When I was asked by Jackson (click here to like his new Facebook page) to write a post for his blog Ici et Here, which features 52 authors over the course of 52 weeks writing about food and life in Montreal, I was absolutely thrilled to be a part of such an interesting project.
Shortly after my initial excitement, two thoughts came into my head: Montreal? and why me? There is so much so say about Montreal, its food, its diversity, its community, and its lifestyle. What exactly is it that connected me to this city? Why is it that I have chosen to stay, though debating for many years to move to another city?
So, before moving on, I want to say thank you to Ici et Here and FAIT ICI for inviting me to write my story about food and Montreal. I am very excited to share this personal story with you. Like all my other stories, this one also comes with a tasty recipe. I hope you enjoy it!
To read my guest post on Ici et Here, click here: http://www.iciethere.com/kristels-kitchen/
The latest Dishcrawl Montreal event was all about the discovering the Downtown Core. I am not sure if many people would agree with me on this, but I feel that when faced with having to dine in this part of town, the general consensus is that it is lacking great places at a reasonable price. Sure I can recommend the Queue de Cheval, Café Ferreira or Cavalli, but most of us (including me) don’t always want to or have the income to spend upward of $100 per head to eat out on a regular basis, and if I were, I would probably still choose a different neighborhood at that. For the most part, I would rarely choose to eat out in Montreal’s Downtown Core.
However, when I signed up for this Dishcrawl I saw it as the perfect opportunity to discover new places and perhaps even change my opinion of the restaurants in this ‘hood.
And so our evening began at ZenYa, a Japanese restaurant on Ste-Catherine, across the street from the Saint James United Church. It was a great call to put ZenYa on the itinerary. This restaurant is tucked in on the second floor of a building with a narrow entrance and even tinier elevator. Unless you know about it, chances are you wouldn’t find it. I have been to ZenYa on many occasions so this was not a new discovery for me and they certainly lived up to expectations. Their sushi is always impeccable and for this event the chef presented us with a mix fresh and smoked salmon on a crispy roll over a miso glaze, and a generous portion of a tempura and freshwater eel maki. Both delicious with a different spin to a Japanese classic.
Our second stop was at iBurger, which opened up just six weeks ago. I knew that Montreal didn’t have enough burger joints (can you sense the sarcasm?) but I am always on the lookout for a great burger wherever it may me. This place had much more to offer than the typical fare – it offered an i-experience! Yes, you read that correctly: i-experience. Each table has a touch screen that enables each diner to select and order their menu directly. As Dishcrawlers, our food menu was preset but we did have the opportunity to order some i-drinks. Touch screen, browse around, select drink, sit back and relax until the waiter brings it to you. After receiving our drink orders, a description popped-up onto the table screen and we were presented three mini-burgers: an beef Angus classic, a vegetarian burger with a twist, and a salmon burger. My favorite was the vegetarian: it was such a creative take on a classic burger and all the flavours hit the spot nicely. Organic quinoa, shiitake and portobello mushrooms, spinach, goat cheese, all wrapped up in a phyllo pastry. Aside from the veggie-burger there isn’t much to write home about here… but I do think this place deserves another shot. I perused the menu using the nifty table touch-screen and noticed a duck hot-dog. I will be back – because as you know, I always kinda want a hot-dog!
We then proceed towards Decca77 for our third course of the evening. Decca77 has a good standing reputation on the Montreal food scene. It’s been talked about, raved about and more. It was my first time stepping through those large glass doors and I made my way up the staircase surrounding the wine cellar to our table. The dish served was a veal bbq short-rib cooked sous-vide, served with with a foie gras and ice-cider polenta and a mushroom fricassee, and it looked superb! The flavours however were seriously lacking. The veal tasted good with its tangy bbq sauce but the meat should have been tenderer. The polenta was incredibly bland and a shame that foie gras was wasted in there. For me this dish was sub-par for a restaurant with such a notorious reputation. According to the Dishcrawlers I chatted with, Decca77 was a disappointment that evening – but in this case it was an exception, not the rule.
Our final stop for the evening was dessert at Le Newtown. In case you haven’t heard, the Chef of Le Newtown – Martin Juneau – recently earned himself the title of best Canadian chef at the Gold Medal Plates this year held in British Columbia. I’ve never eaten at Le Newtown for the simple reason that I am not a fan of the crowd – too high maintenance all around. Dessert was perfect: a selection of bite-size and excentric flavours. The selection included (counter-clockwise, starting from the bottom) a passion-fruit jelly, a lemon-coconut marshmallow, an apple caramel and chocolate lollipop, a yuzu meringue tart, and a chocolate milk cake with apricot and praline. Each bite was heavenly, especially the marshmallow. It reminded me of my childhood, but with a sophistication I could never have dreamed of for such an iconic treat.
The Dishcrawl experience was just as great as my first time. At the end of the day, my general opinion of restaurants in the Downtown Core hasn’t changed much. However, I will have to swallow my down-to-earth pride, wine-and-dine myself at Le Newtown to see what else Chef Martin Juneau has to offer.
Also on my Downtown to-do list is to digitally order a hot-dog at iBurger.
The next Dishcrawl is Les Nuits Borgia and should be an experience like none-other. For more information click here.
Sadly I have other commitments that night and will have to miss it. You will find me at the vegetarian Dishcrawl on April 26th!
If you’re planning to attend Les Nuits Borgia Dishcrawl and would like to contribute your experience to Kristel’s Kitchen, then please contact me!
Five hungry and slightly tipsy friends could not have made a better decision for a Friday night out. To the Icehouse we went! The Icehouse is a new Texas-style restaurant created by Nick Hodge from Kitchenette.
I could have ordered all items on the Chalkboard menu but we let our charming waiter Alejandro guide us through the process. He gave us fabulous wine, beer and drink suggestions. And came up with this menu for us:
Jalapeño stuffed with crab: the jalapeño remained crunchy and not too spicy too overpower its crab stuffing;
Lobster burrito: phenomenal, you can taste the sweetness of the lobster and other flavours complimented it perfectly;
Tater tots: crispy sweet potato taters – just pop them in your mouth;
Pulled pork tacos: thiŝ portion was a bit small to split amongst 5 people – I really liked it but didn’t get enough of a taste to get into a more thorough explanation;
Crab cakes: somehow you don’t often get crab cakes that taste like crab, but I may have found the exception – these cakes a packed with real crab meat
Bucket of fried chicken: coated in tangy BBQ sauce yet perfectly crispy with tender and juicy meat. Can’t find better fried chicken in this city!
Bucket of dr pepper ribs: the were cooked to perfection – often ribs just fall off the bone when you pick them up when they really shouldn’t, instead the flesh should come of clean when you bite into it and that’s exactly what these ribs were like;
The buckets are served with potato salad and cole slaw, typical sides but a blend of flavours that you would not get anywhere else, as well as the most delectable corn bread and buttermilk biscuits I’ve ever had. The combinations are excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite.
It’s a very casual setting, don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and dig in. I loved digging into the buckets filled with damned hot chicken and ribs. Yes, forks are available but don’t bother asking for plates. As one friend found out – there are none, but you know what? It’s meant for sharing y’all!
The food was incredible to say the least. Nothing complicated here: great ingredients, comfort food, fun ambiance and a talented chef make for a winning combination. I foresee a very bright future for him, his team and this new venture.
Since that Friday, I’ve been hearing about their Lobster Tacos for Habs’ game nights… looks like I will be returning regularly, especially during the hockey playoffs. Now all I need is for the Canadiens to make it to the finals to justify me eating so much fried chicken and lobster buritos…
Oh, did I mention that they played the best music when we were there? They should publish their own iTunes playlist so that I can download it. Yeah, this place rocks.
My first Dishcrawl was all about desserts. Granted I do not have the biggest sweet tooth but I really wanted to try the experience and didn’t want to wait until the next one (there is on average one event per month). The element of surprise here is that the locations are kept secret until the last moment. I did not know where I would be heading that evening until the first location was revealed a day or so prior.
Our evening started off at Patisserie Rhubarbe , a small pastry shop located in Montreal’s Plateau. We were greeted by the lovely Marcella from Dishcrawl who introduced us to the process but didn’t give us any hints as to the evening’s progression. The pastry chef then presented us with the evening’s sampling of desserts. From the top we had the choux with a light chestnut cream that was sublimely delicate, a peanut and caramel tart reminiscent of a gourmet Snickers bars but even more indulgent, and finally a lemon tart unlike any I had ever seen. It’s a given that the desserts were delicious, but it was their original visual and flavour composition that really set this patisserie apart from the many others.
Our second stop was at Byblos Le Petit Café, a restaurant that serves traditional family cuisine from the Middle-East. I had heard of Byblos for its weekend brunch (which I’m planning on tasting soon). This evening we were presented with a wide variety of traditional Iranian desserts. These desserts were for the most part rice based and full of orange blossom, rose water, cardamom and pistachio flavours. I enjoyed a lovely traditional Iranian tea to accompany the desserts. Personally, I’ve never enjoyed rice-pudding type desserts so this was not exactly my cup of tea. However, I did enjoy the floral and exotic flavours, and most importantly the diversity of the location for the overall Dishcrawl experience.
Our final stop of the evening was at PyrusBistronomique, which was recently written up by Lesley Chesterman in the Montreal Gazette. Chef Renaud Poirier presented us with an apple tarte Tatin with salted caramel and cheddar ice cream. Well for me this dish hit the spot! It was a perfect balance of savory and sweet. The sweetness of the apple and caramel was perfectly complimented by the fleur de sel crunch hiding in the caramel and the sharpness of the cheddar ice cream. I was suggested to pair this with a glass of Calvados, but as a whisky fan I opted for a dram of Macallan 12. This dessert really honed in on my more savory palate.
The experience with Dishcrawl was fabulous and I would recommend it to anyone. I loved discovering new places, trying different dishes and meeting new and interesting people. It always amazes me how people connect differently when they are sharing food together, even if it is for the first time.
Next Dishcrawl in Montreal? Discover Montreal’s Downtown Core. To sign-up or find out more about it click here.
Hello, my name is Kristel and I am a chip addict. Truthfully, I never intend to recover from it.
love their salty, light, crunchiness too much to ever give it up. Salt & Vinegar, BBQ, Sour Cream & Onion, Hickory Sticks, even the trendy new flavors such as Thai, Piri-Piri and General Tao that are filling the shelves… I love them all, I don’t discriminate!
However, I only sporadically buy some for the house since I can devour an entire bag of them in one sitting. I am not talking about a snack bag either but the regular sized ones from the grocery store. My addiction is so great that even though I know (and physically feel) they are not good for me, I keep going back for more until there is not a single crumb left.
Didn’t Mae West say that too much of a good thing can be wonderful? So this past holidays season, not only did I get to spend time with family and enjoy lots of yummy food, but I also binged on lots and lots of chips and it was glorious! Four or maybe five bags of chips later, vacation time is over. It is time to get back to reality, and back to me not buying chips. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t deprive myself of them because that would be insanity; it’s simply that they are not part of my regular grocery list and they are a special treat to me once in a while.
After all the holiday treats, laughter and quarrels, it is time to make resolutions for 2011. Many of us make
them, a lot don’t and some of us keep them. I fall in every one of those categories at some point or other. Come on admit it, I’m sure you’ve thought about your own sort of food reform for 2011. I don’t usually make any food resolutions because I believe more in a balanced diet and eating everything you like in moderation (which includes the occasional bag of chips). For 2010, of my select few resolutions I had vowed to eat more vegetarian meals, to curb my meat consumption for better health and a better carbon footprint. I think I succeeded overall.
On a similar tangent, this year I want to learn more about different food properties and perspectives for healthier living. Crudessence, a restaurant based in Montreal and its surrounding areas, offers a variety of vegan and raw foodism services such as catering and an academy that features a wide selection of workshops (including a free introduction!). So after binging on chips, here comes the detox! As such, my resolution for 2011 is to participate in their 30 day detox workshop… I will let you know how that goes.
In the meantime, there are exciting things going on in Montreal this January. First, there is the 4th edition of the Happening Gourmand in Old Montreal. Great deals on Table d’hôte worth checking out but you have to reserve early if you want to eat! Second and also happening in Old Montreal, there is the Wildside Festival at the Centaur Theater. So why not make a dinner and a show date to ring-in the New Year for a second
Lastly, what are your resolutions for 2011?