The Great Bagel Debate: Montreal v. NYC

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A little over a month ago I ventured to the FAR NORTH with my new hubbie (Romeo).  That’s right folks, I’m talking about Canada.  We spent a little under a week in Montreal, an exceedingly charming city full of appealing, beautiful, smiling, amiable people who seemed to do almost everything better than their southern neighbors.

Our luggage arrived at baggage claim within mere seconds of us exiting the secure area and public transportation was far-advanced and gloriously easy to understand. The city was thoroughly walkable and every neighborhood left us gasping at its beauty. Nearly everyone was bilingual yet didn’t look down on us for our inability to speak French. The food courts were full of healthy food: fresh and delicious and diverse. The more upscale dining joints were completely comfortable with my food limitations and whipped up thoroughly decadent dishes.

Everything was beautiful, perfect and French Canadian.  I was in love.

I was eager to try one particular morsel of Montreal cuisine that I had heard about from all the Canucks I’ve ever known:  The Montreal bagel.

Every Canuck I’ve come across has sung the praises of the Montreal bagel, asserting its clear superiority over the New York bagel.  As it was hard for me, the daughter of a New York Jew, to imagine any way of improving on a genuine New York bagel (far easier to improve on the piss-poor excuse for bagels we tend to encounter in DC), I couldn’t wait to try this mythic culinary invention.

Would the Montreal bagel stand up to my expectations? And what’s the difference between a Montreal bagel and a NYC bagel anyway? Answers after the jump….

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Scape Grace: ES S.O.S.

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ES super Commenter Nee Nee recently emailed me with the following Garden Emergency:

Remember that summer you visited and we had scapes but no idea what to do with them?  Well, I have 75 garlic plants with scapes now and I need some ideas.  Mr. Nee Nee thinks he hates them.  I think he is crazy.

I’ve already suggested scape scrambled eggs and scape pesto, and I sent Nee Nee the link to Gansie’s  Roasted Poblano and Garlic Scape dip but we need some other ideas or Nee Nee’s scape harvest will go to waste.

Sounds like a job for the ES community, right?

Your scapetastic suggestions for Nee Nee’s late spring bounty PLEASE!

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Playing with Perfection: Cilantro Latkes with Cranberry Miso Dip

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I’m sure I’m not alone in sometimes feeling that the best things about Hanukkah are the potato latkes (even better than the gifts or the gelt)!  Is there anything more perfect than the pairing of starchy crispy fried goodness of a hot-from-the-pan potato latke and the sweet cooling fruitiness of applesauce? Is there? This is the question I set out to answer on the second night of Hanukkah 2009.  After all, what good is the culinary part of the commemoration of a struggle against oppression if we feel our creativity is chained by the bondage of how things have always been done?

Okay… really, to be absolutely truthful, I didn’t set out to make a political statement with my cooking this Hanukkah.  It was actually Gansie who inspired me to play with the traditional Hanukkah fare:  When I told Gansie that I was going to my parents’ house to make potato latkes, her first reaction was, “Any interesting dipping sauces you’re going to try?”

Well… I hadn’t thought on that… because why mess with perfection?  But this is ES, and at ES we are nothing if not experimenters (and no, I wasn’t tempted to throw a fried egg on them, eat latkes ala Gansie and call it a day).

As Hanukkah came early this year, and Thanksgiving was still very much at the tip of my palate, I thought to inject the holiday with something slightly reminiscent of T-day flavor.

Enter cranberries, a fruit I believe we use all too seldom in non T-day festivities, and one I love to experiment with.

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Monday’s Chickpeas, Yesterday’s Pants

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I’m writing today with a rather profound problem. The problem (which has manifested itself on a rather regular basis ever since I became distracted and engrossed in four simultaneous projects that have nothing whatsoever to do with cooking) finally crystallized for me a few nights back when I was over at my friend Alice’s place.

Alice complained that sometimes as she gets dressed in the morning she’s worried that she’s wearing “Yesterday’s pants” or “Last Friday’s Hair.” She has to think on it a little and go back through the Rolodex in her mind of the clothes she has worn and the styles she has sported over the last 5 or so days to make sure she’s not in repeat mode.

I have a similar problem, but it has nothing to do with clothes.  More and more often I find that I’m using Monday’s chickpeas in Wednesday’s four bean stew, or Tuesday’s broccoli in Thursday’s pasta.  Do you get my drift?  It’s not quite cheating I suppose, but I’m rather embarrassed by it, and it worries me.  I’m afraid I’m becoming a dull and forgetful cook.  I’m worried Romeo will notice.  I’m worried that this reusing (and sometimes recycling!) of ingredients is becoming an endemic trend in my kitchen that might turn me off of cooking altogether, or cause the main consumers of my cooking to ease their hunger at other troughs…

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Time to Social-ize

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Social’s savory spin on the traditional Louisiana pastry, the Beignet.

Brace yourselves people… I’m about to gush. Last Saturday I went to Social – a new D.C. restaurant located at the north end of Columbia Heights. Social is the first lounge-y, Dupontish-style joint to venture north of Columbia Road, but it thankfully forgoes the snooty downtown attitude in favor of warmly welcoming waitstaff and hosts, and a design that encourages you to stay and hang out all night (and get Social – get it?).

The service was superlative, the lounge-y setup is comfortable (think low lights, candles, comfy black couches and chairs, softly stuccoed walls, and plenty of cherry wood tables to rest your drinks and food upon), the drinks were fun and dangerously delicious, and the food … the food was incredible.  Period.

The food is Creole/Cajun and Asian fusion inspired. This is a serious claim to make in my estimation – as much of my mother’s family hails from Louisiana.  I get pissed when restaurants purport to be Creole or Creole-inspired and then fail to come through with the requisite creativity and spicy zestiness that typifies Creole cooking. But Social delivers creative menu items ranging from meatball pomodoro sliders (a large portion of which our group scarfed down in less than five minutes) to “Mud Bug” Beignets (the crawfish fritters, pictured above. Sometime ES blogger Edubs described these fritters as shredded and deliciously spiced crawfish goodness, surrounded by a lightly fried batter). Edubs also fully enjoyed snagging bites of her husband‘s Sonoran Mahi Mahi Tacos — corn tortillas filled with an unexpectedly intricate blend of southwestern, Mexican, and south pacific flavors – the crisp citrus tones of the grilled and marinated white fish were accented by jalapeño cabbage and mango salsa and were topped with tomato and garlic sauce.

The menu is organized in a really interesting fashion.  It’s built to handle parties of varying sizes.   You can order 3 different portion sizes, which was perfect for our birthday group, as we waxed and waned in size throughout the night.

More stories about gorging on cheftastic kitchen creations and dodging skeezey dudes after the jump…

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Iowa Doesn’t Have Squat on Minnesota

A week or so ago, BS shared with us the best the  Iowa State Fair has to offer.  Well, as many of the comments on BS’s post suggested, when you’re talking state fairs and you’re talking food, the Minnesota State Fair is really where it’s at.

Now I really am not one to toot Minnesota’s horn without cause.

I’m an East Coast gal (not born but bred), and I have a sufficiently obnoxious amount of regional and state pride.  I attended undergrad in Saint Paul, Minnesota and I was routinely disappointed with a lot of its food: cheese, bagels, pizza, Chinese. I was lactose tolerant then and had to school those MNers about the travesty that is Wisconsin cheddar; the closest thing to a sharp Vermont Cabot was Canadian Black Diamond cheddar.

However, Minnesota has the State Fair food superiority on lock down.

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Exhibit 1

Check out the video above by Minnesota Public Radio’s Curtis Gilbert. The dude only eats MN fair food and then visits a doctor to measure the presumptively deleterious effects on his health.

At the fair Gilbert gorged himself on scotch eggs on a stick, big fat bacon on a stick, deep fried gator, deep fried twinkies and pork chops among other foodstuffs (I hope he didn’t forget the fried cheese curds!)

Surprisingly Gilbert finds that binging on the fair food, for one day, actually brings his bad cholesterol level down…Could it be that MN State Fair food is actually good for us? Well the deep fried twinkies most certainly are.

More proof after the jump…

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Analyzing the Culinary Offerings of Our Former Colonial Overlords (with the Aid of My Comrade in Arms, Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver)

Jamie Oliver lets me snap his pick while thinking up his next culinary masterpiece

Brit, you might not want to read this…..

When I was gallivanting about last month, one of my main priorities (apart from saving humanity and all that) was to understand the cuisine of an obscure little country located on the island of Great Britain—a nation that once struck fear in the hearts of even the most stalwart champions of freedom: England.

This tiny little swath of land, located in the Northern Atlantic, shares land borders with better known Scotland and Wales.   Apparently, the citizens of this country “England” were some of the first immigrants to our great nation.  Yeah, who knew! Having sampled some of the traditional English fare, I understand why these Englishmen put off  the massacre of the indigenous Americans until after they learned some culinary skills from America’s first people.

I found all of this out over a gruesomely disgusting meal of black and white pudding with famous English celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. That’s a picture of him  pondering the quirks of the English palate above. More on that and some complimentary analysis of the cuisine of our former colonial overlords after the jump.

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