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Montreal Smoked Meat


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This continues a thread begun under the title of Katz's Pastrami in the NY forum.

There Steve W recommends Snowdon Del and Schwartz's Hebrew National. His recommendations are solid. Schwartz's is the better-known and closer to the normal tourist haunts in Old Montreal. Amusingly despite the name, for many years it has been owned and run by Greek restauranteurs.

Snowdon Delicatessen is in the Snowdon--Notre Dame de Grace neighborhood of Montreal, famous for among its many other attractions for the Notre Dame de Grace Kosher Meat Market. One of the few instances where Our Lady has graced kosher meat. Although out of the way from the familiar down-town haunts, for those driving to Montreal from the States, it is conveniently located on the Decarie surface service road adjoining the Decarie Expressway (at this point I think it is TransCanada 10 or 15, but I don't have a map to refresh my memory). The Decarie Expressway is the major north-south route at this end of Montreal. It is one of the many routes into which the norhtbound Champlain Bridge traffic discharges. Snowdon Delicatessen is on the east side of the expressway, north of Sherbrooke and Queen Mary, south of Isabella. It is a very convenient stop on a drive into the city, if Decarie construction has not turned the Expressway into a parking lot, a common occurence at rush hour.

SteveW confirmed this recently and I have suspected it for awhile. Snowdon's smoked meat is not of their own creation, while Schwartz's still prepares its own, certainly a plus. A few months ago I bought a whole brisket at Snowdon's and it was a cryovac Levitt's product. Levitt's is one of the big meat processors in Montreal. The cryovac brisket is convenient (and legal) for bringing to the US, but it is not the artisanal product wrapped in butcher paper that I remember from my early adventures in the smoked meat trade.

The strength of Snowdon's smoked meat lies in the skill of their preparing and hand-slicing the meat, coupled with volume and turn-over. The meat is freshly steamed and sliced to order by experienced counter-men. You can order it fat as well as lean and medium. Snowdon's also makes a mean chopped liver, with sauteed onions, as well as the normal range of turkey, tongue, white-fish and lox. Their cole slaw and Rumanian smoked eggplant salad are incredibly tasty. The eggplant in partiuclar is owrht ordering and bulk and taking home. It is one staple of the Montreal shiva meal. Snowdon's are open for early dinner, but the time to go is lunch when the smoked meat is flying off the counter.

Don't even mention Ben's and Dunn's. Ben's is down-town, run-down, and open late, otherwise it would have (and should have) folded years ago. The one time I went there not only was the food horrible, but the men's room floor was decorated with the results of late night revels.

Another old-line delicatessen is Chinoy's, further into the Anglo-Jewish suburbs of Montreal. The first time I tasted it was about 25 years ago at a Montreal reunion which they catered in Boston. I had been meaning to try them again. It was a mistake when I finally tried them a few years ago. The quality in their restaurant was abysmal.

I am placing my next post in the cooking forum, title, Montreal Smoked Meat, II, description how to serve it at home.

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VivreManger, the whole brisket that you purchased from the Snowdon Deli. Was it the Old Fashioned or the Regular smoked meat? They do carry both(not everybody knows that)? It's news to me, that Levitt's is supplying their smoked meat. Over the years, I've heard different name of companies apparently supplying Snowdon Deli with the smoked meat, & I don't remember the Levitt's name ever coming up. Snowdon Delicatessen has a bit weird hours, as they open early & close early(close daily around 8pm).

Chenoy's smoked meat the last time I checked(around 2 years ago), was a straight commercial smoked meat product(wasn't too good, when I ordered there at the time). Chenoy's even tried opening a downtown location around 6-7 years ago, but it didn't last too long.

Lester's, known for their delicatessen & having 'their' own smoked meat(they make the sandwich sized smoked meat packages, & sell it to the public). I don't know if I'm being feed misinformation or not, but I've been hearing rumblings in the last year or two, they don't actually make their own smoked meat. Could this be true? I thought they were one of the few commercial smoked meat makers, in addtion to being a delicatessen. Any one, clear this up for me?

