28 02 2011


L'Eglise St. Michel in Chamonix, France

I recently returned from a fantastic two-week trip to Italy and France.  It was the perfect holiday: the architecture and scenery were stunningly beautiful and I never tire of strolling the streets of European cities, window-shopping and people watching.  And then, of course, there was the food.

We spent some time in Torino, Italy (more on that later) and then headed to Chamonix in the French Alps for a bit of skiing. The commune of Chamonix is located in the Haute-Savoie region, just across the border from Italy at the foot of Mont Blanc. The area is surrounded by mountains and has a vibrant scene in the evenings once everyone has retired from the slopes for the day.


Haute-Savoie specialties include excellent cheeses such as Tomme de Savoie, cured meats and wine

The cuisine of the Alps is seasonally-based and includes local wines,cured meats and fantastic cheeses such as tomme, abondance, reblochon and raclette. Dining in Chamonix is typically casual and restaurants often feature fun communal dishes like raclette (a local cheese that is melted and scraped onto potatoes), fondue (both oil-based and cheese-based) and hot stone (pierre-chaud) cooking, where slices of meat or poultry are cooked at the table on a heated stone. Onion and vegetable soups are common starters and potatoes often accompany meals.  However, my favourite local specialty was tartiflette.

Tartiflette: a Savoyard dish made with onions, potatoes, bacon, cream and cheese

Tartiflette, contrary to what I had thought, is not a tart but a dish of potatoes, onions, cream and bacon with cheese melted on top.  Honestly, with those ingredients, you could probably stick an old shoe in there and it would still be delicious!  It’s not light but after a vigorous day of outdoor winter activities, it fits the bill perfectly.

A day of vigorous activity and fresh Alpine air will work up an appetite for the rich foods of the region

In the Savoie region, reblochon is the type of cheese typically used in tartiflette.  It can be found in North America at most good cheese shops, however, if it is not available, you can substitute a tomme, fontina, raclette or brie (bearing in mind that the taste of the finished dish will be different but no less delicious).


Serves 2 to 4 (it’s quite rich but if diners are very hungry, it will serve 2 – the recipe can easily be doubled)

This recipe is a great way to use up leftover cooked potatoes.

  • 6 oz. (170 grams) slab bacon, cut into a 1/2″ dice
  • 1 medium to large (about 6 oz / 170 g) yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cups diced peeled and cooked potatoes (cut into a 1/2″ dice) – about 2 large potatoes
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 7 to 8 oz. (200 to 226 g) reblochon cheese (see above for substitutions)
  1. Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat and add the diced bacon. Cook the bacon until almost crisp, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped onion to the bacon. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the cooked potato chunks to the skillet and stir until the mixture is combined.  Pour in the half-and-half and simmer gently on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. While the mixture is simmering, prepare the cheese. Slice the reblochon into thin slices about 1/4″ thick. Use a sharp knife to trim off the rind if desired (the rind is edible but it may be quite strong tasting and have a slightly gritty texture).
  5. Spoon the potato mixture into individual oven-proof dishes or one large casserole dish (if the skillet has an oven-proof handle, you can keep it in the pan if desired). Lay the sliced cheese in an even layer over the potato mixture.
  6. Place the oven rack in the top position and turn on the broiler. Broil the tartiflettes until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 3 minutes (watch carefully – it can burn in an instant!)
  7. Let cool slightly and serve with a lightly dressed green salad.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Serve tartiflette with a lightly dressed green salad to cut the richness


Recent Eats…

15 04 2010

As I’ve mentioned before on this site, I don’t really do restaurant reviews.  There are countless other blogs dedicated to critiquing restaurants and detailing meals with photos and write ups.  However, I get a lot of inspiration from trying new places and thought I would share some of my favourite recent discoveries.  


XO Le Restaurant – Located in the Hotel St. James in Old Montreal, XO is a mix of old world charm and modern touches and the menu is sophisticated but accessible. Stand-out Dish: Braised Oxtail Risotto.  The rice was perfectly cooked – slightly al dente in the middle with a creamy consistency.  To make your own risotto at home, check out my post on Basic Risotto.

Le Petit Alep – This casual resto near Jean Talon Market is the smaller sister restaurant to Alep next door.  They serve top notch Syrian-Armenian dishes, such as shish taouk and Armenian sausages.  Stand-out Dish: Muhummara, a red pepper -pomegranate-walnut based dip that is delicious and addictive.  You can make a version of it with this recipe from epicurious.com: Muhummara.

Le Petit Alep in Montreal


New York City

‘Ino –   A small, casual panini restaurant in New York’s West Village, ‘Ino Cafe and Wine Bar takes the humble sandwich to a whole new level.   The menu offers everything from grilled panini to amazing crostini with inventive toppings such as butternut squash. Stand-out Dish: Truffled Egg Toast. The recipe for it and other ‘Ino dishes are available in their book Simple Italian Sandwiches: Recipes from America’s Favorite Panini Bar but you can also find it on-line here: Truffled Egg Toast.

Simple Italian Sandwiches: Recipes from America's Favorite Panini Bar, by Jennifer and Jason Denton with Kathryn Kellinger


Freemans – This funky resto on NYC’s Lower East Side has eclectic decor and a creative cocktail menu.  I was there with a group on Valentine’s Day so our menu options were limited but the choices we had were well prepared.  Stand-Out Dish – Grilled Cheddar Toasts. You can check out my version here: Cheese Toasts.

Locanda Verde – Chef Andrew Carmellini was voted Time Out New York’s 2010 Chef of the Year for his latest venture. Located in TriBeCa’s Greenwich Hotel, the restaurant has gotten a lot of press over the past few months for its rustic and flavourful Italian cooking. Stand-Out Dishes: It’s a tie between the Beet Salad with Blue Cheese and delicate, house made Grandmother’s Ravioli.  For a slightly different version of beet salad, try my recipe for Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Feta. You can also re-create some of Chef Carmellini’s dishes with his best selling cookbook, Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food

Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories From a Life in Food, by Andrew Carmellini and Gwen Hyman


Palm Beach / Miami

Palm Beach Grill – This casual resto is part of the Hillstone Group which owns the popular Houston’s chain in the United States.   During peak season, the people watching is always entertaining and the valet parking area is filled with luxury cars. Luckily the food is good too.  Stand-out Dish – the Cheeseburger.  It may seem simple but a hamburger cooked to perfection can be surprisingly hard to find and Palm Beach Grill does it right.

Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink – Michael’s is often mentioned on lists of Miami’s best restaurants and with good reason – the food is fantastic.  I joined my friends Judi and Robin for Sunday brunch, which is served tapas style.  We shared a few dishes, which is a great way to try more of the menu.  Stand-out Dishes: Everything we had was delicious but the highlights were the Burrata with local heirloom tomatoes and Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with blackberry compote.

Brunch and dinner menus from Michael's Genuine Food and Drink in Miami


Scarpetta – A Florida outpost of the New York restaurant, Scarpetta is located in the newly refurbished Fontainebleau Hotel. The space is stunning and the people watching can’t be beat.  However, the food lives up to the scene.  A starter of burrata with heirloom tomatoes was fantastic (clearly I love burrata!) and the house made pastas are delicious. Stand-Out Dish: The famous Spaghetti with Tomato-Basil Sauce, a simple but perfectly executed dish that is greater than the sum of its parts. You can make your own version using chef/owner Scott Conant’s recipe: Scarpetta’s Tomato-Basil Spaghetti.

Prime One Twelve – Located on South Beach’s Ocean Drive, Prime One Twelve is definitely a scene.  There’s a good chance you’ll spot some boldface names (we were seated next to NBA star Dwyane Wade and actress Gabrielle Union).  The food is pretty good as well (if on the pricey side).  Stand-Out Dish – Surprisingly, it was the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, which was served with sweet corn relish and tartar sauce.  


Lady Marmalade – This eclectic breakfast/lunch spot started in Victoria, B.C. and the owners recently opened a Toronto location in the Leslieville neighbourhood.  There are creative options such as a ‘good morning poutine’ and various mexican-inspired huevos. Nothing is fried so the accompanying potatoes have been oven roasted, making them less greasy than many breakfast joints.    Stand-out Dish: Baked Crepe Croque Monsieur, an oven baked crepe topped with ham, cheddar and a miso-scallion cream.

Weezie’s – This small and cozy bistro is a the perfect place for dinner, whether it’s a romantic evening for two or a gathering of friends.  Chef/owner Constance Guitard’s menu features simple but well prepared dishes including a juicy hamburger, decadent mac ‘n’ cheese and excellent frites. Stand-Out Dish: Frisée Salad with Lardons and Panko Crusted Poached Egg. Frisée salads with lardons (basically a salad topped with bacon and eggs) are a staple in French bistros but Chef Guitard puts a delicious twist on it by coating the poached egg in panko crumbs and frying it, resulting in the perfect blend of textures and flavours.  You can make your own version of the original classic with this recipe from Pastis in NYC: Frisée Lardon with Poached Egg.

Thanks to everyone with whom I’ve enjoyed these fabulous meals over the past few months.  I look forward to many more!

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!


Maui Report

6 08 2009
A rainbow over the mountains, from Lahania, Maui

A rainbow over the mountains, from Lahaina, Maui

As I mentioned last week, I was vacationing in beautiful Maui, Hawaii.  I just returned, exhausted after a long series of flights to get back to ‘the mainland’.  However, I had a wonderful time and was inspired by the fantastic food, breathtaking scenery and wonderful people of Hawaii.

We stayed in the southwest area of Maui called Wailea, which is home to many of the luxury resorts on the island including The Four Seasons, The Fairmont, The Grand Wailea and Marriott.  All of the hotels are oceanfront with beach access and a winding footpath connects the properties allowing you to enjoy stunning vistas en route. Maui is a very family friendly destination and many fellow guests at our hotel were traveling with their kekei (kids).  There are activities on the island to suit almost everyone including hiking, bird watching, scuba diving, golf, snorkeling, surfing and whale watching.  Of course, if you’re in need of pure rest and relaxation, there are excellent pools, beaches and spas that will suit your needs perfectly.

The grounds of the Fairmont Kea Lani, Wailea, Maui

The grounds of the Fairmont Kea Lani, Wailea, Maui

The cuisine of Hawaii is inspired by what grows locally as well as the influence of settlers and visitors throughout its history. Fish and fresh fruit are featured prominently on menus and chefs take their cues from other local products such as coconuts, macadamia nuts, sugarcane, breadfruit, taro,beef, pork, coffee and onions. Dishes often have an Asian flavor but there are also Portuguese influences and oddly enough, Spam (the canned ham product) is wildly popular with Hawaiians.  We had many great meals so I’ll just touch on some of the more interesting highlights.

Anxious to try some of the local fish, we dined our first evening at Nick’s Fishmarket at our hotel.  I started with a New England-style (creamy) fish chowder prepared with various local whitefish and topped with a small, crispy crab cake.  My husband Allan began with some Pacific oysters, accompanied by a truffle mignonette.  For my main course, I chose freshly caught hamachi which came with a light pineapple ponzu sauce, hearts of palm, soba noodles and local Hana fern shoots, which are similar to fiddleheads.  Allan opted for the scallops with gnocchi, mushrooms and asparagus. Everything was ono (delicious), although the gnocchi were slightly undercooked.  For dessert, we had a show-stopping strawberry dish that was as entertaining as it was tasty: Flaming Strawberries with Grand Marnier.  Our server lit the alcohol and poured the flaming alcohol over strawberries that had been artfully plated with chocolate sauce so it looked like a beautiful flower.  It was a great way to end the meal.


The sunset from Wailea

The sunset from Wailea

The next morning, we ate at the hotel again before starting our day’s activities. There is a great buffet featuring everything from plain bacon and eggs to macadamia nut sticky buns and granola with coconut.  However, we decided to order a la carte and discovered a delicious dish that was a unique twist on an old favourite: Eggs Benedict with Tuna and Wasabi Hollandaise Sauce. Admittedly, it sounds a little strange but it was absolutely fantastic.  The English muffin was baked with poi (a staple Hawaiian starch made from taro root), giving it a bit of a sour flavour and an unusual purplish tinge.  The tuna was tender and topped with a buttery hollandaise with only a hint of wasabi so it wasn’t overpowering.  It was the most interesting breakfast dish I’ve had in a while.  

Some good advice from Cheeseburger in Paradise, Lahania, Maui

Some good advice from Cheeseburger in Paradise, Lahaina, Maui

Eating at the hotel, while tasty, was also incredibly expensive so we opted to have ‘cheap and cheerful’ lunches whenever possible (note that ‘cheap’ is a relative term on Maui – even ‘downscale’ places tend to be more expensive than you might expect).  Driving is really the only way to get around the island so we rented a convertible and hit the road.  We drove to Lahaina to explore and stopped for lunch at the waterfront Cheeseburger in Paradise, a fun, casual place with knick-knacks on the walls, live music and friendly servers.  I had the guacamole cheeseburger, a large juicy burger topped with a generous amount of mashed avocado, while Allan had the sliders topped with mushrooms, cheese and jalapenos.  We split a side of fries, which were thick cut and lightly seasoned. Accompanied by a cold beer, what more do you need in a lunch?  Another day we went to Maui Tacos in Kihei and got their mahi mahi fish tacos served in a fresh corn tortilla and took them across the street to enjoy on the beach.  While I’m no taco expert, for a casual, tasty and affordable lunch, it fit the bill nicely.  


The view from one of many bridges on the Hana Highway

The view from one of many bridges on the Hana Highway

One of the highlights of our trip was driving the Road to Hana on the north coast of Maui.  The highway stretching from Paia to Hana is only 68 miles (109 km) but is famously twisty and narrow.  There are approximately 600 curves and 54 bridges, most of which can only accommodate traffic in one direction, meaning you have to be very alert for on-coming traffic.  


Heed the sign: there are a few curves on the Road to Hana

Heed the sign: there are a few curves on the Road to Hana

However, the drive is well worth it: the views of both the ocean and rain forest are stunning.  It really is about the journey as opposed to the destination so it’s a good idea to take the day to enjoy the various sights along the way.  Our first stop was at a fruit stand just past Paia. Fresh pineapple,coconuts, avocados, banana bread and mango bread were available so we picked up a fresh mini loaf of the banana bread.  We noticed people eating avocados with a spoon so we enquired about it and soon the owner handed us each half of a fresh, pitted avocado sprinkled with nutritional yeast, salt and pepper.  Sounds weird but it was incredible.  The creamy flesh paired beautifully with the slightly salty umami of the nutritional yeast.  It was the second unusual but delicious breakfast I had that week.

A roadside fruit stand on the Hana Highway

A roadside fruit stand on the Hana Highway

Shortly past the fruit stand we stopped at Twin Falls.  A hiking trail through a tropical farm leads the way to a remarkable swimming hole at the base of the falls.  To get to it, you have to wade through a rocky and rather treacherous pool of water but it’s worth the journey.  We swam in the cool, refreshing water and Allan swung from a rope into the falling water.  We enjoyed a pineapple smoothie after our swim, sold out of a van at the farm’s entrance.  The trees at the farm were heavy with bananas, limes and other tropical fruit so everything is fresh and local.  Our swim at the falls was a definite highlight of our trip.


Fresh fruit smoothies are the specialty at Twin Falls

Fresh fruit smoothies are the specialty at Twin Falls


A view of the Pacific from the Road to Hana

A view of the Pacific from the Road to Hana


After a couple of hours and several stops to enjoy the views, we arrived at Hana. While there are restaurants in the area, we were in damp bathing suits and muddy flip-flops so we sought out something a little more casual.  We headed to the beach and got a plate lunch from Tutu’s. Our guide book said to skip it but our lunch was delicious.  Juicy, tender teriyaki roast pork was accompanied by two mounds of sticky rice and a side of macaroni salad.  It was easily enough for both of us so it was a good deal to boot.  It was the perfect thing to fill us up before our long but beautiful journey back through the twisty road.


A 'plate lunch' featuring juicy teriyaki pork, sticky rice and macaroni salad

A 'plate lunch' featuring juicy teriyaki pork, sticky rice and macaroni salad











A few other places we ate:

Spago at The Four Seasons – Wolfgang Puck’s famous L.A. restaurant has a Maui outpost that features local products on the menu.  We enjoyed ahi sashimi, Hong Kong style salmon and a tasty crusted monchong and finished by sharing a layered fruit parfait with strawberries, coconut cream and pineapple.  The only disappointment was a dish of rice that was overcooked to the point of mush.

Po– This restaurant features traditional Hawaiian ‘plantation cuisine’.  We opted for the 3-course Taste of Hawaii menu for $39 each, which is a great deal by Maui standards.  Stand out dishes included the paniolo (cowboy) rib eye, glass noodles and banana lumpia for dessert.  

Luau – The best luau on Maui is reputedly The Old Lahaina Luau.  Unfortunately, it needs to be booked well in advance so we were unable to get a table.  However, the Marriott Hotel in Wailea also hosts a luau four days a week and even though it may be ‘touristy’, it’s well worth going to one.  Traditional Hawaiian dishes included kalua pig, shoyu chicken, mahi mahi, poi, teriyaki beef and salads.  Tropical drinks such as mai tais and non-alcoholic pineapple juice were available at the open bar. As the dancers told the stories of Hawaii, the sun was setting in the background. It was a beautiful spectacle. 


The luau at The Marriott in Wailea

The luau at The Marriott in Wailea

Other Recommended Restaurants

Unfortunately, our time was limited and despite the island’s small size, getting around can take a long time so we didn’t make it to all the places we wanted to go. Here are a couple of places that are highly recommended on Maui:

Hali’imaile General Store – By all accounts, this restaurant is one of the best on Maui. Unfortunately, they weren’t open for lunch on the day we had planned to go but they are open for dinner each day.  

Mama’s Fish House – We’ll definitely be making time to go to Mama’s on our next visit.  Luckily their website features some recipes so I can re-create some of their dishes at home.

The up side to missing some of these places is that it gives us an excuse to return. I also purchased a couple of cookbooks at the Old Lahaina Book Emporium, a wonderful shop featuring used and new books.   Taste of Maui by the Maui Culinary Academy and a collection of recipes by locals called Best of Our Favorite Recipes 1946-1996 will inspire me to make my own Hawaiian-style dishes to tide me over until my next visit.  Until then…

Mahalo (thank you) and Aloha!



A mai tai cocktail, garnished with a Hawaiian orchid

A mai tai cocktail, garnished with a Hawaiian orchid

Aloha from Maui!

31 07 2009


Near Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Near Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Greetings from the island of Maui, Hawaii!  I’m currently sitting in the lobby of the gorgeous Fairmont Kea Lani hotel in Wailea, Maui, taking a short break from swimming, sight seeing and of course, eating.  The scenery and food are fantastic here and the people are the friendliest I’ve ever encountered in my travels.  We’ve been enjoying the local cuisine, which is very different from what’s local where I live. Coconut, pineapple, macadamia nuts, coffee and fish are all an important part of the Hawaiian diet and luckily, favourites of mine as well.  The cuisine draws from a variety of influences from Portuguese to Japanese and fish features prominently.  We’ve enjoyed ahi tuna, monchong (a whitefish with a meaty texture and mild flavour), shrimp, hamachi, salmon and oysters as well as excellent beef from the Maui Cattle Company.  Fresh fruit is abundant and a wedge of sweet, juicy pineapple is served with almost everything.  It’s been a wonderful week relaxing and getting inspired with new ideas for delicious recipes. In the meantime, here is a simple summery cocktail that was inspired by a poolside drink I enjoyed a couple of days ago (while unknowingly getting a terrible sunburn – the sun here really packs a punch!).  I’ll have more to report later so until then…

Mango Bellini

Makes 1 drink – can easily be doubled

If you can’t find mango schnapps, substitute the more readily available peach schnapps.

In a champagne flute or small wine glass, add:

  • 1 oz. mango OR peach schnapps
  • 2 oz. mango juice
  • Top with an inexpensive dry sparkling wine such as cava or prosseco
  • Optional: Garnish with fruit or an orchid, if desired.

Aloha and Enjoy!


Mango Bellini with orchid garnish

Mango Bellini with orchid garnish


28 01 2009


A sample of ice wine at Peller Estates

A sample of icewine at Peller Estates



The expression “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” may be a bit of a cliché but when it comes to Canadians and winter weather, it’s an apt metaphor for what we do.  Except instead of lemonade, we’re making icewine.

Icewine was first made in Germany, where it is known as ‘eiswein’.  It involves leaving grapes on the vines to freeze which concentrates the sugars.  When pressed, the grapes yield a sweet, viscous nectar that is reminiscent of fruit and honey.  While Germany may lay claim to icewine’s roots, Canada has become a top producer with Canadian wineries regularly winning awards at international competitions.  To learn more about how Ontario icewines are made, visit www.ontariograpes.com.

Each winter, the Niagara wine region in Southern Ontario holds an icewine festival and this year I had the pleasure of attending some of the events.  A number of wineries hosted special tastings with activities and entertainment.  The main street of Niagara-on-the-Lake was blocked off to make way for a number of booths featuring samples from local winemakers and small bites from area restauranteurs.  

An outdoor ice bar

An outdoor ice bar


Our day got off to a late start but it’s only a short drive to the Niagara region from Toronto (just over an hour, if traffic is good). We stopped at Flat Rock Cellars and sampled a couple of their vintages.  They were also selling icewine marshmallows for toasting over the outdoor fire and their pond had been cleared for skating but unfortunately the ice conditions were poor so no one was out.  We moved on to Peller Estates who were hosting their tastings at an outdoor ice bar.  They featured icewines made from three different grapes: cabernet franc, vidal and riesling.  Like Flat Rock, Peller was also offering icewine marshmallows on sticks for toasting over fire pits. The toasted marshmallows were certainly better than anything you can buy in a bag but they were extremely sweet!  To finish off, Chef Jason Parsons was offering his signature icewine infused white hot chocolate.  It was the perfect drink to warm up with on a cold day.

Icewine marshmallows, ready for toasting over the fire

Icewine marshmallows, ready for toasting over the fire


Finally we went into town for the main event.   At the Fallsview Casino Icewine Lounge local restaurants were offering up small plates of their fare and icewine was flowing freely.   Tokens were for sale at the entrance and samples typically cost between one and three tokens.  There was entertainment and ice sculptors were wielding their chainsaws, producing temporary works of art.  The most popular booth was the 20 Bees martini bar, which featured icewine martinis poured down an ice chute, ensuring the drinks were ice cold by the time they hit your glass (see recipe for the cocktail below).   The food offered was very hearty including pork and beans, squash soup and a Provençal duck stew. 

Icewine martinis are poured through an ice chute

Icewine martinis are poured through an ice chute


The festival is held each year and runs for two weekends.  For information on planning a trip next year, visit www.niagarawinefestival.com.  It’s a unique way to experience wine country in the off-season.   A weekend of fine dining, great wine and perhaps a visit to the casino or a spa is the perfect way to chase away the mid-winter blues!



An ice sculptor at work

An ice sculptor at work


Entertainment at the festival

Entertainment at the festival


If you aren’t able to make it to the festival, you can still get into the spirit at home. Niagara icewine is available around the world (I once saw some in a wine shop in Rome), although it’s not cheap.  However, on occasion it’s an indulgent treat that’s worth the splurge.  For more icewine cocktails, click here: Peller Estates Icewine Cocktails.

Icewine Cocktail

As featured at the 20 Bees booth at the 2009 Niagara Icewine Festival

Makes 1 (strong) drink, can easily be doubled.

  • 2 ounces Skyy Vodka
  • 1 ounce 20 Bees Icewine

Chill a cocktail shaker in the freezer.  Combine a scoop of ice cubes, the vodka and icewine.  Shake well and strain into a chilled wineglass or martini glass.

An ice wine martini

An icewine martini


Icewine Jelly

This makes a great accompaniment to a cheese plate.  

Makes approximately 3/4 cup of jelly

  • 1 cup icewine
  • 1 package Certo pectin
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine icewine and pectin.  Stir to combine and bring to a boil on high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, until jelly begins to thicken.  Pour into a container and refrigerate until jelly cools and sets, at least 1 hour.
  3. Serve with cheeses, foie gras, etc.


Ice wine jelly with Comfort Cream cheese and crackers

Icewine jelly with Comfort Cream cheese and crackers


Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Montreal, Mon Amour

23 10 2008

Montreal at night, from Mount Royal

Montreal at night, from Mount Royal

The greatest heartbreak of my life was not for a person but a place.  My husband Allan and I were fortunate to live in Montreal from 1990 to ’97.  We fell completely in love with the city and its people, food, and vibrant culture.  However, by the time Allan finished law school and we were struggling to find steady work, it became clear we’d have to leave.  With heavy hearts, we packed our bags and headed down highway 401 to Toronto to start a new life.  However, we still try to get back to visit whenever we can, as was the case this past weekend.

Autumn is a wonderful time in Canada and Montreal is especially beautiful.  The city is compact enough that you can easily explore the downtown core by foot.  With unique shops, great people watching and an abundance of restaurants and bars, putting on your walking shoes and wandering around is a great way to spend the day.

The first place we headed on Friday afternoon was to Boulevard St. Laurent (‘The Main’), a street that divides the city into east and west.  There are countless shops and restaurants along the street but we had one destination in mind: Schwartz’s for smoked meat.  Schwartz’s is a Montreal institution – founded in 1928, they serve fantastic smoked meat sandwiches and other deli staples.  However, almost everyone goes for the smoked meat.  Despite the late-afternoon hour, the small deli was packed with happy diners enjoying their sandwiches.  We each ordered a smoked meat sandwich with medium fat (don’t order lean – you need some fat for flavour!), a plate of fries, a pickle and a couple of black cherry colas.  The sandwiches are piled high with freshly sliced smoked meat and the bread is impeccably fresh.  There are places in other parts of Canada that claim to carry authentic ‘Montreal Smoked Meat’ but none I’ve been to compare to Schwartz’s (and don’t even get me started about Subway’s ‘smoked meat’ subs!).  If you go to Schwartz’s during peak time, prepare to stand in line but if you like smoked meat, I guarantee it will be worth it.

A Montreal smoked meat sandwich

A Montreal smoked meat sandwich

After our feast, we decided it was a good idea to get some exercise so we walked down to Old Montreal.  When we lived there in the 90’s, Old Montreal was more of a tourist destination, full of tacky souvenir shops and mediocre restaurants.  However, in the past decade the area has undergone a bit of a renaissance and there are now funky boutique hotels, wine bars, art galleries and popular restos.    After exploring a few shops, we stopped  for a glass of wine at VersesBar in the Hotel Nelligan, a charming boutique hotel in the heart of the old city.  The bar was also offering cheeses and baguette slices for patrons but we were too full of smoked meat to even consider it!

A street in Old Montreal

A street in Old Montreal

We returned to our hotel, Le Germain, to get ready for dinner.  Le Germain is part of a small group of boutique-style hotels.  Housed in a former office building, the exterior facade is nothing to write home about but the interior is modern and stylish and the rooms are comfortable and spacious.  It’s centrally located on Mansfield Street, just off Sherbrooke Street so it’s an ideal launching point for exploring the city.

A seasonal planter in front of Le Germain

A seasonal planter in front of Le Germain

Our friends Steve and Lindsay invited us to stop by their house for pre-dinner drinks so after a short rest at the hotel, we headed out again.    We were greeted by a platter of Canadian cheeses including La Sauvagine, a soft Quebec cheese that is buttery and rich and Avonlea, a cloth-bound cheddar from PEI.  Accompanied by some wine, olives, Spanish hams and good company, it was the perfect start to the evening.

Despite the temptations, I was careful not to eat too much ham and cheese so I’d be ready for our dinner at Joe Beef.   Located in the Petite Bourgogne (Little Burgundy) neighbourhood, Joe Beef is a casual resto that is intimate and comfortable.  The menu is listed on a large chalkboard and changes regularly, depending on what is seasonal and available.  I started with a locally made burrata, a cheese I’d been wanting to try for some time.  Burrata is a fresh Italian-style mozzarella that is filled with cream.  It’s rich and decadent but highly perishable so it must be consumed within a couple of days.  As a result, it can be very difficult to find.  A handful of places import burrata from Italy (and charge premium prices for it), but luckily some North American cheese makers have started making it as well, notably in Ontario, Quebec and California. My burrata was accompanied by a delicious mix of french green beans, lentils, pickled shallots, cured ham and a light vinaigrette.  Divine! Allan ordered the oysters, a specialty of the restaurant.  They were from Glacier Bay, N.B. and were sweet and briny.

Our mains arrived shortly after.  I got the smoked pork with stewed peppers while Allan went with the duck. The pork was moist, which was a welcome departure from dried out, fat-free pork that is all too common these days.  Allan enjoyed his duck dish and the portion was very generous.  For sides, we sampled their frites with mayonnaise and some mixed vegetables.  The vegetables were a highlight of the meal: buttery white beans with garlic, a bit of tomato and sauteed red swiss chard. We were getting pretty full by this point but after a short pause, we were able to share a bit of dessert.  Pannacotta with stewed figs was delicious and we finished with espressos.  Our server, Vanya, was excellent: knowledgeable, friendly and attentive, she really made our dinner special.  A huge thanks to Steve for his part in making our experience so wonderful.

The next morning, we headed to Jean Talon Market.  We took the métro, getting off at Jean Talon station and walking over to the market area.  Even though it’s late in the season, there were still a lot of produce stalls artfully displaying the best of the season.  Piles of leeks, carrots in a variety of colours, multi-coloured cauliflower, various types of cabbage and fresh-picked apples were just some of what was on offer.  I found the produce very inspirational and came up with a lot of new recipe ideas to try in the near future. There are also some great shops at the market, including butchers carrying Quebec products, an artisinal ice cream maker, a cookbook store, an olive oil shop and a fishmonger.

Our market visit whet our appetites so it was time to find some lunch.  We discovered a little Italian place next door to the market called Vinizza, which bills itself as an enoteca and pizzeria.  It was quite busy so we decided to give it a try. The menu is basic Italian, featuring pizzas cooked in a wood burning oven.  We split an appetizer of rapini with sausage and garlic accompanied by a glass of chianti.  For our mains, Allan chose the handmade tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms while I opted for a pizza.  While none of it was groundbreaking, it was well-executed and a great way to cap off our trip to the market.  We walked off our lunch by strolling down St. Laurent Boulevard, through Little Italy.  We stopped at our friends’ Lloyd and Kim’s apartment along the way for a drink and a fabulous view of Mount Royal and downtown.

Mount Royal, from a rooftop on St. Laurent Boulevard

Mount Royal, from a rooftop on St. Laurent Boulevard

We opted for a late dinner Saturday night because we had tickets to a hockey game. If you’re a Montreal Canadiens fan, there is no better place to watch a game than the Bell Centre.  We had great seats and the game proved to be an exciting one.  The Habs won 4-1 over Phoenix so the crowd left happy.  Many thanks to Dan in NY for arranging the tickets.

Goaltender Carey Price warms up before the game

Habs goaltender Carey Price warms up before the game

By the time the game was finished, we had worked up an appetite again so we headed to dinner.  Montreal has no shortage of late-night dining options that stay lively past midnight.  We chose Holder, a bustling brasserie in Old Montreal that serves French classics.  I started with a simple salad with shaved parmesan, pine nuts and greens while Allan went with the slightly heartier option of foie gras served with gingerbread and cranberry.  Both were delicious.  For my main dish, I had the braised beef cheek in a bourgogne-style sauce and Allan had spaghetti a vongole, a favourite of his.  We finished our last meal in Montreal with a glass of iced cider produced in the nearby Eastern Townships by a company called La Face Cachée de la Pomme (The Hidden Face of the Apple).  It’s produced from the fermented juice of pressed frozen apples, resulting in a sweet, concentrated cider.  It was the perfect ending to an excellent weekend.

