Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

A Weekend in Montreal through Pictures-Part 2

August7

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My fascinating and delicious trip to Montreal continued on day two. The perfect way to explore Montreal’s tasty and diverse neighbourhoods was by electric scooter as we did the next morning. Being perched behind tour leader and fellow foodie Melissa Simard founder of Tours de la Table was an added bonus.

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We wound our way through the neighbourhood of Plateau Mount-Royal until we reached this perfect vista of the cityscape.

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Along the way, the former home of Leonard Cohen was pointed out to us.

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Centrale Culinaire in Mile End is a communal kitchen set up for catering and small-scale food production. Being a food stylist, I was also fascinated by the collection of wares stored for the photo shoots.

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We stopped at various stores and shops in the neighbourhoods.

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Another stop was at this 65 year old bagel stop where I learned that a Montreal bagel is distinguished by three characteristics: they are hand-rolled, they are put into a bath of honeyed water and then baked in a wood-fired oven.

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We only had time for a quick stop at one of the largest fresh markets in North America: Marche Jean Talon.

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I could have stayed at the market for hours meeting the multigenerational stall keepers and perusing their succulent offerings.

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After safely returning our scooters we walked back through this beautiful park to catch the subway “home”.

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If you recall home for the weekend was the Marriott Chateau Champlain where room service greeted me with refreshments and succulent chocolate covered strawberries. A fascinating day.

Kath’s quote: “Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river”. – Leonard Cohen
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Merchant Kitchen

August5

Winnipeg’s Portage Ave and its side streets were once the home to many of the cities’ great restaurants. Rudy’s, Moxie’s and most recently The Merchant Kitchen have blazed the way for the trend to reignite. Upon my return from an evening at The Merchant Kitchen, I told D that he would love everything about the “kitchen”: the central bar, the communal tables, the open kitchen, the clever cocktails and the food!

Being long-time fans of Pizzeria Gusto, I knew that this particular ensemble led by Chef Eric Lee would produce clever fare and yes, they did. Chef Lee is one of the many talented Chefs who have graduated from the exceptional culinary program at Red River College. He credits this great start and the blessings of mentorship and travel, for his culinary proweress. Of course, he did not put it in this manner, I did.

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The well chosen red of their cozy/sleek decor stimulates the taste buds as soon as you walk in the door.

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The menu is a eclectic collection of world cuisine with an emphasis on Latin and Asian dishes.

In my humble opinion, the best Latin food is found in the Yucatan peninsula where simple ingredients are combined to produce flavours that sparkle! The essence is in adding the exact amount of lime juice and cilantro. For example, both the Guacamole and Pico de Gallo contain these staple ingredients and in both cases they shine not for their own glory but to enhance the silky avacado and the tomato and white onion.

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The Carnitas Taco were also elevated by the precise addition of cilantro and lime, this time to offset the premise-made queso fresco and slow roasted pork. The pickled red onion was a thoughtful topping and took me back to one of my very first meals in the Yucatan.

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You may never desire butter and salt on your corn on the cob again, once you taste it with mayo, cojita cheese, a squeeze of lime and cilantro. We order these from the street vendors in Quintano Roo and they make a meal in themselves.

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Other world cuisines understand the magic of lime and cilantro as well, for example this Thai salad -Papaya Som Tum. My absolute favourite dish of the evening was Spicy Thai Fried Rice but I was in such haste to eat it, that my photo was not in focus. Along with jasmine rice, Thai basil, prawns, chilies and egg, it included…cilantro. Do not conclude that Chef Lee uses these componants often because he has a limited number of ingredients in his pantry. I believe he knows Winnipeggers well enough to predict that these flavours, reminiscent of warm climates, will be our reward during our long winters.

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Chef Lee’s roasted duck rolls introduced mint, peanuts and sesame to our palates and they too were exceptional.

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Although we were initially drawn to Pizzeria Gusto and Chef Lee’s fare for their astute renderings of pizza, most recently we would visit for their “veggie-centric” dishes like their Brussel sprouts. The Merchant Kitchen’s version is equally stellar along with the Dry Fried Green Beans above and the Charred Shishito Peppers not shown.

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The Korean Fried Chicken was a guilty pleasure which reminded me not of Korean cookery but of the fresh whole chickens that my Polish Grandma would fry up on hot summer days on the farm.

I spoke at length to Chef Lee about his skill in creating so many excellent tastes. He redirected the praise to the local ingredients and growers that he has been successful in securing as suppliers. So too, he credited Bobby and Suzy for the space and the overall experience. The entire Merchant Kitchen package is of shared food, shared tables, shared glances of the open bar and kitchen and even the shared bathroom!

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Just before I headed home to report to D of my new restaurant find, along came Pound Cake Churros which were heavenly in themselves. Our family ordered dessert on Christmas day from a Churro cart by the turquoise Carribbean sea, but these blew those right out of the water! The texture of the pound cake was perfectly porous to soak up the surprise of the bowl of warm chocolate milk. The taste allowed memories of dunking hot buttered toast into our mugs of hot chocolate with my many siblings around our kitchen table at home. There was love around that table and in my mind you will feel that way here too. All that was missing was being tucked into bed with a bedtime story.

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Kath’s quote: “I don’t need to tell you I love you, I made you pancakes”. –Kathleen Flinn

Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

A Weekend in Montreal through Pictures-Part 1

July31

I still have so much to share with you about my recent trio to Montreal so I am going to let these pictures tell the story.

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The view from my high perch at the Marriott Chateau Champlain.

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Through the distinctive windows of the hotel.  Look at the little ones at floor level.

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Loved the unusual presentation of the delicious items at our welcome reception put on by our hosts at the hotel.

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Seafood tacos-yum.

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Hand cut potato crisps.

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Sliders with carmelized onions.

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Duck poutine-amazing.

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Off to the Jesse Cook concert, part of the International Jazz Festival. We had fantastic seats.

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A stop at one of the free concert stages on the walk back to the hotel.

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Architectural contrasts.

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My nightime view before snuggling into my cozy bed.

Kath’s quote: “Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” -Marc Riboud

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

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Sushi Terrace

July30

Glowing recommendations about Sushi Terrace have made their way to me, from Canstar readers to the sales person where I was recently vehicle shopping. Knowing that my sushi aficionado (aka Boo) would enjoy the eating adventure, we headed out to the Westwood neighbourhood.

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We were the sole diners that evening but there were many persons who were warmly greeted by the husband and wife team who own the restaurant, when neighbours arrived to pick up “to go” orders.

We had no idea about the portion size so ordered a tempura to start, a couple of rolls and a traditional Korean dish. Suffice it to say, the mixed tempura was a meal in itself and we took half of our selections home for lunches.

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Included in the tempura basket were two savoury spring rolls, two succulent prawns and a bevy of veggies including a squash that we could not identify, along with sweet potato, broccoli and more. The sweet chili and soy dipping sauces were plentiful and we ate our fill.

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But of course, there was still more to come. Undaunted, we pressed on. All three rolls included seafood: the “Burning Love” special, the “Happy Mouth” (I got a kick out of the name) and the Crunch Roll. My daughter could detect the heat from the “Burning Love” but all I sensed was the delicious melding of cucumber, red roe, shrimp and torched salmon. The “Happy Mouth” lived up to its name with variations of the above with silky avocado added for good measure. My favourite were the Crunch Rolls as I love the popping sensation of the fish eggs in my mouth along with the additional crunch of crispy panko flakes.

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The grilled marinated beef of the Bulgogi dish was more delicate than I expected, so we had a few tastes of that too.

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As a lovely surprise and the perfect ending to our meal, was a beautiful orange that had been cubed and then placed back into the carved out peel.

Owners Jooncheol EO and her husband JINHEE JEONG (they spelt it with the caps), were delightful hosts. Each time she came to the table with a dish, she perfectly placed the plate for us to feast with our eyes before we tucked in.

Even though we are centrally located, Westwood was a bit of a jaunt for us. Even if you make the trek from the east of the city, you will not be disappointed.

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Kath’s quote: “Making sushi is an art, and experience is everything”. –Nobu Matsuhisa

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Live simply, laugh often, ove deeply.

Da Emma -Montreal

July24

Some of my clearest memories surround food. Others are connected to the warm display of affection. D might remember the date and year that we were in a certain country but I will remember the same circumstances differently-with tastes and aromas and specific ingredients or that love was present in the room or emanating from the kitchen.

Case in point, when D and I traveled to the Amalfi coast in Italy to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, one meal sticks out more clearly than any other. It was a lunch that we shared at a place called Cumpa Cosimo, way up high on the mountainside in Ravello. The restaurant had been run by the same family for decades. All the dishes served were Netta Bottone’s family recipes and she still supervised the cooking, greeted all of the guests herself and then collected everyone’s Euros before they departed.

More recently I have had the opportunity to dine at Restaurant Da Emma in Old Montreal. Emma Risa is a Montreal restaurateur that I was equally fascinated in meeting and knew that my memories of the evening would similarly stay with me for years. We were hosted by Ocean Properties associated with the Marriott Chateau Champlain which had been our home base for the weekend and the evening was the piece de résistance of our remarkable Montreal itinerary.

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Housed in Montreal’s first prison for women, the walls were impossibly thick but contrary to what you might first expect,

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the ambiance was warm and inviting.

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But to the food…we started with bruschetta where I confirmed anew how much I love fresh garlic and tomatoes and crunchy baguette.

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Next up was eggplant which featured thin layers of my favourite vegetable and a delicate tomato sauce.

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For my main, I chose “Piglet” even though I felt awkward about ordering something with such a cute name. The skin was crunchy, the silky fat melted away and the meat was perfectly seasoned and prepared.

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The highlight of the evening though was the invite to meet Ella.

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Perhaps you can see why I remembered my meeting with Netta in Ravello, now?

Netta had hosted the likes of Jacqueline Onassis, Humphrey Bogart and Mariah Carey.

Ella had hosted George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonny Depp.

In both cases, I was in good company.

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Kath’s quote: Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” – Sophia Loren

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

 

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