Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon: Part 2

...Continuing from Part 1.

Not everyone understands Martin Picard's food. It's bold and brash, gutsy--and sometimes even guts themselves. It's not for everyone.

Long ago I worked a shift at Au Pied du Cochon, back in my restaurant days and back when Martin called the tickets every night. It was one wild and crazy Saturday night where I was tossed into the pit, literally, to replace a friend who was sick (or something.)

It was brutal, wonderful, sweaty, faster-than-fast paced and completely intoxicating. I'll have to share the whole story sometime. Especially the part where a bell rang half-way through service and a waitstaff pointed at me and inquired

"What do you want?"
Let's just say there was no round of drinks mid-service at the place I usually worked.
But that's Martin Picard for you.

I may not understand his food completely, but I do know that I absolutely love to eat it, and so let's look at the second round of food we recently enjoyed at the Au Pied de Cochon sugar shack!

Piping hot and fluffy as can be, is an omelet, but not just any omelet. Inside is a layer of maple-smoked sturgeon and it is topped with braised pork shoulder and green onions. As you can imagine, it made for a pungent mouthful when coated with maple syrup and devoured.
I could have done without the fish, however the pork was fantastic.

This masterpiece was easily the most complex dish of the bunch. It is a whole cabbage stuffed with lobster, ground pork and, hidden deep in the center, molten foie gras.

Served on a bed of al dente lentils, this dish had me shaking my head with wonder at each bite. I've always loved the earthiness of cabbage, and it was a perfect match for the rich lobster, pork and foie.

Hat's off to the chef, for the cabbage was tender and yet the lobster was not over-cooked. That accomplishment alone left me scratching my head.

It's a bit ghastly to look at, save for the precarious lobster garnish, but the 'choux farci' was my favorite part of the meal.

Forgive me, but I didn't even taste the next dish: beef tongue with a celeric remoulade.
At this point I was staring down the lobster dish above, and marveling over it's complexities. The beef tongue was way down at the other end of the table--and who in their right mind is going to abandon a dish of lobster and foie gras for tongue??

This maple-glazed chicken received plenty of abuse from our food bloggers for being boring; however, I think that simplicity was part of it's charm. I quite enjoyed it, and found the delicious beans cooked with maple syrup and garnished with fresh parsley far outshone the bird.

Two thoughts on that one:
1.Yeah, it's chicken, surely a nice pintade or a couple of game hens would have been more fun.
2.I need to eat more beans.

Yours truly carving up the chicken for the table (and taking it very seriously, apparently).

The last element of our main course cause quite the frenzy in our food paparazzi when it was brought to the table:

This traditional Quebec toutiere was photographed from all angles for a good five minutes before getting sliced up and served with it's homemade tomato ketchup.

I have to draw on Mary Poppins for the praise of this dish, for it was indeed 'Practically perfect in every way'.

It will be difficult to enjoy another meat pie after having experienced this version; it a good thing I purchased one upon our departure and it's now stashed in my freezer.

I doubt it will last there very long.

Stay tuned for desserts! They are coming up next to conclude this series...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon: Part 1

I'd love to start this post with a brief introduction to who exactly Martin Picard is and why some 20 local food bloggers were freaking out over scoring a coveted reservation at his sugar shack, but I'm going to skip it and short track straight to the food.

Anyway, many of you have probably already heard of this Montreal chef and the restaurant where he hangs his apron, Au Pied de Cochon; although, come to think of it, I've never seen him in an apron.

It's not really Martin's style. This is more his thing:

Rustic entrance to the Cabane a Sucre

For reasons that will soon become apparent, my account of our outing to the sugar bush will be presented in three parts: appetizers, main course, and dessert, naturally.

The eating was seemingly endless....the photography documentation exceedingly extensive...all which makes the report expansive. Three posts it will be.

So let's get to it!

Au Pied de Cochon's Cabane a Sucre
Part 1: Appetizers

First up was a salad of fresh greens, walnuts, aged cheddar, and ham, topped with an mound of airy 'Oreilles de crisse' (deep-fried pork rinds). One could hardly call the rinds a garnish, as they equaled the greens in volume, but when all the elements were assembled, the salad made for a very tasty and well-balanced mouthful.

The salmon gravlax was well executed, but a tad boring--and I was wishing for some crostini to drape the silky fish over.

Toast or bread of any sort would have also been welcomed to accompany the following dish: 'Cretons'.

A spiced ground pork spread, this traditional French-Canadian breakfast staple may look like cat food, but I can assure you it is delicious when it is prepared properly.

I thoroughly enjoyed APDC's version, toast or no toast.

Which brings us to the first item I did not enjoy: barbecued chicken feet.
I attacked the spindly claws before any other dish, as I couldn't imagine trying them cold, but even piping hot, crispy and lacquered with a succulent maple glaze, I could not, WOULD not, eat more than one bite.

Non merci.

A quick word on service: excellent.

As I've experienced long waits at the mothership APDC, I didn't have high hopes for the sugar shack. I was pleasantly surprised by the prompt service, smart servers and general attention we received.
Granted, we were a group of 25 foodies/food bloggers. Perhaps that helped. We made quite a scene with our cameras. Good grief. The Cameras.

I was all over this split pea soup with it's earthy chucks of ham and nuggets of foie gras. I doused mine in maple syrup and was completely happy.

These nondescript buckwheat pancakes were alone worth the trek up north, but then I'm a bit of a pancake fiend, as we all know.

Although they were wrapped inconspicuously in a warm towel, they didn't last long around me. Each one was dipped in pure maple syrup and eaten in two bites. Delish.

To be continued...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Foodie Facebook: Elizabeth

Today I'm very happy to welcome Elizabeth from the gorgeous Guilty Kitchen for our regular Foodie Facebook interview series.

Liz and I have plenty in common. We're both:

  • British Columbia girls (yes, I was once, long ago)
  • Young mothers (she's expecting her second baby in June)
  • Food bloggers (that one's pretty obvious)
  • Former professional chefs (turned WAHM's)
  • Writers for Simple Bites (she contributes monthly)
  • Lovers of fresh seasonal food (as well as heaps of butter and cream)
Thank goodness we met on Twitter ages ago!

Name: Elizabeth Nyland
Place: Just Outside Victoria, BC
Occupation: Stay at Home Mom and food Blogger Extraordinaire

What is your earliest childhood food memory?

My earliest good child food memory has to be Christmas. At my house, there was scores and scores of food out on every available surface from morning to evening. There were mandarins, nuts, cheeses and meats, smoked oysters, chocolate mints, Turtles. You name it; it was there for your enjoyment.

Let’s face it, I like to eat and Christmas was the perfect excuse for all of us. My Mother and I would spend the day cooking dinner and by dinnertime, we were exhausted but happy. I loved every minute of it.

What did you eat today?

Being pregnant with my second child, I am very conscious of the food that enters my body. This morning, I had fruit, yogurt and bran flakes with a nice cup of coffee.

Lunch was a spinach and turkey bacon wrap (whole wheat) with avocado and tomatoes.

Dinner was a bed of Quinoa, simmered in chicken broth and herbs with a spinach, goat feta and sun dried tomato stuffed Portobello mushroom all lovingly served on top of a pool of my own tomato sauce. Delicious and healthy! I snacked on cottage cheese and the leftovers from my son’s meals (every mother’s guilty pleasure!)

What will your kids never be allowed to eat?

So far, it is fast food. Our 2 year old son has never been to a fast food restaurant, save for a cookie or two at a coffee shop. We don’t go ourselves, so we don’t encourage that behaviour. I’m not saying he’s never had fries, but he doesn’t really like them anyway. I have always been pretty against fast food restaurants, so I will stave off his eating there for as long as possible.

What do you always have on hand in your fridge?

Oh, a lot of things. Here’s a small list:
Dijon mustard, Fish sauce, Cream, lemons and limes, yogurt, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, Avocados, eggs, real mayonnaise, buttermilk and when I was not pregnant we always had white wine or vermouth.

What is your beverage of choice?

I will always say a nice bottle of white wine, but now that I am pregnant, I drink mostly water and natural sparkling spring water with a squeeze of lemon or lime. Sometimes I add a teaspoon of Ribena. Remember that stuff?

If you could have dinner with anyone in the history of man, who would it be?

I’ve been reading Jeffrey Steingarten’s “The Man Who Ate Everything” so he immediately comes to mind as a very interesting food personality I would love to have dinner with.

Outside of the food world, I think I would really like to talk to George Orwell. He seems like such an interesting historical figure, and I love his novels.

OK, it’s your last meal ever, what do you have?

I hate to be cliché, but I think there is a reason so many people list off similar items. To start, I would have my mother’s fantastic Caesar salad with homemade sourdough croutons.

Then for the entrée I’d go for a fantastic plate of hand cut kennebec fries, dipped in old fashioned full-fat mayo, served alongside a full steamed Dungeness crab with drawn butter and garlic AND a nicely grilled porterhouse steak (rare of course) with blue cheese and caramelized onion sauce poured over top. I won’t be needing those arteries anymore!

For dessert I would go for death by chocolate please! A wonderfully moist dark chocolate mocha cake, drenched in ganache and a lush mocha frosting dotted with coffee bean bits.

If I am allowed a beverage, I will go for a Grey Goose vodka martini with lots of vermouth and olives. I’m full just thinking about it.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Elizabeth!

You can follow Guilty Kitchen on Twitter and be sure to check out Elizabeth's post today on Simple Bites! She shares a killer recipe for buttermilk chicken strips that is guaranteed to please the whole family.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Our Week

Well, we're no closer to eating our way through all the left-over ice cream, because, wouldn't you know it, this whole week was spent in the hospital.

UtHC life was put on hold when we took 2 year-old Mateo to emergency Sunday morning. Five days later, after x-rays, an ultrasound, CT scan and emergency surgery for him, we are HOME.

Oh, there was also a lot of prune cocktail served up too.

I now know words like 'Otolaryngology' and 'Retropharyngeal', and learned a few more things, which I share below just because.

Since this is a food blog, I won't discuss in detail Mateo's condition, but if you are a parent with a child under 5, I recommend you at least skim read this article that gives specifics.

I'm sure you would agree it's better to be informed....and not completely surprised, as I was, that a stiff neck could prove to be a life-threatening medical situation.

So nope, no recipe this week. My fridge is in a terrible state (as are the houseplants.) Instead, I leave you with the ramblings of a sleep-deprived mind, which I won't be at all offended if you skip altogether.

  • Mateo owes a lot to the team at the MCH, but my freezer stash of Chocolate-Chip Chili may have saved my life. It certainly was the best thing I ate over the past 5 days.
  • There are still plenty of good people in this world. I'm thinking in particular of the gift-shop saleslady who gave me diapers when I had no cash on me, yet a -ahem- reoccurring sticky situation in Mateo's pants.
  • Be thankful for those hospital delays, because I've discovered the pace tends to really pick up when a little life is threatened.
  • Librarians are pretty rad, especially the sleepy ones who unlock the computer room after hours so you can email loved ones news of an emergency surgery.
  • We don't watch hardly any TV (and no cable), so an intense sledge hockey match in this year's Paralympics, watched in the middle of the night, under highly stressful conditions, by two exhausted individuals, can be a tad surreal.
  • Nurses rule. Especially the good ones named Joanna.
  • Hospital food isn't even worth a line of space on this blog.
  • Clowns just aren't cool. Can't some hunky firemen drop by to visit the children instead? Or Mounties, or something else?

Thanks to those who stopped by the hospital and brought support (and goodies). Also thank you to those who lovingly looked after Noah the whole time. You know who you are and we are grateful.

We hope to be back to regular programming on UtHC soon; but in the meantime, visit Simple Bites for my 4-Ingredient Tomato Sauce recipe and 10 suggestions for easy meals to make with it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dark Chocolate Caramel Sauce

Click photo to enlarge; do not lick the screen.

It never fails to happen that I entertain guests and forget to serve a dish. Be it a topping, a salad, a finale - something often gets left out.

I probably jinxed myself, when on the day of Mateo's birthday (and the receiving of 40 - yes, FORTY- guests into our home), I said to Danny.
"Remind me to serve the ice cream with the cake. Let's not forget the ice cream."
Yeah, I probably don't have to tell you that the birthday cake was enjoyed sans ice cream. Of course I forgot it in the general mayhem of things and there was enough sweets so the ice cream wasn't missed.

It wasn't until about eleven at night, when we were watching the Olympic closing ceremonies and relaxing with some wine dregs, that we looked at each other and said

"The ice cream!"

Not that there is anything wrong with leftover ice cream, it's just that I had bought So. Much. of it.

Fortunately, I was receiving guests three more times that week (it's kind of an open door around here) and figured I could use up the ice cream that way.

Still, I can't serve just ice cream to guests; that kind of makes me squirm. It's an accompaniment to a dessert, but I didn't have time to make one. I needed a topping.

A quick poll of my Tweeps put me in touch with this recipe faster than you can say 'Sundae'. Robin from Hippo Flambe sent me her caramel chocolate sauce, advising me to 'forget hot fudge sauce' and try her recipe instead.

I'm glad I did, because it's pretty sweeeet. I ate so much of it with a spoon, it's a wonder there was any left for our banana splits that night. It leaves regular chocolate sauce way behind with it's multi-levels of flavor from caramelized sugar and a touch of salt.

You must try this sauce - for ice cream, waffles, crepes, or just drizzled over poached pears.

Head over to Robin's site Hippo Flambe to get the Joy of Cooking recipe for Dark Chocolate Caramel Sauce.

You'll be glad you did, ice cream or no ice cream.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Pancakes, Grilled Cheese & More: Three Recipes for a Snow Day

I'm writing about my favorite eats today on Simple Bites: comfort food.

I'm sharing Three Easy Recipes For a Snow Day, or any stormy weather day, for that matter!

From my post:

"What is the best way to spend a snow day? Around here we head straight to the kitchen, P.J.’s and all.

A snow day calls for comfort food, with recipes simple enough that the children can get involved.

It is an ideal opportunity to teach your little ones that cooking can be more than a chore, it can be fun. There is no rush, no place to go, and anyway–the car is snowed in!..."

Head HERE to read the rest of the post and print up three of my favorite recipes.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

10 Things that make me happy--and some awards

There's nothing like a bout of sickness to make one acutely aware of what really matters in life.

We tend to take our health for granted-until we get sick, that is, and then we're begging to be able to enjoy life's little pleasures. Recently flattened by a vicious bout of stomach flu, I had plenty of time to reflect while lying in bed on what really makes me happy.

Thanks to Lynn from Cookie Baker Lynn who passed along this award recently and named Under the High Chair a blog that makes her happy. Yay!

For this award we are supposed to list 10 things that make us happy and then give the award to ten bloggers who brighten our day.

Ten Things That Make Me Happy

1. My boys.
2. A good book. Currently reading: A Homemade Life by Molly Wisenberg, The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher, Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (with Noah).

3. Entertaining.

4. My kitchen. Everything about it, from the view out the windows to its entertainment-friendly layout.

5. Enjoying nature and passing my love for it onto my children.

6. My faith.

7. Coffee.

8. Raucous ultra-competitive game nights with friends--usually Agricola or Settlers of Catan.

9. Travel.

10. Connecting with family-over coffee, around the table, over the phone or online. Always with good food involved...

OK, so we're supposed to pass the award along to ten bloggers that make us happy. Easier said than done, as I have so many favorites, and ten is just not enough.
Regardless, here are ten who I am passing this award onto and you should check out:

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Snow Picnic Cookies at Your Request

Your response to my Wordless Wednesday: Snow Picnic post was great. It was a good time! Since then, I've had several requests for the cookie recipe (not mine) and so here you go.

It comes from my dear friend, Tavia, who's girls are in the photos with my Noah. She's about the coolest mama out there--and a good friend too; she never fails to show up with a batch of still warm cookies.

We're still enjoying snow around our place, and if you stopped by for hot cocoa, it would be topped with homemade marshmallows. Have you tried making them yet?

Tavia's Chocolate Chip Cookies with Skor Bits

1 cup soy margarine (may substitute regular or butter)
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 pkg chocolate chips (Tavia: sometimes I use semi-sweet, sometimes milk chocolate, or even white)
2/3 pkg Skor bits (Tavia: sometimes I crush up skor bars instead but they are more crunchy then)
2 cups oatmeal

Cream the margarine and sugars. Add eggs and beat well. Add vanilla. Sift flour, salt and soda and add to creamed mixture. Mix in oatmeal and add chocolate chips and Skor bits.

This is a drop cookie and bakes for about 9-12 minutes at 350F

Enjoy !

Oh Hey! Any picky eaters around your table? I addressed this issue over at Simple Bites this week in The Picky Eater and Me: A Survival Guide. Included are 8 survival tips for coping with picky eaters, plus a recipe.

If you haven't already, be sure to head over and read it. Don't skip the comments, either, for Simple Bites readers share a wealth of wisdom on the topic.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin