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. Melissa Keyser says:

    I lived for a decade (and learned how to eat/dine/cook) in the top wine area of California. $75 for a dinner seems cheap. And I’m a huge fan of prefixed meals. Less decisions for me to make.

  2. Amy Foster says:

    Yes! I love restaurants that are both entertaining and delicious. I’m not 100% sold on the crickets but that dessert looks amazing. We usually reserve these places for more special occasions but always enjoy them when we go!

    If you are ever in Montreal may I recommend Europea? My husband and I visited there on a mini getaway and $300 later (worth stepping away from the budget) had both the most entertaining and delicious meal ever! Think jerky on a clothesline, salmon in a smoke filled box, a tree sculpture with desserts hanging from it and the largest meringue I’ve ever seen to take home. Probably 10 plates in total. I would definitely recommend it if not for the entertainment factor alone!
    http://www.europea.ca/

  3. ruth says:

    Hi, Karen,

    So glad you get to go there. I hope you enjoy it if you do go, and let us know all about it.

    We do have a LOT lot lot of good food here in the Hudson Valley……. (Culinary Institute is across the river. And farms. We have farms.)

    Still, I don’t know of a place that sounds like this one. It’s a chunk of money….. then again, think of how often you eat meals that cost little. Very little. It all works out.

    ruth

  4. Kristin Ferguson says:

    I’m kind of flabbergasted that it would only be $75. I took my daughter and her boyfriend out to dinner at The Inn at Little Washington, only to discover that it was a $150-per-person prix fixe arrangement, meaning we got to choose one starter, one main and one dessert plus the chef sent out amuses bouches (tiny, beautiful savory bites) before the meal and mignardises (tiny, beautiful dessert bites) after the meal. But that was a very special dinner on the occasion of accompanying her to Maryland for university.

    But seriously, $75 is cheap for such a meal as you describe. I guess things are different in Canada, because $75 for a nice dinner is normal for Los Angeles. Not something I do every day, but once every week or two maybe. I wouldn’t want to eat the bugs, I’m not gonna lie, though I hear they’re delicious. I tried to eat a cricket once, but the second it was inside my mouth and I could feel its little crickety legs, I had to spit it out.

    • Karen says:

      Yeah, I actually don’t think it’s too bad. I mean it’s $20 for me to go to McDonalds! (of course I’m a bit of a pig but still … ) It’d be $50 for a half decent dinner somewhere else with no dessert. ~ karen!

  5. shannon says:

    I would spend this kind of money for dinner very cautiously; I would have to have it on good recommendation that food was always spot on and delicious. It would have be for a special occasion (after all, for a couple it would cost twice that). And I want to choose what I’m eating (even off a limited menu).

    I’m not afraid of unique food, but bugs with tree parts is not food to me. Definitely wouldn’t pay that much for “innovative” food that I might hate.

    I wish I could eat out all the time, but I find even the cheaper places expensive. It’s just hard for me to just eat a lot of money. I feel the same about expensive wine. But, that said, if I had a much higher income I would do it much more often!

  6. kelli says:

    I’ll probably never pay over $30 for dinner, but I have, lazily, become a lady who lunches as well. Or…maybe just a lazy lady. Unemployment for several months will do that. I have all the time to BE a lady who lunches but now…I can’t afford it. OH the irony. However, I’m with your coworker, don’t know if I can go back to the corporate world again, at least not the hard-driving kind. Really, it’s hardly worth the stress of it all. Maybe I’ll just find a nice receptionist job or do some freelance writing…either way, my cat will still love me. 🙂

  7. Jamieson says:

    Hey, was I this quitting person in the cruddy t-shirt? I can’t remember if you had already left before I up and quit and then came back to a new position months later. At CHUM Television, I mean, not the time I did that at my current company. Or the time I did that at the company I worked for before CHUM. Because as you know I up and quit every 6 years or so and then eventually come back when offered a new job once I’m feeling more relaxed and fulfilled!

    • Karen says:

      Nah, twasn’t you. You aren’t the only up and quitter. I forget his name actually. He was a producer and he left and became a freelance producer. John I think. You’d know him. ~ karen!

  8. Blogging must be lucrative if you can afford $75 for lunch, or in other words, not for me.

    • Karen says:

      Yeah, it pays the bills when you work 12 hours a day 7 days a week. ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      Oh! And it’s not lunch. It’s a 7 course dinner. Also I don’t drink, don’t smoke, rarely go out, grow my own food and make/do every single thing myself. So if I want to spend $75 on dinner I have to say, I don’t feel terrible about it. ~ karen!

      • Sorry, I was confused, I thought it was lunch. I too do not smoke or drink, make and do everything myself, even my own soil (vermicompost, you should try it, you’d love it, I’ll set you up with some worms if you like) rarely go out, have my own business and work similar hours. Regardless, not for me. Not that I wouldn’t love to treat myself and spend that much but I would have to LOVE the food to warrant it, not just meh.

  9. Chris says:

    Definitely not for me! If I’m going to a restaurant to eat (and I eat out often enough), I don’t want someone else to tell me what to eat; I want to choose my own meal. At any price. And for $75, it better be a special occasion and even better food. The Heather is gimmicky and I doubt it will last long in town. Only until the Toronto people get tired of driving into the “bad” part of the city to check it out. There are a lot better places in town that the locals prefer to patronize.

  10. Emma says:

    Experiences are priceless!!! YES I would go but someone else would have to pay…
    turns to hubby at this point… He might too I think.
    (We are foodies. So yes we would. Once.) BUT…
    That is steep dough.
    I grow food, he cooks it.
    Hamilton is a great place, friends just moved there from TO. They love all the coffee places and the arts/culture. Love your blog Karen! My garden is a wild child. Okay enough about me! The heat has turned me insane.
    No luffa planted yet… next year.

  11. Leslie says:

    yes I would – do it several times a year, I love the idea of eating something I will not take the time to make at home

    • Karen says:

      My thoughts exactly. 🙂 ~ karen!

      • leslie says:

        interesting discussion – my eldest son is a chef and what they try to accomplish is getting people out of the chain restaurants and come and try new things with good not over processed ingredients that people don’t have the time to make at home themselves. Some of the items he prepares takes a month or several days in advance to prepare (fermenting, pickling etc…) They majority aren’t trying to be trendy (most chefs dislike the term Foodie) they love food, and like being creative and bringing good food to people so they expand past the chain restaurants) I don’t always think I will like everything on a tasting menu but I try it and usually find I like it or at least glad I gave it a shot. I bought up some black kale this week (thanks Karen) will be giving that a try tonight 😉

  12. Stephbo says:

    Nope. In my book, that kind of restaurant is for people with two many dollars and not enough sense.

  13. I love the idea of eating crickets but I think they can be presented more creatively. They’re a super source of protein, so why not grind ’em up and mix ’em into something, so we’re not crunching on their exoskeletons? We need to warm up to bug eating. The spruce tips intrigue me, and the pickled strawberries…yes, I think I would pay for this sort of theatrical fare, providing it’s not too precious: That means the portions are decent and the wait staff are well informed and friendly. Also, the kitchen needs to run efficiently. When all the stars align so that the food is good and the presentation is professional every step of the way, $75/person is a bargain for an evening out. Good luck to The Heather. Any cattails on the menu? They’re delicious! : )

  14. Denise says:

    I’m late reading this one, but just now thinking of going to a local bar for a wonderful half-pound mushroom swiss burger with fries (split between my husband and me) with two sodas for $11.25. Life is good!

  15. Robyn says:

    The only time I have ever eaten food that costs more than a night in a hotel was in Paris at the Moulin Rouge and we got to see the show. I think it was like $500 USD for the two of us and we got a meat, a potato, a salad, and a bread plus a half bottle of wine each. And a dessert. The food was good but it was the experience we were paying for. And it was well worth it.
    But I like real food and plenty of it so I would not be interested in The Heather!

  16. Lynne Burns says:

    In 2006 I had one of the most memorable dinners of my life. I was in Chicago and had been reading of the new art and science meets food and had to go. Alinea proved to be the most fun, provocative and delicious meals I have ever encountered. It was also very expensive. (MUCH more than $75) But, I still to this day think about and talk about it……. So I say, get it! Don’t miss out on what could prove to be one of your most memorable dinners!

    • Karen says:

      OHhhh pfttt. I’m going, lol! I was just curious if others would. I’d much rather spend $75 on a memorable dinner than just about anything else. 🙂 ~ karen!

  17. Esther De Vos says:

    Makes me think I should be reading the comments more often – did this particular post strike a chord? Many lame comments and a little surprising the inaccuracies in not fully reading what you had to say. No doubt you’ll go soon and go again. All the best to The Heather.

    • Karen says:

      I a definitely going soon Esther. This is my kind of thing and my kind of place. I was surprised at how many people the word pretentious for food that … well just isn’t chain food. Also surprised people couldn’t seem to read past crickets. ~ karen!

  18. Thera says:

    First off just no, too expensive, too gimmicky and ewww bugs!
    Then there is this…
    “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.” which I agree with PLUS Hamilton is the New Jersey of Canada also known as The Armpit of Ontario. Sorry if this offends anyone especially you Karen 🙁
    I am sure Hamilton is trying to improve, I am not so sure it will ever lose it’s bad reputation.

  19. Melody says:

    Absolutely! No qualms.

  20. Roseann says:

    I would go! Well, to be honest, I would want very much to go but would have a hard time finding someone to go with that would also enjoy it (someone who wouldn’t spend the whole meal making negative comments as each plate is served) even if I paid for both of us. I could go alone but an experience like that is best shared so in the end I probably wouldn’t go and regret it every time I passed the place.

  21. Linda says:

    Those crickets better be hand-dipped in Belgian chocolate served by Tom Hardy in buckskin chaps.

  22. traci says:

    I could never pay $75 for a meal. As someone who grew up poor, I just can’t justify it. I also won’t ever do a fixed menu. I’m not paying a whole lot of money for you to give me something I don’t like. At least give me some choice. I’m okay with limited choices, but there has to be at least a few choices.

  23. amanda says:

    I would so do that! I love fancy fun food. And I’ve even eaten crickets before.

  24. Bonnie Gutierrez says:

    I agree about paying for food that you will not make at home, but not anything too weird !

  25. Rachel says:

    Nothing about that menu looks or sounds appetizing to me. I hope that $75 includes a lot of cocktails! 🍸❤️😂

  26. janpartist says:

    Being somewhat a foodie, of course I would pay that but I would expect slightly less exotic choices-bugs no, bunny rabbits, yes. I’m really rather over pretentious food and presentations. Hate squiggles and tear drops. So, it would have to be otherworldly for me to enjoy teeny dollops with spritzes, foam, and swirls.

  27. Nicole says:

    Not for me, not any more. Pre-kiddo and mortgage however, I’d have tried it! With a total of 12 seats to fill in Hamilton three nights a week? I imagine it’d be full every night with former Toronto dwellers happy not to have to make the trek into Toronto for a similar experience (speaking as a former Toronto-dweller).

  28. Jennie Lee says:

    Nope. Not even for my favorite foods. And if I really want to eat crickets, I’ve got a sizable population of them in my basement.

  29. Jan in Waterdown says:

    I quite like Quatrefoil in Dundas and have spent a heckuva lot more there so my response is maaaaybe . . .
    So glad to see Hamilton’s rebirth, no longer a lunch bucket town!

  30. Lin N says:

    Hmmmm…it intriques me but the restaurant would need really good reviews to coax me in for a $75 lunch….maybe a ‘star’ would help. 😋

  31. Sabina Missana says:

    You said “pop” bottle, I love you!!!

    But no, I would not pay $75 for crickets, a tomahawk steak and lobster maybe, but not crickets.

