Sunday, December 10, 2006

Week 14 selections

Busy like mad, Christmas parties etc so I forgot to make my picks so I'll take the only 2 games available and put $100 each on New Orleans getting 7 in Dallas and St. Louis getting 6 at home against Da Bears.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Change their Name

Spent a few minutes last night watching the hockey game, it was the Anti-Christs versus Washington.

There were a few good things in this game:

1) Ottawa lost

2) I Found out that Chris Clark was Washington's Captain

3) Ottawa lost

4) I got to watch "The Real One" - Alexander Ovechkin.

Ovechkin is unbelievable, every shift has something of merit. He plays the game with incredible skill, but more importantly with passion and obvious joy. At times it appears that he is playing a completely different game. One day I expect him to stop at centre ice, tear off his jersey and skin and reveal himself as the alien being he really is.

No offense to Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf or anyone named Staal but there can only be one "chosen one" and he is Ovechkin.

So I got to thinking, since no one besides their mothers, Ed Willes or an NHL General Manager could name more than 3 Capitals ( I got Ovechkin, Olaf Kolzig and Dainius Zubrus) why not change the team name.

Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome your Washington Ovechkins - hell he's the only reason anybody comes to see them anyway.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Quick Post - Week 13

Stunk last week, and then it snowed ........... and I hate snow.

I like Kansas City giving 5 in Cleveland and Dallas giving 3 in New York against Eli (Gee do you think the Giants might want a Mulligan on that deal - "Hey can we just take that Rivers kid instead ?") but it's an under dog year so I'm taking Jacksonville getting 2 points in Miami and Houston getting 3 points in Oakland for $100 each way.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Week 12 Selections

Last Week: 2-0 +$200

Year to date: 10-12-1

Cyberbalance: $2230

Last week's "gutcheck games" came through for me so I should be feeling good - but I'm not. I loved Dallas and KC on Thursday but forgot to place my bets so I'm stuck with a short sheet. Not to worry, it's not real money.

This week I like Carolina over Washington and Cinci over Cleveland but I'm laying my cash on Houston getting 5 1/2 points against the Jets simply because the Jets should never be 5 1/2 point favourites, and the Giants giving 3 in Tennessee because I think the Giants are better than they've looked recently and Tennessee are awful. $100 each.

The sucker bet of the week has to be the 49ers getting 5 1/2 in St. Louis, why shouldn't San Fran win this game outright? - run screaming from the game - Vegas always knows something.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Another Bad Voting Day

Back in August I wrote of the horrible miscarriage of voting which allowed Bruce Sutter to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame, well the "experts" weren't done making bad decisions.

On Tuesday this week the American League Chapter of the Baseball Writers of America proved, once again, that they are idiots by voting Justin Morneau as the American League Most Valuable Player. Now I know I should be happy that a Canadian boy from a small market team was given such a prestigious honour, but I'm not pleased - I'm pissed.

Folks, Justin Morneau wasn't even the most valuable player on his own team (flip a coin between Johan Santana and Joe Mauer) so how is he the MVP for the league ?

Morneau finished in the top 5 of the American League in only 1 major statistical category, RBIs, which is as much a factor of his team mates being on base as anything else. I was shocked at the result but even more shocked that Mauer, a catcher who led the league in hitting, finished 6th and that Jermaine Dye, whose numbers were easily better than Morneau's, finished 5th.

I don't even want to go into the Derek Jeter issue ......... but Jeter was clearly his team's leader and his offensive stats, while playing an extremely difficult defensive position, were outstanding. Jeter was the 2006 AL MVP, no doubt and strangely I think the fact that he is Derek Jeter and plays for the Yankees worked against him. It's too bad because Jeter is a class act and a Hall of Famer whose CV will be missing a much deserved MVP award.

The issue, to me, of an MVP is: Where would his team be without him? Without Morneasu the Twins wouldn't have been as good, without Jeter the Yankees wouldn't have won 80 games.

For the record my ballot would have read:

1) Derek Jeter
2) Jermaine Dye
3) Joe Mauer
4) David Ortiz
5) Johan Santana
6) Justin Morneau
7) Frank Thomas
8) Vladimir Guerrero
9) Grady Sizemore
10) Raul Ibanez

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sunday Night Braise, Monday Night Wheel

The skies have been open here in Vancouver for a long time. It rains most every day, often very hard, and there is no end in sight. The good news is - that means it's slow food time. While I love the grill, I also love the rich flavours of braised or stewed meats, and the occasional roast bird is good too.

Sunday was a braise, in this case blade steaks. Slow food requires a bit more of a commitment, in that you have to get started around 2 o'clock to have dinner on the table by 6:30, but that is just fine for Sunday afternoons. Around 2:00 PM I take the blade steaks out of the fridge and pound a mixture of salt, pepper, flour and rosemary into them, then let them get to room temperature.

Shallots and elephant garlic are sweated over low heat until translucent then removed from the pan and reserved. The temperature is turned up to medium high and the steaks are seared for a minute on each side, then the pan is deglazed with beef stock and red wine.

The steaks are transferred to a big oval Creuset dish along with the shallot/garlic mix and some chopped rosemary. The pan juices are supplemented with about a cup of beef stock, which is brought to a boil, and then poured over the steaks, the liquid should not cover the steaks but should come about half way up the sides. Cover the pot and pop it into a 300 degree oven for about 2 1/2 hours. Take the steaks out and let them rest while you reduce the jus, add a bit of roux and a dollop of sour cream and serve with mashed spuds and your vegetable of choice. Sunday night this was served with a very nice Portuguese Red from Jose Maria de Fonseca - Jose de Souza 2003 which had the perfect brightness of flavour and crisp acidity to work with the rich earthy tones of the braise.

Monday night is often Pizza night at our house. Wife tends to have late meetings on Monday so I make Pizza for daughter and I, with resulting leftovers for:

1) Wife upon arriving home late
2) Daughter's lunches for the week

I used to make my own dough but about 6 months ago I discovered an excellent frozen dough, from Calabria Bakery, at Stongs so I now use that as my dough. Take the dough out of the freezer the night before you are going to use it and leave it in the fridge overnight, in the morning take it out and put it in a bowl somewhere warm with, a bit of olive oil on top. If you remember turn the dough ball a couple of times during the day, if you don't remember don't worry.

Around 90 minutes before dinner I punch down the dough ball, cut it in half, stretch and roll into 2 pizzas (I use rectangular baking dishes) - these will be very thin crust pizzas so go easy on the toppings. I top daughter's wheel with mozzarella/romano cheeses, sauteed mushrooms, pepperoni and spinach. The second pizza changes from time to time but will always have some meat (sausage, prosciutto etc), mushrooms and spinach plus sometimes roasted peppers/pine nuts,,,,,whatever. The second pizza may also use a cheese variation. sometimes fontina, sometimes provolone, sometimes chevre - you get the picture.

First pizza goes into a 475 oven for 20 minutes then transferred to the warming oven (225 degrees) while the second pizza cooks - yes I have 2 ovens, doesn't everyone ? Serve with a green salad and cheap red wine ....... enjoy.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Week 11 Selections

Last Week: 0-2 <$220>

Year to Date: 8-12-1

Cyberbalance: $2030

Well the last 2 weeks I haven't been close, Detroit screws me both ways by beating Atlanta, then losing at home to the 49ers. Thankfully I only bet 2 games each week because I would have lost even more by betting my "I also like" picks.

Strangely there are a bunch of games I like this week, K.C over Oakland, Seattle over San Francisco and Denver over San Diego spring to mind, but I'm going with the "gutcheck" games.

Pittsburgh are dead in the water but playing for pride when Bill Cowher is your coach is a big motivator so I'm taking the Steelers over Cleveland giving 3 points.

The New England Patriots have lost 2 in a row and are danger of being referred to as "ordinary", I don't see them losing three in a row and even though the Packers have played better of late I'm going with New England giving 6 points.

$100 each way - and may the force be with me.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lyric of the Week

"it should be beautiful
and sweet
like watching Soul Train
with Marvin Gaye on"

Philosopher Kings
"It hurts to Love You"
from "Famous, Rich and Beautiful" -1997

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Week 10 Selections

Quick post 'cause I'm busy as all get out right now.

Got pasted last week so try to get back to .500 with $100 each on Baltimore -7 against Tennessee and Detroit -6 against the 49ers, I also like Denver and the Giants, for what it's worth.

Friday, November 10, 2006

And how would you like your Moose done ?

One of my next door neighbours, let's call him Fred, is an outdoorsman in the truest sense. Hunting, fishing, camping, hiking all that stuff in abundance. We joke that if Armageddon comes we're heading straight to Fred's house because we're sure he has enough arms and provisions that we can survive almost anything.

Last week, as I'm arriving home from walking daughter to school, Fred bounds out of his truck and says "Hey, do you want some Moose ?". It appears that he has just returned from picking up the 250 lbs. or so of Moosemeat that was his share of the most recent successful hunt. I gratefully accept and am presented with a package of frozen Moose steaks and another of ground Moose (there is also a side of Sockeye involved but that's another story). I thank Fred profusely and ask him if he knows what cut the steaks are "Nah" he says "he just cuts everything from the loin into steaks", fair enough I think, and toss the steaks in the freezer.

After considerable research I am left with the conclusion that there appears to be no real consensus on how to prepare Moose steaks. Our exec sous at work advises treating it like Bison, but admits to no personal experience with Moose. Various websites offer conflicting reports, some suggest long braise, others short periods of high heat grilling. I forge ahead.

