Category Archives: Travel

J’adore le Petit Alep (je mange Montréal pt. 2)

le Petit Alep - the spread

On our final day in Montréal we went back to Marché Jean-Talon. I talked it up pretty good, and Joe wanted to see for himself. Of course, I took him to Olives et Épices and showed him the spices. I behaved myself, and only bought two more items.

For lunch, we headed to Le Petit Alep. It was on my list of places to have lunch, but I just wasn’t hungry enough to go before. This worked out perfectly, because the place is adorable and a perfect place to bring J.

Le Petit Alep specializes in Syrian, Aleppo and Armenian Cuisines and is the baby sister restaurant to Alep, which is right next door. Interestingly, Petit Alep appears as the second top rated Middle Eastern restaurant in Montréal (according to Urban Spoon), while Alep didn’t make the top ten. I doubt it has anything to do with the food, but likely the price. Alep offers fine dining, which no doubt accounts for the higher cost. On the other hand, Le Petit Alep offers incredible food, at a great price, with a really nice comfortable atmosphere. It’s a great restaurant experience in it’s own right.

I may have mentioned before that I can be frustratingly indecisive. I wanted to order one of everything. We settled on a vegetarian appetizer platter, some fried pitas with za’atar and cheese, and Armenian sausage. The waiter says to us ‘so, you’re really hungry?’. I guess we ordered a lot.

le Petit Alep - le végétarienne
"le végétarienne" - the veggie mezze platter

The appetizer platter was partly made up of things I knew, like Hommos (chickpea dip) and Metabal (Syrian babaghanoush, puréed roasted eggplant) and Yalandji (stuffed grape leaves) – all of which were amazing. The highlight for me, though was the Mouhamara, a dip made from breadcrumbs, pomegranate molasses and nuts. It was tangy and nutty and unexpected. I need to learn how to make this. What a great way to use up breadcrumbs!

le Petit Alep - Syrian Nachos
"Syrian Nachos" - fried pitas topped with za'atar and melted cheese

The fried pita dish was described by the waiter as being ‘Syrian nachos’, with fried pita crisps topped with seasonings and melted cheese. How can you say no to that? It was super fun.

le Petit Alep - Armenian sausage
Armenian sausage - nicely spiced

The Armenian sausage was a little inelegant looking thing, but well spiced and delicious. We were told to dip these in the sauces, which made it even more fun!

To end the meal, we had Turkish coffees scented with cardamom (they were probably Syrian coffees, but I asked ‘do you guys do Turkish coffee?’, and wasn’t corrected). It was the perfect way to end the meal, and send us on our way to Québec city. Au revoir, Montréal! Au prochaine!

le Petit Alep - Turkish coffee with Cardamom
Turkish coffee, scented with Cardamom

Ghosts of Christmas Markets Past

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Dortmund
The massive tree and drinking Glühwein with friends in Dortmund

My obsession with the German Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) began in late Fall 2006, on my first trip to Europe.

Being in Germany was a big deal for me – having been told my whole life that, being of German heritage, I had to go to Germany when I was older. Some of my early memories are of exploring the Christmas bazaar at the German hall. There were always handmade crafts, lots of food, singing and dancing. I didn’t know that it was the quiet offspring of a greater and older cultural event that happens every year in cities, towns and villages all over Germany.

I think I first understood the spirit of the German Weihnachtsmarkt in Dortmund. We were brought there by friends, who let it be known that you could not experience the market without having some Glühwein. The hot, mulled wine is served in keepsake mugs at the various markets. It keeps you warm, gives a wee buzz and leaves you with a memento of your time there. This would not be our only taste of Glühwein – I made a point of having some at both of the other markets we visited.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Frankfurt
A winding market on cobblestone streets, and fairytale structures of Römerberg.

We spent most of our time at the market in Frankfurt am Main, once when it was first opening up and then again three weeks later, when it was in full swing. It’s a winding road of sights, sounds and smells, culminating in the square at Römerberg. This was the highlight for me – the Römer buildings look like something out of a fairytale, like they’re made of gingerbread or something.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Frankfurt - Food
Some chocolate covered fruit kebabs, and some sausages and sauerkraut!

Being a food girl, of course we had to try a bit of everything! We enjoyed some chocolate covered (real) marshmallows, giant cookies claiming “Ich Liebe Dich!” (aww, cookie, I love you too!), skewers of chocolate-covered fruit, sauerkraut and brats, and more!

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Frankfurt - Thüringer
Can’t go without a Thüringer, mit senf!

One of the best things I ate had to be the Thüringer sausage, served from the weird swingy fire contraption from the photo above. Topped off with some fantastic strong mustard, it was heaven in a bun. Mind you, eating meat was a very strange thing for me in 2006, so indulging in a sausage was a bit novel.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Kölner Dom
Kölner Dom – up the impressive Cathedral we go!

Later in the trip, we had a free day in Köln, and headed right for Kölner Dom. Of course, there was a Weihnachtsmarkt right out front! First, we explored the cathedral, climbing higher and higher. The photo above, on the right, is the view of the market from one of the windows in the cathedral. Amazing views.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Köln - Train
Take the train to the various Christmas Markets in Köln

Köln had a number of markets, and you could get to them all on the train. The biggest was definitely Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom, but there was also a neat Medieval market near the chocolate museum, and a few others. This was a great way to take a load off and see the markets and parts of Köln. Of course, I bought a pile of chocolate at the museum shop. It couldn’t be avoided.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Köln 01
The Köln Weihnachtsmarkt, with the backdrop of Kölner Dom

Once it gets dark outside, the market becomes more magical. If anything, it’s busier, and the dark is broken by the lights coming from the various stalls, and Christmas decorations. A nice mug of Glühwein keeps you warm as you worm your way through the crowds, picking up some roasted almonds, baked goods, teas and crafts.

2006 Weihnachtsmarkt: Koln - Steph
Me, at Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom