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The Daily Catch

6 Feb

You’ve just got to love this place—for the noise, the frenetic open kitchen, the complete absence of pretense, its shockingly shoulder-crowdingly small dining quarters and, above all, the food. Its very casual, somewhat divey approach is all part of its charm –from the weathered tables and chairs, to the single chalkboard menu and the use of paper placemats.    

The Daily Catch is a local staple for more than 30 years, who specializes in calamari dishes, black-squid-ink pastas, and linguine with clam sauce. There’s something about a big skillet of linguine and calamari that would seem less perfect if served on fine white china.

May I recommend the Tinta de Calamari -which is Homemade Black Pasta ($10.50/appetizer, $21/ entree).  It is effing fantastic.  Here are action shots of me impatiently digging into my ink pasta and burning my mouth in the process:

www.dailycatch .com at 323 Hanover St., North End, Boston, MA ****

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Baker’s Man, Buy Me A Cake As Fast As you Can….

3 Jun

….roll it, pat it, mark it with a “P”

….put it in the oven for the doggies and me!

Because many (many!) of you have inquired about the mysterious “P.’s’” littered amongst my posts, this here post is an introduction.  World, meet P.  P is for Prince.  The prince who stole my heart, that is.  Since this is a food blog and not an emo blog, I’ll try to keep this post in line with culinary musings.

P. is my partner in crime, fellow restaurant critique and collaborator in the kitchen.  He has a highly educated palate and a growing wine collection to match.  He prefers Reidel over Eisch and a tawny vintage must be drunk from a port glass.  Though he’s particular with many things, his taste in restaurants is not limited to the Michelin-starred or the private supper clubs.  Aside from fine dining, we also hunt for the holes-in-the-wall (a green pass a must), hidden spots where a lot of the authentic and delicious cuisine live.  We’ve also greatly enjoyed sharing bags of potato chips with the Mayans after a day of diving into the Cenotes.  To him, good food is good food –no matter the location and as long as he’s with good company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If at any time I’m too exhausted to cook supper, I can turn to him for help in the kitchen –but he’ll already have the lemon risotto cooking and the steaks on broil.  He is phenomenal in the kitchen and very creative without the help of a recipe.  But P. is no baker of cakes, nor maker of pastry.  I’m convinced that he doesn’t have the hands for it.  They are far too warm.  With the hottest oven one can find, he is the one guy who doesn’t really need a pair of protective oven mitts.  His hands –asbestos.  He’ll melt the butter in a dough with just a touch!

While this means he can warm my freakishly frozen fingers and toes no matter where we are (being a girl means being in constant cryonic suspension) it means that he has no chance of making pastry.  Baking is an exacting process.  It’s not like cooking really, it’s pure science which through trial-and-error and endless repetition gives you the expertise for the flakiest choux puff pastry, filled with a velvety pastry cream for a towering croquembouche or the lightest angel cake, covered with the smoothest lavender fondant.

Baking Puff Pastry and Angel Cakes is definitely not P.’s area of culinary art expression.

Of course, the great thing about no-bake-P, is that he obviously just buys a cake, which is P.’s preferred manner of baking.  His taste for patisserie is of course, just as decadent as his salty tooth, and we’ve all been spoiled by the delicacies from one of his favourite spots:

DT (Dessert Trends) – Bistro-Patisserie. 154 Harbord Street (at Brunswick Avenue), Toronto, 416 916-8155 ****

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimalist decor leaves centre stage for the main event: exquisite cakes and pretty pastries that line glass showcases.  P. says their brunch menu is as good as everything in their showcase.  I’ve yet to try.  My favourite P. – DT Bistro treat: Almond Brittle.  Goddamn, it is good!  I had no idea a simple brittle could be so good.  It’s melt-in-your-mouth addictive!  It needs nothing but a cup of tea and a quiet place where no one can hear you moaning, and in my case swearing, with pleasure.

I’d have taken a picture of the brittle but I ate it before I had the chance.

La Palette

1 Mar

492 Queen Street West (and Portland), Toronto, 416-929-4900 **** As the French would say, Les carrottes sont cuits! – It is settled! (literal translation is: The carrots are cooked).  It is settled that La Palette has the magic of this long-gone era of cuisine. We went on a Friday night for a little celebration of sorts and the place was comfortably busy with a handful of locals.

From the road, La Palette doesn’t look like much to write about, but follow your nose and it reveals itself as a hidden portal to an old French bistro.  The interior is a charming, artistically evocative hideaway inhabited by easygoing wait staff with dark metal ceiling tiles, rows of bistro-style tables decked in batik tablecloths with quirky framed images of dance, old liqueurs and vintage movie posters on their brick and plastered walls.

As you enter the place, ohh the smell – coal, fire, dough, charred meat…my blood vessels dilated up to the roots of my hair and moments of true bliss followed.  There it was — their kitchen is smack-dab in the middle of the dining area, open for all to breathe and drool over. The bar is a messy stack of wine and liquor bottles and the sparse candle lights make for a time-mellowed atmosphere which sets a wonderful tone of secrecy and intimacy.  It is a place where you can bring your lover, nibble on some foie gras, and indulge in some champagne.  It would have been where Don Draper wooed Jean Harlow.

My partner and I had drooled over their online menu a few days before when we made reservations.  We decidedly went for a carnivorous line-up that would satisfy a caveman’s most predatory impulses — may even sound repugnant to even the most daring gourmand:

First came the Salad d’Hiver.  It was a crispy Berkshire pork belly served with roasted root vegetables and blanched, buttery brussel sprouts.  And while categorized as a “salad”, you will find the focus on a generous slice of pork belly with its golden skin crackling around its magnificently moist meat, center-stage with only a few flecks of vegetables around it.  If you’re looking for a hearty salad, don’t let the name fool you.

Then came the Foies Gras en Croute, pan-seared with maple brandy drippings delighted with satisfying toasted, buttery slices of baguette.  This hit all the pleasure centres and was undoubtedly our favourite for the evening. My tongue tingled, fat oozed and melted with saline across the palate; it was all texture and flavour.

Third came Les Viandes: Cheval Tartare (Yes, HORSE tartare) and Élan Tartare (ELK tartare) delighted with the most satisfying Frites et Aioli.  I found the horse quite mild and the elk more “gamey”.  The frites were done to a perfect crisp and saltiness with a garlic aioli that wasn’t too pungent and complimented the game meats quite nicely.  Many might balk at the word “tartare”, let alone at Horse or Elk, but this is very traditional of French cooking which emerged from the south of France.  If you are willing to experience a true tradition, we highly recommend fresh game –it’s food your ancestors ate, only better and probably free, from their very backyard!

Lastly came the Côtes de Cerf, a twelve-hour braised Venison Rib served with Parsnips Mash and braised Caraway Red Cabbage.  The rib was massive portion size that lived up to its “to share” recommendation.  We felt like Mr. and Mrs. Flintstone.  The venison was almost ebon-dark with just the right redness in the centre and the parsnips mash was texture-perfect with the simplest and tastiest red cabbage I’ve ever tasted.  Actually, it’s the only time I remember ever enjoying cabbage!

The dinner was absolutely ambrosial and simply brilliant, well-executed French cuisine, with great seasonal cooking from local purveyors (which they proudly state on their menus), genial atmosphere and fair prices.  It was flat-out stellar.  In fact, we returned the following week for brunch, with a camera this time!

A brunch review to follow.  We give La Palette 4 out of 4 forks.  The experience was sublime.