Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Best of Montreal

 If I disregard the 3 pounds that I've gained over the past 3 days, The trip could be considered perfect. Thanks to the great people ( Chris, Kevin, and Kate), great food, and a great agenda. We arrived around 4:30 pm on Friday and settled in our room in Hotel Omni. It used to be a Four Seasons, so although a little outdated, it was clean and comfy. There was a bidet in our washroom, which we all found extremely interesting. I guess we are in a French city after all. 

I've heard a LOT about the Schwartz's Deli and it seemed like the place to visit in Montreal, so we made it our first dinner spot. It was a 30 minute walk from our hotel, heading East on Sherbrooke, then turn left on Saint- Laurent and walk straight until you see it. How can you tell that you're at the right place? Well, there would be a line up out the door, and you will be overwhelmed by its heavenly smell. You know the food will be good if you can smell it from across the street. We were lucky because a huge group of people had just came out of the restaurant as we arrived and we didn't need to wait long.
Aside from the smoked meat, they are also known for their pickles. I expected it to be a sweet pickle, but it was sour and I thought it tasted like a regular pickle, but bigger. The smoked beef sandwich was a great hit though. There are two cuts of meat: lean which was probably 80-20, and fat which was 50-50. You can order your sandwich lean, med, or fat, and medium is just a combination of the 2. I must admit, I considered getting the lean version then decided against it. I was only going to be in Montreal for 3 days so I might as well go all out. I've never made a better choice because the best part was the fat. 

Sharing a pickle!
line at Schwartz

The famous sandwich

They must be credited for getting the smoked beef to that perfect tenderness.It's easy with pork but rarely do you see beef in that fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth state. I got a lean piece in my first bite and my immediate thought was "this isn't as good as I anticipated". Then I got a nice, juicy, fatty piece, and I melted a little inside. The sandwich is simple: smoked beef between 2 pieces of bread served with a little bit of mustard. A sandwich is $6.15. I totally should have ordered a pound of meat and a loaf of bread. It costs 15 bucks but it will be the equivalent of 4 sandwiches. 

There was a Santa parade the next day so we got a table at a crepe place that over looked St-Catherin street where the parade was going through. Kate and Kevin had sweet crepes while Chris and I shared a savory one. I also got myself a Cafe au Lait, oh how I miss Europe.
Nutella and banana crepe

Swiss cheese and chicken crepe

We walked down St-Catherin after the parade was over, finally arriving at the old town. It definitely had a different vibe to it than that of downtown Montreal, and I would say I liked downtown better. We visited the  Notre-Dame, walked along the Old Port, and through China Town. Quite a bit of exercise for 3 hours but a lot of food to balance it out.

We gave ourselves a nice little break by taking a nap. It was really hard to wake up but we really wanted to see the night scene from Mont-Royal. We went up from the South side of the mountain and it was a straight 20 minutes of stair climbing. I thought I could handle it, but after 3/4 of the way up, I was out of breath. We went down from the East side so we could end up on St-Laurent and find a place to eat there. It was less steep but a much longer walk.
From the top of the mountain, so worth it.

Check out was at 12:00pm, but we were so tired from the previous day's walking that we dropped off the keys at 12, then got back in bed. We didn't leave the room until almost 1PM, thank god the room service lady didn't show up. We went to Nickel's Restaurant for Brunch and apparently it's the creation of Celine Dion in 1990. The food was surprisingly good for a diner, but I'm not sure if it was good enough to be associated with a celebrity. There's my philly cheese steak poutine, yummy yummy!!

Another great find was the Montreal bagels. I've heard a lot about them but didn't take it to heart since I was never a big fan of bagels. The place we went to was Fairmount Bagel Bakery on Avenue Fairmount between Saint-Urbain and Saint-Laurent. It's a small store to begin with, and 3/4 of it is taken up by the kitchen. The line up is out the door and there's barely space to open and close the door. There are two gigantic ovens in the kitchen, 1 dough station, and several flavoring stations. They pump out those bagels fast
huge piece of dough
The kitchen at Fairmount Bagel

There are so many flavours you can choose from: sesame, cumin, garlic, onion, all dressed, muesli, multi grain, ect. Kevin and Kate each got a dozen, while I only bought 4 different flavours to experiment. I wish I had bought more because these are delicious! They are bagels but so sweet that it's halfway between a regular bagel and a donut. 

I had them for breakfast this morning and made a caramelized onion cream cheese spread. So good!

4 oz of room temperature cream cheese
1 onion
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper

Dice the onion very finely and saute on low in the oil and butter. Stir once in a while baking sure that they don't burn. It's okay if they turn  brown, they are supposed to be that way. Pour everything into the cream cheese and stir vigorously until combined. Taste for seasoning. You can use this on bagel or toast, up to you.

That was mostly what we did in Montreal minus the bars and Chuck Hughes' restaurant: Garde Manger. I'll save that for a different post because Garde Manger most definitely deserves a space of its own on my blog!


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  3. I was at the same crepe place in st catherine! gotta catch up during christmas and you can bake me food :D:D

  4. Yea! we need to catch up! I'm going straight back to vancouver tho. I'll be in toronto almost all next week mon-thurs, if you have time?

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