Eating My Way Through Montreal (Part 2)
September 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
The next day, we explored Vieux Montreal, the remains of 17th century Montreal along Fleuve Saint Laurent. The streets transformed from large intersections into meandering cobblestone paths as we walked from our hotel to our breakfast destination, Olive et Gourmando.
Once I had my necessary cup of coffee and sweet, cinnamony brioche pomme et canjelle, we were ready for whatever Vieux Montreal had to offer, which was a recreated marketplace of 1750s Montreal.
Live sheep were wrangled in a nearby pen and sheared, (fake, I assume) rifles were fired in a colonial military demonstration and contemporary food was sold.
Eager to get a taste of this antiquated Montreal, I beelined for the spruce beer, an alcoholic beverage made by Montreal colonists. Today, it’s more of a soda now sans alcohol, but I sure wish this one had some. It tasted like a mixture of Sprite and diluted mouthwash. After that, I wasn’t so excited to try colonial cuisine.
By afternoon, we headed west for some serious poutine. Now, poutine may just seem like fries soggy and lifeless, drenched in brown gravy and covered in something unappealingly dubbed cheese curds. However, in Montreal, poutine is a greasy, yet delicious work of art. Patati Patata, a quaint diner back at Le Plateau, had just that. The masterful dish came in a humble Styrofoam container and I waited until we found at some seats at a performance in Parc Jeanne Mance before taking a look inside. As locals listened to the classical music, I was distracted by the mound of fries before me.
Topped with a single briny olive and fluffy chunks of curds, the fries were thin, yet potatoey and still crispy under a generous helping of thick gravy. Even as I type, I can taste that brown gravy – it wasn’t just any heavy, creamy gravy that rolls down the gullet, but one with some sharpness that perked the tastebuds, probably due to the wine and chicken stock added to the mix. To think that such a dish as poutine could have complexities and nuances like the classical music playing, I was amused.
After the ensuing food comas once we crashed at our hotel, we made our way south for our one indulgent dinner at Joe Beef. Recommend by food artist Jennifer Rubell when I last spoke with her at her studio in Long Island City, I booked a table once we decided to come to Montreal and ended up with a 9:30pm dinner for four. We were content to wait in the dark, yet cozy restaurant until 10pm (they made up for it by serving us profiteroles filled with ginger ice cream and chocolate sauce on the house). But, perhaps that’s just because the servers saw me scribbling in my Moleskin notebook throughout our dinner and asked if I’d give them a good review. Of course, I said (on my blog, that is). Our late dinner started off with warm slices of bread and butter and a tart Muscatel wine – no appetizers.
Despite my aspirations of writing food for a living, I found out I don’t have a big appetite. Ask anyone – I eat very slowly and tend to take the remains of my meal in a paper bag. Maybe because I’m small and Asian or perhaps I have an insanely slow metabolism. Either way, it makes for tasting a variety of dishes a bit difficult, so I like to focus on the main course.
Back at Joe Beef, I wanted to enjoy my lobster spaghetti in the moment while it was fresh and still warm, not cold and dry after a night in the hotel mini fridge. The dish, recommended by our very Quebecoise waiter, was a mix of surf and turf. Soft lumps of buttery lobster were joined by crunchy bits of bacon, all entangled by supple noodles. As usual, I ate it slowly, but surely, savoring each delicious bite until I cleared my plate.