Mar 30, 2012

The new face of Montreal Street Food?

By Andrea Doucet Donida

Toqué!'s idea of street food: white chocolate mousse with dry fruit chips

« What are your thoughts about street food? » asked Marie-Claude Lortie to a panel of 4 guests invited to talk about Quebec gastronomy… after an awkward silence, Montreal‘s most respected chef Normand Laprise of the famous Toqué restaurant, murmured « if it’s quality food, there is a place for it».

Les rencontres La Presse - With Marie-Claude Lortie, Chef Graziella Battista, Normand Laprise, Dyan Solomon and Daniel Vézina

Montreal has no street food per say; it has been forbidden and made illegal since 1947. Mainly for sanitary reason, but we are no better nor worse than any other city, so how come New Yorkers and Torontonians can grab a quick bite on the sidewalk and we cannot? The harsh weather which has been invoked as another potential reason isn’t fooling anyone.

The awkward silence during the gastronomy talk organized by La Presse and featuring Chef Normand Laprise, Chef Daniel Vézina, Dyan Solomon of Olive et Gourmando and Chef Graziella Battista is probably the most revealing: restaurants do not want the extra competition.

But what about the restaurants who do want to adventure out of their concrete walls? Some are pushing, or at least making efforts to show how Montreal Street Food can be creative, delicious and part of our culinary culture!

A few weeks ago, the now melted Snow Village on Ste-Hélène Island, was showcasing just that: extraordinary street-food in a very Nordic setting.

Interesting to note that Toqué! (a Relais & Château restaurant) was there, offering the most beautiful and delicious hand held desserts like the white chocolate and yogurt mousse on an ice cream cone, covered with dried fruit chips -blueberry, strawberry and sea-buckthorn! Amazing!

There was of course the Grumman78’s taco truck, the most visible leader of this movement in Montreal. They are trying very hard to get the city to change their bylaw so that they could adventure out of the limited Festival territories and roam our streets bringing the finest tacos to all.

Ok, they are not saving lives, but wouldn’t our streets be livelier if from time to time you would cross path with a brilliant aroma of pulled pork or fresh salmon? Or if when strolling down the streets you could munch on warm Toqué cookies, or discover the joys of the Satay’s Brother’s steam buns?

It’s an open question, to you and Montreal to answer. Hoping there will not be only silence that follows it, I leave you with some pictures of what the new face of Montreal Street food can look like, even when surrounded by snow.

The Satay Brothers

Oysters at their best - au naturel! ;-)

Grilled cheese with 3 Quebec cheeses and straw potato chips by La Fabrique

Amazing Lamb Tacos by Grumman'78

Grumman'78 famous taco truck. Will we see them free on the street one day?

French Fries by Brit & Chips

Boris Bistro is ready for the Streets of Montreal!

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Mar 1, 2012

Martin Picard's new book Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon: a preview

by Alexandra Forbes

I knew it: Martin Picard's book is just coming out today and, already, I've started to hear the echoes...

"My God! Have you seen it?!"
"Crazy, there's even squirrel sushi!!"

"And did you see? There's a bunch of naked women in it, too! And a short story about a girl in a cabane à sucre and the end of the world!"

Yep. Naked women. Gabrielle, the patissière, looking disturbingly calm and mysterious as she lays in a bathtub filled with maple syrup, for example. Another one having breakfast in bed, covered only with a fur. A bed of snow, that is. And artsy photos, and a short story by Picard's close friend and reknowned painter Marc Séguin.

But to talk about this encyclopaedic work and only mention the parts that will offend certain sensibilities is to only skim the surface.

To me, it's a book that will make his fellow Quebecers appreciate much more what they've got. Show them how a cabane à sucre meal doesn't have to be repetitive and overly heavy and almost gross - that it can be updated and creative and good enough for any sophisticated palate.

I hope the inevitable avalanche of media articles and blogs posts will go beyond the easy "oh, look at this crazy book by the crazy Martin Picard". 

I hope some will look beyond  the gruesome photos of rabbits or beavers being skinned or cut into pieces, to appreciate the wealth of information contained therein. It's basically a textbook on maple syrup: what it's made of, how it's produced, how it's used in recipes, etc. etc. etc. Plenty of graphs, illustrations, a chapter written by biologists who specialize on maples. And then there are the recipes: TONS of them, illustrated with step-by-step photos. Again: encyclopaedic.

But maybe I should leave you with Martin's own description of his oeuvre (which I translated):

"Maybe you'll feel a bit dizzy when diving into this heterogeneous book. It's normal, since I was very involved in making the book and left my mark throughout and, since I'm not very organized, the ideas were often dispersed all over the place. (...) I can confirm that this book contains the imprint of my DNA."

And, presciently, he also writes:

"Just like the great maple tree, this oeuvre has the roots needed to instruct, the straightness and force of the trunk to resist criticism and the charm of the branches that weave out against the blue winter sky as if traced with Chinese ink."