Heart Eyes, Vol. 93: Montreal, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and Deb's Mom's Apple Cake

Friends! Happy Friday! I’m so pleased to see you.

I got home from my giant vacation earlier this week, and I had such a fantastic time and also, honestly, could not be more thrilled to be home. Everything here is exciting to me right now. I’m sleeping in my bed! I’m doing a million loads of laundry! I’m going for a run! I’m going to my grocery store and running into my cousin! Travel gives me life, for sure, but I’m also trying to hang onto this feeling of reveling in my day-to-day for as long as I can.

And now it’s NOVEMBER, if you can believe it. I hope everybody recognized your Halloween costume, and that all your favorite candy is half-off today, and that your own day-to-day is treating you well as we start a new month. Here are some things I’m loving this week.

Where To Go: Montreal

My vacation was full of beloved friends and lovely places, but only one of them was actually new to me—I finished out the trip with a long weekend with friends in Montreal, a city I’d been dreaming about for a while. It did not disappoint. Maybe it should be your list, too?

First of all, there’s the food. There’s SO much. I mean that in a good way! Montreal is known for its meat—fois gras and "smoked meat," a close cousin of pastrami—all of which my friends and I completely ignored in favor of a thrilling parade of carbs, and had no regrets. I ate three poutines in four days, in addition to a couple of bistro dinners and the tasting menu at Damas, and felt ready to take on the world. In between, we popped into boulangeries across the city—they’re everywhere and they all appear to be world-class—and availed ourselves of a variety of perfect breads and pastries. And when you cannot handle one more gravy-soaked french fry or crisp-edged croissant, there’s always somewhere to pause for a comfortable cup of tea, or a beer, or a cocktail. Montreal and its cafe culture have you covered.

Thankfully, in the midst of all that, you can also take a walk.* Montreal is lovely, and extremely strollable. We stayed on the edge of Old Montreal, taking advantage of the “Paris, but not!” vibe without it feeling too much like Québec Disney, and spent much of the rest of our time wandering charming, leafy neighborhoods all over, stopping into churches and parks and open-air markets (and hunting down all that poutine). One sunny morning, we also hiked (“hiked”) to the top of Mont Royal, a giant forested hill in the middle of the city, with an excellent view and yellow leaves fluttering down around us on the way up and down. It’s an excellent city for meandering, and you’ll certainly get your steps in, at which point you can feel justified in eating and drinking your way through the neighborhoods. Which you’ll definitely want to do. I think you should.

*I say this knowing full well that winter in Montreal lasts…what, six months? Seven? Do what you can with the conditions you encounter; for everything else, there’s a subway and a citywide system of underground pedestrian tunnels!

What To Read: We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson

OK, yes, October is the nominal time for seasonally creepy reading, but hear me out: it’s Dia de los Muertos, we’re heading into deep fall, the light is fading, midcentury-gothic murder stories are always in fashion, and you really, really should read Shirley Jackson’s 1962 novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Eerie without being exactly scary, it’s the story of eighteen-year-old Mary Katherine Blackwood, her older sister Constance, and their elderly uncle Julian, who live an isolated life in their ancestral home after a mysterious tragedy befalls the rest of the family—and what happens when outside forces threaten to intrude. I loved it so much. Narrated by Mary Katherine herself, it’s lush and stylish and quite creepy, and it absolutely made me want to load up on the rest of Jackson’s work. (You may know her name from the short story “The Lottery,” but she also wrote The Haunting of Hill House, of Netflix-series fame.) I’m instantly a fan; you might be, too.

What To Bake: Deb’s Mom’s Apple Cake

Today, I’m so happy to bring you a Smitten Kitchen recipe I skipped for many years, with much regret—it always looked so good, but it calls for a tube pan, which I don’t own and am unwilling to find space for in my kitchen. (Deb specifically mentions in the recipe that she’s not sure it would work in a bundt, and I can see what she means.) However! When it popped up in Deb’s Instagram Stories last month, a healthy conversation followed among the commentariat—many people chimed in with success stories about the bundt conversion, and also trying it in a single 9x13 layer. Armed with that good news, I RAN into the kitchen (you know I did), and this monster of a cake made me and many other people very happy for several days after. Maybe it can do the same for you!

This cake isn’t doing anything terribly revolutionary—it’s a gorgeous, tender coffee cake packed with cinnamon and a startling quantity of apples—but it’s a very, very good cake. It’s great for everyday—breakfast and lunch-dessert and snacktime and dessert-dessert—but I also think it would make a lovely addition to any holiday menu; among other things, it’s huge. I made mine as a 9x13, swapping out the orange juice for milk and leaving out the walnuts, and I cannot recommend it enough as the days get darker and the temperature drops. You might like it, too.