Thursday, March 26, 2015

Poutine Week 2015

Hey guys! From February 1st to February 7th, the well known traditional poutine was in the spotlight of many restaurants' menus for a very special event : La Poutine Week.

For my part, obviously, I attended the event hosted in Montreal, but people in Toronto, Quebec City, Gatineau, and Sherbrooke, also had their favorite food being featured for a week in their favorite restaurants, making this a very special food happening all across the province.

But what exactly is La Poutine Week? It's basically a competition. Most of the restaurants enrolled usually don't serve poutine, but for that special occasion they've come up with their own creation and submitted it to the jury (being us, the citizens) to vote for their favorite poutine or just every one they have tried.

Some of the participants are notorious when it comes to poutine : think of La Banquise, Poutineville, or Frites Alors for example. Most of the other participants were quite daring because poutine is an item you would not think of finding on their menu at all, for example, Biiru, La Cabane du Portugal, Restaurant Cho, and many more. Don't believe me? See it for yourself and look at the whole list of participants and their creations.

So for the first poutine of the week, I went to Fabergé, in the Mile-End, with Rio and Daniel. They were serving the People's Waffle : crispy potato waffle, braised duck, cheese, and gravy.

But. We didn't have it.

Instead we had the Breakfast Poutine : home fries mixed with caramelized peppers and onions, QC cheese curds covered in hollandaise sauce. Topped with one egg any style. We also asked for bacon and pulled pork.

Why? Because when we got there for brunch on Sunday the 1st, they were so packed with people they were out of waffles (any kind of waffle).

Daniel and I wanted to cry. Rio didn't care, he had a Massive.

We made a compromise and tried to enjoy our Breakfast Poutine. It was good, very rich, very stuffing. But the People's Waffle was in the back of our minds the whole time. So we still had poutine, but not the one we wanted. Who knows. Maybe next year? At least the girl at the bar (because we sat at the juice bar) was being very nice to us, offering us goodies throughout the brunch.

The day after, on Monday the 2nd, I went out with Francis for a potato starch induced comatose evening. He had never been to Dirty Dogs before and, me being outraged by this confession, I suggested we go.

So we asked for a large Boss Poutine : their famous duck based sauce, homemade Dr. Pepper chili, onions, red cabbage coleslaw, and a drizzle of Dirty Dogs mustard. Francis also asked for a Maurice Richard dog.

As we dug into the poutine we tasted the thyme used in the duck sauce and thought to ourselves that this weird combination of ingredients was actually very good. We joked around with the staff and they suggested we vote for them on the website, using the code that was written on the black board behind them.

That's how we understood the voting system. Basically, unless you have the code given to you in the restaurant, you can't cast your vote for a poutine. It's a very good thing to prevent fraud, but, if the staff is not being clear or obnoxious about it, you might forget and once you get home you'll be "Oh crap, I forgot to vote for that poutine!" Which is what happened with the one we had after ... By the way, Francis loved the Maurice Richard. I even suspect he wanted another one.

After stuffing ourselves with the Boss Poutine, we moved from le Plateau-Mont-Royal and bounced to Rosemont-la-Petite-Patrie, to go to Broue Pub Brouhaha.

They called their creation La Faim de Loup : pulled lamb braised in wild mushroom juices and garnished with caramelized pearled onions, sautéed chanterelles, fried diced bacon and cheddar cheese curds, served on a bed of crispy golden fried potatoes and drowned in their famous signature duck gravy.

As you may have realized now, I only went for poutines that involved duck proteins.

As we sat down we also ordered some beer. This poutine too was quite good, much fancier than the one from Dirty Dogs. However it was overall a little too salty to my liking. Still I think the combination was good, and respected more the traditional side of the dish than the one we had earlier.

I feel bad about this place because ... The waiter didn't invite us to vote for the poutine on the website so we didn't think about doing it (now I feel like a horrible person). At least it made us discover a cool place in Rosemont-la-Petite-Patrie, a lovely neighborhood that people often forget because of the shadows cast upon it by le Plateau-Mont-Royal and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. They have a wide selection of beers and we often saw the staff going into another room that looked like it was hosting some sort of event ... or perhaps it was just a staff room that looked more awesome than any other staff room I had ever seen in my life.

After we were done and paid, we left to go to Chez Baptiste, on Masson. They were having a Quizz night, because apparently it's something they do on Monday evenings. We had some Black Russians and left after a little while, tired from a long day and the digestion.

Unfortunately ... these are the only poutines I had that week. Honestly there are so many to try out that next year I will actually put some money aside and clear my schedule to dedicate myself to that competition (and gain a few pounds obviously).

Oh, and guess who the winner was this year? Dirty Dogs! I am not surprised : good poutine, good location, good staff. Can you have a more winner combination?

And so that's it for today guys. Until next time!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Brussels; Musée de la bande dessinée and Waffles

Hey guys! While in Brussels I took the time to treat myself out by doing something I usually don't when I travel with other people : I went to museums. On the same day I went to the Atomium I also went to the Musée de la bande dessinée. While the weather was nice and it was sunny out in the morning, it suddenly became gloomy and cold in the afternoon. I actually regreted wearing shorts that day.

One of my host's roomates had told me the Musée de la bande dessinée is small but rather cool if you're into comic books. However you do not get a discount on your entrance fees by flashing your student ID unless you're registered to a very specific European program thingy for students.

The museum itself does not look nice from the outside. It's set in Victor Horta's art nouveau warehouse. The building itself is very rich with history and the inside is actually amazing. Here, instead, have a picture of the building across the street, la Presse socialiste coopérative.

When you get inside you can spot Spirou's hat on the third floor.

On the ground floor you will find a Smurf, Boule et Bill, and many other characters that should have been part of your childhood if you were raised in an European household.

The exhibition itself starts off by talking about the history of comic strips, animation, and comic books. There is a section that puts through the process of putting together a comic book : from the early stages of the idea to the actual sale. Another section presents every genre with examples, and just like fiction novels, you realize there are a lot of them.

On the highest floor accessible to the public, there is a permanent exposition on the history of the building itself, art nouveau, and Tintin. Basically, the choice of location was not done randomly when they needed a place to comemorate the history of comic books. It was only logical to dedicate a center to the 9th art in what used to be a store designed by one of the greatest influencers of art nouveau and one of Belgium's reknown architect and designer. Also, the building is basically falling apart and investing in it that way was one of the only ways to save it. There are also temporary exhibitions, one about a comic book that was released recently and another one on comic books from Eastern Europe during war times.

As the rain was pouring outside I stayed indoor and shopped at the boutique on the ground floor (to end up buying only a postcard for my boyfriend). When it started calming down I stepped outside and kept venturing around.

And so I walked anywhere my feet would take me. I stumbled upon the Colonne du Congres, which seemed to be located in a cluttered space from my first point of view but is actually at the end of the rue du Congres with Brussels as its background from the west point of view.

Heey is that actual fire? Yeah, it is.

As I was walking on rue Royale, I came across this murale. Not all Belgians read comics but you can't deny their role and impact on many aspects of Belgium's popular culture.

Here's a mandatory public transport picture. This is what they tram looks like.

I don't remember why but at some point I turned left on rue de la Loi (probably because of the humongous park) and stumbled upon yet another beautiful building, the Belgian Senate.

And then, because it was raining and I was hungry again, I started walking towards the Central station.

According to the map I had, nearby was a cafe located in some covered passageway where they served grandmothers' favorite Belgian waffles. So I started looking for the Galeries Royales St-Hubert.

Everything from ground to ceiling was thought in its finest details. Statues and torsos were installed in niches in the walls. On each side there were clothing stores, shoe stores, bookstores, tea stores, ranging from popular to high end brands.

One of the parts of the Galeries gives access to the rue des Dominicains, a pedestrian street full of little restaurants.

And then, there it is, the famous little coffee shop and bar that serves what's supposedly the best Belgian waffle in Brussels.

There was a lot of people inside and outside. It took a while for the waiter to spot me and another while for my waffle to come. I asked for the traditional one, with just a light dusting of powdered sugar. It was light and warm, crispy outside and soft inside but not mushy.

After taking way too long to eat just a waffle (but the best waffle) I got up and started walking towards one of my favorite buildings, the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, an opera, dance, and concert venue.

The Place de la Monnaie is connected to Rue Neuve and rue des Frippiers, two pedestrian streets with a very large offer of beauty and clothing stores.

If there is one thing I have learned during my stay in Brussels it's the difference between the two types of waffles : Liégeoise and de Bruxelles. Gaufre de Bruxelles is basically the one I had at the cafe in the Galeries Royales St-Hubert, while the gaufre de Liège has a more rustic look to it with rough edges, like the ones served in this stand.

In both cases, real Belgian waffles are supposed to be made on the spot. If they are already made and they just heat it up in front of you it's because of the high demand from tourists. And everyone knows the bigger the quantities the lesser the quality and standards. Also, Belgian waffles are supposed to be served with only a dusting of powdered sugar. Not with a drizzle of Nutella, a mountain of whipped cream, bananas and strawberry. No. Just no.

Anyways. Since I had been out and walking all day I decided it was time to go back to my host's place. This, is near the subway station De Brouckère.

I realized I wasn't going the right way so I turned around to start walking towards boulevard Maurice Lemonnier and also to go to the grocery store to buy some beer and some food.

On my way there I came across another beautiful passageway.

And so that's it for today guys! I have taken more pictures and have seen many (way too many) other beautiful places and things (like the place Sainte-Catherine, totally worth it). I have met amazing people and have had a great time. I have managed to spend next to nothing by booking for my trip early and by not splurging on useless things. Honestly I think my trip to Brussels was one of the most pleasurable I have had. It's a city I would love to visit again, this time maybe with someone even though traveling alone has a lot of advantages.

Until next time!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Marché 27 Bar à tartare

Hey guys! A little while back my friend Francis and I were chilling at a cafe when at some point we got hungry. He suggested we go to Marché 27 Bar à tartare, in Downtown Montreal, because it was nearby and because we love tartar.

We went there on a cold Monday evening so there weren't much people (there was a group of three girls and us). The lighting was quite low and the sun had already set down so it was quite dark inside. We were greeted by a good looking guy who invited us to sit wherever we wanted. He handed us two menus, gave us some quick explanation and asked us if we wanted anything to drink. We said we were only going to have water.

So we browsed the menu. Everything fits on one page. They have some sides, burgers, seafood, but the main specialty is obviously tartar. You get to choose your meat, the size (100 g, 150 g or 200 g) and the style (French, Japanese, Spicy, and so on). For a few extra bucks you can also add quail eggs, truffle shavings, avocado, etc.

So we asked for three meats at 100 g each : Russian veal, Italian duck, and French beef. We also ordered a side of sweet potato fries. The meats were served with a side of crispy slices of baguette.

The Russian style is basically vodka, lime, onions, black tobiko, black pepper, and crispy beet. It's also served on three slices of colorful beet. The veal was chopped coarsely and the beet made it look very red. The presentation was very pleasant to the eyes. The meat was tender and tasted fresh.

The Italian style consists of Parmesan, truffle oil, onions, and chives. The duck was finely minced and personally I would have skipped the onions for this one. Still it was our favorite. Honestly it was the first time I had raw duck (except maybe for the pink part of a seared duck breast) so I wasn't sure what to expect. Fresh duck is very tender and, well, tastes like duck. It was served on some arugula and the presentation was not as interesting as the veal but really, does everything have to look perfect?

The French style is made with Dijon mustard, Tabasco, capers, olive oil, and red onions. The beef was also topped with sweet pickles and served with a smear of Dijon mustard. Because of the ingredients it looked very green compared to the other meats. I found the choice of ingredients a little too tart (there was a lot of acidity) and I should not have eaten those pickles. The beef was chopped finely and tasted fresh.

All throughout the service a very pretty and quite sexy waitress came to fill up our water glasses and ask us if everything was good. At the end, when she took away our slate board, she asked us if we wanted to have dessert, or perhaps coffee or tea. We said no thank you.

Overall our experience was very pleasant. The ambiance is quite relaxed and calm (if you're tired like I was after a day at the office you might feel sleepy). The service was great and the meats were good. However some styles might not exactly suit your taste buds (we liked Italian the most and French the least) but it's still good. Oh and the sweet potato fries? They were perfect. So that's a total win. For two persons the quantities were very satisfying.

Even though it's quite pricey I recommend Marché 27. The cuts used are very tender and the choices are very interesting. However there are some matches that I would personally not try (such as French smoked salmon ... that just sounds wrong). So make sure you know your flavors and your meats before you go there!

And so that's it for today. Until next time!

For more information on Marché 27 :

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Brussels; Chilling in Bruges

Hey guys! On my third day in Brussels I decided to hop on a train to chill in Bruges for a few hours. My host was telling me it was a lovely place to visit. Besides, the weather that day was wonderful.

So I bought a train ticket at the Central Station. As soon as you're out of Brussels, everything is announced in Flemish (or Dutch). So on your way back to the airport make sure you know the word for airport in Flemish!

So I got off at Bruges, having no clue where to go because I actually had no map with me. Whenever I would see a map I would take a mental picture of it. Soon enough I spotted the water and the largest public place so I would know where I was.

As I was walking further off the train station and into the old town I found myself in a fortified dense small city. Pictures!

One of the first things that caught my eye was a wall which top was covered in broken glass bottles bottoms. I don't know what was on the other side but for sure I wouldn't try at night!

Obviously given the look of the city some people were being given tours on horse carriages. I found this horse fountain pretty cute.

As I walked furthur into the little city I realized it was packed with tourists (it wasn't even noon yet) and shops for tourists and restaurants for tourists ... I wonder if people actually live there.

On my way to the Market Place I stopped in a friterie where I had Belgian fries made right in front of me and which were much better than the ones I had in Brussels. They were also quite hot so I burned my tongue while walking and admiring the landscape.

Soon enough I found the Market Place, or Grote Markt. This lovely place is surrounded by restaurants, the Historium Bruge, the Belfort, and so on. Unfortunately, unlike Brussels's Grand Place, it's not closed to motorized vehicules. Seeing all those people walking around I didn't really pay attention so I almost got run over a few times.

Look at this! Tell me it ain't lovely! This particular shape is known to be typical to Bruges. About half of the postcards and magnest sold in souvenirs shops feature those symetrical colorfur facades.

I was tempted to buy something to eat but I didn't feel like walking around with food. My camera was bothering me enough already. Besides I had just had fries.

Why am I showing you this scary fountain? Why does this scary fountain even exist to start with?

As I was getting out of the Market Place and going wherever my feet were taking me, I spotted this cool looking narrow building that is a hair salon ... that also does bike rental! How great is that?

Less than a block away from the Market Place is Brug, another public place, this one surrounded by the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the Brugse Vrije, and the Stadhuis.

I sort of got fed up of being surrounded by tourists so I looked for the river on a map and started following it.

The river is often interrupted by either lovely stone bridges or wood and steel bridges, adding a nice modern twist to this medieval town. Just like in Strasbourg, some house entrances were almost directly in the water. How jealous I am of those who live in there!

After a long walk by the river, getting a bit lost, seeing more churches, and buying a champagne Magnum bar in a convenience store, I started walking more or less towards the Minnewater park, not far from the train station.

Loook! Lace!

As I kept walking and walking I had no clue what were the things I was seeing. All I know is I walked by more and more tourists. There were a lot of groups with their guides walking around with flags to identify themselves. All I know is as soon as I would see some kind of opening off of the street I would just venture myself in there.

At some point I got to the river on the East side so I walked alongside it until I found Minnewaterpark.

I crossed the little bridge until the train station was in sight. Not wanting to go back just yet I headed North, coming across the Koning Albert I Park and the Concertgebouw. I crossed the river again, this time on the West side, via the street Smedenstraat.

After having seen enough of Bruges I headed back to the train station. I was dead tired and my feet were giving up. Lucky enough a train was arriving soon. I slept on my way back to Brussels with the ticket right in my hand, I guess the controler didn't bother waking me up to ask for it.

And so that's it for today guys! Bruges is lovely, but I swear after a few minutes you're already pretty tired of it. Still I think it's worth it to spend a few hours there with some friends. Grab some stuffs at the market and find a spot by the river, you'll get yourself the perfect picnic.

Until next time!
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