- jason Nov 6, 2002 04:54 PM
I'm visiting Montreal this weekend ( staying at the Ritz, any comments ) and have reservations at Ferraria Cafe Trattoria and Le Pied de Cochon for dinner Sat. and Sun. respectively. I was on the fence for others also- Area, Milos, Toque. I tend toward seafood when out and will definetely not be ordering organ meat or game- nothing against I just don't -so I don't want to spend money on a restaurant that shines in that area. Are the choices I made going to disappoint? Should I look at others or maybe visit them for lunch?
Also, I'm fom DC and even the best restos are business casual. Very few have coat and tie requirments anymore. Is it the same in Montreal?
Thanks for the tips
The ritz has lovely common areas, but the rooms are a bit outdated unfortunately. Café Ferriera is an excellent choice for seafood...portugese. Au Pied de Cochon, on the other hand, excells at game dishes. There is some seafood on the menu, but this time of year, it is a limited selection. If you scroll down to the posts re the restaurant, you might get a better feel for it. You might want to consider an alternative though if you know for certain that you would not be tempted to have game. Hope you enjoy your trip!
I'm from Alexandria and was just in Montreal a few weeks ago. (Do I know you? :D) To my knowledge, there are three main markets in Montreal, plus a handful of smaller neighborhood-y ones. The three main ones are:
7075 Casgrain ave
Location: South of Jean-Talon, between Casgrain and Henri-Julien
Metro: DeCastelneau or Jean-Talon
Location: between Ville-Marie and Notre-Dame
4445 Ontario Est
Location: between Pie IX and Viau
Metro: Pie IX
My husband and I went to Atwater and *loved* it. I would say that it was a very clean, French version of Eastern Market, with produce stalls outside and deli/cheese places inside. (No funky homemade soaps and african art outside, though. :D)
We didn't bother buying any produce - I didn't see anything totally out of the ordinary that we couldn't get at any of our local farmer's markets here in the DC area (but, then, I didn't look too hard). And I also didn't know what kind of restrictions we'd have on bringing produce back with us. But, we did buy *lots* of cheese, particularly at the Fromagerie Atwater.
We didn't make it to the other markets. I am told that Jean-Talon is the best. If that's the case, then it must be wonderful, as we thought that Atwater was pretty good. :)
Across the street from Atwater is a brand new (I believe) SAQ store - the state-owned wine/spirits store. If you're a wine person, I'd recommend stopping by there. Great selection. (Not to be confused with the smaller SAQ actually at the Atwater market, which I think focuses on stuff native to Quebec, but don't quote me on that.)
Also, re seafood, if you're into mussels and you're in Old Montreal, Le Petit Moulinsart does wonderful things with mussels (a tip from the Chowhounds here, which I tried myself!). It's a belgian-style place, with lots of pictures of Tin-Tin everywhere.
And, for what it's worth, my husband and I went to Toque' and ordered the tasting menu. Our first course was fish, plus our amuse-bouches were shellfish (oyster and scallop, to be precise). All raw, though. Dunno if you're into that. It was good, though. And I believe I saw some seafood on the menu there.
The restrictions on importing produce and other foodstuffs into the US from Canada are not very strict (or at least strictly enforced). I've crossed the border with all kinds of meat (including legs of lamb, sausages and foie gras), cheese (including raw-milk cheeses it would be illegal to sell in the States) and much produce, all of which I've declared, and have never encountered a problem. Three food-related no-nos: citrus; plants (or anything else) in soil; and anything excluded under various treaties relating to endangered spieces (certain plants, ivory, etc.). Seeds for planting may also attract unwanted attention, though most are not illegal as far as I know.
This is excellent information. Wish I had it before my trip! :)
We drove to/from Canada, so encountered customs inspections in our car at the border between Quebec and New York state. They didn't ask us about cheese or meat, so we didn't volunteer that we had any. And, here I thought I was getting away with bringing cheese back, especially - as you did - the raw milk cheese. But, then, just to spoil my fun (of thinking I'd just gotten away with something illegal), I went to my local Whole Foods grocery store (a nationwide chain of high-end purveyors of finer foods, including a *vast* selection of international and local artisanal cheese) and found about 90% of the cheeses I brought back with me from Marche' Atwater, INCLUDING the raw milk cheeses!
So, I'm not sure what's going on here in the good ol' U.S. of A., but either they've repealed their ban on raw milk products or they're just not enforcing it (we have bigger fish to fry, I guess). Whole Foods had a very good selection of unpasteurized/raw milk cheeses, one of which I purchased and am enjoying quite a bit (Comte, from France, which tastes a little like Emmanthaler/Swiss, complete with holes, though not very many).
I was *so* nervous driving through customs. The chap who "interviewed" us actually said, though, "most people don't realize that it's usually not a problem to bring stuff into the U.S. - you just need to *tell* us about it."
For consumers, the Jean-Talon Market and the Atwater Market are the best. (Chefs, green grocers, etc. tend to shop at the Marché Central very, very early in the morning.) The Atwater Market is attractive above all for its stores: the two cheese shops, the butcher's and the gourmet shop "Les délices du Marché." The Jean-Talon Market is my favourite for several reasons:
- the feel--the amazing bustle, the press of flesh
- the size--on a summer Saturday morning just touring the open-air stalls (not buying anything) will take 30 minutes
- the customers--an ethnic mix unmatched in the city and brought together by a shared love of food and bargains
- the selection and quality of the produce
- the surrounding stores--Fromagerie Hamel, one of the city's best cheese shops (try their signature Maroilles, ripened in their cellars and washed twice a week with Maudite Belgian-style brown ale); numerous butchers; two bread bakeries; cafes; a dozen green grocers including Chez Louis, with products rarely if ever found elsewhere in the city (ratte potatoes, cardoons, exotic fruits, baby vegetables, several varieties of wild mushrooms, strange lettuces, micro-arugula, fresh truffles, fresh bay leaves, etc.); a fascinating store devoted to Quebec food products; a pretty good fish market; etc.
- and it's real trump card over the Atwater Market, the surrounding neighbourhood: Little Italy with countless cafes, pizzerias, espresso bars and restaurants; Milano, the great Italian supermarket; Dante Hardware, specializing in kitchen supplies and hunting rifles (go figure); the city's best Italian pastry shop (on Dante across from the church; their "lobster tails" are to die for); an Italian bookstore; shops devoted to Italian cheeses, charcuteries and pasta; etc. Several shops catering to Asian clients have popped up in recent years too (e.g. on the corner of Jean-Talon and St-Denis).
The problem this time of year is that the market per se is a mere shadow of its summer self, with the rows of outdoor stalls and many dozens of farmers being replaced by a cramped winter enclosure and maybe 20 vendors. And, of course, most of the produce on offer is imported (the flawless cauliflowers so big you have to carry them with both arms will be long gone). Still, the surrounding shops are there, as is Little Italy.
Another foodie hot spot is Laurier Street, especially east and west of Park Ave. Several bakeries, Anjou-Québec (French gourmet butcher that also sells cheeses, sweets, a small selection of produce, prepared dishes, condiments), Laurier Gourmand (cheeses, coffees, gourmet packaged goods like olive oils, honeys, baking chocolate, vinegars, mustards, capers, cookies, etc.), Pâtisserie de Gascogne (maybe the city's best pastry shop), an SAQ Signature, coffee bars, cafes, chocolateries and restos galore. If you schlepp to the east end of the street, between Christophe-Colombe and Papineau, you can visit the fabulous organic bakery Le Fromentier (where Toqué! gets its bread) and the Queue de Cochon, one of the city's more interesting charcuteries. At 1218 Bernard West, a few blocks north of Laurier, is the best French cheese shop on the continent: Les fromages Pierre-Yves Chaput. It was the sainted Mr. Chaput who single-handedly foiled the Health Canada food nazis and brought raw milk cheeses to the country. He continues to offer an exquisite selection of lovingly ripened artisanal and farmhouse cheeses from France and Quebec. His store looks--and smells!--like no other. Customers are waited on one at a time at a table, not a counter, the cheeses being stored in floor-to-ceiling wood-framed, glass-fronted coolers that run along a wall: it's almost a consultation and usually involves a tasting session, with questions encouraged. Definitely worth a visit if cheese is your thing.
Chaput's stuff is in a class by itself. (A French-French friend of mine refuses to buy cheese--even Chaput cheese--anywhere else because it never tastes as good.) The thing to bear in mind, though, is that the store's selection is small: I'd guess it has only 30-40 cheeses on offer at any given moment (Hamel has 400), only half of which are ready for eating. They're almost exclusively French, too, and most are farmhouse cheeses, artisanal cheeses being too commercial for Chaput! In recent years, he has expanded his offer with a small selecton of Quebec raw-milk cheeses made to his specifications (mostly goat's milk but there's also a knock-out cow's milk Vacherin).
Agree with everything O'Malley says, though would add the following about Le Pied de Cochon: while it's true there's less seafood on offer now than during the summer, the menu's not devoid of fishy options (salmon, tuna and mackerel were main courses in late September; oysters, squid, shrimp, smoked fish and brandade--salt cod, garlic and potato purée--are among the recurring starters). Also, there's lamb, duck and pork as well as risotto and pasta. And the venison is all farm-raised and killed in government slaughterhouses, meaning it doesn't taste gamey in the slightest. One note of caution: whereever you eat on Sunday, the fish will not be at its absolute freshest; fish delivery dates are usually Tuesday and Thursday.
Milos is a pretty safe bet but it's expensive and the staff can be snooty, especially if they decide you aren't a big spender type. If you go, don't miss the grilled and marinated octopus (meltingly tender, hauntingly smoky) and the plate of real tzatziki (made with yogurt, not sour cream) surrounded by tempura-like fried zucchini, eggplant and hard cheese. A more affordable option is Faros on Fairmount just west of du Parc; the menu is very similar to Milos's, the cooking (octopus excepted) is every bit as good and the décor is homey and intimate compared with Milos's bustling and airy space.
With the possible exception of Toqué!, business casual is fine at the places you mention. For some reason, I've always worn a coat and tie to Toqué!, and it seems to me most other men were dressed similarly. Ferraria is chic but not formal, Le Pied de Cochon more come-as-you-are (jeans OK).