Dec 19, 2011

A Holiday Special: How to make a coffee yule log!

Not long ago, Van Houtte asked me to prepare for them a coffee yule log. It was a fun experience in the company of their blogger Na'eem Adam.

Check-out the video below and then have fun creating your own yule log. Don't hesitate to be creative with flavours and decoration. It's the perfect cake for the Holiday Season.

You can find the recipe here!

Happy Holidays!

Bookmark and Share

Dec 12, 2011

Best First Date Restaurants in Montreal

“What restaurant do you recommend?” is maybe the question I get asked the most. Is it because there are so many good restaurants in Montreal, one doesn’t know which one to choose? Maybe. Although I have a very long list of favourite restaurants in Montreal – an ever changing one I might add, since each year brings numerous opening and closing of good tables – I often feel overwhelmed by this question.

It’s like asking what wine you prefer. Well, it depends on the occasion, budget, your personal taste, style, the whim of the moment!

So I decided to answer this question by selecting a theme. Since one of the reasons to go out to a restaurant is for a first date, here are my choices for this fun, exciting, sometimes nerve-racking experience! I'm not shooting for the most romantic restaurant mind you, at least not in the traditional sense of "romantic". I don't care much for red roses...I've selected just a few to make it easy for you, choose the one that suits your style and then concentrate on your date, because the food, for sure, will be amazing!

These are some of my favourite restaurants with a relatively affordable budget, leaving aside the more high-end restaurants like Toqué, Ferreira Café, Europea, Chasse et Pêche, Joe Beef, Au Pied de Cochon…which are all wonderful and different, but for another budget bracket. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my choices!

Osteria Venti – For a casual, fun first date, this is the place to be. It’s loud so no awkward silence that fill the room, guaranteed. The food is Italian cuisine, everything is home-made and no frills fancy plating, just straight-forward good food. Many dishes can be shared which always creates a sense of intimacy and complicity. What’s sexier then sharing a lip-smacking salumi platter?

If this hasn’t convinced you then read this and this other post.

Bouillon Bilk – A newcomer this year, Buillon Bilk is a very small, modern space with warmth. You’re sitting very close to the next table, so no place for exchange of secrets…which really isn’t a good idea on a first date anyway! ;-) The menu is a conversation starter for sure! Read-up on your veggies and mushrooms before you go, because the chef here isn’t shy to try some lesser known ones and will offer combinations that you have never tasted before. However, the plate always manages to taste somehow in our comfort zone, so no worries, you’ll enjoy it!

F-Bar – is for a more sophisticated first date, without breaking the piggy bank (well, not all of it!). The F-Bar will impress just by setting the foot in this modern glass box with incredible views of the Place des Spectacles. The ambiance is a little cold at night because of the glass backdrop, but if you go when it’s snowing or during a long summer evening, there are no more magical places in Montreal (except its twin restaurant Brasserie T!). The food is served in delightful individual stainless steel cocottes, and the menu is of Portuguese inspiration with a twist.

Les 400 Coups – If your date is a dessert addict like me, well, you have no choice then to reserve your table now, because you know your date will be forever grateful to you. Pastry chef Patrice Demers is indeed the co-owner of this restaurant, and he is probably the most exciting dessert creator in Quebec at the moment. Les 400 Coups has much to offer even if it just celebrated its first year! It has already been acclaimed by many, including En Route who nominated it top 4 best new restaurants in Canada. What are the reasons for the success other than the desserts? Impeccable ambiance, chic but not stuffy, a great balance between masculine and feminine décor, very Old Montreal but with scenes of Paris like in a cool movie. It’s obviously the first thing that you notice upon arrival; you know this date should go well! But the dream team of service, sommelier and chefs is what will make this restaurant the one to come back to and celebrate your "first-date" date!

Bistro Cocagne – If the Old Montreal is not your thing, but you still want great food, local products, explore amazing wine pairings, I would suggest Bistro Cocagne where talented chef Alexandre Loiseau is going to impress your taste buds. Situated at Toqué’s first address and co-owned by Normand Laprise, Cocagne will not disappoint. It’s better to reserve on a busy night, because the space needs the warmth of people to really soar. Not as well known for some reasons as other Montreal good tables, you won’t be accused of just following trends when showing up here. If you ask nicely, you can also visit the kitchen and see where the magic happens.

Talking about trends, some are well deserved. Le Filet is one of them, and needs no introduction…but you can read more about it here. The food is excellent and is offered in larger than tapas portions, perfect for sharing. But go with a clear throat because you’ll have to speak-up over the buzz.

There are two more restaurants I would highly recommend for a first date. Both are a little off the beaten path but so worth it.

