05 September 2010

1st Anniversary Road-Trip Day 2

The next morning we headed straight for the Subway. I had our entire morning dedicated to eating our way through the Jean-Talon Market and we did just that. I wasn't overwhelmed when we got there, I knew just how big it was by the photos and reviews I'd read on-line. I was more than prepared to walk and munch for hours on end. Our first stop was Creperie du Marche for crepes.

After finding out that creme de marrons was chestnut spread, we decided to order a sweet crepe filled with that and bananas.

The crepe itself was decent, but nothing mind-blowing. It was brushed with melted butter which was a nice touch, but it was a little hard to cut through with the plastic knives they provide.

The chestnut spread was a little sweeter and a little grainier than Nutella and had a very pronounced chestnut flavor. I liked how the banana was two long halves instead of being sliced into coins.

Next up was Havre-Aux-Glaces the very well-known and respected ice cream shop located in the Jean-Talon Market.

The woman behind the counter was extremely helpful, going as far as to list out each and every flavor in English for us. I went with maple creme brulee (their signature flavor), strawberry-rhubarb, and pear cider(!).

My favorite flavor by far was the pear cider. It had a grainy bite to it that could have only come from finely blended pears and the pear flavor was front and center. The strawberry and the rhubarb was some of the smoothest ice cream I've had and luckily both flavors were identifiable, unfortunately it was a touch too sweet for my tastes. The maple creme brulee had a strong burnt flavor that fell just short of being overpowering, but ended up being just right and exceptionally delicious tiny pieces of caramelized sugar peppered throughout.  The Mrs. ordered three flavors that worked together quite nicely. She went with the maple creme brulee, espresso, and dulce de leche.

Yes folks, she sure does love her ice cream
The espresso flavor tasted like chewing on an espresso bean, which was great for coffee lovers like us two peoples. The dulce de leche was sinfully smooth sweet and creamy and proved to be her favorite flavor. This is one of the items she's been talking about the most since we returned from our trip. Just one of them... There are many.

At this point we browsed the market a bit. I kept my eye on the clock because through my many hours of online research I found that there's this seafood joint (well-known to locals) on the outskirts of the market that serves ultra-fresh fried calamari promptly at 11am.

Don't be sad, you serve fried seafood to the masses!
 We arrived at 10:55am and there was no line so we approached the guy manning the register and inquired about the calamari and the prep guy gave him the go ahead. We were his first customers of the day. We were told we could get two varieties per plate and we had three choices: calamari, shrimp, and smelts. Since we were here for the calamari that was a given, and I figured since I'd never had fried smelts it was a good time to give them a go. We were also given a choice of tartar sauce or spicy mayo. If you read this blog regularly I don't have to tell you which one we went with.

Mmm crispy headless fishies
While I wouldn't go as far as to say this was the best, it was without a doubt the most flavorful calamari we've ever had. With only a very light battering and a squeeze of lemon this allowed the flavor of the calamari to shine uninhibited. It was also very tender and not chewy at all. My mind flashed back to the horrible rubbery calamari matchsticks I had at Sam's Kid and it made me appreciate the tenderness that much more.

There be calamari under thar!
The fried smelt tasted like very light and fresh fish sticks (which is basically what they were...), the tail adding a wonderful crunch which the Mrs. refused to try. Hey, at least I had her munching on fried headless fish. I have to take it one step at a time, she'll be downing haggis by the bowlful by the time I'm done with her. After seeing three older folks at the table next to us all nursing huge trays of fried shrimp they had me second guessing my order, but I was glad I went out on a limb and tried something new. They really were quite a treat.

We picked ourselves up and walked around some more. We finally came upon the fruit vendors that had trays of sliced fruit on display for customers to try. I tasted some wonderfully ripe peaches, a new fruit called a prune pluot which is a prune-plum-apricot hybrid(?), and a slice of plain old plum that was so sweet and firm that I claimed it the best plum I'd ever had.  Oh, the pretty colors...

At this point a very light mist started to come down, but luckily we came across Premiere Moisson which I had read very mixed reviews about, but we decided to go inside and check it out.

Wow, was this place packed. Packed and seemingly in utter chaos. There were lines forming every which way, tables over there, people yelling over baked goods over here, and ticket numbers being called in the back. I was sort of at a loss so the Mrs. grabbed a ticket while I perused the pastries.

The fabulous peach tarts on the top shelf immediately caught my attention, but after further perusal I was unable to locate an individually sized portion. I'd never seen a coffee eclair so I had to order one of those, and we decided to pick up a chocolate raspberry torte and a decaf latte.

Phallic pastries get my vote
The eclair filling had coffee grounds in it which I really enjoyed, but it was very sweet, almost too sweet. I wished I had waited for my latte to cool down so I could've used it to temper some of the sweetness of the eclair.

The chocolate raspberry torte paired wonderfully with my beverage it had a nice layer of chocolate and fresh raspberry on the bottom and a nice glazing on top, it was rich and very decadent. The latte itself was nicely and velvety smooth and just strong enough to stand up to the sweetness from the pastries.

Thanks to fellow food blogger This is Gonna Be Good my next task was to track down $1 sausage on a stick. I finally located saucisses-sur-baton.

Mmmm, meat on a stick!
As you can see from the photo the choices were lamb and mint, veal and tofu, duck, deer, lamb merguez, and spicy Italian bison. Trying to recall which encased meats I most enjoyed at Hot Doug's we decided to go with the boar, spicy Italian bison, and the lamb merguez.

Left to right: Lamb, bison, boar
 The boar immediately conjured the flavor of the meat filling in the canned Chef Boyardee ravioli, which isn't a bad thing. The bison was spicy and addicting, but my clear favorite was the lamb merguez due to it's over-the-top gaminess and nice snap from the casing. I found it ironic that the boar was .50 extra and ended up being our least favorite.

The final item on my food check-list for the Jean-Talon Market was a prune-filled beignet from Wawel Patisserie, a Polish pastry shop.

Wawel, not to be confused with Wawa
 They also offered apricot, which I love, but I was in the mood for prune. As I was taking a picture (they're all pretty blurry unfortunately)of the beignets on display, the guy behind the counter insisted he be in the photograph.

Mr. Happy Pastry Man
He went on to inquire about our visit and ensured us we would have no trouble at all with the language barrier as long as we made it clear that we were Americans and not Canadians who didn't speak French.

The beignet itself was excellent with a nice tart-sweetness to it and a good bite. It was flaky and tender and not too sweet. The Mrs. really enjoyed it, so that says something as she tends to be a tad picky.

I know it's a crappy pic, but it's the only one I got
So with that we concluded our tour of the JTM. What I really loved about the JTM was that it, over any other outdoor market I've ever been to, felt like it really had substance. I've browsed many a farmers market, and usually I walk the halls just humoring myself with no real intent to ever purchase anything. I felt like I could've wandered the JTM the entire day, and had to resist walking away with bags and bags of produce. If you ever visit Montreal I insist you check this place out as it truly has something for everyone. I didn't even mention Hamel, Olives et Epices, La Depense... Trust me, there's so much to see and eat here it's almost too much and that says quite a lot coming from a gluttonous bastard like myself.

What, you thought that's all we ate for the day? You'd be straight up wrong! We actually ate two dinners later that night. After the market we went back to the hotel and changed. We decided to work off some of our grazing by checking out the Parc du Mont-Royal. We had no idea what we were in for. We walked all the way from the Peel metro station to the chalet observatory. Even though there was a slight drizzle and it was a relatively cool evening, by the time we got to the top we were both perspiring.

Nice view in not so nice weather
I don't recommend doing this unless you're in decent shape and wearing comfortable shoes because it was quite a walk. Unfortunately the weather prevented the view from being spectacular, but overall we still enjoyed the experience.

We made our way to Kazu near the corner of Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest and Rue Saint Marc. There was plenty of buzz about this place over on Chowhound so I knew to arrive early. They open at 5:30 and we got there at 5pm and luckily there was only a party of 6 in front of us. When Kazu finally opened it's doors they took one of the big tables in front so we jumped on the best seats in the house at the sushi bar. I loved being able to watch Kaptain Kazu (I don't know the chef/owner's name) work his magic right in front of us. They provide a regular sheet menu, but when you're dining at Kazu you want to focus your attention on the specials listed on yellow sheets of paper tacked up on the wall.

More slightly blurry specials
One dish immediately caught my eye: Grilled Salmon Belly! Come on, you know I was all over that. They also had some amazing pork dishes (BBQ Pork Neck anyone??) we stuck to items from the aquatic region since we had another dinner ahead of us.  As the Mrs. was in the mood for something more like your traditional sushi, I went for the Salmon and Tuna Bowl which I had read many good things about. One of the first visual highlights of our meal was when the chef pulled out our enormous piece of salmon belly and slapped it on the grill causing a 3 ft. flare up.

Crappy picture of flare up
 This place was definitely hot, but they have handy hooks under the bar to hang jackets/purses. Even though we were hot we ordered a pot of hot tea and it proved to be nice and light and very drinkable.

The next great thing about dining at the sushi bar was the chef himself presents you your food, and he does so like you've just won the lottery and he's handing you your over-sized check. You can tell he knows he serves great fresh food and he's happy to bestow it upon you. I wanted to hug the guy, thanking him for his awesome pile of fatty fish meat.

You know you want some
My already high expectations were definitely exceeded with this dish. This quality and this portion for this price!?! How does this guy make any money? It makes me sad knowing that this place will blow up with popularity and inevitably raise it's prices and shrink it's portion sizes. It happens to the best of them. Get there while you can!

I guess I should talk about the dish at some point, eh? Yeah, about that. This dish was wonderful. The salmon had great grill marks on the skin and the meat itself was tender, juicy, and a little fatty and smoky. Chopsticks and flaky fish don't mix for me so I was having a little trouble eating it.

Look how flaky and tender...
 Piled atop the salmon was wonderfully fresh and perfectly dressed salad. This is an instance where the flavors just jumped off of the plate. I could've devoured the whole dish myself, but I knew we had a lot more food coming so I restrained myself and let the Mrs. bat clean-up.   Next up was the Tuna and Salmon bowl

Bowl o' fishies
While not as mind-blowing as the salmon belly, this is an instance where the chef could've cut corners and given us a bowl of mostly rice with a few strips of fish on top but instead the bowl contained a perfect ratio of fish to greens to rice, with some crunchy cellophane thrown on top for texture and visual appeal.

Again this dish featured a fresh salad consisting of greens, black and white sesame seeds, and sesame oil among other things. The dish remained light due to the large amount of fresh raw tuna and salmon and the relatively low amount of rice. I don't want to sound repetitive but ingredients this fresh, portions this big, prices this low will not last. Get there now. If only we had had the known that DNA would be such a disappointment (more on that in a minute) we would've stayed here and ordered two or three more dishes. Alas, our wonderful experience at Kazu had to come to a close as we had a reservation at Restaurant DNA that I eagerly anticipating.

Afterwards we trucked on back down Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest for some shoppings and our second dinner. After making out like bandits at Urban Outfitters we attempted to hoof it all the way to DNA, but after about a mile we realized we weren't going to make it so we hailed a cab and got there just in time for our 8pm reservation.

No idea what those people were lining up for, but it wasn't DNA
First impressions couldnt've been better. She team of hosts gladly checked our coats and personally lead us to our table and introduced us to our waitress. I loved the interior of the place, especially the little touches like the basketball hoop for the trash can in the men's bathroom. There was this awesome little room off of the lounge area (which is uber orange) that had big poofy leather couches and a flat screen mounted on the wall playing random 80s movies. I didn't take any pictures of the interior because I didn't want to bother any of the other diners, but it has been photographed extensively and if you really want to see a quick google search should provide all of the photos you could want. It had a very relaxed feel to it and I was looking forward to spending a lot of time dining here, unfortunately that mentality would quickly change.

I had one thing on my mind when we arrived at DNA: pasta. I've had this random craving for pasta lately and was hoping to get my fix here. I perused their menu which changes often and we were presented with the following choices:

DNA Menu

In retrospect I don't know why I didn't order that Tomato Leaf Risotto, probably because the Mrs. isn't a huge tomato eater. There was also a Wild Mushroom Pappardelle featuring all local mushrooms, but again, the wife doesn't like mushrooms so I didn't get that either. Damn picky wife!

So what we did order was the Parsley Maccheroni Alla Chitarra with cured goat liver, smoked paprika, and pangritatta which is a bread crumb, almond, and currant mixture and topped off with an egg yolk and the Cavatelli with rabbit bolognese, orange, and rosemary.

We ordered two glasses of a chilled red wine called Sempar which had a lovely peppery note and a light fruitiness that I was hoping would pair well with our pasta dishes. Our first course happened to be a complimentary amuse bouche of grilled zuchinni with rosemary and lemon juice served cold and rolled.

Amuse bouche
Neither of us tasted the lemon juice which I think really would've brought the dish up a notch, but the rosemary accented the smokiness from the grill marks in a pleasing manner. Still this didn't quite do it for us without the acidity from the lemon.

Next up was our choice of bread served with organic sunflower oil. The choices were a classic baguette, orange blossom and anise, and a cranberry scone. We both went with the baguette as we didn't want to send our palettes into uncharted waters and this turned out to be the best thing we were served at DNA.

The best part of the dinner
The baguette had a nice dusting of sea salt on top with a nice thick crust and a soft pull apart crumb. The salt really worked well bringing out the flavor of the sunflower oil We should've stopped the bread course, unfortunately we pressed on into the land of blandness.


While it looked outstanding, my Maccheroni was very one-dimensional, screaming for some acidity to give it a little depth. It was also underseasoned, a few shakes of salt and a few cracks of pepper would've gone a long way. Plus, while I love my pasta al dente, this was borderline hard, this had toothsomeness out the yin-yang.


The Cavatelli didn't fare much better. While the pasta was cooked more to my liking and the rabbit provided a nice squeaky chew, this dish also could've benefited greatly from a little salt. I did enjoy the orange in this dish, but have no recollection of any rosemary flavor whatsoever.

At this point we were planning on ordering the Sea Salt and Hazelnut Tart with ginger gelato and olive oil, but a few things occurred that made the evening take a turn for the worse. First off my Maccheroni wasn't sitting well at all. I think it may have been the egg yolk, but whatever it was my stomach felt like it was coated in oil and the contents were sloshing around in a very unpleasant manner. Plus after our waitress realized that we didn't intend on ordering 9 courses and 3 bottles of wine all of sudden she forgot we existed. It was sad, because she started out so great. Those two factors led to us paying the check and calling it a night. Restaurant DNA turned out to be the most disappointing restaurant of the trip.

Our night didn't end quite so badly, however. While we were standing in line waiting for Kazu to open the family in front of us kept talking about this concert they were going to, but they never mentioned who. Also, as we were walking down the pier after our speedboating adventure the day before we saw a huge stage being set up with bearded/tattooed roadies everywhere. So what did we hear the moment we hit the street? We heard 'When I Come Around' by Green Day clear as a bell. Green Day was my favorite band growing up, and while I don't care for their newer material, this turned out to be a great surprise and we were able to listen to them perform as we walked to the metro station. So our night didn't end on an entirely bad note.

2 days down, 7 more to go. Stay tuned.

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theminx said...

Those things labeled "beignets" were actually Pączki. A shame the Poles felt they had to give it a French name.

The maccheroni looks like a plate of snakes.

Paula said...

I love your blog!

Have a nice time!

Mr. Micro said...

theminx: Ah, well whatever it's called it was damned delicious.

Paula: Thanks! I love you for reading it ;)

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