Tag Archives: michelle marek

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.

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MORNING PERFECTION

Our talented and awesome friend Michelle gave us a generous parcel of her blackberry brioche. The brioche was some of the best I’ve ever had, truly donut-like in character, tender, sweet, and light. I gobbled one down for breakfast, accompanied with some green tea, syrupy Greengages and Ontario nectarines.

BIRTHDAY SWEETIES

Desserts, showoffs that they are, have the sneaky tendency of becoming the focal part of any successful birthday party. For a friend’s birthday party — of which the theme was Italian pizza party — I recently made a flaky crostata, stuffed with tangy, slightly bitter blood oranges tossed with cardamom, cloves, and a bit of granulated sugar. Blood orange season is nearly finished here in Montreal, and I was pleased to have a chance to savor the syrupy fruit before putting it aside for spring’s sturdy stalks of rhubarb.

Two notes: If you plan on baking with citrus, be sure to shake off excess liquid before piling the sections into the tart. It can get quite soupy, quite fast. And secondly, I’ve internalized my basic tart dough, which is seriously easy and can withstand a liquidy filling like oranges: 1 1/2 C flour and half a teaspoon of salt, cut with 6 T of butter, is formed into a sticky ball of dough with the help of a few tablespoons of water mixed with one egg yolk. The dough rests in the fridge for 30 minutes, and is a snap to roll out into a crude, messy-looking free-form tart. Don’t expect it to look perfect. It won’t.

It was nothing, of course, compared to the expert birthday cake my friend Michelle whipped up for Anthony‘s birthday. I mean, the thing had ten layers. The cake was doused in bourbon. The frosting tasted like clouds. It was a showstopper. And with the faintest slip of vanilla ice cream and plastic cup of fizzy champagne in hand, I happily gobbled my slice up in a matter of minutes.

DÉPANNEUR LE PICK UP PHOTO EXPLOSION

Over DÉPANNEUR LE PICK UP I’ve posted photos from the incredibly fun candied fruits workshop with pastry chef Michelle Marek. (A million thanks to Adam for being a champ and taking the photos). It was a lot of work but I’m so happy we did it. The results were impressive, and the recipes have proved themselves indispensable (I made a double batch of the ginger cookies this weekend!). I’m already brainstorming topics for monthly food workshops at the Dep, although I’m worried that Michelle’s evening will be tough to beat.

Check out the photos from that snowy evening + enjoy!

EXPLORING CANDIED FRUITS: A HOLIDAY DESSERT WORKSHOP WITH CHEF MICHELLE MAREK

Montreal readers — check this out!

Join us at the Dépanneur le Pick Up for an interactive evening with talented chef Michelle Marek, the head pastry chef at Montreal restaurant Laloux. Michelle also runs the mouthwatering food blog ...An Endless Banquet with her partner AJ Kinik.

On Monday, December 6, we will be exploring ways to incorporate candied fruits into unique winter desserts. The workshop will include a presentation and execution of:

Panforte with spices, chocolate + candied fruits

Stollen with marzipan + candied fruits

Crystallized fruits

Ginger cookies

The workshop will begin promptly at 7:30pm. Each participant will be making his or her own desserts to take home, with guidance and instruction from Michelle. Come early for hot cider! The registration fee is $30 and will cover all costs for the desserts presented. The Dep is located at 7032 Rue Waverly.

The Dep is a cozy, intimate space — please register soon as there are only 15 spots. Cash only, please. To register, email me at natasha DOT pickowicz AT gmail DOT com.

We think you’ll leave inspired and ready for the holidays!