Sunday, 30 October 2011

Ribs fest

Who would have thought that about 8 years ago I hated pork, I did not eat it and could not stand the sight or smell of it (except bacon of course). Thankfully things have changed. They changed while I was living in London when friends took me out to a BBQ restaurant called Bodean's, it was in Clapham and there speciality was ribs. I remember this experience very fondly, I ordered a rack of baby back ribs and they were soooo delicious, succulent and barbequie. From that time on I have never looked back! I now have a love affair with pork and when I heard of the ribs festivals over here in North America I just had to check one out.

There are several ribs festivals taking place all around North America during August and September  (summer time). The festivals are obviously all about Ribs and they have many vendors from all over North America. They compete to try and win the prize for the best ribs. There are also sub categories like the best sauce, the best pig, the best pig rig etc etc. I went to the Burlington Ribs Festival, this was the 16th year running and they claim to be the biggest Ribs Festival in North America.

Off I went to the festival hungry for some juicy ribs. There were 18 different vendors from Florida to Ontario. Although ribs were the main part of the festival there were also rides, live music, activities for the kids, arts and crafts.

My first choice of ribs was from Sticky Fingers, Providence, Rhode Island. They won third place in the Judges Best Ribs Award. The readon I chose Sticky Fingers was because I liked the display and the fact that they were playing some country and western music, Yeee haaa !!  

The ribs were ok not the best I have had, there was a lot of meat on the rib and the sauce was nice. 
The second lot of ribs I ordered was from another Americano place, Gator BBQ, Florida. They were probably my favourite of the 3 that I tried. The sauce was delicious and they packed it on, which was great as you can never have enough sauce! It turned out that they actually won the best sauce award. 
Lastly, I tried the ribs from Boss Hoggs, London, Ontario. They were the defending champs and also Canadian, so I had to try them. They were pretty good, but I have to say the Gator ones were my favourite.
After eating to capacity we sat down and enjoyed some of the live music.

Overall the festival was a lot of fun. It was a great chance for me to indulge in delicious pork meat and to enjoy a North American cultural experience! I am hoping that I can find a ribs festival somewhere in Australia to indulge again. Does anyone know? And if so where? And if not perhaps I need to bring this tradition back to Australia!!!  

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Part three - Montreal - Dinner

It certainly feels like I have been at Montreal a lot longer than a weekend as this blog has taken me so long to finish. This is the third and final chapter!

The first dinner in Montreal was at Chuck Hughes ( restaurant 'Garde Manger'. Chuck Hughes is a very famous Canadian chef from Montreal, I have seen a lot of him since living in Canada and I have become a big fan. He is sort of like a Jamie Oliver, passionate, inspiring and not crazy and mean like some well known chef's. I was dying to check out his restaurant and without a booking we almost did not get in. We had an amazing dinner but sadly no photos or blog as the lighting was hideous. I do recommend this restaurant but maybe book before going and definitely order the scallops, they were amazing!

The second night was the poutine aftermath so there was not much to blog about.
The third night we went to L'un Des Sens. We stumbled upon this restaurant while we were looking for a different restaurant we had researched, that was no longer around. L'un des sens had a really interesting menu where you could make your own degustation, what more could you possibly want! We had a quick cocktail at a bar called Baldwin Barmacie ( a very cool place for all the cool kids! I ordered a French Martini: Vodka, Chambord, Pineapple Juice - delicious. After the drink we went back to the restaurant for our journey through the senses. We ordered 5 courses for $55 a very reasonable price for fine dining!

First course: Quinoa and beet salad, egg runny, spinach

The idea is to mix everything together and eat. It was really delicious and had a lot of different textures. The quinoa had a nice nutty flavour and then the egg mixed through made it all so creamy.

Second course: Mackerel 

The Mackerel was cooked well, the skin was crispy and salty.

Third course: Duck, pickled quail egg, smoked duck breast, veal with rice rillettes.

