Category Archives: desserts

Flagrants Desirs chocolate

chocolateProving that while all of my desires are, in fact, flagrant, but not all of them are 72% cocoa, I must admit a weakness for the Flagrants Desirs brand of chocolate my local IGA grocery store sells. Available in a variety of flavours, the dark 72% cocoa is my favourite, as I like my chocolate dark, but not too dark. The 72% cocoa is just milky enough to be sweet and creamy, but dark enough to satisfy my craving for that more bitter, earthy taste. There’s an extra-dark 85% cocoa, but I’ve found that anything above 80% is too dark for my tastes. I may be noir at heart, but not that noir.

Also available from this line are chocolates with dark cocoa nibs, as well as the dark orange, dark pear, and dark mint flavours.

Cocoa nibs (image via Gourmet Sleuth)

Cocoa nibs (image via Gourmet Sleuth)

So far I have also enjoyed the dark cocoa nibs variety, which I find tasty but sort of troubling, since the cocoa nibs are pretty small and tend to come off as random grit in the chocolate. I didn’t really expect them to be hard, since I always visualize cocoa as a powder, but the nibs are actually hard specks of cocoa beans (as per the photo at left). The chocolate itself has more of an earthy dirt-like flavour, thanks to the nibs and the cocoa levels, which is interesting, though not quite the flavour profile I prefer.

As a fan of the original Terry’s Chocolate Orange (the one you have to whack on the table to split into individual orange “wedges”), I am very intrigued by the Dark Orange, but have not yet sampled its wares. I think this may be a winning combination, though the lack of whack may prove to be a liability.

The Dark Pear confuses me, since I’m not a big chocolate-with-fruit combo type of gal (and, in fact, tend to find this type of pairing quite abhorrent, barring the inherent deliciousness of the chocolate covered cherry and aforementioned chocolate orange), but in the interests of science, I may have to investigate this option. I just fear that it will go uneaten, as my husband hates the thought of sweet & savoury together, as well as chocolate plus fruit, so anything I don’t like in this department is definitely going to end up in the trash.

After Eight bar (image via Nestlé)

After Eight bar (image via Nestlé)

Dark mint? Obviously delicious. I mean, the York Peppermint Pattie and After Eight mints are proof that chocolate plus mint equals success, and anything darkly chocolatey is clearly a winner in my book.

Overall, I really like this line of chocolates, both for its dark chocolate and willingness to break out of the typically “acceptable” chocolate flavours, and also because it’s hella cheap. The grocery store near me sells these 100 gram bars for only $2.59. Comparably gourmet types of chocolates in this size range often retail for three to five dollars, so this is a rather nice bargain for those with a sweet tooth. I’m also addicted, so I tend to pick one of these suckers up once a week. As far as bad habits go, this one’s pretty cheap, so I’d encourage you to check out the Flagrants Desirs line if you see them at a grocery store near you.

In case you’re having trouble finding the Flagrants Desirs line of chocolates (I’ve noticed they’re not necessarily available at all IGAs), you can currently find them at the IGA at 5144 Bannantyne in Verdun, and you can also order them online for home delivery at the IGA online grocery website.

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Studio 10 King & Brûlerie St-Denis

Shoestring Montreal reader Myriam writes in to say that she works at a place called Studio 10 King in the Old Port, which includes the Avenue Art gallery, a printing shop, and a Brûlerie St-Denis that offers “affordable and delicious eats such as sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads and of course coffee and treats.” Located at 10 King Street, the studio is currently (until August 21) showing photography from Montreal called “Scenes of Montreal” featuring photos by Richard Anber, Francesca Anderson, Claudia Gomez and Darina Velkova. 10% of the sales on these photos will go to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, so if you’ve been looking for a bit of artwork to hang on your walls, stop by and check ’em out!

But since this is a blog about food, and I’ve tried the infamous Brûlerie St-Denis’ wares, I thought I’d write up a little review. Granted, I’ve never been to their café on King Street (though I have been to both the 3967 St-Denis and 1587 St-Denis locations), but it’s a chain; they’re all pretty much the same, no?

As Myriam notes, they always offer a soup of the day for $2.50, salad of the day for $3.50 ($2.50 if you get it with a sandwich), and a variety of sandwiches ranging from standards like ham & cheese to the exotic tuna & avocado, the pesto and goat cheese panini, and more. They’ve got homemade cookies at 50 cents a piece; brownies, Nanaimo bars and breakfast pastries are $2. A nice inexpensive lunch or treat, along with a cup of coffee, and at this particular location you can score a free art exhibit, which definitely sweetens the deal. After all, how often do you get to look at art for free?

"Café au choix" at Brûlerie St-Denis (photo by Flickr user pagnolle)

"Café au choix" at Brûlerie St-Denis (photo by Flickr user pagnolle)

My experience with the Brûlerie in general has been a bit mixed. I like the fact that they import and roast their own coffee, that it’s a local chain, and that they’ve got a laid-back attitude towards people who like to linger. I don’t like the confusing way their stores are set up, however, as it’s hard to tell whether you’re supposed to order at the counter or from a waiter if you intend to stay, but only want to order a drink. Apparently you’re supposed to order from the waiter, but there’s usually only one of them circulating through a pretty large space, which makes catching his or her attention a bit difficult. So that’s irritating, if you’d like your drink in a hurry, which I do. I mean, even if you intend to stay for a while, you still want to get your drink so you can drink it while you’re reading or writing, rather than reading through half a magazine while you wait to place your order.

However, the chain wants its customers to really know and appreciate coffee, which I like. They’ve got a few notes on their website about how to appreciate a good coffee, as well as the secrets to a perfect cup of coffee. They offer a different Coffee of the Day to get people interested in tasting different types of coffee, and offer a 10% discount on the daily brew at their retail counter (which I think means a 10% discount on beans, not on a cuppa joe, but you’d have to check with them).

"Brulerie St-Denis, maison de torréfaction de café, rue St-Denis Montreal" (photo by Flickr user pagnolle)

"Brulerie St-Denis, maison de torréfaction de café, rue St-Denis Montreal" (photo by Flickr user pagnolle)

In the summertime, they’ve got cold coffees and frappés mostly made without added sugar, as they’re using real coffee and not syrups—unlike most of the other chains with their frappuccinos and chillates. I tried their mochaccino last week and it was quite tasty, with bits of actual chocolate sprinkled in, very old-fashioned milkshake-like.

Overall, I would say that I like the Brûlerie’s food and drink, as it tends to be delicious as well as healthier than standard café fare, but I’m not a big fan of their service, since it tends to be slow. If you’re not in any hurry, or prefer to take your coffee to-go, this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you want to grab a quick bite, this is probably not your best bet. So I would encourage you to grab a cup of the daily brew, and a cookie or two, and check out the 10 King location for the bonus artwork. Maybe I’ll see you there!

ADDRESS: 10 King Street (Old Port)
METRO: Square-Victoria
PHONE: 514-397-9866
WEBSITE: www.brulerie.com

The world’s greatest $3 chocolate cookbook

Continuing the theme of “OMG!”, I found a great book called The Ultimate Chocolate Book at the Co-op Bookstore yesterday. Written by Robert Lambert, and obviously published in 1988 (as you’ll see from the photos below), this book is straight-up hilarious. I bought it mostly for the introduction, wherein the author states:

Once asked by a wealthy matron client what cooking school I attended, I hastily replied “L’Ecole aux Frappes Dures”, my high school French for an approximation of “The School of Hard Knocks”, to which she responded, “Oh yes, that’s in Montreal, isn’t it?”

LOL! Okay, so maybe it’s mostly funny to me as a Montrealer, but still, the point is that the guy has no formal training, and yet produces beautiful chocolate desserts for rich San Franciscans. How awesome is that?

I also bought the book because of its great 80s photography, featuring items like this Lightning Bolt Dacquoise:

Truly, truly, truly outrageous, no?

Truly, truly, truly outrageous, no? (photo: Patricia Brabant)

The gold, the colours… it’s just so 80s. I mean, I still want to eat it, but my god, people, what were we—collectively—thinking back then? The design world was simply ridiculous. Had we all just discovered Photoshop or what? Anyway, awesome flashback photos aside, I really bought the book because I wanted to learn how to make this Mexican Chocolate Custard Cake:

One word: YUM! (photo: Patricia Brabant)

One word: YUM! (photo: Patricia Brabant)

I mean, really, how could you say no to a plate of that? The recipe itself is a bit weird, calling for tequila, blanched almonds and ground orange peel (among all the usual suspects), but doesn’t look too complicated. You’re meant to serve it with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraîche and dusted with cinnamon, which I’m thinking of doing for my husband’s birthday next week. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

As a final “OMG!”, I can’t believe there’s a recipe in this book for “Joan Collins’ Broken Heart,” complete with oozing raspberry “blood”!

Mom’s Home Cookin’

I absolutely waste too much time on the Internet, easily distracted by shiny objects and new technology. However, I also think there are some great websites I use on a fairly regular basis that are worth mentioning here. Some will help you to make better meals at home, others are purely for the food porn photos, and some of them are just vehicles for my own obsessions.

Like TwitPic, which is almost always a receptacle for my bizarre take on still-life photography. Example:

SRSLY, why does this product exist?

SRSLY, why does this product exist?

I have no idea why anyone would have thought to themselves, “Hey! You know what’s missing from the world of flavoured coffee? SOUTHERN COMFORT!” To me, SoCo is not a flavour, in the way that hazelnut or mocha is. Sure, you can add a splash of it to your morning brew, if you’re into whisky, but I’m more of a Bailey’s kinda gal. Even so, the concept of a Bailey’s flavoured coffee would still be ludicrous to me. Either you get the real thing or you leave it out entirely, right? What’s the point of having the flavour of the alcohol, but not the alcohol?

Some will immediately jump to the conclusion that I am simply an alcoholic, but let me clarify by saying that I rarely add alcohol to my coffee. Kind of like Red Bull and vodka, the concept is peculiar. If I’m out of milk, then Bailey’s adds a nice creaminess, but a shot of whisky? Yech.

Anyway, back to my point: Southern Comfort flavoured coffee is weird, but it arrived as part of a holiday gift package my mom and sister put together, so I decided to give it a try. Verdict? Southern Comfort apparently tastes like orange. As in the colour. As in orange jelly beans, to be precise. Who knew?

Kolatchkies by mom

Kolatchkies by mom

Along with the coffee, my mom also threw in some of her homemade kolatchkies and some maple walnut fudge. Luckily for me, my husband hates maple more than anything in the world (aside from mixing sweet and savoury items, like ham and pineapple), which means I get the fudge all to myself.

But enough about TwitPic and my bizarre photos posted there. What about these other websites I claim are good?

First, there’s Open Source Food, which was recommended to me by AV Flox. I’ve posted a few simple recipes there, as I haven’t been cooking on a grand scale lately, and today’s recipe was something I termed Fancypants Grilled Cheese. In an homage to The Minimalist, Mark Bittman (whose blog and column in the New York Times I also recommend, as he’s very funny and very New York—particularly in his short videos), I thought I’d pass along a recipe for something really easy, something you probably take for granted that you know how to make. Indeed, most people make a grilled cheese with Velveeta slices and margarine on the stove, along with a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, just like mom used to make. My recipe is slightly different, both because I’m lazy and hate washing dishes and also because I’m a sucker for things with less than five ingredients that taste amazing. Granted, the recipe relies on quality ingredients, but it’s also hella easy to make and everyone can find good bread, good cheddar and an avocado even in the middle of winter, right?

If not, you’re really in trouble.

Anyway, all that to say that Open Source Food has tons of recipes that have been field-tested (i.e. if you’re gonna post something, you have to have big photos so you must have actually MADE IT), many of which come from overseas and lots of which are Asian. I like Asian food, but have no idea how to put together a dish, so it’s awesome to see Asian home chefs giving their opinions on Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean cuisine (and more!) so that North American schmucks like me can see how the other side of the world cooks. Plus, since they tend to use readily-available items, you get to see what they’ve got in their pantries, what they regularly buy at the grocery store, etc.

Which all has me thinking that I need to start posting more recipes, which means I need to start cooking more and trying new dishes, rather than relying on my old standbys (hamburgers and tacos are the usual suspects on nights when neither of us want to cook). But there are so many choices, I almost don’t know where to begin. I’ve got subscriptions to Saveur and Cook’s Country, I’ve got a copy of the 2008 America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, and I like to browse Epicurious, even though I’ve never really found anything there that I was convinced I could make (mostly due to their reliance on pricey specialty ingredients that seem absurdly hard to come by here in Montreal).

So I’m asking my readers (all two of you): what recipes would you recommend? What are your personal favourites, and have you got any minimalist ideas with 5 ingredients or less? I’m curious to know what other people like to cook, and what your approach involves!