A Weekend of Culture & Cuisine in Montreal

I am home — and almost recovered — from my trip to Montreal, Canada.  Simply put, the city is enchanting :: full of beautiful architecture, charming streets dating back hundreds of years, wonderful people and delicious, delicious food.  The French influence is prominent everywhere, from the language to the cuisine, but with a North American flair.  I embarked on my trip with only two goals in mind–food and opera–and that is exactly what I did (and not much else).

The Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal.

I stayed at the new boutique hotel, Zero 1, a stylishly modern hotel with tiny rooms that somehow manage to feel spacious (and even have kitchenettes).  It’s within walking distance from Old Montreal and a few blocks from a Metro station that leads to anywhere in the city.  I discovered it via the New York Times and highly recommend it.

Self portrait in the “ZERO” of the Zero 1 Hotel.

I spent most of my days wandering through the city, hopping from cathedral to cathedral, exploring the history and architecture.  Did you know that Montreal is one of North America’s oldest settlements?  During my aimless wandering, I stopped for maple gelato or macarons and once even macarons and champagne.  It seemed that wine and pastries were everywhere; I can’t think of a better definition of heaven.

The streets of Old Montréal.

The evenings were consumed with, well, consuming food.  Good food.  From little cafes and sandwich shops to extravagant tasting menus, I did a lot of eating.  I made it to two of Montreal’s famous favorites, Schwart’s Delicatessen and Olive et Gourmando, for midday meals and hit many popular places for dinner: a five-course tasting menu at Les 400 Coups, a seven-course tasting menu at Toque! (whose chef was just named Montreal’s chef of the year), a pre-opera meal at Maison Boulud at the Ritz-Carlton and post-opera desserts at Le Club Chasse et Pache with a new friend I met at Toque!, and a lunch at Brasserie T!.  Turns out that five of the places I visited were named on Canada’s 50 Best Restaurant list (out of the 9 total restaurants in Montreal).

“Le Poached Egg on Your Face” at Olive et Gourmando & Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms at Maison Boulud.

All in all, the trip was much, much too short.  My five-day trip was downsized to four thanks to an issue with Delta Airlines that included an unplanned overnight stay in Minneapolis and yet another lay-over in Detroit.  (That complaint is a whole other story in itself.)  Travel issues aside, the trip was wonderful.  I can’t wait to go back.  There was so much I wanted to do, so much I wanted to eat, that I didn’t have time for.  But in the meantime, I have so many stories to share :: the best smoked meat sandwich I’ve ever tasted, the breathtaking beauty of Montreal’s architecture, two tasting menus (one made the Best Meals of My Life list), La Traviata at the opera, foie gras macarons (yes, seriously!), and more.  Stay tuned!

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