Saturday, October 12, 2013

Thanks...Its all about the peeps!

Our lives are a series of opportunities and meetings. We come across diverse and varying people as we traverse work, play, children, rest and holidays. I have always believed that every person comes into our lives for a reason. It might be to enrich it in some way, it may be to teach us something, it may be that they are there to ride along with us for a while, or for a long while, but each person enriches us somehow, perhaps in the short term, and hopefully in the long term.

Regardless, cherishing the people in our lives and being thankful for what they bring to us is important. Often we just go about life and forget how much the people around us make our lives better, support us, help us, lift us up, whether truly physically or mentally. These people make our lives what they are. Some of these people are “supposed” to, like parents and relatives. Some of these people have no obligation whatsoever. Yet give so much to us in terms of our overall being.

Of course acknowledging the people around us and what they give to us should be something we do on a daily basis, every time we see our friends, loved ones, relatives, special friends or acquaintances, but we are not always perfect about doing just that.

It’s interesting that this weekend, in Canada, we will gather around the dinner table and marvel at the turkey or ham or lamb leg or prime rib and all of a sudden remember what we are thankful for – maybe it is because we will gather with people we care about, maybe it is because sometimes an occasion just allows us to open up and be thankful for people and things in our life.

To me, things are of little relevance – they come and go, but people are amazing! I am so lucky to have so many fabulous people who are somehow involved in my life. Who teach me different things each day, who take me to places that I perhaps never thought I would go, to who pull at my heart, who challenge my brain and who quite honestly bring a smile to my face so often. Life is never perfect, things do not always go the way we want, but people help to make life great everyday. There are ups and downs and hollow times and happy times, those around us, whether they live down the street or half way around the world, keep us ticking and smiling and thinking about how lucky we are to enjoy the life we do.

So this weekend there will be great food, fabulous wine, grand company, but my mind will be with everyone, whether here or not who helps to make my life so terrific…thanks…. All of you!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Little Elephants, Cocktails and Baring One's Soul....

For many years  bars and their tenders have been known as places to go, to let it out, have a drink or two and get the advice of the all-knowing and all-hearing bar person. Cheers certainly comes to mind as that iconic bar. When it's time for a chat or advice or support, I often find myself at a favourite local watering hole with someone who I trust to "hash it out" and find a space that leaves me further ahead than when I walked in. Such was the case recently. As I have written, lots has been swirling in my head of late precipitated by all sorts of events happening in my life. Writing here has helped, but seeking the advice of good friends always brings some clarity too.

A new place has opened in Victoria, Little Jumbo. It is the creation of Shawn Soole of Clives in the Chateau Victoria fame. Soole has spearheaded the cocktail movement in Victoria singlehandedly and given rise to the greater awareness and variety that now exists in town. He recently published a book on the cocktail culture to go hand in hand with his new bar venture. So armed with much to talk about and with a friend to listen and proffer up advice, it was time to check out Little Jumbo.

The bar is located down a hallway off of Fort Street close to the Keg restaurant. Hopefully it's obscuredness from the street will not mean people pass it up. When you enter, you feel like you have been transformed into a city anywhere, New York perhaps with a great bar, walls of liquors and just that perfect lighting. There is a din in the room that just speaks to groups of people chatting, giving advice, getting advice, enjoying each others company and plainly having a great time. The greeting at the door is warm and friendly, helped by the fact that Monica, whose broad smile helps to light up the room is a friend from the local crossfit gym. She is ready to seat us when Shawn Soole himself wanders up to the front and says hello. His Aussie accent is endearing and he makes you feel welcome as if you were coming to his house. He is excited about the wines he has on enomatic (there are four that rotate consistently) and quickly launches into how good they are. You can see that he is as excited about this side of things as he is about the cocktails Little Jumbo creates so adeptly.

The menu is varied and interesting. The key being that the prices are reasonable both for food and for alcohol. The bar is awash with action, but not intrusively so.I get down to talking about what is going on in my life and waiting to hear the advice. Some of it, I know is coming and I am ready for, some of it, I know is coming and do not want to hear, but all of it feels right for discussion at the bar!

The duck fat frites arrive with homemade ketchup and aioli. They are crisp and decadently yummy - I judge a restaurant, fairly or not, by its frites, a simple dish, but a deal breaker for me. So far - two thumbs up.
The winelist that Soole has compiled is varied, interesting, reasonable and offers everyone something to choose from. I am lucky to get a taste of the '99 Chianti on enomatic and then another beauty from Lebanon.  I opt for a glass of the Terravista Fandango - not to be found too often in Victoria at restaurants and settle back into the conversation. My friend had a Paulo Cohelo (?) - its frothee pinkness providing a great visual in the cocktail glass.

Soole checks back in - everything OK - as if he has been in the kitchen cooking up our food and just wanted to ensure he was doing a good job. You could be at his house as much as you are sitting at his bar. The bartenders play off each other well and are not afraid to ask each other questions or to simply play tag team with our orders. We opt for more food, this time the grilled kale and the gnocchi. I have always been a fan of Orofino winery and so go for the Gamay Noir next - it is fabulous!

The food arrives on one platter rather than two, well done barmen on the ordering and kitchen on the plating!
The gnocchi are pillowy and buttery while the kale has a fabulous spicy sweet sauce. It accents the wine well. More chatter, more advice, this time a bit hard to take, but necessary. Why is it that some of the more important things in life cannot be just a little easier?

The fun part of the evening was letting the bartenders know that there was a cocktail party happening later in the week where each guest had been assigned a particular bottle of alcohol to make cocktails from. All of a sudden cocktails were being thought of, created and offered for tasting. Clearly the bar staff were having fun and were pleased to challenge their minds in coming up with something unique - fun, interesting and playful. Certainly not necessary, or expected, but appreciated tremendously!

The "show" made the conversation, as tough as parts of it were, far more easy to swallow. The hospitality and friendliness made it a place to return to for future conversations. The variety means that no matter who I come with, there will be something to choose from.

As much as the name and the stir sticks are Little Jumbo, truly this is "Shawn's Place", he has made it his own and very successfully. Definitely worth a visit and then another...well at least that is my advice!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's not coffee, food or wine....It's just me.

It's been a long time, a long long time.
Have no wine on the desk beside me, I have no coffee brewing, and food was an hour ago....

I have just returned from New York City via my home away from home in Ridgefield, Connecticut. It was a great trip, but a real chance to ponder so much in life.

I forgot how much I find writing cathartic. I forgot how much writing helps me to be authentic and to express what is truly important to me in life. And then, when I was out east, I did some writing, some truly emotional stuff, and I remembered.

Writing seems to make life real, it allows us to express emotion that perhaps we have a hard time verbalizing and allows us to say just exactly what is necessary or needed.

So I find myself back here in front of my blog on Coffee, Wine and Food, writing. Why am I back, why am I making this time? Because I need it, because I need to get back to what makes me tick, to be expressive, to be emotional, to be authentic and to create possibilities that give me the chance to live life to its fullest. Here I am!

Things I have learned lately:

Be ready for anything, you never know where life may take you and what might result. Be open and ready for that, don't let life blindside you. Take it in stride and be authentic. Listen to your heart, express your feelings, let "them" in, it's so worth it.

Emotions are delicate animals. They need to be listened to, they need to be attended to, they need to be nurtured. Too often we allow emotion to fall by the wayside, it's just not necessary - but oh it is and expressing it allows you to live that life you want, otherwise you are holding back, and that is not authenticity.

Tell the people around you what you think and feel. It is never too late. They should know, not tomorrow, not when I have time, now, let them know, tell them what you think, be upfront. If they know and you tell them, you can enjoy that communication and bask in its glow. Sometimes this does not have to be positive, and that is OK too, knowing and stating is better than carrying it around and allowing it to burden you.

Say yes, take chances, be open, have fun, live life, create possibilities. It's so worth it, so worth it. No pattern "has" to be followed, you can create your own pattern, anytime - do what feels right, say what feels right and live the life you have always wanted to.

So maybe all of this came from sitting with some wine, savouring some food and pondering life and its many facets. Perhaps the impetus came from people around me, people I care about, people that have helped me to live my life more fully. No - actually it did.

So, nothing prolific, but I am back here writing. Sometimes about food, sometimes about wine, sometimes about coffee, but sometimes about people I care about and life's experiences and sometimes just about all of the things running through my mind.

Thanks for providing the forum to put that out there. Feel free to provide your thoughts and ideas too. Life is about sharing, communicating, creating possibilities and laughing and enjoying with the people who walk the walk with you!