Montreal Market Meal

MagoGuide is on a restructuring tear. In the last twelve months we have inaugurated our new Kitchen Stadium North Fork in the wilds of Montucky, closed our beloved Kitchen Stadium Rome and moved it to Barcelona, begun work on Kitchen Stadium Portland, and started our international branding campaign with the commissioning of our affiliated Kitchen Stadium Montreal, the subject of this post.

Team Mago has long embraced a gastro-trinity of kitchens, markets, and restaurants, but try as hard as we might, we simply cannot establish a permanent MagoGuide presence in every great gastropolis. Thus we have begun the process of identifying affiliates who we can take advantage of from time to time in our wanderings.

Jean-Talon Market

Address: 7070 Henri Julien Ave, Montreal QC H2S 3S3 Canada— Get directions
Telephone: +1 514-277-1588
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Rostra rating: 4.5

You do not live in a city if you do not have a market, and I am not talking about Whole Foods and its competitors. You have to have a real market with local products open all year long in order to claim residence in a gastropolis. Montreal is blessed with two amazing markets, Jean-Talon in Little Italy and Atwater near the Lachine Canal. Last July I was seconded by my domina to serve as general dog’s body and prep bitch to our dear friend Giulia.

Under her tutelage, we shopped both markets in a long morning, cooked the proceeds in the afternoon, and feasted on the results in the evening. Both markets were exceptional and distinct from each other.

Atwater Market

Address: 138 Atwater Ave., Montreal QC H4C 2H6 Canada— Get directions
Telephone: +1 514-937-7754
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Rostra rating: 4.5

True to its territorio, Jean-Talon has more Italian products on offer as well as more vendors of obvious Italian extraction, while Atwater leans more Gallic in its terroir. I decided that the produce from Jean-Talon had a slight edge, while the proteins at Atwater–in particular the swinage–were a tad superior. Surprisingly, however, the better cheese was to be had at Jean-Talon.

Poissonnerie La Mer

Address: 1840 Boulevard René-Lévesque E, Montreal QC H2K 4P1 Canada— Get directions
Telephone: +1 514-522-3003 ext. 231
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Rostra rating: 4

Our very first stop that morning, however, was Poissonnerie La Mer, which Giulia considers the best source of fish in the city. In fact we arrived a good twenty minutes prior to opening time in order to be the first to peruse the fish so juicy sweet. La Mer had an impressive selection of fresh and frozen exemplars of Neptune’s creatures, and the staff all knew Giulia. I was treated like a fairly well behaved dog that had wandered into the store with madame, while the monger poised knife in hand, attending to every word Giulia uttered. Local knowledge dude, MagoGuide’s discriminator was on display from the get go in Montreal.

Giulia made shopping Montreal’s markets an exquisite experience. She gamely put up with my puerile insistence that I inspect every freakin stall before making a single purchase, my ridiculous linguistic gaffes as I tried to banter and bargain with the proprietors in execrable Italo-French, and my insatiable gluttony as I snarfed every free sample and wheedled (usually successfully) for more and different freebies. In the end, however, she basically designed and built the meal herself while I was just along for the calories.

We started with green pea flour cavatelli made with eggs, water, fresh basil, and salt. Giulia, a vivacious flower of the Mezzogiorno, has courageously adopted a very non-itialian diet that is low in gluten, animal protein, refined sugar, and dairy. The results are indisputable. Her husband and son look like they just walked off of a GQ shoot and the present day lady herself could be photoshopped into her wedding pictures with none the wiser.

Now while MagoGuide continues to believe that a day without foie gras is like–well is exactly–a day without foie gras, we realize that some thought and action must be taken for the future of the species while MagoGuide continues to make the world safe for hedonistic sybarites eating themselves to death. This was clearly Giulia’s role in Montreal, although she did make a few exceptions in our fantastic repast just for the sake of wretched excess, and we really appreciated it (almost as much as the male contingent from her side of the table).

Mackerel and squash blossoms

In any event, I had never worked with green pea flour, and I fear we would have ended up with green gruel if I had been in charge of the pasta course, but Giulia effortlessly turned the fine grained verdant powder into authentic looking cavatelli using a very complex Italian culinary device called the handle of a wooden spoon.

While this magic was taking place, I was given the task of deboning several mackerel that were used to sauce the cavatelli. The mackerel were baked in the oven with a little oil just until the flesh pulled free of the bones. I am crazy about any pesce azzurro, but in my humble opinion, mackerel has never gotten the respect it deserves either in the US or, surprisingly, in most Mediterranean countries.

Giulia’s innovative take on this pasta was mind blowing–think slightly sweet, amazingly fresh, somehow actually al dente pasta paired with the unapologeticly robust impact of oily, salty, and sublimely fishy mackerel. The sauce was further enhanced with lightly sautéed zucchini flowers and paper thin slices of the squash bodies, both fresh from her garden. I don’t know if it’s really Italian, but I loved it.

More fish followed in the form of salmon and oven roasted veggies. If the pasta dish was technique driven, then Giulia reversed course and demonstrated a classic ingredient-driven dish for her secundo of steamed fresh wild sockeye salmon and roasted kolrabi, celery root, beets, onions, sunchokes, zucchini, and fresh herbs. The dish practically cooked itself: combine the veggies with oil, (Giulia used grape seed) salt, and pepper, then roast in a hot oven until easily pierced with a knife. Place veggies on top of salmon (seasoned with salt and pepper) and return to a medium low oven until salmon is cooked medium rare. That simple and that good. The veggies acquired some kind of richness by association with the unctuous salmon flesh and the mingled vegetable juice and salmon fat was as delicious as it was healthy.

Giulia served an artisan lemon sorbet as a palette cleanser between ‘tizer and main street. Did I mention that we also hit several bakeries and a killer gelatoria  (for more information see Joe La Croute and Roberto’s Gelatoria at the end of the post)? Well we did as I continued to sample my way into a fit of culinary Stendhalism.

The next treat was a salad of lettuces and herbs from Giulia’s garden served with edible flowers such as violets and nasturtiums. The secret ingredient that really made the salad pop, however, was fresh cilantro seeds.

Ricotta torte

Dessert was a decadent ricotta torte. The crust was made with hazel nut flour while the filling comprised fresh (as in that very morning steaming in the market, yeah!)  ricotta, sugar, lemon zest, eggs  and chocolate chunks. Bake the crust in a medium oven with pie weights until brown and dense. Whip the filling ingredients until amalgamated and slightly fluffy, then chill, pour into cooled crust and serve topped with a simple syrup of sour cherries and raspberries and finished with fresh blue and strawberries. It wasn’t just fit to eat, it was hellaciously good.

Just as I thought that more food would be a serious mistake, I remembered that the last time I felt this satiated was at Giulia’s wedding. So I knew what was coming next.

Like good Hobbits from the south farthing (the Mezzogiorno of The Shire), we filled in the corners with artisan dark spelt bread and light wheat loaves, two kinds of goat cheese, and some more of that killer fresh ricotta along with gravelox of king salmon, and a decadent amazingly non-dairy dark chocolate sorbet at the very end.

Taburno Falanghina del SannioDid I mention that we hit a great wine store or two after the markets? We settled on two roses (a rioja and a French) and a Taburno Falanghina del Sannio. Perfect pairings for wonderful food and a very hot day.

Bottom line: If you want the glories of Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse and Palermo’s Ballarò Market, but you don’t want to pay the freight in ducats and sanity that a transatlantic flight would entail, hop a train to Montreal and get the closest thing to genuine European markets that you are likely to find in North America. If you yearn to eat tripe, horse, seriously oozy, runny, stinky cheese, and finish it all off with a genuine Havana stogie, this can all be yours by visiting our progressive and increasingly sane neighbors to the north. And if you get to Montreal and want a meal that will blow your mind, then all you have to do is endow a tenured chair in Neoplatonism at McGill University and Team Mago will get you an invitation to dinner at Giulia’s where you will learn that Platonic Forms can be edible with the right combination of culinary virtuosity backed up by superb ingredients.

Roberto’s Gelatoria

Address: 2227 Rue Bélanger, Montreal QC H2G 1C4 Canada— Get directions
Telephone: +1 514-374-5653
Get more info....
Rostra rating: 4.5

Joe La Croute

Address: 7024 Casgrain Ave, Montreal QC H2S 1B2 Canada— Get directions
Telephone: +1 514-272-9704
Get more info....
Rostra rating: 4

How Can I Become a Mago Affiliate?

If after reading our Montreal market meal post readers are interested in sponsoring an affiliate MagoGuide Kitchen Stadium in their location, please send us your applications using the form below. Qualifying affiliates will be rewarded with a visit from Team Mago in the not too distant future as well as an entry in our forthcoming MagoGuide Markets and Meals.

A key to becoming a MagoGuide Kitchen Affiliate is the design and functionality of the cooking space. Just look at Giulia’s gorgeous yet highly functional cucina di stadio. We set the bar high at MagoGuide because the kitchen is the most important room in the house. We are looking for a few good kitchens in great market towns. Does yours have what it takes?

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Morgan Hart was launched in 2011 as a website and virtual storefront to showcase Patti's software and Morgan's content. Dedicated to slow travel, culinary excess, and ripping good yarns, MagoGuide is the digital scriptoria for the Mago Scrolls, Morgan's historical fiction series about the Punic Wars in general and one Mago of Syracuse in particular. Although Morgan has written a great deal of non-fiction over the years in the form of specialized journal articles, book reviews, op-ed pieces, and (his personal favorite) the most unpopular coffee table book in the history of the planet, he always viewed himself as a happily frustrated novelist. Get more information about Morgan's novel and travel writing at our Products page.

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