Italian Pantry; Puff and Stuff; Emeline & Annabelle Couture Cafe (on Monkland, in NDG)
So, I had an interesting morning today on Monkland.
Being fresh out of Myriade espresso, I'd set out to get some coffee beans at Wild Beans (6128 Monkland; 514-315-9399), and saw that the Italian Pantry shop next door had opened. The owner of Wild Beans said I should try "the big stuffed orange things" and that he was planning on getting one for lunch.. Oooh, arancini!, I thought, I AM hungry, and it IS almost lunch time!
Italian Pantry is a small space, painted white and brightly lit, and cramed with shelves and displays offer various imported Italian goods, such as dry pastas, cans of San Marzano tomatoes (prices range from 2$ to 5$), candies, chocolates, etc. They had some fresh herbs in pots outside as well. They also have baked goods, such as rectangular pizzas with tomato or rosemary toppings, etc. And a cold counter with fresh pasta, sauces and... salumi.
They had a little table with samples of sausage, pizza, and tiny arancinis. Hungry AND curious, I tried a few things. I decided to get one arancini stuffed with cheese and spinach and one with meat sauce. I wanted to try all the salumi, but refrained and just got some slices of slightly spicy coppa. Cost was 10$.
The guys running the place were really enthusiastic and outgoing, and when I inquired about speck, they told me they would be getting some from Italy in two weeks and took my phone number, promising to phone when it came in. My husband fell in love with speck on a trip to Italy and has been on a quest ever since.
So I left feeling a bit less hungry and phoned my husband with promises of an Italian lunch coming up.
I then walked into the Emeline & Annabelle sewing café (6050 Monkland; 514-439-4550) to pick up their summer schedule, and lo! they had whoopee pies (small chocolate cakes sandwiched with vanilla frosting) for sewing customers to purchase with their coffee. So cute! I refrained, however, despite their strong appeal. But if you like sewing, coffee, and sweets, the ladies at Emeline & Annabelle love their baking. We discussed the perils and challenges of making macarons, and then I went on my way to get my nails done at Lyly nearby...
And on my way to the nail place, I noticed a new Eastern Caribbean takeout called Puff and Stuff (5962 Monkland; 514-439-3285). The door was open, so I popped downstairs to scope out the place. It's a real hole in the wall, with a counter looking right into the kitchen. I met Ronn and Edna, who were super friendly; on the menu was BBQ chicken, cabbage and carrot mix; peas and rice. Last night's menu also had oxtail stew but they were out this morning. Ronn was making a salt cod dish on the stove top, and it smelled amazing. They told me they were still offering breakfast and would I like a taste? Well, sure!
I was handed a plate with okra, pumpkin mash and a still-warm bake (fried slice of dough). The soft okra was stir fried and just a bit blackened, giving it a hint of smokiness. The pumpkin was sweet and delicious. And the bake was tasty. I set aside half of the bread to share with my husband. This maneuver was disapproved off and I was told to finish my slice, since they were going to give me a fresh one for him! Ronn also offered me some of the salt fish with onions and tomatoes he was working on. Oh! more food! Twist my rubber arm, I told him.
The fish dish was salty, naturally, and delicious, and went really well with the pumpkin. When I remarked on that, Ronn explained that this was a usual combo, where you'd mix them up together. I mopped things up with the last of my bake.
They included a menu with my order. Weekend specials are bakes and saltfish; okra; pumpkin; eggplant; salad; roti; cowheel soup; dumplings; oildowns. Weekday specials are jerked pork or chicken; stewpeas; BBQ chicken; stirfries, etc. I think you should phone first to find out what's on offer. They also deliver, said Ronn.
Feeling even less hungry by then, I left with a portion of BBQ chicken and some cabbage (8$), got my nail done; and took the whole thing home...
The arancinis were dense, rich and heavy but tasty. I could not finish my share, since I was already half stuffed by then. The thinly sliced coppa was delicious, with a good balance of meat and fat, and a hint of spicy pepperiness.
The Caribbean cabbage was too salty for my taste, but DH adores salt, and he thought it went well with the sweet BBQ chicken. The BBQ chicken was a big whole chicken leg, with a few sear marks and a sweet sauce coating it. The skin was soft and we ate it cold (they offered to heat it up, but I figured it was safer to bring it home cold since I didn't know exactly when I'd be home).
So, all in all, Puff and Stuff, Italian Pantry, and the E&A sewing café are great additions to that area of Monkland, what with Gryphon d'Or and Amaranto, and that grilled meats place (not sure if of the nationality) nearby whose name escapes me right now (Massis?).
I certainly have to agree with you on The Italian Pantry. My only disappointment is that it is so small they can't offer even more of their great products. The arancini was amazing and the owners offered me a tasting of some of their sausages and salami and I must admit I was impressed with the quality.
I wish they would put even more selection on their walls and increase the variety, but what they do include is top quality.
Will go back. A lot!
Thanks so much for the reports! These places are in my hood too and I'm glad to hear they all show promise. I must try them all now!
I tried another new Monkland resident last week - the new branch of 5000 Ans Korean restaurant, at the northeast corner of Wilson. (I'd intended to go to Amaranto, but at 8 pm they were already closing up.) It was excellent - a bit more of a cool-weather eating spot, as it's basement-level and a bit warm when it's hot out. The place has been divided into semi-private booth areas, with picnic tables for seating in some of them. I can see how it'll be really cozy in fall and winter. I had the dolsot bibimbap, a very tasty chicken-and-rice concoction in a sizzling-hot stone bowl. Hubby had a beef-and-noodle dish that he liked, but said mine was even tastier. Complimentary unsweetened ice-cold iced tea was fabulous and the service was kind and efficient. I'll be back for sure. Here's a thread about the Plateau outlet of 5000 Ans: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/526531
Edit: also wanted to add Annabelle & Emeline's website for details on their hours, etc:
Hadn't twigged on this until now but all three branches of 5000 Ans are in semi-basements. Guess they've found their niche! IMHO, they're in the running with Maison Bulgogi for the city's top Korean. Too bad they're kimchi's so young and wimpy.
And thanks, Snowpea, for the report. Those sound like great additions to the neighbourhood. Have forwarded your post to a couple of Monkland Villagers I know.