A weekend of eating

Wow, 10 days since my last post… Time sure flies! I’m in the middle of re-orienting my life right now and I’ve got a number of things on the go. I didn’t realize it had been so long though: my apologies.

It was cool Monday here in Montreal, with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees with large clouds providing a dramatic skyline and a healthy breeze. I had a decadent weekend of eating and celebrating with my mother and her beau who were in town for the weekend from Toronto. They had a delicious meal at Lawrence on Friday that I offered her for her birthday. They shared oysters, a pig’s cheek asparagus and mostarda appetizer(one of the best dishes ever…) and a poached duck leg with puy lentils, kale and radishes, as well as sea bream with zucchini flowers, chanterelles and mussels. For dessert they shared a strawberry tart, and a ginger rhubarb layered ice cream cake they make. I’ve tried and savored each one of those dishes and I can declare with confidence that it made for a great evening of eating.

Just found this impressionistic painting of Lawrence.
Check out the artist’s site at http://jermin.wordpress.com/

The duck was from a farm called Au goût d’autrefois on l’Île d’Orléans, an island near Québec city. The owner, Jacques Legros and his wife, work tirelessly to provide what must be one of the most ethically admirable animal products in all of North America. Not only are their ducks, geese and turkeys well treated and loved, but they taste fantastic, due to a healthy and varied diet of different high quality grains.

Jaques Legros feeding his animals

After eating what some refer to as neo-rustic english cuisine at Lawrence on Friday night, Carolina(my wife) and I joined my mom and her partner for an evening of fancy Turkish food at Su, a restaurant on Wellington in Verdun, Montreal, where Fisun Ercan, the chef and owner, plates aromatic and colorful dishes from the country that bridges Europe and Asia.

Chef and owner of Su, Fisun Ercan

It was a first time at the restaurant and we had a very good meal. I was very pleased to see them serving lamb from Kamouraska, a Québec lamb that I particularly enjoy. They live by the mouth of the St-Lawrence and the feed they graze is slightly salty due to the sea water mixing with the river and the sea winds bringing with them some of its flavor. The meat is fantastic, and SU did the lamb justice. Here’s what I ate:

Kuzu pirzola
Grilled fresh lamb chops marinated with mountain herbs, mint, sumac and pomegranate infused olive oil, bulgur and seasonal vegetables

I sucked on those chop bones in an attempt to get at every last bite of meat. Fantastic. Thank you Kamouraska, and thank you Fisun and Su!

I recommend the restaurant and urge people to explore what Verdun has to offer. I was very pleasantly surprised by how charming it is.

Following a night of lamb infused sleep, the four of us woke up for another round of food: this time, some Montreal bagels, smoked meat, cream cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and a rhubarb and almond loaf from the pastry shop Rhubarbe. All of this we enjoyed sitting on a picnic table in parc Laurier near one of Montreal’s cutest neighborhoods. Picnicking is something I don’t do enough!

Pastry Chef and owner Stephanie
Now THAT’s a bagel!
Parc Laurier

It was a great weekend. Eating brings us together.

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More about Lawrence

So, Lawrence, the restaurant I work at that I wrote about a few weeks ago, was reviewed today in Montreal’s most important english newspaper, the Gazette. It’s a wonderful review and reinforces my belief that I happen to be very lucky working in one of Montreal, if not Canada’s, best restaurants.

Here’s the link to the Lesley Chesterman review: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/food-wine/Fine+Dining+Lawrence/4348152/story.html

In order to further activate your salivary glands, here are some pictures of the food at Lawrence:

Braised Beef pie

A most delicious burger and last night’s dinner.

yum

I worked a lunch shift yesterday and someone ordered one of Lawrence‘s famous burgers with bacon and aged cheddar. Now, if that doesn’t look like the most satisfyingly self-indulgent burger you’ve ever seen, please send me a picture of the alternative.

I made a light dinner last night with some ingredients that needed to be used and came out with something quite nice. I bought some “morue charbonnière- sablefish or alaskan black cod-which is a very nice buttery and delicate fish, baked it, and served it with a sun dried tomato and red bell pepper vinaigrette, some steamed broccoli and cauliflower and a refreshing salad of mixed greens, red bell pepper, oranges and celery.

For the vinaigrette, I blended half of the uncooked bell pepper with the sun-dried tomatoes, capers, garlic, olive oil and red wine vinegar. When that was done I thinly sliced the rest of the bell pepper, sectioned an orange, cut some red onion and celery and mixed it in with my mixed greens. For the salad, I made a vinaigrette of old fashioned mustard, red wine vinegar, seasoning, and olive oil.

I steamed my broccoli and cauliflower, and heated the oven to 400°, where I cooked my fish until it became flaky on the outside and “rare” on the inside. I finished it off with a minute of broiling to give it some extra color and flavor.

Easy and satisfying.

dinner

I wasn’t very familiar with sablefish until recently and am pleasantly surprised at how good it is. While not cheap, it’s a reasonably priced fish that is sustainable, very flavorful and easy to cook.

Here is some information about sablefish that might interest you:

Sablefish, or black cod, looks much like a cod, but in fact, it is not a cod at all. It’s scientific name is Anoplopoma fimbria and it is one of two members of the Anoplopomatidae family, a group of fish confined to the North Pacific.

Looking at the nutritional values of black cod, they can be considered as a very health beneficial fish. Sablefish are very high in heart-healthy Omega-3 oils, containing approximately as much as wild salmon do. They are also a great source of high-quality protein, iodine, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, and calcium. The fats in sablefish are highly polyunsaturated and thus well-suited to low cholesterol diets. They are very low in PCBs, dioxins, and mercury.

Another important factor about Black Cod is their sustainability status. This particular species information has become very important to consumers over the past several years. The good news is that Alaska holds the largest population of black cod in the world and their conservation status is at the lowest level of concern in terms of fish sustainability management. The Black Cod population is neither overfished nor approaching an overfished condition.

For more information: http://www.fishex.com/seafood/black-cod/black-cod.html

Lawrence, a new restaurant, a different approach to ‘health’

Today, I’m going to write about a restaurant and a style of cooking that is vastly different to what I’ve been proposing and sharing with you on this blog.

Lawrence- Fairmount & St-Laurent, in Montreal

I need to also mention that I happen to work at this restaurant. Therefore, do not look for an unbiased review of the place. That being said, I write this piece with integrity and with a simple desire to celebrate a chef, and a place, that I think should be rewarded with praise. I’ve worked in a great many restaurants, enjoyed an even greater variety of delicious meals in my life and would not praise a restaurant simply because I work there.

Lawrence is run by 2 young couples, and its kitchen is headed by the very talented chef Marc Cohen, a 26 year old from Kent, England.

Inspired by the likes of Fergus Henderson, chef and owner of St-John restaurant in London, Gordon Ramsey and the likes, Marc Cohen cherishes the animal and all its parts when cooking.

His approach to cooking is deceivingly simple: make straight forward recipes taste great by promoting the distinct flavors of its various ingredients and by serving the best quality ingredients available. The work behind the scenes is anything but simple however. Marc and his staff spend hours and hours preparing for the lunches, brunches and dinners that feature almost entirely “restaurant-made” elements. The burgers, wonderfully flavorful, are ground freshly during the week in order for them to be served med-rare, the milk bread buns on which they are served baked daily, the english muffins for your perfectly prepared eggs benedict are as well, the salmon served for brunch is smoked in house, and so are the pig parts he needs smoked. He also pickles, cures, ages, and does all the butchery in house.

Meat fridge
Aging meat

Recently, in an article for the local weekly newspaper(The Mirror), he was quoted as saying that “I don’t like buying small pieces of meat. I think it’s important that each part of the animal has its own qualities. Instead of deciding what the menu is going to be and doing the ordering, we do the order for a pig or side of beef and then we write a menu around that.”

Pork

Marc Cohen’s recipes are also deceptively creative, playfully mixing the rustic and the modern, a home cooked meal with the fancy and perfected cuisine of a high end restaurant. The flavors and textures speak for themselves. He as no desire or urge to avoid fat, in fact he uses it by the bucket load. Duck fat, pig’s fat, butter and so on. The menu changes weekly, at times daily and reflects the ingredients available locally and in season. He also needs to adapt the menu in relation to what is left of the animals he cooks. One frequently finds organs on his menu, kidneys, liver, heart, tongue, blood pudding, head’s cheese, and even brain. All of which, when prepared by Marc, taste remarkably delicious.

It is this approach of using the whole animal that I find so inspirational and healthy. So much of our consumption discards enormous amounts of edible cuts and meats because of our ignorance and hypocritical disgust at some of these ingredients. Marc demonstrates that these foods can be made well, can and do taste very good, offering his customers a variety of flavors and textures frequently missing in today’s restaurants.

It’s always a pleasure to look at a menu before service starts, notice the amount of dishes such as heart and liver that one would think might scare off customers, and see how popular those very dishes become. For example, as an appetizer, he might make a small brochette of duck hearts or an offal salad of quick pickled veggies containing tongue, kidney and heart, and as a main course he might have stuffed lamb’s heart over a rustic bed of puy lentils, or a pig’s liver with soft cheesy polenta and swiss chard, and as waiters we’ll frequently see customers starting with one of them and following with another. There is a market for this kind of food and Marc proves it week after week. Of course, he also prepares them at a level beyond what most kitchens are capable of.

Rabbit stew, Trotter, prunes and legumes

The restaurant also features a wonderful pastry chef duo. Shannon Stainsby and Michelle Diamond carefully put together a classic mix of desserts, most of which we are familiar with, and work methodically at perfecting them for our salivating taste buds. Millefeuilles are carefully prepared, flaky, creamy and irresistible. A banana maple syrup creme caramel will knock you off your chair. An apple tarte tatin made a la minute arrives at your table 30 min. after ordering it, rich with borderline burnt caramel fragrances and a perfect level of sweetness topped with a dollop of crème fraîche. Donuts stuffed with cored apple slices marinated in spices and alcohol are crispy on the outside, soft and delicate on the inside and paired with a lemon and vanilla ice cream. The desserts change as well, and are simple, rustic, homey, consistently executed.

Flaky millefeuille pastry
chocolate cheese cake

To round it out, the restaurant is run in a precise and efficient manner, which makes the casual atmosphere that much more enjoyable. Owners Sefi, Ethan, Annika and Marc have a precise vision of what they want and they go about providing it to their customers with the necessary zeal and passion for success. Finally, the sommelier, Etheliya Hananova, offers a knowledgeable and well constructed wine list with a variety of rare and unique options that are well priced.

Lawrence offers a decadent, comforting and rustic experience. I for one, as an employee, and frequent client, marvel at the whole thing.

http://lawrencerestaurant.com/

squash gnocchi
gurnard, watercress and lentils