July 26, 2014


Here we reblog a post by Neil in 2009 about conflict in Gaza.

Originally posted on Exchange:

Suppose you are physically attacked. How should you respond? The law says your response will depend on the nature of the attack. If the attacker pushes you back, that is one thing. If the attacker uses a knife that is quite another. In other words, the force you use to defend yourself should be proportionate to the force used against you.

These principles apply to the violence in the Middle East between Israel and Gaza. Some context here. Gaza, heavily populated, is roughly half the area of Toronto, with a population closing in on 60 per cent of Toronto’s.

Israel said it began its aerial bombing of Gaza in retaliation for Gaza hurling rockets into southern Israel. After seven days of saturation bombing it is estimated the death toll in Gaza is approaching 500 and the number of injured is 2,000. A U.N. official estimates that nearly 25 per cent…

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Annie O’Loughlin reunion at the family farm in Montana.

July 23, 2014

Special greetings to the descendants of Annie O’Loughlin who are gathering this weekend at the family farm Sweetgrass, Montana.

Annie was born Annie McKenty. She and Neil’s dad, Arthur McKenty, were two out of five children who were orphaned at an early age during the flu epidemic of the 1920’s (correct me if my facts are a bit skewered). The children were farmed out to separate families and not encouraged to keep in touch with each other.

Annie especially was not-treated by her adopted mother. At a young age, she got herself a ticket on the railway from a cousin and migrated to Montana where she earned her living as a teacher. She then married an O’Loughlin, and she and her husband farmed at Sweetgrass, where the reunion is taking place next Saturday.

Imagine Neil’s delight when he was able to establish contact with Annie’s descendants, I believe with the help of Gerry McKenty. We had always hoped to go out to Montana to meet the family.

And imagine my delight when I was invited to go this year to the O’Loughlin reunion. I bought my plane ticket and was all set to go but circumstances intervened and I had to cancel.

My heart will be there anyway this coming Saturday at 12 noon Montana time when the family from far and near gather on that farm set high on the hillside.

Neil’s dad, Arthur, was lucky enough to be apprenticed to the Shea family, who had a farm on what is still called the Shea line, not far from Peterborough, Ontario. After his return from the First World War, he married the daughter of that family, Irene Shea. Neil later found some of his dad’s letters to Irene when he was overseas. Because of censorship he could say almost nothing about his war experience, but we know he carried a wounded man to safety on his back during that terrible battle of Ypres when so many young Canadian and German lives were lost.

Later, on a visit to Ireland, Neil discovered some of the history of the Sheas, known in Ireland as O’Shea. You can find his article in Montreal’s Irish newspaper Nuacht  on this blog How the Sheas and Neil came to Canada.

Interestingly Peterborough Ontario where Irene Shea gave birth to Neil in the hospital, is named after Peter Robinson, who organised the six ships that brought the Sheas and many other irish families from Cork harbour safely to Canada.

Neil grew up in Hastings, Ontario – a lovely small village at the time, where his dad owned the hardware store. The McKentys, we discovered, came from the Glens of Antrim, in the far north of Ireland.

Greetings to all the descendants of Annie McKenty O’Loughlin.

Catharine McKenty


July 23, 2014


From 2008 an early post on China

Originally posted on Exchange:

Many of the world leaders – Bush, Sarkozy and 78 others- attended the spectacular opening ceremonies of the Bejing Olympics.

But our own prime minister, Stephen Harper, was nowhere to be found. Instead the Canadian delegation was headed by the Foreign Affairs Minister, David Emerson. And almost every story about Harper’s absence referred to Canada’s strained relations with China.

What a pity that Canada is off on the wrong foot with one of the emerging super powers on the world stage. Whereas, Jean Chretien used to lead lucrative trade missions to China, the current prime minister would prefer to remain in Canada and tell lies about Stephane Dion’s green shift policies.

Former Canadian diplomats to China say that boycotting the regime is not the way to go. Quiet diplomacy behind the scenes will do far more to moderate China’s human rights policies than hurling strictures from above and sulking at…

View original 54 more words

What summer sounds do you remember?

July 20, 2014

Vin and John have both raised good points about writing, as of course Neil did.

