Saturday, June 30, 2012

Whole Wheat Sablés with Cocoa Nibs

I like sablé cookies (not as much as chocolate chip cookies, but they’re a different animal altogether). Last month, I tried Miette’s chocolate sablé cookies, but that recipe failed completely – the cookies fell apart and I ended up with chocolate sand. It was great as a topping for lactose-free ice cream or yogurt, but not as a cookie. Then I tried Alice Medrich’s recipe, which was on Orangette: whole wheat sablés with cocoa nibs. And they were just perfect! I made them with margarine instead of butter (I agree that butter would taste better, but too much of it makes me sick); I wanted to use whole wheat pastry flour, but couldn’t find any, so I used all white whole wheat flour instead. The cookies were absolutely delicious; the whole wheat gives them a subtle, hearty taste, and the cocoa nibs add crunch and flavor without being too sweet. As a matter of fact, there isn’t much sugar in this recipe. The Engineer and I made the first batch disappear quickly, and I brought a second batch to my parents, both of whom just loved them. These sablés are an understated sensation. The recipe makes about 24 cookies (you can get more if you slice them more thinly, but that’s always a bit risky).

2 cups (9 oz.) whole wheat pastry flour, OR 1 cup (4.5 oz.) all-purpose flour plus 1 scant cup (4 oz.) whole wheat flour
14 Tbsp. (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter, softened (or vegan margarine)
½ cup (3 ½ oz.) sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup (about 1 ¼ oz.) roasted cacao nibs (I pan-roasted mine for a minute)

If using the two flours, combine them in a bowl, and mix with a whisk or fork.

In a medium bowl, with a large spoon or an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth and creamy but not fluffy, about 1 minute (with the mixer). Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and add the nibs. Beat briefly to incorporate. Add the flour, and mix until just incorporated. Scrap the dough into a mass and, if necessary, knead it a little with your hands to make sure that the flour is completely incorporated. Form the dough into a 12-by-2-inch log. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Use a sharp knife to cut the cold dough log into ¼-inch-thick slices (I made mine about ½-inch thick). Place the cookies at least 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared sheet pans.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the cookies are light golden brown at the edges, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies for a minute on the pans, then transfer them (with or without their parchment) to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. (Two batches were all I had, since I made the cookies thicker than ¼ inch.)

These cookies are good on the first day, but they’re best with a little age, after at least a day or two.



Thursday, June 28, 2012

Joe Beef

L’Ingénieur et moi avons célébré notre anniversaire de mariage en soupant chez Joe Beef, où nous n’avions jamais encore eu la chance d’aller. C’était pas mal exactement ce à quoi je m’attendais, bons comme mauvais côtés.

Tout d’abord, le décor est beau mais relativement décontracté, plus bistro sombre et intime que restaurant chic (malgré les prix), avec des banquettes en cuir et des tables en bois foncé. On y joue de la musique de style blues, country ou vieux rock (Johnny Cash, par exemple); les enfants y sont les bienvenus. L’eau est servie dans d’anciennes bouteilles de lait, et les serviettes de table sont en fait des linges à vaisselle. Le menu est écrit sur une ardoise au mur, en français, et il n’existe aucune copie papier. Je comprends que c’est le style choisi sciemment par les propriétaires, mais je trouve ça un peu maladroit, car ça oblige les clients à rester debout devant le tableau pour choisir, tout en donnant aux clients près de l’ardoise l’impression d’être dévisagés. Personnellement, je suis aussi plus à l’aise avec un menu papier qu’avec un menu sur un mur ou au-dessus d’un comptoir, sans doute parce que je suis myope. J’ai aussi trouvé les tables trop rapprochées à mon goût, non seulement parce que c’est impossible de ne pas écouter les conversations de ses voisins (sachant qu’eux écoutent la nôtre), mais en plus parce qu’il fallait littéralement déplacer la table de quatre pieds dans l’allée pour que la personne assise sur la banquette puisse sortir de là! J’imagine que c’est fait ainsi pour accommoder deux tablées de deux personnes de plus chaque soir, bien normal vu le temps qu’il faut pour avoir une réservation, mais si c’était mon restaurant, j’enlèverai une des tables sous l’ardoise.

Côté serveurs, je n’ai vraiment rien à redire. Tout le monde était poli et de bonne humeur; notre serveuse, Française bilingue, connaissait parfaitement le menu et pouvait nous donner tous les détails supplémentaires que nous désirions. Et la nourriture était excellente! J’ai commencé avec la salade du parc Vinet, dont la laitue pousse dans le jardin à l’arrière du restaurant. J’ai reçu un bol vraiment énorme, mais le contenu était tellement bon que je l’ai tout mangé! Il y avait différentes sortes de laitues, du radis en tranches très fines, des graines de tournesol, du parmesan, du basilic, et une vinaigrette acidulée juste à mon goût. L’Ingénieur a pris les Corn Flakes Eel Nuggets (croquettes d’anguille panées avec des miettes de corn flakes), servies avec trois sauces. Il en a raffolé! Heureusement, j’ai la recette dans le livre de cuisine du restaurant, alors on pourra la recréer. Comme plat principal, j’ai commandé le magret de canard, servi avec rhubarbe, pineberries, basilic et croquettes de pomme de terre; c’était tellement bon que j’ai eu de la peine de ne pas pouvoir finir les deux dernières tranches de magret, faute de place dans l’estomac. L’Ingénieur a choisi le ris de veau, servi sur polenta, et il a été absolument enchanté. Je ne peux pas me prononcer sur les fruits de mer ni sur le vin, puisque nous n’en avons pas commandé, mais toutes les critiques que j’ai entendue sont positives. Enfin, nous avons décidé de prendre un dessert : pot de crème au chocolat (et Lactaid) pour moi, marjolaine chocolat-noisette pour lui. Absolument exquis! Il est clair que les chefs savent ce qu’ils font (mais ils ne se rendent peut-être pas compte que tous leurs desserts cette semaine contiennent du lactose?)

L’Ingénieur a déclaré qu’il donnait 5 étoiles au repas, mais qu’il n’aimait pas du tout l’ambiance. J’ai voulu clarifier pour savoir si c’était vraiment l’ambiance qu’il n’aimait pas, ou plutôt le contraste de l’ambiance avec la nourriture (qui me semble plus raffinée); il a dit que c’était les deux. Quant à moi, j’aime les deux, mais le contraste me plaît moins. Après le repas, on a reçu un petit carton explicatif bilingue avec notre facture (courte biographie de Charles McKiernan, alias Joe Beef). J’ai deviné que c’était traduit par la même équipe qui a traduit le livre, c’est-à-dire mal traduit (j’en avais même fait une montée de lait). C’est d’autant plus dommage pour un établissement montréalais si réputé, donc le chef est francophone! J’ai donc laissé une petite note sur le carton pour leur en faire part, ainsi qu’une révision sommaire. Ce restaurant est donc classé dans nos bonnes adresses pour la nourriture, mais je doute malheureusement que nous y retournions. Je vous en reparlerai sans doute quand je ferai leur recette de gâteau red velvet, que j'ai bien hâte d’essayer!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Batch of links

- I went to see the van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery in Ottawa. Many of his paintings are assembled, on loan from various museums and private collectors; the focus is on the nature paintings he made during his years in France (1896-1890). There are also pieces of art whose style likely inspired him (Japanese woodblock prints, 19th century photographs, charcoal drawings, etc.). I liked discovering some of his lesser-known work and seeing his style emerge, though I admit that I would have liked to see more paintings. I particularly liked the two paintings below (View of Arles with Irises and Blossoming Almond Tree).





- Flynn McGarry, at 13 years old, is one of the hottest chefs around. This kid is awesome!

- Never buy a rotten avocado again. This tip, from Northwest Edible Life, is awesome! I already knew how to tell when an avocado is ripe (press gently near the tip: if it feels like touching your forehead, it isn’t ripe yet; if it feels like touching your cheek, it’s overripe; it should feel like touching the tip of your nose). But sometimes, despite that trick, I’d cut open an avocado and see brown streaks inside – blech! It turns out that all you need to do if flick off the dry stem tip at the bottom: if the hole is brown, the avocado has started to turn brown inside already, but if it’s green, it’s still good. Brilliant!

- Cleaning berries with a vinegar solution kills bacteria and helps keep them fresh longer. Good to know when berry season is upon us!

- Sugru is an “air-curing rubber that can be formed by hand. It bonds to most materials and turns into a strong, flexible silicone rubber overnight.” Plus, it’s waterproof, heat- and cold-resistant, and electrically insulated. Where has this been all my life?

- A study has shown that dogs show empathy toward people who cry. I’m sure this study, with a conclusion obvious to any dog owner, was necessary before delving into the “why” of the matter: do dogs really feel empathy, have they learned that they receive more affection when approaching someone feeling down, or is it something else?

- Finally, I had dinner with my parents at Fraser Café last week. While I liked the type of restaurant, I wasn’t sure about the menu; it changes weekly, but seemed to have a large proportion of fish, seafood, offal and lamb, none of which I enjoy. That being said, I had a green salad (which had duck confit, asparagus, fried shallots, goat cheese, mixed greens, roasted hazelnuts and pickled something), and then I shared the BBQ chicken with my father (chicken with house barbecue sauce, carrots, asparagus, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, mustard, coleslaw). That dish is meant for two, but servings were huge! The picture below was actually taken after we had both helped ourselves. Obviously, we took home the leftovers and got another few meals out of them. We were too full for dessert, unfortunately. I’m not sure how they accommodate actual allergies; I did take Lactaid for the goat cheese – I’m sure they could have left it out upon request, but I really wanted it. So while I felt that I was restricted in the menu, I did find something that whet my appetite, and the result was fabulous. I recommend the place to anyone looking for a good meal!





Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Canard braisé aux échalotes rôties

J’ai adapté cette recette d’un vieux numéro de Coup de Pouce, où elle était faite avec des cuisses de canard pour servir 12 personnes. Moi, j’aime les magrets de canard, d’autant plus qu’ils sont faciles à trouver au Québec! Et un souper de 4 portions, c’est assez pour mes besoins. J’ai utilisé 3 magrets de canard, car une fois tranchés, on y trouve bien 4 portions, mais vous pourriez aussi utiliser 4 magrets. J’ai un peu trop fait cuire le canard, mais c’était délicieux. L’Ingénieur a dit à deux reprises (le premier soir, puis le deuxième) à quel point il aimait ce canard! J’ai servi ça avec une salade de courgettes.

3 (ou 4) magrets de canard
2 c. à soupe d’huile de carthame ou de canola
½ lb d’échalotes pelées et coupées en deux
1 gousse d’ail hachée finement
1 grosse pincée de thym frais (ou une petite de thym séché)
1 feuille de laurier
sel et poivre noir du moulin, au goût
½ tasse de vin blanc sec
1 ou 1 ½ tasse de bouillon de poulet ou de légumes

Préchauffer le four à 450 °F.

Avec la pointe d’un couteau, pratiquer quelques incisions en diagonale sur la peau des magrets, en prenant soin de ne pas transpercer la chair. Réserver dans une assiette.

Dans une petite casserole, faire fondre le gras de canard à feu moyen. Répartir les échalotes, l’ail, le thym, la feuille de laurier, du sel et du poivre dans un grand plat allant au four. Ajouter l’huile et mélanger pour bien enrober les échalotes. Faire rôtir les échalotes au four, en brassant de temps à autre, de 20 à 30 minutes ou jusqu’à ce qu’elles commencent à dorer. Sortir le plat du four et baisser ensuite le four à 375 °F.

Entre-temps, à l’aide d’essuie-tout, éponger les magrets de canard réservés. Parsemer de sel et de poivre. Chauffer un grand poêlon à feu moyen-vif jusqu’à ce qu’il soit chaud sans être fumant. Y mettre les magrets, la peau dessous, et cuire de 3 à 5 minutes ou jusqu’à ce que la peau soit dorée. À l’aide de pinces, retourner les magrets de canard et cuire pendant 2 minutes ou jusqu’à ce que le dessous soit doré. Déposer les magrets (et leur gras), la peau sur le dessus, sur la préparation d’échalotes rôties dans le plat.

Verser le vin et suffisamment de bouillon de manière à couvrir presque complètement les magrets. Cuire pendant 30 minutes ou jusqu’à ce que le canard soit tendre et ait atteint une température interne de 150 °F (il faudra peut-être plus ou moins de temps, mais l’heure et demie qui convenait probablement aux cuisses de canard est assurément trop longue ici).

Au moment de servir, à l’aide d’une écumoire, déposer les magrets de canard et la préparation d’échalotes dans un plat de service. Dégraisser le jus de cuisson, saler et poivrer. Servir le canard avec le jus de cuisson.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Martha Stewart's Mac and Cheese

I tried yet another mac & cheese recipe. This one had a Mornay sauce, plus an air of authority because it comes from Martha Stewart (but has been simplified over at Food 52). My main problem with this recipe is that it makes too much – more than announced, really. My big baking dish filled up, and I ended up using a disposable 8-inch-square baking dish in addition (I froze the latter for another time). It makes a total of about 12 servings. I used more Gruyère and less cheddar than the recipe calls for, to accommodate the size of my cheese packages, but this made for a somewhat bland dish (I only used a pinch of cayenne pepper). Next time, I’d use more cheddar, and make it extra sharp; I’d also reduce the amounts, or plan ahead and make sure I’ve got disposable cookware that I can store in the freezer for a while (it was a fluke that I had some here, and that’s only because I couldn’t find a glass baking dish of that size). I did like the sauce, and the addition of bread cubes on top helps make it different. It was a good dish, and the Engineer, who is a mac & cheese connoisseur, really likes it.

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, plus more for dish
6 slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn or diced into ¼- to ½-inch pieces
5 ½ cups lactose-free milk
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
4 ½ cups grated lactose-free sharp (or extra sharp) white cheddar cheese (about 18 oz.), divided
2 cups grated lactose-free Gruyère cheese (about 8 oz.) or 1 ¼ cups grated lactose-free Pecorino Romano cheese (about 5 oz.), divided
1 lb. elbow macaroni (or other small pasta shape)

Heat oven to 375 °F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. (I recommend using a second dish as well, one that you can spare and keep in the freezer.)

Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp. butter (alternately, melt butter in the microwave). Pour butter into bowl with bread, and toss. Set breadcrumbs aside. Pull out 1 ½ cups of grated cheddar, and ½ cup Gruyère or ¼ cup Pecorino Romano, and reserve.

Fill a large pot with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. In the same pot you used for boiling the pasta, melt remaining 6 Tbsp. butter over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.

While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 ½ cups Gruyère or 1 cup Pecorino Romano. Stir reserved macaroni into the cheese sauce.

Pour mixture into prepared dish(es). Sprinkle remaining 1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, ½ cup Gruyère or ¼ cup Pecorino Romano, and breadcrumbs over top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. If after 30 minutes it isn’t browned to your liking, broil the topping rather than leaving it in the oven, which may cause the pasta to overcook and the sauce to dry out. Transfer dish to a wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Serve hot.




Monday, June 18, 2012

Banana Chocolate Cupcakes

When I saw this recipe on Bakerella, I knew I had to try it! Since I don’t have lactose-free cream cheese, I used plain Greek yogurt instead and baked the cupcakes a bit longer, and it worked wonderfully. This recipe makes 18 cupcakes, though, so I froze half of them for later. The downside is that the paper liners were very hard to peel off, though more so in the case of the metal muffin pan than in the MicroWare one, and more so on the edges that were slightly more brown. I’m thinking it was because of the heat and I wonder if you could get better results by greasing the muffin tins instead of using paper liners. Note that the cupcakes are somewhat dense, and perhaps more like sweet muffins than true cupcakes. In any case, these were delicious!

For the yogurt mixture
8 oz. plain Greek yogurt (lactose-free)
½ cup sugar
1 small banana, puréed (mashed is fine)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

For the chocolate mixture
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 large bananas, puréed (mashed is fine)
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

For the yogurt mixture
Beat yogurt and sugar together.
Add banana, egg and vanilla and mix together until combined.
Stir in chocolate chips and set aside.

For the chocolate mixture
Sift together flour, cocoa, sugar, soda and salt using a wire whisk.
Add bananas, oil and vanilla and mix together on low until combined.
Use a large scoop to fill cupcake liners with batter.
Repeat by topping the cupcake batter with the yogurt mixture.
Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until done.







Filet de porc farci au fromage de chèvre et aux noix

Cet été, je vais beaucoup cuisiner avec du fromage de chèvre. Je me gâte, puisque je n’ai accès au fromage de chèvre sans lactose qu’au Québec! J’ai donc fait une recette de Coup de Pouce, un filet de porc farci. J’ai vraiment adoré, et l’Ingénieur aussi a bien aimé. Je n’ai pas aplati le proc aussi minutieusement qu’il l’aurait fallu, mais ce n’était pas très grave (pour bien faire, regarder cette vidéo). J’ai servi cela avec une salade de maïs et de tomates.

2 c. à soupe d’huile d’olive
2 échalotes, hachées finement
1 filet de porc, le gras enlevé (environ 1 lb)
1 paquet (125 g) de fromage de chèvre sans lactose Elite de Damafro
¼ tasse de noix hachées (pacanes, noix de Grenoble ou noisettes)
3 c. à thé de thym frais, haché
sel et poivre noir du moulin

Préchauffer le four à 350 °F.

Dans un poêlon, chauffer 1 c. à soupe de l’huile à feu moyen. Ajouter les échalotes et cuire, en brassant, de 3 à 4 minutes ou jusqu’à ce qu’elles soient légèrement dorées. Réserver dans une assiette.

Couper le filet de porc sur la longueur jusqu’à environ ½ po du bord. Ouvrir le filet à la manière d’un livre et le placer entre deux épaisseurs de pellicule de plastique. À l’aide d’un maillet ou d’un poêlon en fonte, aplatir le filet uniformément jusqu’à environ ½ po d’épaisseur. Retirer la pellicule de plastique. Disposer les échalotes réservées, le fromage de chèvre, les noix et le thym au centre du filet, sur toute la longueur. En commençant par un côté long, rouler le filet de porc et l’attacher à l’aide de ficelle à rôti. Saler et poivrer.

Dans le poêlon, chauffer le reste de l’huile à feu moyen-vif. Cuire le filet de porc de 6 à 8 minutes en le faisant dorer de tous les côtés. Mettre le filet de porc dans un plat allant au four et cuire au four pendant environ 20 minutes ou jusqu’à ce qu’il soit encore légèrement rosé à l’intérieur. Mettre le filet de porc sur une planche à découper et le couvrir de papier d’aluminium, sans serrer. Laisser reposer pendant 5 minutes, puis couper le filet en tranches.





Monday, June 11, 2012

Quick Black Bean Soup

Hi everyone! Now that my URL has been updated, I feel like I can start posting recipes again. As was the case last year, my summer cooking will be somewhat simpler than during the rest of the year, because I’m deprived of a lot of the tools I normally use (no stand mixer, no food processor or immersion blender, no Bundt pan… I had to use the cheese grater as a citrus zester, too!). The first meal I made after we had unpacked was this black bean soup. It’s a recipe I got from my friend Jen, and it appealed to me because it was healthy as well as quick and easy to make. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, because there are so few ingredients, but it was really good! I halved the recipe as written below, but note that it doesn’t really matter if you’re in Canada and have 19-oz cans of beans instead of 15-oz cans; just use your best approximation. I served it with some crackers and Damafro’s lactose-free garlic and herb goat cheese (which I can’t get in the States), but a good piece of bread would be nice, too. Enjoy!

1 Tbsp oil
1 cup chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 (15-oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups vegetable broth or stock
1 cup crushed tomatoes with rich purée
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp chili powder (or to taste)
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
parsley or cilantro, to garnish (optional)

Heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Purée soup if desired (I couldn’t, but it was really good without puréeing).



