Thursday, November 18, 2010

La gourmandise: mon peché préféré

Au cinquieme peché has been on my Montreal restaurants to try list for quite some time now. I've only heard positive comments about this little bistro on Mont Royal, near Bily Kun, so I was very excited when Renata decided to go there for her birthday dinner last weekend. The menu changes frequently depending on what's fresh and all the wine is what the french call vins natures (basically organically made wine).

This place is small, seating about twenty, and very charming and inviting. Our waiter for the night was superb! He was very helpful in suggesting wines and just patient and pleasant throughout our whole meal even though we're quite an undecided bunch especially when it comes to ordering wine to suit all our tastes. By the end of the meal, he even knew all our names! He also brought us a little taster of a dip that I can't remember the ingredients of...

To start, we all shared appetizers which included oysters, croquette de brandade and salmon gravlax. All three were delicious but my favorites were the croquette that were lightly fried and just so wonderful I kind of wish i didn't have to split it six ways...

As for the mains, I decided to do something uncharacteristic of me and not order the fish. Instead, I opted for a steak, rare, with mashed potatoes and bok choy that also came with a 2 hour braised paleron de boeuf ( beef shoulder). To cut this delicate meat all I needed was a spoon. It was one of those melt in your mouth experiences it was so tender. Amazing. Renata ordered the wapiti and according to her it was a rich texture for game but with a dry tenderness, like horse meat. She seemed to have enjoyed it.

My sister went for the sweet potato gnocchi and goat cheese which was just perfect. Claire and Kristina were the ones to order the fish of the day: a dorade served crispy with a chickpea polenta on the side. Everything was good but I woud say the winning dishes were my beef dish and my sister's gnocchi.

Oh and the desserts!! So we ordered all three to share: the nougat glacé, a little chocolate brownie like cake ( was it called suzie?) and the marron cheesecake. I'm very particular about cheesecake because I'm used to the home made variety that I bake with quality ingredients and minimal sugar. However, this marron cheesecake was one of the best I ever had. The little chocolate cakes were very good too and were scattered with pomegranates and other fruit. The nougat glacé was another crowd pleaser and we basically couldn't decide which was our favorite because they were all so excellent.

Au cinquieme peche was a great dining experience. The food was creative and high quality and the service familiar and professional. The prices were fair, it was about 70$ per person including 2 shared bottles of wine.

It was a great place for an intimate birthday dinner!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

business lunch #5: Lunch at Birks!

So I finally found my new favorite business lunch location downtown: Birks Cafe!
This is the new restaurant by Europea in the Birks jewellery store on Cathcart and Ste-catherine. We didn't have reservations but luckily a reservation for 2 had just been cancelled.
There`s something about eating surrounded by pearls, gold and diamonds that`s just so glamorous! The dining area is situated in the back in the elevated area and is all white table cloths, nice silverware and glass cases with pretty items such as vases on display. Of course, my camera battery died when I got there so bear with me and the blackberry photography.

When we sit down they immediately offer us a taster of cabillaud mousse with some pretty edible gold thing on it. Quite tasty although mousse form is not usually the way I enjoy my fish... But I absolutely adore when a place offers their patrons little dégustations, it's just so classy and considerate and a little extra that clients really appreciate and it allows the restaurant to show off what they're capable of creating. Also the bread was whole wheat and the butter came covered in seaweed and rock salt and there was also some lemon infused olive oil and balsamic. Very nice touch.

Every dish on the menu has been reviewed by a nutritionist so its all relatively healthy and portioned properly for a one person meal. This restaurant proves that healthy doesn`t have to mean boring. We had the table d'hote and I ordered the beef gravlax which came with lentils and whole wheat toast. It was ginger honey flavored and delicious. My mother ordered the squash soup and it was a little spicy and contained cubes of tofu and squash. Both very good entrees.

Next, I ordered the papillote of sole which came served to me in a plastic wrapping that made it feel like I was recieving a present! The waitress cut open the package for me and in it was the rolled sole which contained tomatoes, olives and zucchini. It was served on quinoa and vegetables. I loved it. It was light but still flavourful. My mom's ricotta stuffed ravioli was also amazing. It was covered with beautiful delicate mushrooms and truffle shavings.

For dessert, I went for a litchi macaron which was not comparable to Pierre Hermé one, but good and not as sweet as the other ones I've tasted in Montreal. We had cappucinos (5.50$, the only overly expensive item on the menu!) and they gave us lemon madeleines.

Everything was amazing. The service, the food, the decor.
Even the prices were not offensive (a little less than 30$ each for an entree and main) considering the quality of the food.
Also the man who offered us dessert and gave us our bill really reminded me in his graciousness of the man in Breakfast at Tiffany's who allows them to get their cheap ring engraved. The whole experience sort of reminded me of that movie which is maybe why I liked this place so much!
Finally, my hunt for an excellent lunch location in the downtown core is over!
This is definitely my go to place from now.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

How I wanted to love you based on looks alone: Barroco

I had walked by this restaurant thats in the place of the defunct Cobalt and thought it looked cute and cozy. I liked the brick walls, the dim lighting and the nouveau Baroque theme they were playing with. I really really wanted to like this place. I really did.

I suggested we try it out so 8 of my favorite ladies and I decided to get all dolled up and have dinner there on wednesday night. There was lots of fur, good shoes, a few Blair Waldorf inspired outfits, some 90s. We have fun.

The cocktail list was enticing and the drinks were good. Kristina got a maple syrup, orange and bourbon that was delicious at first but the orange was overpowering after more than one sip. Alissa and I ordered a white wine, a Chablis, and for 68$ were not at all impressed. The whole menu was excessively expensive actually.

The menu was appetizing. Renata and Alissa ordered squash soups that came in little pumpkins which was a cute presentation. It was decent tasting, not mind-blowing.

Isabelle's endive and goat cheese salad was extremely bitter and uninteresting. Alyssa's coquille St-Jacques were actually well executed and for some reason reminded all of us how our mother's used to serve them at christmas parties in the 90s.

Kristina's octopus salad was chewy and as she so wonderfully put it, underwhelming. When she threw a piece into my plate for me to taste I asked her what it was forgetting what she had ordered and not being able to identify it. Jessie ordered the bison tartare and was horrified and incredibly disappointed. It was bitter and chewy and just plain gross. L'orignal a few streets away has a much much better bison tartare.

I ordered a 34$ main of ricotta stuffed dorade royale with green pea gnocchis and... green peas. First of all the presentation was awful. The red wine sauce was heavy and didn't go well with the fish. The gnocchis were pretty good. But for 34$ I was terribly offended.

I don't even understand how these people have the balls to offer such sub par food at those prices. It's a nice place, it looks great, but the food is not. The cocktails were their only redeeming factor. And the waitress was really nice.
That's about it.

Save your money and go eat somewhere where they care about the freshness and quality of the food and not just looks. There was just no love in this place.



Monday, November 1, 2010

Sunday Dinners are Sacred: Halloween edition

Halloween weekend I decided to be mildly festive and dress up as Margot Tenenbaum for my sunday dinner while i cooked a somewhat festive meal. I made a monkfish recipe from Philippe Laloux's amazing new cookbook Le bonheur de cuire which my mother gave me as a gift and I had also prepared a pumpkin cheese cake for dessert.

Philippe Laloux opened Laloux restaurant in 1988 but then left to do his own thing and travel. I know his cooking only from when he catered my brother's wedding and managed to dish out perfect magret de canard for 80 people in a really small and ill equipped kitchen. I don't know how he did it but it was the best magret I ever had!(much better than the one i tasted at the restaurant that still bears his name...)

So the monkfish recipe was relatively easy to make and the fish really isn't that expensive. We bought the clams and the monkfish at the fish market suggested by M. Laloux, Nouveau Faléro on Parc. It's sort of a thai influenced dish with coconut milk, green curry and saffron. The recipe suggests to serve it with basmati rice since there is a large quantity of the fragrant broth and it's so delicious it really should'nt go to waste! I also enjoyed eating it as a soup...

2 poireaux émincés (i didn't use any...)
1 red onion chopped
1 cup of chopped celery (i put more)
2 cans coconut milk
1 tsp green curry paste (i put 2)
1 tsp saffron
1 1/2 pounds of monkfish
2 cups clams
a little less than a cup of white wine
1 cup of green peas (i put 2)
2 tomatoes, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. cook the onions and celery in some olive oil and then add the coconut milk .
2. Add the curry and saffron.
3. Cut the fish in pieces and place in broth.
4. Allow to sightly boil and cook covered for 5 minutes.
5. Rinse the clams, cook separately in the wine in a covered pot for 5 to 7 minutes or until they all open.
6. Right before serving add the peas, clams and their filtered juice to the fish.
7. Cook a bit longer.
8. Add the tomatoes at the very end
9. I chopped up some chives and added them at the end too.

paired with: a gewurztraminer

For the cheesecake recipe i basically followed the smitten kitchen one except for the crust in which I added cinnamon and I also made it thinner. I split the recipe in two because it was for a giant cake from what I saw in the pictures! Also I used fresh pumpkin instead of the canned version. Canned things scare me a little.

So the meal was a great success! The monkfish was simply delicious. The cake was a also a huge hit with my family and friends and was a perfect dessert for a Halloween night.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Downtown dining: Dominion Square Tavern

Downtown, as I have come to learn, does not have very many quality dining establishments. So i was excited to try this place i've heard so much about off of Ste-Catherine on Metcalfe. My friend Jessica (check out her blog and I decided to dress up and go have a few drinks and a late night bite to eat before going out.

First off the place is beautiful. Old school 1920s glamour. Long bar. Checkered tiles. Warm lighting. Old rock n roll music. Very high ceilings. Pretty vintage looking dishes. All the waiters are men in uniform.

Dominion makes their own ginger ale which I found to be quite exciting. I ordered a rye and ginger although im not a fan of cocktails unless they're extra dirty martinis. It was good but I kind of wish the ginger flavour was a bit more pronounced. Anyways, I think my friend Jessie may be a better judge since she does work at an irish pub and she is obsessed with Dominion's rye and ginger!!

Next, the food. The small menu consists of modern fancy pub food and had a lot of items that weren't typical. We ordered 4 appetizers to share: bocked shrimp, deviled eggs, salmon gravlax and the infamous scotch egg.

The bocked baby shrimp was flavoured with nutmeg and something spicy and served with pumpernickel style toast. Loved it. The deviled eggs were perfect. The salmon gravlax was not at all like the delicate slices of fish I'm used to. It was sliced a bit chunky which I enjoyed. The salmon came with sour cream and a blueberry compote and blinis. Making the blinis whole wheat was a really nice touch but I just don't like sweet blueberries with my seafood. It makes me feel weird. And the scotch egg!! What a wonderful delightful artery clogging creation this is!! I had never had one before but it's basically a soft boiled egg wrapped in ham covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried. Enough said.

Overall, great experience. The service was good, the prices a little steep (11$ for one deep fried egg!!!) but it's such a gorgeous place you kind of just overlook that. The menu could use some more options though (full menu is on their website


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Northern escape with my best friends!

Renata, Claire, Kristina and I have been going up to the Cassis cabin together since our cegep years and we especially like going up in the fall. We went to do our grocery shopping at Bourassa which is a sort of smaller, refined costco. They have amazing olive oils and vinegars, a lot of the same as what you would get at les Douceurs at the Atwater market, but for way cheaper. Their cheese section is basically a walk in fridge with tons of delicious French and Quebec cheeses.

For our platter we bought an oka with mushrooms in it and a delicious cow's milk cheese called pleine lune. It was creamy and covered in vegetable ash and tasted buttery like a brillat-savarin but not as creamy. We accompanied the cheese with fig and olive crackers and some grison and pate de foie de canard. I also made a green salad with raw pistachios and baby tomatoes with a pistachio oil and white wine vinegar maple syrup vinaigrette.

The next day for lunch we made a pumpkin black bean tomato soup. We didn't have any booze leftover to put into it so we improvised and added maple syrup. There was also cubed smoked ham in it so it turned into a very quebecois meal.

1 can black beans
half a can to a full can tomatoes
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves minced
a few branches shallots, chopped
1 tbsp cumin
some allspice to taste
cinnamon to taste
salt and pepper
1 box beef broth (4 cups)
1 small pumpkin (we used one that had a 5inch diameter)
a few tablespoons quebec maple syrup
cooked ham cubed

garnish with sour cream or yogourt and roasted pumpkin seeds

1. chop pumpkin and take out innards and seeds. save for roasting. put pumpkin slices in microwave for 5-10 minutes to speed up cooking process. Then put in oven for 30 minutes. Once cooled peel off the skin.
2. Puree some of the beans and all the tomatoes in a blender. Set aside.
3. Melt butter and cook onions on low heat for 5 minutes. add garlic, shallots, cumin, allspice, salt and pepper.
4. Puree the pumpkin with the broth.
5. Put the pumpkin mixture and tomato mixture into the pot with the onions. Let cook.
6. Add maple syrup and spices to taste.
7. Add the ham at the end and some booze, like sherry or red wine, if you feel like it.

Such a great weekend with my lovely friends!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Giving thanks: a family dinner

The new tradition in my family is to have my brother and his wife Anais host the thanksgiving dinner. And she's a truly amazing cook so it's always a treat. As an appetizer there was prosciutto with figs. As an entree, she made a wonderful squash soup and the traditional turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce. The stuffing is basically my new favorite thing ever.

5 small onions sliced and caramelized
6 apples peeled and chopped
4 stocks celery chopped
half a baguette cut into 2 inch cubes
3/4 cup chestnuts chopped
1 cup brown apple juice
3-4 shots brandy
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbs fresh rosemary finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
mix all ingredients, place half the mixture inside turkey the other half in oven proof baking dish covered. Cook along with turkey for about 2 and a half hours.

She also made mashed celery root which are way less heavy than potatoes. Leaves room for dessert! She made her famous pumpkin pie which is always amazing!! The secret is it's not just pumpkin but a mix of acorn butternut and pumpkin. With a buttery cheesecake style crust. Simply delicious.

pumpkin pie

graham cracker crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tsp powdered ginger
mix all ingredients until well blended. Press the mixture into 9-inch pie plates. prebake for 8-10 minutes before filling.

3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp all-spi
pinch of cloves
pinch of salt
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree* (or any mixture of acorn or butternut squash and pumpkin)
2 cups half-and-half or whole milk

1. Prebake crust, and start the filling while crust is in the oven. when crust is done turn the oven to 375 f
2. Beat eggs with sugar, then add spices and salt. Stir in pumpkin puree and cream. Warm this mixture over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until hot to the touch; do not boil.
3. Pour mixture into still-hot crust and bake 30-40 minutes, until it shakes like jello.

* cut small pumpkin in half, remove seeds, place on baking sheet skin side up. Bake at 400 f until soft about 40 minutes.
scoop out pumpkin and puree

Successful and relatively light thanksgiving dinner!
Good night!!