Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gastropod Restaurant

Under the High Chair Travels: Vancouver, British Columbia

I keep hearing about Vancouver's renewed restaurant scene and how an absurd number of new places have opened recently. If you are in Vancouver and are wondering which of these new establishments to try out, let me point you in the direction of Gastropod. Recently named Best New Fine Dining by Vancouver Magazine, this place is run by chef/owner Angus An, a personal friend of mine. We worked together at Montreal's Toque! and before last weekend it had been years since I had seen him as he has been working and gathering experience at London's Fat Duck Restaurant before returning to Canada and opening his place.
Danny and I enjoyed a four-star meal at Angus's cozy 4th Ave digs last weekend and can heartily recommend everything that he is sending out of the kitchen. Just see for yourself the beautiful presentation, generous portion sizes, and original use of ingredients. Believe me, these dishes tasted even better than they look.

B.C. Oysters with Horseradish 'Snow', Sauternes Jelly and Shallot Reduction

Gazpacho with Fennel Granite, Pesto and Garlic Crutons

Warm Chanterelle Salad with Favas, Sea Asparagus, Almond and Cider Vinegar

Soup of English Peas with Morels, Basil Sabayon, Parmesan Foam, and Egg Yolk Sous-Vide

Pan-Seared Foie Gras with a warm Lentil and Morel Salad

Slow-Cooked Ling Cod with Panko, Morels, Favas with confit Fingerling Potatoes

Wild Spring Salmon with Wasabi Sabayon and warm Citrus Bulgur Salad

Sloping Hill's Organic Pork Trio: Sausages, Pork Belly and Braised Shoulder with Wood Ear Mushrooms and Confit Carrots

Roasted Pigeon with Corn Puree, wilted Spinach, and grilled Corn Pudding.

Cheesecake Semifredo, Sable Breton and Blackberry Sorbet

Black Forest: Organic Okanagan Van Cherries filled with Chocolate Cream, thin Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Snow and Amaretto Ice Milk

Tarte au Citron with Lemon Thyme Ice Milk, Lemon Confit and fresh Basil

As you can see we were truly spoilt and all this was enjoyed by just the two of us, eating out like real adults while Noah slept peacefully back at Danny's aunt's. Thanks to Cathy for babysitting!And if you happen to get a night off from the kids, do visit this restaurant, you won't regret it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ice Cream and Pickles

Ok, for those of you who don't already know the good news, or maybe have just heard rumors, we are delighted to announce that we are expecting a little brother or sister for Noah sometime in early March of 2008.

Our little family is growing! We are thrilled beyond words and I am already hoping that this new addition will be a great eater...but we will just have to see. Under the High Chair might extend right into the next baby as Noah graduates to a big person chair.

Just my luck. =) Yay for babies!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Seared Halibut with Confit Garlic, Parsley and Kalamata Olives

Under the High Chair Travels: Queen Charlotte Islands

My brother’s Pathfinder reeks of fish, and I mean reeks. I would not trust myself in there for five kilometers with out a barf bag. However, I figure it is a small price to pay as they now have fifty pounds of fresh halibut in their deep freeze. Nice!

My brother Josh, his wife Laura and their one-year-old, Ava, just returned from 10 days of camping with friends on the Queen Charlotte Islands off British Columbia’s coast. There they spent their time crabbing, digging from razor clams, fishing for halibut, and then feasting late into the night on their catches.

These islands seem to have a particular draw for my family as my sister honeymooned there years ago, this is my brother’s second visit in five years, and my parents go back when ever they can to pick mushrooms or roam the beaches.

It’s been many years since I last visited the Charlottes, but Josh’s photo brought back many fond memories, (including when I met a black bear face-to-face-another story-) and reminded me of the stunning, rugged scenery. It’s has to be one of Canada’s most beautiful places and is still refreshingly wild and unsettled.

Josh and Ava enjoying an early morning hunt for razor clams on Rose Spit

Although I would have given almost anything to have gone on this ocean adventure, I am delighted that I can at least taste some of the fresh halibut that they hauled back in their car, and appreciate that they put up with the fishy smell for so long.

