Wait – aren’t we supposed to be reading “Tale of 2 Cities” !


I started to delete the following post – then decided that it would be more fun to just explain what I was trying to do!

I belong to an on-line book club. We have assigned monthly readings – and I’ve not been great about keeping up. It just takes me time to find a specific book, start reading it, finish reading it – and then review it. I’m good for about 1 in 10. So I was feeling bad about not keeping up – decided that since I could get a free (ibook – gotta love it) copy of a Tale of 2 Cities – I’d read that one.

Then I go on the review site – and one gal is talking about the total page-flipper that is the Divergent series. I’m plodding thru Tale of 2 Cities – she’s living the easy read life of the 3rd book in that series.

What can I say. I got a bit annoyed – and flung back the following post. And stupidly forgot to see who I was when I did it! So I posted as the Montreal Madame.com

Silly blonde moment. Sorry.

I will get back to posting here – I promise!

 

It’s unfair if someone (you know who you are) cheats by reading the book I wanted to be reading instead. I mean if we’re going to the Divergent series – let’s do it.

But assigning book A – and then reviewing Book D (hee, hee – Divergent – get it) – that’s so unfair.

I too am reading another book – a wonderful one that a real page flipper by Faye Kellerman called Blindman’s Bluff. But I’m also flipping my way thru Tale of 2 cities like the good solider I am.

Well – ok – guilt – I didn’t read last months – or the months before that. But I was skiing. It’s hard to read while skiing.

On to my take on the Tale.

I’m about 1/3 of the way thru. It was a free download on iBooks – my kind of price range – so that’s a huge part of my willingness to read it. I get frustrated by libraries. I mean you guys live in the land of sunshine and warm days. I’m battling 12 foot tall snow drifts, frigidly cold winds, and generally lousy weather. Libraries are out.

Book review:

A lot better than I remember it. That said – I might not have ever read it. I mean the opening – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – who hasn’t heard that. But never mind – the story reminds me a bit of a Tarzan book with Jane Austin over-tones. The same people keep ‘happening’ to run into each other – over and over and over again.

And who killed the Marquis? I think that’s a critical issue – but that topic is skirted around while the author flounders around fishlike (see I can stick to one image for most of a sentence) in the ilght and dark. I’m going for the guy that had his child run over by the Marguis’s carriage.

And who is she going to marry? I’m up to 2 or is it 3 proposals or at least heavily hinted at proposals – and the young lady in question is still taking care of her father.

(Can I read Divergent series too? We can discuss it!)

Bourbon and Burgers – Way too expensive for what it is


Give the Montage credit for calling a dog a dog. Bourbon and Burgers says – we’re serving burgers. And knowing it’s in the Montage, one of Deer Valley’s seriously expensive hotels means you have to know it’s not going to be cheap.

But over $150 for 5? For Burgers? We didn’t even have any Bourbon.

But you pay for luxury – and the Montage serves that up in spades. Driving up the windy road into the mountains that surround Park City, you turn into the Montage access road – and are immediately surrounded by glowing trees on all sides. The impact is magical. Continuing the experience, a valet greets you at the entrance, a concierge welcomes you to the Montage and directs you to your destination.

The location of Bourbon and Burgers is upstairs a bit from the Apex, the Montage’s high-end restaurant. It has a commanding view of the surrounding ski slopes, totally dark of course at this time of night. Deep dark wood, a roaring fireplace, a full bar, and elaborate service – even if they are only serving burgers.

The menu – true to its name – consists primarily of burgers. I totally enjoyed the ahi tuna ‘burger’, the rest of our group ordered more standard fare – the double burger and the classic. We also ordered an appetizer of fried pickles which was very disappointing, and every one ordered a different flavor of fries – I had Sweet Potato Fried – but there were also orders of Truffle Fries and Garlic Fries. None were outstanding – all were seriously expensive.

After dinner we wandered the public spaces of the hotel, spending most of our time in the Vista Lounge. Huge space, giant fireplace large enough to stand in, luxury games including a wooden version of Clue that featured inlay rooms, and offerings of Fondu, mulled wine and mulled cider. Best of all – the quite enjoyable piano player who unobtrusively provided background music. The Vista Lounge was definitely the best part of dinner.

Bottom line – if money is no object – go and enjoy the burgers. As for the fries – Montage – you need to up the anty on those. And either fix the fried pickles – or take them off the menu.

Shabu Shabu – Fun – but 5 minutes later you are still hungry


Park City is a very cool place with a wild geography. There’s an awesome Main Street – with tons of restaurants – all with prices to match. So while you can count on quantity of options, and probably some pretty decent quality – you are also going to be paying the price of being on Main Street.

Getting off Main Street offers lots of options but not things are definitely going to be further apart. About 7 miles away towards the highway is an area called RedStone. It’s really an outdoor mall (there’s a Best Buy and a Bed Bath and Beyond) with a collection of restaurants – one of which is Shabu Shabu.

We opted for the drive because the price was very right – and the restaurant promised to be a bit different from what we’d been enjoying. And different it really is.

One Park City Restaurant Observation – despite the cold weather, Park City Restaurants do not believe in Vestibules or curtains over door ways. So every time a guest walks in – so does a cold draft. The trick is to pick a table far from the door – preferably around a corner.

So – since the Shabu Shabu is long and thin with no corners – finding a table away from the draft proved impossible. Annoying, yes. A reason not to go back? No. But do choose your seats careful.

On to the food concept. The idea of Shabu Shabu is individual cooking pots. Holes in the granite table tops are specially designed to hold good quality cooking pots securely on flat top cooking elements. The pots contain water which the water seasons according to your taste (mostly soy sauce), and then you pick your dinner protein off the menu. There’s beef, pork, chicken, various fish, even Kobe Beef. Each protein option is presented with vegetables, udon noodles and rice.

You take your platter of protein and veggies and pop them into the hot water. Instructions from the waiter tell you to put certain veggies in earlier – other protein in later depending on the cooking time. Since all the proteins are sliced extremely thin cooking time is minimal. Also since they are sliced so thin, it’s hard to tell exactly how much meat you are getting – but given how hungry we were shortly after leaving the restaurant – I’m guessing the portions are a lot smaller than they appear.

Price depends on Protein type – ranging from a low of $14 for a ‘Regular’ portion of Pork or Chicken to $26 for a ‘Large’ Portion of Kobe Beef. The amount of veggies and noodles didn’t seem to vary.

You cook, you eat, you leave. Meal done.

It’s quite social since it takes time to cook and you can chat during the cooking time – and it’s quite good. But you are cooking yourself, and you are in control of the seasoning, so it’s hard to tell how much effort the ‘chef’ contributed.

The only problem – and it’s easily solved – we all ordered ‘Regular’ portions – and honestly – ‘Large’ would have been a better option. While we were full when we left – I’m not kidding about being hungry 5 minutes later. Good think we had ice cream in the fridge.

So choose your seat carefully to avoid drafts, order ‘Large’, and enjoy.

Windy Ridge Cafe – Bill White for the Budget minded


I’m still in Utah – having gotten myself a nice ‘boot bruise’ which trust me isn’t much fun. So I’ve been keeping myself interested by watching TV, answering email, Skyping with anyone who calls – and eating out.

So tonight we decided to try Windy Ridge Cafe. The deciding factor was a 2 for 1 entrée offer from the Bill White Group – that and the no reservations required vibe.

The restaurant is not on Main Street. Which means that you are going to go by car or bus – which in Park City is ‘off the beaten track’. This probably keeps the prices reasonable – and on a Wednesday night – the crowds away.

The menu entrees run between $20 to $30 dollars – with my Utah Red Trout crusted with almonds was just $23. Nice price – and it came with 2 sides, veggies and my choice of potatoes. My fish was a bit overcooked – but the Sweet Potato Fries made up for any lack on the fish. Other entrees at the table included a Ruben Sandwich, a French Dip (bread was gummy – but the meat was great), pesto salmon over linguine and my favorite on the table – a mushroom crusted Sirloin which was seriously yummy.

Desserts – while relatively low-priced (just $5.50 each) were ok – but honestly nothing to write home about.

Bottom line – casual atmosphere is great, food is good to a bit better than good, but dessert is better eaten at home (sorry Windy Ridge).

Windy Ridge Cafe on Urbanspoon

Bangkok Thai – A must enjoy if you go to Park City, Utah


My husband and I have been fortunate enough over the last 10 years or so to spend at least 2 weeks enjoying the skiing, the people, the scenery, and the food in Park City, Utah.

Home to the Sundance Film Festival, and some completely amazing ski hills, Park City hardly lacks in restaurants to enjoy. Unfortunately, many of them are seriously expensive – and during Sundance time – incredibly crowded. So every year we tend to stay out of the main city area during Sundance – but the one restaurant in Park City that we always make time to enjoy is the Bangkok Thai.

Main Street in Park City during Sundance is definitely a must see and a must walk. There are people everywhere, and outlandish dress is the norm. Fur is every where – as are high heels (in January – in Ski country?), there are celebrities to see, movies to watch, and lots of free stuff to grab. I particularly like the L’Oreal booth which offered free min-make-overs.

But this blog isn’t about Main Street and Sundance – it’s about our fab meal at the Bangkok Thai!

The restaurant itself is tiny, and normally seats maybe 50, but for Sundance they cram in extra tables – beefing up the number of people they can serve to around 100. Yes – it’s crowded, but never mind – the food is worth it.

The Bangkok Thai offers 2 tasting menus in addition to its elaborate menu. Feeling hungry, we opted for the 9 dish Signature menu since it had all the standard yummy dishes – including a to-die-for sea cod dish. We checked that they were willing to do the tasting menu – even during Sundance – and once we got an ok – we sat back to enjoy the meal.

First up was a lobster spring roll, delicate and light. Next was one of my favorite dishes – a tuna tartare – served on a crisp cracker. Yum. I also really enjoyed the Pad Thai, the Gentle baked Prawn, and the curry was outstanding – sweet and spicy at the same time. It was actually hard to be sure to leave room for the Sea Bass 3 ways – but I did. The only let down was the desert – which one has to wonder why they bother.

Service – given the crowded conditions and demanding clientele – was actually excellent. Fast when we wanted it to be fast – and slow when we started to feel full.

Bottom line – if you get to Park City – check out the Bangkok Thai – it’s definitely worth enjoying!

Bangkok Thai on Main on Urbanspoon

Tarahumara – Impossible to pronounce – but awesomely good Mexican


I’m in Park City, Utah – home of Sundance Movie Festival, Deer Valley Ski area – and some pretty incredible Mexican food. And the very best of the bunch is not located in Park City – it’s actually in Midway!

Located in a small shopping mall, this family run restaurant literally packs people in. We tried to go on a Friday night – too many people. We tried again on a Tuesday – and things were lots better – crowds had dispersed – and it was family night. There was a clown doing face painting – free – but you don’t go for the family entertainment.

Nope – you go for the food. On the blackboard over the simple counter is the list of intriguing options – from Mango and Pineapple Chicken Quesadilla to Mole Poblano, Scallops in Passion Fruit & Tomatillo Sauce to a selection of Burritos and Tacos.

You line up to order – get handed chips to carry back to your table, along with your table number. A quick trip to the 30 item salsa bar nets you a selection of different salsas – from ‘kids salsa (my favorite)’ to 3 fire versions that are clearly way hotter than I’m willing to try!

Weaving your way past table after table packed with families on a Tuesday night out, you finally score a table – make sure your number is visible, and wait. Sooner rather than later, your order arrives – more food than you can possibly eat at a price that makes you want to come back the next day. Can you say – Wow?

I got the Mango and Pineapple Chicken Quesadilla – and it was outstanding. Other dishes that appeared on our table included the Scallops, a Mole Pablano, and a yummy Ceviche. For dessert we shared the home-made cherry pie – gently warmed. And I picked up a giant-sized cookie to take skiing with me the next day.

Inexpensive, delicious, memorable, and fun. A prefect recipe for a repeat trip!

Tarahumara on Urbanspoon

Shen Yun – Interesting, but not Great


Heavily advertised with glorious pictures of flying dancers – Shen Yun has always been something I’ve been meaning to see. It comes to Montreal annually – so even though it’s gone on the greener pastures for this year – you can still catch it next year – or even this year if you live elsewhere.

All of which explains why I went – and why I’m blogging about the experience.

For those of you who haven’t seen the heavy-handed marketing efforts of Shen Yun – let’s me explain the concept. This is a 40 performer epic event staged at the big hall at Place des Arts. The marketing features lovely Chinese ladies in flowing outfits free leaping apparently in mid-air. I was totally expecting something out of Spider Man – or at least Peter Pan.

But the reality was just a bit different. First off – the staging is extremely centered – that means if you were on the sides, you got a cropped view. We solved that problem in the 2nd half by simply changing seats. Which gives you a good idea of the amount of vacant seats available. The row ahead of us was almost empty, as were all the lodges and as far as I could see – most of the balconies. Anyway – if you go – get centered seats!

And there are no flying feats. Lots of leaping – and some pretty incredible feet over head flying flips – but to convey the feeling of flying – they used the huge video screen behind the stage. Performers would jump off a raised area at the back of the stage – and disappear from view – only to re-appear almost instantly on the big screen. Their image would fly around – change shape, whatever – and then eventually the person would re-appear on stage. A modern adaption of the Laterna Magika , for those familiar with Expo 58.

Like the Laterna Magika – sometimes the magic worked – sometimes it didn’t. I particularly loved the segment with the Monkey King and the Evil Toad. The story is the traditional good conquers evil – but the character of the Toad was played with absolute stellar skill. And the movement between the stage and the screen made excellent sense.

Similarly – the story of Ne Zha Churns the Sea used the combination of Video and stage extremely well – the actor on stage would wave his magic hoop – the ocean on the screen behind him would react. Neat.

So there were bits and pieces that were outstanding – memorable, interesting, beautiful.

But no new ground was broken, and for the price – that seemed wrong. The stories were all short vignettes – which added up to a lot of theatre, but left one feeling a bit disoriented. A bit like going to a Juste Pour Rire Gala – some of the comedy is great – some just well – not so good.

Most disappointing to me personally however, were the two heavy-handed Falun Dafa sections. I know that this ‘spiritual meditation discipline’ (taken straight from the very expensive, tri-lingual program) is persecuted in China – but I found the black shirted ‘bad boys’ with their painted red hammer and sickle logo in poor taste. And I’m not a fan of heavily promoting any religion – so the dramatically staged final piece with Lord Buddha appearing left me cold. Similarly the 4 singing segments – clearly songs that resonate with Falun Dafa thinking, while well performed, were too heavy-handed because they were unexpected.

Would I go again? No. Would I suggest that you go? If you got seriously discounted tickets (free would be best), and you had no other option – then it’s not an unpleasant way to spend an evening.

But great? No.

Bistro 1843 – crazy location, awesome food


Who’d a thunk it? A crazily great place to eat on Ile Bizzard. I mean – I thought ile Bizzard was just about the golf courses – not about food.

But there I was – guests of a friend of ours who positively loves great food – and bring your own wine places. He’s clearly an ‘oeniphile’ – that’s someone who knows a ton about wine – with over 1000 bottles in his cellar – and he knows his food too.

So joining him somewhere new to you – but not to him – is definitely going to be good. And this was very very good.

The owners/chef are a bright young – completely bi-lingual couple – who just 6 months ago had their first child. The wife (Sara-Ann) is the hostess, waitress, and general friendly soul, while the husband (Karik) does the cooking – and great cooking it is. Meanwhile the baby is upstairs – with her night-nanny. Turns out the 2nd floor of the historic homestead turned gourmet restaurant is where they live. Talk about a seriously easy comute.

The restaurant has been open for 4.5 years – which just says that sometimes I’m incredibly slow at learning about new places. Our friends have eaten there dozens of times – and were greeted warmly by the hostess – who in addition to providing outstanding service – gifted us with an extra dessert. Given that our meal extended over 3 hours – and she locked up behind us – I’m pretty sure that extra dessert was our reward for last of the night!

Rumor has it that you must make reservations a month in advance – and our friends admit to thinking they have scored if they can get a reserveration with just a week’s notice – yes it’s that good, and that popular.

But I know you are waiting to hear about the food.

