Monthly Archives: February 2009

Ematei

img_0581“I think I’ll order the skewered chicken hearts,” said the Beast as he looked over the menu at Ematei.  It’s my favourite Japanese restaurant  in downtown Toronto.   I was introduced to Ematei by my Italian friends who frequent the place so often that beautiful plates of sushi and sashimi are delivered to their table before they have a chance to open up a menu.  I brought the Beast here when we first started dating and although he has a hard time filling up his tummy, he quite enjoys it.  He always asks me to do the ordering, but this time around the Beast must have been feeling rebellious.  It’s in his nature.

Foodie:  Why in hell would you order chicken hearts?  You’d do that just to torment me, don’t you?

Beast:  And they also have fried chicken skin on a skewer!

Foodie:  That’s horrific.

Beast:  How’s it any different than Swiss Chalet?

Foodie:  You want miso soup?img_0577

Beast:  Yes.

Foodie:  And yam tempura?

Beast:  Yes.

Foodie:  And the Buta Kimchi?

Beast:  You order the usual and I’ll just tack on a few of these skewers.

 So I did.  I admit, I’m not a fancy-pants when it comes to Japanese cuisine.  I presume a true gastronome would order plenty of sashimi—that’s raw fish served straight up.  The Italians love it.  In fact, it’s not that different from what they’d eat in the coastal south of Italy.  I like it when that raw fish is nestled in between some rice and other things and then rolled up in seaweed.  I usually order the barbequed eel maki roll, the shrimp tempura one, and a yellow-fin tuna roll with scallions.  And l love, love, love the Buta Kimchi.  It’s a spicy and saucy dish of thinly sliced pork that’s fried quickly and served with kimchi, which is Korean pickled cabbage I think.  I dream of Buta Kimchi.

 Foodie:  You know, Buta Kimchi is sort of like a deconstructed cabbage rolls.  It’s got the cabbage, and the pork-

Beast:  It’s like a “fusion” cabbage roll.

Foodie:  Yes.  I’d love to learn how to make-

Beast:  But there’s no rice in it, and there’s rice in cabbage rolls.  I always ask you to order rice here but you never do.

Foodie: That’s because I don’t want you to fill up and not have room for your fucking chicken hearts.

Beast:  But I’m always hungry!  Don’t you get it?  I don’t fill up.  EVER.

Foodie:  Do you want me to order rice?img_0578

Beast:  No.  Let’s split a giant Japanese beer instead.

Beer tastes so good when you poor it into little glasses.  And it was just what we needed to take the heat off of an ongoing argument we’ve been having: the Beast has been accusing me of hiding his instruments (they number in the 30’s) in order to teach him a lesson about cleaning up after yourself. 

Beast:  Are you going to tell me where you hid my fife?

Foodie:  How many times to I have to tell you that I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I don’t even know what a fucking fife is.

Beast:  Tell me where the fife is and no questions will be asked.

For the record, Ematei never disappoints.  And I didn’t hide the fife.

Foodie:     ***

Beast:       ***

Bada-Bing and You Gots Spaghetti

“I’m going to be very busy with business when I get home. No breaking my balls. Capeesh?”

This is an email from the bronchitis-stricken Beast that I received yesterday.  He’s watched about ten episodes of The Sopranos in the span of a couple of evenings.  It seems strange that we’re only now getting into the series—it’s not exactly new.  I was previously blind to all the nuanced, post-modernist references to mob culture classics, and the attention paid to details. It’s the manicures; the sausage and peppers; the prosciutt’ and manicott’; the golf-shirts; the marbled surfaces. We’re hooked, and what a perfect time of the year to watch hours and hours of television. 

spaghettijegOne of the consequences of too much Sopranos is the Beast’s new dialect.  Another consequence is that I’ll be preparing many pasta dinners to accompany our time spent on the couch.  Last night I started out simple:  spaghetti al pomodoro.  Once I learned how to do a simple tomato sauce, I swore I’d never buy the jarred stuff again, and I haven’t.  But I have to say, as simple as it is, I still can’t make it as well as they do at the restaurant.  There, they call it spaghetti ca’ pummarola n’goppa, which is Barese dialect for ‘spaghetti topped with tomatoes’. I don’t know what I’m doing that’s holding the sauce back.  I make sure my olive oil gets good and hot; I add a tiny bit of garlic (never letting it burn); I add a can of my San Marzano tomatoes; reduce that down a bit, and add a pinch of salt and sugar, to cut the acidity.  When it’s all done, I add my al dente spaghetti and let it soak up the goodness of the sauce for a bit.  Generous handfuls of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and basil finish it off. photo-1

The Beast seemed to like it.  He ate a helping big enough for mister Tony Soprano himself.

Foodie:  Fat Pussy must be so stressed with the Feds breathing down his neck.

Beast:  It’s Big Pussy.  Are you going to write that you said “Fat Pussy” in your blog?

Foodie:  Maybe.  Everybody in this show seems to drop the vowels off the Italian words.

Beast:  Is that why they say “prosciutt”?   

Foodie: I think it’s a New Jersey thing.  Maybe it’s a thing that all American-Italians do.  Because my Italian friends, who were all born in Italy, don’t do it.

Beast:  What does “puttan” mean?

Foodie: They’re dropping the vowel at the end of puttana, which means “whore” I think.  Like in a puttanesca sauce…which means “sauce in the way a whore would make it.” 

Beast:  Ssshh.  Junior’s talking!

Foodie: I can’t believe Tony and Carmella have a reproduction of Jacopo Pontormo’s Visitation above their bed! What a weird painting to choose.  Maybe it’s not that weird if you think about it.  I mean it’s sort of a double visitation because Mary’s visiting Elizabeth, and they’re both pregnant with Jesus and John the Baptist respectively, so those two are sort of meeting too.  So maybe–

Beast: Can you be quiet?  Big Pussy’s gonna get wacked!

Foodie:  How’s your spaghetti?

Beast: [gesticulating with his hand by his face] It’s good but where are the sausage and peppers?

Foodie:  How long are you going to talk like this?  And how much longer do you plan on being sick?

Beast:  Ah stuggats! Vaffanculo you!

I always thought that Kaye Adams had it great and that she was crazy for leaving Michael Corleone.  Maybe no so much anymore.

sgetty2

Spaghetti al Pomodoro     Foodie   **

                                        Beast   no stars  (“I got news for you:  Carmella always

                                       has a protein on the table!”)

 

 

 

Soup Please

When the Beast and I lived in a tiny outport in Newfoundland one winter, we wanted to take advantage of our astonishing surroundings so we did a lot of sketching and painting en plein air. We drew rocks; we drew the beautiful coloured houses, we drew the ocean; and we drew rocks.  When we tired of this, we turned to each other.  One evening, with a fire roaring in the Franklin stove, I offered myself up, as Kate Winslet did for Leo in the movie Titanic, so the beast could draw me.  Too shy to go full frontal, I positioned myself in a Degas-esque pose:  I sat on the itchy carpet with my back facing the artiste, and my head turned ever-so-slightly, affording him a peek at my profile.  I was certain the Beast would marvel at my feminine curves, maybe even compare them to a marble Greek statue.  Then I saw the drawing:  it looked more like the actual Titanic than Kate Winslet.  Fuck was I mortified.  At first I tried to blame the Beast, arguing that he’d gotten the details all wrong. He was a real gentleman about it—taking the blame entirely for the offensive life drawing.  In retrospect, I suppose it’s possible that I’d packed on a few pounds in this idyllic outport where we ate as though we were preparing for the next ice age.

titanicAnyway, it’s winter, and I’ve been feeling a bit rotund all over again.  And the Beast has been feeling utterly terrible with some sort of cold/flu that doesn’t want to go away.  So I’ve decided to make some minestrone soup.  It’s capable of both comforting the meek and skinny and satisfying those of us who suffer from seasonal insulation syndrome (S.I.S.).  I also want to do something nice for the Beast because I wasn’t particularly friendly last night.  I thought he was being the boy who cried sick so I didn’t jump off the couch to fetch him the electric blanket when he asked me too.  I wasn’t cold (sufferers of S.I.S rarely get cold), and the blanket was all the way down the hall in the dining room closet and Hell’s Kitchen was on.  He got it himself and was quite grumpy afterwards and made many exaggerated (if you ask) shivering noises while he waited for the blanket to heat him up.

I’ll be at the restaurant working tonight, so I won’t be able to see how happy the Beast is when he gets home from work to find delicious homemade soup waiting for him.  Or maybe he won’t be happy, for a couple of reasons really.  First, there’s no meat in this minestrone.   But I’m certain the Beast won’t miss it because I made sure my mirepoix of carrot, onion, leek, celery and garlic was good and browned before adding everything else, including Yukon Gold potatoes, zucchini, a can of Italian plum tomatoes, a bit of water, white kidney beans, a bay leaf, fresh parsley, and my secret ingredient when I don’t have a bit of prosciutto or pancetta on hand:  a Parmigiano Reggiano rind.  It imparts a real lovely flavour—and lots of salt—to any soup.  Second, last time when he was sick and I made him soup from scratch, the Beast whined that I always had to “make” him something, and that I never just bought him canned soup, specifically Campbell’s Beef and Barley.img_05491

Sometimes when you’re sick, you don’t know what’s best for you.  The Beast is not getting any fucking canned soup, I’ll tell you that much. He’ll eat this minestrone, and he’ll like it and he’ll be stronger, faster and smarter than before.  Just you wait and see.

Foodie     ***

Beast       to be determined…