Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bienvenu à Montréal

Montreal is the second largest French speaking city in the world, only after Paris. So, it is not surprising that Montreal is also widely considered, “La Capital Gastronomique de l'America del Nòrd”, a worthy rival to New York City for best restaurants in North America. This is all about the food, mon cherie!

Best French Canadian BBQ: St-Hubert, aka St. Hubert’s, where the barbeque chicken is cooked to perfection. The chicken melts in your mouth and the flavor is out of this world. For accompaniments, there are fries and the signature barbeque sauce. “Le sauce BBQ” is not a sweet southern barbeque sauce. It is boldly flavored yet delicately spiced gravy. Also, try the brochette. This is chicken barbeque on a skewer with pineapple, cherry, green bell pepper, and onion, candied over fire with their light sweet sauce. For dessert, you cannot miss the sugar pie, aka tart aux sucre. It is like a pecan pie without the pecans, and creamier with a more delicate pie crust. Mmm mm mm!

World Legend for “La Viande Fumée”: Schwartz’s Charcuterie Hebraique de Montreal, aka Schwartz’s Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen, aka Chez Schwartz, is truly unique. There are over 80 years of this Montreal tradition, which is open ‘til the wee hours of the morning. The brisket is marinated for ten days in secret mix of delicious herbs and seasonings. No preservatives are used. The meat is smoked daily on the premises. You will not find this kind of smoked beef anywhere else in the world. It is not corned beef and not pastrami. It is sliced thick and meaty. Have a sandwich on rye or just a pound on your plate, and don’t forget the side order of their fresh fries. Another great Montreal special: the karnatzel. It is homemade sausage/salami about a foot and a half long and just less than an inch in diameter, with a uniquely spiced and all-natural smoked flavor. 

Best French Patisserie: La Patisserie Duc de Lorraine is located by Mount Royal at the intersection of Côte-des-Neiges and Rue St. Mary, and is quite frankly the best French patisserie in the world. I have based this statement on the opinions of my own and a multitude of world travelers, even comparing the delights here to those of the best patisseries in Paris, France. If you have time, sit down in the tea room and admire the beautiful neighborhood. My sister ordered the croque-monsieur, which is French bread with ham and cheese melted on top. The baguette is simply superb, and the ham and cheese were of the best quality. I ordered my all time favorite, le croissant aux jambon et fromage (ham and cheese). The croissants here have a great flavor and delicate texture. Also, you must try the desserts! The gigantic chocolate rum balls have the perfect chocolate and sugar taste with a surprise of orange zest. All the classics are done best here: the napoleons, chocolate cakes and strawberry tarts. The Patate Grand-Marnier really takes the cake. It is an almond flavored miniature cake soaked in Grand-Marnier and topped with cocoa covered marzipan icing. C'est yummy!

Winner of The Bagel Wars: Fairmont Bagel Bakery and St-Viateur Bakery & Café. I am biased. To any Montrealer, the only crave-worthy bagel is a Montreal bagel and the New York bagels are just second best. Montreal bagels are a totally different animal to the chewy water New York bagels. The Montreal bagels contain malt, egg, no salt. They are boiled in honey water and then baked in a wood brick oven. The flames from the oven give the bagels a lighter and darker colored and somewhat crunchy outside. The inside of the bagel is a little bit cake like. The light sweetness of a Montreal bagel contrasts perfectly with a light saltiness of good piece of Nova Scotia salmon and fromage à la crème. Go to Fairmont Bagels, where they have been firing up baking bagels since 1949. They also have really cute and crunchy mini bagels. Also you must try the equally legendary St-Viateur Bagel, where you can get a freshly baked bagel 24 hours a day.

World’s Best Indian Restaurant: Le Maison Cari Golden, aka the Curry House, aka Ben’s. If you are lucky, the owner Ben will be there. He is also a genius stock trader and enjoys an easy and intelligent conversation about the financial markets. The curries, kormas, and spices here unfold like a delicate perfumed garden. Try the samosas for an appetizer. They are spicy vegetable pockets in flaky pastry that come with a crème mint dipping sauce. My all time favorite, the chicken korma was just superb. The creamy spiced yoghurt sauce had sweet fruit and elegant heat. The chicken tikka, my sister’s all time favorite, was as flavorful as it was red. This chicken gets its color from cooking in a red clay pot. For dessert, get the gulab jamon. These are cake balls soaked in sweet rosewater. Words cannot describe how wonderful these flavors are!

The Poutine Phenomenon: Poutine is french fries covered in fresh cheddar cheese curd (le fromage beaucronne), topped with a special pepper sauce (le sauce poutine). In New York, there are 24 hour delis. In Montreal, there are 24 poutine “restos”.

The best is Resto la Banquis 24th. This is a funky little place with the classic poutine, and 24 other variations such as the “T-Rex” and the “Kamikase”. The cheese curds here squeak like they are supposed to. If they don’t squeak, the cheese isn’t fresh. Another great place for 24 hour poutine is Le Club-Sandwich, in the Gay village. This is three stories of 50s flair. At Patati Patata (the name is a play on the Quebecois word for French fries, patat frits), you can get poutine with tasty red wine gravy. If you are in the mood for Le Haute Poutine, try the fois gras poutine at Pied de Cochon.

As the restaurateur Fernand LaChance, who legend has it created the first poutine said, "ça va faire une maudite poutine!" That’s going to make a damn mess!

P.S. What are your favorite restaurants in Montreal?

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