Thursday, April 29, 2010

Benny’s Bistro


Why oh why must this restaurant be so far away from my work? In a way I guess it's good, it saves me from eating lunch out every single day. And when I do finally make my way over there, it's so worth it. I make it sound like they're off the beaten path. But it's actually me who is. Right down in the heart of the Byward Market, this gem is a must for lunch.

I had been raving continuously about the food to one of my coworkers until he finally said, what are we waiting for? Let's go! So we did. And now here I am, drooling over my keyboard as I type.

Luckily the menu isn't huge, or I'd have a helluva time deciding. I still did anyway. Torn between the sweet soy braised pork belly sandwich with pickled vegetables and curry aioli, the pan roasted Lake Erie pickerel and the seared scallops. My coworker Scott helped in my decision making by ordering the pickerel. Then at least, I'd get to try two of the three. I finally decided on the scallops.

I was in awe when my meal arrived. A row of firm, fleshy seared scallops lined the plate. Parallel to these golden beauties was a thick slice of double smoked bacon that acted as a slide from the tower of salt cod gnocchi, grilled King Eryngii mushroom and fava bean salad to the roasted chipolinni onion at the other end. The rich moistness of the salt cod gnocchi made each morsel fuse together, almost like a fish cake. I swear it was my favourite thing on the plate. Curly slivers of pickled beets and deep green leaves added a rich punch of colour to the overall ocre hue of the dish.

Before my first bite, I had food envy looking at Scott's golden crumbed Lake Erie Pickerel filet. Perched on a soba noodle salad with sweet soy braised Shitaki mushroom and pickled daikon radish, this fish was cooked to a fork flaking tenderness. A pool of mild dashi stock was the ideal sauce for each ingredient.

Upon presentation of this visually striking pear tart (they bring a plate displaying all the desserts), we couldn't help but place an order. The sweetness of the velvety filling in this generous dessert was underpinned by hints of tartness from the slivers of pear. A gelatinous shellac gave it a glamorous sheen. What a way to end a marvelous lunch.

I can't thank Scott enough for treating me, and of course the other Scott. Chef Scott Adams, whom without, we wouldn't have had such a sensational lunch experience.

Benny's Bistro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Poultry 101 at the Urban Element

Well, it's been a little while since I've indulged in an evening at the Urban Element. It seems if I don't jump on their courses right away, they get filled. That's great for them, and I can't think of anyone who deserves it more. They're so efficient and really do run one of the best evenings out in Ottawa. Carley, Proprietor and Culinary Events Director at the Urban Element, has even been nominated for businesswoman of the year through the Women's Business Network. I wish her the best of luck!

This course was a 2 part series of poultry. I didn't attend the first one, but made it into the second. The hands-on class focused mostly on duck, with a bit of quail. Now, before I start, let me shamefully say that I've never, ever done anything with a raw chicken. Ok, maybe I touched it a little bit, but I've never cut into one or even cooked one. So when I was given a whole duck to separate, I was at a loss. And Candice, their resident chef extraordinaire was there to help. She took one and demonstrated. Ok, not too bad, but once she was gone, I mangled that poor duck. When she came back around to see how I did, I craftily tried to hold the flopping pieces back up in place, the ones I cut by accident. Her patience and encouragement helped me continue onto the other half of the duck, which I did a bit better. The good news though, is that I now have the confidence to do it at home, and that's all that matters. What's a true art however, is her ability to take the meat afterward and make the most beautiful looking plates ever.

After all our hard work in the kitchen, it's nice to sit back, relax and let the final plating take place in front of us. The first dish to get devoured, was a moist and savoury pear, onion and Stilton bread pudding topped with pan-seared foie gras. Held together so delicately by it's singed edges, it didn't take much to release the rich buttery inside of the foie. Bright green bok choy microgreens from Bryson Farms were like jewelry on the food. While a puddle of balsamic and caramelized onion sauce completed the course. Food-friendly Gruner Veltliner Kamptal wine from Austria was the perfect pairing.

A comforting Asian-inspired soup followed, filled with duck wontons. The distinctive flavours brought on by the Asian cinnamon stick, ginger and anise in the stock were amazing, but light enough to not overpower the spiciness and pungency of the Chinese barbecued duck wrapped in wontons.

Next came a warm finger-licking quail salad with fresh figs and a dollop of creamy goat cheese. The bird here is cooked in bacon fat, breast side down, and then wrapped in a piece of bacon before roasting, which results in a tremendously tender and juicy piece of meat. Bits of salty bacon were in the final dressing that poured over the mixed greens. If you can get a sliver of quail, fig and goat cheese onto your fork in one bite, it's like heaven. But the majority of the quail was eaten with my fingers, tearing as much meat off the few brittle bones leftover from the deboning as I could. Farm Boy, I learned, is a great place to find fresh quail. They served a Cave Springs Chardonnay with this dish.

As I was about ready to explode, our final dish came out. How I made room for this duck trio is beyond me. It was so fun to explore the different textures though. The duck confit, with it's crisp tile of skin had me in a trance, as did the warm lentil salad it was paired with. The duck carpaccio sprinkled in clilantro lime soya sauce was so light and palate-cleansing compared to the other two. And the third, a pan-seared dark red and chewy duck breast, thinly sliced and coated in a sweet blackberry sauce was divine. The meat sat neatly over a pile of gingered sweet potato mash that I deliberately saved for last. These potatoes are sweet on their own, but amplified when combined with sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Terra Noble Pinot Noir was the drink of choice for this main.

Thank god dessert goes into a separate stomach! Otherwise I would not have had room for the Dulce de leche crème brulée. Once you broke through the sticky lacquer of torched sugar, the velvety center was revealed, and boy was it decadent!

Once again I can't rave enough about my experience at the Urban Element. I think I have to start planting the seed at work for a team building outing. It's so much fun getting to know new people in these classes but I'm also very interested to see how exciting it would be to do it with a group of people I work so closely with on a daily basis. I'm sure it would result in a lot of laughs and smiling stomachs. Until my next culinary experience!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mmmmmmm.... Maple!

I’ve got a huge crush on all things maple. Ever since I was a child, my grandfather and I would, after dinner, mop up maple syrup with my grandmother’s thick homemade white bread for dessert. I occasionally do it now, but for the most part, anything that looks like it would be good with maple syrup usually gets it. Eggs, sausage, bread, beans, and of course the traditional fare that begs for it, such as pancakes, waffles, French toast and ice cream. It just makes everything better.

So you can imagine my delight when our friend Eric showed up with this magical little bottle of syrupy goodness, hand-made with so much care (even the label!). Eric is from New Brunswick and his family makes maple syrup annually up in the Crabbe Mountain area. Many years ago, before my husband moved to Ottawa, he went and made syrup with them. Eric’s dad tapped all the trees so the collection of sap went downhill, allowing gravity to flow the juice into the barrels. The watery sap would fill one of the 55 gallon rain barrels that they would later put up onto a makeshift sled (made of wood and two old skis) and push it back up the hill to their camp. Then they’d dump the sap into a big cast iron cauldron and light a fire below it for about 24 hours. The end result was a measly 1 or 2 gallons of sweet syrup - but worth every single second of work it took.

I opened it immediately and took a tiny spoonful, followed by another, then another. A delightful medium grade syrup so smooth and silky on the palate, and highlighted with sweet, smoky flavours. I could drink the whole bottle. But this amber liquid deserves to be paired with something equally amazing. So for breakfast, that’s what my husband did.

“You don’t need butter on those”, he said as I reached for what I thought was a normal pancake. These golden disks were so soft and eggy, they just turned to a creamy texture as soon as they came in contact with the heat of your mouth. Their title describes them perfectly – Heavenly Hots. My husband got the recipe from the New York Times, and it originated at a restaurant in Berkley CA in the 80's. Made with 4 eggs, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 3 tbs sugar, 4 tbs flour, and this is where it gets crazy, 2 cups of sour cream. I drenched them in syrup, each slice dripping like a broken faucet. Simple breakfast sausages toned down the sumptuousness of this meal, but not enough to stop me from rolling each one in the maple syrup.

