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Eat, Drink and Love
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Waiting on the farmers and public market chapter one · 6.05.13 by colin newell

Hey everyone! Thank you for your patience. It has been a while since I have blogged regularly – no excuse at this point… and it is not like there isn’t a lot going on to report on… because there is. So let’s dig in already!

Hudson Market Coming in June!

Living in the urban environment of Victoria B.C. comes with a dynamic and ever changing set of variables when it comes to hunting and gathering – because let’s face it folks: Food and drink is the one thing that you spend the most time thinking about – go ahead, deny it. It is likely true.

For instance, when I am making breakfast, I am probably thinking about lunch and dinner (the latter more likely) and I am often looking forward a couple of days. Our weeks (lucky us) almost always include a date night. And date night means a dinner out – generally on Thursdays. We cook in virtually all the other nights and this is our reward. It is also a good habit to get into – it is good for the economy and it is great for a relationship.

And for those people that know Andrea and I, I might just be a little guilty of frequenting favorite places to the exclusion of a little variety and risk taking. But that is OK too – because becoming a regular at one or more local joints has it advantages.

Back to the gathering for a moment. One of my bad habits, locally, is not making much effort to do fully sensible shopping – and that would include going to farmers markets, local markets, even corner stores or natural food stores that go that extra mile to bring you local produce and products. I will not name any names but I shop at a local “Canadian owned” mega-mart that used to (they probably still do…) sends Island grown products to Vancouver for sorting – and then ships them back to Victoria – which is utterly and inexcusably bad on so many levels.

Anyway – just around the corner is the June opening of the Hudson’s Public Market in the old Hudson’s Bay building on Douglas, Blanshard, Herald and Fisgard blocks. I am so ready for this – and yes, I know there are markets like the “Moss” that is closer that I do not currently take advantage of. My bad. Baby steps right.

Victoria’s last year round Public market closed in the late 50’s – so technically, I have been waiting that entire time for a public market in Victoria. There have been a few sad attempts in Victoria… but clearly, they never succeeded. So. It’s coming. I am excited. And I really hope that the city of Victoria embraces this market – because we need it – for Oh so many reasons.

On one hand, there are great food products around us – which is awesome. On the other hand, there are some fabulous products and foods being produced on the Island that are not readily available – maybe until now – and yes, I get that there are various neighborhood markets… but they are only open on the weekend.

So expect to see me in the front of the line on opening day!

This is the first in a series of hunting and gathering on southern Vancouver Island – how important it is to better understand our food supply – and to embrace and preserve natural, healthy and holistic food production on Vancouver Island.

Stay tuned!


Another rare Christmas medley from the Hans Steffan Singers. · 17.12.12 by colin newell

The Hans Steffan Choir Live

Merry Ho Ho with the Hans Steffan Choir

Still picking through my recordings from a Zoom H4 -

Enjoy and Season Greetings! I am somewhere down in the mix of these talented “older” guys!

If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3.


A Christmas Choir on a solemn Friday night... · 14.12.12 by colin newell

The Hans Steffan Choir Live

After a tough day we played 3 shows around Victoria – just grabbed a quick track. This choir has never been recorded before. Enjoy.

If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3.


West Coast Living - the survival chapters - chapter 1 · 7.11.12 by colin newell

For those of us that have lived on the West coast for a while, almost everyone has encountered a minor tremor – an earthquake – or even more rarely, a staggering wind and rain storm that knocks out the power for a few hours – and even more rarely, a snow storm that brings everything to a standstill.

One such snow storm occurred, casually at first, on December 21st, 1996 – By Christmas day there was over 1 foot of snow in most places around the Victoria area – the snow picked up in earnest over the next few days and by the afternoon of December the 28th, the snowfall was full on with little indication of stopping anytime soon – and by the afternoon of the 29th, we had a 2 day record of 124cm or 48 inches – a whopping 4 feet of snow! This event seized up the transportation system. The roads were impassable. Telephone lines and power, for the time being, remained thankfully stable.

What was immediately problematic was – everyone was a shut in. For senior citizens and those unprepared for this kind of weather, the prospect of being “locked in” for 48 to 72 hours was almost completely probable.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody died or froze to death – but it was an excellent exercise in the area of “surviving” when at least one or two elements of mobility were taken away – in this case, the ability to “move” and the ability to “gather” supplies.
Most of us, at least, have 3 to 5 days worth of food on hand – some people more, some people less. And as much as I would like to have a larger supply of water in the house, I do not. (Yet) But I do have over 40 bottles of wine and 25+ pints of homemade beer – and that alone is a valuable source of nutrition! Friends, make a note of where I live!

