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Archive for the ‘Restaurant/Food Reviews’ Category

If heaven is made out of pizza then the clouds are crafted from the dough used at Bottega Pizzaria on St Zotique. Reviews of this newish restaurant have been effusive and it’s been in the back of my mind to go for some time, so for my birthday I called up and made a reservation for myself and the D.C. Lately I’ve been finding my palate a little jaded. A couple of forays to various restaurants around town in the last few months have left me feeling a little like maybe food isn’t as good as it used to be.  Not that I frequent many fine dining establishments, but I’m beginning to have sympathy for Lesley Chesterman’s bitching about the high price of food at mediocre establishments…my other complaint also echoes one of her ongoing issues: service. My darling dining companion is not always the most forward or agressive client (though he is occasionally aggressively hip when he watches Entourage) and I have to admit to a bit of an aversion to anything akin to asking for directions, and that including bugging waiters and maitre’ds about seating at restaurants. I’ve had too many experiences of going to a new restaurant I’m really excited about, only to be treated dismissively, and in one memorable instance in Portland OR forgotten about, by the staff at the door. Suddenly I’m on edge over the need to get assertive or demanding just to get treated with the courtesy I thought went along with going to a restaurant. I think I’m beginning to see why so many people don’t eat out in new restaurants… but back to Bottega.

On a bustling, warm Thursday night we arrived at the restaurant, which has a shiny sleek modern look that the D.C. says reflects the current style in Italy (as opposed to the more dated look of many Italian establishments in Montreal). The Maitre’d was a fine example of the aesthetic contributions of the Italian gene pool to Montreal and he greeted us in a friendly manner; however, as we waited for him to set up our table I began to have a sinking feeling as I watched him apparently preparing a table for another group. A familiar sinking feeling began to set in as the D.C. and I sank down onto the chairs set aside for patrons waiting for tables or take away orders. Here we were in this bustling, bright room full of happy people obviously enjoying themselves as a host of lime green lacoste shirt wearing waiters whisked about, relegated to the outskirts like we didn’t really belong. It’s a bit like a dropped ice-cream cone – worse because of the excitement and anticipation that was there before the fall. And then we were saved! I was wrong! The Maitre’d’s momentary foray to another table was brief and we were ushered over to a perfectly nice table after only the briefest pause. My drink order (Campari and soda of course!) was taken and menus were brought over and suddenly we were part of everything that was happening. Such a tiny thing but it made all the difference. In the moments the D.C. and I spent waiting for our table we were able to watch orders being whisked (really there’s a bustle and speed about this place that’s very exciting) to other people’s tables and it all looked very promising, very, very promising.

We decided on a single Arincino and an order of sausages and rapini for starters. The D.C. has a deep and abiding love of the arincini, a deep fried ball of risotto like rice often filled with various things and often served with a touch of tomato sauce. I am not in fact a big fan of sausages but I love rapini done Italian style . The arincini was passable but the sausages and rapini were amazing. The fennel sausages made me into a sausage convert and the rapini may have even converted the D.C. a little bit with it’s sweet butteryness mellowing out the vegetable’s natural bitterness.

I ordered a pizza covered in smoked provolone ( I had an experience with a smoked mozzarella pizza once that has made me a fan of smoked cheese on pizza ever since), wild mushrooms (always a good choice I think) and capicollo (I think, though it may have been some other permutation of Italian cured pork). Honestly I can’t remember what the D.C. had on his pizza; I became so obsessed with my own when it showed up that Iwas blind to all other pizzas for a time. As our pizzas showed up, all puffy crusted and thin in the middle I was reminded of a passage from the book “Eat, Pray, Love” where the author describes an experience in Napoli where she claims to have taken to a state of altered consciousness over a pizza so that “not only was [she] in love with the pizza, but [she] was under the delusion that it in turn was in love with her.” I think I felt a bit of what she was talking about. There’s something about the pillowy softness of the crusts on these things that makes you feel like you’re floating in a big doughy hug. If there are clouds in Heaven they aren’t those cold misty things we’ve become familiar with, they are Neapolitan pizza dough, somewhere between the best bread you’ve ever tasted and breasts. I’ll say no more, I’m obviously becoming obsessed. The nice thing is that despite the puffiness of the outer crust, the bottom of the pizza remains thin so there isn’t that sense one has with thick crust pizza that one is eating bread with toppings.

I manged to save a piece of my pizza for my father only because I had eaten so much of the sausages and rapini. I also ate all of the left-over crusts off of the D.C.’s plate. I am in love. I must go back and try different kinds of pizza. I am a little frightened by the fact that this place is walking distance from my house. That healthful, cleansing diet I’ve been thinking about trying out to round out spring and usher in bathing-suit season seems less and less likely…

If you haven’t been to Bottega Pizzaria go now, go fast. Keep this place in business. And let’s celebrate the fact that Montreal is no longer a mediocre pizza city!

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My grand plan has been to write about the food I had in Portland while visiting my friend Rose for Christmas. So better late than never…As it happens I was also inspired by a little book, which is apparently a series, that I found in Portland called Eat Shop Portland http://eatshopguides.com/. They’re these little guides to the food and shopping that the person writing the guide likes. The focus seems to be on original, artsy kind of places. As Portland is full of artsy little places it must not have been hard to write the book. Anyway, I thought maybe I’d branch out in this space and write a little about shopping as well as fooding, because some days I like to diversify the way I dull the pain (kidding). Thus, the slight change in title. Besides, occasionally I do things other than cook, go to restaurants and think about food.My plan to go to
Portland for Christmas was born of two things. I missed Rose’s visit this past summer because I was in Chisasibi teaching (more on goose and michaups later) and Christmas in Montreal has become a nightmare marathon of family. On my own I have a number of branches of family to spend time with at Christmas and the Dolce Culo, being Italian, has an extended family as well. So we pretty much spend three days going from house to house eating variations on Christmas dinner (from goose stuffed with sausage and chestnuts with Jerusalem artichokes on the side to lasagna made with boiled egg and peas), having to stay when we want to go and having to go when we want to stay (or when we can’t move anymore). I couldn’t face it this year and decided to escape to the West coast. Rose and I grew up together and our families spent lots of Christmases together so it seemed like a good bet. The D.C. was less enthused but we went anyway.
The food experience started, unfortunately, in the airport during our stopover in Minneapolis. I haven’t been in an American airport in a while, but they seem to have become much like shopping malls. I won’t get into the details too much but after a meal at one of the many available chain restaurants in the airport I came to realize that tequila and air travel aren’t a good combination for me.Once in Portland the food experience started at Sidney‘s, a little restaurant/cafe close to Rose’s work. I went there to finish marking exams, and while there consumed a small quantity of very lovely mini-cupcakes.cupcakes1.jpg

Portland, thankfully, still seems to think that all things cupcake are cool. I concur. I think these tiny bites were there for the children who seem to frequent the cafe from the Montessori daycare across the street, but never mind, they were moist and playfully capped with frosting that I saw one young lady joyfully licking off as if it were an ice cream cone. Personally, I prefer, popping them whole into my mouth while pretending to be some sort of muffin devouring monster. This seemed to be an unpopular style with the nannies and yummy mummies also frequenting the place, but what the hell, I was a foreigner who couldn’t be expected to know better.

From there the highlights included: The mac&cheese at The Delta Cafe(and their drinks in wide mouth mason jars), a pear & procuitto grilled cheese sandwich at the Ste Honore Bakery, and the sorbet and champagne float at Pix, Portland seems to be in the midst of a love affair with the French style boulangerie/pattisserie, which while nice, wasn’t such a departure from home, and the “potato bar” meal Rose cooked at home when I ended up with a migraine and no medication. When I was little I claimed a baked potato would get rid of my migraines and it seems to still be true. Yummy and medicinal!

There were other stops on the food tour of the city but I must make mention of AJ’s aunt’s soup, which was amazing. I need to get the recipes. I pooh poohed the idea of soup for Christmas Eve dinner but I don’t think I’ve ever had soup like this. An Italian vegetable soup was followed by seafood chowder followed by one of the best damn tiramisu’s I’ve ever had (sorry to the D.C. and his family some of whom make a very good tiramisu). I’ll get the recipes and put them up here. Other food adventures included: Happy Hour at the Portland City Grill, where the food kind of sucked but the view from up on top of a high-rise was nice, despite the gladiator style competition to get window side seats; The giant bag of trail mix Rose and I almost bought from a very stoned health food store employee – those self-serve dispensers are hard to manage, ah well it brought us back to our hippie childhoods and saved us from serious blood sugar problems; and Ken’s Pizza, which we went to to test their authenticity. The D.C. , our token Italian, was feeling a little dragged out by this time and complained that the sophisticated sprinkling of sausage on his pizza wasn’t what he had in mind (what! no pepperoni, no chunks of sausage! But Rose and I liked it, despite a little bit of a glitch with getting seated. Actually I kind of liked the pizza in Portland. They make their slices really big.

Finally, as far as food goes,Taqueria Neuvewas the peak experience of our trip. Rose and AJ took us to their favorite Mexican restaurant and I fell in love. It started with my margarita made with strawberry infused tequila. It sounds a little girly/dainty but it was the most wonderful cocktail I have ever had. It tasted like springtime and all things good. By the end of the meal we were taking pictures of empty dishes and our full tummies and writing adoring notes to the chefs on the brown paper table cloths. In an effort to get this post up finally I won’t get into too many of the details. Suffice it to say that there wasn’t an off note in the entire meal and if you should go to Portland you should go. For once I forgot about the bill and ordered everything and I don’t know the last time a meal has made me so happy. It might also help if you’ve just had a pedicure and are still walking around in the silly flip-flops they give you to let your toes dry…especially if the temperature seems to be hovering around zero. It all added a crazy edge to an evening of great food with the bestest friend ever. It may have taken me a while to get this post up, but I’ve still got the toenail polish Rose looked askance at on (I need to find more of it actually) and a hankering to make me some strawberry tequila of my own!!!

Thanks to Rose for a great Christmas. Sorry we pushed the kitty over the edge…

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Today I learned that sometimes all it takes to get rid of what feels like a permanent bad mood is a sunny day, a giant almond croissant, a smoothie, and chats with a friend. As a result of that first lesson(service was slooooow on the smoothie) I also learned that when you are late for a meeting bringing a giant plate of baklava seems to make people not think badly of you. This works even better if said plate of baklava is wrapped up in pretty paper that matches what you are wearing.

All of this and Erin making me listen to her new “best thing ever” in the car (see Equally viable at both speeds… at http://www.soundslikefun.blogspot.com/) not to mention the heart palpitations and constant stress, has me thinking it’s time to sloooow things down (like the sevice at all the restaurants I keep going to).

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