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End of summer

September 12, 2009

It is the first grey morning in recent memory. The lovely string of clear warm days with almost no humidity has been beautiful but I’m secretly a little glad for some clouds. It keeps the sun feeling like a gift when it comes. The season is changing, it’s unavoidable now. The red maple outside the kitchen window has a whole branch that has turned red already. I’d love this season with even more intensity if I didn’t know that many months of winter are around the corner. But I do love it nonetheless.

I love it for the sound of the school bus early in the morning. For the fog in the mornings that the sun takes so long to break through. For the increased energy I have and the quickening of events and harvest celebrations and weekend plans. There’s the sense that summer’s sluggish August haze is over and now it’s time to get back to work, head back to school, start over again.

A couple of weeks ago we took a two day trip to Montreal. And I’ll be frank, I’m not sure our intentions were ever really anything other than to eat our way through the city. My husband and his parents are the best eaters for a food trip because all three of them have discerning palettes and a genuine enthusiasm for most anything edible. A friend suggested the Jean Talon market in Little Italy (fervent thanks, Bill, for that recommendation) on Saturday morning. And that is exactly where we started. It was cold and raining and people were dressed in coats. But that was okay because the cold made us hungry.

The Jean Talon market is the largest open-air market in North America (according to its own website) and I’ve never seen such care taken to make all that food look beautiful. There was a totally different style there than we have at our farmers’ markets here. It was orderly, geometric, symmetric. We were disappointed (well, sort of) that we were eating out for two days instead of taking all those glossy fruits and vegetables home to cook. But we spent a long time looking anyway.

We tasted ice cider at a tasting at the edge of the market- we spent some time here, tasting, comparing different orchards’ varieties and appreciating how much more common cider is in Quebec than in Vermont.

We ate frites with flavored aioli that was pretty damn incredible. Bison sausage on little sticks, fried cheese from a cheese maker. Ralph tried wild mushrooms, and I had a crepe. The crepe was heaven- buckwheat batter, smeared with nutella. This flavor reminds me so much of our family trip to Paris when I was fifteen that I have to sit down for a minute (post-crepe picture below, note the smile). It was heavenly. I loved every second of it and if I’d had the opportunity, I would have eaten another one before we left.

The rest of the weekend continued in the same vein- fancy drinks before dinner, dinner at a Greek tapas place that looked suspiciously empty of patrons but turned out to be incredible. And the waiter knew exactly what I was talking about when I said I couldn’t eat gluten. For that, I am willing to forgive a lot of flaws, but there was no need because it was amazing.

Our last morning there, Ralph and I got up early and went down to the river with our cameras while his parents went to church at the Notre-Dame Basilica. I love this photo of him because it’s exactly how I like to think of him- camera in hand, absorbed in the moment. It was quiet and cold that morning, not many people around and lovely to be out and appreciating the city.

And so that trip felt like the beginning of fall- abundance at the market- the need for sweaters and jackets. Trees starting to change color. And the capstone was the chocolat chaud with cayenne- yes, it was cold enough for hot chocolate- from Suite 88 Chocolatier on Rue St. Denis. Note the urban intro on their website.  And this stuff was amazing. They melt dark chocolate and blend it with cream (not milk, cream) and add enough cayenne to make it difficult to stop drinking it- the heat catches up with you when you stop. It was decadent and lovely and we bought some to take home. I haven’t made any yet- I’m waiting for another cold day that needs some heat.

Photo credits to Ralph except for the morning fog photo and the photo of him, which are mine.

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