Although a case could be made that one could exist solely upon the edible bounty of Montreal's public markets, the city also has its fair share of wonderful specialty food shops, a number of which maintain a singular culinary focus -- be it olive oil, tomatoes, or even salmon. All of the stores listed below are conveniently located in the Plateau district, though the bakery Première Moisson has branches throughout the city. A word of advice: beware exploring these shops on Mondays, when many are closed for business. A quick call in advance to check store hours will be worth your time.
New York bagels are legendary, but so too are Montreal’s. Smaller and sweeter (they are boiled in water with honey and made without any salt), Montreal’s bagels are a fit challenger to their bulkier Gotham brethren. At St. Viateur Bagel & Café (www.stviateurbagel.com, 1127 Mont. Royal Est, H2V 1X9, 514.528-636), sesame seed covered bagels – the most popular – are constantly being shaped by hand, lined up on wooden palates, and loaded in and out of a huge wood burning oven -- so you’re nearly always guaranteed of getting a hot bagel. We bought two dozen on our way home, and the steam emanating from the bagels nearly soaked the paper bag they were in. The deep, nutty aroma of the toasted sesame seeds was potent, filling our car for the first hour of our ride home (or at least until we got used to it).
Who knew a chain bakery could be so good? Montreal’s Boulangerie Première Moisson (www.premieremoisson.com, multiple locations) sells a range of mouthwatering breads and pastries, as well as charcuterie and cheeses. The bakery also offers its own line of fruit preserves, as well as a large selection of Canadian and imported fruit preserves, including The Food Section favorite, Favols Brut de Fruits.
Les Petits Plaisirs D’Andrea (www.lespetitsplasirs.com,
273 rue Laurier Ouest [the shop has since moved to a new, expanded location at 5235 St Laurent Boulevard], 514.495.3999) sells preserves and compotes, chutneys, mustards, homemade ice cream and sorbet, and a line of “eau-de-fruit,” bottles containing dried fruits and flowers that may be mixed with water, wine, or spirits to make a thirst-quenching drink. On the recommendation of Martine at Banlieusardises, we purchased some noix du périgord au cacao, plump walnuts from southwest France covered with chocolate and dusted with cocoa.
Roughly translated as “the wheat-producing one,” Le Fromentier (1375 rue Laurier Est, H2J 1H6, 514.527.3327) an atelier de boulangerie (bakery workshop) creates masterful breads and pastries using organic flours. Hidden from the street -- an iron gate on the sidewalk leads to an entrance down an alley, a few steps down -- light floods from above into the clean, bright space. There are rows and rows of breads and pastries, including beautiful fougasse, some with black olives and thyme. The baluchons de fromentier, small stuffed breads, were amazing. We shared a one filled with artichoke, feta, and dried tomatoes. For ease of one-stop shopping, the bakery shares its space with Le Maitre Corbeau, a cheese store, and La Queue de Cochon, a charcuterie.
Olive & Olives (1389 av. Laurier est, 514.526.8689), is devoted exclusively to olive oil, bottles of which are arranged along the wall by geographical origin, similar to a wine shop. The store also sells olives, olive oil pourers, carafes, and other accessories.
Devoted exclusively to culinary permutations on the tomato as ingredient, La Tomate (www.tomateonline.com, 4347 rue de LaRoche, 514.523.0222), offers more than 40 different kinds of tomato-based gourmet products, from tartinades, sweet breakfast spreads, to gelées, tomato aspics that may be served as a condiment or dissolved to create sauces, ketchup (in a tube), and fresh bottled tomato juice. The staff of the incredibly organized shop are outfitted in red labcoats, giving the unique shop an almost a clinical air.
It’s all salmon all the time at Le SAUM-MOM (www.saum-mom.com, 1318 av. Mont-Royal Est, 514.526.1116), which sells more than 30 varieties of salmon -- fresh, poached, and smoked. Alas, we stopped by this shop on a Monday, when it was closed. More information about Le SAUM-MOM is available on its Web site.