Several years ago I was told very firmly by a niece of Neil’s that I should be writing about the experience I have describe below. Somehow time flies, and it is curious that the memory of the sound of hand-pushed lawnmower should lead to a whole train of thought. Interesting how the mind works, as Vin says so eloquently. Although it feels to me that writing, like art, comes from a deeper place in the pysche. Plus, of course, with some help from the brain at some point.

It’s as though a vast reservoir of creativity is within each of us, but we have difficulty accessing, until like Neil, we keep at it long enough so it just flows.

It was so much fun working with Neil on our ski book. He simply took the 300 pages of oral history I had collected, edited it and wove it in with all sorts of other interesting stuff into one smooth-flowing paragraph after another.

I mention this to encourage all aspiring writers of whatever age never to give up.

I was also told by a wise friend not to discuss what I was writing while I was actually doing it. Not to dissipate the energy it takes. What do you think of that advice?

What summer sounds do you remember from your childhood?

A conversation at lunch reminded me that whenever I hear loons calling, I remember summer at my mother’s cottage at Lake Simcoe. There I was, playing yet another game of prisoner’s base or baseball with some of my fifteen cousins; or trying to learn to dive head-first into the water off a diving tower which terrified me; or falling happily off the old upturned canoe which we used as a make-shift raft.

Thanks to the generousity of my uncle Goldie, who hired a swimming teacher Mr. McCutchen, I learned to swim, which still stands me in good stead.

And thanks to my twin cousins, Bob and Lou (Robert and Louis if we are being formal), one fine day these two characters (five years older) decided to maroon their cousin, me, on the small family raft anchored about 20 feet out from the shore.

They thought they’d scare the living daylights out of me. And indeed, my cousin Lydia’s grandmother Mrs Bentley, was jumping up and down on the shore clinging for dear life to her open umbrella, shouting at the top of her 75 year old voice. ‘Come back, you dreadful boys.”

In fact, I was in seventh heaven, there on the raft in solo glory, out of reach of all grown-ups, picturing my seven year-old self sailing down the Mississippi with Mark Twain’s young hero Huckleberry Finn.

This train of thought about summer sounds started today during a luncheon conversation with a friend who had a gardener to do his lawn.

Neil was the gardener in our house. The house itself was located in the middle of an apple orchard on the original farm in what is now Victoria village. When it became our home there were still three old apple trees in the backyard, inhabited by a family of squirrels, who would turn somersaults for no good reason, much to our delight.

The lawn had a way of growing very fast in the summertime. Neil went out immediately to the Salvation Army and for 25 dollars purchased one of those old-fashioned lawn-mowers that you have to push quite hard to make the blade turn properly. He worked non-stop up and down under the critical eyes of the squirrels, until the last blade was mowed. Then out came his deck-chair and three or more newspapers.

I can still hear the pleasant sound of that old lawnmower, combining with the heavy scent of newly-mown grass.

That smell of summer grass is connected in my memory with the smell of newly-mown hay on my grandmother’s farm, Donlands. I grew up there until I was ten, with my mother, two aunts, an occasional uncle and my beloved grandmother, Lydia Orford Fleming, who died in India at the age of 70.

The farm was on the east side of Don Mills road, with fifty-six cows in a big barn where the hay was also stored and a maple grove stretching down to one branch of the Don River.

Early in the spring, I used to love to walk (about age three) beside my granny, as she inspected the beds where auld Dick, a retired sheep-herder from Scotland, had planted tulips, and then later in the lower field, fresh asparagus. It was a spacious way to grow up.

Amazingly, I was allowed to wander all over the acreage with little supervision – something not possible today. I would spend hours riding on the hub of the big red tractor, driven by Angus the farm foreman as he ploughed the back fields. To my delight the Aga Khan has bought 17 of those Donland acres for of his museum of Diversity. Of course, those broad fields have long since disappeared under concrete.

When I was seven, my beloved granny Fleming left on her third journey by sea to India. She was involved there in medical services for women, raising money for a whole village around one of the hospitals. Her daughter, my aunt Evelyn, practised as a surgeon for twenty-five years in India. On my seventh birthday, in September 1937, we received the sad news that our granny had died in India in Aunt Ev’s arms. Her coffin was brought back the long way by ship. I can remember it piled high with flowers in the living room at Donlands.

A year later, when I was about eight, I was alone one evening in my tiny room at the top of the stairs in that old field-stone house that was my home. As I leaned out of the window the strong smell of the Petunias, planted by my grandmother rose up from the flower-bed beneath my window, blending with the soft persistent hum of the insects. The sun was sinking away on the left-hand side, from the big barn to the north I could hear the cows stirring restlessly in their stalls as one by one they were being milked. An occasional calf would ball its’ heart out.

As I sat there leaning on my elbows on the window sill, I was wrapped in silent connection with my friend, the great Dutch elm tree, which spread its’ arms up towards the sky where the first evening star was just appearing.

The grown-ups were downstairs having dinner in the long dining room with windows open on the garden. Uncle Murray presided at the head of the table, in full evening-dress. His sisters wore their long evening gowns. My uncle had Amos and Andy going full blast on the radio so he wouldn’t have to listen to the twitter (as he saw it) of his three sisters. My mother would soon come upstairs, smelling of meat and potatoes, while the plates were being cleared for dessert, to tuck me in for the night. Meantime, I was on my own, completely absorbed the smells and sounds around me, and intent on communing with the great elm.

Gradually I could sense a whole vast universe opening up, as though the whole back of my head and body had become transparent and my spirit could reach up to the stars and beyond.

At that moment, I knew with complete certainty that I was being held and I was being loved.

It was a certainty that would be shaken and tested many times in my life, but that returned in full force in intervals when I most needed it.

Tuesday writing conversation

July 15, 2014

To my surprise I was sitting in a restaurant this morning, enjoying a cup of Mocha coffee and having a riveting conversation about writing and all its’ possible permutations and combinations with a young waitress I had never met before. Earlier this morning I had been thinking about Barbara Moser’s comment about Neil (Barbara is publisher/editor of Montreal’s Senior Times) she wrote “He’s edgy, he’s provocative and he’s ours.”

This is a comment about Neil who wrote a column called Pitstop every month for the Senior Times newspaper here in Montreal.

Well, wouldn’t you know I was sitting in a dentist’s chair earlier today while my dentist described his patient, Neil, in similar terms “We had the craziest and best arguments about all kinds of subjects. Sometimes Neil would rise half out of the chair, sometimes he was furious with my point of view, but if my argument made sense, had some logic to it, he’d admit it. My sense was that these discussions owed a great deal to his Jesuit training, how to formulate an argument clearly.”

Well, why should I be surprised? There was himself, my husband, never happier than when he found himself in the midst of an argument, even in the dentist’s chair!

Neil also loved to write, starting from the time he entered an oratorical contest aged nine. I found his original hand-written version among his papers in an old black suitcase that had been stored unopened in our cellar for some twenty years. The title was “When Grandad was a Boy” and will be included in the book about Neil being published later this year by Shoreline Press in Montreal with veteran journalist Alan Hustak as editor.

Over the years, Neil tried his hand at all types of writing – at age fifteen he became a stringer for the Peterboro Examiner under Robertson Davies. He went on to write 5 books which you’ll see <here>

I had the fun of working on two of these books with him. From the time I was ten I had scribbled stories and playlets for my cousins and friends. Never in a million years did I expect to write a book. Too much work, I thought, as I watched Neil hour after hour at his typewriter (later his computer of course).

Has anybody else reading this felt the same and left bits of writing hidden away in a cupboard?

I did recently get an iPad but I see myself as more-or-less computer illiterate. And when I did find myself compelled to write a book (launched at my 79th birthday with the best Irish band in the city), believe it or not the whole thing was written by hand. Years ago, in 1970, I had started typing lessons, then landed a job as speechwriter for the Ontario Minister of Education, complete with secretary. End of typing lessons. I was working six days a week, researching, writing and rewriting, to keep up with my boss who was a splendid orator, when I met Neil on the dancefloor.

Two weeks after our August honeymoon in 1972 he landed the job as Editorialist for CJAD, known as the best English-language station in Montreal. We moved lock, stock and barrel down the 401 to Montreal. He would be writing editorials in one corner of our tiny apartment on the 21st floor of a building behind the old Montreal Forum, while in another corner I was scribbling a story for the Reader’s Digest. I had landed a job there as researcher, then was lucky enough to be sent to Quebec City to write a piece for their Explore Canada book.

Another piece I wrote, about 2 Quebec children’s writers, never got published, but it landed me a rewarding experience as literary agent for one of the sisters, Suzanne Martel. Then one of her publishers, Heritage, asked me to take all his French-language children’s books to sell to libraries and bookstores in Toronto. I ended up collecting all the new French-language children’s books from his and other publishers at the Christmas Salon du Livre, lugging them on the train, and having a ball going around Toronto to sell them. This gave me enough money to visit my mom in Toronto every 2 months. That experience also stood me in good stead when Michael Price of Price-Patterson published our book on the early days of skiing in the Laurentians and Montreal (Skiing Legends and the Laurentian Lodge Club, now available on Amazon as book and ebook). We had more fun tootling around with the trunk of our car loaded up with copies, to all the local bookstores in the Laurentians, Montreal and Toronto. Thanks to Neil’s skill in writing, this book became a best-seller, and won the international Skada award 2002 for the Best Skiing History at Vail, Colorado.

Working on this book with Neil and going to Ireland with him earlier ( a first for both of us) must somehow had an encouraging effect on my own interest in writing.

Neil had been asked to write the biography of a remarkable Benedictine Monk, John Main, who had been invited by Bishop Crowley to found a monastery right in the heart of Montreal, based on an ancient tradition of silent meditation found in early Christianity. This, at a time when many English-speaking Montrealers were leaving the city in the wake of the FLQ crisis.

Going to Ireland sparked Neil’s interest in his own O’Shea ancestors (on his mother’s side) and my determination to find the farm that our Fleming family (on my mother’s side) had left in 1847, in the midst of the famine. Neil’s family were Catholic, O’Sheas from the south and McKentys from the Glens of Antrim in the far north. My family were Northern Irish Protestant, from the Dromore/Omagh area, not all that far from the Glens of Antrim as I realised later.

Those visits to Ireland with Neil strengthened my awareness of the riches of Irish history, far deeper than sectarian differences that in many cases had economic and political causes.

The long-term result was that the book I eventually wrote, Polly of Bridgewater Farm – an unknown Irish story – was reviewed in both Catholic and Protestant newspapers and accepted into Catholic, Protestant, and integrated schools in the North.

A Dublin broadcaster told me he had never realised that Protestants suffered along with Catholics during the Famine,” the Great Hunger” as it has been called. I was asked to read from the book by the mayor of Monaghan at the first ever memorial in their city of the Irish Famine. And an Omagh school principal wrote me that “we need more books like this, that speak of hope in the midst of adversity.”

All the above experiences have shown me the power of each of our stories, to build connection with other people, and to bridge differences of outlook, age and background. Also the importance of making sure these stories don’t get lost.

This raises questions about writing. What kind of writing interests you most? Have you tried your hand at poetry? Writing your family story or a novel? Trying a short story?

Have you done a lot of essay writing? Is anything of this a labour of love or a drudge? Do you re-write?

Have you done an article for a student newspaper or any other publication?

I loved Vin Smith’s story of his 40 books, some published, some not.

Have you tried to get a book published, what was your experience?

When Neil wrote his memoir, The Inside Story, I tried 40 publishers without success. Some would say “maybe in a year’s time” then someone gave me the name of Judy Isherwood, founder of Shoreline Press. I will never forget what happened next. But that is a story for another time.

Memories of Neil

July 10, 2014

Catharine writes:

This piece grew, as far as I can tell, out of Neil’s notes for his speech to a graduating class at Loyola High School in Montreal, sometime around 1998. What an evening that was – with all the students and staff celebrating this milestone. Neil had been asked to give that keynote speech by Father Eric McLean, president of the Loyola community.

I sat riveted in the audience, as Neil spoke without a single note, you could hear a pin drop. It seemed that he later expanded the subject in this written piece which I found among his papers (this is part 2).

Part two and final



How does one turn this situation around?  How does a person develop his or her own map for the journey?  Not easily.  Not by any more external band-aids or success stories.  The outer journey (with the wrong map) must be replace by the inner journey using the map that enables us to become the person God intended us to be.  But how do we move from outer accomplishments (which like drug require stronger doses) to an interior journey that deals with our dis-ease in a fundamental and permanent manner ?

This is a movement from disliking ourselves to liking ourselves, in my opinion the most fundamental spiritual transformation imaginable.  I think the first step is a total revulsion at the unreality of the way we have been living expressed perhaps in a cry from our inner depths,” I just want to be real”.  My own experience is that a crisis of some sort may be required to get us to this existential honesty, something along the lines described by the American Jungian therapist, James Hollis, as the ”swamplands of the soul”.  These include loss, depression, grief, loneliness and betrayal.

Some of us, at any rate, must hit what AA calls ”an emotional bottom” wherein we realize we are powerless, that our lives have become unmanageable and we must reach out for help. It is in this ”bottom” that I believe we take the first decisive step in beginning to draw our own map.  It is a marvelous paradox that when we become vulnerable we also become able to grow from the inside.  In this sense, God does indeed write straight with crooked lines. Or as the Canadian therapist, Marian Woodman, puts it, ” God comes through the wound. ”

How do you know when you are living out of your own map?  Let me suggest a few simple test, so simple you may think them jejune.  Believe me they’re not.  consider the following :

1) A friend calls you on the telephone to invite you to a party.  You tell the friend you’ll get back to her.  The reason for your delay is not to consult your agenda.  The reason is that you don’t really want to commit yourself until you’re sure another, more interesting invitation doesn’t turn up.  You are not living out of your own map.  The relevant advise is ”Move in a straight line.”  Only those who habitually live out of their own map are mature enough not to continually hedge their bets but to move in a straight line.

2) Another friend calls on you to take on a project of some kind.  You hesitantly say yes, not because the project really interest you (and you already have too many projects on your plate) but because you don’t want to displease your friend.  You are not living out of your own map.  Only those who do feel really comfortable saying ”no” when ”no” is the nature of the response.  How and why a person says ”no” is a fairly accurate test of whether that person is living out of his or her map.

3)You do something in public, e.g. a talk, a presentation, an article.  There is very little or no reaction from others.  You are inordinately discomfited by this lack of response. You are not living out of your own map.  To change the image, you are still dancing to the music played by others.

There are many other examples of not living according to your own map and I expect you can come up with many of your own.

Drawing your own maps is not a decision, an act of will.  It is a process which requires awareness, demands patience but is truly liberating, And blessings on your journey.

Neil McKenty

February 15, 1999

Memories of Neil

July 9, 2014

Here an another text from Neil :



Once I was hosting a radio phone-in program when the question was, ‘How do you get on with your mate driving in the car?’ Calls were a riot. Most of the callers, especially the women, recalled incidents when their husband got lost.  The reaction was invariably the same. First the husband denied he was lost;  the he refused to stop the car and ask for directions;  finally in a fit of pique, he angrily declined to look at the map.

That program got me thinking about maps. Of course, if you’re lost its stupid not to look at a map and figure out where you are.  But suppose you didn’t have a map. Or something worse, you had the wrong map.  Imagine, for instance, you live in Montreal and you are motoring to Boston.  Everything’s fine until you arrive in Beantown.  Then the whole trip begins to unravel.  You can’t find your hotel, you can’t even find the name of the street your hotel is on.  You pore over your map.  You can’t find a single name or reference point that makes any sense.  You continue to drive around aimlessly, bewildered, growing more anxious and angry by the minute, totally frustrated.  Finally, you spot a policeman.  You stop and show him your map.  He looks at you quizzically and says it’s no wonder you’re lost.  You’ve been driving frantically around Boston.  But you’re trying to follow a map of Detroit.  You have the wrong map.

Isn’t that how many people go through life following the wrong map?  And if that’s the case (and experience suggest it is) then is it any wonder that so many of us are anxious, bewildered, angry frustrated and ultimately lost?  Is it surprising that we experience a chronic inner dis-ease, that we are not comfortable in our skin and that we expend enormous energy trying to disguise this condition from the outside world? 

Of course, we are now talking about an interior map, a map that relates to the landscape of our own psyche, the topography of our innermost soul.  So where did we get this defective, inaccurate map that has led us down so many blind alleys, cul-de-sacs and roads that went nowhere?  In my case the map I followed for many years goes back to my boyhood.  What’s wrong with that?  Nothing, except the map was drawn by other people.  From as long as I can remember I was trying to live up to the expectations of other people: my parents, my priest, my teachers and, to some extent, the community in which I lived.

