Archives for category: Food

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We spent each day in Montréal, Canada, between Old Town and the city’s Place des Arts. Place des Arts–a very large culture-and-the-arts-plus-social venue–is where the now-celebrated opera Les Feluettes by Kevin March and Michel Marc Bouchard is playing, specifically at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier on May 24, 26, and 28. We attended the sold-out opening night last Saturday!

We lucked out by booking a boutique accommodation at L’Auberge de la Place Royale, in Old Town, that truly was a home away from home–clean, tasteful, affordable, convenient, secure, and amidst many visitor attractions and amenities. If you click on the link, be sure to watch the video! The yellow front entry to this hidden gem is very unassuming.

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The walk between the two places was about 30 minutes on average, depending on how long we stopped to admire the old architecture, shop windows, eating places, galleries, etc., along the way. For most of the route, there is an “underground” shopping mall that is flat, clean, and bright. Selecting the underground, one misses Chinatown, a hill, tour buses, taxis, and well, everything that isn’t a mall!

Particularly special was the Notre-Dame Basilica where we listened to an awe-inspiring pipe organ.

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But back to Place des Arts. So much to see, so much to do. It is the heart of a hub called Quatier des Spectacles: 80 cultural venues including 30 performance halls with nearly 28,000 seats in approximately one square kilometer, according to the website above. For starters, the grand-opera venue is a 2,996-seat performance hall (the largest in Quebec). Wow! 😮

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The plaza of Place des Arts itself is bordered by St. Catherine, Jeanne-Mance, Maisonneuve, and Saint-Urbain streets. Indoors. Outdoors. Diverse. The entertainment was continuous, and mostly it was free. Something was always happening.

One day we saw the Mary Poppins cast sing and dance in the intersection. A large art installation of logs extending down the street provided sitting space. It is where we bought our tickets to see Cirque du Soleil. (We didn’t realize the big top was only two piers away from our auberge, so conveniently located that we could walk to the circus.)

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Friends stayed in the Hyatt Regency hotel on the plaza. When I bought flowers for opening night and needed a place to keep them until curtain time, the concierge offered to hold them for our friends and even provided a beautiful vase for them. The lobby is readily accessible, and the hotel is a convenient place to get a taxi. Several good restaurants make it hard to choose where to dine.

Next door is the Musée d’Art Contemporain with a permanent collection of 7,600 works. Sadly, we didn’t go inside. The building faces a large stretch of street-level fountains.

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On the roof is a photographic work entitled “La voice lactée” by artist Geneviève Cadieux.

In Old Town and Old Port, we were steps away from the best patisserie (almond croissants to die for) Maison Christian Faure, ethnic restaurants, cool bars and art galleries.

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Two museums. Cirque du Soleil as mentioned, bicycle paths by the river, everything very enjoyable. At nighttime there is an multimedia installation called Cité Mémoire at various outdoor spots in Old Town. Interesting, giant, images are projected onto walls and alleyways, and if you load an app to your phone, there is historical information about each place. It is a very creative, and an option for date night! It happens to be co-produced by the librettist Michel Marc Bouchard.

When it was time to leave this fine city, that reminds me of Paris, a taxi arrived at the curb in one minute and the fare was a flat rate to the airport. It was the only time we rode a taxi in Montréal except to go to the opera in our fancy clothes!

Please enjoy Montréal! It may be a while before I return. In the meantime, I’ll see you back at the studio. Thanks for coming with me to Canada! ~ Rebekah (Popo)

 

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Feels like Paris, but it’s Montreal. What a civilized and highly cultured city this is. Our place in Old Montreal by the river and Old-Port is in walking distance to bakeries for breakfast, specialty boutiques, museums, the entertainment venues.

We set out a little too early for a morning meal at the restaurants on either side of L’Auberge de la Place Royale (big, clean, comfy, tasteful double accommodation where we are staying), but a patisserie around the corner served specialty coffees, pastries, and madeleines with jam that fortified us for the walk to Place des Arts, the venue for the opera “Les Feluettes.”

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Although the performance isn’t until Saturday, Pete wanted to get our bearings and familiarize himself with the route. It was fun to see the advertising for the opera and my cousin’s name Kevin March, for he is the composer.

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Me, composer Kevin March, and Pete

Me, composer Kevin March, and Pete

We got together for lunch near the Place des Arts to learn about the opera project, and as Pete remarked, he felt he was hobnobbing with the likes of Puccini! No, no one is allowed to see a rehearsal (because there is nudity in the play), but yes, we’ll get together again, at least on opening night.

After we said “au revoir,” I noticed a ticket booth for the renowned circus of Montreal, Cirque du Soleil. There is 30% off the ticket price when you buy the day of the performance, so we said, let’s go!

