It was hard to leave Montreal knowing I may have to wait a very long time before I sunk my teeth into another one of those buttery and flaky almond croissants. I developed an addiction to them and I did not feel one bit guilty!
The two days we spent in Montreal revolved around food.
For lunch there was a tasty, fresh vegan tofu sandwich with all kinds of veggies from Casa del Popolo.
For dinner there was diner food from Nickles, a Montreal chain restaurant. It was as good as to be expected given that it was diner food. We didn't go there for the food. It was the retro 1950s decor that lured us in, equipped with a jukebox, black and white tiled flooring, red vinyl stools and booths and chrome detailing. I kept it safe by ordering pan fried fish fillet and steamed veggies with a side Caesar salad. Yeah, I know, boring! No fries, no milkshake, no burger...
The second day in Montreal I struck gold! Breakfast was at a French-speaking restaurant. Luckily my husband is competent in French and did all the talking. I ordered Eggs Benedict with asparagus and mushrooms (a la forestiere) and the most ornate (and delicious) fruit salad I had ever seen!
Afterward we (husband and I) walked over to the Jean Talon farmer's market, which was nearby and we discovered the most amazing French bakery (Premiere Moisson) with mounds of pastries! I ordered a croissant aux almond (almond croissant), a decadent chocolate mousse bombe filled with molten caramel (chocolat piquant) and a bouchon (a less heady muffin oozing with caramel and pecans). So very delicious!
Just beyond the bakery was a vast expanse of fresh fruit and vegetables from the local farmer's market and I strolled the farmer's stalls ooh-ing and ahh-ing over all the beautiful produce. The mushroom stall with over 15 types of mushrooms really made me giddy with excitement. Lobster mushrooms and morel mushrooms along with your more familiar mushrooms oyster, shitake and cremini. I knew I had to come back again before we departed for Toronto the next morning.
For lunch I had...poutine! It was in the Old Montreal section at a touristy restaurant. It took over half an hour for the poutine to arrive but it was eaten in less than 10 minutes. It was good but I found the gravy a bit too salty for my taste. My favourite part was the cheese curds. If there were a "foods to eat before I die" list, I could now cross out poutine.
Just to digress briefly, although our trip was fantastic, there's also a lesson to be learned. Warning: Long convoluted story follows...
When we went to Old Montreal we parked the car in a metered parking lot nearby. We paid for a parking pass. Placed it on the dashboard and left. We arrived back to the lot after 3 hours and our car was gone! We soon discovered a sign above the parking meter machine, that we absent-mindedly did not see indicating that cars will be towed if they did not pay the correct amount for parking. We had paid our fare so why did we get towed? Seems the instructions for parking in this lot were very confusing - written with a pen on a piece of paper taped to the ticket machine and bleached out from the sun. Barely legible. Earlier that day we concluded that $10 should cover it as it was indicated on the scribbled paper that after 2pm it was $10 and we were coming up to 2pm...but it was in fact $13 maximum that we should have paid.
Our rental car had been towed!! A 20 minute cab ride and $12 later we were at a impounded car lot with a one-armed woman behind a shatterproof glass partition and a large barking German shepherd dog. No word of a lie. I know it sounds like a scene from a David Lynch (or Quentin Tarantino) movie. We had to pay the fine for being towed. This royally sucked big time. I insisted to my husband that we cancel our restaurant reservations at a fancy pants restaurant called Brasserie t! and instead we decided to go out for tapas. This was a smart decision!!!
Dinner was a phenomenal meal at a (recommended by friends) Spanish restaurant. Those feta cheese fried balls (in the photo below) drizzled with honey and caramelized onions were superb! The squid was soft and melted in your mouth. The stewed chickpeas had a hint of cumin and the rapini was al dente and garlicky. The Sangria was quite sweet (my kind of drink); I consumed 3 glasses of Sangria and quickly forgot about our towing drama of earlier.
The next morning prior to our departure from Montreal, we drove back up to the amazing bakery "Premiere Moisson" at Jean Talon's farmer's market. Another gorge-fest ensued with (again!) the fabulous almond croissant and a Chausson aux pommes (apple turnover) along with the freshest sandwiches ever. The bread was airy and light with a crispy crust on the outside. I had brie cheese with tomato and spinach sandwich on a mini olive baguette. The bread inside was slathered with fresh creamy butter. Oh man...fresh butter! So good!
Several stops at the fruit and veggie stands and my hands were hauling bags of sweet cherry tomatoes, fresh green beans, fresh fava beans, assorted coloured peppers (purple!), assorted coloured baby carrots (yes, purple too!), long white eggplant, a pound of juicy, tart apples, the sweetest and juiciest strawberries ever and a basket of ground cherries which are my new favourite fruit. Thank you Montreal for introducing them to me.
It was a bit sad to leave such an amazing food experience, we drove home with our farmer's market purchases and delicious pastries for the road trip. I savoured every crumb.
I can seriously see myself living in Montreal. The food alone is enough to lure me there. But I'm told the winters there are much harsher than in Toronto. Hmm, maybe I need to think about this a bit more.