Saturday, May 8, 2010

Dancing to the beat

I have a love/hate relationship with blackberries. I love the juicy ripe fruit. I especially love hauling out my last bag of hard-won berries in the middle of December, then baking them into a pie, or throwing together a microwave jam, and then feeling the blast of their tart/sweet juice washing in my mouth. I don't even mind dislodging the seeds from my teeth - I figure it's a small price to pay for that taste that still carries hints of a warm August evening spent fighting the brambles, the birds, and an occasional wasp for the precious ruby berries.

But I hate when the blackberries decide to make good on their threat of world domination, and I have to do battle, armed only with pruning shears, heavy work gloves, and a long-handled rake. Those brambles fight back, and they are vicious. I have scars to prove it.

So this morning is bright, warm, and glorious. And the brambles are taunting me, calling my name, daring me to usurp them. And I had to take up the challenge. This time, though, I have a secret weapon: my iPod. My iPod knows me better than I know myself. It knows that if I'm in the mood for some Alison Krause and Robert Plant, I might just as easily want to hear some Bach next, then maybe Keith Jarrett's long piano riff on his Köln album. This morning, as I swung my shears wildly off in all directions, my iPod decided I needed to listen to some flamenco guitar - Bola Sete at the Monterey Jazz Festival, to be precise. Perfection! Great guitar, infectious energy, a brilliant sun-dappled morning, grass still damp and cool with dew, and newly-honed blades on my scimitar (er, pruning shears). Forgive me while I have an El Cid moment...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Shameless self-promotion

In this month's Eat Magazine

Adventures with food

So our foodie friend Jonathan managed to score a multi-week sojourn in Vancouver. His visit is work-related, so his company is putting him up in a high rise overlooking Coal Harbour, and providing him with a daily stipend. What to do, what to do -- or more importantly, where to eat? Hmmm...

Jonathan lives in Manhattan, is a world traveller (it's his job, poor SOB!), and is an accomplished cook and enthusiastic epicurean, so it's not like he's looking for the nearest McDonald's, or even The Keg. This makes recommending places to indulge his appetite and interests a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, Vancouver has advanced several degrees beyond the days when our dining choices extended to Hy's Steak House, White Spot, and a couple or three chow mein palaces . We've steered him towards Japadog, located handily enough just outside his office tower, and he's found Robson St.'s izakaya scene all on his own. He's also been smart enough to post on Chowhound, and has a wealth of recommendations from the local foodie community. So we're pretty certain our lad won't waste away here in the hinterlands, though he reports that the prices we pay for domestic plonk came as a rude shock.

To date, our main contribution to his culinary education has been to take him to 12B, a mystery venue, where Chef Todd (sorry, no more precise identity is available, though judging by the quality of food presented, he is no stranger to professional kitchens) prepares highly imaginative, intricate food for small batches of diners who bring their own wine.

It's a long story, but our group of ten were mostly strangers to us, though not to each other. This caused an interesting moment or two, given that our host is healthily paranoid, given the iffy legal status of his enterprise. Nevertheless, by the end of the evening we were all chatting happily away, sharing wine and impressions of the evening as though we had known each other for our entire lives. By the middle of the next day, we had exchanged emails and promises to do this together again. And that is the magic of good food shared in compatible surroundings with similarly-minded folk. The community that is formed is somewhat more than the sum of its parts.

Tomorrow we get to expose our friend to the delicacy that is poutine, as prepared by the fine Quebecois chef at La Belle Patate, followed up by drinks at the Sylvia Hotel. Environment Canada promises us sunshine and warmth. Is there any better way to while away a Saturday afternoon? It may not be Manhattan, but it is Vancouver!

yes, well...

So it's been a few months since I posted. It's not like there's anyone reading this, after all.