Tag Archives: Montreal

Prohibition: Leaving MTL

What a blast! 5 extremely talented comics in little more than 24 hours. Each one a standout. Time to get back to real life and hit the road back to Ottawa. Rob has found a breakfast spot on the way out of the city, a few blocks in from Decarie Blvd. that looks promising: Prohibition. An eclectic, smallish basement eatery that styles itself as southern/soul. We arrive a few minutes before 11 and are lucky to get two seats at the bar. Behind us people are turned away. Rain overnight shuts the patio down, but it reopens around 11:30. Inside, the place oozes modern hipster, dark walls, light tables, one red tiled wall, and some artwork. Noisy patrons, chatting, greeting and eating make Prohibtion a party you want to join.

Once again we are greeted in English, and the crowd is speaking English. I find this comforting but odd. I almost never encounter French spoken in service in Montreal. I guess they prefer to go with English rather than listen to me butcher French. We settle at the bar and peruse the short, but intriguing menu. Every dish is appealing, from Fried Chicken with French Toast to Heuvos Rancheros to Blueberry Compote Ricotta Pancakes. Hard choices here. Sadly we are driving shortly and have to forgo the breakfast cocktail bar. And I’m not just talking Mimosas.

Rob is sticking to the theme (in his head) and orders the Fried Chicken and French  Challah Toast. I’m going a little more Quebequois and settle on the Breakfast Poutine. Rob, I will note here does not “get” poutine. He likes fries, he likes, gravy, he likes cheese. He does not see the point of them together. What is to get, seriously? I think his first 3 months on American soil have done some damage. Anyways… the poutine arrives and it is marvelous. Classic, well made fries doused liberally in salty, tasty brown gravy, topped with white cheese curds and finished with a fried egg over easy. Oh yeah….and lots and lots of candied bacon.

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Rob’s chicken and French toast, from the measly piece he gave me, was divine. The french toast was almost donut like and the chicken was crunchy and moist. Truth be told, I may not have shared even that much with him.

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If we lived in Montreal, I could see spending a good deal of brunch time here. I would certainly make an effort to try every menu item.

 

Le Gros Jambon

Late July finds us in Montreal once again for Just for Laughs, the hugely popular ,and largest, comedy festival in the world. Friday night had us take in Ron White and one of our faves, Mike Birbiglia, two immensely different comedy styles, making for a very entertaining evening. Saturday, is packed with Greg Proops, the self-styled “smartest man in the world”, Mark Maron and the very edgy Jim Norton at midnight. Because our day and a half whirlwind tour is so packed with comedy, we have little time to have a leisurely meal in one of Montreal’s many high end establishments. We are on an eat and run schedule. We also are spending most down time at the bar in the Hyatt, where you are more likely than not to run into the talent, comedy giants who are happy to say hi. These are the superstars of the comedy world, hanging with each other, busting each other’s balls and without entourage to keep the plebs away, so we grab a cocktail, blog and people watch.

We get a rare morning to sleep in Saturday with no furry assault alarm clock. After a leisurely start to the day we head off to Rue Notre Dame to a little real-deal diner, Le Gros Jambon.

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We arrive just before the late morning rush and grab stools at the open kitchen/short order station. Waitstaff is friendly and serves us in lightly accented English. Indeed most of the customers appear to be English speaking.

The diner is narrow and offers diner stool seating only. Gold flecked formica bar tops, Route 66 wall paper, creamy yellow and mint green walls, license plates, a lack of A/C and a respectable amount of built up “patina” give the resto an authentic aura. But Le Gros Jambon is not a throwback. The menu and the soundtrack are updated and modern.

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We get settled in with menus and coffees and OJ. I spy chicken and waffles on the menu and am tempted. We are headed on a two week road trip to the Southern USA in a month where they invented this culinary giant that has been making it’s way north. And so with that in mind I go with the interesting option, Mushroom Toast, which I have never seen anywhere on any menu. Rob, it seems, cannot wait it out and succumbs to the chicken and waffles.

From our vantage point we watch the cook dip fresh chicken and drop it in the pressure fryer. Meanwhile a second cook manning the flat top is doing the dance with several patrons orders. He then dunks Texas toast in a creamy mixture, I assume is mushrooms, and fries it like French toast. In a saucier pan he cooks the finishing sauce, which smells heavenly like a classic mushroom, cream and white wine concoction.

The Mushroom Toast arrives plated on a pig shaped dish. The bread is nicely done and topped with a perfect runny egg, a good amount of smoked meat and then topped with the creamy, delicious sauce. On the side is a hash brown, a loose, home made potato patty, crisp and dark from the flat top. A small container of what can only be canned Libby’s beans also graces the plate. I don’t mind that the beans aren’t home made. They are lightly sweet and go perfectly with the toast. Would have liked more beans. This could be a happily vegetarian meal without the smoked meat. Sorry no pic…I screwed it up :(.

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Rob’s chicken and waffles came with the same beans and hash brown, a large, round, crisp, chewy waffle topped with a leg and breast of freshly fried chicken and doused in a grainy mustard maple syrup. The chicken was surface-of-the-sun hot as it was right out of the pressure fryer. Giving it a little time to cool, beans and hash browns were sampled, and photos were taken. The chicken was perfect with the sauce providing a sweet and vinegary bite.

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With contented tummies we pay the bill as the diner begins to get quite crowded and a little bit too hot. Pro tip: turn on that oscillating fan. Off to enjoy our second day at Just for Laughs.

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Montreal: Laugh, Eat, Shop!

2012 has been the Summer of Comedy for us. Marc Maron, Sarah Silverman, Natasha Leggere, John Oliver, Stephen Merchant, Patton Oswalt, and Jerry Seinfeld. Today we are heading off to Montreal in the midst of its annual Just For Laughs Comedy Festival to see a favorite of ours – Jim Gaffigan.

A perfect July day awaits us as does the open road. The sun is high in the sky and insects buzz happily (I’m only assuming here). Cottonball clouds dot the field of  blue sky like sheep. The highway is lined with a colourful blur of oncoming wildflowers. Our entertainment of choice today is a Nerdist podcast featuring guest Seth Myers. A good way to get in the mood for the festival.

As we pass neat rows of corn with silos rising soft in the hazy distance, I am reminded of the Indiana of a previous road trip. Could just as well be passing through there. When we cross the border into Quebec, the clouds flatten out and hills rise up in the distance. After a pleasant hour and a half we cross part of the St. Lawrence River and begin to see the outcroppings of a major metropolis. We are here!

Despite the brutal 30-plus degree heat, we head out to the festival grounds and beyond to explore. We are staying at the Hyatt and the festival is in full swing outside. Just for Laughs is a Quebec creation and it has spread to other parts of the globe. We visited the Chicago edition in June. Montreal’s festival is of a totally different and unique flavour. Quebec culture is very much in evidence here in all its government-funded, polka-dot fluorescent satin, mime-y glory, despite the fact that the majority of the comedy is in the English language.

Dinner tonight dinner will be at Laurier1936 BBQ, chosen because it is the 80-year-old original model for all the St-Hubert rotisserie-style restos, a classic Quebec tradition, curiously called BBQ, yet having no element of BBQ whatsoever. More famously and recently, the restaurant engaged Gordon Ramsay of Kitchen Nightmares to reinvigorate it, with a much ballyhooed falling out and competing lawsuits a-flying. Online reviews are alarmingly mixed but I am going with an open mind.

Laurier1936 is in a nice little university neighbourhood about 3 miles from the Hyatt. Many restaurants are not open in the city on Sunday evenings but Laurier is. We pull up out front and nab easy parking. We are greeted by a friendly staffer and the dessert case. She leads us from the main dining room, decorated in very modern white, to a back dining room which is faux distressed white french farmhouse with tin ceiling tiles, milk painted wainscotting and rustic brass fixtures.  Clean and warm. The dining room is sparsely populated with two other couples and a small party, but the patio is hopping.

I must state right here that the chairs are the most uncomfortable in which I have EVER sat. Hard metal, cafe style with a narrow back braced at the seat that even my small butt could not fit between without bruising. I had to sit on the chair midway and spent the entire meal trying not to slip off. Why do restaurants never give their chairs a second thought?

The table boasts a complimentary jar of dill pickles, a salt shaker and the now rarely found, private pepper grinder. We place drink orders, pinot for me and beer for Rob. Both come in appropriate glassware which is a good sign. Nothing like a nice glass of red in a crappy, tiny, thick rimmed  50 cent wine glass.

I order the crispy chicken with fries and a buttermilk biscuit. The chicken comes with a honey mustard sauce but no gravy. I order a $1.50 side of gravy for $3. Rob orders the rib and chicken combo, with fries, gravy and coleslaw. Our meals arrive very quickly. My meal is presented in an artistic cone but needs to be emptied out onto a plate to eat it. Three pieces of plump crispy chicken, a biscuit, fries and a sweet, satisfying honey mustard sauce that actually compliments the chicken more than the gravy does. A note about the gravy: it is a good consistency, not overly salty and does not congeal. Strongly flavoured with herbs and  tasty – but – tragically – and not a reflection on this sauce – I love the crap they serve at St. Hubert. THAT is hot chicken gravy to me and I cannot be swayed. Therefore I cannot judge the gravy here at Laurier. Rob, on the other hand, feels perfectly qualified to judge as he hates the gloppy, over-processed sludge that passes as chicken gravy at most rotisserie places (guess who added this sentence!).

My chicken is crispy and the homemade batter is lightly spicy. My only complaint is that the chicken is not deboned, which would be fine if the bones were large, but they opt to leave very tiny bones in the serving which you can’t really see, but you can feel with your tongue. You are left trying to politely spit them out. These pieces are all but boneless. Why choose to leave these bones in? In other news, my biscuit was barely warm and dry. It needed butter but it was not offered. I did not eat it. I have traveled in the southern US, home of the biscuit. I am ruined, yes, but even so, this was not a good biscuit.The fries were fine if not slightly over done for my taste. Rob enjoys this style — crispy, golden and not greasy.

Rob’s rotisserie chicken — 1/4 chicken, leg — was marvelous. It was plump, juicy and with a lovely golden skin. It was served on top of an open biscuit with fires and a small rack of pleasant, smoky ribs with a maple BBQ sauce.

We did not consider dessert as we were full. We waited over 15 minutes for our bill which was unacceptable despite the excellent service otherwise. Because it’s rare that I would deliberately go out for rotisserie chicken, I would probably not seek Laurier1936 out but would come back for the chicken if I was in the neighbourhood.
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