Battle of Ingredients: New Year’s Eve Hot Pot

BATTLE OF INGREDIENTS

It seems we do about 6 Battles a year looking at things to land on our 12th session for NYE Hot Pot in our second year of Battle of Ingredients. We are definitely getting more organized, I can tell you that much. Most of the time, things don’t happen because we are busy with one thing or another with life. 2018 wrapped up in style with ourselves doing a New Year’s Eve Hot Pot session. There isn’t really much to talk about usually but here’s a little sharing on the stuff I put together and other vegetables and noodles we used.

Wines

Wines

We actually only got to drinking the J.P. Chenet Rose Sparkling Wine. It was a nice match for the meal. We mixed up some drinks for the rest of the evening with some people spiking their soda with tequila or Rum and Coke and myself, I had some Cranberry Ginger Ale spiked with Irish Whiskey or Apricot Brandy.

Hot Pot

Hot Pot

Our division of tasks for this battle of ingredients were Phoebe with the vegetables, fruits and other things necessary like noodles and she prepared a soup base (which we didn’t end up using because of technical difficulties she is still thinking about).

Hot Pot

She brought:

  • Bok Choy
  • Chinese Broccoli
  • Enoki Mushrooms
  • Udon Noodles
  • Konnyaku Noodles
  • Egg Tofu
  • Apples and Oranges

I took care of meats and dessert. I forgot to take a picture of everything so forgive the incomplete bits.

Dumplings Pork Balls

  • Pork Balls (Homemade with minced lean ground pork and garlic seasoned with salt and pepper)
  • Dumplings (Homemade with the same as the previous and store-bought wonton wrappers)
  • Sliced Chicken breast seasoned with sesame oil, salt and pepper
  • Store bought Frozen fondue beef slices
  • Fish Tofu (from my mom)

Pumpkin Cookies

As for dessert, I had some dough left from the previous potluck so made some more Pumpkin Cookies.

Also bought:

  • Marshmallows
  • Lindt Dark Chocolate
    • 70% Madagascar
    • Swiss Dark

For soup bases, we had a divided pot borrowed from my mom. One side was with water and all the flavoring was from the ingredients added in while the other part was diluted Chicken Broth.

The hot pot went really well. Phoebe and I did most of the cooking and allocated food to everyone around the table. There’s always the worry of not having enough food and it all worked out. We even had leftovers. Definitely something to consider for the winter months to do as it makes it a lot simpler and actually quite nice to explore what ingredients to use and soup bases to make and such. It is an idea that we can discuss further to change things up just like how we slot in BBQ during the summer.

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MTL a Table 2018: Nom Nom Cantine

As usual, our November Battle of Ingredients is put aside as we head out for MTL a Table. This year’s MTL a Table included a good many more selections as more restaurants joined into the fun. A lot of new restaurants also participated which makes it all the more exciting. This time, we return to a familiar location where we went to previously when it was owned by another restaurant called E.A.T (Etre Avec Toi), the restaurant is closed so meaningless to check the post now (although you can if you want HERE).

The current restaurant in this location is Nom Nom Cantine which serves Asian fusion food. Just one look at the menu and it shows off those qualities right away.

Nom Nom Cantine

Decor

Nom Nom

Nice and soothing to say the least. We had a pretty early reservation so we were the first group to arrive which gives me the chance to take these pictures with no one else in there. However, rest assured that the restaurant did fill up as the evening went along. However, one nice thing is that it stayed fairly casual and relaxing.

Cocktails

Nom Nom

This time, our group went for the interesting selection of cocktails that it offered. Trust me when I say its unique when one of the cocktails (I think the Bloody Caesar had fish sauce as one of the ingredients). However, these are two popular choices among us. On the left is The Noble One (the guys took this one) and on the left is the one I chose called Deadly Sin which had a bunch of stuff I liked including the so underused Apricot Brandy. Both tasted fantastic (well, to us). Deadly Sin has a lot of citrus flavors including yuzu so it was more sour and floral. The Noble One is a stronger one but still very smooth.

Bread & Amuse-Bouche

Nom Nom

Ten out of ten for presentation alone here. I didn’t taste the bread but our little bread expert (aka Phoebe’s toddler) approved it and ate a bunch. Props to the restaurant for making this happen although normally the MTL a Table menu doesn’t come with it.

