Monday, February 6, 2012

Vacation Eats: Montreal as Recommended by Friends

I missed blogging regularly while I was pregnant. Between the exhaustion of the first trimester, preparations in the second, class, and just regular activities in the third I didn't get a chance to post as much as I would have liked. So excuse the off-season post today. I realized that I never delivered on my promise to share our summer vacation eats in more detail.

Our first stop on vacation was Burlington, Vermont for the Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival and other delicious eats. I did manage to post about that (Vacation Eats: Burlington, Vermont)!

After our dairy extravaganza in Vermont we hit the road headed north. Just a few hours later we crossed the bridge and arrived on the island of Montreal. Did you know that it is on an island? We stayed right in the Old City. The location was perfect for squeezing in a lot in a short amount of time.

View from the top of Parc du Mont-Royal
Before heading to Montreal, I asked food friends for their tips on where to eat. As lovers of a good deli, we knew we wanted to sample the famous Montreal smoked meat and of course the bagels. Thanks to my Canadian friends I met at Eat, Write, Retreat and other food-loving pals we had a three page list of eateries to explore. Thanks to Ethan, Kimmy, Isabelle, Olga, Emily and others who sent along tips!

Our first food stop in town was Schwartz's for smoked meat. In the same location since 1928, it is a fixture in the Montreal food scene. Montreal smoked meat is brisket that has been seasoned, marinated, cured for a week (or more) and then hot smoked. Similar to corned beef or pastrami, but distinctly unique in texture and seasoning. We lined up outside the restaurant and waited for a spot for four at one of the long tables packed into the place. After a short wait, we squeezed into four cozy seats at the back of the energetic space. We ordered up sandwiches, pickles, coleslaw and some Cott's Black Cherry soda per Ethan's advice (and a Canada Dry...since we were in Canada...). The only disappointment is that they had already sold out of half-sour pickles for the day. We managed to get by with the regular kosher dills. 

The generous stack of smoked meat was sandwiched between thick cut rye with tangy yellow mustard. It was a perfect sandwich. We were satisfied and sufficiently stuffed for a nice walk over to the Parc du Mont-Royal. From there we walked through McGill University and down Rue St. Catherine and back to Old Montreal. I think we ended up walking about 4 miles - not bad for being four-months pregnant!

The next day we decided to do our Montreal bagel taste test. After all that walking we headed out in the car for our adventure. Montreal is known for bagels that are hand rolled, boiled in honey water, and cooked in a wood fired oven. This gives them the chewy texture and slightly sweet taste. The signature bagel is sesame. From my pre-trip polling I discovered that loyalties are divided when it comes to Montreal bagels. You're either a Fairmont or a St. Viateur. It was an even split between my sources.

Our first stop was The Original Fairmount Bagel Bakery. Claiming to be the first bagel in Montreal (opening up shop in 1919), there were high expectations. We tucked into the small shop lined with bagels from floor to ceiling. Behind the counter bagels were being hand-rolled at a remarkable speed before the cooking process. We ordered a half dozen sesame bagels along with a bagel & cream cheese each.

Our second stop was St-Viateur Bagel. St-Viateur opened up shop in 1957 and has been rolling out hot bagels non-stop! The shop was slightly more spacious, but still just a counter to order and take-away the goods. St-Viateur also has some bakery-cafes in other locations with seating and a more extensive menu. We were there for the bagels. The front window was lined with bags of flour waiting to be mixed, hand-rolled, boiled and baked off in a wood-fired oven. The speed of the hand rolling makes each bagel a unique shape as they are whipped together before the next step in the process. This location offered strictly bagels - packaged cream cheese was in a refrigerator case.

After sampling both, we had a favorite too. Something about the texture (they give your jaw a little workout), the hint of sweetness, the toasted sesame seeds, and the wood-fired crunch made St-Viateur the winner for us. After eating the half we purchased on our first trip we made a stop on our way out of town to stock up on more!

We had a fantastic trip to Montreal and look forward to going back! With such a long list of great places to eat (and see) we need a few more visits. Have you been to Montreal? Where did you eat? And are you a Fairmount or a St-Viateur?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kitchen Play: Leap into February with Jarlsberg Dip

With an extra day to play in the kitchen this month, why not try something new? The lovely folks over at Kitchen Play and Jarlsberg cheese asked me to be a part of a leap year celebration - "29 Ways to Leap into Jarlsberg Dip".

I was introduced to Jarlsberg cheese at last year's Eat Write Retreat conference in Washington, D.C. (a fabulous event!) Jarlsberg was a sponsor and provided delicious samples at the cocktail party. Jarlsberg is a semi-soft, nutty Norwegian cheese. Have you tried it? Last May was my first time - delicious! It is a good addition to a cheese plate, great on sandwiches, melted in an omelet, and the list goes on. At the grocery store you can find it in the deli case (to order sliced) or in the specialty cheese case.

As you can tell from the title, Jarlsberg has a new dip that they are introducing! I'm excited to be the official kick-off post for "29 Ways to Leap into Jarlsberg Dip". Throughout the 29 days of February, Kitchen Play has enlisted bloggers to post recipes and serving ideas incorporating this new cheese dip. Jarlsberg dip is a nutty, flavorful combination of Jarlsberg cheese, real mayonnaise, and diced red onions. There are endless ways in which you could use the dip. I have two recipe ideas to start off the month of creative ideas!

My recipes may seem pretty basic - but they are flavorful! Perfect for watching the big game, a red carpet special before an awards show, or just a relaxing afternoon at home. I hope you enjoy!

Devilishly Delicious Jarlsberg Eggs
Makes 24 pieces

12 hard boiled eggs
1/2 - 3/4 cup Jarlsberg Dip
Salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons finely diced pickles (bread & butter or kosher dill)

Note:  Start with a half a cup of Jarlsberg dip if you are using all of the yolks from the eggs. If you reduce the amount of eggs, add a little more dip to have enough to fill the eggs.

Slice the hard-boiled eggs in half lengthwise and carefully remove the yolks
In a medium bowl, mix the egg yolks with Jarlsberg dip
Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking
Using a spoon (or pastry bag, or plastic bag with a corner snipped), fill the egg white halves with the 1-2 teaspoons of the yolk mixture
Sprinkle diced pickles on top

Alternatively, you could spread some dip on toasted bread and pile on sliced hard-boiled eggs and pickles for a quicker lunch!

Tasty Turkey Roll-Ups
My grandmother makes an appetizer that I request for every party - corned beef roll-ups. I took her technique and swapped in turkey and Jarlsberg for a new party favorite!

Serving size varies depending on the size of cucumbers used. I used three mini-cucumbers here and cut each into 5-6 pieces.

Mini cucumbers or pickling cucumbers
Thick sliced deli turkey, preferably oven-roasted
Jarlsberg dip (slightly softened)

Tear off one 10"x10" piece of foil for each cucumber you plan to use
On one piece of foil lay out 1-2 slices of turkey (wide enough to cover the entire cucumber)
Gently spread dip on the turkey slices
Lay one cucumber across the slices
Roll up tightly and then wrap tightly with the foil
Repeat until all are made
Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours (these can be made a day or two ahead of serving)

To serve, unwrap and slice each roll into 1/4 inch slices
Place on a platter and serve

I hope that these recipes will inspire you to try something new! And you can win some Jarlsberg dip and other tasty goodies as part of the 29 Ways to Leap into Jarlsberg month! For all the details on how to enter, visit the Jarlsberg blog. Sounds delicious!

The giveaway will include a tailgate tote stocked with:
Jarlsberg Lite Cheese
Jarlsberg Cheese Dip
Snofrisk (a Norwegian style cream cheese)
Honey crèmes
Honey vinegar

Disclaimer: I was provided with compensation to cover the cost of ingredients for these recipes. The folks over at Kitchen Play were kind enough to invite me to participate in this event with Jarlsberg cheese. My participation was voluntary and as usual, all opinions are my own. It's always fun to have a new ingredient to work with - and a little motivation to create a new recipe!

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Monday, January 23, 2012

New Year, New Baby, New Kitchen....Happy 2012!

Which will come first, the baby or the kitchen? That was the question I posed via twitter and facebook on Friday, December 9, 2011. At that point, the only thing cooking was the bun in the oven.

Five days until the due date!
The kitchen renovation was slowly approaching completion and the due date of December 14 was close. Well, the baby beat the kitchen! The little guy arrived two days early and we’ve spent the last six weeks as a family of three! The visitors are gone and we’re starting to figure out a daily routine of our own. Thankfully, the kitchen is also completed (minus a few finishing details). Even though I don’t have a lot of time to devote to cooking – I am trying to squeeze in as much as I have the time and energy for (babies are small, but exhausting).

So while I get in a little cooking (and hopefully blogging) in short windows of free time, here is a look at the kitchen renovation and completed look! We’re still waiting on the back splash and the molding. Those should be done in the next few weeks.

Our house was built in 1954 and had one owner before us. They redid the kitchen in the 70s, judging by the dishwasher that was here when we moved in. The kitchen was functional, but not really designed for the way we cook & live. Not nearly enough space for books, appliances, pantry items, and all my kitchen gadgets. And a pretty terrible floor too!

We asked my grandfather, an architect, to put together a kitchen design for us that had storage, counter space, and a functional layout for us. We also did not want to knock down any walls. So with those instructions he drew up a few options for us to consider. Once we settled on the design, we headed to pick out all of the cabinets and goodies to fill the space

Our style is what you might call transitional. We love arts & crafts and craftsman. I like the the look of the 50's (my idea for a diner look didn't make the cut). So we designed a look that works for us aesthetically and functionally. We've been enjoying it so far - and can't wait for the absolute final look!

Here are some views of the new space. The photography isn't my best work - but I'm doing in as much as I can when the little man naps!

New cabinets and relocated range

Real bookshelf! With a small fraction of my books.
The book selection will rotate!

Double oven for more cooking adventures

Now the trash and recycling are hidden - and a
normally useless corner cabinet is utilized.

Counter depth fridge

Open workspace!

Pantry & specialty sized storage

New hardwood floors - oak to match the rest of the house

Material - Quartz
Color - Stellar Fire

Wood: Cherry
Style: Mission

Hardware, Lights, and Faucet:
Oiled Bronze (almost black)

GE Profile double oven, counter depth fridge, and microwave

Happy 2012! Hope to be back here soon - all depends on how the little man naps :)


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