We got lucky. Our friends in Toronto – Lex'n'Ger – invited us for a fancy-pants meal last weekend. They had won the services of a professional chef for an evening, and he was offering to prepare a 7-course meal for the four of us. Junkii and I were thrilled with the invitation, and even more thrilled with what the chef – Matt Kantor from Little Kitchen – came up with. It was the best meal we'd had all year – even better than the awesome meals we prepared over Thanksgiving weekend – so you know it was good.

Here's a rundown:

Course 1: Pan-seared Shrimp Tossed in Charmoula Sauce
None of us had even heard of, let alone tasted, charmoula sauce. It's a marinade from the Moroccan/Algerian corner of Africa and its made up of herbs, oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and dozens of other things. It's got a wonderfully complex set of flavours that suited the shrimp perfectly. It would also go well with grilled fish or other seafood, and we're gonna have to figure out how to make it ourselves before next summer's grilling season gets here. Junkii said it best during the meal: "this is the first time I've ever cut up my shrimp to make them last longer." Me? I just gobbled them whole. Mmmmm.

Course 2: Beet and Grapefruit Salad with Gribiche Sauce
Junkii seems to be developing a fondness for beets. I've never been a big fan, but this worked really well together. The sweetness of the beets and the tart/bitter flavour of the grapefruit was nicely balanced, while the tarragon-based Gribiche sauce (another sauce we had never heard of) helped to bring the flavours all together.

Course 3: Seared Sea Scallop with diced Hidden Rose Apple and Curry Oil on Romanesco Puree
The use of curry oil here was pure awesomeness. Matt even explained how to go about making it (i.e. add curry powder to oil, duh) so maybe we could try to recreate this one. Seems pretty straightforward, otherwise. The diced pieces you see in the photo – the ones that look like carrot – are actually an heirloom varietal of apple called 'Hidden Rose'. The flesh of the apple is naturally that colour. The crunch of the apple pieces was a nice addition to the dish, which – because the scallop was so perfectly cooked – was otherwise very soft.

Course 4: Risotto of Roast Duck, Chanterelles, and Butternut Squash
This risotto was to-die-for. Duck is one of our favorites at any time, but to add it to such a creamy blend of rice, mushroom, and squash… sorry, I'm drooling.

Course 5: Ras el Hanout Lamb Cabbage Rolls on Eggplant Puree with Bordelaise Sauce
The only reason I have any inkling of what Ras el Hanout actually is, is because I watch Top Chef. They use this north African spice blend all the time. So it was a real privilege to get to have it prepared for us. And it was yummy. But the real icing on the cake was that this was also a case where the wine pairing was perfect. I don't remember what the wine tasted like – come on, we had already had 4 courses with paired wines! – but I do remember it went perfectly with the lamb dish. Fantastic! Torrederos Tinto Crianza 2004. Still available at the LCBO if you hurry.

Course 6: Tarragon Ice Cream with Beet Gelee and Candied Grapefruit Rind
I didn't expect this to have such a strong flavour of tarragon in the ice cream, but it was very pronounced – and mighty good. The gelee was a little too delicate and got lost between the tarragon and the candied rind – which also had a very robust flavour.

Course 7: Belgian Endive Terrine with Candied Hazelnuts and Guinness Caramel Sauce
Can't say I tasted a lot of endive in the terrine, but it was delicious either way. To me it had more of a mocha flavour – but perhaps that's just because the Guinness caramel sauce was sooooooo goooooood. Or maybe it's because I really don't know what endive tastes like. We served a trio of beers with this dish. The dark beer is Young's Double Chocolate stout which, to my palate worked perfectly with the dessert, but others at the table felt it overpowered the Guinness sauce. There was also an apple cider served in the trio, and that worked well with the dessert too, counterbalancing the tart cider with the sweet dessert.

So there you have it. Just your average, everyday dinner at home with friends. Thanks L&G for sharing with us! When can we do this again?

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10 responses »

  1. Lex says:

    Wow, fantastic photos and writeup! You guys rock. One small update: the apple was a Hidden Rose. An heirloom variety grown in Oregon. And in response to your question, we have some birthdays that require celebration coming up. You're back in January right?

  2. Awesome. I'm gonna correct the post.

  3. mattkantor says:

    Wow. Thanks so much, its always thrilling when one can make people happy by doing something they love. The photos look great too. I'll furnish recipes of anything you want, just let me know.

  4. Eden Spodek says:

    I'm so excited. I followed Lex's lead, entered the Little Kitchen contest on Facebook and won. We're having our dinner later this month. Can't wait, I've never had a chef cook at my home before let alone try some of the interesting recipes Matt's suggested for our menu.

  5. That's awesome, Eden. Matt said he'd travel to Ottawa if we wanted to hire him. We might just do that next year, he was that good.

  6. Eden Spodek says:

    Amazing! Let me know because I'm hoping to send dinner to friends in Ottawa as al gift.

  7. Glad you had a good time, too. Incidentally, Junkii took more photos than this, and he's actually done a little touch-up work on some and has posted them to our flickr account. You can check them out here – and I'm sure Junkii would happy if you wanted to grab some to use on your littlekitchen website.

  8. Lex says:

    Hey guys, round 2 of my photos are up (http://www.flickr.com/photos/lexnger/tags/littlekitchenca/) – more action, less posing, and some great shots of both our sommelier and photographer for the evening.

  9. […] The result?  A meal fit for a Lex! Which also delighted the other diners. […]

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