In case you missed it, and I know I did, The World Food Travel Association (WFTA) declared Saturday, April 18 as World Food Travel Day.
The annual event is meant to celebrate travel as a way to experience the world’s culinary cultures and was first declared last year by the WFTA, a London-based non-profit organisation whose mission is to preserve and promote culinary cultures through hospitality and travel.
This year, they asked people to feature their favorite local food and beverage experiences that visitors to their area would love.
Here in Montreal, a city well known for its love of food, there is no shortage of incredible culinary experiences. Many of those are of the haut cuisine variety, but my tastes run to street foods and simple things that ordinary people eat so I’d point visitors to local classics like poutine, smoked meat and bagels.
These three things verge on Montreal clichés, but they are all beloved by the city’s residents and found just about everywhere.
Originally a Quebec invention, poutine has become a cross-Canada favourite. It’s essentially french fries covered with curd cheese and doused with gravy, but there are countless varieties, including concoctions that incorporate smoked meat.
I like the classic combination and it works well with Montreal-style hot dogs, like those served at the Montreal Pool Room on Boulevard St-Laurent.
Smoked meat originated with Romanian Jews who settled along Boulevard St-Laurent in the early 20th century, although it would likely have been known as St. Lawrence Boulevard back then. It’s effectively a type of pastrami, but spiced and smoked to make it even more delicious. Traditionally served on rye bread with sides of French fries, cole slaw and a dill pickle. Cherry coke is optional. The most famous smoked meat oulet in the city is Schwartz’s, officially known as the Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen.
The bagels of Montreal are unlike those served anywhere else and you’ll often find people in other Canadian cities labelling their bread rings as Montreal-style, but they never really compare to the doughy, honey-washed works of art that are baked in wood-fired ovens in places like Fairmont and St-Viateur bagel bakeries.
What are the local foods from your city that you’d nominate for #WorldFoodTravelDay?