Sunday, December 31, 2006

Out With 2006, With Love (rev. ed.)

Drum roll, please.


Bill Buford, Heat and "Talking Turkey," The New Yorker
Ralph Rummey, The Consul
Richard Olney, The French Menu Cookbook

j. thorne and m.l. thorne, pot on the fire fig. a: Pot On The Fire

John Thorne and Matt Lewis Thorne, Pot On The Fire
Michael Ondaatje, The Conversations
Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, Tartine
Edward A. Bunyard, The Anatomy of Dessert
Martin Picard & co., Au Pied de Cochon: The Album
Tom Bissell, "The Secret Mainstream: Contemplating the Mirages of Werner Herzog," Harper's
A.J. Downing, Fruit and Fruit Trees of America
Jeff Cox, "Olympia Oysters," The Art of Eating
Anya von Bremzen, The New Spanish Table
Karel Čapek, The Gardener's Year
Calvin Trillin, "Alice, Off the Page," The New Yorker
Pete Wells, "The World's Best Chocolate," Food & Wine
Rowan Jacobsen, "A Taste By Any Other Name: Umami Comes West," The Art of Eating
Tad Friend, "The Playhouse," The New Yorker
Bob Sloan, "Mario's Excellent Adventure," Gourmet
Edward Behr, "Questioning Myself," The Art of Eating
Beverley Nichols, Down the Kitchen Sink
Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia
Bill Wasik, "My Crowd," Harper's


Joanna Newsom, Ys
Bill Fay Group, Tomorrow Tomorrow and Tomorrow
v/a, Love is Love
Washington Phillips, What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?
v/a, Last Kind Words
Vashti Bunyan, live at La Tulipe
Ratatat, "Wildcat"
Johnny Cash, American V: A Hundred Highways
Luiz Bonfá, Solo in Rio, 1959
Destroyer, Destroyer's Rubies
v/a, And to the Disciples That Remain

bonnie 'prince' billy, the letting go fig. b: The Letting Go

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, The Letting Go
Blind Blake, Rope Stretchin' Blues
Pavement, Wowee Zowee! (Sordid Sentinels edition)
v/a, Big Apple Rappin': The Early Days of Hip-Hop Culture in New York City
The Kinks, Muswell Hillbillies and Village Green Preservation Society
v/a, Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk and Reggae 1967-1979
Stuart A. Staples, Leaving Songs, Lucky Dog Recordings 03-04, and live at La Sala Rossa
Brightblack Morning Light, s/t
P.G. Six, Music From The Sherman Box Series and Other Works
The Modern Lovers, Precise Modern Lovers Order

Moving Images:

The Queen, Frears
Broken Flowers, Jarmusch
The New World, Malick
Kings of the Sky, Stratman
Le Samourai and Un Flic, Melville
Caché, Haneke
Grizzly Man, Lessons of Darkness and The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner, Herzog

sheila sim fig. c: Sheila Sim in A Canterbury Tale

A Canterbury Tale, Powell and Pressburger
Vernon, Florida, Morris
Little Miss Sunshine, Dayton and Faris
The Departed, Scorsese
Volver, Almadovar
Chain, Cohen
Trouble in Paradise and Ninotchka, Lubitsch
The French Chef (feat. Julia Child)
The Wire (season 3)


Ange & Ricky
M Sur Masson
Bombay Choupati
Mister Spicee
Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar (Toronto)
Randy's Bakery (Toronto)
Chick & Ruth's (Annapolis, MD)
Ocean Odyssey (Cambridge, MD)
Momofuku (NYC)
Rai Rai Ken (NYC)
Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies (NYC)
Franny's (NYC)


making fresh pasta
Cosse Maisonneuve, La Fage, Cahors 2002
Saturday-afternoon bread
1-qt bean pot
homemade gravlax
12-gauge chili
LeNell's Ltd. (NYC)
Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon Whiskey
Roquefort Baragnaude
MO-style ribs
Au Pied de Cochon: The Album launch lunch and launch party
Darjeeling Samabeong DJ-1
Abner Bauman summer sausage
The Murray Bay
Pear Mostarda
BLiS Bourbon Barrel Matured Organic Maple Syrup
Blackberry Acid
puerco asado a la Cubana
Huguenot Torte
Muscat honey
our Le Creuset tea pot (not because it's a Le Creuset necessarily, more because of its classic styling, its classic size (6+ cups), and the fact that it actually pours nicely)
Carolina-style pulled pork sandwiches
finishing Clarissa before the year is out


R.W. Apple, Jr.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

At last!

Assuming you even found your way to this hidden corner of lower Ahuntsic, sandwiched as it is by the Autoroute Metropolitaine and the CP Rail's tracks, it would be easy to miss Poissoneries Carolli amidst the Carosseries Klassics and other semi-industrial enterprises that occupy this fringe area of the Garment District. You might very well notice Poissonneries Carolli's huge sign, its Greek fishing boat that it has parked out front, and maybe even its washed-out coral reef picture window,

Coralli, ext.

but you'd have to be paying attention to know that this place had a retail operation and was open to the public. Otherwise you might just assume that Poissoneries Carolli was just some wholesale enterprise, distribution house, or seafood brokerage like some of the other tenants at 8955 Meilleur Street: Caspian Seafood, European Lobster, and the Canadian Acadian Lobster Company. Enter Poissonneries Carolli, however, and this is what you'd find:

Coralli, int.

