SOMEWHERE OVER THE US — I’m on the way back home from Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto — it was a successful road trip!
But before we get to that — thank you again, those of you who contributed to my travel Tip Jar.
Just so you know where your money is going: Transportation between San Francisco to Toronto to Ottawa to Montreal and back to San Francisco cost about $500. My AirBNBs in the three Canadian cities came out to $350 for five nights. And Ubers, in total, was about $300.
Since last week, I’ve received over $1,100 in my Tip Jar — I’m blown away by that. Thank you. Every dollar you contribute goes to my travel for San Jose Sharks games, and between your contributions, and National Hockey Now’s, I still have some money to work with.
As I have in past seasons too, I will spend my own money on traveling too — that’s how much I believe in providing you the best San Jose Sharks coverage possible.
But want to help out? It’s very much appreciated:
I promise you, your money is in responsible hands — Mushu guarantees it:
Sheng Eats His Way Through Canada
It was a successful road trip for the San Jose Sharks — and my stomach.
In Montreal, I met up with hockey tactics guru Jack Han at Ma Poule Mouillée — the Tomas Hertl of Montreal Portuguese chicken joints, according to Jack.
Over dinner, we hashed out details of our podcast interview — over poutine is where Jack first revealed his admiration for Jake Middleton’s game — and the $5 off SHENG5 coupon code for his Hockey Tactics 2021 book. We’ll also be giving away a copy of his new book to a lucky SJHN subscriber this week.
As for the Tomas Hertl of Portuguese chicken places, I will compare it more to another San Jose Sharks star, Timo Meier. I ordered the Portuguese chicken poutine, and it was delectable at times — the charcoal-roasted chicken, marinated with Chef Tony Alves’s spicy sauce is tender with every bite, and I loved the softer-than-usual São Jorge cheese curds — but in some of the bites, I found the chicken a bit too salty. Also, the chorizo sausage, in my mind, was not necessary. In short, it was an inconsistent dish but with some superstar bites.
The next day, I checked out Montreal smoked meat institution Schwartz’s Deli, which Jack compared unfavorably to Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
I’ll confess, I didn’t even finish the poutine. It was a more typical poutine dish, I suppose — the cheese curds were firmer, and it was simply curds, gravy, and fries — but if this is a normal poutine, then I must not be a poutine fan? I will say, Schwartz’s fries are crispy and potatoey — they’re well-made fries.
I also got upsold on Cott Black Cherry soda, a local brand, so I was told — I’m a when in Rome, eat as the Romans do type of guy — hence my visit to Schwartz’s, despite Jack’s protests. It was a solid soda and pairing it with a smoked meat sandwich is apparently another Montreal tradition.
But it was the smoked meat — get the fatty — that carried the team. Every bite was moist and packed with flavor. I’m pretty simple with my meats — high quality, moist, a little sauce, or in this case, mustard — and I’m good to go.
Schwartz’s also smokes chicken, turkey, and liver. But the brisket is where they’ve made their name: They marinate raw Alberta beef brisket for 10 days with a secret spice blend, smoke the brisket for eight hours, then steam it for three hours before it hits your plate.
So while Schwartz’s poutine was a little Martin Jones, their smoked meat sandwich was the Hertl of my Montreal food tour.
I capped my Montreal institutions with the infamous Montreal Canadiens press box hot dog.
Now talk about overrated: It’s a decent hot dog on a toasted slice of bread. I’m not saying it’s bad; I just can’t believe there was an article devoted to it.
Next, Ottawa. Or Kanata, where the Senators play. That’s where I stayed, about 20 minutes away from downtown Ottawa.
That was a mistake, at least for my tummy.
I asked my Uber driver Elmar where to eat in Ottawa — not just Kanata — and the Montreal native answered, “I’d rather cook. So not to be disappointed.”
I ate McDonald’s everyday of my stay in Kanata.
Autumn in Kanata was gorgeous, at least.
The sports writer life isn’t always glamorous: My Ottawa to Toronto flight landed at 8 am, my AirBNB didn’t open until 1 pm, so I took a long nap by the baggage carousels.
It was a back-to-back for the San Jose Sharks, time was short, so I didn’t get to try anything ballyhooed or go back to old favorite Banh Mi Boyz.
However — props to the Toronto Maple Leafs — in lieu of a cafeteria-style media meal this year, they’re giving a $25 concessions certificate to each media member this year. So here was a chance for me to try the best of Scotiabank Arena!
After a hurried search, I decided on Aloette — sister restaurant of fine-dining establishment Alo.
I started with a slice of their signature Lemon Meringue Pie, featuring a lemon curd center, graham cracker crust, and lime meringue.
I have to say, it was too sweet for my liking: A salty crust and the citrus flavors didn’t quite coordinate with the overpowering sweetness.
It’s probably my fault for going solo on this very generous-sized slice. In small doses, the sweetness would hit the spot. It’s probably something you share at a restaurant with a date.
Aloette’s shrimp roll, in contrast, was more balanced: It’s shrimp with jalapeno, cilantro, avocado, and purple cabbage in a milk bun.
I wouldn’t have minded more shrimp, but it was a welcome respite from the typical fast food press box fare.
The morning of my departure, I decided to try something in my neighborhood. I was staying around Corso Italia, a middle-class Italian, Latin-American, and Portuguese enclave. While waiting for the results of the COVID rapid test required for my re-entry into the United States, I opted for La Morena, Yelp reviews, seven.
I usually rely heavily on Yelp reviews when trying out restaurants in unfamiliar cities — I know that the crowd-sourced reviews aren’t necessarily reliable, but like I said, I like to try what the people are eating in their city, or at least, what they’re talking about. So gambling on a seven-review Yelp place isn’t my norm.
I was pleasantly surprised — it also worth noting, La Morena has clearly become a neighborhood favorite, judging by its brisk business.
I tried the fritada — 24-hour marinated pork — and an Argentine beef empanada and a queso empanada. This is over two meals, mind you.
Interestingly, La Morena featured empanadas representing a swath of South American countries — Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, and Colombia, to name a few.
The fritada was flavorful, some parts dry, some parts moist. The yuca, potatoes, and sweet plantains were all perfect.
The Argentine empanada — beef, olives, and sliced egg — didn’t quite pop for me. It could be personal preference — I asked them what their most popular empanada was, and that’s what they suggested. One thing that did pop: Their housemade mustard and carrot hot sauce, which made everything better.
Their queso empanada, however, that I saved for dinner on my flight — excellent. Even six hours after I initially bought it, the empanada shell retained much of it firmness. Even cold, it was fried cheesy goodness. I can only imagine how good it would’ve been hot out of the display case.
If you’re in Toronto, I wouldn’t tell you to go out of your way to La Morena — but if you’re in the area, you’re in for a good meal.
I’m now back home in San Francisco, gearing up for the finale of road trip in Nashville. I wrote most of this in the air, I hope you don’t mind this fatigue-fueled diversion from the typical San Jose Sharks fare at San Jose Hockey Now!
Sheng’s Travel Fund
Help fund Sheng's travel! Every dollar goes to the cost of getting to and from Sharks road games.