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Everything posted by chrisstearns

  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?
  16. Good write-up. I think Kurtis's wine program deserves some attention -- not as one of the 'blockbuster' lists in the city (full of trophies we don't really want to order), but one that fits the concept of the restaurant perfectly, pairs with the food beautifully, and offers great value to boot. Complaints about the list being "small" are misguided; It's focussed, concise, and full of the best local stuff. What more do you need? I'd like to see more everyday restaurateurs build wine lists like Aurora's. And Daddy-A, as for the negative posts early in the thread, I didn't see a lot of informed criticism there. What I saw was a lot of tiresome whining about a perceived snub. That said, your comment about perseverance is valid; Aurora has undeniably improved since it opened, and I'm sure it will continue to.
  17. Orange bitters were a common ingredient in the Martini until the 30s, when they disappeared from the recipe. Example: Astoria Shake well with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass: 2 oz gin 1 oz French vermouth 3 dashes orange bitters garnish with an olive Peychaud's bitters are a core ingredient in the definitive antebellum cocktail, the Sazerac. This one is a bit complicated, but bear with it: Sazerac 1 sugar cube 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters 1 dash Angostura bitters 1 dash absinthe small piece of lemon peel Fill a short, heavy-bottomed rocks glass full of ice and set it aside to chill. In a mixing cup, soak the sugar cube with both bitters, then crush with a muddler or bar spoon. Add rye whiskey, fill the glass with ice and shake vigorously. Empty the ice from the first glass and swirl the absinthe around the inside, coating it evenly (law-abiders can substitute Pernod or Ricard). Strain in the contents of the shaker into the rocks glass and garnish with a lemon twist. To keep this on-topic, the Astoria is poured at the Lumiere bar, but any bar with orange bitters can make what is essentially a wet martini with a couple dashes of bitters. As well, I know you can find Sazeracs at several places in town (some good and some bad). Jay Jones makes a good one at NU. The Cocktails Forum would be a good place to find more recipes for cocktails using bitters.
  18. Now, I'm wondering if that would be part of the importing problem? ← I doubt it, actually. I find that bitters usually slip through the cracks because customs people just have no idea what the hell they are. Angostura bitters are 40% abv and stocked on the shelf of every Safeway--right next to the fake champagne and grenadine. I don't really see the alcohol as much of a problem anyway, because drinking enough to get drunk would be extremely unpleasant (not speaking from personal experience). I think the scarcity of bitters in this market is more a question of general ignorance and lack of demand. Knowledge of bitters, in terms of their use in bartending, has become pretty esoteric post-Prohibition, even within the industry. One way to silently evaluate any bartender is to count the bottles of different bitters behind their bar. I should mention that there are two types of bitters: one is the high-alcohol, extremely bitter kind which are intended to be added in minute quantities to cocktails to add flavour and complexity. These are the type of bitters, like Angostura, I was giving ordering info for above. The second type of bitters are common in Italy and Eastern Europe, are lower in alcohol, and are typically drunk straight, chilled, as stomachics. Campari, Jagermeister, Unicum Zwack, and the heinous Croatian Pelinkova that Stephen mentions above are all in this family.
  19. I guess -- I was just re-posting what someone had mentioned above. I'll take it off the list -- thanks.
  20. Just to collate what's been mentioned so far: Banana Leaf Baru Latino Beach Side Café Bins 941 & 942 Bishop's Cioppino's Fiction Fiddlehead Joe's Grammercy Grill Guu (all 3) Hapa Izakaya La Regalade Le Crocodile Lucy Mae Brown Mistral Bistro Ocean 6 Seventeen Pair Bistro Pear Tree Saveur Senova Tapastree Tojo's Vij's Yoshi's Yuji's Japanese Tapas That's more restaurants than I thought. There are some great choices in that list.
  21. I have some experience with this. Nothing is carried locally except Angostura. Unfortunately, none of the specialty food shops have been willing to stock different brands of bitters -- which they could surely sell with the burgeoning classic bartending scene in Vancouver. Instead, we have to order them from the U.S. Unless you make frequent trips to Seattle (or other U.S. cities), you'll be best off getting these products by mail order. In Seattle, Fee Bros. bitters are available at DeLaurenti's in the public market, and Peychaud's are available at the gov't liquor stores. I have provided links below to websites you can order from. Fee Brothers bitters From Rochester, NY. They have an 800 number you can call to order from. They will ship to Canada. Fee Bros make aromatic, orange, peach, and mint bitters. Skip the mint but get the rest. Buffalo Trace Distillery You can get Peychaud's and Regan's Orange bitters (a great new product introduced last year) from Buffalo Trace distillery. Look under "Food > Mixes." (Their falernum syrup is good too.) I don't think the website lets you select shipping to Canada, but they'll do it if you call them directly. Since it can be a lot of legwork to track all these down, I find it's best to order in large bunches to minimize the hassle (especially if you're ordering for a bar, like I was). I usually order a year's worth at once--it's not expensive. Good luck--let us know how it goes.
  22. Neil is correct about the lack of palate cleanser, but I think he underestimates the mass appeal of the Goat Rodeo. As for the question of table times, the tasting Bar is doing three seatings per night during Dine Out, and allowing for 1 1/2 hours per table. That is a little shorter than the average visit on normal nights (about two hours in my experience), but still plenty of time to enjoy a three-course meal. We've done our best to strike a balance between fulfilling all the demand (which numbered several thousand calls), and making all the guests who actually got a reso to feel comfortable. That said, guests who don't give up their table in time will be hoss-tied and saddle bronc-ed by our rodeo clown.
  23. It's true. The Tasting Bar offers a three-course dinner (from the Lumiere kitchen) for $35, each and every night. Hopefully DOV will help to spread the word.
  24. There were a bunch of New Year's options listed in Alexandra Gill's Globe and Mail column today. Much of it was the usual year-end price-gouging, but this one caught my eye: "Hate the idea of set seating times? Aurora Bistro is putting on a hassle-free New Year's Eve with reservations available for whatever time that suits you, be it 6 p.m. or 8:23. In addition to its regular à la carte items, the restaurant is offering a six-course locally sourced and all-organic tasting menu for $75 per person that features seared scallops with house-cured duck bacon and plum pudding with Merridale cider sauce. 2420 Main St., 604-873-9944." 6 courses for $75? Kudos to Aurora. If I wasn't working, I know where I'd be on New Year's.
  25. I guess the cat is out of the bag. We weren't quite ready to debut our "Mayo-tini" yet.
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