Casino Restaurant, a gamble

Never being one to turn down a free meal I found myself at the London Casino this weekend for a free Prime Rib dinner. Normally on special for $22.95. My wife ordered a big breakfast, while I salivated over the giant hunk of cow I was expecting.
The service at the casino is always a gamble, most of the serving staff doubles as floor staff and are not the professional wait staff you expect in a Restaurant. Not really surprising when you think about it. Many of those dining are broke, or saving every cent for the slots, so tipping is rare, and any self respecting waiter or waitress would have quickly moved on to a location where the clients show appreciation for their work. Sometimes the service is excellent, while at other times, orders arrive piecemeal and delivered with the customer service skills of an armed Nazi.
Luckily, today’s server was new, and had not yet been jaded by the lack of tips on adjacent tables. So while a bit clumsy in his delivery, his enthusiasm can’t be questioned. My prime rib arrived and at first glance was everything I expected. Nearly overhanging the plate, covered in a rich gravy, the rather colourless parsnips, brightened by the less colourful mashed potatoes.
 Luz’s eggs,ham,sausage,bacon,home fried potatoes, on a plate, brightened the table in the way that only delectably artery hardening dishes can.
 With relish I dug in, and was both pleased and disappointed. The taste of the meat was excellent, tender, rich and a flavour that spoke to the sweetness of the grass my dinner had been nurtured on. Yet sadly, my chosen bovine, had not had to walk very far to find its food. This must have been the laziest cow in the field, scraping off the gravy I found that rather then red meat, marbled with fat, it was more a chess board of meat and fat. At least 25% of my prime rib was fat, and while some to add flavour to the meat is fine, this was more reminiscent of bacon, then beef.
Don’t get me wrong, the eatable parts were great, I just wish there had been more of them. The parsnips were perfectly cooked, still maintaining there flavour without being overpowered by some spice or undercooked as is often the case. The horseradish was bland, as horseradish goes. A sweet rather then hot sauce, but probably a safe choice in a place where various taste buds are sated.
So while an enjoyable meal, the amount I left on the plate was disappointing .

As for Luz’s Big Breakfast, her comments were, “mm, thu sh goob, step ashking queshtin, I’m trying ta eats, mmmm”


EATster is coming, so it’s time for LENTils 

Once again my wife has taken over the kitchen, and sowed her magic. A food that I had only seen on store shelves before we met has become a staple in my diet.

Lentils, those little green yellow and red pills in the dried food lane, are actually, dried food. It’s amazing! You pour some into water over night, and like those growing toys we use to play with, they expand. Not into cool shapes like dinosaurs or spacemen, but into bigger green, yellow and red pills. Eatable pills of nutritional goodness. While we have not experimented with the red or yellow ones, Luz cooks up the greens or browns like a master. Sometimes with ground beef, sometimes with spinach, sometimes, like tonight, with carrots potatoes and onions.

While I am a bit disappointed they are not dinosaur shaped, they are still presentable on the traditional white rice base, and again I sprinkle the creation with black sesame seeds, because they look cool, and are a distinct flavour addition..but mostly they just look cool. 

A few bites into this hearty meal and I think about how, while I have never encountered them in my traditional Irish Canadian upbringing, they are a constant and regular meal in so many other nations. 

Under appreciated, the bean and Lentil choices are endless, and just as the rainforest contains so many hidden treasures under its mysterious canopy that no man has yet seen, the dried food lane of the grocery store contains sensual treasures we have not tasted, under those mysterious Cans of Peas.

Plan a trip to the dried food aisle at the local grocery store. It’s an exploration of strange new lands, made all the more enjoyable by fewer mosquito bites.

Making a vegan tasty 

I was invited to a birthday party last night hosted by vegans. Now being an apex predator omnivore, I don’t always spend time with herbivores unless it’s while looking for a food source. But these herbivores are sweet and nice. So, while lower on the food chain, they are not at the top of my culinary choices…yet.

The circle of life provides for each level in perfect symmetry. Plants grow from rotting mass, herbivores eat plants then romp around happily into the path of a carnivor who after a short chase consumes the happy leaf eater. Eventually after enough leaf eaters have been consumed the mighty carnivor has a less then diplomatic encounter with a mightier carnivor and takes up residence in that carnivors abdomin until it’s ejected from that mobile alchemist lab, transformed into a rotting mass. Fresh, steaming and waiting for a seed to start the cycle again. Even the mightiest predator will be taken down and consumed by a predatorial vegetable mass after a long chase thought the ravages of time. 

Having entered the domain of the leaf eaters I was invited to partake in their meatless treat. Apprehensive I eyed this eggless, milkless construct that closely resembled a chocolate cake further disguised with chocolate icing and burning birthday candles. Not wanting to spook the herd I accepted this obviously second rate copy and took a taste.

 Imagine my surprise that not only did it look like a chocolate cake, it has the same texture and flavour. A virtual doppelgänger of confectionary design. I sat down with the leaf eaters and joyfully consumed this remarkable tasty birthday cake, and not once could I tell it did not contain any poultry or bovine byproducts..

I asked the vegan cake maker how this was possible and she explained the magic of transmutation that makes vegetable matter able to replace the animal matter that I was bred to consume. I think it’s the vinegar that is the secret, but here’s the recipe if you want to be a wolf in sheeps diet
In the end I am just happy, that when the time comes and we omnivores are forced to consume the herbivores in our community as nature intended, they will be made tastier by their consumption of such sweet treats as fake chocolate cake, cheeseless cheesecake and other inventive culinary treats. 

Those vegans are going to be so tasty.

Confession: I’m a Poacher 

I have lost the little plastic cups for my egg poacher, and have had to find another way to make one of my favourite breakfasts. Lucky for me, people were poaching eggs even before the 1970s, so I pulled out my archaic knowledge and went to work. 

If you love poached eggs but can’t afford one of those fancy $20 egg poachers maybe you can afford a $1.49 bottle of vinegar. If not you can ‘poach’ some from the nearest fast food joint. A tablespoon of vinegar is 2 cups of boiling water and presto you have a $20 egg poacher. 

 For some reason the vinegar holds the egg together and while it looks strange at first, as white ghostly tendrils float out from the centre mass I assure you the golden centre is safely trapped by the acidic vinegar mix. 

 A few short minutes later you can strain away the bitter liquid and place your misshapen creations on the obligatory toast and as you cut into them,

   the liquid gold that is contained within this white cloud will leak out and drench your toast in flavour. Add some salt and pepper, or if you have it, a slice of ham underneath and a sauce of reduced mushroom soup overtop and enjoy poached eggs just like great great grandma use to make. 


Black Bean Magic Woman

So what’s in the pot? A black murky pond of liquid, beneath its impeniterable surface lies my dinner. As I plunge the spoon into its depths I pull forth the riches my wife has created. Black turtle beans, soaked and then slow cooked over a low heat till they are as tender as boiled corn. Bits of irregularly cut carrot, now purple from the long immersion in the broth. Absorbing the flavour of the beans and what ever mysterious spices Luz has added to the mix. Tendrils of onion peak out, again infused with the spice laden broth from the beans.

This is no quivering white virgin bound to an obstinion altar, offering to a dark God. It is a dark offering of nutritious bounty, lovingly placed on a white altar of steamed rice, an offering to this mere mortal, who, with its sacrifice is given entry to the heavens of carnal delight. I adorn this alter with my own offering of black sesame seeds like a garland of flowers around its base.

Somehow Luz can magically transform beans into a masterpiece of flavour delight that never ceases to amaze me, I can eat plate after plate of this dinning paradise without pause. Somehow these simple foods touch some lonely unfulfilled part of me and cocoon it in what can only be discribed as love.

