Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mill St. Brewery's Seasonal Sampler

You all know me and my love of trying new things. Or at least, if you don't know this, you do now. In fact, my love of trying new beer, spirits and wine make it quite difficult for me to stick to any favourites for long.

Nevertheless, I have found a new personal favourite. A Torontonian brewery located in its own eponymous Mill Street.

(Grab a pack and hold onto your butts folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride.)

And by bumpy, I mean to say, pleasantly surprising. Melody picked up our first sampler a couple of weeks ago, and it was good enough that we went out and bought another as a Christmas gift for my uncle's partner, and a six pack of the organic lager for ourselves.

My friends. I'm here to report a few of the highlights.

First of all, the presentation of the bottles and cans is a big deal. Perception is important, as right off the bat I perceive original taste pallet and scent pairings. We've all heard of chocolate porters, and if we haven't, then we probably don't visit the craft section of the liquor store as often as we should. Mill St went a different direction with their vanilla porter.

The vanilla shine and finish give the beer a complex flavour on top of its lightly bitter and already rich character. As porters go, it has a light flavour which the vanilla notes complement. It has the odour of Christmas, but not in the sense that it should be confused with a holiday beer. This beer has an identity of its own, and is quite pleasant. Perhaps on any special occasion, and not simply a holiday.

The organic lager on the other hand is a different story. The jilted promises of Corona's light smoothness pale at this truly light lager. For me, lagers are a source of boredom and discontent. Same old same old floating in an overwhelming sea of new and hip top fermenting microbrews. But stuff all of your storage beers where they belong and make resolute your New Year's promise to change old habits. Mill St Organic Lager is a thing of beauty. 

It's a light beer without the tacky 'light' label. It's organic. It's only 4% for fellow lightweights who want to spend more time getting to know their beers before forgetting their name's the next morning. And of course, it is smooth. Oh so smooth.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Classic cocktails: Grog

In the vein of winter warmers such as hot toddies and spiked coffee, I decided to give grog a try. Now, I detailed this experience in my recent navy inspired bartending video, but the time given in that video simply isn't enough justice for this old navy gem.

For those of you who didn't watch my video, here's the recipe:

- an ounce or two of rum (Kraken Black is my rum de jour)
- two teaspoons of brown sugar
- half a squeezed lime
- a slice of either orange or grapefruit
- 4 oz of hot water

Mix the rum, sugar, and lime juice together by stirring or shaking, before topping off with hot water and your slice of chosen citrus fruit. 

The drink was named after its inventor. One admiral Edward Vernon, or 'Old Grog'. He created the drink, intending the combination of ingredients to work against scurvy. It didn't work any more than one would expect, of course, but the drink lived on for some time.

Today, its fallen out of common usage, but people still remember the word 'grog', and associated with an old times drink of unknown origin. Except of course, now you know!

Enjoy, rum fans! I know I will!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

YouTube show: The Bottle Opener

The First episode of 'The Bottle Opener' youtube show is now ready for your viewing eyes! And I had a ton of fun making it too! Of course, like any "firsts" there are a lot of learning curves and hurdles that need to be addressed and overcome.

On the technical side of things, I need to think more about filming multiple takes of scenes, especially since I'm committed to doing the show completely unscripted. That adds a lot of pressure for coming up with things off the top of my head, but the idea is that I don't want to be "acting" through my scenes.  On that same note, my show has a few classroom gimmicks such as history lessons and 'in the kitchen' instructions. I move these sections along with my very dry sense of humour. Heck, even the background music choices are meant to be subtle jabs at the cheesy music often used in these things. Along the way, I seemed to pick up a bit of cheese too, though. So dry humour will stay, but toned down by ridiculousness and slapstick.

My next biggest hurdles to cross are going to be video editing, sound quality, and video quality. For the editing, this is a matter of practice and patience. As for sound quality, I'm going to have to find temporary fixes until I can budget enough money to getting another microphone. Sadly the microphone I have is not ideal for capturing noise at a distance, but I'm stuck using it for the time being.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Classic cocktails: The Metroplitan

Once in awhile, the opportunity to be brave and try something new (or rather, old) pops up, and curiosity rears it's head. I was skimming through some of the obsolete 'martinis' at work the other day, and came across the Metropolitan.  It isn't a martini in the sense that its some kind of 'Martini', but rather, that it comes in a martini glass. I know I know, semantics.

Regardless, I mentioned the Metropolitan to my bar manager, having seen it before. The name and recipe reminds me much of the Manhattan, of which I am admittedly a fan. It caught my attention for being quite similar the Manhattan and a brandy cocktail.

The recipe is as follows:

  • 1 1/2 oz Brandy 
  • 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth 
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters 
  • 1/2 oz Simple Syrup (optional)

So I made my version without syrup. In a word, oops? Okay okay, maybe it wouldn't have made it better. Or perhaps the brandy of choice is to blame? We used 'Napoleon', since it's much cheaper than the other brandies we carry - all cognacs. I don't know much about brandy, as I mentioned earlier. I can't really say where the mistake was in this, if there was any mistake at all. I didn't like it, and sadly, neither did my coworkers. However, this hasn't put me off.  I've tasted a few cognacs which I did thoroughly, and while I would not like to mix down the flavor of a pricey cognac, I am still intrigued at the various possibilities of this cocktail.

