Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Snowy Wednesday in Montreal

Word yesterday was that the storm headed up through the NE of the US was possibly going to dump 5 to 7 inches of snow overnight. It rained. We woke to snow flurries and bare pavement. We had counted on being "snowed-in" being ready to bake and cook all day. 

So instead we lazed about reading until finally the snow started to fall and just simply shouted at us to get off our lazy as&es and go for a walk.  Never ones to ignore shouting snow, we bundled up and went for a walk in Old Montreal.  We poked about a few new stores, escaped a sudden gusty winds by ducking into  Marche Bonsecours, ate yummy crepes with hot chocolate at Creperie St-Paul,  and dawdled in the snow taking pics. 

Now back in front of the fire getting ready to read (the cooking and baking is going to wait until tomorrow) here are a few snowy photos from today's walk.

Place Jacques Cartier, Old Montreal on a Snowy Day

Whimsical Christmas Decoration outside the Ville de Montreal (City Hall)

All Bundled Up

On Rue St Paul in Old Montreal (Dome of Marche Bonsecour in distance)

Rue St Paul (Marche Bonsecours)

Notre Dame Bonsecours

Walking on Rue Notre Dame in front of Ville de Montreal (City Hall) in the snow

Darwin Slept Here

Darwin didn't actually sleep HERE, with me (I'm not THAT old).  Rather I READ Darwin Slept Here which proved to be a great, snowy day,couch read, shining a light on Darwin as a young man before the "book", the fame, and the white beard. It also provided glimpses into parts of Brazil, Argentina and Chile both in Darwins time and the 21st century, as the author, Eric Simons attempts to retrace Darwins journeys up and down the coast of South America.  The author has a wonderful zest for travel and discovery, a shared passion with Charles Darwin. The book is well written and well paced and paints a clear picture of both the young Darwin and the land that at times fascinated and at other times confounded him.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Love Letter to a Market

Market Chronicles: Stories & Recipes from Montreal's Marche Jean Talon by Susan Semenak is an affectionate, insightful, inspiring and beautiful portrait of the largest open-air farmer's market in North America (est. 1933). 

It is a love story of the market that is near and dear to thousands upon thousands of Montrealers.  It is a story of the seasons of the market, the people who make the market and the delicious bounty of the market. And it provides delicious recipes utilizing the treasures available at Marche Jean Talon.

The photography by Albert Elbilia of farms and fields, stalls & stores, people and animals, and food prepared from the bounty is beautiful.  I especially love the portraits of those who work to bring such wonderful goodness to those of us who shop at the market.

We visit Montreal 3 to 4 times a year.  And we never quite feel at "home" until we've been to Marche Jean Talon so it is usually on our "first day" list.  Yesterday we shopped there and bought cabbage, basil & thyme, onions, strawberries, fresh apple juice, and apples.  We nibbled on sausage made from white boar (sanglier) and deer (cerf) as we walked around.  And, of course, I had a crepe with butter and sugar...I always have a crepe avec buerre et sucre. It was snowing outside and I wandered past the last of the balsam trees covered with snow while Jerry bought the hot off the grill sausages.  We will be back every 3 or 4 days while we're here in Montreal.  For fresh eggs, many turnips or parsnips next time, and more apple cider. Now with this wonderful book I have a great appreciation for and understanding of the merchants I meet and buy from.  

The book is available on Amazon, at Costco, and I'm sure at the wonderful Librairie Gourmande located, of course, at Marche Jean Talon.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Snowy Wintry Day in Montreal

Yay!  It snowed all day today. So we will have snow on the ground for Christmas after all.  I woke early and saw the snow falling gently out the window and heard the sound of the Hotel Nelligan's empty wine bottles making their way into the bottom of their trash bin. I decided to roll over and soak in the sheets.  But pretty soon it was time to hop out of the red flannel PJs and head out to Marche Jean Talon for early lunch and fruits & veggie shopping.  We drove up St Laurent in the falling snow, ate crepes and sausage (boar and deer) at the market, bought apple juice, herbs, strawberries, cauliflower, cabbage and onions and people watched.  Oh and took some photos.  Here are a few (the complete set is at my flickr site:

Blueberries and Oranges at Marche Jean Talon

Bundled up for Marche Jean Talon

Chocolat Store in the Snow

What the heck am I doing in the snow???  Dinosaur at the Old Port Science Museum
Flowers at Marche Jean Talon

Santa? Nice Ferrari Jacket there.  Shopping at Marche Jean Talon

Stocking up for the holidays at Marche Jean Talon

Snowing on Rue St Denis

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best Bagels EVER!

We arrived in Montreal last night in a freezing rain and under a low cloudy sky.  But our apartment was in perfect shape, warmed up quickly, and after a run to Costco for supplies we snuggled down for a long nights sleep.  We woke to sunny skies (and slightly icy sidewalks).

After an excellent chicken and irish cheddar cheese omelet prepared by Chef Jerry, we were off to the movies (i love the holidays and afternoons in the theatre).  Enjoyed Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (best of the franchise I think).

Then in close to rush hour traffic we snaked our way across Montreal making reservations as we went. Stopped at the Kitchen Gallerie ( on Jean Talon and scored 9pm reservations for tonight (the last night they are opened before their month long vacation).  Got reservations for my birthday on January 8th at Au Pied de Cochon (

Then the true treat of the day?  Fresh warm bagels from Fairmount Bagels (  Located at 74 Fairmount West, this bagel bakery is the original bagel bakery founded in 1919.  The Fairmount bagel is chewier, less puffy, and slightly sweeter than the more commonly known New York Style bagel.  People line up all day long waiting to walk off with warm bagels in brown paper bags (with plastic bags for storage later).  Most people don't even get to the curb before they are biting into one of the heavenly halos.  When I walked out with my two huge bags, there were three clusters of people on the sidewalk hovering over open brown bags taking that first bite.  Bags of bagels are also available at Costco, IGA groceries, and other selected stores.  But really, if you have a chance to savor a warm bagel fresh from the bag...oh take it!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The New Year in Montreal

Jerry, Jason and I flew up to Montreal on the 30th of December for 12 days.  Our friends Jimmy & Cricket followed on the 31st to spend New Year's Eve and a few days more with us.

 Jimmy, Cricket, Annette & Jerry

We've had a wonderfully lazy time.  I think we've felt more like hibernating bears than anything else. The weather has been quite nice: a little snow, a little cold, a little sun, a little wind.  We've done a bit of exploring, showed off Montreal to Jimmy & Cricket, and eaten a lot...tried old places and new.  Haven't done as much walking as we normally do, something to do with that hibernating urge.  Naps have just seemed more appealing. 

 Rue St Sulpice on a Snowy Winter Evening (view from our apartment)


Holiday Decorations on Rue St Paul

As always we've made sure to get in at least one trip to Marche Jean Talon, one visit to Gandhi's in old Montreal for Indian food, several trips to Fairmont Bagels and one trip to Rue St Bernard (along w/ Drawn & Quarterly).  We cooked at home and made a new version of Hungarian Goulash with sweet paprika bought from Gourmet Laurier.  Jason experimented with emulating Gandhi's Chicken Korma with spices bought at Olive et Olivse in Marche Jean Talon. We bought baguettes and croissants at Pain Dore on Laurier (as Olive et Gourmande was closed, we're hoping just for the holidays). We celebrated my birthday at Moishe's on Rue St Laurent.  An old time steak house celebrating 75 yrs this year and which has according to my husband: the BEST Romanian dill pickles ever (and his Romanian mother made great pickles)

A Merry Assortment of Apples at Marche Jean Talon

On New Year's Eve we cooked at home with Jimmy and Cricket, and then wandered around the Old Port with other happy revelers and watched the midnight fireworks from our apartment windows.

The Magical Tree on Place Royale: My Favorite This Year

Happy New Year Eve Skaters in the Old Port

We discovered a new find (for us, not for Montreal, since its been in business since 1942) Beauty's on Mont Royal.  A wonderful diner serving great food for a reasonable price with good service, big windows, and Beauty himself sitting on a stool near the entrance to greet you and direct you to a table.  And of course, I can't forget, we made the pilgrimage to Juliette et Chocolate on Rue Laurier. As always I had my chocolate raspberry brownie balsamico and tried yet another hot chocolate flavor...this time Ghana...which so far is my favorite.  Is my favorite always the last one I tried?  There is a long list to come. 

My favorite, raspberry chocolate brownie balsamico and Ghana Hot Chocolate

Jimmy enjoying his Chocolate Chaud at Juliette et Chocolate

On Saturday we had the pleasure to meet up with Kelly and Tom at La Croissanterie Figaro on Fairmont in Outremont.  I met Kelly through Twitter (@misskitteh9).  Jerry and I had previously met her at a art/craft market last summer.  On Saturday we all met up at Figaro's and ate and talked for 2 1/2 hours in the back corner.  It was really nice to meet her husband Tom and to have the leisure to get to know them better. It was a delightful time. 

We ate at Laloux  (on des Pins) for the first time and had a delightful dinner with excellent service.  Jason had the Bream which he LOVED.  I had a very good butternut squash gnocchi.  Jerry had the steak on polenta.  Appetizers were excellent, the salads being the best.  Desserts were creative and delicious.  Our server made excellent recommendations regarding wines by the glass to go with our meals.

The only slight misstep of the visit was our meal at Serafim in Old Montreal (on the corner of Rue St Denis and Rue St Paul).  We went for Sunday brunch when we found Le Cartet closed for the holidays.  The owner chef seemed cranky and well...rude.  They sat us at a table far too small and too close to adjoining tables for a group of 5 adults.  When we asked to move to a different table, the server said yes (which given that the restaurant wasn't even 1/3rd full seemed the right answer.) We heard her get growled at by the owner and she attempted to find out if we were "just staying for coffee". Needless to say we didn't move.  One of the attractions of the place (besides it being open was that it billed itself as "organic" foods).  But organic doesn't mean uninspired or cardboard-like or just flat over cooked.  I mean, really, how can you make a pancake taste like overcooked cardboard? The vegie burger was entirely too dry.  The omelet with bacon was actually an omelet with bacon slices just plopped on top of it...not an omelete cooked with bacon in it...and although that may have been a translation issue, we asked specifically for cheese.  We were told that cheese came IN the omelet.  There was no cheese, in  (or on) either of the two omelets. Then when I went to pay for the bill which is at a register in front of the open kitchen, I got the dubious pleasure of listening to the owner/chef yell and harangue his waitstaff.  Whether they deserved the harangue was none of my business, but I shouldn't have to listen to it. Needless to say, we will not return to the Serafim anytime soon.

 Here we are, all bundled up for a New Year's Eve Stroll