Category Archives: memory

HOT POT ADDICTION

In the dead of winter, traditional Chinese hot pot might be the perfect remedy. My thought process of the last month: Quick! Before winter ends… and it’s going to end soon… You have one final thing to accomplish. A hot pot feast at home!

I adore everything about hot pot. Thinly sliced meats — like beef, lamb, chicken — perched delicately in a mesh wire basket, are lowered into a bubbling cauldron dotted with floating mushrooms, a tangle of rice noodles, cubes of tofu, and a mysterious thicket of vegetables. As the meat simmers to doneness, the fixings, like a big spoonful of spicy, rich sesame sauce, are arranged in a tiny bowl, alongside a few wedges of crisp Chung Yao Bing, or a savory scallion pancake. As the night crawls forward, the broth gets thicker, meatier, richer, condensed with the dazed memories of the meats and the seafood that entered and exited its steamy world.

My fondness for hot pot has been documented on this site before. There’s that time I had it in Hong Kong, which was pretty mind-blowing. But organizing a hot pot feast at home  — as I did once in California — is not even that hard, and maybe even more fun than going out. So for my friend Karine’s birthday, I knew right away that I wanted to throw her a party that we’d all remember forever.

The day of the dinner, we drove down to Chinatown and scooped up all of the ingredients for a proper hot pot experience. As for prep, that’s about it. The night of the party, it’s an every-man-or-woman-for-himself kind of situation. You make the food as you crave it, gulp it down as soon as it’s ready, and don’t stop until you’re about stuffed, practically hallucinating with pleasure, peering through the steamy room that feels as hot as a sauna.

It’s the best way to say zàijiàn to winter.

LUNCHING LAWRENCE

Because I work every dinner service at Lawrence, my only opportunity to actually enjoy our food (as a client)is during lunch. Luckily, a lot of the goodies that we offer at dinner — like potted rabbit, pickled smelt, grilled ox tongue, and, of course, our desserts! — are available on our lunch menu, too. (And so much more affordable!)

The other day I stopped in with a friend and we went nuts over the menu: golden shallots with fresh goat’s curd; baked borlotti beans with chewy bacon and horseradish cream; creamy, gooey celery gratin (it’s so good, it reminds me of cheese pizza); our famous housemade charcuterie and pickles… it was a feast. All it was missing was a few bottles of wine.

THANKSGIVING FEASTS: THE FINALE

Thanksgiving feast #3: perhaps the most spectacular of them all. So spectacular, in fact, that I completely neglected to take any photos of the delicious, abundant spread, which included pale pink mashed potatoes, roasted romanesco cauliflower, seared brussels sprouts, a faintly sweet, crunchy stuffing made with dried cherries, pecans, and cranberries, and massive magnums of wine provided by two of the most knowledgeable wine folks in the city, Theo and Etheylia. Naturally, you’d never expect anything less from a culinary duo as capable and passionate as Michelle and Anthony. I did remember to whip out my camera at the start of the awe-inspiring dessert course, when Michelle modestly unveiled a perfect pumpkin pie and a moist, boozy bourbon-drenched pound cake. Adam swooned, then asked for a thick slice to take home with him. They complied, of course — Thanksgiving is all about generosity, and these two are the very embodiment of perfect home entertaining.

MEMORIES OF PALMIERS

In the course of preparing endless amounts of sweet things for the restaurant, I end up with lots of odds and ends — bits of dough, packets of pastry, things we can’t serve to customers. I still am racking my brains over how to use a small lump of marzipan I made almost two months ago! I try never to waste anything, but it can be challenging to find new and interesting ways to use it all. (Right now, I love baking up the scone scraps into mini scone-nubbins for the staff).

We recently made a couple kilos worth of puff pastry for a major charity event (more on that soon!), and had so much puff leftover. I couldn’t bare to throw it away, so it became these tiny, crisp, light-as-air palmiers, some of which we gobbled up at work, and some of which I brought home with me to enjoy with hot coffee.

Palmiers have a special place in my heart. When I was growing up, my parents and I would head down to La Jolla Shores every Sunday morning to hang out on the beach for a few hours. We read the newspaper, walked in the sand, and collected seashells. It was the one time of the week that I was allowed to eat junk food (powdered sugar mini-donuts and orange juice), while my parents opted for more sophisticated choices like croissants and bagels. My mom, however, always went for the gigantic palmier — her favorite cookie. It appealed to me both in its sheer size (they’re called elephant ears, after all), and its impressively high sugar level.

It was really fun to recreate this special pastry at work, and insanely easy, too (if you don’t count the days that go into preparing a bar of puff). You could easily recreate this at home with store-bought frozen puff — just make sure that the list of ingredients only lists butter as the fat used. I roll out the puff very thinly, scatter with sugar, and curl both sides like a book. Cut thinly, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with more sugar, and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the sugar caramelizes and gets sticky. Sprinkle with even more sugar and eat hot. One of the best treats I’ve had in ages — buttery, flaky, and sweet.

SNAPS FROM PROVENCE

Flimsy scarves, sunny seaside mornings, fluorescent petals, citrusy cheeses, impromptu roadside picnics. We were in Provence three months ago but it still feels like yesterday. Already thinking about when we’ll go back – so much left to see.

THE SKY WAS PINK

When we were in Provence, I finally got a peek at my dream house. We were at the Chateau Barbeyrolles — a small property located at the foot of Gassin, one of the three villages on the Saint-Tropez peninsula — which was both an excellent winery and home to its proprietress, Régine Sumeire. From wandering her grape vines, which grow freely within clusters of rose bushes, to exploring her beautiful home (which had a gigantic swimming pool!), I was completely and utterly seduced by Barbeyrolles’ unabashed femininity and timeless personality.

Here in Montreal, Régine’s drinkable, friendly rose wines are very popular (her Cotes de Provence Petale de Rose, drunk poolside or at the beach, is especially a hit in the summer), and it was fascinating to see how her womanly, flower-loving personality translated to both her wines and the inspiring way she lives her life.

We were lucky enough to eat a simple, summery meal prepared by Sumeire herself, right in her own home, where she’s lived since 1977. Everyone knows that I’m obsessed with everything pink (my favorite color) and flowery and girly, so I was totally in hog heaven as I took in her rose-patterned tablecloth, impressive Persian rug collection, and shelves and shelves of well-read books. It incapsulated everything I’ve ever imagined for my own dream home — especially the cozy, terra cotta-tiled kitchen, where we ate.

Régine, in true effortless French lady form, had prepared a feast of traditional Provencal food, like cubes of foie gras wrapped in ham; a cold tomato and salt cod salad, dusted with fennel fronds and chives; tender squares of zucchini, stuffed with ground veal, garlic, and breadcrumbs; and mini fig and raspberry tartlets. (All carefully paired with her delicious wines, of course). Right as we were about to sit down and eat, the kitchen was flooded with intense, fluorescent pink light, which spilled over the hillside like water. We didn’t encounter many other female winemakers when we were in Provence, and Régine had a particularly intriguing, witchy aura about her, like she was in control of the sunset somehow. I felt lucky to be there.

PS. Montreal friends, if you’d like to get a taste of this kind of Provencal magic, my friends Seth and Michelle are hosting a special Provencal dinner tonight at the Foodlab, in honor of the late, great food writer Richard Olney. (A familiar name on this blog, for sure!) Trust me — you don’t want to miss this.

NORTHWEST MEMORIES

Thanks to these photos, I’m really craving a big lunch at Luce right now. Portland summers are totally one-of-a-kind — I love that I wore leggings and a rain jacket to a summer picnic! — and I still miss it like crazy. Was this really two years ago?

THE DEEPNESS OF OYSTERS

 

Have you ever had an oyster party? I totally recommend it. You can teach friends and family how to shuck oysters if they haven’t before (always use a towel!), and it becomes a really exciting group activity. Some people have a real knack for it — my friend Rebecca was a total workhorse, shucking a few oysters a minute and keeping the inside briny water full and clean of grit. Not always an easy task.

We always eat oysters as we go, with a little bit of lemon juice, tabasco, and mignonette. (It’s also nice to have lots of seeded crackers and butter on hand, too, just like Mermaid Inn does it). I’m so happy that John captured Camilla’s moment of oyster euphoria, because there are few things more profound than gulping down an ice cold oyster in the middle of the day. Complete life force moment.

[All photos by John Cullen]

SCENES FROM A KINFOLK DINNER, PT II

 

After we finished the initial prep, we moved inside for bread and butter, gougères and white Burgundy. (Here’s the recipe I like to use for these delicate, savory cheese puffs.) I do love making pâte à choux… all that stirring and stickiness! It’s the perfect celebratory snack.

SCENES FROM A KINFOLK STORY…

I’ve held on to these images by friend and photographer John Cullen for a long time — it’s time I shared his amazing work with everyone else, too. The images were outtakes from a photoshoot that we organized for Kinfolk Magazine last fall, for a story that appeared in their third issue. I’m thrilled to finally share these images now, in several parts.

This first set is from the pre-dinner prep — I enlisted pals to help get everything ready, like rinse pomegranate seeds, chop dill, cut bread, tear lettuce, pour drinks. Because John had to shoot early “to chase the sunlight,” as he called it, our “dinner party” was actually a luncheon. (We sat down to eat around 3pm — it felt weirdly glamorous to eat so early.) I think we cracked open our first bottle of wine around 11am, early even for my standards! It was chilly that afternoon, so I bribed people to stay out on the roof with bites of my homemade gravlax and special creme fraiche… so I don’t think anyone minded too much.

[All images by John Cullen]