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Soleil on a Rainy Day

9 Jan

When we pulled up to Soleil, the only Canadian restaurant in the entire Zagat guide, and apparently all of Los Angeles, it was a rainy, dreary LA day, the sky was rumbling, and our stomachs were grumbling (that’s as poetic as this post is getting).

A good mate of mine was in town from London, and he was in the mood for a ‘proper lunch’…so why not take him for Canadian food, eh?   I also secretly knew that there was Poutine at this fine establishment, a French Canadian treat that wars have been fought over (I’m being dramatic), and oodles of alcohol has been sopped up with following late-night bar sessions.

This establishment had been on my LA restaurant hit-list for some time, given I’d lived in Montreal for five years, and consider myself somewhat of a Poutine aficionado.

If you’re not familiar with Poutine, my definition and the dictionary definition is quite different.  First, the dictionary definition:

“Poutine (Quebec French pronunciation ) is a dish consisting of French fries topped with fresh cheese curd, covered with brown gravy and sometimes additional ingredients.”

My definition:

“Really effing good.”

My English mate has an affinity for alcoholic beverages from time to time.  We were both thirsty, all that rain outside…so we remedied that situation by telling the not-quite-sure-about-us French Canadian waitress that we wanted every Canadian beer in the house, one after another.  I think there were 10 on the list…consisting of the Unibroue family, Labatt, Molson, Moosehead and the regular Canadian suspects.  The Unibroue beer is worth the trip alone!

We started with some type of Pate which was unreal.  The bread hot and crusty out of the oven and the warm spinach salad with balsamic reduction was good, but not Spago good.    Then we had a Poutine as an appetizer.  The fries were a tad skinny for my liking, the gravy good, but the savior was the actual authentic cheese curds.  It disappeared!

By the way, click here for their entire Poutine menu!

For our mains, I had chicken in a Marsala sauce over linguini, and my half-cut British mate had the beef Bourguignon.  He was very impressed with his meal, even though the waiter decided to dump fries all over his lap.  It was passing onto three o’clock by now…not sure how many diners come in and spend $175 on lunch at Soleil, but we managed it easily, over three courses, a bunch of wine, and more beer than the waitress cared to haul.

Souhaitez-vous s’il vous plaît nous appeler un taxi?

Soleil Westwood

1386 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90024

(310) 441-5384

Beef Brisket – Gastronomy and Magic Collide

4 Oct

If you’re really lazy and don’t want to take the time to read the fantastic detail below, here’s the Executive Summary:  The ultimate brisket is prepared with two crucial elements: smoke then steam.

Overall, in life, I believe I have lofty goals.  My goal this week was to learn how to make an authentic Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich.  The key to a good smoked meat sandwich is, of course, the Beef Brisket – and ensuring that the brisket is succulent, smokey, juicy, tender, melt in your mouth delicious.

Remember, the goal of beef brisket, is taking a cheep, rather difficult-to-deal-with cut, and turning it into a delicacy (kind of on par with turning water into wine).  This is not a task to be taken lightly.  I’ve heard endless horror stories about overcooked, tough, dry results – turning your Friday night Shabbas dinner into a silent gathering.

The following steps, after exhaustive research and time in the Marina Del Rey test kitchen, are deemed the optimal way to turn out a great brisket.

1.) Purchase a 10 – 12 pound brisket with fat cap on.  The counter guy I questioned at Schawrtz said “get a soft breast piece”.  I went to Smart and Final and paid $1.99 per pound and selected a nice twelve pounder that was fatty on top and soft when pressed.

2.) About a day or two before cooking take the brisket out of the package, do not wash the blood off, coat thoroughly with garlic, crushed peppercorns, rock salt, chili peppers, cumin (its your basic steak spice, nothing revolutionary).  Don’t pinch the spice on, dole it out by the fistful. Cover, and place back in the refrigerator (duh).

3.) The cooking process is two pronged (smoke, then steam).  First step, it’s all about the smoker.  I used hickory wood chips, on my electric Brinkman smoker.  I don’t use any liquid in the drip pan (other than one measly Tecate beer); fear not hydration is step two.  Place the meat on the top rack FAT SIDE UP – no need to turn the meat throughout the entire process (key point).  I left the brisket on the top rack for about 4 hours.

4.) After four hours (try not to lift the lid on the smoker too much), your brisket should now be dark red-ish, a tiny bit of char, and firm, and fairly cooked…but were you to cut and eat at this stage, it would not be a good result.

5.) Amp-up your indoor oven to 225 degrees (f), and put the brisket in a pan with three cups boiling water.  The pan should have a steel rack on it for the meat to sit on thus not be immersed in the drink.  Cover tightly with tinfoil and into the oven for about three hours.

6.) Take her out of the oven, and let rest for 10 minutes uncovered to let juices distribute.

7.)  We’re not out of the woods yet folks, because the last step is crucial:  CARVING.  Make sure you cut against the grain!  There are guys that make a career out of cutting brisket properly, seriously – see Schwartz’ in Montreal or Katz in NYC.

8.) Ok, this is the fun part.  Pile the nice thin slices of brisket on rye bread, two inches high, a dash of deli mustard (yeah, the light yellow stuff), and a Bubbies pickle on the side.

Alex, Matt and I (along with a couple pass-er-by neighbors), almost put the entire brisket to bed.  It was out of this world tasty, and did indeed, melt in your mouth.

The smoked meat goal for this week is in the books. Let me know how yours turns out.

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Au Pied de Cochon – Montreal Quebec

22 Sep

Executive Summary:  It was kinda like lord of the flies, but with a bottle of St-Emilion.

Ok, you’ll ‘get’ the exec summary once you watch the video.  A couple things to note on the overall experience, before watching the video:

1.) Don’t think you can just ‘walk in’ here.  They basically said bar was open in 2.5 hours and to come back then, I stood in the front window and made a sad pouty face until they said they would set a table up for me in an hour. (the ladies in front of us made a reso six months ago)

2.) It’s a Tuesday night at around 9:30 when the video was shot – just take a look a the atmosphere.  Yes, awesome.

3.) The 2005 St Emilion was perfectly chilled to just a few degrees below room temp.  I did, however, have to request the ‘big-ass-glasses’.

4.) You’re going to need to hit the gym the day after.

Menu:

http://www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca/

536 Duluth Est
Montréal (Québec)
H2L 1A9

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My First Smoke

11 Sep

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I finally bought a smoker yesterday…so first thing this morning even before I had the US Open semi-final flicked on, I had the smoker plugged in.

I had a boneless pork shoulder dry rubbed (stubbs variety) and in the fridge overnight.  I placed ‘er on the top rack of the smoker.

The drip pan (which provides the moisture) in the smoker was treated with a couple Tecate beers and apple juice reduction (and a bunch of water).

Cedar wood provided the smoke.

…and speaking of smoke – I put some applewood smoked bacon on the lower rack (Mattie dropped off a 5 pound hunk of the most fantastic, and potent applewood smoked bacon ever).

Seven hours later, Nadal won in straight sets, Federer was upset by Djokovic, and a 6 lb pork shoulder was sitting on my counter, resting.

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Rose Cafe and Market, Venice California

8 Sep

Labor Day weekend ended with some sensible breakfast at the Rose Cafe & Market on Sunday, just off Main Street in Venice, California.

Overall, this is a great place to go for Breakfast or Brunch.  It’s not life changing, but the food is ‘good’, and as you’ll see, they tend to the important details.  Enjoy.

220 Rose Ave
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 392-4191

Intelligentsia, Venice: Serious About Coffee

29 Aug

A fresh poured latte – double shot, 2% milk, ceramic cup. (Pictured Above)

Intelligentsia is serious about coffee.  My first experience went something like this:

ME: (pointing at the wall) “Hey how much is that coffee by the pound?”

Barista: “$21”

ME: “Oh, ok, I’ll have to get some when I’m done using my Lavazza”

Barista: “Lavazza?  (look of disgust), sorry to hear that”

(sound of crickets)

“Ok, thanks for the latte, see you next time”

This is pretty much a true story?  Did the experience leave a bitter taste in my mouth…absolutely not, I actually inquired as to why this particular Barista thought the Lavazza is shit.  He plainly explained that there is no control over when the beans were roasted – it’s not fresh (good point).

I’ve been buying coffee at Intelligentsia by the pound for the last few months, and it’s absolutely delicious (made in an Italian Press, stove top).

The Best F-ing Chili Recipe on Earth!

20 Apr

On Mon, Apr 19, 2010 at 8:15 PM, Farlan Dowell <farlandowell@gmail.com> wrote:

Dear Chili Bros. –

First of all, I’d like to thank you for your contribution to yesterday’s pre-chili-cook-off.  I couldn’t have done it without you!

It was actually an integral team play – had Gary not dragged me from my hazed, hungover, half conscious, sleep – I would have likely lay there for another three solid hours knowing that I have no way of retrieving the beast that is the G37 at the ViceRoy.  Alas, with car in hand, coconut juice in belly, and fuck-all-to-do, I hit the grocery store (which is really the only place I feel like jumping up and clicking my heels – as crazy as it may sound).  As for Duncan’s contribution – well, mate, you threw one ‘up-and-on-the-inside’ (baseball expression, lymey), when it came to putting whole pieces of meat in the chili – the result was the ground up chuck beef you tasted last evening.  Good call.

I would like to quickly recap what went into the Chili yesterday for posterity, as well to identify improvements and divide up duties and logistics for the showdown, May 01.

Ingredients:
– 1.5 lbs Pork Shoulder (dry rubbed with select spices) (no bone, seared/burnt on the grill for 10 – 15 minutes)
– 1.5 lbs Beef Chuck Roast (ground up only once)
– Onion
– Garlic
– Stewed Tomatoes
– Crushed Tomatoes
– Kidney Beans
– Can of Green Giant Corn
– One Green Pepper (may want to put two)
– Sugar
– Salt
– Cilantro
– Six fresh tomatoes (stewed with cilantro)
– Cumin
– Worcestershire sauce (thick)
– Chili Pepper
– Can of Chipotle Peppers
– Brown Box Chili Mix
– One Red Habanero Pepper
– Can of beef broth
– Half to a full beer (halfway through cooking )

Active prep time approx one hour.

Simmer approximately six hours.

The major lesson learned is to cut the seeds out of the chipotle peppers so you get the smokey flavor, without the burn upfront.  I’ll opt for Cayenne Pepper which should give it a subtle smooth after-burn.  Duncan, I’m also in favor of you putting together some type of sweet onion / herb mixture as a topping / garnish.

Now, it’s onto the competition!  Let’s meet at my place, then go over to Baja with the equipment and ingredients.  I’m calling a 7am start time Saturday morning (I’ll be at the BBQ pre-searing the Pork), as the competition begins at 9am.

Farlan

P.S. Duncan, please bring some sugar for the coffee.

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