Just where does Montréal’s oh-so-special local culinary touch come from, after all? The deluge of exotic flavours that colour its vibrant gastronomic landscape? Its deeply-rooted Québécois culinary traditions? Or is it all of this, wrapped up into one unique and harmonious mix?
Where the land is at the service of fine cuisine
Fastidious about the authenticity and the quality of the dishes they prepare, Montréal chefs are well known to make a daily trip to the market so as to procure fresh, local produce.
As such, it isn’t unusual that they cultivate direct relationships with local producers, an affinity that notably contributes to Montréal’s position as a gastronomic haven for regional fare; a cuisine that is as rustic as it is refined, fused with extraordinary ingredients from the four corners of the world.
And much to the delight of avid foodies always on the look-out for a gourmet challenge, every so often our Master Chefs share their great recipes during culinary workshops offered in some of the city’s most prestigious restaurants.
Beginning of November, the TASTE MTL Festival invites Montréalers and visitors alike to celebrate the great variety and quality of the city's restaurants at appetizing prices. For 11 days, foodies have the great opportunity to discover new establishments and enjoy delectable menus at fixed prices, otherwise known as a table d'hôte, in addition to a host of special events. The list of participating restaurants can be found on TASTE MTL website.
The MONTRÉAL HIGH LIGHTS Festival
Come winter, just because the mercury falls doesn’t mean that our festival fever cools off; on the contrary, we light up, warming our spirits and our taste buds with the MONTRÉAL HIGH LIGHTS Festival, a celebration of gastronomy, performing arts and music.
As per tradition, a guest Master Chef presides over the gastronomy and wine program, offering an exemplary occasion to divulge the culinary specialities of their hometown or region. Local product tastings are also organized on the festival site and in several Montréal restaurants.
To close the festivities in signature Montréal style, museums, event halls, theatres, restaurants and bars across the island open their doors to night owls for the Montréal All-Nighter, a non-stop indoor and outdoor party that goes down until the sun comes up.
Wine, direct from your cellar to the restaurant!
According to the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux in 2006, there were 191 “Bring-Your –Own-Wine (BYOW)” restaurants in Montréal.
The concept is really very simple and hasn’t changed for years: a good bottle of wine (or two); a restaurant with a sign advertising to “bring your own wine”; a kind waiter who uncorks your bottle et voilà. Nothing left to do but choose from the menu and enjoy!
These breweries may be “micro”, but small in taste they definitely are not!
A residential neighbourhood phenomenon, microbreweries are particular favourites when it comes to the 5 à 7 – happy hour – a much loved pastime of Montréalers.
Déesse nocturne (Night Goddess), Péché mortel (Mortal Sin), Corne du diable (Horn of the Devil): there are as many tasty beers as there are zany names, created and brewed on-site, very often from natural ingredients. Spicy or slightly fruity, these beers go marvellously with tapas or snacks such as European sausage, venison tartar or homemade potato chips.
The Mondial de la bière, an annual international beer festival held in June, offers a vast selection of local beers, however one needn’t look any further than certain dépanneurs (corner stores) that feature an impressive selection of both local and imported beers.
We’re not talking about just any smoked meat, you know.
No matter the season nor the weather, there’s always an impatient crowd anxiously awaiting their smoked meat fix in front of the Schwartz’s famous Jewish deli, the “best place in the milky way to sample a smoked meat sandwich!” according to Time Magazine.
It’s common knowledge that is definitely worth the wait – which could be as long as 45 minutes – even if it’s just to witness the timeless décor of the Main’s most legendary institution.
Over the years, this famous sandwich has remained true to form: served on rye bread with an enormous dill pickle placed ever so seductively on the side. Celebrities the likes of Céline Dion, Jerry Lewis and Angelina Jolie have fallen under Schwartz’s smoked meat spell, drawn in by the delicate mix of herbs and spices that give smoked meat its irresistible and unique taste.
The secret behind the legendary Montréal bagel
From breakfast smothered with jam to a tasty lunch adorned with slices of smoked salmon and gobs of cream cheese, the bagel has been a regular on our tables for over half a century.
Brought over by Jewish immigrants from Central Europe, the Montréal bagel is unique in itself: unlike its New York cousin, it continues to be prepared according to traditional methods and boasts a slightly sweeter taste.
Montréal’s Mile-End neighbourhood is where the bagel calls home and where the irresistible aroma of fresh-from-the-oven bagels leads us to St-Viateur Bagel or to Fairmount Bagel like a magic spell. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, these two bakeries offer a selection of bagels so tantalizing, it would make even the freshest of croissants turn green with envy.
And so what is the secret ingredient that makes the Montréal bagel so wonderful? Wood ovens, eggs in the batter and, of course, the baker’s expert touch.
Maple syrup and other delicacies
A saccharine pleasure of the first European settlers, maple sap, extracted and transformed into syrup according to a process developed by the Amerindians, has quickly become a springtime culinary staple.
From the sugar shack to gourmet tables, this syrup shows up in a variety of sweet treats – maple taffy on snow, maple butter, mousse, sorbet or sugar pie – and enhances even the most sophisticated of recipes.
The traditional sugar shack fare attracts thousands of visitors each year; however, one needn’t await the running of the sap to partake of this golden liquid. Maple syrup and its numerous derivatives can be found just about anywhere, all year round, from Old Montréal to the public markets, where producers offer an array of deliciously sugary local products.
In the name of the fries, the cheese curds and the gravy. Amen.
Poutine is the Holy Trinity of comfort food after a late night at the bar. Like it or not, it remains the symbolic meal of Québec.
The traditional recipe is comprised of fries smothered in scalding hot gravy and topped with melting cheese curds, with the optional addition of various condiments according to personal taste.
You can enjoy poutine in its various forms anywhere : traditional at a local neighbourhood snack counter; spiced up with sausage, mushrooms and sautéed onions at La Banquise, a fav haunt of discerning connaisseurs; or in fine style at au Pied de cochon, where poutine turns fancy with foie gras.