Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday brunch at Chien Fumant, a winter treat.

Just another beautiful, balmy -40C Montreal morning. Eric and I decided to head out to brunch. We went about our Sunday ritual of trying to pick a brunch place even as we get into the car and start driving. We headed out over sun streaked, Mont-Royal with no particular destination, then Le Chien Fumant popped into my head. 

I had been resistant to try Chien Fumant since their opening a year or so ago. Reviews (from press & friends alike) had been good, to so-so, and the place is not inexpensive (I'm not risking a pricey night out, on a place I hear might be so-so, feel me?)... And then recently my friend Lev uploaded a facebook pic of his delicious brunch at Chien Fumant. Only it didnt look delicious. It told a story of someone who couldn't keep down their late night eats. Nothing sunny or inviting about this one. In Lev's defence, he realized (after a few comments under his upload) that the photo didn't quite do justice to the experience. But it was too late for me. That photo (shown below), had done me in, and brunch at Chien Fumant fell off my radar.

Make you wanna go mmm? Didn't think so.

Until today. -40 degrees with an extreme hunger front coming in. Chien Fumant was the obvious choice I thought, because I did want to try it out eventually, and brunch is perfect for first time try outs. I said I'd only blog about the truly delightful or the downright degolasse and I'm pleased to report this experience fell into the former category. I definitely let too many Sundays slip by without visiting this place.

We walk into Chien Fumant, and yes! it's cozy (only 35 seats), and busy. And it made me instantly wish I had brought my good camera. The place is well styled, from the decor (bottles of booze, hanging at different lengths over the bar, cool lighting), to the odd not antique-ish china plates, and the personal styles of the staff. All funky, but with polished class.  The 16 year old-looking busboy/waiter/barista/ barman, who offered us coffees and refilled our waters with a smile, turned out not to be any of the above, but the unassuming, hard working, owner of the place, Dave. He was working his well oiled machine, and working it hard. Beautiful coffee, slurp-worthy bloody marys, all him. All while checking in on the kitchen and the customers.

The very sweet waitress, with a vintagey blue dress to match her eyes, and an awesome 40's hairdo, told us that the menu was behind us on a chalk board, always Southern style, and changed weekly. Southern style breakfast means two things: 1. It's going to be tasty delicious, and 2. There is no healthy option. Don't even think about it. The only fruit in the joint was the wedge of orange on the glass of my fresh sqeezed OJ (which was a sweet citrus explosion), and the caramelized apples served in a  heap over sausage stuffed french toast. And as for veggies: Fried potato patties, and chives....That's pretty much where they draw the line on those vital food groups. Who can blame's brunch in the south at Chien Fumant, and it works.

The menu was small but we still had a hard time choosing only 2 items to share. We sat at the bar facing the kitchen watching all the food prep, so after 15 minutes we knew exactly what we wanted to eat. Too bad we ordered 12 minutes ago. We had settled on southern style breakfast (2 eggs & the works), and now I knew I wanted (and needed) the cheddar & chive waffle, with pulled pork & pickled onions topped with a fried egg. When we pulled the last minute order swap, the staff was happy to oblige. I can say that with confidence because I watched as the message got passed along, and our french toast order got cancelled (and pulled from the stove mid-cuisson), and no one looked even a smidge annoyed. Classy. 

The kitchen is an open air, small space. We watched as each plate was tenderly prepared with care. Everything looked amazing. The huevos divorcados (great name), and french toast orders that went by looked mint, and I watched the happy patrons devouring their plates, and swapping bites with one another.  
A look down the bar, provided an exciting preview of good things to come.

The food arrived, and it was glorious. The southern eggs breakfast was really a perfect standard breakfast, without being standard at all. Eric could not get over the perfectly fried eggs- while I moaned and groaned in potato, cake & sour cream bliss. soft, salty, crispy & delicious (Eric and I had a minor fork fight for the last bite of potato, thankfully no forks or humans were injured. he won). WOW. My only comment would be that the bacon could have been crispier for my taste (given that I saw them drop it into a deep fryer).

The cheddar & chive waffle was perfectly cooked, soft and doughy, with a crispy exterior. The tasty pulled pork was a very generous portion- they could get away with serving half the amount they do- but I'm glad they don't. It was juicy and delicious, smokey & just right on. Add a fried egg, perfectly executed CF style, a drop of pickled onion, and it's complete. I could think of 100 things to put on that waffle, and apparently so can they- the waffle is a regular on the CF brunch menu.

Chien Fumant is a special Sunday brunch spot. It's no egg white omelette with a side of berries and granola, but it also wasn't as greasy or heavy as expected. I didn't feel like I had to take a long lie down after, or even unbutton my skinny jeans. I plan on returning for dinner (for a full breakdown), hopefully soon- with Lev, and he won't be handling any cameras.

4710 Rue de Lanaudiere
514. 524.2444
Open Tuesday-Sunday for dinner, and for drinks until 2am
Sunday Brunch
Closed Monday

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Howdy. I'm back from space.

So, I've been missing in action...again. Sorry for that friends & followers. First thing is first- Happy New Year. I want to say THANK YOU- to all of my wonderful supporters. I got a lot of messages asking about the sudden blog disappearance, and I appreciate all the feedback and encouragement. So here I am. Back. I have so much stuff I want to blog about, and I definitely don't want to lose you, dear readers. I'm going to try to keep it on the regular around here.

In my absence, there's been some travel, some cooking, a few season changes, and of course tons of eating and hard work. I want to wipe the slate clean for 2011. New year, new beginnings, lotsa blogging. So, shall we begin? The garden. Sort of ironic to be giving the final garden update as I sip tea, my feet are literally frozen on my kitchen floor and I gaze out to a sunny, biting cold, -22, snowcovered backyard. 

Here's how it all shook down in Eden. It was a great summer- and there was an impressive show of veg out there. The squirrels were the real winners this summer. See, we got a new puppy right around harvest time (more about him in a bit)- and the little guy loved to cool down, shaded between plants, in the earth, by the tomatoes - so I had to cool it with the super power cayenne dustings as a form of critter protection... Because nothing says "welcome home puppy" like a flaming hot dose of cayenne in his baby face. 

I'm also worn down, and exhausted, by all the energy I had to spend hating on, and plotting against, my rodent fence dwellers. I need to find a way for us to all co exist, & it's time to bring peace to the battle of the backyard that I had so doggedly declared. I figured out that if I plant a ton of tomatoes (which I did)- there will be more than enough to go around for both myself and the squirrels. If you can't beat 'em, feed 'em...right? Next years plan? Lots of tomatoes (again), and a new (peaceful) plan to protect the (very few) raspberries & other high value crops (I even saw the beggnings of strawberries but they were plucked by the little rodent burglars before even turning red).  That's not too much to ask for. Raspberries should multiply exponentially by next summer, as raspberries do, but those suckers are 6 bucks a carton at the market, and since Im a berry addict, I need to salvage as many as I can from the backyard wildlife.

Enough to share

The zucchini flowers a.k.a squash blossoms a.k.a little morsels of heaven were just amazing and plentiful. They are, without a doubt- one my absolute favourite vegetables. I dream about making my stuffed zucchini blossom pasta. First, remove the little pollen bud in the center. A little chevre mixed with herbs (from the garden), a pinch of salt & pepper- stuff the flowers, twist them shut...batter those babies up tempura style, and fry  (I like to fry them in Canola or peanut oil).  Serve them with spaghetti & fresh tomato sauce, throw in a little sauteed zucchini (use zucchini that has been clipped from the flower, female flowers grow right at the tip of a zucchini, and male grow as independent flowers with stems right from the base of the plant- both are equally delicious & edible). This summer, an italian guest at one of my events, came into the kitchen to tell me my dish reminded me of how his mom used to make it for him in Italy- just the same, and perfectly authentic. A true & touching compliment for an italophile like myself. I'll post this recipe on my website soon. When these beautiful wonders are in season- I love to make them for my clients, and I do it almost every day. On pasta, on pizza, or as a crispy appetizer treat, I am in love, and it's serious. 

Eggplants (of every shape and size), zucchinis, squash blossoms, herbs, tomatoes & lettuces all fared extremely well. we even had a iny weeny little watermelon sprout up, amazing & cute (which then got half eaten by a critter, obviously). The only thing that failed completely were the artichokes- didn't see a single one, nor did we see grapes or blueberries, but because the plants are only only due to fruit next year

Watermelon!! (and look at the microscopic ones to the right!!!)

Sidebar about our puppy: Meet Roman. He's delicious & growing fast. Poor guy got his man parts snipped this week- and he isn't enjoying the lampshade as a fashion accessory.

