I almost want to hide the fact that the theme of this post is “Gluten Free”

Let’s not get into a big debate about gluten hype. You all know I adore the stuff. But my daughter, who I love more than bread, has recently become (thanks to a nasty virus), gluten intolerant. We are all hoping it is temporary, but in the meantime, life, and a delicious one, must go on.

My baking adaptations have been…uneven. I have determined that the best two “all-purpose” gluten-free flours are Bob’s Red Mill BLUE LABEL (the red label one is pretty icky), and Maison Canelle All-Purpose.

So far, I can say that both flours can be used exactly as my regular wheat AP, and things turn out ok. Anything cakey is perfect the first day, but gets gritty if it sits around. Cookies are fine.

This week I have decided to make Gluten Free Hamentashen, Challah, and Sticky Toffee Cake. The cookies and cake are regular recipes, and the “Challah” is one specifically for Gluten Free flours.

I am intrigued to see how restaurants adapt to this food restriction. Whether it is to beat wheat bellies, or to accommodate true allergies and intolerances, many restaurants and bakeries are offering “glutard” options (no, it isn’t politically correct, but come on, it is kinda funny).  A few weekends ago in NYC, we noticed Les Halles offers a gluten-free (I will just use GF, ok?) menu. Great – we sat down, and looked at the breakfast selections. Eggs and toast. French toast. Um, server, are we missing something? “You can have a fruit cup”. NEXT…

Friedman’s Lunch (one in Chelsea Market and one on W. 31st.) does it right. Can you say chicken and waffles? Pancakes? GF reuben sandwich (yes, the toast did crumble).


Want something a little less sinful? Bistango offers a full selection of Italian-esque GF deliciousness. Meatballs without breadcrumbs, great GF pastas, and yes, desserts. All choices were seriously good, on their own merits, and not just because they had GF options.

Perfect GF pasta

Perfect GF pasta

If budget is not a concern (to put it mildly) , 11 Madison Park (3 Michelin stars) makes GF adaptations of everything they serve.

One of these things is NOT like the other...

One of these things is NOT like the other…

my baking report: the hamentashen were ok, but not easy to fold. Nice thought, not worth redoing. Or taking a photo!

The sticky pudding cake recipe is a winner – gluten free or not. Here is the original recipe from Bonnie Stern:


3/4 lb pitted dates (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3  eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (regular or gluten-free)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Butterscotch sauce:

3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed

The recipe mentions serving it with additional whipped cream, but I never do!

Butter a 9″ springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, or bake individual cakes in 12 muffin pans

  1. Combine dates and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add baking soda and let rest 5 minutes. Puree. Let it cool.
  2. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs one at a time. Whisk flour with baking powder and salt. Gently fold into batter alternately with dates, starting and ending with the flour. Transfer to prepared pan.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350F/180C oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. (Muffin sized ones usually take about 25 -30 minutes.)
  4. Meanwhile, while cake is in the oven, make the sauce by combining sugar, cream and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Simmer gently 5 minutes until slightly thickened.
  5. When the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool for a few minutes, then prick holes and drizzle half the sauce over the top
  6. When serving,  drizzle with remaining butterscotch sauce and if you want to, some whipped cream.


Makes 10 to 12 servings

and now…..


The following recipe is courtesy of so thank you.

The Challah is worth tweaking – next time I will replace some of the sugar and water with honey, just so it tastes a bit more like my “standard”.  That said, it is probably the tastiest “white bread” I have eaten in a long time. It is delicious toasted, and incredibly, it is NOT crumbly!

seriously rising

seriously rising



2 cups rice flour (I used almost half and half brown and white rice flours)

1 3/4 cups tapioca flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons sugar

3 teaspoons xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup lukewarm water

1 cup lukewarm water

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

4 eggs

sesame seeds, poppy seeds or my favourite, pearl sugar (optional)


  1. In mixer, combine the flours, 1/4 c sugar, xantham gum, and salt.
  2. Dissolve the 2 tsp sugar in the 2/3 cup of water and mix in the yeast. In a separate bowl combine the butter with the additional 1 cup water and vinegar.
  3. With mixer on low speed, blend the dry ingredients. Slowly add the butter/water mixture. Blend in the eggs, 1 at a time. The dough should feel slightly warm. Pour the yeast mixture into the ingredients in the bowl and beat at the highest speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Place the bowl in a warm spot, cover with greased plastic wrap and a towel, and let rise approximately 1 hour.
  5. Return the dough to the mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes. Spoon the dough into a greased, floured loaf pan. Fill 2/3 full, you may bake the remainder in greased muffin tins, etc. (or make all rolls~about 18). Sprinkle tops with sesame seeds. Let the dough rise until it is slightly above the tops of the pans, about 45-60 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 F and bake the large loaf for approximately 1 hour. Bake the rolls 25 minutes.

Personally, I think the bigger loaves taste much better, but try it out and see!



Montreal…. Hip vs. Hype

I hope I don’t offend anyone here, but I have some laundry that needs airing, and the only way I know how to speak is honestly.

There is a LOT of NEW on the Montreal food scene, and to simplify, I will skip the new restaurants (yes, Vin Papillon is the best addition to the scene!) and go straight to the new places to BUY food.

This summer, I excitedly subscribed to Lufa Farms. It is a great story!  Veggies organically grown on Montreal rooftops and local farms, delivered to collection points across the city. Too bad my boxes had either wilted and bruised produce, or were underweight (some items are sold by weight).  I sadly unsubscribed.

I am a breadie.  My nickname is “Carbie Barbie”. I have tasted Jeff Finklestein’s breads over the last few years, at restaurants and they are, good.  I just don’t understand why people love them so much, and what the buzz is about.  Wanting to feel the magic, I passed by the new bakery, Hof Kelsten this weekend.  A small point, but I don’t understand the décor. A place that offers a chopped liver sandwich and borscht seems incongruous with a precious bakery case and a huge open eating space.


The sourdough bread was soft, the crust chewy, and it had few air pockets.  Maybe I should have bought a rye bread instead, but it looked kind of sorry.

just can't get excited about this.

just can’t get excited about this.

The oatmeal raisin cookie was good, but that should be the case. The raspberry rogelach was passable. Granted, rogelach are very hard to come by in this city, but they were too sweet and needed some cinnamon.

I am really sad that the bread isn’t better.  All the ingredients are there – a well- trained baker, great media coverage and a killer oven. I really hope I passed by on an “off” day, and will give it another try in a few weeks.

We continued up St. Laurent to Boulangerie Guillaume, where I bought one of their “fancy” breads to nibble– a baguettine with figs and cheddar. It was tasty, but I got grossed out when I witnessed one of the bakers blow her nose and then go back to work without washing her hands. I KNOW disgustingness happens in kitchens, but I really don’t like seeing it.  Guillaume’s breads are good, but it has been too long since I tasted one of their uncomplicated varieties to be able to comment on the actual “bread” quality.

Next stop: Boucherie Lawrence. It is rare that a butcher shop smells good, let alone clean. Knowledgeable, friendly (hip too) butchers prep orders beautifully, washing hands between every activity.  The sandwich corner is kept completely away from the raw-meat area. Everything looks fresh and inviting.  And now, onto our steaks: 30 day aged waygu. Have you ever unwrapped steaks and noticed how delicious they smell? That they smell nutty and buttery? Me neither, until now.  I am not a steak lover, but I could be converted.  I read an article recently about how it is always a good idea to befriend your butcher. I have just found my “guy”, and I look forward to going back soon.


Whenever I am at the Jean-Talon market, I pick up a bread at Joe La Croute. It is always decent, and sometimes, even really good. There is a certain voodoo with bread, and sometimes it is better than others.

There have been some other noteworthy additions over the past year or so, like KemCoBa (the best ice cream in town aside from Joe Beef), and Rustique Pie Kitchen (my go-to if I don’t have time to bake and need a great dessert), but this rant/post is limited to a few kilometers along the Main.

I have heard a lot about breads at Les Pains Aux Voiles, and Les Touriers. I will let you know how they fare. In the meantime, I am preheating my oven to bake 2 sourdoughs at home to satisfy my craving.

To me, this is what bread should look like:

IMG_0042 319734_10150735828063180_2076464248_n

Nature’s Corndogs and Other Wonderful Discoveries

I am finally upset enough that since my flash-free photos have wrecked a post, I will change my colours, apologize, and use the flash once in a while if I need to capture something to share with you.  For this post I have used images from the restaurant’s Facebook page where mine failed.

After years of “we should really go,” 4 of us set out on a dining adventure of sorts. There’s this guy, François Brouillard, at the market who is a forager, and his wife, Nancy Hinton, is a chef. Together they have a restaurant that is open once a week, except during mushroom season, when they serve Friday – Sunday.  I’m not new to traveling for food, but I never expected to drive past oil refineries and strip clubs to get to a memorable dinner.

With a few bottles of mushroom friendly wine, we arrived at Les Jardins Sauvages, perched beside a gentle waterfall. I knew we were in for a fun evening when I read the chalkboard inside the door, which had the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered.” It appealed to me as a gardener and a foodie.

8 courses celebrating mushrooms. Yes, dessert too. In fact, it was the mushroom tiramisu that blew my mind.  If vanilla usually rounds out the flavor of chocolate, mushroom does it too, perhaps even better. It is deep and earthy, and makes your brain kinda giggle.

The mushrooms, most of which I have never heard,  were treated respectfully and playfully. Something I will never forget however, is not a fungus at all.  We have all driven by them on the side of the road. Bulrushes, also known as cattails are nature’s answer to corn dogs!  They taste like a cross between corn and asparagus, and have a texture that is strangely couscous-like.  Very cool.  You actually eat around the stick in the middle!

Cattails15 Cattails04 Cattails11

Here is the menu from our evening, with a few notes in brackets:

Sea scallop with wild mushrooms : Porcini mousseline (imagine Gefilte fish if it were really tasty) and Ceviche with Leaf-like Oyster and Late Fall Oyster Mushroom, Grilled Elm Oyster Mushroom, smoked pickled Hen of the Woods (too hard to describe, but delicious)

Mushroom Barley Soup : Chicken Mushroom and Beefsteak Polypore broth, Shaggy Mane meatballs (to continue the analogy, they were the best matzo balls, ever, and I may start adding ground dried cepes to mine in the future), Gypsy Mushroom

Mushroom and cattail crepe lasagna (beyond scrumptious, made with mushroom and cattail flour) : Delicious Lactarius, Scaly Vase, and Pig’s ear, Black trumpet cheese, sea spinach, ratatouille with Chanterelles and daisy buds, cattail spear (so great)

Thanks to Les Jardins Sauvage for taking a good photo...

Thanks to Les Jardins Sauvage for taking a good photo…

Mushroom Salad-Rice bowl : Stewed Lobster Mushrooms, Wine Cap omelet, smoked duck, spicy Swollen Stalked Cat pickle, rice lettuce, Sticky Gray Trich sweet n’sour sauce, Matsutake tempura (I could eat this every day, forever…)

Pan-roasted venison, Giant Puffball cutlet with mustard and Parasol Mushroom sauce, Morels, Wood Mushroom tourtière-ravioli, Hedgehog sauté with Blewits and Umbrella Hedgehogs

Larch Bolete granite(the only thing I didn’t adore), Yellow-Brown Bolete Jello, Orange-Capped Bolete shortbread, Maple Scented Lactarius sandwich cookie

‘Mushroom Tiramisu’: Glabrescent Bolete cake, Red Mouthed Bolete white chocolate mascarpone mousse, Fairy Ring caramel sauce, mushroom cacao, candied Yellow-foot Chanterelles (a triumph!)

Again, thanks for the photo.

Again, thanks for the photo.

Mignardises: Dark chocolate sausage with nuts and candied Meadow Mushroom, Aspen Scaber Stalk toffee, Slippery Jack and coconut marshmallow

I look forward to returning to taste the “regular” menu. Anyone care to join us?

Magic, one drop at a time

What do cream cheese icing and strawberry jam have in common?

Normally, not much. But I have recently discovered Fiori di Sicilia! In English, the Italian “”fiori di Sicilia”” translates as flower of Sicily. While the flavor is pure creamsicle, it is actually a floral extract.  Added to either of the above-mentioned items (or sugar cookies, or pound cake, or, so my research has shown, soda water), my new discovery takes them to a new level. I found my little bottle of magic at King Arthur Flour, but it is available elsewhere.

A little dab will do you – I added too much to my batch of jam and have to recook it with another load of berries to dilute it.  But really, this bottle deserves a spot in every kitchen.