Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Taralli never appealed to me until someone brought some to work. The Italian light and crispy breadsticks were studded with fennel seeds and had a great salty bite. I fell. Hard.

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I loved the fennel seeds in the taralli I tried and I thought adding these with another classic, peperoncini, would make a great combination for my first batch of taralli. I also wanted to try a less common flavour, rosemary for the second batch.  
Makes about 24 breadstick-shaped taralli's.
Adapted from Babbo Ristorante and David Rocco.

I immediately wanted to try the recipe from Canadian-Italian TV host David Rocco. But I then found a recipe  from Babbo Ristorante's website, my Italian Iron Chef hero's restaurant. This recipe has more wine, white wine in this case, but I did not go to the trouble of getting 00 flour, so I adapted from both recipes since David Rocco's recipe used all-purpose flour.

▪ 250 g (½ lb) all-purpose flour
▪ 2 tsp salt
▪ ½ tsp sugar
▪ 1-½ Tbsp fennel seeds / 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes OR 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary (roughly chopped)
▪ ¼ to ½ cup (250 ml) white wine, or as much as you need
▪ ½ cup (250 ml) extra virgin olive oil

Place the flour, salt, sugar, and flavourings of your choice in the bowl of an electric mixer.
Add the wine and oil and mix on medium speed to form a wet dough.
Add more wine and/or water as required.
Transfer the dough to a plastic container, well dusted with flour.
Sprinkle the top of the dough with more flour, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

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Dry ingredients for the different flavoured taralli.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead lightly.
Divide the dough into two pieces.
Roll portions of the dough into long ropes, about ¾ inch in diameter.
Cut the rope into about 4" pieces. (Taralli are traditionally shaped into rings, but I chose to shape them like breadsticks. It's also less effort this way!)
Boil approximately 4-5 litress of water in a large, shallow pot.
Season the water with salt.
Drop the dough sections, about 6 at a time; the water should remain at a simmer.
The taralli will float to the top when they are done.
Gently scoop them out of the water with a slotted spoon or a Chinese skimmer, allowing them to drain for a moment in the spoon, before placing them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
The dough is still pliable so straighten them to make nice breadsticks-like taralli.
While you are boiling the taralli, preheat the oven to 375 F.
Bake the taralli for 40-50 minutes, flipping them over half way through.
Remove them from the oven when they are a nice even, golden brown.
Transfer to a rack to cool completely before storing them in an airtight container.

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Boiling taralli and laid down on parchment paper for baking.

Making taralli is labour intensive but the crispy and delicious finished product was more than worthwhile! While I enjoyed both batches, my favourite is still the fennel seeds one. Unfortunately, I didn't put enough chili flakes to get enough kick. I would also add more rosemary next time for more punch. (The recipe above reflects the more generous quantities.) Other great ideas for flavourings would be to roll the boiled taralli with sesame seeds, or with very finely grated Parmesan. They make a perfect pairing with a glass of wine!

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Grange vin+bouffe (Montréal,QC)

120 rue McGill

I made plans with my friend MC for brunch. She suggested Grange vin+bouffe, and attached this review by Montreal Breakfast Review. I was really psyched by the description of "brunch with a twist", and a small plates selection for brunch. Unfortunately, the menu had changed to a regular menu; that'll teach me to base myself on a review that's nearly two years old!

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The restaurant had a hip cabin décor, with wood planks and the requisite mounted deer head. The attractive waiters were dressed in plaid shirts. I kind of wish I had worn my new deer sweater - I would have fit right in!

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We each ordered the freshly squeezed orange juice ($5). It came in its own little jug (burette on the French menu) to share, but the portion really wasn't big enough to share. The juice was very fresh and tasty, but I think on the pricey side for the portion.

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After answering my inquiry about the small plates menu that did not exist, the waiter suggested that most patrons ordered from the "plats signature" section. MC ordered the Surf 'n Turn ($18) for something different. The description was somewhat accurate - salmon tartar with yogurt, beef tartar with cognac, salad and croutons - but she was rather disappointed, especially compared to my large plate.

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I ordered Le Fermier ($18) which was significantly bigger than my poor companion's dish. It consisted of 2 scrambled eggs, William Swiss sausage, duck rillette, maple syrup smoked meat, potatoes and fresh fruit. As I didn't know what William Swiss sausage was, MC described it as a sausage with cheese. However, there was no cheese in my sausage! Funnily (or not), this flikr photo from nearly two years ago did have cheese. This meat-heavy dish was definitely enough to fill me up, and share some with MC! I enjoyed spreading the rillette on the bread, and really liked the sweetness that the maple syrup added to the smoked meat.

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I thought brunch was decent at Grange vin+bouffe, but rather pricey for what it offered. I'm told that these are in the normal range for the more popular brunch spots. I guess I'll have to get used to big city prices! I was willing to pay a premium for the unique offering of small plates (I even found the old menu here). Unfortunately, these were no longer available, and without small plates, brunch at Grange vin+bouffe no longer seemed unique.

Grange vin+bouffe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cartel Street Food Bar (Montréal, QC)

1433 Crescent Street
Montréal, Québec

With the availability of deals on a weekly basis from Groupon, and in this case LivingSocial, it really gives a chance to try out different restaurants. So on Elle's $20 for $40's coupon, we headed with our family friend A to Cartel for some "street food" style eats. However, I'm not sure that I would qualify the menu items as street food, but rather as small plates, tapas style food.

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Since the dishes come in small portions, we hemmed and hawed to come up with the 4 to 7 plates our nice waitress (in very short and tight shorts - I guess this is Crescent Street) suggested for 3 people. After making up our minds and about to order, the waitress told us of the specials, and we had to regroup to reconsider our choices.

Keeping the dishes in the order they appeared, the first plate that came out were the Kuala Lumpur chicken satay (3 for $4) from the "Asian Hawker" section of the menu. The star of this dish was really the peanut butter sauce, that had a slight kick and coconut note to it. They were demolished quickly by 3 hungry girls.

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Next up came the Maine oysters (3 for $9) that Elle wanted. Each oyster was topped with a mignonette and quite briny. I have to admit that I haven't had oysters since I was young, when I tried one attempting to be one of the grown-ups. I think it's definitely an acquired taste, but I did really enjoy the natural savouriness of the oyster. (And if you're an oyster lover, they have a special on Tuesdays for $1 oyster with $5 sparkling wine.)

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The first special of the day we ordered were the causa de langusta (2 for $7). Causa is a Peruvian dish made up of mashed potato, topped with avocado slices and in this case a bit of lobster and crispy potato sticks. We mainly ordered this dish out of curiosity. It was good, but not as exotic as expected.

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Our next item of Tuna and Seaweed ($12) came from the "Salad" section. Elle had ordered it previously and raved about it. The tuna was quite good but it seemed to have been sliced a bit sloppily, resulting in unevenly thick pieces of fish. I really enjoyed the seaweed salad, which had strong sesame flavours and really want to try to replicate this salad.

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We were tempted by other diners' basket of fries and decided to order our own Cartel fries ($4). The hot and crispy thick cut fries were accompanied by an addictive spicy mayo. We were quite content by our addition.

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The menu includes individual portions of tacos in the "Mexican Street" section and burgers in the "American Shack" section. Our friend A really wanted a burger and we agreed on the Swiss bacon  burger ($7). Though the burger was small, we managed to split among the 3 of us. The burger was quite good with a moist patty that was generously covered with bacon and cheese. However, at $7 for the size of the burger, I think this was rather expensive. It seemed the tacos at $3-$4 were much better value.

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Finally, the special that changed our original game plan, was a Teriyaki duck and pork dish ($25). The waitress and manager raved about this dish (we also overheard other tables being sold on this dish). The dish was quite impressive and the meat did taste very good. The fat was completely rendered resulting in an extremely crispy duck skin. We cleaned out this plate. Although the dish was larger than the other ones, I think $25 for 4 pieces of duck and 3 pieces of pork was on the pricey side.

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I love the concept of small plates. I enjoyed the variety of food and being able to share it with my dinner mates. The food was good but I thought overall, dinner was on the pricey side, especially without a coupon, as we didn't feel quite satiated for the close to $90 we spent (before coupon, taxes and tip).

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Moving (virtually and in real life)

I realized I haven't blogged in a while but I have a good reason! I moved back to Montréal about a month ago, after having been away for 10 years!

I'm really excited at the prospect of re-discovering this city and being closer to my family.

I have also taken the time to reconsider how I wanted to continue blogging. I have decided I did not want to be limited to writing just about food, and I really wanted expand to other areas of life. So I've created a new blog, Live et Learn, that I will be writing with my sister.

No worries, there will definitely be more food posts (actually, the first post is a restaurant outing!). I think I may continue to post food-related posts on this blog too, or post favourite recipes onto the new blog but I haven't quite decided.

Hope you will follow me on new adventures!