“That Queen Latifah,”my mother suddenly remarked.  “I like her.”  And then, following a thoughtful silence: “She hosted that award show with no audience.” (referring, of course, to that strike-stricken People’s Choice Awards of  a few couple of years back).  “Hmmm,”I offered by way of a response, focused as I was on inching us along Highway 40 and back home after an afternoon at my aunt‘s house where the ladies had sat and watched the Michael Jackson Memorial while I‘d sat alongside them, reading my book.

Since I’d had the to foresight to rent a car for my week-long stay in Montreal, I was drafted into service that morning as a driver for mom’s version of Meals on Wheels.  We arrived at my auntie Jeanette’s a little after noon, arms laden with food, and sat down to lunch comprised of mom’s eggplant parmesan, penne and polpettini, roast chicken and potatoes.  For dessert, my auntie Antoinette and cousin Leonara had dropped by The Big Apple enroute from Toronto.  Yeah, I know, one hell of a detour – but no, different Big Apple.  This Big Apple is, apparently, a place famed for its pies.  I’m guessing apple mostly.  Exactly why, I’m not sure.  The pie I had consisted of barely cooked chunks of apple tucked beneath a half-baked crust.  Brutal.  I was able to force half of it down with help from the accompanying supermarket ice cream but had to leave the rest.  “Oooh, too rich,”I said.  This from the guy who does a double nutella tart whenever he visits Campagnolo.

I‘ve spent most of this trip eating, reading, or reading about eating..  Saturday night, my  sister and her friend Lili took me to Shahi Palace, a restaurant that specializes in Indian and Pakistani cuisine.  I was intrigued.  Vancouver boasts its fair share of wonderful Indian restaurants, but nary a Pakistani eatery.  That I know of anyway.  So, when we sat down, the first thing I did after perusing the menu was to ask the waiter to point out the Pakistani dishes.  Hey, do you know what the difference is between Indian and Pakistani cuisine?  Apparently, not much according to our waiter.  The meal’s high point was the Balti Chicken (tender pieces of chicken served in a spicy tomato-based sauce); it’s low point: the green bell pepper – and its accompanying produced sticker – served julienned in my Chili Fish.

Sis and Felix
Sis and Felix

Sunday was dinner at sis’s place.  Kudos to her on the delicious rotisserie duck, duck fat-fried potatoes, and crème brulee that was ultimately more crème than brulee but tasty nevertheless. Yesterday was typical Italian fare: pasta e cecci and sausages.

Sis's rotisserie ducks
Sis's rotisserie ducks
Mmmm.  Nothing goes down better on a hot day than a nice cool glass of duck fat.  Cheers!
Mmmm. Nothing goes down better on a hot day than a nice cool glass of duck fat. Cheers!

After consulting with the so-called experts on the Chowhound boards, my sister took me to what was purported to be an excellent high-end restaurant on Montreal’s West Island: Le Bocage in Beaconsfield.  I’m not sure what the English translation of “bocage” is but, after tonight’s meal, I’m guessing it’s something along the lines of “where restaurant dreams go to die”.  Suffice it to say that had I run into any of the chowhounders who recommended this place immediately following my meal, I’d have been hard-pressed to resist punching their lights out.

But where to begin?  Well, we sat down and were presented with two menus.  The regular French menu, AND the “special” Italian Night menu.  Hey, maybe we can come back next week and have Tunisian!  As we considered our options, we were presented with some insanely garlicky bruschetta.  Most may have been turned off but, being Italian, we quite liked them.  Sadly, it was downhill from there.  My starter was a terrine with a disquieting crusty meatloaf consistency, its flavors masked by an overwhelming peppercorn punch.  My sister ordered what was described as escargots in a blue cheese sauce.  She was served escargots swimming in a brown sauce.  As she popped the first morsel into her mouth, I threw her an expectant look.  “Salty,”was her one word review.

For mains, my sister had the lamb, cooked medium-rare as ordered.  It was inoffensive and, thus, stands out among the items served.  I had the filet mignon that was scorched hockey puck black.  Despite my attempts to trim the top, bottom, and sides, it still retained its charred-to-shit flavor.  Carcinogenilicious!  The vegetable sides were a bonanza of blandness.  Not exactly worth the $30.  When our waitress swung by to clear the table, she noted that I had barely touched my steak.  I informed her it was burnt and inedible.  She seemed mildly interested and left, then returned with our bill.  In keeping with the our crackerjack experience at Le Bocage, we were charged in full and not even comped a lousy dessert for the lousy experience.  Just as well.  I wouldn’t have trusted them anyway.  Instead, we ended up going to Rockaberry for three types of pie that ended up being my actual dinner on this night.

I'm not sure whether I should eat it or play hockey with it.
I'm not sure whether I should eat it or play hockey with it.

As for Le Bocage – well, no idea how long this crap trap has been open but I’m betting the golden age crowd (in sparse attendance tonight) aint going to keep them afloat for long.  As for whoever recommended this restaurant in the first place – I’d like to say they possess the palate of an anosmic St. Bernard or possibly grew up on a diet of cafeteria food, but that would prove a disservice to anosmic St. Bernard’s and cafeteria workers everywhere.

It don’t get much shittier than this.

Oh, and today’s entry is dedicated to birthday gal Jackie. 🙂

And get your questions in for James Enge, author of Blood of Ambrose!

41 thoughts on “July 7, 2009: Montreal Culinary Highs and Lows

  1. Ha! I have that exact same mug, the Alexander Keith’s cup. And currently it’s sitting in front of me filled with liquid the exact same colour brown as in the picture. Only mines filled with Iced Tea, not duck fat. =]
    Just a bit random, but oh well.

  2. Oh man, The Big Apple is awesome! It’s just outside of Belleville just off the 401.
    I have never eaten one of their pies preferring to bake my own but nothing is quite like the sight of a giant, red apple sitting next to the highway. Apparently you can climb it too.

    Makes one hell of a great landmark. “So yeah, uh travel East one the 401 for a spell and then turn left at the giant apple.”
    How cool would id be if the thing just rolled off like James’ giant peach?

    It’s right up there with the giant cow located next to the MacDonald’s up in New Liskard. Oh, and the big tire, goose, nickel and rocking chair.

  3. Whoa… you are NOT having a good time. 🙁

    The filet looks pretty good to me…but then again, I’m all for ‘well-done’. I’m thinking you’re just trying to convince yourself to stay in Vancouver.

    I also notice that you seem to get very melancholy every time you go home. I just wanna give you a hug…or…double nutella tart. Have a better day tomorrow!


  4. Sorry you had such a lousy meal, Joe. Anyway, here are my overly verbose comments on this month’s book.

    I really liked the “Blood of Ambrose”. The characters were original, interesting and engaging. On the surface the plot seemed to be a rehash of the tale where the young king has his power usurped by his evil advisor/protector and has to fight to regain his throne. But James Enge managed to put enough twists and turns into the story to make it fresh and exciting. I like a story that keeps me guessing, and this one did. I enjoyed his writing style – a nice balance of dialogue and description and character development.

    There were a lot of things I loved about the book. I liked the characters of Morlock, Wyrtheorn and Ambrosia, especially the first two, and the interactions between them. Wyrtheorn’s running commentaries were very funny and the bickering (and affection) between the sorcerous siblings was nicely done. Yes, I liked the characters a lot. So much so that I would love to read more stories about them should the author have more adventures rattling around in his head that he would like to share with us. The villains were genuinely despicable and had a lot of nicely unexpected twists to their characters; especially the adept in the Old City – quite unexpected. The Companions of Mercy were really creepy. The minor characters like Genjandro, the guards and even Morlock’s horse, Velox (I LOVED the horse!), were well developed and added depth to the story. I especially enjoyed the comic relief that Velox provided. The young king, Lathmar, grew from a perpetually terrified and sort of ineffectual kid to a brave and independent young man who appeared to be quite capable of not only thinking for himself but running a kingdom. I found the ending a little sad but satisfying, although I still had a lot off questions about various people and places that I wish had been dealt with more thoroughly.

    That brings me to the things I didn’t find quite satisfying: I’m not sure purpose the alternate personality/sister character of Hope residing within Ambrosia was supposed to serve. I’ll grant that it allowed for multiple meanings of the phrase: “There is always Hope” at one point in the story, but I was left with the feeling that there should be something more there. And the Guardians were not explained as fully as I would have liked. Aloe (sorry, I don’t have an umlaut on my keyboard for the e) was intriguing and manipulative. I enjoyed (and despised) her character. Poor Morlock – he deserved better. But I felt that the Guardians as a whole were not well explained. Maybe we’ll get another story from Mr. Enge that will take care of that problem for me. If so, I’m content with this introduction.

    @Joe: you mentioned that you felt that Merlin did not contribute to the plot. I didn’t feel that way. I thought that his role in the story was explained (to my satisfaction, at least) in the little bit of dialogue at the end between Merlin and Nimue at the beginning of the final chapter – heck, he was force behind adept, the “ rock (I set) spinning down a slope, a couple of centuries ago…” Merlin may only have appeared briefly to needle Morlock and then at the end to gloat about the effect of his “little experiment” but I felt that it was sufficient for this story.

    Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It was a delightful summer read.

    Questions: Are you planning more books set in this world? If so, will any of these characters be back? I hope so.

    (Oh, wait, I see that a book titled “This Crooked Way” by James Enge is available for preorder on Amazon. That looks very encouraging!)

  5. What kind of dog is Felix? Inquiring Bichon Frise looking for penpal would love a French-Canadian friend. LOL



  6. Yikes. Looks like the scales may be tipping in favor of Vancouver. Access to a diversity of Foodie resources and the freedom to pursue them may be more important than some other things. So what if you have to put up with all the new gang members who will no doubt be frequenting Fuel.

    Glad you had a book to read during the TV Memorial proceedings. I was at the dentist. I think it is the only time I was actually glad to be there.

  7. I haven’t the sensitivity of your palate, but anyone who would kill a cow twice, as witnessed by your account and the accomanying picture, deserves to be rendered into dog food. At least you have a few days to enjoy some more upbeat eating experiences before heading back to your normal feeding grounds. The best of luck on the rest of your vacation.

  8. Saw and LOVED the new SGU promo. October is just around the corner (and so is my overdue tax return).

    Sorry you are having a bummer vacation.

  9. For mains, my sister had the lamb, cooked medium-rare as ordered. It was inoffensive and, thus, stands out among the items served.

    I’m honestly sorry you had such a miserable meal at a place you’d been led to believe would provide an enjoyable dining experience, but the quip above just about doubled me over with laughter. What is it with restaurants like that? They pick a quaint name (bocage = hedge-enclosed pasture or cropland, like in Normandy), teach the unqualified cooks how to make a dish look pretty, and get by with all the web-ratings hype that might have been posted by the employees themselves under duress from Superior Glokta. Still, how do they get away with it at all? If it were in my town, I could understand to some extent; but in Montreal . . .?

    “The palate of an anosmic St. Bernard,” LOL. (I had to look up “anosmic” first, then resumed laughing where I’d left off.) And it does seem like older people tend more to patronize that sort of place. Although, I would’ve thought that in the Montreal area, palates accustomed to beef cooked à point would quickly shut down a restaurant that serves hockey-puck filet mignon. Then again, I haven’t been up that way since I was six or seven, so have to confess complete ignorance about almost anything quebecois. (Except, of course, for what you’ve posted in your blog, or the occasional tabloid-type sound bite from my grandmother, which my brother and I will talk about later on the phone so we can laugh till we’re speechless.)

    I’m glad you had such a nice meal with your sister. 🙂 The duck looks mouth-watering. Better luck if you do any further dining out.

  10. I have to say, I’m surprised that you ate apple pie. I thought you don’t like fruits in desserts? (I don’t either, and I can’t stand any pies except those few without fruits/veggies/gourds of any kind… like chocolate or oreo.)

  11. @Chelle deBoer:

    My daughter googled it and came up with “Cuisses de Grenouille” but some doctor at work says that’s not correct. Not that he’s French but apparently being a doctor, he knows better…???

    The French-language recipes I’ve seen use “Cuisses de Grenouille.” “Pattes” seems to be more of a general, not cooking-oriented reference, and can include feet as well as legs. I couldn’t find any recipes using pattes; the term was automatically changed to pâte, which might be useful if you want frog pie. If the all-knowing doctor would like to go to France and try ordering frog pastry dough, I think he should be encouraged to do so. 😉

  12. Okay, the jig is up on the SGU gate. Very very very very cool!!
    From the glimpse i caught it seems maybe that Lt. Scott? has a romantic interest perhaps… As well dr. rush frames young? Awesome plot… way way awesome! keep the series coming, im loving all im hearing of it.

  13. Wow, your review of that meal is akin to Roger Ebert’s Transformers 2 review, harsh albeit entertaining reading material.

    Though by your description it wasn’t an entertaining dining experience.

  14. coucou Joseph!

    Vous allez bien?
    Vous avez vu les new de sgu =D ahhh trop coool, je suis encore plus impatiente que cela sorte à la TV.

    Manger, dormir, lire…sympas comme programme au ,moin vous auvez pu faire un petit break =)

    bisou bisou
    je vous adore!

  15. Just saw the new trailer… So, is the Destiny the Clave Thessara Infinitas? Didn’t think of it before, but it makes sense.

  16. Yes I believe that was the award show that SGA won the ‘People’s Choice Award’. Remember that, tptb?

  17. Bummer dude! totally minging meal. what a damn shame, I hope it hasn’t marred your visit home or evenin out with your sis 🙂
    Have yourself a Nutella bath when you get back home.


  18. Joe, does your mom want to adopt another child? Or can I hire her as a personal cook? There’s some rental property next door to me here in sunny S. FLA, she can return to Montreal during the hot months, she can just cook 3-4 months of meals before she goes. Or I can just return to Montreal with her, the summer is pretty hot here.Your sister can come too, she sounds like she inherited your moms cooking talents.Ok, what the heck,you can come too.

    Sorry the restaurant food isn’t working out too well for ya, looks like Vancouver has another check in the pro column.

  19. Hi Joe…

    While you’re in town, don’t forget to go by that desert place near your mother’s place to get that “Dead by Chocolate” cake I spoke to you about a few months back… That will surely makes you forget your bad experience at Le Bocage… (by the way, there’s no translation fir this name… C’est un nom propre)

    Have a nice stay in town.


  20. Ah, The Big Apple! As Hayloh mentioned, it’s famous for its apple pies, mostly because there is a giant red apple right next to the 401 east of Toronto. They also have a billboard indicating the number of pies sold (in the millions, I believe).

    Despite driving to Toronto a couple of times a year every year since I was very young, I’ve never stopped there. A family friend did bring us one of their pies once, but not being a pie fan, I wasn’t tempted to try it. From your review of it, it sounds like I haven’t missed out.

  21. Dear Joe,

    we have finally seen season five SGA. Great journey, lot of great entertainment. Our favorite episodes (maybe could change after a second round later) : Daedalus variations, Ghost in the machine, The shrine, Tracker, First countact, The lost tribe, Remnants, Vegas.

    May I suggest you, considering that you are in Montréal, a little trip to St-Sauveur-des-Monts and after a good lunch in one of the good restaurants on rue Principale,take a look at the beautifull bronzes sculptures by Hélène Labrie to La galerie art québécois !

    Have a nice vacation time with your family

  22. I’m sorry the restaurant turned out to be a bust. It’s always frustrating to know you are PAYING for crappy food/service. It had gotten so bad for us, we just don’t eat out that often. It can be such a frustrating experience!

    I admit, I love to wait my own table, when the server deserts us. I’ll go in the back and fill up my own drinks, and etc. (always with a smile) It mortifies my husband when I do this but it works.

    I’ve been told by former waiters/kitchen workers to NOT send any food back. Ever!

    I’ll follow Das’s example and wish you a better day. Eat all the fun foods you can find today and worry about your diet later 😀 .


  23. The mug of Duck fat reminded me of a line from Down Periscope. My wife and I consider it funny and occasionally refer to it:

    What are in these cans, Buckman?
    That one’s coffee.
    That one looks like cooking lard, sir.
    And which do you think
    we’re going to be using more often?
    The coffee or the lard?
    You think we’re all going to jump out of bed
    and have a big hot steaming cup of pig fat?
    Well, if it’s a cold morning, sir, you might…

    Enjoying your blog and waiting for SGU to start

  24. How do you prepare white chard to eat?

    It seems too sweet for the Greek la-hana treatment of onions and spice or the Southern treatment of fat back and salt. We’ve been enjoying it raw so far, but it’s growing so fast, well need another recipe soon. (Even my 3 yr. old comes in from playing with a green ring around his mouth.)

  25. Glad everyone is enjoying the book. There are indeed two follow-up novels. The first, THIS CROOKED WAY, comes out in October 2009 (and sees Morlock heading North of the empire), and the second, THE WOLF AGE, which James is writing now, sees him even further North, heading into werewolf country. It should be out around October 2010.

    Morlock also features in a number of stories. We have two on the Pyr site. If you go to http://www.pyrsf.com/catalog.html and look in the right hand margin under “Short fiction” you can find “A Book of Silences” and “Fire and Sleet,” both of which take place many years after the events of the novel (though one character from BLOOD OF AMBROSE makes an appearance in the latter story.)

    James also has a list of other online stories here:

  26. Queen Latifah is a class act, she can deliver my eulogy any day. Oh. Wait a minute. Well, not any day, I mean later. Much later, one hopes. No, I wasn’t actually watching, it was just on in the back room as I did chores.

    Spending many years in the Navy, I have come to appreciate chow hall and cafeteria food. As long as it was appropriately hot or cold, not crusty, and not oozing grease, and had no extra-ingredient surprises, I was fine. I do not recommend the green and pink chicken in the mid-rats box meal. Nope, not at all.

  27. Shiny: Both my hubby and myself are middle kids too. It sucks being the most responsible one. I’m tired of being the mature one that always does the right thing.

    That is why, when our remaining moms pass away (may they live well), I’m running away from our combined siblings! 😀

    I’ll screen my phone calls and send them cards for holidays. It will be sweet, sigh…..


  28. Joe I got a question for you and any other dog owners out there. My dog, Khula, keeps going to the washroom in the hosue. She gets walked atleast twice a day usually three times, at which point she will make it her mission to pee every 15 feet. Yet she still saves some for the hallway upstairs. The biggest problem is trying to get her to go outside in rain or cold, I will literally push her out the door and stand there. But she just sits on the patio and barks at me until I let her back in. When she does finally go in the backyard I tell her good girl, pet her and give her a treat, but she isn’t learning and making it a habit. She is going on 5 years now and I figured she would start learning. Any advice?

  29. Good luck screening those calls, Tammy! Maybe someone will invent an automatic email replier that can scan incoming emails and send automatic replies like “My how the kids have grown” and “wow, awesome Youtube vid!” Got to get Rodney working on that.

    And Joe, if you feel like cutting out early on Montreal you should head over to Baltimore to check out Shore Leave, they are chock full of SGA crew members this year. I can’t go this year, maybe next?? Sigh!

  30. Shiny: Both my hubby and myself are middle kids too. It sucks being the most responsible one. I’m tired of being the mature one that always does the right thing.

    That is why, when our remaining moms pass away (may they live well), I’m running away from our combined siblings! 😀

    I’ll screen my phone calls and send them cards for holidays. It will be sweet, sigh…..

    Forgot to mention great post. Looking forward to seeing your next post!

  31. the whole gate spins? looks cool but strange, what was the idea behind it? and whats holding it? it mustve been a pain to make that happen.

  32. @Kabra, you must share Joe’s mom with me, i’m only 30 minutes away. I’ll pay for gas, she can split her time between the 2 of us during the long cold north winter , in our sunny S. Fl. I have an extra bedroom . Joe, you and Fondy can come and visit too! What do you say to a Florida vacation in the middle of the Canadian winter? You can tour the state from Kabrea in Jupiter, to me in Port Saint Lucie, Trish in Tampa , and Deni in Gainesville, what do you say?? @ Deni, 2 weeks and counting, I hpoe to meet your daughter too!! Sheryl

  33. Yep – Big Apple? All hype. For a really nice purchased apple pie I find the Costco Carmel Apple Crumble far superior. Flaky pastry, properly cooked and never scorched. Spy apples, I bet, with the right balance of tart and sweet. Crumble full of cinnamon and brown sugar. Drizzled with real caramel.

    I know you don’t do fruity desserts – but I’ve never had a bad one from Costco and I’ve given up entirely on Big Apple!

  34. Never heard of Le Bocage restaurant but then again I’m not in Beaconsfield too often. There is a website that you can check out if you are not certain about a restaurant: http://www.restomontreal.ca . There is only one review up for Le Bocage and it is not too favourable. Slow service and the food is not so great for the price.

  35. @Lou Anders: Thanks for sharing the information about James Enge’s upcoming books. And I will definitely visit the Pyr website and look for the stories you mentioned.

  36. @ dasNdanger: I agree with your comment, “The filet looks pretty good to me…but then again, I’m all for ‘well-done’, and also prefer well done beef. 🙂
    I too think our Joe is trying to tip that Pros and Cons list between Vancouver and Montreal, towards where I would like him to stay… west coast Joe!
    Your Sis’s rotisserie ducks look yummy, um-m, crispy skin! Just don’t think of the monster mug-o-fat. Better it’s in the mug than blocking your arteries.
    @ Thornyrose “I haven’t the sensitivity of your palate, but anyone who would kill a cow twice, …”
    Sorry, bu I’d like that meat cooked even further. No blood when I cut into it.

    I just viewed SyFy’s new summer filler Warehouse 13 last night. It has promise, but man, was that pilot slo-o-w-w-w to spin out the story. I know the connection had to be made between lead gal and lead guy, but Saul Rubinek was under-utlized. That guy slays me! A ST:TNG AND SG-1 alumn! Remember? … as Kivas Fajo in “The Most Toys” and as Emmett Bregman in “Heroes”.

    Joe, any idea from the network folks about the day of the week SGU will air in US, east coast? Last season, we had Sanctuary at 9pm leading into SGA at 10pm. SyFy is now advertising Eureka to start out on Friday at 9pm, so I assume either Sanctuary or SGU will be on a different day. Yes? No?

    Still jobless, but thankful for this blog to cheer me. Nothing better than talking my favorite shows, Stargate leading of course, with some good, humorous folks.

    Carol in NJ

  37. Carcinogenilicious!

    Word of the week!!

    I’m appalled that the waitress didn’t offer to at least give you the meal for free. It obviously was burnt and inedible, so that’s two reasons for a free meal.

    I guess reputation is the concrete slab that supports any restaurant and soon, the jackhammer of word of mouth will render that place closed down.

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