Erin & I Ate At Bar Isabel & It Was Pretty Awesome


Last Thursday was a terrible day. I felt so nervy and sullen and obsessed with being a total dick to every person that crossed my path that I just assumed I was getting my period the next day. But I didn't! I was just in that bad a mood. 

But let's not get too hung up on negativity. The cool part of the story is that it gets a chill denouement: the protagonist (me) and the protagonist's friend (Erin) eat dinner at Bar Isabel & have a pretty awesome time. 

But yeah just to give you a little insight into the bullshit kind of day I had, I went to get my eyebrows done in a hurry and in the middle of the "procedure" I heard the stupid and obviously inexperienced eyebrow-waxer say "shit" to herself and then I broke out in a cold sweat and lay on the bed FLIPPING THE FUCK OUT internally as this idiotic posterchild for the concept of "tense anxiety attack energy" waxed and plucked away half my beautiful eyebrows. It felt as close to the scene from A Clockwork Orange where his eyes are being held open with the metal spider things as I can only hope my life will ever feel like. Finally I couldn't take it anymore and demanded to see a mirror. The idiot complied. I looked at my new face: it was a truly horrifying sight. My eyebrows were approximately one inch long each, with like a fucking year of space between them. I started crying and, unfortunately, hyperventilating. I ran out of the salon. The eyebrow-waxer, weirdly, ran after me. It was very romantic/ I hope she got fired.  

The next hour was a weird blur of me sobbing and screaming "SHE FUCKED MY FACE UP" to my mom on the phone beneath a tree. An elderly Indian man sitting with his three miniature poodles, one of each poodle-color, watched the whole ordeal intently and unapologetically. I couldn't blame him.

And so begins the "making lemonade out of lemons" section of my day, when I remembered my favorite lame "I went to business school" adage, "It's only a problem if there's a solution," and, as it turned out, there was totally a solution! (It was definitely a problem. I'd never doubted it.) I washed my face and skulked on over to my friend Taraleigh's salon Barberella, where she cut me some very cute bangs. So now I have bangs, and I love them, and everyone loves them. I get told I look like Zooey Deschanel twice a day minimum which I could pretend to be annoyed by but to be honest it makes me feel fucking awesome about myself. Here is a cool loosie-goosie bangs selfie I took while eating my fav Bento box lunch option at New Gen two days ago: 

And here is a neater-bangs selfie I took while drinking a Heineken at the Done Right Inn half an hour after engaging with all that trauma: 

So great! It's official. My bangs are cute. I'm so fucking stoked out to spent the next four months being inconvenienced by an atrocious growing out my eyebrows process and sweating through my bangs all July and August. If anybody knows about any good "how to apply that Benefit eyebrow powder product that everybody keeps telling me will save my life" Youtube tutorials please throw them my way. 

Anyway, Bar Isabel. You may remember Bar Isabel from the part in my last Strawberry Fields Whatever Diet where I didn't eat at Bar Isabel. To clarify, Bar Isabel is  cool and good restaurant owned by cool people who own other cool and good restaurants that recently opened up in Toronto. A popular thing to do in Toronto right now is eat at Bar Isabel and then talk to other people about what eating at Bar Isabel was like. I'm sure you have all lived through this exact same cool-restaurant-opening experience in any and all of the cities you live in and will continue to do so again and again. As will I. 

I guess Bar Isabel is meant to have kind of a Spanish tapas flava to it.  We started out with some plain old bread and olives. I coolly dipped my bread in the empty vessel located directly to the left of the olive bowl because I thought it contained some sort of clear oil. A wildly fascinating moment. The bread was pretty good. The olives were weird. It was one of those times when you're eating a "elevated" version of something and it's so much worse than the regular kind. Like I'd way rather just be eating shitty bar olives out of a plastic tub at, like, a pub. A bad pub. But one of the kinds of olives was the most magnificent color. It was like a duller, darker pea. I was saying words but mostly just focusing on the color of the olive.  

I had a Mint Julep; it was really something else. It was full of ice chips, and at first I was scared that it wasn't going to be boozy enough, just a dumb expensive cup of ice, but then this magical thing happened where as the ice melted the drink DIDN'T GET WATERED DOWN. It just got better and better! I guess the bartender planned it out in advance. 

As I was drinking my Mint Julep I was like "Yeah, this is really great," but I wasn't losing my mind or anything. But something I've noticed in the wake of my drinking that Mint Julep is that every single time I've found myself in a position where I'm ordering an alcoholic beverage, I've been really bummed that I can't drink that exact Mint Julep out of that exact pewter cup. I wish it was a standard thing, for everywhere, like Coca-Cola. 

We had the devilled duck eggs. I have a real thing for devilled eggs. In my family we eat them at Christmas, the ones with tuna, called oeufs mimosa. I feel like my loving devilled eggs with tuna salad stuffed into them says almost everything you need to know about my taste in food. 

These eggs had a really harsh dijon hit and I was into it. They were stuffed with a weird mushroomy brown thing. It tasted like the muddy marshy ground of a forest in April. I would use a certain word to describe it but I hate that word too much. It's too ugly and I can't have people reading my writing thinking that I think it's an okay word for me to include in a sentence I have written. That word is my second least-favorite thing in the entire world after people who eat at my restaurant and I say "Can I get you some chips & guac to munch on?" and then they get mad that the guac cost money. Oh my God. I just feel like there are so many things about the way the world works that you have to not understand to think that guacamole could ever be FREE and it is a really unforgivable level of idiocy that I just don't have the time or energy to put up with. Anyway, it's a five-letter word that begins with a U and means savoury. 

I just looked up what the eggs were stuffed with on the Bar Isabel website. That was a little game I made up for myself, a writing game. I wanted to describe it without knowing what it was. Anyway, it's salt cod and a Spanish blood sausage called Morcilla. 

Next we had bone marrow. Have you ever had bone marrow? I hadn't, but now I have, and the major point I'd like to make about it is that it's "meat-butter." There is nothing you can learn from eating bone marrow that can't already be explained by describing it as "meat-butter." It's the second-richest thing I've ever eaten after foie gras, and the second-weirdest food has made me feel in 2013 after I went apeshit on like three discarded natillas in my restaurant's kitchen two Sundays ago. What I liked best was soaking my toasty bread in the more liquidy bone marrow til the bread got squishy and then sprinkling on the chunky sea salt so the salt rather than the bread-char gave it crunch. At one point Erin extracted a gummy rectangular hunk of pale yellow-white marrow from the phone and said "Ew"; I hated that piece of bone marrow; it was like eating boogers. "A very dramatic presentation," I remarked. 

"It's very 'fee-fi-fo-fum'," said Erin, nailing it. 

Bar Isabel was beautiful. I loved being inside of it. It was red and wooden and cozy and old-fashioned, but not in the way that most cool old-fashioned things are. It made me think of a shitty little town in somewhere shitty like Alberta or Oklahoma in the 1940s, some hotshot entrepreneur who was very good at talking his way into things showing up and overseeing the creation of some wildly extravagant restaurant, or club, dining hall type-location, that is supposed to feel very exotic and glamorous and French, but is really just very dusty, and misses the mark in an extremely endearing way. I feel like Bar Isabel would be a very exciting place for a kid to hang out at, like The Old Spaghetti Factory.

After I finished my Mint Julep I stupidly didn't order a second Mint Julep. I ordered a beer called Little Scrapper, IPA, because it was an IPA called Little Scrapper AKA the most perfectly-named beer of my name-dreams that I can't believe I didn't make up in a dream. And I love IPAs so much! Little Scrapper was a pretty standard dryish non-mangoey IPA but I'll still order it every time it's ever available on any menu because I get such a kick out of hearing myself say the words "Little Scrapper." I was thinking my new rapper name could be "Little Scrapper, IPA," with IPA being like an "MBE," or "Esq," but who I am foolin. My rapper name is obviously Hell-J. 

The next thing we ate was the thing in the picture, fried chicken with sticky spicy eggplant. Sticky & spicy. Those are some pretty powerful adjectives. Those are some pretty grand claims. It was a solid plate of food but it wasn't sticky or spicy enough. It could have been SO MUCH STICKIER & SPICIER. All I want to eat is wildly sticky & spicy foods! Sadly, it was sticky and spicy dulled way down for a person who doesn't care about food and hates eating. I wanted it to eat like glue, yellow school glue, that would burn your fucking tongue off. 

The chicken was good though. I always feel very supportive of non-boring chicken dishes and even though the sticky & spicy eggplant was more boring than I would have hoped for it was still really obvs that the idea for this dish came from a non-boring place. Oh, and it had a piece of lettuce on top; for some reason the lettuce was weirdly good. Notice how I italicized weirdly? That's how weird it was. All my lettucey bites were my favs. 

The last thing we ate was the octopus with chorizo and stewed peppers. It was fucking ridiculous. Properly-cooked octopus is like this glorious midpoint between seafood and meat, really one of my favorite things, we have some cool dishes with octopus on the menu at my work and it just bums me out so hard when people refuse to try them. I think it's just the picture of an octopus as a slimy tentacled undersea thing that pops into their head and grosses them out. But it's like, "Dudes, have you seen a chicken?" They have bubbly red protrusions hanging off their chins and their feet look like medieval torture devices. Octopi are comparatively carrots. 

The chorizo was solid but when is chorizo ever not solid. The peppers were slimy but intense and I wished there were more of them but probably not even. That whole plate of food was like kissing a guy who you know you're going to want to kiss again. You spend all your free time thinking about how good it's going to feel next time you kiss but truth is the nicest place to exist inside is thinking about it. I don't think I've ever liked eating anything as much as I liked remembering myself eating it.


  1. I experienced anxiety even READING about the eyebrows incident! GRRRR, that woman! But that's some good lemonade-making you did with the bangs! Also, of course the rest of this post was fantastic.

  2. As a woman who's really serious about her eyebrows and has been growing them out for years, I really feel for your loss. Your eyebrows were really good :( Do you live anywhere near where they have Japanese beauty products? Japanese eyebrow makeup is THE BEST and if you can find one of the felt-tip marker things, that would be awesome. It stays on! I have this and it's amazing, soft pencil on one side marker on the other: http://www.jstyleliving.com/89257.html?utm_source=googlepepla&utm_medium=adwords&id=21619610058&utm_content=pla&gclid=CJzS65PzrrcCFSdgMgodJ34AVA