Seared Halibut with Concassé of Tomatoes, Confit Garlic, Italian Parsley, and Kalamata Olives.
  • 1 lb halibut fillet, portioned into four pieces
  • salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tomato, seeds removed and diced
  • 2 tablespoons pitted black olives, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chiffonade

Preheat oven to 350F. Peel garlic and slice thinly. Place in a small oven-proof pan and cover with a few tablespoons of the olive oil. Place in the oven and cook slowly until garlic is soft and starts to be translucent. Cool and reserve.

Melt butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy pan and medium-high heat. Season fish with salt and pepper, when butter is bubbling, place fish into pan and sear. Let a good crust form before you try to turn it. Cook only a few minutes on the second side, then remove from heat and let rest for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, place 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small, heavy sauce pan and heat. Add tomatoes and stir gently for about three minutes. Add olives and reserved confit garlic and heat thoroughly. Just before serving, add parsley and season to taste.

Place fish on a bed of rice, wilted beet greens or desired accompaniment. Top with concassé and drizzle with garlic oil. Enjoy!!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wild About Those Duck Eggs

Under the High Chair Travels: Northern British Columbia

I am back in my hometown for a few weeks of vacation and it’s been a highly anticipated change from the city. My mother raises ducks on my parent’s hobby farm and enjoys a wide range of benefits. The Khaki Campbell duck are great layers and my parents eat the large, beautiful duck eggs daily. It was easy to be inspired to make an omelet just by those large dark yolks.
We also had some Bolete mushrooms we had discovered on our walk the night before, and I was itching to sauté them up. Wild mushroom hunting has been a family passion as long as I can remember- I even used to sit and read our thick encyclopedia of wild mushooms as a kid and marvel at the countless varieties and beautiful colors.

Unfortunately, July is off season for some of B.C.’s more coveted mushrooms, like morels, pine mushrooms and chanterelles, but I was happy with my boletes. They made a tasty filling for my omelet.

Duck Egg Omelet with Boletes and Chives

Two duck eggs, lightly beaten

1 Bolete mushroom, or a handful of another variety, sliced

1 Tablespoon water

1/4 teaspoon salt

fresh ground pepper

1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped

1 teaspoon butter

In a bowl, beat eggs together with salt, pepper, chives and water. Heat a non-stick pan and melt butter then add mushrooms and saute lightly. Add egg mixute and cook over medium-low heat until firm. Fold over with a spatula and serve.

Serves two.

On the day we arrived, one mother duck had just hatched a batch of fifteen ducklings. When we peeked in on them, the mother made her disapproval known by hissing vehemently at us, but a few of the little fuzzy ducklings raised their heads to say hello. Bonjour!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wild Strawberries

Under the High Chair Travels: Northern British Columbia

My first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains from my seat at 35,000 feet always evokes deep emotion. It's a feeling of renewed wonder, childlike excitement, and a sense of homecoming so strong I have to duck my head to hide my tears. This quickening of my pulse and butterflies in my stomach almost make up for the last five hours of Noah using my face as a motorcross course, my thighs as a trampoline, and my clothes as sponges for juice. It's been a long flight and I am returning to my hometown in Northern British Columbia.
The Bulkley Valley is nestled between three major mountain ranges, has several rivers that divide the rolling farmland, and boasts clear blue, glacial-fed lakes. I could write a whole travel brochure on how picturesque it is and still never do it justice; however, I have traveled a lot and declare this some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever known.

My parents property is a magical, overgrown 23 acres tucked under the shadow of a huge mountain and near a private lake. The setting effortlessly encourages a reversion back to childhood; for who wants to do grown-up things when one can chase ducks, climb trees, catch minnows, gather flowers and pick berries?

Ah, the berries.

I had barely dropped my suitcase on the front porch before I was out in the hillsides, on hands and knees, picking wild strawberries. They were everywhere and they were big. The first taste brought back so many memories of being a little girl, when I would pick handful after handful and eat them all myself, my hands stained with the juice.

Wild strawberries can hardly be compared with domestic. They are intensely sweet, powerfully fragrant and so juicy it requires a delicate hand to gather them. They are probably among my top five favorite things to eat ever, and it's rare that I get a chance to eat a whole bowl of them.

So I had two.

There was even enough left over for Noah's cereal in the morning. How decadent!

We're off to a great start here in beautiful B.C.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

DIY: Garam Masala

It’s pouring rain outside and I am sipping hot spiced chai and enjoying the sumptuous aroma of a freshly made batch of garam masala. My house hasn’t smelt this good since a little village of scented candles I had in my fireplace caught fire and burned up in one glorious, scorching hot blaze.

I received Christmas early this year when my spice order from Philippe de Vienne arrived last week: vanilla beans, fenugreek leaves, tonka beans, coriander, and everything I needed to make garam masala. I use Vij’s recipe for this variable Indian spice blend and it includes cinnamon, black cardamom, cloves, cumin, mace and nutmeg. It’s an absolutely intoxicating combination, especially if fresh whole spices are used, and an integral part of Indian cuisine. I’m on a bit of an Indian kick these days and it’s possible I may soon be sharing some recipes that include garam masala.
So you may want to pick up the ingredients and make a batch of your own.

Your house will never smell the same...

Clockwise from top: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Black Cardamom, Cumin, Cloves, and Mace.

Garam Masala

1 heaping teaspoon whole cloves
1 ½ teaspoon black cardamom seeds (about 10 whole pods)
6 heaping tablespoons cumin seed
1 tablespoon pounded cinnamon sticks
¼ teaspoon ground mace
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a heavy-bottomed frying pan, heat cloves, black cardamom seeds, cumin, and cinnamon on medium to high heat, stirring constantly. When the cumin seeds become a darker shade of brown, remove from stove. Transfer the roasted spices to a bowl and cool for 20 minutes.
Place roasted spices, mace and nutmeg in a spice (or coffee) grinder and grind until the mixture has the consistency of store-bought ground black pepper. May be used right away. Will also keep in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Makes ¾ cup

Recipe courtesy of "Vij's Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine"

Ed Note: This is my one hundredth post. Yay! Cheers, everyone!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Eats at the Montreal Jazz Festival

The Montreal International Jazz Festival is in full swing in downtown Montreal and with over five hundred concerts booked and about 3,000 musicians in town, you would think that food would tend to take a back seat for a while…. except that this is one of the very few times of the year that the ban on street food is lifted and vendors are allowed to grill, steam, scoop and pour as much as they can sell. That’s big news, people! I hope all those individuals –you know who you are- who complain about no street food in Montreal, get down to the jazz fest site and eat their fill of hot-dogs.
This will be my eighth ‘fest and I have to admit that with the long line-ups; the high prices, and my own kitchen not far away, I rarely eat much on site. However, I do have one weakness and I admit I usually end up at one time or another at the Heineken tent for beer and fries...maybe even a poutine. It’s funny, because I rarely drink beer, but this is just something that has oddly become synonymous with the jazz festival for me. Go figure.
This year there are some great looking new eats, such as a Mexican stand that was selling some great looking tacos and enchiladas, and the usual eats like the creperie that always does brisk business. Of course, hot-dogs stands are prolific, and there’s always the Dairy Queen on the edge of the site to get your sugar fix.

So over the course of the eleven-day festival there will probably countless music reviews, but you can always count on Under the High Chair to bring you the really important information: food at the fest.

It’s my pleasure!

Monday, July 02, 2007

UtHC Travels: New York City

Our second attempt at a weekend getaway in New York City fared much better than our failed first attempt. Even up to the last minute, I didn’t get my hopes up and had resigned myself to the fact that anything could still interrupt our plans; but nothing did and I breather a sigh of relief when we finally arrived and I found myself sipping a Starbucks latte and being whisked up Central Park West in a taxi.

I found New York somewhat changed since my last visit in 2002. Could it be that New Yorkers are friendlier? We seemed to encounter people who were helpful, polite, and friendly at every turn. They seemed to have slowed down their pace a little too, it didn’t seem as frenzied, and maybe it’s just me, but are their families with young children everywhere? Maybe I was just missing Noah already.

One could spend a year in New York and still not have eaten at all its great restaurants. I decided to visit as few of the low-budget headliners and keep my fine dining fund for Montreal. I selected a few places based partly on word-of-mouth recommendations, partly from reviews on egullet, and partly--call me silly--because I wanted a bagel from the same place Meg Ryan ate one in “You’ve got Mail”.
They are among the most popular of New York eateries, but one must start somewhere and I had to see what all the fuss was about!

H&H Bagels

What a better way to fuel yourselves for a trip through the Metropolitan Museum of Art that a few bagels from this famous Upper West Side bagel shop. I tried to sample these bagels with an open mind and a conscience attempt to avoid the whole Montreal bagels versus New York bagel debate...but you, my readers, deserve to know the truth.
I know Yew Yorkers love their bagels and are fiercely loyal to them, but man, they don’t know what they are missing: ours are way, way better.
NY bagels reminded me of the ones I can buy in the bins at the grocery store, except they were fresh from the oven so they tasted a bit better. They were smooth as a baby’s bottom, sweet, soft-yet dense, and really, really big. Each bite seemed to stick halfway down my throat and when the entire thing finally did make way into my stomach, it set up shop. I started having mild cramping within half an hour and it felt like there was still a whole lot of yeast action going on down there. Now, I like to think I have a fairly strong stomach and healthy digestive system, but these bagels almost did me in. I didn’t pass anything for two days and that’s all I am going to say about that.


I love poking around gourmet grocery stores, but this time the people watching was almost more interesting than the label reading and cheese tasting. I felt very conscious that I was in the middle of the Upper West Side and I minded my manners. We had no problem selecting a number of delicacies for our picnic lunch in Central Park; we thought the prices were very reasonable, and the place utterly charming. I didn’t dare venture upstairs to the kitchenware department for fear of being tempted, but if you’re in the area and need to pick up a pepper mill or some flatware, be sure to check it out.

Katz’s Delicatessen

Think Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal with almost as much seating as an average food court and about as much atmosphere. After being given a ticket at the door, we were required to stand in three different lines to get our food: one for pastrami on rye, one for fries, and one for drinks. Oh, and there’s another line to pay when you are finished, as well. I don’t think one can compare Montreal smoked meat to New York pastrami and so I won’t. I believe our smoked meat is brined, which is why we found the pastrami to be dryer than we are used to…and almost chewy. It is cut much thicker as well, but we still enjoyed it and the whole experience. The staff was jovial and efficient, the crowds were colorful, and the fries were as thick as my thumb and piping hot. What can I say? We loved it for what it was: New York’s oldest deli, still swinging and slicing.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine

We tried two cupcakes at this casual, open kitchen, Lower East Side bakery: Lemon and Chocolate Almond. Very reasonably priced at $1.50, we had no problem agreeing that it was money well spent. While they were not the best I’ve had, the owners can certainly be proud that they are offering a product that tastes homemade and can compete with the best of New York’s cupcakes.

Lombardi’s Pizza

Apparently one of the oldest eateries in the city, their banner outside the restaurant boasts “best on the planet” and I won’t challenge that. It was certainly some of the best I have ever had. You can keep your deep dish, stuffed crust, extra toppings pizza, I like it thin and thin it was. We ordered the simplest kind, Margarita, a favorite of mine, consisting only of tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, fresh tomatoes, and pecorino cheese. I had no complaints! Pizzas are fired in an original coal oven, giving the crust a wonderful smoky, slightly charred flavor. Service was speedy and prices very reasonable. Little Italy may be shrinking, but they can be proud of this place.

In visiting these places, we barely scratch the surface of all there is to eat in New York City. I hope to return and sample some more soon!


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