by Gabriella Gershenson
If your personal mantra is “Will Travel For Food,” this Quebecois city is packed with destination bakeries well worth the trip
One of the best food cities in North America is also one of the most overlooked. That would be Montreal, located in the Canadian province of Quebec, which feels like a minor European country just north of the U.S. border. The French culture of Montreal isn’t just evident in the language. The gastro-centric lifestyle might be the most français thing about the place. Here, good food is a birthright, and that’s evident in the high bar and high accessibility of the city’s bread and pastry. You can roll out of bed, pop into a bakery that would have lines out of the door in places like New York City or San Francisco, and pick up a $2 still-warm kouign amann oozing with butter and crusted over with caramelized sugar. (That’s $2 Canadian.) Great bread, exemplary croissants, pastry made in the French tradition—they’re part of everyday life. Some so good, in fact, that they are worth traveling for.
Olive et Gourmando | oliveetgourmando.com
351 Rue Saint-Paul Ouest
This Old Montreal gem is equal parts café and bakery. Their generous display of homey baked goods, situated so you lay eyes on them as soon as you walk through the door, is one of the most appealing in the city. This is the right spot for goodies that are more Silver Palate than Ladurée—you’ll find stacks of oversized treats that are rustic enough to come from a home kitchen, but a little too perfect to be the work of an amateur. Hulking squares of Brownie Extraordinaire, so called for their impossibly chocolaty depths, get a boost from added espresso. There are also flaky fruit-studded scones, a mouthwatering selection of saucer-sized cookies, and buttery turtle bars—caramel and pecans on a shortbread crust, iced with Valrhona chocolate then sprinkled with Maldon sea salt. Though Olive et Gourmando excels at homestyle sweets, the exceptional vienoisseries, like the chausson aux pommes, are hard to pass up.
What to order: Brownies Extraordinaire, the brownie ideal, all rich, fudgy, and intensely chocolaty
Pâtisserie Rhubarbe | patisserierhubarbe.com
1479 Avenue Laurier Est
Pastry chef Stéphanie Labelle runs what is possibly the most charming pastry shop in Montreal, complete with a pink awning, jugs of pink rhubarb lemonade, and handwritten signs describing what’s on the shelves and in the pastry case. The location, on a tree-lined street around the corner from the picturesque Laurier Parc in the Plateau neighborhood, is just as quaint. The variety of pastries runs the gamut from super-refined, such as a mille-feuille with crackling-crisp pastry and layers of caramel cream and chantilly, to more rustic cakes such as the raspberry-lemon bouche, a cupcake-sized creation with a berry glaze and a core of lemon curd. Looking for a souvenir? Grab a few jars of the excellent pâte de fruits or house-made jams.
What to order: Mille-feuille, caramelized layers of puff pastry sandwiching caramel cream and chantilly