There’s a lovely mention of Lawrence in this month’s Bon Appetit. (Pictured above: the sweet-and-savory Gloucester pancakes that I make with beef suet.) We’re in awesome company, too — our buddies at Foodlab, Hotel Herman, Sardine, and Caffe San Simeon are included in the roundup too. And my personal favorite — the impeccable breads at Joe la Croute — don’t go unnoticed, either.
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.
For my birthday party this year (well, one of three parties… but more on that later!), Adam and I decided to throw a glorious Downton Abbey-themed dinner. The inspiration came from our friend Michelle — a die-hard Downton Abbey lover, just like me.
I can’t quite decide if I’m more upstairs or downstairs (which are you?), though I suppose working in a kitchen 10 hours a day lands me squarely downstairs. So we made our menu a celebration of both elements, with upstairs decadence like endless bottles of champagne and claret; roasted bone marrow with a simple parsley and caper salad; beautiful, soft French cheeses (I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the Tomme du Maréchal); and the crowning glory, an apple charlotte that Michelle made and brought to the party. Fellow Downton aficionados will remember this dessert from the infamous salty pavlova episode (one of my personal all-time favorite Downton moments). Michelle’s apple charlotte was so gorgeous and well-constructed I felt a little heartbroken cutting into it. But the pudding — just imagine warm, soft cooked apples incased in a crisp, buttery shell of brioche — was one of the most delicious and memorable desserts I have eaten in my life.
The main course — braised beef shin served over boiled potatoes with chives and tarragon — was resolutely downstairs. Adam bought over seven kilos (!) of beef shin from Marc at Lawrence (P.S., there’s a nice story on his remarkable butchery philosophy over here) which he slowly braised until tender. We served it with a jiggly Yorkshire pudding (Hugh’s recipe, the only one I’ve ever used), roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta, and glazed carrots, and ate it, naturally, with plenty of strong Claret.
This was the dinner party of my dreams, even if my imaginary t.v. boyfriend Matthew couldn’t make it.
Things have seemed a little quiet around here, haven’t they? The truth is, I’ve never been busier in my life.
Somewhere around the end of July, Marc Cohen of Lawrence — one of my very favorite restaurants in the city — approached me with the opportunity of a lifetime. Was I interested in being his new assistant pastry chef, he asked. My first thought was: I’m no pastry chef. I never went to pastry school, and I’m definitely self-taught. I’m more of a writer, an observer, a consumer. And I felt so safe and cozy being part of the Depanneur Le Pick Up family, making brownies and cupcakes and granola bars. This was something else altogether, something strange and scary.
There was so much doubt and nervousness, but also excitement. (Let’s just say there were a lot of pep talks delivered from loved ones.) But I wanted the job. Badly. Even if I meant that I would fail. So I did my trial shift, finished my training, and now I’m officially Lawrence’s assistant pastry chef. Things are different but the same — I’m working in a kitchen with people I really respect, learning about an art that I’m totally in love with, at a pace and in an environment that’s challenging, exhilarating, exhausting, gorgeous, and surreal. (I mean, just take a peep at this beautiful menu!)
I was worried that my crazy new schedule (50 hours a week! What was I thinking!) would affect the amount of time that I would get to hang with Adam. But then I woke up one morning, tired and overwhelmed and missing him, and found a little present on my doorstep. Half of a perfect watermelon, a market gift from him to me. I need these sweet reminders from the people who believe in me, and share my excitement.
I’ll keep writing here, but I was thinking that the content will shift. I want to write more about this new restaurant life, my new pastry skills, my new insane schedule. Life is so weird. Here I am, a California girl making pastry in Montreal. I never, ever would have imagined this would be my life. But I am so grateful.
Adam’s awesome brother Julian (don’t they look so similar?) married the beautiful and talented Annie Briard this past weekend. It was honestly the most fun I’ve ever had at a wedding — full of so much incredible love for the bride and groom. I gave them two presents: a basket of Sable Breton, dotted with lemon thyme from my garden (similar recipe here), and the gift of music. I DJed the entire wedding, cocktail party, dinner, and dancing — I haven’t danced that much since university! Adam joked that I found my true calling that night: as a wedding MC. He’s not entirely wrong, I’ve never felt more in my element. (At one point, I was leading everyone in a group macarena, via cordless microphone.) Adam’s gift to the newly married couple? He was the sommelier for the entire party! Congratulations Annie and Julian!
I’m so excited to announce the next special event at Le Pick Up, featuring the talented duo behind Rau Rum, an independent and local catering company. We attended a preview event for the dinner last week and the food was totally mindblowing — everything was so incredibly fresh, flavorful, and healthy. I’ve never had Vietnamese food like that in my life! See the full details for the dinner here.
My buddy Marc went to Italy and brought back all manner of Piedmontese goodies — and was generous enough to share his bounty with us one evening. (He also gave me a glorious jar of London peel-less blood orange marmalade!) We feasted on Campari sodas, prosciutto di Parma, donkey sausage, fresh pancetta, truffle butter, and some of the most tender, luscious ham I’ve ever had. There were some heavy Quebec players, too, like local fluke, cucumber salad, grilled zucchini, and summer melon from the market. Little Cosmo kept poking his head up to sneak views of the alluring tablescape. I’m such a sucker for beggars — he was given plenty of fish bits.
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?
Last week the CKUT VENUS ladies and I did an off-site broadcast of our weekly show at Depanneur Le Pick Up! We called it VENUS IN TRANSIT, because, obviously.
It was insanely fun. We sold Catherine’s ombre silkscreened tanks, gave away witchy cat stickers, spray-painted Anna’s ‘free pussy riot’ stencil on jean jackets, played food-related songs, and ate veggie burgers with bacon, because we’re contradictory like that. I even baked special ‘Venus in transit’ cupcakes — red velvet with orange buttercream tinted to look like the sun, with a tiny chocolate chip representing Venus (us). They were ridiculous and awesome. (These were the images that inspired me).
You can see the full playlist and download our show here.
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.