Bonjour, Bitches!

Whew, guys! Where do I begin?

So remember that time I told you I was going to take a little vacay after my show was over to, y’know, experience some R&R and take it down a notch? Yeah well, not so much. I made the mistake of picking Montreal and New York as my places of rest and relaxation/rejuvenation/reconstitution, and boy was that ever a bad plan. Turns out that’s where the party’s at, yo!

Let me start with Montreal.

I dragged my new little best friend, costar Chelan “Lan-Lan” Simmons kicking and screaming and twisting her proverbial rubber arm onto a plane bound for glorious Montreal just as soon as we heard picture wrap. Lan-Lan had never been, and I hadn’t been back since I was 12 when I lived there for six months shooting a little show called Space Cases. Where I wore a rainbow wig and came from Saturn. But I digress. Everybody in Canada knows, whether they like to admit it or not, that Montreal is our coolest, hippest city, overrun with gorgeous Francophones and stupidly good restaurants and bars that stay open way past even my liver’s bed time. And since my friend Buzz, infamous thanks to that Beer Blog, grew up in Montreal, I was provided with quite the list of places to entice us. My top picks and highlights of our Quebecois adventure:

Grange:

So yeah, naturally I’m starting with a wine bar. But this isn’t just any wine bar: this is a wine bar that requires its handsome all-boy staff to wear matching lumberjack shirts. Maybe a little cheesy in theory, sure, but I like some cheese on my theories, if ya know what I mean. (Alright, even I don’t know what that means.) Grange in Old Montreal is just my kind of wine bar, unpretentious and friendly with lots of yummy small plates for sharing, and oodles of great wines by the glass. We scarfed down an insanely generous charcuterie plate and finished with a white chocolate pudding with vanilla cookies and popcorn (! You crazy French people!) for dipping. It’s the kind of place you could while away a whole evening, and while away we did. To be honest, it was kinda hard not to just keep going back there every night, but that list wasn’t gonna tackle itself.

Charcuterie overload

The Bar

Anybody feel like some cheese?

 

Les 3 Petit Bouchons:

This was another stellar find tucked away on St. Denis in what will someday be my neighbourhood of Plateau Mont Royal. You really can’t go wrong with a lot of the bars and restaurants in that area, but this was one of my faves. It’s high-end comfort food, focusing on sustainable ingredients and keeping things nice and simple. But they don’t screw around: seared duck liver with maitake mushrooms, pan-fried halibut and collard greens finished with hollandaise, duck confit with a fig and walnut salad, blueberry pound cake with sour cream sorbet…. It’s just dumb. Plus, they’ve got a wine list teeming with organic wines, which we all know give you less of a hangover when they’re missing all that sulfur dioxide. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

Duck liver never looked so pretty

Duck confit

Quick! Get in my mouth!

 

Beauty’s:

So, a little story from my childhood (bear with me, get a refill). While shooting Space Cases, my mom and some of my cast mates and their moms would all go to Beauty’s on the weekends for brunch. It was kind of a thing we would always do, followed by shopping on Mont Royal, a walk around the neighbourhood, maybe a quick stop at a local pub for a brandy. Kidding– I was 12, just making sure you were paying attention. Anyway, I’d always remembered Beauty’s as one of my favourites, and if anything, it’s just gotten better over time. This is the best little diner to hit when you feel like a really amazing late breakfast/lunch, and as much as I love a lil French ‘tude, the staff at Beauty’s are always happy to see you. The portions are generous, the service is fast, and it’s crazy-good down-home greasy food that doesn’t make you feel like a ball of lard is sitting in your stomach after. It should also be known that their pancakes are fluffy little discs from heaven. Seriously, if Jesus himself were back there flipping those pancakes, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Yes, please.

Me, reminiscing.

 

L’Express:

Sometimes when you’re in Montreal, all you really want is an authentic super Quebecois experience. And for that, you head to L’Express on St. Denis. It’s a fancier little bistro, usually packed with pretty people on the rather elite side of the spectrum. It’s best to make a reservation here, unless you’re with Lan-Lan, who can talk her adorably manipulative way into virtually anything and anywhere (the perks of having beautiful blonde friends! Seriously, go get one!). The food is traditional French bistro, rabbit rillete and duck confit salad, bone marrow consommé with root vegetables, roasted chicken and frites. We sat at the bar with a glass of Sancerre and watched the snazzy black vest and tie-clad bartenders do their thing. Magnifique!

Rabbit Rillette

This is Chelan. Chelan gets what she wants.

Me, trying to look like a snobby French elitist. Not bad, right?

 

Pullman:

Hey look, another wine bar! Thanks to the bartender at L’Express, we found ourselves at Pullman just a fifteen minute walk away. It’s a very chic, sexy, moody type of place you would take a date you’re looking to seal the deal with. Not as friendly and warm as Grange, and there wasn’t a lumberjack in sight, but the food is fabulous. Cod fritters, grilled cheese sandwiches with pear, steamed green beans drizzled in truffle oil and sprinkled with salt, tuna sliders with matchstick fries, and about a million other things I could have happily scarfed down. Just get a little dolled up one night and go spend some money.

Beans and Sliders

Hello, grilled cheese

 

Barraca:

A Spanish rum bar in Montreal, you ask? Why the heck not? There’s only so many Kir Royales and croque monsieur’s you can eat, right? Barraca’s worth going to when you feel like getting down and dirty with some fantastic rums and engaging in sloppy conversation with strangers. Don’t worry, they’ve got food, too, like delicious empanadas and fried potatoes with serrano ham, so you can soak up all that rummy goodness if things get crazy. It’s just a fun place to hang out, make friends, and get into a little trouble. And who doesn’t want to get into some trouble every once in awhile? I know the guy from Ireland sitting next to me who decided to start giving me life advice in the form of limericks sure did.

Devilish bartender trying to look all innocent

Cheers to new friends....?

 

and last but oh-so-not least….

Au Pied de Cochon:

This has gotta be one of the most famous restaurants in all of Canada. It’s got quite the reputation as being THE place to go and pig out to your failing heart’s content, and I’d been wanting to go for years. Anthony Bourdain, holding a steady #3 slot on my celebrity crush list, once famously devoured an entire foie gras tasting menu there courtesy of chef Martin Picard. He just so happened to be sitting at the table nearest ours, in fact (Martin, not Tony– I can call him Tony, we’re future friends), which was a serious thrill for me. Matty had flown in to help me conquer Au Pied, and thank Zeus for that because wow was that an ambitious meal. (Disclaimer: we ate foie gras. If you hate me for it, then so be it. But this is a food blog, and I eat all things except cocker spaniels, and you simply can’t go to Au Pied de Cochon without trying his foie gras. I am sorry. I will see you in hell.) We started off with a butternut squash puree straight out of the promised land with seared foie gras and cream stirred into it, and then we moved on to a goddamn foie gras poutine, french fries dotted with cheese curds and smothered in gravy and topped with seared chunks of yet more duck’s liver. After checking each other’s heartbeats to make sure we were still alive, we shared the pork chop topped with sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions, and the “traditional” (said by our server who was expecting more out of us, clearly) duck breast. Because we are crazy persons, we finished the meal with the of course in-house dessert special of the day, a mini pumpkin pie drizzled with fresh cream and vanilla ice cream alongside. Then we called 911.

Me trying to look cool in front of the chef. FAIL.

Puree

Um... yeah

PORK. CHOP.

Matt thinks about tapping out

So that happened.

 

Oh, Montreal. You have bewitched me. And tried to kill me. Man, do I ever love you.

Stay tuned…. New York’s next. God help me.