Foodie [foo-dee] –noun Slang . a person having an enthusiastic interest in the preparation and consumption of good food.
Montrealers love to eat. A large slice of local Montreal culture is gathering around a table, uncorking a bottle of wine, animatedly chatting about life and savoring the smells and tastes of artfully prepared food.
If you also enjoy eating as much as we do, we’ve got ten great reasons why foodies should flock to Montreal.
1. OUTDOOR MARKETS
The markets of Montreal are truly the best location to taste the city. The open-air arcades operate during the three temperate seasons, and during crisp winter days, you’re still able to browse selection in heated areas. Sample the delicious local products from cheese shops, delis, bakeries and crêperies, and pick up some new tools at the cooking supply boutiques. First timers head up to the gigantically delicious Marché Jean-Talon. Those looking for more adventure, you’ll be able to practice your French among the tartelettes at Marché Maisonneuve.
The delicious Quebecois specialty, consisting of a delicious mixture of fries, sauce and cheese curds, is renown for its natural healing powers. Say, for instance, you were so adventurous to down a bottle of wine with dinner, and then proceeded with four beer and a few shots of Jack™ at the bar. A poutine before bed will decrease your risk of adventure-threatening hangover by as much as 65%. Scientists have proven this.
3. SMOKED MEAT
Perhaps the most emblematic of all epicurean delights in Montreal, the procedure of smoking meat is basically prehistoric. However, local restaurateurs have turned the contemporary smoked beef sandwich into an art form. The secret? Whole briskets are kept hot and sliced on demand. Oh yes, and that patented Montreal seasoning spice. But, no, we’re not sharing the recipe. So you’ll just have to come visit.
Perhaps leaning towards the “pretzel” corner of the starch tribe, the Montreal bagel is smaller and sweeter than its New York doughy cousin. And many people don’t know this, but the Montreal bagel was the first bagel in space… sorry, we didn’t mean to brag.
But, you wonder, what is the key to the Montreal bagel-y goodness? Well, we boil them in honey water before they’re baked in a wood-fire oven. Oh yes, and we add a pinch of love. Pop into St. Viateur Bagel or Fairmount Bagel, and get’em right out of the oven. Smother on a wad of cream cheese and enjoy simple foodie nirvana.
5. FRENCH CUISINE
There is no place in North America that captures the delectable cuisine of France like Montreal. Whether it’s our savory salmon tartare, classic steak frites or decadent crème brulée, Montreal’s cultural (and culinary) lineage has enabled North Americans to have a taste of Europe in their own backyard. Minus, of course, that pesky jetlag.
6. INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR
A major factor in Montreal being an ultimate foodie destination is the diversity in culinary ethnic offerings. From the steaming dim sum carts in Chinatown to the delicate cannoli of Little Italy to the hidden Brazilian bistros of the Plateau, the various gastronomic options are a simple reflection of the multitude of ethnicities that have chosen to establish enterprises in the city. Local gourmands rejoice in the abundance of dish diversity. You can rejoice, too.
Between the cupcake shops and the pâtisseries (bakeries), you’ll find plenty of temptation in Montreal. However, it’s the chocolate shops that pose the greatest threat to your willpower. Nuzzled into a charming storefront boutique on Duluth Ave, at Les Chocolats de Chloé makes all their delicious products on the premise from Valrhona chocolate. Entering Suite 88 on stylish St. Denis Street is like stepping into a fine jeweler; in fact they brand themselves as Montreal’s first chocolate lounge. Finally, Les Chocolats Geneviève Grandois offers a couple of locations around Montreal to sink your teeth into the sweet taste of the city. And yes, most shops offer a chocolaty “Maple Syrup” option (see reason #10).
Tip: If you walk from one decadent chocolate boutique to the next, you’ll burn calories while seeing more of the city. Win/Win.
8. CHEAP EATS
With over 5000 restaurants in the metropolitan area, there is an eatery for every taste bud and budget. In Montreal, you can throw a stone and hit a shawarma shop, pizza joint and noodle house. But please, there is no need to throw stones. Instead, grab a bottle of wine and meander to one of hundreds of restaurants with Apportez Votre Vin in the window. Montrealers love to eat out, and our “Bring Your Own Wine” restaurants make it affordable. Also, if you’re flexible with your schedule, there are a handful of high-end restaurants that offer fantastic specials for relaxed lunching or late night noshing.
If you consider yourself a bit of a locavore, Montreal has plenty of regional offerings available in restaurants and markets (see reason #1). Our local cheeses are increasingly becoming internationally renown. Leading the pack of notable Quebecois dairy products is a goat’s milk cheese named “Cinderella,” which was voted the best cheese in the world in 2009. If you’re strolling through Atwater Market or Marché Jean-Talon, make sure you visit Fromagerie Hamel – they’ve got chessemongering down to an art.
10. MAPLE SYRUP/SUGARING OFF
Each year as the snow melts, the sap from Quebec maple trees provides the world with a cherished supply of sweet, golden maple syrup. You’ll find plenty of this liquid gold, perfect for your crêpes or pain doré (French toast), at any point during the year. However a visit in March is the perfect time for “Sugaring Off” – a visit to an authentic cabane à sucre (Sugar Shack) to see the sap running, glide on horse draw sleds and dine on baked beans, egg soufflés, maple-cured ham and, of course, plenty of maple-icilious desserts.
Finally, when it comes to maple syrup and/or Montreal, please, accept no imitations.