Cape Breton trip Pt 1: Sangria muffins & brined chicken sandwiches

Staring out the window, nestled with my whole spinal region melting into a backseat pillow, bumping and floating my way towards Cape Breton… yet another time (a gifted time) where the rigeurs and the rigidity of everyday life are left behind like so many un-needed sneakers and bargain books on silly things like the Kabbalah I’m never going to read anyway.  Not to mention, my job, my house, the city of Montreal, and a regularly scheduled program.

Hello Cape Breton!  Well, hello Edmunston, so far.  I’m here with my love and his brother who’s been so kind to drive us the whole way and have the good taste enough to play Guided By Voices, and Monty Python and CBC.  We left yesterday afternoon, after a good 3 hours of Food Packing (read: AWESOME FUNTIME LIZ-INDULGENCE CAR-PIC-NIC CHEFFERY) and 20 minutes of Regular Things Packing (yes, I remembered everything.  Underwear, computer,

not vanilla pods but BEANS! Magic garden beans.

toothbrush, check).  On the road, I’ve already discovered that dairy creamers stolen from highway cafes are a cereal addict’s best friend, and that flakey varieties of cereal are verily muncheable out of anything kinda resembling a bowl, and with chopsticks no less.  I have dreamy plans of making a sticky toffee pudding for my BF’s toffee loving mom-with-a-birthday-on-Tuesday (which will bring the heritage score to Brits: a zillion / Scots: well, also a zillion).

The trick is to use cardboard as a plate. S.M.R.T.

But, being a food-centered blog, I’d be remiss to skip a bit of recap on the car-picnic making action.  It wasn’t hard at all, really.  I needed to rescue some things, so I harvested the last of our current vegetable garden production to twizzle together some ace & spicy peanut noodles with fried peanuts and summer beans and mint.  Haven’t even cracked that yet (it’s still in the motel fridge), but we for SURE started into the mega pesto chicken sandwich of Awesome.  The pesto was also a bit of a garden rescue, after I plucked all the tops off our basil plants and cradled the crunchy leaves in my fists all the way to the kitchen to make that most luridly green spread.  I brined two chicken breasts overnight in a salt and sugar solution.

PS, How to Brine a Chicken Breast:

take: 1 quart of water / 4 cups

1/2 cup sea salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds, bone in, but really whatever will fit in the water)

…. let it sit in the brine solution for 6 hours, or overnight, then cook as usual.  SO MADNESS JUICY, OMG.  Thank you Serious Eats yet again for your so useful secrets.

Once chicken is roasted, get all the meat parts off the bone, then mix with the fresh pesto, spread a big rosemary foccacia on both sides with thick herbed tzatziki, and mound things in this order: Bread, spread, 2 tbsp finely chopped kalamata olives, 3 tbsp finely diced marinated red onions, 1 big avocado sliced thick, salt & lemon, pesto chicken, tomatoes, and fresh spinach dressed with a bit more lemon & salt & olive oil.  Wrap the whole thing tight in plastic and press it tight for a while (I just packed it on the bottom of the bag, under a flat book that ended up doubling as a totally essential cutting board).  YUM.

I threw some meat pies I made a long time in the oven, too (I love my freezer stash).  They were kind of a riff on a pastilla pastry, which is usually made with chicken (I used lamb instead), but the idea of finely shredded meat cooked with lots of butter, fried almonds, cumin, cinnamon and onions, until it tastes like something sultans should eat, then that’s tucked into a crisp-but-sturdy cornmeal pastry shell, and these are so addictive, man, seriously… wow.

Also convenient: I invented a muffin! Well, sort of.  It’s got a cute name.  I ran out of milk while making blueberry granola muffins so I subbed in some sangria I made the other day and it worked SO WELL.  Yes, there is technically rum in those muffins.  And, 80% whole wheat flour, although you’d never be able to tell, they are fluffy as heck.  I’m a huge fan of using granola in muffins, it just seems to give it a texture and taste that totally distinguishes it from cake in any form – craggy and hearty and toasted-sweet, and it never gets claggy the way using straight oats does sometimes.  I even have the recipe memorized, oho.

don’t forget to bring your road-knife!

Blueberry Sangr-ianola Muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup granola

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground ginger

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups sangria (you can use orange juice instead, of course!)

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup mild oil

1 1/2 cups blueberries, or a mix of blueberries and peaches

3/4 cup granola (for topping)


1.  Preheat oven to 400 F.  Line a muffin tray with papers, or grease the cups.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the wet ingredients (sugar through oil).  In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through granola).  In another bowl, put all your fruit in that, and toss with 1 tbsp of flour – this ensures that the fruit stays suspended in the batter and doesn’t sink to the bottom.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just enough to combine.  Fill 12 muffins cups high with batter – there will be lots – sprinkle with the 3/4 cup granola and bake until they are firm, golden and toasty.  18-22 minutes perhaps, but check after 15 minutes because every oven is different, and don’t forget to rotate the pan.

Guess that’s it for now.  Now I’m just contemplating the wonders that is the potential complementary breakfast at a motel, and if I should maybe with pour myself another nice bowl of Frosted Flakes and eat it outside in the surprisingly chilly pre-dawn air in the parking lot overlooking the vista of Edmunston.   More updates later!


Tachido, home of the gorilla and the glutenless sandwich

tchotchke – (Yiddish) an inexpensive showy trinket


1965–70, Americanism ;  < Yiddish tshatshke  < Polish czaczko bibelot, knickknack

(now obsolete; compare modern cacko  withsame sense, orig. dial.); of expressive orig.


collectablecollectible – things considered to be worth collecting (not necessarily valuable or antique)
Going for a sandwich on a rather flingy whim didn’t necessarily prepare me for the requisite mile end arty-collage space that I should have seen coming.  I’ve only lived here in this neighbourhood for how long?  (Galleries are actually a place to get pizza, I’m pretty sure).  True to form, Tachido is home to a mass mural from the same people who decorated l’Espace Go, to our latent osmotically gained hipster-vibe delight, and even more knick-knacked curios lit up with fairy lights all over the tiny sandwich shop – the new resto on Parc street, but already proving to be a laid back hangout for randoms of all types.  Laid back randoms, anyway.
But dear, sweetie, how was the food?  Tachido serves food, right?  Mexican kinda sandwiches, involving the usual suspects of black beans, pork, chicken, cheeses, guac and hot sauces, AND gluten free options, if that’s something you care about.  They have fresh juices (agua fresca), of which a melon kind we partook.  I liked it, but I’m a sucker for melon anything, and it kinda pink-efied the meal a bit and I don’t care if it’s winter, I’ll refreshen up anytime!
We got some cheap sandwiches, a pulled pork torta sandwich on fresh housemade bread, and a huitlacoche (mushroom, corn and cheese) quesadilla, also housemade.  A little deal for the side is a hot pot of spicy black bean sauce/soup and a couple of hot sauces in red and green for about 3$, and I pretty much insist that you add this onto the order.  Reasoning for this is that while the food is fresh, hot, healthy and inexpensive, it isn’t outlandishly… shall we say, flavourful.  A shot of the saucy sides fixes that up okay.
They serve beer and cocktails (margaritas!), and get coffee from Toi, Moi & Cafe up the street, which probably means that there is at least a decent selection of brew (I haven’t been there in years but I remember a dizzying array).  They also have homemade pastries, and if I’d known that at the time I’d be just that much closer to being entirely made of sugar than I am now.  They’re probably good, judging by the bread (which is good, really).
+ points for the decor
+ points for the vegetarian/gluten-free/kid friendliness of it all
– points for normal tasting food (replace the mozza-type cheese with some real face-punching salty queso, and THEN we’d be talking!)
+ it’s such a family-run place – we talked to the guy running the show that day and he explained to some depth his brother’s toy-and-oddity fascination
+ Tacorama Fridays after 9pm!  I can only imagine the joy of that.  Woah, hey, dudes, now we have TWO late night taco places in the mile end!  Sweet.

Tachido on Urbanspoon

So, you know how I ordered a huitlacoche quesadilla?  I knew it was a mushroom.  I didn’t know it was also called CORN SMUT!
*dies laughing*
oh, that’s awesome.

crisp morning, off to Wilensky’s Light Lunch…

I’ve lived in the Mile End district of Montreal for almost six years.  I feel like I understand the place like a sock drawer, a bit, having poked my head into most of it’s windows and doors at least once to understand my neighbourhood better every day.

