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Absolute Bagels - 2788 Broadway, New York

Absolute Bagels - 2788 Broadway, New York

2788 Broadway (between 107th and 108th St) - near Columbia U / Upper West Side NYC.
Phone: +1-212-932-2052 and +1-212 932-2105

These bagels are the best in New York City and therefore in all of the US. Perfect combination of chewy exterior and light interior. And they taste great too. Of course, people who like their bagels dense and chewy may not appreciate these bagels, but try these once and you might just change your mind. My second choice bagel place in NYC is Russ & Daughters at 179 East Houston Street, near Chinatown. Have tried all the usual other well-known places, but Absolute Bagels has the best bagels.

Mornings - especially weekends, be prepared for long lines. And if you want sesame bagels, arrive a few hours before closing - they may run out. This is important for me since every few months or so I buy a dozen plus eight bagels from NYC to carry back to Boston - really a downer when they run out of bagels. Best to call if you are going to get there late afternoon or evenings.

Unlike Montreal bagels, NYC bagels are pretty big. Which actually may be what allows them to freeze very well. They easily last 3-6 months in the freezer, and thaw out nicely, and still taste great. No need to slice them before freezing too, in fact, they are better off not sliced beforehand. Montreal bagels are good too, but they just don't freeze well - they don't taste as good after a stint in the freezer, have to eat them fresh.

Absolute Bagels Price: $12/dozen bagels (2012). They also have a small seating area, and also offer the usual toppings - cream cheeses, salmon, etc.

À propos de Stern - Montreal High Lights 2012

À propos de Stern - Montreal High Lights 2012

The 2012 Montréal en Lumière (Montreal High Lights) Festival - visited it the weekend of Feb 18.

It is cold, yet Montrealers find no problem enjoying live shows and music and food out on the streets!
Here's one of the cool shows: A Propos De Stern
It takes something I noticed just this year to a new level. This year I noticed a some buildings in Montreal showing animated pictures projected on the side of buildings.
This specific show is really engrossing. And the props and movement in the images fit very well with the windows on the wall of this building!

In addition to that they had a number of other activities. The program was dedicated to Wallonia-Brussels regions, so they were selling Belgian (French? No!) Fries, with Mayo of course.
Their blurb states: "Among the multitude of attractions, get ready for a mind-blowing new-generation interactive slide, projections and lighting displays redesigning the facades of the surrounding architecture, spectacular video mapping displays on the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan (3 displays nightly), illuminated musical spectacles, characters in illuminated costumes created especially for the MEL…"

I could not stay for the full festival - on Feb 25, they have a whole night of festival activities! Nuit blanche à Montréal: "Calling all nighthawks and nocturnal friends—Saturday, February 25, 2012 is the date set for the wildest night of the year!"... Maybe next year a US holiday will fall around Nuit blanche so I can make it up here then ... :-)

Some video snippets:
À propos de Stern - Snippet 1
À propos de Stern - Snippet 2

Just in case some links above stop working, here's the writeup from the High Lights web site:

KanBai - Fish in Fiery Hot Sauce

KanBai - Fish in Fiery Hot Sauce

Small Restaurant KanBai, at 1813 Ste. Catherine St. W. (near St. Mathieu St., Guy Metro). Phone: 514-933-6699

This is an amazing fish dish. Poached fish filet in hot chili soup is what it is called in the menu, basically fish in fiery hot sauce with lots of Sichuan peppercorns, and buried in the bottom layer and not visible in the picture is a layer of sprouts.
Healthy, and hot!

The portion as shown is huge - more than enough for two people. To be eaten with rice. (If one person eats all that, bound to make you feel sick! Starts off great, then the tongue numbs and eating this loses all pleasure.)

As mentioned in the Restaurants & Food Markets - Montréal page, this is a somewhat strange place with Japanese-sounding name and decor, but totally authentic Chinese food. The menu is also not explicit about Sichuan - many dishes are the real thing, not the fake Szechuan Chicken found in North American restaurants. Dishes here contain real hot red and green pepper, with generous amounts of the Sichuan peppercorn. So you have read the descriptions to recognize dishes - for example there is nothing called Dan-Dan noodles, but it is present - just named something like "Noodles with minced pork and hot chilli sauce"!

Unknown Singer in 59th St Subway NYC

Unknown Singer in 59th St Subway NYC

Picture from the video of a singer in the NYC Subway. More details at Unknown Singer in 59th St Subway NYC

Québec Cheeses

Local cheeses, all purchased from Montréal.

Related: the Poutine! pages contain information about fresh cheese curds.

Cheese Shops

Note that the US has some very strange, bizarre, and restrictive food import policies - see Meat, Cheese and US Border Crossings comment for details.

Moti Mehal - Beef Nihari

Moti Mehal - Beef Nihari

[2014: Place is closed now.]
Moti Mehal Pakistani and Indian Restaurant, near metro Acadie.
Beef Nihari with vegetable naan.
The naan looks good, but it was even better at a previous visit - looks like they have multiple cooks, and one of them makes excellent naan, while it just good with the others. The excellent vegetable naan is crusty and spongy at different times, and you can see the vegetables in it.
This was a very good restaurant to visit in this area, which has one or two other decent Indian restaurants.

Arouch - Armenian Pizza

Arouch - Armenian Pizza

Boulangerie Arouch , 1600 boul. de Maisonneuve West, near Guy metro.

Flatbread, pita, pizza - Armenian Pizza.

Two of the varieties are outstanding: Lahmajoun (beef, garlic, tomato), and Aleppo (cheese and hot pepper pizza. These are on a thin crust pita-like bread, and are a great snack or have two to three and make it a full dinner.

This is next to Guy-Concordia John Molson School of Business, which is convenient because it has tables where one can watch the stock ticker and it also has restroom facilities - very important to know for tourists.

Arouch home page and a Gazette review.


A dish unique to Quebec. BBC article: How the Quebecois came to love poutine.

Fries, Gravy, and fresh Cheddar Cheese Curds (fromage en grains) make poutine! An exclamation point seems necessary for this dish.

The process of making cheese from milk goes through a step that results in curds. These are small chunks of solid cheese that are not yet pressed into molds for the final aging process. Fresh cheese curds only last a day or two, therefore are only available in places where a lot of cheese is manufactured. Cheddar cheese curds are available widely in Montreal, and it is the key ingredient of poutine. Fresh cheese curds are easy to recognize - they will make a squeaking sound when you eat them.

From fast food joints to celebrated chefs, there is no shortage of places to get poutine in Montreal. Montreal Poutine has good information on all poutine places in that city.

Poutine fries should at least start crispy, and have sufficient amount of gravy to smother the fries.
The run-down looking Poutine Lafleur has pretty good poutine. This is the standalone place on Rue Wellington and not the chain of the same name. Maamm Bolduc was not as good - not enough gravy or cheese - but many consider it one of the best, so worth checking out. Many places that claim to be famous, or are very old diners that should probably have good poutine, do not. French fries may be limp and not crisp, sauce may be tasteless, and they dish may not be warm enough. So for a short visit, just try the known-to-be-good places, do not experiment.
La Cantine, closed in 2012. This bistro on Mont Royal had excellent poutine, in very nice surroundings. The fries stay nice and crispy to the last bite.

Bánh Mì

Bánh Mì

These are bánh mì sandwiches which use french baguettes and are filled with just the right amount (not too much) of meat. The menu is from Cao Thang at 1082 St-Laurent, just below René-Levèsque. There are three or more shops that sell these, right around and across this shop, and they are all excellent. The one across at Hoang Oanh at 1071 St. Laurent is especially good, probably the best of all in this area. The combination of the french bread hard crust and soft interior and the unique fillings invented by the Vietnamese is quite tasty. The green chillies give it an extra bite - ask for it! [2009 prices.]

Flushing's Chinatown

Discover a variety of Chinese (and Korean, etc) food on Main St, Flushing - last stop on the #7 Subway line. This is the second Chinatown in NYC, probably because downtown NYC was not big enough to hold all these new restaurants.

Good references: NYTimes Flushing Interactive graphic which also has a nice printout to take when visiting, and which links to the main article, which also has more tips from the readers in the article's comments section. A later article describes Dongbei cai, or the food of the Northeast, the area was known earlier as Manchuria.

The absolutely great things in this area: Sichuan food - spicy-hot with tongue-numbing Sichuan pepper ma-la experience, awesome lamb burgers with cumin and green chilies (in the Golden Mall, a collection of fast food restaurants in the basement off Main St - details in the NYT article), peking duck in snack form on a small pancake (fantastic Peking Duck, and sold at a window in a restaurant on the street), all sorts of dumplings, and the street stalls with $1 skewers of grilled spiced-meat ("Mongolian Barbecue?"). Finish off with bubble tea. And if you want to avoid eating out on the street, visit the Food Court in the Flushing Mall which has most of the similar foods.

Best items here?
1. Xi'an Famous Foods at 41-28 Main St Golden Mall Booth #36. It is confusing to find, enter the basement mall, take the left, cross two/three food booths, take a right, and this place on the left, probably the second/third store on the left. Just follow your nose and look for the sandwiches - their web site has pictures of their food. [Sep 2009] They are now in multiple places in Downtown Manhattan too!