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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Family Fun in Montreal

My son Thomas is home from Boston University on Spring Break. He and I decided to go to Quebec to get away. I'll be honest; I'm not sure how that happened, but I'm all for it.

We drove up yesterday: stopped at Brown's Brewing in Troy (formerly the Troy Brewpub, same owners), where I enjoyed my usual -- Porter! -- and Thomas had...iced tea. Quebec's only hours away, fella! We had a beautiful run up through the Adirondacks, no worries, and scooted into Plattsburgh to view the deep blue waters of Champlain (and fill up on relatively cheap diesel before entering The Dominion of Canada). The border crossing was, for a change, uneventful, and we drove north across the plains to Montreal.

We checked into Le Cartier B-and-B, a neat little place, and got the restaurant lecture for our host, Richard. The man eats out 365 days a year, he said, so we listened. Which is how we wound up going to Au Petit Extra, and had a great meal, and a great experience for the young man. Pretty Quebecois waitresses who all looked like they could be Cathy's cousins: dark hair, light complexion, slightly elfin features. We got the prix fixe dinner, which came with 6-8 choices for the first and second courses, five dessert choices/or a cheese plate, and plentiful delicious slices of baguette. The menu was all in French -- no kiddy English version -- but we managed to figure out what we wanted between Thomas's 1.5 semesters and my smattering of eating French.

We've had some glass-holding lessons since...
We ordered: for him, soup de poisson, duck confit and salad, creme brulee; for me, veal terrine in gelee, bouillabaisse, and the cheese plate, and a half liter of house red (the waitress approved of the choice of red; I felt smart for a moment). I waited to see what he'd think. Duck confit, creme brulee, the bread: thumbs up. Fish soup (a wonderful, smoky, thick thing), house red wine? Okay, but maybe not so much. My veal terrine? Definitely not for him. Not cheap, but a great experience. (My bouillabaisse and the cheese plate were very nice as well, BTW.) And we called it a day.

This morning I got some work done, as did he, and then took a cab to the Brasserie McAuslan, where master brewer Dave Brophy -- one of the original five employees -- showed me an almost fanatical devotion to quality and consistency. No wonder I've never had a disappointing McAuslan Oatmeal Stout. Fascinating comment: they contract brew Moosehead for Quebec, and Dave said that they did an extensive diacetyl rest for the lager. Then he referred to the McAuslan beers -- done in open fermentation tanks with Ringwood yeast -- and said that, of course, they have a different character; i.e., diacetyl is expected there. Well, there you are.

Thomas contemplates the menu at Saint-Bock; brewery is in the far background
Back to the room (cabbing it so as not to lose our parking space), and Thomas was about ready to go. We walked to Le Saint-Bock for lunch. I ordered an Encensoir, which was a nice 5% smoked lager; Thomas got an iced tea. About two minutes later it hits him: DOH! He could have had a beer! At which point he grabs my rauchbier, sips it, and says he'll have one of those. Good man! And he finished it, too.

After that, we slipped down into "The Underground City." Not really an attraction, much as it sounds it. Came up and headed up St. Laurent. There are lots of hipster clothing stores there, I told Thomas (and I can get to Schwartz's, I told myself). And you know, it worked out. We walked all the way up, he got to shop, and then we went to Schwartz's and got smoked meat sammiches and Cott's black cherry soda, a weirdly wonderful combo. Then we walked over to St. Denis, stopped in a Converse/Doc Marten store, and then had a great time in a Quebec artisanal store, talking bear teeth and gypsy swing with the owner while the "annual" anti-police protest marched loudly by outside.

And...that's when I realized I'd left my debit card in the ATM that morning. So we walked down to L'amère à boire to regroup and get info to cancel the card. I had the current Projet Elephant beer, a 3.6% Tmavé dark lager, wonderfully session. Thomas had a pilsner. I got the info I needed, canceled the card...and Thomas realized he'd left a shirt he'd bought at Schwartz's. So back up St. Laurent, and whattayaknow, they had it for him! Bravo, Schwartz's!

Dinnertime. Okay, beer time. Reservoir is practically around the corner, so we went, and I got a big glass of Noire, the dry stout that I swear is the best thing they make. We also had grilled cheese: raclette and sweated onions on grilled baguette. Nummy.

We were beat. Yes, beer geekerie: no Dieu du Ciel. I've been; it's great, but it's a long way off, and to be honest, I'd rather have spent much of the day drinking the Elephant beer, or even going to Benelux. Or maybe I'm just ornery. Anyway, we split a poutine, one more Montreal thing for the boy to experience, and called it a day. And now I'm going to bed. Good night!


Deuane said...

Well done Lew! Hey, no DDC is OK...sounds like you are having a nice time without. Plus, no poutine death march! ;-)

Enjoy and safe travels.

Alan said...

"Leeeeeeeewwww... steam-ay... steam-ay..."

That and unpasturized goat cheese.

Anonymous said...

sounds wonderful! if the kid already likes rauchbier, you've raised him right....btw I love the Brown's Oatmeal Stout and IPA, nice to see them get a mention on here.

Gary Gillman said...

Very good Lew, you hit some high spots, beer-related and other. Alan is suggesting steamed hot dogs as an option for another visit, with which I heartily concur. The Montreal Pool Room still offers the best ones, and carries on albeit in a different location and still sans pool table. There are many outlets downtown now to get something similar especially at the Lafleur restaurants. Funny thing, but like smoked meat, beer doesn't really go with that. Spruce beer or Pepsi is best I'd say, or orange soda, or cream soda (stand-bys when I grew up in Montreal).

You did have poutine, which covers one of the steamed hot dog bases (the fries). There was no poutine in Montreal in the 60's and 70's, or not that I remember. It came in later from the countryside.

You will have to return, summer is a great time.


Lee Botschaner said...

It seems like Montreal has really progressed from when I was there about 10 years ago it didnt seem to have much of a beer presence, just the nationals, or perhaps I just wasn't looking at the right spots on my short visit.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to point out how great this post is. I'm 32 now, have one kid of my own (9 mo. old) and have been thinking more and more in the past 9 months about my dad. Speaking as a young man who is lucky enough to have a dad who took me to all sorts of places, none overly exotic, on the budget we had as a kid and always found the time to do "stuff" with me and my brother and sister, it's just nice to read this. You mention your son enough that it sounds like you have a great relationship, but as can always happen, sometimes we don't think enough to say thanks or verbalize what it means to us to spend time with dad. Know that no matter how much your son tells you (or doesn't) these are the times that mean so much, at least they do to me and my dad. And, as bright as the young man sounds to be, I'm sure someday he'll be raising his own son or daughter and hoping to do dad proud, I know I do.