Sunday, February 26, 2012


In the four days I spent in Montreal last week, I did not have one bad meal. In fact, I didn't even have one sub-par meal. And we didn't even venture out to any of the truly extraordinary places we were supposed to, like Au Pied du Cochon. Even places we went to by accident and had very slow service by well-meaning teenage volunteers pumped out good food (it was called Robin des Bois, which yes, means "Robin Hood," and yes, we are the "rich" in this situation.)

Best meal by far was at Joe Beef. This was actually one of the best dinners I've ever had anywhere. Meaty pork belly with a savory sauce and small salad of frisee paired amazingly with my 2009 Quinta dos Roques Touriga Nacional. A creamy foie gras "parfait" accompanied by home made granola bars. Spread the foie gras on top, lose your ability to speak. I might have teared up a little it was so good. Small scallops with a lemon caper sauce better than any I've ever had. A crazy unique special of shredded chicken, duck and quail reassembled back on a single bone with a Vietnamese-inspired broth. An insanely huge "baked potato" for dessert -- a meringue coated in chocolate powder with house made banana-chocolate soft serve and drizzled with chocolate sauce.  

I fell in love with Montreal-style bagels. Made by hand from a huge pile of dough at Fairmount, then wood-fired. Half the size of NY bagels, less doughy, less salty, and yet, still addicting, especially with a thick smear of cream cheese. Fairmount bagels stand up much better at local coffeeshops too -- just a quick toast and its almost as good as fresh from the store. Well, not really. But better than secondhand bagels in NY for sure. Below: Fairmount bagels, one fresh, one panini'ed at Cafe Veritas, my favorite coffee spot for the week. And the dough and ovens at Fairmount.

We happened to visit during their annual light winter light festival -- Montreal en Lumiere. The street food here was fantastic. Poutin from Frite Alors!, thin french fries topped with a savory, salty, almost bacon-y gravy and cheese curds. My first poutin experience. Then waffles with chocolate baked into them at Gaufrabec. The guy was so excited when I told him their waffles were way better than Waffles & Dinges. Pressing the chocolate into the batter made all the difference.

One of our favorite lunches was at Brit & Chips. Each kind of fish comes with its own batter. I had haddock with a minimally sweet maple syrup batter, Rob had cod with their signature Burgundy Lion batter. The fish itself was tender and juice within a hot, crunchy crust. We both opted for an order of chips. We couldn't finish them. By the end of lunch, we felt too greasy to rush back the next day, but I was intrigued by the Guinness-battered salmon and hake with orange crush batter. Next time.

I had a slightly disappointing lunch at Soupesoup. Great space, tall ceilings, lots of light. The lentil soup was good, but the huevos rancheros sandwich came cold. What gives? Maybe it was just a fluke, as Rob's bolognese soup and grilled cheese was hot. They had great coffee, though. 

Finally, a parting breakfast at La Croissanterie Figaro. The Bonjour special -- a croissant topped with ham, tomatoes and cheese, fresh fruit, orange juice, cafe au lait. Hot chocolate for Rob. And a chocolate croissant for the ride home.

On the list for next time -- Au Pied du Cochon, La Salle a Manger, Le Comptoir (they couldn't accommodate last time, hence Robin Hood meal), Le Local, where I smelled something amazing simmering around lunchtime, and Juni for sushi after a local foodie tipped me off about them.

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