The Triple A Road Trip: Annapolis, Alexandria, & Arlington

So, it has been a long time since I was last able to publish something on here and I’m glad to be back… for now. I guess you could say we didn’t stay with the “A’s” as we also visited Great Falls. Conversely, we could really stretch the definition to quadruple A as we visited the Arboretum (National Arboretum). However it is defined, this was a fun last minute road trip. By last minute, I mean extremely last minute. I’ve tried to make it a yearly tradition to take time off for my birthday and do something or go somewhere. Of recent years, that has combined doing the American Cancer Society ACS bik-a-thon (a very worthy charity if you are into cycling) and taking a short trip. This year my partner Teena and I were leaving our travel plans to a last minute decision. It came down to this road trip and a last minute cheap flight to anywhere. Unfortunately the last minute cheap flight had many travel date restrictions which did not work out so the road trip won out.

Getting there, we opted to forgo traveling down I-95 and took the back roads through Delaware and Maryland crossing Kent Island and the William Preston Lane, Jr Memorial Bridge which all but takes you right into Annapolis. On Kent Island we took a little side trip to the Southern point of the island which was met with road construction and a private road which thwarted reaching our destination point. On turning around, we saw signs for “Historic Stevensville” and decided to check that out instead. Warning, if you plan on seeing this, do not blink. No this is not some obscure Dr. Who reference. The historic downtown is literally the meeting of several corners. It passed so fast we literally had to go back to confirm what we saw, err, or rather, didn’t see. So onward to Annapolis.

Overall, Annapolis is a visually charming town with small, colorful row homes. There are a lot of the typical tourist shops selling trinkets and T-shirts. It is apparently home of the sailboats “Woodwind I” and “Woodwind II” the latter of which is featured in the movie “The Wedding Crashers”, at least according to the tourist map. And in case you didn’t already know, home of the U.S. Naval Academy. However I have to say, to me, the town was a little too small. I’m not speaking in overall acreage but more of the size of the streets and how close together the buildings are situated. It was a little claustrophobic to me.

That said, what it lacks in street width, it makes ups for in dining and libations. Admittedly, we were only there for one night so it is possible we picked the best two places but I doubt that. Our first stop was the Fox’s Den. Situated in a sub street level unit under other stores and restaurants, its location, decor, and drink selection gave it a speakeasy feel. They have a nice selection of cocktails of which the Penicillin 1870 and District Boulevardier we can speak for as being quite excellent. Additionally, they have a unique craft beer selection and the coconut cream ale I ordered had a perfectly sculpted head in addition to being the smoothest beer I have ever had. Not enough O’s in the word smooth to describe its taste (sorry Genny Cream Ale). We then moved on to find our dinner for the evening. For this I have to give credit my partner Teena for seeing that Café Normandie had IMG_2480rabbit on the menu, a recent favorite of mine, in the form of a rabbit pot pie. The restaurant has a rustic feel to it and though they have a rather refined appearing menu, nothing about the restaurant came off as pretentious either. We opted for a bottle of wine with dinner. While I would like to come across as a connoisseur of fine wine, I honestly just recognized the name “Rothschild” from TV and movies when I ordered the Château Malmaison-Rothschild, Médoc. It was a good gamble as the wine was not only good on it’s own but went very well with the rabbit. The portions were plentiful, so much so, we had no room left for dessert. We soon went back to our hotel and drifted off into our food coma induced sleep.

The next morning we were off to the DC area. Our first stop was to the National Arboretum. While there is no admission fee, they do work partially off of donations. They have quite the impressive collection of Bonsai trees on display, some growing since the 1600’s. Overall, I’m for any green space within city limits. However, traffic noise was quite noticable which did take me out of the moment at times. Likewise, I would have liked to see more foot paths through the park rather than or in addition to black top roadways to get around. It’s a very worthwhile excursion but I might recommend doing it during the cooler spring or autumn months.