Problem is, for Island residents, we have become somewhat complacent over time. When 25 – 35 years or so passes with little or no consequential seismic activity locally, we do not take the risks seriously. Recent events in the area of the Haida Gwaii and the central coast have been something of a wake up call – but how awake are we today, some weeks after the event. Who among us has become completely prepared? Here is a fairly complete list of what you probably need and what you should know in the event of an Earthquake or storm resulting in the loss of power, shelter and/or communications.

Here is one of the hardest facts that we all need to swallow: You may and likely will be without immediate help for up to 72 hours – that is 3 days. Prepare to settle in – and hope that the weather is not too unpleasant!

Water – Have a minimum two litres of water per person per day (including small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order) – Most people do not drink enough water during normal day to day routines – but when there is a crisis, water is going to keep you alive and you are going to go through it quicker than you think and you may be sharing. Have some in your home, in your office at work and in your car of you have one. I may be a bit more cautious, paranoid or prepared than most people but I have a liter of water in a steel jug with me at all times – not just at my desk but on my person – when I am at work or when I am doing my weekend hike around town.

Food – The number two most important item. You are not going to last very long or stay well in a crisis with zero food intake – and the good news is that there are lots of dry alternatives that you keep you out of trouble; energy bars, dried fruit, nuts and canned foods – you need to replace most of this annually, so you can consume as you go, day to day, but try and maintain a stock of protein and carbohydrate rich snacks. And keep in mind that many energy bars require a ready supply of water – do not consume them without water.
And once again, you can keep stuff like this in your car, your office and your home.

Tool and Health kit – Being a technician at a local University I always have a tool bag slung over my shoulders – I call it my “Jack” bag – after Jack Bauer of 24 – It has basic tools, tech gadgets, water bottle, wires, soldering iron and a leatherman utility knife, bottle opener and/or a cork screw – My wife often winces when we hit the road for a trip over the Malahat – but it is in the trunk and out of site and has enough “McGyver” bits and pieces to find a solution to any problem that comes along.
What you should have is: a knife, bandages, antibiotic cream, aspirin and any medications that you might be on, a flashlight (even if its daytime!), extra batteries, waterproof matches and yes, candles. Hey, it cannot hurt! A palm sized transistor radio is a must have even if you have a radio in your car. Under no circumstances should people rely on cell phones to get them out of a bind after an Earthquake or major weather crisis. This technology is way too dependent on other technology and electricity to be reliable during a crisis.

I call my preceding Tool and Health bag a “1 day solution” – settling in for a 3 day state of isolation requires an investment in some more stuff…

The 3 Day Kit – in addition to what we have covered so far, you need to think about the following items:

Shelter – nothing makes your temporary stay out of doors more challenging than no cover – and if you are lucky enough to find yourself at the mercy of a conflagration generated by mother nature during summer time, count your blessings – chances are, it is going to be in January. So you need to have warm clothing handy. And you need to have a method of staying warm outside and being able to sleep on the ground or somewhere with no heat. Items that come to mind are sleeping bags (that come at all prices and levels of sophistication down to basic foil survival blankets – 1 per family whichever you pick.
The 3-day kit should also include garbage bags (for personal hygiene, disposal of clothing and waste…), Toilet paper X 4 rolls which should serve a family of 4 for a few days, rubber or vinyl gloves – several pairs per day per person, a few heavier tools that the ones listed in the kit bag above; hammer, big screwdriver or a universal screw driver, a pair of variable pliers or a pair of locking vise grips – super duper useful!
And now, really important: More water! 2 additional liters of water per person per day! For cooking and cleaning. Yup, we use water like this in real life! Makes you think twice when you are letting the water run when you are brushing your teeth!
Some optional goodies could include a good quality camp stove – and be careful, the fuel cells for these are highly flammable – storage might be a challenge – a method of boiling water and cooking is very handy, particularly among us coffee drinkers.
And it that regard, think about having pouches of ground coffee or a bottle of instant coffee – it has caffeine in it and trust me, you are going to need your caffeine in a crisis!

I will stop there for now – in the next chapter, more on the other skills and things you might need during and after an earthquake or crisis here on the west coast.


Food Drink and Customer Culture Victoria - Mark Engels interview · 10.09.11 by colin newell

Mark Engels of Bubby Roses Kitchen and Bakery

I have known Mark Engels for years – and if you are a Victoria resident and fan of great food and drink, then there are few people better to have the ear and opinions of.

Victoria has lots of interesting food people. Many of them with a leading edge sense of what is going on here, some of the things that have been attempted in the past (that have failed) and some things on the horizon.

Which often brings me to one of Mark’s food and bakery ventures. I am a junkie for whats happening and what might be happening in the Victoria food groove. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy having a leg up on the food culture intelligence?

And considering that there are few people as driven as Engels, there are even fewer people that will have that innate 6th sense of the trends.

We spoke at Bubby’s Kitchen, Oscar and Cook St. on Saturday over his interpretation of the gourmet burger and the classic kosher hot dog – and the life and times of one of Victoria’s most beloved bakers and raconteurs, his staff, his customers and the trials and tribulations of running a tight culinary ship.

Mark’s dialog is a contiguous and literate stream, musings include a dissertation on the fragile nature of the food supply, satisfying a seemingly endless queue of regular devotees, customers old and new – all ages, the scaled up version of “Bubby’s Bakery” now in dining form at Oscar and Cook street, and so on.

Mark, Valerie and their business partner Joel are part of a, not so much revitalization, but a fresh stucco treatment of the historic Cook Street Village. The density near village center has gone up some – with the addition of condos near the core, and the relevance of more food services has never been more welcomed. Which is not to say that food choices were never stellar – The Cook street village has evolved with the times. And Mark and company have kept it ahead of the wave as it were.

Mark muses on the broad spectrum of customers in the village, “Look at our customer base down here… young parents, the elderly, urban professionals… somewhat different than Bubby’s at Meares and Cook…” Cook and Meares is almost something of a bakery hipster hang out with way more civil servants, writers, students, etc.

Mark pauses to direct a few staff and frequently interacts with everyone on the team. He continues, “Valerie and I are always delighted when we get that extra-special super passionate staffer – in fact, they all become part of the Bubby’s family in short order…”

As a food writer I am always looking for that special something-something that separates the average food places in Victoria from the gems; like Bubby Roses, Zambri’s, the great cafes, and dozens of others. And it comes down to passion and putting the “perfection” ahead of the profit.

Mark injects, “There are myriad ways of making more money on the process of running a place like this… raising the price of items without reason or justification, or taking the fun factor out of the equation… At Bubby’s the passion comes before the bottom line…”

I get the sense that when the fun ends that Mark will hang up his fedora.

In the meantime, Andrea and I share the Bison burger, perfectly prepared, presented on a bun made in house, with a in-house salsa and aioli – and an all beef “dog” and a bowl of awesome (and very hot) Minestrone soup.


Dining out in Victoria - Vis-a-vis - Oak Bay Avenue · 3.09.11 by colin newell

There are fewer things finer than dropping what you are doing (in my case blogging…) and grabbing the car keys, camera bag and my hungry wife to pop out for some spontaneous dining.

In this case – Vis a vis Wine Bar on Oak Bay Avenue.
One of our favorite local places is Stages in Fernwood – and this place is a little like Stages; charcuterie, small plates and lots of wines to sample in small glasses – or large glasses if you are so inclined.

Vis a vis is a partnership with The Penny Farthing pub next door on Oak Bay Avenue – but that is where the similarity ends. While sitting on the sidewalk patio, many many people walked by and turned into The Farthing… and that is OK. This is a completely different place. A great place. We came curious and hungry.

And we left satisfied with a new place to take ourselves… and friends.

Menu items below: Squid with squid-ink fettucini, Pork belly, grapefruit, endive, maple & onion caramel, Beef fennel salami & Juliet brie.

Salami and cheese at Vis-a-vis on Oak Bay Dining out - Pork Belly and Maple glaze at Vis-a-vis on Oak Bay Dining out - Squid and squid-ink pasta at Vis-a-vis on Oak Bay Dining out - bread, Salami and cheese at Vis-a-vis on Oak Bay Dining out - bread, Salami and cheese at Vis-a-vis on Oak Bay Smart Meters - good or bad. The Nespresso Pod machine - how convenient


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