August 30, 2015

The Victoria Fringe, Three Shows

Victoria Fringe is something I have grown to love.  My first experience was on a last minute date to see a feminist show about Penis's, which turned into a really powerful story about domestic abuse.  The year after I took a day to myself to go go around to a few shows, and there found out about the hosting program.  Last year I hosted the indomitable Ian Ferrier, poet and musician for "For Body and Light".  Myself and the Brunette saw a couple of shows, and I went to Ian's show solo.  The latter was great, and completely not the sort of thing I'd have gone to normally.  Spoken word, guitar loops, dance, and storytelling all wrapped up in a most atmospheric whole.

So, this year, I offered to host Ian again, and got a few free tickets for letting him use the spare room at Vic-In-Person towers.  Result.

Ha! with Wes Borg

This is a 75-minute long one-man show about a young guy from Saskatoon becoming a comedian., based on the jokes written by his girlfriend.  Wes does all the characters, ranging from a gruff Saskethwan farmer, a gay queen, and a big black Torontonian comedian.  He flips between each voice rapidly, altering his pose and voice in a blurring whir.  It's amazing to watch and not as hard to follow as you'd expect.

The story uses the audience to represent the audiences at each location the story takes us, describing the highs and lows of being on the road, away from a heavily pregnant wife.  Many turns of luck show up for the meteoric rise, and of course, the inevitable fall. But this ends up being the making of our hero, and we end with the happy ending that makes Canadian sense after all.

Wes puts a lot into the show, he's manic for about 75 minutes, not letting up and must have lost about 10lbs in sweat.  The anger, fear and panic he exudes feels real at times.  The story loses itself somewhere in the middle, and could have been 10 minutes shorter, but it ends as well as it starts, and was well worth watching.

Porn and Pinochet with Andy Caneti

My favourite of the three shows I saw.  This is an autobiographical story of growing up as a Chilean in Canada, and later as Canadian in Chile.  Andy weaves his story through many different little anecdotes of his parents being something very different from the other parents he saw in Canada, and his own realization when he moved back to Chile how much different his own personality was from his classmates in Sasketchwan.

Along the way, he discusses whether he really did lose his virginity at age 13, his first experience with video-taped porn, having to keep on the good side of the pro-Pinochet supporters in Chilean, and his relationship with his parents.

While the narrator is a stand-up comedian by day, this is less stand-up and more story telling... though it's funny and there are many punchlines.  There's also some insights into his life and some heartfelt moments of his own realizations.  No spoilers but there is plenty of emotion along with the yuks towards the end.

Two by the Catador Theatre group

For some reason I thought this was a one-handed play, but it's a multi-part piece, which has two stories running side by side, using a simple point of divergence: a missed call on the cell phone.  We watch the lead characters go through their day, intertwining with each other, and a couple of set pieces which show the tedium of their jobs at a coffee shop.  These scenes had a lot of walking around on the set, and the heavy footsteps didn't add a rhythm to the show but instead made a distracting noise. They intertwined the two stories here a lot, but instead of being offset mirrors, they were a jumbled mess of action.

Then we get the best and the worst act. The noisy bar.  The best, as the acting and writing here was compelling and interesting. The worst as I had to really strain to hear the dialogue over the background music in the bar.  Which is a shame, as both sets of dialogue were well acted and well written, advancing what we knew about the central character and her relationships with other people that were not yet clear.  This part, where the two parallel stories were the same but very different was good stuff.

Until the ending act.  Which, as warned, contained scenes of violence and sexual assault. But it was both telegraphed earlier, and one dimensional. It just felt like an easy answer and ending (and a tragic ending too) without much examination, or even a build up of tension beforehand before the release.  In the end, the story had good parts, but overall didn't hang together very well for me.


August 23, 2015

Ross Bay Pub, Fairfield, Victoria

I haven't done music bingo in a while.  It's a fun enough reason to sit in the pub, have a bevy and laugh with your friends.  It's even better when you win two prizes for your efforts of recognizing the words in a chorus and marking it on a grid.

Which is what I did on Saturday night with a friend and some of her friends.  At the Ross Bay Pub.  The Ross Bay used to be a White Spot and is now a corner pub in a strip mall.  From the outside, it looks like a cafe with darkened windows and a secluded patio.  Inside, it's narrow, with a some tables up on a higher level, and some high tables scattered around the front as well, making it feel cramped, even if it isn't really.

We gathered around a six person table and were served waters pretty quickly.  Drink service took a bit longer, as there'd just been a rush of new diners, probably all here for the music bingo.  Still I got the Saturday special pint of Lucky (just for a change, right?) and ordered the BLT sandwich.

The Lucky Lager was cold and wet.  It disappeared quickly as I'd just cycled down and was thirsty.  It was replaced by a pint of the Russell Blood Alley Bitter.  This lasted much longer (most of the evening). It's rich, flavourful pint, with a nice complex set of malty and hoppy flavours.  Mmmm.

My food was pretty good as well.  A mid-size door stop of a sandwich, a good pile of lettuce and tomato, and a couple of rashers of bacon.  Not stuffed full of meat, but it worked out well.  The fries were big, beef-eater cut planks of potatoes, covered with some sort of crispy batter.  This gave them a big crunch, but also made them stick together.

Two of my friends shared a huge platter with wings, waffle fries, calamari, potato skins and onion rings.  This was a big pile of stuff and was more than enough for two folks.  I tried a bit of the Calamari, and it was decent... a bit peppery, but the flesh was tender and not rubberized.

The stuffed Yorkshire went down well too and was served in a big pile. This was to make it look like a massive portion while it was just a big one instead.  The veggie pizza at the table looked just average, and like the base had been pre-toasted.  The rack-o-ribs was a full foot long or more of juicy ribs, that I am told were good too.

All in, the food has a more than passing grade.  It's pub food, done well, but with no frills or extras.  And no reason why it should be frilly or fussy.  It's not that place, it's a community corner pub.  With it's big TVs and music bingo.

The bingo is hosted by an amiable, and occasionally funny compere.  He'd toured and played in a band called 'Shag' for a while.  So he dropped in a few celebrities names of people he'd met, and bands he loved as he played them.  I agree, Blondie is not disco, but there they were in the 70's Disco round.  It was fun for two rounds, but after that, I could have done with a bit of low-level music, coupled with a kicked back chat with the people at my table, rather than another round, featureing classic rock snippets.

Still, we won 3 prizes out 9 at our table... I took home a Molson Canadian branded cooler bag.  I won another one earlier in the evening (with golf balls) but passed this on to my fellow brit at the table who realized the uses it might have for taking beer around the disc golf courses.

Cycled home, a full belly and a happy memory.  Not a bad spot, and will visit again.

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August 16, 2015

Shirley Day, Shirley, BC

Shirley was named in honour of the joke in Airplane that ends with the punchline: 'Don't Call Me Shirely'.  Surely.

Shirely is a small community on the road out of Sooke towards Jordan River, Port Renfrew and the edge of the Pacific.  As you travel through the woods on the border of the Juan De Fuca, you'll pass a swathe of B&B's, cabins and getaway lodges.  There's small holdings and farms, a meadery and The Shirley Delicious Cafe.  Next to the Shirley Fire Hall and the social centre of this settlement.

The lovely Brunette of my Acquaintance knows the area well, selling her baked goods and jams at a market there every couple of weeks.  But once a year, there's the Shirley Fun Day, where everyone in the area and beyond comes togther, buys local produce, meets, greets and eats BBQ salmon.  All intended to raise funds for the fire hall and to keep the community centre running.

It makes the rural crowd proud.  They chat to the neighbours that they may not see quite as often, bond over shared experiences and check in with each other.  Meanwhile, the kids run around and cause gentle mayhem. And the urbanites in their BMWs drive out to buy the most exquisite chocolate brownies I have ever had ($1 a square).

I could have spent a small fortune on veg and jarred preserves, but came away with some fresh Arugla sprouts.  And a belly full of BBQ Salmon.  Which was delicious, especially with a heaping mound of fresh salad (probably not locally grown) and a chuck of tasty olive oil bread.  And some rice.  Pretty good meal for $12.50.

I also managed to win a case of Joia Natural Sodas and a new baseball cap in the silent auction.  The Brunette is not so keen on me wearing a cap all the time. I maintain it keeps the sun out of my eyes and the sweat of my neck.  Though as The Libertines once wrote:

There are fewer more distressing sights than that
Of an Englishman in a baseball cap
And we'll die in the class we were born
Well that's a class of our own my love
A class of our own my love

(A Time for Heroes)

We left the country idyll to the sounds of the loudest Electronic Dance Music I've heard since I went to 'rave' aged 19.  Apart from that, if you are out that way, stop in to the cafe, or the Sunday markets. 

August 09, 2015

The Salt and Pepper Fox, Food Delivery, Downtown Victoria

I am working at the Watershed a couple of days each week. I recently hosted a packed lunch boardgame session there.  The food was ordered in from the Salt and Peper Fox.  I assumed the Salt and Pepper Fox was some older dude with gray hair and a smooth, louche manner.   Instead, he's much younger, with no greying hair, and a friendly, effective manner.

The Salt and Pepper Fox specializes in handmade, brown bag lunches.  These are delivered to your workplace, as long as you've ordered before 3 pm the day before.  There's a small but good selection of sandwiches, 3 sides salads, and a bunch of extras, like pop, chips and cookies.

I ordered the Mum's egg salad, with a kale caesar (because I love my kale) and a bag of Hardbite salted chips.  It arrived all wrapped up in a big brown paper bag. My name on.  Just like my Mum would have made for me if she'd been in North America where the brown paper bag lunch is a thing. Instead, I used to have lunch in a plastic lunch box, with a thermos full of orange squash, and a sandwich roll, on a home baked bread roll.  If it was salami, the filling would not always get eaten (sorry mum).  If it was ham or cheese, it was eaten with much happiness.

But enough nostalgia.

The caesar had a smooth, creamy dressing, that wasn't slapped all over the leaves, but instead just enough to add a zest to the dark lush green leaves.  The croutons were crunchy, showing they'd only been added to the salad recently, and not allowed to soak and go soggy.  Very nice.

The sub-style sandwich was overflowing with a fresh egg mayonnaise and big chunks of mature cheddar cheese.  The eggs were rich, golden, flavourful chunks, that were offset by the slightly salty bite of the cheddar.  There was a liberal helping of crisp iceberg lettuce to add a little crunch to the proceedings.  A very fine sandwich, a two napkin affair as the filling escaped the bread.

The chips were 'Hardbite'.  They do a decent enough crunchy bag of chips.  I can't get excited about them.  They rounded out the $12 meal nicely. That's the meal deal: 1 sandwich, 1 side, 1 salad.  There's plenty of eating in there to fill you up. I'd probably leave the side for an afternoon snack next time... and go for a fresh baked cookie.

The roast chicken and harvati got two big thumbs up from the rest of the group. I'd probably give the tuna a go next time... tuna, cheddar and a fresh red pepper sauce sounds like a good combination to me.

Monday's lunch menu is always a special edition but I have no had a chance to try it yet. This isn't as cheap as Subway.  But this is also delivered, saving you time and effort, and you are getting great, healthy food.  My next packed lunch board game session is coming up on the 18th, and I'll be ordering again

August 02, 2015

Top five brunches in Victoria

I'll admit it, I have had this posting on hold for a while for the week where I just don't have anything new to post and write about.  I just can't keep it back any longer, but in no particular order, here's my list of top brunch spots in Victoria:

1) The Fernwood Inn.  The two egg breakfast is a great deal, but  the steak and eggs skillet is fantastic.  Eat here on a hot summer's day, on the patio. Enjoy the parsnips muddled up into the breakfast potatoes, the big meaty pork sausages or the apricot toast.  Prices are a little high, but you pay for the quality.

2) Glo.  The beef short rib hash has all the right combinations for a meat eater's breakfast: potatoes are done with plenty of flavour and starch to fill you up, protein exuding a rich, savoury flavour and eggs letting out a golden yoke to add richness to the piles of veggies hash underneath.  You can get a wind-shaded spot outside, or enjoy the quiet indoors any time of the year.  Why this place is not rocking every Sunday is probably due to the location out of the down core.

3) The Blue Fox. If it just was as quiet as Glo, I'd probably not have anything else to write about, as I'd just go there all the time, and this blog would merely be 52 weeks of eating at the Blue Fox.  However, this isn't the Worst Idea of All Time (and anyways that would involve eating at Cora's every Sunday for a year).  Instead, it's a rare treat that remind me how good the basics of food can be done.

4) The Guild.  The full works breakfast at the Guild is a heart attack on a plate.  If you ate it every day, never exercised and washed it down with a pint of melted ice cream.  As the start to set yourself up for a long day's hike/renovations/moving a friend out of their fifth-floor walk-up apartment after a relationship-ending fight, it's a grand start.  I love the mix of west-coast and English-style gastropub at the Guild.  And the fact it's never too busy.

5) Spoons.  Only if you can catch it when it's just busy enough to be good for people watching, and not so busy the wait is half a day.  They do traditional breakfast here with plenty of everything. Or they twist it up a notch or five with a some extra combination, like breakfast fajitas or a massive side of poutine with your pulled pork benny.  Go for a diner style experience, and you'll be more than happy.

I think that's my top five.  Other favourites include Avalon, Picnic Too and Ferris's upstairs.  It's a hard list to confine to just five in Victoria.  And indicates the high bar you have to clear here to be notable.

EDIT: Uptairs at Ferris's no longer does a brunch menu, I am reliably informed. No more Weekend Crossword...