I lived in Montreal, on and off, for 3 years and I loved it. It’s a city that doesn’t often get a mention and that’s a shame: it’s an inspiring ethnic mix and the climate is….interesting! Today, 3rd August, it’s 73 degrees.
Canada is famous for maple syrup and the Wintertime is when it’s in full production and very often you find stalls selling it. The syrup is poured onto long trays of snow and it takes on a toffee-like texture. It’s not exactly frozen but it’s stiff enough to twirl around a lolly stick and it’s delicious.
Schwartz’s is a famous Montreal deli with smoked meats as its main menu item. This is a surprisingly small shop to have such a big reputation in the city. Although I am a carnivore, the sight of big slabs of smoked meat pressed up against the shop window always put me off. Seems like I was the only one, though. Saturdays would find the line of customers a block long! Their speciality is pastrami sandwiches. You know the kind – a heap of meat and just enough bread to keep the grease off your fingers.
There are a lot of classy restaurants in the old part of Montreal, down by the Saint Laurence River. This port area is the historic part, and stone-built. There are cafes which in summer have their tables and chairs on the pavement, lending a very French and romantic atmosphere. There is always plenty of street entertainment and it’s the heart of Montreal’s tourist area. For better value restaurants try Boulevard St. Denis where you will find more locals than trippers, and better prices as well.
For a real taste of Quebec you have to try Poutine. This is a plate (more often than not a paper tray) of chips (French fries) covered with a sauce made from curd cheese as well as “secret” ingredients that vary from vendor to vendor. It might not sound appetising but if you stay in Montreal long enough you are bound to find Poutine that is seasoned to your taste. The fries are not the skinny little crispy efforts that are popular in famous “Macwendykings” but larger, softer chips with a homemade quality which is the real secret to the success of this dish.
The food shopping is the best! Fresh produce to cater for the needs of its ethnic communities meant that I had the chance to try and to experiment with all kinds of ingredients that we could only find in smart speciality shops at home. What a treat! The fruit and vegetables from Jean Tallon market were outstanding and presented in a most attractive way in deep round baskets that gave the impression that they had just been unloaded from a horse-drawn wagon, rather than a station-wagon.
Coffee shops the likes of Starbucks are popular all over the world but Canada has a couple of its own. My favourite was Tim Horton’s. It has a nice range of doughnuts and has real meals like a creamy chicken soup in the winter. When it’s cold with a wind chill of -38 degrees (yes, it did get that cold) it’s nice to find a warm spot with foggy windows to relax a bit.
Well, OK, there is just one other thing that I am not keen on and that’s Fiddle-head Ferns. Yes, they are real ferns and look just like the ones you find under trees all over the world. I don’t know if Fiddle-heads are special or if any old fern would do. They get the name from the shape.You’ve guessed it – just like the pointy bit of a violin. They are boiled or steamed and they taste very…er, vegetabley! It’s the food of last resort, if you ask me. If I and my fellow hikers were lost in the woods, I would sooner consider my companions as necessary meal ingredients, rather than those greens!
Have you come across Montreal Steak Seasoning? There are a variety of mixes available all over North America but I have found that those sold in the USA tend to have those sweet apple-pie flavours that the local Montreal-packed versions don’t have. Here is a favourite recipe that is somewhere near to my memories of delicious well-seasoned steak on a hot summer night in Montreal. It’s easy to fall in love with this city.
Montreal Steak seasoning …version 726!!
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons crushed black pepper
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon dry garlic
1 tablespoon dry onion
1 tablespoon crushed coriander seeds
½ tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018