With all the bad news coming down the wire in the past week I was looking for something positive to report on. Thursday night I found it. Out of the blue, on the Orange Line, I finally got to ride on the new Montreal Metro train, the almost mythical Azur.

Sure, quite a few friends have already rode it since it first appeared in February and I even saw it pass twice going in the opposite direction. However, with only one train in operation so far, and not on the Green Line, which I use for most of my underground travelling these days, I guess you could say I came late to the party and this is a late review.

With a provincial government hell-bent on austerity and a municipal administration which is building on a legacy of corruption with completely unappealing corruption like the granite tree stumps, I didn’t hold out much hope for a project from an organization funded by Quebec and controlled, for the most part, by Montreal. Especially since the organization in question, the STM, is known for hiking fares while not improving service, even in ways they promised to (cough, accordion  busses on the 105 route, cough).

I was pleasantly surprised. While this new train wasn’t perfect, it was most definitely money well spent, and I did enjoy my first ride on it.

The Best Parts

Here are some of the highlights:

  • One Big Car: The whole train is made accordion-bus style. It’s one big car. This obviously creates a less confined feeling, but I also can see this coming in handy when I catch a metro at the last minute by hopping in the first car available knowing that my connecting bus is closer to the other side of the train. Now, instead of having to race across the platform, it’s possible to leisurely make my way to the desired exit while the train is in motion. Also, no reason to illegally and quite dangerously cross between cars when the train is moving (something I had never tried but cringed when I saw others doing it).
  • Feels Like Air Conditioning: While I’m pretty sure the train isn’t actually air conditioned, it sure felt like it was. Most likely due to the fact that with one large car, there is much better air circulation.

Montreal Metro Azur 6

  • Retractable seats: The seats in the new Azur train can fold back when not in use, or at least the ones I saw can. Not only does this create more actual space and add to the general feel of more space, but it can be useful for people in wheelchairs like on busses. That would, of course, work better if the whole metro system was more accessible.
  • Station ID and Ads Separate: There are still ads on this new train, of course, even some video ads, but the next station shows up on a different screen in a different location like in some new busses. Keeping the info separate from the ads is always a good thing in my book.
  • Smoother Ride: Maybe it’s just because it’s new, but the ride on this train honestly felt much smoother than any other metro I had been on.

What Needs to be Fixed

Montreal Metro Azur 3There are some areas, however, where improvement is needed:

  • Slippery Floors: I didn’t notice this one myself, being non-disabled, but Samantha Gold, a colleague here at FTB pointed it out that she found “the floor of the new cars extremely slippery. Dangerous for disabled folk like myself.”
  • No Audio Station ID: One thing I found conspicuously absent was the recorded voice announcing the next stop. Maybe it was just turned off for this particular ride or maybe it was something they were still implementing, but its absence made no sense and I can imagine it would be considerably more difficult for blind people who have gotten used to it.

So overall, for me anyways, more good than bad and the bad can be fixed. Regardless, it was nice to write about something good, or at least something not wasteful, that our municipal and provincial governments have done for a change.

What do you think of the new metros?

The room is dark but alive with activity. On the main stage strippers – male and female – burlesque artists and fetish performers do their thing, some with volunteers from the audience, some without. Some audience members caress their partners while others scream and cheer. On the main floor merchants peddle everything from vibrators and butt plugs to lingerie and scented candles.

Valentine’s Day is approaching and the Salon de l’Amour et de la Seduction is in full swing.

The Salon de L’Amour et de La Seduction is Montreal’s annual sex show. Every year in one of Montreal’s many exhibition halls – usually Place Bonaventure or the Palais de Congres – merchants, educators, and performers gather together to celebrate sex in all its forms.

There are a lot of myths about sex-related events: that they’re full of freaks, that people behave inappropriately, or that the patrons are old and disgusting or perfectly beautiful in a way that would cow the average Joe into staying away.

Montreal’s Everything-To-Do-With-Sex Show disproves them all.

The crowd is a varied but behaved one; there are people of all races, sexual identities, disability levels, and ages. Some go for the shopping, others go for the performances, while still others go to attend lectures in the seminar room of the exhibition hall.

People think that events like these are full of weirdoes.

You want to meet REAL weirdoes?

Go to a house of worship, or an office, or a political fundraiser. In those places people dress “normally”; they smile when you greet them and are almost irritatingly polite, but what some of them are not telling you about is their deep seated hatred of women and LGBTI people. They won’t tell you that they think sex is disgusting and evil and shouldn’t be enjoyed. They won’t say out loud that they think it should only occur in circumstances that bigoted leaders and outdated books dictate. They won’t tell you this, but they’ll vote for such leaders; they’ll be snarky and cruel behind closed doors, and dole out hatred in a way that falls under the radar of liberal lawmakers.

You want to meet people who are truly normal? You want to meet people who are open-minded and interested in what you say and won’t judge you for your body or your sexual identity or preferences, provided what you do is safe and consensual?

You’ll find them at the Salon de L’Amour et de la Seduction.

Though scores of patrons are elaborately made up and corseted in leather and latex, there is no real dress code and everyone is made to feel welcome. Sex educators offer free advice on everything from safe practices for people with disabilities, to how to find your G-spot or give the perfect blow job or cunnilingus. Are you over 50? No problem! They also have lectures on sex after 50.

Need a new vibe? Sex shops, some online, some with store front, offer a variety of sex toys at discounted prices, and like in a sex shop, the sellers always have batteries on hand so you can test the strength of a vibrator on your hand before you buy it.

But the merchants aren’t all about sex.

There are peddlers for kitchen ware, flat irons for hair, and even heating pads. Corsets can go upwards of 200 bucks if you buy them online or in stores, but you can get a decent one for as little as 35 bucks at the Salon. Newer businesses like Cam4.com and Vanish My Waist use the Salon to get their name out, the former this year offering a free pair of winter gloves with their logo on it.

Despite the glamour and air of welcome, the exhibit is far from perfect. Sitting space for the tired or disabled who need to take a breather are sparse, and the room is hot, a combination of body heat from the scores of patrons and to keep workers and performers – many of whom are scantily clad – comfortable.

If you want to survive at this show, you either have to check your winter coat at the door, or bring a bottle of water. Bottled water at the show sells at an inflated price of about three bucks. Some vendors at the show are unnecessarily aggressive and you have to be comfortable saying no in order to get by them without buying something you’ll never use.

If you like adult films but are uncomfortable buying them online or in a sex shop, you’re shit out of luck. While in previous years a variety of adult films with were available for sale, now only a few Canadian vendors sell them, and these are clearly suck and fuck productions with no story, style, or substance.

I was informed last year by a representative of Good For Her, a female friendly sex shop in Toronto who unfortunately did not have a booth at this year’s exhibition, that the lack of quality porno movies for sale at the show was due to the widespread availability of material online.

It should also be noted that tickets are pricey. A one day pass is about $17.50 plus tax, but for an extra five bucks you can get a weekend pass that will allow you unlimited re-entry for all three days of the show.

Despite its shortcomings, the Salon is worth a visit. Every year I learn something new from the scores of sex educators at the show, and the performances seem to get better every time. Though I usually only go for a day, next year I’m springing for a weekend pass for despite a day surrounded by open-minded leather and latex clad performers and experts, there was still so much to see that I missed out on.

Because of the nature of the show, advertising is limited, so you’ll have to search online next January for the dates of next year’s show.

Check it out.

18+ only, no exceptions, no babies

* Featured image from the 2011 edition of the Salon de L’Amour et de la Séduction by Chris Zacchia

Psymposia and the CSSDP are presenting Psychedelic Stories & 920 Psilocybin Mushroom Day. It’s actually a two day gathering, which seeks to engender awareness about the medicinal properties of the Psilocybin Mushroom. By providing a space for sharing stories and for exploring and discussing new research on psychedelics the organizers hope to give a balanced view of what Psilocybin Mushrooms offer in terms of spirituality and healing. The itinerary looks fresh, educational and gully at the same time. I spoke with Gonzo Nieto, one of the curators of the event.

 

J: Tell me briefly about your curatorial aesthetic and what you hope to accomplish with the event…

G: With the event, we’re hoping to bring attention to the medicinal and spiritual effects and the healing potential of psilocybin mushrooms, as well as to address and push back against the stigma that surrounds the mushroom and its use.

 

J: And as far as aesthetic is concerned?

G: Our lineup for the 920 Psilocybin Mushroom Day is curated not only to educate about psilocybin mushrooms, but also to reflect the underlying message and meaning of the experience itself. The mushroom carries a message of wholeness, of movement toward our full human potential, so alongside presentations on psilocybin research we have a breathwork session, a yoga class, and a presentation on dream hacking.

 

W3rd, right!?! This event is gonna bang hard, I even heard Hamilton Morris from VICE might show up. The space is dope. The panels and talks are both academic and shamanistic. The vendors are talented af and, well, I’ll be there. Na’mean. Come through, get your photo taken, learn something. Hit me up, I’ll be outside during “Terrence McKenna Happy Hour” for sure…

Originally set to take place at the Atwater Library, Dyad Press’ poetry reading, titled “Former Members,” ended up down the street at a small park.

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Picnic tables were pushed together to form a makeshift seating area as the twenty-odd attendees gathered to hear Jesse Anger, Hannah Hackney, Quincy R. Lehr, John Wall Barger, Marc Di Saverio, Carmine Starnino, and Ernest Hilbert.

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“This is perfect somehow,” remarked Barger before beginning his reading. Despite the change of plans, the outdoor venue was indeed a perfect setting. Each poet read his or her pieces in the cool evening while backlit by the setting sky.

In an absurd twist of events, the Montreal police decided the poetry reading was an illegal gathering that posed a risk to the Atwater community and demanded the party leave. Before departing, and within earshot of the SPVM officer, Hilbert had time to read “The Gelding.” According to Hilbert, the poem speaks to the institutional suppression of creative freedom. How fitting.

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The night ended across the street, on public property, with a compelling reading in near darkness by Di Saverio. For light, Hilbert held up his cell phone on flashlight mode over Di Saverio’s shoulder.

For a poetry reading, I imagine this is as exciting as it gets. How many can say they’ve been one poem away from being tear gassed? 

Photos By: Richard Malouf

Bon Voyage parties are bittersweet celebrations for a friend who is leaving town. It’s a chance to wish them well in their travels while secretly hoping they return some day. What’s happening this Saturday at Vol de Nuit is, well, different.

You can call it a Good Riddance party, celebrating the fact that a total asshole has left town, wishing their travels are as rocky as possible and hoping they never return. More specifically, though, this is the Montreal Victory Party, a chance to celebrate the mystery women who gave Roosh V what he so rightly deserved, beer all over his face and wig.

Montreal Stepped Up

Last weekend, Montreal really came together and showed so-called “pick-up artist” (maybe sexual predator is a better term) Roosh V that he was not welcome. While we may have our differences, our community, by and large, respects women and doesn’t want a man who supports legalizing rape on private property and has admitted to committing rape online to speak here or prey on our fellow Montrealers.

Image by cindycypress
Image by cindycypress

First he lost his venue, then the Mayor said he wasn’t welcome, then there was an official protest, then bars and other establishments started banning him. It culminated with him trying to pick up the wrong woman who knew exactly who he was, even though he was going by the name Luke and wearing a wig. (Really? Apparently.) After Roosh and his acolytes tried every trick in their misogynistic book, which pretty much amounted to lying (one even said he was with Doctors Without Borders), the woman, who is now going by the pseudonym Jennifer, threw her beer in his face and the rest, as they say, is history.

Montreal history. Something to be proud of. We have the Habs. We have the best bagels in the world. And now we have proven to everyone that we are a people who say no to misogyny and rape and have some of the most kickass feminist shit disturbers to drive the point home. This just fills me with Montreal civic pride.

The Saga Continues

If you’re wondering where I’m getting these little nuggets of bullshit Roosh trains his folllowers to use, you should follow the Twitter account Amy Lee. I doubt that is really the name of the person behind it, but it is way more real than any of the characters Roosh tries to be.

You see, following his humiliation, Roosh contacted Montreal police saying he was assaulted. I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing. Done? Good. He even accused “Jennifer” of seducing him, though I imagine seducing a man like Roosh takes only two things: being female and the ability to not vomit while listening to him talk.

Roosh is desperately searching for a woman to charge. Oh well, I guess it’s better than him searching for a woman to rape, but still, it does force some people into anonymity.

He’s now in Toronto and facing what looks like an equally vocal opposition. He’s in what he calls war mode, though it looks more like running scared mode.

Also, apparently he’s now a Muslim, claiming that his views on women stem from his faith and calling his critics Islamophobes. Interesting considering he has displayed some rather Islamophobic views in the past. Sudden conversion to Islam? More like desperate trolling. Roosh, we’re not that fucking stupid.

This guy really pisses me off. And he should piss you off, too and not just if you’re a woman and a potential target. He really gives men a bad name, too. Come to think of it, he gives humans a bad name. I really don’t like that I’m from the same species as this piece of human excrement.

And, in one of the oddest segues ever, let’s get ready to party!

Party Deets and Rules

Okay, back to the fun stuff. Now that Roosh is Toronto’s problem now, in Montreal we get to celebrate! The event is being put together by Fuck Yeah Feminism and takes place at the scene of what Roosh considers to be a crime, but the rest of us see as justice, Vol de Nuit.

Misogynists, Roosh Minions, Rapists, and Rape Apologists aren’t welcome and don’t come expecting to pick up women. Not too hard to follow, but you break one of the rules, well, ask Roosh how well that worked out for him. Also, this is a safe space, LGBTQ friendly, Trans and Queer inclusive.

The fun starts at 10pm, Vol de Nuit, 14 rue Prince Arthur Est, details on Facebook. Feel free to drink your drink instead of throwing it. Bring your own wig.

Yesterday, I told you about how Roosh V, the US blogger and “pick up artist” who thinks rape should be legal on private property was in Montreal and people weren’t happy about it. Apparently, his seduction techniques are lacking, too, especially on the women in this city.

Makes sense, considering people here are social-media savvy, know exactly who he is and don’t stand for that sort of bullshit. Even the Mayor doesn’t want him here:

Last night, several bars made it clear that Roosh was not welcome in their establishment, some, like Casa del Popolo even posted notices to that effect.

Beer in the Face on Video

That, apparently, didn’t stop Roosh from going out and trying his “technique” on Montreal women. He got a little more than he bargained for in the form of a drink in his face. Have a look for yourself:

Beer Throwing Happened on Private Property

Apparently, Roosh wasn’t too happy about being called out in such a manner. He even went as far as Tweeting that he thought beer in the face was “assault” and he apparently told the SPVM as much:

How he doesn’t realize that calling a beer in the face assault makes him look really pathetic is beyond me. But even if he does feel it is assault, didn’t it happen in a bar? Isn’t a bar private property? I thought he was cool with assault on private property. Or is that just sexual assault?

Final Thoughts

I’m going to give the final words here to the woman whom Roosh said on Twitter had “sexy legs” and who is a hero to many Montrealers and people on the internet today:

dear roosh

With the heat hitting Montreal with full force this summer, you don’t want to miss out on some of the best food festivals around. What’s a better way to enjoy the sun than to have cold glass of beer and explore your taste buds? Take a peek at some of the food-related events and festivals happening in Montreal during the upcoming months:

First Fridays

premiers vendredisPlace: Olympic Park, Esplanade Financière Sun Life (4545 Avenue Pierre-de Coubertin)
Time: the first Friday of every month until October (4-11pm)
Admission: Free (but bring $ for food!)

First Fridays is essentially food truck heaven. Up to 47 different food trucks congregate on the first Friday of every month until October to offer a variety of foods that will blow you away. Good thing it’s around for a couple of months, because once isn’t close to enough to get a good taste of everything this festival has to offer. There will be live music on scene provided by evenko, so dance away with your taste buds on every First Friday!

Night Market

night marketPlace: In front of Alexandraplatz Bar (6731 Avenue de l’Esplanade)
Time: The last Saturday of every month until September (2-11pm)
Admission: Free (but bring $ for food!)

The Night Market is a monthly block party that celebrates local street cuisine in Montreal. Similar to First Fridays, Night Market features food trucks that offer a variety of food along with entertainment and local vendors. Support the local Montreal food community by heading over to the Mile-Ex on the last Saturday of every month until September!

Montreal Ribfest

Montreal ribfestPlace: Pierrefonds-Roxboro Borough Hall parking log (13665 Pierrefonds Blvd)
Time: Fri. August 14 (11am-9pm), Sat. August 15 (11am-9pm), Sun. August 16 (11am-7pm)
Admission: Free (but bring $ for food!)

Meat lovers across Montreal have been counting down the days left until the Montreal Ribfest. Award winning ribs vendors from across North America will be grilling up a storm to satisfy that ribs craving you’ve had for ages. There will be live music to entertain you while you stuff yourself with a full rack (challenge yourself!). And the best part? The festival supports Canada’s leading youth mentoring charity, Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Island.

Barbeque Bonanza

barbecue bonanzaPlace: Clock Tower Quay (Old Port)
Time: Sun. August 23
Admission: $45 (entrance and 4 coupons), $65 (entrance and 9 coupons)

Barbeque Bonanza is another charitable food festival that will blow your mind this upcoming August. With 26 restaurants showcasing cuisines from around the world and some proceeds going towards the Starlight Children’s Foundation Quebec, this is a culinary experience that you don’t want to miss. The variety of food that will be available at this festival guarantees that no matter what kind of food lover you are, you’ll find your fix. Not to mention that there will be alcohol served.

YUL EAT

yul eatPlace: Clock Tower Quay (Old Port)
Time: Sat. September 5 – Mon. September 7 (12-11pm)
Admission: Free (but bring $ for food!)

YUL EAT will be a dream turned into reality for true foodies living in Montreal. The festival, hosted by Les Premiers Vendredis and evenko, will feature leading professionals in the culinary industry to offer an unforgettable gastronomical experience – along with tastings, markets, demos, conferences, and more. We know this isn’t exactly during the summer, but who will be working during Labour Day Weekend, anyway?

* Featured image from cuisinederue.org

David Heti’s been in Montreal honing the craft of the laugh since way back. I remember first meeting him at Grumpy’s open mics back in the day.

His first comedy album was independently released last year, but got picked up and re-released by StandUp! Records. He’s best known for his curious sense of humour that leaves nothing untouched, he probably has a joke about touching you.

Jesse Chase: How was it coming up as a comedian in Montreal?

David Heti: I think the comedy community is really open here because there’s not a lot at stake. But, there’s a lot of energy and potential because of Just For Laughs— although, it’s not as competitive as Toronto. The people here are here for the good reasons and I’ve never had a three minute set, or had to pay like in LA or New York.

Ok, I’m not going to avoid it. I can get the Yoko Ono reference in one of your jokes, but the John Coltrane/Thelonious Monk slavery bit was pretty gratuitous. How does your black audience receive your use of the “N” word?

It goes over great and better in a room with people of colour in it. And there’s a difference between a place like New York where there’s tons of black people and places like Portland where it’s mostly white. I mean I think someone could tell a good holocaust joke if they’re not Jewish. I can make a poem or something about something I never experienced.

You can make any joke with your friends right. They can trust you, they know where you’re coming from and so if I think that an audience knows you’re a good person they’ll allow you to go to more touchy places.

Chris Rock said when it comes to white people using the “N” word it’s basically no.

I’m surprised he said that. What’s Chris Rock not allowed to say? Everything’s partially objective, everything’s partially subjective…

Author’s Note: Sometimes, there is a “pass” granted to a performer who uses taboo terms in his bit. In my opinion, as a man of colour, David Heti doesn’t get that pass. He uses the “N” word to irresponsibly and childishly segue into his joke about owning John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk as slaves. It’s not cool, or funny. In his defense Heti jokingly says he can say that because “he’s a comedian and he doesn’t own anything,” but I feel it’s more an issue of white privilege.

It’s cool you’re teaching comedy at McGill. How did that come about?

A friend of mine was working in the writing program said she knew someone who could do a course, so I wrote up a course and they let me teach it.

Personally, I understand a joke is a joke and I know how to take a joke, but sometimes I find some people are trying to be funny and it’s uncalled for. Like sometime I say to myself, that wasn’t even funny. Do you ever experience that?

One time I got off stage and this guy was really like, man, that was great, I have some jokes for you. And I say sure.  And then he went on a tirade of anti-semitic jokes. I thought okay, well, why are you telling me these jokes?  And he said well that’s what you do. I said that is not what I do, you don’t understand what’s going on, you’re telling me these things and it’s highly offensive and inappropriate. That guy was just incredibly ignorant, I don’t think it was ill-willed. If I see someone on stage and hear them say something hateful, they’re telling the joke for the wrong reasons.

David’s album can be found at davidheti.com

You can sign up for his course via the McGill Website

Mural Fest 2015 started yesterday— that 2 week transformation of the Main into a real live art gallery is something that gives our city its unique flavour. And, yes, there will always be that little niggling beef with Under Pressure, but I don’t really care. There’s talent and walls enough for both.

There are some sick muralists on this year’s roster. I was really pleased to see MTL graf scene veteran MONKE finally get the nod. The dude’s murals are top notch. Also, Toronto’s JARUS will do a wall this year— as far as large scale realistic work with aerosol is concerned, JARUS is holding it down.

Of course then artists are not all aerosol based, there are different mediums in effect— The melding of medium and style is what makes street art so interesting and identifiable. And by saying identifiable I don’t mean it’s easy to spot, I mean with such a wide aesthetic it’s easy to find a resonance within oneself.

NYCHOS, AXEL VOID, EARTH CRUSHER – like yo, it’s gonna be a good festival this year. I’ll be down on St. Dominique and Maisonneuve in the gravel lot with mad all city chilleurs if you’re down.

We’re nearing the yearly gastronomical frenzy at the venerable Montréal en Lumière festival (Feb. 19-Mar. 1), purveyors of Nuit Blanche (Feb. 28).

This years’ offerings are more luxuriant than ever, and while the free outdoor site will be on hand for cheaper (corporately-sponsored) thrills, the real delights are to be found in dining rooms at the four corners of town as hundreds of global guest chefs descend upon our city.

In its first year as a UNESCO-recognized gathering, Montréal en Lumière doses up the usual geographical mashup to guide the culinary program: Switzerland, Washington DC and Lanaudière. I’m not going to pretend to find some throughline for these three places, so let’s jump into particulars.

Old Swiss food conjures up images of chocolate and cheese. Of course, things have long since changed and Montréal en Lumière is helping to smash stereotypes with a barrage of Michelin stars. From my count, we’re looking at a total 9 Michelin stars, if you tend to count that kind of thing.

Guest chef menus are vague, yet styles range from classic French to tapas, crossing kitchens from La Chronique to Maison Boulud. Prices vary wildly yet tend on the pricier side. For example, the “World’s Best Sommelier,” Paulo Basso, will pair wines at overfluffed Europea with Paul-André Ayer’s dishes for a smooth $300.

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For choco-cheese addicts, however, the rich nation’s iconic delights are on show across a flurry of fondue dinnerschocolate-inspired menus and all-you-can-eat raclette evenings. These tend to be more moderately priced.

Personally, however, I’m more interested in the focus on Lanaudière and Washington: two more “emerging” culinary scenes. Despite its general eminence in all things political, DC has never really found the same culinary footing as NYC, Chicago or even San Francisco.

Yet its culinary riches are developing: ethnically varied, innovative and well-financed chefs have recently brought some amazing ventures to the forefront. Big names such such as Equinox‘s Todd Gray and uber-competitive TV wonder Mike Isabella of Kapnos fill the program and are likely worth the tab.

However, from past experience, I’ve found the wine evenings can sometimes be the most revelatory—with dishes more odd & exciting than the headline dinners. In this spirit, check out Marjorie Meek-Bradley at the always-pleasurable Pullman wine bar.

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As for Lanaudière—that Nor’Easterly region right next to Montréal—well, what do we really know about its chefs and traditions? Top pick (and likely to sell out first) is Nancy Hinton’s guest spot at Les 400 Coups. Her rural joint Les Jardins Sauvages was the subject of great fanfare & controversy last year as duelling critics Lesley Chesterman and M-C Lortie disputed its merits. For a more low-key introduction to our neighbouring region, however, check out the Jean-Talon Market for local products and demos by Lanaudière cooks.

For amateurs of the peculiar world that is Québec culinary TV, you can brush elbows (and determine the financial fate) of four favourite Les Chefs! contestants in a $100 a head 12-course competition dinner.

In the series known as “Planète Montréal” you can have so many profound questions answered. Questions such as: “What would (Habs GM) Marc Bergevin make for dinner?” or “What kind of meal would (hipster band) Mister Valaire curate if they had a captive audience?”

Last and not least, the always-educational UQÀM agro-gastro talks come to the festival this year with a séance on olive oil. Tastings included.

The real wacky & budget friendly food thrills, however, are often found on Nuit Blanche. As we did last year, we’ll be providing a list of cheap (or free) thrills just prior to Feb. 28.

Follow us on Twitter for more updates: @Forgetthebox / @JoshDavidson

Turns out The Economist likes Montreal. Their “intelligence unit” ranked us as the second best city in the entire world to live. Montreal beat out such luminaries as Stockholm, Brussels, New York City, Paris, London and Hong Kong. The only city we lost to is, well, Toronto.

best citiesThis was part of a larger study done on “urban security in the digital age” and while Montreal didn’t rank at the top of any particular category, we did place second for overall best city to live in. They included six “indexes” they studied to come to the best city result: Safe Cities, Liveability Rankings, Cost of Living at the municipal level and Business Environment Rankings, Democracy Index and Global Food Security Index at the national level.

While including a good hockey team index or a best bagel and poutine index may have bumped us ahead of Toronto (sorry Toronto friends, you won this one and I love you, but I’ve got to get my digs in), this is still nice. I’ve never really bothered to read The Economist, but praise is always nice.

While we may complain about the state of our city, our politicians, our transit system and rightly so, it’s good to know that on some level, in the minds of some Intelligence Unit somewhere, we’re better off than Stockholm.

You can see the best city to live in ranking to the left and consult the full Economist study, but what I really want is your feedback:

Do you think Montreal deserves this honour? Does this really reflect all of our city’s residents? Is it really an honour to be praised by The Economist? Does this give you civic pride? Let us know…

For years Colleen Risbey was frustrated there were no late-night delivery options available for vegans in Montreal. An experienced chef, Risbey was also determined to start cooking more food that she was passionate about. So after three years of planning and scheming, Risbey is now the proud owner of her very own business.

La Tomate Roulante is a delivery-only restaurant which serves vegan munchies to those who stay up late in St-Henri, NDG and downtown (as far as Guy). I stopped by La Tomate Roulante’s headquarters in St-Henri recently to give vegan take-out a try, and learn how Risbey plans to accomplish her mission to “feed the people” of Montreal.

Launching any new business is risky. It’s especially true when your new venture is in a saturated market like the restaurant business. But the reality that most restaurants fail didn’t seem to phase Risbey one bit. “More than half the restaurants I used to work in are now closed,” Risbey declared very matter-of-factly.

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So why is Risbey so confident in La Tomate Roulante’s future?  “Because through all my experience I’ve learned how NOT to run a kitchen.” Risbey said. “Combined with the fact that I’m able to run this business at a low cost and I’m doing something no one else is, makes me extremely confident in its future.”

Risbey is adamant that her menu items will always be financially accessible to anyone. “It’s really important to me that anyone can afford to buy my product. Too many people end up eating crap like McDonalds because it’s the only type of food they can afford. It IS possible to eat well and cheap.” Risbey’s entire menu, from sandwiches to salads to desserts, is available for five dollars or less.

For the tasting Risbey prepared three sandwiches, all with Asian and Mediterranean influences.  First up was Risbey’s flagship sandwich the Avocado Bahn-Mi: a French baguette with vegan garlic aioli, avocado slices,  sautéed nappa cabbage, carrots and smoked tofu topped with red onions and cilantro. A sucker for anything with avocado in it, I was immediately hooked after the first bite.

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Colleen Risbey putting the finishing touches on one of her creations. (Photo by the author)

While Risbey may feel the “Avocado Bahn-Mi” is her strongest menu item, I felt each subsequent  item she presented was even stronger. The next sandwich I tried was the Nilufar Creation: Nilufars falafel,  spinach,  roasted garlic and pepper hummus, marinated cucumbers and fresh tomato in a pita bread.

I would highly encourage this sandwich to anyone who loves falafel, as it was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. The falafel in this sandwhich is courtesy of Restaurant Nilufar, who Risbey has developed a strong working relationship with. “I can’t tell you how much of a thrill it’s been working with Nilufar,” Risbey swooned. “If only all relationships were this easy!”

The final sandwich I tasted was The Alfresco: a toasted baguette with smoked paprika potato salad, vodka battered and double fried tofu with a double date chili sauce and maple dill sauce.

The Alfresco was the clear winner of the three sandwiches in terms of taste, but also the unhealthiest. “People seem to have a misconception that vegan food is always healthy, but I think The Alfresco proves that theory wrong,” Risbey noted with a smile. “At least you know it’s better for you then a hamburger.”

After initially being nervous as to how I would like vegan food, I easily finished every morsel Risbey put in front of me. Even after she’s been professionally cooking for years, Risbey was clearly thrilled that I enjoyed her creations. “Cooking is my art- it’s always been inspiring to me. Nothing makes me happier than feeding people.”

La Tomate Roulante runs from Thursday to Saturday, 9p.m to 4a.m. For contact information visit their website, twitter or Facebook page.

Food photos by Skylar  Bouschel

 

 

 

 

 

A few weeks ago, I sat down with David Boots to discuss his documentary Peace Park and the issue of legalizing skateboarding at the Park.

Melanie Renaud: How did you first end up at Peace Park?

David Boots: Back in the early 90s, I used to skate at the City Hall. There were about a hundred skaters there, all the time; so many, that the security guards would start kicking us out. As the City Hall was becoming more impossible to skate in, Peace Park was being built. Being perfect for skating  and more centrally located, we all started skateboarding there. It became the new meet up spot. Everyday I’d just go to Peace Park and skate with whomever was there. Then we’d go skate around the city.

Photo by Danny Stevenson
Photo by Danny Stevenson

Why did you decide to make the movie?

I originally got a video camera to put together a skate promo (video), which I did. But I also ended up filming what was going on around me at the park. The documentary basically evolved from my skate promo. I ended up filming for twelve years, compiling footage and doing years of research, before deciding it was time to put it all together.

After I received grants to finish the movie, I met Jessica McIntyre, who has [a bachelor’s degree] in History. Jessica dedicated a year of her life to help me write the movie. She would sleep on my couch four, five nights a week, and we’d work for 18 hours a day! Making the documentary was definitely a big learning experience. She taught me a lot about answering ‘why’s’ when telling a story. Thank you Jessica.

How many screenings have there been of Peace Park?

So far, the movie has been shown three times as work-in-progress, twice during the 40th anniversary of the Festival du nouveau cinéma, and once at the Canadian Centre of Architecture during their ABC : MTL exhibition, under the letter F for Film.

The finished version of Peace Park premiered in the Park last summer, as the closing show for the Société des arts technologiques’s (SAT) “Cinéma, DJ et Chefs invités“, which is a movie screening event that happens at the park, once a week. They helped me turn the movie premiere into an event. The premiere for The Peace Park – For the People included a skating contest, a Hip Hop reggae show, free food and more. We had over a thousand people show up, making it the most successful event ever to happen at the Park. It was awesome.

What is next for the movie?

Now that the movie is complete, the real work begins. It’s hard to get a movie out into the world, if you don’t want to just give it away. I submitted it to some festivals, but stopped, because the submission fees cost too much, and most festivals don’t even have the time to view your movie. I was speaking with some distributors, but I have since got distracted by the approval of a pilot project that [temporarily] legalized skateboarding in the park for the summer, so the promotion of the movie has been put on hold. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t get it out yet, because if we legalize skating the movie will require an epilogue.

Can you describe the details of the skateboarding pilot project at Peace Park? And was there talk about extending this to more locations in the city next summer, if all goes well?flame.thrower

Even though we’ve been skating in Peace Park since it’s construction, there has been a long history of skaters getting tickets in the park. Skateboarders were being jailed, and ticketed for over $600.

With the help of the SAT, I managed to get a pilot project approved by our mayor Denis Coderre. [The project] legalized skateboarding in Peace Park for seven days a week, from 10am to 9pm, from August 8th until September 26th.

This approval has given us the ability to organize four skate events in the park. So far we held three “Skate Jam and Tea Tuesdays“, which are skate contests, where we give out free tea, jam, and toast, with [the chance of winning] $500 in cash for tricks. The events were a huge success and they helped prove to the city that skate events are a fun and positive way to help animate the park. They also showed that skateboarding fits well into the Quartier des spectacles.

Now we are currently working on the last event: Peace Park’s 20th anniversary, which is next week on September 20th! For the event, I am putting together a video entitled “Peaceful Moments.” The video highlights the park’s most memorable moments, over the last two decades. Preceding the video will be a skate contest with over $2000 in cash to win, a free spaghetti dinner, a birthday cake, a Hip Hop reggae show, and more.

smokingOur goal with this event is to show, that the skater community doesn’t just want to legalize skateboarding, simply in it’s own interest, but that it wants to be a part of the greater community and help it. To do this, we will use Peace Park’s 20th anniversary, in order to help create awareness for the social problems at the park. We have invited social service organizations, who have been helping educate people on the services that are already available, to participate, to thank these organizations for their years of hard work, and most importantly to let the public know that an effort is being made to help improve the situation in the park. All of our actions this year aim to demonstrate the impact of skateboarding in the park, with the ultimate goal of legalizing skateboarding once and for all at the end of the pilot project.

Has there been more skateboarders at the park since it has become legal?

Yes, skaters have been returning to the park, but they haven’t overrun the park. Peace Park is actually pretty difficult to skate in, so it generally only attracts more advanced skaters, which limits the number that will skate there. And, skaters usually only get there around two, three in the afternoon and are gone before dusk.

You are very active on Instagram, why have you chosen this platform?

DB – I really like Instagram. A photo is worth a thousand words, or so they say.

It’s a really good social media tool for me, as opposed to twitter, because there is nothing I’m going to say in 140 characters that is worth anything, compared to me posting a photo, or even a video now. I also like that, when posting on Instagram, I can share it with all other social media platforms all at once. It is very simple to use. Social media has become such an important part of marketing and promoting whatever it is you’re doing. It’s also become an outlet for me in some ways. I think it’s cool because it helps me raise awareness for some of the social issues present in the streets of Montreal. Sometimes I feel a bit addicted to it: like if I don’t put pictures up on Instagram for a few days, I start feeling as if  I’m not being productive. I only have a few thousand followers, but I have been voted the number one Instagrammer in the city by Mook Life and MTL Blog, so I must be doing something right.

The 2014 edition of Otakuthon, Montreal’s annual anime convention, took place last weekend. FTB’s Gerry Lauzon was there with his camera and brings us a look at some of the best costumes and most interesting scenes both inside the Palais des congres and outside in the streets of Montreal’s Chinatown.

Click on the first image to start the slideshow:

Otakuthon Montreal 2014Otakuthon Montreal 2014

For more of Gerry’s photos, please check out his photostream on Flickr

Many dream of opening a restaurant. Unfortunately, cash, logistics and a litany of permits can nip that dream in the bud. But for Montréal cooks and eaters, World Restaurant Day has brought salvation.

The world’s “biggest food carnival” touches down in Montéal again next Sunday, August 17, from noon until midnight, enabling 34 would-be restauranteurs to to share their “cuisine éphémère.”

Photo credit: Restaurant Day Montréal Carnaval Culinaire

We’re here to prompt you to get out on the sidewalks and alleys ASAP that day. Though some restos seem to offer long hours, don’t delay–many locations ran out of food on the last WRD in May!

Here’s an super-brief sampling of what’s on offer:

– Authentic Toulousain and Sicilian sausages in an alley in Villeray

– Dishes honouring grandmas from Iraq, Italy, Morroco, along with storytelling and art on Beaubien

– A personal fave: “St-Tropez in Hochelaga,” billed as an after-party for full bellies replate with “sunset, cocktails & soul-jazz in a urban forest.”

– The ever-popular “Tacos mamacitas” crew, this time cooking up Chilean Sopaipillas, tacos Cochinita pibil or Papas con raja and Mexican-style corn.

– A wake-and-bake menu at Tam Tams featuring salad with hemp seeds, cookies, Bhang milk and more. As this pop-up restauranteur urges, “Come by to say high.” (4040 Parc, by the statue)

– Trout gravlax, shrimp sausage, curried pull pork…in sandwich form, with blueberry basil lemonade.

Photo credit: Danielle Levy Nutrition (World Restaurant Day Montréal May)

Still not convinced by the gastronomical surprises on offer for you that day? Here’s a bonus: this food is CHEAP. Devoid of overhead costs and eager to show their talents, these cooks are eager to spoon pure value right into your mouth.

While the pop-up resto has taken North America by storm this past decade, Montréal has been slower to adopt. Take advantage of this one-day free-for-all that will keep your belly, heart and pocketbook satisfied until the next WRD this Fall.