A Proper Crossing: A Coffee Oasis during a Long Run – The Proper Cup

I set out on a run yesterday with three goals: 1) Run at a liesurely an easy pace, 2) Run ten miles for a longer distance that usual, and 3) finally get across the Casco Bay Bridge during a run from home after several failed attempts.  I’m excited report the I for once met all of the goals.  It was a struggle and there were some necessary walk breaks, but it got done and there was a bonus stop at an oasis for an Iced Latte. Here’s where the run took me:

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Back in the days of being in better shape our original runs across the bridge, mile 3 would come when we were just about half way across the bridge, but of course that route involved the utter Hell of climbing Portland’s State Street hill, which is quite a climb.  I had the bright idea to find a route with less of an incline by running out by the Fore River campus of Mercy Hospital.  I did appreciate some downhill terrain, but there still was a fair share of hills and I underestimated the extra distance to get to the bridge (it added an extra mile).  Due to the extra distance and my fading endurance I changed my run to just getting across the bridge and then heading home rather than a running tour of South Portland.  Although it was a quick turn around in SoPo, I did have nice time running through the Knightville neighborhood.

On the way back home, I did make it up to the top of State Street, but at a considerably slower pace.  It then hit me that I needed a pit stop.  I found an oasis at The Proper Cup.

Before getting to my run stop at Proper Cup, Katie and I recently did a Bike for Breakfast there and enjoyed a nice time, some coffee, and a tasty breakfast sandwich.

I’m not a seasoned veteran of many coffee houses, but I love the atmosphere of Proper Cup.  Of course the first time I went there, the first thing to catch my eye was the Honda motorcycle perched on top of the creamer station.  I don’t know the significance of the bike, but I will have to ask some time.  There also is a lot of cool local art on the walls.  Our favorites are in the background of picture of the Honda.  They’re ink sketches of animals with a story included.  We actually met the artist there one Saturday, and he told us that the sketches were of animals he had encountered during his travels.

What drew me to Proper Cup for our bike adventure was a sign I noticed that morning saying that they now had breakfast sandwiches.  Previously, I think they only offered pastries with their coffee.  I went for the Veggie which had egg, mozzarella, tomato, cucumber, and spinach on an English muffin.  The sandwich was good and was plenty filling along with my Iced Latte.  I am wondering if they make the sandwiches on site, but Katie informed that the sandwiches are made by Sisters Gourmet Deli.  We will have to plan an excursion there soon to try something freshly made.

275px-MRE_No._23_(cropped)Speaking of the Iced Latte, I have to say that I am not really a coffee aficionado.  In fact, I remember my first foray into the coffee world being the instant coffee packs inside Army MREs.  For a boost we would empty the instant coffee grounds, powder creamer, and sugar packet into our mouths and then wash it down with a swig from our canteen.  I’ve yet to see that available on the menu boards in any of our local coffee shops.

I see all the names on the menu at coffee shops and really have no idea what they’re all about.  For a while I was into Flat Whites, because they were being reintroduced at Starbucks a while back and I wanted the baristas to think I was some old school coffee-ite happy that a classic offering was back on the menu.  Currently, Iced Lattes are my thing since Montreal.  I like Katie’s Mocha Lattes, so I order the Latte to be a little different.  I really quite like them now.  I especially like Proper Cup’s iced latte served in the large mason jar glass.  It’s a refreshing drink and lasts long enough for some good coffee shop conversation.  Bottom line is we both really enjoy trips to Proper Cup and highly recommend it.  In fact, some days you might find Katie doing some online work there (she is a bit of a regular).

Back to my Coffee Run…

By the time I hit Forest Ave (a little past mile 6), I was really fading.  My walk and run intervals were becoming increasingly equal in time.  First I saw the “OPEN” flag for Rose Food, but managed to push on.  Finally, I saw Proper Cup two blocks away and pushed a sprint there.

I was a bit conscious of that fact that I was dripping in sweat and felt a bit awkward walking in wearing a Camelback compared to the nicely summer-attired mostly Millennial weekday crowd.  Somehow, I feel my lack of coffee knowledge makes a bit unsophisticated for the coffee shop scene, but I went for it anyway.  Fortunately, I had brought a little cash in my Camelback pouch and put in my order for a large Iced Latte at $4.75 plus a $1.00 tip in the jar.

The latte was ready in a couple minutes, and for a special treat, I went to the Honda motorcycle station and added some simple syrup rather than my usual two packets of Splenda.  I figured six miles earned some high octane sweetener.  I found a corner by the window and just enjoyed a few minutes of AC and a nice beverage to give me a final boost back home.

Seeing a giant squash growing on the sidewalk of Danforth Street with “VOTE” carved into it was an intresting sight along the route.  The other pics include views along the Casco Bay Bridge, the fountain at Deering Oaks Park and part of Woodfords Corner. 