We then made our way to Alexandria, VA and the Hampton Inn which would be our accommodations for the next two nights. Though outside of the Old Town district of Alexandria, that was balanced by the overall room price, the inclusion of a hot breakfast, and a free shuttle to and from Old Town making it’s location rather moot. Over the next two nights, we fully took advantage of the shuttle and wandered up and down King Street sampling numerous watering holes and their various cocktails as well as multiple restaurants pacing ourselves with appetizers and meals. There is such a multitude of great places to eat and drink, I think one would have to work hard to be disappointed. While I can’t go into detail regarding every place we ate, I can at least list a few of them. La Tasca has amazing tapas style appetizers and sangria, Hen Quarter has great fried chicken, comfort food, and bourbon (and bourbon flights). If you prefer something a little more mainstream but still with it’s own identity, check out a regional chain called Blackwall Hitch. Like more of a dive bar feel (said with all due respect) hit up the Bayou Room, the lower level of Two Nineteen Restaurant. There seems to be something for everyone on King Street. The one place that stands out from all the rest also happens to be another French place, La Fromagerie. They have a wonderful assortment of cheese and charcuterie you won’t find at many places. Additionally, their wine selection is even more unique. I asked our server if she could surprise me with a wine I would not normally be exposed to. I was presented with a 2016 Domaine De Clovallon Les Indijènes. From what was explained to me by our server as well as reading online, this is an unfiltered wine that is allowed to ferment spontaneously that comes from old vines which had survived a regional catastrophe. The result was an aroma of berries that was slightly musty and a taste and feel that was earthy with a hint of fruit, dry, and mineral like. It was without a doubt the most unique wine I have ever had. Despite what you may think from my description, it was quite excellent. As an added bonus they have an out of place yet hilarious painting of John Goodman from The Big Lebowski. I am most certainly this eatery’s target demographic.

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Old City Alexandria has much more to offer than just food and drink. Their waterfront region is quite vibrant with parks making for a nice evening stroll as well as water taxi services to DC  and National Harbor. So nice, it makes me wish nearby Philadelphia could / would bring theirs up to par. There are ghost tour bar crawls and many small museums we did not get a chance to visit while there. Additionally, they seem to support local artists a great deal. To be repetitive, there truly is something for everyone.

The Next day we proceeded to Great Falls National Park. It’s a very short ride outside of the DC area but a world away in scenery. It is a National Park so there is an entrance fee of $10 per vehicle which covers all passengers that is good for 3 days (or $5 per person by foot or bike). As the name suggests, this is home to a rather splendid water fall. There are several viewing points to get that photo op you are looking for with two of them wheelchair accessible. There are also multiple hiking trails, with one that goes through the ruins of the old canal locks. The falls are as great to view as listen to and the trails are nicely kept and marked. Though I have to say the “ruins” are a bit underwhelming. Afterwards we then went to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. This stop piqued my interest as I have a fascination with the Masons, the Knights Templars, and their rumored connection. As one might expect, it is quite lavishly ordained in its architecture with highly sculpted columns, murals, and statues. There are several floors with varying information regarding Washington himself, the construction of the monument, and the Masonic organization itself. The 9th floor has an observation deck with a great view of Alexandria and DC in the distance. While Alexandria has Philadelphia beat on the waterfront, Philadelphia’s Masonic Temple and tour far outweigh the George Washington Masonic Memorial.

Our final day was spent visiting Arlington National Cemetery. For what the George Washington Masonic Monument has in
its opulence, Arlington has in it’s simplicity, tradition, and somberness. Whatever your opinions are of war and the governments who engage in them, I think and hope we can all agree those soldiers who have defended  their country during times of war should be honored. It takes a special person to put their life on the line forIMG_2552 something larger than themselves. The tombstones and memorials are beautiful in their simplicity with maybe the exception of the Memorial Amphitheater IMG_2586which is not only ornate but quite large in stature. Overall, it is a crossroads of beauty and sadness. Many memorials create a place for quiet contemplation and introspection such as the eternal flame marking the grave site of JFK and Jackie Kennedy. Those who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are rather awe inspiring in their precision of motion, dedication, and commitment. The changing of the guard alone is worth visiting these hallowed grounds. Though I had visited here years prior, I am glad we decided to include this on our trip.

So many people make visits to the DC area specifically to see the nation’s capitol. I’m not saying there aren’t things to see in DC. However, do not overlook the areas surrounding the capitol. There is much in the way of history, nature, and entertainment around DC that one should check out. Specifically, I can’t recommend Alexandria enough. So much so, that my partner and I are already looking to go back.

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Another World Close To Home

While I have been to the area numerous times, starting as a kid when our parents took us tubing on the Delaware River, it has only been the past 5 years or so that I have truly appreciated the cross river towns of New Hope, PA and Lambertville, NJ. They have become a regular destination for me whether it be a day/weekend trip with my partner Teena, my yearly day trip with my sister’s Renee and Dianne (which I always look forward to), or more recently to spend the evening dining on amazing food and seeing a show. The towns offer numerous activities and each have their own distinctive personality. Whether you enjoy shopping, cycling, simple to fine dining, bed and breakfast weekend trips, art, there is something for most everyone.

I don’t think there is a wrong way to see these quaint towns, but if you want to see both in one day, may I suggest starting out in Lambertville. Specifically, with Rojo’s Roastery. 20090706-clover-rojo3Located on Union street a little off the main shopping area. Part coffee shop, part industrial space with glass garage doors that they open when the weather is nice, it is the perfect place to get your caffeine fix before starting the day. The main district centered around Bridge street is the perfect place to walk around and stretch your legs visiting the  many antique shops, art galleries, specialty food stores such as Savour, and home decor stores. Once you have worked up an appetite, there are many great restaurants to grab lunch and a good cocktail (or two, or three). We typically dine at either The Lambertville Station or The Lambertville House. Both have an excellent menu and well made cocktails. I’ve always felt Lambertville had a slightly European feel between the art galleries, iron railings, and window shutters commonly seen which again gives it a distinctively different feel than it’s neighbor across the way.

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Once refueled, it is just a short walk (or drive) across the bridge to New Hope. One of the few places you can cross the Delaware River without a toll. To me, New Hope has a decidedly different feel. The oddly angled streets, the now defunct canal that bisects the town, and it being more hilly in nature has always made it feel a bit more hobbit like to me. Again you will find more shopping but in contrast, the stores here are more eclectic and exotic in nature. You will also find more local clothiers as well. Likewise, you will new-hopefind many places to eat of a wider range. From John & Peters, a straightforward bar that showcases local music to Nektar which has a wide selection of wines and whiskies along with small Tapas like dishes. Though very different from each other, the Gemini in me likes them both equally. Sometimes you just want a simple bar and hear some live, original music and sometimes you want a good Manhattan. Again, there is something for everyone and every taste. Restaurant wise, I would say the two standouts are The Logan Inn and Marsha Brown. The Logan has a warm and inviting atmosphere, the main dining area is further warmed figuratively and literally by a cozy fire place which makes for a perfect dinner setting after a long day walking around, especially in the winter months. The inn itself has a reported history of being haunted, with Room 6 supposedly being the most active. Sadly, I cannot report first hand on this as I have for some reason never stayed there. A mistake I must remedy soon.

At this point, I must go on a slight tangent and talk specifically about Marsha Brown. 37503a67eb51bc76f45ef63dfd656993--creole-kitchen-chopped-saladWhile I have been there once prior and dined in the first floor bar area, it was on a more recent visit that I really appreciated this establishment. An old church converted into a restaurant, Marsha Brown is a Southern Creole inspired venue which offers some of the most unique atmosphere I’ve ever dined in, eclipsed only by their magnificent menu. I do recommend making a reservation as this is not a place you can easily just show up and get a table. Once we arrived, we were escorted to a table located in the balcony that at one time I imagine had and organ and/or choir. Once seated, we have a spectacular view of the main dining area and the magnificent mural on the back wall.  A bar that lacks for nothing, unique appetizers to classic oysters to main courses that tantalize one’s taste buds. My Manhattan was perfectly mixed and balanced. Oysters from the West and East Coast created a mollusk variety of goodness. My NY Strip with Creole style Bayou dry rub was cooked to perfection (medium rare) and was the most flavorful, tender steak I’ve ever had. If you ever want to splurge and treat yourself to an out of this world meal, this is the place to go.

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As I said, there are many things to do in the area. After our meal at Marsha Brown, we 26197938_10156004256339380_4881106365029906533_othen went to the New Hope Winery to see local singer/guitarist/songwriter and all around nice guy Jeffrey Gaines perform. The winery has a nice 250 seat indoor venue and hosts shows on a regular basis. The New Hope and Ivyland Railroad has an old steam locomotive that has dinner excursions as well as themed rides during Halloween and Christmas. The Delaware Canal Towpath trail offers hiking and cycling along both sides of the river of various distances. There is tubing and rafting down the Delaware River itself and hiking at nearby Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. Last and certainly not least, there is the Bucks County Playhouse which not only continues to operate but like the Logan Inn has reports of being haunted.

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Some things to take note of. Parking is at a bit of a premium in both towns. Metered parking in Lambertville is commonly found but does use the Parkmobile app for convenience. New Hope has a mix of metered parking and kiosks along with paid lots. Lots can be upwards of $20 but if you park in the lot behind The Logan Inn, it’s free if you are staying at the inn or half price if you dine at the inn and show your receipt. In addition, the weekends can get pretty crowded, especially when the weather is nice.

So, if you are from the area and have yet to visit either of these two towns, I would highly suggest you correct that situation as soon as we are out of this January freeze. They are local gems a short drive away that everyone should take advantage of.

Local Flavor- Giumarello’s

As much as I like to dine while traveling, one still has their favorites close to home. And if I’m going to have kind things to say about restaurants abroad, I would be remiss if I did not give similar accolades to those establishments I enjoy locally.  Without a doubt for me and my girlfriend, that place is Giumarrello’s. Granted we may be a little biased as this was where our first date took place but I was already aware of how good Giumarrello’s was at that point. I can simply sum up why in four points, a fantastic cocktail list, an excellent menu, great atmosphere, a pleasant and attentive staff.

The restaurant has a low lit yet very warm atmosphere that, along with the staff, is very welcoming. There is a mix of seating with reserved tables, first come/first serve tables, and a large seated bar area. There is outdoor seating available and a selection of tables in both the reserved and first come/first serve areas are perfect for people watching, if that is something one enjoys.

 

One of the reasons my girlfriend and I quite enjoy this establishment is their cocktail menu. While they have an equally extensive wine and beer list, it is definitely the variety and quality of their cocktails that keep us coming back. Of the many you can pick from, two have become my regular go to cocktails. The first is the Vesper Martini (pictured left). If you have seen the Bond movie “Casino Royal” with Daniel Craig, then this may sound familiar to you. The martini uses both gin and vodka along with a little something extra to make this a very smooth Martini with just a little bite. They make if perfect every time. As good as that cocktail is, it has recently garnered some tough competition in the Dubliner (pictured right, nearly finished). This whiskey cocktail is very flavorful, balanced, and beyond smooth. There is definitely something for everyone on their cocktail list.

 

As good as the drinks are, the food is even better. The menu has an excellent mix of steaks, seafood, and Italian dishes along with interesting appetizers and decadent desserts. Both the oysters and the shrimp pancetta have been regular favorites of mine to start off with. On this recent visit, I opted for the wild mushroom bisque and I was not disappointed. For my main course, I got the bone in ribeye “Cowboy” steak medium. I don’t eat steak that much at home and actually don’t order it out much either. Every time I get steak here, it is cooked to perfection, and this was no exception. I can’t say I have one favorite dish from their main courses. I try to not order the same thing every time I’m there and they have all been outstanding.

As I mentioned before, the staff is impeccable. They are attentive and polite without being overbearing. The waitstaff has their timing in that regard down pat and the waitstaff and kitchen have their timing down to a science. Any mistakes are corrected or otherwise addressed. Honestly, I’ve only encountered one and even then it was brought to my attention by the waiter without me even noticing it first. One nice touch is that the manager is very present and aware. Each time we go, he has always stopped by the table to ask how our meal was. Always pleasant, he seems earnest to here what one has to say.

If I were to have any criticism of the restaurant, I would say the parking. The parking is a mix of self park and free valet, however there seems to very little self parking. On many nights only the valet seems available and as one who carries very little cash, I feel awkward not having anything to tip valet. Perhaps I bear some responsibility in that regard? While it would be nice to have more self parking spots, I’m not sure they have anywhere to put the additional spots.

Despite that one area of criticism, it does not impact my view of Giumarello’s at all. I feel this restaurant hits all the marks and if you live in the area of Haddon Township, NJ this restaurant should be on your list.

Boston- Food, Fenway, Friendship, and METAL!

This was certainly not my first foray to Bean town. It’s a city that thanks to one of my best friends Brian Haley I’ve explored multiple times. One of the many things I like about Boston is that it has so much to offer but is not so large it becomes daunting. It has history, great restaurants, and a great public transportation system that allows you to easily go all over the city. This was one of those three day whirlwind trips (not my first) Brian and I planned out many months ago centered around seeing one of our favorite metal bands, Anthrax. As usual, there was much more than just the concert.

My train arrived at 1:15pm on a Saturday and Brian was there to meet me at South Station. Our hotel, The Verb, was close by and we were quickly checked. Definitely a different hotel. The hotel has a music theme to it. A small area of great music memorabilia and a small record library available to guests as each room is furnished with a record player. If you are looking for something like the Four Seasons, this may not be the place for you. Parking is a flat fee of $48.00 (not nightly/daily) which for city parking is phenomenal per my friend Brian. It is also located right next to Fenway and around the block from House of Blues where Anthrax was playing making things quite convenient. If you are looking for a place that is a lot of fun with friendly, helpful staff, and you don’t mind a sign with a large guy who looks like Chris Barron from the Spin Doctors, then this maybe right up your alley.

Being the gentleman that Brian is, we had a couple rounds of McCallan that he brought for the weekend. We quickly headed out and started an unplanned bar crawl of the Fenway area bars. Unfortunately, we neglected to pace ourselves not acknowledging we are no longer in our early twenties. After a brief break back at the hotel, we decided to hit The Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar. I rarely say “no” to oysters. The darkly lit but warm decor was perfect for our last stop of the night. The food was excellent with a wide selection of savory choices but nothing too out of the ordinary. After starting with a round of oysters, I went with the safe choice of their cheeseburger. It was quite good despite being a common menu item. Flavorful, juicy, and cooked to order. We rounded out the meal by sharing some bread pudding, as any hardcore heavy metal fans would do. However, the star of the evening was their Manhattan (hopefully you are not sensing a pattern to my blog articles). I’m quite a fan of both Gin Martinis and Manhattans and this was by far the best cocktail of that ilk I’ve had. I simply let the waiter surprise me with his choice of bourbon from their vast selection and viola, perfection. His choice was Basil Hayden’s small batch bourbon from Clermont Kentucky. It was the perfect balance of sweet combined with the slight bite of bourbon.

The next day, after breakfast, we decided to take a tour of Fenway Park. I highly recommend this if you have the chance. Even if you are not a baseball fan, there is a lot of history here. Some well known, some not so much. While they have replaced many of the original seats, there are still sections under the 2nd level that still have the original seats from when it first opened in 1912. The view from the seats atop The Green Monster is quite good and to me is worth a return trip to see a game from up there. You have the lone red seat commemorating when unsuspecting fan Joseph A. Boucher survived Ted William’s record 502 foot dinger.  The prior owner’s Thomas A. Yawkey and Jean R. Yawkey names in Morse Code on the left field scoreboard which is where they used to have picnics and listen to the Red Sox away games. It was also a great surprise to see that they have created Fenway Farms where they grow produce on the roof to supply the stadium food services.  A very well done and informative tour.

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Before we knew it, it was time to get to the show. We arrived early as I had surprised Brian by getting the VIP meet and greet before the show. It is something I’ve wanted to do and I knew Brian being an even bigger fan that I would enjoy it. One might get exaggerated images of backstage passes and partying with the band but that is not the case. There was a pretty large group who had gotten the package and it was well organized for the most part. It was also pretty quick but I think it rather had to be. I can only imagine how many fans they meet and sign autographs for before each show and this was the last show of their American tour. Even still, they were very down to earth, very appreciative of their fans. In particular, Joey Belladonna seem to really light up when I told him how great it was to see him back with the band.

Anthrax shared co-billing with Killswitch Engage and they had two opening bands in The Devil Wears Prada and Code Orange. All the bands put on a great show and put out their all.  However, Brian and I were there to see Anthrax and we were not disappointed. Their set was intense and they played a great mix of old and new songs. Joey’s vocals are still amazing after all these years and their energy has not diminished one bit. It’s been 26 years since I first saw them and they still do not let down their fans. The mosh pits were still fierce and despite some minor aches and pains post show, I was please to know I could still hang in the pit. And just when you thought the intensity could not get any higher, they hit the war dance part of “Cry for the Indians”, their closing song, and the floor went insane. Just of sea of bodies moving like a tidal wave. Thankfully I had the big man Brian to help keep me vertical. It was great to see that even though those in the pits are much younger than Brian and I, they are still very cool and maintain proper pit etiquette, helping up those who fall to the ground, and not making intentional moves to hurt people. On the funny end, I’ve always known I’m not as heavy as I look and it was once again confirmed here. In my still successful run at crowd surfing, Brian and the guy who tried to get me up dropped me and the security guard who got me at the front of the stage collapsed under me. Oops. Still quite a rush.

Boston. Just go there. You will have a great time no matter what you do. If you have the chance, take the Fenway tour if not take in a game. If you are fan of Metal, go see Anthrax. They put on a phenomenal show. You probably still have plenty of time but why wait?

Confit de Lapin

The second night of our trip to Montreal we decided to check out the restaurants on Rue Crescent, the street recommended by our waiter the night before. We strolled the down the street checking out the bill of fare of the various eateries. As we happened upon the restaurant L’Autre Saison, we seemed to be fixed on their menu a bit longer. As the name conveys, it was indeed a French restaurant and my eye was fixed on one dish in particular.

160615_2137crescent_012-1024x681However, neither of us were dressed for such a place, wearing very casual clothing of jeans and a long sleeved shirt. Regardless, the very kind waiter warmly invited us in to dine. I’ll be honest, I felt really underdressed for such a place. I commented as such to the waiter but he insisted that all was fine. The restaurant appeared very refined and seemed more apropos of a place I would be thrown out of rather than actually dining in. It consisted of a two level dining area, a pianist lightly regaling diners with classical music, and a highly detailed warm decor.

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We started off with an appetizer of oysters, which apparently has become a requirement for me while in Canada. While they were indeed fantastic as usual, the real treat was the main course, Rabbit Confit. I’ve heard over and over from my mother how delicious rabbit is. My mother has told me numerous times about rabbit dishes prepared by her mother, my Babci (grandmother), from when they lived in Northern France. And even though my mother will no longer eat rabbit due to the cuteness factor, her description of it has long left me curious.

The dish itself was Confit de Lapin (rabbit confit). Once I saw it was on the menu, my mind was made up. Oddly enough, we had been to Southern France a few months earlier and did not see rabbit at any of the restaurants we dined at. So, at this juncture, there was no other option for me. Though I did not know it or care at the time, a trusty google search reveals that confit refers to meat cooked very slowly over a low heat in grease, oil, or sugar water. In this case, it was cooked in duck fat and was also stuffed. To this day, I don’t know what img_0556the stuffing was. It could have been a simple herb stuffing, it could have been sweetbreads, again I didn’t care. The end result was possibly the most delicious meat I have ever eaten. Tender, lean (very lean), immensely flavorful. It was simultaneously new and different, yet still familiar. It was like a cross between chicken and veal, only a thousand times better. Without a doubt the cooking of it in duck fat and the seasoning of the stuffing played a role in its flavor and yet I have no doubt it would have been equally delicious without those factors. Paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon, the meal was simply sublime. At the risk of developing rabbit starvation as well as making myself sick of it, I would eat this all the time.

Despite feeling underdressed and therefore out of place, everything about the meal was amazing. The service was attentive, polite, and perfectly timed. We were made to feel very welcome. About the only negative critique would be how they went over the wine list. The waiter would only list the wine by variety of grape (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, etc.) rather than present an actual wine list or a manner in which I could know the region and year. Perhaps they have a very small selection. Perhaps his visual appraisal of me led him to believe I knew nothing about wine, which really, I don’t. I just know a lot of catch phrases and such to give the appearance of knowledge. Regardless, that was not enough to ruin the meal and experience.

So, if you find yourself in Montreal and you want a great meal, a complex meal in a restaurant with great atmosphere, I highly recommend L’Autre Saison.

Eating on a Recommendation

While in Montreal, Teena and I decided to eat one night at a place recommended by Anthony Bourdain. That place? The simply if not comically named Joe Beef. Despite everything I read online about needing to make reservations a month ahead of time, we were able to get Saturday night reservations calling just the night prior. The restaurant itself is located outside of downtown Montreal on Rue Notre-Dame West. It appeared to be a one block oasis of dining and entertainment set amongst homes and apartments. For us, it was a perfect 25 minute walk from our hotel, but could definitely be longer depending on where you were staying in Montreal, so a cab (or Über) may be necessary.

We actually arrived a bit early and our table was also ready somewhat early from our designated reservation time. One immediately notices how warm, cozy, and intimate the establishment is, especially in regards to the table next to you. The menu, wine list, and drink list is written on a chalkboard in French and difficult to read in the dim lighting. Not to worry as the wait staff have the menu pretty much memorized. I can see how some may not like the atmosphere. It could be considered claustrophobic and you can’t help but hear img_0580your neighboring diner’s conversation. If you are one who likes your dining establishments somewhat standard, this may not be the place for you. I know my father would be irritated and might lend to the concept of the “rude American”.  I started off with the Oysters. They had a selection of three kinds from various Canadian locals. Unfortunately, other than the one’s from Prince Edward Island, I don’t remember where the other two were from. I opted for a half dozen equally divided amongst the three. All fantastic. Admittedly, I’ve been on an oyster kick since my initiation to them almost a year ago in Vancouver. I also guess it’s hard to mess up oysters unless you let them sit for days in the heat before serving them.

My main entree was related to me by our waitress as a “beef brisket” and in actuality it was more in line with a beef burgundy. I wish I could say I liked it as much as my oysters. I found the beef to vary between dry and less dry. The vegetables were good and would have been even better if the stock was not so bland. Overall, I felt let down by the entree.

Their wine list is extensive and I have to commend them on this. You could find any type of wine to pair well with your meal and even wines to pair with contrasting meals as Teena had a white fish entree. As we were both in the mood for a red, the 2014 Christopher Pacalet Chenas was a nice, light beaujolais that complimented both our meals well.

In summary the staff, oysters, and wine are great and the atmosphere is dependent on the diner’s tastes. As for the entrees, to be fair since I’ve only dined there once, I’ll say are hit or miss. While I’m an avid fan of Anthony Bourdain, I have to admit, I was expecting to be blown away by this meal and I just wasn’t.