A Penniless girl, bad dates & plenty of oysters

I've got a pretty face & a pretty extensive urban spoon
wish list...
We all know that getting what you want in life can be tough. Which is why I've decided to let someone else finance my dreams. My dream? To eat in pretty restaurants without costing me a penny. You had me at Elk Tartare, lost me at chin strap. Follow me to learn who I screw over, bang and love as I navigate Toronto’s diners, drive-ins & dives.

the truth hurts

Chapter Two

You know the phrase tall, dark and handsome? Well how about instead you think short, fat and loud. Meet my first date in all his bizarre socially retarded glory. Now before you write me off as a “mean girl” deserving only a swift kick to the cunt, lets get a couple things straight. Imma tell it like it is. The truth hurts, and usually comes filled with statements like “your unibrow makes you look ugly”. Sugar coating is for the weak and morbidly obese, not for the thin and pretty. I approach the restaurant when I see him outside; he is unmistakable, sticking out like a sore thumb, wearing a full piece suit in the scorching heat. How shall I describe this? Not a fitted super classy suit with patterned socks and perhaps an ascot, no, more like an oversized obviously cheap and tacky suit. The kind one would wear to a court hearing- you don’t wear suits often do you? So we’ve lost a couple of points on appearance but hey now looks aren’t everything! Who am I kidding? Yes they fucking are. This reminds me of that game “Would you still love me if…I lost an eye, ear, leg” etc. And the answer is, of course, no. I would stop loving you over time and slowly fall in love with a better more equip person and have an affair behind your back all the while feeding you soup and singing you lullabies. Back to reality, now I’ve left out another major detail at this point regarding tonight’s suitor. He is also holding a boutique of flowers. Two words: so embarrassing. Is this guy out of his mind? Does he know what kind of restaurant we are going to? We are not some ancient couple in the suburbs on a date at The Keg. We are in the heart of the cities west end, the only end that matters, and you expect me to walk into this up and coming obviously hipster restaurant with a boutique of flowers? Idiot. Thank god I am getting an amazing free meal out of this. I have yet to hear this man speak and already this is feeling just short of torture. Alright Erin, get it together, be polite, and do everything you can to diffuse the awkward tension. For the sake of this man’s privacy, lets call him Harry. Harry is a whooping 5 foot 2 and is about as wide as he is tall, the words Grecian God come to mind…Okay he’s not as socially retarded as he looks, I’ll give him that, but that’s all I’ll ever give him if you catch my drift. I fight the urge to check my cell phone through all of his stories or rather ramblings. He tells me he comes from a family of “over producers”, spit, sweat, what have you. How charming. Harry is the man who gets nervous and talks too much. To him silence is a living breathing thing that must be squashed, the air must constantly be a buzz with conversations, it’s exhausting. I decide to whip out my cell phone, a dating faux-pas but desperate times call for desperate measures. I aimlessly peruse my phone when suddenly I get a text message from a friend, thank the lord! Apparently she and a couple other theatre school cronies including my beautiful ex-boyfriend are all hanging out at my apartment right now. No dessert please. There is only one thing Harry and I need right now and it’s the bloody check. There comes a time in everyone’s life when the only thing that really matters is showing your ex-boyfriend you’re dating again. For me, this is that moment. Never mind Harry is short, fat, and loud, the point is I’m dating, I’m awesome, people want me, blah blah blah. The check arrives and is swiftly taken care of, courtesy of tonight’s man meat. Then it happens. The absolute worst part of serial dating/any type of dating. You know that moment when you need to figure out what’s happening next? Cue the awkward silence. Will there be a second date? Is the night over? Or is it time to rack your brain for an excuse? Perhaps something a tad more creative then the classic, “I need to get up early tomorrow.” Sigh. A restaurant makes a great one night stand, but men on the other hand, men make things complicated. It’s safe to say myself and Mr. Harry will not be seeing one another again, though he seems to think quite the opposite, in fact he is so boldly presuming I am coming to his house for a sleepover tonight. I stupidly told him I work close by so it makes “so much sense” for me to sleep with him tonight. Frankly it makes about as much sense as me going down on my own sister, no sense at all. So think again Mr. Harry Smelly Sweaty what have you, you just got serial dated!

The get away…

I make a beeline for a cab and alas I am a free woman. As the cab whirls a bunch of corners and heads back into the heart of the city, there is no denying I am missing my ex-boyfriend about as much as a fat kid misses cake. Again for the sake of ex-boyfriends privacy let’s call him Scott. Scott and I were a beautiful couple. We were both “artists”. I put that in quotations because well I just can’t take that sentence seriously unless there are quotations. We loved all the same music we liked poetry, and would constantly talk about the meaning of life. Tortured pretty people, we would sit for hours, documentaries on repeat, and a plan to save the world. We met in theatre school. If you have no affiliation with theatre school, allow me to fill you in. Theatre school is an awful place. Remember I said I spent my entire life searching for validation? Well that is the basis of every course you take in theatre school. But instead of getting the much sought after validation, you are told that you’re shit, you should be a mime, no one can understand a word you are saying, you don’t deserve to be here, you will probably be kicked out, oh and here is your probation sentence that you will be serving for your entire time here. Thanks theatre school, you really know how to encourage young creative artists; every person has a voice right? WRONG. They actually might be right there, I will give them that. Some people do have terribly boring things to say. Ah I digress. Moving on. Wait…FUCK YOU THEATRE SCHOOL. Okay now we can continue. We met in theatre school, Scott and I, but today that’s ancient history. Having graduated over a year ago, we’ve both had ample time to start fucking up our lives. Our relationship ended soon after school ended because I wanted to travel the world and he uhh didn’t.  So I travel the world yadda yadda yadda and for mind-boggling reasons that will forever remain a mystery to me, I decided to come back from the big bad world and resume my life, as an illustrious actor, maybe even picking up my old relationship where we left off (a girl can dream). Except now I’ve got a killer tan and life experience, pretty sure those two things are really high up there on those what makes women hot lists. My reminiscing comes to a halt when I realize we’ve made it back to my apartment. Okay Erin you can do this. It’s been like a year, you’re the one who did all the traveling, you are the one whose dating again, you are winning. I enter the apartment and a pretty standard hangout is in full swing. It’s a Monday night just past 10pm- oh none of us have normal jobs so any day of the week is fair game. Now without further ado, there are some people I’d like you to meet…introducing my sassy gay friend with Brittany spears references that will make you dizzy, the hot-headed pretty nerdy extremely opinionated you wouldn’t think he’s gay gay guy, the blunt city girl who is always giggling or doing drugs or both, the extremely phony your smile is a little to wide I can’t trust you obsessed with musical theatre guy, and Scott. We are sitting on miss matched patio furniture on a rooftop drinking cheap wine and an assortment of alcoholic ciders. Life is perfect. Except it’s not because I’m pretty much a poor person with no assets I’m in so much debt and I don’t have an effing career. Everything with Scott goes swimmingly, I mean add a little alcoholic cider to any situation and you’re good to go right? Effortlessly things transition back normal, he notices the flowers, I regale the dating horror story that just ensued, everybody laughs. The tension between Scott and I is palpable. Our friends roll there eyes and everybody knows what’s about to go down. Sleeping with ex-boyfriends is pretty awesome. This statement is only true however if and only if enough time has passed to make it not entirely messy and confusing because who are we kidding it is ALWAYS a tad messy and confusing no matter how much time has passed. It is awesome because you are both free human beings no longer bogged down by crazy relationship problems that are entirely of your own invention. You are no longer crazy people, but living breathing productive people. Your confidence level is at an all time high because you’ve been with other people and yup that’s an ego boost. Plus and this is probably the best part, you know each other sexually. Inhibitions are for the weak and newly partnered. I’m going to skip this part because I don’t talk about stuff like this but you can guess what happened.

The following morning, we lazily get up and go for brunch. It’s like no time has passed at all and we are back in a relationship easy as that. I’ve missed him a lot and spent a ridiculously embarrassing amount of time debating whether or not I should message him while traveling. The killing fields of Cambodia can wait; this girl is crafting the perfect nonchalant facebook message for her ex-lover, how pathetic I know.  And now here he is, right in front of me, across a plate of bacon brie eggs benny I can reach out and touch his face. But wait, what about my plan? My mastermind plan to serial date the fuck out of this city scoring as much free foie gras as possible. Why is it when I finally have some brilliant independent man-eating scheme this boy walks back into my life invoking feelings of confusion, which weaken my female soul and mire me with self-doubt. A curse upon ex-boyfriends everywhere! Hmm…hang on a sec, why am I acting so serious? Can’t I have my cake and eat it too? Or in this case have the charcuterie plate AND the elk tartare. Yes, yes I can. Besides this dating thing is too easy, plus surprise surpise I’m low on cash and I’ll be damned if I’m giving up my free meal ticket any time soon. Sorry Mr. Scott pretty as you are, I am not falling for you this time, your smoldering blue eyes got nothing on prosciutto wrapped rabbit! We wrap things up at our favorite brunch joint and as much as I want to continue the day with him, I break things off and head home to my apartment, suddenly I have a lot to do today and by a lot to do, I mean join a lot of dating sites…

