Dec 23, 2009

Shopping in Old Montreal: the funky Mortimer Snodgrass boutique

Photo credit: Mortimer Snodgrass

The fun Boutique Mortimer Snodgrass, owned by Jay Sokoloff and Virginia Champoux, is located at 209 St-Paul West, right in the heart of Old Montreal.

It's got the coolest selection of funky gifts - a must-see for any tourist who's not into the clichée souvenir shops that abound in that area. Much of the stuff sold there is laugh outloud funny, perfect for a gift that will double as conversation piece.


Fall Hours:Monday to Wednesday 10 am - 6 pm
Thursday - Friday 10 am - 9 pm
Saturdays 10- 6 & Sun: 11 am - 6 pm

Dec 16, 2009

Le 357: Montreal's best restaurant is a members-only secret


Photos: Le 357 website

This week I had lunch at a private member's club in Old Montreal called Le 357. Chic. Small. Low-profile.

I don't want to say much to preserve the privacy of the members, but suffice to say the place completely wowed me. I've eaten at many private clubs in New York, London and Brazil and... never one with food as good as this. I'd go as far as to say the food at Le 357 is better - from the little I tasted - than any restaurant in Montreal. First rate indeed.

Elegant, wood-panelled room. A pleasantly silent environment, Christmas music playing softly in the background. Impeccable waiters, with aubergine shirts matching the décor.

I had an intensely beefy consommé, poured tableside over julienned lettuce for crunch. Delish. That was followed by tender medium-rare veal with crisp, golden nuggests of sweetbreads. For dessert, a delightful multi-textured chocolate concoction, dense and foamy at once:


My friend could not contain the hmms! and aaahs! after tasting these strands of marron paste (chestnuts: how Christmassy can you get?) atop a crunchy meringue, with crème anglaise around it.


Lovely mignardises capped the meal. I SO wanted more of the rapsberry gelée - it managed to capture all the summery goodness of the fruit in one intensely flavourful bite.

Now all I have to do is ask Santa for a membership...

Suite 701 bar in Old Montreal hosts Jewish-only party on Christmas Eve

In Montreal for the holiday season? Single? Jewish? Well, we know where you should be on Christmas Eve: partying with like-minded people at the fun Suite 701, the bar at the Place d'Armes hotel. Here's a press release on the event with all the details:

"Twenty three years of history, millions of party-goers and 10 metropolitan cities across North America equals one unforgettable night. A holiday in its own right, the 23rd Annual Matzo Ball® takes place on December 24th, Christmas Eve, and promises to deliver a night of high-energy networking and matchmaking for singles ages 21-49.

The USA Today dubs this annual affair the "Nation's No. 1 Holiday Party." Part reunion and part date-night, the Matzo Ball draws thousands of people to an exclusive, one-night only event taking place across North America.

Dating made easy; here’s a chance to finally meet a nice Jewish boy or girl. Sponsored by the Society of Young Jewish Professionals, JDate and SLEEK Medspa, the Matzo Ball® makes a serious first impression by fostering networking opportunities, long lasting friendships and romantic relationships for years to come.

Mark the calendar for Thursday, December 24, 2009 (8 p.m.) at Suite 701in Montreal for a chance to mix and mingle in true holiday spirit.

In its 23rd year, Matzo Ball® is anticipated to roll out in 10 cities in North America. Matzo Ball® is touted as the nation’s largest Jewish mixer and was dubbed the “Nation’s No. 1 Holiday party” by USA Today. Tickets are available for advance purchase online for $25 at and are available at the door for cash only.

VIP Tickets are also available and include a one night hotel stay in a Superior Room at Le Place D’Armes Hotel on December 24, 2009. VIP Ticket price is available for $200.00 advanced purchase only.

Society of Young Jewish Professionals ("SYJP"), founded in 1987, is the brainchild of one man's longing to bring Jewish people together and find a nice Jewish girl along the way! SYJP offers comprehensive sponsorship opportunities, which allow companies to become part of our exciting festivities which is targeted at high profile, affluent audience. We have sparked more than 1,000 marriages and thousands of friendships."

Hotel Place d'Armes: 55 St. Jacques Street, tel. 1-888 450-1887

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Dec 12, 2009

Ski season is here! Jay Peak: tons of snow 2 hours from Montreal.

Yes, it's that time of year again: we got a lot of snow on Wednesday and many ski mountains are now open. Of all the mountains near Montreal, however, the one that always has the most snow is Jay Peak, in Vermont, just over the US-Canada border.

And today's New York Times travel section has a great story on where to sleep, eat and play at Jay so you can pack your skis and go!

As the Times says, "Jay averages 355 inches of snow, one of the biggest snowfalls in the East, and it blankets some of the most extensive glades skiing in the region, drawing serious skiers with its challenging chutes and very generous outbound policy. And with little in the way of night life or amenities, Jay isn’t the place to come for pampering or dance parties, but no one minds — there’s too much snow to play in."

Jay Peak in The New York Times

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Dec 8, 2009

New Year's in Montreal: why not escape to the countryside?

Sure, New Year's Eve can be fun in the city, with all the parties going on but... if it's snowy and white, there's nothing cozier to do on the last day of the year than curling up in bed in front of a crackling fire at a country hotel like the gorgeous Manoir Hovey, 90 minutes outside the city.

Then lazily getting out of bed and getting all decked out for a soirée in style: a fancy tasting dinner followed by some dancin' cheek to cheek at the inn's beautiful pub (below), which will be all festive with decorations, a DJ and all the trimmings for a proper countdown to the new year.

Not only is Manoir Hovey, in North Hatley, a super easy drive from Montreal, but you can also stop at the very cool Balnéa Spa on your way for a massage, a sauna and some baths (the exterior baths all have water at different temperatures).

Here's what Manoir Hovey's got on the menu for New Year's Eve:

Menu du 31 décembre 2009

Huître Rasberry point, sabayon au champagne.


Aile de raie, consommé de bœuf, spatzel à l’estragon, jaune d’œuf.


Ravioli de joue de porc, boudin, coing, jus au cidre.


Pigeon cuit sous-vide, foie blond de pintade, trompettes noires.


Foie gras ‘’ Rocky road’’.

(Rocher de foie gras, chocolat, noix Macadam)


Pain perdu, abricot, pistaches, figue et porto.

Yum, yum.

The cost for the room plus the dinner with wines paired with each course goes from Can$ 270 per person (in an economy room, but who wants that, right?) to Can$ 550 per person for the ultra-mega-super-duper new Heron suite, which is more like a home away from home (mini kitchen, outdoor hot tub, dining area, etc etc, which they show in a virtual tour here). That includes not just the room and the dinner but also all the tips and full breakfast.

Manoir Hovey: 575 Hovey Road, North Hatley, tel. (819) 842-2421
Balnea: Bromont, tel. (450) 534-1225

New hotel in Montreal: the Le Petit Hôtel, in Vieux Montréal

Old Montreal, or Vieux Montréal, is the touristic heart of the city: the historic district of narrow streets and charming old stone buildings. Two of these, in fact, have just been jointly converted into a new little hotel called, fittingly, Le Petit Hôtel - and brought to you by the same pros behind perennial hits Place d’Armes, Nelligan and Auberge du Vieux Port, all in Old Montreal.

The new little brother is decidedly more jovial and hip.

Room categories are named like coffee or t-shirt sizes: S, M, L and XL!

Here's a medium:

Kinda nice, until you see this extra-large one, which is obv much nicer!

And comes with a Wii hooked up to the flatscreen so you can do some virtual yoga. Or not.

The rate? A mere Can$ 188 until Valentines' Day of 2010!
Pretty hard to beat...

Le Petit Hôtel: 168, rue Saint-Paul Ouest, tel. 00 xx 1 514-940-0360

Dec 3, 2009

Poutine takes Québec food to new heights abroad, says ABC

Québec food in on a roll. Just yesterday, we told you about the comparison between Montreal and New York bagels published by The New York Times, who sent a reporter up here to interview bagel connaisseurs and pick up a fresh batch for some taste tests.

Now, all we hear is poutine, poutine, poutine. Québec's hangover dish par excellence, once looked down on as a gross and unhealthy mound of junk food, has gained a new and much more positive image in the last couple of years. So what if poutine is nothing more than a mountain of fries topped with gravy and cheese curds? That didn't stop hyped chefs like Martin Picard (of Au Pied de Cochon fame) from giving it a new, upscale twist. Picard's version, which has been written about by at least 500 magazines, is topped with foie gras. We don't know of any other dish in the history of Montreal - no, not even the smoked meat sandwich - that was able to garnish such monstrous amounts of press and praise.

Many a chef followed suit, and so began the poutine trend in Montreal, where restaurants simply added pricier and more sophisticated ingredients on top of the brown-and-yellow mess. Our fave is Garde Manger's lobster poutine (pictured above). Genius. Speaking of which, Garde Manger has got to be one of Montréal's best restaurants: what other place in town has that oh-so-rare combo of super fun, party atmosphere and food that's actually first-rate? The chef-owner is the super friendly and energetic Chuck Hughes, who's lately turned into a bit of a celeb, thanks to his show on the Food Network, Chuck's Day Off. Great guy, who always attracts fun crowds to wherever he chooses to cook.

Back to poutine: the unexpected new "national dish" has hit the big leagues, with the opening of a place in New York that serves nothing else other than poutine, in a million variations. (Not that they were first, our friend Lyman Carter had already introduced poutine to New Yorkers at his hip but now defunct The Inn, a Canadian-inspired gastropub in the Meatpacking District).

Here's a link to a recent story that appeared on ABC news about the rise of "Canadian" cuisine, which focuses on poutine, mostly.

Restaurant Garde-Manger
408 Rue Saint-Francois-Xavier, tel. (514) 678-5044

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Dec 1, 2009

New York and Montreal bagels compared by The New York Times

By Bella Donohue, special contributor
Photos: Maria Ganem

It is just me, or is The New York Times obssessed with Montreal? I'be been loving the extensive coverage of the city, from poutine to dépanneurs and now... bagels, of course!

Yes, the famous Montreal bagels went head to head against the New York specimens in today's Times. Quite a thorough comparison, in fact, quoting several experts.

In the end, the paper concludes the bagels are simply different: neither can be declared the "winner". But Jennifer Lee, the reporter, did kinda let us know what she REALLY thinks when she wrote that she "had to give it to the artisanal quality of the bagels being made at St.-Viateur. They are hand-rolled and baked in wood-burning ovens, something that current New York City regulations would no longer allow. The process gives them a crisp and smoky crust on the outside. The bakers slip tidy lines of bagels in and out on long wooden slats, before flipping them into a bin. Their recipe was slightly different, using malt flour, and they are boiled in water with honey. And since they are skinnier, the hole is more pronounced."

And how does she know all that? She flew to Montreal to pick up a fresh batch to take back to her co-workers, for their assessment. Now that's what I call a sweet assignment. Why don't I ever get invited to go test the current state of New York's pastrami on rye? Surely it can't even come close to Shwartz's smoked meat sandwich, right? ;)

The full story, here.

Fairmount Bagel: 74 Fairmount Street West, tel. (514) 272-0667

Nov 21, 2009

Christmas parade in Montreal: Santa Claus lands on Ste-Catherine Street


So nice that this year's Santa Claus parade was on a sunny and mild day. Families lined along Ste.Catherine street, stroller traffic jams, all in good cheer. The event goes until 5pm today.

The parade happens along Sainte Catherine Street West, between
Du Fort and Saint-Urbain streets, and is in its 59th edition.