Monthly Archives: May 2014

Drink of the Week: Savanna Dry Premium Cider

Maybe I’m just now starting to pay attention, but lately I’ve been noticing cider offerings on cocktail menus. Not apple cider — hard cider. I think it’s a thing. One of my friends from the West Coast is a cider girl — she loves the stuff — and Vancouver Island is where I visited my first cider house, Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse.

But Calgary has always struck me as a firmly-entrenched beer city, so it’s refreshing to see ciders sneaking their way into more bars. And now, into my home. A new arrival on the cider-scene is Savanna Dry, a cider from South Africa that’s made from the fermented juice of crushed Elgin apples (Elgin is a region on the country’s Western Cape). Savanna Dry is not as sweet as a traditional cider (hence the “dry”), which I really like for summer sipping. Another selling point is it’s GMO- and gluten-free.

This dry cider from South Africa really is better with a lemon wedge.

This dry cider from South Africa really is better with a lemon wedge.

Savanna Dry comes in a stubby bottle and you’re supposed to drink it with a lemon wedge, a la Grasshopper or other wheat ale. I tried it first without the lemon and then with it squeezed in, and I have to say I much preferred it after the citrus was added. Kind of like how a lime turns Corona from weak pee-pee into an elixir you can drink all day poolside or at the beach. Not that this cider tastes weak on its own — it’s like a crisp, light, dry white wine — but the citrus just elevates it thanks to the tartness, and also lends it a certain beer guzzle-ability factor. I’ve always thought of ciders as a sort of white wine-beer hybrid and this one  proves me right. You can alternate between sipping and chugging. Really.

I wore Birkenstocks in Paris — quelle horreur!

The first time I got called out for what I was wearing in a newspaper photograph was in 2009 after I’d undergone a “mommy makeover” with a local stylist and then written about it for the Calgary Herald. The stylist had helped me ditch my Lululemon uniform in favour of something more put together — jeans, a blazer and boots. A picture of me sporting the new ensemble accompanied the story. A reader e-mailed me to defend the new-mom Lulu-pant look, itemizing the ways in which my outfit was impractical (can’t play with your kid on the floor, the necklace would get pulled off by little hands, etc.).

The second and most recent time I got called out was Tuesday this week, when a reader wrote a letter to the editor expressing her horror over the shoes I’m wearing in a picture accompanying a Paris travel story that ran in the Calgary Herald on the weekend. The story is about how travellers can still live it up in the City of Lights even though the bachanalian decade that put it on the international travel map (the 1920s) is long past. I write about Hemingway’s Paris and how, though the times and the people have changed, the buildings and the city’s soul remain the same. But, according to one rather catty reader, I should be ashamed of myself for wearing Birkenstocks in Paris. She writes:

“I was stunned to see Lisa Kadane sporting Birkenstock sandals during her swishy stay in the City of Lights.

As a frequent traveller to Paris, I can tell you that no self-respecting Parisian woman would be caught dead in them.”

Meow! Or, as they say in Paris, “Miaou!” Apparently, I just can’t get this fashion thing figured out — I’m always overdressing for playdates but underdressing for strolls along the Seine. I knew, knew knew I should’ve packed my Jimmy Choos. What was I thinking?!

Fortunately, I am not Parisian — I am American and Canadian, obvs (I wore Teva sandals and cut-off jean shorts during my first visit to Paris in 1993 — take that you fashion police Herald reader!) — so I have managed to maintain my self-respect through this epic faux pas.

In which I unwittingly wear sandals in Paris that might make Coco Chanel roll over in her grave.

Photo evidence: In which I unwittingly wear sandals in Paris that might make Coco Chanel roll over in her grave.

But there are some points I would like to make that address a larger issue.

1. The day I dressed in my beloved, super-comfy Birks was a sightseeing day. There was walking involved, and Paris is a big city. Our group set off from lunch at the Eiffel Tower to walk along the Seine toward the Pont des Invalides and across the river into a shopping district, a distance of several kilometres. About half way to our destination some in our group flagged a cab because their shoes were too tight or the heels too high or straps were rubbing. Their feet hurt. I do a lot of walking when I travel and there’s nothing worse than wearing uncomfortable shoes or getting a blister. So I brought my Birks. I can walk for miles in them and never have to call a taxi. I don’t think I need to defend myself here but it should be noted I did not wear the sandals out at night to upscale restaurants. Puh-leeze.

Photo evidence: A Birkenstock rube gets some fashion intervention for a swishy night out in the City of Lights.

Photo evidence: A Birkenstock rube goes urban for a swishy night out in the City of Lights.

2. Since when do you have to dress a certain way in this city or that city? “Oh, my God! You wore a beret in Calgary? Why didn’t you bring a cowboy hat?” Crazy, right? The letter-writer is, literally, “stunned” by my sandals. Her mean-spirited comments seem to imply that I’m somehow not qualified to write about swanky restos or five-star hotels in Paris based on my shoe choice. Let me tell you: You can live it up in Paris — or anywhere, really — in Birkenstocks. Hang out in Berkeley, Calif. on a Friday night and you’ll see what I mean.

3. In my story I reference the novel The Paris Wife. It’s a story written from the viewpoint of Hadley, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, who spent the lean and hungry years with him in Paris. Interestingly, Hadley was no fashionista (at least, according to author Paula McLain), but she and Hem managed to live la vie Parisienne — hanging out at hip cafes and drinking copious amounts of absinthe and having loads of fun in a beautiful and cultured city —  regardless. She writes:

“I also didn’t care enough about clothes to do any thinking about what would suit me. I wore what was easiest and required the least maintenance, long wool skirts and shapeless sweaters and wool cloche hats. Ernest didn’t seem to mind. If anything, he thought highly costumed women were ridiculous.”

Hear, hear! Of course, Hadley was American. I’m sure any self-respecting Parisian woman from the 1920s wouldn’t have been caught dead in a long wool skirt and shapeless sweater. Whatever.

My three points bring me to this: does it matter what shoes I wore on that hot summer day in Paris? I think not. Women should dress in a way that makes them feel comfortable, both physically and mentally. Cities do not have dress codes, and the majority of citizens will not judge you based on your wardrobe. I think letters to the editor should take issue with or support the written content in a publication, not what the author of said content is wearing. Surely the letter writer, as a “frequent traveller to Paris,” could have found ways to add to my story in a positive way, by pointing out favourite cafes or sights or hotels or cocktail lounges that I overlooked. But I think the point of her letter was to try and make me feel bad about myself for my shoes, which is both laughable and sad. Why must some women try to bring others down in this way? Does she feel better about herself now for outing me and my Birks? I wish we could move past this kind of fashion war.

It should also be noted that I never noticed any French women giving me stink eye or snickering behind my back about my sandals while in Paris. I guess they are too classy for that, or here’s a thought —  maybe they just don’t care. Which is great, because the next time I’m in Paris I am so going to wear my new Croc wedges.

 

“And this is the San Diego Zoo?”

Our family travelled to San Diego earlier this month to fulfill Bennett’s wish through the Rainbow Society of Alberta, an agency that grants wishes to children with chronic or life-threatening conditions (Bennett has a genetic condition). We wished for a trip to San Diego because, at the time, the Calgary Zoo was still (mostly) shuttered after the flood and Bennett had been devastated about his favourite Calgary attraction being closed all summer. Since the San Diego Zoo is one of the world’s best, we felt that a trip to “America’s Finest City” to see its collection of animals, including Bennett’s faves — hippos and gorillas — would cheer him up.

Avery and Bennett pose outside the San Diego Zoo.

Avery and Bennett pose outside the San Diego Zoo.

In the lead up to the trip I created a social story for Bennett all about San Diego. It showed him where we’d be staying and what we’d be doing, such as going to the beach (with a picture of La Jolla Cove) and visiting the zoo’s Safari Park (with a picture of a safari jeep surrounded by giraffes). I included pictures of koala bears and panda bears in the story, and it talked about how we’d be seeing a lot of animals in San Diego. The social story didn’t mention the zoo specifically, only because ever since the Calgary Zoo re-opened in November Bennett has been weird about it — desperate to go but simultaneously scared about some of the animals and buildings.

Bennett marvels at a polar bear playing and eating carrots at the San Diego Zoo.

Bennett marvels at a polar bear playing and eating carrots at the San Diego Zoo.

Of course, when we first found out our wish-trip to San Diego had been granted Blake and I had gone on and on and on about the San Diego Zoo, but after the excitement simmered down and Bennett’s Calgary Zoo phobias surfaced, we were careful not to mention the San Diego Zoo by name. During April and early May we talked in code, referring to it as : “a place with animals,” an “animal park” and a “panda bear and koala bear place, with monkeys and stuff.” For all Bennett knew we were going to San Diego to see some guy’s private exotic animal collection.

Bennett and Avery stand pretty and proud as peacocks to be at one of the world's best zoos.

Bennett and Avery stand pretty and proud as peacocks to be at the world’s best zoo.

The day of our zoo visit we drove to Balboa Park, parked the car and started walking toward the entrance. Out of nowhere Bennett said, “And this is the San Diego Zoo?” I laughed. “Yes, Bennett, we’re at the San Diego Zoo!” “Yay!” He somehow knew exactly where we were without us telling him.  We were thrilled he was excited and not at all scared — evidently, we were being careful for no reason. After that he pretty much dictated where we went inside the zoo, based on what he wanted to see: peacocks, flamingoes, hippos, gorillas, all kinds of monkeys, lions and elephants. We also saw lots of animals Calgary doesn’t have, such as polar bears, orangutans, koala bears and tasmanian devils.

Bennett loved watching the orangutans and the polar bears, and especially the male silverback gorilla, who was eating a head of lettuce and who actually stopped what he was doing to stare directly at Bennett a couple of times (“He’s looking at me!”). He also adored the Skyfari (a sky ride that spared us walking from one end of the gigantic zoo to the other) as well as the double-decker bus tour, which gave us the lay of the land first thing in the morning. Avery loved all of the Australian critters; Blake and I were in awe of the lush gardens everywhere and the quality of the animal habitats — the elephants’ enclosure covers an area of three acres because the pachyderms walk 10 miles a day, and the gorilla troop lives in an Eden of trees, verdant lawns and waterfalls!

Aping around on a gorilla at the San Diego Zoo.

Aping around on a gorilla at the San Diego Zoo.

It was a great day and I can’t think of a better wish for our own little gorilla-boy, who got so tired walking all over the zoo to “see something else!” that he’d hit a wall by 3 p.m. (Blake nearly had to carry him out). We got Bennett what we think is an appropriate souvenir — a zoo ball-cap with his favourite animal on it. We can’t thank you enough, Rainbow Society!

A gorilla ball cap for Bennett.

A gorilla ball cap for Bennett.

 

Free-wheelin’ in Calgary

To say Bennett has been slow reaching certain milestones is an understatement. At times his progress has seemed glacial, but I’m proud to say we’ve never stopped believing that given an opportunity and a lot of encouragement, he might eventually get there. That was what happened this past winter with skiing and it’s also the case this spring with riding a bike.

Bennett cruises the 'hood on his new Norco adapted bike from Bow Cycle.

Bennett cruises the ‘hood on his new Norco adapted bike from Bow Cycle.

We got one of those strider bikes for Bennett when he was three. There was zero interest on his part to even go near the thing; bribing him with M&Ms worked only to get him to straddle it while holding the handle bars (he would then immediately climb off). After a month of this we returned it.

Last year, when Bennett was five, he tried riding an adapted bike from his school, and he kind of liked it. It’s basically a bike that’s fitted with large training wheels, crusier-style handle bars (so the rider doesn’t have to sit all hunched over) and pedals that keep little feet from slipping off. Also, this particular bike featured a spring that made the handle bars pivot back to centre, so Bennett wouldn’t be able to turn too suddenly and jack-knife the bike. We got him out a couple times with his physical therapist and worked on teaching him to pedal while paying attention to where he was going. It requires a lot of coordination to ride a bike and at the time I didn’t think it would be worth investing in one so we held off.

The breakthrough happened late last summer when Bennett took it upon himself to learn to ride his PlasmaCar around the backyard patio. He got quite good at navigating it, proving he could steer it with ease and stay focused. A Radio Flyer scooter followed for his sixth birthday. When he demonstrated his interest and burgeoning ability to ride it this spring we decided to take the plunge with the bike.

I contacted Bow Cycle — the same bike shop that adapts bikes for Renfrew (Bennett’s school) and for the Calgary Cerebral Palsy Association — and they were awesome about customizing a bike for Bennett. They found a Norco that’s a good fit for him and then added large training wheels, modified handle bars and pedal baskets to keep his feet on the pedals. He was pretty excited and couldn’t wait to ride it around Inglewood, ramming the front wheel into curbs wherever possible. What amazed me is that he suddenly understands how to pedal; it’s no longer a struggle. He’s also learning how to stop the bike with handle bar brakes. What a difference a year makes!

Straight for the curb. That's my boy!

Straight for the curb. That’s my boy!

As with every new skill, we anticipate there will be hiccups. Just as Bennett took off and got out of control skiing on the bunny hill at Panorama, he’s already crashed his new bike — right into the rose bushes in our backyard. Progress, right?

Happy Cinco de Mayo! a.k.a. Margarita Monday?

I don’t normally blog about drinks on Monday, but today is Cinco de Mayo so I’ll make an exception. It’s a holiday associated with sombrero-wearing, Corona-swilling, piñata-whacking revellers, that’s arguably more widely celebrated in the United States than in Mexico. Since more Canadians are starting to reach for tangy tacos and biggie margaritas on May 5th, here’s a quick primer as to what we’re even celebrating.

All you need for your Cinco de Mayo party is a giant sombrero and a margarita or a Corona (or both, like Snooki).

All you need for your Cinco de Mayo party is a giant sombrero and a margarita, a Corona or a shot of tequila (or all three!).

Way back in 1862 the Mexicans defeated the French at the Battle of Puebla, a win that helped unify the country (May 5th is not Mexican independence day — that’s celebrated on Sept. 16). Oddly, the holiday somehow got hijacked by American university students and has been voted one of the Top 10 party holidays in the U.S. But no matter. We can celebrate, too.

The main ingredient you’re going to need is alcohol. While it’s tempting to chill a six-pack of Dos Equis, or break out the dusty bottle of Cuervo for some throat-burning shooters, please refrain. You can do better. Instead, shake up some margaritas and treat yourself by using good tequila, such as Patron Reposado (see margarita recipe, below).

If you’re not able to celebrate today, swing by Inglewood this Saturday, May 10, for the annual Kitchen Party fundraiser. This year’s theme is Mexican, so bring your sombrero and get ready to drink some margaritas. Ole!

A margarita really is perfection in a glass. Ole!

A margarita really is perfection in a glass.

Patron Perfect Margarita

  • 1-1/2 oz Patron Reposado tequila
  • 3/4 oz Patron Citronage Orange Liqueur
  • 3/4 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 oz agave nectar
  • Lime wheel garnish

Method: Salt the rim of a rocks glass, if desired. Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice; shake well and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

— Recipe courtesy Patron

Drink of the Week: Ginger Gin Sour

Gin, lemons, ginger. What’s not to love? Here’s a drink that’s tart and smooth, with a sweet and spicy kick. I used some of the ginger syrup left over from early April’s Lawnmower cocktail; muddled it with basil, gin and lemon juice; tossed  in an egg white; and christened the delicious result a Ginger Gin Sour.

Basil and ginger together? Why yes, Thailand is on to something with that flavour combo.

This short cocktail will help you transition from the stiff sours of winter to the long, gin-lemony drinks of summer.

This short cocktail will help you transition from the stiff sours of winter to the long, lemony gin drinks of summer.

Ginger Gin Sour

  • 2 oz gin
  • 4-5 basil leaves
  • 1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz ginger syrup*
  • 1 egg white
  • Basil sprig garnish

Method: In the base of a cocktail shaker, muddle basil gently with gin, lemon juice  and ginger syrup. Add egg white and dry shake. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled coupe or an ice-filled rocks glass and garnish with a basil sprig.

*Ginger syrup

  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh ginger, shredded

Method: Bring the sugar and water to a boil over medium heat. Add the ginger and boil for one minute. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain the ginger from the syrup. Store in a clean glass jar for up to one month in the refrigerator.

– Ginger syrup recipe by Wade Sirois, Crowbar