Day 5 in DC: Tourist Mashup

The muggiest day to greet us in DC was also our tardiest start, indicative of our exhaustion the night before. We finally left the hotel at 10:30, and determined to try an alternative to Starbucks, sought out the nearest location of Caribou Coffee.

With their wooden beams, hardwood floor and stone fireplace, it would have been easy to mistake the interior of Caribou Coffee with that of a Montana’s. There was no line-up (unlike our hotel’s neighbourhood Starbucks), and I liked the cheeky statements printed on the napkins. The coffee itself wasn’t bad, though drowned in milk as it were I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell otherwise.


A cabin or a coffee shop?

Our first planned stop for the day was the last of the major memorials we hadn’t yet seen – the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. At some point after we departed the Metro we must have made a wrong turn, because we ended up not at the memorial, but at a waterfront lined with seafood stalls.

Seafood market

Crabs galore!

The aromas drifting from the area weren’t exactly pleasant – seafood never fares well in open air on hot days. There was some agreeable cookery going on though – with “fresh” (trucked in) fish, crabs, and other shellfish being offered alongside lemonade and ice cream. We were able to sample some fried fish, which satisfied our seafood curiosity.

A man among fish

Across and under a bridge, we finally reached the Jefferson Memorial. Away from the Mall attractions, it was relatively quiet, and free from large school groups. Situated on the Tidal Basin as well, this memorial was in the perfect spot to capture breezes that came off the water. I’m sure cherry blossoms would add a touch of magic to the park, but even without them, the tree-lined area was lovely, and brought me back to the West Wing episode of “Mandatory Minimums” where Toby and Andie take their walk around the basin.

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson, the primary author of the Constitution, was quite scholarly, making the Greek columns very appropriate for his memorial. Though the statues of Lincoln and Jefferson are apparently the same height, the Lincoln Memorial still trumps all others in grandness and impact.

Jefferson Memorial

We walked across the basin to spend the best $10 we had all trip – on paddleboats! The $10 secured a rental for an hour, which was more than enough time to explore the reachable corners of Tidal Basin, and to access one of the best frontal views of the Jefferson Memorial. And after rushing from place to place for the last few days, it was nice to kick back and relax out on the water.

Jefferson Memorial from Tidal Basin

Mack on the Berry (photo #2 – yes, even on the water)

Marines and POTUS helicopters flew overhead in the direction of the White House a few times, as did numerous domestic flights in and out of Reagan National Airport. The airspace in DC was undoubtedly always busy.

POTUS Helicopter overhead

Off the water, we took a quick ice cream break at one of the strategically-placed tourist-oriented confectionary traps, and hopped on the Metro to get to our lunch destination – Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street.

Our piecemeal day continued with a return to our hotel to change (a nod to our most formal dining experience in DC), then hoofed it to Georgetown. It was absolutely boiling at this point, so our trek was most uncomfortable for Mack, to say the least, dressed in a long-sleeve dress shirt. He was a trooper though, as we made the most of our time by shopping in the district, where I picked up some gifts at the lovely gift and stationary store Paper Source and elsewhere.

I heart Georgetown

A picturesque garden in the middle of Georgetown

A Georgetown shopping centre

We made sure to stop at Dean and Deluca, which in Georgetown was not only a café, but a full-on specialty grocer. We overturned many products to find astronomical prices, and contented ourselves with two rounded D & D mugs, which we had admired from afar in New York.

Dean & Deluca

Not a wine cellar, but hall

Bulk candies are always more expensive when stored in glass jars

On Bruce’s recommendation, we also visited Georgetown Cupcake, where the line-up was out the door. Granted, the tiny storefront could only contain so many, but given the number of large boxes waiting to be picked up, we were sure that walk-in customers formed only a tiny branch of their business.

They had a dozen varieties to choose from, all temptingly displayed on tiered stands at the order counter. After patrons put in their order, they had to pass the funds across to the staff person on the other side of the tiers, creating an awkward exchange for both parties (and a potentially messy one, even though a sign read that ‘cakes on display were indeed for display only).


At $2.75 a pop, the cupcakes seemed to be on par or slightly more expensive than the Canadian bakeries I have visited. I decided on a fairly classic flavour – vanilla² – while Mack opted for something a little less run-of-the-mill – carrot cake.

On the corner of Georgetown and cupcake

The vanilla bean cake was pretty tasty – flavoured and flecked nicely, but with sweetness in check. I was saddened to find that the icing was made with cream cheese, however, as I am not a fan. On the other hand, the cream cheese base did mean that the icing didn’t melt as fast as its, say, buttercream counterparts, and as Mack adores cream cheese, he unsurprisingly enjoyed his treat more than I did.

We ended the night at dinner – an upscale restaurant called Hook.

You can read Mack’s Day 5 recap here.

Edmonton’s Coffee Scene is Perking Up: Credo Coffee

Cafes that offer specialty coffees are rapidly gaining ground and market share in Edmonton. Just to name a few – Three Bananas, Leva, daCapo, and of course, Transcend, are elevating what coffee lovers should expect from a cup of joe. More exciting than a consistent, high quality product, however, these cafes employ well-trained baristas, where coffee is not just a job, but a passion.

I’m happy to report that the specialty coffee scene has just gained another member in the city – Credo Coffee opened its doors at the end of June on the ground floor of the Icon Tower, located in the trendy and boutique-lined 104th Street. It is definitely a welcome downtown addition – I’m surprised it took so long for a cafe of this nature to materialize in the core.

Credo Coffee

Geoff Linden, formerly of Three Bananas, and who has also pulled shots at Transcend (he said himself that the specialty coffee scene in Edmonton is a small one), is behind this venture. Credo’s tagline, “coffee to believe in” draws attention to their commitment to fine coffee. While they are not in the business of roasting, they do serve only Intelligensia Direct Trade Coffee: “For a coffee to be considered Intelligensia Direct Trade there is a specific list of criteria that must be met by both Intelligentsia and our grower-partners.  In the broadest terms these coffees should be understood as a true collaboration, with both sides investing a great deal of time, energy and ideas to produce something great.”

Kenya Thunguri – one of the two brewed coffees Credo was serving

Not satisfied with simply serving great coffee (menu here), Credo also offers specialty teas, and further distinguishes itself from other cafes with fresh sandwiches and baked goods all made in-house.

The cafe is bright, benefits from a lofty openness afforded by a high ceiling and had a vibe similar to Calgary’s Caffe Artigiano. I think Credo could rearrange their seating area to further maximize their space, but I did appreciate that their table placement did allow for easy movement. In addition, like some other food establishments in the city such as Culina Highlands, Credo exhibits art work created by local artists.


Mack chose to try their macchiato ($3.25), nicely finished with latte art. I opted for a brewed dark-roast coffee ($2.50, though price could vary depending on origin), which was full-bodied and rich. It was a touch acidic, but as I am used to drinking my coffee with milk, that was expected.


Brewed Coffee

I hope Credo is able to secure external signage soon – with the ongoing construction in the area, it is easy to miss! I encourage you to stop by, and revel in downtown’s first specialty coffee cafe!

Credo Coffee
10134 104 Street
(780) 761-3744
Monday-Friday 7pm-9pm, Saturday 8am-9pm, Sunday 10am-5pm

A European Lair: Caffè Artigiano

While Mack was occupied at BarCampCalgary, I played tourist and had lunch at Caffè Artigiano (Unit 100, Centrum Place, 332 6 Avenue SW). A west coast import that had coffee aficionado John Manzo, among others, excited about its first location outside of metro Vancouver, I wanted to see for myself what all the hype was about.

Occupying a rather large storefront in an office tower, the high ceilinged space resembles a European lair more than a typical café at first glance. A pedway positioned above Caffè Artigiano and its neighbours prevented much natural light from coming through – but perhaps the designers preferred it that way – the dark furniture and earth toned walls absorbed what sunlight did trickle through.

Peering into the cooler that contained an assortment of premade sandwiches, wraps and treats, I decided upon the Chicken and Brie Panino ($8.59) for my main course. A Spanish Latte ($3.59), which the clerk explained to me was a latte with a bit of condensed milk added, completed my meal.

I sat down at a large table fit for a library to await my food and drink. Lucky for me, Caffè Artigiano subscribes to a number of papers (including my favorite, The Globe & Mail), and like a library, affixes each edition onto a large wooden rod.

A few minutes later, my drink was called. Beautifully presented with an artful rosetta design, I almost didn’t want to take the first sip. I did, of course, and found that the latte walked the fine line between the jolt of a strong espresso and the creamy smoothness of milk, accented as a whole with just a hint of sweetness.

My panino, served with a small cup of coleslaw, was equally satisfying. Generously filled with chicken, cheese, then grilled, it left me full but not stuffed. While the chicken was a touch dry, the thin spread of fig jam helped alleviate somewhat parched bites.

I still struggle with the idea of having to pay nearly $10 for a sandwich in a coffee shop (granted, Caffè Artigiano is not just any coffee shop). So although I may be back for another cup of coffee, I would probably head elsewhere for something to eat first.


Chicken and Brie Panino and a Spanish Latte

Clever Name but Rather Lame: Wild Flour Bakery

This guest post was written by Mack, an Edmonton-based geek who fancies himself a part-time foodie. You can find him online at his blog, and on Twitter.

On Sunday morning I decided to skip the conference-provided breakfast in favor of making a stop at Wild Flour Bakery, located at 211 Bear Street. I had asked Sharon for a couple of restaurant recommendations before making my way to Banff, and Wild Flour was one of the two she gave me. I think the name was probably 80% of the reason she suggested it, but I figured I’d give it a shot anyway.

Wild Flour Bakery

I arrived at Wild Flour just after 8 AM. They are open every day throughout the summer months from 7 AM until 6 PM. There was a couple ordering some of Wild Flour’s artisan breads ahead of me, so I had time to look around and take some photos. The space is very modern looking, and fairly open with seating for about 40 patrons.

The menu is broken into four sections: drinks, breakfast, sweets & treats, and lunch. I decided to order a medium Organic Fair Trade Coffee ($1.75 – they serve Kicking Horse) and the Toasted Breakfast Sandwich ($5.50, also available with two slices of Valbella ham for an addition $1.50).

At this point, things started to go downhill (that didn’t take long did it?). Maybe I’ve been spoiled at Starbucks where a barista always hands you a full cup of coffee, but I thought it was odd that I was given a cup to fill on my own. At the end of the counter were three coffee butlers, two bold roast and one medium roast. I set about filling my cup with the medium, only to find that it wouldn’t stop coming out! I started to say "It’s not stopping!" and when one of the employees finally noticed, she remarked "oh no not again!" Apparently they jam open quite frequently. Anyway, when I eventually got my cup full of bold roast I nearly burned my hand! The coffee was ridiculously hot, and there were no sleeves.

I took a seat in the corner and started reading some of the free newspapers they had available. Wild Flour prides itself on cooking with organic and local ingredients, and on making everything from scratch. With that in mind, I didn’t expect my breakfast sandwich to be ready immediately, but after about fifteen minutes of waiting I started to wonder. I took my order slip (my order number was the normally lucky 88…not so lucky this time) up to the counter to inquire. I was informed that they had "lost" my order, and that they’d make it right away. At this point I thought to myself – epic fail! It’s never acceptable for a restaurant to lose an order, especially when it isn’t that busy.

My breakfast sandwich arrived about five minutes later. The menu describes it as: "Our herbed egg frittata & three year old Quebec cheddar on sourdough." Unfortunately, the description is a lot tastier than the sandwich itself. I found the egg kind of spongy and far too thick. I think there should have been more cheese too!

On the whole, my experience at Wild Flour was a negative one. Even without the coffee incident and lost order, the breakfast sandwich wasn’t worth the money and the employees were probably the least friendly of any I encountered in Banff. I could probably be persuaded to give their lunch menu a shot, but I definitely won’t be rushing back to Wild Flour the next time I’m in Banff.

Wild Flour Bakery

Inside Wild Flour Bakery

Wild Flour Bakery


Toasted Breakfast Sandwich

Toasted Breakfast Sandwich

Coffee Oasis: Marcello’s

Beckoning through the glass and beyond the courtyard of Telus Plaza was the mysterious Marcello’s (10025 Jasper Ave, Unit #63).

I’ve been meaning to go for months since seeing what looked like an independent coffee shop across the way from my morning Second Cup, and now, having been, I wonder why I didn’t make the trek over sooner.

Marcello’s, it turns out, bills itself as a “market & deli”, has locations in six cities in Canada, and offers much more than just coffee. With a self-serve hot breakfast station featuring scrambled eggs, sausages, and home fries, a plethora of freshly-baked muffins, and a convenience store selection of dried cereals and sweet treats, even picky eaters would not go hungry.

As for coffee – count me amazed – Marcello’s serves no less than two dozen varieties of coffee every day, with more than a handful of flavoured varieties (my personal favorite). At $1.50 for a medium, it is also slightly cheaper than a similar-sized jolt at Second Cup.

Look to Marcello’s when you’re short on change, want more coffee options than Second Cup has to offer, and desire to avoid jostling for space and seats in the nearby Starbucks.

Marcello’s in Telus Plaza

Hot breakfast options

Muffins galore

Coffee, coffee and more coffee!

Transcend Coffee

I’m a little torn on whether or not I should even write a review on our visit to Transcend Coffee (9869 62 Avenue), consistently lauded in the media and by local foodies for their approach to coffee. Granted, we had huge expectations, particularly after our sojourn to Calgary’s Phil & Sebastian’s, for an equally fantastic experience. But I’m sad to say that Transcend didn’t live up to the hype.

Surrounded by industrial buildings and warehouses, we weren’t sure what the inside of Transcend would look like. Turns out, they probably ended up choosing the off-the-beaten-path location more for cheap rent than anything else, as they had two whole floors to themselves, with the main floor divided into a retail front space with limited seating and a coffee “laboratory” and roasting area in a separate room in the back.

Count me as surprised when I spotted a Clover on the counter…I guess we didn’t have to head south after all to test out fresh French-pressed coffee. Anyway, I approached the barista with this open question, which in hindsight, probably wasn’t the right way to start off a conversation: “We’re new. Can you provide us with an introduction?” She probed us for our usual coffee preferences, and after telling her that we wanted a lighter brew, she recommended the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. We ordered two regular Clover-brewed cups, which came to $5.

Though I understand that not every independent cafe employee is as outgoing and passionate as the one we encountered at Phil & Sebastian’s, it is difficult not to directly compare the two. Transcend’s barista really wasn’t chatty, and as we surveyed the room, it seemed to us that the Transcend crowd was made up entirely of regulars. That morning anyway, we felt like the odd patrons out.

After an abbreviated wait, we were given two filled coffee-press vessels and two Bodum double-walled glasses. We headed to the second floor to access their additional seating area, and found that we had the room to ourselves. While quiet, the furnishings had us thinking we had infiltrated someone’s home office and living room – between the desk and open files on one side, a mishmash of furniture, and a television in the corner, we didn’t feel as “at home” as we were supposed to.

Our coffee had a light brown hue to it, almost the color it takes on after the addition of milk. It was thin, and to me, had acidic notes to it, though Mack disagreed with that assertion. He remarked about its lack of an aftertaste, but we both noted that it probably wasn’t the type meant to provide that morning jolt – we were ready for more after finishing our cups. After my second brush with Clover-brewed coffee, I’m starting to question whether or not it does make a difference, at least to me. I hope the coffee tasting Mack and I are planning to attend later this spring will shed some light on specialty beans and brewing processes.

Perhaps Phil & Sebastian’s spoiled me, or perhaps I shouldn’t be looking for an “experience” at a cafe, but there has to be something (like the people and the passion behind the coffee) that sets the independents apart from the Starbucks and Second Cups of the world.


At the bar

Second floor seating area

Our coffees

Food Escape to Calgary: Day 2

Of course my favorite type of meal – brunch – had to be eaten in a diner. I settled in the end on Galaxie Diner (1411 11 Street SW), located just outside of the downtown core.

Galaxie Diner exterior

Walking up to the front door, it didn’t look good – the line up actually spilled onto the sidewalk. Thankfully, our wait was just under half an hour, and wasn’t unpleasant in the warm spring sunshine. We had time to peer in the window of the restaurant next door – Palace of Eats – which turned out to be owned and operated by the purveyors of Galaxie.

The number of seats in Galaxie are few – 6 booths and a handful of seats along the counter, but with fast, efficient, and friendly service, it’s no surprise that patrons are willing to wait.

