Sunday, November 28, 2010

only the strong survive

Ever wondered what it takes to judge a cupcake competition?

Well, the sight of Michelle adjudicating one of the design categories (Montreal theme) at last week's Cupcake Camp Montreal 2010 festivities looked something like this:

Michelle & Co. fig. a: nice app

armed with an iPhone with some kind of special cupcake judging app (no joke), Michelle made her way down a long, cupcake-covered table, assessing each and every entry, entering her data into her portable computing device, and trying vainly to avoid being blinded by the veritable barrage of camera flashes that were popping off around her. Rabid fans of " endless banquet"? Hardly. The slim gentleman to Michelle's left was none other than Ricardo Larrivée.

Most of the judges didn't get swarmed the way Ricardo and Chuck Hughes did. But all the judges had to find a way to pace themselves through the tasting of dozens upon dozens of cupcakes. Michelle came home with a truly legendary sugar high, but overall she fared quite well. After all, as a pastry professional, she inhabits a world of sugar, and her tolerance is now remarkably high. A solid meal, a glass of wine, some water, and she came back down to earth relatively gently. Others, whose professions are somewhat less sugar-centric, had a much tougher time. It's not everyone who can binge on 15 or 16 cupcakes in a single afternoon and live to tell.

Congratulations to all the winners in the various taste, design, and theme competitions (including C., who took Best Pro Taste!*). And congratulations to Cupcake Camp Montreal for having raised an astonishing $34,500 (!).

For more on judging cupcakes and Cupcake Camp Montreal more generally, check out Cupcake Camp Montreal's post-camp round-up.


* "I smell a rat! Conflict of interest!," you declare? Yes, Michelle is both a good friend and a colleague of C.'s, and, yes, Michelle was there when C. was announced as the winner, but the system that was used to judge the Pro Taste category was so blind, so thoroughly objective, that Michelle had no idea which cupcake C. had actually made until she came back home and called her with the good news. The same went for all the other categories, as well. Each of the individual judges knew who they'd voted for (obviously), and they learned the names of the winners when they were announced over the P.A. at the end of the afternoon, but they didn't necessarily know if the cupcakes they'd voted for corresponded with the winning entries.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Michelle! Live!! @ Le Pick Up!!!

From our friend Natasha at Popcorn Plays comes the following exciting (and flattering) announcement about a special guest appearance by Michelle (what can I say? the girl's unstoppable!) at Dépanneur Le Pick Up.  If you've ever wanted to take a class with Michelle, here's your chance:

still life

Montreal readers — check this out!

Join us at the Dépanneur le Pick Up for an interactive evening with talented chef Michelle Marek, the head pastry chef at Montreal restaurant Laloux. Michelle also runs the mouthwatering food blog ...An Endless Banquet with her partner AJ Kinik.

On Monday, December 6, we will be exploring ways to incorporate candied fruits into unique winter desserts. The workshop will include a presentation and execution of:

Panforte with spices, chocolate + candied fruits

Stollen with marzipan + candied fruits

Crystallized fruits

Ginger cookies

The workshop will begin promptly at 7:30pm. Each participant will be making his or her own desserts to take home, with guidance and instruction from Michelle. Come early for hot cider! The registration fee is $30 and will cover all costs for the desserts presented. The Dep is located at 7032 Rue Waverly.

The Dep is a cozy, intimate space — please register soon as there are only 15 spots. Cash only, please. To register, email me at natasha DOT pickowicz AT gmail DOT com.

We think you’ll leave inspired and ready for the holidays!

Get it? Got it? Good.

Yes, that's right, that's a whole lot of value for 30 bucks, and it promises to be a whole lot of fun too, so make a reservation, and mark your calendars.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

In a Golden State 2: Oysters

tboc 3 fig. a: simple pleasures

Quite simply the very best oysters either of us have ever had, and we had them in August, which, as you may have noticed, is one of those months that does not contain a letter "r." "They" said it couldn't be done. "They" obviously never visited Tomales Bay.

tboc 2 fig. b: TBOC HQ

When you find oysters labeled "Tomales Bay," there's a good chance they were harvested by the Tomales Bay Oyster Company in Marshall, CA, which, as you can see if you read the fine print, celebrated its centenary last year, in 2009.

drake's bay & tomales bay fig. c: Drake's Bay, Tomales Bay

Not sure where either Tomales Bay or Marshall, CA are? Well, they're about 50 miles north of San Francisco, and just a few miles north of Point Reyes Station, in an area for its proximity to Point Reyes National Seashore and its associations with Sir Francis Drake.

tomales bay fig. d: Tomales Bay

And if you visit the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, you'll see that it's still a very small operation perched directly on Tomales Bay, exactly as you'd expect it to be.

tboc 1 fig. e: TBOC picnic area

There are a couple of small buildings (huts, really), including the business office, but occupying center stage is a massive tank behind a counter where the catch of the day is kept in cool salt water. You sidle up to the counter, decide how many oysters you'd like to purchase, and strike up a deal. There's no restaurant, no table service. Just the counter, the tank, the oysters, a stretch of pebble beach, and a bunch of picnic tables and barbecues. You buy your oysters, ask for an oyster knife or some Tabasco sauce, if you need some, and make your way to the picnic table of your choice.  If you're a regular, you'll know that the smart thing to do is to make an honest table out of that picnic table by actually bringing along a picnic.  Some beers, a bottle of wine, a salad or two, a loaf of bread, perhaps, some charcoals and a charcoal chimney, and possibly some limes or lemons--that kind of thing.  Then you have the option of having your insanely delicious Tomales Bay oysters raw or grilled, and when you do, you'll have plenty of nice things to accompany them and/or wash them down with.  With or without a picnic, they're still going to be insanely delicious.  You probably won't have to limit yourself to six or twelve either, because the utter lack of a middleman means that these oysters are incredibly inexpensive. Hell, get 50.  It'll only set you back $35-$70, depending on the size you choose. Think about it: an oyster festival, every day of the year.*

Neither of us were regulars, which means it never occurred to us to bring a picnic.  It also means that we had our oysters pretty much straight-up, with just a dash of Tabasco sauce or a squeeze of lime every now and then to add a little something to oysters that were already the freshest, sweetest, most perfect oysters we'd ever had.  Easily one of the best meals of the last decade.

there he is with a sea lion fig. f: surf's up(-ish)

And the fact that I'd gotten to swim with a sea lion off Stinson Beach just a few hours earlier,

SF sunset fig. g: Golden Gate, golden light

and that we drove back toward San Francisco through a truly legendary sunset,

Vladimir's fig. h: Vladimir's

and that we had big steins of Pilsner Urquell in a "Czechoslovaki" pub across the bay from Marshall in Inverness, CA,

ms. marek finds her dream house fig. i: Ms. Marek finds her dream house

and that Michelle found that the dream house that she'd first spotted in 2005 was still very much available, well, they all added up to the kind of overall experience Lou Reed once labeled a Perfect Day.

Tomales Bay Oyster Company, 15479 Hwy. 1, Marshall, CA, (415) 663-1242

Vladimir's Czech Restaurant, 12785 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Inverness, CA, (415) 669-1021

Looking for "In a Golden State 1: Coffee"? You can find it here.


* This being California, with cool, cool waters and temperate weather pretty much all year round, the Tomales Bay Oyster Company is open 365 days a year. But if you're planning on going there for a Thanksgiving Day feast, keep in mind that their hours will be shortened: 9 am - 2 pm. Plenty enough time to pick up a few dozen for your oyster stuffing!

Friday, November 19, 2010


thumb-sucking good fig. a:  "Bring on the cupcakes!"

1.  In spite of the fact that The New York Times announced earlier this week that it's "time's up" for the cupcake, the good people at Cupcake Camp Montreal are soldiering on, fully determined to prove to the world that although the cupcake may soon be yesterday's food fad, those little, iced mindbombs can still generate a whole lot of revenue for a good cause or two.

Last year, Cupcake Camp Montreal resulted in 3,500 cupcake donations, 700 attendees, and $8,000 in proceeds.  This year CCM is aiming higher--much higher.  If everything goes according to plan, this year's edition will result in 7,000 cupcake donations, 2,000 attendees, and a whopping $15,000 in proceeds (!).  The thing is, everything isn't going according to plan--Cupcake Camp Montreal has already received over 19,000 cupcake donations (!!).  That's one serious sugar high.

The fun takes place this Sunday, November 21st, from 1-5 pm, in the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel (900 Rene Levesque Blvd. W).  There'll be a cupcake sale, a cupcake competition, and a slew of other activities.  And the panel of judges for the cupcake competition is made up of a veritable who's who of local food biz celebs, a Dream Team, if you will, including Chuck Hughes (host, Chuck's Day Off), Nadia G (host, Bitchin' Kitchen), Ricardo Larrivée (host, Ricardo & Friends), Patrice Demers (chef, Les 400 Coups), Lesley Chesterman (critic, The Montreal Gazette), and AEB's very own Michelle Marek (chef, Restaurant Laloux).

Hoping to donate cupcakes?  Hoping to compete?  Just want to attend?  Need more information?  Look no further.

thumb-sucking good fig. b:  "Bring on the choucroute!"

2.  In more Michelle-related activity, Restaurant Laloux is hosting chef, author, and bread baker extraordinaire James MacGuire for two nights of Alsatian revelry, featuring tarte flambée, an elaborate, 100% traditional choucroute garnie made entirely from scratch (sausages, sauerkraut, cured pork belly, etc., etc.), authentic Alsatian rye bread, an all-star lineup of some of our favorite Alsatian Rieslings (Domaine Ostertag Heissenberg 2007 [Rézin], Barmès Buecher Herrenweg 2008 [Oenopole], etc.), and a dessert collaboration between Michelle and James:  Alsatian apple tart.

The fête takes place November 29th and 30th.  For more information or reservations, contact (514) 287-9127.

Restaurant Laloux, 250 Pine Ave. E.

thumb-sucking good fig. c:  "Bring on the tacos!"

3.  And, finally...  Taco lovers, rejoice!  Looks like the Grumman '78 posse has a standing engagement at Le Nouveau Palais, Friday and Saturday nights, from midnight till close.  For more information:  273-1180.

Le Nouveau Palais, 281 Bernard St. W.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Three Bazaar Pileup

It's a little too late to be telling you that the Hungarian United Church's annual Hungarian Bazaar has the best all-around food (sweets, savory treats, selection) that we've encountered in all our years of prowling Montreal's bazaars.  (Hopefully, you noticed our "heads-up" from a couple of weeks back and took up the recommendation.)  But it's not too late to remind you to get out there and take in the city's full array of seasonal fairs, bazaars, salons, souks, and other festive occasions.  You never know what you might find.

In that very spirit, we crisscrossed the city in the AEBmobile last Saturday, hitting three bazaars (and one Expozine!) in the space of half a day.  Not all bazaars are created equal, of course, and some are more festive than others.  We were sorry to have missed the Bottle Raffle (a.k.a., the Booze Raffle) at one Westmount bazaar (although they did have some pretty cool books about drinking),

It's water!  fig. a: yeah, sure it is

but at another bazaar we found an impressive display of wooden chairs for sale.

the chairs of westmount fig. b: bazaar activity

They looked like they were trying to clamber toward the windows to make a break for it, so we helped liberate a few of them.

When we got to the Hungarian United Church, there were sure signs that this was going to be another good year.

they're not kidding fig. c: sign of hope

This year we didn't find the Sausage Man--the master sausage-maker who used to hold court at the back of the auditorium with hundreds upon hundreds of freshly smoked Hungarian sausages--but the kitchen was busy pumping out the hot lunches, and if you didn't want the authentic goulash with galuska, you had the option of the tasty debreceni sausage plate with sauerkraut and paprika potatoes.  They also had the loveliest sweet palacsinta crêpes on offer.  It's a good thing the palacsinta were so unbelievably delicate, though, because this year's baked goods and desserts table was mighty impressive.

