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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 d├ęcor 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%