Maybe you are in Montreal as a tourist and want to bring back local delicacies as gifts. Maybe you rented an apartment in the city and are wondering if there is anything special to cook with. Maybe you live in the suburbs and never quite took the time to explore all the nook and crannies of the big city?
This thread is meant to serve as a launching pad to explore what are Quebec products and where to buy them in Montreal. Its not meant to be a definitive guide since I cannot pretend to know everything (it is very like Montreal to think you have a good grasp on a food experience just to learn there is a half a dozen new things to discover… its what makes it such a good food city too.) However, with the help of fellow Montreal visitors we might make it extensive enough to be usefull!
We have a pretty extensive beer selection here in Montreal. We have good IPA’s, good white beers, great porters and stouts but few real strong lagers
What to buy
Here is a selection of my known Quebec brewers:
- Brasserie Dunham http://brasseriedunham.com/
- Brassierie Mcauslan http://mcauslan.com
- Brasseurs du Monde http://brasseursdumonde.com
- Dieu du ciel http://www.dieuduciel.com
- Le Cheval Blanc http://lechevalblanc.ca/
Notable products: Cheval Blanc Witbeer http://bit.ly/1N2yvjc
- Le Trou du Diable http://troududiable.com
- La Barberie http://www.labarberie.com
- Pit Caribou http://www.pitcaribou.com
- Unibroue http://www.unibroue.com/
This brewery put micro brewery on the map in Quebec. Its was one of the early adopters of the micro brewery movement in the 90’s but since that era it lost a bit of its shine since it was bought by Sleeman who was itself bought by the giant Sapporo.
Notable products: Maudite http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/22/33/ , Fin du Monde http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/22/34/ , Blanche de Chambly http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/22/31/
Labatt is one of the furthest thing from a microbrewery. Its one of the biggest brewery in Canada and was founded in 1847. It does carry one interesting “heritage” porter though: the Labatt Porter. You don’t drink this because its the best porter/stout in Quebec. Its clearly not (Dieu du Ciel probably brews it). You drink this because it has a great story. Its one of the early recipe of the company and can still be found hidden in some places. Definitely merits being mentioned.
Notable Product: Labatt Porter http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/478/15279/
Where to buy it
- Peluso is probably the #1 place to buy Quebec craft beer in Montreal. Its in the Plateau Mont-Royal see: http://depanneurpeluso.com/
- Strangely enough, La fromagerie Atwater (a cheese shop in the Atwater market) has a fairly large selection of beer. see http://www.fromagerieatwater.ca/distribution_en.html
- If you are visiting Marché Jean-Talon, you might want to visit le marché des saveurs see: http://www.lemarchedessaveurs.com/fr/
- Veux-tu une bière apparently has a nice selection in Villeray see http://veuxtuunebiere.com/
- On the Avenue St-Hubert, Délire du Terroir has a fairly large selection see: http://fr.yelp.ca/biz/délires-du-terroir-montréal-4
- Supermarch Rahman has a lot of choice in the Plateau Mont-Royal see: http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/8300/
- Also in the Plateau Mont-Royal, on St-Laurent, Dépanneur A.S. has a nice selection see: http://fr.yelp.ca/biz/dépanneur-a-s-montréal-4
- In Pointe St-Charles, the dépanneur Beau Soir on the corner of Charlesvoix and Knox has a pretty large selection with an owner that constantly ask for feedback on missing brands
- In Verdun, Maltéhops is a new player with a pretty varied selection of beers see: http://www.ratebeer.com/p/maltehops-montreal/52779/
- In Hochelaga Maisonneuve, Biere Ect has a good selection: http://www.yelp.ca/biz/bières-etc-montréal
- There is a shop on the corner of Prince Arthur and Hotel de Ville with a nice selection
- My favorite brewer is Dieu du Ciel
- My favorite lager is not a micro. Its Moosehead on tap. See: http://moosehead.ca/
- My favorite stout/porter is Aphrodisiaque. See: http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/1141/10330/
- My favorite fruit beer is Apricot Wheat Ale from St-Ambroise. See: http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/194/5432/
- My favorite nitro is McAuslan Cream Ale on tap. See: http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/194/14794/
- My favorite white beer is Blanche from Cheval Blanc. See: http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/1535/4460/
What to buy
While Ontario has started to garner a great reputation in its Okanagan valley, Quebec’s wine scene is still pretty young. We never had a great french viticulture tradition. We made a lot of homemade “fruit wines” (potentially more a fruit alcohol or liquor than a wine per se) but that tradition is unfortunately being lost (my grandfather made them in his basement, my great grandfather too, my father did not. I am not aware of any being sold in our wine stores). We also had good hard cider, mead (honey wine) but no grapes. As a result, we have a great cider scene (I’ll make an individual category for it) but our wine game is pretty modern.
