1) The Bagel
Never mind getting into restocking the inter city bagel war that has occupied too much time between Montreal & Toronto, as to which city has the best bagel. A radio show I listened to years ago, when living outside Toronto, mentioned “The Best Bagel, is the one your mother gives you”. No truer words have been spoken.
That said, the world has somehow got a thing for bagels, and some of the best are available in this city.
The simplicity of choosing between poppyseed, sesame seed or plain, has occupied as much time any shopper deserves. The attendants are always pleasant to ensure you make the best selection in your choosing.
Many establishments have added very complimentary spreads to accompany something so freshly baked, and lightly toasted. Garlic cream cheese, Garlic & Herb, as well as various fruit flavours have moved the plain toasted bagel to the side.
But when it comes to outdoor, early morning Bistro sitting, nothing accompanies your bagel, as well as a well made espresso, in its tiny porcelain carafe & saucer.
2) Smoked Meat
Commonly ordered here as, Montreal Smoked Meat. But my question has always been, where’s the smoke? All sandwiches I’ve witnessed being carefully prepared and well presented are brind.
Aged in brine, left to cureand casually placed on display appears to be the ritual of “Montreal Smoked Meat”. Plenty of restraunts available for you to choose your trimmings, but, always accompany your sandwich on rye, side of coleslaw and a pickle. Balancing a platter version with freshly cut fries and a cold fountain pop.
What can I say but, “Welcome to Montreal, please pass the mustard”.
Poutine, poutine, poutine so glorious there should be a song about this age old, and traditional Quebec comfort food.
Starting with pipping hot fries, topped with cheese curds, and (my excuse, to keep the serving hot), a generous ladel of rich, think, and hearty gravy. This sauce other purpose is to begin the melting process of the cheese curd, so that when you begin to tuck into it, you are reminded of those toasted, grilled cheese sandwiches your Mother served you. Todays Poutine is so far ahead of where it started, and not so far ahead of this.
My favorite, topped with medium rare slices of steak and raw onions. Perhaps topped with horse radish, or green onions, or, or, or. The list of condiments is almost endless to any self – trained Foodie.
Montreal appears to boast with variety, stunning contrasts and cross cultural approaches in the availabilty of Poutine.
As a side note, it has always been my belief, Poutine should be eaten with chopsticks.
4) Maple Syrup (Cabane Sucre)
Truly a late winter early spring nectare of the God’s. Maple syrup is still gathered by hand in many areas, even though tree tapping has turned to plastic pipping strapped from tree to tree to tree to tree to sugar shack.
Often refferred to, as “sugaring off the maple”. As a youth I was fortunate enough to have been hands on involved with with the manual gathering process. Collecting enough sap on a Saturday morning, transfering it in the back of a beaten up, bush worthy pickup back to the farm house where we began the boil experience.
Left as a young boy in the driveway of our friends home, I stood over a very pleasant and roasty fire pit as a pot or two of our harvest began to boil, then simmer and reduce. You could have even sold the steam from the boil if there had been a way to collect it. The sap was heated and reduced into syrup until it had gained the consistancy we were looking for.
When in Montreal local syrup is available either in traditional fashioned “Caban Sucre” kiosk shacks, and hard to miss when out for a morning stroll in almost any restraunt area, you will see standard syrup containers dawning the tables of breakfast houses. A dead give away that crepes & pancakes are on the menu. Your eye will then be transfixed on thos glass jarred, silver handled and capped self serve syrup containers.
Those classic pull back dispensers with its clearly amber contents, waiting for the next customer. Enjoy, and be sure to drop into a retailer who sells, inorder that you may laddle some into your take home bag, and share with friends & family. The champagne of Quebec, Bon Appettite.
5) Steak & Frites
Maybe its just an upgraded burger with fries order, but Steak & Frites adornes many of the menus here in Montreal. It isn’t anything like dropping into your local restraunt, ordering your favorite steak and side of fries. This is, Steak & Frites. “How do you like it”, is about the only question you will be asked. And yes, all he wants to know is, medium rare, medium or medium well, no more information required, simply ordered.
When you’ve ordered Steak & Frites you’ve already conjoured up what it will be. Your first visit, made a nasty assumption about your best man grill you ever made, you ain’t seen nothing yet, burger boy. Once you’ve hit that first experience in all the right spots, never forget, no doubt it will be repeated and you can surrender your backyard, home turf BBQ bristle and tongues.
Montreal, Steak & Frites doesn’t have a grade, nor does it have a point score. It has a grade and standard, set by the establishment and staff that serves with pride.
No doubt, somewhere in this city, is a true, timely & traditional butcher that knows part of the secret as to, how thick, what cut, proper storage and maybe even, which chef is going to get it for his restraunt.
The fries, are not thick cut Texan heavy pieces of potatoe that are put infront of you for bragging rights. No, no, no. These fries are often the shoestring cut that allow for short order crispyness, pilled high to retain the heat, and delicatley scopped and put beside the steak already plated and ready for service.
When you try it for either the first time, or the next time simply do this. Enjoy the wine and stay for dessert, these guys absolutley know what they are doing.