Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Langdon Hall's Holiday Brunch

1 Langdon Drive
Cambridge, Ontario


In her opinion:
Cambridge doesn't have a lot to be proud of in the way of food...sorry if that offends anyone...but that is my honest opinion. Yes, there are some good if not amazing places but they are few and far between. So whenever I have a chance to promote one of those amazing places...I do. Langdon Hall is the leader of Cambridge's amazing places and with the recent addition of Chef Jason Bangerter, it's even better.

Chef Bangerter came to Langdon Hall at the end of October to replace departing Grand Chef Jonathan Gushue. We have been big fans of Chef Bangerter since his days at Auberge du Pommier and became bigger fans when we finally met him at Luma. We were thrilled when he took this new position and had been itching to visit Langdon Hall.

We decided that Langdon Hall's Holiday Brunch was the perfect opportunity. This was a wonderful escape for Edgar and I. Anytime I get a chance to enjoy the splendour of Langdon Hall, I take it. If you haven't had a chance to eat here...please try...if you have, you know exactly what I'm talking about. As you drive up the wooded, curvy drive you are transported to another realm of service and grace. It is refinement at its best.

Fig Side Car

We were shown to a lovely table for two by the windows. Our attentive server introduced herself and took our drink orders. She also delivered delicious sourdough bread and house-made butter to the table. After checking out the brunch menu, I had made my choices. However, Chef Bangerter came out for a visit and to say hello. I asked for his opinion on my choices...I ended up changing what I had picked! As a result, the beautiful glass of Argentinian Malbec that I had ordered was switched for Edgar's Fig Side Car. This is a gorgeous martini of brandy, Grand Marnier and fig and orange flavoured syrup. 

For my appetizer I order the "Oxtail and Foie Gras Terrine served with port wine shallots, pickled honey mushrooms and watercress."

Really delicious. The flavours of the terrine itself was perfection. The delicate port wine shallots were the perfect accompaniment to the heartiness of the terrine. The velvety smoothness of the foie gras was exquisite.

We were surprised with a dish delivered to our table by Chef Bangerter himself. He brought us a dish off his tasting menu. "Slow-poached B.C. scallops with a hazelnut and sun choke purée and truffle dressing".

In a word...superb. It was just so delicious. The scallops were perfectly cooked. The puree was velvety and delicious. The truffle dressing was so so good. The perfect gift from the kitchen.

For my main course, Chef Bangerter suggested the pickerel so I choose the pickerel. It was served with double smoked bacon, fennel, celery root and white wine mussel nage

I'm so glad I took Chef Bangerter's advise. This was absolutely wonderful. The pickerel was cooked perfectly. The celery root, fennel and white wine mussel nage was very well executed. It was light and fresh and flavourful. A perfect brunch main course.

We were rewarded with a pre-dessert by the kitchen. A lovely "blood orange sorbet with a ginger cookie crumb". 

This was light and refreshing and just beautiful. The blood orange flavour was delightful.

For my actual dessert, I choose the "Dark Chocolate Caramel Tart with rosemary white chocolate crumb and toasted walnut ice cream".

In a word...decadent. I love chocolate...but chocolate and caramel is a real treat. This was just excellent.

Overall, the whole experience was wonderful. It did not disappoint. I am thrilled that Chef Bangerter took the position at Langdon Hall. Langdon Hall made the right choice in picking Jason Bangerter to replace Jonathan Gushue. He brings creativity and excellence to the position and Cambridge is lucky to have him.

In his opinion:
Returning to Langdon Hall is always a treat for us no matter how many times we do it in a year. Being that it is practically down the street from our place is also an advantage, as is the fact that it is one of the best and highest rated restaurants in Canada.

The Christmas season is a particularly great time to visit but this time we had an added bonus. The new Executive Chef is none other than the man that made Auberge du Pommiers, the best French restaurant this side of the Atlantic, the one and only Chef Jason Bangerter. I was quite excited to see what Chef Bangerter would do with the menu even though he has only been in the position for a few months, but his touch was already felt in the food.

After having my "Fig Side Car Martini" drink practically "stolen" from me by my significant other, I ended up with her choice of an Argentinian Malbec which wasn't bad at all. Chef Bargenter graced us with this presence at table to say hi and catch up before our meal. To start I opted for the "Citrus Cured Albacore Tuna with radish, delicate herbs and creme fraiche". 

The presentation was exquisite. In this case the Tuna did all the talking and not only looked amazing but tasted even better. Buttery smooth and melting in your mouth delicious. The creme fraiche worked well to add a bit of tartness to the tuna. The radishes were super crunchy and seemed pickled and again very tasty.

Chef Bargenter brought us a surprise dish to kick off our main courses. Slow-poached B.C. scallops with a hazelnut, sun choke puree and a truffle dressing. This dish was nothing short of spectacular and as I tweeted almost immediately, perhaps the best dish I have ever had in all my visits to Langdon Hall. The sweet poached scallops melted in your mouth and the toasted hazelnut provided the perfect contrast in texture, an ingenious touch. The sun choke puree was creamy and the black truffle shavings just enhanced the scallop taste to a whole new level. I find it hard to describe this dish as it left me basically speechless as I ate it and for those that know me would understand that is no small feat.

For our second main course, I had "Braised Lamb Shank with creamy cornmeal pudding, truffle, parsley and sheep's milk cheese". I'm a huge fan of lamb shank and this one was spectacular. Perfectly cooked and even that fatty part of the lamb was delicious and offered its own texture. The bed of cornmeal pudding was a perfect pairing for the meat and the truffle shaving just made the dish so much better. 

Our first dessert, courtesy of the kitchen was "Blood Orange Sorbet with ginger cookie crumbs". I must admit that it took me almost eating the whole sorbet to pinpoint its flavour to be blood orange, maybe because I don't usually have blood oranges but it was delicious. The idea to pair smooth ice cream with any type of texture crumble is simply genius, playing with the textures makes things all that better.

For my second dessert, I ordered "Honey Creme Caramel with butternut and honeycrisp apple and gingerbread crumb". The velvet texture of the creme caramel was perfect and barely required a fork to cut into it. The sorbet was exquisite with multi flavours with each bite and again the texture complexity of the gingerbread crumb made every mouthful a delight.

Our meal was once again amazing and exceeded our expectations. It didn't reach the 3 + hours proportions of my last 8 course tasting menu did but we still ended up being on of the last couples left the dining room. Langdon Hall will be in renovations to extend the kitchen and the dining room and that is good news to any foodie. Let's hope it won't take too long to complete as I'm already on pins and needles to return.

The Good: Great meal with the highlight of the outstanding scallop dish. The service was impecable as expected and the dining room was very inviting.
The Bad: Hard to get a reservation during Christmas but with good planning, anything is possible.
The Verdict: The results of a visit to Langdon Hall's restaurant seems predictable. But that is only because it always delivers on its promise and treats its customers to an amazing experience. The addition of Chef Bargenter is already being felt in the fresh, innovative dishes that he has introduced and be on the lookout for much more very soon.
Thanks to Chef Bargenter for the lovely experience and to Langdon Hall for being simply the best!

I give it 4 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating

Langdon Hall on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Au Pied de Cochon

534 Avenue Duluth Est
Montreal, Quebec


In her opinion:
Just like back in 2011 (our last culinary adventure in Montreal)we had our first dinner at Au Pied de Cochon. This is Martin Picard's restaurant...Picard is the folklore foodie hero who is a culinary giant in the province of Quebec and among the world of food. We had had the pleasure of meeting the man last year when he was on his cookbook tour. A gentle giant is what I called him with a mischievous laugh. So to say that I was excited about getting a much sought after reservation is an understatement.

Au Pied de Cochon is in the Plateau and in an area where parking is a problem. So much so that by the time we arrived at the restaurant after fighting traffic, it took Edgar about 30 minutes to find a parking spot. During that time I waited patiently hoping that he would arrive...the staff were fabulous during that time making sure I had a drink and warm bread and butter. As I sat waiting for Edgar and Ethan to arrive, in walks Martin Picard. I had hoped that he would be there but I hadn't held my breath. So when he walked in looking exactly as only Martin Picard can look, I was so excited. You see, I equate my favourite chefs the same way some of my girlfriends equate rock stars. They are my foodie rock stars!

What's more...he's even more of a rock star to my foie gras loving hubby! So I asked our server if Chef Picard was hanging around for the night because my husband would love to meet him. What does she say..."I don't know...I'll ask him"..."No", I say, "Don't bother the man!" She of course didn't do what I asked and here comes Martin Picard (MP) to my table...the conversation went something like this:

MP - "Hello, you wanted to know if I was staying here tonight"

Me - "Oh, hello (this said completely in awe). Yes, I was asking because my husband is a huge fan and he would love to say hello to you. Unfortunately, he is trying to find a parking spot."

MP - "Oh yes, it is very difficult to find parking and no, I am heading to Cabane du Sucre tonight...you know it?"

Me - "Yes, of course...we tried getting a reservation but couldn't succeed."

MP - "Yes, it is very hard."

Me - "Actually, we've met before in Toronto during your cookbook signing tour".

MP - "Ah oui. That's fantastic! The next time we meet, I will remember you! I be here for a little while maybe I will meet your husband! 

I waited patiently hoping and praying that Edgar would arrive before Chef Picard left. But the foodie gods were having none of that and about 15 minutes later, in walks my darling husband and son with no Martin Picard in sight, just like the elusive Polkaroo of my childhood. I was just thankful that he did had been able to find parking.

Oh yes, back to the reason we came in the first place - the food...we started with two glasses of Au Pied de Cochon beer. This is a nice light beer with great flavour.

For a starter, we ordered "Codfish Fritters" to share.

