Tuesday, August 31, 2010

La Cantina (Hamilton, ON)

60 Walnut Street South
Hamilton, Ontario

On a Friday evening, my boyfriend A took me out to dinner. We went to one of the most popular Italian restaurants in downtown Hamilton, La Cantina. While I've been to the more casual side of the restaurant, I had never been on the more formal side until this time.


A and I took a corner booth, which allowed me to people watch while munching on the complementary bread and butter.

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We decided to share a starter and ordered the bruschetta mista, so we could sample a few bruschetta. Our plate included the bruschetta tradizionale (tomato mixture), con Formaggio (provolone, asiago and mozzarella), alla Molisana (sundried tomato and goat cheese) and alla Calabrese (tomato and bocconcini) and a fifth one with a roasted vegetable mixture. Each bruschetta was really big with a generous topping. A and I really enjoyed our starter!

Our bruschetta medley.

A and I each got tempted with the specials. A got the vegetarian pasta with tomatoes and asiago ($14). The portion was really big but A was disappointed with his dish. It looked like a large plate of pasta with a bit of tomatoes and some cheese.

A's pasta.

I felt bad for A because I really enjoyed my shells stuffed with seafood, including shrimps, scallops and lobster ($23). When ordering seafood pasta dishes, I always wonder how much seafood there actually will be. I could spot large pieces of scallops and lobster. It was a winning dish for me!

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My yummy seafood shells!

I guess that I got lucky with my dish while A was rather unlucky. I've really enjoyed pizzas at La Cantina in the past, and would recommend that. Otherwise, the service was very attentive and the atmosphere very nice.

La Cantina on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bistrot Paul Bert (Paris, France)

My sister L still has a couple more posts about her food experiences in France! This is the last in Paris.


18 Rue Paul Bert
75011, Paris (11e arr.)

On our search for this much talked about bistrot, we ended up in the 18e arrondissement, where at 18 rue Paul Bert stands Café Paul Bert. We thought it must be the place and after sitting down and looking at the menu which did not have a steak frites in sight (neither the much lauded dessert Paris-Brest), we got up and left! It was pretty embarrassing but the place was crowded and the service was awful.


We ended up finding the restaurant in the 11e arrondissement. Unfortunately, it was fully booked for the evening (though in no way did it look full) so we made a reservation on our return to Paris. This was by far the meal I looked forward to the most. This bistro has no menu only an ardoise (blackboard) and the waiter will bring it to your table and prop it up on chair for you to read. This allows the chef to work with the best ingredients available and limits waste entailed by extensive menus. Unfortunately that means that all the lovely dishes that I had read about were not being served!

When we asked the waiter, he explained that only côte de boeuf (beef rib) for two was being served tonight, not the entrecôte, and the Paris Brest is too heavy for summer. We went ahead an ordered the côte de boeuf. I was really looking forward to the French bistro classic of snails smothered in garlic butter, but was persuaded to try a ceviche.


The menu explains that steaks are cooked bleu (blue), saignant (bleeding) or mal cuit (badly cooked), proclaiming that anything but rare is inedible and they won’t serve it. On another board, a more forgiving statement reads bleu, saignant and jamais mal cuit (never badly cooked). Upon request with the waiter, it was actually fine for the chef to do à point, which means perfectly done or medium… but as you can see I can’t imagine what saignant or bleu would look like!

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Our côte de boeuf à point.

Everything was very delicious but be warned, there is no ketchup or even mayonnaise in the house for your frites. The table next to us did get a bowl of gray salt. It was hard to manage our disappointment though the meal was far from poor. We decided to skip dessert and walked a bit to get a never disappointing glace Berthillon.

I had to include this pic for the final Parisian post!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

La Crêperie Bretonne (Paris, France)

Another Paris post by my sister L, from her honeymoon in Paris.

La Crêperie Bretonne
56 Rue du Montparnasse

Paris, France

Another favourite restaurant of mine that a Parisian friend took me to the first time I visited is a little restaurant specializing in food from the Britanny region. The menu includes savoury crêpes or galettes (crêpes made out of buckwheat) as well as dessert crêpes all served with sparkling cider.

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DSC_8859 The crêperie and our cider.

Montparnasse is riddled with crêperie, and unlike L’As du Fallafel, it is impossible to know which one began this trend, but I am so happy with my little crêperie that I wouldn’t try another.

DSC_8861 DSC_8862 Our galette and our dessert crêpe.

D and I both chose the savoury galette with stuffed with merguez and ratatouille. It came served oozing with a pat of melted butter. We had a lovely light cider which suited me fine and shared a specialty of the house for dessert: a chocolate and pear crêpe, flambée with Grand Marnier and served with vanilly ice cream. A great consistent casual meal!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Risotto with Asparagus, Peas and Basil

I've always wanted to try making risotto, and I was especially motivated after enjoying the radicchio risotto at the Nauset Beach Club. So I took out a risotto book from the library and I was set to go. I made this recipe when fresh peas and asparagus were still in season earlier in the year and I had fresh basil in the garden.


Risotto with Asparagus, Peas and Basil (Risotto Con Asparagi, Pieslli, E Basilico) Serves 4.
From Risotto: 30 Simply Delicious Vegetarian Recipes from an Italian Kitchen by Ursula Ferrigno & Jason Lowe.

* 4 cups vegetable stock (for a homemade recipe)
* ½ cup unsalted butter
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 8 shallots, finely chopped
* 1-½ cups risotto rice (I used arborio)
* ½ cup white wine
* 12 oz. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2” lengths
* 1 cup fresh or frozen shelled peas
* finely grated zest of 1 lemon
* 1-½ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
* sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
* a large handful of fresh basil, coarsely chopped

Heat the vegetable stock until almost boiling, then reduce the heat until barely simmering to keep it hot.
Heat the butter and oil in a deep skillet or heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat.
Add the shallots and cook for 1-2 min, until softened but not browned.
Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until the grains are well coated and glistening, about 1 min.
Pour in the wine and stir until it has been completely absorbed.
Add 1 ladle of hot stock and simmer, stirring until the liquid has been absorbed.
After 10 min, add the asparagus, peas, and lemon zest and mix well.
Continue to add the stock at intervals and cook as before, for a further 8-10 min, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender but still firm (al dente).
Add the reserved stock, Parmesan, basil, salt, and pepper.
Mix well.
Remove from the heat, cover, and let rest for 2 min.
Spoon into warmed bowls and garnish with basil and grated Parmesan, if using.
Serve immediately.

Peas and purple Ontario asparagus.

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Top: Cook the onion in butter and add the rice.
Bottom: Keep stirring and add vegetables near the end.

My boyfriend A and I both enjoyed this dish. I really liked the addition of the lemon zest; I found it added a kick to the dish. I think if you add whatever ingredient is in season to the risotto, it will be greatly successful.


Making risotto seems overwhelming; it takes a bit of patience but if you follow the instructions it will turn out great and well worth it. I cannot wait to try other types of risotto, especially with mushrooms in the fall!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pierre Hermé (Paris, France)

various locations

(Another Paris post by my sister!)

After reading that on top of having the best macarons in town, this pâtissier also made some first rate croissants, I knew I had to go. The boutique pâtisserie is tiny; while it's been around for a while its décor is uber modern, and the goods are laid out beautifully. I snapped a few shots and a curt employee informed me that pictures were NOT allowed. So we took our breakfast of champions to a bench by the Seine and I snapped pictures to my heart’s content!

Bag full of goodies!

It was still early so I went straight for the croissants, and a few macarons of course! The buttery croissant was definitely one of the best I’d ever had. Perfectly puffed and flaky so that it was just as light as it was rich. I was also easily seduced by the croissant Ispahan. One look at the description of pâte d’amande, framboises, glaçage à l’eau de rose and I was sold! It did not disappoint. I’ve read a few descriptions online but I don’t remember the description having lychee flavour nor did I imagine a solid filling inside. It was an almond croissant laced with raspberry and with the perfect flaky pastry on the outside.

Croissant Ispahan: almond paste filing, raspberry and lychee compote and rose water icing.

While I would not think I’d enjoy macaron looking at them, I had the chance to try some at a wedding and fell in love with them. Something about the lightness of the meringue cookie and the richness of the filling… I definitely had to try some Parisian ones. They are a totally different experience and are just an explosion of concentrated flavours in your mouth. And with flavours like strawberry-wasabi and vanilla-olive oil, who can resist?

Trois macarons.

For my first tasting I chose a caramel à la fleur de sel, perfect in its complexity of flavour. D chose an apricot-saffron macaron and we shared a chocolate one. They are a real treat to the senses. We brought a lovely selection back for Miss.Adventure and they are waiting for her in the freezer; news to come on how they hold up!

For L's other posts about Paris:
* Honeymoon in Paris
* L'As du Fallafel

Thursday, August 19, 2010

L'As du Fallafel (Paris, France)

I asked my sister L to write a few more posts about her eats in France. (She and her husband D got married in June and went to France for their honeymoon.)

L’As du Fallafel
34, rue des Rosiers (M: St. Paul)
Paris, France

Having been to this fast food counter on previous trips to France, I was totally happy to see it on David Lebovitz's list of must eats in Paris. Being in the Jewish quarters of Paris, I wanted to take my husband with Jewish ancestry there. The second time I went to Paris I took my sister’s vegetarian friend (aka Trapezista) who was having a hard time enjoying food in Europe… it was a hit except (or because?) she found a two euro coin in her falafel! It is easily the best falafel I have ever had.

It's a popular joint!

On the Sunday (note it is closed Friday PM and Saturday for Sabbath) that we went there was a huge line, and the outlet has young men outside taking both orders and payment in line. You then receive a ticket for your meal. Since it has become an institution of sort, wannabes have cropped up all over des Rosiers Street, and hawkers yell out "Great Falafels, no wait!" for you to come to their counter. I can’t vouch for the other counters but L’As has perfected their system and the wait was not long at all.

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Falafels being prepped and D double fisting the falafels!

Being quite hungry, we ordered the two falafel special (with fried eggplants) and a serving of fries. The format has changed since I last went; there is only the one special, so you get the fried eggplant whether you want it or not.


Your pita comes stuffed with 7 or more delicious little falafels and a mound of shredded cabbage and cucumber, a tahini-based dressing and hot sauce at your request. How satisfying! The fries were totally forgettable, if you’re hungry, just get another pita!

We enjoyed it so much that we returned for another quick lunch on a later date.

For L's other about Paris:
* Honeymoon in Paris

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Zucchini & Split Pea Cold Soup

I came across Zucchini & Lentil Cold Soup, the winning recipe of No Croutons Required: Zucchini in June and made it right after I read the recipe. This is saying much because I have an ever growing list of recipes I want to make and some of them have been there for months, if not years. What attracted me to this recipe was what usually attracts me to recipes: easy and quick to prepare, healthy and looks tasty. Zucchini is also in season right now and I love the look of the pretty green dots from the zucchini.


Zucchini & Split Pea Cold Soup
From Sweet Artichoke.
I only altered the recipe slightly. One change was accidental; I really thought I was using lentils when my boyfriend A said something about split peas. I then realized I did use peas instead.

* oil
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 2 zucchini, unpeeled and diced
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 150 g yogurt (I used low fat)
* 1 cup vegetable stock (for a homemade recipe)
* salt and pepper, to taste
* 1 cup cooked yellow split peas (the original recipe called for lentils)

Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat.
Add the cumin and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the zucchini and garlic, until the zucchini is cooked through.
Season with salt and pepper.
Allow the zucchini mixture to cool down and set aside one tablespoon or so for garnish.
In a blender, place the zucchini mixture and yogurt and blend until very smooth.
Add some vegetable broth until the desired consistency.
Add the cooked split peas (do not blend them) and mix in.
Garnish with a spoonful of the zucchini mixture.

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Cooked split peas and zucchini.

I've made this soup a couple of times already because it was such a success. I think my boyfriend said that it was one of the best I've made! While Sweet Artichoke mentions her husband preferred the soup hot, I actually liked it cold. I find the coolness of the soup went well with the tanginess of the yogurt and I loved the cumin flavour. (On a side note, I'm excited I have a new go-to blog for vegetarian recipes and I love that the recipes come in French and English - this is going to help me with my French culinary terms!)


For more vegetarian soup recipes:
* Butternut Squash Soup
* Chickpea and Leek Soup
* Corn Soup with Dill
* Mushroom Soup
* Pasta e Fagioli
* Red Lentil Soup
* Thai Hot & Sour Soup
* Vegetable Broth

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pea Ravioli

I love buying fresh peas when they're available. While I shell the peas out of their pods, I like to eat them raw. They're so sweet and crunchy, great just added to a salad! Peas are often added as an afterthought, like in chicken soup. It's not often the star of the dish. So I thought pea ravioli's would make a great dish to embrace fresh peas!


Pea Ravioli - Made 24 ravioli's
I have still not attempted to make fresh pasta so I'm sticking to wonton shells for ravioli's. I don't feel bad about it either; it makes homemade ravioli's much easier and even Giada De Laurentiis uses them!

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For the pea filling
I really like this filling and could have eaten it on its own, in big spoonfuls!

* oil
* ½ onion or so, finely chopped
* 1 lb peas in pods, gives about 1 cup of shelled peas
* salt and pepper, to taste
* ¾ cups of ricotta
* handful of Parmesan
* lemon zest of half a lemon

Heat up oil on medium-high.
Add onion and cook until softened.
Add the peas and cook until they're cooked through; it just take a couple of minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Set some peas aside for garnish.
In a food processor, add the peas, ricotta, Parmesan and lemon zest.
Blend until well mixed.
Taste and adjust seasoning according to taste.

For the ravioli's
* pea filling
* wonton wrappers

Lay one wonton wrapper and top it with a tablespoon or so of pea mixture.
Wet the border of the wrapper and place another wrapper on top.
Press on the border to ensure it doesn't open up and crimp the edges with a fork.
To freeze the raviolis, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the freezer; when they are solidly frozen, place them in a plastic bag (this is so they don't stick together).
In a pot of boiling salted water, add raviolis (fresh or frozen) - you don't need to thaw the frozen ones.
When the raviolis float, remove them with a slotted spoon and let them drain.

To make a creamy sauce
* 1 tbsp butter
* 1 tbsp flour
* 1 cup cream or milk
* Parmesan cheese, grated
* ¼ tsp salt, or to taste
* ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

In medium saucepan, melt butter.
Stir in flour and cook stirring constantly 1-2 minutes or until bubbling.
Whisk in milk or cream and bring to a boil, whisking constantly until thickened.
Lower heat and stir in cheese, cook for 3-5 minutes stirring occasionally.
Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle sauce on cooked raviolis.
Garnish with some peas.


I still have some left in the freezer and am thinking it might make a good meal this weekend. Yums!

For other ravioli recipes:
* Mushroom Ravioli
* Pumpkin Ravioli

For other pea recipes:
* Pea Spread (Mock Chopped Liver)
* Fresh Green Peas & Mushrooms

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Honeymoon in Paris

My sister L and her new husband went to France for their honeymoon. I asked her to share a bit of their food experiences since I knew they would be eating amazing food.

We were advised that as newlyweds we should ask to be bumped to first class. After being refused at the Air Transat counter, we asked the flight attendant during boarding. We were still in our aisle seats when we took off before finally being switched. Yay! Honeymoon lesson: keep asking to be upgraded until someone says yes!

In first class we got free cocktails, a "snack" accompanied by wine and a hot breakfast all served on real china with real cutlery! The "snack" was composed of a slice of cold roast beef, a Caprese salad kabob and a Lindt chocolate. The hot breakfast was Eggs Benedict which was disappointingly scrambled eggs!

La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc
83 rue de Crimée
T 01 42 40 64 55

We were staying in Belleville in the 11th arrondissement by the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. Our first food endeavour was to seek out La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc, a boulangerie recommended by David Leibovitz, which was nearby.

La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc.

As an afternoon snack (after an evening of three meals), we shared a chocolate pear tart. D definitely thought that this was the epitome of chocolate tarts. I was much more charmed by the little bakery with its lovely displays and the picturesque old building and sign. Interestingly in France everyone loves fresh bread, so bread is bought by weight and you can purchase half a baguette if that’s all you need, and a few hundred grams of a loaf. I was able to enjoy half a loaf of a lovely organic whole grain bread which I had for breakfast for the next few days.

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Different breads sold by weight and our chocolate pear tart.

We also passed by a few lovely fresh fruit and vegetable stands where I found these lovely green stalks laying on beautiful cherries. According to the merchant, they are young asparagus or some kind of asparagus…


Before leaving for Paris, I couldn’t wait to stuff my face with good cheeses and croissants. And boy did we get to… We did not waste any time by hitting up the local fromagerie for a little pre-dinner wine and cheese.

Cheese galore!

Le Pain Quotidien
various locations

Breakfast in France consisted of toasted baguette with butter and jam (tartine) sometimes served with a croissant or other viennoiserie (chocolatine, etc.). Our favourite breakfast by far was from Le Pain Quotidien, recommended by my Paris food guru David Leibovitz. At Le Pain Quotidien, actually a Belgian chain, they took breakfast a step further by serving different sliced breads from their organic breads selection, half a baguette, a flaky croissant with fresh pressed orange juice, a bowl of café au lait and unlimited spreads from all kinds of jams (including sugar free jams) to hazelnut butter, chocolate hazelnut and white chocolate spreads. All this for 9€. This was actually plenty to share between two people, but the first time we ordered an extra croissant and café.

Communal tables at Le Pain Quotidien.

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Croissants & jams.

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Chez Paul
various locations

Lunch was often a sandwich and our first lunch was from one of my favourite chains in Paris Paul. We hit up the Louvre outlet of this large chain for a Parisien (ham and butter on baguette) with an Orangina and an apricot tart. The sandwich, ridiculously simple was just delicious, the tart was flaky with a thin custard filling and apricots, yum! If I could eat at Chez Paul every day I would. Well, every other day at least.

Lunch at Chez Paul.

Le Bistrot des Peintres
116 Avenue Ledru-Rollin
75011 Paris, France
01 47 00 34 39

Bistro eating is very good in Paris and after a fruitless search for Le Bistro Paul Bert for steak frites we ended up at Le Bistrot des Peintres for a very eclectic supper. I ordered a Salade de ravioles farcies au basilic, Saint Jacques poêlées, haricots verts, tomates confites (12.90 €). Saint Jacques, which is the term used for scallops instead of the word pétoncle used in Québec. The scallops were served raw in a pesto like dressing with an assortment of sides, eggplant tortellini, a green salad topped with cooked string beans (overcooked à la française), a salmon salad and bread sticks. It was oddly satisfying. D ordered Poulet de la ferme d'Alice (10.90 €),
the more traditional roast chicken and frites. The dessert on the menu that caught our eye was profitérole géantes (6.90 €), and they did not disappoint; the cream puffs were filled with ice cream and topped with a chocolate sauce, a perfect ending to our casual meal!

Salade Saint-Jacques at Le Bistrot des Peintres.

Hope you enjoyed reading about some of our meals in Paris!