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Monday, May 12, 2014

A Canadian steakhouse that is worth visiting

     I’ve been visiting Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort for several years now, and as such, I have eaten at almost all the restaurants in the park.  Almost.  There was one that I’d been wanting to try for the longest time: Le Cellier, at the Canada pavilion.

     Le Cellier is a steakhouse, a tribute to French Canada and a pricey one at that.  But the food is great and the service super.  It is the ideal restaurant for a cozy dinner in late fall, although I happened to go in the Spring.  The entryway to the restaurant takes one through a path among a replica of the great Victoria Gardens in British Vancouver.  It looked particularly beautiful at this time of year, no doubt on occasion of the Flower and Garden Festival, which had the whole park blooming.



     Inside, the restaurant follows the theme of its name (“Cellier” means cave or wine cellar in French) with décor as that of the inside of a medieval abbey where the monks used to age the wine in, all with archways in stone.


     A very friendly waitress came and offered me a drink.  I decided to choose something that would go along with my meal, so I had a glass of 2010 Château des Charmes, a Canadian Merlot bottled at an estate in the Niagara Falls region.  It had abundant blackberry notes, with a slightly oaky nose and a hint of vanilla.  It paired beautifully with the meal I had.


     My starter was a plentiful bread-basket, with 3 different types of bread (white, pretzel and whole nut), and a disc of butter that was half spread with fleur de sel, half with sugar maple syrup.  The sugar maple complemented the nutty bread beautifully.  It was such a tasty idea that I will definitely implement it at home.


     For my first course I went with a Spring classic - Navarin d’agneau.  The lamb was cooked to perfection, brown on the outside and very pink (almost raw, but I have no problem eating raw meat) on the inside.  It was surrounded by a velouté of avocado, sautéed and fresh vegetables and…delicious morels.  It was served at an ideal temperature and was filling without being heavy.


     For dessert, the friendly waitress suggested the maple crème brulée.  Once again, it did not disappoint.  The slight touch of maple flavor seemed to be ideally suited for the creamy nature of the dessert (a recipe to look into).


     As I said before, Le Cellier is an expensive restaurant, but one where one can find prime meat that is also cooked as it should be.  This is no easy accomplishment, since most of the restaurants I’ve eaten at locally offer dismal options.  In the fall, the menu offers delicacies like venison rack and a scrumptious charcuterie starter.  Reservations are highly recommended.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Aperitifs à la rosé

     Spring is the time of the year when we can finally venture outside and experience some warmth and sunny days.  I love this time of year here in Florida, when the days are bright and sunny, not too hot and inviting for barbecues and just lounging around with a great cocktail.

     I have become a great mixologist and love to craft cocktails at home.  So I have gotten my hands on a few bar supplies and a few great drink recipes and have followed through in typical French fashion.

     The French are very keen in starting a great meal with what they call an “àpero” (aperitif).  So much so, that there is even an actual drink by this name, which is generally served over ice.  “Apero” is bright orange in colour and has a sharp taste with an aniseed finish.  It is very refreshing and can sideline easily into a meal.


Apero on the rocks
      My favorite cocktail starter however is “Lillet Rosé”, which is a fortified wine blend of Sauvignon and Muscatel grapes.  It smells like flowers and ripe berries, hence making it perfect for a refreshing cocktail, full of flavor.  There are also Lillet Rouge and Blanche, but Rosé is my favorite.  I have created the most delicious cocktails with this àpero, all wonderful for this time of the year.

     The first suggestion is one I have seen in one of Martha Stewart’s magazines.  This is an ideal cocktail to serve at a semi-formal party, where your guests can wander in and out of your home and into a backyard or garden.  It packs a punch, so be sure you serve it with some nice appetizers.


Lillet Rosé Spring cocktail

Ingredients:
·         2 ounces Lillet Rosé
·         2 ounces ruby red grapefruit juice
·         1 ounce gin
·         1 edible flower for garnish

Preparation:

      Combine the Lillet, grapefruit juice and gin in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake until well chilled.  Strain and pour into a champagne coupe and garnish with the flower.  Serve immediately.



    Now for those afternoons when you arrive from work exhausted and need a cool, refreshing drink to unwind, may I suggest my friend’s Daryl Robinson’s Sunset Rosé.  You can make it with any rosé wine made out of garnache grapes, but Lillet suits it particularly well.


Sunset Rosé

Ingredients:

·         1 ounce Grand Marnier
·         4 ounces Lillet Rosé
·         Club soda, as needed
·         Dash of orange bitters
·         Orange twist, for garnish

Preparation:

                   In a fully iced wine glass pour the Grand Marnier and Lillet and stir with a cocktail spoon.  Top the glass with club soda and add a dash of orange bitters.  Garnish with an orange twist and serve.



    A drink I really do enjoy at the end of a long day is the ubiquitous Martini.  I was thrilled to try Lillet’s own suggestion to make it with the wonderful rosé.  Here is yet another refreshing recipe.


Rosé Reverse Martini

Ingredients:

·         4 ounces Lillet Rosé
·         1 ounce gin
·         2 dashes orange bitters

Preparation:

      Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice.  Strain into a chilled martini glass.  Garnish with a freshly cut orange peel, rubbed over the top of the glass in order to express the oils.


     
So try your hand at mixing the French way this month and let me know how your party went.