A Pasta Bake, a Tom and a Little Grace

One night earlier this week bringing in our dirty dishes into the kitchen after dinner.

Foodie: I think that pasta bake was pretty successful. Don’t you?

Beast: It was very good. But I’d be curious to see how it would’ve turned out if you’d just followed the original recipe.

Foodie: I don’t think subbing in one cup of chicken stock for one cup of milk made that big of a difference. And I liked the addition of mint and peas because they go so nicely with prosciutto.

Beast: I just feel like the sauce didn’t really come together. (Pause) What did Tom do the gnocchi to make the sauce so good?

Foodie: Well sorry I’m no Tom!

Beast: That really was a spectacular meal he made.

The Beast and I could agree on that. My friend Tom is one of the most appealing cooks and charming hosts I know. In fact he’s so fine that his friends pooled their funds and presented him with a novelty cheque so that he could purchase a bigger dining room table–the better to serve us around. He prepares us meals that are both comforting yet extravagant, simple but classic. I’d characterize Tom’s hosting style as honest, sincere and loose. His friends know the drill so well that there’s never any need for discussion when it comes to us bringing wine, opening said wine (usually several bottles at a time), clearing the table and helping with the dishes. In short, Tom has entertaining down to a fine science.

I mean, who wouldn’t be enchanted by the sight of homemade chicken wings and panko-crusted zucchini sticks being fried to order as guests congregate in the kitchen?

They were both sublime. Tom had wanted to do mozzarella sticks too, but he didn’t have time. I guess he was too busy preparing braised beef short ribs, homemade gnocchi, brussel sprouts with bacon and maple glazed carrots with dijon.

And equally as enchanting as Tom’s menus are his friends–some of whom are so funny that the Beast and I are still recounting their good humour days after a dinner.

But back to the food: Tom is the kind of host that’ll put out a cheese course while we wait for chocolate chips cookies to bake. It’s this attention to detail that makes a dinner invitation to Tom’s tantamount to winning the lottery.

Back in our kitchen, washing dishes.

Beast: So, do you know what tomorrow is?

Foodie: No, what? Oh f—u——c——k. It’s our anniversary, isn’t it.

Beast: We should go out for dinner.

Foodie: That sounds like a nice idea. Wait a second though–you’re not mad that I forgot?

Beast: No.  And I got you something.  I bought you the domain a Foodie and the Beast domain.  The dot com one is taken but dot org wasn’t.  So you’re the proud owner of http://www.foodieandthebeast.org

Foodie: That’s probably the nicest thing anybody’s ever done for me.  I can’t believe it. Thank you so much. (Pause) And you still want to celebrate me stealing the best years of your youth?

Beast: I hate young people. They have nothing to offer me.

Foodie: You know you’re a young person, right? You’re 28.

Beast: I’m 27.

So the next night we decided to go to Grace Restaurant, a charming little spot on College Street that’s a real nice balance between elegant and homey.

We started out with some sort of cocktail featuring blood orange juice, lime and rum, I think. They were very festive-looking, and delicious.

Beast (raising his glass): Happy anniversary–to four more years.

Foodie (almost spitting out cocktail from mouth): Wow! That’s a really good joke, like, incredibly good. Where’s that from anyway? Arrested Development or something?

Beast: Ah no: like most of my jokes, it’s multi-layered. But if I had to explain it I guess you could say it’s in reference to a presidential election.

Foodie: Oh yeah, right. Oh boy–everything sounds so good here! What are you going to get?

Beast: I’m getting the Caesar salad to start and then beef cheeks.

Foodie: How would you feel about me ordering the octopus salad to start and we share it along with your Caesar salad?

Beast: Yes.

Foodie: Perfect! And then I’m going to have the gnudi in sage butter with porcini mushrooms. Oh and would you be opposed to us ordering a bottle of wine tonight?

Beast: No, actually I was going to suggest it.

Foodie: Well perfect again because their bottles are 50 per cent off tonight! Isn’t that incredible? I wonder if it’s just a Tuesday night thing.

I don’t know what it was but it made a $120 bottle of Burgundy a mere 60 bucks.

Our appetizers arrived and we devoured them quickly.

Foodie: I love octopus! It’s so much better than chicken. I think I might try to make it at home. Hey, what are you going to do on your day off tomorrow?

Beast: I have about 250 more pages to go in my book

Foodie: That Saul Bellow one? How many pages is it?

Beast: The Adventures of Augie March. It’s about 600 pages.

Foodie: I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that long.

Beast: Yes you have: Moby Dick.

Foodie: Oh right! Good ole’ Moby Dick. Christ, I loved that book. And it seems so ideal that I got to read it for the first time in Newfoundland, where I could hear the ocean at night. I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about it, and how I’ll never be able to duplicate that, you know?

Beast: Yes, I do know. Are you home tomorrow night?

Foodie: I think so. I’ve got a lot on this week: soccer on Wednesday, dinner with Gio and Sarah on Thursday, and then I have to do some work at the restaurant on Friday.

Beast: I’m going to starve. How many Dr. Oetker’s do we have left in the freezer? Are they bringing their babies?

Foodie: I don’t know. I think you have to bring them when they’re that little. (Laughing.)

Beast: What?

Foodie: Oh I was just thinking about an inappropriate joke.

Beast: What?

Foodie: Oh look, here comes more food.

Beast: Tell me your joke.

Foodie: Well, I was just thinking how funny it would be if I showed up to this dinner party with you in a Baby Bjorn attached to my chest and I was all like, “Hey ladies! I didn’t want to feel left out so I brought my little guy too!”

Beast: You’re sick and twisted.

Foodie: These gnudi are like clouds that explode in your mouth and then rain down heavenly butter. They’re obscenely good.

Beast: Do you want to try my beef cheeks? They’re amazing.

Foodie: I’m okay, but thank you.

Beast: Have you and Erinn booked your vacation yet?

Foodie: We’re still deciding between this deal to Cuba and one to Jamaica.

Beast: I can’t believe you’re taking a trip without me.

Foodie: Oh come on! You’d hate a beach vacation and you know it! And besides, you’ve decided to purchase a very expensive baritone saxophone this year. I’ve decided to take a cheap and cheerful vacation.

Beast: I would hate a beach vacation. Still, I can’t believe you’re going without me: it’s the beginning of the end. First, separate vacations and then next thing you know I’m living at home again. Give me your cell phone, I’m calling my parents to come pick me up.

Foodie: Make sure they take you to our place first though so you can pick up an overnight bag and fill it with a singular pair of clean underwear, and several books and CDs.

Beast: That was pretty funny.

Foodie: I thought so too. This has been a nice anniversary.

And that’s the truth. To top it all off, we each ordered dessert: the Beast opted for an apple tart made with fruit grown in the owner’s family’s orchards. I chose a lime and coconut cream tart. I can say in all honesty that it was one of the most satisfying desserts I’ve ever had at a restaurant.

It felt like we had the place to ourselves, save for another couple who sat in the window booth, while we enjoyed some espresso and our sweets.

And then when we left, the strangest thing happened.

Woman sitting in front booth: FOODIE! Ohmygodohmygod!!!! AND THE BEAST! Look at your two! (Hugging us repeatedly.) This lady (talking to her dinner companion) has the most amazing blog! You’ve got to read it! It’s hil-ar-ee-us! No, seriously! YOU’VE GOT TO READ IT!

Turns out the women in the booth was an old colleague of mine and she was out for dinner with a restaurant owner. Now, I know there’s nothing strange in that but both the Beast and I were ready to make a mad dash for the door because in a previous post some time ago the Beast has some critical things to say about this man’s restaurant and here was this lovely women going on and on about Foodie and the Beast and they we were sweating like mad thinking, what if this guy, who is incredibly handsome, tall and has large muscles, puts two and two together and clobbers us! If he did figure out that we were the two jack asses who’d bad-mouthed the service at his popular place, he was quite a gentleman about it. But to be honest, when you’re that good looking, I don’t think you care about stuff like that.

The Beast and I giggled the whole way home, which is quite a nice thing to still be able to do after seven years.

Pasta Bake: Foodie *1/2 Beast *1/2

Tom’s: Foodie ***1/2 Beast ***1/2

Grace: Foodie *** Beast **1/2

9 responses to “A Pasta Bake, a Tom and a Little Grace

  1. How do I get an invite to Tom’s?

  2. I think its spelled Thom.

  3. “These gnudi are like clouds that explode in your mouth and then rain down heavenly butter.”


    i spit my good-night-wine out for that one. thanks, foodie. 🙂

  4. Amy, I LOVE that you were drunk-reading FATB at 3 in the morning.

  5. hmm. i’m not sure whether i’m embarrassed, or strangely pleased with myself…

  6. Happy Anniversary! Super excited for your new website!

    …And ever since I stopped actually *baking* my pasta bakes, they have been infinitely better… we love the creamy sauce instead of the dried out “bake”. Maybe you know the secret for the bake, but we go for heaping, steaming bowls of saucy pre-bake magic now.

  7. Great. Having read this at an unreasonably early hour I am now pretty darn hungry and sure of three things: this Tom fellow is a superhero and if I hadn’t exhausted my new year’s resolution quota already I would probably be getting a bracelet made right now that reads “WWTD?” to help guide me in the year to come; my morning oatmeal is unlikely to explode in my mouth and rain down any kind of heavenly anything; and, in the pre-dawn darkness and cold, this blog is a shiny, shining light. Many more years!

  8. Amazing!!Love to read your cooking adventures! 🙂
    here is my blog http://gnocchinight.wordpress.com/
    for foodies like you and me, it is about Italian gastronomy in the UK …Gnocchis and recipes, news and reviews… I’d love for you to check it out and have a say!

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