Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Tidbits

Well the big day has come and gone, as Daughter has aged the mornings are less frenetic and sleeping past 7:15 am would be a distinct possibility if Wife could hold back her excitement.

The big gift from Santa was a Wii system that Daughter has been Jonesing for for the better part of a year. Prices have come way down and I bit the bullet and added one more piece of electronic distraction to our lives.

We spent the better part of 3 hours bowling, playing baseball and tennis and I woke up in the morning with my right arm feeling just the way it used to after catching four games in a day at fastball tournaments in years past - the knees were fine however.

Wife and daughter braved the mall for a couple of hours on Boxing day, returning with a 3rd remote for the Wii and another game disc that includes a cow-riding game - we later learned that Grandma is really bad at cow-riding.

Wife bought me a superb text about charcuterie, the only glitch is the recipes are for 25 pound batches so I'll need a calculator while I cook, or else a big freezer.

Daughter received a hair dryer and that provided two pieces of info:

1) In the instruction booklet they advise do not use while sleeping - who knew ?

2) when you live in a 95 year old house do not use the hairdryer on the same plug that has the computer, the space heater and the indoor Christmas lights.

Wines of Christmas were limited, the menu doesn't call for great wines in my mind, but the Lafrenz 2005 Shiraz was brilliant, making me wish it wasn't my last bottle and the Little Yering Pinot Noir 2008 from Yering Station in Australia was good value at $14.98 (CSPC#606110).

I'm back to work tonight after the longest Christmas break I've ever had while serving, 5 days, and I can honestly say I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All I want for Christmas

So it's nearing a conclusion, the whole manic Christmas thing. The raw, unbridled, in your face commercialism is pretty much taken care of and now I can get down to the parts I enjoy. The food, the friends and the ability to put Bailey's in your coffee at any time of the day because "Hey, it's Christmas".

I put most of the shopping to bed last Monday, the 14th. I had to grab a couple of "stocking stuffers" today but mostly I missed the mall madness and New York crowded sidewalks. I don't mind the shopping, it's a good exercise in refreshing yourself on your partner's needs and wants, although the actual cash outlay is damned painful even if wife is not very demanding.

So now, with the Grands less than an hour away, a ham in the oven and spare time before I need to head to the kitchen again I can crack open a Fuller's London Pride and reflect upon my own commercial wants.

I'm at an age where I have most things so really my list is short, and generally can be repeated annually:

Black Socks - wool, light weight, mid calf

Undershirts - white, cotton, V neck

Books (fiction) - one or two good mysteries, Michael Dibden, Lee Childs, James Lee Burke and the classics like Chandler and Ellroy are among my favorite authors of the genre so that gives some style ideas.

Cook Books - tougher as I have 60 some and most of the essentials but a really good "fish" cookbook, the latest Weber BBQ Bible, something dedicated to bread and a charcuterie primer would all make me smile. I prefer books that are as good a read as they are a recipe book so literary ability of the author matters.

A long sleeved polo/henley style shirt - dark colour, 100% cotton.

Some sort of cool kitchen tool.

An I Tunes gift card allows me to continue to restock my James Brown, reggaeton, Dance Hall, classic rock sections of the shuffle (even I can't believe some of the stuff I listen to - no Fleet Foxes though).

Something chocolate-ish, maybe a bit gooey with some caramel involved is always appreciated.

A good bottle, malt whisky or bourbon.

Oh yeah, world peace and the lotto numbers would be appreciated as well if you manage it.

Anyway, I hope all is well in your world and that the holidays bring you warmth and happiness.

Friday, December 11, 2009

They'll wish They hadn't Messed with VANOC

My news wires locally were abuzz yesterday with the revelation that local police had uncovered over 100,000 tabs of ecstasy while responding to a 911 call.

CBC News carries a full report which details that the occupants of the house had been arrested.

Now given British Columbia's rather lax approach to jail time for drug related offenses it's not surprising that Vancouver has become a mecca for the production and distribution of ecstasy. The threat of nominal criminal time is a small risk when compared to the large sums of money that can be made from manufacturing the illegal drug. Vancouver's geographical situation with a deep water port and easy access to the vast American market make it a natural when coupled with the local judicial system.

However these particular entrepreneurs made a huge mistake my friends, after all it's one thing to have huge quantities of illegal substances in your possession but these wastrels had actually stamped many of the tabs of "E" with the Olympic Ring Logo.

And for that they will pay, I guarantee it.

In a battle betwen who these alleged drug manufacturers should fear most, the VPD or the VANOC's commercial rights division my money's on VANOC.

The keepers of the flame will nail these guys asses to the wall whereas the court system will be unlikely to come up with more than 6-8 months jail time, adjusted for time served of course.

The lesson that will come out of this will be clear:

We're not crazy about you manufacturing or distributing ecstasy in our city but you sure as Hell better pay the piper if you want to use the Olympic Brand.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Streak has Ended

Daughter has finally "not answered the bell", after a previously perfect attendance record, for illness, today she was unable to go to school. Mark it down December 10th of her Grade Five year the dream dies.

She had made an effort to take a day off in 2nd Grade, testing the waters I believe, but I sensed a lack of true illness and told her that if she was truly sick that was fine but there would be no TV or goofing off, sick meant bed rest and at best, reading.

She was back at school for first recess.

Today was a different story, last night at Soccer practice she excused herself due to stomach pains and when we got home opted for a bath and early bed, I thought all might be well. However the first cookie toss came at 7:30 pm and followed almost hourly until 10:30. Daughter then slept on the living room floor for 30 minutes or so until I carried her to bed. She is not running a fever, and has no secondary symptoms so I feel confident that this is just a bug but nonetheless the streak is over.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Jambalaya and Marechal Foch - Who Knew ?

Saturday was wife's birthday. Wife does not celebrate her birthday, rather she tolerates it, which is fine by me as it relieves pressure from me to create a special moment.

Saturday she spent primarily sleeping and reading and the birthday dinner was postponed until Sunday due to my work schedule. Wife's birthday is easy for me, as mentioned, because all I really have to do is come up with a well thought out gift and then cook her something of her choosing. Wife's original request was for Chicken Enchiladas but somewhere during the week I mentioned Jambalaya and that struck the chord.

I too enjoy Jambalaya and was happy to prepare it but there was the wine issue, my jambalaya is medium hot but elements like andouille sausage, cayenne, bell peppers and shrimp make for a difficult choice.

Under normal circumstances I'd have opted for a Riesling or Chenin Blanc but wife eschews white wine much the same way I do a 40 hour work week so I had to come up with an alternative. My first thought was sparkling but then I recalled that I had a bottle of Quail's Gate Old Vine Foch, 2006 sitting in the rack and thought: "Hmmmmm, why not".

Marechal Foch is really a hybrid known as Kuhlmann 188-2, one of whose parents is Goldriesling, but it was renamed after the great French General (how often do you see those words together ?) Foch. Marechal Foch, along with any other number of hybrids, were the workman like grapes of the Canadian wine industry from the mid 1940s onward. These varieties were bred to ripen early, withstand freezing winters and yield large quantities of fruit. Besides Marechal Foch the best known of these hybrids, in the Okanagan, are Baco Noir, Chelois and De Chaunac all prominent in the Okanagan in the eighties when I was first learning the wine business so I'm particularly fond of Marechal Foch.

Back on point: Why Marechal Foch with Jambalaya ? My process was that since Marechal Foch, in the proper hands such as Quail's Gate, has a Burgundian Pinot Noir character with rich berry fruit flavours, medium body and good acid. This bottle was a beauty, making me wish I had more but it can be found at private stores these days in the $25-30 price range. I recommend having a bottle or two in stock or see if you can locate Kettle Valley's Naramata Bench Reserve which is Foch based and a bit easier on the wallet.

The end result at dinner was Win/Win - great Jambalaya, an excellent wine and a good pairing, maybe not perfect but certainly eminently enjoyable. In addition, since Marechal Foch is very dark in colour, daughter got to laugh at our purple tongues ........ so I guess win/win/win.

As a last note, speaking of wins I'm sure everyone is in agreement that Sports Illustrated choice of Derek Jeter as Sportsman of the Year was an excellent choice.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Am I the Kiss of Death for Sports Teams ?

Ok so I used to be a huge sports fan and I am still passionate about The Leafs but in reality I think My Teams should take up a collection, it wouldn't have to be much, to persuade me to spurn them and give them a fighting chance to win.

Honestly my record is pathetic, we all know the Leafs story, 42 years and counting since a Championship, but I was born into that so there is nothing to be done. I, and countless others, must wear the shame proudly and always remember that the Red Sox actually won something so all is not lost. However my legacy of fan failure is not limited to hockey, in the NFL my team is the Washington Redskins, a once proud organization that have played in five Super Bowls but have not won a Championship since 1992.

In major league baseball I get a bit of a mulligan because although my Toronto BlueJays have not won the World Series since 1993 I do have great man-love for the Yankees who have had some success recently, but really the Jays are pretty much in the toilet.

