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Nova 7: a 10/10

A quickie before bed. While I rarely give ANYTHING a 10/10, I have a brief, poetic description of the most beautiful moscato I have yet to experience. Described by Globe and Mail critic Beppi Crosariol as “blazing a new stylistic trail”,  he urges one to  “imagine a white table grape jumper-cabled to a car battery.”

This high-acidity brainchild of winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers works so beautifully due to the muscat grape’s love affair with the indecisive Nova Scotia weather and as Crosariol also notes, it reminds one of a fine Moscato without the sickly sweetness.

I do not pretend to be a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination so my description of this potent nectar is based on the knee-jerk instinct of pure delight. But I enjoy a good Moscato and feel at least somewhat entitled to say what I’m about to say next. Therefore the best way I can describe my brush with one of the mere 4000 bottles of the current 2011 vintage would be to simply say that it is like honey produced by a hive of self-aware bees from pollen plucked from the flowers that surround the very gates of heaven itself. Tinted ever so slightly with a heavy metal feel, if this wine were anything other than wine, It would be a Metallica song played by Beethovan as he made sweet love to the world’s last unicorn. Naked and on fire.

Unfortunately you may simply have to take my word on this as the current vintage is completely sold out. Il Mercato may still be carrying the odd bottle here and there but they’re not selling. Unless you’re willing to offer a serious bribe. And I suggest you do.

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Wendy’s – Not What You’ve Come to Expect

On the whole, Wendy’s restaurants aren’t all that bad. For the most part, you get what you expect. It’s fast food. Burgers that look like supermodels of succulent beef and fluffy buns on menu pictures are placed before you looking a little soggier than you’d hoped but you’re in line for fast food, not good food and it delivers what the fast food experience promises.

However, separate to some extent from the corporate entity are the individual cells that make it up. And one cell that deserves particular attention is the location on Wise Road in Dartmouth.

It’s pretty much the first eatery you see pulling off the John A. Which is really unfortunate because this product positioning gimmick works and this monstrosity of poor customer service and cold food claims many victims on a daily basis.

The first thing you notice when you walk in are the employee’s faces. Just an sorry row of miserable scowls that you just KNOW your presence is responsible for. This particular establishment -as of mid-2009 since that’s the last time I ever, or will ever, eat there- appeared to enforce a policy of only hiring low-energy, low-motivation slobs. They’re about as rude as they can get away with being, they stand around in a state of greasy, hypnotic exhaustion and they often repeat the order back incorrectly several times.

And if this exquisite show of misery doesn’t make you want to commit suicide, keep in mind that this is all before the food comes. I don’t believe I ever had one correct, complete order from this establishment (and seeing as I lived down the street from it for a period of time, I gave it ample opportunity to redeem itself.) There is one order that particularly stands out. I ordered what was vaguely described as an “Asian Salad” which turned out to be a casserole of vaguely Asian-inspired ingredients – including chow mein noodles that always taste vaguely of dried out tears and a small envelope of “sesame seed dressing” which, as far as I can tell, is a concoction of sesame oil, sugar, salt and water volatile enough to give me kidney pain. Being a fast food restaurant however, one expects to walk out with at least a mild case of random organ discomfort and I knew what I was in for.

I got the chow mein noodles. I also got tortilla chips that looked as if they would feel more at home in a hearty western-style salad. Instead of oranges, i got a cup of sour cream. I didn’t get any dressing.

Let me explain something before I continue. I have never before entertained the idea of reviewing a fast food joint. The very idea is ludicrous. But at this point, I was already hatching a sick fancy to do just that and so, in the spirit of a good critic, took the thing at face value and mixed all the ingredients together under the objective assumption that, when it comes to the recipe, the kitchen knows more than the dining room. And as i sat there eating my casserole of pure nonsense, only one word came to mind. This salad was retarded. It was like eating a special needs meal. I realize that description may be grossly offensive to a good number of people. That’s my intention. It was an offensive salad.

But now I had the bug and had to return to see if this offensive, retarded salad was just a fluke, a bad day. A drunk employee promptly fired. Anything. And in the months that followed, I’ve ordered hamburgers and gotten chicken sandwiches. (Of course, I’ve ordered ice cream and gotten a hamburger, so in a way, it all comes out in the wash.) There were frequently things missing from the order. They often got the drink wrong. Which is simply unacceptable because they pour it as you’re asking for it.

Basically, unless you’re hungry for a joke and have the money to waste on one, I’d bypass this location all together. If you want to pay good money for a bad joke, there are 1900 numbers that will satisfy the gut better than this.

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Bearly’s House of Blues and Ribs

bearlysThe first impression you might get when you walk in the door is that Bearly’s is some kind of subterranean good ol’ boys’ bar. The kind of place where men in sleeveless denim jackets and high-crown cowboy hats drink beer and tap their stetsons to the tune of Hank Williams. Except that instead of Hank Williams, you hear Riley Jackson. Discerning taste makes a hasty retreat. But discerning ears will not. And the discerning stomach will thank them. This initial facade of country-western dystopia, combined with the gauche “… and Ribs” that suffixes the establishment’s name, are just a ploy to keep pretension at bay and given the crowd a Friday night draws, it appears to be working.

The dark,, somewhat cloistered atmosphere, half jukejoint, half Irish pub, is built on 3 open concept levels, the topmost being the pool table nook with large windows that open onto the band and the dance floor far below, allowing you an excellent, yet deliciously private vantage point to watch the action.

And there is action. Most nights showcase excellent live music, both local and visiting acts. (The exception is Wednesday night Karaoke which, one might argue, is about as live as it gets.) As the name suggests, in addition to ribs, there is no shortage of blues either but bluegrass, swing and jazz acts are not unusual phenomena. And of course, anywhere you find excellent live music, you’ll also find people willing to dance to it. And because Bearly’s lacks the pretension and social paranoia of most other eclectic nightclub venues, everybody dances. It is nothing unusual to see a 90 year old man jitterbug the daylights out of his dainty 86 year old wife with the rhythm and grace of a teenager. It is nothing to see a group of 50-something flower-childhood friends trying to revive the Freakout as they glide seamlessly to music reminiscent of incense and peppermints. The atmosphere infects all who enter with it’s glorious sense of honest funk.

And since all that dancing works up an appetite, the menu boasts an all-star cast of classic pub favourites of gargantuan proportions. (The potato skins, for example, can only be described as “extended-family size” and are covered with so many toppings, you have to have ordered them to identify them.) And true to it’s promise, Bearly’s House of Blues… has ribs. These are a succulent, fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth mastery of carnivorous delight and drunk with the house’s signature sauce. And while you have the option of ordering the half rack, the full rack is recommended since it’s an excuse to bring along friends, treat them to ribs and cement your popularity for weeks to come.

There are no leather couches. They don’t serve lattes, nor do they serve sushi (though you CAN get a mean fish and chips for $8.95) There are no bookshelves loaded with books everyone has claimed to have read but no one actually has. There are no obnoxious reprints of famous paintings hanging everywhere. They simply showcase music. They showcase the hell out of it.

Bearly’s House of Blues & Ribs
1269 Barrington St.
Halifax, NS
(902) 423-2526

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Christmas Turkey Guts

Writing is about adventure.

We didn’t have Experiences growing up. My mother was afraid of them. We never had a real family vacation because she was afraid of flying so in order to get anywhere, we pretty much had to rely on the family car. And for a family that doesn’t enjoy being together for protracted periods of time, the Family Car was less a chariot to adventure and more a chamber of misery and leg cramps. So of course, we never really went anywhere unless you count a road trip to Tennessee when I was ten. Somewhere around Pennsylvania, I punched my sister in the face for trespassing on my side of the car. When my dad asked me what the holy hell that was all about, I remember distinctly saying “because we’ve been in a car for four days when we could have flown here in four hours. It’s hot, this car smells like feet and I’m pissed off. Damnit.” and I remember thinking, in a moment of rare wisdom and clarity probably uncharacteristic for a ten year old that not only did open cursing just get its first pilot run, I had accurately and openly addressed concerns with some degree of articulate cogency. Of course, along with that was the flash of plain, naked fear that came from the knowledge that I was about to Get It. There were two things that were loudly discouraged in my family: cuss words and cynicism. Really it was safest to shy away from all forms of honesty other than tattling and confession. Observation was something that was not done in our house. Observational honesty mixed with my family created a chemistry that was very unstable. Complaints were wrong. Criticisms were dismissed and Observations were usually only halfway out before one or both of them interrupted in such a way that didn’t only imply my thoughts weren’t important but, had mastered the art of demonstrating that, in that moment, I didn’t exist.

So it’s no real surprise that on that ill-fated odyssey that I decided to do two things. Act out like a motherfucker and start keeping a diary. “Decided” might be the wrong word. On day two of the trip, after loudly mourning that I had forgotten to pack any “damn comics”, my father handed me a set of headphones and a journal and said “Make it work”. And I liked it. At first I just liked the bubble it created between me and everyone else. It took me a few days to figure out that, most importantly, that journal was a place where I could say everything I was thinking and not get kicked under a table at Denny’s because “the fucking syrup tastes like bee piss.” In that blue book, I could feel however I wanted about my surroundings. I could capture and harness any crazy scenario raging inside my twisted little head and not have it called “foolishness”. I could observe the world around me without being told I was seeing it all wrong.

Most ten year old girls don’t know themselves well but I REALLY didn’t know myself. At all because to a large extent I was discouraged from being myself. Not using whatever gifts I had was unacceptable but using them (and at that age you’re using any genius you may or may not have purely in instinct) was Tedious. Annoying. Tiresome. Actually that was probably the word I heard the most. I, the human being, was Tiresome. That was pretty much all I knew about myself. But between the pages of that blue book, I was able to realize why I was so tiresome. Because I craved everything. New experiences, adventure, change, chaos, spicy food, air travel. I craved a plot. And i wanted to achieve these things by watching the world very closely and then telling it exactly what I thought of it.

Criticism is a spiritual process to someone who has opinions in the same way eating is a spiritual process to someone who has an appetite. They’re kindred activities. You smell it. You crave it. You savour it and then you wind up bloated, tired and a little scared of what you’ve just done. But like having one too many helpings of turkey every year, you relish the simple, slutty honesty of it all. And every year you go back for a third helping even though you know you’ll wind up passed out on the couch with your pants undone. You keep going back. Because it’s good for the soul.

Whether you’re submerged in critical theory or gravy, the most important piece of advice I can give you is wear pants with an elastic waist.