Mamzelles Bagel – St.Jerome, QC

Mamzelles Bagel
72 de la Gare
St. Jerome, Quebec
(450) 304-3777

Saint-Jerome, the gateway to the Laurentian Mountains – is a small town located north of Montreal.  We stopped in for a quick bite before heading out to Mont Tremblant, and found this bagellerie.  “Looks cute” says my wife.

What caught my eye more than the ‘cuteness’ factor, was the sign stating “Bagel cuit sur place” (Bagel baked on premises).


The menu listed just a handful of bagel options filled with your standard items of ham, turkey, and tuna;  but I chose the club au poulet (Chicken club).  Served with a nicely prepared salad, this bagel sandwich was straight-out delicious.  The shredded chicken was lightly dressed and (although hard to see from the photo) was plentiful enough to make this a fully satisfying lunch.

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Ba Le – Vancouver, BC

Ba Le French Sandwiches
701 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC V5T 3K6
(604) 875-6322

Ba Le French Sandwiches on Urbanspoon


I have not yet found a lunch meal with a bigger bang for the buck than a Vietnamese sandwich. Bahn Mi, for me, is the ultimate in fast foods. You can walk in to a Bahn Mi joint and walk out within a couple of minutes with a fresh, (relatively) healthy and incredibly satisfying meal..all for less than $3 CAD.


I have two “go-to” Bahn Mi joints in Vancouver: Tung Hing on Kingsway (which is my favorite, if you must know – I will post on Tung Hing soon)  and the subject of this posting – Ba Le – also on Kingsway….right at “The Triangle” formed by the intersection with Fraser St.


I judge Bahn Mi joints by the quality and freshness of their bread. Tung Hing, for example, bakes their bread on premises…and you can get a sandwich prepared with beautifully crusty bread pulled out of the oven just a couple of minutes prior.

Though Ba Le does not have a bakery on-site – their bread is still quite fresh (the crispy crust explodes with crumbs and the interior crumb is soft and fluffy.)


What they lack in baking facilities, they more than make up for in their filling: Ba Le makes their own charcuterie. Their specialty is their Vietnamese “bacon” – the rolled pork belly you see below. They have other fillings as well Cha Lua (the ubiquitous Vietnamese “ham” or “spam”, Char Siu Chinese BBQ pork, Liver paste and a number of others. Their pickled carrot and daikon (which is traditionally part of Bahn Mi) is very fresh tasting.


Kingsway (which has quickly become Vancouver’s “Little Saigon” ) is dotted with very good budget Vietnamese restaurants and there are a quite a number of worthy destinations on this street. Ba Le is certainly worth the stop if you just happen to be in the area.

Ba Le French Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Earls (Bankers Hall) – Calgary, AB

Earls Bankers Hall
A1, Level 1-315 8 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 265 3275

Earl's on Urbanspoon

In a regrettably meek attempt to try and stem the tide against the utter disappearance of our Alberta correspondence amid the Foodosopher’s current international travel-induced hiatus, the following is a report from one of his many home bases, Calgary.

Bankers Hall.  The name alone should tell you something about how stuffy, boring and just downright plain vanilla the food offerings are here.  Set in the heart of downtown, the pair of office towers makes its mark for its distinct architectural design, and is one of the most notable skyscrapers that you can see as you drive in from the airport, so you’d think there would be some promising offerings for a light meal.  Aside from perhaps the quality offerings of the Sunterra Marche – who I know better from my past interactions with the business savy Price Brothers based in nearby Acme, who know what they are doing when it comes to fresh, high quality ingredients – you are left with some restaurant choices that submit to providing Asian fusion, basic Chinese, some sad looking sushi, a place that is trying to pass itself as being Japanese, and then the omnipresent chains including Burger King, Jugo Juice, Starbucks, and Subway.  Safe and standard fare, probably very well accepted by all the suits up in the high towers above.

I had heard an acquaintance who lives in Calgary hyping up a meal they had at Earls just a few days prior.  Yes, that Earls.  I can still remember my first experience with it in the mid-Eighties, in all places Red Deer.  Then thinking in my naive high school years that it was an incredible joint, a place to be seen, with trumped up names given to some select branches of the chain like the Tin Palace, which catered to the supposed young and hip crowd.  Today, I’d guess it pretty much remains just that, an imaginary place where all the servers and hostesses looked like they’ve been picked out of model catalog and the masses of families, friends and couples who populate them to take in their casual cuisine and think its all fine and dandy.

The item this person raved about was the Grilled Chicken and Baked Brie on Ciabatta ($13), made up of grilled breast meat, with melted brie, roasted apples and spinach with a sweet fig jam and garlic mayonnaise on toasted ciabatta bread.  I think Foodosopher and I have exchanged thoughts on many of our mutual connections and their views on food and dining as well as personal tastes and how they gel, or not gel, with ours.  Always an interesting conversation, and thus I made this attempt to verify said person’s observations on this particular sandwich.

Presentation-wise, as it arrived at our table, I wasn’t immediately discouraged, as the side profile of the layers inside looked promising.  The sweet roasted scent of the fruit came through and the brie had begun dripping along the side of the chicken meat as if to say, “anymore heat and I’m done”.  The ciabatta though a touch tough on the outside for my personal liking, did had a good spongy feel inside as I took my first bite.  I must admit I am usually not a fan of brie, its the moldy white crust on top that gives it that unique contrast in texture and feels like a wrapper that gets to me.  But the savory softness of the cheese itself works well with the tender breast of chicken, and doesn’t fight at all with the sweet sugary compounds of the caramelized apples inside.  To say that I was quite surprised that I didn’t want to ask for another dish instead, was indeed a pleasant surprise.

My dining companion however had a disastrous experience with the Earls Bigger Better 1/2 Pound Burger ($11.50), with added sauteed mushrooms (extra $2.25).  Headlining the entire sandwich and burger section of the menu, you’d think they’d be very experienced with plating this.  But take a look at the overcooked and soaked in oil fries that came with the package.  The meat patty itself had shrunk down to a blackened hockey puck appearance and the lettuce and tomato had not gotten a thorough shaking off before being placed on top, as the bun had already begun to get really soggy inside.  I just shook my head at the sight and remarked how I really dislike it when a place boasts about a particular item and then makes a mess of the whole thing.

So there you have it, a pair of sandwiched meals that really left contrasting impressions.  Truthfully when we ordered, we were expecting the opposite result for what each of us eventually had.  I’m fortunate to have taken the gamble and submitted to confirming my friend’s review of the chicken/brie sandwich.  My table mate however, vows never to go back to an Earls again.  This was even after I reminded him of the cute waitress he kept chatting up.  Ah, a clear sign that stomachs rule over hearts.

Earl's on Urbanspoon

Alberta King of Subs – Calgary, AB

Alberta King of Subs
22-7196 Temple Drive NE
Calgary, AB T1Y 4E8
(403) 280-4234

In many discussions with my friends regarding our first visits to Montreal after the age of majority, I have found a startling number of similarities. Drinking on Crescent street, bagels, drunkenly stumbling down St. Catherines, St. Denis, late night sausage and demi baguette, and of course, the institutions of Schwartz’s, Dunn’s, and the now deceased Ben’s. While i’ve heard many an impassioned argument regarding the best of smoked meat, let’s be honest. Fueled by liberal drinking laws, late night forays, and a slightly questionable (read: young) palette, there really was no going wrong. Smoked meat was pretty good at all of these establishments. Future visits have been clouded with the strong memories of the past. This was where i passed out, this was where X stumbled, this is where she ate 7 kosher pickles on a dare. Good times, but it might not be the most objective view of smoked meat.

In all these discussions, somewhere along the way, purists seemed to feel that Montreal Smoked Meat only tastes good in Montreal. Alberta King of Subs would disagree with that assertion.

Located in a small strip mall in the NE on Temple Drive, far away from the urban centre is Alberta King of Subs. I know they are ostensibly a sub shop, but i’ve tried their subs. Soggy bland sub buns, flavourless tomatos and lettuce, i’d give them a pass. The hidden gem here is the Montreal Smoked Meat. Imported from Montreal, this is pretty good quality stuff. They also carry two other authentic Quebec products that are worth trying – the poutine, and spruce beer.

Poutine ($6.25), voted by the BBC as the unhealthiest food on the planet, is served traditional style. Fresh cut fries, gravy made from beef drippings, and cheese curds. The fries are a great fresh cut fry – and the cheese curds are fairly fresh. Not squeaky fresh mind you, but i never liked them that way anyway. They have a great flavour and melt well. The gravy is definitely made from beef, but i find it a touch salty. Finishing a regular poutine requires some serious effort here. I usually finish anything that touched cheese, and leave a few soggy fries, and copious quantities of gravy on the bottom of the tin.

As for the smoked meat itself, it has some great qualities. I typically order the King’s Smoked Meat Platter ($13.75), which is a smoked meat sandwich, kosher pickle, coleslaw, fries, and a drink, and upgrade the fries to a poutine for a few extra dollars. In terms of the sandwich, the meat is freshly steamed, and hand cut, you definitely get a great mouthfeel. I’d prefer it cut a touch thinner, but there is always a bit of inconsistency with something done by hand. The meat itself has a wonderful flavour, and is served appropriately on rye, with mustard. One option i wish they did have was the choice of fatty or lean (I definitely prefer cuts off the point of the brisket, which is the richest, fattiest end).

Im really not sure if Alberta King of Subs can compare with Schwartz’s or Ben’s (RIP!), as my memory is clouded with good memories. Looking at it as objectively as possible, I would agree with the purists and say that the smoked meat isnt quite as good. However, what Alberta King of Subs does do is present a good Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich in Calgary, something most other cities outside of Montreal fail to do. Atmosphere, which is part of the overall experience, just doesnt match up to the history and the legends that surround Montreal’s best. But when you have a craving for Montreal Smoked Meat and some good ol fashion poutine, and Calgary is your location, Alberta King of Subs is worth the trip.

Alberta King of Subs on Urbanspoon

Flatlands Cafe – Calgary, AB

Flatlands Cafe
100-550 11th Avenue SW
Calgary, AB  T2R 1M7
(403) 265-7144
Open Mon-Thu 7:00am-3:00pm, Fri 7:00am-2:00pm

I have to be honest – I have a serious issue with a Calgary food reviewer. Everything I value in a restaurant reviewer is ignored – integrity, humble, discrete, and most importantly, visually anonymous. Instead, developing a cult of personality, and some form of local hero worship seems to be their key MO. They disrespect the food in favour of celebrity. You are never certain if the review is such because the food was divine, or because they were treated that way. There is no bigger crime in my mind.

The Flatlands Cafe is one of their highly rated lunch spots, and I’ve tried to avoid it at all costs. After all, the crowds of hero worshippers – what could they possibly know? I was content in my smugness. One day, we found ourselves in the area, and with my favorite restaurant full, we had to find alternative places. This soup and sandwich shop stood a half block away, and beckoned.

Flatlands does a few very simple things. Sandwiches. Soups. Salads. Baked goods. They are friendly. They have a lot of regulars. They efficiently deliver their food to the hordes of customers who wait on them, in a crush, every lunch hour.

The soup that day was Chicken Chipotle – one of my favorite flavours. Expecting powdered stock, canned chicken, and some adobo sauce dumped in, i was pleasantly surprised to find a flavourful stock, chock full of real chicken, with a great blend of flavours.

The bun that accompanied the soup was fresh. Crispy, sesame exterior, with a soft, tender interior. Great bread. The same applied to their sandwiches. Nothing fancy – just good solid meat, vegetables, and bread. Good selections of each. Didnt try a salad – but im sure they fit the same MO.

So I learned something that fateful day, when I stepped out of my box, and joined the throng. I learned that Flatlands Cafe produces good lunch food. And they manage all this with the blessings of the Calgary populist food reviewer. My ideals, my philosophy, my ego – are really all irrelevant. Inspite of who is schlocking it, good food is still good food.

Flatlands Cafe on Urbanspoon