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Category — EAT – where

Montreal Mon Amour

There comes a time in every parent’s life when they look at their wonderful children, thank god (or whoever) for blessing them with such wonderful treasures, and wonder how to get the hell outta Dodge.

At least that’s what happens in our house. Regularly. Sure, my man and I love our babes to bits. But we also love each other, which is why we skipped town, hit the 401 and headed to Montreal.

Montreal, je t’aime. Stunning, accessible, and a helluva lot cheaper than Toronto, what’s not to love? Everyone’s got their fave places and spaces. And here are mine:

HOTEL: Montreal is home to Canada’s largest selection of boutique hotels. Or so it seems. We stayed at Hotel Gault, an award-winning, newish hotel in the self-described “Old Montreal’s bustling west end” neck of the woods. First off, it wasn’t bustling. But that’s OK. Because it was only on the cusp of Vieux Montreal, you felt closer to the city itself And we liked that. Then again, the whole town feels a lot more compact than Toronto. And we liked that too. Anyhoo, Hotel Gault is gorgeous. Loft-like. Exposed stone walls. Concrete floors (heated in the bathroom). Tres moderne. Tres cool. And with a special $99-for-the-second-night deal, tres resonable. Especially when you consider they also include breakfast. Not a loser continental one either. Full menu, full buffet, or full combo. Full being the operative word. Dee-lish. They threw in a dinner too, but who wants to hang in their hotel the whole time?

Actually, don’t answer that.

FOOD: Sit back, ‘cuz this could take a while….The weekend may have been a 5 pounder. But I’ll never tell. What I will tell you, tho’, is that we ate like piggies. Or kings. Whatever.

Our friend insisted we try his home-away-from-home bistro, Lemeac. We did. Superb. And it has a cheapy menu for the hotshots who come in after 10PM. Like my Man and me. Check us out: we get to Montreal and, suddenly, we’re all French and chic and late-night diners. But back to the food. We went prix fixe. There were a couple of translation issues, but it didn’t matter because the waitress was lovely and it was just good grub. Especially the enormouus pain perdu dessert. Basically a massive hunk of carmelized french toast. Was better than it sounds. Much much better. Lemeac also had an extensive, if somewhat intimidating, wine list. Or so it seemed to non-vintner types.

There’s a hot vegetarian resto on St Denis that also does a brusque take-out and casual lunch business. The mini version is called Chuch. Can’t remember the name of the papa place. Anyhoo, it’s cute to look at and has damn fine Thai foood – so good in fact, you wouldn’t even know it was veggie! (No offense.) Actually, you might know. But if you get the deep fried seaweed and spinach you won’t care.

Marathon Mike Schwartz. OK, that’s not really a restaurant. But all good all the same. We went to Marathon Souvlaki to relive a childhood dream. Not mine. And was it worth the drive to Laval? Absolutely. Or so my Man says. I’m not a major souvlaki person, but I know a good tzaziki when I find one. And this was good. Very very good. (maybe not as good as Arahova‘s, but this was somebody else’s memory lane, OK?) Mike’s Submarines – ditto. Not my thing, but apparently tasty enough to make someone very very happy.

Schwartz’s. Oooooh Schwartz’s. Does deli get any better than this? I don’t think so. Spectacular. Even cold and in the car. I’m telling you now, Montreal friends, I’ll be putting in take out orders when next you go home.

But people, I’ve saved the best, le meilleur, for last. Le Club Chasse et Peche. Apparently the hottest spot in town. According to our concierge, it’s worth moving to Montreal for. Well, we aren’t moving (yet) but if we did…. Unreal. Spectacular food, simple yet terrific menu, and sexy as hell. It’s the kind of place when someone says you have to go, you have to listen. So if you are planning a trip to Montreal, remember, You Have To Go. We had fois gras and beet salad and Tasmanian Char and Sweetbreads. No, not all together, morons. All fab. Even the veggies on the side were incredible. For dessert they had some kind of postmodern rice crispy square but, sadly, we never got to try it. We went for something else – some apple, caramel, pastry concoction. Who knows, it might’ve been awesome – but I was too full at this point to judge.

SHOPS: Aaaah shops… For many folks, Montreal equals shopping. For us, these are the handful that stood out:

Zone – pour la maison. Awesome homewares and gifty stuff. They have a few of these scattered round town (plus one in Ottawa). In fact, you could spit and hit a great home furnishing place. We’ve decided when (if) we move house, we’ll be taking a truck to Montreal and loading it up. They’ve got a great thing going on in the design department and, best of all, it’s kind of on the cheap side!

Factorie – for ladies and gents. Divide and conquer. And if you can get the oh-so-chic and helpful owner to help you, do. He knows gorgeous.

Lola et Emily – great ladies wear. Like a combo of my two beloved NYC stores, Anthropologie and Olive & Bette’s. If I need to say more, then just skip it. It’s pas pour vous.

Mortimer Snodgrass – kitschy and fun. Gifts for suckers of all ages.

And, and, and….The list could go on and on and on. But we only had two days and we were driving, so this is it. For now.

Sure, the days of long haul, far flung, exotic vacays may be on hold, but we’ll always have Montreal…

1 comments:

mortimer snodgrass said…

as the owner of Mortimer Snodgrass, I thank you! I was just playing Google the Store and found your post. Thanks again!

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December 18, 2006   No Comments

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Gone Fishing

Saturday night. Every new restaurant you wanna try is booked. Every old fave is, well, old. So you (I) let down your (my) guard and let the friends take care of the venue. Some place they went to a while back and liked. A place we never heard of, and had no on-line reviews (that counted). A place at the wrong end of the right street. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?

WRONG! Tho’ it did start out a bit iffy…

Ferillo. We’d booked a table, but there really was no need. ‘Cuz it was Saturday night and the joint was anything but jumping. In fact, it was Deadsville. I guess no one else had heard of Ferillo either. But what the hell! We’d bring our own atmo. We braved the subtle bleachy/worn mop smell and took our seats in the window.

And were we glad we did!

We started off with champagne. OK, it wasn’t really champagne. It was the Portuguese version. But at $130 for a bottle of Veuve vs. $32 for the cheap swill, do you blame us? Guess what? It was delicious!

Maybe it was the bubbly, but what followed was a feast that met – and surpassed – even the snootiest of gastrosnobs: a massive appetizer platter filled with grilled octopus and squid, fried calamari and shrimp, and their tasty (but somewhat mismatched) salsa. House salad for four was served family style, complete with feta cheese and chickpeas.

And then came the mains: the fish.

This was the kind of place that brought out various fishies and mollusks so we could pick ourselves a winner. We ordered, they told us they’d run out of some things, we thought was strange (considering no one, but no one, was there), and we re-ordered. The fish arrived, heads or tails in tact for those that wanted it; deboned and perfect for those who didn’t. The chef put together a platter of sides too – mushrooms, potatoes and a smattering of veg. But I didn’t pay attention because I was too busy ooh-ing and aah-ing over my porgy and sampling my man’s dorado.

In a word? Deeee-lish.

Homemade sugar crepes and frothy caps finished us off. We marvelled how such a yummy spot could be so, well, not hot. Why why why? They had a massive saltwater fishtank in the entrance, and even that was nearly empty!

You know how desperadoes are extra super nice? And how those who, erm, lack in physical perfection can compensate with sparkling personalities? That’s Ferillo. It’s a Meditteranean fish joint that, while having much in common menu-wise to that swanky hot spot at Ave and Dav, couldn’t be more different.

In other words, Ferillo may be the poor cousin, but so what? It’s tasty, the folks there are lovely, and food is great. All it needs – aside from some (any) customers, is a chance. The menu was nearly identical to That Other Fish ‘n Tits joint – but with lower prices. The food was on par – if not superior.

And the only tits in the place were ours.

Ferillo
924 College W.
Doubt you’ll need to book, but here’s the #: 416 840 1144

1 comments:

Anonymous said…

Could told you all that– it’s in me ‘hood. Thanks for stopping by to say ‘hi’! (ummm… not)

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November 27, 2006   No Comments

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The Happy Hookah

Doing dinner.

