Montreal, Days Three and Four

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Our time in Montreal was already half over, so we spent our third morning making a difficult decision: Fairmount (bagels) or Schwartz’s (smoked meat sandwiches)? Our practical side won over our gluttonous side, so we headed over to the Plateau-Mount-Royal neighborhood in search of these famed bagels, among Montreal’s best.

Fairmount Bagel

I hate to say it, but I’m not sure what the fuss is all about. Did we order incorrectly? Did we go on an off day? Our bagels tasted fine, but they were cold and I wasn’t sure what made them famous. Still, I’d happily go back and order again, this time getting them warm.

Bellies full of cold bagel, we headed to Marche Jean-Talon, the farmers market I’d been so excited to visit. This market is huge, and includes over 300 vendors during the summer months. But even during the cold Canadian winter Marche Jean-Talon was bustling full of stalls selling everything from honey to mushrooms to sausages to pastries.

Marche Jean-Talon

I stopped at Epices de Cru, a beautiful spice market full of hard-to-find spices and picked up a few packets of Iranian saffron for a fraction of what they’d cost in the States. Over at The de Cru, a tea shop owned by the sister of the guy who runs Epices de Cru, I bought a few tins of tea. The owner let us try a few samples and heralded stories of her favorite blend, a silk road chai inspired by her time spent in western China.

Romainian sausage

Meat is big in Quebec, and this market was no exception. For lunch, we feasted on a Romanian sausage sandwich, heaped with sauerkraut and grainy mustard. Delicious.

We spent the rest of the evening exploring downtown Montreal and I happily discovered The Bay. Who knew Canadian shopping was so good?

For dinner, we headed to the infamous Au Pied de Cochon, a bastion of excess, offal, maple syrup and beloved by none other than Anthony Bourdain. Dinner there was exactly what I expected it to be: loud, inebriated, and full of heart. The chefs in the open kitchen were probably drunk, the diners most likely on their third or fourth drink, and our waiter — well, he was red in the face and stumbling with such grace that I was amazed he hadn’t yet dropped anything. “What do you recommend on the menu?” I asked him. “Menu? Eez good. Eez all good oui?”

Tarragon bison tongue

Oui indeed. We started with the tarragon bison tongue. So tender and succulent, and surprisingly not gamey at all. A rich herb-inflected sauce left me wanting more.

Poutine temaki

We also shared a dish of poutine temaki, which was well, amazeballs. Poutine plus crab sushi. Genius. Need I say more?

Eel-wrapped foie gras

Nishan had the eel-wrapped foie gras and if that isn’t excess, I don’t know what is. I’m not the biggest fois gras fan, but the eel was crispy and the gravy-soaked onions served alongside the meat were drool-inducing.

PDC's melting pot

Surprisingly, my least favorite dish of the evening was my entree. I ordered a dish mysteriously named PDC’s melting pot and well, let’s say Mr. Drunk Waiter didn’t explain the dish so well. “Eez good!” Let’s see. I had a classic sausage, a blood sausage, a pork belly, more pork, all sitting atop a bed of cheese and mashed potatoes. The sausage and potatoes were fine but I steered clear of the pork and oh man, they should really just rename this dish PDC’s clogged arteries. Despite the entree, Au Pied de Cochon was my favorite meal in Montreal (along with the poutine, of course).

We woke up the next morning in a meat-induced stupor and went easy on lunch, opting for a salad before spending the day leisurely exploring the Latin Quarter. By evening, we made our way back to Old Montreal and had dinner at Da Emma, a former women’s prison turned Italian restaurant.

Da Emma

Burrata, basil, and prosciutto

We started with what we thought would be a light appetizer of burrata, basil, and prosciutto with tomatoes. I kept forgetting that Quebecers don’t play when it comes to meat and cheese. Our serving was huge and I was full before our appetizer was finished. Which was a shame, since my veal ravioli entree was delicious. Four pieces in though and I was done for the evening.

We woke up early the next morning and headed to the airport for our flights home. Montreal had fed us well and had earned a spot as one of my new favorite cities. I can’t wait to return. After all, there’s more poutine to be had.

Montreal, Day Two

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We woke up early on our second day in Montreal and headed straight to Olive & Gourmando. (Why leave a good thing?)

Panini pomme

I went for a pot of Earl Grey tea and panini pomme, which had apples, ham, and smoked cheddar. I rarely go for the fruit and meat combination, but this was pretty good. A little bit salty, a little bit savory, and a little bit sweet, this panini hit all the right notes.


After we were all fueled up, we took the metro to Parc Jean-Drapeau, an island in Montreal on the Saint Lawrence River. We were there to see the Biosphere, the site of the 1967 World Fair, now repurposed into the Biosphere Environment Museum. With its interactive exhibits and naturistic surroundings, it reminded me a little of San Francisco’s Exploratorium. The geodesic dome was the highlight, and we spent sunset on the biosphere’s domes taking in a cityscape of Montreal.


Now comes the good part. Word on the street (and by street, I mean Internet) was that Restaurant Ma-Am-M Bolduc serves up Montreal’s best poutine. And if the best poutine in the world is in Montreal, well then, that must mean Ma-Am-M Bolduc serves the world’s best poutine. Right?


This was my first poutine, so I didn’t have much to compare to, but I feel pretty confident that Ma-Am-M Bolduc’s poutine is among the best. I ordered a classic poutine (who knew there are so many variants?) and Nishan, who is an Official Canadian, concurred that this was indeed the best poutine he’d ever tasted.

Mission accomplished. Only two days into my trip and we’d already found the best poutine.

Montreal, Day One

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What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Montreal? For me, it’s poutine, of course. Warm, gooey, cheesy, potatoey perfection on a plate. I was on a mission to try my first real Canadian poutine, and visions of cheese curds and gravy filled my mind en route to Quebec last fall. I was taking a mini-trip with my Canadian boo Nishan, and was determined to eat my way through Montreal.

I arrived late at night and we quickly checked in to Le Petit Hotel, a cute boutique hotel and cafe along Old Montreal’s cobblestone streets. Then it was off to dinner at Barroco, a dimly-lit Spanish restaurant with good dose of local Quebecois influence.

Foie gras & "coffee"

We started with the foie gras and “coffee,” which was really a thick slab of coffee-infused foie and syrup served alongside a light salad. Smart move on the greens, which helped cut through the foie gras’ super rich texture.

Suckling pig chorizo

Next we shared a plate of suckling pig chorizo, which came with pickled vegetables and toasted baguette. The chorizo was incredibly flavored and paired so well with the acidic pickles. Score one for Quebec-style Spanish cuisine.

We woke up early the next morning to check out the neighborhood, and stumbled into Olive & Gourmando, a wildly popular brunch cafe in Old Montreal. After braving the lines and the French menu, we were seated. The fashionable crowd, indie tunes and beautiful wood furniture quickly made this one of my favorite places to eat in Montreal, and this was before the food even arrived.

Truffle mac and cheese with green salad

I had the truffle mac and cheese with a green salad for brunch, and Internet, this is without doubt the best mac and cheese on earth. I’m pretty sure nothing will come close to this and despite my efforts to replicate the dish at home, I’m still yearning for Olive & Gourmando’s version. Perfectly toasty on top and generous with the truffles, this gooey mac and cheese was perfect. The heavily herbed salad was a nice counterpart, but man oh man was that mac and cheese good.

Notre-Dame Basilica

We continued our morning in Old Montreal, arriving at the Notre-Dame Basilica next. The 19th-century church’s gothic interior reveals stained glass windows that depict the religious history of Montreal, and a gorgeous, deep blue and gold ceiling. Color is at the forefront in this church, and it’s one of the most beautiful and imposing I’ve ever visited.

We left Old Montreal in search of Marche Atwater, a popular farmers market in the Saint-Henri neighborhood. I suppose November isn’t the best time to visit a farmers market in Quebec, but Marche Atwater made up with meats what it lacked in produce.

Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral

It was off to another church next, so we took the metro over to Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in downtown. Also a 19th-century basilica but not quite as huge as the Notre-Dame Basilica, this is Quebec’s third largest church.

We had dinner reservations at the famed Joe Beef, so took the train to Le Sud Oest and eagerly awaited our next meal. Joe Beef has earned the reputation for being one of Canada’s best restaurants, and Anthony Bourdain has even sung its praises. Still, we didn’t know what to make of the place when we were seated and told that Joe Beef does not offer menus. Instead, the menu (and by menu I mean chalkboard menu on the other side of the restaurant in the dark) would be read and translated to us from French by our waiter.

Listen. Our waiter was a trooper for going through the entire menu and laboriously translated each and every thing. But my memory can only go so far and the next thing we knew we were eating a plate of sliced ham covered in a mayonnaisey sauce wondering what had happened. Next came our entrees: Nishan’s a plate of venison and mine duck sausages with egg. (The duck sausages were pretty good.) Without a menu and not enough lighting to document the experience, the details escape me. I wish I loved Joe Beef as much as the rest of the food world does, but hey, at least their bathroom includes a taxidermied buffalo.

Joe Beef