Friday, January 29, 2010

Calling all Anise fans! Calling all Bazaar fans!

Just a quick note to let all you Anise/Bazaar fans know that Laloux is hosting Anise's former chef, Racha Bassoul, for a special tasting menu. With our new chef (and Racha Bassoul protégé), Seth Gabrielse!

fig. a: reunited, and it feels so good*

Two nights only: Tuesday, February 9th and Wednesday, February 10th. Here's the deal: six courses, including foie gras, for $80 without the wine pairings, or $120 with the wine pairings.

What's for dessert? Glad you asked: a rose & cardamom-scented semolina pudding with a fresh orange salad (Seville & blood oranges, to be specific), candied pistachios, and a dash of rose water.

To reserve, call (514) 287-9127. For more information, take a look here.

And to all you modern lovers: you can find our St. Valentine's day menu here.

Laloux, 250 Ave. des Pins E.


*photo: Christine Bourgier

Monday, January 18, 2010

Faire la chaudière

flaky cubist pilot fig. a: flaky pilot

I’ve said it before, but there’s something about those dishes that spark controversy, the ones that people worked up about, the ones that they’ll argue over late into the night. They’re the ones that have the greatest relevance to the greatest cross-section of people, the ones that are at the very heart of a culture, and that serve to define it. In other words, the level of controversy is an indicator of cultural significance. Of course, in the hyper-opinionated world we live in, with its discussion groups, chat rooms, comments sections, "likes" functions, etc., it's sometimes hard to distinguish a true controversy from your standard-issue tempest in a teapot. But there's a reason that people get so agitated about things like barbecue, chili, and pizza. Stakes is high.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the feeling that that moment has passed when it comes to chowder, that chowder is no longer as absolutely central to the culture and the identity of vast numbers of North Americans, especially those hailing from the Mid-Atlantic and points north and east, as it was just a few decades ago. Blame it on America’s continued drift westward and southward, blame it on decades of relentless attacks against New England and its notorious liberal elites, but take a look back and you’ll see that chowder was as hotly contested and divisive a dish as there was in North America. Sure there was that fabled Boston vs. Manhattan split, but, really, it went way, way beyond that. So far, in fact, that when J. George Frederick waxed enthusiastic on the topic of chowder for his Long Island Seafood Cook Book of 1939 (reprinted in a Dover edition in 1971), not only did his chapter span 38 pages and roughly 60 recipes covering seafood chowders of all sorts (clam, fish, oyster, and shrimp included), as well as a host of other related soups and stews (from the prosaic [Fishwife’s Stew] to the exotic [Sea Tang]), but the magnitude of the topic elicited a particularly memorable title from him: “The Great Disputatious Chowder Family.”

Mr. Frederick explained:

If anybody tells you that the American people are “regimented” or “standardized,” just ask quietly, “What about clam chowder?” Your cocksure informer will get very red in the face, for nothing is more notorious that that various sections of Eastern America come to blows over chowder. Tomatoes or milk is the crucial question, also caraway seeds and salt pork. New England is rent and torn over these dissenting practices, but Boston, Maine, and Connecticut are allied against Manhattan or Long Island chowders, while Rhode Island teeters in between.

As Mr. Frederick would have it, and as has become accepted knowledge since, chowder, that most Yankee of dishes, has its roots in Brittany’s tradition of faire la chaudière, where the citizenry of coastal towns would each contribute something to the communal pot, be it fish, vegetable, or spices and herbs, and each would partake of the dish that resulted, a “hodgepodge” (Frederick’s term) consisting of “fish and ship biscuits, vegetables and savory ingredients” (my emphasis).

When French fisherman began settling in Newfoundland to take advantage of the (then) teeming bounty of the Grand Banks, they naturally brought faire la chaudière with them, transplanting it to the New World, where the tradition quickly took root. There it became part of the cultural exchanges (French, British, Portuguese, Spanish, etc.) that defined coastal Newfoundland, and eventually found its way southwest, through the Maritimes to New England, with the assistance of the sailors and fishermen who had made seafood chowder their own, and whose travels often covered vast areas of the Atlantic Seaboard.

Though this was not a part of the original French tradition, Early American chowders were predominantly milk-based chowders--when they became so is unclear. Was this an American invention? Did it have roots in such time-honored Northern European concoctions as Flemish waterzooi? I’m not sure. What is clear is that even though the tomato originated in the Americas, the addition of tomato to American chowder came relatively late in the game, and, most likely, it came by way of Europe. During its early history, authentic American chowder was based on this fab four and this fab four only: seafood, potatoes, pork (usually salt pork), and hardtack/sea biscuit, or some analog, such as pilot biscuits (preferably flaky ones) or common crackers.

flaky pilot biscuits fig. b: flaky pilot biscuits

The tomato was a late arrival to the world of chowder, but when it did, its effect rippled out from the New York area where it first came into vogue, throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Some 70 years ago, at the time that Mr. Frederick published his tome, Long Island was a divided island, but his account took pains to indicate the complexity of the matter:

Since Long Island has all this time been the place where New York and New England merge (at the eastern tip) it is not surprising that the chowder controversy rages even today on Long Island, despite the fact that a majority opinion certainly sides with the tomato. But a few old, gnarled eastern island baymen, and hardy old ladies, who learned the cookery arts somewhere around the Civil War period when the tomato was still an outlaw, today continue to cling to the milk basis for chowder, and will not surrender. Canceling this out is the fact that many New Englanders, even up into Maine, and particularly in Rhode Island, have acquired the tomato chowder idea and uphold it against their scandalized neighbors. Connecticut is too close to New York to be pure New England, and also is in part a renegade from the milk chowder. And, in the main, west of the Hudson, as New York goes, so goes the U.S.

If anything, I’d argue that “Boston” or “New England-style” chowder has been the style that's dominated the continent in recent decades, but there’s no question that each tradition has had tremendous reach. Back in the day, my family’s favorite chowder house in Santa Cruz, CA, was just one of many such establishments that handled any possible disputations with the greatest of tact (or was it spinelessness?): they served both.

In any case, for my money, the tomato vs. milk debate is a bit of a non-issue. Properly made, I’d be happy (ecstatic, even) with either. The real issue for me in recent years has been finding a chowder made from scratch, one made from fresh seafood and not from its canned or frozen doppelgänger, and one made without the use of corn starch and other non-traditional thickening agents. The idea is to use the freshest possible seafood (recall the concept behind faire la chaudière), and to achieve thickness from the inclusion of the hardtack/sea biscuit/pilot biscuits/common crackers and, especially, the potatoes. In fact, the traditional Yankee seafood chowder was known to begin with potatoes cut in irregular shapes, one end purposely cut larger than the other. This facilitated one end cooking faster than the other, disintegrating into the broth, and lending the chowder a perfectly thick texture without the need of any additional agents. Few things disappoint me as much as a corn-starch-laden seafood chowder, especially when served at an otherwise reputable establishment; few things are as totally satisfying as a true seafood chowder.

The following is the recipe we’ve been using recently for our New England-style fish chowder. It's an amalgam of a few different recipes. If, however, your preferences are tomato-based and spicy, you might want to check out this recipe, which appeared in “ endless banquet” way back in 2004. It's a great recipe for Manhattan clam chowder, and it might also give you ideas for a spicy fish chowder.

fish chowder fig. c: fish chowder

AEB Fish Chowder

1 lb haddock, or cod, fillets
1 bay leaf
1/4 lb bacon ends, or bacon, or salt pork (salt pork being the most traditional option; smoky bacon ends being what we've actually been using of late)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small leek, white part only, thoroughly rinsed, cleaned, and finely chopped
2-3 medium potatoes, chopped into irregular pieces as described above and pictured below (see figs. d & e)
1 tbsp parsley, minced
2-3 sprigs thyme, leaves only, minced
1 1/2 cups milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pilot biscuits or common crackers

Bring three cups of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the fish and the bay leaf, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 7-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fish to a plate or cutting board, but keep the broth warm on a back burner. Fry the bacon ends (or bacon, or salt pork) in a skillet until they've rendered their fat and have begun to crisp. Add the onion and the leek and sauté until the onion begins to turn translucent and the leek has turned tender. Add the onion/leek mixture and the chopped potatoes to the fish broth. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes are nice and tender and the broth has thickened slightly. Meanwhile, gently flake the fish fillets. When the potatoes are ready, turn the heat down to the lowest setting, add the fish, the parsley, the thyme, and the milk to the broth, and let the chowder steep for 5-10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Set your oven to broil. Split your common crackers or pilot biscuits, and if you're using the latter, break them up into smaller pieces. Being careful not to over-toast them (read: burn them), toast your common crackers or pilot biscuits gently, until they're a light golden brown. (Sounds unnecessary, but it will only take a minute and, trust me, toasting them makes a huge difference.)

Serve each bowl of chowder topped with the toasted pilot biscuits or common crackers.

Serves 4.

potato wedges 2

Note: fish chowder tastes good at any time of year, but it's particularly good on a cold winter day.

ice bridge 2 fig. f: cold winter day


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Help Haiti now. Please.

Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti, to the Haitian community here in Montreal, and to all of those who lost loved ones in Tuesday's earthquake.

Help Haiti Now

The UN World Food Programme is just one of the organizations that is on the ground in Haiti, aiding with the recovery effort and helping to feed the hungry.

If you've made a donation to Menu for Hope over the last few years, you've supported the WFP's efforts to end world hunger through initiatives like Purchase for Progress (P4P), which helps small farmers to improve their farming practices, become self-reliant, stabilize local economies, and contribute to the WFP's operation. Haiti needs immediate help, and lots of it, but it also needs an immense amount of long-term help, including programs such as P4P, programs that will help restore Haiti's thoroughly depleted agriculture and help bring about a new era of stability.

If you'd like to make a donation to the World Food Programme's work in Haiti, please follow this link. If you'd like more information about the World Food Programme, please click here.

And if you live in Montreal and you'd like to help out by attending a fundraiser, there'll be a Haiti Tweetup at Casa del Popolo (4873 St-Laurent) on Tuesday, January 19, from 5:30pm till 8:30pm, featuring a raffle and the prodigious talents of DJ Andy Williams. Admission is free, but guests are strongly encouraged to donate $10 or more. All proceeds will go towards the Red Cross's Haitian campaign.

Finally, the CBC has responded to the crisis with a helpful resource that lists still more ways to help.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fleisher's Follow-up, or Down to the Bone

this is our steak fig. a: on the cutting board

Without question, the finest steak either of us has ever tasted. We only got one because we knew we wanted to eat it relatively soon, and because Fleisher's dry-aged rib steaks were the biggest, meatiest rib steaks we'd ever had the pleasure of purchasing. We knew one of those honking steaks would be more than enough for the two of us, and we were right. We ate and ate well, and we still had enough for leftovers (yes!) the next day.

And, the thing is, buying, cooking, and eating grass-fed beef from a place like Fleisher's is not only ethically and environmentally sound, it's also a game-changer. Once you get that taste, why would you want to eat anything else? I'm happy to hold out until the next time we get a chance to visit Fleisher's. Why would I want to settle for less? Hell, I can still taste that steak right now as I write.

this is our steak in our searing-hot frying pan fig. b: in the pan*

We cooked our rib steak exactly the same way we always cook our rib steaks: first in a searing-hot cast-iron pan, then in the oven, followed by a good 5 minutes of rest. This is an excellent way to prepare perfect steaks at home and it happens to be exactly the way Fleisher's recommends preparing their beef. Once again:

1. Oven preheat 300º [10 minutes]
2. Heat pan on stovetop to smoking point
3. Pre-salt each side [5-10 minutes ahead of time]
4. Put into pan / sear for 2 minutes each side
5. Put steak into oven w/ pan
6. Steak > 4-8 minutes in oven [120º]
7. Take out of oven--let sit [rest] for 5 minutes

That steak was so tender, so tasty, so good, there wasn't a scrap left.


* Just to give you some perspective: that's an oversized 13 1/4" Lodge cast-iron pan.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Goodbye, 2009! (Hello, 2010!)


Andrea Nguyen, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors

Andrea Nguyen, Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More

Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China

Fuchsia Dunlop, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes From Hunan Province


Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren, A16

Reed and Reed, Holy Smoke

spice hunters

Ethné & Philippe de Vienne, Spice Hunters

A.S. Byatt, Possession

Hans Fallada, Every Man Dies Alone

Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives

Atul Gawande, “The Cost Conundrum: What a Texas Town Can Teach Us About Health Care,” The New Yorker

Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities

Errol Morris, “The Case of the Inappropriate Alarm Clock” (Parts 1-7), The New York Times

Marion Cran, The Story of My Ruin

Dirk Bogarde, A Particular Friendship

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Malcolm Gladwell, “Offensive Play: How Different Are Dogfighting and Football?,” The New Yorker

Werner Herzog, Conquest of the Useless

David Grann, “Trial By Fire: Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man?,The New Yorker


David Chang and Peter Meehan, Momofuku

Gourmet: The Magazine of Good Living (R.I.P.)

Moving images

Bright Star, dir. Campion


Che, pt. 1: The Argentine, dir. Soderbergh

The Informant!, dir. Soderbergh

Fantastic Mr. Fox, dir. Anderson

Gomorrah, dir. Garrone

Friday Night Lights, season one

Tyson, dir. Toback

The Wrestler, dir. Aronoff

The Best of Everything, dir. Negulesco

Mad Men, season two

Broken Flowers, dir. Jarmusch

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, dir. Fassbinder

In a Lonely Place, dir. Ray

Il Divo, dir. Sorrentino

Duplicity, dir. Gilroy

Wendy & Lucy, dir. Reichardt

The Hurt Locker, dir. Bigelow

The Class, dir. Cantet

Border Incident, dir. Mann

Tokyo Story, dir. Ozu

Tokyo-Ga, dir. Wenders

Happy Go Lucky, dir. Leigh

Standard Operating Procedure, dir. Morris

Only Angels Have Wings, dir. Hawks

I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang, dir. LeRoy

Captains Courageous, dir. Fleming


Witchies, self-titled EP

pink mountaintops

Pink Mountaintops, Outside Love

V/A, Dirty French Psychedelics, esp. Dashiell Hedayat, “Long Song for Zelda,” Brigitte Fontaine, "Il Pleut," Bernard Lavilliers, "Les Aventures Extraordinaire d'un Billet de Banque," and Karl-Heinz Schäfer & Arabian, "Utopia"

Tapestry, Down By Maple River

Sonic Youth, The Eternal

Alice Coltrane, Journey Into Satchidananda

africa boogatwo

V/A, Africa Boogaloo: The Latinization of West Africa

Moonface, Dreamland EP

Bob Dylan, New Morning

Wilco, self-titled LP

V/A, AEB 1980s Dance Party, vol. 1: Salad Days

Handsome Furs, "Radio Kaliningrad"

The Kinks, “Strangers”

Bert Jansch, The Black Swan

Kenny Rogers & the First Edition, "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)"

Abner Jay, True Story of Abner Jay

V/A, Psych Funk 101

Sunset Rubdown, Dragonslayer

endless boogie 1

Endless Boogie, Focus Level

Food & Drink

moules à la Bonne Humeur

alphonsos & yogurt

Alphonso mangoes

red flannel hash

red beans & rice

red peas & rice


soto ayam

homemade bánh mì

Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea, Waterbury, VT

Red Hen Baking Co., Middlesex, VT

Myriade, Montreal, QC

strongtree's lekempti

Strongtree, Hudson, NY

Fleisher’s, Kingston NY

Dic Ann’s, Montreal, QC

Cuisine Mas, Montreal, QC

Laloux, Montreal, QC

Parker Pie Company, West Glover, VT

Convivio, New York, NY

Co., New York, NY

Motorino, Brooklyn, NY

Libretto, Toronto, ON

Gilead Café, Toronto, ON

Dépanneur Le Pick Up, Montreal, QC

The Alchemist, Waterbury, VT

Hen of the Wood, Waterbury, VT

Oscar’s, Warrensburg, NY

W.W. Boyce Farmers’ Market, Fredericton, NB

The Whalesbone Oyster House, Ottawa, ON

Hawaï, Ville St-Laurent, QC

Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon, St-Benoît de Mirabel, QC

AEB’s Montreal Restaurant of the Year: Qing Hua


“Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard,” Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

instant karma

“Imagine: The Peace Ballad of John & Yoko,” Musée des Beaux Arts, Montreal, QC

"Actions: What You Can Do With the City," Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, QC

Kaaterskill Falls, NY

(do the) Camel's Hump, VT

things are looking up

Happy New Year!

little twin stars

m & aj

ps--Oh, yeah: AEB's cartoon of the year:

New Yorker, 5/11/2009

(Ward Sutton, The New Yorker, May 11, 2009)