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Friday, December 9, 2011

CHEZ L'AMI LOIUS - PARIS, FRANCE

Chez L’Ami Louis – Paris, France 
Eating with Jennifer (Wife of a restaurateur, but she doesn’t like pepper so there’s that)

This restaurant was recommended to Jennifer by a big foodie who frequents her husband’s restaurant; we will not thank her when we see her.
The reservation was made two weeks in advance and the only opening they had was 10 p.m.; fair enough, we took it.  We phone the morning of to confirm and to see if there were any openings earlier, but there were not.  We asked if there was a bar we could sit at if we came early; there was not.  So when we showed up at 9:55 we were met with sneers and French servers turning their noses up to us.  After looking us up and down they gave us a menu to look at, assuming it would quickly scare us away due to the unbelievably high prices.  Our pride, and the fact that everything else was closed at this time, made us suck it up and stay.
When we were sat we were met with one of the rudest humans I have ever encountered, I will call him rude waiter.  He told us that the kitchen wanted to leave and that we must order immediately.  I, having just as much attitude, told him that we would order when we were ready; he huffed dramatically and walked away like an ass.  When another waiter came by, who I will call nice waiter,we ordered the foie gras appetizer and two kir royals. 

Our order: (sharing)
First Course
Foie Gras (59€)
Second Course
Coquilles St.Jaques (60€)
Third Course
Confit Canard (48€)
Veau (some sort of veal nonsense) (54€)


We ordered wine on nice waiter’s recommendation, La reserve de Louis, Saint-Emilion Grand cru, France, 2008 (80€).  The foie gras arrived and was more than disappointing.  The portion was double what it should be and the quality was half of what we had eaten the night before at a much cheaper place.  When the scallops arrived we were pleasantly surprised, they were the best thing we ate that night.  The sauce was the perfect combination of onion, garlic, etc…
Our entrees arrived and, despite the fact that they were told about allergies, they brought out a big plate of fries which remained on the table even after they were told we didn’t want them.  The duck confit was lovely but typical, certainly not worth the price but good never the less.  The veal chop that came out was an embarrassment, it could have easily been confused for an oversized pork chop you might receive at a roadside diner somewhere.  It is funny how bad food can be when it is grossly overpriced to begin with; maybe we were being overly critical but I think that is allowed when you are paying prices such as those. 
We couldn’t afford the 25€ desserts so Jennifer just asked a table close by if she could have one of their oranges (yes she did) and nice server ran and grabbed us one out of kindness.
Overall, the wine was amazing, as were the scallops.  Everything else was either typical or under par in my opinion.  The service was, for the most part, terribly pretentious and rude. 

Final Bill: 301€
Tip: 10% (Any tip you leave after the bill in France is being generous, this extra tip was mostly left as a pride thing, I hate when people make assumptions about wealth.  So I left that was more of an F U)
Overall Grade:  5%
Likeliness of Return:  0%

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

THE NIAGARA STREET CAFE- TORONTO, ONTARIO

The Niagara Street Café – Toronto, Ontario http://www.niagarastreetcafe.com/
Dining with Matt (chef), Laurie and James (Teacher and Server, Two of the best diners I have ever met)

To preface the dining experience, I feel that I should explain how I met James and Laurie.  One night I was working at a restaurant when this couple came in (without a reservation of course) and they sat at the bar.  It was later in the night and I liked the way James sauntered in with this fine woman on his arm so I decided to take them as my table.  The condensed long story goes something like this: They ordered cocktails, beers, great wine and every single item on our menu with few exceptions (a total of sixteen items).  They were hilarious, they loved food, and most importantly, they bought everyone working a drink at the end of the night.  It was love at first serve.  They were an impressive pair who ended up returning frequently and almost always eating and drinking as much as they did the first time.  Time passes…James and Laurie invite Matt and me to their place for dinner.  After some time together we are now DINK friends; and lose the dirty mind, it means dual income, no kids.
This brings us to Niagara street café on a Sunday night in late summer.
Before dinner we met at their place and played a round of asshole (the card game) and had some drinks.  I had the privilege of drinking a corked Brunello.  When we arrived in Toronto, we were all a little buzzed.  When we sat, we handed them the two wines we brought with us; I believe corkage was $25.  We ordered cocktails as Matt and the chef had a chat (of course they knew each other) and without missing a beat the chef sent us out a water buffalo pastrami, amuse bouche.  After very little deliberation the four of us decided to have one of everything on the menu with two exceptions: the fish and the soup.

Our order (the chef decided the order in which we received it):
1st Course
Lobster Mushroom Voule au Vente $13
Crispy Ontario Smelts with Green Curry Mayo $12
Spicy Black Bean Escargot $13
2nd Course
Roasted Nagano Pork Loin with Brown Butter Spaetzle, Pickled Ontario Pecans, Wild Mushrooms, Pea Tenders, Smoked Apple Jus $24
3rd Course
Slow Roasted Kings View Lamb Shoulder with Lamb Bacon, Potato Sour Dough, Tomato Pistou, Matchbox Arugula, Natural Jus $25
4th Course
Crispy Confit of Olliffe’s Ox Tongue with Smoked Pommes Purée, Chorizo Piperade, Panko Egg Yolk, Arugula, Wanda’s Truffle Oil, Natural Jus $23
5th Course
Grilled Smoked Cornish Hen with Panzanella, Cherry Tomatoes, Monforte Mozzarella, Matchbox Arugula, Wild Leek Pesto $24
6th Course
Olliffe’s 60 Day Dry Aged Rib Eye (for 2 or more)
Arugula, Shaved Mushrooms, Monforte Toscano, Lemon Vinaigrette $37/per person
7th Course
Cheese

            So, because the menu itself took up more than half a page I am going to go through each course quickly.  We began with the Innisfree Cabernet Sauvignon, USA, 2008 (LCBO vintages $37.95) and they decanted the Zenato Amarone, Italy, 2006 (LCBO vintages $49.95) we brought.  The appetizers were amazing, each one with amazing and interesting flavour, they were served all three at once.  The Pork course followed and they split it four ways for us but they forgot about one of my allergies on this course which was immediately corrected.  It was good but I preferred the starters because I felt they had much more flavour.
            The Lamb course was split four ways as well and was fabulous.  The ox tongue was the next to come and I would like to pause here and express how much my tongue enjoyed this tongue; wow, rich delicious mmmness.  Cornish hen came next but on one plate to be split so, of course, Matthew carved her up for us.  Again, Hen was good but I was still drooling over the tongue.  This is about the point in the evening where everyone was getting pretty full except, of course, for me because Matt had eaten half of my portion from every previous course as I was wise enough to pace myself.
            Next to grace our table was ‘la piece de resistance’, the house specialty, one of the most impressive versions of steak I have encountered: The Ribeye.  This was by far all of our favourite course and there is a reason that this item does not come off of their menu.  It is served sliced and sprawled across a long wooden serving platter.  Gorgeous presentation and amazing beefy goodness, cooked to perfection.  We all wished that it came first but despite the state of their stomachs they ate on (I happily ate more than my portion this course).
            Finally, because we were playing the roles of gluttons on this evening, came our cheese course.  Only James and I enjoyed the cheese and port course though the other two may have ordered something sweet, I just wasn’t paying attention.  Overall, we stumbled out of their more food drunk than alcohol drunk.  Amazing food, great intimate atmosphere, service impeccable and friendly chef (which is as rare as the ribeye was) (that was a good one).

Final Bill: $556
Tip: 30%
Overall Grade: 95%
Likeliness of Return: 100%


Thursday, September 15, 2011

SPENCER'S AT THE WATERFRONT - BURLINGTON, ONTARIO

Spencer’s at the Waterfront – Burlington, Ontario  http://www.spencers.ca/
Eating with Matthew (chef)

            A few days before the Monday that we went out for dinner, we spent an hour rolling Matt’s change that he had laying around and he declared that we would use the rolled change to go out for dinner on our Monday off.  Driven by the offer of food I sat with him and rolled his change to earn myself a dinner out.  Turns out he had enough change for us to have a dinner out at Spencer’s.  The reservation was made immediately and I started to plan what to wear.
            On the Monday night we showed up for our reservation at 8pm and the hostess gave us two options: take a seat inside or wait for a seat on their patio overlooking the water.  We opted for inside with hopes that we could move out by the time we reached dessert, we were quite hungry and wanted to get our order in. 
The hostess then sat us along the windows overlooking the water; lovely view but we were seated on a high traffic walkway that was constantly used by staff and customers.  Because of this fact though, the manager passed by us and stopped to introduce himself.  When he found out that Matt was a local chef, he stayed to chat a little longer.  We asked him if he could recommend a wine for us within a certain budget and he explained to us that Spencer’s had recently had a winemaker’s dinner and he was willing to sell us one of the left over bottles at cost.  This excited us for two reasons: it was a Zinfandel, our favourite grape right now; and he was going to give it to us at cost, which is great for obvious reasons.  Our wine: Ravenswood Single Vineyard Zinfandel, 2007.
As we were enjoying our wine Matt and I talked over our potential menu choices and, to our surprise, appetizers started coming out.  The manager sent us out the foie gras appetizer (which we had planned on ordering anyhow) and a plate of dumplings.  We were also given a Canadian Cab Franc icewine from Niagara to pair with it, which was not disgustingly sweet and it was easy to drink.  The food was amazing and, to my surprise, the dumplings beat out the foie gras (not that the classically prepared foie wasn’t amazing, but the dumplings were the perfect combination of salty, savoury, goodness).  After we finished this lovely surprise, it was cleared and we were offered a table outside; we accepted. 
When we got comfortable in our seats with a view of the water, the server moved our wine for us and offered us carbonated water that they have on draught, which was fabulous and a pretty cool concept.  The charming young man then took our order.

Our Order (sharing everything):
First Course
Scallop and pork belly with corn, tomatillo, jalapeno, cilantro (14)
Second Course
Wild Canadian Salmon with tomato, chilli, pine nuts (which we ordered without), orzo(which he switched to rice), and lobster (29)
Forsyth Farm Lamb with fava, tomato, artichoke, goat cheese (45)

We very much enjoyed our outside table as the warm breeze was dancing around us, and slowly everyone evacuated their tables leaving us with our own private patio.  We took some pictures for this very blog and talked about how great it is to go somewhere and be treated like you are actually a big deal (when you clearly are not).
When our scallops came out, they also sent us out a gnocchi (served with fava beans, peas, chantrelles, farm egg) which was yet another pleasant surprise.  To complement our appetizers, we were also sent out two glasses of Vineland Estate semi dry Riesling, 2008, which was exactly as you expect it would be.  The scallops and pork belly dish = AMAZING + MMMMM; true story.  The gnocchi was very good but we were running out of room and had two more big dishes coming so we didn’t finish it (I have no math equations for the gnocchi).  I’m not giving a lot of details about the dishes because by this point in the evening I was quite dosed with alcohol and my notes are getting difficult to understand fully; seriously, this gets really vague. When this course was cleared, our server stood and chatted with us for a while proving that he was quite food savvy and he asked us a lot about Matt’s restaurant (which feeds the ego and very cleverly increases his tip significantly); despite the fact that he is paid to be pleasant to us, he seemed very genuine.
Our main course came out and they had forgotten to omit the pine nuts so he promptly removed it from the table and left us with our lamb.  As far as the lamb goes, I am dependant on my notes at this point because I was past the point of memory, I wrote “OMG” (yes I am a paid writer).  We gobbled it up quickly and when the salmon arrived I vaguely remember being disappointed but what I wrote was “I have nothing to say”; take that as you will.  After that course was clear, we were told about the dessert selections and a fine selection of cheeses.  We took the server’s recommendation and ordered the rhubarb ‘something’ (can’t read my writing) and apparently it was delicious but the professional who made it forgot to add the rhubarb to it.  We also ordered a Valpolicella port and an icewine by Megalomaniac (because we really needed to drink more at this point).  As we devoured dessert and drank our fortified wines we discussed the topic ‘Why is Cootes’ Paradise not a paradise?’; it was a thought provoking discussion about how many Hamiltonians don’t appreciate their waterfront.
While it was nice to sit out on their patio, and I’m sure we could have kept ordering for at least another hour, we took the hint when they had torn down every table around us as they prepared to finish for the night.  We requested our bill and were surprised how we managed to keep it so high when we got so much for free (but we do have a special talent of ringing up large bills), but the experience was well worth it.  We paid with the intention of going for a romantic walk but, it turns out, that was only my intention. 
           
Final Bill: $236
Tip: 30% (he was a very good server)
Overall Grade:  90%
Likeliness of Return: 100% (but only in the summer, otherwise you are paying a lot for less of an experience)


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

SPAGO - LAS VEGAS


Wolfgang Puck’s Spago – Las Vegas, Nevada 
Eating with Susan (skilled diner)

While Susan and I were shopping we passed by this restaurant and decided it was time to eat.  The ‘patio’ of this restaurant is inside the mall but outside the restaurant, interesting concept.  We were met at the door by a hostess who happily took us inside the restaurant and seated us with a smile while explaining the details of the menus.
Our server was quick to approach us and we ordered sparkling water to drink.  She promptly brought out VOS sparkling water, though we had to request lemons and limes (I think that might be an American thing, as we weren’t offered citrus with our water the entire trip).  We were given a bread basket with rosemary flatbread and focaccia served with both butter and oil and accompanied with some course sea salt (mmmm salt).  The bread basket was a good indicator of what was to come.

Our order:
(Sharing both items)
House made Linguini with caramelized onions, arugula, oyster mushrooms, chicken, and shaved parmesan, tossed with olive oil and salt.
Margherita Pizza with mozzarella, fontina, parmesan, goat’s cheese, fresh tomato and basil.

As we waited for our food to arrive we planned the rest of our day of shopping and gloated over the gems that we had already found.  I admired the décor of the restaurant, very modern and clean and we had a view of the kitchen which upheld the same concept.  Our food took longer than one would expect at lunch but my god was it worth it.  The pasta was probably the best pasta I have ever had in my life.  The noodles were obviously freshly made and the chicken was cooked to perfection, very juicy and easy to eat.  The olive oil that they tossed the pasta in was of exceptional quality and, as a combination, the ingredients were unbelievably complimentary. 
After the pasta we attacked the pizza, though we were certainly slowing down.  The margherita pizza was simple, as it is meant to be, but far less impressive than the pasta.  It was very fresh and light and the tomatoes were very flavourful and made the dish.  We took what we didn’t finish of the pizza back to the hotel as a snack in the afternoon.  We were offered dessert but declined as we had another goal in mind (to spend all of our $$$ on clothes).

Final Bill: $55
Tip: 20%
Overall Grade:  85%
Likeliness of Return:  5% (because it’s in Vegas)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

QUATREFOIL RESTAURANT - DUNDAS, ONTARIO

Quatrefoil Restaurant –Dundas, Ontario   www.quatrefoilrestaurant.com
Eating with Matthew (chef)

            On a lovely Thursday night, we made a last minute decision to take the night off work together and to go on a date.  On the car ride home from work we brainstormed where we would go and, after going through over twenty potential restaurants, we decided to go to Quatrafoil.  Matthew knows the owners and he wanted to go somewhere that I had never been.  I called from the car to see if they could take us and also to request if we could sit on the patio; with little hesitation the polite voice on the phone took our information and welcomed us for 7pm.  We were running on empty stomachs but we still accepted the offer of wine from Matthew’s father as we waited for time to pass; turns out that two glasses of red wine and no food can render a girl a little tipsy.  As it goes, time did pass and we head out to have dinner.
            When we pulled into the parking lot beside the restaurant and I was surprised to see that Quatrefoil is housed by a gorgeous old renovated house, the large patio to the side of the house and just off of the street.  When we came in there was no one to greet us but we waited no more than a minute before she surfaced.  Because I was wearing a sundress we requested the patio so I wouldn’t be cold in the air conditioning.  The hostess was exceptionally honest and told us that the bugs were bad outside that evening and she felt we would have a better experience inside; to solve my problem with the A/C, she reached into a closet and pulled out a shawl for me to drape over my shoulders.  She asked if we wanted to wait a minute so she could prepare a booth for us; we happily complied.
            Our table was a booth for six and it was very roomy so we thought that, on account of it being date night, we would be that couple who sits on the same side of the booth; yes, we do that.  We got comfortable and opened our menus when the server came over, introduced herself and asked about drinks.  We ordered water and asked about Champagne but we were told they had none so we asked for some time.  To our surprise we were given two glasses of sparkling wine as aperitifs which we pleasantly enjoyed while perusing the menu (it’s nice to know people who know people).
Looking over the menu items it became clear that these chefs are comfortable with classic French cuisine with ingredients like foie gras and proteins such as duck and quail.  The offerings on the menu made it very difficult to choose so we did what we always do in these situations; we let my allergies decide.  The service was well timed as our server returned moments after we set our menus aside.  She was ready, pen in hand as we told her the list of my allergies and our food choices.  We outlined our price range for wine ($60 to $90) and explained that we prefer big hearty red wines and we asked for the server to choose one for us.

Our Order (sharing everything):
First Course
Grilled Sea Scallop & Seared Saku Tuna with watermelon & cucumber salad ($16)
and
Roasted Quail with chorizo, goat cheese, fennel and tomato jam ($17)
Second Course
Foie Gras Torchon with saffron pickled shallots, honey mushrooms, Jerusalem artichoke ($19)
Third Course
Five Spice and Honey Glazed Duck Breast with beets, baby bok choy, plum, shaved foie gras and natural jus ($36)
and
Cumbrae Farms Beef Tenderloin with braised beef cheek, king oyster mushrooms, pearl onions, parsley potato puree and red wine sauce ($39)

            The server returned in no time with her selection of wine, Freemark Abbey, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, 2002.  She brought us nice big glasses to drink from, she poured our wine and, after a sniff and a nod, she left us to chat.  The wine was exactly what we were looking for, it was heavy, fruity, and you could feel it go all the way down.
Matt barely finished making fun of me for being rosy cheeked and a little drunk before our first course swiftly arrived.  The tuna and scallop dish was so gorgeous to look at with the deep reds, greens and whites on the plate.  The tuna was perfectly seared and the scallop was as nice to taste as it was to look at; the accompanying watermelon salad was very refreshing and complemented the seafood wonderfully.  As I was assaulting the first dish, Matt was busy making each forkful of the layered quail and chorizo to be the ‘perfect’ bite; he didn’t have to work hard to create perfection as it was just sitting there waiting for him.  The server did her quality check and I am most certain that we just moaned with satisfaction in her direction.  Because the quail was very rich with its deep flavours paired with fennel and tomato, I opted to finish the tuna and Matt happily complied to finish the tower of quail and chorizo as he cleaned the plate with his fork.
There was only a minute or so between courses when the server returned with our much anticipated fois gras torchon.  While the torchon itself was perfectly made, we agreed that the ‘extra stuff’ on the plate wasn’t really our favourite; it looked very pretty but we found the flavours conflicting.  We did note how efficient the service was at this time, a plate wasn’t empty more than a minute without being removed and I never saw the bottom of my wine glass.
We got a small break between course two and course three to talk about non-food related subjects.  I got to talk about cleaning out my mom’s house and all the interesting things I found in the process and Matt got the opportunity to feign interest in the ‘exciting’ day I had.  He didn’t have to try too hard to come up with engaging questions to ask me before our main course arrived. 
Again, I was impressed at how the chefs treated their plates as artists do their canvas; the colours and textures in front of me were engaging and made me hesitate ever so slightly before cutting in and ruining it.    By this time I was getting a little full but Matthew wasted no time cutting in to the steak, which was cooked rare as requested, and eating with enthusiasm.  Our opinions on this course were conflicting; I much preferred the beautifully spiced duck with foie gras shavings decorating the plate (there might have been some vegetables too but I didn’t notice), and Matthew’s favourite was the tenderloin and braised beef cheek.  I picked over the dishes and carefully chose my favourite things off of each dish before I threw in the towel about half way through.  Luckily, I brought a professional with me who managed to finish the meal, as well as get parts of it in his beard and smeared on his cheek.  I never understand how people get food all over themselves when they are eating with a knife and fork; it always means one thing though: food was delicious or they wouldn’t have been frenzy eating.
As we both sat back in the booth holding our bellies, our table was cleared and we were offered dessert.  We ordered two different ports: Taylor 20yr and Graham’s 10yr and we decided on the “S’mores” (Dark Chocolate Cremeux with graham cracker, meringue, toasted marshmallow ice cream $10) out of sheer interest.  After we received our port and before the dessert came out, one of the owners came out to the table to talk to Matthew; he was very modest when we gushed about dinner which is a rare quality in a chef.  After he left and our server returned, we requested the bill as I was cheerfully intoxicated and ready for bed. 
Bill paid (thank you Matt), shawl returned, and compliments given; this was a great dining experience in a world where that is rare these days.
           
Final Bill: $262
Tip: 28%
Overall Grade:  95%
Likeliness of Return: 100%

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TURTLE JACKS - MAPLEVIEW MALL

Turtle Jacks – Mapleview Mall, Burlington, Ontario   http://www.turtlejacks.com/
Eating with Matthew (chef)

            Our goal at midnight on a Thursday was to go to Earl’s in the mall for some food and wine like we usually do after work.  Turns out there was a dance party taking place and we didn’t have the energy to act young and hip, so we wandered next door to Turtle Jacks.  We wandered onto the patio where there is an outside bar but the guy closing up outside told us that we should go in and he told us that the kitchen was open until 1am.  We wandered inside to eat guilt free knowing that we had over an hour to order.
            We weren’t greeted at the door, but didn’t expect much from the staff so late in the day.  We both like to sit at the bar so we pulled up two seats and noticed three staff wandering around behind the bar.  We were passed approximately seven times by these three ‘servers’ before Matt actually stopped one of them and asked for menus.  She very stoically fetched us menus, whispered into the bartender’s ear and walked away.  The bartender then came over and asked us what we wanted to drink; we replied that we wanted to see a wine list and we could use a couple waters.  It was very clear that our insane request to see a wine list really put her out as she pouted and moped away. 
When she returned, Matt ordered a beer, we ordered our food and then, ten minutes later when she finished flirting desperately with two guys sitting down the bar from us, she took my wine order for a bottle of Ironstone, Cabernet Sauvignon, California.  If memory serves me, the bartender opened the bottle of wine, I approved it, she set it down on the bar, and Matt and I poured the wine for the remainder of our stay.  Again, I asked for water.

Our Order:
Avacado Chicken Taco (to share)
and
Steak Fajitas (Matt)
Small Caesar, add Salmon (Me)

            The tacos came out quite quickly (not surprising when the cooks are aching to clean up) and were exactly what we expected; they were tasty and served with hot sauce and filled the void in our stomachs.  I asked for water for the third time and finally she succumbed to the instinct one usually has as a server to actually serve people.  As per usual, Matt finished his taco before I made it to my second bite.  As I finished up and we awaited our second course I vented about work; more specifically, one heinous bitch who spent her night acting as though the world owed her something.  Our busy night working at a restaurant was pretty much the topic of conversation for the rest of the evening.  We had spent our evening smiling at assholes and all we really wanted was someone to smile at us; it turns out that we were asking for too much.
When the main course came out, everything was as expected.  Overcooked dry salmon on a decent Caesar salad for me; Matt got the same fajitas that you get at any chain restaurant.  I poured the remaining hot sauce over my salmon to give it some life and I ate what I could.  He devoured his meal diligently while we both watched the bartender almost fall out of her ‘uniform’ multiple times as she was throwing herself at the only other two patrons in the place.  No quality check.  No refill on the water. 
We literally shoved our plates towards her when we wanted to get the bill; she was truly oblivious (or expressing her anger towards us for coming in so late to eat).  I suppose the requirements for hiring there are more based on waist and breast size than actual experience.
            It was around 1:30 am when we left.  To be positive, we were fed and had a buzz; our main goal when we walked into the restaurant.

Final Bill: $103
Tip: 3.5 % (do you know how bad you have to be to get tipped like that)
Overall Grade:  32%
Likeliness of Return: 1%

Friday, July 15, 2011

SB PRIME

SB Prime – Burlington, Ontario http://www.sbprime.com/
Eating with Scott (chef)

This was an unplanned lunch out so we didn’t have a reservation and we arrived around 1pm.  We were promptly greeted by a smiling face and given the choice of sitting on the side patio, the terrace on the second floor, or inside.  We agreed that a terrace sounded inviting.  We were guided through the dimly lit restaurant, past the modern, clean bar and up the stairs to our destination outside.  The terrace overlooks Brant St. and had a mighty cold draft passing through it, but we stuck with our decision.  Scott gave me his socks so that I wouldn’t be as cold and we could avoid annoying the hostess by asking to move (we are good like that).
We sat for a few minutes without menus, admiring the extensive cob webs that attached to each light fixture, but the hostess (who turned out to be our server) returned with menus in hand and we asked for a wine list as well.  It turns out that there was only a$15 prix fixe menu available at lunch, which included cookies as dessert.  Menu looks promising and we order two appetizers and two entrees to share.  The wine list was quite extensive, they had a wide variety of wines by the glass which is always nice, if they can keep them all fresh.  They were out of my first choice of wine but I was happy to settle for a 9 ounce pour of Chianti Ca’del Doge, Italy.  Scott ordered a coffee to warm up and wake up.

Our order:
Beef Tartare
Grilled Calamari
and
Salmon over Lentils with Cream Sauce
Flat Iron Steak (rare) with Green Beans and Potato Gratin

            As we waited for our food to arrive, Scott bounced some ideas off of me about how to grow his business.  We also talked about his trip to Bonnaroo as well as him moving in with a girl; I was very excited to hear how happy he is.  We didn’t talk much about anything but the food after it arrived. 
            The grilled calamari came with a large piece of fresh watermelon and a small bunch of mixed greens on the side.  Scott played with the few leafs that lay on his plate and he said “with such a tiny salad, you think they could have picked out the rotten pieces of lettuce.”  The calamari was overcooked but, honestly, no matter where you go it is rarely cooked properly.  The beef tartare had a lot of fat in it considering it should be made with tenderloin and it was served with bread (I had informed them that I cannot eat wheat), so eating raw ground beef without a vessel was somewhat disturbing, so Scott ate most of it.  When we finished our first course we both ordered a glass of wine, which came right away.
            When our salmon and steak arrived, Scott became quite critical but I tried to hold out some hope, though there wasn’t much point.  The salmon was perfectly cooked with beautiful crispy skin, though the lentils were undercooked (not that I noticed but Mr. Chef Pants sure did).  What I did notice was the complete lack of salt or seasoning used on the dish.  I remember turning to Scott to make a comment about my dish as he was fishing a large piece of gristle out of his mouth which he placed delicately in the fake potted plant beside our table.  The steak that he had ordered rare had come well done and the green beans and potatoes on his place were quite undercooked.  I should note that the steak came sliced so the cook knew very well that the steak was overdone when he or she plated it.  He commented that “if they had evened out the cooking times on these three items then the entrée could have been perfect”.  Also, his potato gratin had no gratin; we call those scalloped potatoes in the world of giving people what they ordered.  The server didn’t return until we were finishing up and when Scott mentioned the well done beef, she looked at it and agreed that it was well over cooked and then asked if he wanted another steak.  He declined, as he had already choked down the first one and didn’t feel like waiting half an hour for another one to come.
            We sat with our table half cleared of plates when the server came back with our ‘dessert’ cookies packed in a bag to go with our bill; we recognized that as a ‘get the hell out of here’ move.  On our bill she charged us for Scott’s coffee, which was included in the prix fixe price.  I returned his socks to him while we waited for the server to collect payment but it didn’t seem as though she was in a hurry to get a tip so we took our bill downstairs to find her.  While Scott settled up, I tucked away to the washroom.  I won’t go into detail about my washroom experience except to say that the facilities were very clean and when I unlocked the stall door, the lock fell off in my hand.  I handed the server the lock when I met Scott at the bar where he was paying; she asked if I had broken it off, my reply was “not quite” (I thought my heavily sarcastic instinctual response would have been rude). 
As we were walking out the door there was no attempt on her part to say goodbye so I prompted our farewell with a big sarcastic smile and an over the top wave goodbye.  Bitchy yes, but I hoped to get a point across.

