Downtown Windsor Farmers Market

The fresh local produce of summer is wearing thin and now is the time to visit the Downtown Windsor Farmers Market to cash in on those end of the season deals. If you haven’t been downtown to check out the market this season, here’s what your missing: fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh-cut flowers and potted plants, homemade baked goods, fresh-made perogies and sausages, kettle corn, craft beer, coffee, hand-made crafts, t-shirts, jewelry, books, and much more.

The Downtown Market sets up on Pelissier Street, between Wyandotte and Park, every Saturday, from 8am to 1pm. There are anywhere from 80 to 100 vendors throughout the season, which runs from May 1st to December 12th. During inclement weather vendors move into the lower level of the Pelissier parking garage.

Come visit next Saturday and support a talented group of local authors who write in genres that include women’s empowerment, self-help, crime fiction, travel, paranormal, horror, children’s, mathmatics, and military, along with a collection of colorful book marks.

Here’s your chance to speak with a local author, and get a personally autographed copy of their book. Please come and visit and support local.

West Street Willy’s Eatery – Goderich

Eating dinner and finding a good restaurant while travelling can be a challenge, but thankfully the internet and sites with reviews like Trip Advisor, take away some of the guesswork. If you’re old school, like Cathryn and I, you talk to real people who live in the area and ask them for recommendations or advice.

This type of interpersonal communication paid off for us while dining at the Part II Bistro in Downtown Goderich. We asked our waiter, who was local, to recommend something in the area that was a good place for breakfast. He suggested West Street Willy’s, that was only a hop, skip and a jump away, just off the town square. We’d read great dinner reviews for the restaurant but it was closed that night.

Taking the advice we’d received, we stopped for breakfast at Willy’s before heading further north. The patio out front looked inviting but the weather was a tad cool that morning, and it was that time of season for those pesky bees.

The interior décor was nothing fancy, kind of a cross between small town diner and a cozy dining room in a country home. The breakfast menu was daunting – two pages full of creative dishes – everything from peanut butter, bananas and bacon on French Toast, to Eggs Benny and something called Pete’s Big Mess. The latter caught my eye first, but I opted for the Morning After Poutine. My mess contained crispy home fries, bacon, sausage, peameal, onions, tomatoes, cheese curds, chipotle and hollandaise, topped with two eggs the way you like them.

More concerned about her cholesterol, Cathryn ordered the West Street Benny – grilled, marinated portabella mushrooms and spinach, topped with the usual Benny goodies. Hers was $13 and mine was $15, both large portions and filling. Service was excellent and our waitress was friendlier than your local Avon lady. My only complaint is that we couldn’t stay for dinner.

If your not satisfied with our recommendation of this restaurant, perhaps you’ll take the advice from the TV show, You’ve Gotta Eat Here, who featured Willy’s about three years ago.

Cathryn and I both loved West Street Willy’s Eatery and give it a 10 out of 10.

Part II Bistro – Goderich

On our recent Tobermory trip, for a change of scenery, Cathryn and I decided to take the back roads up north – getting off the highway when we could, and following Lake Huron’s eastern shoreline. Knowing the six hour ride would take us longer, we booked a room in Goderich to make it a two-day trip. On the first day we stopped in Grand Bend to stretch our legs and see what is new. The beach resort town was bustling, with plenty of new places to get your favorite junk food, and a complete makeover of the old Colonial Hotel is in progress.

Cathryn barely remembered being to Goderich years ago, so we drove down to the waterfront and along the public beach. The old CPR Train Station has been meticulously restored and relocated there and converted into a restaurant. New since my last visit is a wooden boardwalk with exercise stations, running the full 1.5 km length of the beach.

For dinner we sought out the Part II Bistro, on the main square – more like an octagon loop that surrounds the court house, with a half dozen streets as spokes, radiating from the center. It was Tuesday, and to our disappointment many restaurants in town were closed for the night. Part II Bistro was open and had rave reviews so that’s where we went. They have a beautiful patio out front that offers a great view of the town square, but the weather and seasonal bees had us reserve a table inside.

I can best describe the décor as eclectic, with tables partitioned for privacy and Covid reasons. They had a nice selection of local craft beers and a descent wine list. We sampled both. A picture of our appetizer wouldn’t do it justice – look up Gnudi on their menu – ricotta, parmesan and garlic formed into soft pillows, with a semolina flower crust set on a slowly simmered IPA, basil tomato reduction. Yes, it was a savory and delicious as it sounds.

Cathryn saw a lamb shank on the menu so there was no decision for her. I was torn between the Sacchietti Pasta and the Greek chicken, but was in need of a good carb fix and chose the latter. Stuffed egg pasta filled with mushrooms and black truffles, tossed with sundried tomatoes, artichokes, woodland mushrooms, spinach, onions and garlic. Finished with cream and herbed infused olive oil and topped with parmesan cheese. OMG! Need I say more? The little pasta pouches made for the best I’ve ever had.

The Lamb Shank was braised perfectly in Moroccan influences of cumin, cinnamon and cardamom, set on Israeli couscous with ratatouille vegetables, topped with it’s own braising reduction. Cathryn barely had to coax the meat off the bone, which I secretly think she wanted to suck on.

Dessert was mostly for me, she only wanted a bite. I selected the peanut butter chocolate cheesecake, of course. The picture tells the story, and it tasted even better than it looks.

Service was just a tad slow, but like everywhere else these days the restaurant is having difficulty in finding wait staff. They did a great job with what they had and Cathryn and I eagerly give Part II Bistro a 10 out of 10.

Reviews for Trafficking Chen

If you haven’t snagged a copy of my latest novel in the Norm Strom Crime Series, Trafficking Chen, check out these reviews and see what you’re missing. The book is available locally at Storytellers Book Store in Windsor and River Book Shop in Amherstburg or come see me at the Downtown Windsor Market on September 11th or 25th. You can also purchase the book online at your favorite retail site.

“Trafficking Chen is a story that dares you to turn the page – but you can’t look away from this engaging narrative of dark events that are written from a whiskey-tinged razor-sharp voice of experience. Real cops, real victims, real bad guys intertwined in a race that will keep you powering through.” Kay T.

“Part detective novel, part thriller, Trafficking Chen with its overlapping plots, Strom’s humor, and satisfying conclusion will leave new fans seeking out previous mysteries for future reading!” John Schlarbaum, Author of “Abandoned – A Jennifer Malone Mystery”

“Another fabulous read! Get working on your next one. I always look forward to reading Edmond Gagnon’s books. Dawn St. Louis

“Just finished Trafficking Chen and I personally think this book is Gagnon’s best writing so far. An interesting and chilling story on trafficking, while turning each page.” Beverly Miller

“This book was insane and an eye opener to what can happen under everyone’s noses and you would have no clue!! I highly recommend this book!!!” Emily Conran

“These books are great cover to cover.” Gord Kerr

RESPECT – The Aretha Franklin Story

Find out what RESPECT really means to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. The movie tells her life story from the time she was a little girl singing in her father’s church, until she becomes an international star. If you’re a music lover or a fan of Aretha you won’t want to miss this movie. My first surprise in the flick was learning the extent of talent in her family, from her mother to her sisters.

Her over-bearing father, a Baptist Minister, plays a huge role in Aretha’s life, and is socially connected to important people like Doctor Martin Luther King. Franklin comes of age in an era when blacks have taken to the streets in a quest for equality. Many of Aretha’s singing engagements were in church or to raise money for the movement.

As with many other celebrities, Miss Franklin is haunted by demons from her childhood and continual conflict with her father. Her choice in men only exacerbates her problems, to the point where it all becomes too much and she breaks down. The church and gospel music re-inspire her and she becomes the music icon we all know.

Jennifer Hudson plays Aretha in the movie and delivers one of the best performances of her career. Respect is not a movie you really need to see on the big screen, but the soundtrack is awesome and will surely have you tapping your foot. Cathryn even got up and danced in the isle to one song. We were the only ones in the theater.

We both enjoyed the movie. I gave it a 9 and she a 10 out of 10.

Stillwater

Wow, two trips to the movie theater in less than a week – I almost feel normal again. My wakeup to the new normal was at the candy counter where I paid $9 for a small bag of popcorn. It seems recovering from the pandemic means adding dollars to the cost of everything except the movie.

Stillwater is the name of an American town where an out of work Roughneck turned construction worker (Matt Damon) lives. It’s also the pendant on a necklace that he gives his daughter before she goes off to university in Marseilles, France, where she is convicted of murder and sent to prison for the death of her girlfriend.

The story drags like a tractor pull, led by a baseball-capped redneck version of Jason Bourne in slow motion. Damon visits his daughter in prison but their communication skills are about as far apart as France and the U.S. on a world map. Cultural differences are brought to light in this flick, pointing out the bullying image of Americans and how France has nearly lost their identity to the mass influx of immigrants.

With the exception of a few scenery shots along the rocky shore of the Mediterranean Sea, this is not a movie you need to rush out and see on the big screen. If fact, it’s our opinion you don’t need to rush out and see this flick for any reason. Cathryn and I both give it a 6 out of 10.

Harbour House Waterfront Eatery

My personal chef, Cathryn, wasn’t sure what to serve for dinner last night so I suggested we try the new Harbour House Waterfront Eatery (old Lilly Kazilly’s) on Riverside Drive at the City Marina. It was Tuesday and I messaged the restaurant to ask if I needed reservations. The response (on Facebook) said it was a good idea so I requested a covered table on the patio, in the shade. I was told it wouldn’t be a problem.

We experience a bit of confusion at the hostess desk while the couple in front of us tried to select a table where they wouldn’t be attacked by bees. Then they had to wait for their friend who forgot his mask. When our turn came the young lady asked where we’d like to sit and I repeated my earlier request for the patio in the shade. We were led to a tiny little table outside the covered deck, with an umbrella that only shaded half. Cathryn had to continually adjust her chair to avoid having the sun in her face. I didn’t bother to ask for another seat since the patio area was packed and business was brisk.

Service was a bit slow but we waited patiently, understanding that the patio is huge and they were really busy. We ordered a couple of draft beers while we looked over the menus. I found it odd how 4 or 5 dishes were listed as coming soon – something our inexperienced waitress wasn’t aware of when she accepted an order from the table beside us. She later returned with the bad news for the man, and delivered our slightly chilled beers. Cathryn complained and our server said she’d check with the bar.

Our waitress returned with the same beers -now even warmer. I had taken a couple sips of mine, she offered a story about how the kegs froze and they had to warm them us before they could cool them again. I kept my beer and Cathryn considered a glass of wine, until she saw the $14 price tag for a 9oz glass. They didn’t have the seltzer she asked for and settled for another. We used the glass of ice that came with it to chill our water.

We decided to share some appies, sample the menu, and started with Oysters Rockefeller and Mussels in a garlic wine sauce. The mussels were okay but I found all the garlic in one clump inside one of the shells and most of the onions in another, as if they were tossed in as an afterthought. (Not the one’s pictured on left) The oysters were dry and tasteless, probably the worst we’ve ever had. We asked for a bowl of Lobster Bisque but were told they were out and just starting to make more.

For a seafood restaurant right on the lake, I was a bit surprised they didn’t offer Pickerel. We ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna, which came with a side salad. The vinaigrette dressing was too bitter for me but the tuna was delicious. A huge serving that was cut in two pieces, was perfectly seared and encrusted in toasted poppy seeds, with fresh avocado and roasted tomatoes. It was a bit pricey at $32 but a large enough serving for us to share and be satisfied. The tuna was the highlight and best part of our experience.

