How $1.34 turned into $76.13

Yes, could we get Alberta utilities (Enmax included) to explain their indecipherable billing.

In This Corner

I don’t know where you are, but here in the Great White North’s most northerly metropolis, it was a lovely summer. Until smoke from B.C. forest fires began to blot out the sun for days on end, we had a great string of warm, sometimes even hot, weather. In my view, a very good summer. (My mother-in-law disagrees, however. Like all women in their 80s, it is never hot enough.)

Summer, as it does here, died seemingly overnight. Around this time of year, Father Nature (Mother Nature’s long-suffering, little known husband) rises from his La-Z-Boy, storms over to the world thermostat, and complains “Who turned it up to 28C? I’m not made of money” and turns it down to 18C.

But it was nice while it lasted. July, in particular, was very pleasant.

So why is my natural gas bill $76.13?

I find it’s usually best not to look at…

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Huge Bites in Chilliwack, B.C.

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Gee, I wonder why they call this the Oinker? At Bubba’s Big Bites in Chilliwack, B.C.

I walk into Bubba’s Big Bites, in Chilliwack, B.C., with a deer-in-the-headlights look as I survey all the lunchtime dining options.

“Your first time here?” co-owner Julie asks after a glance at my slack-jawed face.

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Julie and Sascha are the fun-loving couple who own Bubba’s

“Yeah. What’s your signature sandwich?”

“The Oinker.”

Let’s see: pulled pork, ham, crumbled bacon, a couple kinds of melted cheese, bbq sauce—all squeezed inside a thick, half loaf of bread and, if that’s not enough carbs, served with a side of potato wedges. Having just backpacked about 100 kilometres, I’m feeling rather piggish, so let’s go.

Sadly, I’m still not up to the task. The five wedges, from a rather large potato, are a meal in themselves. And thank goodness there’s a hefty serrated knife thrust inside the sandwich, because there’s no way I’m getting my jaw around the whole thing.

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Half the fun is reading the big board

It’s all great, fresh stuff. Still, I take half to go, and that wonderful sandwich is still feeding me a couple of days later.

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This is about all the seating at this hole-in-the wall spot

Bubba’s is a fun, lively place, thanks to the energy and personalities of its owners, Julie and Sascha, who run the whole show. It’s only about five minutes off the Trans-Canada Highway, traffic willing, and is a great, tiny place for a quick bite, or a hundred, before hitting the “don’t want to get off the highway” mob scene of greater Vancouver.

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Here’s the diverse menu; many of the meats are house prepared

Bubba’s Big Bites
101, 5885 Vedder Road, Chilliwack, B.C.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 11 am-7 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am-8 pm. Closed Monday

Sinful, Toasted Cinnamon Buns

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Toasted cinnamon bun from motel restaurant in Beaverlodge, Alberta

Over the years, I’ve eaten a lot of cinnamon buns; that’s cinnamon rolls if you’re American. Indeed, I have recipes for two classic Edmonton cinnamon buns—the Tuck Shop’s and Mayfair Golf Club’s—which perfected the mix of gooey goodness, without being overly bready, and without any of that nasty icing.

But en route to a recent backpack in northern Canada, I twice encountered something I hadn’t seen before: toasted cinnamon buns. These were both offered at hotel restaurants, one in Beaverlodge, Alberta and the other in Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

I can see how toasting could improve a cinnamon bun that was a day old or a little doughy. And it’s one way of reheating them without resorting to a microwave. I didn’t see how these ones were prepared, though I assume they were sliced horizontally and toasted in some kind of oven.

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Despite all the packaging, our favourite toasted cinnamon bun, at Tumbler Ridge Inn Restaurant

We got them to go, which may not have been the friendliest thing for the planet. They emerged from the kitchen each in large white plastic bags containing a cinnamon bun in a Styrofoam box, four packets of butter and, in one case, several packets of cream cheese. They were then attacked with plastic knives and forks, as well as fingers.

I’m not sure how many calories were consumed in this starch-sugar-fat feeding frenzy. It’s a good thing seven hours of hiking ensued.

