Every second Thursday afternoon our housekeeper performs a cathartic purge of our residence. We make a point to get out of her way. Normally we’re gone by 1:00 pm at the latest. The bi-weekly event is an opportunity to go touring. Almost always we head to the St. Lawrence River – specifically the Ivy Lea Club, Gananoque or Kingston – because it is far enough away to keep us at bay for several hours and we usually grab a bite to eat late afternoon to avoid having to contemplate dinner upon our return.
The Ivy Lea Club is an ideal destination on a hot summer day. It’s situated overlooking a marina on the St. Lawrence River, a spectacular view both up and down the River.
At this date (late October), the Ivy Lea Club has closed for the season. The next nearest choice is Gananoque which supports a number of desirable restaurants but because of the decline in traffic in the late autumn, most of the best restaurants are not open mid-afternoon. We seldom linger long enough to await the arrival of the dinner hour even if it were the Blue Rinse Hour at five o’clock.
Accordingly today we resolved to go to Kingston which is a large enough urban environment (and university town) to support non-stop dining almost everywhere.
What was singular about our dalliance today was that we went through Perth instead of Smiths Falls (our customary channel). Our immediate destination was the Village of Westport which – being largely a seasonal resort and even smaller than Gananoque – had pretty much rolled up the streets when we sailed through around 2:30 pm. Besides our appetites weren’t sufficiently honed by that time so we speculated that a protraction of our tour to Kingston would improve that imperative (which by the way it did). We have been to Westport in the past, mostly en route to visit friends at Devil Lake, so we have some familiarity with the area. Today however we became happily lost on our way out of Town and ended taking the very picturesque Westport Road all the way to Kingston. The autumn scenery was magnificent, multi-coloured trees, copper, red, orange and yellow, lovely stone churches, charming ancient wooden barns and rolling green meadows beside placid lakes.
While we motored we shared our ambling and sometimes irreverent thoughts about the past, present and future. Although we are together a great deal of time we oddly seldom engage in the same casual conversation and persiflage so for that reason alone our outings are welcome. It always amuses me what forgotten memories or muted comments or aspirations will invariably surface in these unstructured communions. Today for example I reflected with some disdain upon the erstwhile exigencies of the practice of law – what I call my time in the sausage kitchen. Knowing that I survived the ceaseless pressures and conflicts of that business is to me remarkable. It was certainly nothing we were ever prepared for in law school. Being on the front line of clients’ important affairs is not to be lightly undertaken let me assure you. Exactitude and demanding are but two of the more gentle portraits of the profession.
Early in our adventure we had decided to go to Dianne’s Fish Shack and Smokehouse located on Ontario Street near Kingston’s marina across from the old Town Hall. We have been there before and not been disappointed. Today was no exception.
Dining at Dianne’s is for me reminiscent of a first-rate meal at a waterfront restaurant in New York City – heavy on the fish theme and exceptional quality. Our very agreeable female server Kate introduced us to the varied detail of the menu. After ordering two pots of clear black tea, we each began with a dozen oysters, 6 Brudenell Bull (wild) and 6 Colville Bay. The oysters were a good size and perfectly shucked, retaining lots of salty sea water in the half-shell. Next was a seafood chowder and steamed PEI mussels in coconut green curry, scallions, toasted pepitas, lime and cilantro. Superb, utterly superb! We both had a lobster roll to follow, one with French fries, the other with mixed greens. There were three different breads accompanying the meal, all delicious. I especially liked the toasted sliced baguette (with the mussels) drenched in butter and garlic. Though we canvassed the dessert menu, we reluctantly resisted. There was the mention of something with sweetened condensed milk which for me is akin to serving crack cocaine to an addict! It took all my strength to muster a dismissive wave of the hand (though I confess I wistfully contemplated it all the way home).