Highlights of Jean Talon market? For at home cooking by a tourist :)
I have only been to Jean Talon once before (and Atwater once) but I am going to be in Montreal late February and this time I am staying at a place that has a simple kitchen (stove/fridge/cooking items) so I am excited about going to Jean Talon on the Sunday that I am there and pick up ingredients to cook a meal in the evening.
As I am just a pretty "amateurish" cook I am just a cook make something decent enough with no plan but would like to pre-think some options before so I can get ideas of what I should buy.
What I was looking for was particular things at JT that I wouldn't find easily at St Lawrence Market in Toronto or elsewhere in the Toronto area. I can do research into cheeses seperately but I am probably thinking fresh game meat, etc. I will be cooking for one other person and she hasn't had as much different types of cuisine as I have but she is open to pretty much anything.
Any suggestions on ingredients/dishes that would highlight what JT market has to offer?
IMO, February is not the best time of year to go to JTM (or any other farmer's market) ; most of the stalls "inside" are selling the same kind (but better) of produces that we can find in any other stores.
Meat, I buy from all of the vendors; but I prefer Porc Meilleur for pork; and the store on the south-east for chicken.
Cheeses, there are 2 shops, Hamel and Qui Lait Cru; I prefer the former (just personal taste).
For veggies and fruits, if you want more exotic or "better" quality, you can go to either Louis or Nino (both on the south side of the market), but you will pay a premium.
Fish, I don't buy fish there, except for particular products when in season at Atkins; or oysters.
Sweets, don't forget sorbet and ice-creams at "Havre aux Glaces" or the "arab"-ish desert counter in the covered section of the market.
Bread and other baked goods : there's a large "première moisson" bakery with a large assortments of breads and pies and other patisseries.
For Pasta, there's fresh pasta store in the Market, but never tried it; but you can go on St-Laurent st. (5mins walk) to Milano for Italian produces and a lot of different pasta types.
There's also a Mexican/South-Ame store and Arab store at the Market if you want to go that way.
Good luck and have fun.
My suggestion would be go to a butcher, look at what's interesting there, then explain to the butcher what you want and ask them if they can suggest something for you to cook. They usually are very good at giving out recipes. After that, you can walk around the market and find other elements to complement your meat.
Hamel and Qui Lait Cru are not the only suppliers of cheeses at the market and close by it. The Québec products shop on the south side of the market (south of the street between the central market area and the shops along the south side) also has very good local cheeses, many of which you are unlikely to find at St.Lawrence Market in Toronto. La Boucherie du marché, near the centre of this row, and the Italian butcher's/food shop Capitol also have a selection of cheeses. There is also a stand with local cheeses along the easternmost lane within the central market area (opposite that fish shop and the organic butcher shop). Most of these are pre-wrapped but they do have some good cheese.
I shop a lot at Boucherie du marché, but I'm not a tourist, and their prices and quality are consistent. I also shop at Milano on St-Laurent five minutes' walk from the market - a special recommendation for their small sausages (my favourite are the Tuscan lamb sausages - herbal rather than spicy like merguez.
Louis and Nino are very good, but also very pricy for fruit and veg - they do have speciality products nobody else would have in February, and Louis often has some very good specials at the front of his shop.
Atkins/Délices de la mer has a limited selection of fresh fish trucked in from the Gaspé, but it is top quality.
There is more than one Maghrebi (North African) shop at the market. The largest and most modern now is Supermarché L'Olivier along the northern side of the market (storefronts both on Jean-Talon and on the street in the market, rue du Marché-du-nord). They are Tunisian but also have some Middle Eastern products (Arab Middle East, Turkey) as well as North African ones.
There are two Mexican stores - one on the northern side near supermarché L'Olivier, and another on Casgrain just across the street from the market, on the west side (towards St-Laurent) and a central American store that also carries some Mexican and South American products.
The dessert and savoury pastry counter in the covered section is Moroccan. There is also an outlet of the Polish bakery Wawel, with sweet brioches, Polish doughnuts and heavy rye breads.
Will think of other stuff... I do also suggest a walk two short blocks north of the market and one east from St-Denis to Chez Apo, for excellent Lebanese/Armenian savoury pastries and other treats, and an old couple who have been there forever. Corner Faillon and Berri. There is also a very useful knot of Chinese + Southeast Asian shops (run by Sino-Cambodians and Sino-Vietnamese, I believe) on St-Denis around Jean-Talon - mostly between Jean-Talon and Bélanger, but one excellent sandwich place just north of Jean-Talon on the west side. This is getting slightly beyond the bounds of the market, but is all a very, very short walk in the neighbourhood.
P.S. Just remembered that you are mentioning going to JTM on a Sunday. Chez Apo is NOT open on Sundays, but I'll leave the recommendation in case you can make it there another day, and for other visitors. It is very much worth the little walk.