Tuesday morning I take the steaks out of the freezer, by Wednesday morning they are defrosted and placed in a marinade of buttermilk (the buttermilk bath showed up on more than one site) for 24 hours. Thursday morning I rinse off the buttermilk and dry the steaks, upon further examination they look a lot like top sirloin so I decide that I'm going to treat them like top sirloin. The meat has virtually no marbling fat and the colour is almost a bluish tint on deep red. I prepare a marinade of tamari, shallot, dijon, elephant garlic, salt, pepper, red wine and olive oil and pop the steaks in the marinade and back in the fridge - it's about noon by now.

At 7:15 I take the steaks out of the fridge to warm up. At 8:15 I place them in a medium hot pan and saute for 4 and a half minutes per side, then remove to settle while deglazing the pan with beef stock. I place down a bed of onions and crimini that have been sauteed in butter with garlic and rosemary, then finished with balsamic, and slice the steaks and serve over the onion/mushroom combo with a healthy drizzle of pan jus.

The Gods are with me as the steaks are a perfect medium. The meat is not overly gamy but has that hint of "sauvage", it is similar to bison in texture and overall really, really good. Roasted redskin potatoes, baked squash and a very good bottle (Hollick's 2003 Limestone Coast Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon - on sale for $17.99 and a recommended buy) make for a fabulous "Autumn Dinner".

Now do I use that ground moose for ragu, moose burgers or kick-ass moose chili? Be afraid Bullwinkle, I may be developing a habit.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Valdivieso on Sale

One of my favourite Chilean wineries is Valdivieso, and this month the BCLDB has discounted the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (#412858) and Reserve Merlot (#296285) both down about $5.00 to $17.99.

I am very familiar with the Cabernet, and recommend it highly, so last night I grabbed a bottle of the Reserve Merlot 2003 and had it, with Baked Ham, for dinner. The wine is very good, with lots of big red fruits, a little spice and fruitcake and a long velvety finish. This is the reason everyone fell in love with Merlot, it is satisfying without challenging - just a really good glass of wine.

Buy some and enjoy.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Week 9 Selections

Last Week: 2-0 +$200

Year to Date: 8-8-1

Cyberbalance: $2470

Well this is hump week; 8 before, 8 after, and I'm .500 for the year.

I'll start by saying that my pick of the week is Dallas -3 over Washington, there is no way on God's Green Earth that the Redskins are going to cover in this game. Tony Romo is mobile enough to make up for Dallas' weak O-line and the Cowboys' big play guys are making Big Plays, whereas the Redskins are flat out awful. That being said, it's not real money so I'm not betting against my beloveds.

I also like Chicago giving 13 1/2 against Miami, (can you imagine how hard Joey Harrington is trying to induce a hamstring pull right now ?) but the last time I bet da Bears with a big spread they tanked so I'm passing on that game as well.

Instead I'm taking two road teams - Atlanta -5 1/2 in Detroit and the "resurgent" Green Bay Packers +3 in Buffalo for $100 each. I'm a little confused that the line hasn't moved in the Atlanta vs. Detroit game but hey ............ it's not real money so I'm sticking with the Falcons.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Week 8 Selections

Last Week - 2-0 +$200

Year to Date - 6-8-1

Cyberbalance - $2270

Well that was easy - just bet on the two teams from New York. Seriously I seem to do much better when I only pick two games so even though I like Kansas City giving 5 1/2 points against Seneca Wallace, and I also like the Redskins getting 23 1/2 against "Bye Week" (who are those guys ?), I'm going to curb my enthusiasm and bet only two games.

I'm putting $100 each on New England +2 1/2 versus Minnesota because, well their New England and they are getting points, and $100 on Green Bay -3 over Arizona because I don't think Matt Leinart can outduel Brett Favre at Lambeau Field.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Survivor Pool

I knew I shouldn't have said anything !!!!!!!!!!

Idiot !!!!!!! Stupid Jacksonville !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Week 7 Selections

Last Week - 0 - 3 <$330>

Year to Date - 4-8-1

Cyberbalance - $2070

You see, this is why I don't gamble anymore. If I'd really had money on last week's Seattle-St. Louis game I'm sure my head would have exploded.

This week I'm going with the 2 New York teams, $100 each on the Jets -3 at home against the Lions (who can't possibly win 2 in a row with John Kitna at QB) and the Giants +3 1/2 in Dallas (because Drew Bledsoe is going to get sacked 117 times in this game).

As an interesting sidenote I got sucked into a "Survivor Pool", pick one team each week to win outright, you can only pick a team once. This seems like the easiest thing in the world yet after 6 weeks only 11 out of 82 are still alive, and I'm one of them. I was sorely tempted to pick Arizona over Oakland this week, and thus get a win with an awful team and saving a good team for later in the year, but chickened out at the last minute and took Jacksonville over Houston, so look for those "David Carr throws for 578 yards and 5 Touchdown" headlines on Monday morning.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mats gets #500 in Style

Last night the greatest Swedish captain of all time capped off a hat trick performance by scoring the winning goal, shorthanded, in overtime on National TV. It was the 500th Goal of Mats Sundin's career and put the stake in the heart of the Calgary Big Hat's.

I have previously mentioned that had daughter been "son" I would have lobbied furiously for Mats as the given name, and I'm strongly considering re-opening discussions now regardless of gender.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Week 6 Selections

Last Week - 1-0-1 <$120>

Year to Date - 4-5-1

CyberBalance - $2400

Oh the travails of a gambler, my Redskins were never in it so I knew I was down $110 early but Kansas City teased, first looking like outright losers then driving to a first and goal from the seven ........ touchdown wins it and I'm only down the juice...... but no they settle for the field goal and the push. Bastards !

This week the Detroit Lions opened as 1 1/2 point favourites at home but the line has moved a ton ..... so that Buffalo are now giving a point in Detroit, I'm taking the Bills giving a point for $100. So two weeks ago the Seahawks looked like world beaters dismantling a pretty good Giants team, then last week the Hawks looked...... well not so good, I'm still taking Seattle for $100 giving 3 points against St. Louis and finally I'm giving the 10 1/2 points on the road and betting $100 on the Bears over Arizona, in fact I'm betting $100 on the Bears every week until they lose.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Thanksgiving Trifecta

It wasn't supposed to happen like this, our Thanksgiving weekend had been planned out in advance with the anticipation of the Grands arriving Saturday morning. The weekend would entail a dinner out to celebrate published author's birthday (the Grands to babysit) on Saturday, family dinner at home on Sunday and then extended family dinner on Monday at the R's.

Best laid plans unraveled when Grandma got the call for her long awaited elective surgery, trip cancelled. I then completely forgot that no Grands meant no child care for Saturday night and thus dinner out cancelled, so lunch on Friday was hastily turned into "birthday luncheon". All was fine but we were now out of dinner plans for Saturday/Sunday nights and my palate was primed for Prime Rib, which was originally scheduled for Sunday.

Neighbours to the rescue, Dr. H suggested we have a "house dinner" on Saturday night - with Prime Rib, an idea I fully supported. Knowing that the prime rib was set for Saturday and Monday would bring gigantic Turkey I opted for Sunday Ham to complete the festive foods circle.

Saturday was a communal effort of the finest kind, Dr. H took care of beet salad, yorkshire pudding, potatoes and (most importantly) pumpkin pie, from homegrown pumpkins. I took care of the roast and veg (broccoli and cauliflower in cheese sauce).

The 2 bone, four pound roast was rubbed with garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, dijon and rosemary and left to sit for three hours before going into a 450 degree oven for fifteen minutes. After fifteen minutes at high heat the oven temperature was reduced to 325 for an hour then the roast was removed to rest. While the beast rested I added a half cup of beef stock and quarter cup of red wine to the mirepois veg and scraped the roasting pan, then all this was strained into a saucepan, and a knob of butter and an ounce of port were added, then reduced by half to create a jus. The resulting meal was superb, the roast medium rare on the outside and rare in the middle and was accompanied by a killer bottle of 2000 Regusci Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley's Stag's Leap region.

Sunday was baked Irish cured ham, from Armando's, for the three of us along with roasted fingerling potatoes and acorn squash in brown sugar (finished with Tobasco) and a lovely bottle of Bergerac, Chateau Haut Pethus 2004 - $13.95 CSPC#303081. Monday was dinner for 14 at Casa R with mountains of turkey, stuffing, Swedish potatoes, multiple veg/salads, myriad pot luck wines and a finishing touch of homemade pumpkin cheesecake.

All in all, except for the missing Grands, it was a perfect Holiday weekend - so good that I didn't even mind going back to work on Tuesday.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Week 5 Selections

Last Week - 2-0 +$200

Year to Date - 4-4 +$20

CyberBalance - $2520

Well there, that was better, even if I did have to sweat out the Rams win and was blissfully unaware that Cleveland was getting killed early. The bottom line is I went 2-0 last week and have now made $20 through 4 weeks of wagering; which works out to $5 a week, or roughly the same amount I could make assembling Nikes in a third world country.

This week was full of other activities but I still found a couple of games I like. First off I'm taking Kansas City giving 3 points in Arizona because........ well KC has looked pretty good and Arizona have looked like Arizona so $100 on KC. My second pick is just plain stupid but it's time to back my team with more than blood, sweat and curses so I'm taking Washington getting 4 1/2 in the Meadowlands against the Giants........ there I said it Washington +4 1/2 for $100, now I can move on.

I also like San Francisco giving 3 1/2 at home against Oakland and Minnesota giving 6 at home to the Lions but lets just keep it to 2 games this week.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Single Parenting

Well I'm down to the wire, in about 11 hours daughter will fall asleep and when she wakes up wife will be home and my annual week of single parenting will be over. Wife has spent the past week in Houston at her yearly conference so I've been the only adult at home.

It's not a true representation of what real single parents go through, of course. For one thing wife is coming back and for another I take the week off work just to chill and spend time with daughter. Nonetheless I have grown to love this week of the year, where I used to dread it. I spend lots of time with daughter, and prior to her going to school was the principal daytime caregiver, but the mother/child bond is not one that is easily replaced. Try as I might I am not her mother, and never will be, but our relationship is strong (if a bit testy on occasion).

When daughter was 3 or 4 and wife went away I would dread the time, but now that daughter's interests have changed this one week of single parenting is a blast; plus getting to have pizza for dinner twice in five days is a major bonus. Additionally the conference came early this year so I was able to watch daytime playoff baseball, although unable to drink beer while doing so.

The one who suffers in this will be wife, who doesn't touch ground until midnight, because at 7 AM daughter will be all over her, whereas I can finally sleep in for the first time in a week.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Quick Baseball Question

OK - hands up all those who predicted that Boof Bonser would be squaring off against Esteban Loaiza in a playoff game this year.

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Week 4 Selections

Last week - 1-1 <$10>
Year to date - 2-4 <$180>

Current balance - $2320

OK so last week wasn't too bad, the Redskins won big and Carolina continued to suck so I lost the vig.

This week has a lot of big lines (Indy +9, Dallas +9.5), has the Patriots as 6 point underdogs and has a very high number of "home team dogs" (6). I really like Jacksonville in Washington but I'm not betting it for religious reasons, and as much as I'd like to bet against Dallas giving 9 1/2 on the road I'm not sure Tennessee is a top 10 College team so I'm staying away.

I am putting $100 on Cleveland giving 2 1/2 points on the road against "The Raydas" and I'm giving St. Louis one more chance by putting $100 on them to cover 5 1/2 at home against Detroit.

The Last BBQ ?

As fall approaches the grilling season pretty much ends at our house, as "old school" charcoal/hardwood grillers we can't just fire up the gas and have the Q ready in 5 minutes.

Sunday past was possibly the last time our venerable Weber Bulbeque will be in service until April or May of '07, and it was not a disappointment. Wanting to recall all of summer's flavours I sought out some asparagus and leg of lamb and went to work. The lamb was butterflied, bathed in olive oil, rosemary, mint, elephant garlic, pepper, salt and dijon for about 6 hours then brought to room temp before heading onto the grill for 15 minutes to be perfect medium rare. While the lamb rested the asparagus was grilled and all was served with roasted spuds in rosemary and kosher salt.

The meal was accompanied by a very good bottle of Brampton OVR, a South African blend of Cabernet and Merlot in roughly equal parts (about 45% each) with the final addition of 10% Shiraz. The food was perfect and the wine was a beautiful match with hints of clove and raspberries in a medium weight with a big long finish.

If this was, in fact, the last Grill of the summer it was a great way to say goodbye.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Week 3 Picks

Last week: 0-3 <$270>
Year to date: 1-3 <170>

Current Balance - $2330

Ouch, last week was ugly especially since the game I dumped, Minnesota over Carolina, was the only one I actually picked correctly.

This week I'm going with the tried and true "They're too good to be 0 and 3" theory with 2 teams, Carolina and Washington.

The Panthers were a pre-season favourite to go to the Super Bowl and are giving 3 points in Tampa Bay. The Bucaneers have looked awful and I think Carolina wins this one. $100 on Carolina -3.

My other pick is based on a combination of faith and desperation, I am a serious Redskins fan and the thought that they can't cover 4 1/2 points against Houston is too much to bear. There is nothing from the first two weeks to indicate that Washington should beat anyone but I'm still going "Skins to Win". $100 on Washington -4.5.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Week 2 Selections

I'm getting cold feet about the Minnesota pick but I'm going ahead with $100 each on St. Louis and the over 40 in KC vs. Denver.

I'm also going to put $50 on a parlay of the same 2 bets (which will pay $130 if I hit them both).

I also like Dallas over the Redskins but just can't bring myself to bet it, even if it's not real money.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Wine Guy's Wagers - Week 2

Last week - 1-0
Current record - 1-0

Current balance - $2600

I should probably quit now but I'm getting some heat for picking such an "easy game" last week - well if it was that easy everybody would have bet Philly and the line would have moved...... anyway.

I said I was only going to maker "straight bets" but it's my blog so I can change the rules so parlays are in. We'll use standard Vegas payouts 13/5 for 2 game, 6/1 for 3 game - there is no "vig" on a parlay but a push is a loss.

Going forward my picks so far are:

Minnesota +2 at home versus Carolina - the Vikes played smart ball control against a good Redskins team last week and I think Steve Smith will miss another start so I'm taking the home dogs.

over 40 - Kansas City at Denver, this line is based on Trent Green's injury but I like backup Damon Huard and think these 2 teams will combine for at least 41 points.

St. Louis -3 at San Francisco - the 49ers are bad, period. I think the Rams are underrated right now and 3 points ain't much.

I'll decide by Friday which games I'm betting and how much, but right now I'm leaning to $100 on the over, $50 on each spread and a $50 parlay - but things might change by Friday.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Wine Guy's Wagers

I'm 1-0 Baby - that's right the"Wine Guy" is 100% for the 2006 NFL season.

If I was a Vegas Tout I'd be spamming every guy whoever clicked on an on-line betting service and screaming out stuff like:

The WineGuy's "Gold Preferred" Package picks are 100%

and trying to sell yearly subscriptions to my picks and Sunday afternoon halftime phone service for $59.99 .......... hey send me the money anyway, at least until next week when I'll probably go up in flames.

But right now .......... I'm undefeated and my virtual betting account is swollen up to $2600.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


In conversation with McGyver a while back I was asked how my night had been at work. I replied that it had been busy but unfortunately not very profitable, whem McGyver asked why I replied that i had been "Eurod" a couple of times. McGyver's blank stare indicated to me that he was unfamiliar with my phrasing so I thought I would explain.

In the service industry, particularly at the high end, the term"Euro" or "Eurod" refers to wealthy tourists from Europe who decide that 5-8 % gratuities are perfectly acceptable. Many idiots claim that this is not the Euros' fault as "tips are included in their country", this argument is, quite frankly, bullshit. I have travelled overseas extensively and have always made it a practice to familiarize myself with local customs and practices, not just about tipping.

The bottom line is that the Euros who leave 5-8% are either ignorant, insular, cheap or all of the above.

Anyway just an explanation of an "industry term".

Friday, September 08, 2006

New Feature - NFL Football Wagering

I am adding a new feature to the blog: gambling "advice".

When I was single I loved to gamble and even after marriage continued to bet football. basketball, play poker and occasionally go to the track. Birth of daughter put an end to virtually all gambling, I'm even retiring from my rotisserie baseball league at the end of this season (although it appears I actually retired at the beginning of this season), but with the coming NFL season I'm introducing .......... "The Wine Guy's Wagers".

I'm starting the season with $2500 virtual dollars and will pick at least 1 game a week with a minimum $100 wager, straight bets only no parlays, with an assumed 10% vig. We'll see if I make any money (or even have enough to get through 17 weeks). I'm going to use the line as listed in The Vancouver Province.

Anyway here we go, Week 1.

Lots of interesting sidelines this week, Manning vs. Manning, will T.O. ever play etc. but not a lot of "jump out at you games".

I like the Browns over the Saints giving 3 and the Tuxedos(Tennessee) giving 2.5 to the Jets but I'm going to make my pick with $100 on the Eagles giving 5 points in Houston.

There I said it, let the mocking begin.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Jeff George is back

In case you missed it "The Raydas" have signed Jeff George as their #4 QB - many in the sports world are mocking this decision.

Jeff George was a marvelously skilled QB with, arguably, the best arm of his generation ...... but he was hated by coaches, team mates, fans and media alike. You have to be a supreme asshole to be as talented as Jeff George and still not be able to get a job in a league that has no problem giving large cheques to convicted felons but Jeff has been on the outside looking in for 4 years and is now 38 years old.

To the legion of scoffers Jason Whitlock, the supremely talented columnist for the Kansas City Star, sums it up brilliantly:

"Jeff is like the hottest girlfriend you ever had.

Oh, she might've been bat-spit crazy, slept with all of your boyz and is in need of medication, but two or three months after the breakup all you really remember is the great sex, the weekends in Vegas and the two-month, drama-free period when you thought you'd found your very own Halle Berry.

And you know what? Under the right conditions, you'd take her back, and you'd even bring her around your boyz again. But there would be no talk of a serious relationship, no public affection, no contact with your parents, very little kissing, and you'd eat out at Applebee's or maybe Red Lobster on a special occasion.

Don't act like you wouldn't. If you're over 25, don't act like you haven't. This is real talk.

If you go into it with your eyes open, you can milk two or three years of friends-with-benefits happiness out of it, and have the freedom to bag any of her friends without a bit of guilt."

That, my friends is inspired sports journalism.

I have always been a Raider hater but this time I've gotta hand it to them - a stroke of genius,

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Really Good Burger

Burgers are an important food to me, I grew up in small town Ontario and there was no fast food or mass market burgers. On the rare occasions when we ate in a restaurant, holidays or on the road only, I always ordered a burger and was rarely disappointed.

But modern times have conspired against the noble burger: first it was fast food and the comically small cardboard "burgers" that have become standard, then e-coli and Canadian over reaction meant that even at a real restaurant my burger had to be incinerated, then the $50 foie gras and Kobe beef things started appearing (which are, I'm sure, superb but calling something with foie gras and Kobe beef in it a "burger" is like calling Uma Thurman a "single mom" - it's accurate but just wrong). Yes it is hard times for the burger on the restaurant front, but at home is a different story - the burger still reigns.

Wife rarely cooks but she does "grill" and she also makes transcendent burgers.

Yesterday I battled the hordes at the PNE with daughter and dragged my sorry ass home around 6ish, tired, dusty and more than a little thirsty/hungry/grumpy but bouyed by the thought that wife was cooking burgers. A shower and a cold Pilsner took care of much of my woes and the burger took care of the rest.

Wife's burgers are not complex, just lean organic beef, salt, pepper, diced onion and grated cheddar. Wife's grilling technique is "cook 'em for a little while on one side, then flip them over and cook 'em for a little while on the other side, then flip 'em again, top with cheese and cook 'em a little while longer". The resulting, sloppy, pink in the middle masterpiece was garnished with mustard, mayo, tomato, lettuce, avocado and bacon and served on a Kaiser roll with fresh corn-on-the-cob and a bottle of full throttle fruity Malbec.

Forget the Foie gras and Kobe beef, hell forget Uma .......... sometimes all you need is a really good burger.

Dinner in the Back Yard

Last Friday we dined "al fresco" with the neighbours.

It started out with my comment to Dr. A, on Thursday, that wild coho was on sale at Choices (I'm a compulsive "flyer" shopper). Her response was "Well I guess I know what we're having tomorrow night" and I said that I'd already picked up a big fillet. The idea was then proposed for a "house dinner" and agreed upon.

So on a sunny Friday evening we set up our dining room table in the backyard with dinner for 6 adults (neighbour's mom plus visitor from England) while daughter and "almost 3" T-money ate at the plastic picnic table.

Appetizers were edamame from the garden with cold Pilsner. Dinner was grilled coho brushed with garlic-lime butter, fresh Fraser Valley corn and roasted squash (again from the garden), Doctor A and I drank 2003 Riesling Kabinett from Selbach Oster while others drank something red.

Post dinner was a bit of coffee and Macallan 15 while the kids went to bed.

For years I barely knew my neighbours and now we live in a commune, wierd ........ but good.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Stunningly Bad Beer Commercial

OK, it's summer so my TV watching is way down (late nights on the front deck with a cocktail having replaced TV watching with a cocktail).

After all long days, cold beer and re-runs all add up to little time in front of the box.... but the other night I felt like a little mindless tube exploration. At some point a commercial comes on for Kokanee and I am stunned by the level of dumbness this commercial reaches.

Yes, I am aware that beer commercials are not generally a high art form but at least most of them try to have a bit of humour and tell us why we should drink the product. The commercial in question has a parasailing Sasquatch on a waterski, three girls in bikinis on JetSkis, a houseboat with a hot tub and......a leering porn-moustached "Park Ranger" who actually says something like "Hubba Hubba".

The Ad says nothing about the brand except for the tag line "the beer out here"....... "out here" is apparently the mind of a high school senior with a big budget.

Please for the love of God........bring back "Brew".

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Dine and Roll

Last night one of my brethren got beat on a "Dine and Dash", with a twist.

A Dine and Dash is when the guest leaves without paying their tab, in other words when they steal their dinner. The cost of the tab comes out of the servers pocket in most cases, although the labour laws are a little unclear on the true responsibility.

Many restaurants have a "D & D" fund where servers contribute a dollar a shift towards covering these occurrences..... ours does not.

The twist on last night's D & D is that the perpetrator was in a wheelchair. The "Roller" wheeled away and when confronted, 50 yards away, said "Oh, yeah I paid...I gave it to the guy in the jacket (our General Manager)". By the time my "brother in apron" was able to confirm lack of payment the "Roller" was long gone.

Hall of Fame Baby, Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hall of Fame

The Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Bruce Sutter this week, once more proving that Hall of Fame voters are idiots.
After all Willie Mays only received votes from 95% of voters and Ted Williams only 93% - so 5% to 7% of these experts don't think Mays and Williams belong in the Hall of Fame.

Bruce Sutter is, by all accounts, a nice man and was a very good relief pitcher during his 13 year career. Bruce Sutter is not a Hall of Famer, his numbers just aren't good enough. This is the Hall of Fame and should be reserved for the Greatest Players in the game not the "Hey he was the best reliever in the National League for most of the '80's".

There are 4 standard "numbers" systems for measuring Hall of Famer's and Sutter doesn't meet ANY of them. Check out Baseball Reference if you want the details, but trust me Bruce's numbers just don't add up. Okay so there should be exceptions made for players who contribute to "great teams"( the Whitey Ford, Catfish Hunter syndrome) but again Sutter is lacking, having appeared in only one World Series in his career.

Sutter's major points come from leading the NL in saves 5 times, a nice accomplishment but this is ......... The Hall of Fame.

Sutter doesn't belong.

Goose Gossage on the other hand, now there was a Hall of Fame reliever........ and don't even get me started on how Ryne Sandberg is in and Andre Dawson isn't.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Random Heat Wave Thoughts

It is hot here in LotusLand and we're not used to it.

Next year I swear I'm going to study Farmer's Almanac and buy a truckload of fans at Costco in June then flog them on Craigslist at 100% markup and take the month of July off.

I really believe the BlueJays are only a shortstop away from the playoffs. I can't believe JP Riciardi will let this year slip away and hope he can pry Julio Lugo away from Tampa in time to make a run. Barring a trade I think Troy Glaus at shortstop and Hinske back at third is a better alternative than watching Russ Adams airmail throws into the seats a la Uncle Donny.

Why do people ask to sit on the Patio and then complain that it is too hot ?

Summer drinking is a different beast; Malbecs and Pinot Noir rule the "Wine with Dinner" Roost, Rieslings and Chenin Blancs are back on the list at my house and "Dark and Stormys" have replaced Scotch on the rocks as my post dinner cocktail.

My "Dark and Stormy" recipe is: 2 ounces good quality dark or amber rum (Havana Club or Appleton's are just fine) and the juice of one lime shaken over ice until your tongue would stick to the shaker. Fill a tall glass with ice and pour rum/lime mixture over then top with Ginger Beer - repeat until you are convinced that your version of "Day O" is perfect.

Daughter has a new bike - 6 speeds with front shocks .................. yeah Baby !!!!!!!

George passed away, peacefully, on Friday July 21st. he lies in state in a jewelry box somewhere in Daughter's room and has been quickly replaced by Julian.

Michael Peca is a Leaf - I have mixed feelings. On one hand Peca is a very good player who does all the little things that make winners but his acquisition spelled the end of the Eric Lindros era in Toronto and I just have a sneaking suspicion the the "Big E" will stay healthy enough this year to score 30 goals in Dallas.

Sometimes watching a grown man walk into a glass door is the funniest thing you can imagine.

Jean-Claude Van Damme was in the restaurant last night and I'm pretty sure I could kick his ass.

I will try and post more often.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Whisky Watch

I was recently introduced to Grant's Sherry Cask Reserve blended Whisky - BCLDB 171082, $23.70. For this introduction I must say, Thank you G.

I had long ago basically abandoned blended whisky, as I rarely found them to have the depth of flavour I seek from my Scotch, but am happy to return to the blended fold.

Blended Whiskies are the backbone of the Scottish whisky industry, roughly 90% of all "whisky" sold is blended whisky. Blended whisky are composed of "single malts" (minimum 10%) and grain whisky. Much mystery and myth surrounds the % of "malted whisky" in each blend, Johnny Walker Red Label is said to contain 15% with Chivas Regal rumoured to be 50% malt.

The higher percentage of malts leads to deeper flavour as grain whisky is basically neutral. Aging is another component of flavour, blended whiskies rarely carry an age but if they do then that is the minimum age of any components in the blend.

Grant's Sherry Cask Reserve is blended in "first fill" Oloroso sherry casks which provide a lovely amber colour and nice spicy, fruitcake component to the whisky. Served on the rocks or with a splash of water this is a lovely dram and excellent value.

Highly Recommended.

Monday, July 10, 2006

World Cup Recap

Well I was bang on in my predictions, remember I said France would under achieve.

What the Hell was Zizou doing ? I don't believe that anything "new" in the insult department could have come up but if it did then all power to Materazzi for finding it.

England were brutal and will continue to be for quite some time.

Brazil need some rebuilding and quite frankly I don't see a great team out there right now. If I had to handicap World Cup 2010 I'd pick Germany.

The diving has to be eliminated, the bottom line is that a penalty kick is just too valuable at this level for it to be awarded unless somebody gets killed.

Tony Blair wants to field a "Great Britain" team - aaaaaaaah, I don't think so. I'm Scots and I would rather see Germany/Italy/France anybody else win than England so I'm not thinkin' "the lads" will play under St. George's banner anytime lately.

FYI - the "official" final of the Cup Final was Italy 6 France 4, but the penalty kick goals don't count as goals scored by the individual players. Huh ?

Canada is not a soccer nation.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dinner at "Earl's"

Monday night we dined at Earl's.

My mother, yes she's still here, really wanted to take wife and I out for dinner while she was here. My mother likes Earl's, don't know why but she does, so we chose Earl's for the dinner out. Auntie Margarethe was roped into caring for daughter and with Mother, and older sister, in tow we headed out to our local Earls.

It was game seven of the Stanley Cup final so the noise level around the entrance , and bar area, was higher than usual (who the hell goes to Earls to watch a hockey game ?) but I was able to convey our desire for a table of 4 to the hostess who promptly led us into the diningroom. I asked for a free standing table, as opposed to a booth, as I prefer the freedom of my own chair to bench seating and we were given our choice.

Menus are placed, so large that 4 barely fit on the table, and what menus they are - adorned with pictures of young girls just havin' fun. I see no correlation between the menus and a restaurant but that's OK, sister comments that the menus look like "magazine covers in a bad hair salon". Server arrives and takes drinks order, then brings drinks and water in timely manner.

A short discussion ensues as Mother wants Alfredo sauce with Seafood, which sounds easy enough as they have a "Shrimp Alfredo Penne", Pasta A, and a "Mixed Seafood Penne in Spicy Tomato Sauce", Pasta B. I explain to server that my mother would like the "Seafood" from Pasta B with the saucing from Pasta A and no chilis - it takes a while but we get it figured out.

Dinner orders are placed and I ask server for a moment with the winelist, housed in the giant hair salon menu. Server departs and I determine that, since wife and I will be the only ones drinking, a 1/2 litre of red will suffice - 1/2 litre is ordered.

Dinner arrives, wine not in sight. A monstrous bowl of penne in Alfredo sauce with no chilis, a chicken dish for sister, a quesadilla with salad for wife and a full rack, 11 bones, of ribs for me. Tastes are had, wine not in sight, and pronounced fine - more on that later- wine finally arrives. Dinner is finished, my rack of ribs were perfectly cooked yet had virtually no flavour, and monstrous hair salon menus returned for "Dessert Menus". Desserts are ordered by 3 females and a cappucino for me.

Desserts arrive - HUGE all brown presentations of Ice Cream Sundaes and a "chocolate sticky bread pudding" that tastes remarkably like the packaged brownie mix wife uses for kids birthday parties. Desserts are mostly consumed and bill arrives.

1 beer, 1 softdrink, 1 1/2 Litre of wine, 4 entrees (1 pasta, 1 quessadilla), 3 monstrous mounds of ice cream and brownie mix and a cappucino............... $130. That's right $130, now I know the economics of the restaurant better than most but I'm sorry the value just isn't there.

Earl's, and their offshoots, are regularly lauded as shining examples of "casual fine dining", one local writer talks of European restauranteurs falling over themselves to resurrect the concept in "the old country". I have a piece of advise for the Euros - stick with the bistros and trattorias.

Earls felt as tired as an old hair salon and for $130 just nowhere near the value I could have received in any smaller regional restaurant on the Main Street stroll. There was nothing innovative or exciting in the room, time for a change Earl.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Colour Yellow

It was my birthday last week and Father's day on Sunday. My birthday saw a quiet family dinner but Sunday was a bit more of a boisterous affair, wife decided to combine my birthday with Father's day and have an outdoor party for 30 or so, but that's another story.

I arrived home from work Saturday night and toddled into the kitchen for a beer ............ and there they were. Our Dining Room, or Eating Room as we refer to it since Dining Room seems a bit grand, floor was covered in yellow balloons. I was surprised at the quantity but not the colour, you see yellow is my favourite colour, sort of.

I never really had a favourite colour until the day Daughter, about 2 1/2 at the time, asked me what my favourite colour was. Now one thing I can say for certain is that it is pointless to try and explain to a 2 1/2 year old that you don't have a favourite colour, so I arbitrarily chose yellow. Ever since that day yellow has been my favourite colour, and it will be forever I suspect. I now own yellow shirts and socks and now a lovely yellow tablecloth whereas before I had virtually no contact with yellow.

The funny thing is I really do like yellow and it may, in fact, be my favourite colour.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Random Thoughts

My Mom is in town for the next three weeks so my blogging will be even spottier than usual, having a 147 year old Scot underfoot leaves little time for writing. I've got a couple of minutes now as I told her I saw a quarter in the next door neighbour's yard.

1) I've stopped "The Marj Watch" - it's just not as much fun when the guy is unemployed.

2) What kind of odds could you have got in September on an Oilers-'Canes Stanley Cup Final

3) Newspapers are referring to "trendy Whyte Avenue" - c'mon it's in Edmonton.

4) World Cup is fast upon us. I'm going way out on a limb and taking Brazil, I also expect Italy and France to under acheive and Spain to finally do something.

5) I haven't had the heart to tell Ed that Ireland didn't qualify - but at least I haven't made him bet on Ireland yet either.

6) June just got better, my birthday, Father's Day and now ......... Pilsner Urquell King Cans are on sale.

7) Butterflied Leg of Lamb on the Weber with Pinot Noir.

8) I can't believe Ricky Williams didn't sign with the B.C. Lions - c'mon Ricky go to the source.

9) George and Ben are still alive.

10) Bodegas Piqueras, Marques de Rojas Almansa - CSPC#317008, $9.99 - 100% unoaked Garnacha Tintorera (Grenache), nice deep purple colour with a bit of black pepper/cassis and just a touchy of minty, sage on the back end. Very good with grilled ribs or chicken.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Marj Watch

As previously mentioned local media guy Bob Marjanovich has taken to publishing his SportsAction picks in The Province. We're keeping an eye on things.

Through Sunday May 28th

2 for 9 .

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A New Standard for Leaf Mocking

As a Leafs fan I am constantly mocked about the fact that our last Cup win was in 1967. While this is all well and good it should be noted that two of the more vocal mockers in my life are fans of the Boston Bruins (last win 1972) and Philadelphia Flyers (last win 1975).

So I have adopted a new standard for Leaf mocking. Currently Chris Chelios and Steve Yzerman are the NHL's longest tenured veterans, both having entered the league in the 1983-84 season. The new standard shall be that unless your team has won the Cup while any player still playing was active you may not mock the Leafs "lack of Cup", there are still lots of Leaf mocking possibilities but if you haven't won the cup since 1984 I will not tolerate any '67 mocking.

So Flyers, Bruins and Islanders fans I'm sorry your "Cup mockings" have no merit.

As for Senators (1923) and Vancouver (Millionaires 1915) fans - please forgive me but piss off, if you haven't won the Cup since before the introduction of "talkies" I have no time for your pitiful bleatings.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Random Thoughts

Montenegro has voted to exercise its' independence from Serbia - so how will this affect their World Cup entry ?
Perhaps they could work out something with Trinidad and Tobago, maybe"Trinidad and Montenegro" and "Serbia and Tobago".
Weren't "Trinidad and Montenegro" a salsa act in the early '70's ?

Based on my superb record in the Stanley Cup playoffs I may not make my World Cup predictions until after the games are played. I don't like Scotland's chances any less this year than in the years in which they actually qualify.

Local media expert Bob Marjanovich (shouldn't he be "the Marj" not "the Moj") has taken the brave route of publishing his daily SportsAction picks in "The Province" - yesterday he was 0-3, I'll keep you updated.

Scientists have confirmed that HIV started with wild chimpanzees in a remote corner of Cameroon, which brings back Frank Zappa's immortal quote "Who plooked the green monkey ?".

I hate to say anything nice about the BC Liquor Distribution branch but they have a pretty cool online service which lets you find out what stores in your area carry products you are looking for. Just go to and click on "search for products by store", type in the 6 digit CPU in the box top right and it will tell you which stores carry the product and how much they have on hand. Excellent for tracking down the Bonarda.

BrokeBack Mounties.

There's a nice BBQ red on sale, until Sunday, at the BCLDB this month - Redbank Long Paddock Shiraz/Cabernet, CSPC#556811, $12.99 (regularly $14.99). The wine has a better acid backbone than most Aussies of the same price point and is a good compliment to red meats off the grill. Check out the supply at your local at

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Oops - 0 for 4

OK I took the collar - three out of the four I could rationally see happening but I wouldn't have given Carolina any hope at all over "Joisey".

I'm not going to try and call the semis but I gotta believe somewhere in the NHL head office there are virgins being lined up to sacrifice to prevent a Buffalo-Edmonton Final. What a blockbuster that would be for the media.

On a couple of side notes - I will be pulling for Edmonton to try and bring the cup North of the 49th. Had the Senators been the only Canadian team left I would have been the biggest Carolina fan in Canada - OK the only Carolina fan in Canada.

Oh and hey "how 'bout them Sens" - once again the paper tigers are bounced by a "lesser" team, and boy did Daniel Alfredsson look great as a pylon while the legendary Jason Pominville went around him to score the series winner. Hey Alfie - those 2 goals were the same number as that renowned leader Petr Nedved notched in this year's playoffs. At least Sen's management is vowing not to make any major changes so we have another spirited playoff from the nation's capital to look forward to next year.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda

That's right - Bonarda.

On Sunday night to accompany wife's requested Mother's Day Cheeseburgers (God I love that woman) we had a bottle of unoaked/unfiltered Bonarda from Argentina. The wine was just what I thought it would be: ripe, juicy with black fruit, cassis but a little less spice than I'd hoped for. The wine was perfect with the beefy burgers and would, and maybe will, go nicely with lamb sausage on the grill.

But what is Bonarda you ask ? Well it got me to thinking, and googling. My initial thought was partially correct as I remembered Bonarda being used in Eastern Spain and Italy - which it is, or is it ? Further research revealed that the Bonarda used in Piedmont may, in fact, be misnamed Croatina and that the Bonarda in Argentina is thought by many experts to actually be Charbono.

So is this really Bonarda I drank ? Who knows, but it is a fruity well balanced glass of fun AND the #1 grape grown in Argentina - whatever it is.

Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda 2005 CSPC#369066 $12.95 - medium bodied with lots of ripe, but not over ripe, blackberry and cassis, a bit of chocolate, a bit of spice kinda like California Zinfandel used to be. Not great value for the price but worth a buy for a weekend BBQ just to be able to say "Yeah, I brought the Bonarda". Oh yeah and Colonia Las Liebres means colony of hares so that's why there are cartoon rabbits on the label.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Hearts Win

It wasn't easy, it never is with this team, but on Saturday Hearts of Midlothian prevailed over Gretna to win the Scottish Cup for the seventh time.

The game went a full 120 minutes before Hearts were able to prevail 4-2 on penalty kicks and put an exclamation mark on a strange and wonderful season. Under the new ownership of Lithuanian gazillionaire Vladimar Romanow Hearts not only won the Scottish Cup but qualified for next year's Champions League. Romanow also fired 2 or 3 head coaches (it's tough to keep track), is being sued by the agent of one of his better players, alienated the team's top scorer and claims that it was a "conspiracy of the parasites in the game" that denied Hearts 1st place in the SPL.

Should be an interesting upcoming year.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Fearless Playoff Predictions - Round 2

Western Conference

San Jose vs. Edmonton

I would much rather have seen "The Battle of Alberta" but this should be a great series regardless. I think the goaltending is about even but San Jose has a lot of firepower and Marleau seems to be on a mission.
Sharks in 6.

Anaheim vs. Colorado

Anaheim looked very solid in round 1 and I didn't see one minute of the Colorado-Dallas series BUT I clearly remember what happened the last time Colorado acquired an unhappy Hab goalie late in the season.
Avalanche in 7

Eastern Conference

Ottawa vs. Buffalo

Have I mentioned that I hate the Senators ? Start at the Fairgrounds and end up at the National Art Centre ? I hope not, but I don't like Buff's chances against a clearly better team. I'm holding my nose.
Senators in 6

Carolina vs. New Jersey

Yeah I know they've gotta lose sometime, and they won't sweep, but Marty's on a mission and the Boys from the Swamp look like world beaters.
Devils in 6.

That would set up Joe Sr. vs. Joe Jr. on one side and Marty vs. a bunch of "snivelling haven't won anythings" on the other side, I think you know which way I'd be leaning in the East.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

5 out of 8, but really 5 1/2 out of 7

OK so I'm not Kreskin but I did call the Oilers upset of Detroit.

As for the title of this post, well I was shaky on Calgary so I'm giving myself a half point there. Also had I really known just how shitty the Flyers were I never would have picked them to beat anyone, even whiny Lindy, so I'm taking a Mulligan there.

I'm going to spend at least 3 minutes analyzing the second round matchups before making any predictions - but I can already tell you I love Jersey.


I have served thousands of people over the years, and handled my fair share of celebs (Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford and of course Vanessa Williams spring to mind), but last night I was in the presence of true greatness.


Yes "The Killer" sat and dined in my section last night and I was as giddy as a wee girl. Putting things in perspective I am a lifetime Leafs fan and Doug Gilmour led the Leafs during their last true run (back to back Conference Finals in '93 & '94). During those two seasons Gilmour may well have been the best player in hockey, amassing 238 points over the combined regular seasons and a mindboggling 63 points in 39 playoff games, but "Killer" was more than the numbers.

Gilmour led by example, and often it appeared that he willed his team to win, veteran Leaf Ken Ellett once said about Gilmour that "he played so hard it made you embarrassed not to play harder". Sadly Ellett's skate was the object Wayne banked his game winning goal off of in game 6 of the '93 Conference final - a game he shouldn't have been in after cutting Dougie in the chin on Kerry Fraser's worst day ever, but that's another story.

Killer took the tough face-offs, killed penalties and often appeared to log 30 minutes a night, but that's unlikely - Hell he was named the league's best "defensive" player in a season in which he amasses 127 points. So how can you score 127 points, be the league's best defensive player and not win the MVP you ask? That too is another story.
Gilmour wore the C after the trade of Wendell Clark in '94 and it was a sad day for me, and all Leafdom, when he was traded (ironically along with Ellett) to New Jersey after the '96-'97 campaign.

Irony continued when Gilmour suited up for Chicago, and scored, in the last game ever played at Maple Leaf Gardens and then there was the bittersweet trade day reacquisition of a 39 year old Killer in 2003, only to have him blow out his knee in his first game back - at least he retired as a Leaf.

I don't know about heros but if I could've sat down for beers with any 2 sports figures of my generation it would have been the late Thurman Munson and Doug Gilmour - and last night was probably the closest I'll ever come.

As he was leaving Killer stopped to thank me for the evening and I replied "thanks for '93 - it made it okay to keep being a Leafs fan".

Monday, April 24, 2006

First "Q" of the Year

After spending 40 minutes scrubbing out the venerable Weber Bulbeque we were richly rewarded last night.

Rib eyes (1 1/2 inch thick Uruguayan free range from Stong's) wet rubbed with extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, kosher salt, cracked pepper, elephant garlic and mustard powder, grilled at excruciating heat for 4 minutes per side then left to "relax" for 5 minutes created perfect MR. The steaks were accompanied by roasted red skin spuds and grilled asparagus/bell pepper combo (Broccoli for daughter who still eschews asparagus) and partnered with 2004 Reserve Carmenere from Cremaschi Furlotti (Chile). All that while basking in warm sunshine with a view of the North Shore mountains.

Daughter may have turned the corner on beef, which she has previously been ambivalent to, in that she hoovered her portion of steak.

If you have never experienced free range, grass fed South American beef before this is a good week to experiment as Stong's has RibEyes on for $5.99 a pound.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Fearless Playoff Predictions - Round 1

OK, everybody else is making their "expert" projections on how the first round of the playoffs will come off, including that damn monkey, so here we go.

Western Conference

Edmonton vs. Detroit

Not one to be shy I'm callin' the upset right here, right now. There is no logic behind this except that Manny Legace leaves me cold and I figure the boys from Edmonton deserve a break. Roloson gets hot, the Red Wings nagging injuries throw them off and the Oil prevail in 6.

Colorado vs. Dallas

A few years ago this would have been the premiere matchup of round 1, now..........Meh!. I don't get too excited by either of these teams but I'll take Dallas in 6, with Turco being the difference,

Anaheim vs. Calgary

Something about the Ducks scares the crap out of me, all that speed and solid goaltending plus Burkie sitting in the executive suite biting the heads off whippets. Also the Flames have been less than impressive lately and Jerome appears a bit confused - still they have "The Kipper" and that might be all they need, I'm cautiously picking Calgary in 6.

San Jose vs. Nashville

I love the Sharks, everything from Joe Thornton down to the excellent use of Teal in their uniforms. The goaltending in San Jose might be a little suspect but I think they just have too much depth up front to succumb to the Preds. San Jose in 6.

Eastern Conference

Tampa Bay vs. Ottawa

Let me start off with the caveat that I hate the Senators, I mean I hate them - they drone on and on in the media about how great this team is and they have won NOTHING, plus I'm pretty sure Alffie is a little light in the loafers. Regardless of my hatred of them I don't think Tampa's got the goaltending so I'll hold my nose and take Ottawa in 5.

Montreal vs. Carolina

I used to hate the Habs but now I just don't care. The "experts" all love Montreal in this series but I just don't see why, Carolina in 6.

Rangers vs. Devils

2 words folks............ Martin Brodeur. It's been a nice renaissance in MSG this year with Jagr and Lundquist et al but New Jersey are hotter than jerk chicken and Marty is stronger than Kryptonite - Devils in 6.

Philadelphia vs. Buffalo

This is truly my "who cares" series - neither of these teams are good enough to win the cup but somebody has to win this series, I'll take Philadelphia because Lindy Ruff is too much of a whiner to win - Philly in 6.

There it is folks - guaranteed, unless I go 0-8 in which case I'll just hit the delete button.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Tale of Two Swedish Captains

As my beloved Maple Leafs stumble to the wire, about to come up empty in the quest for the cup for the 39th consecutive season, I am at least compensated by viewing Mats in all his glory.

I joke about the fact that were daughter's gender not female she would have been named Mats Sundin but the truth is that although he has not lead us to the promised land Mats has been a truly great captain. He never ducks a question, stands tall, leads by example and appears to be the unquestioned leader of his team. On more than one occasion I have heard him state the obvious in interviews "we weren't good enough tonight" and it always seems evident that he is taking personal responsibility for the Leafs shortcomings, which must create huge therapy bills.

The Leafs went into the tank in January/February when Brian McCabe was hurt and the puzzle pieces fell apart however since March 1st they provide an interesting contrast to the local squad. In the 20 games each team has played since March 1st the laughable Leafs have earned 25 points while basically playing for pride, whereas the "Parade route runs down Georgia" Canucks may have wasted a playoff opportunity by picking up 17 points.

As to the two Swedish Captains - Naslund has towed the "Happy Valley" party line well in interviews and picked up 4 goals and 15 points overall as opposed to Mats who has managed 16 goals and 29 points.

So since neither team has any chance of winning the cup this year I'll take solace in having the better Swedish captain - and don't bother mentioning that guy in Ottawa - this is a tale of two cities not three.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Stuff that may Turn into a Post - Part 1

A friend of mine, who gets well paid to write his thoughts down, uses this technique quite often, and quite well. Basically these are things that I'm thinking about but am either too busy or too lazy to expand into a full Post.

1) Friendly Fire is a bad term.

2) Was anyone really surprised to discover that FireFighters were sexist and misogynistic ?

3) Referencing point 1 - here's a news flash ....... Soldiers get killed.
I am sad to see anyone die young for any reason but the bottom line is that soldiers face the possibility of violent death as a matter of course. My father spent 32 years in military service so I have a bit of insight into this. Canadian peacekeepers being killed in Afghanistan and US Marines in Iraq are terrible losses but they are the nature of the beast.

4) The NCAA tournament produced a ton of brilliant games ........ until the Final Four when all 3 contests were over early.

5) Neither the Leafs or the Canucks have any chance of winning the Stanley Cup - the difference is that the Leafs, and the media, have acknowledged it.

6) B.C. Wines are getting way too expensive. I recently purchased a batch from Kettle Valley, whose wines I love, at $35 a bottle. Thirty five dollars is a lot of money for wines which have little track record of cellaring, but Mission Hill has upped the ante by offering "Occulus" at $50 FOR THE ADVANCE PURCHASE PRICE - thats right pay your $50 now and wait until September to receive the wine - no barrel tasting available. If you want to wait until release date the price goes up to $60 "if there is any available" - I'm betting there will be some available.

7) David Emerson will run for the NDP in the next Federal election.

8) GSM - stands for G'Day, Sheila, Mate not Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre as commonly believed.

9) Baseball has started and RedSox Nation are gushing already.

10) I hate my Rotisserie league team.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

George and Ben

Well they have survived for 11 days so I fell confident to write about them,

George, orange tail, and Ben, silver tail, are 2 Japanese Guppies who have stolen daughter's heart. As daughter is now seven years old, and dying for a pet, we decided to let her invest some of her birthday cash in the acquisition of 2 fish. Fish were chosen because of their, relative, ease of care plus the fact that they have short life spans and do not leave hair around the house.

On Saturday March 11th wife and daughter set out, after skating lessons, for the pet shop and purchased - bowl, rocks, food, net, cleaner, a lovely plastic sea plant and ............ George and Ben ($38 all in). Do not ask "Why George and Ben?" because I have and there is no logical response.

Around 2 pm on said Saturday daughter dashes into the house with a plastic bag containing her new pride and joy. Soon, happily ensconced in their new world, George and Ben are demonstrating - at least to daughter - their talents. Daughter assures me that "they already know their names" and will perform such tricks as "George, swim around the bowl" at her command.

Neighbours are summoned to view the glory of G & B while phone calls to dignitaries are sent off to announce the blessed event. The date of acquisition - "My fisshies birthday" is marked on the calendar (so that we can celebrate next year), and the chosen ones are moved from room to room in the house before finally settling in daughter's bedroom. The first night daughter has trouble sleeping but things are gradually returning to normal - in fact when I asked her this morning if George and Ben had been fed I got "Nah - why don't you feed them Daddy" - ah the joys of parenthood.

C'mon Ben - swim this way.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Air Care

I took the car through AirCare this week.

This is an annual rite of passage for those in the Lower Mainland (bi-annual for vehicles after 1992). You spend 30 -45 minutes in line and having your vehicle tested, pay $23 per year and the environment gets cleaner, great in theory............. BUT IT'S A JOKE.

Last year our venerable Toyota failed miserably and we figured "well that's it" but the car still runs fine, burns a litre of oil a month, and we only put about 5000 K a year on it. I was bemoaning our fate to neighbour McGyver who says "well let me see what I can do".

So McGyver cleans out a filter, adjusts the timing so that the car runs horribly and disconnects a hose - the result ...........

Pass with flying colours.

The car runs just fine for another year. This year McGyver spends 10 minutes under the hood, disconnects the hose again and the car runs miserably to the AirCare station where it once again passes easily.

Bear in mind this is not some black smoke belching beater - the car is just old and as such, according to my mechanic, the government wants it off the road. I might feel bad except that if I lived in Kelowna or Kamloops or anywhere besides the Lower Mainland I wouldn't even have to go through the whole process.

Of Course We Lose to Mexico

In a classic illustration of all things Canadian the men's baseball representatives to the World Baseball Classic, the singularly least interesting sporting event I know of, lose to Mexico.

Not to take anything away from Mexico, who has a strong baseball tradition and its' own professional league, but after defeating the prohibitive favourite Americans all Canada had to do was win or give up less than 3 runs in a loss to advance.

The final was 9-1 Mexico so, barring a South African victory over Roger Clemons, the Canadians will all be heading back to their respective pro teams tomorrow. At least it gave us one more chance to watch Stubby Clapp.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Oscar Night

In the end they just couldn't do it. The saga of the two gay sheepherders was denied by the Academy and the Oscar handed to Canadian Paul Haggis's study of racial tensions in The City of Angels.

Asian Pot luck, a few laughs with friends and Canadian content on the last 2 "Best Picture" Oscar winners, Haggis wrote the screenplay for "Million Dollar Baby", added up to a good evening.

My tension level will be high this week as Hearts prepare for their Scottish Cup Semi-Final tilt against cross city rivals Hibernian this coming Saturday. But everybody is in the same boat so I shouldn't complain.

I mean everybody else obsesses over Scottish Football don't they ?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Trouble comes in threes so what's next ?

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Secret Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To you, The Seekers, I pass the torch.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 10, 2006

BC Reds

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

The results:

The game was bad

The Chili was excellent

The toast was slightly underdone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Vancouver Moment

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

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

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Random Act of Kindness

Last night at work an unusual event occurred.

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

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

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

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

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

"Sure" I reply, a bit taken aback.

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

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

"That's a lovely gesture" I remark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Problem with Parker

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think globally - drink diversely.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Stuff I drank Recently - or the good the bad and the Candidato

I have had very mixed results in my latest quaffings but some highlights, and low lights, are listed below.

Jumilla Juan Gill GOS Monastrell 2004 - big fruit bomb from a Parker fave, this wine will get more play in my house during summer grilling season but certainly worth having a couple of bottles kicking around now - BCLDB #195834 $12.99

Jumilla - Hijo de Juan Gill 2003 - the big brother of the above wine and it is huge - tastes like they crammed 2 bottles into one, huge red fruits but good length and carries robust food well. Might be a tad overpriced at $24.99 but still worth the buy, a drink or hold wine. BCLDB #195859.

Jumilla - Panarroz 2003 - made by the famous Bodegas Olivares this is another Parker fave, with lots of silky fruit and soft tannins, of course it's a Parker fave because it retails for less than $7-9 in the US, at $15.90 here I'm on the fence for value but it is a beautifully crafted "New World" red. BCLDB #198879.

3 good Spanish Reds so I pressed my luck on

Candidato Bodegas Martin Bujandez Tinto Oro 2002 - awful, stinky no fruit and we couldn't even finish the bottle. One week later I saw that it had been reduced in price to $7.99 but even at that price it isn't worth it. BCLDB #523811

Speaking of price reductions the benevolent MotherShip has done a few 25% mark downs this month but for the most part they aren't really worth the money even after discount ( see comments for more buyer beware) but a couple of wines worth buying are:

Ribiero del Duero Crianza 2001 - Legaris - this boutique end of the giant Codornui company produces lovely "New World" Tinta Fina and is on sale for $18.99. BCLDB #114108

Douro Esteva - Ferreira 2001 - nice soft tannins and black fruits make this a very nice everyday quaffer on sale for $9.49. BCLDB #537126

And for the big ticket:

Rioja Gran Reserva - Marques de Riscal 1998 - from one of Rioja's great estates this wine is drinking superbly now and will hold nicely for another 2 years (but better now I think), complex aromas of cedar, spice and ripe red fruits with a still evident backbone of American Oak and a long, almost dusty finish. This wine cries out for grilled meats or Sunday roast and is a steal at $39.99 ( I hardly ever call $39.99 a steal). BCLDB #476523.

On another interesting sidenote I recently drank white wine with dinner, Raclette which deserves its' own post:

Pfaffenheim Riesling 2003 - 2003 was the record hot weather vintage in Europe and this riesling is a good example of bone dry Alsatian white. Lemon peel and vaseline on the nose this wine has excellent weight and lovely minerally, smoky, apple-lime flavours. It was great with the raclette and would also be great with roast poultry or spicy Asian dishes.

Enough for now, I have to phone Pete's daughter to have her tell me where "Daddy hid the Note Bene" before Sunday.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Election Day Dream

It is federal election day here in Canada and a dark cloud looms over the land. The forces of Sauron, oops I mean the Conservative party, appear poised to rip power away from the old King and turn Paul Martin into this generation's John Turner.

The stench of corruption from the Gomery report seems to outweigh relative prosperity, a balanced budget, and the fact that many of the Conservative candidates wear hooded white robes to late night party meetings. It seems certain to me that we will soon be lead by a man whose major political move in the campaign was to wear a turtleneck - but I have a dream.

In my dream the Tory minority must rely on the vote from a single independent MP on a non confidence vote. Playing the role of Chuck Cadman in this scenario will be Svend Robinson. Svend, having triumphed over Hedy Fry by a single vote because Hedy and her secretary forgot to vote while shoe shopping, has left the NDP caucus because Jack Layton has insisted in changing the party name to "The Pirates of the Caribbean" and taking to referring to himself as Cap'n Jack aaargh.

Oh to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.

I'll post about wine a little later this week.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

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 today's word is:

shill - One who poses as a satisfied customer, or an enthusiastic gambler, to dupe bystanders into participating in a swindle.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Corned Beef

It has been raining for close to month now here in Vancouver, daughter is hoping for a few more days to break the record but I could use a little sunshine and blue sky. Since I have no control over the weather I did the next best thing - comfort food.

In the grand pantheon of comfort food I suppose Pot Roast is King, closely followed by meatloaf, roast chicken and, in my mind, Corned Beef. I'm talking real "old school" corned beef brisket that has been properly brined by a good practitioner. Much to my delight my weekly search of Stong's website found Corned Beef on sale for $2.98 a pound, so Tuesday morning found me deep in the heart of Dunbar plucking a 2 1/2 pound piece of Corned Beef and scurrying home, after a pleasant chat with Stanley Q. Tuesday was a work night but Wednesday would be Comfort Food Night.

One of the things necessary, in my mind, to make a dish a "comfort food" is simplicity. Nothing could be easier than Corned Beef, once you have found a reliable supplier the cooking process is the essence of easy - just rinse off the brine and cover the beef in boiling water and simmer for about an hour per pound. That's it.

When I was a child my mom would add cabbage to the simmering beef water for the last while and serve corned beef, cabbage and boiled potatoes, the classic "Boiled Dinner". Times have changed and boiled cabbage and potatoes do not suit the palates' of wife or daughter so I compromise with mashed Yukon Gold spuds and broccoli in white cheddar sauce. Dinner was superb, with daughter scarfing down beef (au naturel) and broccoli with reckless abandon while wife and I add horseradish/mustard cream to our beef and consume with equal gusto.

Another prerequisite of "Comfort Food" is that leftovers must exist and be enjoyable. The 2 1/2 pound Corned beef left easily a pound of leftovers which have since been coupled with scrambled eggs and onions for breakfast as well as being thinly sliced for sandwiches.

Incidently the total cost of this meal was less than $12, including all condiments and saucing, which is less than it costs Cactus Club to produce 3 burgers, PLUS I had leftovers. Of course my purchasing power is a bit better than a multi-million dollar restaurant chain. Either that or the math in the recent Vancouver Magazine article is a little off (40%+ food cost?).

Saturday, January 07, 2006

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 today's word is:

Quisling - A traitor who serves as the puppet of the enemy occupying his or her country.

[After Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945), head of Norway's government during the Nazi occupation (1940-1945).] is slightly wrong, in that Quisling wasn't actually the head of Norway's government from 1940-45, but was the guy who welcomed the Nazis with open arms and declared himself the head of an ad hoc government that lasted only 5 days. Quisling was appointed "Minister President" in 1942, a position he held until his arrest, and subsequent execution, in 1945.

Wow - how big a traitor do you have to be to have your name become a eponym for traitor !!!!!!!!!


I transferred this post from my old blog because someone at work last night asked my opinion of neophyte wine collectors. This pretty much sums it up.

Okay, I'm a bit sensitive about the wine issue, check out my "name", but the new generation of "wine abees" are starting to drive me nuts.

A classic example occurred on Tuesday night, 4 men in for dinner start off with some beers and then buddy starts spouting about how "their corporate lawyer" is the same one as Mission Hill and bring them a bottle of "Occulus". Bottle arrives, I open, sample and decant then buddy tells me not to pour as he wants the wine to breathe for a while, this immediately sets off my "wine idiot" alarm - if you really want the wine to breathe then the best thing to do is pour, but I defer.

Buddy then regales me for 2-3 minutes about how he now buys "Occulus" by the magnum to keep in his cellar, and how his cellar had to be reinsured last month because the value had gone up so much. I ask him what he likes to collect and he is a bit slow to respond with "meritages and shiraz" but no examples other than the aforementioned red wine whose made up name sounds like a bad Roman Emperor. I comment that the magnums are a good idea for longer aging, blank stare then a "yeah sure".

Dinner is ordered and just before it arrives I check back to see if another "Occuli" will be required. Buddy says no - can he see the winelist again, I bring it and he hems and haws before finally asking me about a certain meritage in the $100 range. As it happens I had tasted the wine less than a month prior with the winemaker and we had both agreed that the wine was going through an awkward phase, in fact our sommelier and I had discussed taking it off the list for a while, I told buddy that I wasn't crazy about the wine at this time and drew his attention to a superb Merlot from a very small producer the same area for $95 that was drinking brilliantly. No, No No says buddy, nobody drinks Merlot anymore (another "Sideways" moment) and furthermore I was wrong about the Meritage,

So I bring the Meritage, open, sample and decant while Buddy waxes on about how great it is and "Do I care to sample", I do - it still tastes awkward and I tell him so, the fruit/acid balance is off and the wine is just not very good right now.

The point is that why ask your server's opinion on wine if you don't want to hear it ? If you want the "Meritage" just order the Meritage and be done with it. Please don't try and impress me with your wine knowledge because chances are I know as much as you do and I, or any waiter, don't care how much "Occulus" you have in your newly re-appraised cellar.

And please stop with the Merlot bashing - it was a line in a movie, not a commandment from the Wine God. Enough said, I'm sure there will be more "Wine abee" commentary in the future...... me I'm going to my "cellar" to pick out a nice bottle of Merlot for dinner tonight.

Television Roulette

The other night I had an epiphany, of sorts.

While watching the Thursday night re-runs I mentioned to wife that most people were probably like us in that they only watched TV regularly 1 or 2 nights a week. My job takes me out 4 nights a week, but for 925ers there are probably other impediments like sports, hobbies, movies etc. that mean they likely only watch TV regularly on say Monday and Wednesday nights.

The problem arises when re-run season hits and your Monday/Wednesday shows are all ones you have seen. The end result for us is movie rentals but if NBC, or whoever, wanted our loyalty during "encore performance" times why not switch their entire programming line-ups. Take Monday nights line-up and move flip it with Wednesday etc. or just move each night ahead one night, excluding Friday and Saturday which I understand TV executives have simply abandoned anyway.

The end result would be that I could watch a whole new group of television shows on Thursday without ever having to consult a TV guide or change the channel from my normal 9pm slot. I know Tivo is supposed to change all this but a survey in the US in 2002 showed that 47% of people didn't know how to program their VCR to record at specific times so I think my idea has some legs.

If any TV execs are reading this a moderate financial compensation would be appreciated, after all you paid somebody to write "Cop Rock"................just how high were they at that pitch meeting.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Stuff I drank last Month

I apologize for the lapsed blogging but the impact of 17 days of school vacation, coupled with Christmas sugar buzz, holiday volume at work and not seeing the sun for God knows how long, have prevented me from sitting down and writing.

Rather than get into a long and rambling discourse of all the alcohol I consumed over the Holidays I will limit this to a Top Ten Best things I drank in December.

10) Balvenie DoubleWood 12 year old Malt Whisky - this is my house "premium" malt and at the end of long days over the holidays its' smooth peaty goodness may very well have saved my sanity. BCLDB #387316 $67.95

9) Marston's Oyster Stout - while I am a huge fan of Guinness the fact remains that for home consumption the 500ml bottle of Marston's is simply better - a little sweeter than Guinness but lovely and long. BCLDB #457663 $3.75

8) Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Zinfandel 2002 - big, velvety with more acid than this grape often comes with. It was a gift from a guest so I have no idea as to where it came from but I'm guessing the retail is around $45.

7) Weinert Reserve Cabernet 1999 - Weinert are arguably Argentina's finest producer and this wine, which I bought on sale last March at the BCLDB for $19.95, didn't disappoint. Lots of "old world" charm wrapped in red fruit with a little dried cherry and bramble.

6) Shiraz Viognier "Laughing Magpie" D'Arenberg 2003 - this is an unusual blend using a small percentage of white Viognier grapes to balance the full fruity flavours of Shiraz. The practice is not uncommon in Cote Rotie and is being used more often in Australia. The wine is HUGE with lots of blackberry and cassis, as would be expected from McLaren Shiraz, but the Viognier adds a layer of white peach/apricot that tempers the overall fruitbomb impression. I will be interested to see how this wine ages. BCLDB #118570 $29.99.

5) Graceland Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 - this is a small family run winery in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa. This wine is quite simply beautiful with rich fruit overtones of raspberry and plum, a firm tannic backbone and the nice vanilla tones I associate with French Oak. BCLDB #140970 $29.99

4) Coudoulet de Beaucastel Cotes du Rhone 2001 - the 2nd label of the famous Chateauneuf producer Chateau de Beaucastel this Cotes du Rhone is a great example of a great vintage in the Rhone valley. The wine has lovely acidity and a meaty element around the red fruit flavours, I think you are paying a few dollars too much but it should still be in your cellar. BCLDB #614503 $32.99

3) Kettle Valley Reserve Pinot Noir 2001 - as mentioned in my Christmas day post, I believe Kettle Valley to be the best overall producer of red wine in BC. This wine was great Pinot Noir, with a touch of old world barnyard mixed in with strawberry and dried cherry flavours. I worry a bit about the age worthiness of these wines so I would drink them over the next 18 months. Winery or VQA shops - around $30.

2) Cecil Chassagne Gicondas 2000 - as much the circumstance as the wine, this was the first bottle opened at our "fairly annual boys Christmas lunch", the wine is nearing its plateau but still gives off the lovely fresh fruity flavours of Grenache. I can't find any info on it but judging by the winelist price I'm guessing it would retail around $26-$28.

1) Bodegas Ostatu Crianza 2001 - simply a great bottle of wine for a very good price. Made with a blend of Tempranillo and Graciano from 50+ year old vines the wine has a lovely acidity wrapped in a red fruit core, the aroma is lightly smoky with an earthy character reminiscent of great Rhone valley wines. BCLDB #147330 $24.99