Thursday, July 31, 2008

Some Bad Food

Recently we were on a road trip to the interior. Cash flow is not good for us at the moment so we were not going to eat out a lot, but we ended up eating out three times and it was a mistake twice.

Eastside Mario's
The first time we ate out was when we were coming back into Salmon Arm after a day at on the lake. It was late and we needed to eat. Buying food at the Safeway or Askew's was not going to work, so we decided to try out Eastside Marios, a new chain coming into BC. We are not going to go back.

First off, the waiting times for having our order taken was much too long. We then got the starters - THEY WERE HUGE. It was simply too much food. Sheila's salad was enough for the two of us to share. Daniel shared his salad with Stephen and Ben only ate part of his soup.

We then waited and waited for the main course. When it came, the boys all had very badly done pizzas. Eastside Marios has this idea that a lame square crust is some sort of a 'traditional' pizza form. While I can not prove it, the pizza dough felt and tasted like it was frozen. Sheila had a piece of bone in her sandwich, one that was close to a centimetre long. She told the hostess about this but we were not offered any sort of discount or any real apology, only a comment saying that at least they use real chicken.

The meal took us an hour and half. This is not something that works for us with four kids, one a new born. We are unlikely to ever go back to the chain and will recommend that anyone wanting this sort of an experience go to Boston Pizza.

Denny's in Revelstoke

On our way to Golden, we stopped in Revelstoke to see the dam and then decided to have lunch. It was Stephen's birthday and he got to choose the restaurant. He originally wanted MacDonalds but changed to Dennys when he saw it.

The food was typical for Dennys, but what was a problem was the hour and half it took for the meal. We really can not sit with the boys that long in a restaurant. It was not as if it was that busy.

Dennys Revelstoke on Urbanspoon

Jade Palace Buffet in Salmon Arm
We ate here on Monday night and I am impressed. It was not accident that Okanagan Life has had it the best restaurant list for a number of years.

The selection was good not only in the BC 'classics' one expects at a Chinese 'Smorg', but also in some interesting variations. The seafood was very good and plentiful, though it went fast. I will be going back here regularly when I am in Salmon Arm.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More changes to bylaws for keeping chickens in the Greater Victoria area - this time Oak Bay

Council votes in favour of amending bylaw
Published: July 17, 2008 12:00 PM
Updated: July 17, 2008 1:19 PM

A fowl issue was raised at council Monday night.

After some debate, Oak Bay voted in favour of amending its bylaw regulating the keeping of chickens.

Doug Clarke made a request to council last month for a property line setback reduction that would allow him to keep chickens on his property. Even though his property meets the bylaw's minimum lot requirement, it doesn't fulfill the setback needed around a chicken coop to buffer it from all property lines.

On Monday, council agreed that reducing the setback from 7.6 metres to 6.1 metres would work not only for Clarke but for others in the municipality as well. Municipal staff were directed to prepare a bylaw amendment to go before council on Monday (July 21) for adoption.

"I think that's the direction we should be taking on as many fronts as possible," said Coun. Nils Jensen. "(Removing) barriers for people who are interested in doing everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint, this is just another way."

Coun. Pam Copley commended Clarke on his initiative and liked his idea of educating children about the food source.

"We've just really lost that connection and I think this is a really great opportunity to provide that," she said.

Even though Coun. Frank Carson supported the motion, he felt raising chickens would have a minimal effect on climate change and said suggesting otherwise was fiction.

"I (wanted) to hear what the neighbours had to say and, from what I gather, the letters that came in were overwhelming in support of this. And people that I've talked to ... were open-minded. So I'll support on that basis."

Clarke was happy with council's decision and plans to build a small coop to house three or four hens to produce eggs for his family.

"I'm just actually really relieved that one voice can make a difference," he said. "It's just nice that our decision for our family to be here was the right one, that we can live in a city that is forward thinking and can work with us to help our sustainable initiatives."

The keeping of chickens is not common in Oak Bay, with the municipality issuing only one permit over the past four years.

Clarke doesn't see the setback reduction resulting in a growth in the number of chickens in Oak Bay but believes council will receive requests for smaller lot sizes in the future.

Jensen plans to seek a future amendment to the bylaw widening the scope of where chickens can be kept and suggested that the minimum lot size be reduced to 557.4 square metres.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What is coming from the garden

A few pics from the garden from this week. Harvest is getting closer for cucs and zucchini. I am sure we are going to be overloaded shortly.

This is how I am trying to grow the pumpkins.

I thought I would try to grow some wheat, actually it was my kids idea. They were interested in the idea of growing our own wheat and making it into bread. We will see how it goes.

Below are the cucumber plants

Eggs are coming in at about 32 per week. We have unending amounts or sage, rosemary and parsley. Lettuce is waiting for a return after the chicken disaster.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lettuce all gone..... but I have planted Wheat!?!?!

My whole crop of lettuce was wiped out in a matter of a few minutes yesterday afternoon. The chickens got out of their pen and legged it to the veggie garden. The only thing they ate was the lettuce, not the dill, basil, corn, beans, pumpkins or tomatoes.

I had to run out and buy more lettuce seed and started a new patch.

I planted something new in the garden yesterday. I planted some of the wheat I bought a few months ago. I managed to buy about four pounds of island grown wheat berries at Mitchell's a few months ago.

We have a small patch at the back end of the veggie garden, nothing major, but hopefully enough that we can get enough wheat to make some bread. My kids expressed an interest in growing wheat and taking it to bread, this seems to me an interesting experiment to try.

I bought this unground wheat because I was interested to see what one can do with wheat berries. I need to find a way to grind it, the propeller style coffee mill is not really the right thing. I think we need to finally buy a burr grinder for our coffee - this is the tool that I think will allow us to grind the wheat.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Changeover at Chalet Winery

I need to get out to this winery and try it out. We had the Ortega wine we bought at Starling Lane the week - a decent white, though white has never been my thing.

