The most interesting places in Montreal, are away from the downtown, and Old Montreal. Yeah sure, see them, and then broaden your horizons and head to the less touristy neighbourhoods. Every neighbourhood in Montreal has a personality, and most are accessible via the the Metro. This trip I probably walked more than 10km in three days, and saw a bunch of Montreal. The weather wasn’t fantastic for photographing, a bit too overcast, but it wasn’t raining, and I got to do lots of walking. This trip I spent most my time traipsing around Quartiers du Canal, which takes its name from the nearby Lachine Canal (which incidentally was drained this visit). This area includes the Montreal neighborhoods of Griffintown, Little Burgundy and Saint-Henri.
The last morning in Montreal, and I headed back down to Little Burgundy (Petite-Bourgogne). Most of the restaurants and shops can be found walking along Rue Notre-Dame Ouest towards Atwater market. I had a morning coffee and treat (instead of breakfast) at Patrice Pâtissier. There I found two of patisseries I love to eat most : Kouign Amann and Cannelé. So incredibly delicious. Hard to describe.
After “breakfast”, I walked further along and dropped into Lola Petite Bourgogne, a store with local artisans products. Lots of incredible things.
Finally on to Atwater (which is technically on the edge of Saint-Henri) to pick up a can of amber maple Syrup (C$5.50 – you can’t go wrong). I would have picked up more things, but the lack of refrigeration on the trip home was an issue. Foie gras anyone? After heading back to the B&B, and checking out, I still had some time before the train home, so I walked down to Griffintown, an area with lot of new condo-buildings, but thankfully not the sort you see in TO – much better designed, and an integral effort to blend the new in with the old (not just perform Facadicide as seems to be the norm in TO). Walk far enough and it takes you to the basins that sit in front of the “Farine Five Roses” mill, a great vantage point to photograph it.
On the third day I headed over to the Stewart Museum on St. Helen’s Island (de l’île Sainte-Hélène), a short walk from Station Jean-Drapeau. This is a small history museum with artifacts from the discovery and settlement of Quebec, and some special exhibits. The island was pretty dead, apart from a bunch of squirrels who seemed to have already gorged themselves on their winter stores (climate change = weirder winters = overfed squirrels), and at least one fox. Seems not much happens on the island in the in-between seasons – except they are building a huge amphitheatre next to the biosphere.
I took the metro back over to Beaudry Station, to check out some mid-century stores on Rue Amherst, but alas it seems they have moved elsewhere, replaced by cafes, hair salons and the like. So then began my walk back up towards the plateau. I weaved in and out of side streets, checking out the two-and three story houses, many of which are pretty cool looking.
On the plateau I stopped for a coffee and croissant at Cafe Reine, which just happens to be across the road from Au Pied du Cochon. I haven’t eaten there in years, and the only indication that it is the restaurant is the small menu in a window on the side, there is not restaurant signage. If you truly want an experience eating things that relate so well to food in Quebec – foie gras, pig, duck, maple syrup – then you must try this place. And while we’re on the subject, here are some other places to try (although I haven’t tried them all, because reservations are sometimes hard to get)…
> Manitoba – “a taste of the forest in our plates, a taste of nature in our glasses, wood, rock, wind.”
> Joe Beef – classic good food (you just have to book a good amount of time in advance).
> Foiegwa – Yeah you guessed it, you can get a side of Foie gras with anything on the menu it seems. Restricted to over-18s (that and I couldn’t get an online reservation for only 1?)
I kept walking via back streets up to Mile End. I did a bit of exploring on Rue St-Viateur, home to one of the classic Montreal bagels shops – St-Viateur Bagel. I didn’t buy any bagels, but did have one on the train on the way into Montreal – nothing quite like a good Montreal bagel! St-Viateur is also home to one of the four Comptoir 21 fish and chips restaurants.
Dinner was a much “lighter” affair, after two excellent nights dinner, I decided to have fish and chips at Brit & Chips. They were pretty good, I had the cod, which had a batter containing the slightest hint of maple syrup. As good as Olde Yorke Fish & Chips back home? Maybe not so much.
Day 2 in Montreal started with a trip north to Marche Jean Talon. Now in winter Jean Talon is a much reduced version, as the insulated panels go up for the winter, making it a completely indoor market (similarly at Marche Atwater). There is less to see, but it still a great place to shop.
Next I decided to head over to the Montreal neighbourhood of Little Italy, to visit one of the best known Italian grocery stores in Montreal, Milano Fruiterie. Last time we were in Montreal, they were closed for renovations. A *huge* Italian grocery store, with an amazing array of Italian products. Then a hike down St. Laurent Blvd. through the neighbourhood of Mile End. I was heading there to check out Style Labo, a vintage industrial deco place. St. Laurent Blvd. is packed with design stores, boutiques, and places to eat, like Pizzeria Magpie. Frankly there are too many good places to eat to try in one trip.
Next, I trekked further south to Ave. Laurier E. The first place I visited is the kitchen store Les Touilleurs on Avenue Laurier E. Then off for a snack at Juliette & Chocolate, and pick up some Carambar candy for my daughter at Gourmet Laurier. Then I zig-zagged through the streets to check out the unique houses in Le Plateau Mont-Royal on the way to Sherbrooke Station. Montreal abounds with historical buildings, many in the guise of churches. One of my favourite buildings in Mile End is Fire Station 30. Built in 1904-1905, this chateau-style building is from a different time, when things were meant to last a long time. It also house the firefighters museum.
I ate dinner at a place we have eaten before on the Plateau – La Salle à Manger. This is superb little neighbourhood restaurant, and well worth the visit (see previous post). Having recovered from the lobster spaghetti of the previous night, I started with a simple bone marrow.
I followed this with a Monkfish bourgignone (I see a pattern forming here).
Finally I finished off with a chocolate tart.
Here is a wonderful fresh, and crisp salad made from fennel, apple, and walnuts. Super easy to make.
Ingredients 1 fennel bulb 1 apple (tart and crisp) 1/3 cup walnut pieces 2 tbsp olive oil 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar 1 tbsp honey pinch salt
Prepare the fennel bulb by removing the stalks, and cut the root end from the fennel. Remove the outermost layer of the bulb, and any layers that seem wilted (small bulbs are best, so one larger bulb can be substituted by two smaller ones). Cut the bulb into quarters and remove the tough core.Thinly slice each quarter.
For the apple, choose either a tart apple, such as Granny Smith, or a very crisp apple such as Royal Gala. Peel, and create thin matchstick-like pieces (by hand or using a mandoline). Mix with the fennel, and add the walnut pieces. Make the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, and salt. Pour over salad, mix thoroughly.
Working with old-fashioned tools is what makes you feel like cook, and, even more, like a human, instead of fiddling around with the latest electrical gadget.
René Redzepi, NOMA, Copenhagen (René Redzepi Journal, 2013)
Sorry, I haven’t written a post in a while, but hopefully things will ramp up again. I have more posts on Norway and Montreal to come, and some new baking and cookbook reviews. So, I don’t really like kitchen tools, but recently Anova had a sale on their home sous vide system. So I bought one, thinking that maybe it would be an interesting way to cook. Sous vide is a method of cooking in which food is placed inside a plastic or silicon pouch, or glass jar, which is then placed in a water bath. Items are cooked for anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours, at a low temperature. Perfect solft-boiled eggs, pulled pork, chicken breasts, lemon curd, and even ice cream base.
I attached the Anova machine to a large pot, and added warm water (circa 90°F). The Anova machine I bought can be controlled on the device, or by app via Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth. I connected via Bluetooth, and selected the option for cooking salmon. I bought a nice piece of Arctic Char, and placed it in a zipper-lock bag (food does not have to be cooked in a vacuum-sealed bag, just use the water displacement method) after seasoning with a little salt, and avocado oil. I left this overnight in the refrigerator. The cooking program I chose cooks at 115°F for 45 minutes (for fillets less than 1″ in thickness). The Anova shows the time on the device itself, or the app provides feedback if you are out of sight.
As outlined in the Serious Eats guide to sous vide salmon, the arctic char turned out buttery smooth, and super moist. We ate it directly, but I could have seared the skin to make it crispy. The nice thing about sous vide is that the food essentially cooks itself. Looking forwards to experimenting… maybe soft-boiled eggs next!