Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday, August 11th - Bohemian Gastropub - a very ungastrounpub experience

the Bohemian Gastropub - Choucroute Garnie
When I want advice on somewhere new yet off beat to eat in Toronto, my cousin H is a reliable expert. My own real life lady who lunches, she always has a stash of recommendations for me. So with mom babysitting, H asked me what I might want to eat. Typically, in Toronto, I like to go for Thai at least once. As Vancouver is to Sushi, Toronto is to Thai. The opposite is equally true, Vancouver is NOT to Thai, as Toronto is NOT to Thai :-). But with lil T I knew I might not be dning out too often this visit, even with the babysitter aka mom, so I chose rather to explore. I told H I craved a Gastro Pub. I heard they were becoming big in the TDot. So she recommended the Bohemian.

Now, I used to live in England and know from good Gastro pubs and the first thing that struck me was how UNpubby the Bohemian was. All clean lines and walls with big wood tables, it was perhaps a yuppy take on what Martha would want a pub to be but a pub it wad not. Or am I missing something? Is it a semantics thing. This is what Gastro pub means in Toronto. Don't misunderstand me. It was nice just not a pub.

A Gastro pub in its original sense, are those little cozy, dark pubs, real pubs, that have ventured beyond the traditional bags of crisps or Pad Thai and decided to hire a proper chef. So you walk into what looks like your granddad's pub and to your wonder, is this astonishing menu.

The decor and the malapropism aside, the other odd bit was the food. It was quite pubby fare. Is that it? Reverse Gastro pubs? Is that a thing? Well, it was not English pub fare though. It was more, central/eastern European. Perhaps that was given away in the name, a region in the Czech Republic. That means heavy, rib sticking, meaty eats. I was in for it, eek.

the Bohemian Gastropub -Bratwurst Spatzel Poutine
H ordered the Choucroute Garnie and I ordered the fish of the day, a Trout on a solid Potato Pave block. We shared a Spatzel Poutine as well. J arrived later and ordered a Reuben Tarte Flambe (flatbread).

Fish of the Day with Potato Pave
The Fish was dry and the Potato was very bland. And not bland for lack of seasoning just without flavour. H  liked her Sauerkraut okay. Nothing to rave about or gastro-ey about it. I was quite looking forward to the Spatzel Poutine, unfortunately, it was quite a disappointment. The Spatzel itself was fine but there was a shamefully small amount of Cheese Curds and there was no sauce to speak of, just the fat from the sausage I hadn't expected. I can eat around the Sausage but the lack of sauce on something they dare to call a Poutine is unforgivable. J's flatbread was fine though a tad light on the meat and on the small side.

the Bohemian Gastropub -Reuben Tarte Flambe
Overall, not the Gastro nor Pub experience I was looking for.  Food was disappointing and the ambiance was crazy loud.  I could barely hear my friends over a 2 ft table. Service was lacking to compensate. The staff was nice enough but quite slow. As well for the couple of hours we were there, we had three servers and had to re order our drinks twice. It wasn't jam packed so there was little excuse for it.

Service: friendly but poor
Ambiance: LOUD LOUD, chic and unpubby
Cost: $$$

The Bohemian Gastropub
(416) 361-6154
Queen West
571 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M5V
The Bohemian Gastropub on Urbanspoon


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 27th - Jamaican Salt Cod Soufflé

Jamaican Salt Cod Soufflé
I found a piece of Salt Cod in my cheese drawer on Sunday and fancied using it but did not have any Ackee stashed away in the house and did not feel like deep frying any fritters or the sort.  It wasn't big enough to make a main out of, on its own.  D suggested I do my Carribean Souffle that I make with Crab and other Seafood. I thought, well, if I'm going to use Salt Cod I should put more of a Jamaican flare on the flavours and spices. It was fabulous.  I only used 1/4 a Habanero but I think I could have used a 1/2.  D thought it was enough because Souffles shouldn't be spicy but I countered that it was more Jamaican than Souffle :^P

You may be tempted to disregard my warnings about not adding any additional Salt but please heed.  Salt Cod is Salty even after thorough desalination.  Leave the salt on the table if you must.  Souffles can be daunting and not because of the cartoon deflating images of our youth but because of all the steps.  Silly me, I added a few more by choosing to do Salt Cod.  But if you stay organised, you can come out of it with a great Souffle and just a few bowls in the sink.

Jamaican Salt Cod Souffle 

200-250 g Salt Cod
1/4 t Allspice
1/4 t Dry Thyme
1/4 t dry Tarragon
1/4 t ground Ginger
1/2 t Curry Powder
1/4 t dry Parsley
1/8 t freshly grated Nutmeg
1/8 or less freshly grated Mace (a few passes only)
Black Pepper
2-3 T freshParsley, chopped
1 T fresh Thyme, leaves (if you do make anything Jamaican, and you don't want to buy a bunch of different fresh herbs, PLEASE, make the one you buy, Thyme. Ex Jamaican roomie always insisted on fresh Thyme)
2 T fresh Chives, chopped
1 rib Celery, finely diced
1 Serrano, seeded and minced (optional, these were quite mild)
1/4 - 1/2 Habanero aka Scotch Bonnet Pepper, seeded and minced
2-3 Spring Onions
4 large Egg Yolks
6 large Egg Whites
1 t Lemon Juice, or Cream of Tartar
4 T Unsalted Butter
1/4 c Flour
1 c Milk
1/2 c Toasted Coconut Flakes
Black Pepper
NO added Salt!

24 Hours ahead: soak your Salt Cod in a large bowl of cool Water.  Change every few hours and leave in refridgerator over night.  Change again the next day a few times.

1 Hour or more ahead: butter a large souffle dish.  Use either the wrapper from the butter or parchment paper. If you don't want to muss with that.  Melt 2 T of Butter in the microwave and use a silicon brush.  Get in all the corners and on the sides, brush upwards to the rim from the bottom. Refridgerate until you start to cook. Then let it sit on the counter. 

In a shallow sauce pan, place the drained piece of Salt Cod and cover with water.  Bring to an active simmer.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain and cool.  When cool to the touch, flake into pieces and set aside.

In a dry non stick pan, toast your unsweetened Coconut flakes until lightly toasted.  Remove from heat and set aside. In a pinch, you don't have to toast the Coconut but it does add a nice nuttiness if you do.

Hour to half hour ahead: take your eggs out of the fridge and let sit on the counter.  My experience has been that cooking with cold Eggs, even simple poaching, interferes with the desired result as you try to bring the Eggs to temp. If you don't have the extra time, let them sit in a bowl of warm (not hot) water until needed.  As well, measure out your Milk and let stand at room temperature too.

Spices: I like to assemble the dry spices in a dish like this first.  I like to clean as I go and the clutter of all the bottles drives me bonkers and you're less likely to forget 1.  So in a small bowl, measure out all the dry  Spices and set aside. Mace is the alien like hand that is wrapped around a piece of fresh Nutmeg.  If you don't have it, leave it out.

Aromatics: I like to places the aromatics that will cook the longest together to the ones that will cook the least in that order on the cutting board, chopped.  Celery, picked Thyme (discard stems) and Chilis will go first and leafies like, Parsley will go in last. 

Eggs:  Have your stand mixer at the ready with a VERY clean bowl.  Have two bowls handy.  A larger one, that you might have had them sitting in and a small clean bowl.   Crack each egg and separate out the White into the small bowl.  Make sure no Yolk is in it and then add to your Mixer bowl. If a Yolk breaks in to the White, do not put it in the mixing bowl.  You can cook something else with it.  As well, replace the sequestering (small) bowl with a clean one.  Do this with each Egg.  Placing the Yolk into the larger or other bowl.  You will need two less Yolks so I plop two into the smaller bowl at the end and cover with plastic and place in the fridge.  Add a few drops of Lemon Juice to the whites and leave there.   The Lemon Juice's acidity is meant to help them keep their lift.  You can use Cream of Tartar powder (not the pickle sauce!) as a substitute if you don't want to waste a whole Lemon.

Preheat the oven to 410 with the rack on the lowest level.

In a large sauce pan, melt the Butter on Medium heat.  Add the Celery, Spring Onion Whites, Thyme, Serrano and Habanero.  Sautee for 5-10 minutes until softened and the Butter looks clear.  Add the Spices and sautee for a few more minutes.  I stir this whole time with a small whisk.  Everything is chopped small enough that nothing gets caught.
Add the flour.  Whisk to combine.  You want to cook but not burn the Flour so watch your heat.  Cook, whisking regularly for 10 minutes.  Add the leafier stuff: Chives, Spring Onion Greens and Parsley.  Keep moving for a few more minutes.  Add some Black Pepper to your taste.

Add the Milk slowly.  Whisk constantly.  It will gloop up at the beginning but just keep it moving.  At the end it will seem to runny but turn the heat up.   It needs to come to a boil.  When it does, turn down immediately to the lowest heat... or turn off if your burner keeps hot a long time.  Whisk and whisk until you have the consistency of pancake batter.

Turn off the heat but keep on the burner.  Add the Yolks 1 at a time until completely incorporated.  Then add the Coconut Flakes, whisk thoroughly.  Remove from heat.  Then gently fold in the Salt Cod.  Don't use the whisk or you may disintegrate the Fish into catfood.  Set aside to cool.  If you want, you can set aside in a very large mixing bowl.  I just place the pot in a rack/trivet to cool down the mixture and pot. 

Whisk your Egg Whites on high until you get stiff peaks.  That means you could turn the bowl over and it will keep together or you turn the head of your mixer back and the little fluff on the beater will stand up well.  Do not over beat or they get 'dry'.  That means they start to look like and actly styrofoam.

Take a large rubber Spatula.  Take a big scoop, about 1/4 of the foam and mix vigorously into the Yolk mixture.  Don't be gentle here.  You're just lightning the custard.  Then add the rest in batches but gently folding.  Meaning, place the Foam in then cut down the middle, scoop down the bottom and up the side and turn over, turn 90 degrees (1/4 turn) and cut, scoop and turn again until the Whites are 'mostly incorporated'.  Don't worry about white patches.  Repeat until all the Whites are in.

Pour into your buttered Souffle dish.  Clean the rim with your thumb.

Place the filled dish into the oven at the back as fast as you can. The oven can lose 20-40 degrees while you fuss about with the door open.  Now turn down the oven to 400.

30 Minutes is all it will take for it to puff up and brown.  It may jiggle a bit but that's okay.  If it is very wobbly when you cut into it, bake another 10 but for the Cheese free souffles, I normally don't have this issue.  Very YUMMO!

Jamaican Salt Cod Soufflé sliced


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monday, September 26th - When it rains I bake.... Bread. - Dark Rye Country Loaf

Dark Country Rye Loaf
You know the more traditional saying of what happens when it rains.  Well, when it chucks it down like it did yesterday, and you are happy to resign yourself to 'having' to stay in rather than fighting inertia, I get a burst of energy to bake. Yesterday, was exacerbated by the fact that the Sunday night toon line up on the PVR was horrible.  Ceelo on a musical episode of American Dad?  What were they thinking?

D was complaining the other day that I have too many Flours in the house.  What kind of comment is that?  It's like pointing out that someone has too many Spices or Shoes in the house.  He requested I do something with either my Dark Rye Flour or my Chick Pea Flour.  Well, since D is planning on doing a Bread Salad in a couple of days, I thought I'd bake some bread for it.  As it turns out, I'll have to bake another one, since D says that Rye bread is not neutral enough for the Salad.  Oh well,  more for me with Maple Butter..mmmmmm.  Dark, chewy goodness.  There are not alot of places to get good Rye Bread in Vancouver.  For the most part, you'll find White Bread with Caraway Seeds on top.  Cop out if you ask me.  Although, I miss the Caraway seeds on mine, but the texture and the depth were there. Mine will not rise as high since I use more Rye to AP than other recipes call for.  Still, Yummo!

Dark Rye Country Loaf

1 c warm Water. 
1 1/2 t Yeast
2 t Salt
1/4 c Dark Molasses
1 T Honey
1 1/2 c Rye flour
1 c All Purpose Flour
1 T Olive oil
1 T Caraway Seeds (Optional)

In a small bowl, mix half the Warm Water with the Honey.  Sprinkle over the Yeast and let stand for at least 5 minutes.

In your mixing bowl, mix the other half of the Warm Water with the Molasses.  It will take some coaxing to melt the Molasses off your measuring cup/spoon.  Add the Salt, Oil and stir on low briefly.  Add the Rye Flour (and the Caraway seeds if you have them).  Mix on 2 (on stand mixer) until mostly combined.

Add the Yeast mixture to your mixing bowl.  It is important you do this now and not before.  The Molasses does not play well with the Yeast and you'll just end up with Yeast corpses floating around doing nothing.  Trust me.  Stir briefly.

Add the All Purpose or Bread Flour in half cups and mix in between until mostly combined and the potential for a Flour explosion on full mix are quelled.  Then turn up the mixer to 4-6 for 6-8 minutes.  The dough will come cleanly away from the walls of the bowl and form a ball.

Lift the Dough out and lightly grease the mixing bowl.  Place the Dough back and swirl around to Oil one side and then turn over so oily side is up.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside.  Let rise for 1 hour.

It will rise but not that much.  It will have the texture of childrens' modelling clay.  Fold over a few times and form a loaf.

Place in a lightly greased loaf pan and cover.  Set aside to rise for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Bake for 35 minutes.

Let cool on a rack for 5-10 before cutting if you can.  Sooooo goooood!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday, September 25 - Easy Crabby Eggs

Easy Crabby Eggs
I don't know why, even when D is off, we limit our Brunching to the weekends, but we do.  D bought some lovely lump Crab meat and normally we do Crab Cakes with them so we can have the fully crabby goodness instead of losing it in a big dish.  But I dropped the idea of an Eggs Benedict using the yummo Rosti we have in the freezer and D got fished in.  The thing is that D was making breakfast and I am the Egg poacher.  So D did an Easy Benedict with Over Easy Eggs and a nice Dijon Vinagrette instead of a heavier Hollandaise or Bearnaise.

Lemon Tarragon Dressing

1 Lemon, zested and juiced
1 t fresh Tarragon, minced
1/4 - 1/3 c Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Coarse Salt and Black Pepper

Whisk in small bowl.

Easy Crabby Eggs
2 of your favourite Potato Rosti (we buy ours at IKEA) but you could easily grate your own Potatoes.
OR 2 whole grain Toast
2 Eggs, cooked just over Easy so you have runny Yolky goodness to melt into the Crab
150 g picked Lump Crab Meat, divided in 4
2 c fresh Baby Greens
Lemon Tarragon Dressing

Cook and place two Potato Rosti on your plate.  Pile some of the Crab Meat on each Rosti.  Season gently but not too much because you will salt your Eggs.

Place one Egg on each Rosti and season the Yolk area.  Pile some Greens on and Drizzle the dressing over.  Sooooo YUMMO!


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saturday, September 24 - End of Summer Fish Tacos with Low Fat Avocado Lime Crema and Pica de Gallo

End of Summer Fish Tacos with Low Fat Avocado Lime Crema and Pica de Gallo
I could have sworn we used to change the clocks around this weekend when I was growing up.  I was shocked to find on the internet that it isn't until November.  We had planned on a Taco Night a few days ago while it was chilly out.  We do Veggie Tacos on a regular basis with Soy Ground Round but since it was surprisingly warm out today and after watching Eat St on FoodTV, D had a sudden about face and had a craving for Fish Tacos.  We had been up on the North Shore at our friend R's secret Chanterelle stash and we decided to stop at the local megastore for some white fish and Low Fat Greek Yogurt.  Our local shop doesn't carry it but any of the PC branded supermarkets have a great one.  Anyhoo, we asked the fishmonger's opinion on which fish might hold up best on the Q.  I knew Snapper would be D didn't seem keen.  She recommended Tilapia but I don't know if it was because they seemed to have a surfeit of it.  We decided on Cod and Haddock filets so we could test which we liked best.

As toppings on our fresher lighter tacos, we decided to keep things light as well and make a Low Fat Avocado Lime Crema and a Pica de Gallo (fresh Red Salsa).  We also picked up the PC Branded Green Salsa.  We've tried a few brands that we could get on board with since making the roasted Tomatillos is a bit of a chore.  It is definitely tastier to make your own but if we could find a brand we liked enough, then all the better since Tomatillos in our area are quite expensive.  Anyhoo, we have dismissed the Goya and the Herdez brands as being too watery, bland and tart.  The PC Brand looked promising.  You could see the nicely charred chunky Tomatillos in the jar.  It was quite nice and in a pinch, is what we will use now.

To season our fish, I mixed my own All Purpose Mexican Seasoning because if you take 30 s to read the labels of the store bought one you will see they are loaded with Salt, fillers and preservatives.  I make ours with no Salt and season as needed.   Plus it's cheaper!  For the shells, we buy the fresh, soft Corn Tortillas.  We buy them in packs of 10 here.  We have a smaller hispanic community here so you are not likely to find the stacks of 100 like we do in California in the corner drugstore for like 3 bucks (jealous).  Simply heat these up for 30 s on each side in a hot cast iron skillet or microwave as instructed.  We use the skillet to get a nice toasty rather than soggy experience.

Mexican All Purpose Seasoning

4 t Chili Powder
1 t Cayenne
1/2 t Paprika
1/2 t Ground Cumin
1/2 t Ground Coriander
1/2 t Oregano
1/4 t Thyme
1/2 t Onion Powder
1/2 t Garlic Powder
1/2 t Red Chili Flakes
1/2 t Black Pepper

Shake and keep tightly lidded.

Pica de Gallo (Red Salsa)

2 large Tomatoes, room temp
1 1/2 - 2 Jalapeños, minced (remove seeds and veins if too spicy)
1/2 Lime, Zest and Juice
1/2 medium Red Onion, finely diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 c fresh Cilantro, chopped
1/2 t dry Oregano
2 T Olive Oil
1 t Salt
Black Pepper

Mix and let stand at room temperature until dinner. With the acid, it is fine for hours. If you refrigerate, you'll lose some of the tomato goodness. I keep all the Tomato guts. If that is too watery, leave the Tomato seeds out.

Avocado Lime Crema

1 medium Avocado
1 Jalapeño (or Serrano)
1/2 c Low Fat Greek Yogurt (about the same amount as the Avocado you're using)
1 Lime, Zested and Juiced
1/2 c fresh Cilantro
Salt and Pepper

Puree all ingredients in a mini processor or with a handblender. It is very thick so you will have to stir a few times. Very addictive.

Fish Tacos

1 lb firm White Fish, (we used Haddock and Cod)
1/2 c Pica de Gallo, mainly the liquid
2-3 t AP Mexican Seasoning
1/4 - 1/2 t Salt
Olive Oil

Cut the fish into pickle sized fingers. Let the Fish marinade in the Pica de Gallo liquid for half an hour at least in the fridge. Drain off the Fish. Season and drizzle with Oil.

Grill for 1-2 minutes on all sides. Do not over cook. Serve on soft Corn Tortillas with fresh greens of your choice, Salsa and Crema. Mmmmmmm

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wednesday, September 7th - Le Resto Banquise - Baby, Poutine and Me

Poutine Mexicaine - le Resto Banquise
We were staying at a friend's place in the plateau at the end of our extended stay in Montréal.  Whilst D was dealing with some heavy family stuff, I had lil T to myself.  It was much better to be on my own with lil T in the plateau than the East End suburbs, I'll tellya.  Nothing in walking distances for km's and oppressive humidity keeping me from meandering further.  That said, the only unfriendly thing about the plateau is the exact thing that gives it so much character....the stairs.  If you have ever been to Montréal or received a postcard, you will be familiar with my predicament.  Most brownstones in the city have two to three stories with flats on each.  Each flat is usually accessible only, by an external set of very precarious, albeit ornate, stairs.  Our kind friend A, who was on a cruise in Italy, lent us her second level flat near Parc LaFontaine.  It was gorgeous.  The building featured 10 ft high ceilings, which of course meant even higher access stairs.  Well, that meant, that any excursion with lil T was a committment to wending my way down these death defying steps with a stroller and a baby.  Building codes be damned around these parts!  The last three stairs at the top were half the width of normal stairs and were cut in a strange L shape to accomodate the flat next door.  I can't do it justice and I only wish I had taken a photo just so you could appreciate the brave men that moved A's piano into her place!!!

I therefore planned the day carefully so that I would only have to deal with the down and up once and be out for most of the day.  I prepared everything for the excursion so we could bolt as soon as I had fed lil T.  I mentally, planned my walking route so that I would be on the move near the end of T's patience with the stroller so he might fall asleep.

Luckily, where I wanted to eat lunch was quite near her place, Banquise.  It was all over the food boards as one of the more popular restaurants, including Urbanspoon.  That is quite amusing since it's all but a greasy spoon almost directly out of the set of Friends or something. With it's garishly, bright painted walls, mismatched chairs and hipster waitstaff, you'd hardly think it would rank ahead of some the culinary haunts of this most European Canadian city.  Well, that's what kind of draw Poutine has on the visiting public and the locals alike. 

The first thing you have to accept is the type of fry you will see in Montréal.  By any other standard, Montréal fries look either burnt or cooked in dirty oil.  Either or both may be the case, but that is the type of fry you will see all over town.  I reckon, that they do not do the par frying in the lower temp before crisping but put the spurs to the oil right away.  What results is a darker fry that is more creamy in the middle than floury.  The exterior is more on the soft side than the crispy except on the extremities.  From La Fleurs on every corner to Outremont, you will see the same.  It's a style that few establishments choose to deviate from and Le Resto Banquise is not an exception.

My first visit here (yes there was more than one in two days), was just me and lil T.  First thing to note on my new Baby Friendly rating (quite common in #Montreal EVERYWHERE) is the #inaccessibility.  Seriously, it's bad.  The entire metro system except one station in the obscurest station does not have platform to street elevators.  You will encounter stairs at every station except one.  This is also an issue with restaurants.  Most restaurants are NOT equipped with ramps or automatic doors or propping doors.  Alot of restaurants have very inconvient stairs right before the door which do not allow a single person to safely lift a stroller to the top, rest and open the door because the door opens outward onto the narrow top step.  Banquise is such a place.  If it weren't for the staffer smoking outside who held the door for me after I stood there regarding the door and planning my entry for two minutes, I would still be standing outside fuming today.

Once in, the mood lightens, the staff are very friendly and try to find the best table for you and your stroller.  Though in the 'hip and trendy' part of Montréal, open 24 hours, they are equipped with 4 high and booster chairs.If you'd rather keep the baby in the stroller, they'll move the chairs away for you.  Awesome. As well, shockingly, their large bathroom is equipped with a massive change table! Yeah, it was tagged but there it was, woohoo!  They're quick with the water and taking your order, well aware that with baby in tow, your stay will likely be abbreviated. 

There is a full range of diner type foods from breakfast to burgers but the reason for their fame is there list of 25 different authentic Québecois Poutine!  One thing they do not make clear, and to rest assured, all their poutines come with those lovely squeeky fresh cheese curds and a gravy (unless a different sauce is specified).  I wasn't sure so I asked.  As I said, I was here two days running.  The second day I came with D, after I raved about the Poutine so I'll share the three Poutine's I've tried and I'll mention one I almost ordered and having seen it arrive at another table, I wish I had.

The first day, I ordered the Mexican (sorry, Mexicaine, Poutine is feminine :^P).  It was heaped with Cheese curds.  They do not skimp like in so many places, usually outside Québec, where you seem to have alot of cheese but only on top and after a few forkfuls, you're left eating plain soggy fries.  Nope. Fork after fork, right to the end you will have Cheese Curds.  As well, a magical amount of gravy so as not to completely drown your fries or sodden them yet, not leave you wanting.  Perhaps that's the wonder of the darkened fries, the ability to repel the gravy long enough to last through a poutine. :^P  The Mexican was served with Cheese Curds, Gravy (Vegetarian Peppercorn Sauce optional), fresh Tomatoes, Black Olives and sliced Banana Peppers.  I also added smoked pepper sauce that was on the table and as a tribute to my high school days, a dash of ketchup on the side. The awesome thing about a dish like poutine is that once lil T tired of playing with his stuffed elephant and his teething ring, I could pick him up to stop him from howling and still continue eating.   The only complaint I would have about the Mexican is that since the fresh Tomatoes were cold, the Cheese did not melt into stringy goodness.  But that was my choice so I will choose differently next time.

Poutine Rachel - le Resto Banquise
Well, next time was the next day.  I ordered the Rachel.  The Rachel is served with Gravy, Cheese Curds, Sauteed Onions, Bell Pepper and Mushrooms.  MMMMM It was like a guilty pleasure on a plate.  If I were still pregnant, the Rachel, with a dollop of Sour Cream would have been dinner at least twice a week.  I was quite close to ordering the Taquise with Guacomole, Sourcream and Tomatoes but I was worried they'd skimp on the Guac and wanted to have a melty Poutine this time.  Well, meltiness aside, I shouldn't have worried about the skimping.  The family next to us ordered one and there were two icecream sized scoops of Guac and Sourcream heaped on top of the Poutine. Drool.  Is it possible to have Poutine envy whilst eating your own Yummo Poutine?  Well, I did.

By the by, I ordered the 'Regular' sized poutine both times.  It was quite sufficient.  That's saying something reader!  The large was easily 50% more or more.  If the table behind us, of a dozen college students are good statistical sample set, only 1 dude ordered the Large and finished it and almost all the girls and 1 guy, had to ask for takeaway containers for their 'Regular' Poutines.  I personally think they weren't trying.

Poutine B.O.M. - le Resto Banquise
D ordered the Poutine B.O.M, ready for it?, Bacon, Onions and Merguez Sausage.  D loved it.  It had his name written on it, really.  He agreed on the portion size and he's a big guy.  Just right.  Yes, I eat as much as my foot taller than me husband.  What can I say?  I'm Korean and have a very warped sense of portion control and I'm breastfeeding which justifies my eating anything, wooooohooooo!  Overall, we loved the poutine but have to say, though we accept the dark fries of our heritage and past, we prefer a lighter crispier fry, soz, la belle province.  Still it was fantastic poutine that I will return for when home for Christmas!

Ambiance: diner
Cost: $-$$
Staff: helpful, friendly
Baby friendly: mixed; Inside: staff and facilities are good. Outside: access is hampered.
Notes: Licensed, Open 24 Hours, Cash and Debit Cards Only.

Resto la Banquise
(514) 525-2415
Plateau Mont-Royal
994 Rue Rachel E
Montréal, QC H2J
Resto la Banquise on Urbanspoon
for greasy spoon


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Saturday, September 17th - Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
I'm a fanatic about using up leftovers.  Half tubs of sourcream, ricotta and mascarpone are my mountain.  Whenever we make italian dishes that require these lovely perishables, I either try to spin the dish to use the entire amount, buy smaller containers or try to use the remaining portion in some subsequent dishes.  We made two ricotta dishes this week.  D originally bought the larger Ricotta for his Zucchini Fritters, which I will post later, because it was the same price as the smaller tub with a better brand.  With more than half a tub left, we then made Pesto Ricotta BBQ'd Thin Crust Pizza.  That still left us with more than a quarter tub. 

I had thought about baking Ricotta Muffins since we also had a pint of sweet Blueberries threatening to expire. But with lil T in the demanding stage, I thought I should try for something a few less steps and clean up.  As well, his room is underneath my kitchen so I had thought that I should avoid turning on the mixer.  In the end, the effort was probably about equal because he woke so early.  In any case, the pancakes were lovely and tender.  The Ricotta effected the texture than the flavour.  Perhaps next time, I might change the proportions to see how far I can push the Ricotta volume.  Serve 4-5 hungry people. 

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

2.5 c Flour
1/2 c Cornmeal
1 T Baking Powder
2 T Sugar

3/4 c Ricotta (if you drain it over night in a paper coffee filter, then cut the Milk down 1/2 c)
2 large Eggs
1 1/2 c Milk
1 Lemon, Zested (not the juice)
1 1/2 t Salt
2 t Canola Oil

1-2 c Fresh Blueberries, washed

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

In a smaller mixing bowl, mix the wet ingredients together.  Add to the dry ingredients.  Ideally, let stand for 20-30 minutes. 

With a nonstick pan or griddle on medium high heat, add some Oil or if you want to splash out, Butter.  To prevent the Butter burning mix with Oil or turn the heat down slightly.

Add 1/2 c ladels to the pan.  Allow to cook until lots of bubbles start to break on the surface and the top looks like it is starting to look less gloopy.  3-5 minutes.  Peep at the bottom to make sure it's not burning.  You may need to adjust your heat to allow it to cook through before the bottom cooks.  Flip.  It should be golden brown and crispy. 

Serve and eat as you go or keep warm in the oven.  Serve with Maple Syrup or if you have it Maple Butter...mmmmmm, tender and rich.  The nice zing of Lemon is awesome with the Blueberries and the Cheese. 

They keep well in the fridge cooked.  Just heat in a dry pan or in your toaster if they are small enough.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sunday, September 4th - Le Local - Cozy Port in the Storm

Halibut with Potato Crust and Aubergine Mousseline
My sister in law offered to watch lil T for us to have a nice night out. The original plan was to see an early movie and then supper. We ran into a familiar roadblock that I had forgotten about since the days I used to live in Montréal over a decade ago, the scarcity of v.o. movie theatres. I can handle seeing a French or Quebecois movie but I can think of few things less compelling than seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes dubbed over in French or Helen Miren in the Rachel Singer Affair with a twangy Quebecois accent. Nope. Shut it down. We decided to skip the movie. The few English theatres in town were too far or playing at very inconvenient times. Hohum.

So a longer, relaxing meal it is. We chose Le Local. Bro in law was familiar with their chef and his other restaurants and TV shows. We wanted to avoid the downtown core if we could. That said, Vieux Montréal was not the less crowded alternative we naively anticipated, particularly on a Sunday, duh! We've definitely been away too long. After crawling along behind a caleche we arrived at the patio we where we were going to have a cocktail. Unfortunately the sky opened up into some serious west-coast like rain. We were early so headed straight to Le Local for drinks instead.

We were lucky to park right out front. The patio we originally reserved was far less appealing in this weather. It was covered in a platic tent which seemed to cheapen the chrome bistro tables with a view of a parking lot. On a nice sunny day, I could see how it might be nice but the canyon separating the decor and ambiance from inside to out, made me request a table inside. They were very accommodating. The bar area looked just as chic and welcoming if had had to wait for our table.

We ordered two very interesting cocktails with described with enticing herbal accents that neither of us could detect. It's not even worth telling you the name of the cocktail as they both tasted of hummingbird feed, pure simple syrup, sweeter than koolaid. Sad.

Escargot Cromesquis with Fennel Gorgonzola Salad
I was than slightly worried about the food but needn't have been. I ordered the Escargot with Fennel Salad in Gorgonzola dressing. D ordered the Tuna Pissaladiere. When my dish arrived, I was a tad apprehensive at the stylized plating. That said, it was delish. The escargot was lightly battered and tender. The salad was well balanced and bright. The portion was on the modest side. It was the only dish that was. D's was more bistro classic plating and quite generous on the amount of Tuna. The Tuna had a lovely smokey quality, Yummo.

As a main, I ordered the Halibut, as a default. Though there was a number of seafood options, the majority were accompanied with a meaty element. They were not willing to substitute, only leave off. How odd. How can you offer to simply remove a crucial element of a 35$ dish without offering a replacement. Anyhoo, I did not order that dish. D did though, so I did try it. It was the Scallops with Ravioli Stuffed with Carbonara inspired filling.

The Halibut was gorgeous. It tenderly cooked and not dry.  The Potato crust was not what I had expected, more of a dusting of potato than a potato layer but the fish itself compensated.  The Eggplant mousseline was light and flavourful.  Actually, I want to specifically call out that everything was PERFECTLY seasoned which has become rather rare now.  There is too much bravado salting in kitchens these days.  We're not on food tv ladies and gents, let's go easy with the flare.  The salting tends to happen at every layer whilst cooking leaving a final plate of such saline dimension as to preserve the tongue.  Not here. D thought it was a hair on the under seasoned side, a hair but that is far easier to rectify than an over salinated dish.

Scallops with Carbonara Ravioli
D's dish of Scallops and Carbonara filled Ravioli was gorgeous as well.  It was a nice portion of very happily large Scallops done to perfection.  D told me the ravioli was light on the offending bacon flavour so I might have been able to handle it.  Though as an avid fan of bacon, his judgement on the subject is a biased one.  He has been trying to convert me for years.

To accompany or meal we had a Bourgogne, a Clos de la Combe Chardonnay 2009 by Jean Chartron. Very nice.

Jean Charton - Clos de la Combe Chardonnay 2009
The service was lovely and attentive with the whole staff working as a team.  Should our glasses appear empty, a passing server from another station would replenish.  The ambiance was warm yet not suffocating or heavy.  We did not bring lil T so I could not comment on family friendly though there was a infant at the booth next to us.  Which even as people with a small infant, I have to say, seemed out of place.  The staff seemed understanding and accomodating enough, though.  The baby was exceptionally quiet so we were not bothered on our night off either.

Cost: $$$$
Service: attentive and friendly
Ambiance:  Chic, cosy
Wine list: extensive

Le Local
(514) 397-7737
Old Montréal
700 Rue William
Montréal, QC H3C

Le Local on Urbanspoon


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Saturday, August 6th - 100 Day Celebration - 축 백 일

Dhuk Cake - Rice Cake
We don't live in the same city as my folks so lil T's 축 백 일 (chook baek il), hundred day celebration was delayed until our trip out east. It's a traditional Korean celebration for babies to recognise surviving the difficult and sensitive first few months of life. Presumably, as is the case for many such traditions, it arose from a history of high infant mortality. This is emphasised by the typical foods served at the fête which fall into categories of purpose and often, by many, specific foods. The foods and gifts should represent what you want for your child: longevity, cleanliness, luck, knowledge, patience and wealth. There is also a polytheistic aspect which I'm sure tore my grandma up as she has been a converted catholic for over 50 years. In the end, we did not pay homage to the gods who watch over children with an altar with rice, soup and sometimes, red beans.
BBQ'd Vegetables
Traditionally, longevity may be given in the form of chains, rings, bangles or string. Or from an edible perspective you give rice cakes to as many people as you can and the more people to partake, the longer the child will live.

Spicy BBQ'd Squid with Bell Peppers - Maewon Ojing Bokum
We kept our meal simple and in the spirit of the summer and we barbecued Kalbi and Spicy Squid as well as some seasonal Squash and Eggplant from the yard for the main. Mom tosses the Squash with Olive Oil to place on the grill then tosses it with some Sesame Seed Oil and coarse salt before serving.

BBQ Kalbi - BBQ Korean Beef Short Ribs
Many of the foods used may represent wealth by the nature of its scarcity or cost. Though many of those foods are actually quite common and easily accessible now such as White Rice, Rice Cake, Meat and some fruits. As carnivorous as Koreans are thought to be nowadays, meat was an exceptional treat and reserved for the extremely wealthy or powerful. Rice was scarce amongst the masses and to this day, my uncles cannot stand the sight of Barley, which they were fed as children.  In lieu of rice, the commoners would have eaten Barley. My dad finds the cost of a small pack of Barley vs a 10 kg bag of Rice ever so amusing and ironic. Dad thinks it's very ironic how expensive Barley is now compared to plain Rice as well as it's promotion for nutritional value.  Mom likes to add grains, in small quantities, to her rice like Barley, Millet, and Quinoa. The Rice Cake or Dhuk would have been reserved for very special occasions because of the cost.  Actually, this hunk of cake above cost a lot more than I would have expected.  We could have bought ten nice butter cream kin.

Chook Baek Il Table
Also, on the table is Egg Battered Fish is ubiquitous.  It is, adorably, the only thing my Halmonyee (Grandmother) knows how to cook.  Well, she cooks other things but as Mom is the better cook, she does not presume to try to do other things.  So whenever we visit, she shows up with Egg Battered Fish.

Mung Bean Jelly Salad - Cheongpomuk (청포묵)
Another well known celebration food is Mung Bean Jelly, Cheongpomuk (청포묵) which is a clear, nearly flavourless jelly made from the starch from mung beans.  Mom tossed it with Cucumbers, Kaenyip (Perilla) leaves, which she grows in the backyard, and Radishes.  It was lightly dressed with Rice Wine Vinegar, Sesame Oil and Toasted Sesame Seeds. Mom's friend also made us Acorn Jelly, Dotorimuk Muchim (도토리묵무침) the brownish form of the Mung Bean Jelly.  Mom tossed it with Chives, Kym (Seaweed aka Nori)and dressed with homemade Soy Sauce, Rice Wine Vinegar and Sesame Oil/Toasted Seeds.

Acorn Jelly Salad - Dotorimuk Muchim (도토리묵무침)
Omu/ Fishcake with Peppers is one of my favourites.  You can choose from many different shapes of Omu in the frozen food section of the Korean market or buy it fresh.  Mom stir-fries (Bokum) with Peppers (Gochu) from her garden.  She grows about half a dozen different Gochu of various scales of heat.  For this dish, you'd want to go medium hot.  Fried with homemade Soy Sauce and Anchovy (Fish) Sauce and Garlic.

Fish Cake Stir Fry - Omu Bokum
Along side these dishes and Banchan, were also a few different Kimchees made from Cabbage and Daikon and of course Rice. We finished the meal by slicing the Dhuk Cake which lil T, though limited in dexterity, tried to attack.  Funny how all babies do that.  As we lingered and passed lil T around, we cut some Watermelon and Korean Pears and Mom and my aunts when 'farming' in her backyard garden to collect bagfuls of Gochu and Kaenyip Leaves.  Topped off with containers full of leftovers. No one goes home empty handed from Mom and Dad's.