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SPIRITS | The Hobbyists
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These are a few of our favourite things that have opened up in Austin since March 2012…

For a city that knows how to enjoy one of its favourite pasttimes, these new bars do not disappoint. What we see are bars that are increasingly pushing the envelope – not stopping with Prohibition-era cocktails, but moving onto carefully curated lists of locally or well-sourced beer, alchemic cocktails and novel wines. And all this while paying attention to the fact that our hunger for great food  – whether a nosh over a happy hour or a late night plate – never seems to get satiated.

Midnight Cowboy

What bar doesn’t entice you to check them out with this opening: While our cocktails might loosen inhibitions and the building’s past might encourage licentiousness, we ask that you refrain from excessive displays of public affection and unwelcome advances towards members of other parties. Why yes, the house rules we’ve always looked for.

As it suggests, Midnight Cowboy has a storied past – a former ‘modeling’ or Oriental massage parlour upstairs from Dirty 6th that has now been turned into a Prohibition-era speakeasy. If the light’s on upstairs, take your (slim) chances at a walk-in by pressing on the rather anonymous buzzers downstairs. For a safer bet, just reserve online. It’s a bit of work since you’ll have to work around a 2 hour slot when you can get it, since Food & Wine among others have tagged it one of the best bars in America. But who says all enjoyment should be easy.

And when your cocktail comes prepared table-side – or at least when you know well enough to order the Smoke & Mirrors, it does – you know that enjoyment doesn’t come easy, but it’s worth it.

Weather Up – 1808 East Cesar Chavez

This is the first Austin outpost for NYC bartender, Kathryn Weatherup’s craft cocktail bar with others widely recognized in Tribeca and Brooklyn. The cocktail menu is outstanding, with a speciality ice program no less. Try a stalwart: the Manhattan absolutely will not disappoint; then go from there.  And a critical point for the Hobbyists, they have a great menu – from outstanding happy hour specials to proper features like oysters, mussels and charcuterie. Having trained as a bartender in Paris, it seemed Weatherup couldn’t avoid the inevitability of ensuring her clients are well satiated on all fronts. They have a great happy hour (4-7pm!) that not only serves Sunday Funday well, but more importantly is industry-friendly, running from Sunday to Thursday. And Tiki Mondays are a fixture, always.

Banger’s

Just to check out the taps alone, Banger’s makes it worth it. And striking out on a path different than elsewhere on Rainey Street is something that we respect….and then we learned that Banger’s makes its own sausages. Assuming this meant sausages for most, pretzels for the veggies in the house, we were absolutely stunned to learn that they make a couple veg options. Not to detract at all from the 100 taps that we first mentioned…

Truly a great addition to the Rainey St. scene and a mandatory destination for any beer lover in your group this year over SX. Whether a fledgling cicerone or not, Banger’s will get them at either the beer or the sausages, and take down the rest of us with the house-made pretzels and a surprisingly good pub-level wine list.

Craft Pride

More beer? Don’t stray too far from Rainey St. then til you hit Craft Pride, a pub that just opened in time for SX. With 54 local Texas beer on tap, you are bound to be able to do your due diligence here on our great state’s craft beer community. Oh and by the way, local resto, Bacon, happens to have a food truck out back. Be sure to grab one of their Bacon Flag T-shirts, after you’ve recovered from the power combo of craft beer and pork products.

Freedmen’s

Some bars have a food program, others may have a wine program. Freedmen’s has a barbeque program. And a serious one at that. Evan LeRoy mans the pit taking care to go beyond that and make his own pickles, jams and barbeque sauce reduced from turkey and beef stock, smoking beets and cooking offal beans as his sides. Oh and sorry, the bevvies? Yes…it’s a craft cocktail lounge that you can easily settle into its gorgeous, historic interior dating from the late 1800s and give some time to the menu. The cocktail ingredients are made in house, something we always respect. Sunday Brunch with a brisket benedict and a Bloody Swine. Oh and one of our favorites: Whisky Wednesdays all March – $3 Jameson’s.

Hi Hat Public House

Duck confit nachos? Why yes….Oh are we blocking again on the great food that our Austin bars are offering? Sorry, it’s becoming a regular fixation. This East side joint had us at the name, after having one of our group being an early percussionist. Giving that up for a cocktail glass years later, finding spots like this are a great nostalgic moment. Hi Hat has a great beer list, great food and is a spot that you’ll be happy you found with a great atmosphere. Reverse Happy Hour & Half off Wine Wednesdays are to be checked out here! Hi Hat’s closed Mondays…likely not over SX, but just a heads up.

The Workhorse

This is a great spot that’s opened up on the North Loop strip in what everyone will tell you is the old Parlor spot (an Austin stalwart that has focused on its off-Guadalupe location). Focusing on great local drafts, the Workhorse also has locally produced or well sourced spirits and wine. They keep a newly tapped list of beer going that you can check out on their site. And best of all perhaps? A rare bar trying its hand at strictly locally sourced wine, they also do pairings with plates from our favourite, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. Once you figure out just where to start on the North Loop crawl, this will be on the hit list.

The Chicago House

A new downtown craft beer spot to check out with  a great list and the care that comes with craft conditioned ale. Easy to get to from most SX haunts, the Chicago House is situated in an old 1880s historic building where you can grab a delicious pour and re-group.

508 Bar

Situated behind Pelon’s at 8th & Red River, you’ll find this spot focusing on cocktails and margaritas. With a solid happy hour from 2-7pm with $5 house margs, we’re sure that you will find not shortage of satiation to set you up to take on your evening!

drink.well

This lovely husband/wife duo, Mike & Jessica Sanders, have just celebrated their 1st anniversary. So in truth, they were just cracking their doors open when SXSW12 hit last year. All the same, they are part of the renaissance that is North Loop that deserves some love here. Great spot, great cocktails, great beer selection, great pubbing wine list and…wait for it…great homemade bar snacks. We’re good. Check it out on your North Loop pub crawl that we’re setting up for you – you won’t regret it.

Casino South Side Lounge

Little brother to Casino El Camino downtown, this lounge is worth the trek deep south if you have wheels or a nice local friend to take you on a bit of a crawl. Casino downtown is known for its real vibe and world famous burgers  that have long attracted the attention of the Food Network among others – naturally making Casino South Side well worth the drive. And a session there. Open noon til 2am throughout SX.

 

1 cup dried red chilis, stems removed
3 tbsp ground coriander
3 tbsp ground cumin
15 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup olive oil
3 tsp sea salt
 

Chop the chilis roughly and then cover with boiling water, leaving them to soak for approximately one hour. Drain the water and puree the chilis in a food processor. Add the spices and garlic, 2 tbsp of the olive oil and 1/2 tsp of the sea salt. Puree the mixture together for 30 seconds, then use a spatula to scrape the sides of the food processor before mixing for another 30 seconds or so. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp of sea salt, then puree the mixture again. Continue this cycle, repeating the process until all of the olive oil and sea salt has been added and the mixture has formed a thick paste.

Sterilize the canning jars, using either medium sized jam jars or large squat jars, while sterilizing the lids and rings as well. Spoon the paste in the clean, sterilized canning jars. Process the jars by placing them in a pot of boiling water, with an inch or so of water covering the jars. Keep the jars in the boiling water for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool.

The harissa is excellent for adding that bit of needed spice to couscous, paella or most any recipe around the kitchen that needs a bit of kick. There is always a revolving jar of harissa in our fridge since it finds its way in a surprising number of our dishes…

 

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We were very skeptical when we gave this recipe a go. Not because we don’t like wine cocktails, but because the inspiration to have one came from a less than fresh bottle of syrah/viognier on our counter. We pumped the air out of the bottle, but by mid week it had seen better days. A little sugar and a few minutes on the stove and a delicious red wine simple syrup was born. Combined with gin and lemon juice in the shaker and delicious red wine sours were in our glasses! Happy midweek hobbying to us!

Ingredients

2oz. Gin
1oz. Red wine simple syrup
1/2oz. Fresh lemon juice
Bitters of your choice

Directions

To make the simple syrup combine equal parts wine and sugar in a saucepan. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and cool.

Combine the above in a shaker. Enjoy!

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While travelling through the Texas Hill Country during peach season, we had our pick of peach farmers’ stands to choose from. The peaches were stand-out at each and we settled on a 20 lb. box of “Number 2s” or “seconds”, which are the slightly misshapen brothers to the ones you will see in most produce sections and which are just perfect for canning and cooking with. The peaches we bought were freshly picked just two hours before and the drive back to Austin with the box tucked into the back seat was heavenly with the gorgeous aroma of fresh peaches.

Peach Cobbler

Having never made Peach Cobbler before, what better way to start than by using a recipe raved all over the internet as Salt Lick’s own. Salt Lick is an Austin area barbeque institution that deserves – and will soon get – a Hobbyists post in its own right after our recent visit there with some fellow Vancouverites who came here to visit. This recipe was tried out for one of our Canucks’ playoff parties in Austin and it seemed to be a hit, at least amongst a bunch of boys from the South who may have had a dish or two of peach cobbler in their day. Whether it was a good homage to Salt Lick’s or not, we won’t know until we can try it out on our next visit. Until then, give this recipe a shot and let us know what you think.

For the batter:

½ cup melted butter
1 cup flour
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup milk – at room temperature
1 egg – also at room temperature

 

For the filling:

9 peaches – sliced and pealed (a trick to pealing: blanch the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds, then submerse in a cold water bath and the peals should come off in your hands)
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a 9×13 pan. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Stir in the milk and egg. Pour the mixture evenly over the melted butter.

Combine the peaches, sugar and spices and spread over the batter - but do not stir! Bake for 35-45 minutes until the batter comes to the top a golden brown colour. Serve it warm with some delicious ice cream.

Bourbon Peach Vanilla Jam

Makes 7 or 8 8-oz. jars

1 package low sugar pectin
3.5 lbs of peaches – about 9 or so peaches
3 cups of sugar
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
½ vanilla bean – cut into 1” pieces
¼ cup bourbon – or more, depending on your taste!
1 tsp almond extract
 

Peal the peaches (see above), remove the pits and dice them into ¼” pieces. Put the peaches, sugar, lime juice and vanilla bean into a large pot. Mash the peaches with a potato masher until you’ve found your desired consistency and continue stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Over medium-high heat and bring the jam to a rolling boil, stirring frequently to prevent the jam from scorching. Boil for 1 minute, then add the pectin. Bring the jam to a rolling boil once more, stirring constantly, and boil for 1 minute.

Remove the jam pot from the heat. Stir in the bourbon and the almond extract and remove the vanilla bean pieces. Ladle the hot jam into jars and screw on the lids. Then set the jars in a large pot of boiling water, ensuring that there is at least 1” of water above the jars. Bring the water to a gentle boil and boil the jars for 10 minutes. Then remove the jars from the hot water and set aside to cool. When the jam is cool, check the seals on the jars by pressing on the center of the lids. If the lids don’t spring back, they’ve properly sealed and can be stored – otherwise, you have to reboil them for 10 minutes to have them seal. Scrape the rest of the pot and serve on ice cream or fresh bread to the patiently waiting crowd in the kitchen.

Since making this jam, bourbon has become the new craze in most of our cooking – it adds a great, sweet and ever so slightly oaky something. For a true Texas Hill Country bourbon peach jam, try using Garrison Brothers Bourbon, the only bourbon distillery outside of Tennessee and Kentucky located in Hye, Texas. Stay tuned for a post dedicated to the distillery after a great visit there recently!

Spicy Peach Chutney

4 lbs peaches – blanched, peeled and cut into ½” pieces
1 cup thinly sliced onion
3 tbsp vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp coriander seed
2 tsp fennel seed
10-12 dried red chilis
1 ½ tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
 

Heat the oil over medium heat and add the whole spices. Cook for a few minutes, until the mustard seeds start to pop. Add the onions and fry until a nice, light caramel colour (adding a splash of water if they start to burn at all). Add the peaches and cook for a few minutes, then add sugar, vinegar, salt, ground spice and garlic. Lower the heat and cook until sticky, stirring to ensure that it doesn’t burn while it cooks down and reduces.

Ladle the hot chutney into jars and screw on the lids. Then set the jars in a large pot of boiling water, ensuring that there is at least 1” of water above the jars. Bring the water to a gentle boil and boil the jars for 10 minutes. Then remove the jars from the hot water and set aside to cool. When the jars are cool, check the seals on the jars by pressing on the center of the lids. If the lids don’t spring back, they’ve properly sealed and can be stored – otherwise, you have to reboil them for 10 minutes to have them seal.

This chutney is great to be served with a roasted bulb of garlic or two, baked brie or camembert and some lovely fresh bread. Chutneys are a staple for quick hobbying since they are perfect to grab from the cupboard for a last minute appetizer, add to any cheese board or for something to nosh on with a bottle of wine. This chutney can also be mixed with a home-made barbeque sauce to make a spicy, peachy barbeque sauce or  marinade.


For each round of the playoffs, the ladies of The Hobbyists present you with a few ideas for your playoff party. Because ladies like to do things with a little more class!

After the high tension first round with the Blackhawks the Nashville series was a welcome relief for Canucks fans. This third round will also be a good one – the next team on the Canucks hit list is the San Jose Sharks. Both teams have never won a Stanley Cup and both teams have their eye on the prize. We won’t be the only ones taking inspiration from the looming battle of two sea creatures this round – the match up is too fun to ignore. True west coasters know the king of the sea is the killer whale. If you don’t believe us check out the video below to see how the battle of the orca and shark ends in the wild. Let’s hope that on the ice, hockey imitates real life. Last series we saw some great passion from some Canucks – wow Ryan Kesler! This round we hope the entire team takes a cue from their mascot and show us their killer whale instincts when they attack the sharks.

For this round we took inspiration from the west coast and celebrate the delicious, local and in-season spot prawn. We think killer whales would love our Orca Bites and we know you will. Our pairing is a refreshing Rock ‘em Sake ‘em Hockeytini made with apple cider, sake and vodka. Any good sake will do the trick but a visit to the Artisan Sake Maker at Granville Island is well worth the trip. We recommend the Genshu for cocktails it has lots of tropical fruit notes and a very smooth finish.

Rock ‘em Sake ‘em Hockeytini

2 oz premium vodka
2 oz premium sake
2 oz apple cider
juice of 1 lemon wedge
fresh ground ginger to taste

Combine the ingredients in a shaker with a few ice cubes. Shake and strain into a martini glass. To garnish we recommend a lattice of thin slices of fresh green apple and some lemon.

Orca Bites

We love this simple spot prawn recipe and the sake sauce adds great texture and flavour. Special thanks to BC Spot Prawns for the suggestion of the sake kasu inspired sauce. If you can’t find sake kasu (we get ours at the Artisan Sake Maker) a dollop of sour cream, a drizzle of balsamic, some fleur de sel and chives is a great quick topper.

Ingredients

Bites

1 lb boiled and shelled prawns
1/4 cup coarsley chopped parsley
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 egg
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Sauce

1/3 cup sake kasu (we get ours from Granville Island Artisanal Sake)
1 tbsp. mustard
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
500ml extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup of diced fried bacon or prosciutto
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup diced shallot
2 tbsp. chopped chives
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions

Coarsely chop the prawns. Transfer to a bowl and combine with the rest of the ingredients. Shape into small 1″ size bites and roll in panko crumbs. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a pan over medium heat until hot. Fry cakes until golden brown on each side and cooked through.

To make the sauce, dice the bacon and sauté on a medium heat until browned. Drain off the excess fat, add maple syrup and carmelize the bacon for 1-2 minutes. Keep an eye on the pan – it is easy to burn this step. Remove the bacon from the heat and cool. In a blender emulsify sake, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and oil. Fold in bacon, shallots and chives.

If your serving these as an appetizer for game we recommend serving in a ramen spoon with a drizzle of sake sauce, a sprinkle of fresh chives and a little fleur de sel.

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As a quick recap, for each round of the playoffs ladies of The Hobbyists present you with a few ideas on for your playoff party. Because ladies like to do things with a little more class!

The series against the Blackhawks had us on the edge of our seats and while we did manage to Exorcise our Demons we can’t help but think if we had poured them a bit stronger the whole process might have been a little less stressful! Up next is the Nashville Predators, and a bit of a step into the unknown, literally no-one knows who plays for them other than Shea Webber (a good BC boy), Carrie Underwood’s Husband (as Mike Fisher is known in Nashville), Shane O’Brien (as he is known at the Roxy) and Pekka Rinne (we hear he’s up against Luongo for the Vezna). The teams have never played each other in the post season and split the season series. Nashville proved they were no pushover dispatching a very good Anaheim team in 6 games while keeping their prolific top line to a mere two goals. The boys are going to need some passion from the fans -the way only hockey crazed Canadian fans can bring it – and we have just the thing to fuel your passion!

The Passion of the Ice

Ingredients:

2 oz Jack Daniels (or your favourite Tennessee Whisky – the boys will be in Nashville after all!)
1 oz passion fruit juice (fresh strained from the passion fruit)
0.5 oz tawny port
pinch of brown sugar
1 lemon wedge
tonic water (something with quinine in it preferably)
bitters
ice

Directions:

Put two nice big ice cubes in a highball glass and pour over Jack Daniels. We recommend fresh pressed passion fruit juice as opposed to prepackaged store bought juice to get the right balance of sweet and sour. Strain one passion fruit into a separate glass, pushing the fruit along the strainer to squeeze out all of the juice from the pulp. Add 1 oz of the passion fruit juice to the Jack Daniels. Add the pinch of brown sugar and stir. Add the port and bitters and toss in a thinly sliced lemon wedge. Top with chilled tonic water. Serve and enjoy.

Grand Ole Onion Dip


Ingredients:

250 g Sour Cream
125 g Cream Cheese
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 sweet onion finely diced
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. chipotle/chili flakes
Salt + Pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat oil on medium heat. Add onion, paprika and chipotle flakes to pan and fry until onions are a deep golden colour. Remove from heat and cool. Combine onion mixture with sour cream and cream cheese. It tastes great initially but will taste even better the longer you wait for the flavours to meld. Sprinkle with paprika powder to garnish. Serve with plain potato chips ( our guilty pleasure), veggies or taco chips.

Joking aside, year upon year, Barry Trotz has pulled teams of no name players into the playoffs. The victory of Anaheim gives the Predators their first visit to the second round. The Predators have a strong defensive core and a committee scoring style that means all the Canucks lines are going to have to fire like they did in Game 7 against the Blackhawks  -  but we think they can do it!

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Hoping bad things come in twos and not threes, the Canucks have drawn last year’s Stanley Cup champs, the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the Stanley Cup.  After going out in the second round for two successive years, its fair to say that there is more than a little to prove here.  Although, we really enjoyed the rivalry last year and it produced some epic games when the teams met this season, it’s the Canucks time to win. That and we have never forgiven Vince Vaughn (a noted and prominent Blackhawks fan) for making Gretzky’s head bleed (skip through to about 1.20). As if we needed another reason to want to see the Canucks triumph this year…

So here are a couple of suggestions for your Round 1 playoff party, raise a glass, Exorcise your Demons and dig into a piping hot dish of the Canucks’ Hot Streak as they knock the wind out from beneath the Hawks’ wings.

Exorcise your Demons

Exorcism Syrup:

1 cup sugar
2 cups water
3 Thai red chilies diced
1 tsp. chipotle flake or 1 dried chipotle pepper
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tbsp. cardamom
Zest and juice of 1 lime

Directions:

Combine the above ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let the ingredients cool overnight (or as long as you can wait) and strain. Kept in the fridge, the syrup should keep in a jar for more than a 7 game series.

Combine 1 oz syrup, 2 oz gin (we recommend Victoria Gin), ice and bitters if you have them (we get ours at Edible BC). Shake well. Pour over ice, top with tonic water (splurge for the real stuff with Quinine it makes a world of difference) and 1 tsp. lime juice. Garnish with a chili pepper and lime sliver. Feel free to increase the hot in your drink to suit your inner demons.

Note: A few of these may be the only way we are able to handle the return of Patrick Kane’s hideous mullet.

Canucks Hot Streak

Ingredients:

8oz of canned corn
2 cups of cheddar, grated
1 cup of monterey jack, grated
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons of chipotle in adobo sauce
two green chillies, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
fresh cilantro

Directions:
Mix together the corn, cheese, mayonnaise, garlic, chipotle and green chillies.  Bake in an ovenproof dish for 25 minutes at 325.  Top with the tomatoes, green onions and cilantro and serve with tortilla chips.  Unlike revenge, this is a dish best served hot.

Actually, we are quietly confident (don’t want too get cocky) about the Canucks chances.  This Blackhawks team has lost a lot of its secondary scoring.  We also feel that of all the other teams, the Canucks are most familiar with the Blackhawks.  We think that gives them a rock solid chance!

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