February 9th, 2010

(no subject)

Dr. Jeff Masters' compiled a list of the top snowstorms on record for Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, and helpfully set this season's storms in bold. From his blog entry:
Top 9 snowstorms on record for Philadelphia:

1. 30.7", Jan 7-8, 1996
2. 28.5", Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
3. 23.2", Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)

4. 21.3", Feb 11-12, 1983
5. 21.0", Dec 25-26, 1909
6. 19.4", Apr 3-4, 1915
7. 18.9", Feb 12-14, 1899
8. 16.7", Jan 22-24, 1935
9. 15.1", Feb 28-Mar 1, 1941

The top 10 snowstorms on record for Baltimore:

1. 28.2", Feb 15-18, 2003
2. 26.5", Jan 27-29, 1922
3. 24.8", Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
4. 22.8", Feb 11-12, 1983
5. 22.5", Jan 7-8, 1996
6. 22.0", Mar 29-30, 1942
7. 21.4", Feb 11-14, 1899
8. 21.0", Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
9. 20.0", Feb 18-19, 1979
10. 16.0", Mar 15-18, 1892

The top 10 snowstorms on record for Washington, D.C.:

1. 28.0", Jan 27-28, 1922
2. 20.5", Feb 11-13, 1899
3. 18.7", Feb 18-19, 1979
4. 17.8" Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
5. 17.1", Jan 6-8, 1996
6. 16.7", Feb 15-18, 2003
7. 16.6", Feb 11-12, 1983
8. 16.4", Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
9. 14.4", Feb 15-16, 1958
10. 14.4", Feb 7, 1936
I wonder what this week's storm will be called. At this rate, they're going to run out of cutsey names.

(no subject)

On Saturday we found out the hard way that Glacier Bilboquet (1311 avenue Bernard, Outremont)--home of some of Montreal's best ice cream, closes from the beginning of January to the middle of March.

You can still get some of their ice cream cakes at the depanneur on the corner, but if you want some hand-scooped ice cream, you are out of luck.

La Banquise

In my brain-dump of Montreal late night food last summer I mentioned a lot of places I didn't do a full listing for. La Banquise is one of them.

On Saturday night we decided to introduce bercilakslady to poutine. The natural place to do this was La Banquise, since we could be pretty sure their vegetarian poutine was actually entirely meat-free. Moreover, they dish up some of the best poutine in town.

La Banquise
994 Rachel East, corner of Lafontaine Park
Montreal, QC H2J 2J3
tel: +1.514.525.2415
fax: +1.514.525.5996
email: restolabanquise@hotmail.com
Metro: Mont-Royal, then bus 11
no credit cards
open 24 hours, 7 days a week
(between 9PM and 5AM you pay when you order)

La Banquise serves 25 different varieties of that Quebec delicacy, poutine. A basic poutine is nothing more than fries covered with cheese curds and gravy, but as with most simple dishes, the trick is starting with quality ingredients. La Banquise gets all the parts right: the fries are excellent, the cheese is fresh, and the gravy is savory and flavorful.

And it's inexpensive: bedfull_o_books got the Obélix Poutine, which is topped with smoked meat ($7.80), bercilakslady got the Veggie, with peppers, mushrooms, and sautéed onions ($6.75), which she confirmed did not seem to have a meat sauce. Both of them ordered the regular size, rather than the large, as the regular makes a meal in itself. If you order the large you'd better be sharing.

I got the spaghetti with meat sauce and smoked meat ($7.25). For an extra $2.95 they add soup, dessert, and coffee. The spaghetti is good diner-quality spaghetti. The soup was a thick turkey and rice with a rich, smoky flavor, and was one of the two soup specials that day (the other was squash). They'd run out of chocolate cake, which had been my choice over carrot cake, but they offered me what bedfull_o_books identified as a nanaimo bar instead. The coffee was again good diner-quality coffee, although there was no decaf.

Service was good, even though the servers were busy with a noisy weekend evening crowd. There are a variety of sandwiches and breakfasts if you're not interested in poutine, all in that same price range. They also have a variety of microbrews available, and in summer there's an outside terrace.

I've always thought poutine a winter food, although that hasn't stopped me from eating it during the summer. But that density of calories and fat really helps sustain you when you're out in single-digit fahrenheit weather, which is what we had to deal with afterwards, when we waited for the bus to take us back to our hotel.

And that's really the only bad thing about La Banquise, other than mild annoyance of the hipster crowd that frequents it: it's not really convenient to any metro stop. Both Mont-Royal and Sherbrooke are annoyingly far. On a warm summer night, it's not a big deal to walk from either. Saturday night with the thermometer at 8ºF, was another story entirely. Fortunately the 11 goes from right in front of Mont-Royal Metro to within a half block of the door.

24/7, cheap and good. Can't really go wrong there.

La Croissanterie Figaro

A couple of years ago seabound told me about this great cafe with fantastic croissants, but she couldn't remember either the name of the place or exactly where it was, although she did tell me the neighborhood and described its dark red awnings. I took that as a challenge and wandered around the neighborhood--not much of a hardship--until I found a place that seemed like it might have been the right one. I went in, got a croissant to take away, and a business card. The croissant was excellent, so I figured I was onto something regardless.

As it turned out, it was the right place. It still is.

La Croissanterie Figaro
5200 Hutchison (corner Fairmount)
Outremont, QC H2V 4B3
daily 0700 to 0100
bus: 51, 80

This is more than just a croissant bakery. It's a rather charming French neighborhood cafe: the sort of place where you order some items and can then spend the entire afternoon if you like. I believe cmeckhardt told me she did just that a couple of times last summer, in fact. The temptation to order just one more coffee, hot chocolate, or pastry is often too great to resist. We couldn't. The management and staff are very nice about your lingering, even if they are busy, as they were this Sunday morning. In warm sunny weather the tables on the sidewalk terrace are particularly inviting.

The croissants are first-rate, of course, as are a number of similar pastries, and not particularly expensive. I had an open-faced breakfast sandwich special (croissant, egg, ham, cheese, tomato) served with coffee and orange juice for $7.95. bedfull_o_books and bercilakslady got croissants of various sorts, all for a couple of dollars each, and some fruit salad with yogurt and honey. Quiches, salads, and the like are also available.

In the evening they serve light dinners, with specials listed on a chalkboard, which also lists wine specials. I've never tried either because I've never managed to get there in the evenings.

They also have a selection of their croissants and pastries for take-out. Prices at the take-out counter are cheaper than eat-in prices, as is normal for a cafe.