Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Choosing Your Ingredients - Part 2

This is the second part of my post about choosing your ingredients. This post covers stock, alcohol and spices.

The ingredient you use for meat flavour can be difficult to choose. Your options include stock, or demi-glace, homemade or commercial. If you use commercial product, be careful of the sodium level of the product and read the label - you want to avoid preservatives and any ingredient that you do not recognize. Please do not use bouillon cubes - you are basically putting an artificially flavoured salt lick into your food. Making your own stock is a skill in its own right, and I was thinking about making it a separate post but I think I will just include it here. Making stock is not that difficult and the basic process is as follows.

Making Stock

Take some bones, preferably some that also have some cartilage attached. For some stocks, especially beef or veal stock, you may want to roast the bones in the oven first, along with some onions, carrots, celery and a dollop of tomato paste, but for other stocks, put the bones directly into the tallest and biggest pot you have. Cover the bones with cold water and bring everything up to a simmer. Make sure it does not reach a full boil and keep the stock at a bare simmer for anywhere from 2-8 hours depending on what kind of stock and what bones you are using (fish or vegetable stocks take much less time - about 45 minutes). Chicken stock takes from 2-4 hours, dark (roasted) veal stock takes 4-6 hours, white beef stock takes longer. As it simmers, especially in the first hour or two, some scum will form on the top of the stock. This needs to be skimmed off, either with a skimmer or with a ladle (being careful not to take off too much water).

About halfway through the process add onion, celery and carrots cut into large chunks, along with some thyme sprigs, a few bay leaves and some whole peppercorns.

Do not add salt. Because the liquid is being reduced over time, any salt you add during this process will become more concentrated. Since stock is not a finished dish, seasoning is not as important. When the stock is done, let it cool a bit, then carefully strain the stock into a container using a very fine mesh strainer (if you really want to be anal about this you could even line the strainer with cheesecloth or a large coffee filter, like some restaurants do). Multiple wide containers are a good idea if you have a lot, as this will cool the stock down faster making it less vulnerable to spoilage. If you are going to use all of this within a couple days, you can keep the stock in the fridge. Otherwise, portion into amounts you would use at any one time and freeze. From a roasted beef or veal stock, you might want to make your own demi-glace. To do this, put the finished and strained stock into a fresh pot and bring it to a boil and reduce the liquid until you have half the total volume left. Adding some red wine at the start of this process can produce a nice result.

Alcohol is a very important cooking ingredient. Because alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water, it evaporates and reduces quickly, providing a lot of flavour. The problem is, depending on what you buy, it can get expensive. For wine, you have probably heard that you should never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink. This is generally true but a little misleading. If a wine doesn’t have much flavour, or is too sweet or tastes unpleasant it will probably not be a good choice, because you are putting something that doesn’t taste good into your food. On the other hand, many characteristics of good wines are volatile. This means they are aromas that dissipate into the air. When you cook, these complex aromas and nuances will disappear. So a fine, complex wine will essentially be wasted. So buy wine that is acceptable to drink but there is no need to spend large amounts for a cooking wine. Beer can be very useful for cooking as well but can be a little trickier to work with. Most beers are bitter so this has to be accounted for. I also would not suggest using most mass market beers as to me they are nothing but water with some alcohol in it. Choose fuller flavoured and darker beers as they will be more likely to leave behind a noticeable flavour after cooking.

Almost any hard liquor can be useful for cooking. However, if the flavour of the booze is either non-existent or very distinctive, the applications will be limited. For this reason scotch and gin have limited uses. Some of the alcohols I find most useful are brandy, sherry and rum. I also use Calvados, an apple brandy. I may use other things for specific applications. For rum, use dark rum only. White rum is only acceptable for mixed drinks and even then I’d rather use Jamaican medium or dark rum. For brandy, the key is to find a balance between good flavour and reasonable price. For this reason, it is often good to look for a non-French brandy as you will pay more for equivalent quality for a French brandy. I prefer Spanish Brandy from Jerez, the region that also produces Sherry. However, when I was in Quebec it was almost impossible to find any brandy that is not from France, so I had to look for a V.S.O.P. Brandy that is not too expensive but has good flavour. Recently at a friend’s house, I tasted a Greek liqueur known as Raki. It was very impressive with a complex, brandy-like flavour with hints of fruit and vanilla. I am very interested to see if I can get a quality version here and how well it will work in cooking. For sherry, I would apply similar “rules” to those above for using wine. Just keep in mind that for savoury cooking, you should be looking for a dry sherry. While vodka has no flavour I do find it useful in making tomato sauce, because the tomato has certain flavour compounds that dissolve in alcohol and not in water, giving a tomato-based sauce more flavour.

The next category I will discuss is spices. I firmly believe that, here, quality is a very important consideration. Spices can lose their freshness fairly quickly so the form in which you buy them is important too. The most important thing is to not buy a lot at a time, particularly if you buy pre-ground spices. If you plan to cook frequently and with many different spices, I would highly recommend buying whole spices and grinding them yourself. While ground spices may be more convenient, they have a maximum shelf life of six months, during which time they continuously lose flavour. If you have never ground your own spices, try it once and you will be amazed at the difference. There are two options for grinding spices. For most people, a simple coffee grinder is the best choice. They are inexpensive and grind spices quickly and effectively. For those that are really serious about spices, you might consider getting a mortar and pestle. For these there are smooth ones, usually porcelain or granite, that are good for very hard and dry spices. For spice ingredients with some moisture, you may want a coarse stone model, often made with lava rock. All the bumps and ridges help make a paste. These items do tend to be big and bulky and they also require more time and effort to prepare your spices. I do take my spices very seriously and I have not bothered to get one (though a stone mortar and pestle is on my eventual wish list).

Because I cook with a lot of spices, I have a very wide variety so I have access to anything I might need and I can make my own spice mixes. That leads me to spice mixes. Many cuisines have rather complex blends of spices that are integral to many dishes. If you are unfamiliar with the flavours it may be easier to simply buy the appropriate mix. But here you must be very careful of the quality of the mix you buy and to make sure that there are no “fillers” or other ingredients that do not belong. Many use an abundance of salt as an alternative to flavour. One example I have already mentioned in recipes before is chili powder. To most people, “chili powder” exists only as a jarred spice that one uses to make chilli. Years ago, we used to use commercial chili powder in our family, as we had found a brand that was full flavoured and of good quality. But in time they stopped making this (isn’t that always the way things work - as soon as you find a product you like, they stop making it!) and nothing else on the market met even our lowest standards. The solution was to make our own. What is chili powder? Well, it is a blend of ground dried chiles with a few other spices. Mixes can vary, but the most prominent spices are cumin seed and coriander seed. I believe that some may use some form of powdered tomato paste or some similar powdered tomato product. Some might contain salt and/or sugar. My own chili powder combines pasilla and guajillo chiles in a 2:1 ratio (sometimes I add ancho as well), to which I add cumin and coriander. I have written before that, if you have a chili powder that tastes good to you, it will work fine in your recipe. However I don’t believe there are many good chili powders out there so I generally recommend to use the chiles and spices instead.

So how do you know what quality is? The ideal situation is if you can buy spices somewhere that specializes in spices. Often you will be able to sample the product and maybe even learn something about it. They will also source the best quality product and sell some of the more obscure spices unavailable at other stores. The disadvantage is that these stores can be pricy and, unless you live in a large city, you are unlikely to find one in your area. Fortunately, some of these stores sell online so you can have things shipped to you. Health food stores that sell bulk spices can also be good, since you can actually smell these and check for quality. For most people, this is the source I would advise. Many sell spices that are organic and/or Fair Trade certified, ensuring good growing practices and good treatment of the harvesters. Because they are sold in bulk, you can buy only the amount you need - another advantage for freshness and budget. I generally advise against buying in supermarkets - they are overpriced, especially when you are paying extra for a fancy jar, and the quality is generally not good. Some ethnic food stores, especially Asian and Indian, sell many spices often at low prices but, with some exceptions, the quality is often suspect to me.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is which spices you should get. Well, I can’t really answer that. It all depends on what your tastes are and what kind of flavours you will want on a regular basis. Some of the more versatile spices include pepper (either black or a peppercorn blend), paprika, cumin, coriander, cayenne, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon. Despite its name, allspice is not a blend of spices - it is a distinct individual spice. In Jamaica it is also called pimiento and is probably the most used spice there. Also note that there are two kinds of cinnamon - true cinnamon and cassia. Most supermarket cinnamon is actually cassia and anything that does not say true cinnamon or ceylon cinnamon is also probably cassia. Cassia is a bit sweeter and spicier, while true cinnamon is earthier and more complex. If you mainly use cinnamon for baking or other sweet applications, cassia will work just fine. Cinnamon is also useful for savoury applications, particularly in Indian food or in spaghetti sauce. If you will be using cinnamon in a lot of savoury foods it may be worth searching out true cinnamon. Of course if you read through my recipes you will find I use many spices other than those listed, some even more than others I have mentioned. The point is what I said at the start of this paragraph - what spices you use depend on what you want to cook and which flavours you prefer.

If I think of other ingredient issues I feel I should pass on, I might well add a new post on this topic.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Choosing Your Ingredients - Part 1

In many of my earlier posted recipes, I gave instructions or guidelines about how to choose ingredients for the recipes. However since I use many items frequently in other recipes, it can be difficult to find the information for making subsequent recipes that feature those same ingredients. Therefore in these next two posts I will outline what I look for in a variety of ingredients. As a general rule I try to choose the highest quality options that fit into my budget, as I outlined in earlier posts. The major food categories I will discuss are chicken, pork, beef, fish, stock, spices and alcohol or liqueurs, divided into two posts. This post contains some material lifted from earlier posts added with new material.

When possible, avoid ordinary supermarket chicken. First, because they are water-chilled, you are paying for water and more importantly there is a much greater risk of salmonella contamination than when chicken is air-chilled. Second, the cheapest chickens are so priced because they are raised in truly horrible conditions. They live jammed together, are fed food of questionable origin and are more prone to diseases. There is a very good TV special hosted by Jamie Oliver where he exposes the practices of chicken farmers. Finally, higher quality chickens tend to have better flavour. Obviously, free-range organic is the best choice but can be pricey. A decent compromise would be to buy chickens that are fed 100% vegetable grain. Another budget option can be Kosher chicken. The chickens have to meet higher standards of health and, because the process of Koshering involves soaking the chicken in a salt solution, the meat is more flavourful. Just be sure to use a little less salt if you use this chicken. Depending on where you live, a similar acceptable option may be Halal chicken, which I believe follows many similar processes. The difference is not all halal meat has official certification whereas all kosher food is certified by a recognized agency. If the halal chicken is from a certified halal provider then that is also an option.

Many people do not realize this, but many of the same problems I just identified with chicken farming apply to pig farming as well. Many of the factory farms keep the pigs in pens at all times, much like milk-fed veal, which I generally avoid in favour of grain-fed veal. The conditions are atrocious and this is why pig farms smell the way they do. Pigs raised in healthy and humane conditions do not stink. A recent development in pork production is the raising of “heritage breeds”, such as Berkshire (also called Kurobuta), Tamworth and others. These tend to have a more pronounced taste and, since they are farmed on a small scale and command a premium price, they are usually raised in more humane conditions. I don’t eat a lot of pork (partly due to my Jewish upbringing) so, when I do, it has to be good. My favourite pork products are cured items, such as bacon, salami, prosciutto, kielbassa and the like. Unfortunately, most of these products require the use of nitrites and/or nitrates to preserve them. Overconsumption of these chemicals has been linked to certain health problems so, it can sometimes be worth searching for products that only use sodium nitrate (curing salt) for preservation. Some traditional prosciutto and a few very dry cured sausages can be safely cured without any nitrates, but they are few and far between. And when you can find them, they are very expensive, because nitrate free products have to have a very high overall pH, which is usually accomplished through additional drying, which means more raw product is needed to produce the same amount of cured meat. Otherwise, just don’t eat too much of it. Cured pork tends to be high in salt anyway.

The beef you select has a lot to do with its intended use. Some cuts are better for slow cooking and others for quick searing. In my last post I told you in general terms that meat cut from more heavily used muscles are more flavourful but need longer, slower cooking times. For a stew, my favourite cuts are short ribs, bottom blade (from the shoulder) and cheek. If you want to make a pot roast or a similar slow cooked whole piece, brisket is the best for that. For steak, I prefer rib steak or rib eye (that is rib with the bone removed), but striploin and T-bone are good options. If you want something less expensive, top sirloin is a really good choice. Usually even cheaper is bottom sirloin (also called tri-tip) and flank steak, but these require some care. Flank steak should be marinated beforehand and either cut should be sliced across the grain of the meat to make sure the meat is tender when eaten. The grain is where all the visible muscle fibers on a piece of meat run in a uniform direction. You will see a bunch of ridges or grooves, most of them clearly going in the same direction. Cut thin slices across these grooves and the meat will pull apart tender. Many less expensive cuts of meat you will see in the store have the word “round” in their names (top round, bottom round, eye of round). Don’t bother with these. They are not tender and don’t have enough fat for good flavour. Finally, ground beef or hamburger meat. Your standard ground beef is made up of all the miscellaneous parts of the cow that can’t be sold as an individual cut of meat. Also if a butcher has more supply of one cut than they can sell, it will be ground into hamburger. The cheaper, mass produced hamburger uses all kinds of bits and pieces you probably don’t want to think about. Because they run so many different parts through the grinder and isn’t always very fresh, there is more risk of E. Coli contamination. If you buy preground and prepackaged hamburger meat it is not safe to cook it less than well done, an unfortunate situation for the quality of the finished product. So can a hamburger be safely cooked to medium or medium-rare? Yes, if you use the right meat under the right circumstances. Ideally, buy a whole cut of meat, such as chuck or blade and grind it yourself and use it right away. Obviously you need a meat grinder to do this. You may be able to do this in a food processor as well but the consistency will not be as good. If you have a quality butcher shop near you, you should be able to buy a cut of meat and have them grind it for you. The key element is that risk of contamination increases the longer the ground meat is exposed to the elements and if the grinder is not properly clean. This is why there is no risk to eating a rare steak, and little risk even for steak tartare, raw chopped meat, since it is hand chopped right before serving.

With all of these meats there is the issue of whether or not to buy organic. In general it is true that meat produced using organic methods are treated more humanely and taste better. However, quality meat does not necessarily have to be certified organic. The thing is, the requirements to be considered organic are quite stringent. Not only are the animals only allowed to be fed good food with no chemicals, antibiotics or hormones, but the source of all feed must be certified organic, which requires pure, organic, uncontaminated soil that remains so for several years. That means new, start-up farms can never be certified organic. And sometimes there are practices that do not meet the criteria of “organic” that are not necessarily an indication of unsustainable practices or inhumane treatment. The best thing to do I suppose is find out as much as you can about the source of your meat.

I don’t eat a lot of fish and seafood, so I don’t have much to say here. The main thing is that if you think you don’t like fish because of the “fishy” taste, you were probably eating old fish! Fresh fish should smell of nothing but the ocean. The problem is that fish is very perishable and not as popular in North America than other meats so fish often sits around longer than it should. Also, if you live in the middle of a large landmass, (like in the prairies or the midwest) fish has to be transported a long distance before even getting to the store. Just try to buy as local as possible and at a shop that sells a lot of fish. The other consideration is sustainability. Many of the most popular eating fish have been overharvested to the point where the numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate. Seafood Watch in the United States and Ocean Wise in Canada are programs that monitor global fish stocks and rates whether certain fish are still being caught in a sustainable manner or if they should be avoided. Many of the big deep sea fish are not caught in a sustainable manner and are to be avoided. The manner in which the fish are caught also factor into the ratings.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ottawa Food Review - Part 2

I know it’s a little delayed, but here is the remainder of my reviews of the food from my trip to Ottawa last month. But first, as a follow-up to my last post, Randy, a fellow blogger has posted his own thoughts on the issue and it is well worth the read. Check it out at

Ottawa Rib and Chicken Cook-off

The week I was in Ottawa was the week of Ottawa’s Rib and Chicken Cook-off which takes place on the Sparks Street Mall, an event I mentioned in an earlier post. Day two in Ottawa was a busy one , working to set up our event leaving only a short period of time for dinner. As our hotel was right on the western starting point of the Mall, we decided we would have dinner at the ribfest rather than finding a restaurant and waiting for who knows how long.

Ribfest is made up of several independent vendors and competitors mostly from the United States with a few Canadian entrants. This event is part of a competitive circuit of similar events throughout Ontario during the summer. The competitors here proudly displayed their wins at all these various competitions, including one that takes place right here in Guelph, which will take place this year from August 26-28 - and I will be there. Judges give awards for ribs, chicken, sauce and pulled pork, and some stalls provide additional offerings as well. Particularly during the weekend, the lines at the best stalls were very long but when we went there on Friday afternoon, it was raining steadily, keeping many of the crowd away. The stall we chose was actually the first one we came across, though we did check out the others on that first block. One reason for choosing this one was that the smoke smelled much better and sweeter than at some of the other competitors, where one had almost an acrid smell. Also this stall sold, in addition to chicken and pork, beef ribs, which is my mom’s favourite and also a selling point since one of us did not eat pork. Finally, this competitor was a Canadian outfit, based in Chatham, Ontario. So Blazin BBQ was our choice. Between the four of us who went, we ordered most of their offerings, and I made sure to try as much as possible, ordering their “mighty meat” combo, which contained pork ribs, beef ribs, and chicken. The orders also came with coleslaw and baked beans, the expected sides for true barbeque.

This was the best meal of the trip. The beef ribs were especially impressive, full of flavour and meltingly tender. The sauce, which I believe was the same on all the meats, was absolutely perfect. It was smoky sweet tomato based sauce in the Kansas City style. I am very picky about sauce, since I find most to be unpleasantly sweet and sticky. While sweet, this one was not too sweet and was a perfect match for the meat, which in every case had just enough smoke. Also the meat was not oversauced, a common failing of lesser barbeque. Some of this team’s highest accolades were for sauce, so I’m sure I am not alone in this opinion. The chicken was perfectly cooked. This was especially impressive since I know how hard it is to have chicken fully cooked yet still tender and juicy. The pork ribs were very tasty, though I would have preferred them to be just slightly more tender. Still, they were not at all chewy or tough, they came off the bone easily and completely. It may even be that in competitions, ribbers are cooking them less because judges now prefer ribs that do not fall off the bone - those that do are considered overcooked. The sides were certainly decent, though not as good as the meat. They were definitely good, but just like others I have had many times before - nothing special. But anyway, the sides seemed to be an afterthought to them, and that was the way we approached them too. The portions were large and the prices, though not especially cheap, were certainly reasonable given the portion size and quality. My companions had simply different combinations of the same things: either beef or pork ribs with chicken.

Restaurant Review - Really Lebanese Food

I am a little conflicted about including this review because I do have, on some level, a personal connection to this restaurant. A relative of mine is closely involved with the establishment, which means that it is hard, if not impossible, to be fully objective in reviewing this place. But I honestly do like the food and I feel that, as long as the reader is aware that I have a personal connection with the restaurant, the review can still be of use.

In part because of this family connection, our family event all went for lunch at this restaurant, a group of about 40+ people. Really Lebanese is a small strip mall shawarma restaurant in the east of Ottawa, on Montreal Road. They call themselves “home of the garlic king” a reference to their chef, Adel, the self-styled garlic king. The promotional methods they use are certainly over the top and some have criticized them for this, but it certainly attracts attention, which I would think is the purpose of self-promotion. And it seems to fit with Adel’s engaging and “out there” personality. He rides around in a customized van that has to be seen to be believed.

Really, the picture doesn't quite do it justice. Oh, and that dome with the crown around it? That's the sunroof, so Adel can be on display, kind of like a popemobile.

I have been to Really Lebanese many times before, so my review will also be influenced by previous visits. The specialty is shawarma, a lebanese dish of spit-roasted seasoned chicken served in a pita with various condiments. It is somewhat similar in concept to the Greek gyro, but the seasonings, condiments and side dishes are different. While there are other offerings, including vegetarian ones, I must admit that the only thing I have ever ordered there is the chicken shawarma. You choose the size you want and can choose whatever you want from their array of condiments. My favourite is definitely the garlic sauce. It has a great creamy texture and, while it does taste intensely of garlic, it also has a certain mellowness. It is also available for sale in containers on site (at one time it used to also be sold at some Ottawa grocery stores but alas, no more). Another must have, other than your standard lettuce, tomato, cucumber, etc., is the pink pickled radish - excellent! The sides are a selections of typical lebanese offerings: hummus, tabbouleh, fatoush, and a chickpea salad. This group meal we had was originally intended to be a picnic in a park, catered by the restaurant, but because of weather we had to switch it to the restaurant. Because it was a large group, and we were running late, the meals had been prepared beforehand and set out waiting for us, which does affect the quality. Also, in my meal, the two salads I happened to get included neither of my favourites - the tabbouleh (theirs is the best I ever had) and hummus. Luckily my cousin, sitting next to me, did get those two sides and shared with me (thanks Max!). For dessert, there is a really good baklava and soft serve ice cream. Really Lebanese has been in business for many years, originally in a VERY small space in Orleans which used to be an eastern suburb of Ottawa and is now part of the amalgamated City of Ottawa. They moved to a larger location a few blocks away, and more recently to a still larger space on Montreal Road in the neighbourhood of Gloucester, still in the east end but closer to the centre of Ottawa than they were before. This is an exceptional place for lunch and a friendly environment.

