Thursday, December 03, 2009

Beer-y pleasures

As I mentioned in my Montreal food post, we did some pleasant sampling of various beers while we were on our trip.

On our one evening in Toronto, we visited the Beer Bistro. It's a really lovely spot with a terrific range of beers on tap (click here to see a mostly-legible photo of the beer menu):
Papa beer and the three baby beers.

My samples were of three excellent Canadian beers: St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, Durham Hop Addict and Ephemere Cassis. If we hadn't been going to a play afterward I would have followed these with a full size of the St. Ambroise. Brian's was a Leffe Brune.

They also make some terrific fries served with mayo and seriously addictive smokey ketchup.
I wasn't as impressed with the sandwich I ordered which was a shaved lamb and blue cheese panini--it was just kinda greasy.

Montreal has a number of good places to try local and non-local beers. I loved the bar decor at Le Cigare du Pharon where we had these lambic beers. It's a Belgian place and is covered in Tintin memorabilia. Brian and I had fun identifying different scenes and witnessing someone else's obsessive trinket-collecting habits. Unfortunately it was too dark to get photos of all the quirky stuff without bugging the crap out of the other patrons by using the flash, but here are the beers:
Brian's Mort Subite kriek (cherry) and my Floris fraise (strawberry). Mine had 25% strawberry juice and was less dry than I expected though it still managed a nice crisp finish.

Conveniently located right around the corner from our hotel was a branch of Les Trois Brasseurs. I tried their Brun and Amber and thought they were both pretty tasty, though not super memorable.
Brian is drinking the White in this picture which I did not care for--I thought it had way too much coriander in it so I couldn't taste anything else. But tear your eyes away from the beer and focus on what he is eating: a banana chocolate tarte flambee. We've had the classic tarte flambee when we were in Strasbourg: creme fraiche, onions, and bacon on a thin crust that is a cross between a pizza and a cracker. But I've never had a desert flam and this one was fantastic. I thought Brian was crazy when he ordered it, but I was won over with my first bite and am now a determined to make it at home. It seems pretty simple: crust, bananas, cinnamon, some sugar and a dark chocolate sauce drizzled on after it comes out of the oven. If I figure out a recipe, I'll be sure to post it here. And if I can locate the St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout around here, I'll serve it with this.

Sadly we did not get to sample the wares at Dieu du Ciel or Reservoir. We got to Dieu du Ciel an hour before they opened and were too tired to wait around. Ah well, next time. We loved Montreal so much that there definitely will be a next time.

Monday, November 30, 2009


I did it! I added 53000 words to my novel this month.


That said, my novel is more done than it was but still not a full draft. I'd say the last third is still pretty sketchy. The first third is now pretty darn good and the middle third is on its way.

But the best thing about NaNoWriMo is that I realized that it really wasn't that hard to crank out 2000 words a day. I really loved the little statistics page on the NaNo website where you saw your word count compared with your daily goal. I'm going to set up a spread sheet and log in my efforts on my own to keep this momentum and motivation going.

Today I am going to clean the house and make dinner and deal with a lot of the stuff that I let slide in the past month. I know that sounds like a sad way to celebrate but asserting some order on my real world (as opposed to my fictional world where all the organizing energy has been spent of late) will feel good. I'll blast loud music and make cookies, too.

And tomorrow morning, I'll be sitting down and cranking out another 2000 words.

Munch your way through Montreal

Let's start with a dramatic shot:
That's a huge pile of smoked meat, the Montreal version of Pastrami, at Schwartz's. All the guide books warned us that there would be lines down the block--they clearly weren't in Montreal in November! We waltzed right in and found a seat and moments later were looking at this spread:
Classic smoked meat sandwich on rye with mustard, half-sour pickle, coleslaw and diet coke (I know, it should have been a black cherry soda to be authentic, but I needed some caffeine.)

And then we dug in:

Thanks to Brian's photographic efforts, I have discovered that I often eat tasty things with my eye brows way the hell up:
Fairmount Bagels: I'm cuddling the other 11 which are still warm and are like carrying a bagful of kittens (except you can eat them!) Montreal bagels are boiled in a water and honey bath and the sweetness on the outer crust is very nice.

We indulged in a little French bistro food at L'Express:
The bass and green beans were delicious but that is probably because they were sauteed in about a pint of clarified butter and cardboard would taste good with that treatment. I had a glass of Pouilly Fumé and a tasty octopus and lentil vinaigrette appetizer but the photo didn't come out because for about 15 minutes the restaurant lost all power. They seemed to expect it (and we saw a big Hydro-Québec truck parked on the block) and had candles ready but it made for lousy picture taking.

There is a big Vietnamese population in Montreal which led us grab the occasional Bánh mì sandwich for a snack and to indulge in big bowls of Pho,
with copious quantities of basil and bean sprouts to stir in.

There is also a food phenomenon that I ardently wish we could persuade to come to Ann Arbor: Portuguese Chicken.
Here it is, with a couple of really delicious loin lamb chops. Doesn't look like much: grilled meat with fries, right? But oh, how wonderful the seasoning is. The mug in the background contains extra marinade so you can really douse your food in it--tangy, spicy, umami. Yummy. (The fries, which were super fresh and crisp and hot, responded particularly well to a dousing in the marinade followed by a little dip in mayonnaise. Mmmm: fat with salt and then a little more fat!) Oh, and it's pretty cheap too. There are a whole bunch of Portuguese chicken places in Montreal and, were we lucky enough to live in this city, I can imagine it being our take-out stand by for those crazy days when no one has time to cook.

The only food area that I wasn't thrilled with was the lack of patisserie on every corner. Actually, the lack of patisserie on any corner. There were a few bakeries that we saw, but they were really more bread oriented, not the individual elaborate pastries that are everywhere in France. So, other than a strange and delicious creation that I will cover in my next post about Montreal beer, we hardly had anything sweet.

Then again, with my salt tooth, I'd go for a smoked meat sandwich over a mille-feuilles any day.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Not a traditional Thanksgiving post

Many of you may know that Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday--I like the sentiment of focusing on the good since it is a nice antidote to my normal pessimism, but I'd rather do that over a plate of something more tasty than dessicated turkey and bloppy mashed potatoes.

This year Brian and I decided to feel really grateful--for each other! It was our 10 year anniversary in September and we knocked around a bunch of ideas for how to celebrate. We decided a trip somewhere together without the critters was the way to go and since we have two sets of local grandparents to abuse the generosity of, we picked Thanksgiving week to abandon our spawn.

We contemplated trips to Italy/Spain/Southern France but the budget (and the US Dollar) did not support such a plan.  Finally we decided to go somewhere that feels a bit like Europe but is easier and faster to get to, friendlier and a hell of a lot cheaper since it isn't exactly a major tourist destination in November: Montreal!

We took the train from Windsor, stopped for a night in Toronto and saw a really excellent experimental production of Hamlet and then spent four days in Montreal.

We probably got really lucky--the weather was beautiful, in the 50s, for most of our time there and we only had only one brief period of rain and even that fell on the evening that the Musee d'art Contemporain is open late (and free!)  I complained at one point when we were walking into the sun that it was too bright and Brian, that sainted man who has put up with my moody self for 10 years and deserves a big medal, resisted the urge to whack me upside the head for kvetching about too much light!

Hotel rooms are cheap cheap cheap in November. Even the schwoopy boutique Hotel Gault was less than $150 per night. We decided on the Auberge du Vieux Porte and it was way nicer than we could have afforded at a different time of year. There was a terrific breakfast included in our pretty room with a view of the port and every afternoon at 5 pm they poured big, free glasses of a decent shiraz and laid out a plate of tasty cheese and grapes and baguette for the guests to consume before heading out for the evening.

The food in Montreal is lovely and the people even lovelier (and that is saying something since the food is really damn good).  I think it may be my favorite North American city, definitely one that I would happily move to if life made such demands on me (not likely, but a girl can dream.)

We returned home at 1 am on Friday morning and that evening we consumed the dessicated turkey and bland side dishes with the slightly frazzled grandparents and felt very, very thankful for our good life together.

Stay tuned for some photos/highlights of our Montreal interlude.