Let’s Make it (My Way): Locals Restaurant

Locals Restaurant in Courtnay is one of the best places I have dined.  Even on my last visit, when I went in with a highly critical eye, the whole experience was damn near flawless.  So let me get this out of the way right now.  The title of this piece refers to my plan to recreate one of the desserts from Locals with a mind towards my style and preferences.  However, and I can’t stress this enough, Locals does everything well, in fact I will do a quick review of the whole place first so as to make it clear that my intentions are to neither bash their desserts nor claim that I could do better than their own patisserie. Rather I wish to put my own spin on a dessert that I truly enjoyed.  Think of it as a loving homage. Continue reading

Forging Ahead, Looking Behind

If you’ll permit me a brief indulgence, I just want to mention that this is the 50th post on this blog.  Huzzah for me.  I wasn’t sure, upon starting, that I would be able to keep it up for this long (insert your own inappropriate comment here), but rest assured I have no intention of stopping now.  The post for today is tangentially related to that particular reflection.  Indeed, reflection is important and thus it befits us to examine and study the past.  To this end practicing traditional arts is a valuable pastime.DSCF1557

This is, of course, part of why I study swordplay and recently I was able to try my hand at a whole new traditional art.  Sword making can be done almost entirely on machine these days.  And yet there remains a dedicated cadre of blacksmiths who still use traditional methods.  I was recently fortunate enough to try my hand at some simple bladesmithing and look forward to my next attempt. Continue reading

Bread Around the World: Char Siu Bao

It’s a new year, according to the Lunar Calendar, the Year of the Snake.  Since any new years is traditionally a time of new beginnings, it seems a great time to introduce a feature on international breads.  I am very fortunate in that my city is home to a world class China Town with some beyond excellent cuisine.  My Kung Fu Sifu always said he preferred the Chinese food here to his native Hong Kong.  Any time I’m in China Town and feeling peckish I always hit up New Town Bakery for one of their steamed buns, the most popular of which is Char Siu Bao, probably more commonly known as BBQ Pork Buns.  Used to be the thought of missing out on these and other Dim Sum staples was enough to deter even the thought of moving out of Vancouver.  Fortunately I have since learned much and can make my own buns to rival those of New Town’s.  They’re not too hard to make, can easily be frozen and enjoyed later, be microwaved or steamed and are damn near irresistible. Continue reading

Spoiled By Choice

There is a funny thing that happens in martial arts.  At beginning levels all students seem to want to learn new techniques.  New techniques, all the time.  As an instructor, it’s sometimes a challenge to restrain yourself from indulging them.  There is that niggling insecurity (at least with me) that by showing new students things too slowly you’ll lose their attention.  This is a problem for more than a few reasons, the most immediate of which is that those students who get bored by the basics are probably not worth training unless they can be convinced to change their mind. Continue reading

Dine Out Review: Catch 122 Cafe Bistro

This probably would have been more timely a couple of weeks ago when folks still had a chance to visit during Dine Out Vancouver, but since I regularly write about arts that have been obsolete for a couple hundred years now I think it’s pretty clear that “topical” is not really my thing.  Anyway, one of the two restaurants I was able to attend this year was the virtually brand new Catch 122 Cafe Bistro in Gastown.  A large focus of this review will be on the dessert course, being as that’s my area of expertise, though I will certainly talk about the meal as a whole and indeed the whole experience. Continue reading

Go Easy on the Spikes, Please

It’s often and not without merit said that the point is the most dangerous part of the sword.  Especially with European swords we see a great emphasis put on thrusting attacks.  Now since people had armour as well as swords, attacks could be deflected fairly effectively whether the point or edge were used.  Naturally the knights of old had a solution to this.  They figured out that if you hit the person with the pommel of your sword, the extra force provided by the weight of it would destabilize your heavily armoured opponent enough to win you the fight.DSCF1393

Continue reading

Confectionery Review: Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe

For those in the know, Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe on Alberni Street in Vancouver seems to generate some controversy.  Some love it, some feel it is over priced, pretentious and all together a waste of space.  Since I come down firmly in the former camp, I tend to think that the latter could stand to broaden their horizons some.  Yes, the price is an issue, but since my patronage at Thierry’s is a rare indulgence I can forgive them that.  Besides, you very much get what you pay for here thus I don’t really see the source of the complaint.  Any complaints about the quality of the various confections seem to me to be way off base as well.  In my opinion, Thierry Busset is one of the top Pastry Chefs in the city. Continue reading

Trickster Gods and Pastry Vikings

I’d like to relate to you, Dear Reader, an experience I had, as well as a lesson learned from it.  This is the last week of the Dine Out Vancouver, an annual event that has restaurants provide a cheap set menu meal.  Thus, being as I work in one of said restaurants, means it was busy.  One day in particular was quite the ride.  Dessert orders piling up, frustrated servers trying in vain to get their tables pushed up to the front of the line and running out of product faster than it was possible to replace it.  On that night it was a sense of Duty and nothing else that kept me from walking out and never looking back.  It was a humbling experience, to say the least.  Despite that, there is a lesson to be found, namely that it doesn’t always matter how good you are at your job, things can still go to shit.

I have a long held theory that the Vikings practiced a form of Stoicism, and I try to slip in a quote from the Havamal or a reference to Norse mythology whenever I discuss Stoicism.  Just for fun really.  At any rate, there’s an interesting character that pops up in Norse mythology who also has parallels in other mythologies as well.  That of the Trickster God.  Loki, in this case.  Way back when I took a college course in mythology.  In this class we discussed several Norse myths, many of which seem to center around the companionship of Thor and Loki.  My professor was at a loss to explain why Thor would tolerate Loki’s presence when the later was constantly trying to do harm to the former.  Looking back I have developed a theory that I believe goes a lot farther in explaining it than, “Thor is kinda dumb” and also melds quite well with the philosophy of the Stoics.

Once again, humility is the key.  Hypothetically, and keep in mind this is pure idle speculation, someone as powerful as a god of thunder and lightning would be prone to an extreme case of hubris.  Therefore it seems to me that Thor has made a very stoic choice of keeping someone around to keep him humble.  I believe Loki’s purpose is to remind Thor that he is not invincible, in many cases by trying to have hi killed.  To grant him perspective that he needs and might otherwise be blind to.

In the end I think it does us some good to be torn down every once in a while.  Sometimes hitting bottom allows us to see a better way to the top.  Lying bloodied can grant greater determination to fight on.  That’s a big part of why stoicism appeals to me.  It gives you permission to fall down.  But it also teaches you that staying down is not an option.  Don’t get beaten, get better.