Jean Talon Market Food tour
Let’s shake things up! For this post, I tried something a little different; I tried to discover Montreal through the eyes of another Montrealer through a food tour.
Context travel gives a tour named “Made in Quebec, A Savory Stroll of the Marché Jean Talon”, with a focus on the history and the local ingredients of the market. Let me tell you that doing a tour in your own city is very different than to explore the tastes and cuisine of a new country and culture, we will get more into that later.
Fun facts about the Jean Talon Market
Did you know that le Marché Jean Talon, or Jean Talon Market, is North America’s largest open air market?
Also, the market used to be a Lacrosse field and transitioned into a public market in the 30’s right after the big crash. Now, the market has countless local fruit and vegetable growers as well as small shops like butchers, bakers, fishmongers and spices along with little restaurants and shops that have joined the market.
Another fun fact is that the market has a real transition between winter and summer. In summertime, the market is bigger and does not have walls and most of the producers sell their own, local product. During the winter months, on the contrary, since local growers cannot harvest any vegetables or fruits, the merchants tend to import their products.
The food tour in Jean Talon Market
The tour was given by the docent Marcella, a kid’s cuisine instructor. She was very knowledgeable about the market & the area. She really transmitted her idea of Montreal. Luckily, we were only 3 persons doing the tour which made it more personal. The other 2 persons attending were a couple that already did the tour last year.
The tour started in the second floor of the market where Marcella explained a little bit of the history of the market and she gave us our first bite, a chocolate bread made by one of the bakers nearby. In the market, most of the vendors cut fresh fruits and prepare little platters for you to taste their fresh products. All the fresh fruits, vegetables and spices give a unique and a delicious aroma to the market. The second bite that we took was a little dice of salmon candied with maple, a real treat!
The next stops were two different stores, Andréa Jourdan and Marché des Saveurs The first store, a famous Quebec chef-owned-store, sells its own jams and syrup as well as other imported delicacies to make the perfect dinner at home. The second stop was in Marché des Saveurs, it mostly sells local products like craft beer, cider, spices and maple products. Here, we tasted 2 types of local cheese married with dried fruits, ice cider and 4 types of maple syrup. (Psst, the tour can accommodate your food allergies. I had lactose free cheese!) Ice cider is a Quebec specialty, where the producers collect the apples after the first freeze, which gives the apple and the cider a particular taste and sweetness.
A quick tour of Little Italy
Since the market had not yet removed its winter coat, the tour guide proposed us to do a little tour of the little Italy which is only a few blocks away. Marcella, of Italian descendant, was really insightful about the area. She took us to the famous Italian grocery, Milano, and to Café Italia for a real Italian espresso. Our last bite was a Cannoli at Alati-Caserta. They are the best Cannoli in town, seriously, I've tried many! They also have delicious Italian cookies! I love entering to this bakery as the aroma brings me back to the bakeries in Venezuela.
Right in front of the bakery, there is a church, Madonna della Difesa. The particularity of the church is that it has a fresco of Mussolini riding a horse. I didn’t know about this odd fact! See, doing a tour about your city can be very interesting ;) Apparently, Mussolini was highly regarded by the immigrant community at that time because of the Lateran Treaty, which brought back the Catholic religion to a central part of the Kingdom of Italy. The Fresco was done in pre-war era.
How to get to the market & to the tour
The meeting place of the tour is at the entrance of the market. The closest metro stations are Jean-Talon & De Castlenau. The market also has a big parking space. However, I highly recommend not driving in Montreal as there are many construction all over the city and it might be difficult to get around.
Doing a food guide in your own city takes away some of the excitement to taste new flavours and ingredients. However, I highly enjoyed the tour and to be able to discover the city through the eyes of another Montrealer. Sadly, I was expecting to have more tastings.
How to book? Visit Context Travel. The tour runs daily at 10am (except for New Year's Eve/Day, Christmas Eve/Day, Boxing Day, and Canada Day). It is highly recommended to booking the tour one week in advance.
Tour Price? $66
What’s Included? around 5 bites.
How long? Around 2:30 hours
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Disclaimer: I enjoyed the tour as guests of Context Travel. A big thank you! All opinions are my own