Monday, 14 March 2011

In the Brief Interim

Good morning!

As you can tell from the date of my last post, I haven't been doing much cooking; of course, I was doing much eating. Just last night, I got back from a midwestern voyage to Notre Dame University to visit Lauren and two of our Albion classmates, and checked my mailbox a few hours ago to find my copy of "Cooking Club," the magazine of the Cooking Club of America, waiting for me. On the cover was the headline "Brown Butter: The secret to delicious desserts" (pp 38-43). Indeed, it's a secret no longer, and has become a recent revelation of sorts in my small repertoire of cooking techniques. (Type "beurre" in the search field or click here for an example.) Seeing this on the cover--and as I began to read the recipes--I finally listened to the reminder in my head to post something about my latest food voyage.

On Tuesday evening, myself and a colleague took our guest speaker to dinner at a small, are-we-really-in-Granville?-brasserie, called The Short Story. A touch on the pricier side, the comfortable setting and great French music (from the range of Edith Piaf in the 50s and 60s to light jazz) transported me to Paris and back within a two-hour time frame, just in time to get back for the evening program. Also of note was that we happened to be dining during Dine Originals Week. Dine Originals, as self-described on-line, is "a community of independently owned and operated restaurants in the Columbus, Ohio area." If you read further down the "About" section of the site, you'll definitely find a wonderful network of folks who have dedicated their lives to food, with a spirit of cooperation and relationship-building. With that said, Dine Originals Week is a time when these area restaurants truly lay out on the table their commitment to supporting each other via a week-long prix fixe menu(s) in each of their restaurants. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, prix fixe menus don't offer an incredible amount of variety, but they do offer amazing food at a substantially (a relative term, of course) reduced rate. And when it comes to French/French-inspired cooking, going along with the prix fixe menu is akin to following a well-structured essay. Besides, there are almost too many wonderful dishes to choose from that set menus at a low price takes away the burden of having to pick and choose, arguably giving you more time to converse at the table. "Prix fixe" in America? In the middle of Ohio? For now at least, it seems the growing culinary scene is situated here, if not at the very least, thriving in the Midwest.

Anyway, my particular menu began with a warm frisée salad with bacon vinaigrette and poached egg, followed by a lobster boursin stuffed chicken breast with saffron risotto and lemon beurre blanc, and ended with a warm chocolate soufflé. While I had very minor issues with each dish, there were some very standout components overall.

The bacon vinaigrette (take a moment to look at those two words together; what's there not to like?) was a great compliment to the salad while the yolk of the beautifully poached egg tied the entire dish together with a velvet-like charm.

The standout component of the chicken entrée was the lobster boursin (I could eat that lobster boursin on its own and be entirely happy) and, just as was the case with the poached egg on salad, it was my first time eating anything with the world's most expensive herb; I could definitely do with eating more saffron dishes into the future.

As for the soufflé, it was the much needed crème anglaise that was the star of that round. All in all, it was a great meal accompanied by inspiring conversation. For The Short Story's winter menu, click here. Do take note of the story-book set-up of the menu, and don't forget to check out the owner's introduction on page 2.

Before I highlight some food during my weekend at NDU, I should continue the French theme by mentioning that Wednesday was the last day of the French film festival on campus, the final viewing of which commenced with a fruit, cheese and bread/cracker assortment.

For lunch on Friday, Lauren took me to the recently renovated and wonderfully lime green Greenfields International Café, on the campus of Notre Dame. With a focus on healthy cuisine, the café utilises local ingredients to prepare visually stunning dishes, including the native grain cake made of corn, wild rice, and quinoa, atop a bed of vegetables. As if this wasn't healthy enough, I had a refreshing pressed juice to pair. Soon after, the lunch hour was finished off with a not-so-healthy appetizer portion of mozzarella sticks at Legends of Notre Dame, also on campus, where I was also introduced to some of Lauren's friends from the Romance Languages and Literatures department. For dinner, the Albion group headed to The Mark Dine & Tap, and with the Lenten season upon us, I went with the "Frenchy French Stuffed" French toast stuffed with chèvre and topped with a mixed berry and red wine syrup (the syrup of which was just the right balance of savory and sweet, and which further cut down on the strong flavour profile of goat cheese). A little difficult to hear our table conversation (the place was rather packed), the set-up and food were great.

On Saturday, we all had lunch at Legends. While we waited for our main courses, we shared some toasted beer bread complimented by beer cheese; as if that wasn't enough cheese, I also enjoyed a cup of cheese & broccoli soup. For my main course I had the Lemon Parmesan Tilapia, which was topped with a very rich white wine sauce and served with potatoes and fresh vegetables. After some grocery shopping, we stayed home for dinner and Lauren cooked deliciously light crêpes filled with gruyère, ham, and mushrooms. Apparently still hungry, though, we eventually decided to make a quick run to Taco Bell.

And then all of a sudden it was Sunday and time to depart, but not before eating again. We concluded our Indiana dining experience at the awesomely black and lime green Uptown Kitchen (owned by the same folks as The Mark). Slightly more timely this go-around, I ordered from the brunch menu for breakfast and got lemon ricotta pancakes, artistically served with raspberry crème fraiche. Unmistakably lemon in flavour, the pancakes were extremely light despite the addition of ricotta into the batter. The folks of the Clean Plate Club certainly know how to pair their fruit and cheese with their grains. (Talk about full circle, eh?)

Alas, I'm now back in Granville and I find myself on a Monday, Pi Day. Perhaps after work I should make a pie... certainly to be followed by yet another post.

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