Michelle went straight for the doughnuts, and good thing, too, because not only were they astoundingly tasty--in the same major league as my grandmother's--but they were selling fast.  Two cups of coffee and a few of those sugar-dusted delicacies later, we were in a state of grace.  We found ourselves gazing around absent-mindedly, taking in the scene, giddy with satisfaction.  "Like my grandma's.  Just like my grandma's," I found myself muttering.

And it was then, and only then, that we really noticed the layer cake that was holding court on the desserts table from the lofty perch of its cake stand.  C. noted that it looked like the real thing, like a homemade Hungarian nut torte (not as many layers, perhaps, but just as much technique).  She went over to purchase a piece, and thank the Lord that she did.  That slice of walnut cake, was the moistest, most luxurious cake any of us had had in a long time.  And all of a sudden, C. found herself having a Proustian moment of her own:  "Tastes just like my grandmother's," she said.

When we woke up out of our second paprika- & sugar-induced stupor, I decided I had to tell the Pastry Ladies just how much we'd enjoyed their treats.  I went up and talked to one of the women at the desserts table, and it turned out the walnut cake was her family recipe.  I must have really been waxing poetic, because she took me for one of her own.  "Are you Hungarian?," the Cake Lady asked.  "No, Slovak," I replied.  "But my grandmother's family was originally from Hungary."  She just nodded knowingly.

When I told her the doughnuts tasted like my Baba's, she told me that I should go and tell the woman who'd made them.  So I did.  Turns out the Doughnut Lady was working a table near the back of the auditorium.  When I told her I that I'd loved her doughnuts, she was thrilled.  "Oh, thank you, thank you..."  When I told her that they'd reminded me of my grandmother's, she touched my cheek and nearly started crying.  Let me tell you, that's an experience you won't get at Tim's.

What's the point of all this?  What's the point of torturing you with all these delicious and highly sentimental details after the fact?  Well, if you're the kind of Montrealer who misses the good, old days when top-notch Eastern European pastries were easy to come by, there's hope.  Many of these delicacies are still around, you just have to know where to find them.  You may not be able to find quite the selection you once found along the Main, but you just might find exactly what you're looking for at your local bazaar.  And if the sound of authentic Hungarian walnut cakes and doughnuts appeals to you, well, the ladies at the Hungarian United Church have been known to take special orders (!).

You can order Hungarian cakes and pastries from Carol Pisimisi ("the Cake Lady") at (514) 683-5978, or you can call the Hungarian United Church directly at (514) 737-8457 to inquire about cakes, pastries, and doughnuts, or upcoming food-related church events.

hungarian doughnut fig. d: Hungarian doughnut

I mean, just look at that beauty.  Don't you owe it to yourself?


Saturday, November 13, 2010

eat your greens 2, rev. ed.

GT 1 fig. a: time to fry

There are still some real green tomatoes kicking around. In fact, depending on where you live, there might still be loads of them. And, along with making your own chowchow, frying them is a pretty great way to make use of the last of the tomato harvest. But even if you find that the green tomatoes in your area have already disappeared, all is not lost. As the Lee Bros. point out, your standard supermarket tomato is effectively a green tomato--it certainly was picked green (generally, very green). So you may need to add a bit of lemon juice and some salt to your sliced supermarket tomatoes to coax out a little flavor and approximate the wonderful, citrusy tartness of a true green tomato, but fried green tomatoes are a classic Southern side that you can make pretty much all year long. If you want to make the real deal, however, and I strongly advise giving them a try, local green tomatoes were still available here in Montreal this week. And their bright, tangy flavor this late in the year made it feel like we were cheating the approach of winter somehow. If only for a moment.

Note: you also need some decent cornmeal to make these fried green tomatoes, and good cornmeal can be hard to find in the Montreal region. The best brand we've been able to locate around here is Indian Head Stone Ground Yellow from Maryland, available at Aubut.

beattie bros. 1 fig. b: the B Bros.

Even better is Beattie Bros., which is owned by the same parent company, but produced in North Carolina. Though, as far as we know, you can only get Beattie Bros. in the States.

Fried Green Tomatoes

3 lbs green tomatoes
3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup whole milk
3-4 cups peanut oil
3 batches fry dredge (recipe follows)
kosher salt, if needed
lemon juice, if needed

Core the stem ends of the tomatoes and slice them in 1/4-inch slices. Set aside. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a broad, shallow bowl.

Pour the oil in a 12-inch or 14-inch skillet (3 cups of oil will suffice for the 12-inch skillet; 4 cups should do for the 14-inch skillet, and the 14-inch skillet will make the task of frying 3 lbs of tomatoes much, much faster--ultimately, whatever size skillet you use, you need an oil depth of about 1/3 of an inch). Heat the oil over medium-high heat until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 350º-365º.

Heat the oven to 225 degrees. Set a baker's rack on a cookie sheet on the top rack.

Divide the dredge between two small bowls or shallow baking pans. Taste the tomatoes. "They should have a bright tartness like citrus fruit." If they don't, sprinkle the slices with salt and lemon juice (if you're using supermarket tomatoes, this additional lemon and salt will be necessary). Press 1 tomato slice into the first bowl of dredge on each side, shaking any excess loose. Dunk in the egg mixture, then place in the second bowl of dredge, coating both sides, and shaking any excess loose, before placing the slice on a clean plate. Repeat with more slices until you've dredged enough for a batch (roughly 8-10, if you're using the 14-inch skillet). With a spatula, gently transfer the first batch of slices into the hot oil, taking care not to create splatter, and making sure your temperature continues to hover between 350º-365º.

As the first batch cooks, dredge the second batch according to the directions above, while keeping a watchful eye on the first. Once the slices have fried to a rich golden brown on one side, roughly 2 minutes, flip them carefully and fry for another 2 minutes or so, or until golden brown. Transfer the fried tomatoes to a plate lined with a double thickness of paper towels and leave them to drain for 1 minute.

Transfer the slices to the baker's rack in the oven, arranging them in a single layer, so they remain warm and crisp. Repeat with the remaining slices until all the green tomatoes have been fried. Serve hot with Buttermilk-Lime Dressing (recipe follows).

All-Purpose Dredge

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp stone-ground cornmeal
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper together twice. Stir. Use as directed.

This is a great all-around frying dredge. The Lee Bros. use this very recipe for everything from chicken, to fish, to fried green tomatoes.

Buttermilk-Lime Dressing

3/4 cups whole or lowfat buttermilk (preferably the former)
5 tbsp freshly squeeze lime juice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup finely minced basil
1/4 cup finely minced green onions
1/4 cup finely minced parsley
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste

In a small bowl, whisk the ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator not more than 2 days.

[these recipes are based very, very closely on ones that appeared in The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook]

These fried tomatoes make for a fantastic side with any number of dishes, Southern or otherwise. We love 'em with seafood, but then we've been known to have them with barbecue too, and I could easily imagine having them as part of a Thanksgiving dinner. Leftover fried green tomatoes taste pretty outrageous on top of a leftover pulled pork sandwich, too. Especially if you drizzle a little of that Buttermilk-Lime Dressing on top. Just take a look:

GT 2 fig. c: deluxe pulled pork sandwich

Oh, and speaking of Thanksgiving and the Lee Bros.: if you haven't had the pleasure of reading Matt and Ted's New York Times exposé on Marilyn Monroe's stuffing recipe from 1955-6 (as it appears in Fragments, a just-published collection of previously unreleased Monroe ephemera), you really should. Not only is it a great read, but Marilyn's recipe is both mysterious (ground beef? Parmesan? City Title Insurance Co.?) and tantalizing. Just look at that picture. Just look at that recipe.


p.s. Looking for "eat your greens 1"? You can find it here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Tout à coup, things are happening here in Montreal! Or should that read, "Tout à coups..."?

You see, there's yet another exciting new kid on the block, and he goes by the name of Les 400 coups.

Fittingly, the interior calls to mind the streets of Paris.

400 1 fig. a: photodynamic Paris

There's even a bit of a noir et blanc theme to the place.

400 2 fig. b: sous le plafond, Paris

But that's really as far as the references to Truffaut's 1959 masterpiece go. Les 400 coups isn't a cinémathèque, after all, it's a beautifully appointed and surprisingly intimate new restaurant that happens to be located at 400, rue Notre-Dame est in Old Montreal, and that defines the phrase "faire les 400 coups" as "faire toutes les bêtises possible" (which loosely translates as "raise as much hell as humanly possible"). Now I'm not sure that you'll ever find the level of irreverence that made Au Pied de cochon an international sensation at Les 400 coups, but I do know that its two chefs, Patrice Demers and Marc-André Jetté, are exceedingly talented and have more than a few tricks up their sleeves. We can't wait to give them a chance to perform, and we look forward to sampling all their latest bêtises.

We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek on Monday, but it only served to whet our appetites and confirm that this is a restaurant that's been eagerly anticipated.

Among Les 400 coups' first coups: custom-made, hand-thrown dishes by Pascale Girardin; custom-designed uniforms by Martin Dhust; and, most interestingly of all, a small, tightly organized kitchen that's dedicated to delivering the highest level of quality control possible.

All that plus the kind of menu that offers so many tantalizing choices, you hardly know where to begin.

Actually, I know where to begin--with a reservation.

Stay tuned. Full report to follow...

Les 400 coups, 400 Notre-Dame East, 985-0400 (Old Montreal)


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

You'll be happy to know...

Things were pretty quiet when we got to 4455 West Broadway.

C-S 1 fig. a: Spaceship St. Ignatius

There were barely any signs that anything was about to get underway.

C-S 2 fig. b: bazaar bazar

But then, magically, right at the stroke of 11:00, a door opened.

C-S 3 fig. c: enter the darkness

When we got downstairs we noticed things were quite a bit thinner than they had been in the past. Fewer vendors. Fewer attendees. Less food. The kooky mix of used books, windshield wiper fluid, Christmas sweets, and freshly-baked, homemade mitteleuropean pastries was still very much intact, but the good old Czech-Slovak Bazaar didn't seem to be attracting the throngs it used to.

And, horror of horrors, when we looked for our favorite pastries, they weren't there.

We nervously asked a Pastry Lady who appeared to be in charge whether they had any of the yeasted delicacies we're so fond of--"You know, the ones with the prune preserves and the nuts and the cottage cheese inside..."--and she said, no, they hadn't arrived.

Then she nearly gave us a heart attack, because she suddenly got very serious, pulled us aside, and told us in hushed tones, "Actually, the woman who makes them--she may no longer be with us."

This gives you some sense of the demographics of the Czech-Slovak Bazaar, but we were still shocked. "Are you sure? Can you double-check?" She ran off to inquire, and two minutes later she was back.

"Don't worry. It's okay. They'll be here. The woman who makes them--she just hasn't arrived yet."

Phew! We don't like to hear of anyone's passing, but that goes double for those who hold a body of knowledge that's rapidly disappearing--like making yeasted Eastern European delicacies.

So we made our way over to the book table to kill some time.

got milk? fig. d: got milk?

better robots & gardening fig. e: better robots & gardens

15 minutes later we looked back over towards the pastry table and saw the Pastry Lady waving wildly at us. We figured that was probably a good sign. So we ran back over, and, sure enough, our treats had arrived--two whole trays of them. Then, as we were trying to decide how many dozen to purchase, the Expert Pâtissière in question walked by and the Pastry Lady grabbed her.

Speaking Czech, the Pastry Lady told her. "These people here don't speak any Czech. They came to the bazaar especially for your pastries." (Little did she know that Michelle actually does speak Czech... )

The Pâtissière took one look at us, and in typical Eastern European fashion, god bless her heart, she made a sour face, waved her hand to say "Feh!," and continued on to catch up with her friends. Can you blame her?

All of which is to say, you'll be happy to know that we got exactly what we were looking for.

C-S 4 fig. f: Czech gold

November and early December is the height of Bazaar Season here in Montreal, offering some of the best bargains, the tastiest home-cooked food, and the strangest experiences of the entire year. Support your local bazaars!

Another of our favorites takes place this weekend: the Hungarian Bazaar, Hungarian United Church, corner of Jean-Talon and l'Acadie, November 13 & 14, 10:00 am - 3:00 pm.


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Saturday/Sobota/Samedi/Sábado, rev. ed

Saturday's looking busier and busier. Now we've got tacos to look forward to too. Check it out (#3)!

czech-slovak bazar fig. a: it's back

1. It's been flying under the radar this year (no mention in the Gazette's listing of "fall fairs," no mention anywhere except on the Czech and Slovak Association of Canada website), but the annual Czech-Slovak Bazaar is taking place this Saturday, November 6, at St. Ignatius Parish Hall, 4455 West Broadway in NDG, adjacent to Concordia's Loyola campus. The bazaar lasts from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Not sure if you're the Czech-Slovak Bazaar type? Well, this report from 2007 might help you decide.

More 411:

Bazar - 6. listopadu 2010, sál kostela sv. Ignáce, 11.00 - 15.00 h
Náš již 55. DOBROČINNÝ BAZAR se bude konat v sobotu 6. listopadu 2010 v St. Ignatius Parish Hall, 4455 West Broadway (Loyola Campus). Bazar je otevřen od 11 hodin ráno do 3 hodin odpoledne. Teplá a studená jídla během dne, domácí pečivo.

michelle, cardoon fig. b: satisfied customer

2. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, master gardener Patrice Fortier, of Kamouraska's incredible La Société des plantes, brings his annual roadshow to town this Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. This year Patrice's sale will be taking place at salon de dégustation La QV (29, rue Beaubien) and there will be privately imported wine (courtesy of La QV) and charcuterie (courtesy of Fou du cochon), in addition to a selection of vegetables, herbs, preserves, teas and other goodies.

Again, not sure if you're the Société des plantes type? You can find earlier posts on La Société des plantes here, here, and here.

More 411:

Vente annuelle de La société des plantes : le samedi 6 novembre, de 11 h à 16 h

On renouvelle la tradition cette année : la vente n’aura pas lieu au coin de rue habituel, mais plutôt au 29, rue Beaubien (au coin de St-Laurent) dans le salon de dégustation de La QV où il sera possible de se procurer, en plus de nos produits, des vins d’importation privée à la bouteille ainsi que les cochonailles du Fou du Cochon.

Du jardin :

-Des tisanes (ortie, framboisier, jeunes pousses de sapin, angélique...)
-Des tomates séchées
-Quelques aromates
-Des courges sucrées
-Des pâtissons à purée
-Du chou branchu
-De petites et grosses racines blanches (crosnes, topis, chervis, betteraves, raifort)
-Des pommes de terre sans papiers
-Et ce qui se manifestera d’ici vendredi...

grumman '78 fig. c: Grumman '78 by day & by night*

3. And if all that wasn't enough. The good folks at the new Nouveau Palais and the good folks at Grumman '78 tacos are teaming up to offer two nights of Mexican mayhem, featuring cheap drinks, lo-fi stereo sounds, and, from midnite till 3 a.m., tacos, tacos, tacos (really good ones, too).

times: Friday night/Saturday morning: 12 a.m. - 3 a.m.
Saturday night/Sunday morning (including an extra hour of daylight savings time): 12 a.m. - 3 a.m.

location: Restaurant Nouveau Palais, 281 Bernard St. West, 273-1180 (Mile End)

Happy hunting!


* photo by Sharon Davies

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

In a Golden State 1: Coffee

golden eagle x 2 fig. a: golden eagle, golden state

It seems like eons ago now, but in the month of August, at the height of summer, Team AEB found itself in Northern California for the first time in five years. Not for lack of desire. Our last trip had been a dream, jam-packed with all kinds of memorable adventures and discoveries. Probably the best AEB expedition of all time. Certainly one of the longest. If you had told us it would have taken five years to get back, we would have said, "Are you loco?" But that is in fact what happened. So when we finally got around to paying a return visit, we were more than ready.

Back in '05, when it came time to start typing up our field notes, we went a little overboard. We broke things down into a series of "revelations." Nine of them. Some were themed (burritos, dim sum, Point Reyes Station), but the overwhelming majority were profiles of specific places/people/businesses (June Taylor, Andy's Orchard, Tartine). This time we've elected to go a more consistently thematic route.

Installment #1, as I'm sure you've figured out, is on coffee. Few things about the Golden State helped to keep us in a consistently golden state as effectively as its rad coffee scene.*

And when we got back from California, one of our most prized souvenirs was this simple bag of beans.

four barrel ethiopia michelle fig. b: the other Michelle

Not only did the bag bear the name "Michelle" on it (never did find out why), but it contained some truly lovely beans from one of the irie-est of coffee-growing regions, Ethiopia, and it hailed from one of our favorite SF coffee establishments, Four Barrel.

It's safe to say that the coffee scene in the Bay Area has changed dramatically in just five years. There may be other cities in North America that have undergone similar coffee revolutions during the same period (Chicago? Portland?), but, if so, we haven't had the pleasure of visiting them. What we witnessed in San Francisco was entirely new to us, unprecedented in any of the coffee towns we're familiar with (Montreal, New York, Toronto, Vancouver). You see, not only had several hardcore, high-end coffee operations opened across town, transforming a town that was already coffee-obsessed into a town that was positively twitchy with meticulously sourced, carefully roasted, and expertly executed coffees using a wide variety of brewing methods, but many of them were sourcing and roasting their own beans (!), and most of these establishments housed their roasting operations on-premises in beautifully designed spaces that were oftentimes minimalist in style (lots of wood, exposed beams, etc.), but gargantuan in size. Think high-end, tech-friendly, funked-up loft style, then add some post-industrial industry back into the brew.

Take Four Barrel, for instance. Here's their selection of freshly roasted coffees:

four barrel 1 fig. c: interior design 1, Four Barrel

And here's the coffee roasting operation that's housed just beyond their twin banks of espresso machines.

four barrel 2 fig. d: interior design 2, Four Barrel

Add a turntable, a sizable collection of vintage vinyl, and a crowd of die-hard coffee aficionados, many of them with new media devices in tow, and you start to get the picture. This place was positively buzzing with Mission cool. And the buzz was addictive. Montreal likes to think of itself as a coffee town, and it is, but this was next-level.

Or take Sightglass, another of our favorite coffee joints.

sightglass 1 fig. e: interior design 1, Sightglass

At the time of our visit, Sightglass was just a tiny hole in the wall in another gorgeous post-industrial space. Just a small counter, an espresso machine, a bench, and some basic appliances.

sightglass 2 fig. f: interior design 2, Sightglass

Their roasting operation was next door, mostly out of view. But only temporarily. You see, they were busy transforming the warehouse space that surrounded the shop into another gigantic new-school café, and all indications were that this too would be a marvel of design.

(Again, to put this into local perspective. Take one of our favorite Montreal restaurant spaces, one that was created/renovated in recent years, and one whose design bears quite a bit of resemblance to a place like Four Barrel: La Salle à Manger. Imagine opening a space like La Salle à Manger, putting just as much care and attention into the reno, and then devoting it entirely to coffee. No food (okay, maybe just a few pastries), no alcohol, just coffee. Crazy, right? Well, that's exactly what's going on in SF.)

Most importantly, though, both places were roasting some truly mind-blowing coffees, like Sightglass' Blueboon Blend, and both had the chops to turn them into the headiest of brews.

Four Barrel Coffee, 375 Valencia St., San Francisco, (415) 252-0800 (Mission)

Sightglass Coffee, 270 Seventh St., San Francisco, (415) 861–1313 (SoMa)

ritual mobile unit fig. g: Ritual mobile unit

Other recommended SF coffee establishments:

a) new school

Ritual Coffee Roasters, 1026 Valencia St., San Francisco, (415) 641-1011 (Mission), plus two other locations

Another of the pioneering new-school cafés/roasteries, and the only one I can think of whose beans are available here in Montreal (at Myriade)

b) "hand-made"

Philz Coffee, 3101 24th St., San Francisco, (415) 875-9370 (Mission)

you know full-well how much we love Philz (Philz's?) original location on 24th--Philz has franchised widely since 2005 (they now have 7 locations!), but the original store still has all the old charm, not to mention those killer Philharmonics


* to use the local parlance

p.s. Way to go, Giants!