As we arrived at our hotel and looked overhead, we saw swimmers in the glass bottom pool. It was then that I knew Greg made a perfect choice when booking the Westin downtown - location and amenities were spot on.
Our first adventure was to find a little restaurant Greg had visited before, DaEmma, which had a limited menu written nightly on a chalkboard. You can imagine our disappointment when we found it was closed. Not to be deterred, we walked around a bit, went down an alley that Greg "had a feeling about", and stumbled across a quaint little place, Boccata. Amazing choice.
We shared a bottle of french wine and had the most wonderful pleasure of being told the story of the wine's origin and type of wine we were drinking. We shared four small plates - smoky paprika tomato soup, burrata cheese with mushrooms and bread, veal with lentils and parmesan shavings, and scallops with a grapefruit infused risotto. Wow! Boccato's exceeded our expectations. Old world charm, warm fire, post and beam ceiling, menu delivered in the pages of a book and the check was a bookmarker. Simply spectacular dining.
Ventured over to a late night spot playing the best mashups. A couple more drinks to top off our evening along with great old school music and we were two happy tourists.
Saturday morning would be filled with little activities as we wandered this beautiful city. Our morning began with a quick trip to Difference cafe for what has been described as a perfect non-touristy place to get a great cup of coffee. With cup in hand, we made our way into the subway with Mont Royal as our first destination for bagels, which apparently is a big deal here. I ordered the Omertà, which I found fitting in light of the recent cycling doping scandals. Full from breakfast, we tried to burn some of our morning food by wandering around this very eclectic part of Montreal.
Hopped back on the Metro toward Little Italy for the Montreal version of the west side market. Bought a neat little cookbook in French - a souvenier, if you will, from our trip. I like the challenge of translating while cooking. The market was full of baked goods, delicious looking fruits, meats, cheeses, and spices. We enjoyed a delicious cookie while wandering in and out of little stands and stumbled onto a spice shop where we walked away with smoky paprika, cumin and this new spice Zataar, which we sampled in the store. They sprinkled it on popcorn, which gave us the idea to try it on fries when we get home. I'll use the paprika to recreate the amazing tomato soup we had last night. The smoky flavor really made a simple dish like tomato soup come alive.
Later in the afternoon we ventured out to Saint Catherine Ouest, a Mecca for shopping. Before heading there, I had to try this highly recommended coffee shop for a latte. From a blog I had read about coffee places in Montreal, the Pikolo Espresso Bar was noted as full of passion and respect for the latte drink. Seriously? After my first sip, I would have to agree it was worth the trip. The place had a cool, industrial vibe to it and I found watching the barista pretty make a pour the drinks as an art form.
Saint Catherine's was an incredibly long stretch of commercialization. The only positive was that I was able to get in my steps and Nike fuel points from all the walking (7.5 miles for the day at this point). Greg and I grumbled for a while because we guestimated we had walked more than 7 miles at that point based on the number of steps registered as well as our incredibly tired, aching feet. But the darn Fuel Band had yet to make goal. Are you kidding me? At our next stop (a bar for wine, of course), Greg researched and found out the Nike Fuel Band has an accelerometer that registers wrist activity to take into account sports like basketball. The article he read stated that you gained more points for eating a pizza than walking up a set of stairs. Ok, we felt a little better then. Since I had walked all day with my hands in my pockets due to the cold, it made sense that I had a low points total since I had no wrist movement.
To cap off our last night in Montreal, we found a wonderful pizza joint where the food almost rivaled the kick ass tunes spun by the DJ. I couldn't believe how each song was better than the last and bled right into the next. I could have sat there all evening with a glass of whatever and just chilled and people watched. A late night walk around Notre Dame Cathedral made the trip even better. Thank you, Montreal, for a wonderful weekend!