Monday, October 2, 2023

Deli and Yom Kippur in Montreal

My guess is that there is about a pound of smoked meat in Smoke Meat Pete's giant platter.

From the NOTL school reunion, I travelled to Montreal. Initially, I booked the train from Union Station since I have fond 60's and 70's memories of the Rapido between Toronto and Montreal. However, shortly after making a reservation I received a message from Via Rail telling me there would be track maintenance and resulting delays. So, I flew.  Driving in from the airport was a terrifying experience. For one thing, there was incredible congestion due in part to excessive road construction. 

Unfortunately, the GPS on my huge Chrysler rental (it's all they had available with GPS) did not know which roads were closed off. Consequently, a 28-minute trip turned into an hour and 28 minutes before I finally made it to my Sherbrooke Street hotel. Since I'm accustomed to driving a smaller Tesla, I could barely manoeuvre the Chrysler into and through the extremely tight parkade. 

That evening, I took a taxi up to Schwartz's on The Main for the first of several smoked meat experiences. (I was determined to drive as little as possible in a city that was essentially a major construction site.) As always Schwartz's was packed and I was not disappointed with a bone-in rib steak with a side of smoked meat, followed by a smoked meat sandwich. (If you are not a smoked meat aficionado, at Schwartz's you can order lean, medium, medium fat, or fatty. I order medium fat.)

Saturday, I again left the car in the garage and took a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city. While impressed by many of the buildings, I wasn't impressed by the statue of John A Macdonald that was missing John A. Of course I toured old Montreal where I once managed two projects for CMHC and MSUA (now defunct Ministry of State for Urban Affairs) and was reminded that at one time, Montreal was the capital of Canada.

Montreal has become a city of murals, and few more photographed than this one of Leonard Cohen.

I liked the way the venerable Ritz Carlton has been modified to include some condominium residences

I stopped at Dunns on Metcalfe for what I hoped would be another smoked meat delight, but when I saw a filthy bathroom covered in graffiti, I decided to leave. But not before asking for the manager and questioning why he would allow this to happen. His answer? They were open 24 hours a day. And what does it matter? (I subsequently learned Dunns restaurants are now franchised, but Metcalfe is the main downtown spot . If I owned Dunns, I would fire that manager.)

Saturday night I experienced a wonderful dinner at a Pois Penche, a French restaurant across from 2000 Peel Street where my friend Jon Wener has his Canderel offices. It was an excellent meal and evening . I sat at the bar and by the end of the evening had new friends. 

Since I didn't know whether to have the bouillabaisse or duck confit, (and would be fasting for a day) I had the bouillabaisse followed by the duck confit. No disappointment there. As each glass of wine was consumed, my French improved.

On Sunday I returned for another bus tour around the city but forgot the marathon was on, thus eliminating a few of the stops. This was followed by a late deli lunch at Snowden Deli on Decarie before the start of Yom Kippur 

I attended the Kol Nidre service at Shaare Zion Beth El where I was warmly greeted by those around me who realized I was a visitor. Everyone had family or friends in Vancouver. Coincidentally, the rabbi had recently arrived from....Richmond. Why? For one thing, Richmond was too expensive a place to raise a family! But Shaare Zion is also one of Canada's most established Conservative synagogues in a very impressive building. The choir and cantor were superb.

Yom Kippur lunch? Well, this was a Yom Kippur lunch. 

But I had a fabulous 'breaking the fast' dinner at Jon Wener's home. Jon is one of Canada's great real estate success stories and everyone who knows him speaks about him in superlatives. He is, after all, a bigshot! Here's his story. Watch it. You'll know what I mean. 

Before heading back to Vancouver, I had to explore one more deli. Smoked meat Pete is not a Jewish deli. But it's owned by the family that once owned The Main, across the street on Saint Laurent from Schwartz's. (Sadly, it closed down in May.) But Smoke Meat Pete isn't likely to close in the near future. Although located away from the downtown, it is well worth a trip. As I ordered my smoked meat platter food from Cherie, part of the family, I discovered she once lived in Kitsilano. I asked her why she didn't stay in Vancouver and open up a decent smoked meat restaurant here. She gave me the same answer as the rabbi. "Vancouver's too expensive." What a Pity.

After three days I took the car out of the garage and headed off to the suburbs where I would stay for the Canadian Seniors Golf Association annual tournament. But that's another story for another day.

I think I know what they meant!

University of Toronto Architecture Class 7T0 - Niagara-on-the-Lake Sept 20-21 2023

From left to right, Temporale, Smith, Johnston, Hull, McGuire, Yamashita and me. (Missing Ian Malcolm)

On September 20th, 8 members of the UofT School of Architecture 1970 graduating class (and some spouses) assembled in Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) for a reunion. Sadly, George Battaglin, who first proposed the reunion missed the gathering since he was in Italy. Premature death, poor health and various other reasons prevented the other 13+/- members of the graduating class from attending. 

Thanks must go to Paul Johnston, a resident of NOTL who organized the event attended by John Hull, Ian Malcolm, Curtis McGuire, Harold Smith, Alex Temporale, and Bob Yamashita. All agreed that Yamashita had changed the least. In fact, he hadn't changed at all!

While many people want to avoid school reunions like the plague, I am not one of them. I think it's wonderful to connect with former classmates from time to time to see how things have turned out. While most of the attendees are now retired, Ian Malcolm is one of Barrie's most successful architects and businessmen, and Alex Temporale, who was considered the brightest person in the class continues to be involved with his highly regarded firm. 

At the welcome barbq, John Hull wore a t-shirt featuring his Alberta homestead

Events included a welcoming lunch barbq in Paul Johnston's garden, attendance at the Shaw Festival, and dinner the first evening on the outside patio of the Angel Inn, one of the oldest pubs in Ontario (built in 1789 as The Harmonious Coach House) and reportedly one of the oldest buildings in Canada

The following day some of us played golf and then gathered for lunch on the waterfront patio of the Niagara-on-the-Lake golf club, (the oldest course in North America). 

That evening, seven of us had an elegant dinner at The Queens Landing Inn 

Judy Stauffer, John Hull and Curt McGuire. 

 I arrived a day early before the events and managed to try out some local wines. While Niagara wines are generally not considered as good as Okanagan wines, there are a surprising number of wineries in the region. 

This was my first visit to NOTL in over 40 years. I could not get over how beautiful it is. If anything, it is too beautiful. Like Venice Italy, it is becoming a place dominated by tourists, rather than a place in which to live. The town has an incredible history,

I had hoped to stay at the Pillar and Post, where I stayed the last time I was there. However, it, and every other hotel and guest house were fully booked when I was seeking accommodation months ago. 

But I luckily got into the Oban Inn, across from the Golf Course. It was very good, although unfortunately the spa facilities were not available after 3pm. I particularly liked having this elegant board room next to my room, where I could work and impress people during Zoom meetings!

John Hull said I was lucky not to stay at the Pillar and Post. He was disappointed with it.

To those classmates who for one reason or another decided not to attend the reunion, you missed a great couple of days. To those who could not attend due to poor health, (and Harry, I'm talking to you,) you were missed. But hopefully, some of you will show up for a 60th reunion in 2030.  And bring your spouses. Here are five of the six who came this year! (Why is it the women always look younger than the men?)

Judy Stauffer and John Hull. Don't be fooled by the canes, Hull still plays a good game of golf, although his recollection of our night together with those girls from New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, during the infamous 1965 East Coast blackout was not as vivid as I would have expected.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Rowena's/Sandpiper Resort - one of the Lower Mainland's Best Kept Secrets

On Labour Day weekend, Sally and I decided to enjoy a last-minute weekend getaway. Since it's difficult to get ferry reservations a trip to Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands was out of the question. Also, it did not seem a suitable time to go into the Interior. So, I checked whether there was any accommodation at Rowena's in Harrison Mills. Surprisingly, Pete's Room was available for Saturday night and I quickly booked it, along with a golf tee time reservation at the resort's Sandpiper Golf Course.

If you are not aware of Rowena's, you are missing one of BC's best kept secrets. An approximate one-and-a-half-hour drive from Vancouver, it's in Harrison Mills, just 20 km west of Harrison Hot Springs.  It is most delightful. 

Photos of the Pretty Family can be found on the wallpapered walls of the Inn
The resort includes a historic 1920's inn that was once the home of the Pretty Family. It offers five fully renovated rooms, some with balconies and terraces. Each is now ensuite, although there are no televisions in the rooms, which is a plus, or negative, depending on your perspective. 
Pete's room has a large balcony overlooking the grounds and lake
In addition, there are eighteen one-, two- and three-bedroom cabins set in the grounds overlooking the lake and golf course. More details and photos can be found here

A few years ago, the resort and golf course were purchased by Keltic, a Vancouver development company which has undertaken significant and thoughtful improvements. These include new well designed and equipped two and three-bedroom luxury cabins, and enclosure of the restaurant patio with a sophisticated retractable glass panel enclosure system manufactured by Lumon, a Finnish company for which I do some consulting.

The adjacent Sandpiper Golf Course is a challenging 18-hole course that takes you into the woods and across creeks and streams, often full of salmon. One year in late October, I could not believe my eyes when I discovered salmon jumping in a creek in the middle of the 15th fairway.  The 17th fairway runs along a small airplane runway, so it is wise to check if a plane is landing before searching for an errant tee shot.

Twenty-one years ago, Sally and I booked the entire resort and invited friends, both golfers and non-golfers, for the weekend. The resort catered meals, as they do for many weddings and other celebrations, and it was most memorable. Upstairs in the Inn, I saw a bookcase full of guest comment books and just happened to find my entry from May 1st, 2001. I wrote that the resort was a well-kept secret and wasn't sure whether to simply leave it that way.

The clubhouse restaurant with its expansive retractable glass enclosed patio

The clubhouse restaurant offers good food but it's menu could be expanded, especially for those staying in the hotel and not attending a catered function.

While Rowena's remains a well-kept secret for many, this could change as the developer has plans for some major renovations. The old swimming pool will be replaced by a spa facility and further accommodation and golf course upgrades are planned. So, my advice is to book a short stay now, before the place becomes even more popular. You won't regret it. Here are a few more photos that you won't find on the website.

A new pizza oven and outdoor patio area have been built since we were last there.

The resort hosts a lot of weddings and other functions, special birthdays, etc.

The earlier cabins
A view of some of the newer cabins overlooking the golf course and lak

The side entrance to heritage Inn

The room layout on the second floor of the Inn
My guestbook comment from 20 plus years ago