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Val?s Bites

by admin April 6, 2010

Let’s all say it together now: brunch. For me, brunch symbolizes lazy weekends, lengthy chats with close friends and family, feasting, vacation and warm weather days. It’s the meal that helps start your day off on a high note and puts you in the mood to relax. In less than a month, most of us will be feeling the weight of the semester lifting from our shoulders and the rising temperatures will permeate our moods. We’ll want to unwind and gorge on delicious delights all day long. What we’ll also want is to go out for brunch, and with a little more time on our hands, we’ll finally be able to do so more often. Here are my three Cs of brunch to help you get your brunch on.

Le Cartet

106 McGill St., 514-871-8887, major cards accepted.

While I’ve already talked your ear off about my unhealthy predilection for cheddar cheese, I’ve yet to bore you with accounts of my other obsession: eggs. To this day, I remain bewildered by how a simple, ubiquitous fridge staple can take on so many scrumptious forms. Indeed, there are few questions that give me so much pause as the dreaded: how would you like your eggs? All this to say that when I heard Old Montreal’s Le Cartet had eggs to reckon with &- I was there faster than you could say scrambled. Walking in, my gaze went straight to the myriad walls housing pristine epicurean delights like imported chocolate, Italian coffee, foie gras, fresh salads and pasta. You see, Le Cartet is a gourmet grocery and prêt à manger food destination as well as a brunch (only on weekends), lunch and early dinner favourite. There are five main brunch plates to choose from ($14.95-15.95) that come with coffee (complimentary refills), fresh orange juice and enough food to keep you going till dinner. Feeling adventurous, I ordered the “Brunch de l’atlantique,” composed of a toasted bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, a breaded salmon patty, salad and fruit. The smoked salmon fit my requirements to a T, a little fishy and salty and not slimy. Meanwhile, the fluffy scrambled eggs paired with the smoked salmon reaffirmed my ardour for the partnership of the two foods. Alas, the salmon cake failed to please, but that might be on account of my distaste for cooked salmon. My dining companion didn’t get a special, but rather scrambled eggs prepared with goat’s milk served on a tartine. The velvety goat cheese enhanced the cloud-like eggs and the fresh flat bread tied it all together for a perfect dish &- even better than my special. Food aside, Le Cartet is also a hipster hotbed; set in an airy loft-like space replete with communal wood tables, floor to ceiling windows with sunlight streaming in and friendly, albeit slow wait staff. And to wrap up your meal and people watching, I suggest a massive almond croissant. Yum.

Brunch: $6.95-21.95 (Includes mimosa) (plus tax).

Cosmos

5843 Sherbrooke St. West, 514-486-3814, major cards accepted.

Cosmos is a quintessential hole-in-the-wall that just so happens to be a Montreal institution right up there with Schwartz’s deli, Beauty’s and Fairmount Bagel. This 11-stool N.D.G. greasy spoon is a local legend that was founded over 35 years ago by Tony Koulakis. With a documentary made in his honour entitled Man of Grease (he’s also Greek), Koulakis continues to work the counter with the help of his children and the odd cousin or two. But diners beware, Cosmos isn’t for the faint of heart. While I’m pretty sure all hygiene laws are adhered to, describing this place as clean would require a vivid imagination. Yet believe it or not, the griminess adds to the charm and who the hell cares when the homemade food is so good and the prices rival those of McDonald’s? Though sandwiches and burgers are offered, Cosmos is renowned for its breakfast/brunch. Simple, and simply delicious, some of their prized dishes include the “mish-mash” and the “creation sandwich.” The former being a literal mish-mash of eggs, potatoes, red peppers, pepperoni, cheese and whatever breakfast meat happens to be closest, while the latter consists of a fried egg, bacon, salami, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Both are incredibly filling and the taste is enough to make any thoughts of dieting go out the window. Though I’ve enjoyed them in the past, in an effort to save the planet and better my health, I’ve been trying to reduce my meat intake and thus went for the “vegetarian creation” sandwich, this time around. I selected black Russian bread from the bevy of choices and had a stupid grin on my face whilst biting into the gooey Kraft Singles orange cheese melted over the fried egg and mayonnaise doused veggies. The side of hash browns were the best I’ve had in my 22 years of existence. Mushy, fluffy and overall mind-blowing &- I was on another planet. Another aspect I love about neighborhood dives like Cosmos is the people and the sense that everyone really does know your name. For instance, while inhaling my sandwich I overheard the female chef (I believe it’s Koulakis’ daughter) say to a heavyset man in a matronly tone, “you’ve already had five pieces of French toast and 10 slices of bacon. It’s enough, you have to take care of your system. I’m not giving you iced tea, apple juice or even coffee. It’s enough, you need water.” You simply can’t buy this kind of thing.

Breakfast/brunch: $3-9 (plus tax).

Café Cherrier

3635 Ste.Denis St., 514-843-4308, major cards accepted.

Like Le Cartet, Café Cherrier is the type of brunch place you’d take last night’s steamy date, or your current flame, if you were in the mood to wine and dine the morning after. Unlike Le Cartet, Cherrier doesn’t boast a modern trendy décor; instead it’s reminiscent of an old-school Parisian bistro. Everything from the white and black tiled floor and white marble tables, to the leather banquettes, fringed lamp shades and black-and-white photographs of what I assume are famous elderly French males (or the owner’s family) remind me why Montreal has such a distinctly European flavour &- especially when frequenting French-heavy streets like St. Denis. And lest I forget to give a nod to the elderly hostess who is a permanent fixture and looks like something out of an old French film courtesy of her round glasses perched atop her nose, her signature red blazer, large bust and authoritative manner. In the summer, Café Cherrier is jamming due to its expansive terrace that attracts folk of all ages for brunch, lunch and dinner. I like to come year-round, seeing as the brunch can hold its own regardless of the season. One of my beloved meals is the French toast with maple syrup. Oftentimes, when I order this classic, it’s either drowning in syrup and soggy, or the quality of the syrup is poor, making everything taste overtly sweet and inauthentic. No such thing at Cherrier, though &- theirs is the real deal. I do, however, have a bone to pick concerning the pathetic five blueberries and two raspberries they’re trying to pass off as an accompaniment. Is it so difficult to add more berries? Of course, since eggs are my main love interest, I usually opt for the omelettes, which you essentially make yourself from the plethora of ingredient options. I get cheddar cheese (obviously), mushrooms, spinach and tomato. When I’m feeling less gluttonous, I order egg whites because Cherrier’s omelettes are overwhelmingly massive. Take my word for it and get a side of french fries instead of potatoes, since they’re not always consistent. Oh and don’t forget the terrace come spring.

Brunch: $4.50-14 (plus tax).