1. NC BBQ pilgrimage
2. The Place Beyond the Pines (2012), dir. Cianfrance
3. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze (Matador)
4. Turner country hams, bacon, and ham sandwiches, Fulks Run, VA + Wade's Mill cornmeal & grits, Raphine, VA
5. The Central Park Five (2012), dir. Burns, Burns, and McMahon
6. earthen oven building class, Yestermorrow Design/Build School, Waitsfield, VT
7. real VA & NC peanuts
8. Tabloid (2010), dir. Morris
9. v/a, Delta Swamp Rock, vol. 2 (Soul Jazz)
10. Asheville, NC + Black Mountain, NC
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Saturday, May 18, 2013
fig. a: Hi! My name is Savouré
Hey! It's nice out there. You're out and about. And you're probably starting to get hungry, right? And maybe even a little thirsty...
Well, keep in mind that the Salon J'ai Faim is taking place this weekend, May 18 & 19th, in the basement of the Église Saint-Enfant-Jésus (5035 St-Dominique), at the corner of St-Joseph & St-Laurent.
You'll find many of our favourite Montreal food & drink people, including
Check 'em out! These sodas are truly amazing.
There's a price of admission to get into the Salon, but if you're smart you can opt for a ticket that comes with some delicious amuse-gueules.
Oh, by the way: the entertainment lasts from 11am - 6 pm both days.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
fig. a: Greek spring!
Team Foodlab & Team Oenopole are teaming up again to bring you another Greek extravaganza, featuring not one, not two, not three, but FOUR honest-to-goodness Greek wine producers
fig. b: Opa!
and a wide range of Greek delicacies, including
grilled Izmir-style kebab
fresh grilled flatbreads
fig. c: Foodlab + Oenopole
And, get this: you don't have to wait, because the festivities take place TONIGHT!
Wednesday, May 15
5pm till close
1201 boul. St-Laurent
It's official--Greek Spring has arrived!
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
fig. a: What? Chestnuts?
I've thought a lot about this map since the first time we posted it way back when.
I've thought about its telling aspects, like the Great Plains and (the absence of) bison. But I've also thought about some of its more mysterious elements--like the fact that "Corn Bread & BBQ" somehow excludes the entire state of North Carolina, and that most of Tar Heel State is said to be defined by "Chestnut" instead.
Of course both corn bread and barbecue are hotly divisive issues across much of America, but regardless how you feel about North Carolina corn bread and/or North Carolina barbecue, North Carolina's certainly got a pretty strong claim on both. After all, this is a state that people regularly claim has the strongest connection to the American barbecue tradition.* This is a state that when people talk about "the family tree of barbecue," and how it has spread all over the country--and, believe me, plenty of people do--many of them claim that "its deepest tap root" is right there, in North Carolina.**
This is also a state that's serious about its cornmeal and its corn bread. In fact, the North Carolina tradition is to serve barbecue with two principal accompaniments: cole slaw and some variation on corn bread, be it actual corn bread, cornpone, cornsticks, or, most commonly, hush puppies.
These people eat a lot of pork, much of it in the form of barbecue. They also consume great quantities of cornmeal, often with barbecue. If North Carolina isn't a part of Corn Bread & BBQ Nation, something's truly gone amiss.
Anyway, the point is that when I started to plan a short BBQ Odyssey a couple of weeks ago (more on this later), I got so excited I did two things. I fired up the smoker and made my first batch of 2013 season barbecue. And I broke out the cornmeal and made some real skillet corn bread.
I spent a good chunk of my life south of the Mason-Dixon line, but only just south of it, and our family was essentially a family of Northern Virginia carpetbaggers. I didn't grow up in a true Southern household. I don't have particularly deep ancestral ties to corn bread. (I've got maple syrup in my veins, not cornmeal.) But I do have deep personal ties to corn bread. Corn bread was just about the first thing that I started cooking when I was a kid. It was certainly the thing I was most excited to make for years.