Let me know what you think in the comments section! I would love some advice on brandy, if you can give any!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Official 'title' relaunch.

I'm going to keep this update relatively short, and sweet.  After going over several name ideas for some time now, I finally settled on The Bottle Opener, for the title of this blog.  The idea wasn't mine, really.  My girlfriend mentioned it, after I had spent some time struggling with a good name. Actually, I was more or less pressuring myself to come up with a new name one night - settling on the idea that "it had to be tonight".

So this is an 'official' title relaunch.  I'm not sure what that implies - other than that the title of the blog has changed, and it's official - but I like the new name. And that's that.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rickard's Red Mojito

A few weeks ago I made a blog entry detailing a recent excursion to Moxie's. one drink in particular left quite an impression. That drink was the Black Spice Mojito. It was everything I wanted in a beer cocktail, marrying the famous mojito with a deep amber ale.

I was left inspired to recreate the drink, which I did. My version has only a few changes from the original. What I've done is prepare thin slices of ginger, to be muddled with brown sugar and mint. Next I add an ounce of dark rum, two squeezed lime wedges, and shake with ice, before topping with roughly three ounces of Rickard's Red (a personal favourite), and ginger ale.

The finale is to garnish it with a few healthy looking mint sprigs and skewered lime wheel and ginger.

It tasted quite like the original - unfortunately, a bit too much like the original. However, since coming up with this 'copy', I did have a few ideas on how to make it stand out more as being my own thing.

Once again, I also really want to say 'good job' to Moxie's for coming up with this. Really, you deserve the praise for this one!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A couple good beers, and cider

Rekorderlig Elderberry Cider. Did I spell that right? Okay, let's never mind that part. This cider is apparently quite the hit, and well, I think it's a good choice for the first drink I'm gonna look at in this article.

So why do I think it's a good first choice? Well, I don't know much about cider, or elderberry. And let's be honest here. It's not really my thing. However, my girlfriend loves it. It's a bit to sweet, and fruity for me. I like personality and depth in my drinks. While that can be interpreted a few ways, my interpretation of the depth of Rekorderlig is that it tastes like those various pricy juices that come in champagne bottles. Which are great in there own right. I guess in some sense, even greater if you add a decent ABV. 

So it's a 7% alcohol content variation of mock champagne. If that's your thing, try it out - you'll probably like it. As they say, it's apparently a hit.

Moving down the list to fruit flavoured craft ale is Longwood Breweries Berried Alive. It's a wheat ale, that's double fermented with raspberries. It's a nice touch from your typical flavoured beers, which are only fermented once, adding flavoured extract. This double fermentation is however, a return to older styles of brewing as craft beers start to make a nice dent in the beer market.

So I'll compare it to a more popular, and local microbrewery's raspberry ale: Granville Island. So the verdict is that it has a stronger raspberry flavour, but does it taste better? In a word. Yes. In a few words... Yes, yes, YES! In this barteder's opinion, Longwood found a better match in choosing a less hoppy blond ale to pair the tart flavor of raspberry with, than Granville Island's choice of using the hoppier, and maltier pale ale. The tart flavor works quite well with the less bitter blond, enabling more raspberry notes to come out for the overall flavour of the beer.

Then there's Ligjtouse's Dark Chocolate Porter. Oh, where to begin! Well, let's start with delightful. The flavor is indeed delightful, having a strong chocolate finish on top of a slightly bitter, crisp porter. The downside here, is that its likely not what you're expecting. The bitter flavor seems to be more of a derivative of the porter, than the cocoa of choice - the result is that it seems more like you had a drink of a regular porter with some chocolate in your mouth.

Okay okay, that description is perhaps a little unjustified, and perhaps makes it sound worse than it is. But I mean think about it. Don't you think you'd like the taste of a nice dark porter, followed with the taste of chocolate? Maybe not, but hopefully so. We've seen dark beers mix well with chocolate before (umm, Guinness cupcakes anyone? Hellooo). And out of the three drinks I tried this evening, I'd rank this as the best. And following the Berried Alive review, that's gotta mean something.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What makes a "Bad" bartender?

Chances are we've all been to 'that' place.  "What place?" you might ask. A most legitimate question, to my vague introduction. 'That' place I'm talking about, is a place with a terrible bartender. Personally, I'd been to that place numerous times before ever realizing exactly how, or why that person is terrible. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that for several years, I had only ever had experienced service from terrible bartenders.

My early few years of being introduced into bar, and alcohol culture, were spent in small town rural Alberta. This is also the place where I would eventually enter the industry, and begin working the wood for the first time. As a kid, I had gone to bars with little to no knowledge of alcohol, tipping, socializing.  I was basically your run-of-the-mill naive kid over 19 who was now able to drink.

My first job as a bartender was also in rural Alberta. My old room mate, and good friend was the head bartender for one of the town's four or five environments for libations. I spent a lot of time there, and when an opening came along, I was a shoe-in for employment. It was the kind of job where you had to learn fast, or be eaten alive. It didn't last, however. A combination of economic decline, competition, and lack of imagination caused the business to do worse and worse as time went on. Knowing what I know now, I know that I could have saved myself a lot of energy in those days and gotten a job elsewhere.

That said. The tips were spot on.

I'd never had to work so little for so much money before.  And well, I think most people would have a hard time finding a job that was as slack as this one. Thinking back, I realize that this sort of environment bread complacency, and is what leads one down the path of being a terrible bartender.

In this position, there was little drive to improve, or learn. It was all too common at this place, that people would not get service while bartenders were on their smoke break - going so far as to completely deny service for up to fifteen minutes, and as much as eight times per shift.

But to return to the question, what makes a bartender "bad"? The easiest indicator for this kind of judgement is what it takes to get service. A bartender who can't provide service for whatever reason, is easily the worst kind of bartender. Don't get me wrong. If you're sitting at the bar being a totally intoxicated jerk, and can't get service, then there's probably good reason.... However, bartenders who are overwhelmed, incapable of switching between tasks, or just self-absorbed "professionals" and because of this can't provide a basic service are... well, at risk of sounding redundant, they're doing no one any service. No one but themselves, at least.

Wait a second? Did I say that was the worst? Well I'm sorry folks. I'm getting waaaaay ahead of myself.

Now. Before I ever came to Vancouver, and started working in casual fine dining, I had already worked with all kinds of drone, goof-off, moron and drug-addict. In addition, you can throw alcoholic on top of any of those former adjectives for a few extra points of extremity. None of those past horrors would ever compare to one bartender I was stuck working with over my first summer in Vancouver, though.

This guy, was beyond bad. He was the dictionary definition of terrible. I have it on relatively good authority that this person lied on his resume, but that doesn't even begin to illustrate how bad of a bartender this guy was. Time and time again, I tried to give this guy a helping hand, open up to him, and make him feel like he was part of the team. I did these things, only to be responded by utter incompetence.

Ultimately, this guy was incapable of improvement, and to this day I really can't say why. In terms of skill level, his first day on the job wasn't that much different than his last - which came only three months after being hired. I don't suspect I'll ever work with someone as bad as this guy ever again. I'm not even sure how many people like him can possibly slip through the cracks and get hired with absolutely no knowledge or skill.

If I had to say it was anything at all that made this guy bad, I would have to say it was a lack of passion. With this in mind, when I think back to those experiences in Alberta, I would have to settle on the same idea. Bartenders who don't care about their craft, are the ones to watch out for....

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cocktails at Moxie's

There's a lot of things that can be said about past experiences at Moxie's. Inconsistent. Slow. Awkward... Bad. But every once in awhile expectations aren't just surpassed - they're blown away.

Let me paint the picture for you. Where expectations are concerned, having a good experience once in awhile is okay, but having an experience that leaves your jaw squarely on the floor is another. My latest trip to Moxie's - the first time in a long time - left me "wowed". No, that's not the "woooowzers!" that Inspector
Gadget would say upon confusing Brain as one of Claw's henchmen. This is a genuine good thing.

To say that in non-cartoon speak. It was delightful.

What brought us in was The G.T. Moxie's spin on a double Tanquerray and tonic, adding lime slush and muddled lime leaves. And of course being the Friday night drink special, the price is right. $5.99.

Sentence fragments aside, we were brought in by our love for gin, and our knowledge that Moxie's has THE special for gin and tonics on a Friday night. We decided to take a foray into the dinner menu, as we'd noticed a new executive head chef and his feature menu items were taking over past menu items.

We played it safe and ordered a Parmesan Chicken Sandwich. It was of course very good - how could it be, after all. PARMESAN CHICKEN!? Nuff said.

However, our attention was piqued by a new beer cocktail; The Black Spice Mojito. Black spiced rum, muddled mint and ginger, amber ale, and topped with soda and ginger ale. It was simply put - fantastic. Beer cocktails have been a bit of a thing lately, and I'd definitely rank this one quite high on the list of top 10s. Or even top 5s. Okay, okay. It's actually more like first or second. It's good, and its on special on Monday nights. If you consider yourself a connoisseur of all things alcohol, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Also being fans of Corona, we decided to get a Mexican Bulldog, but with a bad boy sized beer instead of a Coronita. The bartender was kind enough to only charge us for the bad boy beer, which was also on special - how can you go wrong!?

Also I would have to confess that I'd never tried a Mexican Bulldog, but have always had it on my to-do list. And as I expected, it was great.

For those of you who don't know, simply flip a bottle of corona into some margarita. If you like either corona or margaritas, its a nice twist for a few reasons: carbonation is a big one, but the fact that the texture of the drink changes over time is maybe the most pleasing aspect of the drink.

So to recap... Moxie's has left me quite impressed! Check out their daily specials, and go on a night where they're featuring something you'd like to try. The prices, and quality of the drinks have always Ben good; but this time it was spectacular.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Four Seasons wine tasting continued

The highlights of my wine tasting this Tuesday were only touched on in my last entry. Truth be told, I wanted to save the highlights for one post. And this happens to be just that!

The first thing I wanted to mention was Gin Mare. A Mediterranean gin from Spain. The display was original, featuring empty bottles filled with, olives, basil, rosemary and thyme; the infused herbal ingredients that complement the natural juniper flavouring of the spirit.

After doing a but of research on this product, I've learned that its taking off in the gin market of Spain - an area in the Mediterranean that's seeing an explosion of new gin products. Gin Mare is different from a lot of the other products in that its offering a strong alternative flavour - yet still undeniably gin. I agreed with my coworkers that it would make an excellent dry martini, as it needs almost no flavouring at all. And even then, I'm using the word 'need' simply in the context of cocktails. It would be perfectly fine sipping on its own, or on the rocks.

The next big things were holiday inspired flavoured spirits, and liqueurs. Of these I would mention Jack Daniels egg nog and whiskey liqueur as being in the top end of quality. I don't need to do much explanation here; its another product which can be sipped as an aperitif. Chocolate flavoured liqueurs were a thing as well, but one stood out over the rest.

Criollo was supposedly made by women for women. However, knowing this, I would not hesitate to ask for more, despite being a man. It's flavoured with criollo cocoa bean. I'm not sure what this means for the flavour, but having tastes it, if say it must mean a lot. Additionally it's flavoured with sea salt, which balances off the chocolatey goodness quite well.

Worth mentioning, at the same table there was also a gingerbread flavoured Khalua. Not my thing, really, but I can definitely see the possibilities in the match-up of flavours. If I were a little bit more adventurous, I might buy a bottle to mix with different coffees and hot chocolates.

The last of the highlights was a table of Korean products. Now, unfortunately did not take photos and had trouble with a lot of the names, but this table opened my eyes to the possibility of Korean beverages. The table featured sake, blackberry wine, shochu and of course the beloved beer: Cass. Needless to say, I was blown away by the table, and I'm going to have to do more research into what I drank at that table. It was all delicious, and well... Worth a blog article for another day.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Industry wine tasting at Four Seasons

As it so happens, I'd never been to a wine tasting before. That is, before today. A couple of colleagues and I attended a wine tasting at the Four Seasons in downtown Vancouver today, and I found the event to be somewhat educational.

I didn't take notes nearly as diligently as a blogger might be expected to - and that was perhaps a mistake. I didn't remember to start taking photos until quite late in the tasting, but not all was lost! I did get to taste several different products, for one, and had the opportunity to wrap my brain around these types of events, as well.

What I mean by that last comment, is that I realized these types of events are mainly intended for people with purchasing power. BUT, there are some other sides to it. By going, I received the chance to try several higher price point wines that we carry at Milestones, which I can now compare to our other products with confidence. The best example of this that I can give was our tasting of the Oyster Bay Chardonnay. None in our group had ever tried it despite it being on the menu - but only by the bottle. I was taken aback to find that the New Zealand Chardonnay was not oaky in the least. Much less dry than some of our other Chardonnays that I'm more familiar with. Now, in the future if I'm asked about our less oaky products, I can give a more complete answer. And that wasn't the only product which I had the chance to educate myself on either...

But stepping away from work related education, I've also been taking it upon myself to learn about all other types of libations that I'm unfamiliar with. I've been putting it on my to-do-list to explore the world of tequila and mescal. Okay okay, I know what you're thinking, and I want to dispel those thoughts. We all know how great tequila can be in a margarita, and some of us have had tequila sunrises as well. But there's so much more to it than that. Tequila and its less popular cousin can be comparable to rums or whiskers in their diversity, and that's something I want to learn more about.

So the skinny of that last mini-quest is that I tried mescal for the first time. I found it more bearable in taste than tequila, but the strong after taste made it clear that it was no aperitif. As a sipping spirit, I would compare it to scotch, but in my mind, I'm trying to imagine how one could turn it into a classic-inspired cocktail, taking notes from the Manhattan, Martini, or Old-Fashioned.

Mescal was not the end of it, though... And unfortunately I will not be getting into further details into what things were tasted until....

Next time! 

But here's a spoiler:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Status of the blog - part deux

A couple of months ago I made a post on the blog stating the new post schedule for blog updates. It seems that I was a little preemptive in making the announcement, as I've had a few creative hurdles to clear.

First of all time. A few things came up - not the least of which, the fact that I had to move - which got in the way of my planned updates. Okay, okay. I put the blog on hold for awhile, and now plan on making a comeback.

Next up, the vision for my blog. When I started this blog in the summer, the idea was to give myself a voice in the industry of professional bartending. Again, time became a thing, and I started focusing on restaraunt reviews. It was an idea I liked at the time, but all-in-all, I'm no food critic. I'm a bartender, and that's what people are supposed to gather.

Lastly, its all in a name. The name of this blog is generic, boring, and safe. I need something that characterizes who I am. This is why I'm in the process of thinking up a new title for the blog. I'm open to suggestions, and it should be bartender-centric!

And before we part ways, enjoy this photo of Guu's own brand of pale ale!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Rain city sling - Round one

It's been awhile since I've shared a new drink on my blog (oh who am I kidding; its been awhile since I've shared anything). My blog is undergoing a few changes, and restructuring, which I'll get around to explaining more in the future. For now, I have a new cocktail idea to share.

What you're looking at is the first version of the 'Rain City Sling'. I wanted to capture the essence of a well known classic - the Singapore Sling - and give it a Vancouver twist. So here's the basic idea, a gin and citrus cocktail, that plays off of other established Vancouver trends, yet still noticeably a classic.

Here's what round one has come down to:

-Bombay Sapphire
-Soho Lychee Liqueur
-Grapefruit Juice

Shaken and strained on ice. And then topped with Bellini slush mix, and cherry brandy.

The hope was to mimic the image of both the slushed Bellini (a well known Vancouver cocktail, hailing from Milestones Grill + Bar), and the Singapore Sling. The mistakes were that the Bellini and cherry brandy did not float as intended. A minor setback; I'll have to take more care while layering in future versions. Another mistake was that the lychee overpowered the choices of citrus juices, which is another problem I've already thought about - I'll simply have to use a stronger tasting fruit juice, such as lime, and perhaps consider using less lychee.

The taste and structure are, however, solid concepts. They mixed well, and the appearance was "Oh so close" to hitting the nail on the head. Expect round two, very shortly!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Guu on Denman

Late night dinners in the West End are actually much more difficult than one might assume. Not only is Denman street riddled with falsely posted hours, Robson street has a serious drop in quality places to eat after midnight. After being turned away at the door at our favourite Japanese place on Denman, we decided to go to Guu. And I'm glad we did.

After several visits to Guu on Denman, I think I can say with relatively high confidence that its my new favourite Japanese restaurant. For those of you who are unfamiliar - assuming a Vancouverite who doesn't know of Guu even exists - Guu is a chain of Japanese tapas grills that are found all over downtown Vancouver. Each restaurant has its own menu, and I would suggest to check them all out.

The first thing we did was order a couple of drinks; Cassishu soda, and Blue Bell. The name of the Cassishu soda should give away that the primary flavour comes from Creme de Cassis; a black courant flavoured liqueur. It reminds me of a Kir Royal, but with a Japanese twist. Instead of champagne, they use sake and soda water. Which effectively mimics the Kir Royal - as I'm sure was the intention of the drink's crafter.

The Blue Bell on the other hand is a simple vodka based cocktail, flavoured with lychee juice and a hint of bitter orange in the form of Blue Bols. The overwhelming flavour in the drink comes from tonic. In my opinion the drink has far too much tonic covering up the other flavours and making it feel simply like a vodka tonic with a few drops of bitters.

We kept it relatively simple and ordered only a couple of things off of the tapas menu - octopus and eggplant - and that night's special; whelk.

I wasn't sure what whelk was so we asked. Our server explained that it was a type of clam. When it arrived we saw that it was actually snail - which is okay for me as I love escargot. Language barriers at ethnically foreign restaurants can be a problem at times, but in this case it worked out. The dish was so good we ordered two more. And the dish itself was relatively simple. Grilled 'whelk' on a bed of salt.

The tapas were just as good. We'd had the eggplant before as its a mainstay on all of the Guu menus. Sliced into long and thin pieces, and served in a specially crafted Japanese sauce, its one of those things we keep ordering every time. The octopus is served much how you'd expect. With finely minced green onion, and diced red onion.

We had one more drink before leaving. The peach oolong; which we sipped while finishing the second helping of whelk. The drink was made from shochu, peach extract and oolong tea. In other words, a great after dinner night cap. The drink is inexplicably Japanese. Whether you're a tea junkie, coinnoseur of foreign spirits, or just a lover of all things Far East, then you'll like it.

All in all, this recent visit to Guu on Denman was perfect. But then, it always is.

Blue bell
- vodka
- lychee juice
- bols blue
- tonic

Cassishu soda
- creme de cassis
- soda
- sake

Peach oolong
- shochu
- peach extract
- oolong tea

Thursday, September 5, 2013

If you could change one thing...

When asked "if you could change one thing about yourself, what would you changed?" There is no hesitation as to what my answer would be.

For the past five years (give or take a year), I've been suffering with extremely bad asthma. In between breaths of fresh air, I often wonder how this will effect my lifespan. I've always had asthma, but it became considerably worse in my early twenties. Trips to my mother's for the holidays had me walking out the door gagging, and eventually purging as I stumbled home, just two blocks away. Later, I was in a permanent Benadryl induced high as I tried to curb the effects of my roommate's cat. And later still, I would have to be rushed to clinics and the ER where I would receive emergency treatment.

I had asthma attacks when I was younger too though. My adolescence and youth was characterized by y state of perma-sniffles, due to pollen. As my animal allergies materialized, I would get occasional sniffles and discomfort around animals. The asthma attacks started, though, at 16. My first major asthma attack was at Christmas.

Prior to that, I lived with my aunt in my grandparent's family home. She smoked quite heavily, but it never seemed to be a problem. Until she moved closer to work. My presumption is that, having lived among smokers my entire life, my body adjusted to being in a constantly toxic atmosphere. It became good at defending itself perhaps. Second hand smoke never bothered me, but after my aunt moved out, whenever she came to visit I would have tightness of the chest. One Christmas, we had an abnormal amount of family members visit us for the holidays. Older, smoking family members. My chest became heavy and I developed a bad headache - likely from coughing. I spent the rest of the night in my room and wasn't much better for two days.

The asthma attacks would pop up once in awhile after that, but didn't reach their current severity till I was around 22. After that the attacks have been a constant frustration in my life. Between ventilin, pulmicort, Benadryl and hot cups of coffee, I've tried to live with it as best as possible. Recently I've begun the Paleolithic diet after reading another asthmatic blogger's success story. There hasn't been much improvement yet but I hope to see improvements in time.

My ideal solution would be to find a long term treatment that would reduce my attacks to nothing. To achieve this I would be willing to make a complete lifestyle change - if going on the Paleo-diet were any indication of that.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Flying Pig: Gastown

On a nice Sunday afternoon, I found myself exploring gas town with my girlfriend and her school mate from China. Okay, so, exploring may be a liberal term to use, as I've already seen and done pretty much everything that can be seen and done in gas town. A better way to put it would be 'guiding' the school mate.

Being in the area sparked a craving of The Flying Pig's shortrib macaroni. I'd been there before on an anniversary dinner with the girlfriend, and would definitely rank it quite high on my list of places to go. The macaroni is quite honestly the best pasta dish I've ever had. And that's saying a lot.

Arriving at around 2:30, we saw an opening for a patio table and took it. They were still serving brunch, an I have to admit I was a bit disappointed at the number of breakfast items in comparison to lunch items. A lot of the things that were on the lunch portion of the menu felt more like breakfast items, or snacketizers. While I understand that this is a common concept for lunch - being snack time - I was expecting more variety, especially having had a taste of their dinner menu.

Aside from the complimentary banana bread, we ordered the macaroni once again, and the croque Madame. The latter choice was difficult as we weren't really looking for a breakfast item - I had made salmon bennies for breakfast that morning. The problem was, we just didn't see anything we wanted other than the macaroni, yet, we had the pressing issue of feeding three people.

Like I said earlier, the macaroni did not disappoint. It was still amazing, and while I could describe it all day, I suggest you either go taste it, or try your own version at home. It's a perfect blend; large hollow noodles of some sort, braised short rib and some sort of rich (but not thick) gravy. Delicious!

The croque was... Well. It was a croque. What more can I say? It was good, but I wouldn't say it was the brunch order of a lifetime. The salad it came with in the other hand was very fresh and tasty. All in all the croque was a safe order, but I would stick to the macaroni in the future. As for the restaurant itself; I'll stick to the macaroni for brunch, and bring my visiting guests here at dinner, in the future.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sciue Melville

Having visited Sciue: Italian Bakery Caffe numerous times, it was only inevitable before I reviewed some of their products. Truth is, I have had a taste of pretty much everything available. My girlfriend works there , and today is her last day.

One of the things the Sciue 'brand' prides itself on are the in-house Italiab style pizzas that you can purchase by weight. The concept is quite different when compared to other coffee shops or pizza places in Vancouver. And well, "different" is a thing that sells in Vancouver. 

So how are the pizzas anyway? Honestly, they're pretty average. They do rotate and try new pizzas routinely - which is a good thing - but there isn't anything special here. Your best bet is the smoked salmon pizza if you're looking for something different, or pancetta bacon if you're a fan of the classics; because bacon just rocks.

The coffee at Sciue is great. They only provide organic coffee, and their espressos are 'made in the style of Rome'. I'm not really sure what makes Roman espressos different, but what I do know is that Sciue doesn't used sweetened chocolate in their mochas. For me, this is a good thing as it marks a better foundation for making the drink you want; need I say, unsweetened mocha is a good alternate to a latte?

The real seller for me isn't necessarily the products that Sciue carries; for the most part you can get the exact same thing at any other coffee shop, and more places keep going organic and fee trade to keep up with the competition. The seller is the concept. The idea here is that you can go to a coffee shop and get Italian baking - pizza, sandwich, soup and pasta. It's a nice alternate to 'fast food coffee shops'.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Blog status: New schedule

After the first couple of weeks of blogging, I've made the 'executive' decision to do scheduled blog posts. What this means is that I'll only be blogging on Mondays and Thursdays at this time. While its also true that I have a backlist of blog articles yet to be written, I've decided that by concentrating on only blogging at certain times I can put out more quality articles, and the rest of the time I can spend collecting photos, and such for my articles.

