In December, the Christmas spirit hits hard at Jean-Talon market, and as a resident of Mile-End, most of my trips to buy wreaths and hot chocolate tend to be aimed in that direction. But it’s possible that Montreal’s other main market, the Atwater Market, south of downtown in St-Henri, is even more festive.
The market’s Art Deco facade dates back to 1933, and forms an imposing backdrop for the Christmas-tree markets that take over the parking lot when the Yule tides are high. When you get close enough, it smells like a pine forest, and there are always some Canadian woodland critters poking their noses out of the foliage.
But we’re here for the food, right? Montreal’s home cooks and restauranteurs alike swear by the meat at the Boucherie de Tours – the wall behind their cash is adorned with all the business cards of local eateries whose skin they’ve saved, from Le Bremner to Joe Beef. Pierrot, the owner, is “the man”, and indeed one year when I was making crepinettes (French Christmas sausages), the Boucherie de Tours was the only place in the whole city that carried the caul fat I needed for the casings. You can see from the delivery pictured here that unlike the big box stores, they still practice whole-animal butchery.
For visitors to town who don’t have their own kitchens to work with, Boucherie de Tours is still a great place to pick up a tin of Foie Gras – a staple French Christmastime delicacy – to accompany a bottle of Quebec ice wine up in your room. (A hint: the SAQ across the street from the Atwater market specializes in local liquor, so it’s a great place pick up presents du terroir to tipple here and/or take back home). Or, grab some ready-made garnished sauerkraut or Cassoulet (another seasonal dish) to snack on.
Speaking of hotel-room treats, why not pick up a gift basket from the Fromagerie Atwater. When you walk into this mecca of cheese, it smells like a real cheese cellar (complete with curds at the counter, bien sur). They also put together great holiday hampers, full of great imported and local products. If you keep your eyes peeled in the Fromagerie, you can spot the little hidden doorways to some great caves – there’s a room down a few stairs that’s stacked with artisanal beer, and another little cave for aging cheese – call it Narnia for foodies.
On the second floor, Premiere Moisson makes baguettes to go with your portable treats, as well as special Christmas pastries, cookies and chocolate treats that are re-invented every year (this year’s Chocolate figurine is a toppled-over Santa who looks to have had too much Christmas cheer already!
Down the hall, in the florists’ area, you can pick up a festive little mantel bouquet, a poinsettia, or a decorative Santa head to add holiday cheer to any home-away-from-home. And with that you’re all set for a moveable Holiday feast thanks to Atwater treats!