Thursday, February 26, 2009

In like a water buffalo, out like a snuffleuphaghus

The temperature outside, with wind chill, for those of you who do not live in Edmonton, is -40. At that particular temperature, it doesn't matter if it is Celsius or Fahrenheit. The old saw, in like a lion, out like a lamb, isn't really applicable. This is too horrible. For those of you who have spent the week in Cuba, and you know who you are, you have missed plenty of bad weather.

I am still without a phone, at least until Saturday, so don't be offended if I haven't called or returned your call.

Winter... slowly..... killing me...... Must............ make it.............. to Spring.............. gasp!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Same old, same old

So in the past two weeks, we have replaced the temperature sensor, coolant, thermostat and timing belt in the Hyundai, to the tune of a grand, and now my phone had up and died, thirteen months after buying it and three weeks after the warranty ran out. I am not impressed. Needless to say, any thoughts we might have had about disposable income this month are up in flames. Sigh.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

La Boheme Edmonton

Restaurant review for La Boheme

La Boheme is located on 112 Avenue and 64th street in Edmonton in a Bed & Breakfast that has been converted from a block of Pre-WWI luxury apartments. The theme is french, the focus, according to the website, is southern french and Rhone. Notwithstanding this assertion, and apart from a Moroccan Style couscous on the menu, the theme seems to be squarely in the traditional cuisine bourgeois that one would like to expect in a French restaurant.

We arrived at 7:15 for our 7:30 reservation, and were directed immediately to our table, which was set up with two low lounge chairs, leaving the patron leaned back and low at the table. It felt like you were at the kiddie table. On the walls were cheap "french" art prints from Home Outfitters of the type one would buy if one wanted to do a "Paris" themed room in a showhome. The bar was behind us, and had a collection of vintage 'stubbies' along the top. 'Trying very hard to be charming' would be my description of the decor, and throughout the evening, I was back and forth between my impression that this place was either trying too hard or not trying hard enough.

If a place wants to be a cheerful bistro where people can get good french food in a fun atmosphere, that is what it should be. If a restaurant is a fine-dining restaurant, that is what it should be. It should not have the worst aspects of each.

Lets start with the prices - we went because they started a marketing scheme through our local Costco whereby they would sell $100.00 gift cards for $70.00, thereby bringing in the crowd they would not normally get. In reality, they have simply raised the price of the Prix Fixe menu from 70 to 100 dollars to compensate. It still says $70.00 on the website, and that was not the first time we ran into price discrepancies that night.

Soon upon being seated we opted out of the prix fixe in favour of the a-la-carte (a much cheaper option) I ordered escargots in a puff pastry shell with garlic cream emulsion and Jenn, being adventurous, had the soupe a l'onion gratinee, or french onion soup. For a main, I ordered rack of lamb demi-glace medium rare, and jenn ordered the supreme of chicken with a fig and port demi-glace and camborzola cheese. The house wine selection was good, I had a glass of Chapoutier Rhone and Jenn had the house rose.

Then we started to wait.

Bread arrived - 4 small pieces of warmed over baguette, along with little plastic tubs of dairymaid butter. Here is where I first started to get the impression that something was wrong. In a restaurant where the set menu is $100.00 plus wine, you don't serve plastic tubs of butter that wouldn't be out of place at a cheap roadside diner. Hell, even Denny's provides a tub of whipped butter if you get the pancakes. How hard is it to do a few curls of butter for your guests? As the bread was going on the table, the basket overturned, and flew on the floor. Another was provided, but this was the first sign that our servers were not the 'a' team.

CRASH! A stack of plates comes crashing down in the kitchen.

I look at Jenn as two old guys in berets speaking to each other in broad Albertan twangs sit down for coffee at the next table, talking about used cars and casinos. Loudly.

Eventually the appetizers arrive. Mine is placed too far to the right and on top of my knife. If it had been the soup of the day, it would have been on my lap. We dig in. Both are salty.... very salty, but what do you expect from french onion soup? Mine was at least tasty. Can't really screw up garlic and cream. The puff pastry shell was kind of tough. I've done better pastry myself, and I am quite the neophyte. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the shells are pre-made and frozen until needed. The plate holding each appy was on a larger charger plate with a paper napkin between. Not a fancy one either, the kind you buy by the thousand at Costco.

The old guys in berets get up, wander over to an empty table, pull the chairs around, and, I kid you not, pulled out a fiddle and accordion and began playing jazz standards. It seemed like a kind of desperate attempt to seem french. If I had come across a restaurant doing this in France, I would have probably given it a wide berth, as it was obviously directed at yokel tourists.

The empty cocktail glass that a waitress had left on the empty table in the middle of the room was still there some time later.

Then the espresso machine began to flood the area behind the bar. Mop, mop, mop.....CRASH! Another something hits the floor in the kitchen.

Jenn was parched after the salt in her soup, and her water was long since empty.... I gave her mine. It was a long time before they were filled again.

Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Went the ancient Pepsi cooler behind the bar, until the maitre-d went over and slapped it hard in the logo across the top - behind which the compressor was having a seizure.

Time passed. Patience waned. At 8:45, well over an hour after we had ordered, our mains arrived, coated in the saltiest demi-glace I have ever tasted. By that time, Jenn's rose was warm. Jenn couldn't finish her chicken. I made an effort on my rack of lamb, which was, at least, cooked medium-rare, and even dug into the blandest herbed mashed potatoes I have ever had. Nothing was outstanding. Nothing was worth the price on the menu. We complained about the saltiness of the demi-glace and looked at the dessert menu. We decided - based on the other food - to give dessert a miss. We just wanted to leave. The bill arrived, and Jenn's chicken was $4.00 more than the price on the menu, notwithstanding it was not a bargain t that price either, we decided not to complain but to pay up and leave.

$125.00 including tax and tip for a meal with no dessert and two glasses of house wine.

I give La Boheme a failing grade.

Those of you who know me know that while I may be a bit of a connoisseur, I am not a snob. I will dig into a good corn-dog or greasy diner breakfast with equal enthusiasm as I hold for hommard a l'americainne grattinee or a hundred bucks worth of prime sushi. The problem isn't that I am snobby, or that I am looking to find fault. I went to La Boheme half desperate to have a good experience. What I got was food with low scores for execution and a staff who would have gotten themselves fired from any Earls they might have been lucky enough to be hired at. The whole thing reeked of a non-pro status, and that isn't worth the price of admission.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

So here's what's happening on the Car/Cashmere front

The car won. Ultimately, no matter how fabulous, I can't drive a suit from Spruce Grove to Edmonton. Now I am planning to catch up some deferred maintenance on the Sonata, since I've already dropped two grand into it this year, I may as well drop the extra grand and let it carry me another 30,000 klicks. The Civic might be leaving us if we can arrange it. Depending on our money situation, we may end up financing a new vehicle, or, more likely, buying a nearly new used car when a hefty bonus or our accident settlement or tax refund or other unexpected windfall comes in. Really, all we need is something that is not so worn out as the Civic's 190,000 km. It doesn't have to be super fancy, it would be nice if it had AC.

In other news, I will be putting my first lager (German Pilsner) in bottles this weekend. We shall see how it turns out. My second lager will be bottled within the next month or two, an American Premium Lager brewed on Saturday.

Monday, February 09, 2009


Price of a cashmere blend Canali suit currently on hold for me at my consignment store: $477.00

Cost of a new thermostat and heat sensor to prevent my car from stalling in traffic at unfortunate times: $477.00.

Owen's absolute Maximum disposable income this month: $477.00.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A perfectly reasonable question

...has been raised, that being, "What does BJCP stand for?" The answer: Beer Judge Certification Program.

The BJCP is an organization dedicated to increasing knowledge about and appreciation of good beer and developing the skills of beer tasting and beer judging. I am a member and a Certified Level Judge.

The BJCP has, through the efforts of certain individuals, developed a set of guidelines for the tasting and judging of 80 of the most common beer styles, or rather of 79 styles and one catch-all category. It is my goal to brew every style on those guidelines and by doing so increase my knowledge and understanding of beer and brewing, try beers that are not available commercially in Canada, and generally have a good time and feel accomplished. I really enjoy the process of making beer because my work does not produce anything more tangible than fat piles of paper and hurt feelings, and this lets me feel connected to a product. Slow beer, as it were. Also, this process is a lot simpler than the Julie/Julia Project, which was a bit of the inspiration for it. I cheat a bit by using recipes drawn from various sources including Brew Your Own Magazine and the excellent book, "Brewing Classic Styles" if not verbatim than certainly as inspiration.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A long week

Toady is the latest in a series of days where I am the only lawyer in the office. Needless to say, I am getting a lot of work done because I have four assistants at my disposal. The down side is that I am dealing with everyone else's strangeness as well as my own, which is putting a premium on my time. At the same time, Jenn seems to have injured her elbow by hitting it on a doorknob at school, and has the sort of lung-filling cough that I associate with septuagenarian two-pack a day smokers. Throw into that mix the fact that on my way to court this morning - to sort out a problem that Legal Aid was having in telling clients that we are acting for them when we are not, I slipped on 3 inch thick ice on the sidewalk and landed heavily on my wrist and hip, bruising both of them as well as my ego. Now I am taking a break from work here at the office as I wait the last ten minutes for my 6:00 PM appointment.

All of this is conspiring to wear me out a little. I would like nothing better than to go to bed early on Friday and sleep until sometime on Sunday afternoon, but if I did that, no beer would get made this weekend, and that would be a shame. Last weekend Nick and I started in on Style 10C, American Brown Ale. With that one and a German Pilsner to bottle, and possibly another to start this weekend, I have a busy Saturday ahead of me if Nick is free.

Just to recap on the beer, for those who vaguely care, I started this quest to brew every style in the BJCP guidelines about two years ago, and began to do it seriously about a year ago. Of the 80 styles in the guidelines, I have brewed 14, and of those, I just sent 10 to competition in Calgary. We will have to see how we do.

Not sure what the next style we will be taking on will be, but I suspect that we may have to try out a Trappist - possibly a dubbel. If we had any Northern Brewer Hops, we would be setting into California Common Beer, but the shortage has hit us hard in that respect. Those fellows at Anchor seem to have cornered the market, and I may need to use my Californial Lager yeast to fire us up a Cream Ale and maybe Blonde as well.

All of the beer promises to take less time now that I have sprung for the $4.00 adapter that will allow me to attach my drill to my malt mill and change from 60 RPM to 360 RPM. Yeah. That's what we need here... More Power.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Cashmiracle on 120th Street

I have posted previously about my not-so-secret, not-so-shameful lust for the ultimate items of mixed conformity/non-conformity, finely tailored woolen goods. I have posted previously the whys and hows of my habit. Today, I must give a nod to the near-telepathic, deal-with-the-devil customer skills of the propriotrix of my favourite consignment shop.

The sign in the window said "Blowout Sale". I was naturally concerned that this equated to "Going out of Business Sale", and went inside on my way back from court. Not at all, simply getting rid of the winter gear in favour of some spring items and cruise-wear.

I will not buy a suit. I will not buy a suit. I will not buy a suit. I will not buy a suit.

I need a shirt.

A nice semi-casual shirt;

something bright;

maybe with french cuffs.

Say, it can't hurt to look at the 42 regular section, can it? Just to see? Just to look? I'm not buying you understand... Oh...... Oh My............. Canali Charcoal chalk-stripe...... Cashmere? Oh my word........ 30% off? Let me see, at $1800.00 regular off the rack new, I'm already getting about 60% off this apparently new suit..... and another 30% would make it.........

NO! No, I shan't buy a suit.

I will not buy a suit. I will not buy a suit. I will not buy a suit. Ooh! Paisley!

I need a paisley shirt. And that pink Hugo Boss with the french Cuffs for $12.00. That will do nicely. I'll just go try this on.

What? Yes? Yes they both seem to fit, I don't suppose I could trouble you for some cufflinks just to see? What? Yes, actually...... I did see that Canali Chalk Stripe...... Yes, I know it's cashmere......................



Well, I suppose it couldn't hurt to just try it on........


Oh my......

Yes, I see that it doesn't even need to be tailored. The cuffs hang just so, the pants break just right...........

Let me see...... the mortgage payment goes through the first..........

Could you hold this for me until, say, Valentine's Day?

Of course she could........