The Beast and I spent 15 hours last weekend in port towns along Lake Erie. We may have eaten too much. On Saturday afternoon, we met my mom and step-dad for lunch in Port Bruce. I used to swim here all the time when I was a kid. My brother and I would often be treated to foot longs and french fries at this little shack of a place right on the beach. I think that place burned down a few years ago.
But there’s a new place in town, Shutters on the Beach, that serves up typical beach fare. There’s one noticeable difference though: the food here is really good. Excellent, in fact. No wonder really, considering the owner is Jonathan Collins, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef who regularly cooks for the Prime Minister and his family in Ottawa while subbing in as executive chef at 24 Sussex Drive. He even cooked for President Barack Obama when he visited our Capital this past February! But Collins hasn’t let his cooking for world leaders go to his head. On the contrary, he and his wife Cynthia, an equally-accomplished pastry chef, moved their family home so they could help Jonathan’s parents run their restaurant in tiny Eagle, Ont. And somewhere along the way, they found the time to build Shutters on the Beach from the ground up.
The Beast, my mom and step-dad and I sat at a lovely table with a view of the beach only meters away. Being this close to Lake Erie made my lunch choice easy: I had to have the perch, which included french fries, homemade coleslaw and tartar sauce. The Beast ordered it too.
Foodie: What did he put into this perch coating?
Beast: Mmmnn. I don’t know.
Foodie: Salt and pepper obviously. But what else is in there? It’s so good, don’t you think? It’s tastes even better than I imagined it was going to taste, and I had big expectations.
My mom and step-dad had already eaten so they just watched with amusement as the two of us wolfed down our late lunch. Afterwards we went for a little walk on the beach during which my mother and I competed for the “loudest laughing cackle” title. I think she may have won in the end: after I pointed out that both of her femur bones have all but disappeared, my mother emitted cackles and snorts the likes of which I have only dreamed. When she sits down, her wee little thighs are no longer than the length of my hand. It’s like her hips sit on top of her knees.
After our delightful visit, the Beast and I drove along idyllic Dexter Road to Port Stanley. We had to check in on my step-sister, Rebecca, who is spending a few weeks home along while my Dad and step-mom visit Grand Bruit, Newfoundland. Rebecca usually goes too, but this year, she’s working three or four summer jobs, one of which includes handing out food to the masses who line up every summer at Mackie’s. This beach restaurant, which first opened in 1911, is an institution in Port Stanley, and many a teenager have spent their summers working here. Mackie’s is famous for their freshly-cut fries, special dipping sauce, and Orangeade–a sickly sweet, but curiously satisfying, orange drink.
The Beast and I decided it would be best to visit Rebecca at work so she’d know we’d arrived safely.
Foodie: Look! There she is scooping ice cream!
Beast: Whoa! Did you see that lady walk by? She looks exactly like Pamela Anderson!
Foodie: Oh stop it—WAIT. She does look just like Pamela Anderson! Try to get Rebecca’s attention now!
Beast: Come on, you don’t want to embarrass her, do you?
Foodie: That’s exactly what I want to do.
I waved like a maniac until Rebecca saw us. She looked mortified.
Beast: Are we going to get anything to eat?
Foodie: We just ate. But I haven’t had Mackie’s french fries in so long, and you really ought to try them.
So we ordered up lunch number two and sat outside.
Beast: Did you used to come here a lot as a kid?
Foodie: My Dad always preferred Port Bruce because it seemed to be less crowded. We used to come to Port Stanley in high school though. We’d skip class and get suntans instead.
Beast: Did you ever get caught?
Foodie: I have a vague recollection of the principal sending out a school bus to the beach because so many students were missing on one occasion. These fries are really, really good. They’re actually better than I remembered! Don’t you think?
Beast: You just ate the last one so I can’t be sure.
Have you ever been to one of those Real Canadian Superstores? They’re like heaven, only cheaper. And they have way more selection than paradise could possibly offer, including DVDs, food, towels, Joe Fresh stuff, and candy. The Beast and I took Rebecca to one in St. Thomas, once she finished work. I told them they could each choose one treat and I’d buy it for them. I can’t remember what child chose which candy, but we left with Sour Peaches and Swedish Berries. And then, the three of us went for a bite to eat. It was shortly after 10:00pm, so the pickings were slim. Much to our delight though, there was an East Side Mario’s right in front of the Superstore. Much to the Beast’s delight, they had half-priced appetizers, so he felt obliged to order both mozzarella sticks and bruschetta. And much to my delight they had bottles of that Budweiser beer with lime in it!
Unfortunately, it was the worst of the three meals we’d indulged in that day. It’s hard to mess up tomato bruschetta. Fresh tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper and some good olive oil speak volumes when stuck together on a piece of toasted bread. This Mario character served his on some sort of pita thing with mushy tomatoes, processed “parmesan” and a very thick and sweet balsamic-like glaze. My pasta primavera tasted like it was coated in vegetable oil. The Beast devoured his pizza of course. And Rebecca ate a piece of bruschetta, a bite of my pasta, and about three spoonfuls of her minestrone soup, which she declared to be quite good. The rest of the meal she tried to get her dirty little 16-year-old hands on my extremely fancy iPhone. She also threw an occasional Swedish Berry at me. The best part of the meal was the herbed garlic bread served warm with little pots of butter. That, and the fact that Rebecca took a photo of herself on my iPhone and forgot to delete it, made my night.
Shutters on the Beach: Foodie *** Beast ***
Mackie’s: Foodie **1/2 Beast ***
East Side Mario’s: Foodie * Beast**