Nom Nom

They also offered up an amuse-bouche. This is a slightly modified one for my husband and I, the lactose-intolerant option. The original was peppercorn salmon with sour cream and coriander (I think) and ours is replaced with a mango and something sauce. I should seriously write these things down. Regardless, it still tasted really good.

First Course

There are two options for first course.

Nom Nom

Dumpllings Basket (4)

Dumplings basket was one of these choices and the one that I chose (along with a few others from our group). Four different dumplings here: chicken, pork and shrimp, beef, vegetables. I could swear that mine came with two beef ones but I didn’t quite mind because it tasted like the beef that we have at dim sum and its a flavor that I’ve missed eating. Regardless, my husband did have all four and he liked it. I thought the dumplings are also really good. Actually, I’d love to go back just to have dumplings.

White Tuna Tartare

Second option was the white fish tartare, matcha, citrus, coriander, coconut cream. These were really clever as instead of having bread or something as the accompaniment, they went with shrimp chips to eat with the tartare. Its a very  nice twist that matched with the restaurant concept.

Second Course

Another two choices for second choice below.

Nom Nom

Pork Roulade, Quebec Butternut Squash Puree, Roasted Mushrooms, Chestnut

While the portions were fairly little, there was quite a lot to like about this dish. For one, the Pork Roulade is pretty good. The barbecue sauce is made in the restaurant so it has a nice spicy kick to it. I really liked particularly the butternut squash puree along with the roasted mushrooms and the chestnut. Although they weren’t plentiful, they felt like it was done perfectly. I’m not a big fan of arugula but it wasn’t a huge amount so it was okay. That is really just a personal preference. The dish here is done very good and has a nice balance of textures and flavors.

Nom Nom

Fish Tempura, Papaya Salad, Coconut and Chili Sauce

My husband took this meal. I tried a little piece and the fish tempura was done really tender. I didn’t try the sauce since I’m not really into spicy sauces much however the little taste I had was pretty decent.

Dessert

For dessert, there are two choices as well however due to the lactose intolerance issue for us, we got our own little thing.

Nom Nom

Rocher Brulé, 70% Chocolate Mousse, Milk Chocolate and Puffed Rice Crisp, Coffee-Caramel Fondant, Vanilla Creme Brulée, Quebec Honey And Coffee Ice Cream

Judging from my friends, this one was a sweetness explosion. For those with a sweet tooth though, they enjoyed it quite a bit. The chocolate mousse looked delicious to be honest however, I have no first hand experience to talk about.

Nom Nom

Cocolada (Pineapple Carpaccio, Rum-Coconut Sorbet, Tapioca, Poppy Seed Meringue, Lime Gel)

If this one didn’t have the tapioca, we could had it but unfortunately it also had that one.

Nom Nom

Fruit Bowl with Poppy Seed Meringue

As for our fruit bowls…lets say that my one comment is that if restaurants could do substitutes for lactose intolerant people and not give fruit bowls, that would be really thoughtful. The bowl itself and the fruits were pretty good, except the extremely sour blackberries. They did add in the poppy seed meringue which tasted really good.

Overall, Nom Nom Cantine was a pretty nice experience. The food tasted really good. There were some delicious and creative cocktails. The service especially is what I’d like to compliment on. Our waitress was fantastic in both being attentive to all our allergies and dislikes as well as accommodating the best that she could. The food presentation was nice as well and all the little details were matching to the concept. At the same time, the decor was also really nice and lots of ambiance.

That’s it for the recap of Nom Nom!

Recap: Goodfood #28

goodfood recap

We’re back with last week’s Goodfood meal box. This one has one repeat in it. However, a lot of them looked so promising that we decided to give it a go. Just a note that if you follow this series specifically, we’ve dropped from biweekly to monthly subscriptions of the box. The main reason is that this box was always structured to be a balance for when we were busy with stuff and event coverage season is pretty much done for this year except for one more in November so we are getting back to finding cool recipes to work on. I’ll share some of those here whenever we try something new on our own.

Let’s check out how this Goodfood went!

Fresh Tagliatelle with Chicken & Sundried Tomatoes
Portobello Mushrooms & Baby Spinach

fresh tagliatelle chicken

My husband loves to eat pasta. Honestly, I can get pretty picky about it. We have our definite fave recipes. Surprisingly, tagliatelle is never our first choice. My husband isn’t a big fan of the texture. He’s never been one to enjoy the thick noodle variety. As for myself, I actually quite like it but then stick to the more traditional normal stuff. Either way, I chose this recipe because it doesn’t have a cream sauce. Its so rare to find recipes, unless I make it up myself to not have that rose sauce or white creamy sauce. Lactose intolerance definitely doesn’t work with pasta so well so this recipe looked simple and delicious with all its ingredients. It lived pretty much up to its standards. Plus, I multitasked like a beast and even got the chicken perfectly cooked, which is super rare. I’m really not that great of a cook..more a baker at heart. The meal here works really well. Its nice and simple and everything blends so well together and has a decent amount of protein and veggies. Delicious stuff! My husband doesn’t admit it but he ate everything else but the noodles so I think it worked for him also but for us, we’ll probably go with some other type of pasta using the same recipe.

Braised Berbere Chicken
with Green Beans & Tangy Couscous

Braised Berbere Chicken

I’m not sure if you know what Berbere is but we sure didn’t. However, it apparently (if you didn’t already know), is a common Ethiopian spice blend. Its a tad spicy if you look at the spice combination. Matched up with the couscous which this time is made in water rather than just soaking in hot water in a bowl, it was such a difference in fluffiness. I liked it a lot more than usual. Plus, its more neutral flavor compliments well with the strong spices used on the chicken and there’s a decent amount of veggies to also make it a very tasty and balanced meal. This was pretty much our experiment new flavor of the box and it turned delicious.

Peanut Butter Dumplings
with Sesame Green Beans

Peanut Butter Dumplings

Our repeat menu of the box! Actually its the third time, that I’ve gotten this recipe. It shows how much we love it. Especially since I’ve been having massive dumpling cravings of late. This was the first time my husband had to help out with this one. It turned out every bit as good as I remember it. I imagine you will see this one again whenever it pops up as a choice. Right now, its just waiting for that veggie banh mi that we love so much to come back.

Pork Katsu
with Sticky Rice, Yu Choy & Wafu Sauce

Pork Katsu

The final meal of the box is Pork Katsu. I’m kept think that we had done this recipe before but I think its because I had almost gotten it once before but change it last minute. Either way, props to the husband for stepping up and getting the pork katsu done on point. Its pretty much the replica of the recipe card except without the sauce, because I just keep forgetting to put it. Its a Wafu sauce that goes on top and it would work great with it. Calrose rice is what’s here so it has that sticky rice texture. We like yu choy quite a bit and the pork katsu turned out pretty good. Its a nice contrast to the heavy flavors in the rest of the box, particularly the Berbere chicken earlier so this ended off the week with something a little more subtle in taste was nice. As good as this was, I might not exactly choose it again unless for a filler when something else I have comes up and its a choice.

Overall, no doubt that the peanut butter dumplings were my faves. But I think the surprisingly good discovery was the Berbere Chicken which was delicious. However, on an everyday cooking idea recipe, the tagliatelle is definitely in for an easy pasta night idea except with something other pasta.

Recap: Goodfood #21

goodfood

Welcome to the next Goodfood recap. Its a rare occurrance that we don’t spread out our orders more but this menu, despite some repeats had some of our fave things and other recipes that I was interested in learning as well.

Lets check it out!

Fennel Crusted Salmon Bucatini with Baby Spinach

salmon bucatini

I can’t say that I’m a pasta expert so I don’t really know the difference other than the fact that it looks like thicker spaghetti. However, we don’t eat fish a lot so we chose this one. This meal was both easy to do and pretty delicious. Fennel powder is less overpowering than actual fennel so the crust around the salmon worked well with the bucatini.