Trying to live up to the expectations of others never works because (in your own mind at least) whatever you do, however much succeed, it is never enough.  The bar is continually being raised.  What this leads to is not a genuine sense of accomplishment but an oppressive sense of failure. We can never do enough.  And it’s not far from feeling that we are failures to feeling that we are unlikeable.  Not just that others don’t like us but, fundamentally, we don’t like ourselves.

This is a recipe for inner dis-ease.  And disguising that dis-ease from others and even from ourselves becomes our objective.  We desperately try to project an image that all is well, we can manage, we are a success (as we well may be), we have a great social life and scads of friends.  And if these external accomplishments do not anaesthetize the inner pain for long (which they don’t) well some of us try a quicker method, chemicals of some sort. A double martini or a snort of coke will deaden our dis-ease a lot faster than making a successful speech or writing an acclaimed article.  But whether it’s alcohol or drugs or success we are all, in a sense, addict, trying to fill a spiritual hole with a material reality.

Which brings us back to maps.  At the core of the problem is an instinctive sense that we are not being true to ourselves, that we are not living out of our own natural bent, not, in the words of Joseph Campbell, ”following our bliss”.  Instead our lives are still governed by external expectations, by maps drawn by other people.  To be specific, think of the tortuous journey of a man who really wants to be a writer but instead has become a priest.  Or a woman who wants to be an artist and finds herself doing a doctorate in bioethics because that’s what she thought her father, an eminent doctor, wanted her to do. I think the word hypocrite is relevant here, not in a moral sense but in the root from the Greek, hypocrite meaning ”actor”.  It’s a dreadful burden to go through life being an actor, following the wrong map.

… Second and final part to follow.


Memories of Neil

July 4, 2014

Here another text Neill wrote for his and Catharine dear friends John and Clare Hallward :


Sometimes with the Hallwards – and I do mean all the Hallwards young and older – you get more than you bargained for. Take, Clare, for example. At first glance you wouldn’t think Clare Hallward is an intimidating person. I’ve known Clare fro a quarter of a century and I know, for a fact, that she doesn’t think she’s intimidating. Well, I’d advise you to take a second glance. Because if you don’t you might just find yourself on a banana pell or in the ditch.

Because that’s where I found myself – sliding on a banana peel into the ditch – after I signed up for a course at the Thomas Moore Institute. I knew Clare was also in the course which was one of the reasons I signed up. I thought she would be fun to be with in a course – you know, provocative and stimulating. And indeed she was. But, you know something. You can overdose on stimulation.

Let me explain what I mean. The course Clare and I were taking together involved reading a series of biographies. Perhaps you think this was child’s play. Let me assure you it wasn’t. The biography on Dickens alone was twelve hundred pages long with a hundred pages or so of footnotes. As I told Clare and everybody else in the class when I finished this opus I knew more about Charles Dickens then I knew about my wife.

But do you think this was enough for Clare. Not on your life. I staggered into the weekly session having just finished the required reading of three hundred pages or so only to find Clare at her place with the dickens biography (several times the size of a telephone directory) on the table in front of her and beside that a pile of other documents relating to Dickens that had scrounged out, read and now threw into discussion. She had found and obscure review called the Groundhog Literary Journal published once every four years in Red Deer, Alberta. How do you think the rest of us felt ? As thought we had brought pork and beans to a pot-luck supper and Clare walked in with champagne and caviar.

This feeling reached its apogee when came to the biography of the tragic American writer, Sylvia Plath. The moderators of the assigned us one of the latest Plath biographies to read. I was determined to do a good job. I read the book carefully, made meticulous notes, marshalled my arguments and strode into the seminar room smiling inwardly with good feeling of being well prepared to contribute to the discussion. This feeling didn’t last long. I was soon enlightened. Shortly after the discussion began I learned six biographies had been written on Plath. Not only that, Clare had rounded them up and read them all. Not only that, I could plainly see all six were laid out neatly in front of her place and she began, with erudition and good humour, to compare the five I hadn’t read to the one I had. How did I feel ? Well, as thought I had put on my very best suit for a party and just after I arrived at the party my pants fell down.

Would I sign up for another course with Clare ? You bet your boots I would. but first I would see my optometrist and get a set of trifocals.

Pace magazine reunion

July 2, 2014

Click below to see Catharine’s cousin Bob Fleming discuss the history of Pace Magazine.


July 1, 2014

Catharine writes : How could I resist ? Theres one of my favourites piece by Neil, with his one word portrait of that Schwartz’s pickles.

This post was originally written by Neil and appeared on the BLOG on the February 25th, 2011.

Do share your favourite restaurants with us. Someday we may be in your neck of the woods and will be looking for a good place to eat.

I will divide my three favourites into breakfast, lunch and dinner.

For breakfast you can’t go wrong with Beauty’s (established in 1942) and located on Mount Royal Ave. in the Plateau. Catharine and I often go there early Saturday morning. We have fresh chilled orange juice, a stack of blueberry pancakes smothered in maple syrup accompanied by crisp crisp bacon, all washed down by gallons of rich black coffee. Often there is a line-up but that is small price to pay for Beauty’s.

For lunch or brunch we head out to St. Jaques in Notre Dame de Grace to Cora’s. Cora is a French-Canadian entrepreneur who from a single site has built a chain of restaurants across Quebec and across Canada. We tuck into onion soup and fresh fruit with custard. Yum, Yum.

For dinner we fetch up at the famous Schwartz’s (a.k.a. the Hebrew Delicatessen) on St. Laurent Boulevard just around the corner from Beauty’s. Another line-up here. When we get into the restaurant that goes back to 1928 (and does not take credit cards) we seat cheek by jowel with a group that resembles the inside of a Montreal bus and sprinkled with some gaily dressed tourists. My regular here is a medium-rare Rib Eye steak, sizzling between crisp French fries and a gargantuan sour pickle. This is the real McCoy.

Tell us about your three favourite restaurants.

We’ll tuck them away for the future.


Comments :

Tony Kondaks Says:

1) I am not a big meat eater; indeed, my “default” is to always eat vegetarian. However, if my body “tells” me I need meat (usually manifested as an urge to eat red meat), I indulge. This happens maybe 2 or 3 times a year. And when I do have meat I want to have the best; and this is where my favourite restaurant comes in. In Scottsdale Arizona is a restaurant called “Cowboy Ciao” which, as the name suggests, a fusion of Italian and Southwestern cuisine (although there is hardly any Italian influence in the cuisine as far as I can tell). Anyway, they had a beef short ribs dish that was braised and served with a cherry/brandy reduction sauce, served on a bed of pecan grits and grilled vegetables. They charged $31.00 for it and I never, ever tasted beef like that. It was their signature dish. And the consistency was there each and every time I went.

However, I recently learned from visiting their website that they have changed it! They still offer the short ribs but it is served a different way.

2) I am now in Vancouver and you can’t throw a rock without breaking the window of a sushi bar. There are so many! And this is a paradise to a sushi lover like myself. And there is so much competition that the prices are incredible, ironic in a city where everything else is so overpriced (particularly real estate). Anyway, there is a sushi bar a 10 minute walk from where I live called “Watami” which is not the best in terms of either quality or taste but is up there in both values. But what sets it apart — and why it’s a favourite — is the special it offers: 3 sushi rolls (plus miso soup and endless green tea) for $5.95! And it isn’t their choice of rolls but your choice from a list of about 30! I usually take the spicy salmon roll, the negitoro roll, and the spicy Dynamite roll. I am in sushi heaven.

An amusing aside: with tax, the $5.95 would come to $6.66 but so many customers remarked on the “666″ that they jiggled the software on their cash register so that it now comes out to $6.68!

3) My third choice is really in response to Neil’s listing of Schwartz’s. Again, an unusual choice for me because meat plays such a small part of my life. Across the street from Schwartz’s is “The Main” which is never, ever as busy as Schwartz’s but also makes their own smoked meat and exists probably solely as a “spill over” from the always busy Schwartz’s. But, for some reason, I prefer The Main’s smoked meat to Schwartz’s. And, yes, I am the only person I know who feels that way. Indeed, it is sacrilegious, it seems, to tout any smoked meat purveyor as better than Schwartz’s but there you are. I only order it medium fat, which of course is the only way to go (fat is what makes the bloody thing taste good in the first place, so why deny yourself)?. A side of incredible fries and a cherry coke round out the experience.

So, I increase my cholesterol with my first and third picks and, neutralize the negative effects through the fish oils of my second pick,

Posted on August 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Neil McKenty Says:


Thanks for you’re marvellously detailed additions to our restaurant list. I hope to get to that place in Scottsdale.

About Schwartz’s/My friend — and your friend – Jim who contributes
to this blog — told me a long time ago that the place across from Schwatazes was in fact a better place for smoked meat.

Thanks again.

Posted on August 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Trev Says:

1. La Friterie in Sainte-Adele: best poutine in the Laurentians. Basic American fast-food done with the panache and concern with quality that only french Canadians apply.

2. Shangrila: if you don’t know this place, get your skates on because this Nepalese-Italian fusion restaurant in Lachine (the up-and-coming edgy suburb of Montreal), at the corner of 25th ave and Notre-Dame will expand your spice horizons and blow your mind. Perfect for west-islanders.

3. The Jersey Giant: on Front Street inToronto, ace nachos and pints of Smithwicks

Posted on August 21, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Liz Says:
If you are a meat-eater you would probably not go to Annapurna, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Toronto. However, if you don’t mind skipping meat for at least one day I would recommend this place. I am not a vegetarian either but I will definitely head back for another visit.

Posted on August 22, 2011 at 11:29 am

Lady Janus Says:

I don’t have only three favourite restaurants, and I divide them into ethnic cuisines instead of the time of day, but…keeping to the boundaries of the city of Vancouver without including any of the satellite cities, I’ll try:

(1) For Ethiopian food, I go to Axum on East Hastings. It’s a small, homey place with maybe a dozen tables, and the kitchen is easily viewed from everywhere, so you can watch the cook/owner work her magic. The food is redolent with spices and brilliant with colour. The injira is presented on its platter at your table, and then, one by one, the individual dishes — each prepared in their own separate little cooking pots — are laid out on top of it until the platter is covered with dots of colour and mounds of aromatic stews. No knives, forks, or spoons, but for each patron, a small plate full of rolled injira, for breaking off pieces and using as a “mitt” to pick up the food and carry it to one’s eager palate:

Ethiopian meals are a social event, so take your time and enjoy the company as well as the food. Lovers traditionally feed one another the choicest bits on the platter. At Axum, sometimes a dance troupe will entertain. And, if you are lucky enough to be there when the coffee ceremony is happening, PLEASE do yourself the favour of taking part in it! You have never tasted coffee like Ethiopian coffee!!!

(2) For Jamaican/Caribbean food, I found a place on Carrall Street called Calabash Bistro. Also a small, homey place with only a few tables, Calabash is authentically Caribbean, The food is aromatic and richly flavoured, the staff are attentive, and the ambiance is reggae and lively. Take a seat by the large window so you can watch the street theatre, or head downstairs to enjoy the live music while you dine:

(3) And, just for fun, whenever possible, Japadog! Technically, it’s not exactly a restaurant, but a stationary hotdog cart with mobile tentacles. One of the few chains I will patronize, and the reason for that is that they are all different from one another! They all have some standard items (like the Terimayo and Oroshi), but each location also has its own specialty items that the others do not carry. My particular favourite location is the one in front of Waterfront Station on Cordova at Granville, because it is the only one that has the ebi chili dog — a shrimp sausage (!) on a bun, covered with a sweet chili sauce, a cheese sauce, and sprinkled liberally with tiny dried shrimp! They also are bringing in a smoked salmon sausage dog, at the Waterfront location only. Can’t wait for it! Voted THE BEST Street food in Vancouver (even by all its competitors), if you’re visiting here and you don’t try it, shame on you, for you haven’t really been here at all:

Posted on August 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm

littlepatti Says:

I really like Madison’s for lunch where we can split a club done with French-style bread & a nice Baked potato & Slaw.
I also like to split a Baton Rouge’s Grilled Chicken salad with Honey mustard dressing.
In Winnipeg, we discovered “Haps”. A steak house downtown. Open Grill and nice salad & seafood. Exquisite service.
We often go to Chez Cora and it’s consistently good, where ever.
I’ve wanted to go to Schwartz’s this summer, but hesitate because of all the construction. I also like Orchidee de Chine and Piment Rouge-same owner.
Oh! And Hot & Spicy on Decarie!
OMG, I’m starved!

Posted on August 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm


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