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.