Sunday, November 30, 2008

Movember Gingerbread Men

Brady does Santa
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
Some of my colleagues have been looking a little hirsute recently. Movember Madness has infected the Calgary office and there have been a lot of furry looking men around. I was even asked if I wanted to "pet" someone's mustache on Friday night.

I declined with thanks.

That said, I was once told that kissing a man without a beard is like eating eggs without salt. And you wouldn't do that...hmmmmn.

Anyway, I wanted to do my bit to support Movember, but wasn't sure that a handlebar mustache would suit me. So I gathered together a group of girls (henceforth known as the Gingerbread Elves) to make some gingerbread men to sell to our colleagues. I figured that we could ice some mustaches onto them.

Sunday afternoon saw us making and baking two batches of gingerbread dough. Monday saw us laying them out in the office and setting up an icing station so that people could decorate and then eat. My creative friends made some cowboys and a transgendered gingerbread person. These were to be sold at a premium.

We raised $85 which goes towards our team goal. If you fancy donating before Movember ends, go here

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nectar, Calgary

Nectar, Calgary
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
Oh dessert. How much I love you.

Of course I’m showing my non-u roots there. Dessert, in the UK, is one of those shibboleths that give away your class origin. You’re supposed to say pudding, unless it contains fruit, when you could, quite correctly, call it dessert. Especially if you’re dining with a pedant.

Either way, I always used to say I didn’t like desert. I was lying. I *heart* dessert, pudding and afters and I don’t care what you call it, as long as it’s delicious.

Dessert was the whole point of last night’s venture out to Inglewood. We picked a “tapas” place to begin, reasoning that we really all just wanted to go to Nectar, but felt that we ought to have something savory first. We should have skipped dinner at Village Cantina because it wasn’t great. But I am feeling nice, so I shall spare you the critique.

Let’s celebrate the good, right?

Nectar’s philosophy is simple:

“Dessert is special. Unlike regular foods, we use it to treat ourselves, celebrate important occasions, to thank, and to reward. Children beg for it, grown-ups sneak it. Nectar Desserts makes sure that each and every piece we make is a special event itself, from first sight, to last bite!”

Housed upstairs from a couple of chi-chi stores, the room is all hard-wood converted loft chic. They have some nice over-stuffed sofas, lots of cute mirrors on the walls, dim lighting and a glass cabinet full of gorgeousness that made me drool. Mental note, perfect date place. Should I have the chocolate and salted caramel tarte? Or the blackberry and passionfruit one? Perhaps a tasting plate of five different flavoured macaroons? A posh s’more? Actually, that one nearly won until an American friend pointed out that it’s illegal for my first ever s’more to be in an up-scale dessert bar and we need a fire pit to induct me into the world of s’mores.

I’ve been learning a lot about s’mores recently. I saw a post on Mike Czyzewski's blog entitled the Omnivore’s Hundred. It’s a list of 100 things you could/should/ought to eat. I’ve had about 85 of them (missing out on things like fugu, durian, fondue (!) the Big Mac, a root beer float, a Hostess Fruit Pie and the aforementioned s’mores). A lot of the ones I’ve missed out on are North American and I even had to go and look up s’mores. Hadn’t even heard of them, but then I realized that this is because I am allergic to camping and grew up in the UK. Turns out there’s an Alberta connection to the s’more though. Add some peanut butter and you have the Banff Blast. God, isn’t Wikipedia amazing?

Back to Nectar. I ended up choosing the salted caramel tarte. It’s the benchmark patisserie item for me, a modern day classic, and I already knew that Nectar was going to have to suck really, really, really hard for me not to be back. So I’d start with the basics. And a macaroon chaser. And a glass of Bonny Doon “framboise” which was the perfect partner. Sometimes I think I might be quite good at this food lark.

The tarte was good. Not perfect, amazing or likely to give Pierre Herme any sleepless nights, but they’d used Valrhona Guanaja, one of my favourites, a 70% bitter chocolate from South America and did a good job with the chocolate pastry crust. The macaroon was less amazing, but I am not sure that Calgary, a place I swear is drier than the Lut Desert, is the best place to be making and selling macaroons. That’s not going to stop me trying them again though.

Other lovely touches included some exceptional canelles and a wide range of take-home sorbets and ice-creams that don’t have any nasty preservatives or fillers. My ingredients list for the cherry sorbet says “sweet cherries, sugar”. Good to see and makes me miss my ice-cream maker less.

Any bum notes? A couple. They don’t take reservations and don’t accommodate tables of more than six. So they weren’t very pleased when nine of us turned up. We split into two tables, but were told “it’s quiet tonight so you can stay.”

Can you imagine walking into a clothes store and being told “we hate the way you look but sales are down this month, so come on in, fatty?” I still don’t understand why restaurants (or in this case, a dessert bar) can get the basics of customer service wrong. Luckily most of the rest of the service was sweet, kind, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and we did break their rules, so I shall forgive them. And go back next week.

Nectar Dessert Bar
is upstairs at 1216 9th Ave SE

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Chef's Table, Calgary

Executive Chef Theo Yeaman has cooked in some interesting-sounding places I have never eaten at in Canada and has done a stage at the Fat Duck in Bray, where I have. His restaurant, Chef’s Table at the Kensington Riverside Inn, was just named the fourth best new restaurant in Canada by AirCanada’s enRoute magazine. It would appear I get all my best tips from airline magazines these days.

Let’s get the quibbles out of the way first. The table was booked for 8.15pm, but I wasn’t seated until 9pm. There are two dining rooms, one with a fabulous open kitchen, the other with a fabulous…open fireplace. I was sat in the latter. Now, I recognize that being dateless in Calgary on a Saturday night is probably reason enough to throw yourself in the Bow River, but the restaurant staff didn’t help matters by seating me, back to the rest of the room, next to the fire. Talk about being a social pariah. Luckily I was moved, without having to ask, when I took out my camera.

The service was a bit wonky all night. I like informal; I don’t like being asked how my food is tasting when I have a mouthful of it or trying to give some feedback on a dish and being asked if I have eaten monkfish before. But I know I can be a right old grumpy-pants at times, and these are minor compared to some delicious, bold pairings and flavours that made up most of my meal and service that is friendly and warm.

First up, an amuse bouche of a teeny two-bite Forme D’Ambert tart, just warm from the oven and formed from deliciously short pastry. Next, an earthy turnip and apple soup, with perky texture and sweetness from some candied walnuts. Yes, they called it a veloutè and yes, it’s not 1998 anymore, but who cares about menu anachronisms when the food’s this good?

A Queen Charlotte scallop with blood orange foam, edamame, salmon roe and orange segments really shouldn’t have worked, but did. The Heidi Schrock Weissburgunder which paired it showed the skills of the sommelier and a wine service and kitchen that are working well together. Yeaman’s food uses striking flavours and it’s good to see that the wine service is up to the task.

The fish course was the only bum note of the evening. The preparation was interesting; roasted Atlantic monkfish with beef jus and a take on cassoulet with some cannellini beans and pancetta, but the fish was mealy and poorly cooked. It’s a shame that the quality of the fish and the execution let the dish down, because I’m often bored to death by the fish course on a tasting menu and this was genuinely interesting.

Then, deep breath, an “intermezzo” of blood peach sorbet with a dash of prosecco. I was ready to be all scathing (seriously, when was the last time you were served a sorbet in the middle of the meal? Were you wearing legwarmers at the time?) but the sorbet had bags of flavour and I liked the deconstructed Bellini thing that was going on. So I stopped complaining and embraced my inner Irene Cara.

Next up, Ewenique farm lamb saddle with panella, roasted eggplant and a thyme jus. Served with a 2005 Poggio di Sotto Rosso di Montalcino, this was Italy on a plate. I’d never heard of panella before (and my interweb research suggests that it’s traditionally a Sicilian chickpea fritter, rather than the chickpea and polenta purée I was served) but how lovely when you learn something new from a menu. Especially when it tastes this delicious. The lamb was just fab, although any pun as good as Ewenique is going to get me on-side from the get-go.

Finally, some doughnuts with a compote and an exceptional custard. I would have lingered over the lingonberries, but the table of dentists next to me were getting kind of graphic, so I brushed off offers of a cappuccino (a cappuccino? At 11pm? Do I look like a hairdresser?) and made off into the night.

Best meal I’ve had in Calgary? By a long shot. Good enough for me to go back soon. The tasting menu changes fortnightly. This could be the beginning of a beautiful thing.

Chef’s Table is at the Kensington Riverside Inn, 1126 Memorial Drive N.W, Calgary. Call 403.228.4442 for reservations.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ali Baba Kabob House, Calgary

Ali Baba Kabob House
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
The restaurant that’s getting the most coverage in the Calgary blogosphere at the moment is Ali Baba Kabob House. Yes, there is a Calgary blogosphere. I was quite surprised too, but it’s well worth checking out the lovely Andree at ugonnaeatthat? and John Manzo at Creative Juices and Solids . I followed their lead and suggested that our CalgaryFoodie group trot along.

It’s often a bit stressful taking a large group of people to a place you’ve never visited before. Still, I had done my research and was prepared with a list of the dishes we should order. Of course I was late getting there and everyone else had already ordered. So they missed out on my research and looked a bit crestfallen.

Ali Baba is an Afgan restaurant, Calgary’s second, which has been open for a month or so now. Its very casual, more of a fast food place really, but some of the food is really good. My guide for dining here is as follows;

Have the qabali rice. It’s only a dollar extra and it’s fluffy, buttery, carroty and sultana-y all at the same time. I don’t have much time for sweet and savoury, but this is delicious.
Try the sultani dinner, mixed sticks of barg and korma kebab. I really hope that sultani means fit for a Sultana. This was.
Do not miss the boulanee. Street food is really popular in Afghanistan and the tabang walas (street vendors) often have these “turnovers” filled with leeks or mashed potato.
If you go before I get back there, try the choppan (lamb chops). I love a lamb chop, but thought it was a bit greedy to order these as well. Tell me what they are like.

Not everything is perfect here. The salad of iceberg lettuce and tomato is pointless and not livened up at all by the accompanying pot of yogurt and mint dressing. The salad with feta that someone else ordered looked very work-a-day. Most of the blogs that have written about this place haven’t praised the bread, so I didn’t bother.

But it’s cheap, tasty and cheerful, just as long as you stick to the guidelines above.

Ali Baba’s Kabob House 1602 14th St. S.W. Call 403-874-9791

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Divino Wine and Cheese Bistro, Calgary

Close Up Divino Door
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
Oh Calgary, if you keep this up, I might have to change my culinary opinions of you.

Fresh from my new love, FARM (we're still in the early stages, I get all tummy-tingly when I think about this place and fragments of love poems keep popping into my mind) comes Divino. It's a sexy little wine and cheese bar on Stephen Avenue (of all places). I think I might have to have an illicit affair with it.

My first trip wasn't really about going to Divino. It was a place to meet before seeing a show. We were just going to have a glass of wine. But then we saw the cheese list and thought we ought to have a piece of two. You know, to be social.

This is how these thing start. You have the best intentions, no plans to let another into your heart, but they wiggle their way in, in this instance with some exceptional taleggio and superlative bread. Also great was the tête de moines, all coquettishly rosetted and fresh from the girolle. Finally, a British cheese, the king of cheeses, a Leicestershire Stilton, which had been beautifully kept and was in the peak of creamy condition.

Two glasses of Kung Fu Girl Riesling (Best. Name. Evah.) from Washington State, tipped the whole hour-long trip over into a sensational sixty minutes.

Can't wait to go back and try the food proper.

is at 113 - 8th Avenue SW. Call 403-410-5555 for reservations.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

FARM restaurant, Calgary

Everybody has a type, right?

If you’ve got a shaved head, glasses, a couple of conspicuous tattoos and can use the work chagrin in a sentence, I will give you my number. And that’s just the ladies.

In the same way that we humans often have an ideal partner-type, we food lovers often have a restaurant type. For some, it’s the linen-lapped formality of a Michelin three star place. Others love a gastro-pub, all stripped wood floors and a terrine. Many like a TGI Fridays, although there’s nothing for them to see on this blog.

Et moi? Well, I’m a sucker for those casual places that source great ingredients and just let them speak for themselves. I love cutsey, often mis-matched plates. Really, really fine wine glasses. Menus written on chalk-boards. A bar where you can dine alone. Small-plate menus that are made for sharing. Wait staff with piercings.

I was getting slightly depressed by the lack of these kinds of places in Calgary. But one just opened. And I *heart* it.

Janice Beaton has been a bit of culinary lighthouse for me over the past couple of months. Her cheese stores (Janice Beaton’s Fine Cheese) on 17th Ave and in Kensington prove that the restorative powers of a brie de meaux cannot go underestimated.

So the opening of her first restaurant is a big deal. Some say it’s based on Salt in Vancouver, but as I chatted to Janice, it’s clear that this place is all about her passion. Her passion for cheese and for bringing people together over food.

The format is simple. One list of 28g serves of cheese and meats, served on boards with a compliment. So your 3 year old Canadian cheddar is paired with a beautiful tomato relish. A chalkboard of daily muses, offers up the “specials” which generally include a soup, a salad and a couple of other dishes. The roasted tomato soup was sensational; creamy (although it contained no cream) with a hint of spice and a sludge of onions. The trout salad, served with a lemon-chevre mousse, caperberries and baguette croutons, was a very grown-up, deconstructed take on a smoked salmon bagel. These might not be here when you go, but there will surely be something equally delicious to tempt you.

What I can be sure of is that even without the specials, the short little menu has enough to capture your interest. Order the mac and cheese. Get the large one and fantasise about bathing in the mustardy, cheesy sauce and exfoliating with the crumb topping. The JBFC goat cheese fritter is also worthy of investigation, but you don’t need me to wax lyrical about the virtues of fried cheese. The confit duck salad, with arugala and spinach, is lifted to the sublime by some toasty hazelnuts and dried apple chips. The kitchen really knows how to get the most of their, often local, ingredients by adding in texture. This is simple food, with no superfluous flavours.

The drinks list including sherry, port, stickies, international and local beers, ciders and bubbles. The wine list has a really good selection by the glass and some which even come in even tinier tasting pours. I can’t move on from the pouilly fumè at the moment, but they have a couple of vinho verde which I need to try.

As we sat, munching, on Friday night, I turned to my expat friend and said “Tonto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” This restaurant is what Calgary needs and it really raises the bar here. It would flourish in any major city. There would be a line round the block if this opened in London. It’s modern, sexy, cosy, delicious and I want to live here. The only problem is that they don’t take reservations, and if they keep up the good work, it’s going to be impossible to get a table very soon.

FARM is at 1006 17th Avenue SW Calgary. Call 403.245.2276 if there are more than eight of you. That’s the only way to get a reservation.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Incanto, San Francisco

I’d been meaning to write about this place for a while, but the food didn’t blow me away and so I never got round to it. However, the other evening’s “At the Table With...” on the Food Network Canada, reminded me of the place.

I’m a massive fan of “nose to tail” eating and I’d had my eye on Chris Cosentino at Incanto for some time. I think the moral of my visit here is never take a group that’s 50% vegetarians to a restaurant that’s all about the offal, because they’re not going to have very much to choose from.

That said, as a firm fan of offal, there wasn’t much for me to choose on this Sunday night. I did my best though.

My starter augered well. Entitled “Chef’s Last Supper” it was perfect comfort food; for the viscerally inclined. Soft, wobbly oysters, a poached hen’s egg and some crumbly morcilla, napped with pangrattato for contrast. Best starter went to the sardines with pickled fennel and radish salad. The sardines were spankingly fresh and Chris looked all smug about his choice. I broke my personal rule of not ordering risotto (too many carbs, I make a mean risotto myself and I tend to get bored after about seven mouthfuls) because it was a chicken giblet risotto. It was delicious- well cooked and the muskiness of the giblets made it more interesting, but ultimately it was just risotto, and I can make that at home.

Having watched this show tonight, I am 100% sure that we didn’t see 50% of what the kitchen can do. Chris Cosentino is the most passionate chef I have watched for a long time. I love his commitment to sustainability. His passion for the animals that he prepares. His willingness to face up to the fact that animals have to die to provide us with meat and that he cried when talking about slaughtering his first goat. This is someone that really respects animals (and I love that he jokes his son will probably become a vegan aged 16 in an act of rebellion).

There are too many places that I want to eat in in San Francisco, but I think I am going to have to go back to Incanto.

Incanto is at 1550 Church Street, San Francisco. Call 415-641-4500 for reservations.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Spice Hut, Calgary

Sometimes the story of how you find a restaurant is better than the restaurant itself.

Steve instigated Thursday night curry a while ago. He and a couple of friends would get drunk and then go eat a curry. Simple enough. Only Steve is one of those people whose surreal knob is generally turned up to 11 (ask him about his first attempt at web development sometime) and one night their cab driver basically kidnapped them, promising them the best curry they would have in Calgary.

Lo, Spice Hut, Pakistani restaurant extraordinaire, entered the restaurant consciousness of my friends.

I loved the story so much that I insisted we go there. So a few weeks ago, a group of us set off. During Ramadan. At 6pm. Hmmmn.

The guys in Spice Hut were very accommodating and soon brought us the piles of food we’d ordered. I insisted on some sheehk kebabs and breads, as these are the benchmark items to assess the calibre of any of any Pakistani restaurant. Given it was Ramadan we had to have some haleem. And almost everything else on the menu. Apart from the fish and chips. Turns out that Spice Hut used to be a fish and chip shop, and after they took over the place, so many people came in asking for them that they just added them to the menu.

You’ll notice I say kebabs. I don’t wish to be dramatic, but please shoot me in the face if you ever see my write “kabob” on this blog. And while I’m at it, send me home if you hear me order a “donair”. It sounds like a cut-price Turkish airline and I am wedded to the use of donner.

Come to think of it, if you ever hear me order a donner kebab, section me, because I’ve clearly lost my mind. We all know they’re made out of owl snouts and reconstituted rat penis.

I’m pleased to report that the kebabs at Spice Hut are very, very good. Well spiced, with good char and plentiful. The tikka was pretty good too but who goes to a Pakistani restaurant for the chicken tikka? Breads were a bit of a let down. No green chili paratha and the naans were very dry. No lamb chops either. ‘Sigh.

In their defence, we ordered too many different dishes and we were starving, so things got a bit of our hand and my critical capacities were just blown away by the variety of dishes. That said, the haleem was exceptional, much better than at Lahore Karahi, my favourite Pakistani restaurant in the world.

I’ll go back, mainly for the kebabs. Although the word on the street is that there’s a new great kebab place in town…

Spice Hut is at 6554, 4th Street NE, Calgary, 403 274 7687

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Maria Island Walk, Tasmania

Tim's Feet and Shadow
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
“Four days that will last a lifetime”

I remember when I first read about the Maria Island Walk. I was sleep-deprived, having got a 6am cab for my flight to Melbourne. Luckily there was a new Qantas in-flight magazine and I was so taken with the mention of a marsupial lawn and delicious Tasmanian produce that I ripped out the article. As the plane was buffeted by force 21 gales as we squealed into Melbourne, I promised myself that, if I lived, I would do the Maria Island Walk.

Maria Island is a national park just off the coast of Tasmania. It’s split into two distinct areas connected by an isthmus with an amazing diversity of wildlife and scenery. Best of all, it’s home to many endangered species. The walk takes you across at least five beaches, past some of the most extensive fossil deposits in the world and across the colourful sandstone Painted Cliffs. Maria is home to the more unusual blonde wombat, along with Forrester’s kangaroos, echidnas, leopard seals, fairy penguins, pademelons and some snakes. Which I was really hoping would keep themselves to themselves while I was there.

The Maria Island walk has won all sorts of awards, including Gourmet Traveller’s best eco-tourism initiative for 2008. I sold it to my travelling companion, Inês, as an Australian walking safari, with amazing food. She had second thoughts when I mentioned that a night in the Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart might be a nice idea before we had a couple of nights in tents.

You see, Inês is like me. God wouldn’t have invented the boutique spa hotel if he had meant us to sleep under canvas. My ideal accommodation involves carpets, a take-home shower cap and, ideally, a Martini bar within staggering distance to the steam room.

So why was I was about to go on a four day wilderness hike?

Well, you see, I was seduced by the promise of gourmet food and the wombats. I didn’t realise we’d be carrying our own packs, and that a wilderness camp would involve the clivus multrum drop toilet and no hot running water. In fact, forget the hot. No running water.

But I just had the best holiday of my life.

It started as we sailed from Triabunna marina. We watched a seal wrassling a fish for its lunch as the gulls outpaced our boat. My glasses were misted with sea spray as a pristine white beach came into view. I was leaving life behind, on my first holiday for years without a laptop or mobile phone.

The walk is a total sensory experience. From the smell of musty rotting wood, to the feel of the pack on my back as I listened to the crashing waves in chorus with the black cockatoos. Watching the beaches curve away in front of us and tasting the convicts desire to swim across to Lachlan island and escape their penal solitude. I wasn’t a great travelling companion. I walked 14km on the second day and said no more than 50 words to anyone else.

This is billed as luxury camping. Now, I’d been stung with this before at the working ranch at the Grand Canyon. A tipi is a tipi, no matter how nice the painting of a elk on it. There’s a wacking great hole in the top and no built-in wardrobe. But each night on Maria, our guides conjured food and served wine that many restaurants would struggle to produce. Scallops from Shoal Bay with risotto. Marinated quail. Duck and kangaroo sausages. But at the end of the day (which comes earlier than you’d imagine when there’s no electricity) you are in the bush, in a tent, falling asleep to the sounds of the ocean. And feeling a bit scrutty because the only wash you’ve had was a thirty second dip in the Mercury Straits.

The reason that this is four days that will last me a lifetime is because I learnt that luxury isn’t 24 hour room service or someone to carry your bags to your room. I can be a bit of a princess at times, but I swear that I have had few happier moments than when Tim cracked open the Cadbury’s roasted almond chocolate as we gazed over the ocean. Or when I went off to walk by myself and watched an endangered Cape Baron goose and its three chicks pecking for grubs. Or when I petted a wombat. Or when I was surrounded by 300 million year old fossils.

There are too many moments that I could tell you about. Really though, if you have legs and want to really experience the power and beauty of our planet, you could do no better than take four days to do the Maria Island walk.

Maria Island walk website:

Henry Jones Art Hotel, Hobart is amazing old jam factory, converted into a boutique hotel. The restaurant, Henry’s, really wasn’t very good, but this is one of my all-time favorite hotels

I also had a great lunch at Fish Frenzy before setting off. Half a dozen local oysters and fish and chips. Fish and chips taste a thousand times better when you’re sat in the sun, near the ocean with the taste of ozone on your lips.

Those tipis I mentioned are at the Grand Canyon Ranch.

There’s a set of my favourite photos from the trip on Flickr.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Operation Crab, Sydney

The Crab Whisperer
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
One of the best things about being into food, is all of the other people who are into food. We hide in the strangest of places, always ready to make a restaurant recommendation or share the best recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies.

I was blessed to meet a fellow friend in food during my time in Sydney. Jake Greenberg is a true budding greedy weasel, and one of my regrets about moving to Calgary is that I won’t get to spend more time with him.

My first sense of his gastronomic powers was when we went to a simple noodle bar. The whole family was there; grandparents, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, cousins and brothers. And me, the interloper, being welcomed for the first time, into the glories of a very large extended family. Most of the children were drumming with chopsticks and attempting to hide spring rolls up one another’s noses. As the other diners left, I was beginning to regret my decision to choose a restaurant with no tablecloths and the worst acoustics in the whole of Balmain. But over the noise, I hear Jake say that he was going to have the squid.

An eight year old choosing the squid? This is relevant to my interest. Said squid was duly delivered, and I was keen to get Jake’s view.

“It’s a little bland.”

I had found a new friend.

So I suggested to Jake that we cook together one day. Pick anything you like…we’ll make it, I promised. He chose crab. To go to the fish market and pick a live crab. And then take it home and kill it and prepare it and eat it. Of course an eight your old gourmet would want to do this.

I duly create a menu and work out the most humane way to kill a crab. My plan was that this would be a lesson about our moral obligation, as those at the top of the food chain, to treat our food well. To teach Jake how to choose good produce and prepare it simply and beautifully. We were going to have crab linguine, with some buffalo mozzarella bruschetta, and chocolate cupcakes.

Once back from the market, (where Jake eyeballed the pecorino with truffles as something he wanted to try, based solely on the $120 per kilo price as he scarfed down a half dozen rock oysters) I set to putting our two Queensland Mud Crabs into a coma. I was determined that they wouldn’t be thrown, alive, into a pan of boiling water and while my research suggested that a spike to the “brain” was probably a very good way of dispatching them efficiently, I’m no crab brain surgeon.

Jake suggested throwing them, alive, into a pan of boiling water. I was pleased and began my homily about moral obligation. Jake listened, nodding. “How about we put one into a coma and throw the other one, alive, into a pan of boiling water?”

With hindsight, we should have. It would have been interesting to see if there was any noticeable difference in the texture of the crabs with two different cooking methods, and Jake would have got his wish. However, I stood firm, and both crabs were anesthetized before death. The other thing I stood firm on was not untying one of the crab claws. This was just an instinct from me, in spite of repeated begging from Jake. It was only afterward that I discovered Mud Crab claws are so strong, they can pince off the finger of a grown man. Maybe I do have some maternal instincts…

The meal turned out well. Jake enjoyed his first taste of softly sweet imported buffalo mozzarella, and the linguine, with the crab, parsley, ripe tomato chunks and garlic, was enjoyed by all. Less successful were my cupcakes. Turns out that even a budding gourmet isn’t ready for 66 % Valrhona chocolate. He did enjoy licking the bowl though.

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