No Bad Bites: My Trip To Montreal
Okay. So it's been a while since I wrote on this — and for practically no good reason. Sure, there will be some updates on a few things eventually. Sure, there will be more posts to come about my life and the things surrounding it. For instance, I got engaged recently, which means a few things: I'm getting married, and now, I'm insufferable. The thing about being a "cool bride" when you are absolutely, 0 percent cool is that you start talking about things like "wedding capes" and "what if I hold a bouquet that's just old, dead succulents" and "what if my groom finds out on our wedding night that if he takes off my choker my head will fall off."
But that's not here nor there. This is about my recent trip to Montreal, and everything I ate there.
There's a few things I like about traveling. 1) fast food at airports 2) hotels that leave pillow chocolates on the pillows 3) doing literally nothing but eating so much, my pants start indenting themselves so deeply into my body, it's as if I am wearing a pair of skin pants underneath my jeans. That is what I did when I visited Canada this week, which involved a few flight changes to avoid the snow storm and an itinerary that was basically "gorge." Now, I'm concerned you are already thinking: "surely you must have done other things besides eat on this trip." And I want you to know: I didn't. Mostly.
If you want to read some of the highlights from possibly the best food vacation I have ever been on, read on:
Ah, finally. The Church where Celine Dion got married. I paid 6 dollars to get in here. It was...very religious. There were a lot of candles, statues of nuns, statues of children hugging nuns, and you couldn't eat any of it. Why would I be here?
The first notable bite I had was at Olive and Gourmando, a nice café-like lunch spot where everyone who worked there was cooler than me — like they were the kind of people who could wear a dirty sweatshirt to the airport (subtweeting myself) and still look fly as hell. I had an aperol spritz because it was noon, a vegan chickpea sandwich with harissa/minty slaw/thinly-sliced beets, and a sweet potato soup with sourdough croutons. It was insane. A good soup/sandwich combo is important to me, as I truly believe soup runs through my veins, and this one was fantastic and balanced and just salty enough to be considered well-seasoned by Chopped judge Scott Conant. The sandwich also had this vegan creamy sauce on it, it and the beets added some crunch, and I wanted to chef's kiss my way out of there. I left so deliriously happy, I bought their beanie with croissant on it, which was 25 bucks and the waiter was definitely like "okay, but why?"
For dinner, we had Garde Manger, a place in Old Montreal that was right by my hotel and was too dark for photos, like most trendy restaurants that are covered in wood happen to be. The waiters all wore tiny little vests. There was a maple syrup candle burning in the bathroom. Somebody, somewhere would describe these things as "a restaurant with a sense of humor," but I don't think that's a fair thing to say about any restaurant. The waiters also kind of crept up behind you, with the vests. We ate brussels sprouts with hazelnut, raw tuna bites with olive, a porcetta app with crispy skin, a caramelized onion risotto, and rockfish over polenta and topped with a shrimp and greens mixture. I thought this place was pretty great. It was hearty, detail-oriented, and the plates had some thought behind their presentation. They managed to be rich enough in a new-cast-member-on-Real-Housewives kinda way. Not too rich, and not overly seasoned, if you're a weirdie who doesn't watch Bravo. This would be a great place to go if you can't decide what you want to eat, but you're in the mood for seafood and being surrounded by a variety of small, different-looking plates. And being snuck up on waiters in tiny vests!
I started my day at Tommy's, where I had an absolutely outstanding and, frankly, so irritatingly expected meal from the kind of girl who lives in Brooklyn and can't afford a damn house: avocado toast! But it was drizzly with olive oil, the egg was perfectly medium, the avocados ripe, and the bread just chewy enough to be impossible to cut without scratching the plate with that awful sound. And whatever, I refuse to hide who I am: somebody, like I said, who cannot afford a house.
Okay. So I also went to an art museum and saw a real Dalí chess set made of thumbs and Kehinde Wiley's work, but the real reason I was here? BECAUSE OF JOE BEEF.
I have wanted a reservation at Joe Beef for some time, and low-key planned my trip around it. It's famous, hard to get into, and has the kind of food that's so rich, it keeps some of its money in a bank in Switzerland. Also, like a rich person, it has to be kind of a jerk — this time, in the form of no menus. Why have menus when you can have somebody rattle off 40 menu items while you sip an apple negroni. To be honest, that was kind of fun. And hey! This place met my expectations. I mean, I eat Taco Bell, and I'm no GOURMAND, but whatever.
It delivered with a butter lettuce salad that had rainbow carrots, shavings of a salty, funky cheese, and a light but acidic vinaigrette. It delivered with the steak that came with a double baked potato with escargot. It delivered with a lingonberry sorbet swirled with a creamy biscuit ice cream. And it kind of delivered with a gigantic stuffed bison just sitting in the bathroom that I briefly thought was a urinal. But it smashed expectations with the lobster spaghetti: a plate of perfectly buttered noodles that had a creamy sauce over it. The sauce was so robust, so DECADENT, it was like a lobster bisque made with incredibly fresh stock, paired with claws and legs and all the lobster meat one could want inside a small bowl. This meal was like the Sofia Coppola movie Marie Antoinette. It's too much. I couldn't finish it! I left it with a vague sense of fondness. If you go here, get it. Go. Here.
Friday was the day we walked for a few hours to see sights, be cold, and eat to get out of the cold. It was lovely. Our first stop was Schwartz's for a smoked meat sandwich. Now, I've never had Katz's or even pastrami, but the man I am engorged to (not a sp mistake) is obsessed with both, and he went bananas over all of it: the dirty-but-clean atmosphere, the waiters in white aprons, the giant squirt bottles of mustard, the cramped meaty smell of good deli. I went bananas over the soft bread, the fantastic half sour pickle, and the cherry soda. The sandwich was simplicity at its finest, had a clear smoke ring on it, and reminded me a little of burnt ends.
Next up, of course, was bagels. Full disclosure: I ate four bagels in two days while in Montreal. Now, we all know the difference between NYC bagels and Montreal bagels is that they are boiled in honey water, so they are sweeter. I think they are different because they are smaller and people don't get them stuffed with eggs and cheese. I also found them to be smaller, crustier, and less dense in the middle. The first one we tried was at Fairmount. We got two hot sesame bagels and ate them, practically in a snow bank, definitely like David Attenborough was about to narrate what small mammals do when they haven't eaten for a month and finally get a bite of something. My fiancé (DRINK!!!) loved these the best. I happened to prefer St-Viateur, because I asked for TWO CREAM CHEESE PACKETS this time, they were slightly crispier, and they also gave me a hot cinnamon raisin bagel that was exploding with steam. I looked exactly like the wife in a zombie movie when the husband says the house is secure, goes down to the basement, shines a flashlight, and sees his wife consuming the family pet. My advice? Get them both. They're an 8-minute walk from each other. Then get a cab to the Biodome, so you can watch penguins and macaws and beavers and all sorts of other animals, since you were just eating like one.
Our dinner for the night was Nora Gray, an Italian-ish restaurant in Griffintown that was cozy and sexy, like Stanley Tucci. This was probably my favorite meal because I liked every bite of everything and started licking the sauce off the plates when nobody (everybody) was looking. And they had Aesop soap in the bathroom. We started with foccacia and homemade pickled chili peppers, then followed that with fried mozzarella and pickled green bean and ramp salad, and ate that with a winter salad that had kale, pomegranates, almonds, and more parmesan than I could shovel into my mouth. Just kidding! I shoveled all of it. Our dinner was a flank steak served medium-rare on a fried piece of bread, topped with broccoli rabe. Because that wasn't nearly enough, we had it with a beet tortellini in a brown butter sauce and cubed yellow beets. Chef's kiss. Fantastic. Please eat here, and don't be tempted to steal the EXPENSIVE SOAP.
Obviously I can't go anywhere without BRUNCH and WAITING ON LINE, and Fabrege managed to scratch both those little itches. I waited on line for about 20 minutes, then ordered a crepe with goat cheese, spinach, and roasted tomato. It was topped with a fried egg and some hollandaise. I got a side of vegetarian poutine and a salad because vegetables make you strong and healthy. And. And. The only thing that sucked was that they brought me Tabasco, which is basically French for "bad vinegar." Other than that? This brunch was better than the sadder aspects of brunches I've had in the past: the eggs weren't underdone, and I didn't smell like a Williamsburg bar.
Listen. I ate other things while I was here. I walked a lot. I went into a market. I had a rosé cider. I talked to my fiancé (DRINK! DRINK DRINK!!!!!!!) about my hopes and dreams. But that isn't what inspired me to write this. I'm just a girl, standing in front of an amazing city, asking it to give me a stomachache. And to leave you with one non-food related anecdote: a cab driver advised me when I mentioned I was going to the insectarium: "if you peepee on your hand, the butterflies will flock to you."
May you peepee on yourself, and may all the things you want land right on your hands.