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Food

The Wild, Wild East

Posted by Amie / June 28, 2010

Cafe Velo QuebecEast of St-Denis...maybe it's not that wild, but it is diverse and changing - a brew pub to rival Dieu du Ciel, specialty cheese and sausage shops, Italian bars, and a very eco-friendly bike cafe were some of the highlights of the journey. Starting at Parc Lafontaine and making it up de Lorimier to Jean-Talon, Gabby and I passed through the chaotic Mont-Royal, the calm and quaint Laurier, and the far reaches of Little Italy, with worse-for-wear residential areas marking the ends of the path. We didn't make it that far east, I know, but there were a whole lot of different worlds and neighbourhoods crammed into that stretch of city in the process of changing, developing, and gentrifying, with all the good and bad that comes along with that. So Gabby and I set out to discover for ourselves what the area had to offer. I get to write about the food. Gabby gets to write about the rest.

Cafe Velo QuebecOur first stop was the Café Velo Quebec, just on the north side of Parc Lafontaine (1251 Rachel East). In addition to a café, the Velo Quebec building is the place to go if you're planning a cycling trip either in Quebec or abroad. It houses a boutique full of guidebooks and maps (in addition to the café's lamps which are actually maps of the Montreal bike paths), a bike travel agency, as well as the offices of a whole lot of the city's bike-related companies, including the publishing company Velo Quebec Editions. Probably these offices have stationary bikes instead of desk chairs. The café part of the building is a huge draw for the loyal clientele of obsessed cyclists, neighbourhood locals, and anyone looking for an affordable, homemade meal. It's not all delicious, but it's certainly made with good intentions.
Cafe Velo Quebec Sandwich CounterThe sandwiches all look amazing. The bread really is as good as it looks - freshly heated in a panini press to give it perfect grill marks and bring out the melted butter taste of the flaky dough - but the homemade vege-pate tastes a bit like textured nothing (I also really hope I'm wrong about there being butter in the bread since it's used for one of only a few vegetarian sandwich offerings. If you're vegan, you may be stuck with the ubiquitous hummous option).20100515_Vege Pate Sandwich.jpgTurns out the pate is mostly potato, and, well, therein lies the cause of the textured nothing problem. Maybe they should try sweet potato next time, or some spices. The spinach and tomato inside are very fresh and flavourful, but can't save the sandwich. Cafe Velo Quebec Cheese SandwichOther options with things that have a taste, like cheese, are bound to fare better. Choose your sandwich wisely.
Cafe Velo Quebec Pear and Chocolate Chip MuffinOr choose a muffin. The muffin options change daily, but the day we went there was an incredibly moist pear and chocolate chip version. It was still a little warm, and the chocolate made it feel like dessert for lunch.

The sandwich by itself is a little expensive for the size, but add on a side salad and beverage and you get a nice little lunch deal out of it. Just make sure you don't get over-charged. The staff didn't know anything about the sandwich/salad/beverage special, which was printed on the board outside on the terrasse. Also skip the beet side salad if it looks like it's been sitting there too long, like it did when we went. You should probably also ask for the salad dressing for your organic greens on the side, since it's just bland oil with a tiny bit of watery raspberry puree. Fortunately the organic lettuce actually tastes like something, so there's hope for the salad if the dressing was just having an off-day.
Cafe Velo Quebec Fruit Tarte and Chocolate MousseThe desserts (the actual ones, since muffins don't count, even if they have chocolate), like the sandwiches, look incredible, but after the let-down of the vege-pate I didn't want to get my hopes up. The chocolate mousse turned out to be more air than chocolate, but it wasn't bad. Where the muffin had benefited from not being too sweet (the pears did all the work), the chocolate mousse needed, but didn't receive, a bit of an extra kick. The butter was pretty mild in the icing, so it wasn't particularly tasty, and while the cake was light and fluffy, it didn't shout "chocolate". The fruit tart fared much better. The butter in the crust was very nice and rich this time. It had a perfect texture and cracked nicely around the fluted edge. The blueberries were even Quebec blueberries, the tangy, sweet little ones, not the big New Jersey ones that taste like nothing (a different kind of nothing than the potatoes, mind you, but nothing none the less). After getting excited about how good the blueberries were it was really sad to find that the raspberries were still frozen (it's neither raspberry season nor blueberry season quite yet), and the cherries were pretty bland. At least they weren't bottled maraschinos.
Cafe Velo Quebec CounterStill, I like this café. You can get Bierbrier, a good Montreal micro-brew, as well as a few other local micro-brews, you don't have to even think about preservatives since it's all fresh and homemade, and it's not really expensive. I'd stop here for a muffin, or maybe a tart in the middle of summer when more fresh fruit is available. I'd also cross my fingers and hope that the other sandwiches are better since it's harder to mess up meat and cheese. Those aren't made from potato.. It's a fun place to hang out - very relaxed - and there's free WiFi.

Cafe Velo Quebec
1251 Rachel East
Hours: Mon-Thurs 8:30am-7pm, Fri 8:30am-8pm, Sat-Sun 9am-8pm
www.velo.qc.ca
514 521-8356
Saum-MomWhen you see a name like Saum-Mom, you do a double take. Does it have to do with salmon or moms or neither? I ran into this shop when it used to be further south, but now it has moved north to Papineau to just south of Mont-Royal (4378 Papineau). These guys call themselves "salmon artisans", and I believe it. Saum-Mom CounterThe products they offer include smoked salmon, gravlax (there's a difference. Gravlax is cured with sugar and salt instead of smoked), tartar, pate (very much not potato), ravioli, jerky and rillettes. It's a bit expensive but once you take a sample of the jerky you'll understand why it's worth it. They also cater (platters of all their smoked, cured, pureed, and dehydrated salmon options combined with capers, croutons and seaweed salad), and of course, they offer the best fresh salmon (Atlantic) you can buy in the area. If you like supporting local, here's where to do it, though I'm kind of on the fence about how "local" the business can be since it sells salmon that obviously isn't caught in Quebec. Why not use trout that actually comes from the province?

Saum-Mom

4378 Papineau
514-564-1116
Sucrerie du SoleilSugar is addictive. Once it's in your system you're in trouble. Your body realizes how wonderful it is and sends you in search of more. So after we'd had our share of desserts at Café Velo Quebec, the Sucrerie du Soleil seemed like heaven. Located on Mont-Royal a few blocks east of Papineau (1951 Mont-Royal East), this bulk candy and chocolate shop is very dangerous, and cheap. Remember warheads? The sour on the outside, sweet on the inside candy? Yeah, they have those, along with giant gumballs, and every flavour of chewable, crunchable candy and sweets, including truffles (nowhere near artisanal, but certainly not bad), and, of course, Pez. Gabby was thoughtful enough to by a broad array of candies to help us get through recording the Midnight Poutine podcast that day. She did offer to share, being the nice person that she is. They even lasted until the recording.

Sucrerie du Soleil
1951 Mont-Royal
514-529-8688
La Toulouse et l'italienneLa Toulouse et L'Italienne is a brand new gourmet sausage shop located at the corner of Laurier and De Lorimier. If I'd had any need for sausages that day this is where I would have bought them. I'm sure it's going to do well, since it offers enough interesting varieties of the grilled specialty that Quebecers love to compete with Saucissier W.J Walter, the sausage place in the Atwater Market.

La Toulouse et L'Italienne
2055 Laurier East
514-807-1835
Broue Pub BrouhahaI didn't think there was another brew pub in the Plateau that could match Dieu du Ciel. I'd sworn by its atmosphere (and its beer) for years. Now I have another place to carefully consider while sipping a pint of the house brew: Broue Pub Brouhaha (5860 de Lorimier, south of Rosemont). Like Dieu du Ciel, you probably won't be able to find a table right away at this hole in the wall, especially if you come too late in the evening, but it's worth the wait. A huge selection of house beers, a huge selection of other Quebec microbrews and imports, and a huge selection of whiskeys make this a good drinking establishment to explore. It's not fancy but it's far from a dive, so you can come for a casual beer with friends, or a special occasion beer-sampling experience. The wooden chairs and cosy atmosphere make you feel at home, whether you sit at a table with friends or pull up a stool at the bar. Plus there's pizza on the menu (a bit of a step above the offerings at Dieu du Ciel, but you don't go there for the food either) and they show the afternoon games of the World Cup. There's also a room in the back with a projector where they intentionally only screen ridiculous films. Check out the Broue Pub Haha facebook page for details. Watching bad movies with friends is always great, but watching bad movies with people you've never met before while drinking good beer will make you new friends by the end of the night. Go for one drink here and you'll probably find yourself spending the evening...happily.

Broue Pub Brouhaha

5860 de Lorimier
Hours: Mon-Sat 3pm-3am, Sun 3pm-1am
Fromages de ChoixI kind of want to be the kind of old lady who spends the afternoon on the terrasse of a boulangerie, chatting with my old lady friends about young people and their antics, all while eating freshly baked croissants. Fromages de Choix (2101 Beaubien East, at de Lorimier is the place I would do that. Currently, in my relative youth, it's the place I would buy my cheese, or stop in for a quick croissant or pizza, and leave the chatting part out of it.. Besides, old women don't eat submarines. Or drink Spruce Beer. This is definitely a young person place too...maybe the older ladies just got to the outside tables first, feisty women that they are.

Fromages de Choix

2101 Beaubien East
514-729-2002

It was a really long walk up to Belanger (just south of Jean-Talon), and as sorry as we were to not make it further east on the street (I really wanted to check out the potential of "Petit Maghreb" - a string of North African businesses along Jean-Talon between St-Michel and Pie IX) we really needed something cool to drink before heading to record the podcast (hyperlink: http://www.midnightpoutine.ca/weekend_playlist_podcast/). We saw a big screen playing the World Cup through a window in a very traditional Italian bar and we wandered in.
MontallegroMontallegro is where you stop for your espresso in the morning if you're Italian and live in this area. It's also where you go for your coffee break from work, for your afternoon cappuccino, and for long Saturday afternoons. The video lottery machines in the back have a constant clientele, but the friendly bar service up front helps the atmosphere. The TV screens are huge, and the espresso is very good. Don't expect to see a whole lot of women hanging out there, but in true Italian sports bar style, but we certainly felt welcome...

Montallegro
1991 rue Belanger
514-721-7269

There's always something more to see in this city...

Discussion

24 Comments

Lisa Q / June 30, 2010 at 08:19 am
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Really informative post. I can't wait to visit this new bar next time I'm in town, as I can't imagine any place giving Dieu du Ciel a run for it's money! I heartily support more neighborhood explorations.
Amie replying to a comment from Lisa Q / June 30, 2010 at 08:45 am
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Thanks! There are so many changing areas in the city that you could walk endlessly. By the time you made it back to the place where you started, it would be different and you'd need to start all over again.
K MONT / June 30, 2010 at 12:24 pm
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