Big Ridge again? Yep, why not? The new location only carried over 4 or 5 items from the old menu so I plan on going back a few more times. It was a bit of a special occasion this time as my good friend Brad and his wife Amie were in town from Atlanta for a visit. We had a little meet and eat with some friends, it was really nice catching up and having a few Black & Tans with Mr. Brad. The Black & Tan is a wondrous blend of lager and porter and is refreshing and filling all at the same time.
I ordered the Wok Fried Squid as an appy, it sounded pretty good tossed with jalapeños, garlic and shallots although it could have used more jalapeños, just a personal preference. The batter was nice and light and it wasn’t greasy. The tubes of squid were cut in to wide strips as opposed to the usual rings and were nice and tender, cooked perfectly, which isn’t an easy task as squid get rubbery very easily.
Once again I went with pizza, big shock, for my main course but his time it had been recommended to me by my cousin Kurt who also happened to be there. If I asked you to make a pizza that represented Montreal what would you put on it? If your answer is Montreal smoked meat, spicy deli mustard, fried onions and cheese curd then you and Big Ridge are on the same wavelength. Does that sound appetizing to you? Mustard on a pizza? It was, somewhat surprisingly, very very good, yes 2 very’s. There is a light layer of tomato bases pizza sauce on the crust, then come the cheese curds all melty and delicious, the smoked meat was a little crispy around the edges from being baked and then the whole pizza gets a drizzle of deli mustard. I’m sure my Québécois friends would be a little unforgiving of this pizza given that it seems to be a random collection of French Canadian food stereotypes but I loved it.
Now let me take a minute to vent a little about a pet peeve of mine, large groups being charged an automatic gratuity. I understand that people tip different amounts and a large group may tend to tip less than many small groups would however as someone who appreciates good service I am offended that I am not trusted to tip properly on my own. In my past personal experiences I have found that when the gratuity is included the service tends to slide a little. One of my worst encounter with this situation happened in Las Vegas a few years back, it gives me shivers just thinking about it.
Big Ridge unfortunately goes by this practice and the service our group received was atrocious. At one point we had to ask the bus boy to find our waitress, at another point one of the other servers took our drink order because once again our waitress was missing in action and a third time we actually had to wander up to the bar and order and ask someone to clear our empties as we were building up quite a backlog. Our waitress wasn’t rude, she just didn’t care because she had already made her tip…you get the point. At the end of the night she got everyone’s bills wrong, which wasn’t surprising as someone else had taken most of our orders.
Don’t fret Mr. Big Ridge i will be back. I’ll just have to keep my eyes peeled for a certain waitress named Beli….no I wouldn’t do that, and I’ll make sure I don’t make reservations and just have people “show up” to avoid the terrible service.
If you would like to read my last post about Big Ridge you can see it here!
Hello faithful readers!! I have added a new tab to the right hand side of my blog that enables you or anyone to donate to the Children’s Miracle Network. If you don’t know my family’s story already let me fill you in.
My daughter Hayley was born on February 4, 2010. She was born at a gestation of 25 weeks and 5 days, normal pregnancy’s last 40 weeks which means she was 14 weeks and 2 days or over 3 months premature. When she was born she weighed 1 pound 11 and a half ounces (775 grams). She was put on a ventilator, given intravenous nourishment and medications and was placed in an incubator. This is a link to a slide show I made about her journey home.
In total she spent 93 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. We were able to bring her home on May 9th, 2010 which was Mothers Day, a very fitting day as Lyndsey had spent every one of those 93 days with Hayley in the hospital.
Hayley is truly a miracle, her original due date was May 15th, she actually came home earlier than expected. She is now almost 7 months old and is growing and progressing just like a full term baby. Unfortunately not everyone is as lucky as we have been, most baby’s born in the same timeline as Hayley end up with severe respiratory conditions, infections, brain damage, Cerebral Palsy along with many other complications.
The Children’s Miracle Network provides additional funding to NICU’s and Children’s Hospitals all over Canada and the United States. Without their funding children like Hayley would not have access to state of the art equipment and specially trained staff and without them my daughter would not be here today. I know that charities bombard people on a regular basis with all the reasons that they should donate to that particular one and they all have a point, but children are different.
Children have no voice, they can’t tell us what’s wrong and they shouldn’t have to suffer. They are kids who should get to learn to laugh, walk, talk, play, love and most of all live.
The left hand picture is Hayley when she was born, the right is her now. Please give other kids the chance that Hayley had, the chance to live. All it takes is a click and some compassion.
OOOOhhhh a poll, fancy! Click your answer and read on, beer wants you to…
Beer, a beverage best enjoyed with friends. Dating back to 9000BC it is the one of the oldest prepared beverages in the world. What makes it so good? What gives it world-wide appeal? Simple, it’s readily available and relatively inexpensive. It also comes in handy single serve cans or bottles perfect for parties or tailgating but most of all it is the incredible variety of beer that is available. There are thousands of brands of beer all around the world, the actual number is impossible to determine, so finding the right beer is possible if you know where to look.
The picture above is my humble home PC where I write my blog, unless I’m on the road in which case my trusty Blackberry fills in. You will notice that to the left of my keyboard there is a frosty mug of Okanagan Spring Porter, a dark beer that has an alcohol content of 8.5%, a little stronger than the industry average of 5%. It’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea but that’s ok, there are so many choices out there and I would like to know what your favorites are?
Normally my drink of choice is Single Malt Scotch, an acquired taste to say the least. I’m not sure where I first tried it and I’m not sure why I enjoy it so much. I am very specific when it come to the types of Scotch I drink, usually Highland or Islay, not Lowland as I find it too earthy or too smoky. The problem with Scotch is that it is inconvenient. It comes in a large bottle, you drink it from a glass…no good for most “party” situations.
Beer for me is very similar. I have my favorites but the cool thing about beer is that even if it isn’t that good people tend to finish it. Take for example the Clover Ale at Big Ridge Brewing Company. I really wasn’t a fan of it during my last visit there. Kurt reminded me that it used to better and it made me wonder why they would change it? I finished it because that’s normal right? Sure it is, how else would the serving staff know you’re done and come to ask if you want another.
Some of my favorites are Sapporo, Sleeman Honey Brown, Guinness, Original Coors (?), OK Spring Porter, the list goes on longer than my emerging carpel tunnel syndrome wants to type. I guess what I’m getting at here is a question, what is your favorite beer, or beers? Why do they sit atop of your beer kingdom? Please feel free to answer these questions in the reply section at the bottom of this post, I would really like to here from you!
Big Ridge Brewing Company recently moved to new location due to a long-standing dispute over parking with their former landlord. The old Big Ridge was a semi regular hangout for my friends and I and was the place I watched Canada win Gold in Mens Hockey at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. The new and improved Big Ridge recently opened up across the street and I thought I should give it a try to see what was new. Located at 5580 152nd Street in Surrey Big Ridge is part of the Mark James Group. MJG operates other notable brewery restaurants like Taylors Crossing in North Vancouver, The Yaletown Brewing Company, The Brewhouse in Whistler and The Flying Beaver in Richmond.
The new location is nice with warm lighting, exposed wood beams in the ceiling and a rustic/modern feel very similar to their original location. The menu is basically the same with a few new items, one of which is a pulled pork sandwich that came highly recommended by my friend Kevin. After ordering a pitcher of their house brewed Harvest Lager I decided that pulled pork sounded like a good idea.
Sorry about the picture quality, I think it’s time to invest in a pocket-sized camera. Back to the sandwich. I have spewed the virtues of Memphis Blues on these very pages in the past and they remain at the top of my list when it comes to BBQ, however there is a new king of pulled pork in town. This sandwich is incredible and it is a surprising ingredient that makes it so good, the bun. The pork is great with a spicy BBQ sauce, the coleslaw is crisp and fresh which is an excellent contrast to the savory pork but the bun is a revelation. It is a pretzel bun…!!! What is a pretzel bun you ask? It is a bun made like a soft pretzel with a shiny glaze on the outside and coarse salt sprinkled on it just like a pretzel you would get at a fair or the PNE. Whoever thought this up deserves some kind of culinary award because it was brilliant. You need to try this, it’s that good, better than Memphis Blues.
The french fries are unchanged from the old location which was just fine with me as there was nothing wrong with them. They taste like they are double fried, not positive about that though, and are very good. The second beer we tried was the Clover Ale. If you like a hoppy IPA then you will like this beer, I do not like a hoppy IPA so this pitcher took a little longer to finish off but somehow we managed.
I guess I will have to make new memories at the new location. At least now I won’t have to worry about my truck being towed away if I stay there longer than 2 hours. I wonder if the old landlord feels stupid for being so militant about parking because they’ve lost a key tenant and I personally have no reason to go to any store in that complex anymore. The old Big Ridge is the place where we figured out that blue food coloring makes better green beer on St. Patrick’s day, it’s where Canada defeated America (for me at least) and it’s where I discovered that beer is more than the mass-produced stuff you buy at the Liquor Store.
Tuesday August 17th, 2010 is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. Not in any way associated to food, instead it was all about music, stories and looking back on life through the eyes of an amazing song writer. Originally I had planned on writing about The Speakeasy on Granville street where I had been previously and had some great food. This time however it didn’t live up to the memories I had. That’s all I will say as I still really enjoy The Speakeasy and may revisit it soon for a “second chance”.
Fran Healy, for those of you who may not know, is the lead singer and songwriter for the Scottish band Travis. Travis rose to fame in the mid to late 90’s alongside other UK bands like Oasis, Blur and Radiohead with hits like Why Does It Always Rain On Me and Writing To Reach You from their second studio album titled The Man Who. Their music was a big part of my life back then and helped me through some tough times, as it does to this day.
I have seen Travis 3 times in Vancouver so when I heard Fran Healy was doing a solo tour I knew I had to be there. It was the first time Lyndsey and I had been out, just the two of us, since we brought our daughter home from the hospital. We walked across the street to the Vogue Theater after finishing our drinks and got in line for the show. The Vogue is an old theater with traditional seating but for this show it was general admission and we grabbed 2 seats about 6 rows back right in the center aisle, very nice.
When Fran came on stage the first song he performed was 20, a song about growing up and leaving your teen years to become an adult. He performed it without a microphone or amp, just his guitar and his voice, it was stunningly good. He asked the crowd if they liked it which they did and he proceeded to play the entire 2 hour set that way. How many artists that have sold millions of albums can you go see in an intimate setting like that? Not many. He played a lot of Travis songs and told a story about how almost every song was written. Where he was, what he was doing, who he was with. What an amazing story-teller. He also played a lot of new songs from his new solo album, Wreckorder. The new songs sounded great and I can’t wait for October when the new album will be released. There’s one song on the album that has Paul McCartney (PAUL MCCARTNEY!!!!!) playing bass, the actual bass he played for most of the Beatles records. There’s a duet with Neko Case from the New Pornographers that he played solo for us. All told this was the best live show I’ve ever seen, period.
The best part of the show was actually after Fran had finished playing. He stayed on stage and signed things for anyone who had something to sign. Lyndsey and I went up with a tour poster I had “borrowed” from the mens room earlier….we told him about Hayley and how his music had helped get us through 3 months in the hospital with her. He asked a few questions about how she was doing and really seemed touched that his music had been a source of strength for us. He signed the poster for Hayley and we both shook his hand and headed for home. As we walked down the alley behind the Vogue to where we were parked we were both in shock. Had this really happened? What a great night.
I was talking to a friend of mine recently who writes a music blog called More Than A Feeling (the link is on my home page). We were talking about what makes “good” music. Everyone’s idea of what makes music good is very different but it usually comes down to what they were listening to at important or meaningful moments in their life. For me the music of Fran Healy finds itself firmly entrenched in almost every major event of my adult life. From divorce to finding new love, the birth of my daughter and the stress of her being in the NICU for 3 months. Music is a powerful tool.
I hope that somehow he gets a chance to read this some day. I’m sure I’m not the only one who believes in the power of music, actually I know I’m not. Thank you Fran for a wonderful show, an unforgettable night and most of all for writing the soundtrack to my family’s journey.
Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar is located at Waterfront Station in historic Gastown. Built in 1910 Waterfront Station was originally used as Canadian Pacific Railway’s terminus station for its transcontinental passenger line and is a beautiful example of neoclassical architecture. As you enter Rogue you immediately notice the scale of the room, this place is gigantic! Vaulted ceilings, giant chandeliers, towering window treatments all done in a way that blends modern design and old world cool together seamlessly. Visually this is one of the coolest spots in town. My trip to Gastown was actually for the annual motorcycle show & shine which was great but ultimately too hot to avoid seeking out cold beer for relief.
Rogue seemed a good choice as their beer selection is fairly large with a great assortment of REAL beer on tap. When I say real beer I mean beer that doesn’t come from a factory producing thousands of gallons of beer a day. I had the Crannog Bog Trotter Brown Ale (great name!), the Crannog Backhand of God Stout (another great name!) and the Howe Sound Honey Pale Ale, all of which were fantastic.
The first thing that I saw on the menu that really jumped off the page was something called Fries x 3. Hand cut Kennebec fries done 3 different ways, poutine (gravy and cheese curd, for my American friends) in one dish, Gorgonzola cream and bacon in another and Parmesan with truffle oil and basil in the last dish. They were all excellent but the Gorgonzola cream and bacon was ridiculously good. The Truffle oil was almost undetectable in the third dish, which was disappointing because truffle oil is mouth-wateringly good, but they were good none the less.
My co-pilot for the motorcycle show, Al, who is known more commonly as Bert even though his name is Allen…ordered the Rogue Burger with fries. It looked good and Bert confirmed my visual assessment. He said it actually tasted like good quality beef as opposed to most other burgers where the beef serves as texture more than flavor, at least I think that’s how he put it. Did I mention that the beer was really good? The presentation was dramatic with a large steak knife stabbed through the center of the burger holding it together. This burger is 9.2 ounces of house ground sirloin, manly.
I, once again, had a strong craving for pizza and was helped along by the waitress who informed me they were half price on Sundays. I ordered the Pepperoni & Three Mushroom Pizza with roasted garlic and mozzarella. The pizza was fantastic with a thin and crispy crust, whole cloves of roasted garlic and a “mushroom medley”. I’m not sure what the three mushroom varieties were, and the menu wasn’t much help but I am guessing they weren’t “magic” because I remember paying the bill…They were a nice compliment to the pizza though, even with the mystery surrounding them.
Now here’s the weirdest part about Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar. Their menu has a “pay what you think it’s worth” caveat. If you don’t like what you’ve ordered as much as you thought you would you can pay less for it, or if it’s better than expected you can choose to pay more for it. This part of the process seems a little out there to me and it wasn’t made very apparent by our server. When our bills arrived she asked us “does that look ok to you?” Had I not know about the payment philosophy before hand I wouldn’t have had a clue that she was referring to the prices of our food and I suspect most other customers wouldn’t either. I have no problem paying the listed price for something I order or else I wouldn’t order it and if I am dissatisfied enough to complain about something I would hope the restaurant would do something about it instead of leaving me the option of adjusting the price myself.
The confusing payment system aside Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar is somewhere I will definitely be returning to. The food was great, as was the service. The room itself is incredible and the prices are very reasonable, especially for this part of town. Another great food find in our city, go out and enjoy this hot summer weather and some great local food!
For many people who live in the city the local pub is a place you can go and feel at home. Lots of local pubs are within walking distance which makes for a safe place to have a few drinks without having to worry about how you’re getting home. If you’re a regular the staff probably know what you order and may even know you by name.
The most interesting thing about local pubs, to me, is how willing to forgive and forget we are when you receive poor service or when the food isn’t great. My local pub has all the things I talked about that make it a personal comfort zone for me. The funny thing is that the food really isn’t great yet I continue to go there on a regular basis. As someone who writes about food and can be very critical at times it seems strange that I would let this slide.
Last summer I spent a day in Whistler with my parents and my Aunt and Uncle from Edmonton. We had lunch on a patio in the Village and it was pretty good, as the food tends to be in most of Whistler. On the way home my uncle convinced me that we should go to a pub for some food and drinks that night as they were going home the next day. My local pub was chosen and I met them there later that evening. When the food we had ordered arrived it certainly didn’t win any awards, in fact my dad sent his french onion soup back 3 times because it was cold. Personally I don’t know if french onion soup is something I would order at a pub, it’s always good to stick to the standards, chicken wings, nachos, clubhouse sandwich, the triple crown of pub food. Stray too for from that and you’re in dangerous waters, unless you know that a particular pub has a good menu and/or chef. I know that chicken wings area safe bet at my pub and strongly urged the rest of the group to try them, while at the same time trying to steer them away from other menu items that I knew were risky. I was not successful.
I think the reason I don’t mind the average food at my local pub is that my connection is deeper than just food and drink. There’s a feeling of belonging somewhere and that goes a long way towards making up for its other shortcomings.
Support your local pub because someday you may need them to support you, not that I advocate drinking as a cure to all your troubles. Sometimes it just feels good to belong.