Posts Tagged ‘hand to mouth’

by Matt

I got a chance to hit up Atwater Market recently and since Julia couldn’t make it I brought along my ol’ pal Ben Franklin, polymath.

I’ve been in talks with a travel agent to do a Matt’s Montreal Tour with a large group of German visitors in September so I headed down to the market to do some cost analysis.  Turns out bread, cheese and pate for 20-25 people will cost roughly $120.  That’s the easy part, the hard part is finding a place for 20-25 proper european tourists to eat all of it.  Come Fall I hopefully shouldn’t have too much difficulty.

While I was down there I thought I’d check out some of the new stuff going on outside at the north end.  I was particularly excited to try the Satay Bros. Malaysian stand but it being a Tuesday they were closed so I had to “settle” for a lobster roll from the Homard des Iles kiosk.

Matt: This looks to be a pretty decent Maine-style lobster roll but with real mayo rather than the Miracle Whip Julia and I had at the Two Lights lobster shack in Cape Elizabeth.  Nice garnishes, too.  We’ve got some chive, red onion, celery and even some anise seed.

Ben:  “New England rum,” in the olden time, was as universal an article, from Maine to Georgia, as Monongahela whisky is now, and far more generally used.

Matt:  I hear you, Ben that would be a nice touch.  There’s hardly anything more appetizing than a nice glass of liquor and a good rum would sure enhance the maritime theme.  I really like the celery, it adds a nice, fresh, green aspect that I haven’t had in a lobster roll.

Ben:  I turned and went down Chesnut-street and part of Walnut-street, eating my roll all the way, and, coming round, found myself again at Market-street wharf, near the boat I came in, to which I went for a draught of the river water; and, being filled with one of my rolls, gave the other two to a woman and her child that came down the river in the boat with us, and were waiting to go further.

Matt:  That’s very generous of you.  Well, I’m still hungry.  It’s a good thing we picked up this Si Pousse sausage A la Biere Noire de Montreal and this Marco Birch beer to wash it down with.

Ben: I found at my door in Craven-street, one morning, a poor woman sweeping my pavement with a birch broom; she appeared very pale and feeble, as just come out of a fit of sickness.

Matt:  That’s a pretty good description of this Marco birch beer, Ben.  Pale and feeble.  It’s a lot like their spruce beer, vaguely tasting of birch and too sweet.  I prefer Bertrand’s spruce beer anyday but I at least give Marco marks for making a birch beer at all.  You don’t see that everyday.

Ben:  From my example, a great many  left their muddling breakfast of beer, bread, and cheese, finding they could with me be supplied from a neighboring house with a large porringer of hot water-gruel, sprinkled with pepper, crumbled with bread, and a bit of butter in it, for the price of a pint of beer, viz., three half pence. This was a more comfortable as well as a cheaper breakfast, and kept their heads clearer.

Matt:  Tell me about it, I’m running up quite a bill here.  Lobster roll: $12.50, birch beer: $2.50, sausage: $5.  That’s $20 for breakfast.  Mind you I do have some left-over sausage, which was quite good, to munch on later.  I could have saved some money by not getting a lobster roll, I guess but I really wanted one.

Ben:  If then a way can be proposed, which may tend to efface the memory of injuries, at the same time that it takes away the occasions of fresh quarrels and mischief, will it not be worth considering, especially if it can be done, not only without expense, but be a means of saving?

Matt:  Sure.

Matt: Well, thanks for coming out with me today, Ben.  I had a great time as usual.  You’re always pleasant if occasionally ribald company.

Ben:  I think I never knew a prettier talker.  Many pleasant walks we have had together on Sundays in the woods, on the banks of the Schuylkill, where we read to one another, and conferred on what we had read.

Matt:  And eaten.

All Benjamin Franklin quotes taken from Benjamin Franklin: His Autobiography.


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Matt:  We`ve walked past this place a million times and have always meant to stop in.  I`m glad we did, this is delicious.

Julia:  The pastilla was great. I was starving, but I almost couldn’t finish it. The chicken, almond, raisin, and egg mixture was so rich and flavourful. That guy outside who said, “Get the pastilla,” did not steer us wrong.

Matt:  Indeed he didn’t.  I’d come back here anytime to get another one of these.  The flaky crust is fantastic and while it may be a little dry the mint tea we ordered was a perfect washer-downer.

Julia:  Mmm-hmm. And I know it’s traditionally taken with lots and lots of sugar, I appreciate that they ask. I think the strong unsweetened mint tea we opted for was a perfect foil for the rich pastilla. Sweetened it would have been way over the top.

Matt:  It was a short visit but a good one.  I give Al Iman 5 Hand to Mouths.

Julia: Yay! I’d like to add that the service was really friendly and the woman who helped us was very happy to explain what everything was. Plus they have an ice cream cooler and sell rocket-pops.

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On a Sunday stroll round the neighborhood we picked up a couple of beers, unusual ones in this part of town (Parc-Ex).  First up is Mickey’s, bought at Marche Africaine on Jean Talon.  Mickey’s is brewed in Milwuakee by the Miller company.


Matt:  It has a certain ephemeral quality.

Julia:  You mean watery?

Matt:  Yeah.

Julia:  PBR-esque.

Matt:  PBR’s better, though for what that’s worth.

Julia:  It’s so bad I don’t even want any more.

The Guinness Extra Stout comes to us from Halifax and was bought at  J.P.A. on St. Roch.

Guinness Extra Stout

Matt:  Wow, what a difference.

Julia:  Mmmm, now that’s a beer,

Matt:  I forgot what flavour tasted like.

Julia:  Did you know that Guinness is actually pretty low in alcohol and calories? People are always like, “Oooh, arrg, a meal in a bottle!” But that’s just cause it’s dark in color.

Matt:  Colour.

Julia:  And it has a certain creaminess.

Matt:  Creaminouss.

Julia:  Creaminouss?

Matt:  That’s how we spell it up here.  This is the Queen’s English, not your mongrelized, bastardized and despised “American” english.

Julia: Eh?

Matt:  I’m disappointed that we can’t get my favourite Indian beer, Cheetah out here.  What’s up with that?

Julia: Just in restaurants. I’m also disappointed that we can’t find Mythos, that Greek beer, in any deps.

Matt:  Fail.  Total fail.  Utterly Fail.

Julia:  (silence)

Matt:  Well, we may not have a great dep beer selection but some good stuff can be had at the Loblaws near Parc Metro, including one of my all-time favourites, Blonde d’Achouffe.

Julia: That Loblaws reminds me of my long-lost and beloved Wegman’s.

Matt:  Ah, yes, Wegman’s.  The last refuge of the scoundrel.  Well, the last refuge of the average Syracustian.

Julia: Syracustian? No one says that. It’s Syracusan. Duh.

Matt:  Since I had to down that entire bottle of Mickey’s all by my lonesome I think I’m entitled to some made up titles.

Julia: This is getting long and pointless.

Matt:  You’re long and pointless.

Julia: Your face is long and pointless.

Matt:  I’m the onyl one drinking hjere.  whty dont you shut op.

Julia: Time for a nap.

Matt:  (snore)

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m:  i love this place.  in fact, i think it’s my new favourite place.  $4 dumplings?  20 dumplings?  yessir.

j:  and the soup! for me, it’s all about the hand pulled noodles in the lamb soup. they’re dense and chewy, but somehow not doughy. love.

m:  yeah, those noodles…  …  yeah…  and cctv never gets boring.  ever.

j:  yeah, it might if we could understand what the heck they were saying! but that brings me to another thing i love about this place – it’s like your at somebody’s house and they’re just cooking food for their friends and family. it’s absolutely delicious, but it’s not there to impress anyone – they make the food that they want to eat, and then we get to eat it, too.

m:  taste is underrated.  why do people make stuff that tastes bad?  or just not good?  make it fantastic, fer chrissake.  it’s not hard.

j:  no, i think it is hard. it’s easier to create a trendy atmosphere and serve mediocre food. some people value a trendy atmosphere. but putting in the work, every day, to make really exceptional food that doesn’t cut corners is hard. that’s why we like lotus bleu’s kind of minimalist atmosphere – it really is just about the food there.

m:  granted, it takes a certain amount of effort to make dumplings in the first place but it shouldn’t be unique.  it’s just effort, not talent.

j:  agreed… (awkward silence)… now back to those dumplings. of the two kinds we ordered (pork and chive, and pork and cabbage), i liked the ones with chive the best. and the chili oil and black vinegar is perfect with them.

m:  i mean, just make the damn dumplings like you mean it.  and not like you THINK i want them.

j:  do you have a secret past full of dumpling related trauma that you’re keeping from me?

m:  i was once tied up and pelted with dumplings but that’s none of your business. nor is it here nor there.   it’s just that a dumpling is such a simple thing.  it stinks to have bad dumplings, you know?  you know?  we could go to, say, qing  hua and end up paying twice the price for pretty much the same dumpling.  now, lotus bleu doesn’t have the variety of fillings that qing hua has but they’re just as good. and there aren’t enough places making them that good.  you know?  just good dumplings like i would assume my chinese grandmother would have made had i been chinese.

j:  first, you’re all talk. make some dumplings like a man instead of kvetching about everyone else’s dumplings. then you can say with some  authority that it’s a “simple thing”. another thing, qing hua’s dumplings are kind of semi-soup dumplings, and lotus bleu are just straight up dumplings without any broth in them. i agree that lotus bleu is far better value, but they’re not really the same thing. i don’t think they’ll ever get blown up like qing hua, either, being out in verdun and not really set up for it. but i think we should discuss the lamb soup, and that strange man who was babbling about “knife cut” noodles last time we were there.

m:  yeah, i think that guy was nuts but for all he was wrong about (montreal was originally english?  ?  because some buildings have english names or text above their doors?) he was right about the knife cut noodles.  at least we have to assume he was because we can’t get them in montreal.  the lamp soup is amazing.  now THAT’S craft.  it’s so much harder to make a broth like that and noodles like that than a good dumpling.  i can understand why virtually no one does it.  that soup is reason enough to go back again and again.  i give lotus bleu my highest rating of five hands… to mouths.  julia?

j:  well, thanks, resident broth expert. i’m glad you’re familiar with the relative difficulty levels of chinese dishes. but seriously, slurping those thick noodles out of the spicy, cilantro scented broth is heavenly. especially when the noodle seems to go on forever. my only complaint is the orange oil stain it leaves in the corners of my mouth. it’s tasty orange oil though. gingery and sesame-y. and the lamb bits are quite tender and pleasantly salty.  i also have to give lotus bleu five hands. also to mouths.

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