Last Friday marked the start of the second annual TASTE MTL (#TASTEMTL) culinary festival in Montreal which runs until Monday, November 11th. With over 125 participating restaurants and a fantastic line-up of culinary activities to participate in, I couldn’t have been happier to be a part of the press trip organized by Tourisme Montreal (@Montreal) in partnership with Food Bloggers Canada (@foodbloggersCA).
For those of you who have never heard of TASTE MTL, it’s a culinary festival that is similar to Toronto’s Winter/Summer-licious and Vancouver’s Dine Out. Participating restaurants offer prix-fixe menus at 3 price points – $19, $29 and $39 with some restaurants also offering a late night menu for $19. Click here for a list of participating restaurants.
Here’s a little recap of my trip:
Myself, along with two other Toronto food bloggers (Vickie from Kiki’s BFF and Stella from Food Junkie Chronicles) started the trip off with a 5-hour train ride on Via Rail (@VIA_Rail) to Montreal. It had been a while since I had taken a train and Via Rail took great care of us. I was well fed, so I was a happy camper when I arrived in Montreal (although I’m sure the wine on board the train helped too!).
When we arrived in Montreal, we met up with two Ottawa bloggers, Don and Jenn from foodiePrints – more great company for the weekend!
Montréal Passion Vin
We had a packed itinerary and the minute we stepped off the train, we were whisked away to our first event, Montréal Passion Vin. A wine-tasting to kick off our trip? Music to my ears! Montréal Passion Vin is an annual charity event (now in its 12th year) which brings together passionate wine-lovers for one worthy cause – the construction of the HMR Integrated Cancerology Centre.
Over the course of several days, a number of tasting sessions were offered. This year’s event featured eight producers from three countries and featured a tasting of unique wines and rare vintages.
I was surprised at how large the event was. We were seated in a large conference room with rows upon rows of wine-lovers. Our session’s speaker was Bernard Repolt from Maison Remoissenet Pere & Fils. The presentation was in French so it really tested my grade 12-level French language abilities. Nevertheless, I had a great time sampling the different types of wine. I’m certainly not an expert on wine but I really don’t think you have to be in order to enjoy a glass of wine!
“Right into the Heart of Montréal” Walking Tour
After our wine tasting session, we were off to our walking tour. We met our tour guide (from VDM Global) at Fou d’Ici (@FOUDICI), an urban grocery store in the heart of downtown that’s a one-stop shop – they’ve got a butcher, a seafood counter, a bakery/café, plenty of cheese, fresh produce and an extensive selection of ready-to-eat fare prepared by knowledgeable chefs. For those of you from Toronto, imagine a cross between Pusateri’s and McEwans.
We started off our tour with cupcakes and some coffee for a little walking fuel. It was all served with a side of delicious cheese, cause why not? We were in Quebec, after all. I had a feeling I was going to enjoy this tour.
Our wonderful guide took us around the “Quartier des Spectacles”, a district of the city that hosts festivals and large-scale events. We explored part of the Underground City and the Red Light District.
The highlight of the tour was going into the gorgeous building that houses the Birks jewelry store. Initially, I thought we had walked into the store to admire the beautiful architecture. Little did I know that there is a Birks Café inside the store that overlooks the beautiful displays of diamonds and pearls. Chocolate and jewelry – 2 of my greatest weaknesses!
We ended off the tour at the Europea Café (at Complexe Les Ailes) for some macarons and sparkling wine. Just a little somethin’ to whet our appetite before heading off to dinner…
Les Filles du Roy (Maison Pierre du Calvet)
Address: 405 Bonsecours St, Montreal
Phone: (514) 849-3535
Upon entering the restaurant, located in Old Montreal at the Pierre du Calvet House, I felt like I had stepped back in time. And I’m not just talking about 50 years here. The building was built back in 1725 and with all its antique furnishings, exposed stone walls and old paintings, it looks like they’ve left the space in all its glory. The restaurant is located in an impressive room with high ceilings and silk-draped windows. The candle-lit tables gives the space a cozy and intimate feel.
The TABLE MTL menu features a 3-course meal for only $19 which is an absolute steal! My meal consisted of the Maple Braised Flank Piglet – on a bed of green beans to start followed by the Herb Crusted Pork – in a three mushroom sauce, celeriac mash & seasonal vegetables. Stella and I shared the two desserts being offered, the Maple Pudding Chômeur and Sugar Tart – with fleur de sel.
The highlight for me was definitely the Maple Pudding Chômeur, which despite its name, is not a pudding. It was essentially a cake covered in a sweet maple sauce. The delicious cake had a nice crisp and caramelized exterior which reminded me of a cookie. A nice end to the meal!
We began our second day with breakfast at Renoir, the restaurant in our hotel (Sofitel Hotel). It was a hearty breakfast to fuel up for the long day ahead of us. I also want to mention our beautiful hotel. Tourisme Montreal couldn’t have selected a better spot. Lovely rooms, incredibly comfy beds (believe me, it was hard getting up in the mornings) and excellent customer service.
After breakfast, we made or way over to Fou d’Ici again for our maple workshop which was hosted by Nathalie Richard (journalist and blogger) and sponsored by les Produits de l’Érable du Quebec.
The workshop began with a tasting of four different types of maple syrups (extra light, light, medium and amber) from lightest to darkest. As we progressed, I could certainly note the differences between them. The darker syrups have a much thicker consistency with a more concentrated flavour.
We also sampled a selection of maple products including maple taffy, maple butter, duck rilette with maple flakes, maple water, maple whisky and maple sparkling wine. During the workshop, we were also educated with interesting maple facts. Did you know that maple butter doesn’t have any actual butter in it? The maple syrup is heated, cooled and stirred until it obtains a creamy consistency. And did you know that Quebec accounts for over 70% of the world’s maple production? Impressive, eh?
Juliette et Chocolat
Address: 377 Avenue Laurier Ouest, Montreal
Phone: (514) 510-5651
If you thought we had a day’s worth of sugar intake at the maple workshop, you thought wrong. We went to Juliette et Chocolat (@juliette_choco) for lunch! Thankfully, they have more than just chocolate here. Savoury options include buckwheat crepes and salads. I opted for the Complete Buckwheat Crepe – egg, ham and cheese ($10.50) which came with a green salad. After all the sugar I had, this savoury dish hit the spot.
I couldn’t possibly leave Juliette et Chocolat without ordering some chocolate. After all, they have an entire menu dedicated to their Chocolate Bar, an extensive selection of drinking chocolates. The menu has several sections including “Origin Vintages” and “Plantation Vintages.” Each of the different selections also came with descriptions using phrases like “has a smoky taste”, “hints of berries” and “an after-taste of…”. It was like reading a wine list!
I narrowed it down to the Maralumi 47% – New Guinea Milk Chocolate from the Plantation Vintages section of the menu. They are quite rich and thick (they’re served with a spoon if you don’t want to sip it) so if you want something smaller, you can opt for a chocolate shooter. Anyway, my Maralumi was incredibly delicious. The other bloggers each tried a different type and everyone really enjoyed theirs so I don’t think you can go wrong. This was definitely the highlight of the meal – don’t leave without getting one of these signature drinking chocolates!
Address: 7070 Avenue Henri Julien, Montreal
After lunch we had a bit of time to explore the city and we all decided on the famous Jean-Talon Market, located in the Little Italy area of the city. It’s a farmers market which is similar to St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. The market features a large number of vendors selling fresh produce along with butchers, stalls selling seafood, flowers, cheese and bakeries. If I lived in Montreal, I could see myself frequenting this market for fresh produce or for some of their mouth-watering ready-to-eat goodies.
Address: 343 Rue Saint Paul Est, Montreal
Phone: (514) 903-9343
For a little pre-dinner drink and snack, we all met up at La Champagnerie (@Lachampagnerie) which is located in Old Montreal, a short walk from Les Filles du Roy where Stella and I had eaten the night before. La Champagnerie is a champagne bar which specializes in, you guessed it, champagne! Sure, it may sound a little pretentious but once you walk in, all your fears will melt away.
They have an impressive selection of champagne and sparkling wines. They also offer small plates which are perfect for sharing – definitely the perfect spot for our pre-dinner snack. In addition to the bubbly, they offer delicious champagne cocktails (priced around $12 to $14). I particularly enjoyed my Sloe Gin Fizz – gin, mashed cassis, apple & plum cordial, fresh lemon juice & bubbles.
As far as food goes, we ordered the Poutine – with shredded maple-flavoured pork, brie cheese, foie gras velouté & cheese curds, Arancini – risotto balls with goat cheese & apricots and Arancini – risotto balls with goat cheese & apricots. Perfect bar snacks, if you ask me!
Address: 4006 Sainte-Catherine St W, Westmount
Phone: (514) 931-8833
I’ll be honest, I was a little skeptical about going to an izakaya in Montreal given that Toronto is home to many amazing izakayas. However, Imadake (@imadakeizakaya) really surprised me! If you’re unfamiliar with izakayas, they are casual Japanese pubs which serve small sharing plates. They’re also known for their loud, fun and lively atmospheres – Imadake definitely had that covered.
The TASTE MTL menu here is priced at $29 and given that the dishes here are meant for sharing, Stella and I decided to go that route and shared all our dishes. For our appetizers, we shared the Takoyaki (octopus balls), Fried Goat Cheese – with raspberry maple syrup and Ebimayo. For our entrees, we had the Miso Black Cod, Miso Beef Tongue and Chicken Karaage – with wasabi mayo. Last but not least, we had the Green Tea Cheese Cake and Red Bean Ice Cream for dessert.
The entrees were what really stood out for me. I’m a big fan of black cod and Imadake’s was flawless. I loved the marinade on the beef tongue and the chicken karaage…well, it’s fried chicken. What’s not to love?
Before heading home, we had one last hurrah with our blogger counterparts – Sunday brunch at Renoir in the Sofitel Hotel. Brunch is my favourite meal and I have to say, I was really, really impressed by Renoir’s buffet brunch spread.
Just look at this – raw oysters, smoked salmon, fish, pastries, roast beef, made-to-order omelettes and waffles, charcuterie, cheese and desserts! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Sure, quantity is one thing but I was equally impressed by the quality of their offerings from their pastries (madeleines, croissants and almond croissants to name a few) to their made-to-order waffles.
I owe a big thank-you to Tourisme Montreal (in particular, Catherine, Jeremie and Marie-José) for being such incredible hosts and planning such an action-packed itinerary for us. Another big thank-you goes to Food Bloggers Canada for making this all happen. It had been over ten years since my previous visit to Montreal and after this recent trip, you can bet I won’t be waiting that long again for my next visit. I’m already planning my next trip – à bientôt, Montreal!
*This was a complimentary trip courtesy of Tourisme Montreal. The opinions in the post, as always, are my own.*