Vosges Boutique, Chicago O'Hare Airport

Vosges Boutique, Chicago Airport

En route to San Diego, I had a 3 hr layover at the Chicago airport yesterday. Sick with a cold, I was antsy to get to my destination, and spent the entire time circling around and around the airport.

I was tired of the countless bookstores, and mediocre food joints I encountered, so when I saw this beautiful purple + white Vosges Boutique full of chocolate goodies, I got excited.

Vosges Boutique, Chicago Airport
Vosges Boutique, O'Hare Airport

Vosges boutiques are steadily expanding across the States, and so is their line of sweets. They have boutiques located in Chicago, New York, and Las Vegas, and their product line has expanded to offer ice cream, chocolate marshmallows, cookies, and caramels.

I've been meaning to purchase a thank you gift for my friend who hosted the Cordon Bleu dinner night, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. She is a huge fan of truffles, so I got her a 4-pc truffle gift set, and two mini exotic chocolate bars (Woolloomooloo + Oaxaca bars).
For myself, I purchased a Mo's Bacon Bar as per Jenny T's suggestion a little while back.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat
Vosges Haut-Chocolat

The Woolloomooloo Bar is a deep milk chocolate bar with roasted & salted macadamia nuts, Indonesian coconut, and hemp seeds.

The Oaxaca Bar is Tanzanian bittersweet chocolate with Oaxacan guajillo y pasilla chillies.

And finally, Mo's Bacon Bar is a savory and sweet snack that contains applewood smoked bacon, and alderwood smoked salt.

I couldn't open the truffles, but the box listed a bunch of exotic ingredients such as ginger, wasabi, curry, candied violet flower, paprika, Chinese star anise, fennel, and ancho chili powder.
If you want to read about my past experience with the Black Pearl Bar, and Red Fire Bar, click here.

On a totally separate note, I spotted Wayne Newton yesterday. I only knew it was him because people kept going up to him, and asking to take a picture with him. He was on the same flight as I was, and it turns out, he is also staying at the same hotel as I am. Wish I could say I am a huge fan, but he's no Ferran Adria or Gordon Ramsey :-) I quickly snapped this photo while he was talking to a fan.

Wayne Newton at Chicago Airport
Wayne Newton at O'Hare Airport

Vosges Haut-Chocolat Boutique
O'Hare International Airport, across from Gate B6
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Telephone: 773-894-4613

The Black Tomato, Ottawa

The Black Tomato, Ottawa

P and I dropped in at The Black Tomato, which recently closed down for 3 weeks for renovations. They took over the vacant spot beside them (used to be a Timothy's cafe), and expanded both their kitchen and seating area.

We snagged a table outdoors in the cobblestone courtyard, and enjoyed our meal. Eating in the courtyard is one of the great charms of this eclectic restaurant.

We started with 2 warm dinner rolls served with a red wine + sage butter. They change their butter flavors every once in a while, and some are hits while some are misses. Unfortunately, I felt this one was a miss. It didn't have much flavor, and because I have had REALLY good butter here on other occasions, I use that as the benchmark.

Dinner Rolls with Red Wine and Sage Butter
Dinner Rolls with Red Wine + Sage Butter

Ever since my first crab cake experience in Maryland, I have been hooked on crab cakes. I'm sure to order them when I see it offered, and that's what I had as my appy. Their Atlantic crab meat crab cakes were accompanied with a caper-dill rémoulade. The crab cakes weren't bad, but I would have preferred a bit more crab in them.

Crab Cakes
Crab Cakes with Caper-Dill Remoulade

I was looking for a light dinner so I ordered the sauteed tofu vegetable bowl: warm Japanese buckwheat noodles served with sauteed tofu, Market vegetables, and fresh pineapple. The dish was tossed in a spicy Asian vinaigrette, and garnished with a grilled papadam. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, and would definitely order it again. A very tasty vegetarian meal.

Tofu Vegetable Bowl
Sauteed Tofu Vegetable Bowl

P ordered their classic spicy chicken and tiger shrimp jambalaya. When they indicate that this dish is hot, they aren't kidding! The menu warns that it is HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT!, and I lost all of my taste buds the last time I tried this dish. I warned P of this, and she was able to get the extra spices on the side. This is a must-order dish when visiting The Black Tomato.

Chicken and Tiger Shrimp Jambalaya
Chicken and Tiger Shrimp Jambalaya

The Black Tomato
11 George Street
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Telephone: 613-789-8123

The Black Tomato on Urbanspoon

Spotted - Atelier, Ottawa

For this month’s Spotted interview, I got the opportunity to interview the talented team at Atelier.

Atelier is one of Ottawa’s most cutting edge restaurants, offering molecular gastronomy cuisine. What is that? You’ll have to find out for yourself. Can’t get there? I’ll be posting my meal from Omnivore's Ottawa Supper club at Atelier soon, but in the meantime, check out my dinner from a couple of months ago at this link.

I couldn’t decide which Chef I wanted to interview most, so in the end, I asked all three if I could do a triple feature. The great thing was that these guys aren't just colleagues, they have become good friends. This was quite obvious during the interview.

Without further ado, this month’s Spotted interview is at Atelier, Ottawa.

Chefs at Atelier

Chef Michael Holland (Pastry Chef)
  • Where are you from: Toronto
  • Your signature dish: My Elvis Truffle
  • Weirdest thing ever eaten: Crunchy Dog Food. My friend was eating some, and I asked to try it. [Sarah asked Michael if he was a kid when he did this, and he embarrassingly said no.]
  • Favorite ice cream flavour: Any ice cream that I make.
  • Your last meal would be: Would I be in a cell and then lead to execution? That makes all the difference in my answer. I would have a cake with a file in it so that I can try to escape.
Chef Sarah Allen (Chef de Cuisine)
  • Where are you from: Castleton, Ontario
  • Your signature dish: My signature dish is whatever inspires me at the moment, but if I had to pick something, it would be soup. (Marc chimed in and said she makes a kick a** soup).
  • Weirdest thing ever eaten: Duck fat ice cream. It was horrible. Marc experimented and made it when we were at the Courtyard. It actually made me sick. (Luckily, everyone was able to laugh about it).
  • Favorite ice cream flavour: Store bought flavor would be heavenly hash. Non-store bought flavor would be star anise.
  • Your last meal would be: Hot dogs from Crif Dogs in New York City.
Chef Marc Lepine (Owner and Chef)
  • Where are you from: Kincardine, Ontario
  • Your signature dish: I don’t have one.
  • Weirdest thing ever eaten: Carbonated raw beef. It was awful. It was moving and jiggling. It was alive!
  • Favorite ice cream flavour: Chocolate.
  • Your last meal would be: A glass of Italian red wine.
After the interview, I went and checked out their garden to see what cool things were growing. I was surprised to see what once was a patio, turned into a garden full of cool herbs and veggies. Some things to note were their curry plant, pineapple sage, and lemon verbena.

Garden At Atelier

I also checked out their solar oven, which has been used to cook things such as braised leeks.

Solar Oven At Atelier

I'm heading to San Diego for a few days, but I'll be sure to write about my exciting 12-course dinner from last night when I get back.

Dragon Beard Candy

Dragon Beard Candy

I just had two lovely boxes of dragon beard candy delivered to my door!

On a recent road trip with my family to Toronto for a family reunion, I spent a good portion of the car ride talking about dragon beard candy and how it is becoming so hard to find. I remember going to Pacific Mall every time I visited Toronto, in search of dragon beard candy, and was SOL every time. My uncle told me that it is very easy to find in Montreal, and the guy who makes it is always around. Remembering our conversation from that road trip, my uncle picked up two boxes of the delightful candy this past weekend, and brought it home for me (*smiles*).

Dragon Beard Candy

Dragon beard candy is a very delicate and labor intensive Chinese candy that is made from spun sugar. Sugar is boiled and then repeatedly pulled and folded over, creating hundreds of thin sugar strands. The sugar is then covered in glutinous flour to prevent sticking.

It was created over 2000 years ago, and was once a treat made strictly for the Emperors of China. The candy got its name from the fact that the strands of sugar resembles a beard, and it is called dragon beard because the dragon is an imperial Chinese symbol.

Dragon Beard Candy

Today, there are only a handful of people in the world that know the art of dragon beard candy making. It is an interesting process, and if you ever get the chance, I urge you to see how it is made in real-life. It is entertaining and depending on the person, it can become a theatrical performance.

Once the sugar strands are made, they are cut into small pieces, and then wrapped around a roasted peanut, sesame seed, and shredded coconut mixture.

A lot people I know love keeping this candy in the fridge before eating, but I much prefer it fresh.
My uncle got my dragon beard candy from Montreal's China Town. They couldn't remember the exact location, but they did tell me that it is in the middle of China Town beside a Mongolian hot pot place. Luckily, Montreal's China Town is fairly small.

In Toronto, you can find dragon beard candy at Pacific mall. The guys is there most weekends, but I can't say what time or days because he wasn't there everytime I went to find him.

Brunch at Stoneface Dolly's, Ottawa

Stoneface Dolly's, Ottawa

I feel a little ashamed today. Instead of running in the National Capital Race Weekend like I have done the past 3 years in a row, I chose to eat instead.

Food, running, running, food? FOOD! Those were the thoughts that kept running through my head.

I went to brunch with Beebs and a few friends at Stoneface Dolly's, an establishment named after the original owner's mother's "stoneface" poker face. In 1999, Bob Russell took ownership of Stoneface Dolly's and updated the menu. Bob is originally from South Africa, and you will see items on the menu that are clearly influenced by his roots such as the Jerk Chicken club sandwich.

This place is famous for their homemade brown molasses bread, which they offer with almost all of their brunch dishes.

I decided to order a feast this morning, and chose 3 separate dishes:

The single size Classic Bobby Mac: eggs, tomato, cheddar cheese, and bacon sandwiched in their brown molasses bread. This was served with home fries and fresh fruit. This dish wasn't bad, but I found their sandwich to be a little dry. Luckily, a little bit of the Chamomile Desjardins hot sauce did the trick.

Classic Bobby Mac
Classic Bobby Mac

Hot Sauce
Chamomile Desjardins Hot Sauce

I'm a huge sausage lover, so I had to order a side of farmers sausage with my Bobby Mac. They were juicy and delicious.
Farmers Breakfast Sausage
Farmers Sausage

I REALLY REALLY wanted to try their ricotta blueberry pancakes, so I ordered it and shared it with everyone at the table. This turned out to be my favorite, and I highly recommend it. The blueberry pancakes were served with fresh whipped cream, and lemon curd, which I smeared all over my pancakes.
Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes
Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes

Beebs ordered the Eggs Florentine: two poached eggs on their molasses bread with lemon diablo sauce and spinach. The eggs were cooked nicely, and the lemon diablo sauce is similar to hollandaise, but with a kick of flavour. Beebs found her eggs a tad sour from the vinegar water used to cook the eggs.

Eggs Florentine with Lemon Diablo Sauce
Eggs Florentine

P ordered the Three Egg Omelet with roasted red pepper pesto, smoked salmon, spinach, and goat cheese. If you are a goat cheese lover, this dish is for you. The omelet was served with molasses bread, salad, and home fries.

Three Egg Omelet with Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese
Three Egg Omelet No. 3

E ordered the french toast. It was a toss up between the sourdough bread and molasses bread. In the end, the molasses won.

French Toast
Brown Molasses Bread French Toast

Stoneface Dolly's
416 Preston Street
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Telephone: 613-564-2222

Brunch Menu

Stone Face Dolly's on Urbanspoon

Masami Takahashi Ramen Spoon + Fork

Ramen Spoon + Fork

Ladies and gentleman, I present you the Ramen Spoon + Fork (aka ramen spork). This is no ordinary spork my friends. This spork was designed exclusively for the The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) by Japanese designer Masami Takahashi.

