Caitlin Wheeler | Mar 26, 200110:30 AM    

I have to preface this message by saying that as there was a snowstorm, I was traveling with a non-chowhound (though I'm trying to convert him) and we were feeling a little impoverished, I probably did not experience the true food greatness of Montreal. However, I did have some interesting experiences.

My Montreal notes must begin with praise to our hotel. We stayed at the Auberge de Vieux Port, in the Old Town, and it was wonderful. Our room was beautiful (not fancy, just beautiful) and looked out over the river. The staff couldn't have been nicer, and there was classical music playing softly when we walked in (a plus for me). And they served wine and cheese in the afternoon. Big kudos to the hotel. ($140 per night, including breakfast)

Speaking of the hotel, breakfast in the morning was a real treat. There was a buffet of croissants, muffins, cereal and yoghurt (Amazing banana muffins) and then you had a choice of Crepes, French toast, Eggs any style, omelettes or a fresh fruit plate. I had the crepes twice, and eggs, and my fiance had the fruit plate (Breakfast was so enormous we found it conducive to sharing) The ham they served was some of the best I've had.

The first night we were there, we had dinner in our hotel restaurant, Les Remparts (97 Rue de la Commune Est) which has recently won an award for best French in Montreal. This was the culinary high point of the trip -- began with a47muse bouches of duck foie gras and vanilla apples in phyllo (one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth) I had a wild boar in phyllo with onion confit, and my fi had duck foie gras. The foie gras was only OK, it was in a terrine with another meat and red peppers which I thought were overwhelming, but the boar was excellent. We moved on, him to venison with gooseberries, I to duck with a cider sauce. Both were excellently prepared: I have never had venison that tender. We shared a maple creme brulee for dessert. Overall, we paid $160 with tip, no wine, but we did have kirs to start the meal. Service was excellent.

The second day it was snowing all day, and seeking out food wasn't our top option. We did find a charming place for lunch -- the Cafe Cherrier on the corner of the Rue Cherrier and the Rue St. Denis. Neat Art Nouveau interior, I had a bagel with smoked salmon (as good as reputed) he had French onion soup. Great lunch place. Came to about $19 with tip.

Dinner the second night was only OK. We went to a place called La Charade on the Rue de Notre Dame. I had soup, venison, and the dessert on the table d'hote with a 1/4 litre of house red. He had salad, rabbit, and beer (Great local beer called Boreale Rousse, the noire is also good stout) Competent, but nothing special. Dinner for two with tip came to $70.

Late lunch on Saturday in a tavern on the Place Jacques Cartier called L'Aventure. French onion soup again (it was very cold) and chicken wings with fries. We both had beer (Boreale). The French onion soup wasn't as good as Le Cherrier. It was a relatively pleasant bar. $30.

Dinner Saturday night was a find, I thought. Many places we tried were closed, but I remembered a place I had seen and sniffed out. La Fringale on Rue St. Paul Ouest. They have a southwestern and Provencale French menu (cassoulet, duck confit, aoli, bouillabaise) and a very reasonable table d'hote. I had the house salad (interesting, with belgian endive, barley, and tuna fish, but surprisingly good) and an excellent roast pork loin. Fi had the same. We shared a 1/2 liter of house red, I had crepes for dessert and he had creme caramel. Very good dinner, total damage only $57.

I would like to go back when it's warmer and I'm feeling more adventurous about going places, but I'd definitely stay in the same hotel.

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