By Marlise Ponzo

Bonne Bouffe: A Culinary Photo Diary Of Montreal (The Best Of)

Day One: After a long drive to Montreal from Toronto we drop our luggage at the apartment we’ve rented and head out for dinner at La Montèe.

The Grand Tasting, comprised of six courses, begins with lightly tempura’d Glacial Bay Oysters with cornichon mayonnaise and fresh dill.
I order the Côtes du Jura Savagnin, Les Marnes, 2005, Annie et Philippe Bornard to start. Unbelievable wine! Funky, nutty, oxidative perfection.
(Ahhhhhhh… Savagnin! – JD)

Gabriel is a little trooper as he sits through his first tasting menu. Gorgeous dining room, delicious eats, baby friendly wait-staff and a wine list that makes me giddy with excitement.

Absolutely delicious! Boileau Venison two ways is perfectly executed. Served seared and pulled, seasoned with plenty of thyme and stuffed into a raviolo, the meat is silky, juicy and tender. The mélange of mushrooms and sweet root vegetable puree compliment the dish.
Day Two: Jean-Talon Market

We pick up a plethora of artisanal Quebec cheeses from Qui Lait Cru!?! Fomagerie. Le Blue D’Èlizabeth is the big winner. Divine!

Beautifully displayed spectrum of fresh specialty meats at Boucherie Traiteur Prince Noir. Huge array of Organics and tons of game all organized with cute illustrations.

Pieds de Porc, copa, Boudin…. Oh my!

We feast on cured meats from Les Cochons tout ronds… as we walk the market.

Organic Turkey and Duck eggs from Le Capitaine. Huge, with blazing orange yolks that burst with deliciousness when we fry them up at home. The duck eggs creamy and rich and take us by surprise with their flavour a little reminiscent of foie gras.

A superb à la carte dinner at Le Club Chasse et Pêche. The experience is extraordinarily enjoyable. Great wine list, comfy room with luxurious leather wingback chairs, crazy good food and warm service. The décor akin to an old fashioned hunting lodge. Walls adorned with antlers and passages draped with the camouflage netting under which a hunter would hide beneath in the bush. All of this said the restaurant retains a polished elegance and the food is perfection.

Warm octopus is sliced thin and slightly charred on the outside. It lies on the plate mixed with white asparagus slivers cozily smothered beneath an indulgent saffron mousse that is thick and creamy…. More like a hollandaise.

Surf and Turf…… or ‘Chasse et Pêche’…we just had to indulge! Bacon wrapped Kobe hanger, medium rare and with it’s flesh slightly translucent, perfectly cooked, a very tender half lobster. Truffled consommé is gracefully poured over top at the table.

Our server pairs this little morsel of perfection called ‘Universe,’ Paris Brest with salted popcorn ice cream, with a Frescobaldi Vin Santo that was not on the list. We love him for his bold insistence and absolute brilliance. Killer pairing. Salty. Buttery. Nutty. Caramelized. Wow!

Day Three: For lunch a special offal menu is generously offered to us by chef Derek Dammann and after polishing off a huge plate of his amazing house made charcuterie…we embark.

Veal heart Tartare makes our own hearts race with excitement about what is to follow. So bloody good! Foie Gras is chopped in for richness and then balanced with sweet but tangy aged balsamic and mustardy goodness.

Boudin Noir. Perfect blood sausage with mushrooms and jus.

Pork Kidneys are mild enough to be pleasant. This is the first time I’ve tried them stirred in with soft runny egg yolk.

Dinner at Kitchen Galerie. So much fun. Situated next to the market. The chefs create a new menu daily depending what they find fresh and inspirational at the market that morning. The ambiance of the dining room is super casual. The value of the food and wine offered is par none.

Albert with chef/owner/Canadian Gold Plate winner Mathieu Cloutier who we are lucky enough to have serve us for the evening. There are no front of house staff at Kitchen Galerie. Owners Mathieu Cloutier and Jean-Philippe St-Denis cook, serve, seat, manage and bus the entire restaurant. The Kitchen does it all! AND THEY DO IT DAMN WELL. Such inspiring conversation with one of Canada’s great talents.

Pernand Vergelesses Premier Cru and fresh oysters. When a menu offers this much value one simply must order all the extra bells and whistles.

Day Four:

House brewed Weizen beer and comfort food at Reservoir. Love this place!

We share fish and chips and braised pork belly and cold well crafted beer. YUM. The pork belly with crispy skin served with a mountain of fried Jerusalem artichokes and decedent jus is the big winner here.

Seven course tasting Menu at Toqué for our last night. We both start with a glass of Arbois 2004, Chardonnay La Tour du Curon, A. et M. Tissot. One of my absolute favorites. We then proceed with the Sommeliers ‘Prestigious Pairings.’ The dining room is very formal. Service is seamlessly  efficient.

Razor clams have never tasted so good. Served on the shell, the mixture of Thai inspired chopped peanuts, coriander, ginger, garlic and the clams themselves, are slid into our dishes and gently combined. Fresh and aromatic.

Sweet and creamy monkfish liver pate is freshened by a lively acidic dice of marinated vegetables and sake gelee.

Day Five:

The real deal. Montreal smoked brisket sandwiches from Schwartz’s Deli. We are talking three to four inches of luscious, fatty (in the best way possible) smoked perfection…and we hit the road. Absolutely satiated.

Marlise Ponzo, has been working in the Hospitality industry for many years and  possesses experience in many different roles from fine dining server, restaurant manager, sommelier to wine/food writer most recently. She is absolutely passionate about the culinary arts and the artistry of food and wine pairing. Being married to a chef, vacations become true culinary adventures and often land her at one michelin star restaurant or another. She has been working at Crush Wine Bar for the past eight years and has used this extraordinarily successful restaurant as a springboard for learning everything she could about the wonderful world of wine. In 2008 she graduated the Canadian Association of  Professional Sommeliers certification program with honours and accepted two awards of excellence for blind tasting from CAPS. Currently she continues to explore her passion for sensory development and wine appreciation through reading, tasting, traveling and writing.