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Posts Tagged ‘verdun’

by Matt

I was looking through old pictures and came across this one taken in Queens in May.  Anyone know anything about it?  If it smells how I think it smells (that unholy combo of Labbatt 50, cheap pizza, cheap smokes, sweat, stagnant river water and carnal desperation) then…  well…  it’s not good.

By the way what is that girl doing in that ad?  Is she just dumping it off the side of a building or what?  If it smells how I think it smells…  I don’t blame her.

*product is not actually by Lise Watier.
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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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by matt

founded in 1671 by zacharie du puy, verdun is one of canada’s oldest cities.  it’s generally not thought of as a destination spot but verdun has some great stuff going for it.  a burgeoning food scene, cheap rents and proximity to the river make it a great place to live as well as visit.

verdun has been an historically english neighborhood although there’s a good mixture of languages and cultures today with french predominating.  it’s also known for it’s disproportionate contribution to foreign wars as we’ll see later on.  today we took a walk from our home in pointe st. charles into the heart of verdun down verdun and wellington streets to eat at lotus bleu, an excellent hand-pulled noodle place which we’ll review in our “hand to mouth” series.  for scenes of verdun, keep reading!

here’s a wayfaring map of our route.



we set out from our  home in point st. charles on an overcast morning.  across the street from our apartment and taking up two full blocks is the point st. charles recreation centre.  they’ve given an entire blank wall over to the graffiti artists.  i’m not sure how long its been there but it looks pretty recent.  these two blocks look to have been pretty much uninhabited, at least according to the 1950’s insurance maps i’ve looked at.  this complex is a bland brick and aluminum affair and the graffiti wall goes a long way to making it more interesting.

so, onto verdun.  we took a route (as you can see from the wayfaring map) straight down grand trunk onto d’argenson, under the tracks and highway and onto lasalle boulevard.  before the highway was put through we would have been able to take a bridge across a stream called tail race on verdun ave. itself.  tail race was eventually filled in and now the connection to verdun ave. is a little more complicated since you have to take a right on henri-duhamel to get to it.  the stretch of lasalle boul. between where it takes that little turn and mullins used to be verdun ave.  the bridge over tail race was pretty much exactly where the highway is now as you can see from this 1932 insurance map.

there was also a massive cotton mill complex just south of lasalle, an area that today is home to a suburban-style cul-de-sac development.


not too far down verdun ave. on the corner of hickson we run into venerable verdun-ian insitution pierrette patates where they make a pretty decent poutine.  it’s also apparently open 24 hours but i’ve never been in the neighborhood beyond maybe 7:00 p.m..  is it really open ’round the clock?

on a little further we found these two old houses across the street from each other.  i had a hunch that they were wood-frames and after consulting that ’32 insurance map it turns out that i’m right.  3948 verdun ave. is indeed a very old wood-frame dwelling.  new york banned wood-frames in 1866 but i haven’t been able to find out when montreal followed suit, if ever.

 

the map that shows the north side of verdun shows that that house is also a wood-frame dwelling.

 

they don’t make signs like this anymore, nor do they make “machine a cheques.”  i love signs that are equal in obsolescence to the things they advertise.  

and just across the street is this precarious looking hodgepodge of  an extension made of wood and glass.  julia and i both love mismatched architectural oddities.

near the verdun metro station is a monument to verdun’s war dead.  originally a first world war monument it’s been revised a couple of times to include second world war and korean war casualties.  on the south side of the street is the great war memorial hall.  erected in the aftermath of armistice it’s been the location of many a salute to the fallen as well as annual royal canadian legion meetings.

having eaten lunch and stuffed to our gills with soup and dumplings from lotus bleu (see our review here) we trekked a little further down verdun street before splitting up.  julia had to head to class but i was going to finish up the trip by walking home on wellington.  but first, some signs:

your one-stop-shop for all things meat, including meat that has been aged for 14 days and house-made sausages.  i haven’t partaken but next time i’m in the area i’m definitely going to pick up some old, tubed meat.

nice to know the people of verdun are loved.  not sure what “an apple a day…”‘s got to do with it, though.

after we split up i headed down to wellington where i found these harbingers of gentrification.

the place in the middle is the highly regarded tea house cha noir.  i’ve never been but i’ve heard it’s good.   the place on the right is the also supposedly very good copette+cie, a fromagerie.  nice to know that i can do my tea and cheese shopping on the same block without having to brave the throngs at atwater market.

not too far away, though, is the verdun we’ve all grown to love.

cheap, crappy pizza and smokes.  “you can cram your fancy ‘fromages’ and ’tisanes’,” they seem to say by their body language alone.  i wonder if these cheese, tea, up-scale restos will catch on, verdun could easily become another plateau.  i can’t see that happening, though.  verdun, like point st. charles is, i think, somewhat resistant to gentrification though it has it’s toe holds here, too.  i don’t think it’ll catch on either here or in verdun.  maybe the ghosts of the working class will continue to keep the scene-sters at bay.

fingers crossed!

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by julia

When I first moved to Montreal four and half years ago, I found a dirt-cheap apartment with teal linoleum floors and grayish pink walls way out in western Verdun. This wasn’t my first choice neighborhood, far as it is from downtown and any sort of nightlife (a Verdun bylaw forbids ordering alcohol unless it’s accompanied by food), but I got to know the city in a way I wouldn’t have had I opted for a more conveniently situated place in the Plateau or downtown. Plus, a bike path along the St. Lawrence, often populated by shirtless elderly men cycling very slowly with small dogs in their baskets, was just a five minute walk away.  One day that summer, I went running west along the river, past Verdun and into Lasalle, and came upon Ile aux Herons, a migratory bird sanctuary on a small island in the Lachine Rapids.

Last weekend, my parents were visiting with their dog, Poppy, and we all craved some outdoor time on an uncommonly warm February day. The bird sanctuary was perfect. Full of city dwellers revelling in the sun and quiet after being cooped up all winter, and birdwatchers with all sorts of fancy binoculars.  As it turns out, dogs aren’t technically allowed, but Poppy was feeling defiant that day, and decided she’d sneak onto the island and be inconspicuous. She was scolded on the way out by a group of bird watchers, but seemed unfazed.

The bird sanctuary is just one activity along the rapids. In the summer, there’s whitewater kayaking and surfing. It was a bit cold for that in February.

We didn’t see many birds – just some mallards. During the warmer months, there’s a great blue heron every time you turn your head. Poppy remained vigilant, however.

After we’d had enough of the icy wind, we warmed ourselves up with some delicious Chinese soup and dumplings at Lotus Bleu in Verdun.  Lotus Bleu is one of our very favorite new restaurants, and it was a perfect winter lunch. More on that in a future post!

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