Search Results for "europea"

Feb 20 2009

Lunch at Europea

Published by under Food and Drink,Moi

Last Monday I tuned in to CBC Radio’s Montreal afternoon show, Homerun, and caught the last part of a segment with Lesley Chesterman, the renowned local food critic. They were talking about the Montreal High Lights Festival, an odd (and oddly named) winter festival that highlights, among other things, food.

When the segment was over, the host proposed a little contest; call or email in a few words about what inspires your cooking. The winner (chosen how, we’re not sure) would get a free lunch at Restaurant Europea, and would get to hang out in the kitchen for a while.

Hey, sounds like fun. So I banged out the following paragraph (which took less time than going for a smoke break, in case anyone from my place of work is reading) and sent it in:

What inspired my culinary adventures was the empty seat across the table every night. I’ve always had an interest in cooking, but had no training and was not particularly good at it. When I found myself single and the author of a fairly well read blog back in 2002, I decided to make my culinary self enrichment a public experiment by writing about it. Now, some seven years later, I think I’m a much better cook, with a better understanding of where the food on my plate comes from, the history behind it, and the skills involved in creating it. I don’t pretend to be a gourmet, and I reject the term “foodie.” I’m just a guy who’s improved his cooking and has shared the adventure so that other people can improve theirs too. And I’m happy to report that the seat across the table is no longer empty.

Ah, people love a story with a happy ending. They read my story over the air a couple of times over the next few days and finally called me up to say I’d won the prize.

I was in need of a day off anyway, so I took a hard-earned “personal day” and showed up at Europea at 10:45 this morning. There, I met with CBC reporter Ann Lang, and we were led to the kitchen where we were introduced to Jérôme Ferrer, Europea’s executive chef, and Joël Veyssière, chef de cuisine at Le Pied de Cochon in Paris. Chef Veyssière is in town for the High Lights Festival, and is guest chef at Europea for a series of Paris Bistro themed lunches.

Great start! The kitchen was busy with activity as half a dozen sous chefs scurried around prepping this and that. I saw enormous cauldrons of things boiling on the stove tops, several trays of split beef marrow bones waiting their turn in the oven (tip: 375°F convection for 20 minutes), and various other pots of this and that.

simmering onions

Trying not to be in the way, I walked around the kitchen, sniffing things and taking photos, occasionally asking questions, while Ann interviewed our hosts.

Finally, after service was well under way, someone showed us to a table just off the kitchen, where we finally got to sample some of the goods. In the hour or so I’d spent observing, I saw them prepare roasted beef marrow bones, soupe a l’oignon gratinée, a tarte au boudin noir with onion confit and roasted apples, an odd fritter-like thing they called “Cromesqui de Pied de Porc“, roasted fish on risotto, and boneless jarret de porc with choucroute.

view from our table

It all looked gorgeous. There were two small problems; first, I’m not that big on classic bistro fare (boudin noir, organ meats, pig’s feet, etc.). The other problem: Anne is a vegetarian.

But, as they say, “when in Rome…” Although the idea of boudin noir has always been slightly repulsive to me, it looked gorgeous on the plate, so I decided to give it a shot. Good choice! While I still wouldn’t fancy a big hunk of boudin noir on its own, presented as it was on a flaky pastry with confit of onions and roasted apples, it was a pleasure in the mouth and in all other dimensions. For Ann, they constructed a salad and arranged it in a cylinder composed of some kind of pastry.

tarte au boudin noir

For my main course I went with the Cromesqui de Pied de Porc. What an odd dish. Basically, they took the meat (and other gelatinous bits) out of a boiled pig’s foot, mixed it with some seasonings and pistachios, rolled it in panko, and deep fried it. This was presented on a small mound of very smooth puréed potatoes that had been infused with smoked garlic. Then it was drizzled with a fond and a squirt of basil oil.

cromesqui de pied de porc

Ann went for the fish, which was listed as “Cabillaud” and interpreted as “cod.” Hmmm. I’ll have to look into that. It was seared on the skin and then probably roasted. It was served on a risotto done in a rich and creamy sauce and a swirl of basil oil. It would normally come with a piece of Morteau sausage, but this was the vegetarian (who eats fish) version.

cabillaud and risotto

It was an excellent meal, made even sweeter by the lack of a bill at the end.

For more photos, check out this Flickr set.

If you want to hear the CBC report, here’s an MP3 of it (6:58, 3.6MB). (Note: in the report, I say that the tarte au boudin noir had choucroute on it. In fact, it was confit d’oignon. Yes, I can tell the difference. Maybe it was a Freudian slip, like when you go to say one thing but you say your mother.)

11 responses so far

Sep 26 2009

Pine Nut Warning

Published by under Food and Drink,PSA

It’s pesto season, so I thought I’d do my part to spread the warning about a recent pine nut problem. Apparently (according to this thread on Chowhounds), there is a problem with some pine nuts, including the crop that are in the markets around Montreal right now. It appears to be specific to the cheaper ones from China and Korea.

Apparently there’s some kind of oxidization going on, and the result is that after you eat something made with these pine nuts, you experience a bitter taste in your mouth that can last for a few days up to three weeks. It can ruin your appetite, so maybe it’s a good thing for those who are looking to shed a few pounds, but for the rest of us (ok, I’m looking to shed a few pounds, but not this way), it’s something to be aware of.

Fortunately it doesn’t make you sick, and the toxicology studies come up with nothing unusual. But it is awfully inconvenient and annoying — especially this time of year when there’s such an abundance of fresh harvest produce on the market waiting to be enjoyed.

From what I’ve read, you will not experience this problem if you buy the more expensive pine nuts from European sources.

More information:

Editorial postscript: this could serve as a wake-up call to those who are always on the lookout for the best price when it comes to food. The reality is that our markets are full of ridiculously cheap food (according to some sources, food in the western hemisphere is cheaper now than it has ever been). But you need to question why that food is so cheap. The answer is often that, like a lot of dollar store goods, the production has been outsourced to China and other places where labour is so cheap it’s practically free. But those places have much lower quality and safety standards, so buyer beware (or, as caveat emptor is more properly translated: the buyer should make him/herself aware).

13 responses so far

May 09 2009

There Will Be Blood

Published by under Food and Drink,Moi

Loyal readers will recall that when I started using a Wüsthof Santoku knife in early 2005, the change in blade weight, shape, and balance caused me to have a little accident. I quickly adapted to this new style and came to really appreciate the value of a lightweight and nimble blade. No more heavy European cleavers for me!

In recent months I’ve been thinking of going back to a bigger chef’s knife. I’m fascinated by the new breed of Japanese Gyutou knives, which are essentially hybrids – traditional European shape combined with Japanese lightness and agility. The blades are thinner than their European counterparts, and there is no bolster (although there is often a faux bolster made from separate pieces of steel and integrated into the handle).

So I bit. I am now the proud owner of a Misono UX10 Gyutou knife, all 240 mm of it. This thing is huge compared to my Santoku, although it doesn’t weigh all that much more, all things considered (244 grams vs 165 grams).

However, it handles very differently. I haven’t had it for very long, and so far it has drawn blood twice (two minor incidents; one involving the needle-sharp point, and the other caused by the heel, which has a sharp corner because of the lack of a bolster).


It retrospect, it might have made more sense to get the 210 mm one, as the handling would have been more familiar. But hey, smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.

There will be blood. I am not looking forward to the day when my flesh comes in painful slicing contact with that long and very sharp edge. But it will come, and hopefully I won’t hit an artery. However, I’ve been chopping, slicing, and mincing furiously for days now, and loving every minute of it!

14 responses so far

Apr 02 2007

Seven Songs

Published by under Moi,Music

Julien tagged me with this “seven songs” meme, where I’m supposed to talk about seven songs I’m enjoying right now, and to spread the love about them.


You see, I have this weird relationship with music. It’s not that I don’t like it – quite the contrary. It’s just that everything about music has always been very private to me, including what I like, what I’m listening to, and how I experience it.

It goes back to my childhood. I come from a very non-musical family. Nobody played any instruments, at all. Nobody even sang, not even in church.

Not that we didn’t try occasionally. For example, when I was about ten, my mother acquired an old six string acoustic guitar and some kind of “teach yourself” sheet music. Each evening she’d go into the back room of the house and plink plink plink away while the rest of us sat in the living room, red faced. Sometimes I’d go outside and conspicuously stand in the back yard so the neighbours would know that the sounds coming from that back room window were not being made by me.

She gave up after a few weeks.

We had one of those 1960s style console stereos in the living room – the kind that’s primarily a piece of furniture but if you lift the lid you find a crappy turntable and amplifier inside. The only records we owned were a handful of country & western compilations issued by Reader’s Digest. Bad as that sounds, it was moot as we never, ever played them.

But my Dad had one musical ritual that he stuck to. He owned a cassette tape of Christmas songs sung by a European duo that no one I knew had ever heard of. Every Christmas season there would be a day, usually a Sunday, in which Dad would go into his bedroom and dig the tape and the old Radio Shack cassette player out of his bottom drawer. He’d come back to the dining room, methodically unwind the power cord for the tape machine, plug it into the wall, insert the cassette, and press “play.” Then he’d sit there and listen. About 30 minutes later he’d flip the tape and listen to the other side. Then he would eject the cassette, unplug the machine, wrap up the cord, and say “Well, that’s really something” before putting it all back into his bottom drawer for another year.

By the time I was a teenager, I had managed to convince my parents that the living room would look much better without that old console stereo, and that I just happened to have space for it in my bedroom. I then commenced to buy record albums. Unfortunately, most of my friends were no better off than me when it came to music, so I didn’t exactly have much to go on by way of references.

My first album was something from BTO, which I played over and over. There was something about the simplicity and predictability of those three-chord rock songs that stuck with me. Very formulaic, but for the first time ever, I understood music and could even use the formula to make up songs in my head.

Then it was KISS. (Yeah, yeah, keep laughing, see if I care.) I was nuts about KISS because I saw them as chaotic and somewhat insane, which was a nice tonic against the banality of my everyday existence. From there my tastes grew slightly more sophisticated – when I first heard The Police’s “Message in a Bottle” on the radio I felt like the roof had been torn off my monochrome world and the color was finally shining through.

Then there was the Led Zeppelin phase. While other kids were out smoking pot and tripping on acid, I was at home in my room convulsing to the psychotic and mind bending riffs of Jimmy Page’s guitar as they ground into my brain at skull cracking volume through my cheap Radio Shack headphones.

Throughout all this, I almost never discussed the music I was listening to with my friends. As I’ve already mentioned, most of them were very unmusical too, so music simply wasn’t something we ever talked about. As a result, music became a very personal thing to me, to the point that when someone asked me what I liked, or what records I owned, I found it embarrassing and I didn’t want to talk about it.

I never really got over that.

I am fortunate now in that the woman I live with has interesting and eclectic taste and a pretty extensive music library. When it comes time to play music at home, I always defer to her and she rarely disappoints.

So back to the original question: what are seven songs I’m enjoying right now? My answer is that I have no idea. Every day it’s something different, and it’s always chosen by someone else (be it Martine at home, or the DJ on the radio, or whatever dreck is spilling out of American Idol). And frankly, I like it that way.

11 responses so far

Sep 26 2006

The Lost Aran Sweater

Published by under Moi,Photography,Travel

(Note:  This post was originally titled “The Lost Arran Sweater” – Arran with two ‘r’s. I have recently learned that Aran sweaters are not from Arran, Scotland, but are from Aran, Ireland. This might explain why I had so much trouble finding a nice “Arran” sweater in Scotland! I have updated this post to use the correct spelling.)

Frank’s retro-travelog (European Memoirs) has me thinking about some of my own trips from days long past. Perhaps because of that, I found myself digging around in a box of old negatives last Sunday. I happened upon a negative of the only known photograph of me wearing the famous Aran sweater that I blogged about back in August of 2001. (What, you don’t remember? Here, refresh…)

It’s a self-portrait taken in the bedroom of an inn, about a week after I bought the sweater. I’m not sure why I took this photo, although I was fascinated by the various rooms I took during the two months of that journey. I wish now that I had photographed myself in each one of them.

Me and my famous green Arran sweater

The photograph is remarkable for a number of reasons. First of all, I look so young! I suppose that makes sense, given that it was 1993 – 13 years ago, almost to the day. It’s also remarkable in that, as I’ve already mentioned, it’s the only photo I have of me in that mythical sweater; my only proof that it was real. Yet for some reason I’ve never made a print of it.

I so loved that sweater, and not just because it reminded me of the Scottish lass from which I bought it. Rather, I’d been searching for the perfect Aran sweater for over a week – which you wouldn’t think would be difficult in Scotland. But this was the only one I really liked, and it came with a crush and a story. Plus, I think it fit me rather nicely.

You’ll have to read that post from 2001 to find out what happened to the sweater. While doing so, you’ll notice that back then I had a fondness for using bold to emphasize things, perhaps a bit too much.

During my trip through the negatives I also found a night shot of the harbour at Cassis, a few kilometres east of Marseilles, in the south of France. It too is a negative that I have never printed. It is relevant to this story of a story, however, in that when I took this photo I did not yet know that I would never see the Aran sweater again, that Cassis would be the place where the sweater and I parted.

Cassis, near Marseille, France

I like to think that somewhere, in or around Cassis, someone is still wearing that sweater. Perhaps it’s the son of a maid who worked at the hotel where I left it. Or perhaps the maid herself. It was a sturdy and well-made sweater, so it could easily last 13 years – especially in the south of France, where the sweater-wearing season is rather short.

10 responses so far

Sep 03 2006

The ultimate tax shelter…

Published by under Current Affairs,Rant,Television

Adolf E. Newman…become a dictator!

This BBC report says that Hitler was a huge dodger of taxes. He earned millions of Reichmarks through sales of that odd little book of his, Mein Kampf, but hid the revenue from the pre-Nazi tax goons. Once he became chancellor in 1933, however, it all became moot – his debts magically disappeared after some jack-booted bureaucrat accepted a mysterious (and tax-free) pension of 2000 Reichmarks a month.

Imagine that – our favorite megalomaniac dictator and mass murderer was also a slimy tax cheater and a crook. Who knew? Maybe tax cheating is a gateway crime into genocide and other popular war crimes. Of course none of this has anything to do with people like Dick Cheney, who, while CEO of Halliburton, was able to transition the company from paying $302 million in corporate taxes in 1998 to an $85 million tax refund in 1999. But that was legitimate – he used good old-fashioned off-shore tax havens. What a loyal American!

For Hitler, the removal of that taxing burden allowed him to focus on the European “extreme makeover” project he liked to talk so much about, leading to a kerfuffle in which a few people were reportedly injured. In the U.S., where war is now largely privatized, it makes sense to relieve the federal government of the burden of tax collecting, especially since the government is no longer in the war business. Well, that’s not exactly true – the government still has to foot the bill.

But with more than 700 U.S. military bases in 132 counties around the world, the Great American Empire is whole-heartedly involved in its own global “extreme makeover.” After all, they need all that oil to keep the tanks rolling, and they also need to be nice to those friendly countries who offer the tax havens that make it possible for people back home to live the great American lifestyle, which in turn gives them the time and energy to focus on the makeover. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Unfortunately, a few people still get injured along the way.

(Set your TiVos, Illicos, and VCRs for Sunday, September 10 at 10:00 PM, when CBC Television will rebroadcast the award-winning documentary “Why We Fight“.)

One response so far

Aug 04 2006

Campari and soda

Published by under Food and Drink,Travel

I’m not a big cocktail guy. I’m usually at a loss as to what to order at a cocktail party, or when a waiter is taking orders for aperitifs before a meal.

There are a few reliable standbys – if I happen to think of them – such as a manhattan (if I’m at a steakhouse) or a kir royale (if I happen to be in a French restaurant during warm weather and the sun is still above the horizon). Occasionally I’ll take a martini (whenever offered, or if I’m standing at a long wooden bar). Otherwise, I draw a blank and end up getting something simple like a glass of white wine.

One hot afternoon last May, when Martine and I were sitting in a cafe under an enormous awning overlooking the Piazza del Campo in Siena, the waiter posed the usual question before taking our lunch order. Martine said to me “why don’t you try a Campari and soda?” The day before, she had told me about the time, many years earlier, when her brother had suggested that she – with her sweet tooth – might enjoy a Campari and soda. Campari, as you might know, is a bitter orange liqueur – one of those old fashioned European drinks that were probably concocted as some kind of health tonic but became popular during the cafe scenes of the 1920s, 30s, and 50s.

She hated it.

I like bitter things, so I thought I might like to try it. I said to the waiter “Campari soda, per favore.” A few minutes later it arrived, packed with ice and decorated with a slice of juicy fresh orange.

colorful and tasty!

I took a sip. Ka-pow! What an eye-opener!

It took a few more sips before I could decide whether or not I liked it. I finally decided – I like it.

It’s a bit like taking a mouthful of diluted cough syrup and them biting into an orange peel. Why is that appealing? I don’t know, it just is.

As soon as I got back to Montreal I raced over to the SAQ and scored myself a bottle of Campari. Then I got some club soda. It will go down in history as the cocktail of summer 2006 – at least for me.

Note that to be successful you need a good dose of soda, lots of ice, and a good chunk of fresh orange – preferably from a valencia orange, not one of those bland seedless navels. Also note that in some places you can buy Campari and soda pre-mixed. It is called, unsurprisingly, Campari soda. Personally, I like to mix it myself, and to make them big and tall, with lots of ice.


2 responses so far