Le St-Urbain - a restaurant that was supposed to be a "restaurant de quartier", your neighbourhood hang-out but that has become so much more. I've been several times and always enjoy the wine-food pairing that is original and bang-on. The menu changes all the time and chef Marc-André Royal always deliver on his promise of fresh, local and tasty produce. The atmosphere is what I consider "very Montreal" if there is such a thing...

Van Horne - For art lovers, this is the restaurant you want to go and discuss the great influences of pop-art...surrounded by original Roy Lichtenstein plates and eat well of course! Also mentioned in the En Route top 10 best new restaurant of the year, this very small place is blessed with an up and coming chef Eloi Dion. More info here.

Now that you know where to go and I guarantee you’ll have fantastic food, the rest of your fabulous first-date is up to you!

Osteria Venti
372 St-Paul W, Old Montreal.
Phone: (514) 284-0445

Bouillon Bilk
1595 Saint-Laurence Boulevard, Montreal.
Phone: (514) 845-1595

1485 Rue Jeanne-Mance, Montréal
Phone: (514) 289-4558

Les 400 Coups
400 Notre-Dame W, Montreal,
Phone: (514) 985-0400

Bistro Cocagne
3842 Saint-Denis St, Montreal
Phone: (514) 286-0700

Le Filet
219 Mont Royal Ave. W., Montreal
Phone: 514-360-6060

Le St-Urbain
96 Fleury West, corner St-Urbain, Montreal
Phone: 514.504.7700

Van Horne Restaurant
1268 Van Horne Av., Montreal
Phone: (514) 508-0828

Bookmark and Share

Dec 6, 2011

DNA restaurant's Derek Dammann featured in Paris edition of the OMNIVORE food festival

The promotional poster for Omnivore’s “World Tour”:
can you recognize these chefs?

OMNIVORE,  a relatively new food festival first launched in France in 2003, has suddenly gone global. While in past editions it alternated between France and New York, next year it will hop all over the globe, quite literally. Here are some of the confirmed locations, including... Montréal:
  • Geneva, Feb 5-7
  • Paris, March 11-13
  • Brussels, March 18-21
  • Moscow, April 24-27
  • Copenhagen, May 26-28
  • Shanghai, June 12-14
  • New York, July 14-16
  • Montreal, August 18-20
  • São Paulo, September (dates to be confirmed)
  • San Francisco, October 20-22
  • Istanbul, November
  • Sydney, December 15-17
Food critic Luc Dubanchet (ex-Gault Millau), founder and organizer of the festival, has been feverishly scouting the chefs who will participate in the events. What makes OMNIVORE stand out is its focus on young talent. Several chefs who are huge today – like Iñaki Aizpitarte (Le Chateaubriand and Le Dauphin, Paris), René Redzepi (NOMA) and David Chang (Momofuku empire), participated in earlier editions (when they were already garnering high praise from critics but weren’t quite as high-profile as they’ve become today).

chef Iñaki Aizpitarte, Le Chateaubriand (Paris)

As he explains in a press release, Omnivore will “travel the globe with 5 to 10 French and International Chefs, wisely measuring out in equal parts established chefs and newcomers. This brigade will then work with 5-10 “resident” chefs in each city. It is this unique programming that is truly a benchmark of the Omnivore organization.”

Also new is the “Omnivore Mobile Kitchen”: essentially, a pop-up kitchen encased within an inflatable dome, which will be taken along for the “world tour”.
 The mobile kitchen will be round and equipped with a camera that films at 360°. The dome was created by Montréal's own SAT (Society of Art and Technology) and includes a cutting-edge system of immersive projection (don't ask).
Most of the Omnivore events are open to the public and can be booked on their website.
The chefs participating in the Parisian edition have been announced and include, among others, our own Derek Dammann, of DNA (, who will be going up on stage on March 12. He's worked at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen, in London, but he's now back in Montreal, serving menus that are heavily based on head-to-tail cooking and ingredients from sustainable sources, many from the province of Québec.
Here are some of the other chefs who will be at the event:
It's an OMNIVORE trademark to pair the presentations with fun dinners around town, cheekily dubbed "Les Fucking Dinners" - asterisks optional. Here's what's been confirmed so far (copied and pasted from Twitter):
les f*** dinners, Paris: 10 March 2012:
Ignacio Mattos of cooks at Au Passage ... cooks at la Gazzetta
les f*** dinners, Paris: 12 March 2012 
... at Frenchie ... at Septime ... at le Chardenoux
les f*** dinners, Paris: 12 March, & Alexandre Bourdas () at l'Agape Substance... at J-F Piège
les f*** dinners, Paris: 13 March 2012 .. cooks at Aux Deux Amis ... Josean Alija from & Barbot at l'Astrance