Friday, November 30, 2012

Photo Friday: Sunset in Autumn

Just a photo, on Friday. On the last day of November, 2012.

This photo was shot on Bate Island, less than an hour before sunset.

No filter, no post-production touch-up. Simple.

The next time I shoot from this location, there will most likely be ice on the river. Fall is coming to an end, my friends.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


He looked across the room. She didn't see him watching her. Looking at her smile, the way one corner of her mouth turned up before her lips parted, her teeth sparkled in the light.

Her hair bounced in disorganized waves, the light catching the soft brown ringlets and casting itself asunder. Blue eyes, emitting a seeming luminescence of their own, drew him in, made him hungry for her.

Until she looked his way.

He turned, slightly away, looking vacantly yet keeping her in his peripheral, until her head once again cast itself away, and he could steal a gaze again.

She looked across the room. He didn't see her watching him. Looking at his smile, the way his unreserved mouth, his full lips opened wide, his teeth shone in the light.

His hair, cut short and brushed, ordered, the light blondness casting light like a beacon, drew her in, made her hungry for him.

Until he looked her way.

She turned, slightly away, looking vacantly yet keeping him in her peripheral, until his head once again cast itself away, and she could steal a gaze again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Museum of Nature

I Got Nuthin'

Last night, Lori and I were up late, upgrading our computer from a Windows 7 operating system to a Windows 8 platform. When we started the process, I thought, "Cool: I can write tonight's blog post in a new environment."

It took until almost 1:00 this morning to complete the upgrade and add Windows Media and Office, by which point I was barely keeping my eyes open. And my brain was unable to think up a topic to write about.

Stupid Cyber Monday sale.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Beer O'Clock: Ten & Then Some

Brewmaster Joel Manning

"Give a man a beer," he started, quoting his wife, "and he'll waste an hour."

"Teach the man to brew," he continued, "and he'll waste a lifetime."

Joel Manning has hardly wasted his life.

As Mill Street's brewmaster, Joel has made some amazing beer and has raised the Canadian craft-beer industry to unparallelled limits. And last Thursday, he shared his knowledge and some of his great creations with 100 guests at the tenth-anniversary brewmaster's dinner at Ottawa's Mill Street Brew Pub.

Joel, in addition to being a master brewer, is also entertaining and knowledgeable, sharing his wisdom behind beer and giving samples of some Mill Street creations that were available only at this pairing with some culinary genius. We also partook in some vintage barley wine (yes, it's beer too). The brewmaster's dinner was a 10-course evening that paired 10 beers: some of which I made notes; others, I didn't because I have either reviewed them in the past or have spoken about as favourites of mine and needed no further praise.

Sparkling Ale
The evening started out with a light beer: Sparkling Ale. This is an easy-drinking beer and it was appropriate for us to begin the dinner with it: it cleansed the palate and got us ready for our amuse bouche. Deep gold with a white head, I detected mild notes of fresh bread and hops. On the palate, this ale is clean and has a short finish.

Our amuse bouche was an interesting starter: elk tartar with juniper berries and herbs on crostini. While I enjoyed this course, my description of the elk doesn't sound appealing: there was a sliminess that coated the tongue and made everything slide down. The herbs were a great balance to the beer and the food and drink were a great match. I liked the elk and would have it again, but I'm not sure I would seek it out in the future.

Elk tartar
Organic Lager
The second course gave us a popular beer by Mill Street: their Organic Lager. Pale straw in colour with a white head, I detected buttered popcorn on the nose and a slight malt in the mouth, ending with a short, light finish. it is the first beer that Mill Street ever made.

This beer was paired with a shaved asparagus and fennel salad with baby arugula and grape tomatoes. The dressing was a citrus vinaigrette with orange wedges and pine nuts. Although I don't tend to like asparagus, I didn't taste them in this shredded fashion and I enjoyed this salad. I did, however, find the citrus in the vinaigrette to be a little strong for the lager, but this was a fresh course that I would gladly eat again.

Salad course
Dopple Pils
Third up was a Dopple Pils. Amber-gold in colour with a thin, white head, I didn't get much off the nose. In the mouth, however, I was immediately hit with big hops and flavours of grapefruit, with a strong (but not overpowering) alcohol finish. This was a strong beer, at 7.2 percent ABV.

The food pairing was awesome: a Thai-inspired shrimp and scallop ceviche in coconut water with Thai chillies, lime juice, Thai basil, and an infusion of kaffir lime.

Seafood ceviche
This was an amazing appetizer. Lori, who isn't a seafood lover, thoroughly enjoyed this course. We both found that it married well with the hops of the pilsner. Awesome course.

Next came the first of three barley wines: this one, from 2005. This seven-year-old ale was the colour of iced tea, with a hint of red. There was no head. A brandy-cherry bouquet reminded me of a liqueur, rather than a beer. In the mouth, all thoughts of beer left my head. At 10.5 percent ABV, this was a boozy beverage. In a way, it reminded me of Calvados.

2005 Barley Wine
On its own, I didn't care much for it. But with the next course, everything came together. This barley wine was paired with another amuse bouche: this time, pan-seared fois gras on a brioche crostini that was topped with a blueberry and balsamic reduction. This was a powerful bite, washed down with a powerful drink. With this course, my appetite was fully piqued.
Pan-seared fois gras

To keep us moving, we moved into a soup course that was served with my favourite beer, Tankhouse Ale. I just love this hoppy, satisfying ale. I could drink it all day. And the soup was perfectly paired.

Tankhouse goes well with spicy dishes, so it was no surprise that the chef served us a roasted Pablano pepper soup with chili oil and cumin crème fraiche. Smoky and zesty, this was an absolutely perfect pairing. I loved it.

Soup course
Paradise IPA
The spice continued in the sixth course, a curried crab cake that was served with a lemon-lime chutney. Mill Street paired this deliciously crispy and spicy dish with another hoppy ale, their Paradise IPA. Deep amber with a foamy head, this IPA offers floral overtones on the nose. In the mouth, I tasted intense hops, honey, and a hint of pineapple. It finished with a hot, malty flavour.

Delicious, both.

Crab cake
2007 Barley Wine
Barley wine number two came next: this time, the 2007 vintage. The colour on this ale was not as deep as the 2005, and this time there was a head. Its appearance was an unfiltered orange-amber tone. On the nose, I caught a lighter brandy aroma with citrus. Less-complex than the 2005, there was some honey on the palate. But again, this tasted more like a digestif than a beer.

But this barley wine is no slouch. It won a gold medal in 2007 and gave Mill Street the honour of being awarded the Canadian brewery of the year. But at 11.2 percent ABV, you don't want to drink too much in one sitting.

Matched with this beer was a pomegranate and berry sorbet, and while most dishes were designed to be followed with the beer, this course was to be preceded by it. A mouthful of beer, swallowed, and then a bite of sorbet. Perfect. The sorbet activated the barley wine in the mouth and gave the impression of effervescence, almost like drinking a frizante wine.

I called it a fizziness. I could not duplicate the sensation with the sorbet and the 2005 barley wine. So this course was again a perfect match.

Coffee Porter
Next up was the Coffee Porter, and again I didn't take notes. I've talked about this plenty of times in the past: I love this beer, made with Balzak coffee. It is widely available in Ontario and has a regular spot on the taps in the brew pub. Have some.

Matched with this porter is a meal that I'd like to see as a regular addition to the Mill Street menu: a coffee-crusted pork tenderloin with a light cream sauce and served with a celery root purée and fried Brussels sprout leaves. The pork melted in my mouth, and the cream sauce turned the porter into a sweet café au lait. The celery root was light and creamy, and cleaned the palate. It was an awesome creation perfectly matched with the coffee porter.

Pork tenderloin
Seriously: I want it on the menu.

2012 Barley Wine
Our second-last course brought us the third and final barley wine: this time, the 2012 vintage, which is currently available in the LCBO. Deep amber with no head, I detected a light cherry-brandy nose. On the palate, I tasted caramel and brandy with some cinnamon and vanilla in an oak finish. And though this beer was very strong, at 14.5 percent ABV, it was not as hot in the mouth as the other two barley wines. And, at 55 IBUs, there was a good hoppiness to it.

This barley wine was served with a cheese course: Québec blue cheese and blackberry compote, with a goat cheese crostini. I took a small bite of the blue cheese, but I'm not a big fan of it. I find it too strong with a creamy texture that I don't like on my tongue. But I did appreciate it for what it was with the barley wine. They were well-matched. I really liked the goat cheese. I found the savoury flavours brought out more of the nose of the ale and helped me gain a better appreciation for this style of beer.

You would think by this time of the evening that I'd be full to bursting and would be too drunk to stand. But no. I found the food to me of a size that was completely manageable: not more than a few bites each. Also, I never finished any of the glasses of beer that came to my table. Some, I only took a few sips to support the food. At the beginning of the evening, Joel indicated that if we were to consume everything that was served to us (some were in four-ounce glasses, some in six-ounce samples, and others in eight-ounce glasses), we'd drink the equivalent of three-and-a-half pints.

