Thursday, September 29, 2011

Moving On

moving on fig. a: she's moving on

Well, now that the cat's out of the bag, I guess we can go ahead and tell you definitively: Yes, the stories are true. As of right now, Michelle is no longer at Laloux. She's moving on.

And her next stop? Well, it's not 207th Street Station in Upper Manhattan, it's the Société des Arts Technologiques' brand-spanking-new FoodLab right here in Downtown Montreal.  Are we excited about this turn of events, here at AEB? Again, the photograph above might be a little misleading, but, YES, very!

What can you expect from this bold new venture? Well, for the moment, that's a secret, but we'll be sure to keep you informed of any and all late-breaking FoodLab-related news, as it becomes available.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the Grumman '78-curated "Food Court @ FoodLab," tomorrow, September 30, in the Place de la Paix (adjacent to the S.A.T.), from noon till 7:00 pm. Michelle won't be participating, unfortunately (she'll be on her way to New York to attend StarChefs 2011!), but in addition to the Grumman '78 crew, you'll find representatives from a number of Montreal's most talented purveyors of food & wine, including Fou du Cochon, Nora Gray, and La QV, along with DJs Matt Cerf and Julian Prince.

Finally! The food court that Montreal has been waiting for!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

dispatches from planet pizza: Sally's Apizza

sally's 2 fig. a: Italian-American

We'd been plotting a pizza pilgrimage (another one) of some sort to New Haven, CT, for some time. Would we visit Frank Pepe's, Sally's Apizza, or Modern Apizza? Would we visit all three? All of them have histories dating back 70 years or more. All of them have their devotees. And all of them have such colorful names. As you can probably tell, we find ourselves going to New York with regularity, and New Haven is only about 80 miles away. New York and New Jersey have no shortage of outstanding pizza, but a side trip to New Haven certainly seemed like a worthwhile (and tasty) way to improve our pizza literacy further.

So, like I said, the New Haven pizza tour was something we'd been thinking about for a good while. But then a couple of things fell into place, and, the next thing we knew it was actually happening.  First off, we had a wedding to go to in New York. Secondly, on this particular occasion, we needed to head to New York by way of Eastern Vermont, which meant that if we just continued along Interstate 91 all the way down south, we'd end up in New Haven (yes!). And, thirdly, when I did a little exploratory "what if..." research on New Haven's pizza scene I came across Adam Kuban's "8 Pizzas That Haunt My Dreams" slideshow from 2009, and #8 on the list was the plain tomato pie at Sally's.  Not only did that photograph + caption seal the deal ("That's it!  There is no question about it! We are going to New Haven!!"), but it placed Sally's at the top of our list.

sally's fig. b: interior decor, Sally's

What do you need to know about Sally's? Well, first off, Sally is a man. Or, at least, he was, god rest his soul. Salvatore "Sally" Consiglio founded his pizzeria way back in 1938, and Sally's Apizza is still a family-owned joint--in fact, Flo Consiglio, Sally's wife, can still be found doing the accounting in her booth on most nights, and Ruth, Bob, and Rick, their children, are still integral to the whole Sally's experience.

Sally's Apizza specializes in New Haven-style Neapolitan pies* baked in a blisteringly hot coal oven. We were close enough to the kitchen to actually see the production line and the pizzaiolo in action, and, let me tell you, it was quite a show. Sally's recalls a time when pizza was still an Italian working-class staple--it's a no-frills operation, that somehow, miraculously, produces these true works of art. Not surprisingly, the backstage banter was absolutely classic.

sally's 3 fig. c: plain tomato pie

Anyway, Kuban's write-up had warned us that if you order a large plain tomato pie for yourself, "you can eat for days," and that sounded pretty good to us. Especially when we looked at the menu and saw that it was retailing for $11.80. We weren't going to leave without trying at least one other pie, though, so we scoped out the specials and settled on the white potato pie with rosemary.

Kuban was right. That large plain tomato pie was humongous. It's a simple pizza, one that really shows off the genius of Sally's crust. It comes topped with just a bright and lively tomato sauce and a dusting of grated Parmesan, but you have the option of having thinly sliced garlic added to the mix. We took them up on that offer, partially because Sally's looks like the kind of place where they might actually slice their garlic with a razor blade, the way they did in Goodfellas. We weren't close enough to find out for sure, but I can tell you that that plain tomato pie with extra garlic was awesome, and we were glad we had plenty of leftovers.

The potato pie was yet another classic: basically, just some thinly sliced potatoes, some cheese, and some rosemary topping another perfectly executed crust. It took some will power to resist eating the whole thing on the spot, but we thought it might be nice to have some leftovers of that pie, too. And we were right. It tasted pretty damn good when we finally got to Brooklyn, later that same night. And it tasted even better the following afternoon, when we had a little backyard pizza brunch.

sally's 5 fig. d: potato pie

Sally's Apizza, 237 Wooster St., New Haven, CT, (203) 624-5271

* The name, with its Neapolitan dialect, gives away Sally's roots.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Extra! Extra!!

P1020171 fig. a: pie by Parker Pie

We've waxed poetic about the joys of pizza in Vermont on more than one occasion, but if you pick up today's Montreal Gazette, you'll find a new, more comprehensive article on Green Mountain pizza, featuring three of our very favorite establishments:

summer dining, American Flatbread fig. b: al fresco, American Flatbread

American Flatbread fig. c: decor, American Flatbread

American Flatbread (of course), Parker Pie Co., and Pizza on Earth.

pizza by Pizza on Earth fig. d: pizza by Pizza on Earth

  • If you prefer the ease and convenience of the online edition, you can find that version of the article (alas, with fewer photographs) here.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dispatches from planet BBQ: Arthur Bryant's

arthur bryant's 1 fig. a: beans, ribs, fries, sauces

I would imagine we've all had the experience of going to a restaurant with high expectations, but going to a place like Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, MO, is an altogether different experience. This is a barbecue joint--a "grease house," as Mr. Bryant used to put it--of the highest order, easily ranking among the 10 most famous in America.

Arthur Bryant's 3 fig. b: world famous

This is an establishment that Calvin Trillin once referred to as, "possibly the single best restaurant in the world," in the pages of Playboy (in an article that later appeared in American Fried). Of course, Trillin hails from K.C. originally, but there was a lot more than just hometown pride behind his claim. There were ribs, there was Arthur Bryant's legendary barbecue sauce, and, most importantly, there were burnt ends.

So when you got to a place like Arthur Bryant's and it actually manages to meet or exceed your expectations, you know you've experienced something special, and that's exactly what happened. I was blown away (which is pretty amazing for a place whose patriarch passed away almost 30 years ago).

I mean, just look at those ribs in the image up top. And you can't tell from the photo, but those beans are the real deal. Tender, smoky, savory, and laced with a major dose of Arthur Bryant's phenomenal burnt ends. Even their fries are excellent. And their brisket? Ridiculously succulent. I haven't had the pleasure of a barbecue tour of Texas (yet), so I'm hardly an expert, but this brisket was a work of beauty.

Arthur Bryant's being a serious barbecue joint, your ribs, your brisket, your bbq pork, etc., all come to you unsauced (unless you're taking them to go, in which case you'll be asked if you want them slathered or not). Arthur Bryant's is world famous, in part, for their sauce, but, generally, the saucing of the barbecue is left up to you, the customer. You take your tray to your table, and there you'll find a battery of Arthur Bryant's special brews: their original sauce, a sweet sauce, and a spicy sauce. Both the sweet sauce and the spicy sauce have their adherents (and with good reason: they're excellent), but Arthur Bryant's true believers all swear by the original recipe, and nothing but. Who can blame them? It's an utterly beguiling barbecue sauce, unlike any other I've ever tasted. Jane and Michael Stern have described the sauce as, "a gritty, red-orange blend of spice and sorcery that is not at all sweet,... packs a hot paprika wallop and tastes like a strange soul-food curry," and, as strange as that last part may sound, there's something to it.

arthur bryant's 2 fig. c: decor

The interior of Arthur Bryant's flagship restaurant is pure mid-20th-century soul,* from its no-nonsense decor, to its cafeteria-style service, to its low-key, down-tempo blues & soul soundtrack. It's also a true barbecue shrine. Arthur Bryant's website features photographs of Tom Watson, Calvin Trillin, and Jimmy Carter under the caption "Our Fans," but its walls feature images of fans like Steven Spielberg and Sally Field alongside African-American heroes like Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Charlie Parker.

That hickory-smoke flavor and the tang of that Arthur Bryant's original sauce lingered deliciously on my fingertips for hours after my visit, even after I'd washed up, but eventually, sadly, they faded away, like everything else in this mean, old world. And ever since, all I can think is: "how the heck will I ever be able to get back to K.C.?" Thank God I left Arthur Bryant's with a bottle of their magical elixir.

Arthur Bryant goes to heaven fig. d: Mister Bryant goes to heaven

Arthur Bryant's
1727 Brooklyn Ave.
Kansas City, MO
(816) 231-1123

Arthur Bryant's 4 fig. e: Arthur Bryant's is it!


* While the Arthur Bryant's tradition has roots that date back to the early 20th century, the 1727 Brooklyn location was established in 1958.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Oysters! Oyster Festivals!, rev. ed.

oyster fest poster fig. a: Oh, Oysterman!

For those of you oyster lovers who've been asleep at the wheel, the third annual Montreal Oyster Festival takes place this Sunday, September 11, from 2:00 PM to 9:00 PM, in Old Montreal.

There'll be thousands upon thousands of oysters, plenty of beer and wine, and all kinds of other edible delicacies on offer, including peach and sour cherry tartlets with bourbon whipped cream by Michelle--served by Michelle herself, along with her two lovely assistants, Natasha and Thea. Stop by and say "hi."

tboc 3 fig. b: raw

Added bonus: Remember those phenomenal Tomales Bay oysters we told you all about last year (the ones you see in the photograph above)? Well, one of Daniel "Montreal Oysterguy" Notkin's fellow brothers-in-oysters will be hauling some up to Montreal all the way from California for this very occasion. Get psyched. The coast-to-coast selection will be mind-blowing.

The last time I had the pleasure of tasting Montreal Oysterguy's oysters, freshly shucked by his very hands, was at a killer La Q.V. Été event earlier this summer. Not only did we have a selection of fantastically tasty oysters from New Brunswick, Massachusetts, and Washington matched with a lovely Sancerre, but we had the option of buying oysters by the dozen to take home with us, at rock-bottom prices. Yes!

I brought three dozen home with me, and the next night we held our very own oyster festival in the privacy of AEB HQ. And because we had a relatively plentiful amount, and because we'd gotten them at such a good price, we went ahead and prepared them California style: on the grill.

They looked something like this,

grilled oysters fig. c: grilled

and they tasted like paradise.

Never grilled an oyster before? This is what you want to do:

Prepare a medium-hot grill, preferably one that's burning wood or natural charcoal.

Scrub your oysters clean.

Place your oysters on the grill, either directly, or on a piece of aluminum foil. Cover the grill with a lid to get more of that beautiful smoky flavor.

Grill the oysters until they begin to open, about 5-8 minutes. Do not wait until they've all opened. Whatever you do, you don't want to overcook them, and you definitely don't want to dry them out. So, as soon as the first couple open, take 'em all off the grill.

Once you've removed the oysters from the grill, shuck them, leaving each of your oysters with its precious juices in the half-shell. Remember, these oysters will be HOT. They've been grilling. The ones that have begun to open should be easy to shuck. Those that haven't opened up yet will be a little more difficult. Either way, remember to use a towel to handle them, because, again, they will be HOT.

When you've shucked your oysters, add the toppings of your choice. In Tomales Bay we saw all kinds of adventurous combinations being created around us. At Big Sur Bakery, they dressed their wood-fired oysters with a simple California-style mignonette. In the photo above, we went with bacon, parsley, green onions, butter, and grated Parmesan. Kind of a modified Rockefeller vibe.

Place the oysters back on the grill, covered, for another 2-4 minutes. Just long enough for the oysters to come back to temperature and for certain toppings (butter, cheese) to melt.

Remove the oysters from the grill and serve immediately.

Once again, the Montreal Oyster Festival takes place this Sunday.

Montreal Oyster Festival
The Pigeon Hole Parking Lot
Rue St Jean x Notre Dame Ouest
Sunday, September 11, 2011
2:00 PM - 9:00 PM

And you can find tickets online here.


P.S. Wondering what it looked like behind the scenes at this year's Montreal Oysterfest? You can find a full report with lots of lovely photographs right here. Nice work, PP!