Monthly Archives: November 2009

Saturday Morning with the Jackson Pollack of Pancakes

We didn’t start Saturday morning out on the right foot.  As soon as the Beast and I woke up, at 11:46am, I accidently let out a little toot.

Beast:  Oh my God.  That sounded like a fart from before the beginning of recorded time.

Foodie:  If you go get the papers I’ll make coffee.

Beast:  Deal.  And I’ll bring down a morning-time record to listen to.

Soon we were sitting on the couch reading our papers and drinking coffee and listening to terrible music.

Foodie:  I don’t mean to be rude but when I think of morning-time music, I tend to think of something calming.  We just woke up after all.  What you’re playing sounds like garbage.

Beast:  Keith Jarrett is not garbage.

Foodie:  No, he’s not.  But this particular album–

Beast:  It’s The Survivor’s Suite.

Foodie:  The Survivor’s Suite sounds terrible right now.  Can you put on something prettier please?

Beast (ignoring my request):  I think we should go get our H1N1 vaccinations this afternoon.  There’s a clinic on Cowen Ave that’s open until 4:00pm.

Foodie:  Okay.  But first we better eat something.

I decided to make pancakes using a recipe from a new cookbook that the Beast’s parents bought me.

The recipe seemed simple enough–some flour, milk, an egg, a little sugar and baking powder.  I also decided to add slices of banana while they cooked.  This is when the Beast came into the kitchen “to help”.

Beast:  Want to know how I would have done that?

Foodie:  Oh do tell.

Beast:  First, I would have sliced the bananas, then I’d roll them in brown sugar and cinnamon and then I’d cook them in bacon fat, you know, to candy them, and they’d be served as a topping rather than being cooked inside the pancake.

Foodie:  Well it’s too late for all that.  They’re done.

Beast:  We need sausages with this breakfast.

Foodie:  You know what I need?  To eat.  Now dress your pancakes as you see fit.

I set out maple syrup and butter but that wouldn’t do for Prince Beast:  he rummaged through the pantry and grabbed crap Hershy’s chocolate sauce and his go-to product when he wants to make a meal look fancy, icing sugar.

Foodie:  These taste terrible.

Beast:  Man, you really botched this one.

Foodie:  I know!  They’re so spongy.

Beast:  Luckily I have enough toppings on mine to make them palatable.

Foodie:  Did you just say palatable?

Beast:  Yes I did.  Oh don’t worry about it.  Sweet breakfast isn’t supposed to be a rational person’s meal.

Foodie:  What does that mean?

Beast:  It’s for fucking kids man!  They’re pancakes!

Foodie: You better settle down before we go get our flu shots.  You’re acting like a spaz this morning.

Beast:  Not a chance .  You know what I’m going to do when I get there?  I’m going to find a curtain and then undress behind it and I’ll come out naked and say “Where are the gowns?  I can’t find any gowns!”

Foodie:  Sorry about breakfast, and about what happened earlier.

Beast:  What?  Oh that.  Maybe you should change your blog name to Fartie and the Beast.  No, don’t change it.  But you have to stop with these epic posts!  They’ve all been well over 1500 words lately.  Nobody wants to read that much!

Foodie:  I know, I know.  I’ll start editing myself more. I just don’t know when to stop sometimes.

Foodie:  no stars

Beast:  no stars for the pancakes, **** for his stupid toppings

Giovanna Feeds the Mangias

Foodie:  Maybe we should start watching a show that we’ve never seen before instead of starting at the very beginning of the Sopranos again.  Maybe we could try out Mad Men.

Beast:  Nope.

Foodie:  Why?  I hear it’s very good.

Beast:  It’s average.

Foodie:  You haven’t even seen it yet!

Beast:  I have a feeling it’s just average.

Foodie:  Is it because they can’t swear in Mad Men or show boobs?  A show can be good without swearing, it just means the Mad Men writers have to be very fucking clever.  Cock-sucking amateur writers who use swears all the time are lazy pieces of shit. 

Beast:  What’s for dinner?

I didn’t know what we were eating but I suspected it would be Italian food since my friend Giovanna had invited us to dinner. A short bio:  She was born in Italy; came to Canada at the age of eleven; has two degrees,  runs marathons; helps run all the Terroni kitchens; she’s chef at the Osteria Ciceri e TriaAnd she’s only 27; And gorgeous; And a bit of a spaz.

When we arrived at Giovanna’s place we could smell very good things.  No wonder–she’d started prepping dinner the night before!  Every surface of her kitchen was covered with pots, pans, spices, and gadgets.  It was like we stumbled in on a mad scientist/chef’s magic lair.  

And there was teeny tiny Gio in the middle of the culinary storm, cool as cucumber while the Beast’s and my eyes did their best to take it all in.

Foodie:  Whoa, hold up! What’s that?

Giovanna:  That?  Oh that’s bollito!  That’s what I was telling you about–remember when I emailed you saying that I had this great idea?  It was to make you bollito

Foodie:  Ohhh!  Bollito!  Great!  What’s bollito?

Giovanna (giving me disappointed look):  Bollito is a variety of boiled meats that are boiled very slowly with some vegetables so that the whole things sort of cooks in this incredibly tasty stock and then you serve the meats with all sorts of condiments.  It’s sort of like Italian dim sum I guess.  I just have capon and beef short ribs in there but I tried to get some beef tongue and belly too but Rowe Farms didn’t have any.  

Foodie:  What’s that?

Giovanna:  That?  Oh that’s just this almond tart thing I made–it’s sort of like a tart tatin I suppose.

Foodie:  What’s that?

Giovanna:  That?  Oh those are just some cheeses and stuff that my friend smuggled in from Italy.  

Foodie:  What are all those bones for?

Giovanna:  Those?  I’m scooping out the marrow for the risotto alla milanese that we’ll have before the bollito.

Foodie:  What are you doing now?

Giovanna:  This?  Oh I’m just making some stracciatella soup to serve before the risotto and the bollito.  It’s just some egg and parmigiano and then I’ll add some some of the beef and capon broth from the bollito (that had been slowly brewing for 24 hours).

I glanced over to the Beast for the first time since we arrived and he was just standing there, sort of shell-shocked I think, with all this talk of boiled meats and bone marrow.  His mouth was also open just a bit.  It was sensory-overload.  And we hadn’t even had a drink yet!  But sweet Gio remedied that when she shoved glasses of a lovely Muscadet in our hands to enjoy with the meat and cheese platter she’d set out.

Watching her work and talk at the same time is something I wish everybody could see for themselves.  I’ll do my best to describe it:  Giovanna is very graceful and fluid but at the same time she’s constantly dropping shit and bumping into stuff.  Put her in a tiny kitchen with three burners on, a torte in the oven, prep work to be done, Bob Dylan blasting, a glass of prosecco in one hand and a knife in the other while she talks about everything that pops into that pretty little head–from discovering the magic of podcasts to and it’s like watching an opera that stars a short Italian model, with an strange accent I can’t quite put my finger on (sort of cutie pie-mobster) with a mild case of A.D.D.  It’s gorgeous.  

Fabio, Giovanna’s boyfriend, came home right on time.  He’s a real-life chef from Bologna, Italy who’s worked all over the world (including Paris and Dubai). He and Giovanna met when Terroni brought Fabio over to work with their kitchen staff, including Gio.  Well he taught her a thing or two alright, and they fell in love along the way.

After greeting us warmly, Fabio paused to watch Gio add her risotto into the onion and bone marrow pan.

Fabio (read his lines with gorgeous Italian accent):  Mmmnn.  Interesting.  Gio–what kind of risotto are you using?

Gio:  Arborio.

Fabio:  I thought so.

Foodie:  Is that bad?

Gio:  No, it’s not bad–it’s just not from the right region for that guy (nodding at Fabio).

Fabio: This is true.  I prefer carnaroli or vialone.  

Just then I realized that we were in for a real treat: not only we being treated to an incredible meal cooked by my talented friend, but we’d get to see her and Fabio bicker over food!  I mean, the Beast and I bicker about boring bullshit sort of stuff.  But these two crazy Italians?  This was gonna be good.

We all gathered around the table as soon as Gio had prepared our stracciatella soup. 

Beast:  Wow.

Foodie:  Holy fuck.  Oh, sorry, I mean holy shit.

Gio:  What’s wrong?

Foodie:  It’s just maybe one of the nicest things I’ve ever tasted.  It’s so rich!  It’s so good!

