When a very good buddy is about to get married, you do everything in your power to go. When it happens to be in Montreal and you’re the proud owner of a VERY flexible schedule and you’re your own boss, you definitely go! Seeing as I used to visit Montreal as a child and lived there for almost ten years, I was experiencing serious cravings that you simply can’t get anywhere else in the world! My plan was to embark on a four day eating journey that would honour my past but also explore new to me eats in La Belle Province.
My first stop was a restaurant I had discovered while reading an article on Chef Chuck Hughes. He mentioned that Bouillon Bilk was one of his favourite places to eat in the city and unknown. Although we were seated 50 minutes late (obviously people know about it!), they apologized with a glass of champagne. A small gesture which was appreciated because they certainly could have given nothing and it somewhat lessened how ridiculously hungry we were!
Everything looked so good and since there were three of us, we opted to go the sharing route. Everything was great and I wish I could confirm that with photos. However, between it being dark, a rather intimate space (polite word for cramped), and friends I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, the phone stayed in my pocket! We had the beef carpaccio accompanied with sea urchin, corn and mushrooms as well as the fried zucchini blossom, burrata and eggplant which were both terrific! The star to me though was the homemade ravioli stuffed with ricotta and lamb which was rich and creamy. It may have been new to me, but it was certainly worthy of being visited again.
After a late but great dinner and a long day in the car to Montreal, I was in major need of a good sleep! A drive that should have been a manageable 7 hours to Montreal turned into 10+ hours due to a major accident on the highway. I’d like to think I have a pretty comfortable bed at home, but there’s something about a hotel bed with all the pillows! I succumbed to the ever-so-comfy king size bed at Hotel Omni Mont-Royal and awoke refreshed and ready to tackle another day of eating and wedding celebrations in the city. Of course, a fresh fruit platter with a tremendous view of the city helps to get the morning started too!
As we know, the internet brings all sorts of people together. My brunch companion was Janice of the blog Kitchen Heals Soul. I had met Janice a couple of years ago in Montreal and had last seen her at the Food Bloggers of Canada conference in April of this year. She suggested a spot called Lawrence appropriately on Boulevard St-Laurent in a part of the city called “The Plateau.” The English breakfast was recommended and it didn’t disappoint! The order was so heaping, it needed to be in a bowl, rather than a plate to contain it all. The bowl of homemade bacon, blood sausage, roasted potatoes, tomato topped with a runny egg was perfect.
After checking many new places off my list, I needed something familiar! And there is nothing more familiar to me than the hustle and bustle of Schwartz’s and of course the smoked meat! For those that haven’t been, the stories of the crazy line-ups are true. You also better be ready to get to know the person to the left and right of you very well as the bench family-style seating means you’re guaranteed to be setting elbow-to-elbow. It was no different than usual when I got inside, but as I was dining for one, I was able to saddle up to the counter right away. Although I had no one on my right side, my back got bumped by every single person walking by and yet somehow at Schwartz’s I don’t seem to mind!
When it comes to eating at Schwartz’s, I’m predictable. Surprisingly, my go-to wasn’t on the menu board (although I could have sworn it used to be). It’s always been a sandwich consisting of 1/2 smoked meat and 1/2 stuffed chicken, but by 1pm they were out of stuffed chicken! My back-up option was no slouch and I went classic smoked meat sandwich (medium cut), French fries and the iconic black cherry Cott soda. My father explained to me a long time ago, you order the black cherry soda at Schwartz’s because you just have to. It is how incredible how familiar sounds and tastes can bring you back into time, but somehow it does.
Having taken care some serious smoked meat business, it was time to check into the second of my two hotels during my time in Montreal. What I knew about Hotel 10 Montreal was what I had checked out online ahead of time and I was looking forward to it! For starters, when their restaurant Brooke opened, they had DJ Jazzy Jeff as a special guest and spin some tunes. The hotel was chic, funky and perfectly located right on the corner of St. Laurent and Sherbrooke. Next time, I’ll have to make time to eat there too!
Having had my fair share of eating out, I was excited for a home cooked meal during my travels. But I was doubly excited because I was going to experience a #SimpleBitesSundayDinner better known as Sunday Dinner with Aimee of Simple Bites and her family! Each Sunday, Aimee posts a wonderful spread that goes up on her blog, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to have family time and they were kind enough to let me share their special time with them. We enjoyed a Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Roulade roasted in squash squash, served with apple cider gravy and out-of-this-world baked beans.
After dinner, the kids got their homework done and we all went for a walk through the woods. The walk was perfect to enjoy some quiet time, admire the leaves changing colours, work off the turkey and make room for dessert which consisted of warm and fresh apple rhubarb pie! With the our bellies full and the kids in bed, we were able to sit around and catch up. Come to think of it, I don’t think the phones got pulled out once, crazy huh?!
Now feeling comforted with a home-cooked meal and a good night sleep, I was back on my journey and next on my to-eat list in Montreal were hot dogs. They may not have street vendors like they do in Toronto, but an inexpensive “steamie” can always be found and I will take a steamie over a Toronto street dog any day of the week! A steamie is just as it sounds, it comes out of a steamer so the bun is soft and simply melts in your mouth. The traditional way to eat a steamie is “all-dressed” which consists of mustard, chopped onion and coleslaw or freshly chopped raw cabbage. The crunch of the cabbage, the soft texture of the bun and the snap of the hot dog itself makes for a perfect combination. In my experience, you can never have just one, because the first one disappears so quickly!
Now, there is a “steamie” and there is also a “toastie.” As the name implies, the bun is grilled or toasted until crispy. Wanting to have a toastie as well, I decided to tackle two cravings with one spot…enter Orange Julep! And yes, that is a big giant orange that measures three stories high and is as impressive as it looks.
Not to be confused with Orange Julius, the Julep serves toasties with mustard, relish and onions AND is home to the most magical drink ever made. The Orange Julep drink is orange juice, but frothier, creamier, sweeter and more satisfying than you’ve ever experienced. I will say, it’s also pretty expensive at $5.50 or so for my medium cup, but I let it slide since it has been a while!
I had two places left on my itinerary before leaving the city, one was for bagels because there is nothing like a Montreal bagel. I repeat, nothing like it! However, everyone has their favourites and mine are the bagels from St-Viateur Bagels. The warm sweet smell when you enter is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. However, I was so focused on the other part of my mission I completely forgot to stop and pick up a couple dozen bagels. The reason for my horrible oversight was because I had almond croissants on my mind. Janice had told me about a place I had to check out and she knows her croissants, so I did. I headed to Fous Desserts and the croissants lived up to expectations! Like the Orange Julep, I don’t know if I could spend that much every day on a croissant, but I’d like to if I could. But that croissant was coated oh-so perfectly with sweet sliced almonds and the inside was flaky with just the right amount of almond paste that gave it a perfect creamy filling.
Visiting a city where your parents were born, visited often as a child and lived as a university student and adult will always have a familiar feel to it. Yet, Montreal is such a vibrant and incredible city that there is always something new to experience. With its language, history and charm, it truly is the closest thing we have in North America to a European city! And with most of my cravings fulfilled, it was time to say “aurevoir” to Montreal but comforted in the fact that I’ll be back soon.
Thanks to Tourisme Montréal, Hotel Omni Mont-Royal and Hotel 10 Montreal for their hospitality and my accommodations in Montreal. However, the rental car, the gas, the numerous Tim Horton’s 1/2 coffee & 1/2 hot chocolate drinks along the highway and ALL the FOOD you just saw and read about (and were likely jealous) of were courtesy of Ethan (me) and his (my) bank account.