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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50 is the new 30 and the annus horribilis

Hi.

I’m back.

Well…I’m trying to be back! This truly has been a most horrible year in many ways. Yes, some serious shit went down. But I have found that, try as it might, when the aforementioned horribleness goes down, it does not have to take you with it. No, it does not.

Adversity and pain, I laugh in your puny, spotty, and weak-chinned faces! And I intend to prove that here, by sharing with my ever-faithful 4 (actually I think I’m down to 3 after my extended break) readers, myriad frivolous photos of…

LORD ANDREW CLINTERTY’S 50TH BIRTHDAY PARTY!

If you have never had the privilege of meeting Lord Andrew, you need to make that a priority – stat. This man is a beast of an enigma, with the craziest stories from his youth and the oddest of current life choices. He has lived in Sri Lanka, Scotland, Wales, Greece, Malta, and Luxembourg. He has owned tea plantations and been chased by a wild elephant. He owns a fire engine red Lotus but doesn’t drive it. He is a Lord but lives with his parents in Edmonton.  He was featured in a 1985 edition of Flare magazine as one of the top ten bachelors in Canada – right beside Mario Lemieux.

Pics or it didn’t happen.

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Clearly, a 50th birthday party of Lord Andrew’s calibre was in order.

However, unfortunately for my noble friend, I have report cards due and I am also addicted to eating too many muffins every Saturday and Sunday at Credo (which seems to take up a good chunk of my weekend – proper attention to the ingestion of baked goods is so important!), so the party ended up being about 3 calibre levels too low, but OH WELL.

I went with a MOD MADNESS theme to commemorate the year of our Lord’s birth – 1967. We are talking Mary Quant and British Invasion and poofy hair and gobs of eyeliner. I didn’t decorate that way, though. Like I said, the lure of the cornmeal muffin was too strong to get into authentically period details. I went straight for the golden 50 sort of decor – way more Lord Andrew.

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Look at my festive balloon ceiling photo display!

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So. Much. Andrew.

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There was mod madness everywhere. Some rando dude with a full head of hair was striking a groovy pose.

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I tried to do a poofy beehivey hairdo but failed when I realized that I do not own hairspray or styling products. Look at that super miniature poof. Ugh.

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Some hippie types showed up at the wrong party. This is mod madness, people! Not tie dye and poncho weaving 101!

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Of COURSE, the guest du jour thought he would be allowed to celebrate in his Tommy Hellfinger and slippers, sans modness.

I soon fixed that.

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I also fixed Lord Andrew a signature cocktail for the night – a riff on his favourite drink. Now I know, I know. You’re thinking, what could such a lord’s favourite drink be? Classic gin and tonic? Expensive Moët & Chandon Dom Perignon White Gold? Perhaps a wee dram of Isabella’s Islay?

Well, no.

Milkshakes. Milkshakes are his favourite drink.

So milkshakes it was!

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Pretty festive! If slightly sickening.

After fortifying ourselves with food, milkshakes and a rousing game of “Who is Lord Andrew Clinterty?” trivia (apparently one can lose one’s virginity over the time and space of a continuum of approximately 21 years), we headed out to karaoke.

If you have never been privy to Andrew’s karaoke skillz, you are remiss. Andrew is famous for his signature two microphone rendition of “Benny and Jets”, among others.

And here is the Karaoke King himself!!!

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Um.

Well.

Those milkshakes though.

Anyway, here’s me!

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Very artistic. (That’s creative code for grainy and blurry). Accompanied by the world’s largest beer to my left.

That’s about it for Lord Andrew’s 50th birthday celebration. A festive evening fêting a very festive man! Happy birthday, Lord Andrew!

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10 things I’m going to do in 2017 – (NOT resolutions! #3 – Bond with friends!

I admit I’m an introvert.

I don’t think most people get what an introvert is . It’s also kinda trendy to say I’M AN INTROVERT right now. But really, an introvert recharges from being alone. You might love any number of social situations, but you eventually are drrrraaaaiiinnneeeddd from hanging out with other humans and need to be alone to re-become sane.

This is dangerous because an introvert might never want to come out of the me-ness to enter the other-ness.

Enter the other-ness, I encourage all introverts! It’s almost inevitably good for you!

Today, with the fog, and the tiredness, and the grayness, I almost cancelled on a night out with friends. But I thought about how these particular friends are so good and so fun and so real and so friendish! And how, no matter how tired I am after an outing with them, in some weird way, I am also recharged.

And so, I, with my intrepid, vested, and polka-dotted husband, forged ahead!

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Met our friends Christina and Darryl at North 53 for an aperitif. I had my favourite BFF the Drunkcle. That’s a Drunken Uncle, more formally. I love bonding with this particular friend. Never EVER judges me.

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Darryl was starving so they ordered the Tuna Tataki. This is right before he demolished the tower of beauteous tuna and wonton with his fork of wanton destruction and mayhem.

We then proceeded on to The Marc where we were to feast upon their Alsatian menu which was to end that night!!! Love me some sauerkraut!!! Actually, I love saying sauerkraut even more than I love eating it. Zowahkrrrrowt. I could say that all day and be full without even eating a bite.

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What? This doesn’t look Alsatian?

That’s right. I got seduced by the fricking snails. If there’s escargot on the menu and it’s not bathed in tomato, I am trying it!

These were so fresh and yummy and un-garlic-bathed. Try stabbing a morsel of bone marrow with an escargot and a little piece of crunchy veg and WOWOWOWOW. I just about passed out. YUM, OK?

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Darryl, the most unimpressed-by-Alsace person in our group of 4, is the only one who ordered the full menu!!! First, he had the Tarte Flambée. The dish was almost as appealing as  his sincere and generous smile. A match made in himmel!

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Once we figured out that we weren’t all going for a revival of Alsace-Lorraine hits, we ordered a very nice wine from Veneto. You don’t know where Veneto is? What is wrong with you heathens!!??? Look it up!!!!

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Robert and Darryl engaged in some male bonding. Funnily enough, it often involved media. Christina and I have no photos of us bonding because we were engaging in one on one human interactions. YAS.

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Theme of the night. Robert looking askance at most everything. Including my verified claim of personal IQ level. Lord Andrew Clinterty, back me up, here!

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I had the Steak Tartare with a side of what will be my last side upon this earth before I die – the pommes frites with a DELICIOUS truffly dipping sauce. Can I just say how I’m pretty sure I can’t eat anything else until Thursday because it would be wrong to infringe upon this almost-religious experience? The spiced-just-enough tartare with the perfect frites and the UNBELIEVABLE sauce is pretty much everything I’ve ever aspired to. Just add bubbles and DONE.

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Friends. Enraptured by my husband’s talk. It gave me a moment to stare at their beauty and appreciate how much I love spending time with like-minded souls who are good and fun and funny and irreverent and festive. Love you!!!!

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PS. No good photos were taken of my outfit tonight! And believe me when I say it was CUTE. Ugh. Oh well, here’s the top of it. The bottom was the best! 😦

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Also, I got a new coat. From Oak and Fort. It is SO cute. And not black. Which caused me untold pallets of anxiety. But I think I made the right choice.

And what does that have to do with hanging out with friends? Well, friends understand who you are. They don’t judge you for what makes you excited and what makes you anxious. Christina loves that I love my new coat. She loves that I spaz out about the oddest of things. (You do, right, Christina?) And I love to listen to her stories and her hilarities and her sadnesses. It’s a two way street. And I love travelling either way on it.

 

What makes a friend a good friend for you?

 

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