Monday, August 20, 2007

Montreal Part 2: Running to Eat

Sunday was long run day (we’re training for the Scotiabank Half Marathon), so Darcy and I had to get up at the crack of dawn (well, 6:45 AM) and go for an 8-mile run before it got too hot. It was already too late; we melted. We ran down to the Old Port and along the Lachine Canal all the way west to the Champlain Bridge and back.

Just before getting back to my sister’s condo, we walked a bit to cool down and passed a few people who gave us really strange looks. We didn’t know, but Darcy’s nipple had chafed so there was a huge streak of blood running down the side of his white shirt, diffused by all the sweat. I wasn’t bleeding openly, but my sports bra had cut into my skin and I had a four-inch long raw gash at the top of my ribcage. Remind me again why we signed up for another half marathon? Oh right, the eating.

Werby’s: Breakfast of Champions (or of a 300-lb lumberjack)

Exhausted, sore, and lacerated, we ventured out into the heat to find sustenance. The wise thing to do would have been to get pho at Pho Bac across the street, but after that run (Map My Run calculated that Darcy burned over 1000 calories) I was jonesing for some trans fat so we walked to Old Montreal to hit Eggspectations.

Eggspectations is now a successful chain (there’s one at the Eaton Centre in Toronto), but it started with only one location at de la Montagne and de Maisonneuve. We used to line up on weekends and I remember the owner was always there pitching in (seating people, serving, bussing tables). I wonder where he is now that Eggpectations is an international franchise with locations in the States and India.

When we arrived, there was a line snaking out the door and we were too fragile to wait so we changed the plan to go to 5th Avenue at Parc and Sherbrooke, another university nostalgia place that had cheap, simple breakfast and a quirky interior decorated with a million plants. After a long, sweaty walk uphill, we discovered that 5th Avenue is now a Greek restaurant. Boo! Desperate, we walked north and found Werby’s, which is where No Name Cafe was back in the day.

We ordered the most decadent meals (Swiss cheese omelette with sausage and hash browns for Darcy and something called Le Quebecois for me: eggs, ham, bacon, hash browns, and a crepe). Darcy’s toast was burnt and there were these strange blue maraschino cherries presented as ‘fresh fruit’, but it hit the spot. Calorie deficiency restored (and overshot), we waddled back and spent the afternoon with kitty and Russell Crowe (The Insider; great movie!).

Schwartz’s: Yes, it’s as good as they say
You might think that after such a heavy brunch we would want something light for dinner, but you’d be surprised (or not at all) how we can bounce back. Darcy thought this would be logistically the best time to tackle Schwartz’s Deli (famous smoked meat; in business since 1928) since it was Sunday afternoon (no business traffic). Either he was right or we were very lucky because usually you can’t get near the place, but when we got there we were 3rd in line. Yessss!

Despite living in/visiting Montreal for 15 years, I had never eaten at the actual restaurant. It’s an experience in itself. Aside from the counter, there are only about 5 tables of six that are lined up cafeteria-style so you never have a table to yourself. They throw you in, sink or swim, at any chairs that are free. We sat sandwiched between two Italian construction worker-looking men on one side and three Latino metrosexuals on the other.

We ordered a large plate (heap of smoked meat with a stack of rye bread), fries, pickles, coleslaw, and black cherry pop. I’ve had this meat before as takeout, but it really is so much better at the source -- fresh and steaming hot. We had ‘medium’ meat, which is the middle ground between ‘lean’ and ‘fatty’. The meat was incredibly tender with lots of shavings from the outside of the brisket that are spicy and salty. The pickles were huge kosher dills and the coleslaw was dressed with vinaigrette instead of mayonnaise. They were both great sour accompaniments to the smoked meat. The fries were decent, but nothing to get too excited about. We finished everything except a couple of pieces of bread. If in town, you have to go. It says a lot about a place if Darcy is willing to both stand in line and sit crowded amongst strangers. By the time we left, the usual ant line had formed down the street. Go early on a Sunday!

My Favourite Apartment
After dinner, we went on a mission to find mojito ingredients in order to fulfill the fantasy I had of sitting on my sister’s terrace with mojitos in hand, enjoying the summer night and spying on passersby. We managed to find everything as well as pass by my second last and very favourite Montreal apartment at Coloniale and Pins.

At this apartment, my roommates and I discovered a skylight in our back room that we could crawl through and to get to the roof of our triplex. Up there we had an incredible view of both the city and the mountain, including the cross that lights up at night. To get up there, we climbed up a dangerous stack of tables, chairs, and books. This was at the same time that Darcy and I first met and he surprised me by building and installing a rope ladder while I was away for a few weeks in Europe. I left the ladder there when I moved because I figured I’d just keep it in a box somewhere while the next tenants could use it and enjoy the roof. I wonder if it’s still there.

No comments: