Thursday, July 2, 2009

Montreal bits and bites

Last weekend we drove to Montreal to hang out with some friends from Toronto who were there for the weekend. The female half of the couple was invited to Montreal by a restaurateur who she’d done some design work for, and he offered to take us on a sort of “food tour” of Montreal on Saturday afternoon. Sadly, I ended up getting a severe migraine late in the afternoon and therefore missed out on having dinner at his fancier restaurant, but we went to some incredible places during the day.

We started out at Pâtisserie MahrousĂ©, in the Park Extension neighbourhood, where we sampled all manner of phyllo-wrapped and layered delicacies. I don’t remember the names of anything we tried, but everything was delicious beyond measure. Several of the pastries are only made on weekends, including one with a walnut and cinnamon filling and another with ricotta and honey and pistachios. Chris also bought a date-filled buttery cookie that was incredible, not too sweet, reminiscent of a fig newton but miles better.

Our next stop was Lahmadjoune Beyrouth Yerevan, a bakery that specializes in Armenian “pizzas” - pita breads topped with meat or spinach and cheese, cooked in a wood oven. We got a couple of each kind and sat on the stoop in front of the tiny shop and ate them with gusto. I am absolutely going back there for picnic supplies one day.

We then wandered around the Jean-Talon market for a bit, where I bought some cider vinegar from Rougemont, Quebec. Then it was on to Camellia Sinensis, a fancy tea shop in the student area of St-Denis. They sell freshly picked varietal teas from China and Japan – no flavoured chai or roiboos here. We each had a cup of tea and that’s when my head exploded, so unfortunately the experience was a bit lost on me. Chris bought some gunpowder tea to make Moroccan mint tea with, though.

The next day we got breakfast at a bakery recommended by our tour guide – Le Kouign-Amann. He said they make the best croissants in Montreal; sadly, we got there too late in the morning to find out. It was 40 minutes to the next batch, so we made do with an apple turnover, a couple of chocolatines, and a raisin cinnamon roll, which we took with us and sat on a bench in front of the Mont-Royal metro station. All were utterly delicious.

Later, we had lunch at Rumi Grill on St-Laurent, which is the more casual sister to Rumi, the main restaurant owned by our tour guide. Both places specialize in North African food. I ordered a sort of sandwich on pain baladi, a sort of whole grain pita, with za’atar and Akawi cheese (much like fresh mozzarella or halloumi) that was extremely tasty. I also had to try Muhammara for the first time, because I’ve been dying to try it ever since I saw it on the Wednesday Chef last year. It’s a sort of spread made from roasted red peppers, olive oil, walnuts, pomegranate molasses and Aleppo pepper, and it is DIVINE. Full of fat and not something to eat every day, but oh, I could. It blew my mind. I want to put it on everything. I cannot wait to go back there and just order a selection of mezes and a bunch of pita and a cool drink and just gorge delightedly. Please, if you like middle eastern food, go there now. For me. Chris says their kefta pita is pretty darned awesome, too, and they have house-brewed basil lemonade as well as a wicked cocktail of ginger, orange and lemon juices that kicks back, but in a good way. I wish I was there now.

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