Montreal is a haven for the food-obsessed and this doesn’t only apply to our restaurant scene and ample farmers’ markets: we also have an awesome collection of retail stops on our cook’s tour. Here are some of those favourite stops for Santa when he’s got kitchen habitués and food lovers on his list…
L’Emouleur: For the fancy cook or simply the person who most deserves an object of true beauty under the tree this year, nothing could possibly be more dreamy than a 256-layer, $900 Santoku knife with a mother-of-pearl handle from L’Émouleur (The Sharpener). This tiny and gorgeous knife shop on Laurier in Outremont is where Guillaume de l’Isle sells the most beautiful kitchen knives we’ve ever seen, with a heavy lean towards the Japanese. He also has some less pricey items that are still beauts- heck, I’d settle for the surprise gift of having all my current kitchen knives expertly sharpened in his atelier…1081 Laurier Ouest, (514) 813-3135
Spice Station: As of last July, Mile End became privy to Spice Station, an adorable and educational store for spices that previously only existed in Los Angeles’ hippest areas. Now, we have our own purveyor of fabulous flavourings and best of all, owner Peter Bahlawanian, a local, is on hand to tell you about his collection. You go in for Harissa and come out with raspberry sugar—in fact, our summer was spent rimming cocktail glasses with his 16 types of flavoured sugars—he has 16 kinds of flavoured salt, too, as well as 25 varieties of sea salt, 54 teas, and 3 corianders. Our pick? A burlap “Hot Chocolate” sack, made for gift-giving, is a winter treat at $20. 174A Bernard West, (514) 274-1514
Les Touilleurs: Just east of Avenue du Parc in Mile End, this is the mecca for Montreal chefs and home cooks. Not only is their airy, light space with a well-equipped demo kitchen in the back a temple of cooking (with its own TV show and home to frequent demos by local chefs), it’s also a museum-like display space for the most beautiful kitchenware you’ll ever find in a kitchen. Their extensive collection contains artisan-made peppermills, cutting boards and mixing spoons by local Quebec woodworkers and beautiful modernist glass-and-ceramic mortar and pestles from local artisans Amelie Lucier, ceramic artist, and Julien Mongeau, glassworker. He makes the mortar from glass, she makes the ceramic pestle- so romantic! A beautiful, original and thoughtful gift for your loved one, if I do say so myself (hint hint). 152 Laurier West, (514) 278-2008
The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: The long-awaited cookbook by the city’s favourite chefs is more than a collection of their brilliant and sometimes zany French market cuisine, it’s an homage to everything that’s good in life, especially eating in Montreal. The best gift ever: this book, with a couple of train/plane tickets to our beautiful city tucked inside.
Le Creuset: While the world’s best cookware isn’t exactly local (we wish!), these premiere purveyors of best-quality French cast-iron enameled cookware have, we’re proud to say, recently moved their Canadian HQ to Montreal. And what better place to espouse traditional, high-quality, skillful French cooking of the sort that their brand inspires? To celebrate, Montreal is of course the best place to pick up a prezzie that will thrill any home cook worth their salt, guaranteed. Here’s an idea: The mini-cocotte set is a nice thought, with three tiny dutch ovens enameled in Christmas colours with a pearl finish, crying out to serve up cute dishes like this, with a variety of our delicious artisanal Quebec cheeses on the side.