Additionally, this doesn't just mean two posts per week. I've also made the decision that I'll likely batch and release articles throughout the day. Depending on the time involved, I could put out only one article, or as many as three per scheduled blogging day.

Lastly, I'll try to make regular updates - similar to this one. Which I will post on weekends. The purpose of this last point is simply to update readers on the status of my blog; should there be any changes.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pepsi wings; a Chinese thing?

To my surprise, a few nights ago my girlfriend suggested we have wings for dinner. And so, she busted out the cutting board to begin preparing the sides - garlic toast and stir fried veggies - while I busted out a beer (we actually drink quite light, so the one beer was split between the two of us.)

As I waited for the wings to "marinate" in the Pepsi, I wondered what kind of wings we were going to have. At first I suspected plain, with just salt and pepper, as I had not seen any sauce in the kitchen. But I figured, perhaps she bought the sauce while I was waiting outside the grocery store with the dog.

Once I tried the wings, I thought they tasted quite similar to my great aunt Sandy's sweet and sour wings. It was quite tangy, and the sauce was viscous and sticky. When she told me she used Pepsi, I thought she was joking at first.

After a bit o joking around I saw that she was serious, and then she reminded me that she had mentioned this type of thig before. Pepsi chicken wings are supposedly quite well known in China. Who'd have guessed?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The American Cheesteak Co.

One thing that doesn't immediately come to mind in the world of Vancouver cuisine are Philly Cheesesteaks. While its true that Phillies are a staple of any pub or dive bar menu, that environment is considerably underdeveloped in Vancouver. While its true that groups such as Donnelly and Browns public houses try to have the essence of being a pub, they are still more like a mishmash that takes the best of pubs and casual fine dining; and mashing them altogether.

But this still doesn't answer the question of representation for the Philly. Well, if you like Phillies as much as any other self respecting human being, you may be please to know that there is a Philly Cheesesteak deli on Davie, offering nothing but different variations on the Philly. It's actual been there for almost two years, but who's counting?

As for myself, I love Phillies and I've partaken in the greasy sandwich many times since moving to Vancouver. The most recent time, I tried the Davie Bird - a strange version of the Philly, featuring chicken. While I'm a fan of chicken over red meat, and while it wasn't that bad, I'd suggest you to steer more toward their higher fat options. If you want a Philly, stick with the classics. The chicken option is still loaded up with sauce, cheese and bread, so you won't really be cutting back on calories.

The quality of the Phillies here are great, but there are a few downsides. Firstly, its not a pub atmosphere at all. Although, they do sell beer, the place is more akin to a sandwich deli or fast food joint. The price is also steep. It can easily be a 20 dollar ordeal, for what boils down to a sandwich, fries and a drink. That said, if these things aren't much of a hang-up for you, then you should definitely check it out.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pizza and a... tea shandy?

On Wednesday we had some guests over for dinner. On the menu: homemade pizza. Melody (my girlfriend) and I are quite fond of making pizza dough from scratch and throwing unconventional pizza toppings on, for a custom made meal. I mean really, what's the point of eating at home if you just make all the same things you would buy at restaurants?

The toppings of choice were broccoli, fettuccine, fish balls, shrimp, feta and cheddar cheese. We used an out of the container basil tomato sauce as the paste, and checked google for the highest rated homemade dough options. 
40 minutes later, we were eating deliciousness.

My girlfriend also made some iced tea using pomegranate tea, and strawberries. Quite refreshing, but, at a later point she got the idea of adding it to some Budweiser and making a tea shandy of sorts. The shandy was also surprisingly tasty.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Blue Microphones: the Snowball

On the off chance that any of my readers aren't aware - sarcasm - I run a Let's Play channel on YouTube. If per chance, you have viewed me in action, you'll notice that the videos aren't really of the highest quality. The biggest offender being sound.

Some of you may also know that I produce music as another hobby. What you probably don't know is that I've always been unable to record my own audio because the internal mic on my computer pics up too much interference from the computer.

These concerns are now a thing if the past. Having purchased Blue Microphones' Snowball, I'm no longer plagued by audio with the same consistency as a fart.

Originally I had intend to get the Yeti Pro. But the steep price and 4 star user ratings online led me to rethink that possibility. Having seen that the Snowball was 200 dollars cheaper, used by successful producers and also held a 5 star rating average from users, the decision to get a Snowball became obvious.

So how does the Snowball stack up to user ratings?

Well to be honest, quite good. The one complaint I have about it is that I have to be closer than I'd like to be to get the kind of recording volume I like, but that is a small problem, easily fixed by changing my computer's volume settings.

As for what I liked; the quality of the audio. The recordings are very high quality, and exactly what I was hoping for. No interference. Crisp sounding vocal audio. Nice.

I also liked that its not particularly directional. I know that directional is what a lot of people are looking for, but considering that I intend to soon do co-op and competitive Let's Plays, it's very much what I want. Also - though, I've yet to try it - that aspect should make recording sound effects easier as well.