Not only is their fish selection great, but their quality is extremely high and their prices are very competitive. We've been checking out some of the city's wholesale/retail seafood establishments for some time now in search of a real fish market, and to date Poissonneries Carolli is the finest we've found. The whole fish selection is everything you'd expect from a premium Greek-owned fish market, so is the quality of their squid and octopus, but you'll also find great deals on lobster and oysters, excellent house-smoked smoked salmon, an impressive selection of salt-packed anchovies (which are otherwise hard to find in Montreal), even live turtles for those with a hankering for turtle soup. We were blown away, but not too blown away to make a few purchases for the weekend, including some cherrystone clams, which we promptly transformed into exactly the kind of linguine with clam sauce meal that we'd been craving for months.

linguine with clam sauce

Linguine With Red Clam Sauce (for two)

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peelend and chopped
1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley, trimmed and chopped
16 cherrystone clams, scrubbed
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp cognac or good-quality brandy
1 cup good quality tomato sauce, preferably homemade
salt to taste
1/2 lb linguine, cooked according to directions on box

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or medium pot over medium-high heat, add the garlic and the parsley and sauté for one minute. Add clams, cover, and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and the cognac or brandy and cook, uncovered, until the alcohol (not the liquid) has evaporated, about 2-3 minutes. Cover and continue cooking, shaking the saucepan from time to time, until the clams open, about 3 minutes more. Discard any clams that don't open. Uncover and allow the liquid to reduce slightly, another 3 minutes or so. Add the tomato sauce, stir, and bring the mixture to temperature. Adjust the seasoning.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain in a colander but do not rinse. Add pasta to the saucepan with the clams, reduce the heat to medium-low, and mix well. Garnish with extra parsley, if you like.

Serve with a good, crusty bread, preferably a sourdough loaf, so that you can sop up all that amazing sauce, and a nice leafy salad.

Poissonneries Carolli, 8955 Meilleur Street, 381-5623

[many thanks to one of our loyal readers for tipping us off]


Friday, December 29, 2006

2006, The Year of the BBQ Finale: Cuban Holiday BBQ

pig A to M fig. a: can you locate the pork shoulder?

The first time I ever heard about lechón asado was back in the early '90s when I was living in London. One of my closest friends at the time was a fellow US expat from Miami, and while her father was a Rhode Islander of Irish stock, many of his best friends down in Hialeah were Cuban and over the years he'd been initiated in the ritual of lechón asado. Evidently, he'd been well taught, because the former pupil had eventually managed to become the recognized master within his particular community. Come Christmas and New Year's--the two traditional dates for Cuban lechón asado--he was in high demand. Hire him and you'd get the full treatment--from the pig farm to the table.

Go to Miami over the holidays, make your way to Little Havana or any of the other neighborhoods in the region were Cubans are prevalent, and you'll smell the the distinctive smell of lechón asado being slow-cooked on Christmas Eve (a.k.a. Nochebuena) and New Year's Eve: the fires, the roasted banana leaves, the pork, the pungent marinade. By now I'm sure there are countless variations when it comes to preparing lechón asado (including ones involving the so-called China Box, that secret weapon in the Cuban barbecue arsenal), but the basic method is a pit barbecue method involving marinating a suckling pig (hence the name lechón, which is derived from leche, the Spanish for milk) for 24 hours in a Cuban adobo sauce (in this case, a sour orange and garlic-based marinade), digging a pit in your backyard, layering the pit with banana leaves, placing the pig in the pit, covering the pit with a sheet of steel, building a fire on top of the steel sheet, and then roasting the pig in the pit for the better part of a day. Gather your friends, drink your choice of beer and rum-based drinks liberally, listen to good music, perhaps do a little dance, and generally have yourself a swell time. Sound like fun? It is. The pig turns out great, too. Tender, juicy, and impossibly flavorful on the inside, crispy on the outside, it’s absolutely irresistible when dressed with Cuban mojo (which, it must be noted, is pronounced “mo ho” not “mo jo” outside of the blues idiom).

Now, 2006 had been somewhat of a Year of the BBQ around here, as those of you who've been following this year's activities are probably aware of. Sometime in November I started fixating on lechón asado, planning the event that would bring Year of the BBQ to a close. And while I was sure that "Grandpa," our landlord, would never in a million years let us dig a pit in his beautiful garden downstairs, I had visions of picking up an actual suckling pig and developing some kind of alternate roasting method that would remain as true to the original as possible. I eventually scrapped the idea of buying an actual suckling pig altogether primarily because of the cost. What I did instead was go back to our old friend the pork shoulder and try a variation on lechón asado, one that could more rightly be called puerco asado a la Cubana (or something to that effect). Sure, it wasn't going to turn out nearly as dramatically as a suckling pig and I was going to have to do without the pleasures of that crispy skin, but I was positive that the marinade + that pork shoulder was going to make for some awfully fine pulled pork, and I was excited about working with banana leaves, too, to lend some traditional lechón asado-like fragrance.

Thai frozen banana leaves fig. b: Thai frozen banana leaves

Together with that traditional adobo and the distinctive notes imparted by the Mexican oregano (not to mention the traditional pit barbecue technique), it’s the banana leaves which help distinguish Cuban lechón asado from other forms of pork barbecue, Caribbean or otherwise. Here, the type of wood that’s burned plays a relatively insignificant part (unlike Jamaican and most American styles of barbecue). And that’s one of the reasons I felt comfortable working on an oven version.

Once I’d gotten myself some Mexican oregano and some banana leaves—you'll find them both at Jean-Talon Market, the former at Olives et Épices, the latter at La Dépense—I looked around for sour oranges (a.k.a. naranja agria). Clearly, sour oranges must be readily available somewhere to the south of us, but I struck out here in Montreal. Apparently, you can find Caribbean-style sour oranges in some of the city’s Latino grocery stores from time to time, but I opted to use lime juice and a combination of lime juice and orange juice instead for my adobo and mojo. Not quite the same thing, but perfectly acceptable in a pinch.

The only other thing I needed to attend to was the pork shoulder. Here, I went to Vito and special-ordered my cut, opting for a half a pork shoulder because I wasn’t planning on feeding the multitudes on this occasion. The next day I was good to go.

Puerco Asado a la Cubana

1/2 bone-in pork shoulder, roughly 5kg (or 1 whole fresh ham of a similar weight)
1/2 package frozen banana leaves

adobo marinade:
2 heads garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground bay leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups sour orange juice or lime juice
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 large onions, sliced thin
fresh coriander (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Put the garlic, the salt, the oregano, the cumin, the pepper, the bay leaves, and the olive oil in a food processor or blender and puree. Add 1 cup sour orange or lime juice and mix. Rub this mixture all over the pork shoulder. Place the pork in a large, sturdy plastic bag with the remaining sour orange juice or lime juice, the sherry, and the onions. Marinate the pork overnight, turning it on several occasions to marinate the meat evenly.

The next day, preheat your oven to 300º F. If you’ve bought frozen banana leaves, thaw them out gently (and if you’ve left the thawing to the last minute, you can speed up the process a little bit by placing them in the oven for a few minutes, like I did). Once the banana leaves are thawed, carefully pull them apart, keeping them in one piece if you can. Line an oversized roasting pan with a healthy length of aluminum foil. Line the aluminum foil with a couple of large banana leaves. Take the pork out of the marinade-filled plastic bag, and gently place it on the banana leaves. Wrap the pork shoulder entirely with the banana leaves then wrap the banana leaf-enveloped pork shoulder with the aluminum foil, making sure to make a tightly sealed package. Fill the roasting pan with a couple of inches of water, making sure to keep the water line below the point where your aluminum foil envelope is sealed. Place the roasting pan in the oven and roast the pork for 8 hours, checking on the water level from time to time and replenishing if necessary.

The pork should have an internal temperature of well over 160º F when fully cooked. Cubans like their pork well done, about 180º F. The pork should be somewhere in between after your 8-hour cooking time.

Shred your pork and season it lightly with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that you’ll be finishing the pulled pork with the mojo momentarily.

Serve with Portuguese buns, black beans and rice, some kind of salad, like a simple carrot/lime juice/scallions/cilantro salad (our personal favorite with this meal), and plenty of mojo.

mojo sauce:
1/2 cup olive oil
8 large garlic cloves, finely minced
2/3 cup fresh sour orange juice or 1/2 cup fresh lime juice + 3 tbsp fresh orange juice
1/2 cup water
salt to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground Mexican oregano
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and a pale golden brown, being careful not to let it become brown, at which point it will begin to turn bitter.

Stir in the lime juice, water, cumin, Mexican oregano, salt, and pepper, and be prepared for the sauce to sputter a bit. Bring the sauce to a rolling boil. Turn the heat off and correct the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce cool to room temperature, then stir in the cilantro.

Serve the mojo in a jar, a bottle, or out of a bowl with a serving spoon. Shake or mix well before serving.

[both recipes adapted from the work of Steve Raichlen]

We didn’t actually make this meal for Christmas Eve, we made it for Boxing Day instead, further breaking with tradition, but it makes for a fantastic holiday meal (even from this home version you can understand why Cubans are as passionate about lechón asado as Americans are about Thanksgiving turkey), and it would make for a fantastic New Year’s Eve feast. It also made for a pretty amazing breakfast the following morning with some eggs over-easy, some more black beans, some hot sauce, and some good strong coffee.



Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day Special: The Gloves Are Off!

the gloves are off!

No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more Ms. Nice Gal.

We've had a bit of a reputation for focusing on the positive as we've scoured Montreal's culinary landscape. A well-deserved one. It's not that we're the biggest, most shameless boosters or anything. Anyone who knows us, knows that we're prone to launch into the occasional rant (okay, more than occasional, just today the sight of what had become of the former Simcha's set us both on a 20-minute tirade), but our feeling has always been that if you love something (metro areas included) you've got to be willing to be critical, to point out deficiencies, to show that you care about how and where things are going. When it comes to " endless banquet," though, our reportage on Montreal has tended to be upbeat because we don't really enjoy having mediocre meals or getting taken for a ride. And it's not like we get paid to do what we do, so we've felt no real duty to prowl around town unmasking charlatans. That said, in spite of the impression the pages of " endless banquet" might give off, it's not like the life of an endless banqueteer is 100% charmed and we're really not all that nicey-nice. With this in mind, we've decided to drop the gloves, for once, and give a few Montreal establishments the sound drubbing they deserve. So without any further ado, here, in no particular order, are a few joints that you will never find on our Top Ten. In fact, together they comprise some kind of anti-Top Ten, a motley crew so bad there's actually eleven entries.

1. F & F, 163 Bernard W.--God knows this city could use some help in the pizza department. Okay, fine, now we've got Bottega as a new benchmark, but don't we deserve a full-scale pizza revival? Haven't we suffered long enough? When F & F set up shop on Bernard earlier this year, we thought, "Hmm, not exactly our style, but it could be promising. I mean, they're obviously going for something young, fresh, and boutique-y." So we gave them a ring and experienced a pizza that had all the charm and character of a 99-cent slice at $16-a-pie. Actually, it tasted worse than a 99-cent slice, because at least a 99-cent slice isn't pretentious enough to advertise "wild mushrooms."

2. Bouchon de Liège, 8497 St-Dominique--We'd heard promising things about Bouchon de Liège. Some kind of connection to the legendary La Chronique. Bistro fare. Reasonable prices. Our meal had its moments, but on the whole was pretty erratic and wildly overpriced (not that there's a right price for bad food). Then we got our dessert, which was the single worst dessert we've ever tasted in a Montreal restaurant (right up there with the bocconcini-chocolate fiasco we once had at a potluck). The rice in the rice pudding was so undercooked, the overall effect so sadistic, I began to wonder if the chef had apprenticed in a V.C. prisoner of war camp.

3. Binerie Mont Royal, 367 Mont-Royal E.--Yes, it's an institution and its interior is a true Montreal classic, virtually unchanged since its mid-20th century heyday. Problem is, they've also gotten some new management over the last couple of years. And my first experience of the "new, improved" Binerie was dismal. We're talking the very worst beans I've ever had in my life, hard (?), oily (?), and absolutely tasteless (??). Where I come from, there's no excuse for canned beans, but, good god, I'd take canned beans over the garbage I was served at Binerie any day.

4. Maison du Cari, 6892 Victoria Ave.--Another Montreal institution, another major disappointment. We wanted to love this Trini roti joint--we'd heard nothing but good things, and we love Trinidadian cuisine. Unfortunately, our first roti was so underwhelming (frozen vegetable mix?), we ordered a second one (processed chicken?). It wasn't all bad, but we'd never consider going back.

5. Pagel, 231 Rue St-Viateur and 7115 Rue St. Urbain in Montreal, and 3535 Autoroute Laval W. in Laval--This one's not even worth mentioning it's so bad, except that people continue to keep these bandits in business in spite of repeated crimes against pâtisserie, including people we know (which means that we tend to encounter boxes of Pagel's 100%-butter-free, trans-fat heavy "delicacies" at potlucks every now and then). Stop the madness.

6. Lester's, 1057 Bernard W.--Lester's is another puzzler. Who are these people that continue to claim that Lester's has the best smoked meat in town? I'll never understand it. (I'm shaking my head in disgust as I write this.) Come to think of it, they tend to be the same people who prefer St.-Viateur Bagels over Fairmount Bagels.

7. La Shangrila, 200 25th Ave., Lachine--Also, not worth mentioning, really, in this case because it's so off the beaten path. Except that some critics have lavished such praise on this Nepali/Italian (we kid you not) resto that it's prompted people like us on occasion (one was all it took) to convince one of our motor vehicle-owning friends to embark on an odyssey to darkest Lachine only to be punished with one of the worst meals we've ever had the displeasure to encounter.

8. Chocolantara, 263 Mont-Royal E.--As Michelle put it: "The only time my gag reflex kicked in after biting into a chocolate."

9. Senzala, 177 Bernard W. and 4218 De la Roche--I guess that Brazilian thing still has just enough cachet to carry this place because they continue to pack people in for brunches that can only be described as bunk. Not terrible, really, but this place is hugely overrated, their service so stoned out of its mind, it makes you want to run screaming.

10. Cremerie Mile End, 5443 Parc Ave., and D'une Glace a L'autre, Bernard W.--"Artisanal ice cream comes to Mile End." Yeah, right. I've got no problem with the occasional trash ice cream cone, but selling trash as artisanal ice cream at artisanal prices? The one and only time we went to Cremerie Mile End was the first time I'd ever thrown out an ice cream cone two bites in. Then we went to D'une Glace à L'Autre. Godawful.

And last, but certainly not least,

11. Garde Manger, 408 Saint François Xavier--What can you say about a place that's willing to try and pawn off a $4.99 Loblaw's pecan pie as one of their homemade, made-by-the-chef's-beloved-mother $7/slice pies to a birthday party that had special-ordered the homemade pie days in advance? As John Lydon once put it in an entirely different context: "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

Okay, now that we've gotten that out of our system, onto bigger and better things...


Monday, December 25, 2006

Veselé Vánoce!

xmas! fig. a: do not try this at home

We here at " endless banquet" would like to remind you to cook sensibly this holiday season, no matter how much egg nog you've managed to down.

Thanks to all of you who made contributions to Menu for Hope III and congratulations to Pim on yet another enormous triumph (final tally: $58,321.70!).

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, season's greetings and all the rest of that jazz.

More importantly, eat, drink, and be merry.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Top Ten #15


1. Joanna Newsom, Ys
2. The Queen, dir. Stephen Frears
3. Bottega Pizzeria

dneska varim ja

4. Jitka Bodlakova, Dneska Varim Ja
5. Bill Fay Group, Tomorrow Tomorrow and Tomorrow
6. Bill Buford, Heat
7. Caffè Della Posta
8. V/A, Love is Love (R&B, Highlife, and Dry Guitar Music from Africa)

this is what it is like to be like this

9. Stephen Ellwood, This Is What It Is Like To Be Like This
10. Rum Punch & Milk Punch


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

" endless banquet" holiday bash 2006

xmas decorations, 2006 fig. a: xmas decorations à la AEB

After skipping a year and taking some time to regroup, the " endless banquet" almost-annual holiday bash was back with a vengeance last Sunday, bigger and better than ever before. We tossed around literally dozens of party themes, including everything from the exotic to the mundane, before finally settling on one that would simultaneously satisfy Michelle's ongoing yuletide Anglophilia as well as my yearnings for something rum-soaked and Caribbean. The idea was to turn the Ploughman's Lunch, complete with glazed ham, an assortment of cheeses, and a dizzying array of homemade chutneys and pickles, into the centerpiece for a cocktail party, and then further tease out the Anglo-Caribbean vibe with a couple of rum punches.

We put out some freshly cut spruce branches and decorated our hearty rosemary bush and the bright red branches we picked up at Jean-Talon Market, but otherwise kept the Christmas decorations minimal. Just the odd clove-studded orange here and there, and a few candles.

mexican chocolate cookies fig. b: Mexican chocolate cookies, clove-studded oranges

As our first guests arrived, we were just finishing laying out the spread:

glazed ham (two years ago, either because we didn't have any of our own marmalade on hand or because we'd decided not to use our private stock to glaze a ham, we can't remember which, we used commercial marmalade in the glazing of our ham--this time around we used Michelle's mineola marmalade and the results were stupendous--the moral: like most other similar situations, the better the marmalade, the better the ham)

an assortment of cheeses: a huge block of 2-year old raw milk Quebec cheddar, a lovely hunk of Stilton, and a wedge of le Maréchal

condiments: dill pickles, bread & butter pickles, mustard pickles, pickled red onions, pickles sour cherries, pickled prunes, oignons confits, golden pear chutney, Camilla's peach chutney, devil chutney. In fact, there were so many bowls of condiments out on the table, we had to create little signs for each of them to help our guests navigate the selection.

bread: we'd bought a couple of nice rustic loaves from Le Fromentier and some baguettes from Première Moisson, but they all got shoved aside pretty quickly because we got showered with a selection of the most beautiful freshly baked loaves of bread you've ever seen by a couple of our talented guests, including a phenomenal fig-anise number.

potato salad: a variation on Julia Child's classic French Potato Salad with refreshing slices of fennel added.

punches: we made two house punches, both culled from an article in the most recent issue Saveur on the rum of Martinique: a sort of planter's punch made with black tea, lime juice, and dark rum that was served on ice, and a milk punch--a lighter, more delicately flavored sibling of egg nog--that was served hot.

desserts: Mexican chocolate cookies, mincemeat tartlets, panforte (fresh from a sold-out performance at the Souk@SAT sale), plus some beautiful Caribbean-themed macarons, with a rum and spice ganache, that another one of our generous guests brought.

In fact, the generosity of our guests was quite something else. People brought beautiful bottles of wine--red, white, and sparkling--imported beers of all kinds, home-brewed liqueurs, desserts and baked goods, gifts--even an Amish sausage. That's right. I'd casually mentioned to a temporarily Kingston, ON-based friend of ours that there was fine Amish sausage (unusually smoky, unusually addictive) to be had there, and--lo and behold--a few weeks later he turned up at our holiday bash with an entire Abner Bauman original "summer sausage."

abner bauman in the house fig. c: Abner Bauman summer sausage

Hell, I got so excited, I held my trophy aloft and went barreling into the packed kitchen to a thunderous volley of whoops and cheers. No one reacted quickly enough to snap off a photograph at the time, but we here at " endless banquet" managed to re-enact the moment just to give you, dear readers, a sense of the electricity that was coursing through the air as it became apparent that Abner Bauman was in the house.

we'd like to thank abner bauman for coming by tonight fig. d: Abner Bauman in the house! (note: re-enactment)

So you wanna be a yuletide star? These might come in handy.

Martinican Rum Punch

Fill a medium freezerproof bowl with water and freeze it. Make 6 cups of strong black tea using 6 tea bags and 6 cups of water. While the tea is still hot, add 1 1/2 cups of demerara sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves, then refrigerate. Once the tea mixture is cool, put it in a punch bowl and add 1 1/2 cups of fresh lime juice and 2 750-ml bottles of dark Martinican rum, such as St. James. Stir well and refrigerate. About 30 minutes before serving, loosen the ice from the bowl and slide it gently into the punch bowl. Top with a generous grating of nutmeg.

Serves 30.

[based on a recipe from Saveur, December 2006]

Martinican Milk Punch

Put 15 egg yolks into a large bowl and set aside. Pour 5 quarts milk into a pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the milk to the yolks in a slow, steady stream while whisking constantly. Add 1 1/4 cups of sugar, 1 1/4 tsps ground cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, and vanilla extract, and strips of zest from 5 lemons. Stir well to combine. Add 1 750-ml bottle of dark Martinican rum, such as St. James, stir well, and strain. Pour the punch into cups and serve while still hot.

Serves 20.

[based on a recipe from Saveur, December 2006]

Glazed Ham à la AEB

1 15-lb smoked ham, on the bone
1 cup orange marmalade, preferably homemade
2/3 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup freshly packed brown sugar
8-10 whole cloves

Preheat the oven to 300º F. Trim any tough bits of outer skin and excess fat from the ham. Put the ham in a large roasting pan and score it, making crosshatch incisions all over it with a serrated knife. Roast for 2 hours. Remove the ham from the oven and increase the temperature to 350º.

In the meantime, combine the marmalade, the mustard, and the brown sugar in a medium bowl. Stud the ham with the cloves, spacing them evenly, then brush the entire surface of the ham generously with the glaze and return the ham to the oven.

Cook the ham another 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours, brushing it with the glaze at least another 2 times. Transfer to a cutting board or platter and allow to rest for about 30 minutes. Carve and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 20-30 hungry ham lovers.

[based on a recipe from Saveur Cooks Authentic American]

Potato Salad à la AEB

8-10 medium boiling potatoes
1/4 bulb of fennel, cut into thin slices
1/2 small red onion, minced
2 tbsp dry white vermouth
2 tbsp potato "stock" (from your pot)
2 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp salad oil
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)

Drop the potatoes into boiling salted water and boil them until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a small knife (be careful not to overcook them or undercook them, but err on the side of overcooked if you have to because there are few things worse than undercooked potatoes). Drain. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel them, and cut them into slices about 1/8-1/4" thick. Place them in a mixing bowl.

Pour the vermouth and "stock" over the warm potato slices and toss very gently. Set aside in order to allow the potatoes to absorb the liquids.

Beat the vinegar, mustard, and salt in a small bowl until the salt has dissolved. Then beat in the oil by droplets. Season to taste, and stir in the red onion and fennel slices. Pour the dressing over the potatoes and toss gently to blend.

Makes roughly 6 cups.

[based on a recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 1]

Many thanks to everyone who braved the bracing 10º C weather (?) to join us. To paraphrase the great Sandra Bernhard: "Without you we're nothing."

When the last of our beloved guests departed some time after 11:00 (this being a Sunday, we'd started things off at 4:00), there was nothing left to do but dream of sugar plum fairies.

fait dodo fig. e: fait dodo


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Exclusive Engagement

new packaging

You've read about it here at " endless banquet," you've seen it here at " endless banquet," you've heard all about it here at, uh, " endless banquet." Well, now, for the very first time, Švestka Preserves' oignons confits is available to the general public (!). That's right, we're happy to announce that Švestka Preserves brand oignons confits is now available at Jean-Talon Market from our good friends at La Dépense, just in time for the holidays. It's even got some spiffy new packaging to mark the occasion.

La Dépense, 7070 Henri-Julien, 273-1118


Saturday, December 16, 2006

$20K High and Rising

Good God! $20,000? Yep, Menu for Hope III has shattered all previous records and there's no telling where it'll stop. With good reason, too. To celebrate, we've added yet another little something to our very own " endless banquet" Menu for Hope III gift package. No joke. It now contains:

1 x 250-ml jar Švestka Preserves brand Pear-Vanilla-Bourbon butter
1 x 125-ml jar Švestka Preserves brand oignons confits
1 x copy of the first in a series of " endless banquet" chapbooks, A.P.Q.O. (AEB 001)
1 x set of 5 " endless banquet"/AM/KM Productions' "Secondhand China" postcards


1 x 250-ml jar Švestka Preserves brand traditional Seville orange marmalade


1 x 250-ml jar Švestka Preserves brand apple-quince preserve

Don't believe me? Check it out.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

$10K high and rising

That's right. Menu for Hope III has already surpassed the $10,000 mark in just a couple of days, and it continues to grow. Similarly, our " endless banquet" gift pack (prize code: CA10) has already attracted some attention (thank you!), and it continues to grow (!?!). Yes, you read correctly. An already sweet " endless banquet" gift pack has just gotten sweeter. Who knows what might happen next... Stay tuned.

Want to get involved? You'll find all the necessary instructions here.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Menu for Hope III

Those of you who’ve been following the world of food blogging (and I do mean “world”—just check out the list of food blogs compiled by Jeanne at the aptly named World on a Plate) over the last few years have most certainly heard of Pim Techamuanvivit and her ground-breaking chez pim . And while Pim has provided much to be impressed with over the last few years, perhaps her greatest contribution to the world of online food writing has been her Menu for Hope project, now in its third year, which has dared to use the realm of food blogging as a vehicle for charity and the promotion of altruism. Year 1 saw Menu for Hope raise funds for victims of the tsunami that devastated South and Southeast Asia in December 2004. Year 2, Menu for Hope succeeded in raising an astounding $17,000 towards UNICEF’s relief efforts in India and Pakistan’s Kashmir region following the earthquake of 2005. This year Menu for Hope III is hoping to raise even more money for the United Nations’ World Food Programme efforts across the globe.

How does it work? Well, Menu for Hope consists of an online raffle where participating food bloggers donate some kind of food-related gift, readers purchase online raffle tickets (this year a mere $10 (US) gets you a piece of the action) towards one or more of the available gift packages, all proceeds (well, virtually all--a tiny percentage goes to, which is facilitating the complicated money matters) go to the World Food Programme, and a few weeks later winners are selected at random (regardless of the size of their contribution) for each of the gift packages.

This year " endless banquet" has contributed the following gift package (code CA10) as part of the Canadian division of Menu for Hope III:

Menu for Hope III gift package

What exactly is included? Well, the lucky winner will receive the following:

1 x 250-ml jar Švestka Preserves brand Pear-Vanilla-Bourbon butter, made with top-quality Flemish Beauty pears, Madagascar vanilla, a kick of Kentucky bourbon, and a whole lotta love--the preserve our fellow traveler Melissa at The Traveler's Lunchbox called a "silky, not-too-sweet yet robust marriage of flavors"
1 x 125-ml jar Švestka Preserves brand oignons confits, a.k.a. "the opiate of the masses"
1 x copy of the first in a series of " endless banquet" chapbooks, A.P.Q.O. (AEB 001), a short tome dedicated to the pleasures of the apple, the pear, the quince, and the orange (hence the name), with excerpts from the work of A. Davidson and A.J. Downing and illustrations from the work of, well, A.J. Kinik


1 x set of 5 " endless banquet"/AM/KM Productions' "Secondhand China" postcards, featuring photographs of cups and saucers from the Marek/Kinik Collection of Porcelain
NEW! 1 x 250-ml jar Švestka Preserves brand traditional Seville orange marmalade, based on Alan Davidson's personal recipe
NEWER! 1 x 250-ml jar Švestka Preserves brand apple-quince preserve. The quince was known as melimelum in ancient Rome, a name derived from the Greek for 'honey apple.' This being the case, Švestka Preserves did the only proper thing and united them. The result? Ambrosia.
[Hmm... One pear preserve, one orange preserve, and one apple and quince preserve? What does it all mean? Is there more to come? Stay tuned...]
+ our undying gratitude

What do you have to do to participate? Well, here's all you have to do:

1. Go to the donation page at to make a contribution.

2. Each US$10 donation will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize or prizes you'd like by entering the prize code in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your contribution. E.G: A US$50 donation may be two tickets for UW99 and three tickets for CA20.*

3. Some companies will match personal charitable donations made by staff. If your company has such a program, please remember to mark the appropriate box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

4. Please also check the box to allow us to see your email address. We need this so we can contact you in case you win a prize. If you do not do this, we will be unable to contact you. Please be assured that we will not share your email address with anyone.

5. Raffle results will be announced on 15 January on Chez Pim. Draws will be conducted electronically, thanks to Derrick at Obsession with Food for creating the computer application used to magically select names.

* N.B: Canadian tax laws prohibit charitable donation receipts to be issued by registered Canadian charities for raffle or lottery tickets. The UNWFP is a U.S.-based charity; should any donation receipts issued, you will need to seek professional advice regarding applying them to your Canadian income tax return.

Sound simple? It is.

Now, while we whole-heartedly encourage you to buy a raffle ticket for our " endless banquet" prize package, and we guarantee 100% satisfaction (110%, actually), you should know that there are a whole lot of other great prizes to be had as part of Menu for Hope III. The Canadian division alone features not one, not two, but 17 fetching gifts from bloggers hailing from all across Canada, "A Mari usque ad Mare." You can find them all, along with descriptions and those ever-so-important prize codes at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict, where Jasmine has been bravely leading the way. Throw in the rest of the world, including three US divisions, a European division, a Latin American division, and a division consisting of Asian, Australian, and Kiwi bloggers, and the number of tantalizing choices out there is downright overwhelming. (If you don't believe me, just check out Pim's Menu for Hope III round-up.)

"We Are the World"? Well, the food blog phenomenon has spread far and wide, but we're not exactly "the world." "Let them know it's Christmastime"? I'm not even sure what that means, but, believe me, "they" are well aware. "An endless banquet"? Hmm... It may not be immediately imminent, but it sure as hell could be.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Final Countdown


"The Final Countdown"? Europe (the band, not the continent) is the butt of many jokes around here, but there's more to today's title than just some weird in-joke. Life at " endless banquet"/Švestka Preserves Inc. HQ has been nuttier than a fruitcake over the last couple of weeks since our last sale because we rolled up our sleeves once again and got right back into high production ("the show must go on," right?) so that we could be ready for our final sale of the year. That's right, this weekend the " endless banquet"/Švestka Preserves mobile unit will be on the go once more, and this one's going to be extra-special, folks. You see, for this final sale, a three-day extravaganza/Christmas bazaar at the Société des arts technologiques/Society for Arts and Technology called Souk@SAT*, we've teamed up with none other than Camilla Wynne-Ingr of Backroom Bakeshoppe fame, to bring the finest in holiday goodies. That means that in addition to some of our tried-and-true classics, we'll be offering a whole assortment of baked goods, including cookies (gingerbread and Mexican chocolate),

4 geese a-waddling

traditional Siena-style panforte (!), and homemade fruitcakes made with home-candied quinces, oranges, lemons, and pineapples that have been liberally spritzed with brandy every other day for the last few weeks (!!). Forget what you think you know about fruitcake--this is the real deal.

It all goes down this Friday, December the 8th, through Sunday, December the 10th, at the SAT gallery, 1195 St-Laurent Blvd.

Hours: Friday and Saturday, 12 noon to 9:00 pm, Sunday, 12 noon to 5:00 pm.

Admission: Free.

For more information, check out the Souk@SAT website.


*SOUK [suk] n. m. - 1848 ; Arab word 1. The souk is a marketplace, which origins date back to ancient times. 2. FIG FAM. Within the souk, one might expect to find almost anything. What a souk!

SOUK@SAT [sukatsat] n. - 2003 ; mingled word 1. Bazar organized like a huge loft where we can find a multitude of Montreal’s contemporary creations.?2. Idea place to find original, stylish and well-thought-of gifts in a vivid atmosphere. What a souk !

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Texas Red, rev. ed.

There was a time there, in my late teens and early twenties, when I prided myself on my chili--to the point that I hosted an annual chili fest on my birthday for a few years running. Cold beer, chili, corn bread, chips and salsa--that kind of thing. We'd always been big fans of chili in our family, but our chili had been very California, very much inspired by 1970s and '80s issues of Sunset. Then, in my late teens I discovered Texas-style chili (emphasis on the "-style") in the DC area, of all places. There was a small local chain there that prided itself on its authentic chilis and its resurrection of that old-time, Depression-era chili joint ambiance--The Hard Times Café--but it was also around then that we started to see "real Texas chili" spice blends and other chili-making paraphernalia--like the D.L. Jardine's line--on our supermarket's shelves. While I never turned my back entirely on the bean- and vegetable-heavy heresy I'd grown up with, Texas chili, with its complex spices, its heat, its use of beer and then-exotic ingredients like masa harina, and its cult of USDA beef, was a revelation. I was still very much a piker--I was relying on Chili For Dummies-type kits that came with packets of pre-ground spices and masa harina, for Christ's sake--but I'd gotten the bug and my chili was at least vaguely in tune with the dish's origins in the American Southwest.

Then came the period in my chili-making history known as "the interregnum," a period when my vegetarianism turned me 180º from the world of Texas chili, where vegetables are kept to an absolute minimum and bean are largely scoffed at. I made a pretty good vegetarian chili (again, much better than average) during those years, but this version of my chili had almost absolutely nothing to do with the American chili tradition--the one rooted in Texas, at least.

I've gone back to making Texas-style chili over the last few years. While I'm still something of a piker and I'm definitely not ready for Terlingua, TX and its thriving competition chili scene, I've got a much richer understanding of Texas chili and its roots, its meaning.

hunting on the plains fig. a: the buffalo hunt

This is thanks in large part to John Thorne's masterful "Just Another Bowl of Texas Red" from Serious Pig, where he traces the dish's history back to the utterly orgiastic buffalo roasts (a festival of "meat, grease, and fire," to use Thorne's terms) that were such an important part of America's mythic frontier past, before launching into a thoughtful study of chili's bastard past, its strange absence from early literature on Texas regional cuisine (S. Compton Smith's 1857 Chile con Carne, or The Camp and the Field is the earliest trace cited by Alan Davidson, but this title is the exception to the rule--until the 1880s, that is), its rejection by both Texans and Mexicans, its secret origins, its official emergence in 1880s San Antonio, where it was served forth in Military Plaza by dozens of "chili queens," and its eventual triumph in the form of the chili joint, when it finally became a part of the mainstream of, first, Texan and, then, American culture. One thing's for sure, though, these days I mix my own chili spice blends and I don't have to rely on D.L. Jardine for my masa harina. And while I'm not quite ready for a real Texas chili cook-off, I'm making a pretty mean Texas-style chili these days. You see, I've got an ace in the hole. Living in close proximity to Jean Talon Market's Olives et Épices, I've got access to a truly astounding array of chiles, not to mention things like high-grade cumin and true Mexican oregano. I may not have the background and the experience (yet), but I've got no shortage of firepower.

A.J.'s chile (sic) powder fig. b: Oaxacan pasilla pepper, A.J.'s chile [sic] powder

12-Gauge Chili, a.k.a. A.J.'s Latest Texas-style Chili*

4 lbs boneless beef chuck, chopped into pieces roughly 1" x 1"
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped (roughly 6 cloves)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups homemade tomato sauce (store-bought canned if you have to)
2/3 cup freshly toasted and ground mixed chiles**
2 tbsp ground cumin
4 tsp dried Mexican oregano (regular oregano if you have to)
4 tsp sweet or sweet smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
salt to taste
2 12-oz bottles of Pilsner-style beer
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp masa harina

Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or, preferably, an enameled cast-iron casserole over medium-high heat until hot. Add the beef and cook until no longer pink, 5-10 minutes. Add the onions, carrot, garlic, tomato sauce, chiles, cumin, Mexican oregano, paprika, cayenne, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and stir to combine. Add the beer and enough additional water to cover the meat by half an inch, bring the stew to a simmer, then simmer gently uncovered, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 hour and preferably 3 hours. Note: the gentler the simmer and the longer the cooking time, the more tender the beef will be in the end.

Put the masa harina in a small bowl and add 1/3 cup of warm water, stirring the mixture until it becomes smooth. Add the moistened masa to the chili, stirring until it's mixed in thoroughly. Continue simmering the chili over low to medium-low heat until the meat is very tender and the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes more. Adjust the seasonings and serve with Saltines and maybe even some rice and cornbread (like we did). If you like beans with your chili, serve them on the side.

Texas Red fig. c: "just another bowl of Texas Red"

Makes enough to feed a whole mess of hungry people.

(adapted from "Gordon's Chili," a recipe by Gordon Fowler, the Austin, TX artist and chili aficionado, that appeared in Saveur's Classic American Winter 2006 special issue)

* I still hesitate to label this an authentic Texas chili, even if the source recipe has a Saveur pedigree. The presence of tomato sauce alone (even homemade) would be enough to make some entrenched Texas chiliheads bristle. The carrot (a nod to that Sunset-style chili I grew up on), would probably be enough to get me run out of the Lone Star state.

** I've taken to using a blend of anchos, mulatos, New Mexican reds, and Oaxacan pasillas. For optimum flavor, toast the chiles lightly in a skillet first, just long enough so that their rich aromas are released, then set them aside to cool. When they've cooled, grind them with a mortar and pestle or in an electric spice grinder. Make sure not to go too heavy on the high-heat chiles. The milder, sweeter peppers are the ones that really provide chili with its foundation.