Alder Room: Extra good

Extra:  “Doing the absolute damn most. For no reason.” (Urban Dictionary)

Already established: that’s me.

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Not already established but henceforth declared to be true: that’s Alder Room.

I know, I know! Alder Room appears to be the absolute all time opposite of extra. The epitome of simplicity and minimalism. The height of super cool but not TOO cool modern everything.  But “doing the absolute damn most”??? That is EXACTLY what Ben Staley and his peeps are doing over there. And it’s unbefreakinglievable, my friends.

ALSO. We chose the Alder Room for my birthday dinner celebration and we got the WHOLE PLACE TO OURSELVES. Now, that’s customer service.

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Ok, actually the other people just couldn’t make it. BUT still.

We bought tickets in advance, (you don’t make reservations), to the 5 pm matinée seating with ONLY 10 courses vs. the 7:30 pm seating with 17-20 courses. The 5 pm seating allows for 8 people, and I mean in the WHOLE restaurant, and the 7:30 is for 12.

Since we were the only 2, we got a tour of the basement and its connecting secret underground caverns where Ben keeps a subterranean organic garden as well as a small hobby farm, and also got adorbs chef’s hats that say “I Ate at Alder Room and All I Got Was This Lousy Chef’s Hat.”

Or not. But we did get to learn a tonne about the restaurant and its devotion to local ingredients and how Ben has only missed one service (!) since they’ve been open and about Radiohead as soundtrack for life and about tattoos and Scottish heritage and Rhodes Scholars and knives that don’t work so well when you use them upside down!

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We also did the wine pairing, and started off with a cider from Normandy that smelled just a leeeetle bit like manure, but a very delicious manure! Fun fact: in the industry, this aroma is not, in fact, referred to as “manure”, but as “barnyard”. Also, Normandy ciders just like to smell this way. And good for them, because turns out, “barnyard” = “très bon”!

So, you start off in the living room, (LOVE), with some small delights that at first, made the ol’ portion loving husband panic. However, he was quick to note that these delights were in fact so delightful, that size did, in fact, not matter.

Endive and seaweed – so refreshing and I kept it on hand to bite into between the other heavier tastes.fullsizeoutput_12d8

Check out the super cool presentation of the quail egg rolled in vegetable ash. And yes, it was delicious!

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Fried sunchoke skin with a burnt cream that was sneakily burrowed into the hollow underside.

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Caramelized cabbage in a bed of non-caramelized non-cabbage leaves. Robert looooved this but all I have to say is, if you have any challenges with visual perception and being able to distinguish between food and not food, be careful! Glad to help out, Robert.😬

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After these lovelies, we moved to the bar where we got the best seats in the house, right in front of the wood fire and right in front of the hard working masters of our destinies. This meant that Ben and Scottish dual citizen/cool tattoo dude did not COMPLETELY hate us. YAY TEAM.

We started with a super yummy scallop and cucumber dish with beautiful thin slices of kohlrabi.

2SDuhNazTi+MMazFS0Q5ygRobert stated, “Hey, you can’t see anything in that picture! Here, let me destroy mine and then you can see what lies beneath.” Ok, Robert.

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Now it looks like some kind of animé creature with cucumbers for eyes and kohlrabi for hair, but, thank you for your undying dedication to truth and transparency, dearest husband!

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Agh. This was so good. The beetroot was sooooo chewy in a good way and the pickled blueberries and hay cream were perfect with it. Did you know that Ben started pickling and fermenting and preserving stuff 2 years before the restaurant even opened? HELLO PEOPLE THIS IS DEVOTION.

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By now, I was actually starting to feel a little full – which mystified the Portion King. But I gamely took on the pork belly with yellow pea miso and onion and I am SO glad I did because YUM. This isn’t your creepy omnipresent pork belly that can now be found in almost every restaurant. I’m pretty sure McDonald’s is going to come out with a Filet O’ Belly soon, but THIS people, THIS was pork belly done right. DONE RIGHT.

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What?? Another substantial meat course?

Help. Me.

By this time, Robert was grinning ear to ear in portion bliss. And it really was bliss. Dry-aged beef, black garlic and ramp.

YES.

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Moving on to a rice pudding with sake kasu and wild ginger.

I. LOVED. THIS.

I also could not finish this.

So. Much. Food. So. Much. Flavour. So. Much. Goodness.

After all of this manna from heaven, plus a lot of talking wherein Robert and I forgot that  these guys have a job to do and another seating at 7:30 and lots to prepare and we need to actually chew more and yak less, we moved back to the aforementioned living room for some sweets.

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This box of sweets is so beautifully done, I started to feel a little frumpy myself. You start on the right with the black trumpet mushroom shortbread, then on to the beets cooked in carrot cordial, followed by burnt honey caramel, and finally, black garlic and birch syrup.

For a girl who LOVES ladling spoonfuls of raw confetti cake mix  into her sugar-addicted body, I wondered. I wondered and wondered and then dove in.

I know this is getting repetitive, but YUM, ok?

YUM.

We bid farewell as two very contented people, thanks to Alder Room.

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And, as evidenced by this doctored up photo in which Robert sports a golden swirly eye, we bid farewell as two very EXTRA extra people, thanks to my inability to do anything but the

absolute. damn. most.

For no reason.

 

In spite of your lack of souvenir chef’s hats, we love you, Alder Room! 😬

 

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Baijiu: Keepin’ it Boozy & Bao-y

In hindsight, I’m not sure I would have selected the furry pink beast as my coat of choice for Baijiu.

Add to that the pink ombre tassel earrings and I am reallllly on the far side of the EXTRAmeter.

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What the heck, who am I kidding? I’m extra and I like it.

And, hey! I found out Baijiu is kind of extra and I like that too!

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First thing, as we walked up the stairs, there was a cloud of hip and beautiful people floating at the pinnacle, including a local yogi celeb whom I ardently admire! Felt v. frumpy/old all of the sudden.

Fortunately, once inside, it was clear that Baijiu does not discriminate against regular or even extra types. All are welcome!

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It’s pretty cool at Baijiu. We didn’t want to sit at one of the tables, so we bellied up to the bar.

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I like to see the boozy magic happen!

Also, we sat right by the DJ guy, and it was very festive to watch him do his thing.

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The DJ is a very transparent kind of guy. Either that or I just didn’t take a pic at the right time, ugh.

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Astroboy looked upset about something. Too much booziness, AB?

Robert went all rogue and asked for a riff on something mezcal. Check out the Black Sea salt treatment!

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I asked for something bubbly and French 75ish and St. Germainish and I got this little darling.

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Totally pony pitcherable.

We tried out 3 dishes.

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We had to try the infamous bao, of course, and went for the Red Braised Pork Bao. I couldn’t refuse the siren call of the Duck Confit Fried Rice and Robert wanted the Spicy Beef Noodles.

AGH.

The food was. SO. GOOD. I had a small seizure when I tried my first bite of the rice. And those house-made fat noodles, GAH. Must come back for more when we are sufficiently famished and wearing stretchy pants.

Finally, Robert ordered the will-not-be-ignored Renshenfengwangjiangthang.

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Our knowledgable bartender revealed to us that they had discovered how to crack the Ginseng Royal Jelly bottle so that the contents would meld with the Japanese whiskey/Cynar/fresh ginger juice. Heck, this drink is pretty much the equivalent of a healthy superfood juice. Enjoy sans guilt, I say!

Before we left, we were served up the DJ’s pet drink – a shot of Hennessy VS followed by a teeny green tea.

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It was, much to my surprise, DELICIOUS.

Well played, DJ.

Unfortunately, I think it caused Robert to have a mini stroke, as evidenced by his left eye.

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Anyway, if food can induce mini seizures and drinks can induce mini strokes, you know they’re doing something well!

If having involuntary nervous system reactions to delicious food and drink is wrong, I don’t ever want to be right!

Get thee to Baijiu!

 

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How to NYE in Edmonton

Ah, New Year’s Eve, you kidder you. Always driving me into a frenetic mania in my attempt to secure the perfect NYE festivity. And every year, I tread dangerously close to disaster.

This year, I almost spent 200$ per person to sit in a stuffy, underwhelming ballroom at tables with 8 unknown Stepford wives/husbands, in chairs with fabric bows tied onto them, eating things that include descriptors such as “naughty” and “prestige” (BARF). Who do I think I am, a regular in the smash hit series, “Housewives of the Not-So-Wealthy-Side-Of Glenora”??

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NO.

