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Where do you shop in the winter?

Ever since the farmers left Jean Talon at the end of October I've been completely uninspired when I go grocery shopping. I go to my local grocery store or fruiterie and more often than not I leave empty-handed, or nearly so, as most of the produce looks so sad. I know there's no Whole Foods in Montreal, but where do you shop in the winter? Is there anywhere to go, grocery store, fruiterie, or ethnic store, that's inspiring rather than depressing? Where can I go to find a whole array of winter squashes, rather than a few lonely butternuts and acorns? Where can I find fast turnover of winter greens like kale and collards? How about golden or chiogga beets, or any beets not soft and wrapped in cellophane?

I'm a cook that hasn't cooked in a month, in dire need of some inspiration, shopping-wise. Any suggestion would be very welcome. I'm in the lower Plateau, but willing to head further out for a better shopping experience. Locations near a metro station are a plus though.

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  1. Unfortunately it's off the beaten path even with a car, but I find Mourelatos in St-Laurent to be amazing for produce. It's on O'Brien & Poirier, just off Blvd. Marcel Laurin. I guess it would be a bus ride from either Cote-Vertu or du College stations, but I'm not sure which bus. I know they also have a few other outlets, including one downtown, but I can't compare. You could combine a special trip to Mourelatos w/a trip to Marché Hawaii for great Asian produce, which is just around the corner in Galeries St-Laurent.

    1855 Avenue O'Brien, Saint-Laurent, QC H4L, CA

    1. Unfortunately, I have the same problem. La Fruiterie du Plateau (at Roy and Berri) is my best bet in that area, albeit being pricy and not always reliable. They also wrap most of their vegetables in cellophane and and styrofoam, one of my pet peeves.

      You can still find some items at the closed section of Jean Talon. Things are not as glamorous as the summer crops (which decreases the motivation to take the train up there) but there is hope. Dang I wish I ate more strawberries this summer!

      And rarely, rarely, you can get some surprising produce at Segal (St Laurent and Duluth). The place doesn't look very clean to start with. Honestly, I didn't have the nerve to buy produce there until very recently; but I gave in finally. It is a weird place: most of the times vegetables are either borderline rotting or very very underripe, fallen on the floor, stepped on by winter boots; but sometimes you find something that is surprisingy fresh. I lucked into getting a really nice bunch of radishes and some collard greens for soup the other day. Rare instance, but it shows that if you really look carefully, you can get something nice.

      But like you, nothing inspires me much these days, perhaps other than a bag of nice potatoes waiting to be mashed and served with some fresh sausage. Living in colder climates for so many years, I learned to accept vegetables during winter as they are.

      6 Replies
      1. re: emerilcantcook

        We ordered a home delivery of organic meat recently which was pretty inspiring. Shop is http://www.ecollegey.com and they have fresh organic produce as well. I had a wonderful pumpkin soup last night made by a friend who also gets organic vegetables delivered to her home. Another friend suggested I try delivery service from Supermarché PA which is on Ave. du Parc near Laurier because they have a good variety of products and specials - she selects items from their online flyer and phones them with her order. And when all else fails I too end up at the Fruiterie at Roy and Berri. They always have baby bok choy and other nice greens. And perhaps in the dead of winter I'll try growing mung bean sprouts for some instant vitamins at home.

        1. re: emerilcantcook

          ooh collard greens, thanks for the tip! I'll look for them.

          Cabbage always looks nice, and since you mention sausage... pan fry sausage. Then remove sausage, add some butter to pan, add lots of chopped green cabbage and saute for 20-30 minutes over medium heat until cabbage is nice and soft, add salt and pepper, then re-add sausage and heat until warm. Serve with good mustard. we had this after a recent trip to JTM, wow, makes winter seem ok somehow.

          1. re: moh

            Well, if you eat meat. I believe our friend paperfree is a vegetarian, and while vegetarian sausages work well in some dishes, they wouldn't in that one. But there are lots of other interesting things to do with cabbages. Of course the ambitious can make cabbage rolls. By the way, if you like to make them with the pickled cabbage, Balkani, the pan-Eastern European shop at Jean-Talon Market, sells those.

            Cabbage is also an important part of the stuffing of those wonderful Asian dumplings. And those are easily made tasty and vegetarian. Yum.

            1. re: lagatta

              Ah thank you for the clarification. You can just braise the cabbage in the same way without the sausage, and it is still great!

              Also, carmelized leeks are always wonderful, cooked with phyllo or put on crostini, with a drizzle of creme fraiche. Fennel is nice at JTM, and the navel oranges are great this year. Sliced fennel (thinly), thinly sliced oranges, toasted walnuts, pomegranite seeds and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil salt and pepper is a wonderful cheery winter salad.

              1. re: moh

                I made a fennel-clementine-red onion salad the other day (see attached pic). It's just dressed with olive oil, black pepper, and sea salt. Very yummy.

                Leek and potato soup is also a favourite for winter. I still find lots of good stuff in the winter and it's certainly much better than what the grocery store offers. I also resort to using the stuff that I froze during the summer (like roasted tomato puree and roasted zuchini and roasted eggplant puree).

          2. re: emerilcantcook

            Segal's can be so incredibly random. Fruit that you don't peel (such as apples) tends to pick up a weird 'freezer' taste and an off smell from the salt cod that sits in the back near it... not particularly appetizing.

            You can't go wrong with their huge selection of frozen goods for ridiculous prices and there are definitely outstanding deals on other produce on occasion, such as 25 cent avocados, $1 five pound bags of carrots, broccoli and cauliflower heads and a whole bunch of greens. For squash and beets it's pretty much the middle ground though... at least you can get beets with the greens still attached, even if they're wilted. Right now is a good time to pick up figs and dates there though, if you're into baking!

          3. Howdy!

            I'd agree with emerilcantcook despite the weather, the JT market still has the cure for what ails you. Yes, the number and choice of places is lower, but it still beats just about anyplace I can think of. Add in Nino's Louis, etc and that Milano's is around the corner, and we still head up there every weekend. Added bonus - no long lines for parking.

            That all being said, this afternoon I was at the Mourelatos on Sainte Catherine for the first time, and was quite impressed with their selection of fruit and vegetables along with the prices.

            1. For me, Jean-Talon Market IS my local market, as well as the Asian (East/Southeast) places on St-Denis between Jean-Talon and Bélanger. (And if you walk along Bélanger, the tortillas are just as inviting; there is also a quirky natural foods/Middle Eastern and general grocery at the corner of Bélanger and Christophe-Colomb. .

              I've found kale and collards (the latter is rare here) at the string of greengrocers along avenue du Parc between St-Viateur and Bernard. Yes, I very much miss the array of squashes found at JTM in the early autumn - especially the Hubbards - lovely beasts.

              On St-Laurent in the Plateau, I prefer Sakaris to Segall - I shop at Segall quite a bit, but for prepared veggie stuff, tinned and bagged organic staples, etc, not so much fresh produce. And of course it is a bit of a hike for you, but PA has dependable produce.

              I agree about Mourelatos and Marché Hawaii, but they are not really feasable in winter without a car. Too bad, because other parts of Ville St-Laurent are extremely accessible by métro.

              It is very hard for anyone from a warmer clime to get used to winter (and I've never got used to it although I was born in this dreadful climate).

              1. Jean-Talon Market is almost always your best bet. There's a reason many of the city's top chefs shop there for their restaurants and their homes, you know. Nowhere else will you find such a concentration of produce vendors, even in winter, meaning you can easily compare and choose what looks best. And while the quality of the produce pales by comparison with just harvested locally grown, the imported stuff seems to hit the shelves and bins a couple of days earlier than it does at most green grocers and supermarkets, a good thing, as it's already spent several days in transit. Yesterday, several vendors had excellent cool-weather vegetables like rapini and fennel, and Chez Louis and Chez Nino had all kinds of tempting specialty vegetables (baby ratte potatoes, multicoloured carrots, humongous and very fresh articokes, several types of radicchio, lovely pied bleu mushrooms, baby turnips, etc.). Of course, most of them come at a price, both monetary and ecological, but that's the price we pay for insisting on eating as though we don't live in an icebox half the year.

                1. We get the CSA (panier Bio) and that forces us to cook. From scratch. Local. and i do have varieties of things i would not normally have. We had a salad of cabbage and beets yesterday. yummy. But, there is not much i can do with 20 leeks.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: hala

                    See above! Carmelizing leeks is easy and takes a lot of leeks and is delicious! Key is slow medium low heat cooking and lots and lots of butter!!!

                    1. re: hala

                      Here's the recipe for a homey pork stew that will use up about half of them: www.chowhound.com/topics/454455#3080742

                      See also Marcella Hazan's recipe for braised leeks (braised in water and butter till the water evaporates, then finished with parmesan). A fabulous side for grilled, pan-fried or roasted beef.

                      If they're not honkers, are still tender, steam or poach them whole, dress with a shallot and white wine vinegar dressing, garnish with crushed hard-cooked egg and, if you like, anchovy fillets. You couldn't ask for a better light lunch.

                      1. re: hala

                        Some recipes I make with leeks include a cauliflower and leek kugel; a quinoa, leek, and butternut squash risotto; and locro, a South American inspired soup with leeks, collards, shiitake mushrooms, anasazi beans, barley, celery root, and anise seeds. Or, if those don't inspire you, I can take some of those leeks off your hands :)

                        Hala, do you know if your CSA still has spots open for its winter delivery? I looked on equiterre but it seemed that all the CSA winter spots were already full. I'd love to get a basket if anyone knows of one that still has availability.

                        1. re: hala

                          It is a little bit late reply, so I am guessing your leeks are gone by now. But if you ever come across leeks that you need to use up again, please try Marcella Hazan's pasta with caramelized
                          leeks. I believe it is what Carswell is also talking about, or at least something similar to it. It is in "Marcella Says", but if you search the Chowhound boards you can find the paraphrased recipe.

                          She also has a leek chickpea soup that I am looking forward to try.

