It’s almost like the farms and markets have been waiting all year to give us the meal we’ve been waiting for. There’s so much bounty in the harvest here, that a great meal can be made from fall in Montreal every day…
Us Montrealers are busy pickling the bejeezus out of the fall harvest—recipes for dills, pickled beets, picalilli, tomato sauce, and a local specialties, ketchup vert, are being traded around. Ketchup vert is especially close to our hearts—it’s the relish, made with green tomatoes and spices, that goes with our winter meat-pies that are called Tourtieres. Young chefs like Ségué Lepage of Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins was talking about making his own batch for service this fall.
But if you’re just visiting and you don’t have your own larder, don’t worry—it’s just as easy, and possibly more delightful, to get your harvest on at various restaurants around town. Below, I’ve made an ideal fall meal from my wanderings: Each one of these places is good for a whole meal, of course, but let’s pretend.
Renard is the newest kid on the block, taking over a prized spot on Rue Mont-Royal where Cinquieme Péché, a beloved bistro, used to be (it moved around the corner). Chef Jason Nelsons is obsessive about sourcing his food from the most quality driven small producers in the province, as you can tell from his idiosyncratic and totally passionate blog.
On my last visit, he served me an amazing combo of two of my favourite things: Crispy veal sweetbreads with a bisque of crawfish from Lac St-Pierre. He was also doing all sorts of nice things with mushrooms, including chanterelles with lardons as a main, and his classic homemade smoked tomato soup—the stuff dreams are made of.
Though the best corner bistros and neighbourhood joints will be cooking with seasonal ingredients this time of year, the award goes to Normand Laprise for sheer inventiveness, and tastiness as well. Laprise, Montreal’s marquee chef, has been cooking with exclusively local produce for almost two decades—well ahead of the locavore curve.
In September, the kitchen at Toqué leaps into tomato-processing mode, canning and preserving things for the winter. They serve fresh tomato dishes, like their classic BLT inside a tomato and my personal favourite, Halibut with Tomato Scraps- which may sound scrappy, but they make the “scraps” into tomato caramel, paste, oil, sauce, pate de fruit, and other treats. When I went to visit their kitchen this week for the article, Toqué’s firebrand chef de cuisine, Charles-Antoine Crète, made some art out of their tomatoes to whet my appetite.
Montreal’s newest ice-cream sensation is Les Givrés, which we covered in detail this summer…so why should you want ice-cream when the fall winds start blowing, you ask? Answer: Because they’re doing some serious things with apples. They have a special way to make soft-serve ice-cream, and the flavor of the week this week is a pure-apple soft-serve, which owner Julien recommends you eat on a cinnamon ice-cream cone (homemade of course).
The other feature, pictured here, is possibly the best idea ever: Apple-pie ice cream. You know how good a homebaked pie is à la mode, with vanilla ice-cream on top? Well, they’ve skipped a step, and rolled the pie, crust, and ice cream all into one magnificent scoop. It’s crazy that the pie crust stays crispy in all of this, too—it will possibly blow your mind.