 

Rebounding from that near catastrophe, I went too far to the other extreme and almost spent 10$ to dance with children half my age whilst clutching my red solo cup of the dreaded vodka cran.

So. Much. Plaid.

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 NOPE.

 

Fortunately, I was able to retrieve my senses from their precarious party planning perch, and ask myself:

Smart me: “Ok, soooo…what do we like to do when it’s not NYE, anyway?”

Dumb me: “Well, we like to….eat. Good food. Good local food. Aaaand drink bubbles. Also, we like Nibs.”

Smart me: “Alright! So here’s what we do. We eat good local food. We drink bubbles. Also, we eat Nibs.”

Dumb me: <smiles contentedly>

 

So off we went! First, we went to Table Top Café to eat Nibs. And play Bananagrams.

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I love the candy bowls, I love running a tab, and I LOVE destroying the world with my banana gram talents.

Since we hadn’t made reservations, we decided to start at one of the best joints in town for food and for atmosphere, Bar Bricco. But first, a toast.

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To us! #lovemyfamsomuch

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Have you been to Bar Bricco? I feel instantly cooler when I walk in there.

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We started with the ricotta and crostini. Always a favourite, so to die for, and die we did.

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With a glass of the bubbly rosé – a Pinot Noir/Grasparossa, it was divineee. My compatriots enjoyed the 8$ Negronis and Boulevardiers. Man, I hang with some cool kids.

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This was just the warm up though. If I had to marry a spuntini, my husband would definitely be the scrambled eggs Cacio e Pepe style.

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Aghhh so creamy so cheesy sooooooo good.

Finally, the Fonduta Angolotti with its blissful sage butter.

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Sorry for darkish pic. I’m actually surprised I have anything to show you since my eyes were closed in rapturous bliss for most of the dinner. Point and click, baby!

Time to move next door to Uccellino! Men in kilts first!

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Oh my gosh I love me some Uccellino.

Start with bubbles. Gasparossa!

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Add a bubbly dinner partner.

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And get ordering ALL THE FOOD.

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Pumpkin Agrodolce. Such a revelation of deliciousness. Like worthy of stopping in just to eat this beauty.

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I, of course, had to continue my uninterrupted streak of Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe. I always have intentions of breaking outside of the cheesy, peppery box, but continually fail.

Dear husband Robert has been holding a desperate and hopeful vigil for the Drunken Spaghetti for many months now. His soul was crushed like a pitiful ant under my Poppy Barley boot, however, when he heard it is still AWOL. He rallied and got the Pappardelle with Pig’s Head and Prosciutto Ragu Bianco.IMG_0438

He did love it, of course! Nothing, however, will ever compare with his beloved Spaghetti Ubriacchi. For the sake of our marriage, Uccellino powers that be, please bring it back!

Dearest daughter o’ mine had the Pumpkin Ravioli.

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More sage butterrrrrr. It was beloved, adored, and cherished.

Daughter’s lovely young fellow in rose had the Mezze Maniche. Spicy food for a spicy guy!

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To end it all on a note of adulterated bliss, we had the olive oil cake with olive oil gelato.

SHAZAM.

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A toast to a highly successful NYE dinner!

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P.S. I actually painted my nails so please note them.

 

What a delightful evening we have had, I guess it’s time to go hom-

WHAT.

WE DID NOT. HAVE. CHAMPAGNE.

OR OYSTERS.

On to Wishbone!

I highly recommend Wishbone as a first date venue. That lighting though. Banishes the deepest of wrinkly crevasses into blurry oblivion!

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Fresh, delicious, slurpy oysters with garlicky butter and lemon, of thee am I also fond.

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Fully sated with decadence and tomfoolery, we headed home.

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To a midnight toast to 2018!

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How did you celebrate the new year? Hope it was anything but disastrous!

 

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Pip, Pip, Hooray!

WOW, we had the most amazing brunch today at Pip. We, meaning me, (duh), dearest husband, long-lost-prodigal-daughter, and long-lost-prodigal-daughter’s partner. P.S., apparently, BOYFRIEND is not the term one uses in these days of millennial enlightenment.

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Such a cute partner!

Well, I had heard so much good buzzage about the place, but was daunted by the popularity of Pip mixed with its no reservations policy. We arrived at 11 am and there was a 45-60 minute wait! That was no skin off our proverbial noses though, since we had to do some boot/dress/suit shopping. They texted us when the table was ready and off we went!

