Tuesday, December 27, 2005

And so this is Christmas

Worked the evening of the 23rd, nice easy pace and home early (for a Friday).

In laws arrived while I was at work so December 24th saw daughter revved up for time with Grandma and Grand Dad. We had decided to have the traditional dinner on the evening of the 24th so as to eliminate one element of stress from Christmas Day itself, so the kitchen was fragrant early with smells of onions, sausage and sage frying for the stuffing assemblage. The bird was stuffed, trussed, oiled and ovened by 1:45 so I felt comfortable in cracking a beer to help with the kitchen clean-up.

Grandma and Grand Dad arrived around 1:30 for a brief visit before whisking wife and daughter off to church for 3 pm service, as a practicing agnostic I observed by prepping veg, spuds and setting the table while carefully selecting the wine for dinner. Upon the family's return at 4:30 we were in good form for six o'clock dining, another beer, a little a la minute on the veg, one explosive gravy incident and dinner hit the table at 6:10.

Our Christmas dinner menu rarely changes:

Roast Turkey
Stuffing (bread based with celery, onion, mushroom,sausage, sage and pinenuts)
Swedish Potatoes ( mashed spuds with minced onion, cream cheese and sour cream)
Brussels Sprouts (parboiled then sauteed with garlic, butter, bread crumbs and gratineed with romano cheese)
Some combo of Brocolli/Carrots/Cauliflower (simply steamed to counteract all the other butter/cream combos)
Cranberry Sauce

This years wines were Kettle Valley Reserve Pinot Noir 2001 - delicious with a little barnyard and a lovely dried cherry finish and St. Francis Chardonnay 2003 - nice in that big in your face Californian style.

Post dinner get daughter into her PJ's, do one round of dishes and then turn out the lights to flame the Christmas Pudding (Grand Dad's secret recipe), served with hard Brandy sauce and strong black coffee.

Throughout dinner daughter kept asking us all if we thought we would be able to sleep (if we really want to solve the energy crisis we need some sort of Monsters Inc. system to wire kids into the power grid in the week preceding Christmas, Easter, Halloween and their birthday) but she finally drifts off around 8:30, after a quick check on Santa's progress on the Norad site, leaving wife and I to wrap and fill stockings and have a nightcap, Bailey's for her - Strathisla for me.

I hit the sheets around midnight and fall asleep almost immediately........then wake up almost immediately at 2:38 am.

Daughter has been awakened by noises on the roof and wants to get up !!!!!!!!

My saintly wife gets up and induces sleep in daughter but at 6 am I am once again awakened, by wife this time, because "I can't hold her back any more".

Christmas morning now joins the "Very short list of things I will get up at 6 am for", along with playing Augusta National, watching the live CBC telecast of the Stanley Cup Parade from Toronto and sex with Uma Thurman.

Coffee is brewed, stockings are ravaged then the presents Santa left "in the tree", then "just one more" before bacon, eggs, biscuits and more coffee. Finally by 8 am the small men with jackhammers in the back of my head cannot be ignored so I go back to bed, wife calms daughter and everyone grabs some shut-eye in advance of the arrival of "The Grands".

Bolstered by 90 minutes sleep I take the role of "Santa" to distribute gifts but it is a futile effort, wife and GrandDad are notoriously slow openers while daughter cannot tear in fast enough and rather than go mad I give up and let a process of natural selection occur.

We survive.

The gifts are all lovely and well thought out as usual, with just enough of the "what the hell am I going to do with that" mixed in to make it interesting. Right around the "I need a drink" time (12:30ish) the R's arrive to save us. 10 year old Olivia and daughter entertain one another, champagne and OJ is served, neighbours arrive and adult conversation ensues long enough for my to regain my grip on sanity. Buffet is laid out and protein brings new energy to battle the high pitched voices and long distance phone calls.

The neighbours, then R's depart, and soon enough it is time for dinner. I offer some options but the consensus is for leftover Turkey/Stuffing/Gravy. I reheat the bird and trimmings while roasting some potatoes and prepping veg, we pop the corks on some cheap Argentinean plonks and dig in. About 10 minutes into dinner (6:30ish) I glance over and notice that daughter is gone - oh she's physically present but she is "gone". Her eyes have glazed over and she hasn't spoken for at least 5 minutes, the tank is empty. Amazingly daughter makes it through dinner without incident then begs for bed, she gets her wish and is out by 7:30. The "Grands" head out and wife and I do dishes, tidy the carnage before nightcaps again and bed by 11.

We survived, and actually except for the "sleepus interuptus" it was a superb day.

Merry Christmas to all and to all ............. a really good night.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Word of the Day

Occasionally words just sing out to me so once in a while I will post a word of the day.

From dictionary.com today's word is:

Sycophant - A servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people.

AKA - a Haskell

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


We all live in worlds with stereotypes and "waiter world" is more rife with them than many.

Last night on a rockin' pre Christmas Monday my second seating on table 16 was a 3 top, two male suits and a female suit. They arrived from a short wait at the bar with one martini in front of them, not one each, I joked about sharing a drink as a good plan at this time of year and they responded with "well of course - HE'S SCOTS", indicating the man with wine list in hand. Sure enough he quickly ordered "Big Californian Chardonnay @ $150" with an accent straight out of the Highlands.

They were an easy table and Highlander followed up the Chardonnay with a well chosen Red for $175 before finishing with a round of vintage ports. Come time for the bill and Highlander asks for 2 bills one with just the food and 1 with just the alcohol........ my spidey senses go off. One of the enduring cliches in my business is the "only tip 10% on the wine" the theory being that the waiter only had to open the bottle and pour, add in the nationality of the gentleman making the request and I'm smelling cooked goose well before Christmas..

There is some validity to the "10% on wine theory", I suppose, but when waiters have to tip out 5-6% that 10% bite is a bit hard to swallow, but I console myself that it will still be $20 in my pocket.

I drop off the 2 bills and sure enough Highlander grabs the beverage bill while female suit picks up the food tab. I run the cards, drop them off and wish them a "Happy Holiday". Five minutes later they stop on the way out to thank me for the service - another cliched "kiss of death" aka "The Golden Handshake". I drop off dessert menus on table 9 and help Ed clear a bit of his large party before returning to 16 for the billfold pick-up and ......... the wine/port bill was $435 after tax and Highlander left me $85, the food bill was $148 and female suit left me $15 - go figure.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Eric Pool

I am happy to announce that no one won the "When will Eric Lindros get injured" pool because no one thought it would take until December 12th for the Big (but not so resilient) E to miss a game.

Our next sports pool is:

What will Harry Sinden buy himself with the money he saved by shipping Joe Thornton to San Jose ?

Please submit your suggestions.

Monday, December 12, 2005

What I Drank Last Week - Volume 1

So the idea behind this is not just to create a record of my considerable alcohol consumption, rather to find some merit in said consumption by offering a professional opinion on the various beverages I taste over a period of time.

First off let me inform you that some of these products will have been "tasted" in my capacity as ❝The WineGuy❞ so don't just assume that I'm throwing back 2-3 bottles a day. I no longer drink for sport so there will be no litany of shooters and Bourbon shots listed. My general consumption is limited to beer and wine, with the occasional Rhumbo or Malt Whisky.

My beer preference is towards Euro Pilsners for quenching and hoppy ales for contemplation, currently my fridge contains 500ml cans of Konig Pils nestled beside McAuslan's St. Ambroise Pale Ale and Shaftesbury Wet Coast Cream Ale. My "everyday" whisky is Aberlour and there is usually a bottle of Balvenie Double Wood and either a Strathisla or Longmorn kicking around somewhere, and my rum of choice is Havana Club 7 year old Anejo. Most of my wine drinking is red and the House Wine currently is the remarkably consistent, and easily quaffable, Shiraz-Malbec from La Chamiza in Argentina at the low, low price of $14.95 per magnum.

Whenever possible I will include CSPC codes for products which are generally available in BC Liquor stores.

I'll open with a rarity - Louis Jadot Cotes de Nuits Villages"Le Vaucrain" 2000 - $38.99 CSPC 250654

This is a rarity in that I rarely spend $40 on a bottle but The BCLDB just recently put a whack of new listings from Jadot on the shelf and this bottle from the moderate 2000 vintage is just right for Christmas drinking or gifting. Medium bodied with lots of red and black berry fruits it has a bit of charcoal in the nose and a nice old world charm. Not cheap but good value for "ready" true Burgundian Pinot.

Cotes du Rhone Perrin Reserve 2003 - $18.99 CSPC 363457

Perrin are solid producers but the prices have been creeping up a bit in the last year or two, this wine is a little light for my preference with more strawberry than red fruits, it is rich on the front end but finishes a bit short and lacks the acidity I like for food pairing. Can't recommend it at $19.

Old Vines Cabernet/Carmenere Dona Dominga (Chile) $12.99 CSPC 359885

A big fruit bomb but with enough backbone to carry food, this is "new world" wine but I enjoyed it enough to pick up a couple more bottles. Lots of berry with a bit of mint and bramble - tasty stuff.

Kettle Valley Cabernet 2003 - $25 winery or VQA shops

For my money BC's best red wine producer is Kettle Valley. This 2003 Cabernet is a little young but I opened one last week to check progress and was not disappointed, it has a nice tannic backbone with red fruit, cherry, spice and leather in the profile. I look forward to drinking more in 1-2 years.

I'll finish off with 2 wines to buy by the case for the holiday season:

Finca Los Primos Cabernet Sauvignon $8.99 CSPC 74245
Finca Los Primos Malbec $8.99 CSPC 632919

These are classic big winery, new world style wines with lots of fruit but enough tannin to carry food. I find them very consistent and great value - I have not tried their Chardonnay ($8.99 CSPC 56382) but based on my experience with the red wines I am sure it will be clean, fruity and varietal true. Perfect buys to have kicking around for when unexpected occasions require extra vino over the holidays.

I will try to publish my "12 buys for Christmas" early next week but a bout of the flu and my daughter being out of school as of 3 pm today may make it tough.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Where were you 25 years ago ?

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the tragic murder of John Lennon.

Regardless of your opinions on his music or life, Lennon was a powerful voice for change and "peace", and his death forever altered our perception of celebrity. Lennon was the first person I recall who was basically murdered because he was famous.

At the time of Lennon's murder I did not fully appreciate the impact the event, or the loss of one man, would have. The night Lennon was killed I was working behind the bar at The English Bay Cafe (long missed), it was a cold night for Vancouver and my friend Ken Kelly came in, obviously distraught, and told me the news. I didn't grieve because I had no relationship with John Lennon. Twenty five years later I look back and feel more deeply about the event because I have experienced loss, the death of my father, and I now have a family so I can identify with the pain that Lennon's wife and children must have felt, and still feel.

There are few "outside events" that have occurred in my life that I can clearly recall my whereabouts, but Lennon's death is one of them. I am older now than John Lennon ever became, and that is sad.

I didn't understand how important John Lennon's death was on December 8th, 1980 but I think I do now.

Where were you ?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Robot Joke

My friend Joanna emailed this joke today:

A man enters a bar and orders a drink. The bar has a robot bartender. The robot serves him a perfectly prepared cocktail, and then asks him, "What's your IQ?"
The man replies "150" and the robot proceeds to make conversation about global warming factors, quantum physics and spirituality, biomimicry, environmental interconnectedness, string theory, nano-technology, and sexual proclivities
The customer is very impressed and thinks, "This is really cool." He decides to test the robot. He walks out of the bar, turns around, and comes back in for another drink. Again, the robot serves him the perfectly prepared drink and asks him, "What's your IQ?"
The man responds, "about a 100."
Immediately the robot starts talking,  but this time about football, hockey, baseball, supermodels, brands of beer, guns, and women's breasts.
Really impressed, the man leaves the bar and decides to give the robot one more test. He heads out and returns, the robot serves him and asks, "What's your IQ?"
The man replies, "Er, 60, I think."
And the robot says... real slowly... "So............... ya gonna vote for the Liberals again?"

It's a pretty decent joke but it got me to thinking...........

How low would the number have to be before the Robot asked him if he was voting Tory ?

Friday, December 02, 2005

R.I.P. David Shaw

Transported this from the old blog:

Saturday, August 13, 2005

R.I.P. David Shaw
Upon return from vacation I was saddened to learn of the passing of one of my favourite journalists. David Shaw wrote for the Los Angeles Times for 36 years as an investigative reporter, media columnist and most recently as a food and wine writer. David Shaw died on Monday August 1st of complications from a brain tumor which had been discovered in late May.

Shaw won the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for his searing 4 part report on the McMartin Pre School Molestation case, a report in which he criticized much of the media including his own newspaper. His constant vigilance against abuse within his own medium was well noted.

"We are in the age of transparency in journalism," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and a former colleague of Shaw's at The Times. "David was the first guy outside washing the windows."

As a food and wine reporter Shaw was passionate without being fawning and never bowed to trends or conventions, his work will be missed and I urge anyone who has an interest in good food, good wine or just good writing to seek out David Shaw's work.

Henry Miller had 3 hands

In his recent review for the Westender, noted restaurant critic and egullet apologist, Andrew Morrison writes "I had no trouble imagining Henry Miller penning his Quiet Days in Clichy at the five-seat bar with a tumbler of Pernod in one hand and an Anaïs Nin novel in the other."

Clever to make it "Quiet days in Clichy" thereby showing us all how literate Mr. Morrison is by knowing that Miller wrote more than "Tropic of Capricorn", "Tropic of Cancer" and "Black Spring" - but how the hell did he pen this novel while holding a tumbler in one hand and a novel in the other ?

That's right folks - Henry Miller had 3 hands.

And they say the quality of print journalism is declining - not when a free community paper can give you insight the way The Westender does.

My new Blog

This is my new blog. I felt constrained by the last blog I contributed to so I thought I'd create my own.

This blog will contain the "What I drank last week" feature plus often "Really good stuff I ate last week", it will also allow me to rant about sports, politics and anything else I want.

I hope to make the "What I drank Last Week" an interactive item where readers will contribute their own tasting notes and general swillage commentary but let's not get too far ahead of myself.

Remember if you don't like my opinions then start your own blog and send me the url so I can mock you without pity.