Thursday, June 27, 2013

Leave the gun. Save the cannolis.

Crossed into Canada today. Ben was the poster child for what not to say when crossing an international border:

RCMP: Where are you from?
Ben: Just north of San Francisco.
RCMP: Where are you going?
Ben: Into and around Canada.
RCMP: Sir, you're in Canada. Where are you going?
Ruth: Vancouver, sir.
RCMP: How long will you be in Canada?
Ben: We're traveling around, writing about our travels -- we're writers.
RCMP (sighing): How long will you be in Canada, sir?
Ruth: About 10 days.
RCMP: Are you carrying cigarettes, cigars, tobacco?
Ben: We don't smoke.
RCMP (a little more loudly): Are you carrying any tobacco?
Ruth: No, sir.
RCMP: Are you carrying any firearms, handguns, pepper spray?
Ben: (pause)
Ruth: No, sir!
RCMP: No handguns?
Ben: (pause)
Ruth: Nope, no handguns.
RCMP: OK, pull over and go into the office, please.

They took our passports, said they would "run a background check," and we sat down, staring at the tiny barred cells behind the desk. Mercifully, it was only a few minutes before we were called by name, by a very nice lady. I guess the background check showed that, not only does neither of us have a felony record, but nor do we have even a parking ticket -- and we pay our mortgage on time, too.

Later, Ben said that, when the RCMP asked if we were carrying handguns, he almost told them the whole story -- those of you who know it, enjoy. Those of you who don't -- suffice to say, you can't bring handguns into Canada, doesn't matter if grizzly bears are chewing your toes off as an appetizer to having your liver for dinner, "personal protection isn't a reason to have a gun," as the RCMP told me when I asked. Had Ben actually told the story to the officer at the border, I suspect we'd be in one of those tiny cells still, perhaps banging tin cups on the bars. Now that's the blues.

We drove about three hours to Kenora, Ontario, where we checked into the second round hotel on this trip (think Capitol Records in LA); our strange, wedge-shaped room is on the top floor, just below the pool level, with a view of the lake stretching to infinity.


For dinner, we walked through the driving rain about half a mile to Borelli's, an Italian restaurant on the waterfront. We were soaked. I channeled Simon Pegg in "Star Trek" and the first words out of my mouth when we entered were, "Can I get a towel, please?"

The red lentil soup was a delectable starter, and both the "Italian" and the Caesar salad were among the best of their kind. Then, I had the pasta primavera, loaded with fresh squash, mushrooms, red peppers, and onions in a garlicky-herb oil. Delicious. However, it was nothing compared to Ben's pollo alla funghi, which was a perfectly cooked, lightly-breaded chicken breast, the most tender on the planet, served in a mushroom cream sauce that was THE BEST EVER.

A conversation with the chef was clearly in order; this cream sauce had to be identified. Roberto Borelli came out, and we asked him how he made it. I'll only say it starts with flour, oil, and fresh milk (none of this pasteurized stuff), and "Italian herbs." Chef Roberto claimed he spoke too little English to give us details. We identified oregano and the sweetness that could only be parsley, but this is clearly an assignment we have to delve into. When Ben found out that Roberto was Calabrese, the two of them went into a southern Italian huddle -- their families from two towns right next to each other. I finished off the Valpolicella.

Needless to say, despite being about as full as we could be, we had to have the dessert that Roberto ordered for us, the chocolate-cream-filled cannoli with fresh figs. Oh. My. God.

Canada: Leave the gun. Save the cannolis.

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