Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top 10 Albums of 2010

Man, this year was so much better than last year for music. Please find my Top 10 Albums for 2010 below. Lists like this are always subjective, so I suppose a brief explanation of my opinions is needed:

- I have fairly eclectic tastes

- I appreciate complex song structures, yet am not usually a fan of groups that are dedicated to producing abstraction and experimental "noise" (wow, this makes me sound old)

- I highly value technical skill, and the unique (sorry DJs)

- I am biased towards rock, folk, rap, and melody. I am biased against DJs, country, R&B, and choral works.

I am always interested in learning about new bands, as long as they are good, so please post any outstanding albums from 2010 in my comment area. Here are my Top 10 in no particular order...

1) Local Natives - Gorilla Manor:

I am a fairly judgmental person. This is a character flaw of mine. When I first YouTubed this five-piece, I was visually bombarded by staches, keffiyehs, and hipster hairdos. I automatically lumped Local Natives with the Strokes, Hockey, and Vampire Weekend; that is, until I heard Gorilla Manor several times through and saw this band live at Vancouver's Venue Nightclub. Local Natives are part of a Neo-Folk movement (along with bands such as the Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear) that is taking over in the Northwest. These groups create vocal-heavy, melodic, catchy compositions that hearken back to the musical formulas popularized by Buffalo Springfield, The Band, and Love. Gorilla Manor was self-funded and tweaked for over a year before its release. And it sounds even better live!

2) Efterklang - Magic Chairs:

A great deal of the standout music I come across is discovered through browsing the local concert listings regularly and visiting the Zulu Records website once a month. Employing the former information retrieval method, I came across Efterklang (Danish for "Remembrance") only a few months ago. I planned to go to the show here in Vancouver, knowing absolutely nothing about this whimsical Danish quartet, but a university assignment was due the following morning so I never made it. Frustrated and curious, I downloaded both Magic Chairs and Parades. I have recently discovered that there is definitely a Scandinavian indie rock sound. Like The Concretes, PB&J, and Bodebrixen, Efterklang follows the tenets of twee but is substantiated by catchy, acute percussion.

3) Shearwater - The Golden Archipelago:

I have a friend who told me to go see Shearwater this past April at the Biltmore Cabaret. I didn't know Shearwater at this time and was a bit turned off by the nautical-themed concert posters I had seen around town. I skipped the show in favour of an evening involving laundry and a new Family Guy episode, but I did feel guilty enough to download Rook and purchase The Golden Archipelago on iTunes that night. Both albums are excellent. A quiet departure from Jonathan Meiburg's Okkervil River sound, Shearwater creates songs based on the delicacy of birds and the melancholy of the sea. Of course, Meiburg sings about things other than ornithology and oceanography, but these subjects provide a mystery and poignancy around which most of Shearwater's songs are composed. Like Joanna Newsom, Shearwater has a literary, troubadour-like quality that provides every song with an engaging intimacy.

4) Arcade Fire - The Suburbs:

I don't need to write much about this group, OR this album, because it seems to be on every single Top 10 List of 2010. Arcade Fire does have its weaknesses - see: Regine's vocals, conservative song structures, repetitive choruses - but their eclectic musicianship, unrelenting energy, and well-documented authenticity continues to produce albums that are diverse and intelligent. I am always sceptical of albums that are lauded due to hype or to a group's reputation, but The Suburbs really is Arcade Fire's most thoughtful and complex album yet.

5) Beach House - Teen Dream:

I did not like this album the first time I heard it. Victoria Legrand's deep androgynous voice and the keyboard-heavy backing of each track create a psychedelic Dream Pop sound that can be aurally curious and initially off-putting. However, a few more listens and the viewing of some live performances online helped me to understand where the band was coming from. They are indeed an anachronistic band, but Beach House creates excellent, reverb-laden pop that is fuelled by melody and playful tambourine accents. While their debut was good, Teen Dream is a classic. I even bought the CD...who buys CDs anymore?! I should also note that I was totally obsessed with '10 Mile Stereo' for two weeks or so (see video below).

6) Interpol - Interpol:

Paul Banks' deliberate and troubled vocals have coated Interpol's catchiest hits (such as 'Obstacle 1' and 'Slow Hands') with a dusting of pessimism and cynicism. Sometimes this worked (see: Turn on the Bright Lights), and sometimes this resulted in songs peppered with inauthenticity and clashing aesthetic systems (see: Antics). Interpol has often tried to fight their dark edge, especially with Antics, but they simply embraced it with this most recent release. They seemed to publicly (and perhaps subconsciously) acknowledge this fact by choosing not to title their most recent work. The guitars and keyboards reflect Banks' style on this album, and while this does make for an oft-dispiriting outing, one can clearly identify that the band is finally clicking on all levels: musically, intellectually, and emotionally.

7) Stars - The Five Ghosts:

I was a bit meh about Stars prior to this album. The harmonies between Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan (who I still believe to be Emily Haines' vocal doppelganger) have always been pitch-perfect and incisive, but many songs from Heart and Set Yourself on Fire seemed either musically undeveloped or sappy in subect matter. It seems as if Stars has always tried to avoid shooting into the "rock" category, and I think this has hindered their development as a band. Five Ghosts, however, is great because songs such as 'We Don't Want Your Body' and 'Fixed' are danceable and up-tempo while songs such as 'Winter Bones' and 'Dead Hearts' highlight the emotional, narrative style that Torquil/ Millan are known (and loved) for.

8) Sleigh Bells - Treats:

I have selected this album for the same reason I selected Matt & Kim's Grand last year. That is, even though the band may be a one-trick musical pony, their sound is so distinct and kickass that people should tune in and put out. Comprised of Poison the Well's hardcore lead guitarist Derek Miller and the little known Alexis Krauss, this duo produces dirty Noise Pop that is ideal for losing your hearing and/or working out. I have a nostalgic connection to this album as well, as I used it to train for a marathon in the mountains of Bozeman this past summer. While I doubt that Miller and Krauss will release more than two or three albums, I know that 'A/B Machines' and 'Crown on the Ground' will be on my Shuffle for years to come.

9) Jonsi - Go:

I really hate when musicians break away from the pack to persue solo careers (see: Chuck Ragan, Julian Casablancas, Sting, etc). Solo projects are such a cliche: they represent difficulties within the band, they very rarely work out, and they often affect the reputation of the deserter in a negative way. I resisted listening to Go until this, the very end of the year. I also refused to see Jonsi when he came to Vancouver this year. My connection to the music of Sigur Ros is so strong and valuble to me (for both aesthetic and personal reasons) that I did not want a sad solo album to tarnish my extremely high opinion of the band in ANY way. Having said this, I trust no one's taste in music more than my sister's, and she assured me - on many ocassions - that Jonsi did justice to both his band and his career with Go. This album is definitely frothy when compared to the weighty compositions of Sigur Ros, but it combines Jonsi's sprightly personality with the band's complexity to create songs that are both touching and accessible.

10) Hans Zimmer - Inception:

When one watches Inception, or hears elements of Zimmer's potent compositions during trailers for the film, it is difficult to appreciate the depth and existential qualities of the score. Throughout the film, clips of each of the eleven tracks are played, but it is impossible to isolate and analyse these pieces in their entirety. Unlike many orchestral soundtracks, Inception can stand alone as a concept album. Zimmer's addition of electric guitar to several of the tracks, and the ebbing-and-flowing crescendos in many of the pieces, reflect both the tension within the film's plot and modern anxieties linked to corporate control and anonymity. Whenever I listen to this album, it generates visions of both tsunamis and legendary romances...powerful forces that change lives forever.

Keywords: "Best Albums 2010", "Alex Dawkins", "Vancouver concerts"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Indistinct Drams

I was seriously considering whether or not to post this because the underlying theme of the entry can be misinterpreted as snobbish. Since I have been buying, drinking, and consuming Scotch whisky over the past five years, I have noticed that several distilleries have established themselves as classic Scotch impostors. I feel that I should bring these impostors to the public's attention.

Like buying Spam instead of pork loin from the butcher, or using mouthwash instead of brushing, several Scotches have become unjustifiably common and (dare I say) trendy as alternatives to established and reliable drams. Of course, I would prefer a glass of any single malt over a glass of blended Scotch, but it deeply concerns me when I continue to see Glenlivet on restaurant menus, and Aberlour being featured at the the liquor store. Before you dismiss these sentiments as superficial and unnecessarily critical observations from an indulgent North American nerd, please skim through the follow case studies to see where I am coming from.

Oban is one of my favourite whiskies due to its perfect balance of peat and sweet, and to its briny finish. Diageo Distilleries, which owns Oban Distillery, designated Oban as the representative West Coast Highlands whisky, and it is known around the world for its regionally-specific flavour. However, it is pricey at $120 per bottle, so many people opt for the bland and forgettable Old Pulteney. At $80 per bottle for their standard 12-year-old, Old Pulteney has made a name for itself by mimicking Oban. From its seaside location at the northern tip of Scotland to its nostalgia-drenched marketing, Old Pulteney tries very hard to act like an historical and unique whisky. However, its bankruptcy-riddled past and atypical Highland characteristics reveal that it is only an average malt exploiting the idiosyncratic finish and established features of Oban. Old Pulteney is owned by Inver House, which is a Scottish-owned company, but it just cannot compete with the almighty Oban.

Glenfiddich, the top selling single malt in the world, is a spirit that appears in every bar and restaurant as a Speyside malt. As the Coca-cola of the Scotch world, Glenfiddich relies on product placement and ubiquity to garner fans and deceive those in search of an exceptional Speyside whisky. Chill-filtering, mass distilling, and flavour-enhancing distillation techniques produce a weak spirit, and Glenfiddich (along with Glenlivet) totally lacks the leather-and-dried-fruit sophistication of distinctive Speyside Scotches such as Glenrothes. Glenfiddich is a copycat whisky that uses drink menus and  transnational advertising campaigns to slink into the throats of unsuspecting imbibers hoping to experience a multifaceted Speyside malt.

To reiterate, any single malt is a good single malt. However, the "classic Scotch impostors" out there, such as Old Pulteney and Glenfiddich, will rob you of the ethereal taste sensations that can be generated by consuming Scotches such as Oban and Glenrothes.  

* keywords: "Scotch blog", "Vancouver blog", "Alex Dawkins"

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Hidden Gitxsan Masterpiece

The main branch of a major bank is likely one of the last places you would expect to house a First Nations masterwork. However, if you enter the Royal Bank main branch at 1025 Georgia Street (at Burrard) and head up the escalators, you will encounter a hidden gem in the form of nine fully carved and painted  red cedar panels. Forming a frieze above the mezzanine offices, these murals span 35 meters and depict various stories involving Weget (the Gitxsan name for Raven, the central trickster/creator figure in many Northwest Coast legends).

Completed over a three-month period in 1972, the frieze was designed and executed by founders of and instructors from the recently defunct Kitanmaax ('Between the Banks') School of Northwest Coast Indian Art in Hazelton. Also known as Ksan, this art school was one of the first dedicated to Northwest Coast Native design and technique. While it was located on Gitxsan land and was known for producing masters of Gitxsan formline design, it quickly began attracting First Nations artists from across the province due to its high standards and renowned instructors. This mural was created by Vernon Stephens, Earl Muldon, Art Sterritt, Walter Harris, Ken Mowatt, and Alfred Joseph. Several of these artists were instructors at Ksan, and all of them are now recognised as masters of Gitxsan art. Earl Muldon, for example, recently became one of the only Northwest Coast artists to ever receive the Order of Canada. I just saw Art Sterritt on TV tonight as a First Nations representative in the opposition of the Northern Gateway Pipeline!

So next time you are depositing money or buying travellers cheques at the Georgia Street Royal Bank, take a look on the second floor.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The International Police of Solemnity

It is such a satisfying feeling when a band that you have been following for years discovers their true sound and fully exploits their strengths. I felt this way when I listened to the Yeah Yeah Yeah's It's Blitz! last year, and I felt the same way two weeks ago when my earholes were first filled with the melancholy rock of Interpol's recent self-titled album.

Interpol has always been on my radar, since Turn on the Bright Lights in 2002. The band's taut bass throb and snare-happy drums have consistently contrasted harmoniously with Paul Banks' English-twinged baritone. Banks' deliberate and troubled vocals have coated Interpol's catchiest hits (such as 'Obstacle 1' and 'Slow Hands') with a dusting of pessimism and cynicism. Sometimes this worked (see: Turn on the Bright Lights), and sometimes this resulted in songs peppered with inauthenticity and clashing aesthetic systems (see: Antics). Interpol has often tried to fight their dark edge, especially with Antics, but they simply embraced it with their most recent release. They seemed to publicly (and perhaps subconsciously) acknowledge this fact by choosing not to title their most recent work. The guitars and keyboards reflect Banks' style on this album, and while this does make for an oft-dispiriting outing, one can clearly identify that the band is finally clicking on all levels: musically, intellectually, and emotionally. Good riddance, Carlos Dengler.

Interpol will be at Vancouver's luxurious Orpheum Theatre on January 27, 2011. I snagged some pre-sale tickets, but - like most everything in Vancouver these days - it is now sold out. Craigslist?

Keywords: "Vancouver blog", "Vancouver concert listings", "Alex Dawkins"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Confit in a Community Centre

This little French bistro has been in my neighbourhood for more than ten years, yet I have never found a time or excuse to dine here in the past. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I have subconsciously avoided it because the idea of enjoying a competently prepared calmars frits or salade de chevre chaud in a community centre is not at all appealing. Salade de Fruits is located in Vancouver's French Cultural Centre, and many people enjoy the unpretentious, authentic feel of the restaurant.

I finally managed to dine here last week with my co-workers. It is funny how my opinion of the meal has evolved over the past few days. During dinner, I was impressed with the unrelentingly French servers, the table d'hotes options, and the casual atmosphere of the space. Of the ten entrees that were ordered, I only heard negative reviews for one of them. I ordered the large duck confit, which consisted of two legs atop a subtle cassis sauce, mash, and a tiny vegetable tipi composed of crisp asparagus, snap peas, acorn squash, and broccoli. Although I am obsessed with duck confit and would probably order this as my last meal on death row, the asparagus almost stole the show. It was cooked (blanched) perfectly. I should note, however, that I did like the confit at Les Faux Bourgeois and Jules more when considering portions and flavour.

A day or two after dinner at Salade de Fruits, I kept thinking about how odd the dining room at the Cultural Centre was. Once the Centre shuts down for the day, tables are simply put out into the lobby. I was the furthest one can get from the kitchen, at the head of our table, and I was practically sitting in the dark library of the Centre, which connects to the lobby. In hindsight, the idea of consuming $20-$25 entrees in a québécois community centre just isn't as appealing as enjoying a meal in a cozy, hip restaurant such as Les Faux or Jules. I went from loving the Salade to liking the Salade. So sad.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Terry Would Agree

A few weeks ago, BC's Pavilion Corporation announced that the Terry Fox Monument at Vancouver's distinctive BC Place Stadium will be destroyed as part of the renovations that are taking place at the venue.
I am surprised by my happiness over this destructive decision, for I have a nostalgic side that is comforted by the preservation of monuments and heritage structures. However, I always thought that the BC Place Terry Fox Monument clashed with the stadium, reeked of Eighties imprudence, and did very little to  celebrate Terry's life.
I visited the BC Sports Hall of Fame about a year ago because a friend of mine was working there with the Marketing department. It was the first time I had been, despite growing up fifteen minutes away from the attraction, and I was surprised by some of the items that they possess. They have Rick Hansen's original Man in Motion wheelchair, and the artificial leg that Terry Fox so depended on during the Marathon of Hope. I am not a very emotional person - I didn't cry during Life is Beautiful and I've been told I have "intimacy issues" more than once - but I did get teary-eyed over the Terry Fox display at the Hall of Fame.  As mentioned, this display is built around Terry's prosthesis. I suppose my reaction was primarily due to the fact that Terry's courage, persistence, and unnatural determination were transferred from Canadian legend and historical fact to a single, tangible object that was then right in front of me. Terry Fox is the Chico Mendes or Clara Barton or Sadako Sasaki of Canada, actively working towards improving the world in the obdurate face of pain, and death. He deserves more than a cheesy, small, narrow, tiled archway.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bentwood Boxes for Charity

Get the holiday season kick-started with a visit to Lattimer Gallery's Open House. For over twenty years, Lattimer Gallery has welcomed clients and the public to swing by in early December for some festive refreshments and a browse of the new trends in Northwest Coast Native art. This year, the Open House is on December 3rd between 5pm-8pm. This is a great opportunity to meet some of BC's top First Nations artists, catch up with old friends, see new faces, and maybe even start some of that Christmas shopping!

This year, the Open House will coincide with a charity event that Lattimer Gallery is hosting in cooperation with BC Women's Hospital. 20 artists will be donating 20 different and original steam-bent boxes for sale via silent auction, and Lattimer Gallery will be donating 100% of the generated funds to charity. The auction will run from November 27th to December 10th, and all of the boxes will be posted on the gallery's website if you can't make it in person.

Keywords: 'Lattimer Gallery', 'Alex Dawkins', 'bentbox Vancouver'

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Analysis: Three Pumpkin Beers

Although I have written about the joys of seasonal beers in the past, I just couldn't resist expressing my passion for the autumn's pumpkin beer selections. I have consumed and enjoyed three pumpkin microbrews this fall, and all three are surprisingly unique. Try them out this year...or remember to keep your eyes peeled for them next October and November.

1) Howe Sound Brewing - Imperial Pumpkineater Ale
This is an imperial ale, meaning that it was designed with English, colonial beer-making in mind; therefore, it contains high alcohol (8.0% ABV) and a fair amount of hops. Both alcohol and hops are antibacterials, and they would help to preserve beer when it was being shipping from the UK to the colonies. This beer takes a little getting used, as it doesn't pull any punches with the pumpkin and nutmeg flavours. It is sweet, rich, and actaully makes for a pleasant dessert beer (I can say this because I've tested it!). A

2) Brooklyn Brewery - Post Road Pumpkin Ale
This dry, subtle ale is successful in balancing the sweetness from the roasted pumpkin with appropriate hops. At 5.0% ABV and mild spice notes, it is more drinkable yet less distinctive than Howe Sound. The aroma is rich in clove and pumpkin, but it definitely does not taste as bold as it smells. By the end of my first bottle, I was bored by this beer...especially after experiencing the autumnal fury of the Pumpkineater. C+

3) Granville Island Brewery - Pumpkin Ale
I often drink and promote Granville Island beers because they are close to my home and work; however, I am not the biggest fan due to the Pilsner hops they use in everything and the watery consistency that many of their brews demonstrate. Their seasonal beers are pretty good though (I actaully love their ginger beer), and this is a decent drink with its mellow cinnamon and pumpkin undertones. This beer is very malty, yet light...like a combination of the Post Road and the Pumpkineater. Having said this, I don't know if I would drink it if it weren't on tap, right next to my work, calling yearningly to me at the end of every shift. B-  

And remember: Drink. Local. Beer.

