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The Vacation so far

I have not had an actual vacation since 1997, when I celebrated my recovery from cancer with three weeks in Indonesia, so relaxing was a high priority for this time around. You can see how that’s going from these Vine videos.


Phillips Ginger Beer, of which we have blogged previously.


Bombay Sapphire and Tonic with lime, which is a classic.


Yet another Bombay Sapphire and Tonic. Can you ever have enough (apparently on a really hot day you can, and I have the sunburn to prove it).

Dinner Party Post-Mortem: Salt-Crusted Salmon Edition

Salt Crusted Salmon After

Salt Crusted Salmon After

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

There really are no non-sweary words to describe the delectability of the salmon recipe from yesterday which I used tonight; nor are there words to describe its ease of preparation, provided you do, as I did not, remember the eggs, the tarragon, the lemon, and the capers. I remembered the salmon and the Champagne, in this case a brut Cava which is also my favorite tipple other than gin, so it was win/win/win/win I forget how many wins it is because I had two glasses of the Cava and I forget how many Daiquiris (not the blender variety, please!).

Still, what can you do when someone shows up early for a dinner party other than send him back out to get the shopping you forgot? So it all worked out well, and the recipe from Sevilla Tapas turned out better than I could have imagined, garnering genuine kudos from seriously accomplished cooks. Why did I, a novice cook, invite seriously accomplished cooks to my dinner party? See the aforementioned note on how much I drink.

But. Honestly. This recipe is dead easy, incredibly tasty, keeps your salmon moist (it was a coho, and you would have sworn it was a more expensive salmon) and makes a stunning presentation besides. I had a tray of sushi from up the street to start, $36 and I’d say a quarter is left over. Thought about doing a bunch of steamed pork buns or something instead, but opted for the fish theme. As a friend of mine from London says, the worst sushi in Vancouver is better than the best sushi in London, and this was quite good, even if it was a little large. I prefer my sushi bite size. Chewing nori is just not attractive.

Still, given I forgot to cook the rice, it’s just as well they were big rolls.

So the main course was the salted salmon and parboiled asparagus. Can’t go wrong with that veg except by overcooking it. And there was enough rice to provide ballast to everyone before the main course. Hmm, this is a useful piece of information.

Everyone brought wine, Shane brought the eggs I forgot for the main course, Ken brought a Mario Cake from DQ for dessert and in fact ain’t nobody don’t like DQ. FACT. It had that Buster Bar chocolate fudge in the cookie layer. *orgasm* And Gena brought an aerator and Bitch wine. No, really, Bitch wine.

All told, a great evening. It was a short cooking time on the fish and asparagus, naturally, and I had to be in the kitchen making the sauce so for once I appreciated an open plan layout. Normally I’m all about closed doors and cubbies, but this did make me think about the fact that I don’t have servants off toiling in the kitchen and also don’t want to serve my guests tepid food, so an open plan works as a compromise.

All in all, a powerhouse dinner party (at least at Level 1).

Mario Cake approves

Mario Cake approves

Summer Selection: Phillips Ginger Beer

Phillips Ginger Beer

Phillips Ginger Beer

Finally, after an interminable wait, summer has arrived on the wet coast. You can keep your highballs, your hard lemonade, your Sauv Blanc, your sangriae: Victoria’s Phillips Ginger Beer is what I’m drinking when the thermometer rises and the asphalt sticks to your sandals like a clingy ex.

The original ginger beer from the old Pirates of the Caribbean days wasn’t a proper beer at all, and contained none of your common-or-garden yeast, but instead an interesting combo of microorganisms as explained in the Guardian’s do-it-yourself guide. Allow yourself to be entertained for the moment by visions of legions of British social work professors-emeritus, mid-level NGO operatives, and overeducated eco-fashion bloggers earnestly attempting to do it, indeed, themselves. In $200 Hunter wellies.

God, I love British people (they’re the people, after all, who gave us Traidcraft.)

