Montreal has always been a city that had to be different from its other Canadian counterparts. If Montreal had a voice it would say, “show me your best and I’ll make it 10 times better!” and they do. Don’t get me wrong – there is no competition going on here but rather a touch of savoir-faire only a Montrealer can add to an outfit, an event, or even a lifestyle; and when it comes to Montreal’s 375 Anniversary you know they are throwing around their savoir fair like it’s pixie dust!
This year Montreal went all out for their 18th edition of Montréal En Lumière. With over three weeks of festivities 1.4 Million people descended upon the city to partake in special cooking events, attend musical performances, explore the art instillations that adorn the city and of course stay up all night to enjoy Nuit Blanche! With over 200 activities on Nuit Blanche alone there is no way you were going to run out of things to do.
For this year’s edition of Montreal en Lumiere, Lyon, France (nicknamed the world capital of gastronomy) was the featured city and with it came their regional flare on French cooking! With over 29 guest chefs participating in 44 gourmet cooking events Montrealers and tourist alike came out in hordes to feast like kings at these unique tastings. For those who were unable to attend one of these special cooking events there were also 240 other food related activities going on throughout the three week long festival, some even free!
Some of the food related events I was able to attend included Le Bouchon Lyonnais at Balmoral where the restaurant was transformed into a traditional Lyonnais bistro to serve up incredibly tasty customary dishes that made you feel like you were transported in space to the capital of French gastronomy. Guest Chef Joseph Viola’s menu consisted of French specialties like ‘Le Pate en croute au fois gras de canard (pastry encased pate of duck foie gras and sweetbread) – a dish that takes approximately three days to make and won him a championship award in 2009! I also had to try the beef sirloin steak, flambéed with cognac and doused in a black peppercorn sauce (highly recommended by my waiter and happy that he did). This dish was quiet generous and was accompanied by thinly sliced fried potato’s, string beans and my very own side of mac and cheese!
The second food related event I was able to attend included a tasting at Montreal’s Ikanos restaurant where guest chef Neil Jewell teamed up with restaurant patriarch Constant Mentzas to develop a unique seafood menu just for the festival. Ikanos restaurant located in the Old Port of Montreal is housed within a brilliantly renovated and decorated old warehouse building. The ambiance alone would make me want to sit at the bar all evening eating and drinking. For a pre dinner palate cleanser I tried an item off their cocktail menu called ‘It's Spritz thyme!’ and as an appetizer I had their cured snapper with mountain tea gel, grapes, radish, horseradish and, lemon balm. My second dish was the samos and miso roasted black cod with turnips, porcini mushrooms and, mushroom flavored dashi. This dish was definitely my favourite! To add a little carb to my meal I also had the Saffron-butter poached lobster, chorizo, fennel, and orange tortellini in a bouillabaisse broth, rouille. Is it just me or was the red carpet rolled out for this special Montreal en Lumiere collaboration?!
Nuit Blanch, a one night event full of art instillations, music and drinking, attracts 350,000 (let’s say between 300,00 and 350,000) to the streets of Montreal alone. On Nuit Blanch you could have found me in Montreal’s underground exploring 77 different projects and exhibitions from various contemporary artist. Each exhibition or project varied from interactive instillations, video exhibits, special enactments and performances to photography and sculptures. With hours of entertainment you could spend all night running around Montréal’s underground while also benefiting from free shuttles to different neighborhoods, extended Metro service and last call hours!
As part of Montreal’s 375th anniversary Montreal en Lumiere also added Illuminart to this year’s event schedule. With over 25 works that fuse art, lighting and technology, these instillations were a must see! The urban installation spread over 3.6 km surrounding the heart of the festival, Quartier des spectacles. I ran around to discover some of the best pieces to show you below! Many of the artists that participated in Illuminart were actually from Lyon, which not so coincidently holds a big festival of lights annually that historically dates back to the 1700s called La Fête des Lumières de Lyon!
It doesn’t end there though! This year at Montreal en Lumiere came an eclectic assortment of musical acts ranging from DJ’s to Francophone to Jazz and Blues musicians. Even Vancouver’s own indie band Mother Mother and rock band The Tea Party performed during the festival. Needless to say there were plenty of shows to choose from, the hardest part being more about which ones to attend.
To say that Montreal en Lumiere surpassed my expectation would be a massive understatement. They pulled out all the bells and whistles this year and pretty much threw a three week long party! Even as a non French speaker I found it very easy to navigate through the festival activities and city. With lots of fun events both outdoors and in, taking your loved one, friends or even family will end up leaving you asking yourself why you hadn’t done this sooner
If you have any questions about the festival I encourage you to visit the Montreal en Lumiere website by clicking -> HERE
To see how else Montreal is celebrating their 375 Anniversary click -> HERE
Have you read my article about the newest boutique hotel in Montreal? You can now! Click -> HERE
If you have any questions you would like to ask me feel free to leave them in the comment section below!