Monthly Archives: October 2009

Simple and Elegant Appetizers

I was put in charge of the appetizers for a little potluck dinner the other night and since I didn’t have much time to prepare my goal was something easy and delicious. I decided on baked asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and tomatoes with garlic, olive oil and bocconcini cheese.

The asparagus dish is something I had seen Jamie Oliver do on the Food Network (I can’t remember which series since he’s got 3-4 going). I had tried it once before with pancetta and even though it was good with the prosciutto, it is better with pancetta. It crisps up much faster and the salt really penetrates into the asparagus giving it a nice kick.

Asparagus wrapped in proscuitto

Asparagus wrapped in proscuitto

It is really easy to prepare,

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  • Once the asparagus has been washed and dried, roll the pancetta (or prosciutto) around the asparagus and lay them in a baking pan
  • Drizzle some olive oil over the asparagus
  • Bake for 10 minutes (or until the edges of the meat turns crispy)
Asparagus wrapped in proscuitto

Asparagus wrapped in proscuitto

As for the tomatoes, it was something I thought would be simple and a nice cold app to go with the asparagus.

  • Slice 4-6 ripe tomatoes lengthwise
  • 1 clove of garlic (finely sliced)
  • pepper
  • oregano
  • salt
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Combine them all and then drizzle it over the tomatoes
  • Add some bocconcini cheese
Tomatoes with olive oil and bocconcini cheese

Tomatoes with olive oil and bocconcini cheese

Tomatoes with olive oil and bocconcini cheese

Tomatoes with olive oil and bocconcini cheese

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Filed under Asparagus, bocconcini cheese, Jamie Oliver, Pancetta, Potluck dinner, prosciutto, tomatoes

The Legend of Boustan

My first memory of Boustan is back in the fall of 2005. At the time, I was working for the Montreal Canadiens and after a pre-season game, me and some friends/colleagues walked in wearing our suits and our CH pins on the lapel of our jacket. As we began ordering, the woman (Mrs. Boustan) behind the counter took our picture! Apparently, we looked like rookies who were in the process of trying out for the team. To make a long story short, we ordered, sat down and proceeded to eat magic on a plate. (More on the photo story at the bottom)

Creation Trio

Creation Trio

Simply put, Boustan is phenomenal. It is a Lebanese restaurant at 2020 Crescent Street, corner of de Maisonneuve. Pass by at 3am on a Saturday in the middle of January and check out the line out of the restaurant and know that people are willing to stand in the freezing cold and lose their bar buzz for a reason. The reason for this devotion is due to great food and an even better atmosphere.

When I first started eating at Boustan, I rotated between the chicken pita and veggie pita, but then I was introduced to the Creation a couple of years ago and I haven’t looked back since. It isn’t on the menu, but do me a favor and order the Creation Trio. The Creation is a grilled pita stuffed with chicken, eggplant, potatoes, coleslaw and make sure to ask for the hot sauce that is made daily and sits proudly in a legendary pot. The 2nd part of the trio are the garlic potatoes, which are perfectly roasted and topped with a creamy garlic sauce. These potatoes, well, words can’t even describe them and i’d be doing a disservice to them by attempting. Simply put, they are seasoned with love and the perfect resting place for the garlic sauce, not too “garlicky”, just right. The last part of the trio is a soft drink of your choice and it’s all yours for under $10!

More Creation and more garlic potatoes!

More Creation and more garlic potatoes!

Mr. Boustan is what makes Boustan what it is. Be ready to be treated to some great food and some wise words from the man who is beloved all through Montreal.

How good is it really? As I’m writing this at 12:30am, I feel the urge to drive 5000 km’s from Vancouver to get my late night Boustan fix!  

Boustan

514-843-3576 (and they deliver)

2020 Crescent Street

Montreal, QC

The reason for the photo-taking by Mrs. Boustan is simple. There are some classic photos of Tom Selleck and other celebrities (some Canadiens players who are no longer on the team or who have failed to impress me this season so they will not be named) posted on the counter who have eaten at Boustan. I had always hoped to see mine up there, but it never came to be.

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Filed under Boustan, Creation, Garlic Potatoes, Montreal, Vancouver

Jerry Seinfeld & the Black and White Cookie

I am a big fan of Seinfeld, so when I passed a Kosher bakery in Montreal, I thought i’d see if the famous Black and White cookie was there and sure enough it was!

For those that are unfamiliar with this particular episode, the black and white cookie is a classic scene that takes place in a bakery where Jerry explains to Elaine that it’s a cookie that incorporates “2 races of flavor living side by side” and the key to eating the cookie is making sure you get some white and some black with each bite…impossible of course, but a good theory!

Black and White Cookie

Black and White Cookie

The cookie itself is soft, like shortbread and is covered with 1/2 chocolate fondant and 1/2 vanilla fondant. For a good laugh, check out the link and for a good snack, check out your nearest bakery and as Jerry says, “Look to the cookie!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlLPAIrmqvE 

Boulangerie Cheskie – 359 Bernard Street West, corner of Parc Avenue

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Filed under Black and white cookie, Jerry Seinfeld, Montreal

General Tao Chicken – Enough Said!

Unassuming, inexpensive and unbelievable is the best way to describe the restaurant Nouille Express and their General Tao chicken. How good is it? Well, let’s put it this way, I was in Montreal and this was THE restaurant I had to get to without fail!

General Tao Chicken

General Tao Chicken

For those who haven’t had it before, General Tao chicken is a deep fried chicken dish that is tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce. I stumbled upon Nouille Expres back in 2001 after moving to Montreal to begin my Master’s degree. It is conveniently located right beside Concordia University and it was all too tempting to “forget” my lunch at home and have some General Tao chicken instead.

Aside from the General Tao chicken ($8.50), there are probably close to 100 other options and while I haven’t had them all (yet), I have had quite a few and have yet to be disappointed, but i’m at my happiest with the General Tao chicken. The portions are huge and can easily be split between two people or leftovers brought home for a great dinner. It is typically served with rice, but they have these crispy noodles (for an additional $2.00) that soak up all the sauce and well let’s just say, i’m getting hungry as i’m writing this!

Nouille Express

Nouille Express

For those needing a little bit of variety, the General Tao sauce can also be used on tofu or shrimp and the comments from my vegetarian friends have all been equally positive. Unfortunately, I haven’t come across General Tao since being in Vancouver and i’m not sure if it’s maybe known under a different name or if it’s simply an Eastern Canada phenomenon. Needless to say, the search continues and in the meantime, I’m going to be searching for a recipe that comes close to that at Nouille Express and will share it as soon as I find it.

In the meantine, go have some General Tao and think of me…

Nouille Express

514-939-0115

1510, boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest

General Tao Chicken - Enough for lunch, dinner and bed-time snack

General Tao Chicken - Enough for lunch, dinner and bed-time snack

Oh and if you need any more convincing about how great it is, I used to be greeted with a handshake by the manager when I walked in. I’m pretty sure that was a sign that he started to recognize me!

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Filed under Friends, General Tao, General Tao Chicken, Montreal, Nouille Express

Foodie Research

I’ve been in Vancouver for about 6 months now and it was time to head back to the eastern time zone and visit family and friends.  I’ve had a great time on vacation but there is no doubt that I need to lace up my running shoes as soon as I get back! Not that i’m complaining, but the backdrop of all my visits have been in a home or a restaurant with something delicious and decadent not far away.

This trip has made me realize more than ever before how central food and drinks are to our everyday life. Just think to how often you hear or suggest yourself, “let’s chat over coffee” or “let’s catch up during lunch”.  

Anyways, all this to say, I feel out of sorts for not having blogged anything over the last couple of days, but I’ve been too busy visiting and having a fork/spoon/knife in my hand(s)! However, I have been taking pictures, so in this upcoming week, prepare yourself for a load of delicious sounding restaurant reviews. I have been spoiled with the quality of food and restaurants in London (Ontario) and Montreal, ranging from Phad Thai, Portugese chicken and Boustan and I have the pictures to back it up.

Oh and of course, it goes without saying that the quality of food has been enhanced with the even greater quality of  friends and family I have had the opportunity and pleasure of catching up with. It’s been amazing seeing all of you and thank you all for your patience as I take my pictures. I just realized, to date, not a single person has even begun eating until I’ve finished taking my pictures…that is true friendship.

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Filed under Boustan, Family, Foodie, Friends, London, Montreal, Ontario, Phad Thai, Portugese chicken

What do you get when you deep fry a peanut? A Chipnut!

Today’s show and & tell are Chipnuts. I see a hand waving from the back of the class, “what is a chipnut, you ask? Very good question and i’ll do my best to explain it, although I’m not totally sure myself. From what I can gather, it is a jumbo cocktail peanut that has been rolled in some type of batter (crushed chips maybe) and then deep-fried! So essentially it is a peanut with an additional crunchy exterior and let me tell you, it is crunchy, tasty, addictive and comes in 16 flavors. The bag is a good size measuring 300 g and they sell for $2.99 each. For what you get, it’s a good deal!

Chip Nuts

300 g bag of Chipnuts for $2.99

If the massive sign out front of the store is any indication, the origin of Chipnuts can be traced back to Picard’s Peanuts. Claiming to be the home of the Canadian peanut, Picard’s has 8 locations within southwestern Ontario (and distributes throughout Canada). Our adventure took us to Talbotville, Ontario (maybe with a population of 2,000) which is about 15 minutes outside of London. There isn’t much going on in Talbotville, but Picard’s had a steady stream of customers on a Saturday afternoon, which told me that people that know about it will drive a decent distance to get their fill of nuts!

Welcome to Picard's Peanuts

Welcome to Picard's Peanuts

Since this whole chipnut thing is unique and Picard’s is the only one to produce it, they have graciously set out sample containers for each of their chipnut flavors. I suppose that at some point someone abused the “sample” concept and were helping themselves to heaps of chipnuts. So to remedy the problem, they have conveniently reminded us what a sample consists of. I started with the “Original”, but then I moved down the line trying BBQ, Nacho Cheese, White Cheddar, Sour Cream & Onion, Dill Pickle and on and on…I ended up buying a bag of Salt & Vinegar and as long as I have a bottle of water with me, i’ll be fine!

"Sample" up to 16 different flavors of chipnuts

"Sample" up to 16 different flavors of chipnuts

If the world of chipnuts excite you, check out their site – http://www.picardspeanuts.ca/home

And I didn’t even mention the peanut brittle, beernuts, gummies, chocolate covered nuts that they also make. I also bought some “tons of peanuts” peanut brittle. Let’s just say, the chipnuts are not the only reason you should go!

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Filed under Chipnuts, London, Ontario, Peanut Brittle, Peanuts, Picard's Peanuts, Talbotville

Homemade BBQ Sauce 101

I have good news, my premonition was on the money and the simple act of opening the fridge unveiled a cornocopia of deliciousness! Not only were all the usual suspects there, but there were also some pieces that were going to comprise tomorrow night’s dinner, namely beef ribs. My father cooks often and one of his specialties are big beef ribs with his homemade BBQ sauce. The sauce is always a nice blend of sweet and spicy, but not the kind of hot that is uncomfortable, just enough that it’s saying hello and making sure you know it’s there.

Simply put, I used to wake up with a smile on my face with the scent of sweet onions knowing there was a serious meal being prepared for later in the day. That morning was no exception as the ribs had already been parboiled and the BBQ sauce was in the process of being reduced. I realized I had never asked about the sauce, I had just taken it for granted, so imagine my surprise when I asked for the recipe and I was told it’s whatever happens to be in the kitchen! Of course, there is a starting base to the sauce, but from there it’s all improvisation, which is really what makes it fun to cook!

Beef ribs done to perfection

Beef ribs done to perfection

It doesn’t have a name, but it does now…introducing Robert’s Whimsical and Manly BBQ Sauce

The Base

  • 1/2 of a sweet onion – finely diced
  • 4 gloves of garlic – minced

Cook down the onions and garlic, let the onions begin to caramelize, but not fully, you still want them to have a little crunch to them.

The Rest (there is no actual measurements here, this is where you play with measurements, blends, etc)

  • Ketchup (as it’s always in the fridge or at least should be)
  • Typically at least 2 types of BBQ sauce (as it’s always in the fridge or at least should be)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chinese chili sauce
  • Honey
  • Or whatever else you happen to come across

Mix them all together with the onions and garlic and let it reduce a bit on low until it seems like it has a good thick consistency. Let it chill out in the fridge to get even thicker so it can really stick to the ribs when you apply it.

Slow and low is always the mantra when doing ribs, usually around 250 degrees and they usually get coated 5-6 times with the sauce.

And for the record, they came out delicious as usual! Not only does it taste better with friends, it also definitely tastes better with family.

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Filed under BBQ Sauce, Beef Ribs, Friends, Garlic, Honey, ketchup, Sweet Onion