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!!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

With the colour of rust

It's been months, years even, but my fingers are regaining some virility and I think I can manage a post. My thoughts, however, still a little jumbled. Put it on paper, you can draw it in your mind! No better way to begin this than to talk about the grand opening of my home for future dinners!

I had the honourable presence of many lovely ladies and we all/most entertained the Russian theme... oh yes, how can I forget to tell you! Of course it was themed! Themed dressing of course means themed recipes!

So many people brought so many tasty Eastern European delights from pickles, pickled green tomatoes (a personal favorite of mine), caviar, Claire's famous potato salad, chicken salad, bird's milk chocolates, etc. Unfortunately we had to eat it all out of plastic plates which wouldn't fit any Russian theme (I'm thinking even the lack of plastic bags circa Soviet era) but no one seemed to mind... haha, not even me. But don't be mistaken, I got the 'fancy' kinds (that's what it said on the packaging at least).

Recipes absolutely to come! Borscht, pelimeni, and maybe roulette even! All passed on from generation to generation within my family with variations along the way.

No better pleasure in life than great company with great food... I love you friends!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Boston thanksgiving roadtrip with the fam

So i went to boston for the weekend just to get out of Montreal for a bit and decompress. We did tons of shopping and eating and walking, one of those trips. Boston is known for their lobster so the first night we got there, we were tired from the drive so we just walked around our hotel and found this place called Abe and Louie's. I ordered a pistachio apple blue cheese salad with dijon dressing and split the lobster Savannah with my mom. Amazing!!! I'm definitely going to recreate this salad at home. The lobster came in a creamy sauce with mushrooms and peppers and was just over the top and very satisfying after that long drive.

However the food was not all good. My sister Sandrine and I were shopping on Newbury and randomly walked in to a sandwich shop and were thoroughly disapointed with the meal to the point where we had to return our unwashed salad (it literally had dirt in it) and uncooked chicken. My 18 year old sister is very good at being assertive and unimpressed so she returned the plates. The manager handled it well and comped us our meals. We learnt our lessons, always judge a place by its decor!!! Aesthetics say a lot about someone's taste and attention to detail. This place was completely ordinary slash lame looking and our food was even more so.

To make ourselves feel better we entered a wonderful little chocolate shop called teuscher that imported truffles and chocolates from switzerland. Their specialty was the champagne truffles which were exactly how you would expect them to be. Divine! They also had a jasmine truffle that made me stop in my tracks on a busy shopping street and close my eyes to enjoy the subtleties of flavour. At $3 a pop, thank god that was the effect the chocolates had on me!
Finally, on our last day we went to visit the Harvard campus in Cambridge and went to eat at Upstairs on the Square for brunch. This place is basically like a little girl's dream with pink walls and leopard print carpeting in the staircase and zebra print in the dining room.
The concept was good in the sense that it was really fun but it was a little unkempt. The paint was chipping and the carpets looked old. But i suppose that's what happens when there is white carpetting in a dining establishment. The food was actually good though! The bread course was a selection of several different types of mini muffins and cinnamon cake and arabic style cheese bread triangles. And the butter was soft.
Sandrine and I went for the brioche french toast with fruit compote, my mom went for the lobster omelette and my dad went for the crab tagliatelle.
We all shared a platter of artisanal cheeses which by the way americans eat as entrees instead of dessert (totally disconcerting!). So for our dessert we shared homemade icecream and shortbread cookies. The peanut butter icecream was sublime! Really.

Boston has some good food but I recommend making reservations well in advance if you want to go to any high end restaurants. The line ups are crazy the night of. Go prepared!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Business lunch #4: F bar

o I felt the need to compare and contrast the two relatively new bistros that have the same design, the same location and 2 different well respected establishments backing them up.
Last week was Brasserie T! (by Toque!) and this week F bar (by Ferreira cafe).

First off, good bread service! They offer two different types, one regular and one portuguese corn bread with a delicious olive oil for dipping. As an appetizer, I went for the clam chowder and my mom ordered the beat salad. She won that round. It had pieces of bacon and a delicious slice of some hard cheese like a sort of asiago i think.

In the chowder there was potato cubes and corn and the soup was good but there was not enough clams in it. And I prefer when they come in the shell.

F bar definitely won points for the presentation of the food. None of the mains were served in a regular plate. My spicy mayo beef tartare came on a wooden cutting board and my mom's halibut (served on mashed potatoes and accompanied by asparagus) came in a casserole. It was different and fun. The almond and raisin mix scattered on the dish were amazing, especially the crunchy delicate almonds.

The tartare was good , flavoured with minuscule chopped onions and capers and spicy mayo. I usually don't like mayonnaise as the dressing for my tartare because i feel like it's too easy and it takes away from the rest of the flavours. It tasted pretty similarly to the sauce used in spicy maki rolls so i actually quite enjoyed it afterall.

The food was good, the service too but there's something about these restaurants that i just dont like. My mom put it best i think: "J'aime pas ca manger dans une roulotte". And that's kind of what it feels like in both brasserie t! and f bar: a long fishbowl trailor. It's a cold sort of atmosphere. I'm just overall not wowed with either one of these places especially considering the restaurants that are behind them.

I did enjoy F bar a little more then Brasserie T, they seemed to put more attention to detail and the menu was more interesting. Still, I don't think I'd go back to either one.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I have a thing about judging breakfast restaurants based on the quality of the eggs benedict, the options for fresh fruits and the homefries.

Knowing this, my cousin took me to a place in outremont called amalgame. we were all tired and not looking our best so no pictures of us were taken. lets concentrate on the food!

My eggs benedict were perfect. the sauce was just salty enough. they put cheese and ham. some places only put the ham on the classic version and i find that very dissapointing.

i tend to get my eggs benedict on bagel as a personal favorite (keep in mind i absolutely dont count calories so maybe dont follow my diet haha )

The fruit and plating was delightfull. now, the hash brown! what a treat. i kind of wished there was more of it but then i would be filling up on it instead of on the eggs and fruit. i thoroughly enjoyed my meal there. the breakfast comes with regular coffee that you can upgrade for a small amount to a latte or espresso or anything like that which i find is a nice touch.

my cousin got the large bowl of fruit which was appropriately priced as well. Our friend myriam got a sandwich and fries which was quite tasty as well.

Amalgame is on Bernard just east of Parc Ave.