“Luzia” is “le nouveau spectacle sous le grand chapiteau” (the new show under the big top). The big top happens to be two piers away from our place. See what I mean by “walking distance”?

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Oh, but what about dinner? The map on my iPhone revealed La Champagnerie that turned out to be very popular with the young, hip, sophisticated after-work crowd. Two glasses of proseco and a charcuterie board satisfied the desire to eat light.

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Montréal, je t’aime.

Chef de Cuisine Ricky of the Viking Rinda at the market in Conflans

Chef de Cuisine Ricky of the Viking Rinda at the market in Conflans

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Crêpes, macarons, cider, cheese, lavender, green sea snails—this is the list two lady friends who traveled to France gave me yesterday when they heard I was going to some of the same places, and French wine and champagne were not even on it! No doubt because my friends are foodies.

Although this trip has been in the works for months, only now, a week before take off, am I getting excited. Next Thursday I’ll be on my way to Paris to embark on a river cruise on the Seine to Normandy. No classes, meetings, performance gigs, appointments, commitments, house-and-yard work, or other obligations of home until November.

Vacations like these for islanders like me are so memorable, we like to share the experience. When I asked for advice on where to eat, because there will be two or three days on our own in the city before boarding the Viking Rinda, I was given a bon voyage gift of Patricia Wells’s The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris—a 450-page tome. (“You should not have a bad meal at most of the restaurants listed here. But this doesn’t mean you can’t,” the author writes.) I am amused.

With Viking River Cruises, Pete and I scheduled a short seven days on the river and three days ashore. I am so grateful, feel very fortunate. Our itinerary is set, and Viking takes care of everything. Since a delightful vacation to see the Christmas markets in the old towns along the Danube in Austria, we are attracted to being pampered with this form of water travel, on a longship designed to carry about 150 people in 95 cabins. It’s not bareboat cruising that we have done in the past, which required that we be responsible and very adventurous, nor is it an ocean liner that is too big and comparatively less intimate.

As for the Paris restaurant guide, the recommended reservations went in this morning via the Internet, and I have time to study the chapters on restaurant and dining protocol before our departure.

I think it’s time to start packing my bag.

Rebekah and Verdine

Rebekah and Verdine

I promised to post the recipes we learned in September 2013 from Franco Mazzei, chef, after I tested them at home in Hawaii with local ingredients. I dare to publish only the ones for the fresh pasta and sauces; those are the only ones for which I took fairly complete notes. Even so, I am a little reluctant because the taste is simply not the same as I remember it in Italy.

The taste is close, but not exact, for a couple of reasons: In Italy, the highest quality of ingredients is available. Organically grown and home grown and farm raised, for example; or the freshest and the best—wine, for example, is so much better and so much more flavorful that there is no need for seasoning with additional herbs and spices. Secondly, Chef Franco did not use measuring spoons or measuring cups, so in the recipes below, the amounts are approximate.

Regardless, making the food from scratch still tastes better than dried pasta or the ready-made Chinese wonton wrappers and noodles you can buy from the refrigerator case at the store.

All the recipes combined make enough for 8 to 10 people. It takes three hours or more for one person to prepare and cook the whole menu, that is, two hours cooking time alone for the sauces on the stove top. Consider enlisting the help of other family members, or have a hands-on dinner party where the guests make the food together, as our group did with chef Franco. (You’ll need more than one rolling-pin.) Or, do all the prep work ahead of time. As mom used to say, “Many hands make light work.” The recipes may be divided for fewer servings.

To keep ravioli for future meals, arrange uncooked ravioli in a single layer in a pan and place in the freezer. When the ravioli are frozen hard, place them in a zip top freezer bag; return to freezer. If you cook them frozen, add 2 or 3 minutes to the cooking time. A mixed green salad rounds out the meal. Add freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, if you wish.

Fresh pasta

1/2 kilo (500 grams) farina TIPO “00” (white all-purpose flour)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup water (and more, 1/4 cup at a time as needed)

In a large bowl, add 2 eggs to flour. Add salt. Add 1/4 cup water. Mix dough in one direction, squeezing with your hand. Dust your hands with flour to keep them from sticking. Add more water a little at a time until the dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a ball. If the dough is too moist to handle, add a little flour. Lift dough ball out of the bowl and knead in both hands using this method: Stretch open the dough ball, fold under and close, press; rotate 90 degrees in a circle and repeat. (This is similar to kneading dough on a board, but chef did it in his hands.) Knead for about 10 minutes into a ball. Cover with a damp towel to keep from drying out and let dough rest for 30 minutes.

Chef Franco demonstrates to Kevin and Rae his method of kneading pasta dough.

Chef Franco demonstrates to Kevin and Rae his method of kneading pasta dough.

While the dough is resting, mix the filling for ravioli. Allow 1 teaspoonful per ravioli. Refrigerate fillings until you are ready to fill the ravioli.

Ravioli Filling #1 – Mix 1 part cheese to 2 parts pork. For example, Chef Franco used
250 grams fresh Stracchino cheese (A soft, creamy cheese made from cow’s milk. You may substitute mascarpone and cream cheese if you can’t find Stracchino.)
500 grams ground seasoned pork sausage with casings removed, “special for ragu”

Ravioli Filling #2 – Mix together until evenly combined. Thaw first if frozen.
20 ounces cooked chopped spinach, well drained (squeeze out excess water)
10 ounces ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
1/2 cup flour, approximately, added to make the mixture less wet and to bind the ingredients

Fresh pasta, continued from above

After dough has rested for about 30 minutes, divide into 4 parts. Roll out 1 part evenly on a well-floured board until dough feels like a very thin chamois, about 1/16 inch thick. Keep the rest under a damp cloth to keep it from drying out. Dust your rolling-pin with flour to prevent it from sticking. Press down hard on the rolling-pin as you roll.

The big wooden kitchen table was ideal for four couples to roll out the pasta dough.

The big wooden kitchen table was ideal for four couples to roll out the pasta dough.

With a knife, cut the rolled out dough into 2-1/2-inch squares. Spoon 1 teaspoon of filling #1 onto the middle of each square. Fold each ravioli in half and seal the edges by pressing together with the tines of a fork. Each ravioli will look like a rectangle.

The shape of the spinach and cheese ravioli (filling #2) is a half moon. Roll out a second part of the dough thinly, as above, and cut out rounds with a 3-inch cookie cutter or the floured rim of a beverage glass. Fill each with 1 teaspoon of the spinach mixture, fold in half, and seal the ravioli by lightly moistening the edges with water and pressing the edges to close.

Spinach and cheese ravioli

Spinach and cheese ravioli

For long noodles, roll out the third part of the dough into a long, thin rectangle. If you run out of rolling space, divide the dough in half and roll one smaller section at a time. Sprinkle the top with flour. Starting with the short side, roll up loosely like a jelly roll. With a knife, cut the roll into round slices about 1/2 inch wide. Unravel into noodles and dust with a little flour to keep them from sticking. Set aside. This pasta is called tagliatelle.

Flour-dusted tagliatelle on the left, and macaroni on the right don't take long to cook: 2 to 3 minutes.

Flour-dusted tagliatelle on the left, and macaroni on the right don’t take long to cook: about 2 minutes.

Roll out the remaining dough and cut into 1-1/2 inch squares for macaroni. Pinch each into bows, flowers, or other interesting shapes.

COOKING THE PASTA. Set a large pot of water to boil. When water reaches a boil, add each type of pasta separately. Start with the meat ravioli and cook until al dente, 5-7 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 135 degrees F. (Take one out of the boiling water to test.) Carefully lift out of water with a slotted spoon and add to the sauce. Do not pour into a colander to drain. The small amount of pasta cooking water will help to thicken the sauce. Combine the pasta and the sauce gently to avoid breaking the ravioli. Next cook the spinach ravioli 3 to 5 minutes. Lastly, the noodles and macaroni, about 2 minutes. Serve with sauce.

Pork filled ravioli combined with ragu sauce

Pork filled ravioli combined with ragu sauce

Ragu Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium white onions, peeled and finely chopped
Water
2 pounds (500 grams) ground beef (with 20% fat)
Good quality Chianti wine (look for the label with the black rooster)
1 can (14 oz) chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 sprig fresh rosemary, about 5″ (discard bare twig before serving)

Brown onions in olive oil. Add a little water to the onions, little by little, so they don’t burn, and cook until they are soft, about 7 minutes. Avoid boiling. Add ground beef to the onions. Stir to combine. Cook and mix for 15 minutes, stirring constantly.
When beef is fully cooked, drain off and discard the fat, then add Chianti to the pan to cover the meat mixture. Bring to a boil.
Add canned chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, rosemary, and 1 cup water. Cover sauce and cook on medium-low heat for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Check frequently and add more water as needed to keep the meat covered.
Sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
Serve with pasta.

Tomato Basil Sauce

3 to 4 fresh Roma tomatoes per person
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil per person
Water, start with 8 ounces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Blanch tomatoes in boiling water for 3 minutes. Lift out carefully and peel under cold water. Skin should slip off easily. Set aside to drain.

Cut tomatoes in quarters and sauté with the basil in olive oil for 10 minutes. Add water. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 2 hours. Check frequently to make sure there is water in the pan and the sauce does not burn. After the first hour, stir and break up the tomatoes further. Continue cooking for the remaining hour.

Serve with spinach ravioli or other pasta.

Pass the Chianti

Pass the Chianti

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