Sunday, September 06, 2015

Too Good to Last

So I would apologize for my lack of posting but really you should have expected this.

Sadly I have gone back to work full time, and really full time, so I simply haven't had the time to think let alone collect any thoughts and write about them. I have taken on the task of reopening a wine store after having to physically move all the stock and fixtures some 40 kilometers. The packing and moving took four full days and then the construction in the new location has taken essentially another 10 days, followed by rebuilding the store layout and shelving the stock all the while trying to find staff. Just prior to the move I was crunching numbers and learning the company systems as best I could so it's been a long tiring experience.

The end result has been roughly three weeks of working 10-12 hours daily six days a week all the while commuting 45 minutes each way to the new location. With any luck, and we haven't got much so far, we should be able to actually open the store this week and my time requirements will be slightly less and then by around the first of October I should be settled into a routine of five day weeks. At that point I will make every effort to post weekly but until then things will be sporadic at best.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Wine Buys for August

Okay so I'm much more prompt with this month's recommendation of what's on sale at the BCLDB this month. All the wines listed below will be on sale through Saturday August 29th, and all feature a price reduction of at least $2 a bottle. Remember prices listed are pre-tax so the final ticket will be 15% higher + 10 cent deposit , for example a wine listed here at $11.29 will end up costing you $13.10 after tax, deposit and rounding.

Assuming the weather stays good that means lots of grilled foods in my house and the necessary juicy wines to accompany, some of these are more fruit forward than I normally drink but they fit the season. There's a lot on sale this month but I'm going to limit the list to six whites and six reds, once again there are no rosé that fit the criteria.

White Wine Bargains

Sumac Ridge Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Okanagan Valley, reduced $2 to $9.29 - it doesn't scream Sauvignon Blanc but it is varietally true, on the softer side it works well with grilled fish or veggie kebabs

Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Chile, reduced $2 to $10.29 - for an extra buck it's a lot more Sauvignony than the Sumac and I recommend it a lot.

See ya Later Ranch Riesling, Okanagan Valley, reduced $2 to $11.99 - I've not always been fond of See ya Later's wines but this is a very good example of Okanagan Riesling, lots of crisp fruit and melon with a touch of sweetness and enough acid to balance well with shellfish or spicy chicken.

Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Gris, New Zealand, reduced $3 to $13.49 - I'm not a big fan of Pinot Gris/Grigio but this is a nice example of the style, it still lacks the acidity I like but it's a good quaffer and works fine with appies.

Edna Valley Vineyards, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, down $2 to $15.49 - this is old style California Chardonnay, and I mean that as a compliment. Too many Californian Chards are over the top fruit and butter but this wine has the tropical fruit/pear/apple component and enough minerality to accompany salmon or tuna off the grill, really nice and a good value.

Sokol Blosser Evolution, Oregon, down $2 to $15.69 - this is a blend of nine different grape varieties that creates a fruity, dry white wine that is great just for back porch sipping and a great partner to spicy seafood .

Red Wine Bargains

Nederburg Shiraz, South Africa, down $2 to $9.29 - the South Africans still have enough of their feet stuck in the old world to give their wines more acidity than often seen from the Southern Hemisphere, this is still soft approachable Shiraz but has enough character to carry the burgers or back ribs off the grill.

Santa Rita Reserva Merlot, Maipo Valley, Chile, down $2 to $11.29 - few places do juicy, ripe Merlot as well as the Chileans, this is a reserva wine with the fruit from Maipo Valley and while it is still fruit forward there is enough lead in its' pencil to go with chicken or beef off the grill and the fruit works well if there's some heat in the sauce.

Santa Carolina B Blend, Cachapoal Valley, Chile, down $3 to $11.29 - this is a blend of Carmenere, Grenache and Merlot from the coastal part of the Cachapoal Valley, the wine is surprisingly refined for this price point and pairs well with red meat, chicken or sausage off the grill.

Campo Viejo, Rioja Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain, reduced $2 to $12.79 - this is text book entry level Rioja at a great price, the wine shows all the beauty of Tempranillo and it's mix of red fruits, leather, vanilla, tobacco and spice. This is a very dry wine and is a great match to cured meats, pizza or spicier grilled meats.

Donna Paula Estate Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina, down $2 to $15.39 - get the steaks,or lamb leg,  pop the cork 30 minutes before dinner to blow off some tannin and then serve this beauty with that charred rib eye, Malbec and red meat are a great match and this is good Malbec at a very fair price.

Chateau de Pierreux, Brouilly, Beaujolias, France, down $2.30 to $16.99 - not easy to find, there are only about a dozen cases in Vancouver, but worth seeking out. Cru Beaujolais used to be a great value but then like all things French and winey it jumped the shark but this is really good value. This wine has all the red berry component you expect from Gamay but a nice minerally seam and some good tannins, tough enough to handle the red meats off the grill but with the fruit it's just awesome with grilled salmon.

Well that's it, hope you enjoy and happy quaffing.

Monday, July 27, 2015

My highly personal list of the best TV series of all time - part 2, the British Invasion

In this post I'm going to talk about my favourite British TV imports. I was first really introduced to British television by American public television in the 1970s. For many years PBS was the go to location for British television and in many ways it still is, the major American networks have over the years co-opted many British programs and given them American twists, almost always producing an inferior product, but PBS has remained true it's vision of providing the originals. Here in Canada the Knowledge Network is a good source for original British programming .

When trying to create my listing of my favourite British television shows I came up with a very long list and then agonized over cutting it down to workable top ten, there were some obviously incredible shows that didn't make the cut and I'm sure there will be howls of "How could he leave off Downton Abbey or The Office or Poldark or Upstairs Downstairs or Dr. Who ......." . The answer is simple, the list is, as the title states, My highly personal list . Please feel free to comment on your own choices but this is mine, so here are my top 10.

Monthy Python's Flying Circus 1968-74

It was a surprise to me, given the brilliance of British comedy, that so many of my selections were dramas. Monthy Python was simply brilliant, as with all comedy they missed on occasion but rarely and when they hit they were huge hits. The list of Python sketches that were legendary is just too long to cover, but must include "The Spanish Inquisition", "The Dead Parrot" and "The Argument". It was black comedy and satire at it's best and spawned a couple of great films and an ongoing musical, despite going off the air over 40 years ago it can still be enjoyed today, and that's incredible for comedy. Available on DVD.

The Sweeney - 1974-78

A ground breaking show The Sweeney was the first "gritty" police drama to air in England, starring John Thaw, who will show up again later on this list, the show portrayed London policing as a dog eat dog procedure. The show aired at a time when the police force it portrayed, London's "Flying Squad" were under siege for bribery and violence, just the type of actions the show featured. Almost 40 years later the show is still very watchable. Available on DVD

Fawlty Towers - 1975 & 1979

Twelve episodes, that's it, and yet Fawlty Towers is stamped indelibly in the minds of a whole generation. The show, all 12 episodes, was named by the British Film Institute as the best British television show of all time.......just think about that, all told it's just a shade over six hours of running time yet it was judged the best television series ever made in Britain. The show was written by, and stars, John Cleese and his real life wife at the time Connie Booth, along with Prunella Scales as Cleese's wife on the show with the absurd brilliance of Andrew Sachs as Manuel and portrays the life of running a hotel in the seaside town of Torquay. It's brilliant and if you haven't seen it I don't want to hear from you until you have. Available on DVD

Minder - 1979-94

How to describe Minder ? Well it's a comedy/drama set in the world of the London's small time criminals. It is ostensibly about an ex-con and former boxer who with limited employment options comes to work protection and odd jobs for a small time crook, con man and used car broker, but it's really just a chance to revel in George Cole's performance as Arthur Daley, the small time crook in question. Daley is one of the great characters in television history and watching him is always a great pleasure. Available on DVD.

Blackadder - 1983-89

Long before Mr. Bean Rowan Atkinson created the comic personas of Edmund Blackadder. The four seasons of Blackadder show four different main characters, descended from one another, in four different historical eras, the middle ages, the Elizabethan era, the Regency era of the late 19th century and WWI. Each "Blackadder" deals with social issues and while the first one is a bumbler the later Blackadder's are shrewd and cunning. The show sheds light on society in its' particular era but is mostly just a showcase for Atkinson and his comic foil played by Tony Robinson. Available on DVD.

Lovejoy - 1986-94 

Lovejoy was a six season, 71 episode, series based on the books by Johnathan Gash, a nom de plume of medical doctor John Grant. Lovejoy is the name of the main character, played brilliantly by Ian McShane, an antiques dealer with less than high ethical standards always one step away from either bankruptcy or the knick. The series taught me a bunch about antiques and the industry but as with most of the television I like was more about writing and acting. The books are more graphic in their portrayal of sex and violence, neither of which play much part in the tv show. Available on DVD.

Inspector Morse - 1987-2000 

British television does police procedurals much, much better than North American television, concentrating on procedure and characters more than special effects and shoot 'em up. There are man, many great British police procedurals but to my mind the Inspector Morse series, 33 two hour episodes based on the books by Colin Dexter, are in a class of their own. Morse is played by John Thaw and it's one of those roles that you can't imagine any one else playing, Thaw was a tremendous actor who left us much too soon at the age of 60. Morse is a difficult, sarcastic, hard drinking, condescending, anti-feminist curmudgeon but his flaws are what make him so watchable. Available on DVD.

Prime Suspect - 1991-2006

Okay so maybe Morse isn't in a class of his own, he probably shares the class with Jane Tennison, the star of the 7 mini series of Prime Suspect . Tennison is played by Helen Mirren and even within the vast scope of Dame Helen's career I think Tennison may be her greatest role. As with Morse the Prime Suspect series deals in great detail with the lead character's life and flaws and over the course of the 7 seasons, each between 3 1/2 and 5 hours in length the series deals with massive social issues like sexism, racism, paedophilia, prostitution, child abuse and alcohol addiction. Each of the seven series stands on its' own merits but I would advise watching Prime Suspect 1 first to get a fuller understanding of Tennison's character.Available on DVD

Cracker - 1993-95

Three seasons, nine cases, 25 episodes and 2 tacked on "specials" of Robbie Coltrane creating one of the most memorable characters in television history, Edward "Fitz" Fitzgerald a criminal psychologist who works with the Manchester Police. The series takes its' name from the term used to describe criminal psychologists, "crackers" as they crack cases. Fitz is the classic anti-hero, in his own words "I drink too much, I smoke too much, I gamble too much. I am too much", in addition he is foul mouthed, sarcastic in terrible physical condition and an overall train wreck but he's brilliant and unbelievably enjoyable to watch. The show deals with a wide array of issues, not the least being the human mind. Available on DVD.

Luther - 2010-13

With only 14 episodes spread over three seasons it's tough to call Luther a series but if Idris Elba never becomes James Bond he'll still have DVI John Luther to hang his hat on. Luther is a brilliant detective driven by his work, he's violent, anti-social and probably psychotic but boy is he fun to watch. Anyone with a distrust of the police should probably not watch this show as it, well let's just say it doesn't show them in a positive light. Season four has been confirmed so there will be more Luther in our lives. Available on DVD.

There were a number of series that just missed this list, notable A touch of Frost, Yes Minister, The Fall, House of Cards and The Avengers but I'll stand with these ten for now.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Wine Buys this Month

So it's scorching hot, by Vancouver standards, with daily highs consistently in the 25C+ range the past 6 weeks and dry as a bone by anyone's standards. Since May 1st Vancouver has had 17.5mm of recorded rainfall, to put that in perspective the average monthly rainfall for May & June are usually in the 60mm range for each month and July is around 40mm, so generally by mid July the rainfall for May, June & July would be in the 140mm range.

What this means for me is lots of salads and lots of grilled dinner. I generally prep a big bowl of Greek salad and another of coleslaw, undressed, keep them in the fridge and dress what we need at dinner, or I grill veggies after I've taken the protein off the Weber and let the protein rest. As for that protein it runs the usual course, fish (mostly tuna or salmon), pork (tenderloin or ribs) chicken and a bit of beef, but regardless the fact remains that grilled means bolder flavour and that means wines that will stand up to those flavours. For white wines that means Sauvignon Blanc and Rieslings, for reds the varietal doesn't matter as much as the balance . I am generally a huge fan of acidity in red wine but for the summer and the sweet, smoky flavour of food off the grill I tone it down and look for softer wines that won't duke it out with the robust grilled meats .

Anyway as you should know the BCLDB price changes happen generally on the last Sunday of the month and since stores are now open Sunday you can get there early and scope the deals. The other alternative is to check my blog a day or two afterwards, or a couple of weeks in today's case, for some of what I think are the better monthly price reductions. There are generally around 300 wines that are placed on sale each month, these are known as LTOs, limited time offerings, and come about by the agents for the wines choosing to release there price for a month to either stimulate a flagging brand, to capitalize on a hot brand or sometimes to introduce a product to wider audience. Often these reductions are in the $1 a bottle range and I generally don't test drive those ones but once you get up to $2 a bottle I may get interested. So given that it's hot and we want BBQ wines here are my picks for this month's wine buys, remember all prices will have 15% tax added on plus a 10 cent deposit so, for example, a wine that is on the shelf at $13.99 will ring up as $16.20.
Red Wine Bargains

Jackson Triggs Reserve Merlot Okanagan Valley, reduced $2 to $9.29 - stupidly cheap, for BC, solid entry level Merlot

Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Chile, reduced $2 to $11.29 - good entry level fruity Cab with some smoke & peppers, medium length

Jacob's Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz Barossa Valley, Australia, reduced $2 to $12.79 - this wine used to retail for $20, it's not as good as their Coonawarra Cab but it's a helluva bang for the buck $14.80 all in

St. Hallet's Gamekeepers Reserve Barossa Valley, Australia, reduced $2 to $12.99 - this beauty is a blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Touriga Nacional and has lots of sweet fruit and spice, great mouthfill

Red Rooster Merlot Okanagan Valley, reduced $2 to $13.69 - cooler climate BC Merlot with some nice chocolate and plum, some more Cancon

Yalumba Organic Shiraz - South Australia, reduced $2 to $13.99 - the rather generic South Australia appelation could give pause but this is a nice drinking soft Shiraz without the over the top fruit that many less expensive Aussie reds exhibit. I actually just had this with grilled grass fed striploin in the middle of writing this post and it was great.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot Columbia Valley, Washington, reduced $2 to $15.39 - this is just really, really good Merlot it's got all those mocha, cherry, red fruit flavours we love in Merlot with a big velvet finish save this one and the next one for the steaks.

Graham Beck The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon South Africa, reduced $2 to $16.29 - big, big Cab with a bit more Old World austerity than the other wines on this list it has a more tannic bite and a long finish with black fruits and menthol in the mix, crack it 20 minutes before dinner and have it with the leg of lamb.

White Wine Bargains

Inniskillin Okanagan Estate Riesling Okanagan Valley, reduced $2 to $9.29 - nice entry level Riesling it's fruit forward with enough acid to keep it fresh, finishes alittle short but at this price great for patio sipping or with spicy chicken
Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Chile, reduced $2.20 to $10.09 - I like Chilean SB, it treads the line between the often overly assertive style of New Zealand and the blander California "Fume", this has hints of grapefruit and a nice finish at a great price

Sauvignon Blanc Sileni Cellar Selection Marlborough, New Zealand. reduced $2 to $13.29 - more on the tropical fruit/gooseberry end of the SB scale this is pretty textbook Marlborough for a good price. More assertive than the Santa Carolina it will be better with fatty fish like salmon

Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling Columbia Valley, Washington, reduced $2 to $13.29 - oh it's just so pretty, blended from a variety of Columbia Valley fruit this is lovely off dry Riesling, white peach and lime on the palate with a little wet stone and honey on the end, great with spicy grilled chicken .

Wild Goose Vineyards Gewurztraminer Okanagan Valley, $2 to $14.29 - Gewurztraminer, called "goo" in the trade is great with spicy food and Wild Goose's goo is made with 25 year old vines producing something with spice and roses and grapefruit rind, big mouthfill, a little off dry and a lot delicious.

Sandhill Pinot Gris "Hidden Terrace" Okanagan Valley, reduced $2 to $14.59 - I'm not a big fan of Pinot Gris but this single vineyard bottling for Sandhill is an exception, it's not flabby like so many examples but has a nice acidity and crisp apple/pear flavours .

Chateau St Jean Chardonnay Sonoma, California, reduced $2 to $17.29 - it's big ticket for the BBQ at $20 with tax in but it's still a chance to have a really good example of why California Chardonnay has been so popular for so long, full bodied with lots of apple, vanilla and toasty oak it embodies the Californian "buttery" style without becoming oak soup.

Wow, that was a lot longer than I thought it would be, and before you ask about Rosé there are none on sale, plus overall the selection is hideous.

These wines are on sale until July 25th, I'll try and post about next month's bargains a little earlier than 2 1/2 weeks into the four week cycle.

I'll leave you with a photo of me grilling the grass fed strip loins mentioned above.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

My highly personal list of the best television series of all time, part one - Gone too soon

On Friday morning, after my hell day documented in the previous post, I met with Uncle Donny for coffee. Theoretically the meeting was designed for us to go over my career options but you have to understand that was just the jumping off point for 75 minutes of free styling conversation on topics that vary from politics to real estate to food and restaurants, to pretty much anywhere. These conversations allow Don to voice his thoughts in the politically incorrect manner that he can't do in his professional life so I really feel they are cathartic and he should be paying me, but he did pick up the coffee so whatever.

Somewhere, somehow we wandered into television, it started with an Angel Martin reference which got us wondering where Rockford Files stands in the "greatest tv shows ever" rankings, here's a hint .........really high . We spent three or four minutes discussing our thoughts on this topic, mostly the various merits of Seinfeld vs Larry Sanders vs Sgt. Bilko vs the Friendly Giant but then somehow we were back talking about bandwidth, Vancouver real estate and the horrible choices we have to make at election time.

Long after the coffee session ended and I was back at home I began to wonder more about the best television shows of all time. I've had an interesting relationship with television, I grew up in small town in Eastern Ontario and until I left home for University at 18 I lived in a house with only one television and one television station, the local CBC affiliate . As a result I didn't watch much TV, other than Hockey Night in Canada, though as a young child Sunday night television with Bonanza and The Ed Sullivan Show was a sacrosanct event. Once I was in University there were really too many other distractions to watch much TV, though some shows I generally took the time to watch, like the above mentioned Rockford Files and then of course I spent a good portion of my adult years working at night. Still as with most adult North Americans in their fifties I have a long and enduring relationship with the tube.

Anyway I spent a couple of hours the past two days putting together a short list, that I realized actually wasn't that short, of what are my must see tv shows. Essentially this is a listing of the shows that I always tried to watch, that I really enjoyed when I did watch them and that I would love to own the entire series of, just to be able to watch when I wanted.

There is very little on television right now that fits into this category and since I don't subscribe to HBO my choices are further limited, there are a number of shows that friends of mine say I should be watching that I'm not such as Ray Donovan, Veep, True Detective and The Newsroom. Anyway over however long it takes me to go through this list I'm going to blog about television shows for awhile, though not exclusively television shows, I'll still try and spend some time writing about food, wine and life in general.

Today I'm going to talk about shows that never got the chance, shows that I found really, really good but that just didn't stick around very long either through lack of audience, cost of production or network mishandling.

Gone too Soon, in no particular order

Firefly - 2002, 14 episodes

Many, many articles have been written about the too soon demise of Firefly, Google it and over 8.6M results show up. It has a cult following that persists today despite having a run of only 14 episodes, the demand for closure was so great that in 2005 Universal Pictures produced the feature film Serenity to wrap up the plotline. In truth the Space Western set 500 years in the future was really, really watchable, it came from one of America's hottest commodities at the time Josh Whedon and was his first "non Buffy" project. Whedon has gone on to great things as have many of the cast. Available on DVD

Life - 2007-09, 32 episodes

This was my first introduction to Damien Lewis' work as an actor, the show was riveting to me and I was pissed off that it was cancelled . The show followed Lewis' character LAPD Detective Charlie Crews, Crews had been wrongfully imprisoned for murder and is released after 12 years, despite a huge financial settlement Crews returns to work as an LA detective. The show is loaded with conspiracy theories, zen philosophy and themes of loneliness, the effects of imprisonment and the speed of technology. Writing and acting was superb with the cast also featuring Adan Arkin, Sarah Shahi and Donal Logue. Available on DVD

Carnivale - 2003-05, 24 episodes

This show was just strange, set against the backdrop of the depression it revolves around two different storylines that eventually converge. One thread deals with a faith healer, who has real healing powers, in a traveling carnival while the other thread involves a fire and brimstone Methodist preacher. There is so much mysticism and good vs. evil going on it's hard to keep track and the show is over reaching in it's message but it was just so atmospheric and well written that I really, really liked it. Costs were huge, over $2M per episode and though it debuted with a huge audience it couldn't sustain it with overly complex plotting and dark themes. Available on DVD

Boomtown - 2002-03, 24 episodes

This show's failure was a mystery to me, it was a police procedural set in Los Angeles, had a great cast, including Donny Wahlberg, Mykelti Williamson and Neal McDonough was well written etc. but it never caught on. The show won a Peabody award among other acclaims but couldn't sustain and audience. Unavailable on DVD

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - 2006-07, 22 episodes

Sigh, just another example of how great acting and clever writing so easily fails in mainstream television. The "show within a show" about an LA based Saturday Night Live style program was maybe just too clever for its' own good, an Aaron Sorkin project with, not surprisingly, great acting and writing it didn't make it past season one, too smart and too expensive. Available on DVD

Sports Night - 1998-2000, 45 episodes

Another Aaron Sorkin series loosely based on real life, ESPN's Sportscenter,  Sports Night again featured great writing and acting, a cast that included Josh Charles, Peter Krause, Robert Guillaume and Felicity Huffman. Gassed after two season Sorkin had offers to take it to other networks but chose to keep his focus on The West Wing so Sports Night went away. Available on DVD but insanely expensive.

Brimstone 1998-99, 13 episodes

Oh I knew this one was doomed from the get go, it was just waaaay to dark for regular consumption but the play between John Glover, as the Devil, and Peter Horton as Ezekiel Stone was fabulous. Stone is a cop who plants evidence to get a conviction against his wife's rapist, who is then murdered, when Stone is killed in the line of duty he is sent to Hell but when 113 souls escape Stone is dispatched to bring them back. The carrot for Stone is if he brings back all the escapees he gets a second chance at life. Unavailable on DVD.

Rubicon 2010, 13 episodes

Honestly not as good as many on this list but had potential, it was a classic political conspiracy theory plotline with good writing and acting but it just moved too damn slowly to keep an audience, it was AMC's first miss, lasting only 13 episodes despite critical acclaim. Available on DVD

Millennium 1996-99, 67 episodes

Okay so it really probably wasn't "Gone too Soon", Millennium was dark, weird, unfocused and far too serious for it's own good but anytime I have the chance to have Lance Henriksen come into my living room for an hour a week I'm all over that shit. This was Chris Carter's vanity project rewarded to him for the success of X Files and it just wasn't good enough but still.......Lance Henriksen. Available on DVD.

Terriers 2010, 13 episodes

This one hurts the most, Terriers was simply brilliant, it was essentially a much grittier Rockford Files for the new age. Starring Donal Logue as a disgraced ex-cop and recovering alcoholic operating an unlicensed private investigation business it has humour, drama, real life issues and just great writing and acting. Somehow it was on FX and between the wrong network and the totally confusing name it just got lost in the cracks . Despite high critical acclaim and a rabid, though very small, fanbase it was a one & done. There have been innumerable rumours of a tv movie/mini series to wrap up the plot but it's been five years so I think it's time to admit it's not gonna happen. Unbelievably Terriers is not available on DVD .

So that took way too long, at some point I'll come back to this with a list of British imports you should have watched, and maybe can watch on DVD or streaming.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

I can't catch a break to save my life right now

So I've been taking some down time, more by now than I'd really like to but I'm trying very hard not to go back into the front end service portion of the restaurant business. There is a shelf life on this sort of thing and I'm pretty sure if mine hasn't expired it's at least reached "Manager's Special" level. It's a tough business and when you are my age, with my level of experience and the fact that I do not suffer fools gladly there are limited options as to where you can work and prosper and not commit any felony violence, toss in the fact that I am determined not to return to working nights and the well is very, very dry.

When the bistro closed I was in good shape financially and poor shape mentally so I figured three or four months of down time while I figured out what to do with my work life was a good idea, but the problem is I'm now six months in and while I've eliminated a number of career paths little that is viable has emerged, sadly it appears that nobody is going to hire me to read cookbooks, shop for food, menu plan, cook and drink good wine, . I've had a couple of offers but various combinations of terrible money, uninteresting jobs or lack of faith in the company  have so far kept me from a new career.

Today, however, dawned with a new hope as a position that I was interested in, and was interesting, presented itself to me and after a great meeting I was offered the job on the spot .......except the hours were not at all what I had been lead to believe and as a result I've chosen too pass, putting me back at square zero. In between that shitty piece of news and coming home I spent 90 minutes interviewing for a position that I still don't fully understand exactly what it's responsibilities are and neither, it appears, does the prospective employer.

While I was out at the meetings my landlord's handyman showed up to look at our dryer, the dryer started making a sound like cats in heat trapped in a cage last week and so I thought maybe some maintenance was in order. My landlord is a great landlord in many ways, I've previously mentioned this, but he doesn't like spending too much money so he uses his retired father as the handyman. His Dad is a good handyman but he's also extremely frugal with his son's money, he has an indifferent grasp of the English language and he seems to feel that since we are tenants we somehow should be available for him at any time. This morning at around 9 he called to say he was coming by in twenty minutes to look at the dryer, I said fine but I wouldn't be there but my daughter would be able to let him in ......pretty straight forward.

When I got home from my crushing "We'd like to offer you a job/yeah but it's I can't take that job/what exactly is this job I'm interviewing for ?" morning I discovered my laundry room/storage room has migrated into my dining room as apparently putting shit back isn't part of the repair process. So I spent half an hour tidying up and then daughter walked in and said "Oh Chen said the dryer might not be fully fixed and he might have to come back but I can't remember when he said he would do that, or if we can use the dryer or not", let me tell you something, leaving a message with a 16 year old about appliance repair, unless the appliance is a hair straightener, is useless. You might as well leave the instructions with the cat, they will both look you straight in the eye while you tell them and neither one of them will remember anything that you said 30 seconds after you leave.

So now it's after 3 o'clock, it's a couple of hundred degrees outside so I fix daughter a cold plate so she can eat something before heading off to her job, she has her first summer job and OF COURSE it's in the restaurant business, but fortunately it's her Uncle's place so she will be sheltered from the seamier side for at least this summer. Fed and showered she manages to convince me to drive her to work so we head off, six blocks from home I get rear ended . It's not a big hit but I pull over to get insurance info and this is when I realize I'm not dealing with a fully rational individual, first she claims there's no damage so when I point out the dent in the back of my car she says "well you pulled out right in front of me", I then explain that she actually changed lanes and that a rear end collision is always the fault of the driver in the rear. She then gets on me because her mother was just admitted to emergency and so she's upset, I say I'm sorry about her mom but really all I need is her driver's license, she then starts yelling and I just go "You know what, I've got your plate number and a witness so see ya", and head away.

Finally back home I realize that it's going to be 4-5 hours before I have to pick up daughter from work and so I can bend my "zero tolerance when driving with daughter in the car" policy and enjoy a cold beer on the front porch, that's when I find out that I forgot to put beer in the fridge.

Gotta be better tomorrow, right ??

Saturday, July 04, 2015

The Costco List - Again

** This post disappeared while I was trying to edit it this morning so here it is again **

I have been a Costco member since 1999, the same year I became a father and yes it is no coincidence, my daughter was a Kirkland diaper baby, we had massive boxes of Q tips, tubs of powder the size of the baby herself etc., etc.

I remember my first voyage to Costco, I had to drive 25 minutes to a suburb, and then spend what felt like another 25 minutes in the lot looking for parking, to do my Costco shopping so it was a "once every 6 weeks" type of adventure. I recall being sensory overloaded with the quantity of goods, and remember they don't even sell wine here, but the deals were too good to pass up, we paid for our membership in diaper savings alone for the first two years. After daughter was out of diapers though things changed and I recall on more than one occasion wondering if it was worth the annual membership fee plus gas plus parking lot frustration . Then in 2006 everything changed when Costco opened their first ever Canadian "urban" location, not only was the store located in the downtown area, right beside a skytrain station but it marked a departure from the products in the suburban stores. The "urban" Costco stocked a wide range of organics, a vastly expanded produce section, many more upscale food items, a broad selection of good quality frozen foods and a huge section of deli foods and HRMs (home ready meals) to cater to the condo living locals. Along with the improved product line was the fact that it was now only a seven minute drive and a had MASSIVE underground parking garage that was not free but was very reasonable.

So I reupped and now I can't imagine groceries without Costco, the store is so convenient that I usually shop there every couple of weeks. Still there are pitfalls, first there is the size of packaging it's large so fresh produce is often not a good idea for a small family but there are some go-to items even in that category. You also have to be careful about impulse buying, especially when you see great prices and then 2 months later are still trying to eat your way through the 7 kilo box of cookies, just kidding (I think) and the lineups at the cash register can be brutal. I've often advocated an Costco "express" line, less than $250 worth of goods, but I don't see it happening any time soon. To me though the benefits outweigh the pitfalls, especially if you can avoid the pitfalls, and one of the biggest benefits is the quality of goods. Costco does not stock crap, their house brand Kirkland Signature is always top quality, believe me I would never have let inferior nappies touch my daughter's butt, so you can shop with confidence. They constantly upgrade their product line and the non House Brand staples they sell are always from top suppliers, though I have heard complaints that their potato chips are stale but I've never bought them so I don't know.

Price wise you have to know your pricing, it's not always the cheapest though generally it will be, and you don't have to hunt for sales, if you want baby back ribs, and there are going to be 6-8 for dinner then just go and buy a slab.  Costco is a better value for larger households but even with just two of us there are certain items that I will likely always buy at Costco, these are staple items that are always much less at Costco, they are the items that pay for the membership so here is my:

"Costco Essentials Shopping List"
  • Butter - Costco sells butter for roughly 60% of regular chain grocery price, apparently all dairy but we use very little milk/cream so it's not worth it for us
  • Cheese - again it's not close roughly 60-70% of RCG (regular chain grocery) with a broad selection and excellent quality, I'm not talking about picking up your post dinner cheese plate stuff here, leave that to "Les Amis", but for sandwich cheese, Balderson's cheddar and good quality Romano for pasta etc. the big box can't be beat
  • Olive Oil - Kirkland Signature Organic EVOO is just great olive oil at a price that is 30-40% less than anything comparable on the market
  • Frozen fruit - both regular and organic, great for when I feel up to smoothies plus excellent for baking
  • Frozen fish - we eat fish generally twice a week, Costco carries a broad selection of frozen wild fish, often line caught, at prices that are cheaper than anyone else. I currently have  Yellowfin Tuna and Barramundi in my freezer that I would not generally be able to afford.
  • Cucumbers - 3 pack of English cukes so not unmanageable, always good quality at a regular price that pretty much is the same as RCG sale price
  • Peanut Butter - okay it's a big package, 2*1kg jars, but it's all natural, unsalted and organic plus we eat lots of Peanut Butter and the price is less than 1/2 of what you would pay for a similar product.
  • Nutella - daughter's one true love. Again mere mortals might find the package size daunting but it's a laugher for us and 1/2 price
  • "Happy Planet" Smoothies - it's a convenience factor, we could, and do, make our own but some morning having an organic smoothie in a bottle in the fridge is just good sense, and 2*1L for $7 is too good to pass up
  • Stuffed Pasta - they stock a wide variety, it's all good, much of it is organic and it's 1/2 the price of anywhere else plus the selection is better. I just bring home the massive package and parcel it out into one meal portion sizes and freeze them.
  • Brita water filters - 25-30% cheaper than anywhere else
  • Stoned Wheat Thins - again, not for everyone 'cause it's a huge package but we eat lots and they are 1/2 RCG price
  • Bacon - again, big package but c'mon ............ it's BACON
  • Rotisserie Chicken - like the smoothie it's a bit of a cheat but the Costco birds are big, perfectly cooked and much cheaper than anywhere else. Particularly in winter I will grab one bring it home and strip the meat, having the roast chicken for one meal with enough left for at least one more meal plus a couple of sandwiches plus the carcass for stock. Once again it's real value is the quality, not just the price.
I'm sure there are some others but those items alone make me a Costco member, toss in the fact that unlike Walmart or Target Costco actually pay their staff good wages and provides excellent benefits and it's an easy choice.

Plus don't get me started on the electronics prices, thankfully I can't afford any new toys so I don't even wander down that aisle anymore. Anyway, leave me a comment on what your Costco essentials are, maybe I need to expand my list.

My Blog has lost its' Mind

For those of you on the email list I aplologize.

I attempted to edit one of my posts but Blogger decided to publish 1/3rd of the post and then delete the rest so if you get a strange partial Costco list from me today I'm sorry.

I'm even sorrier that the rest of that post is now lost somewhere in cyberspace but if I get a chance today or tomorrow I'll try and repost it.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Canada Day Menu, and Beverages

Yesterday was July 1st, Canada Day, which celebrates the enactment on July 1st 1867 of the British North America act. The act joined together the three territories of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada into a self governing federation, the Dominion of Canada. Although the British government didn't give up full control at that time it is the date that my country became a country and it's celebrated in many varied ways.

Canadians are known for low key, polite behaviour and our national day celebrations don't go too far off the rails, unless you are in Ottawa, but the holiday is marked by parades, fireworks and, due to the timing, countless back yard barbecues. Pretty soon if the trends continue we'll be forced to choose between Canada Day celebrations and game seven of the Stanley Cup final but for now we are fine. The back yard bbq, or grill technically, is a bit of an issue this year as I try to stay regional and since it's the start of Sockeye season generally a whole fish, stuffed with lemons and fennel and bathed in olive oil would go on the Weber but this year I have dinner guests who "aren't fond of fish" plus two non red meat eaters so .......what to do ? Fortunately the Fraser Valley is home to any number of free range chicken producers so I grabbed a couple of 4 pound birds and brined them overnight in a simple salt water brine with the addition of peppercorns, garlic cloves and lemon peel.

Once out of the brine the birds were patted dry, spatch cocked and rubbed with a dry rub of salt, pepper, sage, ground fennel seed and mustard powder and left to come to room temperature while the grill heated up . I am a traditionalist and use lump charcoal and hardwood in my grill, no gas and certainly no briquettes, so it takes about 30 minutes for the fire to reach  searing hot. While the grill heats and the birds sit I trimmed and blanched green beans and julienned bell peppers and tossed them lightly in olive oil, kosher salt and lemon zest for later grilling. Once the fire is hot the chicken gets grilled, my Weber is not big enough to cook both birds at once so one was cooked then put in a low oven while the other was grilled then the first one got a short re-grilling to bring the temperature back up.

Grilling skin on, bone in chicken is a much discussed topic in the world of outdoor cooking, you can easily go blind reading the various permutations and combinations of how and why but for whole bird here is my method. The idea is to have a bird with crispy charred skin that is still moist inside so this involves two different heat components, searing high heat for the crisping and moderate heat to cook the bird through while leaving it moist . To accomplish this on a wood grill you simply stack your coals on one half of the grill, meat placed directly over the coals get very high heat while meat placed on the side without coals gets "indirect heat" less hot but still hot if you get my drift. A whole bird needs both and the intuitive method is to sear first and then move to the indirect heat to finish ....... this is wrong. A bird cannot start to crisp until most of the fat and moisture are rendered so by placing the bird on the indirect side you allow the rendering to take place first, I place the bird skin side up on the cool side with the legs facing the heat to get that dark meat a little jump start.

Grilling chicken really needs a meat thermometer, otherwise it's just guess work and disasters will happen, check the bird at the thigh joints and when it gets to about 140 degrees then flip the bird, not in the English style but actually turn the bird over and place skin side down over the hot coals until the skin crisps and chars, remove the bird and let it rest 10 minutes then carve and serve. I generally use the resting period to grill the veggies and that's what I did yesterday. Also as soon as I take the bird off the flame I brush it with a compound butter, yesterday I used garlic, lemon and Italian parsley. Along with the grilled birds were the grilled green beans and peppers, Caesar and potato salads, sadly no bacon, and dessert was fresh blueberry tarts.

The beverages were all Canadian, craft beer and hard cider to start and then Tinhorn Gewurztraminer and Osoyoos Larose - Petales D'Osoyoos with dinner. The Gewurztraminer is a classic Okanagan style, featuring crisp lychee, peach and ginger spice, it is dry but floral and while I personally would like a bit more acid it was a nice partner with the bird. The red Bordeaux from Osoyoos-Larose was from the 2011 vintage, a cooler more difficult vintage for the Okanagan, the blend is heavily weighted toward Merlot, 67% with almost equal parts Cab Sauv and Cab Franc then a little bit of Malbec and Petit Verdot. I have always enjoyed this "second label" blend and two plus years of bottle aging, after 16 months in oak, have softened out the edges nicely. Red berries are dominant in the flavour with a touch of vanilla from the oak and a little mocha in the mouth, the added bottle age has softened out some of the greener, leafy Merlot character I noticed when I tasted this last in October 2014 and with 15 minutes of air it was really quite delicious, it's tough for me to really get behind BC Bordeaux blend at $25 but this is awfully tasty.

All in all a good day, finished off with the blueberry tarts on the front porch with the sun down but still enough light not to need candles at 9:30pm. Oh Canada indeed.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Orzo Salad

First off let me say that I love orzo, the little grain shaped pasta that got it's start mostly in soups and then graduated to other usage. The name actually means "barley" in Italian and it is also sometimes referred as risoni which translates to "big rice".  I cook it like regular pasta but apparently it can be prepared in a similar manner as risotto, sauteed then slow cooked in liquid in which case the finished dish is called orzatto, I will likely give this a try in the winter.

Orzo is quick, around eight minutes to al dente, versatile and holds well which is always an asset. For years I used it as a side dish, just tossed with some butter, cheese and some herb like basil or Italian parsley, as an addition to soups and of course in pasta salads. Now pasta salads have a bit of a bad reputation in the foodie world for some reason but in the summer I like them because I can make a large batch and use it a couple of times during the week without heating up the house. I also do this with potato salad, Greek salad and coleslaw, without dressing the last two, so that I can just quickly cook some protein and dinner can be ready in fifteen minutes or so.

We are off today for a combined family father's day BBQ, along with watching the Canadian women's soccer play their round of 16 match against Switzerland, at friend's home and I volunteered to bring starch. We are having leg of lamb as the main so I thought "Hey, let's make an orzo salad" because to me orzo has always been "Greek pasta", though I'm not sure why except it is often found in Greek restaurants here in Vancouver baked with lamb in tomato sauce, a dish known as youvetsi. I woke up this morning and looked at what I had to make the salad, went to work and came up with something I thought would work based on what I had in house, plus the fact that some allergies/picky eaters meant I couldn't use nuts or tomatoes, two items I would normally use in an orzo salad. Also I knew there was going to be a Greek salad on the menu so I wanted to eliminate olives and feta and go easy on the peppers, challenge accepted.

I cooked the orzo al dente and then tossed it still hot with goat cheese and a lemony vinaigrette, the standard vinaigrette ratio is three parts oil to one part vinegar but I figured the creaminess of the orzo and goat cheese needed more citrus so I made a large batch of vinaigrette at 3:1 and then took 1/2 cup and added the juice of one lemon, whisked it and tossed the still hot orzo/cheese combo in the vinaigrette. Meanwhile I chopped a head of broccoli into bite size pieces and tossed it with a chopped red pepper, four cloves of finely sliced garlic, salt and pepper and then drizzled it with olive oil and roasted for 12 minutes at 425 degrees. When the broccoli/pepper combo was done I tossed it with the orzo along with some chopped scallion and minced Italian parsley and left it on the counter.

Twenty minutes later I went back to taste and it was amazing, the flavours worked so well, the creamy pasta/cheese with the raw scallion/parsley and the earthy taste of the roasted veg and garlic. This is definitely a keeper, served room temperature is better than chilled so if you make ahead give yourself time to let the salad warm up, better still make it an hour before dinner.

Anyway, here's the recipe, remember cooking is art so measurements are as close as I remember but not 100% accurate.

New Orzo Salad

  • 500 grams Orzo
  • 100 grams goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup vinaigrette (3:1 oil:vinegar, a touch of Dijon and salt whisked)
  • juice of one lemon
  • one big head of broccoli, cut into florets, stem cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 red pepper, bite sized pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallion, green part only
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, minced 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • some olive oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Add the juice of one lemon to vinaigrette and whisk.

Cook orzo in a large pot of boiling water until al dente, taste at about 7 minutes and expect it to take about 8, drain pasta and toss with goat cheese and vinaigrette. It's always important to check pasta while cooking it, the times are just general estimates

Toss the garlic, red pepper and broccoli in enough olive oil to coat, don't drown it, and add salt and pepper to taste. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and cook for 10-12 minutes in the 425 oven, stirring once or twice. The broccoli should be browned aroud the edges and the garlic browned but not burnt.

Toss roasted veg, parsley and scallions with pasta and let sit for 30-60 minutes to reach room temperature and serve. If you make ahead refrigerate and then take it out 60 minutes before service to allow it to come to room temperature.

I have a little bit of this reserved so I can try it for lunch with leftover grilled chicken some time this week, I have a good feeling about it.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

North of the 49th

It is 9:33pm as I write this.

It is still light enough outside that I just came in from reading on the front porch without the assistance of any artificial light.

I know I'll hate it in December when it's dark at 4pm, but right now it's awesome.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

La Donald is running for President ......... Seriously

So Donald Trump, the comb over that walks like a man, has announced his candidacy for President . Well technically Donald has announced his intention to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 but you know what I mean, in fact he's even printed the buttons, because we all know you can't be taken seriously as a candidate unless you have buttons.

There are a bunch of problems with Trump's campaign starting with the fact that while he is a "bad hair" billionaire he's also given a bunch of folks haircuts on the way there.

Trump has declared corporate bankruptcy four different times and while some will vigorously defend Chapter 11 as "just sound business" there are many others that feel four times is a tad excessive. Still one of the more interesting sidelines of Trump's announcement is that as a candidate he will have to file a detailed financial disclosure which means people will finally get a good luck at how much he is really worth . During his announcement speech, wildly cheered by actors making $50 each to do so, Donald brandished a one page net worth summary that placed his personal worth at $8.7 billion, more than double Forbes magazines estimate of $4.1 billion, but really we aren't here to quibble over a measly $4.6B discrepancy, suffice to say La Donald is, as he said, "really, really rich".

Getting past Trump's questionable business ethics the two biggest issues I have are that he has never held office, I mean never, and that may be a bit of an issue, but still running the country is much like running a business and he's had great success there, notwithstanding those four bankruptcies of course. Still Schwarzenegger had no experience before he was elected Governor of California and we all know how ell that turned out, though really Arnie was no worse than the previous Republican Governors . However in today's vast and varied political landscape maybe the board room philosophy can work.

But the biggest problem with Trump is that he's a big fat liar . I know that's often not an uncommon flaw among politicians but Donald is, to take his own phrase, a "really, really big liar". Since his announcement the disclaimers have been coming out of the woodwork, CBS news launched a piece detailing Trump's problems with the truth using data gathered by and while it may have come as a surprise to some the lies had already been well documented over the years by the excellent site, a site maintained by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper which regularly judges the merits of American broadcaster and politicians statements and grades them on a scale that goes from "True" to "Pants on Fire". As you can see the site has researched some nineteen different statements by Trump over the years, two reached the giddy heights of "Mostly True" while thirteen fell under the "False" or "Pants on Fire" rating.

Now I don't honestly think Donald Trump has any chance to win the Republican nomination but the concept of severely right wing billionaires actually running for office rather than just bankrolling the Republican party does change the dynamics a bit. In the mean time the Koch brothers will still be able to toss one of these guys at the electorate in 2016, and they all have better hair than Donald.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Easiest Move Ever

We moved, it didn't cost me a dime and it was almost painless.

Okay we didn't move, barring a lottery win we are unlikely to move until daughter leaves home and I can downsize. The Vancouver real estate market is the second most expensive in the world, behind Hong Kong but ahead of London, New York and San Francisco so I won't ever be buying but we had the good fortune to find a reasonable rental in a fabulous area and we've been here for almost 14 years. Our landlord is neglectfully benevolent, meaning it might take longer for the dryer to get fixed but the rent increases are also irregular. Rent increases in Vancouver are limited to 2.5% per year and can't be applied retroactively so the years in which my landlord forgets to raise the rent save us all the way down the line, as a result I now pay roughly 20-25% below market value for our 2 bedroom suite on the main floor of a character house in one of the city's more desirable neighbourhoods.

Last month I got an email from my landlord saying he had commissioned a painting firm to paint all three of his rental properties, one is on the same block as ours while the other is three blocks away. Landlord apologized in advance for any inconvenience and assured me this was not a precursor to selling the house, which I knew anyway because our lovely little character house will meet the wrecking ball hours after it is eventually sold, the same fate as 750 homes have already this year in Vancouver but that's another story. A week or so later a sign went up on the lawn and a day or two after that the painter knocked on the door to explain his schedule and advise me when the outdoor plants would have to be moved etc., I asked him what the new colour would be and he said landlord hadn't specified and did I have a choice, in fact I did. Our house has always been referred to as "the purple house" and I enquired if he could come close to matching the original which was a deep indigo hue. he brought out his colour samples and between us we came up with something really close, the painter was very happy as he said "I like to see these older houses stay with their character colours".

We have been blessed with a sensational month weather wise, as opposed to the past few years when the sixth month of the calendar year was generally referred to as "Junuary" for it's wet, cool conditions. The result was the house was totally finished in about a week with minimal inconvenience and I must say it looks great. Given my druthers I'd have preferred new carpet and stainless steel appliances rather than a paint job but it does make my neighbours happy, in truth the old girl had become a little drab. The painting crew moved down the block and I figured that was it until this past Tuesday when I had a knock on the door and answered to see our mailman on the top step with a wry smile on his face. I asked if he had something he needed signed but he just handed me the mail and said "You know you screwed up the address, right ?". In fact I did not know but when I checked he was in fact correct, when putting the numbers back on the house our painters had become confused and moved our house three blocks east, our actual address is 853.

I thought about leaving it, but we changed it back.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

An ode to apricots, and some Sauvignon Blanc

Okay enough of the self analysis, it's time to talk about food and in particular apricots.

I love apricots although I know many consider them to be the red headed bastard step child of the peach family, and in fact they are related to peaches, but I actually rank the two on a par as my favourite stone fruits. Apricots are also hella good for you with whacks of vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants, in fact if all the stuff on this page is true you better stock up before they are declared the next superfood. We are in the middle of Californian apricot season and as the harvest moves north through Washington and the Okanagan we will have fresh apricots available until August, and then that's it, there is no import market for fresh apricots that I know of.

Apricots are great on their own, made into jam, baked in tarts etc. but my two preferred uses are :

1) Grilled

2) Apricot Salsa

The first method is dead easy, and works great with peaches as well, but is best if you are old school as I am and use a wood/charcoal burning grill. Since the grill retains heat for 15-20 minutes after the protein has come off why not use that heat to make dessert. I will just halve ripe apricots, rub the cut side with some neutral oil and slap them on the still warm grill. If the grill gods are with you by the time dinner is over you will have warmed, juicy, slightly charred apricots that can go with some vanilla ice cream, or yoghurt if you want a buzzkill, with maybe a bit of berry coulis and dessert is served. It's not fool proof, sometimes they burn but if so you can cook them down on the stovetop with some sugar and water and have a nice "charred apricot puree" to bring to your next hipster foodie gathering.

The second method is my fave though and was the result of some overly aggressive apricot purchasing in the Okanagan 7-8 years ago. Home for a week I was faced with a decision of what to do with all the apricots, decided to make salsa, and was happy I did. Because apricots are not as sweet as peaches they balance better with a little heat so I just chopped up some red onion, a jalapeno, a couple of cloves of garlic, some coarse sea salt, Italian parsley and a bit of vegetable oil and pureed the whole thing. The result is a slightly sweet condiment that gets a back end heat from the onion and chile and is tremendous with pork, chicken or salmon.

For years I ate the stuff alone as wife was not a sweet and savory person at all and daughter thought it looked weird and, since "Mom doesn't have to eat it so why should I", passed on it. Two weeks ago I grabbed a couple of pounds of apricots at market and made up a batch of salsa to go with pork tenderloin the next night, the salsa is always better the second day as the flavours get comfortable with each other. As I was prepping the pork I put out some salsa on the table then continued cooking. When dinner hit the table daughter  immediately asked "what is the sauce", I told her it was apricot salsa and she heaped some on her plate. I reminded her that she hadn't liked it in the past but she replied that "I might have pinky tasted it while I was setting the table" and proceeded to ravage it con gusto . Since then I've had to make a second batch and last night we learned that it not only was great with the salmon but made the boiled new potatoes taste much better as well.

Here's the recipe, such as it is, for apricot salsa: (please note this isn't a professional cooking blog so my recipes aren't really that accurate on proportions sometimes, cooking is art ... baking is science)

5-6 apricots, stones removed, cut in quarters
1/4 medium red onion chopped
1 mid sized hot pepper, your choice, diced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons Italian parsley chopped (you can use cilantro if you want to ruin the dish)
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 tablespoon neutral oil

Toss it all into a processor, blender or use a hand blender and process until it's a coarse puree, you want some definable texture. Try it with white meats or rich fish, particularly off the grill or pulled pork. I suppose it will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks but that seems unlikely in my house, I'm almost sure I saw daughter put some on toast this morning.

A quick wine note as well, with the salmon last night I had a really nice, inexpensive, Sauvignon Blanc from Chiile.

Now in the past I've often found Chilean SB to be lacking in substance but last night's bottle was very good. The wine is from Carmen and is part of their Wave Series of wines that are supposed to be dedicated to the ocean .........whatever the hell that means, and while I haven't tried the Right Wave Pinot Noir I can certainly recommend the Left Wave Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is medium bodied and favours the citrus, gooseberry aspects of the grape, not as assertive as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and more fruit forward than Loire Valley it has a crisp entry, good mouth feel and a nice long finish. It will be a solid addition to the summer bbq season wine rack, it's widely available and retails for $11.49, which after tax equals a million dollars .......... just kidding, all in with deposit a bottle will set you back $13.30.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Putting my toe back in the water

So I'm going to try and start blogging again. If you can endure this little explanatory post I promise to try and keep things lighter as we move forward after today.

My life has changed radically in the past 20 months, none of it for the better, but I think it's time to start writing again. The tone may change as I'm not going to limit myself to food, wine and sports, I may get a little political on occasion but I will continue to write about things that matter to me. Except for the occasions when I just write about things that just strike my whimsy .

As a background, and a bit of catharsis, my wife and partner of over 30 years was diagnosed with inoperable stage IV colon cancer in November of 2012. The cancer was already metastatic, meaning it had spread to other organs and she was very sick but hope, stupid hope, springs eternal and when she responded so positively to the first chemo cocktail we began to believe that she might beat the odds.

She didn't.

The first chemo cocktail ran it's course, the second didn't really have any positive results and my wife passed away in April of 2014, leaving me a widower and a single parent of a fifteen year old daughter. The end came astonishingly fast as my wife was in great spirits, and seemingly decent health, in mid February and dead seven weeks later, so I didn't really have time to process . I ran hard on adrenaline for a few months, spending most of my energy trying to ensure our daughter was not going to fall apart . 

With the fall came a return to school and some semblance of normalcy for daughter and a new job for me. I made the decision to return to management, taking over running lunch at a very good bistro, the money wasn't as good but I would be able to be home by 6pm and be there for daughter, plus the restaurant was great and I enjoyed the change . There was another hitch in October when my mother passed away, but she had been suffering from full blown dementia for a number of years so in some ways it was a blessing. It certainly didn't help my frame of mind but I pushed through and settled into a solid routine, then just before the new year the great little bistro closed it's doors due to partnership disputes among other things.

I am still committed to working days but I have decided to abandon front line restaurant service/management and am currently searching for what I want to be when I grow up, all the while beginning to deal with the reality that I am suffering from depression. Counselling is helping but it's not easy, although at least it's not hard to identify the reason for my condition . The good thing is that I have plenty of time to write, the bad thing is that I have a great deal of difficulty getting motivated to do anything.

So there it is, some back story and a commitment to return to the blogosphere. I'm sure my followers are long gone, if not great but the blog has always been for myself anyway. I'm going to try and post a minimum of twice weekly so be prepared.