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    Vancouver, BC, Canada
  1. In my mixology column this issue, I mention the good work that Jesse Carroll and Tim Keller have been doing with Rare's cocktail program. </blatant self-promotion>
  2. If we're talking about the labour situation in the restaurant industry, we should distinguish between the situations in the front-of-house and back-of-house. The construction boom is thinning the ranks of the city's kitchens, but not its dining rooms. Cooks are rightly tempted by the prospect of better pay, shorter hours, and better benefits. For waiters, who make more money and work shorter shifts, the prospect of swinging a hammer is not as appealing. I don't like to emphasize the front vs. back, "two solitudes" aspect of the restaurant business--too many silly fights erupt over that sort of thing as it is--but the reality is there are two different economies at work here.
  3. I heard that it has been purchased by James Iranzad (of Hells Kitchen, Nevermind, and Abigail's Party).
  4. Who thinks this would still be an issue if Moonshine was in a different neighborhood? (Nobody? Okay then.) This hyper-sensitivity toward the DTES is ultimately an insult to the people who live there.
  5. ...one can only hope it's sometime during the Age of Aquarius. ← I'm convinced the whole thing is an elaborate in-joke, a fake meta-blog satirizing the recent trend in "opening soon" blogs. At least I hope it is. Because God help them.
  6. I don't think they intended to market the event as Bargain Bonanza. Yet I think what stuck in people's heads was "eat at the best restaurants in the city for $15, $25, or $35 dollars." It's quite a memorable proposition. Maybe too memorable. I can't argue with that.
  7. It sounds like what Aurora has done could stand as a model of how to make a success out of DOV (in your first year too, if I remember correctly). Congratulations, I'm glad it's worked out so well. Really, the restaurants that "dumb down" what they offer during DOV are doing themselves a disservice, aren't they? How can you expect to build regulars unless you show them what you do every night, and how great it is? (Unless of course the aim is just to burn, turn, and earn. This is where Boxing Week sale comes in.) I leveled what I thought was constructive criticism at Tourism Vancouver, and said I thought the advertising next year should de-emphasize the "bargain" aspect of the event. I think if DOV was promoted as more of an "experience your city's great restaurant culture" event, we might have customers coming into the restaurant with different expectations, and perhaps a better chance to make that prized "conversion" from DOV-er to regular customer. But I guess I'll have to endure more of your insufferable lack of bitterness when I come in for dinner next (which should be tomorrow night if my friend managed to make the reservation)!
  8. Kurtis, I think a lot of restaurateurs feel the same way about the one-time benefit of the event (as I alluded to above), but I'm curious to know your thoughts about the other question I asked: is DOV good for the Vancouver restaurant community outside of the three weeks in January that it runs? Does it nurture new regulars, raise awareness of restaurants that deserve more attention (like Aurora), and result in the most valuable form of advertising--word of mouth? Or is it just the restaurant world's Boxing Week Sale? As for "ranking" customers: yes, each guest deserves care, attention, and good service. But let's face it, it's a business, and it's about bringing in cash--for the waiters and the owners. Ranking happens, and good people sometimes get the short end. Ling's friends--paying customers all--have absolutely nothing to apologize for. (Plus, how many guests have their bad behavior rewarded simply because they are consistently big spenders and good tippers?) But are you really surprised by waitstaff triage? It's unfair, sure, but isn't it predictably unfair (their motives are clear enough, aren't they)?
  9. I completely agree -- this is something I neglected to mention above. The folks who came in for the last seating (8:30 for us) on average seemed to have the best time. They also seemed to be the more experienced diners, drinkers, etc.
  10. Now that Dine Out Vancouver 2006 has concluded, I'm interested to hear evaluations of the event, in particular from restaurateurs, cooks, and servers. Was the event a success for you? What worked and what didn't? Which screws need to be tightened for next year? And, most importantly, is the event achieving what it was designed to do--put more local bums in seats and build the rolls of regulars that restaurants depend on night after night? DOV '06, for the Lumière tasting bar, was certainly the most popular year to date. The demand was overwhelming; during the first week of taking reservations, we received several hundred calls each day. Faxed and e-mailed reso requests, when printed out, made a stack of paper a couple inches think. Every available seat had been filled before the hostess could make the first call-back. The numbers were good too; doing three full turns and Friday night volume on every weeknight is good for the restaurant's bottom line. Yes, serving the Dine Out crowd can be a trying time for waiters (see this thread for details; I won't belabor the point here). Part of the problem is with the sales pitch. The "eat for cheap" advertising that Tourism Vancouver has favored to promote the event tends to bring out the coupon-clippers; the sort of customers who are more interested in saving than savoring. If the focus was shifted to emphasize the dining experience more and the "save ten bucks" aspect less, I think we'd draw a more inspiring crowd. (At least we might sell a few more drinks.) That said, for the servers I spoke to, Friday night volume meant Friday night tips, even on Sundays and Tuesdays. So we were happy, if a little uninspired and numbed by the monotony. Sure, DOV is a cash cow, and a good short-term boost for the restaurant, it's employees, and it's suppliers. It does a great job of filling seats during the slowest part of the year. But what about the long-term goals of the event? How successful is DOV at converting those price-conscious neophytes into regular customers? In my experience, judging from the number of DOV faces I see back throughout the rest of the year (and the number of "see you next year" comments I hear), it's a complete failure. I guess a good question is, given that the event is so successful as a one-time gain, does it even matter?
  11. Don't worry about blindness! There is a big difference between professionally distilled high-proof grain alcohol and paw-down-by-the-crick moonshine. People went blind from drinking the homemade stuff because of the impurities left behind in the distillate. The proof had nothing to do with it. Drinking one ounce of straight ethanol is just as safe as drinking two ounces of vodka. A good two-minute introduction to spirits distillation. High-proof ethanol is essential to make really good homemade bitters. When macerating, the alcohol helps to extract the flavors from all the stuff you soak in it; the higher the proof of your solvent, the more intensely flavored your bitters will be. The trouble is, you can't buy high-proof grain alcohol in Vancouver--at least not that I've found. Has anyone ever seen grain alcohol for sale locally? I know it's available if you drive down to Seattle. All is not lost, though, if you want to make your own bitters at home. Jamie B. from Lumiere made some fantastic bitters using plain old 40% ABV gin as a base. He experimented by building the same bitters recipe with vodka, gin, and 151 proof rum. The vodka base was good, the gin was excellent, and the 151 rum a little too 'rummy' -- the stuff he infused in it didn't overpower the rum flavor. (I still liked it though.) In the old days, each bar of note crafted its own house-made bitters. Each recipe was a little different, matching the personality of the place. I'd love to see the practice revived in Vancouver.
  12. Was it the Township 007 that gave it away?
  13. Ugh. Don't remind me. When I was living in Taiwan, MOS Burger was everywhere--even McDonalds served rice burgers. I never felt the urge to try one, but heard from people that did that they taste something like a rice cake sandwich filled with risotto. (Decide for yourself whether that's good or bad.)
  14. The draft sake they serve in the frozen bamboo is very much in the 'cheap and cheerful' category. It's meant for quaffing more than savoring. If you want something more refined, you're bang-on to get something nicer in a bottle. Personally I love ordering the frozen stuff, but I can't help wondering if over the course of a few years, strange creatures have started to grow in the bottoms of those bamboo jugs...
  15. How about Wabi Sabi Sushi Bar on 10th Ave., or (my neighbor) Octopus Garden on Cornwall Ave. & Maple?
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