sandwich

The 2014 Rogers Cup in Montreal

Sara Errani

Sara Errani

My vist to the Rogers Cup in Montreal capped a “day of firsts” for me. It was the first time that I got to lay eyes on future hall-of-famer Serena Williams in person. She was in full-focused training mode, practicing for her next match-up. “Intense” would be the word I would choose to best describe my first encounter with one of my most beloved players.

It was the first time that I actually enjoyed concession food at a tennis tournament. The “Turkey Bretzel” managed to almost live up to its otherworldly $11 price tag . A cross between a baguette and a pretzel, this conveniently portable sandwich was stuffed with deli turkey meat, tomato, lettuce, cheese and mayo. Although made for the masses, the Bretzel managed to satisfy my hunger and delight my taste buds. Thumbs up!

As luck would have it, It was my first time to bask in the presence of two of the world’s best women’s doubles players, and my personal favs, Kveta Pechske and Katarina Srebotnik. I sat there staring adoringly for close to an hour watching them practice and punch out laser-like volleys and talk strategy. After they wrapped up, they even took the time to snap a pic with yours truly. I found them to be kind, funny and very cool.

After a day of watching the world’s best tennis players, what better way to reflect on the day’s action than to chow down on a big ol’ Montreal smoked meat. I made my first trip to the MTL landmark, Schwartz’s Deli. Also known as the Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen, the deli was established in 1928 by Reuben Schwartz, a Jewish immigrant from Romania. According to its website, the unique flavour of their smoked meat is attributable to their mandatory 10 day meat curing time, the high turnover of their meat, and their brick smoke-house which just happens to be covered with over 80 years worth of buildup. Hmm.

Our wait in line was negligible. We were stuffed into a 6-seater table next to a couple and their two children. We couldn’t help but overhear the dad regale his kids about his childhood memories of Schwartz. A parade of fatty smoked meat, sour pickles, fries and frankfurters made their way to their side of the table before being quickly gobbled up.

We had Schwartz’s signature dish, a smoked meat sandwich served on rye bread with yellow mustard. The meat is served by the fat content: lean, medium, medium-fat or fat. The sandwich was indulgent and delicious. Tender and smoky meat piled high on soft rye bread with just enough tangy yellow mustard. Schwartz is now firmly entrenched as a Cool Food Dude favourite and has “repeat visit” written all over it.

With a full belly and an iPhone full of snaps of the tennis elite, the “day of first” was concluded. Thank you Rogers Cup for delivering another first-class enjoyable event full of action-packed matches and happy, fan-friendly tennis players. And thank you Schwartz Deli for serving mouth-watering and crowd pleasing deli staples. I’ll be seeing you very soon!

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{Guest Blog} Pressed Urban Gourmet Sandwich Bar: soooo not a hipster fortress. But hip? Sure.

I seem to be surrounded by people who are obsessed with food. It’s pretty much all folks want to talk about. For a while now my friends and family have hinted about getting in on the blogging action. So why not let them? Here is a guest post courtesy of my friend Zimby. Enjoy!

Pork Belly. Allow me to repeat those two simple concepts. Pork. Belly.

If you’re like me, those two words trigger a veritable eruption of sensations, among them lust (yes, lust), desire, salivation and greed. That last one is important. Greed. For there is never, it would seem, enough pork belly on one’s plate to sate those carnal urges rending the very fabric of our civility. Must. Have. MOOOOOORE! But we’ll get back to this swinish nectar of the gods later.

One evening last month, your humble servant and that other humble servant (you know, the cool dude who writes about food) and I ventured into the funky neighbourhood that is home to Pressed Urban Gourmet Sandwich Bar. We were accompanied by the lovely Catherine, who wanted to check out this “hipster fortress” – so named by a displeased reviewer on Urban Spoon.

Our first visit was on a Friday evening at 7. We had reserved a table for 6:30, but two of us were late. Cool Food Dude, punctual to a fault, was patiently waiting for us when we arrived, adopting his usual pose: seated, shoulders slightly hunched over his faithful iPhone, no doubt checking up on some stupid reality show or other… The ambiance was indeed hip. A lamp in the Rococo style sat just to our left. Exposed vents? Check. Trendy art work? Check. Wooden school desks (circa 1970s) standing in for dining tables? Oh yes, definitely check. The only non-hipster accoutrement were the mustard colour walls. Please. Sooooo 90’s.

Pressed Urban Gourmet Sandwich Bar, 750 Gladstone Ave., Ottawa

 

Our first foray to Pressed was for dinner. Service was friendly, attentive and charming. The server was a newbie – if memory serves, it was her very first night. Her unfamiliarity with the menu was more than made up for by her eagerness to please. Pressed allows community groups to have meetings on the premises. While we were there that evening, there was a prayer-group-slash-community-action gathering from the Afro-Canadian community, having a lively conversation that was much fun to eavesdrop on.

As for the food, both C.F.D. and Catherine maddeningly ordered the same dish: pan-seared Whalesbone trout with orange glaze, tarragon butter and sautéed kale. Both termed it very nice, if somewhat on the plain side. And indeed, the fish, not to mention the presentation, was a bit naked. But still, a generous portion of trout, cooked just right. Yours truly ordered the five-spice pork belly on dragon noodles. Ah yes. Pork. Belly. Now, pork belly can be cooked a myriad of ways. But let’s look at two in particular: you can dry bake it at low temps for a few hours, let it sit for a while and then crisp it under a broiler or on the barbeque, so that it is flakes succulently apart with your fork, with the meaty flesh oh so tenderly giving way to the crispy, bacony layer of fat. Like what they do at Café Odile. Or should I say, like what they USED to do at Café Odile, as, sadly, that beloved resto is about to close its doors. Or…

Five-spice pork belly on dragon noodles
Pan-seared Whalesbone trout with orange glaze, tarragon butter and sautéed kale

You can do what they do at Pressed: render away most if not all of the fat, leaving behind a chewy, less fatty and, hence, less flavourful concoction. Good? Hell yeah. But not the earth-shaking, orgasmic experience of the aforementioned variety. And to Pressed’s credit, they give you a HUGE portion of pork belly. So in some respects you’re getting quantity over quality, although as I said, the quality is perfectly fine. The spicing was just right, and the noodles were cooked perfectly. After dinner, my companion had an allongé coffee. It was bland, barely passable. More on the coffee later.

We spoke to the owner after our dinner. A very affable chap who expressed the hope that we’d come again. And sure enough, we did – the very next morning. He seemed genuinely pleased to see us. We had heard wonderful things about the brunch, and I am pleased to report that we were not at all disappointed. For brunch, you order at the counter and get your meal delivered to your table. In our case, the meal deliverer was a delightful young woman made up to look like a hottie straight from the 40s or 50s. Hair up in a bun, high heels, hip hugging skirt with an explosion of bright red on the lips. Seriously, this woman looked just like my mom, circa 1958. Hi Mom! Love you.

Onto the food. Catherine ordered the florentine – Wilted Swiss chard, poached eggs, house-made hollandaise served on a buttery waffle. The eggs were cooked PERFECTLY. Runny but not too runny, just the right degree of firmness. The waffle could have flown away on a feather, such was its airy, fluffy lightness. And the sauce was nice and tangy. Yours truly had more of a dessert waffle, with a gazillion local strawberries sitting on a bed of fresh whipped cream, lying atop that same wonderful waffle. Simple, yet just right. One sour note, though (and I mean that literally): the filtered coffee was dreadful. A sour taste to it, made with what seemed like fishy water. Thought it might be the mug, so we got a fresh cup, but equally disappointing.

Florentine
Dessert waffle

Final verdict: a fun place to hang out, with solid food for the most part, great service, nice surroundings and crappy coffee. Oh and do try the pork belly, won’t you?

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