A taste of CDN
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 6 juillet 2011
I’ve strolled down New York’s Park Avenue munching Sabrett hot dogs. I’ve sipped margaritas while drifting along Bourbon Street in New Orleans. And I’ve slurped chowder perched on the edge of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
But I haven’t done any of those things in Montréal… because Montréal doesn’t have street food. Sadly, our street food vendors are long gone.
A wonderful definition is given in the series, Caribbean Street Food, published by Macmillan: “…street food comprises all edible matter from: stalls, tents or other temporary structures; carts, trolleys, vans or station wagons or other wheeled things; and baskets, buckets, bags, trays or other articles of conveyance used by an individual… Basically, once there’s no sit-down option (pavements excepted), then it’s street food.”
So, we decided to revive at least the spirit of street food by wandering and eating our way along Victoria in the heart of the Côte-des-Neiges district. While there are no true street food vendors there, we treated the restaurants we stopped at as though they were. Only one rule: The “edible matter” had to be easily hand-held while walking, or sitting, upon the sidewalk (street!).
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 9 juin 2011
NDG has been welcoming an increasing number of interesting, delicious and necessary restaurants and I sincerely hope this month’s restaurant is still in business by the time this piece is published.
Necessary. That’s an unusual way to talk about a restaurant. But NDG has gone from being a homogeneous neighbourhood to an international one, and one of the indicators of a neighbourhood’s coming of age is in its variety of restaurants, because food is the great equalizer and when we sit down to table with people of all cultures and when we share their food and their company we learn that they are just everyday folks. Just like us. We need great, multiple-ethnic little neighbourhood restaurants in NDG and so this is an unabashed plea to support East Africa Restaurant and all the other ones like it.
Restaurant East Africa. It’s run by a wonderful couple from the region and features one of the most fascinating and, yet, basic kinds of cuisine you’ll find anywhere. Your selections are served in a huge platter on a blanket of INJERA, the East African flat bread. It’s very thin and slightly spongy and you tear off pieces and use them to grasp the food and feed yourself. It’s actually very civilised and social. Have you ever noticed how young children love to handle their food? It’s how they learn about the food part of their emerging world. It’s how they get involved with their senses and their surroundings. Well, with INJERA it’s pretty much the same. How better to appreciate the sensuality of food than by grasping it with a hunk of bread in your hands and, then, licking off your fingers so as not to miss a speck of flavour.
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 12 mai 2011
“Those are so cool!” “That is so cool!” These exclamations were made by really cool young people. About me! And all in just the past few months. The ‘those’ were a distinctive pair of aviator-style sunglasses that I had worn years ago when doing a lot of sailboat racing. I had lost the originals and just recently discovered an optometrist who carried them. To me they were just ordinary, very practical sunglasses for racing. Who knew they were the very latest in cool, made by a very cool sunglasses company?
The ‘that’ came en route to taking a friend to lunch. When we were still a block away (I hadn’t yet mentioned the restaurant’s name) she wondered aloud, “Is this the place I’ve been going to for years? The place I’ve introduced many people to? The place I’ve been wanting to take you to? And you found this place on your own? That is so cool!” See? The old guy is cool. Who knew?
Bistro Burger Plus
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 14 avril 2011
“Once upon a time I was the Montreal Expos’ p.r. assistant and scoreboard operator. One of my tasks was to write feature articles for the club’s Baseball magazine.
Several of those articles were written in collaboration with a member of the scouting department, a former professional ballplayer whose minor league career was cut short by a knee injury. One article we did together talked about life in the minor leagues and, among the many stories he told me, one in particular stood out. When the team arrived (by bus!) in a town where they had never played before the most important question the players had about the town was: “Where can we get the best and cheapest burgers?” It was preferable that the burger joint be located on a straight line between the team hotel and the ballpark.
The effect this story had was to set me off on a “worldwide” search for great, cheap burgers. Well, look no further than Bistro Burger Plus at 6966 St. Jacques West in NDG. Who? Where? Bistro Burger Plus (BBP), on the south side of St. Jacques just before heading down the hill to the westbound highway 20.
Authentic Jamaican Cuisine
Article mis en ligne le mercredi 6 avril 2011
“Ackee rice, salt fish are nice…”. Those words from the poignant West Indian love song, Jamaica Farewell, were made famous by the legendary Harry Belafonte on his ‘Belafonte at Carnegie Hall’ album recorded live, and which I first heard – in April 1959. Not knowing what ackee and salt fish were, I needed to find out. Years later, while reading Ian Fleming’s Dr. No, there they were again! The character, Quarrel, advises James Bond that he’s already had breakfast: ‘Salt fish ‘an ackee.’
I finally made it to Jamaica in 1982 where I had one of the three greatest meals I’ve ever had in my life – ackee, salt fish, rice and peas and a couple of ice-cold Red Stripe beers. It was served hot from a stove five feet away from our table in a tiny ‘rustic’ restaurant at the back of a long, dark bar on the main street in Ocho Rios. Too bad it’s not there anymore.
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 17 février 2011
I had to start somewhere. So I started with an expert. Indian cuisine had always been a mystery to me. Which brought us, including our expert, to the Masala Palace. Atmosphere and décor are important, right? To me, the best-ever restaurant in Montreal was Au Pierrot Gourmet. Its atmosphere was a German Shepherd that snoozed in the kitchen and its décor was a couple of French travel posters. But the food: Fabulous!!! So, I never pay much attention to A & D.
And now to Masala Palace. The décor is simple, attractive, clean and the owners are friendly. Next!
I told my expert I wanted to sample small quantities of as many dishes as possible. Like my current passion, mezze. My dinner companions thought I’d never leave the appetizers menu. We tried three: Onion Bhaji; kind of like a fritter deep fried with lentils and chick pea powder, served with mint and pineapple sauces. You’re tempted just to eat the sauces with a spoon. Yum. Next up was a Sheek (yes, it’s spelled correctly) Kebab. Ground beef mixed with herbs and spices, skewered and cooked over flaming charcoal. Quite mild but kind of chewy although it came with a really nice cucumber sauce.