Six Places to Eat in Montreal

One of the great drawbacks—if you can call it that—of trying to see as much of the world as possible is that it doesn’t leave a lot of time for re-visiting any favorites:  I’m dying to go back to Vietnam; I want to give the Inca Trail another shot now that I’m a little more in shape; I want to eat more of Montreal. It’s also for this reason I try to make the most of a place when I am there, and I think in my limited time I’ve eaten pretty well in Montreal. This is just a small collection of a few standard places in the city, but no trip would be complete without at least trying some of these.

St. Viateur Bagel

Regardless of where you fall on the New York vs Montreal bagel argument, Montreal bagels are damned good and should not be missed.  There are plenty of popular places, but St. Viateur is one of the most popular—they even have a 24-hour storefront in case you need an everything bagel at 3am.  Be prepared for a line if you go on the weekend, but don’t skip it just because there’s a line.  Any wait is worth your time. 263 Rue Saint Viateur O, Montréal, QC H2V 1Y1, Canada

Schwatz’s Deli

Another stalwart of Montreal cuisine, this one serving up the ubiquitous Montreal smoked meat sandwich.  Not quite pastrami but just as good, the generality of “smoked meat” may be off-putting, but a trip to Montreal without having some is no trip to Montreal.  Schwartz’s another cramped little spot you will have to wait in a line for, but once again it is worth every second.  Sit down, have some pickles, and stuff your face with layers of supple smoked meat. 3895 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, QC H2W 1X9, Canada

La Banquise

If there is such thing as a perfect food, it may be poutine.  Quality French fries, delicious hunks of partially-melted squeaky cheese curds, and a special gravy all on one dish—I don’t know how you can go wrong.  And if you go to La Banquise, a 24-hour spot offering dozens of varieties of poutine, you absolutely can’t.  And while I can be somewhat of a poutine purist (I mean, what else could you possibly need), some of the combinations here are way too good to pass up. 994 Rue Rachel E, Montréal, QC H2J 2J3, Canada

Dieu du Ciel!

While this isn’t necessarily a food establishment, Dieu du Ciel! is one of Montreal’s best breweries.  As far as stouts go, Peche Mortel is a flagbearer of the style. The brewery has plenty of other great beers, though, and stopping in for as many as you can taste is highly recommended. The sample sizes make it easy to try a bunch, and should be taken advantage of. They do have food, though, in case you happen to take advantage of too many.

Au Pied de Cochon

If you have a problem with foie gras, do not eat here.  Au Pied de Cochon is a shrine to not only foie, but indulgence in general, as memorialized in the early Quebec episode of No Reservations. And while we didn’t eat the sheer amount of food Bourdain did, I still couldn’t get to sleep for hours after eating here due to the richness of the food.  We started with foie gras croquettes, followed by chicken nuggets with foie gras and a warm maple syrup dipping sauce.  I of course had to get the foie gras poutine, and then the special of that night: a pizza topped with arugula, cured ham from the Au Pied du Cochon sugar shack, house-made ricotta, black truffle, foie gras, and drizzled with maple syrup. And then add some maple bread pudding for dessert. Holy shit, what a decadent meal. Thankfully it was within walking distance of our AirBNB, because I needed some exercise afterwards. 536 Avenue Duluth E, Montréal, QC H2L 1A9, Canada

Joe Beef

Consistently ranked one of Canada’s best restaurants, it’s not hard to see why.  Joe Beef is tiny, but they pack a huge punch.  As LeeAnne said afterwards, “It’s been a long time since food has been so good I’ve burst out laughing.” You can’t go wrong here with their extensive chalkboard menu, and I would suggest doing what we did—we told our server that we just wanted six or seven courses of their best shit (those words exactly) and her eyes lit up.  My one requirement from the menu was the terrine as pot au pho, a terrine with pho spices topped with thinly-sliced tendon and herbs—it was incredible.  Also topping the list was was off-menu “pancake sandwich” of two fluffy pancakes with a fried egg, foie gras, maple syrup, and hollandaise. Despite how much I loved the over-the-topness of Pied de Cochon, Joe Beef was not only the best meal we had in Montreal, but the best we’ve had in all of Canada. 2491 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, QC H3J 1N6, Canada

Montreal has a lot of great things to do—and if you’re a hockey fan, taking in a game at the Bell Centre should not be missed—but as a food town it ranks as highly as anywhere I’ve been. With its French influence and chefs that don’t hold back, though, be prepared to indulge. 

Long Weekend in Iceland: Day 2

How did we get on a glacier? Check out the recap of day one here.

On Sunday morning, we awoke in the van to a much better day than it had been a night: the rain had moved out and, while it was a bit chilly at the campground, the overcast clouds were not threatening any more rain. We had some granola bars for breakfast and some G7 instant coffees (which we had discovered in Vietnam and are the best instant coffee I’ve ever had) and walked across the campground to the Mountain Guides HQ.

skafta-beth
Climbing on a glacier. Photo courtesy of Beth Blinebury.

After being fitted for harnesses and helmets and crampons, we drove a few minutes away to the base of Skaftafellsjökull, a glacier tongue coming off of Iceland’s largest icecap, Vatnajökull. It’s also the filming location of the ice planet in Interstellar, which isn’t hard to imagine: once you’ve walked a small ways into the glacier, it’s easy to think you’re on another planet.

skaftafell 2
Atop a ridge.

The hike we chose was four hours, and was luckily the best weather we had our entire trip.  The sun was out (somewhat) and there wasn’t even the threat of rain.  I think at one point I even got warm enough to unzip my jacket.  We had an intermediate hike, which included being tied off to ropes on the side of the mountain and walking next to some pretty intense-looking cravasses, and even walking down into one.  Being obsessed with Everest, it was a fun experience to be tied to ropes, all geared up and walking around in crampons.

skaftafell
Walking next to a large cravasse. Fear of heights: activated.

The glacier hike was definitely the highlight of our trip, and I would suggest it—even this particular one—to anyone visiting Iceland.  Our guide was excellent, the hike was more than just a meandering, easy-going sightseeing jaunt, and we got to walk around on top of (and inside) a fucking glacier.  Incredible.

ice cave
Exploring an ice cave in the glacier. We assumed it was one of Bjork’s homes.

Afterwards, we stopped by the incredibly conveniently-placed Glacier Goodies food truck right between the campgrounds and the Mountain Guides offices.  Starving from our expedition, I got a cup of lobster bisque (delicious) and an order of fish and chips (pretty good).  I did, however, miscalculate the exchange rate and what I thought was $5 US was actually closer to $50.  Oops.

glaciergoodies

After lunch, we took some surprisingly warm showers at the campground (which were added to our camping fee for just a few dollars) and moved on to make our way through more of Iceland.  We stopped at Drangshlíð, a massive rock in the middle of a field with small houses erected around and, it seems, inside part of the rock.  The houses were worn down and covered in moss, and have elven folklore attached to them.  Once again, walking around in the area, with no one else around, seeing this quiet landscape during an overcast day, it was easy to imagine being part of some other world.  Much of Iceland can give you that impression.

drang-1

drang-2

We made a few more random stops to get out, stretch our legs, and take in the endless landscape of overcast green—Andy had become particularly enamored with the local moss—and then found the Skjol Campgrounds.  As we were setting up our van for the night, it began to rain pretty heavily, but the inside of the van stayed dry.  We ended up eating dinner in the small bar/restaurant at the campgrounds, having some overpriced pizza and Gull beers, but they both hit the spot.  We all fell asleep to the sound of rain on the van.

Can we top a glacier? Possibly, since day 3 has a surprise ending…