When in Montreal…

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We recently celebrated our first anniversary and decided to take a little weekend trip to Montreal to rejoice in our complete and utter cuteness.(I’ll pause here to allow you the time you need to let how adorable we are sink in.  We’re also accepting gifts for the occasion…)While in Montreal, we did all of the touristy things — a walking tour of the Old City, a visit to Atwater Market, a turn about the Montreal Observation Wheel, a climb up Mont Royal, even a helicopter ride above the city — but the highlight was (as it always is with us) the food.  A fun, diverse city that seamlessly combines history and tradition with modernity and innovation, Montreal is literally a food lover’s dream.  We came ready to eat and we were not disappointed.

BREAKFAST — Muru Crepe

The best part about Montreal is that even though it is only a 5.5-hour drive from Boston, it’s so European. The cobblestone streets, the architecture, the people assuming everyone speaks French — it’s basically one Eiffel Tower away from being Paris, and I had to fight the urge to put on a beret and neck scarf and start dancing around a la Gene Kelly in An American in Paris.

So, we decided that the best way to start the day would be with a small brunch in a French cafe.  Muru Crepe, a charmingly tiny creperie in the Old City, fit the bill perfectly.

We both started off with a Cafe Mocha, expertly made with the perfect ratio of chocolate, espresso, and foam and beautifully decorated to boot.

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I went for a light breakfast and got Greek Yogurt drizzled with maple syrup (because Canada) and topped with homemade granola and fresh strawberries and blueberries and award-winningly tasty caramelized bananas.Nate got the Trois Fromages crepe, a savory crepe that came with goat cheese, swiss cheese, and mozzarella cheese, bacon, potato, honey, and crème fraîche.  

The crepe itself was spongy and light, with a slight hint of eggy flavor, and the gooeyness of the cheese combined with the smoky bacon, starchy potato, and sweet honey made it clear why Muru is considered one of the best creperies in the city.

LUNCH — Schwartz’s DeliMontreal is famous for two things: smoked meat sandwiches and poutine, and Schwartz’s is one of the best and most noteworthy spots in the city to get both of those things.  The deli has been serving smoked meat from a special family recipe since 1928 — when Reuben Schwartz, a Jewish immigrant from Romania, first opened the restaurant on the now-trendy boulevard Saint-Laurent (home to tons of artsy murals, small boutiques, and artisan shops).  The meat is prepared with a secret blend of herbs and spices and then marinated for 10 days before being served — and you could really taste the difference.  

The smoked meat sandwich — served on light rye bread with a touch of brown mustard — was easily one of the best deli sandwiches I’ve ever had, piled high with juicy, flavorful, thick-cut pastrami of such high quality that it rivaled the best that New York City has to offer.

And, because a giant deli sandwich is obviously not enough, we also split an order of Schwartz’s poutine, a take on the classic Quebec speciality that had — wait for it — more huge chunks of smoked meat on top.  The smoked meat and gravy soaked into the fries and the cheese curds were delightfully salty and gooey, and it was all so good I forgot to feel guilty about many calories I had just consumed.

After nearly 90 years in business, there’s a lot of hype surrounding Schwartz’s, and the line to even get into the restaurant was so abysmally long we almost decided to skip going entirely and find another place to get a smoked meat sandwich.  Let me tell you — the hype is completely justified and the line was more than worth it.  Seriously, do not visit Montreal without making your way to Schwartz’s at least once.

DINNER — Restaurant Bonaparte

We decided to go all out for dinner — after all, you only celebrate a one-year anniversary once, and after a day of walking around and being touristy we felt like we were entitled to treat ourselves to the fanciest dinner the city has to offer.

Restaurant Bonaparte, located in the heart of the Old City, is really three restaurants in one — there are three distinct dining rooms, all with different aesthetics that add to the restaurant’s charm.  We were placed in the Impératrice Hall, a romantic space decorated in the Empire style of the Napoleonic era, complete with crystal chandeliers, a large fireplace, and French hotel paneling on the walls.  The best part?  Because the staff of the restaurant knew we were celebrating a special occasion, they gave us the best seat in the room — an intimate booth next to a window that overlooked the narrow, cobblestone streets of the neighborhood.

While there are a la carte menus available, Restaurant Bonaparte is famous for its five-course Tasting Menu, and we decided that five courses would give us the opportunity to try literally every type of French food all at once and, really, how could we pass that chance up?

For the first course, Nate got the lobster bisque, which was thick and creamy with a hint of ginger.

Not wanting to fill up too quickly, I opted for the salad, which was a bed of mixed greens topped with toasted pine nuts and the most flavorful parmesan cheese I have ever tasted, tossed with a light vinaigrette.The second course was my favorite.  Nate chose the warm goat cheese and roasted almonds wrapped in flaky filo dough.  

