Le Filet: You’re quite the catch!

For our 6 year anniversary, the fiancé and I felt like it had been a while since we dined on the Plateau… Montreal’s famous district for the “nouveaux arrivants français” and the granola hipsters (and I say this in the nicest way).

In front of one of the city’s most appreciated natural landmark, the Mount Royal, sits a restaurant like few exist in our charming and vibrant city: Le Filet. Le Filet opened its doors a little under a three years ago, and ever since it’s been packed! With reason: the food, the service and the wine and drinks are all exceptional.

Despite what certain say, I’ve rarely been so impressed with a restaurant’s menu in Montreal. Trends wanting everything to be “home-y”, bistro-like, sometimes overwhelming and even sloppy… Le Filet sits at the complete opposite end of the spectrum offering modernized fine dining that has blown my mind every single time.

An ultra sleek decor and the noise level can be at times distracting, it all depends what you look for in a restaurant… but as soon as your first course hits the table, you’re eyeing the bait and completely lured in.

Our meal kicked off with three sets of oysters: raw or cooked, they were simply divine. Those who have read my post on Tomales Bay can only start to understand the love I have for the mollusc.

The Miso Gratin Oyster at le Filet- Photo by Kim Gradek

The Miso Gratin Oyster at le Filet- Photo by Kim Gradek

Then came the Red Tuna Tartare and the Hamachi. I know, I know, sinful to eat a specie that is bordering extinction, but how can you not when it tastes this good, and is prepared with such respect! Not to mention that the Chef de cuisine’s Japanese upbringing completely shines through this dish: Sesame Oil and Seeds, Salmon Roe, fried Seaweed, emulsified Egg Yolk (which I skipped on), and a little tang and spice on the finale…Just thinking about it makes my mouth water! As for the Hamachi: the sumac is subtle and the taste, bang on!

Hamachi, Sesame, Sumac dish at Le Filet. Photo by Kim Gradek

Hamachi, Sesame, Sumac dish at Le Filet. Photo by Kim Gradek

We continued on with one of the Mount-Royal Salads, a mix of scallop carpaccio, orange supreme, pureed avocado, asparagus, and beets. Fresh, well-balanced, and textured. The yuzu made all the difference!

One of the Mount-Royal Salads at Le Filet: Scallops, Avocado, Orange and Beets- Photo by Kim Gradek

One of the Mount-Royal Salads at Le Filet: Scallops, Avocado, Orange and Beets- Photo by Kim Gradek

After the flounder with japanese plum, the grilled octopus, and the cavatelli, you’d think one would be full, but these plates are made for sampling and sharing, which leaves you wanting more! And we dove into our Wagu Tataki. Served with miso glazed grilled King Oyster mushrooms and grilled eggplant, with just enough tanginess and heat. I wanted more!

Wagu Tataki, Miso, Eggplant at Le Filet- Photo by Kim Gradek

Wagu Tataki, Miso, Eggplant at Le Filet- Photo by Kim Gradek

All in all, if you’re to eat here (which you absolutely should), trust the staff to guide you through your dish choices and the sommelier to recommend what will go best with your meal. These guys are experts!

Price: Pricey, but seriously worth the money. 6 shared dishes with wine for 2, you’ll be paying close to $200.

Where:  219 Avenue du Mont-Royal Ouest, Montreal, QC.

Phone: (514) 360-6060, reservations are highly recommended!
Bon appétit!

Costa Brava: Virée en cavale, relaxante!

Pour poursuivre l’aventure de mon dernier billet, on habitait le petit village de Sant Celoni, à près de 40 km de Barcelone, en Espagne.

Notre séjour avec la visite d’amis français, Guillemette et Florian, se poursuit.  Ils venaient de Roanne pour profiter de la paella, des paysages et de l’horaire latin décalé. Voilà donc qu’une deuxième virée en cavale s’impose. Mais cette fois-ci, c’est direction Costa Brava: 256 kilomètres de routes sinueuses qui longent le terrain escarpé en bordure de la Méditerranée, du nord de Barcelone jusqu’au sud de la France.

256 kilomètres c’est assez long, et temps oblige, notre péripétie couvre la route de Mataro à Tossa de Mar, en passant par Blanes, et Lloret de Mar.

Blanes: La porte d'entrée à la Costa Brava. Photo: Kim Gradek

Blanes: La porte d’entrée à la Costa Brava. Photo: Kim Gradek

La grasse matinée, 45 miutes de route, et on s’arrête enfin pour s’étirer les jambes à la porte d’entrée de la Costa Brava: Blanes. Sa réputation est bien établie: quatre kilomètres de côte qui combinent les falaises rocheuses et les tranquilles calanques, les nombreux pêcheurs en chaloupe, et le Jardin Botanique Marimurta. À peine arrivée et déjà j’adore!

