Mid-Week Tangent: Battle of the Fort Langley Gelato Part I

Unbeknownst to me until last weekend, I have not one but two gelato shops right in my own backyard (not literally, of course, although that would be a pretty fantastic backyard).  Now that I’ve kicked off my summer gelato challenge , I think I am hyperaware of gelato shops everywhere I go, sort of like when you buy a new car and then you start to see the same model everywhere you look.  What I was most excited by is that there are duelling gelato shops.  While not quite directly across the street from one another, they’re pretty close and I think that gives this gelato-off a very West Side Story vibe. I’m excited to see which gelato shop reigns supreme.

We checked out the interior of both shops this past weekend before choosing where to taste first.  I admit, I may already be biased against one of the shops. Bucking all gelato trends, they’ve opted not to display their gelato. While I’m usually supportive of bucking trends, part of the delight of gelato is being able to scan the flavours in their glass case. I’m not sure how I feel about sight-unseen gelato. But we’ll get to their products next week. For now, let’s take a look at our first Fort Langley gelato experience.

Reminder: I am not a food blogger. My goal is shoot as fast as possible to commence eating. But kudos to me for actually taking a picture before eating half of it…unlike the last two weeks.

Where: Maria’s Gelato, Fort Langley 

What I Had:  For some reason, though I typically select the most sickeningly sweet and rich dessert options, when selecting gelato I love me some fruit flavours.  It’s inexplicable to me. That’s my Cherry Mania on the left there, and my boyfriend’s (wiser) choice of coffee and salted butter caramel. I also sampled the peach gelato.

As a sidenote, I was disappointed in the lack of really interesting flavours. Aside from the pistachio and rosewater and strachiatella, most flavours were completely standard fair, lacking that Italian flair that I’m ultimately seeking in my quest for gelato perfection.

What stood out:  I had lower expectations for this place. For once, I did my research before checking out a gelato shop. The things I do for this blog! At any rate, I read countless reviews of tiny portion sizes, high prices, and rude service. I didn’t find any to be fair reviews.

As you can see from the photo above, these are fairly standard gelato serving sizes. My own theory is that customers are comparing to ice cream shops where double-scoops are often the size of your head.  It’s not ice cream. This is how gelato works. As for prices, I felt they were comparable to other shops at $5-7ish, depending on how much you ordered. Maybe it’s because when I lived downtown all the ‘artisan’ ice cream shops charged an arm and a leg for ice cream, but I’m not phased by that sort of price tag. Lastly, service was fine. It was pretty empty when we went, though, so perhaps when it’s busy service goes downhill. But I also have pretty low expectations for service. If I were scooping gelato on the daily, you’d better bet I’d have trouble being pleasant when customers want to sample every flavour under the sun and suffer from analysis paralysis when it comes time to place an order.

Okay, enough about the boring stuff, let’s get on to the taste! I’ll start with the worst of the day: the peach gelato. Granted, I had the world’s smallest sample, but the artificial peach flavour was noticeable nonetheless.  Perhaps since peaches are out of season, they are supplementing with artificial flavours…I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but something tells me I’m being overly optimistic on this one.

The cherry mania and coffee were both fine.  Flavour-wise, they were about what I was expecting.  The cherries were delightfully tart but the base was otherwise a fairly typical vanilla.  To me, coffee ice cream is coffee ice cream. I’ve yet to had one that blew my mind, so I’d say this one was perfectly fine. But I’m looking for perfect not perfectly fine with this gelato challenge.

The salted butter caramel, on the other hand, was a flavour explosion, so much so that I immediately regretted ordering only one flavour (seriously, why did I only order one flavour???). If you don’t like the flavour of butter, you will hate this gelato. If you’re like me, though, and have a mild butter addiction, this flavour is the only way to go. It is so rich and so over-the-top bold in its buttery-ness that you will be swooning. I may have eaten more of this flavour than my boyfriend. How he so willingly shares sweets is beyond me.

My biggest letdown at Maria’s wasn’t the flavour profiles, though. I need to talk texture and creaminess.  In the end, I would classify this gelato as more akin to ice cream.  It was still a bit airier than gelato, and lacked the rich creaminess that I was craving. For ice cream, it was good, but it didn’t have that velvety, easily-melting, supremely smooth quality for which I love, love, love gelato.

Overall, I’d say that I had a positive experience at Maria’s, but more as a destination for solid ice cream than gelato. I can’t wait to see whether the other Fort Langley gelato offerings blow my mind. But for that, you’ll have to wait until next week.

Real Talk Thursday: my new (and embarrassing) morning routine

It’s time for another confession. I’ve actually mentioned this once before, but only briefly and in passing when discussing some of my lazier unemployed moments, and at a time when I was doing it so infrequently that I couldn’t classify it as a routine. But now I’ve crossed the line. I do it every day. On purpose. And, even worse, I sort of look forward to it.

Every morning I tune in to Live with Kelly and Ryan.  I don’t understand my attraction to this show.  I used to despise Regis and Kathy Lee, and I couldn’t stand Kelly Ripa when she and Regis co-hosted. Now that I think of it, I may be having an epiphany as I write this that perhaps it was Regis that brought out the worst in everyone all along! As for Ryan, I didn’t watch American Idol, but I never understood how Ryan Seacrest became famous hosting it, nor how it parlayed into hosting a New Year’s Eve special.  And yet, somehow Kelly and Ryan together are enough to get me hooked.  Ryan Seacrest has somehow toned down Kelly’s manic level of enthusiasm to a more personally palatable level.

No matter what’s caused the shift, the horrifying part is that I now find myself organizing parts of my morning around the show. I’ll pause it when I go to check on laundry or refill my coffee mug.  If I’m watching another show on Netflix around the same time, my internal alarm clock goes off just shy of 9am, and I’ll pause what I’m watching–even when it’s good stuff like the new season of Master of None–to get to Kelly and Ryan. I scan the digital guide to see who the guests will be before the show starts, even though I’ll watch regardless of who’s on the show. I’ve even Googled the backstory of hosts and how Ryan and Kelly ended up as new(ish) and permanent co-hosts. Yikes.

It’s concerning for a number of reasons, the most alarming of which is that the show is just not good.  Despite both hosts being veterans in the business, there’s this sort of awkward and not-very-polished vibe to their conversation.  It’s sort of like watching a train wreck, but also sort of endearing like watching kids in a school play who are trying really hard even though they really suck.  Their guest interviews are so incredibly short and sometimes it’s like they haven’t done the legwork to prepare properly. They have flubbed the title of TV shows that their guests star in, and they’ve even said the wrong last name of one of their guests. They read questions from paper.  At times I’m horrified that I’m still watching, and I contemplate changing the channel, but I never pull the trigger to select another show.

Sure, you might say that 9am isn’t exactly prime time for other television viewing options, so maybe I’m just settling for the best of what’s available. The reality is that there are about a million other things I could be doing, like looking for work, writing, reading, watching Netflix, cleaning the house, going for a walk, researching prospective employers and clients. The list goes on and on. But no, instead I find myself truly engrossed in and hopelessly addicted to Live with Kelly and Ryan.

I hang my head in shame.

ps. Except you better be sure I’ll still be watching on Monday when their guest is our very own Prime Minister Trudeau…

Yes. This.

 

Mid-Week Tangent: An Ode to the Cadbury Creme Egg

I am essentially five years old when it comes to holidays and special events. I expect stockings at Christmas. I want a whole birthday week, not just one lone birthday. I want to eat my weight in bite-sized candy bars at Halloween. And damn it, when Easter rolls around, I want my Easter candy hunt. It’s not quite the same if the candy is just handed to me in a basket (though, of course, I’ll still gladly accept it).

Easter is truly one of my favourite candy holidays. I have many, many Easter candies that I love with all my heart, but there is one Easter treat that surpasses all others, that holds a special, nostalgic place in my heart, without which the Easter season is simply not complete: the Cadbury Creme Egg.  Today I pay homage to this saccharine wonder with a love letter. You may think it too much to write a love letter to a creme egg, but I am certain by its end you will see just how sizeable a portion of my heart it has seized.

