Saturday, July 28, 2012

BBQ Bash

CSS invite fig. a:  invitation to a social

From the time we received our invitation, we couldn't wait to make our way down to the Catskills for this year's summer social.  Actually, even before we received our invitation we were pretty giddy with anticipation.  Just the thought of smoking those Fleisher's pork shoulders was enough to get us excited.  When we factored in the summer cordials, the musical entertainment, the swims in nearby creeks, rivers, falls, and swimming holes, and (especially) the company, we found ourselves prone to sudden bursts of uncontrolled and enthusiastic exclamation.

"I can't wait!"


"Slow & low, baby!"

"Summer 2012!"


bbq bust fig. b:  the list

We knew this wasn't going to be a cake walk, though.  There going to be dozens upon dozens of guests--discerning ones, too--so we knew we had to be on the ball.  That's why we came armed with lists, and schedules, and hard-to-find ingredients, and tools.

When we arrived, things were pretty mellow, though.

summertime still life 2 fig. c:  afternoon shadows

We put our things down and took a look around.

summertime still life 1 fig. d:  turkey coop

Coolers had yet to be filled with ice.

mud room fig. e: mud room

Lanterns had yet to be filled with fuel.

backdrop fig. f: photo studio/bandstand

And the outdoor photo studio/bandstand was vacant.

P1020912 fig. g:  welcome to Smokey Mountain!

I was especially excited because I had a new toy to play with.  Instead of the battery of Weber One-Touch grills I'd used in the past, I had a brand-new Weber Smokey Mountain smoker at my disposal.

By the day of the party, though, we were totally prepared.  We'd done all the necessary shopping.  We'd prepped all the food we could.  We'd tidied up and decorated.  I'd run a smoker test to season that Smokey Mountain.  It was showtime.

willie & me fig. h:  me & Willie

So I got up at the break of day, put on my lucky barbecue t-shirt, fired up the smoker, and made some coffee.

red sandals diaries fig. i:  red sandals diaries

Meanwhile, Michelle put on her dancing shoes, and then we started finalizing this year's menu.

Hours later, this was what we served:

3 x 12-lb Fleisher's pork shoulders, applewood-smoked and pulled  
8x racks of MO-style ribs
Martin's potato rolls 
AJ's Down East baked beans 
Smokehouse potato salad 
Tidewater coleslaw 
Poor man's caviar
Baked cheese grits 
Sweet tea
Michelle's peach and raspberry cobbler with Graeter's vanilla ice cream 
This may very well have been the best version of the bbq social we've yet to orchestrate (the 7-hour ribs were pure candy; the 14-hour shoulder was a deeply lacquered work of art, and it made the smokiest and most tender pulled pork we'd yet to achieve).  It certainly was the craziest.  Guests arrived in unprecedented numbers, and they arrived hongry.  When we started serving, food was disappearing at such a rate that we could barely keep up, prompting a flurry of GoogaMooga jokes.  But then things began settle down again, as they do, and people began to mellow out again as their focus shifted from just FOOD, to a combination of FOOD, DRINK, MUSIC, SOCIALIZING, and so on.

folk fest 1 fig. j:  as the band began to play

And then a stripped-down, two-man version of Golden Bones began to play.

folk fest 2 fig. k:  bravo!

And they played with passion and conviction.  And the crowd was appreciative.

coke & nails fig. l:  engagement ring*

And then a couple of lovebirds got engaged, right there in the outdoor photo booth, and the crowd went wild.

stephen, tom fig. m:  bonfire

And when night fell, the bonfire was lit up, and that's when things turned appropriately bacchanalian.  And the fireflies sparkled all around us, and the music throbbed, and the party lasted deep into a warm summer's night.


One major new addition to this year's menu was the batch of cheese grits.  We considered making mac & cheese instead, but ultimately settled on the cheese grits.  People go crazy when they have cheese grits.  Those who've had them know to load up on 'em.  Those who haven't experience something quasi-religious.  There's something pretty exotic about them for a lot of Northerners, and we had several people who said the grits were the best thing they'd ever tasted (!).

Baked Cheese Grits 
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup grated sharp hickory-smoked cheddar cheese (just use sharp cheddar cheese if you can't find a premium hickory-smoked cheddar)
4 tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 cups cooked grits, still warm (purists will likely scoff, but we recommend using quick grits for a recipe such as this) 
Preheat your oven to 350º.  Butter a 4-6 cup casserole dish. 
Mix the eggs, cheese, butter, mustard, salt, and garlic.  Stir this mixture into the warm grits and then pour it into the prepared casserole dish. 
Bake uncovered for 50 minutes.  Serve immediately direct from the casserole. 
Serves 4-6 (we obviously made a much, much larger batch for our group of 100+ guests) 
[based very closely on a recipe that appeared in Jane & Michael Stern's Popular Plates:  BBQ in 2010]
Remember:  it's summer, people.  2012.  Don't let it slip you by.


p.s.  Sincerest congratulations to Paige and Thomas.  True love!

p.s. 2  And extra-special thanks to our host, Stephen!

* I wish I could take credit for this one, but this amazing ring/s/Coke/nails photograph comes courtesy of Travis Blue Photo.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mark your calendars..., rev. ed.

Hot on the heels of a glowing review of Foodlab in this weekend's New York Times (!), it's another eventful week in the wonderful world of Foodlab/Michelle/AEB.  Check it!

zorba the sommelier fig. a:  Zorba the sommelier

Wednesday, July 25:  Theo Diamantis and Team Oenopole will be descending upon Foodlab for a special Greek Grill Extravaganza, featuring grilled Greek sausages (loukaniko), Izmir-style kebabs, grilled sardines, and a whole mess of Greek wines, in addition to all the Greek delicacies already on offer.  The fun starts at 5pm and lasts till 10pm.  Bring an appetite, and a thirst!

strawberry socialists fig. b:  red menace

Sunday, July 29:  Michelle and " endless banquet" will be running yet another fruit social (the first one of 2012) at Parc Jeanne-Mance from 1pm until supplies last.  This one's a Strawberry Social, and, once again, it will feature beautiful Quebec strawberries, Michelle's famous shortcake, and lightly whipped cream.  Portions will be generous.  Payment is by donation only, with a suggested donation of $7.  And all the proceeds will be going to support Head and Hands.  Location is by the beach volleyball courts, as Michelle's stand will be there to augment Serve, Head and Hands' annual bars & restaurants beach volleyball tournament.  Come one, come all!

And don't forget about Omnivore, which gets underway on August 16...


p.s.  kebabapalooza follow-up:

michelle & theo fig. c:  foodlab + oenopole

What a night!  Such great wines, such awesome food, such a good vibe...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Top Ten #45

folk fest 1

1.  The Cornwallville Summer Social, Cornwallville, NY

stop making sense

2.  Stop Making Sense, dir. Demme + the revival of the Mile End Rockumentary Club

3.  Santouka, Vancouver, BC

4.  Le Grand Aïoli + Domaine du Grand Noré rosé 2011

5.  Moonrise Kingdom, dir. Anderson

summer swimming

6.  summer swimming

summer quilt

7.  summer quilts @ The Little Shop

8.  Hudson's Hamburgers (since 1907!), Coeur d'Alene, ID

9.  Jessica Mitford, Hons and Rebels

zingerman's 3

10.  Zingerman's Roadhouse, Ann Arbor, MI

Friday, July 13, 2012

Omnivore's Dilemma

Omnivore-Montreal fig. a:  Look! Up in the sky!

Omnivore is coming to Montreal, and the dilemma they're presenting us with is a schedule so jam-packed with tantalizing events, how can we possibly consume it all?

To celebrate the year 2012, these Paris-based culinary provocateurs and advocates of "100% young cuisine" have embarked upon a world tour encompassing 12 cities.  Brussels, Copenhagen, Geneva, Istanbul, Moscow, New York, Paris, Rio, San Francisco, Shanghai, Sydney, and, yes, Montreal.  The road show pulls into town on August 16, and the next four days will amount to an intercontinental culinary powwow of the highest magnitude featuring 18 cooking & wine demos, 5 Maudits Soupers, and 1 major bash.  The dinners will take place all over town, but the base of operations and the site of both the demos and Omnivorious, the chef- and DJ-driven extravaganza that will likely be the highlight of the series, will be the Société des Arts Technologiques/FoodLab.

Most of our favourite Montreal food and wine people will be participating, but the series is meant to put these New World practitioners of "100% young cuisine" in conversation with some of their Old World counterparts.  As a result, it will also include a number of notable European talents, such as Gregory Marchand of Frenchie (Paris), Peter Nilsson of La Gazzetta (Paris), and Jérôme Bigot of Les Grès (Lindry, Burgundy).

Michelle will be doing overtime that week, giving a demo on August 19, cooking a Maudit Souper with Seth Gabrielse and Jérôme Bigot, and playing a central liaison role throughout the entirety of Omnivore Montreal.

The thing is, the line-up is so good and the prices are so reasonable, that you might just want to take in the whole maudite thing.  You can catch demos by Patrice Demers (Les 400 Coups), Alex Cruz and Derek Dammann (Société Orignal), Stéphanie Labelle (Rhubarbe), Samuel Pinard (La Salle à Manger), Cyril Kérébel (La QV), Michelle (!), and many other stars of the Montreal culinary scene, in addition to all the distinguished European guests, and prices are just $40 per day, or $100 for the full-three day demo schedule.  Prices for the Maudits Soupers have yet to be announced, but I've been told that you can expect remarkable value, and, in the meantime, you can find the whole schedule and the numbers to call for reservations here.  And, finally, a ticket for Omnivorious will only set you back $40, and it includes a drink, special canapés prepared by a Dream Team of contemporary chefs (Patrice Demers and Marc-André Jetté, the Grumman 78 crew, Petter Nilsson, Samuel Pinard, Simon Mathys, Gita Seaton, Jérôme Bigot, Martin Juneau, and John Horne!), and a whole mess of other entertainment that's guaranteed to derange the senses.

For full details, check out Omnivore's complete rundown of its Montreal festivities here.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Kebab Connection, rev. ed.

Do you like music & film?

grilled chicken skewers fig. a:  kebab connection 1

Do these look good to you?

Imagine these lovingly-marinated-then-grilled morsels of chicken sandwiched inside a lightly grilled pita, with grilled tomatoes, mixed herbs, and a tangy, garlicky yogurt sauce.  Imagine them being sold on the streets of Montreal.  Imagine them being sold for a song.  Imagine them being sold with a song.  Almost too good to be true, right?  Except that that's exactly what's going to be going down this Thursday through Sunday when Yours Truly takes over the grill at Place de la Paix.

jujeh kabab fig. b:  kebab connection 2*

What's the occasion?  Well, FoodLab is hosting a series of grill/barbecue cooks over the next month for a series called Cinéma, DJs & BBQ.  Basically, you get two hours of DJs & barbecue earlier in the evening, followed by two hours of open-air film spectatorship.  Last week, none other than Szef Bartek got the party started right with an ode to pork & fire in advance of a RIDM en plein air screening and a couple of Vues d'Afriques films.  This week I'll be firing up the grill while four top DJs (Maus, Jan Pienkowski, Tind, and B'ugo) get the crowd fired up for a bunch of outdoor Fantasia screenings (Fantasia à la Belle Étoile, a warm-up for the 2012 festival, which gets underway next week).

music + film.001 fig. c:  sound + sight

The fun starts each evening at 7:00 pm and lasts a mere two hours.  That's right, the grilling will be over and done with by 9:00 pm, in order to make way for the films.  So get in while the grilling is good.

Also:  vegetarians will be happy to know that I'm also serving a delicious grilled halloum cheese number.

And THIS JUST IN:  Michelle will be joining me in the grill pit on Saturday and Sunday night (weather permitting), so the entire " endless banquet" team will be reunited for yet another Montreal street food event.

Place de la Paix is located directly adjacent to the Société des Arts Technologiques (SAT) on St-Laurent between René-Lévesque and Ste-Catherine.


* photo courtesy of Uncornered Market

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Return of Winesdays

la QV votre caviste fig. a:  "votre caviste"

"La QV été" is back.  That's right, my favourite weekly wine tasting salon of 2011, featuring phenomenal wines (and occasionally ciders and beers), delectable nibbles, and a vast assortment of other temptations (charcuterie from Fou du Cochon, preserves from Preservation Society, the available La QV line, and so on), is back and better than ever for 2012.

return of winesdays fig. b:  return of Winesdays

Every week there's a new theme.  Every week the tastings are as relaxed and friendly as they come.

strawberries by julie r. fig. c:  strawberries & bubbles

A couple of weeks ago, the main attraction was Quebec strawberries served with a delicate sirop and a Preservation Society marshmallow and paired with one of the sensations of the 2011 season:  a sparkling Bugey rosé.  Tomorrow the duo consists of a chèvre and cherry tomato gratin and another bubbly:  a 2001 (!) Saumur, faite methode traditionelle.  Taken all together, that's a lot of entertainment for a mere $11.

