Sunday, March 29, 2009

Open-faced Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Tabouleh

This weekend has been the ultimate culinary experience to say the least. We started off at the Black Cat on Friday night. Had barbecued steak cooked for us on Saturday night. Went to the Urban Element this afternoon and finished everything off with dinner at our friend Eric's house this evening. Tonight he served us a moist and succulent pulled pork sandwich that was just fantastic. For the side we had some tabouleh which went beautifully with the pulled pork. I love pulled pork. I don't have it often but the sauciness and tenderness of the meat is just so great and fun to eat. And if that wasn't enough, for dessert we had some vanilla ice cream topped with maple syrup. I'm so sad the weekend is now officially over. I'd do it over again in a heartbeat. 

Urban Element – The Secrets of Smoking with La Boucanerie Chelsea Smokehouse

My husband and I signed up for this smoking discussion recently because A. we absolutely love smoked fish, especially from the smokehouse. And B. my husband got a smoker for his birthday and this just seemed like the perfect thing to increase his knowledge on smoking. We'd never been to an event at the Urban Element. I'm sad it's taken us this long to check it out. Anything that goes on in this dreamy kitchen is sure to be a wonderful experience. The decor, the staff and the subjects they choose for discussion are the ultimate culinary adventure alone. Add immaculate food on top of that and you feel as though you've just been admitted into heaven.

I already think very highly of Line and her husband James who took over the Boucanerie Chelsea Smokehouse last year. Every time I set foot in that house I feel so welcome and so excited about what i'm going to eat. I always want to leave there with everything. This discussion really made me understand the time, effort and insane passion that they have with all that they do. It's got to be the best of the best or nothing at all. They don't sacrifice a thing with their artisan-style smoking techniques and maintain the highest standards of quality. Only the finest salts, herbs, sustainable fish and seafood are used with a lot of time and effort spent on product sourcing. Their enthusiasm and obsession can only be described as contagious because we left there with a whole new mindset on how we are going to eat fish going forward. Unfortunately Line wasn't able to join us at the discussion but her husband James did a fantastic job at sharing many secrets and the efforts put in to getting where they are today. He was an amazing and truly genuine man with so much information that I was in awe at every thing he had to say and acted like a sponge the entire afternoon. In addition to the talk we got to try some pretty fabulous food. Many of the items we had I had already tried before; however, learning about each one and how they were cooked was like trying them again for the first time. There were also some other fishes I had never had before and i'm looking forward to having them again.

We had 6 courses:

Swim #1 – Salmonidae Family
Naturally smoked with pure maple wood
Cold smoked salmon, hot smoked salmon, jerky, sockeye salmon, cold smoked steelhead trout, hot smoked rainbow trout, arctic char

Swim #2 – Salmonidae Family
Sugar and spice
Cold smoked salmon with maple syrup, lemon and pepper, garlic, fine herbs and cajun spices

Swim #3 – Cold Smoked Seafood
Smoked mussels, smoked shrimp with grapefruit olive oil and tarragon, smoked scallops

Swim #4 – Hot Smoked Freshwater River Fish
Hot smoked sturgeon, hot smoked eel

Swim #5 – Hot Smoked Pelagics
Spiced mackerel, digby chick herrings

Swim #6 – Cream Cheeses
Creamed goat's and sheep's milk tartinades with smoked salmon and horseradish

All of the above are highly recommended. They were so flavourful and absolutely divine. Ones that stood out for me, of the ones i'd never tried before, were the garlic smoked salmon, the hot smoked eel and the digby chick herrings. If this event ever came back to the Urban Element, I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys seafood. You will learn the variations of smoking and leave there with an appreciation you never thought possible for smoked fish.

BBQ Steak and Potatoes with Salad

I had one of the best steaks i've had in a while last night during our second barbecue of the season. Our friends Bruce and Gina had a group of us over for dinner to watch the habs take on, and unfortunately lose to, the sabres. At least the dinner didn't end as poorly as the game did. In fact, the dinner made everything ok. Who cares if they lost? I just had the most tender, mouthwatering steak with a group of wonderful friends. She served it with a spicy green peppercorn sauce that made it even more succulent and her famous roasted potatoes cooked crisp on the outside and soft on the inside inside. The taco salad, another staple of theirs, was light and perfect for cleansing the palate after gobbling down the heavier meat and potatoes. If this is what we have to look forward to this summer, more barbecues, beautiful days, and great company, bring it on!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Black Cat Bistro

Yay, I can finally take this restaurant off my wish list of places I want to try. I'd been before when they were in the market under different ownership, but hadn't tried it since chef Steve Vardy took over at their new location on Preston Street. I saved the experience for an evening with our friends Tony and Cathy. They too had expressed an interest in going and we couldn't have picked a better couple to go with. They were into trying everything, as were we. So i've got a long list of raving to do. The decor inside is very simple and clean, with a long row of windows that let the last of the evening sun shine in across the restaurant. I don't even remember it turning to night I was having such a good time. We started off with some appetizers that were to die for. First, the Cast Iron Seared Foie Gras, a heavenly dish that literally melted to an oil once it hit the palate. It was warm on the outside and worked it's way to a cooler center. The waitress explained this transition to me before I ordered. It was quite unique at first but after the first few bites the entire dish warmed up inside and out. We also tried the Torched B.C. White Tuna, barely cooked, purple grapes, purple basil, jalapeno and crispy shallots. This was a very light app and perfect if you're planning to eat a heavier dish for your main. The tuna was fresh and delicate and served with the grapes and miniature slivers of jalapeno was a tantalizing combination. My favourite was the Venison Carpaccio, 18 month old cheddar, extra-strong dijon, organic olive oil and lemon, so fine and bursting with flavour. When we first looked at the menu, 3 of us wanted to order the same main – Steve's Maple “Tacky” Pork Belly. Tony ended up being the winner of that dish, but since we were sharing everything, we were all winners! This was, in my opinion, the best dish on the table. All were impeccable, but this one just really stood out with it's silky texture and sweet flavours. We also had the Duck Breast served with a legume medley and parsnip puree . The parsnip puree on this dish was the perfect accompaniment to the tender and fatty duck cooked seared on the outside and to perfection on the inside. The Caramelized North Atlantic Sea Scallops was another alluring dish we tried completed with tiny, French filet green beans and chewy enoki mushrooms. These too were cooked flawlessly – bringing out the velvety texture of the scallops. Cathy ordered the Signature Steak Frites – succulent black angus striploin, foie gras butter, and comforting sage seasoned frites – another wicked dish. And if that wasn't enough, we also shared an order of the Spaetzle. I wouldn't recommend this dish as your only main, if you're a vegetarian this probably isn't the place to go, but this was great to share as a side. We had a fantastic, full-bodied, robust 2005 Tempranillo to accompany our meal – Zumaya, i'd highly recommend this wine. And for dessert, I had a glass of the 10 year tawny and the warm Classic French Lemon Tart, so satisfying. I also tried Cathy's Sticky Date and Walnut Bundt Cake that was equally delicious. I can't rave enough about the meal. Everything was utter perfection. My rating is 4 stars, had the service been as terrific as the food they would have definitely got 5. It was good, just not deserving of another star.

Black Cat Café on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ricotta, Gorgonzola and Mascarpone Mezze Lune Ravioli with Shellfish Stuffed Cod and Green Beans

The week my husband was away (the one where I had to fend for myself and my friends came to the rescue), he actually had someone cook HIM dinner (sadly a rarity even for the most deserving man on earth). Our friends Hiep and Susan introduced him to the new PC ravioli, imported from Italy. He had seen it at the grocery store before but found it pricier than other brands. After that dinner, he knew why and had to share his discovery. The egg pasta is nice and thin, not heavy or overly starchy. It also stays together really well when you cook it. And the choices available are fun too, mushroom, spinach and pumpkin to name a few. 

Tonight we had the ricotta, gorgonzola and mascarpone variety. It was delish! I love ravioli to begin with but I always get so uncomfortably full. The thinness of the pasta is really quite nice, and makes what's inside even more discernible than traditional, thick pasta. One package is the perfect amount for 2 (even 3) side dishes and costs $4.99. With it, my husband served a delightful stuffed cod that he picked up at Hartman's. The mild shellfish stuffing completed the light cod and made what would have been a good fish, great. He also served some green beans drizzled with lemon juice. Another exceptional meal to add to my list. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sesame Crusted Salmon with Beets

I'm always amazed at how quickly my husband puts together such fantastic meals. He's either really good at what he does, or just really smart. Actually, I know it's a combination of the two. For tonight's meal he set the top part of the salmon in a mixture of white sesame seeds, black toasted sesame seeds and Montreal steak spice until it was coated. He then seared the other side in some sesame oil and drizzled the top with soya sauce as it cooked. For the side, he boiled some sliced beets and shredded carrot. Once cooked he strained and tossed them with some chopped green onion, sesame oil, rice vinegar and toasted sesame seeds. The result? An exceptional meal full of flavour. Sesame oil is just delicious to begin with. Add to it some fabulous fish and veg, and my husband's magical touch and voilà! The salmon mimics a breaded salmon but in a much healthier way. In fact, the sesame seeds add such a wonderful texture, it's way better than traditional breading. And the beets, let's just say, if you're not a fan, cook them this way. They're still a bit crisp when my husband stops cooking them. The addition of the rice vinegar makes them almost as though they were lightly pickled. Yum!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fish Cakes with a Spicy Sauce and Asparagus

I love – love – love fish cakes. I love them so much that even though I got food poisoning off them one time in NYC, I can still devour them like they're the best thing on earth. I did however, take a break after that horrifying food incident. My husband didn't make these from scratch, he bought them as is at Hartman's in their seafood section. They look to be made in-house. They were dense and quite delicious. What made them so fantastic however, was the creamy, spicy sauce my husband whipped together. I could have licked every last bit of it out of the bowl. They complemented the fish cakes so much, I honestly don't think they'd be very good without it. Well, I just couldn't ever eat them without it now that i've had them this way. He mixed together sour cream, mayo, a crushed garlic clove, pickled hot peppers and some Sriracha sauce. After blanketing the fish cake with this bold sauce, he topped it with some cilantro. That, along with leftover tomato and basil salad and some asparagus, made for a truly splendid meal.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Barbecued Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Merguez and Cilantro

Woohoo! This is the first sign of spring/summer, the first BBQ! And no one rules the barbecue like my husband. We've had get-togethers with close to 20 people, where each person brings their own meat, fish or poultry. My husband can cook them all, along with the veggies and have everything done at the exact same time and cooked to perfection. Last night he made one of his specialties, pork tenderloin stuffed with merguez sausage and cilantro. He started off by flattening the meat with a meat tenderizer. Then he removed the sausage from the casing and cooked it. Once done, he spread a layer of the sausage on top of the tenderloin and topped that with my favourite herb, cilantro. If' you're not a cilantro fan, it's ok, once cooked this dish is not heavy on the citrus-like overtones of the cilantro leaf (or soapy, depending who you are). A couple of our guests who don't normally like cilantro loved this dish. Finally he rolled up the meat and tied each end to hold it together. 

That along with some chicken shish kabobs from the Glebe Meat Market (very, very good!), some maple salmon and mixed veggies (brought by Teresa) made it on the grill. All were cooked flawlessly. The veggies were al dente and drizzled with balsamic, the crisp grill marks on the tenderloin made for a flavourful exterior with a moist and tender interior filled with spiciness from the sausage and freshness from the cilantro. Everything came together beautifully and was served with green beans and an amazing tomato, basil and bocconcini salad. We were pleasantly stuffed. And I, in awe again at how my husband pulls it all off so comfortably and professionally. 

Along with some great wine, we also had some delicious sherry that I purchased in the Vintages at the Rideau Street LCBO. I got talking with one of the men who work there, Jeff, who was extremely helpful in my choices. I'm just getting started on the sherry and he recommended I start off with sweet ones and acquire the taste before moving to the drier ones. This one is a new one – Nectar – (that actually only hits the stores next week – I got lucky) and was very yummy. I think I may have started a few of our guests on the sherry kick too.

I also thought i'd make a mention of two of my favourite beers. Mill Street Coffee Porter – so rich and delicious, it's like a dessert, coffee and beer all in one. Really, could you ask for anything more?

And of course, Beau's Lug•Tread Lager. Easy drinking and light.  