A novel begins

Chapter One

Let’s talk about how my twenty something year old life isn’t going as planned and yours probably isn’t either and where the fuck do we go from here? And yes, I am speaking on behalf of twenty something’s everywhere. Well, except maybe China? Not sure why I picked China. Moving on. I am a recent theatre school graduate, needless to say I’ve spent my entire life searching for validation and where has that got me you ask? Well I’m working at a wing place right now, oh and I also “cater”. Which means I clad a men’s suit (yup tie and all) and walk around with a tray of hors d’oeuvres at expensive weddings hating my life and crying silently in bathroom stalls. Why they force the female caterers to dress like men I know not. I can only imagine its yet another supervisor setting out to make my life miserable. “You just gotta look on that bright side”, my supervisor says. His half-baked advice meets my blank stare. Am I missing something? What the fuck is the bright side of having people with low IQs and broken dreams constantly demand you complete these menial monotonous tasks with extreme speed and a smile? The point is there is no bright side. Catering is a disguised hell and I’m burning alive in a man’s suit. Great. I’m dying and I don’t even look good. Let me guess. You’re wondering how I ended up here. How did this once hopeful bright eyed blonde end up catering to the rich and beautiful? Why must she walk amongst the rich as a peasant; her head down, her stare dark, mumbling only a few words like “Would you like to try the salmon?” When all her life she dreamed of being one of them. She dreamed of caviar, dresses imported from Paris, and wines so rare one would mortgage their house to afford.

What went wrong?

It all started when I was a kid. Don’t worry I’m not that asshole who will bore you with every oh so interesting detail of my childhood. I’m far to socially aware for that. Allow me to give you the sum up: my parents let me do whatever I want. Meaning anything I wanted to pursue was encouraged. Didn’t they realize this was only going to lead to copious amounts of origami and an obsession with genealogy charts? No. They didn’t realize that. (Why did everyone fail to mention the art of plumbing?) So about fifteen years go by…I decide to become an actor…yadda yadda yadda and here we are today. Now. This moment. I stand before you as an ill equipped recently single 20 something with dreams of grandeur and absolutely no means of getting myself to the grandeur. Now that you’ve learned a little bit about me, why not come up to my apartment? Meet my apartment. It’s not one of those glamorously spacious apartments you see in romantic comedies and wonder how the fuck would this girl afford that, it’s honest, shitty, affordable. Before we continue any further, you should probably be aware of a condition I have. Although it is a self-diagnosed disorder, it is very real and plagues me every hour of everyday. EPDMSD. Extremely Poor Decision Making Skills Disorder. It is the cause of all my suffering. Had I made better decisions I would have been a corporate lawyer working from my own private yacht by now. But alas EPDMSD got the best of me and I’m trapped in my studio apartment with an embarrassingly out of control pigeon problem (more on that later) and I’m single. Recently single that is, but have no fear ex-boyfriends will come back to haunt us through the course of this book. They will be guiding us through a series of drunken mistakes, camping trips gone wrong, dramatically not getting on airplanes, blackmailed tattoos, and much more. But for now let’s breathe a sigh of relief; actually lets make it a really big sigh of relief. And why might you ask are we so relieved? I mean didn’t I just vomit the details of my life on your face and were they not sad, depressing, and relatively hopeless? Yes, I did just do that. However I left out one minor detail, one teeny tiny detail that might actually turn this whole life thing of mine around.

I have a plan.

(While reading this book please keep in mind everything thought and said is coming from a person struggling with EPDMSD)

If there are two things in life I am certain of it’s this…I have a pretty face and a pretty extensive Urbanspoon wish list. There is very little I love more in life than first sitting down at a freshly set table in some chic restaurant. The initial menu scan, maybe some complimentary aperitifs, the first sip of wine is indeed a holy one, the ritual of it, gets me every time. Back to reality…as I finish up yet another catering shift, my arms weary from endless trays of champagne I begin to wonder, is this fancy lifestyle really out of reach for me? I have the palate for it I mean nothing speaks to my heart like a little foie gras and some caviar gelee. Then it dawns on me. I am a single pretty lady with an appetite for the finer things in life, what better way to get what I want than to serial date my way through this cities finest men and meals! Gone will be the days of budgeting with my ex-boyfriend, the actor who can’t spare a dime type. I want the corporate lawyers, the wall street investors, the elk tartare, the surf and turfs worth more than a car (hmm maybe that’s a bit unrealistic?) On second thought NO it isn’t. Some people’s dreams only reach the end of the tarmac, but not me, I see a whole world filled with endless restaurants!

