Drink of the Week: The Sawback

Chili and pineapples kind of go together. The tropical combo of spice and tart-sweet citrus also generates heat, making it the perfect thing to drink during a cold snap. That was the thinking when my husband ordered The Sawback at Park Distillery in Banff last weekend. He was intrigued by the idea of chili-flavoured vodka and quite liked the cocktail, which is named for a hiking trail that travels 74 kilometres between Banff and Lake Louise along the rugged Sawback range.

Blake loved The Sawback cocktail at Park Distillery in Banff.

Blake loved The Sawback cocktail at Park Distillery in Banff.

It was our first visit to Park and we liked everything about it. It’s kid-friendly, has great campfire-infused food (delicious rotisserie chicken and cheesy fries served in camp mugs!) and the cocktails are made with spirits crafted in-house. Park makes a white (un-aged) rye whiskey, an alpine gin and four flavours of vodka. If you haven’t been, go west to check it out. In the meantime, shake up The Sawback at home.

This yummy spicy vodka number from Park Distillery in Banff is just the thing to transport you vicariously someplace warm.

This yummy spicy vodka number from Park Distillery in Banff is just the thing to transport you — vicariously — someplace warm.

The Sawback

  • 1.5 oz Park Chili Vodka
  • 0.5 oz triple sec
  • 1.75 oz pineapple juice
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 0.75 oz agave nectar
  • Garnish: Pineapple wedge and palm frond
  • Glass: Rocks

Method: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge and palm frond, if handy.

— Recipe courtesy Park Distillery

Consider this our family Christmas card 5

The Kadane-Ford family Christmas card: 2016

After five years, we had professional family photos taken by the talented Jess Harcombe Fleming at the Sandy Cross Conservation Area in September.

Happy holidays from the Fordanes! We finally had professional family photos taken again by the talented Jess Harcombe Fleming at the Sandy Cross Conservation Area.

December marks the end of another year of adventures that included lots of skiing, hiking, scootering (Avery), swimming (Bennett), mountain biking (Blake) and writing (Lisa), and also subjecting other countries to our travelling circus. Our children wowed the Belizeans with their imperviousness to bug bites and jellyfish stings, Blake and I astonished the Argentinians and Uruguayans with our ability to drink excessive amounts of Malbec and eat nearly the whole cow, and the whole family impressed the Americans with our dedication to still shopping at Target during day trips across the border. In between outdoor adventures and trips there was life. Here’s what it looked like for each family member.

Blake continues to learn Spanish from his Duolingo app and is on a 251-day streak. I don’t want to brag, but he’s now 15 percent fluent. This came in handy in Argentina because he could not only order an empanada, he could ask where the baño was after eating too much carne asada.

Blake moves it like Jagger on a mountain bike in Sedona, Ariz.

Blake out-bikes the road runner in Sedona, Ariz.

He upped his mountain biking game with rides in Mendoza and Palm Springs, and with an entire weekend dedicated to riding, farting and beer drinking on a guys trip to Sedona. Blake took up fat biking, which is basically mountain biking on snow with really fat tires. And at the risk of making him sound obsessive overly enthusiastic about mountain biking, he also helped build some bike trails in Bragg Creek in the spring, which earned him a cool bumper sticker and also a frozen shoulder (at least he crossed off an item on his bucket list at the same time). On Blake’s radar for 2017: crossing off another bucket list item by hopefully getting called in as an extra for Fargo, a TV show filming its third season in Calgary this winter. So if you’re watching it and see a hottie driving a Honda Ridgeline, it just might be my famous husband!

Avery earned her yellow belt in karate this fall, so don’t mess with her in a dark alley unless you want a brown stripe in your underpants! She was elected premier of her grade six class after running on the platform, “Strong economy. Safe environment.” On her first day in office she voted herself a pay raise and raised everyone’s taxes lobbied the teacher (who really holds all the power) for more body breaks during class. Avery has also started babysitting, and though I wouldn’t have trusted an 11-year-old to look after my kids, her cheap hourly rate and willingness to clean dishes has helped to grow her client list.

Avery continues to embrace life.

Avery rides a giraffe on the carousel at Butchart Gardens this summer..

Avery skied in the Fernie Extreme Club again last winter and impressed Blake and me by skiing her first double black on Snake Ridge and only crashing four times! Speaking of snakes, she caught a few in Fernie this past summer and her love of all animals continues, be they scurrying crabs, sluggish sea stars or sea monkeys. She even picked up a Portuguese man-o-war in Belize, against her better judgement. On Avery’s radar for 2017: more skiing and earning enough money from babysitting to fund a return trip to Costa Rica.

Bennett climbed his first mountain, Castle Rocks, this past summer in Fernie, although he did go on strike in the middle of the trail and refused to budge until I bribed him with a Larabar. He swam with sharks and stingrays in Belize, went horseback riding, and we also dragged him on a boot-camp trek to a waterfall that provided the inspiration for a parenting-fail travel story.

Bennett continues to wow us with his willingness to go along with our crazy travel adventures.

Bennett continues to wow us with his willingness to go along with our crazy travel adventures. I wrote about travelling with a child with autism.

Other milestones Bennett achieved include ditching the car booster seat and buckling his own seatbelt, consistently sleeping through the night and even sleeping in on occasion (!), and nighttime potty training (although I jumped the gun reporting on this as he is now back in night diapers and we’ve doubled down with our Proctor & Gamble stock as we fear we will be diaper clients FOREVER). Finally, in an effort to help his speech and listening skills, we’ve made Bennett endure 52 hours of classical movements and singing monks as part of a music therapy program this fall. The downside? He now demands that all future playlists be compilations of Mozart and Gregorian chant. On Bennett’s radar for 2017: skiing with the Fernie Adaptive Ski Program and a return to his favourite place on Earth, the San Diego Zoo.

Piper continues to win over new human fans and we’re grateful to the friends and neighbours who have looked after her when we’ve been travelling. The only thing that might hurt her reputation is if people lean in too close and realize she suffers from simple chronic halitosis. Though she’s mostly given up snacking on her own turds, she occasionally eats rabbit poop, and her fishy-smelling salmon and sweet potato dog food isn’t doing her breath any favours.

Piper's head shot for Gun Dog Magazine.

Piper’s body shot for Gun Dog Magazine, shot on location in Fernie.

Blake still mountain bikes with Pipes wherever possible and he even started trail running with her this fall. Piper also enjoys a modicum of peace in her day-to-day life ever since we recorded Grandma Marianne saying, “Bennett, do not touch Piper! I repeat, do not touch Piper!” in a stern voice on Blake’s iPhone. Now, whenever Bennett bugs the dog, we put the recording on speaker and it’s like the voice of God helping to enforce good behaviour. On Piper’s radar for 2017: more opportunities to curl up on the couch with her human pack.

Lisa (that’s me) won’t shut up about Mars ever since she read a really long blog post about Elon Musk’s SpaceX initiative that aims to colonize the Red Planet. Forget travelling to 50 countries by the time I’m 50; I’ll settle for making it to another planet in my lifetime, even if it is freezing and has no atmosphere (not unlike Calgary) … surely there will be a market for travel stories from Mars?

Channeling my inner Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman on horseback in the Andes.

Channeling my inner Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman on horseback in the Andes near Mendoza, Argentina.

Speaking of travel and writing, I did a bit of each this past year. Highlights include a trip to Ottawa where my dream of taking a shirtless selfie with Justin was left unrealized, and a wine trip to Argentina, where I dressed up like a gaucho (see above photo), drank lots of juicy Malbec, was tricked into eating cow brain by Blake (he called it “a crispy ball of yummy”), and even witnessed professional sommeliers call every wine “youthful” as they competed for the title of World’s Biggest Wine Snob Best Sommelier. In addition to Argentina and a side trip to Uruguay, Blake and I managed to sneak in some couple time with a getaway to Palm Springs and a week-long Rockies road trip this summer. We finally hiked to Crypt Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park and reconnected over aches, pains and beautiful mountain scenery. On my radar for 2017: celebrating 20 years of marriage to Blake, and hopefully a trip somewhere awesome to mark the occasion.

We’ve truly had a great year, feel blessed by all the love and good times, and look forward to more adventures in 2017. Merry Christmas!

Our trip to Vancouver Island was a highlight. We love Butchart Gardens!

Our trip to Vancouver Island was another highlight.

 

Drink of the Week: Bagasse

Bagasse is the fibrous matter that’s left over after sugarcane stalks or agave hearts are crushed to extract their juice. The bagasse is then either turned into animal feed, or composted and turned into fertilizer. But don’t let the fate of the agave fibres dissuade you from trying this delicious drink.

The Bagasse appears on Proof’s latest cocktail menu, which features drinks created by its talented bar staff. This one is the brainchild of managing partner Tony Migliarese, who visited the Tequila region of Mexico not long ago, and so loved the taste of roasted agave he wanted to capture its honeyed richness in a cocktail.

This cocktail from Proof combines tequila with apple brandy and cinnamon syrup for a rich and delicious drink.

This cocktail from Proof combines tequila with apple brandy and cinnamon syrup for a rich and delicious drink.

I’m a big fan of both tequila and agave (roasted, or in syrup form), and I love how the drink plays up those tastes with cinnamon and the round flavour of apple. A small amount of turmeric bestows an air of mystery and a lovely colour. Bonus: the Bagasse is pretty easy to recreate at home with such straightforward ingredients — just add a couple cinnamon sticks to your simmering simple syrup, and voila!

Bagasse

  • 1.5 oz Espolon Reposado
  • 0.5 oz Calvados
  • 0.5 oz cinnamon syrup
  • 0.5 oz apple juice
  • 0.5 oz lemon juice
  • Dash of agave nectar
  • 1/16 tsp. turmeric

Glass: Coupette

Method: Combine ingredients and shake with ice. Double strain into a coupette.

— Recipe by Tony Migliarese, managing partner at Proof

 

Disney On Ice review

Remember the Ice Capades? It was a part-theatrical, part-dance, ice skating show that often featured former Olympic skaters like Dorothy Hamill and Scott Hamilton doing fancy routines without the pressure of winning a medal. It toured around the U.S. when I was a kid and I’m pretty sure my parents took me to see a show or two. I always loved watching the tricks, listening to the music and admiring the pretty costumes.

Ice Capades has pretty much gone kaput (although someone tries to resurrect it every couple of years), but now there’s something even better for kids: Disney On Ice. Imagine your favourite Disney franchises coming to life in front of you, on ice skates, and skating to the movie’s best songs. That pretty much sums it up.

The gang from Toy Story 3. Image courtesy Disney On Ice.

The gang from Toy Story 3. Image courtesy Disney On Ice.

I was invited to attend the Calgary opening of the Worlds of Enchantment tour last night. I brought my daughter Avery, 11, and one of her besties, age 10. I was worried they’d be too old for the show (most of the audience was comprised of little girls six and under wearing Elsa dresses and accompanied by their moms), but she surprised me by donning her Pluto hat from Disneyland, and even singing along to Love is an Open Door, the song where Anna meets Prince Hans in Frozen.

The Pulto hat makes an appearance!

The Pluto hat makes an appearance!

Worlds of Enchantment features four “ice skits.” First there’s a long show that recreates the most memorable scenes from Toy Story 3. Next comes a short skit from The Little Mermaid, when Ariel trades her voice to Ursula in exchange for human legs. After a brief intermission there’s a short performance where the cars from Cars drive around slowly (hey, it’s slippery) in circles to Tom Cochrane’s song Life Is A Highway and simultaneously wreck the ice that was just Zambonied (this was the weakest park of the show, in our opinion; a feeble attempt to appeal to the three boys in the audience). Last comes the Disney On Ice climax, when Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf take to the ice in an abbreviated version of Frozen that includes Elsa singing Let It Go as she skates in dizzying circles and channels her inner ice queen while the little girls in the audience lose their minds.

While we loved the costumes from Toy Story 3, and the choreographed scene featuring Andy’s army men, we agreed this skit was too long. Ursula and Ariel from The Little Mermaid were fantastic, and we benefitted from having an intimate knowledge of this particular Disney story (I read the book to Avery exactly 291 times when she was three). In fact, having a genuine enthusiasm for all-things-Disney-and-Pixar (or having a little girl) is kind of a prerequisite for attending.

Best costume of the show, worn extremely well by Ursula.

Best costume of the show, worn extremely well by Ursula. Image courtesy Disney On Ice.

The Frozen performance was not only the most current, but definitely the best. It was the perfect length and included all the great songs from the movie, and solid skating and acting from the performers.

The Frozen Gang stole the show, in our opinion. Image courtesy Disney On Ice.

The Frozen gang stole the show, in our opinion. We especially loved Olaf. Image courtesy Disney On Ice.

In all, it was a fun night out and Avery enjoyed it more than I thought she would. I’m surprised the Stampede Corral wasn’t more full, but it was a school night, after all.

Disney On Ice is in town through November 20, with morning and matinee performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

 

Drink of the Week: Tequila Manhattan

I really like Cocchi, a sweet vermouth from Italy. It’s made using a Moscato wine base that’s then infused with herbs and spices, including gentian, cinchona bark and bitter orange peels. The result is a fruity, raisiny and spicy vermouth, with a touch of bitterness. I learned all this during a crash course in “vermouth vs. amaro” several weeks ago, and now I have the difficult job of trying out recipes that showcase each.

Cocchi Vermouth di Torino is a high-quality sweet vermouth from Italy.

Cocchi Vermouth di Torino is a high-quality sweet vermouth from Italy.

First up: the Cocchi vermouth. Why not use it to make a Tequila Manhattan, a twist on the classic cocktail? When you add a bit of jalapeño syrup for smoky sweetness, and a dash of orange bitters to keep its edge, you have the makings of something spirit-forward, but smooth and round. I like-y.

Smooth tequila and sweet vermouth combine in this spirit forward sip that's a twist on a traditional Manhattan.

Smooth tequila and sweet vermouth combine in this twist on a traditional Manhattan.

Tequila Manhattan

  • 1-1/2 oz reposado tequila (I used Rocado)
  • 1/2 oz Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino
  • 1 tsp. jalapeño simple syrup*
  • Dash orange bitters
  • Orange zest

Method: Combine tequila, vermouth, jalapeño syrup and bitters in a mixing glass with ice. Stir for about 20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over a large ice ball (optional). Squeeze in orange zest, rim glass with orange peel and drop in.

*Jalapeño simple syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 jalapeño, cut into chunks

Method: Combine sugar and water and heat until sugar is dissolved. Add jalapeño and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Strain out jalapeño and store syrup in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Hiking Kelowna’s Kettle Valley Railway trail in Myra Canyon

There’s something magical about a train trestle. Multiply that by 18, add in two tunnels and tons of views and you’ve got the makings of a great hike (or bike ride) along the old Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) line that curves around Myra Canyon in Kelowna, B.C.

Expect great views while hiking or cycling the Kettle Valley Railway trail that curves around Myra Canyon in Kelowna, B.C.

Expect great views of while hiking or cycling the Kettle Valley Railway trail that curves around Myra Canyon in Kelowna, B.C. You also cross 18 wooden train trestles like the one pictured above.

My husband and I had known about the KVR trail for years. This part of the old railway has been restored by a group of volunteers a couple of times. Initially, in the 1990s, they made the 18 trestles safe for recreation. Then, after the devastating wildfire in 2003, they reconstructed the damaged trestles, a project that took nearly five years. So this past summer, during a quick two-day stay in Kelowna, we set out with the kids, bag lunches and lots of water to hike the most epic portion — the 2.5 kilometres between trestle 18 and the second tunnel, for a round trip of 5k (a perfect distance for kids!).

You can even see Okanagan Lake from the trail.

You can even see Okanagan Lake from the trail.

Yes, this meant we were essentially hiking backwards from the terminus trailhead at Myra Station, but lots of other people seemed to have the same idea. And no wonder — we crossed seven trestles of varying lengths and heights, and enjoyed views of the other trestles across the canyon. It’s a popular cycling trail, too, and most of the two-wheelers seemed to be making a day of it by pedalling the entire, mostly-flat, 12-kilometre trail in one direction, turning around, and then cycling back again (for an easy 24k ride).

Next time we visit we are going to bring our bikes!

Next time we visit we are going to bring our bikes!

With the lure of an afternoon spent swimming at the pool complex at Manteo Resort, our lakefront lodgings, we turned around on the other side of the tunnel and headed back to the car. In all, it was a fun outing that combined exercise with pretty Okanagan scenery and a bit of the area’s history (there are interpretive signs that detail the region’s railway past). We’ll definitely be back to hike or cycle the entire trail!

One of two old train tunnels along the Kettle Valley Railway trail in Myra Canyon near Kelowna.

One of two old train tunnels along the Kettle Valley Railway trail in Myra Canyon near Kelowna.

Drink of the Week: Heavenly Hibiscus

It seems a stretch when people describe cocktails as sublime or divine or heavenly. Like, can a drink taste so good it inspires awe? Well, the aptly named Heavenly Hibiscus, created by James Nguyen of Royale Brasserie Francaise, comes awfully close.

You'll have a hard time stopping once you start siping this vanilla-meets-cognac-and-hibiscus taste sensation, aptly named the Heavenly Hibiscus.

You’ll have a hard time stopping once you start siping this vanilla, cognac and hibiscus taste sensation, aptly named the Heavenly Hibiscus.

In fact, once I started sipping I had a hard time putting down the glass, so intoxicating is its combination of cognac, vanilla liqueur and apple juice. It’s strong and rich, with the heady scent of vanilla transformed into something drinkable. There are also hibiscus flowers in there — Nguyen makes his own cordial (see recipe, below) — and a splash of lemon juice for tartness. The drink is intended to demonstrate that cocktails made with cognac can be light, long and easy to drink. I may have asked him for a to-go cup (request denied).

Heavenly Hibiscus

  • 1-1/3 oz Chateau Montifaud VS cognac
  • 2/3 oz Giffard’s Vanille de Madagascar
  • 1/2 oz Hibiscus Cordial*
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz apple juice
  • Garnish: 3 thin apple slices, skewered

Method: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice and garnish with three thin apple slices artfully arranged on a skewer.

*Hibiscus Cordial

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. hibiscus flowers from Silk Road Spice Merchant

Method: Combine sugar and water and heat until just simmering and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add hibiscus flowers. Let steep like a tea. When cool, strain out flowers and refrigerate cordial.

— Recipes courtesy James Nguyen, Royale Brasserie Française