Friday, September 11, 2009

The culinary side of a vacation: Montreal and Ottawa

In between finishing my internship and heading back to school (my first day back was today, in fact), I had a couple of weeks of vacation. During this time, I fit in a visit at home where I spent some time catching up with friends and family. Then, I was lucky enough to go on a trip with my boyfriend, his grandparents, his brothers, and his cousin to Montreal and Ottawa. I had never been to either city before, so I was very excited to see the local architecture and experience the local culture, not to mention brush up on my French in Montreal. But as always, the one thing I most look forward to on any trip is the food. Without fail, I always come up with a wish list of things I need to try before I leave the city. This time, my list revolved around the following classics: poutine, smoked meat sandwiches, Montreal bagels (suggested to me by my friend Single Betty), and beaver tails. As with any vacation, there were some unexpected treats that we got to enjoy, as well.

The first culinary stop we made in Montreal was at a sweet little bakery on Rue de Mont-Royal. They had a variety of fresh breads and sweets, including one of my favourites, meringues.

They were sweet, crunchy and delicious. I was so inspired by them, I bought a wide pastry tip to make the meringue-forming process easier in my future baking.

Up next was a small grocer, where I bought some snap peas for snacking, and my boyfriend couldn't resist the cheese curds. They're the kind used to make poutine (more on that later).

After a late-night trip to a diner on St. Catharine where we dined on the best poutine of my life and smoked meat sandwiches (no pictures, sorry!), we awoke the next morning and meandered over to the McGill University campus. During our walk, we noticed many vegetable plants lining the outside of the buildings. These tomatoes were the tiniest I've ever seen - the size of a dime.

After we worked up our appetite walking around the city, we had more poutine, and more smoked meat sandwiches. For the uninformed, poutine is french fries covered in special gravy and cheese curds. In the poutine we had in Montreal, the gravy heated the cheese through, but the cheese didn't melt, ensuring that the rich hunks of cheese curds remained mostly intact. Poutine is, simply put, junk food heaven.

We also tried poutine with hunks of smoked meat piled atop it, and poutine with chicken. Both delicious.

And of course, we couldn't leave without having another smoked meat sandwich. Before you worry about our health, keep in mind that 7 of us split the poutine and the sandwich! The portions were enormous.

That night, we went to the St-Viateur bagel shop, where we bought a dozen bagels. What makes Montreal bagels unique is the fact that they're poached in a boiling honey-water mixture, and, most significantly, baked in a wood-fired oven. You can read more about how they are made here. They have a very unique taste - they're quite dense and have a faint sweetness to them.

In Ottawa, after touring the Parliamentary building, we visited a nearby farmer's market. Although we were tempted by all of the fresh fruit and vegetables, we ended up going for less healthy fare. We were on vacation, after all.

We bought beaver tails (pictured here with apple pie topping), and sugar tarts, which tasted a lot like butter tarts but had a smoother texture and no raisins.

To me, food defines my vacations. My trip to Montreal and Ottawa was an opportunity to try some classic Canadian dishes in their "natural habitats," and it didn't disappoint. The only problem? Ontario poutine will never measure up now!


Danielle September 11, 2009 at 1:23:00 PM EDT  

Wow, SUGAR Tarts - I HAVE to try those! I'm so happy you got to experience Montreal bagels and that I got a mention on your blog (I blushed)

The Real CDN superstore has been tempting me lately with packages of montreal smoked meat...but will it really taste the same? I'll try it and let you know! Montreal Smoked meat is bigger than sushi these days..okay maybe not quite.

Speaking of Sushi..I would like to go with you in London before the new year :) xo

Danielle September 11, 2009 at 2:21:00 PM EDT  

The culinary side is ALWAYS my favourite side of any vacation!! Looks like a great trip! I want that poutine!!!!

Eliana September 12, 2009 at 11:59:00 AM EDT  

Sounds like such a fun trip with some amazing food.

MaryBeth September 13, 2009 at 4:26:00 PM EDT  

Sounds like you had a wonderful vacation...I to love to try all of the great food when we get away. Everything looked so darn good.

Anonymous September 13, 2009 at 8:58:00 PM EDT  

I love Montreal. I've been there twice and have never had poutine or bagels (can you believe it?--just never got around to it). I hope to go back soon.

matty September 14, 2009 at 11:46:00 AM EDT  

We could try to make our own poutine? :/

vibi September 15, 2009 at 8:59:00 AM EDT  

Darn... you were in Montreal and you didn't tell me! We could have met over a coffee or someting! Sigh.

I do hope you had a good time, allthough from the looks of it in did indeed!

Cooking To Lose Weight September 15, 2009 at 1:34:00 PM EDT  

Sounds like you had a delicious time..Yes, Montreal is full of great food, not to mention that it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I guess you can figure out that I live hee.. I too, when I travel love to try out the city's finest. Glad you enjoyed your food..and your experience.

Basically, Baby Boots September 30, 2009 at 11:55:00 AM EDT  

Thanks for the culinary trip through Montreal and Ottawa. It sounds like you had a wonderful time eating your way through the cities. That poutine looks killer!


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