My sister and I were descending the hill from our rented tiny house (50$/night!!) above Nelson, B.C., when an indecipherable symbol lit up on my dashboard. It was either telling me that the car had to be tumble-dried on low, that this was a unisex bathroom, or that my wi-fi was still loading. A perusal of one of the six Harry Potter-size manuals that came with the car revealed that it actually had something to do with tire pressure.
I stopped at an auto repair shop and told my troubles to Glen, who looked like you could tell him your hair was on fire and he would remain unruffled. As he meticulously checked my tire pressure – even spritzing my rims with soap and water to detect leaks, I told him that I loved his town. He paused reflectively, then said,”You ever see that movie…oh in aboot 1987 with-” “YES!!” I interrupted him, “About a hundred times!!”
I knew the film ginger-haired Glen was referring to: Roxanne, the romantic comedy written and starred in by Steve Martin. The title character, played by Daryl Hannah, with her wavy, man-trap hair and slouchy boots, launched my lifelong desire to have a denim vest. I wish I could say my lifelong desire to be an astronomer, like her character… but no, no, just to wear a denim vest. By 1987, I had already earned a couple Cs in math, and I knew which way the wind was blowing. If you are going to dream big, you better pass geometry.
“I was in the barn scene,” Glen went on, “But they fuzzed me oot.” I love Canadian accents, because I love everything Canadian, except poutine. “Should I watch it again and look for you? Or for the place where you were?” “No, no,” he said, with resigned good humor,“They fuzzed me oot, ya know.” Here it is, three decades later, and not just Glen, but the owner of the health food store, and everyone else I talked to, remembered the glorious months when the film crew was in town, putting their charming burgh – once a silver rush boom town – on the map for American moviegoers.
If that sounds sad, or like the town is in a state of faded glory, it isn’t. Nelsonites know they are in a stunning corner of the world. I don’t know what it was like back in 1987, (when Steve Martin came into the health food store in search of a vegetarian hot dog – true story) but right now there are breweries and eateries a plenty. Going north? I recommend Cantina del Centro* and Yum Son, for delicious food, friendly staff, and attractive, fun, atmosphere. (It’s rare to get 3 out of 3 don’t you think? Oh, were you hoping for inexpensive too? That’s funny). But let’s talk baked goods.
The Kootenay Bakery Cafe is a buttery chunk of heaven. The interior isn’t fancy, or particularly hip, but the ingredients are fresh, organic, and often local. The energy was pleasant, and the workers were very matter of fact when their wi-fi went away, leaving me unable to pay for the armload of pastries I had hoped to make off with. They were kind of like, “Hey, you are in the most beautiful place on earth, plus you don’t look like you are starving. I think you are going to be just fine,” but without being jerks about it. And I was! I was just fine! But only because after a fruitless search for a cash machine that spoke American, we came back the next day with credit cards again, the wi-fi was humming, and we had a redo.
Chocolate croissants! Savory pies! Potato frittatas! The frittatas were such a perfect size, (about 5 inches in diameter) that I had them show me the ingenious silicone pan they were made in. When kitchen staff bring out specialty pans for me to look at, I hear angels singing. There are so many choices at this bakery, you may find yourself wringing your hands. If I ever stay in Nelson again, (please!!) I will eat there twice daily for several days, until I feel I have sampled the bulk of their wares. As their city motto exhorts, “Forge Ahead!” I take that mandate seriously.
Eating the chocolate croissants, a favorite of my youngest daughter’s, made me decide that once I returned home, (for I would have to eventually) we would make them together. I wasn’t planning to attempt homemade pastry dough – heavens no! I would use frozen dough, cut into triangles and wrapped around my favorite chocolate bars. Years ago, I was in a big hurry and just bought croissants, implanted the chocolate and stuck them in the oven. Were they homemade? Well, they were homewarmed. But more importantly, were they good? I think you know. I recommend making them, anyway you can. If you make your own dough, please have me over, But don’t bother trying to teach me; I would be there solely to eat, which is my reason for going most places. “Forge Ahead,” is an excellent motto. But so is “I’m Here to Eat.”
P.S. It just occurred to me that Steve Martin made chocolate croissants in It’s complicated. In this romantic comedy, he stars opposite Meryl Streep, whose character is a successful pastry chef and patisserie owner. On their first date she takes him to her shop, after hours, and tells him she can make him anything he wants. Their pairing may be complicated, but unlike his with Hannah, it’s more age appropriate. I do still love Roxanne though, in spite of the predictable May-September match-up.
*Thank you to the front desk manager at the very cool, recently renovated Adventure Hotel, for the tour, and the recommendation for Cantina del Centro. And thank you Uncle Frank, for seconding the recommendation.