Vietnamese “Com-Bo” with Cucumber, Carrots & Thai Basil

vietnamese com-bo

I can’t say I’m a particular expert at Vietnamese food either so I never knew about what Com-Bo was before this. I’ve had the Banh Mi and the Rice Vermicelli and the Pho but no idea what this is but I can tell you that its super tasty if this is any true reflection of it. However, you will notice that cucumbers are non-existent here. They were forgotten from my meal kit. However, when I contacted customer service about it, they were very quick to resolve the problem and reimbursed the price of a meal. I was very pleased with the service. Back to the meal itself, it was a really nice simple one. It was quick to make, except the chopping the carrots part. If I had to prepare the cucumbers too, then it would definitely have gone over the time they had asked for. However, the rice worked with the sauce and crisp-tender carrots added a nice contrast to the beef strips. It just came together really nicely.  This is so simple that I actually would cook this on a regular basis.

Pork Burgers with Sauteed Mushrooms, Swiss Cheese and Chive Mayo

pork burgers

As usual, burgers are my husband’s tasks. Its nice since I got to keep going with some of the garden work while he put this together. We weren’t quite sure whether we had it before but I’m fairly positive that we’ve talked about it before. Still, chive mayo is yummy. The pork burger spices are delicious. Its an awesome summer meal. I’d absolutely use pork patties more.

Peanut Butter Dumplings with Sesame Green Beans

peanut butter dumplings

Our vegetarian meal of the box and also one of my fave meals that we’ve had before are these peanut butter dumplings. They are absolutely fantastic. Its not too hard to make and the sauce is so delicious. Last time, I talked about us ending up just pan frying it on all sides or asking my husband to at least. However, this time, I followed the instructions and cooked it the way it was supposed to be cooked to see the difference and honestly, I have to say that we’re a little split. My husband liked it both ways but enjoyed the pan fried on all sides and I also liked both but thought this version  was a little better. I’ve been having a massive dumplings craving so I’m just happy these were part of this box. 🙂

Overall, a very awesome box! All the recipes delivered in my opinion.
The peanut butter dumplings are repeats before they are my fave, as well as the pork burgers.
For the new ones, I do prefer the Com-bo more than pasta, but I’ve also liked Asian food over Italian food.

Goodfood Recap#16

Goodfood

Last week’s Goodfood box was quite a few cool menus and the first time we went with a repeat. We actually love the menu so much that we forgot to take the picture again before chomping it all down. Either way, we took the picture from the last time we cooked  the meal. We will talk more about it.

Let’s check out last week’s meals!

Marinated Salmon & Noodle Stir-fry
with Yuzu Sauce, Baby Bok Choy & Snow Peas

Marinated Salmon

We always opt for fish dishes when we can since fish in general is so expensive to buy. This one turned it pretty well. Its a stir-fry so already guaranteed to be pretty simple to put together. The preparation wasn’t too long either and it was just a bit stir together in the pan when all the elements were done. We always love the added sesame seeds to a dish. It adds a nice little bit texture to the dish. I can’t say I love this recipe but it definitely wins on being easy to put together. Its always great to learn what ingredients to put together a nice little stir-fry and this one is a solid choice (especially since there was recently a sale on salmon and we have some frozen and to be eaten soon).

Ancho Chicken Taco
with Beet-Cabbage Slaw & Toasted Pepitas

ancho chicken tacos

My husband apparently doesn’t know how to put together a taco and assembled a quesadilla resemblance thing here and ate it like a sandwich. I only took a bite from this meal since I had some other food that I needed to eat but from the bite, its a pretty decent meal even if its not wrapped into a taco style. Its fairly simple to put in and didn’t take too much time. I’m not sure about the ancho part of the thing though but thats just my personal preference. My husband absolutely loved it.

Grilled Ratatouille Sandwich
with Sundried Tomato Hummus

ratatouille sandwich

The repeat meal of our box goes to this fantastically delicious vegetarian sandwich called the Grilled Ratatouille Sandwich. Its packed with flavors from the sweet peppers to the tangy cherry tomatoes and then rounded off with a sundried tomato hummus. Its really a lovely sandwich. The last time was actually my husband who put together a lot of it and this time, I took my shot at it until I went to toast the buns and then burnt them a little. Still, its one that I’d definitely make again. Its truly fantastically delicious!

Peanut Butter Dumplings
with Sesame Green Beans

peanut butter dumplings

The recipe says that I wasn’t supposed to fold the dumplings this way but this is the way I know how to fold them since I was little so I kept to my own methods. My husband did the cooking and didn’t read the instructions very well for the dumplings so ended up pan-frying all sides when it was supposed to fry at the bottom then steam in the pan to cook the dumpling wrapper. Either way, it still tasted really great. Other than the vegetarian filling taste really awesome, the peanut butter sauce was super delicious. We actually loved it so much that we kept the leftover and cooked some veggies with it the next day and it turned out really well since the peanut butter dissolves pretty much but the taste retains itself. I loved this one a lot.

Overall, this box turned out very good. Two vegetarian meals and both of them were my faves in this box.

Recap: Goodfood #6

Don’t worry! No slacking off on the horror marathon. Regular programming resumes later today (or at least it should since I’m writing this one before the next one).

Goodfood update again. This box is one of those boxes that really caught our eyes as it uses some great ingredients and everyday stuff and just twists on the sauce and stuff. A lot of untreaded territory here so its fun to try out. Most of it worked out really well, except for one that really might not be to our tastes so much.

Chef Garnier’s Sesame-Crusted Chicken with Sweet & Sour Veggies & Matcha Rice

Goodfood

First up was the Sesame-Crusted Chicken. Its pretty cool because I’ve always had an issue with breading things and this recipe let me learn how to figure that part out. This meal turned out quite good. Actually, everything here worked great for the chicken and the veggies. The sweet chili sauce for the veggies was a good balance to the meal. However, the matcha rice wasn’t doing it for us. I already had a suspicion about it since I’m not  a fan of matcha tea in general however, my husband is very picky with the teas that he likes so it was a hit and miss. However, matcha is a powder so it was used for the rice and it was okay. Can’t say that we’ll ever make the rice again but the chicken and veggies are a hit.

Tofu & Shiitake Mushroom Dumplings with Cucumber Salad

Goodfood

Next up is the vegetarian dumplings. This was an all around win for us. We don’t use tofu ever at home although I like it when my  mom makes it. However, I’ve never really figured out how to incorporate it into our meals and my husband isn’t a fan of the texture in general. These dumplings were really cool as it blends the mushrooms and the tofu together for the filling and the sauce is quite easy to make. I let my husband have the cucumber salad which he liked a lot as well. We are slowly trying to eat healthier and possibly seeing the potential having the occasional vegetarian meal and this one is definitely one we’ll keep on our minds especially since I love dumplings so much!

Spiced Pork Chops with Roasted Delicata Squash, Brussel Sprouts & Hazelnut Vinaigrette

Goodfood

Pork chops are a frequent appearance in our house. Mostly because meats are overall quite expensive and pork chops are usually the most cost efficient option. This one was so great. It had brussel sprouts and the vinaigrette was delicious especially since we’ve never used hazelnut to put together a dressing like that. There was a hint of sweetness from the maple syrup (I believe). I’m a fan of squashes in general but my husband is quite picky with them. However, he loved the delicata squash which is the first time I’ve ever made them and they are a win for us both. We loved them so much that I went ahead to the grocery store a few days ago and picked up some more.

Tourtiere-Spiced Meatballs with Mushroom Sauce & Roasted Veggies

Goodfood

Finally, the last choice were tourtiere-spiced meatballs. I’m usually on the fence with the meatballs meals. It always feel odd to use meatballs without spaghetti. Another thing to note here is that I replaced the green beans with brussel sprouts. I guess I could file it under a slight complaint is that when Friday night came around (which is about 5 days since we received the box), the green beans weren’t looking too good. I’m guessing if I waited another day, mold would have happened. Anyways, to be safe, I threw them out and replaced the veggies with what I had on hand. However, the meal was really great. Beef is not my first choice however the meatballs tasted good and the tourtiere flavors are definitely there. The mushroom sauce turned out a little too thick for us however the taste was also on point. The veggies were good also.

Overall…the last week’s box was pretty good. It was a win on all fronts. Sure, the matcha rice didn’t work with us quite so much but everything else was pretty awesome. My fave meal of this box (and its hard to choose) would probably be the pork chops although the dumplings are quite close behind.

Dinner: Dumplings Pain Farci (Montreal Chinatown)

A few weeks ago, my aunt and uncle came to Montreal to visit with some of their family and they wanted to go for some Chinese food on a Friday night.  Normally, I don’t frequent Chinatown restaurants for health reasons.  I just can’t handle too much oil or MSG in dishes.  However, when family comes by, I will go where they like and hope for the best or just eat less.  However, the new trend in Montreal Chinatown are very much in specialty restaurants.  The most apparent ones are noodle shops and dumpling shops. Most people will know about pot stickers or Shanghai soup-filled dumplings/buns, not sure what the actual English name is for the dish (its called Xiao Lung Bao).  However, this restaurant in a little upstairs store that used to be a bubble tea shop when I was in Cegep a decade ago (approximately) is now called Restaurant Dumplings or Dumplings Pain Farci or Restaurant Pain Farci.  They had a lot of names shown on Google Maps and other restaurant info sites.   Its located here if it interests you:

When we arrived on a Friday evening at around 6:30pm, it was empty.  That is rare considering that its the start of a weekend.  Normally, any restaurant would have an increase in traffic.  The menus aren’t particularly high budget either.  Its homely.  Right away, there’s a range of cold appetizers available for $1.99 (Canadian Dollars) and there are pages of two different sorts of dumpling buns.  They are called the same as the Shanghai ones but these of Northern delicacies and are made differently.  These actually look like buns and not like dumplings.  They have a special type which is steamed in a unique way.  The flavors are also quite plenty from assorted meats to vegetables and pork or preserved vegetables with pork as well (which is apparently the best way to have this). Aside from these two sorts of buns and appetizers, there was also pot stickers also made a little different from other restaurants.

We ordered two sorts of dumpling buns first and while we were waiting, we moved onto trying out almost all the appetizers.

Restaurant Pain Farci

Black Fungus Cold Appetizer

Restaurant Dumplings Pain Farci

Seaweed appetizer

Restaurant Pain Farci

Potato appetizers (spicy)

Restaurant Dumplings Pain Farci

Tofu Strips Appetizer

There was also a cucumber appetizer that I forgot to take a picture of.

I’m not an expert at Northern Chinese cuisine but these were all quite delicious. I couldn’t handle the spicy bits too well but the Black Fungus one and the Tofu Strips were really good. The potato ones were so spicy that I only ate a little bit.

As we were finishing up these appetizers, the dumplings arrived. They may look the same but they were different flavors.

Restaurant Dumplings Pain Farci

Preserved Vegetables and Pork Dumplings

Restaurant Dumplings Pain Farci

Bok Choy and Pork Dumplings

We weren’t too optimistic seeing as the restaurant didn’t have a lot of guests but my uncle is very much a food connoisseur and he had just tasted something like this before and he actually said these tasted better. I’m not sure what its supposed to taste like but these dumplings, both of them were really good.  I’m not a fan of preserved vegetables and that was probably better of the two.  The bun looks thick but actually its very thin and fluffy.  The meat was juicy and tasty.  It wasn’t overly salty either, which is a plus.

Because these two dishes tasted so good, we went ahead and ordered pot stickers also.

Restaurant Dumplings Pain Farci

Pot stickers

I have a soft spot for pot stickers.  Always have.  I actually just love dumplings in general but oh my gosh! These were so good.  I mean, they aren’t your normal ones.  Actually its fried all together and you need to pull them apart and even the sides are open and not closed like usual potstickers that look a bit like wonton/dumpling crossovers.  I look at this picture and I just want to go order some.  Or just figure out how they make it.  That’s also an option.

Restaurant Dumplings Pain Farci is in the heart of Chinatown.  Its not obvious because you need to go up a flight of stairs and it might be set up very simple from their decor to their menu but they make some very good dumplings, appetizers and potstickers.  When you are specialty shop,  this is what its about: putting the passion into your food. The chef (probably also the boss) came out and we started to talk to him. He really knew his specialty cuisine and although he didn’t offer the dish that we asked about which is a bone/bone marrow soup sort of thing, he actually taught us how to make it and explained why it was so hard to do.

I don’t think I’ve reviewed any restaurants in Montreal Chinatown to date but with the new ones that has popped up and this one being a good experience, I feel like I should open up my horizons and check out more. Chinatown doesn’t change much but I feel like its time to embrace that little bit of change and see what positive steps forward it has shaped. What do you think?