My NFC Divisional Round Cook-Off: Seattle vs Green Bay

I think the excitement in this match stemmed from a few things:

  1. Rodgers vs Wilson- Both QBs are former Super Bowl champions and definite Hall of Fame candidates. Part of their legacy, however, may involve losing the big game as well.
  2. Under most circumstances, Seattle would be overjoyed to add the 12th man to a divisional playoff game but if the regular season was any indication, you could argue that Seattle would have preferred to be on the road given their 7-1 away record. That said, Green Bay’s domination at Lambeau continued this season and they boasted the identical record at home.
  3. With the return of Marshawn Lynch, it would be interesting to see if he even sniffed of his old self and if Pete Carroll would even dream of doing anything other than handing him the ball anytime the Hawks were inside the opposition’s 5 yard line.

With the Seattle hot dog used for the wild card game, I had to renege on a previous post when I stated that I wouldn’t resort to the use of little neck clams to represent Seattle cuisine given my location and questionable freshness. I didn’t mind because I still reminisce about sucking back steamers steps from the Pike market in Seattle. With a quick trip to my local RCSS, I was set although I did cringe a little at the price tag which is always the case when buying seafood in a landlocked city. The advantage of littleneck clams is the simplicity of preparation; you simply soak them in some salt water for a while, steam them up and serve with a little melted butter and a bowl of the juice from the pot which adds a little salt and helps cleans the clam of any residual sand. The physiology of the clam itself even allows for easy dipping….it almost has a natural handle. The only downfall is the tendency for the bivalues to retain sand in all their nooks and crannies despite a good soak and stir.

Littleneck Clams

Green bay is certainly not known for exquisite cuisine. Cheese, brats and fish fries are often on the city’s menu. However, when i did a little digging I discovered the story of booyah, a slow-cooked stew which has become synonymous with Wisconsin tailgating. The story is that a local minister was looking to raise funds for his church and solicited donations from local farmers. Using beef and chicken he received as the protein, he added whatever vegetables he had around, threw it all in a large cauldron and let it simmer for a few days. The result is a thick, hearty soup thickened by the gelatin from the beef bones. Afterwards, when a local reporter asked what it was called, he was told it was bouillon (a traditional Belgian stew) but heard it as “booyah’ and the rest is history. My version did not take a couple of days (I wasn’t feeding the masses after all) but it did require a good part of the day in order to maximize the effect of the beef bones. In addition to the shredded chicken, I threw some rutabaga, potato, cabbage, carrot, peas and a can of tomatoes. The result was excellent and I could see why it would be so sought after on a cold Sunday afternoon in Green Bay.

My Take

The game was one of the more exciting in this year’s post-season docket and unlike most of the other games, relied mainly on a pass and catch strategy between each QB and his favorite receiver while the rest of the team generally spectated. Marshawn Lynch did run for 2 TDs (I guess Carroll learned that regardless of the outcome he had to give Lynch the ball to avoid embarrassment) but only had 26 total yards in total rushing. In the end, Rodgers emerged victorious and removed some of the stigma regarding losing the big game. Honestly, despite my respect for Russell Wilson, I was just happy because the Seattle loss means I don’t have to witness Pete’s buffoonery again until next year. Booyah!

Review:Vancouver:Gastown:Chambar

When asked about Belgium, most people will associate it with two things: waffles and chocolate.  Others may also cite mussels, Stella Artois and Jean-Claude Van Damme .  Belgium is a bit of a misunderstood country sandwiched in between the more recognized entities of France, Germany and the Netherlands. It’s no surprise that its culinary influences which include rich saucy foods and hearty stews originate from its neighbours except for Holland…there’s no good food in Holland.

Chambar is a evening hot spot bordering Gastown in Vancouver.  Commandeered by well-trained chef  Nico Schuermans, one could consider Chambar’s menu an “Amazing Race” of world flavours, complete with fast forwards, detours and road blocks.

Must (Fast Forwards)

As it should, the culinary adventure begins in Belgium with offerings of mussels and over 50 Belgian beer ranging from witbier (wheat) to blondes to darks to trappists to table beer (served in 750 ml bottles) that you drink like wine. At the recommendation of the staff,  I ordered  the Duchess de Bourgnogne, a deep ruby lambic with intricate flavors synonymous with a fine European wine.  My choice was  the Boon Gueze, an aggressive but beautiful sour  lambic, which paired nicely with the mussels. Speaking of mussels,  the Coquotte Moules Frites (pictured below) were mind-blowing.  They were meaty and fresh and swimming in a philter of wine and cream with teases of bacon and garnished with fresh green onions.

Coquotte Moule
Coquotte Moule

With due diligence paid to the homeland, Chambar  turns its attention to other parts of the globe. The lapin a la moutarde (rabbit cannelloni) pays respect to the French neighbours while fusing with the middle-eastern flavours of dates and pistachios. The filling was decedent and encased in a perfectly cooked pasta which would even make a few Italians nod with approval.

Rabbit Cannollii
Rabbit Cannelloni

Steak and sausage are staples all over the world.  The Chambar’s Grillade be Boeuf and Chorizo adds a Spanish/South American flare to these two carnivorous staples by grilling the sausage and serving the beef seasoned with  lime and chili atop a fragrant chimichurri.  The fingerling potato chips added an  additional earthiness and subtle crunch to the plate.

Chambar's Grillade be Boeuf and Chorizo
Chambar’s Grillade be Boeuf and Chorizo

For dessert, the Mama Rizk goes back to France with a mille feuille pastry with a rosewater twist. It has an french renaissance architecture that I almost didn’t want to tear down.   The mint sorbet  harmonized the dish from a taste and texture perspective.

Mama Rizk
Mama Rizk

The tarte au citron was another French influenced dessert which payed homage to traditional lemon meringue pie.  Fluffy coconut cake is the foundation for the the tart lemon curd and souffle accents.  As tasty as it was visually appealing, it was a brilliant spin on a classic dish.

Tarte au Citron
Tarte au Citron

Maybe (Detours)

Chambar’s next stop is Asia by offering the ubiquitous  tartare de thon rouge (tuna tartare), flavoured with wasabi, pickled veggies and served with rice crackers.  It was an average dish with decent  flavour but can’t compete with others I have had elsewhere.

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Tatare de Thon Rouge (Tuna Tartare)

Chambar goes Canadian next with its rendition of grilled local octopus, seasoned with soy, maple and bacon flavours and topped with fresh kale.  The  octopus was prepared nicely and the flavours were…well….nice.

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Poulpe Geant Grillee (octopus)

Both the Le Nico Fume and Le Cafe Belge were both highly recommended cake by the waitstaff.  Both were nicely presented but a bit monotonous in flavour. Le Nico Fume was chocolate scotch cake with caramel and ice cream served in a glass (at least it wasn’t a mason jar).  Le Cafe Belge was coffee flavour cheesecake with chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate on top.  Both would be a fitting end to a good meal but lacked the edginess I had come to expect based on the offerings earlier in the evening.

Le Nico Fume
Le Nico Fume

Le Cafe Belge
Le Cafe Belge

Mundane (Road Block)

The thought of sitting on the Pacific coast and enjoying a local, roasted halibut loin swimming in a fragrant broth made my mouth water but I was left a bit confused by the cassoulet de poisson (halibut). Sometimes its better to keep things simple and clean, especially with the availability of a  great eating fish like halibut but there were too many competing  flavours that ironically “drown” the halibut’s subtle flavour.

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Cassoulet de Poisson (Halibut)

From an ambiance perspective, the noise level is off the charts. I equate it to having a window seat near a jet engine so loud you can’t hear the person in the aisle seat beside you. If that’s your scene it works; otherwise it’s quite a distraction.

My Take

Chambar is an edgy eatery which lays its foundation in its Belgian roots but experiments with cutting edge international flavours reflected through  frequently changing menu items  (in fact some of the items reviewed here are no longer available) .  A fascinating Belgian beer selection and world class mussels  served by knowledgeable waitstaff  makes every trip worth it.  In a manner similar to the Amazing Race, the plates offer some wonderful scenery, however, this aggressive style is bound to lead to some winners and losers during the noisy travels along the way.

Mulling Moment- Please comment!

 

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