Thursday, November 15, 2007

Nice Malbec, Great Beer and Jiri's Unit

Well I haven't blogged for awhile but that's hardly unusual.

Halloween came and went, daughter was a "Car wreck victim witch" and we had about 70 kids come to the house. Many of these kids ask if they can pick out their own candy, I feel that's sort of a "cake and eat it" proposition and refuse, wife thinks I am an asshole for doing this but hey, I am an Asshole so that settles the issue.

I've been trying out a few new wines and have two which I can recommend.

The first is one that I would normally avoid like the plague but I tried it and quite enjoy it so it just goes to show that sometimes we should look past our initial reservations, especially when the wine is only $10.99. The wine is question is called Mon Ami Rascal which in and of itself would normally have me passing it by on the "Don't buy wines with Stupid Names" theory, secondly it is highly regarded by Robert Parker and thirdly it is a Vins de Pay de Porte de la Mediterranee which means it can come from pretty much anywhere in France between Switzerland and the Pyrenees.

Given all these circumstances how did I end up with said bottle you might ask ? Well I was in a hurry, I was having Salmon for supper and the Private Wine store I was in had no drinkable Pinot Noir under $20, so I saw Mon Ami was a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, and then it hit me that this is the "House Blend" made for Earl's restaurants by the venerable Perrin family. Now I have my issues with Earl's but they've always provided good value with their house blends so Mon Ami came home with me and I was happy he did. The wine is light to medium bodied with nice red fruit flavours, soft tannins and a longish finish, the acidity is a little low but it worked well with the salmon and has since partnered nicely with roast chicken. This is only available in private stores and retails for $10.99, it's recommended.

The second wine came from the same store, however it is more in tune with my normal buying practices. Looking for something to partner with braised beef I spotted a Argentinean Malbec from the reputable firm Nieto Senetiner. Once again this wine is not available in Government stores, but is worth seeking out. The wine is labeled as Benjamin, Nieto Senetiner, Malbec 2006 and retails for $12.99. Malbec can be very earthy and tannic but this wine is made in a softer "New World" style which emphasizes the black fruits and spicy pepper/clove character of the grape. The wine was lovely with the braise and has become a bit of a staple around the house as we move into the winter with more ragouts and braises, I highly recommend this wine.

One more beverage note, the BCLDB is discounting the finest example of English "Bitter" that I know this month. Fuller's ESB is a classic English "Bitter", which of course means it isn't bitter at all in fact it is golden and malty and caramelly and delicious. Michael Jackson, the world famous beer writer not the pedophile singer, perhaps best describes Fuller's ESB as "perilously drinkable". Greatness doesn't come cheaply however so even discounted a 500ml bottle of ESB will set you back $3.79 but that's not much to pay for the "best in show" - BCLDB, CSPC#636902, $3.79 reasonable distribution.

On another note Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Jiri Tlusty has been making a lot of headlines lately. The 13th overall pick in the 2006 draft Tlusty is a Czech forward with great offensive skills and a solid two way game. Most hockey observers ranked Tlusty as Toronto's #2 prospect heading into the 2007 campaign, behind goalie Justin Pogge, Tlusty had scored 17 points in 13 OHL playoff games in the spring and earned a promotion to the AHL Toronto Marlies.

Early seaon injuries on the Leafs roster prompted a call-up for Jiri and he scored a pair of goals in his first NHL game, and has stuck with the Leafs since his recall tallying four points in nine games while playing a solid defensive game (+3).

Recently however Jiri has been getting much more press for the naked pictures of him floating around the internet plus a shot of another man and Jiri touching tongues. Jiri states that the pictures, taken last year while he was playing in Sault Ste. Marie were sent to a girl and she made them available to the media.

A couple of things to note:

1) If camera phones and digital photography were around in my teen years my naked body would be everywhere.

2) It is sad indeed that this is considered "news"

3) at least we know how to pronounce his name now - it's obviously "T" Lusty.

4) at least it wasn't pictures sent to another guy so despite the "tongue" picture he's probably not gay

On the final point, I finally gave in to "Big Firm Partner" and put some Toad the Wet Sprocket on my I-Pod, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Monday, October 29, 2007

After the Apocolypse - Day #1

It's been almost twelve hours since the Red Sox won their second World Series in the 21st Century and the world has not ended, unless of course your name is Blair Wilson. The new Evil Empire, Boston not Wilson, have now won as many World Series in the last ten years as the Florida Marlins, and one less than the Yankees.

It should be noted that:

A) on August 24th I declared the Red Sox mortal locks

B) neither the Marlins or Yankees ever subjected the world to Green Shamrock Caps.

Since last I blogged I visited Disneyland along with wife, daughter and god daughter. It was an excellent vacation, despite a few meltdowns by daughter and me, and I highly recommend a trip for anyone with children.

A couple of points regarding the Magic Kingdom, first they don't sell gum and secondly they have marketing down to a finer art than I've ever seen before. As far as the spectacles, well the parades are killer and my top three rides were: Indiana Jones, Soaring over California and Pirates of the Caribbean (4 times with daughter - singing "Yo Ho" pretty much word for word by the end).

My wine drinking has been limited to House Wine mostly as there is little new and exciting in the BC Liquor emporiums but I'll try and list a few faves in the next post.

A new feature in the blog is going to be Stupid Restaurant Terms and my first two nominations are:

Oven Roasted - hello what other device do you use to roast things in ?

Slow Braised - as opposed to what ? Fast Braising ?

The restaurant industry, and menus in particular, are rife with this kind of stuff, I once worked at a restaurant where we printed up the Features daily on a Fresh Sheet. The kicker was that our General Manager refused to allow the word "sauce" to be used on the menu or fresh sheet, feeling the term was pedestrian. The fresh sheet was therefore riddled with "demis" and "reductions" and "remoulades" but never a sauce was seen - I printed a copy of the fresh sheet one day, as a joke, offering a "gravy" just to watch his face turn to that cute shade of crimson.

Please feel free to send in your own favourite restaurant malapropisms, or just plain "stupids", via the comment section ...... or not.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bachelor Week - Part 2

Okay so after the success of my first Bachelor FilmFest entry I was eager for day two.

I had a laze around day, no surprise, and ate huge sloppy Buffalo Burgers with steamed broccoli and cheap red for dinner. After a spirited round of "Math and Spelling" Race with daughter - you really had to be there, I tucked daughter into bed, cracked a cold beer and got ready for The Watcher, a 2000, or is it 2001?, thriller starring James Spader, Marisa Tomei and Keanu Reeves.

I wanted to like this movie, I like Spader a lot and the plot lines of urban alienation, serial killers and the thin line between hunter and hunted are all well worked but appealing. Then there is the Keanu factor. I want to like Keanu, I want him to have that epiphany as a performer, after all he starred in two tremendous movies The Matrix and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure plus there are redeeming moments in Speed, Little Buddha and even The Replacements. Still I can't shake the fact that he always seems stiff and unemoting in his work.

Anyway the film is bad, bad plot, badly lit, cliched scripting even Spader is mediocre and exactly when did Marisa Tomei get frumpy ? There are no connections between many events and ooooh Keanu as a serial killer is ...... well stiff and unemotional.

A Big Bachelor Thumbs Down.

On a happier note - the Yankees clinched their 13th consecutive playoff berth last night and the Leafs scored two goals against Buffalo.

In my LTO wine notes I forgot that a nice little Spanish Garnacha/Carignena blend from the Emporda region, Espelt Saulo is down a buck to $13.99, well worth a purchase.

The strength of the Canadian dollar is wreaking havoc with marijuana exports from British Columbia, and if you don't think that is a serious problem then you aren't very aware of how big the drug economy and its' spinoffs are. Hell, the drop in the sale of Humvees alone will cost 100 jobs. I urge you to lobby your local MP for some guarantee of currency stabilization immediately, well not exactly immediately ...... let's wait until mid October after I get back from California.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bachelor Week - Part 1

Wife is in Manhattan for a conference which means I'm bachelor for a week (well not quite - four days but no quibbling). I always take this week off work because:

1) I couldn't possibly get babysitting for four nights

2) By this time of the year I need a week off

I just hang for the week, cook and watch the kind of movies that wife doesn't enjoy, namely action and/or scary movies.

The Bachelor Guy FilmFest began last night with a screening of The Transporter, a 2002 Action flick starring former Olympic diver and fashion model David Statham as an ex-military black ops guy who now "transports items" for shady types. The plot is laughable but the action is nicely choreographed, especially the martial arts scenes and the opening car chase.

I give it a "Bachelor Thumbs Up", but not way up.

Tonight is either creepy or vampire - I'll keep you posted.

Nothing great on the wine front, though there are a bunch of "Limited Time Offerings" at the BCLDB this month. LTOs are when the agent/producer discounts products by $1 or $2 for a month to boost sales. Some notables are the Finca Los Primos range of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay all at $8.95 and yummy Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon for $13.99, down from $15.99.

Shockingly, Carlo Colaiacovo is hurt, surely Nic Antropov's knees aren't far behind.

The Red Sox have now clinched a playoff berth and stand as mortal locks to win the World Series, not only this year but until the end of time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Brisket and BoSox, both sweet

We had a "commune" dinner on Sunday, six Adults, four children and a big smoked brisket.

Brisket was procured on Thursday, AAA Angus beef, and rubbed on Saturday with a mixture of paprika, coarse salt, pepper, sugar, elephant garlic and ground poblano chilis then left overnight. Daughter and "almost four" T-Money helped apply the rub, with great pleasure. I also prepared a "mop" for the brisket combining beer, cider vinegar and vegetable oil with a half cup of the rub and some habanero sauce, simmered for 30 minutes to reduce slightly, reserving 1/2 cup of mop for future use.

The brisket entered the smoker early Sunday morning and, despite some temperature control issues, was pronounced 150 degrees by around 4 pm. The beast was wrapped in foil and placed in a low oven (150) until dinner time. I prepared a sauce using the reserved mop and a commercial BBQ sauce, Wild Turkey BBQ sauce direct from Tennessee, while potatoes were roasted and corks popped. At 6ish dinner was served and the brisket was almost perfect, just slightly dry but with tremendous flavour and, sadly, none leftover. Wine was a Spanish Garnacha, Las Rocas, which had tons of ripe fruit and enough tannin to complement the smoky brisket.

Dessert was an incredibly rich, but not too sweet, chocolate pecan pie. The only downside, besides the lack of brisket remains, was that inclement weather precluded outdoor dining.

On a happier note the entire population of RedSox Nation have their heads in paper bags this morning trying to stop hyperventilating while an endless loop of September 1978 plays in their heads. It's September 19th and the once insurmountable lead over the Yankees has shrunk to 2 1/2 games.

This is sweet indeed, maybe sweeter than brisket, as I get to observe, on a daily basis, the misery of the RedSox faithful. I want to email every pundit who wrote off the Yankees and declared the RedSox divisional title a "sure thing" and ask them how they feel, but it would take too long.

The shift in collective body language between the two teams speaks volumes as the Yankees have their swagger back while Boston appears tentative and nervous like a runner constantly looking over his shoulder waiting to be caught......... and passed.

The funny thing is I still believe the RedSox will hang on and win the division in fact I think they're a mortal lock, but regardless the next 12 days should provide some great viewing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wednesday Morning Musing

I should apologize for not blogging but it's my blog so no apologies are in order.

Daughter is back in school full time, and if they ever cut the grass at a city field again, will be competing in Girls U9 Soccer soon. As with almost all things in her life daughter is ambivalent about soccer until it starts and then she is excited about it. Daughter is not likely to ever be an outstanding player but she enjoys the game and I hope she continues to forever. I firmly believe that team sports are important for character development, especially for girls.

Speaking of teams - the NFL season kicked off last week and I didn't place a bet, watch a game or really give a rats ass. Strange that in my late teens through my mid 30s the Sunday/Monday rite of NFL passage was one of great delight and now, with the exception of the odd Redskins game and the Superbowl I hardly even notice that the league is there. I would say it is a sign of maturity but since I exhibit so few signs of maturity I think it must be something else.

The restaurant I work at is becoming an impossible situation for me. The restaurant has always been a bit of an embarrassment in the way it is run, or not run, and in the price/quality ratio of the dining experience it offers. I could always take the mercenary route however of saying "Yeah but as long as I get my shifts and pull in my $200 a night I don't care". In the back of my mind, actually probably in the middle, I always did care though and it frustrated the hell out of me to see all the potential being pissed away by an inept management team.

As this summer began there were signs of life, we possess the strongest kitchen brigade we have ever had with a confident and practical exec chef and we had a good solid crew of floor managers. But alas it was not to be as the two best managers succumbed to the sirens' call of :

1) A better management job
2) a life outside the industry

leaving us spinning in the wind with little or no direction and the winter approaching. I can put up with the bullshit for $200 a night but not for $125. I have a couple of weeks off approaching so we'll see what develops.

I haven't tasted anything great lately but did get a nice bonus on my last trip the The MotherShip (39th and Cambie). Somehow the Board got stuck with a returned special order of 24 half bottles of Riesling Reserve 2004 from Pierre Sparr and priced them at $9.95 - I quickly grabbed a couple and popped the cork on one with grilled Coho on Sunday night, I wish I'd bought more.

Speaking of Salmon, why if there aren't any left can I still buy fillets of Wild Sockeye for $8.00 a pound ?

Will the recent shootings in Vancouver restaurants result in "No Firearms" sections ?

Tony Gallagher, reportedly a newspaper columnist, blamed the Minnesota Twins hitting coach for Justin Morneau's problems this season in todays Province. Strangely I don't recall any columns last year, when Morneau was the thoroughly undeserving winner of the American League MVP, giving credit to the Twins coaching staff for Justin's success. But then Gallagher is such an unbiased "Homer" that unless the hitting coach was a BC boy he is not worthy of any praise.

The Boston Red Sox will easily win the World Series this year, they are mortal locks.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Trash Talk, Sports Talk, Some wine notes and a great Beer

So the "Anti-Poverty Committee" has decided to dump trash on Mayor Sam Sullivan's yard. According to CBC news the group has taken credit for the trash action.

Hopefully CUPE president Paul Fauro and representatives Ken Davidson and Keith Graham will soon have yards full of rotting trash as well. Of course that will never happen because they aren't The Man so the ovine leadership of protest groups like the APC wouldn't think to lay any blame at their feet.

A friend of mine "in the know" has told me to target September 18th for an end to the strike - we'll see how accurate that prediction is.

I still can't figure out how ticketing expired parking meters is an essential service but heaps of rotting garbage are not ....... oh wait there's no revenue gain in picking up trash is there. Plus there's that all important need to keep our streets safe from reckless parkers.

There's going to come a point in the upcoming NHL season when the Canucks are going to wish they had back the 600K that Trevor Linden will receive this year.

The American League playoff race is as good a sports spectacle as you are likely to see for a while, My call is Yankees, Indians, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim/Orange County/SoCal /Tijuana and the true Evil Empire (Boston) all make the playoffs but I think Boston is the only Mortal Lock.

Who knew Samuel Dalembert was Canadian ?

Had a couple of decent bottles in the last week:

Amado Sur from the Argentinian behemoth Trivento, is a blend of Malbec, Syrah and Bonardo. While certainly "New World" in it's style the wine has enough tannin and liveliness to partner well with grilled meat and is good value at $14.99. It's a new listing in BCLDB stores with wide distribution (CSPC #568238).

Undaragga Pinot Noir Reserve - in my never ending quest for decent Pinot Noir under $20 I tried a bottle with grilled Sockeye last week. The wine has decent Pinot flavours, with light body and notes of strawberry and cherry but lacked the spice that makes Pinot so delightful. Still at $15.99 you could do worse - moderate distribution (CSPC #761205).

Best thing I tasted in the last while was not wine but a beer. Brooklyn Lager is an old style lager, made with a pre-prohibition recipe that features lots of malt. The resulting beer is copper coloured and malty without being overly sweet (my general complaint with lager), it is thirst quenching with enough hops to bring you back for many more. Brooklyn Lager is available in selected BCLDB stores, distribution is spotty, at $11.99 a six pack (CSPC #432930) and is highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Summer Blahs

Well the dog days are upon me, if not in a traditional "it's too hot to move sense" but more that the mind numbing routines of Summer have worn me down.

Don't get me wrong, I love sunshine and all that crap but I can't wait for Fall, and school starting.

The civic strike has screwed my summer over in a huge way because the pools are closed and daughter is a "water child", previously in the summer there was no issue of "What are we going to do today?" instead it was "What time are we going to the pool?". This year I am constantly trying to either:

1) Find things for an 8 year old to do.


2) Deal with a bored 8 year old.

Neither one of these options is a great one - I keep waiting for Monte Hall to offer up Door #3 but that hasn't happened.

There is no end in sight to the civic strike for a number of reasons, not the least of which there is no leadership in City Hall. The Unions are so full of bluster and self serving rhetoric that I fully expect Lisa Simpson to show up and lead campfire sing-a-longs any day now. The summer is gone and I really don't care if they ever settle the strike, my only desires are that there be absolutely no "signing bonus" involved and zero overtime for 6 months following the settlement.

I mean if these assholes want a nice 8 week vacation then let them pay for it - they've spent much of the summer screwing over the people who pay their wages so tighten the belts a little comrades. My favourite complaint is the "we want wage parity with the private sector" - hey here's an idea, if the private sector is so fabulous why not join it ? Oh, yeah because all those other benefits like "job security", 87 paid sick days a year and "bring your pet to work month" are missing in the private sector.

Hey that's my cake - can I have it and eat it too ?

The Red Sox are now officially doomed. In his greatest act ever as a Yankee icon, Phil Rizzuto died in the middle of a pennant race. The new arm bands are just the last stroke the Yankees needed to put them over the top.

Why, if there are no fish left, has the price of Fresh Wild Salmon remained relatively unchanged for the last decade ? I bought fresh Wild Coho last week for $4.50 a pound (whole fish) and the week before IGA had fresh Pink for less than $3 a pound.

At some point shouldn't supply and demand create higher prices ?

It's End of the Summer European tourist season - which means it's kind of like Russian Roulette at work every night. Are you going to get the "Thanks very much , that was brilliant here's a $10 tip on our $250 bill" ? or have your Euro's travelled enough to know that servers in North America exist on tips not wages.

Generally it's a bit of both, last night my first two "Euro Deuces" left me a combined $22 on $345, which barely covers tip out, but my final "Euro 4 Top" left me $75 on $350.

On Saturday the local "non-broadsheet rag masquerading as a newspaper" published an article by noted Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon regarding the David Beckham situation. The second paragraph of "Mr. Wilbon's column" was a mention of Beckham's upcoming visit to Vancouver. I was surprised to see this so I checked the online Post and discovered no mention of Vancouver in Wilbon's column, so I questioned this to the sports department of the Sun. Much to my surprise I received a phone call from "Lionel" informing me that it was inserted by the Sun, that it was just a factual addition and that "that's what you do when you edit stories".

First off - no it's not what you do when you edit stories, you don't add your own copy,"factual reference" or otherwise, and pass it off as another person's work

Secondly - Does Michael Wilbon know that "Lionel from the Sun" is editing his work ?

On the beverage front, Pilsner Urquell is on sale - other than that it's mostly House Wine and Rumbo season.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Great BBQ, good Spanish Red and poor stolen kitties

Friday past, the 13th for those with Paraskevidekatriaphobia, saw witness to one of the great outdoor food events of this summer.

Dinner at Dieter und Heidi's was unbelievably good, from the prosciutto and melon to start right through to strawberry shortcake to finish. Main course was about 10 pounds of T-bones, grilled perfectly medium rare then sliced and drizzled with balsamic a la Toscana accompanied by cedar planked scallops as big as a small child's fist and fresh heirloom tomatoes bathed in nought but salt, pepper and good olive oil.

Bubble and Guinness to start then an incredibly delicate Reserve Cabernet from Nederburg vintage 1982. When first tasted I was worried about the old wine but 45 minutes of air brought out the fruit and it was a delight, sour cherry and prunes to be sure but still lovely with the beef, next up was a 1998 Single Vineyard Malbec from Valdevieso - the last from my cellar - and it was still vibrant and ballsy and a perfect compliment to grilled beef.

I doubt you would be able to find either of these wines anywhere but they did show the complex beauty of older wines as opposed to the full throttle wines we tend to drink regularly. Also served a bottle of Penny's Hill Red Dot Shiraz-Viognier which is available in limited distribution in BCLDB stores for $21.95 (CSPC#151670) which would have benefited from another year in bottle but is perfectly acceptable for those who like the "fruit Bomb" style.

Later in the weekend I had a bottle of lovely Spanish Red - Espelt Saulo 2005 from the Costa Brava in north-east Spain this blend of Grenache and Carignan was perfect with Bison burgers. The wine has lots of red fruit flavours and soft tannins with a great mouth feel and nice finish. The Espelt retails for $14.99 (CSPC#151332) and has wide distribution. I'm beginning to think that Spain is the new Australia in that I am constantly impressed with the quality of wines in the $12-$18 range, and also that the wines are becoming popular very quickly so the prices will rise accordingly.

On another, entirely unrelated note, the local newspaper group is raising the subscription prices of Vancouver's two daily papers. Well worth it I say, after all one of the lead features in today's Province (page 4) was a quarter page story, with colour photo, about four stolen kittens and the heartbreak it is causing a Surrey teenager - that's right folks world hunger and damaged nukes in Japan take a backseat to stolen kitties ......... well worth the extra dollar a month I say.

Friday, July 06, 2007

'Roid Rage Customer and the "Pool Pool"

Amazing scene at work last night as our patio was virtually held hostage by an absolute Asshole.

This guy is well known, and loathed, in Vancouver restaurant circles and is a former (failed) restaurateur who now peddles stocks and spurious "internet lottery/gambling" sites. Unfortunately he has money and so is pandered to by many establishments, ours included. Among his many attributes are a loud abrasive, aggressive personality couples with years of cocaine and steroid use to go along with an impressive physique, a violent temper and extensive martial arts training.

As I arrived at work last night around 4:30 he was showing up with a group of rounders to hold court on the Patio, generally the worst you have to put up with is mild to medium abusive language, lots of "advice"( "at my restaurants we used to ....", to which I always want to reply "And is that why your restaurants went broke?" but never do), the occasional noise complaint from surrounding tables and a 20% tip. Last night however things went sideways as an inexperienced server tugged on Superman's cape.

In the vicinity of "The Asshole" was a group that included an attractive woman dining with her husband, this woman apparently struck A-Hole's fancy and his leers were less than subtle. Around 9 pm the woman mentioned to her server that AssHole's unwanted attention was making her uncomfortable ........ and this is where it all unravels. The server, female, approached Asshole and commented to him that the woman was uncomfortable with his actions and would he please refrain.

Asshole leaps up and starts screaming at the server drops the "C" bomb and generally reduces her to a shambles in 30 seconds.

Now the "correct" course of action would have been to get a manager involved as soon as the woman complained, not talk directly to AssHole, that's what the suits get paid for. But you can't go back in time so the fuse was lit. This is doubly problematic as we have an inexperienced manager on the Patio and our General Manager doesn't immediately grasp AssHole's condition ( 5 hours of cocktails on top of his surly disposition and likely a line of blow or two) and thinks he can reason with him.

The upshoot is we have to stop seating our principle revenue source to let AssHole vent, leave him at his table, transfer waiters and piss off dozens of guests. Now don't get me wrong, our GM chose the correct course in "discretion is the better part of valour" , had we tried to remove AssHole or called authorities things would have been even worse and physical damage would have occurred but the scene was surreal to say the least.

What also amazed me was that the other people at AssHole's table, with one exception, just sat there continuing their evening including the women at the table. Now I'm sorry but if I'm a woman and some nutjob at the table I'm at stands up and calls our waitress a cunt loudly in public then I'm out of there, but these bimbos just sat there giggling and drinking the cocktails the "Broker boys' kept buying.

We all know that "AssHole" is past redemption but the women should've walked immediately and the "Men" at the table need to grow a pair and set "AssHole" straight.

On a happier note the sun is out again today so daughter and I will be going to the pool again, making it 7 days out of 8 for the summer holidays. "Slightly deranged expeditor" has suggested that I take bets on the pool visits so I will consider setting up an over/under line on Summer 2007 pool visits ........... my advice is take the over.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Summer Times and the Blogging is (even more) Infrequent

Well summer is officially upon us which means daughter is out of school and I have virtually zero time to blog. I'll do what I can but it's not going to be pretty.

Canada Day was a tremendous "Tuscan Grill' at the home of "West Coast Insecurity" Columnist and Celebrated author. Antipasto, superb Carbonara and grilled lamb combined with a mish mash of Italian and Okanagan wines. The 2003 Kettle Valley Reserve Pinot Noir was outstanding, the 2002 Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir was indifferent - the Italians were all over the map but highlights included the ever reliable Valpolicella Superiore 2004 from Zenato - CSPC#476572, $18.95 - reasonable availability.

I liked the Zenato a lot more when it was $14.95 a couple of years ago but for full flavour and great balance as a partner to pasta or grilled poultry, beef or lamb it is still a great choice. There was also a nice Morellino de Scansano but I have no idea who it was from.

Monday was grilled chicken and veg with Valdivieso Cabernet Sauvignon (#412841 $11.99 in reasonable distribution), Valdivieso have always been one of my favourite Chilean producers and this entry level Cabernet is full of red and black fruits, with a bit of tannins and a decent balance - not the pick for steaks but fine for burgers or poultry.

As a side note - daughter has been out of school for six days and we have been to the pool five times, including the first day of vacation when we swam in the rain and were forced out by the life guards after thunder rolled.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Pity the GM, some baseball musing and a Californian Pinot Noir of note

Pity the poor General manager, well poor might be the wrong term but you get my drift. On Friday John Frerguson Jr. (JFJ), the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, traded away the 13th pick in the upcoming draft, along with a 2007 2nd rounder and a 4th round pick in 2008, for Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell and was quickly proclaimed an idiot by "The Press".

From my point of view JFJ addressed a team need, goaltending, and got an enigmatic but gifted power forward in return for the 13th pick and 43rd pick in a mediocre draft plus a 4th rounder (crapshoot at best). Toskala is 30 years old and well regarded in the NHL, many feel he is at least as good as Nabokov the goalie San Jose chose to keep. Toskala is also under contract for $1.4 million this season and while Mark Bell is apparently a whack-job he's also 6'2", 220 pounds, 27 years old and only one year removed from a 25 goal season.

The pundits however decry JFJ's actions as more indication that "he has no plan", "he's making up for last year's mistake (acquiring Andrew Raycroft)" and "The Leafs continue to trade away the future". These same pundits however praise the Florida Panthers for trading away a 1st round pick plus two 2nd rounders for a 30 year old goalie (Tomas Vokuon) a year after they traded away All Star Roberto Luongo for 3 magic beans.

Ferguson, quite frankly, can't win. He is the General Manager of the most closely scrutinized franchise in the NHL and his hands are tied by an ownership that is at least as interested in the bottom line as in success on the ice.

Toronto could, and in fact may have at times, fielded a team of 19 rhesus monkeys on skates and people would still fill the rink. Ferguson's boss Larry Tannenbaum is the personification of smarm, and keeps poor JFJ twisting with one year extensions all the while pressing him to respect his wishes. I can imagine the scene below being played out.

Larry calls JFJ to his office with the following request:

"John, I'll tell you what you can have a five year extension and free rein over hockey operations if you can get me a magical flying horse and the ring of true power."

JFJ: "Sure Larry, I think I've got some tape of that horse playing in the Ukraine".

On a totally unrelated subject: Why do I have to tidy up the house before the cleaning lady comes over ?

Another thought: How big is Frank Thomas' head ?
I can't look at him without thinking of So I married an Axe Murderer.

Matt Stairs is third in the Canadian Home Run Derby, only one behind Jason Bay, with 11 dingers. Has there ever been a ballplayer who was so obviously Canadian looking as Matt Stairs ? I can't believe he's not wearing a John Deere cap out there with a "go cup" beside 1st base .......... I love Matt Stairs.

Magglio Ordonez has 34 doubles through Detroit's first 74 games, this pace would see him hit 74 doubles for the season and eclipse Earl Webb's major league record of 67 doubles hit in 1931. No major league hitter has posted 60 doubles in a season since 1936 yet I have not heard one mention of this on a website or sports show.

Had a nice Pinot Noir last night Castle Rock Sonoma County 2005, not cheap at $25.95 but given the price of Pinot Noir these days pretty fair value. Lots of bright fruit flavours and good tannins, it will cellar nicely for a year or two. It is widely available in the BCLDB as part of their new Californian Wine promotions - CSPC#316687.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Random Thoughts: Beer, Good Wine, 5 Day Weekends and Mr. Carol Alt the 2nd

My last post solicited some strong reactions regarding the beer I left off my Top 10 list so I will amend the list to add Heineken, Stella, Czechvar, Becks, in fact anything not made by a major North American Brewery in a tie for 11th place and therefore end any bad feelings.

I have had a very good run on wine lately and have some recommendations:

1) JimJim Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia - defies my normal parameters because it has an animal on the label (the eponymous JimJim the Dog), new world in style but not over the top fruit, decent balance with lots of plum and blueberry. A good match for whatever is coming off the grill. Not a BCLDB listing it was a "host gift", retails in Alberta for $18 so I can't really call it great value but it's solid.

2) Chateau du Taillan 2003 Haut Medoc - the last vestige of the venerable Cruse family who once were among Bordeaux's most important producers. This is Bordeaux the way they should be making it, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a touch of Cab Franc (not mentioned on the label) then barrel aged for 18 months. The resulting wine has a bit of earthiness on the nose but follows through with nice cedary, black and red fruit flavours and drying tannins to be a great compliment to beef or lamb. 2003 was a very good vintage and at $23.95 this wine is good value for now, or a 2-3 year stint in the cellar, BCLDB #143404, limited distribution with only 30 cases showing in the system.

3) Palo Alto Reserva, 2006, Chile - in one of those fateful moments I actually opened this wine to have with Sundays' leg of lamb but thought better of it, re-corked and poured with Mondays' pork tenderloin. The decision was good because I really enjoyed the Chateau du Taillan with the lamb and the Palo Alto, as a more fruit driven selection, was perfect with the pork tenderloin. The Palo Alto is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Syrah and has a rich red berry nose followed by a medium mouth feel and decent finish, while certainly new world in style it has reasonable tannins and held well with the sweetish flavours of the pork. The winery is owned by the massive Chilean producer Concha y Toro, BCLDB #24059, $14.99 with wide distribution.

I recently took a Five Day weekend to escape from reality and I highly recommend this for everyone, in fact I'm going to commit myself to installing the 2 day work week nationally.

The New York Islanders recently made the decision that they are better off to pay Alexei Yashin not to play for them, to the tune of some $25 million. The Islanders are now able to spread 2/3s of the remaining money, roughly $17 million, over 8 years against the salary cap and put the disaster of Yashin, and his 10 year $87.5 million contract, behind them. Yashin will have to console himself with all the money plus Carol Alt - life truly isn't fair. Of course there is always the chance that somebody will look around and say "Hey, we can change him" and toss another couple of million at him for another contract.

Gary Roberts has proved that you can be a locker room cancer without even being in the room. Rumours persist that John Muckler's recent firing in Ottawa stemmed, in a large part, from his inability to acquire Roberts at the recent trade deadline. Since all Roberts is capable of these days is standing beside the net or hitting guys from behind I fail to see how he would have helped Ottawa beat the Ducks, but hey I'm not an NHL owner.

To my great delight the Yankees have closed to within striking distance of the "We win Championships every 80 or so years but Our fans talk like we are the greatest Team in History",....... sorry Boston Red Sox. While most teams would be happy with an eight game lead in June Red Sox Nation now have 3 1/2 full months to look over their shoulder for the shadow of Bucky Dent. Cue the Theme to Jaws.

Lamb sausages are to be purchased at Tenderland Meats on Granville Island, not "the other butcher".

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Summer Begins and thoughts of Beer

The first wave of Summer has had the Pacific SouthWest basking in sunshine for the last 10 days or so, you know summer has hit Vancouver when:

1) People start complaining about the heat after 8 months of complaining about the rain

2) There is media coverage of either impending water shortages or impending floods

3) People you haven't seen in the restaurant since October start showing up and acting like they own the place (again)

4) I start drinking "Dark and Stormys"

For many people summer is "beer season" but in truth, for me, every season is beer season. Beer is the world's oldest (dating back to at least 3500 BC) and most popular alcoholic beverage, and one of the simplest requiring only water, starch, hops, yeast and a refrigeration source - actually it doesn't need refrigeration but I really like it that way.

Beer Geeks are every bit as weird, passionate and ridiculous as wine geeks, but they don't get anywhere near the respect. I drink it all year long and my consumption really doesn't go up much in the summer, but the overall sales spike by about 20% in June, July and August so somebody's crackin' more bottles in the summer.

Beer was always the drink of choice of my father and his friends and I have clear memories of backyard events when I was a toddler with large tubs full of ice and brown bottles of beer. German neighbours made their own and as a young boy it was considered ok to have half of a beer at an afternoon event. The women drank beer in those days and many do today as well, but when I was a student it was rare to see girls drinking beer. One of wife's very few flaws is her inability to appreciate a hoppy pilsner but she will toss back a Coors Light on a hot day so I guess I'll keep her.

I am an equal opportunity Beer drinker, though my preference runs to the above mentioned pilsners, some dark British brews and IPAs, I have rarely met a beer I didn't like (although I made a mistake with a lavender ale once that I choose not to speak of). Beer is the lingua common of my industry, after work you don't "go for drinks" you "go for a beer" and "a beer" is rarely one, in fact I have a patent pending on the "real man's guide to beer calculation" which I will now relate to you:

"One" is two

"A couple" is three or four

"A few" is four to six

"A bunch" is more than six
, as in "I'm not feeling great, I had a bunch of beer(s) last night.

Note that the plural of beer is beer but I have no problem with those who add the "s" on the end.

I keep my beer glasses in the freezer because they are more important than most food items and it is a rare night indeed when I come from home from work and do not "crack a beer" within 10 minutes of arrival. Beer is known by many names:

A cold one
pops - and the lesser form "wobbly pops"

I went to University with a guy who told time in "beer" as in "Oh geez I don't have to be in class for another 2 maybe 2 and a half beers".

Like many things we remember the beer of our youth more fondly, it was colder, crisper had more flavour and it was definitely cheaper. In University we drank "Cinci", "Old Vienna", and "Black Label" all brands either dead or dying, Molson also made a Blue and maybe they were no better than today's Kokanee or MGD but in my eternal memory they were.

Travel in Europe after my third year of university not only opened my palate to food and wine but also to the depth and breadth that beer had to offer, from a "Kolsch" in a test tube glass on tap in Cologne to a an ice cold bottle of Sagres on the beach in Portugal.

This blog would not be complete without a listing of my Top Ten Beer

1) Pilsner Urquell

1A) Guiness

3) Grolsch

4) Bass Pale Ale

5) Nelson Brewing "PaddyWhack" IPA

6) Bellhaven "Wee Heavy"

7) Dos Equis Clara (Lager)

8) Marston's Oyster Stout

9) Hoegaarden (hot day only)/Radeberger Pils/Konig Pils

10) Old Vienna - circa 1978

All this beer talk has made me thirsty so ..............

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Notes from A Bartender

Someone, obviously a waiter/bartender, once commented that instead of compulsory military service the world would be much better if everyone had to do "Compulsory Food and Beverage Industry Service", two years after University, full-time none of this "a few weekends Restaurant Reserve" crap. I agree that this would make for a better world, but I don't want to work with the draftees until they've finished basic training.

I copied the following from "Best of CraigsList" - there are some very valid points about life in here.

Notes from a Bartender

Someone once pointed out to me the fact that there seems to be a micro-economy in the service industry. Restaurant workers take their tip money out to bars and clubs at night and give it to the bartenders, who promptly return it to the waiters and waitresses the next day at lunch. The cycle is almost self-sufficient and is mutually beneficial. Knowing the pain of waiting on customers, each group tips the other well and never raises a fuss. These people do not need to be educated. The rest of you do.

Many of us have stood in a noisy, crowded bar and asked, "What's a guy got to do to get a drink around here?" Well, you're about to find out. Here are some Do's and Don'ts that will keep the relationship between the bartender and bar patron running smoothly.

Rule #1: Have your shit together. Not only will following Rule #1 get you served quicker in a bar, it's a good general rule to adopt in life and is especially helpful in Central American border crossing scenarios.


Fail to have your money ready

We're waiting on you. Everyone else is waiting on us. Therefore, by the Transitive Property of Equality, everyone is waiting on you.


This is an absolute No-No. You whistle at dogs and pretty ladies, not people.

Wave money

Oh, you've got a dollar!! I'll be right over!! Hopefully I won't break an ankle in my fevered rush to get you your "curz lite." Well, at least you're not breaking the next rule.

Yell out the bartender's first name

There's something deeply psychologically disturbing about hearing your name called out, turning around and seeing a complete stranger. That's one of the reasons strippers use stage names. Bartender's do too. Mine is Pixie.

Say "make it strong!" or "put a lot of liquor in it"

Oh, you're one of the rare drinkers that like their drink strong! When you say this, you're assuming I make weak drinks (which is insulting) and you're assuming that I'll stiffen this one up for my new best buddy, you. This is the best way to get a weak drink.

Give the ever-expanding drink order

You want a Bud. I go get it. I come back and now you want a Margarita. Okay, no prob. I come back, and (oh yeah!) now you want a shot of Tequila, too. You really could have told us this all at once. See Rule #1.

Pull the redirect (or the bait 'n' switch)

Usually used after the money wave or the whistle, this is when the gentlemen passes his turn to the lady behind him. Yeah, um, don't do that, okay? Chances are she's not ready, and your weak attempt at chivalry just cost you your turn. See you in 30 minutes.

Try the confused, lost look

This is usually accompanied by the question "What kind of beer y'all got?" while looking at all the beers we have. You did know you were in a bar, right? You didn't just appear here, did you? Refer to Rule #1.

Order High Maintenance shooters

Example: "Lemme get an Alabama Slammer, a Red Snapper, two Kamikazes, a Buttery Nipple and a Lemon Drop." Usually followed by a small tip. People, these shooters are fine by themselves, but there are multiple steps involved with each one. Translation: Time Sink. You may get them this time, but you'll probably be waited on last the next time we see your face. Here's a clue as to whether or not you're high maintenance; if two bartenders are working and they see you, and they flip a coin and the loser comes over to take your order, pretty good chance you're high maintenance.

Assume we know you

Unless you've followed the first "Do" rule below, we don't remember you. You are one of a thousand faces for us, and when you point at an empty glass or a beer bottle that's invariably facing away from us, your attempt at a shortcut backfires. Tell us what you want.

Apologize for sucking

Don't apologize for not tipping. Acknowledging that you suck is not the same as not sucking. Oh, and don't say "I'll get ya next time." We know all about you.

Assume soft drinks are free

Are they free at McDonald's? Are they free at Wal-Mart? Are they free anywhere? I blame M.A.D.D. for this myth.

Put pennies and nickels in the tip jar

We don't want that crap in our pockets any more than you do. We don't have anything smaller than quarters. Have you ever ordered a drink that cost $3.17?

Be "The Microbrew Aficionado"

Usually a pseudo-hippy who can't tip a quarter but can't bring himself to drink "schwag," and who has to sample some new berry-wheat-harvest-ale that he heard about at Burning Man. "Do you have the new Vernal-Equinox Special Welcome-Fest?" "Does Anyone?" Here's your Newcastle. Go.

Be "The Daddy Warbucks"

Dressed in classic day-trader wear, this loud, boisterous guy smokes cigars and orders Martinis and generally exudes an air of money. Until the tip. We hate you.

Be a "Whiney Baby"

Under no circumstances should you ever whine to a bartender when asked to see your ID. Our jobs depend on them, and when we spot a fake/expired ID, don't argue; we've seen and heard it all a million times before, and it will get you absolutely nowhere. If you "don't have one" or "forgot it," forget it; you don't belong out on the town in the first place. That's the law, plain and simple. If we don't have the law, the terrorists win. You don't want the terrorists to win, do you? Bring your ID. Remember Rule #1, from a minute ago?



Tip heavy right off the bat, and you're the first person we aim for every time you come up to the bar. Did you get that? Go back and read it again. The word will spread to the other bartenders and you'll be treated like a prince. It will pay off in better drinks and the occasional free one.

Be patient

All you really need to do to get waited on is make eye contact. We see you, and we'll get to you before the guy right next to you waving money and whistling. Remember, this isn't insulin we're passing out here. If you really need the drink that bad, you've got a problem to address, Jack. The meek shall inherit the bar.

Be an attractive female

As in life, this goes far.

If this comes across as a little petty, remember: bartenders are a jaded lot.

As an afterthought I would add: Do say "Please" and "Thank You", those two phrases, plus 20% of the after -tax total, will get you a long way.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Waiter Wars Storm Brewing, and a couple of nice California Reds

The other night,over an R & B Red Devil Pale Ale, our restaurant manager and I were discussing the upcoming explosion of restaurant openings in Vancouver's downtown core.

Sometime over the next couple of months five or six new "fine service" restaurants will open, among them Goldfish Pacific Kitchen, The ShoreClub, TransContinental, Player's Chop House, "Metro" ? - a 225 seater from the boys at Rare, The Italian Kitchen plus a new Earl's and a 2 story Keg in Yaletown a bit further down the line.

I did some quick math: the first six places listed will account for about 1,200 seats of dining per night, a good experienced server handles 20 seats a night so these places are needing 60 waiters per night times seven nights a week. So that's 420 server shifts per week divided by 4.5 (lots of servers only work 4 nights a week) which equals 93 waiters, toss in 2/3s of that again for lunches (less business means less servers) and a 10% leeway factor (illness, conventions etc) and we are at 170 servers needed.

I can tell you, without fear of contradiction, there are not 170 good experienced servers out of work in Vancouver.

