Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Gazette - Westin Hotel - Old Montreal

This is my first negative review - I do not enjoy this.

I know what you're thinking, why when there's so many wonderful restaurants in Montreal would you choose to go to a Hotel Restaurant? Well, I'm getting married soon and was looking into having the reception in one of their beautiful banquet halls. I had to sample the food. I had read some reviews on the restaurant, as a matter of fact the Gazette (newspaper) food critic gave it one star...Uhhh, I was discouraged but I wanted to taste for myself.

I went with Bianca, her boyfriend Alex and of course my fiance Andre.

We shared the cold cut plate to start. The selection of local cheeses was great. I think we've got to have some of the best cheese here in Quebec.  Now that I'm exploring new restaurants I'm excited when I see local foods on the menu or when chefs put a new twist on classic Quebec dishes.
Ok now..back to the Westin. I wish I would have noted the names of the cheeses - but hey! I'm new at this.The cold cuts consisted of a few slices of salami and sopresatta. There was a small pile of olive tapenade and a smear of an unidentifed white sauce :D. It tasted cheesy with a lemony note.

The bread was good..lol

I had the calamari to start. They were small fried rings with a remulade sauce. The breading was cornmeal based. Very crispy and tender.
My sister had the lobster bisque, she really liked it. It was creamy and a beautiful orange color. At the bottom of the bowl, she found a few pieces of Lobster hiding there and a toasted piece of country bread that soaked up the sauce beautifully and was surprisingly still crunchy. Satifying.
Alex had the Tuna sashimi which was a little bland, served with dry crab cakes.
Andre ordered the sausage - too sweet! Alex liked it though, but it was really nothing special.

Mains - I had, I believe, the best thing on that menu. I had the pasta with mushroom sauce and tender braised cubes of meat..It was a thick beefy, mushroom stew with angnoletti pasta.Comforting. I enjoyed this very much. Bianca had the duck. She thought duck leg was good but the breast was tough..It was served with a sweet sauce and fresh figs. The figs were a nice touch and a great match.
Alex and Andre both had the pork because the description on the menu made it sound fabulous. It was pork loin , with chick pea and cider something or other...Anyway, they were both so disappointed. The meat was tough and it wasn't nearly as tasty as it sounded.

Not even the dessert saved the experience..we all had the molten chocolate cake...it was plain Jane.

The wine selection was great! We had a white - Cake Bread from Cali. Must try!
The decor was drab - so corporate lookin and it was too bright. The bar was nice but nobody was sitting at it.

Sorry Westin, I love your Hotels but overall, I didn't like this restaurant enough to go back or to have my reception there. Gotta be honest, eh?

Light and Creamy Vegetable Casserole

Hi, Hope everyone had a good weekend.

I'm always trying to find interesting ways to cook veggies. Broccoli for one, has vitamin C and apparently fights Cancer! Hurray! So I thought I'd celebrate this superhero by trying a new recipe in its honor!

I got the idea for this recipe from Emeril Lagasse, the food network chef.  You know...BAM! 
He's amazing - however, his recipe included 8 sticks of butter! When I read that, I just about closed the book but then I got an idea for this recipe.

1 small head of Broccoli, (using mostly the flowerettes - cut stem in small pieces)
(Optional)1 small head of Cauliflower (using mostly flowerettes- cut stem in small pieces)
(Optional) a few thickly sliced new potatoes (not scalloped)
1cup +1/2 of shredded low fat cheddar/mozzarella mix (Kraft)
1 cup to 1cup +1/2 of Bechamel sauce (for 1 cup of sauce its: 2 tbsp of butter/2 tbsp of flour/1 cup of milk. See recipe below)
Olive oil for drizzling

Pre-heat oven at 350.
Butter an oven-proof baking dish - substitute with olive oil if you prefer but butter is the best.
par-boil your potatoes in salted water
Steam your veggies until cooked but still firm.

Put the broccoli and cauliflower in a bath of cold water

Drain your veggies very well
Arrange broccoli and cauliflower in one layer
season with salt and pepper
Place sliced potatoes overtop.
Drizzle with olive oil
Drizzle Bechamel sauce over the veggies making sure that some sauce makes it down to the broccoli and cauliflower.
Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
Bake for approx 30 min.
If you wish, cover with foil for the first 10  minutes..

Bechamel Sauce
Melt two Tbsp of butter in a small saucepan
Incorporate the 2 tbsp of flour slowly
Slowly incorporate milk until sauce thickens to desired consistency.

Enjoy this and please send me feedback!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Da Emma

777, rue de la Commune O corner King
Montreal, Québec, H3C 1Y1
Old Montreal.
How can I possibly start a new blog and not review my all time favorite restaurant, Da Emma

Named after its talented chef, this restaurant was once a woman's prison. Don't worry there isn't any visual indication of it's history. None the less, its an interesting fact...and a little creepy :)

When you walk into this restaurant, the first thing you'll notice next to the entrance are all the celebrity photos on the wall. I found out that this is also Johnny's Depp's favorite restaurant and does not miss an opportunity to drop in when he's in town. I actually saw Brendan Fraser there last year.

The restaurant has a romantic feel but is also hip and lively - never over the top. There are patrons of all ages at Da Emma.  The decor is a mix of modern and rustic, with its sleek stainless steel bar, stone walls and big wooden beams on the ceiling.

You won't get a traditional menu. What you get is a small black board, which is brought to your table with the menu items listed. Even though I'm Italian, I wasn't familiar with some names of the dishes. Ex: I didn't know that Abbacchio was baby lamb. (Maybe that's just me, I don't know). Have the waiter explain the items to you.

There is however a conventional looking wine list. - It is extensive. The waiters are all very knowledgeable about wine and can surely recommend one that you'll enjoy.   No disappointments so far in the past 8-ish years.

Now for the food! My favorite appetizer is , by far, the thinly sliced prosciutto with buffalo mozzarella. Its so simple..its literally a ball of buffalo mozzarella cut in two with the prosciutto draped over it...That's it! No oil , no salt..You can add oil, freshly ground pepper and salt if you wish but you really don't need to. Andre loves that one too but he often orders the Rugetta salad with shavings of parmigiano reggiano. Its on the vinagery side - not a negative thing. The tomato with buffalo mozzarella is great - presentation is nice too.
OOOOH! I forgot to mention the complimentary bruschetta you get! The bread looks like traditional Tuscan bread but with more flavor. The bread is grilled , topped with tasty chopped tomato, salt, pepper and is drenched in olive oil! Lipstick gone!

The last time I went, I saw that one of their appetizers came with figs. I'm crazy about figs but I wanted them with my mozzarella and prosciutto. When I made my request the waiter gave me a smile and a look that said.."oooh , I don't know"...But he said he'd do it ...like it was going to be a tough one..lol
He came back with my figs in one dish and my appetizer in another. He said , "Emma said , Whatever you do, no mixa da figs witha da cheese, OK?" Don't do it"!! (yes, my waiter had a thick Italian accent) I was surprised and laughed. He was so adamant about it!
Honestly, I didn't care, I was in heaven!!!! (by the way, I ate a piece of cheese with some fig and I did not spontaneously combust )

Meatballs are great- you must try.

For our main, I like to change things up whenever I go but my favs include the gnocci with meat sauce, pasta with porcini mushrooms, and the stacetti (sliced steak) on a bed of arugula salad. the heat from the meat wilts the arugula, its so great.
Andre has one of the most poupular items on the menu, the Maialino (slow roasted baby pork), I know, sounds sad but its sooooooooo good, you'll get over it. All mains, except for the pasta, are served with either pasta or veggies. Veggies again are simple, olive oil, salt and pepper. That's the key at this restaurant, you can actually taste the food!

Bianca had ordered sausage with lentils once and was not impressed although its not something I've seen on the menu often.

Dessert, the best Tiramisu EVER - sorry ma'.

Jamie Oliver's Slow Roasted Pork

Hey Foodies!

