Saturday, May 31, 2008

Yummy Montreal

Pizza from one of the Cafes

A view down Ste-Laurent

Bonjour. So a few weeks ago, I found out I was going to Montreal. You could fit on a pinhead what I knew of Montreal. It’s up north. It’s cold. They speak French. And they don’t like Americans. OK, so 3 of the 4 are true (but they don’t seem horribly fond of non Quebec Canadians –go figure). I could have gone a lifetime without visiting this city and not have realized what a hip and trendy little town this is. There are so many little known facts about this city. For example, settled by the French in the 1500’s this area was one of the 1st European occupied places in North America. It was Canada’s largest economic center for years and the main industry was fur trading (reminding me of the little bad guy from Buggs Bunny cartoons, Blacque Jacque Shellacque). Now eclipsed by Toronto, Montreal is a Mecca of European culture with fashion, the arts, shopping and restaurants for every taste and budget.

I saw this on the wall of a building and I knew I was in the right place for me

Any trip to Montreal is incomplete without spending some serious time on Boulevard Saint-Laurent. My hotel was located in the heart of this trendy little area, walking distance from both my work and serious food and night life. My colleagues and I ate, drank and strolled this street for 5 days and 4 nights. Aside form it being still a bit too cool for me, it was unbelievable. From drinks in the sidewalk cafés after work to fabulous meals for both lunch and dinner, I felt like I was walking in the streets of Paris passing the young and beautiful residents casually enjoying the spring afternoons.

Buonanotte is a well known Italian restaurant cum night club. Alex and I had been perusing the menus of the restaurants as we walked down Ste-Laurent. Already we had enjoyed a couple of meals in the district. What caught my eye initially about this place was something that always wins my heart on a menu, pasta made fresh in-house. I was so there. In we went.

My martini at Buonanotte
We sipped a couple of cocktails and enjoyed the people watching. What a menu. I had a significantly difficult time deciding on what to eat. For an appetizer, I ordered a pot of mussels in a tomato and white wine sauce. What stood out was how plump and meaty these were. The wine and garlic infusion with each mussel was exceptional. For an entrée, I chose the lasagna with veal ragu, taleggio cheese and black truffle sauce. Thinking of a lasagna brings a heavy and hearty dish to mind, one that leaves you wanting to unbutton your jeans. Not this. It looked just like a lasagna but it was exceptionally light in nature. The freshness of the pasta shined through the earthy truffle sauce. The veal ragu could have easily been made to be a heavy flavor in this dish but instead in perfectly complimented the lightness of the pasta and delicate telaggio cheese.

If this could have been made more perfect, I’d love to taste that. Leaving the restaurant feeling energized, we headed down to our hotel. The bar there is a well known night spot as well and another great place to people watch. Before turning in, Alex and I chatted and had a couple of cocktails. Great night all around.

Another culinary bright spot that is quintessential Montreal (or Quebec depending on who you ask) is Poutine. Pictured below, Poutine is a fantastic dish that starts with French Fries then topped with cheese or curds and brown gravy. Caroline, my French speaking co-worker and native Montreal-ite, introduced us to this delicious treat at an upscale burger joint during lunch. Apparently Poutine can be made in many different styles. The variations basically amount to different cheese types. The cheese curds served on our Poutine was a bit upscale, so Caroline said. What I liked about them was that the fries were perfectly cut and cooked. I like smaller cut fries. Not that I’m against the British style chip but I prefer the more delicate cut. That’s how these were. The curds added a decadent flavor that was capped perfectly by the savory rich gravy.


So the two things that really shined through from this trip were the hip area we stayed and the euro-chic town itself. I’m headed back to Montreal in a few weeks to finish the job I started and I’m now excited about it.

I’m planning on doing a bit of kitchen experimenting sometime this weekend so hopefully I’ll have a new recipe to put up soon. Until then-

Au revoir.

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