Jiro Dreams of Sushi and the Shogun sauce

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For some reason my title makes me think of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (rolls off the tongue the same way). But this post is not related and and I will be jumping from one topic to another. You are warned, just go with the flow hi hi.

I am so happy to share my second post and participation with a new monthly group I have discovered called Food ‘n Flix. Once a month a ‘host’ picks a movie of their choice that pertains to food. Everyone watches the movie and then makes a recipe which the film inspired. It can be any recipe. This month’s pick is hosted by Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla. She picked a documentary style movie called Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Birthday Lunch at Toqué

Just 1 month and half late, but better to post later then never, right? I wanted to share with you a wonderful lunch experience I enjoyed with my friend A-M for my birthday…back in early May. She is a concierge at an upscale hotel in downtown Montreal and one of the perks of her job is getting invitations for meals for 2 by a lot of restaurants. Its good publicity for them because if the concierge likes a place they will recommend it to hotel clients. This time A-M had a lunch invitation for one of the top restaurants in the city: Toqué!

In French toqué is a word that refers to someone who is not all there in the head. A toque is also the hat a chef wears. Quite a play on words that both describe the head chef, Normand Laprise, to a T! He is known for his pioneering Nouvelle Cuisine Québecoise that can defy the rules of cooking at times. It is co-owned with Christine Lamarche who is the front person of the operation. A second restaurant was opened by the pair, a bistro style eatery, called Brasserie T. But back to this lunch at Toqué.

Savia Sap Water 2011

Collected evaporated water from the maple syrup cooking down process, bottled. I am not kidding.

 

Strawberry Martini: secret recipe and just amazing

 

I have always dreamed of enjoying a meal here but always knew it was out of my budget.  But recently they started offering a lunch menu where you can have an appetizer and an entrée for $25-30 and a dessert between $6-9. Granted it is still not cheap and no wine is included (which you can order separately) but it is a really affordable way to experience an extraordinary meal. In the evening if you take the basic 7 course menu dégustation with the basic 5 glass wine service it will cost with tax and tip about $200.00 per person. The other menu with foie gras and the prestigious wine combo will run you about $290 per person. Some top food critics have claimed it is the best restaurant in North America.

I won’t get into details about the dishes, I will just show you the dishes we enjoyed with my translation of of the menu.

 


Deer and quail Terrine with foie gras, served with radicchio chutney

 


Boston lettuce, bacon, chili pepper, garlic and Parmesan

 

Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise 2008, served with terrine and sweetbread

The Toqué logo on each glass of wine

 

Crispy sweetbread, vanilla pearled onions, green grapes, truffle butter with honey sauce on crouton

 

Roasted trout, cauliflower mousse, Viennese gratin, rapini, red roasted pepper, mushroom duxelle and lobster white butter

 


Orange, it’s a party! orange mousse and crushed cookies

 


Lukewarm Chocolate mousse with dark chocolate ice cream and pistachio

 

Sweet finishing treat: chocolate and ground almond truffles

 

Of course with A-M we got what we wanted for free as well as a tour of the kitchen and the wine cellar lead by Christine Lamarche herself. The finest products from Québec are featured as supports local suppliers and farmers are used. We saw all the stations, the pastry area, the 3 fridges and more. Show below is perhaps about 1/4 of the actual wine cellar, mindboggling.

Restaurant Toqué!
900 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle
Montréal, Québec, H2Z 2B2
Telephone: 514 499-2084

www.restaurant-toque.com

Dangerous Dan’s Diner (Toronto)

In my past two posts of my New Year’s trip I only showed you brief glimpses of all the vineyards and various culinary delight and tourist traps we enjoyed. Today I am devoting a whole post to one restaurant, one you would not expect to see reviewed here on Cheap Ethnic Eatz.

It is our last hours in Toronto before we hit the road and head back home. We did our last stop at the LCBO (liquor commission) and are on our way to Little India, considering a spot for a late lunch. After 5 days on the road I am wanting a light vegetable oriented meal but Stef suddenly says to me: ” You know we have been eating bad but man I could go for a hamburger”. Of course I protested but suddenly I see a sign across the street….

Yeah you want a hamburger? Well let’s go to this very rudimentary looking dinner that claims their Burgers are Bigger. I denote a hint of hesitation and fear in his voice but he agrees to go. OK I am a little hesitant too when we walk into Dangerous Dan’s Diner and look at the, a-hum for a lack of a better word, retro decor.

This place is either a dump or an expert at the über cool rundown look: all the chairs are old car seats or banquettes, there are cows everywhere, the grill runs the length of the restaurant where the chef makes his meaty creations, there are cows like EVERYWHERE, we are handed a fold out menu and asked to place our order at the cash first.

See the flying cow hanging over our heads and the hamburger add posters. My two favorites are “22% of Ontarians are Obese. We can do better” and ” While we still have health care”. Did I mention there are cows everywhere? The lady at the cash is very friendly, the chef fits the decor and there is one young but burly man sitting at the back reading a paper. I still am not sure what to make of this place yet. Well turns out that burly man is James McKinnom, the owner, who opened this place in 1999 in honor of his wrestling loving grandfather.

We take a table and start glancing at the menu. Besides burgers you will find all the usual diner fixings such as steak, sandwiches, chicken wings and shakes. But of course burgers are the specialty. The normal burger section (yep there is a not normal section) has 3 categories: the 8 oz fullburger (the SMALLEST one), the Big Section and the Tree Hugger Section (veggie). We both went for the bacon and cheddar fullburger.

Would you look at the height on that thing? It was about 8 inches high! How on earth does one take a bite out of that burger?

Well try squishing it down first as best you can. OK we got it down to about 4 inches. Hmm, open real wide.

This is a (so non) sexy pic of me taking my first bite and the mess on my mouth. But man was it good. I do believe I am declaring it the best burger I have ever had. Best is the meat nicely cooked but still very juicy. Now let’s take a peak at the rest of the menu. I notice with laughter some dishes have a cannabis leaf next to them. The bottom of the menu explains this legend: Recommended for Medicinal Cannabis Users (intended as humor only).

At this point we started a great little chat with James, the owner, during our meal. This is not just a burly man, he is a cool burly dude and this restaurant fits him like a glove (and so does the cannabis mention I’ll bet). The normal burger section does not include anything so we took a peak at the side orders. Poutine Perogies ??? I am sorry I cannot have read that right.

I am from the Poutine world capital (not necessarily a proud achievement) and I get slightly offended for a moment that this Ontarian has spun his twist on MY specialty. But I could not help ordering it. Apparently it was added to the menu after several customer requested this custom order (for sure the cannabis customers again). Well it was a damn good combo I have to admit.

Now about that normal burger section. I recommend you sit down before reading these dish tittles.

24oz Bulls Balls Burger

The Coronary Burger Special: 2 8oz Patties, 4 Slices of Bacon, 2 Slices of Cheddar and a Fried Egg on top.

Collosal Colon Clogger Combo: 24oz burger served with a quarter pound of cheese, a quarter pound of bacon, and 2 fried eggs.

The “McEwan”: 10 oz NY steak freshly ground into a hamburger patty, mixed with beer, shitake and oyster mushrooms, camembert and brie cheese and 4oz pan fried Lobster Tail drizzled with clarified butter.

Yeah I am not going down alone with an embarrassing pic, here is Stef biting into his burger too, HA! This place is definitely a delicious rough jewel in the rough. My only regret is that I no longer had the room to try the dessert I have been dying to try for some time that was on the menu: Deep Fried Mars Bar served with ice cream and whipped cream. Oh well next trip!

Dangerous Dan’s Diner
714 Queen East, corner Broadview
Tel: 416-463-7310

Toronto with friends & dodging Niagara’s tourist traps

Here is one of 2 food posts dedicated to the food we enjoyed on our New Year’s escapade. This one will cover most of what we ate but the second post will be a restaurant review….and just you wait and see this place ha!

Now if you expected a gourmet blog post on Niagara here, well sorry to say you will be sorely disappointed. As I have mentioned before Niagara Falls has the Falls and then a fake tourist trap town filled with cheesy attractions. Now don’t get me wrong….go with the right attitude and you will have a blast. We played a round of glow in the dark mini golf, did a haunted house, went on a moving theater ride, played amusement park type games to win tickets in exchange for trinkets.

Food was tricky though: either you get fast food or you pay an arm an a leg. The middle ground is almost non existent and forget finding a quaint little family run restaurant, it is mostly chains. But we managed pretty well and ate well enough with a few awesome surprises. From the falling apart decor and rickety tables to the nice sophisticated places with modern dining room furniture here is my photo essay on some of what we ate.

First place I MUST mention is Tim Hortons. It is in fact the quintessential road trip food. In Canada this is where you get your coffee and sugar rush. They also serve the cheapest lunch I can think of if you take the chicken salad sandwich combo with coffee and a doughnut…like $5.02 tax in. BUT they are everywhere. They plague the scenery I could not handle seeing one more Tim Horton sign. OK its a chip on my shoulder lol.

Our first dinner was at Tony Romas. Nice place, super friendly staff, house wine is from the Niagara region. We had the all you can eat Beef short ribs for $15.99, a rather unbeatable price in Niagara for the meal we had. I did find the short ribs dry but they are short ribs so hard to keep moist.

Remember how gaudy I said Niagara Falls can be on my vineyard touring post? We here is quite the ultimate expression of it. Next to Burger King is the Frankenstein Haunted house….and the birth of a perfect marketing ploy. I LOVE it!

At the Fudge Factory you can watch the guy prepare the fudge before it is packed into molds. Yes (sorry for this bad joke a head of time) he is a fudge packer! We tried a piece of the Bailey’s fudge, yumm!

And now for the breakfast of champions! I insisted kindly not to be dragged to a chain place for breakfast. We eventually stopped at the Continental Pancake House. This is an unpretentious family style restaurant where everything is made from scratch. The pancakes are HUGE and fluffy, Stef loved the sausages. We we very pleased and the service was so friendly. Though there is a limited all you can eat breakfast for like 7$ since we ordered à la carte it somehow ended up costing about $40 for breakfast. A bit steep!

Our second night here was our fancy dinner. I was not told where we were going as it was a surprise. Where did we go? Red Lobster. Wait I know what you are thinking, but remember this is a tourist town and this is a middle ground price restaurant. I mean our main plates were still like $25 each. We are traveling on a budget here. Red Lobsters left Quebec a while back so for us this is a treat. We each had a triple seafood combo plate, coconut shrimp appetizer, and a MASSIVE pina colada for 2. The shrimps were all excellent but my lobster tale, meh, OK.

Our last morning in Niagara was a late departure and we decided on coffee and a doughnut and just have lunch later. Today we would drive to Toronto for New Year’s Eve to my friend’s place. Of wineries were part of the expedition. But back to breakfast. So we ended up stopping at a place called Country Fresh Donuts on the outskirts of town. A really odd ball place apparently specialized in donuts and Asian sop bowls…and popular and run by Asians. Apparently this is a real local gem. And the doughnuts…the BEST EVER. This was a cinnamon twist I shot in the car. So light and so good. I wish we had bought like a dozen.

Ah, finally made it to my friend Susan’s place were we would welcome the New Year over a home meal. She and her roomie prepared a great cheese themed dinner with homemade macaroni and cheese, a lovely phyllo cup filled with goat cheese, garlic shrimps and a cheese cake. Let me tell you around 3 or 4 am the macaroni and cheese came were back out for second helpings!

And we had lots to drink! Some bubbly with the meal, some bubbly at midnight, a bit of wine and a few cocktails. The last shot on the right is bubbly with a strawberry and a Lindt Chocolate. Sounds weird but is was good. Want to try a new cocktail? This is my new fave:

RedHeaded Slut (I swear it’s the official name)

Mix in a glass 1 ounce of Peach Schnapps, 1 ounce of Jagermeister and top off with cranberry juice.

On our final night we all went for a last dinner before our return home the next day. Toronto’s Chinatown was our destination. Our host would not stop talking about Kom Jug Yuen on Spadina as the best place for Chinese with incredible BBQ pork. Very low key decor and simple place. You MUST have the BBQ Pork. This was the best Chinese food I have ever eaten and it cost 60$ with the tip and tax for 5 people.

I hope you enjoyed the little tour of some of the food I enjoyed over the holiday trip. I will have one more Toronto food post coming, a restaurant review, that you will not want to miss so come back soon. A hint: this place has been called Toronto’s least healthy restaurant.

Taste buds, Molecules and Buona Notte

I have such a major backlog of food posts you will have to excuse me but I will do a combo here. I recently attended 2 absolutely wonderful foodie events here in Montreal. I feel so privileged to receive such invitations. I’ll go in chronological order!

A new program at Lasalle College: Wine and Bar Services Management

Taste buds & Molecules is one of the books that has made the sommelier François Chartier a world foodie phenomena. Chartier presents a revolutionary way of looking at food and wine, showing how to create perfect harmony between the two by pairing complementary and often surprising ingredients. He has collaborated with chef Ferran Adrià from the illustrious Catalan restaurant elBulli, with numerous dishes on the 2009-10 menu inspired by the work of the Canadian sommelier.

During a cocktail-tasting at the International School of Hotel Management and Tourism’s  restaurant, Le Fuchsia, LaSalle College’s administration announced that the great sommelier François Chartier has signed a 5 year collaborative agreement with LaSalle College regarding the use of his trademarks,  key terms and research projects as the College launches their all new program, “Wine and Bar Services Management”.

LaSalle College is the only establishment to offer such a unique training in wine and bar services management where courses in molecular sommellerie, flair bartending and food chemistry are offered. This training has been designed to respond to the needs of the industry where we see more and more connections between molecular gastronomy and molecular sommellerie. To learn more about the new program, get in touch with the College by dialing 514-939-2006 or by visiting www.collegelasalle.com.

This evening included a tasting led by Chartier himself and was followed up with a more intimate Q&A for us food bloggers. Here are some of the lovely bites we had. These were paired with a special green tea, a Porter beer and a wine.

Buona Notte’s 19th Anniversary Feast

This supper club has been a beacon phenomenon for 19 years amidst a sea of coming and going competitive neighbors. if you want to eat amazing Italian fare in a luxurious industrial posh setting then look no further. On a week night things are more quiet but on the weekend your fantastic meal is followed up by awesome cocktails, dance music and a dance floor. With its fabulous location, food and atmosphere Buona Notte is the place to possibly catch a glimpse of any stars working or vacationing in the city.

But I have a confession to make. This event was actually my very fist time there. I have passed the outside of this establishment a million times but I just never went. I also heard a few times it was over rated. Well after the feast I had there I can guaranty it is not over rated but fantastic. Let me say a quick thank you to Massimo, Lino, all the staff but most of all Anna who planned the whole event (and wrapped all the Panatones). Thank you all for an amazing night.

About 40 die-hard Montreal foodies were invited to tastes 9 services of the best of the fall-winter 2010  menu. Each service was accompanied by a specially chosen wine as well. Again, 1 cocktail, 8 wines, 9 services which turned into 10 services: 4 appetizers, 1 pasta dish, 1 risotto, 2 main course and 2 desserts. As services went along the portions were getting bigger. OMG, I am still full! The menu is long and all in Italian so please see the picture of it and of the meal. Keep in mind the restaurant is very dark.

Except for a little confusion of the set up for our table, the service throughout was exceptional. Every dish was presented by one of the owners, every wine was described by the sommelier, waiters were perfect and Anna was always nearby to make sure we were happy. Food wise I loved almost everything. The Polpette de Vitelo (meatloaf) I found bland and I have heard of al dente pasta but my Spaghetti was just not cooked. Exceptional were the Cotecchino (sausage), the Merlozzo (fish) and the Maialino de latte (suckling pig). And our surprise 10th service? Fresh baked Panatone and Zabaglione. It was simply orgasmic. I am not kidding we took a vote at the table if we had to choose between a man and the 10th service, WE ALL CHOSE the 10th service.

And we even had a celebrity citing. OK unless you are a bit older and French Canadian you will have no clue who she is but Soeur Angèle was there and came to chat with us, I even have a picture with her. Who is Soeur Angèle? Born in Veneto, Italy, she immigrated to Quebec in 1955 and became a nun 2 years later. She became a chef and later teached, was on the radio, on TV and published cookbooks. And this young 72 ball of Italian energy partied it up till midnight that night!

Granted we may have gotten a bit more of the royal treatment then someone off the street but I would recommend this special treat in a heart beat. We all left as well with a few partying gifts: a bottle of imported extra ripe tomatoes and a fresh baked Panatone.

The best Panatone EVER! But they are huge and I live alone so after 7 days of working on the top part I decided I better incorporate the rest in a recipe: Panatone Bread Pudding….oh yes that will do just fine!

Panatone Bread Pudding

About 6 cups of Panatone
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
3 cups of milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
optional: add 1/3 cup of Baileys, Brandy, Cointreau or what you like if your name is Claudia

Into a greased casserole dish break up enough bread to fill it 2/3 full. Mix sugar and cocoa together, pour the sugar over the bread and toss lightly to coat.  Beat eggs and add to the milk and the vanilla. Pour over the bread, make sure all the bread pieces are covered. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Let it cool 2 hours before serving.

 

3 Quickie Resto Reviews

I know I have been bad. I have had 3 restaurants I wanted to review but it has been to long for me to write now a proper full review. So I will tease you instead with a quick note and pictures of each. Let’s go to Syria, England and stay on the Terroir!

Kaza Maza
4629 du Parc
Montréal, QC H2T 1S1
(514) 844-6292

Up to now the only place to enjoy so Syrian food was Alep. But you can finally head to Parc Ave and try Kaza Maza. I love Syrian and Persian food. I like how you can make a meal out of appetizers called mezze. A very nice little find worth discovering….a new jewel I have found. Affordable enough.

Nuts, pomegranate and eggplant galore. And make sure to have a nice glass of Arak, the traditional licorice like drink diluted with water.

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Taverne Square Dominion
1243 Metcalfe
Montreal, QC H3B 2V5
(514) 564-5056

Very cool high class English pub decor, this location has actually quite a bit of history as it dates back tot he roaring twenties (the building, not the actual pub). We went here for Johanne’s birthday. A warning: not cheap! But totally worth it once in a blue moon. On a Saturday night it is a cozy relax British epicurian experience while brushing arms with the beautiful people.

The expensive Orange Julep cocktail is worth the novelty once.Pics for this resto are from Bernard Reischl.

Here is the cold meat ploughman’s plate. I had the salmon filet on a bed of asparagus and mushrooms. I have to say I cannot remember the last time I had such lovely fish in a restaurant. It was cooked perfectly and very juicy.

Must keep room for the Sticky Toffee pudding too served with an AWESOME homemade coffee ice cream.

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Restaurant DNA
355 Marguerite D’Youville
Montréal, QC H2Y 2C4
(514) 287-3362

Actually I have been debating for some time if I should write this review. This restaurant right now is considered one of the darlings of Montreal Modern Huate Cuisine….it was a total let down for me. We celebrated the 1 yr anniversary of Montreal Food Bloggers here by a member who cannot speak highly enough of this place.

We got the private VIP room with a huge real Cat Eye table and personal waiters to us only..right by the kitchen. We opted (reluctantly for me) for the 85$ tasting menu. I am not accustomed to spending big bucks on food, this was an exception and I expected to get my socks knocked off. It failed. We also found out the chef was on holiday…they actually did NOT tell us that before hand and we freaking reserved under the name Montreal Food Blogger. Is it me or there is something wrong here????

Oh yeah…look at the last right column. I have never bee anywhere with wine prices so high…yes the last one is over $9,000!

We were not allowed to know ahead of time what was being served. Every serving was a surprise.

  • 1 bite of roasted yellow zucchini (was OK)
  • a cold meat platter (was good)
  • two different veal stomach tartars (pretty good)
  • a risotto plate (the rice was CRUNCHY and NOT fully cooked, are you kidding me?)
  • 3 guinea hens, place, with a bit of bacon (blaaaannnnnnnnnndddddddddd and boring) with a rabbit stew (good) and 2 small salads to share for 10 people???
  • macadamia nut pie with ice cream (very good)

So sound impressive but it was a let down. It was NOT worth the price we paid and nothing had a WOW factor that I had expected. Were we just unlucky with the chef on holiday? I won’t pay for a second opinion!

The Last CEE Dinner on Meetup

Do you know how this blog got started? No it was not a need to share my baking skills with the world but a dinner group. On March 11th, 2007 I started a group on Meetup.com called Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Meetup allows people to start a group on what ever you want and then fellow meetup members can join and go to events the organizer sets up. My first organized event was 6 days later on March 17th, 2007. We were 3 people only. It was fun but I thought for sure this was going to be a short lived group with such attendance.

After 6 months I decided to start this blog to write reviews of the restaurants we attended as a group and over time it has grown into so much more. Well a year passed and the group grew, a lot. By the time we celebrated the 2nd anniversary there were about 250 members we had a huge party where 85 people from the group showed up. I was beyond astounded and overwhelmed by emotions that night.

Three years passed and we had another big party, although not quite as big. The 3rd anniversary was also our 75th event. For 3 years my volunteer assistants (Sharon, Olivier, Agustin, Johanne, Toni) and I have planned at least 2 event per month at a reasonably priced ethnic food restaurant. Montreal has no shortage of those. I could not have done it without the help of my fabulous assistants. Thank you.

Now after 3 years and a half and 88 events I have decided to hang up my organizer hat and close the group on meetup. I have met amazing people along the way, some cookie ones too, and I have made amazing friends too. Why am I closing. Life moves on and I just felt it was time to stop. I  love it but I need t move on. It was a really hard decision to make. I had the farewell dinner this Oct 12th 2010 at the Salon Mogador with 27 members.

I chose this Moroccan restaurant which we had been to in Jan 2008. It had been a huge success and I thought the couches and low tables made it ideal for eating, schmoozing and relaxing for the last dinner. We 4 different salads, a veggie couscous, a veal couscous and a chicken tajine with lemon and olives, baklava for dessert. Mint tea flowed all night. Thank you to Dourid of Salon Mogador for organizing the event for us.

My amazing friend Aurora..who now is the only reining Queen Organizer on Meetup in Montreal… had everyone pitch in for a special surprise for me. They got me one of those huge cards that everyone signed and a bouquet of Felix & Norton cookies. Have you ever had there cookies. I actually though they no longer existed but apparently the do and they have the best cookies. It was an emotional moment.

Pics by me and Bernard Reischl

Now don’t you worry this blog is going nowhere. This blog is my passion. As far a s dinners I am not done organizing some. I am assistant organizer now on another group which will allow me to organize meals once in a while. But first a rest. And I am toying with the idea of setting up a private, more exclusive, dinner group right here on my website. So keep your eyes peeled for possible future announcements.

But for now it is a Goodbye to the dinner group that started this entire whirlwind foodie adventure. Thank you so much to all the past members that ever joined and participated in a dinner. You have all taught me so much, touched and changed my life forever. Thank you! XOXOX