Exploring Montreal Brands

May 5, 2007 at 7:54 am (Product Reviews)


I’ve just moved to Montreal and I’m unfamiliar with all the brands, so I’m going to have to rediscover which brands of soymilk, tofu, whole wheat pasta, etc. I prefer. I’ll record my impressions here. Check back for more entries, or leave a comment with your favorite brands (or least favorite)!

Yogurt

  • I tried the local brand that comes in a jar (can’t remember the name) but I found it lumpy and sour, just like the local Pennsylvania brand I used to try occasionally. I know that’s how “real yogurt” is supposed to taste, but it’s just not for me.
  • Lately I’ve been buying Spring Valley’s / Belle Vallee 1.5% milkfat cow’s yogurt at Segal. (I haven’t seen it at any other stores.) It’s a bit expensive, but quite thick and tasty with a good texture. It does have additives like corn starch to help with the texture though. Just checked and apparently it’s made by yoplait.ca / Ultima foods, and is not organic. I’m not sure where the milk comes from–somewhere in Canada I would imagine, which means it’s at least rBGH free.

Soymilk

  • Natura soy: tastes pretty good, organic, has calcium added, low calorie. It’s a bit beany tasting, but I like my soymilk to taste like soybeans. What’s not to like? (Cheapest at Segal’s on St. Laurent.)
  • So nice: organic but chalky and too thick, no calcium added.
  • Vitsaoy: I used to drink this one way back when. It’s not bad. I bought the light original with 4g of sugar and 60 calories. It has calcium added, but the flavor wasn’t as good as the Natura.

Tofu

  • Unisoya: the firm tofu was hard as a rock, and it tasted sour. I tried the Unisoya soft next and it was still hard as a rock and tasted terrible. Definitely not recommended. Apparently Unisoya is a large milk producer in Canada, and branched out into soy products to get a foot in the non-dairy market.
  • I’ve been buying another brand at Eden in the La Cite shopping mall, which comes in a water-packed box and is quite nice: silky but medium firm. The label says Sunrise Soya, but also has Chinese characters on it. The address for Sunrise Soya is in Vancouver, and apparently this company has been making tofu for over 50 years.
  • At Segal’s I buy a kind that comes in a big round tupperware, labeled Les Aliments Wah Hoa Inc. It’s a soft silky tofu that’s quite tasty as well. There are multiple small 4 ounce blocks in the container. I couldn’t find anything about this company on Google, except that their address is in Montreal.
  • I’ve been meaning to try out h & s tofu, which is apparently a small local producer of soymilk, tofu, tempeh etc., with a shop on Parc, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.
  • Silken, dry-packed tofu, the kind packed in the same boxes as shelf-stable soymilk. This is available in Montreal, but more expensive than in the states (where I could find it for $1 at the Chinese grocery). I’ve gotten it at Segal’s, and at Eden’s, and probably elsewhere. It’s nice because it lasts in the fridge for a long time. However, if I have the fresh silken kind around (either Wah Hoa or the kind from Eden) I’ve been using that instead–it seems to work almost as well.
  • Lagatta in a comment recommended Horium tofu, and I’m not sure if I’ve tried it yet. She says she gets it at Merci Vrac at Jean Talon.

Cheese

  • Skotidakis goat milk feta: I bought this at a fancy cheese shop, but it was hard and tasteless. I threw it out.
  • There’s a goat milk gouda at Fruiterie du Plateau on Roy that’s marvelous, although not cheap.

Sauces:

  • Annie’s salad dressing: I saw their Goddess dressing in someone’s recycling bin, which makes me suspect you can get it in Montreal. But where?
  • La Costena home style medium mexican salsa. I was desperate for salsa, and this is all I could find. It was terrible. It tasted more like tomato sauce than salsa. Not recommended.

Bread

  • Stonemill bread, sprouted grains, 100% whole grains. It has a short ingredient list that includes flax seeds, sprouted wheat, oat flakes, and sourdough. The flavor was pretty good, but it’s a bit high at 120 calories per slice.

Pasta

  • Italpasta whole wheat lasagne. Good flavor and pretty good flavor. I cooked the noodles first, but not quite all the way. They held together well and were cooked fine in the final lasagne.

Miscellaneous:

  • Europe’s best frozen wild fruit. I liked the wild blueberries as much as the Wyman’s blueberries I used to get in the states. The bag is more expensive but larger. Recommended. Their frozen raspberries are fine too. Their frozen mango was a weird powdery taste (could they have added cornstarch to it?), and the frozen pineapple tasted rotten (although perhaps it was just left out of the freezer at the store?)
  • Nut butters. I tried the local brand (can’t remember the name) of sun butter that they sell at all the health food stores around here. I didn’t care for it at all, even after adding a bit of honey. I *loved* their macadamia/cashew butter though, and if you buy it at Segal’s it’s not even that expensive.

Commensal frozen dinners: (Cheapest at Segal’s on St. Laurent.)

  • Commensal Provencal Tortiglioni Pasta (freezer): Commensal is a local vegetarian buffet, which apparently also sells frozen dinners. This one was okay. Pretty good stats (290cal, 5g sat fat, 500g sodium, good vitamin/mineral levels) but only 4g fiber. The texture was good, but again it tasted a bit strongly of some dried herb. I’ll try some of the other flavors but this one won’t be my first pick (although ok in a pinch).
  • Commensal vegetable couscous: I don’t know what they do to this couscous but it’s got an unusual mouthfeel, and is extremely tasty. The vegetables and tomato sauce and chickpeas are nice too. 310 calories, .5g sat fat, 5g fiber, 10g protein, 25% vit A, 6% vit C, 6% calcium, 15% iron. Recommended.
  • Commensal chinese stirfry: the seitan was totally tasteless, and the rest was white pasta with just a bit of red bell pepper. Pretty bland, and low in nutrients. Not recommended.
  • Commensal shepherd’s pie: I’ve never been a fan of mashed potatoes, shepherd’s pie, or TVP, but somehow this combo just really does the trick. It’s very tasty, filling, comfort food for only 300 calories.
  • Commensal macaroni and cheese: this was surprisingly bland tasting. I had to add salt and pepper to get it to taste like anything. It turns out it’s only about 22% fat, which is incredibly low for macaroni and cheese. The ingredient list includes butternut squash, which maybe explains the low fat value, but in my opinion it’s so bland it’s not worth buying, and certainly not worth 400 calories.

Other frozen dinners:

  • President’s choice penne with roasted vegetable: this was reasonably tasty, with whole wheat pasta, and a bit of vegetables, and a slightly cheesy tomato sauce: 320 calories, 2.5g sat fat, 9g fiber, 14g protein, vit A 10%, vit C 20%, calcium 20%, iron 20%. Recommended.
  • Michelina penne primavera: Creamy but bland sauce, not enough veggies, and white tasteless pasta. 340 calories and not very filling. Not recommended.
  • President’s choice reduced fat roasted vegetable lasagna was surpisingly tasty! The red peppers were quite crisp and fresh tasting, and the tomato sauce was excellent–not too sweet and not too dried herb-y. One of the better frozen lasagnas I’ve had. It has 320 calories, 4g saturated fat, 4g fiber, and is 22% and 21% fat and protein respectively. It also has 15% vit A, 35% vit C, 30% calcium, and 15% iron. Not the most amazing stats in the world, but respectable for a TV dinner that actually tastes good. The ingredients are pretty reasonable too: pasta, then tomatoes, then vegetables, followed by cheese, tomato paste, and herbs, trailed by a few less homestyle ingredients, but nothing too awful. Plus the cardboard is 60% post consumer recyled! Highly recommended.

Other prepared foods:

  • Veggie Gourmet roast wheat (fridge): supposedly a form of sliced “roast beef” for sandwiches. This wasn’t terrible but not great either. It’s a high-protein food with a very strong flavor. I thought it was okay on a sandwich, except for an overwhelming flavor of dried thyme. Yikes, what were they thinking? I did like the texture though.
  • Nile dehydrated lentil soup (pantry): I really liked this one. It’s rich tasting and satisfying. It’s salty but otherwise very healthy: 190 calories, no sat fat, 11g fiber, 11g protein, 70% vit A, 8% vit C, 8% calcium, 20% iron. I bought this somewhere in Montreal and now I can’t remember where? Anyone know?
  • Primo Lentil soup (can): vaguely reminiscent of progresso lentil soup, but not nearly as flavorful. Not recommended.
  • President’s choice macaroni and cheese (frozen). Not organic. 530 calories with a day’s worth of saturated fat and 1/2 a day’s sodium. Tasty, in that cafeteria macaroni and cheese way, but full of artificial ingredients. Not recommended.
  • Plaisirs Gastronomiques spinach quiche (frozen). 480 calories, but only 6g saturated fat. Surprisingly flavorless. didn’t taste like spinach or fat or much of anything. Not recommended.
  • I tried a mushrom terrine (fridge) from Vrac at Jean Talon and the first time I really liked it as a spread for bread but this last time it reminded me too much of liver or something (not that I’ve ever had liver) and threw it out.

4 Comments

  1. austingardener said,

    One wouldn’t know that June had arrived by your blog. Are you still exploring Montreal brands. We need a new report.

  2. Mabel said,

    To keep you going for a bit – here’s my livejournal page with some product reviews, of products you can find in Montreal (I’m in the West Island.)

  3. Maria Gatti said,

    Hi, saw your blog on chowhound – nice antidote to the overly meat-heavy preferences of so many of our fellow Montréal foodies!

    Horium makes excellent organic tofu here, nice and silky (but firm). I hate unisoya. You can find Horium at Alfalfa at the Jean-Talon market. http://www.horium.com

    Yoghourt: I am allergic to cow’s milk, so Liberté goat’s milk yoghourt. Rather thick, though not too high in fat (I don’t eat gallons of low-fat stuff).

    Feta: You should have grated the Skotidakis goat’s milk feta – it is great in cooking. I prefer ewe’s milk for salads – a very nice one at the ewe’s milk cheese place in Jean-Talon market.

    I have some goat’s milk ricotta from Skotidakis – am making a ricotta tart (like a quiche, but less egg) with Basque espelette peppers (see chowhound, but of course the boys are making a lamb dish with it).

    Bread: Have you tried the organic sesame bread (sort of like a flattened baguette) at Première moisson? I also like the heavy rye Polish bread at Wawel – slice it very thin.

    Italpasta also makes very broad wholegrain noodles that are great to make a sort-of lasagna or kugel-type casserole.

  4. Joshua Dunfield said,

    “Annie’s salad dressing: I saw their Goddess dressing in someone’s recycling bin, which makes me suspect you can get it in Montreal. But where?”

    Rachelle-Béry carries it (the main (?) store at Rachel & Berri, at least).

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