Saturday, June 30, 2012

Summer of Travel 2012: Brampton, Ontario

I'm long overdue on the latest installment in my Summer of Travel 2012 series, but I've been a little busy lately, to say the least. Anyway, a few weeks ago we traveled up to Canada to spend some quality time with my family. We usually make it up 2-3 times a year, so this was our trip for the summer.

We flew Air Canada, and I used some of my Citi Thank You points stash to pay for the tickets, so they were free and we earned miles for the trip! I got 50,000 for signing up for the Citi Thank You Premier card a little while back, and this was the perfect opportunity to finally put some of them to use.

It'd be a while since I'd flown out of the main terminal at LGA, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the security checkpoint in the "A" concourse had been moved, which provided a couple more post-security dining options. The pickings are still pretty slim, so we sat down at Metro Burger for a pre-flight dinner. The food itself was fine for an airport bar, but the clientele made the meal VERY entertaining...

Right off the bat, we were sitting next to a few well-dressed, young Canadian gentlemen (Canadians can always pick each other out - but the accents, constant talk about hockey, and references to "Highway 7 and the 400" were dead giveaways). These guys were in fine form from the moment they arrived. First, by playing right into the protein-obsessed, meat-head stereotype ("I'll have a burger - no bun - with bacon, cheese, and a fried egg"), and later by demonstrating their unwavering resolve in hitting on every woman that walked into the bar. Well, almost every woman.

Halfway through our meal, two women walked in and sat down near us and our protein-pounding, female-fawning friends. Decked out in their finest terry cloth tracksuits, and with very "prominent" (that's a polite way of saying it, right?) physical features - we figured we'd hit the gold mine of airport people-watching. Sadly, the guys were not up to the task - they just froze in place, completely dumbfounded an unable to muster even the most basic pick-up line.

The flight up to Toronto was short and uneventful. I like flying Air Canada, because even on these short routes they have a pretty decent video-on-demand (VOD) system. I started watched Safe House, and finished it on the flight back. I will say that the one thing that always bugs me about Air Canada is that all the announcements are made in both English and French. In of itself that doesn't really bother me - it's just that virtually every flight attendant seems to feel the need to let go of the page button when switching languages, and so the video starts back up, only to get cut off again half a second later! (Yes, I realize this doesn't sound like a big deal, but trust me, it gets really, really annoying after a while)

A quick pass through customs, and we were off to Brampton!

Quick background: Brampton is where I grew up, and while basically no one outside of Canada has heard of it, it's actually a pretty big city. At a population of ~525,000, it's the 9th-largest city in Canada, and would rank #34 in the US, between Tucson and Fresno.

One of my must-stop locations when I'm back in Brampton is a chicken restaurant called Nando's (and where I happened to work part-time while in high school). I rarely get excited about chicken, but there's just something about the spices and the flame-grilled-ness of Nando's that I just can't get enough of. I just wish there were one in New York!

Can you blame me?

For dinner, we went to a restaurant that, despite not being a place I worked in high school, has also become a regular in the rotation when I'm back in town. Put aside your skepticism for a minute - yes, it's in a shopping mall, and yes, it's called The Pickle Barrel - but I'm telling you, it's pretty solid! In scanning the menu, I was originally drawn to the 14oz sirloin - until I noticed that the "surf and turf" (which consists of a 14oz sirloin and a skewer of grilled shrimp) was only $1 more. Bizarre pricing structures strike again! That was my second easy decision of the meal. The first was what to drink, after hearing that they had a drink special on Steam Whistle.

Steam Whistle is a Toronto-based brewery, and as far as I can tell, they only make one beer: a light, refreshing pilsner that's perfect for dining al fresco. Easy decision.

My tall glass of Steam Whistle

The next day it was up to Collingwood, Ontario for the big, family summer bbq - an annual tradition, that seems to grow bigger and more delicious every year. The regular fare was in the mix of course: a whole roast pig, my dad's famous Jamaican jerked chicken (though I still think mine's better!), and a wide range of salads and side dishes. This year, we brought a new addition to the party: samosas. And these were some SERIOUSLY good samosas, some of the best I've ever had! It's not surprising to find good Indian food in Brampton, given how large the South Asian population is - but I didn't expect the 3 for a dollar samosas from a place in a strip mall called Sweet Palace to be so good. Wow. Go there.

Only in my family would a plate at a BBQ consist of roast pork, jerked chicken, greens,  samosas, and corn on the cobb

Summer in Collingwood, Ontario

The grand finale of the weekend was lunch with the other side of the family, celebrating my sisters' college / university graduations. I couldn't be more proud of both of them, and what better way to celebrate than by toasting with another Canadian beer?! Whenever I see a name I don't recognize on a beer list, there's a pretty good chance I'm going to try it out, especially when that name is "Okanagan Spring". The pale ale I ordered wasn't as hoppy as I was expecting - but was a very tasty amber ale. I'll definitely be ordering it again next time I see it on a beer list.

Okanagan Spring Pale Ale

There's nothing like spending quality time with family, and since I only get to do it a few times a year, I really cherish these weekends - regardless of what it is I'm eating and drinking.

Adding in a lot of great food and great beer doesn't hurt though :)

1 comment:

  1. the only comment i'll make is to take issue with your statement about no one outside of Canada having heard of Brampton. it is quite well known in India - due to the large South Asian population we have. other than that little quibble, good article. Uncle Jim