Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's all about the food

     Friday was Cameron's 39 again and again and again birthday and it was Lauren's 8-month birthday. While driving home from work, trying to distance myself from the chaos cyclone that had swept through my work-week, I phoned out for pizza and wings. The plan was to pick up Auz and Lauren from daycare, then drive up the block and pick up our dinner to take home. Of course, the best-laid plans always go awry, especially when Murphy and his laws seem to follow me like a fat kid on a Smartie.
     Arrived at the daycare to find Lauren showing signs of pinkeye, which she had picked up from a colleague who looked suspiciously pink in the eye the day before. So, while Auz, Lo, and I went to the local walk-in medical clinic, poor Cam had to drive out to the pizza joint, pick up, and pay for dinner. Happy birthday, honey! Lauren, by the way, did indeed have pinkeye, but was seen and diagnosed very quickly and we were able to pick up her script from the pharmacy and be home in a reasonable time frame, thank goodness.  And, 2 days later, she is already looking and feeling much better.
     Last night we had a birthday dinner party at our house, with our good friends Russ and Allison. Feeling guilty about the previous evening's debacle, I decided I was going to have to up the ante in terms of the glamour-factor of the meal. It was time for a little Champagne Taste on a beer budget magic.
     Austin and I headed for McEwan at the Shops at Don Mills . The Shops at Don Mills is the latest version of a long-standing shopping centre location at Don Mills Road and Lawrence Avenue East. It used to be a typical suburban mall, across the road from my high school (Don Mills Collegiate), where myself and many of my friends worked after school. A lot like the tv show, 6Teen, come to think about it.
     McEwan is the fine food retail store of celebrity chef Mark McEwan, who also has a number of fabulous restaurants around Toronto. One of his restaurants, North 44, is my favourite restaurant. Unfortunately, it is one of those places that's great to go to when it's a corporate event and you can expense the bill, but much as I love the place, I have yet to go there on my own dime. Same goes for my other favourite restaurant, Spago in Beverly Hills. At any rate, the retail outlet sells prepared foods and all kinds of gourmet food items and crazy expensive versions of the basics.
     Arriving at McEwan, Auz and I decided to bypass the valet parking and found a very close parking space without having to suffer the embarrassment of a car jockey driving my car with coffee cups, baby toys, hats, scarves, mitts, used Kleenexes, gum wrappers, and a ton of gas station receipts rattling around with him. That and I knew as soon as I were to tip him, Austin would be looking for a hand-out as well.
     Once inside the store, we quickly found what we needed: freshly-prepared maple walnut squash, rapini with garlic and chilis, brussels sprouts with caramelized onion and bacon, some fabulous super-creamy St. Andre cheese, and Kozlik's Canadian Maple mustard. Auz guilted me into buying him some cookies and while they weren't just any cookies, they were McEwan devil's fudge white chocolate chip cookies, I thought $8.95 for 1/2 dozen was a bit nuts, but if it stopped the "Can we go to the Pickering Flea Market?!" whining, it was worth the dough. We also ate our way through all the sampling tables and particularly enjoyed the variety of salsas and dips being offered.
     Our little trip to McEwan for a handful of items cost $57, but keeping in mind I wouldn't have to prepare any of the side dishes, fabulous food with no labour on my part is well worth it, I think. I just couldn't get over the people shopping there for basics, like an $18 smallish bag of coffee. I wanted to shake their shoulders and point them to the nearest No Frills, or even just a regular groc shop. From what I could gather, the fine food experience is a bit of an ego booster as well, so maybe it's worth the mark-up on basics if it's cheaper than a trip to the shrink.
     We rounded out the meal planning with a trip to Longo's, where salmon filets and jumbo shrimps were on special for $1.99/lb (as opposed to something in the neighbourhood of $13/lb at McEwan) and we nabbed some artisinal bread to go with the cheese. Naturally, we also made a trip to the LCBO for a pile of wines. The meal, by the way, worked out really well, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I loved not having to worry about cooking anything except for the fish and a bit of rice.
     Over dinner, knowing my love for second-hand and consignment shops, Allison mentioned that the local Goodwill store has 1/2 price sales every Friday. "Wow! That's amazing!", I remarked. "Just think - I could buy Austin's jeans for $1.50 a pair instead of $3.00!" (The kid burns through at least one pair a week.)  As soon as I said that, I started to laugh. "I'm worrying about knocking down jeans from $3 to $1.50 and meanwhile, we're eating designer veggies from McEwan." Truly, if that doesn't sum up my whole Champagne Taste on a beer budget philosophy, I don't know what does. Cam just looked at me and said, "You know, it IS all about the food." So true. Thanks and happy birthday, honey.

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