Don’t be fooled by the amateurish photograph. It was dark. A discerning eye will be able to see through the pixelation and easily surmise that these pork chops are haute cuisine. Not shocking since they were from Montreal’s Joe Beef, currently ranked as the #4 restaurant in Canada (but #1 in my heart).
At Joe Beef more is more. This place is not for the faint of heart. But is it all too much? Au contraire mon frère. The intensity of the experience of an expertly seared piece of meat should not be dismissed out of hand. Biting into the crusty exterior led to the pale-pink tinged and tender interior which imparted a rich, meaty flavour. These pork chops were seductive. It is not mere hyperbole to say that they left me mesmerized. And they were most definitely the best thing I ate this month (and maybe ever).
Photograph by Carl Tremblay – America’s Test Kitchen
A two layer cake with one batter? Lemon pudding cakes are a desert that should be beset with any number of issues. Yet during baking, the egg whites miraculously rise to the top in soufflé fashion, while the lemon pudding skillfully sinks to the bottom—just like magic! But how is this achieved? Carefully and with expert guidance from the fine folks at America’s Test Kitchen.
The best thing I ate this month was yet again a creation from Allium Restaurant. This time around, it was their take on biscuits & gravy.
When I sat down and looked at the menu, I was a bit unsettled to discover this classic Southern combo north of the Mason-Dixon line. I nearly dismissed it out of hand. I mean, what do Canadians know about biscuits and gravy? It turns out, a whole heck of lot.
The rich and peppery smoked pork and mushroom gravy was perfectly paired with the biscuits, which were buttery and had an airy flakiness about them. The chicken was classically Southern-style and ideally cooked. Crispy, light and never greasy. The apple jam and hot honey added just the right touch of sweetness. The pickled cabbage and peanuts were a nice complement, bringing freshness and crunch.
This dish was a triumph and a contemporary exploration on one of the most revered dishes of the South. And it was the best thing I ate this month.
“These are the best cookies I have ever eaten!” “Where did you get these?” “Who made these?” “Seriously, where do I find them?” For the most part, that’s how the interrogation began moments after unleashing the Chocolate Chunk-Pumpkin Seed Cookies upon my colleagues. Some of the cookies somehow found their way around the campus buildings and that’s when the deluge of phone calls, texts, and emails began. I was sought out and I basked in the glow of celebrity. I became Kardashian-like for the next few hours. And it was all unintentional. (more…)
Recently, a lunch was had at Allium Restaurant to honour my birthday. It instead turned into an occasion to celebrate the birth of a most wondrous creation—a Fried Chicken Sandwich. Picture it. Crunchy and fantastically moist chicken topped with crispy bacon, a savoury cheddar spread, a slathering of hot honey, crunchy parmesan-kale salad, all held together by two warm and chewy waffles. Choruses of “Oohs,” “Aahs” and “Mmms” were heard, my birthday was almost forgotten and more napkins were requested.
After having left the restaurant and struggling to unlock the secrets to this delicious wonder, I reached out to the restaurant as well as to the Chef who produced this masterpiece. What I received in return was stone-cold silence. Rude? Annoying? Smart? It seems that Allium was hell-bent on keeping the secret to their mystical sandwich on the down-low. And, who can blame them? The sandwich is innovative, dramatic and tummy pleasing. And, it was the best thing I ate this month.
Day-tripping to Upstate New York recently led me to the grocery store where I spotted this gem: Bacon Horseradish Heluva Good dip. It has that creamy texture and addictive qualities that we’ve come to expect from Heluva Good dips. Best of all, it has an authentic bacon taste. You’ll want to dip again, and again, and again. When reached, a company representative said that there were no immediate plans to produce Bacon Horseradish Heluva Good dip in Canada. Too bad. Hopefully they’ll have a change of heart. The mouth-watering temptation of bacon and the zesty heat of horseradish blended together with real sour cream make for one unbelievably great tasting dip. It earned high marks in my eyes and was definitely the best thing I ate this month.
I’ve never brimmed with excitement at the thought of onion rings. But when the server enthusiastically praised this usually humdrum starter, I thought I’d give it a go. Who knew that onion rings would become an object of my obsession for weeks to come?
These ‘Playful Onion Rings’ are coated in chickpea batter and puffed quinoa which lend them their crunchy texture. I found myself ingesting one and then succumbing to the temptation of another and yet another. Crispy, airy and never greasy, this is a superstar dish all on its own. Sauced with a refreshing chipotle avocado dip as well as a spicy mayo dip, these vegan and gluten-free onion rings transformed into something unmistakably scrumptious.
This dream inducing and divine creation is courtesy of Pure Kitchen Ottawa. And it was the best thing I ate this month.
“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child
Behold the feast placed before me. Sticky-sweet finger-licking ribs. Perfectly grilled smokey eggplant and zucchini. Home-made capicola with the just right balance of fat, salt, fresh seasonings and meaty texture. Flavourful roasted eggplant and peppers itching to be topped on fresh bread. Chicken kebabs, juicy and tender. Freshly steamed lobster, oh so succulent and sweet. And enough wine and alcohol to subsist us for days.
These friends o’ mine are kind, cool and definitely ‘the best people.’ The spread was scrumptious and exquisite, mouth-watering and heavenly. It was fun and it was satisfying. And it was definitely the best thing I ate this month.
How do you elevate sweet potatoes from a homely supporting role to a empyrean star-making turn? Yotam Ottolenghi. He is one of the world’s most beloved culinary talents with a wholly original approach to vegetarian cooking. With his Jerusalem cookbook to guide me during my last dinner party, I attempted his recipe of Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Fresh Figs. This is a simple dish (sweet potatoes, green onions, figs and balsamic reduction) yet it duped my taste buds. The figs were sweet, moist and ripe. The balsamic reduction was very effective, both for the look and for rounding up the flavours. The unusual combination of fresh fruit and roasted vegetables was delicious and left me wanting more. And it was by far the best thing I ate this month.
I stared at it like I would an expressionist painting. What was his vision? His Motivation? Was he in pain? Troubled? Inebriated? No. Just “Inspired by spring,” I was told. As a visual, it was bright and uplifting, expressive and assured. It pained me to take the first bite and unravel the masterpiece but this canvas was made for savouring.
Layered on a brushstroke of pesto were little diamonds of young yellow beets. The earthy quality of the beets were a perfect match for the refreshingly tender peas, served alongside their shoots. Crisp little domes of pastry hid luxuriously rich duck pâté. The honeycomb gem was a treasure and provided sweetness and unique texture.
There was nothing not to like about this salad. Within a flash I had devoured it. I was sad yet ever so thankful to have enjoyed a wild-fully original gustatory chef-d’oeuvre. Bring on Spring.
This bright jewel of a dish was created by Chef Kirk Morrison for his tasting menu at Restaurant 18. And it was the best thing I ate this month.