Keywords: "Alphabet Review", "Alex Dawkins", "Granville Island Brewery"

Monday, October 18, 2010

MOA Satellite Gallery - Opens Oct 23rd!

The Museum of Anthropology - in cooperation with the Presentation House Gallery and UBC's Belkin Gallery - has opened a non-profit satellite gallery at 560 Seymour Street (above the new 560 club and old A&B Sound). Although not exclusively First Nations in its focus, a substantial amount of funding is coming from the Michael O'Brian Family Foundation which is affiliated with the Museum of Anthropology.

This is an exciting venue because there are few galleries that present First Nations art in non-commercial settings. The Native art market works differently from the conventional art market in that the majority of pieces are purchased outright from the creator. Conventional art galleries have many shows a year and rarely purchase any works as merchandise. The consignment agreements that most art galleries operate under allow them to take more risks and have more shows because they only need to spend money on advertising, rent, and promotion. When a gallery must buy every piece that they present, owners must be sure that they can sell them, and this results in a relatively cautious art market.

Victoria-based Tahltan artist Peter Morin (pictured) will be presenting his Petroglyphs performance on opening night, which is October 23rd.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Deep-fried Sushi at the Clubhouse

Across from the Cop Shop along West 2nd Avenue, just past the Cambie Bridge, lies a Japanese restaurant as eclectic and hidden as most of the businesses in this manufacturing district of Vancouver. I have been going to the Clubhouse for about eight years and have always found the quality of their food and their beer specials to counterbalance the cavernous and gaudy interior of the restaurant. I must note, however, that the owners made a big effort to tone things down and unify the decorative themes of the restaurant in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics. While it is still cavernous and odd, the large painted mural of a fairway that covers the east wall and the tastefully framed photos of famous golf courses that hang throughout are a testament to the name of the establishment.

The menu is large, which is usually a warning sign, but it is not ambitious. For example, their sushi and nigiri section takes up one entire page, and another page is dedicated to noodles and okonomiyaki. While the selection is broad, the items offered are essentially Japanese standards. Although, there are a few unconventional delights up for grabs.

It is a tradition for my dad and I to eat at the Clubhouse every year after the big NHL hockey pool that we have with family friends, and this year I finally had the courage to try one of their Holy Maki Rolls. I had seen this on the menu before and it scared me: fried maki rolls...gross. There are several varieties, but we opted for the California roll option. I was expecting the roll to be coated in a heavy, greasy batter which would disguise (and ruin) the contents. I was very happily surprised when the sliced Holy Maki Roll was brought to us sporting a thin, translucent, crispy layer of tempura batter. The roll was also larger in diameter than anticipated, and the crab-avocado interior was still cool despite the hot, crunchy exterior.

This genre-defying oddity will not be a hidden gem for long, seeing as hundreds and hundreds of condos were recently constructed just two blocks away in preparation for the past Olympics. This major event prompted the Clubhouse to clean up its act, but it also destroyed the restaurant's low profile.

Keywords: "Japanese Restaurants Vancouver", "Alex Dawkins", "Clubhouse Vancouver"

Friday, October 1, 2010

Deer Tick

An unappealing name with an inaccessible dirty blues sound, Deer Tick is an anachronistic rock band that is gaining fans and respect through non-stop touring and rugged authenticity. Since the band formed in 2004, the only full-time, regular member has been the founder and primary writer, John McCauley. The band has seen people come and go, though McCauley holds it down with his persistence and passion for touring.

Despite the inconsistent supporting cast, Deer Tick has maintained a distinctive sound over the years. This sound is defined by McCauley's raspy, Cobainesque vocals, which often accompany melodies reminiscent of the backwoods blues that emerged along the East Coast during the late 1940s. Deer Tick sounds swampy, yet their songs always include rhythm transitons and percussion that are undeniably modern and "indie" sounding.

I am not a huge fan of alt-country or blues, but I am always drawn to bands that are unique and self-sacrificingly dedicated to their music. From Hot Water Music to Mum to Runrig, I have the utmost respect for musicians who create, improve, and pound the pavement to prove their worth. Of course, there are some bands that do this and still suck balls, but Deer Tick is not one of these ball-sucking bands. They had their television debut this past summer, and they are only going to get better from here on out. They play at Vancouver's Biltmore Cabaret on October 22.


Keywords: "Biltmore Cabaret", "Alex Dawkins", "Vancouver concerts"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Cactus Club: It's Craptacular!

American hygiene products company, Cintas Corporation, holds an annual competition in the States for the country's best public washrooms. This year, they allowed Canadian companies and institutions to enter the contest, which is judged via the website bestrestroom.com and considers everything from design to comfort. 

The Burnaby Cactus Club Cafe won best Canadian lavatory. This local chain has sure been doing well since Rob Feenie joined ranks after being flushed by David and Manjy Sidoo. I have eaten at a Cactus Club once and really disliked the slick, corporate atmosphere and the cautious, Earlsesque menu. Although, I must admit that I do remember the bathroom being pretty swank. The Cactus Club water closet even passed the Dawkins Kupatilo Test! That is, it offered both paper towels and an air dryer.

Cintas noted that the illuminated makeup mirrors, flatscreen televisions, and fresh flowers made for especially pleasant evacuations.

Keywords: Rob Feenie, Alex Dawkins, "Cactus Club bathrooms"

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hide from the Bustle - The VAG Cafe

This past summer, I volunteered at the Vancouver Art Gallery every week as part of my Library and Archives Masters program. I am a born-and-raised Vancouverite, and I have always known about the intimate and airy Gallery Cafe, but I didn't realise that they produce such a wide and delectable range of items. From panini to a variety of interesting salads, the Cafe serves a diverse selection appropriate for both lunch and dinner. The VAG Gallery Cafe actually has one of the best patios in the city, which is a great place to enjoy a drink on a summer's eve.

Sadly, the coffee is only so-so, and I often hopped over to Artigiano across the street for my morning cappuccino. However, I would always grab a pastry from the Gallery Cafe. They have an amazing dessert section which changes daily. Popular items include a chubby blueberry pie, dark chocolate bread pudding, trifle, lavender creme caramel, and rhubarb muffins. I...ummmm... have a sweet tooth.

I disagree with a number of people I have spoken to who claim that the Gallery Cafe is expensive, or that it is laid out like a cafeteria. Resembling many of the great museum cafes of North America and Europe, the VAG Gallery Cafe employs a deli set-up, which is an efficient format for employees and patrons alike. It is usually logistically impossible (and just plain unnecessary) for galleries and museums to have full-service restaurants, although many of them (including the Gallery Cafe) do serve restaurant-quality vittles.

Keywords: "Alexander Dawkins" , "Vancouver Art Gallery", "Vancouver Patios"

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Wicklow...Hells No!

I grew-up in False Creek and really want to give The Wicklow a positive review, for sentimental reasons. I was a regular at The Wicklow's predecessor, Stamps Landing, which was borne of local Expo 86 development within South False Creek. Stamps Landing went out of business about two years ago and, sadly, I will never be a regular at this recent incarnation.

Everyone mentions how wonderful the view is from The Wicklow's west-facing window seats and patio, but few mention that the cheapest pint at this "pub" is $6.00. I have also spoken to many individuals who defend the food quality at this bar, but the entrees at The Wicklow are more expensive and of lesser quality than choice selections that you can find on Main Street, or even Broadway.

I have patronized The Wicklow between 7-10 times, and I will never be back after the experience I had tonight. The music was obnoxious, the place was filled with macho muscleheads who were ensconced for UFC 118, the service was brusque, and those $6.00 Rickard's left a bad taste in my mouth. If you are looking for a local pub with outstanding views, I would recommend that you mosey down to the Backstage Lounge on Granville Island. 

Keywords: "ABC Dawkins", "False Creek"

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Vancouver Fringe 2010

Having lived in Edinburgh - home to the largest theatre festival in the world - Vancouver's Fringe Fest seems small and disorganized. However, it is young, and it is gaining popularity despite funding cutbacks.

I attended the Fringe for the first time last year and really enjoyed myself. Granville Island is transformed into an artsy, loud, fun bazaar of tourists, locals, self-proclaimed theatre nerds, actors, and late-night cafes. The reality is that you will see some amateurish doozies, but hidden amongst those amateurish doozies will be a few golden nuggets. At about $10 a pop, you can see four or five plays for the price of one play produced by our established Arts Club Theatre or Playhouse Theatre Company.

If low-budget, unpredictable, raucous theatre isn't really your "thang", just wait until the Pick of the Fringe later in September. This consists of the most popular plays being reprised for limited-time viewing...and most of them are very good. The only drawback to attending the Pick of the Fringe is that it lacks the atmosphere of the real Fringe, in all of its inconsistent, flamboyant glory.

The Fringe runs from September 9-19, and Pick of the Fringe runs from September 23-26.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New Orwell Hotel Mural

In Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, First Nations artists recently completed the largest mural in BC. On the side of the Orwell Hotel, at Hastings and Jackson, artists completed the 743-foot mural which represents our urban Aboriginal population and celebrates Vancouver icons. Artists included in the project were: Sharifah Marsden, Richard Shorty, Jerry Whitehead, Haisla Collins, Don Howell and Nicola Campbell.

The cool thing about this project is that it was completely funded through BC organizations. General Paint donated most of the materials, and the other costs associated with the project were covered by the BC Housing Association, the City of Vancouver's Great Beginnings Program, the Strathcona BIA, the Royal Bank, and Britannia Community Services.
The symbolism is complex, but it is based upon the themes of progress, First Nations rights, and urban identities. I love how the old Woodward's sign was integrated into the mural. 

Photo courtesy of The Province newspaper

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Frank N Stein in Ferndale

What more does a man really need in life above a loving family, sausage, and micro-brewed beer? That's right...very little.

At Frank N Stein, a bearded man serves you steins full of fresh, delicious draught beer at America's smallest brewpub. They also offer free pretzels, and the efficient George Foreman Grill behind the high bar will get your weiners hot, lickity-split. You can also play steel-tipped darts while you are waiting for the grill to warm.

Located in sleepy Ferndale - between Vancouver and Bellingham - this little gem places an emphasis on local beer and conversation. Amongst the highlights in the beverage department are the Ferndale-based Atwood beers, which are available in a rotating selection of Atwood Pale, Atwood Brown Porter, Atwood Kesterweizen and Atwood Scottish Lodge Ale. The Kesterweizen, named after the brewmaster's godfather, is my favourite with its low carbonation and pineapple undertones.

Ask for Josh! He is the best barman along the Northwest Coast.

Friday, August 13, 2010

That's Affogato, Not Avocado!

Since the age of 17, I have consumed at least one cup of coffee - in filtered or espresso form - every day of my life. I am not, however, an extreme coffee drinker. I never have more than two cups a day. Over the past two months, I have developed an unquenchable desire for affogato - the common Italian and south German dessert consisting of vanilla ice cream and espresso. 

Perhaps this bestial thirst has been triggered by the unusually warm summer temperatures,  or perhaps my coffee-based tastes are evolving and searching for new flavour combinations. Whatever the case may be, I have been combing the city for establishments that make great espresso, serve vanilla ice cream, and do not require table service. This quest is much harder than you would think for a cosmopolitan city such as Vancouver. 

I have been getting my fix at the following locations, in my neighbourhood, but I would love to hear of other ristretto pushers and gelato mongers in the city. For example, I am sure that Commercial Drive has a few sweet spots. I've been hitting up:

- Trixi's Coffeehaus (3306 Cambie): decent espresso-based drinks and wonderful crepes

- Amato Gelato Cafe (88 East 1st Ave): located within Mario's Gelati headquarters, this cafe has both excellent coffee and ice cream...great stop during a walk around the seawall

- Whole Foods (510 West 8th Ave at Cambie): I know, I know...no self-respecting espresso connoisseur would ever frequent Whole Foods, but they can provide what many superior cafes cannot...affogato!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Seasonal Beers: Berries, Ginger and Wheat

One of my favourite things about summer is seasonal beers. Most breweries and brewpubs offer seasonal selections throughout the year, but I find the range of summer beers produced in BC to be the most intriguing and challenging.

This week, I stopped in for a few drinks at my near-local bar, The Sunset Grill, and sampled two fruit-infused beers that both taunted and titillated my tastebuds. The first was Red Truck Purple Haze Blueberry Blonde Ale, which is not bottled and is only available at a select few restaurants and bars in Vancouver. At 6% abv and brewed in a Northern European style, this deceptively light brew is by no means codswallop. Unlike some fruit beers, such as the increasingly popular Fruli, Red Truck's Purple Haze is made by adding the fruit during the fermentation process. When fruit - or any unnecessary flavourings for that matter - is added during fermentation, it results in a subtle, tart concoction that greatly differs from a brew that has been infiltrated by fruit juice after fermentation and filtration. Red Truck's blueberry beer was summery and crisp, with a very dry finish. 

The second beer that I tried was Surrey's Red Racer Raspberry Wheat Ale, which pours amber but smells like you are walking through a dense raspberry bramble...on Saltspring Island...during a balmy mid-summer's afternoon. The Red Racer Razz is made in a similar fashion to the Purple Haze, so the character of this light, mildly-carbonated wheat beer is not overpowered by the fruit. I did find the raspberry flavour a bit cloying near the end, and would recommend the Purple Haze if you are planning on downing a pitcher or multiple pints.

The other seasonal beer that I have been obsessed with over the past three weeks is Granville Island's Ginger Beer. I am not a huge fan of Granville Island's beer due to the lingering Pilsner hops that they use across the board, but the ginger used in this seasonal creation dulls and compliments the hops that normally torment my temperamental palate. I had been aware of GIB's ginger beer in the past, but I had a few pints this year that were cold and crisp and complemented Vancouver's calescent July so well that I will forever associate the Summer of 2010 with this delightful draught. The brewery has now stopped production of this beer, but I purchased two cases to savour into the autumn months.

Keywords: Vancouver Craft Beer, "Vancouver Seasonal Beers"

Friday, July 30, 2010

Lolita's and our Lack of Tlayuda

I fiiiiinally dined at the West End's Lolita's this past week, after several years of hearing good things about it and seeing it as I have walked/run along Davie, en route to Stanley Park. My family tried Lolita's older, brash cousin - Me & Julio - last year and I have discovered that I feel the same way about both of Jaison and Lila Gaylie's establishments.

Vancouver doesn't "get" Cal-Mex, let alone authentic Mexican cuisine. The appeal of West Coast Mexican food is its bold flavours, value, and satisfying simplicity. From Whale's Vagina (San Diego) to Blaine, every US city worth its salchicha offers an array of cheap and kickass Mexican restaurants. But nooooo...all you can get upon entering hoighty-toighty, chi-chi Vancouver is designer desayuna and yuppified yerbabuena. Yes, Lolita's has stellar cocktails and beautifully-plated entrees. Yes, Me & Julio's specials are super creative and will start a party in your mouth hole. But this is beside the point because Vancouver needs some Mexican restaurants that are somewhere between a taqueria and a boutique eatery, such as Lolita's.

My foodie pal and I ordered the Plantanos con Creama, the Turkey Tostada, and the Brisket Taquitos. To reiterate, the food created under the Gaylies is always punchy and pretty, so I cannot state that I did not enjoy my meal. I'm just getting sick of enjoying these types of $16 dishes, when what I would really prefer is a $5 tamale or $7 birria like I have had in countless Mexican cantinas and restaurants south of the border. I would definitely go back to Lolita's for a cocktail and those delectable plantains, but I'd probably eat somewhere else along Davie.     

One final thought: would you naturally want to dine at a restaurant owned by a guy named Jaison Gaylie? It's like wanting to listen to the music of a singer-songwriter named KT ("Katie") Tunstall or wanting to read a book by an author named Poppy Z. Brite. I should trust my gut more often, before I fill it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Who Doesn't Like "Pea-ness"?

Since many of my posts are food related, I just had to share this classic food-television blunder. I've probably seen it over thirty times in the past couple years and it never fails to amuse:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Earl Muldon Snags Order of Canada

Prolific Gitksan artist Earl Muldon has been working as a full-time artist for over 50 years, and he is one of my favourite Northwest Coast Native artists. Having carved innumerable totem poles, created the monumental entrance doors for Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology (with several other renowned Gitksan artists), and lead a restoration project for the Gitanyow (Kitwancool) Hereditary Chiefs, Earl has an endless number of accomplishments under his belt...and he is still creating wonderful works. His pieces can be found in galleries around Vancouver and museums around the world.

His early years were absorbed by wood carving and teaching, at the highly influential and recently defunct 'Ksan School of Northwest Coast Indian Art, but he has been focusing on jewellery for the past decade or so. His work is characterised by traditional Gitksan formline design, flawless technical skill, and playful detail. 

Earl recently won the Lifetime Achievement Award for Aboriginal Art from the provincial government's Achievement Foundation. In June of this year, he also received membership to the exclusive Order or Canada, becoming one of the few Northwest Coast artists to ever receive this award.

*Photo courtesy of Lattimer Gallery

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hastings Park - Friday Night Light Beers

Hastings Park Racetrack, just north of Vancouver's Playland and PNE grounds, can always be counted on for mediocre horse racing, successful Mexican jockeys, expectorating old Asian men, spectacular views of the Coast Mountains, and sweet sweet gambling. While Hastings Park sits cantle to most of North America's racetracks (including Ontario's Woodbine, which just hosted the Queen for the annual Queen's Plate), it definitely has its charms and I enjoy supporting it.

Although Hastings Park has drastically cut-back their number of racing days over the past 10 years (there are only races on three days per week now), the management is trying hard to promote the joys of gambling, and to lure some of the hipsters in from Commercial and Main. Since last summer, races  run on Friday nights - instead of the afternoon - and these seedy soirees come complete with DJ spinning, $3.50 domestic sleeves, and movie nights. For example, they will be showing Top Gun on July 16th, and Beverly Hills Cop on July 23rd. Movies start half an hour after the last race, at about 10:30pm.

While I will likely be skipping these 80s gems, I do hit-up Hastings Park a few times every summer. I have a shameful addiction to hotdogs with grilled onions and $1 Exacta Box bets, and my incessant yearnings for broiled byproduct and cautious wagering are always satiated at Hastings Park. Plus, entrance to the racetrack is always free! You now have no excuses to avoid supporting this aging Vancouver landmark!

