The Kidney Community Kitchen

I don’t usually talk about my 9 to 5 here. This blog is a place where  I write and cook for the love of it, and when I have something I find important to share. As I was saying in my last post (that was way overdue), I’ve been busy. With that, what I actually mean is that my work team has been busy. I work at the Kidney Foundation of Canada and for the last few weeks (months?) we have been putting a great deal of energy into producing a website that caters to the nutritional needs of people living with kidney disease: the Kidney Community Kitchen!

I am still learning about all the challenges that kidney patients have to face and eating is just the tip of the iceberg, and is in of itself a whole can of worms! Can you imagine having to track not only your sodium intake, but also phosphorus, potassium, protein and even liquids? Getting the right nutritional intake really is a science for people affected by this disease. Think about it this way: your whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce that you conveniently whip up because you don’t have time for dinner – a kidney patient can’t eat it. That gourmet sugar-free bar of raw chocolate that you splurged on? a kidney patient can’t eat it. Garlic roasted potatoes? forget it. How about your morning glass of OJ? yup, you guessed it…

As much as this project was an eye opener for me in realizing the complexity of this disease, when I saw the final product (a new online tool) finally coming together I was really excited. We managed to put together a site that makes tracking a kidney patient’s nutrient intake and creating meal plans easy (because it is hard work! I would know, I created some of them myself!). On the resource site, you can upload your own recipes and have them revised by our team of dietitians, and hare your experiences with other people in the forums. At the end of the day, all I hope for is this tool makes the daily life of kidney patient just a little bit easier.

Recently this  news article was published and gives a good general insight into a kidney patient’s daily challenges.

Now I know this is not the type of topic I usually cover but since food connects us all – especially at this time of year, and kidney disease affects so many people I just had to share this exciting piece of news that I am so proud to be a part of. And, the best part is it not only looks great, it’s also free.

If you know someone who is living with kidney disease, please pass along this valuable resource. The Kidney Community Kitchen!

Cooking Blog-Up for Chef Apollo’s New Book

A few weeks ago, a group of bloggers got together to cook some recipes out of Chef Apollo’s new book Apollo2. We preped and cooked our respecctive dishes inside the kitchen of his restaurant that he graciously opened up to us. I think he was as excited as we were to be there! Talking with him and his staff about the recipes they themselves created, made for such an amazing and surreal experience.

Prior to the event, we each decided upon a recipe to cook, test and eat! The world of a professional kitchen can be a bit nerve-wracking when you have never set foot in one, but rubbing elbows with the expertise of Chef Apollo and that of his remarkably helpful team certainly smoothed thing over quickly. We were warmly greeted and The best part of it all was sharing this meal with wonderful people sharing the same passion for food, or as Apollo said himself in his book: “la gastronomie est un moyen exceptionnel de partager avec ceux que l’on aime, de les surprendre, de colorer leur assiettes et du coup leur journée.

Chef Apollo’s new book is sorted alphabetically by ingredient, with beautiful photographs set on a bold black background. The recipes are simple and straightforward, with some flavourful surprises. For the Blog-Up I chose to prepare a Cauliflower Tajine. The book is currently only available in French, but I have transcribed the recipe as it is printed here [with my comments or modifications appearing in brackets].

Cauliflower Tajine by Apollo2

  • 2 lb cauliflower florets
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp preserved lemon, diced
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp flour

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the cauliflower for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In another large pot, add the olive oil, tomatoes, ginger, saffron. Cover with water and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the water has evaporated. Add the lemon juice, the preserved lemon, cayenne pepper and cumin. Combine the four with a small amount of water and combine it to the mixture.

Add the cauliflower, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. [Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to  taste, and finish cooking with a generous drizzle of fragrant olive oil.] Remove from heat when the sauce has thickened and serve immediately.

Prep time: 15 minutes; Cook time: 20-25 minutes. Makes four main dishes or eight sides.

From left to right: À la saveur d’Andrea, Will Travel for Food, Giovanni Apollo, Kitchen Heals Soul, BRUTalimentations, Kristel’s Kitchen (and Sylvain hiding in the back)

Many thanks to BRUTalimentation and Will Travel for Food for taking and sharing the photographs.

Cute Cooking Tools and a Contest with Mortimer Snodgrass

I love cooking gadgets, can never have too many of them. Some are professional, some not so much and others just because they make me smile.

When I stumbled into Mortimer Snodgrass‘ shop in Old Montreal I was drawn into the big bright space and all the quirky objects that suck you in with curiosity, and perhaps a little child-like wonder. A lot of the fun cooking gadgets they have in store would be great for hosting ideas (or bringing to a dinner party as a gift), and some perfect to get your kids involved in the kitchen… afterall, conscious eating habits are important right from the start!

