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2017-02-01-10-14-59

Saturday evening I didn’t feel very well. I had the sweats, chills, headache, dizziness, fever, coughing, no appetite, etc., etc., etc.. On Sunday, I knew. It was the flu! Shoulda gotten the vaccine. Shoulda coulda… didn’t. Suffering the consequences.

What’s my first instinctive reaction? Make chicken broth! I’m fairly sensitive to over-the-counter medication like Tylenol and Motrin, so I use them only in dire emergencies. I treat coffee the same way. I did take a Tylenol once on Sunday and once on Monday, but that was it. So yesterday, after dropping off my little one at daycare, I went to the PA Supermarche and came out with a big tray of chicken drumsticks and several packages of chicken carcasses, in addition to carrots, a leek, and a tomato. I usually roast chicken before I make stock, but I just put the chicken into a big stock pot, filled it with cold water, and let the magic happen. Actually, the drumsticks were so plentiful that I didn’t even have room for the carcases, and had to start out with two stock pots before eventually consolidating to one in the last hour of cooking. I keep fantasizing about getting an even larger stock pot… but apartment living does not lend itself towards stowing huge items like that.

I use different things in my stocks every time, depending on what I have on hand and what’s on sale in the store. This time, my ingredients were:

  • a large package of chicken drumsticks – chicken stocks taste richer with some skin and bone in it. And fat. Just a little goes a long way – I skim whenever I see foam to make my stocks as clear as possible.
  • three packages of chicken carcases – I tried using only carcases one time, but there wasn’t enough meat on them to overcome the flavour of gelatin. It was ok to use as a base for soups or stews, but not enjoyable on its own. Hence the drumsticks this time.
  • 1 big tomato – I often just use tomato paste, which we always have, but since I was specifically making this as a health restorative this time, I decided to use the real thing.
  • 2 celery stalks
  • several large carrots
  • 1 leek – make sure to slice in half length-wise and carefully wash between all the leaves, since they are often full of dirt.
  • 1 onion with skin intact – I trimmed the two ends, but the yellow/orange onion skin adds a delightful natural colour to stock. I’m always disappointed when the onion skins are too mildewy to use, but this time the dry outer layers were in excellent shape.
  • 5-6 garlic gloves, crushed – I’ve always loved a lot of garlic.
  • a couple bay leaves
  • a bunch of green peppercorns
  • a couple sprinkles of red pepper flakes – helps bring a brightness to the stock. I don’t add enough to make it spicy, just to give it a little bit of an undertone, especially because I was planning on making it a very hearty stock.
  • about 2 T. – 3 T. sake – normally I’d just use the white wine we keep in the fridge for cooking… but it was all gone, so I had to make do with sake, which was excellent. Just enough to bring out the tomato in the broth; I don’t like broths that taste strongly of booze.

This stock was completely salt-free, and tastes magnificent (to my traumatized olfactory senses). It simmered for a total of about five hours – 3 hours with only chicken, then 2 hours with everything else added. I kept topping off with more cold water as it cooked down, and skimmed constantly. When I am sick, smelling cooked fat in my food makes me nauseous. So I work hard to ensure my broths are very clear and as fat-free as possible in the end. So once I bring the water to an initial boil, I reduce heat to a gentle simmer for the rest of the cooking time, skimming constantly, so I don’t emulsify the fat into the broth. I removed all the used ingredients at the end, then strained through a fine mesh sieve to reveal a beautiful, golden broth. I ended up with about 16 cups of gorgeousness, not including the mugs of broth I drank while cooking.

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Today, I was rewarded for my meticulous work yesterday by finding that my chilled broth had gelatinized quite stiffly. The consistency of Jello jigglers. Perfect! Mission successful. There’s nothing like slaving over a huge pot of stock for a day, and coming out a total winner in the end. It was very easy to spoon out into a mug and microwave until I had a steaming mug of excellent, nutrient-rich, delicious, satisfying, hearty, homemade chicken broth.

Hopefully this will help me fight the flu – which is really, really, REALLY not fun (get the vaccine, everyone!) – and if I can coax my daughter to drink it, too, maybe it will help her, as well. We like to share in this family. Because sharing is caring!

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Steel-cut oatmeal

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I’ve come a long way since my college days of microwaving Quaker Oats in a washed-out takeout container for breakfast every morning because I couldn’t afford anything else. Now I buy premium Red Mill steel-cut oats. Only the best!

I base my oatmeal on Alton Brown’s recipe. I think he wrote it when he was getting into healthy eating.

First, you melt a pat of butter in a small pot on med-low heat (it’s number 3 on my stove). Too low and the oats will not toast; too high and the oats will burn while cooking. My husband doesn’t like oatmeal, so it’s just for me and the little one. She eats it because of the brown sugar sprinkled on top. She will even abandon a bagel to eat her oatmeal.

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For 1.5 people, I use a rounded 1/3 cup of steel cut oats. Stir it into the melted butter and periodically stir it around to toast it for about 4 minutes. It’s best when it smells toasty and the butter’s been mostly absorbed into the oats. The colour will darken.

I boil water. I’m a tea drinker, and enjoy a cup of tea first thing in the morning and also in the afternoon. I’ve been thinking of restocking my tea stash, and trying to justify shelling out the clams for a tin of Mariage Freres. I’m yearning for an earl grey with a lot of bergamot in it. Ordering a bunch of Mighty Leaf teas also seems like a luxury right now, too, though not quite on the level as Mariage Freres.

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When the oats are toasty, I add a little more than a cup into the oats. It will bubble and splatter a little, so be careful! If it doesn’t do this, the oats weren’t hot enough. Then I set the timer for 20 minutes and make my cup of tea. I like tea served to me hot, and I add sugar and creamette, but I wait until it’s nearly lukewarm to actually drink it. 20 minutes cools it perfectly. I do not touch the oats. I go play with my little one. I get dressed. I read my facebook updates.

After 20 minutes, add the buttermilk and milk mixture. I now use almost 1/3 cup liquid, equal parts buttermilk and whole milk. It will look soupy…but that’s ok (as our culinary educator would say). Stir to combine, but don’t stir too much. The oatmeal might stick a  little to the sides of the pot – just scrape the bottom and sides well. I just use a teaspoon for all of this. Set the timer for 10 minutes.

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Once the oatmeal is done, I sprinkle a little cinnamon on top as I turn off the heat. I stir it in, scraping the bottom and sides. Once it’s portioned into bowls, if it’s too thick, I stir in more milk. It also helps cool it for the little one. Then I use a fork to scrape brown sugar on top. I keep a small container of brown sugar just for this purpose.

The finished oatmeal has a nice chewy texture and a delicious toasted flavour that you miss if you didn’t toast the oats enough before adding the water. It’s a healthy, economical, satisfying breakfast that lasts me ’til lunch and keeps me warm in the winter. The only downside is the long cooking time in the morning. I like that the dishes are easy to clean; just soak the pot while you’re eating, and it’ll be easy to wash everything out with a scrubber sponge afterwards.

Nothing sexier than a spoonful of oatmeal in the morning.

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After such a vicious election battle was waged in the US, I decided that I needed a huge, decadent, chocolate pick-me-up. Cue Brown Eyed Baker’s unbelievably amazing ultimate chocolate cupcake recipe. She’s one of my favourite food bloggers, the one I go to for muffin and cookie recipes. This is only the second time I’ve made cupcakes as an adult, and the first time I made this recipe, I didn’t even get to the frosting (the experience was hardly diminished). But this time, I was going all-out. I wanted the ultimate cupcake in the picture!

I mentioned my intention to do this on Facebook, on which I post very infrequently. Like this blog. I use it mainly to buy and sell secondhand children’s items like toys and clothes. My mom read my post and did not understand why anyone would want to make delicious, luxurious chocolate cupcakes. Kind of like when I decided to cloth diaper my baby. Aside from those who also do it, most reactions are “but…but why?!” It is indeed quite a process. I mean, I live in a city with a lot of great bakeries. Nearby Mamie Clafoutis does a similar ganache-filled chocolate mini cake, sans frosting, that is quite something.

The way I see it, doing an involved baking project like this is a little like people who do adult colouring books. You fill those tiny, detailed mandalas, select the right coloured pencil or marker, and when you’re done… you start another one. I tried doing those when my daughter colours, but I just didn’t enjoy it. Too much work. And what do you do with the finished page when you’re done? Tape it to the fridge? Sorry, mine is already filled with pictures of sheep with cotton balls glued onto them. This way, I get a fantastic fantasy cupcake at the end of my own labourious baking process. And I don’t get as frustrated when my 2-year old colours crayon all over my half-finished mandala.

