Day 3: Montreal – Blueberry bread, soup, roast duck, and brownies

After breakfast part 1, we headed back to Jean-Talon to see more of the market. We first picked up some husk cherries and blueberries, then ventured into Boulangerie Premiere Moisson, a sizable and neatly assembled bakery and prepared foods shop within the market. I learned later on that there are multiple outposts throughout the city. Premiere Moisson had an extensive selection of breads, muffins, tarts, cakes, and pastries. I can’t even recall now what we were initially going to get, because when we got up to the counter, I saw a flatter bread, covered in sugar that was smaller than a full loaf but larger than an individual pastry. I inquired and learned it was the blueberry loaf. Dave will choose a blueberry pastry any day, and so we ordered one of these. Only after we purchased it did I see a sign advertising it as their bread of the month. In the picture, it was sliced into narrow strips, meant to serve multiple people. For our purposes, it was sufficient for two people.

So as to make room in our stomachs for more food, we went bike riding. Have you heard of Bixi? It is Montreal’s exceedingly convenient bike-sharing program that is expanding to other cities, including… Boston! It can’t happen soon enough. Bikes are parked at dozens of stations throughout the city. For a one-time use, you walk up to the machine and swipe your credit card. You are given a code that you type into one of the bikes at the station to unlock it. A five dollar charge allows you access to the bikes and 30 minutes of riding time, and then a minimal charge for each half hour after that. You can return the bikes to any Bixi station in the city.

Following a beautiful ride along the Lachine Canal, we walked up Saint Laurent to Rue Duluth where I’d seen several promising eateries the day before, including Soupe/Soup.

The rustic look of the restaurant caught my eye, with wood paneling, a chalkboard menu, and a pastry display on the counter. The menu is small and changes daily. On the day we went, there were two soups and four sandwiches available. Dave ordered a mozzarella, tomato, and basil pesto sandwich.

I ordered a bowl of the vichyssoise, highly recommended by the waitress, and a half of the boursin, asparagus, and pear sandwich. The textures and flavors blended beautifully: A thick, creamy boursin, sweet, juicy pear, and tender asparagus. The one downfall was the bread. Both sandwiches were on a boring and slightly dry ciabatta roll. Toasting the bread would have solved the problem. A better bread entirely would be ideal.

Following lunch we headed across the canal to Parc Jean-Drapeau to see the Biosphere.  Unfortunately, we did not read our tourism guides closely enough and went thinking that it was the Biodome, an attraction that contains replicas of four ecosystems found in the Americas, complete with animals specific to each ecosystem. The biosphere, as it turns out, is a children’s science museum. It’s wikipedia entry calls it a museum dedicated to water and the environment. If you go, just know that it is geared primarily toward children. The museum is surrounded by a geodesic dome, and you can take an elevator up inside the dome to an outdoor exhibition area with gorgeous views of the park and the canal. Though the museum was not what we were expecting, the park is beautiful and I was happy we got to see it.

When I discovered Soupe/Soup the previous day, I also noticed a charming French restaurant also on Duluth called La Prunelle. I loved that the restaurant appeared distinctly non-touristy. This was confirmed when we arrived for dinner and the clientele was comprised primarily of locals. The restaurant is situated on a quiet corner a few steps above street level and has windowed doors the whole way around that open fully to create the feel of a sidewalk cafe.

Dave ordered the ginger-orange duck breast with Charles-Aimé Robert (a maple-flavored Quebec wine) sauce, and potato and apple gratin. He maintained that this was the best dish he had in Montreal.

I ordered the goat cheese salad, with honey, hazelnuts, mango and arugula. It was okay, but nothing special. I knew this was an appetizer salad, but it was smaller than I expected. There was far too much goat cheese for the amount of greens on the plate and the crostini were lackluster.

The highlight of this meal, along with Dave’s dish, were the lovely women seated at the table next to us. They were lively, animated, and very passionate about good food. When one noticed me snapping a picture of our food, she politely interjected and told us a story about when she took a picture of a dish at a restaurant years ago and the waiter came over and asked if she was trying to gather ideas for her own restaurant. We laughed as I told her I had experienced similar reactions. Dave suggested that I ask the two of them for restaurant recommendations, as we were dying to know where else the locals dined. They raved about one place in particular, Grenadine. We did not get a chance to try out any of their recommendations on this trip, but they are on my to-do list for my next visit.

I considered ordering something else at La Prunelle, but I was excited about our next stop, Juliette et Chocolat. I love the contrast in temperature and texture of a warm pastry and cold ice cream, as in a brownie sundae. The standard sundae featured the ice cream most prominently, with pieces of brownie as well as banana and strawberry slices. I wanted something simpler in which the brownie was the main attraction, so I chose the warm white chocolate chunk brownie with a scoop of ice cream and the Grandma’s style hot chocolate.

The brownie and ice cream completely hit the spot. The hot chocolate was a nice touch, though I wish it had been thicker and more sauce-like, instead of just standard hot chocolate. With a topping that thin, it immediately rolled off the ice cream. A bowl would have been a wiser serving vessel. But the brownie was flawless, in both flavor and texture.

Juliette et Chocolat also serves salads and savory crepes as well as alcoholic chocolate drinks such as the Chocolate Ruby, dark chocolate with port and a scoop of raspberry sorbet. Dave was going to order one of these drinks, but they have a peculiar rule. They don’t permit you to order an alcoholic drink unless you also order a savory meal. I had never heard of such a rule, but we ended up being more than satisfied with the warm brownie and ice cream.

Boulangerie Première Moisson
7075 Avenue Casgrain
Montreal, QC
Premiere Moisson on Urbanspoon

Soupe Soup
174 Rue St-Viateur Ouest
Montréal, QC
Soupesoup on Urbanspoon

La Prunelle
327 Ave Duluth E
Montréal, QC
Prunelle (la) on Urbanspoon

Juliette et Chocolat
3600 Boulevard Saint Laurent
Montreal, QC
Juliette et Chocolat on Urbanspoon

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