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House Guest - A left coast road trip. · 13 April 2015 by colin newell

Chef Lisa from SoBo

Celebrated Tofino Chef Lisa Ahier brings her SoBo Cookbook to Spinnakers to launch new Victoria dinner series; Houseguest.

OnTheLeftCoast.com a​nd E​AT Magazine present a three part dinner series and industry outreach program featuring edible highlights from Tofino, Portland and Vancouver at a rotating host of local venues in an exciting pop-up format on the third Sunday of each month.

It started with a road trip down the coast. Then a ​scenic drive through the Pacific Northwest to enjoy the culinary highlights of a nearby city. Inspired by a warm welcome and a unique local connection with our new friends. We decided to invite them to visit us back home.

The idea was simple. Our group of industry professionals will curate a guest list of exciting talent from the west coast with presenting partner, EAT Magazine. A ​pop-up style program, serving as a catalyst for edible journeys to the coastal communities within reach of a road trip along the Left Coast.

Houseguest ​is a new series that will challenge diners to discover the hidden treasures close to home, build new creative culinary partnerships in nearby markets and showcase the quality of the burgeoning Vancouver Island culinary scene.

Read the entire media release below!

HG.LisaAhier.Release.pdf

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All you need is now - Living in Victoria - Beer Coffee Battle Royal · 11 April 2015 by colin newell

Andrea and I spoke with Veronica, creative and business partner at the new Second Crack Coffee on Bridge Street. Between sips of excellent single origin Ethiopian coffee freshly roasted on their Deidrich Roaster and nibbles on a delicious Empire Doughnut, we talked about how Veronica, Aaron and their young one made their way to Victoria. They came via Sweden and via Thailand.

Which begs the question. Why Victoria? Why here? Why now?

Well, guess what? Victoria B.C. Canada is currently ground zero for some of the best coffee in North America, a beer culture that is burning hotter than the engines on an Atlas rocket, a level of culinary competency never seen in our city before and an environment that is 2 and 1/2 seasons long: No snow. No ice. Continuous good times. It would be inaccurate to say that Victoria never sleeps and that the fun runs 24 hours a day… because it doesn’t. It sleeps alright. Upwards of 8 – 10 hours every day… So it can give you another 14 hours of awesome.

Coffee: If you have ever read my reasonably comprehensive list on what the city has to offer in the coffee department, you will know this: We cater to all tastes. We have an inexhaustible supply of freshly roasted single origin coffees and enough espresso coffee to keep and entire city on edge. We’ve got World class baristas on top of their game. We have more cafes per capita than most North American city – slightly behind (but not far) Portland and Seattle Washington. If there is a hip method of brewing coffee in Victoria, it’s here and it’s done really, really well.

Beer: In Victoria’s burgeoning community of brew lovers, our bearded and plaid clad dudes and stylish hipster damsels are a fashion show all to themselves. And the beer itself, well it flows into this city like an effervescent torrent that quenches an ever increasing thirst for unique and classic flavours. And we love it. I have been drinking beer since 1980 and I have never seen anything like this before. It’s amazing.

Food: There is nothing you can tune in on the Food Channel or experience in any four star restaurant in New York or Paris that you cannot get on some level here. Sure, Victoria food culture is something of an amalgam of styles – and there is nothing that is definitively “here” – But… we do a lot of styles really well. With the rise of awareness of sustainability and the 100 mile menu, we are seeing more fresh food, more authentic slow food being done really, really, really well. It’s exciting. It’s engaging and there is enough World quality food to keep you busy for months on end.

So. If you ever wonder why anyone would make their way from the four corners of the globe to come here, it is because it is great. So, if you live here, take a look around in the here and the now. Find your moment. This place is glorious and is totally “now”. Get into it. Check it out. It’s red hot and getting hotter.

All you need is now.


Colin is a Victoria resident and coffee culture writer. Always looking for the best cups and the best plates, Colin checks out them all – so you won’t be disappointed.

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Are you ready? Chapter One · 9 April 2015 by colin newell

Earthquake Victoria be prepared

It is 2:22 AM on the dot when the ground starts to move in Victoria. You are sleeping soundly in your bed and, initially, the noise and vibration doesn’t fully awaken you. Like emerging from an under water dive, you gasp at first as you reorient yourself to the full reality of being awake. By now 10 seconds has passed by and the side to side movement appears to be intensifying. You are now fully aware as the thunderous grinding noises of earth and rock pitched against each other unfold. Everything moves helplessly atop this geologic canvas in a way that is at once fully terrifying and at the same time cartoonish.

Everything that is not tied down is being thrown around as if in a childhood toy box. And now, you are just one of the toys at the mercy of forces both devastating and unseen.

You roll out of bed trying to stand up and as you reach for some clothing in the darkness, you realize that you control nothing – you are entirely at the mercy of this event. It starts and ends when it is good and ready. Through the window and in the street power poles pendulum back and forth, whipping power lines taut. They fracture, power transformers hum, flash and explode in a shower of sparks.

Before you know it you are pushing your way to the front door of your home, oddly still standing, its corridors littered with a lifetime of personal possessions. Common sense mixed with a supreme quantity of fear and dread set in. You remember some of the things you have heard about earthquakes, how most of the injuries occur while fumbling around in the minutes following the shaking. Much to your astonishment, you discover that you have pulled on a pair of shoes because it is a good thing: the floor of your home and the outdoors are layered with broken glass. It’s everywhere.

The suburb where you live has just been hit with an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 – the shaking lasted 27 seconds which seemed like much more. As you look around you are struck by the normality of everything on first glance. Nothing fell over, you think. As your hearing starts to kick in amidst the darkness and chatter of neighbors emerging from their homes, you take stock of your immediate surroundings. In the distance you can hear the hiss of broken gas lines, the report of people calling to each other, and even the sound of terror – those alone, staggering into the street wondering what is next.

Your earthquake check list is well established in your head. You instinctively reach for your tool kit that you keep in your car (and an extra set in the garage) and shut off the gas main to the house. Thankfully, there is no water rushing into the street as evidenced by a ruptured water main. Even though you are almost frozen with fear, you keep moving and pushing yourself through the experience.

Your check list scrolls in your head:
a.) Water… got at least a weeks worth in bottles (and lots of beer!)
b.) Candles… check c.) dried food… (enough for a dozen or so neighbors for a week!)
d.) first aid kit… check e.) shelter… house is still standing. It’s summer and I have a 4 person tent. Excellent.
f.) Radio. You grab it on the way out of the house. It’s tuned to a local AM station and has fresh batteries.

The local radio station is running on emergency power. This is your first and primary way of assessing what has happened on a broader scale. Your cell phone is currently a paper weight overloaded by panicked 911 calls and toppled towers. As you divide your attention between the crackling radio and the downtown horizon in the distance, you are overwhelmed by the site of a rising orange glow over the city.

To be continued


Colin Newell is a writer, technician and advocate for emergency preparedness – who is, more or less, prepared for anything nature can throw at him.

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20 years in coffee - part 1 · 8 April 2015 by colin newell

Chilling with cold brewed coffee

It is easy enough to get lost in the 140 character World of twitter where the quest is to be as funny or as informative as you can within some very strict guidelines. Problem is, one can spend way too much time just thinking about shrinking yourself down into this very small world.

Facebook is the same. One starts to think very small. It is like the social media universe is built to cater to the short attention span.

In the real world around us and above us there is no limit. There is no limit to what you can hear, see, small and taste. In the 20 years or so that I have been writing about coffee culture in Canada, I’ve seen it all, sipped it all and met every kind of coffee drinker. And yet I feel like I have just started to scratch the surface.

The exploration of the World around you (and in my case, the coffee World) is all about the people: Meeting them, talking to them, getting their unique perspective – taking it all in and taking away something new… adding to our own collective of knowledge.

In this my first chapter of a coffee journey lasting 20 years I start with today – about how random chance contacts with the people within and without the coffee world shape my perception of the world around me.

Today my coffee break routine was altered by the fact that I had forgotten to bring in a bag of coffee beans to prep in my lab for my fellow techs at 10 AM. I actually had to buy some brewed coffee. So I went to one of the most reliable joints on campus, the Finnerty Express. The Finnerty has been open for more than 20 years. It has been my go to place, either to hang out with friends and colleagues or to take a break from the fast paced World of IT. I celebrate that thing we call Coffee Break!

The Finnerty Express, over the years, has always featured the most passionate and cheerful of coffee people you could meet. After all these years, I think of the staff and crew at the Finnerty as my family.

Today we had a visit from the good people at Salt Spring Coffee – I chatted with one of the sales reps, Deb Franz, on the subject of coffee culture and their fresh new product: Cold Brew coffee.

I have always been a skeptic about changing the formula of a good thing – that is brewing coffee without hot water… I mean, how does that work. Anyway, SS Coffee has perfected the cold brew process by using quality coffee with the 15 hour steeping that cold brew requires and then bottling the “brew” when it is at its peak flavor. Now here is an additional kicker: Cold brew coffee has around 15% (or more) caffeine by volume and when you factor in the reality that the human body absorbs caffeine significantly faster when ingested from a cold beverage, you have the recipe for a stimulating and refreshing beverage.

Deb Franz brings to the coffee World an enthusiasm and passion for the bean and a desire to join the rest of us coffee lovers on this journey. A lifelong journey of exploration of the caffeinated beverage. Thank you for taking the time to chat Deb!

So: Cold brew coffee… a big thumbs up. Cold and refreshing right out of the bottle. And very peppy! I shared a bottle with 3 or 4 of my colleagues… even a non coffee drinker! Would I buy it again? Definitely.

In upcoming chapters I will reflect on two decades of discovery and adventure – and how the journey continues.


Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and coffee expert who has traveled to many corners of coffee World looking for the ultimate cup of coffee… and finding it.

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Good Eats - Masala Lamb meatballs. · 17 February 2015 by colin newell

Masala lamb HOT - from EAT Magazine

We shared a 1/2 lamb with my sister and brother-in-law – and with that package came from great ground lamb. This was the perfect recipe for lamb. This is a fascinating mixture of spice with an intriguing Mediterranean flavour and a nice bite. This recipe was inspired from the latest issue of EAT Magazine in Victoria B.C. Canada – but we mixed it up just a little bit. You can serve it with polenta, rice or pasta. We chose pasta. Overall, it takes about an hour to prepare so make sure you have a glass of red wine in your hand while you work!

SAUCE -
3 Garlic Cloves chopped
1 Onion chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon Cumin seeds
28 ounce canned plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt

MEATBALLS -

2 green onions shopped
2 eggs
1 slice brown bread
1/4 table cream
2 pounds ground lamb
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

TOPPING
Feta cheese.

PART ONE:

In a food processor, puree 3 garlic cloves with one chopped medium onion and
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in Dutch oven on medium heat.
Add 1 tablespoon cumin seeds and heat until they start to sizzle. Then add onion/garlic mixture.

Stir often until mixture softens and is translucent. Reduce heat to medium-low to prevent browning.
Cook 8 – 10 minutes.

PART TWO:

Puree canned plum tomatoes with 1 tablespoon garam masala and 1 teaspoon ea. Turmeric, Cayenne and Salt. Pour into pan with Onion and Garlic mixture. Stir in one cup water. Simmer 20 minutes to blend flavour.

PART THREE:

For the meatballs, in a food processor puree two chopped green onions with two eggs, one slice of brown bread torn into pieces and 1/4 cup table cream.
Turn this mix into a large bowl – add 2 pounds of ground lamb. 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground cumin and cinnamon. Add a pinch of salt. Gently mix until blended. Then shape into balls. Aim for a chubby golf ball size.

Makes about 20 meatballs.

PART FOUR:

Bake meatballs on baking (cookie sheet) brushed with oil. Broil until brown (6 – 8 minutes)
Then reduce heat to 375.

PART FIVE:

Add meatballs to sauce in Dutch oven. Cover and bake until sauce is bubbly and meat balls are cooked through. 10 – 15 minutes.

Finish with fresh mint and crumbled feta cheese.

We served over Penne pasta. Serves 4 – 6.

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BC Hydro where for art thou · 18 January 2015 by colin newell

We had a power outage from 7AM until around 11:30AM today.

BC Hydro

And it was patently obvious that outages were widespread — but because of my naturally curious nature, I went over to the BC Hydro website to look at the outage map — and the site stated: If your neighborhood is NOT on the map, please contact us — which I attempted… via mobile phone…
and their system would not recognize my address or phone number… so I went to the website to report the outage online — which it would not let me do UNLESS I had a linked online account with BC Hydro — which I do.

So: In order to report an outage online I need to have a “linked” online account… which I do. But the website reported that I did not lave a linked account even though I was logged in and “linked”

Being an emergency coordinator with the CRD in Victoria, it is very important to me that people be able to report to the primary utilities that something is amiss – and the system needs to work. BC Hydro’s system, however, failed miserably.

For all I knew, there might have been a small handful of customers in my 1km circle out – in fact, there were hundreds of neighbors without power. I wonder how many of them, elderly and not-as-technicial, were fretting about when and if their power would come back on.

On the plus side, this was a good time to check my emergency radio equipment – and everything worked like a charm. I was able to reach out via our amateur (ham) radio community VHF/UHF repeater grid which allows me to talk to pretty much any corner of Vancouver Island with ease. As well, my HF (Shortwave) system allowed me to reach out as far South as California and out to Ohio in the East on very low power.

For those interested in emergency planning and ham radio: There are thousands of active (volunteer) radio operators in B.C. that engage in emergency radio networks on a daily basis, year around and even on Christmas day —
Ostensibly to help keep communities safe and connected.

Now if BC Hydro could figure out their system glitches that would be great – It kind of begs the question: With all these smart meters in place, why do I need to report anything online or via the phone?

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