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Burger Week 2013 – Uniburger and Burger Royale

18 Sep

Burger Week 2013 has come and gone. This event, which started last year here in Montreal, expanded Canada-wide for this year’s edition. In Montreal, we had 30 restaurants which showcased their special takes on a cheeseburger. I was able to enjoy 4 different burgers this year. While I enjoyed the one’s from Blackstrap BBQ and les Enfants Terribles Outremont, they are not regular items on the menu so I will not discuss them. The other 2 restaurants however showcased true elements of their menus so I believe they are worth some follow-up.

First up, I took a short walk over to St-Laurent and Roy to check out Burger Royale. This burger joint promotes itself as a source for natural organic burgers. All of its beef and poultry is from a single Quebec source, grain-fed free range as well as hormone & antibiotic free. Each patty is handmade following an in-house grind. Nice ideas in concept but execution is the key here.

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For a drink, I went with one of their milkshake. Something unique that they offer here is the choice of regular milk or milk that has been steeped in cereal overnight. When I was there, the choices were Captain Crunch or Fruit Loops. The notion is that the milk will absorb some of the flavours from the cereal and add something to the milkshake. I decided to try the Captain Crunch milk in a cookie & cream milkshake. Honestly, there wasn’t much of impact from the milk. The rich cookie and cream ice cream used pretty much masks any of the Captain Crunch sweetness that I was hoping for. The milkshake itself was quite good but I think I will stick to the regular milk. Props on the creativity though.

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The burger promoted for the week was the Faux Boss Burger. A beef patty topped with deep fried Jalapeños, house sauce, spicy mayo, bacon, lettuce, tomato, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese served with a side of house sauce. This burger is a slight variant of their Boss Burger – they added the Jalapeños and changed the cheese for this one. Overall this was a very good burger. The beef was definitely fresh – nice and juicy without creating a mini-lake in your plate when you bit into it. All of the topping were good and created a nice mix of spiciness and sweetness. The bread was grilled but still had a nice softness to it. I very much enjoyed this burger.

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The fries, on the other hand, were a big disappointment. The portion size was nice but the fries themselves were dry and lacked any real flavour. They certainly didn’t have the same feeling of freshness that ones gets from the burger. Even the picture I took of them makes them seem….blah. Which is too bad because a good burger place needs great fries to pair with a great burger for things to feel whole. I loved the burger so if you decide to check them out, try a burger but don’t bother with the fries.

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Burger Royale
3820 St Laurent
514 282 0002

Burger Royal on Urbanspoon

The second place I went to was Uniburger out in the Latin Quarter. I had heard and read some great things about this simple burger joint so I was excited to try them for the first thing. The place is no frills – simple tables, no fancy decor and a plain fast food-like counter to order from. The menu is short and sweet – hamburgers, cheeseburgers, their signature “uniburgers”, fries, soft drinks and milkshakes. I respect a place that says “this is what we do, no more, no less”. If a burger place is good, it doesn’t need a poutine or chili fries or desserts or any number of random extra dishes. Just serve us a kick ass burger, fries and a shake. And Uniburger nails that perfectly.

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First up, the milkshake – chocolate or vanilla but using Bilboquet ice cream. Simple but again, the use of great ingredients makes all the difference. Perfectly smooth texture with a great richness from the Bilboquet ice cream. when you can see the vanilla bean in your milkshake you know you are dealing with a proper vanilla milkshake.

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The fries are pilled high, perfectly golden crispy on the outside but still soft enough on the inside. No grease at all present and perfectly salted off the bat. Love the salting prior to receiving the fries. These guys know how to make fries.

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For the week, Uniburger added bacon to their classic cheeseburger. Lettuce, tomato and Uniburger sauce which is essentially a variant on a big mac sauce. The entire thing is stacked between a potato bun and my god is this a great burger. Pretty much the best classic burger I have had in Montreal to date. Everything here is perfect – the soft potato bun, the juicy beef patty, the melted cheese, the crisp iceberg lettuce, the tangy Uniburger sauce and the fatty fresh bacon. If I hadn’t planned other burger visits that day, I would have had at least one more. I have now found my burger joint until further notice. Uniburger lived up to the hype and then some.

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Burger week was a great opportunity to experience a wide-range of burgers across the city. Hopefully next year, those of you who missed out will find the time to enjoy some burgers. Don’t think you will be disappointed.

Cheers!

Uniburger
302 Ontario East
514 419 6555

Uniburger on Urbanspoon

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Cabane à Sucre Au Pied du Cochon – Sugar Season 2013

14 Mar

Warning: the following post may contains images of gluttony and copious amounts of food that may be sensitive for some readers but will definitely make you hungry.

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And with that out of the way, let us discuss my initial pilgrimage to Martin Picard’s now infamous sugar shack up in Mirabel. Quickly for the uninitiated, 12 weeks during maple syrup season (February to May), Martin Picard and his team open up their restaurant space up North for a feast that celebrates all that is maple syrup. Reservations are taken starting December 1 by email and you wait 6 weeks before you get “the call”. It is a fixed price 60$ menu for the food – plus alcohol and one more thing I will mention later. You have a 2 and a half hour service to enjoy all the food before the next set of soon-to-be-stuffed patrons arrives for their turn. The actual dinner room itself is sits about 120 people at a time in a pretty classic sugar shack styled space. Wood panels, communal tables and bench sitting. Pretty much the one thing at this sugar shack that I would frame as “classic”.

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But enough about that – let’s discuss the menu! First off, a series of maple inspired cocktails are offered to you: a maple daiquiri, a maple martini and a whiskey soda. The martini is vodka and a bit of gélinotte (maple liqueur) with maple cotton candy dissolved in and a maple stick as garnish. The whiskey soda is whiskey and maple soda with maple jello used as ice cubes. The martini was quite good but the whiskey soda was positively ridiculous. One of the smoothest I have ever had with a great hint of maple throughout.

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After initial drink orders, we are a presented with an entrée of homemade desserts because they started to start and end the meal with desserts this year. No complaints on this end! Maple cotton candy, doughnuts, maple syrup toffee cones, caramel popcorn, crème caramels, almond croissants, maple madeleines, chocolate-covered whippets, maple sponge candy and finally shots of Jack Daniels and maple syrup. There was not a single bad item present. The only issue was fighting over each item amongst our party and wishing we had more…. But given what was coming, we should probably be thankful.

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Once the empty dessert display was removed, we were presented with a bevy of dishes: fried duck legs with maple BBQ sauce; a cheese and potato omelette with sweetbreads and bacon; a crepe fried in duck fat with beans, cottage cheese and poached foie gras; crispy pig ear salad with duck hearts and some smoked salmon in maple syrup. The only thing here that didn’t work for me that well was the poached foie gras – the texture really didn’t do it for me. Everything else was amazing. The duck legs were perfect. I was a little disappointed to see that the original duck leg wrapped in salmon was altered but this was great nevertheless. The crepe was fluffy with a nice hard crust. The omelette had a great richness to it. The sweetbreads and the duck hearts were perfectly cooked and the homemade pig ears were light with a nice saltiness to them.

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During the drink orders, our waitress mentioned that we could order the Shack meat pie as an extra to the meal. Having seen this monster get constructed on the TV show running right now on Tele Quebec, we decided this was a must. The pie stuffing itself is ground pork and pulled pork. Part play through cooking, they remove the top and place a large piece of “laracam” cheese with pecans, pig cheeks, foie gras, ham and arugula and finish that off in the oven. This is the best meat pie I have ever had. Hearty, rich, meaty with the added creaminess of the cheese – a perfect mixture of everything you would ever want in a great dish. Now, this thing is completely ridiculous and doesn’t come cheap but quite honestly, two bits in and you forget all about that. A must-try if you can get it.

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Next up, we have the mains: smoked pineapple ham, green beans with almonds and maple syrup and a roasted chicken injected with lobster bisque and stuffed with foie gras, lobster and cotechino (an Italian sausage). The ham was beautiful cooked – great smoky flavor with the right hints of maple. The chicken was ridiculous and so rich as to be almost a joke – the lobster bisque injection creates a situation where the chicken tastes pretty much like lobster. This is kind of item that only the minds from Au Pied du Cochon could have come up with.

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And finally, we get to the 2nd course of desserts. A angel cake with pecans and maple meringue, yogurt and maple jello and soft serve maple dessert with sticks of maple. These desserts were all delicious and were the right lightness needed after the extravagant richness that was enjoyed in the previous courses.

This was an amazing experience that I am so thankful I finally got to enjoy. For the initial price, the amount of food you get is insane. We were a party of 4 and we returned home with 4 takeout containers filled with food. Even the leftovers I had over the next 2 days afterwards were amazing. If you can get a reservation, yes it does take some very early planning but you need to do it. Quite honestly, this meal has likely ruined patty much any other sugar shack meal I ever have but that’s fine. It just means I need to come back again next year but believe me…. I most certainly will.

Cheers!

Cabane à Sucre Au Pied du Cochon
11382 rang de la Fresnière
St-Benoit, Qc

Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

Poutine Week MTL 2013 Recap

10 Feb

As I am writing this, we are 40 minutes away from the end of the first ever Poutine Week MTL. The brain child of Na’eem Adam from the Mechant Mangeur and his team at Food Week Montreal Inc., this week long event is a continuation of the 1st ever Burger Week he organized this past fall. 30 restaurants stepped up and provided us with many wonderful plays on poutine to try out. My work schedule and location limited my opportunities but I managed to check out 4 different places over the course of the week.

