Monday, December 26, 2005

Train Ride Home and Better Food

Well, our visit to Montreal was very short. We didn't get to do most of the things we usually do when going "home". We've lived in Toronto for the past 14 years and, for the most part, it really is our home. But we do miss friends and family and try to see everyone whenever we go back to Montreal. This time was waaaaaaay to cold to venture out much. So we basically hung out at our favorite hotel (Maison Cohen) and ordered in Chinese food so I could get a fix of my favorite egg rolls. No desire to do our usual nostalgic sight-seeing (all the places we've lived, loved, laughed and, most importantly, eaten), but here are two truths we discovered in our venture out to do lunch with my honey's old friend before heading back to Toronto....

1. Montreal fast food courts dramatically outshine any I've seen in Toronto. The variety of vendors goes way beyond those typically found in malls here - even places like Cultures, that we have in many a Toronto food court has fresher looking dishes and more selections. There seem to be more focus on healthy sandwiches, salads and hot mains; less focus on grease and don't get me started on bread options.

2. Central Station in Montreal makes her sister station in Toronto look much poorer, drabber and less sophisticated. For example, there were little, if any holiday decorations in Toronto while the Montreal station was decked out in gold lights and magenta ribbons. While, conceptually, I understand the politically correct attempt to equalize religions, given our multi-culturally diverse Canadian population, I think we're throwing out the baby with the bath water. And why can't we just appreciate the holidays of others, finding joy in how they celebrate, without taking offence or feeling slighted? Personally, I'm proud to be Jewish and wouldn't want to be anything else, but some of my favorite memories (new and old) include helping friends prepare for and celebrate their holidays. But, as is my way - I digress and will now get off my soap box.

And back to Central Station...we brought our own snacks for our trip to Montreal, in large part because the options at the Toronto station were - MacDonalds, Subway and a convenience store that sold bland looking sandwiches made on either white or whole wheat sliced bread with minimal (and bland) filling options. The station in Montreal, on the other hand, had at least 15 restaurants to choose from, including one that was more like a market than a restaurant (in fact it was solely set up for take out) and at least 3 shops that sold cheeses (the kind we only find at specialty shops in Toronto), cold meats ( and this includes a wide variety of pates) and of course, my favorite Montreal staple - delicious breads and desserts. Here's the view of one such shop. Fortunately, I got to take these photos before someone told me I couldn't take any. Unfortunately, you'll have to go there yourself to see the wall of baguettes and another wall of many different bread options that made my choice impossible.

Sorry about the flash and the line from the case. It was hard to get through the crowd to take the shots - at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it! Each bite sized pastry is a work of art.

Yule logs are called Buche de Noel in Montreal and each one is more beautiful than the next, don't you think?

We ended up having tuna salad sandwiches (that sounds ordinary, but trust me, they were delicious. Chopped red pepper and romaine lettuce gave it the crunch factor - no wilty lettuce and soggy buns here, everything was made fresh. I had mine on a black olive bun and my honey had his on a wonderful poppy seed egg bun. Dessert, naturally was pain chocolat ( I admit - we each had one while we waited for the train and another during the trip home.)

I mentioned in my earlier post that the scenery on the trip to Montreal was bleak and grey, but the trip itself was really relaxing. I wish I could say the same for the trip home. Besides the crying babies (there were several), the most annoying trainman who kept giving us very loud, barky messages (it seemed like it was every 5 minutes), and the teenagers sitting beside us (she of the piercing nasal voice, read him the contents of her cell phone), this train did not gently rock us as you can tell from these photos, it almost loosened fillings!!!

See what I mean?

Well, we're back home and who'd have thought it, but appreciating the weather!
Wishing you all the very best of the season - good food, good friends, good times.

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Kalyn said...

Very interesting. I haven't been to Montreal or Toronto but I would love to visit either one some day.

Ruth said...

Kalyn, both cities have their charm. Toronto is much more multi-cultural - so foods from many lands. Montreal is very European in architecture and very French in food. Of course, my Italian, Greek and Jewish friends from Montreal will be upset with me if I don't mention them as well.

I've only been to Salt Lake City once, and then on business, so I mostly ate hotel food. Obviously, I have to return and really visit.

alley cat said...

Hi Ruth. I love your blog. A fellow foodie. Isnt it so much fun! I'm in Australia and would love to visit Montreal some day. Do you have any great Jewish Food recipes?

paz said...

Haven't been to either place,like Kalyn. One day. Glad you're back home safely after a nice trip. Thanks for sharing.

Wishing you the best of the season, too,


joey said...

Nice to hear about your trip! I haven't actually been to Canada at all...but i'd love to see it one day :) Hope you had a great holiday season...well, it's not over yet with New Year's just around the corner ;)

Ruth said...

Alley Cat, thanks for dropping by and you can check out my Recipes link to find some Jewish dishes like chicken soup with matzah balls and other goodies I made for Rosh Hashona etc.

Paz & Joey - let me know when you're ready for a visit, I'll gladly play tour guide.

Everyone - I wish you the best ever for 2006

Joe said...

Hi Ruth!

I've been catching up on your trip! How fun! We have talked about going up that way someday... I would love to visit both places.

Happy New Year!

stef said...

wow, those buche de noel look so scrumptious. makes me want to have Christmas again!

Ruth said...

Joe, I'd love to be your tour guide when/if you get to this part of Canada.

Stef, whenever I think of Montreal, the pastries are definitely high on the list and Christmastime really shines.