Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Le Garde-Manger Restaurant

Le Garde-Manger Restaurant
408, St-Francois-Xavier (Corner St-Paul)
Old Montreal

I was fascinated by this restaurant and admittedly by the restaurant's celebrity chef, Chuck Huges.

The restaurant looks cool, sounds cool and the chef has tattoos of his favorite foods!! Yeah! He's got lemon meringue pie on his arm!! That's my favorite dessert too!

Anyway, I was introduced to this restaurant because I was watching the food network (no kidding) and I stumbled upon this show called "Chuck's Day Off", which is filmed at the restaurant.  He makes great looking food seem so effortless to make. Doesn't hurt that he's kinda' cute too.  -That was it, after one show, I had to go to Le Garde-Manger.

It wasn't easy..for a party of 2 on a Saturday evening, we were looking at about a month long wait. That's crazy...I told the girl on the phone that I was flexible with the she said brightly, "OK! We have space in two Saturdays from now, at 10pm, at the bar"    Urrhhhhh!

I finally ended up going with my sister at some point, after collecting dust and cobwebs.

We were so excited, we loved the ambiance. We were seated right away and it didn't take us long to notice the great music playing. The restaurant's play list is awesome..We were singing along the whole evening - lots of older songs including Led Zep  - loved  it!

It seems to be a hot spot for the 5 a7 crowd. Very nice-looking patrons too, business people and some "city people" as I call was a healthy mix. The feel was vibrant and a little bohemian. I wanna say "shabby-chic" but don't know if its the appropriate term.

To start we, of course, tried the Lobster Poutine - so Quebecois and so good. The fries are similar to McDonald's in size, the gravy- a veal reduction sauce. They were very generous with the cheese and the lobster.  The lobster was so tender - no chewiness whatsoever. I cannot even describe how good this was- it rocked. We were fighting over the last bits. We also tried the tomato salad with avocado. When my sister proposed this..I thought it would be ordinary but these were the best, freshest tasting tomatoes ever :) They tasted as if they were straight from the garden. Besides that, there was such a great combo of flavors in this dish. We couldn't pin-point what it was that made this salad so special and the waiter suggested that its the dill  - "it makes all the difference".

For my main I chose the short rib, which was very tender, falling off the bone, saucy and so tasty
However, this is where the celebration and cart wheels ended. I found what I thought was a piece of clear plastic in my plate..I picked it up, examined it..I tried pulling it apart to see if it was a piece of onion. It wouldn't break.  In a braised meat dish, if it had been an onion , it would have fallen apart right away.
I told the waiter and he brought it back to the kitchen straight away..I could see right into the kitchen. (they have an open concept kitchen , which I like, where you can watch the crew of young and hip looking chefs do their thing. They wear a modern black "uniform", with caps rather than traditional chef headgear) Anyways....
I saw a group of them peering over my plate at the plastic/onion.  Minutes later the waiter returned without my plate and told me that it was an onion - for sure!  He asked if I wanted my plate this point I was a little turned off and said "no"  I was positive that it wasn't an onion. (for the record, my sister didn't think it was an onion either)..I was further turned off when they didn't even offer anything, not even a drink or at least ask me if I'd like to have something else. Maybe I shouldn't have expected anything, I don't know.
My sister had ordered the Bavette with fries. She found that the meat was tough and said it was mediocre at best. Too bad.

I did not try the fried Mars Bar but I hear its the best thing there..That, and the seafood platter.

I decided to give this place another chance, thinking that over all, I really had a good experience , except for that one little, itty-bitty incident. I'm a forgiving person. :) So, I went back with my fiance, Andre.

I told him we had to have the Lobster Poutine. Sadly it was a disappointment..the portion was smaller than the last time..not much of anything..lobster or cheese. He loved the tomato salad though, couldn't stop talking about how fresh the tomatoes freakin' tomatoes...the most consistant thing on the menu.

For Andre's main, I struck out once again. I told him to try the short-rib dish..sans plastic
It tasted flavor. I know that its common practice to boil ribs to tenderize them and then bake them, basting them with sauce. My guess here is that they boiled it but did not baste long enough..

For my main I had...hmmmm...I can't remember. That can't be good.

Unfortunately, the only way I'll go back at this point would be for a 5 a7 to enjoy the music and ambiance and I would share a bunch of the appetizers with friends. Hey, I still haven't tasted their famous seafood platter.

Hey Chuck! I hear you're never at the restaurant anymore - maybe you should be.

Sadly, I give this restaurant 2.5 stars, until Chef Chuck comes back to us.


Seriously, I see Chuck here, I see customers...when the heck was this taken??

The "I think I'm number 1" Carrot Cake

Hi Everyone!