This offering from Phillips is indeed proper beer, as are all beers from Phillips. It’s also got a bite that would stand off a pit bull, thanks to the ginger infusion. It’s fiery like a good Jamaican ginger beer, and the heat lingers afterwards, as if you’d bitten into a fresh ginger root. The beer itself is a nice ruddy ale, balanced, not too sweet, and with enough body to stand up to the ginger’s volatile nature, so you don’t feel like you’ve been drinking ginger water, but ginger beer.

It’s terrific on its own, but it really comes into its own paired with spicy foods, particularly if they’re really rich as well. Phillips says, “It’s killer with sushi” but I enjoyed mine with some mussels steamed in coconut chili sauce from the Union Bar, and they were perfect for one another. The mussels, which were enormous and full of flavour, swam in a savory broth of coconut and chili: no watery bullion need apply.

My friend April Smith of AHA Media had the snazzy-looking and non-alcoholic Lapu-Lapu: cucumber juice, coconut water, galangal, calmansi pandan syrup, garnished with tender young coconut and lemon grass. Also delicious and refreshing, if lacking in heat. April and I are so different, we are pretty much guaranteed to order from different ends of the menu spectrum every time. Not a bad way to dine out, if you ask me.

Lapu Lapu at the Union Bar

Lapu Lapu at the Union Bar

mussels and phillips ginger beer at the Union Bar

mussels and phillips ginger beer at the Union Bar

The Keefer Bar is a Keeper

Keefer Bar by Cathy Browne, on Flickr

Keefer Bar by Cathy Browne, on Flickr

As Vancouver Chinatown bars go, the Keefer Bar is absolutely #1, and not just because it’s the only one: manager Danielle Tatarin is Bartender of the Year in Vancouver Magazine. If you know anything about the Vangroover booze scene, you’ll know that takes serious talent and originality.

How much originality? We’ll let Dani explain it:

Our menu is influenced by Traditional Chinese Medicinal ingredients that we incorporate into classic style cocktails. Some of the most prominent herbs that we use are Yun Zhi mushroom and astragalus root. This year I have been studying more on TCM and getting a deeper understanding of it. I am working with some really interesting combination of ingredients for tinctures that are meant to help detoxify the kidneys and liver.

Last night I just started a tincture that combines sea dragon, sea horse, cordyceps, lemon and bitter orange. It should be ready in a couple months and I am excited to see how it tastes. For me I have really embraced natural remedies, and as a sufferer of seasonal allergies I hope this year to not have to take antihistamines because I have been working with TCM ingredients to boost my immune system over the last year.

You might think that sounds a little…medicinal. And you’d be right, but you’d be wrong if you think that means it isn’t tasty. When I visited with my friend, intrepid photographer Cathy Browne, there were plenty of flips and creamy drinks on the menu, including several which played on an opium theme.

Opium Drink at the Keefer Bar

Opium Drink at the Keefer Bar

You can see the poppyseeds on this beauty, which was called something like The Flaming Opium Pearl of the Black Dragon or something similarly subdued, and which tasted, like most of Dani’s drinks, subtle, complex, and not very sweet.

The decor is medical, by which I mean they have backlit panels of body scans and apothecary jars everywhere, in use. Fitting for a place where you can give your liver a workout and a healing tincture at the same time. It’s only about ten feet wide, and on Thursdays there is a burlesque show on their tiny (TINY) stage up front, but it is a beautiful, esoteric little gem. The unique drinks mean you can’t always be sure you’ll love what you order, so do talk to the bartender about what you’re thinking of ordering; it’s not always easy to tell what’s sweet, light, savory, or rich from the menu.

Can’t talk about the food: I don’t come here for the food. But you can see the current keefer_menu here (PDF!). The service has never been anything less than excellent, and I don’t know what you look like but I’ll just tell you right now, they are all out of our league.

Pictured below, and starting off our slideshow of fabulousness from Cathy Browne, is the Lavender Sidecar, an aromatic, very light Spring version of the old favorite. Lemons in this case, not oranges (which I prefer with brandy by the fire around Christmas time).

If God is in the Details…

What’s in these Deviled Eggs?

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. And terrified everyone.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. And terrified everyone.

I have a confession to make, my friends. Yes, in a world of sea spurt sashimi and microgastronomy, of foaming Martinis and thrice-smoked, monkey-picked teas, I reserve a place of honour in my heart for three unreconstructed relics of the 50’s and 60’s, refugees from Grandma’s Betty Crocker cookbooks: olives from the jar, pickles from the other jar, and good old deviled eggs.

Deviled Egg Chick

Deviled Egg Chick

It’s a short story, and a familiar one: The Cousin, The Sister and I were invariably the youngest attendees at family gatherings on my dad’s side, and as such could not partake of the cocktail hour with the adults. Well, it was my dad’s family, so let’s say the cocktail four hours. And as growing children, we had an abiding, nay, almost a physical, need to be fed regularly, but etiquette constrained us to eat somehow without spoiling Aunt Margie’s carrot and marshmallow aspic and other “delights” destined for the main meal. And naturally, preparing proper hors d’oevres would have prevented my aunts from partaking in the cocktail hour(s) to the fullest extent, so in response, and in defence of their right to get well into the CC before having to face Aunt Margie’s aspic, they made a deal with us.

We could eat olives, pickles and deviled eggs. Filling, fancy (hey, someone went to the trouble of fishing those pickles out of a jar for you), proteinaceous, and trying to figure out if pickled onions were “pickles” or “onions” could keep three small girls occupied for a surprising amount of time.

This is all just to let you know that the irredeemably bourgeois deviled egg is near and dear to my heart, not that I can be bothered to actually make them. But if you’re not as incorrigibly lazy as me (probably the result of a childhood diet consisting largely of olives, pickles and deviled eggs) this article in the Awl has AWL the information on Deviled Eggs that you will ever need, and then some.

 

Deviled Egg O Rama
From left to right: Miss Grandma’s Backyard (Potato Salad Egg with Apricot Fizz); Mademoiselle Alsace-Lorraine (Creamy, Lemony Egg with Reisling-Plum-Rosemary Punch); Miss Soul Custardy (Vanilla Custard and Chocolate Egg in Phyllo with Peach-Cayenne Coffee Frappe); Senorita El Trionfo de la Revolucion (Chicken Liver and Havana Club Egg served with Barbadian Rum); Miss Piggie (Egg with Jowl, Side and Belly Bacon served with Mint Julep); Jury Award Winner: Miss Spicy German (Red Curry, Sweet Chili, and Spicy Chili Eggs with Home Brewed Double Wheat Ale).

Each summer before the mosquitos start to flourish, my husband and I host a garden party and Deviled Egg Pageant. The entrants, though not all Southern, exemplify the seersucker-shrouded bloodlust that makes summer in the South both delicious and dramatic.

As long as the weather and space permit, a Deviled Egg Pageant allows you to entertain dozens of friends and neighbors while preparing little more than a plate of ham, perhaps, and a pound cake. Your kitchen remains cool and spotless while the guests enthusiastically do the hard work.

The keys to a successful pageant are clear rules and a dress code to set the tone. (Here is a Google Doc of our house rules; take what you like and leave the rest.)

If you don’t have the space or inclination to host such a contest, preparing pageant-worthy deviled eggs is a sure way to “win” whatever parties or picnics you may attend in the summer. Here are some lessons from our pageant kings and queens.

Well, you have to click over the link to read the whole thing it is unquestionably the most epic post on Deviled Eggs you will ever see. As for me, I’m off to check out the Urban Spoon listings to find a place that has these little bites of nostalgic heaven on the menu.

A last word: don’t let your creativity go insane: sundried tomatoes, bacon,  curry or caviar, yes. Even vegan (let’s face it, tofu is more like eggs than any other actual food).

Caviar deviled egg is NOT redundant, it's self-referential

Caviar deviled egg is NOT redundant, it's ironically self-referential

Food dyes, no.

Blue curried deviled eggs

Blue curried deviled eggs: yeah, if I'd made those, I'd delete the web page too

See you on National Deviled Egg Day!

Sunday Food Porn: Tequila Party Edition

Cheers!

Cheers!

What can I say? It’s been one of those weeks.

Will It Saber: Kenyan Spear Head Edition

Really, you can keep your glitter ponies and your balloon-bending clowns. Matt Stache is the best entertainment a party could have. Also handy in case of zombie invasion, as he comes with more weaponry than G.I. Joe ever dreamed of. Here’s the latest in the Will It Saber series from our bubbly good buddy, which we feature because it’s great fun and NOT AT ALL because we got a shout-out in the video. Not at all.

We can’t find exactly that spear head on Amazon, but this Cold Steel Assegai‘s pretty close:

Cold Steel Assegai

And I don’t know why, but when you search Amazon for Spear Head, you also get these Naughty Monkey Clogs, so what the hell. SHOES!

Duck and Uncover: the Holy Hand Grenade cocktail

Victoria BC's got a problem. It's too cute: like being inside a snow globe only there's no snow, only falling cherry blossoms

Victoria BC's got a problem. It's too cute: like being inside a snow globe only there's no snow, only falling cherry blossoms

Victoria, British Columbia: home of the Newly Wed and the Nearly Dead. What comes to mind when you think of Victoria, British Columbia?

If anything…

No, it’s fine. I’m not in a hurry.

Rogers' Chocolates

Rogers' Chocolates in Victoria. No they do NOT have wasabi cream, you postmodernist asshole!

Well, the fact is you’re probably right: Victoria is as quiet as a city can be and still be a city, and quite a delightful exception to the usual urban bustlitude it is, too. The fiercest competition in town is rhododendron-and-herbaceous-border-based, and all the pedestrian crossing lights are extra-long, to accommodate the mobility-impaired and the just plain meandering, which often enough includes your faithful foodie and drinkie blogger right here.

And it did, just a couple of days ago. Accommodate me, that is, and that to a positively decadent degree; my suite at the Parkside had not one but two fireplaces, two big screen tv’s, and two bathrooms. For one person. I felt like inviting people over for a pee or something, not to mention enjoying the view from the bathtub, although that invitation might be limited to Viggo Mortensen and Julian Assange and while it might be a tight fit I’m more than willing to try it. It had to be said.

But where was I?

Parkside Victoria sweet suite!

Parkside Victoria sweet suite!

Parkside Victoria sweet suite view!

Parkside Victoria sweet suite has a suite view!

Now, I don’t know about you. I only know about me. And why? Because you hardly EVER use the comment box, not that I’ve taken it to heart. Oh, no. Not that the comments box and I stare at one another in the darkness, asking where we went wrong, where the silence comes from, is it me, is it you, is it the XML-PRC?

Not at all. But where was I?

Victoria. Oh yes, I was in Victoria. Well, let me tell you something about Victoria you don’t know (I won’t tell you everything you don’t know, because we’d be here for the next 45 minutes, easy, and I bet it’s feeling like that already). I’m going to tell you that when it comes to foodie culture, this pleasantly placid BC burg has your city beat.

NYC, Montreal, Chicago, pack your knives and go…

4 eg:

I went to a foodie/drinkie dinner in honour of Tom Bulleit of Bulleit’s Bourbon in Victoria and as everyone gathered around the table (some two dozen, unless I’ve forgotten how to count past ten without taking my socks off and that’s always a possibility, particularly at a bourbon dinner) it rapidly became evident I was the least foodie person present. One fellow pulled out five or six baggies full of white powder – Hoo boy, it’s party time, you’re thinking, and you’re not exactly wrong, but while the baggies were a cause of great excitement among the assembled partiers, they were filled with an unexpected substance: sea salt. It was sea salt he’d collected from different harbours all up and down Vancouver Island, as many shades of white as the Innu have words for snow. And my friend Janice pulled out her latest batch of House Made bitters (she makes everything from chai bitters to rhubarb bitters to celery bitters for your morning Bloody Mary), and so it went from the fellow who collects knives over 100 years old to the fellow who distills dandelion brandy until it got to me and I said, “I don’t actually make anything, but I consume exceptionally well” and that seemed to be enough. Hey, what’s a symphony without an audience, eh?

That dinner, which I should have written up at the time but will get to sooner or later, took place, like many of the best occasions, at Clive’s Classic Lounge in the Chateau Victoria, within stumbling distance of the Inner Harbour. I adore this place, but it’s not just me who loves Clive’s: Tales of the Cocktail, the internationally recognized cocktail snobbery and standards organization has just named Clive’s one of the four best hotel bars in the world, along with the Artesian and the Savoy in London and Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon.

And it was at Clive’s that I found myself the other night, for any night that I am in Victoria it’s a better than fair bet I’ll be at Clive’s. And what did I do there? I stole the menu, of course.

These menus, they’re like gold. Bartenders in Vancouver bid for them in cocktails. I got the last one up to three Negronis, and that from a bartender who hates to mix anything more complicated than scotch on the rocks. They do, of course, have “PLEASE FEEL FREE TO TAKE THIS MENU” on the back, but I like to pretend there’s evildoing in it: a splash of nefariousness makes the drinks taste better. Okay, Vancouver, what am I bid for this latest menu, which contains a spread of tiki drinks, both classic and “antiki”? Use your words, Vangroover: put them in the comments box!

Now, there are few things I love as much as a good tiki drink, and few things are as abused in this cruel world as the palate of the tiki drink fancier ( #firstworldproblems ). I remember a holiday in Oahu where I drank at a different bar every night just to see what they hell they’d put in their Mai Tai: anything from gin and pineapple juice to a flower that smelled like rotting liver and a grass leaf from the waitress’s skirt (that just can’t be sanitary, can it?). If you’re ever stuck in Oahu, play the Mai Tai lottery and you’ll never be bored (although you may be queasy).

But back to good tiki drinks, and one specifically, from the Antiki side of the menu at Clive’s: the Holy Hand Grenade.

Now, I defy anyone with an ounce of Nerd Pride to flip past a drink named after a Monty Python bit without ordering it, although the Dead Parrot might be a challenge, not to mention Spam. Naturally, a table full of bloggers fresh from the Social Media Conference had to sample such a geeky delight, and here it is: a world exclusive as far as I know, and believe me, I know better than to actually ask, because then someone might tell me it wasn’t, and if Almighty Google doesn’t tell me so then LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU, so here it is, a world exclusive: the original Holy Hand Grenade by Nate Caudle of Clive’s Classic Lounge in Victoria. And yes, it’s in metric: nerds LOVE the metric system, duh!

The Holy Hand Grenade

The Holy Hand Grenade

The Holy Hand Grenade
Nate Caudle
Clive’s Classic

 

50ml Bulleit Bourbon

1oz Green Chartreuse (OUNCE? what is this, Nate? Are you going bilingual on me or something?)

20 ml Appelkorn

20ml Chestnut Syrup

20ml Lime Juice

 

Shake and strain over crushed ice. Garnish with a cross made of palm leaf.

This is absolutely effective against vicious bunnies that are terrorizing the countryside, whether escaped from a Monty Python skit or from Hef’s mansion. After a couple of these, that bunny will be thumping you on the back and telling you what a fine, fine person you are and how did he not notice it in all these years?

How tasty is this thing? Well, as with all good cocktails that aren’t pousse cafes, it gives the impression of being one perfect thing, rather than an assemblage of ingredients. You’d be hard-pressed to identify any of the ingredients here, actually, and it comes across light enough that you could be excused for thinking it wasn’t a bourbon drink at all. Given the varied sweetnesses of which it is concocted, it’s surprisingly light and refreshing, with a mellowed citrus taste and a complex, warm and earthy aroma and aftertaste which is unusual in a drink this summery. It’s perfect for sitting on a patio or lanai, enjoying the scenery or maybe a paperback of something amusing by nerd god Terry Pratchett.

In fact, I have a strong feeling this would have turned Frank from Donnie Darko into Harvey of, uh, Harvey, in no time at all.

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