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Posts from — December 2006

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…


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!


December 18, 2006   No Comments


The Gift That Keeps on Giving

It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid…

Unless you’re hitting the stores this weekend, ‘cuz ’tis the season to go shopping…


Yeah yeah yeah, I’ve heard it all – peace on earth, spirit of giving, time for family, blah blah blah. Spiritual holiday my ass – it’s all about the shops.

And hey – what’s wrong with that?

I actually don’t do Christmas. Nope, it’s That Other Holiday for me. Eight days of candles, soirees, latkes and, of course, presents. Sure eight days is better than one, but I have Christmas envy all the same. Love the lights/tree/tinsel combo. I can skip a wreath, but a stocking full of treats? Sign me up!

But alas, ’tis not to be. It’s Chanukah or bust chez nous, where the spirit of gifting is out in full force. Nephews, neices, kids and Others: those are the folks on my shopping list. Chanukah’s all about kids and the Others involved with them: teachers, nannies, etc. No husband-wife swapping… Oops! I mean husband-wife GIFT swapping. Not for a lack of trying on my part, but after several years of fighting it, I’ve succumbed, and now Chanukah is just about the kids. OK. Having kids helped.

The big question is, of course, what to buy. And that’s why god created gift cards. I mean really, is there anything better than a gift card? Sure I like to unwrap the big boxes as much as the next gal…Hell, I don’t even mind wrapping them. My mother had a wrapping cupboard – not a Candy Spelling full on room, but a cupboard. And it was awesome. Name your colour, your style, your ribbon – she had it all. I tried to recreate my own giftwrapping cupboard, but it’s turned into a regift space, the only wrapping is old gift bags and stolen tissue paper, ready to be reused.

But back to the gift cards. They’re not for everyone. A young child is still innocent enough to appreciate a toy. And toys for the little ones are still cheap enough to buy. Besides, who doesn’t love roaming the aisles of the toy stores? Sure it’s a pain in the ass in theory, but in practise? Suddenly, everybody’s young and happy and keen and excited. Cutting edge, retro classic, electronic wish listers – toys are fun. And of course they are – they’re toys!!! So for little folks, buying and wrapping is the way to go.

And they they turn 10. And suddenly, it’s all about the cash. No 10+ year old is going to instruct a hapless auntie on where to go and what to buy. They will, however, tell their parents. Or tell you which store they like. Saving up for a bearded gecko? Gift card. An ipod massage chair? Gift card. Jeans too expensive for anyone under 30? Gift card. Yep, for the 10 and over set it’s gift card all the way. And yes, I know cash is king, but it often ends up being spent the wrong way. So stick with the gift cards.

And Others? Sure you could go all out and buy the deluxe bath bombs or coffee mug ‘n milk frother sets. Or not. At my son’s school, the parents are banding together to give the gift of choice – a gift card to a mall. Each parent pays less than they would for an impersonal dud gift, and the teachers get to buy what they want, what they really, really want. Everybody wins!

Gift cards…they’re not just for Christmas! New baby? Gift card is the most considerate way to go. Every new mom I know spends the first few months of their baby’s life returning. Come on, people, you know it’s true. Me, I’ve been practically living on giftcards and credit notes for the past 3 years. Birthdays? Showers? Weddings? Ditto, ditto, ditto.

Don’t get all snippy now, I know how impersonal a gift card can be. But let’s be honest here -everyone thinks they have great taste. And, sadly, most people don’t. So unless the recipient is a little kid, or someone you know very very very well, or someone you want to either re-gift or cheap out on, opt for the gift that never disappoints and deck the halls. With loads of giftcards.

Fa la la la laaaaa, la la ka-ching!


Anonymous said…

Gift cards are not the fix all. I recieved one for my childs birthday. He went to the store, picked out a gift and went to pay. The card registered 0. I quickly paid for the item, I did not want to dissapoint the tyke and then went to the manager to investigate the matter further. The manager said it was empty. Maybe is was faulty suprise!Or de-magnitized by somthing etc etc etc. Do I go back to the parent who gave it??? Talk about akward. I let it go. 25 bucks will not break the bank but I am not convienced that all the gift cards in my purse are so great. I forget I have them half the time until its too late.


Dont be fooled when it comes to our poverty line paid nursery/pre school teachers “Cash is king”. The card is just a pain in the you know what. Maybe they have to pay a power bill or phone bill or credit card bill from over spending at the holiday season. The most appreciated gift is cash in an envelope. We tip waiters in foo foo restaurants more than we give to our teachers at the holiday!!! Be generous they are doing a little more than serving us a foo foo meal! They are taking care of our kids. What can be more important than that?

12:28 PM

Anonymous said…

There is a draw back to the gift card – they know how much you spent! And that can be brutal if you are a great shopper like me and get really awesome stuff cheap. A gift card looks lame unless it gets up there. It’s like the Bar Mitzvah $10 Sam’s gift certificate. It felt cheap. Believe me, a gift card upward of a C-note is divine. $50 – depending on the place (read Indigo). But $25 or less, you feel like – “what, are you too busy to consider me?” I guess it does owrk for the teens, although, as a teen I loved cash and yes, I spent it the wrong way and that’s why teens are teens. Nice to have you back.

8:16 PM

Mother of all Mavens said…

For those whose giftcards have disappeared…sounds a bit suspicious to me. I’ve one instant of that because the person gave me the wrong card (we discussed). As for the cash. yes, we spent it on the wrong things. That was then. This is now. When the parents BEG you not to give the kids cash, what can you do? As for the teathers…some deserve their weight in gold…others – lead. If that. And some think cash is cheesy – not I, of course, but some. Gift card is the answer. Besides, they can always regift it.


December 14, 2006   No Comments