Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weekly tidbits

Before going back to Texas, I got to try a few more restaurants in Montreal.

- First, Kitchenette, which is a family-owned restaurant where the manager is French Canadian, her chef husband is Texas, and her mother makes the desserts. The décor is modern but classic at the same time, and feels cozy. We were sitting near a beautiful blown-up picture of the manager and chef’s little girls, wearing Texas gear in their Montreal backyard, and our four-top had leather armchairs instead of regular chairs. It seemed odd at first, but we were extremely comfortable even though (or because?) we were reclining somewhat. I liked it so much that I’m toying with the idea of getting two armchairs for our dining room at home! The waitress was friendly and knowledgeable, and all the other staff was courteous. As for the food, I started with the Japanese taco (pulled beef teriyaki, green goddess sauce and daikon slaw), which was fantastic! The Engineer had Maryland-style crab cakes with ranch dressing, which he proclaimed to be the best crab cakes he’d *ever* had. My father also had the taco, and my mother also had the crab cakes. I then ordered the flat iron steak with fries and green salad: the steak was cooked just like I wanted it, and well-seasoned to boot; the fries were perfect, thin and dark, neither too crispy nor too limp, and piping hot; the salad was really good, with Bibb lettuce, and the dressing was unusual and delicious (it may have been a buttermilk dressing, with seeds and fresh herbs). The Engineer had the halibut Pontchartrain, saying it was succulent, with an excellent side of potatoes and mixed veggies. My father had the chipotle-miso black cod (with celery-root purée, braised bok choy and crispy shiitakes), which “smelled like Japan” and was delicious. My mother ordered the lazy cioppino (a fish and seafood stew), a gargantuan serving that she loved but was unable to finish. (I’d also like to point out that Kitchenette does not serve any endangered fish or seafood, which is an effort I truly appreciate these days.) Finally, we shared Mississippi mud pie and strawberry shortcake for dessert. All in all, it was a really great restaurant that we all enjoyed, and I’ll be keeping it on my list of places to visit again.

- We also ate at Nora Gray, the new Italian restaurant in the Joe Beef family. The décor is reminiscent of the latter restaurant, though it progressively got so noisy that the people at each end of the six-top table could not hear each other – definitely a downer. I also felt like it took forever to get our food. That being said, the food was delicious! I started with the fried squash blossoms with pork and ricotta, which were really good, but after tasting the Engineer’s plate of panzanella, I think he had the best appetizer (both require Lactaid anyway). He then had the potato and lentil lasagna, while I had the guinea hen farfalle, which was the best. Dish. EVER. Fabulous! Dessert was less of a hit, because the Engineer’s chocolate bread pudding was dry and burnt, while my cherry sorbet could have used more sugar and perhaps spices to jazz it up. So it was a restaurant that we enjoyed, and the company was wonderful, but for the same price point I’d rather go to Kitchenette next time.

- I later ate at Le Canard libéré, which was right up my alley, given how much I like duck. I hadn’t realized that Brome Lake Ducks had been in business for 100 years! Every duck product under the sun was in that store. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy anything to take home, given that I have to cross the border soon, but the meal was nice! I got the Asian wrap trio (duck confit, mango, bell pepper, carrot, lettuce, cilantro, served with fries fried in duck fat and an apple juice), and it was perfect for an unpretentious lunch – though I should have shared the fries, as it was a generous serving.

- I also had sorbet at a place that opened up this year, Goosto. It’s a small restaurant that seems to serve mostly soups, sandwiches and salads, but with health in mind. I like this even more because the location used to house a McDonald’s and is across the street from an A&W as well as down the block from a Dairy Queen! They also advertise lactose-free and gluten-free sorbets, so that’s what I went for. I had two flavors, the lime-ginger-coconut (original, interesting and refreshing, though a little grainy) and strawberry (not as original, but executed wonderfully, and it ended up being my favorite). I recommend it if you’re in the area; there isn’t as much choice as at Le Bilboquet or Havre aux Glaces, but the location on the corner of Parc and Mont-Royal makes it quite convenient.

- As for my burger tasting in Montreal: I tried two places this summer. One was Burger de ville, which looked promising because Zagat rated them as #1 in town this year. However, I was disappointed; I thought those burgers were nothing special, the addition of condiments was sloppy, and the soda was completely flat. But then I went to L’Anecdote (a diner at 801 Rachel East), which was everything Burger de ville failed to be. The price point is the same, pretty low (between $5 and $10 for a burger, fries sold separately), but the beef was really tasty, perfectly cooked, the condiments were properly applied, and the burger was absolutely delicious. I had the Hambourgeois (lettuce, tomato, caramlelized onions, mustard, mayonnaise, no relish), shared fries with my friend La Maman des Zigotos, and then we split a really good piece of chocolate cake. I liked it so much that it hereby knocks Le Gourmet Burger out of my Top 5 in Montreal (the other 4 being, in no particular order, m:brgr, L’Avenue, Meat Market, and La Paryse). Note that L’Anecdote may not be allergen-friendly, as I believe the buns contain egg and the potatoes are fried in peanut oil.

- As for outside of Montreal, I got to spend a day at Bleu Lavande, located in Fitch Bay (Eastern Townships). I had wanted to go there for a long time, because I love lavender, and this company is well-known (I talked about it here, though it is no longer the only lavender producer in the province; see Passion Lavande or La Maison Lavande if you want to stick closer to Montreal). In Quebec, we don’t have the same climate than in Provence, for example, so the fields aren’t as big or odorant, but it was still absolutely beautiful. We took a guided tour and walked around the fields and distillery, and while I totally recommend a visit, the reason I’m talking about this here is food. Not the food served at the lavender farm itself, because I had a sandwich so bad I couldn’t even finish it, but the food presented as a demonstration by Simon Beaupré, the owner and chef of La Maison de ville in Magog. He made some crêpes with a little duck fat and a few drops of lavender oil, topped them with a thin layer of cream cheese (only enough to get the filling to stick to the crêpe), duck confit, watercress and a dressing of Dijon mustard, olive oil, lavender honey and a few crushed lavender flowers. The crêpes were rolled, stabbed with toothpicks, and sliced, so they were a great hors d’oeuvre, though left whole they would make a wonderful main dish. The lavender flavor was actually much more subtle than I expected, as the goal is to make people wonder what the extra little something is (instead of using so much lavender that it tastes like soap). I’m keeping this idea in mind! So far, I’ve only used lavender flowers in my dishes (or to make lavender lemonade, which is fantastic, or lavender salt), but a touch of lavender oil seems like a great addition.

No comments: