Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Eat Your Roots: Baby Garlic

Fig.1. At Birri, you can by baby garlic in the pot or cleaned in bundles. They're not as strong as regular garlic, and the 'garlic' taste does diminish after it's cooked.

I for one am ready for some outdoor heat. It gets increasingly difficult to endure our frigid Quebec winters. Waiting for the various outdoor markets to open is like waiting for Christmas morning.
A visit to the Jean Talon market last week helped provide some hope that spring was finally here: potted herbs, potted salads, some fiddleheads, asparagus and Birri’s very succulent greenhouse cherry tomatoes are all in season and ready to be savored. It’s a very pleasing experience to be humbled with a new discovery. Vegetable man extraordinaire, Joseph, handed me some baby garlic, still in their pot, (Birri also has the garlic available cleaned and in bundles) and while there’s nothing new about baby garlic, Joseph explained to me that with this garlic, one eats the roots as well. Sold!

Fig.2 This is a somewhat dry pasta (pastasciutta) so drizzle with some olive oil at the end.

Spaghetti With Baby Garlic, Bacon and Olives.
Serves 4 to 5


1 pack (500g) spaghetti
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 pot baby garlic, about 5 to 6 garlic plants, cleaned and chopped (Birri also sells these out of the pot and cleaned.)
5 slices of bacon, chopped
½ cup pitted olives
½ cup white wine
2 large fresh tomatoes, diced

Fig.3. Just run them under water to clean them, but a little dirt won't kill you.


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Pour a little olive oil in a large pan set over medium high heat. Add the garlic and the bacon and saute for 6 to 7 minutes (don't let your garlic brown, if it starts to, lower heat or add more olive oil.) Add the olives and the wine. Let the wine come to a simmer and reduce by half, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the diced tomato and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the pasta directly into the pan with your garlic sauce. If the sauce is too dry, add some of the pasta water.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Italia in Festa: Leonardo Davinci comes to St Leonard

Fig.1. Dr. Guiseppe Manisco stands behind one of his working, Davinci models. This machine is capable of lowering and lifting buckets of well water simultaneously.

I've always been fascinated with characters. Someone, who for no apparent reason, just doesn't swim upstream with the rest of the tunnel-visioned members of society. A person who's uncomfortable with the mold assigned to him or her and proceeds to do things others would perceive as, 'not normal'. Enter Dr. Guiseppe Manisco, an engineer with a serious passion--some might say slightly obsessive. "In 2004 I received a book entitled, The Machines of Leonardo Davinci", say Manisco, "wouldn't it be fun to recreate [Leonardo's] models." And that's exactly what Manisco has been doing ever since. On display, in the Leonardo Davinci Centre's gymnasium, are 50 of Manisco's, Davinci models, all of which work I should add. Manisco is more than happy to show what all of the machines do, fervently demonstrating all of their moving parts. As he describes all of the machines to me I can't help but think how much a person is capable of if they would just stop watching television.

Fig.2. This one is my favorite. The pig or lamb is placed on a spit, the heat under causes the fan to turn, which then spins the animal; no 'arm power' necessary. This proves Davinci was a foodie.

Fig.3. One of Davinci's famous parachutes, flying wings, and a design for an emergency bridge used by warring soldiers who found themselves having to cross a small body of water. The bridge is self-supporting: no nails or rope anywhere.

Fig.4. This machine is made up of rotating blades, which when pulled by a horse, causes the long knives to spin very fast. Was intended to cut wheat but also used to cut the legs off of soldiers on the battlefield.

Fig.5. No idea what this one does.

Also on display is one of the largest private collections of art and publications about Leonardo Davinci and his works: Reproductions of his artwork, statues of Davinci, very old facsimiles of Davinci's workbooks, as well as some very old letters pertaining to Davinci are all on display. This vast collection of Davinci collectables belongs to Montreal neurosurgeon, Dr. Rolando Del Maestro.

Fig.6. A 60 year old wax facial model of Davinci. Part of the other exhibit featuring publications and collectables on the life of Leonardo Davinci.

Sunday, May 29th is "Italia in Festa", an all day and night affair. The streets will be closed and the front of the center will be filled with everything from entertainment for the kids to informational kiosks representing each province in Italy. The outdoor party culminates with a big musical concert under the stars.

Indoors, the center will be featuring free musical events, including a homage to Italian film soundtracks, under the direction of Italian grand pianist, Enzo De Rosa, who will be behind the piano playing along to the film scores.

As for the food, (this couldn't very well be a Hungry Italian post if I didn't make you hungry in some way, right?) The indoor trattoria will set up a command post outside where a team of cooks (myself included) will be armed and ready to cook for the estimated ten thousand hungry people expected to show up. On the menu: paninis (sangweeches)of porchetta and grilled sausages, and various pasta dishes.

Fig.7. The trattoria fashioned restaurant in the LDV center. Everything available during the big feast on May 29th will be cooked on the spot.

So come by and see Giuseppe Manisco's incredible, working reproductions of Davinci's models, (and bring your kids to this one); Del Maestro's private collection of Davinci publications, and get something to eat while you're here. Click here to see the whole itinerary.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Le Marchand du Bourg: The Best Dry Aged Rib Steaks in Montreal

Fig.1. Master butcher Marc Bourg standing in front of his signature, 40 day old, dry aged rib steaks, and as you can see by the picture, it's the whole rib.

Le Marchand du Bourg is a place I stumbled on by chance. I was walking along Beaubien Street just east of Papineau when I came across signs on the window declaring meat to be within. As I peered through the window, owner Marc Bourg kindly opened the door for me and assured me that I would be safe inside. I walked in, always eager to gaze at meat, but saw none. Where meat fridges should have been sat a large wooden church pew, and wooden shelves festooned with books, little sculptures, straw baskets and other various antiques; all that seemed edible on the shelf was Marc's home-made, Montreal steak spice. Opposite the shelves, an old counter also made of wood. The counter holds a cash register, an old wooden analog radio--the kind with a dial--and a rotary phone--also the kind with a dial. In the back of the store looms a large walk in fridge fashioned to look like an old, wooden cabin, complete with wood shingles and large windows. There are no packaged meat products in Marc's shop wrapped in cellophane or hermetically sealed. Marc cuts your meat in the walk-in fridge while you look on: you choose the animal, the cut and the size. The animals that Marc sells are lamb, veal, pork (all from Quebec), and of course, beef, his specialty. Marc's beef is Angus, and he's one of the few butchers in the city who dry ages his rib steaks. "I age my ribs whole for forty days, I have to set myself apart. That's why I don't sell chicken, everybody has chicken, but not everybody has dry aged beef."
Marc Bourg decided to open Boucherie Le Marchand du Bourg because he couldn't take the everyday practices that went on in the big supermarkets anymore. "The amount of waste is disgusting, at the end of every day, so much meat went into the garbage, I couldn't take it anymore." Marc’s passion is evident as he tells me that people need to change the way they buy their meat. That meat shouldn’t be bought in bulk and forgotten in the freezer, instead, we should just buy what we need and eat it right away.
While the dry-aged rib steaks need to be ordered in advance, Marc does sell other cuts of meat like filet mignon and flank that can be purchased on the spot. Pork cuts are also available 'sur place' but lamb and veal need to be ordered.
Getting to know Mark is an investment in meat: He's the type of butcher you can just ring up when you need some meat, he's the type of man who'll have your order ready and packaged for you (wrapped in nice brown paper) if you're in a hurry, and he's the type of person who'll sit next to you on his church pew and engage in friendly discussions ranging from summer barbecues to the importance of treating animals humanely.

Fig.2. Marc's butcher shop is a step back in time, a time when the neighbourhood butcher new your name and what your favorite cut of meat was.

Fig.3. The walk in fridge in, Le Marche Du Bourg has a a big window so you can see Marc at work.

Fig.4. Marc at work.

Fig.5. Two, 40 day old ribs aching to meet my cast iron pan. Did I mention my pan was scorching hot?

Le Marchand du Bourg: 1661 Beaubien east, (near Papineau) 514-439-3373