And since we're on the topic of maple. A couple weeks ago in Mont Tremblant, I had the pleasure of trying a new Quebec liqueur made from local maple syrup – Coureur des bois. It's velvety and creamy and well, perfect. On ice cream, in coffee and alone on ice. Yumm!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Weekend of Reminiscing our Taste 5 Experience

OH MY GOD, my husband is the best cook on the planet! Inspired by our sensational evening at the NAC's Le Café, and armed with the recipes, my husband decided to share our food experience with friends. The only change however, rather than have 5 outstanding dishes, all the emphasis and care went into one. On Friday, that one was the salmon with wasabi crack, and Saturday the braised beef short ribs.

A pretty pink hunk of salmon was served, so moist and cooked to utter perfection. As was with the original dish, a dusting of crushed wasabi peas added a visual punch to the fish. I couldn't believe what a success this replication was (well, actually, I could), even right down to the fried lotus chip and deep green bok choy (the mushrooms were added after I took the shot). The best thing about the meal was that because it was our only plate, the larger portion of each ingredient didn't disappear as quickly. I was especially excited about the velvety cauliflower and black sesame purée, and the leftovers I have for lunch tomorrow!

And of course, what's an amazing dinner without delicious wine to go with it. An Oyster Bay Chardonnay, donated by my food and wine-loving friend Zoya, and Rosehall Run Riesling, from my lovely friend Gina, completed the meal. I'm no wine expert, especially when it comes to white wine, but that Riesling was made specifically for this fish.

To make the cauliflower purée, combine 1 tbs of bl ack sesame seeds, 3 cups of cauliflower, cut and cleaned, 5 cups of 2% milk, 3 tbs butter, salt and pepper in a large pot. Cover with plastic wrap and simmer slowly for about an hour. Strain cauliflower and reserve liquid in a separate bowl. Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor and purée until it becomes a smooth paste. Adjust the texture with the liquid until desired consistency is reached.

On Saturday night, I couldn't help but be ravenous after having smelled the lingering aromas of the mirepoix, followed by the slow cooking of the meat in the kitchen all afternoon. This has got to be one of the absolute best dishes my husband has ever made. The most tender and juicy short ribs ever – not one of our guests could hold their jaw up off the table they were so enthralled by this succulent dish. Every moist morsel of meat we tore off with our fork was to die for. The jus it bathed in just begged to be introduced to the garlic purple sweet potato mash that shared the plate. And a fresh green arugula salad sprinkled with leftover wasabi pea dust and rock salt. The food, coupled with great friends and eating outside was my definition of heaven.

The wine we had with this dish was the perfect match – recommended by my wine-expert-colleague Jean-Marc. It's absolutely amazing, Two Hands Angel's Share Shiraz.

For the beef ribs, start by flouring them and then sear them off in a hot pan with a touch of oil. Colour 1 cup of mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery, bay leafs and whole peppercorn) and add a spoonful of tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes. Next, deglaze with red wine, add 1.5 litres of beef stock, 1/2 cup hoisin sauce, 1/4 cup malt vinegar, 3 tbs soya sauce, 2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp garlic, 1 stem of lemon grass (bruised), 2 pieces of shallots and braise for 4 hours at 350 (could have even gone longer). Serve with a lime cheek.

Wow, what a great weekend. My mouth still waters as I think about it all. This is the life!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Are we really the food paparazzi?

I found this article through one of the many food blogs I read. I had to laugh at some of it (I especially love the very last line – so true). And of course, feel a bit self conscious at other parts. It took me almost a year of blogging to finally start taking photos of what I ate in restaurants. And I still to this day do my best to be as discrete as possible. Although sometimes, after a few glasses of wine, I open up and think “screw it! I'm taking the shot!”. 

It's definitely worth a read, whether you're a food blogger or a simply caught sitting next to a food blogger. 

And I will admit, I don't always blog when I go out to eat. It is nice to just sit back, relax and enjoy the food in real time, piping hot from the kitchen, and not worrying about what every single ingredient is on your plate. Besides, if I posted every experience I had, people would think my blog was solely about the Whalesbone Oyster House!

Sometimes it's just about “going out”. Period.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Evening at Le Café

Wow, Le Café, who knew?

I can’t say this restaurant has ever been on my radar. I’ve heard of chef Michael Blackie – he often appeared in newspaper articles of interviews with local chefs. I guess I always just saw this restaurant as a tourist trap, but still endearing with their inviting outdoor patio perfectly positioned next to the Canal. A restaurant that sat a very large number of guests, which would result in a plate of mediocre food. I just assumed people would eat there for the view, the people watching, and the sheer convenience of the fact that it’s the perfect place to grab a bite before a show. And that’s it. But an event put on by the Marketing Officer at the NAC quickly proved me wrong. Le Café offers so much more.

I got an email a couple weeks ago from Jennifer Covert, inviting me to taste Le Café’s new Taste 5 menu. A food blogging event of sorts. The first of it’s kind with some of Ottawa’s best food bloggers, including Don and Jen from foodiePrints, Jody from Simply Fresh, Paola from C’est bon cooking, Shari from Whisk, Lana from Apron Strings, Heather from After the Harvest, Sean from mediastyle and Matt from Kayahara. Every last detail from the minute we arrived to the last bite of food we ate was so carefully planned. To have pulled this off so flawlessly was really quite impressive. Great company, a bit of hands-on, an intensive kitchen tour and of course indulging in delicious food. What a night!

We were brought through the long corridors and deep down into the kitchen of the NAC. As we exited the elevator into the first prep area, a long table beautifully decorated and candlelit was patiently awaiting our arrival. A sweet glass of maple cider wine was offered as we listened to how the evening was to roll out. They divided us into teams, each one responsible for a specific part of the dinner.

Team Crabby, paired with Chef Sharma, were responsible for the brandade crab galette.
Team Flamer, along with Chef Bento, took care of the soya stained torchon of foie gras with warmed duck confit.
Team Crack and Chef Richardson carefully prepared the crisp skinned salmon with wasabi crack.
And my team, Team Ménage. At first I thought woohoo! We’re taking care of the cleaning! That’s what I’m best at. Not so, it was a ménage-à-trois. AAA three way. We were paired with Chef Morris, so patient, and really just an amazing person all around. As much as I don’t enjoy cooking, I could learn to love it under his wing.

Chef Michael Blackie oversaw it all. And he said it best when he talked of these amazing chefs who made it all happen. Customers assume it’s always the head chef that makes their plate. But nothing would be possible without this grandiose team.

As team crabby got started on their dish, the rest of us got the tour of the biggest kitchen I’ve ever seen. Set up to serve 3 courses to hundreds of people in less than an hour, the equipment in this kitchen alone had our jaws resting on the floor. Everything right down to the conveyor belt where we carefully decorated each plate.

Our first dish was delightful, Brandade crab galette who’s taste was tempered by the curry, fennel and sweet corn broth it bathed in. A crisp basil leaf interspersed between shavings of fried leek decorated the top of these golden fried beauties. They paired this dish with sparkling Prosecco La Robinia from Italy.

Next came the soya stained torchon of fois gras with warmed duck confit, highlighted by tiny cubes of green apple gelée that added an unusual splash of colour. The firm buttery texture of the fois gras and confit combination melted so smoothly in your mouth that even the sugar torched fig was no match for the richness of it. We rinsed it down with a Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris from the Okanagan Valley.

There was a ripple of excitement when the crisp skinned salmon was served. Dusted in wasabi crack and served with a delectable smear of cauliflower and black sesame purée gloriously smooth in texture. Tasty bok choy, chewy enrigi mushrooms and sliced lotus root completed the plate. To drink, they served us a lovely rosé from Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards in Prince Edward County.

We could have stopped there, but passing up the main course was not an option. An elegant combination of beef done three ways. 65 degree centigrade filet carefully placed next to the moist beef short ribs, braised ever so slowly in garlic and lemongrass. The meat was partially framed by a bright orange swipe of whipped sweet potato and dredged with crushed pistachio. Moist slices of pulled cheeks hugged tiny servings of charred pearl onion and meaty oyster mushrooms.

My job was to heat up the Jerusalem artichokes that were served alongside the beef tenderloin. It was much less intimidating than you would think – thank god. And the Israeli Galilee Cab Sauvignon served with this dish was heavenly. I would have drank the entire bottle.

The wine pairing, introduced by sommelier Tegan Schioler, was perfect and so well thought out. Every luscious detail of the bottled potions described to a T, making us feel like royalty in a true celebration of food and wine. Even right down to the sparkling water that they make in-house. Refreshing, and of course, a fabulous gift to mother earth. They've even got an organic separation process with the garbage going on. What more could you ask for of a restaurant, really.

The type of setting we had was really quite unique – being placed in the kitchen with the chefs cooking your meal, there to answer any question you may have. Ensuring nothing but excellence for you and those you love dining with most. They are looking to offer this type of service as corporate outings, or other groups who want to experience great food at the heart of a bustling kitchen. Simply put, a destination for food lovers.

For our last course, we moved up to the restaurant. One that Chef Blackie has great plans for renovation. Honeybush semolina spring rolls piped with roasted banana filling and served on a bed of cubed tropical fruit. The opposite end of the plate made way for a tiny snowball of vanilla ice cream decorated by a thin wafer of chocolate. A glass of port completed this final dish as our bellies sighed with satisfaction.

I have a new found respect for the effort and patience that goes along with a restaurant of this size. To turn around this much food without skimping on quality is impressive. And it wouldn’t be possible without all the magnificent behind-the-scenes people that make it all happen.

I have a feeling my next visit will have to be brunch. They offer a significant buffet at a surprising $27.95. And really, what better way to spend a Sunday morning, sitting by a sun-filled window or watching the boats float by (in the summer).

I can’t thank Jennifer enough for inviting us. She and Natalie Peachy from the food and beverage department made us feel fantastic. And to Chef Blackie and his amazing posse for all of their time and addictive energy. I can’t imagine pulling something like this off while the kitchen remains open to the public is that easy. But they sure made it look that way.

Le Café

Le Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Grandbois Chocolatière

Our friends Rachelle and Christian came by for a dinner party on Friday night. Along with two magnificent bottles of wine was another gift, one that I stored and didn't take out until there was no one left in our house to share it with. This lovely tin was filled with magical little creations that at first view you'd say chocolate, but once you open it up and have a closer look, realize it's so much more than that.

9 beautifully decorated edible art. The time put into the look of these squares alone is awe-inspiring. It wasn't until I began to read each flavour that my heart skipped a few beats. Geneviève Grandbois puts her heart and soul into every single one of these chocolates. You'll see what I mean as you read on. Caution, you may need something to catch the drool so protect your keyboard.

My box was filled with “The Classics”
Safran – Ivory ganache with saffron on dark ganache flavoured with roasted vanilla.
Gianduja – An Italian specialty. Caramelized hazelnut butter and chocolate.
Framboise – Raspberry coulis blended with a dark ganache delicately flavoured with Malaysian long pepper.
Érable – Maple butter with maple syrup added, combined with pecans caramelized in maple sugar.
Caramel à la fleur de sel – An amber caramel flavoured with vanilla and enhanced with fleur de sel.
Chai – Infusion of black indian tea with ginger, black pepper, star anis and cardamom.
Extra-vierge – A ganache made with 70% cocoa chocolate delicately blended with extra-virgin olive oil.
Piment – A mild ganache spiced with a blend of Espelette, cayenne and serrano peppers.
Le 9 – Le 9 varies based on the chocolate maker's new discoveries. Mine was filled with a chocolate mousse-like filling. Rich and smooth.

You can pick up these fine chocolates in Montreal at either the Atwater Market or at 162 Saint-Viateur West.

I can't thank Rachelle and Christian enough for this mouthwatering gift. I enjoyed every second of it! (I did share some with my husband, but they were cut in half. I couldn't bare to not try them all.) Also, I want to point out that the edges of the chocolates in the photo were perfect when I first opened them, it's when I went to take a shot of the box and accidentally dropped it and my camera that they got a little mangled. I chose to save the camera first so that I could share these photos with you.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Barbecued Maple Salmon with Pureed Cauliflower and Greens

My husband really does know how to make the best meals. It's surprising that even after this long, I'm in awe by every dish. He never fails to amaze me. The smells, the textures, the flavours – they are always outstanding. This meal of course, was no different.

He coated this beautiful piece of steelhead salmon with brown sugar, maple syrup, chili powder spice and salt and pepper before throwing it on the barbecue. The results were heavenly. So sweet and cooked so perfectly. I especially loved the crispy caramelized bits on the outer edge – like eating candy. The side of pureed cauliflower (our new favourite thing) was the best match for this outstanding fish, making this meal one of the best ever! A mixture of spinach and arugula completed the plate.

You must try this cauliflower as a side. It's so easy and so wonderful. Steam one head of cauliflower with 3 cloves of garlic. Then take it all and purée for a long time, adding some olive oil and salt and pepper. Delicious!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stoneface Dolly's

I have not been to Stoneface Dolly's for breakfast since they were on McLeod. I was just as content with Jak's taking over the spot, especially since it's within walking distance. But this morning, my friends Amy and Andrew had their heart set on Dolly's, which was excellent by me, since I'd yet to blog about them. So here I am.

Like most places in Ottawa for breakfast, there's usually a lineup. But Bob, the owner, can in a split second take away any impatience you may have at the door with his exceptional ability to make you laugh and enjoy the wait.

I rarely switch things up when it comes to breakfast. Give me any kind of benedict and I'll be smiling all day long. Throw some smoked salmon in there and there's an immediate party in my tummy. And that's just what I did. Eggs Natasha – poached eggs on your choice of English muffin or homemade brown molasses (of course I went for the homemade molasses bread!), with smoked salmon and spinach smothered in their tangy and buttery lemon Diablo sauce. Their homefries are also quite amazing – fried mash with bits of orange and green pepper – yumm.

The others at the table also went with their regular, Eggs Benedict made with cappicola ham and the Big Breakfast, supporting all 4 meats: bacon, sausage, ham and peameal bacon. My husband stayed on the lighter side of things with the Traditional Two Eggs, but the choice of meat offers more than most menus with their vegetarian mushroom patty – nice!

I couldn't help but contemplate the Breakfast Ribs. Not that I crave ribs first thing in the morning (although I could if they were sitting right in front of me), but I know some friends who would probably go there just for that.

Lots of choice, fantastic service and delicious food leaving you more than satisfied. This is a great place for breakfast. Prices range between $8 and $16.

Stone Face Dolly's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fraser Café


Ok, so that was my reaction on the first bite. Why did it take me so long to come here?!

My friend Teresa has been for lunch quite often and raves about every single visit. It's also been on my wish list. So bringing our friend Gina for her birthday was a no-brainer.

We ordered a bottle of the Peter Zemmer “La Lot” Pinot Grigio 2008 to sip on while we tried to decide what to order. I kept bouncing back and forth between the Beetroot Salad with cottage cheese, pecans, wild rice, bacon, and the House Made Pork Rillette. And that was just for my app! The mains threw an even larger wrench in the decision-making, with tempting plates like Sea Scallops with balsamic beets, fennel and truffle oil or the Roasted Duck with pearl barley mushroom risotto and goat cheese.

And then our server Joel described the Kitchen's Choice app and main. Basically it's like playing roulette except you're sure to win every time. The kitchen makes a random dish of their choice. If a few of you order this at your table, everyone could end up with a completely different dish. I dove right in. So much easier than having to decide!

The results did not disappoint. My appetizer was a savoury house pie of oxtail and duck confit. The flavours were to-die-for. A light pie crust, not too filling but having soaked up the jus it sat in just made it that much more decadent. And the thin layer of melted cheese that occasionally ribboned out onto my fork was the perfect topper. I can't properly describe my affection for this dish but I'm sure the shiny white plate I sent back explained it all.

Teresa and Gina both ordered the Miso Baked BC Salmon with noodles and tempura vegetables. They loved every bite. And I had major food envy for the few seconds before my plate arrived.

My next surprise was a BBQ cornish game hen, cooked juicy and to perfection. Poultry is not something I normally order when I'm out but this golden beauty was amazing. And just when I thought my dish couldn't get any better, I bit into the deep fried cornbread topped with house slaw – a heavenly concoction that made me tremble with excitement – I just wished there had been more. And finally the potato gratin, still on the same plate, reminded me of being a kid and when my mom used to make it. Except this one was the more mature variation, the one I would eat today.

This is definitely a spot I could see being a regular. The food is delicious and the service magnificent – not once did we have to fill our glass. And the atmosphere is one that makes you want to stick around and linger with a glass of wine, soft lighting and just casual and comfortable. Apps range from $9 to $13 and mains from $24 to $26.

Fraser Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 5, 2010

Deer and Apple Sausage with Salad and Sweet Potato Fries

If this is what happens when we haven't done groceries, well, I think I may have to stop shopping for a while.

When I left my friend Zoya's this weekend, she sent me home with 2 deer and apple sausages. Yumm! On Thursday last week, Marysol left me some delicious micro greens from Bryson Farms, something I'm now addicted to (it's made it in pretty much every salad, sandwich and soup since). A stop in at Les Folies Bergères on our way home from Tremblant left us with a smooth and creamy coulée douce de pur brebis as a plate garnish. And of course some sweet potato fries.

Everything on my plate was magical. The distinct, moist texture of the deer meat covered in fried onions, the earthy taste of micro greens mixed with mâche and drizzled in balsamic. And to top it off, we ate dinner outside. The perfect evening if I do say so myself. Thanks to all who made this dinner possible and for all your lovely gifts. As for Les Folies Bergères, if you haven't gone, it's an experience in itself to just speak with such passionate people on what they do best – making heavenly cheeses. We got to try just about every kind and left not only with some cheese, but also some meat!

Barbecued Greek Chicken and Salad

We just spent a fantastic weekend in Tremblant and as usual, Zoya made our mouths water and our tummies smile. Ok, I have no idea what a smiling tummy looks like, but it's a feeling I get inside, I know it's smiling.

She marinated the chicken in some yogurt, garlic and a dash of red wine vinegar before throwing it on the grill. The result was the most tender and tasty chicken ever.

A giant plate of cilantro, tomatoes, red onion, feta and stuffed grape leaves were drizzled in this amazing balsamic vinegar.

And what's the perfect meal without the perfect wine? Umberto Cesari Moma.

Thanks so much Zoya! It was outstanding!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Gazpacho, Smelts and Ceviche Tacos

Behind every great woman is an amazing man. At least that's how it is at my house.

After having such an amazing meal at Marysol's, there was no way I was going to screw up dinner for her and Amy last Thursday night. And obviously my anxiety was apparent because my husband stepped in and offered to help. At first I wasn't going to take it, but I caved. He wasn't here when I served the meal so there were some things I had to do on my own. But I would say 95% had been done for me, prep work, instructions and all. I never laughed so hard as I did when I opened the fridge! Seriously, this is true love.

Marysol and Amy brought some delicious wines to start us off. An Italian cuvée brut, Carpenè Malvolti and 2009 Aveleda Fonte white from Portugal. I think my new favourite thing is sparkling wine.

Some cheese and figs to get the conversation started and then the first course, the best gazpacho I've ever had drizzled with truffle oil. You just have to eat it to believe it. I'd highly recommend waiting until the tomatoes are in season though.

Next I served some fried onion, chorizo, mushroom and bread crumb stuffed mushroom caps. I didn't get a shot of this one or the giant plate of smelts but you can check them out at Marysol's blog, she did a fantastic post about the evening (I feel so special!). I actually did bread the smelts and fry them myself. Although my husband did a practice run with me the night before.

And finally, ceviche tacos with Mexican wild rice. This is the perfect summer dinner. You can get the recipe here at Epicurious. So fresh and yummy, this final dish was also a hit. We used halibut from the Whalesbone mixed with chopped tomatoes, red onion and hot peppers. Some cilantro, lettuce and corn salsa completed this mouthwatering mixture. We omitted the avocado because we couldn't find a ripe one anywhere.

Marysol brought a jaw-dropping dessert. Almond and chocolate mousse layer cake. It was sinful. And the perfect companion for my Homewood Merlot Port from Sonoma.

I enjoyed every second of the evening with these two lovely ladies. There's nothing quite like spending time with people who love food as much as you. But you never want the night to end.