|The city square in front of Notre Dame|
We only had two days, but in the short time we were there, we got to see a fair bit of the city. Still, I'm itching to go back and explore some more. If I had to describe it, Montreal is like a love child between New York and Paris. I just loved walking the streets and hearing people speak in both English and French. It felt so familiar, yet foreign at the same time.
The first day we spent the morning exploring the Montreal Botanical Gardens. You could easily spend the entire day wandering through various gardens. Each one was so unique from the zen Japanese garden to the colorful, paper lantern decorated Chinese garden to my personal favorite, the edible garden stocked with every fruit, vegetable, grain and edible oil plant you could imagine.
Afterwards, we walked around Old Montreal, the historic city center. With narrow, cobbled streets lined with art galleries, historic buildings and outdoor markets, I felt like we were in France! The highlight was the Notre Dame cathedral. Scott told me the interior took his breath away, that it was easily one of the top five most beautiful interiors he's ever seen. My reaction was the same.
The next day it poured all morning, so we were "forced" to spend the entire day indoors at the Musee Des Beaux Arts. The museum actually four museums - contemporary art, Canadian art, archeology and world cultures and decorative art and design - located in different buildings next to or across the street from each other. It was incredibly well curated, not overwhelming like so many other museums.
By mid-afternoon, the skies had cleared, so we walked around McGill University and the business district until gusts of wind so strong they almost knocked me off my feet came in.
|Walking around Old Notre Dame|
The highlight of Montreal was the food. Seriously, it is foodie's paradise. They are all about haute cuisine. I splurged much more than usual (I've cooked only vegan meals since returning!), but it was definitely all worth it splurges. Here's a look at what we ate!
P.S. Sorry the pictures are so horrid. Not that I'm a master photographer or anything, but my poor little Olympus E-PL3 appears to be toast. As you can see, something's wrong with the exposure and focusing...any guesses since Olympus is yet to call me back? Or better yet, any camera repair shop recommendations in Columbia? Or best of all, any camera companies want to gift a new camera to a fledgling young blogger?? Hey, I tried!
Beaver Hall was recommended by our hotel, touted as being very local with their ingredients and dishes. It very much reminded me of a French steakhouse with both it's menu and atmosphere. I ordered a crispy duck confit over a bed of creamy cavatelli with a black garlic puree. My mom ordered pan roasted pike, a local fish, which was served with the most delicious aged cheddar and cauliflower cake.
Marche De La Villette
After we found a long wait at Olive et Gourmando, the restaurant Scott had recommended for our lunch, we walked across the street and stumbled upon this very cute French bistro and deli. With French accordion music playing and a counter stocked with terrines, sausages, and charcuterie, I kind of felt like I was at Epcot's Paris - but in a good way! I ordered a brie, apple and ham crepe, which was delicious, as all things smothered in brie cheese are. But as soon as I saw the massive nicoise salad, I was really not ordering it!
Le Bremner is a tiny restaurant hidden away near Marche Bonsecours. I read a review on Yelp, where someone compared it to Cheers, and I think that's a perfect comparison. That is, if Cheers served top notch seafood and fancy cocktails. It had a really homey environment and kind of felt like everyone knew each other. My favorite dishes were the appetizers - spicy salmon tartare served with charred shishito peppers and thinly sliced porchetta topped with kimchi and crackling. For an entree, I ordered the whole roasted fish and vegetables. It was simple, but immaculately prepared with super crispy skin and creamy roasted vegetables. I could have eaten a whole plate of the eggplant - in fact, it inspired my eggplant jerky. We finished with their pancakes with Pimm's butter. I'm embarrassed to say, but after eating only healthy pancakes for the past few years, this dish was a reminder of how delicious the real deal can be...I just think I'll take a cue from Le Bremner and serve it for dessert!
Cafe des Beaux-Arts
We took a break from exploring the exhibits at the art museum to have lunch at their cafe. Frankly, it could have been another exhibit because the food was so beautifully presented. Desperately craving a vegetarian meal at this point, I ordered a wild mushroom flatbread, a slice of rustic toast smothered with roasted wild mushrooms, gruyere cheese, a soft boiled egg and served with a peppery arugula salad. My mom ordered the veal liver, crusted with mushrooms and walnuts and served with roasted cauliflower and the most gorgeous carrot puree. For dessert, we ordered a the chef's special, four small servings of dessert served in shot glasses - creme brulee, lemon pie, cheesecake with cardamon and a mini white Russian.
Les Deux Singes De Montarvie
This meal was definitely the highlight of our trip. I fairly sure our entire conversation consisted of variations of the phrase "oh my God this is so good!" But seriously, oh my God it was so good. Like, one of the best meals I've ever had good. The combinations of flavors and textures were so incredible. I also loved that the kitchen was open, so you could see them preparing our food. First, we were served an amuse bouche of eggplant ravioli in a rich roasted tomato sauce. Then we split the scallop ceviche, hands down the best ceviche I've ever had. I would never think flavors like kiwi, ginger, fish sauce, black sesame and lime would work well together, let alone in a ceviche. For an entree, I ordered the bibimbap with BBQ duck confit, kimchi, parsnip puree and maitaki mushroom "noodles," while my mom had the black garlic and molasses glazed pork belly, served with butternut squash, pickled fennel, smoky asparagus and a housemade grainy mustard. It's funny, at first I considered ordering their vegetarian dish, a charred eggplant, cauliflower and shiitake salad with feta-sumac dressing, but because it sounded like something I could make at home, I passed. I won't say I regret it, because my dish was phenomenal, but after tasting their vegetables, I can't believe I thought I could actually replicate their food. With all the different components of our dishes, each bite was totally different, yet perfectly balanced. Although we were stuffed, we had to make room for their panna cotta, served with pistachios and melon. It had the lightest, milkiest flavor, yet was rich and creamy at the same time. If you decide to go, make sure you plan accordingly. Its a bit of a cab ride outside of the city (but worth it!) and they only have about 10 tables, so make sure you get a reservation.
Have you ever been to Montreal? Any other recommendations?
Some more pictures of our trip:
|Chinese Garden at Jardin Botanique decorated with paper lantern boats|
|Interior of Notre Dame|
|The name is totally escaping me but the church for the sailors|
|Painting at Musee des Beaux Arts|
|Musee des Beaux Arts. I heart Montreal!|