Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Drinks Part 3 - Red Wine

Sorry for the delay, but really you should be used to disappointment from this blog by now. I got absolutely buried by a Christmas cold/flu starting on Friday of last week and just now showing signs of abating five days later.

I do want to get Red wine recommendations out before the holidays so I'll go light on the rhetoric and heavy on the listings. Overall it was a mediocre year for me for red wine discoveries, my notes show lots of "pretty good", "reasonable value" but not a lot of knockout punches . The best red wine I drank all year was the 2005 Artist's Series Cabernet Sauvignon from Kenwood, but at $74 a bottle and impossible to find it's not something I can recommend .

Looking back over my notes I have lots of praise for the wines of South America, South Africa and Australia . The traditional European heavyweights of France, Spain and Italy still make my table on a regular basis, as do wines from Washington State. What is not on my table, with the exception of the occasional Zinfandel, are wines from California, I find little value from the Golden State in the sub $20 range.

Still enough editorializing, on to the list. In no particular order here are some red wines I can easily recommend at everyday pricing .


The home to full throttle, fruity Malbecs and some more refined examples as well.

At the bottom of the price spectrum is an easy drinking blend of Malbec and Shiraz Fuzion Shiraz-Malbec, #65177 at the ludicrous price of $8.99, no acidity to speak of but easy drinking and pleasantly fruity. For a few dollars more at $12.99 is Malbec Finca Flichman Misterio, #757245 which keeps the fruit full throttle but adds enough acidity to match with food, also out of Argentina and in our regular rotation is Bonarda - Colonia las Liebres, #369066 at $12.99 a delightfully balanced red that is great with red meats or pasta.

Basically I can state that if you want to spend $13-$16 in the Argentine section you'll probably come away satisfied .


The first South American country to make its' presence felt in the world market is now well established and accepted, top to bottom Chile makes great wines. The emphasis is still a little more fruit forward than I would like but I know I'm in the minority so I'll just drink and enjoy. Some notable Chilean wines available with wide distribution are:

Carmenere Anakena, #72157 $12.97, Carmenere Cremaschi Furlotti Reserva, #104596 $16.96. Carmenere is a "lost grape" in Europe but planted heavily in Chile where it was often mistaken for Merlot but it's fuller and less "green" in its' flavour than Merlot - try it .

Cabernet Sauvignon - Santa Rita, #218644 regularly $11.99 but on sale for $9.99 in December, it's soft and fruity but definitely Cabernet and at $10 it's a stupidly good deal. Pinot Noir Undarraga Sibaris Reservs, #761205 $14.99, anytime I can get Pinot Noir that tastes like Pinot Noir for $15 I'll recommend it.


For many years the bastion of good affordable red wine the Aussies slipped a bit when they fell in love with fruit and oak but they seem to be on the way back. The best wine under $20 I drank this year was Australian, Cabernet Sauvignon Xanadu "Next of Kin" a Margaret River Cab bursting with flavour but with a riveting backbone of acidity, a real "lead in your pencil" wine and great value at $15.99, #181610. There is also a nice Australian Pinot available at $14.99 Little Yering Pinot Noir, #616110.

A couple of old faves deserve mention here the Gamekeeper's Reserve from St. Hallet which blends Shiraz and Grenache with Touriga Nacional to come up with a full bodied beauty and the Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz, #556696 $18.99 which used to retail over $20 but the New World economic order4 has seen fir to give us a value here.

South Africa

The sleeping giant of the wine world still doesn't get much respect but there's lots to drink out there from South Africa. At their best the wines of the Cape combine New World fruit with Old World acidity and make for solid food companions, some South African reds I recommend are Shiraz-Viognier - Graham Beck #656629, $14.99 a nice use of the acidity of the white Viognier here, Roodeberg - KWV Paarl #7187 $13.99, this classic red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz has been a flagship wine for KWV/Paarl since 1949 and is still a great bottle at a great price and Nederburg Shiraz $12.99 #56457, a solid Shiraz at a reasonable price.

Old World

The quality is there but the prices have crept back up, especially from Italy and Spain, still from Spain I regularly drink the Rioja Crianza - Campo Viejo, #190629 $14.99 and the venerable Tempranillo from Penedes Penescal - Barcelo Estate #343434 $12.99.

From Italy there is Montepulciano D'Abruzzo - Dino Illumati at $16.99, #328997 or the delicious Carpinetto Dogajolo for $18.99 #141721 but under $15 it's a "Buyer beware" scenario .

France brings us a reasonble Corbieres Chateau de Cabriac for $14.99 #315119 and the always dependable Perrin Reserve from the Rhone for $15.99, #363457 but little else.

The Portuguese are making wines much like the Spanish these days, with an emphasis on fruit and not so much on tradition, but the full flavoured Porca de Murca from the Douro is good value at $11.99, #114322.