What does the boychick eat? An important question in our house, since what and when we'll be eating next always seems to be on the brain. I cook Urban Wolf for him (more like I cook chicken, an egg, and add the Urban Wolf mix). It's pretty simple, and amazing stuff. I did a ton of research before deciding to do that, making sure it was legitimately the right choice (it is more work than pouring kibble out of a bag, so you need to be sure of the decision) and I don't regret it one bit. When I'm between UW batches, or if we're on the go with no refrigeration, NOW! puppy kibble is the next best thing I could find.  Here are some pics- I tried to pick just a few...but it's hard to narrow it down when you have 25000 to choose from. I don't know if I'm more camera or puppy obsessed- but it's a dangerous combination. So, instead enjoy a mini album ;)

 How we found him at the breeder (cooling off in a brick)

...And we became a family.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Veggies gone wild, summer break.

I was standing at my kitchen counter yesterday morning, making a pot of coffee, and that's when I saw him. 

A squirrel. My furry little enemy was walking across the fence above our garden, only this time he was carrying a big, juicy tomato. It doesn't take a forensics team to figure out where he got it. A quick glance at the emptied vine I'd been waiting to pick confirmed the culprit. A wave of heat ran through my body, and I wasn't sure whether to scream or burst into tears. The nervy little F-er even sat himself down on the fence for a full on tomato salad feast. The rain the past few days had clearly wiped out my cayenne job, and I wasnt quick enough on the re-apply to avoid these eager critters from descending on my bounty.

Since it was too late to do anything about it, I ran to grab my camera, quietly went out into the back (not unnoticed by the little guy) and took a few pics of him - caught red handed (literally).

He's looking right at me.

Then I went out and got myself a five pound box of the fierce cayenne recommended by Erica at Les Douceurs de Marche. This is a full on war of the fruits, and I'm going to win it. I came home and created my very own artillery: a super sized "Cayenne Shaker". I took a large mason jar, poked holes in the top, and 65 sneezes later, my shaker was loaded and ready to go, and a fresh and heavy cayenne crop dusting was carried out immediately.

I am noticing however, that the cayenne may not really be the answer to my problems.  Unless I have endless amounts of time to re-apply (and shower every leaf of every plant with the stuff), these fluffy SOB's find a way around the hot spots. Upon closer inspection, I also found that the squirrels had taken the entire branch of 10 or so large tomatoes that were growing. How was one little squirrel was able to get away with that many tomatoes at once!?!? Do thy work as a team? It's not as though the branch was broken and some were left in the earth- they are all G-O-N-E. Even as I write this and peer out the window I see the bogies multiplying... three in the fruit section, two on the fence... I can't handle this.
The tomatoes that no longer exist

A friend has offered her scarecrow. I'm going to get it tomorrow and we'll see how that works out. I also had a friend wih her dog here yesterday afternoon...  the dog spent much of the day actually lying in the earth protecting my garden. If a squirrel even came near my yard - the dog went completely bananas, barking until it left. I may need to rent her out for the summer (anyone have a schnauzer that needs a place to laze around?). 

In other (better) news, things are cropping up like crazy back here. Cherry tomato trees have just about exploded, tons of tomatoes are hiding all over the place, and the height of the trees has tripled in size. The Roma tomato plants (not even sure I realized I planted Romas) are sprouting beautiful, bean-like tomatoes, that I cannot wait to harvest in a couple of weeks- the thought of them being robbed just hurts. The larger plants are looking a little bare, should be just a few days until some new big guys start to sprout up again.

The surprise Romas

Look how big those plants are getting! They were 1/4 that height!

In the veg section, things are getting so wild and crazy I can barely believe my eyes. I had to trim back some of the zucchini plant leaves, because they were shading the neighbouring purple onion, arugula & eggplants. Micro basil looks like a little fro of perfection, and every time I clip some, it seems to replenish overnight. The thyme seems to be growing a little slower... taking its sweet ass thyme (had to insert that cheesy joke). Everything else in the veggie section is doing really awesome, the arugula, spinach & herbs are growing faster than I can consume if you can believe it. Steady watering, good water flow (since the garden is on a slant) and great sunshine- Thank you (so far) mother nature! Let's see what happens when the actual vegetables start to come in (if they every do). The only problem so far with all the extreme growth, is that it comes with an onslaught of weeds. Not sure my legs could handle the man-hours of all the weeding in squat position that needs to take place. Thinking Ric & I need to blast some tunes and hit the weed for a few hours one of these days. Ya mon.

Week 1

same shot, week 5

My friend, the micro basil

Oregano ground cover action

Eastward in the fruit patch, ground cherries are growing steadily (and being eaten by the animals at about the same rate as they come in), & raspberry season is about to be in full swing. July is Raspberry season, and I'd better get on track with the rodent control, or I won't see a single red-berry in my hands. There are only a few berries coming from the plants this year, and I plan to harvest and enjoy each one.

Click here to read week 1 of my garden adventures!