Category Archives: restaurants

A PAIR OF TARTS

This was my first year at Montreal’s Oysterfest, and man was it good. Plenty of Montreal’s culinary heavy hitters were there — Cafe Myriade, Olive + Gourmando, DNA, Osteria Venti, Kaizen,  and my friend Michelle, the lovely pastry chef at Laloux. She orchestrated the most remarkable dessert, a three-bite Ontario peach tartlet with a hidden sour cherry tucked underneath, topped with a spoonful of dangerous bourbon cream. It reminded me — in the best way possible — of those tiny plastic cups of fruit cocktail that you got at snack time as a small child. Syrupy, sticky, wholesome, and glowing. As her assistant, I was allowed to devour as many tarts as I wished. I think I ate about six.

The day began early. 7am for Chef Marek, and 12pm for me, her tableside helper. Around noon, we were still at Laloux, and without a car. How were we going to transport 200 delicate, still-warm tarts to Old Montreal?

Michelle, always the resourceful one, called a cab. We sat through the bumpy ride, our laps cradling baking sheets lined with tarts, the trunk filled with tubs of pastry cream on ice. Pretty sure our driver thought we were crazy.

Things picked up around 2pm, when we were handed our first sandwich — DNA’s massive, clownish prochetta “sandwich.” It was bigger than our dinner plate, heaving with waves of fat and dripping with aoili. The pork belly was tender, and slathered with a fragrant herbal spread and capers. I managed a few bites and passed it on.

The others didn’t fare much better. Everyone gawked and put away a couple of bites, but in the end, I don’t think we made much of a dent in the sandwich.

The other highlight was Venti’s magnificent timbale, which was coated in one of the freshest-tasting tomato sauces I’ve ever had. Michelle and I were in awe.

After stuffing ourselves silly, we finally set up our table at 4pm. Okay, so maybe our little booth wasn’t as flashy as some of the others. And maybe we completely forgot about signage until halfway through, when Michelle brilliantly thought to write the name of her dessert on the back of a plate. The queries of, “Who are you?” and “What is this?” just got to be too much. Oh yeah, and for the first 20 minutes we didn’t even have napkins, plates, or forks. People still bought them, though. They were that good.

And after two hours, they were all gone. Every single one. I guess I shouldn’t have eaten six of them after all. Next year, I have to get the Dep in on the action.

PIZZA, AND A NEW AGE MISTAKE

Fellow pizza freaks, I recently wrote a little write-up for Slice about the fantastic VPN pies at Pizzeria Libretto, a small restaurant in Toronto’s Little Portugal. In my own limited experience, it is, by far, the best pie I’ve eaten in Canada. (Miles better than anything we have in Montreal, that’s for sure.) I went to lunch alone while Adam was doing some research, and brought him my leftovers, neatly packaged by the restaurant in a cute bag. Needless to say, he was stoked when I surprised him with some cold pizza to snack on while we drove to Norman Hardie! Read the whole thing here.

Also, as we made our way through the city on our way to Prince Edward County, I noticed this Kay Gardner bridge and immediately thought of Kay Gardner, the awesome new age musician. I couldn’t believe that someone in Toronto would name a bridge after her! I thought it was the coolest thing that I had ever seen. Adam, however, thought I was crazy and that no one would do that. He was right. The bridge is named after some politician. Lame.

Pastry workshop with Pâtisserie Rhubarbe’s Stéphanie Labelle!

Hello Montreal readers!

I’m thrilled to announce the next food workshop here at Le Pick Up.

Please join us for an evening with Stéphanie Labelle, the talented chef and owner of Pâtisserie Rhubarbe!

Labelle, a graduate of the ITHQ pastry program, has worked at Area, Première Moisson, and Les Chocolates de Chloé, where she was the first employee. She has spent time working with the famous Parisian pastry chef/guru Pierre Hermé, and worked in the kitchens of Decca77, Le 357C, and La Salle à Manger. She opened Rhubarbe last fall, and it’s been a huge hit. We’re so excited to have her join us at the Dep!

On Tuesday, May 31, we will explore ways to incorporate rhubarb: the tart, tangy vegetable that thinks it’s a fruit. This summer plant isn’t just about pies — we’ll be making a variety of sweet desserts loaded with fresh rhubarb, from panna cotta to tender financiers, and much more.

The workshop will begin promptly at 8pm. Each participant will be making his or her own desserts to take home, with guidance and instruction from Stéphanie. The registration is $40 and will cove all costs for the desserts provided.

We are located at 7032 rue Waverly, and are a cozy and intimate space — so please register soon as there are a very limited number of spots! Cash only, please. To register, please email me at Natasha.pickowicz [at] gmail [dot] com.

I hope you’ll join us as we ring in the summer season in a deliciously sweet-and-tart fashion!

A MAINE ROMP

Wish I could correct the lack of posts lately — but truly, I haven’t had a single extended moment to myself since we landed in Portland, Maine earlier this week. This city, it is nothing like how I remember it as a child summering in Maine. It has transformed, and it is astonishing to see. Everywhere you look, world-class restaurants and bakeries and patisseries and chocolatiers, all jammed up against each other. Gourmet markets and organic farms and wine stores and fishmongers. Our time here is limited, so I’m (stupidly) trying to squeeze in as much as possible by scheduling back to back meals — as in, one five-course dinner, followed by another five-course meal. I know. Digestive paralysis, bodily suicide!

For this article that I’m researching, I’ve met with so many warm and wonderful Maine bakers for an article that I’m researching. There will definitely be an entire slew of posts devoted to this mind-bending trip, and I can’t wait to share some of my stories. After a year spent in Portland, Oregon, I was sure I knew which was the superior Portland. Now — not so sure.

JOE BEEF + FLEISHER’S + ME: A HEAVENLY MATCH

And that was the face I made when Vanya brought out that sublime St. Honoré cake you see above. “Please, please, please no more!” Reflecting upon the stupendous meal the next day — through the purple haze of one brutal wine-hangover — I decided that I probably ate enough food for four people. At least. Maybe five. But oh, was it worth it.

For a full rundown of our epic Fleisher’s hosted feast, read my full article in Serious Eats here. What a special evening that was.

[All photos courtesy of the lovely Pilar Benitez]

A MORNING WITH AU KOUIGN-AMANN

There are so many wonderful things I could say about the friendly and sweet patisserie, Au Kouign-Amann, but let me start with this: their croissant is the best I’ve ever had. We made a visit very early one morning, and the crossiants were fresh, warm and pliable, with the most delicate, buttery and tender crumb. I could have easily eaten more, but I was really there for their namesake pastry (I’ve mentioned its wonders before), which is reliably delicious (thank its two main ingredients: butter and sugar). I enjoyed the tarte tatin, too, but it lacked the necessary undercarriage crunch of caramelized puff pastry that I love so much.

Pied de Cochon’s Cabane à Sucre in Serious Eats

My first byline in Serious Eats appeared earlier this week! I wrote about my very first experience at a Cabane à Sucre, at the infamous Au Pied de Cochon outpost. It was one of the most fun meals I’ve ever had in my life, and a truly unique — and delicious — experience. (Where else would you be able to punctuate a world-class four-hour meal with a snowy, romantic hike through the woods?) I was beyond honored to cover it for the venerable Serious Eats, a site I have read religiously for years now. I was particularly happy with the photos — I was fortunate enough to borrow a fancy DSLR camera for the meal — but now I’m scheming to find a way to buy one of my own. (Cue this number).

Read the full story here!