The food review – The Gun @ Canary Wharf

Aha, I need to tell you all about the day I ate Calves Brain!

Some months ago I spent a couple of days in London with my friend Daniel Edmundson. Daniel is a very cool graphic designer and has a studio back in Brazil called Mooz  (http://www.mooz.com.br/index.php).

During our visit in London, I had the opportunity to meet another good friend of mine Declan. After a couple of drinks around the sterile and soulless Canary Wharf area, he decided to take us to The Gun.

The Gun is located at the margin of the Thames River in a house that is over 250 years old. The pub has a very vast historic background. Throughout the years, the place was usually frequented by people who worked in the docks in the area. It was also one of the main meeting places for the affair between Lord Nelson – an important name in the British Royal Navy – and his mistress Lady Hamilton. In the internet, there are some controversial stories about other sexual preferences of Lord Nelson, but of course this will never be proven.

The boom of the Canary Wharf district changed the usual people who frequented The Gun. Out with the sailors and dockers, in with the investment bankers and IT geeks that are now abundant in the region.

The pub has a very nice outside area with a gorgeous views to the Thames River and the 02 Arena. Besides serving nice English ales and lagers, they also have an extensive food menu. Even though our plans were not to have dinner there, my good friend Declan offered a banquet. Who am I to refuse free food? (Thanks mate!)

We order a number of dishes to share among ourselves – a very taste black pudding, a delicious steak sandwich with caramelised onions, an interesting beef shing burger and the previously mentioned here calves brains.

I never had eaten brains before. When we ordered, our expectations were low and it was more of a curiosity. I must admit that I was afraid and doubted my courage of tasting such delicacy. After a few minutes, our order arrived, and here were the brains:

As you can see, the brain pieces are fried. I think that was the key thing to triggered me to have courage of tasting it. Well, the taste is good. It is creamy like a cheese, but without cheese taste. Most of the taste comes from the delicious garlic sauce. I would probably not eat it again, but it is far from disgusting. The price of the food at The Gun is very reasonable considering the area and the lovely views. I would recommend a visit if you get yourself stuck in Canary Wharf.

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The work limbo

Mad Men is the second best series ever (Sopranos will never be beaten). The story takes place in an ad agency in the 1960´s. It is sexist, politically incorrect and cruel. I love it.

Spoilers coming up!

Last episode Peggy Olsen gave notice. In case you are not familiar with the series, she started as a secretary and after some years working in that position, her boss, Don Draper, gave her the opportunity to work as a copy writer.

In the last episodes Peggy was having more and more responsibility. She was the main point of contact for a lot of the company business and played a key role in the creation of new campaigns. As a result she received sexist remarks from colleagues, lack of recognition from the bosses and unfair monetary compensation. She decided it was time to leave.

Sometimes you find yourself in the limbo. There are no perspectives. The more you do, the less it seems to count. You like your job, you like your colleagues, but there is no purpose of what you are doing. Soon you start hating your day and instead of getting pleasure from work, you grow anger. The auto-pilot is turned on and the extra-mile becomes the absolute minimum. The relationship with your bosses start to deteriorate and mutual respect is lost.

Leaving a job you are not happy usually feels great. There is a taste in your mouth of success, even though you are really far away from succeed. You imagine that now someone else will admire your work. New challenges are now worthwhile and everything will be different, but in fact there is a gigantic chance it will be just like before. This fictious feeling of satisfaction will last until the vicious frustration cycle starts again.

Why does that happen? Maybe you are in the wrong career or maybe you are just working in bad places. There is also a possibility that the problem is not your work, but yourself. Anyway, it is of major importance to keep aiming to put a full stop in the cycle and go on with life.

Peggy found a new job where, theoretically, she will be better paid and be respected. As this is television, probably she will hate the new place and come back running after some episodes. But at least we are all trying…

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The holidays of May

May is a great month. There were so many holidays! 🙂

As Belgium is a catholic country, all the holy days are respected. Adding to that, I work in a public institution, meaning that bridges are common. Counting with a couple of days off, I was not working 7 days this month. Sadly, the party is now over until August. Two hard months of (not hard) work expect me.

In Belgium, most workers will have 21 days of vacation + 10 official holidays. If one of these holidays fall on a weekend day, it is normal to have the day compensated some other time. When I speak to my colleagues in Brazil, they find it weird that I can take my vacation days in scattered dates as it is more common in my home country to have all the leave days at once.

I was reading some time ago that some brilliant social think tank proposed that the official holiday days in Belgium to be changed. Their ridiculous argument is that the country should not have days off based on Catholic religious holy days. Today, besides the offical civil days, workers will have days off in the Easter monday, Ascencion (15th August), Pentecost monday and All saint days (1st november).

The new holiday callendar would keep the civil holiday dates: 1st of January, 1st of May, 21st of July (Belgium day), 11th of November (Armistice) and 25th of December. The catholic dates would be changed.

In their proposal, three new dates would be established: 8th of March (Women´s day), 21st march (International day against racism) and 21st of May (International day in the name of culture diversity). Furthermore, two last two holiday days would be defined as floating dates depending in the religious, philosophical and cultural beliefs of the person.

Of course the idea makes absolutely no sense and it has no place in the real world.  Different dates from other places in the world will have strong economic impacts. For a start, companies will have difficulties organizing their staff force and, tourism will suffer with crazy holiday dates.

The problem is that these think tanks live in a dream world financed by public institutions. They don´t have to provide concrete results. Their members are usually people whom never, and never will, be part of a real working environment. It is very easy to have ideas without reflecting on its impacts.

By the way, when they propose to have a Woman´s day, isn´t that wrong if there isn´t a Man´s day? Or maybe I would have to use one of my floating dates …

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The world did not end

Good, the world did not end on the 27th of May.

http://needtowrite.com/2012/05/12/the-end-of-the-world/

Meaning I have to carry on doing my stupid work for many more years to come 😛

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The importance of avoiding rue des Bouchers

A lot of people will say Brussels is a extremely boring place where there isn’t a lot to do. A good number of those complainers, though, will agree that it is a place where you can eat well.

I agree that there are a lot of good restaurants in the city. We need to take in consideration that the population of the capital of Belgium is made up of over 40% of foreigners. This means that the little Italian restaurant will be ran by a Neapolitan family, the kebab shop will be as good as in Istanbul or even the local Brazilian churrascaria will serve the correct meat.

Last night I was having a sniff at the Tripadvisor site for the city and had a look at the ratings of the joints near the rue des Bouchers – I was impressed by what I read.

For all the nice places in Brussels there is an area that will unite restaurants in mediocrity. The rue des Bouchers is a pretty little narrow cobbled street filled with more than 30 restaurants. The setting is very nice – the establishments will have seats in the street, display their fresh catch of the day and propose menus in all the languages of the universe.

When you walk along the rue des Bouchers, the first thing you will notice is that all the restaurants will have taunts trying to get your business. I have a rule, that I apply anywhere in the world, which is never to eat in a place that needs to have a salesperson convincing you to have a seat.  Most of the eateries display the deal of the day proposing an affordable 2 or 3 course menu (15 to 25 euro).

I always knew that you should not eat in the area, but the stories I read in the Tripadvisor reviews were shocking. First there are a lot of negative opinions about the quality of the food. Then there are the complaints about the bait and switch scams where the menu is no longer available or must be accompanied by a 100 euro bottle of wine to be valid. Some other reviews will mention menus without prices and two course dinners reaching amounts of 300 euro.

I think the two exceptions that must be cited in the rue des Bouchers are the Chéz Leon and the Aux Armes des Bruxelles. The first is not brilliant, but at least will not scam you. I have never tried the second, but it is one of the most traditional restaurants of the capital (quite expensive also).

Most cities in the world will have these tourist trap areas. Luckily, with the advent of the Internet,you can read about these areas before your trip. They still exist because they prey on people that will over value the view or the setting above the service or the food. On a Saturday evening, a lot of restaurants in the rue de Bouchers will be packed by tourists throwing away money on crappy meals. But we all know that most people have more money than sense… or knowledge.

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The day MediaMarkt was blacklisted for me

I am a proud person and keep resentments. I know this is mostly wrong but that´s just who I am.When someone says something I don´t like I will remember. When I go to a place that the service has been unpleasant, I will not return.

Today I went to buy a new hard disk. Most of the times I need to buy some electronic device in Brussels I will go directly to MediaMarkt. I find their service acceptable and the prices are unbeatable in physical stores. Besides a new hard disk, I also needed a new vacuum cleaner.

After deliberating and reflecting, I chose a Bosch vacuum cleaner and a Seagate 2TB hard disk. The vacuum cleaner accompanied a “free” 30 euro brush. I asked the salesperson if that was the brush and he said that it was. I went to the counter to pay for my items and was told that I needed to go back to the large appliances area to get an invoice that would include both the vacuum cleaner and the brush. I got mildly irritated because I was not told that by the sales person. Ok.

So, I walked back, got the invoice and came back to the counter that had a small line. Paid for the hard disk and the vacuum and walked out of the store. For some reason the alarm sounded. I got irritated.

Security guard comes my way and tells me to drop my items on the floor. Instead of trying to check if the items were triggering the alarm, the first thing he says is for me to pass through the security barrier again. So, in his head, he thought that I had something in me. I got extremely irritated.

I know that I should have kept calm, but at that point I started shouting at him saying that I will not return to the store ever again and that the procedure is ridiculous. I do understand that this does not mean anything to him (after all I worked with customer care). He laughs. I get even more irritated but there is nothing more to do besides shouting a bit more and leaving.

Even worse is that when leaving this MediaMarkt store, you have to go through a gallery. The security guard failed to check if the items where alarming, so when going out of the gallery, the alarm sounded again. At least this time the security guard was a bit more intelligent and quickly acknowledged that one of the items was responsible. He identified the item and that was it. No stupid idea that I was stealing something.

Well, I wrote a complaint letter to MediaMarkt. Probably there will be no answer. Maybe a standard template answer “We are sorry, please come back again”. In fact, the only thing I wanted was to have someone verifying this procedure of first checking the customer and then the items. I know it is silly, but when you are a law-abiding citizen, the principle of having a mall cop accusing you of stealing is not cool at all.

Now, back to the first paragraph of the post. I have decided never to return to MediaMarkt. I am a consumer that does not tolerate this kind of experience. Over the last 5 years I probably spent more than 5 thousand euro on the store, but now it is over.  It is a pity. I liked to go there, walk around and see the new gadgets.

Most people take these decisions of not going back somewhere or not using a service in the heat of the moment and then do not follow it. This is not my case. My blacklisted companies include, among others, Air France, JetAirFly, one Mango shop, Samsung (phones) and the Japanese restaurant near my work. I will not user their services or buy the brand – for real – EVER.

Is it good for me? No… I know I should not keep resentment. Thinking well I should have not lost my temper in the MediaMarkt case, but I just can´t do it.

I will see it as a lesson and try to improve myself in the future not to waste my feelings in such small occasions. But I will still never return to MediaMarkt.

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Nossa, nossa … No!

Definitively, I am fed up of listening to this crap music of Michel Teló playing everywhere around me. I hate the song, I hate the tune, I hate the lyrics. The guy is a cheesy one hit wonder that was given the opportunity to sing this bubblegum tune.

It is amazing how his back office managed to market him and transform the guy in a worldwide figure. He has no talent, no writing skills, a crappy voice and is not particularly beautiful, but still managed to succeed – this can only be achieved with good people in his management.

The song itself “Ai se eu te pego” exists since 2010. It was first a local hit in Bahia by one band and then in Céara by a different musical group. The legend says that Teló´s brother heard the song and saw there was a strong potential. For some reason football players started celebrating goals dancing the tune. I think it was at this moment that people got curious and started to discover the song.

Even though the rhythm is classified in Brazil as “sertanejo” (brazilian country music), the real base of “Ai se eu te pego” song is “forró”. Forró is a genre of music that originated in the Northeast of Brazil and is associated with life in the interior of the region and its difficulties. The biggest name of the style of all time is Luiz Gonzaga:

Luiz Gonzaga used to sing about the suffering of the northeastern people. The famine they had to face during the long draughts, the pain of losing people to diseases and the dreams of a better life. This is his biggest hit ever that talks about such life:

In the early 90´s, forró modernized by introducing guitars and electronic devices. The songs stopped talking about suffering, draught and famine to start “discussing” important subjects like love, money and sex. An example of this “new forró” in the 90´s is Mastruz com Leite:

Music kept changing (I was going to say evolving, but I don´t think it´s the case). I had to check in Youtube what was happening in 2011 by filtering by number of views. This is an example of the genre today by Aviões do Forró:

There is not a lot left from the original Forró. A genre of music that was created to talk about social problems was destroyed in stupid crap like “Ai se eu te pego” – a song that is about nothing.

This is not a Brazilian phenomena, but in fact a global one. Music cannot be difficult anymore. In order to be successful you have to follow the rules and procedures of labels – business people who have the recipe to make a song explode with a good marketing campaign. Music is no longer used as social element but as disposable entertainment. That is part of the big con of forcing people to stop thinking and being part of the global herd.

Well, if I listen to “nossa, nossa” one more time I will pierce my ears.

Posted in Brazil, Music | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment