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Everything posted by jamiemaw

  1. Wow, what an old school perspective--or perhaps you haven't flown Air Canada recently. I do frequently, and think that enRoute is one of the most progressive, and best assigned and edited periodicals in the country. Ironically perhaps, the national magazine and airline businesses are very similar here in Canada: Both are 'long thin routes' and business graveyards are littered with their cartcasses. Far from puff pieces, I find the writing of the likes of Jim Sutherland and Matthew Mallon (from here in BC) to be authoritative and always entertaining. It's not just for chinless wonders and travelling nabobs either: enRoute's content is necessarily aimed at an enormously wide demographic and--like cereal boxes--has to serve it up in both languages. My only wish is that there were more francophone writers willing to undertake some roadwork. I also applaud Charlene Rooke, enRoute's editor, for tackling this difficult project, with Amy Rosen and now Chris Johns doing the legwork. It's challenging physically, logistically and financially - essentially the reasons it's never been ventured before. So I'm delighted when the food service industry gains a new voice and receives this kind of national and international attention. I suppose my own bottom line for a magazine is if I'd pay the cover price at a newstand. In the case of enRoute, and certainly for this issue, the answer's a hypothetical yes. Not incidentally, as a writer, it's a distinction to have a piece commissioned by enRoute. The assignmnets are interesting and Spafax pays well. The editorial staff are aslo a pleasure to deal with. I saw some silly remarks about their methodology elsewhere. The list of contributing industry people making their five regional recommendations each year is periodically and geographically refreshed. Essentially it's to ensure that the writer covers the complete waterfront and doesn't miss out any contenders. That's all. Amusingly, some of the very food writers others have suggested be included actually have been in the past. That makes utter bollocks of the notion of 'new' versus 'old' perspectives as promoted by the Monday morning quarterbacks of the blogosphere. Further, any sentient person experienced in dining in the province's regions (especially in such a small market as British Columbia) would likely make very similar recommendations available to the writer. In support of this hypothesis, I've yet to see any real disagreement with same, especially on the Montreal forum where they've simply flailed. A final thought. It's really quite unfair to read this issue of enRoute on an Air Canada jet while trying to order from the pay-to-play menu.
  2. I couldn't agree more. Pepin could actually make a meal in the 26 minutes alloted, often working his knives as he went. Perhaps the surprise in this article was that there wasn't more counter-reference to this quality programming: Food Network delivers the hook, PBS the fish.
  3. In the October 2nd issue of The New Yorker, Bill Buford dissembles the fall and rise and fall of Food Network (USA). Interesting turn in the last couple of paragraphs, spelling only a vertiginously brutal edit screeching to the halt of a simple lack of space? What think you?
  4. http://www.nofoiegras.org/FGzogby.htm ← Gracias. ← Your country is rather confusing: 'Panter To Chair Solid Waste?' Please confirm.
  5. You are far too kind, Stephen.
  6. This block of West Street now neatly summarizes modern dining in London; in condescending order: JR, Pizza Hut, The Ivy. We attended the first lunch at JR on Saturday. I can't report on the specifics yet as I'm writing an embargoed article, however I can report that the experience compared favourably with the other two establishments. And judging by the crowd, I think it's safe to say that you'll be hearing much more about JR in next weekend's FT and Sunday Times, amongst others.