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Forum Dog – in Ottawa

Years ago one of my favourite things about going to a hockey game in Ottawa was getting a hot dog. One that I would top exaggeratedly with onions, relish and mustard. Then one year I noticed the onions went missing. I'm guessing a health concern having it out there? For whatever reason they decided to stop putting onions out at the then Corel Centre, now Scotiabank Place, it was upsetting. I almost cried. But information received through a gentleman during a train ride to Montreal shed some light on the situation. He told me about a secret spot near section 112 that served Forum Dogs! Oh yeah! There aren't any onions, but the toasty bun, which doesn't harden once it hits the cooler air, literally melts in your mouth (obviously from the butter used before toasting). I'm usually nowhere near that section when i'm at a hockey game, not even on that level. But it's worth whatever trek I have to make. And that's what I did last night. The place is called Captain's Corner. And i've never seen a line up. Although the Habs didn't make my night last night, the forum dog sure did!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mexican Chicken Pozole Verde

My husband is away at a seminar for a couple of days this week. I could tell he was concerned about how I was going to eat while he was gone. I reassured him that i'd be fine. Besides, Tony and Cathy were having their St Patrick's Day party, so I didn't have to worry about dinner on Tuesday night. It just left Wednesday's dinner for me to figure out. He started listing off what we had in the fridge and what I needed to do to prepare it. I felt a bit better, sort of. And then an email from my best friend Teresa today totally saved me. Would you like to come by for dinner? Uh – yeah!! I know i've said it a million times before, my friends rock! Tonight's dinner was totally something you would order at a restaurant and not even attempt to try at home (ok, maybe that's just me, and I wouldn't try, it's worth whatever i'd have to spend not to make it). But Teresa did make it. It's one of those recipes where you have to spend time on it, there are a few steps, but so worth it. This meal is a traditional hominy based mexican stew. It is made with chicken broth, tomatillos, jalapenos, onions, garlic purée and of course, the main ingredient, chicken. 

This soup alone is beautiful and flavourful enough but then you add even more excitement by topping it with shredded lettuce, chopped red onions, crushed tortilla chips and sour cream, and it all comes together into the most fresh, light and delightful food combination you've ever had. It's kind of half salad, half soup. The recipe also normally calls for avocado, which i'm sure is fabulous, but it's the one food i'm allergic to, so it was omitted. I have to say, it was very difficult to not get up for a third bowl. She did send me home with some though. And I can't thank her enough. I'm still salivating at the thought of it. 

With our fantastic meal, we also had some really good wine. I believe this may have been a bottle left behind from my husband's birthday, and is totally worth a mention. I'm far from being a sommelier, so take this description as you will, it's got the flavour of a delicious heavy wine, but is very light. I'll stop there before I embarrass myself anymore. It's a 2007 Zinfandel called Cline.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St Patrick’s Day Feast

I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world because of the amazing people i've met here in Ottawa. There are a few dates every year that I look forward to, and although i'm not Irish, St Patrick's Day is on the top of that list. Why? Because of my friends Tony and Cathy. Every year they throw an amazing party and put together the most exquisite spread. What they do is unique in that they serve the best comforting food, but they do it in the most chic way. It's not a sit down meal, there's a beautifully decorated table of mouthwatering awesomeness that makes you think for a moment you should be curling up in a blanket with a bowl of hot stew, but you're surrounded by such fun and interesting people that you couldn't possibly do it. I tried my best not to eat too much during the afternoon because I knew what kind of feast was in store for me. And despite all my efforts, I still didn't have enough room for everything. 

The beginning of the table started with some sweet, miniature bundles of heaven, cupcakes modeled to represent the Irish flag. I ate an orange one. Next were some black olives and cheeses, spinach dip and veggies. The tray of veggies were also a representation of the theme of the evening. Carefully placed was a row of green peppers, followed by a row of cauliflower and finally, a row of carrots. Next is my favorite, a large pot of mashed potatoes. Now what makes these mashed potatoes so fabulous are the accompaniments that go with them – sour cream, chives, homemade bacon bits and my personal favourite, caramelized onions. If you've never had mashed potatoes topped with caramelized onions, you have no idea what you are missing. It is fantastic. And in this situation, I added to my onion and potato mixture with the next item, the rich and comforting Irish stew. This stew was so satisfying and delicious I had to eat it in two parts. Some on my mashed potatoes and caramelized onions, and some on its own. The meat is so tender and just falls apart between your teeth. 

