edible adventures from the centre of the universe

26 February 2007

La Dame qui Déjeune

Last week, I found myself in la belle province for work -- Montreal, specifically. The trip started out not great, with a surly cab driver and a mix-up at my hotel, but once I got settled and ate some breakfast -- a flaky croissant with some delightfully rich and perfectly-cooked scrambled eggs (room service, yay!) -- all was well. With some time to kill before an evening meeting, I wandered down to Old Montreal to try a lunch déjeune spot that I had heard raves about: Olive et Gourmando. When I stepped into this tiny bakery-cafe after a long, trecherous walk in the cold (Montreal is slippery in February, yo), I was greeted by a friendly hostess who quickly sat me at the last empty table -- the place was packed! I was then directed to the back of the cafe to order off of the blackboard menu. Olive et Gourmando offers a number of hot and cold sandwiches, along with a few salads and soups. I was tempted by a yummy-sounding grilled goat cheese number, but I ended up selecting the Smoked Trout sandwich, and a Limonata to drink.

Settling in back at my table, I noticed how warm and cosy this little restaurant is. The front of the shop offers shelves of gourmet foodstuffs, and the cash register is surrounded by mountains of delicious-looking baked treats and fresh bread. It's a foodie paradise.

My sandwich arrived after no time at all, and I dug in. The most unique thing about this sandwich is the bread -- it's thick, chewy, and grilled, and strongly reminded me of one of my favourite flatbreads: naan. The charred flavour from the bread went nicely with the smokey trout, which was combined with tangy capers and sun-dried tomatoes. A layer of herbed cream cheese mellowed out the flavours to perfection. This was one badass sandwich. I found a recipe for it online, but if you're in Montreal I strongly recommend trying the original.

As I finished up my sandwich, the aforementioned treats near the cash register began calling my name. In particular, the little "exquisite brownies" had me drooling. I bought one to eat right away for dessert, and two to take home to Dave in Toronto. As I bit into my fudgy little piece of chocolatey heaven, I was struck by how well-balanced the flavours were. This brownie was not too sweet, with a deep chocolate flavour and a slight bitter edge from some espresso in the batter. Amazing. Apparently, the secret is Valhrona chocolate, and Dave was equally impressed when he received his Montreal souvenir.

Olive et Gourmando was definitely the highlight of my short Montreal trip (the lowlight: Chez Cora's, the French Denny's. Avoid Avoid. Avoid.). Next time I'm Frenching it up, Quebec style, I'm definitely going to make a point of going back to this perfect little bakery. You should too.

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18 February 2007


Just for fun, here are a few of my favourite things to eat in Toronto:

  • The fish sandwich from Jumbo Burgers
  • Paneer Makhani from North of Bombay
  • Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese custard tarts) from Nova Era
  • Olive Fougasse from ACE Bakery
  • Homemade iced tea from Cool Hand of Girl
  • Vegetable Thali and Rotty from Rashnaa
  • Mac and Cheese from Victory Cafe
  • Vegetable Tempura Maki from ASA Sushi
  • Falafel Dinner from Mr. Pita
  • Fresh pasta and sauce from St. Lawrence Market
  • Veggie "meat" products to cook at home from King's Cafe
  • Squash, Apple, and Caraway Soup from Silver Spoon
  • Shrimp, egg, and chive dumplings from Mother's Dumplings
  • Any seafood from Starfish Oyster Bar
  • Pretty much anything from Utopia Cafe
mmm...now I'm hungry!

17 February 2007

It is Easy Being Green

After my disappointing experiences with Young Thailand, I had a mean craving for some Thai green curry. Luckily, I have a great Asian market near my work with a large selection of unique veggies and other hard-to-find items. When I stopped in last week, there was an abundance of fresh baby bok choy and snake beans -- two of my favourite Asian vegetables! I grabbed some, along with green curry paste and deep-fried tofu, and headed home to whip up some delicious Thai stew. This dish is very versatile and easy to throw together -- use whatever veggies you like. The end result is sweet and spicy, with a touch of sourness from the lime, and the snake beans squeak when you bite into them! Dave mentioned that the leftovers were even better the next day. Enjoy!

Green Vegetable Curry

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
1 can coconut milk
2 tablespoons green curry paste
1-2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup water
6 baby bok choy, sliced into quarters
1/2 lb snake beans, chopped into 3-inch lengths
10 deep-fried tofu puffs
1 carrot, peeled and thickly sliced on the diagonal
2 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 fresh lime

1. Heat oil over medium in a large, deep skillet or pot. Add garlic and ginger, and cook for one minute, until fragrant. Spoon 1/2 cup of the thickened coconut cream off of the top of the coconut milk can (open it carefully, so the cream stays on top), and add it to the skillet with the green curry paste. Simmer until the coconut cream evaporates and you have a very thick paste, about 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add the remaining coconut milk, water, carrot, beans, tofu, and honey to the skillet, and salt to taste. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the bok choy, and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in the green onions, cilantro, and lime juice. Season to taste, and serve over freshly steamed jasmine rice.

Serves 3


09 February 2007

If you haven't seen it yet...

Here Anthony Bourdain hands out a well-deserved beating to the worst of the Food Network sock puppets. His comments on Rachael Ray are particularly scathing. Meow!

05 February 2007

Review: Young Thailand

Considering the prevalence of Thai food in Canada (and especially Toronto), it's difficult to imagine that, not long ago, there was only one Thai restaurant in the country. In 1980, Wandee Young opened the groundbreaking Young Thailand to a largely indifferent public -- the enterprise lasted less than a year, but helped give the exotic flavours of Thailand a foothold in the Canadian foodie consciousness. A decade later, Ms. Young again opened Young Thailand to a Canada that was ready to embrace this delicious cuisine. A while ago, I was happy to learn that Young Thailand has temporarily relocated to my neighborhood (2907 Dundas St. West) while its downtown location is renovated. Last week, Dave and I decided to try some takeout from this new spot to celebrate my birthday.

The menu at Young Thailand is extensive, although light on vegetarian dishes. To start, Dave and I ordered the Tofu Tod (deep-fried taro and tofu), For mains, we decided on Goong Kratiam (garlic pepper shrimp) and red curry vegetables with rice, and we rounded out the meal with Khao Nhew Mamuang (mango with sticky rice) for dessert. We were told to come by in 30 minutes to pick up the food.

When Dave got home with the takeout containers, I ripped into them eagerly. I was dissappointed to see that we had been given "mixed vegetables" instead of the red vegetable curry, as I had really been craving this dish. As well, the restaurant was out of the mango dessert, so we substituted Gluay tod (fried honey banana).

The taro and tofu appetizer was really interesting -- the taro was shredded and formed into little patties, then deep-fried, and the tofu was deep fried as-is, in little triangles. A delicious spicy dipping sauce was served on the side, and the subtle sweetness of the crispy taro patties matched well with the heat of the sauce. The tofu triangles were a little underwhelming, but I think anything would taste great paired with that tongue-tingling dipping sauce. The appetizer also came with a fresh mango slaw, whose sourness helped counteract the richness of the deep-fried bites.

Onto the mains! The shrimp, which also came with mango slaw, were coated in a spicy, garlicky sauce that had a nice depth of flavour. The mixed vegetables were served in a salty, soy-based sauce which tasted great soaked up by the fluffy jasmine rice. The veggies were very fresh, and had the perfect amount of crunch left in them. Although I missed the red curry, the mixed veggies were not a bad substitution.

Our dessert of fried banana had gotten a little soggy in the takeout container, so we crisped it in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes, and then drizzled the accompanying honey on top. It was exactly what you would expect from a fried banana -- the batter was pretty standard and the honey was just regular, old honey. This dish could have used some perking up, but it was tasty nonetheless.

After this birthday meal, Dave and I were completely stuffed and satisfied. I would rate Young Thailand's food well above your usual Thai takeout joints, but make sure to clarify your order so as to prevent mixups.

EDIT: So, we tried Young Thailand again and had further problems with order mixups (even after spending 10 minutes on the phone trying to explain our relatively simple order). Add to that some extremely ketchup-y and bland pad thai, and I will not be ordering take-out from Young Thailand again.

EDIT, TAKE TWO: I went to eat-in at Young Thailand tonight and had a very nice experience. The calamari appetizer is light and crispy, with a nice spicy flavour and a GREAT dipping sauce, and the warm glass noodle salad is delicious. Service was attentive and friendly, and they didn't screw up any of our orders. Despite their crappy take-out record with me, I would definitely recommend Young Thailand if you are eating in.

3 piglets out of 10 (take-out)
7 piglets out of 10 (eat-in)