Friday, March 30, 2012

Style: Fashion Cats!

Photo courtesy of United Bamboo
About a year ago, while reading through my favourite fashion blogs, I happened upon the most glee-inducing photos combining two of my favourite things: cats and fashion!  Any one that knows me personally would never believe that I was not actually googling for cats + fashion to begin with, but I swear I wasn't.

These pictures are from the 2011 calendar by United bamboo. The clothes weren't actually designed for the cats, it's the United Bamboo 2011 winter collection shrunk down to cat size for the purposes of the calendar. You can check out the whoel series of pictures here.

The calendar sold for a whopping 50 bucks at the time, but I have to admit I would have been tempted if I had seen it in person. I have used these lovelies as my desktop wallpaper on and off for the last year or so, and I wanted to post about it since cats this fashionable must be shared and admired!

Glad to see that the cat fashion industry doesn't suffer from the same weight biase that ours does ;-)

Photo courtesy of United Bamboo

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Shop: J. Crew Edie Purse in Flame

This season's must have purses are slimmed down, polished and in bright hues or funky fabrics. I guess it's not a big surprise since the past few seasons have been all about the large, slouchy boho bags. That's fashion for you, once you manage to collect all the trendy pieces that you love, they flip the script and suddenly what you are wearing is 'so 5 minutes ago!'. I have finally found skinny jeans that fit well and are not too low cut, so I cringed when I saw that full flare pants were back - thankfully, it seems all styles of jeans can co-exist for the time being. Phew!

Back to handbags....I shouldn't complain, any excuse to buy a new purse is a good excuse. The thing is, I like a big purse. The stuff (i.e. crap) I carry around has grown to meet the size capacity of my hobo bag, and now I find it hard to pare down. For a night out, I have to think long and hard about what goes into my itty bitty clutch and I'm always relieved to go back to my shoulder bag, no matter how cute a hand held purse is. The bags that are on trend this season are somewhere in the middle of these two size extremes.

After much searching, I decided on the J. Crew Edie shoulder purse in Flame. It has a bit more storage space than a few of the other models out there, and I think the color will really pop. I use to always lean towards black, but I'm less afraid of colour as I use to be, and think one just says 'summer' to me.
Photo Courtesy of J. Crew
  There was also a slimmer J. crew option, call Tillary in dark poppy. I decided against it because of it's size, but I loved that it can be converted to a clutch.
Photo courtesy of J. Crew
Kate Spade purses are just gorgeous, I love the quality of the materials they use, the structure, the cute embellishments. The Kate Spade 'Charlize' in black has that Chanel quilting that has kind of grown on me. I don't want a purse that's trying to be Chanel (and I can't rationalize buying a real Chanel ...yet), so it needs to have it's own style, and I think they really pulled it off with this one.
Photo courtesy of Kate Spade
 The other Kate Spade that I nearly bought was the Harlow. A while back, I had a purse just like this  from Danier leather, but the Kate version has the 14k gold accents that really elevate it. Ironically I just gave away the Danier purse after holding onto it for years thinking the style would come back eventually. Lesson learned? I wish, but my closet real estate dictates that some things do need to be moved out of rotation eventually. I'll just need to be smarter about what makes the cut.
Photo courtesy of Kate Spade

Photo courtesy of Kate Spade
I made sure to check out Michael Kors, Banana Republic and Marc by Marc Jacobs before making the purchase but I found that they haven't really produced anything new & noteworthy using this year's shapes (tote, satchel, clutch). In the end I just liked the shape of the Edie purse better than the others, and the color really sold it for me. I also got it at a much better than retail price, so that kinda cinched it for me. Can't wait till it (and the Spring-like weather) arrives!

Shop: Tip #4 - Know your brands

For clothes, it is worth the time invested if you can go to the retail brick & mortar store and try on the item itself or at least something similar in cut/style. I love Banana Republic and I know my size in their dresses, tops, pants, jeans, skirts, coats, etc. Believe me when I say that the my size can range at the same store depending on if it's a top or dress, slacks or jeans.
I would recommend against buying from a brand you have never tried on before or a brand you haven't seen up close with your own eyes. For one thing, you have no idea if the sizes are made big/small and second, you have no way of gauging authenticity of an item if you can't compare quality/material/craftsmanship. I personally buy only a few key brands that I am familiar with because I can be 90% sure that the item will fit even if I've never tried it on, and I have a better chance of detecting a knock off.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Shop: Tip # 3 - New Versus Pre-Owned

With clothes, I rarely buy pre-owned items. When I do, it will generally be something that is worn as outerwear and only from a seller with high ratings. Based on the sheer amount of used Lululemon clothing on eBay, I assume there must be a high demand for it but there is no way would I buy pre-owned exercise clothes. I KNOW what mine are like used, so I could not fathom buying someone else's grungy sweats.

Along those lines, you really don't know what state an item is until you see it with your own eyes, regardless of what condition the seller says its in. Their idea of "Mint" or "Like New" may really vary from yours. Which means that you are taking a chance, and hopefully that is reflected in the price. If you have experience with a seller, or if they have enough photos to prove something is in decent shape, then go for it. But if those pictures are too dark or out of focus, beware. Photos, more often than not, are my biggest decision maker.

I would like to add that some rare items, however, are even better pre-owned. My biggest addiction on eBay is hunting down Tiffany & Co. jewellery. Their silver jewellery only grows more beautiful with patina that develops over time. I will discuss authenticity in another post but for this topic I have to say that I almost prefer buying this second hand over brand new. First off because you won't find new authentic Tiffany jewellery on eBay and also because I see Tiffany's as a collector's item with increased value over time. Again, reputation and photos play a big part in my decision to bid.

All that to say, that it really depends on what you are looking for when deciding to go New or Pre-Owned on eBay. I try to avoid disappointment and opt for new clothing/shoes but I will accept used when it comes to jewellery or purses IF I can see many photos to decide on its state for myself.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Shop: Tip #2 - Don't assume returning something will be painless

Retail stores like Banana Republic or Gap include return labels and packaging with your online purchases, which makes returns a breeze. Some people use this policy to great effect, and will buy the same dress in multiple sizes and simply return the ones that don't fit. eBay is not like a retail website, for the most part you are not at liberty to return products if they don't fit or you don't like the colour. eBay returns will always suck, in regards to both time & money, for both parties.

Policies are at the complete discretion of the seller, and I can totally understand why they make most sales FINAL. The only time I went through a return process was when the seller shipped the complete wrong product. I was extremely annoyed at having to go to the post office and bother with it, even if I was refunded the postage. You have to ensure the package gets to point A to Point B, and when you consider international shipping and postal strikes, things can go missing; I know I've had a few items lost in transit. To avoid all that trouble, I've actually had  a couple sellers who told me to keep the wrong item (for my trouble) and then sent me the replacement as well (worked out in my favour since both items were my size!).

You have to think of these purchases as Final Sale. This should make your buying practices more thoughtful and cautious. Be sure to read the listing a few times (i.e. the fine print) and know the sellers policies.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Shop: Tip #1 - Set Up An Environment to Succeed!

You must buy a lotto ticket if you hope to win the lottery. Lame title and analogy aside, this means that you need to be set up before you try to get bidding on that awesome necklace. If you don't have your login set up with a primary address and you do not have Pay Pal activated with an approved payment source/address, you are never going to be ready in time win that auction. Even if you don't want to buy anything yet, do yourself a favour and set up your account, and take the time to get Pay Pal up and running. It takes time and they need to verify your bank information. I can't say it was a painless process, and I was hesitant to provide all that information at first, but now I feel like Pay Pal has saved my ass a few times with tricky eBay disputes, so I'm glad I'm set up. Do it. Do it now. Take that first step.

Shop: Buying (Tips) in installments

A friend of mine is always saying that I should share my tips for shopping, particularly with eBay. I probably shouldn't be this proud of myself for something so shallow & consumerist, but I love that I am a savvy shopper. I like the hunt, doing research and scouring for the best deal. Instead of preparing a lengthy post on my eBay tips, I will add tips to my blog on a regular basis and hope I don't contradict myself too much.

Shop: Coach Vanessa Moto Boots, aka the holy grail of Moto Boots

While I was scanning eBay last night for anything new and interesting in my saved searches, I did a double take when I spotted a listing for the holy grail of moto boots. Last fall, I saw these Coach boots at the Bay and I went bonkers. I loved the details, such as the heavy zipper, chunky belts, pebbled grain of the leather and the toe box. I envisioned how easy they would be to pull on with a pair of coloured jeans. I can't say I'm normally a fan of Coach because I don't like the big 'C' signature pattern they employ (MK can be guilty of this too); I prefer the logo's to be a bit more discreet. However, I found these boots to logo-free. Unfortunately, they didn't have my size in Black but the sales person got on their system and advised me that they had a pair in black in my size at the dowtown location. I begged (suckered, schmoozed, whatever) Marc to go downtown that very night only to find out that they didn't have my size or colour. Say what? It was a bit fustrating to make the effort to go there to be treated rudely but the saleswoman, like I was an idiot for listening to another one of their own employees. I was also told that my size/colour combo was not to be found in Canada. Booooo.

Photo Courtesy of Coach

All I could do was search the internet and eventually set up a saved search on eBay on the slim chance that they would show up. And then I waited. But last night, low and behold, there they were! It's been a crappy week for various reasons but I have to admit retail therapy did wonders for my mood (even if it is fleeting). As a bonus, I got them for 100$ off the retail price, which is only 70 after shipping costs but I do save on taxes as well. I just got the shipment notification, I can't wait to get them.The weather here as of late has us all thinking about summer clothing and I realize these boots are a fall/winter item, but I don't care, I'm gonna wear these babies the minute they arrive regardless of temperature.

Me, drolling over boots at The Bay
See MY boots on, listed as one of 12 favourite winter esstentials. *joy!*

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Eat: L’Artisan Piadineria (Review)

This weekend was unseasonably warm and precipitation free.  This respite from winter weather enticed me (and most Montrealers) to venture out in the city, for the sole purpose of just being outside. It brought to mind Baudelaire's 'flâneur'; the art of strolling down city streets with no agenda, watching people go by. We steered clear of St. Catherine street and all the St. Patty's activities that were going on, since we had little interest in having our peaceful day intruded on by loud drunken crowds, choosing instead to take in St. Denis street and all its cafes, shops and fellow Montrealers walking their dogs. It was bliss.

Before our afternoon of aimless strolling, we decided to grab a quick bite for lunch. Ever since I read the review of L’Artisan Piadineria in the Montreal Gazette I have been itching to try their sandwiches, so it seemed like as good an opportunity as any to try it out.

I ordered the Prosciutto, stracchino and arugula piadina (with a limonata), and Marc ordered the Capicolo, Gorganzola & iceburg lettuce. Preparation took about 5-10 minutes, with 2 people already being served in front of us. We watched as the flat bread dough was pressed through a machine to flatten it out and then it was lightly grilled on a flat top. The 3 toppings, in my opinion, were applied in just the right amount without being excessive. I never imagined that Prosciutto, stracchino and arugula would balance so well together! You could taste all the ingredients equally without one single taste being too heavy-handed. It was a great use of stracchino, which I've only had previously with crostini and honey (also delicious). Also worth mentioning is that the ingredients were the epitome of fresh. Marc said he really enjoyed his capicolo version as well, saying that the blue cheese was utilized in just the right amount so as not to be too overwhelming. 

I do think the 9.49 price tag is a bit steep, but as long as the quality of the ingredients stay this good, I'm willing to pay for it. The Prosciutto, stracchino and other ingredients are imported, and you can tell by the taste that they are better than your average sandwich shop quality. The portion size is good, it's enough to satisfy you but not enough to stuff you. Finally, the restaurant is small but clean. Next time I might linger long enough to have (what looked to be) some delicious pastries and an americano; which I guess means I would be employing the French Canadian version of flâner.

Location: L’Artisan Piadineria, 3421 St. Denis St., 514-508-1433.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Eat: Top 5 Pizzas in Montreal

"Pizza! Pizza! In my tummy, me so hungie, me so hungie!!"
 - Britta Perry,  Community 

There are not many things that I love more than pizza. I literally do a happy dance when pizza appears in front of me. Recently, in an attempt to cut calories, I've cut back on ordering pizza. I've had delivery once in the last 6 weeks and I have to admit that my pizza lust is in full force. In honour of my insatiable desire for 'za, I have compiled my list of top 5 Pizza's in Montreal. Nothing encourages disagreement like debating over the best pizza in town, so, away we go!

 Top 5...favourite Pizzas in Montreal:

A classic pizzeria in the McGill ghetto, Amelio's is aimed towards the student crowd. They have a set menu that people seem to love if the long lines ups at lunch and dinner are any indication. The prices have gone up a tad over the years but I still believe the pizza (and pasta for that matter) are well worth it. I've seen many people order the popular 4 cheese pizza, but my personal favourite is the vegetarian. Their crust leans towards the classic hand tossed variety, but it's both chewy and buttery (so flaky!). The sauce is ample and the tasty veggies (eggplant, mushrooms, green peppers) are cooked instead of raw. I don't even like eggplant and mushrooms but I love them on this pizza. They put a good amount of high quality cheese without going overboard. Not to mention it's a BYOW!

My current favourite, B&M is an NDG institution. People seem to love it or hate it. I use to think they went too heavy on the cheese but I have either gotten use to it or learned to love it that way. They have to have the heaviest pizza in town, it's so weighed down by cheese! The crust is hand tossed, their sauce is awesome, with a nice amount of black pepper. I usually order all dressed, no mushroom and the quality of the pepperoni is unbelievable. It's a greasy, juicy pizza that should not be missed. It's the stuff of pizza fantasy!

When I lived in the West Island I was forced to try new pizzeria's in order to fill my pizza need. Upon the advice of many westies, I ordered my first pizza from Gigi's, a west island institution.  I could not believe how horrible I thought it was! I'm gonna get a lot of flak for that from the Gigi die-hards, but I'll take the risk and call out bad pizza when I taste it!!. A few pizza-barren months later, a friend came over for Superbowl and suggested Calzone pizza and the rest is history. Calzone is not only really affordable but also has great service from the drivers and the phone agents. My personal favourite is the cheese, tomato sauce, chicken, caramelized onion and jalapeno. These flavours shouldn't go together but they are the perfect match! During my veg days, a caramelized onion pizza really did the trick. Sometimes I lament not being in the west island to enjoy Calzone pizza, so I really have to get myself invited over to a WI friend's place soon so I can order some!

This was my favourite pizza spot for years, I use to beg my parents to order it for me when I visited during the time when I lived in a different neighbourhood. It's another much debated NDG pizzeria, either loved or hated by locals on ChowHound. There are numerous pizza places named Pendeli's in Montreal but don't get them confused, this one has a unique trademark; they shave the pepperoni into strips and cook it on top of the pizza. Result equals delicousness! Their pizza is hand tossed, and my favourite is the all dressed, no mushroom. Some people claim that the sauce is bland, but I never thought so until the last time I ordered. I'll have to do another taste test to be sure. This one's a greasy spoon pizza, to be sure.

All kidding aside, I really do love my homemade pizza but I'll leave it out of this list and cover it in a separate recipe post. On a slightly different pizza tangent, I would say that number 5 on my list is a tie between a bakery and a delicatessen for cold tomato sauce pizza. I have an NDG allegiance to Boulangerie Patisserie N.D.G for their classic cold tomato sauce pizza. The sauce is plentiful and the dough is thick, and crust is pleasantly chewy. Cavallero's does a great version of this as well but also has a version with raw olive oil infused garlic that just makes me squeal with joy. Oh hell yeah!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Shop: J. Crew Linda Dress in Wool Crepe

Photo courtesy of J. Crew

When I first saw the eBay listing for the J. Crew Linda Dress in Black Wool Crepe, I was hesitant to buy it based on the shape. I don't normally go for an A-Line skirt or dress but the photos of the dress really sold it. Something about the drape and appearance of the fabric told me it was going to be lovely. 

Pictures from eBay seller Zimazami
I am always a little excited and nervous when a package from eBay arrives. Excited because of that 'package in the mail' buzz that I get, but nervous because you never really know if what you bought is going to actually look like you expect it to, or if it will fit the way you hope. Luckily, my senses on this dress were 100% accurate. Can you be in love with a dress? Because I am. The fabric has this texture that I rarely see and the tailoring is spot on. The trim and buttons are adorable and the seams hit at all the right spots, as if it was meant for my build. The skirt hangs perfectly and hits just below my knee cap at the slimmest spot above my calf. Above all else, I purchased it for a killer deal on eBay.

Photo courtesy of J. Crew
 In my head this dress is a cross between the old school tailoring that I imagine a woman in 1970's Italy might wear and a mad men-esque secretary outfit. Okay, so maybe I'm romanticizing this one a little, but I am so pleased with it! I finished off the outfit with flesh-toned fishnet patterned nylons, taupe suede pumps, a long gold chain with a Tiffany open heart pendant, rose-hued lipstick, and pinned up, freshly curled hair. Uh oh, did I just describe Lucille Ball? (That's okay, she rocks.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

eat: f Bar (Review)

I have been eager to review f Bar, but for all the wrong reasons. I have to admit that I wasn't thrilled about spending a lot of money on dinner that particular night that I went so I wasn't terribly receptive to begin with. But after reviewing the website a few times and learning that they are owned by the same people that own Ferreira, I tried to convince myself this would be a good experience. Unfortunately my discontent with the place started literally from the moment I opened the door. Because I couldn't open the door.

The location of the restaurant combined with a heavy door, wind and a vacuum-like suction made it impossible to open, not to mention downright embarrassing to struggle with. I had to use both hands to pull while I planted my legs as firmly as I could. Not too delicate and refined for a woman dressed in a skirt, about to have a fancy dinner before a night of ballet. But the worse of it was being watched by the hostesses (girls) at the front of house. They did not move an inch as they watched me struggle. Fine, ok, I can deal but when the second inner door appeared to have the same problem and I looked at both of them squarely in the face as I pulled as hard as I could, they showed no attempt at all to help. They were less than 2 feet away and they kept watching. Which really added insult to injury when the door gave way and slammed into my foot. Hard. I let out an un-ladylike obscenity that was truly involuntary but well deserved. The tip of my boot was inverted, about the size of a golf ball right, on my left big toe. As we entered at last, they laughed and said flippantly that 'oh ha ha that door sticks all the time, it's SOOO hard to open!' which reignited my temper. I had to add 'Yes a little help from someone working at the door really would have helped with that problem!'. They stared at me with a blank expression that was a cross between pissed and a lack of understanding. (On a side note, my toenail was bent back and damaged. It hurt for a few days but I don't think I will lose the nail.)

Once we were seated at our table, it became apparent how cramped it would be. The restaurant is small, that's a given, and we had previously agreed to have a table for two with three place settings, but the waitresses repeatedly leaned over me throughout service without concern for my personal space. We were told that they'd take our coats but there was no space so they can't. Why offer at all?

When they asked us for our wine selection, my friend wanted to hear the 3 red wine choices by the glass, but after the first description she selected the first one and the server never finished describing the rest. On my turn I asked to hear the other red wine choices and the server actually looked pissed. I had to ask a second time, stating that just because my friend had selected the first one doesn't mean I wouldn't like to hear the rest. Let's just say there was a lack of enthusiasm after that. The wine was delicious but I never really got the name, and when I asked for prices (they were not written) I was brushed off with a look of disgust (how low class of me!) and a price range of 10-12 dollars.

The menu is broken down in two groups, bar dinner and f dinner. I selected my meal from the bar side because I saw "Portuguese style grilled grain fed chicken, mashed potatoes, rappini" for 21$. Do I love me some Portuguese chicken! I spent 2 weeks in Portugal and have eaten countless chicken sandwiches at Romados and Coco Rico in my day, so I was psyched. I trusted that they would do this well. You see, I had my wedding reception years ago at Ferreira and I adore their food, so I assumed it would be amazing. The presentation was gorgeous, in deep sided metal pots that just gleamed. But I was so disappointed when I took my first bite of the chicken. By all accounts it was not a bad chicken, but it was not even close to the flavour of any other Portuguese chicken I have had. It was a chicken breast with a Portuguese spiced BBQ sauce, not a slow roasted deeply flavoured chicken one comes to expect. It was fine, I did like the raisins in the mashed potato and the sharp bitterness of the rapini, but my taste buds were deceived. I did not manage to take any pictures of the meals, as it was very dark and I wasn't going to use a flash. I can say that the presentation was beautiful and my dinning companions enjoyed the "Halibut, black raisin-parsley-almond condiment, brown butter/sherry" (minus the butter due to lactose intolerance) and the "Beef short ribs, rock shrimps, "douronnaise" reduction".

We had to leave quickly (as did most of the customers) to make it to the ballet in time, and I will say that the staff had our bills prepared quickly. Leaving no time for dessert meant that I had to pass on my favourite dessert of all time, natas. I will never know if this gorgeous pillowy salivation-inducing treat was the restaurants saving grace or if it would have been the nail in the coffin.

I realize this review comes off very strongly, and I wish it wasn't my first foray into restaurant reviews because it pigeonholes me as an absolute grump. Truth is, I can think back on the experience and admit I was a grump. Too many details were frustrating and difficult, and it culminated into a bad experience that wasn't going to be fixed. I won't be going back to f Bar if it's up to me. There were not enough redeeming qualities to give it a second chance. Especially since I am still very interested in trying Brasserie T! (the little sister of Toque!) which is housed in an identical matching glass building just a few steps away from f bar. But maybe I'll let someone else get the door on the way in.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Shop: J. Crew colours & prints to brighten a rainy day, plus galoshes!

It's a dreary day in Montreal, skies are grey and the rain seems relentless. Add the recent daylight savings change and I would say my seasonal affective disorder crankiness has increased by 20%. In an attempt to brighten up my day, I decided to wear a few brightly coloured J. Crew items that rarely get worn in the darker days of winter. This spring is supposedly going to be all about bright hues, so I wanted to ease into it.

I started with the J. Crew perfect shirt in Royal Paisley, my absolute favourite pattern from J. Crew. So much so, that I bought both the perfect shirt and the No. 2 pencil skirt in the same pattern. They advertised that you could wear them together; it's called a hookup when you wear more than one piece in the same pattern. So far I haven't tried it, I haven't taken to the idea and if I don't feel like I own it, I know I won't look confident wearing it.

Royal Paisley Perfect Shirt. Photo courtesy of J. Crew
A 'Hook-up'. Photo courtesy of J. Crew
 The button-up has teal in the pattern so I decided to combined it with the J. Crew No. 2 Pencil skirt in Teal. I love the colour, its bright and unapologetic. I added some peep toe heels and a silver Tiffany beads necklace and voila, office chic. Or nerdy office girl, however you want to slice it.

Teal No. 2 Pencil Skirt. Photo courtesy of J. Crew
Someone asked me if my outfit had anything to do with St. Patrick's day or something 'Irish'. St. Patty's day is a few days away, which might explain the question, but I would have to blame it on the lack of colourful clothing used throughout the winter. I guess the sudden change must have seemed contingent on some event (it sure is, Spring!) So....No bright pinks or baby blues near Easter and I should be able to avoid such comparisons again.

In addition, I was thrilled to pull out my galoshes this morning! There's just something about the pure abandon of rain boots, the ability to slosh through puddles care-free like when you were a child. They are also a nice reminder that we are finally headed into spring! Mine are by Capelli New York, and are black with a wedge in a purple paisley/floral print. They do clash with my shirt but when I'm outside my outfit is covered up with a black wool coat, so no one will notice my faux pas. Can't wait to leave the office and stomp in a few puddles on the way home!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Eat: Sauteed Cod with Lentils, and Broiled Aspargus with Balsamic Vinegar

I have 323 recipes stored in my Epicurious recipe box. Of course I have the intention of trying each and every one of them but that's probably not going to happen. Every now and then I feel I have just enough energy at the end of a work day to open the box and select a recipe to make that night for dinner. That can be tricky endeavor for 2 reasons; first, many recipes require marinating or some other  preparation hours in advance, and second, the recipes sound great until I get to my grocery store and realize some of the most essential ingredients are not available . Like I said before, I have limited energy (and interest) in hunting down ingredients on a week day so to avoid issues I usually select 1-2 different recipes to take with me as back up options. 

In the end, I found the right ingredients and decided on making Sauteed Cod with Lentils. The result was delicious, this recipe is definitely a keeper. The butter used to brown the onions prior to folding into the lentils has such a rich deep flavour, it should not be left out. A touch of acid from the fresh lemon juice and additional flavouring from the flat leaf parsley turns the lentils into something else entirely. The fish is a basic saute with salt & pepper, but the wonderful meaty & slightly salty texture really balances well with the lentils. The preparation of the asparagus may not have matched the lentils & cod perfectly, but it did not detract from the other flavours either.

For shame, I did not take my own picture of the meal. Which is probably just as well since my plating is atrocious and I was too hungry to slow down enough to immortalize it. Next time I'll make the effort and update this entry with a new pic. In the meantime, here's the picture from  Epicurious:

Photo Courtesy of

Original Recipe:  Sauteed Cod with Lentils.

  • Without a doubt, you can half the butter in both the lentils and fish preparation and still be fine.
  • I used lentilles du Puy because I really love how meaty they are.
  • I had asparagus on hand so I rubbed those with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and cracked pepper and broiled then for a few minutes to serve as a side dish.
Modified Version: Sauteed Cod with Lentils, and Broiled Asparagus with Balsamic Vinegar

For Lentils
  •     1 cup dried lentilles du Puy
  •     1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •     1 cup finely chopped onion
  •     2-4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  •     3/4 teaspoon salt
  •     3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  •     1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  •     1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For Cod
  •     2(6-ounces) pieces cod fillet
  •     1/2 teaspoon salt
  •     1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  •     1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
For Asparagus
  •     1 tablespoon olive oil
  •     1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  •     1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Cover lentils with cold water by 1 1/2 inches in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender, 12 to 25 minutes. Drain in a sieve set over a bowl and reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid. While lentils are simmering, melt butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then stir in onion, garlic, and salt and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 10 minutes. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until golden, 5 to 10 minutes more. Stir in lentils and enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten (1/4 to 1/2 cup) and cook until heated through. Just before serving, stir in parsley, lemon juice, pepper, and aprox. 1 tablespoon oil.

Cook fish while onion finishes cooking; Pat fish dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat butter and oil in a 10- to 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté fish, turning over once, until browned and just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes total. Serve fish with lentils.

Set oven to Broil (aprox. 500C). Prep a roasting pan or glass tray with tin foil. Using one spear of asparagus, bend the spear until the end snaps off . Using this spear as a guide, cut the woody ends off of the remaining spears at the same point. Put the spears in to the lined pan, allowing for a bit of space between each spear. Mix the vinegar, oil and pepper in a bowl and pour the mix onto the spears to coat. Put in oven for approximately 10 minutes, watching closely to avoid burning. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Fleur de Sel.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Eat: Get in my belly, blade roast!!

A quick pic of my boy's braised blade roast. It was comfort food extraordinaire. A nice rich gooey sauce, pearl onions and carrots, served with a nice red wine and a beet, mache & arugula salad. More please!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Drink: Modellissimo Masi Delle Venezie i.g.t. 2008 (Sale 14.45) Wine Review

Name: Modellissimo Masi Delle Venezie i.g.t. 2008

Price: Sale 14.45 (reg. 15.95$)

Quick Sum Up: Meh. I would pass on this one. For the same price point, there are a lot of other solid options.

Full Review: I fully expected to like this wine. I think of Masi wines, particularly the red ones in the 11-17 dollar range, as my dependable standby. Masi is a wine I would bring to a BYOW or friend's house for dinner if I didn't know what food would be served or if I thought that the host didn't enjoy wine enough to truely appreciate a more expensive bottle. Don't hold that against me; I see it as real bummer when I buy a great mid range wine and its worth is lost on the bequeathed.

The taste of Modelissimo was somehow muted on mouthfeel and yet still strong on the finish. I imagine that's what the SAQ tasting note means when they say medium. The woody quality was too apparent when we drank it on its own but I will admit that the wine tasted better once it was paired with food. We had it with roast chicken, braised fennel, and israeli cousous, not exactly the ideal food pairing based on the SAQ notes. Overall, I would say the taste was a little too tannic, woody and spicy for me. I somehow expected a flavour closer to my other experiences with Masi, somewhere between spicy & fruity.

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Additional Information from SAQ

Tasting Notes from SAQ: Ruby in colour, this red boasts a medium nose exuding woody, empyreumatic, spicy and fruity aromas. Discover this medium-bodied wine expressing refreshing acidity and offering a broad texture and fleshy tannins. It also unveils a medium mouthfeel that leads into a medium finish.

Food Pairing from SAQ: Beef, Tomato sauce, Meat sauce

Additional Info from SAQ:
Wine family: Dry, medium-bodied and fruity 
Country: Italy
Region: Veneto
Appellation: Delle Venezie
Producer: Masi Agricola SPA
Alcoholic strength: 13.0 %
Acidity: Refreshing 
Intensity: Medium 
Persistance: Medium 
Body: Medium-bodied 
Tannins: Fleshy 
Texture: Broad 
Sugar: Dry 
Taste family(ies): Woody , Empyreumatic , Spicy , Fruity 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Eat: Top 10 Desserts

Growing up, I had a major sweet tooth. Every weeknight and weekend dinner was followed by some form of dessert, whether it be ice cream, cookies, a Swiss roll or a Mae West (hey, either you get it or you don't!). It was a very tough habit to break. Over the last few years however, I've slowed down on the sugar intake, often indulging in a second helping of dinner rather than a sweet dessert. Also, my taste has evolved from simply wanting "anything chocolate" to wanting something slightly more savoury or complex. 

The desserts that make up this list are not goodies that I have often (except for the cupcake habit that I had to wean myself off of) so I still get really excited when I do get to enjoy them. Here is a top 5 list that doesn't respect the rules. I could narrow it down to 5 but with so many ethnic food options in Montreal it's much too difficult to choose less than 10. No homemade options on this list; just goodies from my favourite sweet shops around town and a few restaurant desserts that make me giddy. 
There are cupcakes and then there are Cho'Cola Carrot Cupcakes. It's all about the cream cheese icing here, and they pile it on high. Cho'Cola makes a wonderful carrot cake as well, but the cake batter mix is subtly different and the cupcake version is my preferred choice for its moistness and spice. No nuts in this version (Cho'Cola is a nut free establishment) which is fine by me. This dessert makes me want to sing 'you are my sunshine' when I eat it, it really does elevate my mood.
Last year's trip to Paris introduced me to macarons and now life will never be the same. Wonderful little mouthfuls of pure flavour and texture, they are bliss in two amazing bites. How they get such pronounced flavour I will never know, nor do I care. I was so excited to discover the existence of our own Macaron shops in Montreal, and they do a fabulous job. I must point out that it's worth the trip to these shops rather than getting a macaron from a random pastry shop that doesn't specialize in these babies. My preference is Point G for their vivid colours and vibrant flavours, and also because their packaging makes for perfectly protected macarons. La maison de macarons uses muted colors but I would never turn down one of their fleur de sel caramel or gigi & co chocolate macaron versions. Oui, Oui Oui, Point G! ;-)

I know there are a million zeppole versions out there, especially with Easter on its way, but the one that beats out all the others for me is from Artigiani on St. Denis. Warm, fried dough coated with a sweetened ricotta (like cannoli) filling and a warm honey drizzle, I absolutely want the whole plate to myself. Traditionalists be damned, I care very little for the whipped cream or custard fillings that often fill zeppoli's around town. I only have eyes for Artigiani's decadent version. I'm due for some of this gooey goodness, it is almost Easter after all!

I wouldn't be exaggerating if I told you that I had between 1-3 Natas a day during my 10 day visit to Portugal. The meals were hearty but I owe most my weight gain to this perfect little tart. The custard is sweet but still pleasantly bland, and the crust is the perfect balance between flakey and chewy. My natas MUST have 'caramelization' all over the surface of the custard because that's where the flavour lives!! I am sure with all the great Portuguese restos/bakeries in town that there are dozens of good versions (I've had some bad ones too) but Romados and Coco Rico are my old standbys, and I rarely leave without buying at least 6 of these beauties (not to mention a chicken sandwich and roasted potatoes, but that's another story).

  • Künefe @ Su
I have only had this once, but the experience stayed with me. It' was a dessert of the day, that has since been added as a recipe in the owner/author's cookbook (Su). Basically its a middle eastern phylo dough called kadaïf that is shredded (looks a lot like rice noodles) and fried with cheese and topped with syrup and pistachios and pomegranate. It's warm oozy gooey goodness, savoury and sweet. The pomegranate accents may seem non-essential but they really elevate the taste and should not be excluded. If I can't get Künefe again at the restaurant I might be forced to make it myself, and I fear I might mar my perfect memory of this delightful dish.

  • Warm Apple Pie with cheddar @ Amelio's
Just to be clear, I don't like apple pie. There are so many bad apple pies out there; it's never my first choice when I have options for dessert unless I get a good look at it first and can verify if it meets my "picky girl" taste. I would never have ordered this without having tasted someone else's first. At the time I couldn't fathom pairing cheddar and apple pie, but I now know they were meant to be combined. Served warm, the saltiness from the cheddar coats the buttery flaky crust and blends with the cinnamon/nutmeg spice on the apples with every bite. Pure happiness.
Warm Dulce de leche fills the churrochurros with its sugar crust and then getting the dulce de leech flavour. I never want another empty churro, it must be filled with dulce de leche!! They were made for each other! This restaurant is awesome for so many reasons; this dessert is just one of many menu items that make me giddy to go back.

I guess you could go to 90% of the indian restaurants in Montreal and get a decent gulab jamun (with as many ways of spelling Gulab Jamun). My preference (nay, NEED) is for it to be served warm - I am so disappointed when I get a styrofoam cup of 2-3 milk balls as part of my delivery order and it has been chilled. Boooo! That cardamom and rose water syrup has made me an addict, and I didn't even know I liked those flavours.

Some people prefer their cannoli stuffed with whipped cream, others enjoy custard, while other still prefer a ricotta/icing sugar mix. I desire only the ricotta filling; I can take or leave the chocolate chips that sometimes end up mixed into it. Cavallero's is one of my favourite summer time Saturday afternoon nosh locations. Their Italian meats, cheeses and bread make for delicious sandwiches and their potato chicken empanadas make me grin from ear to ear. Combined with a not too sweet, ricotta filled cannoli and a Limonata and I am one (stuffed) happy camper.
I won't eat just any tapioca pudding. My 'picky girl' rules dictate that only ChuChai tapioca pudding will do. ChuChai serves their version warm, with a thick layer of coconut solid on top. The salty flavour of the coconut is already wonderful but combining it with simple syrup for sweetness is heaven. A small serving but big on flavour.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Shop: GAP Broken-in straight khakis

I don't frequent GAP much these days since I tend to prefer the styles and materials that Banana Republic has to offer (GAP's higher end sister store). Having said that, I was window shopping between the 3 stores (BR, GAP and Old Navy) which share a common checkout when I happened upon GAP Broken-in straight khakis.

The reviews were plentiful and a majority of them were positive. The sizing advice seemed consistent (size down, they are made big) and the price was right at 59.95$ Cdn. Add a 30% off sale and I decided to order 2 pairs, one in Hot Coral and the other in Dried Fig. They arrived last week and I'm very pleased. I really wanted something other than jeans to wear around this summer, and I really like the look of a rolled up chino with a nice heel or wedge sandal. Very casual, clean....maybe even deserving of a straw fedora if the mood should strike me.
Image courtesy of GAP

Image courtesy of GAP

I also bought Boyfriend roll-up shorts in deep guava but regretted not sizing down as well. I know they are supposed to be boyfriend cut, but the ill fit combined with the bright colour was doing nothing for me. I ended up returning them this weekend in-store for a smaller size and a different colour (boardwalk). I'm thinking it was a smart trade.

Image courtesy of GAP

Image courtesy of GAP

Friday, March 2, 2012

Eat: Top 5 Restaurants that....I'm Dying to Try

It's probably not good to admit but one of my favourite hobbies is dining out. I make an effort to try new (and new to me) places but there are definitely some old favourites that would probably not make the cut if I was reintroduced to them today (but I digress...)

This will be the first in a series of posts I will write about my "Top 5 Restaurants...". I will start with the easiest list, my top 5 restaurants in Montreal that I want to try next. It's a lot of fun to think back on all the meals & restaurants that will form my list and I'm putting some serious thought into my Top 5 BYOW and Cheap Eats lists.

Top 5 Restaurants that I'm Dying to Try:
Ever since I saw some twitterpics of the food being prepared here, I've been itching to go. My interest has been piqued by the threads on Chowhound and the twitter updates from the local food scene; the only reason I'm hesitant to go is the repeated feedback that the restaurant can be overbearingly loud & cramped in terms of seating. But damn, does the menu look and sound good! I'm a sucker for Italian food, even more so for rustic country/family style Italian food. I am completely looking for an excuse to book a reservation here. Anyone want a dinner date?
My interest here lies entirely with their version of a Cubano sandwich. When I was in NYC last fall, my boyfriend and I ended up dining at Guantanamera where I ordered my first ever Cubano sandwich...and it changed my life. The flavours and textures are paired so beautifully. Sliced ham, warm slow cooked pork roast, cheese, pickles and mustard...pure heaven. When I got home I immediately went to chowhound to ask Montrealers where I could get something similar. A few suggestions were made but the most common one by far was Olive & Gourmando. I want to go but it's in Old Montreal, an area I don't normally go to during the week, and they are closed on Sundays. I've heard there can be quite a line up to get in on Saturday as a result; there is no way in hell I'm going to wait in line outside a restaurant in the middle of winter. No can do, not even for a Cubano. Just waiting till the thaw...
I know very little other than the fact that, in the last 3 weeks, Montreal foodies have been posting the most SICK photos of sandwiches from this place. The bread looks fantastic, the toppings delectable. Meatballs in marinara with cheese, layers of gorgeous capicolo. Daaamn..... Check out the website pictures, seriously. I need to stop having such massive breakfasts on the weekend so I can make room in my belly for some lunch at this place!
I'm already been here twice, so technically it shouldn't be included here. But it's my favourite restaurant right now, hands down, and they had unveiled a brand new menu. I would try anything they prepare, and I'm drooling with anticipation over their meatballs and homemade cured meats. If it wasn't for my recent attempts to lose a few pounds and gain a few dollars, I'd be back there tonight. Must go back soon.
Another restaurant I know very little about, but it showcases one of my all time favourites foods ...sandwiches! Well, piadina to be exact, a specialty of Emilia-Romagna. I have yet to try it, but the Montreal Gazette review posted pictures of the homemade flat bread, fresh arugula, prosciutto and stracchino cheese (awesome, who uses stracchino!!) used in their specialty and I was convinced that I had to try one for myself. ASAP.
  • Honorable Mentions:
Pied De Cochon Cabane A Sucre and Garde Manager. Two places that are incredibly popular and garnering a lot of buzz.

With Pied De Cochon Cabane A Sucre, I was lucky enough to hitch my wagon to a group dinner reservation requested in December, which was finally confirmed almost a full month later in January (not atypical, apparently). I am excited and it's still 2 months away but I have to admit that as a picky eater (don't dig foie gras, offal, etc. ) I'm likely going to pass on a number of their menu items. Which is probably better for me in the long run considering how ill people have claimed they feel after leaving the cabane a sucre. But I'm along for the experience, which should be memorable.

For Garde Manger, there is a strong local pride right now for both our food scene and our Chuck Hughes. I have heard enough to make me want to go, but I anticipate I will be back in the 'picky boat' considering some of his usual ingredients. No plans to go yet, my boyfriend has already been there and sometimes it's hard to justify a return trip to a restaurant when you consider cost, difficulty with reservation, noise level/comfort, etc. Truth be told, even though it's one of the most buzzed about restaurants in the city, I would be fine if I never went back to the Pied De Cochon restaurant, based on cost and the god-awful food hangover I had for 48 hours afterwards.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Drink: Chablis Champs Royaume William Fevre 2009 (11.99) Wine Review

Name: Chablis Champs Royaume William Fevre 2009

Price: 11.99

Quick Sum Up: Would definitely buy this again. Great price, balanced taste. Yum.

Full Review: The SAQ in Westmount is where I picked up William Fevre 2009. A recent trip to Paris has inspired me to try more French wines; I have been intimidated by their complex label/control system in the past. Since I don't know French wine very well, I feel comfortable going a bit cheaper and experimenting with different varietals and/or blends. The price was right at 11.99$.I can't tell you what I paired it with, I have long since forgotten those details, however I can say that I was pleasantly surprised by how good this wine was for the price. It was acidic (which I like) but also fruity enough not to let the acid be too overbearing. A regular refrigerator is good enough for me in terms of temperature management. Chilled in the fridge for a couple hours and a quick rest at room temperature and this wine is ready to go. For me, a chilled white wine is essential; a piss-warm white wine is almost not worth having. Another positive for me was that there was no syrupy mouth feel on the finish which I tend to dislike, I've noticed that quality with a few Chardonnays that I have tried.
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Additional Information from SAQ

Tasting Notes from SAQ: Greenish yellow in colour, this white boasts a medium nose exuding floral, fruity and mineral aromas. Discover this medium-bodied wine expressing lively acidity and offering a broad texture. It also unveils a medium mouthfeel that leads into a medium finish.

Food Pairing from SAQ: Fish and seafood (scallop tartare, salmon, tuna), Sauces (lemon, lime), Cheese (goat-type)

Additional Info from SAQ:
  • Wine family: Dry, medium-bodied and fruity
  • Country: France
  • Region: Bourgogne
  • Appellation: Chablis
  • Producer: William Fèvre
  • Alcoholic strength: 12.5 %
  • Acidity: Lively
  • Intensity: Medium
  • Persistance: Medium
  • Body: Medium-bodied
  • Tannins: N/A
  • Texture: Broad
  • Sugar: Dry
  • Taste family(ies) : Floral , Fruity , Mineral

Drink: Precursor to a Wine Review

I love wine. Love, Love, Love with a capital "L", LOVE. I don't know much about wine, except a few details that I've managed to retain from the vast plethora of oenophilia out there. I'm not as articulate as I'd like to be when I need to describe a wine. I know what I'm looking for but feel incapable of describing what I'm after. Which is why the SAQ website is so cool. They are continually improving the site by adding more and more information. Which is great for the wine plebes among us. So forgive me because I will lean heavily on the SAQ or other resources out there to help explain the qualities of a particular wine that I have sampled. I'll couple it with my layman description and hope the proper terminology will stick.
Over the years, I've been a bit lazy in my wine selection. I generally stick to Italian, Californian, Australian and a handful of wines from British Columbia. Historically, I am also partial to red wine. I would say my consumption of red to white was 90/10 for nearly the last ten years. But with the discovery of a few delightful whites from Portugal and New Zealand, I have become much more open to the idea of white wine. I buy wine in bulk (that sounds awful). What I mean is a case of 12 rather than wasting time picking a couple of bottles at a time. I like to take advantage of the sales at the outlets and the hefty discount at the SAQ depot for bulk purchases. In the beginning, I would buy 11 red and one white, then eventually 2 whites, etc. I'm at a 60/40 split at this point. I also force myself to try wines from all over the world, and apart from Greek wine (sorry) I haven't met many I didn't enjoy. In terms of price, I like to get a range from 10.00$ to 24.00$ for my case, I generally average out at about 210$ for 12 bottles. I occasionally splurge on a more fancy bottle, but I rarely go over 30-65 dollars.
So this is where I'm coming from when I talk about wine. I am a true fan, but not very good with all the details. Here on my blog I will be adding my review & description of the wines I try. The primary reason is for record keeping; I have a tendency to re-discover the same wines for the first time, all over again, because I don't remember the labels (particularly for French wine). This way I can refer back and make a more educated choice in the future. Wines also change a lot from one year to the next, so it would be a boon to have notes that reminded me that I loved Badiola 2009 but hated 2010 (which is not possible, its such an awesome wine).