It is time for me to put down the tray of hors d’oeuvres and pick up the glass of champagne. I’m hanging up the men’s suit and stepping into the heels. And though I would argue eating chickpeas from a can is a legitimate meal (especially if there’s ketchup) I am putting down the can and picking up the charcuterie plate. Wait. Stop. Will there be any hiccups? Will I be responding to drunken booty calls from my ex-boyfriend? No. And by no I mean maybe. And by maybe I mean yes. Dammit. Nevertheless I will keep my head up and my wits about me as I navigate through this perilous terrain. Inhibited only by my EPDMSD it suddenly seems like I have a lot going for me, even the smell of rotting lettuce momentarily fades in my apartment and things seem perfect, almost glamorous. Just moments ago I saw grandeur in the distance, but now it is here in front of me, like freshly purchased lipstick waiting to be put on. My new life awaits. I am on a search for the meal of my dreams and a man of considerable means. Let the dating begin.

 

There is a difference between pigs blood & roadkill

"You’re going to love him", my friend says.
Uh oh. Whenever anybody says those four little words I always end up strongly disliking said person. Sigh. It makes me think my friends don’t know me at all, but alas that’s a whole other blog. Confession…I’ve decided to keep Mr.Consulting on speed dial, you never know when you’ll need an extra credit card right? The night did end abruptly with me beelining to a cab, but even if things were to progress, I’ve gotta keep him wondering. It’s all about mystery. Where did that girl come from? How does she manage to smell so good? How does she get her hair so bright? blah blah blah. 
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Tonight’s man meat? The gallery owner. Restaurant? Aska in Williamsburg. We board the L train, which is looking a lot like a one way ticket to a hipster concentration camp. Whilst on the subway I come up with a game. It’s called “Count how many people are reading a Hemingway book right now”. As we exit the subway beards and bikes line the street, yup we’re in Brooklyn.
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Aska operates out of an art and design exhibition space and it’s definitely the closest I’ve ever come to being in an art installation piece. Everything is hand-made from natural materials by a local hippy wood-worker. My date tells me the decor is very scandinavian, what with the white walls and scattered branches. Scandinavians like to keep it sparse and vaguely ethereal. Honesty time, I’m actually not even sure what I just said, but it felt right you know? Vaguely ethereal…yea. There are a couple of options at Aska. You can eat in the front sans reservations with your penniless hipster friends or you can sign up for the seven course tasting menu in the back. I obviously choose the latter.
The courses begin with a couple of bite size snacks to get the palate going. The pig’s blood croquette had my vote, I am definitely on the hemoglobin bandwagon. Next up was a petite plate of poached oysters with salsify. Each dish a small masterpiece built with common ingredients turned unfamiliar, cod has never been so unrecognizable. I would now like to compare Chef Fredik Berselius to the likes of a magician, meaning this man is magic. Everything he touches turns into edible fairy dust so delicious and complex you’ll be left feeling the best kind of confused. The flavours he is able to extract from vegetables is true creativity. Look around the room and it’s clear this restaurant has found its niche. Though it’s not hitting you over the head with its theme, Scandinavians are much more subtle than that.
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Maybe the pilsner has gone to my head but it seems like everyone here is speaking in some sort of indistinguishable accent. Even people I could of sworn moments before were americans, now sound French or is that German or hang on, are they just speaking art collector? As more dishes arrive, I turn to the menu for answers, “what are we eating?” I mean, other than an art piece. Based on the all the oooing and awing you’d assume my date has a clue though when I ask he mumbles something about food and romance Hmm. Maybe Mr. Gallery Owner is acting cold because him and I just aren’t clicking? Wait…Stop. Now I feel awkward and it’s only course two. With no sign of this meal wrapping up soon I start to silently panic. I don’t know if it’s my own self-doubt (yup it’s my own self-doubt) but the less this guy is seeming like someone with an instagram presence and the more he seems like an art history guru. Great. The longest meal ever is about to ensue and I’m only understanding 50% of what this guy is saying. Smile, nod and pretend to know what’s happening. It’s clear nothing I say will be of interest to his royal highness for I am a mere peasant with peasant thoughts, like why was that girl such a bitch to me at Starbucks, and how come every time I buy high waisted skinny jeans they’re never long enough to cover my ankles?
Gallery owner, art dealer, pshh I know that’s just code for I come from a rich family. So your intellectual abilities far surpass my own, congratuFUCKINGlations (or however you spell it, obviously that word is works better when spoken) you will NOT be hearing from me again (please imagine me dramatically throwing a scarf over my shoulder, as I sassily walk away, I am wearing purple lipstick).

