A visit to Montreal’s Nutcracker Market

A little while ago an artist I know who has a booth at Montreal’s Nutcracker Market (Marché Casse-Noisette) told me she had arranged for me to attend their media evening. I missed last year’s media/guest evening and was curious so I dropped by on Wednesday  even though as a freelance journalist I don’t usually write about food, wine or fashion.

This is the fourth year Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, the ballet company that performs The Nutcracker at Place des Arts every year around Christmas, is organizing  a philanthropic market. Ten per cent of the exhibitors’ proceeds and all the proceeds from the Grands Ballets’ booth at the market go to the Nutcracker Fund for Children, created by Les Grands Ballets to make it possible for underprivileged children to see a free performance of The Nutcracker.

The market opened officially yesterday at the Palais des Congrès de Montréal. If you’re looking for unique Christmas and holiday gifts I would certainly recommend it. Many exhibitors are small businesses, often family run. You meet people who are passionate about what they’re selling, even if they don’t always make a lot of money from pursuing their dreams.

There was, of course, my connection, Claudia B. of Bijoutia. I won’t go into much detail here because I plan to write a story, but her jewellery and creations, made from recycled materials, including computer parts, bank cards, programs from last year’s Nutcracker Market event and silver cutlery, are stunning. She has colourful and fun belt buckles made from motherboards that have messages such as “NYC” for a black, NYC-themed one or “Sexy” or even “Help,”  necklaces and earrings made from computer keyboard keys, rings in orange and black with the words Canon or Nikon, clocks made from computer motherboards and parts, and clips and cuff-links with the Nutcracker theme. I love the silver elephant and whale necklaces and how she uses bits from vinyl records as a backdrop for some of the earrings.

Claudia B. at Casse-Noisette
Claudia B stands inside her stall at this year’s Nutcracker Market
Photo: Courtesy of Claudia’s Facebook page

The media evening allowed me a chance to try a number of different wines on sale at the market. It surprised me to discover that one of the wines, called Omerto, is made in the Charlevoix region from organic, heirloom tomatoes. Had I not been told this, I would think it was just a very good white wine that’s enjoyable with appetizers such as fruit or cheese.

Grand Esprit from Domaine du Kildare, is made from pure maple syrup but you would never guess this right away. I didn’t try everything but I believe there was also a wine made from honey. The market offers a lot of choice if you’re looking for local ciders, wines and other alcoholic beverages.

The market has 76 stalls and while I did a quick tour, I didn’t have time to visit all of them. There were some I avoided as well. For instance, I don’t eat foie gras so there was no point in tasting one exhibitor’s specialty foods.  I was happily surprised when a rep from Chocolaterie Douce Soeur offered a sample of their chocolate. I recognized the salty chocolate/caramel flavour as the chocolate my boyfriend had bought me for a special occasion. I learned the name Douce Soeur translates as Sweet Sister and the two women owners are sisters who are using a family recipe and making chocolates that you just won’t find anywhere else. One of the sisters lives out West and runs the business as Sweet Sister, while the other sister runs Douce Soeur here in Montreal.

I enjoyed a chocolate truffle sample from CAO. But I’m such a chocoholic I would never refuse chocolate.

It thrilled me to see my favourite place in Montreal for macarons, La Maison du Macaron, has a booth at the market. The couple who own the business are chefs from France and their macarons are the real and delicious deal.

Manga Thé was an interesting discovery. I liked their bento boxes (Japanese lunch boxes) and tea accessories but found it interesting that they sell them alongside mangas. The guy I spoke with apologized that the mangas were available only in French.

I wasn’t sure what to make of It Works, a company whose products include body contouring wraps, defining gels, nutritional greens and skin care products. But I enjoyed a chat with the sales rep (her name might have been Shelley Mackenzie)  and hearing her talk about how she and her husband had especially benefited from the products.

As I was heading out, a woman stopped me. She said the $16 nail files at her booth last a lifetime. She asked to work on my nails and then used another one of their products to buff one fingernail, explaining that she was improving my health and the health of my nail in doing so. I’m hardly a girly girl type and not much into nail care products and I’m often skeptical but her enthusiasm impressed me. I can’t remember the name of that booth except to say that the Cosmitty’s products are colourful and the packaging for the nail files makes them look as though they’re sitting in test tubes.

The Nutcracker Market runs from Thursday November 28 to Sunday Dec. 8, 2013

Opening Hours

Monday to Wednesday 11 a.m.- 7 p.m.
Thursdays & Fridays 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

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A visit to Montreal’s Nutcracker Market

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