Monday, 29 August 2011

Au revoir, Montréal

Mont-Royal Park

We've just come back from Montréal, where we had a great time.
We inevitably fell in love with this vibrant, lively, cosmopolitan city.

We never left the town during the time of our stay, save for a week end trip to Magog, on the Memphremagog lake. We spent one night there, in a romantic B&B, 'A l'Ancestrale' (highly recommended!) where we had a wonderful rest and were offered an energetic and healthy breakfast!

You don't need to do great things or visit magnificent places to have happy holiday memories.
Travelling is also about making new friendships. Meeting new people and seeing things for different perspectives. Sharing. 

So I guess it's about time to tell how grateful we are towards the special people we met in Quebec.

Thanks to Barbara for being so welcoming and friendly.
Thanks to Violette for her enthusiastic encouragement (from the very very beginning!).
Thanks to Monique for her special attentions and for the cutest Teddy Bear my daughter has ever cuddled in her sleep.
Thanks to Cinzia for her happy smile (and the almond biscuit as well!)

Without you guys this yourney wouldn't have been so special.

Au revoir Montréal. We'll be back soon!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

"Stay without ambition, without the least desire, exposed, vulnerable, unprotected, uncertain and alone, completely open to and welcoming life as it happens, without the selfish conviction that all must yield you pleasure or profit, material or so-called spiritual.
Abandon every attempt, just be; don't strive, don't struggle, let go every support, hold on to the blind sense of being, brushing off all else. This is enough.
Refuse attention, let things come and go. Desires and thoughts are also things. Disregard them."

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, "I Am That"

Monday, 22 August 2011

Mesclun mix salad with blue cheese and blueberries

'Bluettes' (=blueberries)
That's a nice word to learn.
Even Maddalena picked it up immediately.
It's amongst the bunch of words that make up her French vocabulary up to now, together with 'sac à dos' and 'bibliotheque' (the library being one of the places we visit regularly).

Besides, blueberries are in season here in Quebec, which isn't hard to notice.
You just have to take a quick walk in Jean Talon marketplace here in Montreal and you'll find blueberries stalls in every corner.

We headed to this popular marketplace a few days ago.
Blueberries immediately captured my attention: their colour so vibrant and their flavour so sweet here (compared to the less savoury ones you can find in Italy) that we simply had to buy some, a small basket at least.(I'd rather buy a small quantity of fresh blueberries and consume them in two or three days, since they are extremely perishable...)

The idea of adding them to a salad didn't occur to me until we reached a stall selling the freshest selection of greens and fine herbs of the market (and the most expensive too, I later discovered): argula (rocket as it seems), argula sprouts, watercress, baby spinach and mesclun mix amongst the others, and edible flowers too – like wild pansies. 

I thought that 'mesclun mix' was the equivalent of Italian 'misticanza' (a salad 'mix' - as the word suggests - of baby green leaves ), but after tasting it I had to admit I was wrong and that the combination of tender green leaves must be different in the two countries.
Nonetheless I really liked it and decided to combine mesclun mix and blueberries with some blue cheese, just to see how their flavours matched together.

I served the salad with a rather simple dressing – olive oil, salt and pepper – but I am sure it would be sensational with balsamic vinegar (which unfortunately we didn't have close at hand).

I really enjoyed it and, to my surprise, even my husband R. – who despite being a radical in politics, is a rather conservative guy as far as eating habits are concerned – gave me a thumb up.

Needless to say, M. didn't even taste it, just the smell of blue cheese made her wince...

p.s. We bought blue cheese at 'La fromagerie Hamel' a cheesemonger's and deli shop which is absolutely worth a visit, if you happen to be at Jean Talon marketplace.

Ingredients (serves 4):

mesclun mix: 1 small bunch
alfa alfa sprouts: 1/2 cup
blue cheese: ½ cup
blueberries: 1 cup
walnuts halves: 12

for the dressing:

extra virgin olive oil: 4 tablespoons
balsamic vinegar (optional): 1 tablespoon
salt: 1 pinch
pepper: 1/2 pinch

Whisk together oil, salt, ground pepper and balsamic vinegar.
Combine mesclun mix, alfa alfa sprouts and walnuts in a separate bowl then toss with dressing. Delicately stir in 3/4 blueberries. Serve the salad in four individual plates, adding scrambled blue cheese on top and garnishing with remaining blueberries (¼).

Sunday, 14 August 2011

"It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any self-deception or illusion, that a light will develop out of events, and lead us on the right path to follow."

I Ching

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Montréal, Plateau-Mont Royal

Au Festin De Babette
'Welcome to Canada'

That's what the officer said to us as we went through customs, after our twenty-hours-trip to Montréal. I felt grateful and pleased at the same time.
Happy we arrived safe and sound.
Happy. And terribly tired.

We fell asleep as soon as we laid out heads on the pillow, but guess what? M. woke me up in the middle of the night (around 3.35 a.m. to be precise) and asked me to entertain her with some storytelling and card games...This happened the second night as well, but I managed to skip card games and go back to sleep in an hour...

We had our difficult time to recover from jet lag and our daughter's insomnia... that's way I didn't feel like staying at home cooking, I'd rather explore the Plateau-Mont Royal neighbourhood, its beautiful parks (swimming pools included) and charming restaurants and cafés.

Here are some of our picks, our 'coups the coeur', as they say here.

Au Festin De Babette
Au Festin De Babette (4085, Rue St Denis) is probably our daughter's favourite one: a good selection of high quality ice-creams, slushes & milk-shakes 'maison' (homemade) are just what you need to keep her quiet on these hot and damp days here in Montrèal. There are also other luxurious treats you could indulge in, like exquisite French chocolates, crepes and cupcakes.
I simply like to sit back and relax in the decadent and charming atmosphere of this café, playing cards with M. and pouring green tea out of a stylish teapot...

Au Festin De Babette
If you like the idea of sipping a good tea as I do, another place you could head to is Kawha Café (263, Ave. Mont Royal Est) where you can find a good selection of organic and fair-trade coffees.

The shabby chic interiors and the art works displayed here will certainly capture your attention, but the thing I like the most is the back terrace: a tiny but cosy space furnished with wood benches and old arm chairs, flower pots and candle lanterns. It's definitely a good choice if you want to have a late evening rest and escape from the street buzz...

La Grand-Mère Poule
La Grand-Mère Poule (1361,  Ave. Mont Royal Est) is a family friendly, country style restaurant. It gets quite busy and crowded during lunch time I have to say, but service is quick and of a high quality. You have to like eggs though, because that's the main ingredient of almost every dish.

If you want to go vegan Aux Vivres (4631, Boul. St-Larent) is the best option in the Plateau-Mont Royal area.

Indian-inspired 'Lassi a la Mangue' with coconut milk is a real treat as well as the 'gateaux faux-mage' (vegan cheesecake) and the chocolate truffle...
As for the brunch you can choose from three different menus: 'Le complet' (grilled tofu, tempeh, spicy sweet potatos and cornbread); 'La polenta (fried polenta, guacamole, and salad.....); and 'Gaufres dorées' (two gaufres served with maple syrup and fruit salad).
I had 'Le complete' menu and I still think it's the best choice if you want to have a tasty and healthy lunch.

So far, these are the best places we went to and the food we ate.
We still have to get used to new flavours and ingredients (why are you guys here so obsessed with cilantro?), but I guess it is part of the game...

La Grand-Mère Poule

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