The Things I Ate

Aidan Morgan reports on his summer menu choices

by Aidan Morgan

Short ribs at 20ten / Photo by Aidan Morgan

Welcome, people who are looking at and possibly even reading these words right now. How was your summer? Mine was fine, thanks. I spent a fair portion of it asleep and probably missed out on some sweet night phenomena (owls, bats, bakery employees). My waking hours were full of heat and rain and angst and the consolations of love. And when I say love, I mean food.

Oh, right, I also bought a comfortable pair of shoes. Don’t miss out on shoes and end up barefoot at your next important business meeting! Okay, on to the food.

BEST NORTH END STRIP MALL SINGLE-PURPOSE RESTAURANT Up in the far northwest end of Regina, where folks are friendly and pandas ride unicorns down Rochdale Boulevard and the Browns Socialhouse is still full of dudebros slamming brews or whatever, the Marokena Crepe Cafe offers a surprising alternative to the fried food huts and franchise eathouses. The alternative is crepes! The menu is split into sweet and savoury options, and I honestly don’t know which I prefer.

BONZZINI’S WINGS “TOSSED ON THE GRILL” If anyone wants to track down Prairie Dog writers for the purposes of assault/general molestation/securing of autographs/defending Browns Socialhouse, I have good news — this is a small city and we are extremely predictable. On Tuesday nights we usually end up at Bonzzini’s Brew Pub, slumped behind a makeshift catacomb wall of pint glasses, chicken bones and bits of checked wax paper.

Editor Steve organizes and executes the food order for the table, and he always, always asks that the wings be “tossed on the grill.” One day I ordered a basket of Gold Fever wings when Steve had his back turned, and what the server brought was beyond recognition: a mass of mustardy goop covering a graveyard of chicken limbs. Where were my favourite wings of all time, that gold standard of mustard fire and chicken meat? Why so much sauce? I wept into my basket and picked a fight with a crowd of seniors outside the Swiss Chalet, such was my grief. The moral is: get your wings “tossed on the grill,” whatever that means.

THE BEST IRISH-STYLE FOOD OF THE SUMMER Sooner or later you’ll exhaust every cuisine in the world and be left staring into the bloodshot eye of Irish cooking. I didn’t think it would happen in Regina, but I ended up at the Knotted Thistle Pub on a Saturday morning with a fellow Knight of Appetite, eating an Irish breakfast with black pudding that actually reminded me of childhood holidays at my grandparents’. It was by no means a cheap breakfast at $14, but the days of cheap diner breakfasts are more or less over. Even Mr. Breakfast is no longer for the faint of wallet.

So have your black pudding and colcannon potatoes and be grateful for it, you unworthy sinner.

THE HAUNTING OF HILL TOWERS The stretch of 12th Avenue between Scarth and Hamilton is haunted by a ghost restaurant. Businesses may close and buildings may get torn down to make way for glass towers, but the ghost remains. Once conditions are right, the ghost possesses a piece of real estate, and lo, another restaurant is born. This time it’s 20ten City Eatery, the latest business lunch spot and upscale bistro in the downtown area. It’s all glass front and teal accents, which suggests to me that the ghost died at some point in the ’80s. I tried the paella and the English short ribs, both of which were fantastic.

THE MOST STARTLING REACTION TO A TIP Actually, this is the second most startling reaction to a tip I’ve witnessed. The first time happened in Australia, when I asked a waitress about the expected tipping rate in the country (antipodes tipping!). I was jet lagged and disoriented, and she could have soaked me for 25 per cent. Instead she waved her hand and said, “No one tips here. We make plenty of money.” It took me several days before I could quell the slight pang of guilt I felt as I kept my extra bills in my wallet.

At Fatburger, tips are, um, encouraged. I threw in 15 per cent, which prompted what I can only describe as a routine. “Tip on the lumberjack poutine!” the woman behind the counter shouted. I have a possibly false memory of her ringing some kind of bell as she shouted. “Thank you!” the entire kitchen responded.

It was weird and sort of ghastly. Fatburger wasn’t just a restaurant; it was a sleeper theme park that could awaken any time and carry out its bewildering program. All that’s needed is the right trigger.

I headed back to my table and slowly filled myself with poutine. As far as I could tell, no one else tipped during my visit. Probably because Fatburger is outrageously expensive.


THE THINGS I DRANK

Here, in no particular order, except for the order in which I present them, which I suppose is a particular order, but one which follows no principle, but what if there’s a principle I can’t detect, oh my god is there an undetectable principle, is my mind working against me somehow, is it revealing things about me that I’m not even aware of, aaaaah, is a list of drinks I’ve enjoyed over the summer. /Aidan Morgan

ROGUE DEAD GUY ALE I’m not sure about Dead Guy Ale. At first it seemed like the perfect bottle alternative to a pint, but after a while it started tasting like alcoholic syrup. Let me know what you think in the comments below! I know this is print. Just scribble your comment in the margins and bury it by moonlight at the nearest crossroads.

MÉNAGE A TROIS WINE It’s not at all embarrassing to look your server in the eye and tell her that you’d like a ménage a trois. No way. It’s a full-bodied juicy blend of Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Why would that result in a ridiculous 10-minute ordeal of indecision and working up your courage to order it out loud?

THE REVERSE AFFOGATO Wait. I did not enjoy this drink, because it’s supposed to be a dessert. The affogato is the simplest and greatest dessert ever conceived: a shot of espresso over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Stick in a wedge of caramelized sugar or a chocolate anything and it’s fancy. So how, Cibo Waterfront Cafe in Winnipeg, did you get the recipe backwards? Did you read the instructions in a mirror? Was it opposite day? When I want an espresso in a cup mixed with ice cream, that’s what I’ll ask for.

2014-08-21