I'd like to share my friend Marie's carrot cake recipe with you. I made it the other day and it was FANTASTIC!!

Here you go!

Carrot Cake 
Cake ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ cup oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 ¼ cup crushed pineapple (without the juice)

Icing ingredients:

2 cups icing sugar
½ cup soft butter or margarine
1 pqt. 125 g. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. 
In another bowl, mix oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla and beat until fluffy, aprox 5 min. 
Add carrots, nuts and pineapple. 
Incorporate the flour mixture in 3 times. Pour in a greased and floured rectangular mold of 9x13. Cook at 350 F for 55 to 60 minutes. (Or any mold you wish to use)

Filter icing sugar. Beat butter and cream cheese together and add vanilla. Add icing sugar gradually and beat until creamy. Spread on the cake.

I hope you enjoy this recipe.
For those who've tried my carrot cake, feel free to post your comments!  
Am I number 1 after all?? :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Rotisserie Chicken saved me! Quick Rotisserie Chicken salad with goat cheese and dried cranberries!

Did I ever tell you guys that the cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store has saved my life!? 

Ok, I'm being dramatic again..but it has saved me on days when I am tired and don't have the energy to cook something elaborate and it has probably saved my relationship on a few
I've made fajitas, tostadas and much more with it. You can make soup...the possibilities are endless.

Yesterday we made an amazing rotisserie chicken salad. Sounds BORING but its not. Its so good that you'll want to make sure that you get a little bit of every ingredient, in every bite!

Now, I know you guys are food lovers and have probably eaten it this way before but just in case, here goes!

Qtys: as much as you like! - just ensure there's a that one ingredient doesn't overpower the others.

-Your favorite olive oil and balsamic dressing + herb seasoning (oregano, for example)
-Arugula - torn
-Romaine - torn (or other favorite salad)
-Your favorite goat cheese - crumbled 
-A nice handful of dried cranberries

-Red Onion - thinly sliced .. (I use about half  or less than half of a large red onion depending on the size of the salad. You don't want the onion to be too overpowering).
-Rotisserie Chicken - mixture of white and brown meat cut into bite size peices (brown meat in this dish is a must for me) If you've ever had roasted quail salad or duck salad , you'll know what I mean. The texture and taste of the brown meat goes so well with the sweet flavor of the Cranberries)
-A handful of Walnuts or Pecans (Optional)

Its so good, peppery, sweet, salty..It has everything and it looks pretty too!

Enjoy with a fresh baguette!

Have I made you hungry again?? I do that.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

David's Delicious Duck Confit

Hi Vanilla-Beaners!!

I have a very exciting recipe for you today!

My friend and follower of Vanilla Bean, David , asked if I would be interested in posting his recipe on my blog. I said "Of course!" Although, I've never attempted cooking duck. He offered to cook it, take pictures and everything! I obviously agreed and I was honestly flattered.

So, Tuesday morning comes around and I had forgotten David's promise. Not only had he sent me the recipe and pics, he even gave me a SAMPLE!! I was totally over the moon! That evening, I followed his re-heating instructions, making sure to put it on broil at the very end to crisp up the skin. It was beautiful. I shared it with my family. My sister who really likes duck, said it was the best duck she's ever had! My father, who's never had tried it , really loved it. He was surprised at how great duck could be.

It was increadibly tasty, moist on the inside and crispy on the outside. David had said to me, "Make sure to try some of the fat! Its not like other animal fats- taste it." lol I guess he knows I'm squeamish about fat.
So I did try it, with some reservation, squinting my eyes, getting ready .....but he was right, its nothing like chicken fat or anything like that. It melts in your mouth and has a buttery texture. I never thought I'd feel this way about FAT! lol

The following is in David's words. I'm sure you'll enjoy reading this as much as I did.

(David)- First, you’ll need some basic ingredients like duck legs & duck fat. I always buy my legs directly at Le canard du Lac Brome in Knowlton (my brother lives in Granby). They have another store in Montreal, but they didn’t tell me if they sold legs in bulk (10 legs for roughly $35). You can also buy legs from “Les Champs d’Élisé”. The legs are bigger, the ducks there are “force-fed” since they produce Foie Gras. The legs can be had fresh or frozen. If the legs are frozen just let them thaw for a couple of days in the fridge.

The duck fat can be bought almost anywhere, here have 2 X 670g on right, the left container was left over from the previous batch. That’s the good thing, cooking a new batch of legs will give you more fat, and the fat can be reused.

First step is to rinse the legs. We are dealing with poultry, so we must be very careful not to cross-contaminate utensils and plates, and we must wash hands regularly !

OK, now time to prepare the rub … Just mix in a bowl:

· 4 tablespoons of sea/coarse salt

· 2 tablespoons of whole peppercorns

· 2 tablespoons of garlic (went the lazy way and took dehydrated this time)

· 2 tablespoons of rosemary (I was out, so I used herbes de Provence)

Like you can tell, you can improvise with this at will …

Then rub each leg with the mix and put in a container. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Good morning! This is what we look like after a day in salted rub ! The salt is going to “disgorge” the meat (removes water-don’t know if this is how you say it in English…). Obviously the mix provide all those yummy flavours too.
Time to rinse and pat the legs dry… We want to remove the salt mainly
Place the legs, meat side down/fat side up, in oven casserole dishes.
Now is time to use that fat … But we need to melt it first !
Then we pour the fat over the legs. There's no need to cover them completely, as long as the meaty part is submerged in the“juice”
Then, cook for 2 hours in the oven at low heat, say 250-275 degrees. We don’t want to boil the legs, just let them cook in the fat. The fat can simmer a little, but not boil.

And here is the final result:

Remove the legs from the pans, drain & filter the fat. Freeze it, you can reuse it for another batch, or you can also use it to replace butter in recipes (sautéed veggies in duck fat is HEAVENLY )

Besides, duck fat is a "good fat", much like olive oil. This lovely yellow oil is going to become white fand solid when cooled !
You can freeze the legs and eat them at a later date. Be sure to thaw them in the fridge - thawing them on the counter may promote bacteria growth and we wouldn't want that! 

To re-heat, just put them in the oven @ 350 for about 15-20 minutes, then broil them to make the skin crisp and yummy. And go ahead, you can eat some of the fat too…

You can serve them with veggies, rice (basmati is good) but also couscous, they go along with almost anything ! Mushroom risotto ?! Thank God my keyboard is drool-resistant !

You can also use the meat to make raviolis, dumplings, etc …

This dish comes from France’s Sud-Ouest (Périgord), so it is a natural match for the wines of that region… Madiran, Cahors, etc … But many full bodied red wines will do.

Stephanie's mention: Thank you David for being a follower of Vanilla Bean, for providing this wonderfully detailed post and of course, for giving me the opportunity to taste it!!!


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Featured Food: Cilantro

Featured Food : Cilantro – Parsley’s more interesting twin.

I've learned that quite a few of our Vanilla-Beaners aren't fans of Cilantro. What a cryin' shame

Cilantro looks exactly like Parsley except that its packed with flavor. Parsley is great too but can be a little bland.  I read somewhere that Cilantro's flavor is often simply described as "fresh" I'll also add that it has a smokeyness to it too. Its hard to describe.

Lovely Cilantro is most popular in Southwestern and Asian cuisines. I can't get enough of it..Cilantro milkshake anyone?? KIDDING! When you chop it, the smell makes your senses come alive! Try it, chop some, you'll see.
It adds that needed "je ne sais quoi" many dishes including Guacamole - (not  the armpit “je ne sais quoi” – that’s Cumin hehe - many people confuse Cilantro with Cumin because they, uh, both start with the letter "C" and are both common in Mexican cuisine but they could not be more different!!)

Its best eaten fresh, uncooked, chopped and added to a dish as garnish. Use it in tuna salad, in any mexican dish as garnish or top an asian stir-fry with it (with some sprinkled lime juice).

Fun fact : Cilantro is a member of the carrot family!

Health info and other facts

I've learned that Cilantro seems to have some very interesting, super health benefits. For example, it's been shown to rid the body and blood of excess metals including lead and aluminum. I don't know where we aquire lead....but I want it out!

It also helps the body beat and prevent many bacterial and viral infections!

Cilantro gets major recognition for diabetic support too. In fact, Cilantro is known in some parts of Europe as the "anti-diabetic plant." In parts of India, it is renowned for its anti-inflammatory benefits and in the United States it is said to lower cholesterol.

Also, a compound found within Cilantro is twice as effective as the commonly used antibiotic "Gentamicin" - which is used to kill the Salmonella bacteria! Yes, you read correctly!

Hang on!!.... there's more....
  • Helps improve digestion and intestinal discomfort ( relieves intestinal gas - woohoo! )
  • Helps treat symptoms of arthritis
  • Protection against urinary tract infections
  • Helps prevent and treat nausea - much like Ginger, which happens to be very good friends with Cilantro!  
  • A good source of dietary fiber
  • A good source of magnesium, and iron
  • Rich in phytonutrients and flavonoids (they help fight free radicals in the body - which means this herb has nutrients that help fight certain cancers)
  • Known to reduce excess mercury in the body  - now you can eat Tuna! In fact, eat tuna with cilantro!
Have a great day guys and please give this herb a chance!