Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Les Wombats de Quebec

Monday morning began easily enough, very early, after a night of terror the likes of which have rarely been seen. Apparently the Wombats were under the impression that it is customary on one's first night in a new country to keep their parents and hosts awake for the majority of the night. To be sure we asked around and the Quebecois have informed us that this is not, in fact, a local custom.

More Cousin Action

It's remarkable how well we have adapted to only a few hours of sleep and the Wombats had a grand old morning playing with their cousin Jackson and enjoying watching the perpetual snowfall.


After breakfast they got their first taste of broccoli which went over far better than we'd expected. Perhaps there is something in the fabulous broccoli of Quebec that makes it extra palatable for babies.

The Wombats' Favorite Foods (in descending order from favorite to least favorite)
  1. Pears
  2. Spinach
  3. Sweet Potato
  4. Apples (McIntosh)
  5. Avocado
  6. Blueberries
  7. Mango frozen
  8. Peaches frozen
  9. Butternut Squash
  10. Broccoli
  11. Bananas
  12. Carrot
  13. Peas frozen
This list is getting a little misleading as they have mostly liked everything they have had. I think there needs to be some denotation that there is about a mile gap between carrot and peas.
Who is the great grandpa guy, anyway?
Great times with Great Grandpa,
After a prolonged morning/afternoon nap the babies were in great spirits and happy to meet their great grandfather over lunch at a local Italian restaurant.
Great times with Great Grandpa,
We even went back to Great Grandpa's apartment to hang out, listen to the radio. Elliott fell asleep on his bed but Martin had a great time playing with him while I also passe out in his chair. Elliott and I showed our mortal flaws but apparently Martin and Mummy require little-to-no sleep.
Elliott with Uncle Jim
After a late lunch and a journey back home we met more family and Elliott took quite well to Uncle Jim.
Martin Tries to Hug Aunt Nancy
Martin was also taken with Aunt Nancy and closed in to give her a big hug.
Martin Attacks Aunt Nancy
Just kidding! Martin tried to bite Aunt Nancy's face off. Again, this is not a traditional Quebec custom as far as I am aware. I'm beginning to think we need to ask for our money back for the book we purchased before the trip: Baby's First Guide to Quebec Greetings and Face-Slobbering Tradition.
Roast pork with polenta and balsamic roasted peppers.
For dinner we roasted up some lovely pork loin and served it over creamy polenta with balsamic roasted red peppers, roasted leeks, and roasted butternut squash purchased at the local market. Everyone at the market was particularly nice except the one French man that clearly hated me and tried to charge me by the pound for peaches in place of butternut squash. Sorry, Dude! You'll have to figure out some other way to scam me out of $20.00. Nice try, Frenchie!
Simple Malt IPA Classique.  More Quebec beer.
Saratoga IPA.  A taste of NY in Quebec.
Simple Malt Cascade India Pale Americaine
For beer we cracked open a few including this Simple Malt IPA Classique and IPA Americaine from Brasseurs Illimites and the IPA from Olde Saratoga Brewing Company which we'd stopped off and picked up on our journey north. They were three very nice and very different styled IPAs. I'd never really had a classic Canadian IPA before so that was pretty exciting. Most things are exciting when you are as dull as I am. Tuesday, we took a trip to the store so Jen could buy a ton of baby clothes. Me and the boys decided to nap in the car. Unfortunately I fell asleep sort of unexpectedly and left the seat warmer on which meant that when they returned from shopping an hour later I was sitting in a car with a dead battery. We tried to get a jump from a local woman who made up a story about how her husband didn't let her give people jumps because one time she melted a car battery (likely story) but ended up having to drive down the street to buy jumper cables and take care of matters ourselves.
Mummy and Elliott at Rotisserie St-Hubert
Cousins at Rotisserie St-Hubert
After that debacle we headed over to Rotisserie St-Hubert whose catchy commercial jingles I have become accustomed to over the years as Jen periodically loves to sing them while doing a silly dance. It was some tasty rotisserie chicken as well as a chance to attempt to capture a picture of three babies simultaneously paying attention to the camera while not throwing their St-Hubert cardboard cars to the floor. As you can see from the best picture in the series this was not a smashing success.
Maybe the best beer store I've ever been to and it's only about the size of my living room.
Beer Wall at Le Gobelet
After lunch we headed over to see a tiny beer store with a not-so-tiny selection of beers mostly from Quebec. The store was called Le Gobelet and it may be my favorite store in North America, beer or otherwise. They also featured a wide selection of sausages and mustard. It's great because of the 500 beers they had there I think I'd only had about five of them and maybe heard of an additional ten.
Le Gobelet Purchase #1
With so much new stuff I had to pick up a modest selection.
La Bavaroise from Le Gobelet.  Let the Quebec Beer-a-thon continue!
The first beer I tried was this La Bavaroise which was brewed by the owner of Le Gobelet and part of their exclusive line of beers.
Salad with smoked duck breast, shallots, Bleu d'Auvergne, and pears.
After a trip into town to visit the local butcher shop, and a typical baby-putting-to-bed session I put together a quick salad with smoked duck, shallots, Bleu d'Auvergne, and pears.
Seared foie gras with gelee de cassis and grilled baguette.
For a second course I made seared goie gras with gelee de cassis and grilled baguette.
Pan Seared Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Foie Gras Mashed Potatoes
And, finally, a pan seared beef tenderloin with roasted Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes with foie gras fat added, and Bleu d'Auvergne butter melted on top of the beef.
Unibroue Raftman.  #unibroue #quebecbeer
The final piece of the meal was this Raftman from Unibroue, a beer of their I have never seen available in the States.
Early morning punks.

After a mostly restful night of sleep the Wombats were rearing and ready to go nice and early this morning. While we would have appreciated sleeping a little later than 6:30 AM it is still hard to be too upset about waking up to these little goofballs.

Goofballs that may have broken our iPad even in its protective Fisher-Price case.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wombats Internationale

Saturday night, after a mere 13 hours of preparation, we were ready to begin our journey north to Quebec. It's remarkable how many hours of preparation are needed for a mere six hour car drive, not to mention that we split it up into two days. Our last trip to Quebec probably took about 45 minutes of preparation and we were foolishly stressed out about it.

I now realize if you do not have children you actually have no right to be stressed about anything. I've learned a lot this year.

Wombats in Saratoga Springs

The guys were delighted by their hotel in Saratoga Springs. After sleeping the entire car trip they burst into life at the hotel. We asked at the desk if we could bring them down to the restaurant for a quick drink before bed and they told us that we could. After packing them up and bringing toys we lugged them downstairs to find out that the restaurant was closed and they were liars. Dirty, stinking, liars.

Nothing beats falling asleep with a really good book.

Once back in our room the boys, for some unknown reason, instantly fell asleep in the cribs the hotel had set up for us. Elliott fell asleep reading a book and Martin just chatted with himself until he fell asleep. We briefly considered stealing these magical cribs and taking them with us but probably figured it wouldn't be the same as stealing a robe or a towel and that charges may be pressed. We didn't need that kind of drama.

Official Saratoga Springs Water in Saratoga Springs

Instead of sampling some of the local beer we settled down to a $6.00 bottle of local spring water which was provided for our convenience (read: their profit). It was actually extremely tasty and I look forward to picking some more up at the grocery store when we get back home for a mere $1.49.

Babies at Breakfast

Martin with Bandito Bib

For breakfast the following morning we took the guys to the restaurant where they had their first high chair experience partly for the food and partly because they got to destroy everything within their reach while Jen and I huddled over on one side of the table.

First Panera Bread experience.  Martin is AMPED!

For lunch we journeyed all over town until we found a Panera Bread and the babies enjoyed yet another high chair experience. Martin mostly slept, Elliott went hog wild eating his lunch, and the woman that worked at the counter made no secret of the fact that she would be much happier if I was dead.

In this family everyone does their fair share.  Elliott's taking his turn at the wheel.  I'm going to nap in the back.

After a few minutes on the road Elliott lost his mind and after a ten minute wrestling match Jen gave up on trying to breast feed him. Instead he was content to stand up in the driver's seat and pretend to drive the car. That brought up an interesting question: was he fussing because he was hungry or did he actually just want to pretend to drive the car.

Jen's accent will start slipping in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . @jenernstbeaudry

After a few hours in the car the boys needed to eat. Badly. We were only 30 minutes from our destination so we decided to just gun it and wait until we got there. After two straight days of being exceptionally well behaved about this whole matter they had finally decided that this breach of our normal routine was unacceptable and began to lose their minds. Jen was able to distract them for the final fifteen minutes by singing them French nursery rhymes. I was able to distract myself by humming along with my best French hum.

Humming is like the universal language.

Cousins.  #feelthelove

Once at the family's house the boys were finally able to meet their cousin and bask in the joy that was his magic, glowing aquarium.

Martin's first Mum-Mum.

Martin also enjoyed his first experience with baby Mum-Mums. We gave them to him without a bib only to discover that they turn into a sloppy, sticky mess after a matter of seconds.

We were not averse to putting them to bed with dirty, crusty pajamas.

For the second night in a row.

Quebec beer, this time actually in Quebec.  Simple Malt Double Porter.

More Quebec beer.  Simple Malt Altbier.

While the guys got Mum-Mums as a special treat I was treated to some fantastic Quebec beers (my mother-in-law can stop reading now).

I tried the Simple Malt Double Porter and the Simple Malt Altbier from Brasseurs Illimités, a brewery I hadn't heard of until last night. Both were excellent and I look forward to a week of new Quebec beers that are unavailable in the States.

Jen's cousin informs me of a store in town with a fantastic selection of beers and sausages.

I have put all of our other travel plans on the back burner until this visit is accomplished.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Quebec Warm Up

Last night was a bit of a mess. For reasons unknown the Wombats both lost their ever-lovin' minds. Nothing we could do could really calm them down and we spent two hours fumbling our way through every trick in our arsenal until they both ended up asleep and we both ended up feeling as though we had gone through battle.

photo not available

For that reason we have no pictures from yesterday. Just imagine the worst calamity you can imagine and that will probably be pretty representative of our night.

Garlic Pork Sausage with Mustard, Chips, and Salad

After we recovered from the horror show I seared up some pork sausages and served them in buns with horseradish mustard and chopped onion. I served them with a salad of leftover ingredients and some potato chips.

Hopfenstark Boson de Higgs

As an excellent accompaniment to these sausages I poured this slightly smokey saison called Higgs de Boson from Hopfenstark, another Quebecois brewer. At 3.8% alcohol I was expecting much less in the way of body and flavor. This was a very tasty, very interesting beer that gets me even more excited about our upcoming trip to the motherland.

Elliott's First Blueberries

Martin's First Blueberries

Tonight was a bit easier and we had a chance to made blueberries for the babies for the first time. I was a little worried about this one as they turned out chunkier than any food they've had before. They seemed to like them okay but I think the texture made them not react to this as positively as they have to some of their other past favorites.

Apparently they are not aware of just how important antioxidants are.

The Wombats' Favorite Foods (in descending order from favorite to least favorite)
  1. Pears
  2. Spinach
  3. Sweet Potato
  4. Apples (McIntosh)
  5. Avocado
  6. Blueberries
  7. Mango frozen
  8. Peaches frozen
  9. Butternut Squash
  10. Bananas
  11. Carrot
  12. Peas frozen

Blueberry Bath
Blueberries were such a mess that we opted to give them a good bath so that they didn't leave blue hand print stains on everything in their tiny little worlds.
Unibroue Trois Pistoles
This evening I had another Quebec beer, this Trois Pistoles from Unibroue. I've been desperately trying to figure out if Unibroue does any sort of brewery tours as I'd love to check them out when we visit. There is previous little information online. The best we could do is Jen finding an article from 1997 talking about how they don't do tours. I'm hoping that there have been slight changes in the last sixteen years.
Vanilla Ice Cream with Cake Crumbs and Caramel Sauce

After dinner I used up some leftover ice cream, caramel sauce, and crumbled up cake scraps to make these small desserts.

With that the fridge is in a dangerous spot where we may have cleaned out anything worth eating. On the plus side there will be minimal food waste while we're away. On the down side I don't know if we will have anything to eat tomorrow. It's a dangerous game that we play with fridge maintenance.

I guess we'll just have to leave home earlier so as not to have to deal with such things.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Little Piglets and the Quebec Beer Sandwich

Yesterday morning Jen's mum and sister left in a selfish act that now leaves us as the dual caretakers of the Wombats. What can I say. Some people only think of themselves.

The Wombats with a Stuffed Wombat

Before they left they allowed the boys to play with an heirloom stuffed wombat that I understand is not a toy and can never be allowed to be touched by baby hands again. Apparently it is a rare stuffed animal that is not waterproof and can be destroyed merely by the breath of a baby.

Dieu du Ciel! Route des Epices

Last night I enjoyed a beer from Quebec brewer Dieu du Ciel!, this Routes des Epices. It was a very nice beer brewed with peppercorns which had a naturally spicy finish to it. We're going to Montreal in a matter of days so this was a nice warm up to the upcoming trip.

The Wombats Enjoying Ball Time

Today, after picking up the guys from day care I did my best to entertain them between FaceTime calls to their grandparents before they lost their minds and could not longer put off dinner.

The guys were hungrier tonight than I have ever seen them. I made what I thought was an obscenely large amount of spinach with multigrain cereal and a splash of formula and they housed it in no time. After they ate Elliott was sort of freaking out and babbling, presumably trying to explain to me and his brother how he was nowhere near done eating.

In eating it they made the biggest mess I have witnessed to date. Elliott compounded this mess by rubbing his mouth with the back of his hands then immediately rubbing the entirety of his chubby little head and face.

After dinner they both had an unprecedented ten ounces of forumla each. I was really hesitant to continue feeding them for fear that they would erupt.

Frampton Brasse St-Edouard

After getting them to bed I cracked open this St-Edouard from Frampton Brasse, another Quebec brewery. This is the last in the series of Quebec beers my father-in-law brought me from his most recent visit. This was quite enjoyable and very lively. I suspect it may have over-fermented a bit but that doesn't bother me a bit.

