Sunday, October 11, 2015


Monday, January 28, 2013


"No Seconds" is a series of photos by New Zealand photographer Henry Hargraves.  Each photo is a recreation of the last meal eaten (or, in one case, denied) by notorious criminals, with odd tidbits of each meal to emphasize just how surreal each case was.  There's no humanizing involved here: if anything, the meals just make each criminal seem that much more creepy.

Check it out here.


Friday, December 14, 2012


It's that time of the year again, when, in between all the festivity and merriment, a certain amount of self-reflection occurs, segueing into anxiety and excitement as the new year brings its clean slate.  And it makes for the perfect occasion to dig into Jonathan Dixon's Beaten, Seared and Sauced.

His story is familiar: after years of jobs but no career, the author seeks a new start at the Culinary Institute of America.  It's a pursuit of the nagging feeling of a potential unfulfilled, but also a pursuit of a professional life that is far more satisfying, a theme familiar to anyone that has ever stared out the window in search of a new, or any, career.

Dixon oscillates between newfound excitement and constant self-doubt.  He writes about his classes and experiences with the awe and astonishment of an explorer venturing into mythical territory, areas and spheres that he had superficial knowledge of before, but now encountering in depth for the first time.  It's a re-discovery of passion, but Dixon's greater strength is in describing the anxiety and fear that accompanies, particularly when the story veers outside of school into Dixon's first job in a restaurant kitchen.

It's almost coincidental that Beaten, Seared and Sauced focuses on the CIA.  Dixon could just have easily been enamoured by woodcraft; it's his retelling of the curiosity and trepidation that compels.  This is a real contrast to Michael Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America, where one senses Ruhlman had little doubt that he could, in fact, succeed, despite the occasional hiccup here or there (Ruhlman subsequently partnered with Thomas Keller on his cookbooks, as well as writing his own).  Where Ruhlman's book is fascinating as an observatory piece -- particularly one of the culinary school before the advent of Food Network, Top Chef and the cult of celebrity -- Beaten, Seared and Sauced is perhaps more engaging as a story anyone can relate to.

But don't take my word for it: I'm giving away my copy of both Dixon's Beaten, Seared and Sauced and Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef.  All you have to do is leave a comment telling me what career you've always dreamed about (you can question yourself as to why you haven't pursued it.)  Remember to leave some way we can contact you in case you win.

Contest closes on December 31, 11:59PM (Vancouver time).  That's right: enter before the New Year.


Sunday, October 21, 2012


It's been awhile, but we're back with a special edition of Labelled, where we judge a wine by its label - or, in this case, a beer.  We're awfully close to All Hallow's Eve, so here's two pumpkin beers by a couple of BC craft brewers.

(If you haven't read past installments of Labelled before, the premise is pretty simple: we, like most folks, pick our booze based in part by the label. We figure out what the label is trying to tell us, we drink it, and then we assess where art has led us astray/brought us to the Holy Land.)

Parallel 49 Brewing Company's Schadenfreude (Vancouver, BC)

LABEL SAYS: Well, it says alot.  It's that time of year where Tim Burton fans go apeshit and menacing jack-o-lanterns reign supreme, that slight ounce of evil balanced out by a heavy ton of cartoon.  That bodes well for a beer, generally: that hint of danger will be followed up by comic yuks. The schadenfreude part of it? Let's just hope the brewers aren't conjuring up a strange brew to have their laughs at our expense.

BEER SAYS: Nope - if anyone's suffering here, it's my liver, 'cause this stuff goes down pretty easily.  There's a lot of beernuts that shake their head at a flavoured beer, but this one makes peace with a good head of cinnamon chased down by memories of pie.

DESIGN HARMONY: I can't think of anyone that will suffer from drinking this, per se, so there's a disconnect.  But that's a GOOD thing.

Howe Sound Brewing's Pumpkineater Imperial Pumpkin Ale (Squamish, BC)

LABEL SAYS: There's two things that generally come to mind when one mentions "Pumpkin Eater."  First, of course, is the creepy nursery rhyme - I really don't know what to make of that.

Or there's the film, The Pumpkin Eater, from the mid-60s, based on the Penelope Mortimer book of same name.  Very generally, Anne Bancroft goes through emotional hell while her third husband, Peter Finch may or may not (ahem) be cheating on her.

How that bodes for an imperial pumpkin ale is a conundrum.

BEER SAYS: None of the above.  There's no turmoil here, no gender politics, no questionable marital relationships.  Instead: Safeway pumpkin pie, lots of whipped cream, and the sugar coma that follows.

DESIGN HARMONY: Unless this starts a tipping point into alcoholism, I think it's safe to say this beer won't lead to divorce.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Joel Bakan should really need no introduction: he is the author of The Corporation: the Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, a bestseller in numerous countries and winner of countless awards, and  the writer and co-creator of the accompanying documentary (also an award winner: The Corporation won best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival).  He is also a jazz musician and a professor of law at the University of British Columbia, but still somehow found time to write his most recent book, Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children

Joel Bakan is a featured author at The Word on the Street festival (September 28 to 30), and we are more than honoured to present his Top Slop, which you can read HERE.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Kevin Chong is not just an all-around good guy, but also an author of four books, including his latest, My Year of the Racehorse.  It just so happens that he also wrote one of my favorite pieces from last year about a corner of Vancouver's restaurant scene, "Revisionist Chinese" for Walrus magazine.  Kevin appears at The Word on the Street (September 28th to 30th), and we have a copy of My Year of the Racehorse to giveaway (details below). 

For Kevin's "Top Slop" and details about our contest, read here.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Like many people, I grew up reading Peter Bagge's seminal comic book series, Hate, and the various adventures and exploits of Buddy Bradley.  This was eye-opening stuff to an adolescent, and along with Clowes, Ware and others, it cemented a love for comics that has extended to present day.  I grew to think of Seattle as Bagge depicted it, and - in conjunction with his appearance at The Word on the Street (September 28th to 30th) - we asked him for his "Top Slop." 

Read it - and enter our contest for a set of Bagge's new comic Reset - here. UPDATE: CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS!