Jul 24, 2009

Louis CK: Tonight at Metropolis for Just For Laughs

by Fiona O'Connor
If shocking, sardonic, borderline-too far stand-up comedy has never been your bag, now is the perfect time for you to finally embrace that special brand of live entertainment that makes you simultaneously cackle, cringe and pray you won't get noticed by the crazy man on stage.

Of course, for the past 2 weeks, Montreal has been the perfect place to do this, with its 27th edition of the renowned Just For Laughs Festival bringing a never-ending list of world class comedians to the city of summer festivals.

Though long sold out, I take the occasion of American comedian Louis CK's Just For Laughs performance to bring your attention to this funniest of funny-men, just in case you haven't yet become acquainted with (or should I say assaulted by?) his outrageous antics.

Be warned, Louis CK's bits are not for the faint of heart. As much as I love the guy, and tonight will be foregoing the mascara for the inevitable downpour of tears of laughter to come, I'm also bracing myself for an evening of stories and slurs the likes of which would surely make my grandparents roll in their Catholic graves.

Really, do yourself a favour, and get to know Louis, right here.

Jul 18, 2009

The Best in Barbeque: Rotisserie Romados on Rachel St.

by Fiona O'Connor
On a recent photo assignment for the food section of urban cycling magazine Momentum, I set out on a visual exploration of how cycling culture intersects with that of food in Montreal's Plateau neighbourhood.

As the city steps up its efforts to make Montreal a more cyclist-friendly place, an ever-growing network of bike paths can be found throughout the downtown core and the city's various boroughs. Especially with the recent launch of the much-hyped Bixi bike sharing service (a 24hr, pay-as-you-go bike rental system with hundreds of stations located around Montreal), Montrealers and tourists alike have the chance to conveniently cruise the city's diverse restaurants, bars, cafés and galleries, without the hassle and environmental nag of cars.

For those who don't already party-hop on their own set of (two) wheels, Bixi basically allows you to increase the city fun while decreasing your carbon footprint.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on the Plateau, a neighbourhood that boasts not only one of the highest concentrations of bars and restaurants in the city, but two of Montreal's most sprawling and beautiful green spaces: Parc Lafontaine along its eastern border and none other than Mount-Royal itself (to which Parc Jeanne-Mance lies adjacent), along its western edge.

Between these two points cyclists can traverse the maze of bike paths which lines both the neighbourhood's main arteries (Rachel, St-Urbain) as well as many of the smaller residential streets (Milton, Boyer, Masson). While Montreal, of course, has much to offer beyond the limits of the Plateau-Mile End-Old Montreal triad of culture and hipsterdom, the area serves as an excellent starting place and is home to some of the most happening streets in town: St-Denis, Duluth, St-Laurent, Prince Arthur, Laurier, and St-Viateur, just to name a few.

In terms of its product (and arguably, its patrons too), Rotisserie Romados is a far cry from the Plateau's trendy wine bars or nightlife hotspots. However, as an emblem of the neighbourhood's true cultural make-up (that which developed after being predominantly Eastern European Jewish - see Richler's The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz- but preceded it as being the stomping grounds of out-of-town university students and artists), this Portuguese chicken joint stands as one of the Plateau's quintessential culinary institutions. That, and it's hard to miss if biking along the Rachel street bike path, especially on the week end.

Jul 16, 2009

Kitchenette: A Montreal-must

by Fiona O'Connor
I first ate at Kitchenette soon after its opening in early 2008. Now, I'm no professional, but at the time, I had a strong hunch that this gem of a restaurant, located right across the street from the CBC/Radio-Canada tower on René-Lévesque, would soon catch on with more than just our national broadcaster's lunching journalist crowd.

Yellowfin tuna tartare with jalapeno, avocado, tomato, micro coriander, spicy mayo and nachos.

Last week I returned to this small, classy eatery for an early weekday dinner. Not only was I once again delighted with my meal, but Kitchenette's simple yet stylish décor, unpretentious ambiance and personable service made the overall dining experience one I highly recommend.
But before I was able to provide you with the full story on just how fun, fresh and totally delicious Kitchenette is, burgeoning restaurant reviewer Joanna Fox beat me to the punch with her piece in the food section of this week's Mirror. So, without further ado, read Joanna's scoop, or, if you're so inclined, join Kitchenette's Facebook group here.

Jul 13, 2009

Flying Lotus soars at Club Lambi

by Fiona O'Connor
Like most summertime week ends in Montreal (and autumn week ends too...and, well, spring for that matter...and, okay, pretty much all year-round), music nerds had their fair selection of concerts to pick from over the last few days.

In addition to last night's free outdoor Ben Harper concert, which wrapped up the 30th edition of the Montreal Jazz Fest, the indie set no doubt got their fill the night before with local acts Sunset Rubdown, Elfin Saddle and the Witchies rocking Il Motore (the newest venue of local label/tour booker/promoter Blue Skies Turn Black), while melancholic Balkan-inspired/indie folk act Beirut graced the city's Metropolis concert hall.

Club Lambi, however, hosted the week end's deepest base and sweatiest dance floor, with L.A.'s experimental DJ/producer Flying Lotus providing a high-energy set as part of his Red Bull Music Academy tour. Accompanied by Toronto's My Man Henry and local crunk-kings Speakerbruiser and Lunice, FlyLo's pit stop in Montreal - in addition to getting booties a- bumpin' - raises the profile of the traveling music school both for the aspiring artists, DJ's and producers it serves as well as for the music lovers its events attract.

(Standing next to the speaker does little for my hearing or the sound quality of this vid, but gives you an idea of Flying Lotus' style and, well, the bass.)

Jul 10, 2009

Montréal's International Jazz Fest as good as ever

By guest contributor Alexandra Forbes

Last night was simply perfect to hit Montréal's annual jazz fest: the air was still and warm, the crowds were big yet oh-so-civil, the vibe was peaceful and cheerful.

I saw a bit of everything. Classic blues by Carlos del Junco & The Blues Mongrels:

Then I strolled around the myriad food stalls, cold beer in hand:

I watched the first 20 minutes of the Curumin show, since the guy is Brazilian. Funky. O.K. . Here's a link to his MySpace page.

The night ended with Jesse Cook (wicked Spanish-sounding acoustic guitar) with many Brazilian guests (Samba Squad e o Maninho Costa, ás do pandeiro).

I loved it all: the orderly yet cheery crowds, the laid-back vibe, the cold beer, the clean bathrooms, the super setup. As they say here in Montréal, it's a definite "incontournable": you won't want to miss it.

Official Montréal Jazz Festival website

Jul 8, 2009

Summer at The Emporium Gallery

by Fiona O'Connor

Though far from the litmus test of true quality or success (at times revealing just how tight-knit this city can be…hint, hint, nudge, nudge), the Montreal Mirror’s annual “Best of Montreal” Readers Poll can nevertheless usually provide a pretty good clue as the people, places and productions most watched by locals.

That readers of the popular alternative weekly voted Montreal’s Emporium Gallery fourth best gallery in the city then, attests to the fact that well, the joint doesn’t exactly need my vote to be considered one of the most up-and-coming contemporary art venues in town. But having stopped by the spot on a recent bike ride down through my old St-Henri ‘hood, I decided that the Emporium Gallery and its impressive repertoire of feature shows were well worth a mention here.

The Emporium Gallery was founded in 2007 by Dave Arnold, Shawn Butchart and Ben Pobjoy, three adoptive Montrealers whose professional and artistic backgrounds (not to mention international connections to all things cool) merge to drive the gallery’s strong contemporary focus. Following a mandate of bringing quality arts programming in diverse mediums to the city's already buzzing art biz, the Emporium provides a space for both established and emerging artists from Canada and abroad to "exhibit their artwork in a professional, artist-centric environment.”

Last week I saw the Emporium’s current show, No Henge, a “sculptural print installation” created by internationally renowned, local printmaking sensation Seripop. Widely considered pioneers in the genre of silkscreen poster art now synonymous with Montreal’s thriving music scene, Seripop’s Chloe Lum and Yannick Deslaneau’s abstract visual aesthetic reflects, in many ways, the anarchic and erratic rhythms characteristic of the duo’s acclaimed musical ventures: AIDS Wolf and the lesser known but equally impossible to classify, Hamborghinni.

The bold palette and repetitive patterns of the No Henge floor-to-ceiling silkscreen experience created an interesting sensation of being enveloped by the medium-sized gallery space (limited air circulation and humid summer heat helped in this regard) - with the room itself abruptly consumed by the show’s central focus: a many-pointed, giant origami-like paper structure.

Though impressive for its scale – and the labour that will no doubt be required to remove the silkscreen wallpaper at the show’s end – No Henge left me feeling like I just might be a Seripop traditionalist: partial to the artists’ more subdued graphic approach and the psychedelic, figurative illustrations typical of their gig poster style.

Seripop’s No Henge wraps up this week, but as promised, the Emporium Gallery’s summer line-up is chock-a-block with shows sure to pique the interests of hipsters and critics alike. Opening on July 16th is the Vice Photo Show – the outcome of the gallery’s collaboration with Vice Magazine which will see a host of works by international photographers to be feature in the magazine’s upcoming Photo Issue.

If laid back St-Henri is just way too far off The Main for your glitzy and glamourous ways, a visit to The Emporium Gallery's well-designed and excellently-maintained website will come as a close second to an actual tour of the gallery. In addition to exhibition archives and links to upcoming shows, the gallery has just launched their latest web-based initiative: Emporium TV. Check out a "webisode" of your favourite exhibition by clicking here.

The Emporium Gallery is located at 3035 St. Antoine O. Studio #74. Telephone is (514) 510-1547.

Jul 3, 2009

A slideshow of Montréal, by Alexandra Forbes

Pastry on the Plateau: Café Soufflé de Marie & Anne

by Fiona O'Connor

If a summer afternoon spent hanging out in Montreal’s Jeanne Mance park wasn’t delightful enough, try stopping in at nearby Café Soufflé de Marie & Anne to up the sweet factor of your day.

Nestled on the corner of St-Urbain and – you guessed it- Marie Anne, this new café, just four months old, is, at least for now, the Plateau’s latest hidden gem for delicious, home made pastries and quick, quality lunch nosh.

Started by local ladies Marie-Josée Katcho and Brigitte Anne Locicero, Café Souffle de Marie & Anne specializes in traditional Western pastries – muffins, tarts, cookies and the like – made with a spicy Middle Eastern twist. Among today’s freshly-baked offerings: pear and saffron muffins, lemon pistachio and rose water tarts, homemade toffee with masala chocolate (a daily staple), and a deliciously dense and sticky rendition of an old classic, the Queen Elizabeth. Prices for these gâteries - true labours of love made on site – are as quaint as the café itself with cookies at $1.00 and tarts at $3.50, taxes in.

Reflecting the culinary backgrounds of its owners (Marie Josée is Syrian- Lebanese and Brigitte Italian), the café also serves a host of fresh salads (eg. Israeli couscous, tomato pesto and arugula), grilled paninis (it doesn’t take much to sell me on merguez and this simple sandwich was no exception), and – the item which seems to be their growing claim to neighbourhood fame – handmade ice cream (flavours include chocolate brownie, chai and praline).

Café Soufflé de Marie & Anne makes perfect pit stop for a good allongé (they use Agga coffee), a fragrant iced chai (owners were tight-lipped about the drink’s spice combo) or a tasty bite. While traffic flow between the mountain and the Main might suffice in the summer months, this low-key hub will have to work hard to build up its word-of-mouth reputation before Montreal meets the snowy silence of yet another winter – a process that, thankfully, seems to be steadily underway.

Café de Soufflé de Marie & Anne is located at 100 rue Marie-Anne O., corner St-Urbain. Tel. (514) 223- 5350. Free WiFi and cash only.