festival food

Montreal Poutinefest moves to August on 375th

This summer is a big birthday season in Canada. The country is marking the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and the city of Montreal is marking the 375th anniversary of its founding. As you can imagine, the period between the Quebec National Day (June 24) and Canada Day (July 1) is more hectic than usual in Montreal. So the Monteal Poutinefest, on which we reported last June, is making way for other celebrations on the Quai de l'Horloge in the Old Port. But it's expected to be back—bigger and better than ever—in August. So start making plans now. The Poutinefest is scheduled for August 15-20. Admission will again be free, but you might want to reserve a room in Montreal now. Don't say we didn't warn...Read More

Healthy poutine is not an oxymoron

“Eating vegetarian is a culture that grows every day,” acknowledges Gérôme Paquette, chef at L'Gros Luxe (www.lgrosluxe.com), a small chain of restaurants committed to a healthy lifestyle. “People are more cautious about what they are eating.” But that doesn't mean that diners want to give up flavor—or comfort food favorites such poutine. And Paquette (above left) is happy to oblige. “Creating a vegetarian version of poutine is not that complicated,” he says. He points out that it's all about balancing flavors and textures of the sauce and topping ingredients. In place of the typically rich meat gravy, Paquette creates a vegetable stock that he seasons as if it were a meat stock. For his Poutine Thai, he ladles the thickened veggie stock over the frites...Read More

Caribbean flavors explode in jerk chicken poutine

Montreal's multiculturalism is one key to the city's enduring appeal and its ability to constantly reinvent itself. Chef Jae Anthony is a case in point. His parents came from Barbados and Trinidad, and while Jae has roots in both Caribbean nations, he's a Montrealer through and through. He operates the Seasoned Dreams restaurant in the Côte Saint-Paul neighborhood, just over the Lachine Canal bridge near the Ambroise-McAuslan brewery. You can get his cooking all year long at 5205 rue Angers, Montreal (514-769-2222; seasoneddreams.com). Seasoned Dreams specializes in Caribbean fusion cooking, He also A portable version of the restaurant travels around to festivals. Finding Seasoned Dreams was a breeze at the Montreal Poutinefest. You could literally follow your nose. Chef Jae and his partner Julien Chemtof...Read More

Poutine plays nicely with lobster and bacon

Poutine's simplicity seems to spur cooks to increasingly baroque inventions. Think of a preschooler fantasizing about crossing a T. Rex with a firetruck, or wondering what superpowers the offspring of Superman and Wonder Woman might possess. Fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy have a salty, starchy goodness all their own. So what happens when you cross poutine with, say, a cheeseburger? Or lobster? Or lobster and bacon? It's the kind of thinking that led to a number of the ice cream mashup flavors at Ben & Jerry, but it suits the spirit of a poutine food truck festival. Especially in Montreal. What if...? One of the more successful forays into hybridizing fast foods turns out to be the bacon cheeseburger poutine. Think about it. It...Read More

Montreal smoked meat shines at Poutinefest

Maybe it was preordained. The quintessential delicatessen specialty of Montreal--smoked meat--had to meet up with poutine at some point. Perhaps the only thing that kept it from happening sooner is the kosher prohibition against serving meat and dairy (i.e., cheese curds) in the same dish. The exact origins of Montreal smoked meat are murky, but it was clearly introduced by Eastern European Jewish immigrant butchers around the end of the 19th century. In its modern incarnation, smoked meat is made from beef brisket dry-cured with salt and spices, hot smoked, and finally steamed before serving. It resembles New York pastrami, but is usually cured with far less sugar and far more spices—especially cracked pepper, coriander, mustard seed, and garlic. The flavor is so addictive that...Read More

Argentine poutine spices up Montreal Poutinefest

Sandro Guerrero hails from Córdoba, Argentina. “It's a good country with a lot of meat,” he says with almost ironic understatement. The average Argentine eats nearly 100 pounds of beef annually. That equals the annual consumption of an American and a Canadian combined. When he moved his family to Montreal three years ago, Guerrero had never heard of poutine. He admits to an initial skepticism about the favorite dish of Montrealers. “I thought it was impossible to eat potatoes with the sauce,” he says of the often nondescript salty brown gravy. “But when I tried it, I had to admit that this is a very good product.” Guerrero's regular gig is as a chef at Le Smoking BBQ (see previous post). His Argentine skills with...Read More

Montreal Poutinefest rocks the waterfront

Certain foods seem destined to go together. Bacon and eggs. Peanut butter and jelly. Shrimp and grits. If you are Québecois, the gastronomic holy trinity is French fries, cheese curds, and gravy. The dish is called poutine (pronounced poo-TEEN). Roger Hubert says it has become “the meal” in Quebec. That's why he and his son Greg, proprietor of the Montreal restaurant Le Smoking BBQ, launched the first Poutinefest at Montreal's Old Port in fall 2015. It was such a success that they pulled out all the stops for an even splashier version at the end of June 2016. Featuring 18 food trucks with a panoply of poutine variations, the festival took place for three days on the Quai de l’Horloge (Clocktower Quay). Admission was free,...Read More

Goat water hits the spot on Montserrat

Montserrat's St. Patrick's Day parade—a whirl of colorful costumes and steel drums—doesn't kick off until 3 in the afternoon. That leaves plenty of time for checking out the entertainment and crafts booths at the Heritage Village in Salem—and for eating. The aroma of jerk chicken cooking on outdoor grills fills the fairgrounds, but the most popular dish is “Goat Water.” Montserrat's national dish, it's a spicy Caribbean take on Irish stew. I gravitated to the stall of Virginia Allen, who managed to tend her big pot of goat water without spilling a drop on her beautiful traditional outfit made with a signature Madras fabric of green, orange, and white. In addition to serving goat water at festivals, Virginia makes the dish every Friday and offers...Read More

Montserrat celebrates St. Patrick with Caribbean verve

I never found anyone serving green beer during the St. Patrick's Day Festival on the island of Montserrat. But local ginger beer, I quickly discovered, is a perfectly good substitute. One of 14 United Kingdom Overseas Territories, Montserrat is the only island nation (besides the Emerald Isle) where St. Patrick's Day is a national holiday. And I have to say that Caribbean style adds real flair to the celebration of Ireland's patron saint. The 5,000 or so Montserratians who inhabit this island in the British West Indies take their Irish roots seriously. Just ask any of the Allens, Sweeneys, Buntins, Farrells, O'Garrs and O'Briens who trace their roots back to the 17th century Irish indentured servants who made a new life here after putting in...Read More

Whimsical cake beets all

Of all the culinary students assisting guest chefs at the Chopstix & Cocktails event of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, those assigned to Bill Corbett certainly seemed to be having the most fun sampling dishes from the different tables (above). The whimsy wasn't lost on guest chef Corbett himself. Named one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine in 2013, Corbett is currently executive pastry chef for the Absinthe Group of restaurants in San Francisco. He turned a savory dish into a sweet by creating a Beet Cake with Fromage Blanc Frosting. “It's kind of a joke,” he told me. “At one time everyone in the Bay Area had the same beet salad on the menu: beets, goat cheese,...Read More