Saturday, May 24, 2008

Who container gardens? We container garden.

After many years of exhausting all window box possibilities, we decided to branch out this spring and experiment with container gardening. Last year we had a modicum of success growing two types of small tomatoes (pear tomatoes and “pink lady” tomatoes) and small cucumbers and thought we’d continue in the same vein, only this time we’d use two very large Ikea plastic containers. After an aborted attempt at Reno Depot (the lines ran the length of the store and people were arm wrestling for the picked-over basil plants), we headed off to Home De(s)pot where we found most of what we were looking for (anybody know where we can find some arugula plants?).

Once home, we began by drilling several drainage holes in the bottom of the containers (luckily the boxes already had “feet” so there was room for the water to drain…). We then filled the boxes with a mixture of soil and planted three types of tomatoes, two types of peppers, zucchini, lettuce, broccoli (!), two types of cucumbers and a variety of herbs including, but not limited to, flat-leaf parsley, chives, sage, oregano, etc. My dining companion also promises to re-pot all of the dying basil plants lining up on our kitchen counters…

We also planted a variety of flowers and a decorative lavender plant just because it smells pretty. Despite some cold and windy weather and the claustrophobia our balcony now induces, the containers/gardens seem to be holding up well and I look forward to sampling the fruits of our labour (although not really any fruit…).

Saturday, May 10, 2008

La Montee du lait, 71 Villeneuve, est, Montreal, 2008

I had been interested in trying this small restaurant for a number of years now, and upon hearing that it had altered its menu (making it more of a fine-dining establishment and less of a wine and cheese bar), I was more eager than ever. Thus, on a recent Thursday night – looking for a nice restaurant to celebrate a friend’s academic accomplishment – we headed to the small restaurant on a quiet corner, just West of St. Denis.

To begin, the restaurant is quite small (as previously mentioned), which makes for loud dining. Sitting at a spacious table for four, our little trio had troubles hearing each other, and thus spent much of the dinner admiring the blonde wood accents of the restaurant. Many years ago, while conversing with my father on the subject of Montreal restaurants, he suggested that restos should come with a noise rating. At the time I scoffed at his paternal hearing impairment, but even at 32, I found the noise to be distracting.

But, on to the food. The set-up at LMDL is not unlike Atelier (another fine Plateau/Mile End restaurant), where diners make up their own tasting menus. At LMDL, one can choose the four or seven course tasting menu (there is also an ‘a la carte’ option), with each course being paired with a featured wine by the glass. I began the meal with an aubergine “pancake,” which consisted of a pancake... of eggplant and other odds and sods, topped with a piece of wonderfully light and creamy goat cheese and a mixture of greens. The pancake was sitting atop a layer of onion confit and surrounded by a grape/balsamic flavoured reduction. The dish was outstanding -- a perfect starter. At this point, I should mention that the portions are just right, neither too big, nor too small, however, I could have been happy with three courses rather than the suggested four. My next course consisted of a “deconstructed” romesco sauce served atop a seared skirt steak (served Tataki style). Each piece of rare beef was topped by one element of the romesco sauce – almond (a kind of almond butter), tomato (tomato foam), garlic (garlic chips), etc. The beef was perfectly done and despite the seemingly pretentiousness of the ‘deconstruction,’ it actually worked. The third course was described as ‘glazed suckling pig breast,’ but the waiter informed us that they had run out of breast and were now serving the loin. Although still delicious, we couldn’t help but think that the other cut would have been better suited to the dish; however I do appreciate the fact that the waiter alerted us to the replacement.

For our fourth courses, we were torn between a dessert (they looked wonderful) and a cheese course. Given that we had Cocoa Locale cupcakes waiting for us at home and that we were at a wine and cheese bar, it seemed only fair to forgo the desserts. And indeed it was the right choice. With three of us choosing the cheese plate, we had a sampling of six different cheeses, ranging from a Tomme to a creamy blue, which were accompanied by lightly-spiced almonds, prunes and of course, fresh baguette.

All in all, the meal was delicious. With regards to the food, there were no off-notes. The service was a trifle confusing, as we seemed to be served at the beginning by one of the ‘head’ waiters and then were attended to by a myriad of other servers. A quick note about the wine list: while the wine list is vast and features a number of very interesting wines, there are very few (especially red) under the $50 range. Instead, we opted for several glasses of the featured wine pairings which worked just as well.

Would I go back to La Montee du Lait? In a heartbeat. Would I wait until tax refunds come? Yes.

Thanks for visiting, Jen-Jen.


Four course tasting menu: $44