Perhaps the unthinkable will happen and restaurants may be forced to start treating servers as valuable commodities, rather than as "dime a dozen"s as they have for so many years. Probably not, they'll go the safe route and hire "personalities" and let the service standards go for a crap, it is Vancouver after all.

On another note I had two good California Syrahs last week, both in the usually forgotten $15-$20 price range. First up was the 2004 Bridlewood Syrah- CSPC#659730 $16.99 and widely available. The winery is in the Santa Barbara area and this wine is sourced from various vineyards in the Central Coast appelation, the wine is soft and fruity but had enough tannin to carry the grilled Leg of Lamb we had on Sunday night. Flavours are full of blackberry,raspberry, plum and a bit of spice with a nice mouth feel and good long finish, highly recommended.

Monday night was roasted pork loin chops in sage, vidalia onion and apple and another California Syrah, this time labelled as Shiraz, Rex Goliath 2005- CSPC#551184 $13.99 (discounted for May from $15.99) widely available . This winery gained cult fame for their Pinot Noir a few years back and provide quality wines for the price across the board, currently the Shiraz and Pinot Grigio are available in B.C.. The Shiraz is not as refined as the Bridlewood but is varietally true with the same raspberry jam, plum, spice box characters with a touch more pepper and the fruit is a little jammier. At the discounted price this is a very good value and something to grab a case of for the fast approaching backyard grilling season.

Monday, April 30, 2007

First and Lasts

Well it wasn't my intent but I ended up with two posts in April, on the 1st and the 30th(last).

Insanely busy month, wife's major fundraiser meant she worked extra long hours. In return I had to take time off to be Mr. Mom (no hardship), plus the restaurant is booming and I've taken on the additional responsibility of "Interim Wine Director".

The long and short has meant little time for blogging but here are a few thoughts.

With Calgary eliminated earlier their are no Canadian teams that I can stomach left in the playoffs.

Interim Wine Director shortens to IWD which sounds a lot like a form of contraception.

I saw a Car Repair Shop the other day which advertised that they "Specialized in Import and Domestic Cars". Are there any other kind ?

Vancouver has lost every playoff game that has occurred on a night that I did not work.
Should Anaheim, San Jose or Detroit wish to offer me incentive to take nights off in the future they can leave a comment on this post and I will get back to them.

The NFL Draft occurred on Saturday morning and I didn't care - this is one of the signs of impending Armageddon, or my maturing (less likely).

The Toronto Blue Jays will not win the World Series this year.

Had a delicious Malbec the other night from Domaines Jean Bousquet, (Argentina, CSPC#807263, $15.99 -widely distributed). It's certainly New World in style, with rich red fruits, briar and chocolate notes but there was enough acid to carry the Rib Eyes so I give it a solid recommendation.

Now that I'm buying for the restaurant I've been looking over price categories a lot and I'm amazed at the lack of product in the $15-$20 range. Agents tell me that once they go over $14 they have a hard time selling the wine yet my conversations with the people who ask me for buying advice indicates the opposite. When people ask me for wine recommendations I always ask "What do you want to spend?" and the answer is inevitably "$15 to $20".

I wonder if this is a "chicken & egg" problem, is there a lack of $15-$20 wines because people don't buy them or do people not buy $15-$20 wines because so few are available. I think it's the latter but have no hard evidence to prove it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Lord, why do you torture us so ?

It's about the Leafs God, I mean why have you chosen them to be your cosmic chew toy ?
Yeah I know all about the Cubs, the Bengals and the Detroit Lions, but since I don't give a rat's ass about any of those franchises my question, again is :

Lord, why do you torture us so ?

I mean it's not like the organization is evil, at least not since Harold died. You let the freakin' Rangers win a cup since 1967 and that, my friends, is not fair value. Yet year after year you tease us with one "good young defense" and "late season heroic" (generally undone by a good "mid season swoon") after another, only to crush us once again.

I honestly don't know what is worse: the great playoff runs of the '93 & '94 teams, or is it the "go to the conference final and lose to Carolina" ? Or how about your new one "let's write them off and then have them come roaring down the stretch and miss the playoffs".

Seriously don't you have other more pressing issues than mind-fucking the Leafs faithful ? I mean how about spending a bit of time on Global Warming or genocide in Africa as opposed to turning Mats Sundin's hands into concrete.

Last night's game was everything that being a Leaf's fan is about, and that is ........... a disease. The Buds roar out of the gate and absolutely dominate a very good Pittsburgh team, taking a three goal second period lead but giving one back just to make the third period interesting. For some reason with about five minutes on the clock the Leafs' defense decide that leaving Sidney Crosby all alone in front of the net is a good idea ...... and it's 4-3 and nail biting time (actually it was nail biting time at 4-1 but that's just another part of Leaf fan Disease).

But it's cool we weather the storm and have the puck deep in the Pittsburgh end, with the Penguin goalie out, with 30 seconds to go and the chance to ice it ........... BUT NO, rather than flip the puck into the corner or shoot it into the empty net we try a nifty little behind the back pass which is picked off and allows Pittsburgh to race the length of the ice and tie the game with 4 seconds left and force overtime.

But then something strange happened, maybe you were distracted by a plague of locusts or something, but the Leafs actually won the game in OT (but not before you teased us again by having Carlo Colaiacovo ring one off the post).

So the Buds head to New York today with a chance to move into the 8th, and final, playoff spot. Personally I just hang on and try to live my life game by game, I know you're going to screw me over in the end but I'm okay with it. My only hope is that some year you get too busy with some typhoons or a jihad and forget about hockey for a while.

It would be so easy, just run the Parade from the old Gardens to the ACC, and forget to invite Keon so he can have one more reason to be a bitter wee man.

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Couple of Decent Reds, Spring Break, Mats and a "Bad Regular"

Well I survived, barely, spring break. It freakin' poured every day but we survived thanks to ScienceWorld, the Aquarium and a "Craft Day" at Anna's house.

Daughter is back in school now and I should have blogged earlier this week but tragedy befell me, I have taken on the responsibility of "Interim Wine Director" which has meant a week of scrambling to make sense of the previous paperwork system, install "Par Stock" levels, contact agents etc. - this is a temporary situation until we find a sommelier but it has still cut into my slacking off ...... oops I mean blogging time.

Tasted a couple of decent value red wines this week - Valdevieso Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 from Chile , #412841, $11.99 - widely available and Robertson Winery Shiraz 2005 from South Africa, #586149, $11.99 - widely available.

Both these wines are "new world" in style with fruit being more prominent than tannin or acidity, but both are well made and enjoyable. I can easily recommend either of these wines as we move forward into "Grilling Season".

As the NHL season grinds to a close I am in wonder at my beloved Leafs. This is team is more schizo than any bad girlfriend imaginable, capable of beating New Jersey and Buffalo within a 5 day span but also losing to Washington, blowing a 3 goal third period lead in another contest against Buffalo and being worse in shoot-outs than a decent Bantam A squad. What is particularly strange is that they are hanging in the race without any appreciable cobtribution from their Captain, and spiritual leader, Mats Sundin - with 5 games remaining and needing to take 9 out of 10 possible points (by my reckoning) it is time for #13 to "put the biscuit in the basket" a few times.

As a last thought I have a truly bizarre situation brewing at the restaurant, I have cultivated a "bad regular". This gentleman visits Vancouver on business about once a month and never fails to bring a table into the restaurant when he is in town. The man is courteous, spends well, orders well and always requests my section when booking his table, the problem is he tips 10%, which after tip-out leaves me with less than 5%. On Wednesday I saw his name in the book and did every thing in my power to avoid him but he specifically requested me so I was stuck. The scenario played out as I expected, easy to serve $342 tab for 4 people ,,,,,,,,,,,,, and a $35 tip with lots of "Thanks, it was great" as they left.

Any suggestions on how to correct this problem would be greatly appreciated, and please don't suggest poisoning or flatulence , there are some lines I will not cross.

On a sad ending note a comrade in arms fell this past weekend, a waiter I knew from 25 years ago died of a massive coronary at the age of 57. far too young. We were not close and did not socialize but it made me sad ...... there will be better days and when the memorial is held we'll raise a glass to Barney.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Just an average Fortune 500 phone Call

I'm sure this happens to you every day, you are sitting at home downloading some Live Rolling Stones tracks when the phone rings. At the other end is a partner in a major Canadian company who immediately says "Hey, how many points did Kelly Kisio score in his career?"

I give a low ball answer, and Major Company Partner replies that "Other Major Company VP" said Kisio had "like 800 career points" - I google Mr. Kisio and determine that his career point total was, in fact, 658.

We bounce back and forth on Kisio's career before I ask "Do you know where he was born?"

