Montreal to California - What would you bring?
Salut les 'Hound Montrealais(es),
My brother is on his way down next week from Montreal to visit me in Southern California and will pay his way in food ;)
As former Montrealers, my wife and I have a few requisite items on the standing list (ketchup chips, Moosehead, poutine gravy and cheese curds), but thought - "there must be something we're not thinking of...".
So, within reason, what would you bring a friend or, if you had to leave tomorrow, what would have to come in your suitcase?
Remember: it's an 8 hour trip; the airlines are pretty picky these days; bread, bagels and croissants have been tried and aren't worth the effort; and, strangely enough, our Costco sells maple syrup from Plessisville...).
Crunchie bars (from reading other posts on the California board - they're like gold down there in Ca) or any Cadbury bar that you can't get here. Smarties?
Of course the usual thing to say would be smoked meat, but we all know you can't do that, packaged sous-vide and bundled in your suitcase.... nope can't do it.....
That's all I can think of. I have friends in the states and that's pretty much all they ask me to send them. California pretty much has us beat when it comes to produce or wines.
Ditto Crunchie and Cadbury bars in general (even if they have the same name the recipe is different).
Raw milk cheese. Technically such cheese has to be aged at least 60 days, but they don't bother checking the age from the individual traveler. That is why cheese curds are allowed. Hamel has a great range of such cheeses from Quebec. They also stock raw milk camembert from Normandy which is a completely different product from the cream cheese pasteurized camembert sold under that name in the US. Cheese is much less of a problem than meat, which they do aggressively ask about.
On the other hand smoked fish and poultry is allowed. Why not bring a whole Schwartz's smoked turkey?
Ice cider is a good idea, hardly exported to the States. Cider in general is a product much more available in Quebec than California, with far more varieties.
Havre aux Glaces and Bilboquet produce ice cream flavors not widely available in the States: chestnut, maple, and seasonal varieties. I like their Litchi, but that flavor can sometimes be found in the US. All you need is a cold chest, a few ice packs, and stick it in your baggage in the air plane hold. It is cold enough there to ensure a reasonable condition at arrival time.
Oooh Oohhhh Humpty Dumpty cheesies- the pouffy ones. OMG - I've now just admitted publicly my biggest weakness. The are very different from Cheetos - and IMHO THE BEST. Can't get them over there in the land of fruits and nuts..
PS: Orange fingers are de rigeur after a session with a bag of these.
A couple of US relatives always ask me to bring down Red River Cereal. Hardly fancy but distinctive and apparently impossible to get in the States.
You'll also find lots of Quebec products -- herbes salées, pickled buds of various types (use instead of capers), ketchup maison, wild fruit jams/jellies/vinegars, etc. -- at Jean Talon market's Marché des saveurs.
In the alcoholic beverage department, besides ice cider, a lot of norteamericanos go gaga over the upmarket digestifs from Maison des futailles, in particular Fine Sève (maple syrup eau-de-vie) and the sweet Chicoutai (cloudberry liqueur). www.futailles.com/engl/index.html
When I volunteered at a career fair a few years back, the Canadian ex-pat reps scoured the bowl clean of Coffee Crisps, which I found out they could no longer buy in the US. Maybe times have changed since then.
I know beer is a very personal choice, and people rarely if ever listen to my recommendations, but I'll try anyway. St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout (I hear they have a pumpkin beer too, but I haven't tried that yet), many of the stronger Unibroue products, and Labatt Porter are my favourites, and I know in particular that the Porter is only sold in Quebec.
Unibroue products are available in many parts of the States; Unibrew is the company's US distributing arm.
While I haven't read any States-side references to it in a while, St-Ambroise stout used to be available in larger cities like Washington and Chicago. IIRC, the pumpkin ale -- quite tasty if you like pumpkin pie spices -- is brewed under licence or at least according to the recipe of a US microbrewer, though I don't remember which.
I confirm that Coffee Crisps are no longer available in the US. Those are my favorites.
Other than that, my suggestions would be:
1. Mousse de foie gras: there are a few brands but I can't remember any of them. There is one from a little village outside Quebec City, made from duck liver and porto.
2. Kraft's peanut butter: the smooth one (the green one). Much better than anything we have in the states.
3. Vachon's brownies or May West.
4. Cheese, cheese, cheese....Pied-de-Vent, Migneron, Chevre Noir, Kenogami, Riopelle, etc. Go to Fromagerie at Marche Jean-Talon for best selection.
5. Yogourt liberte: creamy like some european yogurts. My favorite one is lemon, but also orange/mango and hazelnuts. You can find it in any grocery stores.
Is that ever funny because whenever I travel to the states, I bring back a few jars of Jif- to me there is no better (commercial) peanut butter. Smooth, Chunky - who cares, it's gotta be Jif.
May Wests just aren't the same as they used to be (and I'm talking a good 15 years probably) - that filling in the middle used to be buttery and yummy. They're just not the same.
St Hubert sauces...the BBQ sauce, poutine sauce, oh..all their sauces are good! Maple syrup...Oh yes..it's what I take down when I go.
I am also a Montreal in Los Angeles, if you do live around LA i have some places for you to check out if you want some good chocolate bars and such, a few websites too(ketchup chips and St-Hubert sauces included!!)
Thanks everyone for the great suggestions!
We were still knee-deep in Smarties, Coffee Crisps and St Hub Poutine Sauce from our last guest, so those items took a back seat.
Also, Unibroue is available down here (San Diego) in BevMo stores and a couple of cafe's in the UTC area.
For about 2 years during my time in Mtl, I worked at one of the fromagerie's in the Atwater market, so cheese was a must!
What we got -
Victor and Berthold (raw milk cheese)
Sir Laurier D'Athabaska (small wheel - this used to be raw milk at it's inception, but it's still darn good)
Migneron de Charlevoix (again, not a raw milk, but the best cheese to pair with beer - ever.)
St Andre Cheese Curds - we went a local Belgian Fry place, cruised home to hot St Hub poutine sauce and pretended we were on the corner of Rachel and Parc LaFontaine =P
Liberte Mediterranean yogurt - 12% milk fat! But, so so good. (I wanted the cream cheese too, but they were out...)
Thanks again guys - the wife is in Canada as we speak. So, were going to try to add in to bounty again come a week or so ;)
If you're into beer, you must not miss Dieu du Ciel's beers. Their brewpub is one of the best in Quebec and they just started selling outside the pub. The Route de épices is a pepper beer (I personnaly love it but I think it's a love or hate beer.) and the Corne du diable is an American Pale Ale to die for. You can find them at Marché des saveurs du Québec, Délires du Terroirs, Métro Joanette, Grand Duc and probably some other "dépanneurs" specializing in beer.