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

First Friday Art Walk, Figgy’s, and Otto’s

As great as it was to spend some time in Rangeley recently, it sure is nice to have a weekend at home, especially one with relatively few commitments now that Oireachtas is over.  We made sure to pack this one full of eating, running, and relaxing.

I ditched work a little early on Friday to get a much needed haircut.
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I think she cut off at least 8 inches, so it’s a big change for me.  Still getting used it it and trying not to think I look like a boy.

I still managed to beat everyone else home, so I had a few minutes to check out my just-arrived order from Amazon, more about that another day.

I was just starting to relax when Mike reminded me about First Friday Art Walk.  Most of the time, we forget that it’s First Friday and end up missing it.  I was feeling a bit lazy this past Friday, so I could have been convinced to skip it, but I’m so glad we went. It was the perfect time to go with town all decked out for the holidays.

We dropped our two still-at-home teenagers off at their respective places of employment and went on our merry way with our youngest, Addie, who is a veteran art walker.

We parked on the west end of Congress Street and started to make our way down toward the action.  We just happened to spot Figgy’s a few blocks from our car.
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I’d heard a bit about it, so we walked over just to check it out – for another time.  We weren’t going to get anything, since we were planning to get a slice from Otto’s once we got down that way.
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But the menu looked so good, we thought we’d just get a little biscuit to tide us over.
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We ordered “The Ay Ay Ron” (no idea why it’s called that).
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It turns out it wasn’t such a little biscuit.   Here’s some perspective with our favorite little photo bomber.
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It wasn’t little, but it was amazing.  The fried chicken was just perfect.  It had been flattened which I really like, so there’s an equal amount of “fry” with the chicken.  The breading (panko, I think – but very classic) was perfectly golden and crispy.  And the rest of the sandwich . . . wow!  The biscuit was one of the best I’ve had.  You could just taste the butter.  It was one of those messy, drop biscuits that has those bumps of delicious imperfection.  The coleslaw was a great cool contrast to the warm fried chicken, and the mashed potatoes and gravy were just over the top.  We managed a few, very messy bites before we realized this was not “walking” food.

The picnic tables looked kind of inviting, but not on a cold December night.  We decided to walk the two blocks back to the car and stow the biscuit for later.  It wouldn’t be the same cold, but I wanted to savor it with a knife and fork at my kitchen table.
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On to the art walk . . . My favorite stop was the She-Bear Gallery which had a bunch of Holly Meade wood block prints.  There was a great little Christmas banner in the window which I loved and had also happened to notice on my run that morning.  Unfortunately that was not for sale.  (I asked.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.)  We also really liked the Holly Meade “New Years Eggs” print which would be a great gift for my dad or sister who together raise egg-laying chickens.  (Sorry, Dad and Maggie, not in my price range.)

Addie’s favorite stop was Coast City Comics.  They had everything you could imagine from a full-sized Storm Trooper outfit to a tiny Adventure Time Key Chain (which Addie scored) to a Tyrion Lannister figurine to old arcade games and pinball machines in the back.

We finally made it to Otto’s which was a relief because after a few free glasses of wine at the various galleries, I really needed to use their bathroom.  We usually just get a slice and move on, but this time, we found a seat on the Enzo’s side and got to relax
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and goof off in the warmth for a bit.
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It was margarita and mashed potato, bacon, and scallion along with a couple glasses of wine for Mike and me, and cheese with a lemonade for Addie.
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We saw this cool truck on our way out.
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We continued down Congress to check out the Christmas Tree in Monument Square.

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Addie took a turn with the camera.

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The tree was beautiful, but I also love all the other lights they put up around town.
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Addie liked the Santa hats on the Time and Temperature building.
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My favorites were the ones on meca
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and by The Eastland.
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More weekend eating coming soon . . .

While the Cat’s Away . . .

Mike just wrote a great post about Oireachtas weekend which, for us, has always been the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I took our daughter down for the first seven or eight years, so Mike has taken over for me for the last few years.  There’s always a lot of stress leading up to it; rehearsals every spare minute, costume prep, and bleeding money for fees, wigs, tights, socks – you name it, but there’s nothing more stressful than actually being there with thousands of stressed out girls and their often more stressed out mothers.  Not having to go is priceless.

After spending the last few weekends engrossed in Irish dance, I was so excited to have a free weekend ahead of me.  Because I really know how to party, I went crazy in the kitchen preparing for Thanksgiving from morning until night.  The only other thing I did was run.  I ignored my poor son who was quite content to play video games in his room, have a break from the girls, and visit me occasionally for a snack.

Friday night, I made my favorite granola which I only finally remembered to start eating yesterday.
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Good thing it lasts a long time.

I also made this really yummy farro and roasted grape salad – not for Thanksgiving – but just because I wanted to.
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I’d been intrigued by the idea of roasting grapes since reading this Smitten Kitchen post a while ago (still haven’t tried that recipe).
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I think it was one of my favorite things I made the whole weekend.

Saturday, I decided to stay in bed as long as I wanted, since I didn’t really have to be anywhere.  I was on the road for a run by 6:15.  Isn’t that always the way?  When you can sleep late, you don’t?  Anyway, I was excited to get back to the kitchen and continue my baking spree.  I made bagels (including these healthy ones for after the holidays),

bialys (isn’t that weird how the onion filling turned pink?  I wonder if that’s normal or if it’s the pink Himalayan salt I used.  I can’t remember if that happened last time I made them),
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pizza dough,
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and these rosemary olive oil rolls.
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I was disappointed in them at first, but I think that’s because I ate one right out of the oven, and it probably had a bit more cooking to do.  They were perfect on Thanksgiving.  I stuck everything in the freezer, so it would seem nice and fresh when we got to Rangeley.

Sunday, pretty much the same routine except I must have been getting kind of burnt out.  I didn’t take nearly as many pictures.  This time, I made bacon and chopped up some scallions for our favorite mashed potato and bacon pizza.  It was really mostly for our first night at Rangeley, but Frank and I each had a sample pie.  I made salted caramel sauce for a delicious looking carmelita recipe which was to be my substitute for pecan pie.  Later, I actually made the carmelitas.  I almost wasn’t even going to make them, but they were so good (and easy) that I made another batch when we go home.  I also made a couscous salad which originally started out from this bulgur salad recipe.  (I know that would be healthier but I love the way those little pearls of couscous feel in your mouth.)

Finally, I worked up my nerve to make an apple pie.  I’m not sure I’ve ever really make a pie before.  I’ve made quite a few galettes (or maybe quite a lot – without looking, I can tell you the recipe I use is on page 702 of The New Basics cookbook) and a few chicken pot pies but never anything where the crust was really going to be the main focus.  I really wanted it to be good.  I didn’t have any shortening, so I googled “all butter pie crust recipes” and was happy to see that Smitten Kitchen was one of the first sites to come up on my search.  I love the way she writes.  She seems so practical and down to earth but her recipes have an element of fun to them – some kind of nice twist – that makes them interesting.  I followed her recipe and her tutorial for rolling out the dough, and I’m happy to say it was a success.  (No twists there, just a perfect, traditional pie crust which is exactly what I wanted.)
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At home, I didn’t bake it but stuck it in the freezer for an hour or two then pulled it out and put it in plastic wrap and back in the freezer.  Even though Mike was under strict instructions to bake it before he put in the turkey (while I was picking up our oldest son in Vermont), he completely forgot, and we didn’t put it in until after we’d eaten.  It had been thawing in the fridge all day, so it worked out just fine.  It didn’t need any additional baking time after having been frozen.

It was really great having all that food prepared, so I didn’t really have to do anything on the actual day.  Mike makes all the stars of the table anyway; the turkey, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the gravy.  I thought it would be nice to have at least one green thing, so I made an adaptation of this salad.  The pomegranate that I had brought with us turned out to be really gross on the inside, so I want to try it again when I actually have all the ingredients.

The only thing I didn’t make that I want to try is this cranberry salsa.

Thank you all you great food bloggers for the great recipes!

Whew, I do love to bake, but after that, I’m not quite ready for any Christmas cooking baking marathons.

Are you going to the Woodford Food & Beverage Neighborhood Mixer tonight?  We were thinking of it but waited too late to get tickets.  Arggh!  If you go, let us know what you think.  So excited to have another restaurant coming to our part of town.