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Flavour Guy: 36 hours at la maison de la casa house

You may have seen travel articles about how to get the most from a brief visit in a well known city. They give advice for 36 hours in London or Your best weekend ever in Hong Kong.

There is breakfast at a spiffy espresso counter, dinner at the trendiest bistros in town, several notable attractions, a club or two, and shopping at that petite chic boutique even the locals don’t know about. While we’re invited to replicate these trips, I am usually exhausted by the end of the first paragraph.

Instead, I offer the little known but highly recommended la maison de la casa house currently situated near me.

Arrive Friday evening just a little too late to see a magnificent sunset by the water’s edge but getting some much-needed exercise after the long drive, moving quickly to swat away mosquitoes. Long term residents have just the right moves (jump, swat, twist, repeat). We follow what they do and get back inside.

Saturday morning. Hmm, the plumbing isn’t working. Call the plumber and get an appointment for tomorrow, maybe. In the meantime. we check out Canadian Tire and see if those 23 litre jerry cans for water are still on sale. Maybe buy two. This brings back memories of the “fun” we used to have camping, which is why we stopped camping and came here.

There’s a Tim’s on the way. Like the locals, we order the java-du-jour: a large double-double, caffeine for the whole day.

It’s noon and we still haven’t had breakfast (there was nothing in the fridge). After all of this running around, it’s great to drop into a friendly spot like the fish and chips shack on the pier. The line up isn’t too long but we extend our visit by ignoring the menu posted outside until we get to the window and then ask what is in the chowder, whether the fish in the fish and chips is made with hake, halibut or haddock and if we can get it gluten free, if the fries are fresh cut or frozen, and who caught the lobsters. The staff and those behind us appreciate our desire to be more knowledgeable about local dishes.

Here, we could also schedule a deep sea fishing cruise but first consider the viridescence of those stumbling off the boats after three hours at sea.

In the evening we check out the nearby sea shanty song shack. Everyone in the area usually drops in. After a few beers, our inhibitions melt away. We’re always surprised at how few songs we actually remember as we loudly sing all the verses of Barrett’s Privateers and repeatedly belt out the chorus of Kumbaya.

It’s been a lot of fun; but finally it’s time to lug the jerry cans back to the cottage, kill as many mosquitos as possible, and try to get a good night’s sleep. There’s still all of Sunday ahead and the plumber may come.

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While waiting for the plumber, why not cook up some hamburgers? A current conundrum amongst the bbq set is whether to go with flatties or burgers. Flatties are thin patties cooked to well done on a griddle or frying pan. Burgers are heftier, made on the grill, and can be served rare, medium or well done.  Some advocate putting a frying pan on the bbq which strikes me as silly; but why not, if you want to make both types at the same time?

In either case the quality of meat is important, not too lean, with about 25% fat. Chuck is a good cut for this. Ask a butcher to grind it fresh.

I use about 4 oz. for a flattie, 6 oz. for a burger. I first mix up a half cup of olive oil, with a clove of finely chopped garlic and add a quarter teaspoon each of salt and pepper. I make sure that the pan or bbq grates are clean and very hot, but I don’t oil them as a hot fire burns off the oil. Instead, I brush the oil mixture on the patties just before cooking them. (This oil is also great on grilled on vegetables like zucchini or asparagus.) When the bottom of the flattie or burger is slightly charred, the meat turns over easily. If it sticks, it isn’t ready. I turn the flatties and then I press them onto the frying pan with a spatula. I like two per serving with a slice of cheddar slipped between them when they are done.

Back to the grill, the meat juices will start to show on top soon after the burgers are turned, which indicates that they are rare. I let them cook a minute or so longer depending upon how well done I want them. The burgers can sit a bit, off the fire, before serving, as for a steak. This stops the juices from running out at the first bite, although a bun will absorb them and that is pretty tasty too.

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