Our most notable wine producers are probably located in the eastern townships. I must admit I am bot a great source of knowledge for our local wine. They are not distributed everywhere and some of the more widely known have been historically super market wines of dubious quality (thinking of Harfang des Neiges or Orpailleur here) An interesting website relevant to Quebec wine production can be found here: http://www.quebecwines.com/index.shtml.
In terms of wine I know about, two brands come to mind:
- Domaine du Ridge. See: http://domaineduridge.com/
Notable product: Clos du Maréchal http://domaineduridge.com/vins/clos-du-marechal/
- Domaine les Bromes see: http://www.leoncourville.com/fr/accueil
Mead (honey wine)
- My favorite Mead is Vieux Moulin , made in Gaspesie. See: http://www.saq.com/page/fr/saqcom/hydromel/vieux-moulin/11575651?selectedIndex=1&searchContextId=-100226112518106
- Domaine Labranche makes a maple wine that is pretty incredible. As you might know, maple syrup is made with reduced maple sap (the sap taste like a light sugary water and is pretty liquid and clear). This wine taste more like maple water than maple syrup and is really an incredible find. http://www.labranche.ca/vin-derable/
Where to buy it
The best selection of Quebec wine and hard cider can be found at the SAQ selection in front of the Atwater market: http://www.saq.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/SAQStoreLocatorSearchResultsStoreDetailsView?storeLocationId=10112&catalogId=50000&langId=-1&storeIdentifier=23132&storeId=20002
Spirits are relatively new phenomenon in Quebec. Its much harder to distil spirits than to produce cider, beer or mead since you have to get a special permit to setup your still before doing anything. Possession of a still without a permit and brewing home made spirits are illegal. The certification system is obscure, byzantine and costly so there are few true stills in Quebec and the whole process has inhibited the growth of true micro distilleries. Imagine: you have, in theory, to buy and install your still at the cost of thousands of dollars before asking for your permit. You then have to wait months for the permit to come in before experimenting legally to produce your prototype recipe that might, eventually, one day, lead to a first good recipe that could be commercialised. Of course, selling spirits is nationalised so if you cannot get in their stores you are stuck selling your costly costly alcohol by hand. Good luck.
Incredibly, the commercialisation of home grown spirits have become more and more prevalent these last few years. Its not surprising that it was hard cider producers that had enough money to set up true stills. Some of them have partnered with local entrepreneurs to rent “distilling space” on their still, creating even more spirit selection.
Here is a selection of most known spirits:
Ungava Gin is made uniquely made with Quebec grown aromatics and is one of the first vanity gin Quebec has produced. It has a unique citrus and piney taste and is better sipped than mixed. http://domainepinnacle.com/produits/gin-ungava/
Gin de Neige from La Face Cachée de la Pomme. When I was young I wanted to do an applied university project on ice ciders, which was a market that was just starting at the time. It didn’t pan out like we wanted to but La Face Cachée de la Pomme were among the best producers to communicate with. I have been fan of them ever since. I haven’t tasted their Gin yet but I’m sure its great since everything they do is of the highest quality.
Piger Henricus gin. A gin with parsnip? You must be insane! Second quebec gin released after Ungava, it is a very good gin that has garnered many fans. Contrary to Ungava, it has international elements in its aromatics (no, lemon peel is not native to Quebec )
Coureur des bois whisky à l’érable is a maple whisky that is well known. http://domainepinnacle.com/produits/coureur-des-bois-whisky-a-lerable/
Sortilège whiskey à l’érable is the direct competitor of Coureur des bois for Quebec maple whisky. Sortilège might even have been the first to market their product. Very good reputation. Could not say which one is the best since I haven’t made a comparative tasting. http://www.saq.com/page/fr/saqcom/liqueur/sortilege/522482
Coureur des bois crème d’érable. You know baileys? Well, this is maple syrup baileys. What’s not to like? http://domainepinnacle.com/produits/creme-derable-coureur-des-bois/
Sortilège Crème d’érable Yep! Sortilège makes a bailey’s like maple cream too! http://www.saq.com/page/fr/saqcom/creme/sortilege-creme-derable/12139456
Crème de pomme pinnacle. We will stay in the baileys comparison for this one. Its a apple ice cider baileys style cream. Very very good! http://domainepinnacle.com/produits/creme-de-pommes-domaine-pinnacle/
Michel Jodoin Calijo. When you have hard cider production you inevitably have apple cider spirit. Calijo is a calvados (spirit made from apple cider) distilled in their alambic from their own production. http://www.micheljodoin.ca/produit/calijo-spiritueux/
Pur Ultra Premium is my favorite vodka. I’ve never drank such a good vodka. I’m not even kidding. I know, the name is ridiculous. The unique signature of this vodka is the lack of alcohol heat on the aftertaste. Its peppery. Truely amazing. I don’t know how they do it. Don’t mix this, drink it chilled or straight.
Chicoutai might just be a nod to our fruit alcohol producing tradition. It is probably leagues better than anything my grandfather produced. This one is made with cranberries. Much appreciated by many quebecquers. http://www.saq.com/page/fr/saqcom/liqueur-de-fruit/chicoutai/330621
Caribou. The germans have their Glüwein, the english have mulled wine, nords have glögg, we have Caribou! Caribou used to be uniquely found in the winter carnival of Quebec City but now can be found bottled everywhere. You usually drink it hot. Its apparently made with a mix of red wine, hard liquor, usually whisky, and maple syrup or sugar. Legend has it that it was originally whiskey mixed with the blood of a reindeer but I assure you you don’t have to bleed one anymore to enjoy it (anyways its probably a false legend. Caribou was probably a way to transform red wine from europe which spoiled palatable by dumping a ton of sugar and spices in it and spiking it with liquor). http://www.saq.com/page/fr/saqcom/boisson-alcoolisee/caribou/10330214?selectedIndex=6&searchContextId=-100226112637214
Where to buy it
These products can usually be found at any “SAQ selection” or “SAQ signature”, which consist of the bulk of SAQ. You can even visit the website of the product to learn where is the closest bottle to your location! See: http://www.saq.com/content/SAQ/en.html
I know cider is synonym with “apple juice” in the USA but in Quebec when you say cider you mean “alcoholic hard cider”. Apple juice is “jus de pomme”. Quebec has a lot of apple orchard so it always was a prolific land for hard cider. We have a number of kind of ciders: still ciders that resemble wines, sparkling pub style ciders than can compete beers and ice ciders that taste similar to sauternes or ice wines. Here is a list of ciders brands and producers I enjoy:
My favorite “pub style cider” or draft cider/sparkling cider is McKeown draft cider. Lucky for me, they started to sell this product in corner stores like beer. You’ll find competitiors from “Dublin’s pub” and “Michel Jodoin”… DON’T. McKeown draft cider is the superior product and worth the time it is to find it. http://cidremckeown.com/wp2/en/portfolio/draft-cider/
Domaine pinnacle has a great ice cider http://domainepinnacle.com/produits/cidres-de-glace/
Legende d’automne is a gread still cider made by Domaine Lafrance with McKintosh apples. http://www.lesvergerslafrance.com/en/product/1-le-legende-dautomne-selection-mcintosh.html
Blanc de pépin is another great still cider from Michel Jodoin. http://www.micheljodoin.ca/produit/blanc-de-pepin/
Michel Jodoin Cidre de Glace is a pretty well known ice cider. http://www.micheljodoin.ca/produit/cidre-de-glace/
Neige is my favorite favorite ice cider from my favorite favorite cider producer. Can’t go wrong with this. https://lafacecachee.com/fr/produits/detail/neige-premiere-cidre-de-glace/
Where to buy it
The best selection I know of Quebec hard cider can be found at the SAQ selection in front of the Atwater market: http://www.saq.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/SAQStoreLocatorSearchResultsStoreDetailsView?storeLocationId=10112&catalogId=50000&langId=-1&storeIdentifier=23132&storeId=20002
I believe one of the first chocolate sweets made by Quebec residents were blueberries covered in chocolate made by trappist monks. Since then we had a few notable chocolate producers that became famous in the Montreal region. Here are a few of them.
