After a whirlwind 10 days in France and 4 sweet days in NYC, I am home at last! I’ve never been happier to spot the Montreal skyline from the train window. To say I have lots of things to share from our Côte d’Azur adventure would be a massive understatement — I almost don’t know where to begin. (I did pick up a few tips on how to perfect my best Brigitte Bardot impression).
An interview I did with musician R. Stevie Moore, as part of the 2011 POP Montreal Symposium, is up on the internet now! Above is just a short clip, but you can watch the entire hour-long adventure here. Man, in the last week I have increased my YouTube presence by about 200%.
If you haven’t been to one of Montreal’s newest and most life-affirming restaurants, Foodlab, go, go, go, run. Honestly, I make a visit every couple of weeks, because the menu changes quickly and energetically and who knows what marvels Michelle and Seth will come up with next! Earlier this month, Ashley, one of my most awesome and badass friends from San Diego, was in town for some fun so I wanted to take her somewhere equally amazing and memorable. Foodlab, of course. That week, the theme was the terrific products of Kamouraska-based Fou du Cochon, which is imported by local Montreal duo La CV. We ordered every single thing on the menu and devoured it all rapidly, happily. (As if I would ever pass up an opportunity to eat Michelle’s life-changing trawberry shortcakes). Even Bartek, notably extra-knowledgeable about sausages, had a rapturous moment over Nathalie’s sumptuous, ultra-tender boudin blanc.
Foodlab is such a refreshing and vital change of direction in Montreal’s already terrific food scene. The restaurant presents one short menu with a single, focused theme, and it’s truly food plucked straight from Michelle and Seth’s hearts. I have actually eaten things at Foodlab that I have also eaten in Michelle’s own kitchen! How many times can you say that about a big-city restaurant? Certain dishes are recognizably hers, like the savory, crisp green chickpea salad tossed with dandelion greens. And you can count on reasonable prices too, and an always-solid wine list. I love going there and always take out-of-town friends looking for relatively cheap prices and persistently delicious food. Needless to say the meal fueled and fortified us for a very long night of fun and laughter.
Though I love traveling, one of the most challenging aspects of it is not being able to cook. Luckily, on this trip I will be able to spend time in the kitchen, at least for a few days, because we’re renting a small apartment! (I even packed a few of my most favorite French cookbooks!) I’m already fantasizing about making meals just like this one — one small roast chicken, swiss chard dotted with cherry tomatoes and fresh garlic, and crisp jerusalem artichokes, peeled and roasted until golden and fragrant.
It’s finally here! Bartek Komorowski writes and stars in the latest installment of the popular “cooking” film series ‘Culinary Propaganda,’ directed by Matthew Rankin, Winnipeg-born, Montreal-based filmmaker. It also marks my acting debut. Fancy, I know.
I’ll just let the short film speak for itself — it’s, um, a little raunchy! — but it was a blast to make. (I could barely make it through a take without a severe fit of giggles). Love those guys, and congratulations to them for a work well done!
See the first two installments (on making brisket and Portuguese marinated green tomatoes!) here and here. For the full sausage making recipe, read Bartek’s instructions here. The best tip Bartek ever gave me for cooking sausages? Low and slow, for that enviable all-over golden coloring.
Adam and I are in Provence! There’s so much to say, but of course my final meal before departing had to include a Montreal bagel. Everything here is intoxicating and incredible — we keep our noses up to the moving air like dogs, sniffing for new scents! — but with thoughts of Montreal not far away, I already have a running list of ingredients that I can’t wait to find when I get home so I can cook and eat them every day this summer: artichokes, grilled lamb, fava beans, olive oil, tomatoes, parsley, garlic!, olives, lavender, rosemary, thyme, dorade. Honestly, I kind of want to stay here forever.
I grew up in San Diego and I’ve been to China, Singapore, and Hong Kong — so my standards for Chinese food are really high. Montreal has never been a great Chinese restaurant city (in my opinion, its Chinatown can best be described as “quaint”), which is why I make things like dim sum right in my own apartment.
All of this is changing with the somewhat recent addition of Kanbai to the Montreal restaurant scene. I was first alerted to it by my friend Yung Chang, who loves Kanbai and considers it as good as the Sichuanese restaurants he frequented when he lived in the province to shoot his latest film, China Heavyweight. I heard about it again by my friend Bartek, the food critic at the Montreal Mirror, who gave it a glowing review.
So I finally went. Twice in three days, in fact! Both visits were terrific, and included essential orders of the spicy green beans with ground pork, Sichuan-style fried cabbage, and fish in hot chili soup — all favorites of mine, flawlessly executed. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get tired of the exhilarating, narcotic headrush of those Sichuan peppercorns. There’s nothing quite like it.
Massive, crunchy sourdough croutons (made from Haley’s impeccable Tartine loaf!) rubbed with garlic, a huge mound of arugula dressed with lemon, a sprinkling of boiled barley. Was really tasty but wasn’t quite enough. So I added two fried eggs. (“Put an egg on it!”)
When I was working on the Montreal Gazette piece about my dinner with Belgian chef Clement Petitjean, I struggled to find ways to carefully articulate the particular joys of dining alone.
Two months later, I found the perfect passage, seemingly yanked from my brain, from Lorrie Moore’s latest, A Gate at the Stairs. I’ve been a big fan since I breathlessly read Like Life in high school, admiring especially the way she likes to linger over language and words. So it was no surprise to discover that she can write about the particularities of food and the ritual of eating with incredible skill, clarity, and humor:
I had never eaten such intricately prepared food before, and doing so in this kind of mournful, prayerful solitude, in a public place, where by this time no one but I was seated without a companion, made each bite sing and roar in my mouth. Still, it was an odd experience for me to have the palate so cared for and the spirit so untouched. It was a condition of prayerless worship. Endless communion. Gospel-less church.
As if a compote were a chauffeur, every dish seemed richly to have one. I ordered the homemade asparagus ravioli—ravioluses!—with thyme and asparagus and chopped herbs, a vegetable tag-teaming itself. Gradually, I felt I had started to ascend into some kind of low-level paradise. It was astonishing to eat food that tasted like this. Was there ever a time on the planet before now when people had eaten this well? Surely people were eating in a way that evolution had no preparation or reason for. It was a miracle, gratuitous, dizzying and lovely. A “celeriac puree” could no doubt mend all cracks, remove all stains, but what was a “torchon”? A “ganache”? A “soffrito”? A “rillette”? Even the tenderly braised escarole offered up a phrase in a seemingly new tongue, familiar words reshaped in the high-scoring points and busy luck of Scrabble or Dutch.
Perfect. I wanted to transcribe the entire four-page passage that documents this remarkable meal — the entire book, and this passage particularly, is really special.
Montreal pals! If you’ve ever been curious about 1) sustainable farming 2) basics of butchery or 3) making your own bacon, then boy do we have a workshop for you. Brooklyn’s The Ethical Butcher will be traveling to Montreal for a special workshop and BBQ at Le Pick Up detailing the awesome processes behind hog butchery.
Email me if you’d like to register! (firstname.lastname@example.org) It’s going to be a night to remember. More info here.