Friday, February 22, 2013

Gooby eyes, full hearts, a wrecked butt

That is a basic synopsis of how this extra-long family day weekend went down.

On Valentine's Day, I picked up the Big Yam from daycare and took him on a V-Day treat ride on the bus, subway, and then to Country Style Hungarian Cuisine for dinner with the outlaw mum.  Schnitzel jawns for days, yo.  Peep this:

People complain that the prices at Country Style have gone up.  This is true.  A schnitzel dinner runs you around $17.00 nowadays.  HOWEVER!  That schnitzel is easily a foot across and comes with taters and a vegetable side.  It's a pretty sweet deal, in my books.  

I took Friday off so that I could do my road test for my G license.  Against all odds: I passed!  The examiner was a black dude, and a few years ago my brother, Bruce Wayne imparted this little nugget of know-how: black people love Asians.  ESPECIALLY Asian women.  I passed before even getting on the highway.  The examiner and I basically talked football, travel, and growing up in Markham and as I was getting on the DVP he said, "Just go one exit - as far as I'm concerned you've already passed, so don't even worry about this part."  AMAZING!  He was also a fan of my whole, "the old ball and chain" routine that I do sometimes.  This is a valuable ice-breaking lesson I've learned in my years of social interaction.  Generally, when dealing with people in the service industry, if you want them to come over to your side, it's always effective to play the stereotypical, "my husband is an inept blah blah blah" or "my husband is from Mars and I'm from Venus" thing.  It works like a charm.  So like, when we're checking in at the airport and trying to get seats I do a whole, "...but lord knows HE doesn't know how to pack for a trip, amirite?!?" thing that almost always wins over the desk clerk.  My driving examiner was also a huge fan of our short list of names for the twerps, as our names tend to skew towards the black barbershop variety.

Contrary to what I thought it was going to be, it was the most unstressful testing experience I've ever had.  So I obviously treated myself to a Harvey's hamburger and onion rings.  Why doesn't Harvey's get more love?  They really do make a hamburger a beautiful thing.  I followed that up with a trip to Diana's seafood for oysters and then a trip to Arz, my favorite (only?) Lebanese grocery store for za'atar and labneh and delicious dips like muhammara.  Scarborough rules!  Diana's and Arz are so close to each other and there is so much happiness to be found in between their walls.  I saw gorgeous razor clams at Diana's that I'm going to snag in the future so that the Dotytron and I can relive our Barcelona days.

That night the Dotytron and I had dinner at this new restaurant, Porzia, that was opened by a friend of mine. He was actually the first person I met the day I started at North 44.  It's a cute little resto in Parkdale with warm lighting, a good soundtrack, and a non-hipster-y vibe.  Italian-influenced menu and a killer bartender who made me the best virgin cocktail I've ever had.  Better than what I got at Alinea, and that's saying something.  It was like pear and rosemary and citrus.  Delicious.

 A special from that day - this warm, potato-dough stuffed pizza thing with proscuitto and mortadella served with a fennel & kohlrabi slaw.  

Hamachi crudo.  Ye gods, I love me some crudo, so hard.  I wish we had an all-crudo restaurant in Toronto.  This was served with beets and radishes and lightly dressed, but nothing competed with the flavour of the rich yellowtail.  I literally took a bite and got goosebumps.

A treatsie from the chef.  Cotechino crostini with warm rapini.  I LOVE COTECHINO.  It's a small thing, but the restaurant gets the crostinis PERFECT and that's a good foundation.  The bread is charred but not overly crisped, with a giving chew.  This was warm, rich, and salty with just the right amount of bite from the rapini.

Chicken liver agnolotti with honey mushrooms.  You know who loves chicken livers?  Me and the Dotytron.  What's not to love about a delicate, punched up chicken liver filling encased in perfectly cooked fresh pasta tossed up with a tangle of woodsy honey mushrooms in a light brown butter sauce?  NOTHING, THAT'S WHAT. 

This was another treatsie dish.  Grilled octopus served over semolina with peanuts and apples.  The octopus was perfectly cooked and the flavour combination of the semolina, apples, and peanuts was a revelation.  I'm not sure that the dish was harmonious, in that it seemed to comprise two distinct components, but both those components were individually executed perfectly.

Sweetbreads.  You know who likes sweetbreads?  Me and the Dotytron (probably slightly more me).  With bacon and romesco and sunchokes.  UGH.  I LOVE SWEETBREADS SO DAMNED MUCH.  I would say that the sunchokes were a little under and disrupted the overall textures of the dish, but the sunchokes themselves were delicious - they were raw so they had a nice, woody, earthy taste that you usually lose when you cook them.

