Sunday, September 11, 2011

Travel Cuisine

The best part of my short trip to Montreal was the food. I had heard plenty about the cuisine before I left on the train--there was even a recent episode of Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Food that featured food I didn't consider bizarre. I didn't dine at the restaurant that serves seal meat, mostly because it was a bit out of my price range.

My first planned destination was recommended by many people--Schwartz's Deli. I was skeptical about eating a pastrami sandwich (known in Quebec as smoked meat) in Montreal--could it really be better than the delis of Manhattan? Based on the people making the recommendations, I decided to give it a try. I figured since it was a tourist destination it'd be rather expensive, and I planned to spend something similar to the prices in Katz's Deli. I didn't realize how small Schwartz's is--I had to stand in line outside for 15 minutes to get a seat at the counter. It still sounds like blasphemy to me, but it was one of the best pastrami sandwiches I've ever had (although I was disappointed that they didn't have spicy mustard)--because it's smoked, it wasn't as wet as the pastrami at Katz's, but it was still amazingly tender with a lot of flavor. With a soda and pickle, my dinner only came to $11. At that price I was almost tempted to order a second sandwich.

On my final day in Montreal, I made a point of trying Restaurant Vallier on Rue McGill. I heard they specialized in duck, which is lacking on most menus in my area. Unfortunately, I visited during a heatwave, and I walked around town a little more than I anticipated (I regret not renting a Bixi bike). When I arrived at the restaurant, I was exhausted and sweating. I drank half a dozen glasses of water before my meal arrived. I was drawn to the shepherd's pie with duck confit, which came with a sweet and tangy mango sauce that mixed beautifully with the mashed potatoes and duck. I was happily stuffed. However, I didn't feel that well walking back to the metro station. I went back to my hotel, showered, and passed out for a couple hours before going out again.

The final meal that I had to try in Montreal was poutine. I heard people describe it to me, but I never made the connection of what it really was. Coming from north Jersey, I can describe it as a variation of disco fries. Instead of loads of melted cheese on top of fries, it had cheese curds that only melted slightly. Also, the poutine that I tried had some rather soggy fries (that should have only been a result of the gravy, but they were just bad fries).