Sunday, July 24, 2016

Montreal in May Day 6

On our last full day in Montreal, I took Mike to old Montreal in the morning.

Notre Dame in Old Montreal

Notre Dame

Coffee and Croissant at Maison Christian Faure

We walked along the waterfront and admired the buildings in the surrounding area.

Old Montreal

Old Montreal

Old Montreal

After a long walk through old Montreal, we took the metro out to the Olympic stadium and botanical gardens. This was our one regret in Montreal. There wasn't much to see at the Olympic stadium and the a major part of the gardens were under renovation and there were not a lot of flowers to see!

Olympic Stadium

Montreal Botanical Gardens

After a disappointing early afternoon, we headed back to the city center and meandered through the art district, which was a great way to people watch.

We finished the day with an early dinner at Notkins, a hip seafood restaurant, with an emphasis on "hip." The staff wore slinky black outfits and looked like models. There was a DJ near the the bar, which was lined with fresh oysters waiting to be shucked. We were so out of place with our run-down demeanor from walking all over town since the morning. I admit that I picked this restaurant because I wanted to experience the fake porta-potty restroom!

Port-a-potty trompe l'oeil restrooms

Inside the fake porta-potty

Feeling out of our element aside, the food was exquisite. The calamari was exceptionally meaty. The clam chowder had a smoky twist with a little bit of chorizo (not very New England but delicious!). Our main course was also impeccably cooked. The lobster meat in the burger was tender and sweet. My fish was fresh and had a great crunch on the exterior.

Calamari with papaya slaw and tarragon aioli

New England Clam Chowder
Lobster burger with fries

Special of the day fish with fiddleheads and mushrooms

Montreal in May Day 5

We took advantage of a sunny day to hike up Mont Royal. Of course the whole purpose of a hike for me is a rewarding picnic!

I chopped up spinach and stuffed it in paper cups and topped it off with baby tomatoes and honey mustard dressing made from packets I took from the hotel breakfast bar!
Hotel salad prep!

I packed some hummus and marinated mushroom medley that I bought from Marché Jean Talon.

Hummus and marinated mushrooms

In our walk up Mont Royal, we passed by a multi-school event. Parents were cheering on kids running a marathon in the park.

Beaver Lake

The lookout at the top of Mont Royal is beautiful and expansive. We arrived at the tail end of tulip season and still got to enjoy the sea of flowers.

Mont Royal Lookout


When it got a bit crowded at the lookout, we found a table and unpacked our lovely French/Jewish picnic. We needed to use up the St. Viateur bagel before we leave, so I brought that along rather than buying a baguette. We paired the bagel with salami, a smoked duck sausage, and two cheeses from La Fromagerie Hamel.


Très délicieux!

Once the crowd subsided, we went back to the lookout and tried to spot the sites indicated on the compasses.
Mont St. Hilaire

Concise Story of Mont Royal


Friday, June 3, 2016

Montreal in May Day 4

I love staying at hotels with a full kitchen. Whenever I am vacationing in a city for longer than 2 days, I try my best to stay at these hotels. It saves some money and provides more flexibility in buying and cooking tantalizing food from local markets!

I spent day 4 in Montreal shopping for and cooking local foods.

For breakfast, we toasted bagels that I bought from the famous St. Viateur Bagels. We took bananas and cream cheese from the hotel's free breakfast buffet and heated up some slices of Chinese BBQ pork that we bought from Chinatown as our bacon substitute.

St. Viateur Bagels and Chinese BBQ Pork

After a satisfying breakfast, I went to the largest and one of the oldest public markets in Montreal, Marché Jean Talon.

Marché Jean Talon

Having frequented the Madison farmer's market on the Capitol Square, Jean Talon seems pretty small, but there were definitely some standout meats, cheeses, and produce!

Wonderfully sweet tomatoes!

Floral and sweet strawberries!

The cherry on top at the market was the awesome La Fromangerie Hamel. This is the ideal place for buying picnic supplies so I stocked up on cheese, crackers, and salami for a picnic the next day.

Super stinky cheese!

After a leisurely morning buying yummy groceries, Mike and I met up for a walk around the McGill University campus and coffee at the hipster Café Humble Lion. The campus is beautiful and the eclectic Redpath Natural History Museum was quite a fun place to visit!

McGill University

Redpath Museum

Redpath Museum

Maple latte, scone, and croissant at Café Humble Lion

Mike showing his love with croissant flakes

Back at the hotel, I inventoried all the market goodies and started to improvise in the kitchen with restaurant salt and pepper packets and a mini bottle of truffle oil.

Strawberries, wild mushrooms, tomatoes, rutabaga, spinach, Persian cucumbers, mangoes, marinated mixed mushrooms, cheeses, and artisan sausages

I boiled the rutabaga with the venison and wild boar sausages before searing the sausages on a pan to give it a crust and flavor the pan before sautéing the spinach and wild mushrooms in the same pan.

Making it work!

Rutabaga and sausages

Wild mushrooms

A delicious frugal dinner with ingredients from Quebec province!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Montreal in May Day 3

With my tummy fully recovered, I set out day 3 with the goal of walking and eating my way around Montreal. The underground metro was an efficient way of getting across town, but I felt that I was missing out on seeing the city. That's ok, because little did I know just how much walking I was going to do above ground.

Rue Peel Station

My first destination was Little Italy northeast of downtown. In my trip research, I came upon chef Chuck Hughes' recommendations on eateries around town. Following his suggestion, I stopped at Caffe San Simeon for a cappuccino. If I was impressed with the city's French and English fluency, I was even more impressed this day as I experienced different neighborhoods besides Chinatown where other native languages are spoken! People in café were throwing around Italian, French, and English like it's easy. Multilingualism is such a beautiful thing!

Cappucino at Caffe San Simeon

I can't resist exploring grocery stores in different cities or countries and was happy to find a well-stocked locally made and imported Italian food store.

Milano Grocery Store

Freshly made pasta at Milano

I spotted a juggler performing in the middle of the street as I was leaving Little Italy to find a lunch spot in the Jewish quarter.

The walk took longer than expected and forced me to go through this sparsely populated underpass area. Luckily a pair of cyclists rode by, and I sped up to get out of the area with them.

After emerging from that spotty area, I arrived at the Jewish quarter where there are cute shops, residential buildings, and enticing restaurants.

Flower shop

Montreal architectural trademark - stairway entrances

Montreal is all about smoked meats, which wasn't what I expected. I always thought it was a more NYC item, but Montreal takes smoked meat sandwiches very seriously. Apparently, the Montreal smoked meat has less sugar and is seasoned with the classic Montreal steak seasonings.

It seems that locals like it even more than the stereotypical Montreal food symbol, the poutine. There are several great spots for smoked meat sandwiches, and I picked the one that is a local favorite that doesn't have a line out the door, Lester's.

Lester's Deli

Right off the bat, one reason why Lester's doesn't have a line may be because it's so far from any metro stations! After my long trek on foot from Little Italy, I was really dreading my impending walk to the closest station. I told myself that since there's nothing I can do about it, I might as well enjoy my lunch!

Root beer and a classic Lester's smoked meat sandwich with pickles and fries hit the spot. The meat was tender yet lean. The bread was like an edible napkin. Who needs bread when you have delicious meat?

I love the vinegar spray bottle for salt and vinegar fries!

Before leaving the Jewish quarter, I bought half a dozen bagels from St. Viateur for breakfast for the rest of the week. Why eat hotel breakfast bar bagels when we can eat locally made fresh ones?

St. Viateur Bagels

After taking a deep breath of freshly baked bagel aroma, I trekked back towards the underpass, but this time, I took the stairs to get up to the highway and took in the view from above.

Walking on the highway

After Mike got out of the conference, I suggested taking his coworkers to experience classic French food at Restaurant l'Express before they return to Seattle the next day. The ambiance was spot on and the food was impeccable. Restaurant l'Express was the highlight of our trip because it introduced Mike to French cuisine and bone marrow, and he thoroughly enjoyed the experience! We also had a great time unwinding with his coworkers!

Restaurant l'Express

We all got really excited about the giant jar of house made cornichons that came with bread basket.

Just weeks ago, we watched an episode of Julia Child cooking fish soup (la soupe de poissions) with Jacques Pepin. I love starting meals with a warm bowl of soup, and chose this comforting dish as my first course.

La soupe de poisons

Mike wanted to try something new and bravely ordered the bone marrow (l'os a moelle) with sea salt. He enjoyed spreading the roasted marrow on the croutons and actually liked it more than my soup!

L'os a moelle

For our main course, I ordered roasted quail with wild rice (les cailles roties et le riz sauvage) and Mike ordered the beef, chicken, and vegetable stew (pot au feu). The quail was the best dish I tasted on our whole trip. It had a sweet-sour balsamic glaze that awakened my palate and the quail was actually quite meaty for its size. It was exquisite! Mike's pot au feu may look simple and bland, but the meats were tender and flavorful.

Les cailles roties et le riz sauvage

Pot au feu

This day more than made up for my first day of being tied to the hotel and eating bland food!