat cheese” but she did try it, and thought it was really good. She probably wouldn’t have if the goat cheese was in crumbles like it was supposed to be.

For the potatoes, I was originally going to do twice baked potatoes, since we’d have the grill on, but the potatoes were too new and didn’t have skins. Then I thought I’d do my Christmas “Race Rock” potatoes but it seems I left the roasted garlic at home. Roasted potatoes are good, but we have to step things up a notch here. So I decided on “smashed” potatoes. However, I was worried about over cooking them, and when Lucy tried to smash them, it wasn’t working. They ended up being “rustic cut” roasted potatoes with garlic, bacon drippings, bacon, parmesan cheese. Very good. The kebobs were good too. They also came with vegetables on the skewers. We had originally planned to get the all meat ones, but at the last minute, Rob changed his mind. evening snack.

I had a dessert planned—grilled peaches with raspberry sauce, but I didn’t get the raspberries and didn’t feel like grilling the peaches and didn’t know if everyone would want dessert.

After dinner, everyone went out fishing while we cleaned up, then we joined them for a bit. Or, rather, Rob joined them while I made dessert. I boiled the peaches to skin them, let them cool for a bit, and used a brand new pairing knife Lou bought from a local kitchen shop because she didn’t like the knives here. I had used it earlier and noted it was very sharp. Well, oops, a peach slipped and in went the knife. Bloody, sore, and awkward, so I had to get Rob to finish slicing. I made custard (from custard powder, not from scratch LOL), and got out the blueberry sauce I had made at home. Lou suggested adding some of her granola cereal for crunch. Should have kept the extra toasted walnuts from the salad. 



The fishing was surprisingly good. We think it’s very deep off the dock, and Megan reeled in a good size small mouth bass.


Then grandma came down and wanted to get in on the action. Next thing we knew, she hooked a fish even larger than Megan’s!!   


Granddad was getting a little flustered because he was spending all his fishing time getting hooks out little fish and re-worming hooks. He says everyone has to worm their own hook today!

This is Grandma's fish!

While I was cleaning up from dessert, I managed to slice my other thumb on the same knife, as I put things in the silverware section of the dishwasher! Not as bad, but again, right at the cuticle of my thumb. This is why my thumb nails never grow right.

The kids and Pawel played Scattergories Jr; I was Megan’s assistant because of her language issues. Grandma came in and teamed up with Pawel. It was fun to play with new people. While setting up the game, I found some pages that had my Dad’s handwriting. He enjoyed playing the game with the kids, getting creative with answers. I’ve pulled the pages out because I was worried someone would throw them out, but I might paperclip them together and tuck them back in the box with a note.

It was a lovely second day for us.


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Muskoka Soul 2020--Day 3

Blogger is giving me a hard time with photos. After I moved some to where I wanted, they wouldn't re-center, even though Blogger says they're centered. I gave up. 

It'd been a few years since we had an organized extended family  vacation, so it was decided to rent a cottage again. With the COVID situation this year, there was some doubt it would happen, but it did! 

Where’s Day 1 and 2? Longish story. The girls came up on Friday with the rest of the family. Rob and I took the dog to my Mom’s on Saturday, and we stayed the night, then drove over to Gravenhurst on Sunday. It was a pretty drive, though a little busy. I can’t remember the last time I was in Gravenhurst---probably when the kids were little and we went to Santa’sVillage . That’s closer to Bracebridge, so we might not have even come into Gravenhurst. We found the cottage, Muskoka Soul Lake House  and started unloading

It’s quite different from the last cottage we stayed at .  They’re both extremely nice, and both are “traditional cottage” in many ways, but this one is more wood beams and deck, while the other was more modern but decorated in rustic charm, if that makes sense. 

There’s a gorgeous view of the lake, though a lot of stairs down to the dock. We brought my Dad’s little boat, knowing it could be carried by two men, but it’s just not practical (or even safe) to try to get it down the stairs. Rob will take it to the closest boat launch and motor over. 

Luckily, on this lake, and being close to town, there are several boat launches close by.

We arrived just as they were cleaning up lunch. Lucy had texted me that she had tried pickled onions and thought they were actually good! She picks out onions from stir fries and pizza and never partakes in the glorious slurping of a juicy garlic dill pickle. Hopefully, exposure to her aunt’s cooking will awaken her palate.

