Category Archives: Montreal

Charcutepalooza – Brining and Learning

I’m a little late to the Charcutepalooza party, but better last than never. For those wondering what is (say it with me) “shar-coo-ta-pa-loo-za”, it’s a year-long salute to meat created by Cathy of Mrs. Wheelbarrow and Kim who is The Yummy Mummy. Although I missed out on duck prosciutto in January and bacon and pancetta in February, I was set for the March challenge of brining my very own (and first) brisket.

I was a lucky kid growing up knowing what a brisket should taste like. It was to be sliced thin to melt in your mouth and be perfectly seasoned with a slightly salt taste. Growing up in London, Ontario (population 330,000) didn’t offer the “big-city” options when it came to food as Montreal or Toronto. So on road trips to Montreal to visit my grandparents, we’d always stop at a butcher shop on the way back to London and load up the cooler (that we brought specifically for this mission) with brisket, salami and smoked meat.

As I’m currently in London these days, I was realistic of my options when I walked into the downtown market. I asked the organic butcher if they had a brisket and his response was “I have a roast that you can cut the strings off of and there’s your brisket”. I had a quick look at the roast/brisket and although it was a nice piece of meat, I immediately noticed it lacked a lot of the marbling that I was accustomed to growing up. But beggars can’t be choosers and off I went with my meat which from here on out will  be referred to as “brisket” not “roast”.

The brisket was about 2.5 pounds or 1.1 kilograms in weight, so I cut all the ingredients in half from our Charcutepalooza bible Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman. The recipe called for a 5 pound (2.25 kilogram) brisket, so I knew it also wouldn’t need the five days in the brine which was confirmed by Cathy and Michael (thanks guys). After three days in the brine, it got a good cold bath and then simmered away for 90 minutes. As an added bonus, I made my own pickling spice following Charcuterie’s recipe and tweaked it a bit with some additional spices to try and give it a bit more of a kick.

The results were very good and I was impressed with myself as evidenced by the brisket disappearing in a matter of days.  But for a variety of reasons the brisket did not taste like I had remembered growing up. I know some reasons are real (I need to slice it thinner) and some others are just in my head (tough to duplicate childhood memories).

The brining experience was simple and surprisingly easy. In all, it was a great learning experience and I will certainly be doing it again. Next time, I’m going to channel my inner-deli and carve/shave like this.



Filed under Brining, Brisket, Charcutepalooza, Montreal

Guest Post – My Lisbon Food Experience

Hi y’all,

Well, there’s a first time for everything and today I bring you the very first guest post on Tastes Better With Friends. Appropriately enough, the post was written by one of my very best friends Jonathan. There isn’t much need of a lead-in, Jonathan took care of that for us. I hope you enjoy the post!

My Lisbon Food Experience

I’ve known Ethan for a while and have always admired his passion for food. What’s more admirable is that he transmits his passion to the people around him. Ethan has visited my family cottage on several occasions and has left an impression on many of the Kennedy’s. He’s connected over food and euchre with my grandmother and she even shared a treasured family cookie recipe known affectionately as jam-jams. This desire to make others happy with food and share his food experiments has always been innate to his personality, even long before this food journal was born. His blog has simply enabled his passion to reach a wider audience, doing exactly what he has always done.

Ethan and I have had the chance to travel together and share different food experiences around sporting events, late night street food vendors (the legendary Boustan) and the memorable Taco Factory in Mexico where we overdosed on taco al pastor. T is for Taco!

I recently moved to Portugal from Montreal to work, travel and expand my circle. A by-product of travelling is the ultra unique food adventures that you find yourself experiencing. Before moving to Europe, I spent some time reflecting and educating myself about the origins of food, how it’s produced and the effects of mass food production on our health and the environment. I have become a much more conscious eater with the influence of movies like Food Inc, and authors like Micheal Pollan and Jonathan Safran Foer. I have chosen to make my own food rules by absorbing the bits and pieces that work for me.

That said, whenever I find myself in a cool foodie situation, I think ”What would Ethan say” and most of the time, I wish I had a camera to boast about it. Having the god-given gift of breaking and losing cameras, I rarely have one on me to capture the moment. On a recent trip to Lisbon, I stumbled upon this picturesque 100% Biological Cafe called Quinoa. I loved it so much that I thought it would make a great guest post on TBWF.

After arriving into Lisbon by train, I was exhausted and hungry. I checked into the Lisb’on Hostel (I would argue one of the nicest in the world). The Hostel staff pointed me to the Quinoa Cafe so off I went. The newly opened cafe is located in the Chiado district, just down the street from the world-renowned Bairro Alto, the nightlife mecca of Lisbon. Just inside was an old staircase which was beautifully restored and the entrance door seemed to be salvaged from an old church. I walked in and just knew it would be a cool experience. Fresh breads filled glass casings by the cash, a selection of Kusmi tea lined the back wall and Portuguese gourmet products were stacked nicely on shelves. I knew this would be one of those true European experiences. I felt like Ernest Hemingway in ”A Moveable Feast”.

I sat down and ordered a glass of house red with the few Portuguese words I’ve learned since I’ve been here. I picked up my trusty ”Off The Beaten Path” travel guide and just took it all in. The house wine was fantastic at 4 Euros. A 2007 Dona Ermelinda, a red wine produced from the Castelao grape grown in the Palmela area of Portugal. It was full-bodied, complex and rounded tannins (thanks to Gary V, I now know what that means). In this case, the wine tasted even better thanks to the setting.

I spotted something on the menu called the ‘’trilogia de hamburguer biologicos’’ (The Bio-Burger Trilogy). What a cool name! I ordered it without hesitation. I never feel too good about eating meat unless I can be certain there is a discerning mind producing and preparing it. I felt good about this. The three burgers, more like sliders, were accompanied by a fresh green salad and Portuguese kettle chips and served on mini Kaiser buns. One topped with homemade mustard, one with caramelized onions and the third with two thin slices of cheese goodness. I tried not to devour them and took my time sipping my wine and appreciating the plate. I made a point to chew every mouthful at least 6 times. The meat actually tasted good. Lightly spiced and medium well, I will go out on a limb and say they were the best burgers I have ever had. There, I said it. I wondered what Ethan would think at that moment. Luckily, this time I had a camera and I felt no shame in taking a photograph of my plate. The photo can’t express the goodness – but hopefully, this entry might get him, or one of you visit Quinoa the next time you find yourself on this side of the pond.

Thanks Ethan. Without your influence, I doubt I would be as open to appreciating food on this level or even going as far as guest posting about food adventures.


Filed under Gary V, Gary Vaynerchuk, Lisbon, Montreal, Portugal

Me, my nacho platter and I

What makes you smile and feel good when you’re in the kitchen? For me, it’s when I use my “nacho platter”. It was in my parent’s kitchen for as long as I can remember. My dad and I used to prepare our Sunday afternoon nachos on it while watching our Detroit Lions lose, but somehow the loss didn’t seem as bad on a full stomach. 

Sunday afternoon nachos

I’ve now “borrowed” it for the last 9 years. It’s now been with me in Montreal, across Canada and happily serving my nachos in Vancouver and we won’t ever part. I wouldn’t say it’s the same type of relationship as Adam Sandler and his Red Hooded Sweatshirt, but it’s close.

There are no recipes, it’s simply a matter of what i’m in the mood for or what’s lying around in the fridge. The nachos this weekend consisted of leftover tomato sauce, feta cheese, mozzeralla cheese, sour cream and some football. It was by no means gourmet, but when it’s prepared with a smile and fond memories, it always tastes better.

Me and my platter!

My first parental warning on the blog – be prepared for Adam Sandler using a couple of profanities, but worth the watch…

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Filed under Adam Sandler, Dad, Montreal, Nachos, Red Hooded Sweatshirt, Vancouver

Embrace the Unknown

When I began this blog, my vision was that every entry would be food related, but it’s my blog so I have final say on content, right? So with that said…

It’s funny how we tend to be more reflective on certain days? December 31, vacations, weddings, funerals and birthdays seem to be days that lend themselves to self-evaluation and taking stock of our lives. The reasoning for my deep thinking was that it was my birthday yesterday. Last year, I woke up on my birthday in Montreal knowing i’d be in Vancouver in exactly 365 days. Yesterday morning, I woke up in Vancouver, but on January 16, 2011, I have no idea where i’ll be waking up.

At first, it was a slightly disturbing thought, but then it sort of settled and I realized the allure of the unknown should be embraced. I could be anywhere next year, on a beach, on a surfboard, in a hammock or eating the most incredible pizza known to humanity. My birthday gift to myself is to “let life happen, it may be fun and delicious!” I encourage you to try it too!

Embracing life with a margherita pizza in Naples

For those that have the chance and make it to Naples, Pizzeria da Michele is a must. It is commonly referred to as the birthplace of pizza. This picture was taken from my trip to Italy a couple of years ago and my pilgrimmage to Pizzeria da Michele for a friend of mine who lent me Eat, Pray, Love for my travels.


Filed under Friends, Montreal, Pizza Margherita, Pizzeria da Michele, Vancouver

Beautys – A Montreal landmark

corner of street

Beautys @ Mont-Royal and St-Urbain

When I made my way to Montreal a couple of weeks ago, I had a few things on my “eating to-do” list, General Tao chicken (check), Boustan’s Creation (check) and bagel, lox & cream cheese. I was able to satisfy that craving at a landmark Montreal restaurant called Beautys.  Beautys has been around since the early 1960’s and you get that time-warp feel when you get to the intersection of Mont-Royal and St-Urbain. Whenever I walk into Beautys, I feel like i’m going to see Archie, Betty and Veronica sharing a soda and Jughead eating a burger.
inside Beautys

Welcome to Beautys

What is lox you might be asking? Lox is essentially a salmon filet that has been cured and then finely sliced. I am happy to report that the bagel, lox and cream cheese at Beautys satisfied my craving! The bagel was perfectly toasted which softened the cream cheese and allowed it to hug the lox, onions and tomatoes into a delectable melt in your mouth sandwich. The only thing that was missing were some capers, which always adds a nice little salty kick to it.

bagel, lox and cream cheese

Bagel, lox and cream cheese

As for the pourer of the syrup, Jonathan gave a thumbs up to the blueberry pancakes and since he is the one who introduced me to Boustan’s Creation, I respect his food prowess and happily endorse his approval of the pancakes.


Blueberry pancakes

On a side note, I happened to go on a weekday morning, so we got a table right away, but if you go on a Saturday or Sunday for breakfast, brunch or lunch, be prepared to wait a good 30 minutes for a table.

93, avenue du Mont-Royal Ouest

Montreal, QC

H2T 2S5


Mon-Fri – 7 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sat – 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Sun – 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.


Filed under Bagels, Beautys, Friends, Lox, Montreal, Pancakes

The Legend of Boustan

My first memory of Boustan is back in the fall of 2005. At the time, I was working for the Montreal Canadiens and after a pre-season game, me and some friends/colleagues walked in wearing our suits and our CH pins on the lapel of our jacket. As we began ordering, the woman (Mrs. Boustan) behind the counter took our picture! Apparently, we looked like rookies who were in the process of trying out for the team. To make a long story short, we ordered, sat down and proceeded to eat magic on a plate. (More on the photo story at the bottom)

Creation Trio

Creation Trio

Simply put, Boustan is phenomenal. It is a Lebanese restaurant at 2020 Crescent Street, corner of de Maisonneuve. Pass by at 3am on a Saturday in the middle of January and check out the line out of the restaurant and know that people are willing to stand in the freezing cold and lose their bar buzz for a reason. The reason for this devotion is due to great food and an even better atmosphere.

When I first started eating at Boustan, I rotated between the chicken pita and veggie pita, but then I was introduced to the Creation a couple of years ago and I haven’t looked back since. It isn’t on the menu, but do me a favor and order the Creation Trio. The Creation is a grilled pita stuffed with chicken, eggplant, potatoes, coleslaw and make sure to ask for the hot sauce that is made daily and sits proudly in a legendary pot. The 2nd part of the trio are the garlic potatoes, which are perfectly roasted and topped with a creamy garlic sauce. These potatoes, well, words can’t even describe them and i’d be doing a disservice to them by attempting. Simply put, they are seasoned with love and the perfect resting place for the garlic sauce, not too “garlicky”, just right. The last part of the trio is a soft drink of your choice and it’s all yours for under $10!

More Creation and more garlic potatoes!

More Creation and more garlic potatoes!

Mr. Boustan is what makes Boustan what it is. Be ready to be treated to some great food and some wise words from the man who is beloved all through Montreal.

How good is it really? As I’m writing this at 12:30am, I feel the urge to drive 5000 km’s from Vancouver to get my late night Boustan fix!  


514-843-3576 (and they deliver)

2020 Crescent Street

Montreal, QC

The reason for the photo-taking by Mrs. Boustan is simple. There are some classic photos of Tom Selleck and other celebrities (some Canadiens players who are no longer on the team or who have failed to impress me this season so they will not be named) posted on the counter who have eaten at Boustan. I had always hoped to see mine up there, but it never came to be.


Filed under Boustan, Creation, Garlic Potatoes, Montreal, Vancouver

Jerry Seinfeld & the Black and White Cookie

I am a big fan of Seinfeld, so when I passed a Kosher bakery in Montreal, I thought i’d see if the famous Black and White cookie was there and sure enough it was!

For those that are unfamiliar with this particular episode, the black and white cookie is a classic scene that takes place in a bakery where Jerry explains to Elaine that it’s a cookie that incorporates “2 races of flavor living side by side” and the key to eating the cookie is making sure you get some white and some black with each bite…impossible of course, but a good theory!

Black and White Cookie

Black and White Cookie

The cookie itself is soft, like shortbread and is covered with 1/2 chocolate fondant and 1/2 vanilla fondant. For a good laugh, check out the link and for a good snack, check out your nearest bakery and as Jerry says, “Look to the cookie!” 

Boulangerie Cheskie – 359 Bernard Street West, corner of Parc Avenue


Filed under Black and white cookie, Jerry Seinfeld, Montreal