Shop at JC Penney.

    Posted on: Friday, June 8th, 2012

Need a new shirt? A new pair of shoes? A pair of slacks?

Please buy them at JC Penney.

No, seriously. In an incredibly ballsy move, JC Penney just released a Father’s Day ad featuring real-life couple and fathers Todd Koch and Cooper Smith goofing around with their gorgeous kids, Claire and Mason.

These are exactly the kind of men we’d like to see more of in the mainstream media.

So we’re supporting JC Penney. And we hope you do, too. Here are some choice picks from some St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival staff. And, yes, JC Penney ships to Canada.

Hot shirt! JC Penney has about five bazillion shirts for sale. They’re not all great. But this one works.

These are really good runners. I ran the Cape to Cabot in them last fall, and I plan to buy them again. From JC Penney.

Dang! Maggie Keiley, who is taking over for Kelly Davis as executive director of the Women’s Film Fest for a year, is on a mission to wear less black. Accordingly, she chose a pair of bright red skinny jeans. Atta girl!

Not as flashy in the colour department (and what’s with that poor woman’s halfway head?), but this is a nice dress.

It’d look especially hot with these DAMN FINE BOOTS. Hello.

These are wicked.

Pawing through JC Penney’s website is a bit like shopping at Frenchy’s, to be honest. Have you found anything good? Send it my way ( and I’ll post it.

52 bottles of wine on the blog

    Posted on: Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

With all this cold, grey and wet weather we’ve been having lately, what better way to drown your sorrows, warm your cockles, and wax poetically about whatever cockles might be than with a good bottle of wine.

Most people tend to stick to the few wines they know, and what most of us know tends to be a drop in the bucket of what’s available to us at our local liquor store, let alone from around the world.

While many of us would like to expand our wine horizons, doing so can be risky. Wine isn’t cheap, and if you don’t like the bottle you bought, like a well intended but poorly matched blind date, you’re kind of stuck with it for the night.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were someone out there willing to try different wines and report back on them for us? Even better, someone who researches the wines ahead of time and selects them accordingly. Who buys stacks of wine books and reads them for fun. Who keeps a detailed journal of the wines they try, breaking each bottle down into a myriad technical components for further analysis.

That’s where Matt Reynolds comes in. Matt is the kind of guy who, when he gets into something, he really gets into it: collecting and absorbing as much knowledge as possible, putting that knowledge into practice and then sharing his findings with the rest of us.

Wine is just one such interest of his. Matt’s also a coffee aficionado, a whisky lover, an avid cyclist, and an active photographer.

I sat down with Matt recently to discuss his enthusiasm for wine, his blog on the subject, Wine Folk, and the ongoing experiment he’s chronicling there, the 52 Bottles of Wine Project.

“I was incredibly intimidated by wine when I first started exploring it, and I wanted to take it slow and give myself some room, so I figured one bottle a week seemed approachable and then at the end of the year I’ve got 52 bottles of wine to look back on. It seemed like it would be a really rewarding way to do it.”

“Sometimes I think about what we’re going to eat that night and I’ll try to find a wine that will pair with that, or I’ll buy a bottle I’m interested in and then try to match that with a meal. And sometimes I’ll just choose a bottle on its own. So the context sort of changes, but I’ll normally try to go off on my own with a glass at some point just to mark down some of my thoughts. Then later I’ll come back to it and write some more notes as they come up.”

Matt keeps some pretty technical records of his wine tastings, but you don’t have to speak sommelier to benefit from reading his blog. From his reasons for choosing the wine at hand to his ideas for ideal pairings, Matt delivers his views on each bottle in a way anyone can appreciate and learn from.

“When I started this project I really wanted to take some of the pretentiousness out of wine and maybe bridge the gap between a regular person buying a bottle of wine and a sommelier. I’m not super knowledgable and I don’t pretend to be. I really like the idea of people learning along with me.”

You’ll even find some helpful tips on how to comfortably branch out into the wine world on your own, like his recent suggestion of buying half bottles of the more expensive stuff to save money as you explore new wine territory.

To learn more, head on over to Matt’s Wine Folk blog and check out his 52 Bottles of Wine Project. As of this writing he’s on bottle 12 – plenty of fine wine to read up on, and plenty more still to come.

[Note: in the original post I quoted Matt as saying he was “incredibly intimated by wine,” which was a typo on my part and has since been updated.]

The perfect storm

    Posted on: Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Perhaps you’ve heard of Kayla Andrews? Thanks to the blog publishing efforts of Geoff Meeker, her story has been making the social media equivalent of headlines across the country this week. Indeed, the people have been in an uproar over the alleged comment Hedley front man Jacob Hoggard made in response to Andrews tapping him on the shoulder at The Sundance in the hopes of getting a photo together last week.

I won’t reprint the comment. That’s not what I’m here to discuss.

An important piece of the puzzle was missing when Meeker published his first of two blog posts on this story on Tuesday. Meeker intentionally left Hoggard out of a story in which he was accused of wrong doing by making no effort whatsoever to reach him for a comment. Meeker confirmed this for me when I questioned him on it Thursday night.

As the story goes, Andrews was upset after her encounter with Hoggard and wanted to find a way to let him know what he did was wrong. After deliberating over this for a few days, she decided to leave a comment about what happened to her on the HITS FM Facebook page.

Meeker saw the comment and, like a lawyer chasing an ambulance, set about convincing an admittedly distressed and reluctant Andrews to divulge the details of her story to him so he could publish them on his The Telegram-hosted blog.

If there’s one thing you can always rely on, it’s that people love seeing celebrities fuck up. And if you can give them some moral high ground to stand on while they cast their stones in response (I think it’s safe to say most people would never say what Hoggard said to Andrews that night), even better.

It was a sensational story, the perfect storm, and Meeker had it under his command. If he’d brought Hoggard in for a comment before publishing, almost all of the storm’s energy might have been lost by providing a resolution before any further conflict could arise.

As Andrews told Meeker, all she wanted was to let Hoggard know he had wronged her, but Meeker wasn’t interested in bringing that element into the story, choosing instead to publish the details and let them be carried to Hoggard on the tsunami of social media likes, posts, shares, and tweets that would come surging from his blog.

By Meeker’s last account, his initial blog post on the story netted him 15,000 page views. Not bad for a small blog hosted on a provincial newspaper’s website. But it came at the price of tarnishing his blog’s reputation, at least in my eyes.

When the Telegram published news of Meeker’s story and its aftermath, Meeker expressed his satisfaction in having “helped right a wrong.” I think it’s unfortunate that Meeker sees it that way, since while it was well within his power to do just that he instead chose the more sensational path.

By the time he published his second blog post on the story, there were signs Meeker was getting swept up in his own storm, misquoting Hoggard on the contents of his apology.

“Jacob Hoggard said his comment “may have” been hurtful, which is half-hearted. In my view, he is not taking full ownership of what he said.”

But what Hoggard actually said was, “it saddens me to hear a comment I may have made in St. John’s was hurtful to one of you.” Bit of a difference, don’t you think?

Meeker’s blog is called Meeker on Media, and is, for the most part, an ongoing critique of how the media, from The CBC to The Herald (and even this humble weblog), in this province conducts itself. Perhaps now would be a good time for his blog to turn its critical gaze inward.

Cannes still can’t.

    Posted on: Thursday, May 31st, 2012

“So, hey,” says a co-worker this morning, “what happened with the petitions and the protests at Cannes?”

Unfortunately, not much.

If you need a quick recap, there were no women-directed films selected to compete for a Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. That inspired a letter to La Presse from French directors who organized themselves into a group they called La Barbe, and a petition to the festival directors calling for industry-wide discussions about women in film.

Well, the petition, organized by Melissa Silverstein of Women And Hollywood, got 2,706 signatures. La Barbe staged a few protests during the film festival. There was a panel discussion about women and film at Cannes, moderated by Anne Thompson, of indiewire’s Thompson on Hollywood.

And then there was an official comment from Gilles Jacob, president of the Cannes Film Festival, pictured at left, texting during Sean Penn’s friggin’ boring speech, luh.

“I am sure that next year the chief selector, Thierry Frémaux, will look more carefully to find films by women,” he said, according to the Guardian.

And then he said this: “[Selecting four women-directed films for the competition in 2001] was maybe a wrong move. Now everyone this year was expecting five films, then six, then seven. In France nowadays, they speak of parity. They want parity in government, parity everywhere, so why not at the Cannes film festival?”

So, yeah. It seems safe to assume that Cannes still doesn’t get it.


If you’d like to read a great synopsis of Cannes and the panel with Anne Thompson, check out Noreen Golfman’s write-up on her blog, Postcards From The Edge, hosted by MUN. Here’s a little excerpt:

It’s safe to say the panel was a whimpering disappointment. Maybe it’s because the invited panel were all suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, but I felt a discernible chill in the room, and it wasn’t coming off the azure waters of the Mediterranean.

When women who are the exceptions to the gender-biased rule start saying they don’t see there’s any problem in the industry you know they haven’t walked through the looking glass. Sure, there were hardships in the industry, they agreed, but, come on, it had nothing to do with gender, only lack of merit.

The whole post is fantastic and definitely worth a read.

Aqua’s new Summer menu

    Posted on: Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Aqua recently unveiled their new Summer menu, hot on the heels of the refreshed Winter menu I wrote about back in February. While many of my favourite new additions from four months ago have carried through to the next round, there are some new takes on old favourites and a few totally new additions here that I just had to try.

But first a note on the service. Our waitress on this most recent visit was a fantastically informed and very accommodating young woman named Holly. Her enthusiasm was infectious, her ability to answer any question impressive, and her willingness to work within mine and my date’s dietary restrictions was, most of all, reassuring.

Aqua has actually taken the time to rewrite their menu with the gluten-free patron in mind. It’s the same menu everyone else sees, but with indications that something containing gluten has either been removed or replaced with an alternative. On top of that welcomed courtesy, when the bread arrived for my side of the table, my date was presented with a beautiful selection of fresh veggies, such as baby corn on the cobs and asparagus spears, with her own special dipping sauce. Bravo, Aqua.

While the amuse-bouche is nothing new to Aqua, it bears mentioning since it’s always something new whenever I dine there. This time around it was a smoked salmon and cream cheese concoction, with, I believe, pickled red onion, some kind of yellow curried sauce, and I’m not sure what else, but it all came together to create a morsel the likes of which I’ve never experienced before. They say the amuse-bouche is meant to offer a glimpse into your chef’s mind. All I can say is I like the way chef and owner Mark McCrow thinks.

Wings are a welcome addition to Aqua’s selection of small plates. What omnivore doesn’t love wings? Especially when they’re made with gourmet flair. I’m not generally a sauce person when it comes to wings – too often it’s either a sugary or over cranked lava flow of a mess that masks rather than enhances any real flavour – but the sauce on Aqua’s wings has just the right amount of heat to let you know it’s there without drowning out the rich pepper and citrus flavour that accompanies the kick.

Then there’s my new best friend, the pho, a traditional Vietnamese soup served with beef and noodles. This one’s a show stealer. Not only is Aqua’s pho ridiculously delicious, but with every mouthful I felt like I was being strengthened, fortified. If I were preparing to go into battle, or had a five alarm hangover (perhaps a more likely scenario), this pho would be my salvation. It’s practically perfect as is, but if you’d like to turn up the heat, add some bean sprout crunch, a few sprigs of fresh basil, a squeeze of lime or even a splash of hoisin, there’s an attractive platter of traditional garnishes accompanying your bowl that will cater to any such desire.

The pho is now available on the lunch menu, too, which my selfish side almost hesitated to inform you of. Between word getting out on the pho and their always changing $9.99 blue plate special, I expect I’ll soon be needing to make reservations for lunch at Aqua or risk not getting a table.

Some other rave-worthy additions to the lunch menu that I’ve recently carved into include both their New York steak and churrasco chicken focaccia sandwiches. And I mean it on the carving – these are huge sandwiches, best handled with a fork and sharp knife, which they know well enough to provide. The steak was hot, pink and juicy, and played perfectly with the combination of dijon and blue cheese mayo, while the chicken came spiced with a delicious piri piri sauce, which a recent episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bordain taught me is a highly coveted specialty from Mozambique.

Back to the evening menu and onto the mains, my date and I were drawn to Aqua’s updated takes on their halibut and chicken. She, like I, wouldn’t normally order the chicken main, but then couldn’t resist the allure of the apple and goat cheese stuffing. While for me, it was the halibut’s puttanesca sauce that drew me in. The word puttana in Italian means whore, which is a pretty racy name for a sauce, so I obviously had to see where this was going.

Aqua’s puttanesca is slightly salty and oh so delicious, with crushed fresh tomatoes playing host to sliced garlic, olives and capers. A perfect accompaniment to the hulking pieces of QV Honey Brown battered halibut that soon vanished from my plate.

Meanwhile, the combination of the chicken and the apple and goat cheese stuffing atop a heaping portion of roasted veggies, all served within a large deep dish roasting pan, was eliciting oohs and aahs from the chair next to me.

I can’t imagine it’s the norm that a restaurant would update its menu twice in less than five months, but fortunately for Aqua’s patrons, owner and chef Mark McCrow is not interested in the norm. This new menu continues the tradition Mark began many menus ago of whimsy and curiosity driven culinary exploration. Along with all this hot and sunny weather we’ve been having lately, Aqua’s new Summer menu makes for an exciting head start to the season.