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Jun 5, 2007 10:37 AM

Artisinal food in Montreal (no cupcakes)

Over on the Serious Eats blog from New York ( Ed Levine is lamenting the decline of small, family-run artisinal butcher shops, sausage makers, bread makers (etc.) along with the simultaneous rise of goddam cupcake bakeries.

I like cupcakes, but enough already.

Ditto Levine. Reading his blog post, and the New York Times articles he links too, it occured to me to wonder how we're doing here in Montreal. Obviously, we have cupcakes, with new cupcake places opening pretty regularly, but how's our artisinal stuff?

Meats? What have we got? La Maison du Roti was excellent until it burned down. (Any word on its re-opening?) We have the William J. Walters sausages chain, but I'm not sure where I stand on that... (It seems like the sausages all have the same texture, and I suspect there is more to being "artisinal" that just mixing different ingredients into tube steaks.) I hear Chez Vito on St. Urbain is an excellent butcher but I've never been there. Does it stand out because they are artisinal, or just because they're the only butcher in Mile-End?

What about breads? Aside from the chains (Pain Dore, Premiere Moisson, etc.) who is making good artisinal breads in Montreal?

What else is there in Montreal that is "artisinal?" (For my purposes, "artisinal" means "the production of food items with care, attention to detail, in small hand-made batches, with respect for traditional recipes and/or innovative ideas." Franchises need not apply. I'm only interested in owner/operator places where the people make food according to their own skill and recipes, not according to a corporate guidebook.


Please weigh in! I want to make a list!

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  1. There's an excellent Greek butcher in Parc X that sells marinated meats, seasoned to delectable perfection (pork chops, chicken or pork brochettes etc etc). His products are excellent. Great for a bbq! It's on the northeast corner of Outremont and Liege, in the basement.
    I would put this place in the list given your definition of artisanal.

    1. A lot of this has been covered in previous threads, though not necessarily under the heading artisanal.

      Le Fromentier and Olive et Gourmando are, IMHO, the best bread bakers in Montreal, though the former is hardly a mom-and-pop operation.

      I really don't understand the constant accolades given to La Maison du Rôti. Yeah, the selection is/was/will be humongous. But every prepared dish of theirs I've tried has been mediocre at best and some have been downright bad (their confit de canard came in very close to the bottom of my survey of two dozen purveyors of preserved duck, for example). Plus they have been fined for selling inexpensive beef as expensive bison and, IIRC, selling illegally poached game. There are several conscientious small butchers (yes, Vito, and also Atlantique, Le Maître Boucher and Boucherie de Paris) and even medium to large butchers (organic Fermes St-Vincent, La Boucherie du Marché, Milano, Bélanger et fils, Anjou-Québec -- and these are only the ones I know about) whose offer is far more appealing. Vito's appeal is the quality, prices, service and some of the products made in house.

      Edit: Mahrouse's baklava are not only artisanal, they're world-class.

      Edit: Havre aux glaces. Lait d'antan. Any number of Quebec cheesemakers.

      Edit: Les cochons tout ronds. Atkins/Les délices de la mer.

      1. Meu-Meu on St-Denis south of Mont-Royal makes some of the best ice-cream in town. I reccomend the star anise and the Dutch chocolate and sea salt.

        Queue de Cochon on Plaza St-Hubert and in Le Fromentier on Laurier is great for boudin and delicious jambon blanc. Most everything there is really good.

        Slovenia on St-Laurent and Boucherie du Marché in JTM are my fav butcher shops, although I've yet to go to most of those listed on this board. Slovenia makes a mean sandwich, as well. It's worth going just for the sandwiches.

        4 Replies
        1. re: SnackHappy

          I second meu-meu! Caramel sea salt is good too, alll their sorbets & all their soy milk ice 'cream' is delicious too!

          1. re: morebubbles

            Have you seen the Caramel and sea salt yet, this season? I was only there once, but it wasn't there.

            1. re: SnackHappy

              Yes!! I was there when it opened for the season & took out a container to have with homemade pie, my guests all raved about that flavor. Then I was there a couple of weeks ago & they had the caramel & sea salt again! Organic Quebec blueberry sorbet too, delicious, all of the flavors. That's the other detail, organic ingredients are used when possible & labelled as such. Friendly staff too. I bombard them with questions every time I go in there & they're happy to answer them. Everything's made on the premises & they're always experimenting with diff. flavors & combinations.

              1. re: morebubbles

                Caramel and black sea salt is by far my favourite of all their flavours, but I haven't seen it yet this season. Maybe I should call ahead!

                It's quite pricey there (nearly twice as expensive as Roberto or Bilboquet), but I suppose that's the price one pays for organic ingredients.

        2. Ooo, nice! Keep it coming!

          Carswell, I realize that this is a pretty general thing and has been covered before, but it's scattered all around. I thought it would be nice to sort of grind out a digest of sorts by just polling the readers for their quick lists.

          More! Gimme more!

          2 Replies
          1. re: blork

            Beurrerie du patrimoine for milk, butter and 45% cream?
            Chocolat de Chloé for chocolate (obviously)

            1. re: blork

              More, much more for Blork, from the nearby Montéregie - La Fromagerie Kaiser in Noyan is very artisanal, i.e., raclette w/black peppercorns, raclette w/olive oil, raclette w/ fines herbes, and a variety of 15-20 European-style cheeses at prices far below those at Atwater/JTL. The Kaiser family is from German Switzerland, they have their own large dairy farm and small fromagerie about 1 km north of the border at Alburgh, Vermont. Great stuff! Not open on Sundays. Have also heard of a German craft butcher operating out of his garage in Lacolle, and a great sausage place between Hemmingford and Covey Hill but haven't tried either yet (will report when I do). All are less than an hour out of the city.