The menu at times was a little lost in translation but we worked it out in the end. The rillettes was more like a terrine. The duck breast had a great smoky flavour and it came with some peanut butter, which went with some crackers and was supposed to compliment the duck. It was a weird combination but it was worked. The quail egg was good but I would have preferred a warm gooey egg not a hard boiled pickled one. 

Fourth course: Medallion of venison, panfried seasonal mushrooms with marrow. I chose this dish as I am having a venison thing at the moment and also how could anything be wrong with marrow.

It was extremely rich and delicious. It looks small but the plate was huge!

Fifth course: Frozen chocolate mousse, praline crunch, financial biscuit and custard.
I couldn’t decided on the desert course so I ended up ordering this but wish I had of gone with my other choice a lemon desert. Any way I was intrigued to know what on earth a financial biscuit was... Another thing lost in translation I suspect.

It was nice but not amazing, the biscuit was just a crumble chocolate biscuit. 
Adam ordered different things to me he was going with a foie gras theme so everything had foie gras in it, including the dessert which I managed to get a photo of.

It was creme brulee with foie gras, caramelised apple vinegar poppy, crumble and caramel. Basically a creme brulee and apple crumble all in one! Doesn’t sound like it would work but surprisingly it did and it was extremely rich and creamy.

Our final day and last supper in Montreal we went to 'Marche de la villette' a boucherie, charcuterie and restaurant that looked like it was straight out of Paris. It was constantly busy with tourists and locals. The Menu was very French consisting of French onion soup, crepes, fromage, meats etc etc.

I ordered a French onion soup followed by a Croque Madame. 

I cannot say I am a connoisseur of French onion soup but I found this one a little watery and I would have liked some more onion. 
The Croque Madame on the other hand was amazing, as you can see they were very generous with the cheese and ham.  

What a great feast that we had while in Montreal. It certainly was a nice break from the Canadian/American cuisine we are experiencing everywhere since being in Hamilton and surrounding areas (not the greatest cuisine). I recommend a trip to Montreal for everyone and make sure you do not hold back and eat as often and as much as you desire!  

The Maple Girl

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Part two - Montreal - Poutine

What can I say about Poutine. A heart attack in a snack, well the one we ordered in Montreal certainly was. Poutine originated in Quebec and it is made up of french fries, cheese curds and gravy, additional items are often added. You can find Poutine mass produced in McDonald’s and other fast food places over Canada, but it is not the same as the poutine you can find in some restaurants in Montreal. It was on the list of things to eat in Montreal and recommended in the lonely planet.
After a very long walk all around Montreal including Mont Royal (the highest part of Montreal, a small mountain overlooking the city) we were starving and in desperate need of a toilet. It was a sign, so we stopped at 'Plaisirs Coupables, Snack.Bar.Urbain', for a small snack before dinner. The menu is described as 'decadent comfort food'. We ordered the Poutine with Confit Duck and Foie Gras. It certainly was decadent and comforting however, filling and super rich we were not so sure about dinner later on.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Breakfast in Montreal

I know it has been a few months since I last blogged, lots has happened. A computer virus for one, starting a new job and a few holidays too! I have not blogged about Hawaii because the food wasn't the greatest, perhaps we were unlucky with our choices, but then again Hawaii is still a state of the great US and A and I am thinking that has something to do with it...
The food in Montreal was totally the opposite, AMAZING! Because we ate so much in Montreal I have a series of blogs, this is part one called, Breakfast in Montreal.

On the plane over I was scanning the pages of the lonely planet looking for food suggestions, they had recommended a brunch place called "Eggspectation". At first I was interested as it boasted 8 different types of Eggs Benedict, but then I read on and noticed it was a chain and I am not the biggest fan of chain restaurants. I put a mark on the map just in case. It just so happened that on our first morning wandering the streets of Montreal we stumbled upon Eggspectation, we were hungry so we went in. I thought it was quite a cute place, mostly decorated with ornamental egg art work.

Yes the menu had 8 different types of eggs benedict and I could not bypass the traditional one. It was good, probably not the best I have had but I ate it and the eggs were runny and the ham was delicious, and for $9.99 who can complain really. Breakfast is so much cheaper in Canada compared to Australia.

Day two - Canada day and also known as moving day in Quebec - we had a hankering for crepes, and noticed a creperie the day before while we were walking around the Latin Quarter. We probably walked a few kilometres to get there but found that it was closed, upset but still determined to find crepes we noticed the place next door was open and also did crepes. This place looked much more authentic and interesting.  La Bulle au Carre, 3482 rue Saint-Denis, it boasted traditional crepes from Brittany, France.  

You can see comic artefacts on the tables and on the walls, I read in a review that the owner used to be a bookseller specialising in comics. It does not look busy but there were quite a few people sitting on the tables behind us. The other important thing to note is that Montreal is very European and like many European countries everyone seems to come out at night, it seems the later is gets the busier it gets.
The crepes on the menu are made in a style that is found in Brittany, France. They are savoury crepes made with buckwheat flour and salted. I ordered one with cheese, ham, tomato, and mushrooms $8.00, and it was delicious. I wanted to fit in a sweet one but it was a pretty large crepe, and came with a side salad I was also on a chocolate croissant mission so was planning on eating one of those later. 

Day three - I almost forgot what we had, but then remembered this cafe - Cafe Bistro mon Plaisir, 540 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, it was close to where we were staying. I had a smoked salmon bagel, and a chocolate croissant to eat later on, it was probably the best chocolate croissant I had all trip, sorry I did not take photos! 

Day four - has it's own post because it was such an amazing place with amazing food!

Day five - back to reality in Hamilton!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Sakai - Japanese & Korean restaurant

Sakai - a Japanese and Korean restaurant in Burlington (Burlington is a suburb next to Hamilton). The restaurant came as a recommendation from some regular customers of the restaurant I work in. These customers opinion I trust as when they visit we often get talking about food and wine and cooking and I can tell they know what they are on about. So off we went to Sakai to celebrate my recent job offer and to pig out. 
I thought it was a very cute Japanese restaurant. You can see the sushi chefs right there in front of the customers preparing the sushi & sashimi. On the way out of the restaurant I heard what sounded like regular customers request a table in front of the sushi chef's, something I might need to request next time!
I loved the placemat and metal chop sticks (not wood, yay)! Of course everything on the menu we wanted so we ordered what we thought was a lot and it turned out to be even more than we thought. The lady actually stopped us from ordering one dish as we had so much already, thank goodness for that. There are a few missing food photos, I got a little carried away by the food and forgot!
Starting off with a salad. The sauces in the background are for the other dishes to come. I also love the china they use, really cute. Salad was yum, delicious dressing.
The sashimi starter plate - $10, very impressed with the price (13 pieces of sashimi). Salmon, tuna, white tuna, then there was another sort of tuna (can't remember the name) and butterfish. Never had butterfish before but I loved it. The pieces of fish were also massive. Not sure the photo does it justice. Oh and the fish was all amazing and fresh and delicate!
Sushi starter - $8.00
The fish next to the salmon was the tuna type fish, it seemed to be seared and was yummy.
Another bad photo (sorry) this dish was AMAZING and really different. Poky salad - $6 (so cheap). Tuna sashimi, with fish roe, seaweed, chilli, radish. It had quite a kick to it.
Tempura prawns (or in Canada they call all prawns shrimp.... not sure why, it does not make sense to me, I always thought shrimp were those really little prawns). Anyway, this was lovely crisp tempura with delicious sauce.
This is beef sashimi (sort of like tataki) was probably the worst dish, but in saying that was still pretty good. The meat was a little tough, and the sauce just did not cut it. I was probably comparing it to the tataki at Ocha which is the best! It is also probably not fair of me to compare it with Ocha as Ocha is just the best!

Oh my goodness this was probably one of the best dishes, Ebi Shumai - $6.00, minced shrimp and scallop inside, with yummy Japanese bbq sauce.

Dol shot bee bim bap - $13, came with rice and miso soup, it was nice but I have had better dishes similar to this. What I loved was that it came with all the above extras, kim chi, chilli pickled veg, and the bean shoots. I also love the whole mix it at your table thing, you put the bowl of rice in and then you mix it all up and cook the egg. I also love the concept of the egg in the dish, it makes it so creamy and it reminds me of many of the staff meals at Ocha most often cooked by the Korean chefs. I also love kim chi and the way Koreans use chilli and I think that improved the dish for me.
There was one dish I did not take a photo of and that was soft shell crab. It was really tasty and I asked for Japanese Mayo, I mean who can resist it. Overall a really great place that I will definitely be going back to. Perhaps next time I will order less and try some different dishes, and request the table in front of the sushi chefs! I will also be asking the regular customers for some more restaurant recommendations.

Friday, 29 April 2011

L’Orée du Bois

Over Easter I was in Ottawa, visiting extended family and seeing more of Canada. I was very impressed by Ottawa I found it to be very beautiful. Some of the buildings reminded me of parts of Europe, I think it must have been the gothic architecture. The mighty Ottawa River separates Ontario and Quebec, so I was very excited to go over the river and visit Quebec. Lucky for me one night we were taken over the river into Gatineau, Quebec to dine at L'Orée du Bois for dinner. L’Orée du Bois is one of the family favourites they often go there on special occasions. Adam and I were taken there as guests and we were very spoilt.

L'Orée du Bois loosely translates to emerging from the woods. True to the name the restaurant is emerging from the woods. It is a cosy little place that looks like a cottage and is made mostly of wood. I apologise now as I did not take enough photos of the restaurant exterior and interior. The website is fantastic and important if you ever want to go there are lots of photos on this website if you are interested. I found out that the restaurant used to be a farm house and was built at the start of the century. There is still a farm and a lot of the produce used in the cooking is grown there. The atmosphere inside is warm and romantic, candle lights on the tables, wooden interior, French music playing.  The menu is Quebecois cuisine, similar to French but with local produce. The food is very rustic and full of flavour. 
The menu is amazing the prices are really reasonable. Right now I am thinking of France Soir, a French restaurant in Melbourne, Australia (Probably not a good comparison as I was never impressed with France Soir) Any way, I found the food at L'Orée du Bois so much better than France Soir and so much cheaper. Oh and I almost forgot, the service, at L'Orée du Bois they were friendly, responsive and warm, unlike France Soir where the waiters were sour, unresponsive and arrogant.  
I had the menu which consisted of soup, entree, main, dessert, coffee/tea - $38. 
I decided not to have soup because I was worried about fitting everything in. For entree I had duck foie gras. YUM  
For main course I had the red deer medallion, with red wine sauce, pureed potatoes, beans, green pea and tarragon mousse. It was delicious, words cannot describe the taste sensation. I ordered the meat rare, which was a good choice, and the meat was cooked perfectly. It just melted in my mouth, that sauce was also really yummy. We were also drinking red wine (cannot remember what sort sorry) it went really well with this dish.

For dessert, I had the three chocolate iced terrine, it came with orange sauce and grenadine candied orange zest. As you can see there was dark, milk and white chocolate. The sauce went really well with the chocolate, and the candid grenadine orange zest was a tangy flavour with great texture. 

I managed to get a little taste of Adam’s food. He was going with the duck theme (yay)! For entree he had duck liver parfait with port wine. It differed quite a bit to my foie gras, I don't know much about foie gras (except that it is delicious) so I could not give you any accurate education about the difference. I did ask the waitress to explain the difference but the only thing I can remember her saying is that some of the ducks are force fed and then some are not. Adam and I decided that my foie gras was from a force fed duck because the colour was a yellow creamy colour more like the colour of fat, probably not something I should think about, even so it was a taste sensation. For main Adam had duck confit it came with a mushroom sauce. Unfortunately I only got a tiny piece and it had a bit of chewy fat on it, so I wasn’t that excited by the duck, but Adam assures me it was a great duck, and I trust his duck opinion! For dessert he had the chocolate mousse, which was amazingly rich.
Overall great food, great company, great experience. We definitely will be going back there, just have to find the time, I mean who could turn down the wild boar rillettes for $6.00, to be continued....