While there are many, many baked goods of my mom's that I can distinctly remember the flavour of and yet can never seem to recreate, the the first meal that pops into my mind as being special is my 18th birthday dinner that my mom, then-boyfriend and I shared on a weekend trip to Montreal. I had asked to go into Quebec for the occasion for a very "student-ine" reason: the drinking age was only eighteen there, unlike Ontario where it was a year older. My mom agreed readily, which may surprise you - but consider that my parents had introduced me to coffee and alcohol at a young age (thus taking the urge to binge on them as "forbidden" later like a few of my schoolmates) and neither of us had been to Montreal in several years. When it came time to pick my "birthday restaurant", it only took a few minutes of browsing RestoMontreal before I knew exactly where I was headed: a funky, out-of-the-way "dinner theatre" like place called La Maison Hantée.
The premise there was simple - each table weaves their way into the dining room led by their waiter, who then becomes part of the "story" in between serving courses and clearing plates. Meanwhile, the diners are entertained by a cast of characters wrapped up in a shortened play, occasionally being brought into the plot themselves. The twist at Maison was (and if you know French you already know) that the whole restaurant is in fact one giant haunted house. An artfully done haunted house, mind you, without chainsaw wielding maniacs and giant tarantulas, but still, a haunted house. The waiters? A cast of reanimated corpses and ghostly figures, all killed off in one shockingly horrific way or another. The way into the dining room? A pitch-black, twisted, uneven-floored maze, wide enough for only a single person and navigable only by clinging to the diner in front of you. And the story? Reminiscent of Thir13en Ghosts, including vengeful spirits, suicidal brides and a wrongful death. The whole thing was gory and frightening without being extraneous in any way, with bits of humour, romance and heartbreak thrown in in a very elegant and - well, French - way.
Potage De La Maison Hantée
Makes 6 generous servings
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
3 large yellow onions, diced
1 lb 12 oz carrots, diced
1/2 tbsp cumin
4 garlic cloves, sliced
6 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 oz mung beans
3 oz cauliflower (ideally just the stems)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley
5 oz red lentils
1 cup water
1 tsp dried thyme (a second hit)
Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large, heavy pot, heat the olive oil to medium and add the onions.
- Cook, stirring often, until they have begun to carmelize (just past the "golden" stage).
- Add the carrots, cumin and garlic, raise the heat to medium-high and cook just until the cumin and garlic is fragrant.
- Pour in the broth and water, add the bay leaf, rosemary, mung beans, cauliflower, and dried herbs.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and cook uncovered 40 minutes.
- Cover pot and cook another 40 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf and rosemary stem, and using a blender (or immersion blender), puree the soup into a smooth mixture.
- Add the lentils and water, cover and cook 30 minutes longer, stirring often.
- Add thyme, salt and pepper to taste and serve.
Calories: 248.9Total Fat: 3.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1,052.9 mg
Total Carbs: 42.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 10.8 gProtein: 12.3 g