Dec 19, 2011

A Holiday Special: How to make a coffee yule log!

Not long ago, Van Houtte asked me to prepare for them a coffee yule log. It was a fun experience in the company of their blogger Na'eem Adam.

Check-out the video below and then have fun creating your own yule log. Don't hesitate to be creative with flavours and decoration. It's the perfect cake for the Holiday Season.

You can find the recipe here!

Happy Holidays!

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Dec 12, 2011

Best First Date Restaurants in Montreal

“What restaurant do you recommend?” is maybe the question I get asked the most. Is it because there are so many good restaurants in Montreal, one doesn’t know which one to choose? Maybe. Although I have a very long list of favourite restaurants in Montreal – an ever changing one I might add, since each year brings numerous opening and closing of good tables – I often feel overwhelmed by this question.

It’s like asking what wine you prefer. Well, it depends on the occasion, budget, your personal taste, style, the whim of the moment!

So I decided to answer this question by selecting a theme. Since one of the reasons to go out to a restaurant is for a first date, here are my choices for this fun, exciting, sometimes nerve-racking experience! I'm not shooting for the most romantic restaurant mind you, at least not in the traditional sense of "romantic". I don't care much for red roses...I've selected just a few to make it easy for you, choose the one that suits your style and then concentrate on your date, because the food, for sure, will be amazing!

These are some of my favourite restaurants with a relatively affordable budget, leaving aside the more high-end restaurants like Toqué, Ferreira Café, Europea, Chasse et Pêche, Joe Beef, Au Pied de Cochon…which are all wonderful and different, but for another budget bracket. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my choices!

Osteria Venti – For a casual, fun first date, this is the place to be. It’s loud so no awkward silence that fill the room, guaranteed. The food is Italian cuisine, everything is home-made and no frills fancy plating, just straight-forward good food. Many dishes can be shared which always creates a sense of intimacy and complicity. What’s sexier then sharing a lip-smacking salumi platter?

If this hasn’t convinced you then read this and this other post.

Bouillon Bilk – A newcomer this year, Buillon Bilk is a very small, modern space with warmth. You’re sitting very close to the next table, so no place for exchange of secrets…which really isn’t a good idea on a first date anyway! ;-) The menu is a conversation starter for sure! Read-up on your veggies and mushrooms before you go, because the chef here isn’t shy to try some lesser known ones and will offer combinations that you have never tasted before. However, the plate always manages to taste somehow in our comfort zone, so no worries, you’ll enjoy it!

F-Bar – is for a more sophisticated first date, without breaking the piggy bank (well, not all of it!). The F-Bar will impress just by setting the foot in this modern glass box with incredible views of the Place des Spectacles. The ambiance is a little cold at night because of the glass backdrop, but if you go when it’s snowing or during a long summer evening, there are no more magical places in Montreal (except its twin restaurant Brasserie T!). The food is served in delightful individual stainless steel cocottes, and the menu is of Portuguese inspiration with a twist.

Les 400 Coups – If your date is a dessert addict like me, well, you have no choice then to reserve your table now, because you know your date will be forever grateful to you. Pastry chef Patrice Demers is indeed the co-owner of this restaurant, and he is probably the most exciting dessert creator in Quebec at the moment. Les 400 Coups has much to offer even if it just celebrated its first year! It has already been acclaimed by many, including En Route who nominated it top 4 best new restaurants in Canada. What are the reasons for the success other than the desserts? Impeccable ambiance, chic but not stuffy, a great balance between masculine and feminine décor, very Old Montreal but with scenes of Paris like in a cool movie. It’s obviously the first thing that you notice upon arrival; you know this date should go well! But the dream team of service, sommelier and chefs is what will make this restaurant the one to come back to and celebrate your "first-date" date!

Bistro Cocagne – If the Old Montreal is not your thing, but you still want great food, local products, explore amazing wine pairings, I would suggest Bistro Cocagne where talented chef Alexandre Loiseau is going to impress your taste buds. Situated at Toqué’s first address and co-owned by Normand Laprise, Cocagne will not disappoint. It’s better to reserve on a busy night, because the space needs the warmth of people to really soar. Not as well known for some reasons as other Montreal good tables, you won’t be accused of just following trends when showing up here. If you ask nicely, you can also visit the kitchen and see where the magic happens.

Talking about trends, some are well deserved. Le Filet is one of them, and needs no introduction…but you can read more about it here. The food is excellent and is offered in larger than tapas portions, perfect for sharing. But go with a clear throat because you’ll have to speak-up over the buzz.

There are two more restaurants I would highly recommend for a first date. Both are a little off the beaten path but so worth it.

Le St-Urbain - a restaurant that was supposed to be a "restaurant de quartier", your neighbourhood hang-out but that has become so much more. I've been several times and always enjoy the wine-food pairing that is original and bang-on. The menu changes all the time and chef Marc-André Royal always deliver on his promise of fresh, local and tasty produce. The atmosphere is what I consider "very Montreal" if there is such a thing...

