August 01, 2008

Ottawa Hotel: Albert At Bay

I've mentioned this hotel in passing before, but this time I had my camera! This is the base room at the Albert, and it's awesome. The upgraded rooms, only about 10 bucks more per night, have dedicated dinning rooms and king sized beds. The one time I got upgraded to an 'executive' room, it wasn't much different, other than it had a Neptune air jet tub.

This is the main room, pretty standard, except that every suite in this hotel has the bed in an actual bedroom, not in the main area with the rest of the stuff. It makes entertaining in your room a lot easier.

Anyway... on with the tour below!

A small study is off the main room - some rooms instead have a dining room. I didn't really use this room at all. There are 3 phones scattered around the suite, including a cordless.

This, for me, is the big selling point - a fully equipped kitchen! Out of frame are a normal sized fridge (useful for water and booze!) and microwave. The cupboards are stocked with dishes. Great for snacks... They usually stock a basket with dish towels and usually leave a couple packs of cookies. The deal is that I get the Oreos and Sean gets the Fudgeos. They leave a flyer for an internet grocery as well. I've never gotten the chance to actually cook, though.


Here's the bedroom. It's pretty standard, though in a separate room. There's an additional TV in here, a closet, the usual. It's nice, but not opulent. It does, however, have a master bedroom bathroom! This is a really nice feature, because it means that if you have guests, they can use the main bath. Also, the master bath has a nice big glass shower stall. I tend to brush my teeth in the bath that i'm not showering in to avoid wet feet! Also, it's nice because if you don't have your room cleaned while you stay (I tend to hang the Do Not Disturb marker out) then you have 2 clean baths to use.


Lastly, here's the main bathroom. The bathrooms are nicely appointed, with granite countertops. This bathroom has a bath tub instead of a shower stall.

Posted by JAY at 10:42 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2008

Buildings in Ottawa

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Here's a panoramic view of the Parliament Building in Ottawa. I took this on the last day as we were walking through Ottawa - this building was between the hotel and the office. We were lucky to get some pretty good weather for the entire duration. There are a couple more shots below.


Also to the left is a shot of the Supreme Court of Canada. It's not nearly as big as Parliament. Finally, here's one more shot of the Parliament buildings (this one not stitched together, just a regular shot).

I'll post more shots later, along with some party shots with what we did at night!

Posted by JAY at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2008

Fun in Ottawa


So we didn't spend ALL our time working... once it got dark, we partied! Here we are at the Cornerstone Bar. It appears that they hire totally based on looks, as the servers are all very attractive. The guys were ogling away. Sean had already had a whole bunch of beer BEFORE he joined us for shots and dinner. As you can tell from the pic, he's a happy drunk. We called John and his wife to join us to ogle the servers. (The red dress is apparently 25 bucks at American Outitters.) We did assorted shots and snacked on various appetizers. After that we hit the pubs and danced a bit (if you could actually call it dancing...).

Another night, we stayed in for pizza and played drinking games. Nick and Sean started playing 'caps', a drinking game where you try to knock bottle caps off the other person's beer bottle. Sean's waaaay too good at that kind of game, though (probably too much practice) and I took over from Nick. I don't like beer, though, so I was drinking rum. Sadly, I didn't fare any better than Nick did and my rum was gone pretty fast.

On the last day, we took a walk through the Market. We grabbed food at an enclosed patio restaurant (undercooked pasta, not so great) and then got dessert at a cake shop called Oh So Good. The cake was really, really expensive ($7/slice!) - but also very very good. I ordered a lemon cake that was deliciously tart and moist. I tried Sean's chocolate cake and it was actually better than homemade chocolate cake. The crumb was dense and smooth, yet also light. The cheesecakes were pretty ordinary - cheesecake is pretty much the same wherever you go.

Posted by JAY at 07:47 PM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2008

Poker Night

Aaron, Anthony, Dom, Sean and I met at Rick's house for poker and pizza. It was so nice outside that we started playing outside until it got dark. Then we moved it into the kitchen. It's hard to tell, but I think Aaron and I were the night's winners - though nothing as dramatic as my first session! I think I'm probably even overall...

A good time was had by all. We do need to find some new variants, though.

The variants that we play are:
-kings and little ones
-queens and followers
-hi/low chicago

Other games that we play are
-7/27 (which I'm pretty lucky at, but it's a lot of addition, which stresses me)
-chase the ace (which I really like - it's fun, the pot is large, the risk is low... but I never win)

Posted by JAY at 09:44 PM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2008

Convection

I'm gradually learning when oven convection is beneficial and detrimental. True convection ovens, like mine, blow heated air from a fan in the back of the oven. This results in more even, faster browning and faster cooking overall.

It works well when roasting meat, yielding a much more even roast and more all-over browning of chickens. It's good when doing cookies - the circulating air helps with the large pans that obstruct the movement of heat in the oven. And it seems to do well with bread, which bakes very quickly.

However, for most baked goods, it's better to leave it off. Most recipes are not designed for convection and results are unpredictable as convection is not the same in all convection ovens. Lowering the heat by 25F is only a starting point, and bake time often has to be adjusted as well. So for cakes and pastries, it's better to leave convection off.

Recently I made a blueberry pie with convection - the upper crust browned very rapidly - the sugar sprinkled on top started to burn. Meanwhile, the bottom crust didn't have time to brown and the filling didn't cook enough to dissolve the sugar, yielding a texture that was far from ideal.

The next day I took the same pastry and berries (in fact, from the same batch - I had done a double batch of each and just used one) and baked the same recipe without convection. The difference was drastic. The top and bottom of the crusts were golden and crunchy. The middle was thoroughly cooked. Much, much better.

Posted by JAY at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2008

Recipe: No Fail Pie Crust

This pie crust recipe originally came from Cooks Illustrated. It's similar to another recipe from Alton Brown in that it uses vodka (Alton uses applejack) to replace some of the water in the recipe. The dough is fairly wet and pliable, making it easy to roll out. However, the alcohol evaporates, reducing the moisture in the crust. Alcohol also doesn't promote gluten development (ie. the tough elasticity that's so desirable in pizza dough and bread), which yields a more tender crust.

Ensure that the shortening you buy has no trans-fats (ie. "soft" partially hydrogenated oils). New formulations of shortening are made by softening FULLY hydrogenated fats by blending them with liquid fats. Fully hydrogenated fats basically act as saturated fats. They're not great for you, but they won't kill you like trans-fats.

This recipe makes one of the following (it's pretty large):
2 double crust 9 inch pies
4 single crust 9 inch pies
3 double crust 7 1/2 inch pies (my favorite)

5 cups (25 oz) all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
4 tbs sugar

3 sticks (24 tsp or 3/4 lb) cold butter, sliced into 1/4" slices
1 C (1/2 lb) cold vegetable shortening, cubed

1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup cold vodka (cheap stuff, here)

Pulse/whisk together 3 cups of flour with the salt and sugar.

Add the butter and shortening. Blend for 10-15 seconds or cut in manually, till all flour is coated with fat

Add remaining 2 cups of flour and pulse to blend, or cut in. Turn out into a large bowl if using a food processor.

Sprinkle vodka and water over the mixture gradually, folding it in with a spatula and pressing it down. For bonus points, you can use a spray bottle to distribute the vodka and water evenly through the flour!

Gather together into a ball, divide into portions (see above for how many).
Shape the portions into discs, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, chill for at least 1 hour.

When rolling out the pastry feel free to liberally flour the board and the dough - it's pretty wet and resilient. If it's too hard, let it sit on the counter for a few minutes. If it starts to get too soft, transfer it back to the fridge for 10 minutes.

Posted by JAY at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2008

Simple Simon

Lately I've been the pie man... I've been making lotsa pies and taking them places. Which I guess is good, because if I was eating them all, I'd be so much fatter. As it is, the pie I'm sharing is still affecting my waistline.

Blueberry pie 1: Melanie, Jen, Dan
Blueberry pie 2: Lisa
Blueberry pie 2: Trevor, Dave

Only the last pie was really good. The first pies were done in with convection on and the filling didn't get hot enough to melt all the sugar.

Peach pie 1: Mom and Dad
Peach pie 2: Dan, Fiona, Martin, Fiona's mom

These were pretty good. Fiona and my father both really enjoyed them. I didn't crimp the edge well enough, though and they boiled up and messed up the bottom of my oven. I'd bake them on a tray, but the metal deflects the heat from the bottom, which makes for a soggy bottom crust.

Pie x: I've got one more pie crust in the fridge. Possibly I'll freeze it.

Update: Nope - mom bought some really tart apples. So I made apple pie with them - they were really flavorful under all that tartness and the pie was really good.

Posted by JAY at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)