I attended an event organized for the media to promote LECHOP. Have you heard of it? It is currently in its 4th year and to be honest, I had never heard of it. Similar to Le Happening Gourmand which is a group of restaurants from Old Montreal that get together and offer Table d’Hôte menus for $22, LeCHOP is like the downtown/crescent version. LECHOP’s Table d’hôte is $25 between January 4th and February 11th, but there is an added element as LECHOP has a weekly battle between the chefs of their respective restaurants using a featured ingredient and their battle dish is then served exclusively that week.
When I was first asked to attend I thought, hmmm… Newtown, L’Atelier d’Argentine, Weinstein & Gavino’s and Decca 77. I’m not really one of those downtown or crescent kind of diners. I had been to L’Atelier d’Argentine twice and greatly appreciated the decor but was gravely disappointed by the food and how much I paid for it and to see how packed the place was despite the food’s poor performance. I’ve always felt that these types of establishments were built more on strong marketing teams than on culinary talent. Decca 77, however, I knew there was a bit more to them from a culinary point of view, so it piqued my interest. The event was supposed to be hosted by Alexandre Despatis who hosts the LECHOP show which is also a common marketing strategy of getting a prominent public figure to be at the front center of your activity, but then I guess Crudessence was using Georges Laraque for awhile as a vegan spokesperson. My curiosity got the better of me and I went with good friend Tania Jimenez.
The welcome was warm and I saw the chefs doing their best to put on a show out in the crowd while the action actually was in the kitchen behind the scenes. It’s not all chefs that are willing to get out of the kitchen to please and smooze with the crowd. Natalia Machado of l’Atelier d’Argentine (also a lady chef) Paulo Fraga of Weinstein & Gavino’s and Giuseppe Sachetti were the most gregarious as I imagine that Jean-Sébastien Giguère of Decca 77 was in the kitchen. After showing us the last LECHOP episode, for which people could go and vote online for their favourite dish/chef, then came the canapés along with the free-flowing wine. There were bites of peppery venison with berry jelly, canapés of pancetta and cream, beet and goat’s cheese saiad all of which were good, but one really caught my palette made by Jean-Sébastien Giguère of Decca 77. This was a smoked salmon mousse with sake candied shallots, maple mayo, furikake (seaweed) and anise powder. It was worth it to come out for this bite.
I guess the moral of the story is that there are over 6000 restaurants in Montreal, the most per capital in North America, yet we are probably the coldest major urban centre in North America as well. Excluding the Toqués (who even almost went under) and Pied de Cochons and a handful of other restaurants in Montreal, most have to think up ways to keep their sales figures up in the months that tourists are MIA and Montrealers are cocooning. I admire the zest of the event and pushing the chefs to create weekly and to prove themselves but mostly getting the public involved through a voting system and through Table d’hôte prices that make it a small gamble to come out and eat or try something new for the client. Some of the restaurants with superstar chefs in Montreal smugly say that they don’t advertise, yet some of that arrogance has led them to open one too many restaurants without verifying the solidity of their concept, the staff or menu or maintain the quality of their initial first “baby”. I have to say, I enjoyed going to an event where the chefs didn’t seem to take themselves too seriously and I also take my hat off to those that put themselves out there and invite bloggers or journalists or other food business people to see what they are doing. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. That’s how you reach new markets and not by staying inside of your cliqua until it cannobalizes itself. It was a reminder that you may be stronger collaborating and levereging with others in the food industry than staying atop your lonesome peak either sitting on your laurels or lamenting how tough the industry is in Montreal. This was also a reminder to me that at those moments when business is tough, it’s the moment to innovate and get out in the world, even if that’s the last thing you feel like at that moment. It’s also good for people writing to get out of what they think they are about and try some new things or different approaches and see how impartial they can be!
Every year at the harvest I go pick what’s left in the fields of D-Trois Pierres and come back to Montreal to can part of the harvest left-overs with the Réseau d’entraide and the other half with my dinner club. This year D-Trois Pierres didn’t have any surplus in the fields, so my whole model was thrown off kilter a few weeks before the end of the growing season. I have also been working part-time at Chez Doris (a day centre for homeless women) and giving cooking workshops once a month with CFAD (Continuité famille auprès des détenues). That meant that I had more partners to make preserves with and less produce to make it with!
I started by sending an e-mail to Lufa and thanks to the wonderful Erica Dancose who contacted their partners we received: cucumbers, peppers, carrots, beets amongst other things!
Then I got in touch with my close friend and celebrity organic urban farmer Judith Colombo and she hooked me up with La Ferme Belle Roche and La ferme co-op des Champs qui chantent in Lachute. We drove out with my mom who was visiting and picked parsnips, carrots, kale, herbs, swiss chard, green tomatoes, sorrel and hot peppers! Heather from Le co-op des champs qui chantent even had a hot bowl of soup for us! I think it was colder at the beginning of November than it is now!
This year was bigger and badder. Changing farms and enlarging the different benefitting organizations allowed me to involve more wonderful people in the activities!
Our first day of canning with fresh, local, organic produce took place at the Réseau d’entraide de Verdun. We did it with Gabriel’s collective kitchen group, plus some of the former participants in my workshops, Suzanne Bruneau and Maxime Gaboriault from the dinner club and the esteemed secret weapon Sébastien Bureau of Mannanova who is also the food scientist of RISE kombucha. People left with a super garlicky and spicy kale kimchi fermenting, a ruttabega, cabbage and carrot kraut fermenting, salted herbs and a green fruit relish. There was 15 of us and it was such a heart-warming and pantry-filling experience.
The second preserve session was with ladies from CFAD and from Chez Doris at CFAD. We made chow chow and pickled carrots. We also had a nice time together and the staff from CFAD pitched in too.
I’d like to sincerely thank Le Co-op des champs qui chantent, Lufa and La Ferme Belle Roche for contributing fresh local, organic, in-season vegetables towards those who have less instead of the usual processed non-perishables, and also contributing to an experience where people learn about canning, salting, pickling and fermenting. Preserving is a highly social activity and it was nice to see people from each organization rubbing shoulders with each other, with dinner club members and even with Sébastien the food scientist! Thank you also to the organizations that housed the activity and contributed to cover the cost of the other ingredients and the mason jars! See you next year!
I am originally from B.C. and I love going home. I love seeing my friends and family and usually spend most of my time in Northern B.C. and on Vancouver Island. “(I usually pass through Vancouver on the way to other places. Besides its beauty, I think that Vacouver is the capital of Asian tapas!! Tapas has always been my favourite way to eat, and Asian food is usually the cuisine that most delights my palate…especially Japanese and Korean.
I have tried a few places already: Bao Bei, which is wonderful and serves Chinese tapas calling themselves a “Chinese brasserie”. Guu in its early days and Happa Izakaya for the Japanese-style tapas or Izakaya eating. On my last trip, though, I tried a new placed called Damso. It is tiny, the décor minimalist and welcoming and the food de-li-cious!! It has just the right mix of Korean and nouvelle cuisine that I like and the Chef makes some surprising combinations.
I also often mix Korean food with western food. In fact, I believe that the best condiment I made in my life was a mix of southern-style chow-chow in which I replaced the cabbage with homemade kimchi. (I also make kimchi with kale, as you can see in this youtube video that I made in the hopes of going to Korea. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YK5bj8oBGrY)
I went to Damso with my cousin Sarah, her husband Danny, who is a chef, and my sister-friend Tisha who don’t eat-no-powk (swine). We had a nice little dinner and it was a great evening out. Tisha had never tried Korean food, and neither really had Danny and Sarah. Though this place is not at all traditional, it is great both for the uninitiated to Korean cuisine and for people like me who have a weakness for novelty.
Here were the dishes:
The pickled vegetables were beautifully presented, but they were too vinegary and traditional to me, and it would have been nice if each vegetable was pickled in a different way.
This was a just a straight-up fresh salad with the usual suspects in Asian western fusion: sesame, daikon, onions and sprouts, but then there was a bit of sweetness and the homemade bacon that brought it all home: simple, but well executed.
Here is toast with foie gras shavings and tomatoes confits. It was really intriguing, but overall, I felt the tomatoes confits were over-powering the foie gras shavings. It seemed like a dish that could work, but was unbalanced.
Tteokbokki is a very traditional dish with rice cakes in a spicy sauce– and he definitely got it right. Not only was it a hit with everyone, but it meant my friends also got to try some traditional stuff.
Here we have Korean-style chitterlings (fried intestines). My friend Tisha may not normally eat swine, but she’s got a soft spot for southern food and this was the best of both worlds.
Squid stuffed with squid sausage served with its ink and caviar: REALLY wonderful! Beautifully presented with delicate layering of flavours.
This was everyone’s favourite: the tongue. Simple and well-done. It had a gentle meat-glaze-esque sauce, velvety with collagen and flavour. J
The pig’s ear salad was the least favourite – I had pushed for it, but I was disappointed too. (I often eat pig’s ear salad, buying the ears already cooked and sliced, and there’s a reason for that; if they are over-cooked, the meat starts to peel off the cartilage and if they’re not sliced thin enough, they are too chewy and the experience of chewing through thick pieces of cartilage is unpleasant. Indeed, these were a bit too thick. The sauce was also a bit too sweet and I would have preferred julienned vegetables instead of the leafy greens. I did, however, like the ground black sesame. It was beautiful in the plate 🙂
I really loved the spirit of the place. Some of the dishes were extraordinary and some were missing a bit of finesse, but I could feel the dedication of the chef. I admired his willingness to take risks and even make mistakes, and the dishes that were super-dooper came out of his daring combinations of Korean cooking with for the most part French nouvelle cuisine. Koreans are fairly chauvinistic about food, they don’t usually want to pay much. In fact, this place remains very affordable but at the same time offers dishes that are definitely off the beaten track and beautifully presented and the tapas tasting style was refreshing. I would definitely go back to try some more :).
I forgot to take a photo of the Korean taco and the pancake, a traditional dish that they nicely re-invented as a waffle Sorry! I guess you’ll have to go and try it yourself!
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