Mike Cohen and Glenn J. Nashen wax nostalgic with a great meal at Nickels Deli

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By Mike Cohen

For MTLRestoRap.com

Nickels Deli (https://nickelsdeli.com) has been serving customers since 1990. The chain was originally owned by singer Céline Dion and the Mammas brothers, Lawrence and Peter.  The latter two, along with Jacques Gaspo, eventually folded the operation into their Foodtastic (www.foodtastic.ca) company which today includes Carlos and Pepe’s, Sandouchon. Souvlaki Bar, La Belle & La Boeuf, Vinnie Gambini, Bacaro, Gatto Matto, Le Blossom and most recently Enoteca Monza.

Restaurant industry veteran David DiRaddo was recently appointed director of operations for the 11 Nickels locations in Quebec. This includes the chain’s first ever food court express location at Place Vertu.  David suggested Glenn and I meet him at the still rather new St. Léonard franchise, located in a shopping mall on Jean Talon near Pie IX. Open since July 2018, we were greeted by David and manager Sam Kassar.  The spot has a very clear sports theme, with a large mural featuring some of Montreal’s outstanding sports heroes. There are also logos of the Canadiens, Alouettes, Impact and Expos embedded in the brick wall, as well as no less than 10 flat screen televisions showing the best games of  the day and night and a full bar. With seating for 180 people, this Nickels has already attracted a warm following.

Mike Cohen and Glenn J. Nashen wax nostalgic with a great meal at Nickels Deli

Besides St. Léonard and Place Vertu, you can find the other Nickels franchises on Marcel Laurin Blvd. in St. Laurent, Dorval, Place Versailles, Rue St-Hubert, Laval, St. Jérôme, Sainte-Adèle, Joliette and Gatineau.

The first thing you need to know about Nickels is that it has a gigantic menu. It is updated and reprinted each July while an insert with different specials is changed quarterly. Known for its smoked mea, Nickels also features terrific appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizza, chicken, steak, ribs, seafood, milkshakes, desserts, a kids menu and other satisfying options. There is a breakfast menu served each morning which DiRaddo has designs on making available all day as well as lunch specials.

Mike Cohen and Glenn J. Nashen wax nostalgic with a great meal at Nickels Deli
St. Léonard restaurant manager Sam Kassar.

Kassar recommended that we begin by sharing a family platter, which includes onion rings with dijonnaise dip, four mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce, quesadillas with vegetables and cheese and four chicken wings. We also added to the platter some nacho corn tortilla chips, with melted Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses.

Mike Cohen and Glenn J. Nashen wax nostalgic with a great meal at Nickels Deli

The three of us then shared a virtual feast: a jumbo smoked meat sandwich, General Tao tempura chicken with rice, baby back ribs basted with Sweet Baby Ray’s bbq sauce, an eight ounce aged Angus top sirloin steak and an order of red skin potato fries.

Mike Cohen and Glenn J. Nashen wax nostalgic with a great meal at Nickels Deli

Glenn and I divided up the leftovers and saved room for two of the restaurants more popular desserts: the strawberry cheesecake and the truly decadent Celine chocolate cake.

Mike Cohen and Glenn J. Nashen wax nostalgic with a great meal at Nickels Deli

In Glenn’s case, he had not been to a Nickels restaurant in many years and the variety offered on the current menu truly surprised him.

“It is an older brand and we are reviving it,” said DiRaddo.

From Sunday to Thursday after 4 pm, children 10 and under eat for free.  This is applicable of course to kids accompanied by an adult who have ordered a main dish at a regular price. Only one child per adult.

It will be interesting to see what comes next for the Nickels brand. The food court format appears to be a big hat, so there could be more of those locations and I can certainly think of many places in Quebec which could benefit from a restaurant with such a diversified menu. Log on to the full menu at www.nickelsdeli.com.

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Farewell 2018. Hoping for a healthy, peaceful 2019.

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Sunset on the Atlantic. Cape St. Vincent, Portugal. Oct. 25, 2018.

 

As the sun sets on 2018 I chose this photo I shot just eight weeks ago at the southwestern most tip of Europe, Cape St. Vincent, in Portugal.

At this very point, 500 years ago, explorers set out into the unknown as family members waved goodbye, not knowing if they would see their brave, loved ones ever again. Off they went into the cold, rough ocean, not knowing what lay ahead, not quite sure on their course, nor their destination. They saw this exact same setting as we see today.

So too do we head off into the unknown: 2019. We don’t know quite what lies ahead and our destination is not assured. But just like the explorers of centuries ago, we are steadfast and resolute in our direction. We’ve plotted a course for a good year, a healthy year, a peaceful year. We have hopes and dreams just like they did.

Here’s wishing you well in all that lies ahead on your journey, wherever you may be headed. Happy New Year.

Glenn J. Nashen

Portuguese Merry Christmas

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Wishing my friends and neighbours a season of peace and love. Here are some photos on my recent trip to Portugal which suit the season.

Sé Cathedral, Lisbon. Oct. 25, 2018.

 

Monument of Christ the King looms over the rooftops of Lisbon. Oct. 27, 2018.

 

Jeronimos Monestary, Belhem. Oct. 27, 2018.

 

11th century Silves Cathedral. Silves. Nov. 3, 2018.

 

Our Lady of the Rock Chapel looms over the sea at Alporchinhos in the Algrave. Nov. 2, 2018.

Mike Cohen & Glenn J. Nashen enjoy a full Eggspectation experience

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By Mike Cohen

For MTLRestoRap.com

I have long been a fan of the Eggspectation (www.eggspectation.com) restaurant chain. A few years ago I met Enzo Renda, who has driven this business globally with a presence in other parts of Canada, the United States, India, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Renda says that Eggspectation is known for the high quality of its products. “We use real maple syrup, not table syrup,” he says. “We use mega eggs as well.  Our French toast is made with real French brioche bread. The fact is if I do not have quality food then I do not put it on the table.”

There are actually more than 100 plus items on the Eggspectation menu. This place is a lot more than just breakfast.

The Eggspectation concept was created by Eggspectation Group, with a first restaurant in downtown Montreal in 1993. Since then Eggspectation restaurants have become synonymous with innovation, high-quality food, excellent service, and a unique and exciting dining experience.

Each franchise has a different feel to it. My friend Glenn J. Nashen and I were happy to pay a visit to the locale at 5179 Côte des Neiges Road, close to Queen Mary.

Manager Alexandra Pinna serves up a winning selection.

This franchise opened nine years ago and sits 100 people. Manager Alexandra Pinna, who has been there from day one, greeted us at the front and showed us to a nice table. Let me say from the outset that this was truly an entirely different and very satisfying Eggspectation experience for Glenn and me thanks to Alexandra’s excellent suggestions. Whereas in the past we have merely tried the basic egg options, we went well beyond that this time.

We started things off with some smoothies opting for the peanut butter and jam!!  This has all the flavour of your classic sandwich swirled into a sweet and nutty drink. peanut butter, strawberry jam and bananas with honey and yogurt.

That was a great way to kick things off. Alexander recommended that we share a couple of starters. We sought her opinion and settled on the Smoked Wild Sockeye Salmon Crostini. This encompasses smoked wild sockeye salmon, served with capers, red onions and cucumbers, with Philadelphia cream cheese spread on toasted ciabatta slices.  We added the Eggspectation’s Original Crab Cake, the chain’s own rendition of the classic crabcake on a bed of spicy slaw and topped with a dollop of lemon aioli.

Glenn and I never thought of having a burger at Eggspectation. Well, burgers here are made with Triple A Butcher’s Block reserve angus Beef and served on an artisanal brioche bun with fries or a mixed field green salad. There was a mushroom swiss burger on the lunch special menu and we split everything in half. It was quite superb!  Added to the order was the Lobster Benny- two perfectly poached eggs accompanied by gently sautéed Maritime lobster on a toasted  English muffin and a natural lobster reduction sauce.

Their trademark and most delicious Lyonnaise-style potatoes were of course included.

Well yes we were full. But Alexandra urged us to consider a dessert so we opted for the Crepe Suzette -flaming flavour from a flambéed butter and orange brandy sauce.

Indeed you will have a tough time choosing between dishes: crepes, soups, salads, omelets, pasta, steak, chicken, seafood, sandwiches, or our famous Eggs Benedict and fresh squeezed orange juice! Freshly prepared with high-quality ingredients and attractively presented, this menu only has one flaw: you could eat too much like Glenn and I.

With seating for 100 people, this franchise is very popular with the Université de Montréal crowd and diners in general. I saw people of all ages when were there. Tables are setup along two long rows. A couple of large flat screen TVs allow patrons to watch their favorite game.

I encouraged the ownership group to consider staying open on Saturday evenings. They took that suggestion under advisement.

This Eggspectation is located at  5179 Côte des Neiges. Hours of operation are 7 am to 3:30 pm Monday to Friday and 8:00 am to 4:30 pm on weekends. For more information call 514-507-4499 or log on to www.eggspectation.com

One thousand lives touched by the kindness of a quiet mom

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Phyllis Nashen with Jeremy and Nathalie dropping off Holiday gifts with Stephanie at the Shriners Hospital (Dec. 12, 2018)

When a mother of four very active boys realizes they’ve all grown up and don’t have the same needs for her protective and nurturing ways what is she to do to continue providing happiness and joy to young children? Many return to their chosen professions or choose new ones. Some take time for themselves. Others choose to volunteer their time for a host of charities and community organizations.

My mother had volunteered in public schools in the capacity of a social worker, helping kids who didn’t fit in, or had difficult family situations or acted out in class. She would help them by playing games with them and sharing in one of her favourite pastimes, drawing and painting.

She also decided that she would continue to spread a little sunshine to some far less fortunate than her own kids and she turned to the Shriners Hospital in Montreal. Since late autumn of ’75, my mom has repeated her annual tradition of going out and purchasing little gifts for kids who would be spending their holidays in the world-renowned children’s orthopedic hospital. In the early days, she would head out to Woolworth and Kresge, two long forgotten department stores and stock up on 25 toys for little girls and boys. Her gift wrapping would be unique for Christmas and Chanukah, for boys and for girls.

Mom was always very organized in preparing for her annual pilgrimage to the Shriners before her winter treks to Florida. Now at 90, my mom no longer vacations down south but that hasn’t slowed her own Santa’s Workshop in getting ready for these kids.

Phyllis Nashen, an unlikely Santa Claus, with Julie at the Shriners Hospital (Dec. 3, 2010).

For several years she recruited my daughters to help with the toy purchases, gift wrapping and the drop off at the hospital. My mother always believed that acts of kindness and charity were very important for the whole family to partake in.

“It’s important to me to put a smile on their faces,” Phyllis says.

While assisting my mom in wrapping gifts in December 2010 when my daughter Nathalie was seven years old, she said, “This is my project – I do it every year for Christmas and Chanukah. It is a Mitzvah (a good deed).”

That same year, my eldest, Nicole was 10. She remarked that this activity was lots of fun. “It makes me feel good knowing we did something to cheer up the kids who will spend their holidays in the hospital. Some can’t even get out of bed and they need even more happiness.”

Through the years my children have learned important life lessons from my mother’s generosity and acts of kindness. Indeed, our entire family is involved to varying degrees of volunteerism and community life.

Nicole and Nathalie Nashen (aka Phyllis’s Elves) deliver gifts at the Shriners Hospital (Dec. 3, 2010).

“It makes me feel good to share with others and to make the kids at the Shriners happy by doing a small thing like this,” Phyllis explained. “I’ve taught my children, and grandchildren, that we’re lucky to have what we have and we must appreciate this and give a little back.” My mom always loved children and thought that she could continue making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Maybe some didn’t have family close by. Perhaps some didn’t have family at all. “I like giving, not receiving,” Phyllis says.

My father, George, 95, couldn’t be more proud of his wife. “She has always shown compassion and acted with kindness,” dad says.

Nathalie, now 15 says she is, “incredibly proud of this legacy that my grandmother has created. I will be honoured to participate this year once again, and every year that Bubs (as Phyllis is affectionately referred to by her grand-kids) continues to do this.” Nathalie goes on to say,”My Bubs is like a candle spreading light, illuminating the next candle, and the next, one thousand times over.”

What’s my mother’s message to my own children? “Don’t be selfish and think of yourself. Think of others first,” she says. “Imagine the smiles on all of the faces you’ve touched, without ever knowing them or seeing them,” she says.

Though she never met face to face with a single child at the Shriners, her message is one of pure love and goodness. “I hope you enjoy what I’ve given you. I hope you’ll be healthy as possible and live a long and happy life.”

For more than 40 years my mom has wrapped and delivered holiday toys to bring joy to more than 1000 children who had to be in the hospital instead of at home with their families. My mom created 1000 happy moments out of gloom, turning 1000 frowns into smiles. We’re mighty proud of my mom, 1000 times over.

Feds must act to require school bus seat belts

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Tens of thousands of school children are riding daily on buses that Transport Canada knows are not safe enough. Despite evidence showing that three point seat belts on school buses prevent or lessen injury and save lives, the government has not taken action to correct this serious situation.

In October 2018 the CBC Fifth Estate investigated the issue and concluded that seatbelts on school buses could have prevented thousands of injuries and numerous deaths.

The report continued with a follow up in December looking a the campaign to make buses safer across Canada by changing outdated legislation.

An online petition is nearing its goal of 50,000 signatures. I have signed and encourage you to do so as well.

More can be done to bring about change.

I call upon my mayor, Mitchell Brownstein, of Cote Saint-Luc, Quebec, to adopt a resolution in support of this urgent legislation at the next public meeting and ask the city to share their resolution with all municipalities across the Montreal region. You can do the same in your city or town anywhere in Canada.

As well, I am fortunate to have one of the most passionate and accessible members of parliament, Anthony Housefather, as my representative. I call upon him to speak with his colleague, Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, who has reportedly called for a report from his department in the past weeks. You too should contact your MP’s office.

Finally, there must also be pressure upon industry itself. To that end I will raise the issue with my kids’ school, where I serve on the Board of Directors. Bus companies that offer seat belts should be hired ahead of those that don’t. Bus companies should know that parents and schools are seeking providers that are proactive and take the necessary measures to keep children safe, even in advance of legislation.

Each of us plays an important role in making school buses safer across Canada.

100 Years of Remembrance and Saluting my dad for his service

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This Remembrance Day marks 100 years since the end of hostility in World War I, the War to End All Wars.

This week we also mark 80 years since Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which notoriously was the beginning of what became known as the Holocaust, or Shoah.

Sergeant George Nashen, Royal Canadian Air Force, 1944

My father, George Nashen, 95, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from December 1942 to April 1946 and was stationed at RCAF Overseas Headquarters in London, England for nearly three years. Luckily, he was not called up to the front lines. But his buddies were. Some never returned.

My father enlisted in December 1942 with several of his friends from Baron Byng High School, and was shipped off for two months of basic training in Toronto where the RCAF had taken over the CNE Fairgrounds. From there he was stationed at the Rockcliffe Airbase in Ottawa from February until August 1942 and then to Halifax where they boarded the Queen Mary cruise ship that had been commandeered to transport troops.

“We were 26,000 troops and 1,000 crew members crammed into the ship for the four day crossing to London, England,” my father told me. “There were 54 troops to a room and we took turns sleeping, 27 at a time slept on the hammocks lined up three high in nine columns,” he said. “It was so uncomfortable and there were so many disturbances that I chose to sleep in the hallways and stairwells. But the ship would list from one side to the other every seven minutes as it curved to avoid sailing in a straight line to escape any pursuing German U-boats. I remember the empty Coke bottles rolling bake and forth in the halls and hitting the walls preventing any rest there as well,” my dad said.

RCAF Aircraftsman 2nd Class, George Nashen (1943)

“In London, we slept in the Canadian Legion Hall until we could find an apartment,” my dad reminisced. There were no barracks in the city as they couldn’t chance losing so many soldiers in a targeted German bombing raid. “One night a bomb fell right outside the Legion Hall and blew in the doors and windows. As the glass flew and the ceiling collapsed I immediately rolled under my bed to take cover,” he said. “I yelled out to my buddy, Mel Nicol. ‘Are you alright Nic?’ Mel Nicol was real joker and responded, ‘I’m not sure, I’m looking for my leg’. Of course, he was just fine,” George said.

George and Mel eventually rented an apartment at Queens Gate Gardens about a 30 minute walk from Harrods, where the RCAF set up their administration and accounting division. We often joke that my father served in women’s lingerie during WW II, in reference to the department in Harrods where the Accounting Office was located. They were paid $2.50 per day subsistence allowance for their lodging and another $1 for food.

As an Aircraftsman 2nd Class they received $1.30 per day. Dad used to send $10 per month back to his Mom in  Montreal to save for him. Upon his return, three-and-a-half years later he had saved up about $300.

George Nashen in front of the Cote Saint-Luc cenotaph in Veterans Park 2012

One night they were awakened by a bomb blast and heard that the nearby hospital was hit. Mel and George raced over to offer their assistance only to find out that 30 babies had been tragically killed. “It was the saddest day of my life,” my father said.

Back at Harrods he was busy taking care of Airman Pay Accounts to ensure each of the troops received their salary. Daily Routine Orders were meticulously entered for the tens of thousands of airmens’ accounts, all manually, of course.

My dad lost his best friend in battle. “Jay Singer was like a brother to me,” my father recounts. “Jay and I were inseparable from kindergarten through Baron Byng High School. Jay was an air force pilot from the age of 19. His plane went missing while laying mines in the Baltic Sea on June 15, 1944. Jay was just 22 year’s old when he died in service. I’ll never forget him.”

Jay Singer

Jay Singer

 

My father endured the bombardments and hardship of everyday life in London but fortunately was safe relative to so many others. The thick, dark clouds that hung over the city many nights from fog made it impossible to see right in front of you. My father recounts as he would feel his way along the walls of the buildings on his way home, counting off the number of doors and turns in the road to find his way home.

One night a bomb fell at a pub just outside of Harrods and some Londoners were killed. The next day, a young Princess Elizabeth, came by to visit and offer her support. My father watched excitedly from the window as the future Queen made her way along the street.

My father returned home in April 1946.

Three generations of Cote Saint-Lucers: George, Glenn and Jeremy Nashen 2013

Each year, I ask dad to take out his medals and his beret and to teach my own kids what it meant to serve Canada as a soldier.  They listen in amazement at his stories of 70 years ago, as they reflect on their lives in the best country to live in, Canada.

WWII veteran George Nashen, 93, deposits the wreath on behalf of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 97 at the Cote Saint-Luc Cenotaph in Veterans Park. Accompanied by his grandson Cory, son Jeff and vCOP Phil Mayman. (Photo: Darryl Levine, CSL).

Each year on Remembrance Day, I salute my dad, and all those who served, who paid the ultimate price, who sustained injury and who were lucky to return just like George. His bravery and commitment, and theirs, to stand on guard, to liberating those who had their freedom taken from them so many years ago, to keeping Canada glorious and free, shines like a beacon to my kids and our entire family.

With my dad on Remembrance Day (Jewish General Hospital, 2014)

We’re proud of his accomplishments and grateful to still have him, and my mother, as our bridge between our past and our future.

 

George and Phyllis Nashen at their 95th and 90th birthday party (June 2018)

 

 

More:

A day of remembrance, honour and appreciation in CSL

In tribute to my father, the soldier

Councillor Mike Cohen’s blog

The JGH Remembers

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