Jewish food, particularly baked goods, has always hit the spot with me. There is a heartiness to it that warms the soul and tickles the tastebuds. This is no more evident than at a little Mile End heimishe bakery known as Cheskie. It makes sense – heimishe traditionally means ‘homely and warm’. And while I wouldn’t classify the feisty queue of hankering customers rivaling for service in the modest bakery as ‘homely’, the delicious goods which are their bounty certainly fall under this definition.
Cheskie is the place in Montreal for authentic Jewish baked goods. With an undisputed reputation amongst the area’s Hasidim – on any given day, the store is brimming with black, white and felt – Cheskie is your one-stop-shop for your sweet kosher fix.
Glistening in the window are four different types of rugelach – poppy, cinnamon, jam and chocolate – which seem to accompany most customers out the door. But my tip is to try the larger poppyseed rugelach – or danish – which are an immaculate combination of moist pastry and sweet filling. A poppy fanatic from way back, I believe these danish are the pinnacle of perfect pastry. A little crisp on the outside and decadently moist and chewy on the inside, with light poppy flavour that doesn’t leave your stomach in a knot. If you have an eating companion, I dare you to try the full kuchen, a foot-long pastry goddess, her freckled poppy coil resplendent.
Many people trumpet the taste of Cheskie’s Russian chocolate babka: the blackened, sticky loaves that line the back shelves. Be warned, this is for serious chocolate lovers. Amongst other popular favourites are the cheese danish, lean pastry pockets enclosing a smooth, cheesy centre. For me though, the little cheese and cinnamon scrolls (usually hidden in the dairy shelves or on the back counter) are an epiphany in pastry. Really? Cheese and cinnamon? Try it and you’ll see – whoever thought of it is a genius.
As far as bakeries go, Cheskie is pretty reasonable at around $2 a pop for a danish, $10-12 for a full loaf and a handful of rugelach for $3-4. But for a taste of this sugared brilliance, it’s a steal.
So follow the hats: they know kosher best.
Cheskie Heimishe Bakery
Montreal, QC H2V 1T6
Nearest metro station: Outremont