Coast to Coast with Club House for Chefs: Montreal Edition

Spices in hand, the team headed to Montreal for some Quebecois hospitality, Italian traditions and global flavours.

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After covering Canada’s culinary landscape on both coasts and the Prairies, we turned our attention to Montreal’s culinary trailblazers.

Montreal is a top North-American culinary destination with just about any flavour you’re craving. We got an up-close look (and taste) with Michele Forgione, executive chef of Montreal’s Impasto, Chez Tousignant, Pizzeria GEMA and Vesta.

Raised in a kitchen-centric family, chef Forgione has maintained his dedication to real, good food. Along with his business partner, Stefano Faita, he has also developed a retail line of pasta sauces and pizzas available in Canada and the U.S.

Chef Forgione was excited to take us to four legacy destinations in town and share what he’s learned from them all.

First up: a stop at chef Forgione’s favourite morning hotspot, St-Viateur Bagel.

“This place is my go-to for breakfast. The sesame bagels are my favourite,” says chef Forgione.”

Owner Roberto Moreno has been making bagels since the 1950s and his signature Montreal sandwiches are now being delivered nationwide.

“The secret to success here is that we’re steeped in tradition,” explains Moreno. “The process behind the Montreal bagel hasn’t changed. Everything is hand-rolled, boiled in honey water and cooked in our wood-fired ovens.”

“This is the aroma of my morning,” chef Forgione chimes in. “When you come around here, you smell the sesame toasting right away. It’s one of the things that makes Montreal what it is and why we’re here today.”

#StViateurBagelFact: Its bagels are boiled for five minutes and dipped in sesame seeds on both sides before being cooked by fire on long, thin boards.

After their morning bagels, the crew hit up La Baia Dei Formaggi.

Since 1973, La Baia Dei Formaggi has been importing quality Italian cheese, olive oils, stewed tomatoes, aged balsamic vinegars and more. It’s been a Forgione favourite since he was a child and his grandparents used to take him.

“The assortment is insane,” he says. “It’s paradise for any chef.”

Back in the day, Forgione explains, not many stores in Montreal would import big wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano. So, La Baia Dei Formaggi became the go-to place for chefs to pick up fresh, large grating wedges.

“They’re a great family, very visionary because they’ve always thought of bringing in quality,” says Forgione as he excitedly picks up a jar of his sauce.

#LaBaiaDeiFormaggiFact: One of the top items bought by chefs at La Baia Dei Formaggi is the cacciospianata, a Sopressata Calabrese surrounded by provolone.

Up next on the tour: Quincaillerie Dante — a culinary-supply retailer run by Montreal’s “Mother Chef,” Elena Faita, since 1965. Chef Forgione says he feels like a kid in a candy store when he’s here. And it shows all over his face.

“I like to grind peppercorns with a mortar and pestle because other mixers make them too powdery. This gives me control,” beams Forgione as he holds up his favourite mortar.

#QuincaillerieDanteFact: The slogan for the shop is “C’e tutto Per tutti,” which means “there’s everything for everyone.”

Mamma Faita says the hand grinder is her best seller. Doing meat this way is best, she continues, because it doesn’t heat up the meat so you can put your special spices in it.

The group’s final stop was the incomparable Moishes Steakhouse.

Moishes was originally owned by Moishe Lighter and eventually handed down to his son, Lenny. Then, in 2018, Quebec’s Sportscene Group purchased the restaurant and the rights to its retail products. Lenny happily remained among the company’s management, with the promise the experience wouldn’t change — and it hasn’t.

 “The original owner’s name was Saffrin,” says Lenny. “My dad worked for him as a busboy and waiter. Saffrin was a gambler and my father won the restaurant in a card game from Saffrin in 1938 and that’s how it became Moishes.”

“Moishe became a mentor to me,” says Forgione who was once the executive chef at the restaurant. “He’s the reason why I do what I do.”

#MoishesSteakhouseFact: You can actually enjoy the legendary Moishes Coleslaw on chef Forgione’s hot dogs at Chez Tousignant.

After Moishes, it was time to bid chef Forgione adieu so we could prepare for our evening with some of Montreal’s top chefs to collaborate on exciting new recipes. We went into the evening inspired by what we had experienced, tasted and talked about all day.                                                                                                                                        

The first stop was Le Diplomate, a chic, yet cozy, hidden gem nestled into the city’s Mile-Ex – I believe it’s called Mile End neighbourhood and home to chef Aaron Langille.

Chef Langille’s perspective on flavour has been shaped by stints in Barcelona, Copenhagen and California, so we were eager to see what he’d do with some of our favourite products: La Grille Fiery Habanero & Roasted Garlic Seasoning and Club House® Crushed Red Pepper.

His Spicy Braised Pork with Baijimo-Style Bun and Red-Pepper Dip was more than on point. It was outstanding and so easy to prepare. It qualifies as a dish that’ll keep your guests coming back.

Following Le Diplomat, we made our way to Provisions Restaurant in the upscale, tree-lined neighbourhood of Outremont — home to chef partners Hakim Rahal and Pablo Rojas.

Originally introduced by mutual friends, this pair eventually began to build their dream restaurant concept together; complete with a menu that changes daily plus the addition of Provisions Wine Bar + Butcher. With Club House® Black Pepper, Restaurant Grind and La Grille Fiery Habanero & Roasted Garlic Seasoning in hand, they made the fall’s hottest new appetizer — a Beef Tartare with Black Pepper Aioli & Fiery Habanero & Roasted Garlic Chips — that can be served tapas-style or right at the bar. Any leftover aioli makes for a delicious dip or sandwich spread.

Next up was dessert at Arthurs Nosh Bar, a delicious Jewish deli on Notre accen circonflex on o. Dame West in St. Henri. Run by chefs Reagan Steinberg and Alex Cohen, it’s known for its unique take on a traditional deli concept through the fusion of Moroccan and Jewish flavours. For their dish, Reagan and Alex combined the cumin and cardamom flavours in Club House® Garam Masala with the mild, buttery-like notes of Club House® Roasted Garlic and Peppers Seasoning to make Garam Masala-Spiced Vanilla-Glazed Sufganiyot— a delicious new doughnut dessert topped with grated crystallized hard cheese, flaky salt and Club House® Peppercorn Mélange. Its combination of sweet and savoury flavours make it a unique and welcome addition to  any holiday menu.

Our last stop in Montreal to wrap up the 2019 Coast-to-Coast Tour, was Impasto in Little Italy to meet back up with its executive chef (and executive chef of Chez Tousignant, Pizzeria GEMA and Vesta), Michele Forgione. His spice of choice was the Club House® Peppercorn Melange, which he used in a to-die-for Cacio e Pepe. Forgione acknowledges Cacio e Pepe is back in a big way and he couldn’t wait to do his own super-simple take on it.

“I toast the black pepper at the beginning before grinding it to let all of the essential oils come out and bloom,” he says.

Our jaunt through the 514 was a blast and so eye-opening. The stories, the characters, the restaurant settings and, of course, the food. Montreal is a wonderfully unique and exciting destination for chefs and foodservice operators. We can’t wait to come back.

In fact, we can’t wait to return to any of the places we visited on our tour. Our country is a hotbed of culinary talent and we’re thrilled our products will continue to be key ingredients for the top culinary professionals that continue to elevate Canada’s food scene.

Looking to relive this year’s Coast-to-Coast Tour and all the recipes that came with it? Head to Instagram and check out all the savoury action @CH4Chefs / #CHCoast2Coast.

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