A Beast’s Birthday at Bar Centrale

If the Beast wants to get a rise out of me, he’ll often put on some music by Prince. I don’t like Prince.  I’ll try to explain why: because when I was a kid I’d go over to my neighbour’s place to play with barbies in the downstairs wood-paneled rec room that had wall-to-wall stinky shag carpet and her older sister, who was bossy and mean and overweight and shockingly short, she’d be down there with her greasy-haired, skinny little boyfriend making out right in front of us with Purple Rain playing on the ghetto blaster OR Purple Rain the movie playing on the TV.

It made me feel terrible inside.  Like, dirty or something–which is  precisely why so many other people adore Prince, I presume.  But at ten, I wasn’t ready for this filthy world of sex oozing from a four foot tall man: I was still saying my bedtime prayers for crying out loud (the fear of God had been instilled in me thanks to another neighbour–this one a Baptist whose house I’d visit every Saturday because there was juice and cookies served side by side with a Baptist bible study). Do you know how I ended that prayer?  Let me tell you: Dear God, please don’t let me get my period until I’m at least 15. Please?

That’s the sad truth. And I blame Prince for making me want to stunt my growth: Prince + teenagers = a load of ass to me. No thank you! Bra straps, leg shaving and slow-dancing with boys?  Fuck that shit man! I’d stick with drinking Kool-Aid, playing with my barbies and building forts in the corn field out back for as long as I could.

But this isn’t a Judy Blume fan club blog so let me make my Prince point: In a car the other day, the Beast put on Prince.  I couldn’t very well yell at him to turn it off because it was his birthday.  So, like any other 36 year-old lady driving with their 28-year-old boyfriend in his parent’s car and headed to sunny Scarborough, I pretended like I was in a Larry Clark movie and just grinned and bore it.  We were enroute to pick up the Beast’s birthday present: one instrument of his choice from the House of Raga.

It wasn’t much to look at from the outside, or the inside for that matter, but the Beast was overjoyed.


And tucked away in the back corner of the music shop was a doorway that opened up to an oasis of brightly coloured Indian saris and jewelry.  So, while the Beast asked the lovely owner multiple questions about drums and harmoniums, I hung out in the back with the owner’s wife who showed me piece after piece of exquisite jewelry.

An hour and a half later, we loaded up the car with a harmonium, a drum, some bells and a tin flute or two (plus some late Mother’s Day gifts) and headed home to the Beast’s parent’s place.

Beast: Sorry I took so long in there.

Foodie: Are you kidding?  I can’t wait until we go back again! Scarborough is awesome! And the owner and his wife were so friendly.

Beast:  They were the best.  He said I could call any time with questions about the harmonium.

Foodie: His wife goest to India and picks out all the jewelry herself you know.  That was so much fun!  It was like the shop was especially designed just for us: boys in the front and girls in the back! Are you happy with your presents?

Beast: Very.

When we arrived at his folks’ place, the Beast was treated to a sparkler-topped cake.

After a drink with them–and several demonstrations of how a harmonium works…

we headed out to our birthday dinner destination: the newly opened Bar Centrale, by Terroni. The Beast’s favourite restaurant in the city is the Osteria Ciceri e Tria, also a Terroni project, but he’s been eager to visit Bar Centrale since it opened last month.

As some of you know, I work for Terroni. Heck, I practically spent all of my twenties at the Queen Street location where I first started as a dishwasher and espresso maker back in 1998.  I was a server there during and after grad school and managed for a few years too before leaving the restaurant three years ago to work at a magazine. Now, I help the them produce their in-house magazine (look for the spring/summer issue at Terroni restaurants in about a week’s time!)

I mention my relationship with the restaurant only so you’ll understand why I can’t very well go and review the place.  I mean, none of you would take me seriously, like you do now, as an international food authority if I went and reviewed a place where I work. That’s like shitting in your own kitchen, or in your sink, or someplace in your house that isn’t a toilet.

But I will say this: The Beast felt like a little bit of a princess that night. As soon as we parked ourselves at the bar two glasses of prosecco landed into our hands, which we both certainly needed after all that time in Scarborough.

Beast:  I do not want to make one decision tonight.  You do the ordering.

Foodie:  Really?  Fantastic!  But do you want to drink red or white?

Beast: NOT ONE DECISION.

Foodie:  Fine.  Oh gosh, I’m so excited for you to try these beef tartar crostini with zabayon and truffle shavings.  It may be the most perfect singular bite of anything I’ve ever tried.

Beast:  Just make sure there’s enough of everything. I’m starving.

I ordered the tartar crostini, along with another version topped with spicy nduja sausage and smoked ricotta cheese and also some fried polenta wedges piled high with mushrooms and gorgonzola.

I insisted that the Beast try the spaghetti con cacio e pepe–essentially a three ingredient pasta (cheese, olive oil and black pepper)–that’s so satisfying in its simplicity that you’ll wonder why anyone bothers with stuff like vegetables or meat. And it was served in the cutest little pot to boot.

And for the record, after I tried the wild boar pâté flavoured with lardo and a fine smearing of blackberry jam, I remembered that meat is pretty amazing stuff.

After the drinks at the Beast’s parents’ place, the prosecco and a bottle of red wine, we were both a little bit tipsy so I don’t remember dessert all that well. There was a lot of chocolate and something that was like silkened caramel.

It was a perfect meal in an exquisite space–and they didn’t play any Prince so that was a real plus for me.  If I remember correctly, I heard the sweet sounds of Al Green playing while we sipped on our espresso before calling it a night.  And in that quiet moment I felt a bit sad that the Beast had to leave his birthday drum, flutes, bells and harmonium at his parents’ place and wouldn’t be able to play with them when we got home.

I also felt very relieved.

5 responses to “A Beast’s Birthday at Bar Centrale

  1. This looks exquisite. Your blog is exquisite. You’re exquisite. Miss you dear!

  2. Happy Birthday Beast!

  3. Eva Claudia Iacobazzi

    you are truely amazing! thanks for sharing JESS!

  4. Paula McManus

    Is that pici? Maybe my eyes are failing me and it’s just a close up. Off to Italia on Wednesday. Belated Happy Birthday to the BEAST! xx

    • It looks like it could be pici! But it’s spaghetti. Have an amazing time Paula–must hear about all your adventures this summer! xo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s