Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mini Mignon en Croûte

Oh yes, this definitely was as good as it sounds. We spent the weekend at our friends Marc and Zoya's and as usual, she totally outdid herself. Before the meal was even done I was having heart palpitations at the excitement of what I was about to eat.

I have a weakness for things in pockets (ravioli, dumplings). So imagine, a delicious filet mignon surrounded by mushrooms, onions and garlic, and then closed into a light and flaky rustic pocket. It was to-die-for.

First you start by quickly searing the meat so that the juices stay inside. Place it, along with some fried King Bolete and Shiitake mushrooms, onions and garlic onto some dough and then close it up. Put in the oven at 425 for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden-brown.

The King Bolete mushrooms came from Zoya's friend Isabelle's back yard in La Conception near Tremblant.

Our side salad is proof that just a bit extra work can make something go from good to absolutely amazing. Slivers of crisp onions fried in peanut oil – it's so difficult not to eat them all off everyone's plate! (I seriously wanted them all to myself.) And maple-caramelized turnip, so sweet and sinful. All on a bed of fresh, baby arugula. Probably one of the best salads I've ever had.

And what's a fantastic dinner without the wine? 2007 7 Deadly Zins, and 2007 J Lohr South Ridge Syrah. Both from California and both from the August 21st vintage release. These wines were made for red meat. I highly recommend both.

Zoya, thanks so much for such an amazing dinner! Doing this post is bringing me back to the evening that I wished had never ended.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Honey Dijon Grilled Salmon and Fresh Garden Veggies

My husband made an amazing Salmon the other night. This one is similar to some of the others he's done with dijon, but the addition of honey this time was magical. It always blows me away at how something so simple can be so good. It's so easy even I could do it!

First, sear salmon on high heat for 3 minutes, meat side down, flip over and drizzle honey on it and cook 8-10 minutes on medium. Finally, smear some dijon and more honey and cook for 2 minutes. Boil some fresh, local veggies just long enough to keep a slight crispness to them and serve. We had purple beans but they turned green after cooking.

Green Papaya

I had lunch with a friend of mine Kate and her two-month old daughter at Green Papaya on Preston. I chose this spot because I was in the area for a meeting and for the fact that they had some vegetarian options on their lunch menu (Kate's a vegetarian). Ok, and because I love eating pad thai. That's probably the real reason. But I've yet to master the art of photographing pad thai. Until then, there will be many photo-less posts.

They've got a decent size lunch menu. Tom Yum Soup, Marinated Shrimp Skewers and Vegetable Spring Rolls for starters. We shared the spring rolls. Two perfectly crisp rolls topped with a sweet and sticky plum sauce.

For the mains there are a few noodle dishes, some rice dishes, or a combination plate with daily specials. For my pad thai I had the choice of shrimp, chicken or tofu. I opted for the tofu. The sauce was good and not greasy at all, similar to the recipe I have at home where the fish sauce takes center stage. Kate went with the green curry with tofu and vegetables – Kaew Wan Pak. It took all of me not to ask her for a bite, I love the smell of green curry sauces. They're so comforting. Slight food envy. But had I not gotten the pad thai I would have regretted it.

The service was good and prices reasonable. Just under $5 for the app and $10.50 for our mains.

Green Papaya on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Interview with Gold Medal Plates Competing Chef Marc Lepine from Atelier

Last week I paired up with Ottawa-based food bloggers Shari from Whisk: A food blog, and Don and Jen from foodiePrints to see what we could do to get everyone talking about the Gold Medal Plates event set for November 16th. Being the ultimate celebration of Canadian Excellence in cuisine and wine, not to mention athletic achievement (net proceeds from Gold Medal Plates are given to the Canadian Olympic Foundation), it seemed like a natural fit – and of course, a very exciting one. Our goal is to feature one of the competing chefs, or any other interesting fact about the event, on every Friday leading up to the event. Here is our first one.

