I’m at my parents place for the next few days. When I’m not running around making sure my mom has everything she needs, I’ve got a lot of downtime. I figured I’d be that guy that writes a year end wrap up post talking about ups, downs, and everything in between.
I’m not sure where I’d be without all these people in my life. It’s odd to say but I feel lonely all the time. I try to surround myself with great people to fill that void. Some folks like Team Trolling are family. I talk to them every single day. Others I see far too little like my old Karla crew. Kind of crazy to think I’ll have known many of them coming up on 10 years. Others; like my brothers from my High School Crew I see 3 or 4 times a year (if I’m lucky), we pick up right where we left off, and hopefully will continue to do so for many years to come. On the flip side of 20 year friendships, I was blessed to add a whole new group of people in my life. Chanry and I had the brain child to create a network for all of the Hamilton and Burlington based Bloggers. We’ve amassed a large amount of people but it became obvious early on that a core group was being formed. Maybe it has to do with the fact we’re all food bloggers and nothing brings people together like sitting around a table eating delicious things? Bottom line, we all get along great and I’m looking forward to hanging with them all again come 2016.
I wanted to get out to a few new destinations this year. I came up short on my big one. My trip to Spain was entirely on me as I simply chickened out of traveling solo to a new country. I know that I owe myself that trip and I will be doing it in the coming year.
I started the year in Cayo Coco with old friends. The resort was MASSIVE! The only other time I’ve been on a resort that huge was in the Dominican in 2010 and I believe that was actually 3 resorts combined. This resort was a work in progress as it was only 1/2 done but we made the most of it. The weather played nice all week around 28C. The food was on point. We made some new friends from Winnipeg (oddly enough labelled The Six). All in all a great trip. It’s funny, if it wasn’t for Kristi making an offhand remark about wanting to go on vacation back in August of 2014, we never would have put the plans together.
Chicago was a mixed bag for me. I found the scheduling disastrous between sorting out tourist stuff with Marie, Lisa, and Mark. On the flip side, Mark and I spent A LOT of time hanging out and drinking. Shooting the shit with him was amazing. It’s a shame he lives as far away as he does or I’d be stalking him to hang out on the regular. Again, it was all about making friends. I ended up getting into some deep life stuff with a young couple from Idaho. Apparently I’d make a great motivational speaker? Who knew?
I went to Vegas to play a lot of Street Fighter but I barely touched the game over 5 days. Instead there was much alcohol and laughs with Dave, Kristie, Norman, and Pam out of Saskatchewan. I’m pretty sure I owe them all a visit this year. I need to find a way to put Kristie in some kind of Vegas show, so she can show off her amazing pipes. That girl can siiiiiing.
Ottawa might have been the most fun out of all the trips though. I spent 3 days with Dana, something we’d never done before despite our long standing friendship. The road trip to Ottawa came up entirely because we made an offhand joke about driving someplace we hadn’t been just for Pancakes. Jason was gracious enough to be our guide over the weekend and we did full tourist mode coverage of Ottawa. I’m really glad we hit up some cool spots I never would have heard of like House Of TARG! That stupid balance ball game will be defeated when I return. That or I’ll… cry… again. I want to go back and see a lot more of the little things that make Ottawa great. It’s a quick trip (we got there in 4 hours from Hamilton with no stops) with plenty to see and do.
I barely blogged on food this year. I figured if I didn’t blog on it then I wouldn’t be as inclined to eat in restaurants. Yeah… that didn’t pan out at all. While I scaled WAAAAAAY back on how often I ate out, I did get a chance to try some amazing stuff. So in no particular order, these are the dishes that really stuck out to me in 2015.
Spicy Ahi Tuna Bowl from Pokeh: This was my biggest surprise of the year. I had no clue what I was getting into. I only had Chanry’s raving about Poke and the fact the mad food genius Salar Madadi was making it. It immediately shot up into my favourite foods. Premium Ahi Tuna, tons of veggies, spicy sauce, on steamed Rice. The dish is powerful. It’ll be a comfort food staple in 2016.
Chicken Chimichanga from Mesa: The ownership at Mesa is 1/2 of what used to be Mex-I-Can. I had a boycott on that place for 3 years after I found a hair in my Burrito. When the restaurant shut down due to it being “not structurally sound,” the ownership split and Mesa was created. Marie; a notoriously picky eater, raved about it before I got a chance to go so I was already high on my anticipation. The Nachos (recommended by Chanry) were great but the star was their Chicken Chimichanga. Chicken, cheese, rice, veggies, wrapped in a tortilla and deep fried. It is a BEAST! I came in very hungry for this meal and could barely breathe from being so full from this dish by the end.
Smoked Chicken Wings from Buster Rhinos: I’ve eaten a lot of Chicken Wings over the years. Thousands upon thousands by now. After a while, you eat a great wing but nothing really surprises you. These surprised me. I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt they’re the best Wings I’ve ever eaten. Sadly Buster Rhinos Toronto location closed and it’s unlikely I’ll ever get another chance to eat these meaty pieces of joy again.
Everything from Salt Lick Smokehouse: Seriously. Everything. Chef Mike Hutchison is the best culinary mind in Hamilton. Salt Lick assumed the rank of my favourite restaurant in the city, taking the title from Rapscallion (oddly enough where Mike last worked).
North Strong Burger from Meatventures Food Truck: This was my front runner for best thing I ate in 2015 until well… the next item on my list. Can I say it was the best Beef Burger I ate all year? Again, Mad Genius Salar up to shenanigans. Beef, Peameal, Eggs, Onion Strings, some kind of God Sauce I don’t even know. Fuck… I have to pray he’ll bring it back when Food Truck season re-opens.
Aporkalypse Now from Mezcal TNT: This is my winner. Chef Manny Ferreira’s Burger wasn’t fancy pants. It wasn’t over the top. It was just the best. It was the single most tender piece of pork I have ever eaten. Add in Bacon, and Bacon Mayo with some slaw for crunch. Good game, peace out. This was Mezcal’s Novemburger entry. I don’t know if it’ll ever be on their menu again. I kick myself for only eating it once but I’ll always cherish the memory.
I don’t think I’ve had a more enjoyable year of work than I had in 2015. My boss leaves me a lot of room to operate. That kind of faith isn’t something you see in most jobs. Every person I work with hauls ass but always has time to crack a joke. I don’t think I can even count on 1 hand how many “bad days” I’ve had since taking my current position. My position was re-classified, ensuring me job security for the first time in 10 years. I’m doing moderately well for myself and things only look to be expanding next year.
My mother is a 4’11 120lb juggernaut. She takes the world on her shoulders. With that burden comes a lot of stress. She’s never quite learned how to let things roll off her back. I’m convinced that stress was the primary contributing factor to the Stroke she suffered Tuesday November 17th. I can sit back and write about it now because quite frankly, you’d never know it happened to see her today. My mother, the tiny juggernaut, suffered a stroke, self diagnosed while partially paralyzed, called 911 herself, and got to Trillium Hospital in Mississauga in 45 minutes. I’m not a religious man. She’s a devout Catholic. We both share the belief that God or some kind of divine entity was watching over her on that date. I remember thinking as I rushed to the hospital how life was about to change for all of us. You hear stroke, you fear the worst. The one thing it has changed is that I appreciate her all the more now. We almost take our parents for granted. They’re just there for us whenever we need them. The idea they could be gone or very ill doesn’t cross our minds until it happens. It was truly a wake up call for me. I love my mother very much. I knew after that day I’d make sure she knows it far more often.
Oh and this one? She’s kind of my favourite.
See you all in 2016.