Drink of the Week: Parlour Gin & Tonic

It seems incredible I have not yet blogged about the G&T. I have written about gin and tonics for both Avenue magazine and most recently for the Calgary Herald, yet for some reason summer’s eponymous sip has yet to be featured as my Drink of the Week. Until now.

It's gin and tonic time! Try this refreshing highball after a hot day at the lake.

It’s gin and tonic time! Try this refreshing highball after a hot day at the lake.

What prompted this post was a bottle of Parlour Gin, the latest spirit from Eau Claire Distillery near Turner Valley, Alta. This delightful London dry-style gin’s reputation preceded it, and Parlour Gin does not disappoint. It’s fragrant and flavourful, thanks to its unique combination of botanicals including saskatoon berries, rose hips, lemon peel and of course juniper berries, among others. It’s a gin that I call sippable; meaning, it tastes wonderful on its own over ice, but you can add a splash of tonic until you reach the desired level of bitter fizz.

Parlour Gin is one of the best gins I've had in awhile. I love the name (a nod to prohibition-era gin parlours) and the bottle's cool logo.

Parlour Gin is one of the best gins I’ve had in awhile. I love the name (a nod to prohibition-era gin parlours) and the bottle’s cool logo.

We have been experimenting with our Parlour Gin & Tonics this summer during trips to Fernie, BC, and we find that they taste best sipped on sunny patios after long hikes or lazy afternoons at the lake. Now that our bottle has finally run dry I think we have stumbled upon the best G&T recipe.

Parlour Gin & Tonic

  • 1-1/2 oz Parlour Gin
  • 3 oz tonic (or to taste) such as Fentimans or Porter’s
  • Squeeze lime
  • Lime circles garnish

In a rocks glass over ice add gin and tonic. Squeeze in 1/8 of a lime (or to taste), stir, and garnish with a couple of thinly sliced lime circles.

 

Size matters not: When it comes to theme parks, bigger isn’t necessarily better

It’s been a theme park kind of year for our family. We kicked it off last November in Disneyland for the World of Colour premier, and followed that up with a May trip to San Diego that included a visit to Sea World (more rides and shows than actual marine exhibits). We ended our amusement park tour this week with a quick over-the-border jaunt from BC into Idaho to experience Silverwood, much ballyhooed as the “Pacific  Northwest’s largest theme park.” In between these American amusement juggernauts we hit Calgary’s humble Calaway Park in July.

Flying rides like Dumbo at Disneyland are right up Bennett's alley.

Flying rides like Dumbo at Disneyland are right up Bennett’s alley.

Kids love theme parks on principal. It seems they’re hardwired to want to climb aboard colourful rides and spin around in circles until they get sick, or rocket down hills that leave their stomachs at the summit. Avery and Bennett fall into this category for the most part. Avery, who is the ultimate daredevil, has never ridden a roller coaster she didn’t like, including Silverwood’s Aftershock. Bennett, however,  is scared of any ride that goes too fast (roller coasters) or too high (Ferris wheels). Part of it may be his nature (he’s shy and quiet); part of it may be his autism (he has some irrational fears and doesn’t like crowds or loud noises or waiting in interminable lines all that much — and that’s basically the environment at amusement parks). Whatever the reason, he can get pretty overwhelmed at these places and want to stick to the kiddie zone.

On the airplane ride at the Calaway Park kiddie zone.

On the airplane ride at the Calaway Park kiddie zone.

On the helicopter ride at the Silverwood kiddie zone.

On the helicopter ride at the Silverwood kiddie zone.

Silverwood would surely be different, we thought. It’s in Idaho, after all — and, like, who travels to Idaho? (Avery kept calling it Ohio, but whatever.) Plus, we have many friends that have been there and rave about it. Not only does Silverwood have four roller coasters, it has an outdoor water park with crazy slides. So, Silverwood.

But here’s the thing. It was CRAZY BUSY. Seemingly everyone in the Pacific Northwest, including the entire population of Spokane, Wash., along with a bunch of local Idahoans, and a smattering of Oregonians, BC-ers and pedal-to-the-metal Albertans (every time we saw a car pulled over getting a speeding ticket it was someone from Alberta!) decided to visit Silverwood on the last Monday of August. The lines were almost an hour long — longer than Disneyland even. We rode about seven rides in seven hours, compared with riding the same number at Calaway Park in 90 minutes.

Well, you might argue, Silverwood’s rides are probably a lot better than those at Calaway Park. With the exception of the roller coasters, I’d have to say they aren’t. Silverwood’s log ride is lame. After that, there are about eight more rides. So we were a family divided — Blake and Avery off to the adrenalin-junkie rides and slides, while Bennett and I whooped it up on the carousel and explored every small water slide in Polliwog Park.

Bennett stays focused as our log travels through the concrete chute.

Bennett stays focused as our log meanders slowly through a chute.

Moving on to good family rides, we were excited to see the same Bumper Boats that they have at Calaway Park. It’s a family favourite so we got in line. Perhaps it’s a holdover from the safety-first mentality, or maybe it’s a result of the United States’ litigiousness, but part of the reason the Silverwood lines moved like molasses is because of the workers’ fastidious attention to safety and procedure. For example, they wouldn’t let us board or disembark the bumper boat unless they were holding it for stabilization — even after it was double-clipped to the dock. They also made kids wear life jackets in case they fell into the three-foot-deep pond. They also wasted time by scolding the guests waiting in line: “Don’t stand on the railings! Stay behind the yellow line!” This slowed things up considerably. For me, the best part of the ride was introducing the “close-up” spray to America. When I got near one middle-aged man’s boat I put my finger over the squirter, to better direct the stream of water into his face (much to Bennett’s glee). “Hey, that’s cheating!” he shouted. “It’s a new technique!” I countered. Blame it on Canada! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Then there’s the matter of the ice cream. This is one reason Canadians love America: the food (and beer) is cheap and plentiful. But seriously? A gallon-sized giant scoop for $4.25? Is that really necessary? We ended up throwing half the ice cream away, much to the dismay of morbidly obese onlookers.

Blake, Avery and Bennett attempt to eat an ice cream 'scoop' that could solve the world's hunger problem.

Blake, Avery and Bennett attempt to eat an ice cream “scoop” that could solve the world’s hunger problem.

So, what is my point? I used think that once my kids experienced a “real” amusement park they wouldn’t deign to return to Calgary’s theme park. How wrong I was. Avery and Bennett still adore Calaway Park, and I love its small size and crowd-free lines all the more now. The kids were thrilled to return to their amusement-park stomping grounds earlier this summer to go on their favourite rides and to partake in small, if overpriced, ice cream cones. Like Yoda said, “Size matters not.”

Now that's a proper kid-sized ice cream cone.

Now that’s a proper kid-sized ice cream cone.

Drink of the Week: The Fields are Burning

This week’s unusually-named cocktail comes courtesy of Model Milk’s David Bain, the winner of last week’s Mount Gay rum cocktail competition organized by Mount Gay’s Canadian distributor, Select Wines & Spirits, and held at Briggs Kitchen + Bar in Calgary. Bain’s delicious libation, basically a rum cherry sour, is named for the sugarcane field burning that takes place before harvesting the cane, to make the process easier and require less manual labour. What’s the connection? Rum is made by distilling sugarcane byproducts such as molasses and sugarcane juice. So, The Fields are Burning is, in a sense, a nod to the spirit’s storied history — and to this cocktail’s surprising, smoky taste.

This delicious drink, basically a rum cherry sour, won the Mount Gay rum cocktail competition in Calgary last week.

This delish drink, basically a rum cherry sour, won the Mount Gay rum cocktail competition in Calgary last week.

I am partial to sours — I love how the egg white smooths out a drink’s rough edges and helps combine ingredients. I am also loving cherry sours, as a recent post attests. There’s something about cherry that plays well with dark spirits, from rye to tequila, and rum is no exception. But what really makes Bain’s drink stand out is the smoky flavour. He captures this essence with his simple syrup, and also by setting the coup glass atop a smouldering stave from a bourbon barrel, to infuse the glass before pouring in the cocktail. Yes, setting the stave afire was a bit gimmicky, but trust me, this cocktail’s scrumptious taste is not all smoke and mirrors.

The Fields are Burning

  • 1-1/2 oz Mount Gay Eclipse
  • 1/2 oz Ginja D’Obidos cherry liqueur
  • 1 barspoon Pimento Dram (allspice liqueur)
  • Dash Peychaud’s bitters
  • 1/2 oz smoked black tea simple syrup (recipe not available)
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 egg white
  • Lemon grass ash garnish (chop up some lemon grass, then torch it for 40 minutes until it turns into a fine ash)

Combine all ingredients except lemon grass ash into a cocktail shaker. Dry shake to emulsify egg, then add ice and shake again. Strain into a 6 oz coup glass, or cylindrical coup glass, if available. Sprinkle lemon grass ash atop foam and serve.

– Recipe courtesy David Bain, Model Milk

Back at O’Keefe Ranch

Bennett has never met a chicken he didn’t like, and this truth was evident at O’Keefe Ranch near Vernon, BC. There, on a sunny July day, he spent a good hour admiring the poofy silkies, watching the silver spangled hamburgs and contemplating the bearded and booted Belgian D’uccles. When he tired of these exotic cluckers he chased the other, lesser chickens around the coop.

Bennett holds a fresh egg picked up from under a roosting chicken (really!) at O'Keefe Ranch.

Bennett holds a fresh egg picked up from under a roosting chicken (really!) at O’Keefe Ranch, while Avery readies to grab a chick.

Three hours and many animal encounters later — including Avery holding a baby Jacob sheep and many fluffy chicks, and Bennett petting the friendliest farm cat ever — I had to wonder how this was our third trip to the northern Okanagan but only our first visit to O’Keefe Ranch.

Avery cradles a baby Jacob sheep in her lap at O'Keefe Ranch.

Avery cradles a baby Jacob sheep in her lap at O’Keefe Ranch.

Founded by western settler Cornelius O’Keefe, the ranch at the turn of last century was not only a working ranch, but a townsite complete with a church, post office and general store. The ranch has been preserved as an historic site and includes many of the original buildings, such as the O’Keefe mansion, which is open for tours. The General Store is also kitted out with old-time candy and we had a ball troughing on chicken bones, cherry sours and a giant lollipop.

Through these doors lie the best selection of sugary treats this side of the Monashees.

Through these doors lies the best selection of sugary treats this side of the Monashees.

The highlight, of course, were the animals. After our snack, a hayride and a lazy attempt to lasso some faux cows, we circled back to the chicken coop to say goodbye.

Avery hold a chick inside the coop at O'Keefe Ranch.

Avery holds a chick inside the coop at O’Keefe Ranch.

Don’t miss Family Fun Day on August 24, or the corn maze in October.

Summertime lemonade stand

Avery has been asking to do a lemonade stand for the past several summers. In previous years the timing was never right — the weather was cool and rainy, or the bike path in front of our house had been washed away by the flood — but this past weekend the ideal lemonade conditions came together: warm, sunny and lots of bicycle and pedestrian traffic due to a brand new paved path on our street.

Selling lemonade, iced tea and cookies at a stand along the Bow River in Inglewood.

Selling lemonade, iced tea and cookies at a stand along the Bow River in Inglewood.

Blake hit the grocery store for supplies (lemonade and iced tea mix, and soft oatmeal raisin cookies) and Avery got to work creating signs for her stand. Blake Googled, “What’s the going rate for lemonade at a lemonade stand?” and came up with pricing. The two of them figured out the up-front costs of the stand and put together a cash float so that Avery could give cyclists change should they hand her a $20 bill for a .75-cent cup of lemonade. Finally, Avery recruited a friend to help her, and they negotiated an hourly rate ($2) for her buddy. Final lemonade stand touches included hand sanitizer, napkins, a trash can, and mint leaves and ice cubes floating in the giant beverage dispenser.

Avery and her friend sell .75-cent cups of lemonade and .50-cent cookies, on their way to a tidy profit.

Avery and her friend sell .75-cent cups of lemonade and .50-cent cookies, on their way to a tidy profit.

Then, they waited for business while Blake and I watched through the living room window. And what business! The stand was busy from the beginning, with cyclists lining up and neighbours streaming out of their homes for a refreshing drink. The cookies (priced at 50 cents) were a top seller, with one neighbour boy buying three. Many customers commented on how good the lemonade was (thanks Country Time!), and some asked her what she was raising money for.

Avery: “Well, first I have to pay my dad back for the supplies and the float, and then I’m going to save the rest.”

Customer: “Saving money is a good idea.”

Cyclists line up for a cup of lemonade along the Bow River pathway in Inglewood on the weekend.

Cyclists line up for a cup of lemonade along the Bow River pathway in Inglewood.

Not only was the lemonade stand a fun way for Avery and her friend to spend a sunny summer afternoon, they got to practice math by calculating change. They also got to talk to strangers — something that rarely happens in today’s over-protective world — an important life-skill that’s also a confidence booster for kids.

