Planning to come to Montreal before Christmas? Friends and family back home are into food and restaurants? You’re in luck: this city is a veritable treasure trove of gifts for the seen-it-all-tasted-it-all foodie. Champagne? T.V. chef cookbooks? So déja vu! Here are a few presents that would make any food-lover happy:
No foodie worth his fleur de sel hasn’t heard of Martin Picard, the gentle giant behind the perenially packed and talked-about Au Pied de Cochon, the meat-centric restaurant in Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood. His eponymous book is – no exaggeration! – revered by chefs around the world. Just last week, TV chef Anthony Bourdain told me it’s one of the best food books he’s ever seen, and that he wished Picard had an American publishing house representing him abroad. Unapologetically bloody – in one of the photos chef Picard appears holding a freshly-killed pig – it is quite simply the coolest coffee table book your foodie friend could ever wish for. One of the chef’s valuable tips: before butchering a deer, let the meat rest, hide and all, for seven days!
Available at Indigo
Place Montreal Trust
1500 McGill avenue
tel. (514) 281-5549
and several other locations. You can even buy it online, at the Chapter’s online store.
Everyone’s heard of icewine, or eiswein in German, which is the sweet wine made from grapes that are left to freeze on the vine. Once associated with Germany, it has in later years become a trademark of the Niagara wine region in Ontario. What most people don’t realize, though, is that Quebec wineries also make excellent icewine, as well as something even more peculiar: ice cider. The process is quite similar: apples are left on the trees until temperatures dip to around -7 Celsius, and are then pressed for their nectar. An area just South of Montreal called Eastern Townships is where the world’s best ice ciders are made. All of which can be found at the SAQ Sélection wine boutiques (there are a couple downtown and another adjacent to the Atwater Market). My personal favourite? Neige (snow, in French), which perfectly balances its peachy and jammy flavours with a vibrant acidity. which comes in a lovely case to boot. Can$ 15,80 for a 200ml bottle, visit www.saq.com to find the closest store to your hotel and check if they have it in stock.
There is no shortage of lovely cafés and pastry shops in Montreal, from the several branches of Première Moisson, which sell delicious croissants, truffles and festive snowman-and-Christmas-tree-shaped chocolates to the unbeatable macarrons sold at Europea Espace Boutique, made following the recipes of acclaimed chef Jerôme Ferrer of Europea restaurant. But there is no finer chocolatière in town than Grandbois chocolatière , whose bonbons are not only beautiful but also expertly confectioned. Although her Boutique Grandbois might be a little too far out of most tourists’ maps, in the up-and-coming Mile End district, Grandbois sells her full range of “chocolate jewels” also at the Atwater Market. The perfect foodie gift? An assortment of her more unique-flavoured bonbons, including white truffle, Montecristo cigar and balsamic vinegar, or a bar of the delicious chocolate laced with arbequina olives.
33, Notre-Dame Ouest St,
T : (514) 844-1572
162, Saint-Viateur St West,
tel. (514) 394-1000
138 Atwater Avenue
tel. (514) 933-1331
Sure, this one is pretty obvious: airport shops in Montreal are filled with all sorts of maple treats, from bottles of syrup to lollipops and candies. But rather than buying tacky maple-leaf shaped flasks or the ubiqutous mini plastic jugs of syrup, why not go for the real thing? Maple syrup looks much cooler when packaged in old-fashioned (and slightly kitschy, if truth be told) tin containers, which have the added bonuses of costing much less and protecting the amber nectar from sunlight. They are widely available at the stands at both the Atwater and the Jean-Talon markets. I say some clichés simply deserve to be embraced, unashamedly!
Let’s not kid ourselves: Québec ain’t no Bourgogne and may never produce wines to rival the world’s best. Still, the wineries south of Montreal have progressed in recent years by leaps and bounds and, in some cases, churn out whites that might very well impress and surprise your wine snob friend. The best of the lot are the Chardonnay-heavy blends by boutique winery Les Pervenches, which are a bit hard to find, and the whites from L’Orpailleur (a bit less complex, but much more readily available at SAQ wine stores). To give a bottle of the L’Orpailleur 2009 (Can$ 13.75, fresh green apple and herbal aromas) is a sure way to quiet claims that Quebec can’t possibly make decent wines….