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.

Kelly’s Roast Beef – Saugus, MA

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Labor Day marks the official end of summer, and while fall does have a lot to offer in terms of fun (Apple cider donuts! Leaves changing! Halloween! All pumpkin everything!), I’d be lying if I said that I’m not clinging to the last minutes of summer the way sand clings to your feet after a day at the beach.

So, in an attempt to get one more summery activity under our belts, Nate and I decided to go full-on New England and head up to Maine for the weekend. On the way, we stopped in at Kelly’s Roast Beef in Saugus, the second of five locations of the classic Massachusetts-based chain that originated on Revere Beach in 1951. A family-owned and operated business, Kelly’s has won a slew of awards for their lobster rolls, roast beef, and clam chowder. And after our visit this long weekend, it’s easy to understand why.

First of all, the menu is gigantic. The roast beef is only the tip of the iceberg — Kelly’s also serves everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to fried seafood platters to barbecue pulled beef (there are also salads if you want to be that person, but honestly if you’re coming to Kelly’s, you’ve already lost the battle when it comes to calorie counting).

Nate and I decided to go for the classic Kelly’s staple — the roast beef sandwich. The roast beef was thinly-sliced and juicy and it came on a grilled sesame-seed roll. Nate got a large sandwich with mayo and barbecue sauce, while I opted for the small roast beef meal, which came with French fries and thick-cut onion rings.

There wasn’t much of a difference size-wise between the large and small sandwiches, and where my meal came with the fries and onion rings and a fountain drink of my choice, it seemed like the better deal even though it cost a couple dollars more.

The best word I can use to describe the sandwich was perfect — the warm, tender roast beef combined with the slight crunch of the grilled roll and the savory smoothness of the mayo made for a delightful, no-fuss version of the classic roast beef sandwich. After trying one, it’s no wonder that Kelly’s has been in business for six decades.

TL;DR: With seriously delicious roast beef sandwiches (not to mention a menu chock-full of other beachy favorites), Kelly’s lives up to its reputation as Massachusetts’ authority on the best roast beef.