Got Milk… Punch?

Earlier this year, Keith and I went to New Orleans for a relaxing, boozy sort of trip.  I’m not embarrassed to say I’m not much of a drinker and that I’m a terrible drinking companion in the sense that I can’t hold my liquor reliably, but I will proudly tell you I’m an awesome drinking companion in the sense that I’ll cheer you on and get you home safe.

What’s nice about New Orleans isn’t that there are not only a plethora of friendly cabbies to deliver you to your hotel — though they are very nice and friendly indeed — but that there’s an awesome amount of amazing bartenders to provide you with exactly what you need.

In my case, what I needed on a hot Thursday afternoon was a milk punch.  Chris Hannah at the French 75 told me so, and sent me to the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone to get one.  I’ve always been  good at following directions.

Milk punches are fun.  They’re frothy and sweetened by vanilla and there’s no way you can feel bad about drinking one (or two).  A cold milk punch is even nicer when you come home to one on a disgustingly hot and humid night, or the ingredients for one.  It’ll definitely make the day seem a whole lot cooler.

Milk Punch, from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh
This recipe only makes one.  I suggest you make more than that.

1 ounce brandy
½ ounce dark rum
2 teaspoons simple syrup*
2 dashes vanilla extract
4 ounces whole milk (though I used skim since that’s what I drink)

  1. Shake the ingredients all together in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice.
  2. Strain into a tumble half full of shaved ice.
  3. Grate or shake some nutmeg on top.
* Simple syrup is so, um, simple to make that adding a recipe here really is silly.  Regardless, here we go.  In a small saucepan, bring one cup sugar and one cup water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.  This takes only a few minutes. Then remove the saucepan from the stove and let cool completely.  You can store this in your fridge in a tightly sealed bottle for about three months.

Dinner and Drinks at Pop!

My friend Golnar lived in Montréal for a while, so when I needed restaurant recommendations for this trip, I immediately sent off an email asking for her advice.  Amongst her picks was Pop*, a small bar owned by the same restaurateurs behind Laloux, a lauded bistro in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood.

Originally we had planned to go to Pop for a late-night snack and a series of drinks, but it was a Sunday evening and all of our dinner destinations were closed.  Our waiter seemed surprised to see us — we four were literally the first diners to arrive — but completely unsurprised to learn how hard it had been to find a place to eat that was open.

Since so many choices on the menu sounded interesting to all of us, we decided to order a few starters for the table.  Being the foie fiend that I am, I insisted upon the guinea fowl and foie rillettes ($9.00 CAD) but when I learned that the arancini ($5.00 CAD) were flavored with a shiitake and Peking duck broth…  well, we ended up with a plate of those too.  We also went with the caramelized spicy pecans ($5.00 CAD) and a Brussel sprout, green apple, chèvre and fried onion salad ($7.00 CAD). Of the four appetizers, the arancini were my favorite; the mushroom gave the risotto an warm earthiness, capped with a pleasant hint of duck.  The close second was of course the foie and its smooth, rich texture.  The pecans and the salad were both very good, but were no way in the same league as the arancini or the rillettes.

pop-2Pop’s entrées are mostly flatbread-style pizzas; as usual I couldn’t make up my mind between two choices.  I knew I wanted a pizza, so I took our  waiter’s recommendation of the mushroom marmalade and mimolette ($14.00 CAD).  Sometimes I find that mushrooms lend an overly intense flavor to a dish, almost beating down every other competing component on the plate.  That wasn’t the case here; the mushroom combination was strong, but tempered by leaves of sharp, peppery watercress and the nutty, buttery shavings of mimolette.  Speaking of the mimolette shavings, I didn’t expect to see unmelted cheese, so of course now I’m really curious about making a melted mimolette sandwich or similar.

Laloux’s creative director Patrice Demers is the culinary brains behind Pop; since his background is in pastry, I was particularly interested in dessert, so I chose the chocolate tart ($8.00 CAD).  Rather than being given one large tart, I was presented with three individual  tarts.  Texturally, the trio of mini-tarts were more like densely rich mousse.  Each rested on a  thin salty-sweet disc that I loved crunching my way through, since chocolate and salt is a pairing I thoroughly enjoy.  The plate was dotted with wine-colored dollops which were exactly that: spiced red wine.  I dragged my fork through them before breaking into the mound of pear sorbet, the dessert’s second successful flavor match.  Normally I like simple desserts — all I need is a carton of Breyer’s mint chocolate chip and a spoon, or a really great sugar cookie — but this dish’s harmony and deep flavors were lovely.  And that pear sorbet needs a special little mention of it’s own — I could easily see myself swapping out the Breyer’s for an unadulterated pint of this.

We ended up staying at Pop for something like three hours, an incredibly easy feat even if you lose all sense of reason and decide not to order a bite or two.  The ambiance are both so warm and inviting that time seems to softly slip away, though your choice of cocktail (or, as the they are called here, Pop!tail) will certainly help in that regard.  As does the décor; done up entirely in Danish modern furniture, Pop has a timeles-yet-contemporary feel that infuses the space, down to the chic and streamlined bathroom.  Though I briefly considered trying to run out the door with a credenza or side chair, my favorite aesthetic touch was the wood paneling running up and down the walls.  It made me think of Japanese shoji screens, and while that may seem like a counter-intuitive choice, I thought it was another genius mix.  Just like Pop itself.

250 Avenue Des Pins Est
Montréal, QC H2W

Pop! Bar a Vin on Urbanspoon

*Pop is technically called Pop! but I simply can’t in good grammatical conscience dot this post with exclamation points.  So I’m a punctuation snob.  Oh well.