While Montreal’s chocolateries, patisseries and boulangeries are some of the best and most creative in the business all the year long, they truly shine during holiday time, when all their expertise and creativity comes to the forefront as they bake and exhibit their special treats of the season…
Here are a few suggestions for Montreal-made sweet stocking stuffers that showcase this city’s recent gastronomic history.
Plateau chocolate stop: I like to walk down pretty Duluth Street when it’s snowing, so my first stop is Les Chocolats de Chloé, a chocolaterie that, as far as I’m concerned, should already be famous for their grilled-almond and Fleur-de-sel bars. Chloé’s boutique was sweetly decorated with felt owls and chocolate Santa lollipops with especially exuberant expressions. Their advent calendars houses fantastic filled housemade chocolates behind each numbered door.
Hot chocolate, cool balls: La Maison Cakao (Cocoa House) on Fabre Street is an awesome little shop whose unassuming façade belies the wild creativity inside. The sign on the street carries a straightforward message: Y Fait frette, which is Quebec slang for “it’s cold outside”. Hence: Hot chocolate. And sure enough, when you walk through the door, there’s a hot vat of it heating in an urn with an automated paddle.
They really pull out all the stops for Christmas, with specially baked fruitcake filled with homemade delicacies: cranberries dried after being marinatedin dark Cuban rum, pinapples confitted in maple syrup, as well as candied oranges, lemons, dates and apricots (they make great brown paper-wrapped gifts because they keep for two months after the holidays.) As far as stocking stuffers are concerned, their filled praline-chocolate pinecones are darling, and the jewel-red chocolate Christmas-ornament chocolates make a unique, elegant gift.
Also: Special holiday breads: The bakeries of the city are going full-steam throughout the holidays, and many of them actually bake special loaves for the holidays. Mamie Clafoutis on Van Horne Avenue makes the Marronnier, small, sweet loaf by stuffed with both ground and candied chestnuts. Believe it or not, this bread is fabricated especially to be a carrier of another French Christmas tradition: Foie Gras.
In Mile-End, the energetic bakers at Boulangerie Guillaume bake up the Couronne Lyonnaise, basically a round Baguette, especially for Christmas. That one’s great with some unsalted organic butter, fresh from their prodigious ovens.