Bacaro Urban Pizzeria

30 Aug

We have been spoiled in Montreal recently with all the great pizzerias that have opened up. The flip side of having such great pizza readily available is that pizzerias must work that much harder to keep our interests. Average pizza just won’t cut it anymore. Last week, I found myself in Westmount at Bacaro Urban Pizzeria – for the record, we need to kill the adding of “Urban” to things that don’t need it but I digress – ready to enjoy a pizza and see how they stacked up to my favorites.

IMG_2773

It was dead on the weeknight we were there – only one other table was occupied – so the ambience was non-existant. The room is nice though – very clean and modern with touches of a more classic Italian pizzeria. I liked the use of old Italian sports newspaper as wallpaper and the painted murals of some of their suppliers. There is also a bar at the entrance with a entire shelf of large Nutella jars – once I saw their dessert list, I understood why!

IMG_2774

IMG_2776

We kept it short and sweet on this evening so I got to try a couple of pizzas. My selection was the Polpetta – meatballs, ricotta and basil. The pizza had a good size – very filling for one person. The amount of toppings was plentiful although I would have loved more basil personally. I loved the combination of the meatballs with the creamy ricotta. My issue was with the crust however. While the picture does show a nice char on the top, the underside was too soft – there was no crunch and the pizza could not be lifting at all without it collapsing on itself. The pizza was very flavourful but with a thin crust pizza, you need a solid crust and that was lacking.

IMG_0058

It was a similar story with my girlfriend’s pizza, the Quasi Norma – eggplants, zucchinis, red peppers and ricotta. Tons of fresh veggies, the right amount of cheese and sauce but the underside was just too limp and soft.

IMG_0057

We did have time for dessert though – especially when we saw how much Nutella was involved. We decided to share the Nutella cream cake – sliced panettone layered with nutella cream served with nutella sauce. If you love Nutella then this is your cake. Good lord was this rich and decadent. I expected the panettone to be harder in texture but frankly it was better this way. A great way to cap off the evening.

IMG_2775

Bacaro had high standards to meet for me and didn’t quite get there. The flavours were there all around and the service was nice and friendly but if the crust is lacking, then the pizza just can’t hold up for me. If the crunch appears, we have a winner but until then, Bacaro can’t quite reach my upper echelon of pizzerias.

Cheers!

Bacaro Urban Pizzeria
4259 Ste-Catherine O
514 932 9991

Bacaro Urban Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

El Gordo

27 Aug

Where once we had very limited taqueria options in Montreal, now every neighbourhood seems to have one. No complaints on my end although it is hard to give them all a try. For the occasion of a friend’s birthday and just a good Friday Happy Hour, I found myself recently at a taco bar that opened up in Little Burgundy just a short walk from my place, El Gordo Taco Bar.

IMG_2787

IMG_2779

Started by the same group that owns the neighbouring Geppetto pizzeria, El Gordo is a smallish bar specializing in tacos and other Mexican fare. With the summer weather, they have a nice terrasse out-front off Notre-Dame that increases seating. The space has a nice look to it – Day of the Dead motif and lots of natural lighting through the big windowed facade. Once crowded, the space is pretty loud but the ambience is solid.

IMG_2777

IMG_2778

Any good bar needs some cocktails and El Gordo satisfied that nicely. Their classic Margherita with agave nectar, fresh lime juice and tequila is nicely balanced. The sweetness of the agave and the fresh lime helped to soften the tequila hit. The Pineapple express with bulleit bourbon, fresh pineapple juice, cilantro and lime was similarly balanced. All the cocktails are available by the pitcher which is a great for a group as we were!

IMG_2780

IMG_2782

A couple of starters before the tacos. First was the chips and guacamole. The guac was pretty smooth in texture and had lots of lime juice. A little bit of queso fresco on top added a little twist. The plantain empanadas were served with a spicy paste that my girlfriend enjoyed a fair bit. The empanadas had nice crunch to them but they were not that exciting flavour-wise.

IMG_2786

IMG_2781

El Gordo has 9 standard taco flavours and a special of the day. The standard dish has 3 tacos each and they are pretty small size-wise. For me personally, 3 wasn’t enough to satisfy my hunger although the server said as much to me ahead of time. Just be aware of that when you order. My girlfriend ended up regretting not ordered more as she was still hungry later on. The good news is that each taco only comes up to 3-4$ a piece so the price is fair. I tried 3 varieties on this visit. First were the chorizo tacos – served with pickled onions, habareno jam, queso fresco and salsa verde. All the tacos are served on soft tortillas which is my preference. Nothing of that hard shell B.S. The chorizo was nice and tender and the rest of the topping provided a slightly sweet and spicy edge.

IMG_2783

The second variety was spicy braised beef brisket with creamy apple and cabbage slaw and pico de gallo. Another hit to us. The smoky brisket was excellent and I really enjoyed the slaw and the hint of sweetness that came from the use of apples. The pico de gallo added some extra freshness.

IMG_2785

The final variety was the special of the day and my personal favourite of the night – fried chicken with guacamole, chipotle mayo and creamy coleslaw. I really enjoy the extra crunch provided by the fried chicken. The addition of the guacamole made these tacos feel a little more hearty and the mayo really had a kick to it.

IMG_2784

The only real negative of the evening was the service. Over the course of the evening, we had two different errors on our order – once our entrees “disappeared from the computer” and in the process of re-ordering, our waitress forgot the nachos we had asked for originally. Second time, my friend’s order of ceviche was mistook for “vege” tacos. Now, we didn’t make an issue of the nachos as by the time we figured out she had forgot them, we were ready to move out anyway. However, two errors like that are not really acceptable regardless of how nice the servers were in acknowledging the mistakes.

Good tacos, excellent drinks and a nice decor – El Gordo definitely has a place as a solid happy hour and dinner location. The lack of good happy hour spots around the Market plus the fact that they open at 3pm weekdays and don’t take reservations means that El Gordo can certainly fill a nice niche. A few service tweaks and I would be satisfied. I’m just happy I have excellent tacos to enjoy so close by.

Cheers!

El Gordo TacoBar
2518 Notre Dame Ouest
438 387 6969

El Gordo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Boulangerie Guillaume

17 Aug

When Hof Kelsten is closed for vacation, I need to find my bread fix somehow. For this summer, I decided to use the opportunity to try the other popular bakery close by to see how it stacks up, so I found myself at Boulangerie Guillaume a little further down the Main to try some different bread and goodies for a couple of weeks. The popular bakery, originally located on Fairmount, moved to a bigger location on St-Laurent and recently also took over the space next door where La Cucina used to be.

IMG_2706

The bakery is very modern and sleek in look with a huge display wall and a small seating area upstairs. They have also turned the old Cucina terrasse next door into a public outdoor space to sit and relax in. As with every bakery, the wonderful smell of fresh baked goods provides a wonderful fragrance as you wait to make your selections.

IMG_2705

Boulangerie Guillaume is very much a French bakery in nature and has a variety of breads and pastries available each day. Over the course of two weeks, I tried a few of their goods to get a sense of what they offer. First up, the first bread I tried – their demi-miche or country bread. A great crust on the outside. The interior was fluffy and nicely chewy. The rise was such that the air pockets were not too big. The bread had some heft to it with a slightly salty taste. Excellent bread.

IMG_2734

IMG_2735

On my first visit, I also grabbed a few pastries. First was the white chocolate and vanilla champignon. Compared to the bread, this was more dense and rich while keeping the fluffy texture. The notes of vanilla and white chocolate were subtle but present.

IMG_2721

IMG_2722

Second was a lemon and poppy mini-cake. Again a nice crust and a dense but fluffy interior. The lemon flavour came via pieces of confit lemon zest. As such, the flavour was nice when you bit into a piece of the zest but otherwise the cake felt bland.

IMG_2720

The following week, I tried a few different things. First a heavenly swiss cheese croissant roulé. The croissant itself was wonderfully flaky and buttery – everything that is good and bad (diet-wise anyway..) about croissants. The addition of the swiss cheese added a little sharpness.

IMG_2752

The apple turnover was also another hit. More flaky goodness from the turnover itself. The apple filling was smooth and sweet. I would have loved a little more inside given the size of the pastry personally.

IMG_2753

I also went for a different bread for round 2. I decided to try their sourdough bâtard, or torpedo loaf. Very similar texture wise to the country bread which would makes being also a sourdough. The torpedo loaf struck me as more sour in flavour though. Excellent bread once again.

IMG_2754

Guillaume certainly knows his bread. Both loafs were excellent and worthy of all the praise I had heard previously. The pastry were a little more hit and meh but you can see the quality there. Given the variety available, I would hesitate to try some others in the future. I am very envious of my old Plateau neighbourhood for having such amazing bakeries to enjoy. Just gives me more reasons to keep re-visiting!

Cheers!

Boulangerie Guillaume
5134 St-Laurent
514 507 3199

Boulangerie Guillaume Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le Diplomate

16 Aug

One of my favorite restaurant experiences – and one I don’t get to enjoy that often – is to sit and watch the chefs work. Be it at a chef’s table or at the bar in front of an open kitchen, there is something very revealing and thrilling about watching how your meal gets made and also how the team at the restaurant deals with the natural dinner rush. Last week, I got to sit at the bar at Le Diplomate and watch Chef Aaron Langille work his magic at his relatively new restaurant in Mile-Ex. Chef Langille would be known to some for his time at Cafe Sardine (prior to its demise) as well as Orange Rouge, Club Chasse et Peche and Le Filet. I had heard some good things about his new venture and wanted to check it out.

IMG_2736

IMG_2737

Very much in keeping with the neighbourhood itself, Le Diplomate is somewhat hidden from view – I actually drove by it on the way over – and pretty unassuming visually. The space is small – about 20 seats – and the majority of those seats are at the bar facing an open kitchen. The room is pretty barren deco-wise – the selection of 80s music playing overhead is the only loud thing in the room but that worked for me. The focus is truly on the bar and watching the team work. Chef Langille and his team of 2 work the entire space. When the chef serves your dishes and also does the dishwashing afterwards, you know you are in an intimate environment.

IMG_2738

Le Diplomate’s menu is somewhat hard to pin down. I suppose the best way to describe it would be market cuisine with emphasis on northern ingredients but even that feels reductive as Chef Langille and his team do plenty outside of that designation. Regardless, the menu changes regularly so every time can be a surprise. The menu is relatively small and the plates are similar. These are dishes to share – which was perfect as my girlfriend and our friend Annie were willing partners to trying pretty much the entire menu!

IMG_2739

IMG_2740

First up was the house-made Sourdough with a warm red pepper broth and sunflower seed oil for dipping. I am a sucker for a good sourdough and this one was excellent – using a 150 year old mother from England according to Chef Langille. The red pepper broth brought a nice optional sweetness to the sour bread and the oil, as always, was a good pairing to the bread.

IMG_2743

Next, Annie and I each had an partially cooked oyster with scotch butter served over top. I’m still trying to get my girlfriend into oysters…. it’s a slowly acquired taste apparently. The partial cooking of the oyster changed the texture somewhat but it was still enjoyable. The unique element here was the scotch butter. You could really pick up the inherent smokiness of the scotch with the richness of the butter. A cool little amuse-bouche.

IMG_2741

The poached calamari was a big hit for us. Served with kale juice, kale, black currents and beans, the calamari had great flavour and texture. The currents originally felt like a weird addition but the additional sweetness worked. The beans provided a little more nutritional weight to the dish.

IMG_2749

The tomato dish served with kasuzuke daikon and kohlrabi was not my thing…. I know that hating raw tomatoes is weird but I stand by my weirdness. Our friend Annie really took to the dish loving how the seasonal freshness of tomatoes came through and how the sweet dressing mixed so well with the roughly chopped tomatoes and the daikon. A good example of how a few fresh ingredients selected well can go a long way.

IMG_2742

The Tofu with porcini, green onions and salmon roe was another dish I didn’t try but our friend Annie was once again there to provide some input. She found the mixture of the silky tofu, the earthy mushrooms and the tart cherry tomatoes a little off at first but felt that the yeasty broth at the bottom really helped to balance things out and made it very enjoyable. She loved the strong flavours the dish conveyed.

IMG_2744

For something more my style now, the clams with chorizo and purslane were an interesting dish. The clams were cooked well but the broth itself seemed to lack punch. The chorizo provided the necessary kick and contrast to the clams. I had never had purslane before but the fresh green worked nicely as the side dish component here. Very cool to try something a little different.

IMG_2746

Our fish of the evening was walleye served with fennel, peach puree and meyer lemon. The fish was lovely, so light and flaky. The sweetness of the peach, the acidic but sweet lemon and the liquorice-like fennel were all nice additions to the fish although the fennel was somewhat overpowering to the other elements.

IMG_2747

My personal favorite was the lamb with broccoli, yogourt croutons, yogourt sauce and papalo, a mexican herb that Chef Langille compared to cilantro. The combination of the yogourt and lamb worked so well. The use of brocoli and papalo weirdly gave off a beef and broccoli taste to the dish also. I loved the creative use of yogourt to create the croutons as well.

IMG_2748

The desserts were more on the savoury side than sweet. First was a corn parfait with coconut, Maraschino cherries and a jalapeño granité. An interesting fluffy texture with strong notes of the coconut within the corn. The cherries provide the sweetness and the granite was surprisingly spicy. I love more sweet desserts personally but I enjoyed this one a fair bit.

IMG_2751

The other dessert of the night was a sharp cheddar cake with carrot caramel, carrot puree and rye crumble. I loved how the sharp cheddar came through and how the texture of a classic cheesecake was maintained. The carrot caramel was nice and sweet. I personally didn’t care for the very strong carrot puree on its own – the flavour was much too overpowering but when combined with the rye crumbs and the sweeter elements on the dish, it worked pretty well.

IMG_2750

Le Diplomate feels like a hidden gem – a place that most people have never heard about but those in the know know what’s up. The cuisine is precise but still feels very personal as you’re so close to the process that happens in front of you. Chef Langille and his team are clearly expressing what they want in their cuisine and you feel it all night long. Mile-Ex may be a little off the beaten path food-wise but there are definitely some worthwhile experiences to enjoy if you’re willing to put up a seat at the bar.

Cheers!

Le Diplomate
129 Beaubien Ouest
514 303 9727

Restaurant Le Diplomate Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le Bon Vivant

9 Aug

I have previously lauded the Brunch service of Le Bon Vivant – see here – but up until this past week, I had not gone back to give their dinner service a chance. Given my awesome experiences for brunch, my expectations were high but given how the strong the restaurant seems to be going, I suspected I would not be disappointed.

IMG_2650

The overall look and vibe of Le Bon Vivant hasn’t changed since I reviewed it almost a year and that’s fine because I still love it. The industrial yet cozy look works just as well in the evening. Not too noisy overall so conversation could be had. With the front and back windows open, we had a nice cool summer breeze coming through the room. It just felt like the perfect relaxed summer night at the restaurant.

IMG_2648

IMG_2649

The dinner menu is a very eclectic mix – I suppose I would best describe as refined comfort food but even that feels not quite correct. Outside of the seasonal menu, Le Bon Vivant has a huge daily special list so our options were plentiful.

First up was one of the specials – a watermelon gaspacho soup. I don’t enjoy watermelon – yes I know but let’s just move on, okay? – so I didn’t try it, however the two bowls disappeared rather quickly. It was a hit.

IMG_2651

My choice of entree was fried cauliflower with brussel sprouts, halloumi, zaatar yogourt and herbs. One of their regular dishes and I can understand why. Beautiful presentation on the plate and the dish tasted great. I was surprised at just how crispy the cauliflower was – but the flavour was still there. I loved how the earthiness of the sprouts paired with the cauliflower as well as the creaminess of the yogourt and the richness of the halloumi. The crunch on the outside of the halloumi was also a nice touch I enjoyed.

IMG_2653

The first main was a special of the night – a sopa seca with shrimp, chorizo and mussels. Another dish I didn’t get to try but I mention it as just an example of the creative dishes they produce as specials regularly. Something I had never heard of before but it appeared to be another hit with my dinnermates.

IMG_2655

Our second main course was another special – gnudi with chanterelle mushrooms and blood sausage. An interesting combination that worked pretty well. Loved the blood sausage and the freshness of the chanterelles. The gnudi had good flavour but they felt a little overcooked texture-wise to me. They didn’t have the pillowy texture you expect when you bit into them – a little more chew was required.

IMG_2656

The final main was marinated and grilled octopus with black beans, confit potato salad, green beans, charred scallions and chimichurri. Loved the grilled octopus and the chimichurri. For me personally, the dish was spicier than expected as the salad underneath included lots of jalapeño. While the general flavours were nice, by the end I only felt the heat and the rest of the flavours were gone. My girlfriend did not have the same quarrels. Clearly my pallet is weak I guess…

IMG_2654

For dessert, my girlfriend and I decided to share the strawberry pie although I feel that calling it a pie isn’t quite correct. I would describe it more as a strawberry gelee on a shortbread crust. The strawberry flavour was nice but the texture was much more akin to a gelee than a pie filling. The crust was also a little soft – as if the gelee on top of it had bled into the crust and softened it. As such, the texture wasn’t that shortbread you expect.

IMG_2657

A few minor quibbles aside, Le Bon Vivant continues to impress me as a awesome neighbourhood restaurant. The vibe is nice, the service was excellent and on top and any restaurant that serves Beau’s for beer has my vote. I am spoiled to have such a nice joint near my place – now I just need to avoid the desire to go on a weekly basis!

Cheers!

Le Bon Vivant
2705 Notre Dame Ouest
514 316 4585

Le Bon Vivant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

San Gennaro

7 Aug

There is a certain vibe I love about Little Italy in Montreal. The real communal vibe – the way people seem to just come together to sit and enjoy a coffee and a chat. The little cafes and shops around that area cater to that really well. I don’t visit the area as much anymore but when I do, I really try to enjoy that experience. San Gennaro on St-Zotique is a place I have heard much about since it opened a few years ago now. A hybrid pizzeria, bakery, coffee shop, grocery and gelato shop, it tries to cover lots of ground but given its heritage – San Gennaro was started by the same group that gave us restaurants Bottega and Hosteria in Little Italy – it definitely has a good chance.

IMG_2708

First up, I tried one of their arancinis. A solid version all-around. There was a nice crunch on the exterior and the interior is a great mix of veal, green peas, mozzarella and parmigiano. Nothing to complain about here.

But truthfully, we are here to talk about their pizza. Coming from the group that brought us Bottega pizza just next door, there are certainly expectations even if we are dealing with Pizza al Taglio, not the napoletana-style they serve at Bottega. Pizza al taglio is baked in large rectangular trays and served by the slice. As such, crust-wise, we are not talking about thin-crust anymore. This is a thicker, more chewy pizza – the common version we have all had would be the tomato pizza often served in buffets or at children’s parties. Thankfully, this is much better than that. This pizza has a great crunch to its crust while still being nice and chewy.

I tried a host of different pizzas over a few visits. The first one was a potato and andouille sausage pizza. The inclusion of potato was something I had never tried before. It makes the pizza a little more dense and a little drier especially without any tomato sauce. The real kicker though was the sausage whose spiciness really came out.

I then tried the standard Margherita pizza. Their tomato sauce has a nice smoothness to it and a nice sweetness but acidic taste. Top it with some mozzarella and you have a solid classic. On a follow-up visit, I tried the same pizza but with salami added to it. Same great taste with some meaty goodness.

IMG_2707

A more unique offering is their breakfast pizza. Topped with a egg, some cherry tomatoes and some pork salume, you have a nice mixture of the richness and spiciness. The egg is cooked just enough to not leak all over the pizza which makes it easier to enjoy as a single slice. A nice change-up for a morning snack.

IMG_2709

The final one I tried was another potato pizza – this time without the sausage, just with some smoked cheese. I was curious how the potato would work without the spicy sausage. Another hit – the smoked cheese created just enough of a contrast with the potato to help lighten the feeling.

IMG_2710

As I was sitting outside of the terrasse on my last visit, I couldn’t help but observe the table of elderly Italian men visiting there simply having a coffee and chatting. Their level of comfort on the terrasse chatting with the waitress as she passed by as they were enjoying the weather. It speaks to how San Gennaro has fit into the neighbourhood and the vibe they have achieved. Good food, a nice atmosphere and a great terrasse – all a good combination for when you are passing by Little Italy.

Cheers!

San Gennaro
69 St-Zotique Est
514 273 6868

San Gennaro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dalla Rose

24 Jul

Summer time in Montreal is a great time to be here – beautiful weather (for the most part), great festivals and outdoor activities to enjoy. Summer time also means ice cream and the need to have some great ice cream shops to enjoy. Down in the sud-ouest, there really haven’t been any creameries of note save for Glaces aux Havres by the Atwater Market, however that has changed with the opening of Cremerie Dalla Rose in St-Henri.

Started up by two alumni of Nora Gray, Michael Dalla Libera and Nick Rosari, Dalla Rose is located on Notre-Dame Ouest which may now be my favourite strip in Montreal food-wise – next door to Rustique, Tuck Shop, Adamo, Arthur’s (visit to come very soon!), Bar de Courcelles and Tejano. The parlour is a simple walk-in counter service – a sparse but bright room (liked the tile work on the floor to create the queue line) with no seating inside and a relatively small menu on the wall. You have the option of either ice cream by cone, by cup or inside a sandwich using in-house baked cookies. You can also just order the cookies without ice cream.

IMG_2658

IMG_2664

IMG_2659

IMG_2660

Dalla Rose uses organic dairy products for the ice cream and the flavours apparently will vary from week-to-week and season-to-season. Regardless of the flavours I tried, I found the ice cream to be rich, creamy and very smooth in consistency. At the same time, it feels firm enough. When the ice cream is put in the middle of the cookies for the sandwich, the ice cream isn’t so soft that it melts away too quickly. You don’t have to rush your enjoyment of the sandwich. On my few visits over a couple of weeks, I tried a few different options. First, I tried a cup of both kaffir lime leaf and Quebec strawberry ice cream. The strawberry ice cream has a great flavour that feels both strong but natural. It doesn’t overwhelm. I really enjoyed the lime leaf flavour as well – the lime is tart but nicely subtle to the point of surprising me. Lime ice cream is often very overpowering but this was more refined. Very nice.

Kaffir lime and Qc Strawberries

On another visit, I tried the classic vanilla and chocolate flavours. The vanilla was very nice – the specks of vanilla bean telling you you’re getting the real deal – sweet and almost milky. The chocolate was nice and dark in color – tons of chocolatey goodness. A perfect pair as they should be!

IMG_2665

On my second follow-up visit, I decided to get a sandwich of cookie ice cream between a set of vegan peanut cookies. The cookies were stiff enough to hold the ice cream but soft enough to actually make it possible to eat the sandwich as an actual sandwich – instead of the usual “suck up the ice cream and then eat the softened cookies” afterwards. Liked the flavour of the peanut cookies and the cookie ice cream – great vanilla with pieces of cookie mixed in.

IMG_2661

Dalla Rose is a great addition to the sud-ouest. Summer still has a ways to go so when you are walking around the Canal or elsewhere in the Sud-Ouest, don’t forget to walk over Dalla Rose for a scoop. They will cool you off nicely!

Cheers!

Cremerie Dalla Rose
4609 Notre Dame Ouest

Dalla Rose Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maine 2016 – Earth at Hidden Pond

14 Jul

Every July, I spend a week in Maine. A nice relaxing time to simply check out mentally and enjoy the beach, the sun and the lobster of course! Every year, this week-off also coincides with my date of my birth – almost as if I planned it that way…. – so we always find a way to have a nice dinner to celebrate. This year, we made plans at a restaurant close-by in Kennebunkport at a little retreat resort called Hidden Pond. I had heard about this restaurant previously for its beautiful scenery and market cuisine and finally we planned ahead enough to be able to get a reservation, so we drove off to give Earth a visit.

Birthday Dinner at Earth in Hidden Pond

The restaurant is quite the looker – really playing with the “nature indoors” theme. The focus of the room is a tree lit up with string lights and there is constant use of wood logs for wall decor. Out back of the restaurant there is a pool with nice sitting areas and a little further you have a pond with fire torches and more seating. It is definitely a relaxing location. The downside of our visit was that it was raining which eliminated a chance to really enjoy that space. The final cool element is that Earth has a few private “shacks” along the pond for private groups. We reserved one of them and were not disappointed. The little cabin is decorated in a classic colonial look – ornate mirrors and fireplace, old artwork on the wall and ceiling, a chandelier, bookshelves filled with old books and a gorgeous varnished wooden table. There is a large window overlooking the pond as well. A very unique and intimate setting for a hopefully good meal!

IMG_2611

IMG_2594

IMG_2595

IMG_2597

IMG_2596

The menu is a market style menu focusing of local farmers and produce. As we were a group of 6, I got to try a bunch of different items. First up was their play on a caesar salad – baby Speckled romaine, coddled duck egg dressing, reggiano and rye crisps. A nice portioned salad overall with good flavour. The use of duck egg brought some extra richness and the use of rye crisps was a nice variant on standard breadcrumbs.

IMG_2601

Next was wood fired meatballs with sweet and sour peppers. The meatballs were nice and tender – firm enough but still able to come apart with a fork easily. The sweet and sour peppers brought a nice balanced flavour with the fatty meatballs.

IMG_2600

The split pea falafel with sheep’s yogurt, watermelon and Peekytoe crab was a pleasant and unique surprise. Nice crunch on the falafel with the earthiness of the split peas. The creamy sheep’s yogurt and the crab were very nice pairings to the main item.

IMG_2603

The last entree was the beet and turnip green kimchee. Excellent kimchee with just enough heat however I really didn’t pick up the effect of either the beet or the turnips. It could have simply been standard cabbage and I’m not sure I would have known the difference flavour wise.

IMG_2602

The main dishes kept the good times rollin’. First was my dish of choice – braised pork shoulder with Maine clams, Lola sausage, grits, garlic scapes and herbs. The pork shoulder, braised in cider and beer, was so moist and fall-apart tender. The creamy grit underneath added some richness to the dish. The clams were nice and fresh and the sausage bringing some heat. The portion was plentiful and left me very happy.

IMG_2604

The menu also included a cheeseburger served with a mushroom escabeche, steak sauce, pepper jack and fries. The burger was nice and juicy and the bun was great. Special mention to the beautiful crispy fries.

IMG_2607

The pasta dishes were big hits as well. The agnolotti served with ricotta, bee balm, Black Mission figs and smoked honey was a sweet and rich mixture of heaven. The Gnudi with English peas, pistachio butter, mortadella and reggiano were nice fluffy pillows of richness. The use of pistachio butter added an interesting earthy touch.

IMG_2608

IMG_2605

Finally we also had one of their homemade Pizzas. Their classic Margherita with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella and basil was excellent. The crust was nice and thin with a nice crunch to it. The amount of mozzarella was generous and the tomatoes were cooked nicely over top.

IMG_2606

Desserts brought some lovely options as well. I went with the Brioche doughnuts with sarsaparilla and sassafras glaze and kola nut gelato. The two doughnuts were massive and the Brioche style made them wonderfully rich but light. The glaze was exquisite as well. The other dessert was equally as decadent. The peanut butter and banana ice cream sundae with salted caramel was exactly how you would imagine it except for the strength of the banana flavour in the ice cream. I didn’t expect to be as pronounced. Banana and peanut butter are great partners so no surprise that the rest of this was wonderful.

IMG_2609

IMG_2610

Earth at Hidden Pond was a lovely experience. The food was excellent across the board, the service is quick and attentive and the ambience was wonderful despite the bad weather. The tab won’t be cheap but for a special occasion, it is definitely worth it. For a excellent night with family and dear friends for my birthday, I couldn’t ask for much more.

Cheers!

Earth
354 Goose Rocks Rd, Kennebunkport, ME 04046
207 967 6550

Earth Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Petite Maison (Brunch edition)

7 Jun

It had been a long time since I had tried a new brunch location so taking advantage of a recent beautiful spring day here in Montreal, my sister and I decided to go try a relatively new spot that I had heard good things about so far – Danny St Pierre’s Petite Maison.

IMG_2444

The long awaited Montreal project from Chef St Pierre is located in Mile End on Parc Avenue just north of St-Viateur. Its basement location is such that it is quite easy to walk by and miss it completely – we did as we were paying for parking! When you walk into the restaurant, the space is very clean and inviting. The use of white walls creates a much brighter space than you would expect from a basement. Simple decor accents and the stone foundation wall add some extra touches to the space. What is also not obvious when you enter is this room is not the whole space but simply the front of the house. A corridor brings you further back to the kitchen and another seating area. The divided rooms do create a more intimate feel though and help to reduce noise. Add some easy listening music and you have a nicely relaxed atmosphere for brunch.

IMG_2445

IMG_2446

Petite Maison’s brunch setup is a fixed price menu – 24$ – which gets you a couple of entrees to share, your choice of a main dish and a couple of desserts to share again. A very reasonable price for the amount of food you get – I have not been that full after a brunch service in a very long time! A surprisingly good bang for your buck in that way. On top of the usual drink options, cocktails were available and I am never one to skip a good cocktail. I went with a Pimm’s Lemonade – a light refreshing drink for a brunch.

IMG_2447

Our first entree was duck rillettes served with onion confit, croutons, pickles and grain mustard. Fatty and rich texture as one would expect with duck. Strangely enough, the mix of the duck with the croutons and mustard – never pickles – created a very smoked meat-like flavour. The sweetness of the confit was a nice compliment to the rest of the dish.

IMG_2448

Our second entree was a watercress salad with green apple and nuts. A nice light healthy salad. Nice balance of acid and sweet with a bit of crunch with the nuts. A solid compliment to the previously rich dish.

IMG_2449

For a little extra, we also had the option of adding Chef St Pierre’s unique “Poutine Inversé” – poutine in croquettes. Very nice crunch to the outside and yeah….the initial hit you get is truly of a poutine. A cool way to present a classic Quebec dish in a different fashion. 6 wasn’t enough…. I could have eaten a basket of these babies!

IMG_2450

IMG_2451

As a main dish, my sister went with the eggs Benedict with asparagus and shrimp. Classic eggs perfectly executed – the hollandaise looked thick at first but was surprisingly light in consistency which was a very pleasant discovery. The one weird element was that the shrimp in the dish were served cold which was a little strange in comparaison to the temperature of the rest of the dish. Otherwise, a very satisfactory dish that filled up tremendously – my sister was unable to finish it due to being too full!

IMG_2453

I ordered the pulled pork breakfast sandwich but through an error, I ended up with the fine herb omelette instead – not quite the same thing but the mistake was quickly resolved and we ended up with the extra dish on the house. The omelette, served with cream cheese and green onions folded in and some chicken fried potatoes on the side, was excellent. A soft pillowy texture but rich and flavourful. The combination of green onions and cream cheese added to the richness and brought some creaminess and sharpness. The potatoes were solid as well.

IMG_2452

The pulled pork sandwich came right after. Usually served with potatoes, we skipped that since they had come with the omelette. The savoury shredded pork was served over a hamburger bun with shredded cheese, arugula and a sunny side up egg. I loved the flavour of the pork. The egg made it pretty much impossible to eat as a sandwich without making a huge mess so I went open face instead. The one negative was the bun – just a un-toasted white bread hamburger bun. Given the quality of the rest of the meal, I expected something more. It was fine but just odd relative to everything else.

IMG_2454

Despite having pretty much no appetite anymore, we still had dessert to try. First was churros served with caramel sauce. Not served as hot you would expect but the texture was nice. The caramel sauce’s flavour was too burnt with my sister and I. The other dessert was the chocolate hazelnut torta. Also served cold, this cake was much denser than I expected but deliciously rich. Whole hazelnuts inside the sorta brought some crunch and really helped create that natural nutella flavour we all love.

IMG_2455

Petite Maison was a nice experience to try out – a worthy addition to Mile End. Other than the mistake on the order which they dealt with very smoothly, service was quick and attentive. The food, other than a few little issues, was on point and showed a nice level of technical prowess. La Petite Maison has dinner and lunch as well and this experience definitely has me wanted to come back and see Chef St Pierre and Co. have on tap in the evening – just another reason to visit one of my favorite hoods in the city.

Cheers!

Petite Maison
5589 Parc
514 303 1900

Petite Maison Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hoogan et Beaufort

1 May

Anticipation is a tricky thing. As you wait, you get more and more excited but at the same time, if you have to wait too long, eventually that enthusiasm dies down and you completely forget what you were anticipating in the first place. Then there is also the fear of what you are anticipating being not as awesome as you hope it would be. These emotions are always playing with one another in moments of anticipation – be it vacation spots, product launches and, for the purpose of this discussion, restaurant openings. Chef Marc-André Jetté, since his departure from the excellent Les 400 Coups in Old Montreal in 2013, has kept us waiting for his next project for some time now. And as the projects of his previous collaborator at Les 400 Coups Patrice Demers developed, we were left wondering more and more when the time would come, if ever. Finally, the announcement came that he and his partner William Saulnier would be opening up in the Angus Yards district in Rosemont – not quite the most vibrant of food areas but nevertheless it got me intrigued. Once Hoogan et Beaufort opened up in December and the excellent reviews came from all the big critics in the city a few months later, it left me pining for his cuisine once more and anticipating the moment when I would head out there to check it out.

IMG_2357

Located in an old factory in the Angus Yards development, Hoogan et Beaufort has a very appealing look – super high ceilings, open concept with the fire pit in the back of the house as well as the vine cellar and stacks of firewood visible to all, a nice bar area up front. The space uses the old industrial elements like exposed metal I-beams and the brick walls but pairs them with wood lats and more modern touches like a huge metallic magnetized wall in the kitchen area. Lighting is ample but nicely dim to get a nice intimate enough atmosphere. The downside to the high ceilings is that noise level isn’t perfect – music, when noticeable, was a nice mix that I enjoyed but when the space was crowded, it barely registered.

IMG_2358

IMG_2361

IMG_2362

IMG_2360

Chef Jetté, prior to opening his restaurant, talked to Eater Montreal about doing similar cuisine as he had at Les 400 Coups but more accessible and less upscale. Fresh cuisine and soignée. His menu here consists of a few entrées, a fresh pasta section, mains et some desserts. The fire pit and the use of it plays heavily into the menu and in fact in the smell of the restaurant. A hint of smokiness throughout.

IMG_2359

For entrees, my girlfriend and I went with a plate of brunt focaccia bread and butter as well as a dish of grilled squid with ratte potatoes (both as chips and fingerling), olives and a burnt pepper yogurt. Saying that the bread was burnt is a bit of stretch but regardless the focaccia was nice and warm with that hint of smokiness you get from grilling it over the fire. The grilled squid was excellent – a lovely texture with some char to it. I like the creaminess of the brunt pepper yogourt as well as the slight sweetness that came from it. The potato chips provided a little crunch. This was an excellent mix of elements all coming together.

IMG_2363

IMG_2364

Our first main was Gaspor suckling pig served with salsify purée, curls of sliced apple and an oatmeal crumble. I loved this dish. The pork was beautiful and cooked to perfection. I’d never had salsify before but the earthiness of the root vegetable pureed so smoothly paired nicely with the sweet apple, the oatmeal and the fatty pork. Another well-balanced and measured dish.

IMG_2365

Our other main was beef short rib served with celeriac puree, marinated onion, grilled Brussel sprouts and crispy bread. Another hit at our table. Beautiful char on the beef cooked beautifully with all its inherent fattiness intact. The caramelization on the sprouts brought such a nice flavour and eliminated any bitterness one often associates with Brussel sprouts. The onion and celeriac balanced themselves well and the bread added some extra texture.

IMG_2366

Desserts was equally as enjoyable. First up was burnt lemon curd with a Anicet Honey caramel, candied lemon peel and buckwheat shortbread cookie. A very bright dish – the combination of the sour lemon curd and the sweet caramel was so nice to enjoy. I liked how you picked up the burnt elements of the curd and how the honey came through in the caramel.

IMG_2367

Our second dessert was the cranberry charlotte – a pillow of vanilla mousse served over a cranberry compote and pieces of almond nougat. Another great contrast of flavours and texture – the freshness of the cranberries coming through to give a real bitterness but the mousse lightening it up.

IMG_2368

As mentioned before, expectations can be very high with anticipation but Hoogan et Beaufort met them completely. Chef Jetté and his team did a great job creating beautiful dishes of tastes and textures. The cuisine soignée he was known for is alive and well here – with excellent service and a beautiful look. I know to some that Rosemont is a little out of the way but believe me, it’s worth a try. I think Hoogan et Beaufort will definitely make it worth your while.

Cheers!

Hoogan et Beaufort
4095 Rue Molson
514 903 1233

Hoogan Et Beaufort Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 339 other followers

%d bloggers like this: