Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nelson Brewing Company

I recently moved to Nelson - snow sport and weed capital of Canada - for a contract archival job at the Touchstones Museum and Art Gallery and was pleasantly surprised to realise that my new pad is located two blocks below Nelson Brewing. I have seen Nelson's all-organic beer in Vancouver liquor stores but have always been turned off by the company's packaging and graphics. While my grandma always used to say "Never ever judge a fermented alcoholic malt beverage by the graphics and labels used to market it", I find the branding indistinguishable and ineffectually gothic. Such a pithy idiom from Gammy Dawk-Dawk.

Irrespective of my thoughts on their packaging, Nelson beer is friggin' everywhere in town, and I really do love supporting local businesses and breweries. My first experience trying NBC's draught was at Mike's Pub, in the historic Hume Hotel, and I couldn't have picked a better place. Little did I know, Mike's always has at least four taps dedicated to the local brew, so I was able to sample a range of NBC's product. 

The first beer I tried (which was recommended by my landlord the first day I arrived in town) was their Faceplant Winter Ale. I am kind of on the fence when it comes to Winter ales because I often find them too sweet and rich. The vanilla flavour of Granville Island Winter Ale, for example, makes it difficult to drink more than one pint. Even though Faceplant is fermented using molasses and brown sugar, these ingredients tend to add a depth rather than a sweetness to the beer. I would still only want to drink one of these at a sitting, but as a dark ale at 6.5% you only really need one or two.

The second beer I tried was the Old Brewery Pale Ale, which won silver medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards way back in 2004. This is kind of NBC's "house" beer, as it is common in stores and pubs. I enjoyed it, and will continue to order it at the handful of pubs around town, but I found the Cascade and Perla hops a bit sharp. NBC is a hop-heavy brewery...they don't even make a lager! 

As the picture above indicates, I also bought a six pack (or three) of their After Dark British-style mild ale. This is my favourite. With just enough hops to counterbalance the chocolate-roasted, substantial two-row malt (high sugar, low protein...used in many British true ales), this is a robust but very drinkable beer. It pairs really well with hearty Winter meals too, which is perfect since I am in the Kootenays and love making chilli, chicken pot pie, and burritos. Ahhh, the bachelor lifestyle.   

Keywords: "Vancouver craft beer", "Nelson Brewing Company", "Best Canadian beer", "Alex Dawkins"  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tableau at the Loden

This was not what I was expecting from a bar-slash-bistro belonging to Vancouver's boutique Loden Hotel in swishy Coal Harbour. Based on my experiences with fancy hotel restaurants, I was anticipating overpriced but enjoyable dishes composed of crowd-pleasing ingredients such as sirloin, linguini, and chicken breast. Tableau does not resemble the hotel restaurant archetype in my mind, and the menu was refreshingly diverse. As with many of the meals I have out, I dined at Tableau with a group of friends, and this allowed me to see and sample the majority of the menu. Due to the fact that Executive Chef Marc-Andre Choquette is from Quebec and worked with Rob Feenie at Lumiere, the menu offers French classics such as onion soup and duck confit but also contains uncommon dishes such as pork garganelli and veal cheeks. I was very happy with the items I selected.

I had the rabbit terrine to start, which was meaty and piquant. Most terrines are forcemeat loaves formed from liver, and I am not the biggest fan of the textures created through processed organs. This terrine was not at all gelatinous, and the delicate flavour of the rabbit was accented with shallot and pepper. I really enjoy rabbit, and whenever I eat it I wonder why it isn't more common. Farmers spend thousands of dollars and use hundreds of acres to raise pigs and cattle while rabbits consume very little, don't require much space, and reproduce like...rabbits! I reluctantly ordered the duck l'orange as my main (it was super tough for me to resist the confit, but I had never tried l'orange) and was impressed with the way in which the duck was cooked. It was braised to crisp the skin, and then finished in the oven to medium rare. The shredded, translucent red cabbage that came as a side had been braised in the duck fat generated from the breast and was the perfect accompaniment.

Other standouts from the table included the moules frites and the beef bourguignon, which was the special for that night. Like Vancouver's La Brasserie, Tableau offers a set special for every day of the week, and most of them are $20. I highly recommend Tableau, and I'd like to go back for the lamb shank and risotto, which is the special every Thursday. Any takers?


Keywords: "Vancouver Loden Hotel", "Loden Tableau restaurant", "Alex Dawkins"