First up, I felt it was my civic duty to visit Blackstrap BBQ to vote on my personal favorite poutine in the city even prior to this week. I have already sung the praises of this poutine before so I will keep this short. Just perfect combination of great fries, solid gravy and cheese with the added smokiness of the burnt ends. I could literally eat this poutine weekly…. Which is why I try to avoid visiting Verdun too often. If you haven’t visited Blackstrap BBQ yet, there are numerous reasons to check them out but this poutine ranks as one of the major ones.

Blackstrap BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Next stop was Burger Bar Crescent for their jack Daniels BBQ pulled pork poutine. This was a solid entry overall. The pulled pork was quite good with a nice sweetness in the sauce. The fries were very nice and the cheese had the right level of squeakiness. However, the gravy was pretty flat to me and my friends. It left us with a poutine that was good but not great.

Burger Bar Crescent on Urbanspoon

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Our third spot was on Super Bowl Sunday for a little brunch at Fabergé in Mile End. I had never heard of their breakfast poutine before but I most certainly do now. A creative play on a poutine with roasted potatoes, caramelized onions and peppers, cheese curds, hollandaise sauce, a egg and your choice of ham, sausage and/or bacon. All the elements mix together perfectly to create almost a breakfast hash. The key things to me were the sweetness of the caramelized onions and peppers as well as the relative lightness of the hollandaise sauce which did not overpower everything else. This was a monster of a meal – one that really set the tone for the Super Bowl Sunday feist that followed many hours later.

Fabergé on Urbanspoon

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The final poutine was the Italian Sausage poutine over at BEVO pizzeria. In full disclosure, I won 2 free poutines from them through a contest on twitter so I invited some friends and used those poutines as starters in a group meal. Containing mild cheddar, confit onions, peppers and obviously an Italian sausage, this was a very good poutine. The onions were particularly enjoyable.

BEVO Bar + Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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Poutine Week was a wonderful week in all areas except for the waistline. Congrats to the whole team who sets this up and to all the restaurants who let their creativity fly. I am certainly looking forward to next year and I hope those of you who missed out can join in the fun next time around!

Cheers!

MTL Oysterfest 2012

3 Sep

Over labor day weekend, Montreal’s now 4th annual Oysterfest took place in Old Montreal. The event is a fundraiser for The Open Pier Foundation which is an organization dedicated to ocean preservation and sustainably awareness. It is a great effect that brings many of Montreal’s best restaurants together and provide some amazingly good food for people to enjoy. I hadn’t heard of this event prior to this year, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The festival takes over the Pigeon Hole parking lot at the corner of Notre-Dame and St-Jean in old Montreal. I arrived 15 minutes prior to the start, so I got to try everything I wanted to without any wait which was a huge plus. Festivals are classic for having long wait lines, so that was a nice change. Note that I didn’t stay that late, so perhaps it was more of an issue later on.

After having enjoyed a beer provided by Burgundy Lion, I plunged straight in with a wide variety of fare. First up, from the amazing Restaurant Park, a pork belly, shredded pork shoulder and kimchi slider. It was my favorite bite of food all afternoon. The pork belly in particular was absolute dynamite.

 

Next up, from Osteria Venti, I had the grilled lamb with a salad of artichokes, mushrooms and peppers. The lamb was spot on – perfect grill job with the right tenderness and just great favour. The vegetable salad was quite good as well. The marinated artichokes were the stars in this one.

 

From Boites aux Huitres, we have the headliner of the event – fresh oysters shucked right before our eyes. Fresh and delicious, they were on point – regardless of whether you added the hot sauce or not.

 

From restaurant L’Orignal, we had a taste of thanksgiving. Hot turducken in a roll with stuffing as topping. Easily the most surprising thing I had ate but just delicious. It worked perfectly.

 

From Mechant Boeuf, there were slow cooked Jack Daniels Ribs. Very flavorful glaze  and a nice crust to the ribs, the meat just fell off the bone which was a good thing given the fact that I was standing up.

 

From Gaspar Tavern, you had a fish taco and from Baxo, we had a Shrimp roll with a pesto chimichurri. Both were quite good.

 

 

 

And finally, to end off with something sweet, I grabbed a Key Lime Pie frozen treat from the folks at La Catrina. Great lime flavour complimented nicely by the graham crust on the outside. A perfect bookend to a great selection of food.

 

All in all, Oysterfest was a great showcase for Montreal’s best restaurants. There were many more options to try out but my stomach couldn’t handle more. Next year, I will be better prepared for the feast at hand. I’m sad that I hadn’t heard of this before but now having been, this will now enter my yearly schedule. Hopefully, I will see some of you there next year.

Cheers!

 

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