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Posts Tagged ‘Cafe’

I’ll admit to not really understanding small gourmet boutique shops, possibly because, being from the NJ suburbs, gourmet shops are often mega gourmet supermarkets like Wegmans and Whole Foods. Fou d’Ici has a limited selection of gourmet, often all-natural and expensively packaged grocery items, cheeses, butcher, seafood, as well as a small pastry dessert counter and hot and cold prepared foods counter. Shelves only have a few items, neatly and evenly spaced apart. I’ve had good experiences with the overpriced mini cannoli and Petits Gateaux cupcakes.

The other day, I found myself at a meeting not too far from Fou d’Ici, and stopped in for one of their prepared sandwiches for lunch. To my surprise, it was quite enjoyable, and worth the price (just over $6 after taxes). The buttery and delicate salmon had been nicely seasoned with a strong black pepper, and was put together with tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise in a soft sesame seed-encrusted bun. There are small tables and chairs inside of the store, and a line of nearby professionals waiting for the hot taco station.

Metro: Place des Arts

360, boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest and Rue de Bleury

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Perhaps it would be fairer if judgment were withheld until classes start again, but I don’t see myself going back to this tiny canteen. On-campus cafés tend to close or substantially downsize during the summer when students go home and faculty go travelling. It’s possible that the latter happened to this mini cafeteria. At least, one would hope that that was the case. When I stopped by at the start of July, all there was to eat were two watery self-serve soup kettles, some prepared sandwiches and individual cups of apple butter (to spread on what, one might ask?) and what looked to be a to-order sandwich counter. There may also have been coffee. Considering the size of the building, and that it is filled with doctors and medical students, the meagre offerings were very surprising.

Metro: Peel

3655 Promenade Sir William Osler and Rue Peel

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Fort Ticonderoga

I recall that my high school US History 1 teacher had had a special fondness for pronouncing “Ticonderoga,” and would slip it in repeatedly whenever possible when covering the colonial period and Revolutionary War while twirling a yellow and green Ticonderoga #2 pencil.

As with many places in upstate New York, road signage to the fort was minimal for many miles and continuing to follow Route 9 (off of US-87) was something of a leap of faith. The entrance fee is a bit more than one would expect for an outdoor historical venue – $17.50/adult – but there’s a CAA/AAA discount and visitors are unlikely to turn back after the long drive.

King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga

The gardens are off of the drive on the way up to the fort and are worth a stop. There’s a small experimental garden with vegetables and flowers, and then the formal King’s Garden surrounded by brick walls with many shady nooks and crannies in which to rest. While it looks persuasively antediluvian, the King’s Garden was commissioned and built in the 1920s.

Further up the drive is the fort itself. The entrance is through the gift shop cabin, which also includes the popular America’s Fort Café. The sandwiches at the café are typical upstate New York fare (combinations of cheddar, bacon, apple, and chicken… or burgers), but service can be extremely slow even before the lunch crowd fills up the place, even when it comes to paying the check. The server included the gratuity in the total. It’s advisable to pay with cash with exact change or one could be waiting in line for over fifteen minutes like we were.

Once outside and on the battlements, bilingual (English and French) information cards tell the history of the fort. The view is lovely, with a refreshing breeze on a hot summer’s day. The costumed docents play fife and drums frequently as they give their tours. Inside the fort is a museum collection of weaponry and everyday objects from the time period.

The view from the battlements

A visit to Fort Ticonderoga will only take a couple of hours. Including lunch, we were able to breeze through in under two hours. This is one of those places that children who like military history will love, and it is worth a stop even for those unfamiliar with US history. I also saw chipmunks, a wild turkey, and a bird of prey on the grounds.

 

100 Fort Ti Road, Ticonderoga, New York, USA

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Europea’s – and consequently its sandwich boutique’s – focus is on its image as a sexy, lavish place to eat. The sandwich boutique is really just a takeout place and there are only two small table areas by the door, but the little touches let you know that you’ve chosen your sandwich shop well. In addition to the sandwich counter and the macaroon counter, one can buy pretentious gourmet items like Himalayan black salt, an espresso machine, and bath salts. In my “boite” – a beautiful and reusable fabric lunch bag emblazoned with the Europea logo – I found my lightly toasted brie, apple, walnut, and grape sandwich, a bottle of Europea water, and chocolate mousse. The sandwich was just right – creamy, sweet, a little crunchy, and satisfying and the mousse was creamy and rich. That box option is just under $13, which is a good deal for what it is.

Europea Espace Boutique is only open for lunch Monday-Friday, and expect to wait in line during peak hours. It’s best to go closer to noon than 2pm for sandwich freshness, but anytime before then and all the desserts might not be ready…and we wouldn’t want that!

Metro: Place d’Armes

33, Rue Notre-Dame Ouest and Boulevard Saint-Laurent

See my December 2010 review here.

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Nestled way out in the wild west of NDG, is a little Celtic-themed bakery café which also does a killer afternoon tea. No, the café is not Harry Potter-themed (see the explanation behind the name here).

I had made our reservation three weeks in advance, and was late due to unexpected road construction and detour (it’s usually quicker for me to drive to NDG from Old Montreal, but thanks to the construction it would probably be quicker if we took the metro and bus next time). We went on a rainy Saturday, and were seated by the window on benches, where butter and charming place settings had already been laid out. The walls were decorated with vintage aprons, ranging from Irish linen to social commentary (my husband had to explain the “he thinks/she thinks” one), and the tiny but neat kitchen area in the back was completely open to view.

First, we were given a tray of sample teas to smell and select our teas. This was one of my favourite parts, since I love tasting things and comparing flavours and aromas. The house teas had “Celtic” in front of their names. We were assured that the most popular tea was the Celtic blend, and that it would be no problem to change our tea selection if we didn’t like the one we selected. I went for the Celtic blend since I like black teas that can hold up to a lot of milk and sugar, but others were tempting as well. We each got our own pots of tea, and our own baskets of warm little scones. There were two types of butter, zesty lemon curd, homemade whiskey marmalade, and homemade raspberry jam.

Next came the quintessential tiered tray of buttery egg salad sandwiches (made with homemade mayonnaise), wonderfully seasoned cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon blinis, lemon squares, date squares, homemade shortbread (which my husband swore was Walker’s, but I knew differently), a pumpkin cake, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting. By the time we got to the sweets tier, we were totally full and sated. Perhaps the strategy next time should be to finish the sandwiches, and then pack up the uneaten sweets to go.

Afternoon tea for two people was $50 in cash. While pricey for lunch, I think it was worth it, since afternoon tea is a special occasion sort of meal. Gryphon D’Or was cosy and it felt comfortable being there. Service was friendly and attentive but not hovering. My husband immediately declared the tea to be inauthentic because it lacked clotted Devonshire cream, but I reasoned that perhaps this was Irish-style afternoon tea, which might be different than the English version. Everything tasted wonderful and the presentation was exactly what one expects for a traditional afternoon tea. We arrive around 1:15pm, and didn’t leave for two hours. Two happy and delicious hours well spent.

Metro: Villa Maria

5968 Monkland Avenue and Royal Avenue

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While we looked through the Alexander Calder exhibit afterwards, we specifically went to the Nasher Museum to have lunch at the delightful café. No admission fee is required if one is only eating in the café, though reservations are recommended at peak times and there is a charge for parking. We were given an option of butter or oil with our bread. I enjoyed a glass of sweet tea which was constantly refilled and a delicious yellow curry chicken salad wrap, which included lettuce, grapes, celery, and toasted almonds. The side was described as quinoa salad, but it was really Israeli couscous; it was still good. Friendly, helpful service; airy ambiance as the café is in one corner of the spacious museum lobby area. The outdoor seating looked pleasant, as well.

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, 2001 Campus Dr., Durham, NC 27705, USA

See my December 2009 review here: https://rachelrecommends.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/nasher-museum-cafe-b/

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In honour of Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, it seemed prudent to check out afternoon tea in Montreal, and up to bat first is this café, which is yet another piece of the Europea group, housed in Tiffany’s-like Birks.

Afternoon tea is available only after 2:30pm (and closer to 2:45pm, they said when I made my reservation) and the café closes at 5pm. Personally, I would enjoy afternoon tea for lunch or dinner, since it’s clearly a meal, but I suppose that’s the traditional time during which it is served. We were given menus and a tea timer with three different coloured sands, depending on the darkness of tea. We both chose Himalayan Darjeeling, a lightly colored black tea that arrived in an Asian-style cast iron pot. Then a long tray of food was set between us, with two of each. There was a plate of warmish scones with creamy Devonshire cream and too-little strawberry jam. Then three canapes made with cured salmon, foie gras and cranberries, and cucumber and cream cheese. I swapped half of my mini savory club sandwich with my husband for his foie gras canape. Then macaroons, chocolates, and a maple mousse and a chocolate mousse.

When everything first came out, it didn’t seem like it would be enough for a full meal, but by the time we got to the mousse, my husband was full and I got to eat both of the shot glasses myself. I left feeling quite full and satisfied. Service was excellent and the setting was similar to a nice museum café, with interesting things to look at in display cases on the edges of the eating area. While the tea presentation paid sufficient homage to expected English tradition, the service was modern and contemporary. I did not feel out of place or expected to act in a certain way. There was some language-related confusion when the credit card reader failed to prompt me for a tip and I wanted to leave the tip in cash, but the café thought that I wanted to pay for whole bill in cash. They refunded the charge on my card – I thought they had tried to charge the card again in order to add the tip, and they thought they were refunding the charge because I was going to pay for the whole bill in cash. A few minutes later, I got a call while I was browsing in the nearby Bay department store, and got a small bag of sweets for my trouble when I returned to clear it up. Now that I think of it, we both should have received a bag of sweet anyway, along with our tea, but oh well. It seemed worth $26.50/person plus taxes and tip.

Metro: McGill

Mezzanine level at the Montreal Birks Store, 1240 Square Phillips, Saint-Catherine Ouest and Place Phillips

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