Montréal, je t’aime (24 Hours in our Favourite City)
Montréal, je t’aime (24 Hours in our Favourite City)
Tourism Montreal reached out to me and asked if they could host me in Montreal during MTL a table Event which is 15 days where a list of 175 restaurants prepares a tasting menu of 3 courses at reduced rates of $21, $31, or $41, or $15 brunch.
I’m going to preface this blog post with a little bit of history about my life — About 18 years ago, I went on a trip to Montreal with a huge group of classmates from my high school. Dave, my husband, also came with a friend (although, he went to a different high school). This is where we met, and then we started dating immediately after the trip, and the rest is history. I quickly learned that Dave had been visiting Montreal every Christmas because his Father’s side of the family live there. We absolutely love visiting Montreal – we hang out in the Jarry Park area, Little Italy and Jean Talon, mostly. It is one of our favourite cities!
This visit promised to be very different than our usual yearly visits. We left Toronto at about 10:30am (we stopped twice) and arrived in Montreal with a few hours to check-in to our hotel in Downtown Montreal and relax before dinner. We normally stay with Family when we visit – staying in a hotel was one of the things we would be doing differently this time around, thanks to Tourism Montreal.
Since we tend to stick to the same restaurants too when we visit, this was a great opportunity to try some new places. Montreal has a fantastic Portuguese community. We’ve had lots of traditional Portuguese cuisine from my husband’s family, however never at a restaurant so this was our first time. Helena features refined Portuguese cuisine created by Chef Helena Loureiro.
We have been planning to visit Portugal for a while now – after eating this meal, we literally confirmed the trip for this summer. Here’s the dishes we enjoyed:
Black Cod Carpaccio with Green pea emulsion and Chorizo Chips.
“Bifana” – Pork and Sao Jorge Cheese, Marinated vegetables.
“Feijoada” Seafood Stew – Shrimp Mussels, Clams, squids in a tomato broth.
Veal Osso Bucco – Polenta, root vegetables, kale, wild mushroom sauce.
We literally licked our plates clean and were blown away by how great these dishes tasted. We will definitely explore Portuguese cuisine a lot more going forward.
The following day, we arrived in Jean Talon to meet our tour guide, Carrie MacPherson of Eat, Drink, Be Carrie blog to do a tour of the market as well as the surrounding area, Little Italy. I mentioned that we have spent a lot of time in this area, however, it was really nice to discover a familiar place with someone who has a different perspective of the area. Our tour with Carrie made this one of the most memorable visits to Jean Talon and Little Italy. She showed us a few places we had never been to before and also she pointed out delicacies unique to Montreal.
Marche Jean Talon – We visited the foragers shop with a specialty in foraged mushrooms. I have passed his shop many times but I never walked in and explored his shelves. Carrie pointed out a jar of pickled daisy buds. She said if I enjoy capers, then I would enjoy these, so we brought a jar home to try.
Le Marche des Saveurs du Quebec store – A great shop that carries specialty food and drink items that are local to Quebec. Hundreds of cheeses, maple syrup products, craft beers and so much more. I walked out with some Maple cotton candy – a delicious treat that I have never tried before! And the perfect souvenir for my boys.
Dépanneur Le Pick-up – Located on the corner of Waverly in Saint-Edouard is a typical corner Dépanneur with some extra goodies – along with a food counter with sandwiches, pastries and barista-quality coffee, you can also find homemade jams, pickled vegetables, fresh bags of coffee and artisanal sodas. There is a picnic table inside and outside to sit and enjoy – Carrie had us try the Spruce beer. I loved it! This is a special item to Quebec and a soda that I could easily serve at a holiday party at home. I am still kicking myself for not bringing some home with me!
This shop is owned by Bernie Houde and her partner Penny Pattison. Bernie used to be part of the Group Lesbians on Ecstasy. The name is a play on words because you can go there to pick up something or someone!
Quincaillerie Dante – Hardware Store – I have heard about this store for years however it was either already closed for the day when we were around or we just couldn’t fit it onto our schedule. Originally a hardware store that specialized in hunting gear (there is literally a row of rifles at the back of the store), Stefano Faita’s mother, Elena, took over the family business and added lots of awesome kitchen gear and a cooking school to the shop that she teaches at. She gave me a recipe for pizza dough and pasta (so excited!!!) and I bought a bag of tipo “00” flour and Semolina flour. I will share more on these soon once I try them out for myself!
Pizzeria Napoletano – A Little Italy staple and the first Pizzeria in Montreal — another place I have never been to. They are very rigid in how they run the place – don’t stand at the front and ponder over pizzas. Take a menu and move out of the way (it is very busy in there!) We ordered the classic margherita pizza and we ate it on a bench outside. The pizza was really great – I liked the sauce to cheese to dough ratio. It was super thin too – but not too thin. Very good! We usually visit Pizzeria Gema when we are in Montreal – which is still my favourite pizza in Little Italy!
Patisserie Alati-Caserta – Another classic stop in Little Italy. Rows and rows of Italian pastries – the selection will make your head spin! I would have loved to try one of each but we are only here for 24 hours and we’ve been eating since we left our hotel room. We tried a “mini code gianduia” (Nutella Pastry) with an espresso macchiato. A perfect treat to fuel us for the rest of the tour. Next time we visit, I’m definitely going to try a few more of their pastries.
Our final stop on this quick trip to Montreal was Restaurant Su. Su features cuisine of the Far east and the Mediterranean and offers a wide range of Turkish specialties by Chef Fisun Ercan. We don’t get the opportunity to enjoy Turkish cuisine often, so this was a treat for my husband and I. We enjoyed the different dishes and flavours and the restaurant has a beautiful ambiance. Each dish was served on a family style wooden board and each was delicious – here are the dishes we enjoyed:
Roasted squash and pomegranate
Red Lentil and fine bulgur patties
Labne and za’tar
Grilled Conish hen coated with a blend of spiced on basmati rice
Poached trout with almond polenta and roasted veggies
Braised pulled Kamouraska lamb on bulgur
Revani – Pistachio cake and yogourt
Roasted apples and nuts
This wasn’t done intentionally, however both restaurant we visited for the MTL a Table event happened to be run by very well-respected woman chefs from Montreal. A fun coincidence!
We love visiting Montreal – it is one of those places that is not that far away from home however, it feels like you’re in a completely different country. The neighborhoods have a very European feel, there are great restaurants around every corner and tons of great shops to explore.
Thank you to Tourism Montreal for giving my husband and me the opportunity to discover on of our favourite cities in a new way. As usual, we are looking forward to our next visit!
*Our trip was sponsored by Tourism Montreal, however, and as always all opinions are my own.