I absolutely love Montreal! I was born and raised in this wonderful city and moved back to attend university after my parents moved my family down to Texas when I was 13. The winters can be tough, and I definitely have some issues with the city (never ending construction, language police, etc..), but it is my home. I have family and some of my closest friends living there, it is home to my hockey team (Montreal Canadiens #GoHabsGo haha), has some interesting yet super tasty foods, and it is both historical and modern (many who visit call it a modern European city). Montreal is absolutely stunning during the fall months when the leaves on the trees turn into every shade of red, orange, and yellow. It is beautiful when fresh snow covers everything and as you step out into the silence you hear nothing but the soft crunch of snow under your feet. It brings such happiness when the sun has finally melted the snow away and the flowers begin to bloom. Contrary to popular belief, it does get hot during the summer months allowing the cities residents and visitors to ride their bikes through the streets, go hiking around Mount Royal, kayak through the Lachine Canal, or attend one of the many festivals (Just for Laughs, Jazz Fest, Osheaga...).
For this post, I'll be concentrating on the things my family most like to dig into in Montreal that you really don't find elsewhere. We make special stops, extra shopping trips, and late night runs for some of these goodies. If you'll be stopping by the city, be sure to try some of these out!
Some of you may have never heard about Montreal bagels before, and that's ok. Now you'll just have to make your way up to Montreal and try them for yourself. Most want to compare bagels to those in New York (while no others are comparable) but they really are very different and there really is no point. Let me just say, every person that has tried a Montreal bagel, has truly fallen in love (and have asked that we return from our trips with bags for them... literally.. dozens of bagels). Anthony Bourdain explains the Montreal bagel here. My family has always gone to Fairmount Bagel (open 24/7) and I remember coming home from my grandparents late some nights and stopping off while my dad went in to grab bags of fresh-out-of-the-oven bagels to bring home. I grew up eating them with Kraft singles and later when my taste evolved, I began eating them with Brie, or some cream cheese (my parents love them with plain cream cheese, smoked salmon, and capers). These are definitely part of a 'cheat meal' in our home and they are so worth it! Best thing about them? You can stick them in your freezer until you're ready to eat them! Worst part? There is almost always a line. Between my brother and my parents, at least 12 dozen bagels were brought back home to Texas this trip.
Poutine is exactly as it appears in the pictures. Fries covered in cheese curds and brown gravy and it is sooooo good. You can't make this with any sort of fries and I haven't found any in the states that would work well. The cheese curds are best fresh and squeaky (when you eat them fresh you'll know what I'm talking about), and the gravy best when thick (insert 'that's what she said' joke here). I don't think I've ever had a bad poutine, but you can definitely find the best locations if you want to try this dish out. I'd recommend: Decarie Hot Dog, La Roulotte (where we went, pictured below), La Banquise, Poutine Centrale, Green Stop.
There are a lot of chocolate bars, candies, etc., that don't make it south of the border. A few will find their way into some specialty stores every now and then, but it is rare. Smarties in the States are what Rockets are in Canada (the mini powdered pucks). Clearly the States are missing out on Canada's Smarties!!! Another Canadian favorite is the Aero bar. It is filled with air bubbles and it just so light, fluffy, and wonderfully tasty. If you've never tried Aero before, and you find a bar, pick it up. Any chocolate lover will not be disappointed. Kinder Surprise in another goodie for the kids that is actually illegal in the USA (something about a choking hazard, I think). Inside the chocolate egg is a plastic container that holds the pieces to build your own little toy. I have never known anyone to choke on these pieces, but the US might just be trying to avoid a lawsuit later on (that's a thing stateside!).
Smoked Meat Sandwich
Smoked meat is found all over Canada now, but the best place to go eat it is at Schwartz's (some opinions may differ, this is mine). This little deli has been around since the 30's and has used the same recipe since. Smoked meat is not the same as pastrami found in the US. It is a different cut of meat, and (to me) there is no comparison when it comes to texture and taste. The meat at Schwartz's is marinated for 10 days with a secret recipe and is smoked daily. Throw it on some fresh rye bread with some mustard and I am a very happy girl!
This might look like the strangest thing I could post since many Canadians don't know these don't exist beyond the border and Americans think Hot Pockets are the same thing... So much noooooo.
Pizza Pockets are like pizza topping filled deliciousness that burn your mouth when you bite into them. I know, that doesn't sound appetizing, but you need to know how to eat one correctly (one bite, just enough so you get through the crust and then set your pocket down to let the steam escape). McCain (a Canadian company) doesn't send their products South of the border so now living in Texas, we miss out. McCain recently changed the look of the pocket, but when you are without pockets altogether, the change doesn't matter. They are full of real, all natural ingredients (aka, nothing chemical) and are baked. So basically, they are super healthy ;)
I have to get these in because I've mentioned them before on this site (here). I didn't even eat or grab any to take home this trip (because I really don't eat chips), but I find I miss them from time to time. Better to not have them in the pantry so I can't 'accidently' eat the entire bag. Like I said in the previous article about the Ketchup Dip, these chips don't really taste like ketchup. I think they taste better than how ketchup tastes.. They are somehow tangy, sweet, and salty all at the same time. If someone else can describe them better than I am, please do in the comments!!
There are so many other things to try while in Montreal. Beavertails are a yummy treat while walking around the Old Port. It is basically fried dough (similar to a doughnut) in the shape of a beaver's tail, served hot, with toppings like cinnamon and sugar, apple and cinnamon, or hazelnut spread and bananas. Depending on the time of year, you can head over to a Sugar Shack or Cabane a Sucre (maple syrup, mmmmm). Producing roughly 75% of the world's maple syrup, Quebec is the place to go try it straight from the source. Be sure to check out Bouvrette, Erabliere Charbonneau, Labranche, or Au Pied de Cochon. Be sure to plan ahead, check out menus, call ahead to make reservations, etc..ablièreÉrablière