Martin Juneau is one of Montreal’s most popular chefs. After winning The Golden Plates award in 2011 (best chef in Canada…no big deal), his profile grew and him, along with his food quickly became very well known. Soon after, he opened Pastaga Vins Nature & Restaurant. The small plate presentations and fantastic selection of natural wines has garnered praise from critics and avid diners. I personally love his food. I’m usually not a big fan of the small plates mainly because I usually want more of what’s on the plate. Chef Juneau’s food; however, is so good, the small bites are just as satisfying as eating a big bowl of any other. Which is why I’m really excited to visit his restaurant on Monday night.
With a reputation like his, it’s no secret a chef can make friends with other chefs. Take, for example, Chef Quang Dang from the restaurant West Vancouver in Vancouver, BC. He will be the featured chef at the next RCMP. And, no the “Canadian FBI” won’t be there. The RCMP stands for Royal Canadian Monday at Pastaga. This food event only happens once a month, where Chef Juneau invites a chef-friend to take over his restaurant and cook a fixed, 6-7 course menu. This Monday, June 10th, I’ll be at the dinner and will write about it in the following days.
Be sure to follow the Royal Canadian Monday at Pastaga on Facebook, and follow Martin Juneau on Twitter.
Here’s a few pictures of Chef Dang’s beautiful dishes from West Vancouver. (all images are courtesy of West Vancouver Restaurant in Vancouver, BC)
Last week, Lesley Chesterman, the fine dining critic for the Gazette, wrote probably one of the most interesting articles I’ve ever read from her: Unrest in the Restaurant Scene. I believe; however, the title of the article may be a little farfetched since I don’t see it as “unrest”. I see it as the evolving diner. The opinions of the panelists were eye-opening and very informative. Readers got a chance to see what the restaurateur and/or chef thought about a diner’s behavior before, during, and after a meal.
When I go out for dinner, I don’t expect every service to be the greatest I’ve ever had, or the food to be the most delicious ever. I expect professionalism. You know when you have a good waiter, when you have a bad one, and when you have one that’s just ok. You know when you’re eating a well-conceived dish, as opposed to something thrown together. It’s nice to find out how something was made, how many hours something was smoked, where a dish came from (for example, it’s their grandmother’s recipe), and even where a chef developed the inspiration for the menu. All this adds to the experience of a meal.
Since this article caught many people’s eyes, I thought it would be a great idea to hear from the local food bloggers. We answered every one of the questions posed in the article. Try not to think of this as a response or us disagreeing with what was written in the original article. It’s merely our views of the interesting questions. Some of us answered in English, and some en Français. The bloggers are:
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Each year, The Montreal Highlights Festival brings together locals and tourists where the attractions feature mostly arts and entertainment shows. For us foodies, the part I along with many others, pay the most attention to is of course the fine dining segment. Some of the best chefs from a specific country as well as another city, take over a restaurant to cook a fixed menu “highlighting” their unique cooking styles. This year, I was very excited to hear the featured country is Argentina and the other featured city is Philadelphia. The food is always fantastic, and it makes everyone feel exclusive since the meal being offered is one-of-a-kind, and will only be served in over one or two nights. As much as the Argentinian angle intrigued me, I chose to go with something a little more familiar, with a chef I’ve heard a few things about and at a restaurant that’s been in the news a little bit over the last month or so.
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Cacio e pepe is one of the simplest Italian dishes, and also happens to be my absolute favorite. It’s warm, comforting, cheesy, peppery, salty, and buttery. What could make any dish better than that? I was immediately inspired to cook this dish after seeing a special issue of Gourmet Magazine (I miss it) on the drugstore shelf. This issue features 103 pasta dishes, where one of the first recipes is cacio e pepe. Their recipe is a little different than my version below, mainly because of the different measurements, and the suggestion to not use a microplane to grate the cheese. I used one, which worked just fine. I find my way a little simpler, and not as fussy. It’s really hard to argue with Gourmet, but judging from the magazine pictures, mine looks creamier. Try both if you’d like.
Cacio e pepe (pronounced: kachio eh peppe) is a traditional Roman dish, literally meaning cheese and pepper, which is essentially the entire recipe. Ok, there’s a few more ingredients to it, but the type of cheese and cracked pepper make the dish distinct. When making cacio e pepe, I strongly suggest one thing: USE FRESH PASTA! Life is too short not to use fresh pasta. In this case, your selection should be spaghetti. If you can make the pasta yourself, great (recipe for dough below). If not, I suggest going to the Atwater Market, Cavallaro (on Sherbrooke St.), Pasta Casareccia, Milano’s, anywhere in little Italy, or if you’re Italian ask your Nonna to make it for you. You may be wondering why I call this “a recipe of 1′s”. That’s because each ingredient’s quantity is “1″ of something…you’ll see what I mean. The prep time is the longest part, if you’re making your own pasta. If you’re buying it FRESH, it’s a 10 minute dish at most, including prep time. Once the fresh pasta hits the boiling water, the total cooking time of the entire dish is about 4-5 minutes, so be prepared to work quickly. Enjoy the simplicity that is cacio e pepe.
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