Posts Tagged: tacos

Dec 14

Challenge 11: Learn to surf

Learn to surf in Canada. In the wintertime. Oh boy…  surf3

Over on Vancouver Island if you make the trip down the narrow winding two lane road to Tofino you’ll discover Canada’s surf capital, which boasts 35km of  stunning sandy beaches ringed with pines and soaring firs plus reliable rolling waves. Winter is meant to bring some of the best surf so I planned to try and catch my first break here.

surf1I’d signed up with Surf Sisters three hours introduction to surfing.  The day starts with Surf School 101 where we learned the basics from Nicole, our good-natured surf coach: from not peeing in the wet suit (dude, manners!) to what type of board we’d be surfing on (a longboard–good for beginners and apparently a more ‘elegant’ surf style) and also the names of the parts of the board (it’s always good to know the name of what’s about to smack you in the face). We also learned surfing etiquette (one person per wave) and the difference between rips, waves and swells and how to spot a ‘green wave’ – the ones that we’d hopefully be riding.

surf5What no one mentioned though was one of the most complicated things about surfing is actually wriggling into the kit. Wetsuits are not easy to put on, but as I was to find out later, that’s nothing compared to taking them off. I seriously contemplated finding out the cost of taking a knife to it and cutting the thing off me. Take a friend and beg them to help you with this, as you will need a wetsuit to surf in Tofino where the water temperature ranges between 14-7 degrees Celsius– too cold to really enjoy suit-less. I was surprised– and very happy to discover –that the suit and gloves meant that I was actually toasty warm on a December day after spending almost 90 minutes in the water.

surf4Wading out into the water, clutching my board under my arm as the waves kept coming, I realised that surfing was going to be a lot more demanding than I’d imagined. First just getting out to a gap between the waves was tough, the board kept trying to escape my clutches and the sting of saltwater in my eyes made me gasp. Getting on the board and lying down was relatively simple, but going from that to standing? Impossible.

surf8Time after time, Nicole lined me up and gave me a good push off. I’d paddle, wriggle forward and try to jump up then tumble over. Once I got properly dragged underwater, my board got away from me and as the waves tossed and pounded me under I cradled my head with my hands, remembering Nicole’s warning that the most dangerous thing out there would be my own board hitting me. I took refuge in the shallows for a while, catching my breath and coughing up the last of the sea water from my lungs whir admiring the view.

surf7It turns out that surfing is yet another sport that I am simply no good at. However, thanks to the efforts of Nicole and beginner’s tenacious luck, I at least managed to stand up once on my board, before calling it quits and staggering off to do battle with my wetsuit in the carpark.  But as I fell off again and again, what kept me going was the thought of the traditional Tofino post-surf treat just a few minutes away at the Tacofino food truck. Heavenly fresh baja fish tacos. Piping hot. So, so good after surfing.


Thanks to my fellow students for so patiently letting me photograph them. Thank also to Surf Sisters and Tourism Tofino/Tourism Vancouver Island for hosting me. 


More info:

Tourism Vancouver Island  Surf Sisters  Tacofino

Jul 13

Toronto adventures: Where to eat


Welcome to the T-Dot.

Welcome to T Dot.

Cafe Keriwa, 1690 Queen St W. T 00 1 416 533 2552. You simply don’t hear enough about First Nations (Aboriginal) cuisine in Canada. Is it because (as had been suggested to me) they don’t traditionally have a ‘restaurant’ culture?  I have no clue, but I do know that I want to learn more and eat a lot more of their food. If you’re in town then a perfect place to start is Cafe Keriwa who serve Blackfoot First Nations-inspired dishes using traditional Ontario ingredients like sea buckthorn berries and stinging nettles. Absolutely delicious.

First Nations-inspired cuisine and utterly delicious

First Nations-inspired cuisine and utterly delicious

Grand Electric, 1330 Queen St W. T: 00 1 416 627 3459. It’s the hottest taco joint on the block – with all the apparently ‘necessary’ hipster restaurant ‘rules’ – no reservations, no cheque splitting, a menu with very few items and service that veers between delightful smiles and ‘you’re-lucky-you’re-even-eating-here’ scowls.  That said, there’s a reason why there are queues every day to eat at Grand Electric – the tacos are flat-out wonderful. Just amazing. The ‘Jesus Juice’ cocktail was pretty damn fine too. Join the queue and take your chances.

My favourite, the Baja gish taco

My favourite, the Baja fish taco

Saint Tavern, 227 Ossington Ave. T: 00 1 647 350 2100.  There was nothing I didn’t adore about brunch at the Saint; from the lovely room with its booths, long bar and superb service to every damn thing on the menu. There was an absurdly delicious bacon-maple-bourbon dish that had me cleaning my plate with sticky fingers, a fine alternative to boring old eggs and bacon when paired with a gorgeous creamy-spicy paprika-dusted deviled egg. Even the rice krispy-encrusted French Toast made me gurgle with foodie-glee. And I don’t even LIKE French Toast.  Love, love, love.

Rice krispy-crust French Toast YUM

Rice krispy-crust French Toast YUM

Dakota Tavern, 249 Ossington Ave. T: 00 1 416 850 4579. I can’t recall the last time that just walking into a restaurant made me want to cry with happiness. It was a bright sunshiny Sunday when I found the Dakota Tavern. I pushed open the door and went into the beer-y darkness and down a flight of stairs into a windowless basement… only to find a magical room – lit with fairylights – a sweet, smooth bluegrass band playing on the handkerchief-sized stage and the room filled with starry-eyed music fans forking up the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast.

Take a seat and soak up the magic

Take a seat and soak up the magic

Hawker Bar, 164 Ossington Ave. T: 00 1 647 343 4698. There’s a slightly annoying trend for places to not open for lunch around the Parkdale/Ossington area – so I didn’t get to eat at a few of the places I meant to visit… however that did mean that I wandered into Hawker Bar by complete chance and was rewarded by a brilliant East-meets-West fusion of a pulled pork steamed bun for lunch.

Yeah, OK - having menus on cardboard is a touch hipster, but I loved it

Yeah, OK – having menus on cardboard is a touch hipster, but I loved it

Caplansky’s, 356 College St. T: 00 1 416 500 3852. The one thought that dominated my mind as I sat and grazed my way through a ‘highlights reel’ at Caplansky’s? ‘Damn. I haven’t eaten enough deli food in my life.’ I could go on for hours about the sheer brilliance of the kishke with smoked meat gravy, the hand-sliced in-house smoked meat, the grilled salami with chopped liver and red onions, but I’ll just get upset that I live so far from Toronto and can’t go and have it all RIGHT NOW. But you know what? You go when you’re there and have it for me.

Home-smoked and hand-sliced

Home-smoked and hand-sliced

I stayed in Toronto as a guest of Toronto Tourism. However – as always – my views are 100% my own.

Find out more:  Toronto Tourism

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