try again

I’ve been meaning to write about an impressive restaurant I went to a couple of weeks ago called Navarra. It’s located in Ottawa’s downtown Byward Market area on Murray Street. This is one of the most unique places I’ve been to in this city, with the BEST service. Outstanding staff! Since my recent experience eating at NYC restaurants it’s become more and more clear to me how important good service is in ones dining experience. It makes all the difference in the world, just like the importance of a doctor’s bedside manner, ‘culinary school 101’ – service is everything, and the quality of the food of course.

I’m not sure if you would label it as a ‘tapas style’ or ‘small plates’, but they serve multiple dishes that are relatively small and full of flavour. My restaurant lingo is limited, I’m not up on the latest blah blah but I do appreciate something that is not ubiquitous. My friend and I shared 4 plates and decided to have dessert which I normally do not order but thought I would give it a try. The main reason we ordered this dessert was curiosity. I will explain, we sat at the bar because we didn’t have a reservation, and a few times during our meal I saw the server taking the lid off this huge barrel thingy that was beside me, dipping in a large ladle and pouring a liquid overtop the caramel popcorn that was in a small metal pot. I was like ‘what the hell is that?!?’ At first I sort of only looked at it casually but as the night went on I was paying more attention to what she was doing, and of course I finally had to ask ‘what is that?’, she replied ‘liquid nitrogen’. Say what?! Then I proceeded to tell her that I thought they only used liquid nitrogen to make fake smoke or burn of warts. The latter happened to me in high school…hahahaha….I have a vivid memory of my 18 year old self while attending a private boarding school, being taken on a special outing to the dermatologist’s office to remove a small wart on my knee. At the time, little did I know they would use liquid nitrogen to burn it off. weird. It worked though. Anyway, as I’m writing this of course I have to Wikipedia the food use of LN and… yup I found ‘Culinary use of liquid nitrogen’…so smart and creative.

The server brings it over to us and the bowl is steaming with smoke from the caramel popcorn and explains the plate in great detail (they did this with all the plates, very thoroughly). It also had lime Greek yogurt, berries, grilled pineapples, and other ingredients I can’t remember. How cool is that?! Then she tells us that Kiernan Shipka the actress who plays Sally Draper – Jon Hamm’s daughter in Mad Men was there a couple months ago and Instagramed a picture of the dessert and wrote ‘Dessert INSANITY’, so owner of Navarra René Rodriguez (who won Top Chef Canada in 2014) renamed it to that. Here’s a photo of the dessert and the one from Kierman’s Instagram:

Navarra Restaurant's  'DESSERT INSANATY'
My picture of Navarra Restaurant’s ‘Dessert INSANATY’
Kiernan Shipka's Instagram picture of Navarra's 'Dessert INSANITY
Kiernan Shipka’s Instagram picture of Navarra’s ‘Dessert INSANITY”

When I started wearing my – chemo bald ugly head covers aka my wigs and chemo hats, I was so confused. I would lay awake at night thinking about how weird it was to drop the kids off at school with my continually changing looks. It took me a long time to get used to wearing the wigs. Thank god it was winter so I could get away with regular beanie hats. Going to the gym complicated my confusion even more. What to wear? I can’t wear a wig on the treadmill, I’ll be too hot. I certainly can’t wear a winter beanie while working out. I tried wearing the handkerchief/scarf type, I thought   I can try to pull off a cute head scarf with hoop earrings and some good lipstick colour, I could try the cute JLo look.…oh no, no, nope…I was not comfortable with that look at all! I ended up driving the kids to school with wig on then turning the corner to take it off and switching it for the head cover, I was not yet comfortable with people I knew seeing me with anything but the beanie. I couldn’t grasp when and which one to wear. These thoughts would invade my brain for weeks. I felt so strange it’s really hard to describe. I’ve told people over and over again that looking back on everything I went through, the hair thing trumped me up the most. I never walked around bald which I sort of regret, but I didn’t have the balls for that, I felt naked, exposed. I also don’t think I could’ve handled the looks of pitty on people’s faces. no thanks. All the other treatments were easily understood (minus the PICC line) – blood work, chemo, radiation, etc… but the hair part was inconceivable. It was in all true sense of the words an ‘identity crisis’. But once I got the hang of it and let go of the ego aspect, all seemed to fall into place. As time went on I would experiment different looks with the 4 wigs that I had to choose from. I would go out to lunch or coffee with my mother or friends and feel as though I was like a spy doing undercover work…seriously… ok maybe I was binge watching Homeland on Netflix and channelling my inner Claire Danes… and sometimes during my many outings I would see people I know and be able to turn my away if I didn’t want to say hi, not because I didn’t want to but because I was uncomfortable or not feeling up to it, and they wouldn’t have recognized me anyway. Silver lining. As I’ve mentioned before, one day I realized that there were people who didn’t know me pre-cancer and only knew the new me. They never saw me with my long curly blonde hair. This to me was very strange and took getting used to. The mirror became a frienemy, whenever I caught a glimpse of myself I was transported back to reality – you have cancer honey – I felt like a poser mostly as a brunette. Some might think well you should be grateful that you’re alive to have these feelings, and be grateful as many don’t make it that far. I agree but that doesn’t diminish my feelings of not feeling like myself, not knowing if and when I would ever feel ‘normal’ again.

I couldn’t hide under a rock. I couldn’t change anything. I couldn’t run away. I had to face it head on, no pun intended, remember to keep my chin up and deal. Period. So I did, and after 13 months of hair regrowth a new thing is happening to me know …. I’m shedding hair again. Halleluha. Here’s one of my incognito looks from last year:

I call this my 'Alex Vause' look aka Laura Prepon from Orange Is The New Black series.
I call this my ‘Alex Vause’ look aka Laura Prepon from the Orange Is The New Black series.

Good news – I got the ‘go ahead’ from my plastic surgeon to start gentle exercising again – NO running! So I’ve started Yin yoga, and I’m going back to the pool. Yay! So I’m going to try it again and hopefully I won’t bump into anyone because that always sucks. What I am wishing for is some more geriatric drama….come on…bring it on…hahahaha.

On August 25, 2001 I drove to Detroit, Michigan with a friend to see our first Madonna concert called the Drowned World Tour. This would be the last time I crossed the American border with ease only having to provide a drivers licence, three weeks later September 11th happened and now we need a passport. This was pre apple maps or GPS days, so I had printed out directions and a map to get to the Palace of Auburn Hills stadium in the suburbs. I miss old school maps…needless to say, we got lost therefore we spent most of the day listening to Detroit radio stations. Seemed like all the city stations were covering the tragic death of Aaliyah and eight others who were killed in a plane crash in The Bahamas after filming the music video for the single “Rock the Boat”. The pilot was unlicensed at the time of the accident and had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system. Sad. Anyway, this is when I heard one of her biggest hits which reminds me of my Detroit adventure and also gives me motivation to exercise and keep pushing forward.…

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