Galaxie interior

Mack enjoying his first coffee of the day

While Diner Deluxe and Avenue Diner can be considered more upscale, Galaxie Diner doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a good old neighbourhood greasy spoon. A variety of menu items including omelettes, eggs benedicts, French toast and a parfait meant most tastes would be satisfied. I decided to order the Montreal Smoked Meat Omelette ($11.75), while Mack customized his Omelette of Choice with mushrooms, ham, and cheese ($11.75). Both were served with unlimited hashbrowns and toast.

Our seat at the counter provided the perfect vantage point of the stove and the two cooks behind it. One had perfected cracking an egg with one hand, and both juggled multiple orders on the same griddle with ease.

Hot on the grill

I almost wish I had a scale to weigh my plate before digging in – the serving was absolutely massive. The omelette was the heartiest I’ve ever had – the Montreal Smoked Meat was more flavourful than ham, but less dense than bacon, and really helped make an otherwise standard breakfast option “pop.”

Montreal Smoked Meat Omelette

The goodies inside my omelette

Mack’s custom omelette

Inside Mack’s omelette

With the bill, we were given two Dubble Bubbles – another reminder of the restaurant’s retro feel and fun.

Bubble gum!

My next planned stop was the Calgary Farmer’s Market. Though we had the address, we did not have a detailed map that would help lead us there. Luckily, Mack’s iPod picked up an unsecured wireless signal, and we were saved.

iPod to the rescue! (No, I am not affiliated with Apple in any way.)

Located in an old airport hangar, I was surprised at the sheer size of the market – it is at least twice the size of Old Strathcona’s, if not more.

Market exterior

Market interior

With over eighty merchants selling everything from handmade crafts, flowers, sweets, preserves, seafood, beef, and of course, produce, this market offers most of the essentials sold at a supermarket. What surprised me about the produce was the availability of imported vegetables – tomatoes from Mexico, plantains and garlic from the U.S., fruit from New Zealand. This is in stark contrast to the focus of Edmonton’s farmer’s markets (and the ideal focus, in my opinion) on locally-grown products. Mack thought this variety could be attributed to the need to cater to the customer – attract them to the market with the atmosphere and unique items, but offer them what they would buy elsewhere.


Pet treats

Hi Sebastian!

The main reason for our visit was to sample Phil & Sebastian Coffee. Their coffee and their Clover have a cult following in Calgary, and who were we to question the crowd?

Phil & Sebastian Coffee kiosk

The line-up

The Clover

The price for an individually-brewed cup of coffee was not listed on the overhead menu, so we weren’t sure what we were getting ourselves into. It turns out, it wasn’t so bad – the Ethiopian-sourced cup of coffee was $3.50.

As we waited for our order, we chatted with the barista. He extolled the virtue of single-origin coffee, and we talked a bit about Edmonton’s Transcend and Kerstin’s Chocolates. More than the coffee itself, the passion exuded by the staff for their products made the trip here worthwhile. He even asked us to sniff the beans – twice – after they were ground by the machine.

Design also seems to be a Phil & Sebastian strength – their sleek cups and simple but memorable logo help foster the ideal that Starbucks began – that a cup of coffee can offer the illusion of a better life. Printed on the sleeves:

“We could write on the side of our cups about how we’re nothing like the other guys. We could tell you about the pride we take in every drink we serve. We could write about the contents of this cup being hot, and that you should use caution. We could tell you that Phil’s dad can run faster than your dad. We could write about our goal to raise your expectations of coffee. Or maybe, we could write on the side of our cups that you should probably stop reading this because your drink is getting cold. Enjoy.”

The barista told us to wait a bit before giving it a try (though it would have been impossible to do so if we wanted to – the coffee was scorching hot). The fruity tones were evident in the coffee’s aroma, but wasn’t noticeable in the drink itself. Mack noted that it tasted rich but not burnt, but in the end, I’m not sure I could identify a Clover-brewed coffee in a blind taste test. We’re hoping to head to Transcend this weekend to see what Edmonton has to offer.

“I have coffee and you don’t.”

Chinook Centre was our final stop, since Mack was itching to go shopping and spend his wealth of gift cards. The obligatory stop at the nice and roomy RW & Co. yielded no treasures, but Mack did end up picking up something from Old Navy, so the visit wasn’t fruitless.

On our way back to Edmonton, we stopped in Red Deer to have dinner with Tom and Bry at Boston Pizza. The waitress was obviously new, or not very good at multitasking, but it gave us time to catch up. Mack and I ordered the poutine, and I hoped that it would be better than the time before, but no, the gravy was just as lukewarm. But food aside, it was a good meal.

From my last few trips down to Calgary, I think I’ve finally been able to get past the elementary “must hate the city of the Flames” mentality. Not only do they have great restaurants, but the arts scene is more active than I could have ever imagined. Who knew?

The rest of my pictures can be seen on Flickr.

Notes on Food

  • Mr. Mike’s Steakhouse & Bar is now open in West Edmonton Mall! Strange I haven’t really seen it mentioned in any of the local papers.
  • Bettina pointed out a unique alternative to flowers and candy – Edible Arrangements! While they may not last as long as a bouquet, they are certainly beautiful to look at. They are on the pricey side, but I’d be open to taking the idea and making up single-stem pineapple/melon flowers myself. They’d be perfect as takeaway gifts to give following a baby shower or spring dinner party.
  • Original Fare has introduced gift cards! Valid at 17 independent Edmonton-area restaurants, I can’t think of a better present for your epicurean friends.
  • Starbucks has been promoting a campaign of culinary coffee pairings, going the route of wine. Though I like the education aspect of it, it’s also a clever way to try and upsell their pastries. I did sample the Chocolate Cinnamon Bread the other day (though with tea and not alongside the recommended coffee), and it was surprisingly bland. Perhaps I’ll eat it with its “other half” next time.
  • Also on Starbucks – did anyone notice how quickly the stores cycled through their drinks this summer? From Raspberry to Orange to Blueberry Frappuccinos and Iced Teas, and now to their Fall Pumpkin Spiced Latte…I felt it was a bit too much, too soon, going against their marketed ideal for the summer of relaxing and just enjoying life.
  • I stopped by Essence Organic Tea Bar (10011 102 Ave) on Friday, and had their Java Lat-tea (I will admit the pun made me smile). It’s actually better than a very similar drink I had at Blendz in Vancouver, and though perhaps mainly psychological, it felt healthier than a cup of joe. I hope their business picks up – it was completely empty during my visit.

Notes on Coffee & Tea

  • Finally went to DeCapo Caffe (8738 109 Street) last week. It reminded me of Caffe Sorrentino with its polished metal, pendant lighting, and sleek, simple decor. It was also more expensive, with my iced latte ringing up as $4.75. It’s an eco-friendly alternative to Starbucks (they have a no paper cup policy), but just not as cozy.
  • Essence Organic Tea Bar (10011 102 Avenue) is now open.
  • Second Cup is now in the business of granola bars! Boxes of Moccaccino or Vanilla Bean Latte Cafe Delights are available at a grocery store near you.
  • I mentioned this back in May, but beyond special occasions, Starbucks has created a line of greeting cards. Of the three, my favorite is the birthday one featuring the text, “Lattes are the new birthday cake.” Hee. While I don’t think the cards are very unique, the convenience factor of picking one up along with a mug or a pound of coffee is tough to ignore.
  • This summer, you can also send a friend an electronic Starbucks invitation for coffee here.

Food-Related Notes

  • See Magazine released their “Best of” results for 2007. The results are skewed towards independent eateries, as expected, but I’m a bit sad to see that Blue Plate Diner didn’t make the top three of any category. I disagree with the voting of Garage Burger and Barb & Ernie’s as Best Burger and Best Breakfast, respectively, but I had to laugh with the inclusion of “Tuxedo Cake” in the Best Dessert category (I guess it wasn’t clear to voters that editors were looking for a place noun and not a thing…)
  • Speaking of things, how cool is this modified-typewriter-turned-waffle-iron?
  • On that note, as seen in the Globe & Mail, how about a glass that literally leaves flowers in its place? (Not worth $30US each though, in my humble opinion.)
  • Via Eat Drink One Woman, I found out about the upcoming Gourmet Institute New York weekend retreat – two days of informative seminars, professional demonstrations, and of course, amazing food! Two sessions that caught my eye: “Eat the Web: Blogging’s Effect on the Food World” and “The Restaurateur Versus the Critic.”
  • Second Cup must have recently revamped their menu – their non-fat drinks are now prefaced with the word “skinny.” Really. I wonder how many guys would be caught dead asking for such a girly-sounding modification?