Happy New Year… and some great blogs to follow in 2013

Grab a snack and a cup of the and coffee, it's time to start reading. - Photo: Eric Rados.

Grab a snack and a cup of the and coffee, it’s time to start reading. – Photo: Eric Rados.

First things first: happy New Year! Wishing everyone health and happiness to unleash creativity throughout 2013! Bonne année! 

It was with great enthusiasm that I found out yesterday that Johnny from Feed the piglet had nominated me for the “Blog of the Year 2012” Award. I must admit that it came somewhat as a surprise, considering that I’ve only recently begun to post entries more consistently. continue reading

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Tarnished Spoon Travels: a Montreal Food Crawl

Visitors are greeted by colourful chairs at Brooklyn.

The tradition continues. Over the past seven years, I’ve made a habit of  taking advantage of Thanksgiving weekend to head down to Montreal for a quick visit home. Since moving to Ontario back in 2005, I’ve returned home every three months or so to spend time with my folks and friends.

It’s easy to get caught up in a certain routine from trip to trip, visiting the same reliable places. For the sake of keeping up with the times so to speak, I try, as much as possible, to at least venture out to one new place per visit. With that in mind, friend and freelance reporter Vincent, suggested we explore boulevard Saint-Laurent and its surroundings through Rosemont, the Mile Ex and Mile End.

Here are some the place that we visited.

Brooklyn
Café – Atelier – Showroom
71, rue Saint-Viateur est

Smoked trout served with labneh and caper berries at Brooklyn.

Hungry and looking for mid century furnishings? If you answered yes to one of the two, the Brooklyn is sure to tickle your fancy. When entering the Brooklyn, you’re welcomed by a series of colourful retro folding chairs. Inside, smiling staff serve up delicious coffee, pastries and a Mediterranean inspired menu.

We took advantage of the tasting platter in order to savour all what the café had to offer. This included: a Spanish tortilla served with avjar (a red pepper and eggplant relish) and mixed greens salad, smoked trout served with labneh, caper berries and mint. We also enjoyed some barbecue-smoked veal served with tomato salad. The meal was capped off with a platter of baba ganoush, muhammara, walnut tzaziki and picked olives and mushrooms. The best way to describe the meal: fresh.

The space in the back of the café is dedicated the owner’s passion for vintage home furnishings. Her collection includes, among others, Scandinavian designed kitchen accessories, an Expo 67 mosaic or even teak furniture, just to name a few.

The Brooklyn proves to be a pleasant midday stop.

Delightful doughnuts

Café Sardine
9, rue Fairmount Est 

Sardine doughnuts are baked fresh daily and served in a Mastercraft tool box.

A short stroll south on Saint-Laurent from where we were, took us to Café Sardine, a restaurant with what seemed like a delightful savoury menu… But we were there to indulge our sweet tooth. Just like Toronto, Montreal is also experiencing a doughnut renaissance. According to Vincent, Café Sardine makes quite the good doughnut. It was only natural taht we give them a try. Displayed in a bright red Mastercraft toolbox, they are baked fresh daily.

On that day, Café Sardine was serving up smoke and sugar, chocolate orange and mint and bourbon. We opted for the latter two. The chocolate and orange was OK. The doughnut itself was tastier than the icing. The mint and bourbon doughnut was delicious. The glaze and the minty taste made for a great afternoon snack.

Big in Japan Bar
4175, Saint-Laurent

The interior impresses with the large angular counter that extends throughout the bar

Located at the corner of Saint-Laurent and Rachel, on can easily walk right past the Big in Japan Bar. The red door, with the tiny inscription of the word “Bar”, Japanese characters and hours of operation are the lone signs of this elegant Montreal hangout.

The interior impresses with the large angular counter that extends throughout the bar. Tea lights lit by fuel stored under the counter punctuate seating. Dark velvet curtains surround the space creating a wonderful setting for meeting up with friends post work or to kick off the weekend.

