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Montreal en Lumiere and Nuit Blanche

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Montreal en Lumiere in Montreal, Canada.
Scene of a cheese competition during the Montreal en Lumiere festival.

Scene of a cheese competition during Montreal en Lumiere

Photo by Alison J. Stein
Montreal en Lumiere is a festival celebrating what Montreal is best known for – its art scene and its cosmopolitan culinary reputation. It’s scheduled for February 21st to March 3rd, 2013, and wraps up with Nuit Blanche which translates to "white night" -- during which arts and cultural institutions stay open all night long, with free events happening all night long. It’s a party that’s definitely worth attending.

Québec, and The World

On the culinary side of things, the festival features many Montreal chefs preparing Québec produce, and also selects a particular Québecois region to highlight -- this year it’s Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean. (Much of this action takes place at Jean Talon Market, where chefs from the region will offer free culinary workshops.

But the festival also takes a more global view by selecting a featured city, or a country,to highlight. Previously, Wallonia-Brussels, Portugal, Alsace have had a turn in the spotlight. In 2013 it’s Buenos Aires. The festival also nods to its little neighbor to the south this year, and is paying special attention to Philadelphia. Which may well be the only time Buenos Aires and Philly have ever shared billing at a food festival.

As part of the Buenos Aires focus, chef Francis Mallman, who runs Patagonia Sur in Buenos Aires, among other ventures, is the honorary president of the gastronomy portion of the festival. Part of his duties as president includes preparing two seven-course dinners, in collaboration with Jérôme Ferrer, the chef at much-celebrated restaurant Europea. The menu is set to include such dishes as salt crusted white fish cooked infiernillo – a grilling method that involves two sources of flames and a sloping griddle -- with salsa criolla, and a lamb confit with a version of guaschalocro from the Jujuy province in North Argentina. (Guaschalocro, also sometimes spelled huaschalocro, is a traditional stew similar to posole.) Wine pairings will be Mendoza's Cheval des Andes or Terrassas de los Andes wineries. The dinners costs $250 (Canadian) per person including wine pairings, but excluding tax and tip, and are planned for Friday, February 22 and Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.

As for the involvement of Philadelphia, six Montreal restaurants will host six chefs from the City of Brotherly Love, for showcase dinners. Details here.

Cheese Competition and Dinner

Another notable culinary event, especially for the cheese involved, is a competition and dinner called Toqués des Fromages D’ici Competition, in which four Montreal chefs compete to prepare 12 different dishes, each featuring a different Québec cheeses. (Yes. An entire dinner of cheese.) Portions are kept to tasting size, so you don’t die, but you’re also provided with a tasting of each cheese in its unadulterated state, and very good bread, so the potential for a stuffing is very high indeed. There’s a panel of expert judges that weigh in, and the chef-winner takes home $5,000. This event costs $117.63, per person, and includes wine, tax and fees. It’s scheduled for Saturday, March 2, 6:30 p.m., in the Grand Salon at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth.

For the more budget conscious, there are also a series of culinary tours scheduled to coincide with the festival. Two are scheduled between 5p.m. and 7p.m. for “5 à 7” – which is the Montreal term for happy hour, and focus on the festival’s prime neighborhood, the Quartier des Spectacles, and Ste. Catherine Street. The others are during the day and focus on Old Montreal, Little Italy and the microbrew scene in Montreal. These tours cost $55-$70 per person, Canadian, and must be booked in advance. Details here.

Nuit Blanche: Eat All Night Long

On Nuit Blanche, the last night of the festival, there’s plenty of culinary programming – the previously mentioned cheese competition, for one thing – but of special note is a six-course tasting dinnerfeaturing two key Québec ingredients: foie gras and maple syrup. It’s at restaurant Cocagne, at 6 p.m. Which should theoretically give you enough time to attend A Nightin Chocolate Heaven with Christophe Morel, to witness and devour chocolate concoctions (and wine), and wrap it all up at an Argentinian style after party at Pastaga, from 11 p.m. to 3 p.m.

It’s a big night, but nota bene, you’ll have a full year to recover (and detox) before next year’s festivities begin again.

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