Monday, July 4, 2005

Nostalgic Canada Day Trip to Montreal

We drove to Montreal for the Canada Day long weekend for a nostalgic visit to my roots and stayed with two of my favourite cousins. Even though we’ve been living in Toronto for 15 years (it’s been a few years since I stopped calling the subway the metro or a convenience store a depaneur), I still need a Montreal fix at least a couple of times a year.

Once we got through the hellish traffic of what seemed like every Torontonian trying to escape the city and its heat (it took one and a half hours just to get past the burbs), the rest of the drive was smooth sailing. We listened to our favourite tunes, chatted and planned the food stops we’d need to hit while in Montreal. As usual, I looked for interesting animals in the fields and woods. There was nothing but cows unless you count the llama farm that was across the road from the truck stop where we ate our very Canadian lunch – BLT for me and grilled cheese and bacon for him.

I thought I’d share some of the food highlights. Please take into account that each one is a snapshot of some wonderful times gone by and never really was crammed into any one weekend - I swear!!!

Friday night supper was a recreation of a typical Saturday evening with our cousins. When we lived in Montreal, we’d get together with them at least once a month at their place for take out and a video.

The ritual:
1) Put out every take out menu in the house; decide between Greek, Italian, Chinese or “Canadian" (you know, chicken, burgers, ribs, wings, etc.). – 9 times out of 10 we’d go Chinese and since we’ve moved to Toronto, it’s the only option!

2) Decide on which restaurant has the best combos – Yangtze Restaurant usually won because they have the best egg rolls – check out this review

3) Once dinner is decided and the order called in for pick-up, we head over to the local video store to choose the evening’s entertainment and then get dinner.

4) Back to the house, settle in with food containers spread out and pop in the film. We’re never done until we’re so stuffed that we can hardly move.

Back to the egg rolls for a second….remember my post about Toronto Vs Montreal bagels? Well, IMHO, Montreal egg rolls are the real deal… now I’ve never been to China or San Francisco and didn’t eat any in New York or Vancouver, and yes, I know that each of you, in whatever city you live in feel the same…but you’re wrong!!!! Montreal egg rolls, Yangtze, in particular, have really dense fillings and are deep fried in crispy wrappers. It was a shock to my system when we moved to Toronto – I can’t even begin to describe the differences, so I eat spring rolls or dumplings in Toronto and egg rolls in Montreal.

Saturday morning, breakfast at Beauty’s which was established in 1942 in what was a predominantly Jewish district at the time, on Plateau Mont Royal for French toast, made with challah, and bacon (maple syrup, naturally) for him and bagel, lox and cream cheese with slices of tomatoes and red onion. Mmmmmmmh… Montreal bagels – delicious. The service was great and the waitress, very sweet and friendly.

Then we wandered around St Larent and St Denis streets, the French hip area with lots of wonderful restaurants, clubs and cool shops. It sort of reminds me of a cross between Yorkville and Queen W in Toronto but with a very different feel. Toronto has a frenetic energy while Montreal is more laid back. The architecture in the east end of the city is fabulous – row houses that are triplexes (3 flats on top of each other with wrought iron circular stairs and balconies leading to the front door of each flat. This is the best picture I could find and it doesn't really begin to show them off. I don’t know why it’s so hard to find a photo. The stairways are so unique!! But I digress….so back to food.

Lunch at Thursday’s on Crescent Street – the anglo version of St Denis. We sat on the balcony patio overlooking the street and people watching. I had salade Nicoise and he had croquet Monsieur. They had fabulous baguettes that we could not get enough of. It was too hot to stay for crème caramel for dessert so we took a short trip to the Museum of Fine Arts and saw the Edwin Holgate exhibit which was lovely.

Time to head back to my uncle’s apartment where we’re going to have supper with more cousins. The menu: some of my favourites from Snowdon Deli – smoked meat sandwiches on rye bread so fresh it’s almost sticky when you bite into it, the meat juicy and cut thick so you really can taste it; party sandwiches – the best are the rolled ones with cream cheese, lox and a sweet pickle piece in the center (everyone fights over them); French fries, and, naturally, for dessert number one – mun cookies (pronounced somewhere between moon and mun) baked very thin and crispy. They’re just a sugar cookie base with poppy seeds, but no one else makes them as thin. I’d have taken a picture – but they didn’t last long enough for me to get the camera!!!

Dessert number two – a walk on Monkland in NDG topped off with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I had butter pecan and don’t even remember what anyone else had.

We decided to leave early Sunday to avoid the traffic later in the day of the rest of the hords of Torontonians trying to take in every last vacation moment before heading home. Of course we couldn’t leave town without bagels ( half were gone before we made it home) and karnatzel - like skinny pepperoni but different (none of those made it back to Toronto).

Some missed food opportunities:
Orange Julep hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and their famous drink.

Croissants & pain chocolat – like bagels and egg rolls – there’s nothing like the Montreal versions. My favourite bakery is Patisserie Belge on Parc Avenue

Moule frites (Mussels & fries) on St Denis

Picasso’s for a pig out, heart stopping cholesterol laden breakfast

Don’t get me wrong – I love living in Toronto – I love the energy, the many ethnic communities that are like little cities in themselves - Spadina Chinatown, Little Italy on College, Greektown on the Danforth, Queen West of University all the way to Ronscesvales and up- just to name a few. I love the street vendors with choices of hot dogs and sausages, and everywhere you go foods from around the world. I am glad, though, that Montreal is not that far away. Think I'll go have the last of the bagels now.


sharron said...

you sure can make a girl hungry. did you bring back any bagels for me mum?

Ruth said...

The sad thing about Montreal bagels is that they are really best when eaten right out of the oven. The texture is wonderful.

So, yes I still have some bagels, and I'll put them in the freezer, but it's not the same thing, is it?