Wilensky’s, though, until recently, had remained a mystery.  I kinda chalk that up to a vegan past, I mean – what would some tamari-smoked-almond smelling patch-kneed grass-feeder do in the presence of RUTH WILENSKY????  Eek, I dunno, stammer and ask for a fountain soda?  Anyway, at the time, it seemed weird, but always so, so enticing.

Enter a future self, one who decided that having a legendary “Special” for breakfast was like, the most perfect decision I’d made so far in September.  (It was September 1rst).  And slightly cool outside.  That is to say – scarf and bicycle weather.  Aha!  I thought, for some reason, “this is my moment!”

It makes sense, really.  The sammich as offered is as comforting as a hug from a mammy – 6 layers of mystery deli meat (at least 2 kinds of salama and 1 bologna) pressed flat and crispy in a sweet onion roll – a bretzl! – and kissed with a touch of mustard (and in my case, a piece of swiss cheese folded thin and just slightly melted – this just made it extra cozy-making).

A few rules about this thingy.

1. You cannot have it without mustard.

2. You cannot have it cut in half.

Why?  Man, that would be change and that is not what this place is about.  No, truth told, it was SURREAL walking into Wilensky’s.  The whole setup just stunned me in it’s perfect historic maintenance – suddenly it’s 1932.  But it was so absolutely present, too.  Eloquence, you fail me!  But to make a point:  I asked for “one Special, a half sour pickle and a diet cherry coke.”  Twice.  Ruth stared me in the noggin, not really caring and answered back, “one Special, one cherry soda.”  Twice.  :D  Now THAT is time colliding in on itself while the present maintains the past and I’m dumbstruck but weirdly happy to be there waiting all of 1 minute for my breakfast to get pressed together and wrapped in a paper bag for me.  I snapped a few photos and idly scanned the bargain-bin trash-lit for sale taking shelf-estate next to the takeout containers and other resto-sundry, and I was sure that I would earn a place in Ruth’s bad books for even daring to whip out a camera so early in the morning.  But actually, I think she almost smiled at me as she handed me my sandwich.  One can only imagine.

(like if an all-beef frank and a crepe had a BABY!! sorry just had to say it. mmm layers.)

It’s cholesterol in a warm handheld more-ish piece of Love, it’s totally not healthy and I’m kinda wondering when I can get another one.

Immortal for a very good reason, I’m thinking.

Wilensky's Light Lunch on Urbanspoon

Olive & Gourmando – big taste in small (flattened) packages

the Cubano Sandwich @ Olive & Gourmando – ham, braised pork, homemade mayo (with chipotle peppers, pickles, lime & coriander), and gruyère cheese.

I scared my grandparents with this high energy place last October, what fun!  My dad and stepmom too, because I’m annoying like that, and the erratic foodie of the family who brings surprise and aged cheeses to unsuspecting kith and kin!  They’re… not the most adventurous of eaters, in general, but I think even they got a kick out of the warm atmosphere and obvious dedication to quality that the owners pass on through to all that they make (two chefs from Toqué, which kind of explains the excitement for detail).  There’s something for everyone on the menu, too: hot crispy paninis melting delicately layered with local ingredients and housemade sauces, cold sandwiches on fresh house-bread stuffed with excellent produce and done up in really fun combinations.  They even have a(n interesting!) vegan offering.  Face-inhale kinda sandwiches!

Grain-fed Chicken Breast Sammich with guacamole, cajun spices, tomato and fresh mango & the special limited time Apple & Jamboneau Sandwich with Quebec cheddar, thin-sliced apples and other goodies I unfortunately can’t recall… but it was the reason I went to O&G last October in the first place.  SO good.

They have many other things to enjoy, too – it’s as much a bakery as it is a sandwich shop, and I only regret not picking up one of their incredible-looking brownies (made with Valrhona chocolate, but of course!) or their huge shining maple-pecan brioche buns, mmmmmm.  The smell in the room is incredible, which is, I suppose, needless to say.

Things are a little pricey for the stomach-filling quality, but only *just* slightly.  Most sandwiches are 10$ and come just as they are and on the hand-held side of size, probably needing a small salad or a baked good to really round out a full lunch.  But it’s worth it and then some for the quality and the amount of taste garnered in each crunchy, melting, and salty bite.   Oops, now I’m kind salivating for more…

Olive Et Gourmando on Urbanspoon

Searching for dragons in chinatown

Sometimes I draw a tarot card when I’m wavering on where I need to be at a certain time.  On this coat-sheddingly balmy spring day, when one could actually see the earth, the dusty layers hidden for eons under what used to constitute terra firma (terra snow-a), when sneakers started to smell rubbery again, when girls with thick smooth legs ran their brazen goosepimpleless season-heralding skin up wrought iron staircases above spilling-over terraces packed with overdue coffee dates, when finally, finally, the air quality improved to the level where pink, verdigris, humboldt and vizier became colours again, when the 70s were possible to be fondly eyed askance with nostalgia this generation never properly earned, but somehow embody in ways that probably owe a lot to just the way that certain parts of Montreal look .

Should I go to Jean-Talon?  Should I go to Chinatown?  Knowing I’d be moving closer to the market and not the sino-choice, I took my chance to appreciate the proximity, and drew the Knight of Wands as a symbol of the adventure, and kept a mental lookout for little guys with firey presences, in sculpture form, realform, yummyform and all of the above (mostly appeared in yummyform! O_O)   (unsurprisingly).

First thing I did was drool in the window of the Bahn Mi shop, Cao Thang.  I’d never had one before, but I think I probably even knew more about them than this guy, so it was weird and soon-to-be-remedied that I didn’t know the taste of them personally.

I can vouch for the #1 special here (pork and pork paste, pickled veg, jalapenos – could have been more – and cilantro) it’s a nicely balanced sandwich!  The bread was fresh with that Ol’ ChewCrisp, the pork was strong enough to feel like a robust filling even though I initially thought there wasn’t much of it (which is expected for such an affordable thinger-sandwich! O_O), and yey for pickled veg.  Yeah for $3.50 you better believe I’m going back to try the other kinds.

Skip this stuff though.  Kinda okay?  Best I can say.  It smells heavily of sesame but doesn’t have much taste and leaves grease marks on my finger when I touch it.  Pretty though.  Very, very ruby pretty.

So far?  I guess that’s the Knight of Wands choice.  Admittedly in chronology the sammich-lunching happened on my way out, but my Nose-On-The-Window-WANTING moment happened on my way in, and then I got distracted from linear sequencing while I was writing, so it’s here first and explaining all of this nicely takes up the rest of the space next to this picture of red rice that I would otherwise have to fill with rhetoric on a dish I know nothing about and tasted no more than a biteful of.  The woman at the shop gave me a fork with this though.  Ooh, damn, didn’t even notice the chopstick-miss until I got home, oooooooh.  (s’okay though, I come prepared.)

The other Knight of Wands/dragony moment happened after picking up some (RED!) curry for my roommate, I passed by a place that looked SO legit, SO attracting, that I felt like I was back in the night markets of Taiwan for a moment, watching skilled hands make the same perfect foodstuff day in and day out for years and THAT’S why it’s legendary and people come back.  I mean, I don’t know how this Dragon’s Beard candy rates among others, but I can fully say that this is one of those special-er things that Montreal’s chinatown has to offer.

I got a piece for 75 cents.  It melted and chewed and turned to nutty brittle, the hairs of the dragon, for the life me, reminiscent of grasses made of sugar.  More sturdy than cotton candy for sure.  Light as a feather.  Given to me in a little napkin and I felt like I was holding a woodland creature, a bit.

Is that it?  Probably mostly.  Well, not entirely.  I also got a lamp that makes me want it to be august already so I can sweat to it’s flickering light, writing fevered dream-letters to myself declaring burning love and saucier things, AND some fish earrings and some boring old raisins, and some pumpkin pocky, boy howdy.  Geez, nobody told me pocky was delicious.  You guys are such holdouts.  Yum.  *eats pocky*  snap snap. :P

Current music:

Cao Thang on Urbanspoon

Dragon Beard Candy on Urbanspoon