For World Food Travel Day, I nominate Montreal bagels, smoked meat and poutine

Beauty's luncheonette in Montreal

In case you missed it, and I know I did, The World Food Travel Association (WFTA) declared Saturday, April 18 as World Food Travel Day.

The annual event is meant to celebrate travel as a way to experience the world’s culinary cultures and was first declared last year by the WFTA, a London-based non-profit organisation whose mission is to preserve and promote culinary cultures through hospitality and travel.

This year, they asked people to feature their favorite local food and beverage experiences that visitors to their area would love.

Here in Montreal, a city well known for its love of food, there is no shortage of incredible culinary experiences. Many of those are of the haut cuisine variety, but my tastes run to street foods and simple things that ordinary people eat so I’d point visitors to local classics like poutine, smoked meat and bagels.

These three things verge on Montreal clichés, but they are all beloved by the city’s residents and found just about everywhere.

Originally a Quebec invention, poutine has become a cross-Canada favourite. It’s essentially french fries covered with curd cheese and doused with gravy, but there are countless varieties, including concoctions that incorporate smoked meat.

I like the classic combination and it works well with Montreal-style hot dogs, like those served at the Montreal Pool Room on Boulevard St-Laurent.

Smoked meat originated with Romanian Jews who settled along Boulevard St-Laurent in the early 20th century, although it would likely have been known as St. Lawrence Boulevard back then. It’s effectively a type of pastrami, but spiced and smoked to make it even more delicious. Traditionally served on rye bread with sides of French fries, cole slaw and a dill pickle. Cherry coke is optional. The most famous smoked meat oulet in the city is Schwartz’s, officially known as the Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen.

The bagels of Montreal are unlike those served anywhere else and you’ll often find people in other Canadian cities labelling their bread rings as Montreal-style, but they never really compare to the doughy, honey-washed works of art that are baked in wood-fired ovens in places like Fairmont and St-Viateur bagel bakeries.

What are the local foods from your city that you’d nominate for #WorldFoodTravelDay?

More direct flights coming to Montreal, including low-cost service at St-Hubert

One of the more annoying things about being a traveller from Montreal is not having as many direct flights as Toronto which means having to fly there to connect to other destinations. It’s even more annoying when you are flying from somewhere in Europe and have to fly over Montreal on the way to Toronto in order to fly back home.

Thankfully, Montréal-Trudeau airport keeps on adding more and more direct flights to new destinations and welcoming new airlines. The latest is Norwegian which has been offering a direct connection to Pointe-à-Pitre and Fort-de-France since October. YUL is the first Canadian airport to welcome the airline.

Beginning April 29, 2019, Austria Airlines will also offer direct, year-round flights to Vienna. The long-haul flights will operate with a Boeing 767 aircraft with daily service throughout the summer and five flights per week during the winter.

Meanwhile, Sunwing will offer a new destination from Montreal starting on December 18. On that date, it will begin service to Mazatlán, the ninth Mexican destination served from YUL.

Sun-seekers will also be glad to learn that flights to Saint Martin and San Juan are coming back into service starting in mid-December. Air Canada will serve San Juan while Air Transat will operate to both destinations. Flights were cancelled to those destinations last year following Hurricane Irma.

With these additions this winter, Montréal-Trudeau will now connect to 127 destinations, including 69 international airports, which is an increase over the 123 destinations offered last year and sets a new record for air service during the winter season.

As of next year, more than 150 direct destinations will be offered from YUL, including 91 international destinations. This represents the fastest growth in air service at Montréal-Trudeau in a decade with the addition of 11 new destinations, including two in the spring of 2019.

Montreal travellers will also be glad to hear that the ultra low-cost carrier Canada Jetlines has announced that it will fly out of Saint Hubert Airport (YHU).

Jetlines’ aircraft roll-out strategy combined with the airport’s recent refurbishment of its main runway and its plan to build a passenger terminal building could bring Jetlines to the province as early as 2020.

St-Hubert runway upgrade could help attract low-cost carriers to Montreal

The news that Saint-Hubert Longueuil Airport has upgraded its primary runway to accommodate larger aircraft, such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A220/320, is interesting to anyone who’s been hoping to see low-cost airlines flying out of Montreal.

More than $13 million of the $17-million runway upgrade was provided by the Canadian Government Airports Capital Assistance Program and is part of a development strategy to transform the airport into a regional transportation hub.

The only obstacle to bringing low-cost carriers into the airport today is the fact that St-Hubert has no actual terminal building to speak of. It makes me wonder if it might have been smarter to use the money to spruce up Mirabel Airport seeing that its runways can accommodate just about any airplane you can think of.

Of course, its terminal building was demolished only a few years ago because no one could foresee a day that Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport would not be able to accommodate growing air traffic to Montreal and there might be a need for a secondary airport to handle the overflow that might also be attractive to low-cost carriers.

St-Hubert does have the advantage of being closer to downtown Montreal compared to Mirabel, but I have a soft spot for Montreal’s previous airport of the future that today is only used for cargo flights.

Earth, wind and water: 10 offbeat experiences in and around Montreal

There’s nothing better than getting outside during a Montreal summer, but if you have already overdosed on festivals and had your fill of celebrating the city’s 375th birthday, we’ve got 10 unique experiences in and around Montreal that will help you get off your couch to try something new.

IN THE AIR

Skydive without a parachute

Unless the engines are on fire, most people would rather not jump out of an airplane, yet there are thousands who strap on parachutes to skydive for fun.

If you’re hesitant to make that jump, the closest thing is to take a leap into the skydiving simulator at SkyVenture, located in Laval’s Centropolis complex.

It’s basically a cylindrical room with a giant fan on the floor that blows air upward with enough force to make you float in the air. Each flight lasts 60 seconds, which is the typical length of a parachutist’s free fall, and children as young as four can do it.

An intro package with two flights costs $68. A four-flight package sells for $93.93, and a 10-flight deal is available for $182.65.

2700 Cosmodôme Ave., 514-524-4000, skyventuremontreal.com

Read the rest of the story on montrealgazette.com.

Montreal: The city of bagels

Ask any Montrealer to name the city’s most iconic foods and without hesitation, they will answer smoked meat and bagels. But what most probably don’t know is how Jewish immigrants brought those foods here and how they managed to endure as favourites.

One Montrealer who knows that history and is keen to share it with locals and visitors alike is Kat Romanow, the Director of Food Programming at the Museum of Jewish Montreal.

“Jews have lived all over the world and wherever they’ve settled they’ve taken the cuisine of that region and adapted it to the Kosher food laws — so when we talk about Jewish food, we’re talking about a cuisine that is very diverse,” she explains.

Romanow’s enthusiasm for the community’s history is contagious and the perfect starting point to understand how the city’s 93,000 Jews and their cuisine fit into the story of Montreal.

You can read the rest of the story at the Jewish Chronicle.