The French know a lot about love. They have a certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to romance and to food. In Montreal, that passion gets channeled into the creation of sweet treats and baked goodies of all descriptions. That’s what makes it a perfect place to explore all things delicious and delectable, especially around Valentine’s Day.
As you explore the city savoring a warm pain au chocolat in hand and share nibbles of artisan chocolate, it’s hard not to get swept up in the city’s charms—and hopefully each other’s, too. At least, that’s the plan. Sugar, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways, in this case, seven to be exact.
1. Je T’aime En Chocolate Show
From February 10-12 at Montreal’s Marche Bonsecours, the annual Je T’aime en Chocolate event, now in its sixth year, draws people who positively swoon over chocolate and just can’t get enough. With 25 vendors on hand—many doling out free samples, cooking and baking seminars, a chocolate-themed fashion show, chocolate fountains and some pretty freaky chocolate foods, it’s a full-on love fest. And about U.S. $1.50 for an admission ticket, it’s a cheap date that is sure to get those endorphins flowing like a stream.
2. Sweet Isabelle
Photo courtesy of Sweet Isabelle
How do you prefer your Valentine’s Day treats—naughty or nice? Fortunately, Sweet Isabelle is a very creative bakery that offers both options. When you’re seeking to spice things up, pick up a few spicy shortbread cookies, depicting sexual positions inspired by the Kama Sutra. They are four variations to satiate appetites of all sorts. For something a bit tamer, nab a tin of decorated cookies featuring favorite lacy lingerie items, like a sexy corset, stocking and garter and frilly panties. Plus there’s strictly G-rated fare, like iced teddy bears, cute kitties and pink pigs.
3. Maison Christian Faure
Photo courtesy of Maison Christian Faure
This bakery started with a location in the Old Port area by French (by way of France) master Christian Faure, an award-winning pastry chef considered among the very best in Canada. Beautiful rows of pastries, sit under glass in the salon like exquisite jewels. For Valentine’s Day, it offers The You and Me Cake, rolled sponge cake with passionfruit and raspberry mousseline filling, white chocolate ganache coating, decorated with real gold leaf and show girl-caliber red feathers. And a Say It with Flowers edible bouquet with candy apples, sugar cookies, macarons, nougat and marshmallows. Love to get dirty? Sign up you and your beloved for a six-hour workshop created for serious amateurs around subjects like puff pastry, brioche or éclairs.
4. San Pietro
Photo courtesy of San Pietro
Along with a plethora of French bakeries, the city also has a good number of Italian ones. Located near the sprawling Jean Talon Market in Little Italy, this family-run business has been making Italian-style pastries, like ricotta cannoli, bread and cakes since 1979. Around Valentine’s day, the shelves at San Pietro are well stocked with heart-themed treats, including cupcakes that say “I love you” in your choice of three languages—French, Italian and English—XOX sugar cookies and cakes with icing thick enough to make your teeth hurt.
5. Patrice Pâtissier
When it comes to top 10 lists for pastry shops, this one not far from the Atwater Market always ranks high. It’s a sleek looking place doubling as a café, ideal for those wanting to pair dessert with the best Croque-Monsieur sandwich this side of Paris. And for lovers of exquisite pastry, Patrice Pâtissier (pictured at top) has kindly removed the tortuous aspects of deciding which to try with a special tasting box created for Valentine’s Day—a kind of greatest hits of pastry with a white chocolate tartlet, cream puff with coffee and hazelnuts and chocolate mousse—perfect for sharing, if you like your date enough.
6. Divine Chocolatier
Photo courtesy of Divine Chocolatier
On the surface, this chocolate shop around since 1978 may seem innocent with its classic heart-shaped boxes filled with truffles and pretty chocolates, but there’s a hidden wickedness that is so, well, seductive. Divine Chocolatier sells chocolate body paint, brush included, and the most triple X-rated chocolate in town. If your date has been going really well and there’s a possibility of some skin-on-skin action, then send a hint with this Kama Sutra dark chocolate bar featuring the hijinks four horny adults might get up to. Be careful where you nibble.
7. Leché Desserts
Maybe your date isn’t a fancy pants and those chic French pastries just wouldn’t impress him or her much. In that case, go the donut route. Not just any type, but artisan ones, hand made in front of you in an open kitchen. Along with vegan varieties and more exotic fare, like lime coconut, carrot cake, tiramisu and caramel pecan sticky toffee, you’ll find special editions for Valentine’s Day at Leché Desserts pretty in pink convections and others sprinkled with cinnamon hearts, plus cheeky cookies that say: “How are you doughing?” Sold!
Michele Sponagle is a prolific journalist based in a small town outside of Toronto. She has eaten and drunk in more than 70 countries, from guinea pig in Peru to a sour toe cocktail in the Yukon. Follow her on Twitter @Msponagle and on Instagram @michele_sponagle.