Sunday, March 19, 2006

i heart montréal

If you don't already have it, go out and buy it! The March 2006 Gourmet Magazines special issue features our own Montréal. With glowing reviews from the writers and from Ruth Reichl, editor of Gourmet Magazine, Montréal gets the exposure that it clearly deserves. The Magazine highlights a number of restaurants, markets, cafes, liquor stores, cute boutiques, creative cooking stores, regular tourist attractions and much more. They also mention Michelle and Anthony's blog,
...An Endless Banquet

which Gourmet calls "one of the city's best online resources for information on dining". I couldn't agree more!

I went to Montréal for the first time at the end of January for work, but I also took a couple extra days for holiday. Prior to departing, I contacted my friend Lisa, who recommended places to visit, as well as her friend Michelle's blog. I left with a trusty travel guide and pages from Michelle and Anthony's blog. The majority of my trip revolved around eating, book buying and shopping. All the restuarants, shops and stores that Michelle and Anthony listed were fantastic; so, I pretty much just went to places they suggested during my entire trip. Some of my favourite places include: Olive et Épices, a store selling an amazing range and quality of spices, Arthur Quentin, a trendy gourmet kitchen supply store, Les Chocolats de Chloé, a lilliputian chocolate store with beautiful handmade chocolates, La Banquise, a 24 hour dinner that serves every type of poutine imaginable, and Fairmont Bagel, my favourite Montréal bagel spot.

The main highlights of my trip, however, were visiting my friends and having the good fortune to sample desserts at both
Les Chèvres
, two great Montréal restaurants.

Toqué's is known as one of Montréal's perennial top restaurants. The artistry of the kitchen is evident in every dish that is presented. Luckily for me, my friend Lisa is currently working at Toqué in the pastry kitchen; so, I was given a tour of their beautiful kitchen. The desserts that I had the pleasure of trying were:

1. apple ice cider slush with basil oil and a quenelle of physalis sorbet.
2. an eggshell bowl containing ground cherry jam, caramelized rice crispies, black truffle ice cream and caramel croquant, with a thin sheet of crispy caramel which sealed the eggshell closed.
3. a parfait that consisted of caramelized cranberries and raspberries, cantucci, white chooclate and yougurt crémeux, carmel croquant, maldon salt, rasel hanout and a cocoa tuile with spiced sugar (I could have eaten two of these!).
4. a caramelized cocoa brioche with gianduja crémeux, caramel croquant and apricot puree, lemon caramel, cacao brut, apricot carpaccio, wintergreen ice milk and caramel decor.
5. last but not least, two small cubes – one chocolate ganache, the other chewy caramel.

The desserts at Toqué were elegant, original, and plated beautifully. The combination of flavours tasted fantastic!

My other dining highlight was a visit to the sister restaurants of Le Chou and Les Chèvres. The desserts at Le Chou and Les Chèvres are designed and created by pastry chef Patrice Demers and his fantastic pastry team. Le Chou is the more casual and less pricey of the two restaurants. I made dinner reservations at Le Chou and dessert reservations at Les Chèvres so that I could try both without breaking the bank. My dinner at Le Chou was wonderful and their desserts looked tempting – so yummy and comforting. After dinner I went next door to have a dessert at Les Chèvres. Initially, I was going to order off the menu, but one of the owners asked if I wanted to have the dessert tasting menu. I immediately replied yes please! (Call ahead to see whether they have the dessert tasting menu. If not, just order off the menu; you won't be disappointed.) The desserts and the service at Les Chèvres were excellent. The dessert tasting went something like this:

1. basil sorbet with a yogurt foam.
2. pineapple carpaccio with fromage blanc mousse, carrot/clementine sorbet, carrot tuile and coriander.
3. apple compote topped with a biscuit, Chantilly cream and a pistachio wafer, served with a honey gelée and a quince sorbet.
4. a tandem dessert that consisted of: (a) diced poached pears in syrup, chocolate brownie topped with gianduja, and a crunch of caramel; (b) a chocolate and Oolong tea soup surrounding a disk of poached pear topped with cinnamon mousse.
5. a chocolate flourless cake with coffee Chantilly cream topped with black sesame tuile and served with caramelized bananas and sesame sorbet.
and just when i thought it had ended... a plate of mignardises (petit four) were brought out:
6. passion fruit marshmallow; grapefruit pâtes de fruits, orange cardamom financiers; Earl Grey ganache on mini chocolate sablés; and bite sized pistachio wafer and chocolate ice cream sandwiches.

The desserts at Toqué and Les Chèvres were sophisticated and of a very high calibre. I didn't want this sugar induced week-end to end ever! So, I thought that I would share my experience with the hope that others might have the oppurtunity to try either of these restaurants. The next time I'm in Montréal you can be sure that I will be eating, drinking and seeing as much as I possibly can. I can't wait.


Ivonne said...

Fantastic review of the magazine, Sam!

And I loved your account of your trip to Montreal.

I don't generally buy Gourmet magazine (too many advertisements) but I snapped this issue up. It's wonderful to see Montreal being recognized for the world-class city that it is.

Tania said...

I was fortunate enough to have spent two years in Montreal while in grad school ... I loved living there! Although I was certainly student-poor at the time, I still managed to eat wonderfully. I had my favourite chocolate shop for the occasional sweet indulgence, by favourite pastry shops for a weekend breakfast treat, my favourite bistro for "moules et frites," and, of course, Fairmont Bagels! I haven't been back since graduating, but your post has made me long to visit!

By the way, that list of desserts you sampled ... OMG, it's obscene! You should print a warning at the start of your post! I don't think any other post I've read on any blog has made me drool quite that copiously! I'm actually relieved you didn't post pictures; I don't think I could have handled that!

sam said...

Hi Ivonne,

Thanks for your comments! It was my first time in Montreal and I really enjoyed myself.

Hey Tania,

The dessert weekend was obscene! But it was sooooo good. At the time, I had not started my blog, so I didn't think about taking pictures. The desserts were absolutely beautiful. I will definately take pictures next time.

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