A few of my favourite things: Kingston edition

As I previously mentioned, I was in Kingston just over a week ago for Queen's homecoming weekend. It's an interesting experience to return to a place you used to live, but under different circumstances. To be clear, when I lived in Kingston between 1997 and 2001, I was a 17-21 year old student with a flexible schedule but limited disposable income; whereas now, I'm a 26-going-on 27 year old economist with an office job...and limited disposable income. Right then.

One thing that has definitely changed is my appreciation of good food. Back in my undergrad days, I was completely satisfied with the classic student staples: chicken club pitas from the Pita Pit, slices from Pizza Pizza, late-night poutine from Bubba's, steak and cheese subs from Subway and Crispy Crunch Skor blizzards from Dairy Queen (you really ought to try that combo if you haven't before), supplemented with my produce-free, homemade fare including hot dogs, pasta and sauce, Kraft Dinner, tomato soup, frozen chicken strips and spicy Shin Ramyun noodles.

Returning to Kingston now, I realize all the missed food opportunities. That's not to say that I don't re-visit old haunts; nowadays I just supplement them with new favourites.

Pan Chancho Bakery & Café: Pan Chancho is the bakery for Kingston's upscale Chez Piggy restaurant, but has become a worthwhile visit in its own right. This past trip, we picked up a loaf of rosemary olive sourdough, a savoury herb brioche and a chocolate chip cookie (and eyed pretty much everything else in the bakery, not to mention the brunch menu for the cafe, which I haven't had the good fortune of visiting).

The Sleepless Goat: Can you say granola, anyone? The Goat, as it is affectionately referred to by the regulars, is the kind of place with local artwork on the walls, staff in bandanas and a sign by the napkins pleading with you to spare a tree. And I love every bit of it. R. and I spent many a night at The Goat with our favorite desserts: his, a mocha cheesecake, and mine, K2. K2 is perfection in a slice, with its chocolate crumb base, topped with a layer of fudgy ganache, followed by a thick layer of light chocolate mousse, all capped under a shell of – what else – chocolate. Other highlights include the Sticky Buns, Brownies and the entire Brunch menu.

Stooley’s Café: This selection may solicit a few groans among readers who are familiar with Kingston and, more specifically, the student ghetto. Stooley's is a greasy spoon of sorts that was virtually kiddie corner to where I lived during my last 3 years of school. While the Western Burger – a burger with cheese and deep-fried onion rings – is killer, I frequently went for the classic comfort food: a tomato grilled cheese (prepared with processed cheese slices no less) cut on the diagonal and served with a side of fries. Not just any fries, mind you. Stooley's, along with The Copper Penny, has the distinction of seasoning their thick rippled fries with enough dried soup mix to satisfy your recommended sodium intake for about a week. Salty.

Le Chien Noir Bistro: A first-time visit to Le Chien Noir last weekend left a fantastic taste in my mouth. While our brie and beet appetizer got us off to a somewhat rocky start, the crusty bread and our entrées (R.’s duck and my chicken and grilled eggplant pasta) more than made up for it. Moreover, bites of 3 different dessert options – a lemon tart, crème brûlée and double chocolate cake – ordered by others at the table left me wishing I'd saved room for my own.