The highlight of my trip to Montreal, this year, was an eye-opening study in contrast; two worlds colliding. A symphony of athletic prowess juxtaposed next to an opus to excess. The pursuit of glory and the pursuit of gluttony. Pure discipline vs. pure gourmandize.
Let’s begin with the good. Playing professional tennis requires hours of devotion and years of sacrifice. I marveled at the players’ talent and physicality. Seeing them up close is a wonder. In what was very lucky break for me, I got to see, meet and shake the hand of my favourite player, Filip Peliwo. I caught him after a lengthy practice and he couldn’t have been kinder or more polite. This man is a terrific player with fiery determination, cocky swagger and a never-say-die-go-after-every-shot resoluteness. His play can be electrifying and goose-bump inducing. He’s still trying to find his way on the tour and, I believe that he will one day be amongst the world’s best. Did I tell you that I got to shake his hand? 🙂
Of course, Filip fanboying aside, I got to be in the presence of many top players. I stood about a foot away from eventual champ, Andy Murray, watched Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov dutifully practice, and I witnessed the return of the bespectacled one, Janko Tipsarevic.
This year’s Open had some pretty decent concession fare, as well. A chicken sandwich that included an honest to goodness chicken breast, and a combo platter made up of a ham and cheese sandwich on a baguette was served alongside a tomato salad and chocolate cake. It was very civilized given the occasion and milieu.
Disclaimer. I attend the Rogers Cup to bask in the presence of the world’s most elite tennis players. I gawk, observe, touch, run after, pose with and marvel at. It’s an exhilarating and sometimes exhausting endeavour that requires regular fuel ups throughout the day. Although I am thankful for the rationed IÖGO yogurt and Lindor chocolate samples, they are certainly not sufficient enough to sustain me for a day of chasing after Rafa and Nole.
I am usually quite ambivalent of sport arena grub. I’m there for the event. I don’t expect stadium food to be a first-class gastronomical wonder. But in a culinary mecca such as Montreal, I yearned for something a little more palate pleasing. This longing set me up for a big letdown.
For lunch, I ingested a hapless sandwich named “The Baguettini.” It was sad, painful and even insulting to eat. The hard, dry exterior managed to sheer off the skin on the roof of my mouth. The sandwich’s interior contained a tasteless collection of flavourless turkey, soggy lettuce and some kind of spread. This rather unpleasant experience cost a whopping $11.50.
After having scored a pic alongside Milos Roanic and snapped some shots of Nadal and Djokovic, some substenance was required. After my last experience, I was wary to venture into anything too adventurous, so poutine was my next selection. The iconic dish is a Quebec native. Perfection was not expected but I didn’t anticipate the sloppy, deplorable, unappetizing mush that I was subjected to. Disappointing.
Was I just bad at making the right choices?
Seems not. I was saved by a food on a stick in the form of a mango flower. Imagine a whole mango, peeled and carved into a blossom. Wacky novelty? Yes. Delicious and beautiful? For sure. Manly? Not so much. But a relative bargain for under $5.
So what’s the lesson here? The Rogers Cup is Disneyland for adults. A rip-roaring fun place to marvel at the brilliance of professional tennis. Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Roanic and Simon are a wonder to behold. But the food? Well, let me set myself a reminder for next year. Pack a lunch. It will save me from the unsavoury alternatives of the concession stand.
|Stan Wawrinka (with little man on his shoulder)|