Posts Tagged ‘Montreal’

Montreal bargain lunches

Of all the guidebook series we work on, the research for the Food Lovers’ series may be the most fun. Our most recent published volume was on Montreal, but we didn’t spend all our time eating foie gras or dining at innovative contemporary restaurants.

We’re always on the lookout for good values, and we found 10 great lunches for about $10 where we could tap into various strains of Montreal culture. We recently published that roundup in the Boston Globe. You’ll find the results as a pair of PDFs on our Sample Articles page.

We are just about finished writing our next volume, Food Lovers’ Guide to Vermont & New Hampshire, and have a refrigerator full of artisanal cheese, cured pork products, and storage vegetables that we brought back to Cambridge from our research forays. Inspired by the great grilled cheese sandwich we had at Maison Cheddar in Montreal’s Outremont neighborhood (it’s in the Boston Globe article), we took some of that provender to improvise a New England locavore grilled cheese lunch.

The sharp cheddar cheese came from Vermont, a fig-walnut jam spread came from Stonewall Kitchen in Maine, and a few slices of Fox Smoke House bacon hailed from the woods of New Hampshire. We put those ingredients between a couple of slices of Nashoba Brook Bakery’s ”Harvest” bread, a sourdough studded with nuts, fruits, and candied ginger. (Nashoba Brook is in West Concord, Massachusetts.) As a counterpoint, we grated some Vermont carrots, added some golden raisins, and tossed them with a little cider vinegar, salt, a pinch of sugar, and a few drops of milk to make a Montreal-style carrot salad. Not bad. It succeeded in bring a taste of travel back home.

11

12 2011

Three (delicious) flavors of ‘bistro’ in Montreal

Our latest book, Food Lovers’ Guide to Montreal, is finally hitting the bookstores in the U.S. and Canada. The city has always been one of our favorite places for a quick getaway, a winter shopping spree, or a romantic weekend—in large part because the food is so good. We’ve enjoyed watching the Montreal dining scene evolve over the years, and many of our favorite places to eat are bistros—with or without the French ”t” at the end. They tend to be small, casual neighborhood places with hearty food and plentiful drink.

The old-fashioned French bistro persists in Montreal. La Gargote (351 place d’Youville, 514-844-1428, www.restaurantlagargote.com, Metro: Square Victoria) is one of our favorites in this style. The name is French slang for a diner, but this little mom-and-pop restaurant looks, feels, and tastes like a small-town bistro lifted straight from an early 1950s French film. More marvelously bourgeois is Le Paris (1812 rue Sainte-Catherine ouest; 514-937-4898, Metro: Guy-Concordia), which has been serving a homey boeuf bourgignon since it opened in 1956.

Montreal became obsessed with food before most cities in North America, and it has even evolved its own versions of bistro, including bistro-plus. Keeping the casual, almost ad hoc quality of a neighborhood bistro, a bistro-plus gives patrons a little something extra—an unexpected amuse-bouche, some mignardises with the bill, or a surprise shaving of truffles or dollop of foie gras. Le Grain de Sel (2375 rue Sainte-Catherine est, 514-522-5105, www.restolegraindesel.ca, Metro: Papineau) epitomizes the style. We have friends who come to this spot a few blocks outside the Village just for chef-owner Jean-François Bonin’s myriad twists on foie gras. We also love his wine list, where prices are reasonable because he opts for private importing.

Most au courant is the style we call bistro-grunge. Something of an answer to London’s gastropubs and Basque country’s pintxos bars, bistro-grunge places usually have heavily tattooed kitchen and wait staff (and customers). Here’s the kick—-for all the edgy posing, the food is as inventive, locavore and just plain delicious as at a bistro-plus. A bistro-grunge usually has a good beer list and nowhere near enough seats. A perfect example is Le Chien Fumant (4710 rue de Lanaudière, (514) 524-2444, lechienfumant.com, Metro: Laurier/Mont-Royal), or “the smoking dog.” There’s no dress code that says all male diners must wear three-day stubble, but it helps to blend in. From the chalkboard menu to the wide-open kitchen with all its attendant bustle, it’s the dining equivalent of free jazz—it’s hard to predict the next chord change, but you know it will be lively.