Chocolaterie des père trappistes de dolbeau-mistassini. There is a region of Quebec so associated with blueberries that their nickname is just that: “les bleuets”. Blueberries. They are also the champion of beer drinking and are among the most friendly of quebecquers but that is beside the point. Its not a surprise that the local trappist monastery became famous for their chocolate covered blueberries. It has since become a traditional product as well as a highly coveted sweet. Their website is not ready but they have a nice facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ChocolateriedesPeres Here is an english website talking about them: http://notwithoutmypassport.com/saguenay-lac-st-jean-food/
Juliette & Chocolat. That chocolate boutique has become so popular that it spawned numerous locations. It has since lost a bit of its artisan veneer but its product is as solid as it was went I first discovered them on St-Denis street. Think of a coffee shop. Now think of a coffee shop that serves hot chocolate instead of coffee. Different hot chocolate made from different cacao varietal with different recipes. Think of a hot chocolate so thick it coats your tongue. It is heaven for chocolate addicts and still my favorite cup of hot chocolate in Montreal. See http://www.yelp.ca/biz/juliette-and-chocolat-montréal-4
Geneviève Grandbois. Geneviève Grandbois is the first true artisan Montrealer chocolate producer I’ve been made aware of. Pretty expensive but once you try them you’ll probably won’t want to settle for less. They also experiment A LOT so its always fun to see what flavour they come up with. http://www.chocolatsgg.com/d/en/
Les Chocolats de Chloe. If Geneviève Grandbois was the first apostle of artisanal chocolate, Chloe was the feisty underdog that carved its own path in the trendy Plateau Mont-Royal. It is now a strong brand on its own right and rightfully mentionned in the same sentence as the great GG. http://www.yelp.ca/biz/les-chocolats-de-chloé-montréal-4?osq=chocolate
Where to buy
Most of the chocolate products can be found at their eponymous stores (look at yelp if you need further help). The blueberry covered chocolate is a rarer find however. You don’t want to make the 6 hour car ride from downtown Montreal to the trappist monastery (yep! see: https://goo.gl/maps/YFNq11YnTdu ) so here is a list of vendors:
- Boutique Bleu Sauvage at the Jean-Talon Market http://bleusauvage.ca/index.html
- Fouvrac http://www.lefouvrac.com/
- Epicerie Fine fleur de sel http://www.yelp.ca/biz/epicerie-fine-fleur-de-sel-montréal-3
- Oratoire St-Joseph https://www.saint-joseph.org/en
- Biscuiterie Oscar https://oscar.qc.ca/en/
- Les Delices du Terroir on St-Hubert street https://www.facebook.com/Les-délires-du-terroir-126707680701432/
- Bierologue http://www.lebierologue.com/
Bread and pastries
The first true artisan baker I’ve been aware of was Première Moisson, which made artisanal breads from selected grain and special yeast. It has since spread like wildfire, became a household name and lost a bit of its artisanal veneer. Its still one of my favorite spot to buy bread. In its wake grew a plethora of artisan bakers, most of them with french influence that delights and provide Montrealers with fresh breads and pastries. Here are a few I enjoy.
What to buy/ Where to buy
Première Moisson. It might be less of an artisanal shop but it is still the gold standard. I love everything they do and I still wake up early on saturday from time to time to buy their cholocate bread (it disappears fast on weekends so go there early!) https://www.premieremoisson.com/en
Mamie Clafoutis. Mamie Clafoutis has since become shorthand for great croissants. They also have incredible bakery products and french inspired pastries. http://www.mamieclafoutis.com/home.php
Au Kouign-Amann. If you’ve never had Kouign-Amann you’re really missing something. Its a Breton pastry made with layed butter and sugar. It makes a caramelized flaky pastry that’s insane to taste. Kouign-Amann makes the best I know. They also, of course, make great pastry products.
Hof Kelsten Relative newcomer but garnered a lot of attention very quickly. The fact that the bakery’s owner, Jeffrey Finkelstein, was behind the “bread program” for a number of Montreal’s top restaurant (Le club chasse & pêche, Le filet, Les 400 coups, Joe Beef, Nora Grey, Toqué and Dominion Square Tavern) probably helped a lot with name recognition. In any event, Hof Kelsten is part of a shortlist of Montreal bakery who is synonymous with good bread. http://www.yelp.ca/biz/hof-kelsten-montréal
Olive & Gourmando The renowned Old Montreal breakfast spot has great pastries and breads! Olive & Gourmando: more than a coffee or breakfast! http://www.yelp.ca/biz/olive-and-gourmando-montréal-3?osq=bread
Les Co’Pains d’Abord Cute little bakery that was a favorite of a number of Plateau Mont-Royal residents. When in doubts, always go with the locals! http://www.yelp.ca/biz/les-copains-d-abord-montréal?osq=bread
Pâtisserie Cocobun. Strange little pastry shop that’s novel enough for me to mention. I have no idea if the concept of systematically using sweetened condensed milk as the base of all the pastries made in house is an authentic asian approach or if its just a marketing initiative but it kinda works! They offer mostly sweet but also some savory pastries with that sweeter base that the condensed milk brings and I enjoy it. http://www.yelp.ca/biz/patisserie-cocobun-guy-concordia-montréal