The menu is quite limited – as would be expected of a place with just 30 seats, and one chef in the kitchen. The Table d’hote – which just means off the menu – all the meals come with a soup or sald and dessert – had 3 offerings – of which 2 were outstanding. My friends adored their steak – one served with a bernaise sauce – made up to order since it wasn’t supposed to be served that way, and the other had the steak with the reduction of bacon and maple. Yummy. I positivied adored my meal – a completely yummy piece of cod served with figs. My husband’s lamb offering wasn’t quite as good as ours – so sorry dear.

The soup d’jour was a sweet potato ginger concuction that was a tad heavy on the giner – but not so heavy that my husband didn’t lick the bowl.

For entrees, following our friend’s suggestion – we ordered the scallops in curry. Oh my – that was easily the best dish of the evening.

Desserts were also excellent – well presented, and elegant. I tried the walnut tart – packed with walnuts and served with home-made ice cream. My husband had a blueberry upside down cake which he finished with joy. The free dessert i mentioned earlier was the flourless chocolate cake – heavy on cocolate and served with a maple ice cream that I loved.

So – good food, good wine, good friends – comfortable chairs, pleasant surroundings – and the feeling of being in a home – not a high turn over restaurant.

Great meals are made of this.

Bistro 1843 on Urbanspoon

Take a Trip on the WildSide! Well worth the $$


I know – it’s been over a month since I’ve done a post. And it’s not because I wasn’t busy doing stuff – it’s just plain old lazy if you ask me.

But tonight was exceptional – and it ends next week (Jan 15) – so you must hop right on this band wagon.

Billed as the hottest thing in Montreal in January (which given that today was a warm -7 – and yesterday was a much colder -30 is possibly true) – the WildSide Festival at Centaur has always had a warm and fuzzy place in my heart. At just $15 a show (down to $10 if you are a subscriber at Centaur – and buy the super pass) – it’s a steel. And this year two of the three plays we saw were absolutely outstanding.

V-card – which features 4 of Montreal’s most talented young performers wearing masks so that they portray over 20 different characters is a tour de force you do not want to miss. Not for the easily embarrassed – it’s a lively conversation about when you lost yours. And it’s fantastic. Go.

Iceland is even better if that’s possible. The 3 performers alternate telling a story – which starts off with a murder – and well – ends in an uproar. In between you get to meet the characters – who engage with the audience to tell their sides of the story. It’s a fab performance, brilliantly written to be both entertaining and enlightening. And trust me – you will come out the wiser for the experience.

Centaur – Wildside – Go!

Fluff – but fun fluff! St. Leonard Chronicles at Centaur Theatre


Sold out houses – night after night – says something about this fun to watch, and slightly heart warming play about an evening with an Italian extended family in St. Leonard. And it’s been extended to December. You have time to get tickets and join the crowd singing it’s praises!

There’s the young couple, their parents, and the mother of the mother of the husband – aka: Grannie. They are sitting around a dinning room table – behind them is a view into the kitchen that they can not see – being family. The direction alone deserves kudos. Roy Surette has managed to imagineer a small room with walls that yet is open to the theatre seating. You get completely the fact that this is not a huge home – in fact it’s a duplex/triplex – the young couple have renters that they manage below and above. By setting the kitchen above and behind the table, it is very easy to keep your eye on the action there – and yet build up unseen walls separating that action from what is happening in front.

The story unfolds as a string of conversations – starting with the Grannie who regales – for the hundredth time – her family with the story of what happened when she arrived in Canada.

Keeping with the Italian tradition – of course she and her young husband stayed with cousins they had never meet – living in a walk up served with an outdoor curving staircase. And of course the husband slips with the trunk half way up the stairs. Equally predictable are the reactions of the non-italian neighbors – Go home Wop! Maudit Italians!

Listening to the banter, laughter, and tall tales being told – you get a good idea of what life for this kind of extended family must be like.

There is a story of sorts – the kids are trying to make their lives better, the parents see any changes as change for the worse, and the old lady drinks wine and nods off from time to time.

I won’t ruin the play by revealing more of the story – but bottom line – the acting is terrific, the play itself a wonderful effort, and naturally the production values at Centaur is fabulous.

Join the troops – see the play. Everyone deserves an easy night out!