Thursday, September 20, 2012

Montreal: A Fun, Fantastic Food Filled Weekend

I'm still in recovery from a fantastic extended weekend trip to Montreal. The Leggy Redhead and I had been talking for a while about doing a 4 day weekend to a foodie destination. I don't remember the exact details of how the trip came together, but our amazing friend Linda ended up writing us an essay on why we should come to visit her in was hilarious and awesome and we were easily convinced that this was a trip we needed to make. We had some mis-haps with getting there, and ended up losing our Friday day, arriving late Friday night around 11:30pm. Linda and her boyfriend, Greg, had made reservations for Chuck Hughes' restaurant Le Bremner that night (Montreal is a reso town- especially for the really amazing places) that we missed and cancelled.

Our hosts were absolutely perfect and we had an amazing welcome party. Our travel delays were a faint memory as we arrived to giant hugs, smiles, and BIG ENTHUSIASM. They welcomed us with open arms and plenty of local beer, red wine, and an amazing charcuterie platter featuring local Quebec cheeses. This delicious plate featured an Oka, a Triple Creme Brie, and a blue cheese that I think was a local variety called Blue D'Elisabeth. A great start to the weekend and memories of the many hours waiting at the airport quickly faded away in a drunken, cheesy, blissed out blur.

The next morning, I woke up earlier than the others and made myself a delicious breakfast from supplies that Linda had put together. Sesame seed bagels from St-Viateur Bagel & Cafe with Boursin cheese spread, smoked salmon and capers with fruit salad.

I'm not a typically a big bagel consumer...but I would be if I lived in Montreal. The toasted sesame seeds gave it a big nutty flavour and aroma. The exterior had a slight crisp and crunch, and inside had the most amazing, supple, chewiness. We ended up strolling the neighbourhood and I checked out where these awesome bagels are made and learned a bit about Montreal style bagels....they are thinner, smaller, sweeter, and have larger holes than New York style bagels. St-Viateur is a tiny, family owned and operated hole in the wall and it's been open since 1957. They are open 24/7 and sell over 1,000 hand rolled, baked in a wood burning oven bagels. A single bagel will set you back 65 cents.

We rented Bixis and cycled around and over to Jean Talon Market. I love farmer's markets- both in Vancouver and in towns that I visit. This was a great place to get a pulse of the city. This market was bustling and full of energy and it felt like an exciting place to be. Located in the heart of Little Italy- this is the city's biggest culinary destination and is clearly a go-to for anyone who loves and appreciates food and ingredients and atmosphere.

 There are bright colours (tomatoes and peppers everywhere), fresh and flavourful samples, tasty samples, and amazing smells (bouquets of fresh basil!) every where you turn.

We continued our trek around the city in an attempt to cover as much site seeing and snacking ground as possible.

Our next stop was Rotisserie Romados. Because I'm a food nerd and do my research...this was high on my "eat here" list and also came highly recommended from other culinary tourists. Montreal has a big Portugese population and even has a little Portugese town, where Romados is found. It also operates as a take-out bakery and sells Potugese meats and cheese. Seating and tables are limited. You definitely get the feeling that this place always is busy with a big line up.

We arrived around 3pm and waited about 20 minutes in a long line to order. When you reach the counter, you can see row after row of whole chickens roasting over the charcoal grill, turning and marinating one another with their juices. We ordered a 1/2 chicken meal from their posted menu with fries, rice, salad, and a portugese bun ($7.99). When we ordered, the butcher asked if we wanted spicy and he drenched the chicken in sauce and then covered the chicken and small side salad with a massive mountain scoop of french fries. There was no rice but we were too busy wiping the drool from our mouths to care. The place was packed with no empty seats, so we headed across the street to a nearby park with picnic tables to chow down.

We opened the takeout container and at first look, it's just fries....Where's the chicken at? Don't worry, it's just buried under a mountain of fries.

The chicken is cooked perfectly- plump, juicy, flavourful and tender with a smokiness and slight lemon tang (probably from a brine or marinade). The skin is slightly crispy and bursting with seasoned flavour. The spicy sauce is likely a Piri Piri- and it's not spicy, but I did find it tasty and nice to dip the fries and chunks of the bun in. The salad was pretty underwhelming, but didn't really stand a chance after being suffocated with meat, sauce, and fries. It was essentially a few lettuce leaves and chunks of tomato.These fries were some of the best fries I think I've had in a while. Crispy perfection, full of flavour and well seasoned with salt, pepper and spices.

We walked by, but didn't go into, Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen. This is an institution in Montreal and considered a foodie must. It's considered "world famous" and "the best in the city" for Smoked Meat, a part of Montreal history, and a recipe that hasn't changed since 1928.

We continued our trek, walking through the downtown strip (Granville-esque), their 2 block Chinatown, and into Old Port, where we strolled along the cobblestone streets and checked out the cathedral and sites.

We made a Caesar stop at the roof-top "terasse"at the Hotel Nelligan. Great drink. Great vibe. Great view.

We were hungry and stopped into a new restaraunt in Old Port, Bevo, for snacks. We ordered drinks, an anti pasto platter, calamari, and a pizza.

After heading back to our host's place, we had more drinks, met up with an old friend, and some of their friends before heading to an 14th anniversary party at their favourite local neighbourhood microbrewery pub, Brasserie Dieu de Ciel. Such a good time. Then heading for late night 3am snacks at an extremely cool retro hipster diner Nouveau Palais. Their late late night menu was limited to drinks, fries, burgers, and perogies (all really tasty) but apparantly they serve excellent and surprisingly gourmet food during their more regular hours.

Sunday we did more city strolling and explored Mont Royal park- hiking up to the view point and dancing along to the Tam Tam drum circle. We worked up enough appetite to share a poutine. We just grabbed it from a non-descript Portugese chicken joint, and I'm sure it wasn't even close to the best this city has to offer- but it was fries, cheese curds, and gravy and satisfying. We were all still hungry but were devoted to saving up our appetite for an epic evening meal experience.....a fall apple themed Cabane au Sucre dinner from Martin Picard of Pied de Cochon. This meal gets its own blog post. EPIC!

Monday morning involved a bit of a food hangover from the previous evening's multi-course feast. We did some more city strolling and exploring before grabbing brunch at a gorgeous nearby bistro with a backyard terasse. My breakfast sandwich was absolutely perfect and the atmosphere was a perfect way to cap off a killer weekend before rushing to the airport.

Vive la Montreal! I saw a lot, ate a lot, drank a lot, but I feel like I just scratched the surface on all of the amazing things to see, do, and places to eat.

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