Archive for January, 2009

Perversity At It’s Finest

As the Everyman can fully attest, for as long as I can remember I have wanted a cow.  Or more accurately, several cows.  I love cows like most people love puppies; specifically an old breed that I often see on our drive to the cottage that is known as an Oreo cow (black front, white middle, black end).  They also come in dwarf varieties, which I keep trying to convince the Everyman are small enough for me to own.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t bought that line of reasoning yet.  Probably because we live in a condo in the city.  But last night, I finally, indirectly got my own cow.

I did not adopt a cow, although I should, because that would give me easy access to a cow whenever I wanted.  Instead, last night our first split side of beef was dropped off at the house.  It’s not quite a cow in the form I originally wished for, but this kind has its benefits too.

Firstly, it gives me access to a very high quality of meat at an affordable price.  Our organic grocer sources pasture-fed, organic and all-natural animals, and our particular cow was an all-natural beast.  With a hanging weight of 114 pounds, the net product was around 100 pounds of meat.  For those of you who have never purchased a split side of an animal before, 100 pounds is a pretty large quantity of meat volumetricly speaking.  Being that it is only the Everyman and I, hearty eaters though we may be, I fully expect this cow will last us through for the next 9 to 12 months.  100 pounds almost completely filled the 3 shelves of my 13+ cubic foot upright freezer.  As I was putting it all away last night, I was struck with an odd combination of mischievousness and gluttony.  I felt like I was preparing for a cold war or something.   Having grown up in a situation where I did not always have enough to get by, I often have a lingering desire to make sure I never go hungry again.  Part of that was what prompted me to purchase this cow in the first place.  Having it in the freezer downstairs makes me feel more comfortable in the fact that I know I will always have something to eat.

Secondly, I am passionate about supporting local farmers and purveyors who do their best to raise animals ethically and as naturally as possible.  There is too much factory farming going on worldwide, and I do not want to support that.  Not only are conventionally farmed animals not as good for you nutrient-wise, they also tend to come with residual hormones and antibiotics that have no business being in my body.  Buying a large animal helps ensure that farmers who take the time to do it right can continue what they’re doing and (hopefully) still make a profit doing it.

Lastly, it reinforces the nose-to-tail philosophy that I also believe in.  If you are going to kill an animal, you should give it enough respect to try and use as much of that product as possible, and not let anything go to waste.  This includes things like organs, feet, tails, and tongues.  Just because these things are not popular in the North American diet, does not give us the right to throw them away.  It does not honor the animal to pick and choose only the best cuts and leave all the rest.  And so, even though I have little experience with these things, I will now find a purpose for the tongue, bones and off cuts I received.  Even if they only get used for stocks and braises, I will make sure that they do not get thrown away, because that would not only be wasteful for me, but wasteful for the animal and farmer who raised it for me.

So, for the months ahead I will post an ongoing chronicle of my quest to use all that has been given to me.  It may be ugly, and some of it may be downright weird, but I invite you to read along and see what I manage to come up with.  Who knows, I may even inspire some of you to do the same.

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Welcome To (Toronto)… What’s Your Dream?

I’m paraphrasing again… this time from Pretty Woman (I think?).  I can’t help it though.  I started thinking last night that while I have been writing this blog for almost a year now, I haven’t really elaborated too much on what I’m doing, and why I do it.

I’ve intentionally kept the Everyman’s and my identities a secret (in case you hadn’t already noticed, the only pictures of me you will see on here are of my hands and I never use our real or full names).  This is in part due to a request from the Everyman and partially because I don’t think that what I look like has anything to do with what I write.  I didn’t sign up for this whole ridiculous Facebook generation, where everyone needs to have “friends” to make themselves feel validated.  Why would I want to be “friends” with 200+ people who in reality are barely even acquaintances?  The guy who delivers my groceries or my mail doesn’t need to read on my “wall” what I’m doing at any given moment of the day.  The people who know me that I care about already know who I am and what I’m up to, they don’t need to read about it on the internest.  Can we bring back a little mystique please, leave a little to the imagination perhaps??? </rant>

I’m rambling.  And that whole Facebook diatribe actually isn’t what I wanted to talk about, I just got carried away, as I often do.  I wanted to give a bit more background about me. Over the years a boatload of people have told me what a nice person I am, but that they find me hard to deal with because I don’t share details about myself and that it feels like they’re having a conversation with a brick wall.  In the spirit of that I’m trying to reveal a bit more, while still keeping my privacy intact. I wanted to put myself out there (for anyone who’s reading) and talk about my dreams…  what food means to me…  how I hope to make it more of an integral part of my life, etc.

So, without adieu, let’s get to that already…

I come from a small (but large) family.  Both of my parents have 9+ brothers/sisters, so in that sense I have a large one, but my immediate family unit is small, with only one brother and sister.  My mother and stepfather worked in the restaurant business since the 80′s (he even longer, I think) although my mom is now retired from that (for now).  Growing up I spent a lot of time in their kitchens; from being parked at the back banquette to eat tri-colored sausage fusilli (so 80′s!) while they worked, to being paid an allowance to make place setting rolls on the weekends, to spending my first summer of high school working in cottage country at their newest venture and eventually making specials and working short order.  My culinary goals were vague back then; I didn’t know what (if anything) I wanted to do with food, I just knew I enjoyed eating it, and loved making it even more.

When I finished high school and moved out on my own, I started to become fascinated with truffles (chocolate ones).  It wasn’t long before I had taken courses to figure out what I was doing (although in retrospect my efforts pre-training were just as good as what I produced in class – thank you Time Life/The Good Cook!).  I spent the next few years talking up my small business to anyone who would listen, and thus Princess P’s Confectionary was born.  I was about 19 at the time, so the name is equally immature.  I ran the business for a few years, taking in decent orders during all of the major holidays, but it never took off into something I could do full time.  In fairness I don’t think I devoted enough time to try and grow it bigger; I was just enjoying the pleasure of being paid to do something I loved.

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(Winter)time Is Here, Happiness And Cheer…

I’m paraphrasing the Charlie Brown Christmas song; so sue me.  I love Charlie Brown Christmas, what with it’s dorky misfit tree, and Linus carrying his blanket.  While it is nowhere near Christmas right now, this song seemed fitting for my next topic; Winterlicious.

I wholeheartedly support the idea of Winterlicious/Summerlicious in the city of Toronto.  Not necessarily for the tourism it’s supposed to attract, but because it gets people who wouldn’t normally go out to dinner (because it’s too cost prohibitive) out and into some really great restaurants.  And experiencing more than crappy, mass produced food.

I  cook probably 90-95% of the food that the Everyman and I eat on a regular basis; I make my own bread, butter, stock, jams, jellies, preserves, ice creams, soups, etc.  If there’s a way to make it at home, I probably do.  What I can’t make myself I try to source from the most local, organic, sustainable and small businesses I can.  But, every now and then you just want someone else to cater to your every whim.  Usually when one person in a couple does the majority of the cooking, it’s nice to ease the burden on them occasionally.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  I willingly perform all of these tasks because I like to know what’s in my food, or conversely, what’s not.  And I love to cook.  Growing up with a parent and step-parent in the industry, going to school to learn about it, and even working in it myself for a while, it was only natural that I would develop a love of cooking.  But when you think about it, for the person who doesn’t cook, it’s sort of like having a restaurant meal every day.

Winterlicious is going to be my cooking Spring Break of sorts.  Of the 150+ restaurants participating this year, the Everyman and I have agreed upon 4 to visit.  We each had about half a dozen more that we wanted to check out, but they were vetoed in one way or another.  The list of 150 is automatically pared down to reject places that serve Asian food (the Everyman doesn’t like),  places that are farther than a 10-15 minute cab ride away (we’re lazy), places that are pretentious, and places that I wouldn’t want to visit even if someone else was paying (most of what’s in the theatre district, Chez Victor obviously not included).  I still haven’t managed to get the Everyman to agree on Senses (even though I’m dying to go) but I’m working on it.  Every time he looks at their menu, all he says is Blah.  My desire to visit has only intensified since I heard that Patrick Lin won the Toronto Gold Medal Plates cook off this year too.

There were a few notable exceptions this year that I had intended to visit, but that didn’t turn up on the list this time.    This would include Nota Bene, Colborne Lane, Trevor and Lucien. Maybe they only do the summer version, who knows.  I know these sorts of promotions are probably a loss leader anyway, and some people don’t see the value in participating, but I think there is merit.  For instance, last summer the Everyman and I went to Czehoski during Summerlicious.  We probably wouldn’t have ventured in for another 3 or 4 months otherwise, given the high volume of good food near our house, but after we tried it we liked it so much that we’ve been back a half a dozen times since.  It’s walking distance to home, the food is decent, and the cost isn’t outrageous and you’re getting great quality products.

This time around, we settled on Celestin (I’ve wanted to visit ever since I read the article about Pascal Ribreau in Toronto Life; the man is so passionate that nothing will stop him and adversity is clearly not a word in his vocabulary), Noce (it’s Italian, close and I think reminds the Everyman of those glorious years he spent in Abruzzo), Veritas (because I have a soft spot for Brad Long, who thanks to his appearance on Restaurant Makeover I now refer to as the Huckleberry Hound, and because I loved his food at The Pt Club ), and we’ll probably also make a stop in to Czehoski again, just for shits and giggles.  Not a bad round up to accomplish in 7 days.

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The Hoof Redux

In what was possibly the quickest turnaround we’ve ever made, the Everyman and I made another trip to The Black Hoof last night.

It all started out innocently enough; we were driving home from work and discussing what to have for dinner.  I mentioned some ideas I had for things I was going to cook, and the Everyman sounded mildly interested.  Then, all of a sudden he started smirking, and said, “I got paid today, so I know what we can do…“  Being tired and not fully catching his drift, it took me a while to figure out what he was alluding to.  Once he said it though, I couldn’t not go…

And so, with that, my good intentions to go home, hop on the elliptical and cook a sensible dinner went right out the window and down the street to The Black Hoof.

The place was packed, as it had been on our last visit, and we happened to score the last open 2 top, a fact that happened to make a gentleman waiting on a table for 3 a bit steamed.  As we sat down we both noticed that the menu was still the same, as one would expect when less than a week has passed since your last visit.  The problem we both have with this place is that all of the food is just so incredible and what you haven’t tried sounds so damned good that it’s hard to limit yourself to moderate portions.  All I needed to know was what the dessert of the day would be so I could decide whether I wanted 2 or 3 dishes.

It turned out the dessert was the same (lemon tart with lavender and white chocolate), so I opted (somewhat sadly) for 2 dishes instead.  I revisited the cabbage soup with marrow and toasts, and found it to be just as luxurious and satisfyingly salty as the last time.  I also confirmed that the version of this soup that I concocted at home last Sunday does taste remarkably similar to this soup too (recipe follows).  The Everyman opted to not venture outside of his comfort zone from the last time and instead chose to conduct what he calls the test for consistency.  He ordered the same dishes he’d had (just less of them) in order to see whether they were still being prepared as well as he remembered.  The lamb merguez with queso and tomatillo again stunned him, and he felt that the portion was larger this time.  I, on the other hand, felt that the bone marrow portion of my dish was smaller, and was even inconsistent when compared to other diners around me who had ordered it.  I did still manage to dole out a pile to the Everyman, and it was still delicious, but I just wished I’d had more.  And they really do need to find a more slender instrument to scoop the marrow out with, because that demitasse is just not cutting it and by the end of the endeavor my hands felt like I’d been trying to juice bacon.

Next, I opted to break away and try something new.  The marinated octopus with chorizo had sounded delectable, but I wanted to see it in action.  Unfortunately I was unable to get a glimpse of it before we ordered, so that would have to wait for another day.  The Everyman saw a table near him order one and reported back to me that it was served in a small preserving jar with a snap lid.  I still couldn’t see it, but the face of the woman eating it said enough to make me want to try it the next time.  I toyed with the idea of ordering the small charcuterie board as the rest of my meal, but the Everyman really is the one who loves the cured meats more than I do.  If I had ordered it, it would only have been in the hope that it had that luscious duck mousse on it again.  I lean more towards the cheese side of the board anyway, and since I knew their cheese came from the Cheese Boutique, I wasn’t going to order something I could easily go home and assemble myself.  Unlike the table of girls sitting next to us who were there longer than we were and ate nothing but a small cheese board between them with a bottle of wine.  I mean, really, why wouldn’t you just stay home at that point?  You’re not eating anything made by the actual restaurant (cheeses – Cheese Boutique, bread – Thuet, wine – who knows but obviously wasn’t made in house).  To the Everyman and I, that bordered on insulting the chef.

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A Little Story

Last year I mentioned my love affair with a little place you may have heard of called the Cheese Boutique.  I was pretty adamant that I would not be adding my usual, witty commentary to the site regarding them because they are a purveyor, not a restaurant.  The winds have changed though, and I feel that it is necessary to give you a few cents, if for no other reason than to be able to relate to you a funny story involving them.

On New Year’s Eve I had to work a half day.  The night before I’d had the brilliant idea that the Everyman and I should visit The Cheese Boutique and the LCBO the following afternoon to procure some supplies for the next few days.  The next day after leaving work I headed to the LCBO to rendez-vous with the Everyman.  However, I have the same problem with the LCBO that I do with any good grocery store; if you leave me in there for too long, I just start randomly picking up things I didn’t come for that I want to try.  By the time the Everyman showed up I’d amassed a cart of 15+ bottles plus a few types of bubbles for good measure.  While I’d been browsing, I noticed a man that looked slightly familiar.  Upon closer inspection I realized it was Ed Ho, owner of Globe Bistro.  I recognized him from the episode of Opening Soon when they had profiled Globe a few years ago.  I figured that he must live in the area and was doing much the same as we were, stocking up for New Year’s Eve.  After loading up the car, we hopped in and headed on our way to The Cheese Boutique.

It was packed.  It seemed like all the gourmets in Toronto had had the exact same idea as me, and the place was swarming.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen it that busy or with that much staff on the floor before.  As we entered the main room and I started browsing, I turned around and who did I see, but Ed Ho again!  I motioned to the Everyman to take a look, and told him who it was.  The Everyman muttered something to me about how he wondered if the guy had any hard feelings about Mark Cutrara leaving him to start his own (probably more successful) restaurant.  I didn’t hear everything that he said so as I continued around the store I asked him to repeat it; only to see Ed Ho within earshot as he said “…but not as good as Cowbell!”  Ouch.  He shot us some eye daggers and was on his way.  It’s probably a good thing we don’t intend to visit Globe Bistro any time soon, because after that I’d be seriously worried about him recognizing us and trying to poison our food LOL.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Globe Bistro though, it’s just that I can get the same quality of food that they serve somewhere a little closer to my house, like at Cowbell or now, The Black Hoof.

Anyhow, now that I’ve relayed my funny story, I can get back to writing about the food.  When you enter The Cheese Boutique, you become extremely aware of the mind-boggling amount of choice available.  Not just some corner cheese shop, they dabble in deli, produce, pastry, bread, condiments… you name it, they most likely will have it or know where to get it.  They happen to be my absolute favorite place to buy fresh figs because the ones they choose are so luscious and bursting that you just can’t not want to eat them.  The tiny prepared foods counter is excellent also, with the best thing I’ve sampled from it being a smoked chicken quesadilla bite.  All of the bread comes from only the best sources in Toronto, including Thuet, Celestin, Ace, Fred’s and many others.  The pizza nuda is absolutely fabulous, by the way, but so are any number of loaves they carry.  The cheese selection is so large as to be intimidating, however all of the staff behind the counter are so warm and friendly that they whisk you away and wrap you in their extreme devotion to cheese, coaxing out you likes and dislikes as they bring you sample after sample.  Every time we’ve been I come away with another new cheese I’ve never heard of or tasted before, and have rarely been disappointed.  They even make their own in-house version of a fresh bufala mozzarella, although they don’t call it that.  Nonetheless, it is wonderful, being both creamy, silky and rich all at the same time.  The meat selection is like heaven for the Everyman, and if I had any complaint about the place, it would have to be that they have always been out of the one type of meat I wanted every time we visit; guanciale.  I tried it once at The Healthy Butcher, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  As a sidebar, I recently completed my set of The Good Cook cookbooks by Time Life and I’m looking forward to when they arrive so I can read the Variety Meats book to learn about things like cheek (which Guanciale is made from) and marrow, tongue, etc.

Overall, the selection at The Cheese Boutique just can’t be beat, and I look forward longingly each time I get to return.  The sheer quality of the products that they sell shows you just how much the Pristine family (who owns it) love food and entertaining.  If you haven’t been, I urge you to go.  You’ll probably end up coming away with more than you bargained for, and everything you didn’t know you really needed.

Until next time…

Kind Of A Bad Name But Really Phenomenal Cuisine…

I stumbled out of bed this morning feeling like I had a meat hangover.  How, you might wonder, does one get a meat hangover?  Well, let’s just find out, shall we?

It all started with my afternoon at work yesterday.  I was drained from staring at my monitor and fixing multiple problems and the boss wasn’t around so my mind started to wander a little bit.  The Everyman had started a new job this week, so I thought to myself that it might be nice to go out after work to celebrate that and also just relax a little.  For about 5 seconds I thought that if I was going to take him out for dinner I should probably let him choose the restaurant himself.  And then I remembered that there was a little place around the corner that I’d been dying to try.  And that is how we ended up at The Black Hoof last night.

The Black Hoof is a tiny little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that opened up in our neighbourhood recently.  Apparently it’s been open since November, but I only noticed it halfway through December on a streetcar ride home from work one night.  The awning out front says charcuterie, and it does not lie.  The Black Hoof is a meat-lovers haven.  I had read nothing but great things about this microscopic 30 seat spot, so I had high expectations as we passed through the front door curtain.  I can tell you right now, they did not disappoint.  Several of the reviews I had read mentioned that the place has become quite a chef’s hangout, and based on the type of food this place serves, I can see why.

Since I was trying to establish a celebratory mood, I decided to start the evening off with a glass of Cava.  Mucho points to The Hoof for having such a varied wine list by the glass.  There was plenty to choose from and a decent beer selection for the Everyman to boot.  The menu is written on a chalkboard at the back of the minuscule room (a la Cowbell), and is designed in such a way as to illicit sharing.  According to my sources it also changes frequently, which is always a plus.  Immediately I honed in on 3 plates that I had to try.  Waiting for our waitress to pop by, I silently wondered whether that was a tad too gluttonous.  Our waitress confirmed that a normal order for a party of two would be one of the charcuterie boards or cheese plates as an appetizer, and then 3 of the selections to share in place of the mains.  Being such champion eaters, the Everyman and I ended up with 5 plates between us and opted to skip the charcuterie altogether.  I even managed to knock a few things off my list of things to try in 2009 in the process too.

The plates started coming out of the kitchen as they were ready, so to begin I had a cabbage soup with marrow bone and toasts placed before me, and the Everyman a few Merguez sausages with a tomatillo salsa and queso fresco.  Before you start squinching up your nose about cabbage soup, hear this.  I hate cabbage and so does the Everyman, but we both ate the soup and loved it.  It was pureed and tasted slightly creamed, and had a hearty, salty, satisfying quality to it.  As I ate it I began formulating a recipe in my head, determined to attempt to recreate it at a later date.  The marrow (which was on my list) was divine; I can’t believe that I waited this long to try such a delicacy.  It was an incredibly primal taste, just right on the tiny baguette toasts and accented only by the the sea salt that was available on the side to add at your own discretion.  So good even that I seriously contemplated ordering another round of the soup with marrow bone as soon as I finished licking the spoon clean.  The Merguez with salsa and queso was no slouch either, being perfectly balanced and just the right portion for sharing.  The Everyman must’ve loved it too because I had only two small bites of it before it was gone.  As I scooped the last mound of marrow from the bone and offered it to the Everyman to eat, he had this look of where have you been all my life aglow on his face.  Clearly marrow agrees with him too.

Next, the kitchen sent out duck confit wrapped in a round puff of pastry.  It sat on the table taunting the Everyman for several moments while I finished the last of my soup, and I could see that it was physically difficult for him to restrain himself from trying it before me.  Finally I put him out of his misery and cut myself a taste so that he could dig in.  The confit was rich and intensely flavorful, and tasted like it was mixed with a slight touch of cherry jam.  The pastry was buttery, flaky, light and wonderful, and was an amazing counterpoint to the luscious threads of confit held inside.  After we devoured it the Everyman joked to me that he should just tell the kitchen to keep bringing more of those out to our table.  I heartily agreed.

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Things I Look Forward To In 2009…

I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon with all the other foodie sites out there and put together a list.  The difference here is that my list is going to involve my own personal culinary goals for the year.  Since I’m typically such a schizophrenic cook in the kitchen and don’t often bother with those silly things called recipes, my list is going to be full of broad topics I want to cover.

In no particular order, they are:

1- Trying bone marrow for the first time. A long time ago when the Everyman and I went to Thuet for dinner an adjacent table had ordered a marrow appetizer.  I remember being thoroughly disgusted at the time.  Then I read Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch and experienced the sexification of the humble bone.  She doesn’t spend a great deal of time discussing the subject, but a passage about a bone marrow taste-off had me yearning to find out what all the fuss was about.  Perhaps later this year I will get the chance.

2- Experimenting with offal. I dabbled a bit during our numerous trips to Cowbell where it is almost unavoidable due to their nose to tail philosophy.  This year I plan to test the waters a bit more.  One of the restaurants that had been a contender for the big anniversary dinner (Noce) had a tongue preparation on the menu that I wanted to try.  I think I may be one of the only people left on the planet who is not enamored with the mighty fois, though I do love a good pate.  More than anything I’d just like to push my borders a bit more and see what else is out there.  One person’s scraps are often another’s delicacy after all.

3- Branching out in the game game. The Everyman is a self-professed game lover.  Whenever he sees any game on a menu it forces him to rethink his decision to have the status quo (steak).  I quite enjoy duck (hardly considered game anymore), cornish hens, quails, bison, kangaroo and elk, but the game is more often than not relegated to tertiary status when it comes to my potential menu options.  I’d like to break away from that self-imposed constriction and see what else is out there in the wild world of game.  I think I may even have reached the turning point where rabbit has stopped being cute and could possibly become edible.  Only time will tell.

4- Buying more “weird” fruits and vegetables. Last year I was inadvertently introduced to  kohlrabi, chard, and sunchokes through our organic grocer and granadillas by the Everyman (who took me literally when I requested him to bring me back a new “weird” fruit from the store at lunch one day).  It’s amazing to think sometimes how a new culinary adventure is sometimes no further than your corner grocery store.  This year I’d like to not only increase my intake of whole fruits and veggies (always a noble goal) but up the quotient of strange, new ones too.

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Je Vois La Vie En Rose…

Back from Winterpeg and none the worse for wear, the Everyman and I celebrated our third (mainly blissful) year together this past week.  To kick off the festivities, I presented the Everyman with a gift for indulging his inner geekdom; a digital comics subscription.  Judging from how much time the Everyman has spent with me since Sunday (next to none) and how much he’s been glued to the lappy (a whole lot more) methinks he digs his present.

For his part, the Everyman hit one out of the park this year too.  It only took him 3 years to catch on, but the Everyman now seems to be aware how much all women love pretty, sparkly things.  He picked out a beautiful, dainty woven bracelet that sparkles in the light like it was made out of diamonds for me.  Strangely enough, it was those precious gems that friends assumed when I called to gush over the fact that he’d given me jewelry.  As I told my sister, don’t hold your breath, it isn’t what you’re thinking.  To which she retorted, will you tell him to get on that already?  The fact of the matter is people having been telling him to get on that for years now,  from family, to friends, to strange old men we met at a wedding.  I’m pretty much convinced that he’s oblivious to all of these comments swirling around us, and I’ve given up on expecting anything from that arena.

Sourcing the meal to mark our special occasion turned out to be harder than I remembered it being in years past.  Perhaps it was because this year it fell on a Sunday, the day notoriously known as the chef’s day off.  This was also compounded by the fact that Christmas had only just past, and many restaurants have taken to closing during the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  Every time I found a menu that intrigued me, the restaurant in question was either regularly closed on Sundays and Mondays, or had chosen to close for the holiday week.  My list of restaurants to visit in the new year has now ballooned to include Splendido, Nota Bene, Scaramouche, Celestin and The Harbord Room.  But the gods finally smiled on us because we managed to find someplace that was not only open, but also had food that intrigued us.  And as simple as that the Everyman and I had reservations at Chez Victor in Le Hotel Germain.

I had heard few things about Chez Victor since it opened.  I knew that it used to be the Rubinos Italian pet project before that went horribly sour with hotel management, but other than that I had not seen much press one way or the other.  Since I used to work just down the street from it, it surprises me that I hadn’t been in until now, but there is so little time and only so much food a person can eat, even though the Everyman and I tend to try to push the boundaries of that on a regular basis.

The first thing to point out is that Chez Victor was empty.  During out whole 2 hour visit there were only 4 other tables occupied.  Given that it is a restaurant within a boutique hotel that is not all that surprising, but it does become a point of concern later.  The room itself is beautiful and dark, the perfect backdrop for a romantic evening with a loved one.  We both had a pretty good idea about what we wanted to order from the time we spent perusing the menu at home.  Buuuuuut, the restaurant did something that is becoming more and more of a pet peeve of mine lately; they pulled the bait and switch.  Instead of offering the menu which was the reason we’d chosen to dine there, they had a “New Years Week” menu only, which was a prix fixe of 3-5 courses which could be paired with wines.  I can appreciate that chefs can get bored cooking the same thing every night and like to add variety by preparing special occasion menus, but if you’re going to advertise your regular menu at the same time, then it should be available as well.

Anyhow, the Everyman and I both opted to do the 3 course prix fixe with wine pairings, and it was a very good thing that I decided to be cautious and only order the 3 course, because by the end I was so stuffed I would not have had room for another 2 dishes if I tried.  Once our meals had been ordered the Everyman found one of his pet peeves brought to the table; cold butter for the bread.  It is a maddening activity to attempt to butter your bread when the substance is ice cold from the walk in.  All you end up with is chunks of butter mashed into the bread and a smashed, ruined texture.  It is such a simple thing to provide room temperature butter that I cannot fathom why more people don’t do it.  The bread also had a faint soapy quality to it, so we stopped nibbling at it and awaited our meals.

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