These last few weeks have been quite a whirlwind for me, moving across the country to the other side of the coast to Toronto and then, before I’d even unpacked, I just had to attend the FBC (Food Bloggers of Canada) Conference in Montreal. I’m so glad I went to Montreal for the weekend as it turned out to be quite an experience.
Travelling to Montreal on Via Rail Business class from Toronto
Turned out to be one of the best travel decisions I’ve made in a long time. It was worth the little bit extra to book a Business class seat and it gave me the time I needed to unwind and relax, before getting to Montreal. It had been a hectic few days with the move across the country, returning to working in law again and then rushing to this conference. The train ride was just the perfect start to the wonderful weekend. After a nice cup of tea in the morning with some biscuits (Cookies are still biscuits for me), I was pleasantly surprised by a full platter of breakfast.
The fruit was nice and fresh, the croissant was freshly baked, the spinach frittata was warm and fluffy, and the sausage wasn’t bad either. The potatoes weren’t exactly the best but considering everything else, they were passable. I thoroughly enjoyed the generous breakfast but couldn’t finish the whole thing. I should have napped after this meal but I was way too excited to go to sleep. Jeffrey Archer kept my brain stimulated as I read one of his books and the stewardess kindly kept me topped up with tea, water and munchies most of the morning. 11am she opened the bar but it was way too early for me and I didn’t fancy walking into the conference a little tipsy.
The Conference was at the Le Westin Hotel in Old Montreal, which was perfectly located from the train station as it was a very short cab ride away. If I didn’t have a suitcase, I probably could have walked but I love the little luxuries.
I was one of the fortunate ones to go on a culinary tour organised by Montreal Tourism, so the fun started soon after I checked into the hotel. Our culinary tour guide, Ronald Poire from VDM Global DMC was an amazingly informative guy who had a mine of historical information about the culinary scene of Montreal. I am definitely planning on going back to Montreal for another culinary exploration trip one of these days.
We walked the culinary streets of Montreal and discovered some hidden gems.
For instance one of the first Hot Dog joints – still very popular and offering a real authentic diner style experience.
The restaurant that has no name – it is a nameless restaurant that is not advertised anywhere but people ‘who know’ go there for special meals. It doesn’t even advertise its opening hours or the type of food they serve but it is very busy in the evenings and weekends. We were there at the wrong time of course.
We visited an amazing French restaurant EVOO (I’m sure it’s not named after Extra Virgin Olive oil) where we were fortunate enough to taste some special samplers specially prepared for us by the Chef.
The Chef at the Restaurant was very passionate about his food and he loved talking about how he creates his dishes as well as the quality ingredients he uses. Its definitely a place to eat at when visiting Montreal.
A very modern contemporary feel to the restaurant and pleasant staff complete the picture. I loved the decor and the way some unique things were displayed, like that wooden shovel on the wall (behind the Chef).
Apart from the delicious Appletiser style bubbly wine that was served at our table, I loved this appetiser that was made with fresh homemade Ricotta that the Chef makes fresh every morning. The Ricotta was out of this world – melt in your mouth creamy and the crispy beet and radish pickled batons in the salad were perfectly paired with the ricotta. I could have eaten a bowl of just the ricotta on its own! The Chef even bakes his own fresh croutons every day.
After the restaurant we paid our homage to a wonderful little hidden gem of a food store called Henri, that also has a restaurant attached to it. We only visited the shop part of the restaurant where they had prepared some appetisers for us – the homemade sausage bites were delicious but the Duck foie gras canapes were almost scandalous. I did end up buying a can of foie gras mousse to take home as it was so difficult to walk away without actually buying something.
Did I mention they also make their own Cola? It was a fantastic Cola that was not too sweet but was packed full of flavour. The freezers were full of homemade goodies, but one that really intrigued me were the Kraft Dinner Sausages 🙂
I may not be a Kraft Dinner fan, but it was difficult to walk away from something like this. If I lived nearby, I would definitely have purchased a packet of these just to try them out. But on a serious note, the homemade sauces and frozen meals looked nothing like the pre-packaged dinners we normally see at food stores. Another place definitely worth visiting when in the area.
As soon as we got back to the Hotel, we had to get ourselves together for the evening reception that had been co-sponsored by a lot of food companies, and we got to taste a few goodies from everyone.
This young man from Love Crunch was unashamedly promoting their new Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter flavour, which went down very nicely with the young ladies there that evening 🙂 But, the new flavour by Nature’s Path was superbly crunchy and amazingly addictive. It worked as a wonderful topping on Vanilla ice cream too.
The Zero calories Shirataki Mushroom noodle Salad by House Foods was another favourite – it was light, crunchy, crispy and packed with flavours. The fact that it was gluten free and fat free made them very popular.
Mushrooms Canada had an amazing display of fresh mushrooms that had been picked and delivered the same morning and the mushroom canapes were scrumptious.
The Egg Farmers of Canada had my absolute favourite devilled eggs and I would have happily gone back for seconds, but there was seriously a lot of food to taste that evening, and this was all before dinner.
Another favourite of mine were the Canadian Lentils canapes
The Dinner that evening was kindly sponsored by the Turkey Farmers of Canada and it was a spectacular meal. The Cranberry Cocktail started off our evening really well and it kept on getting better with each course of meal that followed.
My favourite course of the evening was the fabulous looking and tasting main course which was the Turkey Paupuette, King Oyster mushrooms, Chevre Noir goat cheese, Butternut squash puree, Sortilege Whiskey sauce and Turkey sausage wonton with Sage beurre blanc, in short fantastic!
Needless to say, after the evening’s entertainment which was 10 short foodie films, I went to bed tired, content and excited for the early start the next day. But my surprises for the evening hadn’t quite finished, as when I returned to my hotel room I found this waiting for me on the table by the Entertainer Wines.
The early morning scene did not disappoint when I walked into the breakfast room to find another amazing spread, sponsored yet again by our generous sponsors.
I loved my Salmon and Broccoli Omelet with sausages and some hash browns. A nice cup of tea and orange juice completed the delicious breakfast.
We were now ready for our speakers and the best Mc in the world Mairlyn Smith, who has the natural ability to throw F bombs most eloquently and in the most elegantly funny fashion.
Our keynote speaker was the very popular Ricardo and he came loaded with homemade cookies for us all!
Since we had received a special edition book from Ricardo in our Swag bag, I had to line up to get him to sign my copy for me and then, it was inevitable that I would also get a photo taken with him.
We then had a very informative session with Meghan Telpner and she got me thinking about
The SEO Expert Casey Markee got us thinking about sorting out our websites properly
The Copyright Lawyers sorted us out on professional and ethical issues, Lesley Harris on Copyright laws and Sarah Huggins on contests that we promote on our site, we also heard from a Chef, other food bloggers and local farmers on their take and viewpoint on our works.
We needed to take a Prairie Girls photo before the evening began to mark our yearly attendance at the Conference (it was my first one). We hadn’t planned on standing in order of our heights, it was by sheer coincidence 🙂
The meal on Saturday was sponsored by Canadian Lentils
And the spectacular entertainment by Cirque Eloize is a little difficult to explain, so I recorded most of it to share.
This was the Balancing Act
This was the Contortionist Salsa
and this was the Finale that left everyone a little out of breath – for different reasons
We all needed a drink after the excitement
But the fun continued on to the next day and Andrew Scrivani helped us put some sense into our photographs
High concentration and lots of notes were required to keep up with this session, for me in any case.
Thanks to him, I made sure all the photos I uploaded onto my site was a much smaller size to help people access my site easily on phones and ipads.
We also had an beautiful and surprising delicious Chocolate break, sponsored by Cacao Barry and I now need to find a place where I can regularly buy these in Toronto. The chocolate was not only beautiful to look at, but it tasted like ‘real’ chocolate – not far off my Belgian favorites.
For Lunch, the famous Schwartz was brought to us at FBC and they came with the whole carvery set up and even the bricks to make our experience memorable. Unfortunately it was a working lunch as we also had meetings with Sponsors lined up around the same time, but it was one of the best packed lunches ever.
Now my husband thinks I’ve gone crazy, as I have developed a new love for Cherry Cola. At the end of the conference, we had a couple of hours in which to experience some Montreal poutine and to buy some Fairmont bagels to take home with us. After an hours walk to the Poutine place, I saw the line up for the Poutine and left the poutine idea for the rest of the girls whilst I took a Cab to buy the Fairmont bagels.
For next time I know, that firstly, they only accept Cash and secondly, despite the fact that they are open 24 hours 7 days a week, be prepared for line ups.
The Sesame bagels, onion bagels and poppy seed bagels – despite buying half a dozen each I only have these left in my freezer for emergencies. They were worth the walk and the drive and the hassle and I would drive to Montreal in my car next time, just to be able to buy a boot full of them to bring back home with me.
After all the excitement of the weekend, my train ride back home on Viarail started with a Vodka Orange juice and some snacks.
Followed by a leisurely dinner of Flank steak with roasted vegetables and rice, and a triple chocolate cheesecake
I hate to admit it, but I slept all the way home.
I learnt a lot at the Conference and would be attending again and again. If you haven’t been to a FBC (Food Bloggers of Canada) Conference before, and are thinking about it, book early! Taking back things that I learnt from the Conference, I am already focussing a lot more on my blog and realigning it in accordance with our SEO Expert’s advice and Andrew Scrivani’s advice on the photographs. I’m currently redoing my website so the blog posts may be a little on the slow side as its ‘work in progress’ stage at the moment but I know it will be worth it in the end.
Please note that this is not a promotional or sponsored post. The views and comments above are strictly my own and I have taken my own photos. I have tried to post links on where I have mentioned other companies and bloggers, linking directly to their websites where you may obtain further information.