                        2. Thanks everyone for your replies. I'm going to give Jean Talon another try, and check out some of the other grocery stores mentioned (and the co-op organic delivery service) as well. I'll report back once I do.

                          1. I tend to shop organic for pesticides and nutritional reasons, and I find it really tough in the winter. I don't do the organic winter baskets anymore b/c what I really crave are water-dense fruits and veggies, and not starchy roots for months on end.

                            JTM is really not a good destination for organics. Anyway, I don't find it to have a good balance of produce vendors this winter. By my recollection, there are at least 5 apple vendors, and only 1 organic stall. If it wasn't for the cheese, bread, meat and spices, I wouldn't trek all the way from the WI to JTM for the produce alone in the winter.

                            Surprinsingly, I have been finding that the quality of the organic produce at my Loblaws is quite good. Last week, I found excellent organic cherries from Chili that were the same price as the conventional ones. The PC Organics carrots, potatoes and broccoli are also quite tasty.

                            What I miss most are strawberries and tomatoes. This is the time of year when I always swear I will start freezing and canning next summer.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Venusia

                              Yeah, there is only one organic stall that remains all winter.

                              It is the closest proper place to buy vegetables and fruit near me (there is of course a Loblaws not far away, but I bit more of a trek, so that is not an issue in La Petite Italie...

                              In wintertime sometimes I find CERTAIN things no more expensive at Milano on St-Laurent than at the market - I've been buying nice fresh arugula there for slightly over a dollar a bunch.

                              I don't know much about produce on the West Island (presume that is what WI means?) Would you include Ville St-Laurent, where there is that great Asian supermarket? And of course there is also a branch of Marché Akhavan in Pierrefonds - is that good for greengroceries?

                              1. re: lagatta

                                I've no idea about Akhavan, but I've been to Hawai, Mourelatos, Adonis, 440, etc. IMO, quality is variable at all these places (some weeks are good, and some others everything looks picked over), and nothing is organic anyway and I don't like to be suspicious about food. And even though I do drive, I don't usually go out of my way to find imported produce or grocery stores. If I am going to Bombay Choupati, I'll stop by, but otherwise, in the winter my consumption of fruits and veggies goes way down.

                                1. re: Venusia

                                  My recommendation is to plan ahead for next year. We are members of a CSA and get food delivered all year round. True, the winter baskets are almost exclusively root vegetables, but it makes us appreciate that this climate does not produce vegetables in every season. We also made a ton of soups and also blanched and froze foods for the winter. We barely have to do any shopping these days and are eating like kings. For a treat, every now and then, we'll buy some hydroponic tomatoes or a pineapple, realizing and appreciating the efforts and resources that go into these things.

                            2. To paperfree: You should try the little grocery store in Place du Parc. Plenty of high quality fruits and veggies (towards back of the store), imported goods, bio products, freshly baked goods. Also convenient since you are in the Plateau area. Try it! You'll be pleasantly surprised.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: amazinggb

                                Are you referring to the Asian grocery store in the mall at the corner of Prince Arthur and Parc southeast corner? We refer to that place as the "store above Metro". Yes very good stuff, and their prepared Korean food isn't bad! The bibimbap there is delicious and cheap. The only thing is that their prices are a bit more than some other places, but I still like shopping there because they have excellent selection of fruits and vegetables as well as Asian products. I just wish they'd let up on all the packaging.

                                1. re: amazinggb

                                  Sakaris, on St-Laurent between Mont-Royal and Marie-Anne, now belongs to the same people as Thai Hour, so they now carry some Asian veg as well as more standard green vegetables, and Greek + Portuguese products. I find it more dependable for produce than Segall's - I love shopping at Segall's for packaged organic stuff, frozen products etc but really find the veg off-putting - the store doesn't seem clean enough, and it isn't because I want an antiseptic supermarket.

                                  Don't forget to take the bus or métro down to Chinatown, or just walk there on a nice day - there are shops on St-Laurent and Clark with interesting produce.

                                  1. re: lagatta

                                    Of course Chinatown... How did we forget. You can get a huge bag of baby bok choy for a fraction of price you'd pay at the fruiterie. Same for other greens. And the turnaround is always fast enough to warrant fresh produce. I also got some really good papaya from the store next to the 55 bus stop. I never thought about shopping there, but my bus wasn't coming soon so I got in to do a quick survey and came out with lots of stuff.

                                2. Fruiterie Valmont in the Plateau may suit your needs. There are two on Mount-Royal a few blocks from each other apart just east and west of Papineau. The famous La Maison du Roti is sandwiched in between.

                                  1. OH, I must say that i went to the Rocky Montana (the newly expanded one -RIP dirty Avanti Bar!) on Sherbrooke and they had some amazing stuff for super cheap. Parsley root, purple carrots, yellow beets...truly inspiring stuff esp in the middle of winter!

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Arktik

                                      Where is that, Arktik?

                                      Sherbrooke is a VERY long street...

                                      1. re: lagatta

                                        Hiya, I believe it's the one bomobob referred to in another thread - near Wilson in NDG, I think?