JE T’AIME MONTRÉAL

Montreal Skyline
Montréal. For years I’ve dreamt of going.  Not sure why, just one of those places that always held an allure for me.  Unfortunately, it was also one of those places that, for whatever reason, I just never seemed to get to.  But—finally—last weekend, I got there.  The drive from Boston took about 6 hours…only time traffic was annoying was pre-Pont Champlain but, because I was with one of my favorite people in the world, even that was more than bearable. Even weather-wise, luck was on our side; while the drive on Friday and Sunday was, at times, through a torrential downpour, on Saturday MN gave us the quintessential summer’s day.  We packed a lot into essentially a day and a half…well-proven by our aching feet and my suggested list of activities, below:
 
Opus Hotel:  Many visitors flock to Old Montréal but, not a fan of the tourist scene, I booked a hotel more central to the local’s experience.  The location ended up being great, the rooms were highly designed (concrete ceilings, purple walls, slick bathroom and awesome shower) but what truly made the stay memorable was the service and the staff.  From the concierge who knew my name without asking to the valet who voluntarily warned us about the $400 fine for pulling a U-e on Mont Royal to the personal welcome note from the GM to the turndown service that left different creative treats on the bed nightly, the place was très chic. One (IMPORTANT) warning to heed: make sure you ask for the rooms on the opposite side of the 1st floor nightclub.  Otherwise you will definitely need to use the complimentary earplugs left by the side of the bed. That—and a shot of propofol—should be enough to knock you out despite the pulsating beats.
 
Milos:  This legendary restaurant has locations in NYC and Athens, in addition to Montréal.  Styled as a Greek taverna, I felt like Meryl Streep on the set of Mamma Mia.  Greek is my favorite cuisine and—while heavily inspired—don’t expect taramosalata and moussaka.   Rather, Milos offers a unique (and not inexpensive, I might add) take on elegant yet extremely simple and fresh food sourced from the best purveyors around the globe.  Definitely not the place for those who abide by the 100-mile diet, but if you like to try fish you’ve never even heard of (Balada, Fagri, Lithrini, Tsipoura, anyone?), kalos orisate!
 
BÍLÝ KŮŇ:  This was a recommendation from my friend’s friend. The email read “ostrich heads on the walls.”  What?!  That, not to mention the fact that it sounds like an IKEA shelving system, made this bar a must-do.  We arrived after dinner at Milos, maybe around midnight. Dark space, two girls who looked like they should’ve been in bed preparing for a big day at junior high spinning tunes at hard-to-talk-over (especially hard for me, as anyone who knows me can attest!) volume and—as promised—ostrich heads literally every 8 feet or so, high up on the walls.  As if this place wasn’t cool enough already, the fact that they had Fernet on the tightly-edited menu board made my friend a quick convert.  A couple of shots accompanied by a bottle each of Czechvar — the perfect end to the first day of our trip.
 
olive + gourmando:  Another friend had recommended this place, located on the outskirts of Old Montréal. We were famished by the time we arrived for lunch the next day and, despite the fact that it was 2:30 or so, it was packed. After they seat you (plan on waiting), you proceed to the counter where you can pick out your food from both a menu board and a ‘show and tell.’ After that point, it’s all table service. We tried the charcuterie board (ginormous), the tomato salad and a second salad with veggies and pasta kernels.  Paired with a glass of Rosé for me and a Red Stripe for my friend (did I mention I was traveling with Henry Gates, Jr.?), a perfect afternoon repast.
 
Mortimer Snodgrass:  Walking off our lunch, we peeked into a few of the shops in Old Montréal. This place is the hub of fun things you never realized you needed but, once you saw, wondered how you ever lived without!
 
Librissime:  Billed as a seller of “hyperstylish books and objects,”  this place was crazy cool.  For the person who has everything…how about a coffee table book on golf (that’s seriously larger than most coffee tables!) that goes for a cool $10,400 (Canadian).  White gloves strategically placed throughout the store offered a not-so-subtle reminder to keep dirty mitts off of the very expensive books.
 
Galerie Le Luxart:  We passed by this place earlier in the day, when a painting in the window caught my eye.  After lunch, we made our way back.  I didn’t take the piece I had originally admired, because I found a different one that I loved even more.  Buying my first piece of real art on my 38th birthday made me feel so…mature!  If you’re interested, check out this link for some examples of the artist’s (who will hopefully someday soon become more famous in death than in life. Kidding!) work or stop by mm/c mid-August to see it on the wall in all of it’s glory!
 
L’Express Restaurant: If you’re a fan of the authentic French bistro experience (slow and often rude service, moderately-priced classics and crowded space), congratulations—you’ve found the mothership.  Despite my love for all things French (and my oft-shared assertion that I would give it all up in a heartbeat to have the opportunity to move back to Paris), other than a really good chicken liver pâté, French food is just not something I crave. My least favorite spot of the weekend, it was fine to experience, especially because it preceded what is now officially one of my favorite places in the world…..
 
Au Pied de Cochon:  The legendary PDC.  Earliest res we could get was 10:30 at the counter.  And that is where you should request to sit, too, if you ever make it up to the City of Saints.  Watching the cooks was like watching a bunch of your little brother’s friends have a good time, laughing and generally messing around while—by the way—putting out some kick ass food the likes of which you probably have never seen.  Also important to note is that — while I can appreciate it — I’m far from the Rick Warren of the Church of Foie Gras, Offal and All Things Pork…but this food was outrageous.  For any m.blog readers who happen to be foodies, I’ll share the obscene details.  Everyone else, move along.
 
While waiting for our food, we enjoyed a pint of Pied de Cochon Beer before switching to a bottle of red (I’m sure it was lovely…it went in a carafe…just can’t remember what it was!).  We started with the Foie Gras Cromesquis.  Little squares of foie gras breaded then deep fried, the server instructed us to let them cool a bit before popping into our mouths–which we were told to keep tightly sealed so as to prevent the liquid goodness from squirting everywhere.   Next came the Duck Carpaccio which was like art on a plate. Thinly sliced duck with a lightly poached egg yolk that we were instructed to break and spread all over the duck before eating.  We followed this with Plogue à Champlain, which was essentially a buckwheat pancake, potatoes, pan-fried foie gras, bacon, aged cheddar cheese and maple syrup.  The PDC’s Melting Pot consisted of their crazy mashed potatoes (we saw Cai make many, many orders of these during the course of our ownership of the two best seats in the house) topped with blood sausage, pork belly, pig sausage, onions and mushrooms.  As we were in Montréal, we had to try the Poutine—french fries topped with fresh cheese curds and brown gravy.  For dessert, we tried the Pudding Chômeur, a Montréal specialty otherwise known as poor man’s pudding.  Not sure how that much cream and sugar topped with cheese fits into the budget of a poor man, but who am I to argue?  I’m sure it will not be a shocker to learn that it, too, was delicious.  It probably also will not be surprising to learn that we both suffered mini heart attacks upon leaving the restaurant.  No worries, all’s fine now.
 
Parc du Mont-Royal:  On Sunday we drove up this mountain that we had foolishly tried to walk up Saturday morning when we thought that Parc du Mont-Royal on the map would be a nice spot for a stroll and morning cappuccino.  Yes, guidebooks are obviously not our thing.  I’m sure there is a more accessible entry point for those on foot on other parts of the mountain, but if you’re coming by way of Ave. du Parc and you’re not in a car, I have two words for you:  bonne chance!  We definitely missed a lot, but one thing we did on our way out of town was ride up the mountain to experience what is widely considered to be the best view of the city.  And, even despite the raindrops and humidity, it was a beautiful one, indeed!
 
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