Qui dit Espagne, dit sieste, et comme de fait, nous arrivons en plein heure de repos. De 14h00 à 18h00, les volets des fenêtres sont fermés et la ville, elle, est complètement déserte…On enlève alors nos chaussures et nos chaussettes, on étale une couverture sur la plage, s’étend, admire le paysage et l’horizon au loin, et ça prends moins de 20 minutes pour réaliser que nous aussi sommes maîtres dans l’art du sommeil…

Les plages de Blanes- Photo: Kim Gradek

Les plages de Blanes inspirent la relaxation, et lorsqu’il ne fait pas trop chaud, la sieste- Photo: Guillemette Reynaud

Bien reposés, c’est ainsi qu’on reprend la route en direction Tossa de Mar, avec un halte très bref à Lloret de Mar. Cerveza sur terrasse pour contempler un paysage escarpé d’eau cristalline, de roc et de végétation abondante, et hop on est repartis.

On dit de Tossa de Mar qu’elle est une des villes les plus mythiques de la Costa Brava. Une fois sur place, ce n’est pas difficile de comprendre pourquoi: des vestiges datant de la période Paléolithique, l’architecture romaine à ce jour conservée, les murailles de la vieille ville qui remontent à l’époque médiavale, et l’empreinte d’un centre artistique qui a connu le jour dans les années 1930… On se sent transporté!

Tossa de Mar

Vous tomberez sous le charme de la Vieille Ville de Tossa de Mar- Photos: Kim Gradek et Guillemette Reynaud

Le soleil commence tranquillement à se coucher, et c’est donc l’heure de repartir, de faire des emplettes au Mercadona et de préparer un bon dîner à saveur espagnole. On dévalise le supermarché en prenant tout ce qui nous tombe sous le nez: croquétas, manchengo, Jamon de Serano, Aceitunas y Vino Tinto. Voilà l’apéro!

Je dois vous dire que reste à ce jour impressionnée par la fraîcheur et la qualité des produits que l’on retrouve en Espagne, surtout en ce qui concerne les poissons et les fruits de mer. Pas juste ça, c’est ridiculement pas cher! Donc camarones, musclo (ce sont des “moules” en catalan), calamar, onions, poivrons, safran…et oui, la paella! On a même acheté les churros congelés et la pinte de chocolat!

Tout ça, environ 35 euros!

L'apéro et une paella maison: on mange trop bien en Espagne! Photo: Kim Gradek

L’apéro et une paella maison: on mange trop bien en Espagne! Photos: Kim Gradek

Vers 1h00 du matin, très zen suite à notre journée et maintenant complètement bourrés, on roule jusqu’au divan et s’installent devant un film… Que hermoso dia!

Prochaine escale: Gérone!

Barcelone: Virée en cavale, à la catalane!

Alors qu’un froid glacial s’installe sur Montréal, ce qui sont comme moi ne peuvent s’empêcher de penser à s’évader. Ah, le soleil, la plage, l’eau turquoise… si seulement… J’adore l’hiver, cette première neige, mais encore… J’en profite donc pour vous faire voyager autrement, cette fois avec vos pensées!

Fin février, il faisait environ 25 degrés Celsius. On habitait le petit village de Sant Celoni, à près de 40 km de Barcelone, en Espagne. Déjà assez pour jalouser.

Volleyball sur les plages de Barcelone

Volleyball sur la plage de Barcelone- Photo: Kim Gradek

Une petite visite d’amis français, qui venaient de Roanne, et une virée en cavale s’impose. Au menu: tapas, plages, boîtes de nuit et bonne compagnie!

Pour notre première sortie: Barcelona!

Accompagné de nos deux cuistos, on débute notre aventure en s’imprégnant des odeurs de poissons et de jambon Serrano, et on se gâte à contempler les couleurs vives des fruits, des produits séchées, et des friandises au temple de la gastronomie, La Boqueria, selon le célèbre chef Ferran Adrià. L’effervescence de ce marché nous transporte au coeur de la vie espagnole: vivre la vie et savourer le sentiment de communauté qui habite les catalans, avec bien sûre, une touche fluorescente des années ’80!

Les différents aliments du marché La Bocaria coloreront vos journée! Photo: Kim Gradek

Les différents aliments du marché Sant Josep La Boqueria enjoliveront vos journée! Photo: Kim Gradek

On poursuit notre chemin à travers les petites rues sinueuses de Barri Gotic, complètement sous le charme de l’architecture.

Barri Gotic, Barcelone. Photo: Kim Gradek

Barri Gotic, Barcelone. Photo: Kim Gradek

Une fois arriver au centre du labyrinthe, c’est le temps d’un pause apéro. On s’installe devant la Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia pour une sangria et du pulpo a la gallega, un savoureux plat de pieuvre, onions et cubes de pommes de terre, le tout infusé dans un bouillon au paprika fumé.

Moi devant mon pichet de sangria et mon assiette de puplo a la gallega- Photo: Guillemette Reynaud

Moi devant mon pichet de sangria et mon assiette de puplo a la gallega- Photo: Guillemette Reynaud

La nuit est jeune, surtout pour les Espagnols, et nos ventres gargouillent toujours! Direction les Cuines Santa Caterina au Mercado Santa Caterina pour de délicieux tapas, que j’ai détaillé dans un post précédent, et du bon vin blanc! On y sert des calmars grillés, des coeurs d’artichauts avec onions caramélisés, des petits poissons frits, du tartare, des tortillas aux saveurs du marché… Oubliez la salade de fruits de mer macérée de la veille sur une tranche de pain beaucoup trop épaisse. Ici, que de la qualité, des aliments frais du jour et surtout hyper savoureux! De plus, le frère du barman habite Montréal: ah, que le monde est petit!

Éperlans frits- Cuines Santa Caterina, Barcelone, Espagne- Photo: Kim Gradek

Éperlans frits- Cuines Santa Caterina, Barcelone, Espagne- Photo: Kim Gradek

Minuit passé, un soudaine envie de danser s’empare de nous. Nous suivons donc la suggestion d’un mec qui semblait être un habitué du quartier pour se rendre à la Jamboree, un petit bar jazz & hip-hop, blotti en coin de la Plaça Reial. Une référence en ce qui concerne le blues et le jazz, ce petit coin musical propose un éventail de groupes aussi célèbres qu’underground. Un premier spectacle au sous-sol pour se faire envoûter par le mélange de fréquences du didgeridoo, de la basse, et d’une poésie catalane. J’avoue ne pas avoir assisté à un show de musique depuis assez longtemps, moi qui auparavant était connu comme une punk-rock girl, mais là, j’ai réellement été hypnotisée! Et comme la tradition du jazz le veux si bien, après on danse. Un dj invité joue les meilleurs tunes de hip-hop du moment, le party est plus que pogné!

Hakim et Guillemette à la Jamboree- Photo: Kim Gradek

Hakim et Guillemette à la Jamboree- Photo: Kim Gradek

La première virée en cavale se termine alors qu’il fait clair dehors… :) Que bueno espana!

Prochaine virée, on longe la Costa Brava vers Gérone.

It’s Time For A Recipe: Pasta That Is!

Easy, cheap and boy it is ever delicious!

It’s been a while since my man and I had been grocery shopping and our fridge looked kind of empty. Fruit juice, milk, mustard, pickles, eggs, butter, shallots, a few spinach leaves, garlic and one big tomato… Needless to say, our options were LIMITED.

I’ve been breaking my younger brother’s ears for months with the idea of having a pasta-making weekend at the cottage, something I did with the girls a few years back. That project is still on hold, but I’ve passed my knowledge along to my sister-in-law and tested the recipe once more.

So, if ever you’re looking to impress your guests with a no brainer meal that’ll cost you under 10$ or empty out what is left in your fridge, making fresh pasta is the way to go!

What you’ll need to feed 4 hungry bellies:

  •  250 g of Flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Milk

Fresh Pasta Ingredients Include Eggs, Flour, Olive Oil, Milk. Photo credit: Kim Gradek

How to make the dough:

  1. Take 5 of your 6 eggs and separate the white from the yolk. Reserve the yolk.
  2. Create a mound of flour on your counter and dig a hole in the center of it. Even better, if you have a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer just pour it in.
  3. Pour your liquid (egg, egg yolks, olive oil and milk) into the mixer and start it (should take about 5-7 minutes), or in the hole you just made in your mound of flour.
  4. Making little circles with your fingers, mix in the liquids and the flour. It will eventually start to thicken to form a dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a mess, it’s suppose to! You’ll eventually get there… patience is the rule of thumb.
  5. Once the mixture stops sticking to the sides of your bowl, or to the counter top, your dough is done. Wrap it in a film paper, and cool it by letting it rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
  6. Pat yourself on the back, it’s time to relax!
  7. Once it’s nicely chilled, dust your countertop with flour once more, and cut your dough ball into about 1 inch thick slices.
  8. Using a rolling-pin, flatten out your dough until it’s thin enough for your pasta making machine. And don’t forget to flip it. Each time you flip, remember to dust some flour under there.
  9. You’re now ready to use the pasta machine!

So you want to make fancy pasta??? The key is in the stuffing, or the sauce, or both! And the possibilities are infinite…

Homemade Spinach, Lemon Confit and Ricotta Tortellini- Photo credit Kim Gradek

Here’s another recipe for a really simple and tasty pasta sauce. It’s our Sunday night classic!

What you’ll need:

  • 1 Garlic Clove, diced
  • 2 Big Tomatoes (or 4 italian tomatoes), diced
  • Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
  •  1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • Salt, pepper

How to do it:

  • On medium high heat, pour the olive oil into a large frying pan.
  • Once the oil starts waving (that means it’s hot enough), add in your diced tomatoes and garlic. Let it cook until the tomatoes start softening up. About 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add in the basil, salt and pepper to taste.

And if this is not working for you, let loose and have fun with it!

Homemade Ricotta Raviolis with Roasted Butternut Squash, Kale and Chestnuts. Photo Credit: Kim Gradek

A few tips:

  • Flour is your best friend! Dust in your countertop, in your pasta making machine and on your finished pasta especially if you’re making spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, etc.
  • Don’t feel like waiting for it to dry? No problem, just boil some water and cook between 3-5 minutes depending on your level of appreciation for al-dente pasta!
  • Made a little too much? Lay the rest out on a baking sheet which you can put in the freezer and savor another day.

Voilà! From my kitchen to your’s: Bon appétit!

Saint Helena: Still Under My Skin

I’m not sure if it’s all this election talk, the one year anniversary, or the cold weather settling in that suddenly urges me to seek comfort. None the less, something is constantly making me reminisce my magical four-month long life in Saint Helena, California in 2011.

If you haven’t been, then there is definite worth in visiting this quaint town while wine-tasting your way through Napa Valley. Less than 6000 residents, but restaurants to make any chef who swears by local ingredients jealous, foodies envious, always asking for more, and those fond of wine discover the finest the valley has to offer.

After trying and testing the places listed below a few times, I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

  • Cade: Perched on Howell Mountain, Cade winery‘s breathtaking view is second to none in the northern valley. Take advantage of it and sample delicious wines in an intimate interior decor or step outside to admire the splendors the terrace has to offer.

Cade Winery’s Tasting Room on top on Howell Mountain. A beautiful view with amazing wine.

  • Chateau Boswell: Tucked away on the Silverado trail is a winery renowned for its enchanting decor, delectable hand-crafted wines, and knowledgable, friendly staff!  But as all well-kept secrets, a hidden gem doesn’t come cheap… It is however so worth it! Just be sure to make a reservation though.

Pass through Chateau Boswell’s gates and you’ll succumb to its fairy-tale like allures.

  • Miner: Miner Family Wines is probably the winery I’ve most often been to in the Northern Valley and with reason. My first visit was only a few days after arriving in the valley; I fell in love with the welcoming and accommodating staff. My second visit, Rosella’s Pinot Noir stole my heart. By my third, fourth, fifth visit, everything felt like it was.. HOME!
  • The Restaurant at Meadowood. If you haven’t heard by now, the young chef Kostow has kept his 3 Michelin stars for a 3rd year in a row. San Francisco’s 2012 Michelin Guide refered to it as: “Exceptional Cuisine. Worth a Special Journey.” For me, the term “fine dining” reached a whole new level. Kostow and his brigade’s creations are sure to leave your taste buds in awe.

Black Cod, Cooked in Ashes with Onions at The Restaurant at Meadowood

  • Cook St. Helena: Just flat-out simple, great food. Cook St. Helena is all about conviviality. In a “no complications” environment, you’ll be served up flavorful, simple, and fresh home-made italian food. And… the service is spot on!

Home-made Mozzarella,Heirloom Tomato and Golden Balsamic at Cook St.Helena

  • Condesa: So you wouldn’t think of drinking Mezcal or Tequila in the Valley, but this is one of the places serving up the widest variety you’ll find in NorCal. Delicious ceviches, tacos and  impressive platos fuertes.
  • Gotts Roadside Grill: I reviewed this landmark hamburger joint in a previous post and I stick by it. It is a great alternative to a meal on the fly. Serving up fresh ingredients, harvested from their St. Helena garden, you can enjoy your grub in their picnic area or opt for take-out. Either way, burgers, tacos, shakes… the perfect way to satisfy a fast-food craving and almost have a clear conscience!

Gotts Roadside Grills Famous Fish Tacos and Freshly Squeezed Lemonade

Voilà! So happy travels, enjoy your discoveries and bon appétit!

Introducing HA(KIM)2

It’s bachelorette planning season and we’ve got a treat for you!

HA(KIM)2: Private chef services, catered specifically to fit your party needs from high-end to good old comfort food!

The Montreal scene likes to eat and HA(KIM)2 will more than satisfy your taste buds, all while providing an entertaining experience, and if you so desire, some tips for your future dinner parties!

About HA(KIM)2

Partners in business and in life, Hakim and I (Kim) have always had a vibrant passion for food. World travelers and  foodies, we’ve recently returned, as you might have seen in my previous posts, from a year and half abroad where Hakim was  learning within some of the world’s most renowned kitchens: La Maison Troisgros, El Raco de Can Fabes and The Restaurant at Meadowood, while I was perfecting my wine education, and refining my taste buds.

His mediterranean roots, his passion for food and his flare for products make for interesting and often overlooked combinations, bringing a fresh and simplistic approach to cooking.

You can find out more about Hakim by checking out this video of his performance on Radio-Canada’s Les Chefs, or by visiting l’ITHQ’s website.

And for your viewing pleasure, here are some pictures of his work:

If you’re interested in our services, drop us an email and we’ll get back to you asap!

Bon appétit!

Kim & Hakim

Fishing Responsibly: My way of saying Happy Earth Day!

In an attempt to help make the world a better place, Green Global Travel came up with an amazing initiative over the 2011 holidays, inviting travel bloggers to use their voice and talk about issues they hold to heart.

I didn’t do it then, but there isn’t really an ideal moment to help make the world a better place, it’s something we should strive on doing on a daily basis! I’m all about causes. I’m a Discovery Channel, BBC, National Geographic and anything animal related geek. The proof, my fiancée took me out to see the Last Reef 3D: it was our first date of 2012!

Last May, I spent a week in Portugal. I traveled from Lisbon to Porto, and made my way into the Douro Valley.

Lisbon's Belem Tower

View of Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia

View of Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia

Entering the Douro Valley

I wined and dined, enjoyed the art, the history and tried to test all of what these cities and their countryside had to offer. A popular tourist destination, I must say that I was somewhat disappointed by the overwhelming amount of drunken frat boys crowding Lisbon’s streets at night, and Porto’s tour buses filled with golden age paparazzi…

But overall, I loved it!

I found refuge in the winding streets during daylight, in the beauty and serenity of Setubal’s natural park, in the simplistic yet exquisite food and in the effervescence of the farmers’ markets.

Sardines are a must when visiting Coastal Portugal

One of the most memorable experiences of all, second to my future husband’s proposal, was an improvised fishing excursion with the locals off the Costa da Caparica.

It was a perfect day. Sunny and just windy enough that you wouldn’t feel the scorching sun beating down on your skin. We had wandered along the beach and chatted up any and every fisherman in sight thanks to Filipe, our Portuguese friend. The economic crisis has hit the country hard and sharing their boat meant splitting their earnings… We finally stumbled upon a younger man who seemed open to our proposition. A pint of beer later, we became members of his expedition.

The fishermen prepare to head out to sea

We walked about a mile along the coast to their usual meeting spot. The nets were untangled while a general meeting determined who stayed on land and who would head out to sea. The boats were then pushed into the tides with tractors and once they reached 100 meters off the shore, the nets were dropped and placed along a specific perimeter.

Dropping the net

In the meantime, the tractors made their way across the beach while the boats headed back to shore: it was time to start reeling in the net.

The land crew

Two crew members laid out tarp, while four reeled in the net. As curious wanderers trickled along to form a crowd, a man popped out of the bushes behind us and joined the other spectators. Yes, no one knows where he came from, but apparently this man emerges from the bushes every time, carrying a bucket and eagerly waiting to pick up any unwanted fish to bring back home to his wife and family. Loving it!!!

Meticulously separating the nets while reeling in the day's catch.

Once the net hit shore, the fish were immediately separated by size and species. The ones that weren’t big enough for sale were gathered by the man with the bucket. Within less than an hour, everything was sold or taken to be consumed: from sardines to calamari to mackerel!

Mackerel, sardines and calamari

The experience was eye-opening and just confirmed the excessive nature of North American lifestyle. It made me realize that despite their lack of technology, they’re far ahead of us. They consume what they take. They also take what’s closest to them, and most importantly respect what the different seasons put on their plates. So why not start viewing traditional countries like Portugal as an example to follow?

This is my way of saying Happy Earth Day! And if you agree, share this post!

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