One year. That is approximately how long I’ve been waiting to go to Downtownfood. I know this because last year at this time I was blown away by the food porn shared on social media by the 2013 Big Taste dtf attendees. When tickets for their Big Taste Collaboration dinner went on sale I made sure to snap up two of them. I don’t think Hubby was as excited as me to go but he does have a tendency to down play excitement while I just spew it forth. In fact, all Saturday afternoon I was counting down the hours and jumping around with a huge smile on my face. Of course, seeing the sun come out and with temperatures well above freezing I may also had a touch of ‘spring fever’ as well.
We arrived just in the nick of time and were seated at the long central table with people we had never met. The old me would have panicked but I’ve been really pushing myself to take chances and meet new people. By the end of the evening we were no longer strangers but fellow foodies with satiated stomachs and minds. The great thing about large events like these is that it draws like minded people who are all after the same thing…great food! Food is a superb conversation starter…
Speaking of starters, the Big Taste Collaboration dinner at Downtownfood started out with a bang! Sichuan Eggplant with Sichuan Pickled Peppercorn Cucumbers, sweet ginger and garlic…rice and sesame crisp. I’m glad I had one glance of the menu when we first sat down because I had the opportunity to tell the server that I could not eat the eggplant. Not that I wouldn’t prefer to have the full menu as intended but more like because of the possibility of my throat closing. Hubby did have his and he said that the sweetness and spice of the eggplant was well suited to the wine pairing, Dirty Laundry Riesling. This Riesling is a good choice for spicy dishes with a bit of sweet and sour so it also went with my last minute substitution. The server didn’t tell me what it was but I’m pretty sure it was scallop and prawn ceviche with chili oil.
Apologies for not having a picture of Hubby’s Eggplant. None of the pictures I took of it turned out so I tried a different method of taking pictures with the rest of the courses. I don’t like to use flash in a restaurant and I’m normally quite aware of disturbing other patrons around me…except at foodie dinners! I had Hubby spotlight the dishes with the ‘Assistive light’ function on my phone and I think he did quite well. I give him props for being a super lighting assistant.
Second course by 2013 Calgary Golden Plate Winner Duncan Ly (of Raw Bar)was seared line caught Itsumo Ahi Tuna. It must be mentioned here that Downtownfood is a completely Ocean Wise restaurant, partnered with the Vancouver Aquarium to ensure they make the most responsible decisions regarding the seafood they serve. That explains the line caught tuna. From top to bottom the dish was a feast for both eyes and stomach. Mint chiffonade with greens, then a compressed cucumber slice cup holding pomelo and scallop tartare sitting on top of the seared tuna ‘raft’. The broth was flavoured with Melon and Makrut Lime. To be honest, it bothers me a lot when everyone calls them ‘Kaffir Limes’ and then go on to say it’s not politically correct or is offensive to some. Either just call them ‘lime leaves’ or find a suitable name for them. Ok rant ended. Whatever you call them, they have an amazing, unmistakeable flavour and were lovely paired with the melon. Speaking of pairings, the Maverick Origins Sauvignon Blanc/Gewürztraminer blend was delicious with this course.I’m not a ‘nose to tail’ sort of person so when I heard we were having beef tongue I was a bit put off. Imagine my surprise when this Beef Tongue Torchon became my favourite course of the night! The tongue was slow cooked, shredded then put back together into a long cylinder and wrapped in a towel. When the meat has cooled and melded together it is unwrapped and sliced, then seared. To use a Canadian analogy, it looked like a hocky puck. I could never have imagined that this method of cooking would yield such a thoroughly edible result. I loved every element of this dish though, not just the tongue. The shiso/umeboshi gastrique was smokey, sour, and spicy all at once. The caper berry tempura was a huge hit of salty sour to cut through all the richness in that dish. But my favourite element for the whole dish were the smoked grapes! It was such a different flavour and one most likely attainable at home. I am definitely going to try this! Several diners at our table admitted to not really being Rosé drinkers, but the Sandhill Rosé pairing was outstanding, especially with the smoky flavours.Fourth course, the Sous Vide leg of Venison. Chef and owner Darren MacLean explained how they broke down the leg into separate muscles and removed all the connective tissue in a process called ‘Denvering’. Each muscle was then sous vide separately. For me, the meat was a bit on the rarer side of medium rare and the sous vide method was not adequate in breaking down some of the connective tissues which still remained. Hubby and I had a difficult time cutting and chewing the meat. We did love the flavours though, the cornichon salsa and red braised cabbage were perfect. The chipotle/ovaltine combination was also interesting in the sauce, very thoughtful flavours. Also, who can argue with a big chunk of seared Fois Gras? Surely, not I. This course was paired with the Clos Du Soleil ‘Signature’, a blend of just about everything…Merlot 44%, Cabernet Sauvignon 23%, Cabernet Franc 22%, Petit Verdot 5%, and Malbec 6%.
Chef Allemeier (Culinary Instructor at SAIT, former chef at Mission Hill Family Estate Winery, B.C.) was responsible for our fifth course, the Carrot Cake. I was surprised that we had something special in common concerning carrot cake; we both had it for our wedding cake. His version was quite nice, but way too small! I thought the coconut foam (not shown) and hazelnut poo were nice flavour addtions and the mascapone frosting was very delicious. In the past I’ve had ‘carrot crisps’ that were anything but crispy but I am pleased to say this carrot crisp was as advertised. My only area of concern was when the sugar from the hazelnut became hopelessly stuck in my teeth. I was a little nervous my dental work wouldn’t hold up. This dessert course was paired with Gehringer Brothers Riesling Ice Wine Signature Series, 2012.Our final bite of the night came courtesy of Chef Megan O’ Connor. It was a bit of a fun poke at the life of a chef; cooking food all day then going home and eating nothing but cereal. All night we were speculating just which breakfast cereal would be featured in the ‘Breakfast Cereal Macarons’. My new friend Emily voted for Captain Crunch or Cornflakes but I was leaning more towards Count Chocula. I knew it could be anything from All Bran to Fruit Loops. I was not surprised when the macarons were brought out and were topped with Fruit Loops. I don’t know how Chef O’ Connor got so much flavour in the macarons, but they were super fruity! I had mine with a very delicious latté. It was an amazing night and I have to thank ‘Iron Man’ John Gilchrist for being an excellent emcee for the evening, all of the wine representatives that came out to announce their wine, and last but not least, Chefs Allemeier, Ly, Groves, O’ Connor, and MacLean.
628 8 Ave SW
It seems like I’m squeaking by with my posts every month as I find posting ‘In My Kitchen’ by the tenth of each month really difficult to do. So much of what goes on happens after the tenth of every month..that I am unable to post! Alas, I do understand our dear host Celia’s predicament…this monthly peak into other people’s kitchens is a lot of work for her and probably would take up all of her time if there wasn’t a dead line. So, a huge thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for this fun little monthly view into kitchens around the world.
Let’s kick off the month of March with Mardi Gras!I used the new copper bowl I got for my birthday (In February) to make my first soufflé.I called my Aunt Diana and finally got her recipe for Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls. I made up a couple of trays. One to freeze and one to eat.We have been working on finishing the bathroom in the basement for a while now, actually two years! Hubby is on the painting stage, then he will tile, and then my older son will do the plumbing. When Hubby was taking a break from painting I had him put this up in the kitchen.I think it adds a bit of rustic charm to the kitchen and it’s handy too. We used to have a wooden hook for our bananas but it broke recently so I awoke this morning to find the bananas had a new home.
I love this locally roasted Godfather Espresso from Fratello Roasters. Hubby and I can’t live without our morning latté.I can finally feel a bit of spring in the air so I spent some time and money reorganizing the pantry. So far only one of the shelves are finished. My mom says I may have too many things in there but I have to disagree. I use everything in there all the time!See you next month!
After spending all day out in the swamps we were really happy to have a dinner reservation at Louisiana Bistro for that night. We strode into the restaurant with an air of familiarity, greeting our server with big smiles. We were definitely ready for some cocktails and very hungry. Of course we just had to have a re order of the amazing crab cakes from our previous visit but this time I also really wanted to try the Louisiana BBQ Shrimp as well. Wow, they sure looked a lot different than the ones I had made at home!
The BBQ sauce was really rich and glossy, full of butter and made with a very dark roux. The fluffy mashed potatoes were the perfect landing platform for the sauce. That sauce is so glossy you can see the reflection of the Mardi Gras lights in them in this photo.
Kid number two ordered what I really wanted; the Crab and Asparagus Salad. She really enjoyed the battered asparagus which brought a bit more substance to the dish. The crab salad was delicious and really creamy. I’m wondering what is in the sour cream and cream cheese in Louisiana? Does anyone know? They sure taste different than what we have here. Kid number one went with the Lamb au Poivre which he really enjoyed. Especially those battered haricots verts. The server joked with him about them being the ‘healthiest junk food you can eat’.Hubby had the Louisiana Seafood Couvillion. He’s not very descriptive. He says there was prawns and crawfish and it was spicy with tomatoes and sausage.I almost went back on our ‘never order the same thing’ rule and ordered the Crab and Asparagus salad but I was keen to try the Puppy Drum caught locally from Lake Pontchartrain. Puppy Drum is a juvenile form of Black Drum but still measuring over the 16 inch limit. The fish was spectacular and very mild tasting. Having crab on top of that, mashed potatoes, and haricots verts made the dish even better. What blew my mind was the Beurre blanc sauce with capers. I’m usually on the fence about capers…but this dish was a revelation. Butter, lemon, and capers combine to make heaven on a plate.No dessert for us that night but the kids were itching for a night out in a jazz club. We still hadn’t hit one yet and there really aren’t too many that allow all ages so we ended up in line for the 9 pm show at Preservation Hall. We ended up sitting on the cushions in the front row, the kids in front of the trombone player and Hubby and I in front of the clarinet player. Since both kids play trombone I could tell they were amazed and inspired by the very effervescent trombone player. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band was a very talented and lively bunch who really put on a great show. Lucky for them because I really did think $15 for 45 minutes was pretty steep. It was worth it though, keeping in mind that Preservation Hall is one of the few remaining places you can hear traditional New Orleans Jazz.
337 Dauphine St
New Orleans, LA 70112
It was never my intention to book our trip to NOLA during parade season but if you’ve ever been to NOLA you would know that pretty much anytime is parade season. Let me tell you, those people know how to party! As I mentioned in a previous post, this weekend also happened to be AllStar weekend so there were many interesting things going on which often involved huge crowds around huge men. We tried to avoid Canal Street as best we could, but we did end up having to go there to catch a streetcar and get a cord for my camera so that I could charge it. I was so mad I left the cord at home and had to use my phone for many pictures over the first couple of days.
This year, the Mardi Gras parade season started on February 15 with the Krewe de Vieux running a parade route around the French Quarter. The Krewe de Vieux is one of the more raunchy parades so I was a bit concerned with bringing the kids, but then again they are 15 and 13. Since it was the only parade we would be able to see I made up my mind that we really should go. The parade theme this year was ‘Where the Vile Things Are’ and of course there is a lot of local humour and sarcasm mixed in with these floats that an outsider may not understand. Being from Alberta I could not mistake the environmental sarcasm attached to many of the floats, especially the ones with oil rig decorations. There were also floats themed on ‘The Big Bong Theory’, The Winter O’limpdicks, Dick Dynasty (save our wetlands), and Obuma Care. It was all very festive and lots of fun. Here is one float I can show you. I’m not sure which sub krewe it was but this one had a motorized puppet guy twerking in front of an oil rig.During parade season (and at anytime really) it’s not unusual to see people walking around in costumes of any sort. We saw this guy after the parade as we were waiting in line for our burgers at Yo Mama’s. I think he worked or knew the people at the Voodoo Shop. I’m gonna be honest, he scared the crap out of me.So anyway, he didn’t scare us away from Yo Mama’s. We had heard this was the place to get burgers and we were in it for the long haul. I’m really surprised Hubby was okay with waiting the hour it took to get a take away burger but then again there was lots of action and plenty of things to see. We had to wait outside because the kids couldn’t go inside. Not because there was booze there or because the bathroom walls were pornographic but because they had VLT’s. Too funny. Anyway, we had some great conversations with the bouncer who we later chatted up every time we passed by Yo Mama’s during our trip.
For those of you who don’t know my daugher, she’s super smart, has an ironic/sarcastic sense of humour (which she may or may not have gotten from me), is a super germophobe, and she’s pretty shy. She was getting jostled about by some guy outside the next bar and was getting really annoyed. I think he was too. Anyway he turned around to say something and realized she was a teen so he decided to teach her some NOLA street smarts. He told her not to be afraid of anybody because everyone is there to have a good time. Fair enough. But then to her horror he had her high five everyone who passed us on the side walk for about 15 minutes. I could tell she was a bit overwhelmed but I also thought it was a good lesson for her to learn, and a great opportunity for her to come out of her shell. Anyway, eventually we got our burgers and we practically ran to the hotel with them so we could eat them as hot as possible.
Bear with me here. These pictures are crap. We had LOTS of beer while waiting for them to be ready so the photos really won’t do the burgers any justice at all. Yo Mama’s is not a fancy place, in fact, it’s a dive bar but the beer is cheap and the burgers will change your life.
Kid One had a Bullfighter. A half pound of beef topped with avocado, fresh jalepenos, and salsa. He liked it because it was super hot.Kid Two had the Peanut Butter and Bacon Burger. For real and it was effing awesome. That’s my girl!Hubby had the Roquefort Blue Cheese Burger. Enough said.I was the boring one. Believe it or not I just had the Bacon Burger. So boring but soooo good!We loved our burgers so much we were okay with the fact that ALL of our sides were wrong. I had a plain baked potato while Hubby and Kid One got one fully loaded. Really? Who orders a plain baked potato? Kid two ended up with a salad so that was okay for her. We were all a bit disappointed though because we never got to try the potato salad or mac ‘n’ cheese sides that we had ordered.
It was definitely a night to remember.
727 Saint Peter St
New Orleans, LA 70116
Though the light breakfast from our hotel was adequate for most days, we got really tired of the stale pastries and mandarin oranges. The breakfast never changed so it was a bit tiring, merely a filler until we found something better later on that morning. There were two days where we needed a more substantial breakfast later on in the morning. The day we went on the Swamp Tour, which left at noon and didn’t finish until 4 pm and the day we left for home, also around noon. Luckily we spotted Jaegerhaus early on in our stay. Kid number two wanted to go there and eat German food (Bless her little German heart!) but I denied her because in reality we were there to enjoy local food. One could argue the longtime German presence within NOLA would certainly make German food ‘local’ but I was more interested in fresh fish, shellfish, and Creole/Southern flavours. That said, Jaegerhaus is probably the best place to go for breakfast in the French Quarter and we enjoyed both breakfasts we had there.
On Sunday before our tour we were entertained during the short wait for our food by a server named ‘Baby’. She had a great sense of humour and taught us a game we could play using only paper (which they use to cover the tables) and pens. It passed the time while we sipped our juices and coffee though we abandoned the game quickly when our food came. I really had no intention of taking food photos of our breakfasts (really!) but Baby mentioned I should get my camera out because the food is photo worthy. How did she know?
Kid number one took a gamble on the sweet potato waffles because he figures if he loves sweet potato fries, he must love sweet potato waffles. And he did. He didn’t even need any syrup on it. Oh yeah, he also had the Mango Smoothie as well.Kid number two ordered the French Toast which she promptly designated as the Best French Toast she ever had. In fact, she ordered it again upon our return visit. Both kids opted for a side of bacon. There just wasn’t enough meat on the plate, apparently.Hubby surprised me and ordered the Bavarian Crepe. It came loaded with eggs, ham, bacon, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cheese; topped with hollandaise sauce, two strips of applewood bacon, cherry tomatoes, and chives. To me it looked more like a wrap but maybe that was just the presentation.
Despite having forsworn the eating of German food I opted for the Traditional Flammkuchen because it was something I had never heard of before. Baby described it as sort of a breakfast pizza but with a thinner, crispier crust. The toppings on the Traditional were creme fraiche, caramelized onions, applewood bacon, sprinkled chives, and brie cheese. It was really good but also salty and a bit greasy. It definitely stayed with me all day.
As I mentioned earlier we felt that this was the place to go before the long trip home. I regret not taking a better photo of Kid number two’s French Toast but she definitely had no regrets ordering it a second time. Kid number one was feeling a bit adventurous and carnivorous so he ordered the Sausage Omelet. Among the eggs were New Orleans alligator sausage, chorizo, crawfish sausage, tomatoes, peppers, scallions, and smoked gouda cheese. This protein feast came with a huge side of hasbrowns (or grits) and toast.
Hubby went for his favourite ‘going out’ breakfast, Classic Eggs Benedict.And I decided on the Eggs Florentine. It has lots of spinach greens and smoked salmon.If you’re ever in NOLA, be sure to stop by Jaegerhaus for a great breakfast. They also have a nice selection of German Beer…also served at breakfast.
833 Conti Street
New Orleans, LA 70112
My procrastination nearly led us to starvation. Here we were at 6:45 on Valentine’s Day and so far from home with no place to eat on the biggest restaurant night of the year. We were walking back to the hotel from God knows where….possibly a pub, when we stumbled upon the Louisiana Bistro, a mere two doors down from the hotel entrance. There was a couple waiting patiently for the 7 pm opening and a single older gentleman waiting as well. Being curious, I asked the couple if it was their first time at the restaurant. The man replied with a very deep Louisiana accent, “Heck no, but any place that has ‘Dirty Bird’ from the ‘Bitch Please’ menu and I’m there!”. Okay then. Turning to the single gentleman I asked the same question. He replied, “I come here every Friday night, it’s that good.” Okay then. Message received. I sent the rest of the family to clean up at the hotel and waited around with the locals for the restaurant to open. After they had been seated I was asked if I had a reservation. I replied in the negative and was told to wait while the server checked directly with the chef. Yes, this place is small and very similar to the feel of a bistro in Paris and there are not many covers per night. I was told (somewhat bluntly) to get my family here within 15 minutes or the reservation would be gone. This was almost enough attitude to get me to reconsider, but we were pretty strapped for dinner.
Luckily, while back at the hotel, I was able to impress upon them the need for speed and we arrived back at the restaurant with minutes to spare. I’m pleased to say we enjoyed the rest of the night and the serving staff were really nice and personable.
We started the night with a crab cake, or rather crab ball. It was served on top of the most delicious Sweet Corn Maque Choux. Sweet and spicy. I must learn to make this corn as it was the perfect accompaniment to the crab cake (having a similar but spicier flavour to the tamarind sauce at GW Fins on the previous night).Of course one crab cake wasn’t enough..we had to try the Boudin Balls made of traditional Louisiana pork sausage. One taste and I knew these balls celebrated all the goodness that a pig can give. To quote Arthur Hoggett, “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.” Luckily, these delicious Boudin Balls came in groups of three.I was still really intrigued by the mention of ‘Dirty Bird’. I tried to guess the identity of the ‘Gooey dark sauce’ mentioned on the menu but the server only winked at me and with a mischievous grin encouraged me to see for myself. I like a good mystery as much as the next person so I ordered it. The duck confit was so delicious, moist, and flavourful; the duck was treated with respect and confited to perfection. It sat upon a raft of haricots verts and dirty rice (of course). The mysterious goo? You’ll just have to try it for yourself! By the way, it took us a while to get the ‘tongue in cheek’ local humour but the ‘Bitch Please’ menu symbol was ‘BP’ which also stands for a well known oil company. The Dirty Bird and dark mysterious goo was meant to playfully emulate the ducks covered in oil from the BP oil spill in 2010.The kids weren’t really too hungry so they opted for a lighter dinner. Kid number one had a garden salad with blue cheese which he gobbled up and kid number two decided to try gumbo. Bear in mind this was the first time she had ever tried it so when it arrived and it looked like an insipid dark goo, she panicked. She did give it a good try but it wasn’t really her thing. I think you have to be raised with gumbo to enjoy it. Hubby had the Creole Surf and Turf. On his plate was a thick, almost baseball sized prime cut steak which was so tender and flavourful. As if that wasn’t enough, it came literally covered in crawfish tails. Apologies for the really crap photo! And, you can also see Hubby’s favourite NOLA drink in the photo; a Mint Julep. I must mention here that the cocktails at Louisiana Bistro are really top notch.Initially we had no designs on dessert but the kids each had light meals so we thought it might be a good idea to end on a sweet note. Hubby had a flourless chocolate cake with a raspberry reduction. Kid number two ordered her very first bread pudding. Might I add I was very proud of her for branching out and trying another new dish especially after the ‘gumbo incident’. I ordered the Creole cream cheese ice cream with balsamic sauce. I’m not sure what Creole cream cheese is but it definitely has a different flavour than any other cream cheese I’ve tasted. Last but definitely not least Kid number one had a bourbon float. Yup, with real bourbon….which he apparently really liked. Go figure!
We enjoyed the food and hospitality here so much that we made another reservation for Sunday night right away. Sure, the place is a little pricey but we did enjoy the food (except the gumbo) and it was evident to us that Chef Mars takes great pride in his creations. The small size of the bistro ensures that while there are not many patrons per night, all of them go home well satisfied.
337 Dauphine St
New Orleans, LA 70112
food lover, food maker, food dreamer