The BEST Burger Joint in Ottawa: Burger & Shakes

Well, I am cheating a bit, it is actually in Manotick Station which is just East of Manotick (crossing of Limebank and Mitch Owens); but it is certainly worth the drive!  You can click here to see it on the map.

I was heading over to Omer’s place for a jamming session, where I pretend to be able to play the drums, and I needed to grab a bite on the way.  I call Omer to ask him where to eat and he says “You have to try Burger & Shakes… its a couple miles east of Mantotick across from the high school.”  Since Omer is a big fan of food -as am I- I didn’t take much convincing for me to give it a try.

Sure enough, in the middle of nowhere, is Burger & Shakes, attached to a golf & mini-putt business which is closed for the winter season.  Its 8:30 PM on a Thursday night and there are actually cars in the parking lot.  This is a good sign…

I am pretty hungry, so looking up at the board I try and decide between the 10oz ‘Double Burger’ and the 7oz ‘Super Burger’.  I decide I don’t want a double, and order the Super with a side of poutine.

When the fresh (certainly NOT ever frozen!) beef patty is placed on the grill, I am shocked to see that it resembles a large pancake in size!  This is going to be a big meal.

While I wait for the burger to cook, I have a chance to talk to Ali and Zainab about their business.  They are clearly the sort of people that should be running a business like this:  Really passionate about what they do, and it’s very obvious they enjoy interacting -and getting to know-  their customers.  Ali tells me about how they get their top quality beef locally, pointing in the direction of the farm they get it from.  As our discussion continues, my patty on the grill shrinks from massive to just huge.  Ali asks if I want some steak spice, yep!

I get my meal and sit down to enjoy it.  Wow, what a great burger!  Not only the patty is good, but the bun is super fresh.  The poutine is also fabulous, with the large cut fries being perfecty cooked and also from potatoes of high quality.  About half way through Ali asks how I like it…. “Awesome!” I reply between bites.

Since I like to help send good businesspeople good business, I had decided about half way through my meal to do a blog post on this restaurant.  It was a testament to how good a sport Zainab was that she was willing to let me take the picture below of them after a long day at work.

Thanks to Ali and Zainab for the great food, and Omer for the recommendation!  I think Omer and I are going to make this part of our bi-weekly jamming ritual.  🙂

Our Engagement!

Hello everyone, as you hopefully have heard already by now, Lori and I are engaged!  Here is the tale of the day, and preparation of the day, from my point of view…

I had been thinking about a Christmas engagement for a few months now.  Lori and I were in Scotland over the summer, which would seem to be a perfect opportunity (castles, cliffs, etc.), but the timing just didn’t seem right and I decided that Christmas was the right time.  The first part of the process was to get the right ring, but to somehow do it without Lori knowing anything about it.

The Fellowship of the Ring

I had been looking at some diamonds at Jubilee Jewelers (Bonnie at Rideau helped me out) and was attracted to the Lazare ‘Ideal Cut’.  I liked the idea cut because it is cut in a manner that takes advantage of the physical properties of light to create at ‘retroflector‘.  I am going to geek out here for a bit…  Lazare Kaplan has been cutting diamonds since 1903, and in 1919 Marcel Tolkowsky (Lazare’s cousin) came up with a mathematical formula for the cut of a diamond to maximize the refraction of light using the concept of total internal reflection.  Basically its a ‘cats eye’ which reflects the maximum amount of light back to its source, much like the little glass spheres that they use in the paint of stop signs.  All that to say that 1) an Engineering Physics degree can be useful when diamond shopping and 2) the diamond looks really really pretty.

I was going to shop around a lot more, but then Lori’s friend Naomi told me that Lori had been into a different Jubilee shop and had fallen in love with the exact same cut (in a slightly different setting than I had selected).  I thought that this was a good sign that I should focus on this diamond.

Naomi was kind enough to come help me pick out the final choice, which you can see in the picture below (not to scale):

Lori's Rock

For those into diamond specifications, it is a 0.91 carat Ideal cut SI2 diamond with a ‘G’ clarity rating.  The setting is in platinum.

Jubilee was able to get me the ring before the weekend, which allowed my plan to go off without a hitch.  While I visited the store twice, I managed to bump into people I know BOTH times!  Luckily, they were not people that would bump into Lori on a regular basis.

The Special Day

I had made reservations at 18 Restaurant in the Market as well as the Chateau Laurier for the evening of the 21st of December.  Being a Sunday night, and in a snowstorm (which I didn’t plan), I expected things to be quiet at both places, which was exactly what I was looking for.

At this point, I still had not completely cemented the plan, and the location of the proposal was still up in the air (restaurant, lobby of hotel, hotel room were all possibilities).  I tend to think best under pressure, so my brain helped me out in the end.  I checked into the hotel room so that I could get my bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne chilling on the coffee table with a couple of glasses.  This also gave me a chance to check out the room which was a corner suite (RM# 596) with a great north facing view over the river which you can see below:

Ottawa River from Chateau Laurier

I have to thank the staff at the Chateau Laurier for the great choice of room.  Once I told them what the mission of the evening was they upgraded me to a corner suite with that great view!  Their mission statement is “Turning moments into memories.”, and it certainly seems they practice what they preach.

So the rough plan now was: park at the Chateau, have a great dinner, get her to the hotel to set the mood, get to the room for the proposal, all without tipping her off as to what was going on.

This was when the final plan started to gel.  Rule #1 to creating a really believeable -but false- story, is to root it in as much truth as possible.  I chose my friend Matt Gorbet to be the core of the story.  Matt was a good choice because Lori hasn’t actually had the pleasure of meeting him yet, so there was no risk of her getting suspicious about anything I said.  I have talked about Matt enough so that Lori knows that he does many weird and wonderful things, is from Ottawa, and the idea that he would be too busy visiting friends and family during his ‘short visit’ to Ottawa to have made plans with us ahead of time was plausible.

When I got home, I told Lori that I had bumped into Matt in downtown Ottawa during the day, who was visiting the town on business, and we had discussed that Lori and I were going to have dinner in the Market.  He had then offered his parking pass since he had got one with his really swank room, but was using taxis and didn’t need it.  This allowed me to park at the Chateau without getting Lori suspicious.  It also gave me the excuse to come back to the hotel late in the evening to visit Matt.

After a great dinner at 18 Restaurant, it was clear that Lori did not suspect a thing.  So little did she suspect anything, she actually had us go shopping at Chapters for Christmas gifts for my niece Julia.  Finally, after dragging her out of the store, we made our way to the Chateau to inspect he Yousef Karsh photos that grace the room off of the main lobby.

Karsh came up in conversation before because Lori had bought some stamps that featured a picture of Audrey Hepburn which had been snapped by the photographer.  She didn’t know that Yousef had actually resided in the hotel for some time, taking photos of many famous people including Einstein and Winston Churchill, which are both on display in the hotel.

This gave me the opportunity to get her up to the room.  I pretended to answer my iPhone which Lori knows is always on vibrate (so this was not suspicious):  “Hi Matt… oh ok…. about 15 minutes?….  sure we can wait there… do you really think the parking pass will work?… do you have a mini-bar?… are you being comped?  If so we will help you by cleaning out your mini bar <laugh>… ok, see you soon.”

I then told Lori that Matt would meet us soon, but in the interim, we should wait in his room and we were welcome to have a drink while we were waiting.  Lori then proceeded to take me on a tour of the hotel showing me the various rooms where she had fraternity socials, wedding, receptions etc.  She CLEARLY wasn’t catching on…

FINALLY, I got her to follow me up to the room.  I had swapped the parking pass in my wallet for the room key (which look much the same) and tried the door telling Lori that I wasn’t sure that the key would work, but Matt was sure so there was a good chance that it would.

We entered the room, and I thought the champagne on the table might finally tip her off, but apparently she thought it just fit in to such a swanky room.  I pointed to the following element of the room which forms the corner of the corner suite, and looks like a turret from the outside of the building, and asked “What do you think that is for?”:

Turret at Chateau LaurierLori replies: “Reading!”

After palming the ring box from my jacket pocket, I guide her to the corner and sit down with her.  At this point she still hadn’t noticed that I was holding anything.

Adrian: “I have some good news and some bad news, what do you want to hear first?”

Lori: <look of panic on her face> “Uh… bad news?” [People always want the bad news first.]

Adrian: “The bad news is that I am broke, I have no money to buy you any Christmas presents!”

Lori: <confused panicked look continues>

Adrian: “The good news…” <kneels down on one knee, opens ring box presenting the ring> “Will you marry me?”

Lori: <panicked look changes to combined, about-to-cry/excited/happy look> “Yes.”

And now the punch line…

Lori: “Does Matt know about this??”

Adrian: [This ruse worked a little too well…] “Um… Matt is not coming, this isn’t his room, it is ours.”

Lori: “Oh my… and I had you shop at Chapters!!”

Yah… I thought that was pretty funny too.

Here is a picture of the re-enactment of the happy moment (you can tell it is a re-enactment, she isn’t nearly as excited-looking in this photo):

Lori & Adrian Engaged

So anyway, we had a great night!  Thanks to all for your congratulations!!

My parents probably gave the best response: “We are very happy with your choice… and about time!!”

SfaUT: Top 5 Posts of ALL Time

Well, actually it has been about 1 and 1/2 years since I started blogging, and I wanted to see if any ‘Unifying Theme’ has popped up.  Also, for anyone who has watched network TV, you eventually get to that episode where the money and/or creativity runs out, and they resort to running a ‘retrospective’ episode of clips cobbled together from previous episodes.  This is the blog post equivalent…

Maybe it is different for other bloggers, but I doubt it: the posts that you really, really like are NOT the ones that get the most hits!  Based on the number of hits, I should create a blog about Rogers or RBC rants, or perhaps a restaurant guide.

SfaUT Top Posts

The top post, which still receives more hits a day than any other post, is a rant about the high data roaming charges that Rogers bills its customers, which I experienced on my trip to Asia earlier this year.  Apparently this is a common experience with a lot of people, which has led to a lot of traffic to my site.  If you type “rogers data extortion” into Google, my post is the top hit (as of today).

Next, in #2 position, is a post I did about Google.  I was watching Google regularly releasing applications that I am sure others were building their entire business case on, and had a thought:  What is happening to the web start-up industry as a result of Google’s deep pockets, and free applications?  This got picked up by a web aggregator called Ycombinator at the time, and has since been changed to ‘Hacker News’.  Of those >1000 reads, about 80% were in a single day, and has since dropped to zero reads a day!

#3, and deservedly so, is my assertion that Singapore Restaurant is the best restaurant in Ottawa, and why.  It shows up on about page 6 of a Google search on Ottawa’s best restaurant, so it must only be really determined people that find it… or they are using some other search tool.  With 662 views, I hope at least a few of those people actually gave it a try, Abba and Foo deserve the business!

#4 was another fee-based rant:  This time the target was RBC Visa and their overlimit fees.  Since I don’t carry balances on credit cards this was actually a sympathetic-rant for a friend I was helping with some financial counselling.  I actually got quite angry on the phone with the RBC representative and accused them of taking advantage of people that were not financially savvy.  Now I wish I had recorded it, it may have made a good audio clip for the blog.

Finally, to maintain my lack of a ‘Unifying Theme’, the last in my Top 5 list is about an observation I made of how similar Klee Irwin and John Waters look… judge for yourself! This was my second post about Klee, who came to my attention in his hilariously funny infomercials on dual-action cleanse.

It appears that I am STILL Searching for a Unifying Theme…

The BEST Restaurant in Ottawa – (Was) Singapore Restaurant!

Those of you who know me well are probably surprised that it took so long for me to do a post about my favourite restaurant.

To be clear, I have lots of favourites, depending on the occasion, but there is NO restaurant that I go to more often than Singapore. For example, last night I went to ’18’ in The Market (Ottawa) and that was probably the best meal I have had in the city, but that was $130 for a couple, so… I am not doing that once a week!

Singapore restaurant’s location does not lend itself to easy discovery. It is across the street from the Coliseum Cinemas on Carling, but is hidden by an Indian Restaurant. Most people find it by referral, and I think I probably account for about a hundred of those so far.

While the whole menu is awesome, particularly the Curry Shrimp and Black Bean anything, the meal that I have on average once a week, is the Singapore Lakksa. This version of Lakksa is a coconut broth-based curry dish with rice noodles, chicken, shrimp, egg & bean sprouts (which I don’t get because I think beans should really be allowed to live a full life) with the option of either hot sauce on the side, or you can order the meal hot. Only order the Lakksa hot if you are a real fan of hot, because I LOVE hot food, but that is too hot for me!

I mention ‘version’ because, in Singapore and Malaysia, ‘Lakksa’ is a generic term for ‘soup’ so if you have had it before at other restaurants, like ‘Spring Rolls’ in Toronto, you will find that it may be quite different if they based their Lakksa on a different style of Malaysian cooking.

Other big plusses of the Singapore are the reasonable prices, and FAST service. I have a 10 minute drive from my office, but can still do the round trip and have a meal at a relaxed pace within one hour.Take out is also another good option, you can order 15 mins in advance and have it ready for pickup when you get there.Tell Abba that Adrian sent you. 🙂

The Singapore Restaurant
69 Kempster Avenue Ottawa, ON
(613) 820-4119

P.S. The significance of the picture is that Barry actually ate TWO Lakksas. If you have ever eaten ONE you will know how big a feat this is! Apparently only 4 people have done this, and I know two of them (I’m not one of them).

P.P.S. September 9, 2016…  Sadly all good things must come to an end.  Thanks Ah Bah,  Foo & Andrew for so many wonderful meals!  I hope all the client love near the end didn’t take years off your life!!


Vancouver Chronicles: Joe Fortes

Vancouver: Joe Fortes

Originally uploaded by Adrian F1

Wow, I thought it would be silly to order steak while in Vancouver when seafood is on the menu, but this place makes a great case for surf & turf!!

While not cheap, it isn’t exclusive either. Expect to spend $60-100 per person depending on how many courses your order.

Our server (Micheal) was fabulous, and more than made up for any confusion at the beginning of our meal where we were left alone for a bit too long before being asked for our drink orders.

Lori had filet mignon with a side of 4-potato gratin, which were both fabulous, and I had a 3-fish selection which included mahi mahi, salmon and halibut. Those mains, the shrimp appetizers and the creme brule dessert were all 10/10.

Lori claims that this was the best meal she has ever had, and I would definitely put it in my top 10!

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