2011 was a great year, especially in the little-big foodie bubble we live with in Montreal. As I personally look back, I realize I ate a lot. So what better way to close out the year with my favorite bites from 2011. These are in no particular order, because that would be too hard. Here we go:
Tourtiere- Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre
I visited the APDC Cabane a Sucre for the first time back in March. The experience was marvelous, and boy was there a lot of food. If I could choose one dish from that meal that was above the rest, it would be the tourtiere. This meat pie is succulent, memorable, and classic. It was very hard to share it with 12 people, not in terms of the size of a piece, but because it tasted that good. The juicy meat kept inside the flakiest crust ever went great with their homemade ketchup. I took a frozen one home and made it again about a month later, since that’s when I finally digested everything from that meal.
Bahn Mi Taco- Grumman78
One of the biggest impacts we had in Montreal this summer was the emergence of street food. Grumman78, our city’s only taco truck wowed people in church basements, parking lots, festivals, and on the Lachine Canal. I ate all (that’s right, all) the tacos they made this year. My clear favorite, and one of the best things I ate all year was their Bahn Mi Taco. Sweet, sticky, and savory morsels of flavored pork, nestled in a warm soft-taco shell, topped with pickled red onions and carrots, then garnished with a couple leaves of cilantro. Each bite is heavenly. Earlier in the season, two tacos were enough, but now, 4 hits the spot.
Octopus salad- Osteria Venti
Venti was arguably the breakout restaurant in Montreal this year. Among the many many delicious items on the menu, the octopus salad is one of the best things available. The little pieces of octopus are always deliciously tender with a slight crispiness on the outside. Long slices of fennel and red onion provide a nice contrast in textures, and flavor. Oh, and little capers are the perfect little salty, briny compliment. The octopus salad is a fantastic starter for what is always an incredible meal.
Popcorn shrimp- Icehouse
When news broke that Chef Nick Hodge of Kitchenette was opening a more casual style resto, called Icehouse, the buzz surrounding it was incredible. I ate there a lot this summer. I gorged on delicious tex-mex foods like tacos, po-boys, burritos, and I even drank (way too much) bourbon lemonade. One of the best things I ate at Icehouse, and is now a staple item every time I eat there is the popcorn shrimp. Little pieces of shrimp are covered in a light batter then fried. As soon as they come out of the fryer, they are immediately lightly dressed with a sauce made of red wine vinegar, honey, and a little bit of their home-made Tabasco. Be warned: they are addictive.
Lobster Grilled Cheese- Le Gros Jambon
A new addition to the Montreal food scene, Le Gros Jambon, offered one of my favorite dishes of the year. This 50’s style diner is creating excellent takes on classic dishes. My favorite: the lobster grilled cheese. Served with deliciously crispy and well-spiced fries and a little cup of crunchy coleslaw, this grilled cheese is pure awesome to the last bite. The chunks of claw are warmed on the griddle, then placed on perfectly melted cheese. The bread is buttered and toasted until lightly brown and crispy. Essentially, this is everything you could want in a grilled cheese, and then some.
Shrimp Burger- Kazu
I have never heard anyone say anything bad about Kazu. Yes, we all know the line is long to get in, but few complain since it’s always worth it. I usually share my dishes with the other people I eat with, however, I DO NOT share my shrimp burger. It’s one of the best things I’ve eaten…ever! The burger is made of ground shrimp, formed into a patty, then grilled until the inside is pink and the outside has a thin film of crispiness. The ordinary lettuce, think slices of tomato and bun for some reason fit so well with this. What makes the shrimp burger what it is, is the sauce. Oh my, the sauce. It was described to me as a Japanese sun-dried tomato and soya sauce mayo. It’s a very good thing they drizzle the plate with it because I would eat it just on it’s own, or maybe drink it with a straw.
Porketta sandwich- DNA, from the Montreal Oysterfest
The Montreal Oysterfest had a lot of food stands from many restaurants. One of my favorites is the porketta sandwich from restaurant DNA. This monstrosity of a sandwich is nothing more than a ridiculously thick slice of tender porketta, garlic mayo on a “bun”, or what I refer to as a small loaf of delicious brioche bread. The entire sandwich was about the size of my head and the taste was fantastic. It’s one of those crazy foods you chow down on that when it’s gone, you wonder where it went. There was no way I could eat this thing alone, so I split it with my good friends, Foodie Date Night. We barely finished it.
Carrot Cake- Laurier Gordon Ramsey
I don’t eat dessert often, but I do have 2 weaknesses: anything maple, and carrot cake. I recently wrote about a Thanksgiving meal at Laurier GR, and described the carrot cake as perfectly moist with fantastic icing. This piece was heavenly. The cream cheese frosting is to die for, and the cake itself is wonderful. I love how there’s a little cup of icing on the side for dipping, or to just eat on it’s own. This is a real winner.
2011 proved to be a phenomenal year for food in Montreal. New restaurants emerged in big ways, street food exploded, old favorites came back with a new life, and some chefs established themselves as the real deal (cough…Venti). I can’t wait for what 2012 will bring. Thank you to all my readers this year. Stay tuned because BIG things are going to happen next year…