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Monday, 21 July 2014

Isaac's Way

In the old York County Courthouse, in Fredericton's Downtown, sits Isaac's Way. I'm told Isaac's Way has expanded a lot in recent years, having come from a small location. The spot really couldn't be better, located right in the heart of the city (I've no doubt that it's packed at lunch on weekends). The beautiful historic building on the outside hides a swanky modern design on the inside, and there's no doubt that this is one of the better decorated restaurants I've been to in Fredericton. They also have a lovely deck out back, should the weather permit. I've been to Isaac's Way twice so far- once just for dessert, another time for a full meal (which will be the main focus of this review). We arrived when it wasn't so busy yet, and were promptly seated, and provided with plenty of water, and very friendly service. The service remained friendly throughout the meal, although, as the restaurant became busy, it was abundantly clear that it was also under-staffed, and we were left without drink refills, and then waited a long time to pay the bills. This isn't the staff's fault, of course-it was busy at an odd hour, and everyone remained really friendly throughout-but it was a bit of a nuisance. I ordered the special, Fish and Chips. It was served in a light batter, very non greasy, and well-proportioned between batter and fish. The fries were also nicely done. It was certainly not a bad fish and chips however, given the restaurant's reputation (and décor), I was expecting something a little better-it was quite average,really. My fellow diners tried a wide range of foods- the menu has some interesting choices- and the burgers, chicken, and tofu and peanut butter noodles all received positive reviews (I can vouch for those noodles-they were quite good). The prices for our orders were quite reasonable-the Thai peanut and tofu noodles, coming in at $16, was the most expensive at our table-although there were much pricier options available. The real treat at this restaurant, both times I visited, was the dessert. Their menu contains what appear to be home-made desserts, and they have the essentials: carrot cake, pie, and chocolate cakes. I've tried the brownie chocolate cheesecake both times, and it's, without any doubt, worth returning for. I've heard similar things about the carrot cake. Overall, Isaac's way has great atmosphere-well decorated and in a historical building, it will impress family, dates, good friends or business colleagues. There's a wide range of menu items-mostly the standard burgers, sandwiches, etc. but with a few fun twists-and the prices range from surprisingly reasonable (the burgers were around 12-14$ each) to a little pricier (but on par with the atmosphere). The service did really lag towards the end of the meal, however, and that is one of my bigger bet peeves. I also want to make a point of noting one thing that did impress me very much- a waitress taking the time to explain menu items in French to francophone diners. This isn't something I see nearly often enough in Fredericton, and I was extremely pleased to see it here.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Fredericton Market (Boyce Farmers' Market)

One of my absolute favourite things about living in Fredericton is visiting the Fredericton Market (more properly the Boyce Farmers' Market, as there is now a market on the North Side, which will get its own blog post). I's a lot of fun to head out on a Saturday morning and join the crowds-the market atmosphere is always a lively one-for some breakfast, lunch, crafts, or produce. The market also has a variety of unique shops-food vendors sell different interesting creations or flavours, and there's a lot of good snack food to grab and munch on as you walk around. It's also a great spot to find gifts and souvenirs. So, without further ado, here are some tips for Saturday mornings at the market When The market is open from 6 AM to 1PM, but it will be a different experience depending on when you go. Typically, if you want to avoid crowds and line-ups, and ensure that some of the more popular items will still be available, you should go early-say, before nine. Around nine or ten AM the market gets more crowded, as families, tourists, and people who just aren't early risers (guilty!) get out of our beds and wander down. While the market is open until one PM, I find that vendors start running out of things or even closing up by noon. Crowd levels vary, of course, with the weather and the season. Getting there/Parking Parking is perhaps the trickiest bit about going to the market. If you don't arrive early, you will have to circle the block for a spot-and don't be surprised if you wind up having to walk five or six blocks. If you're near the downtown area, I would recommend just walking, as you can avoid the headache of parking, save the environment a little, and enjoy some exercise. The Market is located on George street, just a few blocks East of Regent St. Direction of walking People generally tend to walk around the building in a clockwise manner, if you're facing the building from the street where the food vendors are. Food Food is the best part of the market, I think. Inside the building, you'll find a variety of baked goods and butcher shops. Outside is where the take-out style food is. There's also a restaurant in the middle of the building. Here are a few of the places you could keep an eye out for: FrostedFrosted is a cupcake vendor, just inside the market from the parking lot. The cupcakes are flavourful and moist, many with delicious butter cream frosting on top, and under $3 each. There are a variety of interesting flavours-get there early if you want to have all the choices! The Bundle HutBundles are an interesting creation, essentially similar to a large egg roll stuffed with a variety of different flavours-donair, teriyaki chicken, apple pie etc. They're a great snack to eat while walking through the market. Samosa Delite and Yummy SamosasAs a bit of an interesting phenomenon, a modified version of the samosa has become very, very popular in parts of southern NB. Samosa Delite and Yummy Samosa are the two main places to try NB's Samosas at the market-both have their own large following, so you'll have to grab a samosa at each to decide. Samosas are reasonably priced-a little cheaper if you buy by the dozen or half dozen-and come in a variety of flavours, including vegetable, beef, and chicken. They are also available mild (which is to say, not spicy at all) or hot. Note that lines can get quite long. Richie's BBQRichie's is a food truck selling a variety of foods, but my favourite is their donair. For those who haven't tried a donair yet, Richie's is a great place to do so, selling one of my favourites. A number of other foods are also available to try. Two vendors sell freshly squeezed orange juice at reasonable prices (one of my market favourites). Several vendors sell a variety of baked goods-you'll find everything from squares to berliners here- hot dogs, noodles, crêpes, and lobster rolls are all available outside. Produce and meat Those looking for produce and meat will find a variety of vendors. Most produce is sold outside, with several farms being present depending on what's in season-this is a great place to find fiddle heads, an NB specialty, and also local blueberries. Inside there are several vendors selling a wide range of meat, as well as a large fishmonger (you can get all your maritime favourites here as well, including clams, scallops and lobster, season dependent). In addition to produce and meats, there's a large cheese shop near one of the building's entrances, and a small shop selling homemade pastas.

Monday, 16 June 2014

King Street Alehouse

I'd been trying to get to the Alehouse for a long time-as in, since it was the Garrison District Ale House. For those who don't know, a fire caused Garrison to relocate to what is now the King STreet Alehouse, a few blocks away. Last time we tried to check out this spot, the lineup was around 45 mins-a sure sign it must be good, but a long time to wait when hungry. So it was a nice surprise to see it fairly empty this past weekend for lunch. The Alehouse is a restaurant of the dimly lit variety, a classy kind of place that is comparable perhaps to the Keg in terms of atmosphere. The lunch menu contained a range of foods-a variety of starers, a few different sandwiches and wraps, and a whole host of hamburgers. The hamburgers ranged from around 11 dollars to the upper teens in price, and a are served with a choice of side; other meal options for lunch were comparably priced. The Alehouse also lives up to its name with an extensive drink menu consisting of, according to the server, over one hundred options. For lunch I chose the blue cheese burger, which came highly recommended. In a world where gourmet burgers have become a huge trend, the blue cheese burger has become a bit of a staple, as have a few of the other options on the Alehouse's menu (like the Thai peanut burger)-but with choices such as a pepperoni burger (with marinara sauce) and jerk chicken burger, there are some more creative options available. Sides ranged from the standard sweet potato and classic fries, to a bowl of the soup of the day-in this case, fiddle head and chicken chowder. All of the sides I tried were great, served exactly how I like them. The sweet potato fries were served with a chipotle mayo style dip-a touch many restaurants have dropped by which I liked seeing. The classic fries were long and thin, similar to a shoestring but still had a good potato flavour. The chicken and fiddle head chowder was an interesting combination and a nice chowder, though perhaps not the best way to showcase fiddle heads, which were a little overpowered by the chowder flavour. I only had a taste of my own burger this time round; the meat was fantastic, not overcooked, juicy and flavourful, and served in a generous portion. The burgers were also topped with crispy, caramelized onions, which was a real delicious treat. After a few bites of the burger together, I noticed something unusual-I couldn't taste the blue cheese. Now, normally blue cheese isn't something that slips in undetected. It's definitely there in my pictures, so either there was only a teeny amount (I didn't find any when I took the burger apart about halfway through) or it was just not a very strong blue cheese (which may appeal to some), but I was a little disappointed, especially given how delicious the burger and onions were. The bun also didn't hold together particularly well, although it was tasty. All in all, the food was good, and this is definitely the kind of place to come on an important dinner, like a meeting, date, or birthday. There are plenty of food options on the lunch menu (making me guess that the dinner menu must be satisfying as well), serve was quite speedy, and the atmosphere is appropriate for finer dining. There's also an extensive drink menu, if that's something you're interested in. I will warn you, however, that the desert menu was quite limited (only four options).
King Street Ale House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Palate

