La Nourriture: Food in Mont Tremblant vs Montreal

Montreal is well known as a foodie destination and as a foodie myself, I hadn’t yet had a chance to experience it firsthand. I just returned from Quebec and got to experience two popular cities in “La Belle Province”. Montreal was no let-down but I had also hoped that the nearby ski town of Mont Tremblant would share the culinary pride of Montreal. Unfortunately, the food in Tremblant was a bit disappointing.

Basilica Notre Dame - Montreal
Basilica Notre Dame – Montreal

Here’s a quick run down of each city and some of the places we visited and whether they were winners or losers.

Montreal Winners

 

  • Universel Déjeuner & Grillades: A great breakfast-brunch-lunch joint near the Rue Peel Metro stop. We ate both breakfast and lunch here during our stay and loved it all. The crepes are incredible but you can’t go wrong with the tortellini either!

Tortellini at Universel
Tortellini at Universel

 

  • The Mon Café: A salty joint for a quick breakfast or coffee near Notre Dame. The french toast is excellent if you like things on the sweet side.
  • Schwartz’s: I don’t care much for Anthony Bourdain and his style but I did hear about this old-school deli on his show. The smoked meat sandwiches are quite good along with pickles, fries, and a dark cherry cola. You must get the dark cherry cola!

Famous Schwartz's Smoke Meat Sandwich
Famous Schwartz’s Smoke Meat Sandwich

  • Deville Dinerbar: We ate here on my birthday for a little celebration. It’s a contemporary twist on the American diner without being cheesy. The decor is swanky, the food is delicious, and the music kept me bouncing in my seat all evening. On top of all that, the service was great! We befriended our server as it was her last couple of weeks before she headed off to New York for school.

Deville Dinerbar - I'm a fan!
Deville Dinerbar – I’m a fan!

 

  • La Distillerie No 1: While we got a bit turned around while looking for this place, we finally found it. The bartenders were really chatty and warm. They serve specialty cocktails in mason jars which were quite good. They also serve a beer if that’s the route you prefer.

 

Montreal Losers

  • Renoir: This is the hotel restaurant and bar inside the Sofitel hotel where we stayed. The staff was arrogant and pouty. We only had drinks here but I was so disappointed that we didn’t return for any meals.

 

Mont Tremblant Winners

  • Smoke’s Poutinerie: Smoke’s was unfortunately the only winner in Tremlant for me. The Pulled Pork and Bacon Cheeseburger poutine were both great. Portions are generous. Although the man behind the counter hated my French skills. My French isn’t THAT terrible.

 

Mont Tremblant Losers

  • Le Shack: This place spent all their money on over-the-top decor and forgot to make good food. Service was okay but the food was not good. The fries are so bland everywhere in Tremblant that the only way to make them good is to turn them into Poutine.
  • Pizza & Cie: This place came recommended and it’s located in the old town of Tremblant, away from most of the main touristy action. The place was quite sleepy as there was only one other person in the restaurant. The pizza was also bad. But I’m a pizza snob.
  • Tremblant Station (Tremblant Peak): Yes, this is the restaurant at the peak of Mont Tremblant. Restaurants at the peak of ski resorts are never good. This one was no exception.

 

So while Montreal are only 1.5 hours apart, they share nothing in common in their gastronomy DNA. At least based on our experience. The food was so much better in Montreal. Of course, we still have a great time in Mont Tremblant on the mountain and in the village. But if you visit, keep your food expectations low. As for Montreal, expect a great all-around foodie experience.

Just How Bad is the Honolulu Airport?

As a travel addict, I’ve seen my fair share of airports around the world, including the good, they bad, and the ugly. I FINALLY got around to visiting Hawaii after all these years and I loved it all around. We visited both Kauai and Oahu and Kauai was by far the big winner. It was truly paradise! Oahu was nice but Honolulu is quite the urban contrast compared to even the North Shore of Oahu. Honolulu felt a lot like Miami Beach so after visiting the peaceful paradise of Kauai, it was a lot to take in.

Shipwrecks Beach, Kauai. So beautiful it doesn't even look real!
Shipwrecks Beach, Kauai. So beautiful it doesn’t even look real!

We flew United in Economy to Honolulu out Denver. We snagged incredibly cheap tickets about 3 months in advance so for the price, Economy was bearable. We connected onto Hawaiian Airlines on to Lihue. We also returned to Honolulu for a few days before returning back to LAX from Honolulu. So throughout the whole trip, we got 3 visits to HNL and a good perspective on how bad the airport is.

Rather than feeling like a major airport, HNL felt more like a small regional airport; quite dated and with limited amenities. While some of the mid-century fixtures were charming, a nice remodel could go a long way in the terminals. Taking advantage of the pleasant Hawaiian weather year-round, a large portion of the terminals is outdoors. The gates are confined into individual air-conditioned areas but they are small and the seating is limited. There are very limited food options, even in the overseas terminal, and the bathrooms were filthy. Imagine transiting from the mainland to Asia through Honolulu and wanting to freshen up, only to find very dirty, dated restrooms!

The layout is disconnected with the overseas terminal, international arrivals, and inter-island terminals completely separate. There is an inter-terminal shuttle but it is usually about a 15 minute wait. The walk is outdoors and takes about the same amount of time as you would wait for the shuttle. There is also no free WiFi and even the paid WiFi was down while we were there. I found this to be quite irritating. Also, don’t plan on finding a spot to charge your phone unless you want to sit on the floor. United clearly did not install power ports like they do at nearly every other major airport they serve.

Through the entire trip, we checked in with both United and Hawaiian Airlines. Hawaiian Airlines utilizes self check-in kiosks and the attendants were friendly. Everything was efficient for the inter-island flights. TSA PreCheck was extremely quick each time. United on the other hand, was a huge hassle. Don’t forget to stop at the USDA station before heading to check your bags. The Premier Access line was incredibly slow and the staff unfriendly. I’ve never had a negative experience with United’s Premier Access bag-check so this was a first.

So long, Honolulu!
So long, Honolulu!

Honolulu definitely gets forgotten by the airlines due to the fact of a low number of business travelers and tons of tourists. There seems to be a low incentive to make updates to HNL since the tourists keep on flowing and the inter-island flights so vital to Hawaii’s economy. While the terminal facilities are among the worst I have seen, the good service by Hawaiian Airlines and the quick TSA PreCheck are bright spots for HNL.