Food Musings

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

Guest Bloggers: Boo and the Frenchmen-Montreal’s Best Coffee Spots

May13

Boo and the Frenchmen are currently on their long awaited honeymoon. Greece is their current location but en route, they spent a week drinking coffee, beer and noshing in Montreal.

From the Frenchman:

During our stay in Montreal I had to make sure we checkout the hottest coffee shops in town. Everyone that knows me knows I love my coffee, more specifically lattes. I even got my wife Boo addicted to coffee, or perhaps turned her into a coffee snob like me. To me, coffee is more than just another cup of joe, or something to keep the buzz goin’. I usually associate drinking coffee with relaxing and/or enjoyable moments. That’s why I had to make a list of coffee shops we would visit since we were on our honeymoon.

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After a little research I had found 3 of the top places that are running the coffee scene in Montreal: Café Olympico “Open da night”, located in the heart of Mile End, is a bustling coffee parlour that was open in the 70’s. Inside you will find a large espresso machine behind which a barista is frantically making one coffee after another. There was constant chatter in the background and seemed to be a favorite spot with locals as many poeple came in and greeted the baristas like old friends. What I found different about this coffee shop is how they expertly poured the espresso and steamed milk right in front of you on a high counter. Usually the drink is made behind the machine, in this case you got to be part of the making adding to the whole experience. This was definitely one of our favorite spots(we went twice), the espresso was delicious and felt just right being mixed with creamy steamed milk. They serve their own house blend; a secret recipe as described on their website.

Café Olimpico on Urbanspoon

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Next we went to Cafe Plume, nestled in Le Plateau de Mont Royal. I would consider this one a neighborhood coffee shop, frequented by students and hipsters alike. When we walked in I was greeted with a familiar sight; bags of Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters. We must have walked in at a busy time as we had to wait a little bit to find a seat, which we did by the window. The atmosphere is quite inviting with bright lights, a brick backwall, chairs and tables and stools running along the window. That day they had the Nueva Llusta blend, and both Boo and I had lattes. A delicious choice so much so I had to have an espresso shot of that same coffee. The staff is very friendly and knowledgable; I ended up having a little chat with the barista about the different coffees they serve including Verve Coffee.

Café Plume on Urbanspoon

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We also went to Cafe Myriade, situated right off of St-Catherine in the shadows of l’Universite de Concordia. When we arrived we could tell this was a popular student hang out. Amid tables busy with young people in animated conversations we waited in line to order our lattes, our favorite as you can tell. We were lucky to get our coffees just as a table was vacated near the front window. The espresso machine dominates the counter, making it plain they are serious about their coffee. And we weren’t disappointed. Again our taste buds were greeted with the delicious taste of a fresh and well roasted blend, this time from the Square Mile Coffee Roasters. I must say checking out these coffee shops just enriched our visit in Montreal, knowing we were going to taste some of the best coffee this city can offer. You don’t have to be a coffee snob by any means to enjoy a trip to these locations; the friendliness of the staff, the atmosphere and the tasty drinks they will serve you will be enough to give you a great experience.

Cafe Myriade on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon.” Ronald Reagan

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

Dining with New Foodie Friends

May12

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My husband D and I enjoy dining with new foodie friends as we did recently with Canstar reader and contest winner Janice Sawka and her guest, at The Keg Steakhouse + Bar Southside location on McGillivray Blvd. The co-workers and pinball aficionados toasted the evening with a French 75 Martini and a Ginger Crantini.

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As soon as we could stop talking about our favourite Winnipeg restaurants, the friends selected appetizers of Tuna Tartare and Baked Brie. Janice was determined to try something that might have typically been outside of her comfort zone.

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After mustering up the gumption, she was surprised at the lovely texture and subtle flavours of the tartare. Tartares have French origins when a meat or fish is finely chopped and served raw. She also enjoyed the tastes of Mushrooms Neptune and Crab Cakes that we shared with her.

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For their salad course, The Keg’s renowned Caesar salad and a nouveau Spinach Salad were chosen. Janice was tempted by the addition of chèvre (goat cheese) and the chardonnay vinaigrette on the spinach one.

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D tried the Wedge salad for the first time.

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I waited and had my salad as my entrée. I love this new option on the Keg menu.

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Janice was still working her way through both her appetizer and salad when her Sirloin Oscar entrée arrived.  She was happy to indulge in both seafood (shrimp and scallops) and one of The Keg’s excellent steaks, all in one dish. The asparagus and béarnaise sauce were her “icing on the cake”.

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But speaking of sweets, dessert was yet to come.  My husband suggest a mini-dessert trio of butter tart, fudge brownie and crème brûlée (literally: burnt cream) for the undecided.  Janice considered and then concluded that the famous Keg Billy Miner pie was her choice, if she could request that it not be served with caramel sauce.  The Keg is always happy to accommodate substitutions, so everyone got exactly what they wanted.

Our server Cory was more than gracious with us when the dining room emptied, as the four of us sat and chatted about dining in Italy, Seattle and Jerusalem and where next our food adventures may take us.

The Keg Steakhouse + Bar on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”-Mae West

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix

May7

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Recently, I was honoured to once again be the food-stylist for the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix media tour, having done so two years ago with Chef Michael Howell. This year the country was divided into east and west with Chef Howell touring the east and Chef Julian Bond, the west. I was fascinated by the cheese knowledge and passion of Chef Howell and equally so of Chef Bond. In particular Chef Bond offered me some personal cheese tasting tips.

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A gentleman who studied in Switzerland produced this Swiss mountain-style cheese (think Heidi and her Grandfather) from Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese. I do not typically consume cheese rinds but when I saw that this was a washed-rind cheese style, I included the attached rind with my nibble and greatly enjoyed it.”Handek” is aged 16 months and I thought I could detect a nutty aroma. Its complex flavours were enhanced by a dried apricot and pecan.

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To the west, two Alberta cheeses were given the nod: a Gouda from Sylvan Star Cheese

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and a Feta from Tiras Dairies. The latter was a particular favourite because it sliced so easily without crumbling.  I imagined it between wedges of watermelon for a summer time salad.

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Further west, British Columbia had four cheese in the top eleven, tying with the province of Quebec. Farm House Natural Cheeses produced a traditional clothbound cheddar. As a part of the process, lard was smeared over the cloth to protect the cheese and also produced deep earthy flavours.

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One of two cheese makers with winners in the top eleven, The Farm House Natural Cheeses also furnished a winning “Firm Cheese”.  I could detect grassy notes with this taste and then read that the cheese makers only use “summer” milk when the cows graze in green pastures.

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I was foolishly trying to detect “cherriness” in the Cherry Bocconcini from BC’s Natural Pastures Cheese Company which won in the Fresh Pasta Filata category. Research indicated that it is so called because of its cherry “shape”.  I would definitely recommend this unripened cheese the next time you decide to make a Caprese salad.

I love buttery cheeses like the Comox Brie (from the same cheesemaker as the bocconcini) which took the “Soft Cheese with Bloomy Rind” top spot. I would love to serve it at an upcoming dinner party when I would bake it with some maple syrup, pecans and dried blueberries.

I was not surprised that Quebec held a prominent role in the ribbon taking. Chef Bond explained that Quebec is a popular destination for immigrants from Europe who brought their cheese-making skills with them from their native countries and that cheese artistry is ingrained in the French heritage.

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When I was in my early twenties and just discovering diverse food pairings, I was served a semi-soft cheese with raspberries and cracked peppercorns. I will never forget that taste and peppery cheese paired with fruit or a fine Riesling has always been a fav of mine. The Pepper Raclette from Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser that won out in the “Flavoured Cheese with Added Particulate Solid” brought that old memory, vividly back to me. Raclettes are typically served melted but for my enjoyment, it was absolutely perfect at room temperature.

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Typically shying away from blue cheese, Chef Bond suggested that I try a smear of the winning Le Bleu d’Elizabeth (which I am quite sure won in this category two years ago), with a drizzle of honey. Sure enough, the sweetness offset the salty pungency and I declare: “I am a blue cheese lover!”

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Fromagerie La Station, also from Quebec, produced the winner for “Washed or Mixed Rind Firm Cheese”. Aged a full 18 months on wooden boards, the Alfred Le Fermier cheese retains a nutty flavour and woodsy aroma from the wood itself, I would guess.

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Now for the Grand Champion, drum roll please……Laliberte from Fomagerie du Presbytere, the same cheese makers as my newly loved blue cheese! I went back again and again to smear the triple cream cheese on a piece of baguette, pita, a cracker, anything I could get my hands on! Tasting like a thick and creamy mushroom soup, I could absolutely see why it took top prize.

The same day as accompanying The Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winners and Chef Julian Bond on the Winnipeg Media Tour, I joined 20 farm-lovin foodies from various places across Canada for Canola Connect City Camp 2015!   On our last evening together, after eating the most exquisite food all weekend long, I had D drop off my special cache of cheese provided by the client. Spread out on the dining room table of the hospitality suite, no one was willing to sit on the comfortable couches of the living room. Everyone was clustered around that table, taking cheese nibbles, comparing and contrasting tastes and impressions. Consistent with the distinguished judging panel, the campers agreed with unbounded enthusiasm that the Laliberte was indeed the crowd favourite. In particular, the co-host of Winnipeg’s most popular morning show 103.1 Virgin Radio’s  Chrissy Troy and Toronto’s TV & radio host Pay Chen, oohed and aahed, tasted a scoop, oohed and aahed again before taking another taste. My observation was that they were in cheese heaven!

Unfortunately, the award winning cheese makers at Manitoba’s own Bothwell Cheese, finalized but did not win a cheese category this year.

Kath’s quote: “I like cheese instead of dessert-maybe with a little candy at the very end. I love cheese and fruit. Or cheese and salad. Or cheese by itself with a few nuts and dried fruits. But I really like cheese.” –Alice Waters

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

 

 

Noodles in Grand Forks, ND

May6

Duh-I learned the difference between noodles and pasta this weekend. Noodles are cut and pasta is extruded. I saw both demonstrated at the CIGI (the Canadian International Grains Institute).

The weekend prior, D had been a real trouper as I had spent the morning shopping at my favourite store : Gordman’s in Grand Forks, ND. I thought it only fair that he choose where we would go for lunch before we headed north on I29 and home to Winnipeg. I expected another place where the emphasis was on the libations served not necessarily the food. This is because he had not brought his glasses or an extra pair of contacts with us and he couldn’t drive. To be able to indulge in a couple of brewskies on a Saturday afternoon and not worry about the highway drive was an unexpected opportunity for him. He decided instead to go for the food and let the craft beer sampling await another time away.

He had hoped that NOODLES & Company was not a chain. He hadn’t remembered that we had visited Noodles in the Mall of America with the family, whilst in Minneapolis.  Indeed, we had pretty low expectations when we pulled up. Turns out, we were absolutely delighted by our bowls full of noodles.

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D decided upon the Japanese Pan Noodles with a grilled chicken breast. I also chose a chicken breast, but mine was the Indonesian Peanut Sauté. His bowl was full of caramelized udon noodles in a sweet soy sauce. Mine was a rice noodle stir fry in a spicy peanut sauce. Both had broccoli, carrots, Asian sprouts and cilantro.

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Mine came with more crushed peanuts and a wedge of lime.

Technically from what I learned at CIGI, “Noodles” should be called “Not Just Noodles” since it serves a wide variety of pasta as well.

Lunch turned out to be a refreshing change from typically fast food. Now, if only we could get Noodles to come to Winnipeg….

Noodles & Company on Urbanspoon

Kath’s (random) quote: “Mr. Jesmond made a peculiar noise rather like a hen who has decided to lay an egg and then thought better of it.”-Agatha Christie

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

JL Beers, Grand Forks, North Dakota

May5

There was a time when D and I would anticipate going away for a weekend and I would have done all my research on the best restaurants that we would try out. Those times have changed, now that D’s mission whenever we are away, is to find the best selection of craft beer in our destinations. D had been dreaming about a burger from JL Beers on the two and a half hour drive from Winnipeg. He and J1 had visited a number of years ago in Fargo and he remembered every single detail of the food menu.

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It was impossible for him to remember the beer menu as there were over 40 taps and shelves and shelves of bottled selections.

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In order to entice me to join him, D promised that there would also be wine on hand. When we plunked at a couple of the bar stools and asked the bar keep, this was not the case. Instead, he recommended a cider and a Faro from Belgium. He also provided me with tastes of both. Without hesitation I choose the Faro and then read this from their menu as I had my first sips: “A version of Belgium’s “wild fermented” wheat beer, which is the result of blending Lambic of “one summer” with an old Lambic and finished with candy sugar.” Huh? The bevvie by Lindeman’s was refreshing and delicious and was served up in a skinny version of a pilsner glass.

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But to the food! I chose the Monumental Burger which was a teriyaki burger with sautéed mushrooms and melted Swiss cheese. It was accompanied by fresh cut fries. The bun had been butter-brushed before it was placed on the grill. How did I know? The entire cooking line takes place behind the bar so that you can see you beer being pulled from the tap at the same time that you can see your burger being formed and fries being cut from a big fresh potato. I was amazed at how quickly the process was completed. This was a speedy supper so I guess that it was technically “fast food” but it tasted like anything but. The burger was soft and tender and packed with flavour. The fries although a little bit too salty for my palette, were greaseless and piping hot.

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D selected the Humpty Dumpty Burger, so dubbed because of the fried egg perched on top of the burger. He also decided on the addition of thick cut bacon, so it was like eating a combination of a burger and a breakfast sandwich all at the same time.  He opted for the chips and then agreed to let me have a taste, knowing that they would have been my preference. Lightly salted, folded and browned, they were irresistible.

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In the meanwhile D enjoyed his “Hunny Do” and a “Best of the Midwest” beer flight which he very much enjoyed. D loved his burger so much that he ordered a Columbia Burger to go!

JL Beers on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Why beer is better than wine: “….human feet are conspicuously absent from beer making.”-Steve Mirsky

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

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