Beyond Poutine: Montreal Must Eats

The past few years have taken us to Montreal on several occasions. The very first visit was in seeing  the dear son off for his first year at McGill University. We have been there a couple of times since and of course the last visit a couple of weeks ago for his graduation. Each visit has been unique in exploring this city to its best. Travelling to explore local eats and cuisine is always top on my mind and its always great to get back and document the same in the form of a blog post.

Montreal has lots to do and discover right from a walk upto Mt. Royal, the grand and lovely walk around cobblestone paved Vieux Montreal with the Basilica of Notre Dame standing tall and spectacular as ever in it’s glory, retail therapy down the bustling streets of Rue de St. Catherine’s, or perhaps if you are a culinary traveller like me that loves to browse around farmers markets around the city, like the ones at Marche Jean Talon and Atwater that host various local vendors of fresh produce, bakery goods, meats and cheese.

No matter what grabs your fancy, food plays a key role in exploring and getting to know a city well. Montreal too in its own way is a Culinary haven and the food scene seems to be exploding each year. Now while there is an addition to a must eat every minute and the options seem endless, I wanted to do a quick round up a couple of our favourite places that we discovered over the past few years in Montreal. Let me take you around some great places that I enjoyed eating at and hope you will strike these off your bucket list too.

 

  1. A Hidden Gem:  Tucked away in the interiors of Marche Jean Talon we discovered this small street style bistro that serves a great Effiloche du Porc. This is essentially pork shoulder cooked along with onions, spices, vinegar and brown sugar till the meat is almost frayed. (Pulled Pork) This is then slathered between bread buns or tacos. Just absolutely delicious ,if you are a Pork lover.

2. Reuben’s Deli & Steakhouse: Well  perhaps no trip to Montreal can be complete without the customary visit to Reuben’s, located in the heart of downtown, on Rue de St. Catherine’s. This place is an institution in itself serving up some brilliant Montreal smoked meat and they have a  great variety of steaks on their menu as well. The Deli has been around for over 40 years now and takes pride in serving hand carved meats since its inception. The Super Sandwich which is loaded with 10 oz of Montreal smoked meat is served between rye bread and mustard with a side of fries. And the Montreal style R.D. Ribeye is another classic at this place and has probably been around longer than any other dish in Montreal.

3. The Keg Steak house: This place needs little or no introduction being rated amongst the finest steak houses in Canada. The Keg has some very creative steak entree’s, brilliant cocktails, a variety of Lobster and seafood, Chicken mains and some great appetites too. This place rates quite high with the father and son duo as they are ardent steak lovers.I usually settle for white meat. The atmosphere is quite up scale and eclectic. Most locations around Montreal get fairly quite bust even on weekdays and hence a reservation is always better. This is the Fillet Mignon served with a hollandaise sauce and a Baked Potato with sour cream, chives and bacon bits. A carnivores delight!

 

4. Patio Dining at La Maree: Summer evenings are just perfect for some wine sipping or people watching and sitting around one of the patios in old Montreal offers just that. Amid the back drop of the old architecture ,many patios and restaurants dot the streets of old Montreal.The old town is indeed one of the most vibrant and historic parts of the city. We choose La Maree one evening and enjoyed our dinner and drinks at this lovely French restaurant. They have a fixed menu for dinner and drinks with a reasonanble selection Chicken, Meat and seafood entrees, salads and soups and appetisers too. Not a very gastronomic fare but certainly good food at reasonable prices. Located at Place Jacques -Cartier Montreal.

5.Cafe Bistro El Mundo: This corner eatery located on Avenue du Parc has a great selection of breakfast menu’s, coffee and tea and a fairly great variety of sandwiches, soups and salads.It’s the perfect hot spot for a quick bite for college goers, locals and tourists as well. I love sitting by the window seats with my coffee and sandwich and watching the world go by.

6. La Creperie Du Marche: Another gem of a place located in the heart of Marche Du Jean talon is this wonderful Creperie. They are open all through the year and have an amazing selection of organic and gluten free options. All of their crepes are made with gluten free flours such as buckwheat, rice flour, chick pea flour etc.They offer an assortment of savoury crepes such as the Spinach and goat cheese, mushroom and ham or eggs and ham if you like. The sweet crepes leave you wanting for more. The berries with whipped cream, apple and maple butter and chestnut cream are some decadent ones on offer.

7.Les Moulins La Fayette: And saving the best for last I suppose, is my absolutely fav coffee and pastry cafe. Well if you are a french pastry lover as I am this place will hit the sweet spot and satiate even the most relentless sugar craving.They have a great selection of French style single  pastries  like the Chantilly Cream Eclairs,Macrons, Paris Brest and Opera cakes to name a few. The cafe also serves up some great Viennoiserie which include croissants, muffins and cookies and an assortment of freshly baked artisanal breads. They have a fairly decent fare with a selection of sandwiches, soups and salads as well. Conveniently located near Place de Arms. I love indulging in their pastries and coffee’s especially the Trilogie au Chocolat is absolutely sublime. This place is truly a Gastronomy for connoisseurs of fine foods or so the story goes.

Well that’s it folks. Guess I’ve summed up some our favourite eats around the city.Montreal has been home, well at least for the dear son these past five years and almost ours too. We have cherished every memory during our visits and treasure them in our hearts forever. I have enjoyed every bit of Montreal over the years and the city sure exudes a vibrant, rich and diverse culture that reflects in it’s cuisine. If there is one possible must eat that I may have missed out on is the ever popular “Poutine”. Ah well!

Enough said and written. I do hope I have lured you into visiting Montreal for it Must Eats

The Old Bakery Goa: A Hidden Gem You Won’t Find On Trip Advisor


 

 

Now when you are a baker at heart and by profession and you stumble upon a hidden gem tucked away in a hole in the wall kind of place,your joy knows no bounds. And for a bread baker there is no better excitement than to get lost in conversation with a Poder (Goan bread baker).Well these were exactly my sentiments on un earthing this old bakery nestled in a  inconspicuous bylane of Ribander Road Goa.

This Bakery has been christened as the Old Bakery of Goa for the want of a name as none seemed  to be  displayed on the facade or any signage of sorts. I recall having read about this place on one of the Goa forums as a post from a member and hastily  book marked it as a “Must visit” place.

Visiting local markets gives a great insight into local traditions and customs. The true essence of a city comes out alive by  wandering around these rustic settings  in search of local flavours I for one am a huge supporter of local artisans and vendors and ensure I keep aside a couple of hours to take in the sights and delve deep into history where food seems pure and simple and time is enhanced by a new discovery.I was keen to write about the old Goa bakery in a small attempt to revive this delicious profession before it faces extinction.

 

 

We happened to be driving around the area and asked around for directions. The local folks around this village seemed to keep directing us by saying “Halter” which translated into Konkani (the local Goan language ) means “just a little ahead” or “at the next turn”. Not quite an easy find, but driving down the the narrow and quaint lanes in anticipation of our destination made it all the more magical and worth going down the Poder path.Bread making in Goa (albeit a dying art) is still very much a integral part of the Goan way of life.Bread making is an art that was brought to Goa by the Portuguese. Traditional Goan bread is called Poee or Poi. This bread quite easily resembles the middle eastern Pita bread as it can be sliced into halves and made into pockets. The dough calls for standard ingredients of Flour or a mix of wholewheat and all purpose flour, water and yeast. However traditionally toddy was used for fermentation instead of yeast which imparts a characteristic flavour to the bread. 


This display of Poee grabbed my attention and also because we usually grab a couple of dozens of this lovely bread and bring it back to Mumbai. I often put them into freezer bags and they stay well for months.
Incidentally Pao in Portuguese means bread and a Goan bread baker is called a Poder who has a basket attatched to his bicycle and rides around the neighbourhood selling freshly baked bread. He announces his arrival by honking the horn and is sort of a wake up call in the morning.
There are various other traditional breads such as the Kakan (bangle shaped) Undo (crisp bread ) and Katriche Pao (scissor shaped bread)
I now have  Poee baking on on my to bake list for sure and would be posting the recipe here soon.

Here are some of the Traditional Goan Breads baked by local Poders.

