Location: Mile End neighborhood, Montreal, Canada
If you follow some of my adventures over on Instagram, you may have noticed that over Presidents' Day I took the train up to Montreal for a long weekend. I've been going to Montreal for years with my family, but this was the first time that I had been as an adult, so I was really excited to explore the city for myself.
I traveled up on Friday so that I could have a full Saturday and Sunday to explore. I was extremely lucky in that I went to Canada… in February… and the entire time it was 40° and sunny. Who knew that was even possible?
To take advantage of my good fortune, I got up early Saturday morning and made my way over to the Mile End neighborhood to take a food tour with Local Montreal Food Tours. I met up with my guide Kim at the first stop on the tour, La Panthère Verte, and she gave a great intro to the area and to the tour itself before letting the group dig into the best falafel sandwich I've ever had. (No wonder, since it was rated the best in Montreal multiple years running.)
The best part about the Green Panther (other than the food itself) was their complete commitment to sustainability. All of the tables were made from repurposed electrical cable spools (the massive ones electric companies use), and so was their sign. All utensils were reusable, and all waste is compostable. They pride themselves on providing ecological and ethical food by choosing organic and local ingredients. As someone who is very conscious about food sourcing, this was definitely a perfect way to kick off the tour.
After our hearty start, we made our way over to the original Chocolats Geneviève Grandbois shop to skip right to dessert with some samples and a cup of hot chocolate.
After learning about Geneviève and her story, I started to realize just how much this tour was going to focus on local products and good sourcing. Geneviève apparently loved chocolate so much that she opened her own shop at the ripe young age of 21. Over the years she has gone from making everything in house, to sourcing ecological and fair chocolate, to having her own plantation in Costa Rica. She oversees every step of the process to ensure quality, and also a transparent supply chain. Today she has multiple shops in Montreal, along with distribution across Quebec. Definitely an inspiring story of hard work paying off, and not compromising on quality or morality to do it!
We started off healthy and hearty, and then went right for dessert. So what could possibly be planned for the next stop? A famous Montreal bagel of course! We made our way over to St. Viateur and got to watch the expert bakers fling the fresh bagels directly from the oven into the ready-to-eat bin. Montreal is supposed to be the next big bagel city after New York... so our guide asked the few native New Yorkers on our tour which they preferred as we were munching. As true New Yorkers, we all agreed that the big apple has the upper hand in this fight, but the St. Viateur bagels were a close second. The bagels here are made with honey in the mixture to give them an extra sweetness that was a new experience for me, so it was definitely worth the stop to try something new!
After our third stop we made our way over to the Rialto Theater for some beautiful architecture during our bathroom break. On the way there I spied this little bit of street art and started to wonder if tacos would make an appearance...
Alas, no tacos were to be found. But where we went instead was, in my opinion, definitely better than tacos.
Drogheria Fine is a small shop that specializes in delicious pasta sauce, and the handmade gnocchi to go with it. They sell a few kinds of sauce, and a package with the sauce and gnocchi already combined, and that's it. The owner, Franco, was very welcoming, and had a fresh pot of pasta waiting for us to try when we arrived. The sauce itself is extremely simple, but the quality of the ingredients makes all the difference in the world. And the recipe handed down from Nonna for those special gnocchi? Delicious.
Our penultimate stop steered us away from the carbs for a minute to take in some charcuterie instead at Boucherie Lawrence. This combination butcher shop, deli, and cheese shop was another stop on the local sourcing part of the tour. All of the butchering is done on site, and all of the meat (as well as the cheese and other dairy products) are from local, independent farms that use humane animal treatment practices. This is definitely a place worthy of going to instead of your average grocery store butcher!
The final stop on the tour brought us back to dessert with the wonderful white-chocolate filled piece of delicious that I'm holding below. We stepped into a world of bread at Boulangerie Guillaume, and even though we were all quite full from the other delicacies, I think everyone made the conscious decision to make a bit of extra room.
This is not a sponsored post, but I will definitely recommend taking this tour to anyone visiting Montreal who loves food, and who also likes to know a little bit of the story behind that food. Kim was a fantastic guide who was passionate about the businesses she was sharing, along with some Montreal history and trivia. What a fantastic way to spend the morning!
Thank you for coming with me on a culinary adventure in Mile End, I hope that this inspires you to either make the trip up to Montreal, or to explore the culinary options in your own town. Happy eating!
Date & Locations: Saturday, 18 February 2017 - Mile End, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Photos taken with: Nikon D5300, Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f1.8 Lens