Montreal – a French city with a Middle Eastern twist!
6 years ago
After a 6-week excursion to NJ, upstate NY, and Montreal, we’re finally back in Florida. I’m relieved to report our home – and surroundings in general – escaped the worst of Hurricane Irma. Other parts of the state, however, were not as fortunate.
Our hearts go out to areas which have suffered severely from recent storms, wild fires, earthquakes, and whatever else Mother Nature has ‘dished out’.
We are truly feeling blessed.
Doug and I stayed a week longer in the Catskills than we’d planned, due to Irma. When we learned our home had no electricity, we felt no need to rush back, since the house was standing and the roof was intact.
Doug suggested we visit Montreal, a short 300 miles from the Catskills. He’d been suggesting this trip for the past 40 years (He wanted to go there on our honeymoon, but I had other ideas – I won!)
I’m happy I agreed to go this time.
It took us 10-hours by train from Hudson, NY – many stops along the way, plus a 2-hour delay at the border. We chose to stay at the Best Western Ville – Marie Hotel and Suites, located near McGill University, museums, loads of restaurants and things to do.
Most travelers visit Montreal to experience French dining, language, visitor highlights such at Notre Dame, and the decidedly French ambiance of Old Montreal. We did all of that with the 2-day Hop-on/Hop-off tour, but were also intrigued by the fact that there were so many Middle Eastern establishments in the area.
Our hotel offered an on-site Lebanese restaurant, Zawedeh. The staff was great, and the food was pretty good. Our favorite dinner was the Shish Taouk (chicken kebab) served with toum, a fluffy garlic sauce or puree. (See recipe below.) There’s also Café Castel on the premises which caters to students with specialty coffee, sandwiches and sweet treats. We were told the café also serves lahmajoun – in season. (Funny, we didn’t realize there was a ‘season’ for lahmajoun!)
Needless to say, many of the hotel staff are Lebanese, but we did find one Armenian, Garo, manning the front desk on the late shift. We were treated very well by all.
Elie, one of our dining room servers (and trained chef), Mary – also dining room staff, Brahim and Mike, both at the concierge desk, tipped us off to many sights including an amazing Middle Eastern market, Adonis, and to a couple of good lahmajoun spots – all an easy walk from our hotel.
Our visit to Adonis was an eye-opener! The store is huge and stocked with cases filled with the most incredible prepared foods – kibbe (kufte); meat, spinach, and cheese turnovers –(boregs); mini, medium, and large-sized lahmajoun – regular or spicy; an array of olives, cheeses, nuts, labne, – and the desserts – Holy Cow!
Kibbe and boreg display at Adonis.
Adonis’ olive bar.
Desserts to die for at Adonis!
Our lunch from Adonis
We bought a package of mini lahmajoun, ready-to-eat stuffed vine leaves (yalanchi), and a few kibbe to have for lunch. An assortment of cookies – mamoul, kourabia, and bird’s nests – were enjoyed for several days with our afternoon tea or coffee.
Having a refrigerator and microwave in our mini-suite made dining-in possible and comfortable.
Another outing brought us to Arouch, an Armenian-owned ‘fast-food’ lahmajoun eatery.
The menu signage at Arouch
Our lunch of lahmajoun and ayran.
The wall behind the counter bears a large sign depicting the menu options. Customers may purchase single items or, in the case of lahmajoun (regular or spicy), a half-dozen or whole dozen to-go – and – the staff will happily heat your choice for dining in. The lahmajoun was fresh and mighty tasty, and Ayran (a yogurt drink) helped wash it down.
Would we return to Montreal? You bet. And we’d choose the Best Western Ville-Marie again – during their café‘s lahmajoun season!
Toum, a Lebanese dipping sauce
Yield: 6 servings
Toum, a fluffy garlic dipping sauce (Recipe and photo from allrecipes.com)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup vegetable oil, or as needed (Canola, vegetable or peanut oil are best to use)
1 pinch salt
Juice of ½ lemon, or to taste
Crush garlic in a mortar and pestle with a generous pinch of salt. Mix in oil a teaspoon at a time until the mixture will absorb no more oil. Stir in the lemon juice.
Serve at room temperature as a dip with Shish Taouk (chicken kebab), Lebanese breads, hummus or Tabbouleh.