Montreal is an ever pulsating nerve centre of culture and all things decadent and dreamy; whether we’re talking food, music, fashion, or art. We may have bridges and overpasses collapsing around us and corruption inquiries underway, but we just keep on dancing.
It's strange that our city motto is Concordia Salus (Well Being in Harmony), because, let’s face it… that’s borderline boring. Maybe we should have adopted “We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance” (Japanese proverb) since it suits this city’s temperament so much better. Guess that was too long.
Ben Wilkins’ star about to shine
Early this week Montreal musician Ben Wilkins launched his self-titled CD and I have been listening to it non-stop. It’s even playing while I’m writing this column. His piano-powered arrangements, which often feature string quartets, bass and drums, are reminiscent of a sweet romantic late ‘60s and ‘70s vibe. Wilkins, who studied jazz and classical music at McGill, pays an indirect tribute to the saccharine sounds of Burt Bacharach, but has a voice that is really all his own. Soup For One and Through To You are my personal favourites. I predict big things for this hometown boy. http://benwilkinsmusic.com/
Greek film at the forefront
The Montreal Greek Film Festival will be presenting its 3rd edition of recent and classic Greek cinema, from October 28 to November 3. In spite of the economic difficulties it’s been going through, Greece and its cinema are enjoying a renewed recognition in recent years, with films that remain sensitive and always intriguing.
The festival will close with the presentation of the Greek-Israeli co-production My Sweet Canary, tracing the life and career of the ultimate Greek rembetiko singer Roza Eskenazy (1895-1980). It’s a great opportunity for Montrealers of all ethnic origins to discover something Greek, beyond souvlaki and feta cheese. For a detailed schedule: www.montrealgreekfilmfestival.com
Joe Beef: Montreals’s culinary rock stars
Anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of dining at Joe Beef in the South West knows that the attention co-owners and chefs Fred Morin and David McMillan are garnering with the launch of their cookbook The Art of Living is well deserved. It’s no small feat to take a dump of a place in the middle of what was once “nowhere”, pay homage to the area’s working class roots by naming it Joe Beef and quickly transform it into one of the most personable, most alive, most quirky, most delicious restaurants in the city – possibly the world.
I spoke to Fred Morin at the book’s launch this past Thursday at the Parisian Laundry and he spoke to me of his love for the South West (“This place has my heart”) and how he sometimes wished the restaurant was more affordable so more people could try it.
Anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of dining at Joe Beef in the South West knows that the attention co-owners and chefs Fred Morin and David McMillan are garnering with the launch of their cookbook The Art of Living is well deserved. -
“If you want to serve ethical, high quality food, and honour and fairly pay the farmers and gardeners who supply you with your ingredients, it’s impossible to have low prices,” he explains. “I’m not against good cheap stuff. “Look”, he says pointing to his white shirt and laughing, “I bought this at Joe Fresh.”
The launch, which had Montreal DJ Kid Koala spinning and restaurants Icehouse, Bremner, Burgundy Lion, Grumman 78, Norah Gray, etc. contributing to the culinary delights and libations, had a real community feeling of joy and mutual respect. “I don’t care for “chicane de clôture,” Morin said. “Why shouldn’t we get along? We all love to do the same thing.”
Renowned NY chef David Chang, who wrote the foreword to what is an incredibly entertaining book, co-written by former employee and writer Meredith Erikson, openly admits to Joe Beef being his favourite restaurant in the world.
“I don’t think anyone can replicate what these guys do. […] I think there’s some kind of Montreal black magic to it, that it might only work up there with all those crazy French Canadians.”
Food critic Anthony Bourdain calls the book – and our city- “dangerous and delicious.” Maybe that should be our city’s motto…