Our quartet has arrived – after many hours of travelling we are at the Dairyman’s Cottage for a few days to rest, relax and wander around the Borassa valley. We were greeted by a scarlet mutt named Ruby. We entered … Continue reading
One of my favourite things in the world is to be invited to dinner chez Claude. The opportunity to be wined and dined and fêted by Claude and his extraordinary staff is too good an offer to pass up. Given that Claude is fearless in the kitchen, at times it can also be good for diners to also be fearless. I like to think I’m a fairly adventurous eater within reason. I’ll eat nearly anything I’m given, but I have given Claude the caveat that my food must not still be alive and able to try to run off the plate.
Thanks to Claude, I’ve tried a variety of foods that otherwise never would’ve found their way to my plate.
- baby octopus: Did you know that baby octopus is available in Winnipeg? And that sometimes a bag of them is on sale? Much to my surprise baby octopus stew is a good thing, the eyes thoughtfully removed (even C was uncomfortable with the idea of all those octopus eyes staring) and such a flavourful broth.
- fennel: I thought I was familiar with fennel, but after Claude’s ministrations it was totally unfamiliar to me. Fennel purée is wonderfully smooth and rich. I’ve also had it in a variety of other forms, including braised, pickled, salads and slaws, all good.
- sardines: Not the sardines that those of us from the Prairies are used to. These were about 12 inches long, and barbecued whole. Consensus that day was that they tasted okay, but it was just too labour-intensive to deal with all those tiny bones.
- crispy fish skin: – I thought I had experienced crispy fish skin, but when I had it chez Claude, it was unlike any I’d had before. I finally truly understood why the judges on Chopped get so very excited when crispy skin is done right. It takes on a whole new flavour, becomes something totally different, and is amazing!
- champagne jello: having grown up with Jell-o and Bill Cosby, I thought I was experienced with jello. Once again, C proved me wrong. It turns out that it can be transformed to an elegant dessert, especially good on a hot summer day. The addition of champagne and tiny grapes, and topped by vanilla bean whipped cream makes it one of my all-time favourites.
It’s to be noted that guests will be invited more often if they are open to trying new things. Claude fearlessly finds ingredients he’s never tasted or cooked with before, and for these experiments sometimes a little bravery is needed. But for those willing to try, they’ll find that it’s always delicious, and they will get invited back more often. I think C does better when he has complete freedom and doesn’t have to be distracted by restrictions.
Every time I dine chèz Claude, I come away feeling full, happy, content and ready for the next time. It is also to be noted that Claude’s sous-chef provides the most excellent service and that the two of them will make sure at the end of the night that you’ve have a lovely evening, and that you’ll come away feeling great about life and the world.
– Linda P.
(Oh! I didn’t mention the Cocktail of the Day. That’s for another day.)
What are Claude’s specialities? That is actually a tough question to answer because the cornerstone of being fearless is pushing the envelope and trying out new things.
So, I’m going to ask a different question: What are the things that we always want Claude to make again and again? The short list includes:
No doubt that the best time to eat pretzels is just a few minutes after Claude pulls them out of the oven. Although for one person, making pretzels can be time consuming, Claude had discovered that having guests help roll and tie them makes for a great event. Laughing as friends new to pretzels figure out their own technique. Inevitably, the more creative souls will tie non-traditional knots and try to convince the rest of the guests of the ‘new’ way.
Once cooked, before cool, Claude cuts a slit into the fat part of the dough and inserts a pat of butter. The dare is to only have one…. or only have two…. or even only have three. Few succeed.
2. Champagne Jell-o
Guaranteed. Champagne Jell-o is as extraordinary as it sounds. Crisp, tart and refreshing, the dish comes with floating green grapes which crunch and burst with flavour as you bite into them. Claude serves this desert with fresh vanilla-bean whipped cream.
Variations include using a sparkling rosé or red, using champagne grapes or red grapes. The consensus is still that the original is best.
Remember to ask Claude his trick to remove the jell-o from the ramekin ensure the most sophisticated and tempting presentation.
3. Gnocchi in brown-butter sauce
Here is the problem with gnocchi in brown-butter sauce: There is but one person important enough to get access to it.
We’ve been lucky enough to smell the sweet creamy flavours wafting through the kitchen. We’ve watched rolling and cutting of little dumplings. But, as is always cleverly planned, dinner is served after all but Claude and Linda have left for other plans. We’re sure they must drown in the guilt of not sharing this treat with friends. But, then we’re sure it passes.
What is the recurring them here? Friends. Entertaining. Laughing. Eating.