Sunday, February 26, 2006

Trouble comes in threes so what's next ?

Last week I left my waiter wallet at work and it disappeared, it was a well loved 15 year old black oversized wallet with 2 zippered pockets and lots of room for credit card vouchers, promo bills etc.

At the end of the night all my pens, corkscrew and crumber were zipped into one pocket, while my coin float was in the other zippered pocket. My cash float of $50 ( a $20, a $10 and four $5's) was in another slot along with a picture of daughter. The wallet then went into my backpack as a self contained "instant waiter" package.

On the night I left the wallet at work I went for a beer after work and didn't clean out my bag immediately upon getting home. The next morning I emptied my bag and phoned work but alas........

Then this afternoon while wife and daughter were out skating someone helped themselves to our cell phone from wife's backpack. As luck would have it my cellular contract is expiring this month so a replacement phone won't cost too much but all my phone numbers are gone and as always there will be some cost involved in setting up a new phone.

If trouble really does come in threes I should be waiting for the last shoe to fall.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Secret Menu

It happens all the time, a guest looks up from the menu to ask if you have an item that's clearly not listed " Do you have a Spinach Salad?" or after reciting the features for the evening a guest will ask "Are there any other specials that you didn't mention? ".

For a moment I waver, I want to tell them, but I'm forbidden by the arcane rules of the Secret Order all servers belong to from revealing that which they seek........ The Secret Menu.

The pressure of hiding this knowledge has finally become too much however and today I will reveal the truth.

If this is my last post then you will no that my Dark Overlords have taken me to the Eternal Denny's to work midnight to 8 am for the rest of time but I can no longer be silenced.

Over the years I have seen them, The Seekers, those brave and intuitive restaurant diners who have gleaned enough to realize that all restaurants have ........... A SECRET MENU.

Yes it's true, there is another menu that only The Chosen One's can view and it is glorious. On The Secret Menu fresh lobsters dance with veal chops, foie gras and truffles of colours most people have never even seen. The Secret Menu is always available, even at midnight when the Visible Kitchen is closed. The Secret Menu has every ingredient known to man, and more, and the Secret Kitchen is never too busy to prepare any item your palate craves.

Of course the Secret Menu is accompanied by the Secret WineList with cult Cabernet, First Growth Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundy standing shoulder to shoulder with Super Tuscans all at pre DotCom prices.

My fingers burn as I type these words but I care not what my punishment will be ....... THE TRUTH MUST BE TOLD.

To you, The Seekers, I pass the torch.

Do not be put off by the waiter who insists, and they will, that "this is the only menu we have" - smile knowingly but insist that they bend to your will.

Ignore all those who tell you that "the kitchen has been closed for half an hour" ...... this is pure folly, hold true and the Secret Kitchen will be summoned to deliver your well done porterhouse in ten minutes flat.

Of course the special you had 8 months ago that "had some type of shrimp in it" is available. All specials since the dawn of time are on The Secret Menu, they wait in the garde manger of the Secret Kitchen and will appear as certainly as death, taxes and the GST if only you have the will to fight for it.

As surely as any bartender can easily re-create that "martini with Alize in it, you know the one they serve at that place downtown" in a flash, so too can the Secret Menu be yours, if only you have the courage to demand it.

Bring forth The Secret Menu - it's yours for the taking.

Friday, February 10, 2006

BC Reds

Last weekend I had the opportunity to watch the SuperBowl, eat chili with light rye toast, be amazed by Pete's neighbour and drink 5 high calibre BC Red wines all in the same day.

The results:

The game was bad

The Chili was excellent

The toast was slightly underdone

Pete's neighbour is certifiable and probably has a large cache of handguns somewhere in the watershed

Now onto the wine. The five wines were Mission Hills Estate Reserve Merlot 1999, Desert Hills Meritage 2002, La Frenz Shiraz 2002 or maybe 2003, Black Hills Nota Bene 1999 and 2002. Three of these wines were very good, the first three, but the Black Hills once again disappointed.

Nota Bene has a cult-like following but I have never been impressed and once again found both vintages lacking in red fruits and having a distinct greenness to them, I just can't recommend these wines given their $35+ retail price.

The Mission Hill was the most surprising of the wines with lots of fruit remaining and a nice chocolate-cassis character with enough toasty oak still there to make me think it will last another 2 years but it is delightful right now.

Desert Hills are a small, under publicized winery very close to Black Hills geographically. In August of last year I bought their Merlot and Meritage during my annual Okanagan trip and was not impressed with the Merlot, which I found green (again) and poorly balanced. The 2002 Meritage fared much better with lots of red and black fruits and a nice mid to long finish, I wouldn't hold it long but after the disappointment of the Merlot the Meritage was encouraging.

The LaFrenz Shiraz was simply delicious with lots of Oz style blueberry and plum flavours and the evidence of French Oak, the vines are young but prudent cropping has produced the best BC Shiraz I have had the opportunity to taste and excellent value at $25. Of course it's sold out but hey - look for it next year.

Don also brought a bottle of wine but since he purchased it from a store which is in clear view of three of the seven gates to Hell I'm not even going to talk about it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Vancouver Moment

On Sunday morning I got out of bed around 8 am and toddled into the kitchen for coffee. Daughter spied me from the livingroom and immediately cried out "Daddy, daddy........come and see!!!!!!!!".

Her excitement was so evident that I detoured from the Temple of Caffeine to check out what miracle had caught her eye, arriving in the livingroom I was a bit confused by daughter's huge grin and pointing at the wide open blinds, until I realized the miracle that was............ sunshine and blue sky.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Random Act of Kindness

Last night at work an unusual event occurred.

Couple sitting at table 24, he's mid thirties and ordinary she's late twenties and drop dead gorgeous, are enjoying a grazing meal and nice bottle of red wine. They are engaging without being high maintenance and easy to serve, asking a couple of questions but obviously seasoned diners.

As I offer the dessert card they ask about the table sitting in front of them, another couple with similar demographics,

"So what's the deal?" he asks "Do you think it's an anniversary?"

"I don't think so" I reply "I'm sure they would have mentioned a special occasion when booking."

"Well we think they look really cute together, and are obviously enjoying their evening out" he says "can you just add their bill to mine? Oh and don't tell them"

"Sure" I reply, a bit taken aback.

"Great" he says "just bring us the cheque please"

I bring the, now larger, bill and he hands me a card. I run the card through and return it.

"That's a lovely gesture" I remark

"Yeah, well sometimes you just have to do nice things" she says.

"If they ask just tell them the pretty blonde sitting behind them wanted to buy them dinner" he says.

They leave and I clear the billfold which contains the expected large tip, I mean if they're gonna pick up a $200 tab for strangers chances are they are good tippers.

Fifteen minutes or so later I clear "Lucky Couple" and offer desserts, they decline but order two glasses of port. They enjoy the port and when I offer a refill they decline and ask for the cheque. I bring the bill and tell them the story, as requested.

They are obviously shocked but handle it well, very well for me as he drops $100 cash for a $21 tab, and upon leaving the woman says

"We've decided to "pay it forward", the next time we see something we feel deserves it we're going to buy them dinner, or buy the kid in the Toy store the thing he/she is admiring - who knows maybe it will catch on"

If random acts of kindness catch on I think we'll all be better off for it.

PS - when I related this story to my co-workers most of the female ones went " aah what a sweet story", most of the male co-workers were confused or implied that there must be something sexual at work, "probably swingers" said sommelier.

Convinced that this was a gender gap I was surprised, but probably shouldn't have been, when wife and jaded friend's take was that it was all some elaborate role-playing game which ended up with both couples in the sack.

So much for Random Acts of Kindness - most people wouldn't believe them anyway.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Problem with Parker

In a comment on my most recent wine post Gimlet brings up Robert Parker and the dilemna he poses in the wine industry.

For those of you who are not aware of Robert Parker he is the author of "The Wine Advocate", a wine review he started in 1978, yes they actually made wine way back then. Parker had a small cult following among wine enthusiasts until he declared the 1982 Bordeaux vintage as "superb" - flying in the face of most established critics who questioned the vintage's lack of acidity and over ripeness. The line was drawn and Parker's influence was felt by the huge increase in Bordeaux prices for the '82 vintage.

I subscribed to the "Advocate" in the '80's but stopped when it became apparent that Mr. Parker and I had widely disparate views on wine - he loves the fruitbombs while I require more acidity and less ripeness in my wine. All fine and good - we disagree. Robert Parker has a very specific vision of what wine should be and his criteria has been extremely consistent for over 25 years - fruit first, ripe, lush fruit before all else, and that is fine. As with Gimlet I often enjoy the less expensive end of the "Parker wines" because their simplicity makes them easy drinking.

The problem is that Mr. Parker's influence is now so strong that he is changing the way wine is made, winemakers the world round know that the magic 90 points from Parker means financial success and so they are deliberately structuring their wines to meet Mr. Parker's "fruit first" conditions. A whole new generation of sommeliers and wine buyers are convinced that these wines are the only wines to sell and promote and that is just wrong.

The wine world requires diversity, we need "fruit bombs" and "big tannic monsters" and "lean acidic little bastard" wines to all be made and appreciated. The other problem I find with the "Parker wines" is that the fruit forward component makes these wines unlikely to age well, which of course plays well in our "immediate gratification" society.

Robert Parker expresses only the opinion of one man, and one with no formal wine education it might be added, and the fact that one man's opinion is changing an industry I love is disturbing to me.

Think globally - drink diversely.