November 23rd, 2012
One of EnRoute’s best new restaurants of 2012 is Chef Martin Juneau’s Pastaga, located smack-dab between Mile End and Little Italy.
As soon as we were seated at our rustic wooden table illuminated by industrial-esque light fixtures, our eyes wandered towards the almost-open kitchen, which is behind a glass wall. Ever since Pastaga opened last spring, the restaurant has garnered great reviews and recently received the ultimate honour from EnRoute.
Our picks? “Charlotte,” a goat cheese, marinated beet and pistachio concoction ($14), is delectable; and our partner in crime is still raving about his bison tartare ($16).
The small-ish plates are perfect for sharing, one of the hottest dining trends du jour. Also notable is the natural wine list (think no added sulfites), which begins at $30.
A definite must-visit (again and again). —Elsa Vecchi and Christine Laroche
6389 Saint Laurent Blvd., Montreal, http://www.pastaga.ca
November 15th, 2012
Croatian capital Zagreb is fun, walkable and getting ready for EU membership –and prices are as friendly as the locals. Here are some highlights from a recent visit.
Walking into the second-floor apartment that houses raw-food restaurant Kredenca (pictured) is like stepping into an Anthropologie catalogue, except it comes with flowing wine and perfectly styled dishes like sushi rolls with daikon rice and chocolate palačinke – that's Croatian-style crepes – with a fresh berry sauce. Other favourites included a poppy seed pastry from all-natural bakery Ivica i Marica and fresh roasted chestnuts bought from a street vendor.
Wine lovers will want to stop in at Vinodol to sample its extensive list of Croatian wines. Or head to brewpub Mali Medo on a pedestrian street in the upper town for its five varieties of locally made beer, classic central European food (think sausages, noodles and breaded fried cheese) and, as the night goes on, to sample its homemade medica, or honey brandy.
Stock up on local wine and olive oil at Vinoteka Bornstein (pictured), where you're bound to pick up an education in Croatian wine from the expert owners while you shop. For a purchase that'll last longer, visit gallery Likum to browse the selection of Croatian art. Fragrance addicts will want to pop around the corner to the Institut Parfumeur Flores, the country's first niche parfumerie, which sells scents from more than 90 brands as well as other products that, well, smell good.
Head up the funicular to the upper town and two small but must-see museums. The Croatian Museum of Naive Art showcases local and international artists of this so-called "primitive" – but beyond gorgeous – style of untrained artists. Down the street, the ubercreative Museum of Broken Relationships collects objects and stories from the world's love affairs gone wrong, like this red coat once received as a gift – "I never really cared for red," the caption tells us.
Zagreb's patio scene is crowded with umbrella-shaded tables and chairs where you can order local favourite kava sa šlagom – espresso with whipped cream. But for the city's best coffee – the New York Times said so! – be sure to stop in at microroastery and espresso bar Eliscaffe, which even has locally scarce takeout cups and whose owner prepared us the perfect cappuccino while singing the praises of Toronto's coffee scene. How could we help but love him?
November 13th, 2012
Our Lebanese love affair started innocently enough with hummus and pita.
Then we moved onto mankoushe, a rolled pizza that looked ordinary enough but tasted oh-so-divine.
Now, when lunchtime rolls around, we can’t help but pop in to Trip de Bouffe, a new Lebanese bakery/take-out counter on Mont-Royal Avenue, to see what unpronounceable but delectable delights are on the menu.
Adieu, food court Lebanese – we have an all-new love. —Christine Laroche
277 Mont-Royal Ave. E., Montreal, 438-381-4383, www.tripdebouffe.com
November 9th, 2012
Just in time for winter, we’ve found the perfect spot for (finger-licking good!) Southern comfort. Blackstrap serves up Southern style BBQ (think 16-hour smoked meats) like we’ve never tasted – especially not in Montreal! Results? We’re indulging our inner carnivore like never before.
From the savory burnt ends poutine ($10) to the simplicity of delectable pulled pork (with a scene-stealing side of fried mac and cheese balls, please, $10.99), every bite is as good as the last – especially when doused in homemade spicy sauce.
Word to the wise: Quantities are limited, so check Twitter for sell-out advisories before heading down to the deep (Verdun) south. —Christine Laroche
4436 Wellington St., Montreal, 514-507-6772, www.promenadewellington.com
November 2nd, 2012
Yes, there’s a Jamie Oliver connection, but don’t go for the celebrity angle. Go because it’s good.
Derek Dammann’s new venture is quite the opposite of his last restaurant, swank Old Montreal eatery DNA. In contrast, Maison Publique is a laid-back neighborhood restaurant inspired by British pubs serving food that lives up to the hype.
We grabbed a seat at the bar on a cold Sunday morning and opted for brunch for two, a carnivore’s feast complete with blood pudding, bone marrow, sausage, pork chop and more ($40), with a side divine coffee made by none other than Café Myriade’s Anthony Benda.
We weren’t even done eating and we already planning our next visit. Now that’s love! —Christine Laroche
4720 Marquette St., Montreal, 514-807-0555, www.maisonpublique.com
October 31st, 2012
We’ll take any excuse not to cook, and Mtl à Table is a very good one indeed.
From November 1-11, participating eateries – including favourites like Van Horne, Les 400 Coups, Crudessence and Au Cinquième Péché – will offer three special prix fixe dinner menus ($19, $29 and $39) concocted for the occasion.
Whether you stick to staples or explore new spots, it’s all about braving the colder nights to get out there and explore some of the city’s tastiest offerings.
And let’s not forget: no dishes. —Christine Laroche
October 19th, 2012
The next-generation restaurant balances authenticity and creativity with new, ever-changing favourites and old classics (read: mussels). We love that it’s perfect for both a 5 à 7 soirée (thank you, $20 Table d’Hôte Menu) or an intimate date night.
We can’t wait to read this delish new chapter in the Murphy family history. —Nina Mourin
1249 Ave. Bernard, Montreal, 514-273-8132, http://lemurphy.ca/
October 12th, 2012
When it comes to brunch, we’re into the tried, tested and true but sometimes it’s time for something new.
The Sunday morning spot that’s quickly become our fave is a quaint, bright and girly spot tucked in a tiny space off Laurier Avenue. Pâtisserie Rhubarbe is equal parts chic, charming and, bien sûr, delicious.
Pop in for a pastry from Wednesday to Saturday, but come Sunday, it’s all about brunch. The menu changes weekly but one thing is constant: It will be the yummiest part of the day.
Settle in early – it’s small and fills up fast! – for an extra-sweet Sunday. —Christine Laroche
5091 de Lanaudière, Montreal, 514-903-3395, www.patisserierhubarbe.com
October 4th, 2012
It would take years to explore one of the world’s largest cities, so this time we focused on Mexico City’s vibrant food and design culture. (For more on Mexico City, click here.)
Located in the ritzy Santa Fe business district, boutique hotel Distrito Capital occupies the top ten floors of a skyscraper, which means breathtaking views of the city and its surroundings, not to mention its trippy Tron-esque entrance. Both Lady Gaga and Bono have stayed there…what else is there to know? Distrito Capital, Av. Juan Salvador Agraz 37, Santa Fé, México City, 1-866-978-7020, www.hoteldistritocapital.com
Searching for the new and hip? You’ll find it in the city’s Condesa and Roma districts. Parque Mexico is a great place to start exploring and discovering beautiful art deco architecture, charming sidewalk espresso bars, local boutiques, and artisanal chocolate shops like Princesse Cacao (Fernando Montes de Oca 81, Condesa, 5211-0276), all while meeting at least fifty dogs and their hipster owners. End your stroll on the sun-soaked terrace of Hotel Brick (Orizaba 95, Roma, Mexico City, 5525-1100) for a margarita or two.
If you’ve already said hello to Frida and Diego, then give Rufino Tamayo a visit for a contemporary art fix. Along with the famed Mexican painter’s works, Museo Tamayo houses a permanent collection of his peers (he did live to almost a 100!) like Rothko, Miró, and Warhol as well as rotating contemporary exhibitions. The museum is located in the Chapultepec Park, which could easily rival NYC’s Central Park in its beauty. Museo Tamayo de Arte Contemporáneo, Paseo de la Reforma y Gandhi Bosque de Chapultepec, México City, 5286-6519, http://museotamayo.org
Mexico City’s food choices are abundant, from taco stands to fine dining establishments. One of the latest favourites is restaurant Azul Histórico in the Centro district, which has taken over the gorgeous courtyard of the newly opened Hotel Downtown. Surrounded by historic brick, lush trees and beautiful people, feast on Mexican specialties like organic hibiscus flower enchiladas and Tixin Xie fish. Azul Histórico, Isabel La Católica 30, Centro Histórico, Mexico City, 5510-1316, http://azulhistorico.com
It won’t be hard to find incredible things to buy in Mexico City, but local designer Carla Fernández caught our eye with her amazing draping and a fresh take on Mexican knitwear — yes, that includes the legendary poncho. Thank us when everyone asks you, “Hey, where’d you get that?” Carla Fernández, Molière 58-A, Polanco, Mexico City, 5912 8010, http://carlafernandez.com
September 14th, 2012
We’re not picking favourites with the foodie and wine lover that live within us - this gastronomical event indulges both.
On September 19, a very special dishcrawl presented by the Wines of Languedoc-Roussillon is on the agenda. It’s the usual delish deal (four courses at four of the city’s top restaurants that are kept secret until the very last minute) with a fabulous twist: exceptional wine pairings, plus a 10-wine tasting.
At $75 per person to discover hot restaurants and lovely wines, it’s hard not to salivate at this delish steal.
Cheers, and bon appétit! – Christine Laroche