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....  

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Clamato Juice and The Bloody Caesar

There are two new things I have come across since being in Canada. Clamato juice and The Bloody Caesar.

The first time I heard about the Caesar and Clamato juice was when I was at work in Hamilton (yes I have a job, but I work about 5 hours a week if I am lucky). I think it was my second shift and a customer asked for a Caesar, I pretended to know exactly what she was asking for, telling her I would bring her one, and hoping that we could make this type of cocktail. So off I went to ask another waiter what on earth was a Caesar, he proceeded to tell me that it was just like a bloody mary but made with clamato juice, to which I asked what is clamato juice? My reaction went something like this, you can't be serious? That is disgusting, clams and tomato juice in a drink, Yuk. Any way, I proceeded to make the cocktail and serve it.
Yes, clamato juice is tomato juice and clam juice, not actual clams, just the juice. The Caesar is a cocktail made from clamato juice. In fact the Caesar is a Canadian cocktail, and according to wiki is one of the most popular cocktails in Canada

I decided to write this blog after I attended a food and wine festival on the weekend. I was going to blog about the festival but sadly every photo I took did not work with or without flash. Very disappointed. On entry to the festival I was given a show bag and received a free can of clamato juice, and that is when I decided to write this blog.  
I also decided that I needed to taste both clamato juice and tomato juice, and also make a Caesar and taste that too and then I can have an opinion. I roped Adam in on the tasting, despite his aversion to tomato juice and clams.
Off I went to the supermarket and this is what I found

I went home and made two cocktails one with clamato juice and one with regular tomato juice. 

The Bloody Mary and the Caesar.
The only difference I found was that the tomato juice and consequently the Bloody Mary were thicker in consistency. The clamato juice and Caesar were watery. I noticed this when I was pouring the clamato juice into the glass and also when I tasted it. I did not think there was an overriding taster of clams in the clamato juice, perhaps it was a little more salty, which isn't a bad thing, but I guess I prefer a thicker more tomatoey consistency.
Adam did a blind tasting and he guessed which one was the Caesar and the Bloody Mary. He also said that they tasted similar.
Overall, although the concept of clamato juice sounds revolting, it actually isn't that bad. However, if I had an option to have a Bloody Mary or a Caesar I would probably stick to the Bloody Mary. I guess that is obvious because of where I come from and what I am used to. I am sure if I was Canadian and grew up in Canada drinking clamato juice my answer would probably be different.
Hope you enjoyed. 
From the Maple Girl.  

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Pho Bo, Hamilton - A little taste of Vietnam

Last night we went to a Vietnamese restaurant in Hamilton, called Pho Bo.
Pho Bo, 145 Barton Street East, Hamilton, ON, L8L 8A8.
It was the second time we had dinned at this restaurant and both times have been really great.   
As you can see from the photo it is just like a restaurant you might find in
Vic St, Richmond. I think the tables and chairs are exactly the same as the ones in Thanh Nga Nine (a Vietnamese restaurant in Vic St I used to frequent quite a bit). What you may not find in Vic St is a
 TV showing ice hockey (you can kind of see it in the background). I am sure you are now thinking how very Canadian. The other thing is that it is not busy like it might be in Vic St. Very disappointing as this restaurant is great, the pho and other things we have tried are excellent and remind both Adam and I of Vietnamese food in Melbourne. 
I was impressed with the cleanliness of the place and the condiments on the tables. A minor detail I know but, important.
My thoughts about why the restaurant was not busy is perhaps because people do not go out for dinner that much in Hamilton, and also I think they still might be warming up to Asian cuisine, in Hamilton any way. It was interesting as the owner of the restaurant said to me at the end of our dinner that he knew I had lots of experience eating Vietnamese food as he could see I knew how to use chop sticks. I am left thinking that not a lot of people in Hamilton know how to use chopstick, suggesting that they may not eat a lot of Asian food, or perhaps they simply do not want to learn how to use chopsticks as they can just use a fork. Personally I love using chopsticks, and I think it makes the meal complete. If I was unable to use them I would be trying every time I went for dinner in an Asian restaurant.

I thought it would be interesting to write a few things down that I read on the internet, reviews that other people have made about the same restaurant. This can also give you some insight to the Hamiltonian's eating at these places. One review said that "it was pretty disappointing Thai food"... Um I am pretty sure it is a Vietnamese restaurant. Another said "it was very bad, the waitress did not speak that much English", well dur she is Vietnamese and English is probably her second or maybe even her third or fourth language. Another review said "Not to mention the pile of garnish I got with it (bean sprouts, carrot, etc etc) Should be pickled, but wasn't". Not sure where this reviewer has been for pho before but I am pretty sure the garnish is not supposed to be pickled. I am being a bit harsh I know, but I can't help it sometimes and thankfully it is not all bad there were a few great reviews and loyal customers.

The first time we visited Pho Bo we ate Pho, I had the rare beef Pho, which was really great (do not have a photo as at the time I was not blogging) and Adam had the chicken Pho. One our second visit I decided to try something different, so I went for another soup "Northern Vietnamese style vermicelli with pork and beef". One of the reasons I chose this dish was because in the picture on the menu it looked like it had a lot of chilli in the broth and I love chilli. I also thought that a spicy dish cooked by people who know spice excited me. The other reason is that when I expressed interest in it the owner recommended it, but before doing that he looked me in the eye and asked if I really like chilli? You know what I mean, because they are really thinking this girl is not Asian and I am not sure she can handle real spice even though she says she can. So I said “yes! I love chilli” and off he went to give the order to the chef, who we later found out is his wife and she has been cooking since she was 6 years old.
Within about 10 mins dinner was served. We also ordered a side of spring rolls (really, who can bypass spring rolls). They were huge spring roles and quite nice, they were filled with pork and veg, and double the usual size. Unfortunately did not get a photo of them. 
My soup was tasty it was spicy with the right amount of chilli for me. There were even a few pieces of mystery meat that you also find in pork rolls, the thought of it is scary but the taste is yummy.
The cabbage is the second plate which you add to the soup.
Adam ordered the chicken Pho.
As you can see lots of fresh additions, and lots of chicken both breast and thigh meat.
Our dinner was great and we even had a chance to chat to the owner - Minh. Minh told us that he and his wife were originally from Saigon, but they have lived in Canada pretty much most of their lives. Minh used to work as a bouncer in Hamilton (a scary thought if you have been out and about in Hamilton). Minh explained that his wife encouraged him to stop working as a bouncer and come to the restaurant and work. Fair enough. Minh also gave us a bit of history about the restaurant, saying that it used to be a doughnut shop, and the restaurant was really dirty, and had lots of unsavoury characters around, using the bathrooms for drug use, etc. So when they took the restaurant over they spent a lot of time cleaning it up, and they are really proud of their restaurant now and also the customers they get are really great. Minh gave us some advice and that was to not walk around Hamilton downtown at night after 9pm.... Spoken from a previous bouncer I think we will take his advice! Phew, we have a car!
Overall what a great place for Vietnamese food, we will definitely be back. The large Pho was $7.50 and my soup was $6.50, so a pretty cheap and filling meal.