See recipe far below :)

I made this Slow Roasted Pork for a group of 10 adults + 2 children recently

It needs ample cooking time so Andre and I woke up at 6:15AM to prepare the pork and put it in the oven in order to serve it at 7PM that evening.

Tips & Experiences :D

When I ordered the pork shoulder I asked for the pork shoulder “as is” - skin on and bone in. When I got there Saturday they gave it to me without the skin. I was not happy and very stressed. I had to follow the recipe exactly.

I said “ the recipe says I need the skin!!! It has to roast for 12 hours …I specifically ordered it with the skin!!”..lol…The butcher assured me that It would be fine and that I could just cook it with the cover on. I left, disgruntled..I wasn’t going to have the crispy skin..

Anyway, I roasted at it at 500 for 30 mins (no cover) in order for it to brown. Then I lowered the temp to 250, I covered it for the rest of the cooking time. Luckily , it worked out perfectly.

I also had told the butcher that I needed it tied, like a traditional roast. He said “ that doesn’t make sense” ..

I thought, ok..fine …maybe I don’t know what I’m saying…. But during the cooking process…after many hours, I found that my roast had split in half. I cursed the butcher and put the roast back in the oven. (It doesn’t really matter because when you serve it , the meat is supposed to be pulled away and served broken apart).. but it should have been tied even just for handling. When it was time to remove the roast from the pan into the serving platter it was impossible to maneuver, it kept breaking.

For the rub, when I crushed my fennel seeds with the salt..it smelled overpowering. I thought it would be too strong but I did not stray from the recipe and it wasn’t overpowering at all in the end. It was just right. Always trust Jamie 

The gravy or “jus” was so tasty! I did not add flour.

This recipe was great..cause you prepare the roast and forget about it for 10-12 hours…and it’s a crowd pleaser.
Another little bonus is that a 11-12 pound roast that fed 12 people cost 25.00 plus we have leftovers.
Tonight, we’re having pulled pork sandwiches with the leftovers :D

You have to try it and get back to me.

Enjoy it!

PS: As sides, I made thick sliced potatoes (new potatoes, skin on) in the oven with chicken stock , a little olive oil and sage leaves. I also boiled some roman (green) cauliflower and just drizzled olive oil, salt + pepper. I did not make beans as suggested.



Serves 12

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

1 tablespoon sea or rock salt

2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and roughly chopped

4 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

3 onions peeled and roughly chopped

1 bulb of garlic, cloves unpeeled and roughly smashed

Bunch of fresh thyme

1 11–13 lb piece of pork shoulder on the bone, preferably free-range or organic, skin scored

Olive oil

750ml bottle of white wine

1 pint chicken or vegetable stock

Jamie says: "Pork that's cooked this way gives you the most meltingly tender meat. This is the last job we do in the evening at the restaurant before we go home, so that when we get to work the next day we have the best roast pork to serve for lunch—you can do the same at home, as it's incredibly easy. This recipe only works with a whole shoulder, so it's an ideal dish to serve on Christmas Day when you have a lot of people around (as long as you remember to put it in the oven on Christmas Eve!). Ask your butcher to prepare you a shoulder roast from the whole shoulder as you would a shoulder of lamb."

"P.S. This is a fantastic celebration meal, but before you go out and buy your meat, make sure you've got a pan—and an oven—that's big enough."

1. Preheat your oven to maximum. Usually 500 .

2. Smash the fennel seeds with the salt in a pestle and mortar until fine.

3. Put the roughly chopped vegetables, garlic, and thyme sprigs into a large roasting pan.

4. Pat the pork shoulder with olive oil and sit it on top of the vegetables. Now massage all the smashed fennel seeds into the skin of the pork, making sure you push them right into all the scores to maximize the flavor.

5. Put the pork in your preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until it's beginning to color, then turn your oven down to 250°F and cook the pork for 9 to 12 hours, until the meat is soft and sticky and you can pull it apart easily with a fork.

6. Tip all the wine into the roasting tray and let it cook for another hour to give you a perfect sauce.

7. Once the pork is out of the oven, let it rest for half an hour before removing it to a large board. I like to brush off any excess salt from the meat, then I mash up the veg in the pan using a potato masher. Add the stock to the roasting pan, put it on the heat and boil until you have a lovely intensely flavored gravy (you can thicken it with a little sieved flour if you like but I prefer mine light). The pork is great served with some good cranberry beans, braised greens, your roast veg mash and tasty sauce.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ellie's famous Lentil Soup

This recipe is one of my mom's best! Everyone likes their own mother's cooking but everyone also likes my mom's cooking...lol...

1 can lentils
2 cans water or chicken broth-if you think the soup too dense,you can add more water.
1/2 chopped onion
1 stalk chopped celery
1 chopped carrot

Small splash of vinegar

Saute veggies in a small amount of olive oil just to soften not to brown so stir constantly for a few min. ADD lentils,water & vinegar Bring to a boil & then lower heat to low so it simmers for about half an hour.You can add 1/4 cup tubettini or other small cut pasta- optional but recommended.Cook pasta until done(10 or 15 min)

Stephanie's Sliced Steak on Baby Arugula with Parmigiano Cheese

(Added blue potatoes and asparagus spears- anything goes!)

This recipe is a big winner at my house! We make it often.

-Flank Steak or any other boneless steak (a few filet mignons couldn’t hurt)
-Baby Arugula

-Thinly sliced radicchio (optional)

- ½ Red Onion - thinly sliced or 2 coarsly chopped green onions (échalotte) , white and green parts

-Parmigiano Reggiano (shaved)
-1/2 cup of chick peas
-Red wine vinegar or balsamic

-Olive oil

-Lemon or white wine

-Club House – Montreal Steak spice (it’s the best, don’t substitute)
*Amount of steak ,arugula and other ingredients really depends on how many people you are serving.

– Do it by eye; with this recipe, its easy to do.

Sprinkle steak(s) with Club House -Montreal Steak Spice.

Place them in a large zip-lock and add a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice or white wine.(ratio 2:1 - 2 parts olive oil – 1 part acid)

Seal zip-lock bag, squish it around a bit and put it in the fridge to marinate (Flank steak should be marinated for a few hours for best results.)

Grill steak to medium or medium rare.

While steak is grilling, prepare your salad bed.

On a large flat dish / platter place arugula (add sliced radichio for color),

Evenly sprinkle the chick peas, onion and shavings of parmigiano over the arugula

Drizzle some salad dressing overtop (you don’t really have to toss it like traditional salad) – I use red wine vinegar and olive oil but if you like a sweeter taste, go with the balsamic.- it goes so well with the parmigiano. (Ratio 2:1 – 2 parts olive oil – 1 part vinegar)

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Once your steak is done, let it rest for 10 min before slicing or else juices will run out making the meat tough.

Slice your steak into thin strips, across the grain (not with the grain ‘cause it will be stringy and tough)

Place sliced steak over your bed of arugula and garnish overtop with more shavings of parmigiano. (can’t have too much parm!)


-I also made chicken instead of steak and it was great too – steak is better.

-Sometimes I put sliced avocado around the plate.

-Sometimes, when in season, I add fresh figs, quartered, just around the dish (if doing this, use balsamic and olive oil dressing, it goes better), it looks nice with the color of the radicchio and so on..

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

David Burke Townhouse

133 East 61st Street
(Park and Lexington Avenues)
New York, NY 10021

David Burke Townhouse, previously David Burke and Donatella. What can I say about this restaurant besides the fact that if this restaurant were a man, I would be totally head over heels ,madly in love with him. He'd be cultured, intelligent, elegant, romantic, fun, beautiful and he'd know how to dance - Fred Astaire style ;)

I never miss an opportunity to go there when in New York. As a matter of fact, I make my reservations waaaay ahead of time to ensure that I get a table. I've been several times in the past few years and just recently this past July and again in September. In July they announced that they were "updating their menu"..I almost died. I told the nice waiter not to change things up too much. Don't fix what ain't broke, ok?? When I returned in September, fingers crossed, I was so pleasantly surprised. The updates were positive...all the really great stuff was still there.

Ok..ok I'll get down to the food/ambiance/wine/service..

The manager (I think he was a manager) was great! While we waited for our table he chatted with us and by the time our table was ready, we were laughing like good friends - sharing some racy jokes and so on. If you know my fiance, Andre, you'll understand.

Anyway, the type of cuisine is modern American, incorporating many different worldly flavors, yet everything still tastes familiar somehow. I like familiar with a twist! I think that's why its so popular.

The best appetizers were the following. My mom had the pretzel crusted crab cakes , MY GOD! it was great. My mom's a bit of a picky eater and she loved it. She kept repeating how great it was...over and over. It had a crunchy exterior and tender flaky and moist interior. I had the warm quail salad. I originally regretted ordering this because I had never had quail. I was so glad I did though. The salad had a generous portion of grilled quail, with sliced mango and other greens...Everyone agreed that I had chosen the best appetizer. Andre must have had fois gras - but I can't remember the details as I am not a fan. There were no complaints coming from over there. I'm also someone who concentrates on what I'm eating...I don't talk , I don't listen much ...until someone says "wanna try this?"

For my main I had the braised short ribs with home made cavatelli. T'was an elegant twist on comfort food. The Lobster Steak is great too. Must try.
My dad and Andre shared a huge....and I mean huge steak. It is meant to be shared, they weren't being wimpy. lol...This meat was tasty, tasy, tasty, slow cooked and meltingly tender. The restaurant has a new carving station, perfect for mamouth sized steaks like this. It reminded me of the Flinstones..and coronaries.

We prefer white wine these days particularly Californian. The wine which the sommelier recommended was a Bergstrom , Sigrid 2006. This was a serious wine. It was fruity&amd buttery. That's the way I like it. The Sommelier happened to be a very friendly and witty guy! He gave us the wine label when I said that we loved the wine. Nice guy :)

For dessert I always have the lollipop cheesecake tree...BUT ...they had something new this time, on their updated menu. Its an interactive dessert...There were doughnut holes on this tree stand kinda' thing.... The doughnut holes were sprinkled with sugar. They provide you with three sauces in these cute little squeeze bottles so that you can stuff your own doughnut!!!!! Chocolate sauce, vanilla and raspberry....We were going crazy stuffing them with raspberry AND chocolate..or vanilla AND raspberry..lol..You get the picture...Seriously, we had fun with this dessert and when you can enjoy a dessert for the taste and have fun while eating it..it makes it that much better.

The decor is elegant with a quirky twist. I say this because there's a kinda' egg , Humpty Dumpty theme but its subtle. My sister, the artist in our family loved the artwork in the restaurant. Really different! It must sound weird but it isn't. Check out their web site to see what it looks like.

That's all for now.

STK - Meatpacking District

26th Little West, 12th street, New York
NY 10014

Hey Everyone!

As a Montrealer, I have to say that we are spoiled here. We have great food in our city.
In New York, which I call Montreal on steroids, there are some GREAT high-end restaurants. In my opinion where Montreal wins out over NYC, is in its Moderately priced restaurants..When in New York , I'm always so disappointed with these restaurants. And on the low-end, meaning Diners and Fast food, we're about the same....ok..maybe we're still better! No smoked meat?? What's up with that!!??

With that said, I thought I'd review a new favorite of mine. If you're planning a trip to NYC and are looking for fun times with great food and service - STK is the place for you! This fantastic Supper Club is located in the trendy Meatpacking District, at 26 Little 12th street, New York 646.624.2444

First, I have to say that the DJ was amazing. I love the 80's and he was playing THE best of the 80's - songs I forgot about, songs that make you wanna dance. From dance to rock , they even played the Stones! I was dancing in my seat the whole night- singing along. The music was on the loud side but you have to expect that with this place. This was Saturday, Sept 19th 2009.

The atmosphere is modern and chic. The bar was striking and very unique. The wall behind it was covered in what looked like elephant tusks. It was definitely the focal point of the restaurant. The people are beautiful.

Ok now for the food! The bread... individually baked, served in its baking dish, piping hot, soft with course salt sprinkled over it..The herbed oil that it was served with was so light but tasty. I couldn't quite identify what herbs were used but I plan to begin testing, to make it myself. Honestly, I would have been satisfied with just that as my meal. My sister, Bianca agrees. She'd go back just for the bread!

André ordered the fois gras french toast, with green apple and almond brioche as a starter. He was blown away by the flavor, the texture. He said it is the best he's had in his life! Now that's saying something. He still talks about it. My sister and I had the Lil' Big Macs with Japanese wagyu special sauce on a sesame seed bun! They were incredible and the presentation was great too, complete with McDonald's style sliced pickles :) I crave this all the time!

I had tried the Rice Crispy Shrimp. Tiger prawns - shrimp bisque - cilantro. The dish was really interesting. Dry rice crispies topped with Shrimp, then the waiter pours the sauce over and of course the rice crispies start to snap, crackle and pop! Cute..The taste was great with the cilantro and the sauce and all but the rice crispies got soggy fast :( boo-hoo.

As my main I had the filet mignon and so did André. The meat was cooked to perfection. Medium for me - Medium rare for André. The meat was so tender it melted in my mouth- out of this world.

Last but not least, STK has a variety of exciting and uncommon desserts. They have Cotton Candy - flavors vary. I had pink cotton candy with sour sprinkles. It was served with a candied apple. Fair food! Made me feel like a kid again but it had an elegant twist. I also had warm chocolate s'more - peanut butter - marshmallow - graham. Totally decadent!!! Like heaven in your mouth..lol... Next time I'm going to try the peanut butter & jelly sundae with nutella - caramelized banana - grape preserves.

My usual Martini with olives - a little dirty was so well done! YAY!

I can't wait to go back!

Watch out for my next NYC restaurant review - David Burke Townhouse!

Sunday, October 18, 2009


5357, Avenue du Parc
Montréal, Québec
H2V 4G9  Canada

Went to Milos on Parc Ave. in Montreal with Andre, my fiancé. We didn't feel like hitting the trendy St-Laurent scene, we were feeling low-key. Anyways, are we ever glad we went! It had been so long.

BTW booked our reservation using my Open Table application on my Iphone. Its the best. You choose your restaurant, the date, number of people and the time. It gives you the options for times available etc.. In some cases you can view the restaurant's menu..Fantastic. You get a confirmation of your reservation by e-mail and all.

The service was great, as usual - very attentive. We ordered the Milos special which can be shared with 2 or 4 people. Its comprised of fried, paper thin, crispy zucchini and eggplant slices served in the form of a tower, with tzaziki in the middle...the tower was surrounded by small pieces of saganaki cheese. I found that they were skimpy on the saganaki and didn't have that great ouzo flavor that the saganaki has at Vegera...Oh well, it was still good :D

We ordered vodka martinis with Olives- a little dirty...They were absolutley perfect! We've had them at lots of places where they have royally messed it up. I gave my compliments to the Bartender...You should always praise good service/quality etc...

For our main , André had the 8oz filet mignon. It was tasty and cooked perfectly. He likes his filet mignon medium rare. (I tasted it and it was really good. You could tell the meat was of superior quality) I ordered the warm lobster salad and it was great. They may have been skimpy on the saganaki but they were not skimpy on the Lobster.I couldn't finish it. It was served with arugula, radiccio and endive. The endive gives the salad a slight bitter taste. I enjoyed it but beware of this if you don't enjoy endive. It affects the taste of the whole salad.

We ended our wonderful meal off with Greek style doughnut holes covered in warm honey! They were magnificent. They were like puffy balls of dough, so light and crispy! I was about to order the half portion to share with Andre because we were trying to be reasonable. YEAH RIGHT!! That didnt' happen but we didn't care..

More to come...I'll be reviewing some of my favorite restaurants in Montreal and NYC!