Sounds great, right? Except for the dreaded question: where to go. French? I don’t get the fuss – the fussy food or the big deal. Southeast Asian? Done done done. Tapas? Some slabs of piggy and olives? Can be tasty, but naah. Chinois? Soooo not Saturday night fare.

And the list goes on. And on. And on. The hipster spots are too busy. The neighbourhood spots too, well, neighbourhoody. You go through the city, street by street, trying to think of somewhere new and different and then it hits.

Banu.

Ba-who?

There’s a new kid in town. Our town. Sorry foreign readers, you may want to stop now. But locals, keep readng. It’s down on Queen Street. Past the throngs of Queen West, but not too far deep into the newly-minted trendoids of Queen West West West. Look closely and you’ll find it, Banu: an unpretentious, delicious and totally unique vodka-and-kebab experience.

That’s right, experience.

If you find it. Banu has no sign, only Farsi writing overtop a blue-tinged sepia photo on the glass door. Once inside, you may be a bit confused – the place feels more spa than supper. Actually, it feels like a Hammam. I know I’m mixing my cultures here, but it feels like whatever the Iranian equivalent of a Turkish bath is. But go with it.

Pick your vodka – you’ve got about 14 to choose from. Pretend you’re an afficianado and try try try. Or just go for one of their delicious martinis: sour cherry, pomegranate or (yawn) plain. Then open your menu. You’ll find 3 starters, 3 salads, 3 yoghurts. That’s right, yoghurts. And a whole slew of kebabs.

Aaaaah, the humble kebab. It’s not just a late-night drink absorber anymore. Banu takes these humble meat sticks and turns them into an art form. We skipped the lamb balls and heart (I swear!), opting for more traditional fare of ground beef, marinated beef tenderloin, lamb chops and saffron chicken. Yum, yum, and yum. (Note only 3 out of four ‘yums’. Skip the chicken.)

Food arrived family-style, on a plate lined with traditional bread – I haven’t a clue what it’s called. It’s thinner than pita but it could be just that. Also on the platter were green onions, radishes, and a handful of greens. Herbs, that is: mint, basil and tarragon leaves.

And that’s it. A lovely restaurant. Looked pretty. Tasty food. The end.

Or so we thought. Boy we were wrong. ‘Cuz with the dessert menu came something else. A little thing some people like to call a Hookah.

HOOKAH HOOKAH HOOKAH

Water pipe, bong, call it what you want. We had a choice of around 10 flavours and went for the blackberry. And for those of you who are thinking we sat around getting high – maybe we did. But it was on blackberry molasses.

Huh?

I know, I know. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now. I’ma hookah virgin. All’s I know is we sat around the table, inside the restaurant, smoking! Yes, smoking. But nary an evil eye in sight. ‘Cuz with no nicotine, tar, or nasty bi-products, this was a totally natural, delicious way to lounge. And for those of you with an aversion to other people’s, erm, spit, fret not – every one is treated to their own hermetically sealed, totally non-gross plastic pipe.

The hookah went for an hour (insert porny jokes here). We smoked. We watched it bubble and burn. We marvelled. We smoked some more. Look at us! We’re so rad! Check us out! Tourists in our own town!

HOOKAH!

We topped it all off with Iranian desserts and tea and marvelled at how, well, different it was from your average night out for dinner. It was, as they say, an experience.

HOOKAH!

Are you experienced?

4 comments:

jojo said…

Now this I relate to!!!!!! Martini’s, tasty food and hangin’ out smokin’ !
I must admit it reminds me of us 40 years ago! You know who and you know who…… our Sat. nights[with gin martini’s though!]
We must try this place. Thank you for the review!
I wonder what Joann Kates would say? I’ll bet she has been keeping Banu a secret for a while!
Take Nanu to Banu; it will cheer her up!
Silly arn’t I?

6:50 PM

scribbit said…

That is some experience. Never knew you could get “virgin” hookahs. Too bad I’m 2000 miles away.

6:01 PM

Anonymous said…

So happy to hear that there is a Hookah cafe in Toronto. Went to one in Washington DC last summer and thought it was great. Chose the apple flavour. Yummy!

All I kept thinking was how great it would be to have a similar place in Toronto, but how tight-assed the city was and it would never be allowed.

Let’s keep Banu our little secret.

Oh yeah. Would love to join the 2 of you there one night when we have a baby sitter.

-Vooolfie and Vern.

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October 2, 2006   No Comments

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Other Fish in the Sea

Toronto. Like it or loathe it, one thing’s for sure: we Torontonians love a good patio. Maybe it’s ‘cuz of the winter. Our summer’s are short, blah blah blah…Who really cares? At the end of the day, if you build it, we might come. But if you tack on a patio, we’ll be there with bells on.

Once upon a time, there was a charming restaurant called Adriatico. Nice food. Pretty dining room. KICK ASS PATIO. Really. It was stunning. Stunning in a who-even-cares-if-the-food’s-good kind of way. It was that great. Made you feel like you were far, far away. This is another weird thing about patios in Toronto: the more they make you feel like you’re anyplace but Toronto, the better. But I digress…

The kind folks at Adriatico upped and left. Heavy sigh…Adriatico, R.I.P. And now, it’s been replaced by Lure. Another restaurant. Another fish place even. But, sadly, just another patio. Another mediocre patio.

My man and I went to Lure last week for our anniversary. It was funny because I wanted to go there but forgot the name, and then didn’t want to tell him as he’d already made reservations somewhere. Turned out they were for that very same restaurant: Lure. It was fate! Kismet! We were so in sync… we were so in love…we were so on the same page. We were so….about to be disappointed. You see, we’d been to Adriatico (R.I.P.) and loved it. Aside from being a stunning spot, and having awesome food, we could pretend we were still on our honeymoon. For real -that patio looked like just like a place we stayed at on our honeymoon. So we were excited. Look out Lure, here we come!

And then we got there. And, despite being loved up and all, we hit the patio and saw that the honeymoon really was over.

The place was in need of… something: a cleaning, a paint job, a sponge-down… Anything. And we both noticed it, not just anal ‘ol me. Since it was customer-challenged (aka almost empty) we got to pick any seat we wanted. The first was, we were told, too dusty. The next had personal space issues. Finally, we headed to the back. Where once there were stunning wicker couches with fluffy white cushions and plants, there now lay a dusty rattan mat, the same furniture, only older and cushionless, and empty terra cotta pots. Were they going for the dingy look? If so, it was working.

The waiter arrived. He, like the patio, was a bit dim. But we ordered: seared tuna for me and fritto misto for him. We also chose the ‘chef’s choice’ starter platter, joking how the chef would probably choose all veggies for the meze plate. Joke was on us, because he did. It arrived and amid the various veg concoctions was a single shrimp split in two, a spoonful of crabmeat, a lone scallop and, to quote the waiter, “thing-a-ma-bobs”. I swear, he said “thing-a-ma-bobs”! Who says that? And who says that instead of saying, oh, artichokes? Yeah, artichokes. It was bad enough the guy had to read the specials off his paper (he couldn’t remember grilled whole fish? Or seared tuna? COME ON!), but then he couldn’t even identify what we were having. It was a good thing that whatever it was we were eating proved to be tasty. Unidentifiable, to be sure, but tasty.

Did I mention we couldn’t see? The fairy lights of Adriatico (R.I.P.) must’ve burnt out last summer. And I suppose the new management figured they’d replace them with fog lights. At least they seemed like fog lights – or some other kind of bright yellow spotlights. They’d come on for a few minutes, and then turn off. Maybe they were motion sensor lights. Too bad they didn’t have ‘em at the back where someone was emptying glass bottles into recycling bins. I kid you not. Surely it couldn’t have been the restaurant. Or maybe it was. Who knows? We couldn’t see anything. Honestly, we ate blind. I don’t know about you, but I always find it a bit weird when I can’t see what I’m eating. As my brother-in-law says, “we eat with our eyes”. Yeah? Not at Lure we don’t .

Determined to celebrate, we tried to find each other over the tiny candles and gaze…But instead we discussed what a bizarre place Lure was. We agreed: great food, but service and ambience were lack-lack-lacking. Aaaaw, we both felt the same way! So in sync… so in love… so ready to get the hell out of there. If Lure’s patio was like being away, we were ready to come home. R.I.P. Adriatico, R.I.P.

2 comments:

Anonymous said…

Happy Anniversary, MOAM. The stars in your eyes should’ve been the patio lanterns, instead of the patio lanterns being the… Nothing like a good Canadian rock anthem to kick off the summer– and the quest for the perfect patio. C’mon commenters– post your suggestions here!

3:29 PM

Anonymous said…

You are such an awesome closer! Your ends take the cake sister. By the way – food reveiws – your calling!

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June 5, 2006   No Comments

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Outta Lox

Once upon a time there was a dairy. A creamery that carried the best smoked fish in town. Need party sandwiches? They had ‘em. Low fat, no fat and full fat Havarti? Check. Dr. Brown’s cream soda in diet and regular? No problem. It’s clientele was pretty specific but to know the store, was to love the store. And the store’s name? Daiter’s.

Guess what? It’s gone.

Yup, Daiter’s has closed its door. Split, kaput, finished. On Friday my informant bought .5% Lana cottage cheese and their no-oil, no-dairy but oh-o-tasty vegetable roll. On Monday she went for smoked chubs and it was gone. Where there was once a vibrant cheese counter and freezer full of blintzes, there now lay an empty store. Nothing left. Nothing, that is, except a note asking the loyal customers to visit their other locations.

Loyal customers, my ass. How could they dump us like that? No clues, no hints, no sign that anything was wrong. Sure it was a little overpriced and the service was, well, somewhat surly, but puh-lease – it was Daiter’s! It was allowed to be old school. It was SUPPOSED to be old school. For those who don’t know, we’re talking about a veritable institution. The place your grandparents shopped at that probably still have some relics on their shelves – and no, rudeys, I’m not talking about the staff. Regardless, the Daiter-ites upped and ran with no warning whatsoever. Talk about being dumped.

I’m always amazed when a seemingly brisk business disappears in a cloud of dust. Sometimes, they make an announcement, or, better still, have a sale, giving us a chance to go in and vulturize the place. Admit it, as much as we want the stores we like to succeed, there’s nothin’ like a good going out of business sale. It makes the bad closing-down news much more palatable.

There are a couple of spots near me that have recently closed their doors. One was hideous sundae shoppe that had unbelievable pina colada yoghurt shakes and spectacular ice cream. However, as I said, it was hideous. Who wants to go to a hideous resto? Actually, I once saw a table full of 14 year old girls eating Caesar salads there. It was an ice cream parlour. So maybe it’s no surprise that it’s gone. The other place was a BBQ joint that prided itself on having the best ribs in town. I went there once and found the service so friendly it borderlined on offensive. And the ribs? Way too wet. Pretty foul actually. So again, no surprise it’s closed up. But the third was a card store that had been there since forever. They had a massive blow out sale when they left. We have enough paper plates and cheesy greeting cards to last us until, well, until they open up in their new location. Or fill the empty store. It’s a nice slice of prime real estate.

But Daiter’s???

I wonder if they upped and left in the middle of the night, carting away all the goods. But what does a person do with a truckload of cold fish? Or 40 pounds of cheese? The canned goods I get – they’re probably in somebody’s basement somewhere. Did they take everything to a different branch? If so, why wouldn’t they at least say goodbye? It makes no sense.

People of a certain age are bound to be devastated. Me? I’ll probably just hit the rip-off shop up the road for all my smoked fish needs. But alas, ‘tis the end of an era….Later Daiter’s…

1 comments:

Anonymous said…

I DONT WRITE THE SAME AS YOU DO BUT I SURE FEEL THE SAME.. NO WARNING NOTHING
YOU PUT IT SO WELL.

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May 9, 2006   No Comments

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