Saturday, February 13, 2010

Polish Much?

During the holidays, I had a visit from a family friend. We kind of grew up together and he comes visit me from time to time! And since he loves eating and discovering new restaurants, it is my
responsibility to make his journey memorable. The first time, I made him taste the real smoked meat from Montreal at Dunns (Shwartz was a bit too far) and a good old poutine. Most of the people are disguted at the idea of fries covered with gravy and cheese curds but it is a delicacy here! Especially after a good night of dancing and drinking, nothing feels better than a big poutine at la Banquise. Although, I would not say that they serve the best poutine. Décarie Hot Dog wins big time with its larged-cut fries, a real good and flavorful gravy and that cheese that make 'squish squish'! Mmmm mmm mmm!!!

So this time, I decided to make him discover the multiethnicity of Montreal and at the same time, I could try something new! It was a very cold day and we have walked for a long time. We needed something that will warm us from the inside out! Why not try this Polish restaurant in the old port! I have tried some Pierogies in the past but never the real ones and I know very well that Polish meals are filled with carbs, nothing better than carbs in a cold winter day!

So in we go in Stash Café. This restaurant has been recommended by a polish friend I go to school with. She says that she brings her parents there everytime they come visit. So I figure, it must not be bad. My motto when trying out restaurants from other cultures, if the tables are filled with customers from this culture, I may assume that this is authentic cuisine!

As we enter the restaurant, there is a harmonious music that welcome us. A pianist was sitting near the entrance and played some very pleasant melody. The wooden tables all had a candle on each of them. The atmosphere was very homey... and provided us all the warmth needed :)

As we opened up the menu, there was a choice of à la carte or a discovery menu! I was super excited, I wanted to taste EVERYTHING! I ordered the primer, a little bit of everything for 'the novice to Polish cooking'... I believe that is me. My friend ordered the roast of wild boar, grrrr!

As an appetizer, we each had a soup. Borsch. Don't ask me to pronounce it, I might sound a bit This soup is a classic in polish cuisine. Made out of red beets, it has a pleasant sweetness to it and the sour cream topping was supposed to balance the saltiness of the soup. But I must say it was quite intense and somehow too salty, even with the sour cream.

Then came a simple green salad. Like I said, simple. Some mixed greens with beets (they love beets I think) and a home-made dressing. Good.

The main course. Ha-Ha! Mine was quite spectacular. I had a mix of cabbage stew with meats, sausage and mushrooms (Bigos); some pancake rolls filled with meat and fried (Krokiety); some potato pancakes (Placki); and dumplings stuffed with meat and cheese (Pierogies). And all served with a BIG dollop of sour cream. And beets. Again. They clearly LOVE beets a lot. And potatoes. And sour cream. Everything was super good. The pierogies were the best I have tasted up till now. The fried pancakes were crunchy with a mild meat taste. The cabbage added enough tanginess to lightened up the dish. And the potato pancakes were cooked to perfection, nice and cripy on the outside, and soft on the inside. But I must say, it was a very very very heavy dish. You just feel incredibly bloated after that. My oh my! At least, it did warmed me up :)

My friend's dish was really delicate. It was a few slices of boar that was marinated in a sweet sauce (I believe made out of beets). The boar was very tasty and gamey. A flavor unlike any other red meat as a matter of fact. Very tender too. It was clear that this piece of meat was simmered for a long time.

Finally, the finale was a nice little white cake topped with some fresh fruits. I was so happy to see some fruits! It felt really good :)

There was also a vast choice of Vodkas that we didn't have time to taste. Polish are known for their vodka and the waiters were very knowledgeable and helpful for that. Overall, good restaurant and great service! Our waiter described every dish and taught us how to eat it. Don't eat before going there though. You won't be able to walk after ;)

Stash Cafe on Urbanspoon

Stash Café
200 Rue Saint Paul Ouest
Montreal, Quebec H2Y 1Z9
(514) 845-6611

Interesting books about food (pff... obviously!)

In the past years, I have accumulated quite some books concerning food. Personally, I preferred much more books that discuss the why and the how of food than just plain recipes! Yes, they can be useful but seriously, I don't use recipes that much! I like to improvise :) I prefer to understand the science and chemistry behind the cooking of a plate and experiment with trial and error. And trust me, it is so fun!!!! Here are some books that captured my attention (some are in french)

Molecular Gastronomy - Exploring the Science of Flavor
Hervé This

Hervé This is the pioneer in Food Science. He is the one that defined 'Molecular Gastronomy'. In this book, he explained the scientific components behind some problems and some phenomena that happens in our kitchen. Why is my chocolate turning white? What is the optimal temperature for a perfect crème caramel? Why is there some crystals in my ice cream? This book is written for the general public, so don't be scared by the scientific terms!

What Einstein Told His Cook - Kitchen Science Explained
Robert L. Wolke

Again, a light and captivating books of facts written in humorous way, What Einstein Told his Cook covers the theory behind some techniques and shows some applications of these theories with interesting recipes!

Papilles et Molécules - La Science Aromatique des Aliments et des Vins
François Chartier

François Chartier is a world-known sommelier and has worked with the prestigious restaurant in Spain, El-Bulli. He is the first person ever to write about the flavor chemistry which hides behind the pairing of wine and food. He explains through schemes and recipes how some aromas can be paired up and why they make such a perfect marriage. This book has been positively reviewed uncountable times and I highly recommend it for any foodie which loves having a good glass of wine while enjoying a delicious meal.

La Chimie des Desserts
Christina Blais

I just absolutely love this book!!!! Everytime your cake cracks or you fudge is not smooth enough, you always get frustrated and just don't understand why oh why it is happening!!! Well, this books illustrate extremely well the common errors in baking and how to prevent it or even better, repair it! There are troubleshootings and solutions for every kind of sweets and recipes which shows you the right way to do it! Never again will you fail your soufflé! No no no! :)

L'Essentiel de l'Épicerie
Johanne Despin et Denis Gagné, Radio-Canada

L'épicerie is a french tv shows which explains some products, test some cookware and compare brands of food. This show was one of the reasons why I went into food science. Seriously. Amazing. Everything you always wanted to know. Which fast food has more fat? What is the difference between artificial vanilla and the real thing, can we really detect the difference? How do make donuts at Krispy Kreme? Are energetic drinks really bad for us? You can watch the shows directly on the website of Radio-Canada:, I really think they should make DVDS. I will so buy them. Meanwhile, I have the book :)

How to be a better foodie - A Bulging Little Book for the Truly Epicurious
Sudi Pigott

You want to look cool and impress your friends with your high class foodie terms? Well, this is perfect for you! From what a foodie should read to what a real foodie should have in his kitchen, this little book can teach every little secret of a true foodie! Very entertaining and great subjects for conversation starters ;)

So yep! Those are some of my books that I like a lot. I will post others later on...

Have fun reading :)

Spherification - Faux Caviar

The McGill Food Science Association was volunteering in February at the Salon Rendez-Vous. Our mission: represent McGill Food Science and expose the use of science in hotels, caterings and restaurants applications. And must I say mission accomplished :)

Stéphane, my long time best friend, loyal foodie and executive member of my association , and I worked endless hours to create a fun and interactive demonstration at the salon. In addition of some fun facts and theory we have made into an attractive booklet, we decided to include a demonstration of spherification.

Now, what the hell is this big long word? First, the word 'sphere' is featured in it. Thus, indeed we are creating spheres. In fact, spherification is the process of making spheres of liquid, any liquid, that has the same texture as caviar. As soon as you bite into it, it burst into your mouth. And with this technique, any liquid can be used... wine, juice, sauce... the possibilities are infinite!

But how? What we need:

- 1.5g sodium alginate
- 150 g liquid

- 3g calcium chloride
- 300 g water

Sodium alginate is a natural extract from brown algae. It is a hydrocolloid, which means it forms a gel when in contact with water. Here, we use a ratio of 1% sodium alginate to liquid. The sodium alginate needs to be dissolved in two times and be sure to let it rest between. It is very hard to dissolve this algae so be patient! And also, it is important to not incorporate too much air when mixing! After the alginate is well dissolved, let it rest for at least 30-45 minutes, the longer the better.

While waiting, make the calcium bath. You only have to mix the calcium chloride with the water and let it rest again for at least 30 min.

Now, get yourself some pipettes or a bottle which can make drops (ketchup, vinaigrette bottles from the dollar store). Fill it with the alginate solution and carefully drop the solution in the calcium bath. To make perfect sphere, hold the bottle parallel to the surface and press just enough to make the liquid come out and let it drop in the bath.

Wait around 20-30 seconds and scoop it out with a strainer or a specialized spoon. Rinse your caviar in cool water to wash off the taste and slow down the spherification.

What happens? The sodium alginate forms bonds when it comes in contact with the calcium. While the membrane forms, the interior still stays liquid. However, the reaction is unstable which means that with time, the interior will gellifies too. This is why we have to rinse it in water and consume it as soon as possible.

Moreover, the choice of solutions is very important. If the solution is somehow acidic, a buffer will be needed to stabilize it. Sodium citrate is often used.

Once again, a little imagination and a lot of fun can create some very interesting recipes. Combinations such as pearls of orange juice in a glass of champagne to make a mimosa or caviar of balsamic vinegar on a piece bread with some good olive oil.... yummmyyyyy!!!!

For more pictures, please visit the food science association website at and a video which shows the spherification process can be found on youtube:

Have fun!