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20 Jul

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Pouding chômeur

Pouding chômeur, a Quebec sugar shack favourite


Lobster tales 2 : Sfogliatella

18 Jul

Sfogliatella, lobster tails from Patisserie Alati-Caserta

Sfogliatella / lobster tails from Patisserie Alati-Caserta

Lobster season continues.  The pastry pictured above is an Italian favourite. Sfogliatella translates to many leaves, or many layers. This pastry also goes by the name of code di argosta – meaning lobster tail.

I should have put my hand in there for scale. They’re monsters and these 2 fed 6 people. The outside is a flaky layered pastry and the inside is filled with a creamy ricotta that has strong hints of citrus and vanilla.  The bakery that makes these, Patisserie Alati-Caserta , is in the heart of Montreal’s Little Italy. They also make cannoli, cookies, intricate marzipan fruits, special Easter pastries, almond cake, and spumoni ice cream. The Calderone family has been running the business since 1968. If, for whatever reason, I stop  librarianing you will find me at the door of this bakery begging for a job.

A lot of what I know of my Italian heritage is about food. I don’t speak the language, although I am trying to teach myself Italian using free podcasts and books . I’ll let you know how that goes when I actually have to use it and I’m prepared to use the same line I use when people ask me how I learned French. To quote Manuel of Fawlty Towers “I learned it from a book”.

Lobster tales

14 Jul

I love eating dinner outside and I am often invited into the lush backyard of my close friends. They live in what is possibly the oldest house on the Plateau in Montreal. It is surrounded by a 10 foot (at least) fence and is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the city.

Last weekend we got an invite to dinner. Our friend knew someone who was bringing him lobsters from Maine. So we hit the Jean-Talon market for some seasonal local contributions (Quebec potatoes and tomatoes – pronounce as you like), grabbed some wine and headed over. The cooking of lobster for those who do not have the luck to be born and raised on the coast can be a guilt-ridden event. There was much apologizing to the lobsters. Many thanks were given to the lobster. In the end we cooked them and we ate them.


Ah! So neat, tidy, and shiny. The eating of the lobsters was not a neat or tidy affair, although it did get a little shiny. While eating the lobster, one runs the risk of spraying lobster water across the table and laughing as it lands on your dining companion’s face and sleeve (that happened).  Also a possibility, shells may go flying out of  slippery hands and fly across the table (also happened). Good thing we were all wearing kitchen aprons.

Properly, a big paper napkin or plastic bib is provided for the lobster eater. Wear it, for certain, since the work involved in eating a lobster often produces a few squirts and splashes as the shells are cracked.

For certain, indeed! One dining companion remarked, and the others agreed, that I appeared to know what I was doing. In fact, I did have some notion of what to do. This wasn’t my first time eating lobsters using my mad techniques. I promptly informed them that my lobster eating knowledge came from a book. More specifically, Emily Post’s Etiquette, 16th edition (from which the quote above is taken). My ironic readings of etiquette books have come in handy and while I am still terrible at introductions and firmly believe that I only need one fork per meal (Hey! I do the dishes), I seem to have remembered the bits about the actual food and how to get at it. Now that I’ve revisited the passage, which doesn’t even address the tail, I’m thinking I may also have spied on diners during trips to Maine.

“But how was it?”, you might be wondering over your marvel at my pretentiousness. When I asked a dinner companion what I should include in this post, his response was “Yum!”  Lobster eating is a messy and violent affair. Emily, my gal (or should I say m’lady), makes it sound so civilized. She calls  for special implements and finger bowls which really mask the caveman aspect of it all.

My life is not all lobster and caviar or lobster caviar. I recently got excited about a giant tub of  Fluff.  Lobsters are rare in my life and given the difficulty I had writing this post – you may notice I’m all over the place and I can’t discuss the actual boiling of the lobster – I’m just going to hope that you enjoyed the good parts.