Sep 22, 2013

Daniel Humm and Will Guidara of New York's Eleven Madison Park in town September 30

Will Guidara (left) and Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park
by Alexandra Forbes

I know it's a very bad idea to think of restaurants in terms of rankings, to compare them mentally, assigning marks. But at the same time, it's hard not to.

I'm constantly thinking about the restaurants that seem to demand another visit, that leave me feeling giddy and emotional at the end of dinner. They are no more than five or six: Faviken in Sweden; 41 Grados in Barcelona; Pujol in Mexico City, Etxebarri in the Basque country, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona.

Eleven Madison Park is another one of these places. My favourite in North America and truly one of the greatest I've ever been to.

Pure magic, starting with the beautiful ballet of the servers, never pompous but never overly casual, always on their toes and ever-so-courteous.

So it's exciting to hear that the co-owners of EMP - front-of-house master Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm - will be in town next week, on Monday, September 30.

They'll be here for one night only (one of the many reasons why EMP is so damn good is that they are always there, running the show).

It'll be an early evening of food, drink and book-signing (I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes).

I was lucky enough to receive the book at home, as a gift, and have to say it's a beauty, a true love letter to New York.

Montreal chefs Michelle Marek, Seth Gabrielse and Patrice Demers (the latter this city's most famous pâtissier) will prepare hors d'oeuvres, and drinks will be served. The EMP duo will give a short talk.

Tickets are on sale here.

The event will take place at the FoodLab, 1201 Boul. Saint-Laurent, 5-9 PM

Sep 9, 2013

Omnivore Montreal: a culinary festival for chefs making their mark

By Erica Radey, special collaboration.

It was a fun filled weekend this past August 17 and 18th at the SAT in Montreal as the Omnivore took place. Culinary demos were given by local chefs as well as chefs from abroad. Omnivore is the culinary festival of young chefs making their mark on the gastronomic scene.

The ambiance was great under the dome at the Société des Arts Technologiques—yes you read right under the dome. It does sound slightly trekkie but no, I assure you Comiccon is not until a few more weeks. You do, however, have the impression of being under the stars, just like at the planetarium, that is if stars where food and culinary demos in action. You felt as though you where peaking into the chef’s universe for a short while and caught a glimpse of what makes them unique and the best at what they do…

The ambiance was laid-back and anything but pretentious. It allowed chefs to unveil their philosophy and their art. It was all about going back to the basics: mastering techniques, simplicity of ingredients and local and seasonal produce.

One of my favourite demos had to be the one by Charles-Antoine Crête, chef at Toqué! It was somewhat more of a conference than a demo and it was just as colourful as his personality. He talked about his philosophy; the way he sees the art of cooking. It was simply going back to the basics, thinking like our grandmothers that could not waste a single scrap because they just could not afford to. 

Here is a picture of the so-called scraps: samples of jellies, salts and powders that Charles-Antoine and his team create turning scraps into gastronomy! 

Cooking for Charles-Antoine is more than just fear of waste; it’s a profound love of food and respect for products, be it a 600 lbs. tuna fish or potato peels. All produce deserves to be used to its full potential. That’s where creativity kicks in. He calls it cooking from scrap, yes scrap not scratch. At Toqué! The idea is to use everything by being creative all the while serving high-end gastronomy.

I was also very impressed by both chefs of the SAT’s Food Lab: Michelle Marek, Pastry Chef and Chef Seth Gabrielse. During his demo, Seth made a brioche. It looked so simple, as he explained the basics and science behind baking a good brioche. He educated us on the importance of mixing the ingredients in the right order and the crucial part fermentation plays in achieving the perfect dough.  It’s no wonder he was greatly influenced by the very respected James MacGuire. No picture to be found of the delicious brioche, it hit my lips before I could snap a shoot of it with my buttery fingers! 

Michelle Marek is a great technician. She reinvented classics in a very creative fashion with impeccable presentation. She used simple ingredients with great flavour combinations and a delicious play on textures. Her ingredients might be simple but, her cuisine is not simplistic. She made a point to use the right amount of sugar as not to denature the fresh seasonal fruit she was using, bringing out the delicate acidity of sour cherries and the deeper flavour of the blueberries. I think the pictures speak for themselves!
 Blueberry and dry curd cottage cheese buns
Figs, fresh goat cheese, sunflower buds and crunchy graham drizzled with sunflower oil      

Light dumplings coated in sweet toasted breadcrumbs served with sour cherry jelly and whipped cream

A fresh take on rum baba using spelt flour by Mlles Gâteaux

We have exceptionally talented young chefs here in Montreal and have nothing to envy of other great culinary cities. The next generation of chefs are inspiring, but most of all, they are inspired by local products and have a true passion for their terroir. Indigenous ingredients are being rediscovered in this young cuisine that delivers well thought-out dishes. A cuisine that sets itself apart and that’s growing its roots in home soil and giving local foods the place it deserves. 

Bookmark and Share