Friday, September 29, 2006

Random Wine Notes While Eating Extruded Bison

Recent unbottlings, accompanied by a variety of sausages and other processed meat products courtesy of the Swan Valley Co-op private label "Lake Country Select".

Niagara - Stratus Red 2002: Been waiting to dip into a bottle ever since I started seeing the White Stratus pop up on the wine list at the Sparrow, Crush and The Swan.
Was the first bottle of the evening, and is developing very nicely. Sipped with some home made foccacia. When I bought it last year, had a distinct orange peel finish to it which has mellowed out. One of the more complex Niagara Reds and highly recommended. Is it the Opus One of Canada? Not yet.. .but on its way.

California - Ridge Lytton Springs 2004: Second bottle of the night, paired nicely with the lamb sausages. Little bit of zin zip, a touch young and oaky perhaps but a nice treat shared by some good friends. Made me run home and check out my Ridge box. Still hanging on to a '02 Sonoma Station for a couple more years I think.

New Mexico - Shared my last La Bomba Grande as the third bottle after the Stratus and the Ridge. Recounted the story of the mad professor who made it, relived the breathtaking beauty of the canyon-side vista of the tasting room.

Niagara - Marynissen Merlot 1999: Excellent with the bison garlic sausage. Marynissen was the first VQA winery Sheena started seriously collecting many years ago. Still doing lovely reds. Some of the older vinifera in the region and it shows. Their merlots have always been a bit bigger and richer than most. And this one holding up nicely. Probably won't push the 1/2 case that is left more than another 2-3 years. A vertical tasting is beginning to speak to me....

And the extruded bison? Well, when you buy the buffalo jerky at the Swan River co-op, and then read the checkout receipt, that is exactly how it is bar coded. "Extruded Bison". Yum.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Addendum to "Little Souse on the Prairie - Part 2" - by request

Little Souse On The Prairie - Part Three

Fall Harvest Dinners Rock the Province!
Sheena smells the conspiracy of big money. Or at least money that smells like cowshit and old rubber boots and neighbours with garlic sausage breath.

Apres dinner entertainment includes a quaff or two of the subtly-branded yet dominating stench of Old Style Pilsner in the village of Pelly, SK. Click on the link for info about snakes, Doukhabors, and directions to the most kick ass hotel ever that Sheena's peed in, drank at and was given access to a remote controlled singing taxidermied mule deer named "Buck".

Local colour quick to regale stories of the impending boom: hog farms, oil exploration, construction.

I'm sold.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Little Souse on the Prairie - Part Two

Saturday we were all a-twitter. It was the day of the Big Show. A block from the venue we noticed a fun poster for the event and stopped to take a picture. And it. Getting back into our hostess's vehicle, she puts the key into the ignition to get moving and suddenly the keychain falls on the floor. Huh? Look again and realize that the key had snapped mid-way. With the other half in the ignition. A wave of panic crosses her face. We're kind of in an awkward place blocking back lane traffic. Our sage and wise backseat driver, El Chaperone says "Just stick it back in and turn it and see if it goes". It did. So the day progresses unimpeded.

Looking closely at the poster, roars of "All Right" fill the air as we realize that the undercard includes the Fabulous Kildonans (remnants of '80s Winnipeg punk legends the Stretch Marks) and the previously unknown Farrell Bros. The Farrell "fUtuRe oF rOcKaBiLLy/Straight Out of Selkirk" Bros kicked ass. Biggest wildest hair this side of a Kenora roadside beauty parlour. Regret not taking pics or buying a CD. Maybe go track one down before we ditch the rental car.

The Main Event did not disappoint. For the 7th time in the last 3 years, was thouroughly enthralled and transfixed by the crazee antics of the Th'Legendary Shack Shakers. Quite thrilling to see them near the end of their first ever Canadian tour. Still too bad they haven't ventured east... 'Tis truly one of the better live shows ever and they are frickin nice guys too. Flying pube hair replaced with flying chest hair on this night. Catering to local community standards, or is the front man J.D just getting precariously close to Brazilian after a heavy touring schedule? Nice little ventiliation pipe climbing and upsidedown swinging interlude during the finale...

Sheena also respects the fact that between sets when they walk up to the bar, they always just ask for "something local". Fort Garry Pale Ale
got a particular boost in market share that night.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Little Souse On The Prairie - Part One

You CAN go home again. Minutes after stepping out of her cozy grape-scented business class seat, Sheena is whisked away to the official welcome committee function at Bleachers (formerly known as the Vendome - one of the oldest continually operating public houses in Winnipeg, and an architectural gem currently covered up by fake green astroturf ceilings). In the atmosphere of old WHA paraphenalia, pre-Asper Blue Bomber glory days and $10 pitchers of Fort Garry Dark Ale, the paler amongst us are called "Aristocrats" and offered cheap discount soapstone carvings.

The festivities wrap up, and we head to the home of our honoured hostess for one of my all-time favourite Winnipeg culinary traditions: Gondola Pizza. Now, some people like thick-crust pizza. Some prefer thin. Gondola is, as they say Incomparable, because this is no-crust pizza. I defy any of my readers to measure a Gondola crust exceeding a 1 mm thickness. The toppings (pepperoni & mushroom in this case) held together with a small layer of cheese. It is then cut into squares - NOT slices. Even the middle pieces can be safely picked up with fingers only. No excessive runny sauce to ruin the carpet, no crumbs. You can even knock the box off the table, have it land upside down, pick it up the next day and before you can say "abracadabra" you have yourself some breakfast.

After a little bit of shopping and lunch down in Osborne Village (great nachos at Carlos 'N Murphy's , margaritas kind of sucked in a too-much-mix-not-enough-lime-juice kind of way), we ventured out into the mothership of mullets - Transcona. Transcoma, Trashcona, take your pick. Where the collar might be Blue, but never ever ones beer. Sheena loves the intricacies of interprovincial beer pecking orders and remembers how horrified she was when she first moved to Ontario and people who lived indoors actually drank Labatt's Blue. We had other names for it growing up.

Sitting at the Silver Spike, one of several venues on the Trashcona Pub Crawl Circuit just down the block from the CN shops, watching the local house band at 4pm with family, friends and associated hangers-on. Still daylight out, so no requirement to go through the in-house metal detector.

I insisted to my eastern compadre that he indulge in the Holy Trinity of Manitoba best brews: Club, Labatt's Lite and the mysterious Google-elusive Standard Beer. The same Standard Beer which caused El Chaperone to blaspheme on the side of a Mennonite Brethern Church a couple of years back following Canada Day festivities. Also insisted on the OV, but didn't put it in the Trinity since Quebeckers like their legacy Carling O'Keefe products almost as much as 'Peggers.

The evening entertainment which followed this prolonged warmup is deserving of its own blog post, but let us just conclude with the remark that Sunday morning's 6 hour drive was punctuated with bad trucker coffee, Old Dutch Ripple, stale Tootsie rolls inbetween head-bobbing naps with the shades on.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sun Girls... or "I Was A Teenage Splooge Jewellery Model"

UPDATE-Sunshine Girl Back Tomorrow
Sep, 20 2006 - 7:10 AM

TORONTO/AM 640 TORONTO - It was a day without sunshine on the backpage of the Toronto Sun but she's coming back out tomorrow.
The disappearance of the Sunshine Girl this morning caused quite a stir in this city but managers at the paper are throwing cold water on the report that she's done for good.

They say it was a technical glitch and that all will be right for Thursday morning.

The Sun Media Corporation: A Quebecor Media Company with local editions in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg shocked the world yesterday when Toronto neglected to publish the famous "Sun Girl". Over the years the Sunshine Girl has provided tear-out and push-pin inspiration to the shipper receiver, propeller head, greasemonkey and high school locker demographic. And that's good clean fun. A little cleavage, a pouty smile, wind tousled hair. Nothing wrong with a little eye candy to start the day.

But Sheena has been profoundly disturbed in recent months with a rather disgusting new trend in SunGirlLand. It's the omnipresent evidence of the 'money shot'.

Why are these girls wearing navel piercings that look like a big old wad of well, you know.

I'll let my readers decide for themselves.

Dribble Bigger dribble Splat Plop Bloop bloop Plip Leakage

Sunday, September 17, 2006

9 Hours on Roncesvalles

As each weekend passes, Sheena finds herself more and more confused about this whole "hate Toronto" zeitgeist that allegedly has swept the land. The only explanation I can think of is that people who hate Toronto have never been here, or else maybe just got stuck in Mississauga or North York or Scarborough or some other cookie-cutter subdivision.

Yesterday was the "Not All That Polish" Festival. Saw more gyros and samosas than perogies, but satisfied the skipped breakfast pangs with a big garlicky sausage on a soft white bun. Thank you Warmia Deli. Wandered past the B-list kiddie rides and carnie games. Both the Italian and Ukrainian fest kicked its ass in the ride department. They both had the Berry-Go-Round.

Wandered past long time fave the Fat Cat Wine Bar. For $10 they were offering 3 Malpeques and a glass of wonderful Canadian bubbly Trius Brut. SOLD. Squeeze of lemon and slurped 'em back quick because the wasps were out. Even though it was a Polish Fest. Go figure.

Moseyed up to a regular haunt of El Chaperone. Since it opened in December 2004, The Local has become a favourite hangout. Good selection of local brews, incredibly nice owners and staff, an interesting mix of regulars. Very supportive of the local artists of both the visual and musical persuasions. Out on the beer garden, watching the people mill about. Kicking back with a few Amsterdam Good Beers. Got tipped off to the local community blog.

We lucked out and had a streetside view of the parade. Kids all dolled up in Polish folk dress. A guy with an accordion in a stinky golf cart. Tuxedoed and velvet sashed Knights of Columbus. And the highlight.... newly elected MPP Cheri DiNovo working the crowd. Big smiles, sexy coif, and very red suit. Peggy Nash there too, in a lovely conservative navy outfit. Funny watching their designated gopher boy run around after them, with Purell attached to his hip pocket with the importance of a Blackberry. Guess Parkdale hands can get a little grimey....

Returned back to Fat Cat for a bite to eat. Lovely food, as per usual. Dill cured salmon with greens, bread with dips, charcuterie plate that included duck and pancetta.. Had the hard-to-find-and-much-appreciated Henry of Phelgm Rosé Brut, and El Chaperone had the Trius Red.

Unfortunately, our meal at Fat Cat ended badly. First disappointment there ever. We were asked to move because our bar-side seat was reserved and we were still contemplating a cheese plate and port. We cheerfully and cooperatively let them move us to the patio at the back (glad they did.. had never been out there and it was lovely). Too bad nobody informed a server we were back there. We fell through the cracks and never got served. Had to flag someone down to get our bill. Disappointed and a little pissed off. Expressed our sentiments with a note on the bill. Hope they read it.

Back to the Local where Sheena wanted to order wine but couldn't because all they had was shitty Yellow Tail. Wondered why an establishment that so successfully cultivates pride in local arts and microbrews leaves its wine list to the dregs of the industrial wine trade. Filled our pockets with Rockets and Tootsie Rolls and ran up to Dundas to cab it home. 9 Hours on Roncesvalles. Not too bad of a day.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Toast Toucher

The Maple Leaf lounge at Pearson has a communal toast maker. Baskets of different breads tempt the bleary eyed traveller. Sheena took advantage of the free breakfast this week when she had some time to kill before an early morning hop. I've become increasingly wary about public food lately, and this incident didn't help.

Grabbed the prominently placed black plastic tongs and scooped up to pieces of plain white bread. Dropped them on the top of the conveyor belt. Knew I had a few minutes to kill, so took 5 steps to the side to get coffee going while I waited for the toasting conveyor belt to bring me my food.

When I got back to the toast-making device, there was an older man standing there, using his fingers to poke his bread into the contraption. I am not certain, but I think he poked bread other than his own. Recall irritably wondering why he was using his fingers on a public food preparation machine when the frickin tongs were right there.

And then out of the corner of her eye, Sheena caught a flash of jewelery on the man. It was the distinctive lapel pin of the Order of Canada. Hmm. Who was the toast toucher? Sheena looked at him and smiled sweetly. She was about 99% sure who it was, expanding to 100% after a quick google minutes later.

When the toast was appropriately browned I USED THE FRICKIN TONGS and went back to my seat, plastic knife and single pat plastic wrapped butter on the side plate.

About half way through the first piece, Sheena's unfortunately wired brain started making connections. Did he touch my toast. Did the same fingers that allegedy touched some skanky whore's ass touch my toast. Where have those fingers been. How often does he wash his hands. ewww ewwww ewww. When I regaled the story to a friend later that day, she agreed on the ewww factor not because of the skanky whore's ass angle, but because those fingers also touched all kinds of human organs and body parts. That to her was grosser. Funny how we all have our different barfometers.

After she left the room, again the synapses started misfiring. Sheena turned white and a mild sweat broke out on her brow. Was it possible? Had the same fingers that touched Dalton Camp's used up dirty old heart touched my toast?

Suddenly the whore's ass didn't matter any more.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Most Heinous Insult in All of the English Language

Ventured into the Eastern realm of Toronto's urban core this morning after hitting a couple of buckets of golf balls over at The Beach Fairway driving range. (Don't ask.. more on that probably tomorrow) Since we were in the neighbourhood, El Chauffeur and I decided to stop for brunch, so went to The Willow (Tex Mex Bar and Grill) on the Danforth. Pleasant enough spot, sat on the empty patio out of range of the screaming kids at the back of the place.

Had the Alaskan Eggs Benedict (an odd but tasty mixture of crab and guacamole) and the Little Bit of Everything (standard eggs/bacon/ham with a cornbread twist). Waitress was very friendly and attentive, never once forgetting about our lonely selves out on the back deck, keeping coffees refilled without ever having to ask.

Now, Sheena has a confession. She's been what to is usually called "The Swill-o" once before. About 2 and a half years ago.

Was out with a rag-tag bunch of wits and gits and one fine lady in the bunch rather loudly noticed that a noted local sportswriter/author was hanging out at the bar a few feet away. I can't quite remember how the conversation started, or who said what first, but he took a bit of a dislike to our look. She might have made some crack about his writing. He probably took a shot at her mouthiness. The banter bobbled back and forth and until the conversation became ruder and some of the rest of our krewe came to the lady's defense.

His attention diverted towards the rest of us, singling out the littler guys first.

And then one of the gang uttered the fateful epithet. What we quickly learned was the vilest, most horrific comment one man can hurl at another. In an effort to get sportswriter guy to sit down and shut up, our guy yelled out: "HEY! Bob Seger! Why don't you just sit down and take it easy". Sheena had no idea that "Bob Seger" was such a heinous insult, and had such power to provoke. But sports guy rushed over towards us and went nose to nose with the epithet-hurler. I could smell the warm beery halitosis from 2 paces. His eyes flitted from person to person, seeking out a weak link that he could target. Thank god we had some upstanding bouncer-types with us, who rushed to the defense of their drinking companions.

Physical violence was averted, though narrowly. But not before Bob Seger went up to one of us sitting at the bar and flicked the cigarette right out of his mouth with a disdainfully curled finger.

And to this day I still can't bring myself to watch Risky Business again.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Dangerous Food Trends #1

We went for dinner. A fun dinner that involved me ordering a fish I'd never heard of before in parchment, having never had such a thing, and then having to ask the waiter if I was supposed to eat the puffy stuff around the dinner. "That's the parchment paper", he said, stifling a smile. "Haha! Mom was going to eat parchment paper!" "I wasn't going to eat it without asking if I should first, kids", I lectured. "Let this be a lesson to you all. When in doubt - ask." "Haha! Mom was go -" "That's enough or I'm going to ask the waiter if I should eat my napkin!"

When a pal and fellow blogger wrote this fateful dinner description a few weeks ago, Sheena chuckled. Ha ha, what a crazy nut. Asking if she was supposed to eat the parchment.

Well, last night proved to Sheena that this parchment nonsense must stop. Especially when restaurants using this travesty of a cooking technique ALSO SERVES THINGS IN PHYLLO PASTRY.

Attempted a second meal at The Sparrow. Readers of my previous posts will recall that in addition to the flank steak, our previous visit included the phyllo-wrapped chicken. Last night was the wild mushroom pasta, and the parchment wrapped trout.

Meal started with a very nice nibbly platter of Quebec and Ontario cheeses with water crackers and pecans. Had a glass of the Henry of Phlegm dry Riesling.

When the main courses arrived, looked quite lovely. I didn't notice that the dining companion had been struggling with a dull knife. The gracious server brought over a little side plate and discreetly whispered, 'here is an extra plate for the parchment wrapping...". A look of half-relief and half-terror washed over his face, recognizing that no, he wasn't nuts, it wasn't meant for human consumption.

Normally Sheena would have laughed her ass off at someone else's misfortune, but it struck me that I probably would have done exactly the same thing, given that last time we were here we ordered the goddamn phyllo wrap. They looked exactly the same. And a couple of apertifs into the appetizer, who really remembers exactly what they ordered for the main course...

So I hereby implore the numerous chefs and foodies who read Sheenavision. Get over the parchment paper thing. It adds no food value, zero flavour, and side by side with phyllo pastry is indistinguishable from its edible cousin. Spare us the opportunity to embarrass ourselves. Don't ask your guest to do the work for you. Else let us all dispense with formality and just give us the can opener and we'll have beans, thank you very much.

Please, think of those who are too stubborn to read the small print.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Australian Haka

For a couple of Saturdays over the last few weeks, Sheena has been decamping at Scallywags Pub at Yonge & St. Clair to watch Tri-Nations Rugby. Last game of the series is next Saturday (Australian Wallabies v. South Africa's Springboks). Sheena's team is the New Zealand All Blacks. Not just because she's an urban hip chick who looks good in dark colours, but because she had about 16 hours to kill in the Auckland Airport couple of years ago and had nothing to do but shop and drink.