My sister-in-law, Hals, recently returned from a trip to New York City, and brought this spork back for me as a souvenir gift. I was totally stoked when I saw it, and thought it was one of the coolest gifts ever.

I learned from Wiki that the spork is not a new invention. It dates back to the late 1800's, and because of its versatility, this type of untensil was commonly used by the military and by backpackers.

The Takahashi ramen spoon + fork was originally created for use at the popular Sugakiya ramen noodle restaurant chain in Japan to eliminate waste created by disposable chopsticks. It is made of stainless steel, and is also dishwasher safe.

Check out my Ramen Spoon + Fork in action...brace yourself, it's real exciting stuff.

Masami Takahashi Spork

The verdict? To my surprise, this utensil worked extremely well. It has changed my view on ramen eating forever :) The spoon part looked a little shallow to me, but in the end, it scooped just enough soup with each bite of noodle. I also really liked the fact that I could fit the entire spork into my mouth without gagging.

I've made a commitment to travel with my ramen spork with me at all times in case I spontaneously stop in at a ramen joint...ya never know. Yes, CK is terribly embarrassed by me.

Masami Takahashi Spoon + Fork

Purchase your own Masami Takahashi Ramen Spoon + Fork here.

The Chip Maker: Microwaved Chips

Microwaved Chips
Believe it or not, the chips pictured above were made by microwave. Yes, like you, I thought it was a gross idea... until I tried them *blush*.

Wals' sister was recently in Taiwan, and bought him a "Chip Maker". Being too lazy to make his own chips, he figured I would make better use of the contraption. Being the food dork I am, I was excited by the gift, and ran home to use it.

In reality, this chip maker really isn't a chip maker. It is a mandoline + chip container that you can put in the microwave.

Chip Maker

Here's how this puppy works:

You slice your potatoes.

Chip Maker

Throw your potato slices, with some seasoning, onto the chip carousel.

Chip Maker

Microwave for 5-8 minutes, and ta da!

Chip Maker

I made regular potato chips and sweet potato chips, and both tasted good. These were the flavors I tried:

- sea salt and pepper (excellent).
- cayenne pepper and salt (not bad...they were spicy).
- Terriyaki (Wouldn't try this at home, stick to dry salty spices. I used a terriyaki marinade and the sugars completely burnt the chips).

Microwaved Chips

Beurre Marchand de Vin

Beurre Marchand de Vin

As mentioned in my last post, I absolutely loved the butter Chef Ashlee made for her Mother's Day dinner.

It was so good, I decided to share the recipe with y'all. A shallot red wine reduction is added to the butter, creating a pretty pink color, and an OOSOME flava (my attempt at an Aussie accent).
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. As my father-in-law always says, "Bon Appétity!"

Beurre Marchand de Vin (Wine Merchant Butter)- 2 brs persil/parsley
- 100 g echalotes/shallots
- 200 ml vin rouge/red wine
- 100g beurre/butter
- 1 pc citron, jus/lemon, juice

Method1. Finely chop the shallots. Combine it with the red wine in a pot, bring to a boil, and reduce.
2. Finely chop the parsley, and fold it into the butter.
3. Add the red wine reduction and lemon into the butter mixture. Mix well.
4. Put the butter into a piping bag, and pipe the butter mixture onto a lining tray. Refrigerate until hard, and serve.

This butter goes well with meats, but heck, eat it with whatever you like.

Beef Ribs

An Afternoon with a Le Cordon Bleu Chef-To-Be

A Cordon Bleu Dinner

I spent this past Mother's Day with my friend’s niece to help her cook a great French dinner for her family. Ok, so I can't say I helped cook the meal, but I did take a lot of photos and peeled some potatoes and carrots :-). She recently enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa, and decided to cook for us to practice for her upcoming exam.

Everyone, meet Ashley, aka Chef Ashlee (pronounced in a heavy Frech accent). She is a funny and personable 18 year old who has chosen a career path in culinary arts. She is passionate about food, and can talk your ear off about her experiences at Le Cordon Bleu.

Chef Ashley
Chef Ashlee

She arrived with a big black bag around her shoulders, and revealed that it was her set of beautiful Wüsthof knives.

Wusthof Knives
Wüsthof Knives

Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa is one of the best campuses in the world, and lucky for us, they are planning on opening a second campus here in Ottawa. I learned that there are some campuses that are not true Cordon Bleu Paris schools, which means they only teach a subset of the French techniques in the regular curriculum.

Even though Ash is a vegetarian, she says that it has not been a challenge cooking at Le Cordon Bleu. She loves cooking, and that’s all that matters. She decided to become a vegetarian because she is a huge animal lover and doesn’t believe in the slaughter of animals. She does understand that there are people who will always eat meat, so she tries to keep an open mind about the issue. Her ultimate dream is to work for a gourmet vegetarian restaurant (Zen Kitchen, are you looking for people!!??).

Le Cordon Bleu does not provide a lot of notes. For each dish learnt in class, only the ingredients list is provided. It is up to each student to diligently take notes on the method and techniques taught in class. While Ash was busy setting up her kitchen, I looked through her notes, and laughed out loud when I came across this page (pictured below). The only thing that stood out on the page was an instruction to "turn these bitches".


Not only can the girl cook, but she can draw as well. She calls herself weird for drawing the picture below, but I think it's brilliant.


We spent a large part of the day preparing and turning vegetables.


Turning vegetables is a traditional French technique that involves shaping vegetables into an egg-like shape with exactly 7 faces. This specific shape makes it easier to sauté vegetables because it allows them to easily roll around in a pot. A lot of the vegetable is wasted through turning, but at Le Cordon Bleu, the unused parts are used to make vegetable broth.

Turned Turnips
Turned Turnips

Next came the meat preparation. This poor little piggy cutting board got butchered during our lamb and beef prep.

Piggy Cutting Board

Here's Ash hard at work searing the lamb before it went into the oven. Check out her tasting spoon attached to her sleeve. I was amused by it.

Chef at Work

An interesting fact I learnt about Le Cordon Bleu: they put gelatin in their good wines to prevent students from drinking it. It is still good to cook with, but awful to drink…hehe.

Ash is definitely an interesting character, and that is evident when I asked her who she would invite to her dream dinner party. She responded with 4 guests:
  • Chef Gilles Penot (her favorite chef at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa),
  • Davey Havok (lead singer of AFI),
  • Auguste Escoffier (author of the culinary bible), and
  • Stephen Hawking (in her opinion, the most intelligent man in the world)
One thing she did make clear was that Gordon Ramsey would not be invited because he scares the P out of her (what P means exactly, I'm not sure).

And FINALLY, here's what we ate for dinner:

Freshly baked multi-grain baguette.

Multi-grain Baguette
Multi-grain baguette

Tomatoes stuffed with parmesan, bread crumbs, and parsley...very flavorful and tasty.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Parmesan and Bread Crumbs
Tomatoes Stuffed with Bread Crumbs and Parmesan

Navarin D’agneau Printanier, a DELICIOUS braised lamb shoulder stew with veggies glacer au blanc. The veggies were sauteed in water, butter, and sugar. This was definitely my favorite of the evening.

Lamb Stew
Navarin D’agneau Printanier

Cote de boeuf grille avec beurre marchand de vin: Grilled beef ribs with an awesome butter that got its beautiful pink color from a red wine reduction. I don't normally like butter, but I couldn't stop eating the butter Ash made. Not only did it taste good, but she made it look good by piping the butter into pretty little flowers.

Beef Ribs
Cote de Boeuf Grille avec Beurre Marchand de Vin

For dessert, we had a humongous Costco apple pie with vanilla frozen yogurt.

Apple Pie
Costco Apple Pie