Well I had hoped to get more in depth with the reds but this will have to do, enjoy the Holidays, I might find time to write about Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Drinks Part Two - Whites and Bubbles

Well I'm rolling now, in between shopping, wrapping and occasionally working I'm blasting towards shattering 2009's post count.

Last post I spoke of Beer, and Cider, and in this missive I shall discuss some white wines, and sparkling ones, that might be good to have around this holiday season. I don't drink a lot of white wine but when I do I prefer lighter styles and a general easy hand with the wood aging. I only ever drink white wine as an accompaniment to food so acidity is a must, no flabby "oak soup" Cali-Aussie chardonnays for me thank you . I also want a balance and a fullness of flavour so most of the cat-pee sauvignon blancs can be left out as well,

My two fave white wine grapes are Chenin Blanc and Riesling, two grapes which can be made into many varieties and styles of wine, from crisp acidic to full blown fruit and dessert styles. For the purpose of this post I'll stay with the drier end of the spectrum, and I'll step outside the Riesling/Chenin Blanc box as well.

Without further ado here are some white wines, in no particular order, that I enjoy and which would be welcome at any festive occasion:

Chenin Blanc - Spier Signature - South Africa, CSPC#659037, $13.95

Chenin Blanc - Man Vintners - South Africa, CSPC#474197, $9.99

Chenin Blanc, or Steen as the South Africans refer to it, is the most commonly grown white wine grape in South Africa. These are two good examples of the style, dry but with nice, melony, tart apple flavour, good acidity (especially the Spier) and nice long finish.

Vina Esmeralda - Miguel Torres Spain, CSPC#165316, $14.99 - an interesting blend of Muscat and Gewurztraminer this long time fave is medium bodied with a lush fruity nose and "not quite bone dry" taste. It's perfect with spicy foods and can compete with the Christmas bird as well.

Sauvignon Blanc - Brancott New Zealand, CSPC#129528, $15.96 - I know I said sauvignon blanc wasn't top of my list but this bottling isn't as assertive as many other Kiwi SB'. The Brancott is more cut grass than cat pee and it's long clean finish is great with rich foods so it makes the list.

Riesling - Pfaffenheim France, Alsace, CSPC#612127 $17.99 - Alsatian whites are the consumate food wines and this dry Riesling is a great example. Full bodied with fruit tones but great acid plus it's Pfaffenheim and I love to say "Pfaffenheim", really try saying it - it's fun.

Bantam - Red Rooster Winery British Columbia, Naramata Bench CSPC#533216 $13.99 - another blend, this time 6 grapes mostly Pinot Auxererrois. This wine is off dry with pronounced floral aromas and lots of fruit on the palate, it's easy to drink alone, or with the cheese board or mildly spicy foods - pass on it with the turkey though as it lacks the heft to battle with Tom.

Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie - Haut Censy France, Loire CSPC#553602 $14.99 - made with Melon de Bourgogne Muscadet might be the ultimate seafood wine, perfect with oysters or shellfish it is dry, light and refreshing, this bottling is a very good example of the style

Chablis "Champs Royaux" - William Fevre France, Chablis, Burgundy CSPC#25270 $26.99 - sometimes it's ok to splurge at Christmas and for a mere $27 this wine is a classic Chablis, dry, rich and long it reminds us of what Chardonnay can be when not all tarted up - save this one for dinner .

There are a few I've missed but that's a good start and should keep you rolling through the holidays.

Another thing that gets a lot of play over the Holiday season is sparkling wine, either on it's own or mixed with OJ, fruit puree or fruit liqueurs. No matter how you serve it there are lots of reasonably priced bubbly options available. Prosecco is the "hot bubbly" these days but I find it often lacking in acidity so I tend to look to France, Spain and Australia for my sparkling options.

If you are mixing the sparkling with juice/puree whatever I suggest looking at cheaper bottles like Veuve de Vernay Brut from France (#209023, $13.99) or Codorniu Classicao Brut from Spain (503490 $12.99) if you are toasting and want a nice clean bubble I'd look at Australia for the Emeri Pink Moscato (#588392 $16.99) or the traditionally made Seaview Brut (#216333 $16.99) . On another note a fun beverage this time of year is the strawberry infused bubble from Chile Fresita, it's a little too sweet to drink much of but a small glass with chocolate is fun (#299404 $14.95) .

Moving up the price scale I enjoy the Cremant de Bourgogne - Blasons de Bourgogne a sparkling wine from Burgundy that is, to my tatse, every bit as good as most "true Champagne" but half the price, this wine retails for $24.99 (#657742) and is a value at that price.

Anyway, all this typing about wine has made me thirsty so I'm going to sign off - enjoy.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Drinks Part One - Many things Beerish

OK it's full blown December with only 14 days until Christmas and I promised I'd write about Christmas beverages at some point this year so here we go.

First off despite my "nom de Blog" I drink as much beer, well more in total volume, as wine so it's a subject near and dear to me. The first beverage I have post work is always a beer and over the course of the Holiday season many hops will have given their lives so that I, and mine, can be happy.

Please spend a few extra pennies over the holidays to drink quality over quantity, remember "Friends don't let friends drink Kokanee" or PBR for that matter

Beer is a wonderful thing, this summer I explored the many facets of Hefeweizen but cooler weather calls for more hops so here are my "Beers of Christmas".

CutThroat Pale Ale is a delicous hoppy Pale Ale brewed in the Okanagan by Tree Brewing. Tree has gone through many changes since it's inception in 1996 but they are now making excellent beers across the board and this full bodied hoppy "Classic" pale ale is a great beer......period . It's available in 6 pack bottles ($10.75 for 6X341ml), or even better in 500ml cans ($2.15 per) at most BCLDB stores.

Pilsner Urquell is the original Pilsner and still a classic example of the Pilsner style, please don't compare this to the Pil with the bunnies on the label . Urquell was the original Pils and along with many Euro varieties offer crisp hoppy goodness year round - $12.99 for 6X330ml bottles or $2.34 per 500ml can.

If you find Urquell too assertive I recommend trying out the lighter German Pils such as Konig $2.25 per 500ml can, or the newly listed Wernesgruner Pils, $2.10 per 500ml can.

Last of the beer, but definitely not least is Guinness, there used to be a Guinness and campaign back a few years with the tag line:"Guinness, in a can .....Brilliant . Truer words are rarely spoken, the classic sweet/bitter velvety Irish stout in a 440ml can of "Draught" is a holiday tradition in my house and generally my choice of beverage while cooking the Christmas dinner (8X441ml cans $21.78). The only drawback is the smaller can, 500ml is my preference for serving size, but we all have to make concessions.

One further "beerish" product of note is Weston's Organic Cider . This is a dry. crisp cider made in the traditional English style, it's not cheap at $4.85 for a 500ml bottle but it is far and away the best apple cider I've tasted in a long time . Delicious chilled it's also great when "mulled", ie: heated with some nice aromatics like cloves and cinnamon . Perfect for wassailing .

In the next day or two I'm going to move on to bubbles and white wines for the holiday season so keep checking the blog.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Birthday Paella and Pink Bubbles

It was wife's birthday on Sunday, not the easiest day of the year in our house but getting better. Over the years wife has vacillated between over celebrating (birth week) to ostrich (head in ground denying that birthday even occurs), but this year a nice equilibrium was struck.

The Sunday before we brunched at DB Bistro in a joint celebration, early for wife's birthday, late for Auntie Mads . It was a lovely brunch and when paired with attending daughter's choir performance with the VSO on the actual birthdate and a special dinner at home all would be handled in suitable celebratory manner.

On a side note daughter's choir were performing a symphony based on the music from Lord of the Rings and much of it was sung in Elvish, when I informed daughter that after the publication of Tolkein's books several Elvish Dictionaries were created by fans she had but one word in response .........."Nerds".

Earlier in the week wife had chosen paella for her birthday dinner. Since I don't have a proper pan I made a modified version that was cooked in the oven, my paella contained chicken, andouille sausage, prawns, clams,rice, diced tomato, whole garlic cloves, saffron, smoked paprika and peas. It was the first time I'd made it but it is just a variation on a theme of baked rice dishes so it turned out very nicely.

The wine pairing for paella can go in many directions, light white from Spain like an Albarino would be classic, or a fuller rose or even a fruity red, pinot noir or garnacha based would all work but since this was wife's birthday the obvious choice was bubble.

Wife adores bubble, many years ago when there was no child and we were flush I once served Taittinger Brut Reserve with KFC for a wife birthday dinner . Still the pairing of bubbles with paella is a solid one, the effervescence and acidity work well with the shellfish and the richness of rice cooked in a combination of chicken stock and clam nectar. I chose rose because the red grapes add a fullness to the sparkling that pairs better with cooked foods in my opinion, I prefer "blanc de blancs" bubbles with raw fish.

The BCLDB sparkling section tends to run to two extremes,under $20 and over $50 ..... I chose door #1 and went with a reliable favourite in Veuve de Vernay Brut Rose . This producer makes consistently excellent wines in a classic style for ridiculously low prices, the regular Brut is the ultimate Mimosa wine and the slightly more muscular Rose is a great holiday, or any day, bubble. The Rose is made from 100% tempranillo grapes, generally used in Spanish Cava, and has lovely strawberry notes but is still dry and possesses a long finish with a nice acidic backbone to keep those rich paella flavours in check.

All in all a nice dinner and a very solid wine pairing.

I've been asked to post some wine info in December about values and wines I've enjoyed this year and I'm going to try hard to do so, but in case I forget remember to pick up some Veuve de Vernay, Brut or Brut Rose for the festive season, costs $14 and drinks like $25.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Apparently I'd be a Terrible Travel Agent

My friend, former Large Firm Partner now Small Firm Partner, called today with the announcement that he would be spending some time over Christmas in Ottawa.

He appeared quite excited about the idea and asked me as a former resident of the NCR, that's National Capital Region, what I would do in Ottawa over Christmas.

After a moment's pause I replied: "Not go".

Ottawa is brutal in the winter, a bracing combination of cold and too much precipitation generally combined with high winds, plus December is often "Ice Storm Season" . The only real attraction, skating on the Rideau Canal, is not even a mortal lock because while Global warming has done little to make the overall climate in Ottawa better it has screwed up the opportunity for the canal to freeze over enough to guarantee that your pastoral evening skate doesn't end up in a freezing drowning.

The restaurants are decent I suppose, I have fond memories of the pizza at The Colonade and good Italian in any number of spots most of which are probably closed. The culture is hard to find outside of the National Gallery and the Museum of Science and Man and the only good live theatre in town is closed - that would be the House of Commons.

Sports wise I loathe the Senators, plus they don't even play their games in Ottawa their rink is in the suburbs 40k from Downtown.

So my initial advice stands, go for four days in September but Christmas in Ottawa is just a bad idea.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

More Proof that Darwin was Right

In today's news CBC reports this story of a failed robbery.

So let me get this straight, at 2AM you decided that robbing a doughnut shop using a butcher knife was a good idea but somehow you stabbed yourself and passed out .

If ever there was a crime that screamed out I'm a Simpsons episode waiting to be written this was it .

Conan Doyle should be happy he didn't live in the 21st century.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

What do you use to make hotdogs on October 31st ?

Halloweenies .

Today is daughter's second favourite day of the year, after Christmas but still ahead of her birthday. I think it has to do with the sheer volume and diversity of goods received on Halloween, plus none of them are books or clothes .......... they're all sugar.

We are down to the wire and she still hasn't decided between Goth Vampire or Dead Soccer Player . An earlier plan for a group effort at "Car Crash Sesame Street" fell through and she waited too long to buy supplies to make herself into an I Tunes Card .

Regardless of the final decision tonight will not be about the costume it will be about the booty, how much and what quality the sugar is . The more sours, chocolate bars and Doritos the better at age eleven she can do without the suckers, tootsie rolls and rockets (do they still sell rockets ?).

Daughter and her three BFFs are going solo this year, that is they aren't being accompanied by a parent as they cruise our neighbourhood, it's well lit and there are so many parents out on the street that I'm only mildly paranoid. I'm going to treat it like a marathon and carbo load her around 5pm and then turn them loose and hope for the best. Wife and I will dole out candies to the kiddies and I've a mind to pop over to the boozer and grab some Pumpkin Ale to enhance the festivities.

The U12 Girls Silver Funky Monkeys won today 4-1 to break out of a mild scoring slump, but I fear that Monday's practice may be one without a great deal of focus if the sugar buzz is still rolling.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Proof that Darwin was Right

Recent studies in the United States have discovered that accident rates actually have risen in 75% of the states who have banned texting while driving. The data in this study supports previous findings by the University of Glasgow.

Of course the problem is not that people get in more accidents when not texting, the problem, as explained in the research, is that people are continuing to text while driving. The "driving while texting", or DWT as I shall now refer to them, crowd are however afraid of apprehension so they are holding their texting devices well below the dashboard so as not to be observed texting. This means that they must take their eyes off the road more often to text and thus they are getting in more accidents.

If this is not proof positive of natural selection at work I don't know what is.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Player Contract

My friend "Former Big Firm Partner" asked me to post the Player Contract I had my 11 year old girls soccer team sign so here it is:

Funky Monkeys Player Contract

As a Funky I will Always:

Support my team mates, on and off the field

Play Hard, Play Fair

Listen to my Coaches

Tell my coach if I’m hurt or too tired to play

Show up on time ready to practice or play

Call my coach, in advance, if I can’t attend a game or practice

Ask a question if I’m not sure

Try my best

As a Funky Monkey I will never:

Argue with a referee or another player

Do anything to embarrass myself, my team or another player

Criticize my coach, my team mates or my club

Whine, ever

These contracts are signed and returned by all the players, if only it were that easy in other ventures.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

They Should be Ashamed of Themselves

The B.C. Liberal Party that is.

I have been a lifelong Liberal, except for a minor dalliance with the NDP when I was in University but really let's just write that off to youthful exuberance . Voting NDP when you are in post secondary school is sort of like experimenting with drugs, binge drinking or being over active sexually, it's one of those things that just happens that you don't need to keep bringing up later in life . In the last provincial election however I spoiled my ballot rather than vote Liberal .

The current provincial party in BC that masquerades under the Liberal banner is an embarrassment, never mind that their ideology is somewhat right of SoCred, never mind that they are mad with power, never mind that they lack respect for their electorate the bottom line is that they are big fat liars, and don't seem to care that anyone knows.

The recent HST revelations should not surprise me, I've said all along the problem with the HST was not the tax but rather the way it was spun. Had the Liberals come out after the election and said:"hey, you know what, we screwed up. The deficit is bigger than we thought, the economy isn't rebounding fast enough so we need federal dough and we're going to look into this HST thing".

Follow that up with some studies that show the value of the HST, spend some money on some ads and then pass the legislation in the house by democratic vote and I'm thinking it would have been OK, not well liked but OK.

But the arrogance of this government couldn't allow them to do that, instead they just said: Screw you, we've got another majority and no visible opposition so we're just going to force the HST on you .

Then as the facts roll out that in fact they had probably already made up their minds before the election and just flat out lied to the duly elected House and their electorate their basic response is: So what ? Are you really going to throw us out and let the NDP back in power ?

The root of the problem is a government with no opposition and apparently no moral compass . There should be resignations but I doubt there will be, after all it's just business as usual for this government .

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Musings

Well somehow the last day of August snuck up on me and I hadn't posted so here goes with random musings.

Okanagan Getaway
- once again we were able to take advantage of a friend's largesse and enjoy six days in the Okanagan (there's a place in heaven for them). We get gifted a cottage in Summerland and spend a week or so doing, well, not much. Some time at the beach, some mini putt, read some inconsequential books, watch SpongeBob and catch up on sleep. We also drove up to Kelowna and went for lunch at The Terraces at Cedar Creek Winery to celebrate GrandDad's birthday, great location, very good lunch, passable service, but then restaurant service in the Okanagan is rarely more than passable .

Wife always claims she "doesn't need a vacation" until she's on one and then realizes how important they are. In the past I've always spent a day or to scouring the wineries for hard to find bottles but with the spiraling cost of BC wines I passed this year, just bought a bottle or two for dinner consumption and didn't bring any home.

Okanagan Wines - I've said it before and I'll keep saying it, the price points for Okanagan Wines start too high . Basic everyday wines are in the $20 range and the price/quality ratio is just not there. The best bottle I had while in the valley was Arrowleaf Pinot Noir which is reasonable value at $17.99 but really how many people spend $18 on daily wine ?

If the Okanagan industry is going to continue to grow they need to start marketing "entry level" varietals in the $13-15 range, but when you can sell them for more why bother ? You bother because you want to sell wine in 10 years as well as tomorrow so you need to grow your customer base.

Chris Chelios retires at the age of 48 after 1651 games in a career that spanned 4 decades . An amazing athlete, not without warts, Chelios is easily the greatest American born player in NHL history .

Happy Birthday Frank Robinson and Jean Beliveau, two first class athletes from another era, the era of my youth . Beliveau was so good that even though he played for les Canadiens I liked him, and that is a momentous statement .

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Summer of My Hefeweizen

June wasn't much of a summery experience but July has been long and hot and as such my thoughts turn to lottery wins and beer.

I haven't had any luck with the former but the beer thing has been going really well. I'm generally a pilsner guy in the summer, I like the hops and palate cleansing refreshment, and for the most part Pilsner Urquell and Konig Pilsener are still my "go to" beers . This summer however I have been drinking lots of Wheat Beer, and there are lots around to drink.

My first experience with Wheat Beer occured in Seattle about twenty years ago and I've always sought them out in the dog days of summer. Wheat beers are common summer drinks in Europe, and year round in southern Germany, and come in many forms.

Hefeweizen is the most common in Germany, cloudy unfiltered ales with wheat mixed with barley malt to create lightly hopped highly carbonated sippers. In France, Belgium and Holland they make "whitbiers", or white beers, that are generally flavoured with coriander, bitter orange and hops .

Regardless of how they do it these beers are generally delicious, and the antithesis of my normal "hoppy" consumption, and recently we've seen a surge in choices available in Vancouver. Many of the local micro-breweries have jumped on the "wheat beer" train with Granville Island Brewery making a decent, widely available variety while Whistler Brewing make a delicious example, particularly on tap, that is a bit harder to find.

The German samplings are abundant, particularly if you have a good private retailer in your area, among my faves are Konig Ludwig and Schneider Weisse - both available at the monopoly stores. Schneider Weisse is generally credited as the "Original Weisse Beer" and it's a good one but the best of the German's, to my mind is the one from Weltenburger Kloster which is only available in private stores.

As with most things "beerish" weisbier or whitbier is best served on tap, many local pubs will have an example and I urge you to seek them out and support them. On that note I will mention that the best example of the spicey/fruity whitbier style I've ever had is Kronenbourg Blanc, which poured regularly at Stella's on Cambie in my hood. I strongly recommend a couple on a hot day, or cool day - but not too cool as weiz/whit/hefe seems to me to be a summer event.

These beer styles are not for everyone, they have overtones of spice, citrus and banana to them so the Kokanee/PBR crowd will likely find them too weird . Some are also intimidated/off-put by the cloudy character and price, generally north of $3 per 500ml serving, retail, but to me I'll take quality over quantity in the beer department.

Anyway there's lots of choices, both local and otherwise, so get out there and "get your Hefe on" before the summer weather fades away.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Little Hockey Hall of Fame Moment

The Hockey Hall of Fame has just announced it's latest selections and once again two players with solid credentials have been passed over, Doug Gilmour and Pavel Bure .

Little has been mentioned in the local media about Gilmour's exclusion but there has been much gnashing and wailing regarding the snub of Bure. This strikes me as odd that Vancouver is much more loyal to Bure than he was to Vancouver but enough about that.

A friend of mine wrote in his column today about how Bure was the "3rd leading goal scorer in goals per game among players with more than 400 goals" which is now my new favourite statistic .

The bottom line with Pavel Bure is that he has three big things going against him:

1) He's not North American

2) He never won a Stanley Cup

3) He was a jerk

I defy you to find anyone else in the Hall of Fame who possesses all three of those qualities so it is my considered that Pavel will continue to look in from the outside.

I still hold out hope that Killer will be inducted .

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Belated Mother's Day Post

Yeah I know it was a while back but since I rarely blog more than once a month everyone should just be thankful, not pissed that it took me a couple of weeks to blog about Mother's Day.

Mother's Day is the, pardon the expression, Mother of all the made up Holidays - OK Valentines may be worse but Mother's Day is right up there. It's a day which piles guilt on top of expectation and then tops it with more guilt just to make sure . I mean c'mon I know we all have, or had, Mothers and yes motherhood may be the purest expression of love we can find but really: Does that mean everyone has to go for brunch on the same day ?

Back in the pre-child days there was no single day as a server that I dreaded more than Mother's Day, wave upon wave of tables with two or three generations all dutifully feteing Mom when for the most part Mom would probably much rather have been at home in the back yard with a martini in hand . Father's Day has it right, buy Dad a golf shirt, throw some beef on the grill and call it special, but Mother's Day has just gone over the top .

Fortunately for me the server industry is skewed both young and irresponsible so I am generally the only father working and as such the only one with immediate "Mother's Day" responsibilities, which mean's I get the day off . Also fortunately for me wife understands the industry I work in and has no desire to be "part of the problem" . Our "special day" was stress free and, according to wife, "A lovely Mother's Day".

We arose a little late, I made breakfast and we hung out a bit and then whisked daughter away for a couple of hours in the early afternoon to allow wife to nap. A bit of gardening was followed by wife's chosen meal: Burgers and Caesar Salad . It was a lovely spring day so we dusted off the Weber and grilled the burgers with cheddar and provolone cheeses.

Generally wife prepares burgers in our house but I took care of them for Mother's Day, my recipe for burgers is simple: get the best meat you can and don't screw it up. In this case the local IGA were featuring Ground Prime Rib so that's what I used, add salt, pepper, minced shallot, dry mustard powder, grated Romano and a splash of Worcestershire and handle very little . Get your grill hot and then grill each 6 oz. patty for 3 minutes on each side then add the cheese and grill one more minute with the hood down to melt the cheese. The results were wonderful moist, meaty burgers still pink in the middle with a lovely char on the outside, topped with Keen's hot mustard, mayo and fried onions.

The wine was my favorite burger wine California Zinfandel . While my fave it is not something I generally drink with burgers because decent Zinfandel starts at around $17-20 in our market and I generally can't justify that with burgers but it was a special day so I cracked a bottle of Ravenswood Sonoma County "Old Vines" Zinfandel, 2005 which was delicious with tons of black fruits (blackberry, cherry and raspberry) in the mouth along with a touch of mocha and black pepper . I really love good Zinfandel, or even decent Zinfandel, but at $25 it's not everyday burger wine.

The most consistent Zin, for the money, in the BC market is probably Rosenblum Cellars Vintner's Cuvee, CSPC#785345 $18.95, Rosenblum make 18 different bottlings of Zinfandel from general appelation wines like Vintners Cuvee to single vineyard wines so any time you see their name on a bottle of Zinfandel you can take it for a guarantee of quality. If you can't afford $20 BBQ wines and like the Zinfandel profile I would recommend looking at any number of Argentinean Malbecs or the excellent value Colonia las Liebres, Bonarda, CSPC#369066, $12.95 which I reviewed a long time ago and is still a consistent pleaser with any red meat off the grill .

Monday, May 17, 2010

Best Nickname for Rabid Sports Fans

First off let me preface this with the statement that I admire dedication in sports fans, I hate bandwagon jumpers .

I think when you pick a team you should stick with them through thick and thin, that you should have an unhealthy dose of optimism and bravado regarding "your team".

I don't see anything wrong with calling actions, or accomplishments, of your team as things "we did" or in asserting that "We really need a top 6 forward", these are acceptable statements.

There are certain groups of sports fans who are more obnoxious than others for various reasons . I think Canucks fans are pathetic for their constant whining and refusal to accept that maybe, just maybe, they haven't won a cup because they aren't good enough rather than some intricate plot devised by the NHL head office and the league's officiating crew.

Leafs fans, of which I am one, are obnoxious because it's a bit silly to refer to a franchise that hasn't won anything in 43 years as "a premier franchise" (unless you hold stock in MLSE), Raiders fans/Cowboys fans are obnoxious and Habs fans used to be before Les Canadiens stopped being relevant at which point their fans just became cute and quaint - sort of like Hobbits .

In fact all fans, by nature, are a bit tiresome but the worst example of fandom are those in "RedSox Nation" and by extension fans of the Bruins/Patriots/Celtics. For some reason the fans of Boston area teams feel a sense of entitlement that confuses me, the Bruins haven't won since 1972 (and just became the 3rd team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead), the RedSox went 86 freakin' years between titles, the Patriots are cheaters and the Celtics are just like every other NBA franchise - irrelevant .

And yet still the fans of the New England teams will wax eloquent for hours on end about the glories of all things Bostonian .

Recently I discovered the perfect terminology for these members of the mythical "Nation", since Boston is located in the state of Massachusetts the perfect name is:


Saturday, April 24, 2010

The White Wine Chronicles - Part One

Those of you, okay both of you, who read this blog regularly will know that I very rarely drink white wine . There are a number of reasons for this including, but not limited to, the fact that I only drink wine with food and my culinary style is not suited to white wines. Recently however I have been attempting to include more fish in our family diet and as a result we have been experimenting with some "wines of a different colour".

Now I know that all the cool kids drink whatever colour wine with whatever food but honestly when I'm cooking hake, haddock or cod there is simply no way I'm going to drink red wines. Given the spiraling prices of salmon and tuna when I'm adding more fish to the diet it is going to be the less expensive alternatives that cry out for white wines.

The upshot of this whole thing is that we have recently sampled three new, to me, white wines . When picking white wines I find that I generally have to spend a bit more than my everyday $10-$12 range because cheap white wines tend to be, well, bad . Not bad in the sense that they have "gone bad" just in the sense that they are either lacking in any character, too sweet or too acidic .

My first foray was very fortunate, having decided to have whitefish for dinner I was faced with a time crunch for wine selection so I popped into a private store adjacent to the grocery store. I poked around for 10 minutes before daughter finally said "Daddy, what exactly are you looking for" in a tone that indicated that the "fun factor" of wine shopping had worn off for her. What I had been looking for was an Alsatian Riesling for under $20 but was having no luck, about to give in and grab an Aussie I spotted a cut-case display of New Zealand Viognier at a reduced price, $15.99 down from $19.99.

"Why not ?" I thought and grabbed a bottle of Longbush Viognier 2007, from the Gisborne region of the North Island in New Zealand, and I wish I'd grabbed more. The wine was delicious, rich but not over powering as Viognier should be with light notes of orange citrus, honey and smoke . The wine was much better than it's price point but further research indicates that the wine may no longer be available in BC. I'm trying to determine the status and when I hear more from the importer I'll let you know. If this wine is readily available for the summer I would advise case lot purchases.

Wine #2 was less successful and reminded me of all the reasons I don't generally purchase white wines at less than $15. The wine was Stork's Tower, Sauvignon Blanc - Verdejo 2008 CSPC#423723 $12.99, purchased at the mothership at 39th and Cambie this was a "staff recommendation". The wine was just indifferent, a little too sharp and short on the finish and just really not enjoyable. It did however work fine for deglazing the chicken later in the week .

Heading into week three we have a 50% success rate, not bad but not great either . With a pro D day on Monday I was once again accompanied by daughter on my wine hunt and once again came up a winner . Maybe I just need to ensure daughter's presence when shopping for white wines, could she be some sort of vin blanc savant ? . Anyway the third entry in the white wine chronicles is Spier Chenin Blanc 2009, this wine is from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa and while it is available at the BCLDB, CSPC#659037, $13.95, the availability is limited.

Chenin Blanc is the "worker bee" white grape in South Africa, when I was starting out in the wine trade it was known in SA as "Steen" . Chenin blanc is perhaps the most versatile wine grape there is, maybe even more so than Riesling, Chenin blanc has high acidity and rather neutral flavour notes so it can be adapted to everything from crisp acidic sparklers to rich dessert wines. The South African style generally emphasizes the tropical fruit accents, through cooler fermentation, and the Spier was no exception showing lovely pear and peineapple notes along with minerally green apple notes. The wine was a perfect compliment to hake panfried with butter, capers and lemon.

To summarize I can highly recommend the two "hard to find" wines: Spier Chenin Blanc 2009 and Longbush Viognier 2007 but I can't recommend the easily available Stork's Tower, Sauvignon Blanc - Verdejo 2008 .

I can also highly recommend bringing my daughter along when looking for white wine, rental rates can be obtained by contacting me directly.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Saint Patrick be Damned

So another faux holiday has come and gone, millions of Guinness consumed and innumerable hangovers created to celebrate St. Patrick's Day .

What a crock.

First off the Saint Patrick being feted isn't even real, yes there was a real Saint Patrick but much of the mythology around him is a compilation of him and Palladius, the first bishop of Ireland.

Patrick may, or may not, have died on March 17th 460 AD, or 420 AD, or 493 AD . He may, or may not, be buried at Down Cathedral beside St. Brigid and St. Columba but one thing he didn't do was banish snakes from Ireland - the ice age did that.

In fact most believe the snake banishment is a symbolic banishment if the serpents common in Druid celebrations but try telling that to a drunken Patty .

He's not even exclusive to Ireland for fuck's sake, he's also the patron saint of Nigeria and Montserrat - I mean the guy gets around.

Listen I've got no issues with an excuse for a party but stop asking me why I'm not wearing green and where my shamrock is. I'm not Irish and really do you think that real Irish need any excuse to party ?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I Changed My Mind

Back in December I served a table of 6 who were all members of the NBC Olympic broadcast crew .

After dinner we discussed the upcoming Olympic and my expectations, I said with conviction that "Regardless of what else Canada does if we don't win Gold in Men's Hockey the Games will have been a failure".

For a long time I stood by that statement but in the past week I've changed my mind . Even if the Men's Hockey team does not prevail this afternoon against the Godless scourge in Stars and Stripes, and I firmly believe we will, these games are an athletic success for Canada.

Alexandre Bilodeau got it started and along the way there were great moments like John Montgomery, Clara Hughes (whose bronze shines as bright as gold to me), Joannie Rochette, Jasey Jay, the phenomenally named Tessa Virtue and the precision of Kevin Martin's curling rink. There was disappointment for some and a heart breaking number of 4th and 5th placings but in the end, in my mind, we did Own the Podium.

This morning the DPK U11 Silver Shadows finished off their season three hours early, a 4-2 win for those keeping track, so that everyone can be nervously ensconced in their own place of worship to watch the Gold Medal game at noon. It's a massive game, a defining moment in many ways but win or lose the athletes of Canada have more than met my expectations.

Still that 14th Gold would be sweet, but no sweeter than the other 13 .

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dressing for Dinner

Last Monday Safeway were giving away Ribs so I decided to have some for dinner, OK they weren't actually giving them away but $1.99 a pound for fresh sideribs is pretty close. I know many people consider sideribs the "poor cousins" of the rib family but I find the flavour deeper in these fatty monsters than in back ribs and the price is always better. I generally prepare ribs more in the summer because the char off the grill adds to the enjoyment but oven roasted are just fine as well.

I also enjoy the "set and forget" quality of ribs, I just rub them with salt, pepper, paprika and dry mustard powder and leave them for an hour to reach room temperature. I then place the ribs on baking sheets in a 275 degree oven and pretty much ignore them, once every 45 minutes to an hour I'll turn them over and pour off any fat that that's about it. After about 2 1/2 hours the ribs are ready, I will then baste them with something sweet and hot sauce wise and run them under the broiler for 3-5 minutes then serve with rice, a green vegetable and either cold pilsner or an inexpensive fruity red - Argentinean Malbec is good, Carmenere or new world style Spanish are fine as well, just don't break the bank.

On the way home from school daughter had asked what was for dinner, when informed that we were having ribs she burst into song - literally. As dinner prep near conclusion I called out to wife and daughter that dinner was five minutes away, this gives them time to finish up whatever they are doing and arrive at the table. I heard daughter dash to her room and close the door.

"Strange I thought, I wonder what that's about ?"

When I enquired she replied "I'm changing for dinner" resulting in more puzzlement on my behalf.

Two minutes later she emerged "changed for dinner", old T shirt, sweat pants and hair pulled back in a ponytail with the explanation that:

"Hey if I'm eatin' ribs it's gonna get messy".

My kind of kid no doubt.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Lovely Carmenere, Undrinkable Petite Sirah

Ran the gamut the last couple of days, The Grands left some wine with us including a Petite Sirah from De Bortoli.

Granddad had brought this, along with some decent bottles, for Christmas season tippling but I avoided it like the plague. I cannot ever recall drinking a wine from De Bortoli, in Australia, that I enjoyed but we popped the cork on the Petite Sirah the other day as a 2nd bottle.

Sadly my fears were confirmed, it was awful - in fact undrinkable. All pruny overccoked fruit with no acid and a ton of alcohol. To paraphrase Monty Python: this is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding, even at the low price of $11.99 this wine has nothing to recommend it.

On the other hand our New Years Day bottle was a delicious Reserva Carmenere from Viu Manent in Chile. This wine is still young, 2008, but has a lovely ribbon of rich fruit with a solid acidity to balance it. We enjoyed it with home made pizza but it would be a great partner to grilled meats or roast poultry. The wine is listed at $17.99, CSPC#596536, and has limited distribution - I recommend seeking it out.