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Foraging – Part III

And now the conclusion of the guest blog by my friend Jacquie as she shares with us her adventures in Foraging in the Laurentian Region of Quebec.

See the two previous days for Part I and Part II.

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Foraging – The Meal

Photo: J. Dinsmore

La Table des Jardins Sauvages not only serves excellent food but also lets you bring your own wine to drink before, during and after dinner.

Romping through the fields, across the river and through the woods searching for plants that soon all begin to look alike can make a person thirsty, so before we went in for dinner, we sat outside and opened the first of our bottles of wine. The air was warm with the setting sun and the only sound, besides the tinkle of wine glasses and the murmur of conversation, was the babbling river.

Our server came out to tell us that dinner was ready, and the four of us, along with another table of 5, filed into the cottage’s veranda-cum-dining room.

View from our table. Photo J. Dinsmore

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        Photo: J Dinsmore

The table was set with old-fashioned charm. The house bread is served with two compound butters: one flavoured with wild herbs and the other with dried boletus mushrooms. Delicious!

Starters

The hors d’oeuvre consisted of smoked wild salmon and a buckwheat crepe, with crinkleroot gribiche, pickled fiddleheads and daisy flower buds, and lady’s sorrel. The gribiche was smooth with a delicate taste and set off the salmon and crêpe nicely. The pickled elements and “salad” added a bright fresh note to the dish.

Next came soup, and what a treat! A delightful bowl of lobster bisque made with cattail (yes, cattail) broth surrounding 3 types of mushrooms (bolete, shaggy mane and, of course, lobster mushrooms) along with pieces of lobster. This delicious mix was topped off with garlic mustard leaf and sea parsley froth. The cattail broth was amazing with a wonderfully subtle flavour. The mushrooms added a lovely earthy note to the soup with the lobster mushrooms echoing the size and colours of the lobster pieces.

Lobster bisque with cattail broth. The restaurant makes use of all parts of the cattail plant in its various forms throughout the year. Photo: J Dinsmore

The next course was a slice of rabbit loin stuffed with stinging nettle, cheese and bee balm petals, rhubarb-onion chutney along with spelt risotto. The rabbit was tender and although we wondered about the cheese and stinging nettle, the stuffing was scrumptious. The chutney was tart and a perfect foil for the rabbit and its tasty stuffing.

Rabbit loin stuffed with stinging nettle, cheese and bee balm petals. Photo: J Dinsmore

Service was excellent throughout our meal and our server explained the dishes to us as she placed them on our table. The kitchen is small and staff minimal at La Table des Jardins Sauvages, so there was sometimes a wait between courses. But 1) the wait was worth it and, 2) we had a lively party and enough wine with us to make the wait thoroughly enjoyable.

The Main Event
Photo: J Dinsmore

Finally, after 3 bottles of wine, uncountable captivating dinner stories and non-stop laughter, our main course arrived: organic Muscovy duck supreme, venison-duck sausage, Jerusalem artichoke purée, wild salsify sprouts and elderberry five-spice pan sauce. The duck was beautifully cooked, tender and juicy with no hint of the fat that can sometimes ruin this dish. The gravy, marrying sweet elderberry and dusky Chinese flavours, was a bright surprise with a sweet and smoky taste. I had never had Jerusalem artichoke before and quite enjoyed it over the usual mashed potatoes.

Desert
Photo: J Dinsmore

We finished this wonderful meal with desert consisting of a chocolate and wild ginger baby cake, strawberry and spruce tip semi-freddo and granité. The cake was moist and chocolaty, with just a hint of ginger. A chocolate-lover’s dream. The semi-freddo was basically a decadently rich ice cream with a faint citrus taste from the spruce tips, topped with strawberry ice. It went extremely well with the ice-wine we had brought to finish off the meal.

It was late, and we still had a good hour drive back to Montreal, but we took a few minutes to check out the boutique in another part of the cottage. Here you can purchase many of the products you encountered in your meal, plus much more.

Photo: J Dinsmore

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Photo: J Dinsmore

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Thank you so much Jacquie for sharing your wonderful

food and foraging adventure with us!!

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Foraging – The series

Historical moment here folks!

