Posts Tagged ‘ribfest montreal’

03Planète Poutine & cie as well as La frite à Brigitte offered some of the very best classic poutines of Le Grand PoutineFest.

The difference between the two boiled  down to personal taste as one was not necessarily superior to the other. At such level, do not expect disaster (for example, bad quality ingredients, lacklustre gravy, burnt potatoes, etc).

planete poutinePlanète Poutine & cie classic  poutine featured bigger chunks of potatoes, which I prefer, with a really nice  gravy sauce (sauces of poutine are always secret recipes as the secret is in the sauce..) and a nice tasty crunch. PP & Cie suprised me a bit as it is a chain, therefore I was not expecting much from them, but clearly their classic poutine is one of good standard.

Brigitte In comparison, I found la Frite à Brigitte gravy sauce a tad more delicious. However, both places did master really well  all the aspects of their poutine using  quality homemade potatoes  (La frite à Brigitte particularly proud of the  Yukon gold potatoes from St Roch de L’Achigan that they were cooking during the poutine fest as proven by the display of their quality potatoes pretty much everywhere on the premises),  superb fresh squeaky big chunks of cheese curds (left unmelted , just the way I like it!!), and where many poutineries hide behind the excuse of “authenticity” to offer soggy tasteless fries, both La frite à Brigitte and  Planète Poutine & cie  french fries are packed with great potato flavor and a well balanced crispy exterior/ soft interior .

The journey to Poutineland is a never ending one. Time and again, there is always a new spot that is recommended by my Quebecois friends. The suggestions are numerous, and this serves me well in my search for the finest poutines, but unless one does not understand what a properly executed classic poutine should be, there  was hardly anything to fault with both above mentioned poutines. I have no clue how it fares at their respective restaurants, but both classic poutines sampled here at the Poutine Fest were  better than the classic poutine I had at plenty of supposedly far superior poutineries such as  the legendary  La Banquise.

Osteria Francescana is the best of them all according to San Pellegrino’s Restaurant Magazine – On top of the roof of San Pellegrino’s Restaurant Magazine, there is OF . Then El Celler de Can Roca, then Eleven Madison. Then this, and then that. Then, there are those who believe in San Pellegrino’s RM. Others in Gault Millau, others in Michelin, etc. But that is irrelevant as restaurant rating systems, opinions of restaurant critics, etc…that is just opinions, subjective material. What I need to know, though, is this: if a restaurant is a “reference” at what it does, why not keeping it in the elite of world’s best restaurants. Alinea, Noma , the Fat Duck … what other restaurant in the world is offering a better experience and has a technically better kitchen brigade  in their respective  categories????   Eleven Madison Park, no 3 in the world. I went there. It is in NYC, just few hours drive away from Montreal. So Yes it is a great restaurant, but it is not a “reference’ at whatever it is delivering! Mirazur, no6: I never went there. But I do not need to, neither! A simple look at the pics of their  dishes shows pretty looking dishes indeed, but are we certain that Mirazur is as exceptional as Alinea, Noma or the Fat Duck? Are we really certain of that? There are two aspects of the restaurant world that  I insist on differenciating: A restaurant’s food can indeed fare déja vu…BUT if  that restaurant  remains the best at what it does, then there is no reason to ignore it. Then, of course, as humans, we generally tend  to be excited by novelty… which I can certainly understand, but novelty should not be confused with exceptional work . I am sorry, but choices like Osteria Francescana, Eleven Park Madison, Mirazur, etc….this sounds like trying to sound novel rather than anything else. BTW..talking about the best restaurants in the world: according to San Pellegrino’s top 50 restaurants of the world …. the best classic (French, Italian, etc)  restaurants do not deserve to feature among their best restaurants. Basically,  modern cooking seems to be superior to  classic cooking  I gather  that this whole thing is a matter of personal taste, but how on earth can you pretend assessing the best restaurants in the world and completely forgetting the best classic  tables of this world? – Even a die-hard fan of classic cuisine like me will acknowledge that the non classic food of Noma, the Fat Duck, Alinea  sets the bar for their respective categories of cuisine. SP Top 50,  you are  just laughable , to say the least! …

01The ribs, the ribs!!! The ribs are the big trend of the last 2 years  of the foodie scene in Montreal. In that short period of time, restaurants offering ribs have truely stepped up their game with some of this city’s  most serious contenders  being le Boucan, Black Strap BBQ, and  Le Fumoir Rubs Smokehouse. To be honest with you, I do not know how to assess the Montreal “ribs”scene. We are not in the US, ribs is not Montrealer –  obviously, so I am not too comfortable with the idea of  assessing our local ribs. I will always remember an online  comment from a connoisseur of ribs, an American gentleman who knows his American ribs as much as you know how you are feeling right now…and that gentleman stated that he has no clue if Montreal was doing good ribs, but that the “culture” of the ribs is so different from the US that he was afraid that his opinion of Montreal ribbers was influenced not by skills or quality, but by just that: the perception, the impression that Montrealers have a totally different idea of what ribs should be. Do not expect Montreal to compete with our southern neighbors when it comes to the ribs in a way that the rest of the world has no chance to  beat us when it is time  to excel  at  our food staples such as the poutine, the smoked meat, the hot dog, the bagel, the cheese cake, etc! That said, Ribs mania is hitting town right now in the form of  le Grand Ribfest, an opportunity for our southern neighbors to share their long experience at smoking their ribs. I am a huge fan of the Grand Ribfest but it is about time that they do an effort to invite many more new ribbers (they have the same ribbers as  on their last edition, which is fine  but some few new ” faces ” would not hurt. Still, they had ONE NEW ribber this time around, BIBBS BBQ, which ribs  I went sampling:

02Bibb’s Texas BBQ is at its first presence at the Mtl ribfest. They smoke their baby back  ribs for 4hrs using cherry wood, the sauce made of sweet tomatoes. The baby back ribs I had were unfortunately a bit dry for my taste, the sauce enjoyable enough but lacking the complexity of, say, the sauce that Texas Rangers (my preferred ribs of the 3 ribfests of Laval / Mtl) had served me on the 1st edition of this event (Texas Rangers did not participate at the latest 2 ribfests). This does not mean that you should expect the same issue from all their ribs (after all, it would be unrealistic to expect perfect ribs at every serving), but I can talk only for what I know.

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***A Taste of the Caribbean was pure tropical fun in the beautiful location of the Vieux Port of Montreal. Food was delicious, people beautiful, ambience festive.

***Yum Rum cakes –  My  ‘coup de coeur’ of the Taste of the Caribbean event was  the rum cake of Yum Rum cakes. Yummy, indeed, with refined texture and just the right amount of rum. The cake was   not soaked in rum, which is perfect for me. It is easy to see that they have perfected their craft for so long. This shop seems to be staffed by a team of very ambitious and seasoned young women, doing what they have to do seriously, so long live  Yum Rum cakes ! Yum Rum cakes https://www.facebook.com/YumRumCakes?fref=ts 514-916-0183, 514-816-1383

RIBFEST***The Ribfest is  an instant success with thousands and thousands  of people attending the event. As expected, ribs, exactly  like steaks, will always be crowd pleasers in North America.

01There were so many people at the event that I managed to try only (up to now, June 30th) the ribs of Camp 31 (Southern style bbq.  I wished there was more meat around the bones, and that the meat would be  tenderer and a tad juicier,) from Alabama as well as Bone Daddy  (Colorado. the sauce boasting a perfect balanced sweetness, which is my preference, the meat cooked longer therefore tender, alas the flavor not as meaty a I came to expect from my preferred ribs).

02UPDATE 1/7/2015 : Tried Texas Rangers and Uncle Sam’s  on July 1st. TR pulled off my preferred  ribs of this event, with delicious caramel-tasting sauce with a touch of fresh acidity behind. The meat boasting tender consistency and nice meaty mouthfeel. This was even better than the finest local ribs that I have tried.  I did sample Uncle Sam’s mainly  because he was the only one using wood-fire. That  made a difference, indeed, as the smokey wood-fired flavor is always a hit for me. I found the sauce a tad less dazzling than at TR (less complex), but the sweetness was not overwhelming, rather nicely controlled. The meat not too tender , not tough neither, just the right balance between tender and firm.

This is  a very popular event, indeed, and my only (friendly) quip is that with such crowd, the organisers need to think about  better ways to let people moving around (make the way clear to the various stands, so better queue and customer flow management). It was really hard, especially on the first day, to identify the right queues and move from one stand to another. It is their first event, so no hard feelings, and hopefully this will be long fixed on the next edition.  It was fun to converse with our Southern neighbors about their passion for the smoked rib and I will remember the ribs of Texas Rangers for a while..the Rangers dazzled during this fest!

***I went dining at Cirkus, opened since October,  and already considered as one of this city’s better restaurants. Its Chef, Julien Doré, has honed his skills  at some of the major food destinations of this city. The food is North American/French bistrot-gastronomy  with possible International influences (for eg, Italian). You have a mix of clotheless tables and some few tables with tablecloths, the restaurant simply but tastefully decorated.

01The starter comprised of some homemade gnocchi (not the superlative pillowy textured gnocchi that can sometimes come from an Italian kitchen, slightly chewier than I would prefer, but admittedly decent  by French restaurant standards)  made of black cod, gently seared and sautéed in butter, the rich mouthfeel balanced with the fresh acidity of a  vinegar called  Xipister (pepper flavored vinegar). We are not used to that vinegar, in Montreal restaurants , so the element of  surprise was present and added to the enjoyment of that dish. A bit more complexity came in the form of thin slices of  wood ear mushrooms, mixed with the pasta, and  which seemed, to my palate, to have been marinated (I did not ask if it was, but it felt like it) and stood as  complementary to the dish – the flavor of the mushroom superb. All in all, a  delicious dish with the richness of classic French cuisine and a great sense of flavor combination.  Exciting mouthfeel. 7/10 (had the texture of the gnocchi stood out – again, it was fine, but no more – I’d not hesitate to rate  this dish higher, but consider this as a very strong 7/10 as it’s becoming rare, nowadays, in town, to sample dishes expressing  classic joyous flavors as ‘NOT tired’ and as beautifully mastered as what I was enjoying on this evening).

02Duck Magret (slightly less rosy than I normally prefer, with my duck magret,  but eventful in mouth) was served with one glass of red wine that I enjoyed a lot, a Chateau Ste Anne 2009. The duck magret came with a faultless  purée of chestnut, a flavorful grenobloise (when was the last time a grenobloise – although not that hard to make as it is basically a mix of  pasley/capers/brown butter / pieces of lemon — did taste this great at a restaurant in France, North America or elsewhere? For me, it has been a while and the last time happened at a fine dining table in France. Since then, I had my share of grenobloise but most were poorly executed. Proof that many cooks have really lost touch with the basics of French cuisine and I am happy to see this kitchen giving a second chance to the grenobloise! An exciting grenobloise, here mixed with pieces of rebaked bread ) atop some fresh romaine lettuce. Again, beautiful classic French flavors that I highly enjoyed 7/10 (here, same thing as with the previous dish. A very very strong 7/10, and certainly a dish that would deserve a higher score, but I’ll cross that bridge when the work of the texture of that duck magret will be as glamourous as the 8/9 or 10/10 duck magrets I had elsewhere – the texture was fine, btw, just not as superb as it could have been with  beautiful rosy duck magret, though ……………who cares when food tastes this good!).

03Vacherin glacé, rhubarbe (as a confit of rhubarb), oseille (leaves of sorrel), babeurre (buttermilk as an emulsion, tasty enough) – In this instance, a meringue cylinder (of the dry featherweight meringue type, its texture technically fine) was filled with the elements that I have just described. I was not floored by this dessert as, although not bad at all, it was not as particularly joyous in mouth as some of its versions I had elsewhere, or as eventful as a simple classic  vacherin glacé dessert.

PROS: Delicious savoury dishes, great sense of flavor combination

CONS: I think that a classic vacherin glacé would have been a better  ending  to this meal  + I’d prefer softer/airier pillowy gnocchis  (even, if that means skipping the use of the black cod to make the pasta)..gnocchis are just much more enjoyable that way!!!!!!!

As ever with food,  the more you know, the better you appreciate (being familiar and enjoying classic French flavors would obviously help, in this case). Then  the closer the food to your finest souvenirs, the better. Food appreciation, one can’t stress enough, is personal. And indeed, for me, the savouries of this meal went beyond the simple fact that they were delicious: they brought back memories of the delicious classic French flavors of my childhood. Personal, subjective, I told you, lol! But not to worry: I can put emotions aside (the reason you see no 10/10 eventhough I was  highly pleased by the flavors of the savouries served on this evening) and try to be as accurate as possible in the assessment of my food.

Overall food rating: 7/10 No spectacular work of the textures (perhaps  not the intent neither, but hey…the pics of their glamourous-looking dishes on their facebook page  forced me to expect something a bit spectacular ;p) , but food that’s relatively refined and more importantly tasting delicious. Apparently, based on the accounts of two local food journalists, a dish of Venison/pear/beacon  as well as a dish of guinea hen were first-rate creations. Both dishes were not available on my visit, but on the back of what  I have sampled under this roof, I am  not surprised to learn that this kitchen can pull off an even better performance than this one. I loved Cirkus because it delivers what matters, to me, at a restaurant: joyous flavors and not pretention. The service, faultless (knowledgeable, patient). In my top 10 in Montreal,  easily and a restaurant where I would love to go  back.

What I thought days later: Only two major food journalists have reviewed Cirkus up to now. One Anglophone critic from The Gazette (experienced food critic, though not as experienced in French classic flavors as the other journalist) and a Francophone from Le Journal de Montreal (an Ex Chef of French cuisine, with plenty of experience with Classic French cooking). The former rated Cirkus with a 2.5 over 4, which is mas o menos pretty much close to my personal rating of my meal at Cirkus and underlined, that at its best, Cirkus can dazzle indeed. The latter, my preferred food journalist in town ,  was floored with a rating of 4 over 5, a bit more generous than the rating I deemed worthy of my meal. Either way, they were both right: as with any restaurant, expect the good, the great and the not so great. Restaurant kitchens have brigades (obviously 1 Chef can’t be alone cooking all the food himself for all his customers) and your mileage will vary depending on who cooked  your food and in what mood that person was. One thing seems certain though, Cirkus is among this city’s finest and Jean Doré is a talented Chef. Hopefully, one day, I will, in my turn, get to sample his very best food. With a Chef gifted with such good palate, I am confident that can happen!