Category Archives: health-conscious

L’autre Choix Mini Marché

lautrechoixRecently a friend of mine opened a cool new grocery store in Westmount. It’s called L’autre Choix Mini Marché, and it’s got lots of great items to draw in business. You should check it out!

Located in Westmount at 330A Victoria Avenue, proprietor Clara Kwan’s mini-market is on a hip, happening street packed with plenty of specialty stores, including an awesome cookbook shop called Appetite for Books just up the street, where you can find a repository of books that will help you whip up your gourmet goods into tasty meals!

If you’re looking for organic, locally-grown vegetables, L’autre Choix is the place to be. Clara is selling a wide variety of farm-fresh veggies that vary seasonally, including staples like organic shallots, garlic, herbs like coriander, sweet potatoes, mini pumpkins (great for pies!), avocados, apples, baby eggplants, red and yellow peppers, Romaine lettuce, and lots more. In addition to these vegetables, she also offers some unusual items like salicorne sea beans and pied blue mushrooms from France, which will catch the eyes of foodies.

Along with her unbelievably fresh produce, Clara also offers an assortment of bulk nuts and dried fruits, plus organic pastas, dried mushrooms (shiitake, pèpes and porcini among others), organic spices, loose teas, espresso, various ramen and Korean-style packaged noodles, and various gourmet balsamic vinegars (including Rossini, Carandini and Pelloni Dispensa) and extra virgin olive oils (Toscano and Redoro Veneto Napoli Cella).

A photo from the grand opening (photo by Flickr user Cedric Sam)

A photo from the grand opening (photo by Flickr user Cedric Sam)

Vegetarians are sure to love the Worthington faux meat products, ranging from veggie burgers to Swiss “stake” with gravy to multigrain “chicken” cutlets and even “little links.”

For the meat eaters, Clara can order organic turkeys for your holiday meals (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) at a great price. Who needs frozen Butterballs when you can get a locally raised bird that’s easier on your stomach and the environment?

Oh, and did I mention that the prices here are AMAZING?! Organic avocados for $1.80 a piece, $1.99/lb for organic garlic, $1.99 for a bunch of organic coriander… the list of bargains goes on and on.

If you’re looking for fresh produce, great gourmet items, meat alternatives or even organic versions of the staples you use to stock your cupboards, be sure to check out L’autre Choix Mini Marché!

ADDRESS: 330A Victoria Avenue (Westmount)
METRO: Vendôme
PHONE: 514-369-1888


Hot summertime eats that will keep you cool

Montreal is sweltering, and the idea of turning on the stove makes me break out in a cold sweat. Actually, it’s only cold sweat because I’m standing in my bedroom in front of the air-conditioner. Otherwise, it’d just be your garden variety of hot sweat. Yuck.

In any event, cooking in the summertime is a challenge, not only because it heats up the house, but also because sometimes you don’t even want to think about food, much less prepare it. It’s just too damn hot.

Therefore, I have compiled a list of my top 5 Hot Summertime Eats That Will Keep You Cool. Check it before you wreck it!

  1. Chicken Caesar Salad – A favourite at my place all year ’round, but it’s during the oppressive summer months when this simple salad really shines. Grab yourself a rotisserie chicken from your neaby grocery store, a jar of Renée’s Mighty Caesar dressing (for the extra garlic punch!), a head of Romaine lettuce and some Parmesan cheese and you’re almost done. Wash that lettuce good ‘n’ proper, spin it a couple of times through the ol’ spinner de salade, rip it up into bite-sized hunks, schmear it with dressing, toss and place it on some nice plates. Rip up your rotisserie chicken with your hands, place the pieces on top of your lettuce, then grab some Parmesan and/or Cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top of the whole thing. Dinner is served!
  2. Sushi – It’s carbolicious, but it’s also served cold. Therefore, sushi is my summertime treat of choice. Save the saké for the winter months and drink a nice, cold glass of white wine with your choice of sushi. Yum! (Yes, this is a lazy woman’s choice, as you will invariably have to order out. Unless you know how to roll your own, which I have done before, but would not recommend as it is rather labour intensive for slug-like summer days.)
  3. moishescoleslawColeslaw – Okay, maybe this is a crazy item to have on this list, but coleslaw has become an obsession with me in recent months. In Quebec, most of the coleslaw is served in a weird vinegary oil. This is not the coleslaw I’m talking about. You want CREAMY coleslaw, something like what Moishe’s makes. Alternately, if you’re not into coleslaw, you can also try their deliciously garlicky potato salad with roasted garlic. Cold salads are your friend. (Except for those weird bean salads, bleh.)
  4. Cottage Cheese/Yogurt – A friend of mine remarked that although his family always had cottage cheese in the fridge when he was growing up, he couldn’t recall ever having seen anybody actually eating it. At my house, cottage cheese is a must-have staple. High in protein, low in carbs, and a great addition to your dairy intake, this could be the perfect food. Don’t stick it in a canteloupe the way those weird Californians in movies do; just eat it straight from the tub. Cold, delicious curds. Great when you don’t feel like cooking. Don’t like cottage cheese? Weirdo. No, but seriously: get yourself some yogurt. I’m a huge fan of the Source “dessert” lemon one by Yoplait, as well as the cherry version. Yum.
  5. Baby Carrots – Feel free to substitute any fresh veggies you happen to like, but I’m a big fan of the baby carrot. Or the “carotte genre miniature” as they are apparently called en français. (What a mouthful.) Cool, clean tasting with a satisfying crunch, with or without dips or dressings, the baby carrot is simply delightful on a hot summer day.

Honourable Mention – Deli Meats

Salami doesn’t seem to be much in demand in this province, which is all the better for me, as I love it. But really, any cold deli meats will do on a particularly humid, disgusting day. Peel off a few pieces, eat ’em alone, or wrap ’em up in a mini tortilla with some cheese. God bless deli meats. It’s the one thing I really miss about New York. Montreal doesn’t know shit about delis, and if they’ve got some of those amazing mozzarella knots hiding around here somewhere, like the kind you can see over at the Brooklyn Pork Store, I’d like to know about it. Those things are delicious. Deli style, jugga-jigga-wugga!

So, what are your favourite summer foods?

Studio 10 King & Brûlerie St-Denis

Shoestring Montreal reader Myriam writes in to say that she works at a place called Studio 10 King in the Old Port, which includes the Avenue Art gallery, a printing shop, and a Brûlerie St-Denis that offers “affordable and delicious eats such as sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads and of course coffee and treats.” Located at 10 King Street, the studio is currently (until August 21) showing photography from Montreal called “Scenes of Montreal” featuring photos by Richard Anber, Francesca Anderson, Claudia Gomez and Darina Velkova. 10% of the sales on these photos will go to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, so if you’ve been looking for a bit of artwork to hang on your walls, stop by and check ’em out!

But since this is a blog about food, and I’ve tried the infamous Brûlerie St-Denis’ wares, I thought I’d write up a little review. Granted, I’ve never been to their café on King Street (though I have been to both the 3967 St-Denis and 1587 St-Denis locations), but it’s a chain; they’re all pretty much the same, no?

As Myriam notes, they always offer a soup of the day for $2.50, salad of the day for $3.50 ($2.50 if you get it with a sandwich), and a variety of sandwiches ranging from standards like ham & cheese to the exotic tuna & avocado, the pesto and goat cheese panini, and more. They’ve got homemade cookies at 50 cents a piece; brownies, Nanaimo bars and breakfast pastries are $2. A nice inexpensive lunch or treat, along with a cup of coffee, and at this particular location you can score a free art exhibit, which definitely sweetens the deal. After all, how often do you get to look at art for free?

"Café au choix" at Brûlerie St-Denis (photo by Flickr user pagnolle)

"Café au choix" at Brûlerie St-Denis (photo by Flickr user pagnolle)

My experience with the Brûlerie in general has been a bit mixed. I like the fact that they import and roast their own coffee, that it’s a local chain, and that they’ve got a laid-back attitude towards people who like to linger. I don’t like the confusing way their stores are set up, however, as it’s hard to tell whether you’re supposed to order at the counter or from a waiter if you intend to stay, but only want to order a drink. Apparently you’re supposed to order from the waiter, but there’s usually only one of them circulating through a pretty large space, which makes catching his or her attention a bit difficult. So that’s irritating, if you’d like your drink in a hurry, which I do. I mean, even if you intend to stay for a while, you still want to get your drink so you can drink it while you’re reading or writing, rather than reading through half a magazine while you wait to place your order.

However, the chain wants its customers to really know and appreciate coffee, which I like. They’ve got a few notes on their website about how to appreciate a good coffee, as well as the secrets to a perfect cup of coffee. They offer a different Coffee of the Day to get people interested in tasting different types of coffee, and offer a 10% discount on the daily brew at their retail counter (which I think means a 10% discount on beans, not on a cuppa joe, but you’d have to check with them).

"Brulerie St-Denis, maison de torréfaction de café, rue St-Denis Montreal" (photo by Flickr user pagnolle)

"Brulerie St-Denis, maison de torréfaction de café, rue St-Denis Montreal" (photo by Flickr user pagnolle)

In the summertime, they’ve got cold coffees and frappés mostly made without added sugar, as they’re using real coffee and not syrups—unlike most of the other chains with their frappuccinos and chillates. I tried their mochaccino last week and it was quite tasty, with bits of actual chocolate sprinkled in, very old-fashioned milkshake-like.

Overall, I would say that I like the Brûlerie’s food and drink, as it tends to be delicious as well as healthier than standard café fare, but I’m not a big fan of their service, since it tends to be slow. If you’re not in any hurry, or prefer to take your coffee to-go, this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you want to grab a quick bite, this is probably not your best bet. So I would encourage you to grab a cup of the daily brew, and a cookie or two, and check out the 10 King location for the bonus artwork. Maybe I’ll see you there!

ADDRESS: 10 King Street (Old Port)
METRO: Square-Victoria
PHONE: 514-397-9866

President’s Choice tuna gets fancy

coconuttunaWhile I’m not normally very picky about brands, I’m starting to develop a real loyalty to the President’s Choice line of products. I recently tried some of their new tuna flavours, which incorporate sauces like Curry Coconut Cream Sauce and Sweet and Sour Sauce into your fish-eating experience, and they were really tasty.

They were also really cheap, which I love as a proponent of the Shoestring Lifestyle. Each can cost only $1.99, and if you eat it over rice, you’ve got yourself a full meal right there. (Yes, I know, I am breaking my previously stated “Rice is the devil” rule. It’s still the devil, but sometimes you’ve just got to eat what feels right.)

The Curry Coconut Cream Sauce tuna is a great Thai-inspired dish, and contains chunks of pineapple and red pepper, in addition to the chunky light tuna. I’m currently eating a bowl of it with some basmati rice, and it’s really delicious. Yesterday I tried the Sweet and Sour version (also over basmati rice), which was a nice deviation from sweet and sour chicken and also contained bits of pineapple.

I would definitely recommend these to anybody who loves tuna or is looking for a way to spice up the old tuna and mayo standard sandwich. These aren’t spreadable, as they contain a lot of sauce, so they’re better for eating at home than at work (unless you come to work with a container of pre-made rice or noodles and just heat it all up, come lunchtime). The nutritional info shows that this is a low-carb snack (though adding rice or noodles would definitely bump it up), and the sodium levels are decent as well. You’ll get 250 calories from the Curry Coconut, but only 170 from the Sweet and Sour version (though the sodium levels are higher on that one).

For those who aren’t convinced by the pan-Asian styles of those two options, there are also the Flaked Light Tuna in Black Pepper Sauce and the Flaked Light Tuna with Beans and Corn varieties. My husband tried the black pepper sauce version and said he liked it, though we are both avoiding the beans and corn combo. Yuck!

If you’re looking to buy some of these new additions to the PC line, they’re available at any Provigo or Loblaws throughout Quebec. Bon appétit!

Sunday Snack Attack – Ryvita and cream cheese

Since everybody’s getting on the recession bandwagon lately, I thought I’d add a new feature to Shoestring Montreal. Sundays will now bring you the Sunday Snack Attack, offering various ideas for cheap and healthy snacks that you can either make at home or buy at the closest grocery store, depanneur or pharmacy (since we tend to have tons of these sprinkled around Montreal) when you’re out and about.

The first thing I’d like to recommend is something I’ve concocted as part of a new low-carb diet. I know, I know: carbs are awesome! They taste great and fill you up! True, but eating too many carbs can quickly add on the pounds, make you feel super sleepy in the afternoons (ever have that 2 or 3 PM crash?), and may actually lead to nasty things like type 2 diabetes (because starches quickly become sugars in your bloodstream, and perpetually processing too much glucose may cause the body to malfunction) and celiac disease (a problem with the body’s ability to process wheat proteins).

ryvitaSince I like carbs and enjoy snacking, I asked my husband what would be a good wheat-alternative to eat during the day. He recommended Ryvita, a rye-based cracker, which you can top with lots of different things. They also come in a variety of types, from the Dark Rye crispbread to the new Sunflower Seeds & Oats, Multi-Grain, Pumpkin Seeds & Oats, and Muesli Crunch. My personal preference is to dip my Rye & Oat Bran crackers in cream cheese, as I’m a fan of Philadelphia’s Herb & Garlic flavoured cream cheese.

If you choose the Dark Rye Ryvita, they offer a serving size of 3 pieces with the following nutritional information:

  • 120 calories
  • no trans fat, 0.5 g. total fat
  • no cholesterol
  • 100 mg. of sodium
  • 25 g. of carbohydrates
  • 5 g. of fibre
  • 1 g. of sugar
  • 3 g. protein

They’re also vegan/vegetarian as well as kosher, and are great for anyone avoiding MSG, tree nuts, peanuts, milk, eggs, yeast, and genetically modified foods. Pretty great, right?

As for the cream cheese, here’s the nutritional info per one tablespoon:

  • 40 calories
  • 0.1 g. trans fat (not so awesome, but according to Health Canada, your daily intake of trans fats should be less than 1%, so this could be considered acceptable), 4 g. total fat
  • 10 mg. cholesterol
  • 80 mg. sodium
  • 10 mg. carbohydrates
  • no fibre
  • 1 g. sugar
  • 1 g. protein

Granted, I’m definitely using more than one tablespoon per serving (I suspect I use about one tablespoon per crispbread, for a total of 3 tablespoons), but if you aren’t eating the whole tub in one sitting, then I would say this makes for a pretty healthy snack.

What about you? Do you have any favourites for healthy snacking? Let me know in the comments below!