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Some time ago, the boy promised to take me out on a real date. Unfortunately our last pre-summer/treeplanting weeks in London were filled with errands – moving the contents of our apartment into storage, on his part: final papers & exams, on my part: wrapping things up in the lab so as to leave things at a natural breaking point for the next research assistant.

Putting London on hold, we decided to postpone the date until Ottawa.
Enter e18hteen.

Classically trained Matthew Carmichael’s menu features local ingredients. Despite the unsurprisingly little amount of ‘adventurous’ foods, the dinner turned out extremely tasty. We created our own tasting: they “usually” only allow blind tastings if the entire table partakes, so we couldn’t manage to convince the waiter to serve a few extra blind dishes in addition to one order of the tasting menu.

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I was in cooking mode since my first cup of coffee last Friday; it was grand. In fact, I went to bed the night before with purple hands. Beets!

The beauty of Montreal was having semi-regular dinner parties. Pretty much two of my favourite things in the world combined: good company and good food. In any case, between the boy’s multiple church gigs and us being stuck on duty [i.e., functionally handcuffed to our apartment], I figured the best way to enjoy the long weekend was snag friends who did not have family turkey/chocolate egg hunt/etc obligations elsewhere. I was unreasonably gleeful at the number of friends who were also in town and wanting to partake in yummy eats. All of the food that was brought and shared was wonderful: cheese & crackers! pierogis! homemade oreo cookies! a salad of greens! zucchini bread! banana muffins! We even had a traditional Polish Easter cake (I believe it’s called “mazurek”) all the way from Milton.

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Lamb!

I must sheepishly (teehee) confess that this little fact was unbeknownst to me until four days ago. When I did find out, however, I did one of those hand-slap-to-forehead gestures: of course it’s made with lamb! It’s not not called cattle rancher’s pie for a reason.

My first encounter with shepherd’s pie was in elementary school, and I remember feeling indifferent about it. Looking back, I suspect it was because 1) the mashed potatoes were rehydrated from powder, 2) the ground meat was rather boring, and 3) the corn was never inside of the pie, but served instead on the side. Naturally, I’ve always had a palate for Asian food, and they weren’t serving any of mum’s cooking in school. Instead, I was exposed to mediocre cafeteria versions of white-people food: they certainly didn’t make mac and cheese, or chicken à la king in a memorable manner. My introduction to the actual world of caucasian cuisine was only a recent phenomenon. As I’ve been asian-ifying the boy with noodley concoctions, turnip cake, and shitake mushrooms, he’s directed my affection towards his renditions of mac and cheese (which I will have to blog about soon) and shepherd’s pie.

Woah. WOAH!
Can a true Asian claim that meat-and-potatoes = beauty?
I think so.

Since those early years, the consumption-count of ‘real’ shepherd’s pie is at a pitifully low ‘3’ (sure to change, of course). They were all courtesy of the boy, and uber tasty – though made with ground beef, times 1 and 2 should be aptly named cottage pies. The latest version was a ‘proper’ one, made with ground spring lamb. You may already have guessed that our dinner last Wednesday was mighty, mighty fine.

pizza toppings
A part of my finger is now missing.

Only a small, small, small part of my left pointer (like, 1/8 of my nail, and the flesh beneath it), though, so it’s not all that exciting. I would post photos, but I wanted to spare those who are squeamish at heart. It may not come a surprise that it was thanks to a kitchen accident, and occurred while prepping pizza toppings – chopping green onions, to be exact. I’ve been told a million times to not have dangling appendages from my guide hand, as my right hand grips the knife to slice and dice. But since my first handling of a Chinese cleaver at age 8, I haven’t been able to shake the bad habit of not curling fingers out of harm’s way. And this isn’t the first time it’s happened, either. Only last time it was the tip of my thumb.

I laughed the injury off (really, it didn’t hurt too much), and proceeded to finish the business of pizza. The boy, as always, made some tasty herbed rendition of pizza dough in the bread maker. This time, our lovely pizza sported mozzarella, green onions, brown button mushrooms, roasted garlic and red peppers, Italian sausage, and feta on the adventurous half. The other side – prepared as we didn’t know the specific taste buds of our our dinner company – sported the first 3 ingredients. It definitely turned out to be a tasty, colourful meal.

pizza toppingspizza

 

After much procrastination, reshuffling, and irritation, I’ve finally ventured into the dark for food. That’s right, at the newly opened O.Noir. Must say it lived up to my expectation, but nothing more. Food was alright, but not extraordinary, but the conversations and company and experience bolstered my overall impression of the evening. The beef carpaccio starter (paired with extremely sparsely dressed, but thankfully tasty, greens) reminded me of my love for the meat (which inspired the ground-Angus purchase for pasta tonight). As a main, the number of shrimp on my plate tallied a goodly portion (though it was basically cooked/doused in nothing but butter), and the sun-dried tomato risotto lacked sun-dried tomatoes. But the concept stripping visual input: super cool. It was only a little disconcerting at first, with missing depth of field and visual cues in general. Didn’t really ‘change’ or heighten the way I usually taste food anyway, but, I’m partial to recommending the experience.

Onoir on Urbanspoon

Speaking of food, I will shamelessly promote Garçon, which I (somehow) failed to mention earlier (!). Prosciutto wrapped scallops, served on cantaloupe, anyone? And the rabbit tasting dish was oh-so-satisfying…