Final Bill: $72 (no adjustments made for poorly cooked steak)
Tip: 8% (which was generous)
Overall Grade:  53%
Likeliness of Return: 5%

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Rules

So, it is now past 8pm and I have not yet poured my first glass of wine as I am trying to sort out this whole blogging thing.  It turns out that I am supposed to have a template that everything I write is supposed to fit into.  Also, if I am writing about my experiences at restaurants then there are more rules.  Among these rules are the following:

1.      "Almost all reviews are structured chronologically, mimicking as best as possible the experience of choosing, entering, dining, paying, and considering another visit. They then take you through getting reservations, or checking out the facade, and then welcome you to the ambience: music, decor, lighting, crowd, etc. They may discuss the service, if it is remarkable at this stage, or the wine list may come up, and then desserts. These elements may be considered for price, value, presentation, preparation, freshness, variety, originality, or conceptualization."

So, as far as all this seemingly obvious rule making goes, I think I can adhere to these regulations with particular respect to the various steps of service (my OCD should help me there.)  Also, I read in another instruction manual about writing reviews that I should have a structure for grading a restaurant (a 5 star system) so I have decided to make up an equation that will give a resulting score out of one hundred that will consider: wine selection 10%, wine recommendations 10%, menu 10%, value (price vs. product) 10%, food presentation 10%, food taste 20%, service professionalism 15%, service personality 10%, and originality 5%.

2.      "Evidence: Details are as concrete as possible, always relying on a tactile sensation or a specific flavour over empty adjectives like "delicious," "amazing," or "savoury." When possible, cite as many prominent ingredients as possible. This way, the audience feels like they know the dish, instead of simply relying on your taste, which we all know is subjective."

 I can do this.

3.       "Style: The best reviews show just a little of the personality of the reviewer--personal favourites might come up, and a bit of flair often go over well in moderation. But this is not the place to make your words go off like fireworks."

 I can’t do this.  My personality is what sets me apart from other people, so there is a good chance that I will let it take over everything.  I like to be honest and use uncensored language, and I have never worked well with anything in moderation.

4.       "Narrative: Avoid telling a story of your experience. If the goal is to allow the audience to feel as if they are experiencing the restaurant first-hand, just through your words, the reviewer should be as invisible as possible. Narrate a particular experience only if it is both crucial to the review, and an experience unique to a specific incident not likely to be duplicated in your reader's experience."

 I think that it is fair to say that I won’t be invisible. I like to tell stories too much.

It is now past 9pm and I am going to pour my first glass of wine of the evening; looks like I will be enjoying a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Someone left it in my apartment and I am sure he isn’t expecting it to still be here when he returns (thanks MattJ).  
                                                                         
Okay, so let’s try this out on a small scale.

I am in my apartment.  The atmosphere is quiet; the room is poorly lit but sets a calm tone for the evening.  The service is efficient but the food is not impressive.  I was served a dish that resembled wet dog food that consisted of ground turkey, canned tomato, and hot sauce.  The wine selection is a 2009 Boomtown, Washington State, Cabernet Sauvignon; this wine is big enough to satisfy me and to distract me from the awful meal I just forced down.  Overall, I give this experience a 20% (all the marks given are for the wine).

So, I am going to get up to pour glass number two and to put my feet up to rest after my first hard day of blogging.  Now I just need someone to invite me out to eat.



And so it begins...

People have been telling me for years that I should write about my restaurant experiences, so this will be my attempt to do so.  I don't spend money on things that most people do; I spend almost all my extra cash on food and wine.  I rarely eat at places I can afford and I never order food or wine that are within my budget.
This is my passion but it sometimes can quickly turn sour when a potentially great experience is ruined by bad food or service.  I am frequently told that I 'see too much' that servers do wrong or that I 'expect too much from a plate of food' but I think that just means that I have discerning taste.
Anyhow, I will promise to always be brutally honest, mildly interesting, mostly drunk and always fed.
Thanks for reading!