Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Recap

Last week, I had a fancy and fun time at the 14th Annual Beaujolais Nouveau festival held by the French-American Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance Française of Portland with their partners, the Heathman Hotel and the Heathman Restaurant & Bar. As I mentioned in my pre-event post, every third Friday of November, a red wine called Beaujolais Nouveau that is bottled only after a few weeks after harvest for immediate drinking is opened after a race to deliver it around the world and celebrated at parties and other festivities annually.
This year their will be the 14th year of the West Coast's largest Beaujolais Nouveau festival at the Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015

Naturally at the Beaujolais Nouveau event on November 20 at the Heathman, there was plenty of 2015 Beaujolais Nouveau fresh from France by Georges Duboeuf available – the wine company most commonly associated with Beaujolais Nouveau so much that they are called le roi du Beaujolais, aka the king of Beaujolais. Also available though were other Beaujolais Nouveau, as well as wine from local Oregon and Washington producers.
2015 Beaujolais Nouveau fresh from France by Georges Duboeuf Ruby Vineyard at Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015

Here’s my pictorial Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 recap of the night.
Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Bountiful Buffet Plate

The bountiful French themed buffet impressed, with the Heathman manning carving stations for Roast Leg of Beef and Slow Roasted Carlton Farms Pig;
Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 carving stations for Roast Leg of Beef and Slow Roasted Carlton Farms Pig

Looking spectacular was a Northwest Seafood station bursting with poached prawns, steamed clams and mussels and smoked salmon and poached salmon, as well as oysters shucked expertly before you
Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Northwest Seafood station bursting with poached prawns, steamed clams and mussels and smoked salmon and poached salmon, as well as oysters shucked expertly before you Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Northwest Seafood station bursting with poached prawns, steamed clams and mussels and smoked salmon and poached salmon, as well as oysters shucked expertly before you Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Northwest Seafood station bursting with poached prawns, steamed clams and mussels and smoked salmon and poached salmon, as well as oysters shucked expertly before you Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Northwest Seafood station bursting with poached prawns, steamed clams and mussels and smoked salmon and poached salmon, as well as oysters shucked expertly before you Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Northwest Seafood station bursting with poached prawns, steamed clams and mussels and smoked salmon and poached salmon, as well as oysters shucked expertly before you

A long L shaped multi-table Charcuterie & Cheese Spread
Just part of the Charcuterie and Cheese spread at the Heathman for the 2015 Beaujolais Nouveau Just part of the Charcuterie and Cheese spread at the Heathman for the 2015 Beaujolais Nouveau

A Foie Gras & Sweet Breads station where the Foie Gras was sliced and topped with honey for you and Sweetbread was accompanied by a rich and creamy cauliflower sauce
Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Foie Gras & Sweet Breads station Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Foie Gras and Sweet Breads Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Foie Gras and Sweet Breads

Passed Hors D’Oeuvres included Duck Breast and Mango Brochette with Coca Nibs, Smoked White Fish Mousse with Caviar, Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Strudel, Savory Leek Tarts, and more
Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Passed Hors D’Oeuvres included Duck Breast and Mango Brochette with Coca Nibs, Smoked White Fish Mousse with?Caviar, Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Strudel, Savory Leek Tartes, and more Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Passed Hors D’Oeuvres included Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Strudel and more Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Passed Hors D’Oeuvres included Smoked White Fish Mousse with Caviar and more

A huge dessert room – with at least 3 tables worth of sweets- that included a station of fire and butter and firing Grand Marnier in making freshly made Crepes Suzette that made the whole room smell intoxicating – as well as a Croquembouche (tower of petits choux, or choux pastry balls, with caramelized sugar) surrounded by the daintiest macaroons and tarts and eclairs and more.
Crepes Suzette station at Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Desserts galore at the Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015, including a Croquembouche (tower of petits choux, or choux pastry balls, with caramelized sugar) surrounded by the daintiest macaroons and tarts and eclairs and more Desserts galore at the Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015, including a Croquembouche (tower of petits choux, or choux pastry balls, with caramelized sugar) surrounded by the daintiest macaroons and tarts and eclairs and more Desserts galore at the Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015, including a Croquembouche (tower of petits choux, or choux pastry balls, with caramelized sugar) surrounded by the daintiest macaroons and tarts and eclairs and more Desserts galore at the Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015, including a Croquembouche (tower of petits choux, or choux pastry balls, with caramelized sugar) surrounded by the daintiest macaroons and tarts and eclairs and more Desserts galore at the Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015, including a Croquembouche (tower of petits choux, or choux pastry balls, with caramelized sugar) surrounded by the daintiest macaroons and tarts and eclairs and more Desserts galore at the Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015, including a Croquembouche (tower of petits choux, or choux pastry balls, with caramelized sugar) surrounded by the daintiest macaroons and tarts and eclairs and more Desserts galore at the Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Desserts galore at the Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015

There was even more spectacular food I missed as I was with such great company that I couldn’t stop listening and chatting so I missed other great glimpses I saw only later on Instagram. Throughout the night the performances by the live musicians kept the vibrant atmosphere even more classy and just that je ne sais quoi to the ambiance, and a silent auction let you try your luck at winning.

It was an incredible event with hundreds toasting to France that night and really embodying the spirit and national motto: Liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity).
Heathman Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 Bountiful Buffet Plate

Although the event is over, you will still be able to find Beaujolais Nouveau at your stories, and the fact that it is a red that is bottled so young means it doesn’t absorb the usual red tannins, making it a great compromise between a white and a red. And, keep your eye out for this annual event next November. As you can see, the food and drinks were splendid. It also was great to have a fancy dress up event for a change, where you can pull out your little black dress to all out sequins and gowns that I saw among the guests.

Vive la France!

Disclosure: I was graciously provided a media pass for this event, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.

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Book Club: Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture

For October the selected book subject for my online book club, The Kitchen Reader, was Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture by Dana Goodyear.
Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture by Dana Goodyear

I really enjoyed this book. First of all, it really worked out in terms of timing, as I cracked the book open in the airport. The first chapter, Scavenger, which was my favorite chapter of the book, highlights immigrant food and how interesting cuisine comes out of poverty and necessity eating. At the same time, the food of the poor people is now the food being seeked out by the New American gourmet for pleasure.

This chapter focuses a lot on Jonathan Gold (of the LA Times… their food section with their large gorgeous photos sadly has no comparison in Portland, despite all the foodiness we offer) and also Javier Cabral (of the blog The Glutster). Both Gold and Cabral food coverage stomping grounds are nooks and crannies of the very city my plane was heading towards as I read this book: one of the ultimate immigrant cities in the United States, Los Angeles.

I looked longingly out the window of the car after landing as we drove by Brooklyn Bagel Bakery (mentioned by Gold as the “single source of every good bagel in Los Angeles”) but reminded myself my sister DOES live here and I had time to visit again. In fact, while reading this book in LA, I ended up visiting two of Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants during my stay, Newport Seafood (a family favorite that I previously showed off their famous house lobster) and also Son of a Gun Restaurant (in this post here).

The San Gabriel Valley area of LA, referred to casually as SGV often in the book, is covered extensively in this same chapter of the book, highlighting the specialized Asian food in the area because regional cuisines remain intact, traceable almost to the villages of origin of the restaurant owners. The SGV is also referred to in other chapters of the book. Other Asian foods, particularly the wonder of Thai Town and all it has to offer, are also mentioned in this chapter and I enjoyed hearing the love for this authentic home-cooking.

Stewed Pork Hocks: I love it, and very common in Thai food. Would you eat it? Next, Kai Jiew Kai Mod – A Thai dish of egg omelette with ant eggs. Would you eat it?
Kai Jiew Kai Mod - a Thai dish of egg omelette with ant eggs at Sticky Rice, Chicago. Would you eat it?

I’m not actually that much a fan of LA as the traffic scares me and everything is so spread out, but the food, oh the food… It is worth coming to LA for a food vacation alone, despite the distance and traffic. Gold, who the book reports drives twenty thousand miles a year in search of food, himself admits it in the book: “I go into a fugue state, like the Aboriginal dreamtime, when you go on long aimless walks in the outback,” he says, “That’s how I feel driving on the endless streets of Los Angeles County.”

I took some notes on my phone as I was reading the book of places I might check out in the future. You might find yourself doing the same thing.

In so many ways, this book really is a love letter to the food in LA, which is refreshing since so often the focus ends up in New York City. The book does cover New York (in the second chapter, Grub, about purveyors of specialty food in the gourmet industry, particularly exotic animals and insects), and also Las Vegas (in chapter 3, Backdoor Men, about the suppliers of the outrageous and obscure ingredients from truffles to caviar to foie gras and the storytelling or conning that may be involved).

Inevitably though, the book always returns to LA and California (and also Gold, who is mentioned often in the book).

Foie Gras and Caviar and Truffles, oh my
Poutine foie gras from Au Pied de Cochon Tru's famous caviar staircase/ In the caviar staircase, only four of the steps were actually caviar, the rest are accompaniants like egg whites, egg yolk, capers, and chopped onion. My brioche toast had a little bowl of crème fraîche along with. French Laundry- Carnaroli Risotto Biologico, with Castelmagno cheese and shaved white truffles from Alba. The foam you see around the risotto is truffle oil, and after the white truffle was added it was finished with melted Vermont butter.

