Monday, July 06, 2009

In Which I Eat Montreal

If I could only describe Montréal in a few words, I’d use the words refined, conscientious, and vibrant.

The food in Montreal is as meticulous as I’ve ever had – painstakingly delicious. Almost every meal was a true work of art offered in reasonable portions. The way of life in Montreal is such that it’s normal to linger for hours over wine or coffee. Food is savored, not devoured. Dining is a true social event.

On my surprisingly pleasant flight to Montreal, I read Naturally Thin by Bethenny Frankel, in which she describes how balance, listening to your food voice instead of food noise, and truly understanding yourself lends itself to becoming svelte. One of her “rules” is “Taste Everything, Eat nothing”. Strangely enough I’ve been doing this most of my life . I think I learned this from my mom, who nibbles on everything and rarely cleans her plate. In many American restaurants, portions for one person can feed a family of four. And we eat it. All of it. I digress – apologies. I believe that this is how the people of Montreal eat (grazing and savoring) and I appreciate it!

What I liked most about dining in Montreal is a little thing called “table d’hote” – a pre fixe menu ranging from 20+ to 60+ dollars. It includes an entrée (appetizer), main course, dessert, and coffee. For an extra two or three bucks you can upgrade your entrée to something even more spectacular. For example for $3 more I was able to have Gaspacho, purée d’avocat, crevettes et sauce cocktail (Shrimp served with cocktail sauce, gazpacho and avocado purée) as my entrée (appetizer) rather than soup or salad.

What's more, establishments without a liquor license allow you to bring in your own wine with no corkage fee (BYOW). It was cool to just be able to grab a reasonably priced bottle of Bordeaux to accompany your meal and not have to deal with ridiculous markups. So basically, dining was easier on the wallet than usual.

I only was able to capture a few pics of my meals because many times by the time I thought to take a pic, I had eaten half of it.

While it’s all still semi-fresh in my mind, here are the restaurants in which I recall dining:

Premiere Moisson -- my favorite bakery. Croissants to die for!

S Le Restaurant at Le Saint Sulpice Hotel in Old Montreal. On the terrace, in the most beautiful garden setting, lunch was magnificently served. I had the Pan seared halibut, sauce vierge, smashed olive oil potatoes and red pepper coulis as my main.

Vizizza near the Jean-Talon Market: Most memorable was the Insalata Caprese – the freshest tomatoes and basil and mozza, and just a hint of butter mixed in with the olive oil that was drizzled upon it.

Manzo Pizzeria in La Salle, Quebec. Flat out the best pizza of my life! Perfect crust, perfect toppings, and a tuna salad to die for.

Suite 701 in Old Montreal. Excellent Plateau de fruits de mer: Crabe royal, huîtres, crevettes, queue de homard, saumon fume (King crab, oysters, shrimp, Québec lobster tail, smoked salmon) and a remarkable and reasonably priced cheese plate with an assortment of local cheeses from Quebec.

Bonaparte in Old Montreal. The Lobster stew was ridiculous! Pictured: Lobster stew flavored with vanilla, served with spinach fondue

La Raclette, a swiss restaurant in Plateau Montreal where I feasted on fresh salmon in a mustard sauce. I should have tried the fondue, in hindsight.

Byblos Le Petit Café. Excellent Persian Food! Fresh feta cheese with herbs and olives, an eggplant salad with a sprinkling of paprika (not pictured), and a croissant with seasonal jam for breakfast.

Just Noodles, where I had the most delicious bowl of noodle soup with shrimp and veggies for about 8 bucks.

I also enjoyed visiting Olive & Olive (which is very similar to We Olive here in the US) and David’s Tea, a contemporary tea shop with the most friendly and helpful staff.

And finally, the outdoor markets that I loved: Jean-Talon and Atwater --The most beautiful produce, cheese, meats, and seafood. I loved the wild strawberries and the fresh trout salad (think tuna salad but with trout). The French buy in season and plan meals around seasonal produce. It was inspiring.

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