So we just got back from another excursion across the border to celebrate our three year wedding anniversary ! We spent most of our time in downtown Montreal exploring the brewpubs, farmer's markets, restaurants and lots of art along the way !
Im not going to bore you with longwinded ramblings about exactly what we did day by day but will hi-light the sights and sounds with a heap of pictures and small descriptions:
One of the best reasons we enjoy the trip to Montreal is the fact that the first 3-4 hours of the 6 hour ride is all backroads that meander through the hills of western Maine into the White Mountains of New Hampshire and across the green hills of Vermont as we crank down the windows and take in the scenery.
We took a pit stop in Vermont along the way and had lunch at Prohibition Pig in Waterbury and then explored Fiddlehead Brewing Co and downtown Burlington for the evening, ending up at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill for an amazing meal and some tasty local Vermont brews.
Nice little touch at ProPig... clever used hop bag bill folder.
Fiddlehead Brewing Co.
Nice little touch at ProPig... clever used hop bag bill folder.
Fiddlehead Brewing Co.
After a great day exploring Vermont and breaking up the ride we stayed at the Essex Resort which is about ten minutes outside of Burlington.
The next morning it was a rainy ride up to Montreal along Lake Champlain and through the small town farmland of our friends up North.
After arriving in Montreal we checked into our new home for the week...
We really enjoyed this hotel that we snagged via Hotwire. It was clean, modern and had great extras in the room like a Bodum coffee maker, IHome clock radio to dock your own ipod and a console of cable adapters to hook up mulitple devices to the flatscreen TV for the techies out there. The view from the 15th floor was always a welcome way to start the morning !
After settling in it was time to explore:
the Street Art
We stumbled across KASHINK's work at Station 16 and there was some other nice pieces to be seen in there as well... I forget how much more mural based art is embraced in Montreal than in New England cities who tend to sell the public walls to corporate advertisements instead of letting the creative juices flow !
Glad to see a wicked Chris Dyer piece as well !
After lots of exploring and many miles of walking we relaxed in a few local brewpubs to enjoy some appetizers and adult beverages... we also gathered some bagels and fresh goods along the way and visited our favorite market Marche Jean Talon !
Last time in Montreal we hit up Fairmount Bagel...so this time we decided to try its competition, St. Viateur Bagel shop. Both are extremely delicious and open 24/7 !
Alway a good idea...
It was nice to see the place bursting with local seedlings and tons of local offerings. Last time we were here in March and there was less going on but we saw the potential with the outdoor section... that potential was realized this time around with so many farmers offering outstanding quality at great prices !
This rhubarb juice is top notch... at first I scoffed at it because it contained no alcohol, but after the pleasant girl behind the counter offered us a sample we chose to score a few to stash in our cooler !
Cassi is a real sucker for free samples especially when its ripe delicious fruit !
The seemless integration from fresh produce offerings to butcher, charcuterie stand, fresh pasta shop, cheese shops, foraging carts to oyster bar and seafood markets make this a food lovers paradise... really if I lived in Montreal I would simply pass through this market on the way home to make dinner everyday !
Oh and a few local booze shops in the mix too... interested in what they have to offer, how bout a free sample !
Always one of our favorite stops Les Jardins Sauvages ! Ever since I read a book many years ago that interviews Francios Brouillard I knew his passion for the food in which he forages and prepares was worth seeking out, and everytime we head to Montreal we keep a small stock pile of funds to re-up on some of his creations as well as some of the fresh offerings that his market stand offers !
After a couple visits to the market we ended up with a nice little haul of delicious goods to scurry back across the border !
With all this shopping, walking and exploring we ended up being very hungry... we had two very memorable meals while visiting Montreal.
Up first was slightly on a whim... you see before we travel anywhere I usually make a google map of our destination and "pin" ideas of places to go so we are never just spinning in circles trying to find a cool place to visit... I know my wife well and knew one night she was going to have a hankering for some cocktails after me dragging her into every niche brewpub and bottleshop we came across on our travels. After a day where we must have walked 10 miles
we returned to our Delta Montreal hotel hungry and with sore feet...
and Cassi declared "I want dinner and cocktails!"
I quickly pulled up my map and searched for the closest cocktail restaurant I had pinned next to our hotel. One place that stood out was:
Taverne Square Dominion
A brief history of the place is that it once was a hotel restaurant in the roaring twenties and after a large fire and some changes in ownership through the years... the "tavern" still remains today with some of the original nostalgia retained in the floors, wall decorations and overall decor. They don't have a ten page cocktail list with fruit punch offerings and umbrella drinks but rather keep a classic simplistic list of food and drink selections done in the classic style !
As you can see I never like being that couple sitting at a table flashing pictures while eating... the lighting was not very good considering we showed up for dinner at 10pm. But I decided I should pull some pictures from the website to show off the class of this place !
I think we ended up ordering:
Bone Marrow with Brussel Sprout Salad
I chose the Sazerac & Canadian Old Fashion and Cassi had the Tom Collins & Rye Ginger Ale
Great service and atmosphere... would definitely go again !
----Our other memorable meal came on our official Three Year Anniversary !----
Au Pied Conchon
We could only get an early seating and still the place was bustling with activity... if you have never heard of Chef Martin Picard then do yourself a favor and look him up. Legendary !
It amazed me how many people they had working and how efficient everything seemed to run. Our waitress and host were amazingly friendly and we never had a empty glass of water or had to make eye contact to try to get someones attention. We even got a quick greeting from Martin Picard himself who stopped in with his son and after greeting him with a smile he stopped at our table and studied our dishes with a critical eye then proceeded to smile, gave me a pat on the shoulder and told us to enjoy !
We started with a few cocktails which were well done but a tad sweet to enjoy such rich food with so we opted on ordering a bottle of Dolcetto d'Alba after the other reasonably priced bottle of Langhe Nebbiolo was not available.
Asparagus & Morels wrapped in ham and provolone cheese !
House Charcuterie Plate
Seared Foie Gras with Cubed Pineapple, Bacon and Cheddar Cheese
served with foraged sprouts
Classic Martin Picard Canard en Conserve
otherwise known as duck in a can !
Everything was spot on delicious and there was so many more dishes we wish we had room to try but alas the richness of the food crept up on us and we didn't even have room for dessert ! Most of these dishes were specials for the night with the exception of the staple "duck in a can" and we have come to realize that specials are the way to go when dining at places that use local ingredients because it seems the specials always include what is tasting the best on any particular day ! Anyhow, we opted for the check instead of dessert and wobbled out onto the streets of Montreal to enjoy our last evening of vacation !
On the way home we stumbled upon one of the best impromptu performance art pieces that I have experienced in my life... as we walked through downtown we noticed a small crowd gathering around a building. On the rooftop we could see a couple people straddling the edge holding a fiddle and a accordion along with a few acrobats. We decided to join the crowd and stare on to see what was going on... here is a glimpse into what we saw:
It started with just a fiddler...
then appeared a accordion player.
Now on comes the acrobats...
More acrobats appear with a soothing horn combo and lots of window dancers and clappers !
The performance ended in a bloom of red umbrellas and a huge round of applause !
And because pictures don't really do the performance justice and Cassi has a somewhat fancy phone, we were able to take a little video of the sights and sounds of the performance !
Thanks for another amazing time Montreal... we will be back !