Wednesday, February 14, 2018

La Société: Winterlicious French Bistro Lunch

Inspired by the lifestyle and cuisine of 1920’s Parisian bistros, the owners of La Société - Charles Khabouth and Danny Soberano - travelled to Paris with designer Alessandro Munge, to visit authentic French bistros, boulangeries, cafés and patisseries to explore ideas for their venue La Société, which opened in 2011 on the second floor of the Colonnade, in the space previously occupied by Dynasty Chinese Cuisine. The most spectacular feature at La Société is the custom designed stained-glass ceiling which crowns the restaurant's elegant dark mahogany interior, complete with intimate alcoves of brass and deep red leather banquette seating, a long French-imported zinc bar, and elaborate black, white and gold mosaic floors custom crafted by 29 tile workers that Khabouth flew in from Montreal to create the look of a belle époque Paris bistro. La Société’s large windows also provide a canvas for traditional hand-painted bistro signage which alert savvy shoppers that there’s a hot new venue on Bloor. English-born chef Ben Heaton heads up the kitchen with a tantalizing menu that offers a modern slant to French bistro classics such as French Onion Soup, Smoked Trout Rillette, Seared Foie Gras, Beef Bourguignon, Steak Frites, Duck Confit as well as the enormously popular three course prix-fixe Winterlicious menu, which we enjoyed after spending the morning at the spectacular Christian Dior exhibition at the ROM, making the culinary leap from French haute couture to french bistro-style cuisine.

The 2018 Winterlicious menu at La Société

The elegant dark mahogany interior with backlit paintings and handprinted windows

Warm bread bread fresh from the oven

Ontario Split Pea Soup with braised ham hock and crème fraiche

Burger Maison with dry aged beef, caramelized onion, smoked garlic and cheddar with homemade mayonnaise and frites

Mushroom Pappardelle with roasted mushrooms, mustard velouté, grana padano and black truffle

Tarte au Citron with torched meringue

Parsley Root Soup
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef Ben Heaton

2 tbsp olive oil
3 1/2 lb parsley roots, peeled and diced
3 celery ribs, diced
1/2 small fennel, diced
1/2 small Spanish onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
3 cartons vegetable broth, about 10 3/4 cups
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup 35% cream
Salt and pepper

Bacon Relish:
3/4 lb double-smoked bacon, diced
1 shallot, finely diced
2 sprigs thyme, finely chopped
2 sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 rosemary sprig, finely chopped
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1/3 cup maple syrup

Snails & Garnish:
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
20 snails
1 demi-baguette
Handful of parsley leaves

To prepare soup, coat a large pot with olive oil and set over medium heat. When hot, add parsley root, celery, fennel, onion and garlic. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes until translucent. Deglaze pan by slowly adding wine and scraping up and stirring in any brown bits from the ­bottom. Stir in broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and let simmer about 30 minutes until parsley root is very tender. Remove from heat.

To prepare relish, cook bacon for about 10 minutes in a pan set over medium-low heat until slightly crisp. Remove and strain fat. Reserve. Place 1 tbsp bacon fat back into a pan and heat over low. Add shallot, thyme, sage and rosemary. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until shallot is translucent. Add bacon. Increase heat to medium. Add sherry vinegar. Deglaze pan again. Cook until reduced by half. Stir in maple syrup. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until most of the liquid evaporates. Place in a bowl and let cool.

When soup has cooled slightly, add parsley and cream. Using a blender or food processor, purée until smooth. Strain through a sieve into a large bowl or back into pot. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic, then snails. Cook for 2 minutes until warm. Divide snails into 4 large serving bowls. Tear baguette and add to remaining butter in pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 3 minutes until toasted. Add a dollop of bacon relish to each bowl. Reheat soup if needed, then pour overtop. Garnish with bread and parsley leaves.

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