This is the very first  official “GUEST BLOG” from What Have We Got Here!

And what’s even MORE exciting is that it isn’t just one little ol blog but a series!

My good friend Jacquie who lives in Montreal, Quebec recently had a VERY note worthy food adventure and really wanted to share it with us!

Please enjoy Foraging – Part I

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FORAGING   

Photo: Joe O’Leary, author of the Wilderness Survival Guide. Used with permission

 

Forage /ˈfôrij/

Function: verb

Inflected Form(s): -ed/-ing/-s

Etymology: Middle English foragen, from Middle French fourager, from fourage

intransitive verb

1 : wander in search of food

2 : the latest development in the “eat local” movement

Early humans were hunters/gatherers, in other words, foragers finding their food in the local countryside. Using trial and error, our ancestors were able to identify plants that were useful to them and weed out those that weren’t. Some plants could remove the sting of poison ivy, some fruits could prevent scurvy

Lemons and limes were carried on early sailing voyages to supplement the sailors’ poor diet and help prevent scurvy. Photo: André Karwath

and some leaves made an excellent poultice to help heal wounds. Some trees produced seeds that were edible (and nutritious), some roots could be made into delicious drinks and some bark and seedpodswere found to boost the flavour of other foods.  This lore was passed down through the generations and may still linger as a spark in our collective unconscience.

People have always used vegetation for food and medicinal purposes. While early humans started cultivating some plants, such as wheat and rice, through the ages other  plants dropped off our radar. They became “weeds,” even though they had once been used regularly to cure our ills or provide sustenance.

 Food is now an international industry. Our grocery stores are filled with produce from all over the world, all through the year. Popular products are genetically modified to survive early picking, natural pests and longer transportation times. But the pendulum is swinging back and foraging is once again gaining popularity as a way of providing food for our tables.  

As a logical extension of the eating locally philosophy, foraging brings “local” right to your doorstep. And you don’t need to be living in the wild to take advantage of natures abundance.  Edible plants abound in parks and along the sides of roads. You just need to know where to look and what to look for.

An abundance of useful and edible plants can be found growing naturally all over. Photo: J. Dinsmore

It became popular in the seventies to use “natural” ingredients in skin- and hair-care products and to revive homemade recipes for everything from soap to lipstick. We started growing our own sprouts and making our own bread with new old grains such as spelt and flaxseed. This movement levelled off for a while, but with the newfound interest in eating locally, people are re-discovering, and delighting in, the edible world around them. Local now means the park across the street, the bushes surrounding your cottage and the side of the road you take to work.*

But you don’t need to go out and pull edible roots out of the ground yourself. A new type of restaurant that cooks up  dishes based on foraged ingredients  is popping up like dandelions in the lawn to satisfy the curiosity of foodies and the need of some to go “back to their roots.” I recently had the luck to dine at one of these restaurants, in the Laurentian mountains outside of Montreal, and will be writing a review of the restaurant and the meal.

* Please be aware that most vegetation in public spaces is sprayed for pests and disease and is therefore not suitable for eating. Many municipalities also have by-laws concerning the harvesting of plants on public property (including roadsides), so make sure you research and do your homework before setting out to forage.

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Check back tomorrow for Part II of Jacquie’s adventures in Foraging!

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Singapore Noodles

Back in the day, I used to eat a LOT of Singapore Noodles! 

Back when I lived in Montreal, I used to work as a Stage Manager in live theatre, so every Thursday night, I would call in the order from the lighting booth and then after the show,  we would swing by the Kam Shing restaurant on Cote des Neiges Blvd to pick up a big order of Singapore Noodles and General Tso Chicken.

Those were the days!   I could still eat shrimp back then.  In fact, it was while eating those noodles every week that I started to notice “the trouble”.  I always dread the thought that I may have over eaten shrimp to the point of being allergic!!

Oh well……so now I make my own, without the shrimp of course!

Feel free to add shrimp if they are no trouble to you.  Or substitute with chicken or tofu or like in this particular version, there is nothing at all!

Firstly, you will need:

  • 1 pack thin rice stick noodles (rice vermicelli)

Then, thinly slice up:

  • 1 red or green bell pepper  ( or half of each)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 carrot into match stick size bits
  • 2 cups Napa cabbage
  • 3 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1 cup of mung bean sprouts ( but I didn’t use any)
  • 2 green onions

Then for the sauce mix together:

  • 1/4 cup water or broth
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar  ( or favorite sweetener)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt  ( or 1 tsp soy sauce )
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder, or to taste

Start by boiling some water for you noodles, either in a pot or a kettle.  When the water boils, turn it off and add the noodles or pour boiling water over noodles in a bowl, stir to soften them.

Rice vermicelli noodles

Then in a skillet or a wok, heat some oil then add, peppers, carrots and ginger. 

Once they get a head start, add the cabbage and if using, bean sprouts.  Add a bit of the sauce to help cook down the cabbage.

Drain the noodles and add to the skillet, toss into vegetables.

Add the remaining sauce and the green onions, toss quickly till noodles are completely coated.

Singapore Noodles

Serve immediately.  I garnished with some chopped cilantro and black sesame seeds.

Ah the memories!

Cafe Santropol Montreal

One of my all time favorite Montreal eating treasures has always been Cafe Santropol.

Cafe Santropol Montreal

Tucked away on a discreet little neighbourhood corner in the Plateau district, it has always been a favorite with the hipster artsy crowd long before they even were the cool kids! 

Corner Duluth and St. Urbain

We started going there back in our theatre days, meeting up after a show to get a late night supper and talk about the days events.  Back then you felt like you were over at a friend’s house, a starving actor or student’s place, nothing matched and it was filled with strange collectibles.  The perfect place to feel part of some bohemian lifestyle.  In winter there was plastic on the windows to keep out the drafts, but it didn’t matter because we would huddle too many people around a table anyway and that would keep us toasty warm.

And even now after many updates and improvements, going to Cafe Santropol still makes you feel like a cool kid!

In all the many many years that I have been going there, I have only ever had the same thing.  I know that is ridiculous because they have such a beautiful varied menu  (Check out the menu) but the problem is I just love that one thing so much that I can’t bear the thought of getting anything else!

I ALWAYS get the Midnight Spread Sandwich. I just can’t help it.  Picture this, big beautiful bread with a filling made up of:  cream cheese, peanut butter, honey, walnuts, raisins and banana!  It just doesn’t get any better than that!

Midnight Spread Sandwich

Oh and yes, lettuce.  I’m pretty sure in the old days there used to be sprouts of some kind in there too, or maybe they were just on  the very fresh side salad?  I LOVE this sandwich and was SO happy to have it!

Oh and the green tinge on the bread in the picture is NOT mold!  It is the reflection of the coloured glass from where we were sitting in what feels like a wonderful glassed in porch that looks out on the back courtyard surrounded by a purple fence.  The courtyard is wonderful in summer because over head is draped in twinkle lights in the trees, and there is a water feature of some kind so the whole thing is quite magical.

My friend only had a plain ol tomato sandwich but look how lovely even it is!

Tomato sandwich

Cafe Santropol has gotten a bit more modern since I was last there.  I always used to enjoy the bear shaped honey bottle used as a soap dispenser in the bathroom and the six toilet paper roll holders on the back of the door.  Seems now they have a proper soap squirting machine and the big industrial paper holder like everyone else.  Perhaps it was a health code issue.

But don’t fear, she hasn’t lost her charm. If you love nice fresh food in a quirky atmosphere then Santropol is a must stop on your list.  But hippies beware!  They seem to have pulled pork on the menu now!  Guess it was only a matter of time!!

The old favorites

There certainly have been a lot of changes in Montreal since my last visit.

Between all the good ol places that are now gone and the slew of new places that have appeared, I guess it’s just not my city anymore.

Luckily there were a few of the truly old favorites left.  Places that have been there as long as I can remember.

One such comforting place as  Rotissierie Italienne on St. Catherine Street West.

Rotissierie Italienne

This was always a great place to get a cheap, hardy, comforting meal that would satisfy.  And on a cold snowy night with a glass of red wine, there was no better place to be.  Very glad to see it is still there and has passed the test of time.

Another place I was happy to see was still there, in spite of itself, is a place called Calories Restaurant further West on St. Catherine Street.

Calories Restaurant

I say in spite of itself because it has managed to endure through years of diet fads that have come and gone.  And as a delectable dessert establishment, there never seems to have been the “all cake all the time” diet just as yet.  Going to Calories was always a guilty late night pleasure.

Then if you wanted to turn it around and get a hit of healthy, then Le Commensal Restaurant is your place!

Le Commensal Restaurant

Le Commensal is a vegetarian buffet that can be rivaled by few.  They have a few locations ( including in Toronto) but this one was always my favorite.  Perched high above St. Catherine Street, there was nothing better than scoring a window seat and watching the world go by while loading up on delicious fortifying fare!!

In fact, back when I used to work in the movie business, on one particular show, we had the highly acclaimed actor Sidney Poitier in the cast.  Rumor has it that he was such a fan of Le Commensal that he would insist his driver take him directly there from the airport before even checking in at the hotel!  So if you like good vegetarian food, you might want to check this one out!

Now this last place, is a legendary Montreal eatery.  Schwartz’s Deli home of the famous Montreal Smoked Meat!

Schwartz’s Deli

This picture was taken at 3:00 in the afternoon on a Saturday and there is still a big line up!

As a former Montrealer I am almost embarrassed to say that I have never been to Schwartz’s!  I know, I know, but I was just never into the line ups and then being crammed inside and yelled at just for a sandwich.  Especially when there were several, much less abusive, perfectly delightful other establishments where one might procure the equally traditional Montreal smoked meat.

But this is the one that is in all of the tourist brochures, so knock yourself out!

O.NOIR

I didn’t actually get to try this place but it sounds so very interesting.

O.NOIR or translated means “in black” is a restaurant where you eat in the dark!

O.NOIR Restaurant Montreal

I understand they are popping up in a lot of major cities and are the latest rage.  Promising that without being able to use your sense of sight, it will heighten all of the other senses making the dining experience all that more intense!

Not only is it a restaurant with an interesting new twist, but it is also contributing to a good cause.  The staff are visually impaired  and are part of a program which prepares them to enter mainstream employment and part of the proceeds from the restaurant go to various organizations for the blind.

Reason for O.NOIR

Sounds like an all round good place.

Eating in Montreal

I find it hard to believe that I have been gone from Montreal for eleven years now.  I mean obviously I have been back to visit a bunch of times while I was living in Toronto, but since I moved to Victoria I haven’t been back even once!  Terrible that is.

And the one thing, well usually several actually, thing I do when I am in Montreal is EAT!

Let’s face it, Montreal has been long known as an eating destination.   What I miss though are the little “joints” that when you move to a new city it takes a long time before you can replace them. 

Some of mine were:

Hot and Spicy at La Faubourg Ste. Catherine which is a Chinese take out restaurant but you can watch them making it right there in the big woks.  With my shellfish allergy and fear of that, Hot and Spicy is somewhere I have never had a reaction so I can actually get a fix of Chinese food without worry!

La Faubourg St. Catherine in general has all kinds of interesting fast food.  Concordia University is just up the street as well as a few other schools in the area so I guess they are catering to the many international students looking for a little home cooking.

My other favorite place is the bagel joint also at La Faubourg.  I know there are several favorite bagel places in Montreal and that people come from far and wide to have them, a pilgrimage of sorts but I always like this one because it was right around the corner from my house so I could stumble out of bed in the morning and go round and get some.  I also used to bump into a certain rock star there all the time ordering his bagels.  I used to find it cute how he always insisted on ordering in French, even though he is an English guy and the people working there speak English. 

And then the late night favorite Kojax Souflaki.  I’m sure this place is open during the day too and from what I understand they now have several locations, but the one on Ste. Catherine Street, right in the bar district, is the best place to go to get your “souflaki pita” with special sauce after a night of merry-making!!

I’m heading to Montreal this week for the annual St. Patrick’s parade and am hoping to get to some of my old haunts and very much looking forward to finding some new ones.

Please feel free to give me some suggestions!

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