Archive for September, 2013

Rack of Lamb

When I used to phone Mother on our regular Sunday nights, I would often describe the great meal we had prepared that night.  She was always amazed at the variety and complexity of the dinner.

Even though we are retired and Sunday dinner should not be special, it is for us a tradition to prepare something beyond the norm.

Fall weather has come on in a crash and we are experiencing a stormy cold rain tonight.  Precursor of the rainy winter coming on.  So Pat and I determined that we would have a good cold weather meal.

By happen-chance we were at the the store yesterday and they had a sale on a rack of lamb.  We love lamb and normally cannot afford a true rack of lamb.

If I was describing this meal to Mother on the phone in the old days she would have shuddered and said “mutton,  ehuuu tastes like wool”  Never could convince her that lamb could be great.

Anyway over the years we have prepared lots of lamb chops and lamb roasts, but I have never cooked a rack of lamb the kind where the ribs are exposed.  Apparently this style is called Frenched ribs (funny I always thought Frenched meant kissing with lots of tongue not sure why the connection.)

I have ordered rack of lamb at restaurants (normally when the company was paying the dime) and loved it.

I prepared the rack this evening with a marinade and grilled it on the BBQ.  Pat made a galette of potatoes  (a french potato pancake that she found in the Julia Child cookbook)

(by the way I am surprised Julia Child lived so long as every recipe we use from her makes my heart pound due to the butter and this was no different)

What a great meal.   We were going to invite a neighbor in to share it but with the storm everyone is staying in their bunker.

So let the storm roll, we had a marvelous meal.



Spaghetti and Meatballs

This sounds like a boring blog, but I have to declare that tonight I prepared the finest Spaghetti and Meatballs I have ever cooked, and I have prepared a lot of these over the years.

In the past this was an easy meal when you had kids that were hungry and you wanted to add more texture to the meal than a simple sauce.  A quick meal before everyone rushed off to the evening activities.  You could buy frozen meatballs and spice up the sauce and think you have stepped up the gourmet scale.

About 10 years ago when we were living in Oakville, Pat and I decided that we did not want to cook that evening so went off to our local Italian restaurant Ragazzi.  (a common occurrence at the time with both of us working and no kids)

Normally we would have a fancy Italian meal but this one night I ordered a simple Spaghetti and Meatballs.

At the time they were the best meatballs I had ever tasted.  Not just the sauce but the meat had flavor that connected with the tomatoes.  We knew the owner well enough to ask to see the chef and when I complimented him on the meatballs, he commented that if you are an Italian chef, you must be able to make good meatballs.

Not those little balls that you see in Swedish Meatball appetizers but larger than golf balls where you appreciate the flavor of the meat itself.

Over the years I have tried to replicate this recipe and, to be truthful, did a pretty good job.

This morning, Pat went off to one of her endless club executive meetings and challenged me to come up with an original meal for tonight.  Over the last few days we were re cooking the leftovers from the previous great meals and I wanted something new and exciting.

We subscribe to a couple of dining magazines.  I started to go through them looking for something interesting and came across a Spaghetti and Meatball recipe from a famous New York City restaurant.

For once I did not try to augment or alter the recipe, I followed it almost exactly.  This was not the kind of recipe I would have done when I came home from work with little kids clamoring for food.  Nor was it cheap.

The meat is a mixture of 1/3 ground beef 1/3 ground pork and 1/3 ground veal.   An experience in itself trying to find the ground veal at our local stores,   The tomato sauce is made from Pomadoro San Marzano diced tomatoes.  Fresh Oregano from our garden and local Ricotta cheese.

These meatballs were equal or better than those I had at Ragazzi.  Pat and I looked at each other when we first cut into the meat and were stunned     (OK I am selling this a bit but it was great)

It is not a cheap meal and not one that I would serve to kids heading off to soccer and it took a couple of hours, but what an experience.

The recipe come from the October issue of Fine Dining magazine (aside from the tomatoes which was our alteration)  Great part is that we have enough for 2 more meals (which takes me back to the leftover part of our lifestyle)

Sunday Brunch

When you have been married for 45 years you start to develop habits  that just become part of your life.

Sunday brunch has become a significant routine for us.  It goes way back to when Pat was a child and her family would go off to church.  When they came home her Dad would cook his famous bacon and eggs brunch.  I expect he did the Sunday brunch bacon and eggs up until near the end of his life.

In our home with the kids this was a lot less formal because of the rush to get out in the afternoon to visit friends or sports. So while I did make bacon and eggs, it was often cereal or frozen waffles.

As the years past it became more of a routine, particularly after the kids were gone.

Pat would go to church.  Now I admit that I do not go that often, but I have built my entire strategy on getting into heaven by making sure Pat makes it.  I believe it must be like getting the first landed immigrant into Canada.  Once he or she is there and settled in they can sponsor all their relatives, no questions asked (well maybe a few).   Pat gets up there, I get the spousal pass.

So I view Pat’s attendance at church on Sunday morning as an investment in my future and therefore believe she needs a reward when she gets home.

