tchotchke – (Yiddish) an inexpensive showy trinketOrigin:
1965–70, Americanism ; < Yiddish tshatshke < Polish czaczko bibelot, knickknack
(now obsolete; compare modern cacko withsame sense, orig. dial.); of expressive orig.
Resolutions mean nothing to me. But quiet is a resolute panacea. I’ve given up a few things this month to make room for meditation, drawing, reading and the occasional blustery foray into the few hours of sunshine that we get in January times.
No sex. No music, television, alcohol, meat, sugar, diet soda, dancing, makeup/jewellery, staying up late, harsh words, daydreaming, the like. No chaos.
Where I could explain to you in detail the how-it-works of the siphon drip system that Café Falco offers and the origins of it’s countless artisanal accoutrements, I will instead impress upon you that what’s truly important is the expression of inventive serenity that it all adds up to. It’s hidden in an industrial part of Mile End, the ground floor of an imposing, grey-striked building with an uneventful front and a dubious entrance door. The inside reveals, though. Probably one of the nicest places to experience the dead of winter – the warmth and precision of the homespun / futurespun cube-space sets off the snow and slate-sided buildings from across the street well – and really, how better to appreciate the human creation of windows and walls than with hot hands cupped around one of the best kitten-smooth coffees in the neighbourhood? Stronger than the usual but still long (ie: not espresso), like coffee should be (to this non-European, anyway).
Falco also offers repast for those wanting a bit of gentleness and brown rice to hopefully negate greasy memories. A chalk menu lists the Japanese/French fare – rice bowls with tofu or meat, sticky onigiri, miso soup, salads, sandwiches on fresh bread from nearby Boulangerie Guillaume and sweet things (muffins etc) from the same place.
The miso soup was perfect. A cup of energetic stillness, made with a proper dashi and sipped from from a dark umbre bowl. The rice and tofu dish is the kind of thing that I used to eat while vegan, each element (carrots, tofu and lentils) carefully dressed and seasoned individually. While it’s hard to handle with chopsticks for the exact reasons mentioned here – maybe that’s just a clue to either work more patiently on one’s eating technique, or perhaps use the broth from the soup to clean the last few grains from the bowl as monks do.
The most surprisingly delicious thing was the onigiri – made with sticky soft rice and filled with chunks of sweet salmon – it was a delicate but un-shy example of the form. It’s not something very difficult to make, but making them this well is rare, and I really should go back to try the others. I think there were 3 or 4 varieties that day.
There’s a hammock in the corner and shelves of thin brown pottery, sculptures, a falcon, globe lanterns and a happy-looking staff. Few private tables, but then, we’re all eating next to each other anyway when we go out to that third place, might as well be neighbourly about it. And peaceful.
(lunch for one, with siphon coffee, rice bowl, soup and onigiri = 16$. Pricey, but organic and very good)
Blurry pictures swathed in darkness notwithstanding, Cloudy and I were all akimbo with the mystery menu offered last November at the monthly Cookies Unite event. On the first monday of every month, the refurbished and newly hipsta-fied Nouveau Palais hosts one or two talented line cooks from the best restaurants in the city and offers them a professional kitchen, creative carte blanche, and a house that’s full of the rafters for one night and one night only. “Serious” foodies (hehe) sit elbow to elbow your neighbour, her grand-mom, the kid, and a healthy dose of thickly spectactled mile-end twenty-sumthinsumthin, that night waiting for the imagination of Brian Verstraten of Bar & Boeuf and Cynthia Sitaras of Le Club Chasse et Pêche… and did we mention that the two of them are dating? Hence the name of this event – “One Love.” [insert “awwwwwwwww”]
A rare martini for yours truly was ordered before the eating started, perhaps in celebration of the event’s recent dropping of it’s BYOB status. Not a bad one either, and the pin-drop clarity of it set a good stage for the first bit of solid food – a trio of amuse bouches in flavours I may not be able to recount to you exactly owing to the vegetarian nature of the set menu that we received at the table (they gave us the veggie version on paper, and the carnal version in life).
So I had to go by what our server was telling us, and it was loud, and I wasn’t taking good notes, but here’s what I remember: No. 1 was an arancini (battered fried risotto ball) made with mushrooms of some kind and cheese of some kind. Oh, aren’t I just the most specific? (NOTE TO SELF: NEVER WAIT 2 MONTHS TO WRITE THESE THINGS… d’oh). It was one of the better that I’ve had, actually – still hot from the kitchen, thin crisp shell and warm earthy flavour, herbs evident. No. 2 was a pâté that suffered from a bit of dryness and that cat-food thing that pâté can sometimes do, but I’m not the world’s biggest fan of spreadable meat so… you know, to each their own. No. 3 involved salmon and caviar of some kind and tasted … rather like salmon. It was also good, and what I DO remember is the texture playing all dramatic with alternating creamy, flaky, buttery-crisp and the welcome oceanic pop of fish roe. ANYway….
The most luscious savoury was yet to come. Who cares that we had pizza in our belly already at this point? (pre-dinner snacking is what cool kids do, right?) When someone sets an aroma-bomb of smoky-sweet pork belly in front of you, all covered with buttery brussels sprouts, sitting in liquid polenta and a madness good jus, well…. I make room in my stomach for these things. This was late fall in a nutshell – nomzers, and walking in leaves, and swiping flaky bites from your neighbour’s plate, all at once – and my hat’s off to Brian for the gift of it. (One of those rare times I was specifically grateful not to be vegan anymore. ^_^;;;;;;;;; ).
Dinner is good, but I’m a sugar girl, and the desserts landed with a vengeance. I was floored, really, at Cynthia’s tangy adventurous playground that centered on a lightly salted and eminently spoonable milk chocolate tart slice. Surrounding it were elements that lifted milk chocolate’s usual cloy to more bright places – very peachy gelato, fruit gelee (apricot, I think), salty crispy peanut crumb, and slices of ripe pear. A dollop of soft lemon vanilla marshmallow fluff reminded one just enough of grade-school Fluffernutter sandwiches and made the overall reference to PB & J sandwiches just a bit less subtle. In a good way.
We were fortunate that night to get the full (mini) monty and a spread of mignardises came shortly after to appease the rampaging sweet tooth that the previous dish had ignited. Full as I was, I could have had more, and at least this trio I remember vividly:
1. a lemon vanilla marshmallow, solid this time. Almost heady with both scents and melted away into a lightly acidic-sweet soft cream, just a bit of bubble.
2. Apricot and almond financier: still warm, rich and crisp at the edges and chewy all the way through. Fruity and not too sweet, and felt almost like eating a big soft almond.
3. Chocolate covered caramel, topped with a shattered brittle-type candy, and bitterly awesome through and through.
Pastry like that fires my engine to be better, knowing that I’m not able to make things that perfectly, yet. I’ve already scheduled a stage at Le Club Chasse et Pêche, with all likelihood resulting in at least some improved skills and dexterity at fun menial tasks like piping cookies and straining cream. Hey, I go for what I like, and here’s to a new year of obsessive desserting. Also – sorry about the long absence over Christmas, everyone! I will be posting lots more now (lots of pictures backed up!) … and I really hope this new year is full of relentless optimism, high quality chocolate, playful kisses, and many more steps closer to whatever it is that you want most. ^_^
And I guess that’s what Cookie’s Unite is really all about, you know? Dreams, I mean. It gives those who aren’t at the echelon of their career yet a chance to shine and be an artist for just one night, and I’m a huge fan of the concept. It’s also affordable – 30$ a head – and the next one is scheduled for February 6th, featuring Vanessa Laberge from Olive & Gourmando and appears to be another tasteparty! Soup au boudin noir? Yes, please!
So’s, I love me some goat, y’know? It’s kinda like lamb but with more guts, heft, and twang (woo!). Annnnnd, it’s not the sort of the thing you’re going to find at the local sandwich shop or one of the myriad sushi express places that pepper most neighbourhoods. Thankfully, for the goat lovers there are options in the Mile End. Well, I know of one place now. Jardin du Cari.
The air when you enter is thick with spices. The walls are deep brick red and even in the depths of winter it almost feels like a short whirring fan in the corner to combat the “heat” would make the atmosphere complete. Jardin does Caribbean food in a simple and straightforward way and if you were curious about the exotic details of the cuisine this might not be the place to learn much, but it’s pretty tasty stuff for a fast lunch and it’s real food.
Cloudy got one of the famous rotis – curried chicken wrapped in a soft flatbread (7.30$), and I had to (obviously) get the goat curry (8.75$) with the optional addition of baked pumpkin on the side (+.75$). The pumpkin was bright and crammed with ginger and the curry was warmly spiced, smooth and studded with potatoes and fat chunks of long-stewed goat. The rice was just rice but it soaked up the ample sauce nicely and once slathered with the housemade hot sauce (DELICIOUS housemade hotsauce with real heat and real flavour), it was a treat of a plate. Also featured: fried plantains (a touch too sweet, but oh well), and a decent salad with actual vegetables and a zesty simple dressing.
I didn’t try so much of the roti, but the place slowly filled over the course of our lunch with relaxed locals… eating roti. So, it’s probably really awesome. Anything involving fresh bread, flat or otherwise, is generally a win. And, there is that amazing hot sauce. So… recommended. (The owners are also super nice.)
For the record here is a quick guide to Jardin du Cari’s menu:
Choose a protein – shrimp, goat, chicken or chickpea.
Choose a foods type – roti, curry, guyanese chow mein, or fried rice
= your thing. tada!
One more thing – YOU MUST ORDER THE PEANUT PUNCH!! Holy, it’s delicious and only 2.50$. It’s like if peanut butter collided with a milkshake and made an ice cold frothy nut baby. Mmmmmmmmmm.
I’ve passed by this crepe place, nestled right next to my favourite bookstore for far too long without ducking in to see if the taste was as good as the always-inviting smells of seared vanilla that emanated onto the street.
The menu is classic and clean, offering a decent array of both sweet and savoury crepe-things – all quite simple and quite affordable, ranging from about 5-10$. They DO also have a kind of table d’hote that involves 1 crepe + 1 tea/coffee + one verrine dessert, which def. sounds nice, but on that morning it was a low-appetite kinda vibe, so we just went with one crepe each, and a lot of coffee.
I ordered the crêpe pêcheur (with tuna, olives, anchovies, tomatoe sauce & cheese), and Cloudy a Crêpe with apples and walnuts – both on buckwheat, of course! How Breton, sha sha.
They came quickly and adorably folded, mine with a little attempt at a salad, and his with a bit of fruit, which was nice. The crepes themselves were tangy, and very crispy on the edges, and I found the filling in mine to be a bit overly salty (anchovies! but you know), and the amalgam not quite anything beyond the basic ingredients involved, but tasty enough for a light breakfast. Cloudy muchly enjoyed his, and especially after requesting some maple syrup to slather on top, to add a much-needed touch of sauciness and sweet. (It’s worth noting that the apples were cooked perfectly and the walnuts were toasted). They obliged very nicely and didn’t charge for it, and I’ve also heard you can replace the nutella listed on the menu with real dark chocolate, if you so desire.
One thing to note about this place. It is KITSCH TO THE EXTREME ZOMG. Ha, and in the best, most quaint bed & breakfast kinda way. Every inch is decorated to the nines in adorable knick knacks, and it does feel like a breezy oasis in the middle of St-Viateur. It also seemed pretty popular with families and friends alike, lots of turnover and well-behaved kids maybe out with uncles and cousins and such on a quiet sunday. Nice atmosphere.
Not the best crêpes in the world, obviously, but I liked it, and certainly cheap enough.