You know how some people are just so nice you want to scream out to the world about them? That's how I felt today after meeting Chef Marc Lepine from Atelier restaurant. This soft spoken, modest and genuinely friendly man made this first-time interviewer feel at ease. I imagine working for him must be the same.

I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.

What's your philosophy when it comes to food and your restaurant?
“I'm not much of a philosopher. I don't take it that seriously I guess. But if I had to answer that, I guess I'd like to not take myself too seriously and not have our diners take the restaurant too seriously. I like using high quality ingredients but having fun with it.”

What inspires you? How do you come up with ideas for the dishes that you create?
“We get asked that a lot and I think they're all random things. It's always something different. I have a 5-year-old daughter and, sometimes I'll be at home on my day off playing and an idea will strike for a dish. I get inspirations from that – just from something she's playing with... Sometimes from other chefs, going out and eating and just the slightest thing that someone has done... It can be a movie, we've had dishes based around movies... Seasons definitely, like the produce that's coming out – the amazing cherries that we had this year. That's the easiest inspiration, you get that and your dish makes itself...”

I know your menu changes often. With the current one you have right now, what's your favourite dish on the menu and why?
“Probably the tomato salad. It's something we call Tomatrix Revolution. Visually I love it and there's something going on there that really appeals to me. I think because it feels really seasonal and being tomato season it just brings me outside. That's corny but I really like that, and because of how intricate it is and I don't think it's something you could find in many restaurants.”

“I also like a dish called Subterranean Homesick Alien that we have on at the moment. Which is the name of a Radiohead song, but it's a dessert based on star anise and cherries. I like the visual, the artistic side of plating something.”

Tomatrix plating

What's the ingredient you can't live without? (other than basics)
“I don't think I have one honestly. Whatever the ingredient is we use it. I guess part of the larger philosophy of this style of cooking is that there's no ingredient that has superior culinary value over another ingredient. I mean, you can take any ingredient and turn it into something quite amazing if it's treated right.”

“We could never have a menu that doesn't have a minimum amount of fish and meat on it because Ottawa wouldn't go for that... if we had no restrictions we could do a menu that had no meat on it or minimal meat and still be as happy with it just because whatever the season, the ingredients that are coming in are all amazing.”

Is there anything you won't eat?
“McDonald's or Burger King. I don't eat foie gras... (but) there's nothing I don't eat because I don't like the taste, I just choose not to eat certain things.”

Guilty pleasure?
“Potato chips.”

What was your most memorable meal and why?
“Hands down it would be the 24-course dinner at Alinea in Chicago. It was very inspiring. It made my head spin. Overwhelming in an enjoyable kind of way. To this day I still think about some of the things that went on.”

What would your last meal be?
“Big bowl of grapefruit. Simple. I would love it – grapefruit is one of my favourite things to eat.”

If you could travel to just one place in the world for food, where would you go and why?
“Spain. Because I haven't been there yet and there's so many amazing restaurants that I'd like to try there. Particularly Roca.”

Describe your perfect Sunday.
“Spending time with my kids. That's pretty perfect. And a nice dinner out that night would be good. With or without the kids.”

If you've never been to Atelier, it's definitely one of those places you must add to your go-to list. The entire experience is like no other. I was there earlier this year and had an amazing time. I'm so looking forward to my next visit!

To purchase tickets for Gold Medal Plates, contact Sue Holloway (contact information below) or click here.

Gold Medal Plates Ottawa
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 6:00 pm
National Arts Centre
53 Elgin Street

Sue Holloway
818 Nesbitt Place
(613)274-3107 phone
(613)274-0851 fax

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

101 Tastes to Try Before You Die

Ottawa Magazine has posted their 101 tastes to try before you die online. I don't know about you but I love getting their magazine and going through all the local food stuff, restaurant reviews, chef interviews, etc. This list of some of Ottawa's treasures has had a few updates since it was published in 2009, and it's nice to be able to quickly access it now from anywhere. Warning: reading it may lead to drooling.

Also very exciting is the launch of their new blog City Bites. There isn't too much content there yet, but I'm sure it will fill up fast. Their food editor Shawna Wagman will be posting all the little interesting food bits that don't make it into the magazine due to the long lead times. So this site will be complementing the print form and bringing us foodies even more information. Definitely another fun way to explore the local food scene!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Food Blogger Potluck

What is this magical creation you ask? Tender chicken skewers and melon with a light, delectable dipping sauce – one of many fantastic dishes served from the heart at Marysol's food-blogger meet-up.

After getting to know each other through not much more than comment posts, Marysol decided it was time we put faces to the names. Besides, what better way to get to know other food bloggers than over food itself. Not just any food either, food made by foodies, and inspired by foodies. As you can imagine, it was a pretty elaborate spread. I was in sheer heaven.

I get impatient with myself at home, taking shots of the food I'm about to eat. I do my best to do a good job, but in my mind, really want it over with so I can start eating. So you can imagine how much the excitement was building inside me as I stood back and let 5 others take their shots. The second the last one was taken I was at the table, plate in hand.

Shrimp and more shrimp. You can never have too much shrimp. These bites were so summery and tasty. I especially enjoyed the coconut curry shrimp. I love this variation – not bathing in sauce but still bursting with flavour.

Other favourites were roasted bell pepper and cashew dip with savoury pita crisps. Gianetto dip. Italian stuffed mushroom caps. Smoked salmon and avocado bites. Deconstructed ceasar bites – such a fun way to have salad. And the one thing I may have possibly embarrassed myself on – Gyoza with pork, ginger, Napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms. I say embarrass because on my fifth one, I still wanted to eat the rest of the plate. It took all of me to hold back. I have such a weakness for these things!! (Thank god I wasn't the only one eh Jen??)

And what's a potluck without a couple of banana-inspired desserts? I love banana. Columbian upside-down cake – a mixture of banana, pecans and dulce de leche, so yummy. And a light banana cake with lemon. I held back on going for a second slice. Not easy.

The finale was a lovely grey-rose dessert wine that Asha brought from L'Orpailleur Winery. A perfect way to complete the meal and set us all into a major food coma.

It's so fun to eat with people who enjoy doing it as much as you. Thanks so much Marysol, for making it all happen!!

BBQ Chicken Skewers and Garden Fresh Veggies

I'm not quite sure what it is about what my husband does to food that makes it so special, but whatever it is, I love it. Easy chicken skewers, or so they seem. But bursting with flavour. He says it was simply bbq sauce. I call bullshit on that. There's something he's doing that he's not telling me.

As I read this to him he's telling me that yes, he did add a bunch of stuff to the bottled sauce that was sitting in the fridge. Hickory smoke, spices, garlic, molasses, maple syrup. Holy cow!! No wonder!! I guess I just don't have the guts to do stuff like that. I'm afraid I will fail and create an inedible meal. That's why I eat, not cook.

Along with the chicken was some red onion and zucchini – grilled to perfection. A bed of wilted fresh beet greens add an earthiness to the plate, and crisp green beans and corn shaved off the cob completed the side.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Wellington Gastropub


Had a business lunch with a friend of mine, Graham Law, at the Wellington Gastropub. I've had this restaurant on my go-to list for a while now, so this was just what I needed (I love knocking them off!).

When I got to the top of the stairs I was excited to see him at the other end of the room, right in front of the window. Woohoo, I'll be able to get some good shots!

I love it in there. It's so cozy and just begs you to sit back, sip wine and spend a few hours. Of course I didn't. I had to go back to the office. But I did manage to squeeze in a glass of Gewürztraminer.

Although much of the time was spent chatting, we did take moments to appreciate the exquisite presentation of the plates as they arrived, and to savour the quality of the food we were eating.

The first plate served at the table was some light and airy Art-is-in bread – a bowl of golden Ontario extra-virgin cold-pressed canola oil served alongside for dipping.

