So, after our first couple days in Montreal, we still had much more of this beautiful city to check out. On Saturday morning, the wind was strong and bitter, so we decided to do another driving tour. We learned that Montreal has its own little mountain -- Mont Royal. The leaves were changing colors and it looked really pretty off in the distance!
For lunch, we stopped into La Banquise, a diner serving many varieties of poutine. Poutine is a local specialty consisting of French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. Tony really wanted to try it. I ordered the vegetarian poutine. Since it was not vegan, it had cheese curds on top, which I scooped onto Tony's plate. OK...I tried a couple. They're squeaky in your teeth. Kinda weird! The diner was totally packed, and everyone was digging into their poutine with enthusiasm. I'm sure it makes excellent hangover food...all those carbs! We really felt like we needed a nap afterwards!
Sorry I don't have a pic from lunch...my camera ran out of batteries and we had to stop by the room and get some replacements. Don't worry...you don't eat poutine for its attractiveness.
I did bring my camera with me for dinner, but the restaurant was dimly lit and my pics didn't turn out. The destination was Le Nil Bleu, a very fancy Ethiopian restaurant. I thought it might be a little too swanky for the babies, especially when we were seated on a white leather banquette with throw pillows. But the staff didn't give us any attitude, the food was tasty, and we ate quickly and got out before Jackson or Olivia managed to smear anything on the white couch!
We started with something called bouticha, a super-garlicky hummus-like dip made from chickpea flour. It was awesome, I must find a recipe. Jackson the hummus fiend couldn't get enough of it. He was a fan of the whole Ethiopian food experience, actually. What kid wouldn't be -- you get to eat with your hands! For the main course, Tony and I had the veggie platter for two. If you haven't eaten Ethiopian food, it comes served on a big round piece of light, crepelike bread called injera. More injera is served on the side, and you tear off pieces and use it to scoop up the food. Our platter came with miser wat (spicy red lentils), alicha wat (mild yellow lentils), abesha gomen (collard greens), and atakilt wat (cabbage and carrot stew), with a little bit of azifa (very spicy lentil salad) that we used as more of a condiment with the other dishes because it's so hot. Each dish was perfectly seasoned and the servings were generous -- even with Jackson's help, Tony and I couldn't finish everything.
After dinner, we strolled up and down Rue St. Denis, the street where Le Nil Blue is located.
Like the nearby Blvd. St. Laurent, Rue St. Denis is block after block of interesting architecture, adorable little shops, and a mouth-watering variety of restaurants. I read somewhere that Montreal has more restaurants than any other North American city besides New York City. I definitely could have stayed another week and eaten amazing meals every day without putting much effort into it.
Sunday was the last day of our vacation and I wanted a fantastic lunch, to end on a good note before heading home. Aux Vivres, a cute vegan cafe in the Plateau neighborhood, did not let me down. For an appetizer we ordered the Cold Plate, a selection of spreads served with bread. There was a carrot spread, a creamy tofu dip, hummus, a nut pate that tasted a lot like Thanksgiving stuffing, and olive tapenade. I was in dip heaven here.
Tony ordered the Dragon Bowl -- a huge bowl of shredded raw veggies, sprouts, and grilled tofu over brown rice, served with "dragon sauce." It was really good -- a perfect light and healthy lunch.
I decided on the Smoked Montreal sandwich. Smoked meat is a popular thing in Montreal, apparently. We saw long lines outside the smoked meat delis every day. It's smoked beef brisket that is then steamed, similar to pastrami, I think. This vegan version was made with seitan, served simply with mustard, mayo and a pickle on rye bread, and it was unbelievably good. The thin strips of intensely seasoned seitan (lots of black pepper) was piled impossibly high on the bread. This was such a giant sandwich, I could only eat about a third of it. I took the rest home with me and ate it for two more meals, and I was sad when it was gone!
So, that's our vacation. Who knows, maybe we'll go back some day. For now, I'm going to work on my vegan poutine recipe. How can I make tofu squeak?