Monday, 6 March 2017

Buster Rhino's, remembering Nancy, the Generals and beer

I have praised the virtues of Buster Rhino's many times in this space over the years and for good reason.

It is unmatched as the best craft beer bar in Oshawa and the food, well this place can stack up against any barbecue joint south of the border and more than hold its own.

But I should offer full disclosure. Just before Christmas I accepted an offer from Darryl, the well-read, well-fed and well-dressed proprietor of this fine establishment to switch part-time jobs and come work for him.

So I did, and on weekends I am the Buster Rhino's delivery guy.

He pays me an hourly (plus tips), so when I'm not delivering ribs, pulled pork and thick-cut brisket sandwiches and ... where was I going with this? Oh yeah. I like to keep busy.

So I bus tables, deal with the dishes (I do a LOT of dishes), lug kegs to the bar and generally make myself useful to the front-of-house and back-of-house staff.

On those nights when the bar is full I'm busier than Donald Trump's damage
control department and I love it. I haven't experienced the pressure of a daily newspaper at deadline in several decades but this is the closest I've come to that feeling since those bygone days.

Darryl, Buster Rhino's politically astute
and pulled pork-stained pit master
And really, the pressure is not on me. My core job is delivering food and I know my streets really well (and what I don't know GPS does), so as long as I don't screw up by mixing up the orders (can happen; did happen; won't happen again) it's pretty easy.

Which leaves me plenty of time inside the bar to make things easier for my co-workers, especially Jessica, Sam and Shannon, my mentors and my bosses.

I have plenty of experience in the food business but this is my first job in a bar and I'm liking it a lot so far. But it has a dark side: if I haven't been fired by July I'll probably have to work the Durham Craft Beer Festival.

The bright side to that is I'll stay sober much longer. I might even be able to close the joint.

Remembering a political legend

I attended the service for the late Nancy Diamond last month, Oshawa's longest-serving Mayor and one of my favourite people in the sometimes dirty world of politics.

Nancy was a larger-than-life figure in the city's political scene, having served as Mayor for a dozen years, as  well as three terms as a Regional Councillor. That 'larger-than-life' phrase I used was more than just a metaphor: she stood over six feet tall, with broad shoulders and possessed a voice that could command a room but could also be soft as velvet.

Nancy Diamond
I was rarely in agreement with her politics and even my Conservative friends thought she was a bit too tight with the city's purse strings (George Bush's famous "read my lips - no new taxes" line could easily have been Nancy's slogan), but she always, ALWAYS returned my phone calls and always had time for a quote.

To a working journalist, there is no better praise indeed.

I remember my daughter - she was about 10 at the time - taking a call from Nancy and getting all excited. "It's for you," she cried. "It's the MAYOR!"

Nancy had that affect on people.

That influence extended to her family as well. Her nephew, Don Darling, is the newly elected Mayor of Saint John, New Brunswick.

At Nancy's funeral, which attracted a full house to St. George's Memorial Anglican Church in the heart of downtown, I heard some things about her I already knew: She was a fiscal hawk, a powerful speaker and an active volunteer. But I also learnt a few things I didn't know: she was a feminist, an excellent cook and loved good scotch.

Nancy was 75. She will be missed.

Patience, Generals' fans: our time will come

The Oshawa Generals were one of three finalists to host next year's historic 100th edition of the Memorial Cup, the top prize for junior hockey teams in North America.

As a five-time winner (and as recently as two springs ago), the club is the most successful team in the country and as such many fans were crying foul when the selection committee awarded the event to Regina.


Captain Josh Brown with the Memorial Cup in 2015
From a hockey standpoint, the team wouldn't have been good enough by this time next year. Despite leading the Eastern Conference standings at the trade deadline, management traded away their two best players - captain and 2015 Memorial Cup hero Anthony Cirelli and defenceman Mitch Vande Sompel - , arguing that the Generals wouldn't have been able to compete with the powerful Western clubs in this year's playoffs.

Pretty lame argument, if you ask me. But what's done is done.

Initial reports were the deals were to better equip the team to host the Memorial Cup next year. But the return from those two trades (a ton of future draft picks) make it clear that was never the case.

Just one of the picks - a 2017 2nd rounder acquired in the Vande Sompel deal - would help the club next year.

No, these trades were all about stockpiling assets for 2021, which is when the OHL's turn in the normal Memorial Cup bidding process comes up again.

That is when Oshawa needs to throw its hat in the ring. By then the city's downtown renaissance will be further along (as in finish the Genosha Hotel already!) and a few other problem areas (cranes in the air at the future site of the new GO Station would be nice) will also be showing signs of progress.

It will be 2021, not 2018, when the City of Oshawa gets its moment to shine. Patience, Generals' fans, patience.

Going down (beer) memory lane

As this is supposed to be a beer blog and not an Oshawa love-in, I should finish with something about beer, notably a trio of old favourites I found myself re-acquainted with.

Something about old friends are the best friends?

First up was Roman Candle, an IPA from Bellwoods Brewery that despite being in regular circulation hadn't been in my hands for a couple of years.

I saw it first on tap at Buster Rhino's and as soon as I poured it I tried to kick myself for not going back to it earlier. I missed, but the beer didn't. An amazing aroma of pine and bright citrus. Orange, tropical fruit and pineapple as well. Resiny and delicious.

5 Paddles, Whitby
A visit to 5 Paddles in Whitby a few days later re-introduced me to Midnight Paddles, a Black IPA/Imperial Stout hybrid the brewery likes to call a Royal Canadian Stout. It was the first beer I had from 5 Paddles, back in the early days of my craft beer conversion, and I hadn't had one since.

My bad.

Gorgeous chocolate milkshake pour with a ton of milk chocolate and dark coffee flavours and just the right amount of bitterness. The world's first and finest Royal Canadian Stout.

The final 'old' friend' is one of craft beer's more popular beers: Canuck Pale Ale from Great Lakes.

I've always liked it but rarely actually bought it. Probably because I fell in love with Naughty Neighbour from Nickel Brook and either bought that or something new if I was looking for something sessionable.

I took Canuck for granted and for that I'm sorry.

I've been drinking it at the bar and buying it again at the LCBO and I'm glad I'm back on the Canuck bandwagon. Grapefruit and a little pine meld with some bready malts. Fruity and hoppy and damn tasty.


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