Browsing: Food & Travel

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.

 

 

10 Montreal Foods Not to be Missed

July17

On a recent visit to Montreal, I had the very good fortune of being hosted by the Marriott Chateau Champlain and Tourisme Montreal. I was in perfect company to compile this top 10 list.

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1. Poutine, any kind of poutine but if you can get your hands on duck poutine as pictured here, even better!

Upon arrival, I was invited to a welcome to the Mariott cocktail reception. We were high up in the Presidential Suite with a gorgeous view of the cityscape with Mount-Royal on the horizon. What a wonderful way to start the weekend.

That evening we headed out to the Montreal International Jazz Festival and took in a Jesse Cook concert. He and his musicians were amazing, the audience was lively and the entire evening so much fun.

The next morning I indulged in the sumptuous offerings of the Marriott Chateau Champlain’s breakfast buffet in the Restaurant Samuel de Champlain. The made to order omelet was so terrific that the next morning I had another!

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 2. Thirst quenching kombucha at raw food sensation Crudessence.

We were off on a scooter tour of the Montreal neighbourhoods of Plateau Mount-Royal, Mile End and Little Italy. After winding our way through the beautiful trails on Mount-Royal we had worked up a thirst. Kombucha made from fermented green tea, rose and schizandra berries was just the ticket.

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3. Foraged wild mustard greens at Fou du Chef in Marche Jean Talon

We only had time for a quick stop at one of the largest fresh markets in North America: Marche Jean Talon. I could have stayed for hours meeting the multigenerational stall keepers and perusing their succulent offerings.

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4. Sesame bagel from the Fairmount Bakery in Little Italy.

With another stop at this 65 year old bagel stop 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. This resulted in a texture that was crispy and chewy. Sesame seeds have adorned the bagel since a regular customer complained that the original poppy seeds got stuck in his teeth.

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5. Chocolate dipped strawberries at the Marriott Chateau Champlain.

After the scooter tour we had the opportunity to stretch out back in our beautifully appointed rooms at the Marriott Chateau Champlain. I had just closed my eyes when there was a knock on the door. When I opened it I grumpily told room service that they must have the wrong room because I hadn’t ordered anything. He politely responded “No Madame, these are courtesy of the hotel”!

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6. Pasteis de nata at Cantinho de Lisboa

The next morning we were off on a walking/tasting tour of Old Montreal stopping first at this gorgeous Portuguese “Canteen” where we tasted a version of cappuccino using Brazilian coffee beans and these traditional tarts that tasted to me like a luxurious crème brulee.

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7. Macaroons (or any of the exquisite pastries) from Maison Christian Faure.

The highest compliment that I can pay to Chef Faure, who was visiting with friends at a nearby table in the Maison was that his macaroons surpassed my memories of those eaten at the legendary Laduree on the Champs-Elysees in Paris!

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8. Award winning Quebec artisan cheese at Bourlingueur Bistro.

I am well aware that Quebec cheese makers are amongst the greatest in North America and certainly the best in Canada. I understand that it is because their ancestors brought their cheese-making skills with them from Europe. The Bourlingueur presented them perfectly with a simple torn  baguette so as not to camouflage any of the taste.

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9. Maple syrup from Haut Bois Normand.

This is the maple syrup brand that friends from Quebec bring me as gifts. I love the vintage look of the cans. The purity and clarity of their product is unsurpassed, in my humble opinion. We visited with one of the handsome family members at his shop in Marche Bonsecours.

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10. Montreal Imperial Cookies!

Our family loves the Imperial cookies (we also call them dream cookies) that are made by Manitoba bakeries, but (dare I say it?), I liked these even better. They follow the protocol of raspberry jam between two sugar cookies but they are dusted with icing sugar instead of being covered with a white glaze and the former is my preference. I saw them often from downtown coffee shops to the airport. Of course the heart shaped cut out, captured mine. This sighting at the airport made me feel loved by Montreal. I love you too and cannot wait to return in a couple of months.

Kath’s quote: “Montreal, however diminished, is still to my mind the most agreeable city in Canada. And this is because the two cultures not only confront but also continue to enrich each other. Looking beyond to-day’s quarrels, it remains a life-enhancing mix”.-Mordecai Richler

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

 

Pop Up Chef’s Table hosted by Chef Rob at Winnipeg’s New “Kitchen Sync”

June11

Our foodie family had watched the transformation of a downtown lower level space with interest when we had heard that a brand new concept was arriving in Winnipeg dubbed Kitchen Sync. We were interested for a variety of reasons including Sister #3’s as she is always on the lookout for space to conduct her Zest Cooking Solutions events.

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I was blown away when I stepped inside the restored space!

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The plastered walls had been chiselled back to the natural foundation and original beams were treated to shine anew.

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The commercial kitchen space is a dream come true. The space can be booked for events large and small. I hope that Sheila, my new Facebook friend, won’t mind my sharing all those details through this link http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/everything-and-the-kitchen-sync-302290661.html so I can get on to describe our amazing culinary evening.

Since Winnipeg put restaurant pop ups on the international map with Raw Almond, I for one am happy to see the pop up craze expanded with a Chef’s Table concept. Chef Rob, known to most Winnipeggers, was the guest chef. Private Chef and world traveller, Chef Rob had recently spent a month of cooking and noshing in South America. He had a bevy of dishes and stories to share with us that evening. Included was the tale of dining at Astrid Y Gaston on a 17 course wine pairing dinner, which Rob simply stated was “the best dinner of my life!”

The extended group of friends of Rob, Sheila and her boyfriend John (whom I know from another career) and an entire book club were assembled around the chef’s table. Of the many things I learned that evening was this: book clubs are just as much about the wine and food as they are about reading! Who knew? I gotta join one.

We started the evening with a welcome cocktail, reminiscent of the ones that I enjoyed when I used to travel to Cuba, many years ago. Called a “caipirinka” it was sweet and tart at the same time, made from a fine Brazilian rum.

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Ceviche, a dish I love from time spent in the Yucatan is said to have been “invented” by the Peruvians. In this case, snapper was skilfully marinated in leche de tigre, (Sister #3 shared her Spanish speaking skills and whispered  “tiger’s milk” to me), lime juice, rocoto pepper, cilantro and chopped red onion. To scoop up the fare we shared yucca chips (called cassava in Brasil) and a delightful flat fritter made by frying a green plantain, smashing it and frying it again.

Glasses of Argentinean Torentes Riesling, a Leyda Reserva Carminere and  a refreshing water of watermelon and mint were continually topped up by Sheila and John, who were amazing hosts.

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Collard greens adorned crispy pork belly perched atop Feijoda-a black bean stew. Not typically fond of beans, I LOVED this dish!

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Chef Rob explained that Peruvian food melds the cuisines of the Chinese, Japanese and the Inca and suggested that we focus on trying to detect these influences in the next course:

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Loma Saltado, a beef stir fry served over hand cut French fries! Heaven, I’m in heaven……

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Not “needing” dessert but happy to indulge, we watched Rob assemble caramelized bananas served with a coconut dolce de leche, a flourless chocolate/chili cake with shards of white chocolate. Every taste was so good; I even ate the pansy garnish!

Chef Rob made a statement over the course of the evening, that I found particularly profound and I think can be used to describe many aspects of life: “the best food comes from poverty”. Thinking back to my Polish Grandma’s suppers of prune dumplings with melted butter and cinnamon sugar, I am confident that Chef Rob is correct. Think too of tough times that you have walked through and the sweet blessings that came as a result…

The evening was an absolute treat and I understand that they are planning another pop up very soon-June 25th to be exact, check out details here: https://www.facebook.com/kitchen.sync.Winnipeg.

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Sister #3 and I predict that Sheila’s concept will do very well and that Chef Rob is going places. Actually, he has already gone places…

Kath’s quote: “Any healthy man can go without food for two days — but not without poetry.” –Charles Baudelaire, French poet (1821-1867)

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

Boston’s Freedom Trail

June6

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This morning a friend on Facebook indicated that he was on his way to Boston. I did a search here to note some restaurant highlights for him and I noticed that I still have not published this post. The day was our 30th wedding anniversary and for reasons known to my immediate circle, I am having trouble writing the narrative for this day. As a result, I have just now decided to make this post a pictorial essay-beginning of course with a Starbuck’s (in front of Paul Revere’s home)!

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Spring Menu at Joey Restaurant

May15

Recently I was invited to attend a media tasting at Joey’s Polo Park location. Having been many times before (in fact I was a paid shopper for Joey for a number of years), I was familiar with their fresh and carefully crafted food. But I declare, with this menu, they have really stepped up their game.

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We started with a Spa Cosmo-a cranberry concoction with muddled cucumber adding a refreshing switch up.

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In addition to a Mezze Plate from half way around the world, specifically the Balkan area of the Mediterranean (east of Greece). I enthusiastic swiped the crispy pita chips through the smooth hummus and sparkling tzatziki. Particularly enthralling was the Macedonian feta which was creamy and not overly salty. The marinated Greek olives added that pungent salty taste.

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Traveling another third of the world, Korea was the next food inspiration. The chefs explained how they cull through cauliflower heads to select bite sized pieces which are then dipped in a tempura batter and fried, before being tossed in a sweet chili sauce. Lastly, white and black sesame seeds and cilantro leaves are scattered on top. And that folks is how you make Korean Cauliflower!

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Blueberry Mojitos arrived next

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along with Sliders Royale so that we could be definitely reminded that summer and patio season was imminent. I was particularly impressed with the texture of the beef. Sometimes burger patties take on a dense texture but when the meat is broken up and then gingerly hand pressed, the “mouth feel” is pleasant and other flavours can share centre stage-in this case a wonderful cheddar. The cheese doesn’t simply top the slider, it has been grilled to bring out the sugars and create a crispy texture. Enhanced with raw onion and “secret sauce” it is no wonder why the Joey sliders have long been popular.

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I had never before tasted a Vinho Verde, a Portuguese “green” (young) wine. I was very impressed with the light and fresh taste especially when paired with Joey’s “500 Salad”; 500 being the calorie count.  Wheat berries are tossed with greens and a new fav of mine-pickled currants. The melding of flavours comes together with a tart dressing. But because we all feast first with our eyes, the watermelon radish elevates an already tasty salad to new heights.

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Next up were the “mains”, as if the assembly of bloggers hadn’t already eaten their fill. I already love Joey’s rotisserie chicken. When it is pulled and layered with crispy green apple slices and served between two toasted slices of fruit and nut bread, it is the perfect balance of crunchy, sweet and savoury. The sandwich was said to also include crispy baked pancetta but I don’t think that my portion did. No matter, it was already pretty sensational.

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Juicy grilled shrimp arrived next perched upon lobster ravioli. The white wine sauce made the rich, silky tastes even more decadent!

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Desserts are not typically my “thing” but when I heard the passionate chefs speak of their care with house made ice cream, apple pie, key lime pie and chocolate lava cake, well, who was I fooling? I dug my fork in and the rest was history.

Joey on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “The qualities of an exceptional cook are akin to those of a successful tightrope walker: an abiding passion for the task, courage to go out on a limb and an impeccable sense of balance.” – Bryan Miller

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

 

 

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