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Steve

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Vivre,

Steve raises a good point by asking if you had the regular or the old fashioned smoked meat brisket from Snowdon Deli. In my opinion there is a great difference between the two. I much prefer the old fashioned. The regular is lacking in taste and spiciness. It is what I would expect to find served on white bread with mayonnaise - both looking and tasting like a commercial sandwich meat. The old fashioned is succulent. In both looks and tastes it epitomizes what the smoked meat experience should be.

Your mention of Levitt's brings back incredible memories. Although it might be a commercial manufacturing venture now, I remember it as a restaurant on The Main(Boulevard St Laurent) just south of Mount Royal on the east side.

At the time(probably 50 years ago), it was THE smoked meat experience in Montreal. I can remember looking forward to Saturday night dinner there. My mother and I would stand in line waiting for the Sabbath to be over and the restaurant to open. Then I would order my regular, a medium smoked meat sandwich(I wanted fat, but my mom wouldn't allow that) with double mustard, french fries and a black cherry soda. This routine lasted for years, until Levitt's decided to go into commercial manufacturing and shut down the restaurant. It comes as no surprise to me that Snowdon's meat is made by Levitt's because they always were the best.

Porkpa

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porkpa, until a couple of years ago, Levitt's still had their St. Laurent location(might be at the same address, where they had their restaurant). I think, they finally moved following a fire or something along those lines. There new location is in Lasalle. Would you know, when the Levitt's restaurant closed?

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Steve

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I do apologize.  I don't consider anything but old fashioned, smoked meat. 

The other stuff, forget it.

What I've noticed over the years, is that some of the Montreal smoked meat restaurants, that serve the both regular & old fashioned smoked meat, call their regular smoked meat 'pastrami.' Either officially(listed on their menu) or unofficially(not listed as such). For example, I remember one Smoked Meat restaurant advertising in a magazine aimed at tourists(good portion of the readership would be Americans), list among other things, smoked meat & pastrami. When I inquired about their pastrami, it turns out they were refering to their regular smoked meat. Montrealers who diss NY pastrami, often say that pastrami is similiar to regular smoked meat(or the inferior commercial smoked meat available).

------------------

Steve

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Snowdon's smoked meat is not of their own creation, while Schwartz's still prepares its own, certainly a plus.

Why? Shouldn't the only relevant criterion be how good the smoked meat is? A superior product made off-premises is, to me, always preferable to an inferior product made on-premises.

Especially in modern times, when fire and environmental codes make it difficult and expensive for urban establishments (new ones in particular) to engage in on-premises smoking, it's natural that production will move to the industrial outlying areas of any given city. So long as the result is a good product, I'm happy.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Montrealers who diss NY pastrami, often say that pastrami is similiar to regular smoked meat

Indeed, the pastrami served at the average deli anywhere in the United States is quite similar to the regular (non-old-fashioned) smoked meat I've sampled in Montreal, whereas the old-fashioned Montreal smoked meat is comparable to the pastrami served at good Jewish delis in New York or other cities where good Jewish delis still exist.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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FG, do many of the major NYC delis make their own pastrami? The others must I presume, get their pastrami product from a commercial pastrami maker, made to their specifications(that's how Snowdon Deli does it). Are their any commercial NY pastrami product in stores and/or delis, that's really good?

----------------

Steve

Edited by SteveW (log)
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Off the top of my head I can't think of a single major New York deli that makes pastrami on premises. Katz's has its pastrami made by a place in Albany (which is run by former employees). I'm pretty sure you can just call the place up and get the exact same product by mail-order: 800 274-7538; buypastrami.com. Many others are using Hebrew National or other commercial products -- it's amazing how palatable these can be if you steam and slice them well. I think Artie's has someone on the outside making pastrami according to the old Bernstien's on Essex recipe. But I don't know of anyone making the stuff on premises these days.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 6 months later...

