the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur (plonq) wrote,
the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur

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20120402 - Butterflies and bonfires, anniversaries and healthy eating

And some not-so-healthy eating - a guy needs to mix things up a bit sometimes.

We celebrated our 11th anniversary on Saturday with a good dinner and mediocre experience - but more on that later. We ended the evening with a romantic outing to the lookout, made only slightly less romantic when you consider that the "hill" is actually a large pile of industrial garbage that has been covered with a thin veneer of dirt. Still, the view was nice and the weather was gorgeous.

The hill is still closed for the season, so we had to park on the street, hop a chain fence and climb the face of the hill to get to the lookout. We might almost have felt marginally guilty about that if the hill was not already being occupied by three other groups. I had just finished snapping a couple of pictures of the city centre when I turned around and saw atara silhouetted against the sky, uploading a sunset picture from her phone.

I wondered how this new camera would handle the shot on full automatic. This camera seems to have a pretty good, intuitive grasp of "I want to lock the exposure on that, but focus on this." I've little doubt that I could have got a better picture with my Nikon, but I am pretty pleased with the way that this one turned out. On the other hand, I am over the honeymoon stage on this camera, and it is time for me to start using some of the features I paid for.

A few quirks that I have picked up about this camera: it really likes high ISO on automatic. While it is not terrible for image noise, by defaulting to 1600 or 3200 for many shots, it is introducing much more noise than the images need at times - especially when I have a surface on which to rest the camera. I am also starting to learn the limitations of this tiny lens - that is made quite apparent when you start looking at images in full resolution. This camera has a higher MP rating than my Nikon, yet the Nikon pulls out far more detail in most pictures.

On another note, I may make one more attempt to clean the sensor on the Nikon myself before I send it in for servicing.

We went to the Ichiban for our anniversary dinner this year. We have always enjoyed the "dinner and a show" of teppanyaki. The last time we dined here, we were seated at the same stove top with a good mix of interesting and engaging people.

On this trip we were grouped with a couple of couples who were obviously dining together. To call them shallow and self-absorbed would be an understatement, and an insult to shallow, self-absorbed people everywhere. One of them glanced our way a couple of times during the meal, but that was the only time they even acknowledged our existence other than asking us where they were supposed to pay when they saw us leaving.

They treated the cook like he was an annoyance rather than an entertainer, and he responded by phoning in a tepid performance. He went through the mechanical process of cooking the food, interacting with us only when he needed to clarify parts of our orders. When I say that the other people were self-absorbed, there was a very good example of this when the chef started asking people around the table how they wanted their steaks cooked. When he got to the woman sitting closest to us he had to ask her three times before she would respond. She did not want to disrupt her vacuous flow of what she thought was an amusing story to acknowledge the hired help. When he finally got her attention, her response to the question of how she wanted her steak cooked was, "I don't know. Whatever. I don't care."

To her credit, apparently she didn't care. She nibbled on a few pieces of it, pushed the rest of it around on her plate while she nattered on through the rest of the meal and then had them throw out the rest at the end.

At the end of the meal, we both came away feeling underwhelmed by it. It was not a terrible dining experience - the food was good - but it was not what we had paid for. We felt very similarly about Sydney's when we ate there on New Year's Eve. We don't dine out at fancy restaurants that often, but part of me wonders if we have done it too often anyway and are becoming a bit jaded and discriminating. Then I think back to previous visits to both restaurants, and I do not think that this is the case. Our previous visits were better; it is not a case of familiarity breeding contempt. It feels like both places have stopped trying as hard.

An interesting technical note about this shot: this is the last, dying flames from the traditional pyrotechnic display they always do as part of the meal here. While my Nikon did not have any trouble capturing the flames in all their glory, this little camera had serious trouble adjusting its exposure properly, and the sensor was getting completely overwhelmed. In retrospect, I would have shot this in manual mode. Live and learn. This is the last dying licks of flame at the end of the show.

A restaurant moved into one of the abandoned buildings along Portage Avenue a few years ago, run by a group of people who could have written a book entitled "Not NOT To Run A Restaurant." While their primary focus was on catering, they decided to open a street front because the catering business was not pulling in quite enough cash.

The food was quite good when they first opened, and pretty mediocre right before they closed for good a couple of years later. The decline of the food quality was just one of their problems, though. Their biggest issue was they they could not keep reliable hours. They would be inexplicably closed at random times. Sometimes they would not open for a few days at a time - once it was for a couple of weeks. I stopped going there, not because the food was bad, but because I never knew when they were going to be open. When they were new, we would sometimes go down there with groups from work and it was a challenge to get seats. Toward the end, I noticed that the place was mostly empty on most days.

Now a Mexican restaurant has moved in there. We popped in there for dinner after work on Friday on our way to the Home Expressions show. The menu was pretty limited, and they got atara's order wrong, but it was pretty good food, and I can see myself going back there again.

Earlier in the week we had salad for dinner. This may not look very healthy, but it's not entirely bad. This is just spinach, sliced strawberries, toasted pine nuts, croutons and crumbled feta cheese. I added a balsamic vinaigrette after I took the picture.

I don't think there are enough filters in Photoshop to make this meal look healthy. We went shopping at Zellers on Sunday, and grabbed lunch in their restaurant while we were there. This burger tasted as good as it looks (take that as you will).

Later we went for a hike along a creek up in our end of town to walk off some of our guilt from lunch. The weather was unseasonably pleasant, and we spied one of the first butterflies of spring. I think that it was still recovering from winter because it let me get surprisingly close for this picture without starting. I shot this one on automatic, with a late flash set to fill some of the shadows. The flash helped, but overall I am quite pleased with how well this little camera deals with awkward back-lit scenes.
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