by Lauren Mote
Welcome to the winter wonderland. On the West Coast, I was laughed at when I wore my Canada Goose Down Coat as protection at the bus stop on Howe St. from the freezing rain… but, when you jump off the airplane at -25C you’d better wish you had one.
Two snow storms, zero visibility, and Tylenol cold & flu – that wasn’t really our holiday intention. However, when you book an adventure to the Eastern time zone, you pack winter clothes… and nothing else.
I missed Toronto – although the weather is lousy in the winter months, people get used to it. We find different ways of occupying our time. When I lived here, I was at the gym, cooking, working and studying. Now, I return to find that although icy, it’s still as great as I remember it to be.
Johnny and I were invited to our ex-boss’ Vicki and Jean-Jacques place for a dinner party on the Monday night, after returning from Niagara-on-the-lake. The mass amounts of cheese purchased at Olson Foods in Port Dalhousie made their way into my bag, and then our host’s refrigerator. Greeted with the unexpected surprise of a couple extra guests, we welcomed the cozy, loud chatter around the dining-room table, while the wind howled by the windows.
Vicki prepared a delicate baby greens and mushroom salad, with shaved parmaggiano cheese, and a light balsamic vinaigrette. Aaron, our good friend and sommelier, kindly offered a bottle of extra fruity olive oil from his “collection” to be had with our meal. Drizzled on absolutely everything. A crisp Fumé Blanc from California cleanses the palate and eases us nicely into our first course. Second course showcased braised short ribs, with thyme roasted root vegetables and a tangy cous-cous salad topped with a sharp parsley and lemon salsa. At this point the wine starts really flowing. Many, many hours later, many, many cheeses later, and many, many bottles later, we call it a night.
The following day, we attended Le Select Bistro in the evening for “round one” – pate, steak tartare, frites and wine. Two days later we would reconnect with bistro, and take my mother for a Valentine’s Day prix-fixe dinner. To start, I have gravlax, avruga caviar, poached egg and a dollop of crème fraîche; second course
of joue de beouf bourgignonne, set on parsnip purée, with carrots, pea shoots, and pork lardons. Mother has endive and frisée salad, with bénedictine bleu cheese, walnuts and an apple cider vinaigrette to start, and seared sea bass set on a black olive sauce with a warm chick pea side for her second course. Lastly, Johnny has the poached ballotine, a Cornish hen stuffed with pistachios and foie gras, set on lentils du puy, followed by the pavé de beouf, with bernaise and frites. We enjoyed a bottle of Jacquert Champagne with our appetizers, and Chateau des Canons 2003 with our seconds. What a lovely dinner.
One cannot forget our mandatory attendance around my grandmother’s kitchen table in Forest Hill – extra old cheddar cheese, muesli bread, honey mustard, vegetables, chocolate bubka (Jewish coffee-cake) and hot tea. To other end of the province next – Belleville, where Johnny recreated the typical British Christmas dinner missed while we were away during the holidays – pork roast, green beans, creamy mashed potatoes, salad, and chocolate cake.
I will say, the most impressive thing about our trip is that after a while, the simple food recaptures that soul food feeling you kinda missed when you were away from everyone. The food had become mere items to eat out of habit and hunger, and the people and stories became the things that really captivated our senses in the end.
Once we returned to Vancouver, we stuffed our faces with all of our favourite things, having started our withdrawal from family, and bingeing on the things we had missed over the 10 days.