Of Visits, Gin and Regal Cheese – Part I

We had the pleasure of spending a few days with our Michel the first week of August. He drove down from Montréal on a bit of a tour of Eastern Québec and the Maritimes. A drive not without incident – his car engine decided it had given it’s best for the past 15 years and really couldn’t go any further. And it decided to bow out as he set off on Route 15 out of Montréal to the Eastern Townships. Fortunately he was able to get a lender and continue on his journey.

As always with Michel we had plenty of laughs (I always envy his facility for wordplay in French and English), a few lovely trips down memory lane, and some serious attempts to solve world problems. Add to that good food, some excellent wine and it made for a great visit. And as often happens our Nicky developed a canine-crush and carried on a bit when Michel left – he is so funny that way with visitors.

You may recall a week or so ago I mentioned Opihr, a gin that was required for a rather exotic, and expensive, cocktail. Well since Michel was coming from the Big City and the SAQ showed that they carried it we asked him to pick up a bottle. It turns out that they indeed did carry it – well actually they carried one (!) bottle and it was at their store in St-Aisselle-de-Québec which is hardly on anybody’s route to anywhere. However a friend of his found a bottle in Ottawa and brought it down to Montréal and hence it found its way to our liquor cabinet where it sits awaiting that “occasion”.

So what’s so special about this ancient nectar that the Queen of Sheba (no not Michel, the biblical one) may have brought to Solomon? Well it would appear that the “botanicals” were inspired by the stops along the Silk Route: cubeb from Malaysia, black pepper, cardamom and ginger from India, cumin from Turkey, coriander seed from Morocco, bitter orange from Spain, Juniper from Italy and Angelica from Germany. Well those last three and the grapefruit peel may be stretching the “Silk Route” thing a bit far. And as to the “ancient recipe” trope well 2013 CE is hardly a “blast from the past” that all the hoopla would suggest. However it is the creation of Joanne Moore, the head distiller at G&J Greenall, Britain’s second biggest gin distillery. And appears Ms Moore is a name to be reckoned with in the spirit world! In it’s review Gin Foundry suggests that rather than some exotic cocktail Opihr works well in a simple Gin Buck: 2 oz of Gin, 3 oz of Ginger Ale and a lemon wedge. We shall give it a try and get back to you.

And as well as the requested gin Michel showed up with a bag of potatoes from Québec – talk about coals to Newcastle! I wonder that he got them across the Bridge without alarm bells sounding! And he brought along several very yummy artisanal cheeses that has been deemed fit for Royalty. But more about that later in the week.

August 13 is Left-Hander’s Day: so kiss someone you know who is a Lefty (no not politically) and reassure them that they are not spawn of Satan.

A Song for a Summer Day

As my friend Michel just remarked, “It’s a real scorcher out there!” As indeed it is: 31c (89f) but with the humidity it feels like 38c (100f)!

Now before I get too shirty about it I must recall that only a few weeks ago I was complaining that summer wasn’t doing it’s number and bemoaning the lack of warmth. So I should just STFU and enjoy the moment with the sure and confident knowledge that within two months I’ll be bitching about the cold once again.

Since I don’t have access to that Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link that people have been taking about – can’t afford it nor is one to be had, something about some woman in England having one – I decided to listen to the cool voice and cooling advised of Noel Coward for anyone who “stays out in the noonday sun.”

July 30th is National Whistleblowers Day and National Cheesecake day??? So get out there, expose corruption in the workplace and then pig out on cherry cheesecake as you sit at home cooling your heals after you’ve been fired.

It’s Only Words

And a shameless plug for a local business I recommend.

This week my good friend Dr Spo, who reflects, posted about pizza and the rankings he would give to the pizzas of his misspent youth. And then doesn’t Debra, who seeks, posted some pizza memes just yesterday. It made me wish that they could taste the pizza at Nimrods’, the newest addition to the downtown food scene here. Part of a floating food court at Peakes’ Quay it is owned and operated by a trio of young entrepreneurs who had enough faith in their food and their abilities that they did a bit of a David and Goliath act earlier this year. But that is another story best left for a time when I want to rant about the murk and muck that is Municipal politics here in Charlottetown.

If the good Doc (living proof that not all docs is quacks) his Someone, and Debra along with Her Rare One were here they would taste pizza that I’m sure would send them over the moon. It reminds me of San Marino, our old standby when we lived in Rome – and frankly I can’t think of a bigger compliment. It has a thin crust that has been fired in a 5,000 lb, floating, wood burning oven, topped with fresh ingredients and garnishes. The crust has a crunch to it but is tender and slightly chewy with a bit here and there charred from the incredible heat of that clay oven. And the toppings are all fresh, top quality and applied in unusual but tasty combinations. And it’s all made and served up by a great crew – friendly, funny and obviously dedicated.

I haven’t tried the smoked salmon pizza but that’s next on the list.

But enough about that – what has this, asks my faithful reader, to do with the title of your post? “Well,” said he wiping a stray smear of curry cream from a butter chicken pizza off the corner of his mouth, “the name of the establishment: Nimrods’! Strange name for an eating establishment don’t you think? Doesn’t it mean ‘a person who is foolish or inept’? Who wants to eat at a place named after ‘a person who is foolish or inept’? And not only that the punctuation suggests there is more than one “Nimrod” in the mix.

Yes Miriam Webster and the OED define a Nimrod as a foolish or inept person but (and you knew there would be a but) it is qualified as an “informal North American” definition that first appeared in the 1940s. What they don’t tell us is that it was defined by a rabbit! A celebrity rabbit but none the less a member of the family Leporidae: Bugs Bunny.

Yes gentle reader, Bugs Bunny! If nothing else, and he was much else, Bugs was well-read, erudite, and capable of great wit (and sarcasm). In early cartoons he, and subsequently, Daffy Duck refer to Elmer Fudd as “Nimrod, the mighty hunter” in a wicked touch of irony. It’s a direct quote from the King James version of the Book of Genesis where he is referred to as “a mighty one in the earth” and “a mighty hunter before the Lord”. In the Hebrew Table of the Nations he is listed as the great-grandson of Noah and the founder of many great cities. And he features in not only Hebrew and Christian mythology but also in the legends of Islam, and the foundation “histories” of Armenia, Hungary, Finland and even, as the patron of builders, in the early rituals of Freemasonry. In some stories he is credited (blamed?) for the attempts to build the Tower of Babel; in others as the builder of the great cities of Mesopotamia; in yet others the founder of nations; and in at least one tale challenges Abraham to a fight of the godly (Abraham) against the godless (Nimrod). I guess “godly” won that one????

So here was Bugs being all witty, learned sarcasm and what happens? Such are the vagaries of our language that poor old Nimrod goes from being “a mighty hunter” to being “inept and foolish”. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

And as to the people and the fare at his namesake establishment? They are “mighty” fine gals and guy who serve up “mighty” good pizza!

Okay July 25th is another one of those days: Chili Dog Day, Hot Fudge Sundae Day, Refreshment Day, Wine and Cheese Day and Merry-go-round Day. So we celebrate the first four and then take a ride on a Carousel??? That’s a sure fire recipe for disaster.

Cocktails and Laughter

And what comes after nobody knows.

Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin – one of the ingredients of a Night Flights

Last week I mentioned a cocktail called Night Flights that had shown up on a website I get a newsletter from two or three times a week. Though my friend Pierre suggested I should pursue the Cabana Boy from the same issue (such a mind that man has!) my friend Dr Spo was intrigued by the picture of said Night Flights. Being the investigative sort Someone over at the Spo household discovered that to add the ingredients to their liquor cabinet would cost over $90.00 US and entail a trip to Washington DC for one of the liquors.

Being equally inquisitive I did some research on what it would cost should I decide to make it our summer drink here on the Island

After having ascertained that not one of the ingredients other than the garnish and perhaps the lemon bitters, though that is not a given, was available anywhere in the Maritimes I went further afield here in Canada and finally to Washington for the fixings. And here’s the total cost – baring shipping, handling, taxes and in at least one case airfare and hotel:

For my American friends that would be $132.12 US at the current rate of exchange.

I may just consider that Cabana Boy – oh but wait a minute I need Rhum agricole and coconut-lemongrass syrup for that. Cancel that order!

July 16th is Corn Fritters Day, Fresh Spinach Day and World Snake Day – again one of those days you just don’t know how to celebrate.

Telling A Story

A few months back I wrote about, for me at least, story telling as a form of theatre and cited the example of the great Charles Laughton who I saw privileged to see when I was very young. There was during those golden days – we all have our own golden days – a form of theatre that chiefly involved a single performer, perhaps with a pianist, who told you a story and in a matter of minutes showed you the life, the heart and the soul of a person.

Ronald Searle’s caricature of Joyce Grenfell may not be the most flattering of portraits (what caricature is?) but it was chosen in 1998 for a stamp to honour this remarkable performer.

The British actress Joyce Grenfell was known in film for her portrayals of Plain-Janes often doomed to perpetual maidenhood or long-term betrothals and particularly as the long suffering Sargent Ruby Gates in the early St. Trinians series. But as marvellous as she was in all her films her most brilliant work was her one-woman revues. They were peopled with an array of characters that she conjured up with little more than a shawl, a cardigan, or a hat. She was often called a “comedienne” however she was more than that. As in real life her people had moments of laughter but also moments that revealed deeper feelings. These are two of my favourites.

The last moments of this little sketch – and most of her monologues only last 5 0r 6 minutes – deliver a gentle thrust to the solar plexus that knocks the wind out of me every time I watch it.

July 13th is a holiday I’m more than willing to observe: it’s National French Fry Day. I’ll have to make a trip to the Chip Shack at Peak’s Quay.