MCP replies "Calgary - right ?"

"No, Wetaskawin" I answer

"Oh that's where WP Kinsella was born" replies MCP

I hang-up.

It's good to know that two scions of industry rely heavily on a waiter for their vital life information.

Had a decent bottle of Italian red last week, a Montepulciano D'Abbruzzo, Caldora, 2005.

Back in the day Montepulciano D'Abbruzzo were always cheap and provided a nice inexpensive alternative to Chianti, but as with most things Italian the prices have gone up rapidly over the past 3 years and now most decent ones are in the $15 range. Typical of the variety the Caldora is medium bodied with nice herbal notes and a bit of dried cherry in the taste, the acidity level is fine for battling it out with Pizza/Pasta or grilled poultry.

There is limited stock on this product as it is currently discounted by a buck to $9.95 but if you find it grab a couple of bottles - CSPC#418335.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Weekly Ramblings - Daughter's Birthday, Cigars etc.

Yeah I know I said I'd blog more but .............. Anyway much has happened since last we blogged, the biggest event was Daughter's 8th birthday.

We have always down played birthdays in my family so daughter's "gathering of the coven" was mild compared to others, still the volume of shrieking that 6 little girls can produce is mind boggling. My ears were ringing as though I'd been at a Metallica concert and the sugar buzz carried right through to Saturday's final soccer game.

The current rage among the 8 year old set are "littlest pet shop pets" which are benign, and stuffed animals that make noise - there's a special place in Hell for the people who market these things.

U-8 girls soccer season came to a close on Saturday. This was daughter's first foray into organized team sports and it was a resounding success. The team was very close to being Hitler's dream - mostly tall blonde waifs who ran like the wind. The quantum leap in skills from September to March was amazing to watch, by year's end the squad was a well oiled killing machine and were the only team in the league to defeat the Italian Cultural Centre's entry "The Angels".

In fact the Daring Dogs owned the Angels with a 2-1 season record (not that we're counting, of course). They played two weeks ago in freezing rain and not one complaint did I hear from daughter...... but ask her to clean up her room - but that's for another day.

Don returned from Cuba, where the All Star was cancelled, with a renewed belief in Capitalism and some cigars. I was offered some cigars but declined, because I personally think that smoking cigars is really stupid. I mean isn't the whole idea of smoking to ingest nicotine into your system ? I smoked for years, only the birth of daughter made me stop, but even when I was a smoker I thought cigars were dumb. All they do for me is make my mouth hot. Smoking cigars is sort of like buying cocaine, separating out the narcotic and snorting the Baby Powder.

According to "Toronto is a Bad Place" columnist, the Vancouver Canucks don't get enough respect outside of Vancouver - maybe that's because watching the Sedin's cycle brilliantly while Roberto Luongo stands on his head is an acquired taste. Last night's game was a $10 "pay per view" game, I mistakenly thought they would be paying me but apparently not.

Had a nice bottle last night with marinated leg of lamb, Thorn-Clarke Terra Barossa 2003 Barossa Cuvee, a tasty blend of Shiraz (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%) and Mourvedre (7%). Nice black fruit flavours with spicy oak and a touch of licorice, the tannins have softened nicely making this a good "Drink Now" selection - on sale for $17.99 with limited distribution (CSPC#323758).

My House Wine is also on sale this month - La Chamiza Shiraz-Malbec , from Argentina, is discounted by a buck to $14.95 for a 1.5 Litre, soft fruity juice but with enough acidity to accompany pizza, pasta, burgers, roast chicken etc. - widely available (CSPC#567941).

By the way - Did you know you can order energy efficient "blacklight" bulbs from California ? It's true.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Valentine's Day, "Not so Much"

Valentine's may be my least favourite night of the year to work. I should qualify that by saying that if I had to work on Mother's Day there would be a challenger but my status as a parent, plus the fact that Sunday is my regular day off, have precluded my working Mother's day for many years.

Valentine's Day is the "Mother of All Made-up Occasions", and is a night fraught with peril. Too many guys out trying way too hard to impress their significant others for two hours rather than taking care of them all year long. At one of my former gigs we had to call the police on two separate Valentine's to stop "lovers" from killing each other. At another restaurant we used to set an "over/under" line for crying women on Valentine's (always take the over).

The problem is too much pressure to have that one night be so special, my advice:

Take your lover out earlier in the week, have a great dinner, buy flowers on "The Day", rent a movie order a pizza and crack a very good bottle and enjoy the evening in the comfort of your own home.

That being said this year was a breeze at work. Rather than take chances we underbooked, then turned away walk-ins so the night was slow paced and easy, if not particularly great for the wallet.

Some notes of interest:

My first table was a 4 top, unusual on Valentine's, and when I commented "You don't look Mormon" they actually got it and laughed.

My second to last table was a guy celebrating the occasion by dining out with 2 hookers, I had to admire his ingenuity.

An Australian tipped me 25% ........ I'm assuming he was just unfamiliar with the currency.

But I save the best for last. At 10:30 or so a gentleman approached the hostess asking if we had a table available for two, when advised that we did he dashed back to his car and returned with his female companion. The couple were seated in my section, and after a minute I approached, greeted them and asked them if they would care for something from the bar.

The gentleman replied "No, we don't drink alcohol, just some ice water please", I turned to leave and he grabbed my arm "Please. I'm starving and I know what I want" he says.

"Great" I reply "what would you like sir"

"I'll have the steak thing" he says, I probe with a couple of questions before determining that he wants the Beef Tenderloin.

"And how would you like your steak done, sir?" I ask.

"Not so much" he replies

"Not so much?" I enquire "Do you mean rare sir?"

"Mmm, No just Not so Much" he answers, with a hand wiggle.

"Medium?" I ask

"Yes,yes medium"

"And for the lady" I query

The lady hasn't opened her menu, and appears to be unaware that she is on planet Earth.

"She doesn't know yet" says the guest "Can you wait here while she reads the menu ?"

No, I cannot.

I return with water and a bread basket and the gentleman says "She'd like something light", I suggest a couple of lighter appetizers or a salad.

They converse in Taluvian and he says "Do you have Calamari ?", (why yes I do, it's right there on the menu, in fact Madam's finger is on it).

"Yes, sir" I reply, and point it out. They jabber away in Alpha Centauri before the woman looks up at me and asks, "Is there any pork in the Calamari?".......... "No, Madam" I reply..........."What about in the sauces ?" she asks.......biting down on my tongue I assure her that the sauces with the Calamari are pork free, which meets with her approval.

I swear the next time I go out for Dinner I'm ordering my steak "Not so Much" just to see the look on the server's face.

On a final note, I served 12 tables (27 guests) on Valentine's Night and did not use my corkscrew the entire evening, Enough said.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Couple of Beverage notes

I did the "second bottle" test on the Marquisat la Perousse the other night and the test came back positive, had it with Roast Chicken, so it's definitely a best buy.

Had a nice winter brew, Black Sheep's Riggwelter Strong Yorkshire Ale, these are the same guys who bring us Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale but the Riggwelter is better for me. Nice full body, 5.7% alcohol, with bitter notes and spicy flavours. The Riggwelter is a little scarce but can be found at Broadway and Maple as well as at the "mothership" (39th & Cambie), $3.25 for 500ml., CSPC#890871.

In the beer vein, insert joke here ................, one of my regular rotation of Pilsners is on sale this month, Radeberger Pils, the pride of (Former) East Germany is discounted to $1.99 for a 500ml. snappy black can (CSPC#123257) it is in good supply and available pretty much everywhere. While not as good as Urquell, Radeberger at $1.99 is a very good deal my friends.

Bartender asked me last night for Pinot Noir recommendations, "Wow, there's a loaded question" - the search for reasonably priced Pinot is Dan Brown's next book topic I'm sure, but here are a few for under $15.

Pinot Noir D'oc (France)- Moillard - "Hugues le Juste" - varietally true and consistent, good value, $12.99, CSPC#363523. Widely Available.

Pinot Noir (Chile) - Casa Viva - bad package, decent juice though not as consistent as the Moillard. Good value $13.49 CSPC#207670. Widely Available.

Proprietor's Reserve Pinot Noir (B.C.) - Jackson Triggs - for my money the most reliable "value " producer in the Okanagan, this Pinot is a little light but is consistent and good value $13.49 CSPC#543868 - available everywhere.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Weekly Ramblings: Superbowl, Zip Monkey 2.6 and a couple of decent Reds

Well I promised to blog once a week, not once every seven days, so here I am:

It's 2007 and my neighbour's cat has a blog, yet spellcheck still doesn't recognize the word.

