This weekend was all about delicious food and faboo wines – as it should be. What better way to celebrate mothers than with a smorgasbord and a few fine bottles?
Friday was more about finishing my course than giving birth to our daughter. Hubby and I enjoyed a night out together at Stephen Beckta’s Play, a small-plates-and-wine spot in the Byward Market. First impressions: the décor is minimalist and the noise level grating; it’s more upscale night-spot than fine dining establishment. I missed the cozy, ‘welcome-home’ elegance of Stephen’s namesake restaurant over on Nepean Street. (Hubby then pointed out that if I wanted Beckta, we should have gone to Beckta. I shut my mouth and ordered some wine.)
Half the fun was drooling over the menu. So many plates to choose from. We settled on elk kielbasa (with apple butter); crispy shrimp (with shaved asparagus and a pesto-shortbread sauce that required more baguette for dipping); Digby scallops (pan-fried with earthy fiddleheads and chunks of salty bacon) and grilled hangar steak frites with Madras curry rings on the side.
Neither of us has had hangar steak before; I knew that it was a tough cut of meat, but I didn’t know it’s usually cooked rare so you don’t end up chewing on shoe leather. So when it came to the table blue and cool, we sent it back. And then back again. Third time was a charm; a new, medium-cooked serving arrived at our table amid a flurry of apologies from the server, the chef and the manager.
We felt just as apologetic—we’re certainly not the types to return food in a restaurant. Hubby didn’t want to be That Guy, and I didn’t want my scallops to get cold. But should you have to eat something if you don’t like it? The Doodle doesn’t have to. (And she still gets dessert.) As a sign of the outstanding level of customer service for which Stephen and his crew are renowned, the steak was gratis (as were my scallops, simply on the rationale that I had to “eat them all alone”. Too sweet!)
I finished up with honey crème brulée, topped with a scoop of lemon-Earl Grey sorbet. It was light and syrupy, with a silky custard; the cold sorbet was a surprising twist on a dish normally served warm. They may have been small plates, but I still felt like I needed to run a few laps around the block when we left. Sign of a good meal.
But the goodness didn’t end there. On Sunday, I was treated to Hubby’s Super-Fantastic Pancakes (like eating doughnuts for breakfast, I swear) followed by a five-star dinner of lobster alfredo and fresh-from-the-market grilled asparagus. Fettucine alfredo is Hubby’s best dish, hands down. And I get to have it with lobster? Sign me up. Our table was a greasy, shell-speckled mess by the time we were done cracking, picking and slurping. Not that I cared – I didn’t have to clean it up. It was Mother’s Day, after all.
Of course there was wine:
Conde de Caralt non-vintage Cava (Spain) – Crisp, refreshing, with notes of under-ripe pear, firm bubbles and a pleasant, off-dry finish.
Tin Pot Hut 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) – The aroma reminded me of lily of the valley; the follow-up was classic citrus/gooseberry, with a zesty, tangy mouthfeel. Crisp and mouth-watering.
Speigel 2006 Gruner Veltliner (Austria) – I’m really starting to develop a taste for fragrant whites. This one was all floral and sweet lemon, with medium weight and a cinnamon-apple pie finish.
Terra 2008 Viognier (Argentina) – Another delightfully perfumed bouquet; this one I tried at the reception following my service exam. A bit more of a viscous texture, with lots of tropical and citrus fruits to taste. Medium to long finish.
Rivus 2006 Rosso Toscano (IGT Tuscany, Italy) – A “super-Tuscan” blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Coffee on the nose, with a hint of lemon; well-balanced acids and tannins with a medium body and velvety mouthfeel.