Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Montreal!


By: Jim Bamboulis

Every time there’s a chance to travel to Montreal, I jump on it.

Love this city!

Locals are passionate, seem to enjoy life a bit more and take pride in their out-of-this-world food scene.  After all, what’s not to love.

Unique,  delicious, French.  Going on a 24 hour food bender in this town is essential.  And that’s exactly what I did.

Started with breakfast.  Got a recommendation to hit a cafe/bakery about 3 km northeast of downtown, near Mount Royal Park and the eastern edge of historic McGill University.


Stomach growling, I ordered one of the house specialties.  Over-easy egg resting nicely on a croissant. Genius. Efficient. Combines the beauty of both worlds.  And avoids a mess.

Fresh croissant with over easy
Lunch

For years, when in Montreal, I’d hit up Schwartz’s deli on St. Laurent. An institution in Montreal and famous the world over, this place is always jammed, with a lineup out the door sprinkled with a hectic eating atmosphere.  This time around, I thought to change it up.

I went across the street. The Main. More serene, same price, same portion, equally awesome.


Ordered 2 dishes. Montreal smoked meat and of course, poutine.

Classic Canadiana.

These are the meals that you feel euphoric about while you’re sitting there stuffing your face, then painfully regret eating after you’ve had some time to realize the amount of fat you’ve just ingested.

No regrets.

Montreal Smoked Meat
Montreal Smoked Meat

Poutine consists of French fries, topped with gravy and cheese curds. If those curds don’t squeak when you bite down on them, then it’s not really poutine.

These days, restaurants around Canada have  their own version of this artery-clogging beauty, including pulled pork poutine, Mediterranean inspired poutine, even ancho braised beef short-rib poutine….and the list goes on and on.

To me, poutine is best in its classic form.

Classic Poutine
Classic Poutine

Dinner

I hit up another recommended restaurant in NE Montreal, Au Pied de Cochon (Pig’s Foot). Packed for a reason, the food here is considered to be legendary. Their speciality (among other things which we’ll get to in a second), is Foie Gras Poutine.

Foie-gras poutine
Foie-gras poutine

Delicious and disgusting at the same, time, this dish is a whopping $25! Definitely not on the cheap but definitely worth the wait and worth the experience. If you can, I recommend sitting at the bar at Cochon. Yes, the space is tight but you get a front row seat and see for yourself how the kitchen here operates (well oiled machine) and how exactly they prep and plate.

Whether you’re looking for fine dining or quick and classic, Montreal has what you’re looking for. Where else in Canada can you order a pig’s head, served on a platter, eaten in full (eyeballs and all, I assume) and left with a skeletal head of said pig on said platter all in one sitting? 

Same place. Au Pied de Cochon. That’s where.

Order a Pig’s Head for 2.  Market Price.  Here’s what the end result looks like.  And good luck with that.

Pig’s head – Photo courtesy http://www.willtravelforfood.com

If that sounds and looks appetizing to you, you’ve got balls of steel.

Either way, if you’re a traveler who believes that food is part of the travel experience, you’ll take the gamble and love it!

Have your own amazing dining experiences in Montreal?  We’d love to hear from you.  Happy Travels!

Eating out in Kensington Market on $10


By: Jim Bamboulis

Kensington Market is the kind of place that has some sort of cosmic force that lures you in and takes hold of you for a while…or at least for an entire afternoon.

Free-spirited, vibrant and often festive, the Market is packed with small, independently owned shops that truly reflect its unique charm. In fact, you won’t find any big chains around this area. Don’t ask anyone either, you might get the cut eye.

The name of the game here is to take your time. Stroll, browse, sample. Summer is probably the better time to visit, because this market lives outdoors. There’s too much passion here to be contained indoors. Ideally, visit on the last Sunday of each Month (May to October) for ‘Pedestrian Sundays’. The streets are closed off to traffic allowing you to walk more freely and take in the festival like energy.

If you’re like me and enjoy eating food from all parts of the World, then this is your spot. Whether it’s Thai, Caribbean, Latin American, you name it; spend the day here and you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled around the world eating  up several cultures.

You can easily spend good coin, hitting up and dining in some pretty decent restaurants that serve up decent quality food. But if you want to save some cash and spend a total of around $10, you can follow my personal itinerary.  Here we go.

I usually start with a good foundation, a small but good filling meal that won’t make me hungry in 10 minutes.  I start at Akram’s. The couple that owns this gem is really very lovely and sweet who make everything from scratch. Part take-out restaurant part small market, it’s Middle-eastern from the heart. You’ll find tabouleh, baklava and shawarma but I always go for their bread and butter, the falafel, arguably the better falafel in Toronto.  Loaded with freshness with a splash of spice for that kick.

Cost –  $2.10.

Photo Courtesy – foodjunkiechronicles.net
Photo Courtesy – Blogto.com

Naturally, after a meal like that, I go for something sweet.

My preferred spot is Emporium Latino. Spices, fruits and veggies, imported sauces and even a small take out joint in the back serving up fresh papusas and tamales, Emporium offers up all the ingredients you need to make your own Latin American meal.
For me, it’s about the popsicle. Offered in a bunch of different flavours including mango and coconut (my fave), this is loaded with real fruit chucks in it.

Cost – $2.50

If you crave a dessert that’s hot instead of cold, I recommend you stop off at Pancho’s Bakery. In fact, sometimes, a trip to the market isn’t complete until I’ve had a couple of churros; I follow them up with the popsicle! At Pancho’s you’ll be greeted with a loud hello and massive smiles. As for the churros, they make them hot and fresh and fill them with either hot chocolate syrup, dolce de leche or strawberry.

Cost – 2 churro’s for $3

IMG-20130315-00305

Walk around, take it in, maybe meet some new people. It’s fairly easy to do that here. But when you’ve reached that point in the day when you need a coffee, there are plenty of places to choose from. I tend to go to Jimmy’s Coffee, located right next to Akram’s. The service is solid with a friendly vibe, the atmosphere is quintessential market with a variety of types coming and going and the coffee is pretty good.  And if you sit in the right place, you can even have former US President Jimmy Carter himself smiling right back at ya at you drink your decaf Americano.

Cost- $2.25

Have your own eats experience in Kensington Market or have some other suggested places to hit up, then share the love.

Happy travels!

6 to see + do in Guadalajara, Mexico


By: Jim Bamboulis

Let’s be honest, Guadalajara isn’t on your travel bucket list.

It certainly wasn’t on mine.

But maybe after reading this post, you may consider penciling it in. Do people even use pencils anymore?

Here’s the truth. Guadalajara is Mexico’s 2nd largest city. It stands up to the competition quite well. Sure, it has a long-standing arch nemesis (Mexico City), but it plays second fiddle to nobody.  It’s classy, sophisticated and takes care of itself just fine.

Nicknamed the “Pearl of the West”, Guadalajara is considered a major cultural centre.  It has several universities, two culinary institutes and 22 museums. In 2005, it was named an American Capital of Culture.

That being said, it’s tough to narrow down what to see and do in a city this influential.  But here’s a list of 6 must considers.

See – Historic Centre

Start here.  Not only is this where all the action is with plenty of hustle and bustle, the historic centre of Guadalajara is beautiful, colonial and grand.

The main centrepiece is Guadalajara Cathedral. You can’t miss it. Since the mid-16th century, it has been built, destroyed by both fires and earthquakes and rebuilt again. It is the iconic image of the city.

IMG_5136 IMG_6142 IMG_6146

And no, this isn’t a crime-free zone. Don’t be paranoid, relax. But do keep your eyes open of course and if you care about your valuables, you should keep them close.

See – Tlaquepaque

Located a few kilometres south of the historic centre, you find arguably one of the most picturesque towns in this region.

Tlaquepaque (pronounced Tla-ke-pa-ke) is a municipality that got swallowed by the urban sprawl of Guadalajara and has now become a neighbourhood within the  city itself.

The main features include 2 main churches and a large public square, lined with restaurants and shops. Speaking of shopping, Tlaquepaque is known for its pottery and blown glass.

Quaint and fairly quiet, it’s a perfect place to relax a bit, stroll its narrow streets and have a drink all while listening to a Mariachi band or two.

See – Mariachi bands

Speaking of which, Mariachi of course was born in Guadalajara and over the span of the past 100 years, has become the unifying and proud symbol of Mexico and of Mexican identify as a whole.  Making a point to listen to the lively, passionate sounds of this great folk music tradition is a must.

If you can make it to Guadalajara in early September, you can catch the annual 10-day International Mariachi Festival where 500 mariachi perform throughout the city.

You can hire a Mariachi band to arrive and play at your home or private party

Do – Tequila

Is there a better way to listen to a Mexican national tradition than by drinking the Mexican national drink?

I’m talking about tequila, of course. And the answer is no, there isn’t. It’s perfect. Tequila was born in Guadalajara, but if you find that you want to escape the city, you can go  about 70 kilometres west to the town of Tequila itself. It makes for a great day trip.

To see the Tequila Trail, which is home to some of the world’s most popular tequila distilleries, you have several options. One being the Jose Cuervo Express which is a train that runs directly from Guadalajara to Tequila.

The Tequila Express is another train that takes you from Guadalajara to the Tequila Herradura distillery in the municipality of Amatitan, roughly between GDL and Tequila. It takes you through the land of blue agave all while listening to a live Mariachi band on board. This option is available on weekends and features tastings, tours, dinner – a complete experience.

Or if you’re a free spirit, you can always drive about an hour to reach your destination and take it in your way.

Photo Courtesy – Huffington Post

See – Chapala

If you’re looking for another day trip idea, consider heading about 50 kilometres south of Guadalajara to the city of Chapala.

Located along the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest freshwater lake, Chapala is a great place if you want to explore a bit more of Mexico’s small town charm and join the many city dwellers who come here on weekend getaways.

It’s relaxing and the swimming is pretty good.

Do – Torta Ahogada

Hungry yet?

Ya, you are.

A trip to Guadalajara isn’t complete until you’ve eaten a Torta Ahogada (aka “Drowned Sandwich), a dish native to the city.

Made with biroti bread, the sandwich has a thick, crunchy crust and a softer interior and is often stuffed chopped fried pork and then fully submerged into either a dry chili pepper sauce (spicy or mild) or a tomato based sauce.

It’s meant to be eaten with bare hands and because of the amount of sauce, it’s inevitable that you will make a mess. Not to worry, making a mess and getting dirty is part of the experience.

Have any other suggestions about what to see and do in Guadalajara, Mexico? Share the love.

Happy travels!

Travel. Share. Inspire!

%d bloggers like this: