Jenny Craig strikes again
Late September, low 20’s, a cloudless sky, and summer was hanging on with the determination of a Stanley Cup finalist. We were in Victoria, attending a winery celebration dinner at a major hotel. A lucky man, I thought, standing there with a reception wine in hand, a spectacular view of Victoria’s Harbour before me, old friends in attendance, and my radiant wife alongside, ready, willing and able to surreptitiously provide the names of people I’d forgotten.
“John,” she said, whispering in my ear. ”He used to work for us, remember?”
An inkling that all might not be well in paradise arrived at our table shortly thereafter. It was billed as a “seared Bay Scallop”, and my first thought was, “that poor scallop has had a hard life, it’s vastly under sized and needs a few friends to fill out the plate.”
It came with “watermelon carpaccio,” kitchen speak for a very small, incredibly thin piece of watermelon. There was also some “apricot dust” sprinkled on the plate, but I don’t know why, I certainly wasn’t going to snort it. The challenge was to stretch this one undersized scallop through the glass of pinot gris attending it. That meant cutting it in half, not having the knife skills or the microscope required to cut it in three.
“Still think having a meager lunch was such a good idea,” my revengeful wife purred in my ear.
The next course was Roasted Sablefish and was served on grilled pineapple with a vanilla chardonnay gastrique, which is not an ailment of the esophagus but a French term for a sauce with sugar, vinegar and usually fruit. Why all this fuss for a one inch cube of fish, I don’t know. Once again, two bites maximum, one under normal conditions. My wife’s arched eyebrow, said it all. Never again will I suggest splitting a sandwich for lunch.
The next course was duck, surely that would bail us out. And it was prepared for the occasion, tarted up with a prune and 5-spice lacquer. Note to young readers: Lacquered is a condition my father would put himself in, usually on a Friday night. It also describes a hard, durable finish, which if you want to store your duck for, say, an extended period of time is a good thing.
Portion size was, you guessed it, two bites, which caused me to look for the chef’s name on the menu, and was it possibly Jenny Craig? Fortunately the duck came with caramelized squash, at least enough to feed a ravenous field mouse. It also came glazed with a Pinot-pine reduction. Unfortunately, it had been reduced a little too much and was bonded to the plate resisting all attempts to scrape it off with a piece of bread. Pine? A clump of pine needles rested on the plate. I slapped my wife’s wrist when she reached for it, a smidge of drool running down her cheek.
The winery, which had been suckered into paying for this, was noted for big reds. I reassured my starving wife that the reason for the tiny first portions was to save room for the big honking strip loin promised on the menu.
When we heard groans of disappointment from the table next to us, who had been served first, we knew trouble was afoot. We were delivered what the menu promised, a rare beef strip loin, truffle poached quail egg, Cabernet paint, Maldon salt.
Which might have worked had the beef not been so small it was completely hidden by the quail’s egg. If you’ve never had a quail’s egg, there’s a reason for it. Two dozen are required to make an omlette. You could hide a marble under one, but not something as large as a walnut. We watched as a man on the next table took one forlorn look at his steak before forking it down in one easy bite.
After the beef was located (Who would have thought to look under the quail egg?), we noticed the cabernet paint. It was aptly described, paint, and was attached to the plate as firmly as anything Cloverdale could provide. Tears of anguish flowed from my wife as she desperately tried to scrape it off with the remaining bread.
Maldon salt is considered to be the BMW of the salt world, and as anyone will tell you, German engineering can’t be beat. . Unfortunately, it was a no show, probably because there was nothing to put it on. Around this time my wife was trying to take bites out of anyone foolish enough to get close to the table.
The bottom line was we’d been there three hours and had eight bites of food, which works out to be 2.7 bites per hour. Later that evening, as we enjoyed our Macdonald cheeseburger, my wife said, “Next time we go to one of these functions, I’ll order lunch.”
(An excellent red to serve with your steak, should you drag it out from under the quail’s egg, is El Petit Bonhomme, from Spain, #169383. $14.99.)
Delbert Horrocks is the co-proprietor at the Mahle House restaurant in Cedar. For more reading try Delbert’s blog, Slightlycorkedandmore.wordpress.com