Savoring Quebec’s best dishes at Montreal en Lumiere

“Je me souviens,” Quebecois say. Montreal’s motto, whose true meaning is somewhat of a mystery going back to the façade of the Parliament Building, translates to “I remember,” undeniably referring to Quebec’s history.

In my case, I remember the lovely fall I first visited Montreal. Three years ago, I explored this charming city entirely by foot. I was fascinated by Old Montreal with its French flair, enchanting cobblestone streets, distinctive architecture and trendy boutiques, and in awe of Mount Royal’s breathtaking fall colors including its unique, red maple tress. This time around, I came with the intent of exploring Montreal’s culture during Montreal en Lumiere. At its 15th celebratory edition, I was unaware upon arrival of how much the festival would spoil me, in particular with its gourmet cuisine.

Apollo Montreal en Lumiere

After checking in at the legendary Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, the site of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s iconic 1969 “Bed-in for Peace,” I was greeted with oysters and champagne at Apollo’s, courtesy of chefs Daren Bergeron and Giovanni Apollo. I’ve always had a special weakness for oysters but the New England and Prince Edwards Island delights, topped with horseradish, were truly exquisite.

Apollo Restaurant Montreal

As I gazed out the window and upon the chandelier’s reflections into the street, I thought to myself this was the perfect way to start my discovery into Quebec’s culture.

The next day was not any different; I wined and dined all throughout the city. I started with a Laurentian-inspired lunch at Le Margaux on Avenue du Parc, prepared by chef Jérôme Chatenet.

Le Margaux Laurentian lunch Montreal en Lumiere

It was a particularly gloomy day outside, but savoring this region’s finest dishes made me completely oblivious of any external happenings.

Rabbit appetizer Le Margaux Montreal

It would be difficult to pinpoint which dish I enjoyed the most. The rabbit appetizer, filled with foie gras, plum jam and roasted red pepper on top of a mushroom pancake was a nice surprise, both in taste and presentation.

Roasted pig Le Margaux Montreal

The entrée however, simply melted in my mouth. The slowly roasted pig dish was the most tender I have ever had.

Phyllo apple crust dessert Le Margaux Montreal

Lunch ended with a delightful, phyllo apple crust dessert that was as much lightly sweetened as it was slightly tart, to balance off the previous heavier courses.

Once dinnertime came along, I was treated to the ultimate fine dining experience, the cherry on the top as one might say, both literally and figuratively.

L'Epicier Old Montreal L'Epicier restaurant Old Montreal

At L’Epicier, which not surprisingly translates into “At the grocer,” the ambiance was lovely and the service was impeccable. Located in Old Montreal, it’s a pleasure to stop for dinner after an afternoon stroll through the cobblestone neighborhood.

L'Epicier Montreal en Lumiere menu

I had the great pleasure of meeting chef-owner Laurent Godbout, who showed me around his kitchen and explained the five-course meal I was about to partake. Even before sitting down, I spotted the first appetizer being carefully prepared into a delicate masterpiece: a duck tataki and dashi poached oyster.

After the dauphinois veal sweetbreads came the main entrée, a seabass with clams, with a Provence olive oil endive, wonderfully sautéed (or even grilled, it tasted so good) and potatoes.

L'Epicier ricotta cheese dessert

At this point, I was already full. However, the snack or pre-dessert as they call it, was calling my name. A small sized fresh ricotta bite with macadamia nuts and crispy meringue, drizzled in clover honey, was by far my favorite. Not sure how I could best describe it, but it was like a fresh summer rain at the end of a sweltering day: unexpected and refreshing.

The poached pear in spiced wine, showered in vanilla crème anglaise was equally light and tasty.

At the end of each one of my lush meals during Montreal en Lumiere, one could very well go for a peaceful sleep. But how could I? So much more awaited me – a vibrant celebration of the performing arts was just around the corner.

 

Disclaimer: This trip was sponsored by Tourism Quebec, in collaboration with Montreal en Lumiere and Skype, but as always all opinions are mine. I had a fantastic time, and I would highly recommend the festival to anyone that enjoys fine dining, the performing arts and Quebec’s rich culture. 

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  • Agness

    Now I’m getting so hungry! The rabbit appetizer, filled with foie gras, plum jam and roasted red pepper on top of a mushroom pancake OMOMOMOMOMO!! 😀