Tag Archives: food

Another Visit to the Big Apple

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you will notice that we love New York. We tend to go once or twice a year, and a few weekends ago, we drove down with Kelvin’s parents for some shopping, exploration, and good food.

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Day 1 is almost always the same. We leave bright and early (like 7 am early), stop in Binghampton, NY to fill up gas, then head to Woodbury Commons. I am usually the conservative one when it comes to shopping – the one who counts her American pennies. However, this time I hit the jackpot at J.Crew and found too many things that would significantly improve my wardrobe, including this jacketthis skirt, and these shorts. We continued our shopping at Garden State Plaza and the local Ikea (apparently they have things that we don’t have) before checking in late at night at our usual spot – the Marriott Glenpointe in Teaneck, NJ.

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Day 2 was a whirlwind. My mother-in-law and I woke up super early to take the bus into the city (167T gets us there in 20 minutes). We rushed over to line up at Dominique Ansel for these infamous cronuts, and proceeded to wait for two hours in line with other hungry patrons. Okay, some people were lining up there so they could flip their cronuts for some crazy profit…but I didn’t think the extra $30 would be worth that amount of time. Anyways, Kelvin and his dad joined us in line around 9:15, and after a few scares of sold-out cronuts, we got our hands on a box.

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The cronuts – a mix between croissants and donuts – were $5 a pop and you were allowed to buy 2. Kelvin and I shared a box of two and that was plenty for us. It was in fact delicious, and the texture was really interesting yet familiar, but I still can’t say whether it was worth the wait. I suppose it’s one of those things you must try once in your life and once you’ve had it, you’re good. The macarons were slightly disappointing. But perhaps this is because I have yet to find macarons that I really really like. Maybe I don’t know what they’re supposed to taste like? We also ordered the DKA (very good, and you can get it any time of day) and the little egg sandwich (also priced at $5 and quite yummy )

Dominique Ansel Bakery on Urbanspoon

With our stomachs full and the city beckoning, our shopping for the day commenced. We went all over town, from Muji to Uniqlo to Longchamp and Kinokuniya. But the place that really jumped out for me was Suit Supply. This is where Kelvin went to get fitted for a suit for our wedding, and he liked it so much that he decided to go back. Now, I’ve never really understood the intricacies of a suit and the differences between cuts and what not, but I imagine this is shopping heaven for the well-dressed man. We entered through this nondescript doorway and were greeted by these men whose suits were so well-tailored it blew my mind. Needless to say, Kelvin did not come away empty-handed. That suit will likely be making an appearance at the next wedding we are to attend this summer.

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Later that afternoon, we went for a stroll along High Line (so excited for their continued expansion!) and in Chelsea Market. We tried a new place for dinner – Cull and Pistol – and quite enjoyed ourselves. Kelvin and I recently discovered our love for oysters so were keen to try them again. We ordered the raw sampler, a lobster roll, and the fish tacos. The littleneck clams were not my favourite, and I found the oyster selection a bit too briny for my liking, but the shrimp was sweet and enormous. We didn’t get any crab claws because they were out :( We got extra oysters instead. The fish tacos were average, but the lobster roll was out of this world. There were huge chunks of lobster and the flavouring was just right. Overall we enjoyed our experience there. Plus, they gave us orange gelato at the end of the evening so we would leave with a sweet taste in our mouths. Two thumbs up!

cull and pistol

Cull & Pistol on Urbanspoon

We rounded off the evening with a trip to The Filling Station in Chelsea Market, where we bought some Cranberry Pear balsamic vinegar. It is the most delicious things ever and I use it all the time now. It is essentially vinaigrette and comes in a cute little bottle that’s the same size as the California Garlic Olive Oil we bought at Kingston Olive Oil Co.

Day 3 started off with service at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. My goodness what a refreshing service it was! Solo cello with piano = God’s reminder of the beauty of classical music. I was moved deeply by the worship as well as the sermon, and it was exactly what I needed. Though Psalm 23 is not an unfamiliar passage, I was reminded of our constant search for identity and how we so often are looking for it in the wrong places.

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After church, we headed to Korea Town for lunch, then to City Hall to embark on our Brooklyn Bridge adventure. I’ve never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge before, so this was very exciting! Too bad construction was happening so a lot of the areas were boarded up. Regardless, we made it across, and found ourselves in the calmer, slower-paced borough of Brooklyn. We wandered over to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, had pizza at Grimaldi’s, and even stumbled upon a food fair. Next time we come to NYC, we definitely need to spend more time here.

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After a few hours, we headed back to Manhattan to pick up some Shake Shack before bussing back to New Jersey…because you always need to eat Shake Shack when you’re in New York.

Day 4 was a big box store day. Costco. Walmart. Because apparently things are cheaper in the States…who knew? We also stopped in Syracuse at Destiny USA (we see billboards for it all the time here in Kingston) and it did not disappoint! Kelvin finally found the Vans that he had been searching all over New York for. Plus they have an indoor ropes course. And it only costs $7.99. I am going back there…just for the ropes course. Routine stop at Watertown following that for some Chipotle, and we were home before 9.

And there you have it…another successful adventure in the big city.

A Night on the Town

So some exciting news…I got an LTO! That stands for long-term occasional position, aka I am supply teaching in the same class for an extended period of time. I am so excited (and feeling so blessed) to have been given this opportunity, and I am looking forward to planning, getting to know the staff more, and then meeting all my students. That’s already more about my work than I think I’ve ever shared on this blog, but I wanted to share so much because it melds everything that I love in life into one lovely opportunity to nurture creativity.

To celebrate, Kelvin came to pick me up from school and we headed downtown for some yummy food. We made a pit stop first at the relatively new Kingston Olive Oil Co.

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In addition to over a dozen types of balsamic vinegar, the store was full of many different types of olive oil. We tried a number of them with the bread samples they provided and ended up getting an infused olive oil – California Garlic – to take home with us. We only had a little taste, but already the aroma was overwhelming. We couldn’t resist!

We wandered around the area a bit longer, then headed to one of our favourite restaurants – Le Chien Noir – for dinner. It can be a bit on the pricier side to eat here, but thanks to a gift certificate from my wonderful co-workers, this meal was on the house!

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To start, we ordered one of their daily specials – a swordfish tartare on a bok choy leaf with heirloom carrots and lotus root chips. They were heavenly. We even recommended it to the table beside us! The swordfish had a good weight to it, and it was so fresh and flavourful. The chip added this much needed crunch that just tied everything together.

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Because we were feeling particularly adventurous, we each also ordered one single oyster. We were both very hesitant, but after our first oysters, we were sold. We each ended up ordering another one! I discovered I like clean, sweeter oysters. Green Gables for the win!

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Our main courses were definitely up to par with the rest of our meal. I had the burger (cooked to medium, as you can only with local meat). Everything came together deliciously and I was happy I made the right choice. Earlier that night, I had a really hard time choosing between the burger and the chicken (fried mac and cheese!!).

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Kelvin opted for the boar chop (a smaller portion but great value and the perfect size considering all the other things we had ordered). He loved the flavour and the spatzle and was also thoroughly happy with his meal. The only thing to note was that the apple salsa (?) was a bit spicy.

We’ve been to Le Chien Noir a number of times in the past few months, but this was by far our best experience this year. We still have some money left on our gift card…and we will be back to enjoy more oysters…but this time for 30% off during happy hour.

Le Chien Noir Bistro on Urbanspoon

Chez Piggy

As much as it is nice to eat in for brunch like we shared about a little while ago, Kingston is a city that has no shortage of delicious places to eat out. Though we are trying to find more spots on the west end of town to dine at, there are tried and true establishments that remain in the downtown core.

This past Sunday, we went with our friends Gary and Joyce (their suggestion!) to Chez Piggy. Tucked away in a courtyard off Princess Street, this two-storey restaurant is absolutely quaint. We were seated upstairs in the loft, and throughout the meal, I dreamed about what it would be like to have a home that had as much character as this place. Kelvin and I had been to Chez Piggy together once for their Table d’hôte, and I had been once for a work lunch, but never had we been for brunch.

And let me tell you – Chez Piggy did not disappoint.

Gary and Kelvin both ordered the eggs benedict (sorry we didn’t take any pictures, and I couldn’t find the right ones online). I normally don’t like eggs benedict, but I would’ve eaten all of this. The eggs were just firm enough, and the sour dough didn’t get soggy at all.

undone omelette

Joyce and I both got the undone omelette (I got this photo off the internet…I forgot to take one). Because we are both not a fan of runny egg yolk, we asked for them to harden up the sunny side eggs, which they did a wonderful job of. The manchego was the perfect cheese for this, the arugula was a nice touch.

The icing on the cake? The homefries. I kid you not, those homefries were delicious. With crispy onions scattered amongst them, this was the perfect complement to our eggs.

We finished our meal fully satisfied, evidenced by our clear plates and beaming faces. The portions were just right, and reflective of the price. This is a definitely a place I feel confident recommending.

Brunch

Usually Sundays are our unwind day. We’ll go to church in the morning and then we have small group or a Bible study at night. Those 6-7 hours in between are some of the most relaxing and, often, productive times that we have to do stuff around the house. Lately, and by lately I mean the past couple of months, we’ve been finding ourselves eating out for brunch quite a bit after church.

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Now that Gary and Joyce are regularly attending our church we’ve had some additions to the brunch table and we decided that we should try to eat in every so often.

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This past week we had our weekly brunch at Pat’s place. There was this crazy smorgasbord of waffles, breakfast casserole, bacon, fruit, and of course a cheese platter! Since joining our new small group at church I’ve realized how awesome cheese+fruit platters are and so at every “home” brunch I’ll try to put a simple platter out. I also tried making sangria for the first time. It did not turn out great. In hindsight I should have put more fruit juice (maybe try a lemonade next time) and less wine. Oh well!

Fare on the Square

Today was Kingston’s annual Fare on the Square which was a celebration of local food and farmers. A bunch of restaurants had sample tastings for $2. Apparently, according to the City of Kingston, our farmer’s market is the oldest-continuous running market in North America. Who knew.

Cat and I have been meaning to go this event for the past two years but have never made it out for reasons that I now forget. It was raining and crummy today, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. And I finally got a chance to test the panorama feature out on iOS6! That poor kid on the left hand side of the shot got chopped off!

We Went on a Trip

Every year, in the middle of July, we go away for a conference for Kelvin’s work. More often than not, a trip for the 3-day conference will turn into a week-long (or more) vacation of the surrounding area. Last year, we kept it domestic, as the conference was in Vancouver. This year, however, corporate opted for a slightly wilder city – Las Vegas. Now, let it be known that Vegas is not my type of city. There is something about extreme dry heat, gluttony, and drunken, scantily clad people that just doesn’t strike my fancy. But, seeing as how we were on that side of the country anyways, we took this as an opportunity to visit a slightly cooler (in temperature…and otherwise) city – San Francisco. And since we were flying out from Syracuse, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to stopover in NYC on our return leg. Here are some things that we did.

I like to document all our trips in my journal(s). This was the first time I stuck with pen only, saving all our ticket stubs, etc. for our adventure book.

We Saw

Where to begin to share the things that we saw on this trip. Because Kelvin’s family had been to San Francisco pretty recently, I was the one who wanted to do all the touristy things. Kelvin and I got ourselves one CityPass each, and proceeded to visit many of the “must-see” destinations in San Francisco – Alcatraz, Golden Gate Park and Cal Academy, the Ferry Building, and Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39. Getting that CityPass was one of the smartest decisions, especially for our trip to Alcatraz, because all the tickets were sold out and the next available tour was for a date about a week and a half from that day we went. With our unlimited MUNI pass, we rode the streetcars, buses, and light rail everywhere.I have a National Park passport in which I collect cancellations or stamps for US national parks, and I filled a page or two with stamps on this trip. That made me happy.

We also took the Cal Train out to Mountain View, CA to visit Kelvin’s cousin who works at Google, and what FUN that was! They have delicious food, and the complex is really like a university campus. If only we had a skill set that they desired! The train ride itself was an experience – we sat in the bike car, and watched as all these people wandered up to the top deck hoping for a spot from where they could keep an eye on their valuable belongings.

I desperately wanted to ride those google bikes, but liability issues forbade me from doing so.

In Vegas, we knew we wanted to watch a show, so on our first night there, we walked over to Bellagio to eat the buffet and watch “O” at the theatre. In true Cirque du Soleil fashion, the show was great, but we had no idea what the plot was really about. I was mesmerized by the swinging seesaw and diving act, and am still reeling from the fact that people willingly threw themselves into a tiny pool from such towering heights. The next day, we took a trip with sweetours out to Grand Canyon West, which was an interesting experience. We learned a lot about plants from our bus driver (and he quizzed us later too, though we all failed horibbly). The food there was also surprisingly good, though I don’t know if we can say the same about this “Skywalk” experience. The building wasn’t even finished yet, and they really shouldn’t have charged us as much as they did.

Kelvin was much better at horseshoes than I was.

In NYC, we attempted to tone down our tourist behaviour. We paid a visit to Central Park and to the 9/11 Memorial, and we watched Lion King (which was conveniently located right across the street from our hotel). Other than that, it mostly consisted of eating and shopping, and it was wonderful.

We Savoured

Trips with Kelvin’s family always means that we will eat well. Some meals were more expensive than others, but the common vein across them all was the level of deliciousness. In San Francisco, we dined at a disproportionately large number of Asian-based establishments. In Vegas, most of our food was provided by the conference. And in New York, we mixed it up with some new and some familiar restaurants. Also, let it be known that I developed tonsillitis about a week into our trip, and it persisted until our second day in NYC. This greatly impeded my ability to eat, but alas, I made it in the end, thanks to a doctor at Duane Reade, and the beckoning of ramen noodles at Ippudo. Here are some of the places we visited:

  • Penang Garden (Chinatown, SF) Our first meal in San Fran – a go-to restaurant for Kelvin’s family with absolutely delicious mango sticky rice and deep fried banana ice cream for dessert
  • Mama’s on Washington Square (SF) We got there at 7:15 to wait in line for breakfast. The french toast and hot chocolate were delicious. And the chunks of dungeness crab that you got in your meal were absolutely huge
  • The Slanted Door (Embarcadero, SF) Asian fusion yumminess right in the Ferry Building where we ordered iced tea and forgot that they don’t sweeten it in the States
  • lers ros thai (Hayes, SF) An authentic Thai restaurant where we ordered way too much food, with a Tom Yum Goong that packed a serious punch of spice
  • Tartine Bakery (The Mission, SF) The line up was totally worth the croissants and croque monsieur
  • Pizzeria Delfina (The Mission, SF) Super thin-crust pizza that tasted like heaven, but that you need to eat before it gets cold! And they also have ridiculously good breadsticks, which they store in a drawer. It was fascinating
  • Chairman Bao (Food Truck, SF) Three words – Baked Spicy Chicken. I could have eaten that forever – it was that good
  • Kung Fu Tacos (Food Truck, SF) The food truck that made us run all over town trying to find it. Their tacos trumped their burritos, which weighed approximately 3 pounds
  • The Buffet (Vegas) Crazy long line up for a $30 meal. I am still undecided about whether I liked this place. The interior could have used an update
  • Shake Shack (8th Ave & 44th St, NYC) We ate this…twice…All I need is a Shackburger with fries. It also helped that this location was about 2 blocks from our hotel
  • Ippudo (4th Ave & 10th St, NYC) The go-to ramen place for Kelvin’s family. The first meal that I essentially inhaled once my tonsillitis started to disappear. I love ramen
  • Momofuku Noodle Bar (1st Ave & 10th St, NYC) We ordered the fried chicken – 2 whole chickens to be precise – and it was amazing. Especially the Korean flavoured one. I took some home with me and proceeded to eat them in the stations while waiting for our subway. And Milk Bar is just around the corner, to satisfy all of your cookie cravings
  • ‘Wichcraft (SF and NYC) So clearly we love ‘wichcraft, because we ate it multiple times on the trip. These sandwiches are delicious – I always get the one with pear…

We Shopped

Kelvin and his mom are big shoppers, and they are serious when they do it. Whenever we are in the city, they always make sure to pay a visit (or more) to Uniqlo. They are all about quality over quantity, but it’s best when they can get both. I, on the other hand, tend to shop at my local H&M, hesitant to spend more than $25 on a pair of jeans. Living close to Union Square was amazing in San Fran, though we wish we lived even closer. I spent many hours in that area, perusing the XXI, Levi’s, and Macy’s stores.

We Stayed

I must say – I quite enjoyed the hotels that we stayed at on this trip. When we were little, both my family and Kelvin’s family stuck with the Best Westerns, Sleep Inns, and Super 8’s of America. Then, one summer, it was as if a light went off, and our parents respectively decided that they had had enough of motels, and that it was time to fast track into the world of SPG properties. Our hotel rooms now had safes, bathrobes, duvets, and ample space, and we never looked back. The plan is to do a TripAdvisor review for each of these hotels, but I will give you the Reader’s Digest version of them here.

In San Francisco, we stayed at the Palace Hotel for 5 nights. My parents came here a few months ago and absolutely loved it, but I will rate our stay as average. For a Luxury Collection hotel, it should have been cleaner, and it shouldn’t have taken us 20 minutes to check in. However, it more than made up for everything when it came to location. The BART and MUNI were right there, with Union Square a few blocks southwest, and the Ferry Building a few blocks northeast.

In Las Vegas, we stayed at the Cosmopolitan – a beautiful and new hotel with a pool that I could have spent weeks at. We had our share of fiascos at this hotel, and I am still confused as to why there was a big window into the shower, with a curtain that could not be operated by the person actually taking the shower, but I think I would come again. I’m glad we left just before the weekend started to get rowdy.

Best thing hands down – this pool

Last but not least, we stayed at the Marriott Marquis right in Times Square – and we had a Times Square view! Another stellar location, but the hallways are not for those afraid of heights. It’s a long way down to the lobby…

Apologies for the poor quality, but this was our view!

We went to Service

Our trip spanned two Sundays, so we were able to make it out to church once in San Francisco, and once in New York. Both were more “traditional” services, but oh how they were filled with the Spirit! We sang and made music, and listened intently to these dynamic speakers. Their weekly bulletins were small magazines, complete with lead sheets, quotes, responsive reading, and perforated connection cards. We visited CityChurch on Sutter Street in San Francisco, and Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian in New York, and I would gladly return to both. As we make the transition into a new church, it is always nice to visit other churches to see how they do things, and how they leave room for God’s presence and action. I particularly loved the way that CityChurch was so cognizant of their place in the city, and how they intentionally loved on those around them.

In Summary…

This was one of the most eventful trips I’ve ever been on. I got sick, and Kelvin’s parents got sick. We got locked out of our room, but then got to ride in an Escalade. We saw a wealth of both natural and man-made wonders, and we got a chance to just relax as well. Despite the hiccups, I had a lot of fun. It had been quite a few years since I last went to Vegas and San Francisco, so to be able to see them once again was very special. Oh, and a tip for those of you travelling to SF or NYC and are planning on taking transit – make sure you download their transit apps. These were hands down the most useful tools on the trip. I’m saving them on my phone under “Travel”, just in case we venture there again in the near future :)

Burrito Amigo – adieu to the burger wars

Catherine is leaving for a ladies-only trip to Cornwall/Montreal tonight and so before she leaves we decided to have lunch and spend some time downtown. I’ve been to Burrito Amigo before (I went on Friday – you’ll note today is Sunday…yeah they’re that good) with a good friend of mine as a farewell lunch for him, but this was Cat’s first visit after I raved excitedly about how delicious it was. So, waking up this morning I had burritos on the mind and couldn’t wait to head downtown.

We’ve recently been bitten with the Mexican/Tex-mex bug from our recent trip to San Francisco and it hasn’t let up since coming back to Kingston. Imagine our elation when the burrito joint we’ve had our eye on for a while finally opened! Burrito Amigo is nestled just a stone’s throw away from the hub and Queen’s campus. This place is super easy to get to for students! The menu is simple and fresh, and to Catherine’s delight is printed on craft card stock.

I went with a dark meat chicken burrito this time, which is steeped in a mustard-thyme marinade, with cilantro-lime rice, black beans fried in bacon fat, pico de gallo, fresh red salsa, guacamole, sour cream, monterey jack cheese, lettuce, and chipotle garlic mayo. Catherine went for the brisket burrito, which is double cooked in their signature spice rub, and topped it with everything I had sans guacamole and chipotle garlic mayo. In all honesty, I think burritos are the perfect meal – possibly even a contender for my pretend death row meal. I think what the Burrito Amigo guys are doing is great – hitting a niche that went relatively unfilled and serving up some of the meanest burritos in the Limestone City.

As I was eating I was conflicted because on one hand I would love to see these guys expand their menu a bit more (fresh tortilla chips to go with those signature salsas, guys!! salsa verde, perhaps?! or carne asada tacos!) but on the other hand why mess with success? Their business and their brand is still in its infancy so I can understand the simplicity of what they’re currently offering to Kingston. The owner and head chef are a couple of the most down to earth guys we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Chris Tringham and Ben Tennant seem like the kind of guys that you would want to kick back a couple of cervezas with and play some ultimate frisbee or something. Cat and I were chatting about how young these guys are and how awesome it is that they’re putting themselves out there like this. Owning a restaurant, let alone a small business, is no easy task – especially in a downtown core that sees so much tenant turnover. Speaking as a small business owner myself I have to hand it to Chris and Ben for being a couple of the coolest and bravest hombres on the restaurant scene in Kingston.

Cat and I are always down for promoting downtown businesses on our blog because we want our downtown to succeed. I mentioned to Chris that there are some food events/festivals that happen downtown that they should consider getting involved with to build their brand awareness more. They are the perfect business (easy to make, mobile food) to be using social media to their advantage in order to create hype around their business. This past Saturday was our city’s annual downtown promenade where they make Princess Street pedestrian only. Ben mentioned that they rented some tables in expectation of the crowds but very few people actually used them. Calculated financial risks are always going to be a part of any start up but I appreciate their willingness to try different things. Kingstonians are not exactly known for their adventurous spirit food-wise, so I hope Ben and Chris really try some creative ways to draw us townies in.

In the meantime, we’ll be telling our friends, family, co-workers, and anyone who stops by our blog to mosey on down to Burrito Amigo (337 Princess Street) to eat some amazing food and chat with some really great guys.

Burrito Amigo on Urbanspoon

Montreal Stop Three – Holder Restaurant (Value in Old Montreal)

After a few leisurely rounds of snow tubing at Mont Royal and a lovely stroll along the ports of Old Montreal, we were eager to visit our third stop on this Montreal food whirlwind. Though we had made reservations for 6:30, we found ourselves at the restaurant well before then, but they were still able to seat us right away. There is no shortage of fantastic restaurants in the Old Montreal area, but we chose to check out Holder because their menu looked great, the reviews were pretty consistent, and the prices were very reasonable.

atmosphere

When you first enter the building that Holder is in, it feels very much like an office building, with a store on the right and Holder on the left. That was a little bit weird, but once you enter the restaurant, you will find that it has a very nice ambiance, with appropriate lighting and separate bar and dining areas. As we were really early, there weren’t very many people in the room.

Service was great at the start. The server was very affirming of our selections and made great recommendations. However, as the restaurant filled up, service started to suffer, and by the end of our evening, we were waiting a ridiculously long time for the server to come around to our table.

what we ordered

Just to put it out there, Holder has a GREAT menu. We literally spent 20 minutes trying to decide what to eat, and we had to ask the server for more time because we just couldn’t decide. The food won us over right from the beginning…even with the bread basket. The portion sizes were great, and the flavour very palpable.

I am not usually a wine drinker but M and guy C thought it would be nice to get something so we got a bottle of 2009 Riesling white wine. I will withhold my comment on the wine, because I really don’t know how to appreciate it, and I don’t want to give an uninformed decision when it comes to this.

Despite changing my mind multiple times when it came to what dish I should get as my appetizer, I finally decided to get the french onion soup ($9.25) to start. A very large soup, It was deliciously subtle, staying true to its flavour without being super salty or cheesy. One of the better french onion soups that I’ve had in my lifetime.

K had the beef tartare ($10.25). I’ve never had beef tartare before, but I  have always wanted to try it. K thought that the appetizer presented itself as a pleasant surprise – the texture was perfect and the use of onions to punctuate the dish was a welcome touch. The taste was nice with an almost sour and spicy ending. After having some myself, I personally wouldn’t order it on my own, but definitely as a sharing appetizer.

On to the main course. I went with one of the evening specials – the Filet Mignon (I believe it was $32). It came with sweet potato puree and asparagus and a horseradish-esque sauce.  The meat was so very tender, cooked medium rare instead of medium like I asked, but still so good. The sauce paired really well with the meat, and needless to say, I was in beef heaven.

K got the regular grilled steak ($19. 75) with shallots and house fries. You can see that they really loaded those fries on. Unfortunately, K had actually asked for the fries to be switched to green beans and they forgot about, but as a consolation, they gave the beans to him on the house. The meat wasn’t anything to write home about, but it was filling.

overall

4.0 (out of 5) for food

4.0 (out of 5) for atmosphere

Holder has a really nice and lively atmosphere without being snooty. The prices are very reasonable, and we will definitely be coming here again. There are so many appetizers that we still want to try! Definitely worth a visit, visit Holder at 407, McGill Street in Montreal or take a look at their website (http://www.restaurantholder.com).

C

Holder on Urbanspoon

Montreal Stop Two – La Banquise (poutines for all!)

No visit to Montreal is complete without a visit to La Banquise. This eatery is located in another hip area of Montreal (but honestly, what part of Montreal isn’t hip?), and it almost jumps out at you in an odd sort of way. The restaurant is seemingly housed in a very large building, and upon entering, you are most likely going to encounter some sort of line up.

atmosphere

Unlike our visit to Schwartz’s, we had to wait for around 10 minutes to get a table. The tables are colourful, the atmosphere is vibrant, and the collection of people is eclectic. Young families, students, and friends alike all gather at La Banquise for one thing: poutine. Sure you might hear orders for burgers or even salads (whaaaat??) But let’s be real, were here for the poutine.

what we ordered

On their delightfully yellow menu you’ll find an enormous variety of poutines. We made our way through three different ones: the classic, rachel, and one frighteningly named the t-rex (yeah, the carnivorous prehistoric predator). In general, the fries are a little sweet, and the curds have an awesome rubberiness to them.

C’s fave was the Classic ($ 5.80). Despite not really having an affinity for poutine, she loved it for the back to basics look and taste. Nothing like some good fries, curds, and gravy.

The Rachel ($ 6.95) was our veggie option, and the others really liked it. It was the classic, but with mushrooms, onions, and green peppers on it as well. You still don’t feel particularly healthy eating it, but the flavour is good.

Last but not least, this was the T-rex ($ 8.55). Despite being so meat-heavy, it was not too salty! Loaded with a smorgasbord of meat, including pepperoni, ground beef, bacon, and sausage, this came in at a close second for C.

overall

3.5 (out of 5) for food

3.0 (out of 5) for atmosphere

The portions are really large here (and we only got the regular), and we warn that you will most likely have trouble finishing a whole one on your own if you mean for it to be a snack. However, this was a great place for a Montreal favourite, and it really brought us back to our memories of heart poutine at the chalet after a whole day of tiring skiing. Check it out for yourself at 994, Rachel Est, Montréal (http://www.restolabanquise.com).

C and K

Resto la Banquise on Urbanspoon

Montreal Stop One – Schwartz’s (but really, who doesn’t stop here?)

Yes! You read that right! We review restaurants in other cities too, make sure you keep an eye out for Vancouver in the future ;)

Over the weekend a small group of our friends decided to mosey on over to Montreal for the day to have some fun and eat some delicious food. Several of our friends have discovered our secret restaurant blog, so during our trip C and I were excited to incorporate a lot of their opinions and thoughts into our Montreal posts. So along with mine and C’s dishes you also get to see M, J, and guy-C’s!

atmosphere

Out of our group (and in our relationship haha) C is the events-planner…this girl loves to plan, so she organized a food-filled itinerary for us and off we went on Saturday morning. Our first stop? Schwartz’s for some delicious (oh my word how delicious) world-famous smoked meat. Now this is where we knew it was going to be an amazing trip. We rolled into Montreal just before 12 and we were able to park ridiculously close to the deli AND we beat the lunch rush (I wish I had taken a picture of the line into the deli after we ate…it was INSANE). We were seated promptly and just as promptly identified as foreigners from the far land of Ontario. One more thing to note is that we were going on a relatively cold winter day and when we opened the door to the deli and that warm, yummy, smoked meaty air wafted into our nostrils we knew that we were in for a good snack.

Our attention was drawn to the simple menu as well as the eclectic group of patrons that Schwartz serves. They seat everyone canteen style meaning that you might be just trying to get your sandwich fix on, but you just might make a new friend while discussing current events and the deliciousity of the sandwiches. I think one of the greatest things about this place is the way that Montrealers talk about it. EVERYONE and their grandmothers knows about Schwartz’s and I think it’s neat for a really great food product to be a unifying thing for a city.

what we got

Anyways. Between the five of us we decided to only get three sandwiches ($5.90/sandwich), since we had plans to go to another restaurant for more food right after eating at Schwartz’s. Beware though! They make it a rule to charge an extra $1.50/person for those patrons who decide to share their wares. When you order their smoked meat you have the option of different cuts: lean, medium, or fatty. We ordered two mediums and one fatty (pffft lean). The medium cut is pictured below.

Now, I have to be incredibly insistent on this guys. Get the FATTY. Please. Just trust me. C is normally anti-fatty meats and she actually enjoyed it much more than the medium cut. M, J, and guy-C also thought that the fatty was the better of the cuts too! Now they all taste the same, but the texture and juiciness and succulentness of the fatty cut is just almost other worldly. It really does make the difference in this sandwich.

Another thing with these sandwiches is you’ll notice the bread:meat ratio is almost borderline impossibly ridiculous. Don’t worry. The actual flavour of the meat is really full and the mustard that they serve is the perfect way to cut into that fullness of the meat. I’m not normally a mustard guy but Schwartz’s has been in business for over 80 years, so I’d trust them on this one.

Schwartz’s also sells blocks of their smoked brisket to be steamed at home right next door, which is exactly where we strolled on over to after our meal. Guy-C and myself couldn’t resist bringing some back with us so that we could both have delicious smoked brisket sandwiches at our leisure (go figure that the only guys on the trip would be ultra-excited about buying massive hunks of smoked brisket haha). Their smoked meat is sold at a unit price of $11.99/lb so buying it can definitely get pricy…but this delicious ambrosia in meat-form is definitely worth it. My only complaint is that I wasn’t able to find any fatty cuts so I had to settle for a medium cut.

overall

4.0 (out of 5) for food

3.0 (out of 5) for atmosphere

I know those scores seem a bit high for a small and cramped place like Schwartz’s but you have to take these scores as representations of the restaurants themselves. While Schwartz’s was very much a deli, being loud and cramped…it was quaint and a nice unifying point for the community of Montreal. It is a deli after all, right?

C and I will definitely be back to visit Schwartz’s and if we can’t manage to get a seat then we will have to get it to go or just buy gigantic blocks of it to bring back home. Speaking of which, we are making what’s left of my block for dinner tonight. Hm, I wonder if they can ship some to Kingston…

Stay tuned for more posts from Montreal ;)

K

Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Windmills – Casual Fine Dining

Today, after a busy morning at church, K and I decided to head to Windmills for some lunch. Though we’ve been here before, we haven’t visited in quite a while. Interesting side note: Windmills was the first restaurant I ate in when I arrived in Kingston after I got my acceptance to Queen’s. I was in town with my family for SOAR, and we decided to come here for a quick bite.

atmosphere

Despite being close to 2 pm, the place was still bustling. Windmills has a very lively atmosphere in general. It’s a nice place for lunch or brunch, but we haven’t been for dinner because it always seems uncharacteristically expensive for what you’re really getting. For those of you who need (or just enjoy) alternative eating options, Windmills is a very accommodating place. There are vegetarian and gluten-free options. In fact, back in September when K and I decided to try out a holistic diet stint, we definitely contemplated stopping in for some gluten-free pasta.

The restaurant itself is somewhat awkwardly arranged, with bankettes, regular tables, booths, bar stools, and a whole assortment of seating options. It is also nice that they put up local art, which they do change every so often. I asked K if he thought anyone actually bought the art, and he said he would if he had $350 lying around. Unfortunately, we do not, so the pieces continue to hang artistically on the walls.

Also, for those of you who are interested, Windmills has a different deal every day. K and I aren’t really the wine-drinking types, so many of these deals don’t have much of a draw for us, but it’s worth a look!

what we ordered

In the past, we’ve given their breakfasts a try. They are generally quite tasty, though a little pricy for what you’re getting. The burgers also are not bad. Today, K got the Curried Chicken Wrap (9.95) and I opted for the Cajun Chicken Wrap (9.75). Both come with either a soup, salad, or fries. A solid deal for a filling meal.

This is the Cajun Chicken Wrap. The soup of the day was a cream soup with potatoes, broccoli, spinach, and some other veggies. It was nice and hot, with lots in it, but it fell flat in flavour. The wrap, on the other hand, was quite flavourful. However, as someone who eats her wraps by biting one side, then the other, I found it awkward to alternate between wet and dry sides of the wrap. I would definitely recommend trying to get a whole bite of the wrap to lessen the strange oscillation in texture.

This is K’s Curried Chicken Wrap. The flavour was good, but it lacked a bit of chicken. The fruit in the wrap (particularly the grapes and the apples) added a nice crispness to the wrap, which K really liked. I tried a bit of it, but my bias still leaned towards the delicious curried chicken wrap at Aquaterra. The two really are not comparable. The fries were alright, and we appreciated that they retained their potato-y goodness despite being fried.

overall

3 (out of 5) for food

3.5 (out of 5) for atmosphere

Windmills isn’t somewhere we would go regularly, but it isn’t all that bad either. We gave the joint a 3 for food, taking into consideration what we know of the place from our visits in the past. Try it out for yourselves when you get a chance. Windmills is located at the corner of Montreal and Princess (184 Princess Street).

Windmills Cafe on Urbanspoon

Five Guys Burgers and Fries – Real Idaho Potatoes

Today, K and I ventured downtown to check out a burger joint that we have been meaning to review for a while. He had been to the one in Kingston once before, but had also tried out the chain elsewhere in the States. I, on the other hand, was a Five Guys virgin.

atmosphere

Despite it being a cold and snowy night, the place was hopping with people. It was a pleasantly diverse crowd, with locals, families, young couples, and even some military folk dressed in their garb. As you walk in, you head straight for the cash, where they take your order. The menu is very simple, with four regular burgers to choose from (hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon burger, or bacon cheeseburger) and four little burgers (with the same variety). The regular burgers use two patties, while the little burgers use one. You can also get one of two sizes of soft drinks (which you fill up on your own – and refills are free), and one of two sizes of fries. The fries can be seasoned either Five Guys style (just salt) or Cajun style. The kitchen is entirely open for all to see, and it is impeccably clean and efficient. The eating area, on the other hand, though bright, was in need of a cleaning. This probably had to do with the weather outside, and the fact that everyone is welcome to munch on some free peanuts while they wait. I definitely spotted some peanut shell families gathering underneath the tables.

what we ordered

A word of caution: don’t throw out your receipts too quickly! I am a person who does not hang onto receipts, so in my haste, I threw it out before I got my order. Luckily, I remembered the order number, and I got my order just the same. However, if you are not inclined to remember your order number, make sure you keep your receipt!

Before we start talking about the food, note the picture above – a number two sticker is on my burger. This is a testament to the true efficiency of the joint. Every order is accompanied by a receipt number, and within that order, each burger is numbered so you know whose is whose!! This is especially helpful if you are ordering burgers for a whole bunch of people, or if people get the same burger, but with different toppings. Now, on to the good stuff…

This is the Little Cheeseburger, with ketchup, lettuce, grilled onions, and grilled mushrooms (4.79). Oh! I forgot to mention that all the toppings come free of charge – you just tell them what you want! K enjoyed his burger, but he says that if he were to do it again, he would just go for the regular burgers.

This is the Little Bacon Burger, with lettuce, ketchup, mustard, grilled onions, and grilled mushrooms (4.79). I definitely thought I ordered a Little Bacon Cheeseburger instead, but alas, the receipt (and my sandwich) told me otherwise. The burger was okay, but I didn’t find anything spectacular to rave about. The grilled mushrooms are a nice addition, and they do toast the buns, but I found that the bottom bun almost disappeared amidst the rest of the burger. K has much better burger-eating technique than I do, so I found myself wiping my fingers after almost every bite.

We cannot have burgers without fries! So, we ordered a portion of Five Guys style large fries (2.29). By the cash, they have a whiteboard where they write down where the potatoes are from for the day. Today, they were from Place Farms in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The fries were delicious, and they tasted oh so potato-ey. I definitely enjoyed them.

We also ordered a drink, a large drink (2.29), but you could technically order a regular drink, since you get free refills. It’s up to you! The selection of soft drinks is nothing to rave about either, but again, it is part of a complete burger combo.

After eating all this, I was still a little bit hungry, so we decided to order a Regular Hamburger (6.29). If you are someone with a medium to large appetite, I would  definitely suggest getting the Regular burgers instead.

This is our Regular Hamburger, with grilled onions, regular onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, and lettuce. Note the two patties. This burger was much better than the other two. It was juicier, had a fuller flavour, and just generally more enjoyable. With the two patties together, you could really taste that the patties were homemade – the ground beef flavour was much more distinct. I would definitely recommend you give this one a try. As we finished up, we felt much more satisfied, and it was a great way to end the meal.

overall

3 (out of 5) for food

1.5 (out of 5) for atmosphere

Disclaimer: The reason we gave Five Guys such a low mark for atmosphere was because of the nature of the place. At its heart, Five Guys is a fast food joint, and not a place you would go for a sit-down dinner (this is not to say that only fancy places will get a good rating for atmosphere).

That being said, Five Guys is a nice alternative to the otherwise unhealthy fast food options that we are given in today’s world. We will probably be back sometime (or at least, K will, in the spring time, once softball season begins).

Check it out for yourself at 185 Princess Street (Bagot and Princess)!

C

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon