Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Deal or No Deal - The restaurant wine version

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

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

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

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

So this is my vision:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Deal or No Deal".

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Random Thoughts

Well I promised to post more so here goes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Welcome Back

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

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

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

This week I have a couple of wine recommendations:

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

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

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

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