Friday, June 08, 2012

Batch of links, and an update

I’ve been thinking about my online presence lately. I’ve decided it was high time to take the next step for this blog and give it its own URL. I had bought the domain name a while back, but never got around to using it, for various reasons. I finally hired Synapse Internet (founded by a friend of mine) to take care of things for me. You can now update your bookmarks to www.lactosefreegirl.com! I also changed the header by using a photo by Mei Teng found through stock.xchng, which I then cropped. Hopefully I’ll get around to working on my photography so that I can use my own pictures at some point.

I’ve also been giving some thought to my previous website(s). I haven’t updated it in almost three years! When I first started this blog, I explained that this format suits me a lot better than my bilingual website format. I’ve now decided to be honest with myself and admit that I will no longer be updating my old website, because I like blogging so much more. I will leave it online for at least a few years, but I can’t promise that it’ll be there indefinitely. Today’s batch of links will be things that I had up my sleeve for the next website update. Some of these links (and the CD reviews) are, in fact, three years old – sorry about the delay. I’ll get back to recipes very soon!

- Care2 is known for exposing topics on which we need to act and for organizing the effort to change things. It’s usually something like fighting animal cruelty, human trafficking or overfishing. But sometimes, they expose a group that is acting in an absurd way. It turns out that the coal industry is saying that CO2 is good for us, because reducing CO2 would… cost jobs? Um, what about jobs created by switching to greener technologies? And what about all the bad things that CO2, in excess, has been proven to do? I’m really glad that Care2 is exposing this, and you should go read the article to see what crap is being advertised to the American public. [This article is dated from 2009, but unfortunately the situation hasn’t improved much.]

- A great article about using the Passion Index to rate artists – that is, instead of only counting how many albums or songs an artist has sold, actually counting the number of times the songs were listened to (which we can now track with digital media).

- I wanted to share this link from the Sundance Channel, where Isabella Rossellini explains with a puppet show how different animal species reproduce. It’s not only educational, it’s quite fun and well presented. The Green Porno series even discusses what to do about species that are driven to extinction by humans (like calalmari and anchovies, due to overfishing). [There’s now a new series, Seduce Me, about how animals choose mates.]

- I had been hearing about real-life vigilante superheroes. I had always thought, after reading superhero comics, “Why can’t we have vigilantes like this in real life?” (Well, the ones without superpowers, at least.) It turns out we do! There are some in Cincinnati, in Milwaukee, in Massachusetts and even in Verona. I understand the dangers of one taking the law into one’s own hands, both for oneself and for the general public, but I still applaud the principle if it’s done correctly and in collaboration with law enforcement.

- This Is Us – The Backstreet Boys (2009)
What to say, what to say... Well, Straight Through My Heart is catchy, sure, I’ll give it that. But the album as a whole is quite monotonous. Nothing really stands out, and it just sounds like one big dance mix, without any actual musical instruments. PDA’s lyrics are a little immature for men in their thirties, as is courting the club scene. Then again, it’s not like they wrote most songs (they have just one to their name). As a matter of fact, so many people are involved in the making of this album that it was really nice for the band members themselves to even show up to record anything for this. Also, the Auto-Tune feature is totally overused, but the worst part is that they wouldn’t even need it, because they can actually sing (not that this is the greatest album to prove it).
All in all: This Is Us isn’t really them; I think it’s their label’s idea of what they should be right now. Let’s hope the next one is closer to Never Gone or Unbreakable. The Backstreet Boys are in fact talented vocalists, so I’d like to hear it on their album. [Update: I’ve since listened to Howie D’s 2011 album, Back To Me, and it’s the exact same thing. I’m hoping that Kevin Richardson’s return to the band will improve things.]

- Shout It Out – Hanson (2010)
Waiting for This (which has the title lyric) is catchy, and overall quite similar to the band’s previous work. Thinkin’ ‘Bout Somethin’, the first single, is the song that really has people talking: it was written in the style of a lot of Motown songs, cowbell and all. The video is worth seeing (MTV even named it one of their top 5 videos with killer dance sequences). I still marvel at how Hanson had to struggle, break barriers and become an indie rock band with their own label before they could… do synchronized dancing? A dance that was taught to fans filling in as extras, minutes before the shoot? It really fits with the Blue Brothers homage, though, and the song is really fun (and in Hanson tradition, if you pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll realize it’s a song about a bad breakup that’s been made into this super happy tune). The two songs that stand out to me, style-wise, are And I Waited as well as Give A Little (I would bet money this was composed on the Rock Boat IX cruise, because it reminds me of Under The Sea a little bit, which Hanson covered during that event) . Also, there’s no hidden track at the end, which is disappointing for a Hanson album. I love Kiss Me When You Come Home, and Carry You There for something slightly more mellow (though Use Me Up and Me Myself and I are really the sad ones). Overall, though, this album has too many horns. Some horns are nice, but I think that the band equates them with a certain creative freedom, since they started using them on their first indie album; here they often take over.
All in all: This album doesn’t stand out for me the way the two previous ones did and contains no surprises, but it’s a very good album nonetheless.

And on a more recent note…

- I saw Snow White and the Huntsman last weekend. Unlike Mirror, Mirror, it wasn’t a retelling so much as a reboot. It’s nice to see it told as an action movie with fabulous special effects (but as the Engineer rightly points out, we’ve come to expect those on the big screen by now). Charlize Theron does a fantastic acting job, though at times I found her performance over the top and more dramatic than a two-year-old’s tantrum. Chris Hemsworth is awesome, but his role doesn’t stray too far from Thor (which we already know he can do). As for Kristen Stewart, if she wants to prove that she can act, she should stop playing blank characters (Bella Swan is a good example of blank, and Snow White, at least in this movie, is as well).

Friday, June 01, 2012

Liens de la semaine

- Malheureusement, je n’ai pas eu le temps d’en faire une critique, mais j’ai mangé au Club Chasse et Pêche il y a une semaine, et c’était véritablement exquis! Entrée de bison, prune rouge, cromesquis, quinoa et pourpier, plat principal de magret de canard, couscous israélien, pois chiches crus et pistaches, plat de légumes (salade grecque, gratin de courge butternut, têtes de violon et purée d’aubergine), puis fruits exotiques et sorbet à la noix de coco (sans mousse de chocolat blanc, à cause du lactose). Si je gagne la loterie un jour, j’en fais un repas mensuel!

- Samedi dernier, c’était le mariage de Chère Sœur et de Cher Beau-Frère, un mariage magnifique comme il y en a trop peu, sans contredit l’un des plus beaux mariages auxquels j’ai assisté de ma vie. Les mariés étaient resplendissants, les discours étaient personnels et touchants, les photos sont fabuleuses, sans parler de la robe de la mariée! (J’ai mis ma robe couleur corail et laissé tomber les barrettes.) Mais bon, ce qui va vous intéresser sur mon blogue de bouffe, c’est la bouffe! On la doit à Avocado, dont l’excellent menu bien exécuté m’a conquise. Écoutez un peu ça : raviolis aux pois verts et échalotes, feta et lime kéfir, velouté de courge butternut au piment d’espelette, garam masala et poireaux frits; pétoncle poêlé, salade de betterave jaune, salicorne et coriandre (ici, j’avoue ne pas avoir aimé le pétoncle, car je n’aime pas les fruits de mer; l’Ingénieur et moi avons donc fait équipe alors qu’il s’occupait des pétoncles, et moi, des betteraves); et cuisse de canard confite aux cinq épices et caramel de soya servie avec pommes de terre douces et légumes du marché. Ce canard, je salive encore en y pensant! J’aimerais bien qu’Avocado fasse de petits plats à emporter, j’irais volontiers me gâter de temps à autre en reprenant la même chose. Vraiment exquis!

- J’ai tellement aimé le film Intouchables! Heureusement qu’il était encore au cinéma cette semaine à Montréal, parce qu’il ne passait pas à San Antonio. Le film met en vedette François Cluzet et Omar Sy; il est basé sur une histoire vraie. Un riche tétraplégique engage comme aide un immigrant venant de purger une peine de prison de 6 mois sans aucune formation particulière (entre autre parce qu’il n’éprouve de pitié pour personne, y compris les handicapés), et entre les deux hommes naît une amitié inattendue. Je ne veux pas trop en révéler, mais c’est vraiment à voir!