Friday, September 30, 2011

Montreal Bagels

Boulangerie St. Viateur Bagel Shop, Montreal

When I think of bagels, I think of New York. In fact, if you're American, you might assume that bagels were invented in New York City; however, they actually originated in Krakow, Poland around the 16th century. As Polish Jews traveled to North America, two major varieties emerged: the New York-style bagel that Americans know, and the Montreal-style bagel popular in Canada.

Boulangerie St. Viateur Bagel Shop, Montreal

The Montreal bagel is crunchier and sweeter than its American cousin. People here talk about it having three stages: Within the first 10 minutes out of the oven, the bagel is light and soft, almost airy. After that, it becomes chewy, a more substantive mouthful. Visit the bagel after 24 hours, and it's a hockey puck.*

Boulangerie St. Viateur Bagel Shop, Montreal

This morning, I visited St. Viateur Bagel Shop, which has a reputation for being one of the best sources of crunchy baked goodness in the city. These guys know their stuff: they've been making bagels by hand since 1957, and they make literally 1000 dozen bagels every day.

Boulangerie St. Viateur Bagel Shop, Montreal

When the dough is ready, a baker cuts lengths of it into strips, which he then hand-rolls into the round shape that we're all familiar with. In five minutes, he can shape 44 bagels. The rolled dough then goes into a vat of boiling, honey-sweetened water for another five minutes.

Boulangerie St. Viateur Bagel Shop, Montreal

Afterward, the bagels are placed in a brick oven for 20-25 minutes. They're flipped over once during the baking process, since oven heat only comes from one direction.

Boulangerie St. Viateur Bagel Shop, Montreal

After around a half hour total of shaping, boiling, and baking time, the dough transforms into wonderful, crisp-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside Montreal bagels. I devoured two in short succession. Johnny from the bagel shop informed me that there were three more things I had to do in order to get the full Montreal experience: eat poutine, visit a local bar, and eat smoked meat. More on the rest later!

St. Viateur Bagel Shop
263 Saint Viateur Ouest
Montreal, QC H2V 1Y1

* Hey, we're in Canada - hockey is so important here that the five-dollar bill features a hockey scene on the back, as well as short poem that reads, "The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons. We lived in three places - the school, the church and the skating rink - but our real life was on the skating rink."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Aragorn Elessar in Cake Form

Aragorn cake

If I didn't know better, I'd glance at the photo above and think it was a clay sculpture. And an impressive one at that. Well, it is a sculpture, but not of the obvious variety: the entire thing is made of cake. Which makes it even more impressive.

Aragorn cake

The incredible Kate Sullivan at Cake Power Kids created this work of art in response to a client's last-minute request for a cake version of the Bar Mitzva boy as Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. (Got that?)

Check out Cake Power Kids for more photos of the work-in-progress and photos of other gorgeous treats.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Recipe: Roasted Garlic Cheese Rolls

Garlic Parmesan Rolls

Somehow my prime baking hours, like my prime music-writing hours, tend to occur after midnight. But when it's late, the last thing you feel like doing is waiting hours for bread to rise. Quick breads to the rescue! When I'm not in the mood for my favorite sweet bread, I sometimes make the recipe below, which can go from start to finish in 35 minutes. Feel free to adjust the amount and type of spices and cheese.

Roasted Garlic Cheese Rolls

Servings: 12
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes


  • 3 cups minus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded (not grated) Parmesan and Romano cheese (this often comes as a blend, or you can just use shredded Parmesan)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons roasted garlic powder (or standard garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

Combine flour, cheese, sugar, garlic powder, basil, oregano, thyme, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and vegetable oil. Add to the dry ingredients, mixing until moist and just combined (if you over-mix the ingredients, the rolls will be hard).

Divide the dough evenly between the muffin cups. Bake for around 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Motorcycle Made of Lobster Shells

Lobster shell motorcycle

You've just eaten an excellent lobster dinner. If you're like most people, you throw the shells away - they're just garbage, right? If you're Taiwanese chef Huang Mingbo, you turn the shells into art.

Huang, also a food and vegetable carving master, exhibited these lobster motorcycles at a culinary seminar held at Fuzhou Hotel in southeast China. The detail here is incredible.

Sometimes playing with your food can produce astounding results.

Photos from Xinhua News and

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Continuing Saga of Chicago and Local Food

Photo: Logan Square Kitchen

The ongoing drama that plagues tiny, local food entrepreneurs in Chicago continues.

Say you make amazing cupcakes. All of your friends tell you that you're so good, you should sell your creations. So one day you finally decide to take the plunge and start your own cupcake company (number of employees: one). You research food regulations and discover that in order to sell at anything beyond a farmers market, you have to bake in a commercial kitchen space, so you choose Logan Square Kitchen, one of two shared kitchen spaces in Chicago - the shared part means that your startup costs are going to be reasonable, since you can't afford to lease an entire building, outfit it with a proper kitchen, and get it inspected. You get your own licenses (you and the shared kitchen both need separate ones) and start baking. Sounds great, right?

It only works if the shared kitchen manages to stay open. A few days ago, a city ordinance went into effect that should have made it easier for shared kitchens to open and stay in business - then-mayor Richard Daley said that he wanted to encourage entrepreneurship and recognized that shared commercial kitchens are becoming more popular in cities across the country (I imagine he was also concerned about losing business to nearby Evanston, which has simpler regulations and is apparently friendlier to food startups). Prior to September 1, a shared kitchen needed to be inspected every time a new chef signed up to use the space, which, in some cases, meant that a space would be inspected on a weekly basis (Logan Square Kitchen was inspected a whopping 19 times in two years). By contrast, some restaurants go years between inspections. So great: the City says it wants to encourage business and the local culinary scene, the ordinance that should bring the ridiculous inspections to a normal level has gone into effect, and we should be good, yes?

Welcome to Chicago. Instead of adhering to the law itself, which seems to set reasonable requirements, the Department of Business Affairs has decided to add its own, additional regulations. Implementation: why pass on a chance to screw things up? Owner Zina Murray writes on the Logan Square Kitchen blog:
Our experience over the past two years is unfortunately remaining consistent, with a heavy hand and regulations that would be front page news if restaurants had to live with them:
  1. The business license will take the form of a picture ID badge, so owner and license must always be in Kitchen during production. If restaurants had to do this, the owner would have to be in kitchen for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day or be closed. Sick? Funeral? Your business has to shut down, even if you have employees with sanitation certification.
  2. Want to grow and have employees? they have to get their own license, $330 per pop. No other food businesses are required to license chefs individually.
  3. License must travel with you to remote locations. Let's imagine the chefs at Lollapallooza posting their business licenses out at the concert. How about every caterer that has a gig at the Chicago Cultural Center or Public Library?
  4. Both Kitchen and User must maintain records of dates and times every business used the kitchen for the last two years, and make records immediately available to any inspector. We asked for it to read "within a reasonable time" or "upon request" but no go (this requirement already exists in federal and state laws).
Does that sound reasonable to you? The Department of Business Affairs seems hell-bent on destroying local business rather than encouraging it:
Today is Logan Square Kitchen's second birthday. A year ago, there were three shared kitchen [sic] in Chicago. Today, there are two. You can bet no one else is rushing to open one. If I knew then what I know now, I would have never opened LSK.
Murray has started a petition to address the situation for local food businesses. You can also contact Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office on Facebook and encourage him to reform the City's policies. The local food community is small, but let's make our voices heard.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Optimus Prime in Watermelon Form

Take one large watermelon, not too ripe. Carefully cut the rind from the top half of the watermelon. Showcase your mad carving skills by rendering your favorite Transformer in fruit form. Easy, right?

Optimus Prime Watermelon

Optimus Prime never looked so delicious. 

Courtesy of 9GAG.