A quick jaunt on the Eurostar, 2 hours 15 minutes later we were alighting at Gare du Nord. Our hotel, just a few stops away, and near my favourite spot Le Marais, saw us briefly, we had lots of Paris to see and to do.
We were in Paris to do some Christmas shopping.
An old friend and I took the trip. Both food obsessed and fond of a glass of wine or a cocktail, we had marked out our maps with places we wanted to visit. We hadn’t much time but we were ambitious. Paris is home to fantastic cookware shops, fromageries, wine shops, patisseries and so many great chocolate shops. So many things that would put the sparkle in any day and especially Christmas.
To start, we hit Le Marais. Le Marché des Enfants Rouges to be precise. A 10 minute walk and we were at the gorgeous bustling market. The market itself is rammed with cosy and delicious places to eat. Lots to buy too. Greengrocers are selling clementines (check: in the bag for confiting), cheesemongers were selling fantastic cheese (some gruyere, comte, brebis and nutty orange vieux gouda for me), lots selling wine wine (Beaujolais, St Jospeh and Bordeaux would see us through). Outside the market there are shops dedicated to olive oil, salmon, chocolate and patisserie.
This market seems to have everything. Almost everything. But it doesn’t have that many copper moulds.
So, we’re off again to E Dehillerin, a wonderful Parisian cookware shop. Intense and at times, intimidating, you muscle your way through the crowd, find what you want (it is glorious – they have everything) and queue to pay for it.
Wait, no! You queue to give it to a guy who gives you an invoice. Then you put your name and address on it (!) and queue to pay for it. They type it up, if your name is awkward like mine they question you, you shout it out because you are starting to get a little stressed by now. They then take your money and then you go back to the first guy, with your printed invoice, and collect your canelé moulds. Or whatever gorgeousness was worth that. And, it is.
The bags are getting heavy now so back to the hotel. A quick pause for some wine. We have been working hard after all. Beaujolais Nouveau is everywhere so we indulge. Then to the Christmas Market at the Champs Elysées.
The streets are lined with saucisson and cheese which you can buy to take home, roasted chestnuts, vin chaud (mulled wine: both red and white), tartiflette, giant pans of it, lots of gifts, some good some bad, but the atmosphere is great and we have fun.
The next day, we need downtime. We have shopped out hearts out and we want to indulge. So we hit the Mandarin Oriental, pausing to ogle beautiful dresses in glamorous windows as we do.
We dine in Camelia, a restaurant from Thierry Marx who spent several years in Japan. This is French food but with a strong influence from Japan. Sea bream with clear broth and kombu seaweed (€36) was light and rich and one of the best things that I have eaten in a while. The desserts are terrific, there is even a cake shop as you walk in. We nabbed some canelés as we left for the train home. One of the chefs is from Bordeaux, and I can’t leave those behind.
As we leave, I discover the bar manager at the Mandarin Oriental is also Irish, so we pop in to say hi. And have a drink, and maybe another one. My friend has wanted cocktails so she is very happy, and once I taste them, I am too. I love cocktails but too many are too sweet. These are high end, and expensive, but what a treat they are.
We float out, but it is time to consider home. Back to the Eurostar we go. We are sad to leave but our journey home contains wine and canéles and cheese. So we are happy. And we have lots of goodies for Christmas too.
Merry Christmas! Silly season has started.
(most of the cheese didn’t survive the week but – HEY – it was too delicious to keep it)
E Dehillerin, 18-20 Rue Coquillière, 75001 Paris, France
Closed on Sunday
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, 39 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris, France
Christmas Market on the Champs-Elysées, from Friday, November 16 2012 to Sunday, January 6 2013
Camelia at the Mandarin Oriental, 251 Rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris, France
I travelled as a guest of Superbreak who organise great value Christmas shopping packages to Paris including return Eurostar travel and one night at 4* Crowne Plaza Republique with full breakfast and a river cruise from £159pp. Book on www.superbreak.com or call 0871 700 4384.
I spent my last couple of hours in Grenada putting together this post. I hit publish, boarded the plane, and got back today. Only when I hit publish, my post disappeared into some unknown ether. Gone from drafts to nowhere I can find, so I have just put it together again, with a very sleepy head.
Recipes, Grenada restaurants and more soon. Enjoy my last postcard for now :)
I can’t quite believe that my week on this beautiful Caribbean island is coming to an end, but it is. It has been quite the non-stop adventure. I am busier here than I am in London, simply because there is so much that I want to see, and taste.
Lets start with an overview, and I will be back with more details and videos soon. More photos too, as this is really just the very tip of what I have taken.
Greetings from Grenada folks! Gre-nay-dah! Not Greh-nah-dah! In the Caribbean and not in Spain. I have been explaining that a lot. When my Irish accent meets Grenada, everyone thinks I am in Spain.
I am on the Spice Island. There is nutmeg everywhere, cinnamon too. Pimento, and in season cloves. Bay everywhere. Larger and more luscious waxy leaves than what we know. Bergamot scents the air occasionally. Mangos, papaya, so many bananas. Rich flavours, colours and smells permeate the air, and the Atlantic washes the coast every few seconds. My Atlantic from Ireland but the other side of it. The warmer bit.
I have done so much, I am very tired as I type. Hundreds – actually thousands of photographs in – video too. I take video on all my trips but never get the time to edit it. Rather I am never that inclined to. I am forcing myself to do that now. My little craptop, which is missing keys and has others that refuse to work gets me by, but is very whiny when I edit video.
I did though. And here it is. My first one from Grenada is not about food, except that it features bananas. More importantly it features monkeys. Mona monkeys from Grenada. How could I not?!
Now just to warn any newbies – I shoot and edit this myself, so it is well – not BBC standard. But I hope you like it anyway. I had fun.
Enjoy and back soon with lots more spice, seafood and chocolate talk.
I have a list. Really, I do and I try to stick to it. But I just hate sticking to lists. I love grabbing my biro and adding to it. It is stupidly long.
Everything is in the wrong order, but who cares, right? I don’t. Perhaps, I should. But caring about lists is just not my bag, baby. I love clambering up and down my list, reviewing, striking things off because I am bored of just the idea of it. I find it difficult sometimes to get things done. I do always get there in the end though.
I definitely indulge my whims far too much.
I have been cooking all day and have so many recipes to share with you. My favourite would have to be big green olives from Spain stuffed with homemade ricotta, sobrasada (spreadable spicy sausage from Mallorca) and sage, breadcrumbed and then deep fried to form little olive bullets.
The filling is like spicy creamy molten lava. It will shock, burn and make you smile. And you will go for another one. With sobrasada running down your chin, you will dip your hand back in and risk another shot.
Oh and I made candied bacon apples too. Yes, I did, I really did. They are awesome.
Lots more too but, you know, I just fancy sharing some of my photos from Seville with you right now. My list is on the verge of a tantrum. I will deal with it tomorrow.
Patience, readers, that olive recipe will be with you very soon. For now, enjoy a little immersion in Sevilla.
There are so many stories that I could tell you about Dingle. I could tell about the first dinner that I cooked for over 22 people at the tender age of 22. 22 mainly random people, randomly decided, in a youth hostel in Dingle. My friend Emma and I made Mexican food using what we could get. We didn’t do too bad a job. More importantly, we had a great time. It was a significant moment and one that was instrumental in getting me here.
I could tell you about the time that same summer when we went to beautiful Slea Head nearby, and a local fisherman whose boat had just come back in, offered me a huge crab and a pike. I quickly readied myself and we carried the enormous fish & crab in a blue plastic bag and tried unsuccessfully to hitch a lift the 10 miles or so back.
One family from Northern Ireland stopped their car to enquire as to what was in the bag, and wished us luck. When they passed us on their way back later, they rolled down the window and roared “WHERE IS THE FASH?!” and delivered us back to our abode.
I could also tell you about the time, when diagnosed with anaemia and told to drink Guinness by my local GP, I ordered a Guinness shandy made with Guinness and Irish red lemonade in a Dingle pub and they almost threw me out. “It is bad enough that you ordered that in English and not Irish, I should throw you out for ordering it at all”. But I pleaded and they made me one. I remember thinking it was alright.
So many stories, let me start with something more recent, Dingle Food Festival last weekend.
I have an enormous affection for Dingle, a gorgeous seaside town on the west coast of Ireland, famously with over 52 pubs, one for each week of the year. So much so, when asked to write piece for National Geographic’s Food Journey’s of a Lifetime, I wrote a piece on Dingle pubs some years ago.
To their food festival then, now in its sixth year. A food trail meanders the narrow streets of Dingle and harbour offering tastes starting at €2 a pop. Free cooking demos all day Saturday and Sunday (Scandilicious and I did one) and very reasonable workshops too (I did a bacon workshop to initiate the west coast masses to the joy of bacon fudge and jam).
Lots of live traditional Irish music in pubs throughout the day that you can enjoy between tastes, and lively locals, give Dingle Food Festival the edge.
We stayed in a very sociable and spacious rented house over looking the town, harbour and hills. Two dining areas and a big island kitchen meant that we could cook dinner as well as eat out – my ideal balance, I love having people around. Crab and bacon carbonara was one feature at home, using local crab and McCarthy’s smoked streaky bacon, sliced very finely to provide a bass supporting note. I will publish the recipe soon, once I have tested it thoroughly with less wine in my system ;)
Our best meal was a great seafood dinner at Global Village, a name that somewhat disguises the great cooking inside. I was told it doesn’t matter, they are always busy. So, fair enough.
Pubs, we visited many, and lots of my old favourites too. A cosy afternoon hour in the snug in Curran’s, a swift pint at the bar at Foxy John’s, some traditional Irish music at tea time in The Courthouse and we finished the night with some more music at Flaherty’s. Who had been horrified at my Guinness shandy request many years later.
I will be back. I heart Dingle.
Yesterday, I wrote a post extolling the virtues of a little sleep. This morning, or rather this afternoon, following far too little sleep and an overnight flight from Victoria via Vancouver, I am a shell. Restless legs are my permanent accomplice. I don’t even have the mind to cook. I need to sleep. But not yet, I want to write first.
The past 9 days in British Columbia flew by and I am left with such a positive impression. What I saw was food with such integrity, and people preparing it and serving it who really cared. They care about the provenance of their ingredients, not just because it is trendy, but because it is good. They care about sustainability both in fishing and agriculture / viticulture. The cooking and execution, in the main was great too.
These pictures are from Tuesday, when I visited terrific Whole Beast Meats who use the whole pig carcass and make lots of charcuterie, bacons etc. I then travelled to Salt Spring Island in the Gulf Islands between the US & Canada, and visited Salt Spring Vineyards, Salt Spring Island Cheese, had a terrific lunch at Bruce’s Kitchen . I finished my day with a bacon martini and some very good dim sum at the Hotel Grand Pacific, finishing with a wonderful dinner at Aura, in the Inn at Laurel Point, where conveniently I was staying. My expectations for hotel restaurants are never very high, but the cooking here was fantastic. I focussed on the seafood, including some of the best oysters that I have ever had.
This post is my last BC photo post. I have more photos from the last day but they are few, and the best will be included in the posts which will follow. I will publish a travel guide too, as some of you have requested one. It makes sense also, doesn’t it?
Good morning folks! Doesn’t some sleep make the biggest difference?
I felt at the end of my tether last night. I woke up thinking “oh my god, won’t that guy just stop talking about that toaster?!”. In my dream someone was talking incessantly about one. Only I quickly realised that the guy was on TV and had thus invaded my sleepy head. I fell asleep with the TV on.
I am off this morning to Salt Spring Island with Island Time Tours (who I also travelled with yesterday). A wonderful day lies ahead.
For now, and for you, the second part of my photo post. I decided to make it three as I had too many to squeeze in here. So, come back tomorrow for the finale.
I have so many things that I wanted to write about, and I had planned to today. After a day of visiting vineyards and then an evening editing photos I am all out of energy. Rather than write something dull and uninteresting and lacking any passion, I thought I would share some of my photos from the trip with you instead. There are some I really love, and not all would actually fit in with any post I might write. I have taken hundreds.
This is the first of two posts. Enjoy, and I will be back soon with the next photo post and then some lovely detail. When I am a little more awake and have the energy to enjoy it. Because one thing is for sure, if I don’t enjoy writing it, you won’t enjoy reading it.
Greetings from Vancouver folks! I am here to explore the food, the wine, and all of the other bits in between. I started with the street food.
Street food in Vancouver? If you visited before 2010 you might think I am referring to a different city, but following the success of the food trucks at the Olympics a limited number of licences were granted. At first by lottery, which unsurprisingly didn’t prove completely successful, the second and third rounds of licences were granted via a jury including some of Vancouver’s best chefs. Pitches were granted based on unique ideas, sourcing and sustainability.
So far, so good. How did they taste?
I went on an Eat Your Cart Out tour with Tour Guys. Led by Jess, a Vancouver local passionate about food (she is a member of the Vancouver Yelp Elite). We visited 5 of Vancouver’s best trucks and carts.
Starting with a refreshing Israeli lemonade from Mangal Kiss, we had our first bite at Feastro. Feastro had a whole show on the Food Network dedicated to it and as a result is very well known and popular. Attached to the front is a smoker with a skull on it. Feastro smoke their own food and they smoke it here.
We had a daily special: a beef taco with saskatoon berry, jalapeno jelly, sour cream salsa and corn tortilla crunchies. Gorgeous beef and lovely contrasts in texture and in flavour. A brilliant start.
Truck 3 was Mom’s Grilled Cheese. “Mom” used to do film catering, but when she had her daughter she started her food truck so that she could work more sensible hours. A grilled cheese is of course the humble toastie, and wonderful it was too. We had a havarti, cheddar and tomato toastie with local crisps. Swoon.
There is still room but just about, and we are off to The Kaboom Box. These guys specialize in salmon, proper salmon and not “pharm” salmon, as they call it. I opt for a hot smoked salmon in a sandwich with a gentle crunchy slaw. Delicious. Again, smoked in truck and sourced ethically.
Have I any more room? I really don’t think so. We make our way to Tacofino, a food truck specialising in Mexican food that started in surfer town Tofino on Vancouver Island. There is a little bit of a walk and with every step I feel full.
I arrive at the Tacofino truck, which I have seen earlier that morning and am curious about. We get a ling cod taco with tempura battered ling cod, chipotle mayo, shredded cabbage and salsa fresca on a fire toasted flour tortilla. It is so fresh and vibrant that I can’t resist eating it. Even though, in actual fact, I really can’t. But I do.
Vancouver Street Food, is exciting, fresh, vibrant and very, very good. Loved it, and the next day I had to explore further. More on that soon.
I traveled to Vancouver with the Canadian Tourism Commission
I have just spent a terrific weekend in Copenhagen for Copenhagen Cooking, an annual festival focussing on the best that Copenhagen has to offer. There are so many things to love about Denmark, one is that a food blogger in Copenhagen is a MADBLOGGER. For mad is Danish for food. Wonderful.
Out of the blue, I got a call from Danish national TV channel TV2 on Saturday, asking if I would film with them at the festival. It sounded fun so I said yes. But then I didn’t hear from them again. So, I forged on with plans dining at Silver Spoon Under the Sea on Saturday night, a fun and delicious guerilla dining event in the outskirts of Copenhagen at the fish market.
We had lots of fun and didn’t want the evening to end, so we went to a very-late-bar to end our evening. All I had to do the next day was go visit Torvehallerne food (or mad(!)) market, eat, enjoy & fly back home. So, no problem. Right? Just another side of Copenhagen to explore and enjoy.
But then, Danish channel TV2 called me again unexpectedly at 10am on Sunday and asked if I could still film at the Nordic Food Lab (where we would sample the innovations from René Redzepi’s lab) and Nordic Taste (featuring food from Restaurants all over Denmark and Sweden).
So, I did.
I look fairly sleepy but otherwise it was a fun experience. As was Copenhagen Cooking. Unfortunately I can’t embed the video but click on the picture above to be taken to it on the TV2 site. It is in Danish but my bits (obviously) are in English.
Also, it is now confirmed that it is impossible to look graceful eating on camera. But, what of it? Life is too short to worry about that now, isn’t it?
Lots more on Copenhagen Cooking and the Nordic Food Lab and Nordic Taste soon.
LINK: Feature on Denmark’s TV2 at Copenhagen Cooking last weekend: Niamh Shields: MADBLOGGER
I am in a fug. Just a little one. Nothing serious.
I just peered over the parapet at a giant to do list and I now feel incapacitated. I had to cancel something I really wanted to do (go to The Stone Roses in Manchester with some friends – it is a long story). I want to run out of my house and not come back for a bit. Maybe hide on the common.
But that would be silly.
So, instead I am going to practice in a little evasive activity. I am brilliant at that (and I know that is not a good thing). Head in the sand, radio on, bopping in my chair and fantastically ignoring that thundering to do list which is booming in a corner of my brain.
There are many sections to my to do list. This job of mine, self employed as I am, has many lovely things that I enjoy. Then there are also the grim things underneath, the engine that keeps things going. The invoices, chasing invoices, pitching for work, writing proposals. The administration. It causes me to clutch my head in a Munch style Scream pose and despair. Occasionally.
My head hurts.
So briefly, some denial. And some photos. In my efforts to avoid productive activity I went through the last few months picking some highlights. I actually had to go through everything for some work stuff, so it wasn’t as evasive as I first implied. It wasn’t even evasive at all. I am deep in denial about everything. It is really a list of the things that I will be writing about over the next few weeks, a pictorial to do list, if you like. Now that the photos are edited, there are few excuses. It is a start, eh? (that eh is for you Canadians, as it is Canada Day, ahem :)
I best get back to it. I have a proposal to finish that (sadly) won’t write itself. First a coffee. Maybe an episode of Modern Family (as I finish the post I watched SIX). More evasive activity, I told you I was very, very good at it.
So, that travel ban. It lasted 6 weeks instead of 2 months. 6 whole weeks I stayed put in London.
I decided that I had better do it, when after a series of quite intense long distance trips, I found myself exhausted and slipping behind with my work at the end of February. Something had to give, and sadly, just for a little bit, it had to be the travel. So, I carried on with anything planned and cleared May & June for some downtime and focus.
It could never last and I got itchy feet. I simply didn’t want to stay put for as long as I had planned. I love travelling so much and all of the work stuff started to come together really quickly. I also find 6 weeks a perfect period of time for any project. I throw myself into it, get it done, and then am ready for the next one.
Just as I stuck my head over the parapet, Talisker organised a trip to their distillery in Scotland and invited me on it. I jumped. I love whisky anyway (and Irish whiskey too), a tipple now and then and to purists shock, in a cocktail. I even cook with it. Why not? If you use the best tasting ingredients you get the best tasting end results.
Whisky is a complex drink with often quite savoury flavours. We tasted many, the stand out for me was the Talisker 30 year old which screamed porcini to me, in the best way possible. I always find food in everything I taste.
Talisker is based on the Isle of Skye, which is really very remote and difficult to get to. So. we went by helicopter. We started the first day with a trip to Cardhu, a new whisky for me.
I must be brief for I have little time today, but what struck me was the passion and commitment to their product. I am a big geek at heart and love the detail behind making an aged single malt. The combination of European oak sherry barrels and American oak bourbon barrels. The patient wait. The analysis and combination of different barrels. The bottling. Then the aged whisky at home by the fire.
For now, some photos, I will be back with more on the whisky itself soon.
Lets talk about Smorgasburg. It is pretty ace.
What took so long? It has been, oh 5 weeks since I came back from NYC / Montreal / Quebec. Well, my (dis)organisational skills reached a new high when I:
- left half the contents of my memory card on a friends laptop in NYC
- met him weeks later to get them over lunch, got distracted by lunch, and failed to get the photos
- met him again to get the photos, this time over Bompass & Parr’s Crazy Golf on the roof of Selfridge’s (which is really fun – do go), and this time did actually get the photos, which I am using here
the other half of the photos from that trip are on a memory card which I managed to break. Sweet. So, I am working on that and will be back with more stuff soon.
So: Smorgasburg. In Williamsburgh, that oasis of hipsta cool in Brooklyn, but not in a painful way. NYC hipstas are actually a friendly bunch and they really like food. Not only do they really like it, they are good at making it too. It is becoming quite the destination, Mario Batali was visiting on the morning that I was there.
We got there early, too early, I would recommend aiming to get there for lunch. A car park overlooking Manhattan by the river houses Smorgasburg, 75 – 100 artisanal food stalls that are – in the main – making and serving great things. We don’t really have anything in London like this, and certainly not of this scale. The closest we have is Maltby St, which is great and one of my favourite spots. But we need something like this too.
Run by the same folks that run Brooklyn Flea, in fact some of the stalls overlap, there is a wide variety of interesting and delicious food on offer. All from the area, including the drinks. Brooklyn has two wineries and a brewery, sadly I didn’t have time to visit either but therein is another fantastic reason to go back.
The best kimchi that I have had resides there (apologies for the brutal photograph – I was excited and unfocussed to say the least).