Whiskey bottles in suspension at the Big in Japan Bar.

Owned by the same person of the behind the Big in Japan, a restaurant located south on Saint-Laurent, the Big in Japan Bar offers an extensive cocktail menu. Whiskey bottles are suspended on the ceiling adding to the décor. The bar also offers a snack menu.

5295
5295, avenue du Parc

Attentive staff prepare delicious cocktails at 5295.

 A recent addition to the Mile End, this new bar has yet to bear an official name. It simply goes by its address: 5295. This laid-back bar takes the visitor on a trip to a 1950s, Hemingwayesque Havana complete with tropical plants and wood and wicker furniture. At the other end of the room, the visitor goes on another journey, this time in a makeshift Moroccan souk with lanterns and bright colors.

5295 offers a great cocktail selection prepared by perfectionist bar staff that take great pride in mixing up the concoction of your choice.

Notre Dame des Quilles
32, Beaubien Est

Strike! A good time was had by all at Notre Dame des Quilles.

I started off my Saturday evening with my friends Jennifer, Vincent-Gabriel and Vincent at Notre Dame des Quilles. This is a perfect neighbourhood hangout where one can sip on suds on the cheap (pints were 4 $ before 7 P.M. and 5 $ after). If hungry, there is a short snack menu focused on comfort food. Items such as small bowl of mac and cheese, fishcakes or a trusty plate of chips served with house made pickled veggies and dip hit the spot just right.

The fun thing is you can also get a bit of bowling in; after all, this place is called Notre Dame des Quilles (quilles being the French word for bowling). The bar has two small bowling alleys where we all tried our best to hit a strike or two. Some of us obviously more luck than others, but regardless, it was all about having a good time. If I lived in the neighbourhood, this place would most likely be my home alley

Hotel Herman
5171, Saint-Laurent

The welcoming center bar at Hotel Herman.

From the casual and laid-back atmosphere of Notre Dame des Quilles we headed south on Saint-Laurent to the elegant Hotel Herman. The first thing one notices when setting foot in the restaurant is the welcoming U shaped bar in the middle of the space. In the back, Hotel Herman staff members are cooking up a storm in open kitchen.

Gaspésie Rock Crab salad with radish and watercress was a success.

The menu is composed of some 16 appetizer sized platters that vary in price from 8 to 23$. The best way to to sample some of chef Marc-Alexandre Mercier’s culinary creations is by sharing a couple of dishes. Over the course of the evening, Jennifer, Vincent-Gabriel, Vincent and myself sampled the venison tartar served with mushrooms, Gaspésie Rock Crab with radish and watercress. We also shared some seared duck breast, seared halibut with celeriac and seared foe gras served on a bed creamy corn and brioche. Everything we tasted was quite good. All four of us were pleasantly surprised by the crab and particularly enjoyed the foie gras and halibut. The flavours and the refined presentation of all the dishes made every bite the most enjoyable.

We capped up our evening of laughs and catching up with some dessert. We all sampled the spiced pound cake topped with squash purée and root beer cream. We also got our chocolate fix with a Manjra chocolate terrine with marrow caramel and hazelnuts. Delish.

It was great to rediscover some interesting addresses in my hometown. What are your favourite spots to grab a bite or a drink in Montreal? Feel free to share them!

 

 

Tarnished Spoon Travels : New York City – Day 3

Journey to Brooklyn

Brooklyn beckoned, and we responded! Time for us to cross the East River and take in the sights East of Manhattan.

First, a quick stop at Spoonbill and Sugartown Books to pick up an elusive copy of Lucky Peach magazine. For a reason or another, the Summer 2012 edition of this journal dedicated to food and writing isn’t available back in Toronto nor was it possible to stumble upon it in Manhattan. Without hesitation, we brought it home!

Lunch
Juliette Williamsburg
135 North 5th St Brooklyn

Juliette’s decor is straight out of a parisian bistro.

Juliette Williamsburg proved to be an ideal urban oasis. It was like having a little bit of Paris, in Brooklyn. Everything, from the signage, the tables, chair and floors were the same you’d find in a French bistro. The courtyard dining room with numerous hanging plants was another great element about the place the large roof top potion with bar and numerous yellow and red tables and chairs is where we decided to enjoy our lunch.

Onto the food and drink. My partner ordered the vegetarian sandwich on a warm ciabatta, which was filled with Japanese eggplant, avocado, cucumber, daikon sprouts and tapenade. I ordered a comforting croque-monsieur served with a homemade brioche.

We then both enjoyed wonderful lemonades that were mixed with strawberry and pear purée; a refreshing touch to our meal as we were pondering our next move.

Shop
Mast Brothers Chocolate
105 A North Third Street 

All Mast Brothers Chocolates are elegantly wrapped. Photo: Eric Rados.

Per the description in Rather New York City, Mast brothers promised to be a delicious stop. It sure didn’t disappoint! When entering the North Third Street shop, between the bags of cocoa grains, you first see chocolatiers at work, crafting chocolates with great pride.

Along the wall with a large black board, you then get a glimpse at several varieties of chocolate. Every single Mast Brothers chocolate bar is packaged in elegant colored wrapping paper, making these chocolates also a feast for the eyes!

Brothers Rick and Michael Mast partnered with farms and organizations such as Anderson Almonds, Stumptown Coffee and Maine Sea Salt to offer chocolate enthusiasts some delicious choices. My personal faves were the Stumptown Coffee and Main Sea Salt chocolates.

While at the shop, make sure you bring back a couple of truffles. The salted caramel, coffee, sea salt and almond truffles were great. Unfortunately, they were all eaten too fast by yours truly to take a photo…

Dinner
The Fat Radish
17, Orchard Street

We were welcomed with a plate of radishes topped with tappenade.

For our last night in the Big Apple, we turned yet again to the Rather New York City guide to channel our inspiration. Co-author Julia Oh states, “My bet is a smile will appear on your face also when you step inside.” She was right. While walking into the restaurant you couldn’t help but be charmed the warm décor, friendly staff and let’s not forget the food on the menu.

The Fat Radish serves up a British inspired menu. We were welcomed with plate of radishes, topped with tapenade. The day’s specials were all marked on large mirror.

My partner started his meal with baby beet salad that included thinly sliced beets and pickled ones as well. I ordered the endive, prosciutto, grilled peach, ricotta and lemon oil salad. Both appetizers were flavourful.

We were both inspired by the seafood on the menu. We ordered the olive oil poached cod served with warm German potato salad and the Montauk diver scallops fresh corn “polenta” (it was like a cream corn which was incredibly delicious), bacon jam and. Both dishes were a hit! I was intrigued by the bacon jam, but was quickly a convert. The saltiness of the jam blended particularly well with the scallops and corn polenta.

Dessert was an easy decision. Caroline, our server, discretely returned to our table simply stating that the Banofee pie was excellent. We took her word for it and never looked back.  We were blown away! This English inspired dessert made from bananas, cream, and toffee all served on top of butter biscuit crust and topped with Mast Brothers cocoa nibs (full circle moment. Ha!) was a delight, and a perfect way to end our meal. Caroline later came back to explain how much she missed Banofee pie upon her return from the UK. She was overjoyed when she found out her employer added this dessert to the menu.

Dinner at the Fat Radish proved to be the most pleasant way to end our three-day escapade in New York. And per our Rather Guide’s description, we did indeed leave with a smile on our faces.

Where to next for our next trip

?

Tarnished Spoon Travels: New York City – Day 1

Upon our arrival in Newark Liberty Airport, we headed straight to Grace, a boutique hotel located steps from Times Square, at West 45th and 6th Avenue. This boutique hotel part of the Spanish owned Room Mate Hotels would be our home base for this three-day trip.

After setting in our chambers, we consulted our Rather New York City guide more attentively, jotting down a couple of potential places where we could set foot during our stay.

Lunchtime was soon approaching, our stomachs, growling. We set foot our quest for food.

2nd Avenue Deli

162 East 33rd St/1442 First Avenues

Pastrami sandwich from 2nd Avenue Deli. – Photo: Eric Rados

In 1954, Abe Lebewohl, opened a small restaurant at East 10th Street at 2nd Avenue that would eventually grow as a neighborhood staple in the East Village. Tragedy struck in 1996 when Lebewohl was murdered during a bank robbery. Despite the tragic loss, the founder’s family kept the restaurant running. The deli closed its doors in 2006 after a landlord dispute. Luckily, Jeremy and Josh, Lebewohl’s nephews stepped in and reopened the deli in 2007 at is current location and opened another one on First Avenue.

Nothing says New York City better than grabbing a bite in a Kosher Deli. Fresh, delicious comfort food in the form of pastrami sandwiches, matzo ball soup, pickles and many more items typically found on a deli menu. The first thing one sees entering the 2nd Avenue Deli is a large counter filled with various salads and vegetables, enough to open your appetite if you weren’t hungry.

We ordered a pastrami sandwich on rye and a smoked salmon sandwich complete with cream cheese, red onions, cucumber and capers. Both were delicious! Various pickles savory and spicy were also served with our dishes. Our lunch ended on a sweet and bubbly note with a shot of Bosco chocolate soda, something you’ll likely won’t find outside of New York. (If you know otherwise, let me know!)

The Redhead
349 East 13th Street

Dinner at The Redhead.

The Redhead intrigued me. In Rather New York City, Jan Faust Dane states: “ You’d think the promise of bacon and peanut brittle would be what lured me to The Redhead. Good guess, but wrong.”

Indeed, there is much more to this place than their sweet and savory brittle. Their southern influenced menu and cozy décor make this place a winner. Interesting fact: The Redhead was originally a bar, which eventually converted to a restaurant. The crowd and staff were laid-back. The place felt very much like a local spot with its share of regulars.

Onto the menu… Several items were tempting. My partner enjoyed the Summer squash salad. I opted for the One-eyed Caesar salad. The fried egg on toast proved to be a visually pleasant take on a classic.

For the mains, my partner ordered the lean and tasty Newport steak served with fried green tomatoes, which proved to be excellent. I went for the buttermilk-fried chicken that was served most elegantly with a spinach and strawberry salad topped with candied almonds. The chicken was delicious: perfectly crisp on the outside, moist and flavorful on the inside. Yum.

We both shared a slice of the Brooklyn Blackout cake with espresso ice cream for dessert. The dish was okay, but nothing to write home about. The ice cream was very much the better part of the dessert. Although, I must say that my sweet tooth left The Redhead fully indulged thanks to chewy s’more cookie, a chocolate based cookie topped with graham cracker and a roasted marshmallow  that was graciously served with the check. A perfect way to cap off a wonderful dinner.

Here’s a quick peek of some of the dishes tasted on the first day. I apologize in advance or the poor quality of the images.

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Tarnished Spoon Travels… To New York

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Vacation, is an opportunity to get away from the routine and step out of familiar surroundings. Cliché? Perhaps, but it’s a good pretext to write about random finds.

Close enough to home for it to be somewhat affordable, yet far enough to be an escape, New York City beckoned for another visit.

The Rather New York City guide proved to be an invaluable source of information and inspiration. Formely known as the Eat shop guides, these books are real gems. They give travellers the opportunity to discover the city through local shops and artisans. The perfect way to discover the city at a leisurely pace.

My next few posts will chronicle some of my Big Apple adventures.

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TUM… Or the thrill of discovery

 

Peameal perfection: the pea meal sandwich from Little Tomato Catering

Last Saturday marked my fourth time attending the Toronto Underground Market (TUM). Four times I have ventured to Evegreen Brick Works in search of unique and tasty finds. Each time, I’ve returned amazed by the wide variety of foods and the festive atmosphere of this culinary rendezvous.

Even though many of the vendors cook up a storm at TUM on a regular basis, each instalment of this event is unique. Vendors vary their menu, showcasing different dishes, ingredients and flavours. It’s thrill of discovery that makes TUM enthusiasts return for more month after month.

It’s also about sharing these discoveries… Last November, my friend Marie-Lynne introduced me to TUM. Ever since, we’ve both taken great pleasure in spreading the joy, encouraging more of our friends to attend this event. It’s always great to see them react with glee at the sight of a flavourful sandwich or indulge in the perfect earl grey cannelé. Satisfying curiosity by tasting someone’s culinary creations is quite possibly one of the best ways to discover what Toronto has to offer, one bite at a time.

Finding my way

In the spirit of discovery, I took TUM by storm, armed with my site map, fork and water bottle in order to share a couple of finds.

 

 

 

 

 

Savoury sensations

Lobster ceviche from Rock Lobster Food

This refreshing concoction of lobster with slices of orange, cilantro leaves and tomato served with blue corn tortilla chips was the perfect way to kick off our visit under the July heat.

Pork and Beans Grub style

If you were thinking about navy beans stewed with chunks of pork, think again! Grub served up Ontario grown edamame with home made bacon and bacon salt in hand crafted food containers. The result was tasty, but the large portions left many fingers quite greasy. A honourable mention goes out to their edamame with chillies that was quite hot (easy pun intended).

Baked beans and brisket with waffles from Royal Tree Beaver

I had tried Royal Tree Beaver’s butter chicken and waffles in March, so I was quite intrigued by the baked beans and brisket served on waffles. The verdict: wonderful. The baked beans and brisket smothered over the waffle was a satisfying snack.

Bajan beef brisket and oxtail and chicken mole dumpling from My Little Dumplings

 I must admit it; I have a soft spot for dumplings. TUM has fortunately helped indulge in them on a regular basis. Chef Bashir Munye impressed with his steamed dumplings. I sampled both the beef brisket and chicken mole. They were great, but with its tomato, parsley and pumpkin seed topping, the chicken mole dumplings had a slight edge.

Dumpling trio from Feast TO

More dumpling love, this time pan-fried! I couldn’t help but indulge in Feast TO’s dumpling trio. Tasty pork and bok choi, shiitake mushroom and duck and foie gras with cherry jus.

Peameal sandwich from Little Tomato Catering

Sheer sandwich perfection. There are no better words to describe how good this combination of maple glazed mustard peameal, Dijon mayo, red onion marmalade sunny side up quail egg on a biscuit really is.

Delicious desserts

 Mascarpone Whoopies from Tatum Pie

 Where one finds mascarpone, one is sure to find a rich, make that very rich dessert. Every striped yellow and white paper bag served four whoppie pies: fresh lemon, original classic, coconut and banana each with a creamy frosting and moist cakes.

Revisiting some faves…

I must admit that I reverted to some of my favourite dessert kiosks for my sweet tooth and packed up most of the dessert to go and share at home… I thoroughly enjoyed Dough Toronto’s Balsamic hazelnut and Bee’s Knees doughnuts. I also took advantage of TUM to stock up on a couple of cannelés from SnackeryTO.

A shot of espresso from Manual Labour Coffee

Matthew Taylor and his crew of Manual Labourers served up great coffee from Mad Cap Coffee aboard Frankie, the 1969 Bailey Travel Trailer. If you missed them at TUM, make sure you look them up at the Oakville Farmer’s Market every Saturday or at the next edition of Junction Flea on August 12th!

Got any other culinary discoveries to share? Feel free to do so!