I wouldn't give the Snowball the generous 5 star rating... But perhaps, 4.5 stars would be suitable.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pita Bite the story of a shwarma

Since its a beautiful rainy day, it seemed like a natural opportunity for me to take a hop on out into the great outdoors, and explore some food cart options. So, there are lots of food carts in Vancouver; mostly in the area of Robson Square. And as luck would have it, I picked a day where my options were limited to four different pita carts. Awesome.

And so, perhaps feeling a bit adventurous, I selected the one cart across the street, on Robson and Hornby. Having no line ups, it felt like a natural choice. Initially I was greeted with a friendly Lebanese fellow. I ordered my chicken shwarma and waited.

On inspection, I noticed the food cart was impeccably clean, and that the food was visible from the front of the cart an kept covered. This is appealing to me, as I can see the quality of the food I'm about to eat.

So how does it stack up to other pitas? Well it was pretty average. There isn't really anything negative I could say about it, and I think the quality was quite good for street food. 

Now the one thing I have to mention is that there was a small piece of bone in the chicken. I'm not sure what the frequency of bone occurrences is, but its something I have to mention, if, for no other reason, out of honesty. I would definitely give it a second chance as the price and quality was alright.

And of course, there is the lingering curiosity of whether my experience was the norm, or just a careless and slow rainy day.

Lunch At Ikea

A trip to Ikea is an interesting phenomena. While Tina Fey made fun of it in 30 Rock for being a relationship trial, and Stephen Colbert likewise made fun of it for the horse meat scare in Europe. The reality is, the experience of Ikea is just good marketing.

The furniture works because you can mix and match any product with any other product, and come up with an original and affordable living space. The food works because its similarly cheap and simple.

The Ikea restaurant is at its core, fast food. That is, it's fast food, in a furniture store. Unlike McDonalds, they aren't hastily slapped together sandwiches in greasy bags or boxes. Ikea restaurant has welcoming interior colours (white) and everything comes on a plate.

Eating there is part of the process of building up the excitement levels before customizing your home. So how is the food then? It's actually pretty good. There's not a lot o variety, which works in their favour. Ikea is not a restaraunt. It's a furniture store. As far as food goes, they stick to a few things which they can do quickly, easily and quite well.

So what would I recommend? Well, I only ever get the fish 'n chips. It seems harmless enough - re: impossible to screw up. The horse meat scare thing is actually a little much for me though; especially considering I don't much care for beef to begin with. 

As for desert I'd point you towards anything. The almond cake was particularly satisfying this time around, though.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Soho Nites at the Bayside Lounge

I Dropped into the Bayside Lounge with some coworkers after work tonight. unfortunately I couldn't stay long enough to try more than one drink. And so I chose the first drink to catch my eye on their signature cocktail menu. Soho Nites.

To be honest, I don't really know why it's called Soho Nites. Perhaps it's an inside story, or maybe the creator simply thought the name fit the atmosphere of the bar - which, if you've never been, has the modest demure of a 60s drug lounge in Miami. It feels vaguely like some of the sets used in Scarface.

Atmosphere aside, the drink itself feels like a Shirley Temple with vodka in it. In all honesty, it isn't much more than that. Personally I don't think it the kind of thing that I would expect as a signature cocktail, let alone the first one on the list of martinis. At the same time, I can't say I'm surprised. It is what it is. A best attempt.

Soho Nites
- Citrus Vodka
- Lychee liqueur
- Grapefruit juice
- Grenadine

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dim sum at Hon's

Living in Vancouver, sometimes you just get the urge to go out for a dim sum brunch. Like many people before you, you may have discovered that having dim sum at establishments like Kirin or Dinesty can leave your pockets feeling a little light. On the other end of the spectrum, you may find yourself in Chinatown's Floata, bewildered by bad food quality and clueless service. And still there's that bill....

                                        (Some kind of Taro...)

Enter Hon's on Robson. Hon's does not have a very comfortable atmosphere, and the service leaves a lot to be desired, but food quality, speed and price are all spot on. And well, if we're thinking of saving money on our meals out, and also considering bad table service, it may not be much of a stretch to imagine how much you can save on the tip as well!

                                                                           (Chicken Feet... Nuff said)

As with most Chinese food, the naming of the dishes does not leave an impression, or picture in my mind. Strange adjectives like 'glutinous' pop up frequently, and the names of the dishes are simply descriptions of the contents... That said the menu does have visual aid for many of the items.

                                        (Some kind of flat noodle...)
Chicken feet and beef tendon are not my thing. However, when it comes to Chinese food, I try to partake. Truth is, I love most of what I try at Hon's, and their dim sum options are not displayed as an overwhelming menu of blank text. It's easy for me to wrap my head around. Perhaps easier yet because of my Chinese girlfriend, who usually knows what to order.

                                                             (Honestly, who can remember.  Very good though!)

So if you like dim sum, check out Hon's. You won't be disappointed.

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