Montreal: Marche Jean Talon

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If there’s one thing I love about traveling, it’s finding a good local market. While I visited many of them in 2014 (from London to Lyon to Lucerne and beyond), Montreal’s Marché Jean-Talon will go down as one of the very best.

On a dreary, rainy afternoon, my mom and I set off for the market while my dad and sister napped. Located in Montreal’s Little Italy neighborhood, the market dates back to 1933 – but however old it may be, it’s incredibly vibrant today as well.

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What I loved about the market was what a variety it had – there was an abundance of produce of course (and all of it so colorful!), but there were many other treasures as well. Some favorite discoveries included the abundance of maple syrup products (it is Canada, of course), the sheep-shaped soaps (say that three times fast), and the chocolate-covered blueberries (much more delicious than I would have expected).

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We also enjoyed something so simple yet brilliant that I’m surprised I don’t see it more often at farmers markets back home (or maybe it is there and I’m just not paying close enough attention): corn on the cob. Served piping hot and coated with a very generous amount of butter, these were the perfect mid-market snack break. Judging by the constant line at the stand, I’d say we were not the only ones who thought so.

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Marché Jean-Talon totally won me over, even in the rain. If you’re going to Montreal, I’d recommend placing it high on your must-visit list.

Things That Are Awesome, Vol. 136

The weekly roundup of internet awesomeness:

  1. YES: 31 Things Only Friends Fans Will Appreciate.
  2. One of these days…I’m going to read all of them: Creating the Ultimate List: 100 Books to Read Before You Die.
  3. One of my major accomplishments over the long MLK weekend was binge watching Broad City. Thus, this is awesome: Abbi and Ilana Dress Like Harry and Lloyd on Jimmy Kimmel.
  4. Well, now I need to watch Persuasion: A Definitive Ranking of Jane Austen’s Male Hotties.
  5. The struggle is real and eternal: Let’s Get Drinks.
  6. A glorious compilation: The History of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s Best Friendship.
  7. #2, #6, and especially #8 and #9: 20 Things Only People Who Love Going Out to Eat Will Understand.
  8. Scarily accurate: 27 Times Disney Princesses Perfectly Summed Up Your Night Out.
  9. Remember when you were in middle school and Abercrombie was, like, the coolest? Remember when you figured out it was actually the worst? This article is fascinating: The Aging of Abercrombie & Fitch.
  10. Betty White is the absolute cutest: Betty White’s 93rd Birthday Flash Mob.

(Image via Buzzfeed)

Montreal: The Mouthwatering Mile End

Ah, Montreal: it was right at the top of my must-visit list for what felt like forever. The moment I heard someone refer to it as “the Paris of North America,” I was sold: charming, cute, and conveniently located in the country of our friendly neighbors to the north? Count me in.

One of the first things we did in Montreal, however, wasn’t quite in keeping with the old world magic I had initially envisioned: we took a food tour of the Mile End neighborhood with Local Montreal Tours. My only preconceived notion about Montreal’s culinary scene can be summed up in one word (“poutine”), but our time in the Mile End proved that there was so much more good food to discover.

Our guide explained to us that the Mile End is one of Montreal’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods. Fittingly, then, its food scene was quite diverse and high quality. We began the day at La Panthère Verte, which serves vegan and organic cuisine. In addition to making a seriously delicious falafel, what I liked about the restaurant was its eco-friendly policies: if you bring your own container, you get a discount on your meal. Pretty cool.

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Next, we made our way to Boucherie Lawrence for cheese, charcuterie, and beer. Boucherie Lawrence uses local products, and the cheese and meats (including porchetta, chorizo, and salami) we sampled were excellent. As for the beer, it was Saison du Tracteur from Le Trou du Diable, a brewery in Quebec. I’m not a beer aficionado by any means, but I did appreciate trying something locally brewed.

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At our next stop, we switched things up and sampled something sweet. Kem CoBa is an ice cream shop co-owned by a husband and wife team; she’s Vietnamese and he’s French. Together, they make some incredible ice creams and sorbets. It was hard to choose between the two, but I ultimately opted for ice cream, picking a tasty combination of salted butter and dulce de leche.

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After our ice cream, we headed to one of my most anticipated events of the tour: trying a Montreal bagel at St. Viateur Bagel, which opened in 1949. Our guide told us that the secret ingredient in Montreal bagels is honey water; whatever makes them special, I have to say that I loved my bagel. And if you’re curious about the difference between a Montreal bagel and a New York bagel, check this article out (though, in fairness, I love both: who can say no to such carbohydrate-y goodness, in whatever form?)

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At Phyllo Bar Melina’s, we tried a variety of piping hot Greek bites: tyropita (filled with feta and ricotta), spanakopita (spinach and feta), prasopita (leek and potato), and bougatsa (creme anglaise). After visiting Greece several years back, I’m always excited to eat Greek food – and this was some good Greek food.

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We finished up our tour at Chocolats Geneviève Grandbois, where we each got to select one gourmet chocolate. I felt it was only fitting, being in Canada and all, to go with the maple chocolate – and I was very happy with my choice.

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Overall, I would highly recommend Local Montreal Tours – I particularly liked the wide variety of foods we tasted, and many of the shops were places I never would have stumbled upon on my own. I also appreciated the focus on restaurants with local, sustainable cuisine, a trend I was happy to see becoming more prevalent most everywhere I traveled last year. More than anything, though, my morning in the Mile End taught me there was much more to Montreal than poutine (though, of course, we did eat poutine at another meal and it was fantastic). Next time I visit the city, I know a return trip to the Mile End – and those bagels, man – is on my agenda.

Wining and Dining in Traverse City

One thing that always happens to me, whether I visit somewhere for a weekend or live there for years, is that when it comes time to depart, I inevitably feel a twinge of regret at all the things I never got around to doing, all the restaurants I never dined at, all the landmarks I didn’t get a chance to see.

So it wasn’t surprising that as my time in Michigan drew to a close, I couldn’t help but feel I hadn’t quite done enough in my beloved home state, despite spending roughly 25 years living there. As a last hurrah in the mitten, I proposed a family trip to Traverse City, a place I hadn’t been since I was a kid. My reason for wanting to visit, in fact, was something I never could have done as a child: wine drinking, of course.

I kept hearing about Traverse City’s multitude of wineries, but it wasn’t until we arrived that I actually realized just how many of them there were – over one hundred, in fact. While we only visited a small fraction of them, luckily for us, we wound up basing ourselves at one of the best: Black Star Farms.

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The Inn at Black Star Farms was pretty perfect: beautiful rooms and grounds, generous complimentary happy hours, and to-die-for breakfasts whipped up from scratch for you each morning.

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When you stay at Black Star Farms, you also get a top-notch wine tasting experience – a full selection of wines, finished off with several samples of very strong liqueurs. It was fantastic. My tip for Black Star? Stock up on their Late Harvest Riesling, their signature wine.

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In addition to Black Star Farms, we visited three other wineries. First up was Chateau Chantal, which stuck out in my mind for the gorgeous views of the surrounding vineyards.

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We also stopped into Bowers Harbor, which had a more rustic, homey vibe:

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And we finished with Brys Estate, which was quiet but had a very knowledgeable, helpful staff:

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As the title of this post might suggest, we did a fair bit of dining in Traverse City in addition to all the wining. My very favorite stop was Trattoria Stella, a fantastic Italian restaurant (apparently, it’s also one of Mario Batali’s Traverse City favorites, too). We ate dinner there, meaning I didn’t get any pictures because of the low light – so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that every dish is fantastic and you should go there.

In other culinary news, we had fish and chips at the North Peak Brewing Company:

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Made our way up to Aerie, the restaurant at the top of the Grand Traverse Resort, for Mother’s Day brunch:

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Had tasty sushi at Red Ginger:

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And stocked up on fromage at Leelanau Cheese:

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As far as weekend getaways go, it was a pretty great one – and only reminded me how many more things I have left to experience in pure Michigan.

Things That Are Awesome, Vol. 135

The weekly roundup of internet awesome:

  1. Straight up evil genius: Ship Your Enemies Glitter.
  2. I finally saw Moonrise Kingdom last weekend, so this article caught my eye: How Wes Anderson’s Cinematographer Shot These 9 Great Scenes.
  3. Well, my mind is blown: The Central Perk Couch on Friends Was Always Unoccupied for a Reason You Never Noticed.
  4. YES: If Hermione Were the Main Character in Harry Potter.
  5. And in more Harry Potter news: A Boyhood and Harry Potter Mashup 12 Years in the Making.
  6. I love it any time the West Wing cast reunites: Big Block of Cheese Day Is Back.
  7. Hah: Differences Between the Ages 34, 24, and 14.
  8. File this under “not at all surprising”: Buckeyes Misspell Ohio During Pregrame Entrance.
  9. Fascinating: Detroit by Air.
  10. Agree or disagree? Personally, I’m not so sure Jean Ralphio should be number one: These Are the 25 Best Minor Characters on Parks and Recreation. In other news: I don’t want this show to end.

(Image via)

Things That Are Awesome, Vol. 134

The weekly roundup of internet awesome:

  1. What a fun project: An Artist Replicated Photos of Seven Generations of Women in Her Family.
  2. Dying: A Corgi Went to Disney and Had the Best Day Ever.
  3. Some new reading ideas here: What’s the Best Book, New or Old, You Read This Year?
  4. Adorable interview: Jimmy Fallon Blew a Chance to Date Nicole Kidman.
  5. A great article regardless, but the presence of RBG of course elevates it: What Ruth Bader Ginsburg Taught Me About Being a Stay-at-Home Dad.
  6. Gorgeous vocals: Blank Space Mash-Up.
  7. Great ideas for when I visit home: The Michigan Bucket List.
  8. I don’t even particularly like these foods, yet I feel defensive for my state regardless: Californians Try Michigan Foods.
  9. About what I would’ve expected: What Happened When I Lived According to the Pinterest Popular Page.
  10. The parody of gluten-free eating you didn’t even know you needed: One Grain More.

(Image via)

December in New York: A Few Favorites

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When I was apartment hunting back in September, I joked to my family and friends that I only had one criterion: I needed an apartment with enough space to display – and store – a Christmas tree.

The thing is, though, that it wasn’t really a joke – anyone who knows me well knows that I looooove Christmastime. Given that, my first December in New York was something I was really looking forward to; visions of holiday markets, sparkling Christmas trees, elaborate window displays, and pop-up skating rinks were dancing in my head. Despite a packed work schedule, I managed to see a lot of the city’s Christmas highlights – though, of course, there are plenty left to tackle next year.

One priority for this month were the various Christmas markets that pop up around the city – I wanted to see them all. While I didn’t quite manage that feat, I did manage to see several. My favorite was probably the market at Columbus Circle, which I had fun browsing despite the fact that I visited in the rain. Here, I scored a beautiful New York skyline ornament.

I work near the Bryant Park markets, so I stopped by those one day at lunch (also, unfortunately, while it was raining). While I didn’t find much to buy at Bryant Park, it was still worth a visit to admire the gorgeous tree and the skating rink.

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Luckily, when I visited the market at Union Square, the sunshine was out in full force. I didn’t buy anything here either, save for some seriously delicious hot chocolate from No Chewing Allowed, a store that specializes in melt-in-your-mouth truffles (hence the name). I enjoyed my hot chocolate in the park with some rather aggressive squirrels – seriously, I was afraid one of these guys was going to pounce on me.

(Doesn’t he look ready to attack?!?)

Elsewhere, I paid a visit to another holiday staple: the Macy’s Christmas Windows. I have to say that, truthfully, my heart belongs to the more stunning Bergdorf’s windows (which I visited in November). Still, the displays here were none too shabby.

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After work one day, I also decided to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree. As you make your way up Sixth Avenue towards the tree, there are tons of cool, gigantic Christmas displays outside various buildings.

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And when you turn the corner onto 49th Street, well, that’s when the true madness begins. I went fairly late at night, assuming that the chaos might have died down by then. Nope. Not even a little bit – the crowds were wall-to-wall and I didn’t get anywhere close to the tree. It was pretty cool to see it all lit up, but I have to say that I won’t be doing that again anytime soon.

And in even more Christmas-related happenings (if you can believe it), I admired the lights at the Time Warner Center:

Smiled every time I spotted a corner Christmas tree stand:

And people-watched at the Central Park skating rink:

I also made my way to Brooklyn to see the Nutcracker at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (which was fantastic):

In non-holiday news, I saw the a capella group Straight No Chaser in concert at the Beacon Theater – they were hilarious and so, so talented:

And I also watched Hedwig on the Angry Inch on Broadway. It was quite different from other Broadway shows I’ve seen, but really entertaining – and Michael C. Hall flat-out kills this role.

I also spent time in one of my favorite Manhattan neighborhoods – the West Village. After a delicious breakfast at Café Cluny, I passed a morning wandering from street to street, poking into shops and ogling the beautiful brownstones.

And the month ended on the highest note of all: celebrating New Year’s Eve with my best friends. We went to a Flapper-themed party in the Financial District and the night was an absolute blast.

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So cheers to December, but even bigger cheers to 2015!


And in you missed it: November in review