on friday night the dotytron and i took my mum out for a birthday dinner at local kitchen and wine bar, out on queen west at roncesvalles, in parkdale.
it's a tiny, tiny little place that makes their own charcuterie and prides themselves on sourcing local ingredients, making their own pasta and cooking seasonally.
first, a look at the birthday girl, considering the menu. isn't she the cutest?
we started with the rabbit stuffed olives, which were breaded and deep fried. we all thought these were pretty meh. a decent concept, but the execution was spoiled by a too-thick breading and an unsavory temperature (by the time they made it to the table, they were lukewarm bordering on cold.)
next we split the large salumi board, which featured (from the top): berkshire pork proscuittino, soppressata, a toscano, something made with intestine and a smoked duck proscuitto, which was really really good and pleasantly smoky. the two twisty things are fennel seed crackers. our favorites were the duck proscuitto, the toscano, and the intestine thing. the salumi board came with a selection of pickled vegetables - pickled leeks, pickled squash chunks and curried pickled cauliflower.
then we split the special of veal tartar, mixed with capers and shallots and well seasoned with a raw quail egg on top. the flavours were definitely there but i was a little disappointed by the texture of the tartar - it was a little too finely ground (tasted like it was machine-ground instead of hand-chopped) - so that it was almost a paste. the seasoning was bang-on, though.
then we split a small order of the tortelli with mushrooms in a bone marrow enriched sauce. we LOVED this dish. it was delicious and the sauce was to die for - really light and brothy but punched up with chunks of melting bone marrow.
we also shared a small order of the black pepper tagliatelle with guanciale - which was very much like a carbonara. the tagliatelle was cooked perfectly, chewy and very al dente. the only problem with this dish was again, it had sat too long up in the window and there were bits of it that were literally cold to the touch.
we also split the special of the day which was seared calf's liver with kale and "patatini" which turned out to be little potato cubes, fried. the dish was very good and i preferred the way the kitchen served the liver in a thicker chunk, rather than the thin slices you get elsewhere - it's easier to serve the liver medium this way and you have less of a chance of over-cooking it. for $22 and considering the cost of the ingredients, i found the portion rather small.
the kitchen had a problem with pacing. we'd wait up to 15 minutes between the arrival of our appetizers and the poor couple sitting next to us waited almost half an hour from the time of placing their order to receive TWO salad appetizers! the service was nice but i don't think the kitchen knows how to handle the rush and the servers should be pacing things a little better. i don't like eating a cold carbonara.
for dessert we got the pistachio cannoli, which is served more like a sandwich, with two florentine-like cookies studded with pistachios sandwiching a creamy, smooth, chocolate-flecked ricotta filling. it was actually a very nice presentation and much easier than your standard cannoli, what with the frying and the shaping and whatnot.
the total bill for all that food and 2 mill streets was $140 including tip. so i thought the pricing was generally fair, except for the liver dish. it's the kind of place that fills up quickly and they don't have anywhere to seat the overflow, so we were wise to get there right when they opened at 6pm. overall, a fairly decent neighbourhood type restaurant but not one that i would necessarily travel across town for on the regular.
my sister and outlaw bro and the kids were supposed to come up to celebrate chova and my mom's birthday, but their car leaked all its coolant pretty much as they were crossing the border so it was a giant cluster f**k and they had to get the car towed back to geneseo. also, the two truck driver wouldn't take kids in the tow truck (???) so they had to get the outlaw bro's family in buffalo to drive them home. what a nuisance. i was a little weirded out by that. like, they have triple AAA and we have a CAA membership. don't they have an obligation to get you home? or at least someplace safe? what if you were LITERALLY stuck in the middle of nowhere as a family? they're going to tow the car someplace safe but leave you behind? it makes no sense!
anyway, it didn't make sense for them to come up so we called a giant audible and the rest of the family figured something out. we went for lunch at this place in markham called "chili secrets" which my mum calls the "dan dan noodle place" and which is EXTREMELY busy. it's pretty legit. they serve a combo of shanghai dimsum AND cantonese dim sum favorites and it was all really delicious. i'm not usually a fan of dan dan noodles. other places i've had them (like asian legend) serves them in a really peanut-heavy, thick, soup that i find kind of disgusting and cloying. i'm not generally a fan of peanut sauces. the one at chili secrets was THE BOMB. so spicy! ramen-type noodles with a subtle dry spice (the dotytron thought it was similar to the musky notes of oregano) in a chili-kicked soup that was positively incendiary. my mum said it's classic sichuan style. it was freakin' amazing.
they also serve other dim sum that you don't usually get like chiu chow style dumplings.
most importantly (for me) is that they served STEAMED GINGER MILK PUDDING for dessert. sweet bliss! i love steamed ginger milk pudding. it's like the most comforting, gentle, pablum you could ever ingest.
after dim sum, we dropped my mum off at home, which left me, the dotytron, s-dawg and chova with nothing to do. so WE WENT TO PLAY LASER TAG. which i haven't done in oh, maybe 16 years or so. IT WAS THE BEST! lol! it was so much fun...chova was "the don," s-dawg was "hawkeye" (because they wouldn't let him be "bullseye" because of the violent connotation), the dotytron was "swarly" (a "how i met your mother" reference) and i was "young jeezy." we got separated from chova and s-dawg and the dotytron and i were being stalked by a 10 year old who was getting all up in our grills and being super obnoxious. he basically followed us and shot us a zillion times and we were idiots and didn't stand our ground but ran like little pansies. it was kind of embarrassing. but now we have our strategy in place. plus, chova and s-dawg apparently found the most mint location so next time, we know where to go. laser tag is seriously the best. s-dawg was super-pissed because it used to be that when you shot people on the shoulder, you would get more points than hitting them straight on (smaller target, harder to aim, etc.) when we were poring over our stats, we discovered that all the shots are weighted the same. laaame!
so i think s-dawg is going to write the president of laser tag a letter that goes something like this:
"dear laser tag, i am miffed that shoulder hits are now weighted the same as targets on the laser, the front, and the bag of the player, due to the relative size of the shoulder target. signed, hawkeye."
LOL!!!!!!! the whole "miffed" part makes me laugh out loud like an idiot. i have the funnest family in the whole damn world.
we were going to follow that up with glow-in-the-dark mini putt at "the putting edge" but we ended up going bowling instead. my bowling was WAY off. i was horrible. if we had hit laser tag, mini putt, AND bowling in the same day, it would have been the BEST grade 5 birthday party day of all time. even 2 out of 3 was pretty ace.
later that night we went for dinner at big mouth kee. big d is THE BEST at big mouth kee. he's always in fine form. all of his jokes always end in "...i'm going to kill you!" and we were sharing stories of what we were like when we were little kids. we started running down the list of all our nannies/housekeepers over the years. my mum said i used to mouth off to them when i was like, 5 - saying stuff like, "you're just the hired help!" (sounds like me, doesn't it?) we had one nanny that basically raised chova from when he was born til like, he was 9 or 10. when she left, apparently chova was crying, and according to my mom, i was standing over him, giving him heck, saying, "what are you crying for? she's just the hired help!" LOL!!! it just goes to show you - nature versus nurture - there's a HUGE amount of nature that you can't account for.
sunday breakkie today was jimmy dean sausage, over easy eggs, and whole wheat toast (in keeping with my recent obsession with my fiber intake.)
tonight i made us chicken pot pies with purchased puff pastry tops. the filling consisted of poached chicken, leftover heritage turkey, peas, carrots, mushrooms, leeks, thyme and sage in a milk and chicken broth sauce thicken with roux. we had that with a big salad of mixed baby greens, orange pepper, grape tomatoes, red onion, cucumber and avocado.
for dessert we made blood orange floats (vanilla ice cream, freshly squeezed blood orange juice, topped with club soda). so good!