Saturday, July 6, 2019

Favorite Places in Montreal

Matthew is Concordia bound!
So, my son is moving to Montreal to go to Concordia University. While this might freak some parents out, I'm totally looking forward to visiting Matthew in his new adopted home!

My friend, Frank Douma, asked for some recommendations for his trip, and here's what I came up with. This is just a start, for sure!

La Banquise
994, rue Rachel Est
Montréal, QC H2J 2J3
The first time I ate here, my (then brand new) friend, Ligia Peña, brought Jim, Chris and me to have poutine as part of our "intro to Montreal" tour. Ligia spoiled us for all other poutine.

La Fromagerie Atwater
134 Atwater Ave
Montreal, QC H3J 2J4
La Banquise Poutine
Another Ligia recommendation, although it took us a few more visits to get here. I could spend hours at this cheese shop, and our cheesemonger, France (really, that was her name), was incredibly patient, packaging up kilos of cheese in a way that we could take it through customs and security at the airport.

Hand Roll at Au Pied de Cochon
Au Pied de Cochon
536 Avenue Duluth E
Montréal, QC H2L 1A9
If you want a hugely indulgent meal, go here. You must like foie gras and really rich food. I love how unpretentious this place is, and the food is really amazing.

Joe Beef
2491 Notre-Dame West
Montréal, QC H3J 1N6
Finally made it to Joe Beef. The key is to put yourself on the waiting list for a reservation as soon as you can and do it for every day you are in Montreal. And be prepared to change your plans! This place was worth the hype. Our server was very gracious and really felt like our hostess, and the food was exceptional.
(Strangely enough, I was not as enamored with their sister restaurant, Liverpool House, but that could be because we were sitting next to a really boorish guy that time.)

Horse tenderloin at Joe Beef
1101 Rue de Bleury
Montréal, QC H2Z 1N1
Hip place for seafood. Get as much as you can handle from the raw bar, as they have some hard to get items that are very fresh. Also, check out their cheeky humor at the restrooms.

Kinton Ramen
Various locations
This is Matthew's favorite ramen. I expect when we say that college students live on ramen, Matthew's experience will be very different. He likes the days when they have karaage ramen on special.

Chocolate. Need I say more?
Maison Christian Faure
Two locations
Incredibly indulgent and 'grammable desserts.

Montreal-style bagels
I am location-agnostic on this. I know locals have distinct loyalties to their bagel shops, but I'm not that nuanced yet. I even had one at the airport that I thought was great.

Other Things to do in Montreal
Notre-Dame Basilica
Visit during the day and in the evening if you can, because Aura, their evening multimedia display, is worth it.
Notre-Dame Basilica during Aura

Montreal History and Archeology Museum
I've been here four times and I still discover something new. Great multimedia displays to help you learn some history of Montreal.

Cirque du Soleil
If you're in Montreal in June or July, check out the way that Cirque du Soleil was designed to be seen--under the big top, by the Old Port. If you've seen Cirque in Vegas, or in their traveling shows, you still must see a show at the "mother ship."

Montreal Amphi-Bus Tours
Growing up in Wisconsin, these were the "Ducks" of Wisconsin Dells. The tour in Montreal is a great way to see a little of the city and get on the water if you are visiting in the summer.

Mount Royal
The namesake of Montreal, it's worth a jaunt up to Mount Royal to check out the view and visit the big cross.

Montreal Jazz Festival
If you're in town at the end of June and beginning of July, the Jazz Festival is totally worth it. The acts on the free stages are incredible, and the ticketed shows are amazing too.

There are so many things I haven't done yet in Montreal, so I'm looking forward to more reasons to visit!

Favorite Places in Los Angeles

Pretty much all of our posts are triggered by questions from our friends. This post is inspired by Chad Barger of Productive Fundraising, a nonprofit consultant colleague, productivity nerd, and generally all-around good guy. Follow him on Twitter at @fundraiserchad!

So the greater LA area is BIG. I can't even assume to be an expert on this metro, as I have spent most of my time in Pasadena, Burbank and Orange County. But, here are my picks anyway:

Musso and Frank's Manny Aguirre
Musso and Frank Grill
6667 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
Time to go old school. I have a soft spot for classic early 20th century style restaurants that still pride themselves on great cocktails, impeccable service, and traditional fine dining.

Din Tai Fung
Multiple locations in the Los Angeles area
I have not been to this location, but it is one of the ways that the Taiwanese are taking over the world. I've been to Din Tai Fung locations in Taiwan and Hong Kong. I love their pork and the crab and pork Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings).

Sashimi course at Hamasaku
11043 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Most good Asian restaurants in LA are in strip malls, it seems. While this place is a bit tricky for a first-timer to find, once inside, it's a little oasis. We had the omakase, and I was happy with almost all of the courses--the only critique I would provide is that I think there were too many heavier cooked dishes; I would have liked a little more balance in some lighter choices.

Counter at Pizzeria Mozza
Pizzeria Mozza
641 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Is this place worth the hype? Yes, it is. Eat at the bar if you can. Not as crazy busy for a late lunch.

Other things we like that are not restaurants, theme parks or something related to movie or television production
Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Disneyland and have had a blast at Universal Studios many times. But you have to do something else, right?

The Getty Museum
I've been to the Getty Center many times and I run out of time every visit. Amazing collection. I hope to check out the Villa sometime.

The Autry Museum of the American West
I didn't think this would be my jam, but I enjoyed it. I particularly enjoyed the Hollywood Western memorabilia.

I have several restaurants on my list to try, including but not limited to, of course:

Maybe it's time for a trip.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Favorite Places in Chicago

The Bean
Once again, I hear that a friend is going someplace, and that triggers a new post! This time, I can blame Kevin Heinonen, General Manager/Owner of Tinderbox Kitchen, the Annex Cocktail Lounge, and Tourist Home Urban Market. He's off to Chicago, so here are my favorites.

445 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
Rick Bayless' fine dining restaurant, this place serves Mexican food as we Americans never imagined it. Incredibly refined, subtle flavors and gorgeous presentation. I loved every course.

Gino's pizza
Gino's East
162 E Superior St
Chicago, IL 60611
Iconic Chicago style pizza. There are many deep dish places to choose from, but this is my favorite. This was one of three stops for the GoalBusters Pizza Crawl, where we rented a stretch Hummer for 20 of our closest AFP friends and toured Gino's, the Signature Lounge at the top of the Hancock, and Lou Malnati's. Tons of fun.

View from the Lounge
Signature Lounge at the 96th
John Hancock Center
875 N. Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
Beautiful views from the 96th floor of the Hancock Center. Keep this in mind when you gripe about the drink prices. Strangely enough, the ladies' room has one of the best panoramas of the city.

Like they said.
Billy Goat Tavern
430 N. Michigan Ave at Lower Level
Chicago, IL 60611
This is the original location. It's below street level, and not refined at all. That's why you go. Yes, you get a cheezborger and a beer. And chips.

Al's Italian Beef
Al's Italian Beef
Multiple locations throughout the Chicago area
It's another fast food icon in the Chicago area, and has been on many travel shows. It really is a great sandwich.

1723 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
One of the many creative courses at Alinea, pre-reboot 
Bucket list experience. Truly. Totally worth the hype. I went prior to the big reboot of the concept, so I can't directly testify to the experience now, but I'm sure it's still top notch. Make sure you've made a payment recently on your credit card so you can load it back up here.

Still haven't found my favorite hot dog place. Time to visit again.

Dessert at Alinea