Whether we will ever live in Montreal again remains to be seen but at least it’s close enough to Toronto that we can visit often and dream about returning.  Until then,

À bientôt et bon appétit!


Late Summer in Wine Country

9 09 2008


I had the pleasure this past weekend of visiting my brother-in-law Dan and his wife Jenn in Belleville, Ontario, which is about a two hour drive from Toronto. The surrounding countryside of Prince Edward County (or ‘The County’, as it’s known by locals) has been getting a lot of attention over the past couple of years as an up-and-coming destination for food and wine lovers.  Despite its proximity to Toronto, it’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.  We toured the county and spent the day sampling some of the best food and wine it has to offer.  Here are some of the highlights:

Modern art and architecture at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese

Modern art and architecture at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese

Our first stop was Fifth Town Artisan Cheese in Picton.   Established this year, Fifth Town makes artisanal cheeses from local sheep and goat’s milk.  Their aim is to be socially and environmentally sustainable and their facility is a brand new, state-of-the art LEED-certified building.  There is a small boutique where you can taste samples of their cheese and buy products and related books.   We sampled a number of their cheeses including Improv, an aged goat cheese, Counting Sheep, a mild and creamy sheep’s cheese and Operetta, a smooth and creamy goat’s cheese with a wonderful texture and mild flavour.  They were also kind enough to provide us with a sheet of tasting notes and local wine and cider pairing suggestions.  

The aging room at Fifth Town

The aging room at Fifth Town

Our next stop was County Cider Company near Waupoos.  They specialize in apple cider, apple wine and ice cider. Their apple ciders and wines are crisp and refreshing and the award-winning ice cider is the perfect accompaniment to dessert or a cheese course.  They also have a small terrace where they serve light lunches with a wonderful view of Prince Edward Bay and Waupoos Island.  

As we were leaving County Cider, we passed a fruit stand selling apples at Orchard Coast Farms.  The trees in the orchards were heavy with ripening fruit so naturally we had to pull over and get some to snack on. I bought a peck (1/4 bushel) of honeycrisps and they were fantastic. Firm, crisp and juicy, they had the flavour and texture you only get from fresh picked apples in the late summer and autumn.

Long Dog Winery and Vineyard

Long Dog Vineyard and Winery

After filling up on apples, we headed to Long Dog Vineyard and Winery. Long Dog is a small winery in Milford producing excellent wines, including an outstanding pinot noir. It’s a favourite winery of Dan and Jenn’s and they visit often.   Unfortunately, their wines aren’t available at Ontario liquor stores yet so I picked up a Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris for my wine collection.   A short distance from Long Dog is Vicki’s Veggies, a family-owned farm that supplies a number of area restaurants.  They also have a small roadside stand selling organic, heirloom vegetables as well as seeds and homemade pies.   We were a bit late in the day getting there so there wasn’t a lot left (and no one seemed to be around) but there was a box where you could deposit payment for any vegetables you were interested in.  It was very charming and quaint and reminded me of a by-gone era.  We were fortunate enough to try some of Vicki’s produce later that evening and it was delicious.

Huff Estates Winery

Huff Estates Winery

Before breaking from all the touring and tasting for dinner we stopped briefly at Black Prince Winery and Huff Estates.  Huff is a very modern winery with a small inn on the premises and they make some great rieslings, rosés and ice wine as well as a few reds. Some Black Prince and Huff wines are available at Ontario liquor stores and they are worth seeking out.

We finished our whirlwind day with dinner at the renowned County restaurant Harvest. Harvest is owned by Chef Michael Potters and his wife Karin.  Michael had been a chef in Toronto but decided to leave the big city for a quieter life in The County. The restaurant’s first incarnation was The Milford Bistro, a modest little restaurant in Milford.  They moved to a larger building a couple of years later in nearby Picton.  The interior is warm and welcoming with rich, rust coloured walls, wood tables and artwork by local artist Susan Wallis.  The menu is constantly evolving to reflect what’s in season and they source ingredients from local purveyors such as Vicki’s and Fifth Town.  The wine list features a mix of imported wines and local offerings.  The night we visited Chef Potter was in the kitchen and the menu was heavy on seasonal produce such as heirloom beets and carrots, local corn and tomatoes.  To start, Dan had an heirloom tomato salad with Fifth Town goat’s cheese and a sherry vinaigrette while I choose the scallops with corn.  Jenn had the corn chowder with smoky paprika and shrimp.  Along with some fresh, warm bread and butter, it was a great start to the meal.  For his main course, Dan ordered corn cakes made with fresh corn and cornmeal and served alongside pickled beets, french green beans, heirloom carrots and corn foam. Jenn and I both opted for the beef tenderloin served with delicate, airy potato gnocchi, sauteed spinach, mushrooms and tiny, sweet heirloom carrots.   The beef was tender and juicy and both servings were cooked precisely as ordered – no small feat since we each like them cooked to a different degree (I prefer medium-rare whereas Jenn likes hers cooked medium-well).  To accompany our meal, we choose a local Norman Hardie Pinot Noir.   To finish the meal, we tried a trio of desserts and sampled each others: Dan had three miniature creme brûlées (jasmine tea, vanilla and bitter chocolate), Jenn had a strawberry tart and I opted for Karin’s classic chocolate cake.  As we left the restaurant stuffed but happy, we all agreed that it was the perfect way to end our food and wine adventure in The County.

For further information about the food and wine scene in The County, check out the Taste Trail website.

A selection of Prince Edward County wines

A selection of Prince Edward County wines

Many thanks to Dan and Jenn for their hospitality and for seeking out great places to visit.  Check out my recipe for Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese and Sherry Vinaigrette that was inspired by our Harvest dinner!



Tastes of New Brunswick

11 06 2008

I recently returned to my hometown of Quispamsis, New Brunswick to visit family.  It was the perfect opportunity to explore what the province has to offer for culinary delights.  I grew up in New Brunswick but this was an excellent chance to find out what is new on the scene as well as re-visit old favourites such as lobster and traditional Maritime home cooking.

There have been some very positive developments on New Brunswick’s culinary front.  Wineries are starting to sprout up across the province and artisanal cheese makers are producing delicious cow and sheep’s milk cheeses.   A few restauranteurs are moving beyond the usual fish and chips and are developing creative menus that showcase the best of local, seasonal products.  Here are a few highlights of my trip:



The Rossmount Inn, St. Andrews-by-the-Sea

I had heard positive reviews of the food at the Rossmount Inn in St. Andrews so I was excited to have the opportunity to dine there with my parents.  Luckily it did not disappoint.  The dining room at the inn is warm and welcoming and the service friendly and efficient.  The menu is based on local, seasonal ingredients and is updated frequently.  The three of us sampled a range of items from the creative menu.  Some highlights included a fiddlehead-asparagus bisque with a fantastic curry-hemp oil drizzle, a candied beet salad with shaved fennel and a moist pancetta-sage wrapped pork tenderloin.  The dessert menu had a number of tempting treats but I couldn’t resist ordering ‘Breakfast for Dessert’: vanilla french toast with blueberry syrup, cinnamon crisp and maple-bacon ice cream.  The secret to eating it is to taste all of the elements together so you get a hit of sweet, creamy and a bit of smokiness all at once.  It tasted just like – breakfast for dessert!  It was refreshing to see something so creative on a menu and an interesting change from the old standbys.  Of course for those who enjoy the classics, the swiss chocolate truffle cake was perfectly executed.  We also had a beautiful cheese plate to finish, featuring New Brunswick cheeses (more on that later!).  You can visit www.rossmountinn.com for further information on the inn and restaurant.

Kingston Farmer’s Market

The Kingston Farmer’s Market is held each Saturday morning on the Kingston Penninsula.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but was pleasantly surprised at the variety of foods available.  There is a traditional breakfast available but a number of stands were cooking up specialties from places as diverse as India, Germany and Jamaica.  There was even a stand with Kurdish food.  The more traditional New Brunswick favourites were also there, including maple syrup, local honey and homemade jams and relishes.  There wasn’t very much local produce available because the growing season has just begun but as summer progresses farmers will start bringing their fruits and vegetables.   Visit www.kingstonfarmersmarket.ca for more detailed information.

Local Products

Some of the best food you can eat in New Brunswick is in people’s homes.  Luckily for home cooks, there are an abundance of excellent local products to work with.  We ordered some lobsters from Misty Harbour Seafood (http://www.mistyharbourseafood.com) and they were fantastic!  Each lobster was at least 2-1/2 to 3 lbs, with the largest weighing in at close to 3-1/2 lbs.  The meat was sweet and succulent and we ate them out of the shell with melted butter for dipping.  Simple and delicious.  There was enough left over to use the next day for lobster rolls or for a quiche or seafood pot pie.   You can purchase them live to cook at home or pre-order them cooked for you.  We also picked up some scallops and pan fried them simply in butter with a light dusting of flour, salt and pepper.  They tasted exactly how good scallops should: sweet, firm and fresh.  Divine!


 Note that the giant claw is sitting on a standard 13″ dinner plate!

Despite our delicious seafood feasts, sometimes you feel like having some decent meat or poultry.  We paid a visit to Kuinshoeve Meat Ltd. (www.kuinshoeve.ca) in the Kennebecasis Valley.  They specialize in New Brunswick raised, hormone-free meat and chicken.   We tried the veal rib chops and a free-range chicken.  The chicken weighed in at close to eight pounds – more like a small turkey!  We grilled the veal and it was tender and juicy.  The chicken was oven roasted with some herbs, lemon and garlic and the roasted meat was moist and delicious with a crispy, bronzed skin.    

Perhaps my favourite culinary discovery in New Brunswick was the locally produced artisan cheeses we had at the Rossmount Inn.   La Bergerie aux 4 Vents in Sainte-Marie-de-Kent (near Moncton) is producing some top quality raw milk cow and sheep’s cheeses.  We sampled three: Le Gamin, Le Sieur de Duplessis and Tomme le Champ Dore.  Le Sieur de Duplessis and the Tomme le Champ Dore are both sheep’s milk cheeses and Le Gamin is made from cow’s milk in the style of an Italian taleggio.  Unfortunately, we had trouble finding these products in the store or Saint John City Market.  However, they are sometimes available at cheese shops in Toronto, including Alex Farms, The Cheese Boutique and The Art of Cheese.  They are definitely worth seeking out.   At the moment, La Bergerie aux 4 Vents does not appear to have a website.  There was an article in The Globe and Mail on June 18th about Le Sieur de Duplessis – you can read it at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080618.wlcheese18/BNStory/lifeFoodWine/home

Overall, I had a great visit with my family and a lot of great meals!  For more information about New Brunswick food and travel, check out www.new-brunswick.net/new-brunswick/recipes.html