St. Pius X Culinary Institute Review

Meetup.com has come up with a great new tool for group owners, that of being able to elect a member of our groups as organizer of a single event. I put out a call to my group for those who would enjoy such an opportunity. Today I present to you a review written by Rosemary Warrren who jumped at the chance.

Rosemary has been with the group since almost the beginning – going on 3 years now. She is also a cake decorating specialist and is Baker Co-Coordinator for Cupcake Camp Montreal.

Take it away Rosemary…..

dnr3For the latest installment of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, our dining experience was more “cheap” than “ethnic”. St. Pius X is a high school in the north end with an associated Culinary Institute, offering an adult vocational program in culinary arts. Two days a week, the institute opens its dining room to the public, and a lucky few get to eat what the students have recently learned to cook. Every week the menu changes, but prices are kept very low – appetizer, main dish, plus dessert usually ranges from $12 to $16. I’ve been here several times for lunch and supper, in a table of two or three, and always enjoyed what was served. On Friday November 6, I had the opportunity to bring 18 Makan Kaki (eating buddies) with me for supper.

On this particular occasion, it was the last public meal for the graduating class, nicknamed the Soup’s On Chefs. I did not know this till I arrived. Normally the menu for each week is published a few days in advance, but tonight it had been kept under wraps till the last minute. Hopefully we weren’t going to end up with peanut butter sandwiches! But the sample plates in the showcase looked tempting. There were 4 appetizers, 5 main courses, and 4 desserts to choose from. In this dining room, typically you order your entire meal at once, instead of one course at a time.

Also for this night only, a video was being filmed to promote the school. Another last-minute surprise! Everyone who was at the school that day, and potentially in the camera’s path, had to sign a release form consenting to being videotaped. (No one from our group was interviewed for the video, although the release form made mention of recorded audio as well as video.) A few nervous giggles, and a quick makeup check for some, and we were ready for anything!

While we waited for the appetizers to arrive, we dove into the baskets of warm bread. I have a weakness for homemade bread, and tonight’s crusty rolls and cheese twists did not disappoint. Apparently my tablemates are equally fond of bread, as the baskets emptied out rapidly.

Once the appetizers hit the table, there were many oohs and aahs. I had chosen the pumpkin bisque, sweetened with maple syrup and swirled with cream. The golden puree was almost thick enough for the spoon to stand vertically in the soup. And it was silky and sweet – almost sweet enough to come at the end of the meal instead of the beginning. I polished off every drop. I looked down the table and noticed every single one of my dining companions had also cleaned their plates. This was encouraging – to both the workers in the kitchen, and to me as a first-time dinner host.

The main dishes arrived, one flavor at a time. First out was the Brome Lake duckling breast, with a crisscross of grill marks and a sauce studded with small berries. It was closely followed by the sirloin steak, drowned in three-peppercorn sauce and accompanied by a stuffed potato and a roasted red pepper. The menu had noted that there were limited quantities of the steak, so only a few selected it. From down the table came a groan. “The steak is perfect,” one of those lucky diners stage-whispered with a big smile. I chose the teriyaki salmon, which arrived with several sides: a mild chunky pineapple salsa, a pale yellow rice pilaf, three artfully arranged asparagus spears, and a small heap of well-seasoned sprouts. Everything was flavorful and the salmon had a light crispiness on top. It all tasted as good as it looked. Only the skin stayed behind when I finished eating.

But there was yet more to come. Rich dark chocolate mousse, an open-top apple pie with a tiny scoop of homemade ice cream, tall Napoleons with snowy white cream and jewel-like strawberry slices tucked inside. And then arrived one of the students with an apology. “I’m sorry but we have only two crème brulées left.” Quick discussions ensued over who would get their first choice, and who would have an alternate dessert. Crème brulée isn’t my thing, too eggy for me, but I was one of the last to get dessert. I hadn’t been able to decide – the mousse? the pie? I couldn’t manage one of each –“Whatever you have is fine,” I assured the worried student – and magically appeared the delightfully decadent mousse. Who could resist?! As an apology for what the kitchen perceived as slow service, and to make up for the shortfall of crème brulée, additional small squares of Napoleon were brought out to share.

Our foray into the world of “student food” cost us only $15 each for our entire meal – tax included. We had eaten some pretty fancy food for that unbelievable price. And we had given the chefs of tomorrow an opportunity to cook for us. Several of my tablemates look forward to a return visit. And so do I!

(For a change of pace during the dinner, we held a door prize. My mom and I made a batch of sweet red pepper relish, which we have offered at the fall farmer’s markets in Rosemount. One of these bottles went home with one of tonight’s diners.)

Rosemary Warren
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Baker Co-Coordinator for Cupcake Camp Montreal: 
Nov 22, 2-5, Bitoque Restaurant
Register by November 17! ask me for info!

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