food

#786: R.I.P. The (Flying) Spatula

“It is with sadness that we announce that as of October 27, 2019, The Spatula Diner will be closing its doors.”

 

Sadness?  For the staff, surely.  For us, it’s more like mixed emotions.  Yes, the Sausagefest crew has enjoyed breakfast there for almost two decades.  We hadn’t planned on returning in 2020 even before the closure.  A shrunken menu and poor service made up our minds for us.  Our favourite meal was the breakfast monstrosity known as the Flesherton Fillup.  Under new management, it ceased to exist.  Remember when Uncle Meat had this conversation in July with the server?

“When did you get rid of the Flesherton Fillup?” he asked.

“Oh, we haven’t had that in a long time,” she responded.

“We were here last year and you had it then, I’m just surprised,” said Meat.

Condescendingly she answered, “Isn’t a year a long time?”

Relatively, but when you’re in a location like Flesherton Ontario where the business is seasonal, expect to be asked that question more than once.

Admittedly, we could have been…more considerate as customers.  We could have called in advance to let them know they were about to be slammed by 30 hungry, sweaty guys.  I would have preferred to do it that way, but was shot down every time!

Goodbye, Flying Spatula.  Many a good steak-n-eggs and Flesherton Fillups were enjoyed there.  But your time had come and parting isn’t always such sweet sorrow.

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#776: (Wag)yu Shook Me All Night Long

GETTING MORE TALE #776: (Wag)yu Shook Me All Night Long

For highway driving, nothing quite hits the spot like AC/DC.  It feels right.  Who Made Who works as a quickie “greatest hits” selection for a quick spin down Highway 401.  Mrs. LeBrain and I were heading to the GTA to celebrate 11 years as a married couple.  We rocked to “You Shook Me All Night Long” on the dance floor that night, and we were returning to the very same location once more.

Highway 401 is in a perpetual state of construction, but good music helps take the edge off.  This was my first drive that way in the new vehicle, and also the first with my latest gadget, a nifty dash cam that is sure to provide lots of content for my YouTube channel in the coming months.

Sorry, quick tangent:  Phil Rudd is the “man”, but Simon Wright doesn’t get enough credit for his time on the AC/DC drum stool.  AC/DC isn’t an easy beat to get the feel for, and every AC/DC drummer has their own approach.  The 1980s were a period of hard-hitters and Simon Wright was the perfect drummer for that era.  His precision is absolute on “Who Made Who” and it just sounds right.  Compare the original to Chris Slade’s interpretation on AC/DC Live.  That’s all I have to say about that.

We arrived at the hotel mid-afternoon and I settled into the jacuzzi pretty quickly.  I wanted to do a funny gangsta style photo in the hot tub with me holding a couple of American dollar bills.  I was thinking about when Floyd Mayweather threw the $1s at Conor McGregor.  And holy shit did Facebook react.

“Dude you look like if Kuato from Total Recall was successfully removed from his twin, grew up, lived a long and depressing life and got really excited when someone gave him 2 bucks to sh!t in the local YMCA jacuzzi.”

Two things:  Yes, I had pants on.  And yes, that “gang sign” is the Vulcan salute.  Relax.  Let a man enjoy his jacuzzi, publicly on social media like damn 20 year old.  Are you not entertained?!

We did some shopping.  Because, like an idiot, I forgot to bring a nice pair of shoes for dinner, I had to get a new pair just for this one night.  Then we met up with Jen’s best friend Lara for lunch.  Did some more shopping.  I wanted to go to stores that we don’t have at home.  There isn’t much of that, just the same old chains.  We did hit one up cool store, where I bought something called “Jean Guy”, but we couldn’t find any cool music or toy stores.  At least I got my shoes!

So where were we headed?  In ’08 when we got married it was the Pavilion Royale, but now it is a high end restaurant called 17 Steakhouse & Bar.  It’s very different on the inside, but recognizable.  There was the dance floor, where I once spun to “You Shook Me All Night Long”.  But we chose 17 for more than sentimental reasons.  The main draw was the real Japanese A5 wagyu.  And that’s what this chapter is really about.

I’ve never had real wagyu in my life and American wagyu was not going to do it.  You only life once.  Carpe diem.  Go big or go home.  It’s only money.  All that bullshit.  I’d done my research, I knew what I was getting my wallet into.  I’d been planning it over a year.

We started with a simple but delicious field green salad, with incredible goat cheese.  The smoothest goat cheese I’ve ever tasted.  Only when we finished the salads did they began firing our steaks.  None of that “here comes your main dish before you’ve finished your starter” nonsense.  Jennifer chose the US prime T-bone, medium rare, and let me tell you, that alone could have been the best steak I’ve ever tasted.  It was 25 oz, so more than enough to share.  So tender!  With cripsy, tasty fat.

Jen’s steak could easily have been the most tender I’ve ever tried, if not for my Japanese A5 wagyu.  Market price was $30 per oz.  I chose an 8 oz striploin, medium rare.  You should always get a wagyu steak cooked to medium rare.  I was electric with tense anticipation.  The steaks arrived, cooked precisely to order.

I gently cut a thin slice, which came off like butter.  There was a lovely char on the outside, a crisp splash of flat, and then the most tender meat you can imagine.  It was seasoned simply and perfectly, the saltiness enhancing that beefy umami.  On the tongue, it was like butter with only the slightest sensation of a meaty texture.  I probably didn’t even have to chew.

It’s a very rich piece of meat, far more than I anticipated.  I’d estimate that I finished about 3/4 of my meal, leaving a $60 chunk of wagyu in my takeout bag.  And that chunk of leftover wagyu was the best lunch I ever had the following day.

For sides, we ordered the fingerling potatoes roasted in duck fat and thyme, the asparagus with hollandaise, and the scalloped potatoes au gratin.  Of those three, the asparagus was the clear winner, with the potatoes au gratin in second place.  Only I liked the fingerling potatoes; Jen didn’t care for them, leaving her batting average with any form of duck to be zero.

We had an incredible dessert of cheesecake, Crème brûlée and whipped cream which was supernaturally good. Everything was.

Having had probably the most expensive steak I’ll ever buy, was it worth it? If you are a steak lover, then yes, it is worth it.  And I love steaks.  A little goes a long way, but every steak lover should try real Japanese wagyu once.  It’s unlike anything I’ve had before and it is easily categorised as a true delicacy.  Having said that, should we return to 17 Steakhouse in a year, I don’t know that I would order it again, and that is only because there are other interesting features on their menu that I would like to try.  The 36 oz tomahawk would be a sight to behold, though I couldn’t eat it all myself.  I would also like to try the Porterhouse, the lobster bisque, and beef tartare.

Yes, the wagyu was worth it, and I can still taste and feel its texture on my palette.  It won’t be for everyone except in small doses.  They have a 4 oz minimum order, and I suggest that may the perfect size to experiment with.

17 Steakhouse & Bar gets 5/5, and so does the wagyu. 

We started with AC/DC so we’ll finish with AC/DC.  Who made wagyu?  17 Steakhouse did, and it was hell’s bells!  I couldn’t wait to sink the pink steak in my mouth.  It’ll shake your foundations just like it shook mine.  It’s a little bit of a ride on, down the 401, but worth the drive.  Hell ain’t a bad place to be(ef)!*  For those about to rock, I wagyu.

* Courtesy 1537

Sunday Chuckle: Cockcakes

What the hell, Facebook!?  See the picture below?  This is a dessert shop in Guelph that Facebook recommended to me.

I have to give them for authentic looking cock cakes.  I like the added touch of the frosting on the one, and I like the inclusiveness of the different colours.

But why, Facebook why?

Sunday Chuckle: Contain Yourself!

I catch a little bit of flak at work due to the size of my tupperware containers.  OK, they are large, I admit it!  When it comes to tupperware, for me it’s the bigger the better.  I don’t need a bowl or a plate.  I can eat my food right out of it.  They tease me about it because I don’t eat much for lunch and the container is so much larger than any of the food inside.

On Thursday, I found a printout on my printer.  Somebody specifically took this picture, added the dimensions, and then went to the trouble of printing it directly and anonymously to my printer!

All in good fun of course!  I eventually tracked down the culprit.  I found this prank hilarious — I hope you do too!

 

Sunday Chuckle: Crazy Crickets

This Sunday Chuckle is, in part, a followup to the story of my wife’s battle with epilepsy.  She now has a prescription for “Oil of the Green Ganja”, for seizure control.  So far, it seems to have reduced their number and severity, but it’s a learning process.  She also wanted to try the dried product to see if it would help.  She got some “government green” and just needed a vaperator.  We checked out a local shop called Crazy Bill’s.

I suppose you’d call Crazy Bill’s a “head shop” but we looked at it as a place for medical supplies.  They have excellent service.  We’re very grateful to the woman who helped us out.  She recommended a particular “vape” for starting out, so that’s what we got, and so far so good with that.

Crazy Bill’s has an insane amount of candy and junk food at the checkout counter.  Cool stuff, too.  I couldn’t leave without getting some hard to find Nerds, a white chocolate Reese’s Cup, and…

Deep fried crickets (or “Crick-ettes”).  Had to get some.  Would you try these?

#538: Just Eat It

While deleting old emails, I discovered two unreleased Record Store Tales written almost five years ago.  I don’t know why they were never finished, so here’s one of ’em!  The original draft was written June 28 2012.

GETTING MORE TALE #538: Just Eat It

To paraphrase Ricky, sometimes working in a record store is not all “peaches and cake”.

We did have cake sometimes.  Grand openings, special occasions.  The only peaches I ever saw were on Presidents of the USA albums.

Trying to eat lunch at work was an issue.  We had a rule:  No eating at the counter.  Nobody wants to come into a store seeing somebody scarfing down a burger, drooling mayo all over their chin.  But, sometimes you had very little choice.  Like when you were working alone.  This is how I got into the habit of not eating lunch anymore.  I used to make sandwiches and then not have a chance to enjoy my lunch, because I was working alone and constantly getting interrupted.  Oakville was the worst store for this.

Oakville was nice in one way, which was there was a Lick’s in the plaza (and a liquor store, which helped make things bearable after arriving home).  So you’d go across and get a burger and fries.  I liked my Lick’s burgers with sautéed onions (or “funky onions” as Jen calls them).  I’d often be working with a trainee but still able able to sneak to the back room for a minute to inhale some fries.  However, Oakville was a busy store for buying used stock – and I was the only buyer there.  The trainees weren’t up to speed yet.  So there would be this constant stream of bags and boxes coming in, and no time to eat.  It often took me an hour or more to finish one soggy burger and some cold, dry fries.

Not to mention you’d be an idiot not to wash your hands repeatedly after handling the customers’ discs!  The cases were often coated in a dry, smokey layer of crime.  Sometimes you could smell the cigarettes.  Sometimes the actual paper cover inside the case was stained yellowy-brown.  In other cases, the discs were sticky with God knows what.  (Dried soda?  Food?  Bodily fluids?)  But you still had to handle them!

I’m told that one time a CD came in with what looked like semen on it, but I wasn’t witness to that.

One time early in my career, a guy brought in a box of discs where every single case was coated in a soapy, dry white coating.  I felt gross just touching them.  I passed on the box for that reason.  Then he took them to another store to get a second opinion (they always did) and my boss took them.  He gave me shit – “Why didn’t you take these discs?”  Well, because I haven’t had my shots yet this year.

This is how I kind of got into the bad habit of eating candy bars and pepperoni for lunch.  Stuff that came in nice wrappers so I didn’t have to handle the food with my hands.  Stuff with zero nutritional value.  I’m not a germophobe, but when you can’t eat a sandwich because you’re constantly handling disgusting discs and washing your hands, eventually you kind of get sick of even trying.

So, when people ask me, “What’s it like, working in a record store?” I always like to give them the truth.  And the truth is, it’s not all peaches and cake!

#536: Obligatory Christmas Post 2016

This Christmas has been tinged with sadness.  Rick Parfitt, George Michael…and a man you haven’t heard of named Peter Cavan Sr.  I grew up with his son Peter Cavan Jr.  Pete was the best man at my wedding, and his dad Peter Sr. always treated me well.  The Cavans made me feel like part of the family.  In my first year of university, I decided to stay home from the cottage on Thanksgiving weekend, so I could study for my first exam undistracted.  Alone that Thanksgiving, Pete’s family had me over for dinner.  I’ll never forget their kindness.  I always enjoyed Peter Sr.’s stories, of growing up in Germany during the Second World War.  Those are tales you don’t hear every day.  And he was funny.  Peter Sr. was truly funny.  Whether intentionally or not, I knew his stories entertained us for many hours over the years.  I received the sad message on Christmas morning that Peter Sr. passed after a short battle with cancer, peacefully at home that morning.

So it is with profound sadness that I give you this year’s annual post-Christmas commentary.  My entire family knows and loves the Cavans, and we hope Pete and Joanne know we are there for them.


As it does every year, Christmas began early for me, at our office Christmas luncheon on November 25.  Just look at that food.  When you like the people you work with, an office Christmas party is a very rare and special chance to unwind with them.

My sister hosted Christmas Eve at her new place.  What a spread she put out!  Cheesey good appetizers, steak fondue, cheese fondue (the surprise winner), and chocolate fondue to boot.  The guests had a spirited debate on the merits of CD versus vinyl, with myself being the only holdout who still prefers CD.  (I know I’m not alone, just ask rock journalist Mitch Lafon which format he prefers.)  My sister did a great job of decorating her tree.  Have a gander.

And now, on to the good stuff.  Broken down into categories, let’s give’r!

Stuff You Listen To:

I have only played the Rik Emmett so far, given to me by Mrs. LeBrain who met Rik back in highschool as part of her guitar class.  Pretty cool!  It features a Triumph reunion on the bonus track, “Grand Parade”.  The Queen set is six discs of radio recordings.  The Rush set I am both grateful for and bitter about.  This is the third time I’ve received Rush 2112 as a gift in the last five years!  First as part of the Sector 1 box set, then the “deluxe edition“, and now this 40th anniversary edition which has some tracks not included on the deluxe (and a slew of artists covering Rush including Jacob Moon, Alice in Chains and Foo Fighters).  However, the 40th anniversary edition doesn’t include the 5.1 surround mix of the album, meaning…you kinda need both.  It’s sad that Rush reissues have become so exploitive.

The Keel reissue of The Right to Rock has a bonus track, a remix of “Easier Said Than Done”.  And this is my first time owning any version of Jethro Tull’s first album, This Was.

Stuff You Read:

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Stuff You Play With:

The Force Is With This Stuff:

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Stuff You Watch:

The Sopranos set I orchestrated myself.  Sometimes-contributor Thussy and I both always said:  “If the blu-ray set drops below $100, we’ll buy it.”  A few weeks ago he texted me that Amazon has it on for 24 hours only at just $80!  So this Christmas holiday, we will be enjoying some Sopranos and Italian food.

Stuff That Transforms From Stuff Into Robots:

Pictured below are the official Transformers Titans Return Astrotrain figure and a couple very interesting third party figs.  These are Masterpiece scale and heavy as fuck with plenty of die-cast parts.  Please meet Generation 1 Decepticon Reflector, incarnated here as KFC’s Eavi Metal series “Opticlones”.  Representing the Autobots is Dinobot Snarl, produced by the excellent Fans Toys in their Iron Dibots line as “Sever”.  I long ran out of room for more Masterpiece figures (especially Dinobots)…but who cares.

And finally…

Stuff That Flies:

I always wanted to try flying a drone.  My mom and dad surprised me with this starter drone, and is it ever a lot of fun.  I can almost get it to hover!  Getting it to fly in the direction I want is still a challenge.  So far there are no serious injuries.  Jen has a couple bruises.  I think my mistake was calling her into the room when I got it into the air, rather than when I figured out how the controls worked.  That was a lesson there.

 

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That’s another Christmas for the books!  I hope each and every one of you had a safe and happy holiday.  As I think of my friends the Cavan family, I ask you to remember that life is short.  Tell the people who matter that you love them.  Let’s try and make the world a better place in 2017.

LeBrain

REVIEW: Beastie Boys – Aglio e Olio (1995)


BEASTIE AGLIOBEASTIE BOYSAglio e Olio (1995 Grand Royal EP)

The sticker on the front said it plainly:  “Only 8 songs. Only 11 minutes. Only cheap $.”  Retailers were known to jack up prices on CDs so the Beasties were proactive about making sure their fans didn’t get ripped off.  It’s kinda like how Metallica called their Garage Days the $5.98 EP.

This EP is one of the Beasties’ punk rock releases.  Apparently, while writing for Hello Nasty (1998), the group spontaneously just started jamming out old school punk style rockers.  There were too many to put on their next rap album, so they decided to release them quick n’ dirty on a special EP.  And that’s Aglio e Olio.

What I find cool about it is that even if you didn’t know who it was, it’s immediately obvious on opener “Brand New” that it’s the Beastie Boys.  It doesn’t sound musically much like their mainstream hits but their idiosyncratic voices make it instantly identifiable.  Then you notice things like the noisy guitar “solos” that take the place of record scratches and samples (similar to “Sabotage”)…it’s a different instrument but the same artists so there is a connectivity.

BEASTIE AGLIO BACK“Deal With It” is the second-longest song at a whopping almost-2 minutes!  It’s a freakin’ crusher of a song.  “I Can’t Think Straight” reminds me of early Suicidal Tendencies. The rest are a mash of screamin’ Beasties, heavy guitar riffs, crushing bass, and sloppyfast punk rock drums.  Throw in a few weird breaks and time changes and you have a varied and enjoyable way to kill 11 minutes of your day.  The bass hooks are relentless and the lyrics all but unintelligible!

Best track: the hooky closer “I Want Some” which I think is hit quality. Fucking great song on which to close a fucking great little EP.

But what exactly does Aglio e Olio mean?  Fortunately, I am Italian.  Aglio e olio is my favourite pasta dish, a simple spaghetti.  It is just the pasta in olive oil and garlic.  It is simple, delicious, and easy to prepare once you learn the trick of it.  Its appeal is the simplicity of just three ingredients: spaghetti, olive oil and garlic.  Three ingredients, right down to the basics.  Just like the Beastie Boys.

4/5 stars

  • MCA – Vocals, bass
  • Mike D – Vocals, drums
  • Ad-Rock – Vocals, guitars

INTERVIEW: Kathryn Ladano – Artistic Director at NUMUS (New Music Now)

NUMUS

This is an exciting time for fans of live music in Kitchener-Waterloo. Part of this excitement is NUMUS (New Music Now) which is embarking on its 30th season of adventurous, artistic music performances. From their own website, “NUMUS showcases established and emerging talent from across Canada and the globe in Waterloo’s world-class venues. Diverse musical genres, traditional and experimental instruments and scored and improvised elements come together to create unique concert going experiences that capture the fluidity and relevance of contemporary music.”

To go with this 30th anniversary, NUMUS has selected a new Artistic Director, whom I have managed to secure an interview with. Kathryn Ladano is very busy these days, but fortunately I had an inside track to getting hold of her. This is what she had to say about NUMUS, new music, and the 30th year.

BASS

1. Let’s start with a basic question, since the majority of my readers are not from Canada – what exactly is NUMUS?

NUMUS is a presenter and producer of cutting edge contemporary music concerts in the community of Kitchener-Waterloo. By contemporary music, I primarily mean music by living composers within the Western art music tradition, however, we do move beyond that as well. For example, this season we are also featuring freely improvised music, music that blurs the line between composition and improvisation, and this Sunday we’re featuring Korean improviser-percussionist and vocalist Dong-Won Kim with guests.

2. You have said that NUMUS has “has put Kitchener-Waterloo on the new music map”. Can you describe what “new music” means to you personally?