Fulfilling one of my lifelong fantasies, I ordered the duck foie gras, which came with a savory crème brûlée and sauteed apples.  There are no words to describe how much I loved the foie gras — it was creamy and thick without being heavy, and when topped with the crème brûlée it had a melt-in-your-mouth quality that I could not get enough of.  

The third course continued my quest for all things French.  I ordered the escargot — garlicky and delightfully rubbery snails in parsley fricassee served with Provençal vegetables.  

Nate went for the mushroom ravioli, which were smothered in a sage butter sauce and tasted like fall.

Then, because this was the fanciest and greatest meal of all time, they gave us a pear and tarragon sorbet infused with ACTUAL CHAMPAGNE(!!) to cleanse our palates (seriously!!) before the main course, which — big surprise — was also amazing.

Nate went with filet mignon, cooked to perfection and seasoned with peppercorns and cognac.

I went with the duck breast, which was tender and juicy and topped with wild berries and a maple syrup glaze (again, because Canada) that enhanced the duck’s natural flavors with a wonderful combination of tartness and sweetness.

For dessert, we were given a Symphony of Homemade Desserts (which, in plebeian speak, basically is just a sampler platter of mini desserts made in-house by the restaurant’s pastry chef).  The highlight for me was the crème brûlée partly because it was absolutely delicious and partly because by this point in the meal I had turned into a full-on Fancy Snob™.

Was the meal decadent? Absolutely. But it was also probably the best meal I have ever eaten.  And to top it off, the service was impeccable, the staff was friendly and accommodating (not to mention very happy to congratulate us on our celebration), and the restaurant itself was beautiful.  If you’re in Montreal and have a reason to celebrate (or just want to Treat Yo Self), Restaurant Bonaparte is the place to do it.
Leaving Montreal was bittersweet, not only because we wanted more time there, but also because we had both gained a not-so-insignificant amount of weight from having eaten so well.  With a basically unlimited number of restaurants — big and small, fancy and casual — and an unlimited number of cuisines, Montreal is a food lover’s paradise.

The Boston Eat Party takes it on the road!

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In our opinion, the great thing about traveling is seeing what makes each city unique in its own right. That is the point of traveling after all — to broaden your mind through experiences you may not find elsewhere. Oddly enough, the same thing goes for food.

Forget different areas of the world — there are tons of cities in North America that boast great food culture that you might not otherwise realize by just staying in Boston. Every city or state has an iconic dish or type of food to offer.

So, we took the Eat Party on the road and set out to try some of the most iconic foods in North America, spanning across Upstate New York, the Midwest and Ontario, Canada. Here is a map of our route and all the delicious, weird, and very unhealthy foods we ate along the way.

Finger Lakes, NY

Food to Try: Cheese

History: The Finger Lakes region is well-known for its wine trails, but a lesser known trail in the Finger Lakes is the Cheese Trail, which features a collection of local farms and creameries producing artisan cheeses that range type and age. The Finger Lakes Cheese Trail is a recent addition to the region, founded in 2010. It was a collaborative effort by local farms to bring bolster tourism in the area.

Where to go: Muranda Cheese Company seems to be the top choice in the region. We were fortunate enough to stumble upon it after doing a wine tasting. There were 16 different types of mouth-watering cheeses sampled.

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Not only were the samples delicious, but the tasting room was a renovated barn that overlooked a farm full of cows.

Muranda Cheese CompanyA few other notable cheese tastings on the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail are Engelbert Farms and Kenton’s Cheese Co. It’s also crazy cheap to go – it was only $3 for a tasting, plus they hook it up with free samples of jelly to put on pretzels afterward!

Buffalo, NY

Food to Try: Buffalo Wings

History: The Buffalo chicken wing was invented in 1964 by Teressa Bellissimo, the co-owner of Anchor Bar.Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NYThe story is that their son came in at 11 pm with a posse of college friends, drunk, demanding food. Teressa needed a quick way to serve up food. At the time, chicken wings were generally used for soups, but Teresa took it upon herself to create It was then that she came up with the idea of deep frying chicken wings and tossing them in cayenne hot sauce.

Where to go: If you ask any Buffalonian, they will tell you it’s a debate between the Anchor Bar and Duff’s Famous Wings – and it’s NOT both – it’s one or the other. Due to the amount of history tied to it, we went to the Anchor Bar, which is well-known nationally among tourists and outsiders (hey, that’s us!). Duff’s is more popular among the locals who hate tourists and have to prove them wrong by saying Duff’s is better. In their defense, Duff’s has a more expansive list of wing sauces, while The Anchor Bar’s flavors were limited mild, medium, hot, death-wish and BBQ. Still, I’m glad we tried the buffalo wing where it originated.

Buffalo Wings at The Anchor BarWe could see and feel the history inside of the Anchor Bar with endless memorabilia hanging on the wall including autographed pictures of famous people who have popped in (and also one strangely placed portrait of Christopher Columbus for reasons unknown).

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If you’re a tourist looking to get a sense of Buffalo (like we were), it’s a really good choice in my opinion – plus top quality wings. We will have to try Duff’s next time to compare the tastes and flavors.

Cleveland, OH

Food to Try: The Polish Boy

What It Is: Grilled Kielbasa or hot dog in a bun, and covered in layers of french fries, a layer of southern style barbecue sauce or hot sauce, and coleslaw on top.

History:  Unlike the stories behind some of the other foods we tried during our trip, there isn’t much to the history of the Polish Boy.  The first version of the sandwich dates back to the 1940s, when Cleveland restaurateur Virgil Whitmore, owner of Whitmore’s Bar-B-Q in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Cleveland, created a kitchen sink sandwich consisting of a smoked beef sausage and a bunch of ingredients he had on hand, including coleslaw, French fries, and his homemade barbecue sauce. Other BBQ restaurants around the city followed suit, and the Polish Boy made a name for itself as a Cleveland culinary staple.  

Where to go: We wanted the authentic Cleveland experience, so we headed over to Seti’s Polish Boys, a food truck located in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland and the best place in the city to get a Polish Boy.

Seti's Polish Boy TruckLauded by celebrity chefs like Rachael Ray and Michael Symon, Seti’s take on the Polish Boy is a true Cleveland classic (and it’s an incredible value — $7 for a heaping portion that will keep you full for hours). Served on a perfectly grilled all-beef hot dog and generously topped with French fries and coleslaw slathered in the most flavorful sweet BBQ sauce I’ve ever tasted, I can safely say that Seti’s Polish Boy is literally one of the best foods you’ll ever try.

Polish Boy in Cleveland, OHPlus, we got to meet Seti (who makes each Polish Boy to order) and his wife (who runs the truck) — two of the nicest people we ran into during our trip.  Despite having gone to both an Indians game and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while we were in Cleveland, I think Nate will agree with me when I say that this sandwich was definitely the highlight of the Ohio leg of our journey.

Detroit, MI

Food to Try: Coney Island Dog

What It Is: It’s an all-beef hot dog plopped on a steamed bun and topped with chili sauce, chopped raw onion, and a squiggle of yellow mustard.

History: While the hot dog itself got its start in Coney Island, New York (with the first hot dogs being sold at the amusement park as early as 1867), the Coney Island Dog is a staple specific to Detroit — over 500 diners in the Metro Detroit area alone serve some variation of the Coney Dog. The Coney Dog made its way from New York to Michigan in the early 1900s as hundreds of thousands of Greek and Macedonian immigrants traveled to the Midwest after arriving at Ellis Island.

Where to go: Several Detroit diners claim to be the true originator of the Coney Island Dog. We decided on Lafayette Coney Island, a no-frills diner located in the heart of downtown Detroit.  Lafayette Coney Island in Detroit, MITheir version of the Coney Dog came smothered in a slightly spicy chili. The raw onions gave the otherwise soggy chili dog a nice crunch and the yellow mustard added a nice, tangy flavor that brought the whole sandwich together.Coney Dog in Detroit, MI

The Coney Dog was an enjoyable variation on the classic chili dog, but it was a little plain — a little cheese, or perhaps a higher quality hot dog, would have improved the experience.  Simply put, Detroit’s Coney Dog was good but was really nothing compared to Cleveland’s Polish Boy.

Toronto, ON

Foodie Neighborhood to Visit: Chinatown

History: Toronto doesn’t have a specific dish per se, but because it is such a diverse and multicultural city, it boasts a wide variety of authentic international cuisines. Toronto is home to one of the largest Chinatown districts in North America — in fact, there are six Chinatown neighborhoods to explore in the greater Toronto area. Old Chinatown, which is the main Chinatown district located in the heart of the downtown, has no shortage of restaurants to get an order of noodles, dumplings, or any other kind of Asian cuisine you can think of.

Where To Go: There are literally hundreds of restaurants in Chinatown, serving food from China to Korea to Vietnam and everywhere in between. After deliberating for what seemed like hours (but was probably closer to minutes), we decided on Ka Chi Korean Restaurant, where we indulged in traditional Korean noodle dishes. I got the Bulgogi — sliced sirloin marinated in a traditional sweet sauce and served over thick, gummy noodles and steamed veggies.

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Nate opted for a spicier dish — the Bibimbap (rice) served with spicy Bulgogi and squid. Both dishes were served on stone hot plates.

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We also shared an order of steamed beef dumplings, which came with a myriad of sides, including steamed noodles, spicy kimchi, steamed greens, roasted potatoes, and a sweet soy sauce for dipping. We left full and satisfied, happy with our choice but also dying to try to some of the other restaurants on the street (there’s always next time, Toronto).

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Because You Always Leave Room for Dessert:  While traveling from Chinatown to the Rogers Centre (where we were going to watch the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, naturally), we stumbled across a small cupcake shop called Cutie Pie Cupcakes, where we tried what can only be described as the greatest dessert you will ever eat — the Unicorn Twist Ice Cream.  It’s amazing — pink champagne and blue vanilla soft serve piled in a rainbow waffle cone, topped with your choice of sauce (I went with dark chocolate, Nate went with Cherry Coke), dry topping (I went classic with confetti sprinkles, Nate went with cotton candy crumbles), and homemade mini whoopie pie (I went with a rainbow swirl because it was SO PRETTY, Nate went with cookies and cream).  The end result was a customized version of Heaven that made me very much wish I lived in Toronto and could visit Cutie Pie Cupcakes on the regular.

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Rochester, NY

Food to Try: The Garbage Plate

What It Is: The “Garbage Plate”, a highly-caloric plate that includes basically combines every type of food you could ask for in a cook-out – either hamburger patties (with or without cheese) or hot dogs, thrown on top of some combination of beans, fries (or home fries), mac salad, along with meat sauce, chopped onions, and mustard.

History: In 1918, Alexander Tahou opened a restaurant in Rochester called Hots and Potatoes. On the menu was a dish that included just about everything the kitchen could cook — meat and potatoes with a few other things thrown in to make a one-plate meal. Alexander’s son, Nick, took over the restaurant operations and updated the name to Garbage Plate. The dish has long been popular among college students in the area. Legend has it that long-ago college students asked Nick Tahou for a dish with ”all the garbage” on it. So, he concocted the garbage plate.

Where to go: When we arrived at Rochester on a Sunday, many of the hots restaurants were closed, including Nick Tahou’s. We settled for Mark’s Texas Hots, which was great, but they only have garbage plates with hamburgers and hot dogs. The size of the plate was pretty big at Mark’s Hots, but honestly no bigger than any other place. For a more expansive menu, try Henrietta Hots or Nick Tahou’s.

Garbage Plate in Rochester, NY

Fun Fact: The University of Rochester’s Sigma Phi Epsilon has a charity event called “the garbage plate run” that starts on campus, and involves running 2+ miles to Nick Tahou’s, eating a garbage plate and running back to campus. Many people actually tag team it, with one or two runners and one eater, but there are “iron men” that actually do it solo.

Zaftigs Delicatessen – Coolidge Corner, Brookline, MA

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Instead of going to temple on Friday night, we went to Zaftigs Delicatessen in Coolidge Corner, the next most appropriate thing for a couple of Jews to do. For those that don’t know, the word “zaftig” has a Yiddish origin that means “pleasantly plump”, which is what we set our hearts on being.

It was the Friday of Boston Calling, so the restaurant normally filled with students and millennials was not as busy as it typically is for a Friday. We were seated in a booth upon arrival. The waitress brought out water and bagel chips with a cream cheese spread – an unconventional starter for most restaurants, but for Zaftigs, it works so well.

For an appetizer, we ordered the Zaftigs combo; it’s a must-try smorgasbord of traditional Jewish appetizers. With this order, you’ll get to sample a little bit of everything. You’ll get to try kugel (cinnamon sugar noodles) blintzes (a crepe-like pastry filled with heavy ricotta cheese), knishes (dough pocket filled with beef), and latkes (potato pancakes), to go along with fresh strawberries and blueberries. It came with apple sauce and sour cream – both of which are meant for putting on potato latkes.

After the appetizer, we ended up ordering a sandwich to split. We wanted to try something off the beaten path, so instead of ordering something basic like a Reuben or a tuna melt, we opted for a sandwich called “Jack & Marion’s” and it was dynamite! The sandwich was filled with the Jewish trifecta of hot corned beef, beef tongue, and pastrami, with mustard, added on Cissel bread (Sidenote: Don’t be afraid be the beef tongue – it’s in a sandwich, so you won’t actually see it, but trust me it’s good). It also came with a side of possibly the best potato salad known to man, spiced with dill, which made it far from bland.

The Coolidge Corner area has its share of delis, but for some of the best and most unique deli sandwiches in Boston, Zaftigs Delicatessen has got to be among the best. To experience it, you’ve got to try it for yourself! And don’t be afraid to get adventurous with your orders.