Everybody knows that Montreal is the place with the most beautiful women and the best foie gras this side of the Atlantic, but we excel in the vegetable department as well. Let it be known, from this point on, that Montreal has the best beets on the planet…
Technically, the many varieties of red, yellow and candy-cane beets are grown in the farmland outside of town. But it’s the restaurants that perform the alchemy of transforming them into the innovative and delicious dishes described below.
Here in Quebec, our growing season is relatively short, but there are certain vegetables, tubers mostly, that can survive and even thrive in the root cellar. Greatest among these is the mighty beet, a.k.a beta vulgaris, aka awesome. Beets are not only grown for their leafy goodness and as an industrial food-colouring (beet powder puts the red in traditional red-velvet cake recipes), but also as a source of sugar. We love them so much, in fact, that we almost believe they might beat (or “beet”) winter: in 2010, a pilot project was launched to see if pre-wetting road salt with beet juice would help reduce the salt’s harmful effect on the water table. Turns out, it works really well!
But the main reason we grow beets is because we like to eat them. Sometimes nothing beats a good old beet, walnut and feta salad, but Montreal chefs are also inspired to get really creative with them. Below, a rundown of the city’s best beet eats…
The beet salad at new Plateau fish bistro Le Filet is a revelation for locavores: avocado and orange, as well as a healthy smattering of scallop, dress up a winter beet salad with summer southern flavours. Also, an orange orange and a deep-red beet look pretty pretty side by side.
Speaking of scallop, a sly amuse-bouche of roasted beet chips and rice-fritter sandwich with green onion and a thin sliver of scallop almost stole the show at Brasserie T!, where the beet comfort-food of record is the potato and goat-cheese gratin swimming in beet juice vinaigrette pictured at the top of this post. This dish was once featured at Toqué!, the restaurant that spawned T!, where chef Normand Laprise is a special fan and promoter of Quebec beets. At a recent Toqué lunch, the beet salad below, with pancetta, pine nuts and fresh cheese was more like a Jackson Pollock canvas than a simple salad.
And finally, I’ve been in love with Au Pied de Cochon’s beet, goat-cheese and chive terrine since I first tasted it and have tried to replicate it in my own kitchen, to no avail. Though they call it a “salad”, they serve it like pâté, in slices.
And, the beet goes on…
Guest Blogger: Melora Koepke
Brasserie T!, 1425 Jeanne-Mance, (514) 282-0808
Toqué!, 900 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle, (514) 499-2084
Le Filet, 219 Mount-Royal West, (514) 360-6060
Au Pied Du Cochon, 536 Avenue Duluth East, (514) 281-1114