We both ordered the salad of baby beets, crispy Pingue capicollo, pickled radish and goat cheese with a black currant-vanilla dressing. Each ingredient was so fresh and tasty that I was happy the dressing was as mild as it was.

For his main, Graham ordered the rare B.C. Albacore tuna with roasted fingerlings, olives and mushrooms, summer squash and caper-almond vinaigrette. I got to try a bite and these fat slices of seared tuna were so fresh and heavenly!

I was equally excited by my main. I almost couldn't take a shot of this mouthwatering vision fast enough – my brain was being challenged between either grabbing my fork or my camera. Plump meaty scallops with crisp, golden edges and sinful crushed potatoes smothered in sour cream and caramelized onion. Vivid green and yellow beans added a nice touch of colour, livening up the whole plate. Everything was brought together by a guanciale vinaigrette – I'm sorry but bacon in any form, even a vinaigrette, just takes a dish from great to amazing! Especially one prepared with pig's cheeks.

The service was impeccable, ambiance cozy and relaxing. I found the prices to be teetering on the expensive side, especially for lunch – between $6 and $12 for apps, $12 to $16 for mains. But I'd love to go back for dinner. It's a great spot.

Wellington GastroPub on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gold Medal Plates in Ottawa

If I won the lottery and someone asked me what I was going to do with the money, besides cycling around vineyards in Europe, my dream would be to have every chef that I think is absolutely amazing, come and cook me dinner for one evening. Imagine, each one would have to make me their absolute best, most impressive dish ever. Sensory overload? Probably. But that night is soon going to become a reality. And the Gold Medal Plates is the event that's going to make it happen. In fact, I'm so excited, I've even created a countdown clock to the event on November 16th.

I contemplated going last year. So many reasons to justify the cost – I could very easily just donate the money to charity, but this one has a perk, amazing food and wine! In the end, I didn't make it. But I'm going this year, and I couldn't be happier.

Do I think any of our chefs have what it takes to be the Gold Medal Plate winner? Absolutely. Do I have any idea who will represent Ottawa in the finals? Absolutely not. But these judges, even with so much food experience, have got their work cut out for them!

As I look back on the posts I've done on Ottawa restaurants and the talented chefs that make it all happen, my dream list is pretty much this one right here:

Ben Baird – The Urban Pear
Michael Moffatt – Beckta Dining and Wine
Charles Part – Les Fougères
Michael Potters – Harvest

Each one above with a link is one that I've blogged about. The others have been on my wish list. In honour of these magnificent chefs and this wonderful event, myself, along with a couple of other well respected food bloggers, have decided to dedicate every Friday leading up to the event as GMP day. Don and Jenn from Foodieprints and Shari from Whisk: a food blog. Together, we will do our best to bring out the best of these chosen food experts, some behind the scenes information or any other bit relating to the Gold Medal Plates as we get closer.

Now, as much as I'm focusing on the food aspect, we should look at the reason this event is really taking place – our athletes. So many of us spent the winter glued to our TVs, watching our Canadian athletes rock the podium. But these dedicated and inspiring individuals need training, support, leadership and resources to get there. And that's where the money raised at this event goes.

I honestly can't think of a better way to spend a Tuesday night in November, rubbing shoulders with some of our top athletes, dining from a plate fit for a king, sipping local wines, and drooling over the many items up for auction that I know I'll never win because I just can't afford to (yes, one does involve cycling through vineyards in Europe!).

Tickets are $300 each. I would donate that to the Own the Podium Program of the Olympic Foundation without the meal. In this case the excitement of the Quest for Canada's Best Chef is a bonus. So let the countdown begin!!

Tickets: Sue Holloway

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Zucchini Patties with Feta and Zucchini Carpaccio Salad

Oh my god I loved this dinner. We received a summer squash (basically a giant zucchini) from our neighbour and man, did we make the most of it!

My favourite thing of course was the patties. Quite dense compared to what you think would come of using zucchini, I think the feta helped with that. In fact, every ingredient in this magical treat had a hand in making it, well, perfect – fresh dill, green onions and italian parsley. Even the golden yellow flecks of zucchini added visual appeal. And dipping each delicious morsel in tzatziki was my version of what heaven would be like! We got this recipe off epicurious.comzucchini patties with feta.

The salad it was paired with was also very fun, and also from epicurious – zucchini carpaccio salad. Mixing the thinly sliced zucchini with salt and allowing it to sit for a bit made it easy to remove all of the excess liquid and gave it a firmer texture. And pairing it with fresh arugula, Parmigiano-Reggiano and some black pepper added delicate flavours to this mild summery dish.

To drink, I typed zucchini into my NatDecants app and voilà, Riesling it was. Off to my cellar! D'Arenberg The Dry Dam, from McLaren Vale Australia was lovely. An insanely refreshing wine filled with flavours of lemon, lime, petrol and some orange peel in the background.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Garlic Scallops, Shrimp and Mushroom Wild Rice

Wow, I just realized as I signed in that this is my 500th post. Crazy.

We just finished a fantastic meal of “stuff”. Some scallops we had bought a few days ago, some leftover shrimp in the freezer, leftover sandfire greens, greens from our garden, wild rice and a mixture of meaty mushrooms. Everything delectably infused in butter and garlic. The taste exuding a complex creation but in the end, all so very simple. Often these creations are the most enjoyable.

I must put emphasis on the mushrooms. My husband bought a wonderful mixture of dried mushrooms that added so much oomph to this meal. The flavours and aromas intensified by the drying of the mushrooms and so easily brought to fruition by soaking them, bringing out their meaty texture. – this bag of goodies is so worth the $10 price tag. If you love mushrooms, pick up a bag and add them to your favourite rice, soup, stuffing, pasta or potato.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Serious Cheese

I was out running errands yesterday and down on Bank Street South I noticed this shop called Serious Cheese. I had already had it in my mind that I was going to pick up a few things to nibble on before dinner, so this was perfect.

I had never been in this place before. At first glance I thought it was a restaurant, I could see tables inside and some people eating. But the name had me figuring there was more to it than that. And just as I approached the window I noticed that it was in fact, a giant cheese heaven.

Things got even better once I got inside. A fridge over to the right filled with meaty delights from Maison du Gibier – I grabbed a caribou, port and fig terrine and some smoked, dried ostrich. Yum! I continued along that side of the wall to some prepackaged cheeses. An Italian Pecorino Pepato cheese was calling my name. This salty sheep's milk cheese studded with peppercorns did not disappoint. I then tried a sliver of Fifth Town's Cape Vessey – absolutely to die for. So this one made it's way home with me too. And finally, Le Cendrillon, one of my favourite goat cheeses.

Once I got to the cash, I fell in love with some locally made jams. The strawberry and balsamic one especially. That, in combination with the Cendrillon and some walnut and rye baguette (from True Loaf but bought at the cheese store), was the tastiest thing I ate this weekend.

I'm so happy I found this place. I have a feeling I'm going to be visiting them a lot. I just checked out their web site and have my next cheese purchase already planned – Blue Haze, a Quebec smoked blue cheese, sounds amazing. And on the lunch menu, bacon and truffle mac and cheese!

Serious Cheese on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Moose Skewers and Rich Pasta Salad

We had dinner at our very good friend Dino’s house last night. As usual, we over-indulged in mouthwatering food and delicious wine.

It was such a beautiful evening we had dinner al fresco. I could smell the meat sizzling on the barbecue while we ate our fresh side salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, red onion and capers. Mmmm, capers in salad, I need to do that more often.

A rare treat of lean and tender moose meat was served, along with the most decadent pasta I’ve ever had. Cute little seashell pasta with peas and pancetta cubes, and all brought together with a sinful mixture of butter and cream.

What a fantastic evening. Thanks so much Dino. As usual, you totally outdid yourself!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Grilled Salmon with Sandfire Greens

We recently spent some time in New Brunswick. As sad as I was to leave the ocean air and copious amounts of lobster, we were able to bring some of that salty sea taste home to enjoy for a few more days. Ah yes, probably one of my favourite things, Sandfire Greens. In French we call them Tétines de Souris (mouse nipples, because of the balls that form on the stems).

These succulent plants have a salty-seaweed taste to them and are delicious steamed and slathered in butter. I originally thought they were called Samphire Greens, as I think many people do, but I recently read that that the Samphire plant is a different one that grows on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Europe. Sandfire stems from the fact that the plant turns red as it ages and grows in the sand.

To eat them, simply pick it up and pull the green off with your teeth, kind of like you're stripping the last bit of ice cream off a popsicle stick.

And of course, we had to serve fish with them. A beautifully pink, meaty salmon on a bed of fresh rainbow chard and decorated with sprigs of dill flowers, both from our garden. We enjoyed every morsel, right into the sunset (or dark! do I really eat that slowly!?).

My husband chose the Eden Valley Chardonnay from my little wine cellar in the basement to go with this dish as it described itself as being the perfect wine for salmon with dill.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Techno-Emotional Tomato Tour at The Urban Element

Last night my husband and I spent the evening at The Urban Element. After our amazing experience at Atelier, we thought it would be fun to see some of the magical creations in action and possibly even learn how to replicate some of this unique artistry on our plates at home. Oops, I mean, have my husband replicate some of these techniques. To actually put myself up there in that category of cooking-genius is well, wishful thinking to say the least. My husband on the other hand, no problem!

And the Urban Element is always there to make it all possible.

Chef Sarah Allen, who has worked alongside Chef Marc Lepine for years, was there to demonstrate. The interactive cooking demo, named The Techno-Emotional Tomato Tour, showcased the many different ways tomatoes can be prepared and enjoyed. All the while teaching completely new ways of preparing our food. Who knew tomato soup cakes could make a decadent dessert!?

This was Sarah’s first time doing a demonstration like this and it showed. But her nervous energy began to lift after pointing it out and having a good laugh with the rest of the group. I figure it’s this same self-consciousness that stumped her on some of the questions that were asked. Although I would have loved to get right down to the nitty-gritty details of all the things she was working on, I can also appreciate that not all chefs (probably most) have the ability to create amazing meals while simultaneously educating a group. It really was nice just to see her in action. And the food she prepared, did not disappoint.

Two others were also in the kitchen preparing our meal, Marysol from the Urban Element, who wondrously ran the kitchen in the background and then occasionally poked her head in to ask Sarah some interesting questions when we had run out. And Luis, a student from the Cordon Bleu Cooking School here in Ottawa and currently doing his stage at Atelier, who was very enthusiastic and a pleasure to have around. He really knew his stuff, and his confidence in the kitchen was apparent.

Our first dish was a fantastic start, Panko-Fried Green Tomatoes with Tzatziki and Dehydrated Red Onion. I wished there were more than just two on the plate because these lightly battered morsels were delicious. The garlicky Tzatziki was to-die-for and it took all of me not to lick the little bit that was left on my plate. I did manage to clean most of it off with my fork though! And a pretty dill flower, straight from the Atelier garden, added an extra punch of flavour. This tasty starter was served with Balbach Estate Riesling Kabinett 2008 from Germany. Chosen by their in-house sommelier, this perfectly matched wine featured aromas of ripe peach, citrus, mineral and a touch of petrol.

