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2003 High Lights Festival


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I recall that the 2002 Highlights Festival in Montreal had some, actually many, very interesting food events listed.

We're thinking of a winter break in February and are wondering if there are any indications of what will be offered in 2003.

thanks,

kathy

PS: Sorry I didn't reply to your Quebec cheese question sooner, Lesley. I didn't realize the importance of note taking until discovering eGullet. I can say, however, that we haven't met a cheese from Ile aux Grues (sp?) that we haven't loved.

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  • 3 months later...

My second dinner of the Montreal High Lights Festival was at Anise, a year-old restaurant on Ave. Laurier in Outremont, a chi chi Franco suburb of the city. Locals might remember Anise for the Pourcel dinner they hosted in December. I think some of the Pourcel magic has rubbed off on Anise’s chef Racha Bassoul. Yet Bassoul has her own style. Her presentations have that rare feminine quality displayed by surprisingly few women chefs, and all the best men. Her 6-course menu “Une Suite de Petites Attentions” was filled with bright and original flavour combinations, and her idea of serving two items per plate -- one raw, one cooked – worked. The menu included:

Raspberry Point oysters in a strawberry and shiso cocktail (cold)

Raspberry Point oyster on the shell, yuzu-flavoured strawberry salad (hot)

Cocktail: Sparkling Saumur with raspberry coulis and rose water

Yellow tomato consommé tinged with lavender (cold)

Confit of Red tomato velouté infused with thyme (hot)

Foie gras and maple syrup-caramelized scallop terrine (cold)

Foie gras and scallop cappuccino flavoured with nutmeg, grilled pistachio (hot)

Wine: Hydromel liquoreux La Cuvée du Diable

Quebec lamb tartare with cracked wheat, flavoured with marjoram and basil oil (cold)

Quebec lamb saddle flavoured with seven spices, butter confit dates and shallots, cracked wheat and tamarind sauce (hot)

Wine: Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalans, Le Plaisir 2001, Domaine Mas Amiel

Crotin de Chavignol with Chestnut Honey, fresh thyme, long pepper infused olive oil (cold)

Beggar’s purse with paillot de chèvre, black Sicilian olives, za’atar. (hot)

Wine: Hochar Père et Fils 1997, Chateau Musar, Lebanon

Molten chocolate cake infused with star anise (hot)

Rose water ice milk (cold)

Wine: Mas Amiel Prestige, 15 ans d’age (Languedoc- Rousillon)

I usually hate the word “exquisite” to describe food, but in this case it fits. The plates at Anise are also awesome; many of them were custom made for the restaurants. On top of that, the wine pairings were impressive. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a wine better suited to lamb than the Mas Amiel, and that Lebanese wine – a blend of cabernet sauv., mourvèdre, grenache and carignan – somehow manages to be elegant and powerful at the same time.

I have about ten more dinners to attend so I’ll keep this short. This one set the level pretty high for the Festival, and I was thrilled to see a local chef taking so many risks – and succeeding. I was also happy to see a few local and visiting chefs in the room as well as several younger diners.

A small but important detail: this menu was $53, $100 with wine. Impressive.

Last night, San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson of Elizabeth Daniel restaurant guested at Anise. I'll post more about that later.

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Sounds like a great meal Lesley, when was the last time (if at all) you were at Anise not including the Purcel dinner? Do you feel Racha's cuisine has evolved and improved significantly over her time there? I must admit I haven't been to Anise yet, but had heard good things and been meaning to, now it seems this is definitely one of the top places in the city and I look forward to trying it out. Also I'm looking forward to hearing about your other meal when you have the chance :smile:

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Dinner #3 Daniel Patterson, of San Francisco restaurant Elisabeth Daniel at Anise

Amuse bouche: Foie gras truffles, vegetable emincé with ginger and basil

Amuse 2: Chilled carrot soup with pickled mango and cilantro

Seared rare ahi suspended in lemon/black pepper jelly

Wine: Champagne brut, R de Ruinart

Foie gras crisped in cornmeal with lavender infused onions and 25-year old balsamico “tradizionale”

Wine: Gewurtraminer Heimbour 1998, Domaine Zind Humbretcht

Herb-scented loup de mer in a lobster jus

Wine: Viognier, Calera Mt- Harlan 1997

Seared duck breast with baby bok choy, black “forbidden” rice and lapsang souchong infusion

Wine: Russian Valley Pinot Noir 2000, Patz and Hall

Aged goat cheese with roasted beets and arugula salad

Fume Blanc Reserve 1999, Mondavi

Quince sorbet with citrus

Miniature espresso cakes flavoured with kumquat, date and cardamom

Wine: Muscat du Cap Corse 2001, Domaine Leccia

This was a superb dinner -- a study in perfection. Not a grain of rice was out of place.

High lights included the foie gras truffles, which were rolled in something similar to crackled praline. The ahi tuna is a signature dish. The jelly was just barely gelatinized and the pepper and lemon flavour was so fresh. Both the tuna and jelly had this melting texture. Really nice.

The rest was very good. Patterson’s presentations are modern and pared-down. My only complaint was that some of the promised flavours were too subtle (the lobster jus tasted only of herbs etc). I think he could push the flavour envelope to better effect.

The service staff at Anise outdid themselves. I haven’t been to Elisabeth Daniel, but I can’t imagine he was lacking for much at Anise. They were great hosts.

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i was there on thursday night and completely agree with you. Funny though, i had a word with a member of the brigade before the meal and he said that the experience was very bad. He said that Patterson didn't trust them at all and that the only tasks he was giving them were the ones for an apprentice.He finished by saying " i'm glad it's over tonight".

That meal scored high for me and is one of the bests i've had in montreal(the best would probably be Clio at Toque! a few years ago).The duck breast was quite impressing and the simplicity of the cultivated striped bass (not loup the mer) left me speechless.

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Hi Stelio,

Hmmm...the bass...I enjoyed it as well, but if you commit to a description like lobster jus, shouldn't the jus taste of lobster?

I heard that about Patterson as well, and it's a shame because the people at Anise really bent over backwards to show is food off in the best possible manner (all those different beautiful plates....) and there are many talented hands in that kitchen.

Stelio, are you going to any other dinners?

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Hi Stelio,

Hmmm...the bass...I enjoyed it as well, but if you commit to a description like lobster jus, shouldn't the jus taste of lobster?

I heard that about Patterson as well, and it's a shame because the people at Anise really bent over backwards to show is food off in the best possible manner (all those different beautiful plates....) and there are many talented hands in that kitchen.

Stelio, are you going to any other dinners?

The jus i had was very flavorfull but the quantity of grapeseed oil could have been reduced.

Now you know that i went to the Lutecia, i will be at Laurent Gras on tuesday and at L'epicier for Jordy(reservation confirmed).

Lesley, do you remember the first year Trotter was at Toque!, everybody wanted a place and they told us that they where going to pick the names out of a hat.Funny how all the important people to them(and in montreal) where picked.I can see the same situation this year for Godbout.

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I made it to the Trotter dinner. Guess I'm not important enough for Godbout. :rolleyes: -- which is really too bad because I was planning on bringing a couple excellent pastry chef with me who were dying to go.

I'm starting to see some of these events as more of an opportunity for a chef to plug his restaurant and use these "name" chefs to boost his reputation than a Montreal festival where chefs are invited by the festival committee and subsidized to a certain extent by taxpayer dollars.

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You're right, i also get this feeling.

You should hook up with Michline Valee of the festival. Most of the times she makes reservations for journalists specially when you want to interview the chef.I know J-P Tastet will be at Lemeac through that thing.

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Bon Soir- We're just back from Montreal's snow and ice extravaganza. We too were at the Daniel Patterson dinner at Anise on Thursday night (the middle-aged couple in the front window) - and to match you overworked word for overworked word, Lesley, ... it was sublime.

The space, the staff, the wine and the food provided us with one of our finest dining experiences ever.

Since you've already posted the menu, Lesley, I just say a few words about the other attributes.

The restaurant, on two levels, is spare and sophisticated but not lacking in warmth. The walls, richly cream, are washed in indirect light. The chairs and banquettes are upholstered in lipstick red. It provides a marvellously flattering setting for its' mostly black-clad patrons.

The staff was thoroughly professional (and just as cute as Rosalie's). They provided us with all the information we could want on the food and the wine with knowledge and enthusiasm. We were particularly charmed by their efforts given our lack of French.

The wine flight provided seemed to us to be of very good quality compared to other tasting menus that we've experienced. The pours were generous (they filled our glasses with champagne three times) and the choices complemented the food very well indeed. My only reservation was with the Mondavi Fumee Blanc which is, I believe, lightly oaked. I would have preferred a sharper NZ SB with the goat cheese - but this is a beginner speaking :smile:

The composition of the menu had an arc that was both exciting to the senses and satisfying to the intellect. Each course seemed to progress logically from the previous. Contrast, whether in flavour or texture, was provided just before you realized it would be welcome. Masterful.

I particularly liked the chef's riffs on a theme - three goat cheeses, four desserts on the same base (what was your professional opinion on these, Lesley).

I'm only sorry to hear that the experience was not a happy one for the restaurant. All I can say is that they handled the situation with aplomb. Not a bit of tension was evident at the front of house.

The only problem with a dining experience like this is that it raises the bar so high.

But, given that our next night was at Le Passe-Partout, we staved off disppointment. When I have the time I'll post comments on it too.

Cheers,

Kathy

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Can't resist adding my two cents worth.

I swooned over that ahi with lemon/pepper jelly. I still have a clear memory of the mouthfeel and wonderful combination of flavours and textures of that presentation. As you said, the gelee simply melted in the mouth, leaving the suggestion of lemon and the gentle bite of pepper to complement the fresh, purely textural element of the ahi.

I also went mad over the duck breast with the black rice and lapsang souchong infusion. The smokey aroma and somewhat tar-y background taste of the tea went so very well with the duck. A knockout.

Like you, Lesley, I prefer big flavours. So the "lavender" infused onions left me wondering if the lavender was a matter of visual appeal rather than scent or taste, since the latter two elements were too subtle for me. I asked the chief when he did his rounds. He enthused about that particular ingredient, leading me to wonder if there was a gap between theory and reality in the final result.

Likewise with the lobster jus element in the elegently simple loup de mer presentation. Sure, there was a hint of lobster essence, but I guess I wanted to be nipped in the butt a bit more.

We noticed as well that the chief was generous with the fleur de sel throughout the meal. Those "salt bombs" that hit us between the eye teeth occassionally were a delightful surprise.

All in all, a lovely space, staff that was young, charming and cute, and, important for us, an educational component in the presentation, communicated with sincerety and genuine pleasure.

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Wow, it's great to read so many interesting comments about the festival. :smile:

KM I'm dying to hear your comments about the Passe-Partout.

about the Patterson desserts. I thought they lacked a bit of fun. I hate to use this word but I thought they were too anal -- verging on bleak.

That said, I liked the slightly chewy texture of the espresso cake. It was really four bites wasn't it? And the pre-dessert quince sorbet was one. :sad:

And innocente Welcome to eGullet! Keep posting. Are you planning on getting to any more Festival dinners?

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