Saturday, November 19, 2011
Montreal is a true foodie destination, you won't be able to take more than a few steps without spotting a chic cafe, gourmet restaurant or specialty food shop. This vibrant city entices with lots of flavors and dishes but my most memorable sensory experience was at the legendary Jean Talon Market. Located in the center of Montreal in the landmark Little Italy neighborhood, this colorful and lively market is the biggest outdoor market in North America and the most charming. Opened in 1933, Jean Talon mixes old world character with contemporary style for a shopping experience like no other. Tackling Jean Talon requires fortification so I headed to a nearby Italian bakery beforehand. The dreamy, creamy, cannoli above stopped me in my tracks. Mind you, I don't even like cannoli but I felt compelled to buy some and after one fluffy, crispy, nibble, I can say that I do like cannoli. As long as they are fresh and from Montreal's Little Italy.
Although you can skim the market in an hour, it took me two just to explore some of the over 300 vendors and that's not including tasting all the samples, which is an important part of the Jean Talon experience. The market is brimming with fresh produce but I gravitated toward the more typical Quebecois products like the maple syrup lollipops, above.
I made my way to the locally produced honey in flavors like apple, blueberry and raspberry, above.
These zany plants caught my eye because of prominent signs commanding shoppers not to touch them. Apparently, these plants capture insects with a sticky substance and leave movements and one little tap will stimulate this action . It made me wonder how in the world you are supposed to carry them home.
The fromagerie or cheese shop, is a major part of Montreal culture and they are everywhere at Jean Talon. I sampled mustard with wild mushrooms and fresh goat cheese from the shop above. I topped it off with samples of different varieties of ice wine and then finished with strawberry-cranberry-hibiscus cake. I left with a feeling of visual and gustatory satisfaction that few shopping excursions can deliver.