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J’adore Montréal

July 26, 2010 · 62 comments

Montréal is on my list of cities-I-could-happily-live-in-if-I-wasn’t-already-happily-living-in-Perth. I loved my 6 months of being a local there a couple of years ago, even in the middle of winter when getting anywhere meant wading through snow filled streets (I wasn’t quite brave enough to tackle the winter streets on a deadly treadly like in Uppsala), constantly putting on and taking off clothes, always having to take some tissues with you and actually resorting to using my hair dryer to warm my feet up on one particularly frigid night.

(All this said, it’s not so bad when you’re layering up, tissuing up and wading through those snowy streets to get to your local jazz bar to spend a couple of hours listening to an amazing jam session while knocking back a warming glass or two of red.)

I was therefore pretty excited to be heading back there last June, with the added bonus of it being around 50 degrees warmer (90 degrees F warmer) than when I left in January 2009. It felt a little strange at first to be back, like seeing a long lost friend that you kind of fancy, but the city and I soon lost our shyness and were revelling in each others’ company again.

I was staying downtown, but wanted to visit an old haunt for my first dinner back, and so my fellow traveller and I enjoyed a warm evening stroll through downtown and up the Plateau. I was very happy to see that the I HEART CHEESE bandit was still at large, but somewhat alarmed by the hammer reference (if you follow me on twitter you may be aware of the hammer pants incident – if not, please carry on blissfully unencumbered by images of said pants burnt onto your retinas).

The sad tale of the lactose intolerant cheese lover

Our walk up Boulevard St-Laurent took us past the famous Schwartz’s Charcuterie, founded in 1928 and characterised by the constant line of people waiting out the front to get their hands on a smoked meat sandwich. It is worth hanging outside Schwartz’s late at night just to see the looks of joy on the faces of boozehounds as they stagger out clutching their gigantic meaty sandwiches. Those boozehounds who aren’t chasing their last drink with a plate of poutine, that is.

The perpetual line at Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen

Bypassing the call of the giant piles o’ meat, we eventually reached our destination – Club Español de Québec. I dined here a number of times when living in Montréal, always on Flamenco night when the place would be packed with people having animated conversations over the music and percussional dancing. I always left the restaurant determined to take up Flamenco when I returned to Perth, but sadly this went the same way as my resolve to continue learning French.

We were amazed to find the place completely empty when we arrived to the dining area upstairs, but quickly discovered that was because everyone was taking advantage of the warm evening out on the terrasse. After ordering some dishes that we had missed since leaving Montréal, we saw the table next to us eating some delicious looking mushrooms so we asked for some of those as well, and they were easily the standout dish of the night. Bursting with flavour, I could have eaten a bucket of them for my dinner. To be honest, I could have eaten a bucket of anything by the time our food started coming out. The service at the club is relaxed at best, and this combined with the soccer on TV meant our waiting times were fist-gnawingly lengthy. A jug of sangria can only sustain you for so long.

When finally fed, we loved our stir fried garlic mushrooms ($8.50), octopus Galicien style ($9.95), grilled sardines ($7.95), and our mains of squid ink paella and seafood casserole ($19.95 including bread, salad and dessert) before squeezing in a creme caramel each. It was all washed down with what remained of our litre of sangria ($21.50).

Our homecoming feast at Club Espanol de Quebec

A couple of days later and we were at another old haunt – Les Enfants Terribles in Outremont. This area is within walking distance from Université de Montréal where I was working while living in Montréal, and so a number of lunches were eaten in this part of town when we wanted a break from eating together in the lab. I fell for the lamb burgers at Les Enfants Terribles with their inclusion of fresh goat cheese, and I was so happy to see them still on the menu when we arrived during a busy lunch rush.

Again sadly, the service was not great.  Firstly our requests to have our bean salad sans dressing (which I apparently forgot to photograph) and my burger with side salad instead of fries were met with a very concerned look from our waitress and ultimately a message from the chef that he would do it JUST THIS ONCE for us.  Then after waiting quite a long time, we were told that the controversial salad had been accidentally given to the table next to us, so we waited some more, fighting the urge (in vain) to fill up on the fresh crusty bread on our table. Finally however we were fed, and enjoyed our lunch. The burger bun was pretty lame – a little TipTop-esque – but the juicy lamb and tart cheese, and inclusion of pickles made up for it.

Free crusty bread to hold off early death by starvation, burger d'agneau and some crispy, crispy fries from Les Enfants Terrible.

Being in Montréal also meant that I could catch up with Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne and I first met through the dinner group that she runs when I was living in Montréal, and we randomly came across each other again on Foodbuzz last year and became bloggyfriends. She was lovely enough to organise an impromptu group dinner during my visit, and after a number of inappropriate tweets about going Greek we got to catch up over a meal at Restaurant Nikas in NDG. The food was simple, enjoyable and affordable (also delightfully garlicky) and the service was incredibly friendly and efficient. Evelyne was characteristically entertaining and it was great to see her again.

A ravenous fellow diner, Evelyne and I and my "two chicken sticks platter" dinner ($13.50)

Now, just in case you were getting a little jealous of my jetsetting and associated gorging, I feel I should tell you that I then spent the next few days in the lab playing with these guys and their friends…

It's planktastic! A good haul of net-clogging holopedium. Mmmmmm, gelatinous.

Of course, I could not let a visit to Montréal go by without a visit to my favourite Montréal restaurant Aux Vivres. In fact, I managed to squeeze in two visits – once while on a solo and ultimately disappointingly unsuccessful clothes shopping expedition, and once with friends A and L. I was particularly excited about dining here with L, primarily because she’s awesome and it had been SO LONG since we’d seen each other, but also because she is vegetarian and had not yet experienced the joys of this restaurant which offers entirely vegan food.

Going here twice during my stay meant that I got to relive my two favourite dishes – the dragon salad bowl (shredded vegetables, lettuce, sprouts, toasted sesame seeds and dulse sitting on organic brown rice with dragon sauce) with grilled tempeh, and the Sirocco chapati sandwich (grilled eggplant, hummus, roasted red pepper, lettuce and olive tapenade) with grilled tempeh. We also had to have some of their dahl, and tried the cornbread with guacamole. Everything was flavoursome, fresh and delicious.

Although we were stuffed, we were all curious to try some of their desserts and between us ordered the date square, chocolate apple cake and the wonderfully named gâteau fauxmage (uncheesecake). The servings, like for the savoury dishes, were huge and we only managed a few mouthfuls each before asking for doggy bags. All desserts were rich and moreish, but I was particularly glad that my doggy bag contained the oaty date square.

Cornbread with guacamole ($6), small dahl ($3.50), dragon salad bowl with grilled tempeh ($13), "Sirocco" chapati sandwich with added grilled tempeh ($14.75), pot of yerba mate tea ($2.75) and desserts: uncheesecake ($5.50), chocolate apple cake ($5.50) and date square ($3.50)

The cheese puns continued after dinner when we went into a local supermarket in a quest for maple butter to take home for my sister. The lack of maple butter on the shelves was offset by the discovery of Fromidable. I challenge anyone to come up with a better product name. The definition of “formidable” in French is something like “great” or “terrific” but the definition of the word in English is more like “dreadful” or “fearsome”. I for one was fearful in its presence. Its great and dreadful presence.

Fromidable, indeed.

Amongst all the eating and plankton corralling there was also much walking and shopping and smiling and listening to tunes (including some with DIY percussion) and laughing but all too soon it was time to say “le fromage est vieux et moisi, où est la salle de bains?”. Or perhaps I mean “Adieu Montréal, à la prochaine”? I never did follow up on those French lessons.

Boom bap pow, select your percussive weapon of choice

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{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

panamahat July 30, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Oh that cheese tastic. What on earth is it made from? Is there actually cheese in it? Definitely scary.

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Conor July 30, 2010 at 11:30 pm

I do not know, and am too afraid to find out. I suspect the cheese content would be minimal at best. The tastic content appears to be high though.

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Forager @ The Gourmet Forager July 30, 2010 at 9:06 pm

I love those quirky characters like the I heart cheese guy makes normal life amusing. Like that guy in Melbourne(?) called Craig who posted inane stuff on lamp posts and offers to meet people. Ha!
And I love your humourous writing style! It’s a joy to read :)
Forager @ The Gourmet Forager´s last blog post ..Learning to ride a bike on Death Road- Bolivia

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Conor July 30, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Thanks my lovely! Glad I finally got to catch up on yours too. Still cringing at your Death Road madness, you crazy cat.

I am not familiar with this Craig you speak of. I shall have to google…

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Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 30, 2010 at 9:31 pm

There is seriously only one word to describe this post: FROMIDABLE!!
Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite´s last blog post ..Nadège Patisserie Toronto

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Conor July 30, 2010 at 11:32 pm

:D

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OohLookBel July 30, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Very entertaining, as usual! And I don’t know much French, but if ‘Fromidable’ means what I think it means (‘eat me now’), then I’m on the next plane to Montreal.
OohLookBel´s last blog post ..Hello Ottolenghi Cookie- White Chocolate and Cranberry Biscuits

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Conor July 30, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Can you please take me with you Bel? Please? I’ll be your Fromidable guide. You won’t regret it – you’ll see the best damn Fromidable Montreal has to offer!

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Pam July 30, 2010 at 11:13 pm

That cheese-tastic looks pretty scary. It looks like you had fun and ate tons of tasty food. That burger and crispy fries has me drooling.

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Conor July 30, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Pam, I was having cheese-tastic nightmares that night. Drowning in a vat of it with nary a bread stick to grab onto. Oh, the horror.

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Jenn @ Chinese Baba July 31, 2010 at 10:39 am

*soupir*. J’adore cette ville aussi. Si belle avec tant de chose a faire and beaucoup a manger. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been but one of my fave places was La Brioche Lyonnaise just because I love breakfast and it was good an inoffensive.
Your visit looks wonderfully “fromidable!” omg, best no name pkging ever! And I too probably would have tried the oat/date square.
Jenn @ Chinese Baba´s last blog post ..Buttermilk Panna Cotta

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Conor August 2, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Oui oui Jenn! Very well said :D
I never got to La Brioche Lyonnaise but I’m also a very big fan of breakfast (which would be very obvious if I’d shown you what I ate for breakfast each day in Montreal – enough for a small family some days) so I’ll have to check it out next time I’m there.
Let’s go there right now in fact. I could do with some more oat/date square.

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Hannah July 31, 2010 at 10:48 am

Man, I love me some helopedium. I recently had a psychological breakthrough when I realised that my periods of anxiety and insomnia are directly related to a lack of thinking about helopedium on a daily basis.

That said, I’m pretty sure having access to that dragon bowl would also cure me of melancholic thoughts. That, and the uncheesecake, particularly if it was uncheesecake IN THE WORLD.
Hannah´s last blog post ..WoMan Vs Wild Toe

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Conor August 2, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Hannah I am flooded with relief that you have come to this realisation before another second of your life passes. I can hook you up with some holopedium if you like. I’ve got the good stuff. You don’t want to go buying any old plankton from some dude off the street. You never know what you’ll end up with.

You know, it didn’t say it in so many words but I’m pretty sure that it was in fact uncheesecake IN THE WORLD. Fairly certain it was dragon bowl IN THE WORLD. We need to go there. Bags still packed?

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Hannah August 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Yeah, I’ve heard some pretty nasty stories about what happens when you get helopedium from untrustworthy sources. Apparently that’s one of the reasons the Roman Empire failed.

Would it be really bad to admit that I do, in fact, still have some things in bags from my move from my parents’ to my new place? Oops. In other words: when do we leave?
Hannah´s last blog post ..Vivani 85 Organic Dark Chocolate

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Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella July 31, 2010 at 11:21 am

haha I love this! We’re both doing our Montreal stories at the same time Conor! :) Loved it there, so much great food and mmm Schwartz’s smoked meat! :P

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Conor August 2, 2010 at 12:14 pm

I know Lorraine, it’s great! Reliving through our own posts and each others’ too :) Yep, such a good eating city. Good thing there is the Tam Tams in the summer to dance off some of the good eating!

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Iron Chef Shellie July 31, 2010 at 8:12 pm

I think every city should have a cheese bandit….
… and I really should have followed up on those French lessons too.

*sigh* at least there is always awesome food no matter where you go in the world! I’d love to go to Montreal one day =)
Iron Chef Shellie´s last blog post ..Tomato-Braised Lamb Shanks

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Conor August 2, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Shellie I am with you on that one. I am unaware of a Perth cheese bandit. I think it is clear what needs to be done..

Well you never know, it’s not entirely unplausible that I’ll end up living there eventually so you can always just wait for that and come stay with me :D

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Adrian @ Food Rehab August 1, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Totally understand why you would need some doggy bags! You were in food heaven Damn, those corn breads remind me of the fried brioche soldiers that Poh did on her show the other day. I’d like to dip those in some egg yolk!
Give us a holla when you’re down next. We need to do a group pig out. :)
Adrian @ Food Rehab´s last blog post ..The Best Breakfast in Melbourne’s West Plus Swiss Buttercream Pineapple Pies

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Conor August 2, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Ooh yes, good call Adrian! Those cornbread soldiers would have been perfect with a good dose of dippy egg yolk. Not exactly vegan though, so you might have to sneak them out in a doggy bag too to do that ;)

Excellent, will do! A group pig out sounds grand!

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penny aka jeroxie August 1, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Totally envious!! So much food. Junk or no junk….

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Conor August 2, 2010 at 12:17 pm

I’m envious of past me too…

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mademoiselle délicieuse August 1, 2010 at 8:55 pm

But I love the saying of, “The cheese is old and mouldy!” Much like, “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” =p However I’m still disappointed that this was not the world tour of the hammer pants as we expected.
mademoiselle délicieuse´s last blog post ..Tuna Festival Performance at Masuya- 24 July 2010

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Conor August 2, 2010 at 12:18 pm

It’s the best saying. I could never take Spanish lessons as I’d just keep saying that and annoying the teacher.

I’m eternally sorry about the hammer pants. I am, however, still young and have many years of potential hammer pantsing it up ahead of me…..

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pierre August 1, 2010 at 10:29 pm

hi conor

i have read your post very carefully ; the cheese jar is in french Fromidable and not Formidable ; in fact this is trick word as this is the fusion of two words FROMage (cheese ) and forMIDABLE (great !) §
these canadians zey are so funny !!
Pierre
pierre´s last blog post ..Petits cakes romarin et tomates séchées

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Conor August 2, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Hi Pierre!
Ah yes I didn’t make it very clear about the amalgamation of the words fromage and formidable did I… think I just got so carried away with the double formidable meaning ;)
I’m happy their funniness is matched by their (non-weird-cheese) foodness :D

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Chef Dennis August 2, 2010 at 8:57 am

what a fabulous trip this must have been! Its been too many years since I have been in Montreal, I always loved eating my way thru town!
Chef Dennis´s last blog post ..Paduan Pepper Sauce &amp My Giveaway Winners!

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Conor August 2, 2010 at 1:18 pm

It’s the only way to see Montreal! :)

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Food lover August 2, 2010 at 11:09 am

Hi Conor
is there anything better to have to travel around for work and do some great eating along the way? All your pics of fries look so good; I wouldn’t be able to resist them!

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Conor August 2, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I am pretty lucky to get such chances, I must say :) Those fries were very good. I love how pretty much every place there kept the skin on with their fries. Our poor potatoes over here always get stripped bare.

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Agnes August 2, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Hahaha, oh Conor where do I start? Hammer pants (!! next time my lovely, next time !!), plankton, cheese puns, fromidable…. basically I think you just won the internet. Yep, everyone stop now and go home. Conor won the internet.

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Agnes, this is my favourite comment of all time. Excuse me while I sit here reading it over and over for the rest of the afternoon.

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Nancy/SpicieFoodie August 2, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Hi Connor,
I’ve always had a good impression of Montreal and your post just made it that much better. I’d love to visit some day, but I agree the cold weather might be a little too much for me. That cheese-tastic thing is funny and kinda scary at the same time , lol!
Nancy/SpicieFoodie´s last blog post ..Sloppy Joes and Our History

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Hi Nancy. I can’t recommend visiting this city enough! It is truly lovely in winter but adds an extra level of difficulty to everything.

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krissy @ thefoodaddicts.com August 3, 2010 at 5:23 am

yay, you got your own domain and website! very cool. congrats on the move :)

i have never been to montreal, but i heard great things about it. my husband went there for his bachelor party and they said everyone is so friendly and the ambiance of the city is amazing. i hope to visit here one of these days!

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Thanks Krissy! Still actually haven’t finished moving pics across but am sure I’ll get back to that task one day…?

Your husband is totally right and I think he should take you there post haste! You can relive the magic of his bachelor party, hehe

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Cakelaw August 3, 2010 at 5:52 am

The food looks fab at the restaurants that you went to – LOL at the tale of the lactose-intolerant cheese lover. I think I’ll skip the Fromidable though – ewww!!! d I will give your plankton experiments a wide berth too – slimy little guys!
Cakelaw´s last blog post ..TWD – Gingered Carrot Cookies

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:38 pm

It was fantastic! Don’t blame you on the fromidable front, but plankton need love too. They just want to prop up the food chain, they can’t help it if they’re a little slimy. Have I convinced you yet? :)

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Ellie (Almost Bourdain) August 3, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Totally agree. Canada is probably one of the country I am glad to live in besides Australia. Lvoely post! I have been following your oversea posts. Keep them coming!
Ellie (Almost Bourdain)´s last blog post ..Chinese Style Twice-Cooked Pork Belly 東坡肉 and a quick look at my Photography Studio

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Thanks Ellie! Think I’ve got maybe one or two more overseas posts in me, glad you’re enjoying them :)

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Trix August 4, 2010 at 3:16 am

I cannot stop laughing about Fromidable. It’s … genius …it’s … well, it’s fromidable!

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Hehe, isn’t it the best, and yet also the worst.

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Karen Harris August 4, 2010 at 8:21 am

I wish everyone made me laugh like you Conor! Of course I had a couple of stiff drinks after all that domesticity. I can’t get too carried away and forget my party girl roots! I think I might take my leftover ritual one step further and just skip the Ziplocs all together.

It sounds like you have a wonderful trip. It’s always nice to have a 50 degree break from winter.

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Thanks Karen! I knew that you wouldn’t let me down in the stiff drink department. I think you may be onto something with that sans-Ziploc plan. Just go straight to the stiff drink part of the proceedings.

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Maria@TheGourmetChallenge August 4, 2010 at 4:03 pm

ooooohhhh….plankton on a food blog and it didnt get eaten!! That has got to be a first! oh oh oh…I got it…..plankton and formidable cheese! Just brilliant.
Maria@TheGourmetChallenge´s last blog post ..Results – Guava and Custard Apple Snow Egg

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Oh god Maria… you’re not suggesting a plankton & fromidable cheese dish are you? Most of my plankton is preserved in formalin (formaldehyde) which would admittedly add a certain ‘je ne sais quoi” to the dish..

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Andrea@High/Low August 4, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Love Montreal! Schwartz’s is amazing. And that Fromidable cheez–whiz stuff reminds me how Americans call processed cheese “American cheese”…it’s not even cheese!
Andrea@High/Low´s last blog post ..Cold Brewed Iced Coffee

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Yes Andrea, “American cheese” is terribly suspicious sounding. I think that it is missing a quotation mark or two though… surely it should be called American “cheese”? Or even “ch33z”.

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Evelyne@cheapethniceatz August 5, 2010 at 12:45 am

Grr… feed problems again. Wow I have been waiting impatiently for the Montreal review to come up. And so happy to meet the plankton too! Hey I never saw that fromidale product lol. Was amazing seeing you, hope you come here soon or I go to you. Next time we will do a one on one true Foodie dinner ;-)
Evelyne@cheapethniceatz´s last blog post ..Hush Puppies Sanitary Style

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Happy to show my plankton to you Evelyne so you can see who prevented us from dining together again on the trip! Oh yes, you should come here… summer is only weeks (ok, a few weeks) away!

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denise @ quickies on the dinner table August 6, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Actually…….. I’d like to take one of those fries and dip it into the Cheese-tastic. Yup, intrepid’s my middle name ;)
denise @ quickies on the dinner table´s last blog post ..Just Pointing in the General Direction

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Whoa Denise, hold on now… you sure about that?

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MaryMoh August 6, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Wow….you look like in heaven…so much food and fun….so jealous…haha!
MaryMoh´s last blog post ..Malaysia Street Food Hawker Food

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Mary, it was indeed heavenly. I’m somewhat jealous of myself now too :)

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Simply Life August 6, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Oh that’s one place I’d love to visit!
Simply Life´s last blog post ..Zucchini- Potato and Parmesan Flatbread

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Please do! It’s amazing!

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Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz August 7, 2010 at 9:12 am

Yikes, OK, still had old feed…updated now.
Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz´s last blog post ..Thursday’s Thingamajig- the FURminator

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Conor August 9, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Ah excellent, glad to have you back on board :)

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cheffresco August 11, 2010 at 8:28 am

I’ve yet to go to Montreal! Well that and Perth too. :) Fun post!

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