Peninsula News Review
Changeover at Chalet Winery

By Cat George - Peninsula News Review

Published: July 09, 2008 11:00 AM
Updated: July 09, 2008 11:08 AM

Deep Cove location proved irresistible to the new owners

When Jane and Peter Ellman began looking for a small winery they could buy, they looked in a lot of different locations: the Okanagan, Oregon, Washington, the Lower Mainland.

“We were almost ready to buy one in Oliver and then this one came up on the Internet,” said Jane. “We decided to drive over and check it out.”

That was last August, and the sight of the serene, beautiful location was enough to convince the Ellmans. On May 1 of this year, they officially took over ownership of Chalet Estate Winery in North Saanich from Michael Betts and Linda Plimley.

Although it’s their first time with a winery of their own, both the Ellmans bring a wealth of experience in related industries to their new endeavour. Jane worked for the Marriott hotel chain in the United States for 16 years, both as a director of sales and a general manager. She even helped open a number of hotel properties. Peter, a chef by trade, had owned restaurants and then worked in a food and wine brokerage. In 2002, they were both on the road a lot for work. “My parents were ready to retire,” said Jane. “We had one young kid, and one on the way. I traveled with my job and Peter was on the road; [my parents] asked us to run their business in Edmonton, so I could stay home with the baby.”

So they headed to Alberta, where they took over the business for Jane’s parents for six years, working in the oil field/manufacturing business. When Jane’s father passed away in 2006, they decided it was time to move on. “The business was not for us,” she said, although she noted that selling oil rig mats was more lucrative than the winery business. “We told my Mom it was not in our hearts, and that our dream was to one day have a small winery.”

The only fear in the decision to buy in North Saanich was that they wouldn’t be able to make the big reds that they both enjoy so much, but Betts assured them that he did reds that required a warmer growing environment by bringing in grapes from the Okanagan. “It was the best of both worlds, we could still do the reds from the Okanagan and live in this beautiful spot,” Jane said. “This move, for us, was about a whole quality of life. We wanted the kids to grow up with country living.”

As neither Jane nor Peter are expert oenologists (winemakers), they decided to retain Betts as a consultant. Peter said that through his contacts with California wineries, they could have brought in an American winemaker, but felt there was no need to bring someone in when Betts already knew the products and the land.

That’s not to say that everything will be same-old, same-old at Chalet Estate over the next few years, as the Ellmans have brought their own particular vision of what the winery can be. They do intend to continue along a line already popular at Chalet — the combination of art, music, and wine. “We want to focus on art, music, and the corporate market,” said Jane, adding that while you could “never say never,” they didn’t think there would be much focus on the vineyard as a setting for weddings. “We can only do so much.”

The site has already played host to a corporate event since they arrived and Jane said that some changes in licensing — adding a deli license, for example, which would allow them to serve platters of local food — would make those even better. As for the artists, they are looking to bring even more on board. “We’ve put a call out to artists for an artists series of labels,” said Jane, adding that they were considering having an artist-in-residence program.

There are also plans afoot to start a “locals’ night,” when the winery would be open later and host wine pairings and offer local discounts. Some of the projects, however, may be a little down the road. “Everything we do, we want to do really well,” Jane said. “First impressions are so important.”

In the bottles, things will continue as they are for this season, as the Ellmans bought all of the wine inventory, including what was still barrelled, when they bought the winery. The grapes that grow on the property — three acres of Ortega, Pinot Gris, Bacchus, and Marechal Foch, enough for 640 cases — will continue in the line-up. “That’s what grows very well here, and we don’t mean to change that,” said Jane. (Some of the ‘local’ specialties, like Ortega, were a surprise for the Ellmans when they arrived, but they quickly found they enjoyed them.) Outside those products, however, Peter has well-laid plans for the upcoming seasons. He just returned from a trip to the Okanagan, where he was sourcing grapes for reds. “We’re going to trim back,” he said. “Too many labels is too confusing. We’re going to focus on what we do best.”

In the red, that’s going to include bigger reds, like Cabernet Sauvignon. “We’re going to start bringing in the correct grapes to make it,” Peter said, noting that while it can simply be a blend of Cabernet and Merlot, it can also be more complex. To that end, he’s picked up some of the Bordeaux varietals, like Malbec. “You can’t make big dog reds with chihuahuas,” he said with a laugh.

Sparkling wines, as well, aren’t too far off. With these changes, the five year plan has the winery rise in production from 2,500 cases a year to 8,500, and the market grow from mainly local — Vancouver Island and a little Lower Mainland — to nation-wide.

Since they took over in May, Jane said, things have been crazy; they leapt in right away and tastings have been buzzing ever since. The beautiful location has helped the transition; their children can easily walk to nearby Deep Cove school, and Peter and Jane can relax on the vineyard patio and watch the resident eagle family fly about. Between the relaxing and the busy moments, however, Jane has had time to think about what challenges the future will hold.

“The challenge, as for most wineries, is to ensure we continue making good wines, as good as Michael made,” she said. “Hand-crafted, high-quality wine. And continue on with farming organically.” Beyond the wines themselves, she sees the market heating up on all sides. “People now see the Island has potential. For a while, it was only the Okanagan, and now it’s really opened up, and there’s always competition with that. We have something going for us; it’s not just people coming into the shop, they can come sit in the vineyard, have a glass of wine, wander through the vines, and make it a really nice experience for tourists.”

Chalet Estate Winery is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for tasting, Tuesday to Sunday.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Good Food Box Program

I stumbled across this interesting local group - the Good Food Box Program.

The facebook group is here.

this is the closest thing to community supported agriculture that I have seen in this city.