The waiter explained that the restaurant had a rodent problem. I’m still speculating on what happened when he returned to the kitchen to explain to his boss why he chose those particular words.
It’s all part of the charm when you leave the restaurants of Toronto– or should I say, the cafes, bistros, cantinas, wine bars — and venture into the wonderful territory of small, owner-owned (and often owner- cooked, owner-served, and owner -wash –the-dishes) restaurants that proudly line the main streets of Ontario’s small towns. No pretention, just good ol’ home cookin’ and more honesty than is sometimes required.
This particular restaurant was spectacular, and not only because of the food. My daughters and I fell in love with the waiter, a hapless young man who confessed the first day we ate there that he’d just started his job that week. (When we’d first peered through the window to read the menu, we spotted him doing the dishes.) We kept coming back with diferent guests to introduce them to place. On our fourth visit, we noticed that the mojito’s had been removed from the day’s menu. That’s when the waiter confessed the unfortunate incident that morning in the chef’s home herb garden.
“He got up and would you believe it, all the mint was stripped right down to the very stems,” he said, rather dramatically. Then he forced a smile and added, “ I guess you’d say we have a rodent problem.”
Hmmm—perhaps not the best choice of terms. We winced slightly and wondered if I should go to the grocery store a mere 5 minutes away and see what I could round up. I expected this would not be an acceptable solution for a chef with his own herb garden. We chose alternate drinks. I recalled a year ago when a deer feasted on my geranium blooms just before I had a chance to admire them—good taste if not good timing.
A week later we were at another local establishment — a restaurant/bar in Dorset, Ontario situated at the side of the water’s edge so close you can practically touch anything that paddled by: boats, canoes, surf borders, swimmers, even the occasional dog. I innocently asked if it was possible to get my wine in a wine glass (it came in a flute, which seemed a little odd). I felt terrible when the waitress explained that they only had 3 actual wine glasses and all were in use. “It’s okay really, “ I assured her (and made a note to perhaps drop some off next time I was in the vicinity).
For who spends most of the year south of Eglinton Avenue (non Torontonians, insert “mid-town), my dining adventures in Muskoka are truly a tonic for my soul. I’d give up many a fancy wine list to hear a waiter in Toronto explain that they only had a limited number of wine glasses; or that the menu that day wouldn’t include anything with mint, parsley or basil because the rodents had been active. (Let’s here it for the mice, chipmunks, rabbits, and the occasional deer.)