December 28, 2006
I’ve been meaning to post for weeks, but like everyone else, I have been so very busy. Everyone needs a cook at this time of year. And every cook needs to partake in a little Christmas cheer herself, leaving little time for this kind of thing.
My Personal Holiday highlights:
Tourtières: On the side of the fancy dinners, I did find the time to carry on my tourtière tradition and I made a whack of them, this year using 20kg of venison, duck, goose, pork and veal. They have been distributed all over the province to loved ones. The verdict isn’t entirely in yet, but so far they have gone over well with the guys; it is a man’s pie, chalk full of meat with a high protein to pastry ratio. This time, I used a butter lard crust, pretty yummy and easy to work with: http://www.canadianliving.com/CanadianLiving/client/en/Today/DetailRecipePrint.asp?i... The candies I gave out were vanilla, star anise and chocolate caramels, in case you were wondering. Not only did they puzzle a few people, these turned out to be a bad idea as they turn into a gooey mess if not refrigerated. I’ll stick to my usual buttercrunch next year. I had big plans for this beautiful wild turkey I was given, but never got around to cooking it. All I need now is a night off and a group of 10 friends who aren’t sick of turkey which might not happen until next year..
Good food: In our fortunate lives, the holidays always mean so much good food.. I don't understand how anyone can be a Scrooge when there are so many goodies going around! I mostly worked through Christmas this year, but nonetheless, there were many gustatory high points...
Best meals had: The best were some of the simplest: Oysters and champagne with FdB (François des Bois) after work, Homemade chicken pot pie, and Cheese Fondue out of a box (scandalous)... Oh and there was that elaborate meal at Panache – Merci François (Blais)! There were the impromptu steaks on the BBQ at Dave's, leg of lamb at Cynthia's. I also must note that my mom made a very delicious spicy lentil salad when I was home. You see, my mom feels like she has gotten some bad press here in my blog, and would like to see that rectifiied. The fact is that she has come along way in her cooking, no doubt because she no longer has 10 screaming kids in the house to care for, and since my dad has evolved to eating more than meat and potatoes. Don't worry Mom, I never blamed you for not cooking Lobster Thermidor for an army.
Best meals cooked: For elegance, fun and flavor, definitely, my menu on the 25th for Kanuk took the cake, with 7 courses and canapés, very heavy on luxury ingredients. My favorite was the starter of a lobster salad with sea parsley, sea asparagus and fennel, with a fried oyster and pickled day lily bud aioli. I also got to indulge in a few knife tips of caviar (German farmed Russian sturgeon) while working that night too! For a more casual dinner, I made these root vegetable sesame latkes that were dynamite, that dish will be a keeper.
Holiday gifts: I know this sounds cheesy, but to me, the Christmas season and all that surrounds it (minus some of the commercialism) is the greatest gift in itself. It brings out the best in people, gets people together, encouraging us to stop for a second and think about others, to give and be grateful. Whatever your religion or lack there of, this time of year is about celebrating light, food and togetherness. And I love the warm, fuzzy feeling of Christmas carols, the Baileys and coffee afternoons by the fire, the skating, all the wining and dining and hugging and kissing. Needless to say, I also appreciate the odd material gift, but they are just bonuses..
Best gifts received: Besides the cold hard cash, my stand-outs were both handmade: my necklace from Ange, and the trio of morels that Dave carved out of soapstone. I also received this most delicious assortment of artisan leaf teas from Isabelle, so aromatic, beautiful packaging. For a taste of these very these special teas, visit Les Thés C.G. (9443 Lajeunesse, Montreal). I am also very excited about my gift to myself which will be book(s). Despite all the cool things I drooled over while browsing The Foodsection shopping list http://www.thefoodsection.com/shoppinglist/2006/12/2006_guide_to_h.html) (a comprehensive list of lists for everything food related) when I was window shopping earlier in the month, but sensibly refrained, books I can rationalize. Maybe something from Leite’s Culinaria’s list, which is spot on for the serious literary-foodie type like myself: http://www.leitesculinaria.com/writings/features/best_2006.html.
Best gifts given: I was proud of my gifts this year because they were all eco-friendly, fair trade, for a charity or from my kitchen. The only exception I made was a dehydrator for FdB, which is made in the U.S. from plastic, but that can hardly be classified as junk, given the use he will get out of it.
Hangover cure: Since many of us are in imbibing mode these days, this might interest you... According to the crew at Gourmet, this hangover pill works. I'm skeptical, but hey.. Chinese food and gingerale works for me. www.chaserplus.com.
Lucky food for New Year's Eve: Before you decide what to eat on New Year's eve, you might want to consider Epicurious' lucky foods list based on the different customs from around the globe. Apparently, certain foods such as pork and fish bring prosperity and happiness, while others, like lobster, are bad omens.... http://www.epicurious.com/cooking/holiday/new_years/luck/index?mbid=e122706
Even if the holidays are all about home and hearth, I can't help but dream about someone else cooking, and
All the restaurants I didn’t get to this year: It amazes me how vibrant the Montreal restaurant scene is, with restaurants and wine bars opening left and right, even in the dead of winter. Thank God there is the likes of Leslie Chesterman who is paid to check these places out and keep us posted, otherwise we would surely miss out on a lot amidst our busy lives. My personal “to check out” and “to revisit” restaurant lists keep growing as I find little time to go exploring in town.
Hotspots to check out: All pretty new on the scene, and all wine oriented bistros: Aszu in old Montreal (the old Au Cepage), Les Trois Bouchons and Le Bistro du Sommelier, on St-Denis. There’s also Ian Perrault’s new Laurier St. resto, La Halte Urbaine and I hear Patrick St-Vincent’s (Bu owner) has opened another??..
Then there are the not so new restaurants that I never got around to going, notably Anise, and Raza or Cocagne.. (Hopefully one of my b-day presents.. tell FdB) Others that I am curious about include L’Atelier, Jolifou, O Chalet, M sur Masson....
I will have to rely on second hand reports (please go!) for a little while longer. It doesn’t look like January will allow me to get much checked off my lists either. Maybe in February when I have a desk job. January is an uncharacteristically big month for me this year with our duck event, some teaching orientation, a freaking root canal, and a shlew of intensive testing at Rideau Hall.. Oh yeah, and when it’s all over, I will be 37.
Happily, the Montreal Highlights Festival only kicks off at the end of February. This year’s scheduling is especially enticing with the Big Apple as the featured city. There is lots of buzz in food circles about who will be where, and many of the hot tickets, like Daniel Boulud at Toqué, are certainly booked. However, there are many other worthy events. Check out the website or pick up the guide in any SAQ. http://www.montrealhighlights.com/
Our thematic Duck Dinner in January.....Speaking of worthy events, our annual duck dinner is back on popular demand at La Table des Jardins Sauvages the two last weekends in January. It is the same format as our mushroom dinners (7 days, 7 courses, 75$ BYOB, lots of wild stuff), but this time, we are featuring John Bastien’s organic duck. No, the dessert won’t be duck, but it will be made with duck eggs. Go see the menu http://soupnancy.squarespace.com/recipes-and-menus/, and book now if you’re in. www.jardinssauvages.com
And P.S. Thank you: According to my sister, who is an authentic literary type, my spelling needs some work. So, you’ll be happy to know that I will be installing an English spell-check. And I apologize for the unintentional derogatory term I used in my last post, I did not know. Don’t forget, I am just a cook who likes to write, not the other way around. I need all the help I can get, so keep the pointers and feedback coming, and Thanks.