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 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.

This is Part Three in our series on innovative, socially-minded Montréal food start-ups! Check out Parts One and Two

Two cat cafés are set to open this summer in Montréal.

If all goes to according to schedule, Montréal’s Café Chat L’Heureux and Le Café des Chats Montréal will be the first two permanent cafés of their kind in North America.

How did our modest city find itself in this particular stream of the continental cutting edge? I spoke to both feline-friendly sets of entrepreneurs to find out.

“Everyone loves cats,” says Nadine Spencer of Le Café des Chats, pausing a moment before correcting herself, “well most people love cats. And many people don’t have the time to take care of their own pets. Lots of people live in condos or have landlords that don’t allow pets.”

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A cat café in South Korea. (Photo courtesy Clément Marty).

If this sounds like a scenario out of a harder-living metropolis, it’s because it is. Cat cafés began exploding in Tokyo over a decade ago thanks to the potent brew of a cat-crazy culture and cramped living quarters. The city now counts upwards of 40.

While their methods for funding and promotion have varied, it seems the genesis of both ventures is largely the same: to create a welcoming ground for humans and animals to interact and, ideally, help heal each other’s plight.

Plight, you say? Certainly.

From the cat’s perspective, the plight is one of abandonment and mistreatment. From the human’s, it’s actually not so different: a growing sense of urban isolation fuelled by the increasing number of condos and apartments that forbid pets.

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King Eugene, sociable mascot of Le Café des Chats soon to open on St-Denis. (Photo courtesy Le Café des Chats).

It’s impossible, of course, to vilify landlords alone for this sorry situation.

Yet it’s certainly possible to shudder at Québec’s animal abandonment rates. Clément Marty of Café Chat L’Heureux describes it as “one of the worst places in North America for animal conditions.” Whereas France, he says, “has 70 million people and abandons 100 000 animals a year, there are 500 000 abandonments each year in Quebec for only eight million people.”

All told, it’s a staggering statistic—one that screams out for bold solutions. While the SPCA and other animal rescue organizations have long sounded the alarm, the teams behind these two new spaces are seeking new and creative method to ease the malaise.

Both cafés will offer coffee, tea, pastries and light snacks, including premade sandwiches. The presence of animals in a public eatery has led to regulatory obstacles, but both cafés, after more than a year of pouring over municipal and provincial laws and permits, say their food will never be prepared in the same space as the cats.

What’s more, at Le Café des Chats, drinks like “catpucinno” and “meowchiatos” will be out in full force, Spencer informs me.

“There will also be a room for them to sleep and do their own thing, if they don’t want to be sociable,” she says, reminding me that this is, after all, their permanent home.

But what if they just don’t want to interact? “We really did our best to pick cats that are sociable,” she laughs, “No cranky kitties here!”

With six more cats on the way, Marty sees Café Chat L’Heureux as something of a calling. “I discovered the concept of the cat café in South Korea,” he says. “I visited more than ten cat cafés there and in Japan.”

cafe-chats
Location of Le Café des Chats, on St-Denis just north of Sherbrooke.

Determined to bring the concept to Montréal, he then “followed all the newer openings: Le café des chats in Paris, Lady Dinah cat emporium in London, Cat café Budapest in Hungary,” adding, “I visited more than ten cat cafés in Asia and in Europe.”

Wow.

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that two cat cafés should sprout up in our fair city in the span of a year. The feline café movement is so amped up of late that Marty dubs 2014 “the year of the Occidental cat café.”

Sheldon of Café Chat l'Heureux
The dapper Sheldon, one of the permanent residents of Café Chat L’Heureux.

At Le Café des Chats, a visit is not just about a relaxing coffee and a cozy kitty nestled in your arm. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about abandonment and help out the remaining cats struggling on the streets. Their Carte Féline is a program offering to get cats at ease with larger groups including children’s groups, and fund the greater efforts of their space as well as awareness of the growing number of shelter cats seeking adoption.

Marty, too, aims to make a social difference. “We plan to organize activities for children, disabled people and the elderly, activities of zootherapy, and we plan to have regular conferences with veterinarians and cat behaviorists.”

Café Chat L’Heureux is set to open before the end of the summer at 172 Duluth Est, previously occupied by Tasca Bistro. Café des Chats, for their part, are targeting an early to mid-August launch at 3435 St-Denis, former home of Ethiopian resto Abiata.

Describing the dual opening as “totally ironic,” Spencer adds, “there’s certainly room for more than one. More cats get given a second chance.”

mondialbiere_DSC_0824-2000Gallons of rain and new beer characterized the 21st edition of the Mondial de la Bière at Palais des congrès.

While I didn’t have the liver (or the cash) to sample all 270 premières on tap, I still managed to round up a short list of “solid bets” to last you through the year to come. So file them away for next time you intend to spice up your malted life.

1. Les vergers de la colline, CID Cuivré 10%

This high fermentation cider is, to me, the very reason festivals exist – tasting a product you know (and most of us have had CID products, perhaps unknowingly, at some bar or other) all while witnessing it elevated to new, bold heights. Clocking in at a heady 10%, the rich mouthfeel of the Cuivré somehow doesn’t overwhelm (a few of us went back about three times). What’s more, its strong alcoholic content is mercifully protected from oversweetness, leading to a much drier, more pleasant glass than the classic CID varieties. To top it all off, the new Cuivré 10% is available in both flat and sparkling forms.

2. Glutenberg – IPA 6%

This playfully-named gluten-free producer will almost certainly surprise you. Non-allergenic or not, it’s a serious contender in the craft scene and it showed this year – despite 100% gluten-free offerings, their stall was packed and often required a wait. The IPA, a newish offering, probably won’t appeal to IPA purists (except those trying to get off gluten, who will be overjoyed at the quality!). But if you’re a lager fan, cider fan, or just a relative newbie to IPAs, it’s a magical choice. It has spice and piney kick lingering from hops, but a brighter, simpler finish that almost makes you think you just drank a mead or lager. You could definitely drink this for an evening without getting tired of the taste.

3. Pub Brouhahah -Dernière Mission 6%

The brash blonde (with a label to match) was a fabulous find. Take a sniff and revel in those great aromas, and enjoy the subtle sweetness (honey or pear? I might have been imagining that), without it ever destroying the aftertaste. Again, a beer you could sip on throughout a long summer night.

4. Noire et Blanche, Abyss’ale 5.5% and Litchi-Tchin 5%

This fun-loving, accessible microbrewery from Ste-Eustache was so friendly that they get two nods. The first, their highly-touted Abyss’ale, a dark red at 5,5% delivered as promised, and literally put shivers down my spine (but then again, I’m biased when it comes to spine-tingles, being one of those odd people who get off on excellent red beers more than an exceptional IPAs). The second, a blonde with lychee and ginger, was…well, an experience. Should lychee and ginger go in beer? I still don’t know. Nor do I know whether such a novelty will endure in the market, but we tip our hats to them for a memorable taste.

6. Belgh Brasse  – Mons Rousse D’abbaye 5.5%

The Mons red, which has already won some serious bling around the world at beer competitions, is a no-brainer. You can’t go wrong with any of their beers (white, blonde, stout). If you can find them (that will be the challenge), stock up for the year, and ration them out on special occasions. You absolutely will not regret it.

7. Thronbridge Brewery, Raven Dark IPA 6.6 %

An intense almost smoky IPA from Derbyshire, UK, with a profile that even a non-hoppy lovers (like me) can broadly appreciate. The IPA in this case was lifted into an almost caramel realm.

8. Birranova, Abbocata 6,5%

What is not remarkable about this English style ale out of Italy? I’ll leave it at this: ’tis a fantastic artifact of the growing microbrew movement in the country. This one was definitely in the bold new style, with a strong and bitter nose, but finished smoothly, almost innocuously, like the lighter lagers we’re used to from Italy. This is a beer to drink when you cook a great gamey Northern Italian dish, and want to dream of Tuscan hills with something other than wine for a change.

9. Jukebox, Blonde 5,5%

While many new breweries are proud of their hoppy taste, only Jukebox took it to the next level, forcing me to sniff bowls of damp hops, whose skunkiness almost bowled me over. Tasting the beer, however, it is clear that these guys from Les Cèdres have done everything in their power to honour the herbaceous perennial well. An American Pale Ale up there with the best of them.

Have a favourite to add to this list? Tweet us @forgetthebox or @JoshDavidson and let us know!

We’re nearing beer o’clock. More specifically, we’re nearing the most highly-anticipated 60 hour stretch of conspicuous beer consumption of the year. It’s called the Mondial de la Bière.

Unlike your average worknight, where access to Porto Alegre or Farnham microbrews can be tricky to say the least, a quick métro ride will suffice to sample over 500 types of malted bev between June 11th and 15th.

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Photo: © Olivier Bourget for the Mondial de la bière

570 is a big flashy number, kids, but here’s what I’m most excited about.

Over half those beers are making their Mondial premiere. Given the fact that each brewer generally wants to showcase as much product as possible every year, this is a big deal.

What does this mean? 269 beers that you’ve likely never tried before.

Where to start? From Noir et Blanc’s Abyss’ale to DDC’s rhubarb & grapefruit stout to a new 8% sparkling cider from McKeown, the newbie carte is vast. Some on the list have already premiered around town, such as Brutopia’s Dreadnought or McAuslan’s Double IPA. But that should not stop you from tasting a drab or two and learning more about how they make their beers–if only to make more informed decisions in the future.

Eat while you drink

While you may think that the only food you’re interested in is barley or wheat, you must recall that beer tasting goes smoother (and longer) if puncutated with just the right amount (and type) of nourishment

For the first time, I’m very happy to see the Mondial assuming some serious gastronomical duties. Whereas previous iterations have featured a smattering of stands with small nibbles, this year features 15 full-out food kiosques and an entire slate of tutorials on cooking with beer.

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Photo: © Olivier Bourget for the Mondial de la bière

So to that end—and possibly because, well, beer drinkers are such sturdy types—you’ll find stalls with deer smoked-meat (on panini) seal’s loins and even wild boar hamburgers. If yours is a fragile stomach, don’t worry, there’s plenty of traditional stuff like pretzels, sausages and meatballs.

How bout them apples?

500 varieties of malted bev can be rather overwhelming. But gluten doesn’t rule the day here. At the Mondial, “bière” is a loose term, and you’ll also find over 50 different ciders, meads, and other fruit-based options.

So save up your loonies this weekend ($1 gets you a drink ticket; most drinks cost 2-4 tickets). Next weeken will be a hoppin’. (Sorry)

Keep an eye out for our recap of the Mondial’s gastronomical offerings, as well as a Top 10 new alcoholic “découvertes”, right here in Food & Drunk!

Info

The Mondial de la bière runs from June 11-14 (10 a.m. to 11 p.m.) and June 15 (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) at the Palais des congrès.

Got suggestions of beers we should test? Tweet us at @forgetthebox and we’ll “do our best” to drink even more!

 

Cover photo by Martin Dougliamas via Flickr (cropped)

exaltogoodcopyIt’s time for spontaneous hangouts, drinking sangria on terraces, late night bike rides – what’s there not to love about summer? Definitely the best season of the year for cheap dates.

Here are some ideas for making the most of the warm weather. Grab your sweetheart, put on a comfortable pair of shoes and get ready to watch the sparks fly:

Such Great Heights:

This one is definitely not for the faint of heart! This month marks the grand opening of Exalto, a brand new urban acrobatic park near the Olympic Stadium.

Featuring three high-altitude acrobatic attractions including one as tall as a two-storey building, this unique new venture is unlike anything else the city has to offer. Strap on a safety harness, grab your sweetheart’s hand and get ready to test your dexterity and agility.

While you’re in the area, you could gaze up at the stars and contemplate the heaves above from the new Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. Together with the Botanical Garden, Insectarium and Biodome, this newly constructed Planetarium forms the largest natural sciences museum complex in Canada. Its unique design includes two theaters: one expresses the poetic view of the universe for your inner romantic and the other a more scientific approach for the nerd within us all.

Take Me To The River:

You’d think that living on an island would mean access to unlimited beaches galore… not that I’d really want to swim in polluted waters of the St. Laurence harbor. I’m not much of a fan of the man-made beach near Parc Jean Drapeau where the water is murky and I’m always stuck scrambling for a spot on the sand with the multitudes of Montrealers seeking a reprieve from the humidity.

vancouver-summer-date-ideasNeedless to say, last summer I was overjoyed when my boyfriend clued me in to one of the city’s best secret swimming spots in Verdun. Along the river waterfront there are a number of floating docks where you can slip into the St. Laurence after it’s passed through the Lachine Canal so the water is clear and refreshing as can be.

Get off the metro at De L’Eglise or Verdun, head for the waterfront and continue south along the path while looking for the docks. My favorite one is nestled in a little group of trees slightly off the path.

Baby You’re a Firework:

Since 2008, the city has closed Ste. Catherine street between St. Hubert and Papineau to traffic during the summer. With strand upon strand of pink spheres swaying overhead, it’s the perfect place for people watching while walking hand in hand with your sweetheart.

If you get thirsty, you can always stop for a martini or mojito at one of the terraces spilling out onto the sidewalk. Additionally, there’s the Aires Libres public contemporary art festival taking place throughout the area, including a graphic fresco and five sculptures around the Beaudry metro station.

Plus you’re really close to the Jacques Cartier bridge, the perfect place to watch the International Fireworks Festival which takes place from June 28-August 2. Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the festival features competitors from Germany, Italy, France, Australia and more, with a closing night spectacular playing homage to Pink Floyd.

If you’re interested in dim sum and live in Montréal, you appreciate the legend of Kam Fung. Maybe you’ve eaten in the cavernous St-Urbain dining room (or its Brossard counterpart). Maybe you’ve just stood in line and longed for a table.

Either experience is sufficient to grasp just how absurd—and yet fitting—it is, that now dim sum has been dragged into 2014 Québec election politics. Yes, those doughy pillows of shrimp, eel, mushroom, beef, pork (or mostly anything else that grows, swims or walks…) are the latest casualty to the province’s rapidly-degenerating discourse on language and identity.

Thankfully, it’s all been dressed with a healthy does of ethnic-food sarcasm.

It all started yesterday when outspoken Journal de Montréal columnist Sophie Durocher took to Twitter after a dim sum lunch.

The initial response seemed unsurprising, coming from one of Durocher’s followers…

 

But Montréal Gazette food critic Lesley Chesterman’s appraisal was a bit more scathing.

 

Chesterman’s tweets, it would appear, triggered a string of jabs at Durocher and, at times, the Parti québecois itself.

 

Disapproval of Durocher’s complaint was not limited to English, either:

Then the whole thing started to echo the last few party debates themselves:

 

 

Just like a TVA debate, there was mild mudslinging:

And even humour:

It seems that Charte-fuelled tensions of language and identity have officially peaked. Whether it’s Couillard or Marois who ends up at the helm, we can only hope for strong leadership.

But maybe politicians are just exacerbating the issues and the solution to Durocher’s quandary is really quite simple:

It’s time to bust out that emerald green t-shirt, the flask full of Jameson and the fake Irish brogue for the annual St Patrick’s Day parade this Sunday. While I’m not exactly sure how drinking so much green beer that you vomit green for days is an apt celebration of the national apostle of Ireland who is crediting with bringing Christianity to that country, it certainly does make for a hilarious day. Plus it’s pretty much the only day of the year when blatant public drinking won’t get you arrested, so it’s fun to take advantage of that while you can.

Montreal is home to the oldest St. Patrick’s Day parade in Canada. While the holiday itself has been celebrated in our fair city since the 1750s, the parade was established in 1824 by lawyer Michael O’Sullivan. Since then, no amount of rain, sleet, hail or snow has stopped the bands from marching and floats from idling their way through downtown while happy people wave at the drunken crowds.  Oh yeah, and people bring their kids too. Kids and drunks, both easily excitable and dressed in tacky green Dollarama crap.

This year, there will be 18 floats, 15 marching bands from Quebec and Ontario, 130 groups and 2,500 participants in the parade, which draws thousands of spectators (only half of whom can actually remember seeing any of the parade).

st-pattys MTL2In an attempt to curb the level of public intoxication, Educa-alcool paired with parade organizers the United Irish Societies to create a “Survival Guide” booklet that was distributed to bars in the vicinity. The day of the parade is notorious for being one of the busiest for hospitals, particularly the nearby Montreal General Hospital, with up to half of their trauma cases being, rather unsurprisingly, from risky behavior while intoxicated.

If you want any hope of scoring a prime spot at one of the Irish pubs near the parade route like Irish Embassy, Grumpy’s or Hurley’s, your best bet is to get there as early as noon to beat the insane lineups. You’ll end up missing most of the official parade, which starts at noon at Fort and runs east along Ste-Catherine to Aylmer… but you’ll have a perfect view of the parade of drunken lunatics stumbling over each other into the bar.

Perhaps this ends up being one of those nights (or who am I kidding here, afternoons) where locking eyes with a strange across the bar leads to locking lips. Yep the ol’ Kiss Me I’m Irish button trick. Let’s say you wanted to turn it into a sexy adventure, a hilarious story to tell your grandkids. Normally I would recommend one of fine alleys off Crescent or Bishop, but I certainly wouldn’t be turned on by standing in calf deep snow. So, instead I’d try dancing a few more Irish jigs (or singing along to a few more U2 cover songs, depending on where you’re at), downing a few glasses of water as you probably really need them by now and high tailing it out of there.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Forget the Box and may the luck of the Irish be with you!!

* photo by Catalin Croitoru

 

 

There’s this thing I do the second I get in the door: as soon as I’ve removed my shoes, be they oiled leather boots or burnished tan calfskin wingtips, I pull out the large Moneysworth 100% horsehair shoe brush I keep by the door especially for these routine instances and I vigorously, smartly, swiftly give my shoes a no-nonsense brushing.

Now, this, to the connoisseur, is a matter of simple maintenance. A properly patina-ed dress shoe or boot will shine back to life as dust and pedestrian hazards are effortlessly swept off the upper; the general muck, calcium or unmentionable whatever will part with a well-oiled shit-kicker with miraculous ease under a brisk hand. Every proper clotheshorse will tell you this simple bit of care will add years to quality shoes, whether they be dainty or heavy duty.

But everyone else—and there’s a lot of everyone-elses—will first wonder if I’m endearingly fastidious, or just compulsively weird. Never, though, will they doubt I’m being peculiar. And with those for whom the sight of the brush in my hand has become an expected one, I am more than a little familiar with the recurring eye-roll or sigh, not to mention the not-too-occasional snigger or scoff.

I don’t mind, of course. This isn’t ninth grade; I have no desire to pretend I don’t know better. But I wonder how they don’t realize I’m just efficiently ruggedizing for the vortex. If maybe they don’t realize their own spirit animals could use a little winter shellac. This wind-chilled port city of ours is a case study in emotional and physical decay a full five months a year, and surely you’ve noticed the signs yourself. It runs deeper than potholes—marks every foot, colours every bit of skin.

You may, for instance, have a friend, as I do, who schedules morning baths of Vitamin D light in his kitchen. He’s got a lamp for that; they have a spiritual bond, he and it.

You may, say, have spent all of December wrapped in blankets bingeing on Frasier. I know I did, with all of House of Cards, and Arrow’s heavy-handedness, too, for good measure. Lots of peanut butter cookies, for shame, and lots of late-night squats to repent (my ass got to hurting from all the sitting).

Needless to say, we all fall into and try to strike out of all that—me included, thankfully. Now, I’m braving the slush and black ice and anti-freeze-laced salt the city sprinkles over everything. And you know what makes it easier on the soul? Footwear that doesn’t look like it belongs in second grade, and leather that doesn’t look like gluttonous deposits are trying to eat their way through to the toes.

And so, shoe care is the balm to the well-prepared wintering soul, keeping winter’s teeth out where possible. A step-by-step meditation, you might say, with clear results.

Take a cold solemn night, for one, where I can literally see the heavy cold ghosting off the school across the way. Then, there’s nothing like a good shoe-shining session to keep the lid on the old mind. Imagine a little Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee for warmth, a little Trophy Wife, guilt-free, in the background. Picture those formerly calcium-eaten boots then sheening like big Blistex-ed lips, or a fine pebble grain cap-toe resplendently reflecting your silhouette. Take it in. Keep it with you.

My back always hurts a tad by the time I’m done shining, but I’m always greatly relieved knowing my feet’ll be ready for the upswing, the storm, the mess. I look over at a healthy-looking pair or two and I know they’ll get me wherever. I know ecstasy could indeed swell from the ground up, even on the cold front. And the elements can go screw themselves.

And the brush is a big help.