Sunday, March 20, 2005

Montreal: Super Bon Experiment! RESULTS

!This post contains the results of an experiment proposed in an earlier post!

After a careful clinical trial in our specially equipped laboratory, we have reached some interesting and surprising conclusions. (Humor me while I speak in 3rd person, it makes me feel like there are more than one of me here eating chocolate-covered cherries (CCC), which makes me feel less pitiful.)

Our 4th runner up is...

Lowney (Hershey's) Cherry Blossom. Though big in size, she tries to do too much in one package. The chocolate contains roasted peanuts and coconut, which is simply uncalled-for in a CCC. Also, the inside sauce had a blob of that vulgar, white icing-sugar stuff that comprises the inside of a Cadbury Egg. It's a waste of space that could have been filled by like 4 cherries. The cherry itself... a nice red color but pretty standard.

Our 3rd runner up is...

Nielson Cerises. The bottom disc of the chocolate dome popped off soon as we took a bite which was an unwelcome reminder of the "how do they get the cherry inside the chocolate" manufacturing process. However, the chocolate was pretty good for milk chocolate. The cherry sauce was surprisingly clear in colour and not as viscous as Blossom's. The cherry itself... if you can believe it... was quite salty!

Our surprising 2rd runner up, coming in strong with no packaging to depend on...

Brown Paper Bag from the bulk store! The chocolate was a little waxy and not as good as Cerises, but she gained a lot of ground in the cherry department. The cherry sauce was quite red, had a nice viscosity, and tasted VERY cherry-ish. The most cherry-ish of all those tested so far. Yes, it is an utterly and completely artificial cherry flavor, but shit, people, we LIKE artificial cherry flavor! Sue us!

Our 1st runner up is...

Hernois Patisserie " Traditional". This is the one we had pegged to win. The chocolate was dark and delicious. The bottom surface was dipped in chocolate sprinkles, which in the end, was a bad idea because the chocolate sprinkles were not as high quality as the chocolate. Maybe they were structural support. We were shocked and saddened to find, in such a fancy CCC, a blob of that tasteless white icing sugar stuff taking up space (and therefore grudgingly apologize to Blossom for calling her vulgar). But it probably had to be there because the cherry was so SMALL! And when we bit into it... Yo! What the... a pit! In fact, it was all pit with just a little layer of cherry flesh. Thank god we are scientists and dissect everything carefully or we would have broken a tooth for sure. What saved this CCC (and why she is 1st runner up) is 1) the high quality chocolate and 2) the cherry sauce: definitely alcoholic and delicious. Note the lack of artificial color, which can only be expected in fine chocolates.

And the winner of da Bomb Bomb experiment is...

Patisserie Harnios "Cognac." Lord have mercy, look at the size of that cognac-engorged cherry! It practically takes up the entire cavern! And the cherry sauce (and I do mean SAUCE) is a delicious liquor which we suppose is cognac because that's what Harnois told us. The chocolate was very dark and delicious and we would definitely buy this one again...

If we still had a taste for chocolate-covered cherries...

Which,... guess what... WE DO NOT!

Join us next craving as we discover which salty snacks offer the best crunch for the buck or which cereal tastes most like cookies or perhaps which chocolate croissant is actually worth 4 hours on the treadmill.

Montreal: Super Bon Experiment!

You know when you get obsessed with a certain food? Well, this is the story of my newest food obsession... chocolate-covered cherries. Don't ask me why. People close to me know I have a rather formidable sweet tooth. But even for me, this is a bit out of left field. I never cared for a chocolate-covered cherry before.

Prior obsessions in the candy realm include chocolate-mint oriented things, chocolate-covered salty things (pretzels, potato chips) and candy bars that are especially detailed, necessitating painstaking nibbling according to precise layer (Canada's Coffee Crisp is the best - 9 layers to excavate, including the chocolate enrobing part). But I digress.

As I figure I will be eating a lot more of chocolate-covered cherries in the coming week (until I basically make myself sick and move on) I have decided to find the best chocolate-covered cherry in my neighbourhood and gorge on those. Why? Because I'm worth it!

So join me as I do a carefully constructed and controlled experiment:

Which BonBon is da Bomb Bomb!

Here are the candidates:

Working clockwise from 12 O'clock:

Candidate #1 is Lowney's Cherry Blossom. She hails from the dépanneur on the corner. She is the heftiest of the bunch, wrapped in foil, then in a yellow box, and is equivalent to, say, a Hershey-level bon bon. Wait, in fact, upon further examination of the box... she IS a Hershey bon bon! So much for Lowney.

Candidate #2, we'll call her Brown Paper Bag, is from a random candy shop called Sucrerie du Soleil - "Sugar of the Sun" - it's one of those bulk candy places, and there is no way to tell how long she's been living there. I found her (and her friend) in the back. Gulp.

Candidate #3, Neilson Cerises, is from another dépanneur down the street. She is 4 bon bons in one package (this will not sway my objective results) and is equivalent to, perhaps, a Nestle's-level bon bon. Upon further examination of the package... make that Cadbury.

Candidate #4, call her Fancy Pants, is from Patisserie Harnois and is considered a Fine Chocolate. Fancy Pants is actually 2 different bon bons - one is a traditional chocolate-covered cherry (see the stem?) and the other (in foil) is a cherry in cognac. I had to get both because this is a very important experiment and I need to get as wide a sample as possible. Science, people.

Now, as you can see, Patisserie Harnois had a few other items for sale...

I may or may not have endeavored to make sure none of these other bon bons was feeling left out just because he or she doesn't contain a cherry. But I digress yet again.

Please join me in the next EP blog entry as the taste test commences.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Montreal: City of Graf

Montreal has some world-class graffiti - if you appreciate such things, which I happen to. Sometimes it's hard to tell what's actual graf and what's a commissioned mural. In my neighborhood there is some amazing street art. This is a very small sampling, all within a 3-4 block radius...

There's just something about a city that demands art be everywhere for everyone...

Some of it's playful...

Some is serious and perhaps political...

Some of it I can't stop thinking about...

And some of it is just to remember Felix from the block...

Viva Montréal!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Montreal: J'aime Le Metro

I love the Montreal Metro system, which was until very recently called Société de Transport de la Communauté Urbaine de Montréal. I always enjoyed the acronym because, well... SCTUM. Glance at it fast and... scum! Or ...scrotum! Or ...sucked 'em! Because of municipal amalgamation, it's now just Société de transport de Montréal - STM. Boring. But I'm goin' down anyway.

Each Montreal metro station is decorated in different style. I am particularly fond of the Villa Maria metro station because it gives me a weird 70's feeling...

Here's a sign that makes perfect sense to French-speaking people:

But on first glance I thought that retards* might get arrested if they got on this particular train. (*Wikipedia: Politically Incorrect)

Hey! Here comes le train!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Montreal: When You Walk Down the Street

There is so much to see in Montreal! It really is like being in Europe. The cars are smaller, the people thinner, the architecture fascinating, old and new. You see lots of old buildings like this one...

And you also see modern institutions, with proper Québec signage, of course...

And look at this - for those of you who don't speak Québeçois, a dépanneur is a "corner store," like a 7-11. I ask you, would YOU buy sushi at a dépanneur? Je pense que NON!

Today, I saw a whole bunch of boxes filled with vinyl LPs that someone had put out to trash! There were lots of interesting records in there - Dean Martin, Rolling Stones... I hated to see them going to the dump, and desperately hope some bohemian with a record player will come and rescue them!

Vinyl is a cool word. I shall name my first child Vinyl. And this is a store in my neighborhood that sells legs. I might buy one just in case one of my knees gives out.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Montreal: Crew Smashes Stereotype

Remember how I mentioned (Montreal: A Real Travesty) that it was an anomaly to be going to a sushi restaurant with a television crew? Well, this past week, I was working with a completely different crew, and much to my surprise, B. (DP and camera) suggested we take our lunch break at a frilly tea house!

And there I sat with B. (he's the one holding the tea cup daintily), E. (PA, young guy on the right) and my producer, BeetleJuice (putting clotted cream on his current scone)!

And don't forget C., who, though she is female, does typically prefer a hamburger or her own bagged lunch to the leek and truffle oil soup she's enjoying here...

Wonders never cease! And here's your bonus shot for today, a truck carrying a booty of something the Quebeçois treasure most: Boréale beer. Blond, Rouge or Noir, this is simply one of the most delicious beers you'll ever taste. Man, I hope they have Boréale in the afterlife.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Montreal: La Cabane a Sucre... saWEET!

Today I went to a Cabane a Sucre! Go ahead, translate it yourself...

It means Sugar-Shack! And it is a fine Canadian Tradition. See the guy eating something on a stick there?

He is eating a delicious maple syrup treat! The Cabane master pours a line of delicious pure Canadian maple syrup on a bed of snow, then takes a popsicle stick and rolls it down the line, wrapping the stick in mapley goodness!

Until he gets to the end, when you have just what you came for... a frozen knob of maple syrup on a stick!

Deeeeeeee-licious! And luckily (what the F?) it was -18 C today, so the syrup stayed frozen while i walked down the street and did not drip onto my hand, as maple syrup on a stick is wont to do. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for my nose.

Here are some of the other fine maple offerings sold at this Cabane a Sucre... little mini ice cream cones filled with whipped, hardened maple syrup (for those of you who have lived in Quebec, or Ontario for that matter, you know you can find these year-round at most corner-stores)...

Delicious Bonbons d'Erable - Maple Candy made of Pure 100% Maple Syrup...

And of course... well... maple syrup!

And just think: usually you have to go out into the country to a maple tree farm to experience such a cavity promoting treat. Imagine my surprise and delight to find this Cabane a Sucre conveniently located just outside the St. Denis Metro station!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Montreal: Buried Bikes and Euro Sneakers

Oh yes it is, it really is winter here. Today it snowed all day, adding another 6-7cm layer onto the ice-encrusted city that is Montréal.

One thing I have never understood about Montrealers, is how they leave their perfectly good city bicycles locked to a fence or a post, only to get buried in snow for 4-5 months of the year. Why not just bring it inside or ask a friend if you can keep it in his garage? Do these bikes work in the spring or are they just discarded for new ones?

(Granted, I do remember back in the day, I had an excellent 3-speed that I left locked outside my apartment on Avenue des Pins. There was an unexpected snow storm in October, and a sidewalk snow-plow (yes, they have them for sidewalks here) came by and hit my bike and crushed it. So I just left it locked to the post for eternity, thinking it was the city's problem since they wrecked it in the first place.)

This is my new gym! It's called L'Optimum, and everyone at this gym speaks French. It is a fairly nice facility, but the people in it are the most un-gym-like people I have ever seen. It is completely refreshing. The funniest thing is the shoes. I am obsessed with checking out these peoples' shoes! Instead of really "athletic" sneakers, like we would wear for running or aerobics or whatnot, they wear... fashion sneakers.

Do you know what I mean? Blue, green, maroon... Euro sneakers with black socks. Or even black boot-looking things with culots! I SO want to send you photos of this phenomenon, but I can't figure out a clever way of taking pictures of peoples' feet and trying to explain it in broken French. Possible translation: "I am making photo of shoes of different style for making my friends laughter in California and elsewhere!" That might make me fewer friends than I already have.

This is just inside the door of the entrance to the gym. Everyone is very good about removing their wet, salty boots and putting on their Euro-sneakers right away so that the facility doesn't get sullied. Don't you just love Canadians? French or Anglo, this is one of their fortés!

And this is the metro stop closest to the production office. I am glad they wrote the graffiti in English, because somehow "La viande est le meurtre" doesn't work as well.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Montreal: A Real Travesty

Something horrid happened today! We were taking a lunch break from shooting and were sitting at a sushi place (which, for those of you who know television crews, was a surprisingly civilized choice for lunch... EFP camera and sound ops nearly always preferring diners featuring Meat and Potatoes, in my experience of working in TV/film).

The server brought out our order and, well, there's no nice way to put this... proceeded to drop the order on my back. She literally dropped the large plate of sushi and it fell on the back of my head and neck and down into the back of my chair and out onto the floor. This is probably a lucky talisman of some sort (if sushi falls on you, you will automatically have good luck at fishing, and maybe... healthy arteries?), but at that moment, it seemed like someone shot my dog. Hell, I wasn't even worried about my clothing or anything, I just never, ever, imagined how painful it would be to see a platter of perfectly delicious sushi hit the floor.

But I did. And now you can, too...

Yes, to make matters worse, the server swept it up into a nasty-ass dust pan. Can you imagine! How DARE she not tenderly pick up and gracefully dispose of each piece of fresh, newly soiled fish, some still stuck expertly to their little rice log? It was truly disturbing. Thank god this was fairly tame "lunch special" sushi and not ikura, uni or tobiko with quail egg. In that case, I think I might have considered punching her in the throat.

My producer (who witnessed the Sushi Travesty and was more appalled that the restaurant didn't offer me a free dessert or anything to make up for the fact that they dropped food on me than he was at the sushi's fate) looks like Michael Keaton.

Ever since I realized this, I can't stop thinking of him as Beetlejuice. Especially when he thinks we might go into overtime and begins racing around like a mad,... well,... Beetlejuice!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Montreal: H.W.B.

You might ask yourself, "Why would a respectable, perfectly young person buy a hot water bottle?"

The answer: Because it's muthafuckin' COLD here (-10 degrees C), and I currently don't have anyone to keep me warm.

So, to be cooler (not in temperature but in hipness), I am calling it my H.W.B. which if you say it right, with a Black American accent, kind of sounds like a gangsta and less like something an old person might pee on in the night.

Here is a detail of H.W.B. isn't she pretty?

and this is the bed that H.W.B. and I will share tonight, here on Rue Christophe Colomb in the heart of Montreal.

Gosh. I hope she's not a leaker.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Montreal: First Night

It's lovely and snowy here in Montreal! Not cold but just right for walkin' down the city street and hunting down some dinner.

Kimchee and vege paté sandwich from local dépanneur.

Yummy and also delicious!