As we used to say in those elementary school oral book reports, if you want to know more, you have to read the book.

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25

07 2011

Mad for macarons


Montrealers have come to rival Parisians in their passion for macarons. Slowly but surely, pastry chefs all over the city have learned the techniques of making fabulous macarons – those delicate meringue sandwiches that bear only the slightest relation to the much cruder coconut-based American macaroon.

The leading macaron boutique for our money is Point G (1266 avenue Mont-Royal est; 514-750-7515; www.boutiquepointg.com). The name refers to ”Glaces et Gourmandises,” or ice cream and small pastries. In practice that means some fabulous artisanal ices (including a foie gras ice cream to take home and dollop on steamed asparagus), and close to two dozen inventive flavors of macarons, including lavender-blueberry, roasted pistachio, orange blossom, crème brûlée, lime-basil, and chocolate-hazelnut. The shop even has clear-plastic containers fitted to hold a dozen macarons for take-away.

Le Péché Glacé (2001 avenue Mont-Royal est; 514-525-5768) is best known for the ice creams for which the cafe is named, but also serves macarons filled with coffee, caramel, chocolate, and lemon ice creams. They’re tasty, but the ice cream can make the usually crisp cookies a little gummy.

These elegant treats aren’t just the purview of bakeries and snack shops. Some of Montreal’s best macarons come from the pastry chefs at Restaurant Europea (1227 rue de la Montagne; 514-398-9229; www.europea.ca), the fine-dining restaurant of master chef Jérôme Ferrer. The restaurant rivals our long-time favorite Restaurant Toqué! (900 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle; 514-499-2084; www.restaurant-toque.com) as the top destination dining in Montreal. Ferrer is quite the entrepreneur. His Old Montreal snack shop Espace Boutique Europea (33 rue Notre-Dame ouest; 514-844-1572; www.europea.ca) often has macarons in the dessert case, and they’re often available as dessert at his Bistro le Beaver Hall (1073 Côte du Beaver Hall; 514-866-1331; www.beaverhall.ca). You can even buy a box of these sublime macarons at Birks Café (1240 place Phillips; 514-397-2468; www.birkscafe.ca), which sits on the mezzanine of Montreal’s most exclusive jewelry store.

Ferrer also offers cooking classes at Atelier Europea (www.europea.ca/atelier/index.html), the workshop in the basement of the flagship restaurant. The sessions on making macarons are taught by pastry chef Olivier Michallet, whose resume includes a stint at the legendary Paris pastry shop Ladurée, often considered the pinnacle of Parisian macarons. The classes are usually conducted in French, but cooking transcends language. They fill quickly, but David was able to secure a slot when we were there in early November finishing our research for Food Lovers’ Guide to Montreal.

MACARONS Á L’ATELIER EUROPEA

Makes 5 dozen cookies (30 sandwiches)

This is the recipe that the Atelier Europea uses in its classes. We have kept the original metric weights for ingredients because, as with all meringue-based recipes, weighing gives more consistent results than measuring by volume.

Ingredients

300 grams almond flour
300 grams powdered sugar
6 egg whites
90 grams water
300 grams granulated sugar

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine almond flour and powdered sugar. Mix well. Add 3 egg whites and blend until thoroughly mixed to a smooth paste.

2. Add water to a non-reactive pot and stir in granulated sugar. Heat on low, stirring until sugar is well dissolved. Raise heat to high and monitor temperature with candy thermometer while preparing egg whites for meringue. Syrup should not exceed 121˚C (250˚F).

3. Place 3 egg whites in a metal mixing bowl (ideally in a stand mixer) and whip to medium peaks—not soft, but not stiff.

4. When sugar syrup reaches a temperature of 121˚C (250˚F), remove pot from heat. With mixer running, slowly pour syrup down side of bowl into egg whites. Increase speed of mixer and whip until whites form very glossy high peaks. Set meringue aside to cool.

5. Once meringue is cooled to warm room temperature, stir about a third of the meringue into the almond-sugar paste to incorporate well. Gently fold in the rest of the meringue.

6. Using a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch round tip, deposit about a teaspoon of batter per cookie onto parchment-covered baking sheet. Space about 1 inch apart. When baking sheet is covered, tap on counter to make batter settle. (Cover remaining batter with plastic wrap before assembling the next tray.)

7. Let sit uncovered for 15–30 minutes to allow a light crust to form. This helps ensure the desired texture of creamy interior and crunchy outer shell.

8. Preheat oven to 180˚C (350˚F).

9. Bake for 6–7 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.

10. Let fully cool on parchment paper. Then remove and make sandwiches. Europea macarons are often filled with rich and complex sweets like caramel fleur de sel buttercream, raspberry buttercream, chocolate ganache, or lemon curd. But we have found that purchased lemon curd or raspberry jam—or fresh berries—sure impress our friends.

18

02 2011

Poutine, pâté chinois, and Quebecois comfort food

In the three decades that we have been visiting Montreal, the dining scene has never been in so much flux—and we mean that in a good way. One development is a resurgent pride in old-fashioned Quebecois cooking. Dishes that many Montreal foodies had considered guilty pleasures are now celebrated in fine restaurants.

Back in 2007, Montreal’s leading French-language newspaper Le Devoir even surveyed 500 people to determine the ”national plate of Quebec.” (In Quebec, one always describes a province-wide phenomenon as ”national.”) We were surprised to learn that it was not poutine (French fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy), but rather pâté chinois, sometimes inelegantly translated on English menus as ”Quebec shepherd’s pie.” Keep watching this spot because we will publish an updated recipe for this small casserole of layered ground meat, corn, and mashed potatoes in our next post.

We were most recently in Montreal working on a new book. A labor of love, it will be called Food Lovers’ Guide to Montreal and should be available in June from the Globe Pequot Press. As part of our research, we had to seek out the best places to eat some of these classic dishes. For our money, the best place to order pâté chinois is La Binerie Mont-Royal (367 avenue Mont-Royal est, 514-285-9078, www.labineriemontroyal.com), an iconic luncheonette with 11 stools at a long maple counter and a couple of tiny booths. The place has changed hands a few times since it opened in 1938, but the menu is unreconstructed Quebecois. We advise making a veritable voyageur meal of it by starting with a bowl of thick yellow split-pea soup and concluding with a dish of pouding chômeur, a white cake baked with a syrup of maple and cream. (More to come on that as well.)

Don’t look here for a poutine recipe, as that’s one salty, fat-laden guilty pleasure that we do not make at home, eating it only when we’re in Quebec province where fresh cheddar cheese curds are plentiful. The classic poutine and most of its usual variants are the house specialties of La Banquise (994 rue Rachel est, 514-525-2415, www.restolabanquise.com), a place that opened in 1968 as a hot dog and fries bar but went into poutine in a big way in the 1980s. It now offers more than two dozen versions, including the classic, the Ty-Rex (ground beef, pepperoni, bacon, smoked sausage), the Matty (bacon, green pepper, mushrooms, onions), and the Taquise (guacamole, sour cream, tomatoes). Poutine is both a cure for a hangover, and a prevention if eaten at the end of a night of imbibing. La Banquise is conveniently open 24/7.

The fanciest poutine in town is chef Martin Picard’s poutine with foie gras at Au Pied de Cochon (536 rue Duluth est, 514-281-1114, www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca). He doesn’t even consider it his signature dish (that would be a pig’s foot stuffed with foie gras), but it’s been a sensation since he introduced it when the restaurant opened in 2001.

Our top choice lies somewhere between the working-class plates of La Banquise and the luxury treatment of Au Pied de Cochon. And it’s available at the tiny lunch counter of the food shop Le Canard libéré, espace gourmand (4396 boulevard Saint-Laurent, 514-286-1286, www.bromelakeducks.com). This is the Plateau’s outlet for the duck meat, duck fat, duck livers, and more from Canards du Lac Brome in the Eastern Townships. In the shop’s snug kitchen, chef Patrice Gosselin makes our favorite poutine, frying the potatoes in duck fat (addictive, we assure you) and topping the dish with duck confit. It really doesn’t get any more Quebecois than that.

22

01 2011