edible adventures from the centre of the universe

26 February 2007

La Dame qui Déjeune

Last week, I found myself in la belle province for work -- Montreal, specifically. The trip started out not great, with a surly cab driver and a mix-up at my hotel, but once I got settled and ate some breakfast -- a flaky croissant with some delightfully rich and perfectly-cooked scrambled eggs (room service, yay!) -- all was well. With some time to kill before an evening meeting, I wandered down to Old Montreal to try a lunch déjeune spot that I had heard raves about: Olive et Gourmando. When I stepped into this tiny bakery-cafe after a long, trecherous walk in the cold (Montreal is slippery in February, yo), I was greeted by a friendly hostess who quickly sat me at the last empty table -- the place was packed! I was then directed to the back of the cafe to order off of the blackboard menu. Olive et Gourmando offers a number of hot and cold sandwiches, along with a few salads and soups. I was tempted by a yummy-sounding grilled goat cheese number, but I ended up selecting the Smoked Trout sandwich, and a Limonata to drink.

Settling in back at my table, I noticed how warm and cosy this little restaurant is. The front of the shop offers shelves of gourmet foodstuffs, and the cash register is surrounded by mountains of delicious-looking baked treats and fresh bread. It's a foodie paradise.

My sandwich arrived after no time at all, and I dug in. The most unique thing about this sandwich is the bread -- it's thick, chewy, and grilled, and strongly reminded me of one of my favourite flatbreads: naan. The charred flavour from the bread went nicely with the smokey trout, which was combined with tangy capers and sun-dried tomatoes. A layer of herbed cream cheese mellowed out the flavours to perfection. This was one badass sandwich. I found a recipe for it online, but if you're in Montreal I strongly recommend trying the original.

As I finished up my sandwich, the aforementioned treats near the cash register began calling my name. In particular, the little "exquisite brownies" had me drooling. I bought one to eat right away for dessert, and two to take home to Dave in Toronto. As I bit into my fudgy little piece of chocolatey heaven, I was struck by how well-balanced the flavours were. This brownie was not too sweet, with a deep chocolate flavour and a slight bitter edge from some espresso in the batter. Amazing. Apparently, the secret is Valhrona chocolate, and Dave was equally impressed when he received his Montreal souvenir.

Olive et Gourmando was definitely the highlight of my short Montreal trip (the lowlight: Chez Cora's, the French Denny's. Avoid Avoid. Avoid.). Next time I'm Frenching it up, Quebec style, I'm definitely going to make a point of going back to this perfect little bakery. You should too.

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