Turning the page on 2013, by all accounts a tough year for many around me, I have to say it’s been quite the roller-coaster. On the career front, it’s been an amazing time full of challenges when I stop and take stock: as a writer, I collaborated on a new coffee-table worthy book about chocolate with local artisan Geneviève Grandbois; I signed on as the food columnist for Québec magazine Véro; and I presented my first keynote address, on the history of Québec cookbooks, at the Saint-Hyacinthe Book Show. It’s also been a year full of tasty discoveries and new friendships, with so many Québec-made products and exciting restaurants revitalizing the local scene. No doubt, for this writer, the year has been about food all the way, what a surprise. So here are a few of my fave moments and products of the past 12 months. 2014, you have a lot to live up to, just saying. Happy New Year to all!
*** Favourite New Recipe ***
I didn’t want to toot my own horn so much, since I wrote it, but the new Passion Chocolat cookbook provided one recipe which kiddo and me have made over and over again: the “3-minute Nutella”. Don’t fret, I’ll be sharing it online soon, so you’ll want to come back and visit.
*** Favourite Restaurant Meal ***
Whenever I go to a restaurant old or new, I like to ask the chef to pick the menu for me, as if he/she were their own client. The chef of Outremont’s famed Leméac sent me very classical but oh so perfect fare: homemade smoked salmon, wasabi duck breast and a zingy lemon tartlet. I still wake up at night just to dream about it. (One of my dinner companions ordered the French Toast for dessert which, as you can see, is made for larger appetites or 4 very determined girls with a fork.)
*** Favourite New Restaurant ***
I couldn’t make up my mind, so here are two restaurants who tied for first place in my book. I’ll always be greatful to chef Michele Forgione from the new Impasto restaurant (with partner Stefano Faita) for sending a halibut crudo that my 7-year-old asked to share. His first foray into the world of raw food, bring on the sushi, man! The porchetta with mostarda has been picked by many Montréal food critics as one of the city’s best dishes, with reason.
Barbounya stands as the restaurant I visited the most in 2013, for a grand total of 3 meals under 6 months. For this suburban mom who spends most nights helping kiddo with homework rather than restaurant hopping, it’s quite the achievement actually. The décor at Barbounya is great with its long communal tables and the food simply spectacular. I especially recommend the ribs with sumac molasses, the Israeli couscous with yoghurt dressing and the samphire with verjus and almonds. Pure happiness.
*** Favourite New Cookbook ***
I’ve already blogged about it, I’m so done with cookbooks that follow the age-old double spread pattern of one recipe-one picture. I want to be invited into the author’s world, to hear their VOICE and to come away with the feeling they could be my new best friend, or at the very least my next dinner guest. For all these reasons, I could only love Le Carnet Rouge, the latest offering from local TV food show darling Josée di Stasio. Wiith its comforting dishes and quick desserts for entertaining, celebrating or gift giving, this is a decidedly pretty book devoted to the delights of cocooning alone or with friends.
*** Favourite New Québec Product ***
I discovered the new line of Rougié foie gras products on a press junket, seated at a table in the middle of a field in Marieville, a one-hour drive from Montreal. Back home, I may, just may, have refused to share the Parfait of Foie Gras glazed with Neige ice cider, one of the goodies I write about in the Winter issue of Véro magazine. So sue me. (And yes, that’s part of the table offerings at the Rougié press lunch.)
*** Favourite Québec Drinkable ***
I don’t drink much, so you may want to look elsewhere for sommelier insights. This year, again and again, I showed up at friends and greeted guests with a chilled bottle of Michel Jodoin Sparkling Rosé Cider. It’s fresh and light, with little alcohol, which makes it the perfect choice for those family friendly brunches I like best. I haven’t tasted anything —reasonably-priced that is— to replace it. (Photo courtesy of the Michel Jodoin Cider Mill Website.)
*** Favourite Blog ***
I’m friends with a lot of bloggers whose work I admire, from Antoine Gélinas at Bouchées doubles, Mayssam Samaha of the Will Travel for Food blog or the extraordinary Christelle is Flabbergasting, the best photog of all. Still, the one blog I visit the most is from my Laval neighbour Aimée Wimbush-Bourque, whose Simple Bites was declared the best 2013 Kid’s Cooking blog by Saveur magazine, no less. Inspiring.
*** Best in Show: Maison Christian Faure ***
My fondest memory of 2013 was a visit of Old Montreal’s Maison Christian Faure, the city’s newest, most exciting pastry shop-café-cooking school. The French pastry chef occupies all 4 floors of a century-old building that has become a compulsory stop for local foodies. The Paris-Brest alone is worth the trip. (I’m also looking forward to the opening of the new Patrice Pâtissier near Atwater Market, where chef Patrice Demers will be serving plated desserts worthy of the finest dining establishments, so stay tuned.)
*** Worst in Show: City of Laval ***
It’s my neck of the woods, so allow me to speak against my hometown of Laval, where farms are disappearing at an alarming rate. On one side, the city encourages food trails, gourmet food shows, etc. On the other, it lets developers encroach on farmlands, woods and other natural sites to build cookie-cutter houses for trendyish suburbanites. Just plain sucks.