Rob and I headed back into town to pick up food items for our first cooking day—Monday, August 17. There was no room in the freezer, so it’s all packed in a cooler, with ice, which is then packed in a larger cooler, and filled with ice. We had thought we might be bringing the items with us, but we were too packed. I had a regular cooler, an extra large “Hello Fresh” insulated box, and the very large Costco insulated cooler bag, as well as a big Rubbermaid bin full of food. And this was just our stuff we brought up. I had already sent up another Rubbermaid bin full of pantry items.

After we got back, a storm rolled across. I love watching a storm come across a lake. Or ocean, from our cruise ship balcony...

This was two doors down. It finally took off on the last morning we were there. There were lots of other float planes though. You can get a float plane taxi to town from various points on the lake.

Dinner was Lou & Pawel’s duty. They (along with their helper of the day, Megan), prepared charcuteries boards of French cheeses from Quebec and Italian cured meats from Ottawa, along with many sweet and savory condiments and fruit and crackers. Lucy did try a bit, but then made her own charcuterie plate from the meats and cheeses we and her grandparents brought LOL.

After dinner, the girls and Rob went for a swim.

This is Nya, floating away on the giant inflatable swan

 I sat on the dock and knitted. I am planning on doing a lot of knitting. I was having trouble with the internet, so I hope I brought enough yarn! 

After they dried off, we relaxed. Six played a card game called Dix It. They were quite enjoying it. I was able to get some internet and had a nice chat with an old friend. Then, it was bed time!

Our room is nice, we have a king size bed which is quite the treat. This is Rob showing how much room we have LOL. We have to share a bathroom with Lou and Pawel, but the girls get their own ensuite. It was strange getting up during the night and the dog not being on the floor next to the bed!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Food Truck Review---Ma & Pa's Pitas

 Megan and I were watching a TV show reviewing restaurants. There was one showing making falafels and other Middle Eastern dishes. She expressed an interest in trying them. Sure thing, I know just the food truck to check out. 

I had heard many good things about Ma & Pa's Pitas truck in various restaurant review groups on Facebook. This truck is new this spring. Previously, it was "Mr Good Chip" but that didn't last long. The owners are super friendly, everything is made/prepared fresh, and it shows. There's shawarma, gyros, shawarma poutine, fries, poutine, garlic potatoes. They use 100% peanut oil! Yay! I've learned a lot about the nastiness of canola oil. 

This is a small poutine. It's packaged in a fiberboard type container! Yay! That means it can go in the compost. It also doesn't steam the fries as much as styrofoam. There was a really good amount of cheese curds, and they even squeaked! I can't remember the last time I had cheese curds on a chip truck poutine that squeaked! The gravy was really, really good. Megan even liked it, even though it was more on the beefy side. I don't think of french fries as traditional Middle Eastern food, so I suspect these are mainly a menu filler and a profit filler, but they don't taste like it--they are very worthy of a visit on their own!!

This is the beef shawarma. Well, more accurately, it's the portion Rob cut off for me LOL. I was really impressed with the beef. I bit into it thinking it was going to be like beef strips in restaurant fajitas. No! Way, way better! A totally different texture!  I could have had a bit more seasoning on it but perhaps it's better business to make it on the mild side. I would definitely get the beef! I try to order beef items when we eat out because we don't eat it a lot at home but I still need it for the iron and other wonderful nutritional factors.

This is Megan's falafel pita. She liked it though she thought there'd be more sauce, and was expecting the falafel to be more green. The ones we saw on TV had a lot of cilantro and parsley, and were quite green. She would have liked cilantro in it as she's quite the fan of it. She did realize that placing the hummus in the middle and being light on the sauce made for a much tidier meal! 

We all agreed that these were really good pitas! You can tell that the toppings are all very fresh. No slimy, runny tomatoes. I had hoped to try pickled mango but that might be a really unusual topping. All this, plus 3 pops (and tax) came to $27, but thankfully, they take credit/debit! Not all food trucks do. We would definitely make a point of going back to this food truck! They will also make the pita as a salad, which is what I'll probably do next. Or maybe I'll get the beef shawarma poutine....

If you're on Facebook, check out their page at: 


I took the other child yesterday, and she agreed it was very good poutine. She felt the gravy to fries ratio was perfect, the fiberboard clamshell practical and optimal. No complaints about the gravy! I ordered the beef shawarma poutine. Wow, so much food! 

No hummus. The beef tasted a bit "spicier," it's not had more flavour. Not that it didn't have flavour before, but maybe it was easier to separate the flavours with the poutine. I couldn't finish all the fries, and I even had a helper! What I really need is a small shawarma salad and a tiny poutine. LOL.

Chip Truck Review---Chip Wagon

 I was taking Megan to her favourite thrift store when we passed a new sign for a chip truck, advertising fresh cut fries. After our shopping spree, we popped in. It's just a tiny cute little chip wagon, tucked in at the "auto spa". 

The menu is very basic. Fries or poutine, extra gravy and drinks. The fries are cut when you order. We got a small poutine.  It was only $5. 

When they handed us the forks, there was also a spoon. Why? Well, we soon found out! There is plenty of gravy on these fries! We did feel that they were a little shy on the curds though (there were more hiding, but we would have liked more). The small was really too small for two to share as a lunch, but it'd be perfect for one person. 

Megan loved the gravy. It was a lighter coloured gravy, probably heavy on the chicken. It had kind of a pasty colour. Not sure if it was from a powdered mix, or what, but it was quite different than most places we've been. She really liked it though and she's much more picky than me on the gravy.

Now, the fries. We went back to the Chip Wagon a second time, and brought Lucy. The young man recognized us and was very friendly. And apologetic that they had run out of spoons LOL. This time we seemed to have even more gravy too. While we were waiting, a man came to ordered. He asked if they are double-fried. The young man responded no. I had figured they weren't. They were definitely cooked, but lacked that little extra that double frying fresh cut potatoes can give you. I am more of a crispy fry gal, and these were almost there, but still fluffy enough  to please the other people with me. 

The location is a nice change from busy streets. Although the car washes are a little noisy and the wagon has a generator running, it's still nicer than other locations. There is a covered eating area, and a stand up table. The only issue is parking--it's kind of a one direction lot and you have to kind of cut through the car detailing to get out, unless you're going through the auto car wash LOL.

More precise directions---Hopkins St, just south of Dundas St (Highway 2), where Nicol Ave meets Hopkins St, Whitby.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Chip Truck Review--Smokin' Chip Truck

 Rob and I got into Bancroft right at lunch time and he hates showing up at my mom's right at meal time, so we stopped at the chip truck at Kawartha Dairy. It had been renovated but the prices/signs seemed the same, so we wanted to try it. However, despite being noon on a Saturday in August, it was closed.  We headed further into town, to the Smokin' Chip Truck. It's on Highway 62 north, next to York River Meats. It's on the west side of the highway, a bit north of Millenium Park. It's been there forever, but we've never gone!  They have a good online presence, so just Google them for more reviews and better photos LOL.

It was very busy--a good sign. We had to wait in the sun, but there is a little bit of seating in a covered gazebo. The menu is very broad, but our wallet was not, so we just got regular burgers and fries. 

The burgers we got were smaller than elsewhere (such as Woody's, on the way up to Bancroft), but I actually preferred the smaller burger, especially at lunch time. I thought it was quite nice. 

It's not as messy as other burgers, and really hit the spot for lunch.

The fries were perfect! I loved the paper bag, though I'm not sure it's a good idea if you use vinegar. Was there a box inside the bag? I don't remember. They were crispy, but not burnt. Very yummy. I could have had more!!

There are likely better photos of the truck and menu online, LOL, but this just helps me remember in my photos where we were--rather than random photos of french fries. 

Verdict--try them! Although it'll take longer than McDonald's, they are yummy and local and have many options you can't get at McD's!!

Chip Truck Visit #3: "Lakeside Chips"

August 2020:
Overall, this is probably one of the best chip trucks we go to. The large menu means we can get onion rings and chicken strips and please everyone. And if I have extra money, a deep fried dill pickle. The staff are friendly, the scenery is lovely, and if you're lucky, there's a picnic table nearby. Even an outhouse, though it stunk on this day.

Look at those onion rings! I told the lady that I'm thankful she offers them and that's why we come back. I doubt they are fresh battered, but they are better than what I cook at home.

They are fresh cut fries but I think just single fried. The gravy is rich and dark--like how I like it, but the fries are fluffy like how everyone else in the world likes their fries (I did find someone on Facebook that likes crispy fries, but we recognize we are really in the minority!).

Megan managed to carry everything!

These are the chicken fingers. They were good, but not a huge serving, if you're sharing. 

Original Visits--2015-2017
I don't know if that is the real name of the truck as the only "name" on it was "French Fries!".  Down at the Whitby Waterfront, between the old pumphouse and the big gazebo.  Techincally, it's called Water Street, but really, it's just the southern part of Brock Street.  We park at the lot in front of the pumphouse, because I don't like parking on the road.  There is usually a Port-a-Potty there by the parking lot, though I can't comment on it, LOL.  If you need "real" washrooms, you can park further up at the playground lot and walk to the east up the trail past the Haydenshore Pavillion, to the washroom building.  I do NOT know why it's not situated closer to the middle of the popular trail here!

The last few years, there was a teal coloured chip truck here.  We tried it last summer, and wasn't too impressed.  This year, it's a different truck.  The woman running it was very friendly, it's a nice shady spot, but not enough seating considering how popular the spot is.  There are plenty of benches though along the trail, just not practical for me and three kids.
She said the fries are fresh cut, so they take about 7 minutes.  They did take longer.

Click on the picture for a larger version.  There is a LOT on the menu.

 Lucy and Hugh each got their own onion rings, which we all said were AWESOME!  We'd come again for the onion rings!
 The french fries?  Meh.  Big serving!  Nice tray, lots of long fries for dipping.  But they were a bit mushy on the inside.  I wouldn't turn them down if we were in the area, but I'd opt for the onion rings.
It's a nice spot for a snack, since there is no other food options at the lake.  I've heard good things about Lakeview Grill just up Brock St though.  We're still on the quest for a truck with both onion rings and fries that are AWESOME!

Addition:  We went back and tried a small poutine.  I thought it would be the same size as a small fries, but it was much bigger, and too much for just Megan and I.  The gravy was good, the cheese curds were plentiful, but I still wasn't keen on the fries themselves.

2016:  We tried this truck again and I should have read my own review LOL.  I think we got a small and it was more than enough for a post dinner snack.  Again, the gravy was very good, the cheese curds were good, the service excellent (not fast though).  We just aren't a huge fan of the naked fries.  Don't let this deter you, as others report that they love the fries here.
This menu is from August 2017 but might still be relevant

Chip Truck Review---Tragically Chip Truck

My niece was visiting from Ottawa, previously New Mexico. She moved up in the summer so she could go to boarding school here in the fall. She had recently become a Canadian citizen and one thing on her Canadian Bucket List Bingo was to have poutine. I was happy to provide this experience LOL. I had been making a lot of trips to Brooklin this summer--Megan's skating coach lined a couple skaters up with a  personal trainer who works with Toronto pro athletes, and Megan's "boyfriend" lives just up the road from Tragically Chip. So, one day we combined our trip there!

This is probably a medium. They were pretty much the same as my first visit. Fluffy fries, rich tasty gravy and plenty of curds. I liked the gravy, Megan wasn't too fond as always, and I didn't care for the fries, just like before. It was a lot for the three of us. Nya wasn't too overwhelmed with enthusiasm. I'm not sure they were the best ones to try for a first time, but the atmosphere and company was good. 

First Visit, August 2019
Rob and I were out and had some time to kill before we had to be somewhere. As we were driving by I saw that this truck was open. I had previously reviewed "2 Guys Fries" and I wasn't too impressed. Then the chef messaged me to say he had totally changed things, and to come back. Then the truck was for sale and I don't know if it even opened last summer. My spies gave me mixed information. So I was really curious to give this truck a try.

 I thought the name was catchy. Not really sure it carried through on the theme though. It could have really been played up.
 Much smaller menu than previously. The burgers  seemed priced a little high, so I hope they're good. The combos only saved about 50 cents. We were severely limited on cash though, so we just got fries.
I believe this is a large, plus a gravy. We were quite stuffed after. And again, we had differing opinions. Rob loved these, I didn't. I must have weird ideas about French Fries. They were fluffy inside, but can you see the distinct colour changes on some of the fries? I think they weren't shaken while frying. Some had a texture I didn't like. I ate the darker ones and Rob gobbled up the other ones. I liked the gravy though I think it's a mix.

All the same details about location, ambiance, etc, apply. The lack of onion rings was disappointing. The price of the burgers compared to A&W just up the street...they better be awesome. I'm not itching to go back, though Rob said he would.