Van Horne - For art lovers, this is the restaurant you want to go and discuss the great influences of pop-art...surrounded by original Roy Lichtenstein plates and eat well of course! Also mentioned in the En Route top 10 best new restaurant of the year, this very small place is blessed with an up and coming chef Eloi Dion. More info here.

Now that you know where to go and I guarantee you’ll have fantastic food, the rest of your fabulous first-date is up to you!

Osteria Venti
372 St-Paul W, Old Montreal.
Phone: (514) 284-0445

Bouillon Bilk
1595 Saint-Laurence Boulevard, Montreal.
Phone: (514) 845-1595

1485 Rue Jeanne-Mance, Montréal
Phone: (514) 289-4558

Les 400 Coups
400 Notre-Dame W, Montreal,
Phone: (514) 985-0400

Bistro Cocagne
3842 Saint-Denis St, Montreal
Phone: (514) 286-0700

Le Filet
219 Mont Royal Ave. W., Montreal
Phone: 514-360-6060

Le St-Urbain
96 Fleury West, corner St-Urbain, Montreal
Phone: 514.504.7700

Van Horne Restaurant
1268 Van Horne Av., Montreal
Phone: (514) 508-0828

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Dec 6, 2011

DNA restaurant's Derek Dammann featured in Paris edition of the OMNIVORE food festival

The promotional poster for Omnivore’s “World Tour”:
can you recognize these chefs?

OMNIVORE,  a relatively new food festival first launched in France in 2003, has suddenly gone global. While in past editions it alternated between France and New York, next year it will hop all over the globe, quite literally. Here are some of the confirmed locations, including... Montréal:
  • Geneva, Feb 5-7
  • Paris, March 11-13
  • Brussels, March 18-21
  • Moscow, April 24-27
  • Copenhagen, May 26-28
  • Shanghai, June 12-14
  • New York, July 14-16
  • Montreal, August 18-20
  • São Paulo, September (dates to be confirmed)
  • San Francisco, October 20-22
  • Istanbul, November
  • Sydney, December 15-17
Food critic Luc Dubanchet (ex-Gault Millau), founder and organizer of the festival, has been feverishly scouting the chefs who will participate in the events. What makes OMNIVORE stand out is its focus on young talent. Several chefs who are huge today – like Iñaki Aizpitarte (Le Chateaubriand and Le Dauphin, Paris), René Redzepi (NOMA) and David Chang (Momofuku empire), participated in earlier editions (when they were already garnering high praise from critics but weren’t quite as high-profile as they’ve become today).

chef Iñaki Aizpitarte, Le Chateaubriand (Paris)

As he explains in a press release, Omnivore will “travel the globe with 5 to 10 French and International Chefs, wisely measuring out in equal parts established chefs and newcomers. This brigade will then work with 5-10 “resident” chefs in each city. It is this unique programming that is truly a benchmark of the Omnivore organization.”

Also new is the “Omnivore Mobile Kitchen”: essentially, a pop-up kitchen encased within an inflatable dome, which will be taken along for the “world tour”.
 The mobile kitchen will be round and equipped with a camera that films at 360°. The dome was created by Montréal's own SAT (Society of Art and Technology) and includes a cutting-edge system of immersive projection (don't ask).
Most of the Omnivore events are open to the public and can be booked on their website.
The chefs participating in the Parisian edition have been announced and include, among others, our own Derek Dammann, of DNA (, who will be going up on stage on March 12. He's worked at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen, in London, but he's now back in Montreal, serving menus that are heavily based on head-to-tail cooking and ingredients from sustainable sources, many from the province of Québec.
Here are some of the other chefs who will be at the event:
It's an OMNIVORE trademark to pair the presentations with fun dinners around town, cheekily dubbed "Les Fucking Dinners" - asterisks optional. Here's what's been confirmed so far (copied and pasted from Twitter):
les f*** dinners, Paris: 10 March 2012:
Ignacio Mattos of cooks at Au Passage ... cooks at la Gazzetta
les f*** dinners, Paris: 12 March 2012 
... at Frenchie ... at Septime ... at le Chardenoux
les f*** dinners, Paris: 12 March, & Alexandre Bourdas () at l'Agape Substance... at J-F Piège
les f*** dinners, Paris: 13 March 2012 .. cooks at Aux Deux Amis ... Josean Alija from & Barbot at l'Astrance

Nov 28, 2011

Joe Beef book: an interview with Fred Morin and David McMillan

by Alexandra Forbes

I think it's safe to say I've written enough about the Joe Beef book. 

I loved it. 

Bought five of the damn things on Amazon to give away as X-mas gifts. 

Wrote a perhaps too-honest "review" of it, in this very blog (click here to read). So enough is enough. Just wanted to share, here, the little video interview I did with "the boys".

Elyse Lambert, Aurélia Filion, Marie Josée Beaudouin: Montreal's top sommelières

Montreal sommelière Jessica Harnois
by Alexandra Forbes

The quotient of beautiful women in Montreal seems even higher than in my native Brazil. Especially during these warm months, the beauties are everywhere in Montreal: sipping beer on terrasses, biking, walking their dogs and, of course, waitressing at restaurants. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that some of the most qualified sommelières (female sommeliers), aka wine experts, in town also happen to be attractive women.

Elyse Lambert

Dispensing wine advice at restaurants is a job usually associated with men, so it’s great to see that Montreal bucks the trend. And with honours: Elyse Lambert (pictured above) for example, was voted best sommelière in the Americas in 2009 and travels often to the wine-producing regions of the world. While she’s become a bit of a celebrity in Montreal, her tips are part of the package when you have dinner at the super trendy Le Local, where she works. Elyse appears on a local TV show, tasting and dissecting wines in French – but she’s not the only sommelière who’s good on camera.

The beautiful Aurélia Filion of Le Club Chasse et Pêche restaurant (one of my favourites) – has created quite a buzz with the snappy videos she posts on her blog. She films herself talking about wine, in a room with bottles in the background. The result could have been massively boring, but she actually draws in the viewer with her unaffected enthusiasm and charisma.

Aurélia Filion

Equally blonde and mignonne, sommelière Marie-Josée Beaudoin co-owns Montréal’s hottest new restaurant, Les 400 Coups and also finds time to blog.

Her wine list is filled with surprising finds and her pairings can be refreshingly atypical. One hit currently on the menu is the glass of Jurançon (Château Jolys 2008) that is proposed with the impossibly delicious dessert called “Green” (apple granité, pistachios, olive oil, micro cilantro leaves, ultra-creamy white chocolate yogurt). Another bold choice is the local red wine sold by-the-glass (Chateau Taillefer Lafon 2006), made just north of Montreal in Laval. While not always a crowd-pleaser, it’s quite a curious discovery.

Etheliya Hananova

Working much further uptown than the three others, who are all in Old Montreal, Etheliya Hananova is one of the best things about the hip little restaurant Lawrence. She may draw stares from customers for her gorgeous looks, but gets her cred in the business from a solid formation and a shining personality. She’s on-hand almost every night to help regulars and newcomers alike navigate what food critic Lesley Chesterman of The Gazette calls “a great little wine list”.
Lawrence, 5201 St-Laurent, (514) 503-1070
Le Local, 720 William, (514) 397-7737
Les 400 Coups, 400 Notre-Dame East, (514) 985-0400
Le Club Châsse et Pêche, 423 St-Claude, (514) 861-1112

Les 400 Coups named one of Canada's best new restaurants by En Route magazine

by Alexandra Forbes

We saw this one coming. And quite a while back!

Les 400 Coups has just been named #4 in the annual En Route list of Canada's best new restaurants. And what's En Route? Well... it's an inflight magazine, but one that looks much better than your average inflight magazine. And not only that: in the relative Sahara that is Canada in terms of food coverage, En Route fills the gap by putting together this annual list and doing it the right way, by flying a food writer all over the country to try different restaurants. (Full disclosure: I've written for En Route, occasionally, for years).

So there you go: not only do we think Les 400 Coups rocks, but EnRoute agrees with us. Get bookin'!, tel. (514) 985-0400

Nov 24, 2011

Ferran Adrià in Montreal - Conference at ITHQ

Ferran Adrià in Montreal! Yes, it surprised many when the first news of this came out. But it happened. And I was one of the lucky few to attend his conference given by him to the students of the ITHQ and interview him afterwards. What a day that was. A November 22nd that I’ll remember because when you meet one of the great, you always get inspired, a part of you grows and changes a little as well.

The conference was in French, and I filmed it all to share with you. You can read my summary of the conference and watch the full conference as well as exclusive interview video at: À la saveur d’Andrea (in French).

Ferran Adrià was very generous and offered us not only a peak preview of what the elBulli Foundation will be, this new era of elBulli, committed fully to gastronomic creativity in an out-of-this-world environment, but also a peak into the last day of the mythic restaurant, a world premiere of the emotional moment shared by hundreds of chefs and sous-chefs (with most of the best chefs in the world!) that once worked at elBulli who reunited to celebrate with Ferran the end of an era.

His loudest message to the culinary students was: “You know nothing. If you think you know, you won’t be great. I know just a little. When I wake up in the morning, I tell myself I know nothing. That’s how you learn”.

Passion, freedom, sharing and taking risks, that's Ferran Adrià's philosophy. Being humble in greatness would also apply perfectly.

Want to know what eating at El Bulli was all about? Here is a video of two Montrealers who ate there recently...

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Oct 27, 2011

La Grande Tablée : a unique dining event for a great cause!

More and more fundraising events capture our imagination in Montreal, with the help of very generous chefs, always ready to give back to their community.

La Grande Tablée is no exception and offers on top of that an extreme aromatic experience directly from Taste Buds and Molecules’ universe by its author and sommelier François Chartier and his partner-in-cuisine chef Stéphane Modat.

7 of Montreal’s top chefs will be cooking for you, under the aromatic expertise of Chartier & Modat duo, a 7 course meal with wine pairing of course!

These chefs are:
Marc-André Jetté of Les 400 Coups (nominated in the 10 best new restaurants of 2011 by EnRoute magazine, at #4!)
Daren Bergeron of Decca 77 and Newtown
Simon Mathys of Bar & Bœuf
Michelle Marek of SAT Foodlab (the new experimental playground for food in Montreal!)
Éric Dupuis of Taverne Square Dominion
Junichi Ikematsu of Restaurant Jun I (one of the best Sushi restaurant in town)
Stelio Perombelon of Le Saint-Sulpice

Montreal: Nov. 7th 2011
Quebec City: Dec. 6th 2011

Tickets are available at 250$.

All profits go to fight against hunger and to foster culinary skills of kids in need in Quebec in order to offer a long term solution. For more details visit their web page on La Tablée des Chefs.

For more details on the event: or call 450 748-1638

La Tablée des Chefs is a cause close to my heart and for whom I've worked and still volunteer for when possible. It is so rewarding when you see kids light-up when they succeed for the first time to cook a meal for them and their family! The joy and pride they feel at that moment is priceless and does carry through other spheres of their life. This is why these fabulous chefs, Chartier and Modat have joined forces with La Tablée des Chefs to organize this unique event. Enjoy!

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Oct 19, 2011

Le Bremner: chef Chuck Hughes' latest restaurant in Old Montreal

by Alexandra Forbes

It's been a while since Garde Manger, a little restaurant I actually liked a lot in Old Montreal, turned into more of a party place than a place where you can eat without having to yell to make yourself heard.

So what did celeb-chef-owner Chuck Hughes do? He opened a second restaurant nearby meant for those lame people like me who care more about the food than the party.

Chuck Hughes is, all everyone knows by now, the sexy ex-bus boy, ex-bad-boy and the second Canadian to ever win Iron Chef (he beat Bobby Flay!).  He has his own Food Network show, Chuck’s Day Off, which is shown even in the U.S., on the Cooking Channel. He cooks for the famous music acts at Osheaga every summer.

He still cooks, though. And Le Bremner is where you'll find him running the service, usually.

My food critic friend Melora Koepke loved it. Read her report here.

Marie-Claude Lortie, the city's top restaurant critic, was quite disappointed, as she said in her review in La Presse.  She's sick of what she calls the neo-rustic cooking that Hughes is known for.

I haven't been yet, so... no comment... I'll let you pick your sides on your own! :)

Le Bremner, 361 Saint Paul Street East, (514) 544-0446

Oct 17, 2011

Chef Daniel Boulud in Montreal: gala dinner with Ritz-Carlton's top brass in attendance

Chef Daniel Boulud (at left) with Carlos Ferreira, who was the honoree of Saturday night's gala
by Alexandra Forbes

Elvis has left the building.

Or rather: Daniel Boulud has left town after a flash visit. He flew in Saturday afternoon from L.A. to cook at a posh benefit dinner on Saturday night. I won't bore you with the details, as the dishes and grand wines served there won't be seen again anytime soon. Suffice to say there were three highlights, the first being the halibut with a squid ink 'marmelade' and topped by perfectly crisp chips, prepared by Gilles Herzog of F! Bar, which tasted much better than this bad photo may lead you to believe:

The second highlight was the gorgeously dense and silky terrine of foie gras served by Olivier de Montigny of La Chronique:

And the third, of course, was the main dish, prepared by Daniel Boulud's brigade: venison with cubes of root vegetables and sauce poivrade. Here is one of his chefs, testing the cuisson of the venison loins. I forgot to snap a photo of the finished dish as I was having too much fun watching the team at work in the kitchen. I love to see chef Boulud pull a team together, as he firmly but cooly bosses everyone around like an orchestra conductor.

I was lucky to be seated with very interesting people. There were the bosses of the Dinex group (which owns Boulud's flagship, Daniel restaurant, and all their other restaurants around the world). And there were the lovely mr. and mrs. Andrew Torriani, who are behind the refurbishing of the Ritz-Carlton hotel. The Torrianis have enlisted none other than Boulud himself to run the new restaurant of the Ritz once it reopens, so needless to say I had lots of questions for them... :)

Oh yes.... how could I forget... there was a dessert by famed pâtissier Christophe Michalak, of the Plaza Athenée hotel in Paris, even though the man himself ended up not coming to Montreal. The chocolate square had round holes through which a delicious nutty foam surfaced to the top as I put pressure on it with my fork. Delish.

Andrew Torriani, CEO of Montreal's Ritz-Carlton, and chef Daniel Boulud
And for those who haven't seen it yet, here's the video where I interview chef Daniel Boulud at Montreal's Ritz-Carlton about his upcoming restaurant, slated to open in March, 2012 at the hotel.

Oct 14, 2011

Chef Ferran Adrià in Montréal: honorary degree from the ITHQ and "molecular gastronomy"-inspired menu

Chef Ferran Adrià in Lima, in September, attending the food forum Mistura

by Alexandra Forbes
I've got to admit I didn't see this one coming: chef Ferran Adrià is coming to town. It surprised me to hear the news, because the guy's been kinda busy these days... he's the spokesman for Telefonica, he's overseeing construction of his upcoming Foundation, he's helming this hard-to-decipher food blogging conference in Barcelona oct 17-19, he's helping his brother Albert re-launch their "tecnoemotional" bar 41o (also in Barcelona) as an "El Bulli lite" type place AND he's doing a book tour to promote The Family Meal, which focuses on the staff meals served at El Bulli and how to reproduce them at home.... lots going on.

So why come to Montréal for a visit?!

Even after hearing the official explanation, it still beats me...

Marie-Claude Lortie, the restaurant critic for the city's main newspaper (La Presse),  says "he will come next November 22 to receive an honorary degree from the Institut de tourisme et d'hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ) and give a lecture. Mr. Adrià will not cook a meal.
(...) The lecture, entitled "Cuisine as a language" will be addressed at the students and teachers of the ITHQ as well as a limited group of restaurant industry people".

Now here is the part I find corny: Marie-Claude quotes the organizers as saying that "by (giving him this honorary degree) the ITHQ wishes to salute the contribution of this cook and thinker, often associated with molecular gastronomy and his impact on the evolution of contemporary culinary arts". 

Culinary arts? Eeek! Molecular Gastronomy? Double eeeeeeek!

This looks like an easy shot at promotion (on the part of the cooking school) if I've ever seen one...

To top it off, the ITHQ says its restaurant plans on serving a menu "inspired by Adrià's culinary philosophy" long after his departure, from November 28 until December 22.

Lord help us.

Oct 9, 2011

New Joe Beef book: real Montreal, real food, real people, real living

by Alexandra Forbes

I'm lucky enough to have gotten a copy of the new Joe Beef book - The Art of Living According to Joe Beef - in the mail, hot off the presses.

But truth is, I didn't really have to read it.

The publisher sent it because I'm working on a roundup of this season's best food books, for GQ magazine. Each of the chosen books will be written up, but nothing too long or fancy. Five lines, six max.

So skimming through the book would have been fine. And that's what I planned on doing.

I picked it up, had a first good look at the beautifully designed pages, but then something happened that doesn't usually happen: I couldn't stop reading. I caught myself laughing outloud, and wanting to share the best phrases with my friends.

wtf? I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and that got me thinking. Why?, I wonderered. What's so great about it?

Well, reason number one  why I fell so hard for the book is that being often too honest myself, I appreciate honesty in others. Extreme honesty? Even better!

Often, chefs put out books that are way more polished and tame than their real selves. Too prettied-up, too photoshopped, too edited, too bland. Or, even worse, books that don't tell it like it is, and sugar-coat their recipe descriptions. Not the Joe Beef book...


Canard et Saucisse: "This dish is not surprising in taste."
Mouclade: "We do not have a story for this recipe. Sorry."
Cornflake Ell Nuggets: "All of the eels in the world begin and return to the Sargasso Sea: can you imagine a more disgusting place to swim?"
Baked Common Crab: (Canadian crab) "oddly enough don't make it to Montreal. Instead, they're highjacked somewhere along the way for the Asian Market."
Mackerel Benedict: "When we wrote "mackerel" on the blackboard menu, it didn't sell, so we renamed it silver tail and a star was born".
Spaghetti Homard-Lobster: "Yes, homard and lobster mean the same thing (like "minestrone soup"). Among other things that don't make any sense: this is probably the most popular Joe Beef dish.

I found the paragraphs describing each recipe truthful, entertaining and pretty damn funny.

The second reason the book rocks is that it shows off Montreal as few ever do, as I know and love it. Not the ol' "this is a piece of France in North America" cliché  crap, but as a place inhabited by cool folk who love good food, good wine, good tunes and good fun. The kind of crowd I often see when I go to Joe Beef myself.

In a way, Joe Beef's décor translates those ideas into a certain look that I never tire of, and which is now copied all over town. I seem to have the same love of an aesthetic that Fred Morin, Allison Cunningham and Dave McMillan (the three partners) seem to favour. Which the book describes so succintly:

"a perfect Adirondack chair, a red vynil banquette with brass nails, a pretty oyster-bar counter, old enameled cast-iron sinks, industrial lamps, a banged-up Rancilio coffee-machine. We like wood, old paint, and a simple touch of cottage".

The third and most important reason why this is my favourite food book in years is that I see beauty in the boys' unadulterated and uncompromising love of real food, real people, real wine and living. They love each other, their families and staff, and aren't embarassed to say it (the aknowledgements at the end sound heartfelt, read like a full-on lovefest).

Dave and Fred: partners and best buddies

They haven't fallen, like so many chefs out there, for the siren call of the endless global expan$$ion. They're happy with the way things are, with owning not more than two restaurants side-by-side (the second one being Liverpool House, of course, which they describe as "Joe Beef lite"). They're happy with the hands-on approach, being close to the legion of regulars. They take care of their small suppliers. They succeed in that "old-fashioned" way: by running their two restaurants like family businesses, and following their own instincts, tastes and ethics. Works like a charm.

I try not to be prejudiced, but the truth is I don't like restaurant empires. When a beloved place spawns clones across oceans and countries, the clones, no matter how good, never end up having a soul the way the original does. As we say in Brazil, it's the eye of the owner that fattens the cattle.

Dave Chang, of the Momofuku empire (Big and growing! Branches in Sydney and Toronto coming soon!), ironically enough, agrees with me. He writes in the book's foreword:

"Money, all of it, all the things that as a New York restaurant owner, as a New York chef, I know they have defied - they have defied what it is to be in the business. From the beginning, they have had a totally different agenda. It isn't about anything other than, "You know what? Let's have a good time. If it ever gets to the point where it's not, we'll just stop the whole thing". A lot of people like to talk like that, but very few people can actually do it, and no place on the planet I know does it half as well as Joe Beef."

Long live Joe Beef.

My video interview with them:

And more:

Joe Beef's luncheonette McKiernan shuts down to make room for a new JB oyster bar

Oct 4, 2011

Jean-Paul Riopelle works on show starting October 13 at the Quartier des Spectacles

INFO from the press release:

"The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal and the Galerie Lounge TD of the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan are proud to present D’aile en ailes l’élan vital, an extraordinary exhibition of fifty works, many previously unseen, by internationally renowned Québécois painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, from October 13 to December 24, 2011.
An extraordinary man, a unique exhibition: more than fifty works, including twenty previously unseen!

This unique exhibition will assemble more than fifty works by Jean-Paul Riopelle: 27 prints, 3 sculptures in bronze, photos of the artist, a number of articles and objects from his daily painting routine and, above all, more than twenty previously unseen works on paper which Huguette Vachon, his companion, has painstakingly selected in order to share their beauty with all of us.
Jean‑Paul Riopelle (1923-2002)

Jean-Paul Riopelle is one of the few Canadian painters, sculptors and engravers to have carved out an enviable place on the international scene. A passionate man, intensely in love with freedom, he scoffed at conventions and taboos throughout his career. Fiercely independent, he preceded currents and trends, ceaselessly exploring new techniques and new materials, constantly seeking to renew his creative approach, allowing his pictorial language to evolve towards an utterly original aesthetic. Riopelle found his principal source of inspiration in nature, and it would remain his preferred subject throughout his career. For Riopelle, the important thing was never the subject itself, but the mystery it revealed, through which the artist could express himself. He had an inimitable vision of things, and his representation of the real remains remarkable and novel.

“There is no such thing as abstraction, nor representation.
There is only expression, and self-expression means placing yourself in front of things.”

- Jean‑Paul Riopelle

Born in Montreal in 1923, Riopelle studied at the École du meuble, with PaulÉmile Borduas as a teacher. A signatory and advocate of the Refus global manifesto, he settled in France in 1948, where he was privileged to be at the heart of the artistic and intellectual life of the avant-garde. In the ’50s, he and his work soared to triumph in Paris as well as in America. During his time in Paris and New York, Riopelle rubbed elbows with the greatest jazz legends of the era, including Bud Powell. This interest in the music led him to permit the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal to reproduce silkscreens of his piece, Jazz, in 1997. Then, during the 25th anniversary of the Festival, the late painter’s estate granted exclusive permission to reproduce 75 copies of the previously unreleased 1990 work Big Bang, Big Band, which Alain Simard had personally acquired in 1997, during a visit to the artist’s home on L’Isle-aux-Grues.

Today, the works of Jean-Paul Riopelle are included in major museum, private and public collections and showcased in the most important galleries the world over. His is an immense and diversified oeuvre that opened new artistic horizons, leaving its mark on the history of world art."

Opening hours:
Monday: closed
Tuesday: 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday to Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hours extended until 9 p.m. during concert evenings in L’Astral
Jean-Paul Riopelle
D’aile en ailes l’élan vital
(On the Wings of the Life-force)
From October 13 to December 24, 2011
Galerie Lounge TD
Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan
305 Ste. Catherine Street West, 2nd Floor - 514 288-8882

Plaza Athenée's Christophe Michalak and chef Daniel Boulud in Montreal, October 15

by Alexandra Forbes

Some big names are coming together for a gala dinner - sold out already! - on October 15, in honour of restaurateur Carlos Ferreira.... Very excited to see the great pâtissier Christophe Michalak working alongside the master himself, Daniel Boulud. Should be a good one... 

For those who don't know, Boulud is soon opening a restaurant in Montreal. I interviewed him recently about the new project, here's the video:

Sep 21, 2011

Laurier Gordon Ramsay: chef Ramsay does chicken in Montreal

Photo credit: Laurier Gordon Ramsay

by Alexandra Forbes

Last night I was at a dinner where several guests seemed fascinated by my job as a restaurant critic. Happens a lot. But the truth is that sometimes people romanticize the whole thing, when writing a review about a restaurant actually requires very little: an opinion, a sense of ethics, and careful observation.

Case in point: my old friend Kristin Glasbergen - who was my roommate in boarding school! - was back in Montreal visitting for a few days. She mentioned she was going to eat at Gordon Ramsay's new chicken joint. I've been too lazy/uninterested to do so myself, so I asked her if she'd mind writing a report on her dinner. And guess what: turns out she'd make a fine critic! Kristin, ms. blogger extraordinaire of Peace, Love and Muesli fame, is usually more concerned with other stuff, though: healthy living, kids, etc. (you can read her musings here).

Photo credit: Laurier Gordon Ramsay

So here goes: Laurier Gordon Ramsay, by Kristin Glasbergen

Apparently it’s bad form to review a restaurant within its first month of business. We’re supposed to let them work out their kinks before we offer any judgement. It’s a good thing I make it a habit to ignore rules that don’t suit me.

I ate at Laurier Gordon Ramsay and I have an opinion.

Outremont is outside of my Montreal comfort zone, I’ve never lived, worked or played there. I was thankful for my decision to take a cab. With construction on every street, I might have never gotten there and by all reports finding parking was difficult.

The restaurant was clean and bright and shiny. And crazy busy. Not a romantic dinner kind of place. At 7 pm on a Thursday there was a line up and folks were being turned away. We were a big group, about 25 and had reservations. We were crammed into our table but we were happy to see each other.
The service was slow. I waited about 40 minutes for a water glass. Thankfully my cocktail arrived much quicker, otherwise who knows what kind of grumpy I might have unleashed. We were busy catching up with friends, we didn’t mind waiting. To our server’s credit, with our big group and all our bills and methods of paying, there were no mix ups.

Oh? You want to know about the food?

I ordered ribs, they came with a garnish of house made potato chips. I ordered a side salad for some veggies. The ribs were good, the meat was tender and flavourful.  The BBQ sauce was a tad vinegary for my taste but I still enjoyed them. I also tasted the chicken. The crispy skin was divine, the meat…well…uhm…bland comes to mind. I was glad I had the ribs. Both the potato chips and the french fries were delish, deep fried potatoes done right.
Several ladies at my table ordered the chicken pot pie, I didn’t hear the report about how it tasted but it was beautiful. A piece of art made in pastry.

Last Thoughts.

The night was fun but because I spent it with friends. It’s not likely I will make the trip back to eat there again.
As I signed my credit card slip, I noticed big glass jars of retro candies for sale. And pins, little Laurier Gordon Ramsay pins, for $1.

Click here to read our report on Laurier Gordon Ramsay's opening night.

Sep 16, 2011

Dans la rue : with chef David Ferguson of Jolifou restaurant, Montreal.

By Andrea Doucet Donida

I just hung up with chef David Ferguson of Jolifou, and I have a big smile on my face. Why?

Chef David Ferguson, Jolifou. Photo credit: Au fé

Because it is so inspiring to talk with people who know what they are doing and want to reach out to their community by doing what they do best. In his case: cook.

He has indeed been involved in numerous charity events, but especially with Dans la rue: From the street to the stars for over 6 years now. « I like it because it is a local cause that does well for street kids, I’m impressed with their charity work » he says.

Chefs are much solicited these days, and what makes him come back to Dans la rue, year after year, might surprise you and teach a thing or two to all fundraising people out there… It is the quality and efficiency of the event coordinators! The TassOne Event team in charge of the event make things easy for the chefs, they are well set-up and understand the already hectic schedule of a chef by making it as simple as possible to participate.

And talking about participation, David has already decided what he’ll be preparing for the big burger competition! As you might already know, he serves a mean burger at his restaurant, with homemade smoked brisket, salsa verde and all the fixings… but he will not be serving this one next week, he has a big surprise in store for everyone on Wednesday. “I’m ready to shake it up” David told me!

You’ll have to be there to find out what it is… one thing is for sure, it will stand out and raise the guests’ taste buds experience!

See you next Wednesday!

Details for Dans la rue: From the Stars to the Street are available at Dans la rue website and Facebook page.

September 21st from 6PM
Montreal Science Centre - The Belvedere
2, de la Commune West, on the Quays of the Old Port
Parking available ($)

Ticket: $125 (receipt $100)
10 Tickets : $1000 (receipt $750)
(514) 526-5222


Master of ceremonies: Anne-Marie Withenshaw

Montreal's most renowned chefs will compete to recreate a traditional favourite, the burger, and you the public will be the judge. Enjoy the urban rhythms and street-inspired entertainment. For this 8th annual event, From the Street to the Stars will make a bold fashion statement, thanks to its partners, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Aldo Group and the creative firm TRUSST CLUB. Proceeds will support Dans la rue, an organization dedicated to providing street kids a chance to succeed.

Le Barroco, le Boucan, le Bice, Chez l’Épicier, le Café Ferreira, le Grain de Sel, le Jolifou, Kitchenette, le Pintxo and le St-Urbain.

Fly away to this food and fashion capital on the wings of Air Canada
*Certain conditions apply

Presented by GILDAN Activewear

Sep 1, 2011

Le Marché du Foodlab: organic veggies, Grumman78 tacos and charcuteries

by Alexandra Forbes

I just found out about a very cool little pop-up market called the Marché du Foodlab which will be up and running every Thursday, Friday and Saturday until October 1 at the Place de la Paix in downtown
Montreal. They have Grumman78 tacos, a crazy dude from Barcelona making paella with real saffron (pictured above) and a funky mix of clientele.

It takes place  in a public square just South of the SAT (Society for Arts and Technology):

Agrandir le plan

Here are the producers who are participating (plus the taco truck Grumman78):

More than 30 varieties of organic veggies and fruits, brought from the farm of Robin Fortin and Réjean Forget.

The organic microgreens and herbs by Pierre-André Daignault are famous among chefs: he supplies many of the top tables in town.

Sellers of gluten-free and nitrates-free charcuteries by Fou du Cochon, cider vinegar, fresh goat's cheeses.


Hipster taco truck owned by the couple Marc-André Leclerc and Hilary McGown, serving freshly-made tacos with freshly-sourced ingredients.

Thursdays and Fridays, noon to 7 PM
Saturdays, 10 to 4 PM - Facebook

Aug 26, 2011

Montreal's Dîner en Blanc: a crazy and posh communal picnic (video!)

By Alexandra Forbes

The Dîner en Blanc, I already knew, isn't exactly a normal dinner. Part outdoor communal picnic, part all-white gala, it takes place each year in Paris, Montral and now also New York.

Each couple (yes, going à deux is man-da-to-ry!!) brings their own foldable table, chairs, china, glasses, wines and food, all prettily packed in white picnic baskets.

The location is kept secret until the last minute and guests arrive by bus and metro, all at once, only to disappear 4 hours later, as if it had all been a snow-white hallucination. Here is the video I shot at the last Montreal Dîner en Blanc:

Dîner en Blanc (by invitation only, online reservations mandatory).

Aug 20, 2011

Old Montreal: bars by the water and Bota Bota's bistro

Girls having drinks at Bistro Vu
By Alexandra Forbes

My post this week on Tourisme Montreal's portal The Montreal Buzz is about where to eat and drink by the water. In it I recommend three of my favourite spots by the river: the Bota Bota spa (pictured above), Bistro VU (more of a party place than actual bistro) and the Café des Éclusiers.

We're fast approaching the end of summer, so there's only a few more weeks to go check them out...


Bistro Vü: Go for the great view of the St. Lawrence river, the  Jacques Cartier Bridge and the Clock Tower Quay. There's a restaurant on the third floor and a bar-lounge on the 4th floor rooftop where sometimes they have big parties with out-of-town DJs.The VU is hard to find, tucked inside a private marina: make sure to consult your GPS or iPhone.
550 de la Commune St. East, (514) 451-0866

View from Bistro Vu's rooftop: the Jacques Cartier Bridge


Café des Éclusiers:
This riverside bar has been around for a while and it's still one of the best happy hour spots in town on a hot summer afternoon.
400 De la Commune West (at McGill street), (514) 496-0109 


Bota Bota
One of the little-known facts about Bota Bota - the über cool boat-spa-on-the-water - is that they serve lunch outdoors to those who are there to do the so-called water circuit (meaning you can't just walk in off the street, only bathing-suit-clad customers are allowed).
358 De la Commune St. West, (514) 284-0333