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.

3 Replies to “Good Meal, Weak Greenback”

  1. WPIUSH: I LOVE it, David!

    Not say­ing that David and I are enjoy­ing the Loonie vs USD, though! As you said, it’s not too advan­ta­geous for those of us still in the US await­ing PR sta­tus in Canada.

    Ah, but it will be worth it. One day, we too will enjoy a fab­u­lous meal at West. Your food reviews always make me start to drool. You real­ly should con­sid­er a sec­ond career as a food critic .…

  2. Thanks, Bob. I wish you guys could get here soon­er — it almost seems as if the coun­tries are drift­ing fur­ther apart each day (at least in terms of cul­ture, econ­o­my and currency).

    I’ve actu­al­ly thought it would be fun to be a food crit­ic (did a cou­ple of stints of being a Clas­si­cal Music crit­ic, one while I was a grad stu­dent in Rochester, NY, and a brief one here for the Geor­gia Straight). The Straight would be the obvi­ous place to go, but for some rea­son they nev­er got back to me after the one and only review I did for them (despite a few polite offers from me to cov­er a con­cert or two after­wards). I would love to try it again, par­tic­u­lar­ly because one local food mag­a­zine report­ed that there have been 99 new or moved restau­rants in Van­cou­ver in the past 9 months (and what’s with that?!). I always loved the writ­ing of Ruth Reichl for the NYT Food sec­tion (until she left to become Edi­tor of Gourmet). It was par­tic­u­lar­ly nice to see how she could tie up a review with a ref­er­ence to a phrase or ref­er­ence at the start of the piece, a tech­nique that I some­times try to emulate.

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