Monday, October 31, 2011

ending with a laugh

Because we all need a sense of humour about everything.

And if you can't understand what the man is saying, too fucking bad. This here is a litmus test, to weed out the Shanghainese wannabes. Yeah, you can talk about Shanghai all you want, but if you don't understand our language, you're still only Chinese.





I've been writing a lot about tea lately. Just inspired I suppose, but tea for me has always been a way of life.

My aunt brought over some Japanese green tea, ryokucha. The brewing process is very different . . . she even brought me a teapot for it. You see, you need a shockingly fine filter inside to run the water through . . . it's essentially an instant extraction of the tea. The leaves are fragments really, showing the most brilliant green colour. Even the tea it yields stays green, without ever browning from oxidation. My aunt taught me this phrase in Japanese that I've already forgotten. It refers to this textural feeling the best tea gives you, as if there's a cloud in your mouth.

Ryokucha has the most amazing effect on the palate. Rich, structured, and so fragrant - these teas have the most amazing combination of freshness and power. So tannic, yet retaining a delicacy that's so singular. And that texture . . . thick almost, cloudy certainly, unparalleled intensity. Tea ceremony and all that bullshit aside, ryokucha is special. And above all, it must be consumed fresh, so I'm already looking forward to when I'm going to get my next batch.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

your online profile

DF Profile

This is in no way a show of disrespect or douchebaggery on my part. But I do believe running my own website entitles me to say what the fuck I want, about whatever the fuck I want.

Immigrants, especially those from the same background, have to stick together. Our dinners always end with some kind of group shot; everyone has a laugh, and it's a good documentation of every gathering. I control the content of this website very carefully, as well as information about me floating online. Sure, there's no such thing as absolute control of your online profile . . . even the CPC struggle with that. But I know I'm extra careful when I write about or post photos of anyone else. So I was a bit puzzled when I got a curt email asking/telling me to take the photos down.

I have a problem with authority. Or rather, this unspoken generational hierarchy that the Chinese believe is cut into stone; this unyielding cultural ethos that a generation under never challenges the generation above. I chafe severely at that. Because it overrides reason and common sense. Is it a surprise that Confucius called it ancestor worship - not merely respect, not just honour, but worship. Respecting your elders is a tenet of my culture that I adhere to, but when I'm told that I need to meekly give in simply on account of my generational standing, my balls itch and tell me to do the complete opposite.

Look, I'm a reasonable person. I'm not out to make anyone feel uncomfortable, or unnecessarily trample on anyone's delicate sensibilities. It's not a big deal. But anyone who presumes to tell me what I should be doing . . . I'll take no quarter. I'll fucking nuke that bridge before I even cross it.

All with a nod and smile. Because if we can't be civilized about it all, we're no better than the savages right?


Samuel Smith's Tadcaster Oatmeal Stout

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout

Samuel Smith Old Brewery | Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout | Tadcaster, United Kingdom

When it comes down to it, nothing beats a pint of the black stuff. Others can try, but once you've found your beloved, it's silly to continue trying to find another. I'm not claiming Guinness to be the best stout ever made . . . but beer isn't meant to be intellectual. It's meant to bring pleasure and comfort, and no other stout comes close to Ireland's finest.

They certainly try though. Oatmeal stout out of the U.K. Good effort, but how come its so skunky? Good enough concentration, but enough off aromas to make you have to force down the last few gulps. Are we seeing a divide here? When they do it well, the Old World brewmasters prove that tradition and authenticity trumps all. But increasingly, it's the North Americans that are making the interesting, exciting brews. This is nearly completely the opposite of what we're seeing in wine, as its the New World producers that focus on making the hedonistic stuff, while the Old World protects its heritage of singular, terroir-specific wines. Let me know what you think.

I've been very pleased with how my iPhone photos are turning out. It takes documenting things to another level when I can take high quality shots as the action happens, instead of carrying around my Nikon, or even worse, my iPad around.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chimay Rouge Première

Chimay Premiere

Chimay Brewery Pères Trappistes Rouge Première | Belgium

Its all cool and shit to imagine monks and robes and all that, still making beer in the old ways. But thats unfortunately not the case, at Chimay at least. This is one of the biggest (and most profitable) Trappist ale breweries, and is fully modern. Still pretty awesome to see a religious order attached to a beer, but the more I drink Belgian beers, the more I appreciate the fact that unlike wine, New World brewmasters are doing some great work.

Belgians, apparently, like their beers skunky. Sure, you can make the case for rusticity - I love stinky wines, but it has to be a pleasant stank. These beers don't feel integrated, and the darker ales seem to reek of off odours, like the malt was covered in a layer of mold. The caramel they use to colour the beers is so obvious, like a seriously caked on makeup job. Just off, and half the way through, I was thirsting for a Guinness.

Like I said, maybe the Belgians aren't as good at this as we give them credit for.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Southern Tier 2XIPA

Southern Tier 2XIPA

Southern Tier Brewing Company 2XIPA | Lakewood, NY

Because brewing a simple India Pale Ale isn't enough . . . it has to be a double IPA. Can you believe a bottle of beer is almost running $3? I'm not suggesting that these great craft brews aren't worth it, but yeah, I just bought one. The weather was starting to seriously get a bit chilly, and we were making the most amazing spicy fish dish with green Sichuan peppercorns and a chili paste. I had planned on expecting the extreme hoppiness of this kind of beer to combat the fiery dish, and it didn't disappoint.

Beautiful orange, slightly cloudy colour, with lots of floral, citrussy hop aromas. Full and bitter on the palate, long. This is a very well made beer. It isn't necessarily any more bitter or extreme in any way compared with some of the Ontario IPA's I've been drinking. It's more the quality of the hops used. If you like aromatic brews, this one's it. Nice. Although I'm ready for this hops trend to pass. Let's really see you put your balls on the table and put out a triple . . . no, a quadruple IPA.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

2008 Adelaide Riesling

2008 Penfolds Thomas Hyland Riesling

2008 Penfolds Thomas Hyland Riesling | Adelaide

Riesling, at its best, is thrilling, vibrant, and quite possibly, one of the most exciting wines to drink in the world. It all hinges on alcohol, sugar, and acidity. I got a good look a few weekends ago when I tasted the new release of Hidden Bench's rieslings, both at the estate level and single-vineyard bottlings. I won't comment on how hideously overpriced all the wines are, but more importantly, the wines were all just shrill, just shrieking of under-ripe, enamel-stripping acidity.

I've made it quite clear (click on Germany label) that in my particular opinion, the Germans make some of the finest, terroir-specific wines in the world. There are many good wines in the world; few excite and induce a euphoria quite like a German riesling. A few critics that I respect have been writing favourably about the dry riesling being produced in Australia. I'm no lover of this country, or its horribly overdone red wines, but I wanted to at least have a taste.

The wine was extraordinary.

And from a big producer too. Dry, low alcohol, perfectly balanced. Citrus notes and floral in bouquet, the wine is linear, with lovely delicacy and lift on the palate. Dances, but has the necessary dry extract to make a firm impression. Long, slightly bitter on the finish. Just fabulous, brings truth to the idea that maybe we all need to be paying more attention to Australian riesling. They have all the technical know-how, and seem to have the right terroir for it . . . now we just need to have agencies who bring more of it in. D|O|S . . . death to shiraz!


Da Hong Pao tea

Da Hong Pao

Da Hong Pao

大红袍 is a national treasure for the Chinese. If it's true, the story is spectacular . . . 4 tea bushes, dating back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Annual yield of less than a kilogram, with the government locking away a portion. Nixon receiving 50g in 1972 at the conclusion of his great visit to China, and the beginning of Sino-American bilateral relations. Its cult status as the greatest Oolong tea produced, with a stratospheric price to match.

The question is, what exactly am I drinking here? We've never bought tea - my family knows people. Tea-producing people in Fujian province that ship all kinds of stuff over for us. And included in this latest package was a tiny bag labelled 大红袍. I'd like to think that what I'm drinking is the real thing, but we're not that well connected. Definitely from Wuyi Mountain in Fujian, arguably the finest tea terroir in the world. In any case, the leaves show correct colour, and unravel beautifully, fermented whole. Complex, great depth, and develops a fabulous sweetness on the palate. Citrus peel and all that fragrance. Great texture and length.

I think I still have enough for maybe 2 more good brews. These oxidized teas can sometimes be boring and overdone, but occasionally they send over a few really delicate ones.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2008 Midi Syrah Vin de Pays d'Oc

2008 Domaine Les Yeuses Syrah Les Epices Vin de Pays d'Oc

2008 Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah | Midi | Vin de Pays d'Oc

Humility is key. Just because it's a Vin de Pays, who says it can't be interesting? Looking at my notes, I'm reminded that I drink far too little syrah. And that was the first mistake I made. Never go out searching for a particular wine. Pick up interesting bottles, without any preconceptions of what you'd like to be drinking, or you risk drinking the same thing over and over, or worse, end up buying something just because.

I trusted the judgement of a local Ontario critic on this one. This man, who I won't name, runs a fairly high-profile (locally) website that helps people select wines from each Vintages release. He wrote that - I paraphrase - this wine showed quintessential syrah character. So I went for it, giving his palate the benefit of the doubt. I shouldn't have. Macerated fruit, dull, boring, and all that. A shame because I've drunk some absolutely delicious Vin de Pays wines. And you have something like this, which is unrecognizable from any other shit produced anywhere else in the world. Shame.

That's the last time I turn lazy and buy a wine, just because.


2008 Côtes de Castillon

2008 Chateau d'Aiguilhe2008 Chateau d'Aiguilhe

2008 Chateau d'Aiguilhe2008 Chateau d'Aiguilhe

2008 Château d'Aiguilhe | AC Côtes de Castillon

A lot of hyperventilating has been going on online about the current state of Bordeaux wines. Prices are in the stratosphere, American critics are running wild, and most troubling, the French seem to actually believe all the hubris written about them. No one disputes that the Bordelais make good, sometimes truly great wines. But it's not a religion, despite what some would have you think. And that's not even going anywhere near the issue of what they call modern Bordeaux. Bordeaux has never been a real organic, agricultural place - like its people, the wines have always had a certain aristocratic flair. Some of the most advanced equipment is now being used there, removing the wines even further from what terroir lovers think of as natural. It used to be that one could easily distinguish Left Bank from Right Bank wines . . . differences are much more blurred now, with wines seeing ever more ripeness, extraction, and oak. The unholy trinity of modern wine.

Count Stephan von Neipperg seems like a great guy. Articulate about his wines, dashingly debonair, and if anyone can bring back the moustache, it's the Count. I have a few vintages of d'Aiguilhe put away, and having just received the 2008, decided to have some fun. The vineyards are biodynamic, but I don't think anyone can dispute that they are modern. Immediately dark, inky even . . . I can't remember the last wine I drank that stained the glass like that. Initially, very aromatic. Minerals and mocha, some toasty oak. Very ripe fruit, slightly jammy. Palate somehow doesn't deliver to what the aroma suggests. Lacking in weight, silky in texture, but the finish drops off. Very ripe, with noticeable alcohol.

What made the greatest impression on me was this sense of modernity of the wine, of cool technical precision. I can't think of another way to describe it . . . just a cold wine, like a slab of Carrara marble. Structured, but the palate disappoints. Promises too much on the nose, and just does not deliver. The wine devolved further with air, losing a lot of character, a lot of freshness, and even began seeming tired. I don't know what to think. This is still very, very young; this was how it was showing now, but I'm hoping for some surprises. Two more bottles left, to be revisited in a few years.

What answers does this wine give us? You can't just generalize and say that all modern Bordeaux fits into the same mold of too much ripeness, too much alcohol, too much new oak. But I am a bit disappointed. It's a good wine, but is it a good Bordeaux? Is it even recognizable as a wine of Castillon? Some question marks, which future bottles will hopefully clarify.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bordeaux with/without decanting?

2008 Chateau d'Aiguilhe

I've been behind in my writing. My bad. Just distracted by some things right now, most of them stupid. If only you could defriend someone in real life with a click and confirm. But what am I saying. An uncle of mine loves to say that most people are assholes, and for once, I'm inclined to believe him. So, before I publish anything I'm going to regret online, let's talk about wine.

The rest of my 2008 Bordeaux En Primeur order has been coming in. In hindsight, yes, I bought too much. People seem to be forgetting now, but initially, there was some excitement about the 2008's. The vintage was deemed better than expected, although not a truly great one; certainly, it was an improvement over 2007, with critics rating it between 2004 and 2006 in quality. And of course, the Bordelais made a statement by lowering prices by about 30-40%, with many of the top Châteaux releasing prices before the top critics had published their scores. It was with this sort of backdrop that I sent out one of my largest En Primeur orders (in my young wine-buying career). I remember so clearly . . . there had been talks for weeks that the First Growths would be dramatically lowering prices, and not waiting for Parker scores. Latour came out at $345 a bottle - recall that its 2007 was around $750-$800. I decided to go for it, and placed an order for a single lot. Alas, as you can see from the LCF archives from that year, I didn't get it. So silly . . . of course it wouldn't go through, who buys single lots of First Growths?

I find myself frequenting running out of wine in the house. These should be going straight to storage, but hell, I just paid for it, so might as well have a drink. I'll reveal what wine this is soon, but for now, its identity isn't important. A modern Right Bank wine, I wanted to see how it would withstand varying degrees of oxidation. So, a glass right out of the bottle, covered with plastic wrap to keep it relatively oxygen-resistant. The rest of the bottle into a decanter for a few hours. I tasted a glass of each that night, about 6 hours after opening the bottle. The results surprised me.

As a lover of traditional European wines, I have this belief that a great wine needs air to fully develop and reveal itself, especially a young one. All the great wines I've drank, dry, sweet, or sparkling, show nuance upon nuance, particularly after being opened for a day or two. And with Bordeaux, I almost expect it. But these modern, technical wines seem to be totally different. The glass with minimal air showed fresher, with more minerality, more fruit. Palate more integrated as well, most harmonious. The glass that was exposed to air was almost beginning to fall apart. Drying out on the nose, palate becoming thin, wispy in texture. Surprised? Definitely. And a bit troubling.

So, does that mean that these wines need to be drunk within a few hours of opening, and without decanting? Certainly, the wine shows more character, more pleasure from being less exposed to air. Doesn't that go against what a Bordeaux wine is, what a great wine is? Or am I jumping to conclusions? My approach was straightforward enough. Has anyone else tried something similar? What wine was it . . . what did you notice?


the last drops of mulberry wine...

mulberry wine

...are always the best

My forefathers are from the coastal town of Ningbo, and apparently, we have some distant relatives still living there. I've never been - and as a Fang, I think I'm expected to pay a visit sometime in the future. It's not a big deal. It just depends on the amount of gifts you bring right?

Anyways, this is a liqour that's unique to the region. Mulberries grow native there, and when they're at their ripest, the locals sink them in BaiJiu, the fiery rice and grain spirit that pushes 50% abv. With age, the alcohol is absorbed into the fruit, taking away the fire and leaving the spirit rounder. The fruit on the other hand will, as they say, knock you the fuck out. Locals swear by it for medicinal purposes too. I've never tried it, but it's supposedly particularly effective for bouts of diarrhea.

It all hinges on the quality of the fruit, as always. These mulberries weren't the ripest, which leaves the spirit slightly bitter. Not that exciting to drink, but eating the fruit is great. All the kick from the alcohol, and the texture stays a bit crunchy. And what a kick. A bowl of it, and the room started spinning. Just enough, just enough.


2006 Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos

2006 Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos2006 Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos

2006 Royal Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos | Hungary

Aszú wines always have the most stunning colour. And everytime I drink them, every single time . . . I ask myself why I don't have any in the cellar. I'd truthfully have no problem replacing every bottle of Sauternes I have with these wines. Who knew, that in addition to pornstars, Hungary could have such exquisite exports?!

I adore Royal Tokaji. Absolutely adore this wine. That's a bit different than even being excited - if there's any wine that I desperately need in my cellar, it's this one. It has all the earthy apricot and honey that is so singular. This 2006 is a bit less viscous, with a more subtle botrytis character, compared to the 2005. It's the low alcohol that makes the wine work so well, I'm sure of it. Acidity just shines because of the alcohol, absolutely cutting into your palate on the finish. Love it. But these wines are still so young. Working on it, working on it.

One question though . . . why the 20 cL bottle format? Just doesn't make any sense, to go smaller than a half bottle.


2009 Rheingau Klaus Riesling Kabinett

2009 Schloss Schonborn Riesling

2009 Schloss Schönborn Klaus Riesling Kabinett | QmP Johannisberger Klaus | Rheingau

We all have to make sacrifices right. Some more than others. I'm suffering hard - don't let all the wines written about here fool you. I've been on what amounts to a wine fast for a few months now. My fault for not being born with the ability to shit gold. Oops.

But I shouldn't complain. Not when if chosen carefully, I can still find bottles hovering around $15-20 that are great unique, terroir-driven wines. Some debate going on online, among the wine geeks, about the history and importance of dry versus sweet German riesling, but in this wino's opinion, sweet German riesling is one of the lions of the wine world. I will drink and drink and drink these wines every chance I get, and I'm going to talk to everyone I can about these wines because you cannot be a true wino and not appreciate what they represent.

Opens with slight fizz, very palate in colour. Booming minerality, ripe citrus. And the palate . . . big time. It's all about the dry extract, that gives the acidity texture and presence and weight. Extraordinary. Punches pretty hard, yet seems to dance. Pacquiao in a glass. Bobbing and weaving and ever so elusive, but when it all lines up, just lights out powerful.


Monday, October 24, 2011

packaging tea is so wasteful



They always packaged TieGuanYin tea in separate little packets, but this is getting ridiculous. Another small plastic bag inside? They call it brewing 'a bag'. One packet in the teapot, good for a strong, structured brew. I just hate to see such waste. Especially because I insist on storing all my tea in clear glass containers. Tea leaves need to be scooped into the teapot, not shrink-wrapped like a fucking emergency ration. You're ruining the ritual, just ruining it.

So I guess the question is . . . does tea taste better individually wrapped? But you all know the answer already.


2004 Barolo Monvigliero

2004 Terre Del Barolo Monvigliero Barolo

2004 Terre Del Barolo Monvigliero | DOCG Barolo

Barolo with bottle age is an elixir. And this is still so young, but absolutely singing. I drink simply, but a few weekends ago, the sun was shining and I wanted a bottle to pick me up a bit. This bottle, from the Monvigliero vineyard, was so stunning I almost finished it myself. Generosity is fundamental trait in winos, but that afternoon, I was swooning.

I was just hit with this wretching, consuming, maddening hunger for some soppressata salami. It's just something about the quality of Barolo tannins that marries like a dream with cured meat. That initial richness of the salami, finishing slightly sharp and spicy . . . it shouldn't work, but the linearly defined tannins in Barolo wines wrap around the fat perfectly and somehow makes everything silkier, bringing out the porkiness in the meat and the fresh fruit of the wine. Beautiful.

The wine was glowing in the glass, red and ever so slightly orange at the rim. Such a young wine, but it was singing of Barolo - earthy red fruits, truffles, with a great sense of density. Develops a savoury character on the palate, finely structured, coating tannins. A sublime impression of sweetness as well. Mineral and chiselled, very fine indeed. Divine.

Almost made me not want to share.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Niagara, in shots

Thirty Bench Winemakers

Hidden BenchHidden BenchThirty Bench Winemakers

Thirty Bench Winemakers

Thirty Bench Winemakers

I was in Niagara today, with the Toronto-based photographer, ROKChoi. He was photographing an engagement shoot with a wine-loving couple, and asked if I would come along to take them through a few wineries. We got there early, giving us some time to squeeze in a quick tasting before meeting up with the couple.

Now, I've been debating internally about how to approach this. Because it's Niagara, I need to be a bit more diplomatic about how I write about the wines. Can't be burning any bridges, you see, especially if I have yet to cross them. But I really, really despise the sometimes ridiculous lines you're fed by a winery's retail staff. And that goes for any wine region, but we can do better here. Anyways, it's one thing for a wine to be highly rated by critics, but quite another when you get a glass in your hand. My lasting impression of the wines were how shrill they were in acidity - it's great to make high acid, truly cool-climate wines, but when they're so out of balance you feel the enamel dripping off your teeth, the wines are just poor representations of the varietals.

In any case, the day wasn't about me, or about the wines. It was about our newly engaged couple, and finding them the best locations to take some great shots. Niagara is stunning this time. The harvest is mostly all done, with only the parcels meant for icewine still holding fruit. The leaves are starting to turn gold, so beautiful when the sun hits the vineyard in a certain way. It was a good day . . . our couple got their shots, and we got to taste some wine. A more in-depth, proper tasting trip is in the works, in the next weeks.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

coffee in the morning

It's all a ritual. Grind the beans to the correct coarseness, fill the water to just enough, heat the macchinetta just so. And serve with cream in the most exquisite china you have.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Jacques Pépin and how to do garlic

There’s the Wrong Way and Jacques Pépin’s Way

I'm so inspired. The New York Times did a piece on Jacques Pépin last week, focussing not on his new cookbook but the importance of good cooking technique. Everyone wants to go straight to being creative - most people (99%) only grasp at it. There's something wonderful about seeing someone with masterful knife skills, knowing how to correctly apply heat, even how they move around a kitchen. Watch the videos. That's what I want to work on, to put this newfound appreciation for hard work at developing proper technique to practice.

I'm starting with the garlic purée on the chopping board. I tell my piano students all the time about how strong fundamentals trump all else. Pépin proves that that ideal applies even more in the kitchen.


iPhone 4S




I finally picked up my iPhone 4S last night. So I guess some good did come out of not being able to go to Montreal. I'm so excited, it's just not like me - I'm far from a tech person. It's been more than a year, but finally I was able to latch onto a (somewhat) decent data plan, and wait for the latest iPhone. Here we go - I'm excited to use this camera as a complement to my Nikon here, as well as pick up Twitter/Facebook activity. Siri, let's get to work.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Celt Experience Bronze Crafted Ale


Celt Experience Bronze Crafted Ale

Heading to Montreal today to do a presentation for a client - we didn't know until Tuesday that it was taking place there. A non-refundable $664 for a return flight . . . yikes. Even for a last minute ticket, that's theft now, isn't it. But here's the real surprise. Our meeting got canceled this morning, the same day we were supposed to be leaving.

We brought all our luggage with us to the office, ready to leave in the afternoon. Everything, flight and hotel booked, ready to fucking rumble. So yeah, I feel fucking worked over. But that's how things are right? Have to, as they say, roll with the punches. Not upset, it's just that you get so pumped up and ready for something, only to have shit pulled out from under you. So what now? We've prepped all the materials, we're all ready . . . and we'll always be ready for whatever comes. There's never going to be a perfect situation for you, but we're making the best of everything.

I came home pretty fucking wrecked, just exhausted from the week. But you know how these things are. I'm reminded of this beer I drank a few weeks ago. Good, proper ale. Malty, hoppy flavours, well made. You just want beer to be complete, to be authentic. This delivers that. So what now? A temporary setback, just a little fart in the process, but we're prepared as ever to go hard at it. Bring it on.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2008 Niagara-on-the-Lake Sauvignon Blanc

2008 Stratus Sauvignon Blanc

2008 Stratus Sauvignon Blanc | Niagara-on-the-Lake

My buddy brought this over, the same night I was taking another look at Napa cab. This friend, my old roommate from university, had just returned from a long day in Niagara wine country. Yes, so much fun, rented limo and all that taking them all over Niagara. Drinking and partying. So classy, so epic . . . and remind me, what was it in celebration of? Oh right. I remember now, amid all my hazy recollection of what he told us that evening. Right, good for you guys, lots of fun.

My friend was nice enough to remember us less fortunate who weren't invited, to bring a bottle that he picked up. I'm not overly ecstatic about Stratus wines (something about their wine philosophy), but their sauvignon blanc is a winner. Easily mistaken for a dry white Bordeaux, it has also the varietal character, with good extracted acidity to make a definitive impression on your palate. It's a very good wine, even if the Niagara part of it may be obscured.

A big thanks to my friend, who was generous enough to share this with us. I'm too old, too fucking tired to be bullshitting around with people, so it's nice to have friends who are straight up about things. Thanks buddy, I owe you a good dinner.

Can you tell I've been drinking :)


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Burberry Brit





So . . . everything was going ok today until the client dropped a bombshell on us. We're going to Montreal on Friday! I love the city - they have some good restaurants, we stay at a nice hotel, the girls are pretty. But with only 2 days notice to prepare our presentation materials, a little Montreal fling was out of the question.

At least I was going to look fly. This was my birthday gift from my mother, a little souvenir from Paris. I like the French very much. They don't so much sell you something as make sure what you're trying on is appropriate for you. If it doesn't fit right, doesn't look right, whatever . . . they'll tell you monsieur, it's not for you. As I was trying this coat on, the lady nodded as I said I loved it and would take it. Of course you will she said. I got my friend to alter the sleeves as they were a bit long, but otherwise, it fits like a dream. And I really love the material - water just seem to bead right off. It was expensive but it's an investment piece isn't it - my first, and hopefully, only trench coat I'll need for the next 15 years.

See those d-rings on the belt? They were designed to hang hand grenades off of. How badass is that . . . I've got more buttons and flaps than you plus I've got room to hang weapons.

So, the plan is to leave Toronto Thursday night for Montreal, straight from the office. Check in, hopefully before 10, then up early Friday for a day of work, before heading back on an 8 pm flight back home. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.