Really Lebanese Food on Urbanspoon

Food Review - Delta Hotel and Suites Ottawa

Saturday night was a buffet prepared for our family group prepared by the hotel. I generally do not have great expectations for hotel buffets or large catered banquets. The food is usually bland and/or boring and often poorly cooked. What they gave us at the hotel, though, was rather good, considering the difficulties inherent in a buffet. There was a goat cheese and spinach salad that was quite decent and an orzo salad that was actually quite good. I almost decided to avoid this, because a pasta salad is usually something put on a buffet because it is “supposed” to be there. It is usually quite awful and is too often a repository for whatever is about to spoil and must be used. In this case the flavours were lively and the orzo was correctly cooked. The main courses suffered from the more common problems that plague buffets, but they were still rather decent. There was a salmon in a creamy sauce that was overcooked to my taste, though for some they considered it correctly cooked (it was not dried out). Also I found the sauce just a bit too salty. There was roast beef with a mushroom sauce. I was very apprehensive about the meat, as I prefer my meat medium rare I saw little prospect of that being achievable with meat sliced in advance and sitting in a steam table. Yet, when I selected the least cooked pieces they were at least medium, if not actually medium rare - a pleasant surprise. The sauce was excellent. The vegetables looked at first glance liked frozen mixed vegetables, but when tasting them they were too correctly cooked for that to be the case. Also there was also some small amounts of less traditional vegetables that do not appear in frozen packets, and these batches varied a little each time the chafing dish was refilled. The mashed potatoes, on the other hand, were bland and uninspired.

There was a marked variation in the quality of the dessert table, a must for private hotel functions. There was a great deal of variety, with several fruit-based tarts, cakes and squares, as well as fresh fruit. The desserts that had a pastry crust - the pies and tarts - were not very good as the crust was too tough. On the other hand, the cakes and squares were excellent. The sticky chocolate cake was probably the best, though a nicely spiced carrot cake ran a close second. The brownie-like dessert squares were also very good.

The overall success of this food, given the obstacles, I believe reflects very well on the overall quality of the hotel’s kitchen. We also had a brunch buffet at the hotel the next morning (this being the standard breakfast buffet for all guests) and that was very good as well. They make sure to keep the buffet stations constantly refilled and the food stays fresh. The smoked salmon was excellent (can’t tell if it was made in house or not - it could have been but there is excellent commercial product available too), the scrambled eggs were not overcooked and the bacon struck the right balance between chewy and crispy. It’s not like there was anything extra special - just the hotel breakfast standards. It was just well executed and care was taken. This is something often lacking in hotel buffets, so this was a welcome treat.

Restaurant Review - East India Company

We spent Sunday walking around Parliament Hill and the Byward Market, then all got together for dinner, in a group of about 11 or so people (don’t remember exactly). East India Company is an Indian restaurant (surprise!) on Somerset Ave. near Elgin street, in the south east end of downtown. This restaurant also features buffet service. I had been to this restaurant before many years ago when I was living briefly in Ottawa and even took part in a cooking class that they were offering. I remember that the food was fairly good then. The buffet featured a wide selections of the classics of Indian cuisine. One thing you will notice as soon as you enter, is the artwork and large decorative pieces that give the restaurant a very distinctive ambiance. Along one wall (where our table was), there is an intricate mural, which was built in India and shipped here at great expense.

The lamb curry was particularly good, as was the tandoori murgh (spicy chicken). The samosas and pakoras were a weak point, though I suppose I should have realized that small fried items are not at their best after sitting in a steam table. There was a good vegetarian dish, whose name I cannot seem to remember, that had vegetables in a creamy sauce, probably made with yoghurt. The butter chicken was also good and so was the chicken masala and lamb kofta (meatballs). Naan, Indian bread, costs extra but is very good, they also make excellent pappadums, a very thin flatbread that is more like a cracker and is wonderfully spiced. There is an extensive selection of pickles and chutneys as well. I’m not a big fan of these, but some of the chutneys, particuarly the mango, the coconut, and the tomato chutney were very good.

As for dessert, I really don’t like Indian desserts very much, the flavours and textures they tend to use are not really appealing to me. But judging from the opinions of others, some of the desserts were well received, including a mango mousse, a rice pudding, and the iconic Indian dessert, the gulab jamun, a specialty here.

The price is reasonable, twenty dollars per person.

East India Company Pub & Eatery on Urbanspoon