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Surviving the shoulder season

Seven steps to fighting the doldrums and courting chaos



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"For my own philosophy, " says Neil, comfortably clad in a grey sweater before donning his spiffy suit for the dinner session, "I match intensities of the dishes. When I look at the menu, I look at components of the menu that stand out and pull dishes in one direction or another, be it a spice or a sweetness, an acidity, that will affect the wine the most. It's not always the protein, it's not always the tenderloin or the fish — it could be the sauce, or a component of the sauce that makes the biggest difference."

Settling into the tall espresso tasse of the Smoked Roma Tomato Soup, Neil's suggested pairing of the Montes Alpha Chardonnay (2009), a Chilean white, heightened the smoky flavour of the soup's goat-cheese crostini. This was new.

By the time the main rolled around, I was happy not to be singing pirate songs in the coatcheck. But here two wines stood out as truly exceptional, and I began to grasp the Honest Truth of wine and food: like chocolate, it can be better than (some) sex.

Being a meathead, I went for the venison (which is deer — though according to Wikipedia, it can also be antelope, or wild boar). For this red dish, I was handed LaStella "Fortissimo" (2008), an Okanagan heavy-hitter that matched with equal strides the soft yet pungent aroma of the savoury meat. My partner-in-crime, however, had the steelhead; for her, she received a glass of liquid gold, the velvety, absolutely dangerous Treanna, Santa Lucia Highlands (2008), a Californian white that performed like an extraordinarily high-end Scotch, leaving the palette with a perfectly clean, near non-alcoholic finish. For desert, check the Elephant Island Framboise (2010), a raspberry wine that pairs ideally with the thin and long Almond and Raspberry Cake. Here, one can alternate between bites and sips, succulent yet tart.

* Save for 2009—which went to the Bearfoot.

Step Six: Spray Blood, Eat Guts, and Cannibalize

Frankly, there's nothing I like to do better when stuffed full of fine foods then saw people to bits, spray blood over their dismembered body parts, and wallow in their intestines. Apparently, so do a whole lot of you folks — as in, Lots 3 and 4, packed, wall-to-wall, judging by the massive turnout of 1,100 plus bodies at the 10th anniversary of the Heavy Hitting B-Grade Horror Film Festival last Halloween.

Which brings us to the ultimate offseason activity: shooting a horror film.

"Blood — fake blood — is all about trying different recipes until you get what you need," emails Feet Banks, erstwhile film columnist, perennial Spanish emcee, and one of the founding members of Heavy Hitting Films. "Do you want it thick and drippy, or something that will spray from a severed artery like a lawn sprinkler? Thick is best made from corn syrup, red food colouring, and a darkening agent like coffee grounds. Darkened V8 works for sprayable blood (make sure to back-light it for best visuals on camera). The problem with homemade blood is almost all of it stains clothes. You can buy professional quality blood powder from shops in Vancouver for about 250 bucks a kilo."