• The Other Side of Montreal

    July 5, 2009. Posted by Amy Niles.

    No, its not what you are thinking....

    Spend a little time away from the stages here at Jazz Fest, hang out in the press room at the festival and what do musicians talk about? Why, the wonderful food in Montreal of course.

    No sooner had I landed when I hopped on the Metro and headed straight for the Marche Jean Talon. Aisle after aisle of the lushest displays of fruits and vegetables- both local and imported ( imagine, blueberries all the way from New Jersey). You can taste your way through a stall that sells 7 different varieties of mangos from Mexico- all with a distinct look and taste ( and yes, I tasted them all). But this time of year, it is the Quebec strawberries that rule the market. Served up in baskets of all sizes. Larger than life but not grown for show- the berries of a dimension that are usually masked by being dumped in chocolate. These are the real deal.

    I come back to the  festival campus loaded with berries and figs and sweet sweet nectarines. For the rest of the day we offer strawberries to our guests after each interview- and we are all happy.

    Did I mention pommes frites? Is it wrong that I make a bee line for the little stand at the market serving just about the most unhealthy food on earth and one of my guilty pleasures- Frites Alors has a number of restaurants around town  serving potato perfection- twice cooked, crispy and fresh with a dollop of creamy dipping sauce to add insult to injury. My favorite? The one called Frites Alors sauce. If this incarnation of the fry isn't enough artery clogging activity for you- you must try poutine. A new dish for you? I can't even begin to imagine what the creator of this dish was trying to do to the cardiac health of his or her countrymates. Poutine is a mound of fries covered in cheese ( often cheese curds) and doused in thick gravy.Enough you say? Why stop at that when you can add hot dogs ( yes, I witnessed this one in the press room and because of my respect for the eater, I won't reveal who he was) or the ultimate version that I have seen at the much lauded Au Pied De Cochon is served with a slab of foie gras. Kill me now. As for me, I will stick to just plain pommes frites.

    Sometimes it's the places that just say Montreal and memories. Ask Michael Bourne about Pizzadelic ( and he will offer to take you). For me, it is Cafe Cherrier. Remembrances of lazy festival Sunday mornings after  late nights of music.  Perfect eggs with spinach and a bucket of cafe au lait. A newspaper. The warm sunlight.  And a slow walk back to the hotel.

    Every trip I add to these food experiences and for 30 years, some of the worlds greatest musicians have done the same. Yes, we come here for the music, but it's the talk of food that makes all that we do ever sweeter.

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