The final leg of the run was nice.  The pit stop at Proper Cup was just what I needed to shorten the walk intervals and get up the final hill on Woodford Street.  At the end, Runkeeper had me over eight miles!  Of course the f&!&ing “Fix GPS” feature on the app put my distance under eight and added ages to my average pace (more on that in future post).  All in all, the whole event was a great ending to the morning.

Whether drive, walk, bike, run or ride a Honda, make your way to Proper Cup.  You won’t be disappointed.

See you on the road!

-Mike

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Run For Breakfast TO GO at Rose Foods

I set out Monday morning to complete Week 5 of C25K.  This day’s training called for a two mile run at 10 minute pace.  On the fly, I decided I would push for that 10 minute pace for the first two miles and then add some distance afterwards.  The run was a great success as I was just under 10:00 pace for the two training miles and then added on an extra three miles of running with some walk breaks worked in.  Turned out to be a nice city loop:

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While running down Congress Street, it hit me that I was going to be hungry for some breakfast after this run, but the cupboards at home were a bit bare of breakfast fare.  I then had the revelation to swing into Rose Foods.

We were very excited when Rose Foods came to Portland a couple of years ago.  It’s owner was also one of the founders of the amazing Palace Diner in Biddeford (I think we posted about Palace previously), so we had high expectations.  Rose Foods is in the mold of a classic NYC Jewish delicatessen.  Despite many trips to NYC in my lifetime, I’m not sure what makes a great NYC deli.  All I know is that I love Rose foods.  Their bagels are classic, and we have enjoyed many items including bagel sandwiches with combinations of toppings and their homemade flavored cream cheeses.  Among my favorites is their Matza Ball soup.

On this day I went for an everything bagel with plain cream cheese and the “Rose” salad which is a delightful combination of cottage cheese, radishes, and spices (mostly dill).  I ordered my treasure and did not mind a wait of any length because the AC was glorious on this warm day.  Once I received my order, I slipped in a few of the complimentary Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews (probably my favorite candy).

The run home was a bit slow and I had worries of the bag ripping, but I made it.  I had designs to eat half my order, then save some for lunch, but as usual, the bagel and salad were so good that I finished them off in one sitting.

Yes, that is a selfie I took of me rockin’ the Star Wars shirt running home with my take out bag.

See you on the road!

-Mike

Last Montreal Morning Run Followed by Refreshing “Melk”

Image-1 Well as you have possibly noticed, I have not exactly been chronological in my Montreal posts.  I’m catching up when the spirit and good memories come to me.  This post also seems like a true Run for Breakfast post since it has a run and a breakfast review in it.  Definitely wanted to report about this run because it was my longest distance during the trip and probably the funnest run I did.  I was able to achieve the distance because I took the day prior off for our excursion to Mont Tremblant, and I was running on a high of having such a magical time with Katie north of the border even though we were heading home that day.

Nice parts of this run were that the temperature was perfect (around 60) and there was only one serious hill to climb at the beginning up to Sherbrooke Street.  After it was all flat and downhill which made things pleasant for one last look around the city.

My Runkeeper post sums up the run: “Last run before we depart Montreal 😒. Thought I had 20 miles for the week, but GPS fix put me at 19.8. I’ll take it though. Lots of pauses for crosswalks and photo ops (needed them to get the run done 😉). Great sights at St.Louis Square and a couple nice parks along Sherbrooke. Loved the neighborhood hood cutting back to St. Catherine. Cool art on St. Catherine and it was cool running under the bulbs along the street.”

I thought that the giant slingshot was impressive (it was in one of the parks along Sherbrooke) and I sure did a double-take on some of the art on display along St. Catherine Street.  Katie and I did not explore that end of St. Catherine during this stay, but we have it at the top of our list for our next visit.  This end had more of a feel of an older Montreal unlike the Times Square feeling on the other end.

After the run, we packed our things, but had time for one more stop for coffee and a light breakfast before checking out and heading back to reality home.  Katie found a great coffee shop nearby, MELK Bar à Café Saint-Urbain.

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Besides the great reviews, I think Katie’s motivation to choose this destination is that her dad (aka “Tex”) pronounces “milk” as “melk”.  I’ll have to listen for that next time we are at The Farm.

 

 

 

 

 

Melk was great.  I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of drink choices, but the “The London Fog” caught my eye on the wall.  It was Earl Gray tea mixed with steamed condensed milk and some other things that made a wonderful morning mix.  It was a nice change from coffee and it had a nice sweet flavor without any sugar added.  I believe Katie went for a mocha latte, but I might be wrong on that.  We also went sweet and savory with a chocolate chip cooked and a

Melk had a great atmosphere for a morning coffee and snack and we loved the carton of milk design at the bottom of our cups.  As was the case for most of our trip the service was very friendly (and forgiving of our elementary French).  It was a great send-off as we were about to head back south of the border.

Au revoir Montreal.  On se voit sur la route!

-Mike

Bagel Ste-Rose – Quick Stop for a nice breakfast in Laval, Quebec

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On our way to Mont Tremblant, we decided to make a breakfast stop once we cleared the early morning Montreal traffic.  Searching for local stops, Katie came across Bagel Ste-Rose in Laval, which is a large suburb of Montreal.  As we discovered, Laval appears to be a small town, but it is spread out over many square KM.  The restaurant itself is about a 10 minute drive off of Highway 15, so we were able to pass through several local neighborhoods in Laval, which was nice to see and get a feel for a city outside of Montreal.

After parking behind the building we noticed on the front a sign that said, “Cartes de credit non acceptees.  En especes seulement.”  Fortunately, Katie translated the sign that we needed cash to pay for our meal.  So, off we went in search of an ATM for some Canadian cash (we were trying to limit our cash haul in order not to bring any back over the border with us).  After that 10 minute excursion, we were finally able to find a seat and order our meal.  Below is the exterior and interior of Bagel Ste-Rose.  It’s nestled in a nice neighborhood with a few other family-owned restaurants.

The first thing I noticed upon receiving the menu, is that outside of Montreal, servers are less quick to switch to English with customers.  After seeing my struggles with the menu, the hostess was kind enough to come and offer a menu in English (I almost was able to get by with my minimal French reading translation, but it was a relief).

My meal consisted of a plain bagel, two poached eggs (it was unusual that poached was the only option), some fantastic sausage, beans, and fruit.  Katie just for a bagel and fruit.  We both had lattes with Katie making her’s a mocha.  The coffees had nice flavor and were hot.

We really enjoyed the meal. Everything was fresh and well prepared and we received excellent service.  The bagels were Montreal-style (not as sweet as those we had in Montreal -more on them later-), but interestingly, the hostess was finishing off the baking process using a conveyor-belt toaster.  While the bagels were great when prepared on a griddle with butter, the ones we took on the road were just good.  I think something is lost without the fire-roasting.

In the end, Bagel Ste-Rose is worth the stop if you are in Laval.

On se voit sur la route!

-Mike

Biking for Lunch along P’tit train du Nord and a visit to Mont Tremblant

We woke up early the day before we left Montreal and decided to adventure out of the city to Mont Tremblant and do some biking along the P’tit train du Nord Trail.  Katie had discovered these locations before we departed for Montreal, but we did not have definite plans to go there; we are glad we did.  After three days of exploring Montreal by foot, bike, and rail, we felt the urge to expand our adventure.  Under overcast skies and a light rain we drove off from the hotel.  On the way to the mountains we found a nice breakfast stop (more on that in another post) and then an interesting stop on on the way back (more on that later too).

Once we were out of the Montreal traffic, the drive into the mountains of Quebec was picturesque and quite pleasant.  As wonderful as Montreal is, it was nice to have a break from the noise of the crowds and most of all the construction that seems to have engulfed almost every corner of the city.

After about a 90 minute drive, the GPS put us in the pretty village center of Mont Tremblant, but it sure didn’t resemble the Vail-like ski resort full of boutique shops that we were expecting.  Turns out we had missed the turn for the ski resort, so we turned around and saw the mountain and resort across the lake and headed in that direction.

Mont Tremblant lived up to expectations with beautiful scenery and a quaint yet bustling ski village with a multitude of summer activities for visitors.  A highlight for us was the free ski lift ride from the village to the base of the mountain.  We ended up doing things in reverse by taking the lift down from the village to the base and then walking uphill to visit shops along the way.  I suppose the extra exercise was a nice bonus, but I sure was feeling the week of biking and running.

After our visit to the resort and shops (no purchases, but well worth the look), we headed back down for some biking near the village center.  The P’tit train du Nord runs a couple of hundred kilometer in Quebec and offers great riding adventures long and short (which was our choice for the day).  We unloaded the bikes at a parking spot just outside the village and set off.  Along the way we encountered  many bikers, runners (a couple running at a such a pace that they passed us as we were riding our leisurely pace), and walkers.  We offered our easily detectable American “Bon Jour” to all we encountered.  As the week progressed I got over my accent fear and offered a few Bon Jours, but the Quebecois saw right through me and knew that was the extent of my conversational French.  They were always quite friendly though.  A cool adventure we hope to do some day is bake and camp along the trail as several groups of bikers we saw were doing.

After a short ride through the village and along the lake, we parked our bikes at a converted rail stop (it had a neat art gallery inside), and made our way for some lunch at Au Coin Resto Pub, part of the Hotel Mont Tremblant.  Our lunch included a delicious broccoli soup, delicious beet salad (with goat cheese that had wonderful flavor and little after-taste), and some freshly-made hummus.  It was a perfect lunch sitting on the patio and a great server who tolerated some terrible Francais on my part.  Katie managed to get us seated and order our meal using her new improved French.  The server knew I was hopeless linguistically and did converse with me in English during the meal.  At the end I decided to end our meal by asking, “Le factuer si vous plait.”  We’ve been debating this, Katie is sure that our server was just surprised that I was speaking au Francais, but I’m sure I butchered the words and offered a profane the wrong phrase.  In any case our server answered with a distinct, “What!?” after my request for the check.  We laughed it off and ended a great meal amicably.  Following the lunch we leisurely rode our bikes back the car and made our way back to Montreal for the final evening of our magical Quebec excursion.

On se voit sur la route!

-Mike

Roadtrippin’ For Breakfast – Great stop at The Local Hub Market and Cafe

Katie and I set out for Montreal this past Sunday, and so far it has been an awesome trip.  Before crossing the border, we had a nice surprise for an unplanned breakfast at The Local Hub Market and Cafe in Greenwood, ME.  This part of was somewhat unchartered territory for us.  It seems most times that we have headed to Canada we had to go south and then north through New Hampshire and Vermont.  I guess circumstances such as dropping off one or more of our children to be watched or picking up family or friends caused our route to be altered.  This time, direct from Portland we had barely any highway time and spent a good portion of the ride through Maine on Route 26.

At the get-go, we decided that some quick snacks and coffee from a local Cumby’s would not suffice nor the dreaded DD (or is is just Dunkin now?), so we were determined to find a quick local stop along the way.  The only other rule was that the stop had to be on our route.  So off we went from Portland to Cumberland, to Gray, to Poland, to Oxford, to Paris, and it seemed much to our dismay that breakfast might not be happening.  Out of now where came The Hub. Katie pointed it out and I slammed on the brakes and we pulled in (sorry to the driver behind us for the near death experience).

The Hub definitely gave a different vibe for its first impression.  It definitely is our winner of the category for best breakfast from a restaurant with signs on the front saying “KAYAK RENTALS” or even better, “GET YOUR WORMS AND CRAWLERS HERE.”  When you enter though, The Hub has the feel of a cozy cafe and local artist hangout.

By just smelling the fresh baked goods and seeing the finished products on the counter, we knew that this was gonna be good and probably would deserve a repeat visit our next time through.

The Hub has a great selection on their menu, so it was hard decision for both of us, but I ended up with The New Sandwich Deluxe (would like to try the old one too if it’s still around) and Katie went for The Breakfast Burrito.

After a short wait, which we didn’t mind since we were able to enjoy our coffee drinks and the art on the walls, our orders were ready.  Rather than eat in the car we decided to sit out on a picnic bench just outside The Hub.  It was a pleasant day and it was nice that it was right on the water.  Both orders looked great.

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I’m not usually a fan of goat cheese, but it really worked on this sandwich when combined with the pesto.  The bread had great flavor and was perfectly toasted.  A win all around.  Katie loved the burrito and the couple of bites I had had nice flavor and a perfect touch of heat.  The portions were large enough that we could only eat half and wrapped up the rest for the rest of the trek north (I finished my sandwich a couple of hours later and I think it tasted even better then).

The Hub seems to have a solid local following.  There was a steady stream of regulars and visitors coming in and the staff provided great service to everyone.  They also had a great selection of local meat and other products that I would have tried if I was staying local.  Next time we roll through Greenwood, The Hub will be a definite stop.

See you on the road!

-Mike

Who Says Hotel Breakfast is Awful? Nice breakfast Buffet at the Montreal Doubletree.

A nice perk for our stay at the Downtown Montreal Doubletree Hotel is that breakfast is included each morning for Hilton Honors members.  Usually, we avoid these buffets like the plague, but we decided to give it a shot before setting out on some morning bike adventures around town.  The buffet turned out to be excellent with high quality pastries, fresh fruit, great hot breakfast selections, and possibly the best fresh squeezed grapefruit juice I’ve ever had.  It was a pleasant surprise!

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Here’s what day 2’s breakfast looked like:

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Just as good as yesterday.  Went for even more of the charcuterie route this morning.

The goodness continued on day 3:

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I went a little lighter today, since we were eating later in the morning and we had some good lunch stops in mind.  I have to admit the egg Benedict with salmon did not work for me.  I’ve enjoyed charcuterie in the morning, but fish just does not work.

We had vouchers for two more breakfasts at Doubletree, but decided to explore more local fare for our last two mornings north of the border.  As I said though, this breakfast buffet far exceeded our expectations.

On se voit sur la route!

-Mike