  7. Location is important, but as you point out, wildebeest, there are many anomalies in the determination of what constitutes a solid locational draw. Of course there are many other components to that determination; perhaps you'd like to consider this . . . What We Saw Over time we’ve come to a conclusion that atmospherics complementary to human enjoyment in restaurants can be broken down into several components. We were given to analyze the human need for atmosphere and comfort on a cruise ship, of all places. It proved a near-perfect place to research what fuels human intercourse; what with all the many different public spaces to gather in, competing with each other for attention and attendance, which ones actually drew people in? The cruise ship seemed a perfect ‘control’ for our analysis for other reasons: Drinks are priced the same throughout the ship and dining options, with one exception, are included in the price of the ticket—also a level playing field. After discounting the ‘must-go’ spaces such as the main (and huge) dining rooms and theatre, we found the spaces that consistently drew crowds, especially during ‘free time’, were not the more spectacular venues, nor even special attraction venues - such as the disco or casino - that were designed to draw in evening passengers. In fact the two most popular rooms included the piano bar, a fairly innocuously decorated but intimate room with a small bar, quiet live jazz and opportunities for conversation. The second attractive venue was the mid-ships bar, where another piano singer tooled, and where people felt comfortable and relaxed and where there was a continuous flow of people, with a long L-shaped bar and lively bartenders the centrepiece. (Often passengers would be lined three-deep for a drink, while they could have been served instantly in other shipboard venues.) The third was the formal private dining room, which offered a special menu every evening, at a premium over the main dining room. Shortly after embarkation it was sold out for the entire voyage. During our evening tours of the ship, it struck my fiancée and me that there were several features that separated these venues from the dozen or so other choices available: • These popular venues were rectangles approximately 1.5 times longer than wide (ideal Palladian symmetry, and with fairly low ceilings); • One venue was a cross-roads in the ship, the other two more difficult to find (the private dining room offered economic exclusion) but all allowed for conversation, i.e. they were natural places to see, be seen, and to meet and talk with fellow-travellers; • In each of the venues the service was friendly and efficient, but most of all—nearby; • Two of the venues had live, but quiet music; • The venues shared what people strive for—even crave—whether at home or travelling: a sense of intimacy. • The venues were popular—people wanted to be there and did show up to be seen and to observe each other. Bringing these ‘dimensions of intimacy’ back home and analyzing where we and our friends felt most comfortable in restaurant spaces, it was easy to see that most of our those venues met these criteria. In other words, when we have a night off and are eating for pure pleasure, the places we select—perhaps unconsciously—combine these virtues. But there was one thing missing from this casual analysis. When people are attracted to a restaurant or bar venue—even when they’re travelling—we think they will, quite naturally choose to dine or drink with people who look just like them. Some of that, as any decent concierge or maitre d' will tell you, is economically determined, but we came to feel that on a ship, where the food is egalitarian and the drinks priced the same venue-to-venue, was also sociologically determined (only the private dining room provided any real economic barrier). It also explained to us the ‘swarming effect’—why some venues, which might not have that so-called ‘wow’ effect of eye-popping design, draw crowds every night. Further, it explained the antithesis: Why over-designed or contrived spaces quite often (unwittingly) actually drive diners away. The fact that often these rooms combine eye-popping attitude as well does not help their cause. Our observations also helped explain that old cliché about house parties; why everyone, sooner or later and given just half a chance, ends up in the kitchen. We’re convinced that it’s because humans want the opportunity to share that elusive thing called intimacy, and if an oxygenated atmosphere and the kindling (the food, the wine and the service) are further conducive—even love.
  8. 'Home of the Fresh and the Furious Since 2006'
  9. I think you were remarkably cogent given the hour of the day, tarteausucre. Further, I appreciate the irony of Hapa as one reference point - its own concept having been birthed from a Tokyo-based izakaya chain (see Hapa Craze) called Raku. So I would argue that in addition to satisfying a broad range of needs, through decor, food and service, that much of what drives consumers into CFDs is aspirational. After watching behaviour in restaurants for quite a while, I'm convinced people want to dine with people who either look like them or who are models for whom they might aspire to be. Of course the flipside of aspiration is conformity, and in dining, as with many other consumerist choices, we are all conformists. So I agree with your point - there is strong connective tissue between 'independent' restaurants and CFDs. Having visited both Sanafir and the Joeys on the same night recently, we observed how the demographic was remarkably, broadly similar. It almost begs the question: Are we better off with CFDs, or would we be better off without them? Thanks for your illuminating post. Jamie
  10. Not to belabour this issue, so to speak, but: 1. Bus Fuller's Controlled Foods sold its 45 A&W's, 25 Fuller's and 15 Corkscrews in 1982 to George Tidball's Keg & Cleaver because he had to (see Duke of Earls); the chain was badly over-extended in a time of wildly spiking interest rates. Fuller escaped with just four Fuller's, one of which became Earls No. 1 in Edmonton. The net present value of this transaction is negligible at best, especially if you remember the aluminum deck chairs there. 2. CFD restaurant margins, despite the relaxation of liquor legislation several years ago in British Columbia, are eroding and EBITDA is rather anemic. In fact the trend may well have begun earlier - despite rising revenues - food service margins declined from almost 5% in 2001 to 3.1% by 2003, a whopping 40% hit. 3. The Fuller family, unlike, say, the Aisenstat family (Keg, Hy's et al), has chosen not to execute upon a royalty trust so as to create liquidity; 4. The assumption might reasonably be made, therefore, that expansion is being funded by a combination of cash flow, debt and perhaps outside equity partnership; 5. There's a considerable difference between liquid net worth and (relatively) modest cash flow, which requires the key in the ignition every morning; and 6. As I'm constantly reminded, reporters not cognizant of these fairly basic facts would be under water, not fire. Cheers, Jamie
  11. classic ← SO sorry for going WAY off-topic, but I gotta stand up for the neophyte servers. I think that we should try to remeber that a lot of these CFD servers are Fresh Outta High School and not as refined as we have become over the years of reading/writing/thinking/living food. Give 'em a break. Denouncing a servers' capabilities because he/she doesn't know all the product in the shop is as horrible as a fine dining server laughing at a client's foibles. I've been on the giving and receiving end of both forms of ridicule and the neither gave much pleasure. If we have a little more knowledge than ANY person we are interacting with isn't it better to share the info willingly rather than be exasperated with the 'idocy' of the person we are dealing with? Much better use of time and energy. I was once serving an incredibly refined couple up in Whistler who asked what the cognac or armagnac was in the lobster bisque. I didn't know there was cognac in the bisque, and they tried to guess what it was before I asked the chef. They hit it right in the head, and told me how to distinguish the subtleties. I don't think they were laughing at me when I was in the kitchen and I still remember that couple fondly, even if I don't remember how to tell what the liquor is in a bisque. How do you want to be remembered when you leave a restaurant? Second apology: sorry for the preaching. ← You're not preaching at all, Bob. In fact, I think this is one of the best posts in this forum in many months. The real prostelyzing comes from folks who deride ignorance, which should be the most easily forgivable of all our human foibles. Knowledge is for sharing - here and elsewhere, gently and affably - just as your guests at Whistler pleasured you. After writing about food and booze for a while (I'm just old enough to remember when black was the new brown - Joeys decorators please take note), what I don't know is fiercesome. And not unlike the young server who wasn't quite up to speed on her Viogner Monologue, I hope that we both learn something new every day, just like those others who couldn't pronounce the V-word themselves until recently, let alone go down on it. Cheers to you for an intriguing post, Jamie
  12. You're right. Absurd would be a rather better desriptor. To be clear: I didn't call "her writing" patently false; I called this specific unsubstantiated claim so. Would you agree that all reporters should be accurate in their assertions, especially when unattributed or unexplained?
  13. I respectfully disagree with this notion; by his own admission, Joyce much preferred the food writing of Proust, but like A.J. Liebling, wondered if he might haven written more profusely had he been blessed with a greater appetite. Liebling famously remarked on how remorselessly Marcel Proust had exploited a mere madeleine: "In the light of what Proust wrote with so mild a stimulus, it is the world's loss that he did not have a heartier appetite. On a dozen Gardiners Island oysters, a bowl of clam chowder, a peck of steamers, some bay scallops, three sautéed soft-shelled crabs, a few ears of fresh-picked corn, a thin swordfish steak of generous area, a pair of lobsters, and a Long Island duck, he might have written a masterpiece." He was referring of course to Remembrance of Things Past, which is rather longer than War and Peace. Personally, I think Joyce was the premier motor sports writer of his day and were he still alive he'd no doubt be writing for Motor Trend or Biker Babes.
  14. Although Toronto does not enjoy an identifiable regional cuisine, as the struggle of this thread attests, there are some Canadian centres, especially those that enjoy longer growing seasons or are closer to oceans, that absolutely refute this statement. The excitement of watching nascent culinary DNA spool and twine lies not just in observing "pockets of people [who] would stay at home, slowly devloping regional specialties", but rather in the merging of local ingredients influenced by many mother cultures. It's a culinary laboratory, to be sure, but hardly in the sense of El Bulli or Alinea. These are the centres (perhaps outside of Upper Canada, which has more steakhouses per capita than Omaha), where diversity of population has clearly translated into diversity on the table. The Chefs' Table Society of BC and The Island Chefs' Collaborative are but two of the voices that speak strenuously to an identifiable regional cuisine. It's based on local, sustainable ingredients, increasingly cooked by local, sustainable chefs; the imperious Gunters and Jean-Lucs have faded away as surely as flocked wallpaper. To be replaced by guys named Rob and women named Karen who tonight might prepare smoked octopus bacon wrapping a seared Kagan Bay scallop, or side stripe shrimp-imbued mayonnaise licking an FAS salmon taco. Further, comparisons to Europe are fatuous: Many Canadian cities with strong regional cuisines - such as Quebec City, Kelowna, Victoria and Vancouver - are still evolving. On the West Coast, for instance, the population of inexpensive Asian restaurants show great diversity; the merger and emergence of combinant flavours and technique merely demonstrates the pursuit of a regional umami. Hence the excitement: Here, like sex and Beethoven, the cooking is about tension and release.
  15. Ironically, perhaps, the owner of the block on West 4th undergoing redevelopment, and landlord for Ordinary Cafe, is the owner of Orange Julius. He made his money one dog at a time.
  16. Jamie, where would one be able to purchase this guide if one did not live in BC? ← We'll have one waiting for you as a wedding present.
  17. I can only add to Arne's link by informing you that the methodology is completely transparent, is published every year, and has been patiently explained and respectfully discussed ad infinitum here and elsewhere. There is further evidence of our review methodology here. . . . etc.Then you "heard" wrong. But please feel free to review the linked thread. Bishop's has won numerous awards, including Best Restaurant, Best Regional etc. John Bishop was a Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Hart House has numerous awards over amny years. As for the four Sequoia Group restaurants that you mention, as one judge I can say that they remain commercially successful, good at event catering, and hosting tourists to the city. But until they lift their food cost barrier, I'm not sure what category they would go forward in. I don't imagine this is keeping Brent up nights though. Our judges don't share your opinion. Earls' early commitment to organic produce, excellent wine program and attractive newer rooms might be one reason they head the pack. i don't find anything particularly sinister (or suspicious) about this. And I think Christine at Paramount Place might have sme trouble with your last statement. The same could be said for three of Earls' most senior corporate executives, responsible for planning, marketing and (upon George Piper's retirement), procurement and purchasing. Finally, I only allow my banker to call me Mr. Maw. To everyone else, Jamie will do just fine.
  18. Thank you for your beastly beatitudes, Balthazar. Allow me to address some of your queries and question some of your statements: I substantially agree with about the exciting emergence of Richmond, however we are Vancouver magazine. As resources have permitted us to expand our reach into other geographic precincts, we have, as noted. But for categories rated by cuisine, we largely limit our range to the city. i'm sure that you have already noted that our Eating & Drinking Guide to BC has pretty good reach into Richmond, though. Next year, we would hope to reinstall Richmond as a geographic category. I can only respond as one judge, but can tell you that I have had 16.0+ point meals at each of the restaurants that you mention with the exception of Caffe de Medici, where I have been less successful. And I might add that the jury is still out after Julio Gonzalez-Perini's sale of the Villa. This category does not currently contemplate roast beef, but perhaps that's worthy of consideration. I'd be intrigued to see your list. Personally, I rate Thierry Busset's desserts and Sebastien le Goff's and chef Andreas's' cheeses highly. And for that matter, Busset's breads are amongst the best in any city restaurant. Thanks very much for sharing your opinions. I think that a useful adjunct to the RA issue is the investment of $8.95 in The Eating & Drinking Guide to BC, which features 800 restaurants and food service providers. Curiously, it has never been discussed here. Jamie
  19. Wildfire. Yes. Illichman's, ditto. The Waterfront, a bargain and fun, too. Mark Filatow is a focussed chef and flavour-forward. Pamela runs a cheerful room. At Bouchons, more bargains. I really only have one quasi-bitch: the vestigial presentation, with strews of parsley and paprika around the rims of the plates, and a lot of competing flavours, usually including a little vegetable timbale or miniature souffle. Extraordinary value though. We had a standout dinner at Fresco the other night for some hard-to-please travellers. Rod Butters' cool hand was assured through little teasers and small soups; equally so with his signatures of Dungeness cappucino, halibut, short ribs and more. His wife Audrey audited the crowd expertly and adjusted the pace of the room very well--a tip top evening and sound value for this level of dining. For a Tuesday night, still in the shoulder season, it was reassuring to see the room three-quarters full as well. Few people have reliazed the impact of the new UBC campus yet. We spotted an associate dean and several other university executives amongst the crowd. The revival of downtown Kelowna seems to strengthen each month and soon the wine, wakeboard and golf tourists will swamp the lake.
  20. Good morning Sandy, Our rural server here at Treetops has only allowed for intermittent glimpses of your storied life this week, sometimes sans photos, but what we’ve seen so far has been great. Eva and I love your city as if it were our own, and perhaps that’s what makes it so attractive—culinarily, historically, architecturally—that it is so accepting and accessible to outsiders. Our recent experiences (our business partners are officed there) have provided wonderful contrast to life in Vancouver, one of the newest cities in the world. We’ll be fairly close to you next week, but not close enough. Not incidentally, I think we’ve now eaten in Philly enough to say that it is very much a culinary destination, cast in a colourful and storied context. We’re very much looking forward to what comes next.
  21. jamiemaw

    Easter Menus

    Easter is necessarily of pagan construction here at Treetops, Lucy—we feature Stonehenge on our hot cross buns. It’s also a promise from Mother Nature—a sort of IOU repaid—especially for middle-aged men who have survived the bite of another winter. If you’re a child though, Easter weekend is like Friday afternoon at the closing school bell, the entire summer laid out ahead, full of freshly budded opportunities and the mischief that will surely make them. Higher on the hills, the snow still lies in the wildfire scars of three summers ago. For every springtime promise there is also threat, the risk of growth, the rendering of the dream caught in candling pine trees that turmed the night bright as noon and made the Valley sound like war. We’re celebrating the advent of songbirds, including ceaselessly cheerful robins—I’ve yet to meet a depressed one. The quail busily sprint through the orchard, rushing from meeting to meeting like freshly hatched MBA’s. Carpets of purple crocuses and lipstick tulips, witchhazel, forsythia, dogwood and primrose are underfoot. So too the vestigial seasonal fevers that insistently run even through middle-aged men: Hope springs vernal. But it's a group of purple hyacinths in a sunny spot near the front door that have caught my eye today. Purple is the universal colour of Easter; the shock of pastel after months of a grey winter livery. Out in the still-naked orchard, the suckers were pruned off a few weeks ago and the buds are just breaking: You can feel the storehouse of energy just about to be released like Beethoven. It is still an underground charge of current. The apple trees curl over the brows of the hills like so many ballerinas plunged to earth, their toes en point, searching for the sky. In just another fortnight, as the blossoms set, the hillside will turn from silver trunks into brilliant white crinolines. The blossoms will sit up for just a few days, and then a breeze off the lake will knock them down and the growing season will begin, forces released to flow upward and out through their limbs to hold the new fruit. In the vineyard next door, the same forces stand ready, although the novice group that bought it last year planted new vines too late, in August instead of May—many of the young plants did not survive a cold January. Word is that the winery is for sale again. How to mark this time of green promise? This afternoon we’ll begin with grilled asparagus, marinated in seed mustard, chillies, soy and oil and wrapped with boar prosciutto. The main event will be grilled, butterflied leg of lamb (the uphill leg being preferred as more tender), which last night sat in the cooler under a wet rub of oil, garlic, rosemary, shallots and pepper. In the morning I added a slurry of soy, anchovy paste and orange zest. I prefer my leg of lamb on the bone, but it’s early in the season and the legs are still small; boned-out, mine barely made two kilos, hardly worth the carving fuss. Wines will be local pinots, but I have a nice bottle of supple Rioja that’s ready as well. I haven’t decided the starch, although there’s lots to choose from: baby nugget potatoes from down the road, which we could roast in butter and salt; bleu cheese scalloped Yukon Golds; or, most likely, because I won’t have a gravy, a mint and pea risotto. We’ll also serve haricots vert and young carrots, bathed in butter. We’ll have a salad of rocket and ditch cress, bosc pears and some of the local goat’s cheese snapped with a punchy vinaigrette. Dessert will be a chocolate dacoise with ganache filling; grilled pineapple rounds will shotgun it, a delicious cliché. Next weekend is Greek Easter. Although I’m not Greek, I always make a point to visit our friends Joe, Harry and Georgia, who are. Every year Joe and Harry spit-roast a couple of lambs and Georgia goes to town with long tables of metzes, condiments, vegetables, salads and what-have-you. The beer and wine are icey, the company much warmer. I hate to miss this feast, but, alas, I have another commitment made months ago. So Harry and his wife will be our guests this afternoon. Question: Can a two-kilo boned leg supplant whole animals slow-roasted over wood and charcoal? I’ll accede to the jury, which is still out. Out by the grill that is, watching the restless quail convene their urgent meetings, and the apple trees, ready to spring their confetti blossoms and release the season of growing.
  22. To that list I would add The Ocean Club in West Vancouver. Very good sightlines.
  23. I believe it was someone slightly bleu who brought this out of me. "But I suppose the best answer I could give is . . . that my old Dad likes to drive into the countryside and, quite purposefully, get lost. He might knock on a strange door or look in on an restaurant or inn that looks promising. As a passenger on these expeditions, I think they offer exciting possibilities. He maintains it's the tourist who looks without seeing, but the traveller who must become lost in order to become found. I can buy into that if the bed is soft. It reminds of something else I'm rather fond of: Doing absolutely nothing at all, but doing it exquisitely well. Properly executed, there's absolutely nothing at all you can do about it."
  24. I know everyone is kidding around here but Francois Simon is really a pretty informed guy, enough to write the aforementioned book poking fun at himself and other critics. Lately, he’s taken a somewhat contrarian turn and his French is usually beyond me, but he’s never dull, stupid or inaccurate. On another matter, I’m surprised that no one has questioned the high score for Gagnaire and presence of Bocuse. ← As much as we might respect Restaurant magazine's opinions, and those of this informed league, did you find it slightly disrespectful that about 4/5ths of the world's restaurants were ignored? Interested in your thoughts, J.
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