What to buy in Montreal?
February 14, 2010 12:36 AM   Subscribe

Hubby is spending a week in Montreal. What should he bring back to Italy (so me and the kids can forgive him for leaving us all alone in Valentine's day)?

I requested maple syrup, but would like something nice and less clichè perhaps?
posted by uauage to Shopping (25 answers total)
The Montreal bagels are something special. I do believe they claim some kind of credit for inventing them. Montreal bagels travel well, because they have no purpose if they are not toasted, so they don't have to be fresh like New York bagels.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:06 AM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

St. Viatur bagels are delicious, but they need to be eaten within the day they are made or they will become hard and less tasty as a result. Thus, sadly, while I'd agree Montreal's bagels are special, I don't think they will travel too well without freezing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:14 AM on February 14, 2010

Montreal bagels freeze well too.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:15 AM on February 14, 2010

Blazecock, you were right there ahead of me.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:16 AM on February 14, 2010

Response by poster: ehm.. thanks for your answers...
the forgiveness part was not half-joking, it was 100% joking. I myself don't care much for Valentine's day and was very happy that my husband had to go to Montreal (for business reasons) so he could bring back nice things from that part of the world, and that's why I'm asking MeFi.
No one had called me sexist before, but it's true that I'm not as funny as I may believe.
posted by uauage at 4:05 AM on February 14, 2010

[Please take comments that don't relate to the question - which is about gifts from Montreal - to Metatalk, please]
posted by vacapinta at 5:00 AM on February 14, 2010

I was going to suggest icewine; ice cider is also good.

If he brings you poutine, leave him.
posted by acrasis at 6:20 AM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

If he doesn't bring you poutine, leave him.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 6:50 AM on February 14, 2010 [6 favorites]

Cheese curds! The awesome, squeaky cheese that is used in poutine is best when it's very fresh, but it can probably stand the trip. He can buy it at cheese shops or in little bags at many convenience stores.
When I lived in BC, friends from Montreal would always bring some.
posted by OLechat at 7:43 AM on February 14, 2010

It would be more challenging than bagels, but some smoked meat (from Schwartz's) would be well worth the trouble. I think if it were frozen and put in an insulated bag, or a cooler, it could survive the journey. Not sure how customs would feel about it though.

As for bagels, I recommend slicing and freezing them as soon as you get them, then toasting them from frozen. That's the only way I've found to eat a half dozen of them without them getting stale. Then you just need to get your hands on some smoked salmon and cream cheese.

Speaking of cheese, maybe some Oka would be nice.

Getting even less specific to Montreal, but also easier to pull off, there are several varieties of potato chips that are apparently only widely available in Canada, such as ketchup, and dill pickle. If chips don't do it for you, then maybe a Coffee Crisp would be more to your liking.
posted by benign at 8:12 AM on February 14, 2010

I wonder how pie would travel. After a couple of weeks of poutine and pie from Rockaberry it's amazing I didn't come home fat. Oh I miss that pie!

Also, definitely cheese curds.
posted by MuChao at 8:41 AM on February 14, 2010

Bagels, cheese curds, Oka cheese are all good. But I do believe that Smoked Meat will cross the border, and assuming this is still the case, then mmmmmm.

I love Coffee Crisps, and don't like dill pickle or ketchup chips, all of which are really common across the country, but I never had a clue that these were not available outside Canada.
posted by kch at 8:41 AM on February 14, 2010

Best answer: Some native canadian art would be something unique and hard to find in italy. Something along the lines of Inuit (eskimo) soapstone? Kids tend to love dreamcatchers (there are fancier ones than those). Tell him to look for a reputable dealer and not a cheap tourist shop if you want genuine.

In general, shopping is cheaper in Canada than Europe, so things like ipods or other goods may be a better deal if birthdays or such are coming up (more so in the states if he can get to a major mall there, though reentering canada customs may nail him if he gets a grumpy officer even with an Italian passport and insistence that it's not staying in canada).

Also, though the weather is relatively mild now (-5C) the it's normally closer to -20-25C this time of year. Make sure he's ready to dress warm! If you ski or anything, winter clothes would probably be more diversified to shop for than in Italy.
posted by hylaride at 8:43 AM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Since it's the Olympics and all, might consider something from the Bay even though most of it is a little blah. The red mittens you see all the crowds wearing would be great for an Italian winter.

Otherwise, smoked meat is one of Montreal's gifts to the world. A good cheddar cheese is also hard to find in Europe.
posted by dripdripdrop at 8:59 AM on February 14, 2010

Best answer: Seconding both the cheese curds and the Inuit soapstone carvings recommendations. Also, he is likely to find more and varied winter gear, as someone else said. Maybe some warm and cute hats, scarves, gloves, or socks would be in order? We got a great scarf with a subtle maple leaf design when we were in Montreal.

You already mention maple syrup, but I would also suggest maple butter (this is a nice spread for bread, toast, etc. - Shady Maple Farms is one of the common brand names). You can also find maple creme cookies (Dare is one of the common brand names) at almost any grocery or convenience store, and they are inexpensive and good. When we travel, we always like to go to a local grocery and just grab items that look interesting, even if it is just a different brand of oatmeal than we are used to.
posted by gudrun at 9:58 AM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Along the lines of maple products, growing up I always considered maple candy a special treat. (It's incredibly sweet, and best to nibble on in small bits.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:35 AM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, maple fudge would also be easy to take back.
posted by hylaride at 1:33 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd second ice wine. It's a Quebec (and lesser extent, Ontario) specialty.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:02 PM on February 14, 2010

Best answer: Ice wine is an Ontario specialty, pretty specific to the Niagara peninsula. Quebec has emulated it with ice cider, which can be quite nice and isn't as expensive.

If he wants to shop for Quebec delicacies the place to go is the Marché des Saveurs in Jean-Talon market. It has a booze section, a cheese counter, and shelves of things like maple goodies and pickled fiddleheads and other botanical obscurities you probably can never find in Europe.

Frankly, most of the stuff like dreamcatchers and the more affordable soapstone carvings are pretty crap, and very well may be imported from China by now. Buying legit native art is not something for street corner souvenir shops.

But there's always Canadiens memorabilia.
posted by zadcat at 4:16 PM on February 14, 2010

Best answer: Protip: buy maple syrop in a can at the grocery store and it'll cost you about $7-8 dollars. If know someone you might be able to get it for $5, but doubtful.

Don't buy a soapstone carving unless you get the name of the artist and it's certified, even then, double check as most soapstone comes from brazil now.
posted by furtive at 5:14 PM on February 14, 2010

Good advice from furtive. If he does go to Jean-Talon market, tell him not to buy the syrup in the tiny decorative bottles but to look for these tins at various stalls in the market, and ideally get amber instead of light – much tastier.
posted by zadcat at 6:51 PM on February 14, 2010

If you or the kids are into hockey at all, what about Montreal "Canadien" jerseys, tee shirts, or pjamas? Just about any clothes come with the hockey logo. They'll be all over the place there. Or what about some pucks or miniature sticks with the Montreal ( or other NHL team) logos? He'll find lots of toques too.

The maple syrup is always a favorite from Canada as others have mentioned. Its available year round. But make sure the label says its made in Quebec. They produce over 83 % of the worlds syrup.

The soapstone carvings are nice but can be expensive. Especially if you go to a shop where they are "certified". We bought one a few years ago from an artist (after shopping around) carving it while we watched, but that was in the North West Territories. We were in a a hurry and it was about 90% finished, but was still pretty expensive. And that was straight from the artist. FWIW

Some of the people in the Province of Quebec used to do wood carvings of people and characters. All sorts of things. He might find these.

The Canadian government also released a set of Olympic quarters with a special dollar (Loonie). Each quarter has a sport stamped into it, including one for the disabled games. He'll find these at the Post Office and/or the Royal Bank.

One last thing. I'm not sure how old your kids rare, but they also have Olympic mascots as stuffed toys. I think theres three different ones. These are also available as inexpensive tokens/coins.
posted by Taurid at 10:25 PM on February 14, 2010

Best answer: Oooooops........Canada produces over 83 % of the worlds maple syrup, not just Quebec. Not sure if that was all that clear.
posted by Taurid at 10:32 PM on February 14, 2010

Another thing -- if he does buy maple syrup from a grocery store, make sure he gets the real deal -- there's a new-ish line of "maple-flavoured" syrups that are packaged in cans, like real maple syrup. I always find it cheaper to buy maple syrup at either Jean-Talon or Atwater markets, but steer clear of the fancy touristy bottles.
posted by OLechat at 9:43 AM on February 16, 2010

COFFEE CRISP....it is the worlds best candy bar....ever!
posted by legotech at 2:48 AM on February 17, 2010

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