I had received Russian doll measuring cups as a gift years ago, which i always keep handy (and pretty on my kitchen counter). So I just couldn’t resis picking up the matching containers and measuring spoons. Anything red is irrestible and so was this small handy zester. However, it is this finger spatula that I just cannot wait to use. LIfe has kept me busy and away from my kitchen but I look forward to spending more time getting reacquainted with my kitchen and try all these fun new tools!

Well, this cute little shop on Notre Dame in Montreal’s Old Port is celebrating their 10 year anniversary with a contest, where you can win one of three loot bags! Contest details are written out below. Do you have a favorite quirky gadget you like to use in your kitchen?

Snodversary Contest!!!!

Kind of hard to believe, but it was 10 years ago this month that we rented that tiny little store on Monkland and opened our doors…. Truth be told, we had no idea what we were doing, and we are thrilled to be here, loved by so many, still having fun, 10 years later. Also, the store is so much bigger and prettier now, we are quite thankful for that!

To thank you, our customers, we are launching our Snodversary month with a giveaway. There are 3 prizes for in-store customers and 2 prizes for on-line fans. Here is how we will do this:

In Store: until October 31st, come to the store and with any purchase, we will give you a ballot to fill out.

On-line: you can either follow us on Twitter or on our Facebook page and give us a shout out. It can be anything, how much you love us, retweeting one of our tweets, using our famous #snodversary hash tag or posting something on your wall or ours. If we see our name, we will automatically enter you in our draw, every time.

On November 1st, we will draw the winners at random. Now, wanna know what you are playing for? The two green bags are for the on-line fans, the 3 colorful ones are for the in-store shoppers.

Kristel’s Kitchen First Foodie Giveaway!

I am very excited to present my first ever giveaway!!! One Dishcrawl Montreal ticket up for grabs!!!

So what is a Dishcrawl? Imagine this: a crowd of foodies getting together for an evening of food and passionate conversation revolving around new flavours, their creators, the chefs and establishments. Dishcrawl brings all of these elements together. You get to discover new restaurants, meet new people and share an experience.

To read up about other Dishcrawls I have attended, click here, here and here!

Now, let’s get down to business – the giveaway. I have one ticket to give to one lucky person to attend the next Dishcrawl on August 23rd, which will be hosted by me and will feature restaurants in and around Crecent Street here in Montreal, Québec, Canada.

Who is eligible? Anyone who lives in and around Montreal, who can attend the Dishcrawl on August 23rd. The ticket is not eligible for another event.

How can you get it? By commenting on this blog post and only on this blog post.  Comments from Twitter and Facebook will not be accepted as valid entries to this contest. Additionally, to be eligible the comment must to be a funny story that happened on Crescent Street here in Montreal. Something that happened to you, an odd incident you witnessed or your friend did something really embarrassing that you promised to never tell is even better! ;-)

Share your story and by 10 am on Thursday, August 18th, 2011, I will annouce the winner. The winner will be the one who will merit the loudest, capitalized and bolded Laugh.Out.Loud. (a.k.a. LOL)

So… ready, set, type!  The contest starts now!

AND THE DISHCRAWL TICKET WINNER IS….

I decided to remove any bias from this contest and a winner was selected at random from a third party.

Congrats to Elizabeth Ranger from elizabethranger.wordpress.com who commented below and has won a ticket to the Crescent Dishcrawl happening here in Montreal on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011.

To Élizabeth: I am looking forward to meeting you next week and you will get an email from me today!

To everyone else: a HUGE thank you for taking the time to participate!! Keep reading, keep commenting, and stay tuned for more contests!!!

Dishcrawl Insprired by Food Guy Montreal

Yes, you got it… I experienced yet another Dishcrawl. What can I say? Looks like I’m hooked. It is always the same concept (read about my previous experiences here and here), but always different.

It is always fun to meet new people, see familiar faces and finally meeting some fantastic foodies off of the blogosphere.

Last week’s Dishcrawl was inspired by Food Guy Montreal, who I’ve been chit-chatting with on Twitter for a while but I finally had the chance of meeting in person. I was really looking forward to discovering his selection for the evening and he did not disappoint.

The first stop was at DNA. We were presented with a Spicy Goat Tartare, accompanied with a mint jelly crostini. The dish was top notch. Great flavour combination was spot on, the mint helped cool down the heat and the parmesan shavings gave a nice punch to the dish. I love my spicy food but this time I really would have preferred less heat to really set the focus on the goat meat. I mean how often do you get served local, organic, milk fed goat? Not everyday. And when you do, wouldn’t you want to taste the particularities of the meat? I would say yes. Nonetheless, I still thoroughly enjoyed the dish.

  

Our next stop was at Osteria Venti. I was very happy that this restaurant was one of our stops because I wanted to try it since it opened. I was particularly excited about this Italian eatery because the chef Michele Forgione makes everything from scratch. You name it, he’s made it. We were presented with a charcuterie platter: mortadella, Italian sausage, porchetta, smoked duck magret, and head cheese, served with house pickles. Everything was delicious, particularly the head cheese and mortadella, never tasted anything like it in my life. We were also served a dish of freshly made ricotta gnocchi with tomato and basil. The gnocchi were light fluffy pillows, perfect as they were, welcomed with the tomato basil sauce. So simple, so comforting. This place is one of those few places worth going back to again again, just to taste a bit of everything their extensive menu has to offer.

Our final stop for the evening was at Brit & Chips for desserts. I had been there before for none-other than their fish and chips – the best I’ve had in this city. Try the maple batter; it’s subtle, and nicely balances the sweet and savoury. Now, moving on to dessert, the reason for our visit, it boils down to three words: Deep Fried Whatever, a.k.a. a deep fried O’Henry bar. Yup, it’s exactly what it is. Nothing more. Nothing less. So bad for you, but if you have room for three or four bites, go ahead and try it at least once (just add a couple kilometers to tomorrow’s run). It was yummy. I was happy. =)

June is here, happy summer y’all! The next Montreal Dishcrawl will be a terrace-hopping, and like all others, an experience you don’t want to miss!

Dishcrawl – Discover the Montreal Downtown Core

For those of you who don’t know what Dishcrawl is, you can read all about my first experience and what it’s all about here.

The latest Dishcrawl Montreal event was all about the discovering the Downtown Core. I am not sure if many people would agree with me on this, but I feel that when faced with having to dine in this part of town, the general consensus is that it is lacking great places at a reasonable price. Sure I can recommend the Queue de Cheval, Café Ferreira or Cavalli, but most of us (including me) don’t always want to or have the income to spend upward of $100 per head to eat out on a regular basis, and if I were, I would probably still choose a different neighborhood at that. For the most part, I would rarely choose to eat out in Montreal’s Downtown Core.

However, when I signed up for this Dishcrawl I saw it as the perfect opportunity to discover new places and perhaps even change my opinion of the restaurants in this ‘hood. 

And so our evening began at ZenYa, a Japanese restaurant on Ste-Catherine, across the street from the Saint James United Church. It was a great call to put ZenYa on the itinerary. This restaurant is tucked in on the second floor of a building with a narrow entrance and even tinier elevator. Unless you know about it, chances are you wouldn’t find it. I have been to ZenYa on many occasions so this was not a new discovery for me and they certainly lived up to expectations. Their sushi is always impeccable and for this event the chef presented us with a mix fresh and smoked salmon on a crispy roll over a miso glaze, and a generous portion of a tempura and freshwater eel maki. Both delicious with a different spin to a Japanese classic.

Our second stop was at iBurger, which opened up just six weeks ago. I knew that Montreal didn’t have enough burger joints (can you sense the sarcasm?) but I am always on the lookout for a great burger wherever it may me. This place had much more to offer than the typical fare – it offered an i-experience! Yes, you read that correctly: i-experience. Each table has a touch screen that enables each diner to select and order their menu directly. As Dishcrawlers, our food menu was preset but we did have the opportunity to order some i-drinks. Touch screen, browse around, select drink, sit back and relax until the waiter brings it to you. After receiving our drink orders, a description popped-up onto the table screen and we were presented three mini-burgers: an beef Angus classic, a vegetarian burger with a twist, and a salmon burger. My favorite was the vegetarian: it was such a creative take on a classic burger and all the flavours hit the spot nicely. Organic quinoa, shiitake and portobello mushrooms, spinach, goat cheese, all wrapped up in a phyllo pastry. Aside from the veggie-burger there isn’t much to write home about here… but I do think this place deserves another shot. I perused the menu using the nifty table touch-screen and noticed a duck hot-dog. I will be back – because as you know, I always kinda want a hot-dog!

We then proceed towards Decca77 for our third course of the evening. Decca77 has a good standing reputation on the Montreal food scene. It’s been talked about, raved about and more. It was my first time stepping through those large glass doors and I made my way up the staircase surrounding the wine cellar to our table. The dish served was a veal bbq short-rib cooked sous-vide, served with with a foie gras and ice-cider polenta and a mushroom fricassee, and it looked superb! The flavours however were seriously lacking. The veal tasted good with its tangy bbq sauce but the meat should have been tenderer. The polenta was incredibly bland and a shame that foie gras was wasted in there. For me this dish was sub-par for a restaurant with such a notorious reputation. According to the Dishcrawlers I chatted with, Decca77 was a disappointment that evening – but in this case it was an exception, not the rule.

Our final stop for the evening was dessert at Le Newtown. In case you haven’t heard, the Chef of Le Newtown – Martin Juneau – recently earned himself the title of best Canadian chef at the Gold Medal Plates this year held in British Columbia. I’ve never eaten at Le Newtown for the simple reason that I am not a fan of the crowd – too high maintenance all around. Dessert was perfect: a selection of bite-size and excentric flavours. The selection included (counter-clockwise, starting from the bottom) a passion-fruit jelly, a lemon-coconut marshmallow, an apple caramel and chocolate lollipop, a yuzu meringue tart, and a chocolate milk cake with apricot and praline. Each bite was heavenly, especially the marshmallow. It reminded me of my childhood, but with a sophistication I could never have dreamed of for such an iconic treat.

The Dishcrawl experience was just as great as my first time. At the end of the day, my general opinion of restaurants in the Downtown Core hasn’t changed much. However,  I will have to swallow my down-to-earth pride, wine-and-dine myself at Le Newtown to see what else Chef Martin Juneau has to offer.

Also on my Downtown to-do list is to digitally order a hot-dog at iBurger.

The next Dishcrawl is Les Nuits Borgia and should be an experience like none-other. For more information click here.

Sadly I have other commitments that night and will have to miss it. You will find me at the vegetarian Dishcrawl on April 26th!

If you’re planning to attend Les Nuits Borgia Dishcrawl and would like to contribute your experience to Kristel’s Kitchen, then please contact me!

My First Dischcrawl – Delectable Desserts

What is a Dishcrawl you ask me? Think of it as a pub crawl, but instead if getting increasingly drunk as you stumble from one bar to another, you wander your way from one dish to the next, from one restaurant to another, discovering new foods, flavours and styles.

My first Dishcrawl was all about desserts. Granted I do not have the biggest sweet tooth but I really wanted to try the experience and didn’t want to wait until the next one (there is on average one event per month). The element of surprise here is that the locations are kept secret until the last moment. I did not know where I would be heading that evening until the first location was revealed a day or so prior.

Our evening started off at Patisserie Rhubarbe , a small pastry shop located in Montreal’s Plateau. We were greeted by the lovely Marcella from Dishcrawl who introduced us to the process but didn’t give us any hints as to the evening’s progression. The pastry chef then presented us with the evening’s sampling of desserts. From the top we had the choux with a light chestnut cream that was sublimely delicate, a peanut and caramel tart reminiscent of a gourmet Snickers bars but even more indulgent, and finally a lemon tart unlike any I had ever seen. It’s a given that the desserts were delicious, but it was their original visual and flavour composition that really set this patisserie apart from the many others.

  

Our second stop was at Byblos Le Petit Café, a restaurant that serves traditional family cuisine from the Middle-East. I had heard of Byblos for its weekend brunch  (which I’m planning on tasting soon). This evening we were presented with a wide variety of traditional Iranian desserts. These desserts were for the most part rice based and full of orange blossom, rose water, cardamom and pistachio flavours. I enjoyed a lovely traditional Iranian tea to accompany the desserts. Personally, I’ve never enjoyed rice-pudding type desserts so this was not exactly my cup of tea. However, I did enjoy the floral and exotic flavours, and most importantly the diversity of the location for the overall Dishcrawl experience.

Our final stop of the evening was at PyrusBistronomique, which was recently written up by Lesley Chesterman in the Montreal Gazette. Chef Renaud Poirier presented us with an apple tarte Tatin with salted caramel and cheddar ice cream. Well for me this dish hit the spot! It was a perfect balance of savory and sweet. The sweetness of the apple and caramel was perfectly complimented by the fleur de sel crunch hiding in the caramel and the sharpness of the cheddar ice cream. I was suggested to pair this with a glass of Calvados, but as a whisky fan I opted for a dram of Macallan 12. This dessert really honed in on my more savory palate.

The experience with Dishcrawl was fabulous and I would recommend it to anyone. I loved discovering new places, trying different dishes and meeting new and interesting people. It always amazes me how people connect differently when they are sharing food together, even if it is for the first time.

Next Dishcrawl in Montreal? Discover Montreal’s Downtown Core. To sign-up or find out more about it click here

On another note, I would like to raise a glass to Marcella and Dishcrawl Montreal not only for opening the door to new experiences but also for providing the amazing pictures you see here. Thank you!