In my books, too much to drink and drive. The most that I had of one glass was just over half, and that was the Tankhouse. Of the high-ABV samples, no more than a mouthful. I drink responsibly, folks.

The final course was a treat: a chocolate cookie with a caramel centre, served with a Cobblestone Stout and espresso ice cream. It was pure heaven, though for me I could have done without the firm caramel centre.

Just desserts
Matched with this dish was the newest addition to the Mill Street repertoire, the Double-Chocolate Imperial Stout. Because I reviewed it last week, I'll say no more here.

This was a dinner to remember. Mill Street gave its lovers a great evening with amazing food and fabulous beer, perfectly matched. It was a great way to celebrate 10 years of the brewery and to wish it many more years of success.

I look forward to future brewmaster dinners. If you haven't attended one yet, do yourself a favour and go to the next one.


And, on a completely unrelated issue, but a note that is worthy for my beer post, I wanted to let you know that I'll be starting a new blog that is completely dedicated to beer. It is called Beer O'Clock and the format will be slightly different from my weekly review on The Brown Knowser. It will be just my tasting notes and opinion of the beer. Just the facts.

See for yourself on December 1.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rewind: November 19-23, 2012

Did you see yesterday's sunrise? The one in Ottawa, that is.


Because I was already at work when the sun painted our cloudy sky, I was limited as to what I could capture. Sadly, this is all I got.

But there's another Ottawa blogger that I follow who was thinking about sunrise long before I did, who was set up long before I pulled into the office parking lot. His name is Chris, and his blog is Ottawa seen 365 ways in 365 days.

And the photos that he shot yesterday morning are nothing short of amazing. Go on, go check them out. And then come back.

Stellar, yes?

With those photos in mind, why not check out what I was up to this week? Here's the roundup of The Brown Knowser:
Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Photo Friday: WinterBrewed

Snow hasn't come to Ottawa yet, but it won't be long before we're covered in a frosty blanket, leaving us to shovel driveways and negotiate slippery roads.

But the absence of snow didn't stop me from preparing a photo for the upcoming beer festival in February: WinterBrewed, part of the Winterlude festivities.

The event will run on the Sparks Street Mall over the February 16-17 weekend, and will feature local craft brewers.

Festival organizer, J.P. Fournier, asked me to help him create a photo to advertise the event. He had a beer bottle set up with a special label and a tiny toque and scarf. We also had some infant-sized mittens. All we were missing was snow.

I was surprised at how quickly I came up with a solution: "There should be snow at the Walter Baker Sports Centre," I told him. There was almost always a pile near the back, where the Zamboni dumps it after cleaning the hockey rinks. Though I hadn't been there in a few weeks, I was sure there would be some.

There was.

It's not my best job, but I think it works. What do you think?

Happy Friday, and I hope to see you at WinterBrewed.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


This week, I've been dabbling in poetry.

I should stick to prose.

I'm still playing with words, creating images. Whether I share what I've created with you is another matter. Don't hold your breath, but I may eventually work it into the novel I'm currently writing.

When I realized that my poetry wasn't going to see today's post, I considered not posting at all. And so I relaxed and watched a little TV, listened to some music. And then played the music over again. And again. And again.

I was listening to a CD. I haven't done that in a very long time. But I couldn't get enough.

And then it came to me: I needed to share this music.

The CD is one by a friend of mine that I first met on Twitter, then at a tweetup, then at a friend's home, then at a performance of The Vagina Monologues, and then again this week, when we shared a bottle of wine and chatted for a couple of hours.

I walked away with the CD and a better understanding of this wonderful person.

The artist is Amanda Cottreau. Her CD is entitled Universe in a Soft Shell.

The tracks can be described as hauntingly beautiful, as Amanda sings with an ethereal voice about sorrow, loss, and coping. I was moved by the instrumental composition of strings, particularly in the first track, Hiatus. I was hooked from that song and was taken on a journey for the rest of the CD, which is only five tracks long.

Having heard Amanda's story first-hand, I feel that it isn't for me to reiterate. It's not my story to tell. But I can understand the driving force behind her music. And I love it.

If you live in Ottawa and want an actual CD, it's available in Hintonburg, at Alpha Soul Café, where she performs on a regular basis.

For the rest of you, go to her site or to iTunes and download it. And spread the word: Amanda is amazing.

She is poetry—the real thing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What Are We Teaching Our Kids?

Because my girls have iPods, they download lots of kids games, most of which are free.

I like free, because I don't have to say "no" very often to the kids' requests to download them, and if the games are crap we can delete them with no feelings that we wasted money.

A couple of the games that they've downloaded are good enough that I, myself, have added them to my devices. For example, I like Jetpack Joyride and Mega Run: they're simple games where you have a character that runs and jumps over obstacles while trying to collect goodies. I'm actually quite addicted to Mega Run.

One of the downsides of free games is that pop-ups appear, advertising other games to download. Every time I start a new round of Mega Run, I am offered other free games that I quickly reject. Most of the games look rather lame, but lately I've seen one game that has shocked me.

This game:


Seriously, are these types of games aimed at my daughters? What is our society trying to teach our kids? That they can try and create their dream partner, deciding what he is to wear and how he is to act? If so, we are setting young girls up for failure and disappointment.

There is no way that guys would get sucked into stupid games where we pick out our ideal girlfriends, I told myself as I closed the Boyfriend ad.

I was wrong.

We live in one fucked-up society, people.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Beer O'Clock: MBA and Other Rewards

I feel such a sense of accomplishment.

As many of you know, I have made Mill Street Brew Pub my second home. I try to make an appearance once a week, if not more. I have organized a few tweetups and hope to continue that tradition for as long as the brew pub allows. (I even hope to hold one in December: details will follow.) And I've attended their first Brewmaster Dinner and will be attending my second one this Thursday (and yes, I'll blog about that next week).

And, if that wasn't enough, I write many blog posts from the bar and I'm also working on the sequel to Songsaengnim from time to time.

So it is no surprise that I love that brew pub and will sing their praises every chance I get.

But last week, I earned an honour that I've been working on pretty much since I started going to that pub in January. I've earned my MBA.

Master of Beer Appreciation.

Mill Street has a loyalty program that can earn patrons swag, such as t-shirts, pint glasses, bottle openers, dinner, and more. But the grand prize is what I sought as soon as I joined the program: the right to have your name engraved and affixed to a stainless-steel keg, much like the Stanley Cup (but to me, a bigger deal).

Every time you drink a pint in the brew pub (preferably, a set number of each variety), you earn an initial on your MBA card. When you reach a certain number of pints, you earn the swag. Fill the card and you earn your MBA.

How many pints for an MBA? Eighty: eight-zero.

Now, in truth, I should have earned my MBA sooner. Many times over the months, I either forgot to bring my card, or I would bring the card but forget to present it for an initial. Sometimes, I'd remind the staff and they'd oblige. Other times, I just didn't bother.

But last Tuesday, I officially consumed my 80th pint and was able to hoist the keg on high. Not only does my name go on the keg, but a computer graphic is etched next to it, signifying me as their writer in residence. I also earned a pint glass with my name etched on the side, which I now keep there as my personal glass.

Hoisting the keg
It would be so embarrassing if I dropped that sucker
GM Peter Chase presents my name plate and personalized pint glass
I feel special. Even though my name is the 53rd on the keg. I'm in the top 100 (and I don't have a drinking problem).

My 80th pint was a special one too, and I suggest that you high-tail it to Mill Street to get some before it's gone. I'll be drinking it from my pint glass until it's done.

Which brings us to my review.
Double-Chocolate Imperial Stout
Mill Street Brew Pub
Ottawa, ON (only)
ABV: 7.6% (approx.)
This is one dark ale: so dark, in fact, that when I switched on my very powerful iTorch flashlight, no light passed through the glass. Served in a tapered glass, though, slight tones of red highlighted the edges of the glass. But this is a murky, brownish-black stout with a very creamy, dense head.

Chocolate hits you firmly on the nose, along with malts and a bit of dark-roasted coffee. In the mouth, the chocolate continues in a creaminess that coats the tongue and gives you the impression that you're drinking not beer, but a very special cocoa beverage. The malts are ever-present and the alcohol comes through in a complex and balanced finish. Though the alcohol content is high, it isn't overpowering at all. This imperial stout is perfectly put together and is possibly the best chocolate stout I've ever had.

My hat goes off and I bow to head brewer, Adam Rader. An awesome brew, my friend. On my scale of beer caps, I give the Double-Chocolate Imperial Stout a perfect 5.

As I said, this stout is made in a limited batch. Once it's gone, it will be gone for as long as a year, if not longer. Adam wants to keep this brew special.

That it is.

My thanks to the great folks at Mill Street for making my MBA celebration so special. Thanks especially to Peter, Adam, Hanna, Pete, Kyle, and Victoria.

And a special thanks to my friends, Katie and Tom, who joined me for pints 79 and 80.