Story by Diane Penwill
MONTREAL, QUEBEC — MTL à TABLE, Montreal’s annual culinary festival that is taking place until November 13, has 150 restaurants participating this year (22 new ones) and crosses 12 neighbourhoods. Districts that have become recognized for food in recent years, like Little Burgundy, Griffintown, St. Henri and the newest, Ahuntsic, compete with classic gourmet destinations such as Old Montreal, The Plateau and Mile End. No matter how large a Montreal event becomes, here it can still feel like an intimate, relaxed community event.
Tourists and locals will have the chance to discover some of the city’s finest cuisine and to meet the chefs who put Montreal on the global food map. Participating restaurants will offer prix-fixe menus for $15 (brunch), or $21, $31 or $41 (dinner) and $21 (late-night meals). MTL à TABLE is highlighting two restaurants, Toqué! and Europea, who bear the prestigious Relais & Chateaux insignia. These two famous restaurants — both of which have ranked among the Vacay.ca Top Restaurants in Canada — have created $69 menus exclusively for this event.
MTL à TABLE has partnered this year with Les Vins de Languedoc, and will be featuring wines from this distinctive wine region in the south of France. Meet innovative French wine growers and sommeliers from Vins du Languedoc, which will be holding tasting sessions. Meals come with Languedoc wine pairings.
The annual wine fair, La Grande Degustation Montreal, which has become important on the Canadian wine scene, takes place through November 5 at Place Bonaventure. The spotlight this year is on South America. Argentina and Chile take centre stage with 50 internationally renowned merchants, more than 1,200 products, including 800 different wines. The feature grape variety is Syrah (used to produce excellent wines around the world, including the famous Crozes-Hermitage appellation) and the featured spirit is whiskey, with sampling opportunities of products from 20 Scottish, Irish, American and Canadian distillers.
Throughout the festival and into December, three-hour guided walking tours are offered on the fabled cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, with stops to taste culinary delights, and to visit historical landmarks. Four of the six tasting locations are sit-down restaurants, including a sampling of beer and Quebec cheeses at Bistro-Brasserie Les Soeurs Grises, who brew their own beer on-site, in a renovated former nunnery. Other food stops include a local gluten-free baker, an authentic English-style fish ‘n chips shop, a rustic Portuguese restaurant and a final stop for poudding chomeur, a classic Quebec dessert.
“Our Cheeses,” which represents Quebec cheeses, organized a contest among participating restaurants to create an original recipe featuring local cheese. Fifteen winners were chosen and their cheesy creations will be highlighted on their menus throughout the week. The Parisian-styled brasserie, Chez Lévêque, in Outremont, specializes in French classics and has been a neighbourhood favourite since 1972. Its winning recipe is a savoury rendition of a mille feuille — a layered beet mille feuille, with Bleu Bénédictin cheese, walnuts and greens. Restaurant de l’Institut, the training restaurant of students from the Institut de Tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ), created a braised veal shank with butternut squash, roasted cipollini onions and romanesco broccoli topped with shavings of Canotier de l’Isle cheese.
Other opportunities to explore include a bean-to-bar chocolate expedition through the Plateau and Mile End districts to taste nine types of chocolate, drink a chocolate infusion, a traditional Mexican chocolate drink, and finish the day with a savoury chocolate-based meal. Ride a giant bicycle with Party Bike (or Vélo Festif) Montreal, all the while tasting hors d’oeuvres and shooters, in the newest foodie destination, the Ahuntsic neighbourhood. Or go for a happy-hour tour in one of the hip neighbourhoods of Little Burgundy and St. Henri, or in the Quartier des Spectacles.
Many Montreal attractions offer special packages during MTL à TABLE. As well, live music and dance with jazz, traditional French music, Spanish Flamenco dancing and Portuguese fado will be at various restaurants around town.
“MTL à TABLE helps position Montreal as one of the world’s leading gastronomic destinations. We know that tourists love to come here and eat well,” said Yves Lalumière, president and CEO of Tourisme Montréal.
MORE ABOUT MTL à TABLE
Dates: November 3 – 13
More Info: This year’s edition is presented in collaboration with Les vins du Languedoc and will see 150 participating restaurants, offering a three-course set price evening menu ($21, $31 and $41).