Keywords: Alex Dawkins, "Vancouver Event Listings"

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Main Street Ping Pong

I miss Ping's. Of course, the co-owners of La Buca and Pied-à-Terre will always produce innovative dishes and perfectly-prepared ingredients at the new Cafeteria, but I believe that the funky Japanese yoshoku of Ping's was better suited to Main Street. Main Street already has restaurants that fit the Cafeteria mould: Grub, Latitude, and Crave. My friend and I really enjoyed our meals, but there were a few flaws that both lost this restaurant a letter grade and will likely dissuade me from returning.

First, the entrees were all one or two dollars overpriced...and the prices of the appies were too close to the prices of the entrees. For example, my duck confit was $16.50 and my starter was $12.50. Second, there was a flaw with each dish that we ordered, which prevented this Cafeteria from being upgraded to bistro or brasserie in my mind. My pal ordered the chicken schnitzel with shredded cabbage, spätzle, and sautéed morels. It was a colourful and comforting dish, but the chicken was dry. Don't get me wrong, it was well seasoned and flavoured, but it was anhydrous. My duck was served with a chorizo-lentil melange and - surprisingly compatible - peeled orange slices, but some of the lentils were hard. Lastly, the draught beer is available at market price, but Cafeteria serves it in a 12oz glass! This isn't even a cheapo North American 16oz pint! This was disappointing.

I must say that the starter/salad we both ordered was a bat mitzvah in my mouth. It was an embellished bacon and eggs, with the bacon wrapped delicately around asparagus cladodes, and a perfectly poached egg placed atop a stack of arugula and grape tomatoes. To confuse my mouth and enrich this awesome saladfast (half breakfast, half salad), the chef placed a small pool of salsa verde on the plate, which went very well with both the asparagus and egg.

Cafeteria is worth trying, but just like Parkside, it likely won't be around for long.
Keywords: La Buca, Pied-a-Terre, Cafeteria Main Street, Alex Dawkins

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Catering to Coffeeshops

I love independent cafes, and I really do go out of my way to avoid (ball-and-)chain coffeeshops. However, I not really diggin this increasingly-popular trend of the cafe format being fused together with deli and/or catering getups.

I was recently exploring the yuppie-filled sidestreets and hippiecondo-filled blocks of Kits Point for new and quality coffeeshops when I spotted Quince just east of Burrard, on West 3rd Avenue. Quince is just one of the many catering outfits in the city that is also trying to pass as a cafe and deli. It reminds me of the now defunct Sensational Suppers or the popular The Butler Did It in that it is clearly a business focused on catering that attempts to attract passers-by with take-out meals and coffee. This is not a bad business model in theory but - like Communism or clear beer - it just doesn't work in practice. The focus on meal preparation, corporate customers, and large-scale food production makes it nearly impossible for businesses like this to create a setting wherein locals and people off the street can enjoy a quality coffee, tea, or baked good in a space that is comfortable and neighbourly.

Quince and the many catercoffeeshops that are popping up around town often offer quality product, in an isolated sense: they serve great coffee, they always have fresh pastry, the layouts are slick, they offer a wide range of catering services and options, and their take-out meals are outstanding. Unfortunately, when these elements are combined, the poor punter who is hoping to enjoy a crema-clad coffee at a local and inviting independent cafe ends up entering a space suffering from an identity crisis...a perfectly prepared, stylish identity crisis. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Anti-Vampiric Nationalist

There are two big-ticket outdoor concerts coming to Vancouver's scenic Malkin Bowl this summer: The National (September 10) and Vampire Weekend (August 27/28). One of these concerts will be a highlight of the city's summer festivities, and the other will taint serene Stanley Park with hipsters, hipteenies, and nattering afro-prep pop music (yes...I just used an Oxford comma VW...so you can suck it).

Promoting their fifth and highly acclaimed album, High Violet, The National are at the peak of their creative powers right now. Hailing from Cincinnati and based in Brooklyn, The National produce a poetic, ponderous rock that is based around Matt Berninger's baritone vocals, and is reminiscent of The Tindersticks and Interpol. Their music is a mélange of shoe-gazing melancholy and percussion-driven East Coast indie rock, but the band's collective intelligence and ever-evolving sound prevent songs from becoming predictable or brooding. At times, I have worried that The National might fall victim to the forlorn, ruminant elements found in their songwriting, but their propensity for anthemic refrains and catchy rock riffs always pulls them out of the lurking doldrums. 

Having said this, I would take gloomy doldrums created by The National over Vampire Weekend's preppy-pep ska any day. I hate when Vampire Weekend is compared to the Talking Heads or The Police because VW is nowhere near as complex or talented as these two trailblazing bands from the 1980s. Sure, VW can muster up a few retro-infused melodies and clever lines, but they only have one sound. Their Congolese, Upper-West-Side-Soweto may have turned heads and sweater-vests on the Columbia campus, but the group has failed to develop and progress on their second and most recent album, Contra. Plus, how can you respect a lead singer that dresses like this (see image)?!  

I will admit that my feelings regarding these bands stem from interviews I have seen with frontmen Matt Berninger and Ezra Koenig. The former is witty, unaffected and passionate...and the latter is smug, cavalier and trendy. One should definitely separate the art from the artist when analysing, contemplating, and enjoying creative works, but researching these lead singers and watching interviews with the two bands have revealed that The National are established craftsmen and Vampire Weekend are merely transitory journeymen.

Both of these concerts have sold out, but you can probably find tickets on Craigslist. At the very least, buy/download High Violet!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blood Alley Tapas

Last week, my friend came up from Blaine for good eats, craft beer drinking, and a concert. During our lengthy evening of carousing, we hit-up three restaurants in and around the Downtown Eastside's lubricious Blood Alley. In the midst of an inevitable gentrification, this once-perilous locus has evolved into a gourmet, gritty smorgasbord of tapas and charcuterie eateries. While each of these trendy nooks had quality ingredients and dishes, their overall quality and recommendability decreased as the night (and our inebriety) progressed.

