First of all, if you haven't been to the market lately, it's time you paid a visit. Summer started fairly early this year and we've had our fair share of sun and warmth, so there's already a lot of good, local produce pouring in: new potatoes, new garlic, and new onions, baby carrots, zucchini, beans, peas, and berries of all sorts (such as the ones seen above).
We got things started right on Sunday by heading up to Jean-Talon with a friend of ours, A., and what started out as an innocent little visit soonly turned into a free-for-all. By the time we were done we'd picked up garlic, grapes, mangoes, tomatoes, peas, zucchini blossoms, butter, potatoes, cream, apricots, blackberries, bread, blueberries, asparagus, fava beans, cheese, probably a half-dozen other items, and lots and lots of strawberries.
If you're serious about strawberries, the time to act is NOW. We were told the season had about 2-3 days left, max, and that was yesterday. From the perspective of a Quebec strawberry farmer, it's been a pretty bad summer--blistering heat, wild temperature fluctuations, torrential downpours--and consequently the strawberries have been good, but there haven't been many of them. From our perspective, it's been a pretty good summer and although the season for Quebec strawberries has been much too short, they've been awfully tasty. We picked up a $5.00 bucket, and they were so good we went back at picked up a massive $8.00 flat.
The best things that we saw at the market that we didn't actually buy were the grelots pictured below. They were about the size of champagne grapes. OK, maybe they were the size of raisins.
Market find of the day: remember the good people from Olives et Épices, the de Viennes, that we wrote about way back when? Well, they've opened a new shop just a few storefronts down from their flagship store. While the Épices half of Olive et Épices focuses on the de Vienne's fantastic line of spices, herbs, and aromatics, their new store carries an impressive array of prepared foods from around the world. So, for instance, one tasting island they had set up had everything from salsa rojo and salsa verde, to chinese dates, to bombay-style snacks, to guava paste offer. Meanwhile, out front they were serving fantastic freshly fried leek and carrot Bhajis with their homemade tamarind chutney for a very reasonable $2.00.
The best non-market find of the day? Well, after we left the market we headed on what I can only describe as a fact-finding mission. On our way to our first secret destination we passed by an Italian cheese shop that A. had been tipped off to. So we slammed on the brakes and went in for a look-see. The somewhat oddly named La Baie des Fromages (1715 Jean-Talon E., 727-8850) is the Italian cheese shop I've been looking for in Montreal for years. Case in point: we were looking for Pecorino, and Pecorino we did find. Most places in Montreal, you're lucky if they've got 4 different kinds of Pecorino. At La Baie, on the other had, they had what could only be described as a vast array, from basic versions, to balsamico-infused versions, to top of the line, extra-aged versions. We took one taste of their top of the line model and we were sold. Of course, we would have bought just about anything from that cheesemonger with the wry smile and the penetrating eyes who served us. Highly recommended.
What did we do with all this bounty? Stay tuned to find out...