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Regular cin buns at Soups in Beaverlodge



Mexican poutine in northern Alberta

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Loaded tater tots, or “Mexican poutine” at Grande Prairie’s El Norteno

Grande Prairie’s El Norteno is certainly the best taco shop in northern Alberta, if not a much wider area. I mean, how can you beat corn tortillas that are rolled out and grilled after you place your order? All the fillings are excellent, especially the fish, enhanced by house-made toppings.

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Owner James Nelson and his made-to-order corn tortillas

But owner James Nelson certainly upped the ante when he suggested we try a plate of tater tots, or as he called them Mexican poutine. Yes, it was deep-fried tater tots, loaded with slaw, cilantro and house-made salsa and guacamole and aioli sauce.

The result was surprisingly fresh tasting and fantastic. We hoovered down a plate, alongside a couple of tacos each.

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The tacos at El Norteno are always excellent

It was so good we made a point of returning on our way back through Grande Prairie. The plate of tots disappeared in about a minute.

Note: Grande Prairie’s food scene continues to get more interesting. In the stall next to El Norteno, at the downtown Farmers’ Market, is Off the Wheaten Path, a gluten-free, vegan kitchen offering bowls, wraps, root veggies, and plant-based pizzas. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open when we passed through. Next time.

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Innovative, healthy stuff at Off the Wheaten Path, next door

El Norteno
10032 101 Avenue, Grande Prairie, Alberta
Monday 11 am-3 pm, Tuesday to Friday 11 am-8 pm, Saturday 11 am-8 pm. Closed Sunday

Off the Wheaten Path
10032 101 Avenue, Grande Prairie, Alberta
Wednesday-Thursday 8 am-4 pm, Friday 8 am-8 pm, Saturday 10 am-3 pm. Closed Sunday to Tuesday

I’m in the Market for a Good Beer

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Now this is what I call a compelling stall at a farmers’ market: one selling beer

The typical farmers’ market combines a reliable twosome: fresh produce and crafts. So when I see a Calgary market selling a different kind of craft—beer—I couldn’t be happier.

Farmers and Makers Market at cSPACE is a shiny new Saturday market in South Calgary, on the grounds of the restored, sandstone King Edward School, which has been converted to a bunch of arts spaces.

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cSPACE: A combination of market, historic building and arts incubator

The cSPACE market takes advantage of a year-old provincial government policy that allows Alberta craft beers and spirits to be sold at farmers’ markets (cottage wines were previously allowed, accounting for Strathmore’s Field Stone Fruit Wines’ stall at the market).

No, you can’t sit down with a pint at the market (though that would be a great next step). But you can sample and purchase brews from a local brewery.

At cSPACE, it’s Inglewood’s Dandy Brewing Company, usually offering two or three of their beers for sample and sale. I go for some tall cans of a vibrant seasonal IPA, named T2G after Dandy’s postal code.

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Field Stone Fruit Wines is also selling its wares at the cSPACE market

When I’m wandering around a farmers’ market, I like to figure out which stalls are the most popular and why. At cSPACE, Dandy is obviously a contender. I mean what would you rather buy on a hot summer’s day: a four-pack of chilled beer or a knitted scarf?

On the road in British Columbia

Sorry, no posts for the past couple of weeks. Been on the road in British Columbia, hiking and feeding the insatiable maw. Future dining descriptions to come.

In the meantime, a pictorial summary of tidbits along the way.

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Along the Coquihalla Highway; the bathroom maintenance must go on

Hermit Meadows

Lofty Hermit Meadows in Rogers Pass

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A wee mouse was a hitchhiker in my car for four days before the live trap struck.

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The Heather Trail in southwest B.C.’s Manning Provincial Park has unparalleled flower meadows, here featuring spent anemones

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Across the road on Frosty Mountain, rare alpine larch in southwest B.C.

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Trail runners heading up Frosty Mountain

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Sausage roll in Manning Park cafe. Me: “Did you bake these this morning?” Server: “With help from Sysco.”

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Near Lindeman Lake in Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park

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The big oinker at Bubba’s Big Bites in Chilliwack. It lasted me a couple of days on the trail

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The incomparable fig-hazelnut loaf from Purebread in Whistler

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Casually cool Olive + Ruby coffee shop on West Broadway in Vancouver

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Only in Vancouver

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Elfin Lakes panorama in south Garibaldi Provincial Park

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Hikers adopt all sorts of dress near Vancouver