How lucky we are to have Jean-Talon market in Montreal. I have been going there religiously each week in summertime for the past 35 years, sometimes more than once a week. The journey literally grounds me to the earth and its bounty. It calms me, relaxes me. I enjoy talking with the merchants, producers for the most part, men and women, who tirelessly toil their land all through the year or care for the animals they breed or fish. It is their labour of love that I come to salute each week. It is their labour of love that graces my table with the best that our Quebec terroir has to offer.
Reserve your place now! Come by yourself or in twos. Let me take you on my tour of Jean-Talon market and surrounding area to meet these passionate individuals, every Saturday morning, till the end of September.
June 3, 10, 17 and 24 | July 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 |
August 5, 12, 19 and 26 | September 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30
Small groups of 6 to 8 |
$33 per person | firstname.lastname@example.org
Our meeting point is at 8:30 a.m. at one of Montreal’s best coffee spots in the heart of Little Italy, corner Dante and Saint-Dominique: ww.caffesansimeon.com in the heart of Little Italy, near the market. It’s walking distance from Jean-Talon Metro.
There we enjoy a good cappuccino or latte, as your heart desires. Don’t be late because fifteen minutes later, we begin our mouth-watering treck. For the record, plan on the promenade lasting two and a half to three hours maximum and may I suggest that you bring a backpack of sorts to carry any edible purchases that you simply cannot resist along the way.
First stop, www.milanofruiterie.com
one of Montreal’s largest italian grocer, along with www.boucheriecapitol.com. Don’t be shy to ask questions: they know their stuff and are generous with advice, even after so many years in business.
Then, we make our way into the Jean-Talon market via Casgrain
and head for http://www.joelacroûte.com. A feast for the eyes
and the nose that trickles down to the soul, as you slow your breadth to capture all of the wonderful scents of freshly baked bread made from certified organic grains. You can even by a half a loaf.
Did you know that Joe bakes a gluten-free buckwheat bread on Thursdays and Sundays? It’s worth a try, if only to thank him for thinking about us. For other non-coeliacs, you lucky ones, you’ll have a difficult time choosing among the vast array of loaves baked with love by Daniel Jobin and his team of devotees.
And one must not be without a proper tea or herbal concoction to offer to guests when they drop in, yes? For the best that Montreal has to offer, visit the tiny counter of www.camellia-sinensis.com, just a couple of doors away. There, you will find joyful tranquility, expert advice and the most gracious of service.
At Maya’s, if they are open for business, stock up on freshly baked corn tortillas, home-made salsas and, yes, their very own house ‘mole’, a rarity in Montréal.
Enter your fishmonger at Shamrock’s, http://www.shamrockpoissonnerie.ca worth the visit. A wide choice of fish and seafood, including perfectly grilled octopus prepared each day in the summertime, ideal for your cocktail hour.
Then, head off to Birri. http://www.birri.ca
for the love of fresh farm vegetables and flowers grown with the most devoted of care. They pride themselves on their great variety. Lino and Bruno head this team of devoted and passionate connaisseurs whose generosity of spirit and kindness cast a wonderful spell on you.
But don’t believe everything that Bruno tells you. He likes to tease. He once had me belive that there was such a thing as male and female eggplants on the basis of the explicit markings on the fruit-vegetable’s base. Worst of all, I believed him!
From there, we’ll climb up a few stairs to www.fromagerie Hamel.com to gloat over their vast cheese offering, many of which are aged in Hamel’s own cellars. We’ll taste and ask questions, and taste again, until we settle on one or more. Then, we’ll watch them carefully package our cheese. I am reminded each time I go there of another cheese shop, The Cheese Shop, a veritable institution on President-Kennedy in Montreal in the seventees and eighties, owned and operated by a wonderful couple that I loved. They had cheddar cheeses from England, Scottland, Ireland and Wales and packaged their cheeses so carefully with brown Kraft paper and coton string. Little parcels of love. I miss that couple, so. I also miss the cheese and wine tastings that used to take place above La fromagerie Hamel in those years. So many memorable encounters and culinary discoveries.
Enter by the North-East entrance and stop at Les cochons tout ronds, http://www.cochonstoutronds.com, for the most delicious, hand-made, gluten-free charcuteries, free of preservatives, nuts and dairy.
A visit to the Jean-Talon would be remiss without a stop in the market’s own library: www.librairiegourmande.ca. There, you’ll be able to glance at all the newest in food culture from Québec and around the globe. Want the perfect souvenir from your culinary excursion? Get Susan Semanak’s beautiful book entitled, Marché Jean-Talon: Recettes et portraits, a celebration of the growers and breeders that have made this market one of the most vibrant and diversified market in North America.
We then head West in one of the centre aisles to Jeno Finkelstein and son Jeno’s Le Capitaine for the closest thing you’ll come to farm eggs, short of collecting them warm from the hatch. There you’ll find not only chicken eggs, but goose eggs (perfect for two), quail eggs, turkey eggs and duck eggs in a rainbow of colours from white to beige, to brown and russet, as well as bluish eggs and spotted eggs. Gorgeous on any table, but especially lovely at Easter.
There are many maple syrup producers at the market and I’m fond of all of them, but my heart melts from the syrup that comes from La ferme Lussier. Connaisseurs maintain that the first maple syrup to come out each Spring, the light syrup, is the finest, with the most delicate of tastes. Some will argue that, preferring the more potent maple flavour and taste. To each their own, that’s what I say.
Along one of the North-South aisle, between the lobsters from Gaspésie and the St-Louis-de-Blandford cranberries, you’ll find a tiny treasure: www.jardinssauvages.com. lt’s a wondrous place that captures the essence of the earth and the sea. You’ll be able to sample a wide variety of wild mushrooms, regional and from afar, fresh or dehydrated. You’ll want to buy your fiddleheads here and crunch into a branch of salicornia to rekindle your memory of the ocean. A place for the adventurous cook, looking for that something special to offer to their loved ones. A place that all started with a love affair.
Don’t pass on La Moutonnière’s goat and sheep cheeses, http://www.lamoutonniere.com, especially their creamy blue cheese and another called Le sein d’Hélene, which means Helen’s Breast. As enticing and memorable as it sounds.
To tour the world on a dime, we visit Épices de cru, http://www.epicesdecru.com. Owners Ethné and Philippe Vienne and their atypical staff are both attentive and knowledgeable. You’ll discover new aromas and condiments from all seven continents. Try a shaving of Tonka bean in your martini for a smoky, fiery and fruity aroma.
Are you tired, yet? Let’s take a break and eat in a lil’ somethin’ delish.
There is so much to choose from. You have more of a sweet tooth? Try Wawel’s famous plum doughnut, a Polish specialty, a tiny freshly-baked Portugese egg tart, a lovely, or any of the traditional Ryad pastries, oh, so sweet. Do you have more a salt tooth? Indulge in a lovely piece of goat or sheep cheese from La Moutonnière or la Chèvrerie de Buckland, any of Balkani’s gluten-free, home cured charcuteries, a buffalo hot dog from the Takwânaw farm or, my favourite, Atkin’s maple-laced smoked salmon. Any of these will satisfy even the hardiest of appetites.
On our way out the market, we admire the exceptional organic produce of grower Mylène Dupont. Works of art by any definition.
My little tour ends with a visit to Elena’s ‘hardware’ store, http://www.quincailleriedante.com, truly a hallmark in Montreal’s Little Italy. Elena and her brother, Rudy, share this tight-knit space on the ground floor between her cooking ware and his hunting and fishing paraphernalia. Elena has a cooking school on the second floor, Mezza Luna, offerering workshops for Italian food lovers, including children.
‘ C’è tutto per tutti’: that’s what you’ll find under their roof, not to mention their smile and sound advice.
After all is said and done, we let our intuition guide us, as you ought to, next time you visit Marché Jean-Talon. Be attentive to that shop keeper who longs to share his pride and joy, have you sample a perfectly ripened strawberry from l’île d’Orléans, cherry tomato or Russet apple, come Fall. Be open to their culinary secrets. Share a recipe. Breathe deeply. Relax. Enjoy.
I hope I have given you a taste of what awaits you at Marché Jean-Talon. Perhaps you’ll want to come along one of those Saturday mornings.