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First, chop the chocolate. As expected, some chips were sacrificed to appease the toddler. She consumed a lot of chocolate over the course of the day. I cut her off at a plastic teacup of chocolate chips. I used a combination of bittersweet and dark chocolate chips. The good stuff. It was cool to see the fine chocolate shavings rappel from and move towards the knife. I tried explaining it to my daughter, using rubbing a balloon on your shirt and sticking it to a wall as an example, but neither of us were interested in that educational moment. My husband, a physicist, would have done better.

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I also got to use up the good cocoa powder I had bought a number of years ago. It’s one of those luxury ingredients you splurge on on a whim, then hoard until it’s no longer as flavourful and fresh as when you bought it because it’s too expensive to use, but it was so expensive you can’t bring yourself to discard it. So thank goodness I could use it here, like the blooming chocolate chips.

Next, more chopped chocolate. The fine shavings got everywhere, on everything and everyone. Thankfully, chocolate washes out easily.

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I hit a snag when trying to use my husband’s Nespresso machine. I am not a coffee drinker and have only used it a couple of times for baking purposes and for guests. My toddler, however, enjoys helping my husband make his twice each day, and talked me through the process (me: “Do I want the big cup or the little cup button?” her: “Big cup.”). I looked up descriptions of the coffee flavours online (I chose the orange one). I realized belatedly why I couldn’t close the handle thing when I pushed the button at the wrong time and hot water collected and then spilled out over the counter and floor. Fortunately, no one was splashed, but there was a mess to clean up. Twice. Because as I was cleaning out the full empty capsule receptacle, I somehow pushed the button again and hot water again flowed freely. My helper learned to stand against the far wall when Mommy uses the Nespresso machine. But eventually, I was able to use hot coffee to melt the chocolate.

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The first time I made this recipe, I think I did it while my daughter was out, either playing with her father or at daycare. But since she was home, she insisted on helping me. Which meant I started putting thing together just before 9am… and didn’t get the cupcakes out of the oven until 11:40am. The frosting was done after lunch. We only got to eat the finished product at 2:30pm.

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She loves measuring ingredients and adding them to the bowls. I’ve been teaching her how to level off dry ingredients. She gets upset if I push Start on the microwave myself. She loves stirring and watching batter dribble off of the spoon back into the bowl. I try to be patient, as this is a good education experience for her and I want to share with her how fun baking can be, but sometimes I get shrill when holding the bowl for her to drizzle batter over and over, or cautioning her to stir slowly so it doesn’t splash all over us. Or when I am crouching down to get a container from under the sink… and she takes that as an invitation to jump onto my back and demand a piggyback ride or wants to be carried as I’m putting things together. Sorry, my nearly 40-lb. little one, those baby-wearing days are long over!

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In line with the exquisite debauchery of this cupcake, I used expensive organic eggs. I’ve been trying to be frugal and buy the inexpensive ones, but had such wonderful organic deviled eggs recently at a friend’s brunch that I got them, too. I still have very fond memories of farm fresh eggs at the RI’s Providence farmer’s market. Ah, those were the days.  I recently saw a video on Facebook about gruesome cannibalism in commercial free-range and cage-free egg farms, where the chickens are basically in one giant overcrowded cage indoors with a tiny little door on one end of the building that only a few of them know about. Apparently the most humane option is now “pasture-raised,” which means the chickens were definitely living outside. But it’s not just about being less cruel. The expensive eggs taste a lot better.

Despite my fondness for cooking and baking, I’ve never been great at cracking eggs. I always thought that being able to crack an egg one-handed, like Audrey Hepburn does in Sabrina, would come with experience. But I still do it two-handed, and often have to fish out shell from the bowl or wipe off egg from the counter. Sometimes I even smash the entire thing instead of just cracking the shell and have to use another egg. Maybe it’s because I have short fingers. Yeah, that’s it.

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My favourite vanilla is Nielsen-Massey’s vanilla paste. I like seeing the vanilla seeds in it. Ok, so you’re not going to see the seeds in a chocolate cupcake, but I know they’re there!

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I use a large scoop for filling muffin pans. It’s 1/4 c.. This batter is very runny, and it helps control the mess. In theory, it also helps make every cupcake the same size… but somehow they all ended up different sizes, anyway. When I make notes for my recipe book, I write down very specific instructions for myself. So I’m going to include “fill large cookie scoop just below the top” to my file on this recipe so that maybe next time they’ll all be identical. Likewise for adding the ganache. The first time I did this, I divided it perfectly. This time around, I ran out so three or four are without the special ganache center. And of course I didn’t label them, so they’re mixed in with the others. I either need to get a 1 t. scoop for the ganache or remember not to fill the 2 t. scoop all the way next time.

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The ganache balls get swallowed up and sink to the bottom of the cupcake as they bake. When still warm, they are a gooey middle, but when cooled and settled, they leave a little empty pocket in the middle of the cupcake. Like a cave.

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Ah, clean up. I love having a dishwasher, but I still always rinse out the dishes first.

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The cupcakes rose and domed perfectly. I took them out of the oven and put a frozen pizza inside for lunch. It had been on sale, which totally canceled out the excess of the cupcakes. I left my daughter to watch French children’s programs on youtube as I started the frosting.

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I always forget to leave out the butter to soften. When this happens, I sometimes grate it, which looks pretty, smells great, and speeds up the mixing process. Or I cheat a bit by nuking it for a couple seconds at a time in the microwave. Since the oven was still warm, I warmed the bowl of chopped cold butter in there for a few seconds at a time until it was warm enough to mix with a hand mixer. I have a food processor, but it’s on the bookshelf where I keep all my food items and I don’t feel like breaking it out of the box for this. I thought it was silly to use one, but when the first few seconds of mixing released a cloud of cocoa/confectioner’s sugar, I realized why a food processor would have been preferable to a hand mixer.

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There was a moment of panic when I thought I had used all my cocoa powder in the cupcakes (um, could I substitute Swiss Miss instant hot chocolate?), but lo and behold, I had the fancy Dutch-processed cocoa powder mentioned in the recipe sitting in my spice rack. Yay! I don’t remember buying it, which means it’s several years old. Another win for using old expensive things in the pantry.

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More chopped chocolate. With each added ingredient, the mixture just looked better and better until it was all beautiful, thick, and had those dreamy fine ripples in it from the hand mixer blades. I didn’t have the exact decorating tip mentioned in the recipe, but I had two that came in close. The little Ateco tip variety packages are so small, and not as great for frosting things like this. I’m glad I got a couple of the big ones.

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I know I have a big reusable pastry bag somewhere… but it’s lost for now. So I had to use somewhat small plastic decorating bags. These bags are great for royal icing, because I hate cleaning that, but are too small for big frosting quantities like for a batch of cupcakes. One of them only holds enough to frost about 4 cupcakes. Also, I have trouble filling them without making a huge mess on the outside of the bag, my hands, and the surrounding area. What I actually do is fill a piping bag… and then pipe it into another bag so I am wielding a clean piping bag when I get to frosting. I had gotten some cute little specialty rubber bands for the piping bags when I bought them, but now realize that binder clips are much better. I use them everywhere in the kitchen. They provide a very firm, tight hold, whereas the specialty rubber bands aren’t as tight. Plus, I tend to lose them and my cat eats them and then regurgitates them around the apartment.

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And voila! Beautiful, picture perfect cupcakes. And not just any cupcakes. The most chocolatey chocolate cupcakes ever. The coffee gives the cupcakes a dark fermented undertone. I think I might try adding a little cinnamon next time, too. Biting into the frosting feels like eating a huge melted Hershey kiss. Not for the faint of heart.

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My daughter is familiar with the book If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, which involves lots of sprinkles, so I offered her some to adorn her treat. She had me pour them into one of her toy teacups and kept it on the side, to enjoy separately. She also promptly squashed her cupcake frosting-down on her plate and only managed to eat half of her cupcake. It was that rich. I have to admit that it was indeed a lot of frosting. Amazing frosting. But still, a lot. A tall glass of cold milk is your friend here.

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It’s been forever since I’ve posted, and a long long time since I’ve made something so lucious. It was a nice, yummy day.

We met a friend for afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal. I was actually glad that they only had seatings left at 4:30pm, because that’s close enough to dinner time for me and I always found 2pm or so to be an odd time to eat such a large meal. Fortunately, the Palm Court, where they serve their tea, is straight ahead from the front entrance, so it was easy to find. It’s a surprisingly small space, so I’d imagine that during peak times it might be difficult to get a reservation for tea. The lounge area is decorated with sofas and luxury seats around coffee tables, which was nice. A fire burned in the fire place, light glittered off the chandeliers, and in addition to the palm fronds painted onto the high ceiling, there was indeed an actual little palm by the entrance. There was also a tray advertising the tea service, and I wondered at the fancy tea pot featured there, as we were served using serviceable plain white pots.

We selected our teas and received our own pots with our selected tea bags, which were refilled after a while with hot water. They did not have a decaf option. The tea refreshments were served on tiered dishes. I have to say that the scones – plain and cranberry – were the best so far I’ve experienced for afternoon tea. They were large, warm, light, and delicious. Perhaps we could have done with a little more of the jams, which included a delightful rose jam and current jam in addition to devonshire cream. Then came the tiny finger sandwiches, which while nicely seasoned and constructed, seemed to have been sitting around a little too long as the bread was a bit hardened and stale on top and a bit damp on the bottom…perhaps leftover from the first tea seating. My favourites were the tomato sandwich and the cucumber sandwich, though the egg salad sandwich and salmon sandwich were also good. The pastries, a selection of various things, could have been better, I think, but at that point in the meal we were all mostly full anyway. The carrot cupcake was dry and flavourless, the chocolate layer cake soaked in an orange liquor I didn’t care for, but the cream puffs were ok as was the round pound cake with the dome of cream and jelly. Odd that they did not provide us each with our own pastries, but instead had a selection so that we had to divvy them up ourselves or split them so that we could try each.

Overall, this was my second favourite afternoon tea experience in Montreal. The ambiance and decor were quite satisfying for the whole business of afternoon tea. The scones were the best, the finger sandwiches pretty good, and the pastries disappointing. The price was the most expensive thus far for afternoon tea, at $32/person before taxes and gratuity. It’s hard to find the number to call to make reservations – I found it by looking it up on a blog – and there’s virtually no information on it on the hotel website. Service was somewhat perfunctory, though I suppose with afternoon tea your main need is refilling the tea pot and cream pitcher.

1228 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest and Rue Drummond

metro: Peel

Bus: 24

tel: (514) 842-4210 ext. 1222

Omma; B-

The menu of this small corner resto has many of the expected classic Korean dishes, but also some that don’t quite seem right, like spring rolls and a bunch of salads. Korean food tends to be quite uniform, so any deviations are quite obvious. The only complimentary side dish that came with our meal were little bowls of an odd sort of cabbage kimchi which was mostly sesame oil. Usually Korean restaurants provide more of these little dishes.

The food was just ok. I did not care for the vegetarian pancake, which was an odd thing, perhaps made with…potato?… completely saturated with oil and probably deep fried. It wasn’t like a latke and resembled more like a drowned hashbrown than anything else – usually this pancake is made with flour and is lightly panfried. As it was, it was hard to taste or see anything but fried oil.

The bibimbap was fine, though as a pregnant woman I was a little taken aback that the egg was cracked in completely raw. Often the egg in this dish is presented sunny side up at least. The hot stone bowl and hot rice helped to cook it, but the presentation was a little odd. Bulgogi was served sizzling on a hot cast iron skillet and came with some large lettuce leaves, a little bit of sauce, kimchi, and rice.

Service was not terrible but also not great. I think this is the first Korean restaurant I’ve ever been in with all non-Asian waitstaff, though it looked like most of the people in the kitchen were Asian. Our water glasses were never refilled. When we asked about dessert, the waiter brought the menu back to the table and said that there was only one thing on it that they had left. We declined, paid, and left.

Overall, I was a little disappointed with the food and would not crave anything on their menu. If we get desperate for Korean, we might come back, but otherwise it lacks any great pull to bring a diner there. And I did not approve of the forks on every table, nor the wide chopsticks – Korean chopsticks are usually the bamboo disposable kind or very slim stainless steel.

177 rue Bernard Ouest and Avenue l’Esplanade

Bus: 160

Metro: Outremont or Rosemont (but not close)

http://restaurantomma.com/

Since we’ve left Old Montreal, now seems like a good time for a review of our culinary experience there.

Chinese:

La Maison Kam Fung – dimsum everyday is ok, though dishes on the cart are sometimes cold or the carts don’t run very frequently later on in the service. Also has a sizable dinner menu, but the English translations of the Chinese menu aren’t always exact so the diner is best describing what they want rather than using names. Like Canadian-style eggplant (otherwise called hot garlic eggplant) and chicken with crispy fried spinach. Long wait for a table, though you can sometimes shorten the wait if willing to share a table with strangers.

Ruby Rouge – while the dimsum selection and quality here is not as good as La Maison Kam Fung, but there is much more seating in the huge banquet area.

Niukee – we stopped coming here because the food quality was variable and became more often than not not very good. Liked the green beans with pork stir fry and the crispy fried beef.

Mai Xiang Yuan – also known to us as the “Olympics dumpling place” because they seemed to always have a recording of the Beijing Olympics playing. No frills service, but the dumplings are very good – preferred boiled, not fried.

Qing hua Dumpling – not as good as the other dumpling place. Service slow, quality of food varies. Liked the spicy tofu appetizer. This resto has a sister resto downtown which is much better.

Korean:

Chez Bong – unfortunately, this hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown is the best Korean resto we’ve yet found in the city. The food is standard, but I find the kimchee to be a bit too sour for my taste and it is after all in a basement.

Ice cream:

Muki – our favourite artisan ice cream shop. The owner is always making improvements and the ice cream is very good if expensive. Excellent thin homemade waffle cones. Also offers waffle sandwiches for lunch.

Chez Catherine – our second favourite ice cream shop. Has soft serve ice cream as well.

Japanese:

Kagayaki – hole in the wall shabu shabu place in Chinatown. Service is very slow, but it’s fun to cook your own food in a hot pot.

Kyo bar Japonaise – new sake bar. Expensive. Service is good, small plate dishes hit-or-miss. Somewhat of a fushion place and not strictly Japanese.

Tatami – inventive sushi options with fish tanks for tables. The tempura usually comes out overly battered and burned, but the sushi rolls are interesting and we especially liked the “pizza” with avocado, salmon sushi, and shredded crab meat. Service can be slow, even during slow nights.

Tokyo – mediocre sushi restaurant, not really worth the effort. Quality of food is not that great.

Sumo ramen – if you want a big bowl of ramen, this is your place. I happen to enjoy ramen, and liked climbing up the stairs to the hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown.

Everything else:

l’Arrivage – pleasant contemporary bistro on the top of the archeology museum. Nice view of the Old Port and very reasonable brunch menu. Service can be a little slow.

l’Atelier Argentine – fairly new Argentine restaurant. Can be quite crowded, reservations recommended. We enjoyed the novelty when it had first opened, but thought the quality went down somewhat on subsequent visits.

Bonaparte – the food is somewhat old-fashioned, and I was disappointed when my entrees came out with boring little sections of plainly boiled or steamed vegetables on the plate. It’s all right if you’re just staying in the area for a few days, but it’s not a truly great dining experience, and the food unfortunately doesn’t match the romantic decor or service.

Boris Bistro – for some reason, we often had trouble locating the restaurant. The food is not that great, but we went back repeatedly for one reason or another and liked their small plates options the best.

Bourlingueur – only ate here once when we first moved in. Wasn’t impressed – felt like food could have come out of a can and did not want to go back.

Brit & Chips – somewhat greasy fish and chips place. Not bad, no frills.

Le Cartet – I never liked this place, as the line to get into brunch was always very long and I found the somewhat traditional Quebec brunch dishes overly large and not to my taste. Part of the bistro is a gourmet food store and the other part is a series of long tables.

Chez Delmo – oddly decorated seafood place. Food only ok and not worth a repeat.

Chez Queux – there’s something charming about such an old-fashioned restaurant, which seems stuck around the 1960s. Unfortunately, you can still hear the Old Port buskers through the walls, and the decor is horrible, but the table service is charming and you can enjoy sentimental dishes like sole meuniere prepared at your table.

Le Club Chasse et Peche – was taken here once. Food was only ok for the steep price. Decor is somewhat dim and almost dingy.

Dolcetto – we went here a number of times during the summer, but stopped going because the quality seemed to be slipping. Bread is offered with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Small plates. Can be noisy and crowded.

Eggspectations – unfortunately, the Old Montreal incarnations are never good – eggs are underdone, venue is dreary.

Epicier – we dined here once a couple of years ago, but I recall the experience with pleasure. One of those pretentious restaurants with single apples as centerpieces and decorated like a high end gourmet grocery store, this is a very nice fine dining restaurant with contemporary dishes and good food.

Europea Espace Boutique – high end takeout sandwich shop. When I really want to treat myself and if I’m home for whatever reason during the week, I go here for a takeout bag of sandwich – I liked the pomme et brie or the boeuf et chevre – beverage and dessert.

Restaurant Gandhi – ok but nothing special Indian resto. Nothing to draw us back there again.

Holder – noisy, boisterous masculine restaurant with equal room on the menu for alcohol as for food. But if you can squeeze in, the food is very good, though the menu does not vary.

Keg Steakhouse – unfortunately the best steakhouse we’ve been to so far in Montreal. Plates are sometimes greasy, service can be a little slow, and I think the bread is microwaved. A little expensive for what it is, too, though all right. Liked the appetizers like artichoke dip and shrimp cocktail. Bar selection is fine, too. Sometimes I felt like I went here just to stock up on their little mints with chocolate inside.

l’Arrivage – this bistro has a nice view of the Old Port on top of the architectural museum. The brunch menu doesn’t vary, but is a good deal for what it is. Service can be slow, but the 3-course experience is usually worth it.

Mechant Boeuf – one of those somewhat sleazy steak restaurants where the music is too loud and the other patrons are mostly older men dining with much younger women. Food wasn’t worth the headache.

Ming Tao Xuan – exotic-looking Chinese tea shop. Nice for an afternoon tea.

Modavie – the sort of mediocre steak and jazz resto that attract starry-eyed tourists. Food is only ok, music not so great (though I admit that I don’t care for jazz myself).

l’Orignal – pleasant little high end basement bistro.

Olive et Gourmando – our Saturday brunch ritual. Difficult to get a table, we often took our orders to go and ate them in a nearby cafe. The menu changes a little seasonally, and the service is a little odd – there’s a certain ritual to ordering in one place and then lining up in another to pay or order drinks. My favourites were the chevre chaud sandwich with homemade ketchup and the salty ricotta maison.

l’Orignal – went here once and always intended to go again but never did. A sort of upscale basement bistro with a lot of game. Felt very Quebecois for some reason.

Osteria Venti – it can be very hard to get a reservation here, but we rarely tried reserving a table in advance. The menu changes often. I especially liked the tender spare rib with creamy polenta and we long for the slice of bread spread with creamy marscapone, roasted squash, and fried sage.

Safran et Cannelle – the set up is odd, as you’re greeted by a nicely set up table setting when you walk in through the door…but are then directed to walk upstairs which looks nowhere near as nice. Not sure if anyone is allowed to sit downstairs, perhaps it’s just for show. Moroccan food was only ok, and nothing to really draw you back again and again.

Stash Cafe – the only Polish restaurant I’ve ever been to. Always get the borscht (which they spell differently) consomme and either the stuffed cabbage rolls or the placki. Avoid the fruit squares, which are served cold with sour cream. Service can be a little too laidback. Live inane piano music.

Titanic – popular weekday lunch spot. I didn’t care for it, mostly because my sandwich ended up completely drenched in mayonnaise and it was impossible to get a seat. The sort of place that you go to if you work nearby, but which leaves newcomers a bit lost due to the ordering system as you wait awkwardly by the cashier for your order to be ready.

Toque – I only ate here once, and had the tasting menu, but was disappointed by the over application of soy sauce to all of the dishes and the lack of artistry in the presentation. It’s supposed to be one of the best restaurants in the city, but aside from the imposing service regime and large amount of space between tables, the food did not recommend itself.

Vallier – we basically only went here when we couldn’t get into Holder, which is next door. Service is slow and inattentive, the menu never changes and is limited. Hamburgers are served on enormous bready buns with a sizable side salad and fries and the soups are never quite properly seasoned. My favourite part of coming here was eating the bit of wet maple sugar that comes with my husband’s latte.

So…I am very pregnant right now and we are in the process of moving to a different part of the city, to a slightly (only slightly) larger apartment with a slightly (alas) smaller kitchen space with far fewer cabinets and drawers. So it will still be a while before I post again about cooking.

However, we will be eating out quite a bit over the next week or so, and checking out new restaurants in our new neighborhood, so perhaps I will recommence reporting about our restaurant experience in the city.