Month: February 2014

Southern Dinner 2014

The nature/nurture debate ends right here. I’ve had a full-on obsession with Southern cuisine as far back as I can remember. It is my favourite food. If I ever have the misfortune of being on death row, my last meal request will be Leah Chase’s Fried Chicken, Patti LaBelle’s Over-The-Rainbow Mac ‘N Cheese, Lee Bros. Fried Green Tomatoes, James Villas’ Candied Sweet Potatoes, Mrs. Wilkes’ Boardinghouse-style Biscuits and some sweet tea with bourbon. I could then die in peace.

But where did I develop my admiration for Southern food? I mean, it’s a reasonable question and one that’s often asked. I’m a French-Canadian dude who lives far north of the Mason-Dixon line. I didn’t grow up under a cypress tree in Charleston nor did I visit any relatives in Augusta during summer break. I was raised squarely on escargots, soupe à l’oignon and Coquilles St-Jacques. Not a biscuit to be found for kilometers. So really, there is no explanation other than I’ve coveted fried okra and peach cobbler since my beginnings. I’ve long ago surrendered to the fact that I was just born with smothered chicken gravy running through my veins. And why should I fight it? There are worse fates than having an innate ability to cook fried chicken and shrimp & grits. When it comes down to it, I am drawn by the cuisine’s hallowed traditions and unique cooking styles, its use of fresh ingredients, but mostly to its ability to provide feel-good old-fashioned comfort.

It is for this reason that every year I play host to a group of friends who indulge me in my zeal to create a Southern tradition north of the border. And I’m more than happy to be their comfort food ambassador. Here are some pics from this year’s “Southern Dinner.”

Bon Appétit Skillet-Fried Chicken
Light, crispy, juicy, tender and delicious. This best describes Bon Appétit Skillet-Fried Chicken or as the magazine describes it, “the only fried chicken recipe you’ll ever need.”

Tart and brimming with brisk flavour and apple-like crunch, these fried tomatoes are topped with a refreshingly creamy butter-milk lime herb dressing. This dish is unusual and one that my friends clamor for every year.

Lee Bros. Cherry Tomato and Soybean Salad 
Soybeans are married with sweet cherry tomatoes and tossed with a buttermilk-basil dressing. A good, fresh-tasting complement to any Southern meal.

Lemon Meringue Pots de Crème
Light, airy and tangy with a delicate lemony flavour, these pots de crèmes were the perfect ending to the feast.

Love + art + latin tradition = Café Morala

She emerges from the back to welcome us like returning war heroes. Miriam, the gregarious owner of Cafe Morala, sets the tone for her restaurant, greeting us with warm affection and fussing over every detail of our order. To dine here is to experience veritable Latin cuisine.

The clientele is dotted with loyal fans and neighborhood regulars. English, French and much, much Spanish can be heard. Cafe Morala has been a local Glebe favourite for decades now.

Want authentic empanadas? Yum! Find this place. A master chef formerly from Bolivia pops in daily to deliver handcrafted empanadas from a cherished family recipe. She makes them for her family, for the café and for no one else. The chef’s love, art and tradition meld together in pure synergy to produce perfectly baked pastry stuffed with an abundance of tasty fillings like spinach, chicken-chipotle, beef-vegetable, cheese and lamb. To savour a Cafe Morala empanada is a privilege. After one bite you will “see the light.” They are otherworldly.

One of my other go-to’s is the salad. It’s circus-like colours will fascinate you, like Versace on a plate. Sheep and goat feta, avocado, roasted almonds, strawberries, cranberries, peppers, beets and greens are tossed together with a lemon-Dijon dressing creating a wondrous palate pleaser.

Although not a coffee drinker, I hear (in English, French and Spanish) that this is the place to come for the best coffee in Ottawa. Cafe Maya, cafe baires and cafe caramel are some of its offerings. Pair it with a lemon cookie or try the alfajor, a traditional confection made up of flour, honey, almonds and several spices, such as cinnamon.

To be a patron at Cafe Morala is to revel in its warm ambiance and experience true Latin cuisine. The diner’s pleasure here is truly essential. And I’m a happy patron!

Morala Coffee Shop on Urbanspoon