To me, new music simply means compositions from the Western art music tradition written within the past 50 years or so. While many consider new music to be anything written after 1900, I consider it to be newer than that. This is music that needs to be better supported by the public. It’s different, and can be challenging for your average listener, which is why symphony orchestras for example have a hard time moving forward and getting their audiences to readily accept this type of music being programmed. The alternative, however, is music that is literally hundreds of years old, and while that music is great, there is also great music being made here and now. This is the music I’m interested in listening to, performing, producing, and presenting.

3. This year is NUMUS’ 30th, but your first as artistic director. What pressure does that add, if any?

NUMUS has an impressive list of past Artistic Directors (Peter Hatch, Glenn Buhr, Jesse Stewart, Jeremy Bell, and Anne-Marie Donovan), and it is intimating to be following in the footsteps of those individuals. I personally find that more intimidating than properly celebrating our 30th year. Plans are in place to celebrate this milestone though, and these include bringing back each of the previous Artistic Directors to curate a unique program throughout 2015. I will also be curating a celebratory program, and I think all of these concerts strongly reflect the strengths and artistic personalities of each of NUMUS’ Artistic Directors.

4. You have said that you would like to reach out to a younger audience. What do you think will attract young people to the shows?

This year, NUMUS has officially added a side series to its programming called The MIX Music Series. Tickets for this series are about half the price of our main series tickets, and the series itself focuses on improvisatory music and emerging artists. I am hopeful that this series will really resonate with younger audiences as many of the artist we present in the series will be very recent post-secondary graduates just starting to embark on their careers. There are also very few places where young audiences can regularly support emerging artists outside of educational institutions. I feel that the MIX Series has the most potential for growing our younger audience base and getting these people out to experience high quality, affordable live music.

BASS 2

5. Affordable is a plus.  But what appeal will NUMUS offer to open-minded rock fans and musicians in the KW area?

Any open-minded music lover will find something attractive in NUMUS’ 2014-2015 program offerings, whether it be multi-media concerts that celebrate music and film, a world-class percussion quartet, a concert of improvised vingnettes with guitar and electronics, or a concert featuring a new instrument called the reactable (a digital sampler with a tangible user interface on an illuminated tabletop) that also features video projections and recordings from the Voyager golden records.

6. Wow, is that cool!  That’s definitely something I’m interested in hearing.  Now, you have stressed that you believe in support for young artists. What support did you receive when you were starting out?

It was difficult when I started out, and I really had to be very proactive and create a lot of my own opportunities. I was at a huge disadvantage in that I played a relatively unpopular instrument (the bass clarinet) without a lot of traditional job opportunities, and I also wanted to focus on new music and free improvisation. I had a lot of support from the educational institutions I attended, and I also received a couple of grants early in my career which allowed me to study with Lori Freedman in Montreal, and also do my first mini-tour, performing new music pieces I studied in grad school. Both of these opportunities led to new connections and helped me to advance.

7. Lastly, can you please share your spice cookie recipe?

Yes!

Spice Cookies:
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp. molasses
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
extra sugar for dipping

  • Cream sugar and butter. Blend egg and molasses with the creamed mixture.
  • Combine dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture – mix well.
  • Put dough in refrigerator until firm (about 1-2 hours) – or put in the freezer if you are pressed for time – this makes the dough easier to form.
  • Take small amounts of dough, form into balls, and roll in sugar, Place these on an un-greased cookie sheet about 2″ apart.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes at 325F – they should be moist and chewy.
  • Enjoy!

KATHRYN

VIDEO: The Cottage in the Woods 2

COLLAGE

If you missed the original story about the Cottage in the Woods, please check out Record Store Tales Part 308.

Another long weekend in Canada has come and gone.  This time we came with a side mission: visiting Condor Fine Books in Kincardine, Ontario.  We’ve been going there for years, and the owner is a really nice guy.  He has a crazy selection of old and interesting books, with a healthy section on UFOs and the paranormal.  That’s alright by me.

I hope you enjoy my latest video, with book finds and lots of scenery.