The last items on the table just made me want to jump up and down for joy – dumplings and egg rolls. I'm a sucker for dumplings, I just think they're one of the best foods ever. Along with the dumplings was some hoisin sauce and plum sauce for the egg rolls. Now you may be thinking WOW, I can't imagine being faced with all this food. Well, it didn't end there. As the night went on, Cathy came out with DiRienzo sandwiches. In case you don't know, they are known to have the best sandwiches in Ottawa. I did not have any. I couldn't possibly. And then even later came some pizza from the Prescott. Yes, I did die and go to heaven. 

Before I end this post, I must also make a mention of some pretty fantastic “Kiss me i'm Irish” cupcakes my friend Teresa brought to the party. She made these moist and dreamy cupcakes from scratch! I held onto them for a moment in the car on the way over and I literally thought about them for 2 hours before I finally broke down and had one. Did I explode before bed? Almost.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Elysian Seafood Trio

Ok, I made up the title of this dish. Cheesy as it may sound, it's the best word I could find to describe this exceedingly delightful meal. My husband made up this dish and I hope to god he makes it again soon. I love seafood more than anything. To call this a trio is even downplaying the decadence found within, since there's actually a fourth in the mix. My husband purchased some crab stuffed squid from Hartman’s (they often have some pretty good fish to choose from), some salmon and fresh shrimp. He topped the salmon in maple mustard and seared it along with the squid for 4 minutes. Afterward, he added the shrimp and broiled them in the oven for 5 minutes. He served these alluring treats on sticky rice and asparagus, and topped everything with a chicken, mustard and sesame broth that added the perfect amount of flavour – just enough so as to not mask the superb flavour of each individual fish. I can't say enough about this dish, from the crab stuffing to the broth to the combination of each ingredient. Sheer bliss.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I was planning one of my first long rides this morning and to get me going my husband made me a delicious frittata for breakfast. In it he cut up some hot peppers and topped it with a dollop of sour cream and Sriracha sauce. Although the hot peppers and sauce were very hot, the sour cream and eggs leveled it out to the perfect amount of spice. The perfect way to start my day. Yum!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Seafood Casserole

I promised back in December that I would post my mother's wonderful seafood casserole recipe once I got it. It took some time, but here it is!! Sorry for the wait. It's expensive to make but totally worth it!

What you’ll need
2 Cup chopped onion and 2 Cups chopped Celery (Brown in butter and add salt & pepper)
3 Tbsp Butter
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper

5 Cups milk if you want a less fat content use skim milk
3/4 Cup Flour
1 lb. cheese slices again, you can even use fat free cheese slices
1 lb. shrimps
10 oz. lobster (I use a can of frozen knuckles and claws)
1/2 lb. crab meat
3/4 lb. scallops
1/2 lb. cod or any white fish

What to do
Cook scallops, cod, and shrimp in the lobster liquid.(If your shrimp are already cooked don't cook them again just add to the milk mixture when you add the other fish. Add 3 cups of milk to the onion and celery and heat , then add cheese and melt. I keep stirring and add a few slices at a time.Then take flour and wisk into remainig milk and add to the cheese mixture. Stir constantly until it thickens and starts to bubble. Remove from heat and add the shrimp, lobster, scallop, crab and white fish. Pour into a Pam sprayed 5L casserole. Top with crushed cracker crumbs. Heat in a 325 to 350 degree F oven until bubbling.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quail in a Port Reduction and Broccoli

When dinner smells as good as it did tonight while my husband was making it, it's very difficult to not start shoveling food down my throat. It smelled so sweet and tangy and I just wanted to start eating right away. Good thing I didn't or I would have spoiled the best dinner ever. Yes, that's right, EVER. Ok, maybe not ever, but it's right up there with other best dinners ever. We bought some quail from the Chelsea Smokehouse, my favourite place (next to home and my husband's cooking of course). They have tons of local meats and poultry along with their own smoked fish. My husband blanketed the quail with a velvety port reduction that could have easily been mistaken for chocolate sauce. I came very close to licking my plate by the end of it but held myself back and used my fingers instead. This magical concoction can be made by mixing together 1/4 cup of port, 1/2 cup red wine, 2 tbs balsamic vinegar, some maple syrup, maple mustard, shallots, garlic and thyme. Boil it right down until only a third is left and then pour it into a bowl through a sieve to get rid of all the chunky bits. It is truly amazing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jumbo Asian Scallops with Cucumber Salad

When I saw this plate it took all of me to take a few extra minutes to get this photo. I just wanted to dive in and eat-eat-eat! Tonight's dinner was so light yet extremely satisfying – i'm still salivating over it. The cucumber salad is the perfect accompaniment to the scallops and the subtleness and heavier texture of the rice brings it all together to make the perfect meal. 

For the scallops, mix together 2/3 cups soya sauce, juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime, 3tbs sesame oil and marinade them for 5 minutes only, any longer will make them mushy. Remove from marinade and pan sear them for 3 minutes on each side on very high heat. Remove the scallops and then boil the remaining marinade until it reduces. Serve with rice and yummy cucumber salad. My husband is the best!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Portobello Mushroom Pizza with Salad

This is not your typical pizza but in my mind was just as good if not better. Actually, way better because you feel good after eating it, not like you've gained 10 pounds. My husband made these little pizzas using a portobello mushroom as the base. He topped them with red peppers, ricotta, cheddar and sausage and served them with a delicious mixed green, balsamic vinaigrette and pumpkin seed salad. He makes everything taste so great I just wish I could do even half what he does. It's like everything he touches turns to gold.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Petit Bill’s Bistro

My last review of this restaurant wasn't great. Of the 5 or 6 times i'd been here the food had gone from great to good to ok. One thing that remained consistent was the service. Always impeccable and there to please. They will make sure you leave happy. Which is why although the food has been on a bit of a roller coaster, I still end up trying it out again. The last time I was there was quite a few months ago. They were just going through a big chef change. The new one is now in and from what I understand, and tried today, is working out very well. My husband and I were in the neighbourhood and in the mood for a little afternoon snack. Their hours are great, you can pop in at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon and get whatever you'd like. As usual, the service was wonderful. And to make it even better the food had now gone back up to great. We ordered the Soup of the Day, a delicious carrot ginger soup. This soup had tons of flavour and a really nice spice to it. We then ordered the Sea Scallops, 3 luscious scallops pan seared with a maple pancetta butter sauce accompanied with a crunchy almond spinach salad. This dish had also gone from great to good to ok. Today, it was back up there to great! It wasn't my favourite method, with the squash risotto, but it was definitely a winner in my books. The scallops were perfectly cooked, not rubbery or overcooked, they were silky, sweet and buttery. We also shared the Dirty Dozen Escargot served with tomatoes, kalamata olives, green onion and leeks in a white wine garlic sauce over a puff pastry star. These were good, a bit bland, some extra garlic would have perked them up nicely. But the puff pastry was a wonderful touch and melted in your mouth. The addition of the olives also helped to make this dish special. I'm so happy that the food has improved. The ambiance and service are so great, it would have been a shame to waste it with poor dishes. I'll definitely be back – I have to try the Lobster Poutine! They also recork any wine you are unable to finish from your bottle so you can bring it home, which is a nice touch. Prices are very reasonable, starters range from $5 to $15 and mains from $10 to $24.

Petit Bill's Bistro on Urbanspoon

$7 In – Bside Bistro

This is probably the most shocking post for me. Benitz and Bsides have always been in my book, the restaurants with some of the best service in Ottawa. In fact, Benitz received one of my tip jar submissions because the service was so good. It kind of kills me to post this because I know, had I had another server, I would have been very happy with the service. To top it off, I found our meal last night to be so much better than the first time we went. Had the service been just as good, I would have re-rated this restaurant under a higher star number. Unfortunately, the woman who served us last night did not fit the bill. From the minute we got there I felt like we were not wanted. Like we were that extra table she just wished she didn't have. I watched her at the other tables, they seemed to get more attention than we did. I also watched the other waiter and wished he were ours. The service i've come to expect at this restaurant had not changed in his books. He was giving those tables impeccable service. The wait to order a drink when we first arrived was a little longer than it should have been. That's ok. But the wait to order, or to try and get her attention for a glass of water was not acceptable. She didn't smile. When asked a question about something she didn't know, she tried to make it like the person asking the question was the dumb one. She forgot one of my friend's main course. And the topper, she asked us if we wanted dessert, a couple of us asked for the menu. When she returned, my original thought to not have dessert changed, I began to ask her a question about the menu and she quickly cut me off – Wait! Do any of you drive a such and such and are parked in the back? It was a rude cut-off, there are many nicer ways to ask. It wasn't our vehicle, but she never returned to answer my question, she just stormed off. Another friend of mine, who felt they hadn't had enough to eat previously and who was very excited to have some dessert lost interest. As did I. When she finally did return, a very long time afterward, we just wanted to leave. We did not order dessert, coffee, port, or anything. At first I thought perhaps I was just being a snot about it all. But I consulted the others after we left and they agreed, the service was just plain bad. I tipped more than I wanted to, but less than 15%. I gave her 10%. She probably deserved about 5. All that to say, here's $7 to add to the tip jar.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Kit Kat Bar and Grill – Toronto

I had dinner at a friend of mine’s staple last night, the Kit Kat Bar and Grill. It’s a quaint little restaurant on King Street in the theatre district of Toronto with a small, welcoming bar mid way through the restaurant. I mention the bar because the first time I went was just for drinks and 4 of us had the bar to ourselves, which was great. It’s quite narrow as you walk through the restaurant but once seated it’s very nice. We had a booth at the back where it opens up a bit more but still has that cozy feel. I started off by ordering some of their house Chianti. I’m a big fan of Chiantis but unfortunately their house wine was not what I should have gone with. They have such an extensive wine list outside of that I could have easily picked something better. I’ll know for next time! My appetizer was a great choice tho. I had the Beef Carpaccio. It was served with some parm shavings on top and over a bed of greens. For my main I had one of their many specials, the Cornmeal Crusted Mahi Mahi with smoked halapeno beurre blanc served on wild rice with mushroom and veg. That dish was fantastic. The cornmeal on the fish was so light and complimented the fish so well. It was cooked to perfection. The rice was also very flavourful and with the mushroom mixed in made for the perfect side. The service was ok. Our server didn't know much about wine, which surprised me given the list they had. But I really enjoyed the food. I found this one very difficult to rate. I was torn between a 2 and 3 star rating. If it was only about the food they would have gotten 3 for sure. Unfortunately the service brought it down slightly. Still good! Just not worthy of a 3. This is however, a great spot to go for an easy night out where you know what you're going to get and it's going to be good. Apps range from $5.95 to $8.95 and mains from $13.95 to $37.95.

Kit Kat on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bistro 990 – Toronto

I had the honor of being treated to dinner at this popular and charming bistro last night. The food is classic French with some pretty fabulous dishes to say the least. I had a terrible time choosing my meal, but luckily someone else was ordering one of the dishes I was torn between and assured me i'd be having some of his. Excellent! I started off with the Croquette de crabe. This tasty crab cake sat atop a bed of grilled corn and asparagus and had a yummy dollop of chipotle mayo on top. I then had the Fromage chèvre chaud, a nice, warm goat cheese, arugula and tomato confit salad. And for my main, it was a toss up between the special of the day – Venison, and their popular Steak Tartare mixed mild, medium or spicy. I went with medium and it had a nice little kick, but seemed more like mild, which is totally fine for me, i'm not huge on super hot stuff. It's probably one of the best steak tartare i've had and was very happy to have gone with that. As promised however, I did get to try the venison. It was very tender. With dinner we had a lovely, full bodied red wine that I wish I could remember the name of. I didn't write it down and I do regret it. I did however, write down the name of the delicious port we had after our meal. I actually got to try two, and both were fabulous – Smith Woodhouse and Dow's. I've actually always wanted to try a Dow's port and i'm very glad I did. I'm sure this won't be my last. I didn't order any dessert, but someone else did, and I probably ate half of it. She ordered the homemade coffee ice cream and that I would have to say was one of the major highlights of the dinner. It was so silky and smooth in your mouth I couldn't believe it. It was like frozen whipping cream, absolutely divine. The service was good. Slightly slower towards the end as they got busier. But the great atmosphere of a busy bistro and the company of great friends made for a perfect evening out.

Bistro 990 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Duck Confit with Asparagus and Mixed Greens

When you're trying to watch your calories, this probably isn't the first meal you should choose, it's high in calories and in fat, but if you don't eat it on a daily basis, it's a flavourful, tender and rich treat. Lucky for me, I burned a lot of calories today and this was my thank you to me. I'm not the smartest person on the block when it comes to meal preparation. Probably because my cooking skills are limited. I knew that confit was the method of preparation for the duck but I didn't exactly know what that entailed, until tonight. Duck confit is duck legs and thigh bone (not the breast) that were cooked on very low heat with the skin on and submerged in the duck's own fat for approximately 10 hours (give or take 6 hours). Once it cools, you can store it for as long as two years! That was very surprising. The duck fat preserves it but at the same time continues to flavour and tenderize the meat. Lovely isn't it? When it's ready to be served, it's removed from the fat and reheated on the stove-top to crisp the skin. Our duck tonight was just that, crisp on the outside and insanely moist and succulent on the inside. The skin literally melted in your mouth. If you could fry butter to a crisp, add a delicious smokey flavour to it and then let it dissolve in your mouth, that would be my best description of it. Duck fat actually looks quite similar to butter when it's cold and tastes slightly smokey like bacon fat. The good news? It's lower in cholesterol and is a good source of vitamin E. The meat is also a good source of protein and iron. My husband cooked this to perfection tonight, and thanks to the Chelsea Smokehouse, the long, tedious prep was done for us. He also served it with some asparagus and a mixed green salad. I swear most days I feel we eat like royalty.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lemon and Pepper Smoked Salmon with Salad

Anyone who says they don't have time to cook fabulous, healthy meals has never met my husband. Tonight's dinner was outstanding and literally took 10 minutes, if that. Again, from the Chelsea Smokehouse, my husband put these servings of lemon and pepper smoked salmon in the oven on broil with half a slice of bacon over them to moisten them up (smoked fish can sometimes be a little dry). He then served it with a delicious cucumber salad that he made by shredding the cucumber so it was noodle-like and topping it with a mixture of sesame oil, soya sauce, rice vinegar and sesame seeds. I have to say, this salad is so satisfying as it makes you feel like you're eating noodles but you don't get all the carbs. It's very refreshing. He also served a nice green salad with olive oil and green onion on the side. I love his meals so much!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Quail Stuffed with Poultry and Onions Caramelized with Port

I slowed down on posting towards the end of this week. I guess I may have been getting a little bored with it all. That and the only meals I ate were ones I made and one from a not-so-good restaurant that I won't name. I thought to myself, I hope this doesn't end my blogging, I do love talking about great food, but when you're not having great food, the spark goes away. Until today! My husband and I decided we were going to go for a drive to the Chelsea Smokehouse. I was so excited, my husband had never been there before and I was eager to show him what he'd been missing. I think he may have been almost just as excited as I was the first time I walked in there. We had a great chat with the owner, who by the way is one of the nicest women you'll ever meet, and we left with some fabulous meat, poultry and fish including quail, lamb, duck confit, lemon pepper smoked salmon and this satisfying quail stuffed with poultry and caramelized onions. The rich flavour of the stuffing made me feel like I was eating at a fancy restaurant. It tasted similar to one of the paté's I had bought on another occasion from the smokehouse – bursting with flavour. Thank god my husband is the one who cooked it. I probably would have screwed up this little masterpiece. He seared it in a pan to start then put it in the oven and added a maple mustard glaze on it. Served along side some spinach and roasted red pepper soup, this dinner was to die for – mostly because of the quail. Here's a photo of how it looked before it was cooked. And if you've never been to the smokehouse, what are you waiting for? Seriously.

The Lieutenant’s Pump

This used to be one of our regulars. It still kind of is but we don't make it there as often anymore. It's a great place to meet up with friends, especially if you're going to be a large group. And if you live in the area you can pretty much guarantee you'll run into someone you know on a Friday or Saturday night. The food is your traditional pub food and is always very consistent. I don't eat there that often but when I do i'm never disappointed. Their lunch menu is great, as is their dinner menu. And they have great brunch on Saturday and Sunday, which is what I had today. I ordered the Eggs Portugaise with potato pancakes, tomato and basil hollandaise. It was great. I also had a bite of my husband's Garden Frittata – basil pesto, chicken, eggs, peppers, onion and cheese. It too was good. The service was efficient and we were able to get a table for 6 no problem. Shortly after however, the lineups at the door started. Breakfast prices range from $4.95 to $12.95. For finger foods and soups, the prices range from $3.95 to $18.95, and mains from $6.50 to $18.95.