Bone marrow and snails.  You know who loves bone marrow?  THIS GUY.  This was sauced with a delicate brown demi-type sauce and the snails were garlicky and the bone marrow was bone-marrow-y and everything was deliciously sopped up with more of those perfect crostinis.  I literally punched the air a million times when this dish came out to the table.  I could make a meal of this dish and this dish alone.

Chocolate hazelnut mousse.  This dish was fine, the plating could use a bit of work, but compared to the heights of the previous dishes, next time I might skip dessert and just double-down on the marrow.

All in the all, the meal (minus the treatsies) was reasonably priced at $125 or something for the two of us with 2 cocktails, and 2 beers for the Dotytron, not including tip.  We were stuffed.

The good eating continued on Saturday with Lolly and SMcKay over for dinner and haircuts.  I made us ribs, stuffed potato skins, 7 layer dip, and a chocolate pudding with Skor bits and whipped cream.  There was a round of haircuts all around AND a viewing of Silver Linings Playbook.  

Then on Sunday, we had our amazing friends H & A come and visit from Cleveland for 24 glorious hours.  I LOVE THOSE GUYS.  They are seriously the best.  They are kindred spirits of the highest order.  I put out this spread: 

Not pictured: the oysters I snagged from Diana's - fat bastards from WA and French Kiss from N.B.

That night we went to Pizzeria Libretto on the Danforth and continued our time-honoured tradition with these guys of ordering at least 1-2 more apps and entrées than there are diners at the table.  We tried to go to Bar Chef to try this Manhattan cocktail that H had heard about, but it was closed, so we went to Ceili Cottage for drinks and then home.  Somewhere in there, my piriformis finally went on strike and I had shooting pains up and down my leg when I transitioned from sitting to standing (or vice versa) and by the end of the night I was basically incapacitated and my leg would give out.  Fun!

The next morning, we went to Lady Marmalade for breakfast.  Ugh.  I love that place so much.  Best breakfasts in town!  So good!  So beyond what I am usually up for making myself, which is the hallmark of a good brunch place.  

Two Cleveland cuties.

The breakfast poutine: homefries, hollandaise, aged cheddar

Cheddar and spinach waffles with bacon

My croque monsieur with poached eggs and more of their superlative homefries

I can't even tell you the amount of pain I was in at that point.  It was excruciating.  We went home, had naps, the Big Yam came back from his sleepover at Momma D's, which somehow resulted in him pooping everywhere.  Like, this is the report I got from him.  He walks in the door.  Me: "How was your sleepover at Nana's house?" Big Yam: "I got poo in my socks."  I don't even know how such a thing is possible.  

Then we went on a death march to Pacific Mall (on a weekend, during Chinese New Year), which meant we had to park a million miles away, which meant that of COURSE my sciatica was mad aggravated.  In the end, there was nothing for me to do but lie on the couch all night, writhing in pain each time I moved my leg the slightest bit.

I called in sick on Tuesday and because the Big Yam had pinkeye, he stayed home with me, a situation I only countenanced on account of the fact that the Dotytron took a half day off of work so I wouldn't be stuck with the Boobla all day (which would have been impossible, since I couldn't really move) AND because the Roomie came over and was amazing and made me lunch and fed the Yam and ran me a bath and watched him.  I love my Roomie.  She's the best.  

I think I basically have sciatica from my piriformis being compressed around the sciatic nerve.  It's not uncommon, and my piriformis has given me trouble for a while.  It just went on strike.  Think, sharp pain in your glutes that makes you leg give way from under you.  Fun.  Stretching in the morning and night and hot baths and moving around and the heating pad are all working together and I was able to go back to work yesterday.  I'm just making an effort to get up every hour after sitting at my desk and walk around for a bit.  That helps.  My manager also gave me permission to bring in a stability ball to sit on at my desk, so I'm hoping that makes things better too.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: I really need to find time for some regular yoga practice.  

So that was our weekend.  Stomachs and hearts full of food with lovely peeps in our life.  Eyes extruding mad crud.  A butt that went on strike.  All in all: still fun times.

I love this baby so much.  Look at how cute she is.  She's just the cutest little muffin I've ever seen.

Butternut squash and red lentil soup AND tuna melts with the Roomie last week.

On Tuesday, I made myself get up and make a long-simmered bolognese.  It was delicious to the extreme.  My body was glad because making it got me up and moving and my stomach was glad because it tasted like heaven.  I mean, not as good as Ragu's bottled sauce, but close.

Wednesday night we had French onion soup with gruyere crostinis and a big Olive Garden-style salad.  We've been eating this salad all week but it hasn't gotten old (for me).  

Last night we had tagliatelle carbonara.  Which was SOOOOOOO GOOD.  I had been dreaming about it all day and basically inhaled two servings.  Talk about cheap eats!!!  Ugh.  So delicious.

Today is my day off.  Massages, errands, and tonight is ladies' night on the street.  We're going for Ethiopian food.


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