La QV, 29 Beaubien E. (Little Italy), (514) 504-4082

For more information, contact Julie "Miss Vivres" Rondeau ( and/or Cyril "Boss Soif" Kérébel (


Monday, July 09, 2012

Go Green, rev. ed.

lettuce soup fig. a: lettuce soup, Lawrence 

Mile End's Lawrence has a well-deserved reputation for its handling of meat--for a small restaurant with a concise menu, it's one of Montreal's most daring when it comes to both the variety of meats it serves, and the cuts it puts to use (offal "salad," anyone?).

What's less readily acknowledged is the finesse with which its kitchen handles vegetables, and, while I may be imagining this, it seems to me their lunch menu is when they really place an emphasis on the pleasures of the garden.

A few weeks ago Michelle started raving about a magical Lettuce Soup she'd had at Lawrence one day for lunch--first on Twitter (where else?) and then to anyone who'd listen. I wasn't with her at the time, but it sure sounded good, although the question that Michelle's encomium inevitably raised with everyone she mentioned it to was how, exactly, a lettuce-based soup could possibly be so transcendent.

The very next week, she went back--this time with me in tow. It didn't take much convincing--I couldn't wait to give that soup a spin.  And, you know, she's right.  That Lettuce Soup is a thing of beauty, simultaneously earthy and ethereal, with a deep green colour that rejuvenates by sight alone, and a surprisingly rich flavour that borders on the sublime.  It comes accompanied with a healthy hunk of toast slathered with brandade, and the pairing is simply brilliant.

You see?  Now I'm raving, too.

This is easily the best soup I've had in Montreal in quite some time, and, right now, it's the taste of the Summer of 2012 for us.  Do I have the recipe?  Unfortunately, no.  But I immediately bumped up the lettuces in our back garden so that I could start to do some experimenting.  Details to follow...

Lawrence, 5201 St-Laurent Blvd., Montreal (Mile End), (514) 503-1070

p.s.  Wouldn't you know it?  Their Lettuce Soup disappeared from Lawrence's menu this week (!).  I'm happy to say that they replaced it with a lovely sweetcorn + bacon soup, but I'm still hoping they bring that Lettuce Soup number back sometime soon.  Please?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Grand succès

new garlic fig. a: ail, ail, ail...

Last week's Grand Aïoli event at Alexandraplatz was a labour of love that brought together the energies, talents, and vision of Michelle, Theo Diamantis and the Oenopole crew, and Natasha Pickowicz and Popcorn Youth, along with a number of other local and regional producers and creators, like Caroline Boyce of Floralia and her extraordinarily beautiful flower arrangements, the Birri Brothers and their expert produce, bread from Kamouraska's famed Niemand Bakery, cheeses from Chèvrerie Buckland and Fromagerie Mouton Blanc, and Bernadette Houde and Team Alexandraplatz.

The evening consisted of three courses:

grand aïoli menu fig. b: "A Provençal Summer Feast"

"Le Grand Aïoli":  roughly 15 different vegetables (including turnips, carrots, wild asparagus, new potatoes, cauliflower, beets, green beans, artichokes, and squash blossoms) prepared in a variety of ways (blanched, boiled, roasted, braised, sautéed, and au naturel), all of them served with a heaping quantity of freshly made aïoli

the cheese course:  Tomme de Marechal and Tomme de Faisal from Chèvrerie Buckland; Tomme de Kamouraska from Fromagerie Mouton Blanc; fresh figs, dried apricots, honey, and blossoms; and a selection of breads from Kamouraska's Boulangerie Niemand

the dessert course:  a fresh Quebec strawberry tart made with a crème fraîche- and chamomile-infused crème légère

the wines:  Domaine du Gros Noré rosé 2011; Domaine d'Alzipratu Cuvée Fiumeseccu Corse Calvi rouge 2010; Domaine d'Alzipratu Cuvée Fiumeseccu Corse Calvi blanc 2011

flower child fig. c: flower child

The floral arrangements of Caroline Boyce adorned the tables.  They also adorned our hosts.

dynamic duo fig. d: dynamic duo

Garlic and artichokes figured prominently--both on and off the menu.

first service 1 fig. e: first service gets underway

As the first seating got underway (just moments before the first platters began to be served), things looked like this.

insta-grand fig. f: insta-grand

And as the aïoli platters began to materialize, they looked something like this (as captured by Instagram).

Between the food, the wine, the ambiance, and the assembly of enthusiasts, something magical happened that evening.  Somehow Montreal's natural joie de vivre merged with a sense of Provence's.  One terroir (the one that produced our vegetables, flowers, cheeses, and breads) was united with another (the one that produced the wine).  And the vehicle for this experiment in teleportation was as honest and elemental as they come.