Good Meal, Weak Greenback

Back West

I know it’s been a week, but I did want to get some stuff in, even if it is just a little stale. Pam asked me where I’d like to go out to celebrate my birthday, and after some thought, I settled on a place we had been before, but it had been quite a while. It was West, which wowed all of us back in June of 2006, when we ate there with my parents, who were visiting.

West is the kind of place where you go for a big-deal meal, the kind where you are celebrating, the food is top-notch in every way, and the service is always attentive and professional. They routinely win all sorts of awards for the food, service and wine (which are framed and hung along the hallway on the way to the rest rooms).

Little had changed from our first visit — and this is a good thing. I started with a Leek soup, which held a delicate sliver of potato in a ring, like the handle of a small basket, arched over a fascinating ‘hour-long cooked egg’ (an egg that had been carefully cooked over low heat until it was somewhere between a solid and a sauce) in the centre of it. Pam had three gorgeous ‘beet sandwiches’, each made of 2 slices of thin crimson beet slices surrounded local goat cheese, topped with a raspberry sauce and lemon shreds. My main course was a duck breast (always my favourite, and after all, it was my birthday dinner) with a rich, brown sauce, served over a small mound of chopped kale and some other ingredient (couldn’t place it) that added flavour and richness. Pam had Arctic Char, served over deep green leaves of barely-cooked baby spinach. We each opted for a glass of different wine, for me a Spanish red (not a Rioja, another favourite, but close). Pam chose a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a citrusy wine my parents introduced us to years ago.

The kitchen then made a mistake, and sent Pam a dessert that she hadn’t ordered (and with the ‘Happy Birthday’ written on to the plate in chocolate sauce; They assumed it was her having the birthday), and shortly later they brought our regular desserts – for Pam a pineapple tart made with almond frangipani (about which I later learned, “There is an unclear linguistic connection between frangipani the flower; Frangipani, the nobleman perfume maker to King Louis XIII of France and the food product.”). For me, I indulged in 3 cheeses, including a terrific goat camembert called ‘Juliette’ that I had tasted at the food show earlier in the year and had been searching for ever since, and an absolutely phenomenal bleu cheese, a Bleu D’Auvergne. (Now I know that Auvergne is not only good for folk songs but also cheese!). With my cheese, I had a glass of Sauternes, which I’d describe as a bit of concentrated sunshine, and just as powerful. I’ve never had much Sauternes, being a big Port lover, so this was a pleasant surprise. Oddly enough, the wine and cheese were the most memorable part of the meal, despite the duck being very good (but just not as memorable). I think I’ve been missing good wine so much that when I get it I really enjoy it.

Loonie Power
Unless you’ve been following the exchange rate between the US and Canada as we have (and for most folks in the US it’s not a topic of conversation), you might be surprised to find out that for the first time in 30 years, the Canadian Dollar is on par, and on its way to being worth more than the US Dollar. Thank goodness we didn’t wait longer to move up here, or we’d be a lot poorer. When we first arrived, the exchange rate was roughly 1.25 Canadian to 1.00 in the dollar. That can make a big difference when you’re buying a house or living off savings from converted US dollars while waiting for work permits, etc.

I don’t know how permanent this exchange rate will be, nor do I have a clue how high the Canadian dollar will eventually go. Some say that it will continue to rise, and others say that the Canadian economy (particularly the manufacturing, raw materials and even the local film industry) can’t handle this, as the former weakness of the Canadian currency meant that US business could depend on an automatic ‘discount’ of sorts for comparable goods and services. Nevertheless, as trade with the US is always going to be a big part of the economy here (or at least until Canada can really get its act together regarding trade with China and others), this new world where our dollars are worth the same (or more) as US dollars is going to take some getting used to. The only thing I can add is that it just looks like another failure that Bush, or WPIUSH can claim. There is nothing this man touches that does not end up being lost, be it currency value or human lives.

In the near term, I am sure that we’ll be going shopping ‘south of the border’ (and I don’t mean Mexico), more often. Even gasoline via Point Roberts might be worth the distance and the wait.