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 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!



An Evening at Joe Beef

4 11 2009

Autumn in Montreal

My husband and I were in Montreal a couple of weeks ago and had the pleasure of visiting Joe Beef restaurant again with our friends Steve and Lindsay.  You may recall that I was there last year while visiting the city and fell in love with their hearty, rustic cooking that’s rooted in a local, seasonal approach.


The chalkboard menu at Joe Beef

We arrived a bit late because we’d been at the hockey game (the Habs won – yay!). It’s oyster season so we started with a big platter of Colville Bay oysters with a delicious mignonette and a side of octopus that was fantastic.  We washed down the oysters with a Melon de Bourgnone from Norman Hardie winery in Prince Edward County, Ontario.  Joe Beef has been a big supporter of Norm Hardie and his wines and it’s a favourite winery of mine as well.  In fact, the restaurant recently hosted a wine tasting that included Norman Hardie pinot noir and the tasting panel was very impressed.

For our mains, we perused the large blackboard of choices and made our selections. I opted for the burger.  I was tempted by the scallops with pulled pork but I can rarely resist a good burger, even if there are more exotic options on the menu.  It was topped with sautéed onions and mushrooms and served on a pillowy fresh homemade bun.  The generous side of frites with mayonnaise was shared by the table.  My husband Allan went with the famous lobster spaghetti, as did Lindsay.  At $49 and about a million calories, we joked that it’s both light and cheap. However, it’s absolutely delicious and worth every calorie (see the link below for the recipe). Steve chose the seasonally appropriate pumpkin risotto.  It was supposed to be for two people and served in a hollowed out pumpkin but the kitchen made it for one, sans pumpkin bowl.  Topping the risotto with fried sage leaves and a generous amount of foie gras elevated the dish from merely delicious to unbelievable. 

By the end of such a rich meal, dessert wasn’t a top priority for anyone but we somehow managed to share a piece of rich pumpkin cake with house made sour cream ice cream.  There also may have been a few shots of whisky consumed after the meal (always a good idea at 1 a.m.) but that’s a story for another day.   A special thanks to Steve and Lindsay for a fun evening, as always.


The final issue of Gourmet magazine

The final issue of Gourmet magazine is on the newsstands now and there is a great article by Adam Gollner featuring two of the owners of Joe Beef taking the train to the Northern Quebec wilderness to fish and live off the land.  Try to pick up the magazine if you can (there are some great Thanksgiving recipes in it) but the article is available on-line as well: The Very Noble Train of the Huntsman.

For some of Joe Beef’s recipes (including the fabulous Lobster Spaghetti), check out Bonnie Stern’s article about the restaurant: Indulge Now Before it’s Resolution Time: Extra-Hearty Recipes to Enjoy Once a Year.  Indeed.



Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar

9 01 2009


I don’t typically do restaurant reviews here at The Seasonal Gourmet, aside from occasionally discussing restaurants I’ve tried in my travels.  Reviewing restaurants isn’t my area of expertise and there are other great websites dedicated to providing reviews. However, I feel that a recent meal I enjoyed should be discussed as a great example of seasonal eating at its best.

As everyone knows, winter seasonal eating in northern climates is not without its challenges.   It’s been a long time since the farmer’s markets of summer and we have a while to go before the first crops of spring.  Jamie Kennedy is a renowned chef who owns a number of restaurants in Toronto and was an early champion of local, seasonal eating in Ontario.  My favourite of his restaurants is the Wine Bar, located on Church Street downtown.  It’s casual and inviting with exposed brick walls, bottles of preserves on display and an open kitchen at which you can sit and watch the chefs in action.  The menu is composed of dishes made from local, seasonal ingredients and served as small portions for sharing.  I like this style of eating (it’s similar to Spanish tapas) because it allows you to try a number of different things.  The menu changes daily and wine pairings are suggested for each course. 

I’ve visited JKWB (Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar) many times and I always come away both satisfied and inspired.  It’s not fancy food – many of the dishes are rustic preparations such as braises and his most famous dish is french fries – but I always find something on the menu that interests me as a cook and recipe developer.  A recent meal was no exception.  


Celery Root

Celery Root


We started with a plate of house made flatbreads with three kinds of dips: Leek with White Bean, Parsnip-Maple and Celery Root.  All were delicious but my favourite was the celery root – it was creamy with a hint of celery flavour.  We then moved on to a bowl of Cabbage and Parsnip Soup.  While this sounds like something eaten by orphans in a Dickens novel, it was actually a rich, creamy, complex soup that was a little different from winter soups offered in most restaurants.  I look forward to trying my own rendition of it.  





After a great start, we continued with more hearty dishes (bear in mind the portions are small and each dish was shared!). Seared Scallops with Braised Leeks and Smoked Pork Shoulder arrived perfectly cooked, followed by a Braised Beef Cheek with Roast Potatoes that was meltingly tender with a hint of rosemary.   The final main dish was Duck Confit with Buttered Turnip.  Again, it sounds boring but the turnip was almost sweet and paired well with the crisp skinned duck.   To finish the meal, we tried the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Chantilly.  The moist cake with toffee sauce and cream may have been the highlight of the meal.

Other tempting items on the menu that we didn’t try included Grilled Albacore Tuna with Beets and Mustard Vinaigrette, Entrecote of Beef with Northern Woods Mushrooms and Local Organic Fries as Braised Beef Poutine.  All of the dishes used seasonal vegetables and local purveyors where possible.  The result was innovative and most importantly, delicious.

And that, my friends, is how you can eat well with the season in the heart of a Canadian winter.

  • Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar
  • 9 Church Street, Toronto, Ontario
  • 416-362-1957
  • Wine Bar Chef: Dan DeMatteis
  • Pastry Chef: Rachelle Cadwell
  • Executive Chef: Jamie Kennedy