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

Thank you Schwartz’s

June 30, 2014

Catharine writes:

Today’s Montreal Gazette has a superb article on page A4 by Jason Magder featuring Schwartz’s Deli and the Steak spice that made it famous. This seasoning mixture was first created by a man called Morris ‘Shadow’ Sherman, according to Bill Brownstein in his book Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen. It then reached international fame when the flavour experts from a London, Ont.-based company, McCormick Canada, began marketing this spicy combination.

the main

Well do I remember the first visit that Neil and I made to Schwartz’s on Saint-Laurent Boulevard (‘The Main’). That Saturday we had been out exploring the city by bus, as we always did on weekends. We were barrelling comfortably along Sherbrooke street way out by the Olympic stadium when a snowstorm blew up. We got out at the next stop, crossed the road and waited and waited for a return bus.

When we were finally seated in the bus, Neil said ‘Let’s go to Schwartz’s for a steak. By 4pm we were blown in the door of Schwartz’s by a howling wind and on to seats at a long table near the open grill.

I could swear there was sawdust on the floor and the waiters all had their hair parted in the middle, like something out of the twenties. By I think that was a delusion produced by the cold.

Rarely have I tasted anything so welcoming and delicious as that thick steak set down in front of me fresh off the grill. With a juicy jaunty pickle lodged on the plate beside it to Neil’s delight. Needless to say, we returned many times over the years.

On his radio show Exchange, Neil would regularly throw out the question, ‘Where do you get good value for your eating out dollar?’

Fortunately Neil couldn’t resist trying out his callers suggestions. Fortunately, because I was not the world’s most experienced cook, and Neil had conveniently forgotten how to cook when he got married. He did, however, have one recipe, which he produced with a flourish from time to time.

As I read The Gazette‘s article on Schwarz’s, I held my breath. Would they give out the famous recipe for steak spice. Well, there it is, in black and white. My interest was due to the fact that one day on Exchange, Neil decided to give out his own special recipe for Steak spice “First you lather the steak with soya sauce, then you sprinkle on a big dose of red pepper flakes, be generous with the red pepper. Then place on a hot dry pan (he didn’t mention this often set off the fire alarm in our house).

A week later, a man called in to Exchange “Mr McKenty” he said “we tried your recipe last weekend on our outdoor Barbeque – we used to have a lot of blackflies – they are all gone. We used to have some very nosy neighbours. They are all gone. We’ve nailed your steak to the barndoor.”

Do you have a favourite recipe?

Where do you get good value for your eating-out dollar?

Do you eat out often?

Is that a special Montreal custom?

Has it changed at all over the years?

Do you ever have a 2 hour lunch these days?

Do you barbeque at home a lot?

Do you ever travel by bus in your city just for pleasure?

Catharine McKenty


Memories of Neil

June 29, 2014

Here the second and final part of the text written by Neil for his very good friends Clare and John Hallward:


     It isn’t for a lack of trying. John Hallward and I have attended so many breakfast meeting in the last five years with groups wrestling with national unity, that we know more about muffins than we do about the distinct society.  So many scenarios have been brought up that ultimately the most practical thing to bring up is all the coffee you’ve drunk.  John was a big factor in raising a hundred thousand dollar to pay for advertisements all across the country to keep to country together.  We’re still at it. John has tried to build so many bridges to opposing groups that he should get an honorary doctorate in engineering.  All I can say is that when we meet yet again in the early dawn for more muffins and more coffee trying to save the country and John is still optimistic and ebullient, I take heart.  John’s optimism, in constitutional matters and many others, is infectious.

     Finally, on the subject of building a relationship, we all had more fun on the week-end some where in New York State at a place called Omega where Clare and John and Catharine and I attended a workshop entitled GETTING THE LOVE YOU WANT based on a best-selling book for couples written by Harville Hendrix.  There was a varied group and all kinds of interesting sessions during the week-end but I really remember only two elements. The first occurred when the participants discovered the presenters had invited a writer from the National Inquirer to sit in and observe. That caused a flap that was diffused only by some very adept diplomacy.  The second, and by far the most important element, was that Catharine and I were spending the week-end with your very best friends.  Recently a Boston psychologist did a study on what make for happiness. He concluded that the most important ingredient, for happiness, is good friends. In that respect Catharine and I are especially happy and indeed blessed to have John and Clare as our dear friends.





Memories of Neil

June 27, 2014

Neil's picture

Catharine writes :

It was an incredible privilege to share nearly 40 years of marriage with Neil. In the end, no matter what he could always make me laugh. I remember one particular December evening there in our beloved Farmhouse home in the heart of Victoria village. On dark nights like this one I always made sure to place candles of all sizes on an ancient dining room table (we had bought this one for $35 from neighbours who were moving out as we were moving in).

On this winter evening I had set a scrumptious Shepherd’s Pie in front of Neil so he could serve us both. As he reached across the table to hand me my plateful, the fuzzy sleeve of his bright red dressing gown caught fire. To my horror, the flames began to run up his arm. Neil calmly stood up, stepped our from the table and moved steadily towards the kitchen, saying calmly to me “Catharine, don’t panic!”

I followed him out to the kitchen, picked up a big green canister of flour from the counter and threw the contents over him. The fire went out. Neil returned to our meal as though nothing had happened. Sitting there in his black-tinged dressing gown while I dissolved in near-hysterical laughter.

Many times since, in moments of crisis, those words “Catharine, don’t panic!” have returned to stand me in good stead.

Stephanie writes :

One of my memories of  Neil that came to me was when I when to his home. Almost every time, when I arrived he was in this big blue comfy chair, reading the news paper or a magazine or even work on this blog.

After our big hug, we would sit  together and talk about everything. But each time he would ask me a question like : what do you think about that, did you read about this or how do you see this situation ? Like he always wanted to know my opinion about the currents news or event. Today when I look back, I have the feeling that for him I matter, that my opinion or my view on certain subject was interesting. That I had something to say and that he was willing to listen.

What is your memories of Neil ?

What do you remember the most about Neil ?

Read the part 1 of text written by Neil for his very good friends Clare and John Hallward below:

Over the last twenty-five years I’ve learned a lot from my friend, John Hallward, but two lessons stand out: look at the big picture and don’t wear a tie. On the tie, I have no problem. Not having to fuss with a tie helps both John and I to play a little game that we have been engaged in for years : how to arrive for a social engagement (not as most Montrealers do, a half hour late) but buzzing the door at the precise moment clock is striking the pre-arranged hour.  If I do say it myself John and I are as precise on this matter of time as a radio host beginning a program. If there is any competition in the game, the score stand a a draw.

Now the matter of the big picture, taking a global view, blue-skying it — that is more complex.  In this area John thinks big and when I say big I mean John thinks in term of countries. He’s already helped save one and he’s doing his damnedest to save another.  First, there’s Poland. I take my hat off to John and the whole Hallward family for the sterling contribution to Poland. Roaring along polish roads in the middle of the night at the wheel of a transport truck loaded to the rafters with relief cartons is worthy of the highest Polish decoration which, indeed, John deservedly received.

My own involvement in the Polish relief project, though minimal, was memorable. Catharine and I spent several hours in a god-forsake warehouse somewhere in the outer wilds of Montreal wrapping diapers and sorting baby bath-powder. We didn’t do much but we have always felt our efforts made a small contribution to the survival of Poland.

Alas John’s second and more sustained effort at nation-building, so far at least, has had more problematic results. It will take more than diapers and baby powder to save our own dear and native Land. Here we are rarified atmosphere of trying to built a society that is distinct without a difference, of constructing a federalism that is centripetal while at the same time strengthening the periphery, and finally and most challenging of all to maintain a marriage where divorce papers have already been served. Maybe you think we don’t know what we’re doing. We know exactly what we’re doing. Our objective is to achieve the exact opposite of what the Catholic church achieves by an annulment. Our problem is we don’t know how to do it.

Part two, to follow

A Homeland of the Heart – Irish roots

June 22, 2014

Click below to see Catharine’s cousin, Bob Fleming, discuss how he came to rediscover his family’s Irish roots.

Anti Homeless sidewalk

June 11, 2014

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Montreal and London (England)

In the last couple of days, I have been hearing a story in the media that confused me…It happen in Montréal and in London, England and I am sure in other cities. The appearance of the anti homeless sidewalks shocks almost everyone including your Mayor of Montreal Denis Coderre who said, with a lot of conviction:

“I find it unacceptable because it sends the wrong message,” of devices installed along windows of a downtown store to keep homeless people away. “As long as I’m here it will be totally unacceptable — we can’t have that kind of society.” Mr. Coderre was then asked why it was okay for the city to play loud music in the Champ-de-Mars underground passageway to deter homeless people ? His response: “there’s a difference between urban architecture in public places and putting metal spikes on the sidewalk that can be a security risk.”

All the stories about the spikes sparked an outcry and they were removed Tuesday. A similar controversy erupted in London this week after they emerged in a wealthy neighbourhood.

In Quebec City, Québec solidaire MNA, Manon Massé, who represents the downtown riding of Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques where the store is located, called the installation of spikes a “barbarian tactic” because they relegate homeless people “to the level of undesirable animals. These people have a right to exist and to occupy the public space like you and me.”

- Do people have a right to life simply by reason of their humanity or citizenship ? … Shall we permit people to freeze to death in the winter, to starve, to die from the effects of a preventable disease, merely because they are poor, insane, or addicted to drugs ? In the long run, the ways in which our society responds to that fundamental question will determine far more than the plight of the homeless. It will define our civilization. – In the Hunger and Homelessness in America : A Survey of State Legislation (1989), citing Blasi, Litigation on Behalf of the Homeless : Systematic Approaches (1957)

What do you think about those anti homeless sidewalk ?

Do you think is a good thing that the Mayor ask for them to be remove ?

If you have a store or office with a sidewalk access did you ever think about this ?

What would you do, if your store or office had homeless people begging at your door ?

Writing conversation :

June 10, 2014

Catharine writes :

Time after time, when I put the question ”How do you get what is in your head down on paper” the person I am talking to comes up with a genuinely interesting fresh response. Sometimes it is a rather puzzled murmur. ‘Oh you know…’ sometimes it is a vivid description of how a writing project begun and brought to a conclusion. A four year old gave me her poem. My schoolfriend, Katherine Tyrell, immediately replied ‘if it doesn’t work, don’t get your knickers in a twist!’

Lets’ be clear – this question about writing was not my idea. It was put to me by a fifteen year old student from Northern Ireland,sitting with a group of about eight fellow students in the lobby of Concordia University, here in Montreal. These students had all come out to Canada on a two month programme with Wider Horizons. The conversation was about my book Polly of Bridgewater Farm: an unknown Irish story. Someone asked if I was going to do a sequel. Then this young woman sitting beside me sprang to life, “What I want to know” she said firmly and formulated a question we’ve all been talking about ever since in conversations and in this Tuesday blog.

This question was right up Neil’s alley – he began writing when he was nine years old. I am a late bloomer, as you’ll see if I ever put up some of my earlier efforts.

What would you say to this young woman?

Have you ever tried to write and failed?

Do you have something half-completed?

Do you have something tucked away in a drawer that no one has ever seen?

Were you encouraged or discouraged by your teachers?

Writing conversation : Report from Regis

June 3, 2014


Catharine writes :

I was fortunate indeed to be in Kingston, Ontario, for the magnificent, multi-generational celebration of Regiopolis-Notre Dame High School’s 175th anniversary.

My husband Neil McKenty taught there as a young Jesuit in the early ’50s. The 1954 annual yearbook shows him right in his element surrounded by the keen members of the highly-acclaimed Regi Debate Society, at ease in the book-lined, tall-shelved school library.  There’s Joe Coyle the president and Ed Koen, the vice-president, with their team who have just won a prize from Radio station CKWS (Neil had won his first oratorical contest at age nine back in his hometown of Hastings, see story here.)

“I can still visualize Neil after all these years.” Ed remembers.

He was a pretty commanding personality in the classroom. He taught us to articulate; there was no mumbling or slurring your words, no sloppy diction. I can still hear him pronouncing the word ‘Squirrel’, exaggerating each syllable, until you could practically see the little critter scampering across the room.”

“I was a bit introverted, quite shy – having grown up on a farm 12 miles north of Kingston and gone to a one-room wooden schoolhouse. Imagine the impact coming to Regi with its cosmopolitan student body from all over North, Central and South America, Mexico and China. Our football quarterback, Palyeo Gutierrez was later shot with all his family in the Cuban revolution.”

“Neil understood where I was coming from and encouraged, pushed me along. I can still remember the excitement of the Debating Society trip to Hastings, the small town where Neil had grown up. I think we stayed at the rectory.”

“There were some real characters among the students, wild-oat types sent by their harried parents to shape up. Jesuit discipline for those 40 years when they took over the school was pretty strict. Some of the wilder students considered it much like a penitentiary. Any noise after lights out in the dorm immediately resulted in two hours on your knees out on the hard floor of that drafty corridor.”

“Neil taught English and History. When I was still in grade 12, he encouraged me and others to have a shot at preparing for and trying one of the tough Grade 13 exams, to lighten our load in that last year and he spent hours tutoring us to get us through. I also remember one day when he was briefly out of the classroom, a fellow sitting near me got fed up with the mess of old notes in the wooden drawer of his school-desk and set fire to it. The whole drawer went wildly up in flames, so he simply picked it up and calmly chucked it out of the nearest window – luckily there were no repercussions that time!”

Robin Lee Graham and PACE Magazine

June 2, 2014



Catharine writes :

At a time of rapid changes and great pressures on young people, I was privileged to work as Research Editor for Pace Magazine in Los Angeles and New York. The magazine was founded by my cousin Robert Fleming, prize-winning photographer, and experienced journalist Stewart Lancaster, with the help of Montrealer John Hallward, with a national youth committee from every corner of the continent. Its’ aim was to inspire a young audience to discover their own goals and purpose in life.

I scanned half a dozen newspapers nearly every day looking for stories. There was a short article in the LA Times about a 16 year old who was about to set sail around the world. By the time I got down to the port he had left, but someone kindly gave me the address of his aunt. She put me in touch with his parents, who were avocado farmers.

My most memorable scoop was a story about the first teenage sailor to circle the globe in a sailboat, Robin Lee Graham. Robin’s father was an enthusiastic sailor himself and had taken the whole family sailing on many occasions. He figured out a way for me to correspond with Robin who would drop in various islands, such as Fiji, on his way to pick up his homework. You can imagine the excitement at Pace Magazine when the first letter from out at sea arrived.

One of the senior editors at Pace, Frank McGee, helped me polish the story for the next edition of the magazine. Robin Lee Graham maintained “you have to tackle any challenge in front of you. For me sailing is it – where it’s you up against nature. You have to show the world and prove to yourself that you can do it.” And so he did, making his solo voyage from Watchorn Basin, Los Angeles, to Hawaii in 22 days with his two cats, Suzette and Joliette – a fishing rod and a guitar for company. Out of the blue I received a letter from Western Samoa, recounting his adventures on the Pacific:


Dear Catharine,

My toughest moment was when I broke my mast. I was sailing along pretty good when I hit a squall and within less than a heart-beat the mast was overboard. After that I had the mast tied to the deck. I put my boom up as a jerry-rig mast and I put the main sail up like it should go on the boom. I had to sail with the wind on my quarter and the only place I could go was Western Samoa. If I didn’t make it I might be sailing in the Pacific for a long, long time.”

Robin Lee Graham

The rest of Lee’s story, his romance with Patti, who was traveling around the world on a motorcycle, and whom he met during a stop in Australia, is told in two books “Dove” and “Home is the sailor”, co-authored with the Senior Editor of Pace Magazine, Derek Gill. Gregory Peck later made a movie from the story.



PACE Magazine reunion

June 2, 2014


In two (2) days, it will be the 50th birthday of the PACE Magazine, in Kingston. It was co-founded by Robert J. Fleming, a cousin of Neil and Catharine McKenty. At that time, they were changing the face of journalism in the 1960′s. Young journalists and photographers were trying to engage and empower the 18-34 age demographic who were feeling lost.

PACE (which started as DARE) magazine gave these young people not only a voice, but a look at how the world around them was changing through some remarkable stories.

Here you can have a look at a video created by Station 14, the best place to receive up-to-date local news and events for Kingston, Ontario !



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