My Favorite Restaurant

The menu:

Courses and pairings:

In the kitchen with Aaron: Nokomis Kettle Sour Craft Ale and a Wild Tea Kombucha-hard lime with a pre-meal charcuterie of small green things (pistachios, green grapes, Sicilian green olives) surrounding a pile of Edam cheese to relax our palette and prepare our bellies.

Warm evening outside: Tomato Gazpacho, blended smooth heirloom tomatoes from a local garden, piled with ripe avocado bits and drizzled with Tunisian Extra Virgin olive oil (first cold press). This cold, refreshing and delicious soup is perfect for a warm summer night. It was paired with Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc.

No jacket necessary at the cottage: Salty, crunchy, smooth and sweet bruschetta. A variety of rainbow garden tomatoes chopped, and tossed in basil, olive oil, seasoned with salt, served with homemade whipped buttery smooth ricotta cheese on crispy fire grilled breads. And one solitary bread topped with ricotta, honey and black pepper—a sweet chaser. Charles & Charles Rose 2018 balanced nicely.

Christine’s sunset salad: Fresh Greek Salad with mixed greens, baby tomatoes, feta, purple onion and a homemade lemon dressing also paired with Charles & Charles Rose 2018 because why not.

The sun sets and the fire is on: Sous vide roast tossed on the grill, scored and crisped with baby potatoes and buttered green onions served family style with a big fat glass of Famiglia Pasqua Passimento red blend.

Oh my Lord! My eyes! My mouth! My happy stomach! But we weren’t done.

Our post drink digestif was Stumbletown Mate Amaro on ice from the distillery in Saskatoon. Sweet. Smoky.

Confession

I have mislead you. This favorite restaurant of mine is not a restaurant, but my dear friends’ yard at the lake. But if anyone should have a restaurant it is these two.

I don’t know if you have friends like Aaron and Christine but you should. They’re exceptional people—the kind of people who when I was moving out of my ex’s house showed up to help. They’ve been with me through all the relationships and experiences which speaks volumes for them and their ability to stay the course of a friendship.

Mid summer they invited my ‘S.O.’ and I over for supper—because they love to cook, they love their cottage and they love to share. What is the point of having a home at the lake and keeping it to yourself? There is no point. A few days before supper they checked in to see if we had any food preferences. We are not picky eaters. That being said we gave Chef Aaron free reign to do what ever he wanted and as you can read from the menu he didn’t disappoint and he may have border line intimidated. Ah, foodies! Bless them!

We arrived at a their cottage around 5:30. Christine poured Kevin a drink and I stuck to a non-alcohol beverage. I’m a light weight and need to pace myself. And from there we entered the land of gastronomic delight—and I am not understating this—At. All.

We noshed on snacks from our comfy seats while guiltily watching Aaron prep all sorts of things in the kitchen, multi-tasking like a Cirque du Soleil expert, tossing, mixing, chopping, blending and always landing on his feet. Honestly I thought Gordon Ramsay was going to come through the door and yell “Fucking brilliant Aaron! Somebody marry him!” Christine would laugh and say “Pick me!” and then Gordo would taste the Gazpacho, smack his lips and leave out the door he came from in a whirl!

Once everything was organized and timed we sat outside on their deck. It was a beautiful prairie evening. There was no wind and no mosquitos. I think we got lucky. Aaron emphasized that the point of the evening was to take our time during and between the courses. It was an experience. An outing. A summer dinner on the deck. I’ve never had Gazpacho so this was the first course my first time. Because it was a hot summer night a better choice could not have been made.

I’d like to emphasize that—wait for it—Aaron made cheese. Yeah. He made cheese—a whipped ricotta. Who makes cheese? I love cheese. A lot. I make a lot of different foods but I have never made cheese. It was so delicious. I couldn’t get enough of this stage of the meal. So fresh. So summery. So good. On Aaron’s suggestion I cleaned my palette with a little honey and black pepper on the ricotta cheese on a grilled piece of bread. It really wasn’t a palette cleanser but a dessert after this second course. Give me one good reason why I can’t have more than one dessert. That’s right. There is no reason. Thank you.

To balance all the food we used more food: fresh green salad. We paused, drank and took our time. We told stories, reminisced and laughed. When the bottle of Charles & Charles was empty they had us literally toss it over our shoulder onto the grass, blindly. This is a tradition started by Aaron’s uncle. Kevin complied. And when there was a second empty bottle I also tossed it hoping it wouldn’t hit the other and break. It was reckless and fun! I’d do it again!

By the time the main course was on the large family serving plate in front of us the sun had completely set and our hosts had lit the fire table where we were eating. It was indeed a sexy table—comfortable chairs, ambient fire and more food. Because we took our time, spent the entirety of the evening eating and even though this was a lot of food I wasn’t overly full. I was full but not Thanksgiving Day-regretting-my-choices-undo-my-top-button-on-my-pants-full.

Supper was followed by dessert that I provided. Understatedly, I brought fruit in case we didn’t have room for dessert (ha!) and an apricot and cherry galette with apricots and cherries from my recent trip to British Columbia. Aaron poured me a glass of Stumbletown Mate Amaro to end with a sexy pour. We continued to visit and when it was finally time to leave we were all stunned that it was almost 3:00 am! Unbelievable.

Although the highlight of this gathering at first glance is obviously the meal it is also our friends and their generous nature. In the world of love languages they fall sweetly into the category of acts of service, time spent with a side of gift. And now that I’m thinking about it they always greet us with hugs—physical touch and we talk for hours—words. So basically they are just loving people and easy to love.

Christine says often and with a full heart “friends are family you pick” and she’s so right.

I am very blessed to have these two in my life and their love for hosting is a definite cherry (tomato) on top.

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