Jun 26, 2011

Chez Doval restaurant: grilled fish and chicken, Portuguese-style

by Alexandra Forbes
I sit at the bar and watch the grill behind it, where ten large hens spit, crackle and roll above bright orange coals. “Mais duas cervejas, Mané,” booms the waiter with the heavy, dark moustache and gold bracelet. Two cold beers slide down the worn counter. He puts them on his tray without a glance at me and hurries away. 
I have learned to arrive early at the impossibly noisy Chez Doval, Montreal’s most popular Portuguese restaurant, and to greet the waiters in Portuguese. They seem to like Brazilian girls like myself and even take the time to smile back and direct me to the bar. Six o’clock on a Thursday and the roar of customers is already in full swing, while an impatient, watchful line forms in a little corner by the door.

Grilled chicken—spicy or not spicy are the choices—is the pièce de résistance at Chez Doval. A chap with pearls of sweat lined up along his forehead tends the massive old grill where the chickens are turning a deep golden brown. If you ask the waiter what else there is, you may hear something that sounds like “sardines on the grill” or “veal with vegetables,” but don’t expect a list of side dishes or an opinion on what’s good. 
No help will be offered in deciphering the short, non-descriptive chalkboard of daily specials—written in Portuguese at lunch and French at dinner—nor will your waiter hang around while you figure out your order. Better choose. Fast.

Many customers, understandably, are unhappy with the service. My friend Nicolas Coté, a regular for ten years, says, “It’s cheap and always a good time, but only the Portuguese are rewarded with immediate service.” Another customer says: “The boss pays no attention to his clients, preferring to sip his wine behind the bar.”

The boss was certainly too busy when I met him to be sipping wine (three dollars a glass, by the way, and quite drinkable). Fernando Rodrigues  was working the bar and espresso machine simultaneously, producing drinks at a rate of four or five per minute. With his dark-haired, Mediterranean good looks and impish half-smile, Fernando was also keeping an eye on every plate that left the kitchen. Between rounds, he told me the story of how he and his two partners João and Carlos (both waiters there for years) had bought the Plateau landmark from the retiring owner, a Portuguese gentleman who owned it for sixteen years.

“What changed since you became the owners?” I ask. Fernando, too busy to even look up as he filled two carafes with house wine: “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

My grilled shrimp appetizer all gone—it was crisp and pleasantly salty —I order the pork chops with fries; one of the less interesting daily specials, as it turns out. I don’t share the Portuguese taste for overcooking meats and sometimes find the signature chicken too dry.

Fortunately, the cooks have a lighter hand with fish. The sardines are done to perfection, with lots of grill marks on the crunchy skin and fatty white flesh falling off the meager bones. 
Same with the squid, its charred surface protecting the slippery white flesh, so tasty with a generous squeeze of lemon and some lettuce leaves. I finish by mopping up the juices with a warm chunk of bread.
Portuguese restaurateur Carlos Ferreira (at right) takes a group of Braziians
to Chez Doval, including Rio chef Roberta Sudbrack (in gray sweater)

It is food that cries out for a glass of cold beer, and the combination leaves me tipsy and happy, like at a Sunday family lunch in Brazil. At the end of my meal, João Gonçalves, the gentle-mannered, blue-eyed co-owner, brings me two pastéis de nata, dreamy tartlets filled with an almost too sweet egg custard and sprinkled with cinnamon—they aren’t on the menu and waiters rarely mention that a fresh batch has come in.

Yet who cares if the waiters (all male, bien entendu) are a bit brusque? That doesn’t seem to discourage the crowds waiting for a table. Most customers seem happy just for the cheap grilled fare and cheap wine. It is no easy task to keep a dining room humming seven days a week, but the three partners seem to have what it takes. As Fernando puts it, “A restaurant is like a woman—if you leave her alone, someone will come along when you are away and take her.

150 Marie-Anne St. East,
Tel: (514) 843.3390

Jun 25, 2011

The new Joe Beef: bye bye McKiernan, hello oyster bar!

by Alexandra Forbes

I've got to admit I was a bit bummed when I heard McKiernan was no more: owners Fred Morin and Dave McMillan decided to close my favourite little lunch spot and turn it into an annex of Joe Beef, opening only at night.

As much as I still miss McKiernan, I've got to say I really like what they've done with it: the oyster bar, much bigger than the original one nextdoor, just feels very right, as if it had been there forever.

The décor, a hodge-podge of old maps and collectibles, a wall lined with white subway tiles, a black leather banquette and shelves filled with wine bottles, is pure McMillan-Morin (the duo doesn't use professional designers, preferring to do it all themselves).

At the back of the restaurant, as usual, they've got several outdoor tables and their beautiful vegetable and herb garden (which has been supplying the restaurant with its bounty for quite a while, since they got the plants going with lamps in the basement in early spring).

The other night I had an appetizer of razorfish clams followed by a gorgeously fresh platter of seafood, which included Lucky Lime oysters from Prince Edward Island and langoustine tails, a lobster claw, shrimps and also scallops (that I only wish had come "nature", so the seasonings wouldn't get in the way of tasting their sweetness).

The "boys" are very busy these days working out the final details of their upcoming book: The Art of Living According to Joe Beef (Ten Speed Press).

Rather than a mere recipe compilation, this will be a book about the city of Montreal, seen through their eyes - with a foreword written by David Chang of the Momofuku empire in New York. It will be on sale starting October 11, but Amazon is already taking pre-orders (link below).

Here is a description of the book's contents, by the publishers:

Located in a working-class neighborhood of Montreal, Joe Beef is at the center of Montreal’s growing reputation as a culinary destination. Often referred to as the Paris of North America, Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking city in the world, and like France, food is at the heart of its identity.

In The Art of Living According to Joe Beef, co-owners/chefs Frédéric Morin and David McMillan, along with writer and former Joe Beef staff member Meredith Erickson, present 135 unforgettable recipes showcasing Joe Beef’s unconventional approach to French market cuisine. Advocating the use of ingredients from local or family-owned producers whenever possible, this collection of hearty dishes delivers. The Strip Loin Steak comes complete with ten variations, Kale for a Hangover wisely advises the cook to eat and then go to bed, and the Marjolaine includes tips for welding your own cake mold. Joe Beef’s most popular dishes are also represented, such as Spaghetti Homard-Lobster, Foie Gras Breakfast Sandwich, Pork Fish Sticks, and Pojarsky de Veau (a big, moist meatball served on a bone). The coup de grâce is the Smorgasbord—Joe Beef’s version of a Scandinavian open-faced sandwich—with thirty different toppings.

This cookbook (of sorts) is packed with personal stories, Fred’s favorite train trips, Dave’s ode to French Burgundy, instructions for building a backyard smoker and making absinthe, a Montreal travel guide, and beaucoup plus. With nearly every recipe photographed in exquisite detail, this nostalgic yet utterly modern cookbook is a groundbreaking guide to living an outstanding culinary life.

Joe Beef: 2491 Notre-Dame St. West, tel: (514) 935-6504

Jun 24, 2011

Jazz Fest kicks off tonight with Prince show at Metropolis: late-night and intimate

It will be a-ma-zing, I'm sure...

Prince is performing two late-night shows during the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal at a small, intimate venue: the Metropolis.  He'll play tonight and tomorrow night at 11:30 p.m., a venu with a capacity for only 2000 people, while he usually plays arenas 10 times that size. 
Organizers say: "the star has asked us to transform the venue into a massive dance floor for the occasion. Therefore, the parterre will be reserved for dancing, with only 300 reserved seats in the balcony."
Needless to say, tickets were sold out after minutes. Sigh... 
And here are all details of the Jazz Fest program, from the official press release:
In total, more than 1000 concerts and activities await fans at the 32nd edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, presented by TD in collaboration with Rio Tinto Alcan! From June 25 to July 4, multiple musical celebrations, free outdoor mega-events, some thirty concert series, about fifty shows per day and a carnival’s worth of entertainment and activities illuminate the downtown core of Montreal. Montrealers and their guests will find something for every conceivable taste in the wild array of diversity presented annually by the Festival. Legends from here and abroad, newcomers to the music scene, rising stars and undeniable icons all gather in our city, whether solo, as stars of a megaconcert, in minimalist combos or Big Bands, all pouring themselves into the heartbeat of the largest and greatest jazz festival in the world. It’s an impressive free outdoor program in the heart of a city in tune with jazz, blues and world music, including a musical park for children, concerts, activities and entertainment, every day, from noon to midnight. Do the math: it’s 10 days of musical pleasure. You will of course have noticed that construction is going full steam ahead on Ste. Catherine St. and will not be finished before the event opens. Therefore, we invite all Festival fans to use the main entrance to the site, now located on De Maisonneuve Blvd. (in front of Saint-Laurent Metro), even though Ste. Catherine St. remains accessible to pedestrians. Fans can also discover the brand new Promenade des Artistes, extending along De Maisonneuve Blvd, from Jeanne-Mance St. to Saint Urbain St., where they’ll find the Rio Tinto Alcan stage, as well as many of the activities usually located on Ste. Catherine St.

Three massive free outdoor parties

Every year, the Festival invites its loyal fans to the traditional series of magnificent free outdoor bashes that have built its international reputation. The TD stage in the Place des Festivals is the place to be at 9:30 p.m. for three blowouts, starting on Saturday, June 25 with the Rio Tinto Alcan Grand Opening Event starring French sensation Ben l’Oncle Soul; at the Festival’s mid-point, Tuesday, June 28, for the Special Electro-Jazz Event with Misteur Valaire; and closing things out on Monday, July 4 with the TD Grand Closing Event in collaboration with XM Canada starring legendary party band The B‑52s. The party is headed to the Place des Festivals!

A cornucopia of concerts and entertainment

TD stage (Place des Festivals)
On the main stage, aside from the Grands événements, the Festival welcomes the Performances TD series, presented at 9 p.m. and once again at 11 p.m. Here, fans can party with the Soul Rebels Brass Band (June 26), who caused a sensation during the Grande soirée Mardi Gras closing the Festival last year, rolling out an irresistible carnival of funk, rock and reggae with a shot of hip hop, steeped in the jazz traditions of their native New Orleans; Galactic (June 27), a UMO (Unidentified Musical Object) appearing as a sextet of funkateers from Louisiana-one of the best jam bands in the U.S.-and landing on Planet Jazz to zap us with spatial electronica laced with intergalactic hip hop and cosmic rock; Ima (June 29), on a non-stop success streak (more than 225,000 albums sold), racking up platinum (Smile) and gold (a la vida !, Christmas) certifications, and who’s just released an album sung entirely in English, Precious; La Excelencia (June 30), THE best salsa group in New York, turning the Place des Festivals into a gigantic dancefloor; Marco Calliari (July 1), our fave Italo-Quebecer, finally headlining the Festival’s main stage and bringing us the hot and happening rhythms of his 3rd album, Al Faro Est, as a bonus; Susie Arioli (July 2), winner of the 2008 Oscar Peterson Award, one of Quebec’s most authentic jazz sirens and darling of this Festival, returning to our stage by popular demand, in a special Festival concert with guest musicians; and Gizelle Smith (July 3), the English sensation of the hour, the hottest new discovery in soul, the undeniable Golden Girl of deep funk, offering a unifying, lively, energy-packed concert.

Of course, fans can flock to the very same stage a little earlier, at 6 p.m., when the Gammes TD series hosts artists including young pianist and composer Laïla Biali (June 29), the new face of contemporary jazz, who has toured 5 continents and played alongside artists as diverse as Suzanne Vega and Sting, as well as in venues as prestigious as Carnegie Hall; Parc-X Trio (June 30), winners of the 2010 Grand Jazz Award, whose originality and stage presence are as much a trademark as their savvy blend of jazz, world music, classical and pop, as evidenced on Cent questions sans réponse, a 2nd album they’ll launch at the Festival; and the Blues Camp Graduates (July 3), fifty-odd very fortunate young musicians aged 13 to 17, chosen for their interest, talent and passion, completing their memorable tenure in this extraordinary and free musical day camp.

Rio Tinto Alcan stage (corner De Maisonneuve Blvd. and Jeanne-Mance St., Promenade des Artistes)
This year, the Rio Tinto Alcan stage is located a little further north, at the western end of the new Promenade des Artistes on the Quartier des spectacles, where fans can groove to the Soirées jazzy Rio Tinto Alcan series. At 8 p.m. and 10 pm., the series features, among others, a galaxy of ’60s rhythm and blues as interpreted by Nadja (June 25), Mario Pelchat’s muse, with her 2nd album, Everything’s Going My Way; the eclectic style of atypical Toronto singer Alejandra Ribera (June 27), whose concerts rollercoaster from Latin folk to French chanson to alternative pop without warning and channel a rare intensity; an original re-reading of the Louis Armstrong oeuvre, from Dixieland to the great classics of the American repertoire, courtesy of the instrumental pirouettes of Misses Satchmo (June 30); and the passionate Dirty Thirties sound of Canadian swing darling Alex Pangman (July 1), back after a decade-long absence from the Festival.

