Montréal Eats

Montréal Eats

Oh Montréal… land of cheese curds, “hello, bonjour”, and maple everything. It’s no wonder that every time I visit I spend 60% eating and 30% shopping. The last 10%, you’ll find me walking, hoping to work off the mound of calories I’m about to intake.

Montréal is a quick trip for me. Only an hour flight away from Toronto, I can leave after work on a Friday and be back home for dinner on Sunday and by Canadian flight standards, it’s relatively inexpensive. Which is what made it a perfect, quick getaway for this Family Day weekend.

B and I flew out direct from City Centre airport early Saturday morning. By noon, we were in the heart of the shopping pathway to do a bit of shopping at my dear Simons. While we now have this Quebec-grown department store a little closer to home, there’s something about making a trip to Simons on Rue Ste Catherine that makes a trip to Montréal that much more special.

While shopping makes up a large portion of what I did in Montréal this time around, the city is infamous for its festivals. Summer in MTL is alive with buskers, comedy shows, music, and love. In the winter, it’s close to -30 degrees so people like me who hate the cold, spend it indoors… usually eating because c’est la vie.

Every, and I do mean every, time I visit Montréal, I eat the following things:

  • Poutine
  • Escargot
  • Saint Hubert chicken

If I’m lucky, I add Saint Viateur bagels to this list but it’s a bit out of the way from the downtown core and did I mention it was close to -30 degrees this weekend?!?

Poutine is life, especially in Quebec. I grew up with fries and gravy but it was really only until I was in high school that poutine increased in popularity in my eastern Canadian village… and even then, it wasn’t quite like the Québécois make it. Ours was made with mozzarella cheese. The Québécois use cheese curds. And now that I’m older, and have many plates of poutine in my belly, cheese curds trump mozzarella.

The first time I tried escargot was about seven years ago at a French restaurant in Halifax. Like most people, I was hesitant to give it a try but once I did, I was hooked. The garlicky butter, the parsley, and even the funny looking fork and tongs cause my eyes to widen and my mouth to salivate. I can honestly say I have not had a time in both France and Montréal that I have not had escargot… and I don’t think I ever will. (B is the same with beef tartar… his first true love)

And finally, put, put, put St-Hubert Bar B Q. My first experience with this was actually relatively recent. About six years ago, B introduced it to me on a trip to Quebec and I converted. I don’t know if it’s the gravy, but it’s fair superior than Swiss Chalet… there, I said it. St-Hubert has become a staple on our Toronto to Halifax drives and I was worried that I wouldn’t get my fix this time around. Thankfully, Montréal has a St-Hubert Express before you go through security at the airport. So for all of you that haven’t tried it, you now have no excuse.

For those who haven’t had a pleasure of visiting this lovely city, do it. And for those who are regulars, what are your must-eats every time you go?

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My top 5s of Toronto

My top 5s of Toronto

 

This past weekend, a friend of mine flew in from Calgary. He had been to Toronto a handful of times and was only in town for a day. After arranging a time to meet up, the old familiar question came up, “So, what do you wanna do?”

This all too familiar question is one that I ask myself on a weekly basis, usually over Saturday morning coffee with B – What do we want to do? It’s summer in Canada’s most populated city and yet, we still need to ask ourselves that question… usually to the same answer, “I dunno.”

As I reflect on this question, I’ve devised a list of my top three things to do in the following 5 categories:

  • Shopping
  • Adventure
  • Food and Drinks
  • Nightlife
  • Free

Hopefully, by the end, I’ll have answered my question so I can make the most of the rest of this summer – and you can too!

Shopping

I’m definitely not a mega shopper by any means, but I do enjoy a splurge every once in a while. Which is why I really love Yorkville. This pedestrian-friendly shopping district has all of the big names Carrie Bradshaw would crave. Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton to name a few (I’m sure you’ve heard of them), but also shops that are a little more within my price range – There’s even a Winners!!

If big names aren’t your style and you’re looking for something a little more eclectic, Kensington Market has you covered. Located just north of Chinatown, Kensington Market is a pedestrian district filled with vintage inspired shops, cute cafes, and instagram-worthy corners. It’s not for the faint of heart, but an area that everyone needs to visit at least once.

If it’s food you love to shop for, hands-down my favourite foodie find is St. Lawrence Market. Within walking distance from Union Station, you’ll want to bring your appetite to St. Lawrence Market. The indoor market is open year-round and holds a multitude of butchers, cheesemongers, vegetable vendors, bakeries, and even a mustard vendor! Head downstairs if you need a break from shopping and indulge in any culture of foods – but really, what you’ll want is the eggplant parmesan sandwich from Uno Mustachio and you may want to split it with a friend!

Adventure

In my opinion, you can’t truly adventure in Toronto without visiting the Toronto Islands. The islands are just a short ferry ride away and are the perfect mini adventure to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Since you can’t drive to the islands, boating or biking are often transportation methods of choice. You can rent either from either side of the ferry and even though hoards of people make their way across every summer weekend, there’s plenty of water-front locations that you can call your own. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, there’s always Hanlan’s Point (the ever so popular clothing-optional beach).

Toronto Island

If you’re someone who likes to splurge for adventure, there’s always the CN Tower edgewalk. Now I’ll be honest, this isn’t exactly how I would prefer to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon, but for those who are super adventurous and aren’t afraid of heights – this one’s for you.

For those who cringe at the thought of extreme heights and hanging out nude outdoors, there’s always Toronto’s multitude of Escape Rooms. These puzzles have themes that appeal to almost everyone from a Harry Potter themed adventure to escaping rooms in a real life castle at Casa Loma!

Food and Drink

If I’m going to be completely honest with myself, 90% of my entertainment in this city centres around food, and drinking. It’s a vice that I don’t know if I want to kick considering the territory I still have yet to cover.

For evenings that are special, I like to spend the night at a little place in the Distillery called Cluny. This French-inspired bistro never fails to impress me. From the wine selection to the ever-changing, seasonal menu, this resto is our go-to when we want to splurge.

I’ve always said that my last meal on Earth would be Mexican and Toronto definitely punches above its weight in delivering authentic cuisine that is muy bien. With so many great places, it’s hard to short list them but if I must, here are my top 3:

  • Playa Cabana on Dupont
  • El Caballito Taquila y Tacos on King St W
  • Barrio Cerveceria on Queen E

If it wasn’t Mexican, or French, it would have to be Japanese. When we moved to Toronto almost two years ago, I have to admit that good sushi was hard to find… but Izakayas are second to none (ok… maybe Japan). Our go-to Japanese snack bar is a little off the traditional tourist path, but well worth it: Sake Bar Kushi on Eglinton.

Nightlife

My nights of bar hopping and cover have long since past – so if you’re looking to me to tell you the hot dance spots in TO, I’m sorry to disappoint. Instead, I’d rather gather with a group of friends over drinks and fun. Here are my top three ways to spend an evening on the town.

I’m competitive… so when I can spend an evening kicking my friends’ asses at a game of ping pong over beer, I’m all of it. SPIN, located on King W, is my absolute favourite place to crush an evening.

Toronto attracts talent – so it’s no shocker that on most weekends, you can catch some type of show. With 5 Mirvish theatres in the downtown core, and multiple music venues big and small, a night out to catch a show is within easy reach.

If a more laid back, tame evening is what you’re looking for, gathering with friends over some board games is always a good time. Snakes and Lattes (not just coffee, they have beer and wine too!) allows you to play unlimited games with your crew without needed to pack your closet with an assortment of games you’ll only play once or twice.

Free

Living in Toronto isn’t cheap, so sometimes all a girl needs is a night that doesn’t put a dent into my bank account. The city is insanely walkable – even though it’s a very vast city. I’d recommend exploring one neighbourhood at a time and expand from there. Harbourfront, Queen West, Leslieville, and the Distillery District are all good places to start!

Coming from the east coast, I have always been spoiled by beauty and beaches… grudgingly, I have to say that Toronto has somewhat the same. While the beaches in Toronto are 10x more populated, and not on the ocean, they’re free and a great way to spend a summer day.

One thing that Toronto also does well is festivals – and many of them have free components. Just this past weekend, there were at least 3 festivals happening on the same weekend, all with free entry (but bring cash for some cheap eats).