Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Winterlicious at Thuet Bistro - meh

In honour of my dear friend Diane's birthday, a bunch of us went to Winterlicious at Thuet Bistro. I had originally wanted to go to Mildred Pierce, but I kept getting a busy signal so I called Thuet Bistro as a backup. Since they picked up right away and were so nice, I decided to keep the reservation.

Marc Thuet is one of a handful of very famous and well-respected Toronto chefs (in company with Susur Lee, Mark McEwan, Jamie Kennedy, and Michael Stadtlander) who made their names at upscale restaurants and then subsequently opened cheaper, more "rustic" spots. So, Thuet Bistro is Marc Thuet "slumming it". Funnily enough though, Toronto Life says that a dinner for two at Thuet Bistro costs $200 while the same at Centro (an upscale place Thuet used to own) is only $190.

The thing about Winterlicious is that you can go to an unaffordable restaurant for a fraction of the price. At some lovely and less celebrity cheffy places like Boulevard Cafe, you get the same quality/quantity of food and service as when you order off the regular menu. At most places however, including Thuet Bistro, you get the airline-sized version of everything and they try to get you in and out as soon as possible.

When Darryl, Diane, and I arrived at 7 sharp, there were throngs of people clogging the doorway trying to get seated. There was a 5pm seating (who eats at 5?), so many people had to wait for their tables even though they had reservations. Thankfully our punctual friend Michael was already seated so we got to push through (much to the annoyance of the throngs) and sit immediately. The restaurant was packed to the rafters and because of all the hard surfaces, it was like being in a nightclub (or Salad King). We had to yell to hear each other.

I had an appetizer that was described as "Red beet marinated organic salmon, yuzu infused Napa cabbage, sashimi essence". I'm not sure how one extracts essence from sashimi since it is a preparation, not an ingredient. But, the cabbage was delicate and citrusy, and the salmon was tender and smokey. My main was called "choucroute de poisson", which was basically sauerkraut with fish (skate and Tasmanian sea trout). The skate was moist and flakey and the sauerkraut was nicely sour, but not too salty. I nibbled on Diane's beef bourguignon, which was soft as a dream but it actually reminded me of Campbell's Chunky beef stew (which I love, by the way). For dessert, I had 'Profiteroles with warm Soma chocolate sauce'. The "s" in "profteroles" is kind of misleading because it was actually only one. But nevertheless it was delicious (and tiny).

They served us three courses in less than an hour and we had a whole 45 minutes until the 9PM seating began, so I ordered orange ginger tea to make the most of our two-hour time slot. The first teacup I was presented with looked dirty even in the very low light. The waiter quickly replaced it and the tea was nice and fresh-tasting.

There were people at the next table who weren't doing Winterlicious and their food was generously sized and yummy looking. I'm aware that margins at restaurants are small, so they can't give you the royal treatment when you aren't paying for it. However, there are places that do, such as Boulevard Cafe and Rosewater Supper Club. It's really hit or miss, so you just have to try places, but as a general rule I think it's best to stay away from famous places with famous chefs. You won't get anywhere near the full experience.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Food shopping in Bloor West Village

Darcy and I had absolutely no food in the house (we had to order Chinese last night), so we ventured up the street to some of our favourite little shops. Usually Darcy goes to Sobeys on the Queensway, but we weren't in the mood to walk there in the slush. Since this is Bloor West Village, all the stores including the food shops are expensive, but the quality is good.

First we went to Carload, my favourite fruit and vegetable store. There are a tonne of Korean fruit/veg places on Bloor between Jane and Runnymede, but I always go to this one. I tried the others, but I prefer Carload because it's reasonably priced and fresh with a wide selection (up to 6 different kinds of mushrooms). We just got some basics (apples, oranges, white mushrooms, peppers, basil, tomatoes, etc.). Looking around it made me think of how the store has pretty much all the same produce regardless of the season. In both summer and winter, there are strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries in the display to the left of the door and tomatoes to the right. All of this stuff is grown far away and flown here so we can buy bananas and trudge home in the snow. This is why I have no idea which vegetables and fruit actually grow in Ontario and when.

Then we went to Max's Market to get bread, deli meats, and cheese. Max's is very yuppie, but they have so much amazing stuff there. They have an awesome selection of bread including Ace and Fred's Bread. Ace is pretty good, but I am in love with Fred's Bread. Most of what they make is sourdough based and it's out of this world. We toasted some this afternoon and ate it with smoke gouda and Darcy said it was the best thing he's ever eaten. In addition to bread, Max's has tonnes of prepared food (hot and cold), desserts (some from Dufflet), cheeses, and deli meats including bloody rare roast beef that they carve in front of you. I got some smoked turkey, honey maple ham, and the smoked gouda.

Almost next door to Max's is Bloor Meat Market, which is a very expensive and high quality butcher shop. The meat there is beautiful and the butchers are knowledgeable and friendly. There is very low staff turnover, so even the younger ones have been there a long time. Darcy remembers seeing one of them during the blackout in 2003 at Shakey's Bar and Grill looking sad, probably because of all that spoiled meat. I just got some extra lean ground beef that was red as a ruby and some chicken breast. There was a man called Jim ahead of me in line who seemed to know everyone in the shop by name. They always say that you should cultivate a relationship with your butcher so that you'll get good stuff and good advice. I'm way to shy for that, I think. I always just try to be a well-behaved customer.

Lastly, we went to pick up my library books at the Runnymede library. The building actually goes way back to 1930 and there was even a Canadian stamp made for it. I only started using the library after I got laid off in 2003 and I couldn't afford to buy books anymore. At the time, I had really wanted to read The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, but I didn't want to buy it. I started asking around to see if anyone had it, and then I was like, "why don't I just go to the library?" It costs nothing to get the card and they have a great web site where you can request books and they get delivered to your local branch. You can return books to any library in the city and they take care of transporting them to the appropriate place. I love it. I can't believe it's free.

I took out Through the Children's Gate by Adam Gopnik, The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy, and The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I saw both Adam Gopnik and Wayson Choy this year and they were even more entertaining than their books. Adam Gopnik is scary intelligent. Wayson Choy is hilarious. The Heart of Darkness is something I've been meaning to read, but never got around to it.

I'm just finishing up Cockeyed by Ryan Knighton, which is amazing. I totally recommend it. It's a memoir about gradually going blind. It's funny, sad, and really lends insight into what it's like to go blind. Sort of like how The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon shows what its like to be autistic.

It was a slushy day out there today, but I still love winter. The developers from Symphony Services who our company hired are coming to Toronto for a month to be trained and they arrive in 4 weeks (end of Feb!). I'm hoping that the cold and snow will be an enjoyable novelty for them like 35 degrees in winter was for us when we were in India. I hope.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Awesome potluck. I'm still full.

Today we had our company potluck, the biannual AudienceView social event that always has the best turnout and the best food. The whole thing is organized with an Evite invitation where you can RSVP as well as sign up for something to bring. Eggy (from Marketing) puts a lot of non-food items (e.g. napkins, paper plates, etc.) on that list for the people who don't want to cook and everyone usually jumps at bringing them because it involves no work. I think that next time those things should be provided by the company and everyone should be forced to bring food. I'm such a potluck Nazi -- a greedy potluck Nazi.

Our Network/IT guy, Brian, is really into gourmet cooking and he loves to make sophisticated dishes. This time, Brian brought two kinds of soup (chestnut and celeriac with chorizo garnish; butternut squash with roasted apple and sharp white cheddar) and fried spring rolls with salmon filet, potato, and dill inside served with a fennel/lemongrass dipping sauce. I took a little video of Brian assembling his soup. With the towel draped over his shoulder, doesn't he look like a chef?

Ross, who is in Quality Assurance with me and moved to Canada from Iran a couple of years ago, brought vegetarian samosas that were cleverly disguised because they were wrapped like spring rolls. Ross and Vijayasree (also in QA and from Hyderabad, India) told me that the triangle samosa shape is very difficult to make. They were delicious and filled with potatoes, beans, peas, and chilies.

Husam, the deployment guy who is from somewhere very exotic that I can't remember, brought homemade hummus and baba gannouj that was served on flat plates and garnished with olive oil and sliced tomatoes. I didn't get to try the hummus, but the baba gannouj was to die for. It was smokey, smooth, and garlicky.

Christine from Support brought a chickpea, sweet potato, and raisin salad that was very popular. It felt quite Indian because it was spiced with cumin, turmeric, and mustard seeds. She sweetly sent me the recipe and I can't wait to try it.

Oxana, who is also in QA and moved here from Kazakhstan last year, made a sort of hot appetizer with chicken, mushrooms, and cheese, which is so my thing. I didn't catch the name of the dish, but apparently it is French.

The two Simons both brought amazing stuff. Simon the developer brought beer can chicken, which is a whole chicken impaled on an open can of beer and roasted. While cooking, the beer evaporates into the chicken gives it moisture and flavour. It was tasty and tender. Olena and Oxana say that they do this a lot, but with a glass bottle filled with water and herbs. The other Simon, who I'm not sure what he does but it's related to database stuff, is Chinese and he brought yuba with shiitake mushrooms -- one of my favourite things in the world. It's just like the mock duck at Simon's Wok (hmmm...quite the coincidence).

Sarita, a PS project manager, brought an amazing green salad with strawberries, walnuts, and the creamiest blue cheese. Marcelo brought meatballs in what looked like a sweet sauce, but they were all gone before I got to try them. Eggy also made meatballs, but served them dry with a tomato sauce on the side. George Junior (George Senior is our VP of R&D) the developer made chicken fried rice and Mike (not sure what he does) made something similar, but with noodles. Jenny (fun girl from Support who is also an actor) made yummy mushroom rice pilaf and Deepa (also from Support) brought pressed sandwiches stuffed with cheese and veggies.

Adorable, young (21!) developer Jeff did cheese and crackers and arranged them with the very guy technique of dumping the entire box on the plate in between the blocks of cheese and letting them rest where they settled. Too cute. Celeste (HR manager) was supposed to bring tuna pasta salad, but she ran out of time so she ordered a pizza, which went over very well.

For dessert there were tonnes of chocolate chips cookies from our receptionist, Rebecca, oatmeal cookies from VP of Professional Services Chris' mom, President's Choice cream pies from Vanessa, homemade meringues from Stephanie (Support), squares with Belgian chocolate melted on top from Alexa (documentation), which I also sadly was too slow to grab. Amanda brought a fruit salad, which was fresh and delicious, but I think too healthy to appeal to the crowd. Jessica's green salad met the same fate.

As for me, I brought two batches of buttermilk biscuits that Darcy made for me last night. I was going to make them myself, but I really suck at it. Mine came out half the height, dense, and salty. Darcy were light as air and flaky with a crispy crust. It's all in the technique. They were well received.

I learned a new term today from Amanda. 'Muffin top' is what you call the roll of fat that puffs out over your belt when you are wearing something with a fitted waistband. After today, my muffin top has turned into a souffle top. But it was worth it. If you'd like to see more food pictures from the potluck, click here.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Yeah, the Colts won...blah, blah, blah

After the exciting game last week, the Patriots couldn't get it done. The game started out awesome with a flukey touchdown off a fumble, an easy running touchdown, and a wicked interception for a touchdown. They were up 21-3 and it looked so good that I think they relaxed and let the Colts come back -- just like the Patriots did with the Chargers last week. So, 38-34 for the Colts with the last play being a Tom Brady interception. Poo. This sucks. I feel gutted. And I ate too much party mix at Jeff and Trina's.

One bright point of the evening was that we ordered a really great pizza from Cosa Pizza on Roncesvalles. It was really floppy with a yummy tomatoey sauce that reminds me of the New York style pizza I had in Boston. It came with some forgettable bruschetta, so if you order from here, it would probably be best to decline the offer.

Well, Tony Dungy deserves to go to the Superbowl. And so does Peyton Manning. I don't really care one way or the other who wins. It's so boring to watch the Superbowl when your team isn't in it. At least I'll be more productive at work than I would have been if the Patriots were still in the running. Poo.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pho at Golden Turtle Restaurant - meh

After 'mandatory fun' (office all hands meeting) at the Ontario Science Centre, Tanya and I went to Golden Turtle Restaurant at Ossington between Queen and Dundas to grab some Vietnamese pho. Tanya had read somewhere that Susur Lee enjoys this place, so we thought we'd give it a try.

I had worried that since this place had gotten good press, it would be fancy. But, it was actually just like any other pho place with all the standard dishes, condiments, and place settings, which was a relief to see. I ordered pho with well done beef and tripe (I love tripe, really) and Tanya had pho with tofu and vegetables. We also ordered the standard fried spring rolls (with meat) and shrimp fresh rolls (vermicelli, mint, julienned veggies, fresh shrimp served with peanuts sauce). Since Darcy and Vince weren't with us, we ordered some takeout for them (pho with rare beef for Darcy; pad thai with chicken, tofu and vegetables for Vince).

What I love about going for pho is that since the stock is already made and the noodle take next to no time to boil, your meal is ready in less than 7 minutes. It is great stuff to have if you're in a hurry. The stock was a little bland and had a fruity taste that I wasn't used to, but it tasted clean and light. The noodles were thin cooked to the right degree. The beef was kind of tough, but I really should have ordered the rare beef instead of well-done. Tanya's soup looked really healthy with lots of colourful vegetables (carrots, cabbage, etc.) and large chunks for fried tofu (yum). The fried spring rolls were excellent -- crispy, savoury, and tasty. The fresh rolls were great too with crisp ingredients and nice, creamy peanut sauce.

The bill for everything we had plus the takeout was $45, so it was an amazing deal like pho usually is. I have a feeling though that Susur goes to this place because it is relatively close to his restaurants; not because it's outstanding. It was definitely decent, but it's not better or different than any other pho I've had in Toronto or Montreal. Golden Turtle is ridiculously listed in this 'Top 10 Restaurants' article on that includes Canoe and Bymark. I'm not saying that only expensive/pretentious restaurants belong in a Top 10. Golden Turtle shouldn't be on that list because it's not special. It's a standard operation that serves the exact same thing with the same quality that you could have at hundreds of Vietnamese restaurants in Toronto. They're just lucky enough to have an endorsement from a celebrity chef.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Quesada at lunch, Simon's Wok at dinner. Yes, the diet is going well.

This week I decided that enough was enough -- I had to take control, start working out and eating light again. The month in India was complete unbridled gluttony from start to finish and after recovering from the flu, I was well enough to indulge in two Christmas dinners plus all my home favourites. So, this week I reacquainted myself with my gym, brought my lunch, and ate sensible portions...until today.

Well, actually it wasn't that bad. My friend Darryl is having a frustrating time at work, so he needed to get out of the office and talk about it. We went to Quesada, which is a Mexican placethat specializes in burritos. It's very similar to Burrito Boyz, but the portions are more reasonably sized (smaller; well, some are) and it's a very bright, open, and pleasant space (it actually used to be a Country Style. They really cleaned it up).

For burritos, you have a choice of whole wheat or white tortilla stuffed with grilled chicken, steak, pork, veggies, or plain bean. Additional fillers include rice, beans (black or pinto), lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, red onions, cheese, guacamole (costs extra), cilantro, and three sauces of varying heat. All burritos come in either small, large, or 'big ass' size. The small was just fine for lunch. I opted for grilled chicken with rice, pinto beans, cheese, cilantro, lettuce, tomato and hot sauce. After they fill it up and fold it into a rectangular package, they grill it in a sort of flat panini press so it gets crispy and golden on the outside.

The hot sauce was just right: spicy, but not overwhelming. The heat came on like a latent realization instead of a punch in the face. The chicken was breast meat, which tends to be a little dry, but I'm sure it was healthy. Darryl got a steak burrito comboed with fresh salsa and chips. It's a very affordable lunch (about $7 each) and the seating area is comfortable.

I made plans ages ago to meet up with Jane who was in my food writing workshop that I had to bale out of because of the India trip. We only went to one class together, but we really had a lot in common so we emailed while I was in India and decided to get together once I was back to try a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant in the Gerrard-Broadview area called Simon's Wok Vegetarian Kitchen.

From the name and the fact that it is Buddhist, I know it sounds like a frou frou establishment, but actually it was a very down-to-earth Chinese restaurant. Because it is Buddhist, they do not cook with garlic, green onions, or onions. I looked up why on the Internet and the 'Faith and Food' Web site said that they are considered to increase one's sexual desire and anger. I'd never heard that before. To be perfectly honest, I didn't miss the garlic and onions at all, which says a lot about how good the food was.

We ordered Vegetarian Duck with Vegetables (see picture), King Mushrooms with Chinese Broccoli, Eggplant with Ginger, and Fried Rice with Olive Leaves. Everything was both delicious and generous. The 'Vegetarian Duck' was actually rolled yuba (Japanese word for it), which is a basically the skin that forms on top of soy milk when it boils. It can be peeled off, dried, and used as a wrapper. With the veggie duck, it was rolled into a log and cut crossways. The King mushrooms were large, meaty, and chopped into generous-sized pieces along with long stalks of Chinese broccoli. The eggplant with ginger was a mixture of long pieces of eggplant, large chunks of fried tofu, carrots, and green peppers. I love eggplant so much and usually when you order it, they give you only a little bit, but this dish had at least 6 in it, I think. The fried rice was probably the best I've ever had. It was clean-tasting, but savoury, and the olive leaves were just the right amount of salty.

The entire meal came to 36$ and they kept refilling our teapot as we lingered there for over 3 hours. It's a modest restaurant, but it's very popular in the neighbourhood, I think. At one point, every single table was full. I can't recommend this place enough. You have to go.

So, so much for eating light. I don't think it was particularly unhealthy though. It's Buddhist, so it has to be good for me. Tomorrow, I already have plans to try the pho at Golden Turtle. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow night.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I can't believe the Patriots won tonight

I'm totally in shock. Our dearest New England Patriots somehow managed to win tonight against an incredibly powerful San Diego team. Everyone, including us and all the guys on Countdown, thought San Diego would win and somehow the Patriots pulled it out. Tom Brady is the Platonic ideal of a quarterback.

I know that reading about football is really boring if you're not into it. I feel the same way about hockey (yup, I said it). Hearing someone talk about a sport you're not interested in is like hearing people recap a soap opera you don't watch. So, I'll keep it short, but let me tell you that I am the most surprised of anyone at my being a football fan. I didn't even know the rules 5 years ago. One day, we went over to our friends' to watch a game and they told me that all you need to know is that they get four chances (aka downs) to advance 10 yards. So, once I got attached to the New England Patriots (and no, we're not bandwagon jumpers because Darcy and Jeff have been fans ever since the Pats were the worst team in the league and nicknamed 'The Patsies'), I became so invested in football. It really means a lot to me. Leading up to the Superbowl in 2005, I couldn't concentrate on anything else and after they won, I kept replaying the game in my mind and missing my stop on the subway. It was like being in love.

I remember Noam Chomsky saying that organized sport is a way of distracting the masses with something of absolutely no importance. I thought that was hilarious because it's true. When you go to an NFL game you see how invested people are in it -- and I'm one of them! I don't know why, but I really enjoy it. I'm as surprised as you are.

We watched the game over at Jeff and Trina's in the Junction. The walk to their place was so much fun because the shortest route involved walking on a path through a field and cutting through a hole in a chainlink fence. I felt like a kid again. At the base of a pedestrian overpass that we had to take, there was some really cool graffiti.

Trina made some wonderful grainy bread that we ate with two different soups: beet-coconut and butternut squash-cumin. Who said you have to have junk food with football? All of it was so good and the recipes are in this book called 'Entertaining Vegetarians'. I brought some biscuits that I was testing out for the potluck at work on the 25th and let's just say that it's a good thing I tried them out first. They were kind of flat, salty, and dense. I'm going to try again next weekend with actual buttermilk instead of skim milk and half shortening instead of all butter. Darcy makes them so well, but he's busy the day of the potluck so he can't make them for me. Poo.

So, the AFC Championship Game is next Sunday, January 21st at 6:30PM. I'll bore you with the details then. :)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Japanese Curry, Football, Onion Rings, and Fries

I went running this morning for the first time since October and lasted for about 15 minutes. Darcy wants to do another half marathon (Mississauga Half Marathon) in May, so we're gearing up. I can't believe we're doing another one. Yikes.

Later in the day, I was looking at my Saveur magazine. January is a great time to buy this magazine because they have what they call the Saveur 100, which is the editorial staff's picks for their 100 favourite food finds of the past year. It's a really fun list with lots of great pictures and write-ups. One of the picks this year is Japanese curry. My mom used to make this for us when I was a kid with sauce from a package made by S&B. I love this kind of curry and I've made it myself a few times. The S&B sauce comes in kind of a plastic ice cube tray and you can take pieces of it, add it to water, and then add vegetables, chicken, etc. It's kind of like Japanese Hamburger Helper. In Saveur, they had a recipe to make the sauce from scratch. I didn't really believe that it could be done. I thought it was sort of like how you can make your own Mac and Cheese, but it will never taste like Kraft dinner because it's a completely different animal. But, I followed the recipe and it tasted EXACTLY the same. And it's probably miles healthier. I totally recommend it.

Tomorrow is our friend Jeff's birthday, so we went to a sports bar in the Junction called Shoxs to have some drinks and watch the late NFL divisional game (New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles). I gave Jeff one of the handpainted cards from India with the elephant (supposed to be good luck), so I figure our team (New England Patriots) should have a good game tomorrow (knock on wood, fingers crossed). Jeff ordered some fries and onion rings to go with our drinks and the waitress brought out an enormous basket of each. So much for trying to eat healthy in the new year. They were actually really good and cheap (fries $2.95; onion rings $3.95).

Jeff and Trina just recently bought a house in the Junction. On our way home, we walked across Dundas from Keele to Runnymede to catch the bus and saw some pretty funky shops on the way. I loved the upholstery store with chairs and tables piled in huge mountains against the windows with more than one sign saying, "Come In. We're Open", even though it was 12:30AM. A little further down was a used bookstore that said: 'Voted the messiest store for 6 straight years...and proud of it!!!!' and 'If you can't find what you're looking for inside...don't worry, neither can I!!!!". Across the street was Vesuvio, a great place to order pizza from if you live in the West end. And right at the corner of Runnymede and Dundas was a 7 Eleven with a huge sign saying they are serving Kona Blend Coffee, which we bought as souvenirs when we were in Hawaii in August. That coffee and has come a long way to get here.

At a bus shelter, we saw this sign for a Found Cat. We thought that was so sweet that someone had taken the trouble to both care for the cat and try to find its owners. The cat looks pretty relaxed in the photo though, so maybe he likes it better where he is? Anyways, spread the word if you know anyone who is missing a kitty.

We're going to try to run again tomorrow if I'm not completely incapacitated by stiff muscles, so I'd better get to bed. Everyone send some love and energy toward the Patriots tomorrow at 4:30PM. Hope everyone's having a good weekend.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Le Paradis: Is choucroute supposed to be salty?

Tonight a bunch of us got together for my friend Michael's birthday at Le Paradis, a French bistro in the Annex. Everything about the place (decor, atmosphere, waiters) felt like an authentic French restaurant -- casually fabulous. Even on a Wednesday night, the place was packed and everyone seemed to be having a great time.

I gave Michael one of those hand-painted cards I bought in India that has an elephant on it. The elephant is supposed to be good luck, so I also bought him a 6/49 ticket. The draw is tonight. I figure it's a lock.

Darryl always has such great taste in wine and booze, so I followed his lead (as usual) and ordered a Kir, which Wiki tells me is blackcurrant liquor topped with white wine. It was sweet and very easy to drink. Dangerous.

I started with a simple, fresh 'Salade Mimosa' that had lettuce, buttermilk dressing, and diced hardboiled eggs. It was delicious and unfussy. Michael and Diane had the 'Auvergnate' salad with arugula, endive, blue cheese, walnuts, and apples while Louis had a butternut squash soup and Darryl had grilled vegetables with melted cheese. Everything looked effortlessly and expertly prepared.

Because I was so hungry, I decided to take the plunge and order the Choucroute Garnie (which, by the way, Louis says is almost exactly like a Newfoundland dinner). It's a heavy braised mixture of sauerkraut, bacon, smoked pork loin, duck, and sausage. The portion was a reasonably modest size and all the meats were wonderfully tender, but the sauerkraut itself was so incredibly salty. Four of us had the same thing and I probably ate the most of anyone because I was starving, but it was difficult to eat. We were all so polite and no one complained, but is this the way choucroute is supposed to be? Michael and Louis probably had better choices (steak frites and lamb shank).

Even after the heavy entrees, three of us shared three desserts because they all sounded so good. When Marcelo and I were in India, we ate dessert (usually some kind of ice cream) with both lunch and dinner almost every day, so it's a habit I'm having a hard time breaking. We had Coupe Cote d'Ivoire (coconut ice cream, banana, and chocolate -- doesn't sound very French does it?), profiteroles, and the tarte of the day: prune and frangipani. The chocolate sauce on the ice cream and profiteroles was dark, slightly bitter, and very yummy. The tarte had a soft, buttery crust topped with sour prunes and sliced almonds -- this was the best of the three. Dennis had a creme caramel that he sweetly let us try and it was soft, cool, smooth, and to die for as well.

Even though our choucroute was salty, the rest of the food was excellent and the restaurant had a great atmosphere -- lively, but not loud. Diane and her husband Dennis are regulars there, so I think we just had a bit of bad luck. I would definitely go back but, after eating out daily in India for 4 weeks, I should really get back to the gym first.

Sorry the pictures are so dark. The lighting in the restaurant was very moody. With the flash, the pictures were too bright; without, too dark. I need to learn more about the settings on my camera.

Happy Birthday Michael!