Sunday, December 28, 2008

Seafood Casserole

Eating the last few days has been intense to say the least. I really should have reviewed each meal individually but I felt with all the people around and the hosts trying their best to make sure everyone had what they needed, the last thing they would have wanted was me in their face with a camera and notepad. So I'll just touch on what we had and finish off with the one that seemed the least disturbing for a photograph and that was oh-so-good. It all started off with an amazing spinach and cheese lasagna that my sister-in-law-to-be Josée made using her mother's special tomato sauce. The next day we ate a heart-warming traditional Christmas dinner (on boxing day) put together by my wonderful husband and his mother. They know how to cook everything to perfection and everyone couldn't help but have seconds! Day 3 consisted of cranberry and brie pastry bites, bacon wrapped bocconcini with a cherry tomato and balsamic, olive oil and pepper glaze to start, followed by a very fun and delicious chinese meat, chicken and mushroom fondue with every dipping sauce known to man, again put together by Josée and served with a couscous salad, rotini salad and ceasar salad. And day 4 wrapped up with the grand finale, my mother's seafood casserole. This casserole is rich not only in taste but also in price. She fills this casserole with massive chunks of lobster, crab, scallops, shrimp and filet of sole. My mother did a wonderful job this year of bringing the maritimes to me. There are two things I miss from New Brunswick, the beaches and the lobster. On day one, I failed to mention above that my mother also brought in 7 market size lobster for us to snack on. She, my husband and I seemed to be the only ones all over it, so we lucked out, and pigged out. As soon as she's back home she'll be sending me the seafood casserole recipe and i'll post it right away. YUMMY!

I'd also like to make mention of some of the wonderful wines and ports we had. Every single one below is worth every penny.
- Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
- Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Riserva 2005 Sangiovese from Italy
- Big House Red 2004 California Red Wine from the Bonny Doon Vineyards
- Lustau East India Solera Sherry from Spain
- Dow Vintage Port 1994

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

It started at about 4pm yesterday and it's far from over. I just love this time of year for the constant eating of food fit for a king. My husband and mother-in-law spent an evening this week preparing the dishes for our Christmas eve get-together and Christmas morning brunch. 

Last night my husband layed out some gouda with cumin, some parm and Boursin, crackers, garlic stuffed olives, pickled mushrooms, mustard pickles and some homemade nuts and bolts.

A bit later we had some of the world's best curry clam chowder with homemade cheese crackers and soft, warm buns, followed by a delightful veal, pork and beef tourtière and mustard pickles.

Our friend's brought over some yummy marinated fig crostinis with arugula, goat cheese and prosciutto sprinkled with a balsamic reduction.

The next morning we snacked on the smoked salmon, capers, onions and whipped cream cheese with pumpernickel that never made it out the night before. 

And for brunch we had some mimosas, croissants fresh from the oven, bacon and a rich feta and spinach quiche. 

I have no idea what is in store for us this evening. My brother will be serving dinner tonight. I just hope I can digest all the above in time to enjoy the next meal.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Veal, Garlic and Rosemary Agnolotti

Tonight my husband and mother-in-law are spending the evening cooking for tomorrow night's guests. There are many time consuming recipes on the roster and this is not one of them. So to not waste too much time on dinner tonight, my husband pulled together a delightful pasta dish that left me both dazzled and stuffed. He bought the veal, garlic and rosemary agnolotti at La Bottega and combined it with a delicious pesto sauce. Over the top he sprinkled some fresh parm and toasted pine nuts. Magnificent!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pre-Christmas Brunch

My wonderful friend Teresa had an awesome idea this week. She wanted to get everyone together but as you can imagine, this time of year most evenings are eaten up by some form of party or get-together. So she decided to make brunch for everyone. Genius! The minute we walked in I knew we were in for a feast. The aroma alone had me salivating. I made my way to the kitchen admiring the beautiful colours of fresh cut fruit and frosted shortbread cookies displayed on the table. Mimosa? She offered. As I sipped away at my drink I couldn't help but start on the sweets – before breakfast. Chocolate covered rice krispy squares, melt in your mouth almond bark and of course her heavenly shortbread cookies.

For brunch she served a divine breakfast strata made with sausage and cheese, pan fried potatoes with peppers and onions, turkey bacon, and possibly the best homemade cinnamon buns i've ever had, hot, right out of the oven. The breakfast was excellent, the company even better. Thanks T!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

b/Side Wine & Small Plates

I've been wanting to try this place since before they opened. As soon as they put the sign out saying a small plates restaurant was coming I couldn't wait. I love the idea of small plates – you get to try all kinds of wonderful stuff and it's a more fun and casual way to eat. So to finally shut me up about wanting to eat there, my husband took my mother-in-law and I out tonight. I'd been next door to Benitz once before (it's the same owner and chef). The food was great and the service, well, let's just say it was the best i've ever had in Ottawa. b/Side's was the same, only a bit less fancy and very reasonably priced. I was a bit surprised at the menu. I expected there to be more rare and unique dishes. Why I expected that i'm not sure, but the dishes that they did have were delicious nonetheless. They also have a pretty extensive wine list and offer a lot by the glass. We ordered 6 plates total but 5 would have been more than enough. We started off with tamari and honey roasted quail with wild mushroom fricassee, the arancini which is a duo of stewed red deer filled saffron risotto balls, goat cheese fondue and porcini dust (these two were my absolute favourite dishes), and some calamari with a yummy cucumber dip. Then came the bbq basted baby back ribs, merguez sausage which is a Portuguese spicy lamb sausage and celeriac purée, and finally, a scrumptious linguini vongole with baby clams, sweet peppers and white wine and cream. Everything was delectable. So much so that I overate – big surprise! The price for the small plates range between $5 and $18 and offer quite a bit for a small plate. Definitely a great spot to check out.

Bside Bistro on Urbanspoon

The Whalesbone Oyster House

This is one of my absolute favourite restaurants. Everything from the food to the service and especially the atmosphere is fabulous. And the best part is that they're about a 5 minute walk from my house. When they first opened I was so excited, until we had the food. The price was high and the food left little to be desired. Josh, the owner, was a great guy and asked us how we enjoyed our meal. We were honest and not long after they had a new chef. When Steve Vardy started working there they took off and became probably the best seafood place in Ottawa. Steve isn't there anymore but the chefs going in and out have been consistently great. On the menu they've got small plates and big plates. We usually start off with oysters but this time we went straight to the small plates. First, Warm Pickled Beef Tongue with smoked tuna aioli, baguette toasts and chives. The beef was so tender and the aioli to die for. Then, my favourite dish, Salt Cured Foie Gras Tart with pickled shallots, smoked chicken and balsamic – absolutely amazing. Our third plate was a Hand Crafted Ricotta Gnudi with crisp sage, lobster cream and chorizo, this one unfortunately wasn't as good as the others, but still good none the less. And last but not least, delicious Fried Fish Cakes with saffron aioli, crackling and white fish caviar. We ate at the bar, it's a very small place so getting a table without a reservation is near impossible. They also turn the tables over a few times in the night, so if your reservation is early you'll have to be out by a certain time. The bar is great tho, the staff is very entertaining and they'll often have oyster shucking contests and crank the tunes from their vinyl library. This is definitely one of my favourite places and a spot I like to go often, even just for drinks. Small plates range from $7.50 to $15 and big plates from $25 to $30.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gianetto Dip

I'm making a special post to rave about this wonderful dip. My good friend Gina is from Midland and she gave us a container of her family's famous “Gianetto dip”. This dip is absolutely amazing. Made with cottage cheese, mayo, onions, garlic, salt, parsley flakes and paprika, it's enough to have you scarfing down every cracker or raw veggie available. If you're ever in the Midland area, stop by 290 King Street and pick yourself up some of this delectable dip.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Maple Salmon with Spaghetti Squash, Brussels Sprouts and Maple Butter Sweet Potatoes

As soon as I saw my dinner plate when I got in from work I was so excited. The colours on this plate alone are enough to have you salivating. But this meal not only looked fabulous, it tasted even better. My husband really knows how to cook veggies so they are the perfect consistency and flavour, which makes you just want to pig out on veggies. It's like everything he touches turns to absolute delicious fantasy food. You just don't believe it until you try it. Have you ever been full on brussels sprouts? I didn't think so. 

What you’ll need
Maple salmon (from Hartmans)
Spaghetti squash
Sweet potatoes
Brussels sprouts
Heated maple butter
Olive oil

What to do
Sear fish on one side. Roast spaghetti squash in oven then scoop out and add thyme, salt and butter. Cut sweet potato into strips and toss with maple butter, garlic and olive oil. Roast potatoes in the oven. Last but not least, boil the brussels sprouts then top with butter to taste. So awesome.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Northern 2

Northern 2 used to be called Northern Han and I believe it is still Northern 2 now; however, my husband said he saw Northern Han written on the menu. So if you see Northern 2 OR Northern Han, you've come to the right spot. This little gem is just past the busier parts of China town on Somerset Street between Booth and Preston. It's a tiny little hole in the wall that has tons of chintzy asian inspired decorations. That combined with friendly and modest service immediately makes you feel at home and very welcome. If you're an adventurous eater they have loads of authentic Chinese dishes to pick from. Personally, I go for the dumplings. I absolutely love dumplings and there's no shortage here. They have several to choose from and you can get them either boiled, fried or steamed. The small has 14 dumplings for $8.55 and the large for $9.90 has 20. Tonight my husband and I ordered the small Lamb and Zucchini Fried Dumplings, some Pan Fried Small Buns with Sesame (very similar to the dumplings), and an order of Shanghai Style Fried Noodles with bok choy, carrots and mushrooms. I've always enjoyed everything I have here, it's very flavourful and fun but I do find the noodles to be a bit on the oily side. You can't beat the price either. Starters range from $3.50 to $7.95 and mains from $6.95 to $9.99. Definitely a spot i'll return to again and again.

Northern 2 Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Curry Clam Chowder

This is by far the absolute best clam chowder in the world. In fact, it is the best chowder of any kind in the world. It sits high up there on my list of favorite foods and I look forward to winter just knowing that my husband will be making it at some point. We went to a Christmas party potluck last night and it was requested that we bring this amazing concoction. And as usual, it was a major hit. The flavours in the broth are very distinctive and have a titillating kick at the end that I'm absolutely addicted to. Every single ingredient has a reason for being there, from the potatoes and the onions to the bacon and clams, it's just marvelous. The recipe for this little gem however, is not available. It started off as my mother-in-law's secret recipe and was then handed down to my husband at just the right time when she knew it would both be appreciated and kept secret. He has since mastered and perfected it to even higher standards. If you don't know what you'll do with yourself not being able to make it, fear not, my husband will be making a batch on Christmas Eve and everyone is welcome to stop by for a bowl.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chez Lucien

Yes, I took a few days off from posting. But it's not my fault. I was very ill on Monday and Tuesday and let's just say, toast, chicken broth and ginger ale are not exciting enough to photograph or talk about. But by last night I was back in the game. (Although the Montreal game could have been better.) We went to Chez Lucien to catch the game and enjoy some great pub food. I love this bar, it's ambiance and it's quaintness. I wish it was easier to get a table or seat sometimes but luckily my husband went right after work and saved a seat for myself and a couple of friends. The best thing on the menu in my opinion is the Chez Lucien Burger, in fact, all their burgers are equally delicious. The Chez Lucien is topped with bacon, cream cheese and mushrooms and served with deliciously thin cut fries and salad. The cost for this filling meal? $9. But, although everyone ordered the burger, I decided to get something different this time. I went with the Tofu Burger, which is topped with yummy onions and sprouts. It was very good, but next time i'll go back to the Chez Lucien Burger. Another great thing about this spot is that they serve food until midnight, which I love. It's never too late to eat. The service is ok. It's unfortunate it's not a little better, but it's not bad, just a little slow which is understandable given the amount of servers to the number of people on a busy night. Snacks and starters range from $4 to $10, mains from $10 to $16 and sandwiches and burgers from $9 to $10.

Chez Lucien on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Snow Crab with Homemade Fries

What do you call the perfect end to an amazing 24 hours at Zoya's? A lunch with snow crab and homemade fries. Ok, so I had to do something. And no, I didn't make these tasty fries. I did however, bring one of Zoya's favourite foods to Tremblant with us this weekend – crab legs. We chowed down on these this afternoon before our trek back to Ottawa. Another weekend well spent. For great seafood in Ottawa, Lapointe's is the best. For a great time and awesome food, Zoya's is the best! It's fun to eat with people who love eating.

Broccoli, Onion, Bacon and Cheese Quiche

The only thing I enjoy more than the smell of fried onions is waking up to the smell of fried onions. I guess that would be like enjoying waking up to the smell of fresh coffee, right? This morning Zoya made us a delicious broccoli, onion, bacon and cheese quiche. She served it alongside some gingerbread scones from The Scone Witch. You know, i'd be happy with toast, but i'm in my glory with these meals. The luckiest girl ever.

Fondant au Chocolat

How did we end our dinner on Saturday night? With the perfect red wine pairing – chocolate. Zoya's other guest Rachelle brought the most heavenly dessert known to man – a fondant au chocolat. Even my husband, who doesn't have a sweet tooth to save his life, wanted to melt away in this entrancing dessert. Rachelle whipped 4 whole eggs, 4 yolks and some icing sugar together, then mixed in some butter, 1 pack of semi sweet bakers chocolate and approximately (?) 4 tbs of flour. I apologize, I do not have the exact measurements for each ingredient. The mixture was then separated into some ramkins and baked at 425 for 8 minutes. It comes out looking like a little cake, until you flip it out onto a plate and watch the liquid chocolate from inside flow out. Sprinkle with icing sugar. Absolutely divine!

Caramelized Ribs with Spaghetti Squash and Rosemary and Garlic Sweet Potatoes

If the above photo hasn't got you drooling on your keyboard yet, then you must be vegetarian. But even then, these ribs are enough to convert any vegetarian. Seriously. We decided to go to Tremblant yesterday to visit our good friends Zoya and Marc, and once again, she had us eating out of her hand. I love these little trips, they're fun, I love the company, and best of all, my husband gets a break from cooking. Dinner at Zoya's is never anything simple. These fall-off-the-bone ribs were slow cooked for 4 hours before being basted in her magical concoction and then caramelized in the oven. I didn't get the recipe, there isn't one. But I did get a glimpse of some of the ingredients that were used, honey, garlic, ketchup, etc.

She started us off with a roasted tomato salad. Tomatoes with sundried tomato pesto, garlic and cheese roasted to perfection, then set on a bed of baby arugula and topped with a balsamic glaze.

With the ribs she served sweet potatoes cut into thin strips and roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic and some spaghetti squash roasted with the same ingredients (minus the rosemary) but halved onto a cookie sheet and roasted cut side down. Every single item was to die for. I didn't want my meal to end. And it didn't end there! See my next post for what came next.

With this amazing meal, also came some amazing wine. Rachelle (another Rachelle) and Christian were also present and brought a delicious, full bodied, fruity red wine from Lebanon. Massaya Classic, 2005 from the Bekaa Valley. Another wine we had that was very good and worth sharing, Gran Feudo Reserva 2003 Navarra, Spain. It's made from 80% Tempranillo and 20% Cab Sauvignon. This one was very oaky and heavier than the first. Both amazing.

Lyon Tapas Bar

Here it is, my 100th post! My, how far i've come! I wish I had a picture to go with it but this one wasn't planned. It was still good nonetheless.

A group of friends and I enjoyed finger foods and great wine this past Friday night at the Lyon Tapas Bar in downtown Ottawa. It was an impromptu gathering that was formed mostly because of it's location. I had been there once before. The food is good, nothing fancy, but the atmosphere is very relaxed with little pretension. We had a great time and our server helped contribute to that – Kathy – with a K. Now because this dinner out was not planned, I did not bring my note book. And as they do not have a web site, i'm unable to reiterate exactly what I had. Clouded by the numerous bottles of wine we consumed, the descriptions are going to be very short. But rest assured, everything was very good. First let me recommend this wine we had, Amigos, or something Amigos. The list isn't very big so it won't be hard to find. It was a very deep, full bodied wine. Approximately $45 a bottle I believe. We started off with probably my favorite thing on the menu, Anchovy Stuffed Olives. Then we went on to the Smelts (of course), Calamari (the dipping sauce is fabulous), Meatballs in a tomato sauce and some delicious Mushrooms. I love the whole tapas idea. I think it's brilliant. I love trying many different things and it's so much more casual than your typical app, main, dessert. Small plates range from $4 to $14.

Lyon Tapas Bar
Lyon Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Trout Cakes with Caper and Parsley Sauce

I just finished some of the best fish cakes i've ever had. My husband took the last of the trout we had in the freezer that a friend of ours' father caught and put together the most amazing dish. I've always loved fish cakes, they're one of my favorite foods (I know, I have a lot). But even after getting the worst food poisoning ever on fish cakes in NYC, they still remain one of my top foods. (I did take a break for a while after that happened). To add a stronger fishy taste to them, my husband added sardines to the mixture. Once complete, he topped the cakes with a tangy caper and parsley sauce that complemented them beautifully and served them alongside leftover risotto and beets. Yummy!

What you’ll need
Trout (or halibut or other fish)
Green onions
3 sardines
Lemon peel
Bread crumbs

Caper and parsley sauce:
Olive oil

What to do
Cook the trout then flake it up in a bowl. Add all the other ingredients and make into patties.

Coat with more bread crumbs and fry. Set the cakes on a bed of greens.

In a blender, blend the ingredients for the sauce. Pour it over the trout cakes and garnish with caviar and parsley.

Total time, approximately 1 hour.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Beef Stir Fry with Fire Roasted Red Peppers and Bok Choy

My husband really knows how to make a statement with his ingredients. Tonight's dish was flavorsome and hearty. I could seriously curl up and go to sleep in front of a warm fire. But we don't have a fireplace so i'm writing my blog instead. I seriously don't know what i'd do without my husband, he's the best cook ever!

What you’ll need
Beef (flank steak)
Bok Choy
Fire roasted red peppers (we have a gas stove so my husband chars them over the flame)
Wild Rice

For the marinade:
Soya sauce
Rice vinegar

What to do:
Mix together the marinade ingredients above and allow the beef to marinate for at least a couple of hours. The longer the better.

Cook the veggies first in a wok with the marinade then remove. Cook the beef and then add the veggies back in. Stir together. Serve over rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Total time, approximately 2.5 hours including the marinating.

Shrimp and Quinoa Salad

If you want a delicious healthy lunch, here it is. My husband made this salad for our lunches this week and it is so freakin’ good I just want to eat the entire week's worth like now. I had it today for lunch and the best part was that it was actually filling enough that I didn't feel like eating my regular afternoon snack. This salad has a wonderful list of ingredients sure to please, like shrimp, quinoa, corn, green onion, tarragon, feta, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and juice from one lemon. This kind of food just makes you feel awesome after you've eaten it. The quinoa alone is high in protein, is a great source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. It's also gluten-free, which makes it easy to digest. I love it.