The next course proved to be even richer:  the risotto alla Milanese (so-called because of the touch of saffron, the beef broth, and the bone marrow) made the Beast and I swoon in our seats.  

Beast:  I can’t imagine a more beautiful looking dish.

The presentation was amazing.  It didn’t taste too bad either.  Actually, it tasted like sin in my mouth.  

Gio:  Fabio doesn’t like it.

Fabio (don’t forget to read this with that gorgeous Italian accent):  No!  I do like it.  It’s only that traditionally risotto should be…how do you say…more loose. The idea is to coax the starch out of the rice slowly so that it forms a creaminess.  We say it should “make waves” on the plate.

Gio:  I know, I know, but this particular recipe I was using required that the texture to be just the way it is.

One thing’s for sure: the Beast didn’t give a hoot about waves on the plate–his plate was empty.  AND, he was even scraping remnants of fat from the side of the bone and putting it in his mouth when he thought nobody was looking.  Giovanna did the same.  Fabio and I were more composed than them.

By this point I got a tight feeling in my chest, presumably from the wine, bone marrow, egg, and cheese.  But we still had bollito to eat.

Gio brought out all these gorgeous little accompaniments, like a salsa verde, a grape jam and a tomato and onion chutney.  

Foodie:  Oh Gio!  This chutney is so good with the beef!

Fabio:  This is a very accurate salsa verde.  Brava Gio.

Beast: (Actually he doesn’t say anything.  He’s filling his plate with little bits of meat and then adding more little bits of meat before he finishes the first bits–like he’s afraid he won’t get enough.  He also looks very serious.)

And there was still the almond apple torte thing to eat.  First though, Gio had to whip up a little zabaglione to top it off with because really, when you’ve had a meal of egg and cheese soup, risotto with bone marrow, and assorted boiled meats I can’t imagine a better dessert “hurrah” than a torte topped with some raw egg yolk, sugar and marsala.

We ate our divine dessert in front of the fire and talked away until 1:00am.  It was an incredible meal.  In fact, the Beast and I are still talking about it days later. He wants me to start making my own stock because Fabio and Gio kept going on about how easy it is.  Yeah, sure it’s easy when you’re a crazy person who always has chicken carcasses and beef bones shoved in your freezer and you’ve got five hours to boil those bits in a pot.  Not me: I’ve got Sopranos episodes to watch.

Foodie:  *** 1/2

Beast:  ****

A Splendido Birthday

Foodie:  What should we wear to Splendido?

Beast:  I’m wearing my new Italian linen suit.

Foodie:  Get out!  You are not!

Beast:  When else am I going to wear it?

There was one tiny problem though:  the Beast bought the suit in Italy after he’d put on 14 pounds, which he’s since lost.

Beast:  I look like a little kid wearing his dad’s suit!

The Beast remedied the situation by wearing a sweater under the suit which bulked out his man child chest.  I wore a black dress with golden ocher leggings and my shabby-chic vintage Chanel flats.  

Not only was the Beast’s suit too big, his brogues were too.  He had to walk like a clown on our way to catch a cab.

We were so nervous about being late for our 9:30pm reservation that we arrived about 20 minutes early.  So we sat across the street on the curb waiting for the time to pass.

Foodie:  I feel like a fake.

Beast:  What do you mean?

Foodie:  It’s like we’re little kids pretending to be adults going out to a fancy restaurant.

Beast:  I feel like that, but you’re 35 now.  

Foodie:  Would you stop saying that out loud please?  

Beast:  Sorry.  Let’s go get you a birthday cocktail inside while we wait for our table.

Like I mentioned in my earlier post, Splendido recently changed ownership.  The new owners, former employees Victor Barry (now executive chef) and Carlo Catallo (star sommelier and general manager), dropped the prices and softened up the stiff decor and atmosphere of the original restaurant.  But for rug rats like us, it still looks–and feels-pretty fancy.  While the hostess checked on our table,  I became extremely nervous.

Foodie:  What are you looking at?  What?  My chest?  It’s blotchy isn’t it.

Beast:  Yes, just a bit though.

Foodie:  Fuck.  I haven’t even had a drink yet.

And then something I never could have predicted happened: We were recognized.

Handsome Doctor:  So who’s the Foodie and who’s the Beast?

Foodie:  Oh wow!  Hi there!  How are you?  Ahhhh..

Handsome Doctor (extending hand to the Beast):  Hi there, I’m Mick.

Foodie:  YES!  MICK!  Sorry, I’m just ahhh, a little excited and ahhh….

Beast:  Nice to meet you.

Foodie:  IT’S MY BIRTHDAY.

Handsome Doctor Mick:  Well happy birthday! You’re going to have a wonderful time.  It was really nice seeing you.

Thank goodness the hostess came to take us to our seats to save me from the shit storm raining out of my mouth.  We were seated right in the middle of the dining room, which was packed.

Foodie:  Oh my gosh I can’t believe I forgot Mick’s name!  That’s Jessie B’s boyfriend!  (Jessie B is a gem of a gal who’s a colleague at the restaurant.  She’s also a singer, dancer, writer and tart maker.)  I kept wanting to call him Mitch and I knew it was Mick but my mouth was going to say Mitch so that’s why I didn’t say anything!

Beast:  I don’t care what his name is–that man is probably the best looking guy I’ve ever met.

Foodie:  Isn’t he gorgeous?  Can you believe he’s a doctor?  He looks like how doctors looks in soap operas, not in real life.  AND, he loves F & B!  Isn’t this just too fabulous for words?!

Beast:  He’s so good-looking.

Foodie:  You already said that.

Just then our server came over with two glasses of something sparkling.  

Server:  Monsieur and Mademoiselle, some Cremant de Bourgogne blah blah something french blah, with happy birthday wishes from Mick at the bar.

Foodie:  Well that’s just about the loveliest thing ever!  I feel like a princess!  Don’t you feel like a princess?  

Beast:  Yes I do.  He’s just so handsome.

Foodie:  You’re handsome too you know.  Just look at you in your big-man suit!  Now let’s take a look-see at these menus.  I already know what you’re having:  you’re having the suckling pig with the blood sausage, aren’t you.

Beast:  How did you know?  What are you having?

Foodie:  I have no idea.  I sort of want to try the roasted halibut but then there’s the strip loin with the king oyster mushrooms and the thyme peppercorn jus.  I’m a sucker for peppercorn jus you know.

Beast:  Don’t get fish–you’ll just be disappointed.  

Foodie:  I love fish at restaurants! 

Beast:  I think it’s so plain and boring.  Get real meat.

Foodie:  I don’t know what you’re talking about.  But listen to this idea–and feel free to say no if I’m being too bossy, even though it is my birthday–how about we start with the shrimp and scallop ceviche, and then we’ll share the pappardelle pasta with rabbit ragu as our primo and then you order your suckling pig and I’ll have the strip loin.

Beast:  Sounds perfect.   And you know what?  I’m going to drink wine tonight so pick out anything you like.

Our charming and capable server took our order quickly.  And by the time we finished our birthday bubbly, complements of the handsome doctor Mick, our ceviche arrived. 

Beast:  Aren’t you going to take a photo?

Feast:  I don’t think I can.  I’m too self-conscious and I don’t want everybody to think we’re tourists or weirdo foodie types.

Beast:  Oh just get over yourself and take the photo!  Want me to?

Foodie:  No!  I’m faster and more discreet.  

Beast:  This is really quite good!

Was it ever!  The BC shrimps and scallops were served in citrus juice with some fennel and orange segments, topped with a sea green foam of avocado, yuzu, and wasabi.  The dish was served in a sea shell on a ball of crushed ice.

You’re probably wondering where our wine was.  So were we.  The sommelier, who’s also co-owner and general manager, was extremely busy, but he saw me intensely probing the wine list and promised to be right back.  He hadn’t returned by the time we finished the ceviche.  When he did return, I was fairly certain I’d made my choice:

Sommelier:  My apologies for keeping you waiting.

Foodie:  Oh don’t you worry about that.  Now, I was pretty excited for this one over here (gesturing at the Beast) to try the Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo but maybe there’s something you think we should try–

Sommelier: Well the Marina Cvetic is absolutely wonderful but we do have another Montelpulciano available that, unlike the Marina, is a little more reserved, less in your face, but it delivers more over time. Would you like me to bring over two tasters?

Foodie: Well that sounds just wonderful.  Thank you.

And just like that, the Sommelier vanished into the thick of the dining room again and our pappardelle with rabbit and chanterelles appeared in his place, delivered by our server who called us Monsieur and Mademoiselle again.

Foodie:  Wow.  I thought rabbit looked more like duck.  This looks like chicken.

Beast:  But it tastes infinitely better than chicken.  This is really quite nice.

Foodie:  I wish we had some wine to drink with it though.

Half-way through the pasta course, the Sommelier came back with our tasters in hand.  

Beast:  This wine doesn’t really taste like anything.  I like it!

Foodie:  I don’t think I’m sold.

Beast:  Give it some time–remember what he said about it changing?

Foodie:  We don’t have time because we’re almost finished our dinner.  Okay, so we’re not almost finished. But I don’t think this is going to wow me in ten minutes.  

So, once the Sommelier came back, I ordered the Marina Cvetic.  Now this Marina is a real person:  She’s the wife of Gianni Masciarelli–a greatly admired and adored Italian wine producer in Abruzzo who sadly passed away last year.   Marina caught the winemaking bug and came out with her own version and the vintage I tried years ago was spectacular.  I haven’t had it for some time and I had a sneaking suspicion that the Beast would appreciate it.

Foodie:  So?  What do you think?

Beast:  It’s amazing.

Foodie:  It is!  I’m so happy you like it too.

Our main courses arrived just in time to enjoy with our wine.

Foodie:  Did you hear that?  He keeps calling us Monsieur and Mademoiselle!  Don’t you think that’s funny?  How’s your suckling pig?

Beast:  It’s amazing, but I can’t seem to take a photo of it that isn’t blurry.

Foodie:  Give the camera back!  You’re so obvious when you do it.  Holy shit (me looking at his photo) this is a terrible.  It looks like animal innards with a side of poached pear and a burnt dink.

Beast:  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I bet Mitch could take a perfect photo with those handsome surgeon hands of his.

Foodie:  It’s Mick and I don’t think he’s a surgeon.

Beast:  How’s your steak?

Foodie:  It’s cooked perfectly and it tastes great, but to be honest, it could be much warmer, and I can’t taste any thyme or peppercorn in my thyme and peppercorn jus.  I like the french fries though.

When the Beast and I finished, we still had two full glasses of wine–and room in our tummies–so we decided to order a round of three cheeses.  However five cheeses were delivered, we think on account of the wait for the wine, and for the actual cheese plate:  by the time the cheese arrived, which we ordered to drink with all that wine, the wine was all gone.

Our attentive server saved the day by bringing over small glasses of an alternative red to enjoy with the cheeses, all of which were incredible!  

Beast:  This was so good.  That P.E.I cheddar?  Wow.  What was the blue cheese again?

Foodie:  No idea, but it makes my tongue go a bit numb.

Beast:  Me too, but I don’t care.  How about we get that trio of sorbet and a couple of espressos.

Foodie:  Aren’t you full?  I’m full to the point of being in pain.

Beast:  The sorbets will be tiny though.

They were tiny. Regardless, ingesting them nearly put me over the edge.

Beast:  Mmmn.  Good espresso.

Foodie:  You’re right.  It’s strange how other fancy restaurants tend to let that little detail slip, isn’t it?  I mean, it’s often the last thing you have and so you’d think you’d want to wow your guests with a great little coffee but most of the time it’s just a cup of hot black water.

Our epic Splendido meal lasted three hours and 45 minutes.  It was close to 1:00am by the time we’d digested enough in order to be capable of standing up.  We were nearly the last ones to leave.

This birthday meal was one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had, and it was certainly one of the most generous gifts I’ve ever received.  But it wasn’t just the wonderful food that made it so remarkable. In fact, it was more on account of the handsome doctor sending us drinks; of the Beast and I gabbing about our jobs and about us; of the incredible service, even though there were hiccups here and there; of the Marina Cvetic Montepulciano; and mostly because of the Beast surprising me with the meal in the first place.  

I’d go back I think, if only to try the 28 oz boneless Black Angus rib steak for two from the wood-burning grill.  We saw a few couples order this thing and it looked–and smelled–like perfection.  

I’d also go back if Doctor Mick asked me to meet him there.  The Beast could come too.

Foodie:  ***

Beast:  ***

Acorn Squash Soup, Salmon Terrine and Banana Muffins. Gross!

Let’s get one thing straight:  I’m not one of those people who makes a big deal about their birthday. All I hope for are phone calls from the folks and my best buddies; a card from Auntie Sandy (by the by Sandy, where the eff is my effing card?); and some white cake with white icing.

I’m telling you this because tomorrow is my birthday and the Beast, who’s been working all day, called to say that we’ll just order pizza tonight.  I’m totally fine with this because, like I said, I don’t think my birthday is a big deal.  I mean, it’s not like I need a fancy dinner or anything.  And after all, I do love pizza.

So I went about my day doing domestic duties, like reading the paper, drinking coffee, laundry and grocery shopping.

IMG_1170

I had urges to make specific things:  First, acorn squash soup (from a Jaime Oliver recipe in his Jamie at Home book; second, a salmon terrine, which I know sounds so odd, but I read about one in the paper and it sounded interesting (no recipe was included, but how hard can making a terrine be?); and third, banana muffins using my Aunt Pat’s recipe for banana bread, which I think is Edna Staebler’s recipe from Food that Really Schmecks.

It only occurred to me after I’d finished cooking that this triad of dishes had no real common denominator, besides me wanting to make them.

I started with my acorn soup.  Jaime said just to cut up the squash and cook it in the stock, but I decided to roast them.

IMG_1177While the acorn squash roasted in the oven, I started with my terrine.  I guess the notion of making this struck me because I’ve had two cans of salmon in my pantry for a very long time.  I steamed the swiss chard to make the shell.

IMG_1175

And I filled her up with a mixture of salmon, boiled Yukon Gold potatos, red onion, celery, fresh dill, lemon juice and olive oil.

IMG_1176

I don’t know about you, but when I’m cooking and baking my mind often wonders, usually towards pretty typical stuff, like “Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and I should really work on a script together,” or, “I wonder what I would look like with blonde hair and bangs?” But tomorrow being my birthday and all–even though I like totally don’t care–I started wondering if maybe the Beast has something special planned for tonight, and the ordering of pizza line he fed me was just to make the surprise all the more surprising.  Maybe he’ll come home with a present, like a Chanel nail polish, or new slippers!  But pizza is fine too.

Anyway, I turned my attention back to the soup, which was dead simple to make:  I just had to cook up some onions, celery, carrots, garlic and a red chili, then add some chicken stock, the roasted squash and some fresh thyme.

IMG_1179

Maybe the Beast will bring home the complete Northern Exposure box set.  That would be nice to watch again this winter.  Or maybe he’ll clean the bathroom tomorrow!

Doesn’t matter really.  I had muffins to make.  Now if you haven’t heard of Edna Staebler, it’s time you did.  She wrote the book Food that Really Schmecks, which is based on the time she spent with Mennonites in the Waterloo area in the early 1960s. The recipes are incredible and so is Edna’s story-telling capabilities.  I added some almond extract and all-spice to the original recipe.  They turned out perfectly.

IMG_1182While the muffins baked I finished off my acorn squash soup by giving it a blitz with the hand-blender.

IMG_1180

Then I did some cleaning up and decided to watch that bio-pic on Edith Piaf, La Vie en Rose while I ate some crackers and cheese.   The movie makes me want to put on red lipstick, and not shoot up with morphine.  The Beast ought to be home any minute now.  I can hardly wait for our pizza party.  Maybe, if I’m lucky, he’ll bring home one of those frozen McCain’s Deep ‘n’ Delicious cakes.

 

UPDATE:  The Beast got home and told me, “I’m so sorry but we can’t have pizza for dinner because I made reservations at Splendido for 9:30pm!” (Mom, Splendido used to be a very fancy restaurant.  It’s still fancy but the original owners sold it to some old-time staffers who made the joint more accessible for people like us.  So now a main dish is only, like, $35, as opposed to $40.  It’s a perfect solution for dining out during a time of economic strife.)

Are you allowed to wear jogging pants to a fancy restaurant?

To be continued….

AMENDMENT:  Aunt Sandy’s card did in fact arrive on time.  It was hidden on the Beast’s piano bench under some magazines.   Foodie and the Beast regret the error.