A group of my friends were searching for a getaway — somewhere close but not too close — where we could gather for a holiday weekend. Canada seemed high on everyone’s list and Montreal seemed to fit the bill. We rented a house close to Mile’s End and had a culinary adventure worth writing about here. One caveat - we did have inside connections as one of our party works in Canada. However, you can all benefit from his insider information here!
The first night was a Foie Gras fest at Pied du Cochon a clever, indulgent gem that is as casual as it is sophisticated. The place is renowned for it’s appreciation of all things pork as well as using fresh and local ingredients. The chef chose our meal. We were treated to delicious oysters, spoons of Foie Gras, Beignets and Charcuterie, lobster salad, asparagus and fiddle heads and more. And as if the many bottles of fine french wines weren’t enough the night was polished with a bracing shot of Calavados.
DAY TWO - Exploring
The second day we organized for some exercise - a hike in Parc du Mont Royal. Often compared to New York’s Central Park, there are vigorous as well as more accommodating trails that lead you to the top and a great view of the city. At the top is a Frederick Olmsted (also the designer of Central Park) building that serves as a community center and event space that integrates beautifully into the setting.
The rest of the day we explored and shopped. We found handcrafted furniture, fun clothing, delightful housewares and other shops. The only mistake we made was the assumption that we would have time to return. A traveler rule must be “buy then and there,” because I have left countless treasures behind not heeding this adage.
For the evening, we went to a wine bar run by famed Joe Beef team, Mon Lapin. We were able to sit outdoors at this no reservation stop, although blankets were still necessary. Known for natural wines and farm fresh food, we again let the chef guide our menu including ramps, halibut and delicious pasta.
DAY THREE - Walking and Noshing
Everyone was up and exercising running and spinning to ward off the indulgence. Our afternoon excursion was, of course, a food tour. Led by localfoodtours.com/montreal. We did the Mile End tour. Given the popularity of some of the spots, the food tour is the way to go. We avoided the lines, and sampled ice cream, gnocchi with homemade sauce, bagels, chocolate and charcuterie all while learning a bit about the neighborhood and Montreal. For dinner, we picked up essentials at Montreal’s main farmer’s market, Atwater Market for a dinner at home. Did I mention that we had all been charged with bringing a magnum in our bags?
DAY FOUR - The Sugar Shack
Forty five minutes outside the city proper are traditional sugar shacks. Most are open only during the main maple sugar harvest season. But are arrival night hosts, Pied du Cochon, has opened a permanent shack. Seated out on the deck, we were treated to a feast showered with spring sunshine. We had whelks, rabbit, white asparagus, fiddleheads, ramp pesto and of course rose, white and sparkling wines.
Some notes on Coffee
We heard during our trip that Montreal has more restaurants per capita than New York. Based on my experience, that may be true. Certainly they have a great coffee culture. A few to visit: Dispatch Coffee, Pikolo Espresso and Cafe Agga.