A few months ago, I celebrated my birthday in Montreal. A must-eat on my list was poutine, a mixture of French fries, cheese and gravy that sounds a bit strange but is extremely delicious. My boyfriend and I enjoyed a couple of plates of poutine at La Banquise the afternoon of my birthday after a day of sightseeing. It was wonderful, and I have wanted to replicate it ever since.

Poutine and beer at La Banquise
Poutine and beer at La Banquise

The poutine at La Banquise was a full meal. We ate it in late afternoon and weren’t hungry the rest of the day. I wanted to find a recipe that was authentic, but hearty enough for a meal. The recipe I found was quite the undertaking; it required that I create the gravy by braising short ribs for three hours. One chilly day in Northern Nevada, I decided it was time to make my own little Montreal happy hour.

Beautiful short ribs... just look at that color!
Beautiful short ribs… just look at that color!

I popped these babies into my oven and let them braise for three hours. A wonderful aroma filled the house, warming up the chilly afternoon.

These beauties are braised.
These beauties are braised.

By the time I pulled my cast iron skillet out of the oven, the ribs were a caramel brown color and glazed with a beautiful sheen. I prepared the gravy, shredded the meat, and got the rest of the ingredients ready.

Anything involving cheese curds is a good time.
Anything involving cheese curds is a good time.

I thought it would be difficult to find cheese curds; surprisingly, it was not (shows what I know). For the fries, I could have gone the homemade route, but I really like the Alexia brand with sea salt. The ingredients on them don’t have anything I can’t pronounce, and it’s a little less work than potatoes.

The gravy mixed with the meat.
The gravy mixed with the meat.

By this point, it was just about happy hour. I gathered the boyfriend and the sister and poured us a couple beers and prepared to chow down.

Awesome, artery-clogging goodness
Awesome, artery-clogging goodness

For me, this recipe yielded about five servings, and it was a full meal. And, yes, it was glorious and worth the three plus hours. It’s great to wash down with a beer. Although we can’t get all of the absolutely awesome Quebecois beers I tried while in Montreal, I recommend Unibroue or Dieu de Ciel for those we can get stateside. Cheers!

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A couple weeks ago, I spent four awesome days in Montreal for my birthday. It was my first time visiting the Quebec city, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Unlike Toronto, which seemed to me like any big city in the U.S. (albeit cleaner and friendlier by far), Montreal felt like a different country. The history of the city was apparent as we walked down the streets, admiring the old buildings and listening to the sounds of Quebecois French in our ears.

Rajan opening his umbrella and stepping into the Montreal rain.
Rajan opening his umbrella and stepping into the Montreal rain.

The food was magnificent. We did not have one bad meal. Montreal is definitely worth the trip for any foodie.

William J. Walter

Apple sausage with all the fixin's
Apple sausage with all the fixin’s

We started off our trip after the train ride from Toronto to Montreal at William J. Walter, a sausage shop recommended by our local hosts. The sausage itself was good, but I should have opted for some sort of sauce on mine. (They offered me mayonnaise. I know that’s a Canadian thing, but that was still a little weird). The sausage was a sweet-yet-savory apple, with pickles, peppers, and sauerkraut. It was a perfect treat after the train ride. Plus, we got a nice tour of the neighborhood.

L’Espace Public

Those of you who know me know I’m a bit of a beer snob (OK, “a bit” is an understatement). Montreal did not disappoint with its wonderful beer selection. Also on recommendation from our awesome hosts, we stopped to sample some beers at L’Espace Public, a small brewery right near the sausage shop.

Back of the bar and the beer list at L'Espace Public.
Back of the bar and the beer list at L’Espace Public.

We sampled five different kinds of beer: a rye, American brown, English bitter, kolsch-style, and a sour. All of them were exemplary. The extremely friendly bartender even took us downstairs for a tour of the fermenting room. It was small, but mighty.

Dieu du Ciel!

After a little bit more sightseeing, my boyfriend, Rajan, and I headed out to Dieu du Ciel!, one of the Montreal meccas for beer geeks. The place was absolutely packed, and we had to hover for a table (yep, even though it was Monday), but as soon as I started sampling beers, I knew it was worth it.

The place was packed, but good.
The place was packed, but good.

We were only mildly hungry after our mid-afternoon sausages and opted to split a charcuterie board filled with Montreal cheeses and a Margarita pizza. Both were delicious, but I was particularly fond of the bleu cheese.

Bleu cheese is yummy.
Bleu cheese is yummy.

We sampled ten different beers at Dieu du Ciel: an American IPA, Witbier, American Imperial Stout, Belgian Dubbel, Berliner weisse, Belgian IPA, saison, American pale ale, porter, and Belgian blonde. They were all super tasty, my favorites being the Solistice d’Ete (berliner weisse with cherries) and the Peche Mortel (a deliciously rich American Imperial porter). Dieu de Ciel (and the other Montreal beers we sampled) did leave me with the impression that the Quebecois just can’t do an IPA like we can.

Beers at Dieu du Ciel!
Beers at Dieu du Ciel!

Dieu du Ciel is a must-visit for any beer geek in Montreal, and the food is good also. You might have to wait a bit, but it’s worth it.

Les Affames Cafe

Our second day in Montreal was my birthday, and it was a grey, wet morning. I had the grand idea to eat poutine for breakfast, but our hosts talked us out of it, and instead recommended we brunch at Les Affames Cafe, a restaurant that is off the beaten path and probably doesn’t get a lot of tourists. I was extremely happy with my meal, and would steer anyone visiting Montreal to catch a bus to Les Affames.

Birthday brunch: blood sausage with a virgin orange blended drink
Birthday brunch: blood sausage with a virgin orange blended drink

I wanted to try something a little different and chose the blood sausage with pouched eggs and an orange blended drink that reminded me of an Orange Julius. The blood sausage came out square-shaped, crisped up on the outside, but warm and sausage-textured on the inside. Yes, blood sausage does have blood in it. No, it did not taste like when you cut your finger and you stick it in your mouth to stop the bleeding. The taste is very rich. The pouched eggs were perfect, with the yolk bursting out into the salad. It was an awesome first birthday meal.

Rajan went with our waiter’s suggestion and ordered the MonteCristo, a hammy delight. For dessert, the restaurant brought out a complimentary mango tart that was one of the best desserts I have ever tasted.

Mango tart for my birthday
Mango tart for my birthday

It was creamy with balanced flavors of sweet and tart. In short, it was heavenly.

La Banquise

 We couldn’t possibly stop in Montreal without trying the dish that was perfected there: poutine. After a day of sightseeing, our stomachs were rumbling for something substantial.

In my research for the perfect poutine, over and over again, La Banquise kept popping up. The small restaurant, which is open 24 hours and apparently has the most traffic overnight, when drunken revelers are looking for something to soak up the alcohol. A sign at the door warns patrons to pay before eating when visiting after midnight to keep table availability flowing. We, however, visited late afternoon and found a table with no issue.

Poutine and beer
Poutine and beer

La Banquise has more than 30 types of poutine. Of course, we had to go for the original: fries, gravy, and cheese curds. We also ordered La Miam, poutine with ground beef, merguez, onions, tomato, and Swiss cheese. Rajan was not as set as I was on making sure that we had poutine before we left Montreal, but as soon as he put a bite of potato-cheesy-gravy goodness in his mouth, he proclaimed, “Damn, that’s good.”

I really enjoyed the original, and although La Miam was also good, I would have been OK with just splitting a large original (yes, those are smalls in the photo). It just didn’t have the punch that the original had.

Make no mistake: poutine is not to be missed.

Jardin Nelson

 The next day, we explored Old Montreal and once again asked our hosts for suggestions. They directed us to Jardin Nelson. The rain was pouring down even harder than the day before, but we walked from the train station to the restaurant, and seated ourselves outside after the rain died down.

Rajan is very happy about his cheese crepe.
Rajan is very happy about his cheese crepe.

The restaurant had light jazz music playing, and English was spoken all around us. It was certainly a place for tourists, but the food was still tasty.

We each ordered a different crepe. I got the Florentine, a ham and brie concoction, and he ordered a chicken and broccoli crepe. I noticed a number of flyers advertising live jazz at night; I would have liked to have seen that.

My florentine crepe
My florentine crepe

Jean Talon Market

The biggest market of its kind, Jean-Talon Market, is in Montreal, and, boy, was it a sight to see. If I lived near that place, you can bet I would happily hop into my car or on the subway to pick up fresh produce, cheese, meats, and anything else my little culinary heart desired. It was very large and had so much to offer, even on a weekday.

Customers shop for culinary delights at Jean-Talon Market
Customers shop for culinary delights at Jean-Talon Market

We were still pretty full of cheese and carbs, but we browsed around the market, taking in everything there was. Anything and more you would want from the average grocery store was on sale at the market, to a much more colorful effect. We ended up eating an empanada, egg roll, and a chocolate and cheese cake.

Fenetre sur Kaboul

While walking to La Banquise the day before, Rajan spotted a Afghan restaurant and immediately googled it, intrigued by the menu. The restaurant was Fenetre sur Kaboul, and it’s where we ate our final dinner in Montreal.

Having never experienced Afghan food before, we left it up to the waiter to pick what he thought we would like the best. We were not disappointed.

Organic bread with sauce
Organic bread with sauce

First was an organic bread with sauce. The waiter warned us when he put it down that it was “quite spicy,” but Rajan and I immediately dug in. One thing that we both took away from the trip is that we were sorely lacking in spice. We immediately when straight for the hot stuff.

Ashak (Afghan ravioli)
Ashak (Afghan ravioli)

Next was ashak, what the waiter described as “Afghan ravioli.” It was a mixture of meat and spices, both stuffed inside and on top of a noodle pocket. It was delicious.

Qubuli palow seasoned lamb
Qubuli palow seasoned lamb

For the entrees, the waiter brought out Qubuli Palow seasoned lamb, a rice and lamb dish, and the Kaboul kebob, a mixture of three different meats (lamb, beef, and chicken) all seasoned differently.

Kaboul Kabob
Kaboul Kabob

Rajan told the waiter about my blog and hinted at wanting the recipe for the kabobs. He responded, “I live with my sister, who is the chef, and she won’t even give ME the recipe. Maybe she will give it to you.” Oh, well! I’ll just have to rely on a dear reader or the Internet!

Le Saint-Bock

Backlit bar at Le Saint-Bock
Backlit bar at Le Saint-Bock

We ended our final night in Montreal with a beer tasting at Le Saint-Bock. Yet another brewery in Montreal with beers you can’t buy anywhere else, we sampled an array of brews, including a red ale, cream ale, brett porter, an imperial stout, a regular porter, a gose, a gose with tequila, and the best milk stout I have tasted in my entire life, the Double Malediction. Not a bad way to end a night!

Montreal was a truly wonderful city to visit. Don’t discredit it as a strange place to go, and definitely spend more than a couple days enjoying the city. We could have easily filled an entire week with things to do (and eat!).

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I just got back from a sibling/cousin reunion with my boyfriend Rajan’s family and my birthday (I won’t disclose what year I’m on) trip to Canada. We visited Toronto and Montreal on this trip, and I ate very well (and I’ve got the extra pounds to prove it). I wanted to share the highlights of where I ate. At first, I was just going to write one blog post, but decided to break it up by city because of the sheer number of places and cuisines I ate. Both cities proved to be excellent culinary destinations.

Lisa Marie

The whole party at Lisa Marie in Toronto
The whole party at Lisa Marie in Toronto

My boyfriend’s sister and brother-in-law, Karla and Saugar, live in Toronto, and Karla absolutely adores brunch. She wanted to make sure our seven-person party could enjoy brunch on a Saturday morning, which I am told is no easy feat. Lisa Marie by hip restauranteurs Fidel Gastro was one of the only choices that allowed reservations for brunch.

Bacon Explosion Benedict. I opted to pull it off the brioche bun because it was just a little too bread-y.
Bacon Explosion Benedict. I opted to pull it off the brioche bun because it was just a little too bread-y.
Last Call - cold brewed coffee and Kalua
Last Call – cold brewed coffee and Kahlua

Lisa Marie features an Elvis theme, and the name derives from his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. The portions were huge. I ate the Bacon Explosion Benedict with a side of Pad Thai Fries (absolutely delicious), and my boyfriend had the Naptime Special with duck fat fries. Because we were all celebrating, I also ordered the Last Call – cold brewed coffee with Kahlua.

Tibet Cafe

Chicken Momos
Chicken Momos

My boyfriend’s family is Nepali, and, as such, Nepal will likely make a frequent appearance on this blog. After brunch and a visit to the Distillery District, we were off to Kensington Market for some shopping and people-watching. Kensington Market is also home to several Tibetan restaurants. Momos, a type of dumpling filled with veggies, meat, or a mixture, are a beloved dish in both Tibet and Nepal (don’t worry… that recipe is for sure coming up!). Karla and Saugar took us to their favorite momo place on Kensington Street, Tibet Cafe, for an afternoon snack.

IMG_7205
Beef momos

We enjoyed chicken momos and beef momos. Both were absolutely delicious. Just looking at the photos is making me hungry again and wishing we had someplace in Northern Nevada for quick momos.

Lamesa

Getting ready to eat the glorious feast. Our tummies were rumbling at this point just smelling the food.

Lamesa was far and away our favorite restaurant of our Canada trip. Karla and Saugar treated us to a kamayan dinner at a Filipino restaurant the last night of the reunion in Toronto. Kamayan means hand-to-mouth, and the entire meal was served on a bed of banana leaves, family style, with no utensils. Because of the number of items in the table, rather than listing, I’ll just have to put up a photo of the menu.

IMG_7223

It was a lot of glorious food. My boyfriend and his siblings are half-Filipino, and they grew up with their mom cooking a lot of the dishes on the table (don’t worry — those are coming too). We have not encountered a lot of gourmet Filipino restaurants (I would hazard a guess that I have never encountered one), but this one was truly amazing. I find Filipino food to be pretty accessible to even picky eaters, so if you are in Toronto, you should stop in Lamesa.

Before
Before
After
After

The true beauty of the presentation of the food was the plating itself. Two servers expertly placed each dish on the table. The whole thing took several minutes, but I have included a sped-up video for you, which compresses the entire event into about 30 seconds.

Kamayan Dinner Plating

The dinner is by far on my top five dining experiences in my lifetime.

Waterfront Night Market

Longanisa
Longanisa
Stinky tofu; I was the only one who liked this.
Stinky tofu; I was the only one who liked this.
Lobster roll
Lobster roll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to even begin with our night of gluttony? After a mid-week trip to Montreal, Rajan and I returned to Toronto for a day before heading back home. Karla suggested we visit the Waterfront Night Market, an annual event that celebrates all foods Asian. We bought several items for sharing. We had grilled squid; grilled conch; lobster roll; tornado potato; longanisa on a stick (Filipino sausage); lumpia (Filipino egg rolls); octopus balls (ground up octopus… not what you’re thinking!); fried squid; karage chicken (Japanese fried chicken); cannoli (I know, it’s Italian); fried ramen with shrimp (on a stick…); lychee jelly and melon tea; shaved ice with yams and taro; and everyone’s favorite scent of the night…. stinky tofu!

 

 

Potato Tornado
Potato Tornado
Grilled Conch
Grilled Conch
Gushi chicken (karage)
Karage Chicken

As soon as we walked into the fair, we were immediately hit with a rancid, fermented smell. As one man yelling in front of the booth put it, “It smells like my ex-girlfriend!” That putrid smell was stinky tofu, a fermented and fried tofu dish with a heavy odor that completely permeated the fair. I mustered up the courage to buy it and take a bite. Saugar and Karla would good sports and took a bite, but after Rajan saw the disgusted look on his sister’s face, he didn’t dare touch it. I liked it, but I will add that it’s not something I would order as a main dish. The best description I can give is that it tasted fermented. My coworker from China tells me it’s a dish you can only love if you’ve grown up with it.

All four of us agreed that the highlight of the night was the lobster roll. It may not have been the most authentically Asian dish we had at the fair, but it was the most delicious.

Guys grillin' up some conch.
Guys grillin’ up some conch.

This was a really awesome event, and, despite the crowd, we did not have to wait very long for any of the MANY dishes we sampled. I really had a lot of fun for this event. (Yes, Karla, you can again tell Saugar that you were totally right… this was totally worth braving the crowds!!!).

Duff’s Famous Wings in Buffalo

This one is just a little bit of a cheat. Because of how awesome Southwest Airline’s frequent flyer program is, Rajan and I flew in and out of Buffalo, NY for our flight. We drove back to Buffalo and had just enough time to sample the awesome chicken wings Buffalo is known for inventing (I’ve been told by a Buffaloite that they should not be called buffalo wings).

Delicious chicken wings
Delicious chicken wings

We waited about ten minutes for a table, smelling the delicious goodness as waiters walked by carrying plates of hot wings. Even though I love spice and can handle my hot sauce pretty spicy for a mostly white girl, I opted for medium after heeding the warning of “Medium means hot, hot means very hot…” plastered around the restaurant. In hindsight, I would have opted to at least go up to hot. I definitely could have handled it. However, I understand the warnings for those who don’t have the tolerance that I do.

Another warning I received was by no means to ask for ranch dressing. Being from the West Coast, this was a little difficult. But, I managed to only eat it with blue cheese.

Beef on weck
Beef on weck

Rajan, who has spent some time in northern New York state, told me that true Buffaloites will appreciate a good beef on weck. I ordered it not really knowing what “weck” was. It turns out, this is a roast beef sandwich on weck bread– that is, salty bread topped with caraway seeds. The weck on this sandwich was particularly delicious. I’m glad I got to sample this as well.

Overall, I had a great time sampling the food in Toronto. The meals are definitely not something I will forget for quite some time.

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