Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Taste MTL [Montreal Press Trip]

I have been lucky enough to be one of the five bloggers chosen by FBC (Food Bloggers of Canada @foodbloggersCA) to go on a press trip organized by Tourisme Montreal (@montreal).

We were to experience TASTE MTL (#TasteMTL) which is taking place from Nov 1st to 11th for the 2nd year where 125 restaurants will be featuring table-hôte menus of $19, $29 & $39, as well as a late night menu at $19 (click here to see the list of participating restaurants). Similar to Toronto's Winter/Summerlicious, participating restaurants serves up special 3 course prix fixe menu.

We were there this past weekend of Nov 1st-3rd and I was extremely excited since the event was recently recognized by  Fodor's as one of North America's Best 15 Food Festivals. On the other hand I was also thrilled to be spending time with some amazing foodies including Jess (@wherejessate) of Where Jess Ate, Stella (@foodieyu) of Food Junkie Chronicles, Jenn and Don (@foodiePrints) of foodiePrints and Janice (@KtchnHealsSoul) of Kitchen Heals Soul.
Presented by the Produits d'érable du Québec, chefs are challenged to come up with the most creative way to incorporate maple product into their recipes

  Here's a quick recap of my weekend in Montreal #TasteMTL
(more detailed post to come)

Day 1 - Fri Nov 1, 2013

 This was my first time traveling by VIA Rail (@VIA_Rail)  and I definitely felt pampered, it was a non-stressful relaxing way to travel compare to driving or flying. You can arrive mere minutes before departure with free Wi-Fi access, coffee/wine glass being refill constantly, a delicious meal and super attentive staff

  We were whisked away to our first event as soon as we got off the train and it was a wine tasting event. I am loving the trip already (^_^) Montreal Passion Vin is an annual charity event raising money for the HMR Cancerology Centre. Presented by SAQ with Standard Life as the major donor partner, the event was held at the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure Hotel and this is one of the wine industry event.
I was incredibly surprise at the size of the tasting where there was rows of rows of sittings in a large conference room. I was nowhere the expert like most of the attendants and the tasting was conducted in French but although I may not be that knowledgeable, I love wine and it`ll never prevent me from enjoying it

I felt so lucky to be part of it& be able to taste the vintages from Maison Remoissenet Père et Fils:

~ Meursault Genevrieres 1er cru 1992
~ Nolnay 1er cru Clos des Chenes 1978, 1969
~ Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru Combottes 1979, 1966
~ Clos Vougeot Grand cru 1964

 Fou D'ici (@FOUDICI)

After a quick check-in at the hotel, we headed to this all-in-one-gourmet-market for coffee and cupcakes which was a much needed power up for the walking tour coming up next. Offering Quebec Organic produce, local meat & cheese, sustainable seafood, award winning artisanal bread and prêt-à-manger sandwiches, soups, salads or meal;
Fou D'ici reminds me of McEwans in Toronto. Carrying over 300 types of cheese, we were also treated to a cheese platter while we were introduce to our tour guide from VDM Global

"Right into the heart of Montreal" Walking Tour

This is one of the four tours offer by
VDM Global during the Taste MTL event and led by experienced foodie guide during the happy hour (5 to 7pm). Our tour bought us to the heart of the action in Montreal including the Quartier des spectacles (Festival Central) followed by going down to the Underground City and the Red Light District.

Birks Cafe 

Have a cup of tea while surrounded by diamonds?! Located inside the Birks jewelry store, you can enjoy a relaxing tea or meal while surrounded by all the bling while enjoying the gorgeous architecture of the space. We only stop by for a quick tour but would definitely want to come back, maybe for an afternoon tea

At our final stop where we got to enjoy a glass of bubbly and some amazing macarons.

Nocochi Bistro/Tea House (@NocochiMontreal)

 ~ Located near the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; it has a relaxing and art gallery style feel to it. Known for the delectable gluten-free Persian pastries, European-style coffees and large variety of all natural teas. Their menu consist of meat, vegetarian and gluten free options
My dinning partner for this trip was Montreal Blogger Janice (@KtchnHealsSoul) of Kitchen Heals Soul and I was thrilled to meet a local blogger who have all the inside scoop. 

My Taste MTL three-course dinner at Nocochi ~ $29pp
 There was only a meat and vegetarian option to choose from and since Janice decided on the vegetarian option, I went with the meat option so we could try everything from the table d’hote menu (especially to share the 2 desserts)
 ~ Beef Carpaccio
~ Sous-vide filet mignon w/ blueberry sauce, wasabi mashed potatoes, maple glazed vegetables and charcoal herbs 
~ Maple ice cream, hazelnut crumble and strawberry coulis 
~ Lime mousse and mint pearls

I have to say I was a bit skeptical at first since their prix fixe menu wasn’t sandwich and pizza given that they are a café but end up overall very impress with the dishes. They use a lot of different techniques and textures in each dish like the charcoal herbs and the pearls in both the ramen and dessert.
**See full post here**

Day 2 - Sat Nov 2, 2013

We started our day with breakfast at Renoir which was the hotel restaurant and what a great way to start off our long day ahead. Few cup of their French pressed coffee also helped.
Maple Workshop
After breakfast, we made our way over to Fou D'ici (@FOUDICI) once again for our maple workshop which was hosted by journalist and blogger Nathalie Richard and sponsored by Les Produits de l’Érable du Quebec.
We start by tasting four types of maple syrups: extra light, light, medium and dark and followed by a tasting of other maple products: maple toffee, maple butter, duck rillettes w/maple flakes and maple water (a rather new product, it was barely sweet which was rather interesting).
And what better way to end the tasting but with alcohol flavored with maple from a Brut, aperitif to whisky. They were surprisingly not sweet yet containing the distinct taste of Maple and my favorite being the whisky (I bet would be delicious to spike my coffee or teas).
I had wanted to come back to this Chocolate heaven since my last visit a year ago (see post here) and I can’t be more thrilled when I saw it on our itinerary. Yes chocolate after all the maple tasting, definitely a sugar overdose type of day. This is a different location from the one I went last time which was smaller, much more intimate and café like. Since this was our lunch stop, I got to their buckwheat crepe this time and of course I can’t not have chocolate at this chocolate heaven.
Since my last visit consisted of all desserts, this time around I decided to try their Chocolate Bar. Can you believe they have an entire menu just for Chocolate drinks and divided into sections like Origin Vintages, Plantation Vintages and Alcoholic Chocolates with taste descriptions for each selection, just like what you find on wine list.
My Lunch :
 ~ Cider (Bretagne, France)
~ Goat Cheese, Pears & Honey Buckwheat Crepe
~ Alto El Sol 65% - Peru Organic 2009 Hot Chocolate from the Plantation Vintages section which had a very long after taste of acidic fruit
 After lunch, we had some free time to explore the city and we all decided to head to Jean-Talon Market together. We end up taking the Metro (first time taking the Montreal subway) and try to navigate our way without a guide. Being the largest outdoor public market in North America since 1933; it offers an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and all types of specialty shops that feature spices, oils, cheese, meats, pastries and product that are specific to Quebec.
If I live in Montreal, I would be shopping here on a regular basic and probably try all the ready to eat goodies
Located right next to Jean-Talon Market, we took a look at Le Marché des Saveurs which has been serving up delicious regional product from Quebec since 2000 with over 225 types of cheeses and the largest selection of artisanal alcoholic beverages in the province. Definitely wish I could carry some of the local beer home since I just love Montreal beer, not only do they taste great but also have the best labels.

