Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Album Leaf - (P)review

I first heard about this San Diego-based, Nu-Gazing group due to my obsession with Icelandic quartet, Sigur Rós. Formed by mastermind Jimmy LaValle, The Album Leaf was asked to open for Sigur Rós by the band's lead singer, Jónsi, during their 2002 U.S. tour. This was pivotal to the definition and direction of The Album Leaf's sound, as they seemed to adopt Sigur Rós' stratified, delicate song structures and to veer away from the rocky-shoegazing tendencies that had carried over from LaValle's previous band, Tristeza. The Album Leaf creates textured, evolving, largely instrumental songs that selectively incorporate ambient electronica, unifolk, string arrangements and synthesized melodies.  

I first saw The Album Leaf live when they were touring North America for their In a Safe Place album. They played at Vancouver's tiny Media Club in April of 2005 and I was impressed with a) how tight the band was, b) the visuals by band member Andrew Pates, and c) how well LaValle's laptop loops and synth usage blended with the instrumentals. Unfortunately, some of the songs from this album were so accessible, mellow and well-crafted that they were used in The O.C. and a Hummer commercial. When my sister told me that she had heard the track On Your Way played on The O.C. I literally puked in my mouth (just a little). It was almost as bad as when I pooped myself (quite a lot) upon unexpectedly hearing Sigur Rós in the film Vanilla Sky. The likes of Jónsi and LaValle should never - ever - be linked to the artless vapidity of Tom Cruise and Mischa Barton.

Since 2005, The Album Leaf have continued to tour and work closely with Sigur Rós. They even created an original score for FW Murnau's 1927 Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans.

Go see them at the Rickshaw on February 7, 2010. They are at their Mischa Barton in 2006.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Help Purchase Pabst, For The Hipsters!

As most beer aficionados now know, Pabst Brewing Company is up for sale. Yes, this cornerstone of America's white trash heritage and new beverage of choice for hipsters everywhere is about to tank. But wait! You can save it!

Two creative advertising firms - Forza Migliozzi and The Ad Store - have used the concept of crowdsourcing to raise funds in an attempt to purchase the brewery. This is how it works: you go to their website (, you make a pledge ranging from $5.00 to $250,000.00, and when enough funds have been hypothetically generated the advertising firms request your payment via electronic transfer or Paypal. Once the brewery has been purchased collectively, you are paid back in beer...the beer that you "own".

Cool, eh? Isn't this way awesomer than donating to Oxfam or Red Cross this holiday season?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Loco for Coco

I sure hope you work in Kits, Fairview Slopes or the Granville Island area.

I not only hope you work in one of these neighbourhoods because they are safe, picturesque and pleasant, but also because these are the only areas to which Carolyn (Coco) Cudmore will deliver her original, homemade treats. Coco used to run a small coffeeshop just off Fir and 1st Avenue, where I first discovered her knack for creating comfort foods with a twist. I regularly purchased her chocolate-courgette loaf and her carrotcake cupcakes to consume with my coffee, and my co-workers looked forward to the days when turkey lasagna or butternut soup were featured. Coco left this spot last summer and has set-up an online catering service. Very flexible with regard to delivery times and quantities, Coco takes orders via email or phone. All this and she is hilarious to boot!

Her menu is available on her website: There is a rumour that she will be opening a new, swanky cafe just west of Fir and 2nd Avenue this spring, close to her old location. Ahhh, independent coffeeshops.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Phoenix - (P)review

Yes, this is a preview rather than a review. I actually think I might be on to something here because I have always been frustrated by reading reviews of awesome shows/events/tastings/flash mobs after the fact. I don't want to hear how Peaches encouraged all of the women at her most recent gig to take their tops off days after all the women take their tops off! And I don't want to hear how mindboggling and rare it was to see Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle at the Pacific Cinematheque after the films have come and gone. So annoying! 

Therefore, I will begin writing previews for events that I deem unmissable.

Many people have heard of Phoenix, especially since they played on SNL last year and are now promoted by select radio stations. However, many people do not know that they will be playing at Vancouver's Orpheum as part of the 2010 Cultural Olympiad. Due to the fact that Phoenix is coming to Vancouver as part of an Olympic arts program, the concert is not being marketed in a typical fashion. Last I checked, the show was not listed on Pollstar, and tickets are not being listed on Ticketmaster. Few people that I have talked to lately know that they will be here on January 22, 2010.

This will be an outstanding and memorable show, both because of the venue and the fact that this band has just recently come into its own. I mean, I was a solid fan after It's Never Been Like That, but they are really firing on all cylinders with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. At this point, you will have to hit-up Craigslist to find tickets.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Crude Awakening

I had a negative impression of this West Coast/French spot for several years: I don't like the font used for the awning, the atmosphere appears stuffy from without, and the menu always looked overpriced to me. I ate here a few weeks ago for a work function and was surprised by the diverse menu and the comfortable ambience.

We ordered: the duck confit, the beef tenderloin, the smoked tuna, the frites, the wild mushroom risotto and a few rounds of beet salad. Apart from an excessively dijony spätzle with the duck, everything was cooked well and thoroughly enjoyed.

Having said this, there are definitely some black marks against this narrow, South Granville hot spot. First, there is no draught beer (I always freak out over places that fail to offer sweet sweet brew on tap). Second, Cru has adopted the predictable (and trademark Vancouver) "small plate" format. That is, there are no full entrees unless you order the prix fixe, and diners are encouraged to order several small, dainty dishes (which usually add up to more than a single entree at any good, popular restaurant). Lastly - and related to the above topic - every small plate was about $2-to-$3 too expensive. The food is great and the preparation is spot on, but I really did feel like I paid a tad too much per plate.

If you are in the hood, hit-up Bin 942 rather than Cru.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sausage Fest at Dix

I ate at Dix Barbecue & Brewery this week. Having dined here about once a year for the past five years, I have finally come to a conclusion about this popular downtown brewpub: this is a better place for a drink than for a meal.

Upon deciding to meet family friends at Dix to watch the Grey Cup, I broke one of the central rules to eating out: avoid establishments that are in business due to location and convenience. This may seem like a common sense observation, but some places are darn convenient! Restaurants with amazing views, very little local competition, close proximity to venues/stadiums, locations near transportation hubs or a setting within attractions/landmarks (id est: hotels, observtion decks, museums, parks) often rest on their culinary laurels because they know the public will continue to come in and pay for subpar meals. There are obviously exceptions to this general truth, but I am always cautious of cafes (cough cough Starbucks cough...sniffle) and restaurants that prey on punters who have few options for attaining sustenance.

I really want to like Dix because I am passionate about microbreweries, I love watching sports on plasma screens at bars and casual restaurants, I have a lust for BBQ, and I feel like such a badass when I just throw those peanut shells on the ground. This should be a jewel in the blinged-out crown of the Vancouver food scene, a destination for the manly staples of beer, brisket, baby back ribs and bourbon. While Chambar is an ideal spot for a romantic meal, Dix should be the ideal spot to develop a few bromances with the boys. But it's not, because the roasted vegetables are undercooked, the rib sauce to too tomatoey and spicy, the brisket is on the dry side, the chicken is forgettable, and the sausage is dull and greasy. If you do decide to order food at Dix, you are pretty safe with the chicken pot pie and the pulled pork.

Having said this, I really do enjoy the beers that Dix brews. They always have four or five of their own beers on tap, and they have a seasonal beer every...well...season. Their seasonal this winter is a 10% Barleywine, a strong English ale that acts very well as a nightcap. Served in a snifter, with strong plum and coffee notes, this ale almost made me forgive the incredibly average meal I had consumed just minutes before. Almost.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I dislike rye whisky. Not only do I dislike it, I thoroughly believe that it is one of the most impure, inconsistent, jejune and unsatisfying distilled grain liquors commonly consumed within North America. I have reasons to back this bold and provocative claim. I don't often resort to rye-bald hyperbole, but I would rather doink a Djibouti Duiker than drink a dram of dull rye whisky. I dislike rye whisky so much that I feel sorry for Holden Caulfield!

1) Rye is difficult to define and, therefore, difficult to appreciate, understand and compare against other whiskies. The term "rye" can refer to American Rye Whiskey (which must be made from a mash consisting of 51% rye) or Canadian Rye Whisky (which has no set percentages for grain usage or industry standards) or Pure Rye Whisky (which is distilled from 100% rye mash). The Canadian Food and Drug Regulators state that a liquor need only "possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky" (B.02.020) to be classified as a Canadian Rye. A vague definition for an indistinct spirit. 

2) Rye is a grass. For c-rye-ing out loud, why would I want to drink weak, fermented grass juice when I could imbibe a delicately distilled malted barley liquor from the Highlands of Scotland? Barley, corn and wheat are all more respectable crops than lowly grass. You husk corn and you sickle wheat and you swath barley, but you just walk on grass. You just walk on it and pick your dog's poop up from it.

3) Rye is immature. Single malt scotch is usually aged for at least eight years, bourbon is usually aged for at least four years, and Irish whiskey is usually aged for at least six years. American rye only needs to be aged for two years and Canadian rye only needs to be aged for three years. Cask characteristics and atmosphere play a major role in the complexity and aging of scotch, bourbon and Irish whiskey. Age and maturity are not emphasized in rye whiskies...Canadian rye doesn't even need to be aged in new Oak (or charred Oak!) barrels.

4) Rye lacks mystique. Many spirits and liquors possess a certain mystique or unique history which contribute to their marketabiliy and allure. Absinthe is associated with the Belle Époque, Drambuie is rumoured to have been based upon a personal and secret recipe of Bonnie Prince Charlie's, and Chartreuse was supposedly first distilled in 1605 by little monks in the east of France. Within the world of whiskies, scotch is known to adopt traits from the areas in which it mellows (such as the Highlands or Hebrides), Irish whiskey is triple distilled, and Tennessee whiskey is filtered through maple charcoal using the Lincoln County Process. Rye whiskey originated in the USA in the mid-1700s, as colonists needed an easy, robust grain to grow and distill in the Northeast. It is a whiskey born of necessity, bumpkins, unrefined palates, boredom and illicit stills. 

As a rotting cherry atop this putrid parfait I call rye, check out the recent ad for Canadian Club above. Talk about distasteful.

Also, I have not been misspelling the word 'whiskey' above: scotch/rye = whisky ... Irish/bourbon = whiskey. Weird, eh?