Weekend Writing Prompt #82 – Illumination

Couldn’t come up with anything overly amazing for this prompt so I decided to kill two birds with one stone: share part of my evening with my friend, Cathy, and do this word challenge.  A silly little poem. (I’m not what one would say, fabulous, with the rhyming poetry – especially when I only have 73 words to play with.)  This kinda sorta got the job done.  I wanted to share these murals with Resa over at Graffiti Lux and Murals and I think I’ll find an excuse to go back there during the day because these two works of art deserve daylight, no snow falling and better angles!

Thanks you, Sammi, for hosting this weekly challenge.

A word prompt to get your creativity flowing this weekend.  How you use the prompt is up to you.  Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.  If you want to share what you come up with, please leave a link to it in the comments.

Word Prompt

Illumination

Challenge

An evening with Cathy, friend since forever
Bohemian Rhapsody (again, but a pleasure)

We aim to catch the four-thirty-five
Then on for supper, after a short drive

To “Amellia’s”, on Milton
And be joined by her Malcom

A mural, so beautiful, it catches my eye
Illumination sucks, but I truly must try

A pic with my cell phone will do only so much
The snow and the light add a strange little touch

Third Annual Oyster Feast Chez Moi

Still basking in the warm hug of having my friends in my home for our third annual Oyster Feast.

Took me a while, despite Christiane’s most helpful aide, to clean up my kitchen.  Frankly, I said goodnight to my guests, looked at my kitchen and walked away.  “They will be there tomorrow,” I told myself.  Knowing full-well there ain’t no such thing as fairy godmothers who come in, wave their wands and “Poof!” all is gone…

This third gathering of ours is near and dear to my heart.  These are friends that I have known for forty years (though, how that can be when I can’t really be old enough, right?) except Julie, whom I discovered when going through my “souvenirs” book one day, that I went to Kindergarten and Grade 1 with before finding ourselves again in high school.  Truth be told, neither one of us remembers each other from way back then.  But still.

Though I pick up the oysters, this is a shared evening.  Everyone brings a little something to eat and drink.

Giselle and Dany brought a fabulous plate of Italian antipasto, Christiane and Martin brought delicious popcorn shrimp.  Julie (and Michael) made these beautiful individual salads with all kinds of goodies and a large green salad – both of which I somehow have no picture of  😦  However, she also made mini crostini with goat cheese, fig and balsamic glaze. And THAT I do have a picture of!

Nibbled on these goodies, chit-chatted about everything and nothing, sipped on cocktails while I worked on my Rockefeller topping for some of the oysters.  Time to get shucking.  Dany had “conveniently” cut himself a few days earlier with his new set of knives, earning his very first stitches at the tender age of 54, so he could not shuck.  He definitely entertained us with his hundred-mile-an-hour talking and videotaping!

Deciding we have enough oysters – for now – we move to the dining room…

But first, a group picture.  Sheesh, we almost missed Christiane!  Speaking of which, check out her oh-so-cool necklace made out of egg cartons!

The first batch of oysters gobbled up, I served my spicy pumpkin soup…  As we were eating, another high school friend of ours, Marc, texteded me asking what I was up to…. so I sent him this picture below…  He said, hey! I wasn’t invited!  Sorry, Bud.

Now, this annual thing has been just us, the core four and spouses with the addition of girlfriends or boyfriends, depending, but no one else.  So after he texted, Marc called and asked if he could join us.  I put him on speaker so that we could all tell him that he was more than welcome…

But before he arrived, more horsing around…

Da Girls

Marc arrived in time for the second batch of oysters…

Time for a “Trou Normand” – where you basically take a shot of some rotgut to burn a hole and make room for more food.  Or calle it a palette cleanser.  However, Dany brought this fabulous “Amerable” – a bitter maple liqueur.  Starts off sweet and the bitterness slowly creeps in, in a rather surprisingly pleasant way… Dangerous stuff, is all I can say.

Time for dessert.  I figured we would be stuffed after all that food and I wanted to keep things light so I made orange Madeleines with Grand Marnier whipped cream and warmed figs with a drizzle of honey.  My second batch kinda sorta got forgotten in the oven, and, while not burnt, were, well, rather “tanned”… 😉

Dany, ever the comedian, likes to put blurbs on his pics occasionally.  Admittedly, they are spot on.  So, I’ve included his original in French, then did the English version 😉

Another successful evening with my peeps.  No one left hungry, that’s for sure!

And, judging by my recycling box the next morning, I’m rather surprised no one suffered!

And, lucky me, for the first time, there were actually leftover oysters!  We had some that we shucked and didn’t eat, so into a container they went and I made a soup with them… The others, I’m sure I’ll be able to treat myself to a couple more…

Until next year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Musings

I used to do a Gratitude Sunday/Sunday Gratitude/Weekend Coffee Share, in which I gave thanks for whatever happened during the week.  Somehow these posts have fallen to the wayside.  I think it’s time I brought it back, different format, though.  Doing challenges like Pegman and Weekend Writing Prompt are all fine and dandy but as a result, I was feeling a loss.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
Marcel Proust

Maybe that loss is being felt because I’m frankly exhausted  – a term I find gets overused by those who are merely tired.  We seem to have entered the age of extremes so why should one not be exhausted instead of merely tired.  I must admit defeat.  I am bloody exhausted.  A co-worker and I were talking last night before the big 260-person benefit evening, that this October, in particular, has been particularly grueling.  It’s supposed to be the slowing down of things at the golf club.  Instead, it has been one event after another and we are just plain exhausted.  I just did a nine-day run and frankly, today could not come soon enough!

So what did I do on my one day off that is supposed to consitute my “weekend”?  Well, once I got up at the crack of 11:00 am (I worked until 1 am the night before…) I made myself a couple of coffees and had a bite to eat.  Then.  I have a fabulous brother-in-law, Sébastien, who changed my tires for me.  As I sat there watching Sébas and his son, Nicolas work together, joking and ribbing each other, innuendos galore, I could not help but smile.  I then drove home with tears in my eyes.  I couldn’t help it.  I couldn’t help but think that my boys did not get long enough with their father to learn stuff.  I will never forget Iain telling Mick, lying comatose, that he couldn’t leave yet as he still had so much to learn from him.  Broke my heart.  It’ll be four years and I can still hear this clear as day.

Could not decide between the following two quotes, so have included both.

“Boys do not long for fathers who will usher them through the gauntlet of psychological disconnect. They long for fathers who have themselves survived intact. Boys do not ache for their father’s masculinity. They ache for their fathers’ hearts.”
T. Real

“You can’t love your mother or father if you don’t also have the capacity to grieve their deaths and, perhaps even more so, grieve parts of their lives.”
Glenn Beck, The 7: Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life

I got home, unloaded my summer tires and Iain was clearing out the shed.  I asked him if he wanted to come with me to the market to get the goods to make salsas and jellies and he said that nah, he had some stuff to do…

“God know that a mother need fortitude and courage and tolerance and flexibility and patience and firmness and nearly every other brave aspect of the human soul.”
Phyllis McGinley

I hid my disappointment and went to the market.  It’s amazing… Just yesterday – I swear it was yesterday – it was September.  I had told myself I would get all the stuff necessary to make salsas, that we’d go apple picking and visit David at his Britannia Mills mini-farm to pick up hot peppers to enhance our goodies.   Well. So much for that.  Here we are October 21 and my hopes for getting anything besides pumpkins were, to say the least, slim at best.   Luck was on my side.  I snagged a couple of boxes of not-so-beautiful tomatoes for ten bucks, plus 2nd rate apples that are “not fit for sale” for $15 instead of $22, as they are not perfect (pffft!), a box of bell peppers, a couple of braids of garlic, onions, a couple of pumpkins, some honey – because, when in these markets, everything looks fabulous.  Was so bloody cold, I forgot to take a pictures of the market!  Darn.  Iain did go to David’s on Friday, so the pepper situation was taken care of.

Goodies to make more goodies

Home once again, I unloaded my stash and Iain was washing his car.  Brought in the goods and he moseyed over to see just what I had managed to find.  Was as pleased as I was so…  I canna lie, there was a liltle bit of pleasure on my front – again hidden.

I started chopping veggies for the salsa, asked Iain which peppers he wanted me to use and made two different batches of salsa.  I took it as a good sign when I went up to his room where a serious video game was going on with Aidan and his friend, gave him a spoonful, he took, coughed, and said “Was not expecting quite that much heat!”  Mom still can rock it.

While working on my second batch of salsa, Iain came in to chop peppers and ingredients that he planned to turn into hot oils and  sauces.  His dehydrator has been working on drying out one of the peach somethings (not sure if they’re ghosts, morughlas, reapers or what – all’s I know is they are friggen hot) so he can turn them into chili powder – not anything you’d find in your standard grocery stores…

I looked at him and said, “I know you don’t like anything mushy, but I really enjoy when we work on something together.”  I just got a look.

“Isn’t this the truth of any good mother? That in all of our lives. We worry only about those we brought into this world, regardless of whether they loved us back or treated us fairly or understood our shortcomings.”
Adriana Trigiani, Big Cherry Holler

I know I can never fill in their father’s shoes, nor do I want to.  I can give them what I can.  I can be there for them in my capacity.  There will always be those moments where I’ll think, “Damn, Mick should be here teaching them this lesson” but that is, I know, futile.  And I can hope that I’ll be enough.  And that one day, they will think back and say – Mom was there when we needed her and did the best she could.

Portuguese Tapas and Scandalous Affairs

I am subscribed to the Place des Arts newsletter.  Which is great because I know what’s coming, what’s on pre-sale, what’s on special…  I say great but not sure if this is a good or bad thing! Ka-Ching!  On September 20th they had a 45% price reduction on Les Grands Ballets Canadiens’ “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”.  Hmmm….  I checked to see what sorts of seats were available then contacted my ever-willing- partner-in-all-things-cultural, Julie, to see if she was interested.  If she wasn’t, I was going to go it alone.  However, it is always way more fun to share these things.  Lucky for me, she said yes and I purchased the tickets in a loge.  Number 13.  Maybe that should have been a warning.

We agreed to meet just outside of the interior parking lot (both of us felt lazy) around five-ish giving us a good almost three hours to eat and catch up.  But where to go?  Many options in that hood, lemme tell you!

There are two restaurants, one in back of the other, built right on the sidewalk of Jeanne Mance Street.  They are like glassed-in “pop-up” style restaurants. Only permanent.  At least, I think they are!  Coolest thing ever.  Both of them are the “offsprings” of high-end restaurants in the city.  We stopped first at Brasserie T (baby of Toqué!), checked out the menu… looked interesting.  We decided to check out the second one.  There was no menu posted outside so we had to go in and ask to look at it.  This one is Taverne F (baby of Café Ferreira).  We chose this one.

The hostess asked us if we had a reservation.  You see, on nights where there are events going on at PdA, they are booked solid.  However, if we were willing, there was a place at the bar.  Ever the uncomplicated peeps we are, Jules and I accepted.  What a great thing that turned out to be!

Our barman/waiter, Simon-Pierre, was excellent, plus he had a little of the Chris Pratt look to him 😉  It was suggested we order 2-3 items per person.  So we ordered 6 in all.  He then suggested a bottle of red (Boina) to go with.  I have no knowledge of Portuguese wines so his suggestion, based on our tastes, was essential.  No.  I did not take any pictures of our food (d’oh!) however should you wish to, just click on the link above and you can see all sorts of beautiful pictures.

We started off with Pastéis de Bacalhau (the quintessential cod fritters with a red pepper piri-piri sauce), Sardinhas (roasted sardines with pickled veg) and Camarão e Amêijoas (shrimp and clams).  Perfect trio to start us off and we had lots of time to enjoy, so we did!

Simon-Pierre asked if we wanted a little break before the next three and we agreed….  We then had Polvo (grilled octopus with potatoes, confit tomato, chouriço and shery vinaigrette), Feijoada (lima bean cassoulet with chouriço sausage and fried pork) and finally, Arroz de Marisco (seafood rice, sofrito, calamari, shrimps and mussels).  With a little (maybe more than a little) bread to sop up the various sauces – for both trios – we were feeling just perfect.  Not too much, not too little.  We leisurely finished off our wine and chatted away.

It was then suggested we have a little dessert.  Looking at the time, we still had over half an hour to kill.  What the hell! Pastéis de Nata is a classic Portuguese pastry (custard tartlet, cinnamon, caramel sauce) and then that handsome feller went and gave us each a glass of Moscato!

Simon-Pierre in action

Now we were properly stuffed!  We made our way back to PdA and settled into our seats.  They were not as great as I had hoped.  If we had been on the other side of the theatre, we would have seen everything.  We did have a great view of the orchestra pit.  Snark, snark. The stage was built on an angle, to represent hills, so any action happening on the left-hand side was out of our view.  Thankfully, not too much happened in that corner, but still.  Quite annoying.  During the second half, the two sitting ahead of us and to the right (where the water bottle is and which had a better view) did not show up and we considered taking their seats but by the time we realised they were not returning, we, didn’t want to disturb…

View from our seat

I was a good girl and did not take any pictures of the ballet.  It was a pretty ballet but it was so slow in the beginning, us two chicas, satiated on food and wine, both struggled to stay awake (I was relieved at intermission when Julie admitted to me she was struggling as much as I was!)  A bottle of sparkling water each and we were ready for the second half!

I have to admit to not having read D.H. Lawrence’s book – yet – so I did not know the storyline, except for the obvious part.  I also like to NOT read the synopsis of the ballet because I like to see if I can figure out what is going on.  And I did, mostly, so that says a lot for the choreographer, Cathy Marston.  It was easy enough to figure out who was who except for two characthers:  Lady Chatterley’s sister – though I was fairly certain that’s who she was.  (A little aside on this character… At intermission, I turned to Julie and asked:  “Have you ever seen such a busty ballerina?” To which she responded: “I know, right?  I couldn’t help but notice, too!”  One of those stupid things you can’t help but comment on because it truly is outside the “norm”.)  There was another dancer that we thought was maybe a lady of the evening but, it turns out, was the lover’s (Mellors) former wife.  Oops. My bad.

Taking a bow

All in all, we did enjoy it – way more than the last one we saw which was Stabat Mater – a whole lotta hype that disappointed us.

What we both were wondering is why in the hell do they put this image on the cover of the programme and all other advertisements?  We kept waiting to see this superbe costume!  Nope.

They do the same with their videos… not anywhere near what we saw, costume-wise…

 

Cook in Tuscany – La Chiusa, A Surprise, Innocenti and Farewell

*** EIGHT – yes, EIGHT!!  months have gone by since I returned from Tuscany.  I had so many issues with my computer that I had put this aside to finish later and later never seemed to come.  I am now, if you don’t mind, ready to finish the telling of this fabulous life-changing (for me) trip! ***

♣♣♣TWO YEARS – yes, officially TWO YEARS have, as of today, gone by since I started my Cook in Tuscany Trip.  I am not counting my day in Zug because that would have made yesterday the official two-year mark.  Though I am not pro-resoution, I have promised myself to finish every project I have started and that includes this one.♣♣♣

Now where was I….

Sigh, the last full day in Montefollonico, at La Costa with this fabulous group that made the start of my trip so wonderful. The next morning most would be hopping the van to Chiusi-Chianciano Station to continue their adventures elsewhere or return home.  But till then, we had a full day of wonderful stuff!

As per usual, we had our breakfast in the closed-in veranda before making our way to our last cooking class.  It is kinda funny that we had the van, considering how close we were!  We could easily have walked there and back but hey, why not?  And it’s not like any of us knew where we were going anyway.

This time we made our way to the restaurant La Chiusa, run by Michelin-star chef Dania, a woman who is somewhere in her 70’s but does not dress “accordingly” (whatever that is supposed to be)!  She is one sexy lady!  Though divorced, her husband still works with her.  How very European, eh?

Dania is very artistic and she showed us how to decorate plates with zucchini and beet purées.  We made stuffed zucchini flowers, pesto risotto, chicken stew, caramel nests, fig and caramel ice cream.  The colour of the egg yolks… I have no words.  And this standard for them!

Once most of the mains were started, Dania brought us through to her gardens, which were still amazing in September.  Huge kale, leeks, rows and rows of rosemary, basil, eggplants, peppers, fig trees, zucchini with their blossoms – it was amazing to walk through, while Dania chattered away, occasionally translated by the lovely Geraldine – same who had translated on truffle-hunting day.  I think I would spend hours on this bench, dreaming of what to pick next…

Group photo!

We then went into the “pasta” kitchen where Antonietta had us making ravioli stuffed with ricotta and lovely gnocchi.

All that hard work meant we got to eat al fresco on the terrace.

To return “home”, we decided to walk this time.  It was just up a hill, less than a kilometre and let’s face it, walking was not a bad idea.  As we entered the gates of Montefollonico, we were chattering and laughing when I heard “Dale?”.

What the… I spun around and there was Pierre.  One of Mick’s close friends and former clients.  Oh. Em. Gee.  You cannot make this stuff up!  I mean, come ON!  This is not THE rocking place of Tuscany.  This tiny village is tucked away in the middle of nowhere!  I can still hear Donna saying:  “You turned French Canadian in front of my eyes!”  Speaking of eyes, the whole gang got all misty-eyed at seeing us hug.  Pierre looked at me, then up at the sky and let out a “Mick, tabarnac!”  He said he was a little bit of a believer but now was full-fledged.  I had no idea he and his wife, Geneviève, were there on vacation.  And it was his in-laws who wanted to go visit there.  What were the chances?

Pierre and Me

We exchanged emails and made arrangements to hook up in two days.  So. Very. Cool.

We had a few hours to kill before our next adventure and Sandy wanted to deliver an apron to Dania in thanks.  So I joined Donna and her for a walk back to La Chiusa and Dania.

Our last excursion was down the street from LaCosta to Innocenti Wines.

We were greeted by Vino, Vittorio Innocenti’s sweet dog.  We entered and a few feet in, found ourselves in a fairly dark and musty wine cellar with the big casks.  Vittorio and Laura (Geraldine’s mum) were waiting for us to give us a tour.  Not a very big one!  The place is quite small and feels very intimate.

It was our last night together! How quickly it passed.  How much fun we had.  The memories created will remain forever, of that I am certain.  Friendships created and with the magic of Facebook, maintained.

Our last supper was at La Costa in the closed veranda as the evening was quite cool.  We had a lovely feast of pork chops and the lemon roasted potatoes and balsamic roasted cipollini, three types of crostini (mushroom, roasted tomato and olive), salad and a birthday cake for Cindi and Alison!  A perfect ending to a perfect week in perfect company.  Linda and George gave us each a lovely ceramic plate as a memento.  We would save our good-byes for the morrow.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

 

 

Search For the Perfect Q-Ban – This Ain’t Easy – Take Two

This past week – and I mean FULL week of seven days, we have had weather to rival any Caribbean country – say, like… Cuba!  I’m talking a most disgusting average of 35°C (95°F) with that humidex factor making it feel like 45°C (115°F).  What’s a girl to do?  Continue on her search for that perfect Montreal version of the Cubano sandwich, of course.  Her partner in crime, Julie, ever the willing participant, agreed to meet me today, Friday, on my day off.  So what was today’s temp? 22°C (72°F) and it felt downright chilly!  Now for us Quebecers, who start wearing shorts when it hits 15-16°C (60°F), – sooner for some locos – this may seem silly.  But it has been hotter and muggier than the inside of Hades mouth so, this cool-down was quite the shocker.  And me, wearing a sundress…

Now I know Linds B. and Marc, over at Sorryless are done with the whole Cubano Sammy thing but they did encourage me to keep on it.  They apparently like when other peeps crash their party…

Right.

On my way to destination number two, I was struck by the sheer amount of garbage everywhere.  You see, here in Quebec, the official moving day is July 1st.  That means peeps are moving from one apartment to another and leaving shitloads of stuff behind.  I’m thinking garbage day in the area I was driving through still had not come…

Destination number two was suggested to me by a friend whose boyfriend just so happens to be Cuban.  He says other Cubans go there:  Café Cubano, still on the outskirts of Little Italy but now, on Beaubien East Street.  Traffic for Jules was horrendous, so I sat outside on a park bench in the sunshine (it was still warm, then).  Then I took a few pics in preparation.  Cute little brother and big sister skipped by.  I was amused as it seemed everyone who passed by sounded French from France.  Had me wondering what area I was in after all.  Very residential with little business like this one on the ground floor and apartments above.

Julie arrives and we pick a table.  Always a good sign when the other patrons speak the lingo.  We get the menus and I see that the Cuban Sandwich is NOT there.  And yet, when I Googled it, it was.  Hmmm…. I ask the waiter if they do do Cubanos and he says, get this:  “Not today”.  What?  “I am sorry, tomorrow you can have some.  Today we cook the pork and it takes hours. There are none today.”

Fuck.

Looked at Julie and said, “What to do now?  I am on a Cubano Sammy search.”  She agrees we need to find another place so here we are sitting in this restaurant, with our glasses of water we dare not touch, Googling for other restaurants in the vicinity.

We come upon La Bodeguita de Montréal on St. Laurent Street, a 7-minute drive away.  We decide to go with just my car – why look for two parking spots?  While I’m driving, Jules says.. “Hmmm.. their Facebook page says it’s closed.”  Dammit.  On the Google page, it says Fridays it is open from noon.  We keep going, not knowing who to trust.  We get there.  Door is locked.

Fuck.

More Googling, and by now, our stomachs are starting to auto-digest and we need us some grub.  We do NOT want to drive to downtown as that will take us a good 23-40 minutes.  Julie finds one on Park Avenue – but it’s a Mexican joint!  BUT the comments on whatever site she is looking at says you MUST try the Cuban Sandwich.

We need no further reason.  What a fabulous find!  Lemme tell you, Linds and Marc, if I decide to crash your taco party, Imma go back to this spot called Ta Chido on Park Avenue.

Colourful, joyful, smell of fresh bread cooking, kitschy as all get-out, we are charmed immediately.  Screw the Cubano, if we must.  By now it is quite cool and we choose to sit inside.  Then move to outside.  I did NOT know there exists some Mexican Heavy Metal… Thankfully it was playing pretty low (so wish I had Shazamed it 😉 )

I have to share some of the decor with you…

Okay, I’ve made you wait enough, haven’t I?  Let’s get to serious bidness.  As we were starving, we ordered a bowl of guacamole with the usual chips and chicháronnes. We stuck with water for today.

I explain to our waitress – sweetest gal ever – that I am on a Cubano mission and though I realise that this is a Mexican place, they do have what they call a Cubano… She says:  “Well that is what WE call it too.  But.. I am so sorry to tell you, we are out of jamón.”

Sigh.

Julie suggests we get two different sandwiches and share.  And frankly, that is a great idea.  So, Jules gets the “Tinga de pollo” – pulled chicken sautéed with onions and chipotle peppers, mayo, black bean spread, avocado, tomatoes, sour cream and feta cheese.

And I had the “Cubana” – breaded beef cutlet, pulled pork and ham (though there was none), mayo, cheese, black bean spread, avocado, tomatoes and caramelized onions.

Julie found the chicken needed some oomph and was glad to pour on the jalapeño sauce that was brought to the table.  I agree.

The “Cubano” had nary a Cubano element… but was very tasty for me.

We are 0 for 2 in the authentic Cubano search.

However.  After some discussion, and poor Julie still has no idea what a real Cubano is…I give it a solid 6/10.  Why so high when there were only two elements in the sammy?

That bread.  That bread was so bloody divine, I cared not one whit that it had never seen the inside of a press.  So good, in fact, that Imma go aaaaalllll the way there to buy some to make MY OWN Cubanos…  And for my celiac friends, they also make gluten free… though I would check out the facilities to make sure there is no cross-contamination.  I didn’t go look, to tell the truth.

The pulled pork was tasty, as was that piece of beef and caramelized onion.  Avocados are a favourite ingredient of mine and pretty much end up in all of my sandwiches.

The chicháronnes were light and crunchy and addictive.  the guacamole was delicious with just the right amount of smooth and chunk.

We felt we had made quite the discovery after all the shenanigans of finding a bloody place to eat.  Plus, Julie still wants to be my cohort for the next run.  Win-Win-Win.

As a result…

A little extra “blah-blah-blah” as our day was not done…

Traffic was gonna be crap for both of us, so we decided to go to the Marché Jean Talon to browse all the wonderful produce, get inspired for supper – right, like I was gonna eat supper – and maybe flirt with Frank from Birri Farms.  (What?  He’s gorgeous, Italian, single and such a flirt…)

On our way there, as we were approaching a stop light, I was pointing out a restaurant we had talked about when BANG!  I got hit from behind.  WTF?  Both of us were stunned.  I got out of the car and the guy behind got out of his apologising profusely.  First thing he asked was if were we hurt, then we checked our cars.  Mine had nothing, his, a cracked bumper.  I asked him if he wanted to fill out papers and he declined (I might add his car was a clunker).  Asked again if we were okay, apologised again and we were on our way.  We turned at the next street and pulled over to really check.  Nothing.  We both felt it in our necks – a light case of whiplash.  I know we are going to feel it tomorrow or the next day.

 

Joining in on the Search for the Perfect Q-ban Sandwich – Take One

Marco and Linds over at Sorryless have been on a quest to find the perfect Cubano sammy. ‘Course they are way out there in Pennsylvania – a good 8.5-hour drive for me – so there ain’t no way I can play with them direct-like, so I am crashing their party from way over here in the Great White North …

I mentioned my latest adventure plans to my friend Julie who was more than willing to keep me company. Now… we were supposed to do this weeks ago, but you know how that goes. Life gets in the way and all that. Neither here nor there. We finally made it.

Turns out, there are a lot more places making Cubanos than I ever expected. I even solicited my Latina friend, Naira to see if she had an opinion. Despite her boyfriend being Cuban, she had NEVER been… Sigh. She did suggest a place and we shall be trying that place next. I was wanting to be nice to Jules and pick a place ‘twixt us so I chose La Cecilia, just outside of Little Italy on Bélanger Street.

I parked a few blocks away on purpose. Figured I’d need to walk off the extra calories and this is a ‘hood I don’t really know. Turns out it is more Latino than Montreal’s official Quartier Latin What up wit’ dat? I heard more Spanish a-speaking here than I ever did in the Berri area… Our colourful character (see below) confirmed this to us… He said this ‘hood had more Latino-influenced establishments than they did. Apparently, Mtl Blog agrees.

Julie needed to leave by 2:30-3:00, latest, to drive her son to his grad (ball), so we didn’t have all that much time, but really? How long does it take to eat lunch? We met in front of the restaurant at around 12:45.

Such a tiny place! We liked that. The owner (we presume) spoke in an extremely heavily Spanish-accented French. I made the mistake of saying hello in Spanish and he let ‘er rip… Señor! No habla l’español (though I can understand if spoken s-l-o-w-l-y). Second good sign.

I explain to him that we are on a mission to discover wonderful Cubano sandwiches and probably would have taken some kind of appetizer but we were able to take a “combo” of sandwich with soup or salad or fries and a drink. We both opted for the salad. As for the drinks, Señor Chef/Owner suggested a “Maracuyá drink”, or, as they call it, in his native Dominican Republic (uh-oh, not so good sign), “Chinola” – turns out that this is the term for Passion Fruit blitzed with milk into a sorta milkshake if, you please.

Absolutely delicious!

This character came in. What a hoot and a half. Obviously an employee (could be family, who knows?) and said that it was all wrong… How can you have a Latin-inspired restaurant such as this and have no music? Up on a chair he went and turned on the music. Ahhh… now it was perfecto!

Talk about adding colour to the joint

Along comes our sammy and “salad”. Um. OK. I had explained to Julie what the components are supposed to be, which is why she jumped on the bandwagon to have one: pork, ham, cheese (I won’t get mad if it’s not Swiss, but it better have flavour), pickles and mustard on a pressed bun.

I’ll start with the salad. Cut up iceberg lettuce, a few slices of tomato “artistically” placed on top and a little container of bottled Italian dressing. I couldn’t even take a picture. I know, I know, I should have. Hang on… lemme see if I can replicate it… Ya. Never mind. I am positive you can picture it.

The Cubano. Yes. Bread was pressed and nice and crunchy. Pork was the equivalent of pulled pork – I’m not too bothered by it because it was so tasty. Found a small slice of ham in the second half of my sandwich. Cheese? Was there cheese? Pickles… Yoooo hoooo? Where are you? They must have been held hostage by the cheese… I think there might have been some caramelized onions, but that may be because of the pulled pork. There were a few little pieces of lettuce but not even enough to give it crunch… There was some mustard on the bread. Wasn’t there? Yes, there was. A very light coating.

My expectations were not sky-high high… but they were higher than what we got. While the sandwich was missing too many ingredients to qualify as an Autentico Cubano in my books, it was tasty. That Maracuyá (or Maraculla, as another patron spelt it for me) drink was the BOMB. Don’t even talk to me about the salad. Combo, my ass. Next time I’ll splurge on soup or fries… In case you did not bother clicking on the link to the restaurant, here is what they show their salad and sammy to look like…

Which goes to show that I did NOT look at the pics because… does that look like a Cubano to you? Does it? No, it does not. So… my bad for choosing the joint.

I will score it a 4/10. NOT for the Cubano, but for the drink, the friendly owners/employees and the fabulous company. Plus, Jules did say she would accompany me on my next Cubano hunt which will be sooner rather than later. (Jules is more generous than I… giving it a 6 – but then, she had nothing to compare it to.)

Me and my beautiful friend, Julie

B, I think you hexed me this morning when I told you the name of the joint we were going to…