Feb 27, 2012

Joe Beef on the cover of Lucky Peach, the coolest food mag out there

by Alexandra Forbes

Even though I'm a die-hard fan of Momofuku Ssäm Bar, in New York, I don't always agree with what chef-owner David Chang does or serves. But I do admit one thing: he managed to put out a food magazine that many food writers out there would envy. Or DO envy, actually. Pretty cool, pretty ballsy, pretty well-researched.

I not only read every issue: I keep the magazines at home as valuable research tools, as they've proved to be a brilliant mix of fun and substance.

And this month... Montreal's own Joe Beef is on the cover! Chang's love affair with the "Joe Beef boys" is nothing new, as he made clear in the intro of the Joe Beef book, but I'm glad to see the collaboration has been ongoing. (To see what I had to say about the book, with a video interview with Dave and Fred, click here).

(I've ordered my copy but, alas, it hasn't arrived, so this is just a teaser post...)

Feb 25, 2012

Park restaurant on Victoria Avenue in Westmount: top-notch sushi and much more

by Alexandra Forbes

I, as many natives of São Paulo, seem to think I'm from one of the best sushi towns in the world. 

In other words, I'm a sushi snob. And sushi snob doesn't even explain it: I'm a Japanese food snob. I just can't understand why there's hardly any decent Japanese food in Montréal, other than the fact that.... well... there just aren't that many Japanese immigrants or descendants around, relatively speaking.

Having said that, I am THRILLED that Park restaurant opened only a few blocks away from my place, in Westmount. Antonio, the chef-owner, is not Japanese at all. He grew up in Paraguay and has Korean ancestry. No matter: he knows his fish better than 99% of the dudes cooking Asian stuff in this town. 

Antonio Park was previously the chef at Kaizen restaurant, but I don't even like mentioning Kaizen, as I have nothing positive to say about the place, where the owner(s) clearly doesn't care much about service, and there's lots of gringo-style rolls on the menu. 

Chef Park is now on his own, and... am I ever glad!

What a relief it is to be able to say I can now easily go out for good sushi. 

And yes, it is that good: you'll have to take my word for it. Of course I'm not talking about that North American crap full of mayo, fake crab, Rice Krispies and that sauce-that-masks-all-evils, "hot sauce". Yuck. I mean delectable niguiri: rice, good-quality fish cut the right way, period.

But make no mistake: this place isn't just about sushi. 

I had an amazing tataki of Kobe-style beef that left me wanting more... And miso soup made from a bouillon of lobster shells, not just the usual hot water with a bit of miso and tofu thrown in.

Bibimbap Rice

There's also a killer bibimbap rice (a Korean specialty), and seared tuna on a purée of squash, etc. I hate the term pan-Asian so I'll avoid it, but the fact is you can't pigeonhole the cuisine. A bit of this, a bit of that. All of it pretty damn good.

Oh, and did I mention the maître d'/manager comes from Le 357C, the poshest private club in town? Yep, he's made the move... 

This may not be the fanciest restaurant, but I assure you: Antonio knows his raw fish better than 99% of the dudes cooking Asian stuff in this town, and he's got a top-notch maître d' running the show.  Winning combination, no?

tel. (514) 750-7534
378 avenue Victoria

A big p.s.: seems like there's another new kid on the block worthy of note, according to today's review by The Gazette's Lesley Chesterman: Zen Ya. Can't wait to try it.

Feb 21, 2012

Chef Martin Picard launches Cabane à Sucre book: sugar shack recipes, artsy photos

By Alexandra Forbes

I've written enough about chef Martin Picard on this blog and elsewhere for it to be pretty obvious, by now, that a) yes, I think the guy is damn good at what he does and b) both his Montreal restaurant Au Pied de Cochon and his cabane à sucre (sugar shack) outside of town are both experiences not to be missed by any tourist who cares about good food, provided they call far enough in advance to score a rezy.

But the reason I'm writing about him yet again is to tell you about Picard's latest project: a book about the sugar shack which, at this very same time last year, he spoke about with uncontained enthusiasm.   It'll be out March 2, and in true Picard style, the launch will be celebrated with a bash at the said 'shack' (rustic pop-up restaurant would be a more apt description...). 

The book promises to be much more than a mere compilation of recipes. To Picard, the gastronomic worth of the Quebec sugar shack tradition has long been unfairly ignored, even by Quebecers themselves. 

He aims to set the record straight by showing that the typical flavours associated with the quintessential springtime maple-laden banquet can be reinterpretated in a finer, more precisely-cooked guise. And he's got the thorough research, both historical and culinary, to back it up.

You don't have to be a genius to know that this one will fly off the shelves - every young American chef seems to admire Picard and his fearless nose-to-tail cooking, starting with TV-celeb Anthony Bourdain, perhaps the biggest Picard fan of all. Not to mention Quebecers, of course, who pack his two restaurants unrelentingly.

The timing on this is perfect: the book will be out right when the sugar shack reopens for business (though it's already booked solid through the end of the sugaring off season), and a mere two months after the chef's cabane was featured prominently in Bon Appétit magazine in the U.S: 

Image credit: Bon Appétit
Yep... that's right: yet another magazine going gaga for the chef. The huge feature on the impossible-to-book-a-table-at Sugar Shack, with an online slideshow of photos and recipes galore, here's the link:


Feb 18, 2012

Chefs Frederick Boucher (Pastaga), Guillaume Cantin (400 Coups), Louis-Philippe Lepage (P'tit Extra) + Florent Risser (Café du Nouveau Monde) battle it out tonight

The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel (the building on the right): hosting the
annual cheese extravaganza thrown my Montreal's Highlight Festival
By Alexandra Forbes

Like watching Iron Chef America? Think you’d make a great judge at a food reality show? Then you might want to join in the fun tonight, as hundreds of Montrealers will gather at a cooking contest held annually at the banquet hall of the Fairmont QueenElizabeth hotel (of Lennon and Yoko hosting a press conference naked in bed fame). In this odd-but-fun cooking contest, everyone in the room will give marks as four chefs serve dishes made with Québec cheeses. And of course you know that the cheeses made in the province of Québec rival the best in the world, right? I’m not only a huge fan (my favourites Mi-carême and Riopelle come to mind).

Québec artisanal cheeses: many rival the best in France

   Running for top prize this year are Guillaume Cantin (Les 400 Coups), Louis-Philippe Lepage (Au P’tit Extra), Florent Risser (Café du Nouveau Monde) and Frederick Boucher (Pastaga). Each of the chefs will prepare three courses, totalling a cheese extravaganza of  twelve dishes. 

There's still time to go, and the ticket, which costs Can$ 95 per person, includes not only the food but different wines which will be paired accordingly, and the service. The whole  affair is part of the Highlights Festival, so don’t expect a subdued ambiance: in true Montreal fashion, it promises to be quite boisterous.

Presenting Québec Chefs andCheeses: Saturday February 18, 6:30 PM, Grand Salon of the FairmontQueen Elizabeth Hotel, 900 René-Lévesque Blvd. West, tel. (514) 861-3511

Festival-goers at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel

More Highlights Fest dinners that you can still attend, if making very last-minute plans (information compiled by Katherine Rollet, the festival's official blogger)

ITHQ (514 282-5161), Jason Wilson + Gilles Nicault (Seattle + Washington State)
Pullman (514 288-7779), Matthew Dillon (Seattle).
All-you-can-eat moules et frittes at Beaver Hall, 514 866-1331 (places left for after 9 P.M.)
Washington State wine tasting at the  Continental Bistro, 514 845-6842
Highlights dinner at the Contemporain, 514 847-6900
Jeff Gordon at DECCA77, 514 934-1077 (more, in French, by Eve Martel on her blog La Pantry)

Feb 15, 2012

Pastaga restaurant by chef Martin Juneau: the talk of the town

Photo: Gabrielle Sykes/Pastaga
by Alexandra Forbes

Having been away from Montreal for two months, I've come back to find lots of new restaurants to try. I checked out the brand-new Park last Saturday, on Victoria Avenue (in Westmount) and the food is big-time wow (more on that later, I'll write a full post about it...).

But the first one of my to-go list, currently, is Pastaga, co-owned by Martin Juneau and Louis-Philippe Breton. Silly name, which is deceiving - this ain't no pasta place - but Juneau's cred and local fame has been drawing in the crowds.

The Gazette's critic Lesley Chesterman was very impressed, to say the least. Her review, here.

1 514.742.6389

Tue - Sat:3:45 pm-12:00 am
Sun:10:00 am-2:30 pm

Feb 10, 2012

Montreal summed up in a 3-minute video: a 2011 retrospective

by Alexandra Forbes

I just got back to Montreal after a long stay in my native Brazil, and was quite thrilled to discover this little 3-minute retrospective highlighting the major events and celebrities that rocked the city in 2011. It's a beautifully-edited love letter to Montreal, and I think it's awesome. And yep, I'm in it too! ;)

Feb 9, 2012

I love chocolate

Christophe Morel's delectable caramel hearts Photo Credits: Carrie MacPherson

I love chocolate. Maybe everyone loves chocolate? No, I met a few that don’t but I’m always a little suspicious of them…chocolate is not a common food staple, it has its own aura. Even more so then coffee I believe, because of its texture, because it can be transformed in so many ways, sculptured, liquefied, solidified, blasted into powder and yet, always melts perfectly to our mouth temperature.

Chocolate is usually a sweet treat but it can also be enjoyed as a savoury dish, as demonstrated by Mexican gastronomy which has beautifully mastered the art of chocolate cooking…

So why am I declaring here my endless love of chocolate to you? Well, because tomorrow is the big chocolate party in Old Montreal, the first “Je t’aime en chocolat” event where some of Montreal and Quebec’s finest chocolate makers will be offering their precious creations.

And since I’m the official blogger of the event, I have first hand information on what you’ll be able to see and taste at this upcoming chocolate fair, which I share here with you because sharing is also part of the joy of chocolate, don’t you think?

So here are my first few tips for this chocolate-frenzy weekend just before V day!

What to get for Valentine’s Day:
Chocolate hearts from Christophe Morel – filled with perfect caramel, not the drippy kind, full, luscious, sexy caramel! In 3 flavours to set the perfect mood: passion fruit and ginger to jolt the feelings, raspberry and rose-water for the romantic side of the evening and pure Tahiti vanilla caramel for the taste of the real thing. What I love about these is the balance of the flavours, they are not too sweet and the chocolate at the end smoothes the intensity of the caramel.

What to eat on the spot:
Point G unique macaron developed exclusively for this week: chocolate and cherry macaron, deliciously temping, you won’t be able to resist them! Just look at them!

Photo by Point G
What to see:
For the inner fashionista in you, the chocolate fashion show is a must! 5 Montreal designers have been paired with chocolate masters to create incredible show pieces and lovely designs. Having already peeked at some of the dresses, I know you will be amazed by the result!

What to bring back home:
C Traiteur mini meringue is probably so far my biggest revelation of the show. Mini meringues are so hot in New York right now but Montreal hadn’t been hit by this new trend… yet. After popping a couple of these mini-meringues, you’ll be surfing the wave right through spring time!

Chocolate and fleur de sel naturally flavoured mini meringues

What to discover:
Chocolaterie Bonneau is on my list of must-taste. Yves Bonneau is a chocolate master with more than 25 years of experience that just recently arrived from France and opened in December 2011 his chocolaterie on Fleury St. I’m very curious to discover his specialties.

What to win:
For all chocolate and fashion lover out there, you cannot miss this contest! There are over 2500$ in prizes, including a 1000$ gift certificate for the fashion extravaganza La Grande Braderie de Montréal, some of the world’s best chocolate from Cacao Barry Origine and Rare Origine Collections, chocolate classes at la Guilde Culinaire with Christophe Morel and at the Chocolate Academy Barry-Callebaut and even a supper with your own private chefs.

Oh, and by just getting through the door, you might also win a supper for 2 at some of Old Montreal's best restaurants like Les 400 Coups, Osteria Venti, Sinclair, Bar et Boeuf...

So there. I love chocolate and if for no other reason than this one; I will be at Marché Bonsecours this weekend, enjoying a world of chocolate. Are you a chocolate lover?

I’ll be tasting and discovering many chocolates and other sweet treats from all these talented artisans:
  • Chocolaterie Bonneau
  • Marius et Fanny
  • Chocolats Privilège
  • Petits Gâteaux
  • Corfias Chocolats Fins
  • Le Petit Chocolatier
  • Comptoir de Bruxelles
  • La boutique Point G
  • Le Comptoir Chocolat
  • Caramel bonbons et chocolats
  • Christophe Morel
  • La Petite Paysanne
To follow my chocolate adventures this weekend: @andreaddonida or @JTMEC

To make up your own planning of Je t'aime en chocolat: http://www.jetaimeenchocolat.com/#!horaire/programme

Le Comptoir Chocolat amazing graphics will also be on display and part of the fashion show

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Feb 2, 2012

Buonanotte is celebrating its 20th year!

by Andrea Doucet Donida

Buonanotte is 20 this year, which in restaurant years, mean it’s like 100: a real institution on the Main!

But since it is a place where the crowd also likes to dance and move, this restaurant hits the twenties like a real youngster ready to party!

Watch the video to give you a taste of its vibe.

Buonanotte 20 from Beau on Vimeo.

Happy twentieth Buonanotte and many more Italian feasts!

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