Now, Sheena's more sports-savvy readers may say, "Hey Sheena! Don't be a fuckwit, the Australians don't do the Haka, only New Zealand does". She knows this. For those readers who don't know what I'm talking about, click on the below clip to see the NZ national Rugby team perform the ancient Maori dance of victory and intimidation:

In Brisbane a couple of years ago for a 2 week stint (pre-Sheenavision, but widely reported on the innerdnets as "The Bane of My Existence"). Out for lunch one day with a client and a southern hemispheric colleague. The client insists that it's his turn to treat me. As the foreigner. As a key resource. As the girl he wants to impress.

Buddy picks the restaurant...the bottle of wine...insists that I have the Pavlova for dessert.

And then the check comes. The client goes for the wallet. Hmm.. Checks his pants pocket. Then the other pocket. Turns a little moist on the brow. Goes for the jacket pockets. Pats himself into a frenzy. "Oh, well.. dear. Must have let the wallet back at my desk".

My Aussie colleague (who was a New Zealander.. funny how my favourite Aussies always turn out to be Kiwis) turns to Sheena and whispered.... "See that? See that Sheena? You've just witnessed the Australian haka"....

Friday, September 01, 2006

Five Things To Eat Before You Die

Surfin' around the innerdnets last night, Sheena stumbled upon this site - Travelers Lunchbox and decided to run with the challenge.

Reading through the hundred+ comments to date, realized that I've cut a pretty decent swath through our planet's plant and animal taxonomy. Says the host blogger:

The things on the BBC list I haven't tried are: Moreton Bay Bugs, alligator, guinea pig (though I had the chance in Peru... but chickened out!), shark, Australian meat pie and durian. What about you?

To which Sheena replies: Check, Check, Nope, Check, Check and touched/smelled but not tasted.

Geez. This is a tough one. Foie Gras a staple. Hot Krispy Kreme dripping down the chin - yep. Wide range of runny cheese from 2 continents. Sushi and Sashimi galore. Full-on Argentian parilla. Kangaroo, bison, quails, moose, rabbit. Real Newfoundland cod cheeks and chips with dressing. Cheese grits, chitlins, sweetbreads, oysters on the half-shell (including during the milky season).

So I am making 2 lists. 1 - Sheena's recommendations to other food bloggers and 2 - things on my to-do list.

#1: Sheena's Recommendations:
* Malpeque Oysters with just a little squeeze of lemon. Close your eyes, swallow it like the world's biggest loogie and pretend you're at the beach.
* A real Argentinian parilla. For less than a full McDonald's supersized meal, sample 7 different cuts of meat. Best if you don't guess what it is. Or any Argentinian beef done on a proper wood fire grill.
* Drunken Prawns on East Beach in Singapore. Just don't watch when the waiter lights the match if you're squeamish. Not for PETA prospects.
* Big bowl of borscht using only beets, potatoes, carrots, beans and dill picked from the garden that same day.
* A perfect creme brulee.

#2. My To-Do List:
* Brains - calf's or lamb's. Intrigued when I saw "Crusted Lamb's Brains" on a gastro-pub menu in Brisbane but didn't get up the nerve. Would have done it if it was on the parilla menu this spring, but wasn't.
* Horsemeat.
* A truffle. In Piedmont.
* Turducken
* A Big Mac. For real, I've never eaten one. Never really wanted to, but probably should before I die.

Name your poison here, or at the original site. Made me think.

Fuck the Airshow

The Toronto Airshow (aka the Canadian International Airshow) "starts" tomorrow. Yeah. Sure. Whatever you say.

Sheena picked the wrong friggin' day to work from home to catch up on long overdue paperwork and research. The practice runs have been in full swing all morning. My ears are sore. I've been buzzed directly overhead pretty much repeatedly for the last couple of hours. Car alarms are going off all around. Looking out the back window, saw the after burn of some high tech war machine. (El Chaperone gets off on this stuff, but Sheena detests this kind of thing).

Airshows give me the willies. Too many late night news broadcasts of mid-air collisions or fighter jets crashing into crowds I suppose. I like my airplanes safe and well-equipped with plastic knives and headsets with nice people bringing free wine. THAT IS WHAT MODERN AERONAUTICS IS SUPPOSED TO BE ALL ABOUT.

Not death from above. Not screeching misplaced penile power. Not ear-splitting nerve fraying noise intended to intimidate the population and make the little kid next door cry all morning. Not speed and agility and the best engineering minds in the world harnessed to kill more accurately.

Close my eyes and imagine if this was real. What if we lived in Beirut. Or Haifa. Or Baghdad. Or Kabul. This is not entertainment. This is not for fun. This is sick.