Wonderful Kings County Jerky, made from grass fed beef in three flavours: classic, Sichuan ginger and Korean BBQ. They were all utterly mouth watering. Initially made on their balcony until they were advised that they really shouldn’t be making jerky on their balcony (I love that). Now they have a terrific kitchen and are talking to Selfridge’s about exporting their produce over here. I really hope they do.
Great sweets and popcorn, some of which had bacon in (you know how much I love that).
Bon Chovies. I like a good pun and I love good fresh anchovies so these were a hit. It still makes me smile. Served Jersey style (head on) or head off.
As I waited for my Bon Chovies, I spied a gentleman with a thermomix at the next stall, very busy. I needed to know what he was doing. A thermomix for those not in the know or obsessed is an extremely fancy piece of kit that does wonderful things and is very expensive. It grinds, stirs, freezes, cooks. It does everything. He was making foie gras poutine so I had to have some of that too. It was excellent.
Homemade mozarella, made on site and fashioned into cheesy corn dogs.
Fantastically creative hot dogs from Asia Dog.
Great little sliders from DuMont burger. Really rich, pungent aged meat.
Pretty great, eh? Just go.
Charming Quebec. Shiny metallic roofs in silver tin, aching blood red and duller tones of tarnished green copper and grey. Some of the grey ones blend seamlessly with the Spring grey sky. It all feels a bit dreamy at times.
The capital of Quebec province, it is a small city, much smaller than Montreal with a population of just over 500,000. It really reminds me of Cork, where I studied and lived for years, a city that I have great affection for. It may be petite but there is so much individuality and few chains that it feels a lot bigger (it is rare to see a chain here as in Montreal).
I especially adored all of the second hand book shops, of which there are many. I even found an old MFK Fisher gem in a box under some shelves for $3.99. I resisted lots of gorgeous glasses, cutlery, plates and other loveliness in many antique shops. My case is already full to bursting. It did actually burst in the end.
I had to try poutine, that famous crazy dish that originated in Quebec city, or very near to it in any case. There are lots of claims on it, Chez Ashton seems to have a solid one, and the locals said I must go, so I did. Chips, fresh curds of the day and a sharp savoury gravy make up a basic poutine. I got the small size – yeah, I didn’t think it was small either. I also had to try the Hot Dog Au Lac, a hot dog with mayo, lettuce and chips on top.
What did I think? INTENSE. At this point, I have already tried the foie gras poutine at Au Pied de Couchon in Montreal, which was intense but a lot more gentle, almost soothing. This poutine squeaks. SQUEAKS. It rubs against your teeth in what feels like a slightly inappropriate manner. It is tasty though and I can image in the depths of minus 40 degrees which it sometimes gets here in winter, it is the best thing you could ever eat. I doff my cap to them. I am determined to crack a recipe for this soon (including the curds if you are wondering) as it is a cracking guilty pleasure.
The Hot Dog was just ten shades of weird – hot dog dates chip butty, both parties undecided as to whether they should kiss at the end of the night. Maybe it needs to be 2am post lots of wine to enjoy that. I think I might too.
Dinner at Le Cercle was a wonderful affair. When I arrived I knew I was home. It is exactly my kind of place. I was worried a little when I saw how trendy it was, it is a bar, restaurant, art gallery & gig venue, and in my experience, very stylish places rarely deliver on the food.
I was wrong. The food here was clever, flavourful and quirky. Lots of things I had never had before, a lovely wine list with lots of natural wines and great wine matches. All very well executed too, this chef knows his stuff. I started with rabbit rillettes with carrots (because rabbots love carrots – love that) and had several wonderful courses which I will detail in a seperate post soon. A lovely option on the menu is to have the chef bring what he likes to you and I did that. One course was so enticing, I only realised that I hadn’t photographed it when I was almost finished.
After dinner I couldn’t help pop in to the gig. Nashville Pussy were playing, a surprising blend of metal and country, it worked and was so much fun. Like the poutine of music.
On my last night I dined at SSS, near my hotel. By this time, I am full and sleepy but I am instantly perked up by the tiny popcorn shrimp, so deliciously fresh and sweet, with a spiced aioli. A half portion of ribs seemed manageable for mains until I saw them – HUGE – but very delicious. Spiced and cooked for 18 hours gently. I had to have Quebecois cheese as I haven’t really had any yet with a pear and apple aperitif. They remind me of my journey home the next morning. I happily go back to my hotel to sleep.
You must go to Au Pied du Couchon, ran the chorus. Pied du Couchon meaning pigs trotter, I knew there was a likelyhood that I would agree. Famous for rich food, especially the foie gras poutine, I booked a table for after my demo and book signing at Appetite for Books.
My taxi driver got lost, and I was clueless, so I worried when we ended up in what seemed like mountains nearby. Eventually we reached Appetite for Books, and I was delighted and a little surprised to see a full house. I crept up the side and started getting ready in the kitchen.
My book has just come out here, and this is the first signing / demo I have done in North America. A few blog readers have turned up (which was lovely!), and I get started on my chocolate mousse and honeycomb, which went down a treat. Little lentil shepherds pies from Comfort & Spice were also on offer. It was a fun evening.
As I signed his book, one gentleman asks where I will spend my last night in Montreal. Au Pied du Couchon! I reply. And he says: Oh! It is rich! I had my first proper crise de foie at 3am after a meal there.
I love that term, and love even more that it only exists in the French language. A crise de foie is “a set of digestive and neurological manifestations are not serious, such as vomiting and headache, usually in response to a meal too rich.”
Piffle, I am not worried, I am made of tough stuff. I love my food and have eaten many rich things in my time. It sticks at the back of my mind though as I head out for dinner.
Who can resist the pork rinds? Fantastic they were too, like chicharones and light as air while beautifully crisp. A little foie gras cromesqui looks petite and innocent, one bite and my mouth is flooded with unctous liquid foie gras. Wow, this meal is already very rich. And very lovely.
The special of gnocchi with veal ragu just had to be tried. The gnocchi were light as air and tender with a perfect bite. The ragu rich and deep. I knew I was in trouble. I didn’t finish it.
The foie gras poutine was next. It arrived and it looked a mess. Poutine always does, I mean how can you make it pretty? It smelled amazing. It tasted divine. Woah. I couldn’t stop eating it, but I had to for I was headed for my own first crise de foie.
No dessert, just a digestif of calvados. I feel like a womble as I trundle home (would they like poutine?). What a meal though, flavour in spades. Unashamedly punchy, big and delicious. What all food, for me, should always be.
So now I am in Montreal. I love it. It is quirky, friendly, independent in spirit and has a near permanent circus (Cirque du Soleil comes from here and is in a giant circus tent in town). I have seen so many restaurants, a raft of independent shops near my rented flat and hardly a supermarket. This is my kind of city and I am glad I found it.
Montreal is rumoured to have more restaurants per capita than any city in North America. In parts of the down town area and Old Montreal, there are 74.3 restaurants per square kilometre (figures from 2009). A mix of normal every day bistros, delis, cafés and more upmarket restaurants. That is a lot to explore in just a couple of days.
It is quite a challenge but I compiled a list. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hit everything on it as Joe Beef was full and there were no cancellations (but there is a fine reason to come back). I went to their excellent bistro style restaurant Liverpool House instead. So, here are some highlights before I bound out into the day again.
Smoked Brisket Sandwich at Schwartz Deli
Schwartz deli is the deli of legend, with queues every day even in the deep winter snow. The smoked brisket sandwiches are immense and if that isn’t enough, Leonard Cohen lives around the corner and is rumoured to eat there.
Hunks of smoked brisket sit inside the window. It is salted and spiced, cured for a bit, smoked and then steamed. The result is tender flavoursome brisket. The queue was short when I arrived and when I asked what I should order, I was told the smoked brisket sandwich with pickles and a cherry cola. Done. The waiter asked how I liked it, I said medium. Which means medium fat. You need it for the flavour.
How was it? Deserving of the hype, the deli was bustling and fun and the food really delicious.
St Viateur Bagels
My next stop was St Viateur bagels. People travel for miles for these (and also Fairmount Bagels – locals feel very strongly about which they prefer). Arriving at the shop I note bags of flour and an instant smack of amazing hot fluffy bagel smell. A sirens call for a food lover. Inside there was a pile of dough that I wanted to bounce on, bagels pre boiling, post boiling, dipped in sesame seeds, in the oven and then ready for me to eat.
OH MY. I had just had my huge sandwich at Schwartz’s so could only have a bit. I stored the rest in my bag and every time I opened it, it was like a little delicious tickle of my nose that made me want to eat it. I resisted, I had yet more to eat.
Liverpool House is ever the bistro. First impressions were that it was dark, candle lit, and there was lots of wine. The large daily changing menu was in French and written on a big blackboard. My French is rusty, so I almost missed the sweet breads ($16), which were cooked like buffalo wings, crisp and spiced with crudites and dip. Honestly folks, this is a death row dish if ever there was one. The best thing I have eaten in a while, I love twists on perceived dirty foods and this was wonderful.
I couldn’t resist the fiddleheads, as you know I am obsessed, so I ordered the capeletti with fiddleheads and pork ragu (also $16), it was wonderful although I will say it was very difficult to follow those sweetbreads and I should have eaten this first.
For mains, I had to try the onglet, very reasonable at $25 and with a perfect char, almost bark, bright pink inside and tremendously flavoured. They are sourcing their meat very well. It was served with leaves, mash and gravy, all perfect. With the onglet I had a wonderful natural red wine, Roagna, which was as ballsy and flavourful as the steak itself. Recommended by the waiter and a perfect match.
Desert was irresistible maple beignets with smoked cheddar (forgive my terrible French translation!). You can imagine that by this point I am starting to fill up. But these were like crack. WOAH. Such a well priced meal and packed full of flavour, I was very impressed and I need to go back.
A lot of food, eh? I can hardly move today, although it is nothing that a brisk walk can’t sort out.
Greetings from Montreal, folks! I have just flown in from NYC this morning where I spent the weekend. Regulars will know that my book has just come out there, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to pop up to a city that I have long wanted to visit, to eat, explore and squeeze in a book signing and cooking demo at Appetite for Books (on Wednesday, 2nd May at 6pm – do come if you are in the area).
Before I can talk about any of that, I must tell you about my weekend in NYC. I stayed in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, somewhere that had lots of appeal for many reasons. Across the river from Manhattan, it is a lovely borough with lots of great things to do, brilliant places to eat and some bars thrown in for good measure. It is relaxed, sleepy, and energetic, it sounded like my spiritual home.
We had an apartment rented through Housetrip (who I previously went to Paris with). We were by the river looking over Manhattan, the weekend flea market and brilliant food market (and part of the flea) Smorgasburg. Great coffee shops, lots of bars and restaurants, it seemed like the perfect location for me. On my first sleepy night, a New Yorker friend of mine who lives in Manhattan and is herself like a tourist in Brooklyn joined me to investigate. I had it semi mapped out, but it was so easy, everywhere we wanted to visit was on the same street.
We started with some wine at Barberry, for convenience more than anything, but it turned out to be a little gem. A quick canter down the road post vino brought us to Fette Sau, a great little BBQ spot. I was a little sceptical, everyone I have ever spoken to about BBQ from the deep South slams anything outside it, but this was very good. Especially the pork belly and the beans. Prices are by weight and we got everything on that tray for just under $40. Check out the fantastic beer taps and whiskey selection too. Predictably, I was drinking wine but we had a lovely and very reasonably priced bottle.
Not much room left but Momofuku Milk Bar is down the road and I have to visit. I have heard a lot about crack pie, but I wanted to try the cookies. They were fantastic, especially the corn cookie which became my breakfast dish of choice for the weekend. I turned into a bit of a cookie monster. The pork bun with pickle is lovely too, and for $10 I had it with a double espresso and kimchi coleslaw. A lunch time special and absolute bargain.
Not a bad start to a weekend, now, is it?
December trip to Hong Kong, Day 2. Lunch is at the Luk Yu Tea House. Not Michelin starred like some of the other places I visited but it is in the Michelin guide.
Rumoured to be a favourite of local celebrities – I wouldn’t know one if they slapped me in the face, although this probably applies in the UK too – the Luk Yu Tea House offers an all round solid standard of dim sum in a very traditional setting. Very enjoyable and well worth a trip. Just try not to stand in the kettle plugged in on the floor by the stairs. You have been warned.
Hello! I’m Niamh (Knee-uv! It’s Irish).
You are very welcome here. Eat Like a Girl has been my place to scribble online since 2007. That’s 14 years of recipes and over 1000 posts to explore.
Eat Like a Girl? It’s simple, we love to eat too. Anything else you’ve heard about women and only eating salad? It’s noise and misogyny.
But, we really love an excellent salad too. Shouldn’t everyone?!
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