30 November 2008


It was a good day at the Cookbook Store not too long ago... I went in, very innocently. I didn't think I would find anything, but I hadn't been in awhile and I really wanted to walk around and browse.

Imagine my surprise when I found not one but TWO cookbooks! First up, David Rocco's Dolce Vita. What a beautiful cookbook! Next up, Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food. Woo hoo!

G often complains that I buy lots of cookbooks and food magazines, but that I don't often cook things from them. Part is because I am busy and disorganized, the other part is because it's so hard to settle on things that I often just end up making pasta with garlic and oil! But not this time. NOPE. We picked two recipes, one from each, and made them for dinner.

First up was a beef stew featured in David Rocco's book. The stew was amazing. We cooked up some Israeli couscous (which was delightful) instead of rice or potatoes. We haven't made the Israeli couscous in awhile and had forgotten how much we both really liked it!

YUM! The picture is awful. Apologies. I am putting away the new camera until I can get someone who knows how to use it to show me what to do. Anyway, the stew was really nice. It had a really rich flavour and looked remarkably like the photo in the cookbook!

Next up?! Jamie Oliver's lasagna recipe...

This was slightly less successful. This is supposed to be an easier version of lasagna, and I met a few roadblocks... first... the meat sauce was nowhere near right. I followed the recipe to the letter, but it was runny and had no flavour. I doctored it up and it was fine. Then, you were supposed to use creme fraiche. I couldn't find any, and all the recipes to make your own took too long. I read on the internet that you could substitute sour cream. Well, no you can't, actually. At least not in this. The sour cream sauce just melted into the lasagna noodles. It was strange.

BUT at the end of the day, the flavour was there and while not something I would rush to make again tomorrow, if I had some creme fraiche, I would give it another go.

The Ministry of Food is an interesting idea. Jamie Oliver wants to teach people how to cook. He wants those people to teach people. And then he wants everyone to get off their duffs and start cooking. And so we did.

All in all, a fruitful day at the Cookbook Store!

Dinner at the Pickle Barrel.

A few weeks ago, G and I were doing some early holiday shopping at one of the big malls. It was a Friday night, I had had a rough day at work, and it just made sense to try and eat something at the mall itself instead of embarking out on the world to find something (though I am sure my urbanspoon iphone app could have helped with that), and I wasn't in the mood for food court. So, we decided to eat at the Pickle Barrel. Now, I think I have probably eaten at a Pickle Barrel before, but who can remember?

This was quite the experience. First, we waited for a considerable amount of time for a table. This almost never happens at the places we eat, not because we are so incredibly famous that we don't wait, but just because we don't tend to go anywhere where there are lines... The menu at the Pickle Barrel is all over the place. I am sure the folks at Restaurant Makeover would have a fit. (Is that show broadcast in the States?)

So, I decided to have the sliders starter with a caesar salad. G had the deli plate. It was really enjoyable!

The salad was tasty...

Really covered in dressing, but tasty.

G's meat plate was insane.

Corned beef, pastrami, and montreal smoked meat all on a plate, with a side plate of bread and pickles, and ANOTHER side plate of fries. GOODNESS.

And then my sliders...

Really tasty. Little meat patties covered with sauteed mushrooms and onions. I added ketchup and mustard and ate my face off!!! Really enjoyable!!!

So yeah, I wouldn't go out of my way to eat at the Pickle Barrel, but when presented with the option, I wouldn't say no!

Pickle Barrel on Urbanspoon

24 November 2008


US Thanksgiving is right around the corner and we celebrated early this year since we have plans this weekend. Being in Canada, we don't get a long weekend for the US holiday (!), so I always do it the weekend after. We opted to do it this past weekend.

G wanted to invite some friends that we hadn't seen in awhile. It was really nice, especially when we realized that we hadn't seen G and M for almost a year!!!

I wanted to do something totally different. So, I read through the Thanksgiving issue of Gourmet and made some of the Latin-inspired menu.

First up... adobo turkey. Really good.

Look at that pretty turkey!

Lots of turkey, and this wasn't even the half of it.

I made a chorizo dressing with cornbread mix straight from the family in the US of A, which made it feel all the more US Thanksgiving.

Wow. Look at that awful photo. It's official. I hate my new camera. Anyway... the chorizo dressing was really nice. It was really similar to the one that my Mom makes, but Mom doesn't make it with stuffing.

Anyway, along with this, we had some lovely maple syrup roasted butternut squash.

They were really tasty and sweet.

THEN! What was supposed to be the undeniably most wonderful aspect of the dinner, failed to impress as all of my gratin's do. Something that I do in the making of the gratin is wrong, and it always has been. I love potato gratin, but it never works for me, it's always super watery.

Anyway, you started this by making a rajas.

First, I roasted the poblano peppers. Then you peel and slice them and set them asie. You put sliced onions in the pan and cook them until they are tender. Then you mix in the green chilis and set aside. You then mix it into the slightly boiled potato and cream mixture.

SO! Runny as all get out, but delicious never the less. Someday I will figure out the secret.

I had leftover cranberry sauce that I made for Canadian Thanksgiving in the freezer. So we ate that (which everyone loved!). It was a very well-rounded Thanksgiving, and the gravy G made with the leftover marinade was so fantastic.

And then we had a delicious homemade apple pie that G made for dessert.

For the first time, I made almost the right amount. There was way more turkey than we neeeded, but we ate almost all of everything else... That was very excellent.

I feel the meal went prety well. It was traditional without being routine, and I got to try some new things, which was really good fun.

On Thanksgiving Thursday, I worked (because I yes, I live in Canada) but after work, we went to a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Democrats Abroad. It was really really fun! We had a really nice squash soup and a lovely salad, turkey, dressing, potatoes, the whole thing. It was pretty awesome. Plus, we enjoyed the meal with a bunch of other Americans who were happy to have a plan on Thanksgiving (and since it was the Democrats Abroad, there was quite a bit of toasting to our new President-elect!).

Living so far from home can be difficult sometimes, and Thanksgiving really seems to remind me how far from home I actually am... but that I have also built a home here and that it's okay to start my own traditions. The most important thing is that I have a solid base to build it on, thanks to my Mom, so I am good to go.


09 November 2008

Au Pied de Cochon.

I've been to Montreal a couple of times now, but never with much of a foodie eye. Not that I haven't had some delicious meals there, but I've always been there for some other purpose that didn't quite correspond with working out a good restaurant.

That changed with this trip. G and I were meeting friends there, and prior to our trip we decided to book a couple of reservations. The first choice, and in most ways the most obvious choice, was Au Pied de Cochon. I say this not only because Anthony Bourdain is a fan, but because it's gotten an enormous amount of press, great blog reviews, and it looked really interesting.

The story behind Au Pied de Cochon is that it's a French restaurant, big on portions, big on meat, and in love with the foie gras. It's luxury at its most luxurious, really.

When I looked at the restaurant online, I was not sure what to expect from the space itself. Is the restaurant going to be stuffy or formal? Would the staff be helpful? Could I convince anyone at the table to share the poutine with fries cooked in duck fat?

I was pleasantly surprised on all counts. The restaurant is definitely comfortable, with a very narrow walkway between the bar and the tables. The floor was very slick, and I kept slipping on my way to the table. But I was really immediately made comfortable by the location. Lots of wood, lots of niceties, and a very congenial host. Good times!

We purused the menu, and I settled on my order. Tomato Tart for a starter and the lamb shank with frites for my main course. G DID want to try the poutine, so my frite order became a poutine order. G ordered the guinea fowl liver pate and duck with mushroom sauce.

I was really excited while we waited for our food ... and ate bread...

The bread was really nice with a very flavourful butter. It was so delicious that it was hard not to keep eating it, knowing what awaited us....

Then came the tart and pate...

The tart was magnificent. Honestly, it was probably one of the most enjoyable things I have eaten in a long time, and I am really 100% confident that I will be able to recreate this at home. The tart was a puff pastry crust that was covered in cheese and then toped with tomatoes. It was amazing, and I ate every bite!

G's pate was presented very nicely.

There was a little mason jar of liver, a shot glass of jelly, bread, and the slices of raw onion. It was so beautiful! G said it was absolutely delicious!

Then came the mains. And they were not small by any stretch of the imagination!

G's duck was beautiful! Look at all those amazing mushrooms!!! The meat was tender, the sauce was remarkable. It was really spectacular.

We all gasped at the HEAPING soup bowl of poutine!!!

Look at that amazing bowl of poutine. You can't tell how deep this was, but trust me, it was more than three of us could eat. I was disappointed with the poutine, though. Perhaps it was because I had read so many reviews that said that the poutine was the best the writer had ever eaten. For me, it was overwhelmingly too salty. Unbelievably salty. I like it when the cheese doesn't melt, but apparently I am in the minority on that, as both P and G commented on how it wasn't great without the melty cheese. Oh well, you win some and lose some.

And I did win with my main course...

AMAZING! It was the most ginormous lamb shank ever, sitting on top of a bed of lentils, with this creme fraiche sauce and tomato relish. The lamb was probably the richest piece of meat I have ever eaten, and I couldn't eat anywhere close to the whole thing.

Sadly, there was no room for dessert, so after some chitchatting, we headed back to the hotel. Very full. It was a great evening, though. The restaurant was lovely, the food was mostly great, and we got to spend time with our friends!

Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

Ginger -- Yet Again.

Somedays, Ginger is just the perfect dinner option. It's cheap, it's filling, and 9 times out of 10, it's totally delicious.

I tried a new thing last time G and I went, the chicken and beef kebab with udon noodles.

As you can see, there were two chicken kebabs and one beef kebab on a bed of slightly seasoned udon. It was absolutely delicious (and all of about $8!). I had to have a spring roll, because honestly, there is something crazy delicious about their spring rolls. They are bizarrely crispy, greasy yet really light.


They also have the non-fried ones that G gets occasionally.

The food was really good. The restaurant on Church Street is actually pretty nice, always packed, and really efficient. Like I said, the prices can't be beat. The only downside is that often the entire neighborhood smells like Ginger! GRIM!

Raw Food.

A few weeks ago, we went out to dinner with our friends from the UK. They were here visiting family, and we hadn't seen them since our last trip to London, so we decided to all get together.

J suggested that we go to Live Food Bar for dinner. I have never had "raw" food in that sense, and was keen to give it a try. It was a cold night, and when we got to the restaurant, it was pretty packed with health conscience diners. We started at the juice bar in the back while we waited for a table.

The restaurant is quite small, but colourful, and the waitstaff was pleasant, though forgetful. Things we ordered never arrived, and so on.

I had read reviews of the restaurant and read that the thing to order was their lasagna. Feeling armed with this information, I happily ordered an organic Mill Street beer, placed my order, and chatted with our friends.

We ordered some sort of appetizer tray...

First were olives (that had sausage like seasonings), candied pecans, and spicy peanuts. Pretty good.

Then came my lasagna. Well, maybe I should say "lasagna". Or, maybe I should say, bunch of cold raw vegetables with funky almond "cheese".

Okay, I should probably make a disclaimer right now. I really don't like cold food. I don't like salads, I don't relish the idea of cold sandwiches, and I am not a huge fan of even crudite plates with lots of raw veg. I don't know why this is the case, but I know that it has been the case for as long as I can remember. I remember fighting with my brother when we were kids because I would make macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and make a mess, and he would complain about why couldn't I just eat a pb&j and get on with it!

That being who I am, the cold food restaurant was probably not going to be my finest hour.

And it wasn't.

The flavours were fine. The cheese was weird but interesting. But the total composition was not to my liking.


Now, all this being said, I would most likely go back now. I was looking at the website this morning and they have changed the menu for winter and it sounds quite delicious. I would definitely go back with the menu that is posted. And I am sure the other would have been refreshing on a hot summer day.

Live Organic Food Bar on Urbanspoon


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