Petite Bourgogne

Petite Bourgogne

Friday, June 15, 2012

In Search of the Best Cupcakes

I happen to live near two cupcake shops, one of which I walk by practically every day and the other happens to also sell their treats at the Jean Coutu near my work.  The one I walk by has proven to be much more of a temptation - I stop by about once a month and pick up a little reward after delivering a project milestone at work.  Still, I wondered how the two shops compared. So, for my birthday, I set up an "In Search of the Best Cupcake" Event on MEETin and a few of my MEETin friends helped me find out!

Our first stop was D Liche Cupcakes on St. Denis.  Co-owner Robert greeted us warmly and graciously gave us the run-down on the source of the deliciousness.  Their cupcakes are made with 90% organic ingredients and contain no bad stuff like Crisco.  The result is a moist, rich cake that is not too sweet.  We each bought two minis of different flavours.  I chose the chocolate raspberry almond (above, on the left) and the chili chocolate (above, on the right).  When I peeled the wrapper off the first, I licked off the cake left behind.  I couldn't help myself!  I love the chili and chocolate combination and this cupcake did not disappoint!  The first bite was rich dark chocolate with a little bit of spice in the after taste.  The second bite had the chili kick!  Sneaky spice... love it!  The chocolate raspberry almond is like a mini black forest cake, but with raspberry.  A friend had a vanilla cupcake that tasted like a little bit of vanilla heaven.  With very happy taste buds, we set off to the second shop.

The next stop was Petits Gateaux on Mont Royal.  As soon as we walked into the shop, it was a completely different experience.  Unlike D Liche, the show cases seemed quite bare.  Being Grand Prix weekend, the street fair on Mont Royal likely kept the shop very busy that day.  As we selected our treats, we realized the cupcakes did not look as enticing.  To do an honest head-to-head comparison, I selected two minis: Chocolate Passionfruit (above, on the left) and Irish Coffee (above, on the right).  As soon as I peeled off the wrapper, I knew the competition was over.  There was nothing on the wrapper even to tempt me to lick it.  Both cupcakes were disappointing.  They were dry, too sweet and  the flavours were non-specific.  I could barely taste the passionfruit, but it was not masked by the chocolate.  The irish coffee had a hint of mocha, but there was nothing particularly Irish about it.  One friend complained about the presentation - it had looked like someone had started to peel off the wrapper, changed their mind and returned the cupcake.  It wasn't the case, but the wrapper coming off of the cupcake is a clear signal that the cake is too dry.  We couldn't even bring ourselves to discuss the cupcakes in the shop - the girls behind the counter looked like their day was tough enough.

So, the clear winner of the best cupcakes in the Plateau is D Liche Cupcakes on St. Denis.  The picture above is only a small section of their tempting showcase.  Robert and Ken will graciously tempt you with their flavours-of-the-week. If you have never tried their cupcakes, I recommend getting a box of six different minis so you can decide what flavours will be your favorite!
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Friday, June 1, 2012

Nature and Museums

Montreal is one of the best cities for museums.  We have a wide variety of museums, covering almost every aspect of history, art, science and nature and stuff in between.  The exhibits are always excellent quality and the entrance fees are quite reasonable compared to other cities in which I have lived.  The best part has got to be the annual Museums Day on the last Sunday of May.  From 9am to 5pm, all the museums and exhibits are free and fleet of city buses are set up to shuttle us around.  Finally, after living in Montreal for four years, I was finally available to participate in Museums Day, which also kept a resolution to visit more museums.  I am so glad I did!

I chose to visit the museums on the purple bus route.  Two of the museums were out of the way, so having a shuttle take me directly there was exactly the incentive I needed to visit.  The first two stops were on Parc Jean-Drapeau, which is a short metro ride from home.  With the plan set, I set out on my museum adventure Sunday morning.

The first stop was the Stewart Museum.  It had closed in 2007 for a massive renovation and just reopened in 2011.  I had decided to walk to the museum from the metro.  It was a beautiful day, so I stopped along the way to take photos in the park... and then promptly got lost.  Oh, well, the results were photos like this one:

I eventually found the museum, which is housed in an old fort/military prison near Jacques-Cartier bridge:

Stewart Museum was a pleasant surprise.  Being the site of an old fort, the views of Montreal, the port and the bridge were fantastic.  Inside, the museum was beautifully renovated and the comprehensive exhibit covered the story of Montreal from the age of exploration through to the 20th century.  The story covered the life and technology of the times, not just the historical facts of conquests and battles.  I would highly recommend the Stewart Museum to history buffs.

So not to get lost again, I took the shuttle to the next stop: the environmental museum at the Biosphere.
I'll be honest.  I expected a museum run by Environment Canada to be a bit dull.  It was just the opposite!  It rivalled the Science Centre with respect to being an interactive, fun museum.  All the exhibits, focused on environment and ecology, had something for everyone.  There was an interactive section for kids to play while they learn about the wonders of water.  Kids and water is serious fun! There was also a fascinating exhibit of 16 dresses made from "garbage", such as used batteries, plastic containers, books, electronics, and much more.  The creations were more artistic than practical, but the creativity was impressive.  I could go on and on, but the Biosphere website will give all the details.

My final stop was Maison Saint-Gabriel, which preserves and reenacts 17th century life in Montreal.  I had missed a MEETin Montreal event to visit the museum a couple of years ago, so I had intended to go see it on my own since then.
By this point, though, it was 2pm and there was a long line outside the museum.  I decided just to explore the garden and watch the demonstrations on 17th century weaving, snowshoe making, and blacksmithing.  There was also a surprising side exhibit on shoes from the 17th century to present day.

For a bit more nature, my weekend started with my first visit to the Botanical Gardens this year, which was also a photo walk event I hosted for MEETin.  The gardens are one of my favorite places in Montreal.  Now that I have my Access Montreal card, entrance to the outdoor gardens is free, so I will be trying to go monthly to photograph the various flowers as they come into season.  Since we had a mild winter and an early, exceptionally warm spring, a lot of the May blooms were already finished.  Still, we were able to catch the Leslie-Hancock garden in its final glory of colourful azaleas and rhododendrons.

The gardens and Museums Day were a great start to the summer season.  Looking forward to my adventures in June!

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