1.Poee or Poi (Similar to Pita Bread)


 

2. Katriche Pao (literally translates into Scissor shaped bread)

3. Kakan Pao (Bangle shaped bread)

The entrance to this bakery is extremely narrow and I waited patiently for the customers ahead of me to complete their bread purchases. I then went forward and stood by a small counter with Ronald (the Poder) smiling and quite amused at my ecstatic behaviour. Probably not quite used to his regular local folks buying bread with such sheer joy and contentment. It seemed to be a family run place. I happily got my stash of Poi packed to bring home and freeze for later use. These breads were warm and fresh out of the wood fire oven. I decide to wander around the place a bit and find mounds of gorgeous sticky dough and then trays neatly stacked with beautifully formed balls of dough, proving patiently till they are well risen and ready to be baked.The atmosphere here is dark,gothic and quite dungeon like , but the aroma of freshly baked bread  wafting through the air is intoxicating and unbeatably the simple pleasures of life.

 

 

 

Viva Goa, Viva Poders Of Goa!

Location: The Old Bakery

Ribander Road

Old Goa

 

 

 

Chef Peter’s Kitchen: Reviving Lost Goan-Portuguese Recipes

Chef Peter Fernandes of the O’Coquerio fame has now opened Peter’s Kitchen in Sangolda, Pilerne Goa. Having worked with the famed restaurant for over two decades, coupled with a few other stints, he realised that his loyal patrons followed him where ever he went.And quite rightly so as he has wowed many an ardent foodie with his Portuguese-Goan style  Cuisine over the years. A stellar reputation in the Goan Culinary world that earned him “Best Chef of India” by the Department of Tourism, Govt Of India.

We had dinner at Peter’s Kitchen a couple of weeks ago and were delighted having discovered this hidden gem tucked away next to his ancestral home in Pilerne Goa. We are greeted by him as we  started  our drinks and  he was  happy to come by and  chat about his journey that got him this far.. As I glance up  at the menu I realise it showcases his love for Goan -Portuguese cuisine. He points out to his chalk written black board that he writes up every day. I notice some un usual recipes such as Kazaracho Stew, Aard Maas and Prawn Risois. I know we are in for a treat. Interestingly he has a variety of home made pickles like Brinjal and lime and some authentic Goan masala that one can pick up too and some home made wine too.

We decide to start off with a plate of Prawn Risois. I’m nostalgic of our Sojourn in Portugal a couple of years ago. This appetizer is straight from a Portuguese era. The half-moon and deep-fried croquettes is made up of a simple flour dough stuffed with a creamy prawn filling. It is absolutely delicious and now has been put on my “must try” list.

Prawn Risois:


For the main course we settle for some Pork Solantulem. This dish is flawless and consists of Pork chucks cooked to a delicate perfection with some Onions, ginger-garlic, red chillies, perhaps some pepper and the star ingredients being Sola or Kokum that lends the dish a hint of tartness. This was brilliant with Goan bread-Poee. By far a delectable dish made in a simple home style way, yet packed and bursting with flavour.

Pork Solantulem

I’m quite crazy about shell-fish, especially the small variety one finds in India.I had been eyeing the Tisriyo on the menu and decided to order a plate full. These were cooked in a traditional Goan way with onions, some garlic, freshly grated coconut and spices. This hit just the right spot for me.

Tisriyo (Clams)

This was every bit a delightful meal. I have heard rave reviews about the Chicken Cafreal and desserts at Peter’s Kitchen, oh well will save that for the next time we are in Goa.

The restaurant is open for large gatherings’ and events and geared up for home catering as well.

 

We loved dining at Chef Peter’s.Each dish was presented well with a wonderful mix of regional traditional ingredients mingled with a reminiscent of by gone Portuguese influence.Food that looks good has to taste good and this was amazing!   His personal attention to us and the rest of the diner’s ensured a great dining experience for all. The chef’s simplicity and humble demeanour reflects well is his restaurants which is every essence of home style cooking and local flavours in a wonderful laid back and cosy atmosphere. Here’s wishing Chef Peter the very best and every success in his endeavours.

Location: Chef Peter’s Kitchen

Sangolda, Pilerne Goa

Phone: 08805145181

( Google maps has great directions)

 

Le Fromage: Of Wine & Cheese

 

Le Fromage: Artisanal Cheese making In Nashik

Nestled amongst the lush greenery in Nashik  ( Maharastra, India)and located in the backwaters of the Gangapur dam is Le Fromage.

This is an artisanal cheese making facility owned and operated by a husband wife duo Mr Anil Pai & Mrs Alka Pai.

A recent trip to Sula & York wine regions took us down to a cheese making visit as well. Let’s say we were keen on pairing our Vino with something interesting to do in the vicinity and what better than some Cheese with wine.

We arrive at Pai farms which is every bit picture risqué surrounded by Lemon trees , various fruit trees and buzzing bees. A warm welcome awaits us as we are greeted by the jovial owners and we settle down in the main waiting area, which looks like the living room of their home.

 

After a brief introduction we were offered a cheese platter with an assortment of fresh mozzarella, Pepper and Chilli Gouda, Chives Feta, Ricotta and some Chedder. They offer and interesting range and are all available for purchase in 100 grams packs ranging from appro Rs 180 to Rs 250.

I quite like the fresh buffalo mozzarella and the Chives Feta and decided to buy some along with some Pepper and Chilli Gouda to bring back for the family. The mozzarella went into a lovely Caprese salad that I made up for lunch on returning to Mumbai.

 

We then take a quick look at the cheese room which is a small unit with two large Vats that are used for pasteurizing the milk and then further the process of acidification and the addition of Rennet that helps the milk coagulate. Interestingly they only use vegetarian rennet that is available locally Vs it’s counter part that is made from Cows.

Mr. Pai explains us how his sons who are U.S based encouraged them to start the cheese making business a couple of years ago. They seem very content with supplying the neighboring wineries like York & Soma as their regular clients for their wine pairing sessions.

Oh well, happy with our Cheese purchases and the boot full of Vino, we bid adieu to this lovely couple and got on with our journey back to Mumbai. While Le Fromage seems like a small home based business, it is very heart warming to meet entrepreneurs such as them and see their passion that drives them forward…Kudos!

Contact Details: 16/3, Gangapur-Savargaon Rd, Gangavhare, Maharashtra 422222, India, Nashik, Maharashtra 422222

Phone: 098195 8733 ( Mr Pai)

Goa In The Rains Is Magical

Travel It Makes You Speechless…Then Turns You Into A Storyteller..

 

Goa in the rains is just magical. The color green takes on a brilliant  hue and turns the lush landscape into a plush carpet.Coconut palms swaying in the breeze and the emerald green contrast of the rice  fields is a breathtaking sight indeed.

The hubby’s  from Goa. Well lets say all his ancestor’s and family lived there once upon a time and now everyone’s moved away to all parts of the world. Hence he has a natural affinity to Goa. Now being based in Mumbai, it’s a short hour’s flight and very accescssable for a quick weekend getaway.

We travelled to  Goa in  April earlier this year,just before the dear son went off to London for summer school. It was a short break for all of us, with some R &R as the main objective of this trip which is why we choose to return to Alila Diwa as the hotel’s Idyllic and picturesque setting amongst its lush green landscaping and gorgeous aquamarine pools hit’s all the right boxes for a relaxed and chilled out get away.

 

The property is gorgeous indeed and the monsoon’s seem to weave their own magic and bring about every shade of green possible. Well lets say we are prepared as predicted it had been raining incessently with some golden sunny interludes of sunshine in between and we were quite happy to sit back and enjoy every bit of “Goa in the Rains”. Having travelled to Goa on numerous occasions doing the usual touristy spots is far from what we wanted to do. But yes good food is always something the family is happy to explore.As luck would have it the ever popular Martin’s Corner is a quick drive from our hotel and the hub’s announced earlier that lunch must begin there. So that’s where we headed right after arriving at the hotel.

As I mentioned the sole aim of this trip was R &R and not really getting too touristy. So will pen down some absolute must eats around this neighbourhood.

  1. Martin’s Corner:

The restaurant is abuzz with locals and tourists alike, indulging in a lazy Sunday afternoon luncheon.Seemed like the perfect ambience with music in the background, tables filled with laughter, chilled beer and aromas’s of some fabulous pork vindaloo and Sorpotel wafting through the air. We get seated and settle down with our drinks and order some fried prawns, Goan chilly sausages which is served with some wonderful fresh bread and a Goan fried fish called “Chonak” which is a red snapper variety of fish. I’m totally sold out on the flavours of this delicate fish. Oh yes and a side of a Veg Au Gratin to get our fix of veggie’s too.A very enjoyable meal and a great place for lunch or dinner. With our bellies quite satiated we decide to return back to the hotel.

2.Restaurants at Alila Diva Goa:

The hotel too has a great variety of dining options that offer a multitude of cuisine. The breakfast which consisted of a buffet would usually be served at Vivo which had an extensive fare of  international and local fare.The Spice Club serves up a gastronomical array of traditional Goan fare. Another great place to hang out in the evenings is the Edge Bar and Lounge that is located in the main hotel area over looking a gorgeous infinity pool and the back drop of paddy fields.

 

3. Ritz Classic: Mall De Goa

The next day we decided to drive out towards Panjim and checkout Mall De Goa which opened just a couple of years ago. We had not much of a shopping list as all the fresh produce was been reserved for a must visit to the fresh markets in Goa. However the attraction of the mall visit was the Ritz Classic that serves us a delicious Fish Thali at lunch times. While they do have a large A la carte menu as well, the most sought after order at lunch would be the Thali which consists of a various fish curries, fried fish, rice, and some vegetables as a side too. So while the hubs decided to devourer this I choose a Fried Chonak (local red snapper) sautéed in garlic and butter as my main course. I tell you, I’m totally sold out on this fish.

The Fish Thali at Ritz Classic


Fish Chonak (Red Snapper) in a butter garlic sauce:

 

4. Madgao Market: A must do whilst in Goa is a visit to the fresh markets that give you a bazaar kind of feel. Infact  the new markets are covered and have a vibrant display of fresh produce, cashew nuts, pulses and legumes, local spices and lots more. The fresh fish is located in a separate area and just outside the main market are various stores that have several varieties of Pork products, ranging form the local goan sausages,curry spices and pork chops and meat. I love exploring local markets where ever I travel.They are unique and have the best of foodstuff that represent the local cuisine. Needless to say we managed to get our hands on some great stuff to take back to Mumbai.

Goa in the rains is truly Magical….The lush landscape around our hotel proper at Alila Diwa

5. Fisherman’s Wharf: 

A colleague at work very much recommended this place and it’s been on my “Must eat list” for sometime now. As it would be it seemed a short 30 minute drive from our hotel and so I dragged the hubs into driving us on one lazy afternoon.Set on the banks of the river Sia in amid the lush surroundings of Cavelossim village, this place had a great vibe. A live band playing some great music,riverside seating that over looked the water and a great menu that had an assortment of Goan delicacies and International cuisine as well. We settled for a Mutton Shagoti ( meat cooked in coconut and spices ) and a Rawa fry King fish and some Cashew feni to wash that down.It turned out to be a gem of a location and I would very much recommend this place. They do have another location in Panjim as well.

 

6. Fishka: 

Our last day in Goa and a quick run across from our hotel property is a shack style  place called Fishka. Again this place came recommend by a foodie pal so decided to walk across and grab a quick bite before heading to the airport.

Goa has numerous shacks that double up as bars and restaurants and are almost at every nook and cranny of the this beach town. Now some of the popular ones are located on the beach and are a great hang out spot and are perfect for relaxation and good food. Fishka as we discover, is a no frills kind of place with a relaxed laid back ambience.The menu is quite extensive which includes Goan dishes, Indian Chinese and International cuisine as well. The place as we learn is run by Indian-Russian duo and seems like a popular jaunt as there are not too many eating places in the vicinity. Our meal consists of some classic Lamb chilly fry served with some Poi (local goan bread), an all time favourite Fish and chips and I settle for a vegetarian paneer chili fry. A great place for a quick bite.

Well this was our quick getaway to Goa in a nutshell. There is just so much to do and explore in Goa and condensing it into a single blog post is the difficult part. Well you may like to take a look at another post on Goa that I wrote up a couple of years ago: Goa:Spice farms, Food Markets & A Recipe:  wp.me/p2eASG-yq

I do hope I have enticed you enough to visit Goa. The rains are magical indeed and most hotel properties offer great deals from June- September. The peak time of-course is from  November- March with the Carnival and other festivities that make it an interesting time to visit. The gastronomy, beaches, culture and the laid back lifestyle are every reason to make this your next destination to visit.

Happy Travels and I hope you will visit Goa some day!