I’m repping Verdun as hard as I can lately. My new home has offered me a wonderful introduction to the big city, with good food, amazing cycling and colourful interactions with its more unique citizens.
This is my effort to give Verdun some recognition for what it offers. Today, I’m giving mad love to this little Italian sandwhicherie on Wellington Avenue. The joint is called Bossa, and like the name suggests, it’s really boss.
The dude behind the counter embodied the small Italian bistro vibe. Great conversationalist, with a real passion for his tomato sauce. I decided to give it a shot, pairing it with his very attractive home made cavatelli pasta.
I rushed home, and without hesitation, took my spoon to the jar of tomato sauce. I’m not one to trip over a simple marinara, but this was ridiculous. I felt like I could drink it. I felt like a weirdo who orders tomato juice on the plane. Nonetheless, I added nothing to the dish but the BOSSA sauce, cavatelli and a little Piave cheese.
It was quite a nice Sunday evening meal, completely designed by our neighbourhood stop for sauce. Thank you BOSSA for your incredible devotion to the pantry basics, and the eating experience.
There is so much reflection to do while in a state of quarantine or self-confinement. The distractions of day to day activities that seemingly keep you fulfilled and satisfied are suddenly out of grasp. This reality has become a cruel mirror, showing me the aspects of life I did not show enough importance to. It also happens that looking in the actual mirror revealed a shaggy mop on my head.
One of the reflections (mirror pun) that stuck with me, is that I was not fully embracing where I lived. I had just moved into a new neighbourhood in Montréal. Although I felt somewhat comfortable, I felt as if I was putting my new home on a pedestal and not giving it a chance. It did not help that everything was closed, but nevertheless, I decided I would embrace my new community.
The first thing I did was making an effort to be more attentive to my surroundings. I once watched a Christmas movie with my girlfriend in which the main character was always being told to look up. It was such a dumb Hallmark movie, but that line stuck with me.
On my bike ride back from work, I see this lineup of people outside a restaurant waiting for takeout food. I don’t even know why, but the energy seemed vibey as hell. I made my way there another day. I launched myself in this trajectory without even knowing what kind of food it was, or even if it was a restaurant at all. To my delight, it’s carribean food.
The restaurant is called Seasoned Dreams in Côte St-Paul. I’m not going to lie, this was the best Mac and cheese I’ve ever tasted. And it’s not even close. This shit was insane. There was a certain heat in it the was unexplainably tasty. I also ordered plantains, and vegetable curries. Damn, what a night.
I notice beside the restaurant a barber shop called Retro. In the windows, you can see a clean, simple barber shop with retro Air Jordan’s on display. There’s arcade games in the back and a display of NBA jerseys in the back. As soon as I seen Allen Iverson on the wall, it was clear I needed my haircut at Retro. So I did it. They killed it.
The lesson I’ve learned here is to support and cherish where you live. It’s probably not the best place in the world, but these gems make them incredible. I’m making it a point to support more businesses in my neck of the woods. Once a week, I’ll be writing about a different business in Verdun and areas. Finally, give them the love they deserve.
I am finally closing out the series on my brother and I’s yearly cook off. As I look back on the years prior, I notice our culinary skills improving significantly, our tradition gaining momentum and our kinship getting stronger. I think it is interesting to see how our eating and cooking habits change as we learn more about the food industry, the environmental impact of our eating and our new knowledge of techniques.
Now I don’t want to get philosophical, but writing about these competitions gave me the unique chance to see my personal improvement in the large picture. It’s something we don’t get to see in our day to day lives. I can only compare it to looking at an old picture of yourself and seeing how much you’ve evolved.
This tradition started as an innocent representation of the television show “Chopped“, and evolved into a cornerstone of the summer.
A short recap: Nick 2-0-1, Jojo 0-2-1.
The theme for the 2018 contest was the ultimate 5 course meal. We were limited to not using meat, because I was just converting to becoming the herbivore that I am today. This was a special edition of the competition because we got to cook for our grandparents and my uncle. Any time I can cook for my family, I treasure it.
The dreaded first course is like the first minutes of any sports game. The extremities are vibrating with anticipation as we chop our first onion.
Nick: I made a green pea, basil and lime hummus with crudités (raw veggies). This dish means a lot to me because my grandpa, who was one of the judges, and sort of a picky eater, demolished the plate of hummus. He loved it.
Jojo: He really brought the big guns this year. Joel made little shot glasses of mango tom yum soup. A vivacious herby coconut soup, with lemongrass and ginger that originates from Thailand. That was a huge hit with my Uncle who had visited the South East Asian country before.
I am not really sure who took this round because both dishes were considered winners in my book.
The second course did not disappoint either. After a first course like that one, we had to bring our A game once again.
Nick: Inspired by my limited knowledge of French cooking, I decided to make a Beet tartare, mimicking the classic French raw meat dish with beets instead. I shaved beautiful parmesan cheese on top and served with crostinis.
Jojo: Jojo made a showstopping brussel sprout dish with a mustard and maple glaze sauce.
Once again, there was no definite winner.
The third course brought the judges a real Christmas in August gift.
Nick: I made possibly my favorite dish that I unfortunately cannot eat anymore. Mussels with fennel and vermouth rosso. The absolute best broth in the history of me making broth.
Jojo: Jojo came back with a light zucchini salad that really brought the best out of a simple ingredient.
This was a toss up, ONCE AGAIN, but I think I won round 3 like Mike Tyson punch-out.
The Fourth course was the battle of the fresh pasta.
Nick: After spending some time in Italy previously, I decided to put my pasta knowledge to the test, that I picked up during a class. I made fresh pasta from scratch. Built this nice little dish in my head, I was going to make ravioli with a peach filling and brown butter sauce. The raviolis were pretty solid, a bit big. The sauce, I absolutely panicked at the last second and ruined it with cream.
Jojo: Jojo made fresh pasta as well, and with a little assistance. He made a sauce consisting of cumin, eggplant and other ingredients that I cannot recall. His dish had problems, but overall, cranked mine out of the park.
Here we were. Neck and Neck. Photo finish. Mano o Mano.
What do I decide to do for desert? I make a cocktail. A cocktail. Bonehead move. Idiot. Imbecile. Scallywag.
Needless to say, Jojo won with his deconstructed carrot cake, that stole the hearts of my family, giving him the title of favorite child and the winner of the 2018 Cook off.