Montréal and back again

It was a decent week – Jill was busy with her mom and sister, and we got to have one big night out, at the Buffalo Wing Factory, where we all had too much to eat. Thursday Jill dropped Illa off at his favorite place, said goodbye to her mom and sister as they headed home, then I got home about 2 so we could head to the airport. United has a nice new feature where you only have to wait in a short line to drop off your bags if you checked in online, and the security line wasn’t too bad, so we were soon at the gate. There was a half hour delay for our flight (not surprising with the number of flights leaving from our gate), but it was a short 90 minute flight and we were soon in Montréal.

We waited almost an hour to get through Customs, then grabbed our bags and hailed a cab. It took less than half an hour to get to our hotel, in the oldest part of the city. Since it was after 8 by the time we checked in, we went with my initial plan to get dinner at the hotel. Not that the restaurant was bad, to the contrary. It was pretty loud due to the nightclub upstairs (apparently we’d stumbled on the popular night). but we found a somewhat secluded corner in back. Jill had the filet mignon, and I had the duck, served about as rare as I’ve ever had it, but still good. We also enjoyed some drinks, but were getting tired and headed upstairs.

Looks like she planned the outfit, doesn’t it?

Friday we stopped for a quick lunch of chicken paninis at Claude Postel. We had nothing planned, and Jill wanted to revisit the Montréal Botanical Garden which she’d been to before. We took the short two block walk to the Metro, then headed over to the Olympic Stadium. We took the tram around the outskirts, then took our time strolling through the gardens.

Are you telling her she can’t have roses?

We’d bought a package that included tickets to the Biodome, which features animals and plants from four separate ecosystems. We enjoyed them all: the capybara in the tropics, the beaver in the forest, the sturgeon in the sea, and the penguins, of course.

What a ham

All that walking gave us quite an appetite. Luckily, I’d made reservations at a place that would take care of that nicely. After a bit of time to relax and change, we took a cab over (it was only a short distance, but Jill was in heels) to Toque!. Jill was willing to try the seven course tasting dinner, which was a little different: “an elaborate mystery menu of seven inspired courses : seven dishes to be discovered one after another, presented in small, sampler portions; seven servings each more surprising than the last, with an optional selection of wines that are sure to enhance the seasonal products.” So we went for it, with the wine pairing as well.

The amuse bouche was a cold tomato soup that was so good, even Jill (since she has odd feelings about tomatoes) finished it. The first dish, served with a Tuscan white, was a ceviche made with scallops and apples. Jill felt the apple was a bit strong, but I felt the flavors complemented each other well. Next was a tuna tartare, served on an eggplant that had been deep fried and flattened, and had the look and texture of a fancy potato chip shaped like a grid. To our surprise, we both enjoyed it (I’m not a tuna fan, and Jill isn’t a raw fan), but the combination was good, especially with the French wine (made with Viognier and Marsanne grapes). The final seafood course was sea bass, which both of us enjoyed; it was served with a Chenin blanc.

The fourth course was our favorite meat: a sausage made from guineafowl and served on a bed of Acini di Pepe, it had an earthy taste that went perfectly with the organic red it was paired with – low in sulfites, and velvety smooth. The last meat was squab, served rare, with roasted vegetables. It was a little more gamy than Jill would have preferred, but I quite liked it. It was served with a Sangiovese (and the only full pour, thank goodness) that was very full bodied.

The best find was the first dessert course, a small piece of goat cheese on a bed of fruit. Cold and creamy, you would be convinced it was ice cream, only saltier. The second dessert course was the only time Jill and I got something different. We both got mousses, with the real fruit underneath, but she got raspberry, and I got blueberry (just as we would’ve picked). Very good meal, but very filling (even spread out over three hours), and we barely had room to finish the finale: a tiny piece of raspberry jelly candy and an equally tiny piece of dark chocolate. After Jill’s required cup of joe, we headed back to the hotel to recuperate.

The next morning, Jill wanted to explore the area we were staying in. That dovetailed well with my plans, as I wanted to have breakfast at a local chain (that much to my shock has a branch in our area). I had the Breton Benedict – an eggs benedict served on crêpes instead of an English muffin, while Jill had waffles with fruit and English Cream. Fortified well, we set out to explore. We didn’t get too far, as the rain which had been drizzling finally broke out in a downpour as we were headed back. We spent some time in the Marché Bonsecours, which is more or less a mall, but headed back to the room eventually (we’d packed umbrellas just in case).

Rain coming

We headed back to the room and read until the rain stopped (I made short work of a number of books in a Star Trek series and a short story collection during the trip), then headed back out to stroll around, stopping at the waterfront. Jill had found a French bistro in the guidebook, and we headed over there when it opened. I had the lobster ravioli, and Jill had the hanger steak with frites she’d been craving, shocking me when she actually dipped her frites in mayo (she usually abhors the stuff). After dinner, we went our separate ways at the hotel.

The whole reason I chose to go to Montréal in the first place was I got a front row ticket to see Rush fairly cheap (cheap at least comparing what I spent on the ticket, airfare, food, etc. was still less than I would’ve paid for a front row ticket in Virginia, which is why I did the same thing when I went to Nashville in 2002). So I went to the Metro and rode over to the Bell Centre (the hockey arena). I headed to my seat and waited for the show, which was awesome – most enthusiastic Rush crowd I’ve ever seen. Same setlist as June, but I was on Geddy’s side instead of Alex, and I concentrated on the performances, rather than the films or lights. Great show, can’t wait for another leg in 2008. Jill hadn’t had as good a time, since she’d tried to attend the sound-and-light shows at the Basilique Notre-Dame, but it had been canceled due to the projector being stuck.

My view

We had the hotel’s continental breakfast for the first time on Sunday, then caught a cab to the airport. I’d seen a mention on the Post’s travel chat that one couple had taken over two hours to check in, go through customs and security, and we didn’t want to take chances. What did we get? At our gate in less than 30 minutes. Oh well, we had time to read and get some lunch. I finally tried the smoked meat sandwich, which was very close to pastrami. Our flight was on time and had no problems, but retrieving our baggage on the other end took almost an hour. We were home by 6, and aired out our musty house – we’ll pick doggy up tomorrow.

All photos here.