Monthly Archives: August 2014

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