Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Good Eats in Montreal

Right before Blog Brulee, I spent a few days in Montreal with my mom. When she was in town a few months ago, Scott showed off pictures from his recent business trip there, and we both caught a little wanderlust to check the city out. After realizing it was just an hour and a half from Burlington, we decided to meet up there for a few days before Vermont.

Where to eat in Montreal Notre Dame
The city square in front of Notre Dame

We only had two days, but in the short time we were there, we got to see a fair bit of the city. Still, I'm itching to go back and explore some more. If I had to describe it, Montreal is like a love child between New York and Paris. I just loved walking the streets and hearing people speak in both English and French. It felt so familiar, yet foreign at the same time.

The first day we spent the morning exploring the Montreal Botanical Gardens. You could easily spend the entire day wandering through various gardens. Each one was so unique from the zen Japanese garden to the colorful, paper lantern decorated Chinese garden to my personal favorite, the edible garden stocked with every fruit, vegetable, grain and edible oil plant you could imagine. 

Afterwards, we walked around Old Montreal, the historic city center. With narrow, cobbled streets lined with art galleries, historic buildings and outdoor markets, I felt like we were in France! The highlight was the Notre Dame cathedral. Scott told me the interior took his breath away, that it was easily one of the top five most beautiful interiors he's ever seen. My reaction was the same.

The next day it poured all morning, so we were "forced" to spend the entire day indoors at the Musee Des Beaux Arts. The museum actually four museums - contemporary art, Canadian art, archeology and world cultures and decorative art and design - located in different buildings next to or across the street from each other. It was incredibly well curated, not overwhelming like so many other museums.

By mid-afternoon, the skies had cleared, so we walked around McGill University and the business district until gusts of wind so strong they almost knocked me off my feet came in.

Good Food in Montreal Old City
Walking around Old Notre Dame

The highlight of Montreal was the food. Seriously, it is foodie's paradise. They are all about haute cuisine. I splurged much more than usual (I've cooked only vegan meals since returning!), but it was definitely all worth it splurges. Here's a look at what we ate!

P.S. Sorry the pictures are so horrid. Not that I'm a master photographer or anything, but my poor little Olympus E-PL3 appears to be toast. As you can see, something's wrong with the exposure and focusing...any guesses since Olympus is yet to call me back? Or better yet, any camera repair shop recommendations in Columbia? Or best of all, any camera companies want to gift a new camera to a fledgling young blogger?? Hey, I tried!

Beaver Hall

Beaver Hall was recommended by our hotel, touted as being very local with their ingredients and dishes. It very much reminded me of a French steakhouse with both it's menu and atmosphere. I ordered a crispy duck confit over a bed of creamy cavatelli with a black garlic puree. My mom ordered pan roasted pike, a local fish, which was served with the most delicious aged cheddar and cauliflower cake.

Montreal Dining Beaver Hall Duck Confit Cavatelli

Marche De La Villette 
After we found a long wait at Olive et Gourmando, the restaurant Scott had recommended for our lunch, we walked across the street and stumbled upon this very cute French bistro and deli. With French accordion music playing and a counter stocked with terrines, sausages, and charcuterie, I kind of felt like I was at Epcot's Paris - but in a good way! I ordered a brie, apple and ham crepe, which was delicious, as all things smothered in brie cheese are. But as soon as I saw the massive nicoise salad, I was really not ordering it!

Dining in Old Montreal Marche de la Villette

Le Bremner 
Le Bremner is a tiny restaurant hidden away near Marche Bonsecours. I read a review on Yelp, where someone compared it to Cheers, and I think that's a perfect comparison. That is, if Cheers served top notch seafood and fancy cocktails. It had a really homey environment and kind of felt like everyone knew each other. My favorite dishes were the appetizers - spicy salmon tartare served with charred shishito peppers and thinly sliced porchetta topped with kimchi and crackling. For an entree, I ordered the whole roasted fish and vegetables. It was simple, but immaculately prepared with super crispy skin and creamy roasted vegetables. I could have eaten a whole plate of the eggplant - in fact, it inspired my eggplant jerky. We finished with their pancakes with Pimm's butter. I'm embarrassed to say, but after eating only healthy pancakes for the past few years, this dish was a reminder of how delicious the real deal can be...I just think I'll take a cue from Le Bremner and serve it for dessert!

Restaurants in Old Montreal Le Bremner Salmon Tartare

Best Food in Old Montreal Le Bremner Porchetta with Kimchi

Cafe des Beaux-Arts
We took a break from exploring the exhibits at the art museum to have lunch at their cafe. Frankly, it could have been another exhibit because the food was so beautifully presented. Desperately craving a vegetarian meal at this point, I ordered a wild mushroom flatbread, a slice of rustic toast smothered with roasted wild mushrooms, gruyere cheese, a soft boiled egg and served with a peppery arugula salad. My mom ordered the veal liver, crusted with mushrooms and walnuts and served with roasted cauliflower and the most gorgeous carrot puree. For dessert, we ordered a the chef's special, four small servings of dessert served in shot glasses - creme brulee, lemon pie, cheesecake with cardamon and a mini white Russian.

Musee des Beaux Arts Montreal Cafe Wild Mushroom Toast

Dining at Musee des Beaux Arts Montreal Liver

Dessert Plate at Cafe Musee Des Beaux Arts

Les Deux Singes De Montarvie
This meal was definitely the highlight of our trip. I fairly sure our entire conversation consisted of variations of the phrase "oh my God this is so good!" But seriously, oh my God it was so good. Like, one of the best meals I've ever had good. The combinations of flavors and textures were so incredible. I also loved that the kitchen was open, so you could see them preparing our food. First, we were served an amuse bouche of eggplant ravioli in a rich roasted tomato sauce. Then we split the scallop ceviche, hands down the best ceviche I've ever had. I would never think flavors like kiwi, ginger, fish sauce, black sesame and lime would work well together, let alone in a ceviche. For an entree, I ordered the bibimbap with BBQ duck confit, kimchi, parsnip puree and maitaki mushroom "noodles," while my mom had the black garlic and molasses glazed pork belly, served with butternut squash, pickled fennel, smoky asparagus and a housemade grainy mustard. It's funny, at first I considered ordering their vegetarian dish, a charred eggplant, cauliflower and shiitake salad with feta-sumac dressing, but because it sounded like something I could make at home, I passed. I won't say I regret it, because my dish was phenomenal, but after tasting their vegetables, I can't believe I thought I could actually replicate their food. With all the different components of our dishes, each bite was totally different, yet perfectly balanced. Although we were stuffed, we had to make room for their panna cotta, served with pistachios and melon. It had the lightest, milkiest flavor, yet was rich and creamy at the same time. If you decide to go, make sure you plan accordingly. Its a bit of a cab ride outside of the city (but worth it!) and they only have about 10 tables, so make sure you get a reservation.

Best Food Montreal Les Deux Singes de Montarvie

Montreal Les Deux Singes de Montarvie Scallop Ceviche

Montreal Les Deux Singes de Montarvie Duck Bibimbap

Best Food Montreal Pork Belly
Add caption

Montreal Dining Panna Cotta with Melon

Have you ever been to Montreal? Any other recommendations? 

Some more pictures of our trip:

Chinese Garden Montreal Botanical Garden
Chinese Garden at Jardin Botanique decorated with paper lantern boats

Jardin Botanique

Montreal Notre Dame
Interior of Notre Dame

Montreal Sailors Church
The name is totally escaping me but the church for the sailors

Streets Old Montreal
Old Montreal 

Painting at Musee des Beaux Arts
Painting at Musee des Beaux Arts

Hearts Musee des Beaux Arts Montreal
Musee des Beaux Arts. I heart Montreal! 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Curried Coconut Corn Chowder

Curried Coconut Corn Chowder

You know the five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance? I go through a similar reaction each year as summer fades to fall. I love colorful leaves, cooler temperatures and pumpkin as much as the next person, but I know fall means winter is rapidly approaching. In a few short months, I'll be miserably cold, the pretty leaves will all be gone and I will be more than happy to not see another poorly conceived pumpkin spice product for the next 365 days.

After going to Clemson for our football game this Saturday and seeing the sheer number of boots and Oktoberfest beers, I think I've finally reached the stage of acceptance. Although I've accepted it, that doesn't mean I'm happy about it. Come January, I know I'll be dreaming of beaches and sundresses and ripe tomatoes and corn.

vegan corn chowder with coconut

Each year, in anticipation of my summer vegetable cravings, I use the last of the summer produce to make big batches of soup and stews to freeze for the winter months. There's nothing better than a piping hot bowl of soup packed with the bright, fresh flavors of summer on a chilly winter day. Usually, it's a bit more of a chore, because every other year it's still 90 degrees around this time, and who wants to make soup in 90 degree weather? But with the drop in temperatures this year, I made this soup while wearing fleece-lined sweatpants!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Favorites 9/25/14

It's Friday, so you know what that means! Time for my favorite links from around the web. For more, hang out with me on twitter and facebook

Grain Free Almond Butter Pumpkin Bars (The Roasted Root) --> It's officially fall, so get ready for us food bloggers shoving everything pumpkin down your throat for the next three months. This pumpkin bar, made with pumpkin and almond butter, is my favorite of the new pumpkin releases. 

Vegan Chili Cheese Dip (Delicious Knowledge) --> Clemson tailgate crew, get ready for some cashew cheese on game day! 

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Thai Sauce (The Foodie Dietitian) --> I know everyone is geeking out about pumpkin, but Brussels sprouts are hands down my favorite fall veg. Sounds random, but they're especially delish with Asian flavors. Can't wait to try this version! 
Single-Serving Chocolate Caramel Stuffed Pumpkin Cookie (Yeah...Imma Eat That) --> Kylie, genius that she is, has created an entire ebook of single serving cookies. But for a recipe like this, I think I'll be multiplying for a big batch!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Easy Homemade Vegan Yogurt

easy homemade vegan yogurt

I've been asked more than a few times if I could ever go vegan. Considering over half the meals I cook are vegan, it wouldn't be a huge stretch. But honestly, I just love cheese too much. Cashew cheese is pretty fantastic, but it doesn't hold a candle to a slice of creamy camembert or a chunk of aged parmesan.

The other thing that would be difficult for me is yogurt. I don't have the same deep love for yogurt as I do cheese, but you can't beat it's convenience. I always keep small mason jars of my DIY flavored yogurt on hand for a grab and go snack. It's a nice little balanced package of fat, protein and carbs, the perfect snack to hold you over till your next meal. You say they make almond and coconut milk yogurt? Clearly you haven't tasted it because if you had, you wouldn't be bringing it up as an option.

mango macadamia nut vegan yogurt

At this point, hopefully we've established that nuts win the MVP award in any vegan kitchen. Soaked and blended, they can make everything from flavored nut milk to cheese sauce to taco filling. So lets go ahead and add yogurt to that list.

This vegan "yogurt" is a blend of fruit and soaked macadamia nuts, which add a creamy, almost milky texture. I mean, macadamia nuts taste like butter, and butter is dairy, and so is yogurt, so it kind of makes sense, right?