Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the Road Again...Part III

I've gotten a lot of great feedback on my Montreal postings, and I firmly believe that's a reflection of what a wonderful time we actually had. Despite having spent only 2 full days up there, we really made the most most of it, namely in that we rarely went more than 2 hours without experiencing a full meal. And since I'm so fond of writing recipes, I thought I'd create the perfect recipe for a short, food-centric road trip. It's peppered with photos of the delicious dishes we ate, and will hopefully inspire you to grab a friend and hit the road in search of delectable treats. Consider this the National Geographic or Travel Channel special that they'll never air (but should).

1. Make sure your travel companion is equally hungry with a desire to try new dishes regardless of their reputation, and is blissfully unaware (or at least feigning ignorance) of fat content. Consider the possibility that this person may be repulsed by your incessant gorging and mouth stuffing; resist the temptation to travel with new lovers or anyone responsible for signing your paycheck. A best friend, long time companion, or someone that's seen you cry are probably your best bets. You'll thank me later.

Having seen each other go to town on ribs, burgers and the tiniest of chicken bones, Gloria and I were perfect foodie travel companions. We're not particularly picky about food and always try something new, even if it seems terribly frightening. We're happy to wait in long lines on cold days and wind our way through a new town, so long as there's delicious food at the end of our journey. This trip was no different, and as you can see, those sandwiches were no match for the likes of us.

2. Don't be the weirdo that goes on a diet during a vacation. Take the time to explore the awesome culinary wonderlands that your destination has to offer, and pack every single one of your days with as many different kinds of meals as possible. If you normally skip breakfast like I do--DON'T--take advantage of everything, and don't miss a meal or pass up a reservation to go look at a stupid statue. Make snacks and traditional fare a priority, squeezing them in whenever possible.

The three photos above are from L'Express, a traditional French bistro in the heart of Montreal. Because we'd only started planning once we were pretty much in Canada, we got mostly late night reservations--and took them all. That night may have ended at L'Express, but it began at an underground jazz club with wine, fois gras, and onion soup, followed by a stop at a divey college bar for a few Canadian beers. Sufficiently buzzed we made our way down the frosty streets of the Rue Saint Denis to L'Express for our 10 o'clock seating. We began by decimating the complimentary jar of cornichons and mustard, along with a bottle of wine. Then we tackled the most adorable lettuce topped roasted marrow and a warm goat cheese salad. Since it was late and we had to walk home, Gloria and I shared a lovely duck confit as a main course before stumbling back into the cold dark night.

3. Follow the art crowd. While it's important to check out landmark areas (where classic food can often be found), finding out where the artists and younger set go can be crucial to discovering what's new on the food scene. You may find the best coffeehouse, the gallery district, a hot new hole in the wall, or that secret only-the-locals-know-about-it shopping and eating district.

After hitting the classics, we decided to follow the art crowd down to a vintage shopping district along the Rue Saint Laurent. We ended up finding several diamonds in the rough, from kitchy antique shops with pin-up girl sales associates to excellent and affordable vintage clothing stores, and a few new places we only wish we could afford. After a few indulgent purchases between the two of us (vintage leather jacket, antique serving trays, a new coat), we made our way down the length of the rue to a coffee shop to catch a breath. On the way we spotted the Art Road Trip (A.R.T.) van, seen above, a perfect symbol of our trip, considering that we started the day with café au lait, croissant and a trip to the museum. The meal that ended our day was so delicious, so rich, so luscious, that it's already inspired a dish of its own in my house, and will have an entire post of its own. Needless to say, that meal was its own work of art that never would have been, had we not followed the art crowd.

And so, these are my tips. Proof positive that with an open mind, good company and an empty stomach, even the least planned of trips can prove to be an edible adventure. Stay tuned for my last Montreal inspired post, and the recipe that came to fruition after the trip.


P.S.- Big thanks to Gloria for the excellent photos!

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