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Discovering Montreal all over again

June 26th, 2010 · 11 Comments · restaurant reviews

Hello, hello! I’m going to attempt a super quick post from Montreal (we are in the hotel for a short while, about to get ready for our dinner out). I have 368 pictures on my camera already so this is becoming one action packed weekend. What else is new, right? 😉 I’m going to split the trip up into several posts so that is all “easy to digest.” Let’s start with last night!

I’ve been to Montreal many many times. My first trip was my senior year of high school. Most of our class went as we were right about 18 and that’s the drinking age in Montreal. I was maybe 2 weeks shy of my 18th birthday but that didn’t prevent us from getting in to most bars and having a blast. The other trips were all during college. I would like to think that they got slightly more sophisticated with time but the truth is that I don’t remember much of them. Just bits and pieces as I’m strolling through the City now. Yes, those trips were also mostly alcohol induced. Oh college…

So this time around, we’re traveling “foodie-style.” I think I haven’t mentioned this – the trip is actually my birthday gift from Adam. He is providing “transportation and lodging” i.e. paying for gas and the sweet hotel he reserved for us. I took pics. Let me know if you’re interested. It’s super modern and we love it! Anyways, this long introduction is basically me saying that although I’ve been here before, I feel like I’m in a brand new city and I love it.

Last night after a really fun drive over (more on that in a separate post) we quickly changed in the hotel and started making our way towards Prince Arthur street. A few blocks of it are blocked off from cars and there are lots of BYOB restaurants. Isn’t it adorable?

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[Side note: the city has these bike hubs all over so you can just grab one and drop it off at a different “station.” Very cool. Too bad I can’t ride a bike so I’m relying on my leggies. :) ]

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Back to the Prince Arthur street…

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We ended up choosing this spot. Greek sounded amazing to me for some reason that moment.

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First we stopped by a mini-mart and got a random bottle of wine. It grew on us (don’t buy it though!) 😆

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So many things to choose from…

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Oh well hello. 😀

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We started our meal with tzatziki – traditional spread made with fresh yogurt, finely chopped garlic and cucumber, lightly seasoned with fine herbs.

The pita was warm and this was pretty yummy. Nice and creamy.

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For my entree I ordered the butterfly shrimp and scallops, which came with a caesar salad to start. I ate most of it. I never ever eat caesar salads because I think salads should have more veggies than just lettuce and dressing but I do like them. This was nothing to write home about but was still a fun treat of sorts.

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My entree (served with potatoes, rice, steamed veggies and garlic butter (I didn’t touch the butter). Ick, sorry for this photo. This was a hard plate to photograph and I was hungry. 😉

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The shrimp was great with lots of lemon, the scallops were just edible and the rest of the meal was pretty forgettable (I didn’t eat much of it – the steamed veggies were downright nasty). That means I left plenty of room for DESSERT.

Here is the spot we chose (um, amazing!).

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The place was so modern, spacious and just gorgeous.

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Before finally deciding to sit down, I heard: “Excuse me, are you from Boston?” Why yes I am. This was Meg (my new reader) who just happened to be in Montreal this weekend too. We said hello to each other, chatted for a few minutes, but she and her boyfriend were not really interested in dessert (they just went inside because they saw me) so we said our good-byes and moved on. My first real “celebrity sighting” and it was in a different country!! So funny. Meg, thanks for not being shy and actually coming up to me! So fun. 😀 I took a quick picture of her so she can get a few minutes of fame too… you know, because it’s on the Internet. lol 😆

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Adam and I then sat down and had the super hard task of deciding what to order. Seriously, everything looked fantastic. At the end, the (second) special just sounded too good to pass up… how’s your French? 😀

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This was their intense brownie with a scoop of ice cream and nutella chocolate sauce. Holy deliciousness! I think this deserves a few pictures.

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Can we say food porn?

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After dinner and dessert, Adam and I stopped by the jazz fest area to check it out. The city is just electric! So much energy!!!!

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This guy was super good (it was hip hop)!

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When we were close to our hotel, we decided to have just one more drink before bed. My dad recommended Les 3 Brasseurs and these are all over Montreal. I ordered the Peach Blanche beer cocktails (their Blanche beer with Peach scnapps). Yum (I drank about 1/2 of this half pint). Adam especially loved his beers (he had a pint of the Amber and then a pint of the Blonde beer) – both are brewed on location and were very smooth (Belgian style).

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Eventually we realized it was after 1:30 am (!!!!) so we headed back to the hotel and almost instantly fell asleep. I’ll talk about Saturday in my next post. I’m having high hopes for tonight’s dinner. It just looks incredible from the website.

Hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend. See you tomorrow. 😀

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What day is it anyway?

June 24th, 2010 · 26 Comments · Boston, breakfast, restaurant reviews, salad

Ugh, technology problems (like the internet not working) are the worst part about blogging. I woke up bright and early this morning to give myself plenty of time to blog and have been unable to do so. After having breakfast and getting ready for work, I have no choice but to give ecto a go as well. Hopefully this will publish once our internet connection is back on. :)

Now, let’s talk about something a little more exciting – I’m going to Montreal TOMORROW. Yesterday the entire day I kept thinking it was Thursday, and getting more and more excited about our trip. Nope, I have to wait just one more day. Silly, Elina. This also gives me one more day to plan everything. Hopefully the internet is back up tonight and I can research my little heart out (I did make reservations for an awesome dinner… you’ll have to wait until Sunday to read about it 😉 ). Also, I guess Jazz fest is this weekend as well (completely coincidental). Hopefully it’s not too crowded. 😀

I don’t have anything too insightful to talk about today so let’s dive in to yesterday’s eats. Some were good, some where… well, we’ll get there in time. 😀

BREAKFAST

Good! Siggi’s vanilla yogurt with strawberries, kiwi, TJ’s American trek mix and Kashi GoLean cereal

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This was my first time trying Siggi’s vanilla flavor and I absolutely loved it. Definitely my favorite. It tasted like real vanilla beans were added, not just vanilla extract. Now I see why the stuff ain’t cheap. Have you ever purchased a whole vanilla bean? Last time I had to buy one, it was $6.99 for ONE. Yeah, that’s how you get $2.79/yogurt.

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Did I mention this bowl was awesome? Oh right. I did. 😆

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MID-MORNING SNACK

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WORKOUT

Did anyone notice I haven’t been running lately? I haven’t really (just maybe as a quick warmup before a class if I’m early). I just don’t really enjoy it anymore so I stopped. At least for now. I still feel like I should be running. That was my primary cardio source (with spin usually once a week) and I‘m still trying to figure out how to stay fit without it. Any tips? I can’t really see myself spinning every other day either. I guess I just don’t love cardio in general. Give me weights and I’m a happy girl though. Is that weird? I feel like most girls (at least in the blog world) are really not into strength training. I loooooove it.

Anyways, yesterday was spin day. I love the instructor on Wednesday so I reminded myself this when I was having second thoughts about going and already started working up a “plan B.” “Just do it” mentality came to the rescue this time and the class was great. I’ve been feeling out of shape this week for some reason but I guess that’s why I’m there, right? Practice makes perfect. :mrgreen:

LUNCH

Mixed greens, heirloom tomatoes, avocado, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, sauerkraut, pine nuts, hummus and feta. Say that 10 times fast. 😆

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This was a great loaded salad. So many textures + flavors. I was even too lazy to go to the kitchen at work to grab a dressing and ended up eating it without it. The hummus + feta + sauerkraut actually coated all the greens and the dressing was completely unnecessary. Awesome!

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Oh yeah, I did pack a cookie-to-go. And yes, I ate it. :)

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MID-AFTERNOON SNACK

Leftover shelling snow peas. I still can’t believe I ate nearly 3/4lb the day before.

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DINNER

Dinner was quite the adventure. We had another Groupon to G’Vanni’s expiring on Friday, and since we were going to be out of town, we decided to have a mid-week date at the North End (Boston’s Italian neighborhood). Sounds good, right? I made reservations for 6:30, thinking we’d have plenty of time to have dinner and do our usual mid-week post-dinner errands, including planning the rest of our trip. Well, North End is notorious for this – regardless of whether you have a reservation or not – you’re going to wait for your table. We arrived at the restaurant early, the hostess checked our name off and suggested that we go to a bar around the corner to have a drink while we wait for our table (which supposedly was going to be ready in 20 minutes). Ok, drinks it is.

I had a glass of Riesling, which was sweet and fruity (no picture – the bar was tiny and I would surely bump into someone with my camera). Twenty minutes later we decided to go back and check on our table. The hostess was a complete scatter brain… she definitely did not have a grip on who’s there and who’s going to be seated next (and as we found out later, whether tables were even ready – there were empty tables for way too long while we were eating, and people were still waiting outside!). After nearly 45 minutes (in total) we were finally seated.

G’Vanni’s has been around for 30 years, and the decor was definitely not updated since opening. Everything about the place felt and looked like a tourist trap. There were cheesy puns (“a veally good deal,” “taco bella antipasti” really?), Adam’s menu actually had a cover of a completely different restaurant in Rhode Island (I’m guessing they own it too?) and then the specials menu had a whole line of completely unrecognizable symbols (like their printer freaked out on them and they just left in there). Yeah, classy. So we decided to just laugh everything off. It was going to be quite the experience. We were ready! :)

Did I mention the super red lighting? Here is what our bread basket looked like. I kid you not.

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I played with my camera, adjusted the white balance and did a little bit better this time (although more natural looking, that’s not what it really looked like to us).

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The bread was soft and quite nice actually. I had a little piece. Adam finished the rest.

We also ordered a carafe of house Chianti. It was the same price as 3 glasses so we figured it was the way to go. Apparently a carafe is nearly 1.5 bottles!!! They kept re-filling our glasses nearly to the rim (and these are large glasses). Again, classy. The wine was quintessential house wine – totally drinkable but nothing to write home about.

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For my entree I wanted a seafood pasta. I asked the waitress for a recommendation and she highly recommended the shrimp guiseppe – angel hair pasta with jumbo shrimp, organic tomato, prosciutto, white wine butter sauce. To be honest, it didn’t even sound great to me but she hesitated when I asked for another suggestion and after re-assuring me that it was not greasy, I ordered it after all.

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Sorry for this atrocious photo. It was dark and the lighting was just washing everything out (read: made everything look one hue of red which I adjusted but it was still pretty much one hue of gray now…). So how did it taste? Blah (not bad but not good for sure). It tasted like buttery noodles with a few add-ins. Trust me, I wasn’t expecting something fancy or overly complex but I thought the food would be tasty. G’Vanni’s consistently has lines out the door, it has good reviews online, and the place has been around for 30 years surviving fierce competition in a neighborhood with 99% Italian restaurants. And it’s not cheap. In fact, it’s especially expensive for the quality of food you get. This dish was $26. Yeah, disappointing to say the least. I should say that Adam’s chicken dish (he actually doesn’t even know what he ordered – chicken with penne and spinach…) was pretty awesome. He gave me a few vegetarian bites and I really did love it (as he did, he polished the whole thing off). If we ordered the same thing (his), I’d write a different review I suppose. But this was the waitress’ recommendation!! Is this the best they can do with seafood?

We had enough of our entrees (I picked off the topping and left most of the pasta) and still had way too much wine to finish. I didn’t have high hopes for dessert (and the waitress admitted they were not home-made) but Adam encouraged me to get something since we were going to be there for a little while (and I did want dessert!). I very hesitantly ordered the tiramisu (because that’s what I was craving… although one waitress suggested the molten chocolate cake and another the mudslice pie. Again, can you say tourist trap?). Here is what we got:

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Sorry, I forgot to adjust the lighting again (it looked fine on my camera, haha) but it was actually really good. I’m sure they get it frozen and then just dump a bunch of cinnamon on top and a dollop of whipped cream but hey, I couldn’t tell from the taste and that’s what counts.

This dinner was over $100 (we paid less with the Groupon) and I can definitely say it was NOT worth it. I am still shocked at how crazy busy it is (seriously, the lines are insane!!) – I even ran into 2 different people I know there (they were not together!) – that’s how popular it is. Clearly I’m missing something. Or maybe I’m a proper snob at this point. Haha.

How was your hump day? Did I mention we’re going on a mini-vacation TOMORROW? Oh yes, I did.

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Just like riding a bike…

June 23rd, 2010 · 25 Comments · Uncategorized

I took a step class yesterday for the first time in over 3 years, all in the name of trying “new” workouts. Step was actually my very first form of exercise ever. I discovered it when I was 12 and fell in love. This was in Israel. For several years after we moved to the States, every time I went back to Israel, I’d buy a monthly pass to that same gym and take the same classes. I just loved it! Yesterday was no different. I was a tiny bit nervous right before class, afraid that I wouldn’t remember any of the step names and make a fool of myself but it all clicked instantly. I guess I could say it was like riding a bike… except that I don’t know how to ride one! 😉 In any case, I ran for 10 minutes before the class, then 60 minutes of step made for one great (and super fun!!) workout. I burnt a ton of calories too. You know I’ll be back. :)

BREAKFAST

Banana “hot dog” ala Kath. She made this breakfast a few years back (I can’t find it now on her blog but I figured I should still give her credit).

The hot dog consisted of 1/2 banana, almond butter “gravy” (1T almond butter + a splash of skim milk, microwaved) and cherry ketchup preserves on a ww bun

Speaking of almond butter sauce – have you tried it before? I’ve seen it on a few blogs and thought it was a great idea but mine just pretty much burnt. I still ate it of course but something tells me it wasn’t right. Any tips?

SNACKS

LUNCH

I met Shannon for lunch at the Copley farmers market. She just got back from a trip to Italy and I couldn’t wait to hear all about it. What better way to spend time than by browsing through gorgeous local produce and enjoying some of those goodies?

I couldn’t get over how gorgeous these tomatoes from Atlas Farm were….

I ended up purchasing everything from Sofra.

Chicken & rice with feta, chickpeas, raisins and herbs

This was so incredibly fresh and flavorful. I really want to go to the actual bakery. Their menu is so inspired and everything is local (most things are grown on their farm!). Yum!

I also ended up getting a strawberry tart, which Shannon hand modeled for me. 😉

Hi, Shannon! :)

… and a little over 1/2 lb of snow peas which I nearly polished off at work later in the afternoon when I “discovered” the bag in my purse. This is what’s left of it.

And yes, I ate one more of these babies (since I opened it for you to see). So addictive!

DINNER

Keeping it simple (Adam was out playing poker).

Mixed greens, shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, grilled zucchini, pine nuts (<– this mix was leftover from Sunday’s dinner) + chickpeas, strawberries, fresh mozzarella, and feta

Fruit in savory salads is heaven. I give credit to all the blogs out there for finally convincing me to give it a try. Now I can’t get enough of it. Definitely a fantastic combo!! Have you had fruit in salads?

While planning our trip to Montreal this weekend, I also snacked on some pecans, froyo and a few cheese slices… just to keep myself accountable here.

Two more days until our mini-vacation! Do you have any restaurant or activity recommendations in Montreal? I was going for a sustainable angle but I’m having difficulty finding the perfect dinner spot.

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