A Favourite Spot-Hastings House, Saltspring Island

On our trip to the west coast of Canada this fall we stayed at one of our all time favourite getaway locations.  It was our third visit over the past three decades.  The place is Hastings House, on Saltspring Island, B.C.

The Green House
The Green House

We have always enjoyed the Inn and its amenities.  The food is superb.  Breakfast is included in the room rate while dinner is optional.  You may be served dinner in your room by the fire if you wish.  That’s a bit decadent, isn’t it. 

The service is always friendly, courteous and professional.  You feel very pampered from check in to check out.  

The Green House
Inside The  Green House

There are a number of out buildings where you can stay as well as rooms in the Inn.  This time we stayed in the Green House.   On a previous visit we stayed in The Meadow and during that visit I sat outdoors in an adirondack chair while lambs jumped and played in the meadow just a short distance away.  My husband spent the afternoon assisting the chefs in the kitchen.  He was very happy with the experience.  I was happy to use one of their bicycles and enjoy a nice ride around the area and not assist the chefs in the kitchen.

Below are pictures of some of the buildings and the grounds.  The last two pictures are of an endive, walnut and blue cheese salad we enjoyed one evening and finally a view of the Pacific Ocean when you take a walk up the road from one of our favourite spots, Hastings House.

Do you have a favourite getaway spot?   What keeps you coming back or at least wishing you could go back?

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Hastings House
Hastings House

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Guess Who? Randy Bachman

The 15th Annual Ottawa International Writers Festival is about to get underway.  There have been a number of pre-festival events.  Last night I went to see Randy Bachman. It was lovely evening.  Lawrence Wall of CBC radio one introduced Randy Bachman.  Both men are originally from Winnipeg and they shared a number of reminiscences.  Lawrence recounted The Guess Who playing a noon hour concert at their Winnipeg High School when the band was at the peak of its popularity.  It was an example of what made the Guess Who beloved in their home town of Winnipeg, Manitoba.  

Musician, singer, songwriter and storyteller

Randy Bachman Ottawa International Writers Festival

Bachman regaled the audience for well over an hour (more time than initially promised) with stories that are found in his recently published book (this is the writers festival) Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Stories.  If you are of a certain vintage, or you like rock (and roll) music dating back several decades, you will be familiar with Bachman’s program on CBC radio.  It airs a number of times during the week and Bachman and his wife Denise play songs and he tells stories of his experiences over decades in the business.  He often plays his guitar (s) and provides an interesting and varied dialogue on a world most of us never will have never known.  It’s not all roses for Bachman spoke of the time he spent away from his family (8 children) as they were born and grew.

Bachman had great rapport with the audience last night.  He talked about how he got started in music (with violin lessons) and how in his teens he would skip school in the afternoons and hang out with Lenny Breau.  He has so many experiences to recount-from living the life of a musician in obscurity to one who was at the top of the charts.  From living in a beat up van while on the road, to meeting Gerry Dorsey before he entered the agent’s office and came out with a new name-Englebert Humperdinck! There were great tales of how songs and song titles came to be. Bachman played his guitar and did some singing-all to the audience’s delight. He announced that next year he and his full band will do a cross-country tour that will be  2.5 hours of story telling and music based on his book.  

Small world-art imitating life

To my quiet delight, as the event seats filled, the Ottawa based actor and playwright Pierre Brault sat beside me.  We have seen and enjoyed Brault in a number of performances here in Ottawa.  One of those was the one-man play  5 O’Clock Bells Brault both wrote and performed based on the life of Lenny Breau.  I spoke briefly to Pierre-he has not had the opportunity to meet Randy Bachhman. That seems like a shame.  There is only one degree of separation-Pierre Brault-Lenny Breau-Randy Bachman.

And finally

Bachman has a great sense of humour, enough truly interesting stories to fill a book (funny thing) and for all his accomplishments he appears approachable and grounded. 

Scotch and chocolate

Recently we attended a scotch tasting hosted by the local chapter of the Opimian Society. The Society is a non-profit wine purchasing cooperative. We belonged to the Society a looooong time ago back on the prairies when chapters were first starting up across Canada.  We re-joined recently and this was our first event with the Ottawa Chapter.   Funny thing, then, that the Society’s recent event was a scotch tasting.  It’s apparently the first time they have ventured away from wine and by the accounts of those assembled (at least at our table), it was well received.

A brief account of a scotch tasting:

Wayne Selci, Ottawa Chapter Secretary was the host for the evening and our guest speaker was Carol Anderson, sommelier.  Carol offers wine and scotch consulting. tastings and events through her business GrapeScot.  Carol gave us some history and background on scotch whisky, how it is made, what various terms mean.  She is knowledgeable and it is a pleasure to learn from her.  She described each of the six scotches we tasted that evening and emphasized that, just as with wines, the best one is the one you like.  The whiskies (which is what Scots call scotch) were paired with tasting plates and we drank scotch with appetizers, a main dish and chocolate.  Five of the six are available at the LCBO, the sixth is available only through the Opimian Society.  If you look them up on the LCBO site, you’ll see that a small tasting of each is a good way to see if you like something before investing in a bottle (in some cases it can be quite the investment!).  At our table of 7, it’s fair to say that preferences were varied.  Some people enjoyed a smokey, heavily peated whisky while others preferred a lightly peated whisky.  

Excerpted from Carol Anderson’s notes for the evening:

  • Malt whiskies are made from only three ingredients-malted barley, yeast and water.  (Growing up on the farm in Sask. when we grew barley all I knew was that it was good for us if our barley “went malting”.  It meant a better price.  Our barley ended up in beer, not scotch.)
  • Single malts are made in one distillery, from multiple casks. Single cask malt is the product of one barrel.
  • Blended malts are 100% malt whiskies that come from multiple distilleries. Blended whiskies contain malt whiskies and lighter-flavoured grain whiskies.
  • The age on a bottle (malt or blend) indicates that of the youngest whiskey used in the blend.
  • ABV-alcohol by volume.  When you see the numbers you’ll know why it’s wise not to drink and drive.
  • Scotches may be aged in variety of oak casks including: sherry, bourbon and new oak. For the first two, that means sherry or bourbon was first aged in the cask and the second renter was scotch whisky.  It’s interesting, once you hear this, you can smell/taste the sherry or bourbon.
There’s an entire flavour vocabulary that goes with tasting and there are a great number of potential descriptors.  This would be what you smell or taste.  Just to give you a flavour of the vocabulary -it could include terms like smoky (ash, bonfires, molasses, turf-burning), sherried (grappa, winey, spirity, rum, sherry), medicinal (antiseptic, Brylcreem, menthol, turpentine) and malty/cereal (oats, malted-milk, porridge).  And as people sip they will often comment on what the drink tastes like to them.  

  1. Appetizers- terrines, chutney and salad with Glennfiddich 15 year old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whiskey 40%ABV and The Macallan Fine Oak 15 Year Old, Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whiskey 43%ABV
  2. Main course-Irish beef stew with Cul na Creagan Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 43%ABV  (Opimian offering and Highland Park 18 Year Old Orkney Single Malt Scotch Whiskey 43%ABV
  3. Dessert-New York style cheesecake and chunks of dark chocolate with Aberlour A’bunadh Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky 59.5%ABV and Lagavulin 16 year old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky 43% ABV.
Barb’s Best:
  • Glennfiddich 15 year old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whiskey 40%ABV .  I liked the “nose” and found it very smooth.  It has been aged in sherry, bourbon and new oak.
  •  Aberlour A’bunadh Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky 59.5%ABV . This was a family favorite.  The whisky has been aged exclusive in oak ex-oloroso sherry casks.  It is bottled at cask strength which means the ABV is not decreased to a certain level before it’s bottled (ergo the 59.5%ABV).  At this level, one should be able to disinfect wounds with it.

After seeing the offering for the evening and the ABV, it’s plain to see why we are encouraged and wise to take a taxi, get a ride, walk or stay in a hotel after the event.