A different view of things

20 01 2013

So – just got back from a business trip to Salt Lake City. Interesting place.

I’d never been in ski season before, so it was a bit chilly and a lot busier than I was used to. Very dry cold though – my poor delicate skin was all flaked off by the time I got home. (Poor baby, eh?! 🙂 ).

Now THAT's an icicle!

Now THAT’s an icicle!

I had a very interesting conversation with a Mormon colleague down there about what was and was not “allowed”. I knew alcohol and coffee was off limits in their faith, but was interested to learn how extensive the list was and what the rationale was. Caffeine (there’s my favourite i-before-e rule breaker) was my assumed reason for coffee which was confirmed, but then why did so many people drink Coke? A matter of long debate, it seems!

It was noticeable that software developers in the office there drank lots of pop, and although a few did indeed drink the more typical (for the profession) coffee, by far the most were sugared, rather than caffeinated as they hammered their keyboards. So – after much discussion, I learnt that the rationale is around stimulants and things generally that may affect one’s ability to make reasoned decisions about right and wrong. So – alcohol, “recreational” drugs, caffeinated drinks (+/- Coke). these I could get. Even chocolate seemed half-reasonable (I’ve seen the effect good European chocolate can have on a woman’s knicker elastic!). It didn’t explain all the Red Bull I saw being consumed though. Plainly a city of contradictions just like any other.

Another observation I made was that the local beers were VERY strong. Like 8%+ strong. Forgive the bad BlackBerry photo, but here’s a picture of a limited edition bottled beer I was given in a welcome package. (The trophy in the background was my “prize” for somehow coming last in the go-karting event).)

Imperial Red Ale

Imperial Red Ale

So the EPIC brewing company of Salt Lake City (there’s a different one in Aukland, New Zealand) produce these limited edition ales. This one was of 1,800 bottles only, and you can learn more here. Not selling beer to under-age people I can understand (after all, there’s more for the rest of us – makes total sense! 🙂 ), but this web site won’t even let you LOOK unless you’re of age! It seems that the non-Mormons take it upon themselves to tempt their neighbours by offering well beyond the usual strength beers in SLC. This one was 8.3%! My all-time favourite beer, Tetleys (of Leeds) is a mere 3.8%, by comparison. These beers were up in the Belgian “triple-brew” category.

Anyway, work done, I had one last breakfast in the hotel and got ready to leave. Being Saturday, the skiers had arrived in force, and there was little left on offer to eat. As I sat enjoying a cup of tea, the kitchens delivered a new tray of bacon, and I decided to have a good old bacon butty for breakfast. As I rose, I was beaten to the tray by a lady. No problem, and I waited patiently behind her with my expectant plate. After a few moments though, I realised she was meticulously picking up each and every rasher in turn, examining it and replacing it to the tray. As this continued, I was getting impatient, and attempted humour by asking whether she “was looking for the prize”? I was rewarded with a very hard stare and informed that she and her family only ate very crispy bacon. Bearing in mind this is a chain hotel offering free breakfast, this seemed like a bit too picky of a position to be holding, but I guess my face spoke for me, and I was left to fill my plate with whatever random rashers happened to be caught in the tongs.

So, the flight North was over some spectacular scenery. No idea where these photos were taken. Except to say “from 38,000ft”. Again, on a poxy BlackBerry, so apologies for the quality.

By the time I got home I was peckish again, and was excited to see my little mushroom project had been busy in my absence. I harvested a large plate of succulent Oyster mushrooms, and set to work. I began by slicing them coarsely, more to make them quicker to cook than for any other reason, and set them to sautĂ© in some olive oil infused with truffles – a souvenir from my Brazil trip. A twist or two of coarse black pepper and sea salt for no other reason than Jamie Oliver always does it and the women seem to approve!

The warming scent was amazing. Once they were reducing nicely, I was struck with inspiration (or madness – you pick) and remembered a recent photo I saw of a salmon steak with a slice of blue cheese. Such an interesting pairing of flavours. I usually enjoy my Oyster mushrooms with just the oil they’re cooked in, but decided this time I’d add just a couple of thin slices of blue cheese (which fortuitously happened to be in the fridge). Of course it melted immediately, and being a soft cheese anyway mixed beautifully into the slight oil base the mushrooms were cooking in. Not at all stringy, the cheese simply coated the mushrooms as they touched, and became part of the light sauce that was forming by pure experiment. On a bit of a roll now, I discovered a solitary egg in the fridge too, and cracked that with gusto into the pan. I was quick to spread it out, so that it didn’t form a fried egg in the middle, but more filaments of light egginess interspersed through the mushrooms. Somehow, this seemed just right, and after a couple more minutes in the pan, I tipped the results out onto a couple of slices of crispy toast and devoured lunch with absolute delight.

Here’s a before and after shot. Unless you’ve downloaded Google’s latest smell-o-vision app, I’m afraid you’re only getting a faint version of the experience. The scent of truffles and blue cheese were definitely part of the experience, yet I’d somehow managed not to use too much to over-power the whole.

Of burnt custard and wormwood

12 08 2012

After a hard day’s touristing, there’s nothing better than sitting down to a fine meal in great company. Unfortunately, I was with the family… but we did find some great food. 🙂

Yes, yes, it was on Fort St. There are in fact several streets in Victoria, but it’s true that we did seem to spend most of our little break there along the tight confines of the one street! Anyway, Cafe Brio was our destination for dinner. We arrived early and they were just opening up. This meant we got our pick of tables and so we chose to sit outside on the patio – a lovely covered area cleverly masked from the street with grapevines and other Italianesque things.

I started with a plate of “sulami” shared with second-born. We had “Brio prosciutto” – smoked/dried pork aged for at least 12 month; “Lamb prosciutto” – aged 4 months and very finely flavoured; “Venison pate” – with hazelnuts and juniper.

Main course for me was a whole pound of local mussels in traditional garlic/white wine sauce. The current full menu can be drooled over here.

For dessert, the rest of the crew opted for a “tasting plate” consisting of chocolate truffle, biscotti, sorbet and crème brĂ»lĂ©e (or literally “burnt cream” – actually crème anglaise (fancy custard) with a layer of caremelised sugar on top). For me though, I fancied something a little special and asked if they sold port. Indeed they did, and I was handed a menu of options. I’ve come to favour a particular brand and age of Tawny Port… and alas and alack, it was not on the list. There was however something else that tickled my “off-beat antennae”… absinthe! From the Okanagan no less! I was offered the usual water/sugar options, but opted to have it straight. I was a little non-plussed by the severe green tinge. This is introduced by infused herbs and is part of the reason absinthe gets the name  “la fĂ©e verte” (the green fairy). The name absinthe comes from the ingredient wormwood used for millennia as a medicinal preparation. It took on its current fennel/anise form in around 1792 when it was sold in Switzerland as a cure-all tonic.

Here’s a couple of BlackBerry shots, just to make your mouth water.

Totally recommend Cafe Brio if you’re anywhere near Victoria and feeling the need for good food and atmosphere.

It’s all Double Dutch to me…

9 05 2012

So you remember when I wrote about my last trip to DĂĽsseldorf? No? What do you mean “no”? You don’t hang on my every word?! But you said you would!

OK – hurry up. It’s here. The rest of us will wait…

Anyway, I find myself about to set foot once more within its city boundary. Thanks to Kianys, I am armed with a recommendation for a good meal this time as a bonus. In the meantime, I flew in to Venlo in The Netherlands last night and spent today at my company’s international headquarters there, meeting my new colleagues. I’m staying in a pretty little hotel by the name of “De Bovenste Molen“, which I would heartily recommend to anyone finding themselves in the area.

I was so jet lagged last night I went to bed early, attempted to read a few pages of my current book and then slept soundly, except for the predictable West-East transit false start at 4am. Happens to me every time I fly to Europe from Vancouver. Managed to snag a couple of extra hours despite that, before ultimately being awoken by “Evolving Dream” emanating ever so insistently from my BlackBerry.  [Go on, MM, you can’t say I don’t set them up for you!]

Today was a busy round of meeting the beautiful people of head office, and then a quick spin around the mill pond before dinner. Some of the photos were from aforementioned RIM device and seem a little blurry. Or maybe it’s my eyes. Dinner though was exquisite, if a little pricey.

What goes around, comes around

1 05 2012

So the other day, a very dear (well, at least “reasonably expensive”) friend sent me a link to an incredibly gifted young lady going by the name of Kawehi.

It was the first time I’d seen this technique of creating a loop and building up layers of sound as a backing track to the subsequent vocal. Plainly it’s a well established technique… I’m just old and slow to the party.

Anyway, last night – as regular readers will recall – I went to see Snow Patrol at the Orpheum in Vancouver. Excellent show. The opening act was a young chap by the name of Ed Sheeren. Now he is a very talented young lad indeed. And not only because he is from Halifax (the one in Yorkshire, not the one in Nova Scotia).

And guess what! He also used a similar device to set up loops of backing music, all live, on stage. All he used was his voice and an acoustic guitar (on which he broke strings on two occasions in his 30 minute set, he played with such passion!) With the looping tracks building up, he filled the Orpheum with a wall of sound- beats, rythm and melodies. Amazing to experience.

Wikipedia: Ed Sheeren

Not much to say about the Snow Patrol show really, except “you had to be there”! I only had my humble BlackBerry to take some low light snaps, so I’m afraid they are all I can share. There was some older Snow Patrol songs I wasn’t familiar with, but my well documented favourites of “Lifening”, “This isn’t everything you are” and “In the end, there’s nothing more to life than love is there?” from the current album Fallen Empires were definitely among the most well rendered of the evening.


23 02 2012

Vancouver town centre has some very stylish modern buildings. It also has some surprising narrow little alleys, and many of them come complete with these rather dated wooden power platforms with oil-filled gizmos and wires. Many are decommissioned and no longer connected. I suspect many have had their copper wiring “borrowed” to feed some addiction or other. A few though are deliberately kept for the the use of the local film industry, as they provide a bit of character to programmes like Fringe or V.

This particular BlackBerry capture is from the back of The Cactus Club on the corner of Pender and Burrard.

The view from Pender

The view from Pender

Want one!

16 02 2012

Seen around Vancouver/White Rock recently…

Aston Martin: Vancouver

Aston Martin: Vancouver

Lotus: White Rock/South Surrey

Lotus: White Rock/South Surrey