My wife and I are deli nuts, we LOVE deli food. So much so that we blew off reservations at a supposedly good Portuguese seafood restaurant Ferreira Café to eat a Chez Schwartz’s one evening.

While one probably can’t explain smoked meat, I’ll try. Think a not very peppered pastrami w/a slight corned beef brine flavor. There, simple as I’ll make it. Oh, the cut of beef is the brisket.

We dined at two of Montreal’s most famous smoked meat restaurants.

First was Schwartz’s, a tiny (6 table and a counter) diner. Schwartz’s consisted of old sweaty men serving and slicing Montreal’s deli gold, smoked meat. Nothing fancy, ancient counters.

We sat down at the counter and ordered. One is give a plate w/vinegar cole slaw and a pickle. Slaw was good, pickle could have been crisper.

I order a sandwich; I’m asked fat or lean. Fat of course because fat is where the flavor is. Wife orders a combo smoked chicken and lean smoked meat plate. We both order cherry colas to wash down the food.

The fat meat is cut from the deckle or lifter or (myriad of other names for the flap of meat above the brisket), yes it was fatty, but what good flavor and the fat kept it moist. A most enjoyable sandwich. I noticed that as my wife was eating the smoked chicken sandwich first, the lean smoked meat became dry. I did not think the lean had near as much flavor as the fat meat did.

Smoked chicken was ok, but nothing special.

Fries were good and greasy. Thank God we walked almost everywhere.

A couple days later we had Ben’s for lunch. The location we went to is a much larger operation than Schwartz’s but still stuck in the 50’s in term of decoration. Waiters wear white shirts w/black bow ties.

Ben’s meat had much more of a corned beef flavor to it and was not a peppery as Schwartz’s. The bite of Ben’s smoked meat was very mushy as well. While a good sandwich, I definitely give the nod to Schwartz’s.

Best smoked meat (according to the Montreal Mirror)

1. Schwartz's

(3895 St-Laurent, 842-4813)

2. Dunn's

(892 Ste-Catherine W., 866-4377)

3. Ben's

(990 de Maisonneuve W., 844-1000)

4. Nickels (various locations)

5. Main

(3864 St-Laurent, 843-8126)

Some other Montreal smoked meat places that were not mentioned but that I read about or saw: Wilensky’s, Snowdon, Rubens, Lesters.

"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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Dunn's, Ben's, and Nickels are blasphemous! Lesters and Snowdon deli are pretty good, but as much as I enjoy the occasional smoked meat sandwich with fries, Cafe Fereirra on a bad day is light years beyond even the best sandwich in town.

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While one probably can’t explain smoked meat, I’ll try. Think a not very peppered pastrami w/a slight corned beef brine flavor. There, simple as I’ll make it. Oh, the cut of beef is the brisket.

Although I'm not a fan of the stuff, I've been on a long and so-far fruitless quest to learn how smoked meat is made. As I wrote on another board, "A homesick Montrealer once asked me to find a recipe for smoked meat. Despite spending hours combing the Web and searching through cookbooks, I came up with naught. Some aficionados claim it's unique, a thing unto itself; others say it's a kind of cross between corned beef and pastrami. According to my information, it's not brined, which rules out a corned beef connection. I suspect it's very much like pastrami: rubbed with spices, dry-cured (no marinade) and smoked. The main difference would be the spice mixture. As I understand it, pastrami is cured with a mixture of sweet and savoury spices. But the roots of smoked meat are in eastern Europe (some say Lithuania, some say Romania). Sweet spices (e.g. cinnamon, clove, cardamon) were expensive and so were saved for use in flavouring breads, pastries and desserts. My guess is that the smoked meat rub includes corriander, pepper, garlic and sugar. But let me reiterate that this is all conjecture. Maybe somebody who actually knows what they're talking about will reply..."

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Sadly, in most of today's smoked meat, most of the "spices" come from the chemical companies rather than the spice markets. Few if any restaurants actually smoke their own briskets (regardless of what they tell their customers) but rather purchase them in bulk from producers such as Lesters or Schneiders, etc.

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Hello carswell,

Smoked meat is essentially corned beef that has been smoked(essentially the same as pastrami).

The Montreal Smoked meat is found in all corners of montreal in all nieghbourhoods. Most of the smoked meat is overly processed water pumped mass of goo.

I have made brisket in a smoked meat style.

I brined the brisket in a salt and sugar brine and added;

pepper

coriander

allspice

cloves

bay leaves

hot pepper

other things too but I can't recall.

Essentially a generic pickling spice mix you would use to make bubbie's salt brined pickled cucumbers.

I let it sit in the fridge for 5-7 days

then put it in the smoker for most of the day or however log your patience can take.

I finished of the meat by steaming it and then hand slicing it for sandwiches.

MMMMMM.

I just want to express what most people from Montreal should know is Smoked Meat (and pastrami) should be cut by hand not sliced in a slicer. It tastes better and has a better texture.

By the way it will be a long time before I have smoked meat at Dunns. The last time I was there the meat had the texture of a sponge. You could not tell that it was meat at all. Brisket is a little stringy, not one bit of stringyness was there. It was more like the dreaded evil flavoured tofu. Blech :wacko:

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Unfortunately I LOVE smoked meat. As my appetite for it increased so has my waistline!. Over the last several years I have been a diciple of the church of "Schwartz"

I simply belived it's Montreal's only smoked meat. Dunn's, Lester's, Ben's and god forbid Nickel's I am convinced are just a step above the smoked meat that come in little packages that you can buy in the super markets. LAtely I have found Schwartz's quality slipping, often too dry, almost unedible. Tonight after much harrassing from friends I went to the West Island to Abie's. I was THRILLED! The smoked meat, fries, were better than "Schwartz" I haven't had that kind of quality at "Schwartz" in a long time

It also has no lineup and air conditioning, lots of elbow room, polite servie and clean! They do need to work on their slaw & pickles. There is lots garlic in their slaw.

Anyways if you like smoked meat give it a try, you will be pleased.

Abie's 3980 Boul St-Jean D.D.O

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I grew up hating smoked meat and never understood why people would plough through the stuff with such relish until I tried Smoke Meat Pete's late last year. I loved it. It didn't have that overly briny, slightly chemical taste that I remember from Dunn's.

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:raz: Last two times I went to Schwartzs' I had to return the smoked meat sandwiches because they were to dry...had ordered them medium. Dunn's has not been on Ste. Catherine St. for the last several years. Do not miss it in the least, especially their smoked meat. The last time I went there I compared their large coke with a regular and they both turned out to be the same except for the price. Ate last night at the newest Deli in town "Delicieux" on Phillips Square in the heart of downtown Montreal. Had the best smoked meat I have ever eaten. The second part of their name "cieux" means sky or heavenly in French. Our group of six concur. The coleslaw and pickle, home made french fries were great. Service was quick and friendly. The owner came over to the table to ask how we enjoyed the meal. A first at a deli for me. He mentioned that the smoked meat was of the dry cured variety and not pumped...I am only finding out what all this means by reading other posts.
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Whenever I'm in Montréal, a stop at Schwartz's is a must! I've never been disappointed and only wish I could get that quality of smoked meat here in Windsor :sad:

Cheese: milk’s leap toward immortality – C.Fadiman

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whenever my family or friends visit from outside of montreal, they have to do all the montreal things, including absolutely going to schwartz's... I never complain about it. but when it comes to going to the old port to see jugglers at place jaques cartier or going to st. josephs...

"Bells will ring, ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting.... the bell... bing... 'moray" -John Daker

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