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Note teeny tiny space, totally packed with adoring people. The vibe is cozy and unpretentious with a solid amount of people-watching to be had. Also, the service, (that’s our lovely server with half a face/body there on the left), was A PLUS PLUS. I do love a server and team that actually seem to care about your experience and want you to enjoy! YAY!

I started off with the Hugo Spritz.

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Elderflower and prosecco, HELLOOO!? It was light and refreshing.

Robert the husband, had himself some crafty type of beer. I don’t know about beer. But I know it seemed to please him. Because it was half gone by the time a picture could be taken.

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We liked the menu. Not too many things, yet a solid variety. Hilariously enough, the millennial in our group did NOT have the avocado on toast. Rather, the mother-of-a-millenial did.

Wow, I think I just invented a new PG friendly oath there:

HOLY MOTHER OF A MILLENNIAL, THAT WAS SOME GOOD AVOCADO TOAST.

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Sorry for already cut into photo, but will you please look at that beautiful yolk? Gorgeous, orange, lusciously fresh yolk! I forgot to ask them about their eggs but it’s clear that those are some farm fresh, cruelty free eggs. I could taste the happiness in that chicken with every bite.

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Daughter was verrrry happy with her Benedict. And let me tell you, after experiencing many a Benedict crisis while out for brunch, this is really saying something. Egg just right, and that sauce was SO buttery/creamy. Everything was just perfect. Happy daughter, happy mater.

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The sweet French toast bake was, of course, enjoyed by the sweetest of the four of us, the partner. Maple cream cheese, strawberry rhubarb jam – agh!!!! SO GOOD.

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Ironically, the grilled ham and cheese was enjoyed by the cheesiest of the four of us, my ham of a husband Robert. Simple, delicious, comforting – and would have been even more delightful if Robert had ordered the tomato bisque but, alas, the pull of any fried potato is more than my dearest husband can endure.

 

In conclusion, summary, and to wrap it all up, PIP IS AMAZING AF. (Trying ever so hard to sound millennial there.)

(P.S. Long-lost-prodigal-daughter is going to kill me for all these discriminating and inaccurate millennial references. However, she is certainly “entitled” to feel that way.)

See what I did there????

 

If you love brunch, be good to yourself and get over to Pip.

 

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Eat! The Start of a Girls’ Supper Club

I have wanted to start a girls’ supper club type of thing for a long time.

I’m a fan of supper.

I’m a fan of girls.

Put them together and you have either a horrific night of cannibalism or a wonderful night of fun and festivity!

Fortunately, my first attempt resulted in the latter.

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Here are the intricate and tricky steps to creating a supper club:

  1. Invite a diverse group of kind, fun, interesting, and festive people.
  2. Decide where/when/what.
  3. Eat!

I chose The Holy Roller as our first venue because it’s newly opened and has a great buzz about it.

Also, my mid-century Wedgwood stove decided that after 70 or so years, it had had enough.  At this point in time, a supper club at my house would consist of high fibre toast and microwaved eggs.

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This place is so vibey and coolesque and is super prime for people watching.

And dog watching.

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Kitsch is the name of the game at The Holy Roller.

And drinks.

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I was initially horrified by my drink décor. But then I realized I must accept it because I did, after all, order a drink made with aquavit and dill. So Scandinavian! Of course, in the spirit of a communal supper club, we all tried each other’s drinks. I can safely say that the enjoyment level of the cocktails at The Holy Roller is high. Skål!

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Not one person accessed these sweets all night! Maybe they were saving their appetites for the REAL food.

Like this crazy festive halibut ceviche.

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I was oohing and ahhing over it for so long, it was almost completely ingested by the diligent members of Eat! before I got started. I had enough to know that it was really pretty delicioussss.

We had a few other items. The duck chicharrones. Which I basically ordered because it’s fun to say.

Cheech- ah-rrrrrr-ohn-ehssss.

Good thing it was fun to say because it was only medium fun to eat.

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Sorry for not v. good pic. Truth be told, I struggled to snap a great shot. It just didn’t look that beautiful on the plate. Chicharrones are kind of like pork rinds, and in fact, originally, pork was often the go to. They should be decadently fatty, but light and delicate. These were okay. Kind of lukewarm literally and figuratively.

Moving on!

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Ricotta tapenade with, yes, the ever elusive…CAPPERS.  Yes, cappers.

Sooooo, did I ever mention I have a major case of misorthographia? (TM) Yes, I just made up a word to describe the extreme reactions I have to misspellings.

Cappers.

The menu also had a few more special challenges with spelling, but the craziest was involving their signature dish – pizza!

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The Holy Roller has two styles of pizza, the thick, Detroit style pizza, which you see in all its oozy glory above, and the New Haven style. We had to ask what the New Haven style pizza is all about. To this day, we still don’t know the answer to that question. Because the other style is actually New HEAVEN, people.

Anyway, New Heaven pizza is thinner, apparently. Or was that the New Haven? Agh!

We did like the Detroit style pizza we had – ricotta and PROSSIUTTO.

But there were 7 hungry members of Eat! there. And I went home with one piece! One piece out of four! What does this mean??? I am very appreciative of pizza leftovers, but also very suspicious. Shouldn’t this pizza have been gobbled down? Did my comrades and I just not get it? I think I shall have to return again to do further pizza pie research.

Cool restaurant style interlude.

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I just have to make a quick comment about the service at The Holy Roller.

It wasn’t great.

Which I had read on a couple of reviews, but UGH – hate when it happens to me. I’ll gloss over the rest of it, but MUST mention the repeated violation of tenet # 7a. in the Ultimate Handbook to Diners’ Rights, edition 4.

#7a. Do NOT, under any circumstances, attempt to remove food or drink, without asking, before diners have fully enjoyed the item. 

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m a fan of girls.

I am most decidedly NOT a fan of girls who try to take away my nectar and manna. Hands off, lady!

Time for another interlude.

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Look at this. Now this is a wonderful, ethereal, yet mean streets girls’ supper club moment. YAS MAMA KD.

Oh my gosh, I just realized that she has the same initials as macaroni and cheese. My love for her has reached new and cheesy levels.

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That mural on the wall behind these two cellular women is based on actual footage of my reaction whenever someone pulls out a phone at a supper club.

Just kidding, C & C! 💖

 

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Here are a couple of babes breaking bread and belting booze. Well, in this particular photo, we are digesting said bread and booze. And looking kitschy and kool doing so! I love the café area out front with all of its old timey lamps, furnishings, and oddities. Must come back for tea another day, sporting appropriately hip horn-rimmed glasses and a beard. (Not hard when you’re almost 45, believe me.)

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I wish I had been waiting for a no good, scruffy, motorbike-riding, professor type of guy in this picture. It just looks like what these chairs are made for.

Um. I just realized. I am married to a scruffy, motorbike-riding, professor type of guy. Although he is all good.

I’m livin’ the dream baby!

I think our first supper club was a hit! I did find it hard to chat up each girl, due to a) long table/loud venue and b) my problems with focusing when there are so many comment-worthy people to view! The Holy Roller is definitely the place to be if you want to immerse yourself in a festive, cool vibe and observe all the stylista ingenues.

Which I do!

We’ve decided that our second supper club will be hosted by one of us in our home.  Can’t wait to get together again, and Eat!

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Romancing the Restaurant

As my dear husband, Robert, says, I have a lot of “restrictions”. In fact, I like to think of these issues as more of a gift than a restriction. The gift of discernment, perception, and aesthetic sensitivity.  Which translated means, stuff bugs me. A lot. But stuff also puts me into raptures. A lot. As Mr. Joel sang…darling, I don’t know why I go to extremes. I just do!

For one thing, I am a definite sufferer of misophonia. The mere sight of this photo makes my spine shiver.fullsizeoutput_709Holy heck, when Robert scrapes his ceramic bowl/cup/plate with his spoon, it’s strictly fight or flight, baby! And our house is only 1300 sq. ft. so……

Another “restriction” I have, is intolerance of bad lighting, which I have now named misoluminia. (TM)

Example of friendly lighting:

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I’ve managed to eliminate any cranky-inducing light at home, but it’s when we go out into the big, unpredictable world, that I face challenges. Particularly in restaurants and particularly particularly when I’m looking for a romantic restaurant experience. One fluorescent light, one undimmed corner lamp, and it’s strictly fight or flight, baby! And restaurants don’t like when you skip out on the tab, so…

ERGO, my new mission is to discover the MOST ROMANTIC RESTAURANTS IN EDMONTON!!! I thought this a delicious kind of exposure therapy PLUS I might be helping out my 4 loyal readers! Win win!

Before delving into romancing the restaurants, I made up a list of…ahem…”restrictions”:

  1. Lighting (duh). Soft, beautiful, warm…camouflages the rosacea I get when drinking red wine.
  2. Music. Better exist, and should be loud enough to blur torrid conversation but not so loud so as to require me to yell, “YOU WANT TO WHAT???”
  3. Food and drink. (ok, should be first, but RESTRICTIONS.) Delicious, sensory, eatable off each other’s plateable.
  4. Servers. The kind that know what they’re doing and certainly NEVER say “HEY GUYS!”
  5. General ambiance. If I keep unwillingly staring at the 7 TVs that you have boldly hung around the room, how can I stare into my partner’s limpid pools?

Armed with my gift of discernment, we headed out to…The Marc!

We love The Marc. Memories of early courting, sigh…….

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Okay, that’s not The Marc. But that IS us 7 years ago – the exact year that we visited The Marc for the first time! Why didn’t I take pictures agh…..

The Marc recently had their 7th year anniversary too, so I kind of feel a kindredness with this place.💝 Can’t let that blur my steadfast romantic restaurant mission!

  1. Lighting.

I have to say. It’s…okayyyyyish. The lighting at The Marc has kind of always stymied me. It’s pretty bright. Like quite bright. Like did I blend my concealer enough bright. Not harsh but sort of corporate lunchish. I don’t feel the need to flee, but it definitely doesn’t make me feel the need to swoon. Ah, well.

2. Music. It exists and it was just right. I actually can’t remember it. Which means it was enough to do its job but not too much.

3. Food and drink. Let’s separate these.

Food.

IMG_5889Oh my gosh the escargot with bone marrow. Can’t breathe. So good. So good. If you appreciate the finer points of the snail and of the inner workings of a bone, this is for you! Well, for me.🙌🏻

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MUSHROOMS ON TOAST, PLEASE MARRY ME NOW.  Those tender mushrooms. That chewy yet crisp toast. That rich and savoury sauce. That oozing, perfect egg. THIS is romance, baby.

Ok, let’s move on to drink.

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The Marc’s wine list is pretty fantastic, we all know that. But what about cocktails? Well, at least for our visit, not so great. (Also note kind of bright lighting!) Pretty standard and did take a loooong time, which threw off my MUST HAVE ROMANCE vibe a bit. Must give a bit of leeway though, since we had just imbibed pre-dinner drinks at Bar Clementine. Say no more.

4. Servers. The Marc has my favourite kind of server. Knowledgable of the menu and its inner workings, solid recommendations, just enough attentiveness but knowing when to hang back, not super young, and never says GUYS. These are the servers of old, the kind that can rock a slightly bitchy face but have a heart of gold and a world of expertise. Check!

5. General ambiance.  Solid. I like the minimalist but not annoyingly modern set up. Just dark wood tables and chairs and lovely white brick walls, plus the bank of windows. Nothing sticks in my craw here. HOWEVER, if it’s intimate times of whispering sweet nothings that you’re looking for…it MIGHT not work here. Not a certainty, but many tables are situated fairly close together and there is nothing in the way of layout or furniture to create any cozy little nooks. I would have been slightly embarrassed to plant a smooch on my life partner. I did anyway, but that’s just me! (Plus, the peeps at the next table took note and an adorable frenzy of furtive looks and whispers ensued.)

Also.

WHAT IS WITH THE LOSERS TAKING SELFIES IN THE MIRROR?

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Geez, you can’t go anywhere these days.

 

SO. For my first restaurant romancing, I give The Marc a 3 out of 5. I’m pretty sure it would be a 3.5 or even a 4 out of 5, if I had been sitting on the lovely leather banquette you see above. Back to the wall, I always say. It also forces your other to stare into the fiery depths of your soul. And prevents extended furtive looks and whispers from non-romantic diners.

What do you think? Was The Marc more romantic for you than we experienced? Is it just us? Did the selfie quash any hope of passionate dining? Do I really want to know the answers to the last three of these questions?

 

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