I’M A LADY WHO LUNCHES NOW. SO THAT’S WEIRD.

Last week I became a lady who lunches.  You  know the type.  The type who just up and goes for lunch at a restaurant in the middle of the afternoon during a work day but it doesn’t matter because for some reason they have nowhere else to be.  These ladies are easily recognized by their manicured hands and crazed look.  Or maybe that’s the look of being rested.  I’m not good at recognizing that look in people. It’s basically a mythical look nowadays.  Something you read about in books and insane asylum pamphlets.

When I worked in an office (albeit a super-cool office in one of the world’s most innovative television stations) I remember there was this guy who quit. He didn’t really know what he was going to do, he just knew he couldn’t work in an office anymore so he up and left.  A few months down the road he came back to the station, wandering through the halls and offices saying hi to everyone. He was wearing shorts and a cruddy tee shirt and looked not exactly homeless but … something.  He looked something totally foreign to me. As I squinched my eyes and tried to place what was so strange about him, it hit me.

He looked relaxed.

He mentioned he was wandering past the building on his way to lunch and thought he’d stop in.

On his way to lunch.  Wandering.  In the middle of the day.  Like a homeless person.  Or drug dealer.  I understand people eat lunch.  They even go for lunch when they work in an office.  But I but I never did.  I worked during my lunch so I could leave early and beat traffic.  Leaving early by half an hour could shave 2.75 minutes off of my 4.5 hour commute. During the drive I often gnawed on my steering wheel looking for leftover, salty, hand sweat to eat but … I got home 2.75 minute earlier.  Unless it rained.  Somewhere in the world.  A raindrop anywhere was really quite enough to guarantee a 17 hour drive home and a myriad of men throwing pop bottles filled with yellow liquid out their car windows.

Now that I work from home you’d think I’d take advantage of being able to “lunch” and  wander around in a most rested and relaxed manner.  I don’t.  I work through my lunch even in my home office.

So last week was kind of special.  I even had eyebrows as my neighbour Jane remarked when she picked me up.  And I did.  I shoved them on there with powder and a powder brush like I did in the olden days when it was my job to look pretty.  For real. In no small part my job, my actual job, was to look good.  It was exhausting.  And it’s hard to look perpetually pretty when you’re eternally exhausted.  Even with the salt lick steering wheel it was difficult to keep up that level of

So off we went, ladies who lunch, to meet another lady to lunch with.  This particular lady showed up to lunch with a very weird Mexican marionette she bought on the way.  So maybe not something an actual lady would buy. Plus one of us got a stain on our shirt within seconds of being at the restaurant.  And I proclaimed I hated talking to anyone for longer than an hour so I might just wander out the door and down the road at some point.  I just didn’t want them to be alarmed when it happened.

Now that I think back on it we were really more dames who dine than ladies who lunch.

The food was meh, but the conversation was good and even MORE exciting was the restaurant next door.  My little town is kind of becoming a hot spot for exceptional quality restaurants.  Insanely accomplished chefs are abandoning Toronto and it’s putrid traffic and home prices for my city, just 45 minutes away.  (if there’s no rain, construction, other cars on the road or bugs flying around.)  Just next door to the place we lunched in is one such example.

The Heather.

It’s a teen tiny place with an open kitchen and just 6 tables that seat 2 people each.  There’s no ordering, it’s a set menu.  A 7 course tasting menu where you might get this.

 

What’s that you ask?  That’s fermented steel cut oatmeal + mountain oak + stinging nettle + dry roasted crickets of course.

That’s worth the price of admission right there.  The price of admission is $75 Canadian.  For me?  That’s totally worth it for this kind of innovation.  And this kind of dessert …

Pickled strawberries + milk ice cream + spruce tips + meringue

Seriously.  But I like food.  I, in fact, love food.  I like cooking it, growing it, looking at it, and eating it.  But when I told a friend I wanted to go to this particular joint they just kind of shrugged their shoulders and said, yeah but that’s your thing.  What?? What’s my thing??? EATING?  Yeah, that’s my thing, isn’t it everyone’s thing?

He meant extreme food.  I don’t just eat to fill up I eat to be entertained.

So $75 is nothing for this kind of entertainment and sustenance.

But it did get me thinking.  I want this kind of restaurant to survive in Hamilton.  I want more of them.  I want everyone to go to them.  But will people?  Would you?

Would you pay $75 a plate (7 little plates in this case actually) for dinner?  Or is that just insane to you?  What’s your limit when it comes to eating out?

If nobody agrees with me I’ll know to run to The Heather before the chef can’t afford to stay in business any longer.

Before he’s wandering the streets in shorts and a cruddy tee shirt minus the look of relaxation, heading to lunch.

Have a good weekend.  Yo.  (All this food talk is making me sassy)

 

 

133 Comments

  1. marli says:

    Well…I’d say you better run fast to The Heather. Cause no.

    But that’s just me. Mind you, I love a good tapas, but…

    No.

    • marli says:

      Also…it’s 85 on their website. And they’ve burned at least two things (eggplant and milk) and have no qualms telling you this.

      No.

    • Karen says:

      Oh that’s funny because one of the only restaurants I’ve gone to and thought … um, no … was a tapas restaurant! It was expensive and I left hungry. ~ karen!

      • marli says:

        Haha! You’ve got a point. I don’t go for an actual meal, only for the music and to eat almonds and olives and dates (oh my!). There’s something about munching on strange foods whilst listening to open mic.
        But yeah, eat dinner first. 🙂

      • You have to go to a tapas restaurant in Spain.
        The more remote the better.
        Think Formentara.
        Best kept secret and beaches are to die for.

  2. Paula says:

    I have paid $75 for a meal of several courses, I’m not sure about the content of your meal though. If the food is innovative and delicious, it is completely worth it!

  3. Sharon says:

    Just paid a great deal for for a dinner in Ottawa with a similar approach – $75 is a steal

  4. Muff Hackett says:

    $75 for 7 little plates is a bit outside my realm, even on a ‘splurge, it’s our anniversary or a birthday that ends in 5 or 0’ sort of day. Also, I cannot imagine being intrigued enough for either of the above dishes to appeal. I like my food fairly straightforward in general. Sometimes I think that dishes of that nature are designed more for discussion than for eating. I’d rather eat, thanks. Now if you are suggesting a meal at either the Front Street Brasserie in Penticton or the Red Door Bistro in Whistler (both of which have excellent, small and very seasonal menus with imaginative and tasty offerings comprised of a mix of things I am confident about and things I have to look up to be sure) then I am your girl! You are welcome to the green dust on roasted crickets – enjoy!

  5. marli says:

    There’s a place local called The DreamAway Lodge. Real popular with the artsy types. Used to be a brothel (not kidding, I’ll find a link). Anyway, they did a similar thing, set price meal with two choices for each course (I think there was 4 last I was there, years ago). The food was to die for, the setting was amazing, totally eclectic and funky. Now I have to go there again soon…thank you for reminding me of this!
    (the tapas bar: )
    http://www.missionbarandtapas.com/

    ( the dreamaway, slightly changed since last I’d been, but still: )
    http://www.thedreamawaylodge.com/the-legend/

  6. Jane M Cudmore says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    I can almost walk to The Heather, thanks for reviewing it.

    I’m also a refugee from one of those Toronto jobs (and a Hamilton one too). I have that rumpled wardrobe, face that never gets out of the jar, and relaxed face.

    I prefer lunch because it’s more manageable on my ‘fixed income’.

    I’ll look for you when I go!

  7. Patricia says:

    I love innovative food, but alas, 75$ a plate is for the special occasions in life at this point..also, I draw the line at bugs….I’m not that innovative lol.
    I am a foodie at heart, but my husband is not. He would not look forward to the meal you described and you had me until “crickets” . All that said, I wish Heather great success.

  8. Mama Toto says:

    Didn’t exactly get me salivating! Seems a bit gimmicky to me.

    • Linn Caine says:

      I have to agree, Mama. I am so over having my dinner served on a plate bigger than my head with a silver dollar sized entre placed artfully in the center. Give me creatively combined, delicious, satisfying meals anytime. I don’t even mind paying a lot for said meals.

  9. MartiJ says:

    YES! Because It is Better to Eat Interestingly than to Eat Well. But $75? I’m probably too tight for that.

    I would, however, rather have wacky homemade Asian Fusion (and I have some truly wack ideas on fusing anything!) than roast beef, medium well. Go Karen!

    How were the roasted bugs? I had an “Adventure Dining” group over last month and we did a tasting menu of protein bars made by the college where my Dad used to teach food sci. The main component of the bars? Crickets. Four flavors, including one that bff described as “tastes like dirt.” So? Yours actually looks like it tasted like dirt. How was it all?

    • Karen says:

      I haven’t actually gone to the Heather yet. 🙂 It was the restaurant I visited after having lunch next door. ~ k!

    • MartiJ says:

      Then… how did you get the bug-meal-photo?
      I still have 4-5 of those bug-protein bars. They were the “prize,” but nobody wanted to take them.

  10. A guy says:

    Dames with gams doing lunch. Nice.

  11. AmyB says:

    Hmmm…$75 a plate. I’d pay it if I knew it would be amazing food. I wouldn’t go for a place that does “extreme food” tho…I prefer insanely delicious comfort foods, or variations there of, to crickets and forest aromatics, especially if you’re talking about a set menu. I’d go now, if I were you 😕

  12. MrsChrisSA says:

    Erm, you lost me at the crickets!
    Thats like our South African mopani worms which are a delicacy here.

    Dont eat worms or bugs……………….

    • Thandi says:

      And my dad is still trying to convince me that Mopani worms are utterly delicious. Ha! I’m still not falling for that one dad.

      • MrsChrisSA says:

        Don’t blame you one bit!! But I do know it is considered very much a thing of great culinary value – but not for me either!

    • Irene says:

      I had ONE mopani worm, just to say that I have done it. It just seemed like a crispy shell filled with salty water. Eh. Meh.

      On a side note, does anyone else get the progressively narrowing text column as people reply to a comment, right to the point where one ends up with one letter per line?

      • Karen says:

        Hi Irene. It’s an issue with the mobile site when people constantly reply to one comment. 🙂 It’s because the comments are staggered. Too many replies and you’re right, you get that super narrow text. Maybe I’ll get rid of the staggered comments. thanks for the reminder. 🙂 ~ karen!

  13. Kristy says:

    $75 is special occasion dining to me now, so I want to enjoy my meal… which unfortunately (fortunately?) doesn’t include crickets in any form. I can catch those in my yard, but only see that turning into a meal in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Even then the zombies would have to kill my chickens and deprive me of eggs. And I hate eggs, but I’d eat them before I ate crickets.

    Which is the loooooooong way of going about saying enjoy it while it lasts. (sorry, I don’t live in Canada so I couldn’t have helped anyway)

  14. Sherry in Alaska says:

    Nope. Not for me. You better catch those crickets before they’re gone.

  15. I paid $50 once for a meal, but that was a one time splurge. In Iceland. For whale and puffin and frozen skyr with wild blueberries. I wouldn’t pay money to eat bugs. I can do that for free when they fly into my mouth while hiking.

  16. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I’m way to cheap for that and plus yuck!

  17. Rktrix says:

    Please don’t take over a restaurant: you know how a restaurant makes a million ? They start with three!

  18. Karen says:

    Have you seen the musical Company. Elaine Stritch sang this song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=virv-1o2KjE

  19. TucsonPatty says:

    Um, yeah, no. Won’t be eating crickets! My dad had chocolate covered grasshoppers when I was a kid, and I ate them for the chocolate only. I shudder now, tomthink of that. Having said that, I would eat the dessert thing with ice cream and meringue and pretty pink powder…looks awesome. I think I might spend that much for a meal if it were every favorite thing I ever wanted…but not strange and exotic foodstuffs. I have been watching Chef’s Table on Netflix and they have pretty amazing food and locations, etc. It is very interesting, but I don’t want to eat any of the food. I wonder why I like watching?

  20. Jennifer Ramirez says:

    Yup, I’d go.

    Love,
    A fellow foody

  21. Jo says:

    Nope! No How, No Way! I do not.have money for extras, especially when it involves crickets. A very special meal for a very special occasion? Maybe.

  22. Catt-in-Kentucky says:

    No. That bowl of fermented brown stuff was just not appealing. I would have to stop off on the way home for a cheeseburger or something and no bugs please.
    By the way, The Ladies Who Lunch is an old Stephen Sondheim song from the Broadway Musical “Company”. Long song with interesting satirical lyrics.

  23. Kathryn Carruthers says:

    When I had a job with a paycheque I used to occasionally go to a couple of places that did a chef’s tasting menu for $75-100 per person. No bugs though.

  24. Kim says:

    You are paying for a unique dining experience, the creativity of the chef, the time, talent and experimentation that went into creating the meal and so on, so I say it’s worth it if the food is good. My husband and I recently did a similar set 7 course meal (mine vegetarian and his non-vegetarian and his was with beverage pairings) at Locovore in Ubud, Bali. Everything about it was wonderful. It was our longest meal ever at 3.5 hours, and most expensive meal ever at just over $300 CAD, so that makes the $75 look pretty well-priced. Of course it was Bali, we were on holidays, and it we thought of it as a once in a lifetime experience. I hope The Heather succeeds.

  25. Lisa says:

    Hm, just checked out the website, the menu seems a little pretentious. There were 2 items I had to google for not knowing what they were (Samphire? Haskap?). I can’t want to pay that much for artsy food, but that’s not our style. They’re offering something unique, if only 3 evenings a week. I hope, for the sake of their dream being fulfilled, they succeed.

  26. Kathy K says:

    Ahhhhhhh no-
    That’s very pricey for lunch. $75 per person, that’s a special evening dinner price for me and most of the folks I know. I appreciate the artistry and innovation but I think most folks go out to lunch or dinner to relax. If I were to go to a restaurant like that, it would definitely have to be a late night dinner with a candlelight atmosphere. I hope he becomes successful but it seems like a “one-time” kind of restaurant for most……..so maybe run before the chef has to relocate. I’d be more interested in working with the chef than just sitting there eating his food.

    • Karen says:

      It’s not lunch. I went for lunch at the restaurant next door and popped into The Heather to meet the chef while he was prepping for the evening meal. . The $75 is for a 7 course dinner. ~ karen

  27. Jen says:

    I am an eat-for-entertainment try-anything kind of gal, but that first dish does not appeal to me in the least. As a former chef, I think he’s going to have trouble moving that one. I would definitely pay $75 per person for well-prepared interesting food, as long as it isn’t innovative just to be weird. Know what I mean?

    • Other Karen says:

      My sentiments exactly Jen! Best meal we’ve had in Hamilton lately was at Rapscallion Rogue Eatery! http://www.rapscallionrestaurant.com

      Sooooooo delicious!!

    • Karen says:

      I do. I get what you’re saying. But I’ll tell you, ever single person I know who has gone to this restaurant said everything about it is outstanding from the atmosphere to each and every dish. So I don’t think he’s doing it just to be weird. This is a guy who really does k now what he’s doing. Heston Blumenthal I’m sure had the same reaction from people and he’s one of the most successful and admired chefs in the world. 🙂 ~ karen!

  28. Jody says:

    It looks like an adventure. I’d go if someone else paid. To be perfectly honest the food is cool looking, like art, but doesn’t look luscious and delicious which is what I go for on a splurge.

    • Karen says:

      My line of thinking is I can make boring delicious food all on my own. I’m more willing to pay for something I’m never going to make at home myself. 🙂 ~ karen!

  29. Jenny W says:

    Pickled strawberries, instead of fresh, “fermented?” oat dust, crickets and tree needles – perhaps this innovative chef is trying to keep his costs down by shopping the ground in his back yard 😉
    Luv me some tapas, and charcuterie boards, paired with a nice red, of course, and I’m always up for trying new things, but to spend close to $100 for ALL the Weird Foods, nope.

  30. danni says:

    I’m not very adventurous with food, at least to that extent, and I’m “frugal” (cheap) and grow some of my own food so the thought of dropping that much $ on one meal… no.
    And I have eaten enough bugs just mowing the lawn and panting with exertion. Damn, ain’t no way to pant without your mouth wide open as an invitation for some juicy mystery bug to try to fly down your throat!
    Which leads me to this question… is it worse to swallow the bug, or hack it up and have it pass over your tongue the second time…? Hmmmmm?

  31. Karen says:

    Let’s pretend I don’t even know the price. Just based on the description of your first dish alone. No. I actually thought you were kidding when I first read your list of ingredients. That’s not cool. I loved to be wowed by food. I’ve been wowed by $75 food. But I’ve also been wowed by a $45 meal. Likewise I’ve been disappointed by a $100 meal.
    But I would never even consider paying $75 for a bug and oak tree meal. Good luck.

  32. Kari in Dallas says:

    I live in Oak Cliff, Dallas with a view of the skyline (2 miles away) in my backyard. back in the 30’s it was hopping…then white flight…then in the past five years major gentrification. As a result artists, creatives and awesome chefs have set up shop here. It’s a foodie paradise and just the place for that restaurant. We love food as entertainment especially when there’s a Chik Fil A on every corner of every other suburb in town.

    In short, I love the concept and the fact that the chef is pushing boundaries, utilizing local, seasonal ingredients in a creative way. If I’m ever north of the border, I would definitely make a point to go there,

  33. Maggie says:

    You said it was innovative, but I don’t think you said it was delicious, so I’m having a hard time buying it. I assume you found it delicious if you’re so into into, but can you describe your experience a bit? The flavours, the texture? I love food, and will splurge, but $75 is steep for sure. I’ve definitely had mind blowing eats & drinks for less.

    • Maggie says:

      PS. If you like spruce tips, order the deep fried pickles at The Wild Caraway in Nova Scotia! Now those are spruce tips (amoung other deep fried pickled things).

    • Karen says:

      I didn’t go yet. I went to a lunch next door and popped in to meet the chef at The Heather while he was prepping. And every person I’ve spoken to who has been to the restaurant said it was definitely delicious. ~ karen!

  34. Susan Claire says:

    That’s not food, it’s landfill. Another “trendy” pretentious restaurant doomed to fail. They’ll tell everyone that the clientele just wasn’t sophisticated enough to appreciate their offerings and a pizza joint will move in.

  35. Monique says:

    No.
    I did for a cooking class that included lunch..in a charming home w/ a famed cookbook author..and it was worth every single penny and more..mind you this was 7 yrs ago;)but no:)

    But I love the post.

  36. Carolyne says:

    No, just No.

    and i work in Hamilton. I might drive by.

  37. Brian says:

    Waiter ! there is a Fly in my Crickets !!! Is that extra?

  38. Mary W says:

    NO – I would pay a lot more that for an extremely rare meal that I knew would be delicious. I don’t want to eat weird stuff just because it is weird even if it was beautiful and someone said it was ‘fun’. I’d rather give the money to a soup kitchen and to make it really interesting I’d help serve or cook the meal. Of course I also love to know there are really rich people in the world that lead really interesting lives with their money by doing really wonderful things. I can enjoy a delicious cup of plain rice pudding while reading your blog and have a completely marvelous morning.

  39. jaine kunst says:

    No, not $75 for 7 little plates. And the bugs broke MY food rules…I don’t eat food that is still moving, nothing with suction cups, no bugs and nothing I can’t pronounce. Although I’m adventurous in real life, I like my food pretty straightforward. I’m not ashamed to admit that Crackerbarrel is one of my favorite places to eat. I know, I know.

    • Amy in KC says:

      I love Cracker Barrel too! I am somewhat adventurous with food but I like the “regular” stuff too…a lot. 😉

  40. susan says:

    I love being adventurous with food and appreciate a chef who has the opportunity to be really creative. Would definitely go. On the other hand, unless Hamilton has changed a lot, the location is a little strange. For you Americans, it’s about the equivalent of plunking an innovative, expensive, cosmopolitan restaurant right down in the middle of the heaviest concentration of steelworkers in Detroit.

    • Karen says:

      Barton Street is starting to be the place for really great restaurants. Hamilton has definitely changed in the past 10 years or so. HUGE, huge art and food scene. Like, huge! It makes me very happy. ~ karen!

