Interviews 1 and 2

These photos are totally irrelevant to the post, but they captured a memorable milestone in our little family: Noah’s first skate! We have this wild swampland out behind our place that froze over perfectly smooth and is the ideal playground for little boys. They’ve been very inspired by the Olympics and we’ve reenacted many of the events in our own winter wonderland.

Good times.
My super-talented sister, Haidi, made this hat; isn’t it just precious?

Alright, I’m really just dropping in to share a few mentions of Under the High Chair that happened earlier this week.

The Montreal Gazette, our major English newspaper, ran an article Monday on the Blog Aid cookbook. They applauded the efforts of all 27 food bloggers involved and quoted me at the end.

You can find the article HERE.

Jessica from I Spy Montreal, read the article and requested an interview, which ran yesterday on her website. She asked about my strategies for getting the boys to eat (pray?), family friendly recipes, and UtHC.

You can read the full interview HERE.

It was fun to chat with her and I definitely recommend her informative website for any Montrealer with kids.

Cooking? Food? Right. I realize we’re way off topic here.

Well, we talked ‘Muffins‘ on Simple Bites this week, in case you missed it. I shared tips on how to make them, favorite flavor combinations and divulged my all-time best recipe.

You should probably head over and print it out for the morning.

It’s hard to believe two years have passed since this announcement, but yes, the little guy crossing the pond above is turning two on the weekend. My baby!

Even though I’ve got a simple menu planned, there is still plenty to do before I can receive the 40 or so guests expected, so I’ll leave it at that.

Go Canada! #olympics

Cookies and Company

If your December “To Do” list is anything like mine, you’ll find yourself scratching your head and wondering how you can possibly get everything done in the allotted time. Everywhere you look there is a countdown to Christmas, taunting you and reminding you that you are going to have to exercise some super powers to wrap up your list.

However, readers of Under the High Chair may remember last year’s cookie swap, which presented my sweet-toothed friends a fun, practical, and time-saving way to shorten their long list of baking and freezing by coming together to exchange baked goods. Just prepare one kind of cookie in massive quantities, bring them to the swap, and leave with an beautiful assortment of holiday baking worthy of your finest tea tray, like this GQ gingerbread man.
Last year’s exchange was such a hit, we knew we had to do it again; this year the bar was set even higher…

Hardly anyone declined the invitation and on a chilly Sunday afternoon, cars lined the snowbanks along our quiet street and ten girls (not to mention a journalist and photographer from Montreal’s major English newspaper, but we’ll get to that) swarmed my kitchen, burdening my kitchen table with armloads of cookies. We did a rough estimate and figured we probably had about 1200 cookies and squares: enough to make the pulse quicken of any foodie or sweet-lover.The menu was indeed impressive:

Grandma Fisher’s Sandwich Cookies
Cranberry, Pecan and White Chocolate Cookies
Marshmallow Squares
Mayan Chocolate Sparklers

Raspberry Swirls
Butter Pecan Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Aimee’s Spice Snaps
Noir Bars
Double Chocolate Cookies
Gingerbread Men

While we valiantly did our best to sample all the cookies brought (only a few were successful), the charming Susan Schwartz from the Montreal Gazette quizzed us on the recipe to a winning cookie swap, and a bona fide photographer (not a wannabe like me) documented the event and the pretty cookies.

You can read her kind and enjoyable article here and file away the 6 or 7 cookie recipes included on the same page for your future use. They are all tried and true and worthy of your holiday baking repertoire.

Little Noah’s picture made it into the newspaper, and he looks quite adorable, if a little sleepy, as he had just woken up from his afternoon nap.
If only we could all wake up more often to a warm home brimming with fresh, homemade cookies, what a happier place the world would be!

Pecan Butter Cookies
Makes about 50 cookies

This recipe comes from my friend Liz Leon, a Montreal pastry chef and super mom of twin toddlers.

1 cup (250 mL) pecans
1/2 pound (225 g) butter, softened
Pinch salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) icing sugar
1 teaspoon (5mL) vanilla
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour

Toast pecans carefully in a non-stick frying pan, tossing constantly so they don’t burn. Cool completely, then finely chop.
Beat together butter, salt, icing sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add the pecans gradually. Then sift the flour over the mixture and stir to blend well together. Roll into 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls and place them on a cookie sheet about an inch (2.5 cm) apart. Press a half a pecan into the center a bit with thumb to flatten a bit.
Bake at 350F (180 C) for 12 to 15 minutes.
Once cookies are out of the oven, let them stand until they become slightly firm. Then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. Coat with icing sugar.

A Social Experiment

In America we eat, collectively, with a glum urge for food to fill us. We are ignorant of flavour. We are as a nation taste-blind.” M.F.K. Fisher

There is a new restaurant ‘phenomenon’ on the Montreal food scene called O.Noir that I must comment on and see what you think. This St. Catherine Street restaurant invites you to experience food, drink and conversation like never before-in the DARK. Their website claims that it is “..a sensual dining experience like no other” and that it is all the rage in Europe, Australia, New York and L.A.

Now if you ask Danny, he’s already experienced this at home during the Ice Storm of ’98, but I think they are striving for something a little classier. The general manager claims that when you eat without your sight, your remaining senses are heightened to savour the smell and taste of food. He does have a point, but really, are we ready to go to this length to experience food at a new level? I’m sceptical. As a chef, the visual aspect in enjoying a plate of food is too important to leave out alltogether. I love the moment when the plates arrive at the table and I scan around checking out the dishes, portion size, presentation and garnishes.

Another twist to this whole dining in the dark is that the entire wait staff are blind and a portion (5%) of the proceeds go to associations that serve the blind. A cause to be admired, there is no doubt; however, what would be really amazing would be if the kitchen crew were blind, or at least worked in the dark. Insurance would be brutal!

Before you decide that this would be the perfect place for a blind date, let me alert you to a few things that I might consider before going to see this place (not literally, of course). I mean, it does sound like it could be a lot of fun if you were with the right person, but there a few too many opportunities for a mishap…such as:

  • What if there is a hair in your food? The staff are visually impaired, but no one said anything about follically impaired as well. Hair in the food happens, as much as we would like to pretend it doesn’t.

  • What if you have an allergy to nuts and an absentminded cook tosses some toasted almonds into your salad. Oops. Too bad about that one.

  • What if the young lovers at the table beside you have a little too much to drink, forget where they are, and loose themselves in the moment?

  • What if you are trying a new wine at $60 a bottle and they mess up and bring you a $20 bottle? Would you know the difference?

  • What if the waiter removes your plate without asking, or worse, feel if you are finished. Aye!

I guess it would come down to trust, and here we would find ourselves facing some of the issues blind people encounter every day.
Now this would be a lot more interesting if I had actually eaten at this restaurant and was reporting on my experience, but I just don’t feel like giving them my coin yet. There are still plenty of other Montreal establishments where I can have a ‘sensual’ dining experience, or just a five-star fabulous meal. But just so you can have an idea of what to expect if you go, here is a excerpt from Mr. Slutski’s (!) recent review in the Montreal Mirror:

“We all felt pretty giddy when we were first seated; the novelty really was very entertaining, and there was a lot of fun to be had in trying to explore this weird new space. After being there for over an hour, though, a certain pleasant tranquility set in. And overall, accidents were few, the tally coming to one thumb in a pat of butter; one waterfall of salad that ended up on my pants; one forkful of risotto colliding with a shoulder and, just when we thought we were out of the woods, one broken wineglass. Also, one of my dining companions later revealed that after a spill with a piece of octopus he proceeded to strip off his t-shirt and spend the rest of the meal shirtless, which must be some sort of health violation.”

I’m sure it is. Montreal has a wild reputation and I think I would be a bit nervous wondering what other people were up to…. The whole Slutski review.

I believe you also have to love the element of surprise to visit O.Noir. In scanning their website I notice that they offer a ‘surprise entrée’, and that they have live music every Sunday-a band of blind musicians and a ‘mystery singer’. No kidding? Are we to know anything at all? Something makes me wonder if we’re allowing the wool to be pulled over our eyes.

Feel free to report back to me if you decide to try it out. I get the feeling that someone lost a bet or else is trying to win one with this restaurant and I’ll be curious to see how long it lasts.