Canada

Multiculturalism jazzes up the menu on the Plateau

Multiculturalism jazzes up the menu on the Plateau

Like many Montrealers, the new gentry of the Plateau prize authenticity. How else to explain the nostalgic appeal of old-fashioned restaurants from an earlier era? Francophone points of reference like La Binerie and Jewish touchstones like Schwartz's are treasures for the whole city, but they cannot be separated from the Plateau. Here are three spots to get historic tastes of Montreal when you're visiting for the Jazz Festival. Schwartz's Smoked Meat There's nearly always a line out front of this narrow deli that has occupied the same spot on The Main (as Anglophones used to call boulevard Saint-Laurent) since 1928. But it rarely takes more than fifteen minutes before you'll be seated family style at a long table. Then things move pretty quickly. Everyone orders...Read More
Sentimental Journey: Old neighborhood tastes of Mile End

Sentimental Journey: Old neighborhood tastes of Mile End

Sometimes we pine for the old days of Montreal tribalism. Living on Le Plateau meant you spoke French at home and ate feves au lard every Saturday night. Growing up in Mile End meant you spoke English at home (with maybe a little Yiddish) and were by birth an expert on bagels. Mind you, the two neighborhoods are so close that Montreal Tourism lumps them together. Mile End extends east from Parc Mont-Royal to boulevard Saint-Laurent, and north from boulevard Saint-Joseph to the railroad tracks. Through most of the twentieth century, it was home to aspiring immigrants, including many Central and Eastern European Jews immortalized in the novels of native son Mordecai Richler (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz). Nowadays, it's pretty cosmopolitan, filled with good...Read More
Festivals and food make summer sizzle in Montreal

Festivals and food make summer sizzle in Montreal

Montreal is one of our favorite cities around the globe. Not only is it a great place to kick back and have fun—it's a fabulous place to eat. Montrealers find reasons to party all year long, but summer is especially packed with festivals. We'll be heading up for the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (montrealjazzfest.com). The 39th annual edition takes over the central city from June 28-July 7. (The photos above—upper left of Jethro Tull, lower right of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band—are courtesy of the festival staff.) The music sometimes stretches the definition of “jazz.” But it's all amazing and a lot of it takes place in free outdoor performances. The photo at upper right is from the Montreal Cirque Festival (montrealcompletementcirque.com). It...Read More
Butter tart: the apogee of Canadian pastry

Butter tart: the apogee of Canadian pastry

We're just back from a few days of boating on the Rideau Canal in Ontario aboard one of the new cruisers offered by Le Boat (www.leboat.com). Stops on the waterway are at villages where the men and women of Parks Canada operate the mostly hand-cranked 19th century locks so boats can pass. We spent a couple of days docked next to the locks at Merrickville, a town that couldn't have been cuter if Disney had invented it (and wouldn't be so historic if Disney had). Several people had told us that we really shouldn't miss the butter tarts at Nana B's (318 Main Street West, Merrickville, ON; 613-454-1380; www.nanabbakery.ca). When we walked up to the bakery from the village center on a Sunday afternoon, Nana...Read More
Backhouse realizes Niagara’s great potential

Backhouse realizes Niagara’s great potential

Too bad the great French gourmand Christian Millau didn't live long enough to visit Ryan and Bev Campbell's Backhouse in Niagara-on-the-Lake (242 Mary St.; 289-272-1242; backhouse.xyz). In 1968, Millau revolutionized the way the French (and, given the era, the world) regarded haute cuisine when he announced that he had discovered “the best restaurant in the world” in the provincial town of Roanne. He might have said something similar had he discovered this grill-centric, hyper-locavore restaurant in a shopping strip at the edge of this Lake Ontario resort village. “Best restaurant in the world” is hyperbole, of course. But the comparison to Les Frères Troisgros is more than fair. Backhouse serves brilliant food far from the metropolitan restaurant scene. Asador Etxebarri in the small village of...Read More
Spanning the decades of Niagara craft brewing

Spanning the decades of Niagara craft brewing

The craft brewing scene on the Niagara peninsula is, appropriately enough, fluid. Small breweries pop up in every town and their styles range from simple session ales to extreme brews. We stopped in to taste one of the newest and most experimental—Exchange in Niagara-on-the-Lake—as well as one of the pioneer craft brewers, now operating as Syndicate Restaurant and Brewery in a newly gentrifying neighborhood in Niagara Falls. Exchange Brewery Shiny black walls, shiny black bottles, and a marble bar immediately signal that Exchange Brewery (7 Queen St., Niagara-on-the-Lake; 905-468-9888; exchangebrewery.com) is not exactly a suds-soaked beer bar. The brewery and tasting room in the Old Town heritage district strike a sophisticated urban tone in striking contrast to Oast's aw-shucks country brewery image. The building was...Read More
Lift a glass to toast Niagara’s fine craft beer

Lift a glass to toast Niagara’s fine craft beer

As Niagara began to emerge as a major wine district, someone on the peninsula likely did a double take. “Wait a minute,” he might have said. “We're Canadians. We drink beer!” Let's face it, Labatt's and Molson are more than holding their own against Canadian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But craft brewing has also swept across the Niagara peninsula with salubrious results. Although we, too, were focused on Niagara's remarkable wines, we squeezed in visits to three very different and very good breweries. Here's one. Look for the other two in the next post. Niagara Oast House Brewers Route 55 outside Niagara-on-the-Lake cuts through some serious farm country with several vineyards and an aromatic lavender farm lining the highway. But the big red barn of...Read More
Cave Spring Cellars shines in Jordan, Ontario

Cave Spring Cellars shines in Jordan, Ontario

Jordan Village compresses the Niagara Peninsula experience into a single stop. In just one kilometer along Nineteenth Street, the downtown packs in lodgings with character, a bakery, restaurants, a tavern, and just enough boutique shopping to stave off retail withdrawal. This being Niagara, there is, of course, also a winery. Cave Spring Cellars (cavespring.ca), in fact, is the centerpiece of the community. The Pennachetti family began buying land on the Beamsville Bench in the early 1970s and by the end of the decade, they had become visionary viticulturalists. Conventional wisdom held that only the area around Niagara-on-the-Lake was warm enough for European wine grapes to thrive, but the Pennachettis began growing Riesling and Chardonnay with considerable success. In 1986, Len Pennachetti and family members joined...Read More
Zee’s complements adjacent Shaw Festival

Zee’s complements adjacent Shaw Festival

The Niagara peninsula isn't all about vineyards and fine dining. Many visitors flock to Niagara on the Lake for the Shaw Festival (www.shawfest.com). The theater company occupies a good portion of the east end of the village. It launched in 1962 to celebrate acclaimed Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). That year's performances were Don Juan in Hell and Candida. Just as wine grapes have flourished in the Niagara peninsula, so has drama. From those first four performances in a hall in the historic Court House, the Shaw Festival has grown into a major player in the theater world. This year's April through mid-October season features 11 plays presented in four different venues. (A Christmas Carol is also scheduled for the holiday season.) Shaw, of...Read More
Afternoon tea gets royal treatment at Prince of Wales

Afternoon tea gets royal treatment at Prince of Wales

We got a quick refresher in British royal protocol when we stayed at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara on the Lake (www.vintage-hotels.com/princeofwales). The stately brick property had been entertaining guests under a couple of different names for more than 30 years before the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary) paid a visit in 1901. Thrilled with the royal presence, the property changed its name to the Prince of Wales. We finally figured out that the Duke assumed that title when he became heir apparent to the throne. His father was King Edward VII, the monarch best known from PBS as an unrepentant playboy who took socialite actress Lily Langtry as his mistress. This time the name stuck...Read More