If you’re not based in Canada, Seattle or maybe Burlington, Vermont sadly there is a good chance you didn’t grow up with poutine. Montreal’s signature food is a simple combination of French fries and gravy with cheese curds on top. In the U.S, disco fries aka fries with gravy exists but pales in comparison. You see – poutine is as much a part of the culture to this city as pizza slices are to New York. Practically every other restaurant offers a version. South Asian places offer versions featuring chicken curry on top. There are high-end versions with toppings like lobster.
We decided to check out one of the most famous spots, La Banquise who offer both vegan (vegan cheese+ vegan gravy) and regular versions. In fact they offer scores of variations and toppings ranging from chopped corn dogs, jalapenos, creamy cabbage(?), smoked meats, mushrooms etc. I tried out two versions in two trips: the classic and the most exciting, General Tso’s.
The classic version didn’t disappoint. The curds on top give a pleasant squeaking sound as you bite it which is not unlike mozzarella. It was very satisfying though heavy. I can only imagine how tasty it would be after some drinks. The vegan version was just as good featuring a vegan cheese and a mushroom gravy. Bonus points to them for explicitly labeling what was vegetarian and vegan. On the second visit, I checked out General Tso’s which was pretty fun. It was clear that they used some cut up chicken patties versus the deep fried chunks of chicken found at Chinese places. Still, it was tasty with a mildly spiced pineapple sauce. If I ever return to Montreal this is definitely the first place – I’ll go after drinks.
Years ago, I had a roommate from Quebec who spoke highly of his home city of Montreal. When complementing New York City he would say things like “New York is almost as cool as Montreal” which in his book was high praise. I’ve read similar things about the way Montreal views its bagels. Recently, we got to sample the holed treats up north. New York bagels are known for being large, doughy and chewy with a modest hole in the middle. Cream cheese and lox are common additions.
In Montreal they do it slightly different. They boil their bagels in honey-laced water to impart some sweetness. Baking in wood fire ovens imparts a bit of crunch. They are a bit smaller and denser in texture then Gotham’s bagels. We checked out the most famous shop called St. Viateur which as luck would have it, had no line at all. Eating it in-house they offer options like cream cheese, and the new-to-me pesto cream cheese. Sliced into five pieces, they provided a little fruit too on the side.
I enjoyed the chewiness of the bagel and the honey does come through. The pesto cream cheese though was the star. I make forth a motion that this same type of cream cheese should be available at bagel shops in the States as well. The bagel though wasn’t quite as satisfying as what I’m used to. Then again, I think they view them as snacks rather than breakfast. Montreal’s bagels are a respectable cousin in my book. Anyone from Montreal or familiar with it have suggestions for places to try? How do you like to eat your bagels if you’re come Canada?
I wrote about My Grandmother’s Ravioli a few months back. It’s a show featuring Mo Rocca where he interviews sweet G-Ma’s for their prized recipes. This sandwich was inspired by an episode in New England about Lobster (of course) and oddly, lettuce sandwiches. Wait! Come back! They’re actually pretty tasty.
The original recipe which can be found here, uses white bread, iceberg lettuce, salt and pepper. We fancied ours up a bit using romaine. Also, we decided to chop the lettuce deli style + mayo + bread. If you have a good tomato, that’s a nice addition as well. That’s it. The crunch is oddly satisfying.
1/4 Romaine lettuce heart, chopped small
2 pieces of bread of your liking
Mayo/veganaise to taste
Optional: Slice(s) of chopped tomato
Chopped ¼ Romaine hard into small, bite size pieces. Toast bread to your liking. Apply mayonaisse or veganaise to your liking. Add on lettuce. Close sandwich and enjoy simplicity.
I love omelettes but wanted to try something a little different. I don’t normally watch Master Chef, the long running amateur cooking contest but one fortuitous bit I did catch was the making of a Tortilla Espanola. Despite the name, no tortilla is in it. It’s similar to an omelette but includes cooked potatoes inside. When done well it’s like a quiche without a crust. Originating in Spain, it always includes potatoes, eggs and onion but other ingredients can vary. My version uses spicy sausage. Additionally, rather than stovetop, I cooked it in the oven on a cast-iron pan.
Cook Time: 30-35 minutes
1 spicy sausage, chopped bite size
1 potato, chopped small
1 oz bell pepper, chopped small
Cheese to taste (suggested: sharp cheddar, parmesan or gruyere)
A couple of florets of broccoli chopped small
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. First, the potato, bell pepper and broccoli need to be cooked (as they won’t cook fully in the oven). Add a bit of oil to a pan, add seasoning, potato, bell pepper, onion and broccoli in. Cook on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes till fully cooked. While this is cooking, crack the eggs in a bowl. Add a touch of milk. Add seasoning to your liking. Whip it well for a few minutes. Set aside. Oil cast-iron. When potatoes are done place in place in pan along with sausage and cheese. Spread them out evenly. Pour egg on top. Place in oven for ~5 minutes. Egg should be solid and browned on the edges. It’s should be easy to cut out a slice. Serve hot with bread and salsa.
On a Tuesday, in a half-full subway car I was seated next to a scholarly, older Jewish man. As frequently occurs, a musician boarded to play a mariachi-style song in Spanish. My seatmate quipped “oh I was just thinking of that song”. I’d noticed the man early into the 30 minute subway ride because he ate not one but two poppy seed bagels….. with nothing on them. Normally this type behavior is a red flag indicating crazy guy but he seemed to enjoy them.
I carefully pointed out his egregious behavior and asked if he had any places to recommend. He paused and said “No not really. What you really need is a slight hardness to the crust but a soft inside. Don’t fall for those places that are basically selling bread with a hole in it. Also, look out for those selling poppy seed bagels with like four poppy seeds on them.” He then went on to make a solid point “New Yorkers have opinions on three things: Pizza, Chinese Foods and Bagels”. As I did a mental tally of the other things New Yorkers care about, I realized he had mentioned the three most important. With that he got off at his stop (Broadway-Lafayette).
The next day, I stopped by Bagel Factory in Park Slope to pick up a bountiful bagel. Hopefully this one meets his stringent criteria.
So Ma recently heard about quinoa from a friend. She pronounces the protein and iron rich food in the same way I did at first. “Qui-noa” rather than “KEEN-WAH”. I like the way she says it, so I haven’t corrected her just yet.
My favorite recipe using the grain/seed up until then was this breakfast porridge from Scott Jurek. Ma’s savory creation is a simple pulao that is tasty by itself or eaten with Indian dishes.
12 oz quinoa
½ onion, chopped small
few ounces peas
10 or so curry leaves
In a pan, caramelize onions for 7-9 minutes. Add in cumin seeds and allow to sputter till they darken (maybe 2 minutes). Add in quinoa, water and rest of ingredients. Cook until quinoa is plump and water is absorbed. (Around 20 minutes). Serve hot.
The term mystery meat only has a negative connotation, evoking perhaps to American readers the sketchy stuff used in certain fast food chain tacos or perhaps school cafeteria meatloaf. I have here though, one positive spin on that term.
One of the classic things to get for New Yorkers on the go are bacon, egg and cheese (B.E.C) sandwiches from the corner bodegas. Oddly one of the local grocery stores has gotten into this game. The Jo, Brian and Joseph’s Key Food sells these sandwiches pre-made next to the rotisserie chickens. Throughout the week the deli’s offerings varied from BE.C to ham, egg and cheese to hamburgers. I don’t know if there was any type of schedule – the only consistency was that at night, the breakfast sandwiches were half price (from $3 to $1.50).
The long named grocer normally has a picture of the sandwich along with the description affixed via sticker. I finally gave in to temptation a few nights ago to pick one up only to find no description or picture. It was simply labeled “deli by count”. It was a mystery sandwich! Perhaps even more intriguing, a mystery meat sandwich? Most likely they simply ran out of labels but somehow this made the food adventure more appealing. If it was intentional, it was a clever marketing ploy. Or perhaps I’m just strange?
Why not market this to the local bars, of which there are 4 within a couple of blocks? Instead of pizza, check out a mystery meat sandwich? You know it’s coming from a grocery store and you know which meats in could be. I would totally check that out. How would you market mystery meat sandwiches? P.S, I got ham, egg and cheese.