Sunday, August 30, 2009

Canada Edition Part 1-Montreal

Packed and ready to leave, I waved the kids a sad goodbye as they headed off with dad for school. I checked for the essentials: money, passport, tickets and headed for the airport. The flight was uneventful, the way I like it, even if I was stuffed like a sandwich between two burly, talkative, cheeky, drinking chaps. I arrived on Canadian soil within 7 hours of departing Scotland.

I was met by Kate, Callum and Owen and they whisked me away when I say whisked, I mean after a tiny hunt for the car but I've not to mention that to their palatial home. I had the west wing to myself Kate, I know you call it the basement but it is pretty vast and with it's own front door, it's a wing and Matt, Kate's Scottish husband had helped her prepare a lovely meal of salmon, 'peaches and cream' corn on the cob... sweet and delicious...and a fresh, wonderful salad with the obligatory glass or three of wine. It was a great start to the holiday.

The next morning, we picked up Jill and headed for the airport to Montreal. A strong Starbucks coffee helped fuel us for the tiring trip when I say tiring, I mean not tiring at all but completely, diabolically easy and we were transported by air and then taxi to the Nelligan hotel.

We checked in early with no fuss and were shown to our suites. Yes, suites.

After jumping up and down on the bed unpacking we explored the neighbourhood, stopping off at a nearby restaurant for lunch: moules frite with a glass of chilled white and some dipping bread. We enjoyed it very much, fuelled as we were by excitement at another few days of decadent, leisurely eating and chilling out.

Jill and Kate stopped off for a massage whilst I preferred to wander the local area drink more coffee, drool at the patisseries eat the patisseries and eventually sojourn to my room with a book and some music. We met up later on for complimentary wine and cheese within the hotel and some people watching and chattering. We dressed for dinner and wandered round the local area at our leisure, eventually settling on a lovely little French bistro, the name of which escapes me, which had a great atmosphere, dimmed lighting and the maître d’ in a pork pie hat and brogues.

The Bloody Mary style drink what was that called again? was perfection, the wine ok and the food good. The service was fun and we had a really enjoyable few hours eating, drinking and being merry. Kate was in the mood for steak and a handsome, sexy and well cooked side of beef was brought out on a wooden board...I think it was wooden, it was hard to see. But, restaurant, that was not an 16oz steak; methinks a misprint or a chef with the shakes.

I was particularly taken with the booth area, decked out in white leather padding and buttons lookin' gooood, Mr Cartel! aka Austin Powers. It practically had it's own spotlight, the only light in a room filled with darkness. Actual darkness, no metaphors here. We left happy.

We headed for the Rue St-Denis district the next day after a breakfast of bagels, cream cheese, jam, croissants and coffee and after walking and shopping for hours, we decided lunch was to be at a small restaurant called 'Tomato'.

We had a shared basil pizza, salad verte, tomato bocconcini and mixed olives washed down with a pitcher of sangria; good, tasty and served with a side of cheeky waitress who kicked me....I deserved it, don't worry; it made for an enjoyable lunch, even if she did think my accent was Spanish......

Being the kind of gal that needs to stop off for regular coffee breaks, I said adieu to Kate and Jill after a further few hours walking and told them they'd find me in a shabby looking cafe, possibly called Chocolate, just up the street. Imagine my surprise to discover a modern, gorgeous chocolate shop inside yes, I know that was the name but a scabby shop front, even if it was called 'Delectable Chocolate Treats Inside; Just You Wait' is still a scabby shop front; I ordered the best looking and ultimately tasting hazelnut chocolate slab, roasted coffee and was given a free rose flavoured chocolate bite.

Kate and Jill joined me for a coffee and some could they not...and we headed home after many hours, tired and contented.

Later that evening, we headed to a local, well known restaurant called 'Le Club Chasse et Pêche'. The reviews of the food were wonderful and we were really looking forward to it.

We arrived early after a wander round St-Paul, stopping to look in the galleries and shops still open.

We waited in the bar until our table was ready and settled in for what was to be a memorable meal.

The menu was sublime and we were torn over what to order as it all sounded so delicious but eventually I settled on seared scallops, fennel purée, lemon confit and Jill and Kate went for the mushroom tart. I'd have had all the appetisers if I could have gotten away with it.

The scallops were cooked by roasting one side in a pan therefore caramelising it and brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. The fennel and lemon confit was perfect alongside and I was as happy as the proverbial pig/clam/fly. The mushroom tart was a delicate little basket filled with aromatic mushrooms, tasty cheddar and arugula (rocket). I had a taste of course and it was sweet, savoury and utterly delicious.

For my main course, I opted for lamb, cooked two ways, served with a trio layer, the top of which was goats cheese. It was cooked to perfection and the goats cheese with it was a revelation; guess what I'm cooking at my next dinner party?

Kate had the Halibut in a tomato broth...fresh, fragrant and a feast for the eye as well as the palate. Jill had the restaurant's version of surf and turf: duck and lobster no less. It was incredible looking and tasted just as good....I had to have/steal some of course. We had our meal with a lovely bottle of Petit-Chablis and finished off with coffee.

The next day was our last day in Montreal and we took a taxi to Ste-Catherine. It was decided that I could not leave Montreal without tasting Poutine, a Quebec delicacy; it consists of chips (fries) smothered in gravy and topped with cheese curds.

The Glaswegian version would be chips and curry sauce or gravy with grated cheddar cheese! We went to La Belle Province, which was recommended as the best cafe for this dish; it turns out it is listed on Wikipedia as one of the best places to have Poutine. It tasted exactly as you'd imagine eating fries, gravy and cheese would; comforting, fattening and tasty but impossible to finish.

We flew back to Toronto first class no less...thank you Kate and Matt....and I said a sad farewell to my gorgeous Canadian friends and was greeted at Toronto airport by my lovely Scottish one.


confused homemaker said...

Looks like a blast & first class flying to Toronto makes me jealous. Canada is a lot of fun to visit, glad you had fun w/ your friends.

Jo said...

Sounds like a great time was had by all. Food looks fab, my mouth was watering reading this. Look forward to seeing you at yoga tomorrow so you can burn off some of those cals!!!

Glad you had a good time. Jox

Helen McGinn said...

confused, I had a brilliant time. And it doesn't end there! Part deux tomorrow... ;O)

Jo, I'm really looking forward to getting back into yoga and have of course put on a few no cake with my coffee tomorrow, m'kay? *L*

Laila Of Course! said...

Ooo sounds like you had a FABULOUS time!! :) I'm glad you had a blast, and that you're safely back home! Yay!

Unknown Mami said...

OMG, if those seared scallops tasted anywhere near as good as they looked, you are one lucky lady! Yum. Looks like so much fun was had.

Peterson Family said...

Looks like you had a great time! Everything sounds wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Welcome back from your trip "Amiga", looks like you had a blast!

Thanx for stopping by my blog, and leaving a comment on my "Latin Mom's Loco Lunes" post. :0)

~Amor, Familia Y Cultura~

Kelly said...

Sounds like such a lovely vacation... and AMAZING food! I'm so jealous!

Jill from Canada said...

Love the chronicle of our trip to Montreal. I am slightly embarrassed/slightly proud of my cleavage shots....I am pregnant for all you readers! But who is looking at those boobs when there is seared scallops, mushroom tarts, and poutine! It's hard to pinpoint my favourite part of the trip but it definitely was over the food or the laughter, often both at the same time. BTW - where is the latte on Kate's face shot???
I am so so glad you came and the trip was definitely bettter because of you. I feel truly bless to know someone as lovely and inspirational as you. As my Dad says, you are the perfect woman! I am already planning Kate, Jill and Helen in New York 2011. Pauline should come too!

Jo said...

Hi helen

Thank you so much for the absolutley delicious "sorry I was late for yoga cake". I have been feeling so guilty for grumping at everyone!
Sophie and I tucked in straight away and it's absolutely gorgeous. 'll say it one more time - Can I move in with you?

You are such a sweetie. Jo x

One Sassy Girl said...

Well, color me jealous! It looks amazing and the food made me hungry ;) You know how to travel, for sure!!

Helen McGinn said...

Jo, don't feel guilty, you were quite right. We all slept in this morning and my only excuse is the final phase of jetlag....can I get away with that 3 days later? ;O) I promise to be on time from now on or I have to bake you a cake everytime, k? :O)

Thanks my bloggy peeps, I did have a great time. Part 2 tonight!

Jill, NEVER be embarrassed of your cleavage. ;O) I decided to save Kate's foam face for blackmail; it may come in handy...*L* Thank you hon, that was lovely of you to say and you know it is ditto, right? New York 2011, here we come! xx

Italo said...

Ciao Helen, What a beautiful voyage!!!!
Places seem so enchanting (food delicious) photos are wonderful (food delicious food) and you are extremely sweet (BUT FOOD FOOD FOOD). Nice post :D

Debbie said...

It looks and sounds like a wonderful trip! I'm so happy for you.

Anna said...

you're back you're back you're back!! ive missed you so, my lass!!

your trip looks divine-- i am uber jealous. uber uber!! you all look dashing in your photos & you have such chic style. i love it!!

i must scurry to class now...BUT i am happy you are back safe & sound with lots of wonderful memories!!


Single Mama NYC said...

Oh, what divine-looking food you had! You really know how to eat, Sista!

Oh, and by the way, your teeny comments had me literally cracking up over here. I LOVE that you are so tongue-in-cheek funny!