The book also presents interesting political and ethical questions. Chapter 4 (The Rawesome Three, covering those who want raw unprocessed food, particularly dairy) and Chapter 5 (Double Dare, questioning the FDA and food regulation and how that creates conformity, and the role of corporate farms in the need for rules and regulation versus small farms) makes book readers to think about the line of government’s need to protect versus consumer freedom of choice.

There are also questions about our cultural sensibilities and environmental and animal rights stands of what is ok to eat. Chapter 7, Guts, centers around offal and the many parts of animal that are wasted in the American meat industry, including profiling one the Offal Prince himself, Chef Chris Cosentino.

Sweetbreads with Glazed Bacon/White Polenta/Shiitake Mushrooms / PDC, or Fried Pig’s Foot (Pied Cochon) with vegetables, mashed potatoes, stuffed with foie gras inside after deboning and then topped with foie gras. Would you eat these?
Sweetbreads with Glazed Bacon/White Polenta/Shiitake Mushrooms Au Pied De Cochon -  PDC, The namesake dish of the restaurant, fried pig’s foot (Pied Cochon), vegetables, mashed potatoes, stuffed with foie gras inside after deboning and then topped with foie gras

On one hand, I side with this mission to honor the sacrifice of life and use whole animal. On the other hand, this chapter is where I was disgusted at some of the extreme food concoctions that clearly are challenges for a dining as sport and bragging rights. I can admire pig snout with escargot and watercress because pigs in nature like to eat snails and vegetation near streams. But, raw venison heart on a brioche made with pig skin, and mention of a goose intestine soup Consentino called “anal-tini” is a culinary dare that crosses to way too much for me.

The much more tame meat plate of Ox‘s Asado Argentino for 2 includes Grilled Short Rib, House Chorizo & Morcilla Sausages, Skirt Steak, Sweetbreads, or Roasted Marrow Bones appetizer at Little Bird Bistro
The much more tame meat plate of Ox's Asado Argentino for 2: includes Grilled Short Rib, House Chorizo & Morcilla Sausages, Skirt Steak, Sweetbreads Roasted Marrow Bones at Little Bird Bistro

Chapter 8, Off Menu, continues that line of thought of what is ok to eat and what is not, and what defines that line, as it tells the tale of investigating a restaurant serving whale meat and horse meat.  This was the most off putting chapter for me. Also mentioned in the book is eating dog, or live octopus. But, it did make me think about how casually, particularly in Portland, we eat pork… pigs are smart animals too. There are people who keep pigs as pet. Why is it acceptable to still eat them? I have to admit sometimes that line can be arbitrary… but at the same time, I can’t shake that line.

Meanwhile, Chapter 6, Haute Cuisine, is just wicked fun (and my second favorite chapter in the book) as it covers the wild wild west feel of food culture in exploring modernist cuisine and experimenting with food utilizing marijuana as an ingredient (with several hilarious tidbits and tales). Author Dana Goodyear observes, “Food, in the foodie movement, is often treated like a controlled substance”.

No, I have no photo of any food with pot in it. All I have is this playful dish by Homaru Cantu of “Roadkill of Fowl” which is a braised duck with beets. Notice the yellow dotted lines of the road and rice krispy maggots… Actually this was a really tasty dish.
Homaru Cantu dish of Roadkill of Fowl which is a braised duck with beets. Notice the yellow dotted lines of the road and rice krispy maggots Homaru Cantu dish of Roadkill of Fowl which is a braised duck with beets. Notice the yellow dotted lines of the road and rice krispy maggots

Overall, author Dana Goodyear has a very engaging voice and keen eye. In bringing her research/observational ride-alongs throughout the book, she describes the way people look and act in a way that succinctly embodies them. She tells specific side stories and uses metaphors and similes to really bring any subject or the way food looks and smells and feels to life in a way the reader can understand.

I already liked her when in the introduction, she described herself with this short story while simultaneously providing the credentials of why she was the right writer for this book: “My relationship to food is that of an acrophobe to a bridge: unease masks a desire to jump. A well-fed child with the imagination of a scrounger, I remember holing up in the back of the station wagon eating the dog’s Milk-Bones, which were tastier than you might expect.”

Dana’s writing includes profiles of  everyone,  both big and small in this adventurous eating world. The critics, the famous chefs and staff of famous restaurants or local pop-ups, the food suppliers both grand and small (from those in suits with exquisite butters and saffron to the tweakers who may forage your mushrooms), the food bloggers, other dining guest foodies eating with her, federal investigators… all are included in her scope of view.

Because of that diverse scope of anyone in the food scene is part of the story, the food culture that Dana depicts is rich with so many real characters that as a reader, you feel that the food world described seems very accurate in parting the curtain that a normal consumer does not know.

In observing the food scene, in particular some of the more extreme food combinations, Dana functions as our eyes and ears and grounds everything more in reality. She will admit when she leaves a pop-up still hungry and need to stop to get a hot dog, or that she’s impressed, or alternately that she is afraid for her health because of a dish.

In one example in the book, she explains “that dish –  quiver on quiver on quiver – epitomized the convergence of the disgusting and the sublime typical of so much foodie food. It was almost impossible to swallow it, thinking ruined it, and submission to its alien texture rewarded you with a bracing, briny, primal rush”

I waited 2.5 hours to eat at Sushi Dai in Tokyo. The one to the right, the clam, was still moving when the chef put it down.
Sushi Dai sashimi, Sushi Dai, Tokyo, Japan, Tsukiji Fish Market Sushi Dai

I shared a lot of photos of various foods that I thought tried to illustrate some of what was talked about in the book… are there any that you would eat?

Have you visited the food scene of LA, and did you know that the San Gabriel Valley of CA was such a hotspot for food?

What do you think of how Jonathan Gold, as noted in the book, subscribes to the following translation of the county health inspection ratings which are posted by law in every restaurant: “A stands for American Chinese, B is for Better Chinese, and C is for Chinese food for Chinese”?

And if insects were presented in some of the ways written in the book from the cooking competition at the Natural History’s Museums annual bug fair (most of the judges are children because of their openness to new foods):

  • bee patties for Bee L T sandwiches,
  • tailless whip scorpions in a tempura with spicy mayo,
  • fried wild caught dragonflies with sauteed mushrooms with Dijon soy butter,
  • Ugandan katydid and grilled cheese sandwiches,
  • a spider roll with rose haired tarantula (hair burned off, don’t worry – usually spider rolls are made with bottom feeding crab while spiders eat crickets that only eat grass- one young girl declared “It’s sushi. With spiders. It’s awesome”)

would you try it?

And, because I can’t think of any other time I could use these photos (which come from an exhibit on insects at the Seattle Pacific Science Center called Insect Village)… ha. The eating cookies with insects isn’t as far-fetched as you think. In my local paper, they just ran an article about kids pondering a mealworm chocolate chip.
Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Insect Village exhibit

I hope this has been an interesting recap/review of the book for you. For next month, the November book for the book club is Born Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite by Frank Bruni.

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Au Pied de Cochon Montreal Recap

Tomorrow my youngest sister is getting married!

As I mentioned in a previous post earlier this week, for my sister’s bachelorette party we went to Montréal in September. The restaurant Bouillon Bilk, as I wrote about in a previous post, was both of one of our favorite restaurant experiences. The other one for her was Au Pied de Cochon, which I nickname to just “APC” in this post.

Plate and Knife at famed Montreal restaurant Au Pied de Cochon

First I should say almost none of these photos are mine, they were accumulated from the cameras of many of the other lovely ladies, of which total there were 10 of us, who were dining that evening. All I did was a little bit of cropping and lighting touch-ups for the sake of this Au Pied de Cochon Montreal Recap post.

APC is a very narrow restaurant – it reminded me of New York in that way – and I was impressed they found a way to seat our party across almost the entire front of the restaurant (there was actually another 2 two-tops just to my right). Even with tables and the related chairs close behind us, they scooted very carefully to get to all of us even on the inside wall end.

Even at APC a vegetarian was able to dine. I didn’t take a photo of the vegetarian’s food, but I believe we all stole some of those super buttery potatoes and she enjoyed her tomato tart and salad washed down with Pied de Cochon’s own beer. So it is possible, though they can’t be the type of vegetarian squeamish about seeing a lot of meat because most of the menu is meat. I would draw the line at vegan as everything the vegetarian had included dairy like butter or cheese.
A visit to famed Montreal restaurant Au Pied de Cochon- the menu cover A visit to famed Montreal restaurant Au Pied de Cochon- the napkin rings

One of the things we (who were not vegetarian obviously) were pretty excited about at APC was the foie gras. In particular, some of the ladies are from California, where foie is illegal. So we maybe over-indulged a little here…

I liked APC, but for me the richness wasn’t balanced and so it felt too much, an excess of fat in the experience. Usually I am usually a lover of fat as it brings so much flavor,  but this went over the top for me because the dishes were so intense. It may have had to do somewhat with our ordering, but looking over the menu now, I don’t see a lot of dishes that offered another flavor – something spicy, or citrus… a counterbalance of flavors in food form and not just Cocktail or Dessert at the end.

Part of it might have just been palate fatigue on my part, since as a normal diner you probably wouldn’t be eating ALL of these dishes we did! We ordered family style and with 10 of us we justified getting a lot of dishes. This may have meant most of the section labeled Foie Gras.

Anyway, I would not have thought of APC as my top dining experience this trip – that honor for this trip goes to Bouillon Bilk. However, it was definitely memorable as so indulgent and lavish.

Suffice it to say if you come to Au Pied De Cochon, you better love fat in your food. You should love foie gras and also love pork and be ready to luxuriate in those 3 things –  fat,  foie gras, pork. If you can’t say yes to those criteria, you may not have as good of a time with your dinner because of the food they showcase here.

Not pictured below are additional dishes we ordered of Accras de morue (salted codfish fritters), Tarte de tomates (tomato tart, for the vegetarian), or the Salade de Bleu, pommes, endives (also for the vegetarian) and Purée de pommes de terre (the super buttery mashed potatoes I mentioned earlier).

Starters

  • Foie Gras “tout nu”
    Au Pied De Cochon for 10 ladies on September 13, 2014 - Foie Gras 'tout nu'
  • Mousse Foie Pintade
    Au Pied De Cochon for 10 ladies on September 13, 2014 - Mousse Foie Pintade
  • Soupe A L’Oignon, French onion soup. I don’t think I tried this…
    Au Pied De Cochon for 10 ladies on September 13, 2014 - Soupe A L'Oignon, French onion soup with foie gras
  • Pain De Viande, a meatloaf with foie gras… perhaps you detect a theme
    Au Pied De Cochon for 10 ladies on September 13, 2014 - Pain De Viande, a meatloaf with foie gras
  • Cured foie gras and boudin tart
    A meatstravaganza dinner at Au Pied De Cochon for 10 ladies on September 13, 2014 - Cured foie gras and boudin tart
  • Tarte de Foie Gras, it gets two photos so you can see it from both sides
    A meatstravaganza dinner at Au Pied De Cochon for 10 ladies on September 13, 2014 - Tarte de Foie Gras A meatstravaganza dinner at Au Pied De Cochon for 10 ladies on September 13, 2014 - Tarte de Foie Gras
  • Poutine foie gras, this was my favorite of the starters… so it gets two pictures in this recap too, a dish of fries, gravy (the most refined gravy for a poutine we had the whole trip), cheese curd (they were much more restrained on the cheese curds) and two big hunks of foie. I would recommend ordering this dish,  even if you’ve had other foie gras poutine elsewhere, because the APC version is like no other.
    Au Pied De Cochon for 10 ladies on September 13, 2014 - Poutine foie gras Au Pied De Cochon for 10 ladies on September 13, 2014 - Poutine foie gras

This next dish I guess could be counted either as a starter or a main, it was listed in the Foie Gras section in the menu that as you saw above, mostly are starter or shared plates. This burger was amazeballs. When we came back late after our evening/morning out, this was what several of us were so looking forward to warming up slightly and eating… the Hamburger Foie Gras. There is so much to eat here though, I could see trying to split this in half or quarters to try to eat as a starter. This is before our table mauled it… Recommended, but share it.
A meatstravaganza dinner at Au Pied De Cochon for 10 ladies on September 13, 2014 - Hamburger foie gras

Mains

  • Coupe PDC (0.5 kg), or PDC’s Cut, a pork loin seared in duck fat with mushrooms and onions because you can’t just have pork simply alone…
    A meatstravaganza dinner at Au Pied De Cochon for 10 ladies on September 13, 2014- Coupe PDC, a pork loin seared in duck fat
  • Pied Cochon Foie Gras. The namesake dish of the restaurant, fried pig’s foot, vegetables, mashed potatoes, stuffed with foie gras inside after deboning and then topped with foie gras. Pretty much if you are going to order this, you need a big party. Even with the 10 of us we had some left to take home, though admittedly we did just eat a lot of starters… We who did eat it called it “the Best Thanksgiving Dish ever”. Recommend if you have enough dining friends to make this work!
    A meatstravaganza dinner at Au Pied De Cochon for 10 ladies on September 13, 2014-Au Pied de Cochon, stuffed with foie gras. The namesake dish of the restaurant, fried pig’s foot, vegetables, mashed potatoes, stuffed with foie gras inside after deboning and then topped with foie gras. A meatstravaganza dinner at Au Pied De Cochon for 10 ladies on September 13, 2014-Au Pied de Cochon, stuffed with foie gras. The namesake dish of the restaurant, fried pig’s foot, vegetables, mashed potatoes, stuffed with foie gras inside after deboning and then topped with foie gras.
  • Canard en Conserve – the famous Duck in a Can dish. They open it tableside with a can opener, turn it upside down on the platter, and slowly pull the can up, letting the cooked duck breast and foie gras just flow out of the can into what you see below. Seriously. I would recommend this as a dish to share.

I also have to say that the service was amazing and so friendly at APC the entire time we were there, and they dutifully packaged all our leftovers… Yes, four boxes of leftovers. Warning though they have no bags (what, do people not carry leftovers?) so some ladies stopped at a convenience store to acquire a big paper bag for our boxes… which we then carried to multiple destinations later that evening (cough cough).

Whatever, we were happy to do so because as soon as we got home late/early that morning we were already looking forward to eating it. Even though I believe we made 3 more stops and had lots of liquids that evening, there was always someone making sure we were still carrying our leftovers to eat once we reached home.  When that time finally came, yes we did rip open the bags and containers and did continue the meatextravaganza!

While at the restaurant we did finish most of the dishes, minus the foie burger, and the main dishes as they were so large. Each of those main dish portions could have been for four people at least. I felt like I should have spent the whole day working out to help build the animal hunger for this dinner.

We never felt rushed during our dinner at APC even as we saw a line of guests line up out the door. In terms of table service, we were constantly kept refreshed with waters and other beverages. Most of us were trying beer and cocktails to take a break from the wine during dinner of the previous 2 days, and personally I thought the cocktails were a nice refreshing contrast to our heavy dinner plates- most of us were having mojitos with ground cherries.

Overall our dining experience was a stay at APC of 2.5 hours and we left about $500 lighter.

I highly recommend sharing dishes, as the flavors of each dish are intense, so you will want to sample around and break up your flavor experience.

A member of our group called towards the end of July in order to secure our reservation for September 13, so keep that in mind too. Our group size, at 10, is the largest they can accommodate- at first we thought we might be a group of 12 and they would have split us into two tables of six. Whatever the case with your dining party, you definitely want to make reservations, and it took her a couple calls to confirm that we were set (thanks Elaine!).

Congratulations to my sister tomorrow, I can’t wait to be a part of your Big Day!
Judy's Bachelorette Party in Montreal, September 13, 2014

Have you ever had foie gras? Have you ever gotten together in a big group and ordered most of a menu than eaten family style like this?

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Bouillon Bilk, Montreal and other Montreal eats

Breathe, breathe… in 5 days, my youngest, baby sister will be getting married!

Well, until then, I wanted to share my favorite eat that I think we had when we were in Montreal for her bachelorette party. It’s also one of her favorite dining experiences while we were there. Because we have excellent taste. And, sisters.

After taking a red-eye from Portland to Newark, I then embarked on a puddle jumper to Montreal, Canada. As soon as the plane landed, I connected to the wireless at the Montreal airport and on the long hallway towards customs, found a sign next to a bench for this selfie…

At the airport in baggage claim, I met up with two of Judy’s friends. After a stop for some sugar and caffeine at the airport’s Tim Horton‘s – a place I would recommend for meeting people, as they have seats and tables, and you can then use the airport wireless while having a snack/waiting, and the taxis or Metro Network shuttle bus 747 into the city all leave from basically in front of that anyway. We took a selfie proof of life/arrival to send her before we left baggage claim though!

I had found a place for all of girls to stay all in one loft to maximize all our time together, at the request of my sister. Thanks AirBnB. I picked our final location not just based on the number of occupants, but I had mapped various activities we were interested in, most of them being um restaurants and bars, and based on where they all ended up clustering on Google Maps picked a home base convenient to that…. which meant we were in walking distance of Old Montreal and downtown.

After dropping off our luggage, we killed some time before our official check-in and when our friends would arrive by walking to the dining on tapas at Tapas 24This is a Montreal outpost of the Barcelona tapas place, which one of the ladies had visited and raved about there, and wanted to try the one here. Unlike the version in Spain, the one here in Montreal was spacious and full of light, with a hip black, orange, and maple wood theme.

Here, our lunch consisted of various tapas and a whole bottle of wine between the 3 of us. Yep. You can pick whichever wine you want and they can make sangria with it. This is also where I think I had my favorite poutine of the whole trip.

Tapas 24 had a whole section of the menu dedicated to “manda huevos” (Send Eggs) so we thought we should have at least one. We picked “manda huevos…con FOIE GRAS. fried eggs – potatoes – foie gras poêlé. We had no idea it would be essentially fries that absorbed the scrambled eggs which I’m pretty sure were just cooked in fat and then topped with foie. But I think I maybe ate half of this dish myself. Foie and eggs are excellent together.

This is also how I found out that these two ladies are not much in terms of drinkers… so maybe I was assisting a lot in trying to drink that pitcher. And so I really needed that dish! I was trying to carefully balance between how sometimes alcohol can help perk you up and be social, and other times start to make you sleepy (which I already was tired from the redeye here!).
Pick a bottle and they will make sangria with it at Tapas 24  Foie eggs and potatoes - a Tapas poutine at Tapas 24

Overall, with Tapas 24, my friend was disappointed that they didn’t have the variety that the Barcelona Tapas 24 has, and for the price the food portions were tiny.

We didn’t think much of the McFoie burger that is really the size of a Mc-sandwich and whose only saving grace is the foie mousse on the side…which I ate without the dried out meat of the burger and bun.

With all the deliciuosness that Montreal has to offer, this had promise but didn’t deliver. After this lunch, we spent the next couple hours walking the Underground City to keep busy, as well as buy snacks (I love buying international flavors of chips) and champagne to welcome our friends when they arrived.
A collage of our eats at Tapas 24 that day for lunch, 3 people and one big pitcher of sangria Tapas 24 on Urbanspoon

My favorite dinner of the 3 evenings was at a restaurant called Bouillon Bilk, which we dined at on very same day, Thursday evening. Looking back at my Google spreadsheet where I was copying and pasting various ideas for restaurants and their addresses, hours, cuisine type, and url, Bouillon Bilk was one of the first 10 restaurants I highlighted as it ranked high on Tripadvisor in their restaurant list, was mentioned on Eater, and in other reviews I read online as a wonderful experience.

They were all exactly right.

Sign of Bouillon Bilk, snuggled between two electronic shops in Montreal Menu of Bouillon Bilk

This was the beginning of ordering family style, where we essentially would order “we’ll have this entire section except X and Y”. So I was able to try most of the menu. Every dish was plated like a work of art, and the flavors were either fresh and best ingredients, or layered on top of each other so even with a little bite you wanted to let it just dissolve on your tongue.

As I said, this was my favorite of where we dined, with other dining destinations that weekend including Jardin Nelson for lunch (a glimpse from a collage photo below – it does have an extensive menu and is great for groups, but only takes reservations for lunch not dinner), Le Deux Gamins for dinner, carry out lunch at Olive & Gourmando (a place I would also try again, but definitely not with a group as they are too small and busy to accommodate a large party. I had a lovely Housemade Ricotta “salty” with Summer tomatoes, sweet summer corn and pine nuts served with toasts shown below), and Au Pied du Cuchon. My sister’s other favorite dining experience was Au Pied du Cochon, so I’ll write a separate post about that later.

A glimpse of a lunch at Jardin Nelson grabbing lunch to go at Olive et Gourmando - my Housemade Ricotta

Here’s what we had between the 7 of us that evening at Bouillon Bilk. These photos are not mine, I believe they came from my sister’s camera but we all put our pictures together so it’s hard to tell. All I did was crop and clean up the photos slightly if I could.

Starters

melons, blackberries, pistachios, goat cheese, heart of palm. I liked this refreshing dish with its play on various textures.
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, melons, blackberries, pistachios, goat cheese, heart of palm
dumpling, pork, plum, celery, rice stem. This was one giant dumpling!
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, dumpling, pork, plum, celery, rice stem
risotto, carrot, basil, passion fruit. this usually also has shrimp but we asked for it sans for the vegetarian.
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, risotto, carrot, basil, passion fruit
hamachi, yuzu kosho, raspberry, fennel, cucumber. That hamachi was melt in your mouth.
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, hamachi, yuzu kosho, raspberry, fennel, cucumber
lobster, tomato, chili, avocado, nectarine
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, lobster, tomato, chili, avocado, nectarine
tuna tartare, which was INCREDIBLE. It was a special for that night and almost ordered it again because it was so good, but they ran out!
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, tuna tartare

Mains

scallops, zucchinis, shitake, pear, watercress, beurre noisette
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, scallops, zucchinis, shitake, pear, watercress, beurre noisette
ravioli, corn, lamb, porcini, olive, swiss chard
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, ravioli, corn, lamb, porcini, olive, swiss chard
salmon, artichoke, romano, tomato, apricot, fennel vadouven
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, salmon, artichoke, romano, tomato, apricot, fennel vadouven
duck, a special that night of magret or duck breast filet
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, magret or duck special that night
guinea fowl, lentils, radish, yellow feet mushrooms, figs
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, guinea fowl, lentils, radish, yellow feet mushrooms, figs

I would definitely come back here if I return to Montreal again. Montreal has a big beer scene, and I didn’t see any of that as we were mostly focused on wine and cocktails and shots…

I hope to see you again, Bouillon Bilk, Montreal. Wonderful dinner and company with Team Thursday of Montreal on September 11, 2014. After this incredible dinner, we were revived and continued on to the club Velvet within L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel and even bagels at Fairmont Bagel (note: next time take a BAG of Montreal bagels back home, don’t just buy 1!). It was a fantastic start to our Bachelorette Weekend!
Team Thursday at Judy's Bachelorette Party, dining at Bouillon Bilk in Montreal on September 11, 2014 Team Thursday at Judy's Bachelorette Party, dining at Bouillon Bilk in Montreal on September 11, 2014

Have you been to Montreal? What would you recommend the next time I visit?

What did you think of my dilemma of ordering a pitcher that includes a whole bottle of wine and then finding out they each probably can’t drink more than 2 glasses, if that? Have you ever flown a redeye and what did you do to keep yourself up and lasting for the day?

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Steaks at Urban Farmer with my brother

My brother came to visit November 17-19, 2011. We started out with a first meal- well, really a snack- at Little Big Burger after we met up at Powells City of Books. After we settled in at home and relaxed for a bit, then we had a steak dinner at Urban Farmer. He selected Urban Farmer barely over my other multiple choice options to him of the happy hour steak of El Gaucho and the quality local butchered steaks of Laurelhurst Market because the Urban Farmer menu offered a larger variety of steaks to choose from on the menu.

All of these photos are courtesy of his skills and Canon EOS 60D camera.

steaks, Urban Farmer, Portland Oregon

We started out with the appetizers. I went with the smaller order of Artisanal and house-made selections of pâté & cured meats pickled vegetables, preserves, mustard. None of them are local unfortunately, and my brother left before I got to show off Chop‘s pate or Olympic Provisions charcuterie which I love… and now that I’ve had those, this homemade/imported offerings plate from Urban Farmer just couldn’t measure up to my new higher bar.

steaks, Urban Farmer, Portland Oregon

His choice in appetizer, the Foie gras, veal sweetbreads, roasted peach, hazelnut plate, was better. We weren’t sure we liked the roasted peach as part of the plate as only a small bite was so sweet and seemed to overbalance the savoryness of the meats. But, the foie gras and the sweetbread were very flavorful and I liked the slightly crispy outer texture. It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come from the very first time my sister accidentally ordered sweetbread during our family vacation in Las Vegas a long time ago but thought it was actual bread (she was vegetarian at the time) and the waitstaff took it back graciously.

steaks, Urban Farmer, Portland Oregon

Anyway, back to the Urban Farmer dinner. After they took our appetizers away they presented us with the cornbread and warm rolls to tide us over while waiting for our main meal.

steaks, Urban Farmer, Portland Oregon

We were torn by the sides we should order, and settled on the waitress’ recommendation of the Creamed spinach gratin (which was super rich and melt in your mouth but also greatly helped by the crunchy topping for texture) and we meant to order the fries but were so torn by either fries or mashed that I accidentally said Potato purée instead… so we got the mashed. This was also super decadant, very buttery and cream.

For the entrees, he and I conspired together where I would order the 24 oz Painted Hills, Oregon, grain-finished, bone-in Ribeye and he would help me, and he was also ordering what I wanted to taste compare, the New York Steak Tasting of 6 oz each of Oregon grass fed, Brandt prime, and Painted Hills twenty-one day dry aged. Both were ordered medium-rare. Of the NY steaks, I liked the aged, while he preferred the grass fed. Both of us loved the juicyness of the Painted Hills grain finished ribeye best of all the entrees.

steaks, Urban Farmer, Portland Oregonsteaks, Urban Farmer, Portland Oregonsteaks, Urban Farmer, Portland Oregonsteaks, Urban Farmer, Portland Oregonsteaks, Urban Farmer, Portland Oregon

Unfortunately we did not have room for dessert. I really like Urban Farmer’s atmosphere, which unlike most steakhouses which seem to be full of wood and shadows and are remisicent of a old men’s club, Urban Farmer is located as part of the upscale and trendy boutique Nines hotel in the Macy’s downtown (originally the Historic Meier & Frank Building, circa 1909). So, its atmosphere is much younger and hipper with its decor a cross between a nod to nostalgia of the farm with canned fruit and flaked wood and animal print, but also the modern urbanity of clean lines and layout that makes it almost seem like it’s all outdoors (while still being indoors as part of a hotel). It is located on the 8th floor is also the atrium of the hotel, so you don’t feel as enclosed and can even get a peek of the sky via their skylights. Their menu also celebrates a lot of local meat (except for their charcuterie, as mentioned). It definitely reconfirmed its place as one of the steakhouses I recommend.

As a side story, this was also the same day that the Occupy protestors took theier walk and only a few hours earlier, were pepper sprayed at the Chase Bank area just on the other side of the square…

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