Monday, March 24, 2014

Érablière St-Henri

Now THIS is a real cabane à sucre (yes yes I know its called a sugar shack!): if you have to drive more than 40 minutes, if, when you get there, you have no idea where you are, and if you see deer crossing the road right in front of you.... you are going to the real thang baby!

My sister was in town for a couple days so we decided that going to a sugar shack would be fun. I hadn't been in a couple years, my sister hadn't been to a real one in at least 10 to 15 years and my mom, surprisingly enough, hadn't been in about 28 years! Whaaaaaa? We HAD to go!

The place had two rooms for your sugar pleasure :) I'd say it can sit around 100 people in all. It was complete with plastic table cloths and fake leaves everywhere :p But you know what, it was darn tootin' homey and I likes it!

Alright, let's get down to the food because there was, as per usual à la cabane à sucre, a shiz load!

To start us off, there were cute little mason jars with marinated beets (just vinegary enough), pickles and homemade ketchup (just a touch of sweetness) on the table! YUM!!! And to top it off, there were delicious cretons that came with warm bread :)

Pea soup---a cabane à sucre classic! It was good but I found that it lacked a bit in the taste department.

Then, our waitress (who is the daughter of the owners---à la cabane à sucre, it's all in the family!) brought us maple syrup soaked baby sausages, bigger sausages, beans (me.loves.beans) smashed potatoes and du ragoût de boulettes (I'm not even going to attempt to translate---but it's the bowl on your right).  The mini sausage in maple was surprisingly dry and, well, I ain't the tiny sausage kinda person. The bigger ones were tastier (yes, I know, here come the lesbian jokes ;p) and had more moisture! The beans were perfect... just like they should damn well be at a sugar shack! The potatoes were OK but a bit dry and didn't taste like much. The ragout de boulettes was really good, tasty, just the right amount of salt in the yummy sauce.... but there wasn't enough!!! We were 5 and I think there were 6 meatballs. Grrr. 

After, there was the omelet and the tourtière (meat pie). The omelet, we all could have done without. It was tasteless and... hum... square! What the what now? The tourtière was wonderful and when you added some of the ketchup it was gosh darn delicious! All the right spices were present. But, again, that omelet... WHAT were they thinking?

Apparently, my memories of 'oreilles de criss' were not as good as I thought because that was, well, NOT good. It was WAY too hard and unpleasant. Bah. I know what it is but it was literally like putting pure dried up fat in my mouth (which it is... The bacon was good but a tad overcooked.

Mmmmm: ham! I loves my ham! And actually my whole family has somewhat of a ham crush. When it's done well we can eat it foreva (ex: the other day, my mom gave me some ham that she made and I proceeded to eat TWO big ass ham sandwich in 1 hour---what's WRONG with me!?). Anyway, it tasted of loveliness and maple and you could break it off with a fork!

Oh it's not even close to being done, but this was the desert: Pancakes, sugar pie and maple syrup pie and 'grand-pères'. Ok, so basically, the 'grand-pères' tasted (AND felt) like raw dough. Meh. The pancakes were good but the stars were the two pies, and by looking at this picture, you can see we did NOT have enough for all 5 of us! Geez! I liked the maple syrup one better than the other because it's not every day that you get to taste that yumminess. Mmmm... it was so soft and silky and obviously had around 8000 calories in every bite.

And this was the finale: de la tire d'érable (or 'maple taffy' if you prefer). Oh yes; this boiling maple syrup that hardens as soon as it hits the snow reminded me of childhood! Some opted out because they were 'too full' but I thought 'hey, what's another 600 calories'?

Service was good: she brought us a pitcher of water at the beginning of our meal but we did have to ask for more... And I mean, she only had two tables to care for. On the other hand, since she was the owners' daughter so she knew a bunch of stuff about maple and the making of the maple syrup and what have you so that was very cool. 

And now, the scores!!

Food: 7.5
Service: 8

Such a fun experience! I loves me some sugar shack and this was exactly what I needed! So if you feel like you want to go to a real cabane à sucre, go to Rigaud and you're set!

Érablière St-Henri on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Le Gros Jambon

One of my faves, Mona, was in town on a layover (I have friends in high places, I know) so we had a lovely drinking night and the next morning we walked to Old Montreal to eat at Le Gros Jambon. I'd been there once and had enjoyed it so, you know, just HAD to go back!

license plates from all over!
This place is tiny: a real diner :) It only has counter seats... about 20 or so. Last time I went, we were sitting at the window counter which was excellent for people watching (one of my favorite activities!) but this time, those seats were taken. 

We were very warmly welcomed by the hostess and then not as warmly served by the waitress. But we'll get to that later!

Let's talk food! The brunch menu looked very fun, interesting and mouth watering. I had the fried chicken and waffles, duh. I had eaten that same breakfast at Prohibition on Monkland and had looo-hooooved it!

First off, kudos for the cutest freaking plate eva! So damn didelidoo fitting! The dish, not so much. Let's start with the positive things: the beans were not too salty, not too sweet and I just didn't have enough. There were also these amazing little cheese galettes with some chives in them that were a-MA-zing. Mmmmm, I'd go back just to eat those. Alright, now, the bad: the waffle was nice but not nearly crunchy enough and the chicken just seemed like it was 50% fat, 30% bone and 20% meat. It was crispy but that didn't make up for the lack of seasoning and, well, the fat!

Mona had what I should have taken. Damn it. Huevos Rancheros. The tortilla was a tad annoying to cut/eat but the avocados were obviously wonderful and the salsa verde and tomatoes added a touch of freshness. The eggs were nice and not too TOO runny. I enjoyed her dish way more than mine. Grrrr.

The service was nothing to write home about: our waitress seemed a bit rude and it looked like she just did not want to be there that day. Girl, I get it, we all have those days, just don't show it. GEEZ! Plus, she never came to ask us how we liked our meal. Meh.

And now, the scores!

Food: me: 5.5 Mona: 8
Service: 6

All in all, not the best experience, though I like to think it was an isolated case and would be willing to go back in the future :)

Le Gros Jambon on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 13, 2014

La Cabane

I was invited to try Apollo's La Cabane, one day before the official opening. That's cutting it a bit close I think, no? I bet most of the other people got invited before and then they were like, wait, we need more people! Hahaha. 

Anyhoot, I got there and was offered a beer cocktail. I told the bartender that I really DID NOT LIKE beer (like, at all.... like I can't even take a sip) and she offered me, womp womp womp, a fruit cocktail. Really girl? I see that you have a bunch of bottles of alcohol behind you; you could at least put a shot of somethin somethin in there, no? No.

So as I was 'enjoying' my fruit cocktail, I looked around. The place had somewhat of a modern cabane à sucre feel, with long wooden tables that you share with lots of people you don't know. After my drink, I was invited to go upstairs and, as downstairs, it was all wooden, communal tables with some writing on the wall and wooden lamp fixtures. Nice.

I was seated in front of a desert blogger (and pastry chef) and the dude from Montreal Food Pictures (funny guy) and beside somewhat of a food expert...I didn't really get what his job was.  Anyhoot, at first, conversation was a bit meh...I realized I don't really like going out alone to restaurants, especially when I'm sitting beside people I don't know. But then the wine came flowin' and conversation obviously got easier :)

They were waiting for all the tables to fill up before serving the first course. It took about 50 minutes. Pffff. Thank the looooord they decided to start after around 6 out of 10 tables were full. And since we were the first table that was full, we were the first ones getting served! Celebration!

We were to have 5 courses. Those 5 different courses were presented by 5 different chefs that have participated in the past 4 years of La Cabane: Helena Loureiro, Marc-André Jetté, Martin Juneau, Danny St-Pierre and Patrice Demers. I had been to Helena's restaurant in Old Montreal, aptly named Helena and looooved it, I had seen a couple videos on Danny St-Pierre at ITHQ a year or so again and found him quite the interesting chef and I had heard of the other three. Needless to say I was a tad starstruck when I saw them all sitting at a table! My reaction: 'hihihi, oh my gawd'! Yes, I'm THAT loser!

On top of this, we were to have white wine for the first two courses, red wine for the third and fourth and cidre de glace to go along with the desert.

Alright, here we go!

First, we were treated to warm (oh yes!) maple bread (double yes!). It was so soft and yummy! It was accompanied by cumin butter. Or cumin with a tad of butter. WAY too cumin-y! But the bread was marvelous. It was so marvelous that later on, we asked for more but they said that the bread was 'rationed'. Ok then.

First course was the cod croquettes with a mustard and maple aioli, maple roasted pecans and endive and cucumber salad. This was good. Why? Well probably because Helena makes a mean cod croquette. It was a tad disappointing to know that she had served the same croquettes the year before though. Anyhoot, the salad was refreshing but had large pieces of chicory that did not fit into my tiny mouth and the pecans were good but overly sweet. On the other hand, the aioli was marvellous, smooth and yummy, and the croquettes just melted in your mouth. That's what I look for in a croquette; the melting in the mouth factor :) 

Second course was a smoked squash soup with maple salmon 'candies' and a hazelnut dipped brioche. Oh man, this did it for me. A regular squash soup=good. THIS squash soup: oh-so-damnedidamn-good! The flavours and textures were all there: the soup itself was smooth and well seasoned, the little cubes of salmon were a nice welcomed surprise in my mouth, the soft brioche just exploded with flavours and the harder croutons just gave it some texture. Good, good, gooo-hoood!

Third course was disappointing. It was lamb ham, crunchy vegetables and a citrus mostarda.  First off, let me mention the only part that was pleasing: the presentation. It was so pretty! Most veggies were cut with a mandoline which made for a good lookin' plate. Aaaand that's it. Crunchy carrots, ok. Crunchy beets, NOT ok. The meat didn't taste like anything except when you dipped it in the mustard/mayo combo that was on the side of the plate. And don't even get me started on the citrus mostarda. What the hell WAS that? It tasted like the filling in a lemon meringue pie. It had a weird texture, it was overly sweet and just did not go with anything on the plate. 

Bean, carrot wieners, bean, maple and cheese cassolet. It was nice; they put the dish on the table and we were to serve ourselves. The waitress said it had coriander on top to add some freshness buuuut turns out it was parsley. The meat was nice and juicy, the wieners, which I never ever like, were actually quite pleasant and the beans were really good. They weren't overly cooked and mushy like they tend to be. And the parsley DID add some freshness!

The desert was a maple ice cream sandwich and a maple financier.

The financier didn't taste like much. It was dry and meh (technical term). The ice cream sandwich brought me back to my ice cream sandwich eating days :) It was very maple-y. Unfortunately, all in all, desert was a tad disappointing.

Service was great. Our waitress was cute (bonus point there!) and when she didn't know something, she'd go check and get back to us promptly. We always had water and she tended to our needs. Us blogger folk are hard to please :p She explained the wines and the plates very well (except for that coriander mishap!). We got to personally meet Apollo who came to introduce himself and then his chef. Nice.

And now, the scores!

Food: 7
Service: 9

It was very nice to try for free but I don't know if I would have been this happy if I'd payed for it.

La Cabane on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Paul Patates

This diner, or 'pataterie' is my step-father's fave in my neighbourhood. Therefore, I just HAD to try it and of course, I decided to go last week in minus 800C weather. Pfff. Should have worn my long johns!!!

The place itself is tiny, just like every real pataterie should be! It has about 20 seats or so around tables and 10 or 12 at the counter. So basically, you feel a bit claustrophobic. There are 2 girls behind the counter, working hard on the grill and what not, looking nicer to some customers than others: see, some seem to be super regulars. The girls even know if they have new girlfriends!

I had the cheese hot dog and fries, of course! I was a tad dispointed to see that the 'cheese' was in fact a slice of kraft singles. Nooooooooo! The hot dog did not taste like cheese at all nor did it have that gooey texture. Dsamn it! If your hot dog (with 'cheese') is 2,29$, put a tad of real cheese on there for shiz' sake! At least the dsog itself was well cooked. I hate it when the hot dog sausages are undercooked like the ones you get at IKEA.

The fries were nice and not crunchy but not NOT crunchy, ya know? They had good flavor but even when I added vinegar, it didn't taste like it! I can only assume that they water down their vinegar and I can then assume that it's just ridiculous to water down vinegar: it's pretty much the cheapest thing you can get!

The service was almost non existent, as, I guess, it should be at this kind of place: the girl took my order behind the counter and then came to bring me my stuff at my table. She THEN came to clean the crap off the table that was left there by the previous customer. Hum.

And now, the scores!

Food: 6.5
Service: 6.5

What was funny/great was that the owner had his diploma from ITHQ on the wall! If you have a diploma in cooking, do NOT put kraft singles in yo hot dog boy! :p

Paul Patates on Urbanspoon