Happening Gourmand 2020: Taverne Gaspar (Montreal, Canada)

Happening Gourmand Vieux Montreal is currently happening held between January 16 to February 9, 2020. A handful of restaurants in Old Montreal is participating in this food event filled with special priced menus for lunch, brunch, dinner and happy hour.  We had time to as a Battle of Ingredients in January replacement to go out with the group to try out a meal at Taverne Gaspar for their dinner menu.

Drinks

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Blueberry Tea Cocktail

Taverne Gaspar

Honey Old Fashioned

Being a tavern, there is a no doubt that we were expecting some delicious cocktails. The first is one that I was recommended from the waiter as a hot cocktail called Blueberry Tea that has black tea, Grand Marnier and amaretto. Its really delicious and such a warm feeling to have a nice hot cocktail in the winter.. The second is my husband’s where Old-Fashioned is his go-to and for Happening Gourmand, the Honey Old-Fashioned which has bourbon, honey syrup and orange bitter. Its a nice taste and the husband liked it quite a bit. If we go back, he said that he’d try the other old-fashioned on the menu called MTL Old-Fashioned.

Appetizers

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I realized that I didn’t take any pictures of the appetizers except for my own replacement for dairy-free option which was a green salad with balsamic vinegar. The actual options on the menu is:

  • Seasonal Root Vegetable Soup
  • Arugula Mango and Avocado Salad

Mains

There was a good selection of mains and ended up with the Beef Mignonette which was the option that didn’t need to be modified except for taking out the mashed potatoes and replacing it with yet another green salad. I have to say, the beef itself was cooked very tasty. My only issue with this whole thing is that they didn’t think about how to replace mashed potatoes with fries or something instead of a second green salad. I was having a feeling that I had turned into a rabbit during this meal.

I believe that everyone did enjoy their meal pretty well. My husband took the cheeseburger (as expected) and he thought it was pretty good. The only meal that isn’t shown here is Mussel and Fries.

Desserts

Last for dessert, we had two main choices: Maple Creme Brulee & Sugar Pie with Chantilly Cream. I think that perhaps the dessert was the letdown for the main. My husband took the Maple Creme Brulee and it was a bit disappointing in his opinion. As for the sugar pie, I believe that as expected it was rather sweet, maybe overly sweet. I can’t quite remember that one. However, a really nice surprise for their lactose free option was to replace with a shot. The waiter chose to give me the chocolate chip (or I can’t remember if my friend went to follow-up and chose it for me..not too sure). Its really a great one that if you go to Taverne Gaspar should try because if you didn’t know what liquid chocolate chips taste like, this shot was like drinking a chocolate chip. It was absolutely delicious.

Overall, Taverne Gaspar was pretty alright. The ambiance was very good and it was overly loud as what you’d expect in bars. The food was delicious just probably not quite focused in the balance of structuring meals or not as well-thought through. However, if you don’t have the nuisance of lactose-intolerance then these issues shouldn’t occur. And of course, as a bar, their drinks are definitely a huge highlight and a place that we’d go back to try some other of their cocktails as they all sound very good. Despite some little disappointments, the overall experience was comfortable and nice.

Wine Recap: December 2019

Welcome to the last wine recap covering December 2019 (at least for the foreseeable future of 2020). Wine recaps are fun but we’re moving on to other things. There’s more than enough to flip through over the almost 2 years of doing this segment. I will try to share it over on Instagram to boost up some content on that platform. 😉 December was holiday season so we might have tried out a few wines and such.

Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Chardonnay 2018

Casillero del Diablo

Producer: Concha y Toro
Alcohol Content: 13.5%
Location: Chile
Taste Tag: Aromatic and Mellow

The beginning of December is a little blurry now. I remember this wine being a little on the dry side. Perhaps in the semi-dry territory but it did match the aromatic and mellow taste tag. There’s still subtle notes to it that does give it layers and actually gives the wine some depth (if you know what I mean). Its actually the first time that we’ve tried Chilean wine so its definitely a decent experience.

Brickworks Ciderhouse Burgundy Effect

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Producer: Trilium Beverage Inc.
Alcohol Content: 5%
Location: Ontario, Canada
Taste Tag: Medium-Sweet & Fruity

Big fan of blackcurrants here! Huge fan in fact! If anyone has had Ribena, that’s one of my absolute favorite juices out there. Kir is also one of those liqueurs that also appeal to me quite a bit. Saying all that, The Burgundy Effect is a blackcurrant apple cider which is pretty alright. Brickhouse does the Queen Street 501 the best in my opinion and then its the Batch: 1904 before it comes to this one. Its not quite as sweet as their apple cider selection but for those who are seeking a little kick and still getting the fruity with decent berry taste, this one definitely does the trick. Plus, the blackcurrant-apple cider is a pretty unique blend.

Grand Frisson de Glace Recolte 2017

grand frisson de glace recolte 2017

Producer: Chateau Taillefer-Lafon
Alcohol Content: 7%
Location: Quebec
Taste Tag: N/A

Costco purchase right here plus it was on sale. So I got this one for $10 or something. Crazy stuff because most Recolte varieties are actually quite pricey. Grand Frisson de Glace might be one that I’ve tried a few years back but don’t remember anymore (or it could be another one). This one is alright. It has a decent balance between acidity and sweetness. Its not my favorite but I don’t dislike it either. For the price and the accessibility, its definitely a decent choice.

Val Caudelies

Val Caudalies

This one is part of the Battle of Ingredients so I’ll send you over there to read about it right HERE.

That’s it for this Wine Recap!
I can’t emphasize how much I enjoy everyone that has dropped by to check out these posts! I’m not a professional wine reviewer and its more just a very basic feeling on wine appreciation using my own preferences. 

It was a pretty calm month in general and to kick off January wines as a start off point for everyone to find me on Instagram. Here’s the post on the Blue Nun 24K Gold Edition.

 

 

 

 

2020 Upcoming Plans!

2020 is already among us!

For new readers, welcome to Tranquil Dreams. I’m a blog that doesn’t quite follow the successful route of blogging (meaning to focus on one topic), instead I’m a fan of doing what I like and just using this as an outlet of doing the things I love. They primarily make up 4 categories: Movies, TV, Books and Food. There are weekly and monthly segments and a whole bunch of random spontaneous things going on. Now that the introduction is done for anyone new here!

Let’s check out plans for 2020! Note that a few little changes but not too many. I’ve indicated where the main changes are. 🙂

READING

2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge: 25 books

Last year, I set a bunch of books that I wanted to read and then didn’t get around to reading 90% of them, I’d say. Its probably because I forgot about it at one point being busy with everything else. This year, I already have about 5 books set for the first 3 months which is a great start as it all goes towards blog tours and such. I’m not going to say which one and will leave it as a surprise. The goal is to participate in blog tours and then work through a ton of TBR books on my bookshelves and Kindle. I won’t change the 25 books this year and if I exceed, then so be it. In general, its been a struggle to find reading time especially in the second half of the year.

MOVIES

Movies are staying relatively the same. I’m hoping that I will still be able to get the media accreditation for film festivals like in 2019 as that is always a lot of fun and brings in some really nice film discoveries. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it always brings in a nice refreshing change to the normal fare on Netflix.  Fingers crossed on that, right? 😉

As for movies, we will be keeping the double feature usually around 1-2 per week, depending on time. Full single reviews are for theatre viewings and festival screenings. The normal themed months still apply:

  • February: Valentine’s Romance
  • October: Halloween Horror
  • December: Holiday Films

This year, I’m thinking of doing some themed months randomly so that I can catch up on various genre of films. Its still in the air whether I’ll do it as A-Z or simply as random screenings.

As for any other things, I’ve neglected my Sunday Lists in general and will hopefully be aiming to get one a month. I’ll set a Sunday per month for that.

TV

TV has really turned into a Chinese drama series deal since middle of 2018 and that will continue this year. I’m hoping to get a few of the TV binges that I didn’t do last year done this year as I didn’t do any for my Top 5 shows last year and that seems sad as they were all very accessible on Youtube and/or Netflix.

Aside from that, Netflix series are the other focus and perhaps Shudder depending how long I keep the subscription. A short little no change section at all: TV binge for Chinese dramas will keep the normal format I have and may actually use a part of that format for any other series I watch as well.

OTHER RANDOMNESS

After getting through the top 3 categories of focus here, its time to take a look at the random other segments at weekly or monthly frequency.

  • [change] Wine Recap will wrap up with its final one with December 2019 and it will be over. I’m no wine connoisseur and the whole 2 year experiment of doing it has really helped me appreciate wine better but its becoming more of a chore to write it up. I’ll share some of it on Instagram instead so feel free to follow me over HERE.
  • My Adventures: I’ve already changed it to a monthly segment in the middle of 2019 and it will remain that way. I’m finally happy with the structure so we’re keeping this as the fun and more personal post.
  • What’s Up 2020: will remain a weekly segment set on every Wednesday to recap the previous week.
  • [change] Baking Through Disney: has been a neglected segment over here that I’ve tucked away but never forgot about. As I aim to get back into baking, its the project that will hopefully be revived on a monthly basis. One baking day a month seems fairly reasonable.
  • [change] Goodfood recaps: have been no more since the middle of 2019. It was due to a few bad experiences that Goodfood has finally fixed on their end. I didn’t talk about it at the time and won’t go deeper into it. As I’m not paid to do this and I have to pay for the experience, its becoming a convenience choice for our life so its become less frequent as well. I’ll share some of the meals on Instagram whenever we do order.
  • Battle of Ingredients: has changed its structure since its beginning. We’ve been talking about how to get things back on track to fit its name but we are also enjoying taking the time to highlight some recipe trials as well as using local Quebec products in our cooking. This one is really supposed to be monthly but we have random hiatus due to our busy schedules.
  • Ultimate Decades Blogathon is coming back in 2020. We are currently in production phase of getting things together. If you are interested, remember to check back here. We should be announcing it soon.
  • Music Obsessions: almost got cut but this segment was saved by a recent comment. I enjoy the segment but its the one that does the least well out of everything here BUT at least its a fairly fun and easy post to put together. So its staying without any change, on a monthly basis on the first weekend of the month.

I know we cover a ton of stuff here including Restaurant recaps and other event coverage including shopping hauls and such. It shouldn’t change much on that front. I’m hoping to get some more DIY going on and other things, if possible. However, time is scarce so I’ll do what I can.

I think that generally covers everything for 2020 plans!
Its not a ton of changes but I will work on being more organized this year!
Happy 2020 and all the best to all of you lovely people!

Baking: Cherry-Chocolate Pie

I’m finally back to baking!! Who’s missed it over here since a few years back when it was a normal segment that occurred? I know that I have but the last few years, my mindset hasn’t quite been there yet. However, we’ll skip the frilly things and get right down to it.

I’ve been craving a cherry pie forever and can’t seem to find one so my solution, pick up some tart shells and cherry pie filling (because cherries aren’t in season now) and then add a little something to give it a fun little twist.

Its nothing sophisticated or difficult to this one but I needed to get back to baking and this was something that I’ve wanted to do quickly so here we are as a quick solution. We’ll get fancier baked goods to come!

Cherry-Chocolate Pie

Cherry Chocolate Pie

Inspired by this recipe: https://food52.com/recipes/33749-heartbreak-pie-aka-black-bottom-cherry-pie

Ingredients

  • Pre-made Tart Shells (I used Tenderbake Pie Shells not deep dish)
  • 1 can Cherry Pie Filling (I used E.D. Smith)
  • Dark Chocolate Chips (Selection brand)

What I did:

  1. Thaw the tart shells for however long the package says, in my case, it was 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven at 425C.
  3. Layer one of the pie shells with the dark chocolate chips.
  4. Carefully pour or scoop the cherry pie filling as a layer on top of the dark chocolate chips.
  5. Put the second tart shell over the top of the first to cover it up. Use a fork to carefully seal up the sides. Cut some slits on top to release steam while in the oven.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes.

The final product looked like that above and a slice looked like this:

Cherry-Chocolate Pie

I did a few modifications to the recipe above as well as some things I’d have done differently.

  • The major one is that I didn’t make a ganache and just pour in the chocolate chips to melt on their own which I thought gave it a little more texture because a part of it melted and the other part had some bites of chocolate chips.
  • You can make your own cherry pie filling or your own tart shells. I would have made the cherry pie filling if cherries were in season but they aren’t unfortunately.
  • For this particular recipe, if I were to do it again, I’d do probably 400C at 45 minutes instead, mostly because this time, it was a little over-browned on the side. Not yet burnt but on its way, so lower temp would probably be better.
  • You can use any type of chocolate chip that you desire. For lactose-free concerns, this was my choice.

Final thoughts:

Now my usual baking endeavours, for sure. I haven’t baked in a long time so we’re starting off with some easy and simple recipe to just get back into the mood. This pie is actually quite good for quick solutions as the chocolate balances the very tart cherry pie filling without haven’t to add in more sugar than what is already there from this brand at least.  It turned out actually rather good and layered as I had hope with the chocolate forming a layer at the bottom and a tart cherry pie filling on the top.

What types of pies do you like to make (or to eat)?

Wine Recap: November 2019

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Its the November Wine Recap! November saw us having a week off from work on a little staycation and we managed to pick up some nice wines and then chilled out a lot just watching movies and relaxing a little so this time has a few more wines that we were able to try! Let’s check it out!

Domaine Le Grand Saint-Charles Duo de Frontenac 2017

Le Grand Saint-Charles Duo de Frontenac

Producer: Domaine Le Grand Saint-Charles
Alcohol Content: 12.5%
Location: Quebec, Canada
Taste Tag: N/A

Le Grand Saint-Charles is a winery that I want to get behind so much because of its creative wine combinations. This one mixes two Frontenacs together: Frontenac Gris and Frontenac. We’re not exactly a huge fan of either of these wines but we do always like to try new mixes to hopefully have one that surprises us. This one actually was pretty alright compared to the other white wine varieties that we’ve tried from Le Grand Saint-Charles. Its not quite as acidic or extra-dry. This one was rather delicate and light. It still was leaning onto the semi-dry taste palette but there was also a well-enough balance to make it enjoyable.

Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling 2016

Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling

Producer: Inniskillin Wines Inc.
Alcohol Content: 12%
Location: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
Taste Tag: Fruity and Sweet

Inniksillin is a winery that is pretty well-known. They have some fantastic ice ciders and my husband has been wanting to try out the wines, so here we are giving the Late Autumn Riesling a try. As expected, the safe area of Riesling didn’t disappoint at all. It was a pleasant one and rather rich in flavor because of the Late Autumn element that actually gives it a more reserve sort of status. This one is definitely in the fruity and sweet taste tag and one that is very easy to like a lot.

Le Grand Ballon Val de Loire Chardonnay

Le Grand Ballon Chardonnay

Producer: Sarl Joel Delaunay
Alcohol Content: 12%
Location: Centre-Ouest, France
Taste Tag: Delicate and Light

From my memory, this is the second time that we’ve tried a wine from Val de Loire. French wines have so many territories and each have their distinctive elements and taste that its truly hard to remember all of it. I did remember the last one that we tried from Val de Loire was more on the dry side and that applies to Le Grand Ballon’s Chardonnay as well. Its more of  semi-dry taste with has a bit of light-bodied elements and fruity elements as well. The dryness does hit harder on the first sip but it does have a refreshing taste down the throat.

Slow Press Chardonnay Monterey County

Slow Press Chardonnay

Producer: The Wine Group
Alcohol Content: 13.5%
Location: Monterey, California, United States
Taste Tag: Aromatic and Mellow

I’m not going to lie that my initial draw to Slow Press was its classy bottle label and the color choice. It had this oaked and aged wine sort of look to it plus it had the aromatic and mellow taste tag which always has this surprisingly sophisticated taste to it. Slow Press is actually quite good. It is a little dry but it has a nice finish, just like most of the wines in this taste tag category. Its why we always go back to it as its not exactly a fruity and fun deal but one that is a little more elevated and has more depth in its taste.

Growers Honeycrisp Apple

Growers Cider Co.

Producer: Arterra Wines Canada Inc.
Alcohol Content: 5%
Location: Ontario, Canada
Taste Tag: Sweet & Fruity

Ontario ciders are rather different from Quebec ciders. I’ve tried a good few Ontario ciders to this point and I’ve become quite picky on what stands out for me. A lot of them actually are very similar probably because of the apples they choose. What makes Growers Cider different is that it uses Honeycrisp Apples and it adds this tartness to their cider that actually balances really well with the apple sweetness. Its a rather unique cider taste and has quite a delightful experience.

That’s it for this November Wine Recap!
Some really neat discoveries this time around!

Restaurant: Fatboys Southern Smokehouse (Ottawa, Canada)

In the string of restaurant visits that we’ve been on, vacation week off means a little day trip out to Ottawa. After a little research and whatnot, we decided to head out to check out Fatboys Southern Smokehouse in Ottawa, somewhere that we’ve never been before but the whole description from the food it offers to the biker ambiance really had us intrigued. You can check out the menu and everything else HERE.

Going for lunch on a weekday has a lot of great things. For one, its usually less crowded as everyone else has work. Second, less people means faster service and better service. I’m not sure it would make a difference as our waitress was incredibly friendly and helpful with everything from menus to making sure about my allergies and intolerances and what I could have and not have. She also came to check on us frequently and in reasonable time, ie. not when I’m stuffing my face with food (which you’d believe a lot of other restaurants don’t quite time well). Not to mention that, the menu is really good which makes us want to go back to check out more of the food that they offer, especially the ribs since being lunchtime, we didn’t have quite as much appetite for it and all the fun things like milkshakes and their detailed bourbon list as well as the great and unique list of sides.

It sounds crazy that I didn’t take anything else in the restaurant other than the bathroom entrance and the bathroom decor but I think its a good idea of how its biker ambiance in general. Its very nice and a lot of great things to look at from its bar counter to along the walls and the industrial interior above on the pipes above and such with stickers and other posters. Everything is really charming!

Appetizer

Fatboys Southern Smokehouse

Kentucky Popcorn Chicken

As appetizer to share, after much debate between Fried Rib Tips and Kentucky Popcorn Chicken, the latter won the debate. Luckily it did because this was delectable and also our first initial choice. The chicken had a beautiful well-spiced batter that had a lovely kick to it. It was also thin so didn’t have the really thick floury texture but just blended right in each bite with the perfectly cooked chicken. Its so delicious!

Main Meal

Fatboys Southern Smokehouse

Smokehouse Burger with added bacon with a side of Smoked Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese

Fatboys Southern Smokehouse

Carolina Pulled Pork (no slaw) with a side of Dusty Shoestring Fries

We only both had the burgers/sandwiches. My husband had the Smokehouse Burger which he liked quite a bit especially with the added cheese. The Smoked Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese also impressed him a lot also as he really enjoyed the flavor of it all.  I had the Caroline Pulled Pork but had to have the slaw removed due to lactose intolerance. At the same time, this lead to the choice of dusted shoestring fries which turned out to be a great choice because it had some lovely “dusting” with what would seem like barbecue spices and sugar or something sweet. Two very awesome dishes which are full of southern flavors.

Overall, Fatboys Southern Smokehouse is a great restaurant. We tried a very minimal part of the menu but there is so much to offer here as just the little that we had was all very delicious whether it is the meat or the spices or the overall service or the restaurant style which all fits together in a lovely package. Its one to definitely visit and one that we’d definitely return to.

MTL a Table: Taboo Cuisine Rebelle

On to the final MTL a Table! Our last location was in Downtown Montreal at Taboo Cuisine Rebelle.

Taboo Cuisine Rebelle is a lounge style restaurant with a rather relaxing generally bite-size food offerings and intricate drinks. With that said, the service was slow. It felt like there wasn’t enough servers to occupy the tables especially in high traffic periods like the time we had dinner at around 6pm. At the same time, they also overbooked as it was mentioned when we arrived that we had another table reserved 2.5 hours after and we only ended up leaving very close to that time with the next party already waiting around the bar. However, a redeeming point between all the stress of leaving and the slow service and the rather lacking service as well as the fact that in the lounge setting the music was rather contained but was a comfortable background addition and the ambiance and lighting was rather decent.

Now to move on and look at the food…

Aeroplan Privilege Drink: Lacroix Cider

Lacroix Cider

The Aeroplan privilege drink that was offered here was the Lacroix cider. We’ve never had this one before and it actually is on point with most of the Quebec ciders that we’ve had. Its not particularly overly sweet but it still is fairly good.

First service: Starters

Taboo Cuisine Rebelle

Sweet potato and pear soup, blue cheese on a crouton from Boulangerie L’Epicurien, walnuts

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Salmon gravlax marinated in lemongrass and ginger oil, Asian sauce, wasabi, pomegrenate, fried capers, shoots

There was a choice of two appetizers. The husband had the soup where he found it good except that its for blue cheese lovers. For him, the blue cheese was a hurdle to appreciate the dish more than he would have wanted. As for the salmon gravlax which was my choice, it was very delicious. For someone not too huge on raw fish, this one packed a lot of flavors and depth in general from the crunch pomegranate to the delicious sauce, there was a lovely balance to it all.

Second service: Main course

Taboo Cuisine Rebelle

3 mini burgers: Antipasto (salmon, mango, bruschetta, arugula, garlic); Ying Yang (shrimp, bruschetta, arugula, crispy noodles, citrus mayo); Benji (crispy chicken, goat cheese, bell pepper, arugula, garlic)

Taboo Cuisine Rebelle

Bison Tartare panache, Taboo Mix, olive oil, dijon, apples, hazelnuts, lime juice, croutons, house salad

Taboo Cuisine Rebelle

4 oz. filet mignon, crispy onion, demi-glace with maple syrup and foie gras, portobellos, grilled pistachios

For the main course, the husband go the 3 mini burgers. The three burgers were each about 2 or 3 bites. His favorite was the Ying Yang which was a surprise as shrimp usually isn’t his favorite type of seafood. The next one is Antipasto which was pretty good as well however, he did not enjoy Benji because of the goat cheese which is a rather acquired taste ingredient.

As for myself, I chose the filet mignon was a decent choice and one that usually isn’t on the menu as the filet mignon is usually 2 oz and in other mini burger varieties. The only issue here is that the filet mignon is so small compared to the three crispy onions that took up 80% of the plate itself. The sauce was pretty good as well.

Third Service: Desserts

Taboo Cuisine Rebelle

Fried crepe stuffed with cheesecake and chocolate marbled with fondant caramel, whipped cream, caramel served with apple chutney

Taboo Cuisine Rebelle

Vegan Brownie

Finally, for the desserts, the husband had the very unique fried crepe with cheesecake which was the best part of the entire meal for him. As for myself, I had the incredibly moist and decadent vegan brownie which was heavenly and rich in chocolate goodness. It was also a big highlight for my meal here.

Overall, Taboo is a restaurant with a decent ambiance and a nice selection of finger food/bite-size mini burgers and such. Its normal prices are overpriced for sure for what it offers (ex. there is a $16 mini burger, which is unfathomable for myself). While the service left a lot to desire whether it was in its efficiency for its urgency to have us out before the next party arrived and the server’s unattentiveness and rather leaning on rude service, the food here was pretty delicious. Its not someplace that I’d go back to per se as the overall experience wasn’t quite on par to some of the other restaurants we’ve discovered through MTL a Table this year and in previous years.