Thursday, August 16, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday Julia Child

Dear Julia:

Happy 100th birthday! When I reflect on your many wonderful qualities, what I think stands out most for me is how tenacious you were about fulfilling your desire to learn how to cook. To leap into a program as demanding as that of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris is not for the faint of heart - killing lobsters, trussing chickens, deboning ducks. You seemed so unfazed by all the hard work required to complete the program.

So when I was invited on a lunch date this past Wednesday, and was left with the responsibility of choosing the dining destination, I jumped at the chance to celebrate your big day with friends at Le Cordon Bleu right here in Ottawa. Lucky us.

I so wanted to sit out on the large, stone terrace with a view of the magnificent fountain across the road in Strathcona Park. The weather co-operated. It was sunny and a warm 25ºC.

The wait staff doted on us. At times there seemed to be more of them than us. The cutlery was shuffled or replaced according to protocol as we moved our way through our 3-course meal. The white linens added an elegant touch. With all the hipster, humble, honest eating going on in town now, it's hard to even get a comfortable seat. But our setting was definitely a place where you can linger.

The soft, plush homemade bread was swaddled in white linen too.

I was not the lunch organizer, but my three table mates were happy to heap praise on me for making the actual dining choice. I am not sure they even knew it was your birthday on Wednesday, let alone a centenary. But they did speak of you fondly too. No doubt they were feeling a bit wowed by it all. I have to say, at one point, I did feel kind of genius, as it was all going so swimmingly.

Alas, I had hoped that Le Cordon Bleu had fussed just a wee bit about your big day. After all, aren't you likely their most famous alumnus? For sure, you should be given a nod for being such an able ambassador of French cuisine and introducing French culinary techniques to the home chef. For them, this day was business as usual.

You were a strong influence on your fellow Americans, but there are many north of the 49th parallel that also embraced your joie de vivre in the kitchen. Your friend, Marion Kane, now former food editor for the Toronto Star, heaps praise on you all the time. I remember fondly, as a child, watching your television show, The French Chef. To tell you the truth, I think it was that special lilt to your voice that kept me watching.

I am constantly struck by the juxtaposition of your demand for perfection and the way you seem to just roll with any calamity that comes your way. What a marvelous balance in appreciating the human condition.

I digress. Let me tell you about lunch. As I mentioned, it was a 3-course meal. And probably the best deal in town. It's only $26 for the lunch and they heap all that 'lovely' on you too as they take you into their care. I have been for dinner but it is the lunch that I much prefer.

There is a choice for the starter and main. I so predictably go for fish or seafood when I dine out, but this time I decided to make choices that were all Julia. First the soup, and then the duck. Here is what the lunch menu offered this week.

Seared salmon sashimi salad, arugula, Ponzu vinaigrette
Classic potato and leek soup, double smoked bacon foam, crispy leeks
• • •
Confit duck leg, white bean cassoulet, seasonal vegetables
Atlantic cod, clams, chowder
• • •
Red wine poached pear, chocolate cremeux, orange foam

It was all delicious. And what a pile of calories! Maybe you can tell that from the pictures of my lunch.

[Classic potato and leek soup, double smoked bacon foam, crispy leeks]

[Confit duck leg, white bean cassoulet, seasonal vegetables]

[Red wine poached pear, chocolate cremeux, orange foam]

It was a subtle celebration perhaps. I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The evening rounded out with yet another viewing of the well-known 2009 movie, Julie and Julia. There has been a proliferation of food bloggers over the past decade and the world is now chock-full of Julie's, but there is still only one Julia.

Happy Birthday, Dearie!

[Disclosure: I have done work for Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa in the past, not associated with the dining room. I was a paying restaurant guest, like any other on Wednesday. If I had not enjoyed my experience at lunch, I would have remained silent.]

Le Cordon Bleu Bistro @ Signatures
453 Laurier Avenue East
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Twitter: cordonbleuott
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  1. Beautiful! I have been to her old stomping grounds in Paris - read everything she has written - taken a course at Le Cordon Bleu there and am a FAN. I can see that I must get to the Ottawa school and restaurant! They do not have a restaurant in Paris!

    1. It really was just the perfect setting. I like when the weather co-operates. Happy to keep you company at Bistro @ Signatures if you come to town.


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