Six Acres - 203 Carrall
Located in Vancouver's oldest brick building at the entrance to Blood Alley, this cozy bar offers tapas-like plates designed for sharing and grazing. Once we recovered from the shock of discovering that the establishment lacks draught beer and fought our way through the forest of hipsters mulling about the ground floor, we identified and ordered victuals that met our needs. Even though I automatically resent places that fail to stock draught beer, I must admit that Six Acres has an impressive bottled selection. With an emphasis on Belgian blondes and saisons, Six Acres has over 40 bottled beers to choose from. While the Six-Layer Dip that we ordered was satisfying in its mediocrity, the stand-out dishes were the Wild Mushroom Risotto and the Black Truffle Sliders. I think Six Acres might be on to something with this greasy spoon tapas concept.

Salt Tasting Room - 45 Blood Alley
I had dined at Salt in the past, and thought it would be silly to visit Six Acres and Judas Goat (see below) without stopping in for some serrano and Piccantino salami. I like Salt for a number of reasons: they promote local products, they are always featuring new and interesting items, and it's a convenient place to grab a meaty snack before a show. From reviews I have read, it seems as though many make the mistake of assuming that Salt is a restaurant. This assumption will lead to an empty wallet and high cholesterol. It is a tasting room based on charcuterie, and its far superior to its twin below...   

Judas Goat Taberna - 27 Blood Alley
I have a fairly small stomach and a fickle appetite, so I am never one to complain about portions. Having said this, the portions at Judas Goat were ridiculous considering the prices. With the same owners as Salt and The Irish Heather - which serves hearty, bold pub food just a block or two away - I wrongly assumed that Judas Goat would also offer the same value with their Spanish-themed tapas. All of the items that we ordered were creative and delightful (especially the foie gras with rhubarb foam and the braised pork belly), but they should have been 1/3 cheaper. Nobody, and I mean nobody, should pay $2.25 for thin slice of baguette with a sparse spread of salsa verde and a few puny, pea-sized blobs of white anchovy. This isn't bruschetta! Judas Goat won't last...you heard it here first!

Keywords: "Vancouver Tapas"

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Peaceful Meat Pancakes

Along West Broadway, near Cambie, there is a stretch of dirty, subpar, nondescript Asian restaurants. There is a pho joint, the Shalin Noodle Restaurant, a tacky sushi spot, and - finally - Peaceful Restaurant. Like many people who have dined here recently, I heard about this little cranny of a restaurant from Yelp and was excited to hear that a decent Chinese eatery has opened in the False Creek/Fairview area. 

We asked our perky and assertive server (who has a serious weakness for pork belly) for recommendations, since the menu is extensive and intimidating. We didn't order everything that she suggested, since most of it involved (you guessed it) pork belly, but we did order the Beef Roll, the Ginger Eggplant, the Sesame Chicken, the Szechuan Noodles with dao xiao mian, and the Pork Belly with Cabbage (which our waitress made us order). This is a Mandarin, northern Chinese restaurant, so they use wheat-based, hand-cut noodles made in-house, which are available as small "cat ears" (mao er duo), long sheared strands (dao xiao mian), or thick hand-dragged strands (cu mian). The noodles are often al dente, and they held Peaceful's sauces very well.

The Beef Roll appetizer was probably my favourite item, although every dish was fresh and clean tasting. The Roll's paper-thin five-spiced beef, crisp green onions and sweet hoisin sauce are united and enrobed by a light, flavourful pancake. It was like a Chinese burrito! My second favourite was the Pork Belly and Cabbage (!), which had an incredible texture. Mixing thin slices of marbled pork belly with wide swatches of pressed tofu, leeks, garlic, onion and green onion resulted in a gustatory adventure filled with crunch and spongy succulence.

There is so much on the menu that our table wanted to order, so I'll have to go back. Good thing I live in the False Creek/Fairview area!

Keywords: "Alphabet Review", "Chinese Restaurants Vancouver", Alex Dawkins

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chill Filtering: The Circumcising of Scotch

I apologize for the provocative title of this blog entry, but I needed this heading to reflect how outrageous the chill-filtering of single malt scotch whisky is. Chill-filtering is a process used during the production of spirits that removes any natural oils and proteins in the liquor, thus preventing the drink from becoming cloudy when cold liquids or ice are added. This superficial process has been used for decades, beginning with the mass export of single malt whisky to North America. It is a cosmetic and unnecessary process that is becoming less and less popular as consumers smarten up and demand whisky from the cask.

This sucky process is quick and simple. It involves lowering the temperature of aged single malt to zero degrees and then straining it through a series of extremely fine metal mesh filters. Everything but the pure alcohol hardens slightly and can be removed by the filters.

In addition to removing vital oils and flavours, this irritating and deceitful process also extracts colour. Most people do not realize that the vast majority of whiskies (not just single malts) are coloured with caramel dye E150a after production and filtration is complete.   

There are several unchill-filtered single malts that BC Liquor Stores carry regularly:

Arran (Non-Islay Island) - 10 Year
With a light body and short, citrussy finish, this whisky provides a drinkable dram that would be suitable as an aperitif. It is also one of the more affordable unchill-filtered single malts at $70.00CAD.

Macallan Cask Strength (Speyside) - 10 Year
Cask strength whiskies are not for the novice scotch drinker. After distilling the wash (beer) in those classic copper stills, the new-make spirit (at an alcohol content of between 60-70%) is pumped into Oak bourbon casks to mature. During maturation, the spirits take on characteristics from the casks, and also evaporate by about 2% per annum. As you can imagine, the alcohol that emerges from these barrels after 8-10 years of aging is potent; therefore, pure spring water is usually added to the whisky prior to bottling. Some distilleries, however, bottle their product straight from the cask, so hardcore enthusiasts can sample their product in an unadulterated, unchill-filtered fashion. At 58% alcohol, this 10-year Macallan often requires a dribble of water before it is consumed. This estery, spicy firecracker of a scotch is priced at $95.00CAD.

Springbank Longrow (Campbeltown) - 10 Year    
I am actually impressed that BC Liquor Control is carrying this scotch because Campbeltown whiskies are rare to begin with. This is not only a Campbeltown whisky made by one of the last hand-malting distilleries in Scotland, it is also one of the most authentic tasting single malts being produced anywhere, due to its pure-peat smoking process, lack of filtration, and small batch production. Again, this is not a dram for the faint of heart, but it is one of the most unique and manly scotches available in BC. It will make you want to start smoking a pipe, and it is priced at $90.00CAD.

* Keywords: Vancouver Scotch, "Alexander Dawkins Vancouver", Chill-Filtering