The kind of corn bread I made for a long time was typical carpetbagger fare. It was the kind of corn bread that came all gussied up with too many eggs and too much sugar. The kind of corn bread I make these days is much more minimal. It's not sweet at all, and it's really all about the cornmeal. Which can be a difficult thing to find here in Maple Syrup Nation. I mean, it's not particularly difficult to find cornmeal, but it's exceedingly difficult to find the kind of cornmeal you need to make a true Southern-style corn bread. You need to keep your eyes open for real old-school, stone-ground cornmeal, especially when you're in the States, like the Old Wye Mill "Golden Run Yellow Cornmeal" you see below, or some brand of white "Old Virginia Style" cornmeal, depending on which side of the fence you're on.
fig. b: true cornmeal
It pays to be picky, because, again, with a true Southern corn bread, it's the cornmeal that's the star attraction, and a mediocre cornmeal results in an insipid corn bread.
I also used to bake my corn bread in a 9" x 9" baking dish, but I've long since preferred to bake it in a cast-iron skillet. There's something about the ritual of it. But for that you need a nicely seasoned skillet.
Otherwise, making a true Southern-style corn bread couldn't be easier. And once you've assembled necessary ingredients, the process is very fast, and very satisfying.
fig. c: true skillet corn bread
Skillet Corn Bread
4 oz. stone-ground cornmeal (this works out to about 1 cup, but I highly recommend weighing your cornmeal)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
3/4 cup buttermilk (preferably whole buttermilk)
1 tbsp peanut oil, bacon fat, or lard
special equipment: an 8-inch well-seasoned skillet
Preheat your oven to 425º. Measure the dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk them thoroughly to break up any lumps. Break the egg into a separate bowl and whisk it lightly. Add the buttermilk to the egg and whisk to blend.
Five minutes before you are read to bake your corn bread, add the fat to skillet and place it in the hot oven.
When four minutes have elapsed, add the egg and buttermilk blend to the dry ingredients, whisking just to blend (in other words, do not blend too much!). One minute later--at the 5-minute mark--take the skillet from the oven (remember, it will be HOT) and carefully swirl the fat around the bottom of the skillet and along the sides so that the skillet is evenly coated. Immediately pour the batter into the skillet, using a circular motion for even distribution. You'll notice that the batter sizzles and climbs up the sides of the skillet slightly. That's a good sign.
Return the skillet to the oven and bake the corn bread for about 20-25 minutes, until it is nicely set and golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and quickly, but confidently flip it out onto a cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve.
Makes one 8-inch corn bread.
[recipe from John "I know a thing or two about Corn Bread Nation" Thorne's Serious Pig [I've tried a lot of different recipes, but this is the one I go back to the most)]
Highly acceptable variation: w/ real smoked bacon bits (preferably from the strip/s you used to produce the necessary bacon fat).Now, this is an ideal corn bread to serve with all kinds of Southern fare, including barbecue, and I also like to serve it Southwestern fare, such as chili, but one of my favourite treats involves taking this thoroughly unsweet skillet corn bread straight out of the oven and piping hot and giving it a friendly shove in the sweet direction:
Cut a wedge. Slice the wedge in half to form a wedge-shaped sandwich. Pour some sorghum molasses inside. Close the sandwich. Pour a bit more sorghum molasses on top. Devour.***
It's kind of like a Southern-style treacle tart.
fig. d: skillet corn bread snack
It would be great with vanilla ice cream, too.
Hmm, might be time to bake another batch of corn bread...
* Jane and Michael Stern, for instance.
** Jim Auchmutey, of The Ultimate Barbecue Sauce Cookbook fame, has claimed this very thing.
*** If you don't have any sorghum molasses on hand, or don't care for the stuff, a quality honey makes for another delicious option.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Spring used to come in like a lion 'round these parts, but mostly it just arrives in fits and starts these days, feinting and dodging, teasing and mocking. Sure, you'll get some warm, toasty days every now and then, but there's sure to be a few bitterly cold days (and nights), too. And like our friend at the dépanneur down the street says, "You can't be sure of anything until May 15." And even then...
fig. a: printemps québécois
Anyway, signs of spring usually begin sometime in March in Montreal (like most places in the Northern Hemisphere), but, foodwise, it takes a while to see a whole lot of rebirth going on. With the exception of maple syrup, most of our spring flavours tend to show up in May and June.
Which is why snow crab is of such importance to people like us. Not only are we enormous fans of crabmeat, but snow crabs are one of the earliest spring arrivals, and snow crab season is really the only time of the year we can get fresh, live, and regional crab here in Montreal. Officially, the season is said to last from April to November, but our experience has been that in actual fact it's a very short season, lasting no more than about 6-8 weeks. But, oh, is it ever sweet. Or, at least, it can be. And it's going on now.
Just how excited about snow crab are we?
Well, Michelle and Seth have been preparing a lovely snow crab pasta dish as part of their Quebec Spring/Printemps québécois menu at the Foodlab. It features handmade/housemade tagliatelle cooked to perfection and tossed with a medley of spring vegetables (string beans, peas, shallots, and the first of the cherry tomatoes from our friends at Birri Brothers), herbs (chives and parsley), a generous helping of snow crab meat, and a beautiful crab cream.
And here at home we've been going to town on our very favourite tacos in the entire world: tacos stuffed with salpicón de jaiba.
fig. b & c: crab tacos!
We've featured this recipe before, but it's an absolutely essential one, and a great way to stretch your crabmeat a little further, because, god knows, those snow crabs are tasty, but they can also be quite costly. Here it is again, revised and updated:
Salpicón de Jaiba
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
2 serrano or jalapeño chiles, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup cooked, shredded crabmeat
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1/8-1/4 tsp crushed chili pepper blend (some combination of ancho, pasilla, arbol, chipotle, and/or New Mexico grande chiles)
salt to taste
Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the onion gently until translucent.
Add the celery and sauté for about one minute. Add the fresh chiles and sauté for 30-60 seconds.
Add the crabmeat and fry until it is warmed through and begins to brown ever so slightly. The mixture should be rather dry--remember, you're going to be placing it in a taco.
Lastly, take the mixture off the heat, add the cilantro, salt, and chili blend, and toss, allowing the flavours to mingle for a minute or two before serving.
Serve with hot tortillas and plenty of fixings, like pico de gallo, sour cream or crema, hot sauce, and limes.
Makes enough to fill at least 8-10 corn tortillas.
[based on a recipe from Diana Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico]Might seem a little strange to make Mexican tacos with Quebec crab, but, trust me, a little cultural exchange can be a good thing.
fig. d: Juan Carlos, the Mexican crab
fig. e: Jean-Charles, the Quebec snow crab
Go, Crabs, go!
Thursday, April 11, 2013
fig. a toaster, oats
It's funny that this is the last recipe to appear in the New Ways to Boost Your Grain Power series, because in many ways this was the recipe that got me started on this train of thought.
It all started back in about the spring of 2010. I'd been reading and re-reading issue #82 of The Art of Eating (Fall 2009) for a while, especially its cover story on new bistros and "the casualization of dining" in Paris ("New Ways to be a Restaurant in Paris," by Bénédict Beaugé and Edward Behr). I was fascinated by its description of the new crop of bistros and micro-bistros in Paris, and the way these restaurants were redefining the dining scene there: by making it less stuffy and more affordable, yes, but also by highlighting regional cuisines in a way that was helping to expand notions of bistro cuisine. And I studied the accompanying recipes closely. Very closely, in fact, because there was one recipe that I just couldn't wrap my head around.
It was a recipe for Haferflockensuppe from Nicholas Scheidt of L'Office, and it was billed as an Alsatian specialty. You see, I'd yet to Boost My Grain Power back then, and it literally took me weeks to decipher what I was reading. I couldn't figure out why this wouldn't just result in an unusually savoury bowl of oatmeal. Finally, after going back to that same recipe over and over and over again, it suddenly made sense to me. I had something of a "Eureka!" moment. It wasn't just an "oatmeal soup" (as a strict translation of the name would suggest), like every other recipe in this New Ways to Boost Your Grain Power series, the key had to do with the toasting of grains--in this case, the toasting of oats. You see, it may very well be that mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey, and that's all fine and good, but, here, it's very important that you begin this recipe with toasted oats.
With its combination of butter, bacon, oats, cognac, sour cream, and chicken stock, this might seem like kind of a wintery soup, and it is, but it's actually pretty ideal as an early spring soup, too, especially around here, where the fluctuations in temperature can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride (a cruel one) in March and April. You see, it's got some of the greens that you're craving, like chervil and spring onions, but it's also plenty hearty enough for an unseasonably brisk day. (In fact, tomorrow would be an ideal day for Haferflockensuppe--it's predicted that we're going to get 10-15 cm of snow [?!!].) And it's easy, too, once you have the necessary ingredients, including a good (homemade, preferably) chicken stock. You just have to take the time to carefully brown your oats to toasty, golden perfection, and everything else pretty well takes care of itself.