Maison Christian Faure I’ve never been but I’ve heard enough of this french pastry shop to put it on my shortlist. Its a pastry shop and a pastry school and they specialise in french pastry. Christian Faure is a “Meilleur ouvrier de france” which is probably one of the most insanely difficult honor to get in the french trade system, making it the equivalent of going through the navy seal certification or through the légion étrangères training program for pastry makers (see the following documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kg-5wEW42Kc ). http://maisonchristianfaure.ca/en/
Patisserie Rhubarbe is the solo project of Stéphanie Labelle, who started her own pastry shop in Montreal after coming back from working with Pierre Hermé in France. It is a small shop full of character and among my favourite in Montreal. Her Milles-Feuilles is famous and she has a great flair for visual presentation to complement the quality of her pastries. http://patisserierhubarbe.com/
Ta Pies don’t specialise in bread or pastries. They do australian pies, which are savory australian version of cornish pasties. They also produce home made australian desserts so if you are an expat hankering for a lamington or Anzac biscuit the’ve got you covered. http://ta-pies.com/en
Patrice Patissier Patrice Demers used to be the principal attraction behind the restaurant 400 coups. He was such a household name that he decided to quit 400 coups to start his own pastry shop. Don’t worry, the restaurant still has a strong reputation. They also provide courses in pastry. While his menu always changes you can sometimes get his classics that made him famous (like “Le Vert”). http://patricepatissier.ca/
Wawel There are better pastries and there are better breads but I know of no other places for Polish pastries and breads. Anyone of polish descent will recommend the Paczki (they call it Ponki), a polish donut sometimes fillied with fruit jam. Try the one with plum jam for an authentic experience! I also like their poppy seed strudel. http://www.patisseriewawel.com/
Croissanterie Figaro This one is an emotional choice. I spent a number of afternoon as a student drinking coffee and enjoying the chocolate and rum croissants while dreaming in this copper studded art nouveau interior that I was a gentleman in the belle époque of a fictional Paris. There used to be a particularly cute waitress too… she had the elegance of a panther. We are all older now and it is no longer proper for me to try to charm the waiting staff with my wit and address as I am no longer the university student I was. I live pretty far from there so it has become a bit of a trek for me to go to Figaro. I still do the trek with great delight as the old world charm and fantastic rum and chocolate croissant of this address still touches something pleasant in my soul. http://www.lacroissanteriefigaro.com/en.php
Patisserie Notre-Dame du Rosaire is one of the more functional pastry shop you’ll find. You might even wonder after coming out of all those quaint french artisan shops what you are doing in an environment that looks so production oriented. Simple enough: you are about to taste the best pasteis de nata I can find in Montreal. Pasteis de nata, also called simply Natash by me and my barbarian friends are addictive sweet egg custard portuguese tarts. They have a lot of variety but I like the plain one the best. Its also pretty cheap! http://www.natasdurosaire.ca/en/
Adonis is not an artisan pastry shop. Its not even an artisan anything since it has started to be a pretty big name in Quebec. Its also a supermarket. A supermarket that has a middle eastern and Levantine sensibility that brought a fresh new optic to our local offering. Looking at their success, you have but to conclude there was a large market for fresh products coming with a different point of view. They have one of the largest selection of Baklava I know. For those who don’t know, Baklava is a sweet pastry made with layers of filo dough held together with honey. Its an incredibly sweet bite and you should try it if you never did http://groupeadonis.ca/
Mahrouse . Ok, I understand. You tried the baklava at Adonis and you are ready to go out of your way to try one of the best producers in Montreal? Mahrouse is a bit far from downtown but has garnered a stellar reputation over the years. Well worth the trip if you like Baklava! http://www.mahrouse.ca/
Point G A couple of years ago there was an incredible Macaron craze. Since these delicate meringue sweets are of french origin, you will still find a lot of them in Montreal. I have, of course, a favorite place for Macaron. It is called Le Point G. A play on word on “the G spot”, the boutique specialises in Macaron and make one of the best in Montreal. http://boutiquepointg.com/
- Visited most often by me: Première Moisson
- Favorite pastry: Kouaig-Amann at Kouaig-Amann
- Favorite bread: Chocolate bread from Première Moisson
- Favorite shop to sit down and eat: Croissanterie Figaro
- Where I’ll get my pastry if I want to impress someone: Patisserie Rhubarbe
- Place I’ll go if I want to introduce something new to a resident Montrealer: Ta Pies
Are you done?
The list is not finished! I still have much to talk about but I will do it in the same format in successive post in the same thread.
I plan to talk about the following subjects. Stay tuned!:
- Maple Syrup
- Smoked Meat
- Fruits and vegetables
- Asian markets
- Middle eastern and levantine markets
- European markets