Playing Tourist | Poutine at La Banquise

Welp, we finally went.

woman with poutine

Now that we’ve officially decided on our plans for the summer, I’m getting serious about playing tourist and ticking a few things of my Montreal To-Do List. I had two poutine places in my sights, and last weekend, we checked La Banquise off the list. La Banquise is the most well-known poutine shop in Montreal. It’s open 24 hours a day and offers around thirty varieties of poutine. There are other things on the menu, but if you’re not going to order poutine, you should probably just choose another restaurant. Really.

We arrived around 8:30 and only had to wait in line for about ten or fifteen minutes. This was not the case when we left. But at least you can watch the people working in the kitchen dance and sing while they prepare the poutines.

la banquise from outside

la banquise kitchen

I ordered La Rachel (green peppers, onions, and mushrooms), and Jordan ordered La Kamikaze. We both went with the regular-sized portions. I thought it went without saying that we were going with the regular (not large) portions and gave our waiter a look of shock/horror/amazement when he asked what size each of us had wanted. What you see pictured here are the regular portions. We are not eating machines.

la rachel poutine

There were certainly a good number of actual tourists in the restaurant with us, making me feel better about snapping our photos as we ate. And really, shouldn’t we all play tourist where we live from time to time anyway?

Just When Things Had Started to Settle Down: What’s to Come in 2014

It’s been nearly two years since moving to Quebec. (Already! Okay, like a year and a half…) As most of you know, we moved here with a plan to stay here for roughly four years. Due to Jordan’s research interests, we thought (okay, and did a little hoping) there might be some short-term opportunities for study/travel in Latin America during this time. We also wanted to fully take advantage of the things Quebec had to offer, specifically the Gaspé Peninsula and Charlevoix regions, the Eastern Townships, and Quebec City. The two of us also hoped to capitalize on its proximity to Vermont (Burlington), the Adirondacks in upstate New York, the Maritime provinces, and maybe hit up NYC one more time before leaving. After being in both Tennessee and the D.C. area for only two years each, these four years (pretty optimistic for a PhD) seemed like more than enough time.

charlevoix 380 (512x343)

Because I knew that we were going to be here a while, I pushed myself even harder in French and dug deeper to learn even more about the culture in Quebec. I mean, who wants to spend four years in a place without ever feeling like you can blend/fit in? Admittedly, this was as much from a I-need-a-job perspective as it was a I-am-a-culture-maven perspective. On the other hand, I didn’t find it necessary to push myself, or Jordan for that matter, into any crazy must-get-it-all-done sort of travel schedule like we had in Tennessee (In two years we managed to see Charleston, Asheville, Atlanta, Savannah, New Orleans, oodles of nearby hikes, while still sneaking in a decent amount of travel outside the region). When we moved to Tennessee, we knew that Jordan already had the PhD itch (is that diagnosable?) and that it was likely that we’d be there three years max. Knowing that our time frame for using Knoxville as a springboard for exploring the southern United States was limited and having two full-time incomes meant that we kept a pretty steady exploration schedule.

mt leconte hike

Fast forward to December 2013. Remember that Holiday Party we threw after Jordan had spent a month in hibernation writing his comprehensive exam answers? We’d been a little out of the loop, so were taken a bit off-guard when people started questioning us out of the chilly December blue about whether or not we were going to move to Vancouver. (Full confession: there was a hint given to Jordan a few months before, but we’d all but forgotten it and put the rumor to rest when it had seemed less likely).

Making a long story a little bit shorter, Jordan’s advisor accepted a position in Vancouver, British Columbia. And because it keeps us on our two-year moving schedule, we’re going to go. Also, the winter here, like elsewhere this year, was a bit long. Okay, the real reason I agreed was because it’s also hard for me to say no to having the opportunity to explore a new city and region while we’re still young/able to move around. For Jordan, it’s that, coupled with wanting to keep a close working relationship with his advisor. The transition should really be taking place over the summer, but our transition won’t really be completed until November. Why? We’ve got a few things in the works…

First, there are still a few things we want to do here. No, we’re not going to go crazy and take two months of sightseeing through Eastern Canada and the U.S. (Sorry, Lion King on Broadway and Anne of Green Gables dreams. You’ll have to wait for another day!). But there are a few things we’re putting a rush on and making a point to do. First, in true Cassie list-making style, I do have a Montreal Musts list. I’ve checked a couple off since making the list, but still have quite a few to get to. Here’s a snapshot of the list.

montreal list

In June, we’re going to take a little time for one last Quebec road trip. This time we’ll be going to La Gaspésie! This is a trip we knew we wanted to do before leaving Québec, but we didn’t necessarily plan on making it this year. Instead, we’d thought about taking five days or so to Nova Scotia. We didn’t want to cram too much into a one week trip, though, so decided to choose one or the other. We went with Gaspésie because we thought flying into Halifax seemed a bit easier in the future than flying into Gaspé. Also, a road trip through Québec seems like the perfect way to cap off our year-and-nine-month stint in Québec. We’ll be camping the whole time, doing some campfire eating, hiking, sightseeing, and if things go right, some seafood eating, too. Our trip is going to look roughly like this, but we’re still in the planning stages. (Ignore the actual destination markers, those are just so Google showed you the right route. We’re not necessarily stopping in those places.)

gaspesie road trip

By the time Canada Day comes around (that’s moving day to folks in Montreal and just a regular July 1 to you in the U.S.), I’ll be hopping on a plane for home. I’m super excited to be spending the ENTIRE month of July in Wisconsin. It’s been over ten years since I’ve spent more than about a week and a half there. I’m hoping to spend some quality time with my sisters, parents, and Grandma, cook with the fresh produce from my parents’ garden, go on a sister road trip, and sneak in a serving of cheese curds. One of my good pals might even be flying in to hang out for a few days. It’ll be great. And hopefully relaxed. Sure, I want to see everyone, but I want to slow down and enjoy the nights where we don’t do anything special. As much as I tried to not make a list of things I wanted to do while in Wisconsin, my Google calendar is starting to look like one anyway :/

parentsfarm

Jordan will be flying in at the end of July. He’ll spend a few days with my family before we head over to South Dakota to visit his family. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen those nephews of ours. (Not sure if we’ll be able to time it right to meet our newest family member, Cece). We’re planning to spend a few days at the family ranch and maybe a couple days in the Sioux Falls area.

southdakota

Finally, by mid-August, we’ll be catching another plane, this time to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’ll be fun to travel back to Buenos Aires to see if my memories (Jordan and I went there on our honeymoon) and reality match up. We’ll only be spending a day or two in Buenos Aires, though, as our actual destination is near San Miguel de Tucumán in northern Argentina. Jordan will be working on his research and doing some field work in the region. We’ll hopefully get a few weekend trips into the surrounding areas.

boca.argentina

We’re driving from Buenos Aires to Tucumán on the way in, stopping in a couple places so Jordan can meet some other researchers. On the way out, we’ll head a bit south to Mendoza, sip some wine (Malbec!!) and then cross over into Santiago, where we’ll be catching our last set of flights for 2014.

argentina road trip

Again, we’re still doing a bit of planning on the actual details of the drives. The first drive of the trip is much more work-focused. (I’m Jordan’s photographer for the trip, I suppose :D) The second is still going to include some agricultural stops, but it’ll be more of the agrotourism ilk.

We’ll arrive in Vancouver (via a couple other airports) in November. We’ll probably be there for about two years, maybe longer depending upon our options. Jordan will still technically be a PhD candidate at McGill University in Montreal (which means if he chooses to attend his graduation ceremony, it’d be here), but will be a visiting scholar in BC. He’ll be working on arguably the most beautiful campus in North America :) As for me, I’ll be back on the job hunt. This time, Mandarin would probably come in more handy than French, but there should be a significant portion of jobs which require only mere ol’ English. (That said, I will be sure to find ways to keep practicing my French). I’m now equipped with over a year of teaching experience, an advanced level of French. Look out employers, my CV will be coming your way.

photo of campus found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:UBC_aerial_view.jpg

photo of campus found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:UBC_aerial_view.jpg

What about you, friends and family? Have any special plans for the rest of 2014? Summer travel plans? Anything that caught you off guard?

Spanish Progress! | DuoLingo Challenge

As you probably know, I started studying Spanish in January this year. I admit that my progress is a bit slower than I had hoped, as I haven’t put in the time I had hoped to. Still, I’m plugging away. I’ve reached the end of my DuoLingo Spanish Challenge! If anyone is looking for a free way to learn some vocab or grammar structures in a new language, I highly recommended starting here. (Currently, they offer Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, ESL, and a bit of Russian).

Of course, I plan to go back and do a lot of review (I still use DuoLingo from time to time to brush up on some French grammar and spelling). And finishing the DuoLingo program doesn’t necessarily mean that I can use all of the skills and vocab in an actual conversation, but it’s a great starting place.  Time to reward myself by watching an episode of Las Guapas :D

screenshot of duolingo spanish

Feel free to add me if you decide to join! I’m listed as lemoine and you’ll be able to see my pic. Happy studying!

Le Vocabulaire de la Ferme | Vocabulary and Resources for French Learners

vocabdelaferme

In the past two months, I’ve been on two farm tours (Lufa Farms here and Ferme le Crépuscule here). And then I explained to conversations partners and co-workers what I’d been up to. There were quite a few words that I felt comfortable using, such as ferme, pesticides, chevalbiologique, boucherie, and champs. Easy peasy.

sheep

But then there were some words that I needed to review. For example, for an entire day I went around talking about the poulains that lived in the poulailler, or the foals that lived in the chicken coop. Thankfully, Alex helped me out and corrected me.  I haven’t actually had to use the word poulailler for over a year, since a friend invited me to her in-laws’ place about an hour and a half from Montreal. I decided it might be time for me to beef up (pun intended, as usual) and review my farm-related vocab a bit, especially since I’ll be spending my July at my parents’ farm, the beginning of August at my in-laws’ ranch, and a bit of time this fall visiting agricultural sites and farms. Here’s the list I’ve been quizzing myself on.

French Farm Vocabulary

french farm vocab

Also, be sure to remember that it’s agricole, not agricultural. This one I remember, because my students always try getting away with using the agricole in English.

More Farm Resources in French

If you’re looking to review a bit more or see some of these things in context, check out some of the links below.

1. I love using the Ikonet Visual Dictionary. Here’s a screenshot of the images it provides. There is also audio provided.

Taken from http://www.ikonet.com/fr/ledictionnairevisuel/alimentation-et-cuisine/alimentation/ferme.php

Taken from http://www.ikonet.com/fr/ledictionnairevisuel/alimentation-et-cuisine/alimentation/ferme.php

2. If we were sticking around Montreal, I would check out Montreal’s Portes Ouvertes Sur les Fermes du Québec in September. The website’s got a nice video to watch for a bit of listening practice. (She speaks nice and slowly!)

3. Also, for a quick read and a lovely group of photos on Daylesford Farm in England, take a quick look at this Papilles et Pupilles blog recap.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Bon pratique, mes amis !

Maple Bundt Cake | Celebrating Sugaring-off Season

maple bundt cake

I know, I get really into maple syrup during spring. But hey, I’m not alone. The other night, we went over to join some friends for a pre-baby arrival supper and I made this cake. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it, me included. I liked it so much that I wanted to make another one the next weekend. It’s a cake that truly deserves a spot on an annual basis. If you’ve got your hands on a quality maple syrup, I highly recommend you make the most of it by making it the star of the dish.

maple bundt cake

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup packaged dark-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup (dark-I used no. 3) maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup greek yogurt

For the topping:

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1-2 T maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch Bundt pan. I use a silicone pan, but if you don’t, you’ll need to butter and dust with flour. Sift flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Beat butter and sugar together with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg, and beat well. Beat in maple syrup and the vanilla.
  3. Alternate flour mixture with the greek yogurt, adding each in three additions. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  4. Bake until golden brown and a fork inserted into center of cake comes out clean. (This took about 40-45 minutes for us, but watch carefully). Let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Flip onto a rack to cool completely.
  5. When ready to serve, beat cream with a mixer or a whisk until soft peaks form.  Spoon the whipped cream over the bundt cake, drizzle with the syrup, and sprinkle with nutmeg. Best when served right away.

maple bundt cake

maple bundt cake

A Visit to Lufa Farms’ Open House (and dinner at a friend’s place)

Lufa Farms has been on our radar for quite some time, and we’ve casually talked about it in the past. But then all within a month, I met a former employee, two of my ESL learners brought it up in class (and were very satisfied), and Lufa Farms offered an open house. I guess it takes a lot to convince us to jump on board sometimes.

lufa farms

Lufa Farms is a Montreal-based, commercial, hydroponic, rooftop farm. That’s a mouthful, but it tells you much of what you needs to know. It on a roof (and although claims to be urban, feels suburban after living in the downtown area), uses hydroponic techniques (meaning no soil to grow plants), and it is for profit.

Lufa offered two days of tours, one in English and one in French. The theme was an urban sugar shack, but this was really beside the point. Still,  it was nice to be greeted by someone in front of the building. And I took part in what could possibly be my last tire sur la neige (maple taffy) experience for quite some time.

lufa farms

maple taffy

(Yep, it was windy)

The tour itself consisted of two main sections. It started with the greenhouse tour, which was informative and casual. We learned about the biological pest controls used (all hail the ladybug!), the automated shading and lighting systems, and the in-house bees used for pollination. The farm tries to reuse as much water as possible and also collects rainwater for use.

lufa farms

lufa

lufa farms

lufa farms

The second part of the tour concluded with an explanation of how the basket program works. It’s similar to a traditional CSA, except that you’re able to customize your basket on a weekly basis should you desire to do so. On top of that, they partner with many other local producers in the area, so that you’re able to buy everything from St. Viateur bagels to local dairy products.  Ultimately, we were convinced to sign up, albeit not on-site, and are looking forward to picking up our first basket next week. It’s probably safe to bet that I’ll be mentioning them again soon.

After the tour, we wandered around the Villeray neighborhood for a bit before heading over to visit Courtney and Momo. You might remember them from the Sugar Shack/Cabane à Sucre visit to Ferme le Crépuscule.

We were treated to an authentic and delicious couscous. Did you know there is special pot for making couscous called a couscousiere? Naturally, I want one now.

couscous

meal with friends

The couscous was followed up with some baklava and other delicious pastries and tea.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend, full of produce and good company. Sorry about the snow that you received in the Midwest. If it makes you feel better, I still see snow on the hill outside our window, too. But let’s ignore that! Happy Monday!

Shacking Up with Sugar: A Visit to Ferme le Crépuscule

He finally broke. And then after Jordan conceded to rent a car and visit a cabane à sucre, or sugar shack, he somehow became excited about it. It may have had something to do with the fact that our friends Courtney and Momo were joining us and the fact that we were visiting a cabane à sucre that had been recommended by a trusted source.

snow-covered farm

In case you’re not familiar with the sugar shack concept, it’s an annual celebration of the sugaring-off season for maple trees. The temperatures warm slightly during the day, but are still below freezing at night, causing the sap to flow. Because Quebec produces about 75 percent of the planet’s maple syrup, this is an important time of the year here. Cabanes à sucre are held at maple groves, close to the point of production. The main show is the meal, where maple syrup is the star. Every dish is prepared with at least a little maple syrup. And then drowning it in more maple syrup is encouraged. Many cabanes à sucre also try and ham it up (pun intended, naturally), adding in some traditional folk music, lumberjack attire, and offering sleigh rides, etc. Think logging history. It takes me back a little bit to when Mr. Zirngibl organized our fourth grade class into a lumberjack camp for the morning, flipping pancakes and frying bacon. Of course, I’m sure we weren’t actually eating real maple syrup.

red roofed farm building

We visited Ferme le Crépuscule for a Saturday evening meal. Ferme le Crépuscule is an organic farm located about an hour and a half northeast of Montreal. All food served is organic, and if you’re on the gluten free train, you can even request a few special items. Admittedly, the prices are a bit higher than your average cabane à sucre (averages between 20-25 dollars, versus the 40 for FLC), but I knew that if I was going to get Jordan to look back on this experience as a good memory, we had to avoid the overtly commercialized choices that herded 350 people into a room and fed said 350 people mediocre food.

snow covered landscape

sugar shack buckets barm

The elevated price was worth it for more than a couple reasons. First, the setting was idyllic and authentic. It’s a real working farm, which uses the old school buckets to collect sap and then Jean-Pierre teams up with his horse, Peanut, to collect those. Secondly, the size of group was extremely small–only nine people total! The nine of us were treated to a tour of the farm after the meal. Finally, the food really was good, plentiful, and everything served is organic (Now, I’m not one of those must-eat-everything-organic peeps, but it is nice to know where most things on your plate came from, right?). Although I’ve never been to another cabane à sucre, I am convinced that we went to the real deal. Of course, we confirmed afterward with our friend Jean-Séb, who I consider one of our Quebec cultural consultants. :)

sugar shack farm

We arrived before the other group, so I forced people into photos.

sugar shack jordan and cassie

We didn’t want to stray too far without express permission before the meal, but I snapped a photo of the cattle for my father-in-law. Unfortunately, the impressively massive bull is hiding a bit in the photo below.

cows on snow covered farm

sugar shack farm

The dining hall itself was quite charming and quaint. There are plans for expansion in the future (it will still be smaller than most places), which made me thankful we made it there this year. The dining hall is heated by a traditional stove that (if my memory and poor French serve me correctly) was rescued from a future as scrap.

view of farm out window

old fashioned black oven

table setting

The liquid gold:

maple syrup bottle

I blog failed a bit when the meal was served. I should have snapped a few more photos of the food itself, but I didn’t want to be that girl, either. We started out with some steaming reduced maple water. Super delicious. Then we moved on to the bread and pea soup.

bowl of pea soup

The coleslaw, potatoes, homemade ketchup, pickles, and pickled beets came next. Then the fèves au lard. Then a plate of sausage, bacon, ham, and omelettes. Also a bowl of maple brains eggs cooked in maple syrup, pictured below.

table with candle and food

sugar shack

oeufs au sirop d'erable, eggs in maple syrup

eating at sugar shack table

sugar shack food

Oh, yeah! And the grillade de lard/oreilles de crisse (literally Christ’s ears)/pork rinds. I’d never tried pork rinds before. In my entire life. Weird, huh? Not sure that these have much to do with the kind you buy in the gas station….

homemade pork rinds

people at table

I completely missed photos of Dessert Round 1 (bread smothered in maple butter and cream) and Dessert Round 2 (crepes cooked in boiling syrup…kind of a mix between a crepe and a doughnut).

Post-meal, around 8ish, we headed out on the tour of the farm. We met some chicks.

chicks

And some frightening roosters. This is how they will be etched in my memory. Scary, right?!

spooky chickens

We also got to meet Peanut.

horse

This is how the chickens looked to most people.

chicken coop

And finally, no cabane à sucre is complete if there is no tire sur la neige, or maple taffy on snow. We lucked out here, as an executive decision was made to pull the snow bar inside, letting us stay warm and cozy while ingesting ungodly amounts of it.

snow bar

maple syrup taffy on snow

I am not proud to admit that I had four. Trust me, though, that’s on the low end things. That taffy was really flowing. So good!

sugar shack maple taffy

We left around 10, sufficiently mapled. I do highly recommend the experience.

And I’m not alone. Ferme le Crépuscule was recently featured in a Montreal newspaper, La Presse, as hosting one of the best sugar shack experiences. If you’re interested in the link to the 8 suggestions, read here. Fortunately for us, we visited the same day the article was released, beating the rush. You might notice on the farm’s website, they’re filling up fast.

Escaping the city always does me good, even if it hadn’t been that long since our last escape from the island. Living in a city really makes me appreciate the countryside. And living in Quebec really makes me thankful for maple syrup.

snow covered landscape