favorites at Jean Talon market?
I've moved across the street from the Jean Talon market, and am very happy and a little overwhelmed. Yes, I've now tasted the chocolate cherry sorbet at Havre aux Glaces (wonderful!) but how do you choose a butcher, or a cheese shop, when there are so many appealing choices? I've learned so much about this city from reading these messages - do people have suggestions or recommendations or stories about the market? Help me to make discoveries.
I usually do the same couple of stores/stalls.
coming from the east (st-laurent)
There a stall, first alley with very excellent salads of all kinds, on the left side of the center alley.
after that, I walk around trying to find "pink" radishes" then I go to Hamel for cheeses ( better vibe there compared to Qui Lait Cru IMHO), and then I stop by Cochon Tout Rond for ham, saussicons. then I look to see if there are some fresh sea-food, usually in front of "Havre aux Glaces", but it might be late in season.
After, I re-walk to see If I did not missed anything in the veggies stalls, then I go to Nino and fill up on fruits and "harder" to find veggies, mostly mushrooms, and I finish my run with bread at "Premiere Moisson"
Trial and error, and also an eye on the prices. I've lived in that neighbourhood for 20 years (though I no longer live across the street from the market).
In terms of produce, these days, I'm enjoying the organic stall co-op du Sud-Ouest (along the aisle next to the built-in shops, towards the east, and about halfway north. Don't know whether it is my "favourite" - there is produce just as outstanding elsewhere - but I found the most velvety tiny green beans today.
Is this board the reason you moved to Montréal? Just curious.
I lived in Berkeley California, for much of my adult life. We would take out of towners to see the produce at the Berkeley Bowl. Work then brought me to Milwaukee Wisconsin (intro to winter and sad produce) and now to Montreal. I'm visually, but not verbally, fluent in French, so websites like this and Endless Banquet have helped me to get a better sense of my new home. But no, I didn't even know Chowhound existed when I moved to Montreal. Thanks for the description of the velvety green beans and the tour of the market.
For a Berkeley girl, one word -- berries! I grew up in the St. Lawrence valley in a family that spent half the summer chasing wild berries, and the J-T Market restored my faith (destroyed in California) that man could cultivate berries nearly as tasty those that grow wild. The bleuets should be out now, get them (but leave some for me, I'll be there next week).
I haven't seen any yet - just farmed berries (which the local strawberry and raspberry producers are featuring in hopes people will REALLY want to make a berry salad). And I go there almost every day. Usually they are a bit later. Now there are some strawberry producers that produce a later-ripening variety that is often available at the same time as the blueberries - Katharine, of course you want the tiny ones, from Abitibi or Lac St-Jean. They are a superfood, and tasty too.
I have seen some Ontario peaches but didn't dare buy them yet - I've had so many disappointing experiences in the peaches (grown in the Niagara warm microclimate, Katharine, one of the few real wine-growing regions in Canada) that were shipped too green and ripen wrong, rotting inside before they are fully ripe. If properly ripened they are very, very good, and a delightful counterpart to the wee blueberries.
I found little Quebec blueberries at two stands this morning, one in the row closest to Premiere Moisson and the other stand in the middle row that has berries at two or three baskets for $5.00 (not many Quebec blueberries were at this stand). I'm not sure where they are from in Quebec, but they are amazing.
So far this summer could be called adventures in eating fruit. I've learned the meaning of "mealy" (when seduced by the price of small peaches at $2.00 a basket), learned that the stands where you can taste and lots of people are buying are probably good choices, learned that sometimes you have to be really patient until the fruit ripens, and learned that its best to walk around the market at least once before buying anything (this is hard!)
Thanks for the suggestions for the market and for outside the market. I'm on a budget now, so don't eat out much, but I like Ange and Ricky for takeout (they gave me a mango last night because they were out of dessert) and Tapeo for special occasions.
What about fish - again, there are so many choices in and around the market.
I'll be on the lookout for the Ontario peaches.
ONtario peaches are usually very good but I'd advise to wait a couple of weeks after they started to pop around to buy them. The first ones are usually forgetable, unripe and sour.
As for other spots I like, the nuts stand across from Veau de Charlevoix is really great and they'll let you taste before you buy. I also have a love/hate relationship with Sami. The place can deliver deals outside but inside it's a mad house.
I'm also really fond of Olive & Épices. A bit more expansive than bulk spices but worth every penny of it. They have mad mexican rubs for BBQ season. Especially enjoy the Guerrero mix with it's spicy yet fruity flavor.
Veau de Charlevoix and Porc Meilleur are my veal and pork providers. Veau also carries very good pork. The ham is especially good and very affordable.
Capitol also a good selection of meat at a decent price. Their sausages are also quite good.
Though a little more expansive, saussages at William j Walter are really good and offer interesting flavor combinations.
On St-Laurent, I'm a bog fan of Milano for anything italian while the cheese usually comes from Hamel.
Don't miss Marché des saveurs du Québec and its alcohol outlet where you can buy anything that's made in Quebec. Great honey wine and berry wine as well as apple cider. I really like the maple syrup cream which I don't recall the name but the bottle is frosty white with leafs painted on it.
Off course, Hâvre-aux-glaces is not to be missed like the chocolate shop next to Alfalfa.
As for produce, i'm also keen on Birri. My eggs usually comes from Le Capitaine. And make a spin at Louis and Nino for good quality fruit albeit more expansive.
Milano and Capitol do have a good selection of Italian and Italian-style cheeses. Milano always has a delicious goat's milk ricotta. And lovely little sausages (at the back by the butcher's counter, not in the middle, where there are the large Italian sausages).
Agree, no peaches yet. I wouldn't touch them until August.
As for wine, the SAQ on St-Laurent at the corner of Mozart has a better selection and is usually quieter than the one in the market. But for a really good selection, you'll have to go down to Beaubien métro, corner St-André (not a long walk) or perhaps to the SAQ next to Loblaws (a short walk west, but Beaubien is a better outlet).
One of the oldest cafés in the area is Caffè Italia on St-Laurent - decades ago it was a male preserve but women are certainly welcome now. Cheap prices for authentic espresso and cappuccino...
But the weather is too nice to stay in and write - I've finished my day's work, so of to the market...
"how do you choose a butcher, or a cheese shop, when there are so many appealing choices"
It depends on several factors including time, what I'm looking for, the price I'm willing to pay and the season.
Butchers: My default is La Boucherie du marché, which has an impressively wide selection of high-quality meats (including hard to find cuts like hanger steak, though don't go in expecting to find it at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon) at fair prices. For pork and veal, I usually head to Porcmeilleur and Veau de Charlevoix (which also sells decent lamb) in the new extension. For rabbits, "game" birds and pork when I'm feeling especially flush and ecological, organic Les Fermes St-Vincent. Other butchers (e.g. Les vollailes et gibiers du marché and Prince Noir) are more fall-backs than regular suppliers, though the fresh guniea hens at the former are quite good. By the way, while it's not at the market per se, don't overlook the butcher counter at Milano on St-Laurent; good meat, good prices and knowledgeable staff. Unlike some others on this board, I'm not a huge fan of the charcuterie on offer at the market, the main exception to the rule being Cochons tout ronds.
Cheese: For Quebec cheese, Les saveurs du marché is my first stop because they have the largest selection, are less busy than the other mongers and are an enterprise that deserves our support. Otherwise, it's a toss-up between Qui lait cru and Hamel; for example, the former's Comté is usually more interesting while the latter has a wider selection, including some wonderful proprietary chesses like the Maroilles washed with Maudite ale. And when looking for, say, a Saint-Marcellin, it's whoever has the most perfectly ripe one.
Produce: In spring, summer and fall, I don't buy anything until I've toured the farmers' stalls to see who has what. I always play close attention to a few favourites: for example, Birri et frères in the westernmost *allée* with its wonderful organic greens (red oak leaf lettuce, mesclun presented like a bouquet, etc.) or the pepper guy in the easternmost *allée* who in August has rareties like fresh piquillo peppers. In corn season, I just wander around, stopping wherever I find heirloom or non-supersweet varieties (increasingly rare). For affordable exotic produce, check out Sami on the north side of the market just across from Aqua Mare. In cooler months or when in seach of gourmet produce (ratte potatoes, locally grown white asparagus, edible flowers, micro greens, wild mushrooms, Provençal garlic, etc.), Chez Nino and Chez Louis are the top spots.
But, hey, half the fun of frequenting the market is exploring it, making discoveries, learning who to avoid and developing relationships with vendors you like. So take a deep breath and savour the adventure.
I do hope one of the pepper guys gets in the much-promised piments d'Espalette, - peppers from the Basque country - which are slightly hot (not fiery) peppers with a lovely flavour...
Boucherie du marché is also where I buy very good grain-fed chicken legs when I'm NOT flush; as carswell says they have many cuts of meat one does not find elsewhere and they are helpful and friendlly.
You'll have fun exploring the neighbourhood - a few streets east there is a little knot of East Asian shops - the largest is Marché Oriental - for East and Southeast Asian groceries and bbq ducks. There are several North African (Maghrebi) butchers and grocers not only in the market itself but opposite on Jean-Talon and up on rue de Castelnau (a short block north). You will also find Zaatar there, a Middle-Eastern (Lebanese, I think) bakery with mostly savoury offerings.
A slightly longer walk west, under the railway viaduct, will take you to Park Extension (walking past the big Loblaws supermarket) where you will find a good many South Asian groceries, from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
I won't repeat all the suggestions from my fellow hounders, but will add a few personal faves.
L'olivier for lamb, its does not look like much (they don't really spend time or money on the decor and amenities) but the lamb and merguez are fantastic. One of the old-school merchants at the market. The outdoor stall for sandwiches is amazing too.
Boucherie Milan for veal paupiettes. The very best in town, the only ones that truly replicates the taste of Europe. Also some of my north african friends swear by their merguez, though I prefer l'Olivier's.
Marché des saveurs (again): Don't forget their vast beer selection either! A msut stop for "something" every time I go.