Grande‑Place stage, Complexe Desjardins
Class is back in session-with the completely revamped curriculum we debuted last year! A quintet of vocal harmonies (Les Zélèves) headed by Victor-Jacques Ménard, alongside James Gelfand and his quartet and, of course, our Festival mascot, Ste-Cat, are ready to welcome students back to a jazz lesson that’s perfect for the whole family! La Petite école du jazz (Little School of Jazz) presented by Rio Tinto Alcan every day at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., from June 25 to July 4, offers once again a dynamic, interactive and fun-filled musical initiation for young and old music fans alike!
Loto‑Québec stage (Parterre of the future symphony hall, corner St. Urbain St. and De Maisonneuve Blvd.)

At 7 p.m., the Spectacles blues Loto-Québec series is an absolute must, welcoming artists including Martin Goyette & the Skinny Bones (June 28) with a new project that leans a little closer to soul and swing with a power that could leave our neighbours to the south green with envy; the well-dressed Stephen Barry Band (July 2), legendary pillars of Canadian blues for the past 35 years, known for their high-calibre songs; the Conor Gains Band (July 3), led by a genuine little 16-year-old guitar genius, a former Blues Camp student (2008) whose blues-pop-soul stunned the crowd in the legendary Horseshoe Tavern; and Layla Zoe (July 4), a seductive, tattooed redhead with an utterly contagious energy, one of the finest blues singers in Canada.

A little later, Les Soirées blues Loto‑Québec take over at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. with a roster of artists each more interesting than the last. Among them, Lucky Peterson (June 29) unwraps his latest, Every Second A Fool Is Born, a collection of energetic, captivating, passionate songs; Guy Bélanger (July 2) rolls in with a solid group of four singer-musicians and a 2nd solo album, Crossroads, a savvy blend of originals and folk and blues covers; and young blueswoman Nina Attal (July 4) accepts our invitation to unveil her talent and a guitar style that is sheer rock goddess!

Bell stage (future Clark esplanade, corner Clark and De Montigny Sts)
When the temperature is at its peak, you’ll know you’ve walked right into the Tropiques Bell series, at 8 p.m. every night of the Festival! Among others, catch the return of the Roberto López Project (June 29), whose Soy Panamericano has made waves and promises to be incredible live; Baloji (June 30), the Congolese Belgian “sorcerer of words” bringing an incomparable and unique blend of instruments, styles and cultures; Novalima (July 2), the South American collective that upends every preconception of Peruvian music, broadening their scope ever further, integrating dub, salsa, hip hop; and Khaira Arby and her Band (July 4), the most beautiful voice in Mali, here with the rock-tinged desert blues that have made her the queen of Timbuktu.

The evening continues at 10 p.m. with the Groove Bell series, presenting Ghanaian-American Blitz the Ambassador and his Dear Africa (June 27), one of the most original MCs to emerge in recent years, zinging his music with funk, swing, soul, Afrobeat, delivering rich orchestrations and a vibrant, rhythmic poetry; the energetic Motown-inflected pop-soul of Fitz and The Tantrums (June 29), whose songs have hooked fans of TV series Criminal Minds and Desperate Housewives; and mixmaster Poirier and his Sound System with Boogat, Face-T, Imposs, Mr OK and L’Xtrmst.Zen (June 30), staging another evening of laserized dance music with a dancehall, soca and electronica edge.
CBC/Radio-Canada stage (former Parc des Festivals, corner De Bleury St. and De Maisonneuve Blvd.)

As the sun sets, the Brunantes CBC/Radio-Canada series lights up the scene at 8 p.m. with artists including versatile pianist John Roney (June 25), very active on the Canadian circuit, a veteran of the Festival jam-sessions from 2006 to 2009 and artist in the Piano Solo series in Balmoral last year, nominated for the TD Grand Jazz Award and the Galaxie Rising Star Award; clarinetist Guillaume Bourque, composer and double bassist Jean Félix Mailloux and percussionist Ziya Tabassian in Bomata (June 28), who take us on a stunning world tour soaring on jazz melodies, also nominated for the TD Grand Jazz Award and the Galaxie Rising Star Award; and trombonist, composer and arranger Jean-Nicolas Trottier (July 3), who seems to turn up in every corner of the Québécois jazz scene, whether leading his own large ensemble, trio or quartet or collaborating with other artists.

A little later, the Rendez-vous series gets underway at 10 p.m., offering the deep, darkly-accented free jazz of the Joel Kerr Quintet (June 26), led by a versatile double bassist, nominated for the TD Grand Jazz Award and the Galaxie Rising Star Award; the imaginative treasures and musical curiosity of Room of Wonders by banjo man Jayme Stone (June 29), whose music is inspired by folk music from the world over; and the satin saxophone sound of Sophie Alour (July 3), whose latest, Opus 3, radiates determination, elegance and quiet strength.

L’Astral (Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan, 305 Ste. Catherine St. W.)
New this year in L’Astral, at 11:30 p.m., the Open House series invites Festival fans to groove into the wee hours to Afrobeat, funk, soul, samba and everything else groovy with Montreal DJ collective The Power Dam Initiative (June 25 to 28); dance to the irresistible rhythms of Caribbean, African and Latin-American musical cultures mixed for the masses in Canicule Tropicale with Philippe Noel, Don Pedro and DJ Kobal (June 29 to July 2); and to attend a marriage of the finest rap flows and jazz rhythms dreamt up by grandmaster S. Mos (July 3 and 4), armed with keyboards claviers, turntables and other machines. Free. The Friends of the Festival Card grants priority access to Open House. Space limited.

Marc-André Jetté and other Montreal chefs cook at Balnea Spa in Bromont

by Alexandra Forbes

BALNEA, run by girl-about-town Stéphanie Émond and her hubby Denis Laframboise, is a super cool spa near Montreal where people go to spend a whole day dipping into pools and jacuzzis set at different temperatures, alternating that with a bit of sweating in the wet and dry saunas, and plain'ol lounging and admiring the stunning views. They also offer a long list of massages and other well-being treatments.

Recently, they've added what's called a "beach club": a whole set-up by the lake's edge, with a DJ, even:

Every time I've been there, the crowd's been almost as cool-looking as the couple itself, and the vibe is absolutely magical: the baths face a pristine privately-owned lake and everything is perfectly manicured and looked after.

Now Stephanie has come up with another cool idea, which she dubbed  “The Summer of Chefs", or "L'Éte des Chefs". Some of Montreal's better-known chefs will take turn cooking, one week each, until early September.

Stéphanie Emond at the launch of the Éte des Chefs with food writer Jean-Phillipe Tastet

The chefs have been challenged to a competition of sorts, where the best-selling dish will crown its creator as the winner.

I was there for the launch of the event and got to try the dishes. The two stars of the lineup - Marc André Jetté of Les 400 Coups and Laurent Godbout of Chez L'Epicier, were M.I.A., so, in their absence, I'd have to say that the clear winners were the very fresh seafood salad by Audrey Dufresne of Trois Petits Bouchons (pictured below) and the chickpeas marinated in Xérez by Alonso Ortiz of Pintxo.

There was a pretty and tasty (though a bit ordinary) rice-paper roll at the Mikado booth, and sous-vide salmon on a disk of potato served with great fanfare by Godbout's assistant (a bit déjà vu, maybe?).

And Éric Gonzalez definitely needs to work on his pea with strawberry foam idea.... not so good. In any case, the so-called "chefs' competition" is more of an excuse to gather people around food and drink - never a bad idea, considering the spectacular scenery....

Here's the full schedule:

Martin Juneau (ex-La Montée de Lait) and Daren Bergeron – Newtown  
July 3 - 9
(Daren Bergeron is chef-owner of Decca77 and executive-chef at Newtown).

Alonso Ortiz – Pintxo 
July 10 to 16
This chef spent 5 years in the Basque country, Spain, where he worked for some time at Arzak restaurant. 

Danny St-Pierre – Auguste (Sherbrooke)
July 17 to 23
This chef used to live and work in Montreal (Toqué!, Laloux) before opening his own restaurant in Sherbrooke, in the Eastern Townships

Chef Audrez Dufresne and her partner at Trois Petits Bouchons
restaurant, serving their seafood salad

Audrey Dufresne – Trois Petits Bouchons
July 24 - 30

Marc-André Lavergne – Accords
July 31- August 6

Laurent Godbout – Chez l’Épicier 
July 7 - 13

Éric Gonzalez – Auberge St-Gabriel 
August 14 - 20
(ex-Cube  at the Hôtel St-Paul, ex-XO Le Restaurant at the Hôtel St-James)

Kimio Nguyen – Mikado
August 21-27
This Korean chef owns three Mikados (avenue Laurier, Monkland Avenue, rue St-Denis).

Marc-André Jetté – Les 400 coups
August 28 - September 3

Simon Laborde – Vallier
September 4 - 10

Photo Credits: BALNEA/Bicom

BALNEA's offical website

More on BALNEA on this blog

Jun 22, 2011

Aurelia, Elyse Lambert, Etheliya Hananova and Marie-Josée Beaudoin: Montreal's great sommelières

Sommelière Etheliya Hananova, of Lawrence

By Alexandra Forbes

For the last few days I've been watching video footage of some of Montréal's great sommelières, and reading their wine recommendations. Yes, they're a very sociable bunch, appearing on TV, in internet videos and blogs. Elyse Lambert has become a full-on TV personality, while Aurelia Filion has the hottest wine blog in Québec (thanks mostly to the videos she posts of herself tasting wines). Marie-Josée Beaudoin and Etheliya Hananova have their own sets of followers, too....

I wrote about them today in The Montreal Buzz, here's the link.

Sommelière Marie-Josée Beaudoin, co-owner of Les 400 Coups
Photo: Andrea Doucet Donida
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Chef Daniel Boulud in Montreal: Au Pied de Cochon, Brasserie T! and F1

by Alexandra Forbes

I've mentioned here before that chef Daniel Boulud will open a restaurant in Montréal sometime this winter, but I wanted tell you a few more details...

Daniel spent the Grand Prix weekend Montreal. He came to see F1, as he does every year, but this time he also came to work: he spoke to all the Quebec media about the new resto. Here's the interview I did with him at the Ritz:

He also went to eat at the places owned by some of his friends. He especially loved his dinner at Au Pied de Cochon but also had fun dinners at Brasserie T! (owned by Normand Laprise) and Ferreira Café:

From left to right: Michael Schumacher, Daniel Boulud,
Felipe Massa and racing fanatic John Houghtaling II, at Ferreira Café

From now on chef Boulud will be more often in town, as he works on getting his Maison Boulud ready for opening. He couldn't have chosen a more glamorous address than the  hotel Ritz-Carlton, which will reopen this winter after a complete rehaul that is costing owners a reported Can$ 150 million.

Boulud is now on a mission to research the "competition" and learn from the local star chefs. First on his list are  Joe Beef (chefs Fred Morin and Dave McMillan), Toqué! (chef Normand Laprise) and the always cult  Au Pied de Cochon owned by his buddy, chef Martin Picard.

Chef Daniel Boulud poses with the old service cart from the Ritz-Carlton's restaurant

Jun 12, 2011

Montreal's Ritz-Carlton to reopen with resto by Daniel Boulud and a Tiffany's store

by Alexandra Forbes
This week the Ritz-Carlton Montreal announced that when it reopens, later this year, it will have Tiffany & Co.'s first free-standing Montreal store. A press release says "The new Montreal store will mark Tiffany's fifth company-operated store in Canada. (...) Situated in the heart of Montreal's historic Golden Square Mile, on the corner of Sherbrooke and Mountain Streets, the new store will occupy about 2,000 square feet within the historic building".

This increases the already high expectations, as Montrealers are increasingly eager to see the comeback of their landmark hotel, which opened in 1912 and has hosted countless celebs and royalty (Liz Taylor and Richard Burton got married there the first time). A whopping $150 million has been spent in the complete reconstruction of the hotel, which in its new version will have 130 hotel rooms and suites and 46 luxury residential apartments. 

Another coup for the Ritz has been the signing of chef Daniel Boulud, one the most powerful restaurateurs in New York (where he owns Daniel, Bar Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne, etc). His Montreal restaurant will be called Maison Boulud (the same name he gave to his Beijing outpost), and will look like this:

According to the site Eater, "Boulud would like the menu at the French fine-dining restaurant to be influenced by Montreal and intends to "focus on local products and purveyors." And it's not his only Canadian project, either: Boulud has said he's "looking closely" at Toronto".

Chef Boulud spent the weekend in Montreal and was interviewed by all the local media. Here is is, posing at the Ritz-Carlton's sales office, holding the old silver service cart that was used at the original restaurant of the hotel:

Stay tuned...

Jun 9, 2011

Cruising down Montreal's St-Lawrence in style... on the Belvü Catamaran!

By Andrea Doucet Donida

What is sleek, fast and powerful in Montreal this weekend? F1 cars racing on the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit? Ferraris and Bugattis down Crescent Street? No, I’m talking about the chic and graceful Belvü catamaran cruising down the St-Lawrence river.

I had the chance of being invited with other bloggers for this year’s launch of the Catamaran cruise, their first full season in business. If you’re looking for a fun, different way of visiting the Old Port of Montreal, with breathtaking view of the city and the Sainte-Hélène Island, this is the place to be.

Lounging on the roof-top terrace is quite spectacular. I even suggest taking off your summer sandals and unwind your feet in the grass-type carpet, at least for a moment.

They have several packages, from happy hours to full course meal served in the restaurant inside, comfortably seated while you watch the scenery go by.

No sea-sickness here, the boat is very stable, unless you abuse of the all-included deal…but that is up to you!

I only got to taste some of the cocktail food, but if the meal is anything like those appetizers, you will not be disappointed.

The Lobster appetizer with orange sauce was really delicious and very generous; with the lovely Matane Shrimp mousse, it was the perfect combination to feel almost at sea...

The happy hour rates are very reasonable, however it could get a little pricey for dinner, especially during the Firework festival, but I bet you can’t find a better view then right there, in the middle of the majestic St-Lawrence.

Rates range from 21.94$ to 225$/person depending on the chosen package (happy hour, full dinner, fireworks…).

For detailed information on activities, hours and rates : www.belvu.ca

PS: Upon boarding, I was welcomed by the co-owner, Martin Roy, who is a good friend of a friend of mine, who I have previously met. I wasn’t aware that he was involved in this enterprise, and this did not affect my opinion of the cruise, but I thought for transparency purposes, important to let you know.

Co-owner and Marketing VP, Martin Roy.

Jun 7, 2011

Chef Martin Picard's pork supplier Carl Rousseau roasts a pig at Ferreira Café

Meet Carl Rousseau. The man behind Gaspor, who produces some of the best pigs money can buy and supplies, among others, his friend Martin Picard. This is a photo I took today of mr. Rousseau barbecuing a pig behind Ferreira Café, for the party that will start in a couple of hours. It'll be a street party, with Carl's barbecued goodies and a rock concert to keep it lively.

 I first met him this spring, at Martin Picard's Cabane à Sucre, pictured below - he's always there, helping out and - what else - preparing his famous pork 'cue.

Gotta run now, the party awaits!

Jun 5, 2011

F1 Week: parties on Peel Street

By Alexandra Forbes

It's that time of the year again: F1 week! The city, somehow, turns into one huge party, as private events spill onto the streets. I'll be going to the "gastronomic barbecue" at Ferreira Café on Peel Street this Tuesday, but it's far from the only thing happening on that street.... 

From June 9 to 12, the street will be closed to car traffic and will host the Peel Paddock: an event that includes car displays and free street shows. 
Here's a little sampling of what Peel street turns into during F1 street:

Thursday June 9 is also party night at Cavalli, a restaurant which, as any Montrealer will tell you, is better known for its happy hours, va-va-va-voom waitresses than the food.

On Thursdays especially, the real attraction is the place itself: alive, vibrant, flirty and loud, with a lit-up fuschia bar and… did we mention the hot waitresses? It’s a restaurant with a distinctly nightclubby vibe…
As it becomes an impromptu nightclub once a week, Cavalli draws hordes of local beauties in sexy get-ups and the men-in-suits that like to hang around them. At around nine, the lights start to dim and the music – already pretty loud by default – reaches dance-floor levels, as a DJ spins in a temporary booth.

By midnight, the place is filled shoulder-to-shoulder with a mostly local clientele (age average in the low thirties) and the flirting level gets sky-high. Pretty girls have a better chance at getting by the doorman at this point, as a line-up inevitably forms.
“They all arrive at once, do the rounds and scope out the attractive guys,” says a regular. Clearly this is not your usual pasta joint…

Cavalli, 2040 Peel Street, (514) 843-5100
Ferreira Café: 1446 Peel Street, (514) 848-0988