Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bridge to Vancouver Island?

People do a lot of thinking as they wait, and that's what I am doing as I wait in the ferry lineup to Victoria, BC. After my recent trip to Prince Edward Island with the Chef Dez Culinary Tour, I got to thinking about our own little Vancouver Island.

Even though PEI is our smallest Canadian Province, our Vancouver Island (off the south coast of British Columbia) is twice the land size of PEI and has approximately 5 times more people. So if PEI can have a bridge connecting them to land (New Brunswick), why can't we have one here connecting Vancouver Island to the Mainland?

The Confederation Bridge that connects PEI to New Brunswick is nearly 13km long and has been in operation since 1997. The cost to cross the bridge is less than $50 and that is charged when leaving the island (there is no fee on the return trip). The other option to leave the PEI is by ferry (much like we have here in BC), but the cost for that service is approximately $70 - which is also just to leave the island with no fee for the ferry return.

The ferry ride here in BC to Vancouver Island costs over $70 for standard vehicle with driver and additional fees for passengers, plus the same charge for the return trip. So, this being said, it would seem that if we had a similar bridge here in BC, it would also be more economical than the ferry system.

However, the geographical comparison is where the problem exists. Prince Edward Island’s $1-billion (1997 dollars) Confederation Bridge is only 12.9 km long and is set in water 35 m deep with a rock bottom. In comparison, a fixed bridge across British Columbia’s Georgia Strait would be 26 km in length, in water up to 365 m deep and in a zone with deep soft sediment ocean floor and a much higher seismic risk. Not to mention that the wind gusts here would pose a huge risk on such an immense structure.

This being said, the province of BC has no immediate or definite plans of pursuing a bridge crossing to Vancouver Island.

Well, there goes those thoughts. Time now to think about what to have for dinner tonight.

Until next time... Happy Cooking!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Day 10 of 9 in Prince Edward Island

Well here's the update, albeit late (like our arrival), to the last part of our trip from Prince Edward Island:

We ended up having to wait at the Charlottetown airport for quite some time, and so WestJet came through with $15 dinner meal vouchers for all of us to spend at the airport consession/restaurant. We also received our new flight itineraries for the next day: 8 of our group would be flying directly to Vancouver, while I and two others would be flying into Abbotsford via a connection through Edmonton.

Our plane finally arrived in Prince Edward Island and by local time of 9:35pm we were in the air. This didn't help us in getting our connecting flight in Toronto, we would still be missing it, but at least we were on our way.
Once we arrived in Toronto, collected our bags, and got our hotel vouchers for the night, it was 1:30am local time. WestJet also gave us $30 each in meal vouchers to spend at the airport in the morning for breakfast. Most of our group were put up in the Toronto Airport West Hotel, while the 3 of us that were flying to Abbotsford were put up at the Hilton. By the time we got to the hotels via shuttles, and checked into our rooms, we had only about TWO HOURS to sleep before having to get up and start heading back to the airport for our early morning flights.

Once we arrived at the airport, we were advised at bag check-in that the flight to Edmonton for the 3 of us had been cancelled. The 8 that were flying direct to Vancouver had no problem and were scheduled to leave on time, but the 3 of us had to be rerouted through Calgary on 2 separate flights. With a one hour difference in flights we met up in Calgary and waited together for our last and final flight to Abbotsford which came through without a hitch.

Everything cannot be perfect with air travel, and one has to expect to be delayed every now and then, but in this case WestJet came through for us. Not only did they accommodate us with hotels and meal vouchers, they also placed all of us in first class free of charge.

Our plane landed in Abbotsford at 1:20pm local time on Thanksgiving Day, and by 2:30 I was walking in the door of our home to the warm inviting aroma of turkey and the embrace of my wife and children. It was a good day after all.

Until next time... Happy Cooking!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Day 9 of 9 in Prince Edward Island

Because of the huge meal at the wrap-up dinner last night, and because of brunch scheduled for 12:30pm today, my breakfast (as you can see) was very small (it reminds me of a breakfast in Savannah GA - look at the orbs!).

