Dishcrawl Montreal, “inspired by Mayssam”, perpetuated by ravenous lust for delish

DISHCRAUUWWWL!!!

I’m not usually one to enter a restaurant full of 40-50 people I’d never met before, let alone one involving surprise dishes and other surprises, as was promised on the ticket, but a bit of bravery and a large bit of foodie curiousity did me in good stead and I had an absolute blast of a time, trying random foodstuffs and meeting people who were likewise just as obsessed with the capacity of edible things to hold flavour as I was!  Pretty amazing.  A lot of people had cards with their blogs on them, and I think I might follow suit.

Although, I might handmake mine with sparkles, but that’s mostly because I’m silly, and prone to sparkles.  Anyway!

The evening started out at Ella Grill, a place most notable for grilling their seafood (and especially their octopus) well, a feat I heard from my neighbours at the table was something quite special.  And to my own tongue, delicious – tender and char-tasting to a perfect degree, with herbs and peppers and other things I forget.  The evening also started out with the right thing first – dessert!  A pastry chef – whose name I also forget (I’m terrible!), brought out these most lovely and indulgent eclairs to kick everything off.  A concoction of pastry, coffee cream, sculptural chocolate, raspberry, and apparently anise, to delight the senses and basically be an absolute specimen of it’s kind.  Eclairs may come and go, but this one was good.

Then, we crawled.  Not like pubcrawled.  More like dishcrawled.  And really, more like sauntered up the street only one block to another restaurant, Biron, a posh and laidback abode with the chef even there to oversea the enjoyment he was orchestrating.  I was pretty lucky to get the deconstructed sushi plate (it was a 50% chance of landing in front of you), and the whole idea of finally getting to eat something off a plate with a syringe of mysterious substance, well……….. this is what I live for my friends.  It’s space age!  It’s delicious!  It’s actually RICE VAPOUR.  And among other things, any plate with raw salmon on it will give me joy, so if dishcrawl wanted to seduce me better they couldn’t.  :D  Wee.

Hmm, from the actual website?

Maki éclaté; sashimi de saumon, riz vapeur, vinaigrette sésame maison, œuf de saumon, avocat et concombre….

Nothing off the wall, for sure, but seriously, couldn’t be better to actually sup on.  Plus, they even had those steamed sweet buns I used to eat in Taiwan, with some sort of wasabi creamy sauce for the dunking, so amazing!  Biron is allright in my books.

Of course, that said, I don’t know what this was, belying my foodie pedigree by revealing my absolute lack of ability to differentiate what might have been turkey from what might have been pork.  But hey – these things happen!  It was really tasty anyway, with bitter rapini playing off of sweet potato puree in a nice way, not being too filling and definitely being artful.  Yeah, so I’m a recent vegan and can’t tell my proteins apart, ha!  It’s a punchline at this point anyway, right?  And then, there were mignardises, as in little yummy puffy desserty things I was too drunk at the time to appreciate with a palate of distinction, but there is never a bad time for superfluous sweet bites of pastry, so yeah!  awesomesauce.

Will I be going to the next one?   You bet!  And hopefully with more on-the-ball reporting so I can actually describe things with a fresh mind and a memory for specific ingredients.  Until then, well, I can blog about a pastry workshop I attended at Depanneur le Pick Up with Laloux’s Michelle Marek!  Soon, soon enough.  I’m getting the blogging bug back and with it there will be posts, read, commented or not. :P.  til then!

Current music: Stereo Total – Paris <> Berlin

Restaurant Ella Grill on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Biron on Urbanspoon

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Gateaux l’Opera, for a dear friend.

mmm drippy.   wait a second.

Better. :)

okay, so —

Since many years past, I’ve been the birthday cake administrar among my friends – each year, each person gets something pretty ridiculously amazing, mostly because I love spending my saturdays tinkering with buttercream.  This year, I dunno… it seemed important to make an Opera Cake.  And considering that the year before I’d given this friend a 7-layer rainbow grapefruit cake with lemon-lime frosting and skittles and fruit, I uh… had to up the number of layers.  Naturally.  So, 9 this time.  *smile*

I poured a drink, I played a song, I opened all my packages of chocolate, and before 5 hours were over, I had the beast constructed.  Or, should I say, the demure lady of a cake?  Demure-ish, anyway, since I stuffed the espresso syrup full of cinnamon and the ganache full of cayenne (enough to cause a small heat-fire in the back of the tongue).  And, so, it was hence, “the Rock Opera”.  A spicier nicy-er version, and especially appropriate for a girl who’d just come back from Paris, Mexico, AND the Rocky Horror Picture show!

I cut it into little pieces and shared it amongst 3 billion of her closest friends, and each piece melted away into coffee-flavoured bliss, and it was pretty fabulous.  Maybe not as technicoloured as she deserved, but fun to make anyway, and freaking heavy for a recipe that calls for a total of a 1/2 cup of flour.   Ha!  Mostly chocolate, butter, nuts and cream, YUM!

We even somehow found gold leaf randomly.  How random!  Pressed it into place all punk style, and fielded everyone’s burning question:  “can you REALLY eat that?”

Yes.       Yes you can!  And you should!  Geez.

*^*^*^*^*^**^*^     dedicated to all the beauties and oddballs @ Rocky !

Rock Opera Cake

The cake:

  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds
  • 2 1/4 cups (225 grams) confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled briefly

The coffee syrup:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (7 grams) instant espresso or coffee
  • 1 tablespoon best-quality cinnamon

The coffee buttercream:

  • 2 tablespoons (10 grams) instant espresso or coffee
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) boiling water
  • 1 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) water
  • Pulp of 1/4 vanilla bean
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 3/4 sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

The chocolate ganache:

  • 8 ounces (240 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (125 grams) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

The chocolate glaze:

  • 5 ounces (150 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

To make the cake: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line two 12 1/2-x15 1/2-inch (31-x-39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter. (This is in addition to the quantity in the ingredient list.)

2. Working in a clean dry mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the whites into another bowl.

3. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almonds, confectioners sugar and whole eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and beat on low speed only until it disappears. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture, then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

4. Bake the cakes for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. Put the pans on a heatproof counter, cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the cakes over and unmold. Carefully peel away the parchment, turn the parchment over and use it to cover the exposed sides of the cakes. Let the cakes come to room temperature between the parchment or wax paper sheets. (The cakes can be made up to 1 day ahead, wrapped and kept at room temperature.)

5. To make the syrup: Stir everything together in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Cool. (The syrup can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

6. To make the buttercream: Make a coffee extract by dissolving the instant espresso in the boiling water; set aside.

7. Bring the sugar, water and vanilla bean pulp to a boil in a small saucepan; stir just until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 255 degrees F (124 degrees C), as measured on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Pull the pan from the heat.

8. While the sugar is heating, put the egg and the yolk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until the eggs are pale and foamy. When the sugar is at temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly pour in the syrup. Inevitably, some syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl – don’t try to stir the spatters into the eggs. Raise the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the eggs are thick, satiny and room temperature, about 5 minutes.

9. Working with a rubber spatula, beat the butter until it is soft and creamy but not oily. With the mixer on medium speed, steadily add the butter in 2-tablespoon (30-gram) chunks. When all the butter has been added, raise the speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thickened and satiny. Beat in the coffee extract. Chill the buttercream, stirring frequently, until it is firm enough to be spread and stay where it is spread when topped with a layer of cake, about 20 minutes. (The buttercream can be packed airtight and refrigerated for 4 days or frozen for 1 month; before using, bring it to room temperature, then beat to smooth it.)

10. To make the ganache: Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and keep it close at hand. Bring the milk and cream to a full boil, pour it over the chocolate, wait 1 minute, then stir gently until the ganache is smooth and glossy.

11. Beat the butter until it is smooth and creamy, then stir it into the ganache in 2 to 3 additions. Refrigerate the ganache, stirring every 5 minutes, until it thickens and is spreadable, about 20 minutes. (The ganache can be packed airtight and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 1 month; bring to room temperature before using.)

12. To assemble the cake: Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Working with one sheet of cake at a time, trim the cake so that you have two pieces: one 10-x-10-inches (25-x-25-cm) square and one 10-x-5-inches (25-x-12.5-cm) rectangle. Place one square of cake on the parchment and moisten the layer with coffee syrup. Spread about three-quarters of the coffee buttercream evenly over the cake. (If the buttercream is soft, put the cake in the freezer for about 10 minutes before proceeding.) Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square; moisten with syrup. Spread the ganache over the surface, top with the last cake layer, moisten, then chill the cake in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Cover the top of the cake with a thin layer of coffee buttercream. (This is to smooth the top and ready it for the glaze – so go easy.) Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour or for up to 6 hours; it should be cold when you pour over the glaze. If you’re in a hurry, pop the cake into the freezer for about 20 minutes, then continue.

13. To glaze the cake: Bring the butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and clarify the butter by spooning off the top foam and pouring the clear yellow butter into a small bowl; discard the milky residue. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over—not touching—simmering water, then stir in the clarified butter. Lift the chilled cake off the parchment-lined pan and place it on a rack. Put the rack over the parchment-lined pan and pour over the glaze, using a long offset spatula to help smooth it evenly across the top. Slide the cake into the refrigerator to set the glaze and chill the cake, which should be served slightly chilled. At serving time, use a long thin knife, dipped in hot water and wiped dry, to carefully trim the sides of the cake so that the drips of glaze are removed and the layers revealed.

Keeping: Each element of the cake can be made ahead, as can the assembled cake. The cake can be kept in the refrigerator, away from foods with strong odors, for 1 day, or you can freeze the cake, wrap it airtight once it is frozen, and keep it frozen for 1 month; defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

An American in Paris: I rarely play around with this classic, but when I do, it’s to add a little crunch to the mix by pressing toasted sliced almonds onto both the buttercream and the ganache.

  • 1 stick (115 grams) unsalted butter

Cardamom Pear Pie with Lime Caramel Sauce

There are some favours that are hard to refuse, and I always have trouble leaving the cries of “but I can’t make XXXX!!” go un-helped.  Pastry dough – a naff beast if you’re not used to it – can be tamed with the help of a friend or two, and some experience, and a GIANT MARBLE PLANK (to keep things cold), ouahahaha.  Attention to temperature, my friends, attention to temp…

So while my roommate had fond childhood memories of baking apple scents wafting from his oven (thanks to mom, of course), he had no wherewithall to do it himself!  And that wasn’t right, so we dove into making his own idea – a pear pie with cardamom.  It turned out like a dream, too… huge organic pears with loads of spice, cooked soft and redolent inside the most crackly and melting striated crust ever – possibly the best crust I’ve ever made.  Even the bottom was crispy!  And simultaneously suffused with the perfumed juices of autumn fruits cooked to within an inch of their structural integrity.  Mmmmmm gooo..  mmmmmm pie gooo.  (<— good with words, ya?)   (can’t eloquate: too full of pie. :P)

I’m also obsessed with caramel.  Put caramel on a brick and I’m likely to eat it before throwing it, which is no mean feat, cause like, bricks are hard to chew.  But caramel is awesome, and so I make it any chance I get.  This one had lime in it, because….. that’s a delicious thing, and exotic and I like that too.  Reminded me faintly of dusky tents, the lime combined with the cardamom-spice, and yes, I ended up putting some of the rest of this on pecan ice cream laterz, yum.

If you want to make some kinda version of this, it’s terribly easy.  Some of my measurements concerning the fruit are a little intuited, but this sort of thing is kinda of a stir-and-taste as you go procedure anyway (a blessed occurrence whenever it’s found in pastry-world).

Lime Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water
  • 2-3 tablespoons lime (or lemon) juice

Spread sugar evenly in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Add half the water and a few drops of the lime juice and heat over medium heat until deep amber coloured and just beginning to smoke.  Take off the heat, add the remaining water and lemon juice and whisk until smooth.

Keeps 1 month in the refrigerator.

Cardamom Pear Pie

  • A favourite butter crust recipe, or Chocolate Butter Crust  (enough for a bottom and a lid)
  • PEARS!  lots of them.  soft, juicy, ripe ones.  Anjou’s are best, but Bartlett’s, Concordes or Boscs work nicely too.  About 10 for a modest pie, 15 for a more generous mound (stack it as high as you like – when at home I rather like a big inviting fruity filling).  Peel those, core, and slice thinly.
  • 1/2 cup sugar / 100 g
  • 1 tsp fresh ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tbsp unsalted butter, for dotting on top.
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • coarse sugar (optional)
  1. Toss the fruit with the sugar, spices, vanilla, cornstarch and salt, then tumble into a waiting pie dish lined with your favourite crust recipe (it’s especially nice if you can keep the bottom crust in the freezer until you’re ready for it).
  2. Dot with specks of unsalted butter, then roll out the top crust and layer gently on top, trimming the edges and forming a nice crust.  Decorate with bits of leftover dough, if you have any!  Brush the top lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  3. Bake at 400°F until the fruit is very soft and the filling is bubbly (anywhere from 40-60 minutes).  If the crust is browning too quickly, make a shield out of tinfoil to protect the outer edge, and continue baking.

Eat, hot or cold, for the next few days, and with gusto.  !