Dear Cadbury Creme Egg,

You were my first Easter love and now, at the ripe, old age of 38, I continue to be hypnotized by your sugary goodness. Others tell me that you are too sweet for the adult palate, but their (unjust) criticisms fall only on deaf ears. For me, you are confectionary perfection.

One of my most excited moments occurred when, as a university student with a Costco membership, I discovered your 12-packs: a dozen creme eggs lovingly nestled in a plastic egg carton (this was prior to environmentalism being a primary product concern). Never had I seen an egg carton so alluring. I am not ashamed to admit that I purchased the 12-pack, consuming each and every one of them by myself and in far too short a time frame. In fact, I refuse to publicly admit how quickly.

I show greater restraint now. Despite the fact that Easter candy appears in stores before the Valentine’s Day candy flame has even been fully extinguished, and despite the addition of the Cadbury “Screme Egg” (such a clever moniker) at Halloween, I reserve any creme egg purchases and consumption to the days surrounding Easter itself. I am a purist and respect the sanctity of the Easter egg in all its forms.

Can I express what I love about you in words? As many other confections continue to whittle away at the thickness of their chocolate coating, I presume in efforts to charge more for less product, you have refused to pull the wool over consumer’s eyes. Your chocolate shell remains stubbornly think and impenetrable. There is no accidental crushing of your chocolate shell; it holds up to substantial pressure. I know, because I have dropped many on hard surfaces, and thrown them into the bottom of my purse, which can only be described as a black hole of crap, and from which few food items survive without being smashed beyond recognition.

Many criticize your interior for being nothing but liquid sugar.  To them I say: what more do you expect from a candy confection?  Though substantially thicker than a real egg, your filling is a wonder of chemistry. It is viscous enough to almost hold it’s form once the chocolate shell is broken, making you a feasible snack for people on the go. I believe your filling even has a distinct flavour and that flavour is “magic”.

So many brands have tried to replicate your deliciousness but none even come close. At times in my childhood, my parents misunderstood your uniqueness and fell prey to the lure of other cream eggs. I cannot describe the level of disappointment I would experience when my well-meaning parents would present me with Purdy’s creme eggs, as though they were a perfectly suitable replacement. My heart would sink. I’d eat them, of course, but the guilt I’d experience, knowing I was cheating on you, would render the experience decidedly less pleasurable.

Thank you, Cadbury Creme Egg, for being a steady constant in my life, and for creating a product that can only be loved by the ultimate sweet tooth (i.e. me). Never change. Ignore the haters. I cannot wait to be reunited with you again so very, very soon.*

*I am in no way affiliated with Cadbury’s nor is this post sponsored by them, though I’d be lying if I said I would turn down free Creme Eggs in exchange for my love letter.  I feel no shame at the thought of selling out for Cadbury Creme Eggs.

 

 

Mid-Week Tangent: WTF Walking Dead *Contains Spoilers!!!!*

In case you didn’t gather from the post title, this post contains spoilers (note the bold and coloured font to indicate that I’m serious about spoilers). If you’ve yet to watch the season 7 finale, you likely don’t want to read ahead although, quite frankly, I don’t think you’re missing much. With that out of the way, let’s get to the real heart of the matter.

Walking Dead, that season finale was absolute crap.

I feel it’s important to mention that I’m one of the few fans who’s given this season a fair shot, or at least this is how it feels to me.  It’s been widely criticized as a slow-moving and, well, crappy season, but I was like that loyal friend who sticks up for a bad friend long after everyone else has phased her out.  I defended the season premiere, believing it was important that Rick and crew finally be presented as something other than invincible. Sure it was violent, but it was getting pretty old watching Rick and crew outsmart all their enemies so easily.  I even defended the terminally slow plot development throughout the rest of the season. We needed to get familiar with all these other players, to see Rick’s crew in a different mode, trying to come to terms with their new reality while still attempting to forge alliances. I feel like my patience and loyalty should have been rewarded with a damn good season finale. But instead I got a slap in the face.  That friend I’d stuck up for long past everyone else up and phased me out. Uncool.

It didn’t even happen in slow and dramatic fashion. No, Walking Dead crushed my dreams for a good season finale all in one fell swoop. All I need are five words to tell you the straw that broke this camel’s back: the mother f’ing leaping tiger.

It’s exactly as bad as it looks.

Look, there were generally a lot of problems with this season finale, most notably:

–Supposedly dramatic Sasha suicide-in-a-coffin complete with ominous foreshadowing flashbacks: Yawn.

–Ridiculous and annoying way the trash people speak: Seriously, what about the zombie apocalypse made them abandon normal speech patterns!?!

–‘Bad guys’ who seem incapable of hitting a human target while every member of Rick’s crew is a dead eye: Even the most useless of Alexandria residents were transformed into killing machines, it seems.

–Rick gets shot but it doesn’t slow him down in the slightest: I suppose he’s used to it by now?

–Holy shit, amidst a literal sea of gunfire how does Negan not even get grazed by a bullet: I am left to assume he must be surrounded by an invisible force field.

And those are just a few of the things I struggled to comprehend. Yet I was willing to let go of all these things as a loyal fan. As I’ve written about before, I’m generally good with suspension of disbelief.

But that perfectly timed tiger leap was the final straw.  If you’re going to have a ridiculous plot device swoop in to save the day, can we not do better than a CGI tiger? Now I haven’t read the comics, so perhaps this is something they have to do to follow the storyline…but I really don’t care. After investing in seven seasons,  I expect more than a CGI tiger as a superhero.  And don’t even get me started on the improbability of this tiger’s impeccable timing nor his ability to discern good guys from bad. Carl was but seconds away from a deadly date with Lucille when this tiger seized hold of a dramatic pause. Now that is some serious animal instinct for opportune timing. And not once did he attack one of the good guys, not once. Ezekiel, though I can’t stand him, deserves to be recognized for his apparent phenom status as an animal trainer. Credit where credit is due.

In that ‘moment of the leaping tiger’, as I now call it, I felt as though the show stepped all over my loyal heart. My only response was to proclaim, out loud and largely to myself,  “Oh, come ON!!” That was the moment I feared me and Walking Dead might be done for good.  By the end of the episode, I no longer cared who lived or died, not even when it was unclear whether Michonne had survived her battle with the cryptic blonde trash lady.  By the time we got to Maggie’s melodramatic and protracted monologue homage to Glenn, all I wanted was for her to STFU. I’m sure that comment will anger Glenn lovers so let me emphasize that I loved Glenn and barely survived Glenn’s death fake-out  mid-season 6.  But I no longer care, not about Glenn and not about anyone (well, other than Daryl and Carol, who are now the only two characters for whom I have any emotional attachment). What I’m trying to say here is that this episode, especially as a cap to this crap-heap of a season, has left me immune even to Glenn’s emotional draw.

The only, and I mean only, redeeming quality of this entire season, as far as I’m concerned, is that the season finale brought Carol back to being a total badass hell-bent on slaying bad guys. I think we can all agree that the post-zombie-apocalypse world is far better with a bad-ass Carol in it. In my mind, a season 8 with Carol taking out the entire Saviour army is pretty much the only thing that can bring me back to true fan status.

Seriously, Walking Dead, that was terrible.

Mid-Week Tangent: Implausible Plot Lines on Nashville

I am moderately embarrassed to admit that I’ve become hooked on Nashville. It is perplexing on a number of levels, the least of which are that I don’t enjoy country music in the slightest and it’s essentially a soap opera. Despite this, I’ve burned through the first two seasons in rapid succession and show no signs of stopping.

Where all my spare time has gone lately…

Before I continue, I feel it’s important to state that I am fully capable of suspension of disbelief, that willingness to sacrifice all reason or logic for the sake of enjoyment. It’s necessary for television watching to be even remotely enjoyable. I’m not the person who normally sits there saying things like “oh my god, that would never happen”. I appreciate that, in order for drama to exist in television, characters need to make poor choices. If everyone on TV did the smart thing all the time, who’d want to watch TV?

That said, now that I’m two seasons in to Nashville, my suspension of disbelief is being tested in a number of ways…and yet I keep watching. I sit there and say (out loud and to myself) “really?!?!?” but just keep on streaming. I feel compelled to see what kinds of ludicrous storylines they concoct next. The last time this happened to me was with Revenge, where I at least had the good sense to stop the obsession early in season 2 when the plot ridiculousness was beyond acceptable.

Back to Nashville, though. This show, it’s starting to test my suspension of disbelief in a number of very big ways.  Let me share with you just a few examples:

(Warning!!! There may be spoilers here. If you want to experience the addictive wonder of the show without my spoilers, stop reading immediately)

–Hit songs are written at lightening speed. Seriously, these artists sit down and churn out hits in one afternoon, sometimes while they’re on tour, and they do this all the time. It’s as though songs just fall into their heads in one fell swoop and can be penned in perfect form that very same day. Now, I’ve never actually attempted to write a song so maybe it is just that easy, but I somehow doubt that you can whip out lyrics and musical arrangements and have them ready to perform live in concert that same day. Bonus points for implausibility have to be awarded for the time when two mortal enemies sat down and co-wrote a hit together in two hours. I’m willing to bet collaboration wouldn’t come that easy to a couple of people incapable of the most basic of niceties.

–There are crap-piles of tragedy. Granted, this isn’t unique to this show, but man did they ever cram the tragedy into the first season in particular. There was a murder/suicide, an epic car crash, an attempted attack closely followed by a fatal shooting, and there was not one but two heart attacks. Oh, and there were also a couple major political scandals, major blackmail, not one but two affairs, and a paternity reveal. If I do my math right, this all occurred in the span of a calendar year.  Not only does this seem like more tragedy than most (in North America, at least) experience in a lifetime, but virtually all of this stuff goes largely un-investigated, which leads me to…

–There are no law enforcement officials in Nashville…or at least that’s all I can conclude from the way that absolutely every scandal, murder or incident seems to be accepted purely at face value. No one seems to wonder why one character’s mother shot a man and then killed herself.  Someone was imprisoned for driving under the influence and causing a major accident, which appears logical at first, except that no first responder would miss the fact that the person accused of causing the accident was found in the passenger seat. Come on, at least try to build an implausible storyline where the drunk person somehow managed to drag the real driver’s body into the passenger side to dupe the police.  That I could reasonably accept under the clause of suspension of disbelief. Instead, it was a lawyer, and not the qualified medical professional or crews on scene, who discovered the truth by making the connection between bruise location and seat belt locations. Totally legit.

–It seems everyone’s got a family member who’s either a drug addict, an alcoholic, abusive or highly manipulative. Everyone. And that family member will only show up and/or do their damage just when life is getting the most plucky for his or her relative. What happened to the days when you only needed one evil character on a TV show? So far, by my count, I’ve seen 8 evil characters in the first two seasons alone, and that’s not including the only-slightly-malicious characters of which there at least another half dozen. All I have to say is thank goodness my life is so boring that I’m not literally surrounded by evil people plotting to ruin my life.

–It has never been easier to become a country music star: Nashville, apparently, is the place one goes to be discovered at lightening speed.  You can be heard, discovered, signed and on tour in a matter of weeks. And you might just receive a royalty cheque for $400,000 within months of selling your first song. I mean, I guess it was sold to Kelly Clarkson so maybe that part is more plausible…

If you are wondering why I continue to watch this show despite having so many issues with it, there is one simple reason: I cannot stop. Despite this show testing every fibre of my common sense and reason, I am still dying to know the answer to this question: what will happen in season 3????

ps. don’t be a spoiler and tell me in comments!