  32. Renee Ryz says:

    I have paid that much and more for smaller plates of interesting, and delicious food. Where my son works, I could never afford to go all the time, but it was a special occasion. Might have been a little on the smaller portion size, but it was great & I can use losing a pound or 50 anyways. I did not look at the website for this place as I am in Chicago, (tons of places to try) but while the desert might have me intrigued, alas the crickets did not. I would try something made with cricket flour, but I just cannot fathom crunching on dried fish bait & paying that much. However, I do wish them well. The restaurant business is not an easy one, and it takes alot of very hard work.

  33. Rebecca says:

    I’d go for the experience and have no problem paying $75 for the 7 plates. I like this kind of thing.

  34. Beth says:

    12 seats x $80 = $960/night x 3 nights = $2880 x 4 week = $11, 520. If rent is cheap and if they are full every night they should be around for a while but those are big ifs.

  35. Linda in Illinois says:

    I’m not that kind of girl. and I work for pennies so no.. you have a good time though and think of me when you have a cricket stuck in your throat, tooth, second day floss taste..

  36. Lesley on the Mountain says:

    Seventy-five bucks eh? I wouldn’t pay it, not for lunch anyway. The Heather will survive because it’s in Dundas, close enough to Ancaster too, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but it’s not just the chefs who are abandoning Toronto, it’s the regular folks too. I doubt that many new Hamiltonians would batt an eye at $75 for lunch. I love that our fair city is finally being recognized for something other than the steel mills, and THAT SMELL when you drive over the Skyway, but I’ve also noticed a ton more traffic, and a ton more people who are in far too much of a hurry to even consider that they might not be the only person on the planet. I guess this is the price we pay for no longer being too blue-collar for our neighbours up the highway. Anyway, I digress…enjoy your lunch!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lesley. It’s for dinner, not lunch. 🙂 ~ karen!

    • Chris says:

      The Heather is on Barton St East, in central Hamilton. No where near Dundas or Ancaster.

      • Lesley on the Mountain says:

        Omg, I just assumed it was near Karen, in Dundas. Nope, not going to that part of town for a $75 meal that I don’t even get to choose, especially not in the evening for dinner.

  37. SBoo says:

    Their website says $85 per person + $50 for wine pairings. With tax and tip you’re talking about a $350 meal for two. I appreciate food and am willing to spend for a great experience, but at that price point the food, ambiance, and service all need to be truly excellent. The nettle oatmeal crickets are a bit “woo woo” for me.

  38. Ev Wilcox says:

    UMMM, no! I understand the concept from an art standpoint, and the need to charge so much since the ingreds are prob not common but costly. And the chef is most likely very artistic. But, when I go out to eat I make sure my dishes are done and the kitchen is ready for bed. I do not expect coming home hungry and everyone that went wandering around the kitchen and perusing the fridge for leftovers, etc. Especially after paying $75! So, do go there very soon and support the place, please. Unless you live in a ritzy place full of mansions and $$$, I am guessing this restaurant will be moving on. but good luck to them anyway.

  39. Kipper says:

    No. For that much money I could get a week’s worth of groceries or the dog groomed or get a lot of feed for the chickens.

  40. Carolyn Boyd says:

    Hubby and I would love to go there when we visit our son in Kimberly. We have a little place in Halifax (also a small city with lots of terrific restaurants) called The Kitchen Table. They have an amazing communal table which seats 14, plus another 6 can sit at the kitchen bar, overlooking all the action. Have eaten moss 3 times; yummy stuff. Eight courses for $85, plus wine or you can BYO. The chef even makes his own salt (another advantage of living on the coast)

  41. David in Oakville says:

    Interesting discussion today. $75 is fine if the food is good. But for $75 the restaurant had better have a great mix of good food, great presentation and atmosphere. If I left the restaurant simply thinking “that was different” then they have failed. I want to leave thinking wow, would have never thought of that, glad I tried it. And really, it only takes one dish to wow me. Different for the sake of different or innovative, I am not really interested in this. It seems like this chef goes out of his way to source his ingredients and spends a lot of time thinking about (and hopefully testing) his dishes before presenting them to customers. As far as Hamilton goes, I think there are enough people there interested in this type of cuisine to make a go of it and his location is fine. Best of luck to him!

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