Friday, July 24, 2009

Late night eats

I have been extremely lax in posting lately. I'll blame summer and all it's nice weather, outdoor activities (ie. non-computer activities) and just a general non-committal attitude that goes along with vacations.

While off, I've been able to take some jaunts downtown and have found myself needing some grub at odd hours of the night (or morning, depending on how you look at it). In downtown St. John's there isn't a lot of choice for late night eats but there's enough to fill you up and send you home happy. Here are some of my picks for late night culinary adventure:

Folly on Bates Hill is a chill spot for excellent coffee and gourmet pizza. They're open noon-6am and offer great desserts, veggie options and potato wedges to die for.

Celtic Hearth (300 Water St.) is not far from George St. bars but offers a relaxed sit-down pub-style atmosphere that's open 24 hrs. Staff have been nothing but friendly to me even if I just ordered a huge glass of water and some fries. Their late night pub menu is limited but offers enough to satisfy most. Try the BLT or moose burger for a satisfying meal no matter the time.

Subway on the corner of Water St. and Bishops Cove (next to George) is also open 24hrs. It's not the most glamorous place to get grub at any point of the day and in the wee hours of a night out it can be downright sketchy. But the staff are usually pretty good about all the shenanigans they have to put up with from drunken customers. And it's an easy get for a little something to fill your belly before getting a cab home at the end of the night.

In the same light as the above, there's Sal's Pizza off George and several chip wagons on the street which offer quick and often satisfying bite late night. There's also several hot dog/sausage vendors which pop up on George St., and while I won't go as far as endorse them I know plenty of people who thoroughly enjoy a 3am stop for a dog.

If you happen to be in the East end of St. John's and need some food late night, Rustler's Bar and Grill is also open 24hrs Friday night to Sunday. Their menu is quite full and offers a lot of different options from really decent wings to hot turkey dinner.

And finally if you're already home and looking for a late night greasy grub fest, call up Ches's Fish and Chips. It's cliche and it's dirty but it's so good. And they will answer the phone and deliver right to your door until at the wee hours of the morning.

So that's my list of favorite places to grab grub in St. John's for those late-nights when you just need a snack.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Picnic Places

I know the blog has taken a sojourn from discussing restaurants and the like but the weather's making me think: go outside! And a great way to enjoy out side is to do some eating! So here are my top places to have a picnic in St. John's:

Bannerman Park
on Military Rd. is a great spot for a picnic. Lots of green space for a blanket a small playground and pool near by if you want some after-lunch entertainment. The front of the park is tree-covered but the closer you get to Circular Rd. the more open the space becomes. It's a hang-out for young folk and skateboarders often use the nearby Colonial Building for practice so that will either appeal to you or send you in the opposite decide.

Bowering Park
is huge park in the middle of the West end of the city. The places to picnic are endless here so just take a stoll around until you find either a grassy knoll or a table. The duck pond is a favorite, walking tails, tennis courts, swimming pool and the must-see conservatory are all picnic extras.

Harbourside Park
is downtown on the East end of Water St. and it has a lovely view of the narrows. Find a nice bench from which you can catch the scenery, people watch and eat your sandwich all at the same time. Warning: this is near the dreaded bubble in the harbour so the smell might be a bit much for some. The City of St. John's is doing a lunctime concert series at Harbourside Park which I really recommend you make a point of checking out! Also Shakespeare by the Sea productions is doing Romeo and Juliet here this summer so keep that in mind.

Fort Amherst
is a lovely spot on the other side of the St. John's harbour. Take stroll over there and plop yourself down on one of the massive rocks or left-over guns. You'll be so near the city yet feel very far away. The museum out there also has a small tea room.

Quidi Vidi village (east end of downtown and keep going) is a great spot for a picnic. There's the lake and the many spots around it. Joggers and walkers love to go around the lake and the city has just added an outdoor gym (think adult playground) on the Pleasentville side of the lake. A social enterprise project recently started offering picnics in the area so why not save yourself some work, enjoy a wonderful meal and give back at the same time? Go a little farther to the village and you'll find some great views and lovely people. There's Quidi Vidi Battery where you can get a tour, pick berries (unofficially, of course) and take in the views of the ocean. There is also a beautiful but challenging hike from the Battery to Signal Hill and there are lots of picnic options along the way.

So there is my list...but remember there are loads more places to plop yourself down and enjoy some local food or food from home. Just get out there this weekend and start exploring.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What's in your glass?

The owner of Quidi Vidi Brewery says his beer is being left out of the local restaurant market due to competition with big international products.

An ad cropped up in the Weekend Telegram newspaper accusing big franchises like Boston Pizza and the Keg of selling mostly foreign-owned beer brands.

Quidi Vidi says that they are one of the very few real local brands left in Newfoundland. Older brands, such as Dominion and Blue Star, have been bought by bigger companies, such as Molsen and Lebatt, and money spent on them does not go directly back into the Newfoundland economy.

You can read more about this via CBC.

A response comes on the Signal Blog which hits the nail on the head: the new ad blames others for the situation instead of inciting us to enjoy more local brew.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Do you know what you're eating?

Think St. John's (and Newfoundland in general) is a barren wasteland unable to sustain even the smallest of homegrown produce or food activism? Think again!

There is a local group in St. John's called FEASt (Food Education Action St. John's). From their website, they are "a working collective of individuals and organizations taking action on local, sustainable food issues. Formed in Fall 2007, FEASt is a volunteer-run initiative affiliated to the provincial Food Security Network with almost 300 listserv members currently."

St. John's Safer Soil Project was created by Lori Heath to educate people about the problem of toxins in local soil. A 2003 study showed high lead levels in St. John's soil and this scared a lot of people off backyard gardening. The Safer Soil Project aims to educate about soil testing, growing in raised beds, and using container gardening techniques. More about the project can be found in this Scope article.

Here's more on gardening in lead-laden soil.

The Community Garden Alliance just held their AGM (June 28, 2009) where concerned individuals met to discuss local gardening needs, learn about organic growing, and enjoy some great grub. The Alliance's best-known project is the Rabbittown Community Garden which is an urban garden devoted to community-based organic growing and sharing.

Memorial University's Botanical Gardens has a huge variety of resources regarding local food growing, composting, harvesting, etc. The garden staff offer free lunchtime lectures, composting workshops, and in August there will be an edible plant hike which promises to be very educational and fun.

The Newfoundland Horticultural Society is also a wealth of information for budding gardeners. The group meets every Tuesday evening during the fall, winter and spring months at St. David's Church Hall on Elizabeth Ave. You can learn from other gardeners, take part in workshops, participate in "bring and buy" sales, and receive their newsletter. The Society's annual vegetable sale is coming up in September.

So what are you waiting for? Get involved in a community garden project or start growing your own food! For some extra encouragement, here are some links from the NL Environment Network:
Conservation Corps of Newfoundland
Environmental Conservation Commission
Food Security Network
MUN's Sustainability Centre
Oxfam Canada

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Canada Day traditions

My earlier post on the Canada Day sunrise ceremony got me thinking of another Canada Day tradition: drinks on patios.

If you're not lucky enough to have a patio (or be invited somewhere that has one), here are some spots you can check out on Canada's Birthday to have a drink outside (weather permitting of course):

Sundance (Duckworth/George St.) has a large deck equipped with umbrellas for sunny days and heaters for more-frequent Newfoundland chillier days. They have drinks, food, and an excellent proximity to the downtown area and George Street.

Mexicali Rosa's (George St. West) has a small patio but provides tex-mex food, good 'ol nachos and lots of margarita's for warm sunny days. If you can't get down for Canada Day, try Margarita Mondays!

Greensleeves (George St.) also has a deck and really big, decently priced nachos if you're so inclined. Stop in for a pint and a gawk at those on a George St. stroll.

Jungle Jim's on George has a covered deck and their typical fries-laden food fare. If you want a drink go for a frozen concoction or their Normie beer.

Mustang Sally's is re-opening (yea!) and you can get a made-right-in-front-of-you wrap or stir fry and eat it outside on a table near Mile One. Again, great people-watching!

Of course, you don't have to eat and drink yourself silly to enjoy a good patio. There are a few coffee shops in the downtown area with outdoor seating and unlimited people watching opportunities. Hava Java and Coffee & Co. on Water St. are prime spots. Auntie Crae's also has outdoor seating and if you trek up farther out of the downtown core you're find Coffee Matters (Military Rd.) which has some outdoor seating and a huge following of committed customers (There's also Coffee Matters Two on Water St. and a drive-thru location in Paradise). Finally (and Canada Day sunrise ceremony related) you should try Sweet Relic (Power's Court, Signal Hill Rd.) for its coffee offerings and general lovely setting. Take your coffee to the road for the walk down after seeing the sun rise!

First light

This post isn't so much about food as it is about St. John's and Canada Day celebrations. If you're in town and not busy at 5am you really should make the trek to Signal Hill for the Canada Day sunrise celebration. Everyone should do this at least once in their lives and many make it a annual tradition. You will be amongst the first to see the sun rise in Canada.

Once the sun is up you can take an equally-traditional trek back down Signal Hill and have breakfast. What a way to start the day!

Here are the City of St. John's celebrations schedule for July 1, 2009:

4:00 am
Metrobus shuttle begins from the Bell Aliant Building Parking Lot, Fort William to Signal Hill National Historic Site of Canada

6:00 am
Official Ceremony begins for Happy Birthday Canada!

Here is a food-related item: you can have some birthday cake and Central Dairies products.

10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Cape Spear and Signal Hill National Historic Sites Open House

Celebrate Canada Day all day long at both National Historic Sites of Canada. Admission is free, cake, face-painting, games, scavenger hunts, prizes, guided tours and lots of fun for everyone!

Confederation Building Lobby (begins at 12:30 pm)

Afternoon entertainment featuring:

12:30 pm - Fergus Brown O'Byrne
1:00 pm - Cake Cutting
1:30 pm - Sharing our Cultures
1:45 pm - Celtic Fiddlers
2:15 pm - Sharing our Cultures
2:30 pm - Petty Rogues

*Afternoon events are free with a donation of a non-perishable food product or toonie for Bridges to Hope.

Free cake and Central Dairies milk

Face painting until 4:00 pm; Red Rocket Amusements, St. John's Regional Fire Department's Fire Truck, tattoo parlour, Rovers Search and Rescue Display, flags and seedlings and more!

Confederation Hill

1:00pm 2:00pm & 3:00pm - Tours of the House of Assembly Confederation Building)

Eurest Dining and food stations throughout the day!

Outdoor Stage (Rain Venue: Cafeteria)

Afternoon entertainment featuring special appearance and presentation of Captain Bob Bartlett.

12:15 pm - Host: Fergus O'Byrne
12:30 pm - Celtic Fiddlers
1:00 pm - Sharing our Cultures
1:15 pm - Overview of Capt. Bob Bartlett Celebrations
Jim Payne & Fergus O'Byrne
1:45 pm - Sharing our Cultures
2:00 pm - Mary Barry
2:25 pm - Sharing our Cultures
2:35 pm - Multi-National Choir "New Canadian Voices"
2:55 pm - Sharing our Cultures
3:10 pm - The Square Knot Dancers
3:35 pm - Connemara
4:10 pm - St. John's Multicultural and Folk Arts Council presentation

Quidi Vidi Lake
10:00 pm

Scheduled for blast off at 10:00 pm, but within the hour should weather conditions not be ideal.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Take-out weather

With this week's rainy weather it's a good time to order some take-out, hunker down and watch some tv or a movie. My top hibernating take-out choices:

India Gate (Duckworth) is the cure for rainy-day blues. Order a samosa, some nann, rice, and a main (chicken korma is delish). Take it home, open it up, eat half and declare you're too full to eat another bite. Put it in the fridge and enjoy the tastiest midnight snack (or breakfast) when the lure of the leftovers becomes too much to bare.

The Sprout (Duckworth) offers veggie and vegan choices that are palate-pleasing for everyone. Go down, order the pad thai to go, and just try to wait until you get home to enjoy its yumminess. You may find it's gone before you hit your front door. Plus they offer eco-friendly take-out containers so you'll feel better about the whole process!

If you're going to order in, pizza is the sure-fire choice for delivery food in town. Old Town Pizza (Portugal Cove Rd.) has chewy crust and a great sauce. Venice (Military Rd.) is quite accommodating and quick. If you're in the West end of town (or Mount Pearl) try Chilly Willy's (Park Ave.) for pizza or anything else you fancy in the greasy take-out genre (burgers, chicken fingers) as it's been a long-time staple.

Zapata's (Bates Hill) and Quintana's (Churchill Sq.) both do awesome, homemade Mexican food and take out. A bit pricey on both counts but well worth it if you want tasty food but don't want to spend hours simmering sauces or putting together enchiladas. Ask for extra chips and salsa for sure.

Finally, I couldn't have a list of blues-beating take-out food without the old standby: fish and chips. The favorite of most is Ches's and it's convenient since there are so many locations (Highland Dr., Freshwater Rd., Topsail Rd., Commonwealth Avenue). Their best deal is the cod bites special which will give you lots of fish and chips, plus a drink. Add dressing and gravy and you're more then set to completely veg out on the couch. Other excellent fish and chips shops are Leo's (Freshwater Rd.), B&B's Snack Bar (Blackmarsh Rd.), and Big R (Military Rd. and Blackmarsh Rd.).