This week’s throwback Thursday is extra special to me. This throwback took place 2 years ago almost to the day, which happens to be not too far away from my birthday.
In November of 2014 I turned 30! The big 3-0! And what other way should a foodie celebrate her birthday but to number one: Travel and number two: Travel to a city that’s on her bucket list!
My significant other and I rented an apartment using the website TripAdvisor (it’s very similar to AirBnB) but with a better insurance policy. Plus the pricing worked out a lot better than the available AirBnB’s and hotels in the area I wanted to stay in. I also, wanted to stay in an apartment so I could get a feel of what it’s like to live in this city (even if it’s just for a week).
I’m going to back up a bit for those who do not know where Montreal is, it is the most English and French populated city in Quebec Canada. Montreal has been ranked as one of the top food destinations in the world. With that said, you can tell how excited I was at planning this trip and how excited I was to try French cuisine without traveling to Europe.
My first stop once in Montreal was to our apartment rental which was in Park Avenue (Avenue Du Parc). This area is considered one of the most elegant residential areas in Montreal.
We did a bit of walking around the area and noticed just a few steps away from our flat there was a cozy little Middle Eastern restaurant named Kazamaza. Before I talk about how delicious the food was, there is one thing I will mention about this beautiful city for those planning on visiting. Many restaurants do not stay open all day. Some open in the mornings (9/10am), stay open for a few hours (until about 1/2pm) close for a few hours then reopen for dinner around (5/6pm). We discovered this around 3pm when we tried to grab food and Kazamaza was closed and setting up for the dinner crowd. I think this a great concept for workers in the food industry. You have more time to relax and the ability to take solid breaks and actually enjoy your profession instead of busting your butt all day long. Now that we got the lay of the restaurant land, we planned accordingly for future food outings.
Here’s what we had at Kazamaza (I will say everything we tasted here was extremely fresh, perfect temperature, the staff was amazingly helpful and treated us with so much hospitality even though we did not speak French):
Photos below: (1) Fattet Mawzat : A warm lovely dish layered with lamb, eggplant, pine nuts, tomato sauce, and mind blowing spices. (2) Labneh (3) grilled chicken. We also tried some amazing beer named Boréale. I would have never thought my first meal in this French city would be Middle Eastern and I loved every bite.
The drive from Queens to Montreal was a long one so we called it a night (after dinner) and got a goodnights sleep. The next day, we woke up early to get some bagels. Before I headed to Montreal there was talk in my office of me trying “amazing” bagels on my trip. When I heard this from a co-worker I was a little taken aback by this statement because I’m a New Yorker. Born and raised in Brooklyn and in my opinion New York City produces the best bagels hands down. I know my previous statement is controversial but I did not expect to hear that bagels are one of the “must tries” foods in Montreal. And, because I love a challenge and I love to prove people wrong I woke up extra early (as instructed) and headed down to St-Viateur Bagel (La Maison du Bagel).
My first thoughts were (as I approached the store) “oh this is small”. I was under the impression this is a sit down diner like how in New York City, you can grab a bagel, sit and have a cup of coffee. Nope. This place was a legit hand rolled bagel shop. It was spectacular to see this happening before my eyes. I had to let a few locals go ahead of me before I could decide on which bagels I wanted to try. But I ended up getting 4 different bagels and I will admit they were pretty good. Very warm, soft, not airy, not too chewy and not too crunchy but sort of the perfect bagel consistency. If you are reading this and plan on heading to Montreal I highly recommend stopping at St-Viateur Bagel shop and at the least watch the bagel making process, it’s pretty great to see first hand. Luckily we did not live too far from here so we grabbed the 4 bagels and headed back to our flat to make coffee and enjoy our bagels.
After we stuffed our faces with yummy bagels we bundled up (because it was about 17degrees at the time) and headed to Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. It’s truly amazing. My photos can not do the real thing justice. If you have a chance to go to Montreal please visit the basilica just to experience it’s structural beauty.
We also took some time to visit the Jardin Botanique de Montréal, Parc olympique de Montréal, and Biodôme de Montréal. Both the Botanique Jardin and Parc olympique even in the winter were majestic, and the Biodome was so much fun. I love visiting habitats so this was right up my alley. I had a blast! The penguin exhibit was my favorite.
As many of you travelers know, lots of walking, visiting shops, and site-seeing can make a person hungry.And oh boy did I continue to eat on this trip.
Here are a few of my favorite food stops leading up to my big 5-course birthday dinner (more on that later).
Café Local: Here we tried delicious buttery pasta with chorizo and fish
St-Hubert Express: Duck Poutine
For those who are not aware of what poutine is, it’s Canada’s famous dish consisting of French fries topped with cheese curds and hot gravy. It’s a Canadian staple. I decided to try the Duck Poutine because every dish in Montreal could possibly contain duck, it’s like what chicken in for America.
We stopped for cappuccino’s before heading to China Town. I will have to say it seems like any coffee shop you go to in Montreal, the people are friendly and the cappuccinos are divine.
Soup Dumplings in Montreal’s China Town: pork and leak
We called it a night after an eventful day. Had a bit of whiskey and these unique dill pickle chips only sold in Canada by the fireplace.
The next day breakfast was a bit American at a cute boutique diner named Beautys Luncheonette (this was also walking distance from our flat). I tried my best to order a french dish but everyone around me kept ordering pancakes so that’s what I got 🙂 and the decision was light fluffy and came with LOTS of bacon.
Since this was now my actual birthday I got a chance to relax, and do a bit of shopping in our part of town. The supermarkets in Montreal and stocked very similar to what we have in the US but I feel like they cater to the healthier side of products more than the chemical based products. I also absolutely loved the fact that ducks and duck meat were readily available as you would see chicken or beer here in the US. I hardly see duck sold in a local Whole Foods or a Gristedes.
Speaking of duck, I will now explain my birthday dinner. A dear co-worker who lives and works in Montreal was a huge help when I told her I would be spending time in Montreal. I asked her for a restaurant that would feed my foodie hunger but not break the bank. My co-worker recommended a wonderful restaurant that offered a 5-course dinner for around $54-55. When I looked up reviews on this place it became an absolute must! The restaurant is named French Connection.
Here are a few pictures of what I ate, there was liver, duck legs, fish, beef tartar, bread-pudding (which i LOVE) and lot’s of wine. I recommend dining here if you are looking for a lovely atmosphere full of locals and lots of superb French cuisine.
I could not have asked for a better 30th birthday! I loved every single bite of my meal. Every single course 🙂
The next day was one of our last days in Montreal and on the way out of this majestic city we stopped at Mount Royal (which gave a stunning overlook of the city then drove) – photo’s below (1), grabbed some English Pub food at the Burgundy Lion for lunch (photos 2,3) and The Old Port of Montreal (photo 4,5).
After lunch we made our way to Marché Jean-Talon because we were told we could not leave Montreal with trying the oysters at Marché Jean-Talon. I think that was one of the beset suggestions we received on the entire trip. Marché Jean-Talon is a gigantic market full of fresh seafood, vegetables, sweets, meats and restaurants. Have a look at the photos I took and check out the food I managed to stuffed my face with as we began our journey back to Queens (NYC).
Thank you reader for joining me and taking a look back at one of the best foodie trips I’ve had to date.
Leave a comment below if you have any questions about the dishes or locations mentioned above.