A few weeks ago, my family decided to go out for brunch with my aunt. She suggested we try the Palate, a nice little restaurant downtown Fredericton, on Queen street. We checked it out online and saw that it looked good, and quite affordable, and so we were pretty excited to go. The Palate is a nice little place downtown, conveniently located (although a little harder to park at). On Saturday morning it didn't take very long to be seated for breakfast-although we did see others waiting while we were eating. The staff were also quite friendly. The brunch menu is fairly extensive, with all of the staples plus a few more creative concoctions. For those so inclined, mimosas are also offered at brunch. I chose the traditional eggs benedict, which was also offered with three or four unique variations, including smoked salmon with cream cheese, and a lobster variety. Another good looking option on the menu is called the "Alpine" and includes potatoes, eggs, and cheese. The eggs benny, pictured below, was quite good. The hollandaise sauce was flavourful and the eggs well cooked. I tried a bite of a family member's smoked salmon version, and the smoked salmon was fantastic-definitely what I'll be getting next time. After a good breakfast, we ordered desserts-sticky toffee pudding and chocolate lava cake, to be precise. The desserts definitely stole the show-the sticky toffee pudding was a perfect combination of sweetness and toffee, and the lava cake was a rich and delicious chocolate. The food was delicious, but the service was incredibly slow-probably the longest I've ever waited for food. To be fair, the desserts tasted as though they were just cooked (and with the amount of time it took, they may well have been), but none of the breakfast food we ordered should have taken as long as it did. The restaurant also committed one of my big pet peeves-the menu online is not accurate. To be precise, the prices are several dollars less than what they are in reality, and a few dishes were missing. While the price on the menu is obviously the correct one, it makes the website a much less useful tool when you go in expecting one price, and leave having paid several dollars more per item. Overall, the food was good, and the desserts fantastic. It's a cute little restaurant, and good spot to go if you're downtown Freddy. Just don't go there if you're in any sort of a hurry, and be warned that the prices online are not, as of the time of writing this, accurate.
The Palate Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, 9 May 2014

Saint John City Market

Saint John's City Market is one of the Port City's more well-known attractions, and has been on my to-do list for almost four years. I was really excited, then, to get the opportunity to peruse it one afternoon. The Market is located in Uptown Saint John, near to most of the city's other attractions, and attached by pedways to Brunswick Square and Market Square malls. The Market itself consists of a series of stalls selling mostly food, groceries, and snacks. You'll find some good souvenirs-maple products, blueberry products, and wine, for example. There's also an assortment of snack food and restaurants where you can grab lunch. One thing you'll find a lot of in the Market is samosas-which have taken off all over New Brunswick. Overall, the Market is a perfect place to visit as part of a day in Saint John-whether for lunch, souvenirs, or just a walk through.

The New Brunswick Museum

Those of you who've been following the blog will remember that, a few weeks ago, I posted a list of places in NB I hoped to get to visit this summer. Well, as luck would have it I caught a ride to Saint John to check out a few of those places this week, giving me an opportunity to give you full reviews for several of these places. I'll start out with a review of the New Brunswick Museum, located in the Market Square Mall in Uptown Saint John. The Museum spans three floors-the main floor has several exhibits devoted to the industrial history of New Brunswick, with focuses on forestry and shipbuilding. The second floor focuses on the environment, with exhibits on geology and on whales. The third floor features art, including a painng gallery and Mi'kmaw and Wolastoq (Maliseet)pottery. Prices are affordable, staff are friendly, and the museum is centrally located. It will take about an hour to an hour and a half to see everything in detail. The New Brunswick Museum has some strong points-forestry and shipbuilding were both of high importance to New Brunswick's development, and it does a good job of demonstrating this. The art section does a good job of explaining the basics of several art movements in the Maritimes. The Museum's gift shop is also particularly good, with a wide selection of books covering a variety of New Brunswick related topics, and a selection of art, maple products etc. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed by the lack of background information-the Museum doesn't (as far as I could find, and I did look) cover the history of New Brunswick's different cultural groups, the founding of the province, or its participation in Confederation in any meaningful way, and there was very minimal acknowledgement of Aboriginal Cultures. I also found some of the exhibits a little difficult to follow, assuming that visitors already know the background information necessary to understand. Overall, the New Brunswick Museum is a good addition to a day (or half-day) spent in Uptown Saint John for anyone interested in NB's industrial history; the gift shop is also an excellent spot for people looking for a book about or craft from NB. That being said, the New Brunswick Museum by itself won't suffice for a comprehensive overview of the province's history and cultures.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Historical Cape Breton

This post is part of a series in the lead-up to Summer 2014. Look for weekly posts with lists, tips, and background information about travel in the Maritimes. As always, suggestions are welcome Cape Breton Island has a long and fascinating history. Called Unimaki (Land of Fog) prior to European contact, handed back and forth between France (as Ile Royale) and Britain (as Cape Breton) during the colonial period, briefly its own colony until 1820, and a centre of industry for coal, the history of Cape Breton is multi-layered and complex. Luckily, the island is home to many wonderful historic sites and museums aimed at helping you understand the history and cultures of this piece of North America. The places below are only a handful of the options you have for exploring the island's history. Some I have visited, some are on my to-do list this summer. This list is a general overview of the island-if you like it, please let me know, and I'll put lists of some more off-the-beaten-path historical sites! Chapel Island National Historic Site marks a longstanding meeting place for the Mi'kmaw people. Located in the community of Potlotek (near Saint Peter's), this historic site marks an important political and religious site for the Mikmaw. http://www.pc.gc.ca/APPS/CP-NR/release_e.asp?bgid=641&andor1=bg Wagmatcook Cultural Centre is located in Wagmatcook, on the Trans Canada Highway. The centre has a restuarant and gift shop showcasing Mi'kmaw crafts, and hosts monthly lectures on Mi'kmaw culture http://www.wagmatcookcentre.com/ Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada is a major must-see on the island. The Fortress of Louisbourg was a significant French stronghold in North America in the 1700s, at one time the fourth largest port on the continent and the site of decisive wars for control between France and Britain. One quarter of the Fortress (both town and fortifications) has been reconstructed, and during the summer costumed interpreters show you a glimpse of what life was once like here. The sight is highly significant in Canadian history, and could easily occupy a day of exploring. Louisbourg also had important relationships with the Mi'kmaw community, and the site now hosts an interpretive trail to help you understand that link better. http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/ns/louisbourg/index.aspx Highland Village Museum offers a glimpse into the history of Cape Breton's Scottish community, which makes up the majority of the island's present heritage. This site also offers reconstructions, but shows the evolution of life-housing, culture, work, and language-through time, beginning in Scotland, and ending in modern Cape Breton. https://highlandvillage.novascotia.ca/ Les Trois Pignons is a museum in the Acadian community of Chéticamp which showcases that community's cultural heritage, with a particular focus on Chéticamp's traditional rug hooking. http://www.lestroispignons.com/ Glace Bay Miner's Museum showcases an important part of the island's history-the coal mining industry. The museum provides an excellent insight into the industry, working conditions, and the labour movement in the mines. Visitors also have the opportunity to tour an actual mine shaft. The museum also hosts musical acts-if you get the chance, I highly recommend seeing The Men of the Deeps, a choir made up of former coal miners, which plays shows at the museum from time to time. http://www.minersmuseum.com/