On the collegiate level, I root for UCLA in basketball and Alabama in football so to the casual observer I'm doing well there but in reality. although both teams consistently compete for National Titles, UCLA has been shutout since 1995 and Alabama has not "roll Tide roll"ed to a title since 1992. I won't bore you with the gory details of Hearts of Midlothian or Scottish football in general but I'm sure you can sense the pattern.

I have, however, saved the "best" for last in that my team of choice in the NBA are the Utah Jazz. The Utah Jazz have never won a championship, that's never ........ not ever, kind of like the Canucks without skates.

A couple of wine notes:

There is a nice Spaghetti red on sale currently at the BCLDB, Montepulcianno D'Abruzzo 2007 from Spinelli, CSPC#454629. Montepulcianno D'Abruzzo is the name of the principal grape and the region of production and it is the every day house red in Abbruzzo and much of Rome as well, the region lies just east of Rome. This version from Spinelli is light to medium bodied with decent fruit and enough acid to cut through the tomato sauce. The wine is currently retailing for $8.99 but the distribution is spotty.

Had a braise of blade steak last night, lots of braising these days, with garlic, rosemary, onions and cremini mushrooms. I was looking for something big and brooding to go with the beef and so I picked up a bottle of Poupre de Grezette, CSPC#549147 a Malbec from the Cahors region in SouthWest France. Cahors is one of the oldest viticultural regions in France and the dominant grapes are Malbec, which is listed on the label of this bottling, and Tannat.

The wines of Cahors are often referred to as "black Wines" due to their deep colour but this one is self described as purple (pourpre). The wines of the region are generally harsh in youth and this bottle was a 2004 so the bottle age had softened the wine, but maybe too much. There was lots of black fruit and jammy flavour and a nice juicy spicy nose and the mouth feel is excellent with a long smooth finish but the acidity was a bit light.

Still for $15.99 this wine delivers rich varietally true flavour and is a nice change from many of the rough and ready Malbecs of Argentina, once again distribution is not great but reasonable.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Must.............. Blog.................Now

Damn, it's the last day of October and I haven't posted this month. I promised myself I wouldn't let a calendar month go by without a post so here goes.

It's classic fall weather in Vancouver, wet, cold, sometimes wet and cold. It's great for the braise, roast and slow cook in me but it truly does inspire apathy. I have tons of little thoughts pass me by but I just can't seem to make myself sit down and write about them.

I haven't had any great new wine, or great new beer, lately but I'm planning on popping the cork on either a LaFrenz Shiraz or Quail's Gate Old Vines Foch, last bottle of each, tomorrow with raclette so that will give me something to talk about.

Elsewhere my world is in "Meh", sports wise my teams are awful, Redskins are 2-5 and looking like Deadskins and don't get me started on the Maple Leafs. My job is going through the Fall blahs and it is difficult for me to stay motivated when the restaurant is really slow.

The only bright spot so far this fall has been coaching daughter's U11 Silver soccer team, it is a mixed blessing in some ways,but the pros far outweigh the cons. Fourteen ten year old girls who are only peripherally interested in practice and slightly more in actual games have their hair pulling moments (my hair, by me) but where else can you watch an impromptu hip-hop throw down to "Evacuate the Dance Floor" in the fading light of an autumn evening ?

It's Halloween and daughter is going as a Zombie Vampire, not much of a reach, I'll give out candy and then turn out the porch light and have a whiskey while listening to the sounds of fireworks in the distance before toddling off to get a good nights sleep. Soccer game is at 9:15 am tomorrow and the sugar buzz will have worn off so it should be interesting.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Long Term Weather, DNA and Celebrities Behaving Badly - Oh yeah Super Tuscans too

Just a few quick riffs on things that caught my eye lately.

Experts at Simon Fraser University are warning the BC government that billions of dollars will be needed to combat the disasters which will befall the province in the upcoming decades due to extreme weather conditions.

Now I'm not going to disparage these experts but seeing as the weather experts in BC can't seem to get more than about a 50% success rate on a 14 day forecast I think maybe those billions of dollars can be earmarked for more immediate needs. I'm thinking health care, education and housing to start with.

In this age of high tech one thing we know for sure is that DNA testing is the "one true piece of evidence", if your DNA is there you did it - no doubt close the book.

Not so fast, an article in the science section of the New York Times shows that not only can DNA evidence be fabricated but that they don't even need access to blood or tissue to do it. Simply having your DNA profile recorded, which all convicted felons in the USA do, is enough to create a DNA sample. I can see a couple of interesting episodes of CSI coming out of this, plus of course havoc in the court system.

It was a bad weekend for a couple of high profile celebrities in the US, first off Serena Williams had a hissy fit over a "foot fault" call in her semi-final match of the US Open and then Kanye West decided that Taylor Swift should be the line he draws on racial inequality.

Serena Williams just lost it after a linesman called a foot fault against her, now granted foot faults in tennis are called about as much as travelling on Kobe Bryant or high sticking on Wayne Gretzky (when he cuts a guy in the playoffs and then scores the game winning goal, in a game he should've been tossed out of, in a game that would've sent the Leafs to the Stanley Cup Final against the Habs and made everything right in the universe...............) but I digress: so Serena had a reason to get upset, However when you threaten to "kill" the linesman I think you've crossed the line.

Serena's publicity machine got involved rather quickly and Serena issued an apologetic letter however Ms. Williams refuses to apologize in person or even identify the person she threatened to kill by name in her letter. Shame on Serena.

Sunday night on the MTV music awards, don't ask my soon to be 14 year old god daughter was over for dinner so the awards were on in the living room, Kanye West burst on stage to decry racism as the reason for young country singer Taylor Swift's victory over Beyonce.

Now I can understand Kanye thinking Beyonce's video was better, really who cares, but he certainly picked an odd battle to fight in my mind. Racism and double standards certainly still exist in our society but, outside of professional sports not played on ice or involving cars, I can think of no industry where blacks are more visible in their success than the music industry.

At least Kanye had the stones to apologize publicly. Of course since Kanye was a guest on the opening night of Jay Leno's new show and chose that venue to apologize, and since his appearance just after "the incident" was a ratings bonanza for Leno the whole things smells rather contrived.

I had the opportunity to taste 1997 and 1998 bottlings of both Sassicaia and Tignanello on Saturday night. This was no contest, all four wines were lovely, although the '98 Tignanello was nothing special, but the Sassicaia was clearly superior in both vintages.

I know most of my readers cellar vast quantities of Super Tuscans so I thought I'd just pass on the caution that the '98 Tig should really be consumed quickly.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Best Favre story ever and some political Math

For those of you who do not follow NFL football the travails of Brett Favre may be a mystery. Favre was the long time stellar quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, Favre had a storied career and lead the Packers to a Super Bowl Victory before a tearful retirement after the 2007 season. End of story, wait a couple of years, induct Favre into the NFL Hall of Fame and that's it right ?

Not quite, you see the NFL is Brett's "Brokeback Mountain" and he just doesn't know how to quit it. Favre came back out of retirement forcing a nasty split up with the Packers, who still owned his rights, and a trade to New York where Brett proved, to many but not all, that he is done.

After New York collapsed down the stretch, causing their coach to be fired, Favre retired again. This time it was for real..............NOT. In August of Favre announced his unretirement and joined the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay's main divisional rival.

As illustrated in this new's story not everyone in Minnesota is pleased to have Brett "unretiring" in Minneapolis.

As a side note, as G Man pointed out, this may very well be the best Brett Favre story but is unlikely to be the best goat story we've heard.

In an unrelated story the BC Liberals announced yesterday that they would be going back on another election promise. This one involves giving $20 million in gaming revenue to the Arts Council of BC, oops sorry we've changed our minds.

First off I think that every member of the Liberal Party should have to go to the library, assuming that the library still has funding to stay open, and look of the meaning of the word promise...........maybe have them write it out a few times.

Secondly, in an economy where the government is struggling to raise capital this decision is patently stupid. The Liberal Party's own study shows that for every $1 invested in the Arts the government receives back $1.38 in tax revenue. If I meet somebody who gives me back $1.38 every time I give him $1 I'm going to try and find justification to give that guy more money, not less.

But "The Arts" are an easy target and reducing funding to them plays well in the heartland where the Liberals draw much of their uncontested support so it's a no-brainer as far as the government is concerned.

Sadly much of what this government does seems to fall into the category of "no brainer".

Monday, August 31, 2009

Random Thoughts because it's August 31st and I haven't Posted this Month

Well I promised myself I'd post at least once a month this year and here I am down to zero hour. Not sure why I've been avoiding posting, there has been lots of fuel for the fire but I just haven't felt my muse.

Anyway, some random thoughts:

1) If you are a man never go out for dinner in Vancouver wearing black pants and a solid colour long sleeved shirt. You can easily be mistaken for a waiter.

2) Politics in general, and in British Columbia specifically, now make me sad. They used to make me angry but I'm older now so I just get sad. To paraphrase the old joke:

How can you tell when a BC Liberal is lying ?

His lips move

3) Konig has replaced Radeberger as my "go to" Euro King Can Pilsner, despite the outrageous fifteen cents a can extra in cost.

4) Derek Jeter may, or more likely may not, be engaged to a girl named Minka. Seriously, a girl named Minka who portrays a cheerleader on television, could it be anymore perfect.

5) Jim Rice is auditioning for the Harlem Theatre production of "Grumpy Old Men", in a twist Rice will play both titular roles. In a response to being "misquoted" in slagging A-Rod and Jeter to Little Leaguers Rice stated:

"No, really I wouldn't say anything like that, ever.

I'm not at all bitter about anything in baseball, not the fact that I had to wait 15 years to get into the Hall of fame, not the fact that I never won a World Series and certainly not the fact that Jeter and A-Rod make twice as much per season as I made in my entire career.

I'm not bitter about anything, now excuse me I have an appointment to see about getting some hair extensions."

6) It's less than 6 months until the Olympics start, if you leave the house now you can probably make it downtown in time for the opening ceremonies.

7) Some good new wines I tasted recently:

Cortello 2006 - Estremadura, Portugal, CSPC#30411, $13.99, reasonable distribution. Nicely spiced with good fruit, needs a few minutes in the glass to open up but it's a nice drink with anything non-seafood coming off the grill. made with Castelao (Periquita) and Aragonez (Tempranillo) grapes.

Carmenere Reserva 2007 - Vina Maipo, Chile, CSPC#891994, $12.95 reasonable distribution. Remember when Carmenere was going to be Chile's "signature grape" ? Well it appears the BCLDB has, there are now a dozen or so Carmenere available, some solo and some blended with other Bordelaise varietals. I've always liked Carmenere, it ripens later than Merlot but retains much of the silky fruit character that made Merlot so popular. This Carmenere has a lovely balance and long finish that is great for grilled meats or pasta with red sauce.

School starts, finally, next week so perhaps I'll put finger to keyboard more often next month. Not likely but it's possible.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Single Parenting, Big Beers and the state of Network Television

Those of you who have followed my, sporadic, ramblings in the past know that wife has an international convention which takes her away for 4-6 days annually. In the past this event has taken place in the fall so I take a week off work, play Mr. Mom and chill out.

This year, however, in order to cut costs (damn new economy) the convention was held in July because it's much cheaper to stay in NYC in July than in the Fall. The reason it's much cheaper of course is because no one in their right mind wants to swelter in New York in July, but that's another story. Now it's virtually impossible for me to get a week off in July but between fortunate flight times and a bit of juggling I got 5 days off and that covered the "time away".

In order to ensure that daughter and I did not cause each other grievous physical harm, through too much familiarity, daughter is spending 6 hours daily in Science Camp. This is the 3rd year for Science Camp, or Geek Camp as I refer to it when daughter is out of earshot, and she loves it. The camp breaks up the day and provides her with socialization as well as some new skills, she made a lava lamp on Monday. If it's hot we can stop at the pool on the way home or she can play with any number of neighbour's kids once we are home.

By the time dinner is done, a bit of computer time and bed approaches so I don't go crazy either. One of the amazing things to me about single parents is that they don't go crazy with the lack of solitude, but then my needs for solitude are greater than most peoples' I'm told. We had a couple of traumas while Momma was away, a severely dislocated finger (daughter's), and some sweater misplacement.

The fact that wife callously took her laptop with her on business was not appreciated by daughter as her "IncrediMail" software is not installed, and never will be, on my Mac so she couldn't email with smilies and animated kitties. But we survived.

Since it was supposed to be summer I decided to sample some craft beer in wife's absence. Each day I purchased a 650ml of something big and hoppy to experience, I generally don't do this because 650ml is too much for a single serving but if I can spread it out over an hour it's fine.

I really liked one, Boont ESB from Anderson Valley Brewing in California which had lovely balance and flavour and made me wish I'd bought two.

I really hated one, St. Rogue's Red from Rogue Brewing in Oregon which was way over hopped and had little else to it and made me sad I'd bought it.

I was ambivalent about the others but all in all it was a good exercise, and one I will repeat some time in the fall with darker Ales.

I also spent a couple of hours each day watching Season One of Life, a truly original Cop drama that was a mid season replacement in the spring of 2007 and then ran a full year in '08/'09. The show was almost impossible to find, but when I did it was always kind of like walking into a dive bar and discovering that they have 34 beer on tap and make the best cheeseburger in the world. The series was quirky, well written, had great acting and an ongoing plotline that begged for disclosure.

Sadly the show was canned to allow Jay Leno to have his variety show five nights a week in the fall. It really is to be expected, after all network television is no place for good writing and acting - plus many viewers expressed confusion as to why they were unable to vote anyone off of Life. I'm hoping someone resurrects the show but I'm not hopeful, if you know what I mean.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A quick Wine note

In the past year or two I've become increasingly disenchanted with Italian wines in the $13-$16 range. At the "above $20" price range Italy certainly holds its' own but too often the "everyday" wines from Italy are either too fruit forward or, more often, too light and acidic.

Recently I came across a new bottling from Marches Rosso Piceno - De Angelis, $14.99, CSPC#632141. Rosso Piceno is the workhorse red of the Marches, on the east coast across the country from Rome.

The wine is generally a blend of Sangiovese, Montepulcoano, Passerina and white Trebbiano. The blend of the De Angelis version is 70% Montepulciano and 30% Sangiovese which results in full fruit but a nice seam of acidity to keep things in balance.

This wine drinks above it's price and is a great compliment to pizza, pasta or burgers off the grill.

The wine has moderate distribution and is a worthwhile addition to the summer cellar and if it's still around in the fall will be a nice combination to the richer meals of winter.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wurstfest 2009 and We continue to Hate the Dutch

Last Saturday marked the 4th, or possibly 5th but I'm pretty sure it's only 4th, Annual WurstFest at our home.

WurstFest is a celebration of Friendship and the Sausage, and of course friendship of the sausage, held annually right around the second weekend in June. It features grilled wurst, lamb sausage, bratwurst and the humble frankfurter, along with cold beer, sangria and various and sundry salads and other beverages.

The weather this year was hot and dry, the crowd was solid with a few additions of wife's workmates and the annual no show by Don. Last year Don showed up on the day after wurstfest while this year he had a "Pre-solstice art show and celebration of the herb Festival" to attend that his better half demanded his presence at. I will continue to invite Don in the hopes that his excuses get more and more outlandish, a sort of Munchhausen addition to the festivities.

It was a great day, and great fun. Wife did most of the grilling but there was a period of time when Daughter stepped up to the fire and took control. I was sitting in the shade enjoying a cold one when Daughter took over the grill and as I smiled G-man leaned over and said: "Now that's gotta be a proud moment"......... and it was. I love food, and the proper preparation of food, and daughter is beginning to appreciate these things as well, now as long as she doesn't attempt to make a career of it I'll be a happy man.

Back at work on Monday night I had my worst "Euro night" of the young summer season. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Euro, or to be Euroed, refers to those wealthy tourists from the European continenet who either don't know, or more likely don't care, that in North America service staff get paid shit wages and rely on gratuities to make a living.

Don't even bother with the "Well in their country the tip is included" argument because it's tragically flawed in that they aren't in their own country when they come to Canada. As one waiter once observed "I knew not to walk around Buddhist temples bare chested the least these fuckers could do is learn to tip 15%".

But I digress, on Monday I was gored by the worst of all the Euros - two tables of Dutch tourists. I mean any nation that has an expression describing cheapness named after them is pretty scary, and while the Brits are certainly generally poor (10%) tippers the Dutch are monumentally cheap. I mean cheap to the point that servers in good Dining Rooms, who generally pay out 5-7% of their sales to support staff, actually lose money serving them. That was my sad reality on Monday as my two tables of fucking wooden shoe wearing, cheese making cheap bastards racked up bills of $210 and $315 respectively and each left me ................ $10 while lavishly praising the meal and the service. So their net bills were around, oh $460 and I pay out 6% which means it only cost me $7.00 and change for these people to eat in my section.

Thank you very much, remind me to stop drinking Heineken and eating Gouda.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Almost Perfect ......... with a choral fist pump

Yesterday was as close to perfect as it's been in a while.

After the rare miracle of attaining eight hours sleep I awoke to a beautiful morning, clear, warm and sunny. A dawdly Sunday morning breakfast of blueberry pancakes and sausages followed by a little shopping expedition before the day's festivities began in earnest.

Yesterday marked the end of the season for daughter's Children's Bach Choir, the finale to be held at the Chan Centre on the UBC Campus. Despite being blessed with fine voice daughter was still nervous about the performance but didn't "freak out" as has happened in the past. The day was full of neighbourly good will as both downstairs and next door neighbours had children performing as well, in the younger "Piccolo" version of the choir.

We arrived on time but a small glitch in directions had me missing the parking garage on first pass so wife and daughter disembarked, I found the garage and arrived at the doors just as the Centre was being opened (1:30 pm). Then the waiting began, and continued, and continued ........... finally shortly after 2:15 the doors to the theatre were opened and we settled in.

The performances by the 5 different Youth Choirs were all rock solid, and if the show ran a bit too long well so be it. The highlight, to me, was the performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber's version of the Pie Jesu for requiem mass by the 11-12 year old choir. The piece is heart achingly sweet and perfect for young voices, although it is very challenging.

The rendition featured two soloists, one male and one female. One of the features of this choir is that soloists at the younger levels are not identified until concert day. This is, I suppose, to lessen anxiety. Regardless both soloists performed beautifully, and as the song ended, to great applause, the young girl smiled broadly and gave a distinctive left hand fist pump ......... way cool in my mind. I'd much rather see 12 year old choral fist pumps than major league sports ones any day.

The concert marked the final day as Music Director for Bruce Pullan so the post concert speeching ran too long, the only thing really to mar the day. It was past 5 pm by the time we arrived home, and since we had arranged for a "three family BBQ" we had to move quickly.

Steaks were rubbed, asparagus was bathed in olive oil and lemon zest and garden fresh greens were tossed in garlicy vinaigrette while cold beer and G & T were quaffed. Table and chairs were moved downstairs to the back yard, Malbec uncorked and dinner hit the tables around 7pm.

Dinner was great, the kids didn't lose it and daughter even remembered to do her homework.

With everything packed up, dishes done and duaghter in bed around 9ish I reflected back, through a glass of 15 year old Dalwhinnie, on a very, very good day.

Sorry I forgot to blog in May, but who knows ? Maybe I'll do two, or more, in June.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Things that may grow into a Blog

Very fast because I realized April might pass without a post, and I promised myself not to let that happen, a few thoughts:

1) The NFL Draft happened on Saturday and once again I could care less, except that the G-Man has compiled a list of the best names in the draft and there are some beauties. Among my faves are:

Captain Munnerlyn - 216th overall to the Carolina Panthers, he's no Admiral Dewey Larry but he's close

LaRod Stephens-Howling - 240th overall to Arizona Cardinals

Ramses Barden - 85th to NY Giants

Tiquan Underwood - 253rd overall to Jacksonville Jaguars

Al Afalava - 190th overall to the Chicago Bears

perhaps the best name in the draft was Yemi Babalola who, sadly, went undrafted.

2) The BC election.

It's heating up but the question is will anyone have enough candidates left by voting day ?

3) The NHL playoffs. Many issues including, but not limited to:

Now that Ron Wilson is gone who will get the blame in San Jose ? Answer: Ron Wilson

Will Calgary fire Mike Keenan after a first round loss to hire Brent Sutter, who also lost but at least went seven games ? Answer: Probably

If you aren't on the Canucks bandwagon does that mean you're not a hockey fan ? Answer: Yes, it also means your unpatriotic and probably a terrorist. I still hate the Canucks so there's at least one empty seat on the bandwagon.

4) BC Wine is over rated and certainly over priced. There I said it, that feels better.

All, some, or none of these things may be blogged about in the near future.

Oh, yeah one more thing. In this morning's "You have to pay for it so it must be real journalism" tab Donald Brashear and Darcy Hordichuk were both referred to as NHL tough guys. While I suppose that's true but remember Meryl Streep and Jenny McCarthy are both actresses too.

Friday, March 27, 2009

And Bring me some "New" Wine

There is a moment in Steve Martin's first feature as a star, the memorable 1979 release The Jerk, where the newly rich Navan Johnson is dining out and asks the waiter for wine followed by "and bring me some "new" wine none of that old stuff - the newest you've got". That line, along with "that's all I need", has stuck with me for 30 years.

Last night was a day off, so one of three "family dinners" we enjoy weekly. I stuffed Pork Loin chops with bacon, onion, apple and sage and roasted them. The Chops were served with roasted potatoes, roasted beets and steamed broccoli and a simple mid-week red wine. The wine in question is a Carmenere from Chile Estacion, available in private stores for around $12 and good value. I popped the cork and poured, placing the bottle back down near daughter's seat.

Before I. or wife, could have a sip daughter exclaimed:

Don't drink that wine !

"Why not ?" says wife.

Daughter immediately replied:"It's gonna be awful, it's already 2 years old", the wine label clearly showed a vintage of 2007.

Wife and I explained that unlike milk, or fruit juice, wine can often improve with age and that it was OK to drink this bottle.

Maybe so, but I think daughter is still a bit skeptical. Just wait until she spots me pouring out a glass of 15 year old Glenfarclas.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

More Information than She Needed to Know

It's spring break, which is a notoriously slow week in the restaurant business in Vancouver, so I wasn't entirely shocked to get the mid-afternoon phone call offering me the night off yesterday. I cheerfully accepted as I don't like working slow weekend nights, or busy ones for that matter either but that's another story, but then was left with a bit of a problem as to what to do about dinner.

We are a "one cell phone" family and wife and daughter had headed downtown for a movie "sans" cellphone. As they would be expecting me to be leaving the house around 4pm I had no way of knowing whether they would return home for dinner, taco fixins for two in the fridge, or stop for pizza/WhiteSpot/Earl's whatever. I decided to shop for dinner and then see how things played out.

As luck would have it we all arrived home at the same time, 5:15ish so dinner at home was a go, however plans were delayed by a visit with the neighbours and I didn't get started on dinner until around 6:30. My initial plan to roast a chicken were nixed by my time frame so I de-boned the breast to make cutlets.

The boneless chicken cutlets were dredged in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme and oregano then the cutlets were sauteed in olive oil and butter while broccoli and saffron rice were prepared. While the chicken rested I made a pan sauce and the whole thing hit the table around 7 o'clock.

Daughter was thoroughly enjoying dinner and asked what the sauce was, I said I'd "just deglazed the pan and mounted the reduction" then realized that she had no idea what that meant.

I explained that after removing the chicken from the pan I'd added white wine and scraped the pan to incorporate the carmelized goodness into the liquid, this was then heated to reduce by half and then a knob of butter was added, monte au beurre, to add richness. Once the butter was melted I strained the sauce, adding any juice from the resting chicken et voila.

At this point daughter looked at me as if to say: "so this is burnt bits off the bottom of the pan with boiling wine and fat added to it ?" but actually just said "Gee, thanks daddy, I really didn't need to know that." Sometimes I talk too much, I should've just said it was gravy and left it at that.

On a more sombre note Hammy passed away on St. Patrick's day. Daughter is inconsolable, but getting a bit better every day, seeing her in such true emotional pain is very hard on wife and I but things will eventually return to normal. Already we've come down from "I'll never have another pet again" to "well I don't think I could deal with another hamster".

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Bad, Probably

So it snowed in Vancouver on Sunday, and Monday. While not the exact equivalent of Hell freezing over or the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup it is fairly unprecedented.

Many people were left wondering : "Why would it snow in Vancouver in March ?".

Well actually it was probably my fault.

You see we celebrated Christmas, again, on Sunday so the white stuff may very well be my responsibility.If you recall Vancouver was really covered in snow on and around December 25th so we made the decision that The Grands should not travel down to the coast from the Okanagan. We determined that we'd just wait and celebrate Christmas a little later, well one thing lead to another and a little later ended up being this past Sunday.

It was a great Christmas, no jumping out of bed at 7 am, no myriad of long distance calls, no turkey basting (we had prime rib instead). Grandma and Granddad dropped in around 4pm, we opened gifts, we had dinner, we played Pictureeka, we drank a large whisky and all ended happily.

All in all I really like the Second Christmas concept, but in future we'll try and do Saturday, and not go past Valentine's day so as not to screw up Monday morning commutes too badly.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Barry Bonds is causing people to be Homeless

No, not actually physically but the cost to the US Federal Government for the prosecution of a baseball player who was a steroid user is in excess of $10 million according to every source I can find. The trial is expected to continue another year at least so that number isn't going to get any smaller.

At building costs of $100 per square foot that means that the US of A could've built 100,000 square feet of social housing rather than prosecute Barry Bonds.

So bottom line, the Government of the United States would rather have Barry Bonds in jail than 200 new housing units.

Yeah, I know it's not that simple:

Bonds "lied under oath"

Bonds "cheated the American public" ........... yada, yada, yada.

But really. when the economy is in the crapper and the Governments of the world are handing out trillions of dollars to keep Armageddon at bay, don't you find millions being spent on the prosecution of a baseball an incredible waste of time and money ?

On the positive side of things recent reading about Barry did lead me to find out what an orchidometer is, and No it has nothing to do with flowers.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mexican Buses

We recently returned from 10 days in Mexico, nothing adventurous just Puerto Vallarta, for a much needed infusion of warmth and sunshine.

Among the many differences between Vancouver and Puerto Vallarta are the transit systems. Now I know that the GVRD is a much larger area with more diverse needs than PV but still a few observations are in order:

In Puerto Vallarta the buses run about every 3 minutes well past midnight

In Puerto Vallarta the drivers make change, and calculate multiple fares.

In Puerto Vallarta it is generally unnecessary to be at "a bus stop", just stick out your hand and the bus will stop. Similarly simply pushing the buzzer, or pounding the roof if there is no buzzer, will get the bus to stop pretty much right away.

In Puerto Vallarta the buses often feature live entertainment.

In Puerto Vallarta, on longer routes, food vendors enter the bus at "time stops".

In Vancouver the transit system runs a huge deficit, in Puerto Vallarta the drivers are independent contractors and there are lots of them so I assume it's a money making proposition.

Perhaps a fact finding trip for our Transit Executives is in order.