They’ve Got (Cheesecake) Balls!

19 09 2010

On a somewhat recent excursion to a local restaurant that almost everyone in town believes is the place to go, five of us arrived at Wildcraft on a Friday night in hopes of glimpsing some date-ables while eating a delicious meal.  Considering this was a Friday night at the “hot spot” in town, there were actually very few date-ables.  In a cruel twist of fate, most of the restaurant patrons were women in their mid to late thirties hoping to see those exact same, albeit elusive, date-ables.  But I digress.  Considering, also, that Wildcraft is a well-known spot in the area (marketed as semi-formal dining), the elusive perfect meal was also absent, but in the end there were some highlights…ok, there was one…the balls.

The establishment is a nice one, I won’t lie.  It’s in a new building with a nice, modern patio; it has a beautiful (and enormous) two-storey wine cellar with glass sides that greets you at the front door, and the staff appear polished and professional.  The dining area has cushioned leather seating and good lighting (dark, but not so dark that one can’t read their menu).  Not only is it comfortable, but it’s also a little fancy.  The name of the restaurant itself is quizzical, however.  What is a “wildcraft” anyway?  It makes me think of wild boars or witches or maybe even uncontrollable boats – but not food.  It is owned by the same big wigs as a few other well-known restaurants in KW: Martini’s, Charcoal Steakhouse and Del Dente.  I have been to all three and they are the reason I started this blog, but that’s a story I will save for another day.

On this particular night at Wildcraft, our waitress arrived shortly after we were seated and asked us how we were doing.  She filled our glasses with icy water and began handing out menus.  In doing so, she accidentally spilled one of the glasses of water.  “No big deal” we all thought, until it happened again, and again.  Throughout the course of our meal, a glass of water was tipped, knocked, bumped, what-have-you by our waitress not once, not twice, but thrice.  It was an interesting experience to see something like that happen over and over.  We could practically predict it.  After choosing our food items, we spent some time discussing this phenomenon and couldn’t figure out why it kept happening:  Were we scary? Intimidating?  Too hot to handle?  We mutually agreed on the third and patiently waited for our orders.

The menu at Wildcraft is based on standard dining items with an upscale twist to them.  We had a few starters but the standout was the Warmed Goat Cheese.  Having been to Wildcraft a number of times before to take part in some appetizers and alcohols, we were familiar with this wonderful rendition of chevre.  The little log of creamy goodness arrives coated in a Balsamic glaze and is served with a fresh tomato salsa, a mushroom medley, and toasted slices of baguette (of which there are never enough).  The warm and tangy taste of the softened goat cheese, spread on crunchy baguette and then topped with either the deep, earthy flavours of the mushrooms or brightened in the most delicious way with the tomato salsa is mouthwatering.  One member of our group loves this app so much she orders it EVERY SINGLE TIME and then trembles with anticipation for its arrival.  It’s love on a plate for her 🙂

For the mains, we ordered a variety of items.  There was a pasta dish, a couple of meat plates, fish for myself and a vegetarian eggplant meal for another group member.  If we had been at a casino doing some gambling or perhaps had some money in a pool betting on a sports team, three out of five aren’t the worst odds, however, I’d say they they’re pretty bad when it comes to restaurant food and meal satisfaction.  The pasta and meat meals got rave reviews from our group of diners but my fish was bland and boring.  The restaurant had a feature seafood menu at that time and I had chosen off of it.  You’d think that advertising such a feature would indicate the most stellar seasonal options would be served but I was disappointed.  However, my fishy feast was actually alright compared to the long strand of human hair that accompanied the vegetarian eggplant dish.  The eggplant was delicious and we dug right in, tasting and testing it out, all the while admiring what a good tomato sauce can do for the vegetable with the strangest moniker, but we all stopped dead in our tracks when we found the hair embedded beneath the cheesy topping.

We notified our server as she was mopping up the table after the third and final water spill.  She apologized profusely (although not sincerely) about the hair and even had the manager come out to say sorry.  A new eggplant dish arrived promptly; we were also told that dessert would be on the house.  Now, in the world of dining, prompt service is important but one also has to take the food into consideration.  Eggplant is one of those tricky vegetables that cannot be prepared quickly.  It is naturally bitter and when one slices up eggplant for consumption in any form whether it be fried (for Ratatouille), baked (for Eggplant Parmesan) or grilled (for a grilled veg sandwich), it requires about half an hour of salting and sitting, followed by a good washing under running water, before it can be utilized.  The salt works to draw out the moisture in the eggplant which is where the bitterness occurs.  In their rush to accommodate their mistake, the kitchen quickly threw out a new serving of eggplant.  It was hot, it was fresh and it was bitter as can be; in other words: inedible.  Believe me, we all tried.  So as we polished off our plates, one member in our group picked at whatever was surrounding that eggplant and sighed repeatedly in frustration.

Sighs of frustration turned to sighs of wonder when dessert was served.  True to his word, the manager brought out some cheesecake balls.  There were ten of these miniature wonders served in two rows of five on a long wooden platter.  The various flavours were rolled into little spheres (about the size of Timbits), perched on sticks and made to look like lollipops.  We chose two flavours each and dug in.  The cheesecake was gone in a matter of minutes but we were much happier diners after we had had our fill of those delectable desserts.  My personal favourite was pink coconut but there was also a chocolate hazelnut flavour that was absolutely delightful.

The balls looked like this...so very delicious!

Overall, our experience at Wildcraft was a disappointment, however, I was glad to see that when a mistake occurred, they were willing and able to fix it as well as to make you forget about it by providing free sugar.  Yay to those (cheesecake) balls!

Image courtesy of the internet.

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QV and Me

9 09 2010

I’ve recently ventured into the world of quasi-vegetarianism (QV).  I say quasi because I am not a strict vegetarian by any means; I’ve simply come to the conclusion that meat is over-rated.  I know many, many people would disagree with this statement but I think the main reason why most are so vehemently opposed to going “veg” is because they haven’t had the pleasure of partaking in a really excellent, meat-free meal.

Bugs Bunny - VEGETARIAN

Not too long ago, vegetarian meant bland, boring, and over-cooked; a mushy and typically unpleasant selection of plants with no flavour and, obviously, no fun.  But with the recent craze related to organic, locally grown produce, people are slowly discovering the benefits of eating less meat.  This is a new-ish concept for North American culture but is an old world custom on other parts of our planet.  In fact, some of the healthiest, most long-lived cultures in the world are vegetarian.  In a nutshell (pun intended since nuts are a good source of protein) there seems to be a proven benefit to eating only plants.  Ok, you may go ahead and roll your eyes now.

Anne Hathaway - VEGETARIAN

When I decided to become a QV, the goal was not necessarily longevity or even better health, but rather the fact that not eating meat was more affordable.  I was living alone at the time and cooking for one.  I was also working a mediocre job while paying for rent as well as all the fantastic expenses that come with living in ones’ own apartment.  I noticed that I would only eat cold cuts once in a while for lunch and occasionally have some ground turkey in my lasagna but I never really “craved” meat.  I was also becoming more and more adept in the kitchen so one way of challenging myself was to undertake a new style of cooking.  Enter the” Veganomicon”: a gift from a fellow foodie who was also experimenting with reduced meat intake.  A vegan cookbook was something I had never seen before.  As I rifled through the pages of recipes, I couldn’t understand how one could bake a cake without milk or eggs, or make a nutritionally balanced meal with no butter, no fish, no cheese – basically, no anything related to animals!  But I decided to accept the challenge, even though I was pretty sure that going all the way (ie: vegan) was not something I wanted to do.  I picked something easy at first – Carrot and Curry Dip (delish!) and then made something semi-complex (Mushroom Pate; could’ve fooled me!).  Finally, I tried Non-crab Crab Cakes.  These were more challenging since I couldn’t get them to hold together in the frying pan but they were absolutely scrumptious.

Linda and Paul McCartney - VEGAN

Pleasantly surprised with the results, I threw a dinner party and served vegetarian/vegan food.  No one seemed to mind; the food disappeared along with the wine.  I had friends over for dinner another night and no one complained; plates were licked clean and my guests begged for second helpings.  So, when I moved back home to start saving for my own place instead of spending on rent, I decided to test my new cooking skills on my Eastern European, pork-loving family.  At first, there was resistance, but only because of the concept.  No one found anything wrong with the actual taste of the food.  In fact, I got rave reviews.  All of sudden, cooking three vegetarian meals a week was no big deal.  It started with Black Bean Burritos which evolved into Lentil Soup, which transpired into Tofu Stir Fry, which became Vegan Banana Bread, which eventually led to my piece de resistance: Non-Chicken Pot Pie (with a home-made crust).  No one even noticed the meat was missing and it was ridiculously amazing (thank you, Martha!).

Common - VEGETARIAN

One year later, this process is still going strong.  I’ve even gotten to the point where I actually make up my own vegetarian recipes.  I’ve also devised ways by which to include meat with meals but in a way that I can avoid eating it myself (this usually means throwing in a can of beans amongst the meat, cutting up animal protein in ridiculously large pieces, and cooking meals where veg are the stars of the show and meat takes a backseat.  For example: creamy mashed potatoes with roasted cauliflower, caramelized brussel sprouts, a fresh, multi-vegetational salad and…oh yeah, roast.  I love this way of eating and it makes my body feel lighter, happier and healthier.  Now if only I could devise a similar plan for pastries and chocolate!

Random Hot Man 😛 - VEGETARIAN

So there’s my plug for vegetarianism/quasi-vegetarianism.  Discuss  🙂

Pictures courtesy of all kinds of internet websites.