Montreal: Day 1

Thank goodness I’ve finally forced my fingers to start typing this post—I’ve been ever so eager to share my experience in Montreal, but wanted to postpone doing so until arriving back home, which those damn Delta employees delayed by half a day. Nevertheless, insolent airline staff cannot mar my fond memories of interpreting snippets of old Frenchmen’s conversations, strolling along hip boulevards painted with eclectic street art, and sampling some of Montreal’s finest vegan cuisine.

Street art on Saint-Laurent.

Upon arrival mid-morning on Saturday, March 31, my longtime pal, current McGill student of art history/Jewish studies, and inspiration for my veganism, Lisa, excitedly greeted me at the airport. Knowing me all too well and correctly assuming that I had researched vegan-friendly Montreal eateries prior to my arrival, Lisa immediately inquired “so what’s the plan for lunch?” I mentioned Aux Vivres, Lisa’s favorite Montreal restaurant, to which she joyfully consented. After unloading my luggage at Lisa’s dorm, catching the underground Metro, and taking a pleasant stroll up Boulevard Saint-Laurent, we arrived at the sunny, upscale diner-esque door of Aux Vivres.

Forever head-over-heels in love with the vegan bowl concept, I had hungrily eyed the “Bols” section of the Aux Vivres menu since first Google-searching the restaurant. However, since we unknowingly paid our visit during their brunch hours, I momentarily panicked at the notion of missing out on my coveted bowls, only to breathe an enormous sigh of relief at the sight of a single bowl offering on the brunch menu: the Dragon Bowl. Shredded beets, carrots, daikon, lettuce, sprouts, red cabbage, and grilled sit atop a mound of warm brown rice, all sprinkled with dulse and toasted sesame seeds, then slathered with Dragon Sauce (made from real dragons! Or more likely a slightly sweet, tangy mixture of tahini, ginger, and other Thai-inspired ingredients). Complete with a boatload of vibrant, crunchy veggies, two triangles of very simply flavored yet perfectly charred and chewy tofu, a comforting pile of brown rice, and a finger-licking sauce to coat the entire mix, the bowl served as a satisfyingly light lunch to sustain me through a lengthy afternoon promenade without feeling at all weighted down. As a self-proclaimed sprout fiend, I must also mention my deep appreciation for the behemoth handful of alfalfa sprouts atop the bowl. Two thumbs very high up for Aux Vivres.

Meal Checklist: Protein—tofu, sesame seeds. Whole Grain—brown rice. Vegetables—beets, carrots, daikon, sprouts, red cabbage. Leafy Green—lettuce, dulse seaweed.

After a quick stop at Aux Vivres’ take-out counter for a bottle of kombucha (brewed locally by Montreal’s gourment raw restaurant Crudessence), Lisa and I continued to meander through the Saint-Laurent neighborhood. I happily sipped my “Passion” flavored kombucha—an invigorating and complex blend of rosehips, hibiscus, and green tea with lovely accents of ginger—as we hopped inside a small shop completely devoted to mushrooms, browsed through racks of vintage clothing, and made our way to an adorable indie cafe called Pikolo for an afternoon pick-me-up.

A first taste of Canadian kombucha!

Mushrooms galore.

Rooibos Pacific Sunset tea at Pikolo.

Lisa and I Metro-ed back to her dorm, where I completed an energizing treadmill workout and built up an appetite for some light, salady type fare to account for the lack of a monster lunch salad to which I’ve become so accustomed. To my and Lisa’s astonishment, we ended up discovering a restaurant online whose website I had not already perused, since all the eateries on my pre-approved list had already closed for the evening. Promising exactly the vegetable-dense, wholesome goodies we both craved that night, Cafe Juicy Lotus offered healthy vegetarian takeout with an ever-changing menu of of local, organic, seasonal produce.

We both opted for a plate full of a sampling of that day’s salads from behind the deli case—a bright red, citrusy mix of beets and red cabbage with a hint of ginger; a quinoa salad with bean sprouts, broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms; and a creamy broccoli salad with spinach and bean sprouts coated in an avocado dressing. I also nabbed a bottle of veggie-laden green juice to enjoy for breakfast the next morning.

 

Meal Checklist: Protein—none, though quinoa does contain a fair amount. Whole Grainquinoa. Vegetables—beets, red cabbage, carrots, avocado, mushrooms, bean sprouts. Leafy Green—broccoli, spinach.

A swing across the street to a grocery store for green smoothie supplies and a short Metro ride to Lisa’s dorm concluded my introductory and immensely enjoyable first day in Montreal. I fervently anticipated a wonderful Sunday, awaiting a visit to the local farmers market, a search for my prom dress, and an outstanding raw dinner at Crudessence.

Restaurant Information:

  • Aux Vivres—4631 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal, Quebec. (514) 842-3479.
  • Pikolo Espresso Bar—3418 B Ave du Parc, Montreal, Quebec. (514) 508-6800.
  • Cafe Juicy Lotus—5568 Monkland Ave, Montreal, Quebec. (514) 507-6268.

Until next time, Ali.

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