And right in the middle of tuna heaven an AC/DC song started blaring over the sound system. It took a few minutes before the corrected the problem, so much for dinner music. Our bill came to $109, a bit steep I thought for 2 appetizers, 2 drinks and 1 entrée (she didn’t charge me for my diet coke because of the warm beer). So there you have it…the majority of reviews for this place have been favorable; perhaps we just hit an off night. There is much room for improvement in our opinion. We both rated it a 6 out of 10.

Jungle Cruise

I can’t remember the last movie I rated or the last time Cathryn and I were able to get out and watch one at a real live movie theater. We are happy that Lakeshore Cinemas didn’t fold, like so many other businesses during the global pandemic. The theaters are close to us and not as busy at the larger venues.

A quick note for those who like to buy tickets at the door – there is no ticket booth anymore. You either buy them online and reserve your seat at the same time or take your chances at one of the kiosks inside the building. Staff is now limited to the popcorn counter, and they also act as ticket checkers or ushers.

It was nice that we had a choice of two decent-looking movies, Stillwater with Matt Damon or Jungle Cruise with Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson. We chose to latter for something light and hopefully fun. We chose correctly; the movie was great.

I compare the Disney movie to an Indiana Jones instalment, with Blunt and the Rock sharing the Amazon River adventure. As with Indy, the river runners are in search of an ancient item, this one something that can save mankind. There’s a good mix of action, adventure and humor in a movie that relies heavily on CGI.

This is the type of movie you’ll want to see on the big screen and I even found myself laughing out loud on a few occasions. We both enjoyed the movie and Cathryn rated it 10 out of 10. I gave it a 9, mostly because I’m an action junkie and don’t want to be dubbed a Disney Duck.

Chowder Wars – Gibsons & Sechelt, B.C.

One of the things Cathryn and I were most looking forward to while visiting the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia was the seafood. Having sampled our share on the east coast a few years ago, we wanted to see how the west coast fared. After a short ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in North Vancouver to Landale, we drove directly to Gibsons to kill some time while we waited to check into our Airbnb.

We took a quick look at the Persephone and Molly’s from the old Beachcomber TV series days and strolled out onto the pier. Our thirst for craft beer and hunger for fresh seafood cut our walk short. We headed to the closest and most scenic patio on the pier, Gramma’s Pub. The place was a bit weathered but we were distracted by the beautiful harbor view.

The menu covered all the bases and we each found a likeable local brew to toast our first stop on the Sunshine Coast. Things took a quick turn when Cathryn announced it was our first time in Gibson’s Landing, and she asked what was the best local fare. The waitress was greeted with two blank stares when she started describing their nachos and potato skins.

With my mouth still agape, I asked about the seafood on the menu. She said they were out of almost all their seafood – quite an unbelievable statement to me since we’d just seen a guy down on the dock selling fresh fish and prawns. Cathryn prayed that the calamari was local (I knew better) and I ordered the seafood chowder. The squid was the previously frozen stuff I expected, but my chowder was pretty damn good – creamy, the way I like it, with a variety of seafood. My only complaint was the tails on the shrimp and mussels still in the shell, I had to stick my fingers in the hot chowder to de-shell.

My next bowl of chowder was at the Black Fish Pub, in Gibsons, where we met some friends for lunch. It was a clam chowder that was loaded with clams and spices but not quite creamy enough for me. They had lots of other seafood on their menu and Cathryn had a niece piece of sockeye salmon. The craft beer was excellent too.

My third bowl of chowder was consumed at the Lighthouse Pub in Sechelt. We had just been to the beach and seeing mussel shells scattered all along the water’s edge, steered our stomachs to the restaurant. We were not disappointed by the fabulous waterfront view, local craft beer, and seafood. Cathryn had a bowl of mussels in a creamy garlic and onion sauce and and did the seafood chowder. Bowl number three was the tastiest yet, but the small bits of seafood were well hidden by the larger chunks of potatoes.

Stealing some mussels from my wife’s plate added to my creamy chowder treat which was lip-smacking good when I used my garlic toast to soak up every last drop.

We’re off to Nanaimo next and I’m sure the chowder wasr will continue. We already know what will be for dessert.