As a result, Sunday brunch has become my challenge.  Now strangely, Pat does not like the bacon and eggs that her father did so I try to be creative.  The normal selection is a variety of omelettes but I add egg nests with smoked salmon or blueberry pancakes or egg McMuffins etc.  Pat seldom knows when she heads off to church what she will have when she returns.  In the last couple of years I started to bake quiches as a surprise.

(now I want to point out to the guys that may read this that I still pee into the toilet standing up, so no question that I have gone woosie)

This morning it was pouring rain and I think Pat needed a special treat, so as soon as she left to church, I lit out to the local Thriftys (which is open Sunday mornings) and came back with the muffins and back bacon for today’s Brunch.  Eggs Benedict.  I only make this on special occasions but what a meal.

I know, my kids are saying “why are you poisoning our mother with all these calories?”  But it was wonderful.

Now here guys is why you surprise your wife with Eggs Benedict some morning (aside from the fact that it tastes great).

I was a hero and did not have to do a lick of work around the house today including the dinner.  And I did it for her

First Grape Crop

Earlier I mentioned that I tasted the first of the grapes in our vineyard, but tonight I harvested the entire crop.

The top picture is our total production.  What a sight and it is all ours.  The second is the repeat that shows them on the vine.

I can see why famous people and movie stars drop out to harvest grapes and go into the wine business in Napa Valley.  Fess Parker and Kurt Russell just had the epiphany that I had when they saw their first grape production.

Drop out and make your name (again) from fine wine produced by your vineyard.

I suspect our current crop will not suffice for an initial investment.  Kind of a small production, and Concord grapes not great for producing Cabernet , and I have no desire to walk on them in my bare feet.

Plus the fact that, as my family would point out, I had already dropped out 5 years ago.

So I think we will just enjoy them with ice cream tonight while watching a movie.

First Grapes

Concord grapes

Shooting at Washington Naval Station

As I expect the official NRA spokesman will say commenting on the recent events at the Washington Naval yard.

“Early reports have the shooter using an AR-15 and a Glock.  I can understand his choice of these two weapons because of the plastic content that allows easier access through security,  but I personally would have chosen either my HK 416 or my Galil AR due to the penetrating power and accuracy.  Regardless I appreciate his selection of the AR-15 because it is cheap and readily available, but a little money saving and planning could have given him a better weapon.”

“Of course the NRA deplores the death of citizens.  Even more we deplore the upcoming diatribe by the Pinkos and liberals…(I hate even typing that horrible word) calling for more restrictions on guns.”

“That is totally wrong.  What we need is a total removal of restrictions on guns including at the gates of the Naval Yard.  If every honest American had been carrying his god given weapon with him this morning to the office there would not have been this result.  The minute he started firing there could have been defensive firing from every secretary and clerk.  Granted there may have been 7 – 8 people killed in the crossfire but that would have been less than the 13 killed.  Those are verifiable statistics people, no dispute.”


Strange sort of logic… Reminds me of the statement my Brother-in-law Verne told me one time (I suspect as a joke but I was only 13 at the time) why you should drive faster on icy roads.  If you drive faster over a 10 second period there is actually more square inches of rubber on the tires in contact with the ground so you should have better traction.  Takes you a minute to realize the fallacy of that logic as it would for the NRA ‘arm everyone’ position.

Now I will determine if my blog is actually being followed by Big Brother.


You have all had Wasabi as a side condiment with sushi, but did you know that very few of you have actually had true Wasabi.

Wasabi is NOT a horseradish all though I have heard it called that many times.  It grows in streams in the mountains in Japan, is quite rare and very expensive.  Apparently very difficult to cultivate or grow commercially.

It does offer heat but not like chilies more of a heat that is a vapour in your nasal passage.

In North America what we refer to as Wasabi is actually a concoction of regular horseradish, mustard, green dye and some starch to make a paste.  The heat is more of the mustard oil so on the tongue not in the nose.

I did have authentic Wasabi several times in Japan and did note that it tasted or reacted different from the kind I had here but just thought it was a different brand.  Sort of like the difference between yellow mustard and Dijon

I was reading an article this weekend about a successful operation in Duncan BC where a farmer has managed to replicate authentic Wasabi in a commercial greenhouse growing in gravel with flowing water.  Experts maintain his plants taste the same as authentic Japanese.  The company Pacific Coast Wasabi is now building 50 more greenhouses and is expanding to other parts of North America.  I wonder if this is one of those moments where one day we say “boy we should have invested then”

In any case might be able to source authentic Wasabi one of these days

Views Web site

Since registering my web site I have received a couple of solicitations from web masters wanting to quote me on turning this into a major site.  I am just trying to figure out what I could sell (aside from the observations on life that I currently give away for free)

Maybe model ships….ahhh not likely at one ship every 5 years.  Maybe bird houses…. ahh that would tire quickly.   BBQ recipes are a dime a dozen.

Maybe I should just start charging for the keen advice I give on life.  Now that could pay off big time.  We could get Chandler out here to shoot one of his 30 second videos.

Troubled with your life? Seeking the truth on what you should do?  Disappointed by the structures of society that are closing you in?  Contact Dr Bruce  for advice that you cannot get anywhere else.  (the PhD is honorary)

What do you think???

Concord Grapes

Shortly after we moved in to our place, Blaine and I built a Pergola wall along the back garden.  I had the concept that we would plant grape vines at each end and hang baskets and make a garden feature.  The grapes have taken longer to mature than I thought.  On the right we planted a hardy Canadian Concord and on the left a Pinot white.  You must plant at least 2 vines in a yard because they cross pollinate.

As I said the vines have taken longer to mature than I thought but this year the Concord is stretching half way across and is growing grapes.  Not bushels but a crop.

Concord grapes have a bad reputation.  They do not make good wine because, while they are very sweet, they do not have body.  When we were young, Canadian wines were sweet made from Concord grapes like Baby Duck but as the industry matured Concords became a side crop.  They taste great but they have seeds so are not sold in grocery stores with the bland seedless red grapes.  However they have a major following for people that make jams and by one company Welch’s Grape Juice.

When Blaine and I were youngsters Mother would take us on Sunday to Zion United Church.  Once a month they had communion and when we came in there were little shot glasses of “wine” in brackets behind the pew ahead of us and pieces of bread.  During the service we would go through the communion and would get to drink the oz of “wine”

Now United Church was teetotalism at the time so it was non alcoholic wine, it was Welch’s Grape Juice.  We loved it.  Concord grape tastes like grape juice should taste

So I picked some grapes tonight and savored the memory of communion when I was 10 .

Concord grapes

Lava fields in Oregon

Pat and I are just back from our Miata Club event in Bend Oregon.

Bend is in central Oregon just east of the Cascade mountains.  The entire area is a huge volcanic caldera (inactive) with lots of volcanic mountains and buttes.

The weather was overcast on the first day but the second day was perfect.  We did a run in the morning to the Lava park where we drove up to the peak of a lava cone.  In the afternoon we drove up McKenzie pass which goes through an immense lava field.  Peculiar lava as it is referred to as Ah Ah lava.  This occurred when lava flows out over a flat landscape and as the top cools and solidifies the pressure below breaks it up into rubble.  Sort of like ice breaking up on a stream.  The result is fields of broken rocks ranging in size from a football to a car.

In the 1860s this was a wagon track on the Oregon trail although I have no idea how you would have built a trail through this landscape at the time.

We only saw a few of the many sites to be seen in this area so will be heading back on our own one day.  it is not all lava as there are lush valleys and waterfalls galore but the lava fields were distinctive

Dee Wright ObservatoryMcKenzie Pass

Fresh Salmon

I have gone on and on in my blogs about the wonderful lifestyle here in Paradise.  Occasionally I have exaggerated, enhh but not much.  However today is one of the perfect examples.

Labour Day Monday.  Still celebrating the Rider victory yesterday.  Rider Pride means celebrating the record 8-1 season.

Back in Ontario, if you knew anyone with a cottage, you would have driven 4 to 5 hours to their place on a lake this weekend to spend a couple of days with parties on the water and then spent 6 hours on Monday driving home.  During the weekend you might have had a BBQ of steaks and hamburgers, but if you were really sophisticated, the host would have offered BBQ Salmon.  A frozen lump of salmon that came from a farm or was caught many months ago in Alaska.  And you would have thought that you were experiencing the High Life.  Aw those Ontario people.

Back here we were planning a simple meal for Monday evening.   A German meal with Bratwurst sausage from a local butcher, Sauerkraut, new potatoes and veggies. Great concept.

Late in the afternoon our friends Harry and Marie phoned and asked, could they drop off a gift.

Harry has a boat that he loves to take out fishing.  Over the weekend they were out beyond Ucluelet and caught their limit in Spring and Coho Salmon.  (I am sure they only kept the big ones.)

Anyway Marie brought over a freshly caught Coho salmon fillet the size of a hardcover book.

We are nothing if not flexible, so we abandoned the German  sausage meal, and switched to West Coast.

I did the salmon on the BBQ with a Teriyaki glaze.  Edamame beans as an appy with rice and lots of fresh tomatoes from the garden.

I have never been a fisherman, but over the years I have been told that freshly caught fish tasted better than frozen and re-thawed.  Great restaurants in Paris and New York may serve what they call fresh Coho salmon , but they lie.

Freshly caught Salmon does tastes different.  Not that there is anything wrong with thawed Salmon, but fresh tastes better in some way.

I make fun of my buddy Harry about why he spends $500 to catch a salmon (in fuel and dock fees and maintenance on his boat).  He replies, “Fish you have caught yourself does taste better.”

Now I have to agree with him.

Realize that I am not about to buy a big boat and set off at 4 AM to catch fish, but I do agree that Harry.

But living in Paradise allows us to have a friend who does the fishing and give us a portion now and then.  It is nice.