FFWD – Scallops with Caramel-Orange Sauce

When I was a student, still living in the Fraser Valley, my friends and I took advantage of student rates to see as many plays, symphony concerts and art shows as we could. Our other obsession was finding places to eat dessert afterward. We all drove; it was a way of life back then, especially if you lived east of Burnaby. We thought nothing of driving an hour into town just for a meal. My self at that time would be horrified that I’d give up car ownership for good only a few years later.

One of our favourite spots was a little bistro on South Granville, where Paul’s Place Omelettery is now. My friends indulged me in the scale I’d developed to rate restaurants, which I called the teapot test. Tin, one-cup pots with lukewarm water rated a D, while two-cup, ceramic pots with piping hot water earned an A from me – A+ if they didn’t drip. I claimed, and still believe a little bit, that the quality of the food could be inferred from the restaurant’s score on the teapot test. That particular bistro (if you remember the name, please let me know) got 100% on the teapot test and its food was exquisite to match. We ate meringues and chocolate cakes, crème caramel and cheesecake, occasionally even stopping in for dinner. What was even better than the tea, the desserts and the entrées, though, was the service. The head waiter there sort of took us under his wing, expanding our palates and gently correcting us if we got the terminology wrong. He was a gay man, probably in his mid-thirties, and he reminded me of my uncle in Montreal, whom we were rapidly losing to the one of the first waves of AIDS.

He taught me that I take my tea clear, not black. He also introduced me to scallops, which they served in a red sauce, encased in a pastry shell. Whenever I’ve had scallops since, I think of that time in my life, and of the waiter that kindly put us through a sort of restaurant etiquette finishing school. My parents took us to restaurants of all sorts when we were young, from burger joints to French bistros, but I don’t know if I’d be the eater (and restaurant patron) that I am today if I hadn’t met him.

This week’s recipe put me in mind of those other scallops, but the recipes couldn’t be more different. Dorie’s Scallops with Caramel-Orange Sauce recipe is quick to execute, with few ingredients, while the scallops at that long-ago bistro were a fussy marvel of French cuisine. Dorie’s scallops are no less impressive, though. A caramel sauce, reduced with white wine and the juice of an orange (cara cara in my case), is finished with a little butter. This is poured over some seared scallops. Simple, but lovely.

I was lucky enough to get some lion’s paw scallops from The Daily Catch, our local Ocean Wise fishmonger. They were huge, fresh and beautiful. When they were cooked, they were almost crispy on the outside and extremely tender inside. They were so large that I made sure to dip each forkful in sauce, to make sure I got some with each bite. I served them with asparagus (which is finally in season again!) and potatoes roasted in olive oil and oregano. The scallops didn’t need complicated accompaniment.

One of the things I love about food is how its consumption is so wrapped up in memory. The association we make with certain meals or flavours is one of the loveliest ways to revisit our past.

You can find many other blogged descriptions of this week’s FFWD recipe here: Scallops with Caramel-Orange Sauce

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47 thoughts on “FFWD – Scallops with Caramel-Orange Sauce

  1. What a lovely post of memories of special times with friends, both your schoolmates and the waiter. I just love your teapot test. So many restaurants just don’t get it, even today. Your scallops look terrific, and you are so lucky that asparagus is in season again where you live.

    1. Thanks, Betsy. I agree – not many restaurants know how to serve tea. I’m excited about the asparagus – we’re going to be eating a lot of it for the next while.

  2. Wonderful post! Your story about the tea pots and desserts and the bistro and the waiter is completely delightful. The scallops and asparagus look and sound absolutely delicious. And I’m excited to hear about the fish shop in the neighbourhood.

  3. Oh, how nice to have such amazing resources. A proper “nudge” makes all the difference, doesn’t it? Love those big lovely scallops. Glad you enjoyed!

    1. Thanks, Cher. It’s wonderful when someone takes the time to mentor young people. The scallops were amazing, though expensive enough to make them only an occasional treat.

  4. The story of the teapot test is great, and all those nice memories too. Your scallops
    look fantastic as well as the rest of the dish. Hubby and I are not fond of
    scallops, so I skipped this week. However, Tricia did make the recipe and
    her family enjoyed them. I love the picture of your fish market, it is so hard
    to find these types of stores here. The supermarkets seems to try to do too
    much today, and it makes it difficult for little stores to keep up.

    1. Thanks, Nana. We really enjoyed this dish – maybe you’ll try the sauce with another protein that you enjoy. We feel very lucky that we’ve got access to great markets in our neighbourhood. I agree that supermarkets try to do everything adequately, often not doing anything really well.

  5. I love reading your post. The story of the bistro made me wish I could visit the place too. Your fishmonger looks awesome! I’m glad you enjoyed your scallops.

    1. Thanks, Ker-Yng! I was sad when the restaurant closed, but it’s the nature of that industry, I suppose. We’re really happy that the fishmonger opened. I just noticed yesterday that right next store to the fish place, someone is opening a sustainable meat store. Very cool.

  6. I loved reading your post. Your memories bring back memories to me. Thanks for sharing. Your meal looks really good and you are so lucky to have a fish monger. AZ is lucky to get nice “fresh” frozen fish at Costco…there are some fish markets but they are very pricy and not necessarily a good selection.

    1. Thanks, Krissy. We really do feel lucky for having access to great little shops here. The fish store is a bit expensive, but it’s worth it to know we’re buying sustainable products. It just means we eat seafood a little less often.

  7. What a nice story and and memory, Teresa. Thank you for sharing it with us. I envy you your local fishmonger – it looks like a fantastic place. Your scallops look so delicious.

    1. Thanks, Elaine. It is a fantastic place – they’re very knowledgeable and friendly. The scallops were great, too.

  8. Teresa, Loved your story…as a tea drinker I can identify with the tea pot test! The thing that gets a total F for me is when they ask me to use the same tea bag for a second cup. Your pictures are lovely and your dinner looks delish!! Would love to have a fish monger in my town. Nice post!

    1. Thanks, Kathy – there’s really no excuse for a restaurant to keep reusing the same teabag – it’s not tea any more, just hot water!

      I’m glad the pictures worked out a bit – the light was pretty bad when I took them.

  9. Lovely post, reminds me that my brother’s special birthday meal was sea scallops, I forgot all about that, wasn’t he lucky? I enjoyed this recipe and would make it again, maybe for my brother? I like the way you served them with asparagus and roasted potatoes, yum;-)

    1. Thanks, Patty. You should make it for him – he’ll be grateful for years! I really liked the sides we chose. Delicious, but they didn’t overwhelm the flavour of the main dish.

  10. What a great post, a very nice and fun read…and I also learned a new thing or two! Your photos are fantastic…marking this blog in my blog reader now…will return often. Your scallops look wonderful…all of it just beautiful.

  11. Thanks, Kayte! I enjoyed reading your post, too. I love getting to know people (and their interests) a little bit through reading each other’s blogs.

    1. Thanks, Monica! I think the sides really worked well. I’m glad you enjoyed the story, it was nice to write about those memories.

  12. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Scallops will always remind me of Tokyo and my uncle who introduced me to a lot of new and exciting food.

  13. I really enjoyed reading your post! Many of my memories revolve around food and it’s interesting how a taste, or even a smell, can conjure up memories and feelings. Your scallops look wonderful too.

    1. Thanks, Karen – we really enjoyed the scallops. They’re definitely a once-in-a-while treat, though.

      Sense memories are so powerful – they can help you recollect specifics, but also send your mind through chains of association that help you remember even more. It is really interesting.

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