There are few things in this world I value more than traveling. To me, experiencing other cultures (both in and out of this country) is part of my responsibility as a human existing on this planet. If you have the means, I strongly believe in the value of learning how others live – what they eat, what they are passionate about, what their challenges are, how they communicate, and how they see the world.
Living abroad in France was single-handedly the most impactful experience of my life. It was there that I learned tolerance, acceptance, and empathy. I grew to understand that even though we do not all speak the same language, look the same, or have the same way of living, at the core of us we are all the same. We love the same. We care the same. We feel the same.
Sometimes, traveling can take me far. Sometimes, it can just be a hop, skip, and a jump away from where I live. In the case of this past weekend, my travels took me to Montréal, Canada. I’d been to Montréal as a kid, and have been anxious to go back as an adult to further experience the culture. And the food. Obviously.
My close friend Jen and I have been planning this trip for a few months now. Jen’s a food enthusiast like me, so we knew that in order to get the most out of our weekend we needed to research the best eateries in town and the rest would fall into place. And that’s exactly what happened.
We arrived in Montréal on Friday afternoon. After checking into our fabulous Airbnb, we walked to Rue St. Paul which is a famous street in Old Montréal filled with cute shops, restaurants, and bars. We first went to Olive et Gourmando (came highly recommended) and were immediately taken by its charm and friendly staff. We ordered the O&G grilled cheese, which is essentially the best part of a French Onion soup (the top that’s oozing with cheese) in a sandwich. Heaven. We also ordered the housemade ricotta which was served with tomatoes, corn, pine nuts, tossed in fried garlic, basil, chives, and parmesan. Unreal. This meal alone was worth coming to Montréal for, and we were just getting started.
After walking on Rue St. Paul, exploring the area, and people watching, we grabbed a drink at a roof deck bar and headed home to get ready for dinner. We made reservations at another restaurant that came recommended to us called Nora Gray. I admit the location was a little wonky but as soon as you enter the front doors you’re transported to another place. It’s intimate, stunning and very welcoming. The wine list was intimidating even for me, but our waitress took care of us and we ordered our Sauvignon Blancs without any hassle. We ordered three items from the menu to split and each dish kept getting better and better. We started with the green summer salad (seasoned to perfection), then had the corn tortelli with mussels and bacon (we practically licked our plate), and then had the seared Nova Scotia halibut with kale, oyster mushrooms, and lobster sauce. This changed my life. The fish was cooked perfectly and the sauce was to die for. Well done Nora Gray, I’ll be seeing you again one day. (Restaurant too dark to take good pics)
On Saturday we woke up and set our sights on hiking up Mount Royal. After climbing and climbing and climbing, we finally reached the summit and looked out over Montréal. After taking in the beautiful views, we walked to Beauty’s Luncheonette for brunch. Beauty’s is a Montréal landmark. It’s been around since 1942 and has established itself as a go-to for visitors and locals alike. The type of place a ton of celebrities go to as well. I got the signature dish which is a toasted sesame seed bagel topped with smoked salmon stacked to the sky with tomato, onion, and cream cheese. This was easily the best bagel and lox I’ve ever had. I devoured it and had the stomach ache to prove it.
After lunch we walked around Mile End and stopped at a poutine place which is one of Montréal’s signature meals. Poutine is essentially french fries smothered in gravy with cheese curds. This frankly does not appeal to me in any way shape or form, but when in Rome right? So we tried it. It was pretty good. I think if we went to a more reputable place it would have been a different experience, but for now, I’ll just say I came, I saw, I conquered. And now I’m done with that.
Later that evening we walked to dinner at a restaurant close to our Airbnb called L’Orignal. I would describe L’Orignal as rustic chic. Very Canadian. The food was fantastic. We absolutely annihilated our four courses. First, we had the mixed lettuce, pickled onions, and pumpkin seeds salad. Then, we had the salmon tartar which was executed perfectly. They seasoned it with dill which really elevated the flavors. Third, we indulged in the lobster fettuccine. Game changer. And last, we had the chocolate mousse which we both secretly wished we didn’t split because we could have devoured on our own.
The next morning we made a quick stop at eggspectation. It served its purpose, great eggs benedict. Then, we fired up the Hamilton soundtrack and headed home.
I took away a lot of things from this weekend. First, the culinary scene in Montréal in incredible. Top notch. Highly recommend heading there if you want to eat your way through a city and hope this blog post can serve as a good resource. Second, Canadians are legit as nice as stereotypes make them out to be. The friendly waiters and waitresses enhanced each and every one of our meals. They are warm, they are welcoming, and they love their country. Even ones that had some not so nice things to say about America right now were completely charming. They are rooting for us, but just a little confused about what’s happening. Fair enough. Third, I miss speaking French. Going to get back to it. Fourth, traveling with a loved one is the best. Jen and I have been in each other’s lives for a very long time now. She’s always been my touchstone and has taught me more than she’ll ever know about how to navigate through life. I don’t know where I would be without Jen. Love you lady, this weekend wouldn’t have been as much fun with anyone else but you.