Flavour Guy: Look to the sweeter side of 2017 — with balance

A cozy kitchen, photographed by Mathilda Tan (courtesy of stock.xchng)A cozy kitchen, photographed by Mathilda Tan (courtesy of stock.xchng)

Note to self: Resolve to evolve. 2017 is going to be a year of change. Huge change. Well, ok, change. Change is good. Old joke: the yogi hands a $10 bill to a hot dog seller and says “Make me one with everything.” He gets the hot dog and asks “What about my change?”

“Aah,” says the vendor, “change comes from within.”  Ka-ching!

Note to other self: accept what I cannot change.

Here is the Flavourguy’s dilemma. Do I attempt something new and worthwhile such as learning to read Chinese so that I can get the good stuff from menus taped to the wall at Restaurant Beijing? I look jealously at the crowd at the next table slurping it up and then at my dependably tasty but unadventurous chop suey won ton soup.

Maybe I should stroll through the kitchen à la Anthony Bourdain with a waiter making notes as I point to unfamiliar dishes that look fantastic? I’ll have that and that and are those chicken feet? Yeah, why not? I can always take them home and discard as necessary.

That’s one approach. Or I can stay with the familiar — there’s nothing wrong with that — and order dishes I know I will like: lotus leaf covered mounds of sticky rice, eggplant in garlic sauce, maybe some sweet soya-sauced BBQ ribs, and especially the Peking duck served three ways — first thinly sliced with crisp skin, green onions, and hoisin sauce all folded onto pancakes, then duck meat fried with rice, and finally the rest of the duck cooked and served as a soup. These are comfort foods, common yet slightly exotic staples.  Ordering them, I know that I will leave the restaurant happy and content.

This extends elsewhere. Do I want to waste my meals on unintelligible dishes whose creation requires a Masters degree in Chemistry? Is Mexican-Thai fusion something I have been searching for? Does poutine covered with smoked salmon have to be on my bucket list? (I guess it depends upon what the bucket is for.) Bourdain gets paid to eat chocolate covered ants. I can watch that on TV. In the meantime, steak frites looks pretty good.

Perhaps 2017 will be more about finding balance: something old, something new; intellectual and gustatory stimulation will keep me alert without forgetting the familiar, which I need to steady the course (or courses). So, in 2017, we are resolved not to leave out dessert. Every meal is a journey. Dessert is its destination.

I am willing to expend energy at the beginning — that amylolytic flash-frozen sea bream might be an interesting way to start the meal — as long as I know there will be a well-crafted chocolate mousse or a crème brulée (or maybe both!) at the end. As the waiter once said to my mate, after she spent five minutes choosing a meringue from the pastry wagon: “autre chose madame?”

In 2017, the Flavourguy will continue to take chances but will check the entire menu first so that he knows what is at the finish line. If the menu is too complex, if a waiter’s explanations are too confusing, he won’t give up. His time is limited. When it comes to getting his “just desserts” maybe that’s all he’ll have.

Chocolate fondue — it’s comforting, it’s healthy (mostly), and it’s dessert!

• Bring a cup of whipping cream to a simmer over a low heat.

• Add 5 ounces each of milk chocolate and dark chocolate.

• Whisk this until it is smooth.

• Remove the pot from the heat and (optionally, but why not?) whisk in a few tablespoons of your favourite liquor such as Tia Maria or Frangelico.

• Keep warm and serve with sliced fruit.

 Serves 8.

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