Superbowl - what can I say: well we learned that Rex Grossman is terrible, that Peyton can win "the big one" and that Prince is a trooper (no way Janet and Justin go on in those conditions).

Other SuperBowl highlights include the "mystery meat" sausage (Caribou) and two bootie shakes by guys who should know better, plus the inclusion of chickpeas and blackbeans in this year's Chili.

The other day someone at work observed, correctly or not, that there was more computing power in today's Blackberry than in the first space launches.

Maybe so but where can you fit the monkeys in the Blackberry ?
The answer, my friend, is ZipMonkey 2.6 - all the modern technology plus the Monkeys. I'm sure this is part of the new Mac operating system.

The Canucks have far exceeded my expectations, and their own I'm sure, but I still hate them.

Don is in Cuba to watch the Cuban Baseball League All Star game.
A couple of thoughts about this:
Doesn't the idea of an All Star game fly in the face of Marxist theory ?
Does the MVP get a raft and a two hour head start ?

I had a couple of good value bottles in the last week or so:

First off is Castillo de Monseran a nice little Garnacha from the Carinena district of Spain. It's high altitude fruit and has a nice touch of acidity to counter balance the inherent sweetness of the grape variety (Garnacha), it's widely available for $9.99 , CSPC #197806, and is a good match with pizza, burgers etc.

Secondly is a nice little Bordeaux Chateau Le Marquisat La Perouse 2003 a tasty little piece of Merlot based red, with some Cab Franc unless my palate deceives me, from a great vintage. This wine suffers from eye appeal, as the label is among the ugliest I've seen in a while - wife described it as "menopausal lavender" in colour - but inside is a good example of what the French have to do to get back their market share.

This is not strictly "old school" Bordeaux but there's enough lead in the pencil to know that you aren't drinking something with an Emu on the label, nice fruit, very good acidity and a long finish made it a great companion to Rib steaks - all for $9.99. Widely available, CSPC #871103 this is highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Deal or No Deal - The restaurant wine version

I don't know if you've seen the latest US network rip-off of British television Game Show - Deal or No Deal but here's the premise. Wild-eyed kookie contestant gets a briefcase with an unknown amount of money in it, 24 hot models in skimpy, yet primetime tasteful, outfits stand around with other briefcases - contestant has to open some of the models cases and the money amounts are shown on the "Big Board".

Amounts in the cases vary from a penny to $1,000,000, after a few cases the "banker" phones down to Howie Mandel, hopefully this gig means we don't have to watch him in Boston Pizza ads anymore, and makes a monetary offer to buy back the contestants' briefcase. The banker's offer is higher if there are lots of big numbers on the board, the contestant can only keep their briefcase after all the others are opened, once the banker makes an offer the contestant can either accept it, Deal, or keep opening more cases, No Deal.

We are currently going through the same sort of process at my restaurant with the winelist. In December our sommelier departed, foolishly choosing to work shorter hours for more money in a better restaurant, leaving the winelist in the hands of our teatotalling micromanaging General Manager. Among the GM's great ideas is "saving money by keeping inventory low", this is a tried and true method employed by people too lazy to actually manage their stock, preferring just to randomly run out of items regularly and piss off their staff and guests.

We've reached the point now where I actually ask tables if they plan on having more than one bottle of the wine they've ordered so that I can get the bartender to hide it away because we've probably only got 2 in stock.

So this is my vision:

I approach the party of eight, host has closed the winelist and made his selection.

"Have you selected a wine for the table sir ?" I ask

"Yes, we'll have the decent $70 Syrah, please." replies the host

"Excellent choice sir, but how many bottles do you think you might want?" I ask

"Well, I'm not sure" says guest, a little confused by my question "probably three, maybe four"

"Aah that could be a problem" I say, then pull the ringing cellphone out of my apron.

"It's the Sommelier" I state, pause and mutter into the phone then cover the mouthpiece and say to host,

"Here's his offer, he has 4 bottles in stock, if you pay for all four now they're yours but I should warn you the 4 top on table 18 is considering the same wine" I confide

"But what if I only order 2 bottles and want more later" queries host

"Well there's no guarantee I'll have any "decent $70 Syrah" by then, you might then have to choose between "something similar for $110" or "something not even remotely like it but in the same price range" I answer, then pause for effect before asking ..........

"Deal or No Deal".

Host, flustered, spurts out "OK, I'll take the four bottles ......Deal" I hang up the cellphone and glance down to table 18 where fellow waiter is shaking his head while intoning..

"I'm sorry sir that's no longer an option - how about a bottle of "vaguely the same for $86".

In all honesty, two weeks ago I won a "paper. rock, scissors" with another server for the right to keep my table on the same type of wine while he went back to break the bad news to his party.

If you think it's hard trying to explain why you are out of so many items try explaining that "I'm sorry you can't have the Chardonnay you want because trusty old rock let me down."

On another note I had a decent bottle of red last week from South Africa, Leopard's Leap Red, #233270, $11.99. This is New world wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cinsault it is easy to like and would be fine with spicier meat dishes, but lacks the acidity to handle a mild ragout or grilled beef, I'm unlikely to buy it again but it is a decent quaff.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Random Thoughts

Well I promised to post more so here goes:

I am very happy to see Peyton Manning and his enormous cranium in the Super Bowl, now if New Orleans had made it from the NFC all would be perfect but I'm just glad it's not the Brady Bunch again.

Will someone please tell Bill Belicheck that "grunge" is sooooooo yesterday and that it's okay for him not to look like a roadie for Pearl Jam on the sideline.

Two African American head coaches in the Super Bowl, and it only took 40 years. Now if two African American head coaches squared off in the BCS championship I'm sure the state of Mississippi would burst into flames and disappear forever.

In my most recent conversation with "west coast paranoid" columnist I was chided about "The East Coast media" not writing about the Canucks and Bob Cole not being able to pronounce Kevin Bieksa's name. Bieksa is "the breakout player of the year" and "a great story", Bieksa is -2 and has two more even strength points as Ian White, but I'm not complaining about the Vancouver media ignoring mediocre Leafs defencemen ........ yet.

Bob Cole's Toronto bias must be a result of his being born, raised and still residing in Newfoundland.

Will somebody please tell Sportsnet that Nobody wants to watch a radio show on television, it was bad enough that we had to watch the guy from Toronto with the sunglasses on indoors but Pratt and Taylor are just as bad - although they are from the west coast.

In the music vein it is important to remember that much of what was excellent when we were 20 was in fact just God Awful, spending 99 cents to buy Journey songs is just wrong.

I drank no ground breaking wine last week but should remind everyone about how good the red wines from Finca Los Primos are: Malbec SKU #632919 , and Cabernet Sauvignon SKU #74245 both widely available and both $9.95.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Welcome Back

Well for those of you who were wondering where the Hell my blog was, here it is.

There were many contributing factors to my lack of posting, including "losing" my blog for about 10 days, but it's a New Year and it's a new blog.

First off I've modified the name from "The Wine Guy" to "A Wine Guy" for reasons of semantics, I'm not The only Wine Guy out there. Secondly I'm going to try to get back on topic of wine. food etc. more often. Last, and I know we've heard this before, I'm going to try diligently to post at least once a week.

This week I have a couple of wine recommendations:

The first is a Pinot Noir from Moillard, "Hugues le Juste" Vins de Pays D'OC, CSPC #363523, $12.99 (fairly widely available) - this is a solid Pinot Noir from the Languedoc region in southern France and a very good deal at $12.99. Light to medium bodied with lots of bright fruit flavours and good acidity. This wine is very nice along with Salmon or poultry and wouldn't hurt your fish Tacos.

The second recommendation is an old favourite that I just re-visited: Hogue Cellars Cabernet-Merlot blend from Washington state, CSPC##463695, $13.99 (widely available). Washington state is the best value in US wines, to my mind, and Hogue are a great value producer (when summer rolls around, or you've over spiced the fish tacos, try out their Riesling #363291 , $10.99). The Cab/Merlot is meaty with good weight and lots of fruit, just the ticket for a little winter ragout.

On the topic of "ragouts" I've noticed a supermarket trend of "extra lean stewing beef" ........ Why would I want my stewing beef to be extra lean ? The whole idea behind stewing is that long slow cooking in liquid allows for the meat to release its' flavour. My solution is twofold: first don't buy meat in supermarkets, and if you do then buy a blade steak and cut it into cubes.

That's it for today except to note that I may add a new feature weekly called "Value Driven Vancouver", you see I am frugal by nature and neighbours and workmates often seek me out for "where the bargains are" so I'm toying with this idea. Stay tuned.