West Kootenay Rail Trail

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Rail Trail Summit Lake, B.C.

Finally had a chance to go for a bike ride – between work and paddling, my two-wheeled friend has been all but neglected.  The Nakusp and Slocan Railway used to run from Nakusp, B.C.  to Sandon, B.C.  The trail follows the same route – some good on a bike, some not so much.

I choose to ride from the west end of Box Lake, just out of Nakusp, to the east end of Summit Lake.  A farm in the middle of the trail was a bit of a downer.  I knew it was there but thought the trail went around it, not through it. There is a way around it that requires a bit of highway time.

The eastern end of the trail is the toad migration.  Although the trail was again impassable, it was pretty cool watching the trail covered with so many tiny toads.

www.trailforks.com - Rail Trail
www.en.wikipedia.org - Nakusp and Slocan Railway
www.env.gov.bc.ca - The Western Toad
thenorthwestforager.com - The Thimbleberry

Best Ways for Restaurant Servers to Earn More Money

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One of the biggest challenges a food and beverage manager faces is maintaining the quality of service.  Although the product a kitchen produces may be top-tier, it is sadly undermined by poor or inconsistent service.  Food is only part of a guest’s experience – beverage and service make up the other two-thirds.  By not delivering a full experience, we fail to give our patrons what they are paying for, especially in a gratuity-based service culture.   So I offer the following resources as training tools for new servers and as a reference or reminder for the experienced.  Feedback and suggestions regarding tips and tools that may have helped others out in the service industry are welcome in the comments below.

Links

Video Links

Server Steps of Service

  • Welcome guests with warmth and appreciation and break the ice with some pre-business banter (ie. Have you been here before? Are you a guest of the hotel? What plans do you have today?). Make them feel special and important!
  • Give the guests your name in a genuine way. Avoid clichés like “Hi my name is ………., I will be your server today.”  Waiting until the end of the introduction and saying something like,  “… my name is ………………, if there is anything you need, please let me know”,  makes it something that they will remember!
  • Pour water immediately and talk about menus, along with drink and food specials. If they haven’t visited the establishment before, talk to them about the menu layout, feature dishes and your recommendations.  If they have been here before, talk about trying something new on the menu.
  • Be well informed about the wines beer and cocktail menus, in order to assist with drink selection. Do not ask “What can I get you to drink?”  Instead, offer them a pint of beer, cocktail or a glass of wine.  This way, a guest is likely to choose from one of the three options as opposed to make a quick decision for a pop or water.
  • Recommend personal favorites and listen to the likes, dislikes and dietary restrictions of your guests. Remember, you are the expert on the menu.  By asking them what they are in the mood for and how hungry they are, you should have a pretty good idea about what they want.  Guests do not want to make decision about what they want to eat, really they want you to.
  • Inform guests about food preparation details when necessary, while answering questions about menu items – what it tastes like, why it’s special. Create anticipation of what is coming so they are excited and they don’t get any negative surprises.
  • Treat every allergy as if it was your own, and communicate with the Manager or Chef before ringing in special requests. This will allow the guest to see how serious you take allergies/requests and allow them to be at ease.
  • Order food carefully and accurately, being sure to include all modifiers, taking the time to review before sending the order. Be sure to use accurate seat numbers so that others can run your food.
  • Set up the table with everything needed for the food that was ordered. This should be done as soon as possible to assure it is for sure done .  Items like extra cutlery, side bowls, condiments and extra napkins will ensure guests can start eating as soon as the food arrives and don’t have to wait until they can ask someone for the item they need.
  • Ensure water glasses are refilled regularly and additional drinks are ordered before the drink they have is empty.
  • Double-check the food as it comes up, and wait until the entire order is ready before removing plates from the line. Never run food before the kitchen has put up your bill. Food should not get cold while sitting on the table in front of the guest as they wait for everyone else to get their food.
  • Deliver food, ensuring that you are always open to the guest – always aware of your elbows and armpits. Always use the right hand to serve from the right side of the guest and left hand to serve from the left side of the guests.
  • Return to the table after guests have had time to enjoy two bites. A quality check should be specific and focused. Not, “How is everything tasting?” But rather, “Is your steak cooked the way you like it?” or “Is that chicken as delicious as it looks?”  Avoid the guest saying everything is good as it is a conditioned response that doesn’t give us proper feedback.  This eliminates any issues the guest will have later on.
  • Clear plates as they are finished with at the table – this can be identified with the fork and knife placed together in the 5 o’clock position. Avoid stacking plates on top of each other at the table as it looks too casual.
  • Remove anything from the table that is no longer needed, being sure to wipe away fallen food. Giving the guest room on the table allows them to be comfortable.
  • Never offer dessert as it gives the guest a chance to say no.  Instead, bring the dessert menu to the table and let them know your favorite or a “must have”.  Remind your guests of our selection of digestifs, such as scotch, liqueurs, dessert wines or specialty coffees.
  • Review the guest’s bill before presenting it, and process payment as quickly as possible. Do not make a guest feel rushed, but if they do want to leave quickly, this allow them to do so.
  • Always bring change, never ask if they need it.
  • Always take the time to warmly thank guests and invite them to come again. Let them know,  “It was a pleasure to serve you tonight, my name is …………., I hope to see you again soon.”

Humor and Sarcasm

5 Kombucha Recipes You Must Try

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There is so much more to a brewing a satisfying batch of Kombucha than a scoby, some tea and some great flavor ideas like the ones listed below.  Use the first fermentation to get a great base for a finished product – my recipe has been refined over time to yield a consistent brew.  Although invariable conditions are ideal, tasting at the end of the first fermentation is critical, regardless of whether a second fermentation is to take place.  This takes into account factors such as weather, temperature, and location as well as tea blend, scoby health and age, and other inevitable variances.

So flavors.  Second fermentation.  I recently came across this article that offered some great flavor combinations as well as valuable insights into brewing techniques – definitely worth a read.  Other suggestions? Be sure to use natural fruit juices with as few ingredients as possible, organic is best.  Be aware of pH levels of fresh fruits as these will affect fermentation and may result in exploding brews or non-carbonated ones.  Use whole, fresh herbs whenever possible – dried ones become more ‘generic’ tasting as they age and are harder to remove before consumption.

Blueberry Lavender

  • Each of 4 x 750ml Grolsch Style bottles: 
  • 4 x 8″ lavender sprigs and stocks, cut in half
  • 90 ml natural blueberry juice (organic)
  • topped with Kombucha – leave a few inches at top

Mango Ginger

  • Each of 4 x 750ml Grolsch Style bottles: 
  • 2″ knob of ginger, peeled, thin sliced, cut to fit in bottle
  • 90 ml strained natural mango juice (organic)
  • topped with Kombucha – leave a few inches at top

Strawberry Peppercorn

  • Each of 4 x 750ml Grolsch Style bottles: 
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorn
  • 1/2 tsp whole pink peppercorns
  • 90 ml strained natural strawberry juice (organic)
  • topped with Kombucha – leave a few inches at top

Apple Mint

  • Each of 8 x pint jars: 
  • 1/3 granny smith apple- peeled, cored, sliced
  • 6 fresh torn mint leaves
  • 60 ml natural apple juice (organic)
  • topped with Kombucha – leave 1/2″ to 3/4″ at top

Cherry-mary Pomegranite

  • Each of 4 x 750ml Grolsch Style bottles: 
  • 1 x 3″ rosemary sprig
  • 45 ml natural cherry juice (organic)
  • 45 ml natural pomegranite juice (organic)
  • topped with Kombucha – leave a few inches at top

 There’s wiggle room in any recipe and there’s no exceptions here. Be as food-safe as fermentation allows, follow your tastebuds, and have fun. Happy brewing. 

Game of Thrones Season 7 – Winter is Coming

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What!? Is it really happening? Game of Thrones Season 7 starts July 16 and is likely the most anticipated season premiere of any HBO series, nay, any network series ever. Is it bad that I’m already dreading the finale? Here are a few links to back into it.  Winter is Coming!

 

Continue reading “Game of Thrones Season 7 – Winter is Coming”

Chris Cornell – Dies at Age 52

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Chris Cornell, Soundgarden, Vancouver 1992 by Lance Mercer

Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Blind Melon, STP: bands that make up a huge portion of the soundtrack to my young adult life.  Chris Cornell was instrumental in the evolution of  the Grunge era of music, my music.  His influence on the evolution of Rock as we know it today is undeniable.  The only thing positive that comes from the death of an icon like Chris Cornell, is the personal nostalgia that come with the remembering the artist and his music.  RIP Chris Cornell, and thanks for the mix tape.

Sources: CBC, CNN, Billboard

Kootenay Foraging – 10 Edible Reasons you Should Take a Hike this Autumn

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Back before life had responsibilities, I did not look forward to autumn because it marked the end of summer.  It marked the end of endless days of sunshine, swimming, bike riding, building forts.  Family vacations, hanging out with friends, BBQs.  Summer was a time of freedom from responsibility, a time for fun, for play. And winter, the time for snow, for hockey and for Christmas.  Winter was still so far away.

At some point though a change in my mind set occurred.  I can’t remember the exact date but I most definitely do remember the catalyst: surfing.  Tofino is dubbed Tuff City for many reasons.  One such reason alludes to how much fortitude one needs to live year round on the west coast of Vancouver Island, in a temperate rainforest that receives about 130 inches of rain annually, over about 210 days.  It’s about mid to late October when the swell starts picking up. This coupled with decreased tourist activity, especially on the beaches, was very much something to look forward to.

Although I haven’t lost my love of the ocean, the beaches are no longer just down the road.  And despite the abundance of beautiful lakes in the area fit for paddle boarding and canoeing, they don’t give up much in the way of waves to ride.  (Although I have heard of a break on Okanagan Lake, just out of Penticton.)  What the Kootenays lake in waves, they make up for in snow.  Wow!  Some of the nicest powder in the world some say and I wouldn’t argue.  The Monashee, Selkirk and Purcell Mountains have some back country terrain that is breathtaking – covered in snow for riding or carpeted green or muddy for biking.
Autumn though, the bit of time between warmth and cold, between sun and snow. This special time of year in the same mountain ranges mentioned above offer even more if you’re walking or hiking in their forests and trails. After the rains start, so do the mushrooms.  Pines, chanterelle, porcini and lobster mushrooms are some of the more sought after.  However coral mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and puffballs are out there as well. Even walking around the neighbourhood looking around the backyard, fairy ring and meadow mushrooms abound.  I find it akin to fishing: fishing is called fishing not catching as foraging is not necessarily called finding.  What is guaranteed is fresh air and an abundance of nature. Being attuned to flora and fauna that I share my time with on a hike is meditative.

A few things that make up my foraging ethos:

  1.  Be bear aware, and other other creature aware too.
  2.  Wear bright clothing.
  3.  Be careful how to pick/cut mushrooms when I forage.
  4.  Always cook what’s picked and never in the field.

To really explore the world of mushrooms, both edible and not, mushroom guides and references are handy.  The internet is the best repository for imformation but can sometimes be hard to sift through.  The 4 sources I usually refer to are Mushrooms of Northwest North AmericaNorthern Bushcraft, mushroaming.com, and MushroomExpert.com

Roadtrip – Okanagan, Tofino and Back Again

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My Roadtrip from Kelowna, British Columbia to Tofino and back to New Denver.  As told by links and narrated by yours truly.

Consulting Magicseaweed didn’t leave me in a very optimistic headspace whilst considering the chances for a surf in Tuff City.  Nevertheless, the board and gear was packed.  Although a rising swell and longer interval looked promising taking the scenic Pacific Marine Circle Route on the return trip, a traffic delay just out of Cathedral Grove crashed that action.  Maybe should have tried the new trend in Tofino.  Despite the non-surf aspect of the trip, the holiday was thoroughly enjoyable with my two favorite travel companions and many of our friends and family we saw en route.

Had to hit up the tech shop and get a few GoPro mounts.  Already having the Chesty and standard Helmet mounts, I added the suction mount and head strap mount to my arsenal.  I have since purchased the vented helmet mount.  Mt camera got a bunch of footage taken from the hood of the truck while driving.  Unfortunately, as breathtaking a drive as it is, 3 hours of highway driving is pretty monotonous.  I am in the process of making a condensed version of the Island Drive.

4-northshorebikeshop-6049296727-interior-700x500First stop after leaving the Okanagan:  The Rackstop and the North Shore Bike Shop in North Vancouver for my new ride and an awesome rack to carry it.  The guys at both places were super helpful.  We put locks in the adjustable arms on the rack for security.  As well, the bikeshop’s policy of 15% off upgrades and accessories when purchasing a bike made a good deal even better.  Matt and the team at Northshore Bike Shop totally stand behind their products, offering a super awesome tune-up rate for your new bike as long as you own it.  SWEET!

After an uneventful ferry ride, we overnighted in Parksville before driving on to Tofino.  We arrived early so our accommodations weren’t ready yet.  Tofino is a regular destination for us and we often stay at the The Nalu House.  We stayed in the Surfer Studio this time, although on previous occasions we have stayed in the two bedroom Groundswell Suite.  Both are super great, clean, fully equipped and literally steps away from Chesterman Beach.  Jesse at the Wildside Grill didn’t disappoint with his Gumbo.

One might realize soon enough, Tofino and gluttony are synonymous when talking about a trip to Tuff City.  At least they are for me.  The crew at the Schooner Restaurant definitely was a perfect setting for my buddy’s 40th birthday.  We were definitely wined and dined!  Birthday boy, JB, manages Foo in Victoria.  We have worked together on and off for 15 years, so our conversation is 95% restaurant.  Especially when our friend, Chef Simon from Kuma gets in on it.  Super awesome surprise to hook up with them.

Another friend, NB, just opened up Best Little Hairhouse in Tofino.  She and I go back while as well.  She used to keep my mullet, yes I said mullet, tuned up.  My significant other isn’t quite so daring in the coif department, but spent the morning treating herself in the chair.  Meanwhile I checked out the pastries I’d heard about across the street at Wolf in the Fog – was not disappointed.  Eating dinner there with drinks is whole other experience, wow!  However the pastry snacks didn’t put me into a food coma like the evening meals do, and they were even better than expected.  Especially with coffee from Tuff Beans.

Before dinner at Jamies Rainforest Inn, we checked out our usual shops and galleries:   Eagle Aerie Gallery, Love Craft and House of Himwitsa.  We also loaded up on seafood from our buddy Lutz.  He runs West Pacific Seafoods and Tofino Oyster Bar. We also snacked at Sea Monster Noodle Bar.  The Pork Buns were amazing, my ramen had great broth but lacked housemade noodles, and the Dan Dan was disappointing.

Tofino, Victoria, Vancouver and Okanagan.  Visits with family and friends on the return trip.  A few meals whilst in Lake Country:  Bun Ta Pho Grill and Olympia Taverna Pizza.  I’d not tried the Vietnamese restaurant in Winfield but was more than satisfied with our meal – we easily could have shared one soup with our meal.  And although Olympia Pizza in Rutland is by far my favourite pizza place, the rest of their Greek menu is delicious.

Six days, full bellies and good times with family and friends – isn’t that what a road trip is all about?  Even though surfing some Pacific swell would have made a great trip EPIC…

 

 

The Tragically Hip – The Farewell Concert

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Emotional – the first word that comes to mind as I replay the concert in my head.  I teared up before the band was even on stage.  The set list offered not only an amazing selection of Canadian poetry, but an opportunity to relive various parts of my life through memories that the songs evoked.

The moment I felt most connected tonight was the closing of the last song, second encore, “Grace, Too”.  It felt like Gordon was screaming at the end of not just a song, or a concert, but of an era.  Were those yells just part of the lyrics?  Maybe, but only an entertainer like Gordon Downey can put on a show with his band, and for just a minute or two, invite me into his world.  Share with me visually and vocally, how he might be feeling.  I can’t believe it’s over either Mr. Downey.

Thank you.