Pig Skin, Beans, and The Incredible Lightness of Being A Foodie


Taken by Harry D via Yelp.com

No worries, mate. Team Tyson is still alive and kicking. We just had to hibernate for the winter, kind of how this bear should after spitting in the face of fate. At any rate, if we’re posting then you know we had a weekend full of good eating.  Throw in the fact that it was Memorial Day Weekend, you know we we got a little ignorant.  Where did this ignorance take place, you ask? Why Tampa, FL my good sir. Because Mrs Tyson’s birthday occurred last week, I thought it would be cool to drive down to Tampa and partake of some tasty cuisine. Obviously, she agreed. She agreed so vociferously that she stayed up one night until 2:00 AM looking up Tampa restaurants.  I woke up the next morning to about 20 emails detailing 20 different Tampa restaurants. This girl was ret-ta-go. And so was I, so we skedaddled down to middle Florida.

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Boston Butt, Cioppino, Dublin, and Why We Don’t Regret Missing Homecoming

Jason Getz/AJC

As some of you may or may not know, Kaia and I are alumni of Spelman and Morehouse Colleges, respectively.  This past weekend was the annual joint Homecoming weekend and we had a wonderful time…in Dublin, GA.  Wait, what?  Why did we decide to go to didn’t-even-know-there-was-a-Dublin-in-Georgia Dublin, GA? We’ll sometimes, you just need to get away.  So, let’s get to the recap!

Last week, one of my co-workers was telling me about an excellent hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint that’s right up the road from where I live.  Ribs, pulled pork, Boston butt, etc.  I was like, “Oh really?”  He sold me on this being one of the better BBQ spots in the area, so I decided to stop by on my way to Dublin.  Now even though my co-worker sold me on this spot, he didn’t do a lot to help me get there.  First off, he didn’t know the name of the restaurant.  And his directions consisted of “Take the main street down the center of town, turn left at the dead end, and it’s on your right somewhere.”  Not really all that illustrative, but I was game so there you have it.

Upon leaving work on Friday, I make my way towards a restaurant I don’t know the name nor the exact location of.  I get to the town of Folkston and drive through the center.  There’s the dead end, so I turn left.  I see no BBQ joint.  So I circle around, drive around, hit a left, hit a right, and still no signs.  I then go back to the beginning of “Main St.” and make a right this time.  What is that in the distance, I see.  Is that a smokestack?  Why yes it is…coming from a Burger King.  Normally at this point, I would have charged it to the game and continued on to Dublin.  But I had some serious determination in me.  I decided to make one final sweep.  Driving slower than Miss Daisy, I spot a sign that said “Jalen’s BBQ” out of the corner of my eye. Yes! Whether this was the right place or not (it was), I was going to stop and get some BBQ damn it!  I decided to go with a Boston butt. At $26, it was a bargain since going out to eat would cost at least that with no leftovers.  Satisfied, I made my way to Dublin.

I arrived at the hotel first, got checked in, and waited upon the arrival of my beautiful bride.  As the clock ticked, that BBQ started smelling real good. “She needs to hurry up,” I said to myself.  Then she arrived.  I got mind control over Deebo.  Anyway, she brought with her a six pack of Angry Orchard hard cider.  Let’s eat!  Being as prepared as I am, I brought along a knife, paper plates, chips, and BBQ sauce.  We set up a little dining area, then I commenced to slicing away at the butt.  It was pretty darn good, I must say. As I sliced away at the porcine gold, someone kept coming behind me and snatching various bits of meat and fat before dinner officially started. I’m not naming names, but she’s short, from New Jersey, and likes purple.  At any rate, we chowed down on some smokey pig, drank hard cider, and plotted our culinary adventure for the next day.

The plan was to hit up Cake Art and Williamson’s Bakery and stash various sweets, then head to Deano’s Italian for lunch.  When we got to Cake Art, I notice that you have to spend $20 in order to use a
credit card.  That’s a whole lotta confection, with another bakery to hit up.  Oh well, Team Tyson doesn’t play by rules.  So we headed in to check out their wares, and theselection was tempting.  An array of cookies, cupcakes, barks, and pops greeted us.  After much consternation we decided on six cupcakes, a rice krispies pop, chocolate covered pecans, and cookies and cream bark.  Yes, I nice haul for sure.  Next stop was Williamson’s Bakery.  The only thing you need to know about this spot is the two pound oatmeal pie they sell.  Yes, it’s AT LEAST two pounds.  This thing is like the Rock of Gibraltar with a sweet tooth.  A confectioner’s conflagration of hubris, daring, and batsh*t insanity.  And it was only $2?!?  Come on now.  I’m surprised we didn’t get two of ’em.




The next stop was Deano’s.  Now Dublin is a small town in middle Georgia, with a definite small town feel.  I’d never expect a restaurant of this magnitude to be nestled in the middle of Georgia.  That probably says more about me, than it does about Dublin but I digress.  Kaia and I had visited Deano’s earlier in the year and were blown away by their shrimp & grits and pizza.  Nothing, however, could prepare us for this meal.  We started off with the Roman fries.

That’s french fries dusted with fresh garlic, parmesan cheese, and various herbs.  If that’s not sexy enough, they were served with a dipping sauce that was magical.  As we continually stuffed our face, we decided on cioppino and bacon-spinach pizza for entrees.  After quickly dispatching the fries, our entrees arrived.  The bowl of cioppino caught our noses, then our eyes.  Mussels, fish, and shrimp swam among pasta in a thick aromatic sauce.  I portioned it out into two smaller bowls.  One taste of the broth, and we both knew that we were in the presence of greatness.

I don’t want to say that this cioppino moved me in a religious manner…but it pretty much moved me in a religious manner.  Dear God, no sauce should taste that good.  We asked the waitress to bring us some bread so we could sop up the sauce.  Man, did we sop that sauce.  After we finished, we still had sauce left over.  So of course we took it back in a styrofoam cup.  It would have been a crime to let that quarter cup of sauce get thrown away.  Oh yeah, the spinach-bacon pizza was stupid good.

But that cioppino?  That cioppino?!? Ya’ll don’t even know…

For the rest of the afternoon, I watched football and Kaia napped.  For dinner?  Boston butt and some microwaveable side dishes we got from Wal Mart.  We could only get through about a quarter of the sweets we bought for dessert.  But you know what?  We ate another quarter of the sweets for Sunday breakfast.  Why?  Cause we grown, that’s why.  This past weekend was pure unadulterated Team Tyson.  And that’s just how we like it.

Tapas, Acknowledging My Lack of Fitness, and the Insanity Known as Miami Hurricanes Fans

Bobby Dodd Stadium

our view at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech

This past weekend we celebrated Diallo’s birthday. This was my first big event since entering Wifedom and I wanted it to be special. Diallo is a big Miami Hurricanes fan. He had been “hinting” that Miami would be playing Georgia Tech this weekend and that he’d never since them play in person.

I am so not a football person. I consider it a miracle that I know the difference between a touchdown and a touchback. So, of course I asked Diallo, “Umm, is there anything else you want for your birthday?”

“Not really.”


So I bought the tickets.

The whole time I’m typing my credit card into the Georgia Tech website, I’m having visions of how purposely waltzing onto Georgia Tech’s campus to cheer on the enemy is such a bad idea. Like strolling into Yankee Stadium with a BoSucks cap and telling jokes about Yankees fan’s mamas kind of bad idea. My fingers trembled when it was time to hit the Purchase button.

Gosh, this making your husband happy business is tough.

I felt better when I gave him the tickets though. He had the cute look on his face that little boys get when you give them a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.

But then he whips out a women’s “Go ‘Canes” t-shirt.

“I kinda guessed that you got the tickets. So I bought this for you to wear to the game.”

I get another vision of a BoSucks fan getting stomped by die-hard Yankee fans. Double crap.

I go on to give him his other gifts. THESE he didn’t expect – a copy of Anthony Bourdain’s graphic novel “Get Jiro” and the Preacher graphic novels I owed him from Valentine’s Day. (Sorry, wedding planning killed my budget.) He throws me another cute little boy grin.

“So, are you gonna wear the shirt?”

How could I say no to that?

Game day arrived and we make our way onto the Georgia Tech campus. I’m still feeling wary because I know how much Georgia Tech folk love their Yellow Jackets. Hey, I’ve seen the new reports about the brawls breaking out at their games against Georgia. That’s when a car slows down and creeps past us. The window rolls down. It totally looks like a scene from Boys N The Hood, but in real life.

“Woohoo! Go U!”


We walk a little bit more. I feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise. Someone is approaching us from behind.

A hand gently taps my back. “Good to see y’all here. Our ‘Canes gon’ whip some Tech ass.”


It turns out that there’s a large contingent of Hurricanes fans going to this game. The 12 hour drive from Miami to Atlanta is considered a close game evidently. I began to relax. We had at least 500 folks to back us up in case it got tense in the stands of Bobby Dodd Stadium. Cool.

What I didn’t realize was how out of shape I had gotten. (My exercise routine has gone out of the window since I’ve been in graduate school. I have the 20 extra pounds to prove it.)  We parked on the complete opposite side of campus from the stadium. And there are a few hills – no, mountains! – in the middle of Tech’s campus. OMG, my lungs were so on fire and I was dehydrated. (Note: don’t drink a lot of alcohol the night before attempting to hike this mountain range.)

Luckily, the student center is right in the middle of the east and west sides of campus. They were kind enough to sell ice-cold beverages to this poor soul wearing University of Miami gear.

Anyway, we made it to the game. I wound up having a good time. Miami got an early lead, blew it and then rallied back to win it in overtime. I did feel really bad for freshman Malcolm Lewis. He had to be carried out because of a season-ending dislocated ankle in about the third play of the game. I happened to look away when the play ended. But Diallo said he was lying on the ground facing one direction and his foot was facing the other. I heard his family came up for this game. I hope that they didn’t have to see that.

Afterwards, I took Diallo out for dinner at Loca Luna. I was so glad that he requested to go there. It just happens to be my favorite restaurant in Atlanta. Here’s some pics of the tapas we had that night:

Fried goat cheese balls with caramelized red onions

Fried goat cheese balls with caramelized red onions.

fried potatoes

Patatas Bravas aka fried potatoes with dipping sauce.

scallops with corn salad

Scallops on top of a corn salad. They even put crispy bacon on top as garnish. This was my favorite tapas of the night.

grilled lamb with artichoke salad

Grilled Lamb with an artichoke salad. With the most delicious chimmichuri sauce I’ve ever had.

pan catalan

Pan Catalan. Think of it as the Spanish version of garlic bread. Crusty bread topped with olive oil and tomato rubbed across it. Yum!

red velvet ice cream cake with strawberry sauce

Red velvet ice cream cake. With strawberry sauce and mint garnish. The Queen of the Night. If it hadn’t been Diallo’s birthday, I would’ve made him get his own slice.

Diallo keeps saying that this has been his best birthday weekend ever. I hope so. I was just glad that he was happy and that his birthday gave me an excuse to finally pick up the Get Jiro! comic. (I might have read it in secret before giving it as gift. But no one was around at said time to prove that I did. Ha!)

Arkansas Razorback fans, Italian ice, Jekyll Island, and the unmistakable longing for my favorite insect

Wait, there’s a festival that highlights shrimp and grits?  And it takes place half an hour from where I live?  Seriously?  How could I not attend the Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival?  It was a moral imperative.  First a little business.  Kaia couldn’t make it to the festival due to a prior engagement.  Leading up to it, she tried to make me feel guilty about going without her.  See how wives are?  And she’s the one that made me aware of it in the first place!  S.M.H.  At any rate, on to the recap.

Initially my plan was to hit up Cupcake Emporium, the bakery that made our wedding cupcakes, after leaving the festival.  During the week I got a wild hair to eat scrumptious cupcakes.  But I changed my mind after looking up a
few bakeries in Brunswick.  I settled on Achin 4 Bakin because they had some interesting “cocktail” cupcakes on their website.  But since they close at 2:00 on Saturdays, I stopped by before the festival.  Being the genius I am, I brought an insulated bag with an ice pack to store the cupcakes.  #Brilliant  I stop in and it’s a quaint small town bakery.  I ultimately decide on: Red velvet, Root beer, Chocolate Merlot, German chocolate, Peanut butter cup, and Double dark chocolate.  The best part about it?  I got a half dozen cupcakes for only $12.08…with tax!  In Connecticut, we were paying like $3.50 per.  Thank you God of Small Town Georgia Bakeries.  I threw the cupcakes in my bag and made tracks to Jekyll Island.

When  i was a kid we used to go to Jekyll Island all the time, so it was cool driving onto the island again.  Not a whole lot had change, except for the modernization of a couple of buildings.  Pretty cool to reminisce.  Anyway, I finally get to the airport where a shuttle was to take us to the festival.  As I’m driving to find a parking space, I notice that…we’re on the damn runway!  Hold up, you got us parking on the runway.  Do planes know that this runway is currently out of order?  Emergency landings be damned, you better bust a fat right and land at St. Simon’s Island Airport.  Nevertheless, I got over my initial consternation and made my way to the shuttle.  On the way I bumped into a cool couple that just moved to the area.  The wife asked me if I play football.  When I was 70 pounds lighter, people asked me if I played basketball.  The lesson here is that I’m fat and I need to lose weight….but first let’s eat a mess ‘o scrimps and grits!

So the shuttle arrives and I finally get to the festival.  It’s a pretty nice set up.  As you walk through they have all the arts and crafts vendors and what not, and most of them are in the shade.  It wasn’t oppressively hot, but any type of shade in September Georgia is much obliged.  My plan was to make a walk through and scope everything out so I can make a plan of action.  The food vendors were at the end of the festival grounds, but on my way there The Commissary caught my attention.  They promoted free samples of Vidalia onion peach salsa.  You know I had to stop in.  The peach salsa was a problem, and was only $5.  Did I buy a jar? No.  Why not?  I’m an idiot?  I actually meant to stop by on the way out, but forgot.  No matter, Kaia will be making a return trip and loading up some point in the future.

I get to the food area and it’s a wondrous melange of sights and smells.  After a quick perusal of all the vendors, I make Halyard’s my first stop.  Why?  Because shrimp and blue crab gumbo over grits is too good to pass up.

Shrimp, blue crab, and tasso ham.  Uh huh.  The flavor was very bold and rich.  A hint of spice was rather pleasing to the palate.  The shrimp, as you can see, were very plump and cooked perfectly.  My only concern was that the grits could have been a little creamier.  But they were still darn good.  For some reason, Halyard’s wasn’t as busy as some of the other vendors.  I don’t know why.  In terms of flavor, this was some of the best shrimp and grits I’d ever had.  At any rate, as I was eating I was joined by a dude from Arkansas.  We got to talking back and forth about various what not, and he mentioned he was a Razorback fan.  We both agreed that the game between Arkansas and Alabama would be ugly, but we didn’t think it would be this ugly.  Daniel, if you’re out there, I hope you’re still hungover so you don’t have to come to grips with the reality of the current state of your football team.

Trying to pace myself, I chill a little bit and listen to some live music.  I didn’t want to stuff myself before trying everything I wanted to try. #Foreshadowing  After a reasonable enough time of chilling, I made my way back to the vendors.  What to try next?  What to try?  This description from Tasteful Temptations caught my eye: “Sauteed GA shrimp with Old Bay and lemon and cream Logan grits, topped with tomato jam and corn sauce topped with crispy bacon and shredded cheddar cheese.”  Dude. Seriously.

This vendor gave you much more grits, but less shrimp that happened to be smaller.  But, the flavors were on point if not very subtle.  The corn sauce gave it an unexpected sweetness.  The bacon provided crunch and a little smokiness.  But what brought it all together was the tomato jam.  It was phenomenal.  I actually would have liked for them to make a sauce using the tomato jam, instead of adding it as a garnish. #WannabeChoppedJudge  Once again, the grits could’ve been a little creamier.  This dish was very good but not quite as good as the previous one.

At this point, the belt was tightening up a bit so I decided to take a walk.  I pass by Vincenzo’s Italian Ice stand.  I’d never had Italian ice before and it was hot. Why did no one tell me how good Italian ice was?!?  You are all to blame! I got strawberry-banana, peach, and mango.  It was soooooooo good.  It was like sherbert but better.  Much much better.  I immediately became a fiend.  I wanted to go back up there and get another one, but I calmed myself.  I mean, I didn’t come to a shrimp and grits festival to ill out on Italian ice, did I?

After a little more walking around, I decided to hit the food area again.  This time, in search of fried shrimp.  I settled on Zachary’s Seafood.

They looked stupidly, ridiculously good.  For the most part they were.  A couple of the pieces had a little too much breading, but the shrimp were fresh and the seasoning appropriately delicate.  To be honest, I was distracted while eating these bad boys.

Yes, I went back to Vincenzo’s.  Yes I got another large ice.  Yes, it was stupid good again.  This time I got mango, blue raspberry, and strawberry lemonade.  It was glorious.  Probably a little too glorious, because my stomach was starting to expand like Violet Beauregard.  There were a couple more places I wanted to try, but my stomach wasn’t having it.  So I waddled out of the festival, feeling like I weighed 500 pounds.  It was a good day, but wasn’t a great day because I was by myself.  That was a day perfectly made for Team Tyson.  Sun, music, water, great food, arts and crafts, etc.  Having my Ladybug with me would have made it a truly special day.  I didn’t feel guilty, so much as lonely cause my partner in crime wasn’t there.  Alas, next year we will do it up big.  Who knows?  Maybe we’ll even enter the amateur cooking competition…


What Happened To All The Recaps?

Uhh…ummm…well.  See what had happened was, as soon as we left Portland I got sick.  Like hacking up a lung, unable to breathe, God end this kind of sick.  So my inability to get out and do stuff hampered any potential extra-curricular activities on the back half of the trip.  We would spend most morning in bed, until it was just about time to check out then hit the road.  Then after driving for 4-6 hours, we’d get to the hotel, figure out where to eat, eat, then come back and sleep.  Not really all that exciting.  Now that we’re back home, Kaia has come down with what I have.  So now, even though I’m still not quite 100%, I’m taking care of her.  So yes, the train has stopped in it’s tracks.  But fear not!  At some point this week, we will share our impressions of the honeymoon and hopefully provide some direction for where the blog is headed in the future.  So bear with us, as we collectively consume all the OJ in metro Atlanta.


Honeymoon Day 10 – French Waitresses, Chowda, Maine, and the Unmistakable Foulness That Is Moose S**t

Yeah, we’re a little behind on recaps.  We know.  Montreal took about five years off of my life.  My body took an “L” from all walking and I think I brought a cold back.  I don’t think I was supposed to declare the common cold virus upon re-entering the country.  I’m not sure what tarif law that that would fall under, but it is what it is.  So, on to the recap.

Our last morning in Montreal got off to a slightly rocky start.  We decided to hit up Jarry Smoked Meats for breakfast, due to the $20 in Canadian money I still had left.  We walk up in there and seat ourselves.  As we’re perusing the menu, our waitress comes over and offers cafe’.  We say “No,” and she walks away confused like “You do not want cafe? You stupid Americans probably don’t speak Francaise.  Spit. Spit.”  When she comes back and starts speaking French, we ask if she speaks English. “I can a little bit, if I have to.” #spit  The look of disdain on her face needed no translation.  From that point on, she spoke minimally to us, while mumbling something in French as she walked by our table.  Fortunately, the meal was on point.  Sausage, ham, bacon, eggs, home fries, fruit, pancakes, french toast, and toast.  It was the perfect culinary sendoff, except for the French-Canadian spittle that I’m sure was dripping off the bacon.  I left her a tip less than 15%.  Spit on that!

The ride towards the border was interesting.  Unlike Vermont, the Canadian landscape is flat and boring.  It also, apparently, is filled to the brim with moose dung.  We passed by several pockets of extreme aromatic atrociousness.  Think of every cow pattie you’ve smelled…multiplied by 100.  We looked around and couldn’t spot any farms, so we just assumed it was an accumulation of moose manure.  Not only will these jabronis waltz into traffic and tear your car a new one, they’ll also drop bombs in the forest that straight up destroy your olfactory organs.  Moose are the most disrespectful animals since cats.

One quick thing about the border.  At the crossing we passed through, the border is demarcated by an invisible line that separates two houses.  Essentially, you can walk from a Canadian family’s back yard right into an American familiy’s front yard with ease.  There was actually a guy mowing the grass between the two houses.  He kept crossing back and forth across the border at will.  We were like, “OK, that’s secure.”  At any rate, we passed through the checkpoint without incident.

The drive through Vermont and New Hampshire was breathtaking.  We drove through Mount Washington National Park, and were awestruck and the majesty.  We both agreed that Vermont was the best part of the trip so far.  The scenery is something to behold.  I think Vermont will be on our permanent vacation rotation for the near future.  If you can swing it, you need to make it up there.  Hopefully, someone from the Vermont tourism board is reading this so we can get our cut.

The drive through Portland, ME was also pretty cool.  The scenery was straight out of an 80’s Spielberg movie.  It actually can double as the town of Amity from “Jaws.”  We were digging the vibe.  You know what else we dig? SEAFOOD!  After researching local eateries, we settled on Gilbert’s Chowder House.  All the reviews said it had the best chowder in the city.  They didn’t disappoint.

The spot would fit in perfectly on Diner’s, Drive Ins, and Dives.  And that’s a compliment.  So, we decide to order fried shrimp, seafood chowder in a bread bowl, and a lobster roll.  The shrimp came out in about five minutes.  They were some of the cleanest, freshest shrimp I’ve tasted.  As someone who’s grown up on the Georgia coast, that’s high praise.  Before we could finish our shrimp, the chowder and lobster roll.  Man, lemme tell you.  The chowder was creamy.  You could see and taste the chunks of potatoes, shrimp, clams, scallops , and lobster.  It was summarily destroyed, along with the bread bowl.  The lobster roll was everything it was cracked up to be.  Huge chunks of lobster, slathered in mayo, sitting in a buttered toasted bun.  I wanted to take about two or five home.  We drove out of our way to go to Portland for this meal, and it was worth every second.  SEAFOOD!!!



Honeymoon Day 9 – Marche Jean Talon, Schwartz’s Smoked Meat, Montreal and the Art of Navigating in a Foreign Language

fries from Schwartz's Deli in Montreal

Yesterday was probably the most adventurous of the whole trip. We tackled the streets of Montreal. On our own. Without a tour guide. Just Diallo, me and a tourist’s map of the city. The map was in French.

Let us pray…

First stop – Marche Jean Talon. (There should be an accent over the “e” in Marche. But I’m too American to figure out the keystroke routine to make that happen.) It’s the largest outdoor market in the city. It is the fresh produce smorgasbord of my dreams.

This is another location where no one picture would ever do it justice. If you love food, you must come here. Think rows upon aisles of fresh fruits and vegetables lined up by type and color everywhere. (I even saw a purple bell pepper. Who knew?) Imagine every cheese imaginable that clearly looks handmade on display.  Picture handcrafted chocolate goodies, some with flecks of actual gold sprinkled on them, next to the actual hard-to-find ingredients to make them yourself. And then there’s the meats… O. M. G. All the sausages I saw had to have been hand ground, hand blended and hand stuffed. I wish we had a stove back at the hotel so we could have tried them.

What we did wind up trying were some drinks from the juice bar. I had the Mimosa – strawberries, lycee and rosewater. D had the Mango Tango – mango, peach and orange. He also snagged us some meat pies from the Moroccan vendor. We had a salmon one and a merguez one. The salmon one tasted like a salmon cake baked into a flaky crust. I had tasted merguez one time before from The Spotted Trotter in Atlanta. Surprisingly, the one made by the Moroccan guy was less spicy than the one made by the American. But don’t get it twisted, it was still very good.

We also made a stop at the ice cream spot in the market. That’s where I introduced Diallo to his new favorite flavor, mango lassi.

Second stop  – Schwartz’s Smoked Meat. Every online food “authority” we consulted advised that Schwartz’s was the place to visit in Montreal. They were soooo right. I prefer my fries just short of burned. So I was ready to roll on the floor in glee when they brought out a plate of brown fries. They were still soft so I know they didn’t double fry them like the Belgians do. I have to make a return trip to Montreal to figure out their secret.

smoked brisket sandwich from Schwartz's Deli in Montreal

The real star of the show was the smoked brisket sandwich. You have a choice of fatty, medium or lean versions. I’ve been on a cholesterol bender all week so I played it safe with the medium. As you can see here, the “medium” has a nice amount of fat. I’d hate to see what the fatty version looks like.

On a side note, we took the train to the Saint-Laurant station to get to Schwartz’s. Please keep in mind that the walk included at least two fairly steep hills to get there. Thank goodness there was a gas station halfway where we could rehydrate. Would I do it again? Yessssss.

We bought a baguette loaf and a can of Portuguese sardines on the way back to the train station. It cost us about $3.25 total. It made a nice dinner later when we returned to the hotel. They weren’t salty at all. They melt in your mouth. We discovered an extra treat when we used the leftover bread to sop up the olive oil in the can.

Notre Dame Basilica in MontrealStop three – Place d’Armes. We went here to see the Notre Dame Basilica. We arrived too late to take a tour. Instead, we sat outside and marveled at the surrounding architecture. Again, the pictures could never be an adequate substitute for the real thing. This is yet another reason that we must return to Montreal.

Honeymoon Day 8 – Teddy Bears, Poutine, Montreal and The Sinking Suspicion Of Being Laughed At

The day started off with a bit of lethargy.  Still feeling the effects of overeating the night before, the Tysons decided to sleep in and imitate sloths for much of the morning.  Neither of us moved with any sort of alacrity, and you’ll never see two people move with such disregard to energy.  That being said, guess what we had for breakfast? Leftover pizza, leftover sausage macaroni and cheese, and shoofly pie.  What?  We didn’t want to take leftovers to Canada. Don’t judge us, though we probably are worthy of a side eye or two.  Nevertheless, we finally got our stuff together and checked out of the hotel around 10:55, the latest we’ve checked out so far.

Next stop on the mystical magical tour was the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory.  It was actually pretty fun.  We signed up for the tour, which was quite entertaining.  The tour guide took us through the entire process, and I have to admit that I wanted one afterwards.  The bears come in several different flavors, i.e colors, and you can get their clothes customized however you want.  If you run your bear over with a lawnmower, they’ll fix it or replace it for free.  How great is that?  And I can’t believe I’m waxing poetic about teddy bears.  Honeymoons mess with your brain, man.  For real.  Anyway, the place is mad cool.  The only slight drawback is the cost of the bears.  They are a tad pricey.  If you can swing it, cool.  If not, take a picture it’ll last longer.

After leaving teddy bear paradise, we hit I-89N and made our way to Oh Canada.  As we rode, Kaia read through the French translation book in a last ditch effort to ensure we didn’t look completely like ugly Americans upon arrival.  I can safely say that we still got a few warts and a couple of crooked noses.  C’est la vie.  [See what I did?]  Anyhoo, the ride through Vermont towards the border was majestic.  We didn’t even bother attempting to take pictures.  You gotta be there in person.  However, the funny part of the trip was the tension, anxiety, and nervousness we felt as we got closer to the border.  Would border control stop us?  Would they bring the dogs out?  Would they cavity search us, then strip search us?

Our fears were unfounded, it seems.  Although there was some slight tension as we pulled up to the guard.

Guard: And where are you from?

Me: Umm. Uh…United States.

Guard: Yeah, I know. Where from in the US?

Me: Umm, Atlanta?

For some reason, I thought they’d turn us around or shoot us if they didn’t like where we were from.  Hey man, I don’t know how gangsta they are in Canada.  I got nervous.  At any rate, we made it through without further incident. And as soon as we pulled off we realized that we were no longer in the States because the metric system hit us in the face.  The speed limit was 90…km/h.  What the?  Now I have to do math, while driving in a foreign country?  Thankfully my wife pointed out that the speedometer had km/h underneath the mp/h.  Like I said, I was a little nervous.

So we eventually get to our hotel and begin plotting dinner for the night.  Kaia has wanted to try poutine for the longest time, and we found a spot that received rave reviews for their poutine.  They are also purveyors of smoked meat, so yeah!  We looked out as Jarry Smoked Meat is just a frog’s jump from the hotel.  As we walked towards the entrance, all we heard was French.  Oh no.  The maitre’d  merely asked “Deux? and took us to our seat.  After a moment, the waitress came by, said something in French and gave us water.  The next time she comes to the table she starts speaking English.  We’re both like “How did you know?” Well we didn’t respond to her French the 1st time around, and I was wearing a Braves t-shirt and an Old Navy hat with a US flag on it.  I felt like such an American douchebag flaunting his American-ness in a foreign country.  Everyone in the restaurant probably went home and made fun of me.

Oh well, the food was awesome.  We started off with karnatzel sausage.  Think Slim Jim, but about two million times better.  It was a great starter for the meal to come.

We ordered poutine and Montreal style pizza with smoked meat.  The poutine was sublime.  Kaia figured they put cinnamon in the gravy, and boy did that make a difference.  The pizza was stupid.  I don’t know how they make their dough but I’m thinking they use brioche and french bread techniques.  The pizza was essentially deep dish but the crust was light, crunchy and flaky.  The meat was smoked to perfection.  It was the bomb dinner.  Even though we loved dinner, we learned our lesson and didn’t overeat.  See, no need for any further scorn or side eyes…


Honeymoon Day 7 – Kaia’s 2 cents

O. M. G. Even after 8 hours of sleep, I am still full from dinner. The idea of never eating again has crossed my mind. Twice. It has to be those damn dinner rolls. I mean, we didn’t really have lunch yesterday. Just ice cream. How is this possible? I thought we were better than this.

Ok, so King Arthur Flour Bakery store. Um, drool? I’m ready to go back already. It’s like a buffet of tools, gadgets and uncommon ingredients for die-hard bakers. I mean, they’ll even sell you a machine that lets you mill your own flour from actual wheat berries. Everybody needs that, right? It’s the food nerd fantasy I never knew I had.

Then, Diallo made me put the jar of Vietnamese cinnamon back on the shelf. Hey, I NEEDED that for, for… well, something. He is so lucky that the sales lady handed me a mail order catalog. Because I was at borderline throw-myself-on-the-floor-grown-woman-temper-tantrum-meltdown levels.

donkey tail wood artAnywhoo, the maple syrup spot. My home training kept me from sucking down the Fancy grade sample like it was a baby’s bottle. ‘Nuff said. They also had a few pieces of cool wood are on display. By the way, if you ever visit this place, please keep in mind that you are still in the city of Montpelier.

Diallo didn’t mention how quaint the capital “city” of Montpelier was. Downtown looks like a 3-block frontier town. The capital building, with it’s gold dome, was nestled between the lush green hills. I’ve never seen such a cute state capital.

Montpelier is also home of the New England Culinary Institute. If D ever wanted to attend culinary school here (not so subtle hint), I’d be more than willing to do the good wife thing and support him any way possible (another not so subtle hint) so that we can live here.

By the way, I wound up buying a tin of Vietnamese cinnamon tea at the tea place. Ha!

the "Willy Wonka" door at Ben and Jerry'sBen and Jerry’s – Sigh, coming here has been a mere bucket list item. Well, maybe a lifelong dream. Only slightly less important than the air I breathe. Hold on, gimme a second. (Inhale. Exhale. Calming down.) It was pretty cool despite the overt touristy feel of the whole operation. I’m not mad though. I mean, they’re only selling out factory tours that start every 10 minutes. It is what it is. I really liked how the door you go through to start the tour has a Willie Wonka feel to it (the original movie, not the weird Michael Jackson-like Johnny Depp one).Diallo eating ice cream

Overall, everyone there looked to be having a great time. Well, with the exception of the people who were the parents of toddlers. They all exuded the “I’m DONE” vibe. Something to think about if you’re planning a pilgrimage up this way.

A few tips if you’re going to visit Vermont:
1) You need more than 1 day to do it all. Yes, you can easily drive through the entire state with a stop or two in 1 day. I don’t recommend it.

2) Respect the 65 mph speed limit. The highways have twists, curves and downhills (and exits on steep downhills) that sneak up on you. There’s also signs everywhere warning of bear, moose and deer crossings. In many of these spots, if you had to veer out of the way of wildlife, your only options are to steer toward a rock wall or a steep ravine. Besides, the scenery you drive past is so amazing, you’d be a fool to speed past it in blur.

3) Come in the fall when the leaves are changing. Everything is green right now and it looks amazing. I kept imagining what it would look like with all the reds, oranges and browns. The sight would probably unhinge my jaw.