The highlight of my trip to Montreal, this year, was an eye-opening study in contrast; two worlds colliding. A symphony of athletic prowess juxtaposed next to an opus to excess. The pursuit of glory and the pursuit of gluttony. Pure discipline vs. pure gourmandize.
Let’s begin with the good. Playing professional tennis requires hours of devotion and years of sacrifice. I marveled at the players’ talent and physicality. Seeing them up close is a wonder. In what was very lucky break for me, I got to see, meet and shake the hand of my favourite player, Filip Peliwo. I caught him after a lengthy practice and he couldn’t have been kinder or more polite. This man is a terrific player with fiery determination, cocky swagger and a never-say-die-go-after-every-shot resoluteness. His play can be electrifying and goose-bump inducing. He’s still trying to find his way on the tour and, I believe that he will one day be amongst the world’s best. Did I tell you that I got to shake his hand? 🙂
Of course, Filip fanboying aside, I got to be in the presence of many top players. I stood about a foot away from eventual champ, Andy Murray, watched Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov dutifully practice, and I witnessed the return of the bespectacled one, Janko Tipsarevic.
This year’s Open had some pretty decent concession fare, as well. A chicken sandwich that included an honest to goodness chicken breast, and a combo platter made up of a ham and cheese sandwich on a baguette was served alongside a tomato salad and chocolate cake. It was very civilized given the occasion and milieu.
Once a year I like to feign that I am a real chef. Maybe Thomas Keller or possibly David Chang or perhaps even Daniel Humm. I spend a solitary night in this make believe world channeling their talent and artistry. Although I unabashedly admit that I do possess one minor ability. I have no fear in the kitchen. I am absent of any anxiety or worry of failing. While other areas of my life leave me hiding under the covers, I see the kitchen ripe for trial and experimentation. Not certain why I exude such culinary confidence but I don’t question it much. No thinking allowed, just doing. So with the help of some cookbooks to guide me and some close friends to come along for the ride, I attempt an annual fancy dinner party with the goal of honouring some of the great chefs and restaurants of our time.
First up, Duck Confit Croustades. This dish is from the Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Cookbook. A baguette smeared with dijon, topped with duck confit, fleur de sel, olive oil and parsley. Simple and delicious.
Croustades with duck confit
The next course was foie gras with a maple balsamic reduction. This recipe is by Daniel LaGarde, Chef
Instructor at Le Cordon Bleu. Foie gras (with black truffles) set on sautéed apples, strawberries, shallots and basil and served with a maple balsamic reduction. This was my favourite dish of the night.
Seared foie gras with black truffles and maple balsamic reduction
The third course was from the Eleven Madison Park cookbook. This restaurant currently sits at #10 on Restaurant Magazine’s list of best restaurants in the world. The recipe of Beet Salad with Chèvre Frais and Caraway was by far the most challenging dish of the night. It took a while to bring together the roasted beets, the goat cheese mousse, the caraway tuiles, the beet raspberry vinaigrette and the rye crumble, but it was certainly well worth the effort as my guests raved about this creation. The variety of textures and tastes made this dish unique and memorable.
Beet salad with chèvre frais and caraway
A side view of the beet salad
My second favourite chef of all time is Thomas Keller, he of French Laundry and Per Se fame (Julia Child is my favourite). I’ve turned to the The French Laundry Cookbook on numerous occasions and it has never let me down. For the the main course, the recipe I chose was the Butter-Poached Lobster with Creamy Lobster Broth and Mascarpone-Enriched Orzo. Some of the interesting features of this recipe included the lobster broth (made form scratch), the beurre monté (emulsified butter), the coral oil (canola oil infused with lobster roe) and the parmesan crisp (mine were a bit oversized but I have trouble resisting their appeal). I do hope that I was able to bring some French Laundry justice to this dish. My guests were rather pleased with the results.
Butter-poached lobster with creamy lobster broth and mascarpone-enriched orzo
A top view of the lobster
Dessert is my favourite part of the meal to eat but my least favourite to cook. Finding something to complement such a rich repast was not easy. I went with a recipe from LCBO’s Food & Drink magazine, Coconut Lime Mousse with Berries. It was a good counterpart to the other dishes and a bang-up way to end the meal.
Food & Drink’s Coconut Lime Mousse with Berries
Another year passes, another fancy dinner party is now under my belt. I am forever grateful to have friends that endure my culinary experiments. It could all go horribly wrong and yet they are forever willing to weather the gastronomic storm with me. The great chefs of our time are my inspiration. But the people in my life are truly what drive me to do better and be better.