At a recent media event, a food writer asked me: “It can’t be easy living in Laval when you’re a gourmet, no?” Lord, I wished I could have taken on a superior air and defended the suburbs I chose to raise my family. True, Montreal’s North Shore has long been a food desert and, yes, things are finally moving in the right direction. But much remains to be done.
The exodus isn’t new: more and more Montrealers are leaving the metropolis for greener spaces, cheaper housing, non-toxic schools and kinder property taxes. Inevitably, and happily, shopkeepers and chefs have followed suit. Good restaurants are opening here and there. Some represent brand new ventures, such as L’Ardoise in Sainte-Thérèse and À maison in Blainville, both from owner chef Luc Laplante. Others expand on popular Montreal restaurants like Bottega Pizzeria on Saint-Martin Boulevard or Greek rôtisserie Panama on Curé-Labelle. And of course, classic destinations Le Mitoyen in Sainte-Dorothée and Le Saint-Christophe in Sainte-Rose still hold sway. In other words, while not plentiful, the restaurant food scene is evolving slowly but surely.
The biggest breath of fresh air comes from small cafés and gourmet boutiques sprouting left and right. While Laval foodies still drive to Montreal for fine dining, they don’t necessarily wish to hit the highway for good baguette. Plus, with all due respect and love for my hometown, who the heck wants to put up with the horrendous parking?
I live in Old Sainte-Rose, two corners away from defunct Derrière les fagots, and so my favourite destinations can be found mostly nearby. Far from me to pretend that this list is exhaustive, not even quintessential. These are simply my personal haunts. This summer, I’ve promised myself that I would explore beyond the north-east side of Laval. If you’d care to share your best foodie addresses, feel free to comment and I’ll happily extend the Foodie Laval map above. In the meantime, let’s get going?
This gourmet shopping centre has been serving Laval since 1983 no less. Two French butcher shops, Gidney’s fishmonger, Fromagerie des Nations cheese shoppe (terrific), a Gascogne bakery, a large-surface fruit & vegetable market and a bulk food store with multiple imports: in other words, one could easily accomplish much of their food shopping under one roof. I buy my organic Christmas turkey here and most of my fish. A good half of the year, a popular farmers’ market greets visitors looking for springtime seedlings or late-harvest vegetables.
Info: 3535 Laval Highway (440) West, Laval, Quebec H7P 5G9 > 450 682-1440
Famous Fruiterie 440 moved here a few years ago but kept the name, strange but understandable given the brand notoriety. With its trendy restaurants and bars, plus the biggest movie theater around, Centropolis has lofty ambitions: to be known as downtown Laval no less. Its gourmet market features an Amour des Thés tea shop, Première Moisson bakery, Le Petit Coin d’Europe specialty store and fishmonger Odessa. In the Christmas issue of Vero Magazine, I recommended their True North salmon, fished and delivered in store under 48 hours for incredible freshness. A few steps away, Juliette et Chocolat opened its first suburban outlet here last December, a sign of Centropolis’ increasing popularity.
Info: 2888, Avenue Du Cosmodôme, Laval (Québec) H7T 2X1 > 450 973-4579
This gourmet boutique in Rosemère is somewhat of a secret I share with blogger Martine Gingras of Banlieusardises. The owner sources his inventory from all over the world, providing an eclectic line-up of goodies: San Marzano tomatoes, Cacao-Barry Origine chocolates in 1-kilo boxes, Le Patrimoine butter, imported cassoulet and a variety of world cuisine ingredients from Asia to India. Bewarned, you’ll leave with way more food than you planned on buying.
Info: 199-I Labelle Boulevard, Rosemère (Québec) J7A 2H2 > 450 437-3544
I’ve already written about Talie Chocolat here on the blog. Chocolate maker Natalie Lahaye transformed the ground floor of her pretty Sainte-Rose home into the boutique of her dreams. You’ll find homemade chocolates galore and bags of cooking chocolates from the best brands in the world. A newly-created small café at the back offers a 100% chocolate menu, from waffles to croissants, with thick hot chocolate to ensure overdose. Here’s looking forward to a terrace?
Info: 15 Sainte-Rose Boulevard, Laval (Québec) H7L 5W4 > 514 462-0588
Also in Rosemère, Lorrain Butcher Shop is named for owners Ginette Lorrain, a TV host, and her chef son Francis. You will find a nice selection of local meats — Stanstead rabbit, Gaspor pork, Bergerie Margot lamb —, sausages from Fou du cochon, aged beef, roast chicken, etc. Fresh salads and good baguette provide perfect sides. You can also order from a very small homemade menu, to dine on the premises at a large communal table or take out. The Boutique section offers a trendy line of local and imported products such as oils, mustards, etc. As for the décor, it’s plain spectacular.
Info: 145 Labelle Boulevard, Rosemère (Québec) J7A 2H2 / 450 951-7755
6. Marché Hawaii
A Twitter peep recommended this tiny Greek grocery nestled among a sea of bungalows in non-trendy Chomedey, not to be confused for Ville Saint-Laurent’s famous Asian market. Bewarned, it looks like a grungy, no-frill depanneur targeted at the surrounding community. You can grab a few fruits and vegetables hard to find elsewhere — like dandelion in the middle of winter — as you make your way to the butcher counter at the back. Lamb, veal and pork are the featured stars. Regular and spicy (better) feta is diplayed in oversized industrial buckets, while anchovies are sold whole and packed in salt. With a little luck, you can sometimes find a whole (and I mean whole) leg of lamb or thick dried cod. If you dare walk in, of course.
Info: 4609 Chemin du Souvenir, Laval (Québec) H7W 1C5 > 450 687-1999
A Sainte-Thérèse fixture for over 25 years, this little gourmet market looks like a regular fruit store from the outside. The produce section at the front reinforces the notion. But wander to the back and you’ll find a nice cheese counter with a good selection of Québec cheeses, homemade smoked salmon, super tomato pizza, hearth breads and dairy specialties from Fromagerie Nouvelle-France or Hudson Ice Cream. In summer, a local farmer sets up in front to sell his daily harvest of corn and strawberries.
Info: 190 Labelle Boulevard, Sainte-Thérèse (Québec) J7E 2X5 > 450 435-4385
Ready to wander further north? Yannick Achim first made a name for himself in Montreal with his upscale cheese shop on Bernard Street in Outremont. But he actually opened his first outlet in front of the Saint-Jérôme farmers’ market, behind the village church. In the small boutique with minimalist décor and hushed ambiance, the smiling, knowledgeable staff can recommend cheeses based on the day, almost the hour, that you plan to serve it (they saved my life when I was pregnant and off raw cheeses). A strategic stop on the way to your picnic in the Laurentians maybe?
Info: 357 Parent Street, Saint-Jérôme (Québec) J7Z 2A1 > 450-436-8469
I’m told that William J. Walter sausage makers learned their craft, and recipes, working at/with Saucisserie Bois-des-Filion before striking out on their own (translation: there’s no love lost here). To discover the original William Swiss smoked cheese sausage, at a lesser cost, you may want to visit one of two locations, including this one close to me. The amazing selection of beers from Québec microbreweries alone is worth the trip.
Info: 146 Sainte-Rose Boulevard, Laval (Québec) H7L 1K4 > 450 937-9333
Visible from Highway 15, Joncas Nursery transformed its tropical plant greenhouse into a décor and gourmet store with a treasure trove of local and imported products. A few hand-picked Québec cheeses, fine chocolates from Christophe Morel and Geneviève Grandbois, Simon Turcotte jams and mustards, Camelia Sinensis teas, ready-to-heat dishes from local caterers, branded cookware and tableware from the likes of Ricardo, as well as sandwichs, soups and salads to lunch on site. A hidden treasure.
Info: 3266 Ste-Rose Boulevard, Laval (Québec) H7P 4K8 > 450 622-0341