My Hip Cocktails: The Last Recluse

The whole covid-19 nonsense has certainly brought out the good and the bad in many. It has also led to an exaggeration of a lot of the behaviors people already displayed before the world changed. The extroverts have taken to social media reminding us of the dangers of not staying home or the perils of experimental vaccines while the introverts have used the time to hide behind their walls and use these platforms to remind us all how introverted they are. I’ve been called an extroverted introvert by my friends and colleagues so I guess that entitles me to a wider spectrum of behavior, one of which is feeling rather recluse for extended periods of time.

The Last Recluse is a song from the Hip’s We are The Same album. This is arguably one of the Hip’s more somber collections, containing songs like The Depression Suite, Coffee Girl and Now the Struggle Has a Name and the Last Recluse. Although written well before Covid-19 and the explosion of social media, the lyrics of the latter track could lead one to credit the band with a clairvoyant look into 2020. It’s a tale of abandonment and diminished hope which is a feeling a lot of us have had at times given the ongoing indications that things won’t change anytime soon despite one’s efforts. This reality has made me a bit reclusive at times, so I can certainly relate.

Since there are numerous references to the Canada goose in the song’s lyrics, it seemed a fitting name for a cocktail made with gooseberries. There are numerous variations of this fruit but in this case, I used the readily available cape gooseberry (aka. goldenberry or ground cherry) as inspiration. They have a rather sour but complex flavour which makes for an excellent base for almost any spirit. I was in a mezcal mood so I thought a take on a margarita would fit the fruit’s profile nicely. I also wanted to add a little heat to compliment the sourness so I threw in some jalapeno for extra punch.

The Last Recluse

0.5 oz mezcal

1 oz tequila blanco

0.5 oz triple sec

0.5 oz lime juice

0.5 oz simple sugar

6-8 cape gooseberries

5-7 slices of jalapeno

Muddle the gooseberries and 3-5 slices (depending on your preference). Add all other ingredients to an shaker filled with ice. Shake for 10 seconds or so. Fine strain into a cocktail glass with or without ice and garnish with remaining jalapeno slices.

The Last Recluse

Whatever 2021 brings, I can’t see myself going an extended period of time without reverting to transient reclusive tendencies (especially if the covid conspiracy morons continue to spew nonsense). Ironically, if this me the “last of the immune” then so be it…I’ll stay safe and take my chances because I won’t have to social distance from Jack Daniels or Tom Collins anytime soon.

Who are you?
The last recluse?
Who are you?
The last of the immune?

The Last Recluse- We are the Same, The Tragically Hip

Review:Montreal:Garde Manger

There’s one place a food network fan has to go when visiting Montreal; Garde Manger. The charismatic Chuck Hughes heads up this trendy yet rustic eatery in Old Montreal.  Sampling the Iron Chef winning lobster poutine would be on the bucket list of any food porn junkie.

We had dinner reservations elsewhere but decided to hit it up early for an appetizer or two including, of course, the aforementioned iconic dish. Somewhat hesitant to drop in on a Friday with 4 people, I prayed to Julia Child (who in my opinion should be on the list for sainthood) and walked in.  In a squeaky yet deflated voice I explored the possibility of a table.  Without hesitation, the waitress (who in the food porn world would be a dominatrix) pointed to four seats at the bar right by the front door and kindly but firmly said “Sit here but you have to be out by 7”.

One of my first observations was the limited booze list.  Sure, there is no shortage of wine, but the beer and cocktail list is minimal.  One of the signatures was the giant caesar ($15) garnished with clams, steak spice and celery. The caesar itself was good, but just good.  It was easy drinking but didn’t knock me off the stool.

Giant Caesar
Giant Caesar $15

I’m a big fan of the craft beer movement (which is once again in style).  I asked the bartender about local brews and she suggested the bierbrier ale from Montreal.  I thoroughly enjoyed this beer.  It had a traditional ale flavour and was neither too intense nor too weak.

Bierbrier- Craft Beer from Montreal
Bierbrier- Craft Beer from Montreal

Given the time constraints, the menu choices were a bit limited.  Anything we suggested that fell outside our allotted time was politely shot down by Madame Caesarmaker at the bar. As mentioned, the lobster poutine was a must and available within our time limit.   Interestingly enough, it was the only menu available in three sizes and the only item without a price listed. We took the “go big or go home” mentality and ordered the large and hoped that the credit card wouldn’t get declined when we left (it was a close call at $45).  Was it worth $45?  No.  Was it worth $45 to tell random food geeks and friends and family that you tried the dish that brought down Bobby Flay? Absolutely.  The fries swam with abundant lobster and cheese curds in a gravy  with a good balanced flavour.

Large Lobster Poutine $45
Large Lobster Poutine $45

Don’t ask me why, but I love creamed corn.  It’s one of those comfort foods I crave regularly so I was pleased to see it as part of a clam, speck and jalapeno dish (I think it was $12).  This one was magic, a symphony of land and sea and sweet and spice. The speck added just enough salt and texture to round out the starter.

Clam with Creamed Corn, Jalapeno and Speck $15
Clam with Creamed Corn, Jalapeno and Speck -$12 (I think)

My buddy ordered the lentil and goat cheese bruschetta with sausage ($16).  I only had a few bites due to my dislike for goat cheese.  The lentils were done well and the sausage had a pleasant taste.  All in all, it was a complex blend of flavours that could have as easily been thrown in a bowl with a spoon and called a good soup or stew.

Lentil and Sausage Bruschetta with Goat Cheese $16
Lentil and Sausage Bruschetta with Goat Cheese $16

My Take

Eating Chuck Hughes’ lobster poutine was on my bucket list.  So was meeting him.  I’m not sure how often he actually cooks at his own restaurant (unless it’s his day off of course) so I wasn’t surprised he wasn’t there.  Then a funny thing happened.  Less than a week later I got an email from the gastropost people (it’s a feature in the national post showcasing home cooks by issuing challenges and published results) inviting me to meet Chuck Hughes  in Toronto if was one of the first 20 people to respond.  I quickly hit reply and made the cut.  He was in Toronto to promote the culinary showdown to raise money for Breast Cancer research. It was a catered event at a swanky house in north Toronto. I showed up, mingled with fellow gastroposters, got in line and met Chuck in person.  Yes, I’m a dork.

Chuck and I
Chuck and I

As for Garde Manger, it is an experience. I’m not surprised that reviews are often so polar.  It all hinges on when you go, where you are seated, who serves you and how high your expectations are going in.  The fact that I went before the dinner rush, was seated at a cool spot along the bar, was served by Lady Bierbrier and was intent on stroking “Ate Chuck Hughes’ lobster poutine” off my bucket list, I can’t complain. That and it likely beats a visit to New Jersey to dine at Bobby’s Burger Palace.

Garde Manger on Urbanspoon

DDD:Cleveland:Momocho Mod Mex

Another old yelp post with a few updates…..

It was a swell night and I was sitting in a hotel at the Cleveland airport. I called down to Momocho Mod Mex and they assured me I would get in without too much of an issue. I arrived to be told it was a 30 minute wait but was seated after about 15. I opted for the patio which provided lots of room in nice backyard type surroundings.

I started with a michelada ( beer and hot sauce wit some lime and salt on the rim). Well done and good price point ($4.50) and  I liked the ability to choose from any of the numerous Mexican and non-Mexican beers on the menu. I opted for an old school Tecate. There are also plenty of margarita choices on the menu as well.

After mulling over the array of guacamole (there’s everything from goat cheese to crab), I opted for the jicama/pineapple ($8.50). It was a big portion, was fresh and tasty but not as unique as I hoped. Maybe it was my choice!

The tamale dumplings ($8.50)  were ordered as a side and were very authentic although served with the same side as the taquitos.

momo tamale

From the mains, I ordered the Machaca (brisket)  ($15.50) and atun (tuna) ($17.50) taquito plates at the recommendation of the waiter.  The tuna was a perfect medium rare and the brisket was tender and flavourful.  The highlights were definitely the  brisket   and the blood orange marmalade that came with the tuna. The chile rajita served on the side was good but not spectacular.

Atun Taquitos (Tuna $17.50)
Atun Taquitos
(Tuna $17.50)

Brisket
Brisket

Dessert was the Capirotada ($6). Despite the unique menu description (gingersnap and jalapeno) and promise by the waiter, I would say it was an average bread pudding.

Dessert
Dessert

Decor inside was unique and very tasteful. Cozy in and out even though some of the art is a bit creepy!  Service was slow at times but the staff was pleasant.

My Take

All in all, a nice experience in a relaxed environment with refined, modern Mexican food, although the flavours became a bit monotonous as the meal progressed. The guacamole was a tiny let down, either because it was so highly touted or because I went conservative and shied away from the trout, crab, goat or blue cheese.  This place is an atypical DDD  in both cost (I found it a little pricy) and decor.  Plus, I swear Guy Fieri was one of those strange masked men in the pictures hanging on the wall. It didn’t blow my mind but I also didn’t leave disappointed although I do believe,based on the pictures inside, I had a few nightmares of masked Mexican wrestlers administering full nelsons on me while screaming “Mi comida es la mejor del mundo” in my ear.

Verdict: 4 Guyz

Momocho Mod Mex on Urbanspoon