28 June, 2012

Happy Birthday!!

Six days after June 5th, my second brain surgery, I turned 32.  I finally feel like my age matches how old I feel physically; I have felt 32 since I was 15 years old!  We of course didn't "celebrate" on my birth date because it was just too soon to be out and about with 30 staples in the back of my head.  Guh...  Somewhere on my birthday my Mister piped up and said, "We'll go to Montreal for lunch sometime in the next couple of weeks for your birthday."  

I'll bet he thought I wasn't going to remember that...HA!  Of COURSE I'd remember a promise like that.  I went to my "to eat" list and searched through Quebec...  I wanted to see the inside of the Notre-Dame Basilica, so I tried to find something fairly close to our final destination.  Turns out, the place we decided on was just down Rue Notre-Dame from the basilica.  Score!!

A place I had heard of from a friend who is "in the know" about French food told me I just had to try Spanel.  I spent a lot of time deciding that I wasn't going to mess around with fusion places.  When you search for "French" food in Montreal almost every place is some kind of fusion...the most troubling one I came across was Asian-French fusion...blech.   Spanel is straight up French food with a bistro theme.  Simple dishes with clean, rich flavors...that's a REAL representation of France on a plate.

We walked in at 11am making us the first customers of the day, so I took the opportunity to look around and grab some shots before it began to get busy...


It was a nice, cozy little place to be out of the rain.  Lovely art on the walls and inviting lighting...it all made me feel like I could really relax and take my time with my food; that's important.  Our waiter came along with the menus, I was pleasantly surprised.  Their menu online was done completely in French, I'm lucky I can read plenty of it, even if I can't speak it well.  When I talked to the owner, Yann, and asked him what their signature dish was he asserted that everyone comes to Spanel for the crepes.  It had started raining as soon as we hit the city, so no matter what I knew I was having soup with my meal.  I ordered Soupe à l’oignon gratiné, the Sarlat crepe (buckwheat, gluten free crepe filled with shredded duck confit, onions, mushrooms, hash browns fried with duck fat) which came with your choice of soup of the day or a house salad (I chose the house salad with a Balsamic vinaigrette) and then for dessert, I ordered the Normande (Calvados flambées caramelized apples with ice cream) crepe.

I only waited about 10 minutes for my onion gratin.  It was beautiful when it came to the table.  The toasted cheese looked SO inviting!
Soupe à L’Oignon Gratiné

When I stuck my spoon in for some nicely crisped, toasty bread instead my spoon pulled out soggy, engorged sponge; and tons of it.  I couldn't believe how MUCH bread there was.  It was as if they loaded the inside down with croutons rather than just place ONE nicely toasted, small baguette slice on top before toasting it in the oven.  It was disappointing.  I tasted the broth and knew I wouldn't be finishing my crock of soup.  The broth itself was SO sweet...it shocked me.  We had stopped at Tim Horton's before we left for Montreal.  I had a chocolate dip and my Mister had a maple dip...my Mister tried my soup and we both agreed...the gratine was sweeter than our donuts that morning.  I asked Yann about that later when he came by during the entree and he explained to me that most Americans like it that sweet.  I chuckled a bit and told him that Americans don't always know how things should taste and what is "good".  I ran into the same situation in Alabama.  But!...the soup wasn't the whole experience...

I was pretty excited when this beauty showed up at the table.  I leaned into the plate and inhaled....it hit my olfactory in all the right places.  The next thing I did was try each element on its own.  The crepe was fabulously rustic in flavor and cooked to perfection.  The duck didn't taste muddy and there was just the right amount to keep the dish from getting too heavy; very important for a lunch menu!  The mushrooms were sauteed well and FULL of flavor and the caramelized onion brought in just a bit of sweet to this very savory mixture.  The potatoes were a wonderful surprise; being sliced and fried in the duck fat they were crisp and bursting with flavor.  When I took bites of it all together there was quite a nice texture to each bite.  I fell in love with this dish.  I couldn't wait for the dessert!

La Normande
This smelled amazing and looked like a dream on the plate.  I tried everything on its own again; the apples were succulent, the ice cream was a smooth, full bodied vanilla, the whipped cream was made in house and the caramel was rich and velvety.  My crepe on the other hand tasted scorched.  This wasn't a total crisis to me because the crepe wasn't the star of the show with this dish, not to me.  The apples were; they were just on the drunken side, spiced well and cooked just the right amount of time.  I couldn't finish all of my food of course but I was determined to try.  I made it about halfway through this masterpiece before I had to give up the ghost.

On the whole our experience was good.  I'd never had a crepe made properly by a professional French kitchen.  It was quite interesting to experience what a difference there is in crepes made in the states and crepes made in Montreal.  There was a tiny bit of a language barrier being that everyone in the place was Francophone, but they made it work which was admirable.  (My Mister informed me that I sounded like an idiot trying to say the French words with a French accent, thanks honey.)  I was a little put off that my salad never showed up to the table, but because it was free with the crepe entree, it was something I just shrugged off and didn't bother reminding the waiter about.  For 2 soups, 2 entrees and 2 desserts we paid just about 58 dollars and it was well worth it.

If you're ever in Montreal and you're looking for a taste of authentic French bistro fare, stop in at Spanel and have a bite.  You won't be sorry you did!   

Spanel on Urbanspoon

21 June, 2012


I'm sure all of my readers are dying to know how my surgery went this go 'round.  I have been dying to tell you....it went FLAWLESSLY!  I woke up in the recovery room from the anesthesia feeling BETTER than the day before the surgery....this was AFTER they sliced my head open for a second time and stapled me shut with about 30 staples.  I would have lept out of bed and danced a jig if it weren't for the cannula inserted in the lumbar region of my spinal cord.  I was on strict bed rest for 72 hours...this is as bad as it sounds.   Never used a bed pan before....never want to again.  *sigh*  I walked out of the hospital this time feeling ready to conquer the world.  It was stark contrast to my first surgery.  I'll never forget my husband wheeling me out to the truck as I wondered why I felt so much worse than when I went in.  But enough of that!....life is calling.... 

That is me on day 1 of being back home.  A friend of mine on Facebook joked I should have had them install a zipper.  It made me laugh quite hard...which made me realize that no zipper was required.  After the first surgery, laughing, coughing, sneezing....they all made me feel like my head was being ripped open by tiny mischievous imps.  This time around smiling, laughing...the occasional cough or sneeze, didn't give me a moments pause.  I was on an outing with my Mister by day 3 to pick up some vitamins at the local market and by day 5 we were down in the states grocery shopping.

This is the back of my noggin....day 14.  My but my hair DOES grow quickly doesn't it??

I can't say enough about my surgical team.  I love them like they are my family.  A lot of people challenged my decision to have a second surgery in Canada...citing the fact that I had to have a second surgery at all as reason enough to have it done in the United States instead.  But I knew in my heart that my surgeon and his team were the ones that were going to give me a chance at life.  The cause for a second surgery were complications during the recovery...not the surgery.  My neurosurgical team was made up of 3 of the best surgeons in the whole country of Canada.   

I prayed about the first surgery...I prayed about the second; my path was sure.  Quite frankly, having this whole experience has strengthened my trust in my personal connection with the Spirit of the Lord and my knowledge of there being purpose in life.  I'm not done yet...I knew that back in February before I took my first breath of anesthesia.  I have NO idea what ALL there is to my particular purpose, but...that's half the joy in life.  Finding out!

I am still on lifting restrictions...and exercising restrictions until the middle of July for sure.  I hope to be released from the restrictions after they confirm with a CT scan that everything healed properly during this recovery.  So please keep your fingers crossed, say your prayers or send happy healing vibes...whatever you prefer.  I need them and I appreciate them.  I have felt all of the love and thoughts throughout this year from all of you and I am beyond grateful.

I am SO excited to be able to get back into the kitchen and out into the community and share all the wonderful food with you, my readers.  I have missed the whole of spring and all of the wonderful yumminess that accompanies it, but I plan to rectify that FULLY now that summer is officially here.  I will do my best to bring you the best of Ottawa and the surrounding area and share some of the best homemade recipes I have to offer.  Just to let you in on some of what I have coming up, this year I will be making and canning jams and jellies for the very first time.  Strawberry rhubarb jam, crab apple jelly and raspberry jam....and I can't wait!  I will be doing my best to continue to bring you versatile recipes for those of you that live a dairy free or vegan lifestyle.  I love that most of what I post from home can be made with or without dairy and still turn out perfect.  Its important to me that people know that eating the way that is best for their body doesn't have to mean food looks gross or drab...it can still be beautiful and taste like it was made in a Michelin star restaurant.  

04 June, 2012

Tomorrow Is Here!

A while back I let you all know that I unfortunately would have to have a repeat of my brain surgery due to a large collection of CS fluid in the back of my head, this was a complication of the recovery.  Luckily this news came BEFORE the end of the 3 month mark of my recovery.  It would have been mental hell to find that out AFTER I believed myself to be well.  I was surprised to begin with that the fluid was even there in that high of an amount because I was feeling so much better than the previous month.  But, nothing in this life surprises me anymore.

I won't be feel up to much flogging in the months to follow, so don't hold your breath waiting.  I AM going to resume posting, never fear.  I have been told this recovery will be 2-4 months; I pray that after that, it will be the end of brain surgeries and end of recoveries. 

Thank you all so much for your support and for following my flog, I appreciate your readership and PATIENCE so much!  :0)