Tag Archives: montreal dining

TOTALLY PORKED

Our Pork Club BBQ at Le Pick Up last Friday was a massive success — oodles of thanks to everyone who came out! I knew the day was going to be special when we woke up to super sunny skies and a flirty breeze. Bartek and I rode our bikes to Marche Jean Talon and tried to stuff 50lbs of new potatoes into his bike baskets (an insane prospect), and I spent the afternoon outside, chopping potatoes and prepping beans on our picnic tables out back while drinking about a million glasses of calimocho. It was totally perfect, though I wouldn’t recommend frosting two massive red velvet cakes while slightly buzzed, and then serving people dinner for four hours straight. Afterward, we hung out on the terrace and ate our lion’s share of pork chops. I’ll be really sad when it gets cold here, the warm weather makes everyone so happy.

More photos here.

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INDULGE / PULL BACK

When stuck in the unforgiving heart of winter, my craving for all things vegetal becomes almost insatiable. My conception of a perfect little lunch is a chopped spinach salad with bits of dried mango, diced cashews and a tart lemon vinaigrette; Bartek’s addictive red cabbage coleslaw; a small heap of gently reheated butternut squash risotto. Restorative, filling, and utterly simple.

The push towards self-care is an imperative; we’ve recently been overindulging on rich French food for a story that Adam is working on, and the gluttony doesn’t come without a price. But the meals, while not always perfect, have been a fabulous, decadent adventure. We’ve been eating at random downtown restaurants that we would normally never set foot in, including Le Pois Penche, an over-the-top, glittery 40s-era French brasserie, owned by the same people who run the showboat steakhouse La Queue de Cheval (what is up with these guys giving their restaurants such ridiculous names?).

I imagine that someone who knows very little about Parisian food culture would think La Pois Penche is very ‘authentic’ or ‘glamorous.’ It’s not my style, but we happened to have a ridiculous bender of a meal there… and the only photo I managed to snap was of this gargantuan seafood platter, which was wheeled over to our table in a highly ceremonial, solemn manner:

The thing had oysters, mussels, crab salad, an entire lobster tail, shrimp, king crab claws, clams and scallops crawling all over it. Oh, and that was on top of the tuna and salmon tartare they brought out; oh, and that was before we ate veal chops and duck confit… and then four desserts. And two bottles of wine. And a bottle of champagne. And a loaf of bread. Burp.

NEON CADENCES

Seafood salad

Butternut squash risotto

Olive Oil poached salmon

Foie Gras and seared venison

Passion fruit foam and fruits

Local cheese plate + conserves

An evening at XO Le Restaurant was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in a long time. It was one of those nights where every aspect of the experience was great, from the amazing building (which used to be the Merchant’s Bank in the 19th Century), ridiculous dining room (which has those bizarre LED neon lights that slowly change colors, very Las Vegas, very Disney), to the adorable wait staff (all handsome gentlemen in the 20s), people watching (we were conveniently situated near a very large group of plastic surgery robots celebrating a birthday; at one point during our meal, we admired two older, very drunk individuals furiously making out, standing up, in the middle of the dining room) and to, of course, the food. We went for the tasting menu, and I loved the playful mix of delicate textures, bright colors, and varied flavors. Not often can you say that a fancy dinner was super fun.

SEARCHING FOR CANADIAN CUISINE: EATING AT THE BEAVER CLUB

Montreal is a fantastic food city, and I’ve had great French, Syrian, Vietnamese and Italian meals since I’ve been here. But what about great Canadian food? What is Canadian food, anyway? Before I visited, I had no idea. Poutine? Bagels? Smoked meat sandwiches? Sure, but what about upscale food? Or, more pertinent to my style, what about the obscure dishes that the fur trappers and hunters feasted on 100 years ago?

The closest experience I’ve had yet was at the terrific Beaver Club, located deep in the upscale Fairmount Hotel. The romantic dining room resembles a super conservative, darkly lit Old World hunting lodge. Wood-beamed ceilings. Shale paneled walls. Gigantic booths. Art deco chandeliers. It’s truly one of a kind. Though unmistakably upscale, the food channels a faint country lodge vibe — weird cuts of meat, liberal use of truffles, welcome bits of offal, and super strong, pungent woodsy meat and fish flavors.

We went there for dinner during the city’s ‘Mushroom Festival’, and the tasting menu we tried incorporated different mushrooms into each dish. It was phenomenal. The Canadian wines left a bit to be desired. And to think that escaped bad wine when I left the Finger Lakes region! Fortunately, we started our meal with my (first ever!) Kir Royal. Perfection.

Charlotte de homard aux pommes Granny Smith et trompettes de la nuit, emulsion a l’estragon [Lobster charlotte with Granny Smith apples and black trumpet mushrooms, tarragon emulsion]. For my first course, I picked this cold lobster dish. The mushrooms’ muskiness and the lobster’s richness were a fantastic pair, the cold apples and tarragon refreshing and autumnal. The dehydrated apple chip is such a cute touch.

Rosace de St-Jacques et truffe sur une mousseline de celeri rave et petite salade de champignons. [Scallops and truffle rosette on a celery root mousseline and small mushroom salad] For Adam’s cold course, he picked this small scallop salad. We both went crazy over the subtle flavors and delicate greens.

Escalope de foie gras poelee et sa raviole de champignons au confit de canard, emulsion d’un bouillon aux champignons blancs et au Chardonnay. [Pan-fried foie gras scaloppini and mushrooms ravioli with candied duckline, white mushrooms and Chardonnay broth] For my les entrees chaudes, I picked the seared foie gras. The size of the foie gras was a bit intimidating — about the size of a thick deck of cards — and I completely lost the earthy flavors of the mushooms and pasta in its fatty wake. Still, I loved the super-savoury components, including the wine-infused broth and the crispy foie gras exterior.

Saint-Jacques poelees sur une puree de panais et duxelles de champignns sauvages, reduction de crustaces. [Pan-fried scallops on a puree of parsnip and wild mushrooms duxelle, shellfish reduction]. Adam picked yet another scallop dish for our warm course (that parsnip puree had his name all over it). The scallop, just like the foie gras, was terrifyingly large. This wasn’t torched as thoroughly as I would have liked, and we ate conservative amounts of this course because we knew what was coming next, and I was already dangerously full. Still, it’s a classic dish with clean, rounded flavors.

Filet de bar sauvage a la nage de coquillages de la cote nord et meli-melo de champignons forestiers. [Fillet of wild bass with shellfish nage and meli-melo of forest mushrooms]. While I had my heart set on a venison dish for my main course, Adam was craving seafood. He went with this delicately-flavored wild bass and shellfish stew. I was so focused on my main dish that I didn’t adequately try his, but the bite of fish I had was succulent, tender, and faintly sweet and honeyed.

Longe de cerf de boileau poelee aux baies de genevrier, spaetzels aux champignons, reduction au grue de chocolat epice. [Pan-fried loin of Boileau deer with juniper berries, mushroom spaetzels, and spiced chocolate reduction]. This is what I came to the Beaver Club for. The medium-rare medallions of venison were rich, lean, and deeply robust. The huge, wintery flavors like juniper berries and dark chocolate immediately make me think of the desolate, barren, Old World-era Canada.

Our server wheeled around a gigantic dessert cart that was stuffed with various treasures. Not only did we pick out two desserts — the staggering quantity of the food I ate is almost laughable to me now — we also custom-designed a cheese platter of Quebec cheeses (they were especially proud of the goat cheese they made from the restaurant’s goat. I think her name is Annie?).

Scary looking flourless black cake that looks like a black hole on my plate. At the end of our marathon meal (we were there over four hours!), I was practically asleep. We finished the meal with some port, and Adam wheelbarrowed me home.

Lights out! One of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. Can’t wait to continue to explore the terrain of Canadian cuisine.

AN EXERCISE IN GLUTTONY: DINING AT LA QUEUE DE CHEVAL

I think I’m a pretty simple person to please. Besides cooking at home, my idea of the best night ever is being taken out to dinner. No bars, no parties, no elaborate plans — all it takes to get me super stoked on life is a few plates of crazy food and a bottle of wine designed to blow my mind.

So naturally I was thrilled to explore Montreal’s most famous steakhouse, La Queue de Cheval, best known for its tremendous dry-aged steaks. In this case, what blew my mind extra hard was a dozen oysters doused in red wine vinegar and shallots, spicy grilled jumbo prawns, 30-day dry aged rib eye steak cooked medium rare, mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach, an entire lobster tail, and a few bottles of wine. It has a bit of a cheesy Vegas-nightclub vibe and is prohibitively expensive, but I was in bliss slurping down the largest oysters on the half shell I have ever seen. Some of them were about as big as a cracked egg!

We were so disturbingly full at the close of our meal we barely managed one bite each of their illicit-looking cheesecake. I can’t imagine myself ever going back to a place like this, but so happy to have had it once.