Montreal…. Hip vs. Hype

I hope I don’t offend anyone here, but I have some laundry that needs airing, and the only way I know how to speak is honestly.

There is a LOT of NEW on the Montreal food scene, and to simplify, I will skip the new restaurants (yes, Vin Papillon is the best addition to the scene!) and go straight to the new places to BUY food.

This summer, I excitedly subscribed to Lufa Farms. It is a great story!  Veggies organically grown on Montreal rooftops and local farms, delivered to collection points across the city. Too bad my boxes had either wilted and bruised produce, or were underweight (some items are sold by weight).  I sadly unsubscribed.

I am a breadie.  My nickname is “Carbie Barbie”. I have tasted Jeff Finklestein’s breads over the last few years, at restaurants and they are, good.  I just don’t understand why people love them so much, and what the buzz is about.  Wanting to feel the magic, I passed by the new bakery, Hof Kelsten this weekend.  A small point, but I don’t understand the décor. A place that offers a chopped liver sandwich and borscht seems incongruous with a precious bakery case and a huge open eating space.

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The sourdough bread was soft, the crust chewy, and it had few air pockets.  Maybe I should have bought a rye bread instead, but it looked kind of sorry.

just can't get excited about this.

just can’t get excited about this.

The oatmeal raisin cookie was good, but that should be the case. The raspberry rogelach was passable. Granted, rogelach are very hard to come by in this city, but they were too sweet and needed some cinnamon.

I am really sad that the bread isn’t better.  All the ingredients are there – a well- trained baker, great media coverage and a killer oven. I really hope I passed by on an “off” day, and will give it another try in a few weeks.

We continued up St. Laurent to Boulangerie Guillaume, where I bought one of their “fancy” breads to nibble– a baguettine with figs and cheddar. It was tasty, but I got grossed out when I witnessed one of the bakers blow her nose and then go back to work without washing her hands. I KNOW disgustingness happens in kitchens, but I really don’t like seeing it.  Guillaume’s breads are good, but it has been too long since I tasted one of their uncomplicated varieties to be able to comment on the actual “bread” quality.

Next stop: Boucherie Lawrence. It is rare that a butcher shop smells good, let alone clean. Knowledgeable, friendly (hip too) butchers prep orders beautifully, washing hands between every activity.  The sandwich corner is kept completely away from the raw-meat area. Everything looks fresh and inviting.  And now, onto our steaks: 30 day aged waygu. Have you ever unwrapped steaks and noticed how delicious they smell? That they smell nutty and buttery? Me neither, until now.  I am not a steak lover, but I could be converted.  I read an article recently about how it is always a good idea to befriend your butcher. I have just found my “guy”, and I look forward to going back soon.

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Whenever I am at the Jean-Talon market, I pick up a bread at Joe La Croute. It is always decent, and sometimes, even really good. There is a certain voodoo with bread, and sometimes it is better than others.

There have been some other noteworthy additions over the past year or so, like KemCoBa (the best ice cream in town aside from Joe Beef), and Rustique Pie Kitchen (my go-to if I don’t have time to bake and need a great dessert), but this rant/post is limited to a few kilometers along the Main.

I have heard a lot about breads at Les Pains Aux Voiles, and Les Touriers. I will let you know how they fare. In the meantime, I am preheating my oven to bake 2 sourdoughs at home to satisfy my craving.

To me, this is what bread should look like:

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