Fringe Food

Gastronomie en Lumiere pt 2

  • Photo Josh Davidson

As the 13th edition of Montréal en Lumière draws to a close, there are still many opportunities to engage with the sensory qualities of the gastronomy on display—and many don’t have to eat away at your pocketbook. The outdoor site, bustling with glowing neon tubes and spheres, is also a wonderland of taste sensations. The smell of wood smoke marries curiously with the potato grease of Frite Alors’ fry shack and the diesel fumes of downtown delivery trucks—but it’s not altogether unpleasant. Think of it more as a limited-time offer: inhabit your very own setée amidst the concrete prairie of Place-des-Arts!

And you don’t even need to worry about the February cold. Outdoor fireplaces, couches and bars are set up where you can taste the world in a bottle (well, the world according to SAQ), all within a lounge that fuses cozy cottage with restless urbanity. Inside the translucent Loblaws globes, for example, you can taste smoothies, maple syrup and random pastries. Samples are free, and syrup tins are only $10.

But what about the real globe—as in, the one we live in? Invited Brussels chef Nicholas Darnauguilhem from the tiny Neptune is known for his artistry with local produce and meats, and passion for natural wine. He’ll be serving his delicacies all week at St-Denis’ notable La Fabrique (3609 St. Denis Rd.) There’s still time to catch him and his countrymates such as Luc Broutard and Nicolas Scheidt Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Osco, Au P’tit Extra, Marché Bonsécours).

If your stomach or pocketbook can’t hack these sumptuous (and tempting!) feasts but your mind remains ravenous for more nutrition, you might want to check out UQAM’s fascinating “sensory lecture” on the gustatory qualities of Quebec’s “fromages du terroir.” Marie-Christine Montel demonstrates the curious “identities” of specific quebecois cheeses, exploring the scientific and cultural causes of their distinct taste-experiences. The evening consists of an array of quebecois cheese tastings, paired with expert discussion by Montel and gastronomy professor Jean-Pierre Lemasson. Reserve for free online, and you can get in the door at a cut-rate student price of $15 (Thursday, 6 pm).

What to Eat on the Nuit

If you get hungry along your Nuit Blanche adventures, there are several opportunities to chow down. Though the outdoor festival site at Place-des-Arts is open all night with its traditional offerings-SAQ running its outdoor “bistro de glace,” Place Loblaws with small edibles and Frite Alors with a fry shack-you needn’t stop there.

The more adventurous culinary offerings are scattered across the festival site.

Topping the list is probably the Société des arts technologiques (1201 St. Laurent Blvd.)—whose Japanese-themed FoodLab continues late into the night alongside its “Yu Wa” DJ-VJ spectacular. Small plates are matched to a great list of natural wines in their mind-popping, minimalist upstairs “Satosphère” space. Ever wonder what it would be like to eat at Ikea every morning of the week? You can save yourself the hassle, because Charles-Antoine Blais Métivier already has—and he made an art installation out of it to boot. Navigate over to “I Love Swedish Cuisine” in the midst of the “Art Souterrain” exhibit under the Palais des congrès (metro Place d’Armes).

The Plateau has a fair few stops on the Blanche trail. If you’re already in the hood, you might as well get some free chocolate and/or free coffee. Planning to stop by? There’s fine chocolatier Suite 88 Chocolatier (3957 St-Denis)—known for its mouth-watering waffles—offering free samples all night, and the cupboard-sized Pikolo espresso bar (3418B Parc Ave.) doling out free espresso tastings and workshops. Or, better yet, blend the cacao and liquid together: grab a free hot chocolate at Parc La Fontaine. Upstairs from the lovely (soon to be melted) lake is the newly renovated Éspace La Fontaine—that old charming casse-croûte gone upscale. They’re offering heart-inspired art and accessibly-priced nibbles.

Heading westward to hipster haven Le Cagibi, you can sip on lattés or tuck into a burrito while you soak up their land-and-sound-scape inspired installation “Ça a passé juste” (5490 St-Laurent).

I’m not sure if it’s some kind of an alimentary regulation thing (as in, it bypasses both alcohol and food service bylaws in not quite being a real food?) but hot chocolate abounds during this year’s Nuit. In addition to La Fontaine, the open collections at the Musée d’art contemporain (185 Ste-Catherine W.), the Canadian Centre for Architecture (1920 Baile St.), as well as Le Givré (3809 St-Denis) and the Blanc de Banc Kafé (228 Villeneuve) will also have complementary hot chocolate on hand. Don’t neglect the last venue on that list as it includes pirate storytelling and washing machines!

Finally, the three thriving floors of the Belgo (372 Ste-Catherine W.) is often a festive madhouse on Nuit Blanche, due to the sheer convenience (i.e., warmth) of so many art installations under one single roof. They don’t always advertise it, but they often open up their own special “canteen.” Make sure to stop by the canteen (last year it was next to the Dance Party Room) for a bodega-inspired selection including such staples as beef patties, sandwiches and candy bars. And last year contained a special surprise: homemade sushi.

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