This brewery is apparently named after the town of Frampton outside Quebec City and, sadly, not for the 70s talkbox master.

With that in mind I leave you with the man himself showing you the way.

Baby, he loves your way. By the way.


Monday, February 18, 2013

The Mustache of Spinach

Last night I rushed home from work to help out with getting the babies to bed and giving my in-laws a taste of what it's like to have dinner at 9:30 PM.

Martin and Elliott in Luggage

During the day it seems that Jen's mum and sister had a good time allowing the babies to play in their luggage.

Cappellini with Olives, Spinach, and Artichokes

I quickly put together this pasta with cappellini, garlic, kalamata olivers, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, roasted yellow tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, fresh spinach, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

City Steam Brewery Blonde on Blonde Pale Ale

For beer I had this Blonde on Blonde pale ale from City Steam Brewery. It was hoppier than I expected after seeing the word "blonde" bandied about on the label. I had been expecting it to taste more like a blonde ale and less like an IPA.

Sumo Tangerine

Elliott's First Taste of Sumo

Martin's First Taste of Sumo

During the morning we gave them their first taste of Sumo tangerines. It's hard to rank this one because they didn't actually eat it, they just sucked on the pieces in their mesh baggy. It was definitely a huge hit. What remained int he mesh bags after they were done looked like the remains of some crazy science experiment designed to remove 100% of the moisture from organic matter.

Martin Eating Pea and Avocado Mash

After the Sumo incident we fed them their lunch of mashed peas and avocados. They really loved this one. Jen actually liked it even more than them and seems to have plans to make it for herself for dinner soon. They seemed to hate peas so it could be the addition of one of their favorite foods that made this one a hit.

Babies' First Spinach

For dinner we gave the babies their first taste of spinach. I cooked a little extra when I made dinner last night but I did not have high hopes. All four of us pretty much figured that this would be a huge disaster.

The result was quite the opposite. They loved spinach. It was one of their favorite foods so far. Here's how it stacks up:

The Wombats' Favorite Foods (in descending order from favorite to least favorite)
  1. Pears
  2. Spinach
  3. Sweet Potato
  4. Apples (McIntosh)
  5. Avocado
  6. Mango*
  7. Peaches*
  8. Butternut Squash
  9. Bananas
  10. Carrot
  11. Peas*
* frozen
Martin with Spinach Mustache
Elliott with Spinach Mustache
The best side effect of spinach is that it made the babies look like they had awesome little mustaches. Martin had a Frank Zappa style mustache and goatee while Elliott looked quite a bit like his Grandad . . . or some randome midwestern sports fan. For dinner, the babies stayed up quite late with us, and I decided that having guests would be a great opportunity to clean out the fridge and freezer I would cook a special selection of dishes for Grandma and Auntie Lauren!
Boiled Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce, Sour Cream, and Avocado
I made this cocktail shrimp with lettuce, cocktail sauce, sour cream, and avocado.
Mustard Crusted Lamb Chops
Lamb chops crusted with horseradish mustard, coated in bread crumbs, seared in a pan, and finished in the oven.
Meatballs with Sauce
Meatballs with marinara and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Jen accidentally pulled these out of the freezer to defrost so we needed to do something with them. What better than to serve to our guests?
Pan Seared Tofu with Broccoli Salad
Pan seared tofu with a salad of broccoli, red onion, roasted tomato, lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Roman Style Cappellini
And Roman style cappellini with olive oil, butter, garlic, bread crumbs, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Into Great Silence
On their last night in New York we decided to really treat Jen's mum and sister to a rockin' good time. So it was that we decided to watch the documentary Into Great Silence about Carthusian monks in the French Alps. The maker of the film asked the monks if he could film a documentary in their monastery and they told him they needed some time to think about it. Sixteen years later they responded and said that it would be okay. The film is mostly silent since the monks have taken a vow of silence. We figured that watching a three-hour-long silent documentary about monks would be the ultimate way to end their trip to New York. What can I say? We know how to party it up proper!
Van Steenberge Augustijn Blonde
As we watched this I felt it was appropriate to have a monastic-type beer. That's why I reached for this Augustijn Blonde from Brouwerij Van Steenberge which my parents got me for Christmas. Sure it's not actually made by monks but it is made in Belgium and it does feature a dutiful monastic figure on the label tending to a mash tun. That's got to count for something. Lauren pretty much hated every second of this movie. She was too confused about why the monks were silent, why it was so slow-paced and boring, and why there was no dialogue. Since we had just watched an incredible, thought-provoking movie we needed to pick something else for the double-feature. Something that would be the complete opposite of the movie about monks.

I think I'd rather watch about a hundred movies about monks then watch this travesty. Lauren and Grandma were happy though because there were plenty of exploding water spouts.

This is what's wrong with America.