Not sure why we never went to Montreal and Quebec City in one long trip (though several visits to Montreal only). We ate extraordinarily well, beginning at Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins, (above) which was very crowded when we arrived without a reservation. In Montreal, establishments cannot serve wine at the bar unless you're also eating and all those spaces were spoken for.
We had walked three miles in the rain (though not uphill and backwards, only uphill) -- we kept thinking it would be on the next block, then the next block -- past other favorite spots like Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen, where the smoked meats are stacked in the window (it's now owned by Celine Dion, her husband Rene Angelil and others; a hotelier told us there are rumors of expansion to the U.S.) and Moishe's steakhouse, a remarkable spot we visited years ago.
We told the young man doing the seating at Le Comptoir that we had no idea we would need a reservation to have a drink and a nibble, were visiting from Boston, had trekked for miles, etc. He settled us into two high stools by the glassed-in vestibule from which we ordered a platter of housemade charcuterie, pork sandwiches, several glasses of hipster wine and other delights. Three more miles back to the hotel, which we needed after all that pig.
The next night we reserved at Au Cinquieme Peche (I don't know how to put on accents, but Peche has an aigu on both e's; translation is "At Fifth Sin," which is gluttony). A platter of seal cooked several ways (sausage, cured, sauteed until rare) did seem like an exercise in gourmandise. The French-born co-owners are brothers Benoit (above, left) and Benjamin Lenglet. Benoit is in the kitchen, while Benjamin works the dining room enthusiastically explaining the blackboard menu and touting one of their many natural wines. The closest restaurant we have in Boston to Cinquieme may be Jason Bond's cozy Bondir.
Later that week in Quebec City, we sipped Quebecois wine at the bar in the luxurious Relais & Chateaux Auberge Saint-Antoine (the only thing we could afford there), before walking to the edge of the water to the rambling, boisterous Cafe du Monde, which was filled with locals and a handful of tourists (it's slightly off the beaten track). This amiable brasserie with its friendly staff offers a menu of Quebecoise classics, all adequately done, none spectacular.
In our travels, we met a law professor from Virginia who is a serious foodie and told us about Panache restaurant in the Auberge Saint-Antoine, which he loved, but he warned us about how expensive it would be. That's all we needed to know. Instead, we sought out Panache's trendy new offshoot, Bistro B on Avenue Cartier (the street where I would live if I lived in QC).
Bistro B has the chummy feel of a neighborhood haunt and sports a large open kitchen. Not just a place you can peek into, but four chefs working and plating food in the center of the bar, so you can watch the choreography. These are skilled chefs. But somehow the food wasn't as good as the show. Sweetbreads were delicious and a little crusty outside, salmon tartare was remarkable, but a plate of spaghetti with a pork sauce (not that we have anything against repurposing pork from last night's dinner) was warmed-over chop suey.
On the way home, we stopped at Osteria Pane e Salute in Woodstock, Vt., to say hello to a pair of our favorite restaurateurs, Caleb Barber (above, left), an extraordinary cook, and the charming, effervescent Deirdre Heekin, and made a detour to their home the next day to look at the gardens, greenhouses, orchard, and vines that supply vegetables, herbs, and flowers to their tables.
Now (boo, hiss) it's back to real life.
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ContributorsSheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.
Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.
Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.