Reflections on la Belle Provence

July 19, 2010

Well, ok, actually just Montreal.  But la belle provence sounds so much prettier.  DH and I went to Montreal a few weeks ago for an extra long weekend.  We rented a beautiful condo from VRBO that was nicer than our house and walked until our feet bled.  Or rather my feet.  Yes they actually bled.  When will I learn that any holiday with DH means death marches and pretty shoes just won’t cut it?  Comfortable really does trump cute when I’m walking 20km or more a day.

 So I’ve always put off going to Montreal.  I don’t speak French well and I’ve always been intimidated by the fact that the women are said to be beautiful and well-dressed.  I have some good days for sure but my well-dressed days are behind me.  I work at a not-for-profit, I wear yoga pants some days.

But on this trip I had a lot of illusions shattered.  The women are pretty much the same as women everywhere…some are beautiful, most are attractive and some are “breath taking” a la Seinfeld.  And as for being well dressed….I saw a lot of cute sundresses but nothing that knocked my socks off.  I could have been in Toronto to be honest for all the fashion forwardness I saw.  Sure people looked nice but they looked like people in any large city anywhere in the developed world.  There were NO goth/emo types though and that was quite refreshing.  When it’s 40C+ the last thing I want to see is some idiot parading around in black and purple tights and a leather trench coat.

I did notice that Montreal has a lot of white people walking around though.  And we were all over the city not just in the touristy areas.  Yes, I realize that there is a large Hatian, African and Vietnamese population but they weren’t that noticable when we were there.  Or maybe I’m just used to seeing more ethnicities in my province.  It was kind of weird to see so much homogenaity (is that a word?  if so did I spell it right?).

And English is spoken just about everywhere.  We were in some predominantly franco areas and DH (who is pretty fluent in French) began speaking and immediately people switched over to English.  Not sure if this is because his accent is so bad (a possibility) or people just want to practice their English.  Maybe a bit of both.

The one thing I really enjoyed though was the food.  Hands down we ate well.  The markets are wonderful and have so much cool stuff.  We stayed by the Jean Talon market and I could have walked around for hours sniffing and squeezing and tasting.  We ate our fill of boar, deer, bison and lamb sausage every time we were there.  And the ice cream is to die for.  I have no idea what the store name is but the ice cream is divine.  Creme brulee flavour is the best (and I sampled them all) and I have yet to recreate it in my ice cream maker at home.  But I’ve had fun trying! 

We went to Schwartz’s, a Montreal tradition, despite the fact that I will not eat smoked meat.  I got the side eye from the waiter when I said no to the sandwich but I can heartily recommend the cole slaw and pickel.  And no trip to Montreal would be complete without a dozen (or more) Montreal-style bagels.  We went to Fairmont and then went to see/hear the tam tams at Par Du Mont-Royal.  This was not my favourite part of the trip (do these guys know any other songs?) plus it was getting humid and a giant dog kept trying to get at our lox and bagels. 

But the best food on the trip was at Le Milsa, a Churrascaria which is kind of like a steak house.  Except they bring all the steak (and nine other kinds of meat) you can eat to you on skewers.  Now I have eaten my fair share of Argentian and Albertan beef.  And this place was head and shoulders above.  The meat just melted in your mouth and had the perfect meat/sale/fat ration.  It was 100% delicious.  If you are a hungry meatavore and are in Montreal this is a can’t miss kind of place.  Plus the scantily clad Carnavale dancer didn’t hurt in DH’s opinion either.

So in a nutshell, the women are not intimidating, no one dresses like they stepped out of Vogue, English speakers are everywhere and food is delicious.  As an added bonus there are a ton of yarn stores, just don’t try to go to them during July and August when the proprietors seem to go on vacation.  I can see Montreal will be a regular long weekend destination for us from now on.

Like chalk and cheese

July 15, 2010

DH and I go to the outlaws’ house twice  a month for dinner.  He goes more often, by himself, but twice a month is more than enough for me.  I’d go, well, never if I could but I understand that sometimes you are the bird and sometimes  you are the statue (I’m the statue in this particular example) and you can’t always get what you want. 

Mostly it’s better than I think it will be.  I mean the food is almost always awful…overdone, dry, too oily, not enough salt, too much oregano….I could go on.  But most visits are fine.  We stay far too long in my opinion, but rarely is there drama these days, and bad food aside, it does make them happy to see us.  But I still dread those every-other Monday dinners.

Last night we went to DH’s (ex)aunt’s house for dinner.  We’ve invited her and her second husband for dinner to our house a few times and she felt the need to reciprocate.  She’s a very nice lady and I enjoy her company.   Her husband is a bit old school but whatever, it was dinner, how bad could it be?  Especially as I endure the outlaws’ house twice a month. 

Now, I’ve heard all about how his aunt is an excellent cook and I’ve not believed it, seeing as how it was DH telling me and no word of a lie, he’ll eat just about anything and not complain.  I do know that she makes far and away the best shortbread and meringue cookies in the world so while I was looking forward to seeing the aunt, I was a bit wary about dinner.  You never can tell with DH’s family….they’re talked up a lot and I’m often sadly disappointed with the cooking results.

I can say that over 12 hours later I am still full from dinner.  And it was DELICIOUS.  In fact, I’m thinking about asking DH to go once a month to see his aunt so she can feed us.  Not only is she a good cook (a REALLY good cook), she’s a hands-off relative.  There’s no “you’re not eating the rice?” meant-to-induce-guilt-comments (although hers was stellar and I don’t care for rice) or “eat more you’ve only had two porkchops” (for the record I had one….and a piece of chicken) or “why aren’t you eating this, I cooked all day” crap like we get at the outlaws.  There was salt on the table and real dessert…two kinds of cake AND coconut pie…not picked over fruit like at the outlaws.  DH doesn’t eat dessert unless it has chocolate on it and there was no recriminations.  You don’t want to eat at the aunt’s house, you don’t have to.  You have no idea how refreshing this is.

If I could only figure out how to get the aunt to cook for our twice-a-month dinners at the outlaws I’d be happy.  Fat but happy.