Iranian Breakfast at Byblos Le Petit Café

A long time ago, I had the nicest breakfast I’ve ever had while eating out in Montreal.  I guess these things are a matter of taste, and for such meal with such clear delineations (depending on your location), it can run the gamut of very different styles.  Some people go for classic fry-ups – eggs, pancakes, porkmeats, cheese, potatoes, and whincy awful fruit cups.  Some prefer those old ideas reinvented in complex and delighting ways with accompanyingly more involved tabs at the end of the meal.  Some like to stuff themselves.  Some are happy with a bit of toast and jam and tea.  For myself, I like to linger and use my fingers in the morning.  Eggs are always welcome, as is a vegetarian meal – something simple, but substantial and naturally rich.  I suppose this is somewhat French or Mediterranean in personality, and if this is your kind of brunch, I highly highly recommend Byblos Le Petit Café at 1499 Laurier Est.

For one, it’s affordable.  And who wants sticker shock before any kind of caffeine has set in?  No, it’s relaxing to peruse the menu and get excited about all the sure-to-be-just-exotic-enough options that are perfect for sharing around the table.  It was a long time ago so I don’t remember the exact prices, but everything you see here in this post might have come to less than 23$, and we were splurging on extras like fresh juice and pastries.

For second, it’s delicious.  It’s obvious that they put care into their food, offering a dizzying 25 different homemade preserves to enjoy with the fresh bread basket bursting with lovely carbs like pitas, wholemeal bread and sesame wedges.  We chose a roseflower and orange marmalade and it was tops.  I wish even there was a way to order a sample platter of all the preserves, because they all sounded really special.

The plate of olives, feta, herbs (mint, coriander and dill!), walnuts and pistachios was perfect.  Nothing touched, just quality ingredients full of flavour and perfect for dipping sleepy fingers into and combining with everything else on the table.  That particular breakfast item comes with a bowl of house-made halvah, softer and sweeter than what I’m used to (rich!), but very fresh and loaded with toasted sesame taste.

The omelette was very different from most you might find – incredibly moist, NOT overcooked, and tasting, of, well, egg.  You might wonder why that’s special.  Well, have you noticed how most omelettes taste like browned bits and cheeses and butter and arrive rubbery and cold?  I like them this way.  Warm, oozing, ethereal shmears flecked with blushing tomato, mmmm.

Finally, not to gush (ok, I’m gushing, and it’s worth it, I swears), Byblos, for some reason, has the BEST DAMNED CROISSANT I’VE EVER EATEN, in a bakery, restaurant or otherwise.  Blistered shattering gossamer whorls of butterfat pastry – it arrived hot to the touch and disappeared before cooling off, eaten unadorned and melting on the tongue.  I don’t even like croissants, normally (blasphemy, I know), but maybe I just haven’t had enough good ones, like this. So that’s my favourite breakfast in this city.

The tea is also sharply minty and comes with a mosaic of varied sugar-nuggets, nibbly rock candies in their own right.  It’s a large enough space to accommodate any kind of party, and sunny throughout.  I love Byblos!  I’ll miss it.

BONUS!  A little note about Iranian breakfast (information garnered from Wikipedia, natch): the traditional meal is called either sobhāneh (Persian: صُبحانِه‎) or nāshtāyi (Persian: ناشتايى‎).  It usually comes with a variety of flatbreads, butter, Tabrizi white cheese/paneer, feta cheese, whipped cream sweetened with honey (sarshir), and a variety of fruit jams and spreads.  This is what we had!  Another popular traditional breakfast dish is a complex wheatmeal & lentil porridge served with shredded lamb or turkey, called haleem.  Byblos indeed does offer a simplified version of haleem in the mornings, which I only wish I’d had the stomach-room at the time to try, because it sounds SO much like my thing, being a congee-girl and all, but alas that will have to wait for the next trip.  I hear it’s good there, though.

Byblos Le Petit Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Cereally Obsessed: Krave and Cinnamon Corn Pops

While travelling, it’s good sometimes to go for those silly fun-packs with the 6 cereals that you’re actually into and the 2 or so that make you go errrrrrrgh.  The errrrrrrghing might have something to do also with the lack of economy involved with buying so much packaging in relation to mascot-approved goodness, but hey – these ones were on sale for 3$ which works out to, oh I dunno, about 40c per bowl, so that’s okay.

AND this one involved KRAVE cereal, which I hadn’t tried before and wanted to, but heard that it kinda sucked so I didn’t want to spin for a big box.  AND it involve Cinnamon Corn Pops, which are also new, are also incredibly good, and we had met before, but it was a good opportunity to blog about the two of them.

For the record, Cinnamon Corn Pops are only available in Canada, which makes me feel extremely lucky because it is like orb-shaped mana from heaven, and Krave was only available in the U.K. until recently – which makes me feel sorry for Brits (British Point -1?) because I can tell you right now, it does indeed suck.

I’m sorry Krave, you suck. Milk does not thy attributes improve.

Well, it’s not that it’s inedible.  But I have pretty wide standards when it comes to cereal, coveting anything from the most virtuous puffed kamut brands to my favourite Lucky Charms, and this, this is NOT CEREAL.  It is, at best, some sort of half-brained snack food that manages to put hot chocolate mix into a nondescript wheat-tasting Cap’n Crunch-ish sorta feeling knock off and pretend to me that it is yummy.  I dunno.  You might like it.  But the first five ingredients are sugar and then there’s palm oil and then I think there might the tears of small babies, so count yourself duly informed and go into it expecting perhaps something other than breakfast appropriate normalcy.  You have been warned.

Cinnamon Corn Pops are the redeeming angel of the late-breaking funbox and my new favourite thing ever, though, so we can wipe our tears and continue to spoon away happily at sweetened milk like no abomination of any kind ever happened.  Like, if you’ve ever had Canadian Corn Pops, which are different than American ones, they’re kinda good but not very interesting.  Vaguely corn tasting, super crunchy, and a really ideal round size and shape.  These new ones take all of that and add cinnamon – real cinnamon – and there the magic happens.  My BF ate a whole box in like 3 days and he never cares a whiff for my cereal.  Excellence corroborated.  I even took some bananas and rolled them in chocolate and then studded them with these nice spicy pops and froze them solid and yes – It Was Mighty Good Stuff.  Really, really, really good actually, and not least because I also managed to sprinkle some sharded up sesame brittle candy onto the chocolate while I was at it.  Queens of lazy summer dessert represent!

happy-making spheres! ^.^

Serious Eats agrees.

( \/ This is not an official video, but it had to be done)

Omma Korean – brunch like mom never used to make (but should have)

From the ashes of Senzala (well okay, it’s just moved to Acadie boul.), rises the paradise-bird of Omma – a new Korean resto in town, almost impossibly close to my apartment!  I get my own wi-fi at the table even, the boys wear frilly orange aprons, there are jars of nice teas lining the bar and almost more importantly than all of these things combined – I now have a source for generous bowls of spicy kimchee at a moment’s notice, and with bottomless coffee besides.  Eeek!  God I love brunch.  And ESPECIALLY brunch involving dumplings.  :)

It was the first sunday brunch service ever, so some hiccups were to be expected.  I’ll divulge right now that it took a looooooong time for our food to come, but for a fledgeling restaurant I’d say they have a good vision going already.  I can’t wait to see how it improves in the future, and even now I was pretty impressed with the offerings.  It’s all very affordable, and we started some sides of the aforementioned kimchee for 2.50$ (bliss!) and a bowl of roasted tomatoes and white beans for 3$.  The beans were definitely made from scratch, and were really wonderful, a much lighter and fresher version of the sticky baked beans that so often accompany a Quebecois breakfast.

We also got some toast alongside because, well… the options were rice or toast with the mains, and I figured we should try some of everything Omma had to offer.  The butter that came alongside was in little packets (aw, points off) but I’m pretty sure the cherry-like strawberry preserves were housemade as well (points verily ON!), and I like that it was seedy buns instead of loaf bread.

For our mains we ordered the Dolsot Bibimbap with rice, BBQ beef, sauteed and seasoned vegetables, a fried egg and gochujang spicy paste for 14$- (how could we not??) and the Pajun omelet/pancake for 12$.  Both were supposed to come with fruit, but I didn’t mind that only one bowl came, because that’s not really what we were there for.  No, I was there for the Bibimbap with it’s crispy rice that fries to such a lovely crust on the bottom of the sizzling bowl, and for the mix of fresh vegetables and runny rich yolk that typefies the dish.  It did not disappoint!  While the beef was ground and not sliced like I’d hoped (aw), the toppings were plentiful, notably with some homemade cucumber pickles and chewy shitakes in the mix, and while almost too hot to eat, we did good work on it and there was nary a ricelet left over, I can say that.

The Pajun was also surprisingly good, with fat strips of scallion and an elusive flavour of… mom’s cooking.  That might the best way to describe it.  The kind of taste that comes from technique and a lifetime.  And that lovely fried food magic, but it’s DELICIOUS oil so we do NOT care.  (I can see why this is on the entree section of the dinner menu ;).  The dipping sauce that came with it and the potatoes were also really, really good and if we’d ordered the rice instead of toast the dish would have been just that much better.  Fruit was ok.  But as I said, who cares about fruit in the face of Nurunji.  Obv.

omma

Add to all of this bottomless coffee with a distinct nutty flavour and a dish of dumplings I’ve still yet to try, and this place has already carved a spot in my heart and most certainly into the neighbourhood itself.  I actually keep watching people go up in rapt interest to read the dinner menu posted on the door, which also looks very interesting… anyway, here’s to the new kid on the block.  건배! (cheers and good luck!)

Omma on Urbanspoon

Omma Korean on Citeeze

SEGUE INTO……. HOME COOKED KONGNAMULBAP!!

okay, this Korean thing stuck on my brain.  I love those strong flavours so much.  ha, the next day I saw Maangchi prepare a simple and healthy sprouts bibimbap and I knew I had everything in the fridge – I followed suit.  Geez, if there’s a fried egg on it, can I ever say no?  *cough*  No.

As Maangchi would say – “Delicious!” ^-^

Here is her making it. —->

Café le Souvenir brightens a Sunday morning….

It was a pretty freaking disgusting Sunday that just past.  From the fog of my bathroom window, pre-glasses and weary, I almost even thought that the mottled wet pavement pattern on the street was a thin sheet of newfallen snow.

Thank Jack Frost it wasn’t that – I might have seriously just figured out how to knit myself feety pajamas right then and there, and not left the comfort of my own bed until I’d cocooned myself into a nice tea + geeky sci-fi oblivion for the whole day.  It was CLOSE to that bad, but it turned into a good excuse to break out the basic black woollens and trudge with an empty belly and a caffeine addiction towards Cafe le Souvenir, in the hopes that it would be what every brunch should be : relaxed, slightly oily, filled with eggy savourishness, bottomless coffee, and copious amounts of fruit.

We arrived and came upon: the Line!  Yes, indeed this place is popular, and I feel terrible for the table right next to the door.  Not only at the mercy of jostling unfed types, but the draft was a bit chilly.  They seemed obliviously happy with their stringy benedicty dish and warm potatoes, however, which distracted me from thoughts of sympathy and turned my head to selfish wants of bbbbrrrreakfast!!!! and now.  Luckily it only took 15 minutes, plus 5 to actually get a seat at a table (and not the bar).

We were offered espresso and turned them to allongées.  (transformo!).  We ordered 2 mimosas (11$) and received a vial of fresh squeezed OJ and a sparkling German dry white, and turned ThoSE into happy bubbly morning drinks.  (TRANSFORMO AGAIN!).  The menu was long and nothing was breaking the proverbial envelope, but it all sounded pretty good and I’d heard good things, so I ordered a benedict florentine on rye bread (13$) with smoked salmon (+3$), and Cloudy got 2 slices of french toast with fruit and whipped cream and cheddar (11$).  The food came fast, and the eggs were hot, and they did a little clever thing by baking the eggs in the hollondaise and laying a blanket of melted nondescript white cheddar-type cheese on top, so they stayed hot while I wondered where on earth my smoked salmon was!  Our server was super nice about that oversight, though, and while it took a while in coming, it was a big ol’ bowl of it, and we discovered our new favourite combo.    smoked salmon + FRENCH TOAST YOU GUYS.  omg.  omg.  a salty sweet buttery confection duo written in the stars.  Add drizzles of real maple syrup for extra points (Le Souvenir gives you a bottle at the table!).  I guess I have to admit I wanted my first eggs benedict experience to be those silly little perky orbs with the yellow sauce blanket, but it was a tradeoff for a perfect poach, I suppose.  It turned into a dunking dish for toast!  I liked that.  The french toast was eggy and fluffy and cooked to custardy perfection, and the fruit alongside was fresh and plentiful and even included mango, yay.  Nomming ensued.

Filled up and chatted up, we left to pay and noticed an awesome – they didn’t charge us for the salmon and one of the coffees.  Good show, that’s a perfect move.  They were also really friendly and we didn’t feel rushed despite the lines.  I think I subconsciously felt rushed in the lively setting, but it wasn’t at their cue, and a bloke sitting beside us sat alone at a table nursing a graphic novel and a coffee for our breakfast’s duration undisturbed.

I will be honest.  If you’re the type that questions the value of paying someone else to make eggs and toast for you, le Souvenir won’t change your mind based on the food.  But the atmosphere is something to be experienced and a great way to spend a rainy Sunday!  It’s an essential local hang, and a cheery place and it definitely, definitely, beat the rainy blues away. :)

Cafe Souvenir (Le) on Urbanspoon

Sautéed Apple & Cheddar Crepes for a stormy Sunday

 

Hurricane Irene passed through Quebec this weekend, demoted along it’s way to a “tropical storm”, but still chilling and blustery enough to make brunch the only sensible option for a bunch of skids on a cozy Sunday morning.  Cloudscapes came over early to make crepes, and after braving the icy rains for some apples and cream, we headed on to the kitchen to get the butter-sugar-flour-eggs-vanilla from the cupboard to find….. butter-sugar-flour-eggs-vanilla already laid out and toasty morning-pan smells coming from our rickety stove and wafting back through the hall.  Room-mates/great minds thinking so alike!  They were making sparkle-cakes, though.  Ie; pancakes doused liberally with good cheer and party sprinkles.

It wasn’t much work to throw together a reliable crepe batter – Alton Brown’s does the trick – cook some fruit up with maple syrup and whip up a bit of fresh cream, and soon breakfast was served.  Eeeeek!  Finally.  Starved by then, and happy to see that the sangria could be enjoyed alongside straight white wine, since it was after 3 PM by the time we sat down!  Aha!

A little Balderson cheddar goes a long way…..

Basic Crepes

Recipe by Alton Brown

makes 17-22 crepes

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons liqueur (optional)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • butter, for coating the pan

In a blender combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.

Heat a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce (2-3 tablespoons) of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.

Sauteed Apples

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large cooking apples (Granny Smith or Yellow Delicious are nice)
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey or golden syrup
  • generous grating of fresh nutmeg
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • zest of half a lemon

Cook butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to brown.  Add apples and sauté until tender, about 9 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients; stir to blend. Cool. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

Putting it All Together…

  • grated sharp white cheddar
  • syrup
  • icing sugar
  • whipped cream and chocolate (if you feel like going over the top… we did this but I don’t think it was necessary)

Preheat your oven to broil.

Take a crepe and spoon some of the hot apples into the center.  Top with a small handful of cheese and broil until the cheese is just melted through, then fold up any way you like and top with your favourite things.