I offer you the recipe as it originally appeared in The Art of Eating. I've found that one can tone down the amount of butter and oil significantly, and still wind up with the desired richness of flavour. Everything else I'd keep exactly as is, although if you happen to have pumpernickel croutons around, instead of plain old country bread croutons, all the better.
75g oat flakes (3/8 cup)
100g butter (1/2 cup)
4 tsp veg oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 thick slice bacon, cut into lardons
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp cognac
1 litre chicken stock
salt and pepper
1 slice country bread, cut into croutons
chervil, 1 bunch, minced
spring onions, thinly sliced
4 tsp sour cream
Brown the oat flakes in half the butter and half the oil, with the garlic, bacon and bay leaves. Deglaze with the cognac, add stock and simmer 20 min. Remove the bay leaves and season to taste.
Pan fry the eggs (or poach them for a finer look and taste), season them, brown the croutons in the remaining oil and butter, and season.
Slide one egg in the bottom of each soup bowl (shallow ones make for a more dramatic presentation), pour some soup around it so the yolk still emerges, sprinkle with chervil, croutons, and spring onions. Finish with a dollop of sour cream.
Monday, April 01, 2013
figs. a-c: testing 1-2-3
Easter Monday. Tests on AEB's sourdough Danish pumpernickel are going exceedingly well. Great with sweet butter. Great with cream cheese and tomatoes. Great with Old Amsterdam aged Gouda. Testing continues. Desperately Seeking Smoked Fish.
News update: Michelle declared the following the "Best sandwich ever!": 2 x slices Danish pumpernickel, mayonnaise, Old Amsterdam, AEB spicy pickles, lettuce. I'm pretty sure she was exaggerating somewhat, but I know the feeling. Dense, moist, hearty with the taste of rye, crusty, somewhat salty, a touch sweet, and full of that wonderful toasted caraway flavour--this is a loaf that's got it all goin' on.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
fig. a: torte? Czech!
Michelle's new Czech Easter menu premieres tonight at the Foodlab.
It features this gorgeous new torte (walnut-plum) that Michelle invented.
They're also serving Czech-style bar snacks, and a tantalizing selection of Michelle's favourite Czech delicacies, including her Prague Spring salad, Poached Trout with caraway seeds, leeks, and butter-lemon sauce, and Beef Tenderloin with svickova sauce, dumplings, and lingonberry jam.
fig. b: Czech beer & sausages
Michelle will be making some Czech Easter treats in a couple of weeks, too, closer to the Big Day.
fig. c: Czech pastries
And they've got a selection of Czech beers on offer.
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
Have you heard the news?
Foodlab and our friends at Cult MTL are teaming up to present a very special night of aural and oral pleasures (so to speak).
fig. a: bouffe/bal
The occasion: the release of Cult MTL's eagerly anticipated March issue.
The location: the SAT's Foodlab. Saturday, March 9. 7:00 p.m.
The attractions: Foodlab, Nouveau Palais, Soupson, and Dispatch Coffee will be combining their considerable talents to produce a $25 4-course meal & The Suuns (the March issue's cover boys) will follow with a $5 DJ set to celebrate the release of their most recent record, Images du Futur. (Want to get yourself primed? Check out the entire album here.) But, get this: if you buy a ticket for that tasty 4-course meal, you'll be admitted into the dance party gratis.
fig. b: suuns/cult
Sounds awesome, right?
Oh, it will be. Just look at the menu.
fig. c: le menu
As Michelle is so fond of saying: bouffe!
fig. d: santé!
Interested? You can purchase tix here.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
1. Endless Boogie, Long Island (No Quarter)
2. Dead Man (1995), dir. Jarmusch
3. S.C. Gwynne, Empire of the Summer Moon
4. baked baby back ribs, AEB-style
5. Amour (2012), dir. Haneke
6. Yo La Tengo, Fade (Matador) + Yo La Tengo, Corona Theatre, Mtl, QC, Feb 11, 2013
7. Lareau Farm Inn + American Flatbread, Waitsfield, VT
8. Thai beef curry & Thai steamed fish à la Pok Pok + coconut rice
9. Mocky, Graveyard Novelas EP + Mocky "Make You Rich" video (featuring Hilary Gay & Pegasus Warning)
10. homemade congee (TY Danny Bowien!)