July 31, 2008

Foie-gras this!

This food blog means a lot to me, so it pains me to leave it lifeless and hanging there for a week+ while I am soaking up the sights and scents of Paris, the city of lights.

I don't expect to be able to afford haute cuisine while in France, but whatever I eat, I shall do my best to take pics, jot down notes and post about once I come back home.


I shall miss you, oh laptop... (I could technically bring Nicco the Laptop with me since I get free wi-fi at the hotel, but it's really more of a luggage issue.)

A plus tard, mes chéris!

July 28, 2008

Been dazed and confused

There are good food experiences and good atmosphere experiences. Then there are GREAT dining experiences, where the decor, the service and the flavours all come together to create a memorable evening out.

Such was my experience at Confusion, where the only thing remotely confusing was the lengthy menu. The food was an exquisite novelty to my palate. Our waiter was amiable and very helpful. Oh, and we sat on swings to eat at the smallest two-people table ever. Yes you read that right. SWINGS. (And I can personally guarantee that they do indeed swing very well back and forth, though you might hit either the waiters or the patrons eating right behind you. I'm sorry?)

CONFUSION Tapas du Monde

Address: 1639 St-Denis (Metro Berri-UQAM)
Phone: (514) 288-2225
Website: http://www.restaurantconfusion.com
Style: tapa bar, French bistro
Hours: Tue - Sat 5:30 PM to Midnight
Sun - Mon 5:30 PM to 10 PM

(A picture taken from Tourisme Montreal. The swings would be on the right side of the room. I was so taken with the place and the food that I forgot to take pictures...)

Confusion has a great decor. It's all red and dimly lit, with mirrors and white booths. Very chic, yet cosy. The tables are also rather tiny, hence the intimate setting that's perfect for a little dinner romance or for a good family meal out. Just like the menu, the setting is a mix of casual (the terrasse right on St-Denis), the fancy (the lounge upstairs) and the unexpected (SWINGS!!!). To get a really good feel of the place, I ask, nay *demand* that you go onto their website and click on "The place" to see the Flash animation.

The restaurant bills itself as a tapas bar, meaning that it served a multitude of dishes from all over the world (but mostly in the French bistro style) in portions too small to be an individul main dish, but too heavy to serve as mere appetizers. The philosophy here is to SHARE everything (food, space, conversation), a concept I happily agree with. After much deliberation, my dinner companion (okay, my boyfriend) and I finally decided to order, all in tapa servings:
- Lamb kefta meatballs, which came with a wonderfully savoury and garlic-y hummus sauce;
- Salmon tartar with shallots and truffle oil (served with Belgian fries);
- Creamy parmesan risotto with garden veggies;
- A grilled leg of octopus, a dish the establishment is famous for;
- And two desserts, blue cheese crème brûlée (trust me, it's much better than it sounds!) and a chocolate souffle.

The bill came to about 100 dollars for both of us, without anything to drink, but oh my, it was SO WORTH IT. The lamb was so tender and well-seasoned, and that salmon! Oh salmon tartar, how I have dreamt long and hard about you! It did not disappoint, though the accompagnying fries were much too salty. The octopus was...interesting. It had the texture of fish, but the taste of chicken. Or at least, it did to me. I don't think that I'd order that dish again, but I defintively appreciated the chewy suction cups on the leg and the tenderness of the flesh. And the risotto! Oh that rich, creamy and toothsome risotto! I am a huge fan of risotto, and that one was by far the best that I've ever tasted (bear in mind that I have yet to cook up my own, or muster the funds to go try Le Club Chasse et Pêche). Another highlight was the blue cheese crème brûlée. On paper, the concept sounds silly and potential disastrous, but the execution was so smooth that the end product was sleek, sweet and distinctly cheesy.

I did not expect four tapas and two desserts to fill up two hungry people, but I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I was so full after the meal that I couldn't even make space for a hot chocolate next door at Juliette et ses Chocolats! Instead, we walked out onto St-Denis and mingled with the Just for Laughs Festival crowds. A great meal followed by a stroll through a beautiful city in the throes of summer festival season...what more could one want?

In a nutshell: Confusion is rather expensive for students on a budget, but the food there is defintively worth your money! Great atmosphere for dates, birthday parties or family meals. So many flavours and textures to explore...I know that I'm defintively going back there. I even already started planning what I'll take next time. Israeli couscous, creamy garden risotto as a main, crispy duck rolls....I'm salivating already!

July 25, 2008

Ode to a Bagel (or Two)

'Tis true:
Montreal bagels are the best in the whole friggin' world.

As a Montrealer, I'd dare anyone to prove me wrong. Where else on Earth can you find such chewy, fresh and savoury deliciousness? Nowhere, that's where. Even astronauts agree that our bagels are out of this world.

It all starts with natural ingredients and an old-fashioned wooden oven. Throw in lots of skillz (have you ever seen bakers make bagels? They've got mad hands yo!), much love and dedication, sprinkle with downright deliciousness (usually sesame or poppy) and ta-daa! You are now about to taste the most delicious bagel of your life. And none of that perfect roundedness,s'il-vous-plaît!

(Picture snagged from Wikipedia. Poppy seeds (top) and sesame (bottom) toppings. I think these are from Fairmount?)

The eternal bagel-related debate in Montreal is not "Poppy or sesame?", but rather Fairmount vs St-Viateur. Fairmount's bagels are prettier, St-Viateur supposedly has better flavours. I say supposedly, because I have yet to taste both bagels side-by-side (something I hope to remedy very, very soon). If you want an interesting article comparing and contrasting both, I recommend this article on the ever-awesome Midnight Poutine. Be sure to read the comments, they are always the most insightful part!

Personally, I find that both bakeries producing some pretty amazing bagels, so to me, it's all good. The raisin-cinnamon one I had today (courtesy of my boss and her husband) was a warm, chewy, fragant and oh-so-delicious. I ate the whole thing in a few bites and relished its mix of sweet, sour and spicy. Fairmount or St-Viateur? Who cares, it's YUMMY!

Fairmount Bakery
74 avenue Fairmount Ouest
(514) 272-0667

St-Viateur Bagel
263 avenue St-Viateur Ouest
(514) 276-8044

OPENING HOURS: What opening hours? Both places serve up fresh bagels 24/7!

July 23, 2008

Out on the Town

For my second review, I've chosen to talk about my favorite smoked meat/downtown joint, which also happens to have consistently good food and service. Ladies and gents, I present to you:

Reuben's Deli~Steaks~Desserts
[Not to be confused with Reuben's Restaurant Delicatessen, which is located a few streets East!]

Address: 1116 Ste-Catherine West (between Peel & Stanley)
Phone: (514) 866-1029
Website: http://www.reubensdeli.com
Style: smoked meat, delicatessen
Hours: Mon-Tue-Wed 6:30 AM to midnight
Th-Fri 6:30 AM to 1:30 AM
Saturday 8 AM to 1:30 AM
Sunday 8 AM to midnight

The first great thing one notices about Reuben's is its decor. Sleek black-and-red leather booths, dark wood pannelings and old-fashioned twirling fans give the place a jazzy 30's feel. Me likey. Me likey even more because it's smack in the middle of downtown, so I can go and have a great meal after a shopping spree (har har) or a reading session at the nearby Indigo or Chapter's.

(Smoked meat: this ain't Schwartz's, but it's pretty good too!)

The menu is glammed up delicatessen, but you'd do well to stay clear of anything that sounds too fancy; You go to Reuben's for the smoked meat, not for filet mignon. Their sandwiches however, served cold or grilled with a towering heap of meat, are another story. You can't go wrong with their classic Reuben's sandwich (pictured above): accompagnied by fries, coleslaw and a pickle, it's a generous portion of sizzling smoked meat (1/2 lb, according to their menu) served with Swiss cheese, sauerkrat and a tangy sauce on an absolutely delicious pumpernicket bread. The plate is more than enough to feed the hungriest of young men, or, as it is usually my case, to be split between two people.

(Who doesn't love onion rings? That's the baby house salad you see in the upper left corner.)

Their burgers are just as hearty and meaty, my favorite being the Berghoff burger (hmmm, mushrooms!) topped with a special beer-based ketchup. Their pizzas are just a-okay, but the pepperoni one I once had so much oil that the dish dotted with little pools of oil. Not appealing. For the healthier crowd, there's always their so-called Epic Salads, which are truly epic in both width and height. I have never tried them, prefering to go with their "baby" house salad (red and iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, shredded carrots and bread crumbs served with one of the most delicious balsamic dressings ever), which actually makes a sufficient entrée for two people, once again.

(The strawberry cheesecake: Heavy and decadent!)

As you've probably figured out, given the large portion at Reuben's, the best way to enjoy a meal there is to go in a group and order a variety of dishes to share. Even their appetizers and desserts work best like this. Apart from the baby house salad (which you can also get as a baby Ceasar), I also like to get their steak-cut onion rings. Impossibly thick and crispy and served with a Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, it's a gourmet way to enjoy greasy food. For dessert, I suggest that you stick with their selection of cheesecakes; you can never go wrong with strawberry. Served in an artfully and edibly decorated curved plate, this towering column of soft, creamy cheese is topped with a strawberries (frozen) and surrounded by a very thin layer of Graham cracker crust.

Bottom line: The food is delicious, albeit in a greasy, heavy and carnivorous kind of way. Stick with the deli classics and you'll be rewarded. And hey, since you're downtown anyway, why not go enjoy a meal there in a beautiful decor instead of slummin' it at the closest food court?

July 4, 2008

Oh gelato!

My very first review, yay!

Fusion Montréal Crèmerie artisanale

Address: 1000, de la Gauchetière West (RC-28)
Phone: (514) 759-0608
Website: http://www.fusionmontreal.ca
Style: gourmet ice cream parlour, frozen desserts eatery
Hours: Mon - Fri 7 AM to 7 PM
Saturday 11 AM to 6 PM
Sundays closed

Fusion is my new favorite hang-out spot. It's practical (just a stone's throw away from the South Shore bus terminal at Bonaventure), delish and air-conditioned. Air conditioning is crucial for me in summer---I cannot properly enjoy my eating experience if I'm sweating and wiping my face every two seconds!

(Sorry for the crappy pictures---these were taken with my webcam before I got my camera!)

The menu here is gourmet dessert eatery. Emphasis is being put on local products, good old-fashioned homemade foods and overall yumminess. The star is by far the freshly-spun gelato, but the store also sells crêpes, gourmet cupcakes, chocolates by local artisan Marie Pommette and a slew of other fair-trade products (coffee, jams, etc.) Perfect for gift-baskets or a late-afternoon snack stop! Customers can also mix and match various fresh fruits, candies and toppings to a gelato base in order to create a one-of-a-kind, personalized "fusion" frozen treat (hence the name of the store).

Owners Hazem and Mona (picture above) are super-nice and always willing to let give you a sample, whether it's taste of their latest gelato infusion (like baked apple pie, mmmm) or a shot of their old-fashioned hot chocolate. In fact, they're so nice that they even let me: a) write my English class watering hole review on them, b) interview and take photos of them, and c) plaster them all over Internet. Really, customer service doesn't get much better than this.

(Hmm...so many flavours, so little time!)

Prices are a little steeper than at your average shopping-mall ice-cream stand, but it's worth it for the extra flavour and love put into the gelato. A one-scoop construction nicknamed "J'aime" ("I love") sells for 4.25$ taxes included, whereas the two-scoop "J'adore" ("I adore") is 6.00$ and the three-scoop "J'en ai de besoin" ("I need it")is 7.74$. A real treat for the tired soul is a mango-truffle-daquiri "J'ai en de besoin" in a waffle bowl drizzled with hot chocolate. Mmmmmm. And since gelato, especially homemade ones like Fusion's, contains skimmed milk and less air than regular ice-cream, it's healthier (not to mention yummier) too! A win-win situation for waistlines AND taste buds everywhere.

Another favorite frozen treat of mine is their absolutely sensational milkshakes. Made with two scoops of gelato and milk, it's yumminess on the go for 6.00$. Pistachio, coffee and neige (white chocolate, coconut and truffle) are all amazing.

In fact, they're so amazing that I'll think I'll go grab one tomorrow, hmm....

In a nutshell:
If you live in or around Montreal, be sure to check out Fusion! Get a scoop of gelato to take outdoors on a hot summer day, or go enjoy their old-fashioned hot chocolate after a turn at the Atrium indoors skating rink. It'll be a ~gelatastic~ experience that you won't regret!

July 3, 2008

Intro post

Name: Betsy
Age: 19
Location: Montreal suburbs, Canada

Why the gluttony?
Because I am unable to resist temptation in the form of food and drinks. I plan my schedule around food-related outings and think of money in terms of how many meals I can have at "X" eatery.

Aficionado, oh really?
I consider myself passionate and semi-knowledgeable. Thankyou, Ms. Musgrave and Chestermann from the Montreal Gazette!

Foodie...or just yuppie?
Foodie-in-training, absolutely. Though the "training" has been limited to working in a French bakery and restaurant-hopping across town.

So can you cook?
Sadly, no. I hang my head in shame here---but I am learning! I can bake decent desserts (from scratch, always) and prepare salads and cook noodles. The proper usages of a stove and pan are sadly still beyond me. FOR NOW.

Ah, okay. So you just like to eat? Do you get very fat?
Not if I eat healthy, varied and well-prepared food that actually contains and tastes like the ingredients. I also like to follow my meals with long walks throughout Montreal. Helps me digest and explore the city!

Last and possibly most important one: Favorite cuisines?
For the time being, it's Italian, Japanese and Chinese. French and Greek are close to giving them a run for their money though.

Hee, I'm a food blogger now!