As the weather warms up, many of us are planning trips north, and Quebec is a great choice for RVers.
The largely Francophile Canadian province is so French it’s like traveling to Europe — without the airfare or the jet lag! And Montreal, the province’s capital, is a terrific place to get a taste of what Quebec has to offer road foodies.
Montreal’s food scene is influenced not just by its French and British heritages, but also its diverse ethnic immigrants. More than 120 ethnic groups, including Italian, Greek, Jewish and Lebanese, live in and around Montreal, each contributing unique flavors and traditions to the city’s culinary landscape. The Jewish community has contributed two of the city’s most recognized and prized foods: Montreal smoked meat and Montreal-style bagels. Both of these foods are great to-go items that you can take with you in your rig and enjoy as you explore the rest of Quebec.
The smoked meat is kosher-style, salted and cured beef brisket with spices, including cracked peppercorns and aromatic spices, such as coriander. It’s typically hand-sliced and served on rye bread with mustard. And it’s delicious!
One place to get this smoked deli meat is at Schwartz’s (aka the Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen) on Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Established in 1928, this culinary landmark is a hole-in-the-wall in the Plateau neighborhood where residents and visitors line up (sometimes for an hour) to buy sandwiches, sliced meat and whole briskets.
Last time we visited Schwartz’s, it was early in the morning and the meat wasn’t hot (meat is hot only after 10 a.m.). However, my sandwich was piled high with smoky, thin-sliced meat on rye with yellow mustard.
As long as you’re loading up goodies for your Quebec road trip, head over to one of five Juliette & Chocolat stores. These café-chocolate shops sell everything chocolate, including elegant chocolate candies and some of the best European-style hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. The hot chocolate is so thick you have to eat it with a spoon!
Fresh, Hot Bagels
Montreal bagels are the other must-try for food lovers. You may be more familiar with New York-style bagels. In Montreal, bagels are smaller, denser and a bit sweeter. The Jewish-dominated “Mile End” district (officially part of the Plateau borough) is home to the city’s two famous bagel makers, Fairmount and St-Viateur bakeries, located on the streets of the same names.
St-Viateur Bagel, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, has been making bagels the same way since 1957. The bakers hand-cut and shape the bagels and then boil them for five minutes in honey water to ensure proper chewiness and sweetness. Sesame or poppy seeds, onion, and other toppings are added and the baker shovels them into a wood-fired oven on a long, thin stick. A few minutes later, they come out hot and crispy. These bagels are so good they don’t even need schmear (spreads like cream cheese). I buy a couple dozen Montreal bagels and pop a few into my motorhome’s freezer to enjoy later.
With all these Montreal goodies, you’ll be feeling like a Québécois (French Quebecer) before you know it!