Happy fall. As much as I love summer, I really love fall. I especially love the transition between the two seasons when the harvest is bountiful, the light is magical and the air is crisp but the sun is still bright and warm. It is a time of reflection and introspection. A time of slow cooked foods, apples, cinnamon, soups and stews.
I just got back from a trip out East. When we left it was summer and it was fall upon our return. We decided that this year our holidays would be dedicated to exploring parts of our own vast nation instead of going abroad. We decided on Toronto, Quebec City and Montreal. A perfect decision it was.
As you would expect, our holiday revolved largely around food. Finding great places to eat, exploring markets, and sharing food and drink with friends took up most of our days.
We rented a car on a sunny Sunday in Quebec and drove to a small island on the St. Lawrence river just outside of Quebec City called L’Ile D’orleans. It is an island of farms, orchards, vineyards, very small towns and picturesque scenery. We had the great fortune of being there for the apple harvest. Hundreds of people flocked to the island to pick apples at the many orchards.
The trees were laden with fruit. Families were picking and picnicking beneath the trees. It reminded me of time spent with my family as a child picking fruit. Such excitement and delight.
Each day started with a hunt for the perfect cup of coffee, afternoons brought about the search for the ultimate hand crafted ice cream and the days ended with full hearts and bellies.
We spent hours walking the streets exploring different neighbourhoods, popping into local shops, always rewarded with a nice spot to rest our weary feet in a park or cafe. I happily bumbled along in French, getting braver as the days went on. We may have even eaten poutine in the late hours of the night with the rest of Montreal.
We reconnected with friends and met new and interesting people. We visited galleries, museums, the World Press photography exhibit, went to a baseball game, took in live music, and traveled by train.
The light and colours were intense and warm with the low fall sun.
The food scene is alive and thriving in all three cities but we most connected with the food culture in Montreal. We visited the Jean Talon and Atwater Markets which were bursting with fresh produce, cheese, meats, breads and other local delicacies.
We were short on days to explore all of the wonderful suggestions made to us by friends and our hosts in Montreal. The eating possibilities seemed endless. I read that outside of New York City, Montreal has the most restaurants per capita in North America. I believe it.
We enjoyed an afternoon southern inspired picnic at the Parc D’Italie from a great spot in little Italie called Dinette Triple Crown.
Or course we had to have bagels. So fun to watch them coming fresh out of the wood fired oven.
I loved the history in the old buildings, streets and peeling paint.
The last day of our holiday in Montreal was one of the best. Perhaps knowing that these were the last few hours together on holidays made them that much more precious.
We walked around the Plateau neighbourhood of Montreal where we were staying. The sun was warm on our backs.
It was an indulgent morning of coffee, fresh beignets, a beautiful brunch at the chef’s table in a patisserie that smelled of butter and hours of walking under changing leaves. We bumped into a beautiful little outdoor organic market where locals and families were buying their produce for the week.
I wasn’t ready to say au revoir.
We really only scratched the surface of places to eat and find great food but here are a few suggestions if you happen to find yourself in Toronto, Quebec City or Montreal.
Toronto: Coffee at Cafe Panemar and a wander in Kensington Market. A great healthy lunch or juice/smoothies at Fresh or a Thai lunch at Khao San Road. Ice cream sandwiches from White Squirrel coffee shop enjoyed in Trinity Bellwoods Park across the street. Dinner at The County General. Lots of great shops, cafes and restaurants in the neighbourhood of West Queen West.
Quebec City: Coffee at La Brulerie. Explore the Quebec countryside and pick up local produce with a trip to Ile D’Orleans, lunch at Panache Mobile located at the Vignoble de Sainte-Pétronille vineyard on the island. Grass fed burgers at Le Chic Shack. Local produce from Le Marche du Vieux-Port or organic groceries and produce at La Carotte Joyeuse. Local beer at La Barberie Microbrasserie.
Montreal: Coffee at Cafe Neve, Le Falco or Cafe Sardine. Bread and pastries from Boulangerie Guillaume. Fresh bagels from St-Viateur or Fairmount. Brunch at Sparrow or Patisserie Rhubarbe. Lunch or tea and a sweet at Olive and Gourmando or Dinette Triple Crown. Ice cream and house made cones at Les Givres. Micro brew at Reservoir. Visit the Marche Jean Talon for fresh fruits and veggies and goodies if you want to cook your own meals. La Drogheria Fine also has lovely hand made pasta sauces and olive oils. While there are many great dinner spots in Montreal we were often too full by dinner time and just had a light snack or salad.
I also got some great suggestions on Montreal from Chantelle at her beautiful blog.
Thank you to Nadia, Karen, Gretchen, Pablo, Lisa, Martin, Daniel and Mélanie and other friendly Canadians we met for all the wonderful suggestions on places to eat and visit and for your warm hospitality- it made for a most memorable and fun trip.
À bientôt, j’espère!