It's been awhile since I updated my blog because I'm afraid all of Montreal's joie de vivre wore me out! Actually it was the back to back trips three weeks in a row but now I'm back. I have lots of images and experiences rummaging around in my mind and one of the most memorable was sampling poutine. You can not visit Montreal without tasting this quintessential Quebecois dish. It's so much part of local culture that McDonald's even serves it. What is poutine exactly? Well, as you can see from the photo above, it's a gloppy concoction of fries, cheddar cheese curds and gravy. Poutine literally translates to mess in French. Its been popular since the 60s and is served in fine restaurants as well as dives. As a Midwesterner, I'm familiar with the irritating squeak of fresh cheese curds but I 've never had them accompanied by anything but a greasy paper bag. I have to admit, I wasn't so thrilled to try poutine but I was determined to sample the best version I could find. I scoured the menus of every restaurant I passed. I solicited recommendations and I eyed the dozens of poutine versions with a trained eye. The fries are supposed to be crispy, the curds fresh and the gravy rich. Finally after days of research, I joined my French journalist friend Emile' for a late night poutine try out. We plopped down in a non-descript food court and dug in. Or Emilie' dug in. I picked. Slowly. It actually wasn't as bad as it looks. The cheese curds add an interesting texture to the fries and the gravy gives it flavor. It's not something I will hunt down again but it wasn't a bad experience.
On the other hand, ice wine is something I will chase down when ever the opportunity arises. Although they didn't invent it, ice wine has become an iconic Canadian drink and I quickly discovered why. Created by grapes that have frozen on the vine and picked at the coldest point of a winter's night, each grape makes just one drop of ice wine. The fermented juice is extra sweet because the freezing and thawing of the grapes concentrates the sugars and acids. Because ice wine is so painstaking to make, it's an expensive treat. And what a treat. I sipped on the glass for at least a half an hour, trying to make the smooth and fruity nectar last as long as possible. All over Montreal, I spied ice wine made from apples, berries and grapes and I wanted to stash them all into my suitcase. Only the thought of TSA stickiness stopped me but I've since discovered that you can order Canadian ice wine online.