Wow, all the eating on this tour has been amazing and abundant... And this muffin at the hotel wasn't bad either.

In the lobby, Caryn collected all the evaluation forms and we had a very leisurely morning.
These forms are really important to us so we can re-evaluate what we are doing right/wrong and improve for future Chef Dez Culinary Tours. I would bet money that Chef Michael Smith was the highlight.

The Brickhouse Kitchen & Bar is one of the few places we hadn't tried yet as a group, and the menu for brunch was inviting:
We all placed our orders and this place is obviously very popular as the kitchen was hopping! Our Server, Juliette was very good and recognized that we would have a bit of a wait and brought plates of scones for everyone in the meantime:

Here are the shots of the food we ordered. Try to match these photos with the menu items (listed above) and also try to choose which is the one I ordered:
So... What do you think? Which meal was mine?

We were wowed once again with yet another fabulous meal. Prince Edward Island is a Mecca of culinary delights and to anyone that is interested, I highly, highly recommend making the journey here.

Afterwards, we all went back to the Great George Hotel to hang out together in their grand lobby, reminiscing and sharing stories of this wonderful island journey.
Don, our "VIP", and our Big Green Egg winner, had a couple of small single-serve bottles of scotch in his pocket... we grabbed a couple of paper cups, stashed the empty bottles quickly into the garbage, and secretly sipped on our "coffees". People noticed that we were really happy, and they also noticed afterwards that I fell asleep for an afternoon nap!

The Great George Hotel was gracious enough for us to have a late checkout at Noon, and they stored our bags in a secured room until our bus arrived at 3:15pm to load our luggage.
They also had a nice washroom off the lobby for us to use to freshen up if needed before departing for the airport.

With the luggage now loaded on the bus, we headed off to the airport. Charlottetown airport is very small, much like Abbotsford, and with Charlottetown, being very small, we were there and bags checked in no time.

When we arrived we were informed that our flight was delayed due to maintenance issues, and we will be missing our connecting flight in Toronto and WILL NOT be arriving in Vancouver tonight. Yes, being Thanksgiving weekend, scenes of Planes, Trains, & Automobiles are playing through my head - luckily we have no shower curtain ring salesmen with us on the tour.

It is currently 6:35pm local time here and we will not be lifting off for another 2.5 hours. Westjet will be putting all of us up at the airport hotel in Toronto and hopefully out on the earliest flights tomorrow.
This is completely out of our control, but it still sucks. I called my wife to advise her that she will be on her own for getting Thanksgiving dinner ready for us tomorrow. My kids are disappointed too, and I feel bad, and I am disappointed, but we cannot control it, so we are doing our best to stay positive that we will make it home at a half decent time tomorrow. Caryn is off talking to Westjet right now.

I will update the situation with another blog post from Toronto... Keep your fingers crossed for us please.

Until next time... Happy Cooking! ...or at least I hope my wife will find some happiness in the situation if she has to cook without me tomorrow.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

PART 2 - Day 8 of 9 in Prince Edward Island

For those of you waiting patiently to find out what happened tonight, here is my final, part 2, blog entry for today.

Caryn and I went back to Sim's Corner Steakhouse, before our tour guests, to help get the room ready and organize all the prizes.
This private room was the perfect spot, complete with our own private bar:

We made sure there were enough prizes for everyone: Cloth Bags, T-shirts, Aprons, etc. and of course the main prize of the large Big Green Egg - no, we didn't bring that with us on the trip - that would sure make for one heck of a carry-on, wouldn't it?

Caryn had been working on the menu with Sim's for quite some time:
...and their hard efforts sure paid off. There were 3 appetizers to choose from, 4 entrees to choose from, and 2 desserts to choose from. What would you have chosen if you were there? I chose the Seafood Chowder, Grilled 10oz PEI Striploin, and the Sticky Date Pudding. The whole meal was phenomenal! This is a classic steakhouse and the portions were large and the flavours were great. My striploin especially was so tender and flavourful.

One surprise we had for the group, and we didn't tell them until 10 minutes beforehand, was that we arranged for Nate and Kate to perform for us privately at this event for 2 hours. We were so impressed with them last night from their performance at our hotel (see my blog post from yesterday) that Caryn put the wheels in motion to make this happen for our group tonight. 
Again, they have amazing voices together and if you ever get the opportunity to hear them live - do it!
Our guests were captivated by them once again and they made the night that much more enjoyable for everyone.

And we also celebrated Judie's Birthday together:
Even Nate and Kate sang Happy Birthday to her! Happy Birthday Judie! This is my second time travelling with Judie as she also came on the Chef Dez Culinary Tour to Savannah GA in 2014. It was great to share this special occasion with you.

Ok, now the moment you have all been waiting for.
We had 9 tour guests traveling with us, and all of them took part in this 3rd Official Chef Dez Scvavenger Hunt. It was a very tight and competitive race and only 7 of the 9 completed ALL the items/tasks for the total of 26 points. All of them however, went home with a prize of some sort this evening. We did a reverse draw with all 7 people's names in the bin pulling out one name at a time, and the name left in the bin at the end was the winner! Who was the winner, you ask?
Well the winner was one of a husband/wife couple, and the funny thing is from the very first day we were on our way here to PEI, we were all calling them the VIP's... Not because we knew what was going to happen, but just because of a small mix-up of our seats on our connecting flight. They were taken from the group and while we were all in the group section at the back of the plane, they got placed in the Emergency Exit Row and had all the leg room in world. From that moment on, they started joking that they were VIP's, and it stuck.

As a matter of fact, it stuck so well, that...
...Don S. of Maple Ridge, BC (one of the two nick-named VIP's) ended up being the grand prize winner of the large Big Green Egg, courtesy of Big Green Egg Canada and Grand Pappy's Home Furniture in Chilliwack!
Congratulations Don & Flo! This also makes for a great 60th wedding anniversary present to you both! You guys fought hard to gather all the necessary points to be in the final draw for this prize, and you made it to the end! Your new Big Green Egg will bring you many years of enjoyment! You guys are now official EGGheads! Welcome to the club.

Until next time... Happy Cooking!

PART 1 - Day 8 of 9 in Prince Edward Island

Today is the day! This is the day where we find out which of the tour members of the Chef Dez Culinary Tour to PEI 2016 wins a Large Big Green Egg valued at over $1600... But that's tonight, so I will keep you in suspense a bit while I tell you about the first part of my day.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, the weather here has been exceptional good: Sunny & warm! Today was forecasted to be no different. Because of this, my plan was to have a quick breakfast at the hotel and then get out and enjoy the sunshine by just walking and enjoying Charlottetown on what is our last full day here - we depart late tomorrow.

My first stop after the hotel complimentary breakfast, was for a...
COFFEE! We've really gotten to know the fine folks at Receiver Coffee quite well. They have really good coffee there, and let's face it, we all know what hotel coffee is mainly like, for the most part. I need that caffeine jump-start to my day.
I got my coffee to go and I roamed the streets of Charlottetown taking in advice on life from the local shop owners:
Hmmm... I better stop rolling up my sleeves.
"Do you think my but looks big in this life?"

Now that I felt my sense of life direction had enough influence that I could handle in a single morning, I decided to pick up a couple more last souvenirs that I needed for gifts.
After this final shopping escapade, Caryn and I decided to go for lunch. It had to be a light lunch though because we had a whole afternoon and evening filled with food and eating planned with the group. Because the Great George Hotel is part of the Murphy Hospitality Group, they offer their Guests a $10 coupon per day to use at their own Murphy Group of restaurants, for not having housekeeping come to the room. Caryn and I had both taken advantage of this and thus we had these two $10 coupons from today already burning holes in our pockets.
This lead us to...
The Gahan House - Brewers of Handcrafted Ales.
Did we have beer? No. Why would anyone go to a craft brewery and not have beer? Because we can.
While we were waiting for our orders to arrive, I checked out the facilities... Yes, I do mean the toilet (actually just the urinal, but we're getting a bit personal, aren't we?), NO, I mean the BEER MAKING facilities:
Pretty cool. Everyone with a passion for beer that sees something like this, always leaves with their heads full of images and ideas on how to transform their basements into this. I was no different. Is that a "guy" thing, or is it just me?

Anyway, our light lunch came to the table:
I had the Coconut Curry Mussels for $11
...and Caryn had the Calamari for $13

Because she works so hard for me I decided that today was the day I was going to thank her.
"Put your wallet away Caryn. I'm pulling out all the stops for you!"
You do remember the two $10 coupons I mentioned above, right? My head's not just a hat rack, let me tell ya.
After feeling financially drained, I headed back to my hotel room to start getting my bags packed for the trip home tomorrow. After doing so (and realizing I still need to head to the liquor store to get a bottle of locally made Strait Vodka (see day 6 of 9 blog post)), we all met as a group for a behind the scenes kitchen tour at the local Sim's Corner Steakhouse:
This is where our private wrap-up dinner will be tonight, so we thought it would be fun to meet the Chef in advance and have a private tour.
The oysters with all the booze gives a whole new meaning to the term "oyster bar", and a meaning I quite like actually!
The live lobster tank was just around the corner, in the seating area of the restaurant.

The Lovely Kelly (how Caryn called her) showed us to the back kitchen area to meet up with their Chef: Kyle Panton. He and GM Craig led us through all the kitchen and prep areas and explained the workings of their kitchen to us.
PEI beef is incredibly delicious and Chef Kyle and the Sim's Corner Steakhouse has great pride in serving only PEI beef on their menu. Just in the beef tenderloins alone, they go through 15 cows in any given week. Other than one of the Fireworks Feast menus (2nd day at the Inn at Bay Fortune - beef short rib and flat iron steak) I have mainly been focused on the seafood delights of the Island. Needless to say I am really looking forward to sinking my teeth into a nice 10oz strip loin tonight.

They also showed us around the basement areas of the restaurant:
...and told us of some great stories about the history of the building. One of the stories I find most fascinating was that the wood for the ceiling beams on the main floor and these tables (pictured above) in this room are made from reclaimed WWII bunkers in New Brunswick. 
There are in fact many old buildings here in Charlottetown and each one has a story and a history lesson - and is much more interesting than what I remember Social Studies was like when I was in school (sorry Mr. Bull, but that's kids for ya).

After they served us up a bunch of appetizers (bruschetta, cheeses, breads, dips, etc.) we said thanks to the team at Sim's as they left us with some great expectations of the amazing time to come tonight there for our wrap up dinner!

As you may have noticed, this blog post for "Day 8 of 9" is only "PART 1". I will be updating with a "PART 2" later tonight once we know the winner of the Large Big Green Egg! Stay tuned...

Also, since this blog post is much shorter, I want to take the opportunity to let you know that because of your support, my blog is starting to go global. Just in the past 7 days "Chef Dez on Cooking & Life" has reached these countries:
Thank you for your continued support by reading my blog. This isn't bad for a very young blog (I said young blog, NOT young blogger - I am far from being young!) and I would appreciate it very much if you would let family/friends know about it too.

Until next time (later tonight)... Happy Cooking!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Day 7 of 9 in Prince Edward Island

After our very first night at the Great George Hotel, at random we all came down for complimentary breakfast in the luxurious main floor. I love this hotel and I would highly recommend it to anyone coming to Charlottetown. It was a free day for the group today so everyone was on their own schedule. I had breakfast with Patricia while she waited for Don & Flo. Today was the day I was going to do some more exploring around Charlottetown and get the last of my souvenir shopping done.

On my way out of the hotel I noticed this on the piano by the main door - Rod Stewart stayed here last year! If only we were here a year earlier! Rats. Oh well, maybe next time. Rod's got good taste!

I walked outside to start my adventure and it was another beautiful day. It was sunny all day actually and the temperature hit 25 degrees Celcius! This is not normal to have weather this good for this time of year here, and yet we have enjoyed sunshine practically the whole time we've been here. Tomorrow is forecasted to be the same as today too. Beautiful.

How do you start your day? Me too:
So, that was the first thing I did - get a coffee. I was going to go back to the local coffee shop, Receiver Coffee, again but I was too early and it wasn't open yet. So I went to...
Starbucks! ...for my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season! It was so good. In case you are wondering... no, I am not the kind of person that wants pumpkin spiced everything... Just my Starbucks latte!

Then I continued on my journey with a warm coffee in my hand. My morning was feeling much more complete now.
I headed down to the main pier and look what was there:
A Viking cruise ship. Pretty cool sight to see up close. I walked around the wharf Boardwalk,
...and then headed off to browse in the quaint shops that were just starting to open now. I really had fun exploring these unique stores and trying to figure what I was going to bring back home for the wife & kids. Yes, okay, I am a man that likes to shop. Okay, I said it. I'll admit to it. Let's move on now, shall we?
It wasn't too long before the morning went by and it was time for...
No, not scotch... Lunch! It was time for lunch... Although scotch would have been good. It must have been five o'clock somewhere! However as I tried to figure that out (Scotland is actually 4 hours ahead of PEI, and since it was only noon, it would have only been 4pm in Scotland, so I wasn't sure exactly at the time where it was five o'clock), so I settled for a sandwich and iced tea instead.
I contacted our fearless tour leader Caryn and met up with her back at the Merchant Man Grab 'N Go (like I did this past Monday) for another one of their wicked smoked meat sandwiches (this time with extra olives)!

After lunch I went and did some more shopping before being called back to the hotel to verify the scavenger hunt collections of 4 of our tour guests. You see on every Chef Dez Culinary Tour there is a grand prize of over $1600 up for grabs - a large Big Green Egg complete with stand and shelves. All 9 of our guests have been working feverishly to collect everything on the list and so far only 4 are now verified that they have done so. The other guests have until tomorrow night at the wrap up dinner to come forward with their scavenger hunt items they have collected. I can't believe that we are already that close in awarding the grand prize! Stay tuned tomorrow to see who the winner is!

The Great George Hotel had a beer & wine reception for us from 5-6pm, and they also had a special treat for us: Nate & Kate! This cute young couple (engaged to me married next July) did many cover tunes for us. They were amazing. You know someone is good when no matter what song they do, they consistently sound better than the original artists every time. I posted a very quick video of them performing on my Facebook page at but you really needed to be there in person to fully appreciated their voices. Incredible. If they would have had a cd for sale, I would have bought it without hesitation. 

Afterwards we all headed out to find a place for dinner.
The cathedral is literally across the street from the Great George Hotel and it looked amazing in the early night sky.
3 of us ended up heading to the Oyster House, while the rest of us went to the Old Triangle Pub.
I had a "pint of the priest" and for dinner I ordered:
Liver & Onions! Yes, I had liver & onions. Sorry, but I was in the mood for classic Irish pub food... Yes, that's what I said: liver & onions... Yes, I know this is a culinary tour... Look, listen here, many people love liver and onions. Ok, maybe not many, but quite a few do... Ok, some do... Alright, alright, there's probably only a few, but I'm one of them and I don't have it very often.

After our evening out we enjoyed a nice warm evening stroll back to the hotel, a quick conversation in the lobby, and then retired to our rooms.
Tomorrow will be a whole new day, the day we announce the winner of the BGE, and our last full day here before heading out late Sunday.

Until next time... Happy Cooking!