  41. Matt Cowan says:

    Thanks for the lovely mention Karen! We hope you can make it in for dinner soon! It was lovely to meet you!

  42. judy says:

    My first consideration for going out to a restaurant is “can I make it better at home”? If I can, we eat at home. That being said, I know I would not hold a candle to this restaurant, but I also don’t know that I would go more than once because it has too many courses, takes a long time and offers a lot of unusual things in those 7 courses. I’m not a picky eater but I don’t crave that much adventure in a meal either. And then there is the price, which would also limit how frequently I would eat there. Sometimes mac and cheese is all I need ((homemade of course).

  43. Brenda says:

    These types of restaurants are like the editorial pages of a fashion magazine. Yeah, it’s interesting to know about and see, but you’re not likely to wear that exact outfit. Most people aren’t likely to pay to eat bugs and the same tree needles that cover my front yard. This guy would be better off having two, 7-course meals, one with “normal” food and one for the people who want to eat bugs. Then he might have a shot. I’d also recommend he find a way to lower it to at least $50.

  44. Kathy says:

    When I worked in TV a very stressed out salesman quit his job one day bought a metal detector and moved to Florida where he became a beachcomber. Good choice.

  45. Lisa Kinnison says:

    Once upon a time, before life got ugly, I would have gone. And enjoyed the weird and wild ideas. But today, not because I’m older, but because I throw my money at other things like braces and college tuition~ so my answer is…ah hell no. I don’t know much about Hamilton but any smallerish town I’ve lived in just doesn’t have enough of the wandering 20 somethings Thursday evening through Sunday late morning that are willing to throw money at wild food without blogging for advice, checking reviews, debating whether they are crazy or something else that I’m simply not cool enough to know or feel. That is the kind of clientele this restaurant is looking for, idle money. If Hamilton has it, then take your time. If it doesn’t, leave now. And…please describe in details. I would love to hear!

    • Karen says:

      Well, Hamilton has about half a million people so not tiny. And I don’t think they’re actually looking for the 20 something hipsters. 20 something hipsters don’t have $75 for a meal. I think it’s more for professionals willing ot make reservations, who love food. 🙂 10 years ago this wouldn’t have worked in Hamilton. But Hamilton has one of the fastest growing food scenes in the country now so It *might* just work. I’ve already decided that I’m definitely going so I’ll let you know. ~ karen!

  46. Jenifer says:

    I MIGHT pay $75 for a dinner once in a great while for very well-prepared food but I don’t eat crickets on purpose. I guess extreme food is not my thing. Supporting local indie restaurants and chefs though gets two thumbs up though!!

    I hope it came with wine…

  47. Allison says:

    Yes, I’d pay that, but not for a meal of bugs. I’m from Houston, and a really good steakhouse is going to run $45 or up for a steak, so $75 is reasonable for a nice night out at a place where the food is an experience.

    We went to a wonderful place in London called Hunan. It’s basically tapas that doesn’t stop until you tell them you can’t eat anymore. The server asks if there are any dietary restrictions at the table (mine was no organ meats and no raw meat, another at the table didn’t eat beef). Then the chef makes individual servings of different tasty things and brings them out one after another until you tell the server you can’t eat anymore. You have no idea what will be next, but it’s all delicious. It’s not really Chinese food per se, but the owner/chef is from China, so there’s definitely an Asian influence on the dishes. I think it was about GBP65 (so about $85 USD) per person for dinner, not including wine, and worth every pound. If you are ever over there, make reservations and go!

  48. Andrea says:

    I would totally pay $75 for that experience! I love being surprised at a restaurant. And I live about 1,5 hours from Hamilton, so if you need a dinner date… 🙂

  49. Amy Watson says:

    Oh hell no, I am from the south, if I pay 75 dollars for a meal it better have a big piece of meat some kind of potato something green, cabbage, green beans, peas, Butterbeans etc…..and a big piece of German chocolate cake or pecan pie…..it’s not about the money, it’s the food and neither of those pictures looked like food to me.

  50. Sharon says:

    No. For a very skimpy lace under item, yes. But not for drawings on my plate. And I live in the capital of nothing but drawings on your plate. But they have the decency to charge somewhat less.

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