Wow. Thank you everyone for all your comments on the last post about the design of this blog. I had no idea that you would miss the pink that much. And bizarrely enough, I had no idea that *I* would miss the pink as much as I did. Let's face it, Mowielicious just isn't Mowielicious without the pink.
So, with this post, you can welcome back the pink in all it's glory. I've redesigned the blog header, the sides, and have created this pink-inspired post just to make up for the lack of pink around here recently. Look out for seasonal changes too - I've already got a (pink!) Christmas one shot and ready to go.
This post was inspired by my recent trip to Montreal where Bruce and I visited Mayssam of Will Travel For Food. The office she works at had invited a whole group of people to a cannelés taste test, and everyone was asked to submit their version of cannelés alongside others bought from a few different cafes around the city, to find out who actually makes the 'perfect' cannelés in all of Montreal.
There were small ones, cute ones, big ones, vanilla ones, and even matcha ones. We all tried several of each, submitted our votes, and I voted for Christelle of Christelle is Flabbergasting, as her cannelés had an interesting, complex flavour, and were so deliciously moreish, I just couldn't stop eating them.
The perfect cannelés are glossy and crispy on the outside, with an almost gooey inside. The rum, something I usually leave out if a recipe calls for it, works so well with the vanilla and is the main ingredient that adds the depth of flavour to these beauties.
These little beauties were baked by Bruce using Christelle's recipe. Christelle was kind enough to allow me to publish her recipe, and thanks to Mayssam's translation skills, you can now find the recipe in English at the end of this post for you to experiment with (they're so easy to make!) and enjoy.
Moving on to the rest of our trip. Montreal is a gorgeous city. I'd been once before and I remember thinking back then how much I'd love to visit again. So, when I met Mayssam at Food Blogger Connect earlier this year, and she invited me over, how could I say no? And when two food bloggers get together, only food tasting madness can ensue: we have to try everything, everywhere, all day, every day.
Such incredible indulgence could include things like driving around Montreal at midnight from say, one bagel place to another (yet another taste test) to find the best bagels in the city. And in case you were wondering, we all agreed it's Fairmount Bagels for their sesame bagels with a good schmear of whipped cream cheese - OY! Dare I say it: better than New York bagels? (And I've had some *great* NY bagels.)
Of course a visit to Montreal without a trip to Olive & Gourmando would be an absolute shame. As Mayssam put it so nicely: "their chocolate brioche is worth the price of the ticket from London!". And I wholeheartedly agree - they are huge clouds of fluffy, chocolaty goodness that you just can't resist. I always had about 3 at any one time in my bag. What can I say? A girl's gotta eat!
The place was named after the owners cats, which I think are the cutest names for any pets. Although the cat on the left above is Mayssam's gorgeous Moody. She has another cat too (called Spike), but goodness, he's so shy, he would run into the cupboards when he heard us walk in, and would remain there for the rest of our stay. Wise cat. He probably knew that if he didn't hide, I'd hug him, and kiss him and love him until I made him all mine.
Now there's something I need to explain: whenever Bruce and I go on holiday, we immediately go for a long walk to find the one thing that makes the city we're in typical of that city. That way, if you looked at a photo of said items, you'd know instantly what city it was taken in. In Croatia, it was old colourful doors (never seen so many in my life), and in Montréal, it was definitely curved stairs (usually with a bicycle parked somewhere nearby). Montreal just wouldn't be Montreal without them.
I'm getting ahead of myself. The day we landed in Montreal, it was hot and humid and there were thick clouds in the distance, and the smell of rain lingered in the air - a welcome respite from cold London. There was constant lightning and a distant rumbling of thunder all around, and that tense feeling in the air of an imminent downpour. Mayssam picked us up from the airport and drove us to our hotel, the gorgeous St. Paul.
We were starving (funny, am I ever not?), so Mayssam suggested Muv Box - a great concept: an old recycled shipping container, converted into a pop up restaurant, selling lobster rolls (amongst other things). And since I'd been craving lobster rolls for ages, and Muv Box was just down the road from our hotel by the river, we had to go there. And what amazing lobster rolls they were. We ate those while catching up, sharing lots of laughs, with the lightning and thunder closing in from all around us.
For dessert, we walked over to Boris Bistro, also only a block from our hotel, and just as we entered, the electricity in the air reached it's peak, the skies opened up, and it just poured. I haven't seen or heard rain like that in a very long time. It reminded me so much of when I was a child growing up in Nigeria. We would get the most amazing rainstorms, and there's something very comforting about them to me when I get caught in the middle of one now.
But I digress - we sat there catching up some more, eating the most gorgeous trio of desserts: cream cheese ice cream with guava sauce, chocolate marquise with salted butter caramel, and maple crème brulée - a gorgeous ending to the our first day.
Over the next few days, we sampled the great range of food that Montreal has to offer. Here's a little taste of the places you really must try out if you are going to visit any time soon (with just a little sample of what I ate there):
Tapeo: brilliant tapas and churros to die for!
La Salle à manger: seafood starter platter, meat platter, duck lasagna, amazing sorbets and cakes (have a look at their menu).
Ella Grill: run by Mayssam's lovely friend, Annie, serving gorgeous fresh Greek food, and if you're lucky enough, you might be able to taste one of Mayssam's desserts that she contributes from time to time (last week's Oreo Key Lime Pie post was completely inspired by the Key Lime Pie I had there).
Bistro Laloux: good seafood, charcutrie mix, beef on polenta, Japanese cheese cake with matcha biscuits, and chocolate pots de creme.
Frite Alors: for their amazing baguette merguez with chips.
Schwartz's: for their smoked meat sandwiches (we never ate there, which is such a shame because absolutely everyone raves about it). See outside photo below.
Jean-Talon & Atwater Markets: have a read through Lorraine's (of Not Quite Nigella) post for a thorough look at the incredible variety both markets have to offer.
(At this point, I really have to say a big 'THANK YOU' to El of Fresh New England for all your great recommendations!)
We were lucky enough to catch the Chinese Magic of Lanterns festival in the Jardin Botanique. I'd never seen so many gorgeous, creative & colourful lanterns in one place. We bought some moon cakes and ate them as we wandered through the gardens and around the pond - quite a surreal setting with all the Chinese lanterns and the Montreal Olympic stadium in the background. For more photos, see Bruce's Montreal post.
Some of the other sights you won't want to miss are the Olympic stadium, the Biodome, Chinatown, Little Italy, and let's not forget poutine! People either love it or hate it (I personally can't get enough of the stuff). Sold almost everywhere, it's a simple serving of fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. I know it might sound funny, but it tastes divine. And then of course there are the many variations of poutine: just check out the menu at Banquise.
Of course, no trip would be complete for me without visiting a local orchard or a PYO farm. We happened to be driving one day and came across this gorgeous apple orchard full of trees with the most beautiful pink apples - so pretty - it was almost cartoon-like.
We'd picked a few too many apples and I offered to bake an apple strudel for dessert that night. Mayssam's an absolutely brilliant cook and she prepared a veritable feast for us with all the that we'd bought from Jean-Talon the day before: burrata with olive oil and fresh bread for starters, a divine caponata, the most amazing porcini risotto with sage, chocolate puddings, and (my tiny contribution) the apple strudel (I'll be posting the recipe on this blog very soon).
What stood out for me probably the most in Montreal (apart from the curved stairs) was how much graffiti there was everywhere. It made me think of all those gorgeous Martha Cooper graffiti photos. Surprisingly, Mayssam hadn't really noticed just how much graffiti there was until I pointed it out. Along with the curved stairs, I think it's one of those things that makes Montreal so unique.
And I couldn't end this post without some photos of the cutest baby raccoons we saw when we drove up to the top of Mont Royal to take in the view of the city. I don't think it's a regular occurrence, so please don't expect them if you do visit, but I have to say, it was probably one of the cutest things I'd ever seen in my life - all of them with their cute little paws, all reaching up for food (or hugs?) at the same time - I was so tempted to put at least one in my bag to take home as a souvenir - *adorable*.
Finally, it's giveaway time yet again!
The lovely guys at Hotel Chocolat are offering you another chance to win one gorgeous Christmas hamper from their Christmas gifts collection. (Have you seen all their chocolate gifts yet? And the design of their website is stunning with all those stars in the background - I could stare at it all day long - very inspiring.)
Have a look at all the contents of this hamper (I love the fact that it includes things you can cook with too): 75cl prosecco, 75cl Chateau Chocolat red wine, Sleekster Classic Christmas Selection, Purist Praline Pack - Intense Dark, Chilli Chocolate Chipotle Dip, Honey, Mustard & Cocoa Nib Dressing, Cookie Crunch Christmas Wreath, Saint Lucia Island Growers 50% Milk Chocolate, Rabot Estate 70% Milk Chocolate, Chilli Penguins, Caramel Tiddly Santas, Chilli & Almond Yule Log, Dark Christmas H-box Selection, Chilli & Cocoa Glaze for fish & poultry, Seasoned Cocoa Glaze for meat.
All you have to do for a chance to win is leave a comment below. Or, for all my twitter followers, you can simply retweet this post, or copy+paste+tweet the following: RT @mowielicious: Vanilla Cannelés, My Montreal Trip, And A Hotel Chocolat Giveaway http://ow.ly/36KlQ
This giveaway ends on Monday the 15th of November at 12am GMT. The giveaway is open to anyone anywhere in the world. The winner will be chosen at random and notified by email or a direct message on twitter. Good luck everyone.
Makes roughly 16 big cannelés
1 / 2 litre semi-skimmed milk
25 g butter
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
250 g sugar
125 g flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla pod
Bring the milk to a boil, add the butter and let it cool back to room temperature.
In a bowl, beat together the yolks, egg and sugar.
Incorporate the flour. Mix well then mix in the cooled milk gradually.
Mix in the rum and vanilla.
Let the batter rest (it'll be as fluid as a crepe dough) in the fridge for 24hours (very important!).
Fill the cannelés molds 3/4 of the way up. Bake at 450°F (250°C) for 15 minutes, then at 355°F (180°C) for 1 hour if using the big cannelés mold and 40-45 minutes if using the small mold.
Un-mold them while hot and let them cool before eating.