Next we had the Tuna Ceviche with Avocado, Yellow Tomato, Lime and Wasabi Mayo. Because of my stupid avocado intolerance, I had to eat it without, but my husband assured me that it was so perfect and so much better with it. Yeah, thanks. Well, I didn’t miss it at all, the Wasabi mayo had me in such aw that that’s all I could focus on. I couldn’t believe that such a strong spice, diluted so perfectly in the mayo mixture, could do so much for the meaty tuna. There was no overpowering, just pure perfection in this combination of ingredients. And the wine that came along with it made it that much better. Stadt Krems Lössterrassen Grüner Veltliner 2009 from Austria. A ripe apple nose, with further fresh aromas of pastry, citrus and coconut. Flavours of cinnamon spice and green apple intermingle with notes of pear and grapefruit on the palate. Crisp and mouth-watering acidity. Delicious.

The next course, one that proved to be somewhat challenging, had started off by mixing Agar Agar powder into a tomato purée to create a gel-like texture. The desired consistency took some time to achieve, but once it was done, it allowed for the tomato water to then be separated, using a cheesecloth. It was weird to see the colourful red portion of the tomatoes being discarded and the clear water being kept for the recipe. Oyster (Fat Bastard from the Whalesbone), Tomato Water, Cucumber Foam, Horseradish and Mint (actually substituted with arugula to get the brighter green colour since the mint wasn’t as fresh) – a very fresh combination of ingredients. The flavours were really light, not as exciting as some of the other dishes, but very summery. The clear tomato water tasted very much like tomatoes though, which was kind of fun, considering I automatically picture this flavour coming from something bright red. Shaved fennel was also added to the water, making for a nice crisp texture to liven things up. Once again, a marvelous pairing, Domaine de la Poultière Sec Tuffo Vouvray 2008 from France. A dry, fresh and clean wine with good weight and a long, crisp and flavourful finish.

The making of the next course, the Tomato Sorbet, was the most exciting to watch. They took some tomato juice, and then, by the addition of liquid nitrogen, the liquid magically turned into a frozen sorbet. This sorbet, I must say, was like going through a surprise exercise with your taste buds.

Looking at it, your mind goes mmm, sweet sorbet. But when you take a spoonful it’s an explosion of tomatoes in your mouth followed by a kick of cayenne and pepperiness. So savory and refreshing. The perfect combo for a hot summer day if you don’t have a sweet tooth. I would love to have this again.

This dish was probably my favourite one of all. Sous Vide Duck Confit with Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, Rainbow Chard, Beet Paint and Goat’s Cheese. The meat was super tender and moist, the chard adding a lovely earthiness to the entire dish, and the most fun part, the droplets of beet paint along the side of the plate. The beet paint can be created by mixing Ultratex Starch to beet juice, thickening it and then straining it a bit. Simply pour the mixture into a bottle with a small hole and use as a paint to decorate the plate. Each droplet is bursting with beet-goodness. Another French wine was paired with this dish, this time a red – Château Pineraie Cahors 2006, a medium-bodied Malbec blended with a smaller amount of Merlot.

Luis kept us totally engaged with his creation of our final dish, the Tomato Soup Cake with Maple Sugar Frosting, Basil Cream and Nitro Dumpling. We all sort of paused in disbelief as he presented us with the Campbell’s Tomato Soup Can. The final result had me floored. The addition of cinnamon and cloves to the batter mixture made the tomato almost taste like carrot cake. A heavenly maple sugar frosting made me melt in my chair and the frozen basil cream, made again from liquid nitrogen, was yet another burst of flavour that left you in sheer amazement that something so small could pack so much zest. And the final glass of wine, Puklus Tokaji Aszu 3 Puttonyos 2003, a Hungarian dessert wine, made for the perfect end to a fabulous meal.

One of the things I noticed most about this meal was that, although it had an amazing amount of flavour (seriously, how many times have I used that word in this post!?), there was very little olfactory sensation. You know when you walk into a room with a ton of things being cooked? Well, only a few things actually required cooking. And I think that having that sensation removed in some cases, really makes you concentrate even more on what’s going on in your mouth. A very interesting feeling. I felt it even more so at the actual restaurant, where nothing was cooked at all. However, they did bring in smells through other channels, like burning rosemary for example. The entire experience hits on all your senses in so many different ways, not your traditional see it, smell it, taste it. Each one is separate but works beautifully together. If you’ve never tried molecular gastronomy or techno-emotional cooking in it’s true form, it really is something quite unique that should be experienced. And Marc and Sarah are the experts that can bring you that.

So once again, I leave the Urban Element with a new appreciation, a happy tummy, and great shots to reminisce on the experience.

Lobster Party!

94lbs of lobster, an ocean view and 60 super fun people make for one big happy family and one lively party!

I attended the Mesheau-Phinney lobster party this past Saturday. I had been to a lobster party thrown by my in-laws before, but this one was, well, a lot bigger! It kind of reminded me of the get-togethers my family used to throw, only this time I was old enough to eat more than just the lobster legs – very exciting.

There were 12 tables line up under a massive tent, each one covered in plastic. Over in the shed, 3 giant boxes of lobster. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many in one space. I believe there were 86 total. Not everyone ate lobster. The barbecue over on the back side of the house was busy cooking a blanket of hot dogs and hamburgers, and another table quickly filled with the most decadent selection of salads to please every taste. Desserts were also in abundance, my favourite being the homemade blueberry pie. Nothing quite screams summer like blueberry pie.

I was in heaven. I could only focus on every salty morsel of the lobster in front of me, at least until the moments where I lifted my head to take a breath and notice the wind, blowing off the gorgeous Northumberland Strait only a few feet away. Lobster season in South-Eastern New Brunswick only officially starts today. Susan managed to have these creatures brought in from up North, just in time for the party.

A huge thank you to Susan for all the organizing that went into this fabulous event. And to all the Mesheaus and Phinneys – you truly are an amazing family that I am so proud to be part of.

The Cutest Breakfast Egg Muffin

I just returned from spending a couple of days in Moncton, NB. The trip was very fast. But I must say, very satisfying food-wise.

One of my favourite eats was coming out of the oven just as I was waking up. The aroma of fried bacon had already filled the air (it's what originally woke me up). But then to add it to this little concoction was, well, brilliant. The base of this muffin is made with stuffing. Yes, stuffing. I adore Christmas time, because of stuffing. Although it tends to be more of a comfort food during those cold fall and winter days, I do miss having it year round, and this is the best outlet. My mother filled the base of muffin tins with stuffing and then topped each one with bacon, cheese and one full egg and baked them to perfection.

Super filling, super satisfying and super fun!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fuschian and Pad Thai

Last night I had the pleasure of dining with two of my favourite people at one of my favourite restaurants.

Before I get into the restaurant details though, I’d like to make a side note about the wine Marysol, Teresa and I shared before heading over. I picked up Highfield Estate Paua Sauvignon Blanc from the last Vintages release at the LCBO. Filled with mineral, grass, floral and citrusy notes, this crisp wine was the perfect start to the evening.

Fuschian is my staple (see a previous review here) and I make it there almost weekly. A have a real soft spot for rice paper shrimp rolls and peanut sauce, and always start the meal off with them. My main is usually between two dishes, the vermicelli with shrimp and spring rolls or the Pad Thai. 90% of the time going with the vermicelli. The staff are so friendly, I feel as though I’m dining at a friend’s house every time I go.

When I first tried the Pad Thai (quite a while ago), it took a bit of warming up to. Not that it wasn’t good, just that it doesn’t taste quite like your traditional Pad Thai. The ingredients are all there, but the sauce is less sweet than most. I didn’t think of that when I recommended it to Marysol, who I think was surprised by my recommendation. To be honest, I’ve really come to love their Pad Thai.

Which made me wonder what everyone else expects in a Pad Thai. Do you like it sweet, spicy, oily, extra peanuts, lots of egg? I’d love to know which restaurant in Ottawa you feel has the best Pad Thai. Brittany has recommended Siam Bistro in a previous post. I’d love to hear yours!