And the best part, of course, was the profit. After she repaid Blake and paid her hired help $4 for two hours, Avery counted out $39 that she can hardly wait to deposit into her bank account — not bad for a nine-year-old’s afternoon job!

Drink of the Week: Sunny Side

The best drink to touch your lips after hiking 20 kilometres along Heiko’s Trail through Fernie’s spectacular backcountry is a nice cold beer from the Fernie Brewing Company. If you happen to be recuperating on the Bear Lodge patio at Island Lake Lodge and they’re out of What the Huck, however, order a Sunny Side cocktail instead (or do so after you finish your beer).

A gin lemonade is just the thing to ease pain and aid hydration after an epic backcountry hike.

A gin lemonade from Island Lake Lodge is just the thing to ease pain and aid hydration after an epic backcountry hike.

I’m all for sipping boozy lemonade on hot summer patios. But when gin is tipped in and the tart, refreshing libation is your reward for eight hours of hiking, the experience is sublime. Cheers!

Sunny Side

  • 1 oz Spirit Bear gin
  • Top with homemade lavender-infused lemonade*

Fill a rocks glass with ice and add gin, then top with lemonade. Stir and garnish with a lemon wedge and a nasturtium.

– Recipe courtesy Island Lake Lodge

*Lavender-infused lemonade (yield: 1-1/2 litres)

  • 1 cup honey
  • 5 cups water, divided
  • 1 tbsp dried lavender flowers
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice

Combine honey with 1 cup water and heat in a saucepan until honey is completely dissolved. Add lavender blossoms, cover, remove from heat and let stand for up to two hours. Strain the infusion and discard the lavender. Pour the mixture into a pitcher, add the lemon juice and remaining 4 cups of water, chill, and serve.

– Modified from a recipe by Kitchn

Heiko’s Trail in Fernie

Blake and I embarked on an epic day hike in Fernie last weekend: Heiko’s Trail. We’d been wanting to do this storied trek for several years, but the timing was never right — it’s a full-day commitment and the thought of just the two of us walking 20 kilometres through bear country gave me pause.

Skirting the imposing mass of Mount Bisaro by way of wildflower-studded alpine meadows. Photo by Mike McPhee.

Skirting the imposing mass of Mount Bisaro by way of wildflower-studded alpine meadows. Photo by Mike McPhee.

So when Toque and Canoe asked if my husband and I would be interested in hiking the trail with an ACMG-certified hiking guide, staying overnight at Island Lake Lodge (the trail’s terminus) post-hike, and then writing about it, how could I say no?

Look for my story on the T&C website later this summer. In the meantime, enjoy some Heiko’s Trail highlights, courtesy of Fernie resident and Island Lake Lodge marketing guru Mike McPhee, who joined our hike as photographer extraordinaire.

Blake walks across a wooden bridge spanning the 'Laughing Waters' waterfalls, barely one kilometre from the trailhead. Photo by Mike McPhee.

Blake walks across a wooden bridge spanning the ‘Laughing Waters’ waterfall, barely one kilometre from the Heiko’s Trail trailhead. Photo by Mike McPhee.

Posing inside Bisaro Cave, a vast cavern carved from crumbling limestone. Photo by Mike McPhee.

Posing inside Bisaro Cave, a vast cavern carved from crumbling limestone long Heiko’s Trail near Fernie, BC. Photo by Mike McPhee.

Crossing Bisaro Canon on one of two steel bridges helicoptered into the backcountry for this purpose. Photo by Mike McPhee.

Crossing Bisaro Canon along Heiko’s Trail on one of two steel bridges helicoptered into the Fernie backcountry for this purpose. Photo by Mike McPhee.

There isn't a bad view on Heiko's Trail. It was amazing to hike behind mountains visible from downtown Fernie. Mount Bisaro's 'Soda Wall' -- so named for the carbonates found in limestone -- looms behind us. Photo by Mike McPhee.

There isn’t a bad view on Heiko’s Trail. Mount Bisaro’s ‘Soda Wall’ — so named for the carbonates found in limestone — looms behind us. Photo by Mike McPhee.

After eight hours, 20 kilometres and 4,500 feet of total elevation gain, it was time for a cold drink on the Bear Lodge patio at Island Lake Lodge. Check out my cocktail of choice in my next post.