What To Do For the Winter Olympics

So I haven’t posted in about a month. What can I say? Travel’s a bitch. But not a bad bitch. It’s actually one of the betters ones. Except when you’re in coach. Then flying is miserable. Anyway, I spent two weeks in Chicago until New Year’s and then spent another two weeks in the 2010 Winter Olympic host cities, Vancouver and Whistler, BC. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, but I’ll try and give you a decent recap.

Chicago:

Hopleaf: As I’ve said before, the Hopleaf is my favourite beer bar in the city. And they serve more brews than any other Chicago bar.  Check out my lengthier review for more. While there, I enjoyed the Delerium Tremens Ale, reputed to be the finest beer in the world. It’s good. Real good. But as Belgian sours go, it’s not too special.

Chief O’Neil’s: The Chief’s is our favourite Irish pub in the city. The have acceptable craic, and pour a good, but not perfect, pint of plain. Standard Irish pub fare and a good location for when we are out shopping round out what makes this bar good. They have a wonderful whisk(e)y selection with both old and new world distillates. Of course, they focus on the Irish whiskey but good selections Scotch, Bourbon, and rye can all be found behind the stick. Their pint of stout is quite good, and fairly opaque, but doesn’t compare to Nash’s in the Pale.

While there, I learned that Guinness is holding a competition for “best pint.” Their scoring rubric seems to have more to do with prominently displaying the Guinness logo than anything else. Of course, given Guinness’s long history of marketing genius, I don’t know why we should expect anything else.

Park 21: This new restaurant from the same people behind Carnivale, a restaurant sensation is practically the same. While the service is impeccable, the atmosphere pleasant and vibrant,  and the wine list good, the food is mediocre at best, and the bar program leaves much to be desired. I suggest if you must eat there, you stick with vine, beer, or neat spirits.

O’Hare Airport: It is a sad truth that while traveling, we must spend a good deal of unpleasant time in airports. For the drinking public, however, it is getting better. While Patron has become de regour at most bars, I saw many airport bars making a concerted effort to stock at least one premium offering in each category, including Hendrick’s gin, a variety of sippable rums, good Bourbon and rye and belike.

Vancouver:

The Chef and the Carpenter: We only spent one night in the city, and we went to this wonderful French restaurant after the old school. The Caesar salad is still made fresh, tableside, and with a real egg yolk. Quite possibly the best Caesar I’ve ever had. The rest of the food was equally good. Their cocktail program was outstanding. The maitre d’hotel was a competent barkeep, and while they did not have a bar menu, he could mix up all the classics with a practiced shake or stir from a surprisingly well stocked bar. If you find yourself in Vancouver, I recommend you visit this outstanding Robson street establishment.

Chow: While I was there a year ago, I never mentioned this fine and progressive restaurant serving the fine Pacific Rim fusion cuisine. Another restaurant with an impressive drinks program including fine beer, wine, and, of course, classic cocktails. You certainly can’t go wrong here.

The Cat’s Paw: Another gem from last year, this Granville Island bar has innovative cuisine and reasonable prices, and is, by and large, filled with locals. Another great place to take a load off.

Whistler

The Dubh Linn Gate: This has been our longtime apres hangout. The best beer bar in Whistler, though that doesn’t say much, with a good selection of Scotch whiskies as well, and excelent food, this is as good a spot for dinner as for taking a load off after a hard day on slopes.

Black’s Pub: A reasonably indifferent bar with little to speak for it. While it has good bar staff, an indifferent drinks program and reasonably standard beer menu, as well as non-distinct food doom this to my “eh” list (and not in the way the Canadians say it either).

Milestone’s: A step up from Black’s. A fairly nondescript cocktail menu at least is supplemented by interesting local microbrews and better food. They offer the Wild Horse Winter Ale a refreshing, medium bodied beer with just a hint of winter spice. It is much less spiced than most American winter offerings which is quite a bit more refreshing.

The Cinnamon Bear Bar: Hotel bars tend not to be good, and whether I hit them on an off day, or something else, this is no exception. There are literally no redeeming features to this bar. Avoid it.

Merlin’s, The Girabaldi Lift Company, and Dusty’s: These three mountain-owned bars are surprisingly good. While the beer selection isn’t what it has been in years past, they still stock the Alexander Keith’s Pale Ale, a reasonably standard pale ale after the British style, and their Amber Ale, a heartier, more flavourful brew on tap. This, combined with good food, make this a reasonable place to recover. Dusty’s is supposed to have wonderful barbeque, but I admit to never having tried it. Similarly, both Merlin’s and the GLC have distincive personalities and menus. All have live music and are steps from the slopes.

Ceeta’s Bistro: This bar has a reasonable beer selection, and good, relatively inexpensive sandwitches. We were there for the Canada-Russia game of the World Youth Hockey Championship, which was epic. We also had the Okanagan Spring Pale Ale, a relatively non-descript pale, and the Okanagan 1516, an even less flavourful brew. Unfortunately, Ceeta’s is likely closing soon, so Whistler will loose this quarter century old establishment.

Rim Rock Cafe: This is not somewhere you go for the drinks, not because they do not have a wonderful bar, outstanding wines, and good beers, but merely because the food is so good. One of Canada’s top ten restaurants, if you are in Whistler, and can remotely afford it, you need to try it. One of the best meals of my life.

Hope this list has helped you if you are traveling out there. There are a lot of positives on this list, but I have been to Vancouver and Whistler enough to avoid many of the bad apples, though not all, as the list suggests. Again, I apologize for the lack of pics.

May wind fill your sails,
The Scribe

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A New Year’s Toast

Hey all.

I would just like to wish everyone a joyous, profitable, and otherwise happy new year. I hope it is better than this and any other. To toast this sentiment, might I suggest a…

Seelbach Cocktail

  • .75 oz. – Bourbon Whiskey (Maker’s Mark)
  • .5 oz. – Curacao (Gran Gala)
  • 7-8 dashes – Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)
  • 7-8 dashes – Aromatic Bitters (Peychoud’s)
  • Top (4-5 oz.) – Sparkling Wine (Cava)

Stir whiskey, liqueur, and bitters with ice to cool, then top with chilled bubbly. I recomend Cava or Prosecco over the more traditional Champagne or California sparkling as the fruitier elements of Cava or Prosecco will tie it better to the orange cordial and Peychoud’s.

I would generalize that advice to all cocktails, as I find, unless you are simply mixing Champagne with crisp spirits, the fruitiness of some other European sparkling offerings works better.

Happy new year, and an easy morning after,
The Scribe

Mixology Monday: Hot and Heavy

mxmologo‘Tis that time of year again, and that time of month as well, the time when all of us cocktailians get together and have ourselves a grand old time writing about cocktails. This is an especially good time for me because my Real Life™ commitments finally allow me to write. I am also happy to announce the next Mixology Monday, below.

Anywho, it’s getting awfully cold. I’ve stopped wearing sandals regularly, which I only do if it’s below freezing out there. One thing that really wamrs me up after a cold day is a nice hot beverage. The first one I have created is inspired by Charlotte Voisey from Hendrick’s Gin. She talked about bringing teatime to cocktail hour, and that is exactly what I did with:

The Redcoat’s Aunt

  • 4 oz. – Vannila Roohibos Tea (From my local looseleaf tea shop, brewed strong)
  • 1 oz. – Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt)
  • .5 oz. – Curacao (Gran Gala)
  • .5 oz. – Aromatic Bitters (Peychoud’s)
  • 1 drop – Orange flower water

Stir together everything except the tea and flower water. Pour the tea hot over the top. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and an orange twist. Spritz orange flower water over top.

This is really quite nice. The warmth of the tea, both physical and the warmth of the vanilla flavour, really cuts through the bitterness of the Peychoud’s allowing the flavour of it to come through. The Peycoud’s ties quite nicely with the Gran Gala. The rye gives it just a litte backbone. All in all a very pleasant blend. I really like warm drinks and another one which is great in front of a fire after, for instance, a long day of hiking in a frigid downpour is:

Mulled Wine

  • Claret (Nothing too fancy)
  • Oranges
  • Cloves
  • Lemons
  • Simple syrup
  • Water

Slice up fruits (1 orange and half a lemon or so per bottle of wine) and add simple syrup (about 2-3 oz. per bottle of wine) and a handful of cloves to a pot. Add water to cover, but as little as you can. Bring to a boil and reduce. Then add wine. Keep heat as low as possible, stirring until wine is warmed through.

Mulled wine is one of those great soul healers. I enjoy it as often as I can.  There are few things better than sitting in front of a fire in a wilderness lodge after a good day of ice climbing, ski mountaineering, or the like, with a nice cup of mulled wine, good company, and lots of good grub.

Pictures to follow.

Stay warm on cold nights,
The Scribe

MxMo: You Scratch My Back…

mxmologoWell, it’s been a month since our last little gathering, and two since I participated, so, to make up for it I have two cocktails for you with a total of three ingredients from scratch. First off is a little something from way back in the day when they had no choice but to make it all from scratch:

The Chinese Cocktail (After Jerry Thomas)

  • 2 pt. – Jamaican Rum (Appleton V/X)
  • 1 pt. – Grenadine (Homemade)
  • 3 dashes – Curacao (Gran Gala)
  • 1 dash – Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)

Stir to combine and serve as you like.

Now this is obviously a riff on the “fancy cocktail” with grenadine replacing the syrup, and the orange cordial adding just a bit of complexity. I should not that in order to make my grenadine, I simply reduce pomegranate juice by a third without adding sugar, as I find most pomegranate juice quite sweet enough. But this is hardly original. Let’s try something with a bit more interest:

The Island Inferno

  • 2 pt. – Dark Rum (Cruzan Blackstrap)
  • 2 pt. – Medium Sherry (Taylor Golden)
  • 2 pt. – Orange Juice
  • 1 pt. – Falernum (Paul’s #8)
  • 5 dashes – Spicy Cocktail Bitters (Scrivenal Spiced Sherry Peppers #1)
  • 2 dashes – Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)

Shake it all up over ice, and serve straight up in a cinnamon rimmed glass.

Now this is something worth drinking. Of the cocktails I have invented to date, this is by far the most successful. There is something wonderful going on here. It hits notes that you don’t often see cocktails hitting, and that was quite intentional. For just about any cocktail, you have some sweet, some sour, and from time to time, some bitter. There’s nothing wrong with this, but asside from a few savoury cocktails, it’s rather predictable. Here, I made a cocktail that burns the back of the throat as it slides down, and does all sorts of other nice things, without being a blood mary. It’s just a much more complex cocktail than most of what I am exposed to.

I highly recommend that you go for the Cruzan offering here. The Blackstrap is a much fruitier rum than, say, Gosling’s, which makes it work much better in this cocktail. It combines nicely with the orange juice, which transitions nicely into the sherry. The peppers pick up the sherry, while adding island spice and heat. The spices are reinforced by the falernum, which also moderates the spiciness. I am, justly, I think, quite proud of this concoction.

Pictures to follow as soon as my camera charges back up.

Keep on scratching,
The Scribe

Quit Your Wining

Downtown Wine & Spirits, my choice for premium beer and high end everything had their annual wine tasting and sale yesterday, so, of course, I meandered on down. They were pouring quite generously enough, and I sampled the full line from Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, as well as a variety of other sparkling wines from all over the world. I hit the highlights of France, America, Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Australia, and pretty much anywhere else they have figured out how to grow grapes. They were pouring wines that sold for $5 per bottle, and wines that sold for $100 per bottle. All in all a great showing.

The standout for me was a bottle called Le Cyclot or something along those lines. It was an unfiltered and unfined wine made from biodynamically grown grapes, and then of course, aged in oak. It might well be the single nicest wine I have ever tasted. It was smooth as a baby’s bottom and full of all sorts of yumminesses. Unfortunately, my wine budget doesn’t go to such premium sips, or I would have put away a case of this vintage.

Now the tasting was combined with a 20% off sale. Let me just say that the combination of lots of free wines and a fifth off the asking price is a disasterous combination for the Scribe’s wallet. In addition to a Crémant d’Alcace, I picked up a couple bottles of a nice Italian red, a  bottle of Gran Gala and a bottle of rye.

Keep up the good drinking,
The Scribe

A Wonderful Spicing

Well, the Dramproject is now complete. It is absolutely gorgeous. It is everything I wanted and more. The sherry is spicy and peppery and kicks like a mule. It worked great in the twilight squall cocktail, and, more importantly, it is going wonderfully in soups and as part of my steak marinade (3 oz. Worchestershire sauce, 3 oz. soy sauce, .5 oz. sherry peppers for each steak, marinade for .5-3 hours). Basically, it is everything I could ask for and more. Whip yourself up a batch today!

Pictures to follow.

Take care now,
The Scribe

Together, At Last

Well guys, it’s been a long journey, but we’re here. This marks the last post of Wine Month August. I’ll be finishing up the August Dramproject tonight, and posting an update. While it’s a few days overdue, I’m posting here a comparison of the Undurraga cab sauv and the McWilliams sirrah. I think this works out to a question of pairing. As for me, I generally don’t drink wine on its own. I tend to drink beer, amber spirits, or cocktails when I am drinking without food, and, with the exception of sacramentally, I tend to drink wine only with food.

So, that begs the question, which is better with what? I think the shiraz stood up to the beef we ate it with, but I feel that the cabernet would have been a better pairing. On the other hand, I think that the Australian wine would have been better with lighter foods than the Chilean, and that the reverse would also have been the true. So, there you have it. Both were quite good quotidian wines. Neither was spectacular, but I enjoyed them both.

I’ve enjoyed drinking wine with you this month,

The Scribe