New York New Dates

"It’s not a meal unless there’s at least seven courses."

-Erin Wotherspoon, serial dater.

 
I haven’t been in New York too long, though I have managed to meet a handful of men in “consulting”. Hmm consulting. I like it, it’s vague and I don’t understand it at all, similarly how I feel about the decor at Babbo. What is happening here, if anything? We appear to be eating in someones house, most likely the rich aunt (how she acquired her fortune no one really knows and no one ever asks). It is a cozy house, I’ll give it that and who ever did the drapes isn’t trying to hard so kudos. Impromptu yet insightful genius tip: No one will like you if you look like you’re trying, that’s just tacky. 


Babbo, celebrity Chef Mario Batali’s baby, no doubt has a dish for every palate. The menu is quite lengthy, Babbo is so much more than four options for mains. The wine list (rumoured to be one of the best in the city) is justly extensive and cryptic, the whole I don’t speak italian thing really worked to my disadvantage tonight. I let my date choose the wine as I start scoping the antipasti. My date is the kind of man who pronounces things wrong and then refuses to correct himself. The adjective stupid comes to mind. He is unflinchingly confident in all he does, ranging from his golf swing to his polo performance to the way he obnoxiously grabs the waiters attention in poorly pronounced spanish, “queso queso queso!” he yells. Flash forward a couple of years, one can only imagine him hollering at me in broken spanish. Why he insists on debauching this language I don’t know. Maybe it’s a consulting thing?
He has a credit card for every colour of the rainbow though and not going to lie, my eye has been caught by all the pretty colours. Maybe I can put up with the horrible spanish if I’m being driven around in a porsche? Yea that wouldn’t be so bad. It’s not love though. That sounds more like sacrifice and a whole lot of pretty things to make up for it. At the end of the day what do I want? Do I want dessert? Am I too full? Do I want a man with lots of money so we can facilitate a life together much more easily than scrounging for pennies and pipe dreams? It’s tempting. The olive oil cake can only be described as that. It’s my vice, olive oil. I don’t smoke so shots of olive oil is completely justified in my life. Well I’m only sure about one thing. And that is, we’re going to have to order that olive oil cake. 

 
The goose liver ravioli with a balsamic vinaigrette & brown butter looks like something you would find in the deep sea. The balsamic vinaigrette paints a very dark picture and dare you dive in, your taste buds will be rewarded. The tanginess of the vinaigrette pairs well with the subtle fatty flavour of the goose liver. Try it, love it, tell everyone you know about it. Moving on. If there’s yet another thing I love in this world, it’s sweetbreads, something about that velvety texture, gets me every time. How about fennel dusted sweetbreads with some duck bacon all sitting atop a pool of membrillo vinaigrette? Yes please. This dish had me lusting for more, I can definitely say I would slurp up that sauce all night long…
 
As the evening winds down, I’m still unsure about love. His job doesn’t interest me at all, but does that really matter? In fact, it flat out bores me, but hey we’re different people right? He’s a man I’m a women…different.
 
Please continue to read my mind-blowing spectacular conclusion. It’s just a restaurant. There was no aquarium that doubles as a cutting board, no chairs imported from Peru whispered to be the last of their kind, and no they didn’t have a 3 million dollar marble floor. It’s just a restaurant, but don’t be fooled, that is not an understatement. Similar to my dates designer suit (probably the only noiseless thing about him at this point) there are no ribbons, no ascots, not even pinstripes and thankfully he isn’t wearing pink socks, he did however pay good money for it. Money, love, sigh. 

seeking new york men

Toronto restaurants are good, great at best and I’ve had my fill at the finest, but like most of the men here, they’re just too “nice”. I like my foie gras served up with some attitude, and no I’m not talking about those angsty hipsters west of Ossington. I’m talking about bold, sexy restos that are unapologetically original. Not the run of the mill “we’ve got tapas, micro brews & local veggies”. Don’t get me wrong, I want all of the above but I want the moon & the stars too. Maybe my expectations are unrealistically high? I don’t think so. I’ve always expected the elk tatare & never let my fashionably thin wallet stand in the way of my dreams. Toronto men of Reddit can crawl out of the holes- that are their mother’s basements & resume dating, but remember boys, shave those unibrows first & try not to be awkwardly polite. This serial dater is coming to New York City. 

Men, women, children, what have you, if you’re interested in booking a dinner with this dreamboat send me a message. Openings are booking up fast. 

It’s all about the chase fish & oyster

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Show up on time, act super interested, laugh at my jokes, compliment my hair, let me guess you like me, and if push came to shove you would date me again & again & again. The problem? We seem to have skipped one crucial step in the dating dance, the chase. Acting illusive and super busy (even if you’re not of course) can increase your chances immearsurably when zeroing in on potential suitors. Want to hang out next week? Ooo sorry can’t, I’ve got this thing. How about the week after? No can do, got a couple of things that week actually. Catch my drift? The point is you’ve got me wondering, and sooner or later I’ll be clawing at the walls, pulling out my hair, driving my car off a cliff, wondering was he really even interested  in me? We did order dessert though, a tell tale sign things are going well -when things go south getting the bill as fast as you can is your only hope. Sigh. Confusion, mixed signals, hidden agendas, it’s all a necessary part of the chase. Without these things I’d probably be in a boring relationship with all my shit together. Bleh. I think I’ve found enough stability in my relationship with oysters thank you very much. I see them every weekend, we usually enjoy each other’s company whilst intoxicated, and they’re great at turning me on. The glistening little pearls arrive at the table, oysters at the chase are the best to date. They’re accompanied by the standard fixings, nothing special, although you can opt to pay extra for some special sauces. We keep it classic with some lemon, horse radish, & hot sauce. How do you slurp your oysters? Do you suck them back quickly no strings attached swallowing them in one foul gulp or are you more of a chewer? Me? I’m a chewer. I want the whole 3D experience. I want the smooth avocado like finish, the meaty subtly salty texture, refreshingly cool & these oysters taste nothing like the sea. I’m say yes to another round and yes to the chase fish & oyster. 

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Not to be missed, the raw bar. Go big or go home. That pay cheque was meant for wasting and my advice is don’t splurge on shots (or any number of the fancy cocktails) splurge on the raw halibut, the yellowfin, and just about anything & everything on the raw menu. A couple other dishes pushing some brain-scrambling tastes are the pan-seared scallop, the lobster claw & the jalapeño butter- since consuming I have often fantasized about drowning in said butter; live & die a foodie, that butter will be the death of me. The only mis-step was the dessert, an angel food cake twist on key lime pie. No frills could run circles around their angel food cake and if you were expecting key lime pie, well…don’t expect key lime pie. My disappointment was momentary though, the bill comes revealing I’ve racked up some pretty hefty damage- no doubt the most thus far. Wait for it….wait for it…”Mastercard”, the sweet sound of someone else footing the bill. This penniless girl gets what she wants. Do yourself a favour, don’t underestimate the power of the chase. Happy dinner dating!

Who needs a man when I have Buca?

Resto? Buca

Location? King west

If Buca were a man I’d be totally nervous to date him because he’s so good looking. A man of stature & pleasing height, he’s got this industrial yet glamorous style to him –not going to lie, I’m pretty overwhelmed & I wish I wore heels. Piled high plates go by and let the oogling begin! A gapping mouth stare is something I typically shy away from, but not here. A procession of pizza’s go by and I’m staring, mouth agape, right at the goods, undressing it with my eyes, imagining what it would look like on my plate, in my mouth…Buca is a man I want to get serious with. Yes, I’ve had some flings in the past, a little ramen, a regrettable meal at the Mandarin –we all make mistakes, right? And they usually come with copious amounts of tears, bad Chinese food and sentences like “these are my buffet pants”.

We are shown to our table and find ourselves seated amongst a good- looking crowd, an “in-crowd”. There is very little I love more than first sitting down at a freshly set table in some chic restaurant. The initial menu scan, maybe some complimentary apertifs, the first sip of wine is indeed a holy one, the ritual of it all, gets me every time. My eyes skim the page effortlessly for a couple of seconds before I lock eyes with it, “Tartufo Bianco”, taleggio cheese, fresh white truffle all atop a glorious pizza smothered with duck yolk instead of the more typical al pomodoro. Aside from the 32oz prime rib, said pizza is the priciest item on the menu, sitting at a whopping fifty bucks. Pangs of doubt cloud my pretty head. Dare I order the second most expensive dish on the menu? Is the serial dater turning soft? Do I actually feel bad for my date? He does seem to be a nice guy…NO! He is merely a conduit for my tasteful lifestyle, nothing more, nothing less. The waiter arrives, sheepishly I say, “I’ll have the double stuffed ravoli”.

The food. The prosciutto was perfectly conditioned, simultaneously warm & cool, though the fixings were a little dull. A very shy slice of taleggio cheese paired well with a chilled cranberry sauce to start. It should be noted most of the meats are cured in-house, a delicate balance indeed, with temperature and time being of the essence. The goose ravioli was by far the highlight, stuffed to the brim with goose meat, each ravioli is a plentiful package in and of itself. The sauce –which risked being too heavy (fonduto di parmigano, a melted cheese similar in consistency to mozzarella) was lighter than air & balanced nicely with the heavier goose meat. A cacophony of colours the dish wasn’t hard on the eyes either, and I swear I tasted hints of raspberry in that sauce.

Some wine. I like my wine. I like it red, not too dry and in a big ass glass. I know a thing or two about tannins, how to pair a good wine with a nice cheese, but talk to me longer than 30 seconds about some region in Spain and I’ve stopped listening.  Sure sure some people have the more cultivated palate, can distinguish those floral notes, detect the oak, the smouldering fire & a whisper of cinnamon, but I smell bullshit. Or rather I don’t smell much of anything besides wine. If you do however enjoy talking about your wine as much as drinking it, the sommelier at Buca is the gentlemen for you. Straight out of a Gucci ad, in some quaint alley in Rome is the portrait he appears to have just stepped out of.  It seems as if he is struggling to find English words to describe this breed of wine we’ve chosen –a surprisingly sweet merlot from Spain. (Seriously everyone who works here seems straight out of Italy). I watch nervously as his hands boisterously move about, just missing the bottle of wine –such passion in the sommelier, I’m sold, I love the wine.

Some advice. A little dessert. If you decide to come to Buca make sure you pre-eat because the portions are sparse and leave you wanting more. I’m getting the feeling opting for a second round of pizza is not an unusually occurrence at this resto. I also wouldn’t recommend dessert. If it wasn’t so late I’d totally tell you to hit up forno cultura across the street, the best bakery ever for some mind blowing pastry but sadly that ship has sailed for the evening. I compare my dessert at Buca to the likes of eating a just short of ripe banana. I know it has potential to taste good, all the makings of deliciousness are there –gelato, pumpkin fritters…but a banana before its prime just tastes bad, as does dessert at Buca.

Needless to say I’d call this gentlemen again and by gentlemen I mean restaurant and by call I mean eat at. 

The olive oil of my dreams

Restaurant? Bar Isabel

Location? 797 College

When you first see a restaurant, a date, a dessert, what have you, appearance is everything. Are they tall and skinny or short, fat, dark and loud? Do we need reservations or is their schedule wide open -maybe they might be to clingy with all that time on their hands? First impressions are everything and Bar Isabel has got my attention. It’s got some serious old world soul and hints of funeral parlour chic. The staff looks seriously underfed though…Is there a weight requirement to work here? And is it under 90lbs? A little too skinny for my tastes, I like a man who looks like he can carry a tray of beer without struggling. We are shown to our table and amidst the eclectic decor, I realize haven’t quite figured out my date yet, Bar Isabel is not to be categorized so easily…

"I don’t know what I’m eating", I think to myself. I scan the table and make note of things I recognize; raw tuna, cheese, some sort of cured meat, everything else is debatable. Tis the fate of the patron whose choice of dish has been left entirely to the better judgement of the server. Men, knowing what you want in life can be sexy, knowing what I want in life, in terms of oysters or chicken can be helpful but when you forgo all major decisions, like what canapés will we be starting with, it makes me wonder what kind of man you really are. Equal parts decided and dashing are all the fixings this girl needs, oh and a little bourbon with a touch of bacon infused sugar please. 
Plates arrive and slowly but surely I begin to piece together what’s what. White anchovies subtly salted drowning on a plate of olive oil with in-house pickled peppers & fresh slices of jalapeños. All piled on top a warm tortilla chip. This olive oil has stepped out of my dreams & drizzled my reality with rich flavour and left me feeling warm & fuzzy inside, as every good love affair should. I’m not certain what to make of the sweetbreads at first, partly because I don’t really know what sweetbreads taste like and partly because sweetbreads don’t taste like anything. They are the man with no fashion sense, waiting for the makeover curtesy of the patient girlfriend. Sweetbreads need decorations, as do men wearing t-shirts from walmart. Smoke them a few times over, pile them with succulent caramelized onions, maybe a hint of brown sugar for some extra sweetness, grow out that scruff a little more and now you have yourself a meal. Bar Isabel is so much more than a patient girlfriend, she’s more like a life coach that rarely makes mistakes because she’s got all her shit together. Cue the applause these smoked sweetbreads came together perfectly paired on top a thick slice of melt in your mouth raw tuna. 
So we all know I would pretty much date anyone or anything so long as they foot the bill and buy me a tasty relatively upscale dinner. Anything but back to cans of chickpeas is this penniless girls MO. But a lot of people have begun to wonder, does she ever go for good-looking normal guys? The answer? No. But does that mean this dream boat couldn’t win herself a romeo if she tried? Please, have you seen this face? What with the oysters helping my glowing complexion these dates can’t help themselves but want to date me again. Well, men if you want to date me again you better be okay with me dating lots of other guys, like all the time….for free food. Gone are the days of monogamy right? Are you that square you only date one girl/guy at a time? I don’t want to commit. I thought that was the whole idea behind tapas…

My best friend tells me men are like cheeses.

The restaurant? Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

Location? Liberty Village

"What’s your favourite cheese?" she asks her beau.

"The orange kind"

Uh oh. Red flag. Abort. This, gentlemen, is not a good answer. It’s safe to say this culture shy hottie didn’t end up becoming her husband or even her boy toy- for much longer. Don’t get me wrong, my best friend and I aren’t expecting graduates from the Ecole Cordon Bleu de Cuisine circa Paris, but referring to said cheese as “the orange kind”, is plain unacceptable. Much to my surprise, tonight’s date has perked my curiosity, but how will he bode a la the cheese test?
"So if you had to choose, what would be your favourite cheese?"
"That’s easy, Parmesean."
Hmm. Eyebrows raise. His answer is cryptic, a little vague, not giving to much away, I respect that. He said, “that’s easy”, I’d definitely have to disagree with him there. The world is filled with a whole lot of cheeses, the decision to choose just one, in my opinion is just shy of impossible. Parmesean eh? Does he mean good parmesan, like a nice parmigiano reggiano or are we talking that awful american stuff. He has long hair AND a ponytail though and everybody knows that’s just like adding raisins to a perfectly good quinoa salad- a really bad choice. Pretty sure we all agreed like a million years ago that Brad Pitt is the only man who can pull off a ponytail. I was going to give him the benefit of the doubt with the parmesan answer but alas the hair has got to be ditched because right now I’m getting a whole lot of I’m either a funeral director or a serial killer.
The restaurant. Mildred’s Temple Kitchen gets an A plus for decor, its undeniable beautiful and equally parts spacious- something I rarely experience on my foodie journey, eating in cramped dimly lit loud rooms seems to be a big thing in this city. Among the darkness, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen is a breath of fresh air, nestled in the heart of liberty village, you can’t help but arrive in a good mood- what with all the eye candy (good-looking pseudo wealthy professional men walking their dogs everywhere). 
The brunch menu is decidedly underwhelming. A sad thing in a city where people’s brunch loyalties run deeper than their political views. In Toronto, this is a meal we don’t take lightly. Bring up a great brunch spot and prepare for a battle of the wits and fists because everyone has their favourite spot and yes it’s better than yours. 
Mildred paints a picture she simply doesn’t deliver. Rosemary bacon, sounds good in theory, it even makes me feel a bit glamorous about ordering something so banal but in truth, there was nothing glamorous about eating what could of been microwaved bacon flecked with a few measly pieces of rosemary. Green eggs and ham. The twist? It comes served with a green salad. Boring. If you’re a vegetarian or have no respect for eating a great mid-day meal on the weekend than Mildred’s Temple might just be the place for you. Maybe not for the goji berry health freak, but certainly for the I order salad, granola, and yogurt at  restaurants type. 
Just throw in the word “famous” before the granola and I’m sure people will eat that shit up. Wrong. Extraneous words like “classic” and “famous” can be very misleading when the goods don’t deliver. What is so famous about this oh so average bowl of granola sprinkled with dried fruit that doesn’t even look pretty? It makes you wonder what their putting in the sauce. Oh wait, that’s just jam in a cool looking bowl. 
I went with the classic poached egg on a flakey croissant with smoked salmon and béarnaise sauce. If by classic they mean very sub-par I think I understand what they’re getting at. What I thought was a spin on eggs benny instead came as a croissant sandwich, which was heavy on the croissant and very light on the smoked salmon, tears of regret form in the corners of my eyes, not even the pretty lighting scheme can brighten my mood. Okay okay, calm down, the biscuits have yet to arrive and they really are known for their baked fresh every morning luscious currant scones. Call me plain Jane but I’m a sucker for biscuits. The mood lightens as I wait in anticipation for the warm little biscuits to arrive. You call those biscuits? Not warm. Not Flakey. No deliciously awesome spread. More like crumbling hope and corroding dreams, the mood darkens again as I shift back into my foodie depression. Is all hope lost at Mildred’s Kitchen? The answer is Yes. My only advice? Don’t go.