Sushi St Jean
1000 Boul. Saint-Jean (corner Labrosse)
Telephone: (514) 697-8383
Cost $ 48.53 (including tax and tip)
Chef Hats: 1
When it comes to the A list of no -no’s for a restaurant, Sushi St. Jean hits the mark on all counts. It scores BAD on the scale for hospitality, service and food. Above all, it committed the ultimate proverbial blunder when we were there for lunch one very busy Monday afternoon.
We were meaning to try this restaurant for a while now and were very excited to finally get a chance to make it there. We chose a quiet day, so we can relax and enjoy our time together, but when we got there we misjudged its popularity. The place was busting at the seams and there was a line up outside the door, almost around the corner of the building. The wait would be approximately an hour. We patiently waited but were told not to block the aisle near the door as it was a thoroughfare for the waiters. Odd I thought! There was plenty of space for the waiters to manoeuvre around the restaurant, why not keep their customers happy by allowing them to think they were closer to getting in, especially on a crisp cold day. Once inside, if you block the aisle the head waiter or manager, who reminded me more of the “Soup Nazi”, kept yelling at you to stand behind the door and would send you back outside behind the doors in the entrance. Many people just turned around and left. Not very welcoming I thought.
Nonetheless, I ignored this while my pressure mounted at his incessant yelling. Finally, Brains and I were seated. We were given an electronic pad where we could choose what we wanted to eat. Brains and I thought it was innovative and very cool. There are no paper menus here folks and for the electronically un-inclined it can be frustrating. Albeit tons of wait staff, there is no service to help you and they seem frustrated when asking them questions regarding their electronic pad. You are on your own here to starve. Also, most of the staff that day also spoke barely any English or French or very little of both. I felt like I entered a third world restaurant in Asia and got a strange feeling that management had hired illegal immigrants straight from China. Who knows, being a franchise, maybe they have something else going and restauration is a blanket operation. It definitely is not their forte.
Well, that being said, Thank God Brains is electronically inclined, and we did not have too much of an issue choosing from the PAD. I am from the old school and going to a restaurant means i like the whole ritual of dining out, ordering from la Carte, speaking to a waiter, asking questions and all the formalities. But we managed to order a plethora of things from the PAD. Then a waitress who could barely speak English came to our table filled our water glasses, mumbled a few incomprehensible words and took our PAD away.
Brains and I looked at each other, smiled and shrugged, finally able to relax while waiting for our food; we started a deep conversation until we were interrupted but a loud clang and I felt something hitting my foot and leg. I looked down and saw a waitress picking up a broken beer bottle at my feet. Thank god I was wearing pants and leather boots as a piece of chard hit my leg, I immediately made a sarcastic comment to the waitress that it was a good premise for a law suit. The comment was not acknowledged, no apology from the waitress, she just picked up the broken beer bottle quietly and proceeded with her daily tasks, as if we were not even there and nothing had happened.
I started to get vocal at the lack of consideration and unprofessionalism, all the while, Brains noticed a piece of brown glass in her drinking water. I was not pleased and Brains was downplaying the scene I was about to create. She removed the piece of chard from her glass and asked for some more water when finally our waitress arrived.
It was all downhill after that. The food started to arrive, in very small portions, one after the other, very quickly. There was no more room on our table but they kept piling it on, sometimes not knowing what we were eating.
I felt so rushed I forgot to take pictures. The food, I can say was mediocre at best and not very nicely presented. The portions were extremely small; some dished looked soggy and limp. The waitress disappeared again, never to return and we did not get our fried squid. When we finally hailed her, it took almost an hour to get our soggy two pieces of squid. We never got to order seconds, even if we wanted to, because the service was extremely slow after the lunch rush and the place started to empty out. You would figure by now we could get some service at least, but the staff seemed to have disappeared for a long lunch break. So it’s not an all you can eat place, because the feeling here was get it all while you can in one shot, eat quickly and leave, no going back .
For $ 15.99 per person and $1.00 for tea, it was a steep price to pay for the bad experience, and for the lack quantity and quality of the food and terrible service.
Exasperated I asked for the bill and left quickly, vowing never to return to any of their establishments.
Restaurant Charles Baillairgé (Hôtel Clarendon)
57, rue Sainte-Anne / Des Jardins
Québec City, Quebec
Tél. : 418 692-2480
When I fell in love with Frenchie , I fell in love with Quebec city. So I make it a ritual that once a year we spend a weekend there just visiting, walking around, trying little cafes, shopping and dining out. I would love to stay at Chateau Frontenac which has been on my bucket list for the longest time ,but instead we stay at this quiet little boutique hotel called Hotel Clarendon, which Frenchie knew about many years back. Upon entering the hotel for the first time in 2010, I fell in love with this cute little place and its old world charm. Through our window we could see la rue des Jardin lined with flowers and people walking to and fro. It was the closest I could come to Paris at this moment. The rooms some rather small are quaint, well furnished and the toiletries alone were of high quality that one can revel about.
On this visit from the onset, I had started a cold on the drive down. Not a good sign, as I had a list of top restaurants I wanted to visit, like Panache, Le St Amour and maybe Laurie Raphael again. It never fails in November as soon as the onset of flu season arrives I always get sick. This season was no different, even though it was spring, I managed to hold off till now and bang on an important weekend out of town I sat there in my hotel room nursing my wounds.
I did manage to muster up enough energy to haul my carcass to the ground floor for a quick bite to eat at the Hotel dining room restaurant called Charles Baillairgé. With the plethora of good restaurants to try in Quebec City, I had never thought of eating here before and found no need to either. But tonight was an exception, as I did not want to descend into the bitter cold and windy alleys of Quebec City with the way I was feeling.
The restaurant really evokes the typical Parisian cafe with its dark wood and mirrored paneling, wainscoting, white tablecloths and dim lighting. Next door you will find a comfortable lounge done up in the same feeling with a fireplace ,leather arm chairs and baby grand piano and the sounds of a live jazz band playing on weekends.
Here you can sip cocktails if you are tired and don’t want to leave the hotel after walking the streets of the la rue Petit Champlain or the climbing hills of Old Quebec . My suggestion save the cover charge and sit in the restaurant sipping a digestive after your meal, you can still enjoy the sounds of the music filtering into the dining room.
The menu at Restaurant Charles Baillarge boasts having a mixed menu of both local “du terroir” and international cuisine. The chef Yan Dekytspotter brings an interesting choice of menu to the table with new trends and inspiration from local products and some of the old classical crowd pleasers from France. There is plenty on the menu to please all ages and taste buds. A must try is the local cheese, ciders and vegetables from Charlevoix, and the fish from Côte-Nord.
What I liked about the menu upon opening the front cover is the historical tidbit about Restaurant Charles Baillairgé and the hotel. Built in 1870, it is one of the oldest operating hotels in Québec City and maybe in North America; and the restaurant is one of the first in the area. For those of you who are wondering who is Charles Baillairgé , he was an architect, land surveyor, civil engineer, and an author born in Quebec city from 1826- 1906 . He was from a long line of sculptors, painters, and architects that began with his great grandfather, Jean Baillairgé. Who left an indelible mark on the city, therefore it was only befitting that they name part of the hotel after him.
The hotel which looks inside and out, very turn of the 19th century with its art deco style , is very reminiscent of the old world luxury of times. Some of the interior has been refurbished in art nouveau styles, most notably in the public areas, and some rooms have period touches, and others are more modern, but each have their own charm and are in good taste. The hotel offers all modern day amenities. The restaurant and lounge area a little cache conserves the charm of yester years.
We started our meal this evening with two glasses of Lindeman’s 99 –Shiraz from Australia at $ 9.00 a glass and a potage of leek at $6.00 each. The soup was creamy and velvety with the right consistency of leek; this was warm and comforting on a cold spring day. It hit the spot and made me feel much better. I could have had a cauldron as in medieval times with two loafs of rustic bread. The wine bold and warming spread some heat through my veins.
Not having much of an appetite I settled for a Salmon tartar at $ 12.00, that I thought would be light and not upset my stomach. The tartar was overly spicy with pepper and served with Ritz crackers, really! After a few bites I couldn’t have any more, my stomach was starting to rumble and swell. The level of spiciness was too much for me in such a delicate state. I ate the fresh cucumber slices and crackers and Frenchie finished it off for me. He waved it off as me not feeling good. He said he enjoyed it and although spicy hot, he said it wasn’t too bad for him.
For is main meal Frenchie ordered the Poitrine de Volaille, at $ 22.00. This came with a large sautéed carrot and herbs and creamy very creamy mashed potatoes. He enjoyed his meal, but wondered about the potatoes as they had more the consistency of grits; but then it was a French restaurant not southern. I write it off as maybe the cooks hand slipped and added too much milk and pepper. Even the best of kitchens have an off night. I was having an off weekend. For dessert, I had a warm tea and off to bed to sleep.
I would not completely write off Le Restaurant Charles Baillairgé, the prices are very reasonable for hotel dining and I have had much worse. Our waitress Nicole , had the whole dining room to serve, although empty when we got there , she kept her cool ,served us efficiently ,with a smile ,made sure we were comfortable and had all we needed. If you are a guest at Hotel Clarendon, this is worth a try. On a good night, the dining room and jazz are worth it alone.
Ceviches, Épicerie et Traiteur
152 rue Napoléon
Cuisine: Caribbean Latin-American
On a small street corner on Napoleon Street in the Plateau is a quaint little Peruvian family run place called Ceviche. I would have never known it was there. Up until our first Zomato meet up, I had never even heard about it. Zomato for those of you who are guessing is the company that took over the Urbanspoon website in March. For those who do not know what Urbanspoon was or what Zomato is, let me enlighten you. Zomato, not Tomato is a website where you could view any listing of local restaurants and reviews of these restaurants. It is very informative for the average dinner and very interactive and exciting for bloggers. You can download as an app on your cell phone that would allow you to use it whenever searching for a place to eat. If you are ever stuck about where you go last minute, as I am often, this is a great tool to have available at your fingertips.
This evening, I had the privilege of being invited to Ceviches for a meet up that brought together a few Montreal bloggers and introduce them to Zomato and their new platform. A bit shy at first, I was put to ease by the friendliness of the Zomato staff and my fellow bloggers. Everyone was a great bunch, not pretentious at all and the camaraderie was amazing. Our hospitable host and owner Luis was behind the bar, making us two of his special cocktails,
A sweet spiked rum Ice tea served in a mason jar and a fruity concoction of passion fruit and bitter grenadine. I immediately felt we had entered his home.
After a few introductions and a short chit chat with our fellow bloggers, we sat down and were regaled with an on slew of entrees and dishes that out shone each other. We started with a basket of fried yucca, crispy triangles of fried yucca which tasted like fries. A staple in Peruvian cuisine these were done perfectly.
Next came a platter of a dozen of the best cod fish balls I have ever tasted. Oval shaped balls of soft mashed potatoes and white salty cod, lightly wrapped in fine bread crumbs. These are my favorites and it had been a while that I had not had any. So I devoured a few more than I should have. Alongside these came some creamy coleslaw that hit the notes perfectly too and was a great accompaniment to the codfish balls.
The piece de resistance was the tacos. Soft shelled mini tacos served with shrimp, fish or pork. I liked them all. Topped with coriander, tomatoes, heart of palms, onions, peppers, marinated agave and lime juice and their special white sauce these were delectable pockets that render you insatiable.
It doesn’t end here, more food with fried plantains, and two types of Ceviche which was so refreshingly fresh and tasty it brought me back to South America instantaneously.
A big kudos for this husband and wife team who not only are amazing, but have carved out a niche for themselves in originality in a city that has no shortage of talent.
The cherry on top of the cake was their three fine desserts, of Tres Leche, Apple crumble and Quesillo.
The Tres Leche a triangle piece of flan was better than any crème caramel I have tasted on any given day. The Quesillo, a soft square piece of cake topped with delicious fluffy vanilla cream was heavenly and moist like a cloud on a sunny day. The apple crumble served in a ramekin was superb in its own right with sweet scents of cinnamon and crunchiness.
I strongly recommend Ceviches, not only for the food, which I highly recommended but the ambiance. Here you will feel at home among the art and the generosity of Luis and his wife. Kind and hard working, they have managed to transport more than a little of themselves here. They have brought to us the flavors of their homeland. Reasonably priced this little restaurant is truly a gem of a place in the Plateau.
195 Falls Road, Shelburne,
Chef Hats: 4.5
Cuisine: Local Market Cuisine
When it comes to believing that we hold the best restaurants and chefs in Montreal it can be said we are foodie snobs. Let me shed some light on this matter. In a small town called Shelburne in rural Vermont about 180 kilometers from our big city and 20 minutes from Burlington, Vermont. You will find three establishments in a triangle formation in the center of town that form a force as strong as the Bermuda triangle that must be capitulated to when it comes to talent in chefs and food culture.
On a recent weekend visit to my sister’s in Shelburne, Vermont to see her new abode, she was eager for the Foo Foodie to experience the culinary delights of her new town. She surprisingly planned on Sunday morning breakfast and a visit to Rustic Roots and Chef Contos kitchen. In this yellow house on quiet Falls Road you will find Chef Mike Orfan a charcuterie specialist creating some of his signature dishes.
Orfan left his longtime position as Chef de cuisine at Rat’s Restaurant in Hamilton, New Jersey to buy this little gem of a house which was previously known as the Lemon Peel Café & Crêperie in fall 2012, which he re named Rustic Roots in June 2013. Serving his signature Rustic Breakfasts ,lunches and weekend diners all made from scratch with local products, he wanted has brought his talents to this sleepy town in the Green Mountain state.
Not knowing what to expect this balmy yet powdery March Sunday morning in Vermont. I entered Rustic Roots dining room to the aromas of delicious maple scents. Its burnt sienna painted walls with multiple framed pictures of teapots emanating a warmth and comfort to warm up any soul. At the entrance I spotted a long bar filled with patrons enjoying their morning coffee and chatting quietly. On the right the small dining room was already brimming with families and couples having their deliciously aromatic indelible breakfast.
We were greeted by a young, fashionably dressed and very pleasant and friendly waitress who brought us to our table. The restaurant was busy and buzzing with activity already for a quiet Sunday morning in such a small town .I wondered where all these people were from and how they got to know about it. Was this a secret hiding spot for the towns locals on a cold spring morning or did they all have a sister who lived nearby and gave the secret away about this gem of a place?
Whatever it was, I was enthralled to be experiencing yet another fine restaurant in the heart of Shelburne and eager to be awed by flavors of Mike Orfan’s cuisine. I was happy and overjoyed at the fact that I knew a secret and I no longer had to be sitting at the local IHOP with the rest of the Quebecers eating a generic breakfast after my weekend shopping spree in Vermont; which was usually what we opted for in the past.
On the Menu at Rustic Roots you will find first and foremost Orfan’s signature Rustic Breakfast which consists of his original take of what brought him to Vermont , Smoky Canadian ham or bacon , Sweet coffee maple sausage a throwback from his Charcuterie days and two creamy scrambled eggs or of your choice and a decadent crisp, puffy popover spread with herbed butter, just heavenly and divine for this cold morning. This is a must for all first time visitors. The scrambled eggs and popover unlike no other I have ever tasted.
Not to miss their Omelets with wild mushrooms, truffles, Shelburne farm cheddar cheese and a brioche triangle toast on the side. If you are a fan of mushrooms, this is the dish for you. This was my brother in law and the Foo foodie’s route this morning and he can do no wrong when it comes to anything fungi because he is the mushroom expert and I am not kidding when I say this.
He taught me something this morning, as in the past the only time I got to taste anything truffle was in an oil form that we can find drizzled on top of some dishes here in Montreal. But for the first time in my life I really got to experience the taste of real truffles in their splendor, mixed in with the wild mushrooms the flavors were accentuated twofold. As my brother in law explained, it was the truffles I tasted with their strong flavoring and scent. These woodsy morsels just exploded on my palate, absolutely delicious and decadent. I truly enjoying and savoring every bite.
Frenchie and the Boys had the Baked Caramel Apple Pancake, made with Dulce de Leche (Caramel), topped with caramelized apples in Maple syrup and whipped cream. This is no regular pancake it is huge and you better have a good appetite. It is about half inch high pancake that is heavenly sweet with all its accoutrements, fluffy and perfectly cooked inside and completely filling and satisfying, especially with all the fresh local Vermont maple syrup added.
All Rustic Roots breakfasts are served with a side order of caramelized onion and herbed potatoes that alone are not only delicious, but are an added perk and a compliment to all the fresh meals served here for breakfast. All breakfast dishes cost between $9.00 $ 12.00- USD which is not only very reasonable for the quality and craftsmanship behind them but a fantastic deal.
Rustic Roots also serves a light lunch fare of soups, salads, sandwiches and sweet crepes and weekend dinners only starting at 6pm on Saturday and Sunday. Brunch is served from (9 am to 3 pm) from Wednesday to Sunday and the restaurant is closed on Monday & Tuesday.
In such a short time from its opening, it has already won acclaimed reviews and is making it mark on the Vermont food scene as a place to experience. I was wowed by its simplicity and warmth but also in its innovative twists that the Breakfast places of Montreal have yet to master. I am already yearning to return to try out their lunch and dinner specials. I am sure they will garnish five stars in that area too.
Chef Contos Kitchen
65 Falls Rd,
Next door a hop and skip away from Rustic Roots, in a blue house you will find Chef Contos Kitchen & Store.
A small gem of a place selling specialty products for the kitchen and a cooking school teaching cooking classes to local Vermonters and beyond,. Started by Courtney Contos, “whose love affair with all things culinary began at a young age in Chicago”. Chef Contos has been teaching since 2000. Her excitement in the kitchen is contagious and this is one of the ways her passion sparkles”. Contos is passionate about local and organic foods, supporting local farms in many ways. You will find her recipes celebrated by many including the Vermont Cheese Council and Culture Magazine. The latest being in March 2015 issue of Food & Wine showcasing her famous Tacos al Pastor recipe.
“Growing up among Chicago’s culinary masterminds, her inspiration for the gourmet cuisine was instilled in her by her father at Chez Paul in Chicago (1948-1992). It was through her father’s that she began to develop a true understanding of the restaurant business. She obtained her culinary arts degree (1996-1998) from Chicago’s Kendall College, which lead her to an internship & a full time chef position at Charlie Trotter’s restaurant. She has tested recipes for Martha Stewart’s magazine “Every Day Food” (2002).has been a culinary instructor at The Chopping Block Cooking Schools in Chicago (2003-2006) ,Kendall College and executive chef instructor for Cook Academy at the Essex Resort & Spa 2006-2010.
In 2006, she started her own blogs “Edible Moments” and “Eat Out Vermont” as well she wrote the very first “Cooking Fresh” article in Edible Green Mountains Magazine and Cookbook. Contos has produced and appeared on numerous TV cooking segments, on Vermont Public Television and WCAX Channel 3. She also reports on national food news on two radio stations FOOD52’s & WVMT, reporting food news the second Monday of every month.
Besides all this, she also keeps busy travelling to Yucatan taking people on culinary vacations, teaching and picking up the latest recipes and bringing them back home. If time allows I strongly suggest taking one of her classes, my sister highly recommends it. They are refreshing and fun. This is a great way to meet new people and experience something totally different from the landscape of what is being offered in the culinary schools of Montreal. You will get a personal rural feel of the local produce, culture and people.
Chef Contos store carries everything one can possibly want and more pertaining to kitchen cookware and gadgets. Products and items are of the best and finest quality. You will find some surprises and cute knick knacks l to take back home or give as gifts. I totally loved the place and last month almost applied for a job there when she was looking for part time help. But that means that The Foo Foodie would have to move to Vermont. Maybe one day cause I am totally in love with the place.
994 Rachel St. E.
(Christophe Colombe/ Lafontaine Park)
It doesn’t have to be poutine week or hamburger week in Montreal to enjoy Restaurant La Banquise. Open 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week; it can be enjoyed anytime, all year round. It may be popular with the local student crowd, but people from all areas come here in droves. You will always find a line up of sorts but it’s worth the wait because anything you order here is better than most of any Montreal hamburger joints.
La Banquise was started by Pierre Barsalou in 1968, a firefighter from the Lafontaine Park fire station across the street. He leased the shop after a fire damaged the property and he was looking for something to do on the days he had time off. He first started serving Ice cream and then added hot dogs, hamburgers and french-fries. In the 70’s they added poutine after one of his employee’s returned from a trip from the Warwick ,Quebec located in the Arthabaska region and famous for their cheese festival. He had tasted a dish of fries with cheese curds and gravy at a roadside casse-croute, and asked Pierre to replicate this dish. The poutine was born at La Banquise and it is still one of its best sellers.
Today La Banquise is run by Pierre’s youngest daughter Annie Barsalou and her partner Marc Latendresse. In 2006, La Banquise expanded to add another dining area, which displays its artistic creative side with its different wall art and tree branches cascading from the ceiling. Very original decor I must say. Moreover, it has become a mecca for poutine lovers from far and wide. Even tourists have heard about it and trek to this part of town to try from their list of 30 variations of poutine.
I liked the vibe at The Banquise from the moment, I stepped into the place with Brains, & Gonzo, my two dining pals for this evening. The wait in the front was long, but it went quickly. From this angle the place does not have much ambiance, with its take out counter in front and its long open kitchen on the side, it looks like any case croute, narrow and tight. Once inside we were seated in another dining room that was wide and spacious.
Gonzo and avid junk food eater did not complain at all this evening. Even the short wait did not displease him. He looked around and waited, he seemed to be in junk food heaven. Brains loved the young student vibe and it was upon her recommendation we try La Banquise tonight. The staff here is quick and keeps the place buzzing within minutes we had our order.
After quickly scanning the menu, I ordered La Matty Poutine for $8.50; it came topped with bacon, green peppers, mushroom and onions. And I ordered the Classic Banquise Burger at $ 4.25 and a cola.
The poutine was a mound of fries with toppings and cheese curds and the right amount of gravy. Its taste reminded me of pizza toppings, except the fries serving as the carbohydrates. It was one of the best poutine’s I have tasted in a while, aside from those gourmet poutine’s I have had at fancy restaurant with foie gras but that came at a hefty price tag. But at the price I was paying at La Banquise, this was worth more than every penny and beyond. The Banquise burger was tasty as well, served with fried onions and mushrooms, topped with Swiss cheese, tomatoes and lettuce and a spicy sauce it was not only juicy and moist the buns were super fresh and it contained the right amount of condiments. Not overly packed or messy.
Brains had La Taquise poutine at $ 9.75. If you are having the Mexican cravings this is the way to go. Served with generous portions of guacamole, sour cream, and typical Mexican toppings it was not only original but divine. Too much for Brains to finish we had to help her out.
Gonzo played it safe with his usual Cheeseburger trio for $7.95, but was very pleased with it. It too he said did not fall short of expectations.
We loved La Banquise, from the music blaring over the speakers, which we were told is chosen by the staff, to the latest new food creations. Even the art that hangs on the walls is a display of a consort of their creativity.
There is a feeling of a free-spirited atmosphere here which has probably contributed to its success over the years, especially among students and people in their 20’s, who make up a large part of the clientele. But the feeling also transcends from young to old as you can see the clientele includes families, which we saw plenty of this evening.
We left happy and satisfied and vowed to return again, maybe hamburger week! But those poutine’s are decadent and a MUST TRY. La Banquise did not make it on Montreal’s -30 classic iconic restaurants for no reason; there is always a good reason behind all the madness. I say it’s the poutine, addictive…
À la Folie (formerly La Maison du Macaron)
1126 Mont-Royal Avenue
(Between de la Roche & Christophe Colomb)
** Kiosk at Eaton Center-2nd Floor (Zone 210)
It was during a promotional event with my employer that I discovered À la Folie macaroons back in 2010. Before then, I had not really paid too much attention to macaroons, only occasionally picking one off a dessert tray here and there and usually at some hotel buffet. These were mediocre at best and never a particular draw for me. I must admit I am not so much of a sweet tooth and I always found macaroons too sweet. Back then macaroons were not as elaborate as they are now, made with chewy mounds of coconut or almonds, and egg whites, they tended to be sticky and flavorless.
But it was just around this period in 2010 that the cupcake and macaroon rage started, and having nothing in front of me to eat and being very hungry, I sampled a few and couldn’t stop. These were no ordinary macaroons; they were from La Maison du Macaroon. Ranging from different colors and flavors under the sun, they were absolutely decadent. Their macaroons are small perfectly round pockets of crispy exterior sandwich cookies that break between your teeth when biting into to them, filling your mouth with a smooth sweet ganache cream of your favorite choice of flavor.
I fell in love with these macaroons. The presentation was a whole other thing. Beautifully presented in gorgeous boxes, they look more like jewellery than food and make a great gift idea. Interesting I thought!
In 2012, French born pâtissier Gaëlle Crop and her life partner Johan Crop opened a second location at a kiosk in The Eaton Center Downtown. Gaëlle learned her trade in Paris, at the famed patisserie of Gérard Mulot, at the Plaza Athénée. They moved to Montreal and opened La Maison du Macaron on de la Roche St. in 2008 specializing only in macaroons and were met with a lot of success.
This year I revisited the kiosk at Eaton center when I wanted to purchase a box as a gift for someone and discovered they had rebranded and changed their name to À la Folie. They have added to their repertoire, single slices of French tarts, choux pastry, of course their famous macaroons in regular size or in larger formats. They are being more creative with different flavors and have changed the marketing of the store and the take-out boxes.
The new store is now on Mont Royal, has a new minimalist look and design, the grey decor highlighting their colorful products and making them pop at you from inside the showcases like real jewels.
The packaging is also more visually appealing: incorporating vibrant colors of a Moroccan baroque type theme. Each box is masterfully crafted so that each item is safely nestled in its own slat. You will receive with your boxed desserts matching shopping bags that feel more like you purchased your goodies at Holt Renfrew than a pastry shop.
Mission Accompli! I love making people discover new things, especially something of such high caliber as the patisserie of À la Folie!
I was more than pleasantly surprised and happy that I was able to please someone and introduce them to something new, I highly recommend a visit to the stores.
The frigid cold temperature that Montreal is experiencing this year does not want to let up; it has imbedded itself in our bones like two concrete slabs of the tallest skyscraper in the epicenter of our downtown streets. We have at least a few more weeks of winter left under our belts.
It is during these cold winter months that we all seek warm comfort food. For myself, nothing epitomizes comfort food more than a large bowl of soup or stew with a few slices of fresh country bread and butter to warm up my heart and soul on a cold winter’s day or night. It is during this time that I return to my roots and make a big stockpot of Minestrone Soup, like my mom used to make when we were growing up.
Minestrone is a thick soup of Italian Roman origin. Of course, there are many variations to this soup, but the original classic method consists of any types of vegetables (usually root vegetables) and some small pasta noodles or rice.
Considered a poor man soup, it is derived from whatever was leftover in the pantry at the time, pooled together to make a meal. Usually, it contains a base of vegetable or chicken stock, tomatoes, potatoes, root vegetables, some meat and beans for protein
This modern day recipe various considerably from what my mom used to make and what her ancestors used to make as soup.
During the World War II in Italy, fresh vegetables or produce was limited, as the villagers were not able to go out on a daily basis to tend to their fields. What they had left over in the pantry was mostly foods left over from the winter harvest. My mom’s recipe truly derived from “cucina povera” and only contained sautéed garlic, onions, celery, potatoes, canned tomatoes and rice. It was more like a thick porridge, but it was delicious and comforting.
Over the years, we have reaped many more benefits and live in different times when all is available to us. This is my version of rich man’s Minestrone made with freshest ingredients from the Farmers Market or supermarket.
Here is my recipe with everything thrown into it. Enjoy!
Makes 8 servings
Prep Time: 2hrs
¼ c. olive oil
¼ c. butter
1 large onion- diced
2 carrots- peeled and diced
2 parsnips-peeled and diced
½ rutabaga-peeled and diced
2 celery stalks- diced
2 medium potatoes diced
½ lb string beans- cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups water
6 c. Chicken or vegetable stock
1 – (16 oz) can of whole tomatoes
1 tbsp. Beef Bovril ** or beef flavoured bouillon cube
½ head of cabbage-shredded
½ (10 oz bag) fresh baby spinach
2 medium zucchini diced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 can each (16 oz) white beans and red kidney beans (option) ** ½ can each
½ c grated Pecorino Romano or Reggiano Parmesan cheese (whichever preferred)
**Slices Italian country bread- slightly grilled with olive oil
In a large stockpot heat olive oil and butter over medium heat.
Sauté onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, rutabaga, potatoes and green beans for about 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Add water, tomatoes, broth, beef Bovril, spinach, zucchini, cabbage, salt & pepper.
Increases stove temperature to high and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or till vegetables are tender, but not too soft.
Stir in red and white beans and cook for 20 minutes till soup is slightly thickened.
Serve in bowls, topped with grilled Italian bread sprinkled with cheese.
Note: ** For a thicker heartier soup, you can add, 3/4 cup small pasta noodles, or pieces of diced sautéed beef cubes, or Italian sausage (removed from casing and sautéed in oil).
Just add 2 cups more water or stock to stockpot.