Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tourtière - a French Canadian Delicacy

Would you believe that Christmas at the Hum family dinner includes tourtière?

Well, this year we won't get to partake in my aunt's famous French Canadian delicacy as we're not back in Ottawa to celebrate, so I thought I would try my best and make my own here in New York. There are plenty of variations on tourtière (a meat pie originating in Quebec), but this one includes pork, beef and veal mixed with mashed potatoes and wrapped in a homemade flaky pie crust.

We're looking forward to digging in, but are going to wait until Christmas before we cut the first slice. The anticipation will make the pie taste better or build up our expectations too much. Either way, I'm looking forward to perfecting this recipe in the years to come. Here's to hoping this freezes well!

Meats (equal quantities):
(1) Ground Beef
(2) Ground Veal
(3) Ground Pork

(1) sage
(2) savory
(3) nutmeg
(4) clove
(3) salt
(4) pepper

(1) one medium potato per pound of meat ; boiled until soft; drain & mash
(2) "some" chopped onion & garlic

(1) fry the onions
(2) add meat and fry until pink is gone
- add spices to taste .. i.e. add a bit at a time and try it.
- use only small amounts of nutmeg and clove
(3) add enough water to simmer (do not cover the meat)about 20 minutes
(4) remove any excess liquid and add potatoes which should help absorb remaining liquid.
(5) pour contents into pie crust bottom.
(6) cover with pie crust top
(7) brush crust with egg and milk mixture (1 egg + 2tsp milk)
(8) Bake for 10-15 mins at 450
(9) Brush with egg and milk mixture every 10-15 mins for the next 30 mins


Wylie Dufresne takes molecular gastronomy at WD-50 to a level of fun and entertainment without the pretense you might expect in a restaurant that gets so much hype. We prepared our stomachs for a Friday night of experimentation at Wylie's standout restaurant in the Lower East Side.

Opting for the tasting menu, we took a journey with the chef through courses like a mini ice cream everything bagel made of ice cream milk that had been soaked with everything bagels and formed into mini bagel-shapes; perfect scrambled eggs wrapped in a cube of fine egg film, cold fried chicken and cocoa packets bursting with chocolate flavor. Everything was delicious and interesting, though we did find an 'unfortunate' hair in the cold fried chicken course. The staff was quick to replace the dish, but it did tarnish the overall meal slightly.

Despite the set-back in that one course, our meal at WD-50 was certainly memorable both for the food and the mishap. We booked a few weeks ahead in order to get a table, but if you don't mind an early 6pm or late 9pm meal, you should be able to find a table.

Keep on eating.

50 Clinton Street (map)
tel: (212) 477-2900
online reservations at

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bouley Restaurant

Bouley Restaurant in Tribeca gets rave reviews from all the major food guides - Zagat rates the food a 28 out of 30 (extraordinary to perfection) while the Michelin Guide has awarded Bouley 2 Stars.

That said, we were looking forward to a wonderful meal we went for a special birthday celebration on Friday night. When we arrived, they said our 8:45pm reservation was running 15 minutes late and that we could sit in the lounge and enjoy a drink. 35 minutes later, we were still in the lounge waiting for our table. By the time we sat down and started to look over the menu, it was 9:30pm and we were famished. Our waiter asked us if we wanted to start with a cocktail while we decided on our food. Needless to say, we declined graciously.

We decided on the 5-course tasting menu which would let us sample a wide array of Bouley's food. The procini flan, dungenous crab and truffle dashi was flavorful and rich, but the oysters served as the other starter were a bit fishy. As each dish came and went, there were highs and lows, but nothing close to extraordinary or perfection. The best part of the meal was the dessert course, which included a warm, chocolate souffle, a fruit tart, a bonus creme brulee for Sharon's birthday and two side trays of mini sweets. Sadly, we weren't able to finish all of the desserts, but would have skipped the main course and gone straight to the sugar, had we known how lackluster the entrees would be and how divinely sweet dessert was.

Overall, our Bouley experience was forgettable and not worth repeating.
If you do choose to try out Bouley Restaurant (and I'm hoping we had an anomalous meal) I hope you all have a better experience than we did.

Life's too short for disappointing meals, so we'll have to make up for it this week.

Bouley Restaurant
163 Duane Street
Tel: (212) 964-2525

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Doughnut Plant

Doughnut Plant on the Lower East Side offers two heavenly types of doughnuts for gluttonous consumption - yeast doughnuts and cake doughnuts.

They open at 6:30am and sell doughnuts until they have none left - then you'll just have to wait for the next batch to be ready the following day, unless it's Sunday, which means you'll need to wait until Tuesday for your next Doughnut fix. We sampled 4 different sweets that left us giddy. The creme brulee doughnut is filled with a sweet, smooth custard and has a nice crisp sugary exterior. The peanut butter doughnut is huge and filling, stuffed with the jam-of-the-day flavour (on our trip, it was fresh apricot jam). Tres leche was subtle and not too sweet, while the chocolate glaze was also filled with yet more chocolate.

Doughnut plant is a sinfully delicious treat in the LES that everyone needs to experience. We loved our trip to the plant and would go back in a heartbeat.
379 Grand Street

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Craftbar Restaurant

Our Saturday night with friends visiting from Ottawa was made even better with a wonderful Italian meal at Tom Colicchio's Craftbar restaurant in the Flatiron District.

Built as the more casual, fun and more affordable restaurant from the Craft empire, without any of the
pretension of a fancy place, this was a perfect setting for us and our friends after a busy day out on the town. We started with a couple small plates (polenta fritters and risotto balls) for the table which were easily shared and fun to eat. You really can't go wrong with anything that is fried and Colicchio's kitchen makes a great fritter.

Main entrees at the table included a great assortment of pasta: Seafood Linguini (
“Cacciucco Livornese”), Zucchini Ravioli, Veal Ricotta Meatballs on Linguini; and two wonderfully tasty meat dishes: Colorado lamb shank and Berkshire Pork Loin. Everything was delicious. The seafood linguini had a nice bite of spice and garlic, while the veal ricotta balls were made moist and soft by the combination of meat and cheese. Veal shank braised for hours was fall-off-the bone and the flavors in the pork loin and zucchini ravioli were fantastic.

Not wanting to miss out on dessert, we had a warm brownie
with fresh, homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream and an apricot and mascarpone tart. The ice cream had been made with fresh mint and drizzled chocolate - yum, while the tart had a crisp shell and soft apricots.

The kitchen at Craftbar executes all their dishes with care and precision. Their emphasis on fresh ingredients and quality flavors makes every dish a wonderful experience. We would highly recommend a meal at Craftbar the next time you're in the mood for fun, tasty, Italian food.

Thanks for feeding us and keeping us eating in New York.

900 Broadway
Tel: (212) 461-4300

For a list of Tom
Colicchio's Craft restaurants, you can visit

Public Restaurant

Sometimes you're disappointed with a meal and other times you're pleasantly surprised.

This weekend was one of the disappointing times.

Our Friday night out with friends visiting from Toronto was supposed to be a nice meal at Public Restaurant (210 Elizabeth Street) in the NoLita district of Manhattan. We had read great reviews on Chowhound about Public Restaurant and the fine critics from Michelin recently awarded the restaurant with a Michelin star, so the outlook was definitely promising.

Our table in the loud restaurant was tucked in a corner, between a cement post and surrounded by bottles of wine. For one diner, it meant being crammed up next to a cement pillar for the evening.

We started our meal with grilled scallops with sweet chili sauce, crème fraiche and green plantain crisps. My first choice of the Fried Barron Point oysters with shiso, sansho pepper, and wasabi-yuzu dipping sauce were sadly sold out for the evening. The scallops were nice, but nothing special. Our dining companions had a nice side of sliced watermelon, feta and basil salad with toasted pumpkin seeds and shichimi which was refreshing and had a nice bite between the spice of the shichimi and the softness of the feta. Entrees included roasted lamb sirloin, crispy tofu and Australian barramundi with vanilla celeriac puree. The lamb was moderately tough and lacked real flavor, while the barramundi had a nice crispy skin, but no outstanding taste. The vanilla celeriac puree was the best part of the fish dish.

Dessert was only moderately better - a sticky toffee pudding with Armagnac ice cream and hot caramel sauce which was fine, but again, nothing special and a British and Irish cheese plate. The cheese plate had strong cheese smells, but as none were made in house, I can't say whether these were the best options to offer diners.

Overall, we were disappointed with our meal at Public Restaurant and aren't sure whether we'll return. After all the great reviews and award wins, you would hope for a better experience. Hopefully you have a better experience than we did.

tel: (212) 343-7011

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Julia Child and Jacques Pepin

I remember seeing Julia Child cooking classic French food on TV when I was a little kid. I didn't really understand what she was doing, nor did I understand half of what was going into the dishes, but I knew that she was entertaining. In her distinctive voice and pearl necklace, Julia Child definitely had a presence in front of the camera. Quite likely, it was simply her stature, but there was something fun about watching her cook her way around the kitchen. In later years, it was hard not to notice that she often drank alcohol during each show. One particular show that I remember distinctly, was a Julia Child and Jacques Pepin episode where Julia had a large beer stein full of booze which, by the end of the episode, was empty and Julia was tipsy. Amazing! To watch a grown adult, drink on TV while cooking French food and be drunk by the end.

Many years later, I saw an episode of Julia and Jacques' Cooking at home where they made a wonderful looking fish stew served in large artisanal bread. That one show inspired me to buy my first cookbook, "Cooking at Home" by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. I've only tried a handful of recipes from the book (including the puff pastries), but it sits faithfully on the shelf as constant inspiration to keep cooking. Unlike Julie Powell (from Julie and Julia), I don't know whether I'll get through all the recipes, but I'll certainly keep working on it.

Thanks Julia, you've inspired many generations of food lovers.

Julia and Jacques cookbook can be found on Amazon at: