Friday, August 29, 2014

My Luncheon w/Mamie

My Luncheon w/Mamie... I should clarify that statement... not the real
Mamie Grumman (Meryl Streep's daughter) a delightful ingénue, but a dear,
old friend from school. Several weeks ago, while comfortably viewing the
indie flick 'The Lifeguard' (2013), I saw my friend's 'doppelganger'... Mamie
Grumman and Isabelle could be twins. The smile, the blonde; the curve of
the jaw, the beautiful teeth...had to share my discovery. Lo and behold she
responded to the text that same day...and we decided it had been too long
for one of our confessional confers. She suggested 'Brasserie T!' on Jeanne
Mance in the 'Quartier des Spectacles' - an entertainment district located
in the eastern section of Downtown Montreal, designed as a centre for
Montreal's cultural events and festivals where many streets are now
converted into pedestrian walkways... a beautiful, vibrant neighborhood.

The term 'fine-dining' seems as dated as videos, actual cameras, and land
lines…but I like fine food, well-made food, food created by people who can
really cook. Frankly, I don't care how fancy it looks or how much it costs.
All that concerns me is whether it's delicious. Increasingly weary of those
dishes that try too hard, I remain a sucker for those times when great chefs
go casual, resulting in dishes like 'Au Pied de Cochon's' foie gras poutine
or 'Joe Beef's' lobster spaghetti.
In the summer of 2010, Montreal's top fine-dining chef, Normand Laprise
(Toqué!), decided to give casual a go, too. He opened this 55-seat
'Brasserie T!' literally, next door to Place des Arts with a menu that was two
parts brasserie and one part fun. There is even a hamburger, and boy was
it good. Main-course prices didn't rise above $20. The restaurant is a
resounding hit — so much so, in fact, that Laprise admitted that the profits
from the brasserie are used to help fund the maison mère, 'Toqué!'
After a slight feeling of restlessness, the drive downtown was horrendous,
due to the traffic because of the construction (it seems to get worse and
worse)... I thought there was this incredible migration to Toronto?!
They even have a terrific terrasse, that adds an extra 45 seats that spill
out on to the Place des festivals, but a little noisy for our purpose, so we
sojourned indoors, and settled in. Though the space may appear a little
cramped, we felt perfectly at ease. The crowd is pretty casual. The menu
is short and sweet…had many favorites, of course, that's common in the
brasserie/bistro genre…the perfect luncheon locale.
To begin, we shared, as is becoming the norm at these lunches, everything...
from the carafe of 'Côteaux d'Aix en Provence', a earthy, brilliant red wine
which was divine with the 'Foie gras poêlé'... pan seared to perfection.
Brasserie T!'s wine list is a serious draw, and affordable. Made up primarily
of well-chosen private imports, this list also scores because the majority of
bottles are priced under $60. And that juicy, charcoaled hamburger with
cheese, extra bacon was lusciously moist and was accompanied by a good
size portion of 'Pommes frites' one of the best upscale burgers in Montreal.
When the first plates hit the table, I thought, wow, this is pretty soigné
cuisine, so kudos to the chef de cuisine. 'Brasserie T!' may be modest in size
and appearance, but their food is brasserie de luxe. Service throughout the
luncheon was provided by a waiter, Vero, who was enthusiastic and efficient.
In choosing the wine I went through several tastings before I settled with the
'Côteaux d'Aix en Provence', and he never flinched. Impressive!

I am now a fan of Brasserie T! Fine dining indeed! Mamie and I loved
everything about our luncheon and made plans for many more… though
in a less congested area.

Life is short... Live your dream... Share your passion!

* From Where I Sit!
August 28, 2014

* Brasserie T!
1425 Jeanne Mance St. @ St.Catherine St. W.
Montréal, H2X 2J4
(514) 282-0808

Friday, August 22, 2014

Monica Vitti

'I've always had this deep-down conviction that I'm not like everybody else,
and there's an amazingly exciting new life waiting for me just around the
corner.' ~ Sophie Kinsella - - - ± Frank Borsellino

* Monica Vitti was born on November 3, 1931 in Rome, Lazio, Italy best known
for her starring roles in films such as 'L'Avventura' (1960), 'Red Desert'
(1964) and 'L'Eclisse' (1962). My all-time favorite... and when I discovered
her 'Modesty Blaise' (1966) (pictured below). Though mostly blonde, she never
changed hair color from part to part... her remote beauty and impassive demeanor
made her an Italian New Wave ingénue darling. In fact… she was the muse and
the companion of director Michelangelo Antonioni from 1957-1967.
After a long collaboration with Antonioni, Vitti changed focus and began
making comedies, working with director Mario Monicelli on many films,
including 'Jealousy, Italian Style' (1970) and 'Polvere di stelle' (1973).
She has appeared opposite Marcello Mastroianni, Richard Harris, and Dirk
Bogarde. Ms. Vitti won five David di Donatello Awards for best Actress,
seven Italian Golden Globes for Best Actress, the Career Golden Globe,
and the Venice Film Festival Career Golden Lion Award.

* From Where I Sit!
August 22, 2014

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Luncheon @ La Société Bistro‏

Nestled in the belly of the Loews Hotel Vogue on de la Montagne in
the heart of downtown this latest luncheon was a place recommended
by a dear friend…I love all that that word 'Luncheon' implies. It
signifies a time long ago and far away when ladies wore beautiful
dresses and men in business suits frequented the eateries in swanky
hotels along the boulevards of Manhattan. I looked over my shoulder
on several occasions expecting to see Holly Golightly and Truman
Capote to come waltzing in and take the little bistro table next to
ours. Even the name implies an inner circle, exclusive enclave or
hideaway somewhere in Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris... the kind
of place Alain Delon and Romy Schneider came when they began dating.
'La Société Bistro' is the kind of establishment that takes you back
to that 'Golden Age'... and it did not disappoint.
It definitely resembles higher-end dining, but La Société also adds
small touches to give it a sense of trendiness as well like its picture-
covered walls and chandeliers. A little 'easter egg' in the design of the
restaurant is the colour of the walls. They chose a yellowish white
because the walls of bistros in Paris were originally white, but due to
all the smoking indoors, could only be that particular colour once they
were extensively cleaned.
I remember having lunch back in the 1990s' when it was 'Chez Georges'...
they were friends of Bombshell's mum. Last I drove by, looked inside,
it sat empty while the luxurious hotel continued to rank highly with
visitors. Montreal hotels generally don't have good restaurant, but
considering the Vogue's location right in the heart of the downtown
core; it seemed a waste not to fill the space, especially considering the
captive audience of tourists and business types who are happy to dine
in their hotel before heading to bed.
The original 'La Société Bistro' is located in Toronto and has been
going strong for several years... and is generally lauded as a great
place to eat, drink and party — especially during TIFF (Toronto
International Film Festival) time. Owned by the CEO of INK
Entertainment, Charles Khabouth (the biggest individual restaurant
and nightclub owner in Toronto), 'La Société Bistro' is a Toronto import,
a first in our fair city.

As I looked around the entranceway...I was once again transported…
this is a beautiful space. No expense has been spared. 'La Société
Bistro' has been given the Parisian bistro treatment complete with
a stained-glass ceiling, zinc bar, marble-topped service stations,
wooden tables and chairs, silverware and white porcelain plates...
and the most gorgeous black-and-white tiled floor I've seen since
my own bistro eons ago... The background Buddha Bar-like music
was an added bonus... and very soothing, though I would have expected
some Charles Aznavour, Serge Gainsbourg or Yves Montand… but
I digress.

Our server, a lovely young woman with an impressive décolletage,
was sweet and cordial. My luncheon companion and I love to order
and then share... it is a more diverse experience…so we began with
a green salad with Champagne vinaigrette. Morsels of 'Jambon de
Bayonne' served with breadsticks. The ham is air dried and salted
that takes its name from the ancient port city of Bayonne in the far
south west of France. But the 'pièce de resistance'... a positively
all-encompassing delight of the senses was the 'Club au homard'.
Thick slices of lobster meat from the tail and claws into crosswise
pieces, tomato slices, and avocado on grilled (baked on the premises)
brioche slices so thick you had to get involved in the consumption
of with both hands. The dish was accompanied by a very satisfying
serving of fries with sweet parsnip deploying their flavor when
accompanied by a creamy aioli infused with Dijon mustard and garlic
is a pure Provencal tradition.

When then moved to the bar where we met the general manager,
a delightful woman, Tina Faouaz, and the chef, Sean Reeve, who
reminded me of Martin Picard from 'Au Pied de Cochon'. After… we
enjoyed our espresso with homemade 'beignets' and vanilla ice
cream... and topped it with a chilled Proseco. It was a splendid
afternoon, but I was reminded that those ladies who lunched long
ago... were women of leisure.

* From Where I Sit!
August 8, 2014

* La Société Bistro @ Loews Hotel Vogue
1415, rue de la Montagne
Montreal, H3G 1Z3
(514) 507-9223

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Take Notice of the World Around You... we go through a day - what do we notice?

Lisa Beamer on Good Morning America - If you remember, she's the wife of Todd
Beamer who said... 'Let's Roll!' and helped take down the plane over Pennsylvania
that was heading for Washington, DC back on 9/11. She said it's the little things
that she misses most about Todd, such as hearing the garage door open as he came
home, and her children running to meet him.

Lisa recalled this story: I had a very special teacher in high school many years
ago whose husband died suddenly of a heart attack. About a week after his death,
she shared some of her insight with a classroom of students. As the late afternoon
sunlight came streaming in through the windows and the class was nearly over, she
moved a few things aside on the edge of her desk and sat down there.
With a gentle look of reflection on her face, she paused and said, "Class is over,
I would like to share with all of you, a thought that is unrelated to class, but
which I feel is very important. Each of us is put here on earth to learn, share,
love, appreciate and give of ourselves. None of us knows when this fantastic experience
will end. It can be taken away at any moment. Perhaps this is the power's way of
telling us that we must make the most out of every single day."
Her eyes, beginning to water, she went on, "So I would like you all to make me
a promise. From now on, on your way to school, or on your way home, find something
beautiful to notice. It doesn't have to be something you see, it could be a scent,
perhaps of freshly baked bread wafting out of someone's house, or it could be the
sound of the breeze slightly rustling the leaves in the trees, or the way the
morning light catches one autumn leaf as it falls gently to the ground. Please
look for these things, and cherish them. For, although it may sound trite to some,
these things are the 'stuff' of life. The little things we are put here on earth
to enjoy. The things we often take for granted."

The class was completely quiet. We all picked up our books and filed out of the
room silently. That afternoon, I noticed more things on my way home from school
than I had that whole semester. Every once in a while, I think of that teacher
and remember what an impression she made on all of us, and I try to appreciate
all of those things that sometimes we all overlook. Take notice of something
special you see on your lunch hour today. Go barefoot. Or walk on the beach at
sunset. Stop off on the way home tonight to get a double dip ice cream cone. For
as we get older, it is not the things we did that we often regret, but the things
we didn't do. May you be Blessed every day of your life.

'Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that
take our breath away.'

Namaste ±
©Frank Borsellino™

* via Leo Cavaliere

Monday, August 4, 2014

Storyteller's Soirée Observations

Ladies & Gentlemen,

"After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in
the world." ~ Philip Pullman

The theme for this latest gathering of bon vivants was 'Storyteller's Soirée' so let
me begin by telling you a story. Once upon a time I was a young, somewhat good
looking, man-about-town with an abundance of confidence... some use to say I was
'cocky and arrogant'. In the many forays of late night gallivanting, I met a beautiful,
enchanting, and sophisticated 'Femme Fatale'... who, for the sake of this story we'll
call her 'Ursula'.
This high-society dame's maternal great-grandmother was European royalty from one of
those countries that was annexed to the Soviet Union after World War II. When she walked,
or rather swayed into a room everyone stopped...turned and followed her every movement.
She paraded her slinky self with such confidence; it was the female version of yours
truly. Her dresses or skirts had a slit down one side that would be very tantalizing to
any observer within visual distance for those spectacular set of stems à la Marlene Dietrich.
Whenever she summoned, I humbly and most happily serviced her every whim and
caprice to the best of my ability… and her delight. I was the poster-child for confidence…
except when it applied to her. I would regress back to that nervous little schoolboy
about to lose his virginity. Friday night at Cavalli... I had that same knot in my gut.
Although I have been having these dinner parties for the past ten years it felt fresh
and exciting... because it was the first one back at the NEW Ristorante Cavalli.

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in
an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, cigar in one hand,
wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, "Woo! What a ride!"

Let me first welcome a nubile into the fold, Christiane Kanaan... she oozed sensuality.
I truly am enthralled by her deliciousness and scent that emanated from that body.
After a prolonged absence, Filomena (Fil) is back and along with another long lost
soul who also made the trek Giovanna. Watching them catch-up with each other made me
warm all over. There was camaraderie within this diverse group that was ethereal.
What started quietly enough, and with little fanfare, in no time, spawn into
quite a raucous time and a most enlightened evening. The chairs filled, ladies came,
gentlemen (the female to male ratio was closer then ever before) and veterans and
newcomers, alike, mingled like it was routine, and no time had passed.
As is the case with each dinner party, the dynamics and especially the landscape changes
and every time I am slightly surprised at the scope of the guests and their immediate
amiability. This group, my group ... somewhat fresh ensemble, keeps evolving... to my
delight. I'm a big proponent of evolution. It's similar to an ever-changing, living
organism that grows as it absorbs particles it picks up along its journey. I believe
the Candidate's presence was such a particle, which added a whole other dimension. To
be in the company of an individual with such grand aspirations is humbling... a person
who's desire is to serve at the public's behest is noble.

The following are my observations of a most profound gastronomic gathering at the Food
Porn Palace. Kudos to chef extraordinaire Frank Gioffre... a culinary God! The dishes
were magnificent... an entire slice, not a cut, above anything and/or anywhere else.
Since they re-opened the food has improved... if that was at all possible! They say
the measure of a great restaurant is the consistency of its dishes... that dictum was
written for Cavalli…and the dance of dishes commenced.
Shrimp tempura, a staple at Cavalli. Light golden, slightly battered, and oh so
delicious. Then it was the always tangy oysters 'Wasabi con Limone' lime mustard, tobiko
and Prosecco. They got slurped up in a flash. 'Tuna sashimi' with celery leaves, green
olives, shallot, and spicy lemon with mayo capers, a new discovery. Another one of the
newer additions was the 'Burrata and heirloom tomatoes caprese' with figs, arugula,
prosciutto crudo di Parma and grilled pine nut focaccia… and a new favorite appetizer...
soft, moist, and not cheesy at all. The salmon tartare with kimchee sauce, pickled beets,
cucumber cigar and avocado cream, was sweet and perfectly seasoned. Grilled mackerel and
octopus with eggplant, caviar, tomato-oregano salad and kalamata olives was another dish
that combined flavors that are unlike anything you've had. So good, the dish was spotless
The first course 'Maccheroni' with fontina, cheddar and black truffle purée, with
brioche bread crumbs and black pepper... was like sex on a plate! To clear the palette,
we enjoyed the 'Endives' salad with radicchio and arugual, mango bacon, pecorino and
sprinkled with pistachio vinaigrette.
The meal continued in the same manner with a trio of superb main dishes that typifies
the simplicity of the kitchen... The inspired sea bass on a bed of crab, cucumber and
avocado salad, sticky rice, with a Wasabi Tobiko ginger/coriander emulsion. Pepper
crusted tuna, with braised lentils, caponata and pine nuts emulsion was a delight to
the senses... sweet and tangy. Lamb chops with roasted carrots, grilled banana pepper
and feta salsa. Perfectly grilled... bloody but did not look like they could walk away.
That flew off the plate quicker than the plates arrived.

Later, following the dinner, while people were coming and going for a smoke, I observed
little niches that had formed, huddled together, in delight of the evening, exchanging
thoughts and ideas. The Candidate was recruiting support from the Jazz Singer, and
her lovely friend. Vin Diesel, Domenic and Wendy going head-to-head on several subjects,
and the delightful Antonella... who comes in with a smile that becomes contagious.

Somebody once said, "Life's euphoria consists of little moments, you steal away from
the mundane". The 'Storyteller's Soirée' was such a moment that makes me as I'm as
happy has a little girl!

Your Cruise Director
Food is my Compass
August 1st, 2014

* Ristorante Cavalli
2042 Peel St.
Montreal, H3A 2R4
(514) 843-5100

* 'Cruising' by Fabian Perez