After a short rest at the hotel, we met up with Jeremie our guide once again and head to  
La Champagnerie for a pre-dinner snack and drink. Located in Old Montreal, it is a champagne bar where a large selection of champagne are available by bottle or glass and also some champagne cocktails. For the food side, they offer a wide selection of small plates which are perfect for sharing.
Our pre-dinner snacks + drink:
~ Arancini: Risotto Balls w/goat cheese &apricots
~ Poutine w/shredded maple flavor pork, brie cheese & foie gres poultry veloute, cheese curder 
~ Blue CheeseSnails served w/ grilled rosemary focaccia 
~ Blood Orange & Spices Cocktail: Vodka, blood orange juice, lemon juice, zaatar, long pepper syrup & bubbles
Although I am not a fan of sparkling wine or drink in general, I love the space here and it’s definitely a perfect place for pre or post dinner hangout
Being the restaurant inside the Musee d’art Contemporain (@macMTL), at the helm of Chef Antonin Mousseau Bistro le Contemporain’s menu are often inspired by the exhibition happening at the time which results in inventive and attractive dishes that tempt both eye and taste buds.
My Taste MTL three-course dinner at Bistro le Contemporain ~ $29pp
(unfortunately they only had French menu so I'll try my best to translate)
~ Gnocchi amuse-bouche (complimentary)
~ Langue de veau facon jambon cuit, sauce gribiche, onion frits, macedoine de legumes, herbes fraiches (Veal tongue cook in way of ham, sauce gribiche, fried onions, diced veggies salad, fresh herbs)
~ Boudin Noir en croustade sale au ras el hanout, chou rouge, beurre de pommes, petit jus corse (Blood Sausage crusted w/ ras el honout which is a North Afircain spice mix, red cabbage, apple butter and juices) +$6 for this option
~ Glace a la Citroulle, crumble bacon noisettes, croustillant aux epices, simple creme brulee au sucre d'erable (Pumpkin ice cream w/ bacon bits, spice crust, creme brulee w/ maple sugar)
Once again accompanied by Janice, we found the dishes to be very sophisticated and well portioned for the $29 price tag. Since Taste MTL was to promote the food scene of Montreal for both the local and visitors, I would expect all the menus to be in both French and English but they weren’t here which was definetly strange. I have always expected being able to get a quick look at the museum when you dine at the restaurant but everywhere were closed

**See full post here**
Day 2 - Sun Nov 3, 2013
We stayed at Hotel Sofitel for this trip which is located on Sherbrooke St and the room was super spacious with a huge super comfy king size bed and the staff was incredibly professional, friendly and attentive. You will always return to a tidy room and when returning at night, soft music will always be playing with the bed cover pulled away and ready for a good night sleep. And I appreciate that they had a few bottles of water waiting for me each day instead of my usual search of convenience store to stock up on water during a trip. Plus I felt super special being greeted with a lovely cheese and fruit platter in my room the first day.
Last item on the itinerary for our last day was Sunday Brunch at Renoir in our hotel with an amazing buffet spread which include oysters, smoked salmon, fish, pastries, charcuterie, cheese, roast beef, dessert and made to order waffles
**See full post here**
Before our train ride back to Toronto, me and Jess got some free time and decided to buy some souvenirs home which include some foie gras  pate and rillettes from Le Canard Libere, smoked meat from Schwartz's (old post here) and bagels from 
 St Viateur (old post here)
I owed a big Thank You to Tourism Montreal and Food Bloggers of Canada (FBC) for inviting me to this amazing press trip! Montreal being one of my favorite city, I try to come back every year and hopefully I will be back soon for more good eats.

*** This trip was complimentary. Opinions are my own***


  1. Great post Vickie! So glad you were able to go and had such a great time! I'm amazed at how much you all crammed into the weekend.

  2. Looks like you had a busy but delicious weekend! I'll have to check out the Birks Cafe on my next visit. I love Jean Talon Market as well!

    1. Def a great time, I know tea while surrrounded by diamonds and pearls, it''s on my list too