Saturday, February 6, 2016

Otentic - A Delicious French Meal

There are so many restaurants in South Beach, that it is very hard sometimes to decipher the good from the awful.  In all our adventures of trying new places, I have managed to put together a damn good list of must eats in South Beach.  On our last visit, we tried a place on a whim and it happened to blow all of our expectations.  Otentic on Washington near fifth is a quiet little place away from the histle and bustle of Ocean drive, and from the outside looks nothing out of the ordinary.  



We sat down and ordered up four mains and a charcuterie board to share as a starter.  A gorgeous wood board arrived filled with delicious meats, delectable cornichons and tangy dijon mustard dipping sauces.  The charcuterie disappeared relatively quickly.  With each bite our excitement for our mains grew and grew.





As we finished up our charcuterie, we chatted and drank some delicious wine as we patiently waited for our mains to arrive.  The seared salmon delicately seasoned and served with a deliciously creamy basil linguini was perfection.  The linguini, creamy but not exceedingly heavy, complimented the delicate and perfectly cooked salmon beautifully.  Two of us ordered this main and truly enjoyed it.  



The roasted chicken with Porcini mushroom sauce was such a large plate.  When it arrived we never thought it would be devoured as quickly as it was.  The chicken was roasted perfectly and the Dauphinois potatoes were scrumptious, but the star of this plate was the Porcini sauce.  That sauce was one that I could never forget.  I still dream of the flavours today.  The sauce was heavy and creamy, but that deep earthy mushroom flavour  was 
exceptionally delicious.          




The last main we enjoyed was the Otentic Farmer's steak served with crispy French fries and Beurre Maitre d'Hotel.  The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare, French fries were cut in house and oh so delicious, and that Beurre Maitre d'Hotel was absolutely scrumptious.  The light arugula salad complimented the dish well and lightened up the plate.  




We had a lovely dinner at Otentic and have recommended this place a few times.  It is so refreshing to find such a gem on a whim.  Sometimes being adventurous truly pays off.

Otentic Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, December 28, 2015

Lavanderia - A Tale of a Lunch and a Dinner

My sister works at Victoria Park along with my best friend, so on a random Wednesday, I headed to Westmount to meet them for lunch.  The casual warm setting of Lavanderia was very relaxing.  I loved the calming colours and homey feel to the place as it does pay tribute to Chef Antonio Park's childhood home above his parent's Lavanderia or laundromat - Hence the name!



We started our lunch with a coconut fish broth soup served in these adorable little cast iron bowls.  The broth was full of flavour, creamy and smooth.  The chunks of potatoes were tender and soaked up the flavour of the broth perfectly.  I can see why my friend claims this is her favourite soup!



As my main, I opted for the grilled calamari.  A fresh made corn tortilla piled high with calamari and a light delicious mixed salad.  I was excited for this dish and dug right in.  I have to say, I expected the calamari to be significantly tender and carry that delicious charred flavour and it did, just the tenderness was not there.  I happen to love grilled calamari and grilled octopus and order it at almost every restaurant that offers it, this version was good but definitely not up to par with others I have sampled.           



My friend had the charred salmon served with a corn salsa and papas bravas (a fried potato dish topped with a romesco sauce).  The salmon was excellent!  Beautiful char on the outside, perfectly cooked in the middle and very flavourful!  The corn salsa was refreshing and complimented the salmon very nicely.  I enjoyed the papas bravas as well, really delicious.



My sister had the Cornish hen served in a deliciously falvoured tomato sauce and topped with a light mix greens salad.  This dish was well prepared and delicately flavoured.  We both really enjoyed it.  

The lunch menu at Lavanderia is continuously changing. The chef may use the same proteins but he prepares them in very different ways.  I like that concept, the ever changing menu means one can never get bored.  The chef must enjoy this concept as well, as his creativity can shine through each day.  


One night after our lunch at Lavanderia, my sister called my mother and I and invited us out for dinner on her.  She was dying for my mom to try the food and had an excellent excuse, she won a gift card at work and wanted to spend it on us!



It was a warm August night and we decided to sit out on the small intimate patio.  We started the meal with delicious gin cocktails.  It was crisp and delicious, so good that we all had two rounds!  We ordered up a couple of different salads to start.  The watermelon, cherry tomatoes, queso fresco and mint salad was sweet and refreshing.  The small touch of pickled red onions added the right amount of acidity to the dish.  



The Kale salad with grilled peaches, house made maple bacon and Parmesan cheese was a great salad.  The salads were eaten up quite quickly and then the mains arrived.



My mother had the catch of the day ceviche with fried corn, aji amarillo, sweet potato puree and fresh cilantro.  The dish was deliciously balanced, flavourful and reminded me of my favourite ceviche in South Beach.  




I had the grilled octopus served with white beans, crispy fennel, sun dried tomatoes capers and red onions.  The octopus had a delicious char flavour and was very tender.  I really enjoyed it.  The beans and fennel were a nice crispy and refreshing compliment to the octopus.  



The third dish we sampled was the sweetbreads and veal meatballs.  I expected this dish to be one of the heavier dishes at the table however to my surprise it was very delicate and light.  Was not like any other sweetbreads dish I have ever had and that is a good thing.  



We got a side order of yucca fries to share and they were absolutely perfect.  I hadn't had them in quite some time and I forgot how much I like them.  The sauce served along side them was light and tangy.  I really liked 



We finished off our meal with a light dessert.  The soft delicious pudding chômeur and ice cream dessert was the prefect way to end our dinner.  We had a wonderful dinner at Lavanderia.
Lavanderia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Nice

The French Riviera during the summer is sunny, hot and filled with absolutely gorgeous people.  My favourite part is sitting and drinking on the private beaches of Nice and eating at yummy little restaurants.  Walking to the beach from our cute modern apartment, consisted of a short stroll through Old town Nice.  The small narrow streets lined with small shops, delicious smelling restaurants and bakeries, made me hungry with each step I took.  



The first morning as we walked to Ponchettes beach, we stopped at a small bakery to grab some breakfast.  I had the brie cheese focaccia style bread.  There must have been a proper name for it but I didn't care.  I saw it, I pointed at it, I paid for it and I ate it - Delicious!  The texture of the bread was just perfect, the spices and cheese on top were just perfect, I could have eaten 10.  



My friend had the same type of breakfast bread, however she opted for the one with smoked salmon.  It too was absolutely delicious.  We sat, drank our cappuccinos and ate our breakfast while watching the hustle and bustle on the small streets of Old Town Nice.  


After a quick and delicious carb and caffeine filled breakfast, it was off to the beach.  We sat, swam and vegged out all day.  It was the perfect beach day, even those pesky painful rocks couldn't put a damper on our moods!  


After a long day at the beach, we headed back to our place but stopped on the way to grab a quick bite.  As we were walking through the streets of Old Nice, I smelled something so delicious and followed my nose to the most amazing sandwich I had ever seen.  A deliciously warm and fluffy "Piadina" bread filled with thin slices and parma prosciutto, shavings of parmesan cheese and a generous portion of fresh peppery arugula.  


I grabbed the sandwich to go and ate it the moment I got home.  The bread was perfect, the prosciutto even more so and the Parmesan and arugula, perfection!  The sandwich was so large that I was only able to consume half and put the rest in the fridge for later that evening as the perfect drunken late night snack.  

Cannes

Visiting Europe has always been a dream of mine. I have always wanted to travel all over, from city to city, exploring the culture of Europeans through the food they eat. This past April, I got a call from my best friend in Washington DC, and it changed my life.  She, a marketing guru, was asked by her boss to attend the Lions International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, France and immediately called me to ask me to join her. I was floored! Really, the south of France – OMG!! I couldn’t breathe I was so excited! I immediately accepted the offer and my part of the trip planning began – where to eat?



We planned out our stops quite quickly and then the food planning began. Meeting in Nice, Cote d’Azur was our first stop and the one I was most excited for, at first, but as the planning continued, so did my excitement. Nice, Cannes, Monaco, Florence and Rome – OMG!! The research was done and we were off, of course all that research was thrown out as soon as I landed in Nice. Restaurant recommendations came from locals and boy do they know good food.





The first day I arrived in Nice at 9 am, dropped my bags off and headed out to explore. First stop, coffee shop in old Nice. We sat outside, ordered up some coffees and sat people watching. The tiny streets crowded with so many interesting people served as the perfect background for the morning. Sipping delicious coffees and nibbling on buttery crispy croissants, I was finally settling into heaven. We walked the streets, explored many little shops and finally ended up back at our condo. Jet lag setting in, we showered and napped for a few hours before heading off to Cannes for dinner.



After a quick cab ride, we were in Cannes walking by the marina deciding on where to have our first dinner. I obviously wanted to stay away from all the touristy spots, so as per recommendations we grab a table at Le St Antoine. Even though this restaurant was smack in the touristy area, the food, service and ambiance was absolutely perfect.




Sitting outside with views of the marina, we decided to order up a feast, starting with the foie gras. A beautiful plate of creamy deliciously flavoured foie gras arrived just as my bottle of Pinot Noir was being uncorked. Olive oil grilled bread, fig confit and a delicate yet tart salad was the perfect way to begin my European adventure. I ate up the entire plate and drank half a bottle of the Pinot Noir, just in time for my main course to arrive.





Steamed mussels in a white wine sauce with fennel and celery continued my first European feast. These small flavourful little critters were so well flavoured and deliciously steamed. Tender and not over done, each and every mussel was full of flavour and not overcooked. I enjoyed as much of this large dish as possible, it was literally never ending.







After dinner we strolled along La Croisette and all along the marina gazing at the most beautiful yachts I had ever seen. It was also the last night of the Cannes Lions festival, parties and people everywhere, even live music right on the beach. We watched and listened for a while and then continued our stroll down the beach. 







At the end of our walk, the sky was ablaze with the most beautiful fireworks. As we waited for a cab, we watched in amazement at the beautiful colours and sparkling sky – The perfect ending to my first night in the South of France.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

La Belle et La Boeuf - Grilled cheese heaven!!

 Comfort food comes in all shapes and sizes and everyone has their own variation that they run to when in need.  My favourite comfort food has got to be a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.  There is something so damn delicious and cathartic about greasy bread pan fried in butter with ooey gooey cheese leaking out the centre dipped into a creamy rich tomato soup - pure heaven!  When I heard about these delicious and funky grilled cheeses at La Belle et La Boeuf, I knew I had to try them.




My friend and I headed over to the St. Catherine street location on a Wednesday night, grabbed a seat and ordered up some drinks and the pogo appetizer to start.  Fried, battered and on a stick, these little hot doggies (as I call them) were absolutely delicious.  I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of greasiness and scarfed a few down.



As the empty appetizer plate was taken away, our greasy comforting mains arrived.  I had the onions soup grilled cheese and my friend had the patty melt.  Beyond the flavour of onion soup in my grilled cheese, I really did not know what to expect, but as I took my first bite, I knew right away that this was a special grilled cheese.  The onions were caramelized and slow cooked in what I assume was a rich onion soup broth.  The sandwich encompassed the onion soup flavour perfectly and the gruyere cheese was the perfect touch.  I loved this grilled cheese and was so sad to finish it.  I have been dreaming of this sandwich ever since.  




My friend's patty melt was greasy, cheesy and delicious.  The beef patty was very juicy and flavourful and the cheese melted perfectly.  I think an important part of these sandwiches is the thick cut white bread they use.  The bread can withstand all the fillings thrown its way,  and it fries up perfectly soaking up the buttery oily goodness from what I assume is a flat top in the kitchen.  Hmmm, or maybe they use cast iron like I do... 


La Belle Et la Boeuf Burger Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Les Enfants Terribles - Terrible children or damn good food?

What’s in a name? Isn’t that an age old question? Well if you take names literally, then Les Enfants Terribles would translate to the terrible children and probably wouldn’t make you think of food. In my case not only do I think of food, but my mouth waters instantly at the memories a few dinners I have had at the rather popular Montreal restaurant.


On a windy and chilly night, I met my friend on Bernard St., and we grabbed a table at the trendy Brasserie. Even being a Wednesday night the restaurant was quite full, luckily they had a few tables available. We sat, ordered drinks immediately and warmed up from the cold while reading the menu. On special that evening was their truffle arancinis which I had to have. I also ordered the truffle risotto with squash, mushrooms and celery root. My dining partner opted for the fried calamari as her appetizer and the ribs and fries as her main.


The appetizers came rather quickly which was perfect as we both were quite hungry. The arancinis were bite sized and served in a short stemmed martini glass with a delicious mild flavoured garlic aioli. The arancinis were just perfect and I really liked the fact that they were bite sized rather than the large sized that most eateries serve. Each arancini was perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. The truffle flavour was very present, I really enjoyed them but my friend was not a fan. Some people find truffles to be too powerful in flavour, I for one love the deep earthy flavour. I enjoyed every last bite and was actually quite sad when I realized they were all gone. 




A very generous portion of fried calamari with a shmear of zesty spicy mayo was placed in front of my friend. She dug right in and I could tell instantly she loved it. The calamari rings were tender and really good; the crispy batter wasn’t too salty and the spicy mayo was perfect. We both enjoyed this calamari dish.


The mains continued the flow of mmmms and yummms at our table. The ribs were fall off the bone tender and deliciously juicy. The sauce the ribs were slathered in was just really good. The flavour complimented the tender meat beautifully creating a damn good rib. The crispy fried French fries were really good too. Golden and crispy, just the way we like them!


My risotto was divine! I savoured each bite and ate so slowly as with each bite I saw my plate getting smaller and smaller which terrified me. This dish was so good I wanted to eat it for days and days, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible. The tender squash paired perfectly with the earthiness of the mushrooms and truffle flavours. The risotto was creamy and so well prepared, I truly was in heaven while I ate this dish.


As we finished our drinks and mains, I knew I was going to be a bad girl and order dessert. We ordered two coffees and a crème brulee to share. The dessert was the perfect ending to a delicious meal. As we sat digesting, we were already planning our next visit.


We left the restaurant beyond full and satisfied. In fact, we loved our meal so much, the following week we were back at it again. After eating at Les Enfants Terribles I can definitely say that to me the restaurant’s name refers to the bad ass chefs creating deliciously sinful food. I’ll take this kind of terrible children any day!



Click to add a blog post for Les Enfants Terribles on Zomato 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Block's Pizza Deli

Thin crust, thick crust, Chicago style, or pan, pizzas come in many styles, shapes and flavours.  Traditional tomato or piled high with toppings, many of us love and eat way too much of this heavenly treat.  Now I have a few favourite spots in Montreal for great pizza, but one place in South Beach does it so right its a sin.  Blocks Pizza Deli on Washington between 14th and 15th street knows what good pizza is and they serve it up right each and every day.



A three hundred year old starter for the dough is probably what makes this place stand out from other pizza joints but it also doesn't hurt that they only use fresh ingredients and never ever freeze anything. The diversity of their pizzas and pizza-like food is also very creative and totally delicious.  Blocks (square slices) of pizzas, perfectly executed calzones and delicious pockets (sandwiches) are what keeps me coming back to Blocks Pizza Deli year after year.  



A dash of tomato sauce, shavings of parmesan, prosciutto di parma and arugula are all the ingredients that make up my favourite Blocks pizza.  The crispy crust is not thin but not a thick crust either.  It's crispy and dry yet fluffy all at the same time.  The flavour is unlike any pizza dough I have ever had.  It has a deep rich dough flavour and perfectly compliments the delicious sauce and all their various toppings.



The Italian meatballs at Block's are home-made, spiced right and totally scrumptious. In a calzone or on a block of pizza, these meatballs are the perfect topping.


Prosciutto POcket and Meatball pizza


Sun-dried tomato hippie pocket

Pockets are Blocks Pizza deli's answer to a sandwich or a panini.  Every visit I order the sun-dried tomato hippie pocket (olives, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, baby spinach and basil pesto), but on my last visit, they added a new prosciutto pocket so obviously I had to order it.  The crispy, crunchy pocket dough filled with prosciutto di parma, feta and mozzarella cheeses, tomatoes and of course loads of arugula was so good.  So good, I felt as though I was in Italy. 


Capri Calzone

The capri calzone is filled with silky fresh mozzarella, Block's fresh made tomato sauce and just the right amount of fresh basil.  The calzone is so big, so hot and so delicious.  Each bite screams freshness and begs to be eaten over and over again. 

Eating at Blocks' so many times, I've become friendly  with the owners and have begged them to open a franchise here in Montreal.  Originating from Verona Italy, this husband and wife couple are planning to expand and I for one cannot wait till it happens.  If you ever find yourself in the area, I highly recommend stopping in for a quick bite.