Not a sexual or desperate love, but a gentle encouraging love, that only a motherly hug, or cuddling pet can impart. That warm fuzzy feeling of safety and contentment is somehow injected into each soft bean to be consumed like tiny happy pills by the forkful.

I don’t know how she does it, her witchcraft is a mystery, but I am happily under her spell.

Not so plain white rice

SO there’s a little white rice left in the pot, enough for a pilaff to rest tai dop voy or saluted beef and green pepper on, like joy sitting on a cloud, unfortunately, I don’t have anything in the fridge to make a dish like that. I have eggs. 

Now I’ve had a fried egg beside white rice before ant while plain it’s tasty enough, but what of egg soaked fried rice? That I’ve never had.

So I tossed the cold rice in a bowl and mixed a couple of eggs into it, then poured it into a frying pan with some basic spices to my taste. 

What emerged was omelette like and surprisingly good. The rice had added something to the egg, a taste similar to my wife’s scrambled eggs. Where she adds a sprinkle of flour to the beaten eggs I had added rice, and created the same taste with more texture. A rice omelette that added a sense of wholesomeness to the eggs while exciting the rice from its bland filler place in cuisine. 

 This time the smokey addition of dark rye bread complemented the dish instead of insulting it. ( the last dish I had with rye had been like eating while someone blew smoke in your face. See failure to lunch)

While a simple fare, the rice and egg mixture blended well into a filling and comforting meal. Turning the eggs from a worn blanket, to a down quilt to snuggle up under on a cold winters day. 

If I make this again I will add a side of tomato soup, and with that, I could sit and watch a blizzard blow in without so much as a flinch.

Tomorrow should be interesting, since I am now out of eggs.

Egg encore 

Once again I find myself returning to the modest egg for a meal.

Longing for simplicity, I remember my mother treating me to the fried egg sandwich. Cut in half with a pool of catsup between the halves as a dipping sauce,  the fowl based version of a French dip, per say.

Feeling less fancy, I forgo the dipping and place the crimson sauce directly on the sandwich.  

 While not a fitting homage to my mother’s efforts, the taste and with it the memory echo through the ages and I am transported back to those days of youth. 

As odd as it may sound, I smell the lilac bushes that grew in my back yard faintly as if from a distance. Smell, taste and memory are deeply and indelibly entwined. That meal you had on a special date lurks in your memory awaiting a trigger you may not even be aware of. The smells and taste of the infancy of your life are the building blocks, the foundation, of your existence. For me, two of those blocks are lilacs and fried eggs, forever entwined as the aroma of a mother’s love. 

 Regardless of how you cover it, sauce it, spice it or present it. That unique flavour of the egg will always be there, and with it, my mother’s ghost will comfort me. 

Failure to lunch

As with any great endeavor, failure is part of the learning curve. This day was an educational day.

While my wife ate hot hot chilli, and by hot I mean insane.

When she thinks it’s too hot with 3/4 of a bowl of rice and 1/4 bowl of chilli, this stuff should come with a warning label. This is a woman who thinks hot sauce is a great condiment to put on to a jalapeño pepper. A woman who could have flaming liquid poured down her throat and call it, piquant.

So while she attempted her experiment on organic fission, I searched for something less lethal.

Finding a box of chicken fingers in the freezer I figured I could dress them up a bit, like fancy gloves. With the remainder of the rice that remained after so many grains had been cruelly exposed to the chilli, like so many tiny virgins tossed into the mouth of a volcano to please the spousal God. I added a can of vegetable soup and rounded out the meal with some dark rye bread.

While my dinner was in no way as tortuous as my better half’s it was certainly not anything to write about…umm…ignore that.

The combination of chicken fingers and vegetable soup enhanced rice was lackluster and had no synergistic connection. Not a Sonny and Cher combination, it was more Kanye West and Taylor Swift on my plate. One good, the other tasteless and when mixed awkwardly unpalatable.

The dark rye didn’t help, it gave everything a smoky flavour, and while that is a great addition to many foods, don’t expect to see smokey vegetable soup on the store shelves any time soon.

While my self appointed food taster was quite pleased with the buttered bread even she did not return for seconds after being shooed away. She just sat lurking in her anorexic jungle while the dogs, not knowing any better, attempted to entice me into sharing with them. Considering one of those fine animals ate a diaper earlier, I wouldn’t recommend taking their dinning critiques to serious.

All in all the wafer thin chicken fingers were dry, the bread smoky and the vegetable mash bland. While it may have fed my body, it did nothing to feed my soul.

Down to the second.

The counter flashes numbers at me, only minutes to act, but what to choose? Precious seconds are wasted reviewing my options and sweat beads on my forehead at the strain I am under.

A minute has passed, time is running out, I have to make a decision now.

With a prayer to the goddess of luck I select from my available options and hope for the best.

Walking quickly from my desk I head towards the locker room and grasping my coat in trembling hands I make my way back past the office and down the escalator, aware that every beat of my heart is being recorded by the clock on my computer screen counting down to dinner break oblivion.

At the bottom of the escalator there are three paths but having made my decision I chose the one to Dundas St without further consideration, and rush to the Coffee Culture across from the library.

 As the clock counts down behind me, butterflies fluttered in my stomach, from hunger? From apprehension at the line up? I will never know as I have a clear path to the counter and chose the first thing that catches my eye on the menu.

The Asiago Bagle. An all day breakfast choice of a cheese Bagle loaded with egg cheddar tomato and of all things, avocado.

Normally I avoid avocado due to being a super taster. Just as cilantro  tastes like dish soap, avocado tastes like green crayon to our over developed palate.

Never the less I was pleasantly surprised to find that green crayon complements old cheddar and tomato quite well and when placed on a cheese bun with an egg it becomes delightful in its subtlety. The egg is still the familiar base of this construction and it’s flavour is still easily found, not smoothered by any of the other items crying for your attention. The cheese is tart and flavourful and the tomato sweet. lastly is the Avacado, which is far more suble in it’s flavour then expected. Just adding a soft vague undercurrent of summer grass to the senses. Even with only a few minutes to wolf down this sandwich, you can savour it and briefly forget it’s Febuary and the long Canadian winter has not finished with you yet. For just a moment, you can taste that smell of late spring and dream of days to come.

There is no question I enjoyed this quick meal in the twelve minutes I had to savour it, with 6 minutes left, I returned to the office and the ever present break counter that was rapidly approaching zero.

Sated and relaxed I returned to my desk, deftly chose the correct button and stopped the timer with seconds to spare, another break successfully completed, another meal consumed, and another happy customer served a hint of summer by Alice, barista of the coffee culture.

In all, a good day.

Smoke’s Poutine experience 

So just ordered and ate some Smokes Poutine. And by some I mean less then half. 

While the portion is of generous size the quality is miserly. For $10 after tax I got a good size box of unsalted flavourless lightly fried potato wedges sprinkled with a large amount of acceptably bland cheese curds covered in a gravy.

And by gravy I mean a tan coloured milk consistent liquid that’s complete lack of flavour makes me believe that this product’s closest encounter to a cow was a picture on a can, or if it was suppose to be chicken gravy, I really can’t tell, the image of a rooster on a box of lightly applied corn starch was the sole poultry contribution.

To summarize: that’s tasteless fries with tasteless cheese covered in tasteless brown juice. Perhaps if my palate had been prepared by an assault of alcoholic over abundance or my brain fogged by inebriation to the point of only basic functions such as breath, eat, don’t fall down. I could have found some enjoyment in my meal. But as a lunch on a work day it was of such blandness that my Friday afternoon meal left me with the taste of Monday morning.  

 If you are very drunk, but have not quite reached the point of picking up scraps of pizza from the curb to satisfy your cravings, then I can highly recommend Smokes Poutine. But if you are sober, or at least able to stagger past, I recommend another eatery to satisfy your hunger.