Saskatoon Round 2: Bottega Trattoria

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Last weekend Saskatoon really won me over with its sunny open skies and green parks and their zoo that had two cougars in the same cage (that’s nuts right?). It helped that this time I stayed in Leah’s nice apartment in University Heights (and not the hotel that we stayed last month when we dropped her off, which was apparently the ‘hood of Saskatoon and a place my mother reacted to like one might react to having lice poured on their head. Combine that with daytime highs of 10 degrees in August and we didn’t get the nicest first impression of Leah’s new hometown. And my parents and I bond over nothing if not our shared obsession with Leah’s happiness, safety, and well-being. Often to the detriment of all three.)

Anyway on Friday night we went to Leah’s Coating Ceremony. It was at a nice hotel by the river and there was a big banquet for all the new vets and their guests to eat before they (the vets) got led out of the room and then led back in again by a guy playing bagpipes and then handed their stethoscopes and embroidered white lab coats (not by the bag piper… by some other people). Leah actually put so much food on her plate that by the time we got to the carving station she had no more space and I had to ask the chef for two pieces of roast beef and then wait for her to eat her way through a couple inches of real estate so I could put her share on her plate. It was a fun evening. Another vet student at our table, this real Saskatchewan cowgirl, kept asking me why I wasn’t eating any of the fancy cupcakes and making fun of me for taking fruit for dessert. Those crazy BC girls and their fad diets!

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On Saturday we ventured downtown, where you would think many businesses should be open and busy, but we couldn’t find a place to eat lunch. If there is a street where all the good restaurants are, we couldn’t find it. The places we did duck in to, just to scan the menu for gluten-freeness, were completely empty. Turns out this is pretty off-putting when deciding whether or not to eat somewhere. We left a place that boasted a 100% gluten-free menu for this very reason (and also for the reason that they had chili in a bread bowl on the menu, which obviously intrigues me. Turns out the “bread bowl” component of this particular dish isn’t gluten-free at all, it’s just regular old wheat bread carved into the shape of a bowl! A funny trick. So really it was like a 98% gluten-free menu, as Leah pointed out. We read on to find their page of sandwiches, which listed a gluten-free bun as a potential option, which suggests not only that there are other options at the 100% gluten-free restaurant but that gluten-free is not the default option, which is what you might assume in a place that says it’s 100% gluten-free. It was more like 72% gluten-free. The hostess did not understand why we were asking her about so many obvious things.)

Sadly this was not the most disconcerting restaurant experience we were going to have that day. We eventually chose to sit down at a place called Bottega Trattoria, which was basically empty but looked nice-ish and new-ish, and not cave-ish. We were sold when the waitress confirmed that they “offered gluten-free options” (not giving away the farm with a “100%” guarantee. Get it? Giving away the farm? We’re in Saskatchewan!), and that they had gf pasta and pizza. So we sat down at one of the very crowded tall wooden tables, and our super beautiful waitress gave us menus (“Ugh she’s so pretty…I want to punch her in the face”-Leah).

We both ordered pasta and hoped for the best. The urban spoon reviews were pretty terrible, only scored 56%, but most of the complaints were about the service, and we really weren’t in the mood to keep searching for what was sure to be a similarly average meal a few blocks away (feeling quite cynical at this point).
While we sat there drinking our waters the owner came over and opened up the big glass garage door beside us, letting in not only the sunshine, but three drunk guys wearing what can only be described as shorteralls, into the restaurant.

Why they were wearing identical hick-costumes, and why they were blind drunk at one in the afternoon, we still don’t know. But we certainly had time to find out, because once they procured the necessary beverages to keep the party going, they swarmed our table and wouldn’t leave.
So just to review: inside the restaurant you have one manager, one server, two paying customers, and three drunk guys in shorteralls. What happened next is as follows:

Guy 1: Hey ladies, what’s up, are you from here? (or something like that) (looks down at empty chair) Can I sit here?
Me: Vancouver, and no!
Guy1: (looks hurt) Hey don’t judge me, gargle blah blah blah, something indignant.
Guy 2: Sorry about him, he’s got no social skills. I used to be a runway model!
Guy 3: And now he’s the king of the rigs! He makes a lot of money, you know.
Guy2: So do you guys want a casual night out, or like a party night? Because I would suggest _____bar for dancing and ______lounge for just like, hanging out. Which one do you want to go to?
Guy1: Are you a redhead?
Guy2: How old do you think I am?
Guy3: Can I sit here?
Leah: I don’t want to eat lunch with you guys…
Guy 2: Let me guess, you’re a teacher.

And so on.
It wasn’t as if anybody was going to mistake them for our friends who just ran into us and were saying hi. We were two normal people, in normal clothes, waiting for our food. They were three hammered guys in shorteralls, standing way too close to our faces. The service staff, which made up the only other bodies in the building, watched this happen and didn’t do a thing about it. When one of them asked again to sit down with us and we again said no thank you, they sat down at the table that was right beside ours. At this point we had been waiting for our food for 40 minutes and there were NO OTHER CUSTOMERS in the restaurant. Leah proposed we exit out of the front window, just like our visitors entered. But we were too tired to find somewhere else to eat. When our food came and we were ready to just be alone and eat our pasta and get out, guy 3 said, a la Kanye to Taylor Swift, “ok I’m gonna let you enjoy your meals, but I need to ask you one question… I have a food truck called “Disco Dogs” and it’s like, doing, really good. Do you think I’d make it in Vancouver?”
Like how would I know? So we didn’t go out for a casual or dancing night, we stayed home so we wouldn’t have to try to find food again.

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Wanna go for a picnic? Alpaca lunch! (My favourite joke)(At the zoo with the two cougars)

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And Now, a Terrible Review About a Place You’ll Never Go (The Firestick Cafe in Saskatoon)

It’s important to first put out there, that the food at the Firestick Cafe was pretty good. Not great, but pretty good.

That’s the end of the positive portion of this review. Thanks for stopping by.

I have a million places to put on the blog (like a years worth at least) that I have had on a list, just waiting to be addressed (probably never gonna be addressed though). Haven’t been feeling it. In the back of my mind, for at least a week, was the thought that I would write a comeback post about a fancy/weird 7-course meal I whipped up for Leah’s Vet School Send-off. And then, after that (’cause I’d be on a roll), I would do a snappy little summary of the places we ate while in Saskatoon.

But then we went to the  Firestick Cafe tonight, and my fury (disbelief?) at the terrible service we had just received inspired the end of a good 8-month blog drought.

So the place is only open Saturdays and Sundays, and it is part of a weird little art-farm-“tasting studio” thing. Reservation only. No kids allowed. The menu online looked very good. I thought, hey, here’s an unusual dining experience for the whole family! After a long day of shopping for hangers and windex we all really needed an enjoyable dinner. We Priers live for enjoyable dinners. The last seating is at 6 oclock, which is a bit early, but we were even down for that.

The fact that it didn’t exist on Google Maps should have tipped us off. That fact that is was a good 20 minute drive out of Saskatoon should have tipped us off (because there is nothing… in any direction.. outside of Saskatoon). The fact that, once you arrive, the place is decorated like an Art Knapp’s/that weird magical garden place that Rosie O’Donnell takes Harriet to in Harriet the Spy.. should have tipped us off. That sign on the gate that said their dogs would kill us if we brought our dogs on the property should have tipped us off:

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It was not overly welcoming outside, or inside, the gate. And that is a sign that begs to be photographed.

The first issue (besides that fact that no one greeted us and there is no clear signage as to where the restaurant even is on the property and that when you do find it, it is in an un-heated greenhouse) was that they have no liquor license. You are allowed to bring your own booze, but it doesn’t mention any of this on their website. This wouldn’t be a big deal if we hadn’t all just spent the last 48 hours locked in a car together. Fortunately, the table of 8 beside us knew the drill and had brought with them 8-10 bottles of wine and a 40 of (homemade?) vodka. So we had entertainment.

The previous night for dinner I had selected State and Main, a Browns Socialhouse facsimile for the prairies. Although I initially felt I had let everyone down by making this somewhat pedestrian selection, the food was quite good and our server was very accommodating of my various requests. I believe there is a certain balance that needs to be maintained in order for the diner to feel that they have had a good experience- if the service is impeccable, the food can be slightly sub-par. If the food is amazing, the odd faux pas or rude exchange can easily be forgiven.

When people complain about bad service, I often think to myself, how bad can it be? Their job is just to bring you your food. Why do you need to take it so personally? After over 6 years of serving it is probably remarkable to a lot of people (most likely past coworkers that are consummate professionals) that I still have this stupid opinion. I can usually sympathize with a harried server, as I have been a bad one myself.. for over six years. And I can tell you, the reasons you are mad at your server are usually well out of their control. But then every once in a while I’ll have a really terrible service experience, and it truly does make your food taste bad because the whole night out has been tainted by some server’s indifferent ineptitude.

In my opinion, this was bad. Next-level bad. This was her opener: “are you ready to order?” Fine, we can all handle that. I ordered our appies (pork lettuce wrap things), and then asked for the Santa Fe pizza on the gluten-free crust ($5 extra). To be sure, my dad asks “are those toppings gluten free?” She bluntly says no, only the crust. I said “Yes, I know the crust is gluten free, but are those other particular ingredients also safe? Do you know which toppings are ok?” To which she replies, “No, I don’t know, it says in the allergy part of the menu that we can’t guarantee anything, so, I don’t know which ones are. Do you still want it?” How useless is that? What is the point of offering the gluten-free crust if it is a mystery to everyone that works there whether or not any toppings are gf? I was miffed. But I did still want the pizza.

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It was pretty good. Not $20 good, but still very edible after a long day of Walmart and Sleep Country. While we were eating I asked our server if she could please turn on the space heater that hung over our table. She looked at me blankly and said that it wasn’t plugged in… so she would need someone to help her. Apparently that was a long version of “no.” She eventually came back, but only to give us our check when we still had food in front of us. We were ready to get out of there because we were freezing anyway, she must have known! So that was thoughtful. We practically ran to our truck, we were all so confused and amused and annoyed. I found out my dad tipped $15 on a $90 bill and then I was extra mad. It makes me SO MAD when a 15% tip (or more) is just a given, regardless of your heinous personality. How will she ever learn how to live in the world?

Anyway we drove back into Saskatoon to look for some milkshakes. This is what it looks like outside of town:

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Kind of like Dawson Creek! It’s pretty. Very flat.

If anyone from Firestick should ever read this- the young guy was very friendly. I’m sure if he was our server he would have turned our heater on.

And I know the sign said absolutely NO photography, but I had to. I mean who do you think you are?

Solar Gardens Firestick Cafe on Urbanspoon

Lefty’s in Parksville

Lefty's in Parksville

Jaime and I chose Lefty’s this morning as a little throwback- we used to walk there for breakfast ALL the time when we were in highschool and would have parties at her moms house and invite like 10 guys over and drink illicit booze and play cranium. We would always split a “traditional” the following morning and feel really grown up and awesome. Since we are women now we decided we should probably order two things (but still share them obviously), so I got the gfree french toast (finally!) and she ordered the traditional and we were gonna divvy them up. The bacon and eggs came with toast all over the top of them, so I ended up just having french toast. Such is the life of a celiac that orders gluten free french toast and a regular breakfast and then says at the end “and the toast cant touch anything!” and the waitress says “well obviously” and then the plates show up with regular toast all over one of them.