Meat-free Montreal / Montréal sans viande

miam kram

Chu Chai’s amazing Miam Kram – one of my favourite dishes in Montreal. Photo: Patricia Maunder

There’s a strange divide in Montreal’s dining scene: on one side a surprising number of vegetarian, even vegan, cafes and casual restos (the local, bilingual slang for restaurants), while with few exceptions anywhere that’s a bit fancy has almost nothing (or literally nothing) without meat, fish or seafood. There’s obviously a substantial population here that doesn’t eat animal products, but either few of them have much money, or most big time chefs have trouble conjuring interesting dishes not centred around flesh.

For most this divide is invisible, but for vegetarians (végétariens) and vegans (végétaliens) living in or visiting Montreal, here’s my take on the good food on offer – including a couple of fancy restaurants that not only cater to us, but also understand that we’re not birds limited to seeds and greens. Continue reading

Market forces / Les forces du marché

Autumn at Marché Jean-Talon. Photo: Patricia Maunder

Autumn at Marché Jean-Talon. Photo: Patricia Maunder

As I discussed in the previous post, time flies here in Montreal as the very distinctive seasons keep on rolling around. Among the most enjoyable places to witness this transformation is the city’s markets. I’m used to some seasonal variation in fresh produce at the enormous Queen Victoria Market in the heart of my hometown, Melbourne, but here it’s much more extreme, from the riot of potted flowers that appear in spring, to the forest of Christmas trees at year’s end. And unlike the Queen Vic, which has a strong focus on volume, these smaller markets turn the display of products and produce – much of it local – into an appealing art form.

Right now, vibrant chillies and pumpkins (and squash and gourds, I can’t work out what’s what here!) are the eye-poppers. Bright-red chillies are the stand-out, both as dried bunches and potted plants (edible and decorative), but there are also glossy green, yellow and orange ones. There is even greater variation in the pumpkin family, from giant orange ones that will soon be carved into jack-o-lanterns for Hallowe’en, to small decorative things that come in bizarre shapes, patterns and colours, including stripes and speckles of yellow, green, orange and white. Continue reading