Friday, February 25, 2011

JB and the Upstate Gang

JB + Fleisher's fig. a: good god!

It's true! Joshua "the MooRu" Applestone and the gang from Fleisher's will be here in Montreal joining forces with the JBs--Dave McMillan, Fred Morin, and the rest of the Joe Beef crew--to turn up the meat and bring you a night of grass-fed mayhem. Never had the considerable pleasure of visiting Fleisher's or trying their phenomenal line of pastured meats? I can't think of a better time or place.

who: Joe Beef + Fleisher's
what: feeding frenzy
where: Joe Beef, 2491 Notre Dame W.
when: Friday, March 4, 9:30 pm
why: imagine the possibilities

For more information or reservations, email joe beef at gmail dot com.


Friday, February 18, 2011

HotChocolate City

chicago + montreal fig. a: chicago + montreal

The 2011 edition of Festival Montréal en Lumière is officially underway, and we've decided to overlook the patronizing tone of this year's theme ("Celebrating Women"--"a food event with feminine flair!") because, quite frankly, we're excited. We've been griping about the shortage of women chefs at Montréal en Lumière for years, so it's kind of nice to see the tables turned for a change. But more importantly, the festival has managed to bring in some real superstars, like the festival's Honorary President, Anne-Sophie Pic, the 3-star chef of the legendary Maison Pic in the town Valence, in France's Northern Rhône region; Boston's Barbara Lynch (No. 9 Park, B & G Oysters, The Butcher Shop); New York's Anita Lo (Annisa); and San Francisco's Elizabeth Falkner (Orson, Citizen Cake).

Here at AEB, we're all fired-up because Restaurant Laloux is going to be hosting yet another hotshot: Chicago's Mindy Segal. Mindy has made her name first and foremost in the world of pastry. She worked in the pastry kitchens of some of America's top kitchens, including Wolfgang Puck's Spago, Michael Kornick's MK, and Charlie Trotter's namesake restaurant, and she's won numerous awards and accolades for her pastry expertise and has been a James Beard Award Oustanding Pastry Chef nominee four years running (!). But she also owns and operates her very own restaurant/dessert bar, HotChocolate, and there she directs the entire menu and has won nearly as much praise for her savory delights as for her now-legendary desserts. This is what you call a win-win situation. Michelle's thrilled because she'll be working with one of the very top pastry chefs in America. Seth is thrilled because he'll be working with one of Chicago's outstanding chefs. Actually, come to think of it, it's more like a win-win-win situation, because a whole slew of us will get a chance to experience this combo live and in-person next Monday and Tuesday.

I can't tell you much about the menu Mindy has devised for this special occasion--I'm sworn to secrecy--but I can tell you that she's coming to Montreal with a full bag of tricks and she's planning on using them.

Montréal en lumière, February 17-27

Mindy Segal @ Laloux, Monday, February 21 & Tuesday, February 22

HotChocolate, 1747 North Damen Ave., Chicago, IL, (773) 489-1747

 fig. b: Monago

Restaurant Laloux, 250 ave. des Pins E., 287-9127


p.s. Want to know more about Mindy Segal? Check out Ève Dumas' recent profile in La Presse.  Want to watch Mindy making monkey bread for Martha?*  Check it out.

* Say that five times fast.

Monday, February 14, 2011


winterlong fig. a: winter, long

We were already pretty ecstatic about our experiments with baking bread à la Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread. Actually, I should rephrase that: we were completely ecstatic and our experiments quickly developed into a full-fledged practice. We honestly didn't think we could be any happier with Robertson's no-knead sourdough bread, and then, all of a sudden, it happened: our loaves got even better.

This shift corresponded with a change in technology. Instead of baking our loaves exclusively in our trusty orange enameled Dutch oven, we took Robertson's advice and picked up a Lodge combo cooker, a 100% cast-iron combination Dutch oven & skillet. Not only does the combo cooker have a little more volume than our enameled Dutch oven (allowing your loaf to rise and expand fully without cooking against the wall), but it's designed so that either element--the shallow skillet or the deep pan--can act as the lid for the other. This means that you can gently place your shaped loaf into the shallow skillet without dropping it, or risk burning yourself in the process, and scoring your loaves immediately prior to baking them becomes a whole lot easier because the rim of the skillet is so much lower.

If you can't picture what I'm talking about, the Lodge combo cooker looks something like this:

lodge combo cooker 1 fig. b: combo cooker 1

lodge combo cooker 2 fig. c: combo cooker 2

And this is the way it appears in Tartine Bread:

combo cooker fig. d: combo cooker 3

Now, it's true that our loaves got better around the time that we started using the combo cooker, but they didn't get better because of the combo cooker. Over and over again in the pages of Tartine Bread, Robertson insists that it's not technology that makes the bread. You don't need a fancy oven. You don't need a professional mixer. Et cetera. A Dutch oven helps one simulate the conditions one finds in a professional bread-baking oven--it creates what Robertson calls "the two main characteristics of a professional brick oven: a sealed moist chamber and strong radiant heat"--but, ultimately, the secret to making great sourdough lies in two things: the baker's hands and the baker's skill in managing the fermentation process.

So, yes, the combo cooker made it a little easier to bake our loaves, it gave them a bit more room to grow when we did, and it helped produce an awful nice crust, but the sudden improvement in the quality of our loaves had more to do with other matters. It had to do with the fact that we'd gotten a little better at handling our dough and forming our loaves, but, more than anything, it had to do with our increased level of patience. As mentioned earlier, Robertson is terribly insistent that one take one's time with his process, that one give one's sourdough all the time it needs to ferment, mature, and build structure--and rightfully so. And we were patient--we generally took our time and didn't rush things. We learned to work the Tartine method into our schedules in such a way that we didn't cut corners.

But what only dawned on us slowly--a full 2 to 2 1/2 months into our love affair with Tartine Bread--was that it still wasn't enough, for one simple reason: we were baking our loaves in Montreal, not San Francisco, and it was mid-winter. Robertson describes the ideal environment for his bulk fermentation as being 78º - 82º F. He describes the ideal environment for his final rise as being 75º - 80º F. Well, you know what? It was nowhere near those conditions in our chilly Montreal apartment. I know there are probably plenty of Montreal homes out there that are overheated to semi-tropical, perhaps even tropical, extremes--where the room temperature, even in the depths of winter, might actually approach (or even surpass) 75º - 82º F--but AEB HQ ain't one of them. We try to shovel as little of our money into Hydro Québec's coffers as possible--and, besides, we like wearing sweaters and slippers during the winter.

Anyway, what we suddenly realized was that we weren't being patient enough. The conditions in our apartment weren't anything like those described by Robertson--therefore, we needed to give our poor sourdough loaves even more time to reach maturity. What was already a slow process--the very definition of "slow food"--needed to be slowed down further. Ironically, we found that this new super-slo-mo version of the Tartine Bread process was easier to fit into our schedules. Taking it easy--stretching the process our over a couple of days--actually made bread-making easier to manage. More importantly, our loaves seemed lighter, happier, more alive--just look at them:

new country 2 fig. e: new country 1

new country 2.2 fig. f: new country 2

As mentioned before, one of the chief strengths of Tartine Bread is the way it teaches you to really study the sourdough process, to be attentive, and to learn to think on one's feet and make necessary adjustments. The moral of the story? Who knows what challenges the other seasons will hold, but when it comes to baking sourdough at home in a nordic climate like Montreal's, winter = long.

wo, minou! fig. g: wo, minou!

Take your time. Brew a pot of tea. Read a book. Listen to some music. Enjoy the process.


p.s. Interested in getting your very own Lodge combo cooker? They're hard to find in Canada, but readily available in the United States. They're not very expensive, and they've got plenty of uses beyond baking bread. You can even find them on Amazon. For more information, check out the Lodge website.

p.s. 2: So far we've tackled: Basic Country Bread, Olive, Walnut, Polenta, Whole Wheat, Semolina, Country Rye, and Pizza. Next up: Baguettes and Enriched Breads.

p.s. 3: If you missed our original dissertation on Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread, you can find it here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Top Ten #39

1. Kaffeeklatsch #1

2. Destroyer, Kaputt (Merge) + "Kaputt"

3. tasting menu @ Lawrence + Domaine de la Roche Buissière Côtes du Rhône 2007 "Flonflons"

4. David Tanis, Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys + DIY pho

5. Metal Mountains, Golden Trees (Amish)

6. Les Plages d'Agnès, dir. Agnès Varda

7. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, dir. Frank Capra

8. Philip Roth, American Pastoral + Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio

9. Lapierre Morgon 2009 w/ David Tanis' roast pork menu (Saveur #88, November 2005)

10. Beat the Devil, dir. John Huston


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Trans-Europe Express

kugelhopf 2 fig. a: kugelhopf 1

It's been two days since the Kaffeeklatsch event at Laloux and we're still buzzing. We had a good feeling going into this--there seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm in the air leading up to Sunday. And with fresh snow on the ground, a bright sun in the sky, mild temperatures, and a star-studded lineup of Central European pastries ready to go, it really seemed like everything was falling into place. The Linzer cookies were finalized. The strudel dough was stretched, brushed with butter, gently folded over apples, rum-soaked raisins, and walnuts, and baked. Cookies and cakes were placed on display. Team Myriade fine-tuned their equipment and prepped their coffees. Team Laloux readied themselves for service. And by 1:45 (!), people started to show up--in numbers (!!). What was billed as a 2:00 - 5:00 affair turned into a 1:45 - 5:45 affair, but, more importantly, the atmosphere was positively electric. No one spontaneously burst into poetry the way Michelle had imagined, but she was treated to an impromptu poetry reading as she made the rounds (and she received another poem via email), and everywhere you looked people were klatsching it up and partaking in kaffee und kuchen as if they'd been doing it their entire lives.

kugelhopf 1 fig. b: kugelhopf 2

I was maybe not the most objective observer, but the combination of Michelle's cookies and pastries + Team Myriade's amazing brews + the charm and ambiance of Laloux's dining room on a bright winter's day was something to behold. And a lot of people I talked to seemed to feel similarly.

If you couldn't make it out on Sunday and you're having a hard time imagining what Kaffeeklatsch looked like, this should give you an idea:

petit fours fig. c: petit fours*

kugelhopf plate fig. d: kugelhopf plate**

strudel fig. e: strudel**

sachertorte fig. f: sachertorte mit schlag

michelle & co. fig. g: Michelle & co.**

And even if you did get a chance to attend, you might be curious to see what was going on behind the scenes. If you've never made a strudel, this is what the process looks like as the dough is stretched to the point of translucency, stuffed with the apple/raisin/nut filling, and folded.

strudel 1
strudel 2
strudel 3 figs. h, i, j: strudel 101

If all this sounds/looks like fun and you weren't able to make it, I can say with some degree of certainty that there will be repeat performances of Kaffeeklatsch in the future. We had too much fun for it to be otherwise--it would be a shame not to throw another one. Plus, we've got all kinds of ideas for future ones: readings, live music, films, etc. So stay tuned to " endless banquet" for news of future Kaffeeklatsch events (or, if you can prefer, you can join our new Kaffeeklatsch Mtl page on Facebook). We just need to figure out a schedule (monthly? bi-monthly? quarterly?).

I can also say that if you're interested in trying Michelle's sachertorte, she'll be offering this chocolate-apricot delicacy as the dessert du jour at Laloux all this week.

Lastly, thanks to Laloux for hosting, Team Myriade for kicking out the jams, and extra-special thanks to all of you who graced Kaffeeklatsch #1 with your presence and made the event a smash hit.


P.S. After all that coffee, after all the excitement, after listening to DJ Der Kommisar's Kaffeeklatsch Klub Mix for hours on end, we were jonesing for a classic Central European meal of some kind. Thing is, we were also exhausted, so when we got an invitation to a Super Bowl tacos night with some friends, we jumped at the opportunity, and it was just what the doctor ordered: overstuffed tacos, ice-cold beers, chips, football, Glee, and good times.

The next day that hankering hadn't subsided, though, and we still had a few pieces of Michelle's kugelhopf left over, so we did the only sensible thing: we baked some sourdough rye, whipped up some goulash, and invited some people over for a collaborative Hungarian feast, complete with cucumber salad, körözött júhtúró (an enchantingly umami-rich cheese spread), Hungarian freak-folk (Félix Lajkó!), Hungarian folk-metal (Vágtázó Halottkémek!), some simultaneous translation, and a trio of impressive Hungarian wines: a dry 2007 Tokaji Furmint, a 2007 Hunyadi Kéthely, made with the pinot noir-like kékfrankos (blaufrankish) grape, and 1996 Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos dessert wine.

après le déluge fig. k: après le déluge

Want to make your own goulash? You can find our AEB recipe here.

Curious about that cheese spread? Here's a recipe:

Körözött Júhtúró, a.k.a. Liptó Cheese Spread

1/2 pound Liptó sheep's milk cheese [this cheese is known as Liptauer in Austria, and Romanian/Slovak Brindza is an acceptable substitute--in Montreal, you can find it at select Central- and Eastern-Europe specialty food stores, like Slovenia (6424, rue Clark)]
1/4 pound lightly salted butter, softened
1 tsp Hungarian paprika [you can use either sweet or hot paprika--we opted for hot]
1/2 tsp prepared mustard [think Central European/German mustard]
1/2 tsp pounded caraway seeds
1 small onion, grated
1/2 tsp anchovy paste [we made our own using salt-packed anchovies]

garnishes: radish slices, green chiles, scallions

Sieve the cheese and mix it with softened butter and all other ingredients until the spread is light red in color and evenly mixed. Refrigerate.

Serve with slices of good, crusty bread, such as freshly baked sourdough rye, accompanied with garnishes.

Mystified by the anchovies? I was. Especially when our friend A. described this dish as something you might get served in the Hungarian countryside. When I asked him about the anchovies he had one word in reply: "Trieste." Of course.

Never tried a Hungarian wine? You can find all three of the wines mentioned above at the SAQ.

* l-r: rum balls, Linzer cookies, vanilla spritz cookies, hazelnut crescents

** very special thanks to EM for the additional photographs

Friday, February 04, 2011


Prague cupboard fig. a: cupboard, Prague

Those of you who've been reading " endless banquet" for a while know that our Czechoslovak roots run deep, which is one of the reasons Michelle's been busy organizing a real Central European kaffeeklatsch at Laloux, one inspired in large part by the cafés, coffeehouses, and kavárnas of Prague. You'll also know that we have a certain fascination with serendipity, so if it takes me a while to get to the 411, you'll excuse me.

So, let's see... Where to begin?

Well, I guess we'd have to start in California, last August.

Vladimir's fig. b: Vladimir's

We'd spent a particularly delightful day in western Marin County, north of San Francisco, swimming, eating oysters, daydreaming, and generally having a good time. Late that afternoon, we chanced upon a Czech pub in Inverness, CA called Vladimir's, and we decided that the only sensible thing to do was to stop in and have a pint. We figured that, at the very least, it was a great excuse to write some postcards to our Czech friends and family. So that's exactly what we did.

book barn fig. c: book barn

Five months later, we were visiting our friends in Upstate New York, and they, knowing our weaknesses all too well, took us to a truly fantastic second-hand bookstore. A book barn, actually. The Rodgers Book Barn of Hillsdale, NY. There, among numerous other treasures, Michelle came across a book titled Manka's Czech Cookbook and Memoirs by one Milan Prokupek, Sr.

Manka's fig. d: Manka's

She began to read the back cover and learned that the book recounts the story of Milan and Maria Prokupek, who left Czechoslovakia in 1948, moved to North America, and got involved in the restaurant business, first in Victoria, BC, and then in Inverness, CA. There they opened their second Manka's restaurant (the first had been in Victoria) and quickly became fixtures of the community. They eventually took over a second restaurant in Inverness--a pub called Drake's Arms--and when their daughter, Alena, and her Czech husband, Vladimir, decided they too wanted to get into the hospitality business, the spot was rechristened--you guessed it!--Vladimir's.

Milan fig. e: Milan

Anyway, this coincidence aside, Manka's Czech Cookbook and Memoirs is a classic of self-publishing (or, at least, a classic of the Central-European emigré memoirs/cookbooks sub-genre of self-publishing*). It's got a lot of heart and soul, and it's replete with authentic Czech recipes and a healthy dose of folk wisdom. Michelle instantly recognized it as a "must-have," and snapped it up. Among other things, she figured the book might come in handy as a source of inspiration for her upcoming Kaffeeklatsch event.

So when we got back to AEB HQ, here in Montreal, Michelle cracked her book open and instinctively turned to Chapter 13: "Manka's Desserts." And there, in the chapter's introduction, she found Mr. Prokupek's vivid reminiscences of café culture in his native land:

Vienna and Prague were always well known for their desserts--cakes filled with rich butter creams, pastry heaped and decorated with real whipped cream!

Also, Vienna and Prague were known for their beautiful ladies and girls living there. Their figures were attractive but a little thickish--they liked those Czech and Viennese pastries! Between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., you would find them, very nicely dressed, at small marble topped tables at the confectionaries gossiping with their female friends, and, with coffee, eating not one but two and three pieces of beautiful pastries.

The male white collar workers stopped in cafes after the end of work at 4:30 p.m., on the way home from their offices for dinner (which was usually served at 8 p.m.). They were large coffee houses on the main streets the size and luxury of large restaurants but serving only excellent coffee and pastries. The homeward bound people met their male friends there for light talk, a few new peppery anecdotes or a game of cards ("maryash")--and coffee and also the pastry. To those sitting alone, the waiter brought a pile of the daily papers or magazines from all over the world to read.

By 7 p.m., everybody had gone home for dinner. And after dinner time, the cafes again filled with young people singing and dancing to large orchestras.

Such were the places where the famous Vienna pastries were served and enjoyed...

Now, if that doesn't get you in the mood for Sunday's Kaffeeklatsch, maybe this profile in this week's Hour will.

café heinrich hof interior fig. f: strike a pose

Sunday, February 6
2:00 p.m - 5:00 p.m.
Restaurant Laloux
250, ave des Pins East

Michelle Marek, pastries
Anthony Benda, coffees

"Putting the Vienne back in Viennoiseries."

Hope to see you there! Don't forget to bring your peppery anecdotes!


p.s. Yes, we know Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. Don't worry--2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. is plenty of time to get your klatsch on** before kickoff.

* I mean, just check out the full title: Manka's Czech Cookbook and Memoirs, My Own Story and How My Mother Cooked in Prague and How We Cook Now in Inverness, California.

** TY, MS!