Thursday, August 8, 2013

Montreal Summer Food Wrap Up

Le Mondial de la Bière Celebrates 20 years

Summer is winding down, yes already, so here are our thoughts. We kicked off the estivale season with The Mondial de la Bière (May 29 – June 2, 2013). As if we needed a reason to celebrate with a beer but the fest did mark their 20th anniversary. Safe to say with this many notches under their belt the Mondial marks the beginning of Montreal’s summer and slew of events.

Like any big anniversary this is a chance for reflection on the past. Taste evokes memory and beer is no exception. Where and what beer you were drinking 20 years ago might not be the moon landing in terms of significant life events but the old brands and labels do have a certain nostalgia. We remember the big beer companies launching their “dry beer” lines. The promo package for Labatt Dry included an audio cassette featuring a phone sex operator voice describing the sensual new smooth flavour of their beer. Carling Black Label was marketing itself as the alternative cool counter-culture beer. St-Ambrose was starting to appear on the scene only to become the granddaddy of craft brewing in Quebec. If anything the Mondial today illustrates the rise of the microbrewery industry. Come to think of it the first time we tried a St-Ambroise was compliments of Montreal journalist and Boulevardier Nic Auf der Maur who was buying a round of drinks at Grumpy's. Auf der Maur was declaring something to the effect "if I buy you a beer it has to be a Montréal beer." You can switch gears and ask yourself where you might be twenty years from now but also what kind of brews will we be drinking in 2033?

Cold Beer & the great outdoors - Mondial 2013
In honour of their 20th anniversary the Mondial moved from Place Bonaventure to some new digs at Le Palais des Congrès. The venue is a nice contrast to the tomb like atmosphere of Place Bonaventure mainly because the outdoor site is back. No secret beer fest fans missed the open outdoor pub since the fest left Windsor Station three years ago. During our visit this year we were treated to some delicious sunny summer weather. The De La Gauchetière outdoor site, behind the Palais des Congrès, has some great cachet and in addition to the regular beer fest food offerings we found some food trucks. With Chinatown next door, offering bites and respite, from all the excitement and crowds we were glad to discover that The Mondial will be back at the Palais in 2014.  
Déserables Beer Braised Ribs
While beer, memories and sunshine might sound like enough we do have to mention a few faves from the fest. Since it is an Ontario brew, we cannot get it here in La Belle Province, a must stop is Beau’s Brewery who make organic beer made from some rather unique ingredients. Much to our disappointment there were no samples of their kimchi beer so instead we tried their Bog Water made with bog myrtle. The beer has a nice malt taste with some dark fruity notes. Also from Ontario, we enjoyed Crosswind Ale from Lake of Bays Brewery. The bottle boasts “brewed in small batches” and had some nice citrus flavours. Over the past few years we have developed a fondness for beers from Quebec brewery La Grimoire mainly because of the great flavours that pair nicely with food but are also for cooking. This year we had the Déserables maple beer, refreshing, a nice balance of sweet and bitter. Déserables beer makes a great braising liquid for pork ribs – trust us we have tried it. Speaking of favorite beers cherry beer still remains on top of our lists. That’s 2 years in a row Brasseurs de Montreal ran out of their cherry beer at the fest but we did find some sweet solace in a glass of Belgian Kriek (cherry beer). Since our first sip, over 10 years ago, Kriek remains one of our favorite beers of all time.

Food Truck Feeding Frenzy

“We got a great big convoy…” The big Montreal food story this summer is the return of food trucks to our city streets. We know a lot about this subject because we attended all the public consultations on street food at City Hall last year. We have been sampling the food trucks and have only had a couple of let downs. Perhaps our disappointing dishes warrant a second visit before laying the smack down and since the Montreal food truck movement is a new initiative we will hold back on the negative comments. This does have us wondering how many people will decide to continue with their street food endeavors next year. Not sure if it has to do with experience but we have noticed that the food trucks that were around last year seem to offer some of the best food. We have not tried all the trucks and like everything in life a few are ahead of the pack so here are a few items that we think are worth the detour.

Grumman ’78: Order a taco and taste a piece of Montreal street food history. The Grumman crew is the Granddaddy or Mother of food trucks in Montreal having played a major role in bringing food back to the streets. Besides leading the way for food trucks we have noticed restos popping up in Saint-Henri around their H.Q. (restaurant). As influencers of the Montreal culinary scene none of this would have been possible without serving up great food. 

Lucky’s Food Truck: “I know what you’re thinking, punk did I eat six poutines or only five?” Do you feel Lucky Punk? The duck confit poutine is pure pleasure and the only dish sampled at Lucky’s because that is all that we want. Needless to say we love duck so we actively sought out this dish last year when food trucks made casual city appearances. With a couple of food trucks offering poutines Lucky's was the only one with squeaky cheese curds. As poutine purists insist it is not a real poutine if there is no squeak when you bite into your cheese. We also always seem to find ourselves scrapping our dish to get every drop of the sauce.

Lucky's Duck Confit Poutine
Nouveau Palais Winneburger: A little side note, Nouveau Palais Chef and co-owner Gita Seaton has become a bit of a star on the Omnivore Young Chef World Tour (see our listing below). The Winneburger does one dish and they do it right. No easy feat considering they make the ubiquitous hamburger. We have always been of the opinion that a good homemade burger is the best way to go but the Winneburger has us challenging our beliefs. The bun, Challaleujah, egg bread. Perfect size patties we like the small size because it leaves you wanting more. Our burger is usually gone in sixty seconds. We recently caved and bought the double burger and all we can say is nobody does it better.

Pas D'Cochon Dans Mon Salon: We have tried the pulled pork sandwich but more importantly we have seen them do a cooking demo. Anybody that breaks down an entire pig as part of their process knows what good food is about. We have heard complaints about the cost of Montreal street food trucks but this is a perfect example of why it is worth the money when done right. You might also want to consider that some of the big sandwich shop chains, offering industrial made pulled pork, charge roughly the same amount.

Pas D'Cochon: This is how we pull our pork
Chaud Dogs: To quote one of our colleagues “I paid $7 for a hot dog and it was the best hot dog I have ever tasted in my life.” No secret we love cooking and eating all things Korean so we were more than excited to try the Chaud Dog Bibimbap. Our dog was topped with rows of Korean pickles (kale kimchi was amazing) offering different flavours as you chow down. The grilled buttery bread, more baguette than bun, was just a bonus.

Best in show: Bibimbap chez Chaud Dogs
Dispatch Coffee: Another thing we love, in addition to summer, beer, duck and Korean food is espresso. We will never forget our first double espresso from Dispatch because it knocks the cockles off. Deep tasting and robust flavours we love the way it made our back teeth tingle with caffeine excitement for the afternoon. If we had hair it would have been standing up on the back of our neck. We have also tried the Dispatch espresso and ice cream based drinks (affogato and Vietnamese style coffee) that are great summer treats. If you see the ricotta and spinach pop tart on menu get at least one.

P.A. & Gargantua: “You know, I've always liked that word, ‘gargantuan’… I so rarely have an opportunity to use it in a sentence.” When we first started our summer foray into food trucks we kept running into P.A. & Gargantua. We were run over rather early with springtime fiddlehead salad and later impressed with a caramelized cheddar, strawberry rhubarb grilled cheese. Anyone that uses seasonal items, appreciates fiddleheads and make a grilled cheese with rhubarb work is ok in our books. 

Caramelized grilled cheddar cheese with strawberry & rhubarb
Le Super Truck: Reading the menu online we could see that Le Super Truck is on the right track. The fact they had a duck dish, with poached amaretto apples, and another with fried cheese also helped. The whole grain wrap, part of their cornet de verdures canard, had a really nice light texture, a perfect package to the dish.

Au Pied de Cochon Food Truck: Martin Picard, Le Roi du Foie Gras, seems to be vying for top spot as King of The Road. What can we say about Picard’s food? So much has been written about Picard’s cuisine we think all the words have been used up. We also wish to avoid getting into the whole gentrification of poutine debate. We do want to mention PDC’s homemade maple soda and how much we love it only because it must get overlooked when compared to the other crowd pleasing plates. 

King of The Road: Smoked Meat Pied de Cochon Style

For the locations of food trucks and individual contact info check out this website

The good news is that summer is still over yet so there is still plenty of time to enjoy food trucks and events.

Upcoming Food Events


Cooking Under the Dome: Omnivore World Tour (August 14 – 10, 2013)

The uber cool European food event, that makes stops in Istanbul, Brussels, Moscow, Shanghai, New York, San Francisco, Rio and Sydney, is coming to Montreal for a second year at the Société des Arts Technologiques. Last year we attended 3 days of cooking demos, featuring local and international Chefs with outstanding examples of Master classes and the culinary arts. If you are unsure of the difference between a cook and a Chef then look no further to this event. The platings alone often looked like masterpieces. Should you wish to sample the food you can attend the Omnivorous cocktail party. Also on the menu are "The F*cking Dinners,” four handed dinners, collaborative menus featuring Omnivore’s lineup of international and local Chefs at their respective restaurants.
For Omnivore ticket info click here.

Channeling Chagall: Culinary Arts with Chef John Horne - MTL Omnivore 2012

Burger Week (September 1-7, 2013)

In case you did not get your fill this summer Burger Week is just around the corner. A perfect reason to justify eating at least one burger a day for an entire week. We had fun last year sampling the signature burgers created exclusively for the occasion but also getting out to some restos that we have never tried.

For information on Burger Week click here.

Oyster Fest (September 8, 2013)

Thumbs Up for Oyster Fest: Bob Le Chef - Oyster Fest 2012
Oyster Fest was our favorite food event of 2012. Great food means great fun and we were amazed with the food offerings last year. Need we say more? For information click here.

Seeing Food at Oyster Fest - Oyster Fest 2012
To purchase tickets for oyster fest click here.