Explore Montreal: Day Four & Five

Thursday, April 20, 2017

So today was my last full day in Montreal. My aunt had been telling me about a brunch place at the base of her work building so I decided to check it out. First off, I love a good pun so this restaurant made me crack up! (yes, pun intended). Eggspectation definitely met my eggspectations! I ordered the Waffle Bacon Benedict and oh. my. gosh. guys. try. it! I thought it would be a weird sweet and salty mix but the hollandaise sauce brought it all together. The waffle itself was crispy and not traditionally sweet which helped to complement the eggs benedict. Their special hollandaise sauce was a little different than traditional hollandaise sauce. It was a little sweeter than most hollandaise sauces which tied the entire plate together. On the side, this dish was complete with fruit and their Lyonnaise-style potatoes. Paired with my morning coffee and then finished off with a morning mimosa, this breakfast/brunch plate really hit the spot.

Eggspectations was definitely one of the best breakfast places I’ve been to. They’re located around Montreal and have a couple other locations across the country and in the States as well. If possible, check out their locations and try out some of their special dishes.

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After breakfast, I took a stroll back to Rue Sainte-Catherine to shop at Simons again. I am so in love with Simons and it is unhealthy! I left with more clothes and a soft wool jacket that was on sale. I had seen it earlier this week and decided that I could not leave without it. I spent some time around the McGill campus, checking out restaurants and coffee shops around the perimeter.

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I ended up at Lola Rose Café which was a suggestion made by one of my close friends. It was an interesting little vegetarian comfort food restaurant. Not sure how this happened, but I ended up ordering an avocado quesadilla. Barring from the fact that I’m actually allergic to avocados, I definitely liked the quesadilla. I was not a huge fan of the rice and the salad that came with it though. Maybe I should have ordered the burritos, but I felt like my choices were limited and although it may be a great choice for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, I personally would probably not come back here.

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By this point in my trip, I had pretty much exhausted all my monetary funds so I made a sad trek back to a Starbucks outside my hotel to catch up on some blog posts and lecture videos. For dinner, I picked up some dumplings from Qing Hua Dumplings in Chinatown and watched the Raptors game in my hotel room before crashing into a food coma.

Friday, April 21, 2017

So… I missed my train back to Toronto. I woke up probably 10 minutes before my train’s departure so I guess that was that! For someone who loves travelling, I have a reoccurring problem where I will almost miss my flight or bus, but this was my first time completely missing my departure. Fortunately, I was able to get booked onto the next train out of Montreal which left two hours after my original train.

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By the time I arrived in Toronto, it was noon and I was getting hungry. On a previous trip to Toronto, I has asked for sushi restaurant suggestions from my roommate’s sister, Sincerly KN (p.s. check out her blog and Instagram if you are in the Greater Toronto Area) and she had suggested Mi-Ne Sushi. I did not have time to check it out last time but I was closer to the restaurant this time around so I stopped by for a quick bite to eat before catching my next train back to London, ON.

I absolutely love house green salads from Japanese restaurants and theirs was no exception. It was amazing! Everything from the dressing to thinly sliced avocado on top. How much did I love it? I loved it so much that I ordered a second one to bring with me onto the train. I also ordered one Unagi Roll, which is probably one of my favourite things to have when I’m craving sushi. Did not disappoint! The only downside to this restaurant was the price for the quantity given, but given its location and quality, it is a price that I am willing to pay for if I am ever around here again.

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All in all, I had an amazing week in Montreal and I would love to go again to try all the places that I was not able to check out in my short time there. Thank you for following me on my little trip and I hope these have been inspiration for helping you plan your own trip to Montreal!

If you have not already done so, check out day one, two, and three!

tiffany sign off

Explore Montreal: Day Three

Oops! I didn’t forget about the rest of my Montreal trip…I just had to face reality and the fact that I still had exams. So I am now back to finish my travel series!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Today was one of those “figure it out as you go” kind of days. I had planned on checking out the shops on St. Lawrence Boulevard (Boul St-Laurent) but hadn’t figured out how to get there yet so first thing this morning, I pulled up Google Maps and made my way to the subway station. As I stood there looking like a total tourist, trying to figure out the ticket prices for the subway, a really nice man tapped my shoulder and offered to give me the remainder of his day pass. Blessing number one of the day! I was very grateful because that meant I could stop looking super lost, and get to check out a lot more places than I had planned for.

First on my list: breakfast. I was determined to settle the “bagel war” that divides Montreal. Okay, it isn’t that dramatic but it is apparently a big deal. Montreal bagels are unique because it is handmade, and always baked in a wood-fire oven. They’re sweeter, smaller, and thinner than the regular (New York-style) bagel. In my opinion, they are a lot tastier than any New York-style bagel just because they don’t taste as dough-y. I set out to try the two “main” bagel shops in Montreal to see which one had the best experience, taste, and selection.

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My route may not have been the most efficient but my first stop was the Fairmount. Fairmount Bagel is said to be the best bagel place in Montreal. But then again, ask different people, get different answers! It is, apparently, the first bagel bakery in Canada, so that’s pretty cool! Fairmount Bagel is hidden away on Fairmount Avenue and Rue Saint-Urbaine in what seemed like a little residential neighbourhood. However, it is located two blocks south-west of the main road, Boul St-Laurent. Walking through the neighbourhood, I almost missed the small shop, filled floor to ceiling with shelves of bagels for sale. It’s a very small shop with no seating and a narrow entrance that led to a counter where you could order your bagel. Behind the counter was all the inner workings of the bagel shop. It would have been great to be able to watch them make the bagels but there was barely enough room for two people to order at the counter. I ordered a plain bagel (because I am a bagel purist) and cream cheese. Boring, but so delicious!

Experience: 1.5/5 Just because it is an on-the-go bagel place without seating. I felt very rushed to make a decision of what bagel to get and what toppings to choose and did not get a chance to fully experience the process. I ended up sitting on a colourful bench outside to eat my bagel.
Taste: 4/5 Tastes like a Montreal bagel (duh)! I gave it a four just because it was a little tough to chew on, like it had been out of the oven for a while.
Selection:
4/5 They have a wide variety of bagels with spread choices of jam, peanut butter, and cream cheese. I was a little disappointed in the lack of spread choices, but since it wasn’t meant to be a sit-down dining cafe, that was understandable.

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Once I finished my Fairmount bagel, I hopped on a bus to find my way to St-Viateur Bagel. The bagels were not very filling so this made my day pretty easy! I found St-Viateur after a bus ride and walking a couple blocks. Back when I talked to the woman on the train, she told me that I had to try the “bagel and lox” which is a Montreal bagel topped with smoked salmon and cream cheese. So since Fairmount did not have those options, I ordered it here at St-Viateur. Fittingly, it was named Traditional on the Bagel Sandwich menu. As you can see, the sesame bagel is topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon, tomatoes, onions, and capers. It was DELICIOUS and very filling, paired with a perfect cup of drip coffee.

Experience: 4/5 While seating was a nice way to experience the bagel without having to eat it outside, the service was just okay. It took a while for them to take my order and refill coffee. All-in-all, a much better experience than at Fairmount.
Taste: 5/5 Oh. My. Goodness. So much going on but in a good way. Smoked salmon and cream cheese are a match made in heaven! The bagel itself was a lot softer than the Fairmount bagel so I had to give it to St-Viateur.
Selection: 5/5 The variations and the ability to choose from bagels, spreads, a variety of bagel sandwiches, and non-bagel menu items, was a lot more appealing than just having bagels with spreads. Check here for a rough idea of the menu.

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I’m not sure how I found my way to La Banquise but I think I walked so I could work off some of that St-Viateur bagel! La Banquise is a 24 hour diner for Quebec eats, specifically poutine. I think I went with the classic poutine to see how it went against all the other poutine I had tried outside of Montreal. You can’t really argue with Montreal poutine. Afterall, it is where it originates from. The gravy had a sweet taste, not salty like the gravy used elsewhere. All-in-all, La Banquise’s poutine is a must try and it shows the uniqueness of Montreal poutine compared to other kinds of Canadian poutine. The flavours itself are very different.

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By the time I finished my “lunch” at La Banquise, it was pouring rain outside. Armed with a semi-defective umbrella, I waited under the doorstep of a random shop before hopping onto a bus towards Boul St-Laurent. When I got off the bus, I was not in the mood to get soaked so I ducked into Café Code Noir. In attempts to keep my spending at bay, I ordered a regular drip coffee and spent an hour and a half working on blog posts. I had hoped that the rain would die down but alas it would not. Code Noir did request that you purchased a drink for every hour you stayed there and used their resources (e.g., wifi, electricity, etc.), which I found to be a unique practice, but reasonable considering they were a small coffee shop and not a large chain store like Starbucks.

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After I spent some time at Code Noir, I decided to check out Café Imagine. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into Café Imagine because the layout was similar to a regular coffee shop but the bar looked different. To my surprise, Café Imagine actually charges by the hour! The rate (for a student), was three dollars an hour, charged to a maximum of nine dollars. So after three hours, you would just pay a flat fee of nine dollars for unlimited drinks. Seems reasonable because if a ‘specialty’ drink such as a mocha or a latte was to be made in another café, they would charge you somewhere between $4-5 and it would take you approximately an hour to finish (or at least it does for me) if you were doing work. After staying for three hours, it would actually be cheaper than elsewhere. It was a unique set up that I found to be very practical. Even their drinks were high quality. I ordered a hot chocolate which was made with real cocoa. It was amazingly rich and if I lived in Montreal, this would probably be my go-to study spot!

After spending some time at Café Imagine, I left to check out a thrift shop, only to realize that a) it was pouring outside and I should not have left shelter, and b) I really don’t like thrift shops. So I popped into Juliette & Chocolat for a quick peak since a friend of mine had suggested the place to me. It is an adorable dessert shop and I wish I had more time, money, and appetite to spend there. I made my way back to Café Code Noir before meeting up with my aunt for dinner.

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Well, one can not go to Montreal without trying Montreal’s smoked meat! My aunt and I both ordered Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwiches. It was filling and delicious, but beware of the grease! Even without full fat, the meat is juicy and tender. I hate pickles but paired with the sandwich, it was not too bad! There is not much to say about Montreal Smoked Meat because it speaks for itself. It is just a must try! The lineups are crazy long and there isn’t a lot of seating so get there when you can so the wait time isn’t too long. However, they only take cash so make sure you have that on hand.

So that was day three of my Montreal adventures. Full bellies, coffee in my blood, and rainy days make for the perfect chill day. Even though I did not get to explore more of Boul St-Laurent, it was a great day and that just means I will have to return another day to spend more time on the boulevard!

tiffany sign off

Explore Montreal: Day Two

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Day two was shopping on Rue Sainte-Catherine. Original, I know. At one point, I thought Ontario HST was bad…and then I came to Montreal and realized that they have a ridiculously high tax rate of approximately 15%. I quickly grabbed breakfast and a coffee from an Asian pastry place called Pâtisserie Cocobun in the underground food court. Instead of eating in the food court underground, I awkwardly maneuvered my food out of the bag and stood to the side of La Maison Simon’s main doors and watched people hurry through the busy downtown intersection. On the train to Toronto, the woman sitting next to me recommended a book called Quiet so after eating my pastry, I went to check it out at a nearby bookstore. I got through part of the first chapter while finishing my coffee and then ordered the book off Amazon to finish when I get back home to Vancouver.

I spent the first part of my afternoon shopping in Simon’s and then just browsing through random stores. Around 4:30 pm, I realized how hungry I was becoming and decided to check out Le Warehouse. If you are ever in Montreal and want good, cheap, pub food, Le Warehouse is the place to be. The entire menu (minus drinks) costs $4.95. The portions are smaller but filling. I got Le Warehouse Poutine: peppered fries, maple bacon, cheese curds, and gravy. Welcome to poutine heaven! Le Warehouse isn’t supposed to be a “famous poutine place” but, let me tell you, it was still amazing. The fries popped with bits of peppercorn on each bite. I’m not a huge fan of peppercorn so I picked off large pieces of the pepper to make sure it wasn’t too spicy. The peppered fries, mixed with crispy maple bacon, gave it an incredible crunch. I love crispy fries so even if the fries themselves were not the crunchiest, the peppercorn and maple bacon made up for it. I paired it with a Tennessee Lemonade (Jack Daniels, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and Coca-Cola) for a whiskey infused Coke. A little strong to start off, especially on a relatively empty stomach, but it got better with some mixing.

After Le Warehouse, I got lost (again) looking for C’ChôColat, a desert place just a couple blocks south of Le Warehouse. One of my good friends from high school suggested it to me since she had connections at McGill from her undergrad years here. C’ChôColat is kind of a hybrid coffee shop and dessert shop. They make drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), mason jar milkshakes and smoothies, sandwiches, waffles and other desserts including fondue! Check out their menu here. I almost ordered a fondue for one but decided against it for a “King Kong”. Literally a King Kong of a dessert: Vanilla gelato wrapped in a chocolate bubble waffle  with banana slices, salted caramel, whipped cream, crumble, and pecans. Probably one of the best things I have ever had and 10/10 would recommend. There is not much I can say about it because my taste buds were literally assaulted by its sweetness and I was in awe, so this picture will say it all for me.


After I finished at C’ChôColat, it was getting close to 6:00 pm. I headed back to meet up with my aunt to head out for dinner. I’m not sure how I fit all that food in my stomach without getting sick! I was pretty full by the time I got back to the hotel but I shoved that feeling aside and headed to dinner. We went to Le Robin Square, a small French cuisine restaurant run by the Robin Family. Their menu is unique in that their ingredients are, for the most part, locally grown and the menu items change daily. The chef comes in every morning to prepare the menu items for the day. A frequent menu item that the restaurant makes is their specialty Mac & Cheese. I don’t really know how to describe this dish because it has such a unique taste to it. The cheese sauce has a maple sweetness to it, creamy, topped with Hawaiian salt and sweet pulled Christmas ham. I completely regret not taking a photo of it but just thinking back at the dish is making me salivate. We also ordered their appetizer pizza. It had sundried tomatoes, fresh little tomatoes, and a large block of Italian cheese they have imported each week. I thought it would be rather heavy because of the pizza crust and creamy cheese but it was surprisingly light, a perfect appetizer. Unfortunately, the flavourful Mac & Cheese overshadowed the pizza so if I get a chance to come back to Montréal, I will definitely try the rest of their menu, one item at a time. I even ventured out of my comfort zone to try La Saison du Tracteur, a beer stocked from a local micro-brewery called Le Trou Du Diable. I’m a terrible person to drink beer with because I usually stick to what I know so this was a new experience for me and I was surprised at how much I liked it! The delicious meal was topped with a unique pistachio creme brûlée. I slipped into a food coma not too long afterwards. Given how much I ate today, I was stuffed.

I think I learned a lesson today. Don’t try to fit a whole day worth of food into two and a half hours because the food coma will be very real. Other than that, I have zero regrets because my stomach was VERY happy.

tiffany sign off

Explore Montreal: Day One

You would think that with only three exams, I could finish my third year of university early and go home right? Wrong. The university seems to have scheduled my last exam for one of the last days of exam period. Left with two weeks in between my first two exams and last exam, what was I supposed to do with my time? It has been two years since I last visited my Aunt and her family in Toronto so I thought, why not pay them a visit? This is how I ended up in Montreal. My aunt seems to frequent Montreal for business trips and invited me along this time since going to Toronto to visit them just means being stuck in a suburb for most of the week. In Montreal, I am flying solo and getting lost on my own. It’s quite exciting actually! So this is what I have been up to!

Monday, April 17, 2017

My day started at 5:00 am. I stayed up until 1:00 am packing the night before so I am surprised I even made it up in time to catch my train! Once I got on the train, I was ready to go back to sleep which I think I managed to do for 10 minutes before the coffee cart passed by and I had to borrow some change from the lady next to me to afford the $2.25 coffee (yeah. I’m poor and cash doesn’t exist in my wallet. sorry pickpocketers!). The lady next to me happened to be headed to Vancouver from London, but raised in Montreal so we spent the rest of the train ride to Toronto exchanging tourist tips on our home cities.
Once in Toronto, I changed trains and was on my way to Montreal. The whole trip took around 7 or 8 hours so I made it to Montreal around 2:00 pm. I immediately got lost after getting off the train. Very typical of me! Google maps probably saved me from landing in some dead end corner on the other side of the city. I finally found my hotel and settled in before heading to Vieux-Port (Old Port) and Vieux-Montréal (Old Montreal) in the borough of Ville-Marie. First stop: Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal. 

The Basilique Notre-Dame was only a short walk away, not even 10 minutes. There was a large line-up outside so I chose not to go inside. Maybe I will get a chance to get take a look around inside but today, I was pretty hungry so I went to find some food down by the St. Lawrence River.

Next stop: Maison Christian Faure. Not really a meal place but dessert can be a meal right? It took me while to make up my mind but I finally settled on a slice of flan and three macarons (mangue passion, caramel, and pistache). The flan was a lot tougher than I thought it would but it was creamy, delicious, and just the perfect amount of sweetness. The macarons were tangy, with vibrant flavours. The mangue passion really hit me at the first bite. I didn’t expect it to be so sour and strong. The pistachio macaron had a creamy texture with a mild flavour in comparison to the mangue passion macaron. The caramel was rich and dark, more so than most caramel macarons I have tried. All three were very, very sweet. If you have a sweet tooth, this is the perfect place for you! The macarons are rich in flavour, and have the perfect crunch. Pricing, however, is on the steep side. Each macaron cost $2.50 so I had to choose very carefully.

After dessert, I strolled down Rue de la Commune and grabbed a coffee from Magasin General before making my way back to Rue Saint-Paul. Rue Saint-Paul is pretty much the oldest part of Montréal and true to its reputation, it is rustic with cobblestone roads. It is almost like being transported into a miniature version of Europe. I just walked around and took pictures before heading back to my hotel to meet up with my aunt for dinner. We ended up checking out a Chinese noodle restaurant located in Chinatown called Nudo. The noodles are hand-pulled in house, making them pretty special, but the noodles were starchier than I would have liked. I got the dry noodles with BBQ pork…the pork was AMAZING though. It has been such a long time since I have had good BBQ pork. London needs to step up their BBQ pork game (and all things Chinese cuisine, honestly).

It had been a long day by the time we finished dinner so we headed back to the hotel. I spent some time by the poolside before retiring to bed VERY early in the night. All in all, it was a chilly but productive afternoon of exploring Vieux-Montréal!

tiffany sign off