These are lovely little bites of codfish and potato, seasoning and onion with a crispy crust served with a tangy dipping sauce. Really really good.

For my main, I had decided that I would order the "Pied de Cochon", the restaurant's signature dish.

What they didn't tell me was that it was enough to feed a family of four easily. It was about the size of my 7 year old's head. This consisted of a "pied de cochon" or pig foot which had been de-boned and deep fried. It is served with a vinegar based sauce with onion and tomato. It was also served with creamy cheesy potatoes and a croquette made up of piggy parts, herbs, wine, onion, garlic and porto. The "pied de cochon" (so much nicer than saying pig foot or trotter) was very delicious. The meat was succulent with the right amount of fatty goodness. The sauce was perfect since it provided the acidity needed to combat this fatty dish. The potatoes were succulent as well. I wasn't a huge fan of the croquette but the fact that I wasn't exactly sure which piggy parts I was eating had something to do with that!

It looked like I hadn't even made a dent when I called it quits. I am not kidding when I say that this is huge. I packed it to go. The other sad part is that the size of my main left no room for dessert. I could barely move. 

The staff, service, food and atmosphere is amazing at Au Pied de Cochon. If you want excellent food created by a French Canadian foodie god, go here! Good luck getting a reservation but it's worth the challenge and if you see my friend Chef Picard tell him Julie said hello. 

In his opinion:
Saying that I get giddy and excited every time I visit Au Pied du Cochon is a bit of an understatement. Most guys get like that at the Hockey Hall of Fame but to me this is like the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Air Canada Centre and the Rogers Centre all in one. If you ask around, there is a good chance that the average folk won't know who Martin Picard is, but in the food world he is a food God. Cooking what he wants, how he wants and making no apologies for any of it.

Who else would get away with having a recipe for beaver and squirrel sushi in his cookbook or open a sugar shack as a restaurant or terrorize the streets of Montreal with a wine bottle in his hand and causing havoc with Anthony Bourdain and his close buddies from Joe Beef restaurant? Martin can...and he does.

The premise of this restaurant is pretty simple...the most decadent food known to mankind, humongous portions and foie gras everything. One has to be prepared when eating here and that usually means no breakfast and a light lunch....the portions are that big. I even had to be careful with not overdoing it on the delicious bread brought to the table.

With a nice cold refreshing "Au Pied du Cochon" beer at hand I started working through the appetizer of codfish fritters. For a Portuguese guy that sees codfish in the same level as bacon, it's almost impossible not to love every codfish dish that I get served. They came wrapped in paper, as you would get served chestnuts in the streets of Paris and they were delicious. Moist, tender and packing full codfish flavour without being overpowering.

Then it was time to pick my entree. On my last visit I had "Foie Gras Poutine", yes, you read right...and it was as close to food Nirvana as I have ever come in my life. I mean Poutine in Quebec and topped with Martin Picard's Foie Gras? If it gets better than that, I haven't experienced it...but wait. Was I in for a new Nirvana experience when I order the entree this time? Maybe...

So of course I pick the "Piece de Resistance" dish of the restaurant called "Duck in a Can". It is exactly what the name says and how it sounds....lots of "Duck in a Can". Inside the can is as follows,  1/2 a duck, 100 grams of Foie Gras, balsamic demiglaze, buttered cabbage and 1/2 roasted garlic and thyme. They bring you a can full of delicious duck and dump it on roasted bread and celery root puree. The can of duck is cooked in simmering water for up to 28 minutes. WHAT A MEAL!!

This was probably one of the best dishes I have ever had and indeed an experience for the ages...You must like duck and you must be adventurous but judging by the amount of videos on youtube showing the can opening and duck reveal, there are many of us out there. At $43, it is the second most expensive thing on the menu for a single dish but well worth the price.

Needless to say that I found my "Foie Gras Poutine" match and it was right here in the same place 2 years later. Hands down the best non-calorie counting restaurant in Montreal and a perfect example that a Michelin star type of Chef can open a restaurant to serve what he likes and be successful. Besides being my favourite Canadian Chef he is also an inspiration for chefs everywhere, taking Quebec cuisine and its local produce to a whole new level. I missed talking to him this time but the words of our last meeting are still engraved in my mind. I asked..."Were you really trying to kill Anthony Bourdain with food during his Montreal TV episode?" He responded, "WAS?? I still am trying..."

The Good: Amazing food, huge portions and the the perfect setting to showcase the food of a culinary genius.
The Bad: Hard to get a reservation for (not as bad as his other restaurant Sugar Shack), expensive dishes and parking is a nightmare...you almost need to camp out for a spot.
The Verdict: What can I say that hasn't already been said. Anthony Bourdain puts it on his top 3 restaurants in the world, chefs adore him and critics respect him. The restaurant lives up to his philosophy of a great place to enjoy great food. If you get a parking spot early you may even get to meet the man himself.

I give it 4 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating 

Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon